Sarkozy envy

There are many reasons why John McCain picked the young former beauty queen governor of Alaska to be his running mate. My theory is that the presumptive GOP nominee didn't want to be bested by that Frenchee Nicolas Sarkozy on "Dancing with the Stars". Cyd, Leslie, Adele, Gwen, and Ginger weren't available.

Tonight I'm wishing Ann Richards was still around just to hear her dancing convention thoughts: Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels. I think Ann would be reminding us look past the purdy smiles, tap shoes, and cummerbunds to figure out which candidates can go past dancing up the walls of the box to thinking outside it.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder

If only Flashman had been there

Just finished a brand new novel, The James Boys, by Richard Liebmann-Smith. I was laughing out loud while reading it on the DART train back to Plano. The usual tattooed crazies avoided making eye-contact with me, since I was the rowdy, psycho passenger. The idea is that Frank and Jesse James are the long-lost brothers of Henry James and William James--with some Pinkerton detectives mixed in.

The book goes along delightfully mixing history, invention, good characterizations, and pseudo scholarship until the last fifty pages. Then my suspended disbelief was sorely tested. All in all, it was a satisfying outing. Something George MacDonald Fraser, Ron Hansen, and Elizabeth Peters might cook up together in an afternoon or two at the nearest Starbucks.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder

Enlightening "lightning"

The air has been miserable. Hot, humid, Ozone Level Orange, depressing, oppressive, enervating, and full of mosquitos. Late August in Dallas. Dark clouds pile up. We get one loud crash of thunder, and six raindrops sizzle on the sidewalk. That's it. Show's over. Move along, folks.

It's enough to make me very cranky about spelling. Before the thunder, there was a flash of lightning. Not "lightening", as I see so often in print. I haven't had a flash of lightening since the birth of my youngest son.

Lightening occurs about two weeks before labor when the fetus lowers into the maternal pelvis, engaging for childbirth. It seems appropriate to point that out on this Labor Day weekend. The pregnant woman feels a slight lessening of abdominal distension when this occurs. Of course, she may also feel like the Thanksgiving wishbone about to be pulled apart.

Lightning is a discharge of atmospheric electricity. Not the same thing.

I'm pleased to report that lightening is also a laser method of removing tattoos, a very good thing. To use it in a sentence, "The trained medical professional is lightening LeRoy's lightning bolt tattoo that he got in Leavenworth," is a very proper and applaudable use of the word.

To lighten is to illuminate or brighten; to decrease the weight or load; to lessen the oppressiveness; or to move through the value scale from black to gray to white.

To lighten up is an idiom meaning to relax, to become less serious and more cheerful. It will be possible when the weather changes and proofreading returns to Earth!

For now, I've put The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys in the cd player. Spell it right or leave me alone.

Sometimes I feel like I'm fading away

You're looking at me, I've got nothing to say

Don't make me angry with the games that you play

Either light up or leave me alone

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Speedy rust and sweet popcorn

I need rusty objects, and I need them right now! Sounds like an old East High Spartans cheer for the basketball player named Reckeway. We need a basket and we need it right now! Can't you hear the saddle shoes stomping on the bleachers?

Most of the time the Buick and I try to avoid rust, but I read a story in the latest Quilting Arts magazine about dyeing fabric with rusty metal items. Hauled all my nuts and bolts, old license plates, and other likely suspects out to a bucket of water on the patio. Abracadabra, please and thank you! Make rust! And hurry!

Thanks to having a Class A high school tournament-winning basketball coach for my chemistry teacher, I don't understand any chemical reactions beyond the tendency of Buicks to rust over time. Recently I learned that adding mustard to my homemade salad dressing concoctions keeps them from separating into vinegar and oil teams. Don't have a clue why, but I can usually differentiate between zone and man-to-man defenses.

It's not pop rocket science, but you can now buy microwave sweet kettle korn popcorn by accident or intent. When the preschoolers were served this counterintuitive mid-morning snack, their faces registered their little disapprovals. We may want fast rust, but we don't want sweet popcorn when we're expecting salty.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder

Early Rabbit Warning System

The brain is an amazing thing. Somewhere in my subconscious there's an indication on my Permanent Record that I'm Very Afraid the class rabbit will get out of the school building on my watch. So when my subconscious wanted to alert me to a malfunctioning air conditioner at twelve midnight, an escapee rabbit went running amok in the parking lot of my dream. Little dream preschoolers were all screaming in Edvard Munch horror, "The rabbit is out! The rabbit is out!"

Dang! Instantly I was sitting straight up, wide awake, feeling the adrenalin race through my body. Pour a pot of truck stop coffee right into my veins and bark, "Timmy's in the well!"

The a/c was running, running, running the same way the rabbit was running dream loops around the parking lot. Over my pounding heart I could eventually hear the dripping of the over-worked a/c condenser coils down into my closet and light fixture. Not again! My fight-or-flight rush helped me put buckets under the drips, adjust the thermostat, pour bleach down the condensate drain, and check the furnace filter.

Friday was an extremely oppressive, hot and muggy day with dreadful air quality. The poor air conditioner had done its best in the battle. I would be wide awake for three more hours to appreciate its efforts, and to worry and plan the fall art class syllabus. Thanks to the Early Rabbit Warning System, the dripping was into a bucket. Condo ownership nightmare averted. Munch mission accomplished.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder



Two words on the radio news hit me--Recreate 68. Why would I want to recreate the scariest year I can remember?

Becoming a teenager is a universal acne festival of junior high anxiety. Ask around. If you can find a person who would like to relive being thirteen years old, I'll be amazed. Most people I know believe Hell, if there is one, is being trapped in junior high for all eternity.

Becoming a teenager in 1968 compounded the personal angst and turmoil with a sense that the world was also going straight to Hell. Do not pass Go with your handbasket. Do not collect $200. Only Walter Cronkite kept the whole world from total conflagration.

  • From January 1968 on each evening's CBS news about the Tet Offensive was bad.
  • In March the appearance of segregationists presidential candidate George Wallace led to rioting in Omaha.
  • Three weeks before I turned thirteen, Martin Luther King was assassinated.
  • Five weeks after my birthday, Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated.
  • Another two months, and Soviet tanks were rolling into Prague.
  • Then the next week protests and rioting began at the Chicago Democratic Convention.

The Omaha riots brought racial tension closer to my little world than ever before. When an Omaha Central High School basket ballplayer was arrested just three days before the 1968 state tournament for suspected possession of gasoline bombs, the Nebraska School Activities Association moved the Class A tournament from Omaha to Lincoln. The tournament has remained in Lincoln for forty years. I'm endebted to Prairie Bluestem for the citation confirming my hazy memories of that time.

1968--I hadn't figured out the secret of life. I could barely manage the combination for my hall locker at Millard Lefler Junior High. The whole thing was going up in shattered glass and smoke.

I began attending the youth group supper meetings at my church in the late winter of 1968. In fact, I learned about Martin Luther King's murder from the church custodian who chatted as he mopped the foyer before one of those suppers. Waiting with me was Phoebe. She befriended me, and showed me the routine for the group meetings, for which my shy and nerdy self was grateful. I'd never met anyone like Phoebe. She was different, but nice.

The other church group kids soon informed me that Phoebe was a "feeb," and a "retard," and taught me to shun her. Guilt for my rejection of Phoebe mixed with my desperate need for peer acceptance to amp up my anxiety. In the forty years since, I pray we have all become more tolerant and compassionate, and slower to use insulting labels.

From a different viewpoint, one might understand 1968 as a year full of hope, promise, change, and empowerment. At thirteen I didn't understand the hippies in San Francisco any more than the Soviet tanks in Prague or Mayor Daley's Chicago. I didn't fit in with the youth group kids who could play "Sunshine of Your Love" on the church organ after choir practice.

What of the "Recreate 68" on the radio news? From the Recreate 68 coalition's website:

The 1960s were a time of profound, positives [sic] social and political change in this country. The civil rights movement ended legal segregation and broke down barriers to the full participation of African Americans in American life (still yet to be fully achieved). Other movements followed that achieved the same for women and for other oppressed communities of color. That in 2008 the two leading candidates for the Democratic nomination for President are an African American man and a woman¬something unimaginable at the start of the 60s¬is a direct result of the changes brought about in that decade.

Those changes were eventually codified in law. But they were brought about not by political “leaders,” but by mass movements of people who demanded that America live up to its own democratic rhetoric, by grassroots movements that forced the system to respond to their demands, and opened up new political space for ordinary people to participate in the decisions that affected their lives.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Don Quixote--The Man of Gazpacho

Making gazpacho is as easy as falling off a bicycle. Get right back in the saddle, the saying goes, after an accident, but I didn't.

True, it was really my spouse's blender accident, not mine, but a quarter of a century has passed without my attempting to make gazpacho. Guess that's because I got to clean up the kitchen mess.

My spouse should have known better. A blender must be respected. It should not ever be used to make mashed potatoes unless your true intent is to make an adhesive substance somewhere between caulk and Gorilla Glue. One must learn from one's mistakes.

Similarly, overloading a blender (even a Harvest Gold 1977 blender) with homegrown garden tomatoes, kohlrabi, and boiling water, then hitting the High 10 Blend button is a good way to blast the lid off the small appliance and spray hot tomato juice in an impressive 360 degree fountain. That sort of behavior does not respect and honor the blender. It gives bad Amana kharma or evil eye GE.

Hot tomato juice and projectile chunks. Dripping. Everywhere. In a kitchen already aesthetically-challenged with its Pepto Bismal pink wall paint and original Fifties pink refrigerator. Sprayed across my eyeglasses and cheeks and hair. A lovelier sight you'll never see.

In the present, the Woolly Mammoth reports that his college rental house has an add-on room with an air hockey table and a broken jacuzzi filled with stagnant water. His kitchen has an orange built-in dining nook booth. Ah, yes. I understand the sensory overload issues, and I truly sympathize. BUT, does it have pink walls and dripping gazpacho chunks???

Back to 1981, I couldn't get the tomato splatter stains off the already hideous cracked vinyl window shades after the gazpacho incident. I tossed the shades, then sewed some ridiculous tutti-frutti Hawaiian print voile curtains. I learned from that major lapse in design sense.

Sometimes I dream that Don Quixote, Dennis Hopper, Betty Crocker, and Jackson Pollack walk into a K-Mart, all wearing Hawaiian shirts, to buy a blender. It's the K-Mart in Omaha at the meeting of Ames and Military Avenues with 72nd Street, just across from Benson Park. Windmills, choppers, tomato splatterings...

Gazpacho was a trendy liquid quick-loss diet food favored by womens' magazines in the late Seventies. You know the periodical article type. Fast for two days. Drink tea and broth for two days. Slurp gazpacho for two days before reintroducing solid foods. Look great in that bikini in less than two weeks... Oh, yeh.

Betty Crocker insisted that "men like gazpacho!" Her twenty-four page 1970 advertising cookbook, Foods Men Like, included gazpacho.

I entered wedded-bliss life with advertising cookbooks from Bisquick, Campbells Soup, Betty Crocker, Tollhouse, Quaker Oats, Jello, Gold Medal Flour, La Choy, and Old El Paso. Digging through my recipe box, I find one torn recipe from Foods Men Like, but it isn't the gazpacho recipe.

So, ditch the spouse. Another dozen years, and I'm ready to make gazpacho with roasted Hatch chiles. Comparing instructions for roasting Hatch chiles, and recipes for gazpacho online. Loved this recipe entwined with esoteric "Princess Bride" references. Check it out! My Hatch chiles are out on the little Weber broiler.

Tilting at blenders...My destiny calls and I go!

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


$5 Challenge Met

One down, one to go. Met the challenge I set to travel to an art show in Fort Worth for five dollars*. Felt a tad untethered and out of the driver's seat, but enjoyed the experience.

I bought my five dollar premium day pass at the Arapaho Station, and rode a DART light rail train to Union Station in downtown Dallas. Hadn't worked out the bugs to minimize wait durations at transfer points, so I had too much time to watch children feeding Cheetos to very scruffy pigeons. There were several women my age waiting to ride the Trinity Railway Express on their own field trip challenges. There were also several persons who talked loudly to themselves without cell phones, and one man doing a fearful version of Michael Jackson's "Moon Walk" dance around a fallen leaf on the Amtrak platform.

The double-decker Trinity Railway Express, or TRE, is neither a bullet train nor a scenic excursion ride. The pace is "I think I can" slow but smooth, with mostly uninspiring views out the double-decker windows. Still, it would cost far more to drive the Buick to Fort Worth.

On arrival at the Fort Worth Intermodal Transit Center downtown, I eventually figured out my #7 bus route and departure bay to ride the T to the vicinity of the Kimbell Art Museum. The ITC station was cleaner and more appealing than the Dallas Union Station due to fewer pigeons.

The T bus drivers are friendly, helpful, and glad to be ambassadors for their city. I rode three route #7 buses, and each driver gave clear explanations for walking to my destination from the bus stop, and for catching my inbound bus to the ITC. Each bus has a bike carrier on the front. It takes just a few seconds for a passenger to load or unload a bike from the carrier. (Not that I was biking, but a very cool possibility.)

The incredible Impressionist art on view at the Kimbell Museum is from the Chicago Art Institute. I wanted to savor the experience, and not try to cram more museums into my day. Instead boarded bus # 7 for a short ride to the entry of the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens. Took a long walk through the park and the Japanese Garden. It's easy to imagine Monet enjoying the Japanese Garden. The begonia greenhouse brought fond memories of my watercolor professor, Mr. Butt. His classroom was filled with as many varieties of begonia as the Botanic Garden greenhouse, but with bonus bromeliads, cigar aroma, and piano jazz.

Microsoft makes it possible for all of us to maximize and minimize the windows open on our computer screen. Aging and blogging help me apply that concept to experiences in the present and memories of the past. Open the window wide!

My eight-hour vacation included four trains and three bus rides. Riding the TRE gave me two hours to finish a good book .

*$5 PREMIUM Day Pass
Travel in both Dallas and Fort Worth metropolitan areas. Valid on all DART buses and trains, DART On-Call, TRE trains (from Union Station to T&P Station), and The T in Fort Worth.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Sounds, scents, scary sight

Fort Worth's Japanese Garden is a delight for the senses. Just a few steps inside and I began to smell the evergreens on this warm, but not hot, afternoon. It is a scent from childhood summers in the backyard treehouse, but a rare one in the Dallas area. Most pine trees can't take our summers.

