Bioluminescent grocery cart

This post has teeth.  Dad's partial swims in its fleshy pink box.  He can't wear it any more and doesn't care. 

Someone rolled a grocery cart down the creekbank years ago.  Much of the year it is hidden in leaves.  Small trees grow through the crumpled grid.  Its teeth glare at me like a fang fish.  I see no way to extricate it, and don't want to break a leg trying.  In January it looks the most like the angler fish that glows in the pitch blackness of the deep ocean, all jaws and bones and empty stomach.

When Sylvan Goldman invented the grocery cart he couldn't have foreseen the many places his creation would be abandoned.  I hope none of them have reached the deep ocean, but I wouldn't be surprised.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Relaxing in a _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Friday's preschool napper storytime group gave me a good reminder for mental health.  I pass it on to you hangman style.

The kids all knew where the green dog was in Go, Dog, Go, but only one had an idea about the yellow dog.  That dog is reading in a panic.  Been there too much lately.  It's time for a mental health break.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder

Twisted demise of my new parka

But I just got this coat!

After my creek cleanup effort last Sunday, I tossed my black Pillsbury DoughGirl parka into the washer with all the other muddy clothes.  Moved it to the dryer.  Hung it on a hanger.  Got up Monday after a way too short weekend, and struggled into the parka to go to work.  And struggled.  What? Ho?  Something was askew.  Why couldn't I move my right arm?  Why did I look like Igor in "Young Frankenstein"?  Why was my coat AB-normal?

Somehow all the filling in my new parka had come loose from the quilting, except at the right shoulder.  So all the poof had agitated and tumbled around and around like a ballerina with one shoe nailed to the floor until it was the size of a baseball/bagel around the vortex and rock hard.

If you happen to need a chain untangled, a shoestring unknotted, your Christmas tree light strings salvaged, I am your girl.  But even I could not untwist the batting and move it back where it belonged.  I wasn't brought up to just surrender and discard something that might yet be fixed or repurposed.  Oh, the low self-esteem!  I slunk to the dumpster to toss in the coat and debated whether I should also discard its detachable hood.

The Montgomery Ward store where I bought my new parka went out of business in 2001.  I quit shopping there in 1995, having purchased the coat when I returned the final Valentine gift from my spouse.  I was pretty irritable, having found our Wards credit card bill.  My spouse purchased two tropical flower push-up bra/panty sets, and a gold ankle bracelet with a heart charm.  I received one bra/panty set for Valentines Day.  The salesclerk in the jewelry department translated the SKU codes from the bill, and showed me the garish ankle bracelet.  Geez, divorce was due to irreconcilable aesthetics, among so many other things! 

Today I purchased a new fleece winter jacket.  It is Valentine red.  Life is good.  Just ask Igor.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Looking back--Small Stones #10

Lizard stump
Zip in, be still
Dad sleeping or maybe hears me coming
closes eyes fiercely or glares back

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


My Mondrian Moment

Since my homeward commute now includes a stop to visit Dad, a long traffic light wait at Coit and Frankford Roads is a regular feature.  Birds own every tree, light pole, power wire and most of the ground at this major intersection.  I particularly like the way they top this willow tree each dusk.    

My parents were fond of Piet Mondrian's geometric abstractions like "Broadway Boogie Woogie," so I grew up with those images.  When I moved to Dallas I saw Mondrian's tree and windmill abstractions, and much prefer them.  The Dallas Museum of Art had a huge Mondrian exhibit in the autumn of 2001. 

My way-home willow also fits with my current reading, Clara and Mr. Tiffany, by Susan Vreeland.  Halfway through the novel I am frustrated with the storyline, but intrigued by the descriptions of the glass-making factory and the process of making Tiffany's leaded windows.  The Dallas Museum of Art had a fabulous Louis Comfort Tiffany exhibit I got to share with the Woolly Mammoth.  How would Clara and her crew of women make a glass window if Louis Comfort Tiffany saw my willow tree?

Mondrian: The Transatlantic Paintings, Dallas Collects, Color in Space, America Responds, August 19–November 25, 2001

Louis Comfort Tiffany: Artist for the Ages, May 28, 2006 through September 3, 2006

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Sliders and other burgers

My heavens those marinaded Hawaiian roll sandwiches were good.  Teeny, but good.  You can Google and find recipes, and I'm not sure which treat we ate, but they slid down deliciously and left us licking our fingers.  I wish the Lunch Bunch were still coming around on Fridays so I could make these goodies for them while they did their French homework.

I'm not sure of the attraction of teeny sandwiches and burgers, but I spy them every time I open a food section of the newspaper or magazine.  Now I offer the unmarinaded recipe for the teeniest slider, as demonstrated by a four year old today at snack time.


Carefully place one raisin between two cheerios.  Hold firmly between index finger and thumb.  Nibble.  Repeat.  Hold your pinkie up to show your refinement.  Stretch this snack to a new world's slow eating record!

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


In This Style 10/6

Oh, Lordy, what's our Howie been smoking with that caterpillar?  When I approach Dad down the long hall, he tells me I am taller than I think.  "She," he says," is six two and five eighths.  And you are even taller."  Yikes.  I'm Tall Alice.  My high school health teacher warned us about flashbacks!

I enticed Dad to nibble a bit on a personal pan slice from Pizza Hut.  He tells me again I am six two and five eighths.  He's tall, also, he says.  I input that he always used to be five ten or so.  Nope, now he is "nine six". 

I'm glad Dad wants to be out wheeling down the hall toward the dining room.  I walk behind and give occasional course corrections to his tacks.  It must be hard to steer when one is suddenly so much higher in the clouds.

When we get to the dining room Dad settles in, staring at the aquarium without seeing, hearing the monotones of the blind lady without getting stressed, listening to the cd of big band hits played by some woman at a chicken restaurant organ.  I can almost, but not quite, latch onto a lyric here or there.

"The first evening I was here," Dad says, "they brought me a big glass of cranberry juice with ice.  Now that was living!"  Is this real?  Is this tea time in Wonderland?  Dad's nurse tells me it is okay to get him some cranberry juice.  His aide tells me that must have been the evening he hit her.  Geez.  Off with his head.  Dad schlurps cranberry juice through the straw like a man possessed, momentarily clear-headed, satisfied, and hydrated. 

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Unlike Cinderella on Sunday #1

I couldn't get my magic slippers off.  CollageMama's Anti-Blue Bag Rustic Park Creek Clean-up effort did a beta run, and I quickly found places in the creek deeper than the loaner boots from Ms. Janie.  What I learned:
  • It's lots easier to collect garbage from the creek than it is to get size 9 boots off my fat, soggy feet.
  • I need a better collection and retrieval system.
  • Hauling bags of trash up the creek banks and to the dumpster is exhausting.
  • Birds are excited about my efforts, and sing wildly ahead of my efforts.
  • Dogs are aggitated, vocal, loud and persistant in their opposition to the same.
  • Whether the most important aspect is size or technique, it's really hard to pull those boots off.  Thought I might have to call 911!

Draining boots on the condo doorstep

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder

Oppositional defiant disorder--old fart style

There once was a father not named Pierre who only would say, "I don't care."  I keep wanting to read Maurice Sendak's cautionary tale aloud to Dad, but it wouldn't make any difference.  Neither would hitting Dad with the folding wheelchair.  Thank heaven I have decades of experience with three year olds, so I am ready when Dad says he doesn't want to eat lunch and I CAN'T MAKE HIM.  Sigh.  This is so boring.  They always say that! 

Dad, I'm a preschool teacher on my one day off this week.  I'm not going to play would-you-could-you-on-a-train-and-in-the-rain with you.  You don't want green eggs and ham?  See if I care!

I go back to Will Shortz's Saturday crossword puzzle, and decline to make eye contact.  Soon Dad is snarfing down his chicken vegetable soup and apple juice.  When he pushes away from his tray I say, "Too bad you didn't have crackers for your soup." 

Oh, yeah.  Crackers would be so good.  Give that boy a saltine!

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder

An angel in Louisville, KY

Since moving Dad to Texas I've been receiving hieroglyphic notifications of quantity limits for his prescriptions from his Medicare Drug Plan.  I spent nearly an hour on the phone Monday morning getting info about Dad's pharmacy coverage.  That's probably not the right way to contemplate MLK Day. After going through a long automated phone menu and three alleged humans, I was told my Power of Attorney document wasn't on file, so HIPPA wouldn't allow me access to diddly. If I would just fax that Power of Attorney they would file it in a week or so, and then they might maybe, ha-ha, lah-di-dah explain Dad's coverage... if I could guess Rumplestiltskin's name.

I wish I'd never heard the phrase, "Durable Power of Attorney".  I'm forever sending this document off into the wild blue yonder to entities that can't seem to file it for future reference. 

So I found records that I sent the documents in 2009, and called again. Thank heaven I got a compassionate and efficient human who promptly accessed the legal documents in the records and gave me answers.  She could tell I was a woman on the edge, and I gotta say Rhonda was the best doctor I've had in a long time. She also told me to take care of myself, take a long walk through Walmart, and then have a milkshake at McDonalds.

Thank you Rhonda, thank thank you Rhonda for saving me from another phone menu!  I am grateful to be held in your prayers for the Medicare D members and their families, and I don't mean that facetiously.  It's gonna take a lot of prayers to get through this care-giving phase of life with any sanity left.  I am glad to be held, but not on hold.

Poetry is juxtapositions of word associations distilled in a mental crockpot.  Phone menu associations are poetry gone awry with the lid of the crockpot rattling all night while the chili boils down to asphalt.

At three in the morning the sound of the lid wakes me enough to wonder if Henry Gibson asked Marshall McLuhan or Yehudi Menuhin whatcha doin', but not enough to wander out to the kitchen to salvage the chili.  This is your brain on drugs.  This is your brain on hold.  This is your brain on Laugh-In.

Dad's doctor is not named Benjamin Netanyahu, but I can't remember her name.  Am I in any better shape than Howie?  How does he retrieve material stored in his mind?  How can I do the same? 

Netan Yahoo's on first.  Hu's on first.  Hippos are dancing with powers of attorneys. 

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder

Last Call

As often happens, my library reserves are arriving all at once.  Last Call by Daniel Okrent is on my Kindle, so I can set it aside for now.  The political process toward  Prohibition was slow, and reading about it is not speedy.  My son chose the book for me because he lives in small-town Ohio, the incubator of the Eighteenth Amendment.

I'm getting a refresher course on Nebraskan William Jennings Bryan, the Great Commoner aka Boy Orator of the Platte.  Bryan was a perennial presidential candidate like Harold Stassen, Ralph Nader, and Eugene McCarthy.  What I remember most about William Jennings Bryan and his Lincoln home, Fairview, is the umbrella stand made from an elephant's leg.  That item creeped out generations of Lincoln schoolchildren.  I think of it whenever I teach an elephant-related art project!

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder

My Two Eeyores

My dad is not very how.  He doesn't seem to have felt at all how for a long time.  Although he gets some stimulation from backing his wheelchair into the wall, he is not a happy animal. 

Today Dad says he feels "weird" and "goofy" and that he doesn't know what he is doing.  I tell him the doctor is trying a new medication, and that might be the reason for his weirdness.  I don't want to argue about whether or not Dad needs an antidepressant/appetite stimulant.  Dad does grin when I tell him the facility will probably bill me for the damage he is doing when he smashes into the wall.

I'd like to nail a tail on the back of Dad's wheelchair so he would feel more like cavorting, or popping wheelies.  In fact, I saw a lovely orange-brown tail in the parking lot of the condos just the other day.  When I got home from my visit with Dad and a side trip for groceries I met the rightful owner of that tail.  Hauling the bags out of the car trunk, I caught sight of a little orange person standing straight up with his hand on his hip glaring at me.  Slowly my brain did the "what's wrong with this picture?"  That tiny orange person was a squirrel with no tail, and not much fear either.

Eeyore seemed to be enjoying tailless life, and had a good appetite as I got close enough for a photo.  When he finally fled, he hopped like a rabbit.  I'll be keeping my eye out for Eeyore in my hundred acre wood.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder

YAARP Magazine

 This is the Yardley era magazine for girls who read Seventeen Magazine in the mid Sixties.  I needed some pink, I think, or an attitude adjustment.  Thus the pink construction paper for this week's art class projects.

Teaching the youngest group to cut bites into the folded paper to make peek-a-boo holes brought delight.  The threes were thrilled to look through their "masks".  That must have been what brought Twiggy's eyelashes and Jean Shrimpton's lip gloss to mind.

Things are a bit rosier now.  Some sunny, crisp, frosty mornings helped my outlook.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Progression--Small stone #9

creamy nougat clouds
curtains of caramel light
another day coated in dark chocolate
gone in two bites

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Career planning

The four year-old boys were chatting at lunch. 

M.  "When I grow up I'm going to drive a garbage truck."

N.  "When I grow up I'm going to be a dult."

Thank heaven I wasn't drinking root beer, as it would have shot out my nose. Growing up, my dad used to tell us to "be alert! The country needs more lerts."

Unfortunately, Dad is not being a lert, although our country needs lerts and dults more than ever. Dad is a mess at the moment, and I'm not sure he knows who I am.  So, I've got "Pagliacci" in the cd player.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Arranged--Small stone #8

Exquisite invitation
Pixie progressive dinner
Fairies please
Sip sherry from nut cup
Follow arrow under bridge
Cold toes RSVP

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Miss Nebraska dreams of Jeannie

Staying power is what it's all about.  Keep cashing those royalty checks.

Last night a seventeen year old from Nebraska was crowned Miss America.  Last time I watched a beauty contest Bert Parks was still singing.  Will we remember the name of the 2011 winner in forty or fifty years?  Not likely unless they rename "O" Street in her honor!

Every single noon the woman across the hall from Dad watches a TVLand "I Dream of Jeannie" marathon four episodes with Barbara Eden and Larry Hagman.  Every supper hour the resident in the room next to Dad's watches "All In the Family" with Jean Stapleton's shrill rendition of "Those Were the Days".  

Most evenings I get home, unload my lunchbox containers into the dishwasher, and hit the start button for the cd player.  Verdi's Nabucco wipes out the audio of Jean and Jeannie. 

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder

A blue bag slideshow

These are photos of the blue bag litter along the creek and in the water at Rustic Park, taken 1/15/2011 and 1/13/2011:


© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder

Still life--Small stone #7

Dad naps, I read.
Dad wakes,
"I am ready for the full heat."
Another blanket, thermostat change?
Dad wakes and pushes the call button,
"I am ready for the full light."
The aide shrugs. 
Dad wakes,
"Do you want to go now?  Are we ready to go?  Can we leave now?"

Unfortunately for most elderly people there is a long disconnect between being ready to go and being still life.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder


Cupcake aggravation, O best beloved

I will proceed now to relate how Dad got himself into an agitated state over the delayed delivery of his supper tray.  He had no manners then, and he has no manners now, so he hollered for his supper.  Then he declined to eat his supper except for the cupcake, since he was all in a tizzy to get into bed.  But as he ate the cupcake, only just, the crumbs were distributed all about Dad's turtleneck and sweatpants and furthermore.  When dear Penelope came to pop Dad into his nightshirt and transfer him into beddy-bye, the pulling off of the turtleneck unwound the cake crumbs down into tummy skin rolls and crevices.  And if only Jack Nicholson had been there at the long-term care facility with Bobby McFerrin making music it would have sounded exactly like this.

Just so!

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Trunks were already on my mind when I found the abandoned light fixture beside the dumpster.  A condo updater made a trip to Home Depot for a new ugly chandelier, no doubt.  The unwanted chandelier ended up down by the creek  a few days later.  No longer a found object for a photo study, I hauled the darn thing up and heaved it into the dumpster.

The elementary art students added paintings to their elephants from last week to create art reminiscent, but much more uplifting than the heave-ho of the light fixture. 

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder

Prate vs. prattle

All Questions Resented, weekdays at five p.m. and weekends anytime.  Dad doesn't like questions.  At all.  Any more.  I Q.  He won't A.  He has no Qs for me.  Tricky breaking the conversational ice in this deep freeze.  Dad sits with his back to me in his wheelchair.  If I move, he moves.

After forty-five minutes feeling unwelcome, I put on my coat.  Without looking at me Dad says, "Please don't go so soon."  I take off my coat, and try a new tactic.  Dad always complains about his children talking on and on, or, apparently worse, philosophizing. 

I'm pretty desperate, so I ponder aloud the possibilities for an elephant clay project with the elementary students, brainstorm the art update for the school newsletter, and report on the class rabbit's earwax problems.  Thank heaven for the recent discovery of the oldest wine-making operation in Armenia, because Dad doesn't want news of disasters, either natural or manmade.  He barely tolerates capsules of my campaign sign removal campaign and blue bag letter-writing effort.  He says "no news is good news" about my sons.  (That part is true, as they are busy and self-sufficient adults.)

Somehow, we survive another forty-five minutes of togetherness.  His supper tray arrives.  I open the packet of pepper and the tiny tub of butter.  He doesn't want either, of course.  He is tired of my chatter, or is it prattle?  At least I didn't babble, but it was getting close.

prat-tle  --intr.  To talk idly or meaninglessly; babble.  --tr.  To utter in a childish or silly way.  --n. Childish or meaningless sounds; babble.  Good grief, it is a [Frequentative of PRATE]!  Isn't that like prune juice?

prate  --intr.  To talk idly and at great length; chatter.  --tr.  To utter idly or to little purpose.  --n.  Empty, foolish, or trivial talk.

Now I'm ready for a glass of 6100 year old wine!

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder


Blue bag blues

I do a lot of walking along Plano's creeks in my neighborhood, in city parks, and on our trail system. I am disgusted by all the trash, but particularly bothered by the amazing number of bright blue bags littering the banks and water.

Plano doesn't have "blue bag recycling".  What's the source of all these blue plastic bags? Are they left on front doors for used clothing collection? Do they blow and then end up in storm sewers? Bags are never left on doors in my condo complex, but you can find a blue bag every twenty feet along the creek behind our units.

Yes, I'm a crabby CollageMama.  Having just succeeded in convincing a county judge to collect his large fallen campaign sign in a nearby vacant lot, I'm ready to take on my next eyesore. 

This dusk I wore the boots to scramble down the creek bank, but not the gloves to clean up the mess.  Untangled some bags and didn't break my ankle climbing back up.  Sad to say, the blue bags are from a very worthy organization, the Children's Advocacy Center of Collin County.

Now how to convince the organization to use a better method for distributing and attaching bags on doorknobs?

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder


Beyond--Small Stone #6

Just beyond the intersection
of grackles and WalMart
the hay bales shine

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder


Guilt trip through the galaxy averted

Dad wasn't happy to have his picture taken, and underwhelmed about the tater tots, but otherwise looks better than he has in four days. It was nice to find him out of bed and kidding around with Penelope, the aide. This was a huge relief because a call from the speech therapist, at 2:30 made it sound like Dad had pneumonia.

I stopped at CVS to get some bite-size Milky Ways. I was afraid Dad's last words to me would be, "You never brought me the Milky Ways." That would be a heavy guilt trip.

The speech therapist found Dad unwilling to do the swallow test today he had agreed to last week. It is a big jump from there to saying he needs a chest xray right away. Clearly, I need to learn the players in this sit-com.

So far, I am putting my faith in Penelope. I think she could jolly anybody out of a funk, even me.  She wears giant dangly earrings and does an endzone dance before she transfers Dad from his wheelchair to his bed. Dad can't understand everything she says, but she has his full attention.

So, I guess I'll go back to CVS to buy more Depends.  Dad's going to be around awhile.  He likes the White Rock Marathon volunteer shirt I brought him.  If he keeps getting up and looking perky I'll share my favorite DRC Half volunteer shirt!
Maybe tomorrow I'll hang the toy airplane.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder


Not getting much written about our current art project at school: 
  • We are thinking sleepy elephant thoughts.
  • We are discovering not-elephants when we find the positions to glue the gray shapes.
  • We are wondering what will happen when the mouse squeaks.

  • We are looking at negative shapes between the bare January tree branches and around the snowman.
  • We are aiming for wisdom even when we aren't quite put together right. We are excited to paint tomorrow and learn the recipe for gray.
  • We are considering layers of gray while bundled in gray slipper socks and an afghan.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder


Gonna hang toys from the ceiling

Dad declines to get out of bed again today.  He's wallowing in a pity party that's gone on four days now.  The first week at his new home in Texas he tried pretty hard to figure things out, but then he shut down.  He figured out they will serve all his meals in bed if he acts helpless and hopeless.    

This afternoon I couldn't sit there any longer while he pretended I didn't exist.  I talked to the director of nursing, and turned it over to the professionals.  They can cajole him and emphatically encourage him to get up in his wheelchair and out to the dining room, and it won't be all my fault. 

Among the many things Dad doesn't want--photos of family, a radio, the tv on, to look out the window, to have the light on, a warmer shirt, to go outside, activities, therapy, zucchini--pictures on the wall stands out.  Okay, then, Mr. I-Am-Not-Depressed!  I'm going to hang toy airplanes, mobiles, papier mache butterflies. and wire sculptures from the ceiling.  If that won't get him out of bed, I'll take the last surviving trapeze artist from The Flying Pig Circus over to Dad's room. 

Excuse me while I pull my hair out.  Putting Led Zep in the cd player.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder


Von Trapp Family mangled

[This is not a story of mayhem.]

We had a lovely day of rain turning to snow in North Texas.  I watched the snow with Dad, and read tidbits from the Sunday paper aloud.  He eventually requested the sports section and the Parade magazine, and perused them without squinting. 

The weather outside is frightful, but the roses are delightful.  The timing is unfortunate.  With this being Sunday afternoon I have little hope for a "snow day" tomorrow.  The big fat flakes are almost gone.

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things

The roses at the condo entrance look magical in their snow bonnets.  I was humming about snowflakes on roses and whiskers on mittens plus great Keystone Koppers while I snapped these photos.  Dad had just opined loudly out of the blue that the Plano police are just a bunch of Keystone cops.  Where on earth did he get that?  He's only been in town a week!

Cream colored ponies and crisp apple streudels
Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things

My sister's choir rode around Austria in a bus with an ad for the Trapp Family Singers on the side, or some such story.  I probably have the details skewed, but she did go to Austria with her choir, and we did talk about "The Sound of Music" last weekend.  She was reading the autobiography of Agathe Von Trapp to learn the real story of the family compared to the movie.

Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favorite things

The 1965 movie didn't work for me.  It was a goatherd problem.  Even at age ten I didn't like things too sugar-coated.  I had been listening to the original Broadway cast album with Mary Martin and Theodore Bikel for eons by then.

In 1963 my grandma Halma and I received tickets to see the touring Broadway show at Lincoln's Stuart Theater.  What a Christmas present!  We sat "in the loge".  It was a major event of my childhood.  It was snowing.  Dad couldn't find a parking place for the '54 Chevy, so he let his mother and I out by the Miller & Paine department store to walk across "O" Street to the theater.  We stepped across the steam vents in the sidewalk.  I'm pretty sure we wore overshoes--the better to cross the Alps!

My parents had seen the travelling Broadway show at Omaha's Music Hall in the spring of 1961.  Florence Henderson starred as Maria.  I know this because I have the programs my mom saved.

The big red dictionary says "in the loge" is "in the front rows of a theater's mezzanine".  Magical words and places for a young girl. 

When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I'm feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don't feel so bad

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


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