Actonel advent calendar

You wouldn't expect that a once-a-week medication could ruin your life. Then again, you might not think your life was ruined because your mom made you take fourth-year French in high school [see YRMLM].

For two and a half years Actonel has been ruining my dad's life every Thursday morning. Actonel is a prescription medication for prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. It's taken with 8 ounces of plain water when you first get up for the day, before any other food, drink, vitamins, or medicine. Then you have to stay sitting up or walking around for half an hour. No rolling over and going back to sleep. You can read the newspaper, watch birds in the backyard, argue with a teen about why he should take that fourth year French class, wash your face, get dressed, make coffee, do the Sudoku, surf the cable tv channels, and cook breakfast during that half hour. Just don't recline.

Trouble is, for two and a half years, every Thursday morning, Dad does it backwards. He gets up, washes his face, gets dressed, makes the coffee, looks in his pill organizer, and then takes the Actonel pill with 8 ounces of plain water. He spends the next half hour thinking that Actonel has ruined his life. He keeps thinking along that line the rest of Thursday.

At least Dad remembers to take the Actonel and the calcium supplements for his osteoporosis. For this we thank the Ezy-Dose Four-A-Day Weekly Practidose Medication Organizer #91350 from CVS, the best $9.99 I ever spent. The pill organizer is $14.99 online now. It's pretty sturdy, having survived a couple years of heavy use. We call it the "Advent Calendar."

There's a note in the Thursday morning compartment of the Advent Calendar that reminds Dad to take the despised Actonel. The only thing Dad despises more than his Thursday morning Actonel is the Boniva tv commercial with Sally Field. Boniva is a once-a-month osteoporosis medicine, so it probably has four times the life-ruining potency of Actonel. Dad is not alone in his life-ruining opinion of Actonel. His rehab roommate, Melvin, carried on at lenghth on the same subject.

Every few months I make the bold suggestion that Dad set his Actonel pill beside his bed on Wednesday night. He could take it when he gets up on Thursday morning before he even washes his face. What I really need is for Santa's elves to put a new note in the Wednesday evening slot of the Advent calendar. It just needs to say, "Set the Actonel by your bed and take it when you get up tomorrow." The note does not need to be written in French.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Cheaper by the Dozen

Most intriguing in today's stack of book reviews is The Overflowing Brain, by Torkel Klingberg. The Wall Street Journal review by Christopher F. Chabris, "You Have Too Much Mail" , describes a time-attention study of an average office manager. Not that long ago, time-motion studies led to improved efficiency.

Most of our motions are "clicks" of the mouse these days, and our efficiency is suffering. As a sixth-grader I was fascinated reading Frank B. Gilbreth's Cheaper By the Dozen. The Gilbreth's twelve children provided inspiration and practicums for their parents' management consulting business.

According to the WSJ review, Klingberg's book suggests our Stone Age brains are in conflict with the present information overload. There's much to ponder as this relates to my school environment.

Our brains predispose us to shift our attention whenever novel events occur in the present moment. In Stone Age applications, we needed to be ever-vigilant for saber tooth tiger threats and unfamiliar situations in order to survive. Alas, that programs our brains to check every new message to our email inbox, every fluorescent light tube flicker, and HVAC blower cycles. We haven't evolved the skill to discriminate between life-threatening and trivial situations.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder

And a bee?

Yesterday's record-setting high of 83 degrees led to photos of sunbathers in this morning's newspaper. It was in the mid-sixties when I retrieved my Dallas Morning News from the front stoop, and rising.

Cold front brings rain, hail to Dallas-Fort Worth area

The cold front rushed through town dropping temperatures from the mid-seventies at 8:30 a.m. to the windy mid-fifties at 9:30. That was the hour when I left home, drove through my bank, realized the Buick's window that won't roll up was part-way down, bought a tank of gas, had a bee flying around inside the car, drove through the post office, commuted fifteen miles, arrived at work, and covered the one-inch window gap with packing tape seconds ahead of the downpour.

