I need recharging

For several months now I've been awakened by phantom beeps. These completely realistic auditory dreams are a by-production of our 24/7/365 high-tech civilization colliding with our solstice-equinox prehistoric low-tech subconscious survival system.

Nighttime phantom beeps sound like the signal for a received text message,or possibly the low battery alert on my cellphone. They could be the tone that indicates a blocked pop-up window on my computer. Maybe a truck is backing-up and about to smash into my condo after midnight. Could a spider be living it up inside the smoke detector? Is the microwave reminding me about a Tupperware container of reheated lentil soup? Are permanent press clothes staging a wrinkle fest in the dryer?

Please tell me I didn't fall asleep on the job scanning returned book barcodes at the library? Did Norton Antivirus just restart my computer after downloading updates? Hope I'm not flashing back to those nights in my dad's hospital room across the hall from the elevator. Heaven help me if I'm sleep-walking through the self-check at the grocery store. Am I supposed to record my message after the tone?

Each phantom beep leaves me groggy, and groping for the digital clock on the bedside table. It's 3:33 or 4:58 a.m. and adrenalin has kicked in. Wide awake now, I have bonus hours for adventures in anxiety!

These auditory dreams or hallucinations don't seem fair after all the years being awakened by crying, hungry babies and frightened toddlers. Not to mention all the teen parenting years subconsciously listening for sirens, car doors, and keys in the lock. My nest is empty, but I've got a nighttime brood of demanding beeps. Maybe I'm just a tad over-stressed.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


Miraculous Samsung sausage cellphone cure-all

After many minutes dealing with reasonably pleasant customer service and tech service personnel at AT& T Mobility trying to solve the Woolly Mammoth's cell phone problems I remembered that I already knew the cure. I have a five-year old Samsung flip phone. When my sons complain that their up-to-the-minute cell phones aren't working right, I offer (or threaten) to mail them that flip phone. Next thing I hear, all their problems are miraculously solved.

This phone is just slightly smaller than a Little Smokie/Pillsbury pig-in-a-blanket, and rates the same Donna Reed score on the Dork-o-Meter. It is garlic to a vampire when it comes to ridding flashy phones of their bugs.

Being a dork, I never could flip the phone open to answer my rare call. I had to get a less calisthenic cell phone. The Samsung just sits in a shoebox of abandoned gizmos, unwanted and unflipped, in my junk drawer. I'd be happy to send it to you should you have problems with your cell phone...

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


Frijole Anole Catches the Waves

I couldn't quite visualize the surfing dogs I heard about on NPR Saturday morning. The Frijole Anole must have heard the story, too. He's working on his surfing technique. He's spent the last hour wind-surfing on a canna leaf in a good breeze. He's ridden the leaf forwards, backwards, sideways, and even managed to hang ten.

When I popped my Dick Dale surfer music in the cd player and opened the patio sliding door, the lizard worked on his style points.
Have I mentioned how much I miss my camera?

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder

Fabric of memory

Sometimes the fabric of memories is actually fabric, the textures, colors, and designs imprinted long ago. Memory is much on my mind this summer as we clear out the basement of the house where we grew up. Because Mother was an excellent seamstress, we kids spent many hours in fabric stores, and measuring hems. These are not necessarily favorite memories, as they are among the most tedious experiences for youngsters.

On the other hand, Mom's sewing results were often gems. If the angels ever need plaid outfits for a choral event, my mom will be call upon to create perfection for the heavenly hosts.

The orange dress at the top was my first-day-of-kindergarten dress. My scanner has made the gold too pale and cold of a yellow. This is the sunniest, happiest dress possible for that fabulous day.

My sister and I found remnants of the fabric Mom used for our bedroom drapes (perfectly lined and pleated). I will always love these colors.

My niece is modeling one of Mom's masterpieces. We aren't sure if the fabric was an irregular Marimekko piece that Mom found at the Miller & Paine Budget Store. The results were as dramatic as any Sixties graphic fashion design. My niece will have to get a bit taller to wear it, though.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


Have I mentioned how much I miss my digital camera? The poor baby has been sent off for repairs after I dropped it on Dad's basement floor and jammed the lens.

Today a student found a caterpillar on our crispy, dying tomato plant. It was rather striking in a rockhound way, like a crawling banded agate. Mainly black, the caterpillar had two prominent lengthwise stripes the color of split pea soup. Lower to leaf/tummy level, it had a series of brown stripes in decreasing values.

You never know with caterpillars. The most flamboyant, outrageous, drop-dead gorgeous ones turn into nondescript moths like aging punk rockers with adjustable mortgages. On the other hand, a small, drab specimen may metamorph into the moth equivalent of the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board. You wish you'd been nicer to it back in high school.

The caterpillar is in the bugbox with plenty of tomato leaves to get it through the night. With luck it will make a chrysalis and turn into David Bowie.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


Free Spirit

Thank heaven the Martian winds have cleared the solar panels on "Spirit", the long-running Mars Rover. Now Spirit can receive instructions from NASA engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory on how to get unstuck from a sand dune.

Since Spirit may or may not act on the engineers' instructions, I feel their frustration. It's the frustration of MOBOs everywhere, when grown sons choose whether to acknowledge receipt or actually implement maternal suggested guidelines. Once sons and Martian rovers reach a certain age, moms can't dictate their behavior. No remote control can steer guys out of a rut they've dug themselves into, but moms can occasionally suggest driving options.

Moms wait for the moments when sons' energy collectors are blown free of dust by the Martian winds. Perhaps we can sneak a message in before the system shuts down again without seeming to nag.

This weekend one son is driving to the White Sands National Monument, his seatbelt buckled, I pray. Another is sailing off the coast of Massachusetts, and he better be wearing that life jacket! The oldest is navigating wedding plans and true love. They all have selective reception from my maternal wavelength.

The words I don't want to hear--"I'm sorry Mom, I'm afraid I can't do that."

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder

Four more for Library Life List

Who's counting? I've added four more libraries to my Life List on trips this summer, and two were design doozies. My sons were excited to show me the new fine art/architecture libraries on their campuses.

The Woolly Mammoth spent much of the spring semester in the Fine Arts and Architecture Library on the top floor of the new School of Architecture and Planning at the University of New Mexico writing papers. He knew I would get a kick from the the quiet study rooms, each with a different Herman Miller chair. I liked how the entrance to Pearl Hall provided a impromptu amphitheatre for sidewalk performers, and how the building offered many display spaces for student designs.

While the UNM architecture library seems stream-lined and air-filled, the cozy new architecture library at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, invites hunkering down with books. The lighting fixtures and shelving of the Wertz Art & Architecture Library in Alumni Hall are reminiscent of my grandma's old Carnegie Library in Pierce. Perhaps that is because the domed Alumni Hall was constructed in 1910 as the university library with the assistance of Andrew Carnegie and alumni funds. Alumni Hall was renovated in 1997, but I believe the Wertz Library addition is more recent. The comfy feel doesn't sacrifice any up-to-date technology or services for library users.

Again at Miami, I enjoyed displayed projects by architecture students, such as this hanging over a connecting walkway. Both architecture libraries featured exposed building materials and fixtures with successful study spaces, although the results were very different.

Miami University's main King Library has an inviting computer area open for use by campus visitors. This was a big plus, as I had an op-ed column to write during my trip. This is a link to some nice photos of King Library:


I'm not sure my son and his fiance considered the downtown Cincinnati Public Library a must-see on our walking tour before the Reds game, but I was intrigued to explore. The library was being heavily used late on a Saturday afternoon. Two buildings are connected by a walkway over a street. Each building has a pleasant reading garden, something I'd never seen before. Wilbur the Pig welcomes readers to the Children's Garden, a great place for library programs or individual reading.

Four vacation libraries bring my total to fifty-eight.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


Edge of Assisted Living

What do we really know about the nurses and aides taking care of my father? A coworker asked me that question on a rough day. I'm riding the wild roller-coaster that goes with long-distance squeeze generation responsibilities. That ride comes with extra guilt some days.

What if Matthew Sharkey was Dad's aide? What if Beth Bryson was his nurse? What if Dad was being kept in a full-body cast at the Rexford Clinic as the prisoner of a criminal plastic surgeon like Dr. Kenneth Bryson episode after episode? What if those evil chauffeur twins, Gunther and Bruno Wagner drive the assisted living van?

Yes, I was having a soap opera flashback to 1980. The names crept to mind first. Long repressed images from the final years of "The Edge of Night" began seeping to the surface, giving reality the tinge of antifreeze. The plots didn't make much more sense after three decades and an hour of Googling than they did when aired in the 3:30 p.m. time slot.

I rarely speak about my years of soap opera viewing. I'm not proud of spending so many hours with tv and needlepoint before motherhood took over. At various times I followed "The Guiding Light", "Days of Our Lives", "Another World", and "The Edge of Night" through snowy, gray Omaha afternoons. Perhaps my current worry is a payback for those wasted-hours.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


Keep cool!


This is the link to my guest post on the Dallas Morning News Opinion Blog in which I worry about the North Texas electric power grid.

I belong to a triumvirate of mama worriers. We have divided up the woes of the world so as to share the burden and be better informed for our fretting.

The word "triumvirate" poses some problems. The vir means men. I'm not sure that you could find three men who could do the quality worrying we do, and we are not even wise Latina women. Changing the word to triumvirettes doesn't help, but it would present interesting costuming and choreography challenges.

"one of three men in the same office or of the same authority," 1579, from L. triumvir, from Old L. phrase trium virum, genitive plural of tres viri "three men," from tres "three" + viri, plural of vir "man" (see virile). Triumvirate is from 1584.

We considered calling ourselves the Three Musketeers of world worries, but none of us carry guns. That led us to the Three Mouseketeers. We would look great in Annette's ears and sweater, with the pleated skirt and saddle shoes.

Annette Number One worries about the U.S. economy and employment. If she has extra time she worries about the global marketplace.

Annette Number Two is in charge of diseases, plagues, and health care. She's got a full load with swine flu, bird flu, mad cows, food poisoning, insurance, and pharmaceutical recalls. Her bonus category is Florida.

I am Annette Number Three. I am in charge of worrying about the environment. Global warming, energy conservation, toxic landfills, the disappearing honey bees and family farms, migratory birds, and drought.

In case you are having that dream about the final exam for a history class you never attended, the First Triumvirate refers to Caesar, Crassus, and Pompey. The Second Triumvirate was Marc Antony, Octavian (aka Caesar Augustus), and Lepidus.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder

Potato salad

All my recipe googling did not lead to actually following a recipe. Made some good potato salad, though:

Boil red potatoes in their jackets

In a skillet brown fresh rosemary, fresh thyme, pine nuts, and 2 cloves of garlic

Cool potatoes and cut into bite-size chunks

Make a vinaigrette with 3/4 c olive oil, 1/4 c fresh lemon juice, 1 t lemon zest. Smash the browned garlic and add it to the vinaigrette.

In a large bowl place potatoes, thyme and rosemary, pine nuts. Stir in vinaigrette. Let sit overnight. Serve cold garnished with crumbled feta cheese.

The jicama salad was not worth repeating. Vinaigrette is very hard to spell correctly.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder

So much writing, so little blogging

My blogging time is being taken up with column deadlines and a new opinion blog for the volunteer Community Voices writers for the Dallas Morning News. This is exciting stuff. Monday I got to attend the editorial board meeting where the opinion pages for the week are planned and discussed. When the Voices blog is up and running I'll post a link.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


Recipe googling is addictive

I wanted to make a salad with red potatoes and fresh rosemary, because I had these ingredients and didn't want to run to the grocery store. I'm making the salad for a staff birthday luncheon tomorrow. Googling by the two items on hand led to an evening reading recipes online. So many choices! Hot potato salad with roasted garlic-infused mayo. Another with roasted pine nuts and red peppers. This is sounding soooo good. If reading recipes keeps me from actually eating, I will lose weight, right?

While checking out a potato salad with fresh rosemary AND thyme (another ingredient I had on hand) at Two Fat Als blog, I got diverted into a consideration of radish-cucumber-beet salad. The power of the Web recibe is almost as strong as the Dark Side. Cucumbers make me burp and I don't like radishes. I haven't eaten beets since building towers with the canned diced beets of 1961. But the colorful photos make me ready to drive across a desert to find the ingredients.

When I came out of the desert into the air-conditioned and tastefully-lit Tom Thumb grocery store, they were all out of fresh beets. But they did have a jicama. Jicama in hand, I headed home to google new recipes.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


Rain Forest Convenience Store

Life is what happens while we are standing there with Robert Frost. The roads diverge and we’re just wondering which is the quickest to a gas station with a clean restroom.

There are different routes between Dallas and Nebraska's capital city, but for just getting it done and getting there, Interstate 35 is best. The gas station with a clean restroom is sometimes a challenge, so I'm pleased to report my discovery of the clean and cute Rainforest Convenience Store/Conoco in Ardmore, OK. Many miles have passed since then, but I think the exit was number 32, or 31B, near the intersection of 12th Ave NW and Rockford Rd N.

Maybe I've just never seen a gas station with a theme, but my brief stop cheered me up. The interior was nice and jungly. It was too early in the day to visit the Bat Cave walk-in beverage cooler, though. I marched back to the Buick wearing an imaginary pith helmet and carrying a mental machete for my expedition north.

Danger Baby has recommended summer reading for me. The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon, by David Grann, sounds just my style. I've promised myself a long read and then a nap this holiday.

The past couple months have offered many opportunities to second guess decisions and choices as we three siblings helped our elderly father in Nebraska. On the drive home I struggled to recall a poem I once had memorized. So here is Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken":

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


Diesel fumes and pancake syrup

Real guys love real trucks, even if the guys are only 24-months old. Had a hoot doing toddler storytime today at the library. Rhymes, finger plays, and cute illustrated picture books were all good. We made "vroom" sound effects and turned imaginary steering wheels. But when I showed the non-fiction book with large glossy full-color photos of actual dumptrucks hoisted to spill their loads the toddler males rushed the stage! Imagine a mosh pit with raisins and cheerios...

I know the "real" truck books my sons loved are long out-of-print. I'm pretty sentimental about the years our family considered the truckstop cafe a five-star restaurant with a scenic view of tractor-trailers and diesel pumps. Plus, breakfast was served any hour of the day or night.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder

Enquiring Minds Want a Stubby Update

Stubby's tail is growing back slowly. The little green anole is pleased that the paparazzi are gone, perhaps to cover Michael Jackson's death. Actually, I can't catch Stubby in action because I dropped my camera on Dad's basement floor and jammed the telescoping lens. Digital photography withdrawal isn't pretty.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


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