Balcony garden gambling

Life is full of gambles that may or may not pay rewards:

  1. Taking on student debt for an advanced degree
  2. Marriage 
  3. Cross-country moves for jobs
  4. Letting spouse take the Sam's Card
  5. Signing a lease
  6. Buying a used car
  7. Home ownership, for heaven's sake!

So buying a $9.99 tomato plant and matching eggplant at Calloway's Nursery on Memorial Day weekend seemed like a perfectly responsible purchase. So far, so good!

Never would have put money on the cut-off top of a pineapple, but it's determined to finish first in its second year.

© 2013-2017 Nancy L. Ruder


Can I book my kid's birthday party?

Like many Americans opening their laptop, or quaintly, their newspaper, this week you may have wondered about the pictured field trip to an interactive kid-friendly museum.  Can you book this glowing orb place for a birthday party? You had the Critter Lady for last year's birthday party, and the bouncy house the year before that. Kroger could make a glowing global sheet cake, easy. Maybe the museum hosts overnight lock-in slumber parties for preteen scouts and church groups.

© 2013-2017 Nancy L. Ruder


OJ with Fritzi

On special Sunday mornings we would beg our mom, Fritzi, to use her "roly poly" glasses for our orange juice. I have the few surviving roly polies in my cupboard, and they still put a smile on my face, with or without vitamin C.

Roly poly on the counter

A Thursday car chase news flash involving a possibly stolen orange juice-colored Chevrolet naturally reminded me of the OJ Bronco chase.


In other orange juice smile news, I'll be breakfasting at Frontier Restaurant across from the UNM campus later this summer. The Frontier squeezes the best orange juice on the planet. I will lift my glass to toast Fritzi and smile.

© 2013-2017 Nancy L. Ruder


Marty McFly in a power necktie?

  • Skateboard? Check
  • Using iPhone? Check
  • Whipping and gliding around the corner and down the street in front of my old-timey Buick? Check
  • GQ model hair? Check
  • Dress shirt, slacks, and necktie? Check
  • Orange shoes? Check
  • Reducing ozone-forming emissions? Check


Tomorrow will be an orange air quality day, so Arlo the armadillo is warning us about ozone and skateboarding and texting while commuting.suggesting alternate transportation modes. In his dreams Arlo is Marty McFly's grandson 

In my dreams I'm home already after a clogless commute, flipping through the pages of AARP magazine past Michael J. Fox to the crossword puzzle. The library just received the book: AgeProof: Living Longer Without Running Out of Money or Breaking a Hip. Why isn't this a graphic novel? I thought it was by Roz Chast, but it's by Jean Chatzky.

If you must commute tomorrow, B. Goode.

© 2013-2017 Nancy L. Ruder


Orange library bizarre

Glanced at the Harper's Bazaar issue on the cart of recent periodicals every time I walked up the stairs and thought (in a sherbet-colored bubble) "Orange Julius." Every trip down the stairs my glance registered as "peeling carrots." Being "old enough to peel the carrots for supper" was a developmental milestone out there on the prairie. It was a primitive time, indeed, and few remember when carrots were a root vegetable that did not come in a ready-to munch-bag.

As the last kid on earth to taste an Orange Julius at the Westroads Mall in big city Omaha, I was mortified to be so terribly delayed in popular culture. Now hopelessly estranged from popular culture, and happily, it took me many flights of stairs to notice the name of the model on the Harper's Bazaar cover -- Kendall Jenner. That added another layer of orange and confusion to my glances! No consumption of carrots will improve my vision enough to comprehend the Jenner-Kardashian phenomenon. And that's a good thing!

Sometimes pausing at the top of the stairs I have an odd flashback to watching a Houston Astros game on tv in an Irish tavern on Dodge Street in Omaha. The Astros were wearing their orange Jello parfait uniforms. I was in love with my husband. We were young, poor, and enjoying life.

© 2013-2017 Nancy L. Ruder


Four years plus or minus a week

Arrived at work this gloomy, hot, muggy, windy, pollen soup of a morning to find a striking moth on the red tile outside the door.  Haven't we met here before? Same door. Same floor.