Standing on the brick path through the bamboo grove, I can hear bird songs sailing through the air, but can't see any birds. Birds perch for solitary contemplation on branches above the koi pond, or in social groups on a small stone statue by the waterfall.

It's all so beautiful and refreshing, so idyllic. My walk has been wonderful, and a bargain at three dollars on weekdays. Still, I must confront an ancient samurai foe.

Yes. It's a bagworm in the Japanese Garden. And so, this is my annual bagworm blog post.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


The Oil Spot is Gone

Long Live the Oil Spot!

My youngest left for college today in his oil-dripping Infinity. I blessed his departure. I wasn't losing a son. I was regaining a parking space.

The Infinity has been parked and dripping in my condo guest space for over a year while the Woolly Mammoth was studying in Italy. Before that, the guest space was the home of an oil-dripping Dodge Intrepid when Danger Baby spent his year in Italy. My condo neighbors have been very patient with my automobile storage, for which I'm grateful.

The photo doesn't show the rainbow sheen on the pavement that gives the stain its angelic aura. The faithful haven't arrived to venerate it yet. I can't auction it on e-Bay. Maybe tomorrow I'll try using the Zep Driveway & Pavement Concentrated Cleaner.

Saw the trailer for the Luke Wilson movie about holy stucco. Maybe Hollywood will discover the oil spot! If I squint it looks kinda like the Exxon Valdez.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Back to school--Voter registration!

My sons all have new addresses this fall. They need to make sure they have re-registered to vote long before the November presidential election. So many things to remember when you relocate, guys, but this is very important!

All public libraries are required to have voter registration forms available. If you want to vote in your home community instead of your campus community, you'll need to investigate absentee voting procedures. These differ in each state. Advance preparations are required.

Your mom knows you have certain procrastination tendencies. Please don't delay, as states have different deadlines for registering. November gets here faster than we can imagine. Check out the appropriate website for more information.


New Mexico


All Fifty States

You may need to attach copies of identification documents with your application that show your current address. The first time you vote you'll have to show specific forms of identification at your polling place on Election Day. Forms of ID for might be a current, valid photo ID, a current utility bill, bank statement, government check or document, or paycheck that shows both your name and address. Filling out a post office change of address form is a good start. Even better, please directly inform your bank and other entities of your new address.

Postal Service online Change of Address

It would be really nice if you gave your mom a call or email letting her know you've taken care of registering to vote. She'll be really pleased.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder

To Do Haiku

5 7 5 You know the drill:

New hummingbird food

Sugar fix for visitors

Cotton candy buzz

Drain standing water

Rain made skeeter breeding ground

Flower pot saucers

Rabbit not amused

Rain nixes outside play time

Poop on the carpet

Scary trip upstairs

Son left for Albuquerque

Fight bathroom mildew

"Not I," said the dog

Little Red Hen must pay bills

All by her lonesome

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Loud worms

It's quiet here. Not too quiet. The lurking trenchcoat detective in the shadows would soon pick up suspicious sounds.

Soft sounds, but still, not the silence I expected having read Peter Spier's Gobble, Growl, Grunt to children for a quarter century. On the next to last page of that beloved picture book, the quiet animals get their moment in the spotlight. Rabbits, worms, goldfish, salamanders, and mute swans are noted with a old-timey librarian's "SHHHHHH."

This week my condo holds loud worms and a bagpipe bunny. There are so many worms in my ten-gallon Rubbermaid vermicompost bin that I can hear them wiggling through the dirt when I pop the top. Like Horton hearing the Who, I hear little red wigglers singing karaoke Paul Simon:

Hello darkness, my old friend
I've come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence

The condo is calm on this rare rainy day. The rabbit is making funny muffled squeezy sounds. Yes, the preschool class rabbit is vacationing at my combination scenic serenity spa and elderbunny hostel. [Don't alert the paparazzi!] Norton is the celebrity featured facilitator. Last night adoring autograph-seekers and fabulously gorgeous twenty-something women petted him late into the night. Denying the way of the flesh, he keynoted a contemplative workshop this morning. When he eats his fresh basil, celery hearts, cilantro, and fresh plums, Rinpoche Norton makes satisfied audible ommms and hummmms.

With two long ears to the dirt, life is good.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Full nest, empty nest, Olympic nest

Took these nest photos before I spoke with a hard-core purple martin fanatic. Shot down! These photos show a nest built by house sparrows in a martin house. Alas, the elementary students who found the nest on a nature walk were steered by me to believe it was a purple martin nest.

I'm bummed about being wrong and misguiding students. Still, I'm glad we all examined the items incorporated into the nest. The expert says martins don't add feathers or gum wrappers to their nests. A martin nest is about two inches tall, she says, while a sparrow nest fills the whole interior of a martin house.

Building a nest is the aspect of the Olympics that has intrigued me so far. When I sit down on the couch to watch events I fall asleep or think of something more important to do. What sort of enormous bird did the Swiss architects of the Beijing stadium, Herzog and De Meuron, envision when they started their design? A cross between the dove of peace and the Goodyear blimp?

Even if I don't make it past the quarterfinals in the Olympic MOBO empty nest event, I'll be glad to fling my youngest back to college like an ancient classical ideal discus mama. This long, long summer had some fun moments I will happily paste into my scrapbook when I have a day off and some psychic distance.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder

Rain On June

Each morning this week as I crawl slowly through the Mockingbird Lane construction obstacle course I study the SMU football team on the practice field. Haven't yet caught sight of June Jones. Guess I'm hoping he's still wearing an Hawaiian shirt on the sideline to make spotting easier.

We had glorious rain and thunder claps in the night. The Kahuna had to take his Mustangs indoors for practice, I guess. No action on the soggy field today.

The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain. It "chucks" on the skylight. It "kachings" on the rotating blade of the air conditioner. Seeping slowly into my mind, I awake enough to move from the sofa back to the bedroom. A half hour later it finally drips into the Woolly Mammoth's brain. I rouse to the pitter patter of size eleven and a half feet on the stairs and the screech of the swollen front door. He pads out to his car to close the moon roof! Too soggy late.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Donald Duck Goes to War

Donald Duck called my cell phone this morning just as I was getting to work. When I was a kid we used to put serious playground practice effort into talking like Donald Duck. Unfortunately, I neither speak nor understand Donaldese these days.

Donald Duck seemed to be in one of his 1942 war propaganda cartoon shorts (although Donald didn't wear shorts or pants even in wartime). He would quacker-quack, then there would be a huge roar. Finally, in a moment of clarity, I could understand my son. "Did you hear that fighter jet, Mom? It flew right over me! I'm standing by the lake."

Thank heaven Donald Danger Baby isn't in Iraq, Afghanistan, or even South Ossetia. He's on the shore of Lake Michigan for the 50th Annual Chicago Air and Water Show. Windy City and fighter jets don't make for a clear conversation.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


This boy will go far!

"You got your hair cut! I like it," proclaimed the boy across the desk. I'd never seen this lad of nine or ten years old before, but I did have my hair cut quite short recently. It was a few minutes after closing time, and my goal was to move the last patrons out of the library circulation area ASAP. I gladly agreed with his observation to expedite closing. Still his enthusiastic comment tickles me.

The library staff of seven has five glamorous females with various hair shades between silver and chrome. As the substitute, I fit right in this crew. Some patrons ask if I'm the sister of another staff member.

You can't help but like a smiling young male who is even aware of the hair of 50-something women. Don't know who he thought I was, or how I might have gotten my hair cut at the library, but he could certainly teach many 50-something males the right thing to say to ladies.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder

Purple martins

Please check out this site! It's being put together by a sister and brother here in the Dallas area. Rebecca Dellinger has written and beautifully illustrated a children's book about purple martins. Proceeds will go to benefit conservation organizations. Don't miss the audio of purple martin song.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


A walk around works in progress

With time to spare before the opera lecture this evening, I took a long walk around the Dallas arts district to enjoy all the construction. Although you might think the first photo is a print ad for Playtex Cross Your Heart bras (think lift and separate), it is a view of the Morton Meyerson Symphony Center. As you look across the construction site the new Winspear Opera House is taking shape at the right of the photo.

The second photo shows the skeleton of the Wyly Theatre, the new home of the Dallas Theatre Center along Ross Avenue (which may or may not soon be renamed Cesar Chavez Avenue).

A five-story banner photo of Jaap Van Zweden, the new Dallas Symphony director hangs on the side of the Meyerson Symphony Center facing the Woodall Rogers Freeway beyond the Winspear construction site fence. Reminds me of that game we all played with our toddlers; "How big is baby? SOOOOOO BIG!!!"

Last photo is One Arts Plaza at the east end of the Arts District, and host location for the opera lecture. Dr. Stephen Dubberly of the University of North Texas provided insights into Donizetti's "Roberto Devereux" as part of the Figaro in Flip-Flops summer events series. Great fun for me imagining operas set in construction sites!

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Tom Thumb with luck

"I feel lucky!," as Mary Chapin-Carpenter would sing. It's raining, for one thing. Plus, this morning I took the Gecko Box to the post office and there was no line! I should probably go buy a lottery ticket.

Instead, I saw the LCD sign outside the Tom Thumb Store that read, BIG MEAT SALE. Whoa. I haven't shopped at the Tom Thumb in a dozen years, but I feel lucky.

In the mid-Nineties the Tom Thumb annoyed me by being the first grocery chain to have Reward Cards. Its skinny aisles were also a place I was likely to encounter my ex. The very helpful staff at the store pharmacy disappeared, and so did I. Amazingly, the store stayed in business without me.

Later, when my ex remarried, I stopped shopping for three ravenous teen sons and their friends at my old Albertsons. I didn't enjoy meeting the new wife there, or a city mayor I disliked. That store withered away without my business, and is now a vacant blight at a major corner.

DFW is a hotbed of grocery competition. I'm not sure how much the market analysts factor ex-spouse avoidance into their charts and graphs. As gas prices have increased, I mostly buy groceries at the store on my commute route. Even so, I can count nearly a dozen chains where I've purchased groceries in 2008, all within ten miles of my house.

I feel lucky today that it is the twenty-sixth birthday of my first son, Mr. Speech-Debate. Being his parent has been a joy and a wonder and enormously rewarding every day of the twenty-six years.

Over the years I've gotten used to reward cards, and have at least eight on my keychain. Got a Tom Thumb reward card today to get the full benefit of the BIG MEAT SALE. The store has been nicely updated, except its got too much of that dimmed indirect light Starbucks-style ambience for my bifocals.

Why the grocery store was named for a tiny guy who rode around on a mouse and kept getting eaten by animals and giants never made any sense to me, but neither did the names Hinky Dinky and Piggly Wiggly. Seems like Three Bags Full would be a more honest nursery tale allusion.

The preschoolers were learning the Hinky Dinky Double D Farm song this summer, but it's more likely the grocery store name was related to the World War I song, "Mademoiselle from Armentieres". Neither would inspire me to name a grocery store:

Oh it's beans, beans, beans
That make you feel so mean,
On the farm, on the farm,
Oh, it's beans, beans, beans
That make you feel so mean,
On the Hinky Dinky 'Double D' farm....Oh it's corn, corn, corn that makes you feel forlorn...

Mademoiselle from Armentieres, parlez-vous?
Mademoiselle from Armentieres, parlez-vous?
She could beg a franc, a drink, a meal
But it wasn't because of 'er sex appeal
Hinky, dinky, parlez-vous
You might forget the gas and shells, parlez-vous
You might forget the gas and shells, parlez-vous
You might forget the groans and yells
But you'll never forget the mademoiselles
Hinky, dinky, parlez-vous.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Lords a-leapin' in the rain

Only three here, not ten, but the green anole lizards leaping around the plants on the patio look like courtly lords in fine green hosiery and velvet breeches. They are very excited, in a reserved and elegant way, that it is sprinkling. We have been without rain for a long time, and the lizards, like fishermen, know this will be a good time to catch lunch.

I rescued the gecko collage box from the patio before the rain. Sprayed another coat of clear acrylic finish on it early this morning. With the addition of the gray plastic mesh window screening, it is complete. Photos and details of the piece in progress are posted on MamaCollages.

The expression, "leaping lizards," seems to come from the old comic strip my dad called Little Orphink Annie . On Sundays when visiting grandparents in Pierce, or McCook, Dad could sometimes be persuaded to read and interpret the comics in the Omaha Weird Herald. Little Orphan Annie, Bringing Up Father, Katzenjammer Kids, Prince Valiant, Pogo, Dick Tracy, and Li'l Abner didn't speak to me in 1960. The main impacts of these sessions were:

1. Learning the days of the week was easier when only the Sunday comics had colored ink.

2. "Bringing Up Father" was really known as "Maggie and Jiggs." Jiggs helped me learn about spats. I suspected that Jiggs sat in my grandma's rocking chair with his foot up on her hassock sometimes and talked on her telephone. Grandma sat that way "with her phlebitis," and Jiggs sat that way "with his gout." For all I knew Gout and Phlebitis could have been the names of invisible lapdogs. And, in fact, if I ever have three pomeranians, I will name them Spats, Gout, and Phlebitis.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Vegetable tastings against my will

When my sons are home, I learn about the popular culture and television that I usually avoid. This summer I've been introduced to "No Reservations," on the Travel Channel. The host, writer, chef, and grump, Anthony Bourdain, travels to different parts of the globe with a willingness to eat whatever weird food item is part of the local cuisine.

Of course, my sons also watch "Dirty Jobs" on the Discovery Channel, hosted by Mike Rowe. At first I didn't distinguish between the two shows, and thought the New Orleans Norwegian rats caught on the one were being wok-fried on the other. Please be patient. I've just arrived on this planet. I still think Rachel Ray has a sister named Evoo.

The preschoolers give me plenty of opportunites to clean up dirty jobs without special infrared night vision goggles. The school garden has provided two episodes for my own culinary growth show, known as "Severe Aversions."

We grew a brussel sprout plant that provided close to one hundred fresh mini-sprouts in July. The little students had to be really strong to pull the sprouts from the stalk. Cooked with enough garlic and olive oil, the two I willingly ate were quite tasty.

Now I understand why Southerners grow and eat okra. The last few weeks have been brutally hot, but the okra plant is thriving. It's a bush really, and about as big as those inflated Christmas Santas. The blossoms are a lovely creamy yellow with alizarin crimson centers. Today we sampled our pickled produce, and I'm sad to report the okra was slimy and disgusting.

