Library Life List

Tornado sirens sounded just as we were leaving work at the library Saturday evening trapping us for two hours with gobs of holiday candies, multiple computers for tracking weather radar and warnings, and a bag of clementines. Attempt to drive home or not? Thankfully there were no library patrons. That would be a huge responsibility.

Sad to say, the storm fatalities were almost all persons in vehicles. Similar reports come from the St. Louis flooding. The fatalities are mostly persons in vehicles. It's a tragic reminder that our cars are not the personal insulated safe pods we often assume.

Libraries are good places to be trapped. I used to make mental lists of the five books I would want with me if marooned on a desert island. Aha! Imagine being marooned on an island with a library instead.

These are photos of the Dr. Eugene Clark Library in Lockhart, Texas. Besides having the oldest continually operating library in the state of Texas, Lockhart has the title "Barbecue Capital of Texas (therefore of the world)". My library life list is now at seventy-four.

1899 construction cost $6000.00

Stained glass for book lovers!

One of the fan windows from the inside.

Cute couple celebrating their engagement.

Building on right houses most of collection.

The library telescope!

Smitty's Barbecue--my eyes are still smoky!

That's all, folks! I'm off to my desert island.

© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder


Lest we falter in our resolve

I make pretty darn good minestrone soup. Once decades ago when I had to write up personal life goals, I listed "learn to make minestrone soup". Probably not what the counselor had in mind when assigning this exercise, but it was an achievable goal. (The secret is the parmesan cheese rind.)

Achieving that goal continues to bring tasty satisfaction, unlike the New Year's resolution I made to match the plastic food storage containers and their lids. This is the Sisyphusian Rubbermaid resolution that can never really be completed. Still, life requires the repeated efforts.

Did I ever learn to make pie crust? No, but I learned to make savory potpies with refrigerated pie crust dough. Close enough.

As for last December's vow to construct a Lego version of the NYC High Line for my composting worms in 2015, sadly no. It's been a hectic year. The resolution made for some high quality daydreaming, even if the worms did not get an elevated urban park. My grandson is finally old enough for Santa to bring him Legos. That bring joy to his father, and joy to me.

Hereby resolving in 2016 to master the requirements of my new library cataloging job.

  • achieve goals and replicate results
  • take daily vitamins for the uphill boulder-rolling tasks
  • know when close enough is good enough
  • know when to take shortcuts
  • understand when excellence is the only acceptable outcome
  • apply creative approaches to stale routines
  • keep whimsy in my mental toolkit
  • know when to follow the printed directions and when to design my own tower

And always eat a healthy breakfast!

© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder


Vacuuming up the stages of grief

Got the bad news yesterday. My "new" vacuum is beyond repair. The fix-it guy I've relied on broke the news.

My "new" Sanitaire vacuum had many tune-ups and refurbishings over the twenty-some years of it's life, and now it is taken from me too soon, too soon. Lately it spent most of its time alone in a dark closet, but it reminded me of the times when it gobbled up Legos and MicroMachines, then gagged on sweatsocks. It had outlived five crockpots and too many coffee makers to count.

At times misty-eyed, and other moments angry that Fix-It Steve had given up on my long-time servant, I got through the day in a sour mood. It was worse once I got home and sat staring at the white felt clippings from the snowflake project all over the carpet. There's a whole pack of vacuum bags in the closet...

What would a new vacuum cost? The old "new" one had been about $250.00 in 1990's dollars. Maybe I should just limp along with a DustBuster. No, that's pathetic! Snap out of it!

...best... vacuum ... apartment ...images ... Google popped up photos that looked like my grandson's toy vacuum with the colored beads popping around in the clear tube. Whoa! That's what vacuums look like now! I had no idea.They are lightweight, bagless, and affordable. Cool! And the instant gratification of seeing the gross stuff coming out of the carpet is motivating. Merry cleaning to me, and to all a good year!

© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder


You can't see me!

I’m not really here!

Went behind the fence to retrieve the wood building blocks, binoculars, and other toys that had been thrown over. These photos are the back side of the bird blind with its feeding shelf of birdseed and peanuts. This squirrel was acting so oddly I started to think she was really stuck like Santa in the chimney. Did she eat too much? As I walked to either side, she would turn her head, but didn't move a bit otherwise. When I finally got within a foot and a half, out she popped and ran off lickety-split.

  • Wait a sec! Does lickety have one t or two? Only one, and I just plain don't have time to wonder about "a lick and a promise" this evening. Not going there. 

  • Also not wondering how the squirrel would look hiding behind the arras with Polonius in Act 3, Scene IV.

  • Was the squirrel waiting in the wings for the cue to enter, stage right or stage left and say, "Aha! Now we know the identity of the murderer"? 

  • Was the attempt to become invisible a sign of squirrel intelligence? 

I keep trying to write a post about the many things I learned while preparing my "Trim a Tree for Wildlife" program, most particularly about receiving a gift pamphlet about commensal rodents. This, again, is not the evening for that endeavor. 

Online Etymology Dictionary indicates "mensa" is related to table like mesa, not moon or monthly. The meaning of the high IQ Mensa organization: 

The word "Mensa" means "table" in Latin. Mensa is a round-table society, where race, color, creed, national origin, age, politics, educational or social background are irrelevant.

That's all just dandy, but I want the squirrel to eat at the birdfeeder, not at my table, no matter how smart and theatrical it is.

Oh, and olly olly oxen free!

© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder


A few new strings is all

Got it now. Thanks! Wrapping the stair rail with holiday lights did the trick.

Yes, it's late to be getting the Christmas commercial spirit. Not so belated for THE REST of the holiday outlook. You know, those parts with meaning, family, friends, gratitude, joy, wonder, waiting, weather changes, music, sharing, postage stamps, senses, and twinkly lights. Particularly blue twinkly lights, but also white, purple, pink, and assorted. As many strands of 70-100 lights as needed to make it seem complete, and just $2.98/string.


While I was a-wrapping the railing the little family in the next apartment emerged. How many months have they lived next door? Why do we never cross paths? Now we have exchanged greetings. It's not wassailing, but it's a start toward neighborliness.

Time is a-flying now. It flew up the flue while you gawked at the gorgeous, bright, soggy fall leaves. As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly, when they meet with an atomic leaf-blower get sucked into a giant plastic bag.

So few days left in the year to tell people I hold them dear. The days are so short I don't even unplug the extension cord for the lights.

© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder


Out of the frying pan and opening the flue

Chatted with an architect today who had designed a CEO's office on the 38th floor of a New York City building. The big boss wanted a fireplace in his office. The designer found that opening a flue at that height created an air flow strong enough to suck the CEO's secretary right up the chimney.

This story beat my cautionary tale about opening the damper to prevent singeing my eyebrows. I never saw the woman architect before, but I'm sure she was real. I hope her story is true. Even if it's a fable, it reminded me how life often feels like being drawn up the chimney and blasted out into the sky above a teeming metropolis against one's will and without a superhero cape.

I'm more scrambled than usual transitioning from two half-time jobs to one full-time position with actual big-girl grown-up benefits. I'm filled with gratitude for this opportunity. The only damper is working a year before taking vacation days flying to see grandkids.

In dreams I flew, body-surfing the warm air thermals above a mall food court, amazing the cosmetics clerks from Macy's and Foley's. In nightmares I can never reach my parents or my sons by cell phone in the cosmic labyrinth shopping center. Plus, there are no clean restrooms at the mall.

© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder


If at first you don't succeed

Opening night and world premiere of the Dallas Opera's "Becoming Santa Claus" was a strange and wonderful event. To begin with, I dribbled toothpaste on my black opera attire, and had to start over dressing in my dark chocolate opera outfit. We will not even get into my failed frozen pumpkin experiment except to say the thawing sections are too gooey for the intended bird feeder craft project. Now I'm attempting a slow drying in a low oven. The theme of the day is Plan B.

The Dallas Opera commissioned Mark Adamo to create a Christmas opera in hopes it would become a reliable Nutcracker/Christmas Carol/Polar Express-style annual money-maker. I admire the motivation, but I'm not sure they succeeded.

