A little lost in time and historic events

I went over to Life Care at 4:45 to feed Dad.  He kept sleeping, so I read my book.  I was about to give up and come home when he woke up at seven.  I fed him.  Sometimes he seemed to be saying 4, 5, 13, 14.  After awhile I realized he was saying letters, I, Q, U, I.  Finally he said L I Q U I D perfectly clear.  I gave him water.  He spelled it three more times.  Very bizarre.  

I couldn't have been more stunned if Helen Keller signed it in my palm. That moment is still like yesterday in my mind, but I started the post on the nineteenth.  Since then my sister came to see Dad. Danger Baby and his precious wife have been here after their Alaska trip because they couldn't fly back to NYC due to Hurricane Irene. They brought souvenir clouds and rain from their cruise.

The Woolly Mammoth's apartment in D.C. did not flood, and his girlfriend made chile/cheese soft pretzels.  I hope she will teach me how to make them when they visit for Labor Day.  Oh, and school started.  And I went on a gigantic grocery shopping and food prep spree. Made an old favorite, ravioli salad* for Danger Baby. Made more nectar for the hummingbirds.

This afternoon Danger Baby and I arrived during the hospice RN's  visit.  I got some information that is not just anecdotal for a change.  Dad's heart rate is 49/min.  It has been declining slowly but steadily for weeks. If  Dad were in a hospital situation, they would be trying everything to get it up over 60/min. Dad's lungs have lots of fluid that no treatment will really remove.  His breathing is very shallow, and his lungs do not expand.  Dad is still responsive, and can smile when requested.  He is not in pain. Medication is available should pain become a problem, or for agitation. We are to be even more careful feeding Dad, and to stop any time he starts coughing until he can clear his throat.

The nurse's educated guess is that Dad's heart rate will continue decreasing. He will stop taking food or liquids.  He will sleep more and more, and be unresponsive when awake. When we were leaving I told Dad, "See you tomorrow."  Then he told his grandson, "See you tomorrow."  I explained again that Danger Baby will fly back to NYC tomorrow morning, so Dad said, "Toodle-loo."

*To make ravioli salad first drive your cart up and down and up and down and up and down the frozen food aisles at Kroger.  Finally ask for help.  The store brand frozen mini cheese ravioli is on the top shelf of the freezer.  Cook the ravioli as directed, drain and cool.  Cut up cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, and bell pepper.  Cut up the artichoke hearts and pitted olives from the deli olive bar at Tom Thumb.  Add to ravioli in large glass bowl.  Make a vinaigrette.  Look up the spelling, AGAIN.  1/4 cup rice vinegar, 3/4 cup olive oil, dry mustard, fresh oregano, basil, and sage, dry thyme, squeeze of lemon, fresh ground black pepper, and 1/8 t honey. Mix in the blender.  Pour 1/3 to 1/2 the dressing over the ravioli mix.  Gently stir with rubber spatula while admiring the pretty colors and popping a few mini raviolis into your mouth which is the chef-mommy's duty to taste test.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Baby oil, applesauce, and a one-woman FEMA

One week ago tonight I picked my sister up at the airport so she could say a maybe goodbye to Dad.  She got back to her home in time for the earthquake, and to prep for Hurricane Irene's impending arrival in the D.C. area.  She's had a heckuva week, with a FEMA-fest weekend ahead, plus she has teenage kids.  Thank heaven I'm past the zits, angst, and hormones phase of parenting!

Exhibit A.  Empty nest.

You cannot tell a twenty-four year-old guy diddly.  The Woolly Mammoth lives in a soon-to-be-swampy basement apartment in D.C. He is expecting a bit of rain and a minor power outage this weekend.  The aforementioned D.C. earthquake resulted in an evacuation from his office, but did not impact his intramural baseball game.  Hurricane schmurricane. Irrational worrying parent that I am, I requested he charge his cell phone before the rain and power outage arrive.  Also, any Metro station where he needs a scuba mask on the escalator is probably not a good travel option.

Michael "Heckuva job, Brownie" Brown claims he was a scapegoat in his recent book, Deadly Indifference.   He "charges President Bush with 'yielding to the poor judgment of staff aides who insisted upon photo opportunities that overrode common sense.'”  We can all pray that FEMA and DHS have learned lessons since Katrina, and are prepared to apply them this weekend.  If not, my sister is ready and able to organize and lead!