The downpour lasted only a few minutes. The good news:
  1. Danger Baby got the window closed.
  2. There have been so many things to worry about in the middle of the night lately, that I completely forgot to worry about pollinators. Declining bee populations might foretell the end of life on Earth as we know it. A bee in the Buick is a good sign.
  3. Did you know there are solitary bees who live in tunnels underground and only pollinate members of the squash family? Antisocial bees? What a concept! Thank a squash bee for your pumpkin pie from the Victoria [TX] Advocate brought this revelation. The world is a strange and wondrous place, but let's keep it on the outside of the Buick, please.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Mom ears in gear

My sons must be in town! I'm aware of sirens at all hours. Don't usually notice sirens, but those super hearing powers that were activated when my boys became drivers at sixteen have resumed their attention.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


18-Hour Bailout

We are each doing whatever we can to stimulate the economy. In a giant leap of positive thinking, my walking buddy ordered three bras online. I bought socks, and you can't get more upbeat than that. When the going gets tough, the tough buy underwear.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Possum chunks and chimney pucks

The sound first appeared when I lit the gas fireplace. I was dancing around the Christmas tree adding ornaments on a surprisingly cold evening. When the chunking sounds began I thought they were coming from the chimney. Exploding bricks? Falling chimney? Charred nest? Roasted rodent?

What year did I hire that chimney sweep? What century or millennium? Sure hope the Grinch isn't wedged in there. Chunk. . . . Chunk. . . . Chunk.

Got worried enough to put on a parka and walk out to stare at my chimney. No roasted marsupials or mammals. No flames or explosions. Just a new kid in the neighborhood practicing roller hockey. He's been hitting the puck into a big Rubbermaid tub every night with a regular rhythm. He seems like a nice kid, and self-motivated. Chunk.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder

A good excuse

The first of the sons has arrived. His plane got in a bit late. He ate spicy soup and watched tv. About two a.m. it became clear that he had fallen asleep on the couch because I could hear an old musical on the tube. I'm betting it was in black and white, and definitely not his choice of viewing while awake.

After dropping fifty degrees yesterday, it wasn't worth going out to the living room to turn off the tv. The flannel sheets were too toasty, so I just rolled over and let the musical become part of my dreams.

Danger Baby is still asleep. I've read the paper and finished the crossword. The sudoku was way too difficult. Now I'm reading Devil to Play by Jasper Rees while all wrapped in quilts, being quiet. It's good to have an excuse for a relaxed morning.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


I can't get no Chex satisfaction

I'm driving in my car and a man comes on the radio, but he doesn't tell me at what store they still have Wheat, Rice Chex, and Corn

I can't get no, oh no no no.

Hey hey hey, that's what I say.

...baby better come back later next week

'cause you see I'm on losing streak.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder

The Ghost of Acne Past

Scrooge that I am, I'm loathe to throw out the prescription bottles and lotions. The drawers and the medicine cabinet in the upstairs bathroom are giving me a dickens of a time. Can I toss the zit Rx with the warning label, "Do not consume after 2003"? What about the large tube of ointment that expired in 1999?

Bob Cratchit and I are cleaning up the condo. A revolving assortment of sons and their special females will be visiting here over the holidays. I worry about the special females. The condo upstairs was the domain of "the guys" for so many years. They don't live here now, but that bathroom still has teen guy cooties. Maybe I should add a cute little basket of shaped soaps!

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Persian lug riquidator

Ben Franklin didn't know diddly about Persian rugs and old farts' toenails. Ben said, "In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes."

Nothing can be certain except that Persian rug dealers will be going out of business and liquidating with incredible bargains. Who knew the most recession-resistant occupation would be rug liquidator? Jettie North, my high school counselor, never saw that when she peered into her Occupational Outlook Handbook crystal ball.

Back then Jettie advised me to apply to Bryn Mawr. The name was a tongue-twister--Myn Brawr. So is lug riquidator.

"His toenails were so long they had curled around and down under his toes. His children never visited him anymore." That was the big news flash at my grandma's nursing home in Pierce one weekend when we went to visit back in about 1968. The aides told us about the new admission. I never saw the neglected old farmer, but the terrifying mental image has haunted me for forty years. Twilight Zone toenails...