Good news first--the production has successful sets and costumes designed by Gary McCann.  It's quite Through the Looking Glass, complete with portraits that express more emotion than the living characters.

Bad news is the intentionally shrill, shrieking music, especially the vocal parts of the elves. I don't expect new operas to be hum-friendly toe-tappers, but they should not cause physical pain! Oh, and the wigs looked like they came from Party City.

I remain fascinated by the huge collaborative undertaking required to create a new opera or a new production. For the 50th season of the Dallas Opera local sculptors Tom Orr and Frances Bagley were invited to design the sets and costumes for Verdi's "Nabucco", and the results were stunning. Attending the premiere of the Dallas Opera's commissioned "Moby Dick" with mind-blowing projections was an amazing five star experience. Already in 2015 the Dallas Opera presented two brand-spanking-new very successful operas, "Everest" and "Great Scott". The mountain-climber opera made the audience part of the oxygen-deprived challenge. "Great Scott" was a delightful Rossini-does-NFL soap, enjoyable and even thought provoking, but nothing I can hum. Of course I am basically tone deaf.

In all of those bold ventures the Dallas Opera  created works where I felt totally engaged. At "Becoming Santa Claus" there was no personal engagement, no emotional connection, no likeable characters, and no transporting music. I kept trying to imagine any child of my acquaintance sitting through it (with no potty breaks or snacks).

I sincerely hope the Dallas Opera can do a major reworking of this opera to fulfill the possibilities of an annual family tradition/money-maker. And this time Dallas Morning News opera critic Scott Cantrell and I agree!

© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder


Peripheral sprinkles

Write your name at the top and number your paper from one to ten. Handwriting will count on this spelling test.

  1. peripheral
  2. silhouette
  3. pastiche
  4. squirrel
  5. kitchen
  6. blue jay
  7. sweetgum seed pod
  8. fritillary
  9. toroid
  10. vet
Bonus words: business ethics, Ricola

I challenge you to pronounce "business ethics" with a Ricola cough drop in your mouth. Say it again, three times fast!

Spell check will not like two Ts, or two Rs, or two Ls in fritillary. If I ever captain a pirate ship, I will name her The Gulf Fritillary. Robert Kurson's Pirate Hunters is proving interesting, but not as spell-binding as his 2004 Shadow Divers.

When we check out the sources and data in a story, are we vetting it like a Corvette or like a veterinarian. The stories are going to be peripheral, but for the life of me I could not spell paraferal for the minutes. Contemplating paraprofessional felines got me through a long stretch of the meeting. If you can't get your pet an appointment with the vet would you be interested in seeing the paraferal?

As a kid I could not spell "kitchen" or "squirrel". Those two evil words kept me from being a sparkly gold stellar speller award winner. This week we are studying compound words, and struggling with bluejay, sweet gum, and seedpod. No matter which way I merge or split, I am wrong.

And shouldn't a pastiche be an savory, crusty French stuffed egg dish? But, no, that was the opera within the opera in the bel canto style. Please don't make me write an essay question or use this word in a sentence!

Silhouette is next to camouflage on my personal spelling nemesis list. And we must not forget the donuts. We will not diverge on the road not taken when the asiago bagel caught fire in the toaster and made me late for work.

My granddaughter can sit up now and play with the Fisher-Price donut ring Rock-a-Stack, just like every kid born since 1960. Some things stay the same, thank heaven!

© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder


Ant anxiety disorder

Panic self-assessment levels are high. I'm having horrible nightmares set in Sixties suburbia with walkout basements, feelings of hopelessness and paralysis, loss of appetite, blurred vision, and inability to solve Sunday New York Times crossword puzzles. I even had a flashback to junior high English class with Miss Madsen. I'm losing my grip on Greek root words and confusing etymology with entomology!

This is the first time I've ever had a kitchen ant invasion in my whole grown-up life. When I had the maintenance guy fixed the screen on the kitchen window so I could open it once in awhile, somehow he provoked the ants. It's not my fault!!! Why do they hate me???