75205 04/29/17

75205 05/07/13
At lunch I stepped out to see if the moth was still hanging around. Yes, but what's that goo? Did somebody step on it? No. I'm pretty sure it was laying a great gob of round yellow eggs.

Why would it lay eggs on the red tile? Red-green color blindness? Returning to the ancestral home?

After work the eggs were still there, but the moth looked more than a little deceased. Do mother moths die as soon as they lay eggs? So many questions!

Beginning to find hints  with my recent treat, Peterson Field Guide to Moths of Northeastern North America with its clear illustrations. The best match is a "Salt Marsh Moth" or Estigmene acrea.

Do not worry about the salt marsh name. Yup, the moths emerge, mate, lay eggs, and die, looking very sharp for the whole 4-5 days. Kinda makes me feel better about my situation!

© 2013-2017 Nancy L. Ruder


Heavenly IT

A shortage of stars is preventing me from rating the audiobook of George Saunder's Lincoln in the Bardo. It is like nothing I ever experienced before, except that it is a type of collage. It is radically original and completely realized. If I could have listened straight through I would have, but 7.5 hours far exceeds my commute.

Nearing the end of the book there is much meeting of the minds in a cosmic intersection sense. Do not laugh, but it seemed appropriate that the remote I.T. techs had to take over and enter my computer to download an updated driver for my balky, stubborn HP printer. The cursor was possessed by an Other, and I could only listen for my few phone cues to log back in or unplug cords.

Energy! Light! Matter! Will! Acceptance! Plus Abraham Lincoln!

'Lincoln in the Bardo' audiobook

© 2013-2017 Nancy L. Ruder



A moment of silence followed by the serenity prayer for the first meeting of Compulsive Collectors of Toilet Paper Tubes Anonymous --Charmin Chapter.

We admitted to ourselves and to another human being that we had to get rid of the big bag of toilet paper tubes. We really should be able to construct temporary housing for homeless persons with all the toilet paper tubes if we collaborate with the compulsive collectors of plastic gallon jugs, bottle caps, wine bottles, corks, and six-pack rings.

Paper wasps are constructing a village in an abandoned flower pot on the apartment balcony. I am willing to share my home, but not with wasps. With whom would we offer to share our homes? Could I just offer them the big bag of tp tubes?

It's been a nice couple days for car safety inspections, clock-shifting, and meeting old friends for lunch and a nature walk. What was the young black man living under the High Five doing this weekend?

© 2013-2017 Nancy L. Ruder


Going over the falls in a barrel

Juggling Deepak Chopra, cosmic consciousness, OCLC, and disturbances in the Force. Having bees live in your head is not the same as having ants invade your apartment. Only one of these things crawls all around your shower curtain!

What are the proper subject headings and Dewey decimal assignment for a book about cosmic consciousness? OCLC WorldCat suggested "Reality" and 111.0. But what about time and space, mind and body, energy, matter, quantum physics, spirituality, cosmology, rainbows, electricity, not to mention the 1901 PanAmerican Exposition in Buffalo, N.Y.?

The Exposition included President McKinley's assassination and Annie Taylor's barrel ride over Niagra Falls, plus the electrocution of the assassin and the rise of the Humane Society.  Margaret Creighton's book, The Electrifying Fall of Rainbow City, presents an intriging, depressing, and surprisingly timely look at American attitudes and prejudices. It's not as compelling and creepy as Erik Larsen's Devil in the White City about the Chicago World's Fair, but still worth your time.

But what is cosmic consciousness? How to you get it? Is it contagious? Is there a cure? And where should the book be shelved?

© 2013-2017 Nancy L. Ruder


Gorgeous rings

Life is good! My son texted me for advice about helping my grandson make a papier mache planet Saturn for next Monday morning at pre-K. Had to tell him it was not possible based on years of papier mache experience, and then offer alternative Saturn-making possibilities.Whoa! A question in my area of expertise!!

Papier mache doesn't lend itself to hurry, but it is still a favorite medium. Why Our Federal Government doesn't just tell me to stay home and make papier mache art all day everyday while it pays all my living expenses I just don't know!