Danger Baby and my lovely daughter-in-law are not in the path of Irene because they are on a first anniversary cruise in a distant ocean.  I am in charge of powerless fretting from Texas about their 22nd floor Manhattan apartment, with its balcony furniture potentially blamming* through their sliding glass door.

Spoon-feeding Dad during the NBC Nightly News, I focus on the cranes at the WTC construction site and remember overlooking it six months ago.

Exhibit B:  Lower Manhattan.

Dad doesn't really comprehend the hurricane news or any other current events.  We sit together, holding hands.  "Let's walk downtown," he says.  "Okay, we can get a drink at the gas station," I say.  The gas station on Main in Pierce had a water fountain near the sidewalk promoted as "the best water in Pierce".

Dad's fingers look like they are inside a latex glove, but that is his transparent, wrinkled skin.  We remember together the walk from Grandma's house up Main past the gas station, near the junction of 98 and 13.  Dad says audibly that he'd like to get a hamburger.  I exit our reverie and knock on the kitchen door to request a memory lane burger.  Dang, but I should have just driven to Braums and bought a real burger for Dad, not an industrial frozen patty.  The dear old guy was a bit freaked when the nursing home chef in black uniform and white toque personally delivered his hamburger tray.  The burger inside the bun was cut into eight wedges and arranged like a happy sunshine.

Dad did not throw his special request burger at the wall.  One of my new preschool four year-olds threw her pomegranate/applesauce on the lunchroom floor.  Another young student slathered her hair in the baby oil intended for her younger brother's bottom.  Several shampoos did not get the oil out.  Her waterproof hairdo reminded me of Hemingway's pomegranate-colored plastic jacket.

This useful website details the Brodart history of plastic book jackets.  Thanks to a library coworker for her detective expertise.

*blamming is blasting and ramming through somebody or something, usually your younger brother.  Akin to blaffy, something that is dirty, yucky, germy, and should not be put in your mouth or the mouth of your younger brother.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Hemingway's rosy wallpaper

Or  not so macho.  

Once upon a time in a lovely, small library where I happen to work, there was a copy of Death In the Afternoon.

For some reason, the book wasn't circulating, even though there was a resurgence of interest in Ernest Hemingway's wives, boats, and feasts.  I have to wonder about the sensible shoes librarian or her assistant, (Igor) who used this pinkie floral wallpaper scrap for the dust jacket many decades ago.

All I know about bull-fighting I learned from Bizet's opera, "Carmen" and from The Story of Ferdinand, by Munro Leaf.  One is all about passion, death, blood, lust, jealousy, and fate.  The other is about smelling the flowers in all the lovely ladies' hair and declining to fight.

Was the old librarian being frugal, using whatever material was at hand to protect her precious books?  Or was she making a statement and trying to dissuade manly men from reading Hemingway's non-fiction reportage?

Matadors wear pink hose.  Library books wear dust jackets with a protective plastic cover to increase their longevity.  The rosy wallpaper on Death In the Afternoon might have come from Grandma's house in Pierce, Nebraska, already faded in the early Sixties. The style of plastic book jacket cover on our book would have looked old, cracked, and marginally appealing at the Pierce Library in those same years when I was being Grandma's little library assistant:

The seeds of Brodart took root in 1939, when a young Columbia University student named Arthur Brody invented the plastic book jacket cover.  Involved with architectural photography as a student, one day Mr. Brody washed the emulsion off some film and folded it around his books for added protection.  When the cover’s popularity grew among his fellow students, the plastic book jacket cover was officially born, as was Brodart.  Today, the covers are used to protect the original paper jackets of library books, giving them a longer shelf life and increasing their circulation.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Aerial Zucchini Circus

Of course he won't mind
When he finds that he has
A big circus behind.*

Ms. Sneelock reporting in on my big circus behind.

Okay, not that big of a behind, and a pig is not really a circus performer. The circus out back is more of a high wire act with leaping lizards and dueling hummingbirds. It's a Barnum and Bailey backyard.

Thank heaven for the three ring diversion.  This circus puts on a show every evening when I get home after work and spoon-feeding my father's supper.  Dad's decline is slow, variable,  insistent.

Life in the patio circus is speeding-bullet fast.  I transition from letting go at a snail's pace to grabbing on like lightning.

A single zucchini seed sprouted in an old Rubbermaid tub filled with good dirt.  With amazing speed the vine climbed the tomato cage nearby and began its aerial feats.

Moving past the tomato cage, it climbed a pepper plant, but kept reaching further.  I plunked a garden stake in a pot of basil.  The zucchini tendrils grabbed on.  Another stake in the marigold pot, and more tendrils grabbed for the glory.  Nearly every day, I move a pot into position, add a stake or two, and before I can say, "Ringling Brothers," the tendrils have twined around the stakes.  One of these evenings I'll surely spot a trapeze act between the stakes and vines.

In the meantime, there's a cute little insect who thinks he's a mountain goat yodeling around the zucchini blossoms. AND, the lizards are leaping! There may even be a baby zucchini in the future.

*If I Ran the Circus, by Dr. Seuss.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


The Little Buick Headlight and the Great Gray Bridge

The officer was very polite, confident, and young when he asked for my license and proof of insurance.  He had noted the bottle of Australian wine in the cupholder, and saw it was unopened.  He asked where we were going.  "Home," I said, "to Plano."

Where had my sister and I been?  "We were having supper at a friend's house."  I considered mentioning the fabulous shrimp Louie salad, and the odd recipe for Lemon Crunch that used pecans and cornflakes.

The officer was patient while I dug around in the glove box for the current proof of insurance, then explained the drivers' side headlight was out.  Got a new headlight bulb at Auto Zone first thing this morning.  My sister insisted the used bulb looked like a lighthouse.

 The Little Red Lighthouse is a precious talisman from childhood.  My parents brought it back to me from New York City in 1961.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Go Big Red

Please make this drought go away.  Bring on the rain! The map is red, but the plantings along the freeway on my commute are brown crispy critters.  It's a highly flammable world.

Please let Big Red keep helping Dad.  She is a gift for my spirit, and for Dad's connection to the here and now.  When Big Red, aka Penelope, offers her hand to shake Dad's, he still pulls his hand from under the blanket to shake.  She calls Dad, "Papa", and "My friend".  Her compassion, openness, and humor are the best medicine.  She can tell me in one breath that Dad tossed his lunch tray on the floor AGAIN, and in the next say she's about ready to start throwing things herself!  Oh, Lordy, don't we all have days like that at our jobs?  Then she has a bowl of tomato vegetable soup saved back for Dad when he gets hungry at the wrong time.

Grow big, red cannas.  Keep attracting those hilarious, healing hummingbirds.  I love their ruby-throated antics and territorial aerial battles.  The cannas are taller than the privacy fence.


© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Rose-colored glasses on the street where you live

I have often walked down this street before;
But the pavement always stayed beneath my feet before. 
All at once am I several stories high... 

Picked up my new spectacles today, and the pavement is only a fraction of an inch above my feet.  Poor Freddy Eynsford-Hill needed a better optometrist.

Tonight I can say it's easier reading with the new glasses.  Drove with no problems.  Now I've messed around at the computer editing photos and making lesson plans for a few hours, and haven't set my glasses aside yet.  The ultimate test will be shelving top-shelf fiction at the library.

Kind of sad that my Dairy Queen frames will be put out to pasture. I've had those glasses since 2005.  That's when a co-worker first noticed their resemblance to the DQ logo.

Dairy Queen no more.  Long live the queen.  Bring her a chocolate Dilly Bar ASAP.


Pardon me, boy

Dad is in the kitchen with Dinah. His fingers strum invisible air banjoes.


Dad manages to vocalize his question.  I know he's exasperated at my inability to read lips when he is in silent mode.

You are still here in Plano, Texas.

I can't make head nor tails...

Your confusion makes me cry, too.  


Oh, now I've got it.  You  are on the train again, Dad.  The oxygen machine puffs and huffs rhythmically.  It sounds ever so much like the Zephyr waiting for an all aboard down by the station early in the morning.

Alas and alack, clickety clack, I foresee trouble ahead, trouble behind and you know that notion just crossed my mind.


I've been working at the library.  I've got to go now, Dad.


I have things to do at my own house.  My eyes water. Dad must wonder how I'm getting off his train.  His skinny chest breathes so rapidly.  His little pufferbelly is 500 miles from his home.

If you miss the train I'm on, you will know that I am gone 
You can hear the whistle blow a hundred miles, 
A hundred miles, a hundred miles, a hundred miles, a hundred miles, 
You can hear the whistle blow a hundred miles. 

Lord I'm one, Lord I'm two, Lord I'm three, Lord I'm four, 
Lord I'm 500 miles from my home. 
500 miles, 500 miles, 500 miles, 500 miles 
Lord I'm five hundred miles from my home. 

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


No more suctioning

Was thrilled when my eye doctor did not dilate my eyes last week.  If he had, he would have used Atropine.  This medication is also used to decrease bronchial secretions.  It's now on the "as needed" list for my dad, along with Mucinex.  

Rx googling might be unhealthy, but I found the information about Atropine on Wikipedia appropriate:

Atropine is a naturally occurring tropane alkaloid extracted from deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna), jimsonweed (Datura stramonium), mandrake (Mandragora officinarum) and other plants of the family Solanaceae. It is a ... drug with a wide variety of effects....[The name] derive[s] from Atropos, one of the three Fates who, according to Greek mythology, chose how a person was to die. Atropine is a core medicine in theWorld Health Organization's "Essential Drugs List", which is a list of minimum medical needs for a basic health care system.

Well, dang, I just put Edith Hamilton back on the shelf since she didn't mention Thor's goats!  This time she writes on page 44:

Very important, but assigned to no abode whether in heaven or on the earth were THE FATESMoirae in Greek, Parcae in Latin, who, Hesiod says, give to men at birth evil and good to have.  They were three, Clotho, the Spinner, who spun the thread of life; Lachesis, the Disposer of Lots, who assigned to each man his destiny; Atropos, she who could not be turned, who carried "the abhorred shears" and cut the thread at death.

I don't have much luck growing datura aka jimsonweed aka moonflower in Texas, but we grew it from seed every year in Omaha.  It attracted lovely evening moths around our deck.  I took this photo at Texas Discovery Gardens, so datura can be grown here, just not by me (a common refrain of my brown thumb gardening song).

Working with the hospice aide and RN, the skilled care facility nurse, I got a new order in place banning all future use of the dreadful ineffective airway suctioning device.  Proactive use of nebulizer breathing treatments and the medications to decrease bronchial secretions will be used instead.  Dad's blood oxygen level is good now, so he can use oxygen just when it makes him more comfortable.  

While Dad napped I finished reading Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks.  Hellebore is the plant used to induce visions by the Wompaontoaonk people in the book.  Hellebore is from a different family than datura.  Just thought you would want to know.  

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


A goat in my throat

No thunder, but I awoke Saturday to the sound of raindrops on the a/c unit out back.  This truly glorious sound has been missing from my life for months now... at least two long hot very dry months.

It was another good day working at the library, reading lots of book reviews.  I'm hoping to read or listen to Philip Connor's Fire Season after several tempting reviews. While my walking buddy has always dreamed of living in a lighthouse, I'm more drawn to the fire tower.

Spelling Man called to ask about goats and chariot, but I didn't field the call.  He wanted to know how to spell sixteenth, as in Louis the ____. Roman numerals were a new concept.

Cherubs are riding in and on this Louis XVI style clock chariot pulled by goats, circa 1885.  We know Spelling Man is interested in antique clocks.  We didn't know the Norse thunder-god, Thor, had a chariot pulled by goats.  Those goats were named "tooth grinder" and "tooth snarler":

The Norse believed that during a thunderstorm, Thor rode through the heavens on his chariot pulled by the goats Tanngrisni ("gap-tooth") and Tanngnost ("tooth grinder"). Lightning flashed whenever he threw his hammer Mjollnir. -- "Thor." Encyclopedia Mythica from Encyclopedia Mythica Online.

I believe that my hammer is named Craftsman, and that I may someday need goats to pull the Buick.  I can't believe I helped the nurse while she suctioned my dad's airways.  But I did.  Dad is on oxygen round the clock now, except when he pulls the tube out of his nose or the staff forgets. Without the oxygen he gets extremely congested, choking on his own secretions.  Now I'm wondering which is greater torture, the choking or the suctioning.

When I summoned the nurse Dad's fingers were the grayish color of uncooked English bangers.  He hadn't been on oxygen all the while he was not eating his lunch.  The few bites and sips he took had never been swallowed.  Dad kept trying to clear his throat through most of Serena Williams match in the finals of the Rogers Cup.  I kept giving Dad sips of water.

My mother's final six months were a long string of invasive medical tests and procedures dog-piled on top of her nausea and diarrhea. I swore I would not allow Dad's last months to be that tortuous, and yet I held down his arms so he would not hit the nurse trying to suction his airways.  The nurse said Dad tries to bite the suction wand, and they are afraid he will break his teeth.  Tomorrow I will call the hospice social worker or pastor, but for now just writing helps clear my airways.

