Giant worm gets remote control!

Details at ten?

This old lavender twin flat sheet was sacrificed to the cause of worm education.  Great fun to be dyeing fabric again, inhaling the hot, stinky smell of RIT and vinegar on the stove, wondering how many weeks my hands will be red, ruining another plastic colander, and bleaching my sink. Joy in the moment!

Maybe the giant worms will pop out of a Rubbermaid tub at the We Did Worms event, instead of a can.  I priced giant can options at Target this morning while my walking buddy spent her gift card.  We were cooling down after one of our intense strolls around the neighborhood.

I have not yet dragged the bags of play sand, pea gravel, and $1.00 topsoil out of the Buick's trunk.  These are ingredients for worm parfaits. I'll deal with those tomorrow at terra. There's only so much I can do while remembering  when Gary Hardin put the worm gizzard from the dissection tray down the throat of Resusci Annie in Mrs. Wittemore's seventh grade Life Science class.

And was Mrs. Wittemore's hairstyle what is called "marceled"?  How old was Mrs. Wittemore in 1967?  We thought she was at least a thousand with her weird hair, sensible shoes, and frumpy green dress.  She was probably much younger than I am now in my sensible shoes, fat lady capri pants, and chrome hair.

The prototype giant red wiggler gave me many hints that there must be a better way to make the other three worms.  Life Science today, Home Ec class tomorrow.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Worm whereabouts and library life list

Two more libraries for the life list!  That brings me to sixty-four.  Today I visited the Carrollton Public Library At Josey Ranch Lake.  My worm presentation has been changed to this location, and I wanted to check it out in advance.  The library has a virtual tour online.  It's embarrassing to know so little about the next major suburb one giant step over on the tollroad.  The library is connected to a senior center, looks out on a lake with a loop trail, adjoins a park and an athletic complex, and has a natural plant area.

It was exciting to see the Summer Reading Program poster with the worm event listed, and to see the Carrollton Leisure Connections catalog:

I'm planning to make a soft sculpture Can'O'Worms for the event, sort of a Claes Oldenberg meets Popeye visual aid.  Picked up the "wine" RIT dye and rubber bands at Albertsons.  Heading to the upstairs linen closet to find a well-aged white bed sheet for dyeing.

Walking the library lake 6.4 mile loop trail included views of swans, ducks, red-winged blackbirds, white egret, little blue heron, and green heron, all at no extra charge.

And the other life list library?  My visit to the U.S. Institute for Peace include a quick walk through the Ron Silver Library.  Ron Silver did not mean anything to my son/tour guide.  I had a vague idea Ron Silver was an actor or a political activist.  As it turns out, Silver was both.  In 1989, he co-founded the non-partisan social and political advocacy group Creative Coalition with colleagues including Alec Baldwin, Christopher Reeve, and Susan Sarandon.  I still don't know how the library came to be named for him.

As I read about the USIP's library, I learned about a fascinating woman, Jeannette Rankin.  The library's program is named for this pacifist, the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress.

You can't shake hands with a clenched fist. 
Indira Gandhi

You can't shake hands with a fistful of spinach.  

You can't shake hands with a can of worms.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


All Gaul...

...is divided into how many parts?

I always have to look these things up.  It's exasperating, vexing, and occasionally chafing that I can't remember from year to year.  gall2 v. 3. 

Galls are bizarre and common occurrences in the natural world.  gall3 n.  An abnormal swelling of plant tissue caused by insects, microorganisms, or external injury.

This Oak Gall was bigger than a ping pong ball, and still intact.

It was ninety-three degrees, but I needed a stress reduction walk at Oak Point Nature Preserve.  My dad's Guide to Nature in Winter, by Donald W. Stokes, has thirteen pages devoted to galls:

The closest we can come to explaining gall formation is to say that the insect disrupts the normal growth of a plant either through physical irritation or chemical secretion.  Around the insect, the plant grows a deformity, which the insect then uses for food and protection while developing.