© 2013-2017 Nancy L. Ruder


Once upon a time, a very long time ago now, about last Friday...

Winnie-the-Pooh lived in a forest all by himself under the name of Sanders. Actually, it was the Friday before last.

In this endless summer/nonexistent winter the groundhog will emerge tomorrow to open the windows and turn on the ceiling fans. With its big teeth it will snarl, "Don't make me turn on the air conditioner!"

Time perception is my current preoccupation, following size and number considerations. Been listening to Krys Boyd's "Think" interview with Alan Burdick, author of Why Time Flies. It's a pleasant way to spend time compared to the time I spent waiting for IT to fix my time-saving computer earlier today. Was that really just today?

The past two weeks have been one really long scream preceded by, okay, a couple months of severe numbness and shock. The doctor would ask, "When did you begin experiencing this pervasive sense of doom? Why do you say it is getting worse? " Alas, I only have anecdotes, no contemporaneous records using a standard angst-o-meter.

How long is the interval:
  • Between landing and actually exiting the airplane?
  • Between paychecks?
  • Between haircuts?

Arrange on a continuum by length:
  • Webinar from one to two-thirty
  • The first snow day off school in a blizzard
  • The third consecutive snow day

As a child I loved feeding nickels and dimes into parking meters on the streets of downtown Lincoln. An hour was ten cents if I recall correctly. What a concept! I was buying time with coins. My parents approved this childish diversion, as it didn't involve gumballs or pony rides at Hinky Dinky. It should come as no surprise that You Tube is full of people who collect and refurbish vintage parking meters, possibly even the very parking meters decapitated by Paul Newman at the beginning of "Cool Hand Luke."

But what about "buying time," that present participle of the third-person singular simple present?
  • (idiomatic) Purposefully cause a delay to something, in order to achieve something else. We need you to buy us some time, so distract the security guard for a few minutes. SEE Supreme Court nominations.
  • Increase the time available for a specific purpose.  Renting an apartment buys them time to look around for a new house in Charlotte. 

Although we no longer appreciate, respect, or need experts, this timely news is in from the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists who have been tending the Doomsday Clock for seventy years now:

It's 2 1/2 minutes till midnight.

"The board’s decision to move  the 
clock less than a full minute reflects
 a simple  reality: As this statement
 is issued, Donald Trump has been the
US president only a matter of days."


© 2013-2017 Nancy L. Ruder


No eels is good eels

Swimming upstream all week against the eels and the executive orders. My eel anxiety is totally irrational. My executive order anxiety is sane and prudent.

The eels are not in my overalls. The lemon is not there either. I checked. I've been looking everywhere for the lemon. It is not in the fridge, freezer, pantry, or car trunk. It did not roll into the laundry closet.

Eric Clapton is singing, "I lost the lemon, but I did not buy the tartar sauce." My jaunt to Tom Thumb was specifically to buy tartar sauce for the tilapia, but then I was ambushed by a hoard of cookie-pushing Girl Scouts.

Winston and Julia did not have rodents down their overalls, nor Bounce dryer sheets. The rats were in a cage hooked to Winston's face.

And now back to the big closet cleanout.

© 2013-2017 Nancy L. Ruder


Magic words and Amazon incantation.

Amazon Prime is terrific except when it doesn't work. Then one has the challenge of searching for the magic lamp and tackling amazing feats to get consumer relief. 

You can take your tracking number and 

Oh, PLEASE, no, don't do that!  Use your magic words instead.

THANK YOU for the help of the UPS web site. A genie named Orlando actually responded with useful information.


Use your magic words to open sesame the help folks at Amazon. If your order does not arrive, or shows "delivered" when is didn't/wasn't be sure to bibbity bobbity this boo:


© 2013-2017 Nancy L. Ruder


Size, numbers, space

My kids are buying an enormous house OR the inauguration was the biggest crowd ever. All spatial awareness is in question since I scraped the bumper of a Texas-size pickup truck with my tiny Buick while parallel parking shortly after a breakfast of mini-cinnamon rolls and two fried eggs over easy. Imagine the trouble I'd be in if I'd had scrambled.