Fifteen years ago my therapist asked me to choose a tiny rubber animal from a mini-menagerie to begin a discussion.  I chose this little goat, and it has been at the bottom of my pencil holder ever since.  I've been grateful to that therapist, too.  Today the goat has a different meaning.

There was an old lady who swallowed a goat.
Just opened her throat and swallowed a goat!
She swallowed the goat to catch the dog ...
She swallowed the dog to catch the cat.
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird ...
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider
That wiggled and wiggled and tickled inside her.
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly.
But I dunno why she swallowed that fly
Perhaps she'll die.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder

Yma preschool teacher

Every year at this time I download my class roster and choke when I read the names.  This breaks the cycle of nightmares I have every summer about my first job in the hospital kitchen.  That's the nightmare where I've forgotten to check my work schedule and have failed to show up for my shift for about thirty-five years now, accumulating black marks all the while.

Now I can go into the back-to-school nightmare cycle.  On the first day of school we will sit around the Big Rug and introduce ourselves by saying our name and our age.  I read the downloaded roster and gauge how much of the semester I'll be tongue-tied.  Ian, this is Aymen.  Aymen, Ian. Aymen, this is Iman, Iman, Aymen. Ian, Iman. Iman, Ian.  Ava, this is Anson. Anson, Ava, Anson, Iman.  Iman, Anson.  Anson, please meet Ethan.  Ethan, Anson.  Ian, Ethan. Ethan, Ian....

That is why I dredge up Thomes Meehan's short story, "Yma Dream"  from the February 24, 1962 New Yorker * each August and laugh until root beer shoots out my nose.  I check out Christine Baranski's reading of the story on Selected Shorts Volume XVI:  Fictions for Our Times at my library.  And just by the way, thank heaven for libraries. Should I ever become a grandma, and ABSOLUTELY NO RUSH on that, guys, I'ma hoping for some baby names that don't start with vowels.

*ABSTRACT: In this dream, which the writer has had on the night of the full moon for the past 3 months, he is giving a cocktail party in honor of Yma Sumac, the Peruvian singer. Since all of his guests seem to know him rather intimately & do not know one another, Miss Sumac suggests that he introduce the guests only by their first name. The guests are: Ava Gardner, Abba Eban, Oona O'Neill, Ugo Betti, Ona Munson, Ida Lupino, the young Aga Khan, Ira Wolfert, Ilya Ehrenburg, Eva Gabor, & Uta Hagen. Complications arise when he has to make the introductions. "Yma, Uta; Yma, Ava; Yma, Oona; Yma, Ona; Yma, Ida; Yma, Ugo; Yma, Abba; Yma, Ilya; Yma, Ira; Yma, Aga; Yma, Eva." Miss Sumac becomes annoyed. The circle of guests move menacingly toward the writer. When the bell rings & it is the Polish concert pianist, Mieczyslaw Horszowski, the dream ends.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Spelling Man, injuns, and the C.I.A.

Spelling Man phones asking about concrete, pouring concrete.  "Where does the a go?"

There is no a in concrete, just cement, water, and aggregate, I don't actually say.  

c o n c r e t e

I do not say, "Hey, my dad was a structural engineer.  My sons knew the recipe for concrete at age three."

The blond kid at the computer hollers to his mom across the library, "How do you spell engine?"

She answers from far away

I  N  D  I  A  N

"Mom, come here!," the kid demands, "big red engine!"  

I  N  D  I  A  N

"Anchor," Spelling Man asks, "like anchoring something to the floor, not like a boat."  In that case, it is

a n c h o r 

"I wasn't even close," he says.  He was away, my boys, anchors aweigh.


Like bolting out the door, sir?  Making a break for it?  Just strike me down now, Zeus!

"No, like using bolts to put something in the wall."

Oh, I say, b  o  l  t  i  n  g."

"O B O L T I N G?" 

"No, sorry.  Just  b  o  l  t  i  n  g ."

"And building is b  u  i  l  d  i  n  g ?, " Spelling Man asks last.

Right, you got it, but what are you building, sir?

"I'm writing how to anchor my safe to the concrete floor with bolts."

Hmmm, thank you for calling.

"Thank you."

No, thank U.

A handsome, polite young father explains, "Last week my wife checked out a book for me.  I want to get another one like it."

Hmmm.  Who was the author?

"Can't you just see what she had checked out?"

No, the system doesn't save that information for your protection.  You really wouldn't want the library testifying in court about your book-borrowing habits.  We could try to look it up by the title.  Do you remember the title?  Well, who was the main character?  Was it fiction or nonfiction?

"It was good.  My wife said she got it by the columns."

The display books on the shelf-ends change all the time.

"It was about the C.I.A."

What color was the cover?  This is a silly question because all novels about the C.I.A. have jacket designs in red, black, and silver.

We send the young man away with six books.  Maybe next time he will jot down the title on a piece of paper, put it in his pocket, and promptly put his pants in the laundry basket.  That would be a concrete step in the right direction.

Anchors Aweigh, my boys
Anchors Aweigh
Farewell to college joys
We sail at break of day, 'ay 'ay 'ay
O'er our last night ashore
Drink to the foam
Until we meet once more
Here's wishing you a happy voyage home!

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


A small dish of perspective with a large dollop of real whipped cream

Remembering my first job in the hospital kitchen.  Visualizing the walk-in refrigerator with the big steel door.   Going in to retrieve shallow pans of cherry jello.  Me a gawkward geek in a low cost white uniform and hairnet.  Goosebumps.

The scraping sound of cutting stripes through the red jello with a dinner knife.  Cross stripes to make cubes.  Dishing up the cubes with a large spoon--servings by the hundreds.  Then back into the walk-in to retrieve the giant stainless steel mixer bowls full of real whipped cream.  Most of the jello dishes then received their dollops. Each whipped cream topping looked like an @ sign atop the # of jello cubes.

See the #?  That is how much jello I want.  See the @?

See the asterisk * on your keyboard?  That is the size of the yellow translucent spider walking on the armrest of the park bench at noon.  It's only 95 degrees outside, so it feels cool.  Woodpeckers and chickadees are having a fabulous time.

See the 8?  That is the size of the quick brown spider following the yellow spider on the armrest.

Oh, isn't that cute?  Maybe the * and 8 spiders are friends! We can all share the park bench. Let me just find my camera in my purse so we can pose for a happy friends photo.

The 8 spider is an inch behind * and gaining rapidly.  I pull out the camera and switch it to macro.   Dang, 8 has already grabbed * and eaten *'s head!  8 is carrying the rest of * to the shadiest side of the armrest, but alas, has dropped one of *'s legs.

Forget the quick brown fox and the lazy dog.  The quick brown spider is amazing. This drama is taking place a foot from my elbow. Grateful  I'm just the camerawoman, and not one of the two leads in this movie.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder

Them that's got shall get summer shoes that fit

There's no Fodors travel guide for my vacation destination. I'm thankful each morning to ease the Buick on down the road to work at the library.  A very different job is almost like travel abroad after the summer in the preschool class.

Vacationing is expensive.  My destination requires comfortable shoes for standing all day. They should be acceptable with both slacks and skirts.  If I ever find the perfect shoes that solve all my problems I'll be ringing the bell on Wall Street, achieving nirvana, completing the Sunday NYTimes sudoku, and winning the lottery simultaneously. What are the odds?

Thought I found some purdy perfect Hush Puppies at DSW last weekend. They were incredibly comfortable UNTIL I walked out the store door.  A day at the library in them was a different story.  How can I stretch these puppies?

It's been so hot for so long here we are all visualizing ourselves sitting in the freezer.  According to WikiHow, that would be just the ticket for the puppies:

 Freezing shoes (leather, pleather, fake leather, etc.): Fill a hole-free sealable sandwich bag or similar plastic bag about one third to halfway with water and seal, one bag for each of your shoes. Place a bag inside each shoe and push into place so that it fits the inner shoe completely (be sure it fits right to heel and toe). Place your shoes in the freezer and let them sit until it freezes, or overnight. The water in the bag will turn to ice and expand into your shoes. Remove from the freezer and leave to thaw for about 20 minutes before trying to remove the bags. Try the shoes on again to see how the shoes fit and repeat if needed. It's recommended that you don't use this method on expensive shoes. 

Don't know if it works.  I got too distracted thinking about ice cubes for my tootsies.