The ants started doodling around on the windowsill carrying teeny banners. I can't read the banners without a magnifying glass. [Yes, the ants are real.]

The ants mostly stay on the windowsill, but this is absolutely unacceptable. When my Grandma Halma had ants in her kitchen, she was put in The Manor. The ants were marching to and from a congealed OJ spill on her counter. I don't want to be in The Manor quite yet. They serve icky canned mixed vegetables at The Manor.

Terro Liquid Ant Killer's package says proper use may take up to two weeks for complete ant control. An all-out cleaning attack on my kitchen has not turned back the tide.

Resist! Resist! Is that what the banners proclaim? The package instructions tell me, "Resist the temptation to interfere when the ants come in droves--your patience will pay off as you watch your ant infestation dwindle and then disappear." I'm starting to hear voices! Resist the temptation! Don't interfere with the droves!

And forgetting that ants were called emmets is messing with my crossword performance level...

© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder


When squirrels have drones

The squirrel is on the railing of the balcony just under the new birdfeeder monitoring my reaction. It is probably a grandchild of the squirrel that finally defeated and destroyed last winter's birdfeeder.

The young squirrel wants to know just how ballistic I will go. Is our upcoming struggle WWIII? A three-ring circus? Perhaps a departmental conflict/communication style assessment?

Gail Collins of the New York Times has me concerned that this young squirrel might receive an unregulated hobby drone for Christmas. 

In her op-ed, "Dreading Those Drones" of October 30, 2015 she writes:

Now it’s true that squirrels knock out power lines and nobody’s talking about regulating them. But squirrels don’t get in the way of passenger planes. 

My squirrel nemesis of last year.
Gail Collins did not mention the possibility of squirrels in bras in Home Depot in her column, but you just can't make this stuff up:

What if this had been a squirrel?

I had been contemplating a return to wire sculpture with hardware, door keys and rusty zipper pulls. But I HAD NOT got so far into my artistic plan as to enlist squirrels to collect 3D collage material in exchange for unlimited access to bird feed.

Yes, it looks suspicious that I wrote on my departmental Secret Santa preference questionnaire that I liked Chex Mix, black coffee, butterflies, insects, postage stamps, rocks, and old door keys. It's just that uncompliant streak in my nature to push back at organized ho-ho-hoing.

And while Dave Barry, Molly Ivins, and Bart Simpson have all expressed the notion that you just can't make this stuff up, to my knowledge I'm the only person who has ever received this occupational title in a performance review:


Which stuff? THAT stuff!

© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder


Ice-breaker at Tone Deaf Anonymous

Yesterday I hosted another educator workshop. Hosting is easy compared to presenting the program. I bring the mini muffins and seedless grapes, and make the first pot of coffee.

[Hint #1--If you make the coffee too strong or too weak, workshop participants will ask if they can make the next pot.]

We opened the workshop with a fiendishly difficult ice-breaker. Each participant had drawn the name of a very familiar song from a bag. We were to walk around the room humming our song until we found all the other folks humming the same song.

Each new hummer I met completely knocked my tune out of my head. I was struggling to hang onto Jingle Bells, and to sort it out from Itsy Bitsy Spider, Twinkle Twinkle, Row Row Row Your Boat, London Bridge, and Mary Had a Little Lamb. When I finally found a young park ranger struggling with jingling all the way, we almost hugged in relief!

Early childhood curriculum guides are full of ideas like, "Sing this rhyme about tying shoes to the tune of I've Been Working On the Railroad," or "Use the tune of Frere Jacques for this little ditty about washing your hands after you flush." Remember, deer need food, water, shelter, and space. And there's a reason why we all aren't improv jazz musicians.

Dormez-vous? Dormez-vous, Rudolph? 


© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder


Frozen pumpkin crescents

At the first sign of our belated fall, I went on a cooking binge. I made ground turkey and black bean taco filling in the crockpot to freeze. Then potato soup with a couple little turnips for tang, mushrooms for earthiness, and celery because Grandma said so. Most of that went into the freezer, too. A gardener's gift prompted a big batch of eggplants stuffed with lentils and almonds, but I was running out of Rubbermaid storage containers. The two dozen eggrolls had to be frozen in Ziplock bags, and the parmesan chicken casserole got shoved to the way-way back.

All good. Ready for the blizzard of '88.

But now I'm gutting the pumpkins left from autumnal decor for a work event. I need the seeds for an upcoming family nature craft session, and also crescents of pumpkin shell, Peter Peter. So far four 13-gallon bags of pumpkin shell crescents are wedged into the freezer. Three more pumpkins are out in the waiting room filling out paperwork before surgery.

So, if you are looking for Poppin' Fresh pumpkin crescents, you have reached the wrong site. If you want to wish the Pillsbury Doughboy a welcome-to-AARP happy birthday, check here.


© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder


DIY Penicillin

Brought the sealed buckets of soap berries, Eve's necklace seed pods, bur oak acorns, and seed pods from the outdoor storage for the family craft fun. The last bucket from the closet was unlabeled. Pinecones? Magnolia seed grenades? What would be inside?


Halloween was yesterday. So what's up with this? Fuzzy tofu? Sprouted geodesic domes? Gnome parkas? Spore Wars? DO NOT inhale!

I was so scared I didn't even whip out my camera. That's a bad sign.

What does one do with a big dang tub-o'-mold? Can I put it in the organic waste collection? Hazardous waste? Don't make me call the EPA! AND don't make me do Science Fair!


The library got a cool new kids book, Fungi, by Judy Wearing. It has the right amount of information for a child doing a report, and way more than I can fathom in a single sitting. Great photos, but too many of the text boxes are black on a dark background--jazzy but unreadable.

© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder


Primed for disappointment

We have been seriously facilitated lately, with the pyramid of accountability, communication skills, Glenn Parker's Team Players, and True Colors. Are you most:
  • stressed by appearing incompetent?
  • stressed by disharmony?
  • stressed by disorganization?
  • stressed by lack of excitement?
  • stressed by forgetting to cancel free Amazon Prime trial before 30 days were up?
Just before the lunch break in the all day team-building session I realized I had missed the deadline to cancel my 30-day free Amazon Prime membership before being charged $99.99. Oops. Not sure I can make that membership a financial win. It would be better if Prime included a year of free socks to meet your every need. Amazon knows absolutely everything about me, so drones could deliver perfect socks to my front door. I hate buying socks! 

  • Why do they cost so much? 
  • Why can't they be more fun?
  • Why are they never quite the right color? 
  • Where is the mate?

What have I learned, besides the socks? I seem to be a private, planning, punctual, slow-processing cynical idealist, telephone-phobic contributing challenger uncomfortable with conflict, easily annoyed, amazingly curious but never bored, Put me in a closet and I will make art out of coat-hangers. Put me in the kitchen and I will use my knowledge of historic migrations with my appreciation of texture and color to make many interesting dishes, two-thirds of which will be edible, and 80% unrepeatable. Put me in a long departmental strategic planning meeting, and I will be unable to find a comfortable position on those chairs. Tell me I can't take notes, and I'll be itching for a fight. Don't hug me, and I won't hug you.

© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder


"as an ook cometh of a litel spyr"

It's Day Four of the acorn cap/pretty leaf gathering, and I'm feeling the effects. This workout involves walking around with a big tote bag selecting optimal acorn caps, bending down to pick and inspect, standing up and putting acorn cap in the bag. Repeat for one-half hour, with variations for sweet gum leaves and spikey balls, bur oak acorns, twigs with tiny yellow leaves attached, any red leaves, big leaves, variegated leaves, dry umbel stalks, bark, dry coneflower and Mexican hat flower tops, and hopefully no ants of any type. The follow-up/cool down portion of the workout requires a great many more bends, plus taking a Dustbuster to the office so Alice the cleaning lady will not get mad at me about the autumnal craft class prep mess.

Little kids will like making our nature "fantasy islands". The armless clothespin person on the paper plate island is not shouting, "De plane! De plane!" .

