Sugar Pops and Old Grand-dad

He's never happy unless he has something to worry about.
--my dad explaining his father-in-law

I'm trying to limit the subjects for this blog to the twenty-four hours when breakfast is served. And so in the wee hours the worries creep out like cockroaches from under the Frigidaire.

Somewhere in some middle of the night in another dysfunctional family a granddad wracked with emphysema wanders out to the pink and gray dinette set for bourbon and Sugar Pops. He is the scariest person the child knows, a shrunken, twisted shell of arthritis, anger, and phlegm under a flickering florescent fixture. The apartment window lets in the light from Avenue C, just across the sidewalk to the curb. The table above yellowed linoleum at this hour lacks the tapping of a grandmother's manicured nails, her hearing aid buzz, and the jars of herring and pickled pigs feet.

Cut the old man a bit of slack for flying in the Great War. Slack can't cut through his funk of old age, of tar and nicotine stuck to the Venetian blinds, or through the viscous wreck of his lungs.

Some child on the hide-a-bed awake, watches old Grand-dad eat the Sugar Pops and wash them down.

There are so many things to fear, and middles of nights to fret.  

I don't want to take nose-goobie preschool germs along on my trip. I sure don't want to get sick just now, and not be able to travel. Wikipedia considerately lists phobias alphabetically, and there are some doozies:

Aviophobia, Aviatophobia – fear of flying
Nosophobia – fear of contracting a disease
Phobophobia – fear of having a phobia or of fear

May I anxiously suggest these additional designations?

otorhinolaryngophobia--fear of ENT doctors and all associated ailments
streptoxmasphobia--fear of having strep throat on a holiday
conjunctivophobia--fear of waking up with pink eye
antibacteriophilia--aversion to nose-picking preschoolers and adults

anticipatoaviochondria--fear of getting sick before a big airplane trip
barfobaggophobia--fear of getting sick on a big airplane trip
General postkellogg disorder (GPKD) in the DSMV-IV--fear of breakfast cereals
Drosselmeyerphobia--fear of old granddad and other creepy old men
Boarding Group D--fear of having the middle seat between Old Grand-dad and Uncle Drosselmeyer
hypoaviodyspunctuosis--extreme fear of missing the flight
retrothermopsatactsatdysmentia--recurring fear of forgetting memorized Greek and Latin root words, with/without flashbacks, dreams or nightsweats

Don't panic.

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


Wind, whine, winding down

I envy the little girl invited to play the ratchet in preschool music class. She gets to make the sound of winding a clock before the group sings "Hickory Dickory Dock".  Other kids ring finger cymbals when the song clock strikes the hours. In my own kindergarten career I was always assigned the red rhythm sticks, never the tambourine or triangle. Ah, but there's the whole root of my low self-esteem! My Sunday routine is upset by the strong, cold wind. No walk, no visit to a nature preserve to take photos, just staying bundled up, but unrelaxed. The wind sounds make it difficult to unwind.

In the night the wind wound its way into my dreams until I was deep in a basement of broken, whining washing machines. The cycle selector knobs had fallen into the overloaded tubs and become trapped in knotted bedsheets. More agitating, a huge, peculiar appliance resembling a kiln was overheating and glowing like hot lava. At any moment the basement walls might cave in on all of us--me, my former in-laws, my current students, and a large cast of repairmen.

A friend dreamed of fixtures instead of appliances. She was trapped in a public restroom while the wind piled a sand dune against the only way out. Same wind, same subterranean entrapment, but perhaps different repairmen!

Awoke cold, with "June is Busting Out All Over" stuck in my head. I hadn't noticed Rodgers and Hammerstein hiding behind the water heater furnace in the nightmare basement:

March went out like a lion 
A-whippin' up the water in the bay. 
Then April cried and stepped aside, 
And along came pretty little May! 

May was full of promises, 
But she didn't keep 'em quick enough for some, 
And a crowd of Doubtin' Thomases 
Was predictin' that the summer'd never come. 

The news is weird:
  • The map of the world in the lobby of Love Field as Southwest Airlines gears up for the end of the Wright Amendment.
  • Oscar Mayer weinermobile visits Firewheel Mall.
  • A 60' x 26' catamaran constructed of 2-liter plastic bottles is arriving in Dallas.
  • A freeze warning is in effect for tonight.
  • Just saw the first monarch butterfly of the spring battling the wind through the soapberry branches out back.
  • A socket wrench is also known as a ratchet.

  • Rachet instruments were used by British policemen to summon assistance, and by WWII armies to warn of the presence of poison gas (according to Wikipedia).
March either comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, or the other way round. This is not nearly as reliable as "Thirty days hath September" or "i before e". Today the lion and the lamb have pulled a chair to the sunniest spot in the living room to watch Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel in "The Producers" after they ironed all my shirts.

Now I've wound up this post, but I'm still wound up. Words are so weird, but wind makes me crazy.

Thanks to Steve Weiss Music for the ratchet photo.

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


Hickory Dickory Sacks

We are so ready for spring, and excited to be making decorations for the Music Festival. This month in art class we are transforming sacks into farm animals. This brown bag magic began with the nursery rhyme mouse who ran up the clock, and the cat who said "Fiddle-I-fee." 

The preliminary part of the project required each student to be gentle opening a paper sack, but rough crumpling newspapers to fill the paper sack. Being able to alternate back and forth, behaving appropriately in different situations is a life skill. We can't hold a new baby the same way we kick a ball.  We don't cheer and stomp at the symphony the way we do at basketball games. Kneading and forming a lump of clay into a ball is rougher than forming that clay into a delicate teacup.  

We walk in the classroom.  
We run on the playground.

"Origami brain" is a perfect name for what I hope my little students will gain from art class. If they don't, I just hope my own brain comes away with a fortune teller or good luck crane.
  • Able to move from two dimensions to three.
  • Able to fold and crease.
  • Able to visualize the process of folding and cutting a shape, as we all finally learn to cut Valentine hearts and snowflakes.
  • Willing to try several arrangements of shapes, and then decide on a composition. 
  • Gain openness to ambivalence. In art class the right answer does not always exist.  Follow directions and routines, but think for yourself, be creative, solve problems.
  • Able to control impulses, keep fingers out of the paint, let colors exist side-by-side unmuddied, and respect the space and creations of others.
"Fiddle-I-fee" is a traditional cumulative song. Cumulative picture books help children develop memory and predictive skills. 

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


Curse of the pregnant squirrels

All out of black sunflower seed for the "bird" feeder. Ring neck doves fly in for demonstrations of disgust at my truly selfish incompetence. The squirrel mommies have been sucking down a feederful every day this week, and I'm all out. One squirrel is glaring at me from the corner fence post.

Walking in the nature preserve I find two young squirrels. Most of the squirrels were high up in trees eating new buds. These two were closer to earth, but chattering away, back and forth.  I wanted to get them tin can telephones. And their conversation would be,

 "I am hungry." 
 "I am hungry, too."

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


Last night I played with maps

and skated odd sidewalks in my sleep
sniffing the burned down house,
the soggy newspapers on Wild Bill's stoop.

Parking is limited near the trailhead.

Close-toed shoes advised.

Snakes appreciate this habitat.

The shallow pond whispered and wove "Mercator projection" through warp and weft, under Tropics of Cancer and over Greenwich Mean Time.

A trip is not a celebration of space and rails and distant horizons.

A trip is a story problem of schedules, lines, time zones, and baggage claimed.

When the locomotives crash who will drive the golden spike?

If You Drive, Drive Safely!

Rub the small stone offered and described by the happy girl.  The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The small round stone unjumps with grace:


Thank you for sharing without a net
navigating by the stars alone

Hanging onto your ticket stub

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


Sweet gum, bees hum, pond scum

Dang those fiendish little spiky geodesic domes! Once again I have tripped, skidded, and rolled on  a sweet gum seed pod, and sworn out loud.  Falling down in broad daylight is pretty embarrassing. I shake my head, and haul my carcass up off the pavement. My slacks are not ripped this time. Skinned knees are not bleeding into the black & white plaid. My wrist hurts like crazy, but isn't swelling.

People only fall down when they are very old or very young. Don't meet the very young criteria. Texting while driving? Heavens no! Texting while walking seems beyond my coordination.

It is the final day of my sister's visit to Dallas. After her last convention session we enjoy another lunch on the porch at Hook, Line, & Sinker. Sometimes it is nice to already know what you want--filet and shrimp--but this time with grilled zucchini. Outstanding!

More chilling out at a true gem of Dallas, the Valley House Gallery and Sculpture Garden. Two of my favorite artists have solo shows ending, David A. Dreyer: Resonance of Place and Philip John Evett: Sculpture and Drawings .

Before we hit the highway (and the highway construction) for the airport, we take a stroll through the sculpture garden.  You can experience its delights with this two minute film by Quin Mathews.

Photos and text © 2013 Nancy L. Ruder. All rights reserved.


Lizard in pink socks wins

Anole duel on condo patio!

Details at 11:00!

Glanced out at the patio before heading out for a hike and errands.  Beautiful day, and a lizard was sunning on the edge of a terra cotta pot. The anole lizard seemed to be staring down the yellow-eyed owl decoration. Just last week I had a yellow-eyed hawk staring me down on the patio.

But a dark lizard swaggered out of the shadows and flashed his rosy dewlap. Toro! Toro!

For all my years enjoying anole entertainment on the condo patio, I've never witnessed a lizard show-down.  Cue up "Je suis Escamillo, torero de Grenade!" from Bizet's Carmen.


Some Carmen links on the Itty Bitty Blog:

Beats me why matadors wear pink knee-highs.

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


Crystal Palace in the dishwasher

"What's that!?"  My sister is pointing to the Infomart building, but I'm too freaked about the traffic and lane changes to give her a good answer.

That building is a Dallas landmark, but way out of my comfortable navigation zone. The INFOMART building is modeled after the Crystal Palace at the London Great Exhibition of 1851, also known as the first World's Fair.  It opened in 1985.

The Crystal Palace has a starring role in Tatiana Holway's book, The Flower of Empire. The Kirkus book review was intriguing. The Amazonian lily that inspired the design of the original Crystal Palace has pads over eight feet across. Check out the photos at Living Rainforest, and you'll understand the design of the building.

The building shimmering in the late afternoon sunshine makes me crave pretzels dipped in white chocolate AND it makes me self-conscious about the spotted dishwasher results on my glassware.

This flower is the bloom of a rubber plant in the United States Botanic Garden conservatory near the Capitol in D.C.

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


Playing peek-a-boo

Nothing chases the blues away like an orange goatweed leafwing butterfly photo capture! These Anaea andria butterflies are the bright delight on a warmish winter day. Then poof! They disappear before one's very eyes as masters of camouflage.

Took a little side trip to the Elm Fork Nature Preserve on my way out to DFW airport to meet my sister. It's a nice spot on an old channel of the Trinity River in Carrollton, but much smaller than the two preserves where I wander in Plano.

Visitors to Dallas' Arts District for the American Choral Directors Association convention are being treated to the very best weather in our North Texas year--flowering trees, daffodils, and daily high temps around seventy degrees. I'm delighted to have my sister and all the other choral directors experience music, arts, and outstanding architecture in the amazing venues of the Arts District.

The highlight for me will be sharing my favorite Texas choreographer, Bruce Wood, with my choral director/choreographer sister. The Bruce Wood Project will present the world premiere of his theater/dance piece, "My Brother's Keeper".

Skyped with my grandbaby after Sunday breakfast. He doesn't exactly dance, but he likes to march in place. Maybe he'll add more choreography soon. Mr. Short Stack already has the peek-a-boo game down pat. I hope to teach him about goatweed leafwing butterflies some spring.

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


Two lists, tutus, two a.m.

Harriett the Hamster cannot run fast enough on the two a.m. exercise wheel. My mind races on, shifting up to warp speed. I smell the cedar shavings, soggy shredded newspaper, and sweat of pure hamster anxiety.

Getting the grease, the squeaky wheel becomes more slippery and sleep more elusive. The middle-of-the-night lists are needs and wants; worries and terrors; recurring dreams and daytime nightmares; grocery lists and shopper's remorse; bucket lists and bailing for all she's worth. The sleep of reason produces monsters, but insomnia produces lists.

Early sleeplessness plays games with the stranded desert island lists of childhood night-times, and the invited guests for the fantasy dinner party.

In the early wee hours I test my memory with old phone numbers, locker combinations, and street addresses. Who were the six wives of Henry VIII? Recite the Greek alphabet. Swing a bit from the high branches of the family tree where nutty names include Fern, Myrtle, Billie, Vin, Alice June, Loy, and Effa Dale. Wonder how many states I've visited even just changing planes in an airport. What stores were on "O" Street between Miller & Paine and Golds in 1966?

Bargain with Morpheus.  Would sleep arrive if I planned the art classes for the rest of the semester?  Reviewed survival measures and supplies for natural disasters? Changed the furnace filter? Charged my phone?

At two I start listing expensive needed home repairs, personal character defects, debts, deficits and debris. By three I'm into the fears of aging and manners of death--

  • Fear of forgetting all my user names and passwords ...
  • Fear of foreclosure ... 
  • Lack of closure ... 
  • Wardrobe malfunction ... 
  • Parallel parking ... 
  • Falling ... 
  • Gastrointestinal ugliness ... 
  • Being a burden on my children ...
  • Being a burden on society ... 
  • Senator Ted Cruz ... 
  • Dementia ... incontinence ... dementia ... 
  • Living in a box under a bridge ... 
  • Living unboxed under the bridge ... 
  • Falling ... did I mention dementia?

Sleep arrives Velcroed to recurring nightmares of missed flights, missed periods, lost keys, forgotten locker combinations, hairnet job never quit, marriage never ended, unbalanced checkbooks, endlessly spiralling parking garage ramps, bus stops without correct change, school lunchboxes with/without Twinkies, bikes with flat tires, children swept down storm drains, airplanes plummeting into my backyard, hairspray, styling gel, and moose.

Falling ... listing ... waking with antlers.

The 5:58 a.m. list is terse and prioritized.

  • Hold railing walking down the stairs
  • Make coffee
  • It gets easier after that

Look ahead to sharing the Bruce Wood Dance Project performance of "My Brother's Keeper" with my choreographer sister and a dear friend.
© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


Jazz--It's not just for breakfast anymore

Jazz For the Nap Room 

Having good luck lately with this $1.99 bargain bin find.  Believe me, any music that helps put a dozen preschoolers to sleep is King Midas golden. And any music that keeps me calm in my roll as The Nap Lady, channeling Mr. Sandman is welcome.

Maybe I need Mingus doing "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," as I still have a few reluctant nappers. Tranquilizer darts are not allowed!

Over the years I've played ever so many lullabye and kiddie cds, orchestral opera favorites, Spanish guitar solos, Vince Guaraldi's A Charlie Brown Christmas, Bach for babies, Mozart for munchkins, Lives of the Great Composers cassettes, a sleep-inducing relaxation freebie cd from the Crowne Plaza hotel in Austin, and FM radio 101.1 broadcasts of Dallas City Council meetings*.

*The "agenda meetings", held on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month, are broadcast live on WRR Classical Radio (101.1 FM) and telecast on Time Warner Cable channel 6B, 16, 66 or 76 (Digital Channel 66/76) in Dallas.

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


Rocketing to the redbud planet

1st redbud on the Richardson trail
Coming soon to a galaxy near you--SPRING!

That's a good thing.

Rocketing through space with your spouse for 501 days to circle Mars is ... an insane thing. Or, as NASA spokesman David Steitz said, "It's a testament to the audacity of America's commercial aerospace industry," and possibly  an indicator of the perverse desire to be on the worst reality t.v. show ever.

Not sure what possessed me to type "1822 H" into Google. Maybe a brief flashback to the bright red shag carpet in our first married apartment circa 1977.  It doesn't take too many square feet of red shag littered with popcorn to test even a honeymooner's annoyance barometer! Just one bedroom with waterbed, and a tiny living room/kitchen with macrame plant hangers... 

Dang, give those married astronauts some macrame plant hangers so they can moisten seedlings with their recycled urine. We began our married life as the resident managers of the Sterling Apartments, a three story eight-plex at 1822 H Street in Lincoln, Nebraska. And you can buy the Sterling Apartments today for $210,000. 

The real estate description of a "nearly maintenance-free exterior" does not mention the hours spent by the resident manager wife of the resident manager law student pushing the lawn mower through the weeds. Even real-estate poetry cannot describe the many happy predawn hours with the balky snow-blower trying to clear a patch out of the eight off-street parking stalls to the gravel alley. Try chopping a couple inches of ice off that shaded entry walk .

The two-bedroom one-bath apartments on the street side of the building were spacious and a good rental value. I could happily live in one of those today. It would be better than flying to Mars or being married.

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


Skyping with Short Stack

"AAAaauaghgh!" The grandbaby spots me on the computer screen, and voices his excitement.  He sounds like a pirate with a tongue depressor, OR a wolf ready for lunch.

I've been using this board book, The Wolf's Lunch,  for preschool art classes. It is always a winner. For all his zigzag teeth, this is a vegetarian wolf. Can't part with my copy, so it was exciting to find a "new" copy online for seventy-five cents plus shipping and handling for Short Stack's first birthday.  AAAaauaagh!

Mr. Short Stack takes most of his Skype calls in his high chair while eating peas, Cheerios, and other finger foods. He's already multi-tasking--Skyping with Grancy, eating supper, and sending occasional intentional tidbits overboard for Wiley the Dog.

Ideas for the Wednesday art classes were elusive. I'm worn out, and hanging on for Spring Break. Many of the kiddies have constant coughs and eewy-gluey runny noses. My snoot is beginning to drip.

Ah. We will glue. And cut. Add a smile thanks to a big stack of cardboard audio cd sleeves salvaged from my library job. Funny faces.  Put one on and say, "AAAghauagh!"

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


Table set for one

Puzzling over an odd sight on the trail. Why is a pecan half poised at the end of a lichen-covered log? The tableau vivant seems choreographed, not random. Did a hiker arrange it? Was a squirrel's meal interrupted?
What should I read into this?

  • Could I just enjoy the subtle colors and intriguing shapes? 
  • Should I eat a Mediterranean antioxidant diet? 

I don't believe in omens, but Mother Nature does seem to offer hints, suggestions, recommendations, and clues for reflection, consideration, or meditation. Or maybe I am just nuts and sitting way too close to the edge...

Add more nuts, olives, fruits, and fish to my diet? Get a better perspective, a longer view on my problems?

Photos taken February 28, 2013 at Oak Point Nature Preserve in Plano, Texas.
© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder.  All rights reserved.


Little lime fairy

My key lime tree is much happier in the living room than it was on the patio. The sunny southwest corner agrees with it, and its popcorn buds bloom.

Armed with a small sable watercolor brush I dab the blooms alternating those with pistils, and those without. No bees in the condo, so I must be the pollinating fairy. So far I am hopeful a dozen fruits are beginning. Each time I do my lime fairy dance I recite in a bad English accent from Earl's Academy of Accents:

Where the bee sucks, there suck I:
In a cowslip's bell I lie

The Bard and I share that little chuckle after a sucky day at work, and then sometimes we sip an adult beverage.

These blossoms at the Trinity River Audubon Center rely on bees for pollination. There are stacks of hives at the center, so children can learn about honey. Without bees we will all be in sucky scary deep trouble, unable to dab our paintbrushes fast enough. Bees do eighty percent of insect pollination, and bee shortages already impact fruit, vegetable, and nut crops. Pictured below is last summer's entire key lime harvest, life-sized.

Photos © 2013 Nancy L. Ruder. All rights reserved.


March arrives with wings

What is this funny little leaf? Take a step off the trail near the pond. Look closer. It's a tiny butterfly on this windy day, March first.

Closed. Open. Closed. Way open to soak up a moment of sunshine in the gray day. Closed. Surfing the wind on a stalk. Unconcerned or too chilly to fly when I get so close with my camera. It takes many shots to get a few good ones with the stalk blowing and weaving.

Here come the children single-file with their nature field trip workbooks. They've eaten their sack lunches, and take one last walk before boarding the school bus.

I'm not the teacher today. I can step aside, smile, and let them pass.  I'm walking to decompress from Open House at school the previous evening. Surfing the wind, listening to the gentle percussion of thin branch against branch, of woodpecker against old trunk.

The Trinity River Audubon Center hosts one hundred children every school day for a four-hour nature education program. That's twenty-five thousand kids in a school year, many having a rare adventure out of the city.

It's taken me decades to discover my serenity comes from walking in nature. Decades more to spot the hairstreak butterfly head down with wings closed.

This was only my second visit to the center, but it is worth the drive. At six dollars for an adult admission, it is a mental health bargain. My head is even more unscrambled by the drive with Simon Slater narrating Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall.

Hold onto the stalk in the wind. Ride the weaves and waves. Open and close your wings. Breathe.

Photos and text © 2013 Nancy L. Ruder. All rights reserved.

And if you are of a certain age, you might just recollect a song by the Youngbloods.  Hear it here.