And so, I'm off for another vacation in the green paradise of McPalaces with lush lawns.  I'll drive under several of these warning signs on the way:  Extreme Drought Conditions Conserve Water.  I'll park my very dusty Buick in front of a sprinkling McPalace and bring the owners a little souvenir from Reality.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


I see the white horse! I win!

A dad came into the library to check out the limit of seven DVDs.  "You must be planning to hole up with air conditioning  all week to beat the heat," I said.

"Oh, no.  We are heading out on a family road trip,"  he replied.

"Gosh, when I was a kid we looked out the window and counted windmills," I said.

"Things are different now," he said, obviously sure that the differences were improvements.

And that is a big chunk of what's wrong with the world from where I sit.  There's not much wrong with modern day families that couldn't be bettered by a long ride west on two-lane Highway 6 in a '54 Chevy with a few gravel road detours and the aromas of hot tar and cattle lots.

Kids learn pretty fast how not to push grown-ups over the edge with endless questions and bickering.  They learn that annoying your siblings just makes everyone hotter, sweatier, and more stuck to the vinyl backseat.  That's a big incentive to get along and to find pleasant diversions.  Looking out the window observing the towns, fields, trucks, signs, and windmills might help build a connection to the landscape that might eventually become a sense of stewardship for the planet.

It's not the destination.  It's the road trip.  And if you see the first white horse, you win.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder

Are you going to kick rocks or shoot bull?

"You've got two choices," my mother would say when she sent my constipated, crabby little brother outside for fresh air.  "You can kick rocks or shoot bull."  Then Mom would send me outside, too.  Childhood in in the early Sixties was all about fresh air and free will, not so different from a Bible story, although we didn't go to Vacation Bible School:

  • Don't eat the blue juniper berries in the Garden of Eden
  • Don't paint the playhouse with mud.
  • Be good and have fun.
  • Scoop the cat poop out of the sandbox.
  • Be your brother's keeper.
  • Do what I mean, not what I say.
  • Don't ask for a dime to buy a sky blue bomb pop from the popsicle man.
'"Shooting bull" was my brother's name for playing cowboy.  He would put on his chaps, vest, hat, and boots, then stand immobile on the driveway holding the end of a rope in one hand, and a Mattel pistol in the other.

Sometimes my little brother would hold a circling battery-operated airplane on a string while he stood immobile on the driveway.  Other times he would sit in his little red firetruck not going anywhere.  On the 4th of July he would wear a space helmet and stand next to a foil-covered cardboard rocket ship made by Dad and me. We would light gaudy pink, green, and blue smoke bombs at the base of the rocket.

Has my brother always been a chipboard cut-out?  Did he flatten over time in my memory?

As for the constipation, Mom alway told my little cowboy brother dried apricots were "the fruit that won the West."  Mom would have been eighty-three this week.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


No tears for the end of summer school!  Just two short weeks before I'm back in the muddle with kiddies.  In theory, I will muck out the condo in preparation for the return of the Woolly Mammoth and a visit from my sister.  In reality, I will work all week at the library, then stare out the window at hummingbirds and anoles.  The zucchini vine will gradually conquer the patio, wrapping its tendrils anound every living and nonliving thing.

Realizing how much I enjoy paper cutting, I've dug out my tiny, pointy Fiskars, and begun practicing again.  The effort takes such satisfying concentration, and clears my brain of a day's jangles.  It's a new direction for my year and a half old photo 365 Project.

These are my first three attempts combining photos with paper cuts.  The second cut has a disconcerting backward hand.  I'm playing with the paper cuts in the scanner and using Photoshop Elements to combine the images.  The paper cuts are real, hard copy scrap cardstock even if the collages are digital.

After sweaty evenings staring at a nonworking air conditioner, and the the wonderful working air conditioner, I'm into stripes and swirling.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Feng shui and shrimp salad for old farts


Pelvis From a Distance With 3D Glasses

Dad was so excited to see me!  This is amazing right there, but it got better.  I brought a new art poster, a rolled up Georgia O'Keeffe, and dubbed him "Sir Howard" with the tube.  Dad raised his arms from the bed in a papal blessing pose with a big smile on his face.

Dad, are you glad to be centered?  Yesterday I wrote a note to the social services woman requesting that Dad's bed be re-centered under the light fixture.  Somehow over the weeks since Dad moved to the private room, his bed has been pushed closer and closer to the exterior wall.  I could barely fit the tray table around the bed, yet most of the room was empty enough for a square dance.  A low-grade annoyance, a persistent aesthetic gnat, an unnecessary accessory to the crimes of nonexistent privacy, incessant beeping alarms, blaring tvs, and pill-chopping guillotine of the med nurse must be a major source of stress for Dad 24/7 if it grates on me during my daily visit.