The damage looked really minor to me, but the pickup owner may have a significantly different perception. We will work it out without 3 a.m. tweets. I feel pretty silly and incompetent because I was listening to the audiobook of the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu discussing suffering and joy. Just when I was flying with my caped serenity superheroes I misjudged the size of a police officer's truck and the curve of the street.

Just how gigantic is the palace my kids are buying? It's a matter of comparison to every home I've lived in distorted by time, emotion, and memory. My homes have been plenty large for riding horses in the living room, resident alligators and hamsters, whole neighborhood Barbie doll cities,  and medieval jousts.

Where in the brain is our spatial perception? Where is the part that counts the crowd attendance and voter fraud?

First I lived in a third floor apartment in a large house at the corner of 20th and B Street where my parents had a green sectional sofa. The apartment was hugely full of my parents' love and care for me, but the details are hazy.


Then we lived in a duplex on Franklin Street that had a basement for my dad to build projects plus a sidewalk that led around the corner to Dave's house. The sidewalk had uneven spots that led to Band-aids, but the Dalai Lama says suffering is inevitable, and Bishop Tutu emphasizes love and human connections are essential for finding joy.

Not because of climate change, but the snow is always deeper in one's memory. We cannot deny the photo evidence of my brother Roger who shall remain nameless in a typical winter accumulation. Our new house was not a palace. Three bedrooms and one bath, all indoors, a GI Bill wonder! What was the threat level of my mom's pressure cooker? Dad studied fallout shelter design. It was the Cold War with snow pants. Did we fantasize about adding on another bedroom and bath? You bet. 1293 sq ft was a tad too cozy and short on privacy, but a family of five could be really happy there.

Skipping over college and early married life apartments, we arrive at the 974 square foot mansion with pink kitchen appliances and a mildewy basement. It looks pretty depressing in this current Google street view, but it was big enough for two small boys to have a diaper car race course.

Next we had a house big enough for horse races in the living room and birthday parties in the kitchen. Zillow alleges 1476 square feet, obviously an alternative fact. This house seemed huge. Our lack of furniture added to the spacious feel of the place. We could build a fire, pitch a tent, and go camping in the living room.

Our first rental house in Oklahoma looked out across a creek and a big field of nothing but rodents and hawks making lazy circles in the sky. The kitchen was plenty big for an artist to paint while covered in calamine lotion recovering from chicken pox. Three bedroom, two bath with a great room open floor plan. There was no real way to arrange the furniture, and the invading mice tweeted all night. 


The next house did not have a sporty red car when we lived there. It had over 1700 square feet, snakes in the garage, and not a single tree on the lot. It housed Cub Scouts, Ghostbusters, Boomer Sooners, and a computer. Asthma,  allergies, and anxiety filled this house. It seemed very cramped. But it had mauve wallpaper, and the bigamist next door had another family in Louisiana.

Everything's bigger in Texas. We made it past 2200 square feet, with four bedrooms, 2.5 baths, and a great U-shaped kitchen plan. AND  two really nice trees. There was a small back patio for roasting marshmallows, and a sunken living room  for watching the Branch Davidian compound burn on t.v. If we needed more space we could go west playing "Oregon Trail."


How much space does a family need? Enough room for survival? For hobbies? Beginners practicing tooting large band instuments? For large reptiles? This condo of 1200 sq. ft. plus or minus seemed emotionally vast if physically cramped. 

So, there was a point to all this. The question of how big is big enough for a house has a major emotional component as well as practical considerations.

What is the psychological component behind an obsession with a big enough popular vote that makes one holler "fraud." Is it a personal reaction? Or is it a plan to bamboozle a population into acquiescing the loss of convenient voter registration and balloting?

This nation is our house. It's cozy. It's a bit cramped, but plenty big if we avoid the distorted sizes and numbers, threats and frauds. Reason makes things roomier.

© 2013-2017 Nancy L. Ruder


Threads spooling

Denver Art Museum textile exhibit
Visiting the Denver Art Museum to view the special exhibit "Star Wars : The Power of Costume" last weekend was a joyous reminder of costumers and seamstresses. I so wish Fritzi and Felecia had been there with me, but in a way they both were.

