Signs in the sky point to Sibelius

Odd fire-breathing clouds at sunset Tuesday.  Tipped in a feathery spectrum they swirled,, more dragon than rush hour cloud.   Thought I might be hallucinating in the left turn lane with NPR broadcasting an obituary feature about Stalin's daughter, Svetlana. Was this a Lone Star State occurrence of the aurora borealis?  

No good photography options, without causing a traffic accident.  Finally pulled into the parking lot of a Methodist megachurch, and got a few shots.

Not entirely crazy.  Our high school Health Ed. teacher/basketball assistant coach warned us about psychedelic flashbacks.  Beginning to think there should have been warning labels about assistant basketball coaches instead.. The t.v. weather news dude explained that ice crystals in the clouds caused the odd prismatic atmospheric effects.  Not Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.  More Sibelius in the orchestra room with icicles and violas.

Sibelius in deep slogging frigid depression opening into an aurora borealis of redemption, hey, what was that piece?  Love that my high school carpool friend wrote back immediately:  

I'm pretty sure it was Symphony No. 2 probably the 4th movement.  

Not Sibelius in a Finnish funk.  Not John Lennon.  Just Lyle Lovett in the cd player singing Guy Clark's perfect fire-breathing quiet song, "Step Inside This House":

Hold this piece of glass
Up to the light comin' through the door
It's a prism glass I found on the road
Can you see that little rainbow
Well it's not really a prism I guess
It just broke a funny way
I was on my way from Texas
Headed for L.A.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Monet pops bubblewrap/writes cursive with sparklers

 Not exactly waterlilies, but still plenty of ripples.  My visual meanderings and Art History 101 flashbacks were interrupted by a buzzer.  ZZZZZ!  Still your turn?

Splendid tiny milkweed pyrotechnics.  Sparklers sold in a sulphur tent.  Spinning faster than that busy bird buzzes ZZZZ.
Noisy as all get out
Smoke detector
Restaurant pager
Seriously pissed
Seriously buzzing tenor
with a chickadee
singing soprano.
Even a do-si-do or two.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Roasted sweet pepper glaze

Rump roast perfectly done and topped with a taste sensation, if I do pat myself on the back!  A tip of the culinary hat to Christine at Winnowings for inspiring my toe-dip into a pond of jelly.

Christine wrote about making a simple refrigerated plum jam early in November.  She made it sound so easy I went straight to Sprouts looking for plums.  Alas, no plums.  So I bought strawberries and blackberries. Added sugar and lemon juice.  Cooked it down to a delicious treat.  I've been eating my jam on toasted English muffins with peanut butter, or stirring it into plain yogurt.

Feeling jampowered, I bought a bag of mini peppers.  After washing and sprinkling with olive oil I roasted half the baby peppers  in a big cast iron skillet in a five hundred degree oven, shaking the skillet every three or four minutes.  It was easy to remove the peels and seeds under running water.

Put the peeled peppers in a sauce pan.  Added the juice of one lime and one tablespoon of local honey.  Chopped up some fresh cilantro.  Cooked it all down over medium-low heat, slicing the soft peppers with the edge of my mother's metal spatula.  The smell was enticing, never mind that the smoke detector was still agitated.

A small rump roast was in the oven now.  For ten minutes after the roast reached "medium beef" on the meat thermometer it was slathered in the pepper/lime jam and staying in the 350 degree oven.   Slices of good beef edged with sweet pepper are making for some excellent sandwiches---on sesame seed Kaiser rolls.

One tiny step at a time for CollageMama.  A world of flavorful canning and preserving beckons, shadowed by ghosts of botulism, lead poisoning, and exploding pressure cookers.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Anachronisms of time travel and other Thanksgiving thoughts

Just finished Stephen King's massive 11/22/63.  Still in a fog.