So perhaps on pay-per-view brussel sprouts knock out okra.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Peter Piper On the Patio

While I was watching a hummingbird at the feeder, this little anole lizard leapt onto the pepper plant and called for my attention. He only consented to pose for one photo as he scanned the airspace around pretty much my entire crop of peppers. Jeepers creepers, this has been a hot summer to garden.

I've had three [3] peppers, and one [1] tomato. Total. The basil is going great, but the cilantro and other herbs shrivelled up and died. Even the red cannas that attract the hummingbirds are shorter and slower to bloom than usual. I would blame all this on a brown thumb, but the school garden isn't doing much better. Only the okra and basil are thriving. The okra can thrive all it wants, but I'm still not going to eat it!

Johnny Mercer wrote casual, memorable, and witty lyrics from the 1930s into the Seventies. He collaborated with a Who's Who roll call of the best and most famous composers and singers of the era. Louis Armstrong premiered "Jeepers Creepers," the jazz standard Mercer and Harry Warren wrote for the movie "Going Places" in 1938. Incidentally, Ronald Reagan was in that movie.

Jeepers creepers, where'dya get those peepers?
Jeepers creepers, where'dya get those eyes?

Johnny Mercer/Harry Warren 1938

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Jane, his wife

Meet George Jetson,

His Boy Elroy,

Daughter Judy,

Jane, His wife

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Minty fresh fix-o-mysteries

Caught a few segments of NPR's Crime in the City series interviewing mystery authors and the cities they know and love. Authors have laid claim to a huge range of locations, occupations, and avocations to reel in niche mystery readers: caterers, car-poolers, PTA moms, crossword puzzle addicts, genealogists, sled dog mushers, cat lovers, English teachers...

I've yet to see the beautiful dental hygienist (and amateur sleuth) with her latex gloves, sharp tools, and sharper wit, Floss Dailey, solve perilous periodontic puzzles. With a ghost writer and some technical advisors, I think we could milk this for twenty titles at least:

  • Root Canal in which Floss discovers the naughty inspiration for her husband's tooth whitening overdose.
  • Can You Feel This? Still numb from the divorce, Floss meets a cute neurologist and dreams of comfortable shoes.
  • Baby Teeth Floss's duplex neighbors have teething triplets.
  • Bite Down Please A "Shark Week" on cable t.v. inspires Floss to decorate the ceiling of her exam room with National Geographic shark pictures.
  • Keep Wiggling Floss's boss, The Great Gummy Bear, a rotund dental softy, finds his personal cause, founding No Baby Tooth Left Behind, to provide cute plastic containers for low income kids whose teeth fall out at school.
  • Canines & Molars Floss's ex, "The Glare," nicknamed for his serious overdose on tooth whitener and blazing inability to pay child support on time, gets a pit bull.
  • Brush Three Times Floss wins a hygienist's convention door prize, a vacation to Las Vegas to see Tony Orlando and Dawn.
  • Grit Your Teeth Floss accompanies her boss, The Great Gummy Bear to a dentists' convention in Atlanta.
  • Swish & Spit Floss becomes friends with a gay novacaine sales rep.
  • Overbite Floss starts selling her original line of hygienist scrubs on her website--in TRex, Arctic Wolf, Crocodile, Chained Pit Bull, Amazon Piranha, Shark, and Ankle-biter Toddler print fabrics, but finds she has no time left for her children.
  • No Cavities Floss's precocious preschool daughter becomes the star of a rainbow sparkle gel toothpaste ad campaign.
  • Panoramic X-Rays Floss cleans Tony Hillerman's teeth while taking a well-earned vacation across the American Southwest.
  • Waiting Room Fish Floss finds dentures buried in the aquarium gravel.
  • No Candy "The Glare" begs Floss to get back together so a sweet someone will pick up his suits from the dry cleaners.
  • A Little Sensitive Floss's best friend from high school, a sculptress working in conceptual orthodontic wire, is arrested in a gallery murder case.
  • Deep Pits Floss meets a mysterious informant when she calls the PayPal tech support 1-800 help number.
  • Gingivitis Floss's ex remarries, but not to Mary Ann.
  • Receding Gumshoes Floss cleans the teeth of a former police detective now suffering from Alzheimers.
  • Plaque Fights Back Receiving an award from the National Dental Fashion League starts Floss on a race to prevent copycat designs from flooding the scrub market.
  • Partial Plates Cleaning the teeth of a geologist leads to a seismic weekend in California with an underscoring tectonic romance. Carole King has signed to write the "I Feel the Earth Move Under My Teeth."
  • The Fluoride Treatment Floss has to deal with an unethical, scandal-mongering tv station when she solves her latest mystery.
  • Impacted Wisdom Floss communicates by a system of nods and blinks to help an elderly stroke victim solve a dental mystery.
  • Caps & Crowns Floss's sullen adolescent son graduates from high school.
  • Drilling for Gold Floss learns her ancestors filled cavities in the California Gold Rush and Texas Wildcat oil fields.
  • See You In Six Months Soon to be a major motion picture with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.
  • I'll Love You for Efferdent A made-for-tv movie about high-school sweethearts who meet sixty years later in their dentist's waiting room.
© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Right on schedule

There's a hummingbird at the feeder this evening. It's the first week of August, so I expect to see hummingbirds. Still, I'm ever so pleased to look up from my work and find a hummingbird.