My mom has been gone twelve years now, but she made many costumes for Natalie Grossman's modern dance productions in Lincoln in the 1960s. A perfectionist seamstress, she was also a creative problem-solver sewing unusual materials to create animal headdresses for dancers. Fritzi would have loved sharing the art museum with her grandson and great grandson, just as she loved bringing her own children to the Sheldon Art Museum so long ago.

Wizard friend Felecia is always present when the subject is capes, and Star Wars is a cape carnival! Felecia has been gone almost six years, and I still feel robbed of her artistic enthusiasm. I wanted so much to share the exhibit costume shop with her, reveling in the lush textured materials, glorious vintage 1920s fabrics, stage combat aspects, theatrical illusions, and Samurai influences.

Fritzi's spool shelf above her sewing machine

Others join the memory dance -- makers of papier mache helmets, fans of Japanese kimonos, embroiderers and stitchers, students of imperial Chinese robe design, sisters posing in great aunts' hats, kids with Halloween costumes of their own design. But in the present moment my grandson, son, and I pin fabric scraps, foam packing pieces, CDs, ribbons, coils, and straws on a life-size mannequin to design a "Dark Vader." The Force is definitely with us in the hands-on studio!

Pattern pieces hang in the recreated Star Wars costume shop.

Threads pull and wind, bind and weave, tangle, mend, unravel.

© 2013-2016 Nancy L. Ruder


Vocabulary study sheet

petulance Reluctance to admit the president-elect reminds you of the elderly irritable yippy-snappy Pekingese in the yard across the street from your grandma's house, you know, chained out there next to the tractor tire planter filled with red geraniums and barking at every kid walking past.

emoluments Beauty regimen slapping emojis all over your face to promote healthy, glowing skin tone in trying times.

authoritarian populism when the assistance principal in charge of vice pretends to be your friend in the hallway at dismissal bell.
accrue ac·crue  əˈkro͞o/
Accrued vacation pay is the amount of vacation time that an employee has earned as per a company's employee benefit policy, but which will likely be spoiled by high mountain cedar pollen counts. SEE sneeze into your elbow.

fake-snooze Waking up at 3:40 a.m. to worry about the vocabulary study sheet and current events quiz, but finally getting back to sleep around 4:50 a.m, but then the alarm sounds at six a.m. and you keep hitting the snooze button but not actually getting back to sleep.

I keep thinking he's fixing to sing that old Cub Scout song.

© 2013-2016 Nancy L. Ruder


Motivational seekers

Nobody expected the flurries would stick or go on so long. The TV weather guys said there was a 10% chance of  waltzing snowflakes. How did each snowflake feel about getting up, lacing on those toe shoes and going to work knowing the gig might never happen? 

These are not the star snowflakes, mind you. They won't get the frozen sparkly glory. These are just the corps of interchangeable snowflakes making slightly over minimum wage. Did these random snowflakes ever get the overhead view of a June Taylor Dancers kaleidoscopic production to find their little roles in the big production?

Word rippled in drifts through our workplace. The boss and his #2 were outside sweeping the snow off our cars, cleaning our windshields for a safe drive home. How chilly awesome is that?  I felt appreciated and acknowledged. My personal life and safety seemed valued. I was amused by two men of a certain age out playing in the snow in the guise of cleaning our cars. 

                            PAYOFF by Dan Ariely

                            SHOE DOG by Phil Knight

Motivation is the unplanned theme of the week. Reading Payoff on lunch breaks. Listening to Norbert Leo Butz's terrific performance of Phil Knight's memoir, Shoe Dog, on my slow commutes.

What motivates me? Being able to get that big occasional view of the grand scheme and my place in it. Having my ideas acknowledged. Being in the loop. Verbal thanks.

Knight quotes General Patton several times, and this may be my long-term takeaway from the book:

'Don't tell people how to do things, tell them what to do
 and let them surprise you with the results.'

© 2013-2016 Nancy L. Ruder