Red light, green light

Mother-may-I please play outside? May I take giant steps and sideways scissor steps, and have big kids twirl me around to become a statue? May I play Kick-the-can and use fortune tellers and make Chinese jump ropes with the rubber bands from the evening newspaper? What time is it Mister Fox when kids can't devise their own diversions outdoors?

Sorry, I seem to be having one of those occasional severe whole-world-going-to-hell-in-a-handbasket days, set off by, of all things, the automated book return at the library. I had to wait behind little mommies and little kiddies standing on a stepstool while they deposited one picture book at a time into the return slot, then waited for the light to change from red to green. Then they could deposit another book into the slot and watch the automated sorting from conveyor belt into branch library buckets. Do not pass Go! Do not collect your reserves! Do not need to get back to the office.

As a grownup with a big bag of books, I am not entertained waiting for the stop/go lights. I want to dump my books and get on with my mission. No lines, no waiting. I'd already been stuck in a two-left lanes-closed-mess getting to the library, and waded through the signs for Early Voting. I need Valet Book Return!

Get along kiddies. Don't you have juniper berry mudpies to make in foil Swanson pot pie pans?

© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder


Why did the turtle walk down the road?

No, the snapping turtle was not crossing to the other side. It was headed toward our office, but in the wrong lane, so I didn't notice until I left the office. Had to retrieve some flyers for the community clean-up/fix-up event, and some buckets for the litter bags and give-aways. With lots of mud washed onto the road, I almost didn't realize it was a turtle until too late. I stopped, hopped out of the car, and looked underneath. Yep, that clod of mud was a turtle. Fortunately not was was! Drove ahead carefully so as not to squash it.

The turtle was a long, slow walk from the creek where the snapping turtles rule. Was it running away from home? Off to lay eggs? It seemed kind of small for that, but what do I know? Its shell was six inches long.

We have red-eared sliders in the creek, and they generally stay on one side of the cross-over walkway. The snapping turtles are big, reputed to be mean, and stay on the other side mostly.

On Thursday I told about ninety third-graders about Peanut, the turtle in Missouri that got stuck in a six-pack ring. You can look it up, but Peanut is the poster child for animals harmed by litter. Third-graders eat this stuff up, and remember it, too. I always have to explain that turtles cannot crawl out of their shell.

Among the things I learned is school kids freak out if I use a shiny wrapper from an Easter Reese's peanut butter cup as litter in my presentations, because they are so hyper-freaked about peanut allergies. So, I have to eat some different candy for wrapper litter. It's a bad job, but someone's got to do it.

And so, the snapping turtle was lucky not to be a peanut:

A peanut sat on the railroad track.
Its heart was all a-flutter.
Round the bend came Number Ten.
Choo-choo peanut butter.

Instead the snapper has a tale to tell the grandkids about the time a crazy lady scooped it up between two red buckets and took it back to the creek in her car. Turtles do not often ride in cars. Perhaps it will be a legendary cautionary tale about not running away from home.

Good news. The Geeks fixed my camera, and it is headed back to me. For phone photos, these aren't awful.

Go West, young turtle.

© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder


Old recycler learning new tricks

Does your grocery store have a collection point for clean grocery bags? Where is it? At the front of the store? Outside the door? Somewhere else?

Did you know you can probably recycle other kinds of clean, dry plastic bags and film, such as dry cleaner bags, at the same location?

Kroger #581
Tom Thumb #2554
We could collect some useful information and spread the word by posting photos like these with store names and numbers. That number is on your receipt, along with the address, phone, and probably the manager's name.

To be honest, I'm not exactly a hashtag kind of girl, but I hang out in grocery stores with my reusable shopping bags and my phone. Having a way to recycle the plastic film around the twelve-pack of Charmin constitutes a


If your store is a collection point, take a picture, and post it in the comments. #plastic film recycling And thanks from Mother Earth.

Now I have to go build an ark.

© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder


A clean slate for Earth Day

"You can always start the day over," we told the students. You can come into school with a new attitude. Or, more pertinent to this blog, you can always have another breakfast.

Let's start off with a clean slate. We will ignore your past as part of a billiards table. You have the opportunity to become something entirely new. Think of it as a career change, or a witness protection program. You are about to be repurposed!

  • Being the chalkboard monitor was the most desirable of all elementary school classroom jobs back in the day. It was even better than being line leader. You got to stand outside and clap the erasers.

  • Pool table slate can become pathways, chalk drawing or water painting surfaces in the children's garden. 

  • Pool table slate is pretty darn heavy, but brains beat brawn. We moved the pieces in a zigzag fashion, corner to corner rather than trying to lift them. We slid the slate into the pickup on an old banner, and pulled the banner to slide the heavy slate back out of the truck.

  • Maybe women moved the Easter Island statues into place. As a single woman I've moved major appliances and awkward queen-size furniture using the zigzag mode. It gets tricky going up or down stairs, but can still be accomplished. 

Rocking, rolling, pivoting, rotating. Developing these mental skills isn't easy, but there are many spatial intelligence challenges for kids and adults to try in daily life,

The rain in state falls mainly on the slate. Our billiards buddies will likely get a heavy shower tonight.

We moved the pieces of slate from a living room to a nature learning area across town. We'll decide by committee just how to repurpose them. Will they become a path? A chalk drawing surface? A water painting center? Will it take years to decide?

© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder


Quickening and lightening

Things are not proceeding quickly enough for my dear daughter-in-law, but my attorney son had the baby served eviction papers.

Wide awake during several recent storms I've thought a lot about lightning and lightening. Whenever I see the words misused, I'm sure the speller has never been in the tenth month of pregnancy.

1. the descent of the uterus into the pelvic cavity, occurring toward the end of pregnancy, changing the contour of the abdomen and facilitating breathing by lessening pressure under the diaphragm.

1. Ben Franklin + kite + key
1. very quick. "a lightning cure for his hangover"

Struggling with my bookkeeping using Quicken® this year. It has not been an improvement over the Bic pen and spiral notebook system I've used for years. Quicken® refuses to perform magic tricks at my inexperienced beck and call. My finances are not fluttering to life, to put it mildly! Just another thing to ponder during the nighttime thunderstorms, I guess.

(Of the mother) to enter the stage of pregnancy in which the fetus gives perceptible indications of life

All of which reminds me of the wise An-I-Can-Read-It-Book, No Fighting, No Biting, featuring the little alligators Light-foot and Quick-foot.

© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder


Prohibition against eavesdropping

Speak of the cubicle, that wondrous hidey-hole of alleged productivity! Alas, a perfect spring day and I was trapped in my dark and brooding cave.

Speak of the crane fly, and that early spring, clumsy insect will blunder into your home. The crane fly is not a ravenous skeeter eater or a vicious mosquito hawk. It's more of a gangly teen who can't figure out how to fit in. Think greasy hair and dorky outfits. Major zits. Self esteem issues.

The crane fly was not invited to the middle school dance. It's just hanging there on the wall hoping to escape notice and not be a subject of early adolescent cruelty. Hoping that when it enters a room no one will say, "Speak of the devil." Wishing, too, for a very long drum solo with strobe lights on the disco ball.

This time of year if I mention crane flies, they will appear. Speak of the devil, here comes an uncoordinated kid in a dorky gym suit. Crane flies are mild annoyances to humans and crunchy snacks for dogs and cats. For preschoolers a crane fly is cause for a mega freakout.

The expression "speak of the devil and he shall appear" became unhitched from any Satanic implications over a century ago. It's just a warning against eavesdropping, similar to "little pitchers have big ears". The subject of your gossip is apt to arrive on the scene so watch your mouth.

"Here comes trouble" might be used when an attractive female in shape-hugging attire appears. To any MOBO (mother of boys only) it's most likely an hourly occurrence no matter the ages of said boys. Funny thing is those boys grow up and become thoughtful. April showers bringing May flowers.

© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder


Overnight Asparagus Strata

Breakfast served 24 hours

Lovely Friday evening putting together a cheese strata, and watching pinkish lightning to the west. Cheese strata is a sedimentary casserole. Are there igneous and metamorphic casseroles? It's been a long week, and I can't get my head around these possibilities.

"Can I borrow some rocks with sedimentary layers? The water educator from a nearby town needed loaner rocks from all the casserole categories. That's when the cheese strata took over all the layers in my brain.

Back in my hairnet hospital kitchen days we served up Mrs. Carey's cheese strata on patient trays along with red jello cubes and whipped cream, Sanka, canned pear halves, and broth.

As a newlywed beginner cook I had a recipe for Asparagus Cheese Casserole from the 7th Day Adventists at Lincoln's Union College. It was cut out of the newspaper and glued on a yellow lined index card. If I squint I can almost remember the amounts of eggs, frozen cut asparagus, cottage cheese, condensed milk, dry bread cubes, and grated cheddar. Those were the days before recipe googling!

Difficult to believe California vineyards used to snail mail slick newsletters with family recipes. I forgot Sebastiani Vineyards long ago, but still have Vicki Sebastiani's "Christmas Breakfast" strata recipe.  The combination of raisin bread, dry mustard, bacon, cheddar and eggnog is delicious.

Asparagus and April go together. The strata rested overnight and is in the 375 degrees oven, smelling fabulous.

© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder


Oh, the places you'll go

Walking through the nearly empty mall past the desperate chair massage kiosks, I gave myself the pre-shop talk:

  • Focus on replacing essential wardrobe item (black dress slacks) on sale
  • Absolutely no horizontal stripes
  • Avoid black and white
  • Look for colorful floral prints
  • Don't make eye contact or glance at accessories

That worked just great. The new top to go with the still elusive essential black slacks:

Great earrings, too.
Now back to the map obsession, inspired by new top:

The two halves of the Dallas Symphony concert were black and white extremes. Wolfgang Rihm's Trio Concerto U.S. Premiere was less pleasant than losing a fork down the sink garbage disposal when you have a temporary dental crown and are lost in a an abandoned subway tunnel in a dystopian endless nightmare, not to be quick to judge.

Mozart's Requiem by contrast is an achievement in unfolding an expanding cosmos while giving a sense that each note is completely inevitable and our path is clearly marked. More, we are assured that we possess deep within us the ability to refold the map and fit it in the glovebox as often as necessary.

© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder


Auditioning for the role of Freddy

I have often sat through auditions before, but the pavement never featured a storm drain before. This Freddy role has several songs, including hits like:

Little Freddy, little Freddy,
There you are, there you are,
Swimming in your Plano creek,
swimming in your Plano creek,
Swimming away, swimming away.

(to the tune of Frere Jacques)

Then there's a rumba number, "Only Rain Down the Storm Drain." When I sing it while wearing my fish hat it's positively Carmen Miranda, tone deaf though I am.

That isn't necessarily a career impediment. Bill Shirley dubbed Freddy Eynsford Hill's big number for Jeremy Brett in the 1964 Hollywood "My Fair Lady".  Marni Nixon sang for Audrey Hepburn, as you trivia/crossword buffs know.

The role of Freddy the Fish has traditionally been played by a sponge cut in the shape of a fish. Trouble is, to the preschool audience Freddy looks like the side of a sponge, not a fish. Seinfeld and Elaine might say this sponge is not Freddy-worthy.

Hence the auditions for a new Freddy. They were held not in a drafty Off Broadway theater, but instead in an ancient 2 quart measuring cup. The first audition was a group of mini tropical fish party favors from US Toy, $3.19. They lacked authenticity and gravitas. Sure, they could carry a tune, but they just couldn't sell that Lonesome Dove Texas creek with Call, Deets, Gus, Jake Spoon, and Pea Eye.


Hoping my sons won't mind that I auditioned some Christmas ornaments given them by their Grandma Fritzi. As ornaments they were kind of weird. As Freddy they might stage a career comeback. They look real. They can tap dance. They have head shots and prepared solos.

Freddy audition #1

Freddy audition #2

Our judges include celebrities from "Dancing With the Gars" and "It's All About the Bass",

© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder


Both Sides Now

Battling with the map obsession is a new and potent theme. We will call it Both Sides Now.

I heard an NPR interview with the author of The Sympathizer, a novel about a spy in the Viet Nam war. Since I was driving around in the rain, my concentration was limited. Still, the sense of it snuck into my dreamtime.

I am a spy, a sleeper, a spook, a man of two faces. Perhaps not surprisingly, I am also a man of two minds. I am not some misunderstood mutant from a comic book or a horror movie, although some have treated me as such. I am simply able to see any issue from both sides...

Still swirling from the Dallas Opera's stunning production of "Iolanta", with its black and white design and fascinating projections of eye irises. When are we really blind? What I expected to be a silly, unbelievable story instead had the power of the darkest Grimm tales.

I am not a decider. I process events and impressions slowly. I don't jump to join the standing O, or offer instant snarky critiques. Most things are way more gray than black/white. I'm good with gray. 
Some force pulled me to check on the outdoor nature classroom this morning. Was it the heron standing in the creek? Was it the overflowing rainwater cistern? No. There it was. A beautiful, very dead, headless hawk. How big it was. How long its yellow legs! Such smooth feathers. I couldn't bear to move or photograph it. Where was its head? 

This hawk was not the victim of a predator. I've seen hawks after a battle, all feathers a-tangled. No predator just removes the head so cleanly. Unless that predator is human.


The scream stuck silent in my throat. This beautiful bird was decapitated by the wind power demonstration turbine. Its head was over by the demo solar panel with eyes wide open. I did not take these photos. I was too shocked to get my camera. 

Anyone who has known me for a long time knows I love to watch hawks. On lunch break I watch Big Red and Ezra incubating their eggs on the Cornell bird cam. And anybody who knows me knows I am all about renewable energy sources. Plus, I just love the visual experience of driving through wind farm territory in west Texas, New Mexico, and the tallgrass prairie of Kansas.

When two goods collide, it's a struggle to process. Definitely need more information, but I have sources for that. TCU has a Wind Initiative with scientists searching for ways to protect birds and bats while utilizing wind power. I'm hanging onto the promise of their research this evening.

And, just because, I'm listening to Judy Collins.

© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder


Rollerblading through the cosmic shopping mall

READER WARNING: I am entering my annual fixation with maps. Proceed at your own risk. Snakes and poison ivy are gonna get you if you wear flip-flops.

All night every night our brains are processing the journeys of the day through time and space, trying to form a workable road map for the morrow. The brain gets out that set of twelve colored pencils required for students in Miss Couch's 7th grade American History class, and tries to reconcile the grid of linoleum floor tiles beneath the desk with a cloud for storing digital data. Then the brain stirs in those collective fears of losing keys, stolen wallets, missed flight check-ins, forgotten locker combinations, orthodontic retainers left on lunchroom trays, invalid passwords, and endless parking lots full of silver Toyota Camrys. And right there Homer meets up with Dante and Robert Johnson.

Do babies cry because they can't remember the route they took to get OUT HERE? Warm water. Tight tunnel. Bright lights. Are all meals included in the package tour price?

I used to keep myself awake until I could remember the whole route for the '54 Chevy to Grandma's house, 120 miles. I needed to know in case my parents forgot, or I needed to run away from home. Somebody's gotta know the way over the river and through the woods.

© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder


New Riders of the Raspberry Salvia

Had an actual paying gig taking photos of flowers today. Got some good ones for the upcoming landscape tour, but got better ones with crazy unidentified insects.

No matter how stressed I feel about juggling part-time and short term employment, or the Tetris income tax challenges of subsidized health insurance, the actual pixels of an interplanetary bug can salvage my outlook on life.

Taking my one-woman litter awareness show on the road to elementary schools for the next month or so. I'm terrified as the presentations approach, but know I'll turn into a major ham given the opportunity to tell a knee-spanking story to the right audience.

Looking through the photos, I'm stunned at the tiny kingdoms and major battles I rarely notice. Slid a New Riders of the Purple Sage cd in the player. Grateful for the remedial course in wonder.


© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder


Raise minimum wage for squirrels

Midweek the squirrel that lets me live in my apartment finally managed to gnaw apart the so-called birdfeeder, making a statistically significant mess on the balcony. Or maybe while I was at work, all ninety look-alike squirrels who found the feeder worked as a team to dismantle it while the mourning doves nodded in stupifaction. The blue jays arrived like bossy foremen to yell and seize the peanuts. Sunflowers, thistle, and other seeds were sprouting in all my planters.

That's it!
I'm done!
No bird food for you!
I've had it!
The party's over, kids!

It's spring.
It's my balcony.
I need my semi-annual garden store patio flower fix.

The squirrel will figure it out, but right now she's confused. She can't find the feeder or the spilled food. She doesn't know how she'll make ends meet, feed the kids, work out the bus transportation to her job as a fast food worker. She's hanging by her toes, and then sliding downhill fast.Squirrel dads are not part of the family, unlike their representation in kiddie story books. On this Easter weekend it is fun to look at the squirrel family's manners at church.

I'm wavering on my seasonal decision to end food subsidies to birds and squirrels. And then there's the whole matter of affordable health care...


© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder