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WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?


The gardens are bursting into bloom and leaf with more rain in sight. The old song “Wishing Will Make It So” has proved once more that someone is listening.

Small words are usually harder to define than long ones. I recently read that a group of lexicographers were revamping an obscure dictionary and found all the short, throw-away words like “a”, “the” “as” etc., were difficult to define in a simple way, but the long hard to say words were easy to break down. I am reminded of Bill Clinton’s use of the word “is” in his defense: “It all depends on the meaning of the word “is”. What does that mean? What’s wrong with “if”? “If only I hadn’t taken that position.” Well, History will debate it for a few years and then forget about it.

Dr. A once told me that he couldn’t decide whether I was clever or smart. Either way I was in trouble. A rat can cleverly avoid capture in a trap, but does that make him smart? If he was smart he would eat the large block of cheese in the cupboard before it ever got to the trap. We once had one who quietly ate an entire gingerbread house without disturbing the box it was in, and leaving one piece of candy as a parting thank you. If I were clever I would invent ways of doing simple jobs in a simpler way. If I were smart, I would be rich and famous and wouldn’t need to worry about being either smart or clever, because I could hire it out.

Our use of words is important. Some words often mean one thing to one person and something entirely different to another. A young girl dating a hormonally active boy may say “NO”, but the boy hears “YES”, to her dismay. Today we sometimes sprinkle our conversation with words from another culture. Our son-in-law instructed the Mexican gardener to remove some moss growing in his flower bed by saying “No Mas” which the gardener rightfully heard as “No More”, and took our the entire bed.

My husband refers to one side of the house as “the front yard, but clearly the address in on the other side of the house which makes it the front yard.

Mark Twain was a pretty good wordsmith and story teller and modestly claimed to know how a story ought to be told, being frequently in the company of other writers and story-tellers. Their use of words was their livelihood.

According to Mark Twain there are several kinds of stories, but only one difficult kind–the humorous. The humorous story is American, the comic story is English, the witty story is French. The humorous story depends for its effect upon the manner of the telling; the comic story and the witty story upon the matter.

Already we can see there is a difference between humor, comedy and wit. Yet they all amuse.

“The humorous story may be spun out to great length, and may wander around as much as it pleases, and arrive nowhere in particular; but the comic and witty stories must be brief and end with a point. The humorous story bubbles gently along, the others burst. The humorous story is strictly a work of art—high and delicate art–and only an artist can tell it; but no art is necessary in telling the comic and the witty story; anybody can do it. The art of telling a humorous story was created in America and has remained at home.

The humorous story is told gravely; the teller does his best to conceal the fact that he even dimly suspects that there is anything funny about it; but the teller of the comic story tells you beforehand that it is one of the funniest things he has ever heard, then tells it with eager delight, and is the first person to laugh when he gets through. And sometimes, if he has had good success, he is so glad and happy that he will repeat the ‘nub’ of it and glance around from face to face, collecting applause, and then repeat it again. It is a pathetic thing to see.

“Very often, of course, the rambling and disjointed humorous story finishes with a nub, point, snapper, or whatever you like to call it. Then the listener must be alert, for in many cases the teller will divert attention from that nub by dropping it in a carefully casual and indifferent way, with the pretense that he does not know it is a nub.

But the teller of the comic story does not slur the nub; he shouts it at you—every time. And when he prints it, in England, France, Germany, and Italy, he italicizes it, puts some whooping exclamation points after it, and sometimes explain it in a parentheses. All of which is very depressing, and one want to renounce joking and lead abetter life.”

(Parts taken from “How To Tell a Story” by Mark Twain)

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MY TEA CUP RUNNETH OVER


There are all sorts of tea parties. There was the Boston kind which wasted a great deal of good English tea, but got the message over. Then the political kind, whose movement now sails under another name. Extraordinarily, this year I have attended two of the finer gatherings of ladies which have actually served tea.

I have been gifted each year to a special birthday treat by my two daughters. This year’s birthday celebrations culminated in a lovely high tea at the San Francisco Fairmont Hotel.

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The Fairmont is one of the fine old historic hotels in San Francisco, and has been featured in many films and television shows. Nearly completed, but nearly destroyed in 1906, at the time of the great San Francisco earthquake, it was rebuilt by Julia Morgan, who was also famous for building William Randolph Hearst’s castle San Simeon, down the coast a bit.

The hotel was ready for occupancy by 1907 and business has been brisk ever since. One of its attractions is the Tonga Room, with its Hurricane Bar, a historic tiki bar. It features a bandstand on a barge which floats in a former swimming pool, a dining area built from parts of an old sailing ship, and artificial thunderstorms. In 2009, the owners announced plans to close the Tonga Room. In response, a group filed an application to make the Tonga Room an official San Francisco landmark. I’m happy to say that Dr. A and I, in our hey-day, sat under the thunderstorm a few times. Great fun.

The Venetian Room was where Tony Bennett first sang “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” in 1961. A statue of Tony Bennett was unveiled outside the Fairmont in August , 2016, in honor of his 90th birthday, the performance and the song’s history with San Francisco.

As if we three ladies weren’t giggling enough, we were joined by my granddaughter, who flew in from London, and a sneak attack from her brother. Oh yes, they also served tea.

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WAITING ROOMS


‘INUIT MOTHER AND CHILD’ watercolor painting by kayti sweetland rasmussen

We are all in some sort of waiting room. Some with anticipation and some with trepidation. It depends upon where you are waiting; grocery store, post office, assisted living facility or doctor’s office. The grocery store is a toe tapper, while you wish the person in front of you would hurry up and count her change, and return the unwanted can of beans. The post office could go both ways; did you get a bill or a check? The people in the assisted living place, are waiting for God, and it could also go both ways. The doctor’s waiting room is far and away the most interesting.

Our hospital is getting older and seems smaller, and the number of patients has increased; drawn by the advent of Silicon Valley technology. For lack of space, various disciplines have been combined in spaces far to small to contain them. While waiting for my rheumatology doctor, I watched mothers and children waiting for pediatrics, There were also cardiology and oncology patients cooling their heels.

A beautiful young woman dressed with a jeweled head dress offered a seat which I gladly took. She was from India and her husband had come here to work for Google. She misses her parents and the fact that her daughter has never met them.

Two young fathers carrying their babies checked in and I remarked to myself that fathers never came to pediatricians appointments, let alone carrying their offspring. Another sign that times have changed. The day of the stay-at-home mom is over.

As refreshing as these fellow waiters were, a dark cloud arrived in the shape of a grumpy looking gentleman in his late 70’s dressed in baggy work pants and jacket, checked in with the young woman at the desk and obviously was disgruntled by having to give a co-pay. Mumbling all the way, he threw himself into the small chair with a scowl. He gave a challenging look toward the check in counter and groused: ” I pay enough as it is around here. Now you expect me to wait here?”

I was glad to go in to meet the cute young woman doctor who is always a pleasure. After chatting and acquainting her with any new problems, I told her about the current state of the waiting room, including a description of Mr. Grumpy. She laughed and said “I think he is my net patient.” I hope she was able to make his day a bit better.

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SOCIETY PAGE


Newspapers are not what they used to be. They have a large amount of news, both real and fake, but all news is tightly contained in two or three pages with ads for viagra, refrigerators and cars taking up most of the space.

Not so long ago news was organized into days of the week, with the Sunday paper requiring an entire day to digest, Monday and Tuesday simply rehashing Sunday’s news. Then Wednesday’s paper contained a segment of 6 or 8 pages of cooking and recipes. You could plan the entire week’s menu from the Wednesday paper, clipping recipes which would be tucked away in folders for years to come.

Thursday, no matter if you read the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle or the Seattle Times, contained the Society news. Photographs of celebrities acquainted you with the styles of the day, and you felt part of the coming out parties, and every other event the posh attended. For every wanna-be woman especially, it gave a real meaning to Thursday at the breakfast table. It was a real service to the community.

In or about 1970, the local Atlanta, Georgia’s Thursday Society page covered the birthday party of Miss Sally Jo Hornbacker, who recently turned five years old. The day was sunny and sublime, and twenty small guests, dressed in fairy tale dresses in Easter egg colors, arrived at the local country club, each bearing a beautifully wrapped gift for the pretty little celebrant, herself gowned in an apricot taffeta dress designed by Emile de Mille, with three petticoats in contrasting shades. Sally Jo, the daughter of Judge and Mrs. Marvin Lebush Hornbacker of the Savannah LeBushes Hornbackers. Sally Jo’s ensemble was set off by small black patent leather Mary Jane shoes, and she carried a small beaded pocket book in robins egg blue. The guests, all daughters of the local gentry, were treated to a beautiful six layer cake decorated by the esteemed baker Michele Fontainbleu. Each child was gifted with a lovely gold bracelet upon leaving the part, and it wad deemed a great success.

Today is my birthday. I have achieved the admirable age of 89, which entitles me to not much more than 88 did, but I am probably the luckiest 89 year old living at this address. I somehow helped in creating a wonderful family with the help of a thoroughly admirable husband, who turned out to be the love of my life for the past 70 years. Together we have accumulated groups of very special friends.
You may ask “is that all there is?” and I would answer “What else could there possibly be?” HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!

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LADY IN THE MIST


Lady in the Mist

Amazing who jumps out of the mist when you aren’t looking! Now trying new paths in paint, I find it disturbing to sit and stare at a piece of paper wondering just what I will paint. After several days of abstraction and distraction, it occurred to me that what I am really attracted to in depicting in paint is people.

I had had an image in my mind which never seemed to come together. After painting, washing, scrubbing I ended up with a pale nothing.

As I prepared to toss it in the bin, I turned it around and this image showed up. Where my tree root had been was actually a lady leaning forward. I have no idea what is of interest to her in what was meant to be greenish rocks, but there she is! I decided to let her remain a misty image perhaps from a distant past.

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MILO ONE


Piles of milo

You only have to know one thing; you can learn anything. It’s amazing what we don’t know, but comforting to know that there is so much we can still learn.

Colorful milo grain lies in orderly piles on the Kansas plains, confounding the uninformed as to just what they are. Tiny beads of gold and saffron fall in random design after the harvest, ready to serve as fodder.

Seeing the fabulous photos taken by Shoreacres prompted the return of my paintbrush, for how can one resist mountains of red, orange and yellow lying where Mother Nature put no mountains.

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MONDAY, MONDAY


Remember the Mamas and Papas singing “Monday, Monday so good to me, Monday morning all I hoped it would be.” This worked out to be that kind of Monday morning. Bright sunshine, a door and window open day. a few selected trees showed the possibility of green growth.

Since Maty left suddenly, we are back to cleaning house once more. You never forget how. Dr.A is often looking for something to do, which isn’t easy once the gardening is taken care of by someone else, so he took over mopping and polishing miles of tile floor this morning. I tackled bathrooms. I told him that there is always something to do around the house. If I play this right I may have the only handsome 91 year old housekeeper in the neighborhood. People will be begging for his services.

Some younger people seem to think people older than themselves have nothing to do. The truth is that age has nothing to do with it. You still have a lot to do, but you do it slower.

Charlie has been given a blue pill to take for a month for an obscure internal problem. It is supposed to be given with his breakfast food, but I found it tucked neatly against the side of the bowl, so I began wrapping it in a dab of cream cheese. Like Mary Poppins said “Just a spoonful of sugar—“. This Morning Dr. A proudly said he had tried to give it to him in three different cheeses to no avail. However, I saw the remnants of the cheeses he turned his nose at. One was ricotta, another was sour cream, and the third was a half empty bag of mozzarella. Charlie is an intelligent dog and waited for the cream cheese.

I wrote a post some time ago about how long it takes to form a habit. It was interesting to read the other day that some experts still often say 21 days. The real answer is more complex.
I looked for an answer the same way most people do these days. I asked Google. Most of the top results referenced the same magic 21 days. These websites maintained that ‘research’ had found that if you repeated a behavior each day for 21 days you would have formed a brand new habit.
There wasn’t much discussion about what type of behavior it was or the circumstances you had to repeat it in, just the same figure of 21 days. Exercise, smoking, writing a diary or turning cartwheels; you name it 21 days is the answer. In addition, many authors recommend that it’s crucial to maintain a chain of 21 days without breaking it.

Thanks to recent research though, we have some idea of how long common habits really take to form. In a study carried out at University College in London, 96 participants were asked to choose an everyday behavior that they wanted to turn into a habit. They all chose something that they didn’t already do that could be repeated every day; many were health related like eating a piece of fruit with lunch or running 15 minutes after dinner. Each of the 84 days of the study they logged into a website to report their findings. Acting without thinking or ‘automaticity’ is a central component of a habit.

So how long did it take to form a habit? Across the board it took 66 days until a habit was formed depending on what activity each tried to do. People who resolved to drink a glass of water after breakfast were up to automaticity after about 20 days while people who tried to eat a piece of fruit with lunch each day too twice as long. The exercise was the trickiest, with 50 sit ups after morning coffee still not a habit after 84 days. Walking for 10 minutes after breakfast turned into a habit for one participant in 50 days.

This research seems to say that habits are slow to form and some might even take as long as a year. In my own case, things such as drinking water or exercising a certain time each day, while once being considered habits, are now occasional activities. However mysterious it may be; when we moved into this house 44 years ago, we had a light switch moved from one side of a door to another. This was accomplished in a matter of a few days during a remodel, however, I still reach for the original place to turn the light on. That habit had only taken a few days.