Finding anachronisms in movies and books always makes me happy.  The wrong color of Tupperware or a premature bundt cake can make my day. Two anachronisms jarred me enough in 11/22/63 that I jotted a note to myself.  They 're not spoilers.
  • "Assisted living" is not a term that would have been used in 1963.  The concept arose in the late-Seventies, and became commonplace in the Nineties.  See abstract below.
  • I am really suspicious about a dirt-poor little girl living on Mercedes Street in 1961 Fort Worth knowing rules and techniques of soccer.  Soccer caught on earlier in Dallas than in Nebraska where we played something called "kick soccer" that was really a rolled big ball variant of baseball in 1965. This scene seems really wrong.  So I checked with one of North Texas' earliest soccer moms:  
We moved here in 1972.  No one new much about the sport.  It didn’t cost much; shoes, a ball, a team shirt.   I think soccer was popular in Dallas before it caught on in Ft. Worth.  I can’t imagine what it would have been like 10 years earlier in ’61…and for a girl…and in Ft. Worth,  But I certainly don’t know for sure.

I enjoyed the novel immensely, and read it in under two weeks, the library limit on my check-out.  If I were a reviewer, that would certainly qualify the book as "compelling" and "a page-turner", but I'm too pokey of a reader to ever be a reviewer.  This is also my first ever King book.


Still with Stephen King here, our vocabulary word is obdurate, as in "the past is obdurate".  My big red dictionary definitions include inflexible, intractable, stubbornly impenitent, unyielding, and hardened. The good old Online Etymology Dictionary has:

obdurate Look up obdurate at Dictionary.com

mid-15c., from L. obduratus "hardened," pp. of obdurare "harden," from ob "against" (see ob-) + durare "harden, render hard," from durus "hard" (see endure). Related: Obdurately.

Veering off from King, but still with "assisted living", Dad was found on the mat beside his bed this morning.  The nurse said he kept saying he wanted to "go home."  We all do in some way for Thanksgiving.  My sons could not "come home" in a geographical way, but we were all in touch today.  I took a long hike on Planet Earth today and felt very relaxed and centered "at home".  After my hike, I sat reading while Dad slept the day away, and so was able to finish the novel.


I chose to read 11/22/63 partly because many years ago I picked up Don DeLillo's novel, Libra, from a discount cart at a used bookstore.  DeLillo's portrayal of Lee Harvey Oswald's mother/son relationship stayed with me.  In an odd circuit, I will pick up my reserved Angel Esmeralda and Other StoriesDeLillo's new book, at the library tomorrow when I return King's.


Technology stuck its big foot out to trip me this week, and spilled coffee on the rug was only part of my problems.  In a panic to email a newsletter article containing a properly underlined book title, I hit Ctrl and underline repeatedly.  Down the rabbit hole went my readable text until it was nothing but a squiggle of unreadable DNA code.

There was no Go Back Go Back GO BACK I MEAN IT RIGHT NOW key.  D'that ever happen to you?

After blindly trying all sorts of key combinations and Google searches, I did what any mom would do.  I called the Woolly Mammoth, my youngest son, all the while feeling like a major geezerette.  Thank heaven he didn't immediately know the magic formula for reversing the mistake, so I could salvage a little self respect!  Here I was in my own rabbit hole of time travel trying to reverse a fatal error and change history for the better.  Here's the secret fix:

Unshifted underline = Ctrl minus, therefore the reverse = Ctrl plus which is really Ctrl Shift =.  And yes, I was late to work.


Gerontologist. 2007;47 Spec No 3:8-22.

Historical evolution of assisted living in the United States, 1979 to the present.


Jessie F. Richardson Foundation, 15900 SE 82nd Drive, Clackamas, OR 97015, USA. kwilson@jfrfoundation.org



This article provides a historical overview of the emergence of assisted living in the United States over a 25-year period to identify goals and key concepts that underpinned the emerging form of care.


The method is historical analysis based on records and my own personal experiences in conceptualizing and implementing assisted living in Oregon and nationwide.


I identified four time periods: (a) 1979 to 1985, when a paradigm shift occurred on both the East and West coasts, motivated by distaste for nursing facilities and idealistic values regarding residential environments, service capacity, and consumer-centered care philosophy; (b) 1986 to 1993, when providers, consumers, and state governments became interested and four identifiable types of assisted living (hybrid, hospitality, housing, and health care) appeared, each of which informed the evolution of assisted living; (c) 1994 to 2000, a period of expansion, Wall Street money, dilution of the ideals, and emerging quality concerns; a crisis of confidence and a crossroads for assisted living; (d) 2000 to the present, a time of regrouping, slow-down in growth, and reexamination of earlier efforts to define and set standards for assisted living.


© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Mayhem anoles

Ladies always do love outlaws, and I've got a crush on Mayhem, the guy in those AllState Insurance commercials that play on the tv during Dad's suppers.  Sure, he's not as cute, genteel, or wise as the Geico lizard, but he's got that bad boy magnetism.  The Buick wants to film a stunt chase scene with that actor.

I don't have a GPS, but if I did I would name it Bertha.  I would update Bertha regularly, except for when I didn't.  And then I might meet Mayhem, hollering about recalculating.  

That's why I've popped my old Hunt for Red October into the VHS player.  Connery's Ramius is the best possible combination of Geico lizard and AllState mad man when he orders a "recompute".

Captain, we are approaching the first turn. 
Increase speed to 26 knots and recompute
Aye, Captain. 

The little lizards were out and about last weekend in the last blast of summer temps.  Crawling on the warm, sunny bricks, they were recomputing and recalculating, upgrading and plotting locations.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Prairie Creek Park

After work on this dark, misty afternoon I followed a sign to a nearby park knowing I needed to get in some nature, walking, and photo time before I could watch Dad eat jello with his fingers and soup with a fork.  Prairie Creek Park was lovely.

NEEDED ...  

Indeed I felt knee-dead, and knee-deep in the muck of preschool world.  I needed my sewing sore shoulders kneaded, but that wasn't likely to happen.

The park is a jewel.  Now that I've found it, I'll return often.  

 More Eve's Necklace berries.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Sore muscles from ...

...sewing!  Finally finished the comforter/quilt for Dad today, and glad to check that off my Big List.  Spent much of the the day rassling the bulky project around the needle of my little sewing machine.

Be clear, dear reader, this was not wrestling, a sport where varsity and JV teens of assorted bulks in silly uniforms turn red and pin each other to mats for black and white yearbook photos.

Indeed, this was a primitive tussle with a grizzly-ghastly, not a sport.  When I walked into Dad's room he was wearing a teal green sweatshirt, a diaper, and some puke yellow crew socks.  He had thrown off his blankets and was trying to get his waxy, skinny legs out of bed.  "Out" and "off" were muddled in his brain.  He wanted the tv off and the sweatshirt off, therefore he needed to get out of bed.

This sewing was rassling, but I got a hold on it.  The comforter is finished.  Dad seemed interested in the new visual stimulation.  Being done with the project is helping my muscles relax.

ras·sle  (rsl)
intr. & tr.v. ras·sledras·slingras·sles Nonstandard
To engage in wrestling or wrestle with.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


My what big i

The Occupy Alphabet owl protesters have made their point. Now it is time for them to move on and work within the system.

These hand puppets were a happy accident preschool art class project.  If you haven't drawn across corrugated cardboard with a Magic Marker lately, you owe yourself some sensory fun.

My blog muse donated a craft pack of corrugated cardboard and a how-to book with a basic puppet plan.  Never thought of cutting places for the little kids' thumbs, but I can see clearly now how that improves the design.

Already had a roll of wide wale corrugated paper.  Also the bag of tiny paper cups that fell on the floor months ago.  Too dirty for drinking, but too good to throw away, the cups became "art supplies".  The playing cards for wings just happened to be in the same bag with the cups. Beaks are Styrofoam grocery trays, but of course!  The great horns for the owls should have been shorter strips of paper, but they add to the owl personalities.

Blackland Prairie Raptor Center will present a program with birds of prey tomorrow.  That's always a highlight of my school year.  Glad the owl art helped the little kids get psyched.

Last evening I attended the condo homeowners  annual board election.  Whoooo was elected?  Thankfully, not me.


Shared sightings

The trails loop around and crisscross in the woods above Rowlett Creek.  I was trying not to follow the young couple on the trail.  First spotted them as they were having such fun balancing like gymnasts on the big fallen log that blocks the trail.  I struggle just to get up and over the log each hike, praying not to break my hip.  I instinctively like the pair, as they seemed to be good friends, not just hormonal adolescents.  I miss having teen sons and their good friends gathered around my dining table.

The second time our paths cross, the couple was studying something in the tall grass.  They excitedly waved me over to see their find, a very big orb spider.  They were trying to take a cell phone photo without disturbing the web or getting into the weeds.  Sensible young spider enthusiasts!

"I feel like I'm cheating," I told them.  "I hike these trails looking for spider moments.  You found the spider, not me."  They finished their photo shoot then told me, "She's all yours now."

Fitting for a cheater, my photos of their spider did not turn out.  This photo is a similar spider I found all by myself two weeks ago on the other side of the creek.

Third time we met I thanked the teen couple for sharing their spider and followed them on the shortcut out of the woods and back to the pond.  Then they headed left to be hormonal adolescents, polite but glad to be rid of my chaperoning.  I headed right looking for a great blue heron.

Bumbling along taking photos of dried seed heads and cattails, I met an older cyclist paused and staring at the empty fishing pontoon pier.  He waved me over to see what he saw.  What the hey-ho?!!  A big dang water snake was writhing and slithering on the pier.  It was at least as big around  as a toilet paper tube.  I can speak with some authority here, having spent part of my day with the preschoolers making festive Thanksgiving napkin rings using toilet paper tubes and gold tempera paint.  It was a seriously goose-bump inducing snake, but the older cyclist was cute in a mature nature-watching way.  The snake slid off the edge of the pier back into the pond.  The moment was over, just a pushpin on the Geography of Bliss trail map.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Then you should get an ink, I think

Hello Kitty
for real nuke
 not unEasy-Bake 
Pink kitchen flashback
Princess Barbie coffee maker
Susan G. Komen pink ribbon blender
please explain intended demographic
need a fix from My Little Pony
unicorn margarita machine
plus a shot of soothing
fuchsia magenta

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Morticia and Gomez fix computers

At the library where I work on Saturdays we are having lots of computer difficulties.  The librarian put up a new sign on all the broken computers that says

IT is working
on a solution...

Nobody reads further down the sign.  Everybody tries to log onto the broken computers thinking "It is working" when really "I. T. is working on a solution".  Alas, I. T. is not working very fast.

So, order a plastic hula skirt from Oriental Trading Company.  Gather the waist tight.  Wear the skirt over your head.  Add a hat and dark ZZTop glasses to become Cousin Itt.  Snap your fingers

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Get away bliss

Road trip!  Road trip!  I need to get away, as Southwest Airlines would say.

A girls' art weekend in Fort Worth's Cultural District is almost in view.  Caravaggio at the Kimbell.  Diebenkorn at the Modern.  John Marin watercolors at the Amon Carter.  Barbecue at the Stockyards.

Then a grandma-to-be getaway to the wilds of Oregon and Powell's City of Books. Lots of unknown territory out there for a CollageMama who has never been much west of Moab, Utah. 
Thank heaven neither of these trips will require salt pills for heat prostration or carrying a heavy backpack.  Will either make me happy?  Will either refuel my creative gas tank?

I'm racing through The Geography of Bliss:  One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World.  What is the recipe for happiness?  Can it be pinned to a place like the hummus notecard under the magnet on my refrigerator?

Eric Weiner's book has not addressed the matter of landscape compatibility so far, and I am up to Thailand.  I am always more content, at ease, and happier when I can see a long way to the horizon.  I'm a prairie/plains girl.  I love mesas, but get anxious hemmed in by mountains.

What I've gleaned from the book is that personal happiness requires:

  1. An atmosphere of trust
  2. Participation in useful work
  3. A good personal fit with societal expectations
  4. A strong cultural identity
  5. Freedom from excessive poverty
  6. Freedom from excessive affluence
  7. Tolerance for boredom, failure, and waiting
  8. Habits of mindfulness and attention
  9. Choices that matter
  10. Experiencing and practicing kindness
  11. Moderation--Knowing when enough is enough
  12. Cohesive family relationships
  13. Being fully present in the moment
  14. Realistic expectations
  15. Freedom from envy
  16. Connection to nature
  17. Opportunities for creative expression
  18. Belief in the act of believing in Something Other
  19. Knowing that the author of Flow's name is pronounced "Sticks in my eye".  

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


28,800 beeps

The back-up battery in the fire EXIT sign high above the circulation desk is dead, so something up there is beeping at least once per second.  Once per second for eight hours works out to 28,800 beeps, fifty questions, and a dozen jokes.  "Your popcorn is done!"

Yup, really done.  The building manager will "get right on it" Monday and change the battery.

This must be how Dad and all the other nursing home residents feel with the perpetual beeping of call buttons, fall alerts, and escape attempt beeps around the clock, day after day.  The library staff is alternately zoned out on the beeps or agitated.  We are trapped, just like Dad.

My blood pressure machine squeezes my arm, then beeps.  Again, with the trapping and beeping.

Library reading pressure is on.  My reserved books have come in all at once, and I'm feeling the squeeze.  I have two jobs, and Dad, and beeping, and a half-sewn comforter to finish, and a blood pressure log to keep!  Now I have Stephen King's hefty 11/22/63 begging me to time-travel.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Keep your nose to the grindstone

You can keep your nose to the grindstone, or you can hold my nose to the grindstone.  You can grin and bear it, or knee the bastard in the groin. You can grin and bare it but you better have a gimmick. You might have a millstone around your neck. It would not be a gewgaw, but it might come from France through the port of Galveston in 1851.

I had not properly girdeth up my loins for a long perusal of the Big Red Dictionary. You might say I was groping, and that's not so bad as long as political office is not my goal.  You can stomp on a ground cherry calling it a Chinese lantern or a pop berry.

The historical plaque next to the grist mill stone reads:


Here is my nose ready to be kept or held.  Holding someone's nose to the grindstone is far different than keeping your own nose there:

grindstone Look up grindstone at Dictionary.com

early 13c. “millstone,” from grind (v.) in sense of "sharpen" + stone; meaning “revolving stone disc used for sharpening, etc.” is from c.1400. Phrase nose to the grindstone in use by 1530s; originally to get control of another and treat him harshly:
This Text holdeth their noses so hard to the grindstone, that it clean disfigureth their Faces. [John Frith, "Mirror to know Thyself," 1532]
The main modern (reflective) sense of "work hard" is from 1828.  Don't know about you, but it seems like my nose has been there since at least 1828.  A dictionary diversion is in my budget.

Grin is related to grimace and groan.
Grind is bizarrely or burlesquely related to being a boring study buddy, a cup of coffee, or a striptease pelvic rotation.
Nose to the grindstone is to work diligently and continuously, but a large, heavy
millstone could be around your neck if you have a perpetual problem or responsibility that prevents you from doing what you want.
Grist for the mill means something that can be turned to one's advantage.
Grits are coarsely ground grain, especially corn, related to bran.
True grit is plucky, indomitable spirit, and two movies I've never seen.
Worms need grit in their gizzards, as do birds, reptiles, and some fish.  My vermicompost worms are besides themselves over coffee grounds and smashed eggshells.

Ground cherry is the name for many plants that produce a fleshy fruit contained in a papery husk.  When I was a kid we called them "pop beans" or "pop berries", and sometimes "Chinese lanterns".  We love to stomp on them.

Groin derives from abyss or depression
Groin architectural the curved edge at the junction of two intersecting vaults

This would be Olga Korbut vaulting in 1974.

Then she called to the cat and the duck and she asked, "Now, who will take this wheat to the mill to be ground into flour?"
"Not I", said the duck.
"Not I", said the cat.
"Very well, then", said the little red hen, "I will take it myself".
So the little red hen trudged off to the mill, and in a few hours she was back with a sack of fine flour.

grist Look up grist at Dictionary.com

O.E. grist "action of grinding, grain to be ground," perhaps related to grindan "to grind" (see grind), though OED calls the connection "difficult." Meaning "wheat which is to be ground" is early 15c.; the figurative extension from this sense is from the same date.

gewgaw Look up gewgaw at Dictionary.com

early 13c., giuegaue, contemptuous reduplication, possibly connected with O.Fr. gogue "rejoicing, jubilation; joke, prank, mockery, game;" or jou-jou "toy," baby-talk word, from jouer "to play," from L. jocare (seejoke).
vb girdsgirdinggirdedgirt (tr)
1. to put a belt, girdle, etc., around (the waist or hips)
2. to bind or secure with or as if with a belt to gird on one's armour
3. to surround; encircle
4. to prepare (oneself) for action (esp in the phrase gird (upone's loins)
5. to endow with a rank, attribute, etc., esp knighthood
[Old English gyrdan, of Germanic origin; related to Old Norse gyrtha, Old High German gurten]

Can't play anymore.  Off to the daily grind.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Soup by committee

How many crockpots does it take to screw in a lightbulb?  We have three large crockpots pledged for the school "Thanksgiving feast".

After a lengthy discussion it was decided that both the Pilgrims and Indians would have multi-grain mini Club crackers to go with their soup and apple slices.  Those Pilgrims had it easy.  Kellogg's has ninety-seven kinds of crackers from which to choose.

Sometime after my eye muscle twitch became visible, the group decided to go with cheddar cheese cubes from Sam's Club instead of string cheese aka cheese sticks.  I would be thankful if I never opened another cheese stick for a preschooler to consume in disgusting dangling ways.

Edamame was chosen as the protein component of the soup several meetings back.  Corn and carrots were agreed upon last meeting, along with the veggie broth base.  Today we had a quorum to elect potatoes for thickening the soup. Garlic made the flavoring short list, but celery was voted out.  Peas, tomatoes, and onions were overruled on procedural grounds.

Baa bah humbug, have you any soup?  Yes, sir, yes, sir, three crockpots full. Pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold,  pease porridge in the pot nine days old.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder

Not nuts

Early staff meeting today, so I have no business even sitting down at the computer, let alone looking up the proper spelling of squirrely.  


 [skwur-uh-lee, skwuhr- or, especially Brit.skwir-]  

If this meeting goes as poorly as the last one, I'll be visualizing my special place.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


The difference is night and day

"He doesn't do that when the staff feeds him," says the hospice nurse. That being coughing, choking, and growling loudly to clear his throat. That is also taking forty minutes to an hour to eat a meal.

I help Dad at supper because it's easier for me to have a task.  When I visit, any time between four and seven p.m., Dad usually doesn't talk, and if he does, he doesn't make sense.  He stares into space, and often won't get his hands out from under the blankets. So I cut his food, put bites on the fork, help hold the coffee cup so he doesn't drench himself, and wipe his chin when he misses his mouth. I raise my arms in the air when he chokes so he will mirror the action.

The dear aide, Big Red, confirms that Dad growls, and she is more than willing to feed him his supper.  Let the pros handle it, all the staff seems to say.  Let the pros handle it, my siblings chime in.

Made a surprise visit to see Dad before work.  He had finished breakfast, and wasn't growling.  He spoke audibly in complete sentences.  His eyes were bright.  He answered my questions clearly and directly.  He said it isn't because of me that he has trouble with supper.  He asked me to please come back after work.

So I did.  He was being spoon-fed by an aide with his hands in the blankets and dull eyes turned toward the Aggies/Sooners game.  The aide was anxious to leave.  Dad coughed, choked, and growled.  He didn't say a word.

Is this the phenomenon known as "sundowners syndrome"?  I don't know. The light level is still bright with Dad's west window. Is it fatigue?  He sleeps much of the day.  Is it noise levels?  I don't think it is just me.

Sunrise, sunset, sundowners?

Sunrise, sunset, 
Sunrise, sunset,
Swiftly fly the years, 
One season following another, 
Laden with happiness, 
And tears

Image borrowed from Root Cause Analysis Blog.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


We admitted we were powerless over fabric stores

Just when did my therapeutic meanderings between the calico and corduroy cross over to the dark side? It started so innocently, choosing festive fall prints to sew ninety napkins for students, staff, and real family.  The sound of the winding bobbin got my blood rushing. The smell of hot, steamy pressed-open seams was driving me wild!  True, it is difficult descending the dank ladder into the sewer of true sewing addiction when no amount of squinting can get a needle threaded.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


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