Nature carries on with plans and specifications I can barely comprehend. The worms in the vermicompost are untroubled by calendars or clocks. They are only mildly perturbed by bright lights. I carry on with work, usually vaguely perturbed by many things. Today I'm perturbed by bright lights and burned out ones.

My morning task was to match architectural light fixture specifications and lightbulb order numbers with their location in the newly renovated library. Bulbs are just beginning to burn out, but which type goes with which fixture? There are seventeen different types of light fixtures, but no indication for the number of each kind or the location in the library. It's a good, absorbing puzzle for me this day, except for staring too much at the bright lights.

I would never make it with seventeen different lightbulbs. I always have to phone home and have a son check the dimensions of the furnace filter when I'm shopping (14x25x1!).

Part way down the fixture checklist I was forced to take my scavenger hunt to the internet to sort out all the Lightolier product numbers. It pleased me no end to have a baby gecko crawl out from behind the computer monitor to consider whether I might be an edible bug. I wasn't, so it scurried off for the shadows.

In some cultures a gecko is considered a thoughtful wedding present. A new couple with a new household should have a little nocturnal lizard on guard to eat insects and spiders. I've always considered finding a green anole or gecko inside my condo good luck and entertainment. It made me happy to know that the library's friendly reptiles had survived the renovation and were back on the job.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder

Shelving mystery series

Grafton's got the alphabet, and Evanovich has the numbers. Nevada Barr can write her way through the entire National Park System if she tries hard. What sequence is still unclaimed? Maybe I could kill off frat boys and sorority chicks with the Greek alphabet:

  • Pi in the Sky With Diamonds
  • I Tau Whodunnit
  • Chuck Upsilon the Carpet
  • Iota Bookie

No, that won't work unless I do my research as a Greek housemother on a campus at a major Midwestern party school...

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Plum bunny loves me

The preschool bunny might be up for some Bohemian plum dumplings. He's decided that I'm his buddy again after a considerable period of indifference. The reason for his change of heart? Irrational rabbit rapture for plums eaten way down to the pits!

These delicious plums came from the grand opening of the Sprouts Farmers Market grocery store at Coit and Campbell, the latest destination in my summer "staycation". I've been eating the plums at lunch or snack, then letting Norton nibble the leftovers. To let me know he's appreciative, he snuggles up next to me while students do their reading aloud work. It's great fun, since the children think Norton has come to listen to their reading, and we all read better with an audience!

A rabbit lets you know he cares by galloping around your feet in tight circles and occasional figure eights. This hilarious cross between figure skating and lagomorph rodeo might have been the inspiration for one of my favorite picture books. Oh, I will be so disappointed if Rabbits On Roller Skates, by Jan Wahl, has been culled from my library's shelves!

Driving home after the vigil service about eight tonight, the sun was setting in a luscious, intensely glowing, plum color. True, the effect was probably due to all the particulates and ozone in our air, but I'd like to think that my student is reading to a happy rabbit out there somewhere.

Somebody loves me, I wonder who
I wonder who he can be
Somebody loves me, I wish I knew
Who can he be worries me

(Buddy DaSilva / George Gershwin / Ballard MacDonald) 1924

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder

Eleven never again

At the end of an extremely sad and stressful week, I walked up the sidewalk to the church to attend the visitation and vigil for a student. A young man in a black suit came along behind me and said, "Miss? Miss?" I thought he was going to tell me I had dropped something, or ask me about the baby bird nearby that must have fallen out of its nest on this 104 degree day.

"Did you know the deceased, miss?" Well, yes. That is generally why one goes to funerals.

"Friend or family?" Teacher.

"How would you describe, uh," he checks his Blackberry, then says the child's name.

"Sweet. Excuse me, I have to go now."

"Could you describe her or your reactions to her death for us? We're from Channel 11 News and we just want to get some impressions of her so others will know." A chubby guy with a big camera on a monopod appears from behind a parked car.

"No. I could not do that."

"Are you sure?"

"I absolutely will not do that."

They turned back to set up their approach to the next mourner.

Life isn't fair. My student didn't make it. The baby bird on the hot sidewalk didn't either. Walking back to my car after the service, the baby bird had been covered with a white paper napkin held down around the edges with a border of twigs and pebbles. Maybe you can see it on CBS 11 at ten. I won't.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


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