Stokes says about 1500 types of gall-makers are known on this continent, and over half are on oaks.  Most oak galls are formed by wasps.  The galls in my photos seem to be Oak Apple Galls.  I avoid wasps whenever and wherever possible!  They do not play well with others.

This gall on a sapling just down the trail was hollow.  The galls were a tricky usage trail to follow:

  • He had the gall to...  impudence He had the gall to say he was my friend after being so rude to me.

  • It galls me to think...  to annoy (a person) very much It galls me to think that he is earning so much money. 

  • Gallbladder n. Also gall bladder.  A small, pear-shaped, muscular sac located under the right lobe of the liver, in which bile secreted by the liver is stored.

  • Gaul, though, is divided into three parts according to Caesar.  Julius was quite the propagandist/spin doctor.  [De Bello Gallico bk. 1, sect. 1]:

Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres.

Why is yellow the color of bile?   

In the medical theories prevalent in the West from Classical Antiquity up to the Middle Ages, the body's health depended on the equilibrium between four "humors" or vital fluids: bloodphlegm, "yellow bile" (or ichor) and "black bile". Excesses of the last two humors were supposed to produce aggression and depression, respectively; and the Greek names for them gave rise to the English words "cholera" and "melancholia". Those same theories explain the derivation of the English word "bilious" from "bile", and the meaning of "gall" in English as "exasperation" or "impudence".

And what was the deal about crossing the Rubicon?

  • Kenny Roger's song, "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town" has always given me acid reflux.  The You Tube is worth watching just for the 1972 white patent go-go boots and tambourine.
  • The Rolling Stones' Ruby Tuesday was one of the first songs I heard on KLMS radio after Santa Claus brought me a transistor radio and ear phone in December of 1966.  

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Visualize whirled worms

World peace is beyond my control.  "Whirled peas" always brings mental images of bad junior high cafeteria tricks back at Millard Lefler in the late-Sixties.  Whirled worms might be manageable with a touch of Doppler radar.  

Whirred worries about worms are causing an undercurrent of anxiety as my Worm Show moment of fame approaches.  In just a few weeks I'll be presenting a "We Dig Worms" event for a nearby public library summer reading program.  My worms are not at the peak of their training, ready for Olympic competition.  And the worms are far ahead of me!

Tuesday evening I sorted worms from humus while tracking weather watch radar on t.v.  Joplin, Missouri was on my mind, as were memories of Omaha in 1975.  I moved my worm bin to the living room so I could sort while watching t.v.  I was afraid I'd have to take my bin of little critters with me into my "safe room" (aka downstairs bathroom).

We were lucky.  It rained hard, but my area didn't get any hail.  This weather dude kept talking about the curving tail motion on the storm cells.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Believing in peace

Good design, bad idea, don't get bogged down:

Today I planned to write about the splendid architectural spaces in the new headquarters of the United States Institute for Peace.  Instead I learned that Republicans are trying to kill the agency forever.  Excuse me!  Did those guys and gals grow up sitting on their hands when the rest of us were clapping to save Tinkerbell's life?  Were they rooting for the flying monkeys?

I'm pretty discouraged about the prognosis for peace.  My current preschool students wear glittery peace symbol t-shirts with their sequined shoes and purple sparkle nail polish.  The peace symbol seems to be enjoying a marketing resurgence while the real concept gets flushed.  This could send me into a real slough of despair, except that I would have to admit never reading Pilgrim's Progress even though I wanted to be Jo March when I grew up, nor can I pronounce "slough", which seems to be the past tense of creamy cole slaw when it gets too warm and runny and potentially bacteria-filled at the picnic.

Keeping me out of the slaw-slew-slow-bog, I'm celebrating not having to use the plunger at work yet this week.  Also, Eeyore the tailless squirrel just ran across my patio fence top.  

In the dean's address to the graduating students of the Elliott School of International Affairs at GWU, he kept it simple.  Go forth, he told them:



The employees of the U.S. Institute for Peace have a softball team, just like every other agency and Congressional staff in D.C.  The U.S.I.P. folks work hard and play hard.  Their team is named the Screaming Hawks.

Henry Kissinger was addressing a group about China and Pakistan in this space when I arrived for my tour.  The window faces the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall.

I love the building.  I love the agency and its mission.  Glad, too, that my son is still employed there for the summer.

Let's choose for peace, and not just for cheapo t-shirts.  SAVE WORLD, HAVE FUN.

Go, Mavs!

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Cab fare

Dad's hospice provider is morphing in some way and reorganizing with its sister company.  Dad is being transitioned to a team from a different office.  Maybe he will get to reject/eject a new pastor.  He will get a new R.N., but his bath aide will stay the same.

When my sister asked for an update on Dad's condition Sunday, she asked that difficult question, "So what will happen?"  The best I could tell her was that Dad will continue withering away, sleeping more and more, speaking inaudibly unless he is angry.  This could last months or years.

Monday afternoon Dad was in his wheelchair and studying the graduation photos I had tacked on his wall.  He had slept most of the weekend.  "I'm so glad I came along," he told me as he looked at the photos, perhaps thanking me for coming around to explain them, but maybe thinking he had been along on the graduation trip.  He acknowledged he "had to be introduced" to his family, and thanked me for writing names to go with the photos. 

Dad worked hard to sort out my sons, their wives, and friend-girls.  Then he propelled his wheelchair across the hall to the dining room for a cup of coffee.  He thought the coffee was too hot, and added three creamers while Tom Hanks hugged Oprah on the big screen tv.  Then he began asking me for taxi fare.

"I don't know why I am still here," he said.  I could take this as the intro to a profound dialog about life and death.  To Dad it is more of a complaint that I still haven't brought the car around to pick him up and drive him out of Dodge. Plus, I hadn't loaned him cab fare.

Last evening R.N. Brenda called.  I pussyfooted around that difficult question, "So what will happen?"  What is the prognosis for Dad?  He has been on hospice care since 3/4/11.  What changes has she noted?  

That question is so very loaded.  I finally phrased it by asking if Dad was leaving soon or just waiting for taxi money.  Brenda usually sees Dad at breakfast time, and finds him out in the hall in his wheelchair.  She says he always claims someone will be picking him up soon, (like those anticipating the Rapture).

Dad's major diagnosis has been changed from dementia to "adult failure to thrive".  The expectation is that Dad will continue withering with loss of appetite and energy, and that he will sleep more and more.  The first major infection will likely be more than his body can handle.  He might aspirate food particles and get pneumonia at any time. R.N. Brenda encouraged me to ask these questions more often.  What changes are noted by the hospice staff?  What is the outlook for Dad?

It's not easy to ask.  It isn't easy to find a cab after the rain starts.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


"That bad man will come and get us"

We have nothing to fear but fax machines and finger fumbles that wipe out lengthy blog drafts.  And miller moths flying up the legs of our bell-bottom pants making us lose control of our 1961 Plymouth Sport Fury.  The evaporated verbose entry began with the bell-bottoms and the proclamation about the "bad man" by a three year old student.  We were out for a little nature walk just listening to birds, feeling the wind on our skin, seeing squirrels in the trees, and noticing the guy in the parking lot talking on his cellphone.  My what big eyes he had.  My what big teeth and a coffee mug.  My what big ears and a cigarette, and that same navy striped knit shirt he wears any day when he's not meeting clients.


Three year olds are afraid of many things.  This is a countdown of things that send them into a mass tizzy:

  1. thunder
  2. ants
  3. garbage trucks
  4. loud toilets
  5. fresh fruit
  6. sirens
  7. spiders
  8. bees
  9. fire trucks
  10. power failures
  11. new vegetables
  12. foods touching each other
  13. paint on hands
  14. strangers
  15. shots

Once upon a time I was frightened of big cities, not having ever visited one.  I called my fear "metrophobia".  On my first trip to Washington, D.C. I overcame much of that fear by learning to negotiate the Metro transit system.  Twenty-five years later I still love the DC subway system except for the out-of-service escalators..

We have nothing to fear but faxing itself.  FDR did not say that, but it is still true.  My metrophobia is mostly gone, but I'm holding firm to faxophobia.  There are things in this world that are really scary--hunger, abuse, exploitation, lack of clean water, war, gang violence, long-term unemployment.  I was going to make jokes about credit card debt, termite swarms, old age, and other things that will come and get us.

I don't know whether to read an old Nancy Drew mystery with a black widow spider, or to watch the quicksand scene from Lawrence of Arabia.  It is thundering.  Angels are bowling.  Christian soldiers are marching onward.  Mothers are serving brussels sprouts to innocent preschoolers.  Moths are just waiting for you to flick on the bathroom light in the middle of the night.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Through the eyes of Calder

When I first started teaching preschool art in 1994, I had a student who could make uncanny gesture drawings of lions in motion.   She could draw horses and other animals, too, but lions were her preferred subject.  This happened to be the year the Disney "Lion King" movie was released.  It was as if this little girl had somehow climbed inside one of the animator's heads and was seeing through his eyes.  I wonder if she was equally gifted in other ways, if her lion obsession continued, and what she studied in college.

Alexander Calder has been one of my favorite artists since before he designed Braniff airplanes in the Pucci hot pants era.  His work is so full of play!  What an incredible gift he had  for translating his kinetic observations of people and animals into art. Who else could inspire me to give pipe-cleaners to three year olds?

I zoomed into D.C. focused on graduation events, without my usual tourist preparation.  The Woolly Mammoth's dear friend-girl suggested our visit to the Calder exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery.  Fabulous!  Calder's 3D wire sculpture portraits are genius!  Some of the portraits were hung so they moved in the air, gradually giving the viewer a  sense of the subject from every angle.  Other wire portraits were mounted to be viewed from all sides, so the viewer could look on the countenance of the subject, then step behind the sculpture to look through the eyes of the subject.  Mind-blowing!

Could I take non-flash photos in this exhibit to inspire my teaching and show my students?  The gallery guard grunted a "not in this exhibit.  No photos."  I had barely turned away when he was blocking the exit and snapping cellphone glamor shots of a cute lady guard batting her big eyelashes. They bantered and  flirted loudly.  The pair had definitely missed the Intro to Gallery Guard orientation class.  I was looking through the eyes of an annoyed museum visitor/art teacher as the pair interacted with unprofessional sinuousity.  How would Calder have captured them?  And what about my lion student?

[Later in the trip I got to see Calder's "Mountain and Clouds" inside the Hart Senate Office Building.]

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder

Making connections

Connections everywhere
Waiting for retrieval
Linking chains
Climbing ladders
Expanding webs
Where have I seen this before
Where I have seen this before
Before I have seen this
The connections were

(Photo from the fourth level, Museum of the American Indian, Washington, D.C.)

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


A Big Dog Party

 Although it wasn't intentional, this week's art reminds us of the big dog party at the top of the tree in Go, Dog. Go!  The preschoolers love that book as much as I love reading it.

Our mixed media art is the result to two sessions drawing our chain, ladder, web, and the Chinese dragon in the lunchroom.  We looked at the wire sculptures in different ways, and used some materials we rarely try, like chalk, oil pastels, and glitter crayons.

There's a reason why I don't get out the glitter crayons, and now I'll remember it for awhile.  What a mess!  They are soft, flaky, and stain the floor.
Since the art is so springy, I will share several samples to brighten your day.  Climb the ladders to your own dog party in a tree.
Above--age 4 and a half
Left--age 5
Below--age 3

Love these colors!

Left--age 3
Below--age 4 and a half
(and a half is very big in preschool)

Left--age 8.  The elementary kids did the same project with exciting results.
Below--age 5

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Grading on the curve

I drove
foot pedals
It's immaterial
I think I'm done
It could be better*
You guys are excused**
Do you know who they are?@
On general principle and due to bad timing***
You interrupted something that was already interrupted ****

*        Upset about his unmade bed.
**      To shadowy figures he sees behind me.
@       Pointing at snapshots of his grandchildren.
***    On why he refused a bath this morning.
****  Shaking his finger at me. 

It's a downhill Bell curve slalom ski jump viewed in a cardboard box of white noise.  This is the sum total Dad has spoken to me this week in visits adding up to over three hours.
© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


G is for gaggle of garbanzos

Old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard and was darn glad to find a can of garbanzos.  Happy to be able to make hummus when provisions are low and time is short.
Graduation was wonderful--time with family in one of my favorite places, celebrating the Woolly Mammoth's achievements.
Go Mavs!

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Napping for roller derby

The Lady In Red heaved Dad out of his wheelchair and into bed.  We were discussing World Wrestling Federation moves.  This led naturally into roller derby recollections.

I'd gotten Dad's shirt off, and hospital gown on, but I can't transfer him.  Once she got him flopped onto the bed, I peeled off his shoes, socks, and sweatpants, while Ms. Red checked his diaper. 

Ms. Red said she used to take a good nap just so she could stay up late and watch roller derby on tv. She wanted to be a Bay City Bomber when she grew up.  Ms. Red is young, born in 1963.  My students are younger, but some of them have a future skating round and round, pointlessly bulldozing into anyone in their path.

I watched roller derby as a kid on weekend afternoons in black and white.  Unless the Yankees had a game the viewing choices were slim--bowling, fishing, the local talent show, golf with Arnold Palmer and Gary Player, or "Learn to Draw" with Jon Gnagy.  Several of these options were nap-inducing!

Tuesday Dad wanted me to sit with him until he fell asleep.  He was chilly after supper, so I covered him with two quilts.  I sat next to him, stroking his skinny arms, and eventually just letting the weight of my hand on his chest secure him for his exit ramp to sleep.  It's in my job description.  I do the same thing for seven to ten preschoolers most afternoons.  Hush little baby, don't you cry, close your eyes so you can watch roller derby...

Dad can't put any weight on his legs to stand for the quick pivot into bed now.  He can't hang his arms around Ms. Red's neck and dance with her.   Most significantly perhaps, he can't stand and pivot enough to be put on the toilet for a bowel movement.  My intent is not to be gross, but to document the progressive loss of independence and self esteem, and the sadness of observing this deterioration. 

After my trip I'll have some nice photos of geese.  Right now you will have to draw your own with Jon Gnagy!

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Ninth grade English class

On the centennial birthday of Bel Kaufmann, author of Up the Down Staircase, I've beamed down into ninth grade, 1969-1970, Millard Lefler Jr. High, land of the dread One Way Hall.

This is not the semester Beverly Renee Blume (nee Austin) with the pink Coke-bottle thick glasses was my English teacher.  It must be the semester she was my journalism instructor instead.  Sniffing blue stencil correction fluid left my memories a bit warped.  In Miss Bev's English class we read The Odyssey, The Iliad, or maybe both on that wine dark sea.  Miss Austin took time off from teaching to get married to an army officer on his leave from Viet Nam and have a short honeymoon.  Her most memorable lesson is the importance of considering initials when naming our future infants, as a monogram was unfortunate no matter how curly the script: 

Instead, it is the semester I had a young spitfire English teacher named Deb Wightman first thing in the morning in the dreary dust mote-filled spare room between the Typing and Art classrooms, far from the drinking fountain, but close to the back stairs down toward the gym and the lunchroom. Miss Wightman (or maybe Miss Whiteman) had peculiar dry breakable straw blond hair in a flip, and one navy blue suit. She was part-time. She weighed about 105 pounds, wore pointy toe flats, and sat ON the desk at the front of the room!

A surprising number of secondary students get through school now without actually reading any books. Miss Wightman soon became Mrs. Ens, and was assigned to classes for reluctant readers, full-time. But that one semester Miss Wightman introduced us to Poe with "The Fall of the House of Usher" and "The Cask of Amontillado", and we took turns reading aloud. Then we studied The Pushcart War, The Mouse that Roared, Animal Farm, and 1984. To end the semester, we read Up the Down Staircase. She is my Bel Kaufmann nominee of excellence in English teaching in those early teen years.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Sports medicine

Piggie pink frosting removed from two dozen grocery store birthday cupcakes and collected in a Baggie is a tad creepy.  With the securing twist-tie in place, the 1.5 pound blob reshapes into a football pigskin* you wouldn't want to catch.  Hail that, Roger Staubach!

I am not the Decider at school regarding extreme frosting, thank heaven.  The cupcakes delivered this week were clearly across the line into flagrant frosting violation, and would not be served to the kiddies.

Luckily, too, I am not in the frosting-scraping position.  With the mounds of frosting removed, the cupcakes sitting on their festive birthday napkins reminded me of obese sunbathers on a nude beach early in the tanning season.  Not a pretty sight!

Whoever thought of putting cheapo plastic Disney Princess rings into mounds of frosting on bad cupcakes packaged in clear, molded plastic must have made several fortunes by now.  Who wants to wear a sticky ring?  Who wants to bicker over the favorite princess? 

My walking buddy told me I had to get myself to a clinic Sunday to get meds for my bronchitis.  She told me I could not Pass Go or Collect $200 unless I went right away.  I like Minute Clinic inside a nearby CVS drugstore.  The nurse practitioner works through a computerized checklist.  It's a convenient, quick, efficient, inexpensive way to get help for basic medical needs.  Good to know my cough is due to allergies, and an inhaler is needed, not antibiotics or more Robitussin.  The inhaler is working.

Feeling rotten and waiting to see the nurse, I stared at the large display of robotic Zhu Zhu hamsters, Kung Zhu hamsters, hairstyling hamsters, racecar hamsters.  They reminded me of  Harriet, the hamster that would not die.  Maybe if Harriet had been coifed and driving racecars she would have been more sociable.  A battery operated hamster would have been much more appropriate for my 1987 stress level.

This pretty planter was a teacher appreciation gift.  Hope I can keep some of it alive!

While the Mavericks were shooting three-pointers like crazy to sweep the Lakers, I gave my Mother's Day bear its annual dusting.  We brought the new baby Woolly Mammoth** home from Methodist Hospital on Mother's Day 1987.  His dad and older brothers presented me with a glass teddy bear that Mother's Day.  It wasn't really my style, but it made me teary-eyed then, and it did again this Mother's Day. 

* The official NFL Wilson football weighs 0.91 pounds.

**The new baby Woolly Mammoth weighed 9.3 pounds.  That would be a whole lot of pink cake frosting.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Chain, ladder, web

Belated photos from Wednesday's art class wire construction collaborations.  The project took its final shape when a Chinese dragon was hung from the lunchroom ceiling just before art class.  We already had a big blue dolphin helium balloon floating in the air.  Our construction had to add to the overhead excitement, or be defeated by the distractions.

Time to thread, twist, and shout (quietly). Get those fine motor fingers moving. The three and four year olds made links for a chain construction, and sketches to document the creative process.
The second group of four and a half to seven year olds worked together on a ladder structure.

The last group made a web structure, but we didn't get nearly as far on it as I had anticipated. Next week we will start large paintings inspired by our collaborations.  We've had fun popping back and forth between 3D and 2D the past few weeks.

The next two photos are a previous week's Giant Mystery Construction collaboration by the students in all three classes.  The kids drew written "clues" telling them what kind of object to find--round, flat, wood, plastic, bumpy, hollow, sectioned, clear, soft... 

I packed up the last of the recyclables and put them out for the recycling truck. I'll have to sort and bag the other goodies for another year.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Who's bringing the car around?

I hope someone will take pity and give me a hint as to the identity of this small ornamental tree now having these rather exotic looking blooms.  The central part resembles small yucca blooms, while the long red thingies look like mimosa eyelashes gone extreme.  I'll be pretty embarrassed if the answer is something obviously Texan, like a mesquite.  One nurse said she thought it was a mesquite, but she wasn't a native, either.

Dad was very anxious to go outside today, although he insisted on two blankets on his chest and legs.  The temp in his room reminded me of erupting sunspots, but he was chilly.  He self-propelled his wheelchair until he ran aground in the grass.  The sun felt good to him.
"Okay, I'm ready.  Let's go.  Who's bringing the car around?"

"Aaaaauuuuhh, nobody.  We aren't going in the car."

"I'm ready to leave.  NOW."

"I understand, Dad.  I do."

"What's the plan?  Who's bringing the car around."

"Well, Dad, we just are where we're going to be, so let's enjoy the sun."

Ever since Dad decided he was adopted and living in the parsonage, he's been trying to find a way out.  He kept phoning me at work Monday wanting to know when I would come pick him up "at the church".  By the time I arrived at 3:45 he was about to come out of his skin, furious, violent, endangering himself and others.  If I'd had a taser, I might have used it.  Cooler heads gave him some Adivant. 

Over the hour and a half it took Dad to relax and become dopey/groggy, he kept asking me the name of "that retreat on 70th" where I used to meet him.  Mystified, I went through names of golf courses, parks, pizza restaurants, hospitals, churches, assisted living, and high schools in Lincoln to no avail.  My seeming unwillingness to reveal the answer really ticked him off.

Unlike my time with Dad in the hospital after his second hip break in 2007, he was delusional, but not hallucinating.  He's come unhitched in time and space, and he is manic and aggressive.  He wants to sit at the bus stop and wait to be picked up, getting seriously pissed because I'm so inconsiderately late, but he just thinks we are all blocking him from getting to the bus stop.  He's not the charming yet suspicious guy who saw the little girl sneak into the picture show and steal all the candy just before he ripped out his IVs and chatted up the aide for a 2 a.m. sandwich.  These are distinctions I'd gladly have gone forever not perceiving.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Chains and nets and webs

Couldn't quite visualize how tomorrow's art classes will work, as I haven't done a collaborative wire sculpture in too many years.  "Wire sculpture" may sound a bit fancy for pipe cleaners, but any of the preschoolers who aren't blinded will learn something new!  Most of them are in greater danger of poking an eye out while excavating sinus cavities than by flipping wires.  Still, I will have to seat them far apart.

This is not a macaroni pipe cleaner penne pasta project with pony beads.  This is Real Art, and don't you forget it!  We will use recyclables of wood, plastic, styrofoam, and cardboard.  Then we will somehow work together to form chains, ladders, nets, and webs.  That's the hazy point in this lesson plan.

"Recombinant" always seems like it should mean the two chubby, middle-aged lovers loosely entangled on an old, dusty, mildly mildewed sectional sofa have dozed off with the game in the bottom of the fifth on the black and white tv, and the slices of cheddar and salami gradually hardening on the Melmac plates. With or without saltines, this is going to be way too complex to explain to the students.  I need a walk even though we got four inches of rain in the past two days.

The allied Robitussin and chicken soup are beating back the bronchial insurgents on most fronts.  Down by the creek, though, the coalition of Carolina wrens and mosquitoes is winning.  Six wrens read me the riot act.  I know it will go on my Permanent Record. 

Then I startled this bird, and it flew up into a tree. I just kept snapping photos as I walked closer and closer. It turned its rusty brown neck in awkward poses, with my shots aggravated by the late afternoon glare. It could be a juvenile black-crowned night heron, or maybe a juvenile green heron. I wouldn't be bitter if it was a least bittern.

Don't think the little kids will create a double helix.  I'm hoping for a chain.  Then the older groups can make the wires into ladders, nets, and webs.

Walking in the mud, I was stuck between Dionne Warwick singing "Trains and Boats and Planes" and Aretha doing "Chain of Fools".  Chains and nets and wrens...

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder

Fighting the annual bronchitis

Dump in crockpot one can each:

  • Crushed tomatoes
  • Black beans
  • Cream-style corn
  • Diced Hatch hot chiles


  • 1 big box reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic
  • fresh cilantro and sage from the patio pots, chopped
  • the rest of the grocery deli-roasted chicken, pulled off the bones and chopped
Cook covered on high the whole live-long soggy, gray day.  Go to Walgreens for Tussin DM.  Listen to weird sounds made by lungs and wonder about humpback whale tunes.  Read a Donna Leon mystery on Kindle.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Thank you, Nolan Ryan

Dad's supper included a red/yellow/green layered Jello dessert with the green on top, just like we learned to make in junior high home ec class.  The stripes reminded me of the old Houston Astros uniforms way back when Nolan Ryan was pitching for them. 

Then today I read it is the twentieth anniversary of Ryan's seventh no-hitter.  That was a golden moment for a young family of Texas Rangers fans: 

When we first moved to Texas we attended lots of Rangers games at the old Arlington Stadium. Little Steven would usually fall asleep in my lap. Jeff would count all the airplanes that flew over. Mike would eat fruit roll-ups, raisins, and jalapeno nachos. The Rangers had Bobby Valentine managing back then, Julio Franco 2B, Rafael Palmieio 1B, Steve Bueuchele 3B "Boooosh"!, Nolan Ryan, Pudge Rodriguez (age 19)C, Jeff Huson at SS, Ruben Sierra, Juan Gonzalez, and Gary Pettis in the outfield, Brian Downing at DH, Kevin Brown, Jose Guzman, Bobby Witt, Brian Bohanon, Oil Can Boyd, Rich Gossage, Kenny Rogers pitching.

Someday I might actually be able to retire and sit myself in a rusty lawn chair on a sagging screened porch and listen to baseball on the radio.  Or maybe I will just wallow in disjointed memories of 3B Dean Palmer's arm tendon rolling up like a window shade underneath his skin, of Kevin Kennedy letting Jose Canseco pitch, and of Nolan Ryan putting Robin Ventura in a headlock.

Twenty years is just two golden bead ten bars ago in the math manipulatives.  It seems hundred squares and thousand cubes ago in professional sports.

Maybe Dad is playing way-out-out outfield this season.  Perpetual klutz, I always wanted to be in the position least likely to actually have to field a fly ball. 

Dad has been sleeping for over twenty-four hours.  He won't remember Nolan Ryan.  So I just crank him up to sitting in bed and tell him I have to go soon to set up the school's twenty-fifth anniversary fair.  He isn't able to hold the styrofoam cup of coffee all the way up to his mouth.  He will never be able to hold Robin Ventura in a headlock.  He won't be inducted into the Hall of Fame.  The flowers in Dad's birthday bouquet are still golden, and light shines through the purple vase. 

In the hall right outside Dad's room the weekend aides gossip about the new resident who died just after he chatted with them over his breakfast tray.  I wonder if the deceased had orange juice and black coffee at his last meal.  The crossword puzzle is difficult, adding and subtracting "it" from answers.  The aides seem like comic costumed base-runners between innings.  In their muffled fake fur chicken suits they are unaware of the residents or of me.


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