Hotter than a hub cap

Welcome to the red and blue world of sight-reading words. It's where I live, my den hut pup tent. Look, look, Dick, see Mom's cap.

My weekend was a pig mop pen sit.

Monday was a wet kid nap mat set.

I dream I can van map run hit road Jack.

Over a hundred degrees again today so it's a bug sun hot ant day.

huand taare 2 guys with hats and caps drinking from mugs, jugs, cups, kegs and taps.

Can Tab get a hit on his next at bat? Does Tab munch nuts? Does Tab chew gum in the dug-out?
Can Hub cook ham in a big pot?

The kids don't get hub, tab, or keg, but comprehend put hot dog in bun.

Tab is a diet soft drink.  Hub is a wheel cap, or an airline system or a communications center. A hub has spokes when you speak.

When red consonants and blue vowels work together, they make words.  You can't have one without the other.

Pop top pull tab cold can hot sun long day, oh my, what more to say?

© 2012 Nancy L. Ruder

Condimental lift

While cleaning the fridge I review lodging options for an upcoming family reunion. In town? At the coast? Hotel? Time-share condo? Rustic cabin?  On this triple-digit day staring into the refrigerator is a luxury air-conditioned vacation.

Please step to the rear of the elevator.

A child of early-Sixties grade school playground culture, I always wonder if the business travelers down below in the atrium of Embassy Suites can see up my skirt when I ride the glass elevator.


The family lost a generation this year, but added a new one. Refrigerator changes are bound to occur.

All the generations posing for the reunion photo 
You can see the two mustards hamming it up. The Lawry's marinade twins brought their foreign exchange student, Mae Ploy hot sweet chili sauce. The gymnastic ketchup and mayo stood on their heads. The local Best Maid hamburger slices bonded with their cousin Claussen Kosher sandwich dills. Two dressings for the cole slaw sang along with Annie's Tuscan vinaigrette. Who invited those two vinos? You can't see the tahini way in the back, but Ms. Janie's mustang grape jelly is in the front row. The roasted peppers and grilled artichokes will be living in the dorm next year. The jar of horseradish has been around for decades.

Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce and a jar of tartar sauce were too depleted to attend the reunion. The sweet relish played a lovely piano recital before Durkee's Famous Sauce and Dorothy Lynch Dressing were inducted into the family hall of fame.

Every attendee received a complimentary individual serving size pouch of Arby's Horsey Sauce.  I found them in the same drawer with the five thousand twist-ties.

© 2012 Nancy L. Ruder


Retrieving "spandex"

Been more than a little bummed out this week. I'm even bummed that I first heard the expression "bummed out" forty years ago. How can this be?  Tom and Cam were "bummed out" because the band did not play their best song at the concert.

Time is expanding, contracting, and even constricting.  Our little students love the song about being eaten by a boa constrictor.  Days are hot and patience is low.  Trying not to feed any kiddies to the boa!

Nature is getting more and more Tarantino around here.  I watched three squirrels play soccer in the street with a bright yellow horse apple. The victor tried to haul the ball up a tree.

Why can I remember Tom and Cam slumped and sweaty in those Greco-Roman history classroom desks, but can't dredge up an answer to Will Shortz's crossword clue for "Some gym wear"? And why do I dream of rolling sets of silverware in paper napkins in the hospital kitchen?

For days now I've been watching two Giant Swallowtail caterpillars devour the leaves of my small key lime tree.  When I got home today  at four, one caterpillar was struggling in the dirt under the tree.  Of course I rescued it and returned it to the lime leaves, not just once, but three times.  Each time it rolled right off and dropped to the dirt. Then the caterpillar started a writhing belly-dance of agony and/or delight.

When I give my heart and hopes to a caterpillar we are both doomed.  Caterpillars are stung and devoured by Texas fire ants.  Caterpillars are devoured by a praying mantis that looks like F. Murray Abraham. Caterpillars devour dill but fail to thrive on a long drive.

This time the caterpillar seemed to lack a zipper to shed its too-small skin. In You-Tube videos caterpillars make this costume change in less than a minute.  I watched my caterpillar's efforts for over two hours in the hundred degree heat.  Imagine trying to remove sweaty pantyhose while sitting in your car that's been parked in the sun all day without drawing unwanted attention from passersby.  Imagine trying to shed your skin without signaling hungry birds or lizards. Imagine "S P A N D E X" pops to mind for the gym wear.

It was a good answer, but not the right one.  The caterpillar has given up on shedding that skin.

© 2012 Nancy L. Ruder


Thanks for all the frass

Whole lotta action on the patio!  It's a three-ring circus worthy of Sneelock, my spiritual advisor.

And just by the way of the way I'm okay today I say I'm very grateful for:


And also:

To Dr. Seuss for the words and pictures.
To Dave Brubeck for the music.
To Cliff Hillegass for the roses, 
and Jerry Garcia for the rainbows.

To Ms. Janie and the other Ms. Janie for curiosity and compassion.
To the Woolly Mammoth for the macro world of digital photography.
To owls of Omaha, red-tailed hawks of Oklahoma, and the Allman Brothers for saving my life more than once.

To Gail Butt for rich, bright, and delicate.

To Dale and Norma for screened porch serenity, rope swing risk, sandbar simplicity, and fishing bobber patience.
To Bernd Heinrich and John Janovy for cosmic biology.
To Fritzi for the curse and gift of perfectionism.
To hummingbirds and anoles for joy.

This little anole is about 1/4 the size of that Giant Swallowtail caterpillar.  It is hopping from one mint leaf to the next, making the patio a tiny popcorn popper.

To Aunt Em for cursive perseverance.
To Coach for the opera backstage.
To Maurice Sendak and Pierre for care.
To Ms. Heather for wisdom and basil.
To Howie for graph paper and blue prints.

To all the red wiggler worms named Dave for taking it below ground.
To Juliet for being my artistic muse, O These Many Years.
To the Buick Skylark for hanging in there for 175,000 miles as my alter ego. I'd like to think it will emerge soon from its chrysalis transformed just like the caterpillars.

In all the whole world the most wonderful spot is right behind where you are in the big vacant lot. Clean up the cans!

It's a Barnum and Bailey world.  Grab onto the trapeze.

© 2012 Nancy L. Ruder

So long, and thanks for all the frass.


I meant to do my work today...

...but two caterpillars chewed
On my Key Lime tree.
So I neglected the peach-mint salsa recipe
To watch videos of my grandbaby.

Connemara Preserve opened before it got hot,
So I went for a hike, how could I not?
Father William, this butterfly stood on its head.
Not wanting to work either or instead.
I lunched with a friend who needed to vent,
Shopped Kohl's for perfect tops
For fifty-ish ladies obviously
A designer has yet to invent.

The laundry won't care,
Neither will the floors.
Better connect with 
Family, friends, and outdoors.

For these bad verses don't curse
Poor old Louis Untermeyer.
Send  him with Joan Walsh Anglund 
To fold clothes from the dryer.

Spotted the caterpillars while I was out cutting mint for the salsa.  Have home-grown peaches, a gift from a library patron.  Keep your fingers crossed that the Giant Swallowtail caterpillars will continue to grow and that I recover from severe impaired poetitis.  

Ten days or so back this butterfly hung out
laying eggs on my little Key Lime tree.  
My photos were awful since time was so short
and because the window was dirty.

I meant to do my work today--
But a brown bird sang in the apple tree,
And a butterfly flitted across the field,
And all the leaves were calling me.

And the wind went sighing over the land
Tossing the grasses to and fro,
And a rainbow held out its shining hand--
So what could I do but laugh and go?

Richard LeGallienne

FATHER WILLIAM  by: Lewis Carroll (1832-1898)

      "OU are old, Father William," 
      the young man said,
      "And your hair has become very white;
      And yet you incessantly stand on your head--
      Do you think, at your age, it is right?"
      "In my youth," Father William replied to his son,
      "I feared it might injure the brain;
      But, now that I'm perfectly sure I have none,
      Why, I do it again and again."

© 2012 Nancy L. Ruder

Home repairs and filtering the news

When I say, "Thrills, spills, and excitement," you probably don't visualize a trip to the nearest CVS drugstore to buy a new Brita water filter.  At CVS I could walk blindfolded to the location of the Brita filters, which could be a useful skill except that some yahoo moved the filters.

Wandering up and down the narrow drugstore aisles my brain could not make a link to the thinking of that drugstore yahoo.  The filters were not with the bottled water or with the chilled beverages or the household kitchen/cleaning items or the two for $5 summer seasonal items or mouthwash or adult beverages.  I wasn't walking blindfolded, but I still couldn't see the filters.  True, I am putting some seriously suspect items into my shopping cart. Who is going to eat those two-fer bags of Italian herb and parmesan-flavored Chex Mix?  Step away from the gum and no dental work will get hurt!

Finally asked the check-out clerk if the store had stopped selling Brita filters.  "No," she said, "they are right over there in Home Repairs and Hardware."  Right!  Next to the motor oil and American flags...

Our brains are wired to make associations and leaps, to connect mental images, scent recollections, words and ideas in a bizarre, incredibly efficient retrieval system. That particular drugstore night my brain was too tired to make the Evel Knievel leap across the Grand Canyon to locate the improbably-placed filters.

That's what I like the best and struggle with most in library cataloging.  How can we describe the book so that patrons easily access the record and find what they seek?

In recent years I've been filtering my daily news intake.  I gave up Nightly News except when I watched it with Dad at the nursing home.  I got frustrated with the local newspaper when it raised prices. So if I didn't hear something on NPR, I was blissfully ignorant. When I failed to learn of a recent local tragedy in a timely fashion, friends convinced me it was time to let a newspaper back into my regular routine.  The newspapers are piling up already, and I haven't even gotten to the crossword puzzles.

I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind but now I CVS.

© 2012 Nancy L. Ruder


An elephant fly

Well, now I've seen everything. This is a slightly more grown up version of the patio predator that paralyzed a fly and then sucked out its guts like a giant Slurpee.  We have these little guys at the school playground, too.  I always thought they were baby katydids, and let them run around on my fingers. Now I find they are  musical killing machines--hitmen with marimbas.

What's up with the see-through head?

Actually, this dude has its feeding tube clipped onto its chest where it can make sound vibrations to intimidate predators. Imagine your worst date ever serenading you by tongue-strumming his chest hairs!

If that doesn't scare the predator (or date) away, this insect will unclip the feeding tube and maneuver it to inject a dose of lethal saliva. Okay, stop thinking about that college boyfriend!

That's a feeding tube/noise-maker/killing machine with its own carrying case.

It's all enough to make raising three sons in a small condo seem positively tame, a mere walk down the block to 7-11.  Speaking of which, this is an eighth birthday party with Slurpees before a performance of  "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown".  Those little guys could concoct vile flavor combos at 7-11, but they never hurt anybody!

May 1995

I saw a peanut stand, heard a rubber band,
I saw a needle that winked its eye.
But I think I will have seen everything
When I see an elephant fly. 


I heard a fireside chat, I saw a baseball bat
And I just laughed till I thought I'd die
But I'd be done see'n about everything
when I see an elephant fly

(from "Dumbo")

© 2012 Nancy L. Ruder


Invisible and odorless

The spider usually sets off the smoke detector in August, so I was surprised to arrive home and  hear a repeating piercing beep.  Went upstairs and opened the smoke detector carefully, not to spoil Mario's handiwork. Replaced the 9v battery.  The alarming beeps continued.

Back downstairs, I gingerly opened the thermostat, again remembering Mario's electrical rescue, and replaced the AA batteries.  The beeps were giving me goosebumps.

Upstairs again to check the doorbell chime.  Back downstairs I found a forgotten smoke detector that's wired-in. This was turning into an Edvard Munch moment with bonus stair-climber workout.

Rounding the corner into the bathroom I find the beep source, the carbon monoxide detector I saved from my parents' house. Isn't carbon monoxide a winter killer?  Every CO horror story I've ever heard clamors into my anxiety between the shrieking beeps.

I move the detector to different electrical outlets feeling guilt for never pushing those TEST MONTHLY and RESET buttons. Should I be getting myself outside into the hundred-degree fresh air before I become woozy and unconscious?

There was that spell in junior high when I wouldn't ride in the car in the Nebraska dead of winter without the window open because I was so sure we were all a-gonna die from fumes. It's a miracle my family didn't just drop-kick me out into a snow drift and drive away. This anxiety was between my two phases of moth phobia, but smack in the middle of the pancake anxiety year.

Now, I could just unplug the *%! bleaking CO detector and throw it in the dumpster, then toddle off to beddy-bye. That story would have the pride-goeth outcome where I drift into a happy sleep with a tad bit of nausea before death.  Or I could let the CO detector keep shrieking, and have a sleepless night worrying about dying, kind of like a bad night camping. Or I could maybe call the Fire Department and have them check it out.

Feeling too torn to actually call 9-1-1, I looked up the phone number in the Yellow Pages for our Fire Department.  Sure, wasting those precious seconds could be the difference between life and death, between dying in my sleep and going outside into the hundred degree fresh air to live another dang hot day. Apparently when it is not a 9-1-1 emergency, the Fire Department phone is answered by a cleaning woman who might be your mom. She hems and haws with you about whether or not your CO detector might have gone a little funny in the head.  She reassures you that putting your call through to dispatch will not cost you hundreds of dollars and could be good for your peace of mind, which you are rapidly losing what with all the shrieking barks of that Tasmanian devil CO detector.

So that's how I ended up with four hunky Plano firefighters in their turn-out pants and suspenders in my kitchen taking readings on their carbon monoxide gizmos and filling out official forms.  They took readings near my gas water heater and upstairs near the gas furnace.  When I mentioned that my fireplace is gas, they ask if I had used it recently.  It was clear they might would drive me straight to the loony bin if I answered yes.  

I thanked them profusely for retrieving my peace of mind, and told them I would be calling my 89 year-old next-door neighbor right away.  "I don't want him to have a heart attack seeing the firetruck."  

"We don't either," they said sincerely.

Let's review what we learned in this Unit, boys and girls:

  • Firefighters are our community helpers.
  • Check your smoke detectors regularly.
  • Stock up on batteries.
  • Test your electrical outlets monthly.
  • A carbon monoxide detector is a good thing to have, but they don't last forever.
  • It's good to know a Mario who can fix electrical problems.
  • It's wise to check on elderly neighbors in this heat.

© 2012 Nancy L. Ruder


Formica shades of gray

Walking shoe and Formica chips
Rooting around in a disorganized teacher box in search of a piggy finger puppet I find a cache of Formica samples circa 1965. Give myself  The Talking To where I insist that something I haven't needed or even known existed should be thrown out in the interest of leaving less mess for my kids should I happen to die. Then I talk back to myself and whine.

I fail to put myself in Time Out.  Instead I reach a compromise whereby I keep the gray samples since they are relevant to an ongoing discussion, and chuck the others in the dumpster.

The Formica samples provided some further names for gray:

Bunny grays
white kid leather

Newport, Oregon beach in December
graceful oak

Just getting warmed up to the challenge plus inspired by Formica, I add these shade suggestions:

Very large sauerkraut crock
tomato cage
bubble wrap
mystery meat
Duct tape
freezer burn

Hairstreak butterfly
window screens
retro diner
comfy sweats
nap-time tantrum
no bars of service
shining armor
flashlight batteries
wasp nest

Rock and roll is here to stay
fan oscillations
typewriter ribbon
Tut's tomb
tar pit
aspen bark

Remote grays
Miss Haversham
sorry old guys' nasty undershirts
air quality alert
socket set

VCR gray
coming down with something
paper shredder
cable service outage
coin collection
dog-eared textbook

tax return
charm bracelet
clean the grill

Scared of the basement gray
furnace filter
tinted window
dryer lint
cafeteria fork
Mt. St. Helen's
required reading
sensible shoes
emery board
stink bug

Pale bucket gray
safe deposit box
Edward R. Murrow
cream of mushroom soup

Lichen or not
but fear itself
jammed stapler
fish scales

teen car oil spot

Cozy afghan knit sofa snoozy gray
AV club
pencil shavings
galvanized bucket
pocket protector

dried Elmer's
firework snakes
desert lizard

toenail fungus

Fritzi's wastebasket
aging Tupperware
sink caulk
wet mitten
small kitten

© 2012 Nancy L. Ruder

How many shades?

Click beetle gray
Stood in line in the airport bookstore behind females of various ages all purchasing Fifty Shades of Grey to read on their flights. Dull, putty graphite me, I was buying the New York Times for the crossword puzzle.

As an art teacher and fan of Mid-Century Modern design, I'm a connoisseur of gray. Like the Inuits describing snow, fifty seems a small number for the distinctions of gray.

In art class we call the project a value study. I'm not a prude. I've read lots of reviews for the bestsellers, but they do not tempt me. It's interesting that gradations and degradations both pop to mind.

Taunting no rain gray clouds
Texas mountain laurel tree gray

gravel road

cement concrete

weathered driftwood

© 2012 Nancy L. Ruder


Twilight Zone on the playground

Yes, this cicada tried to fly off with our picnic table.


Two rowdy hawks have been perching on the telephone poles near the playground for three days.  They screech loudly, and sometimes fly off together.  A third hawk appears sometimes looking rather ruffed up or ruffled.  We don't understand the avian soap opera.  We need subtitles.

But what really knocked me out was your cheap sunglasses.

© 2012 Nancy L. Ruder


It's just the pits

This is not part of the core curriculum wherein we teach little kids to eat down to the core of apples by giving them the incentive to feed the core to classroom pet rabbit, Norton.  This is the pit curriculum which is tougher and has no rabbit tie-in reward.

Our pit instruction is mostly by demonstration.  Describing the process for eating bing cherries on the preschool level is verbally unworkable.  Students want to eat the cherries as if they were miniature plums, a very messy plan of attack!  Should you be personally bing challenged, click here for instructions.

Perhaps you are wondering why parents send cherries in kiddies' lunch boxes if the said kiddies don't have a clue how to consume the fruit.  You would not be alone, but it might be best to applaud parents sending fresh fruit at all.

Should you wish to ponder creation of a flow chart, you might surely find 2Amys Neapolitan Pizzeria near the National Cathedral in D.C. conducive to clear and illuminating thinking.  Try the San Remo olive starter to practice your pit technique.  After your meal share an order of the citrus honey sorbet with your friends.  After that a nap might be the best use of your time.

© 2012 Nancy L. Ruder


Purple berries and canaries

Thought I'd lost Nedda! When did the print on cd spine labels get so tiny? If you can't spy your "Pagliacci" recording with your little eye are you getting old?

What goes first?  The first thing to go is the memory?  The hearing?  The eyesight?  No. The first thing must have been participation in pop culture. I dropped out sometime before Michael Jackson lost his glove and Madonna got her training bra.  I was too busy raising sons to tune the radio dial.

Told friends I saw David Crosby and Stephen Stills at an Independence Day event.  Their response was, "Oh, yeah, wasn't Crosby the sperm donor for Melissa Etheridge's children?"  Well, yes, if Jerry Garcia was primarily a necktie designer.

So, this is what happens. You age. You like opera and oldies, and think drinking coffee from a "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" coffee cup might make you smart enough to solve Will Shortz's crossword puzzle. You remember Watergate like it was yesterday, but can't remember when you changed the filter for your Brita pitcher. The only thing that keeps you climbing back up the trail is dread of imposing on your kids making them haul you on a makeshift stretcher back to the car.

Say, can I have some of your purple berries?

Yes.  I've been eating them for six or seven weeks now, haven't got sick once.

Probably keeps us both alive.

 © 2012 Nancy L. Ruder


The early bird gets a seat on the plane

N. Mastalir--acrylic--1973
Thank you, Patricia at Gate B-8, for getting me home again. Air travel is a challenge on a good day, and D.C. was having a hellish day. Yup, hotter than Hades. Hot enough to melt the tarmac, and cause a jet's landing gear to sink into the goo. Fortunately, I was not flying La Brea Airways out of Reagan. I was going Southwest from BWI.  Getting to BWI was tricky because a Metro station was closed on the Green Line due to a "heat kink". This is definitely not as sexy as it sounds. Instead, this would be the same heat kink derailment that wreaked havoc on fans going to and from the Nationals/Rockies game Friday evening.

Avert your eyes if you don't do kinky!

Cause of West Hyattsville Metro outage
Yes, I copied this image from the Metro website, but I kinda figure they owe me (and thousands of other riders) for travel difficulties during the July 4th week. On the good side, most of the Metro escalators were working fine during my trip.

Much thanks to the Woolly Mammoth for shepherding me through the Metro mess. He's a good boy, and takes care of his easily-frazzled mama!

Back to my hero, Patricia at the Southwest gate. She saw a missed connection in my future and rebooked my flights. I got home an hour earlier than scheduled, and way earlier than I would have with a missed connection. Plus, it was a non-sweating flight!

This is the repair crew working on the Metro:

(Photo taken at the National Building Museum's Lego Architecture : Towering Ambition exhibit.)  More thanks to the Woolly Mammoth for introducing me to online virtual Lego building. This is the greatest way to waste time and achieve "flow", but you have to use Google Chrome as your browser. If you don't hear from me, I will have achieved Lego nirvana.

© 2012 Nancy L. Ruder


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