Dad was a structural engineer.  Controlling, balancing, supporting lines, angles, and spaces were at least as integral to him as they are to his art teacher daughter. Moving a hospital bed is not a hip-shove matter.  This monster is suctioned to the floor with some kind of clamps.  But now, OMMMMMM, it is away from the wall and centered under the light.

Dad, I've got Georgia O'Keeffe for you.  Should I put her below the fur traders, or replace them?  Dad pointed that George Caleb Bingham's fur traders had descended the Missouri long enough.

I told Dad my good news.  I didn't start a single fire all day!  Hey, high-five me!  Dad high-fived.  Tomorrow's the last day of summer school, and I won't have to be around those kids for two whole weeks.  Dad high-fived me again with gusto.

It was good to breathe in the recomposed space of Dad's room.  Supper arrived, and he fed himself the watermelon, milk, shrimp salad, croissant, and tomato juice.  I haven't seen him eat with such enjoyment in ages.

A nurse came in to measure Dad's oxygen level with a finger clamp.  She explained that Dad had received oxygen earlier in the day after a low reading.  Maybe more oxygen was helping as much as the new feng shui.  Either way I felt like my real father was back.

You look nice.  Did Mary give you a shower today?  The best that we could do, Dad answered.

The social services woman had also handled my request that Dad get a remote for his tv.  Dad seemed aware of the CBS news as he ate every last morsel of shrimp salad. I watched a shark attack program earlier, he volunteered.

When Dad was finished with supper, I wiped his chin and washed his hands.  Did I do okay?  Dad, you did terrific!  You ate like a man possessed!

Who is that old guy?  It took a few missteps to realize Dad was asking about the picture of a white-bearded waterfall in Oregon.  We played again with the 3D glasses that arrived with the waterfall card.

I needed to go home, check on my air-conditioner, and call my sister.  Why?  She wants to come visit you, but we have to work out the dates and air fares. Hurry back!

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


CollageMama and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Hot Day

Coming home was jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire AGAIN.  It's 107 degrees, give or take, outside.  It's 88 degrees inside the condo.  Guess I'm getting acclimated, as 88 is the new comfortable.  Last night it was harder to take, what with waking up to worry about getting off work and scheduling air conditioner repairs, and money, money, money I don't have.  This evening after a Danger Will Robinson day at work, 88  makes me stoic.  It's a rattlesnake, daggumit, just shoot it.  Figure out how to pay the bill later.  Plus.... it's a dry heat.

It's generally not a good thing to burn down one's place of employment, especially when small children are involved.  We've been studying bees, so it was time for the annual snack of toast with honey.  The snack-maker allotted 1/9 of a piece of toast per child.  I received permission from the bee teacher to toast more bread in the ratzofratz ancient toaster oven.  A piece of bread fell on the heating element and burst into flame.  I couldn't drag the burning bread out of the toaster-oven.  The fire alarm went off, automatically dispatching the firefighters.  I unplugged the toaster-oven and got the burning toast out, then helped get the kids out of the building.  I would sure love to shoot that sonmuvva toaster-oven.

Met with Dad's hospice nurse.  The old guy continues to lose weight, but is still able to do a few things for himself.  Although he rarely projects an audible voice when I'm around, he apparently makes his needs know when he's motivated.  His agitation is under control.  We are at five-plus months on hospice, so a doctor will verify if Dad still qualifies.  The nurse offered understanding for me that it's psychologically difficult to reach acceptance of a loved one's inevitable death, but then to go on and on and on...

The condo temp is holding steady.  So far I'm good, except when I poured bleach down the condensate drain I somehow punctured the bottle and sprayed bleach on my best black capris and favorite turquoise shirt.  If I can't sleep, I can always go sit in the armchair in Dad's cool room.

Time to read more of Floor of Heaven, and carry my imaginary prospector's pack over Chilkoot Pass into the Yukon.  The book is cinematic, so I'm not surprised Fox 2000 has acquired the screen rights.  Should Brad Pitt play George Carmack, Charlie Siringo, or Soapy Smith?

By the way, I've snowshoed myself into a new project combining photos with papercutting as meditation/observation.  You can see it at my 365 Project.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


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