The poor man needed a drive-by podiatrist--a toenail clipper who made house calls. In between taxes and death, toenails keep growing, sometimes out of control. Much of the service industry is laying off workers in the current economic LaBrea. I'm betting drive-by podiatrists are a secure sector.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder

Dancing With the Snowmen

They make me feel like dancing! Especially since the project is finished well ahead of schedule and under budget.

Texans don't plan their mental calendars allowing time for blizzards like Nebraskans. You just can't cut it too close in the high pressure world of preschool Christmas gift art projects up north. People who keep a shovel in the car trunk year-round know to factor in construction delays on major projects. Neither snow nor a little Dallas black ice will stay my little couriers from the swift completion of their holiday art projects.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Put the candle back!

IN a hectic week the search for plastic bottle lids may seem somewhat minor, but it was huge. My students are making crazy colored snowpersons for holiday gifts. I saved lids all year, but we were running short. Like any nutty art teacher, I did my grocery shopping list based on the recyclables I needed for class:
  1. Buy juice
  2. Pour juice into pitcher
  3. Wash lid
  4. Recycle bottle
  5. Take lid to art class

Time was running short, so I went through the condiments in the refrigerator. Poured the lime juice into a glass Ragu jar just to get the green lid. Same with the salad dressing. What year was this tartar sauce made? Ewww! Throw that scary stuff out, but save the lid.

On to the pantry cupboard. Two jars of parsley flakes! Bonanza! Combine them to score a large yellow lid. How long has that bottle of Karo corn syrup been stuck to the shelf paper? You don't want to know how many years it's been since I made peanut brittle.

Now it's slash and burn through the top shelf of souvenir squeeze bottles. I didn't know I had this stuff. Back behind the Tupperware popsicle molds (my youngest child is twenty-one, for heaven's sake!)... Look! It's Grandma's candleholder!

I was doing a double-take. Halma had a candleholder at each end of the big wooden buffet in her dining room in Pierce. For years I've felt guilty because I could only find one of the candleholders. I feared I'd lost the other in one of my moves from house to condo to condo. But now, here was the second one. Had to hold one in each hand to convince myself I still had both.

It's silly, really. They each hold two candles that never stand up straight, and have no particular aesthetic appeal. But at least I wasn't the descendant who was negligent. I didn't lose the family treasure, I just misplaced it behind a bunch of Texas Summer Reading Club water bottles.

A great weight has lifted. I'm lighter than Igor without his hunchback. As Gene Wilder so emphatically instucts Teri Garr, "Put the candle back."

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Knight in shining armor insect

Check out this handsome insect that flew across the playground and landed on the sandbox cover! Haven't had time to identify it yet. The body was at least as big as a quarter.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


The Fire-Breathing Dragon Swishes Its Tail in Honalee

Kindly set your computer monitor over on its right side to view this post. You are entering Dragonsbreath Bay, and viewing the panels for the giant dragon mural installation at the Mile 16 aid station for the Dallas White Rock Marathon on Sunday, 12/14.

My art students, age 3-9, worked together on the paper mosaics. They helped tear construction paper scraps, and I brought torn papers from my color-sorted collage materials. The background material is brown butcher paper.

True, there is a large component of teacher artistic control on paper mosaic murals. The instructional goals:

  1. Introducing the mosaic medium with historic examples
  2. Considering permanent and short-lived materials
  3. Experiencing for ourselves that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts
  4. Observing magical shimmering effects of different papers
  5. Working together without spilling too much glue on the newly-stripped and polished linoleum
  6. *Recognizing the right side and wrong side of papers
  7. **Imagining an edible mosaic

    (The installation gets a bit tricky in the neck/wings intersection.)

    (Each panel is 2'x3', or 3'x2'.)

    *My dad's golfing buddy once told a joke about a boss yelling out the window to his sod-laying blonde employees, "Green side up!" The children have pieces of paper for the mosaic, but they must determine which side is up for their colored section of the picture.

    **We considered fruit slices on a layer of cream cheese, and bell pepper squares on peanut butter. I was stunned when a kindergartener made the connection between mosaics and gingerbread houses!

Puff, the magic dragon, lived by the sea

And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honalee.

Little Jackie Paper loved that rascal Puff

And brought him strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff, oh

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


My what bad handbags you have!

Didn't realize how long it had been since I'd shopped anywhere but the grocery store or CVS. It was time to do my personal bit to stimulate the economy, but the stores were like alien clones from an alternate dimension. They seemed jammed with merchandise sloppily arranged under 50% off signs, short on customers, and even shorter on android employees. A lone, pimply male was manning the only open register at Kohl's when I bought my bargain crew socks.

I blame the decline and fall of the economy on all the fashions made of slimy unnatural fabrics cheaply finished in foreign countries to resemble maternity tops. Can you spell "U G L Y"?

Just for old times sake I wandered through the purse department. My friends and I have spent many frustrating but happy hours searching for the elusive perfect purse in well-lighted stores. Today I was dog-paddling through gray Jello. The current handbag offerings are huge metallic patent leather bulky blobs with snap-closures instead of secure zippers. You could throw in a trendy teacup dog, a hamster enclosed in its exercise ball, and two retro sock monkeys, and still have room for your iPhone.
Lucy Locket lost her pocket. Kitty Fisher found it. Don DeLillo predicted it.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Park'N Fly

I'm grateful I flagged down the Park-n-Fly shuttle on the lower level of Terminal A when I did. Funny thing to be thankful for on a long Thanksgiving weekend, but there you have the word of the day:

"good nature," from Fr., from bon "good" + homme "man."

bon·ho·mie \ˌbä-nə-ˈmē, ˌbō-\ noun
French bonhomie, from bonhomme good-natured man, from bon good + homme man
1779 : good-natured easy friendliness — bon·ho·mous
\ˈbä-nə-məs\ adjective

When I clambered aboard there were already six passengers. They were comparing notes on the baggage claim situation in Terminal A. For some reason, known only to the gnomes deep beneath the terminal, the luggage from six flights was being sent to a single claim carousel. The other carousels were empty. Travelers were packed around the carousel so tight if they spotted their luggage they couldn't get it out through the crowd.

Shared misery started an esprit de corps that carried into the parking lot shuttle. As another half dozen people boarded the shuttle, an eternal optimist jovially asked if we all had a good Thanksgiving. We all nodded, but the man with the toupee sitting across from me piped up, "Yes. We liked the boyfriend!"

Ah, that's very good, we all agreed. "You are lucky," I said. "Maybe you would have had better luck convincing my dad to move into assisted living than I did."

"How did that go?," others asked.

"He's not budging," I said.

The eternal optimist chimed in, "I'm ready to move in right now--activities, meals, manicures!"

"Me, too."

"Me, too. Assisted living is wasted on old people!"

"Not me," a quieter woman commented. "It gives me the heebie jeebies."

"It will be fun," the optimist opined.

"You think having six flights' baggage at one claim carousel is fun!"

"Liking the boyfriend is good. We are meeting the girlfriend at Christmas," someone told the first dad.

"Me, too, at New Years," I said.

"It's serious. The boyfriend is coming to our house in three weeks," the first dad said. Turns out the daughter is a fashion design student in California. Maybe she can design the wedding for her final project and save her folks a bundle.

The conversation turned to the smaller holiday crowds at airports, and to flight delays. "We got out of John Wayne on schedule," someone reported. Geez, that sounds like an elderly bowel update! I had no idea John Wayne was an airport. Will John Malkovich be next?

Talk turned to the topic of finding our cars. We had given the shuttle driver the cards marked with our parking space numbers. He was playing 88.1 KNTU jazz on the radio to add to the party atmosphere.

Like the first call of a bingo game, the driver yelled over the music, "18-53."

"I win!," I hollered, "but I can't see my car."

"That's okay," the smiling optimist said. "They just let you out somewhere in the wilderness."

"You would think that's fun. You said you'd love assisted living."

"That's right," she said. "I find fun wherever I go."

Lots to ponder from a ten-minute ride. Fortunately, I found my Buick once I was let out in the wilderness. Life is good. I bet I'll like the girlfriend. Maybe she will choose my nursing home!

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


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