As for the little acorns from which those mighty oaks will grow, I report the following conversation between a first grader and a pre-K student.

1st:  Is that noise bothering you?
Pre-K:  No.
1st:  It's not bothering me either. As you get older you don't hear stuff so well, and I'm seven.

The little girls proceeded to tell me their life stories which involved an island, Maui, but not a nature island on a paper plate sea. Then a little guy not much taller than the desk where I worked walked up and asked me, "So how're y'all doin'?"

I'm good. Darn good. Just a few aches and pains from my exercise program.

Eh? What's that you say? When you get older you don't hear stuff so well, and I'm....

© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder


Dooby du Bois

I admit I don't know diddly about W.E.B. Du Bois, except my friend's son is writing a paper about him. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy describes Du Bois as a pragmatic philosopher, among other things, but not as an author, artist, or illustrator. 

Guy Pène du Bois was an artist whose "Beach" series hung in the Sheldon Museum's permanent collection gallery during my Wonder Years. The series of three small oils showed groups of people in 1924 swimming attire, a matter of some interest for a 10 year old student of history, costume, swimming, and the human form. The subjects do not appear to be having any fun at the beach. I was always intrigued by the woman wringing out the skirt of her bathing costume. What would she think about shopping the Lands End swim catalog?

Guy was a student of William Merritt Chase and Robert Henri. He was named for his father's friend, the writer Guy de Maupassant. Much as I don't know diddly about W.E.B., I am clueless about Maupassant. I've reserved a library book of his stories. 

Guy had a large family to support, and wrote for a newspaper besides being an artist. He reported on the police beat, and was a music critic. He was the subject of Peggy Bacon's 1933 portrait etching entitled "Hangover".

One of Guy's children was William Pène du Bois, the author/illustrator of my very favorite Newbery Medal book. That would be the 1948 winner for The Twenty One Balloons. Besides writing children's books, this du Bois was an illustrator for George Plimpton's Paris Review.

But what about Blanche, you inquire. There is no evidence that Tennessee William's fictional character was related to artist/reporter, writer/illustrator, or socialist/philosopher on the Du Bois family tree. I'm mean, she doesn't even have a space between her du and her bois!

And then you have to wonder about Bois-D'arc trees. What's up with them? Are they osage oranges or horse apples? They have a lot of names, but none are Maupassant.

The Twenty One Balloons includes the eruption of Krakatoa, also the subject of a fantastic book by 
Simon Winchester. And that is how I remembered the word "caldera" to answer 77 across, "Name for a depression at the mouth of a volcano."

So, ultimately, du Bois is an antidepressant. And always, dear muse, "Anxiety is the shallow breathing of a narrowed mind."

© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder


Going to Tom Thumb with your inner artists

Walk through the automatic doors. You have a list. You have a vision. Your selections will weave, wave, fold into detailed entrees, casseroles, and lunchbox leftovers for the week ahead. Fish transform into swans. Tiny Lego figures climb infinite staircases to unload your dishwasher.

Shamble through the automatic doors. Go back and get a cart. Load up with containers of hummus, pimento cheese spread, mint chocolate chip, Greek yogurt, a Rubbermaid spatula, and a can of pink cake frosting. Grab a roll of masking tape in the checkout lane.

Take a plastic shopping basket. Peer through jars of jams and roasted red peppers. Pick up saran wrap and foil. Linger in the candy aisle.

Run in.Grab a loaf of French bread, an economy block of Swiss, five pounds of potatoes, and box of Bandaids.

Stride through the automatic doors. Go straight for the Cheez-Whiz. Reddi Whip, Barbasol, and gogurt. Find Silly String in the birthday party section.

Where is that robust Dutch artist? The bearded guy with the table of pears, beef roasts, sardines, tulips, onions, edam wheels, tall mugs of hoppy beverages, and grapes of every color hanging over the edge in the dimly lit hall, you know him. Where is his hefty debit card?

What was it I came in here to get?

© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder


You oughta be in pictures

The morning could not be captured in a Power Point or even a big screen movie. This moment was a motion picture projected in a drowsy classroom full of dust motes. The red-haired kid in his red baseball cap. Monarch butterflies and queens and painted ladies all flying and feeding at the purple mistflower, dipping and swirling just above the kid with the cap. His smile widening. The fluttery-puttery sound of the projector reels turning. Opie and Aunt Bea.

I've never been happy with explanations of the butterfly" word origin. True, butter-yellow butterflies are very common. Do they hang around milk pails? I doubt that.

The monarchs look so lovely on the flowers the color of...? The color of... Why, that is just the color of the purple shoes worn on its ears by the very vain tiger!

And that tiger ran in circles around and around a tree until it turned into melted butter for pancakes! The little red-haired kid in the baseball cap is unlikely to encounter resourceful Sambo, that Clever Boy Odysseus. It's kinda sad since kids today have so many more tigers to outwit than I did.


In the butterfly swirl there were many Painted Lady couples. Talk about having some explaining to do! I think I'll go with the Victorian house definition of a "painted lady" having three or more paint colors to emphasize the architectural details.

And the skipper sips on.

© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder


Shelf shifting, continental drifting

Work-out #1

Two days, two work-outs.What does peckish mean?  This English word meaning hungry dates from 1785 "literally disposed to peck". Other slang meanings dating from 1902 are outside the scope of this post.

My mission was to shift the periodical shelves down to get more magazines into the reach of more users, and to cull back issues so they would fit in the reduced spaces. For eight of the nine sections of the shelves this was a simple task. Count the holes. Position the brackets. Slide the wooden shelves onto the brackets. The wooden shelves were not light, though, especially not the front display shelves. Lifting stacks of back issues was a pretty good work-out by itself.

But for one section of shelves this was a woodpecker-drilled nightmare. Perhaps the section was installed upside-down. The bracket holes did not line up with the other sections vertically. So someone, probably a woodpecker, drilled many more holes. These holes were spaced too far apart front-to-back. The brackets were not long enough. The installer must have been the poster child for Measure Twice, Cut Once.

Woodpecker work
I had to look up peckish again. It never seems to fit its meaning when I see it in a book.

Work-out #2

Craving autumnal food despite the temps in the low nineties, I had an attack of recipe posting on Pinterest, then wrote a very long grocery list based on the recipes. Never mind my failure to ever actually follow recipes.Then I went digging for quarters to use at the car wash.

After the wash, the grocery list was nowhere to be found. I would just have to shop by memory! The answer sheet for this test was probably on the kitchen table.

garlic fail sweet potato pass chicken broth pass ginger thought better butternut squash pass can of chickpeas reassessed Greek yogurt pass fruit for smoothies pass zucchini pass couscous pass tomato paste pass canned tomatoes pass fresh mint fail fresh sage partial credit for a jar of dry sage potatoes pass lemon pass parmesan pass rice vinegar pass bread pass eggs fail fail milk fail butter fail sparkling grapefruit soda partial credit birthday card partial credit gift card short ribs fail partial credit for getting close pork roast partial credit pie crusts partial credit for a bargain chicken thighs fail bratwurst fail turnip fail breast cancer donation fail yellow squash

The real work-out will be convincing myself I want those breakfast fruit smoothies.

© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder


Detain that bag lady!

Got a lead on bur oak acorns at a specific corner in an affluent neighborhood. I needed those acorns for the seedy kiddie class, along with sweet gum prickly stars and pecans. So there I was wandering in the park with a plastic bag and no poopy canine to clean up after.

There's a handsome specimen of a bur oak tree in a lawn, so I walk up the middle of the street to find nuts by the curb and on the public sidewalk. A man comes out of a nearby house to walk his labradoodle doggy, but instead watches me. He takes a smart phone photo of this nutcase autumn leafy homeless bag lady loitering and jaywalking in his neighborhood.

No, I am not sleeping in my old Buick. I have jobs. I don't mutter much, at least not audibly, and only in English. Smell? I pass the sniff test. Shoes? Functional, not stylish.

If the resident calls the police to report me this could get weird. "You gotta whole lotta 'splaining to do." I've never been frisked, except by airport security. "Frisky" is a word for teaching preschoolers about squirrels. I just want to teach kids about the bounty of fall and the fascinating shapes of seeds.

Being just a bit outside the comfort zone seems scary. How does it feel trying to get by, to stay under the radar as a daily strategy?

© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder


Aaron and the porcupine eggs

For spelling questions I start with the which-looks-right test before trying Spellcheck, Google, or the dictionary. Two of us were dueling through all the options trying to sort out "bur". We had seen "bur" and "burr" so many times they both looked wrong and were both likely correct. With prickles in my brain I headed home.

After a deep cleansing breath I opened the dear old Big Red Dictionary. Had to dust it off and apologize for my long neglect. A true servant should not be relegated to the bottom shelf. I had forgotten the sensory pleasures of the indented letter tabs and the light, thin pages.

The lesson plan under construction is using our senses to learn about seeds, seed pods, and a bit of seed dispersal for young children. They will not care if "bur" or "burr" wins. They will be unimpressed by the rough trilling of the letter r, as in Scottish pronunciation. Floating bur oak acorn caps in the water tub is more their style. And yes, bur oak seems to need only one r.

What burs attach in the memory? What hooks on the seed pods? I know exactly what I was wearing the day my Aunt Shirley and Uncle Rollie came to visit us in Edmond, Oklahoma. I bought the outfit at Anthony's on Broadway, not the Bryant store. That pink shirt is in the Great Shirts of the Late Eighties Museum collection. It was a stripe print over-dyed. Rollie, ever the bull**** storyteller, brought my kids a small box of carefully cushioned ancient "porcupine eggs". The boys were appropriately impressed, and did not touch the artifacts. We kept that box of cocklebur prickles in a drawer for at least a decade. Bur. is the abbreviation for bureau and Burma.

cockle n. Any of several plants often growing as weeds in grain fields

cocklebur n. Any of several course weeds of the genus Xanthium bearing prickly burs. 2. The bur of any of these plants.

Cockleburs are poisonous to livestock in the seedling stage, and were used in Greece as hair dye. I'm guessing we are trying for blonde, since xanth- indicates the color yellow.

Burrs (or burs) are an amazing adaptation for seed dispersal. The curriculum guide suggests I put a big sock over one shoe and leg of each preschool student and send them out to wander in the meadow to unwittingly pick up Velcro-esce seeds, The guide doesn't explain what to do with all the stickers in their jeans on the other leg.

bur oak  A timber tree. Quercus macrocarpa, of eastern North America, having acorns enclosed within a deep, fringed cup. The Big Red Dictionary is positive about the spelling of this name.

burn. Also burr. 1. a. The rough, prickly, or spiny fruit husk, seed pod, or flower of various plants, such as the chestnut or the burdock. b. A plant producing burs. 2. A persistently clinging or nettlesome person or thing. 3. Any of various rotary cutting tools designed to be attached to a drill. [Middle English burre, probably from Scandinavian, akin to Old Swedish borre.]

bur2 1. Variant of burr (rough edge). 2. Variant of burr (guttural trill). 3. Variant of burr (washer)....a washer that fits around the smaller end of a rivet... Not your Maytag.

Bur and burr keep dancing around doing variations on a theme. For most situations you can spell it whichever way passes your looks-right test.

Burr, which follows burp gun, is the name of the Vice President of the United States under Thomas Jefferson (1801-05). That would be Aaron Burr, 1756-1836, who famously fatally wounded Alexander Hamilton in a duel. Burr (copyright 1973) was the first novel by Gore Vidal I ever read. Checked it out at the Benson Branch of the Omaha Public Library in about 1984.

Xanthippe  the wife of Socrates; proverbial as a shrewish and scolding woman....You could say she was a prickly presence in the philosopher's life, or a burr under his saddle. Page from my Greco-Roman notebook project with Xanthippe in a VW:

Nuts!? Am I nuts?! Surely not, Shirley. We will discuss seed dispersal by wind, water, gravity, and scat some other time.

© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder