It's good to be the Fiction Fairy

Grabbed a magic wand as I headed out the door, along with keys, phone, book bag, lunchbox, purse, COFFEE. My sparkly powers were blinking kind of slow this morning. At the library for my other job I would need the amazing ability to recommend exactly the book a patron would be most delighted to read on a beach or mountain adobe-walled patio.

"Readers Advisory" is a challenge for me. When asked if I know any good dvds, audiobooks, or novels, my eyes glaze over and my tongue loses the power of speech.

What with yesterday's frozen frog princes, I needed a real fix of bibbity-bobbity-books. I would use the magic wand to point patrons toward the perfect book, or let them borrow the wand to use as a fiction/nonfiction finder divining rod.  If the fiction fairy wand doesn't work, I'll don a turban and silk kaftan, then we'll all join hands around the table.

Just open yourself to the possibilities. Let the mystical power of the stacks draw you to your next book. Touch the spine and feel the electric charge. Please!

© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder


I did! I did see a puddy tat!

I thought I thawed a frozen frog today. I did, I did! So did a couple dozen widdle kiddies. We had a great time devising methods of freeing plastic frogs from ice cubes on a hot, hot morning.

Sometimes we took a frog break to play Soggy Fish Toss. Two clear storage tubs with two inches of water, a box of sponges cut into fish shapes (originally for sponge prints) and 25 preschoolers with varying aim made for pretty hilarious moments. Have to salute my coworker who when hit with a soggy fish right between the eyes managed to tell the little guy he had "a good arm"!

That's the sort of positive thinking and communication we need in the department. Maybe our next team building should include frogs and fishies.

My communication skills are inadequate. In preparation for the class, I asked a different coworker if she knew any reason why I should not freeze frogs in ice cube trays in the kitchen. Would anyone be upset?

"Are they alive?"

I nodded no.

"Then maybe you should put them in covered containers," she said.

So they don't leap around?? No! Oh, great! She thought I was freezing dead frogs in ice cube trays.

No, the frogs were not alive. The frogs were plastic, non-living.

Plus, they didn't fit in the ice cube trays. I had to freeze them in tiny paper cups of water. When is that communication session?

© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder


Not a drop to drink

Water, water everywhere, and not a chance to think! Eight water-themed nature classes for kiddies in the next month, and a shortage of time to prepare, so I'm feeling a tad stressed. Wishing I had a tadpole or two to share Thursday morning for "Who Lives In the Water?" with preschoolers.

We will be able to make frog prints (yes, Cinderella, someday your prints will come), and rubber-stamp fishies and insects near the construction paper and muffin cup lily pad.

We will sing duck songs with the help of Raffi MP3 downloads, and a coworker with a ukelele. .
We will not sing "Have you seen the little ducks swimming in the water" with an Aussie accent*. It's good to outsource the singing! I could start a page for tone deaf tadpole teachers on facebook.

Standing under the shower faucet spray I tried to sort out the age-appropriate concepts for all the presentations while not getting soap in my eyes. Glad to know there are kiddie water-conservation gimme toothbrushes since washing hands and brushing teeth are major ways little kids can reduce consumption.

Growing up in the primitive post-Sputnik years, I learned about watersheds and volcanoes by playing with mashed potatoes and scram gravy. Grasping of geography and Nebraska history was dependent upon salt-water-flour maps shaped on shirt cardboard at the very last minute. The best way to learn physics and engineering concepts was to spend hot afternoons wading in a mud bottom creek when you visited Grandma. Giving a thunderstorm mindfulness was enhanced by a root beer float in a copper mug sitting inside the carport, or a chocolate peanut sundae in a tall glass while perched on the front stoop.

Plants need water and our brains do, too. Research shows our mood and attention are restored by time spent near ponds, lakes, creeks, and oceans no matter how old we are. Oh, to be eight years old walking barefoot to collect hailstones after a thunderstorm to store in the Frigidaire freezer.

* My musical little sister had an Australian preschool teacher, and sang this song with an accent 24/7 for a long time:

Have you seen the little ducks
Swimming in the water?
Mother, father, baby ducks,
Grand-mamma and daughter.

Have you seen them dip their bills,
Swimming in the water?
Mother, father, baby ducks,
Grand-mamma and daughter.

Have you seen them flap their wings,
Swimming in the water?
Mother, father, baby ducks,

Grand-mamma and daughter.

© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder


Belt jam

Glad to report the midnight belt jam was not on toast with an egg, sunny side up. The belt jam was on the baggage carousel at Love Field the one time checking my suitcase seemed like a good idea. Wrong-O! It was amazing how long stoic exhausted travelers stared at the pop-up chute of baggage claim where nothing, absolutely nothing happened. An overhead voice kept announcing that the last bags from the St. Louis flight #200 would be removed from the carousel, even though only three bags from the flight had ever appeared. 

On my first ever "business trip" I was sent home to Nebraska. That's way better than Gaylord, Disney, or Las Vegas, but it came with a cargo hold filled with old memories and personal baggage. By the numbers:

  • Take-offs--5
  • Landings--also 5 fortunately
  • Beverage services--5 (zero spills)
  • In the event of a water landing--5 (Why do those yellow vests look like they were designed by Dan Piraro?)
  • Shuttle rides chatting with strangers through corn and soybean fields--2 (one with adequate a/c, one without)
  • Minutes of public speaking--5 (which seemed much longer in Mrs. Walker's 9th grade speech class, and did not get me through all my slides)
  • Hours wearing wet, muddy, gravel-filled shoes--8
  • Breaths of dangerous aerosol bug spray--countless
  • Mosquito bites--2
  • Situations feeling inappropriately attired--4 
  • Participants expressing envy of my "Nebraska--the good life" t-shirt--15
  • Disorientation reading t-shirt in mirror and wondering about Aksarben racetrack--brief
  • Lost room key--1
  • Formal presentations--9
  • Group exercises and discussions--10 plus or minus
  • Informal group conversations over meals and breaks--17 plus or minus
  • Recalling childhood memories as part of program--3
  • Hours recalling memories from my life spent within sixty miles of the conference site--32-50 (obviously overlapping)
  • Hours for restoring myself alone in nature--not nearly enough, about 6, but feeling stressed that I SHOULD be mingling and SHARING and REACHING OUT.
  • Receipts saved--8
  • Weird coincidental acquaintances--2, being Janice Herbek of Hastings, and the Rose family of First Plymouth
  • Mentions of damage done to the brain by cortisol stress chemical--4 
  • Oh Wow Moments--12

The spiderwebs and damselflies were worth the whole conference, even the belt jam. Shimmering CDs were hanging in all the sun speckles in the forest, except they were not CDs. I'd never seen webs like this. What made them? Only the bountiful poison ivy kept me from going off-trail.

Damselflies, oh my!!! How did I miss these as a kid? Jewel-tone blues and turquoises with deep black wings taunted me on our NO-CAMERAS-SENSES-ONLY silent hike. The hike was an Oh Wow experience, but I was desperate to record my sightings!

Don't tell. Stealth photo on silent hike.


Not 100% sure about the ID, but the blue ones seem to be the boys and the dark winged with white spot the girls of the Ebony Jewelwing family. From Wikipedia:

Explanation of Names
CALOPTERYX: from the Greek "kalos" (beautiful) + "pteron" (wing or feather)
MACULATA: from the Latin "macula" (a spot) - a reference to the white spot near the tip of the female's wing

And the most amazing creature of the trip was this improbable spider:


 Again from Wikipedia:

Micrathena gracilis is a spider in the family Araneidae (orb-weavers), commonly known as the spined micrathena. This spider spins a moderately large (can be 30 cm (11.81 in) or more across), very tightly coiled web, often in wooded or brushy areas. Some call it the "CD spider" because its webs can make it appear as though there are compact discs hanging from the trees. It is completely harmless to humans.

© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder


Raffi is not dead

A new three year old in class this morning was sad. Her mom had assured her there would be singing. The high grass pollen count adds croakiness to my constant tone-deaf singing. We had way cool crafts and solar cars, but we did not have a song. If I'd known the stakes, I would have belted out "You Are My Sunshine".

Next week the sub will bring her ukelele and elevate juvenile musical expectations. The new girl's mom recommended a Raffi song, "Ducks Like Rain."

She said Raffi was the "least annoying children's singer ever". Funny, funny! I must have driven thousands of miles in the minivan with tiny guys in carseats and Raffi in the cassette player because Raffi way back then was already the "least annoying children's singer". My youngest especially needed Raffi's duck songs in the car.

I'm cheered that kids who listened to Raffi cassettes in their old-time carseats are now sharing his songs with their children as an antidote to technology overload and registered trademark tie-in childhood assaults.

© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder


Windowsill learning by viewing

With great relief I retire my kitchen scrap windowsill garden growing samples and examples for the July family nature events. A committed gardener educated families about the community garden's mission. Sixty percent of the produce goes to local food pantries and the school district summer lunch program. Needy children at the school lunch program today tasted fresh veggies cleaned and bagged by the family club yesterday.

It was fun chatting with kids and parents about child-size ways to experiment with planting. Prepping for the event, I was rooting basil, rosemary, mint, sweet potato, and green onions. Volunteer squash vines from the vermicompost were in various stages of development. Some were starting in an egg carton, others in egg shells and tp tubes. How many times have I attempted the classic "avocado seed" magic trick to grow an endless supply of guacamole? Over the years maybe two avocado seeds have sprouted.

Much more luck with pineapple tops stuck in pots of soil. Never yet bloomed or produced pineapples, but I've kept the plants alive. Paint my thumb green!

Mung bean sprouts amused a snacking toddler. In August I'll try sprouting again for Asian recipes. The tiny window fairy sprout garden was on the west side of the apartment. This week the late afternoon temps will cook anything on that windowsill!

Morning and evening celebrate the crepuscular family feeding methods of barn swallows. The fledglings are attempting long-range flights from the left stairway railing to the right. The young birds lack the fancy tails of adults, but seem to have distinguished white mustaches.

© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder


Odd topics on two-week loan

The bad thing about having two 3/5 FTE jobs is forgetting where I'm going when I get in the Buick. The good thing is having 6/5 FTE peculiarities to observe, record, and celebrate.

19.21 years ago when I first started working at the library, an old-timer told me she only worked there to gather material for her novel. Clueless, I marked her down in my mental spreadsheet as:

Paula       Frustrated writer     From Minnesota      Malnourished      Hyper  

Over those 19.21 years I'd like to believe I've developed a more mature, nuanced, open-minded, and appreciative outlook. The grid of my mental spreadsheet is hazy, and rarely filled. It's clear I'll never write a novel, or even anything longer than a blog post. Still, I look at days on the job as paid opportunities to collect material for that novel.

Did Paula ever write a novel? No clue. She drove off in her tiny blue pick-up for points unknown. That took guts. A new category to add to the spreadsheet or not.

We've been discussing celery at my other job due to my family presentation about vegetable gardening. Two co-workers vote celery as the worst, most worthless vegetable on earth. They both grew up in the era of fresh and appealing frozen vegetables. I grew up in the salty canned vegetable era, post-WWII, post-Great Depression, hearing tales of scraping plates for pig slop, but not actually growing anything ourselves. Until I was about ten years old the only fresh vegetables we consumed were carrot, celery, and corn-on-the-cob. Pulling the strings off celery sticks was a suppertime amusement akin to making mashed potato gravy volcanoes. We could braid them, but not macrame.

Smart phones are a big change in the library circulation desk employee experience over these years. Patrons now share phone photos of sentimental verses on tombstones, or swish through screen lists of recommended books in very tiny print to find the title they want reserved.

thwunk--The sounds of the bookdrop are a constant: squealing opening in a minor key, swish of items, and reverberation of books and videos hitting the floor inside the tiny closet under the stairs. The teen volunteer doesn't know how to open the mailbox on the corner to deposit the envelopes. Good that he knows how to return books, but strange that he's never dropped stamped thank-you notes to Grandma in a mailbox.

I won't enter any mental judgmental data in the imaginary spreadsheet as long as this teen has no visible tats. Don't push me over the open-minded edge! And thank your grandparents.

© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder


Junior Woodpecker Training Camp

Pasta salad and Steph Kallos' new novel, Language Arts, in the park across from work made a lovely lunchtime today. Why does a one-hour lunch break seem so much less than twice as long as a half-hour gobble-and-go break? Did I spend that much time staring at the cicada exoskeleton on the back of the park bench, imagining a Twilight Zonesque what-if scenario? Giant insects climbing out of the dirt and up and up to enslave mere picnicking humans?

What camp counselor supervised the young woodpeckers? Get together at one tree to hammer, braid lanyards, raise the flag, and sing "On Top of Spaghetti"? Earn your Junior Woodpecker badge.

One redhead was doing the majority of the tapping work while the other four just flitted to nearby trees and occasionally clicked in.

Did I drowse? I just sat down, but I've got to run back to work.

 Just one mosquito bite to scratch, and hours to go before I sleep...

© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder