ARE YOU LISTENING?


It’s fairly easy to tell when someone is actually listening to you. Body language is usually a dead give-away. For instance, I can always tell when Dr. Advice is not listening to me because he has a glazed look on his face, and his body language and spoken words don’t agree. My habit on those times is to simply say in a continuing conversational manner “I need to go wash the cat!”. It usually snaps him to attention. Besides we haven’t owned a cat for nearly 40 years.

When speaking to a group of children or simply the one child who needs to clean his/her room, a barely inaudible grunt while he/she is absorbed in a TV program or video game, is a sure sign that your message did not get through. It is my understanding that Bill Gates as a child answered his mother’s call to dinner from his downstairs room by saying “I’m busy”. But then, chances are, you did not give birth to another computer genius, and as it turned out, he really was busy.

Speakers are aware of body language, referred to as “audience awareness”, or relating to a group. As you prattle on about your favorite subject, and see that the audience is sitting back in their seats with their chins down and arms crossed on their chest, you might get a hunch that your delivery is not going well, or that half the audience is asleep. If what you are speaking about is contained in a slide show of “What I Did On My Summer Vacation”, and you hear snores rumbling through the darkened room, you blew it.
Ear
Women are far more perceptive than men, which means being able to spot the contradictions between someone’s words and their body language. Female intuition is evident in women who have raised children. For instance, I long ago convinced my children and grandchildren that mothers really did have “eyes in the back of their heads”. How else to explain the sudden change of plans which accurately foiled any after-school activity they may have planned? It is a parental challenge at which mothers somehow can do intuitively.

It is a proven fact that women have far greater capacity for communicating and evaluating people than men do. Women have between fourteen and sixteen areas of the brain to evaluate others’ behavior versus a man’s four to six areas. This may explain how a woman can attend a dinner party and rapidly work out the state of relationships of other couples at the party—who’s had an argument, who likes who, and so on.

The female brain is organized for multitracking—the average woman can juggle between two and four unrelated topics at the same time. She can watch a TV program while talking on the telephone plus listen to a second conversation behind her, while drinking a cup of coffee. She can talk about several unrelated topics in the one conversation and use five vocal tones to change the subject or emphasize points. Unfortunately most men can only identify three. As a result, men often lose the plot when women are trying to communicate with them.

Then there is the “Fast Talker”, frequently a man, who has so much to say in a short time, and covers so many divergent subjects, that his spoken words pour out and flow like a spring thaw. These men are frequently lawyers or politicians. Are you listening Dr. Advice?

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NOTABLE AND QUOTABLE


I guess this is where I’m supposed to fall in line and do what every other sports writer is doing. I’m supposed to swear I won’t ever write the words “Washington Redskins” anymore because it’s racist and offensive and a slap in the face to all Native Americans who ever lived. Maybe it is.

I just don’t quite know how to tell my father-in-law, a Blackfeet Indian. He owns a steak restaurant on the reservation near Browning, Montana. He has a hard time seeing the slap-in-the-face part.

“The whole issue is so silly to me,” says Bob Burns, my wife’s father and a bundle holder in the Blackfeet tribe. “The name just doesn’t bother me much. It’s an issue that shouldn’t be an issue, not with all the problems we’ve got in this country.”

And I definitely don’t know how I’ll tell the athletes at Wellpinit (Wash.) High School–the student body is 91.2 percent Native American–that the “Redskins” name they wear proudly across their chests is insulting them. Because they have no idea.

“I’ve talked to our students, our parents and our community about this and nobody finds any offense at all in it,” says Tim Ames, the superintendent of Willpinit schools. “Redskins is an honorable name we wear with pride….In fact, I’d like to see somebody come up here and try to change it.”

Boy, you try to help some people….

From Rick Reilly’s commentary for ESPN, Sept. 18
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As an aside to this quote, our good friend Emmett Oliver, a member of the Quinault tribe, was an outstanding footbal player throughout his high school and college days at Redlands University. Some years ago, when some people began to feel antsy about calling Native Americans “Indians” or referring to them as “Redskins”, I asked Emmett his feelings on the subject. He said he had always fell special when during his football days, people would refer to him as an “Indian”, because after all, he WAS an Indian.

Here at Stanford, the team was known for many years as the “Stanford Indians”, and the cheerleaders, the band, bumperstickers, and other items people used to show their team support, built upon the Indian motif.

Someone in their infinite wisdom, changed the name to the “Stanford Cardinal”. Not “Cardinals” the bird, but the color crimson red. The mascot is a tree. The tree parades around the field to rally the spirits of the crowd.

I’m sorry, but I think the whole thing is insulting to the California Redwood tree.

THE COLORS OF YOUR LIFE


Blanket Swirl

Swirling Colors” original watercolor painting by kayti sweetland Rasmussen

We each live many lives. While looking out my kitchen window this morning, watching the life of my neighborhood, I realized, that I have not always lived in a neighborhood, and it’s really quite nice. Color swirls about us moving us through to the next phase of our existence.

There are the new neighbors from Burma trimming their garden painstakingly. A young girl passes by frequently and we wonder about her. She is sad looking and does not look up nor answer a greeting. She just plods along to somewhere. There is the man we call the “Rock man” because we thought he always had a load of rocks in his backpack. It turned out to be his groceries. We recognize the neighborhood dogs being led on their daily excursions. It is through them that we ask their names and finally the names of their guides.

An old couple go by holding hands. They are stooped and have that peculiar rocking motion old people frequently have. The ethnic diversity has changed through the years. Instead of predominately blond, blue-eyed children walking to local schools, we see more dark hair these days. Mothers who help teachers walk past on field trips to the nearby children’s museum, frequently wear head scarves or saris. Through the years, the clothing may have changed, but the quirky behavior of the kids remains the same. Each year we seem to lose a few plants in the parking strip as energetic boys push each other into them. The language has changed however, with an inordinate use of the “F” word.

It also made me think of all the places I have lived in my life. I am a “Navy Brat”, which is what the children of Navy personnel are called. It is a proud appellation, and I’m sure all the “Army Brats” feel the same pride in their father’s career. The actor, Robert Duvall is an Army Brat, and has the same history of moving to new ports. You learn to make friends fast because you probably won’t stay long. During my school years up till the end of high school, it meant an annual migration for me. Even the birds migrate. We lived in a series of forgotten apartments, a couple of which had bathrooms down the hall.

I got used to always being “the new kid” at school. The routine was always the same. Someone took you to the right room and the teacher introduced you to the class, who then looked you over closely, and determined immediately whether you were worth knowing. The boys took the opportunity to make faces at their friends and the girls narrowed their eyes and sent the message that you were not “one of them”. I was never invited to an “overnight” stay until I was thirteen, and my father would not have allowed it anyway. The argument “all the other kids get to do it”, never went over with him. Girl Scouts and Campfire Girls were out of the question.

On my tenth birthday I had a birthday party with three other little girls in our neighborhood in Long Beach, California. I wore a peach-colored dress and a birthday hat. In New London, Connecticut, I was invited to a party when I was eleven, at which “Spin The Bottle” was played. I wore a new yellow silk dress, and when I found out the game meant you had to actually kiss a boy, I called my mother to come and take me home! We went as a family to see “Gone With The Wind” in 1939 when it opened in Hartford, Connecticut. I had a new pink coat, and hat with a streamer. My mother had a new dress and my father was out of uniform in a new suit which I had never seen before.

Strange how I always remember what I wore on various special occasions. In my last two years of high school, I joined the ROTC and wore a cool uniform. When I graduated from high School in Alameda, California, I wanted to join the Navy and wear a WAVE uniform, but being only 17 and underage, and my Navy father would not sign.

Though I love color, I have always identified myself as a sculptor who happens to paint. In sculpture, color merely enhances what the lines have already accomplished. We are all a mass of swirling colors hurrying to the next phase of our existence.

SEND ME NO LILIES


Star_Gazer_Lily

I began feeling a bit weird during a nice luncheon with friends last week. It was the same feeling I had been having which had sent me to a cardiologist the week before.

I had not planned to finish my day lying flat on my back in the ER and hooked up to monitors and EKG, and looking at concerned unfamiliar faces, and my husband sitting quietly beside my bed. I didn’t feel threatened, but it was unsettling. There are two worlds, you see. The Healthy and the Sick. You never realize that until you join the Sick or someone you love does. In that world, you wear hospital gowns that gape in the back, and these kind but unfamiliar people and their machines take over your body. Maybe since your body has apparently betrayed you, you never knew it as well or really owned it the way you thought you did.

I went in at 6:00 and they played around with me until midnight, poking holes in me, taking both my blood and blood pressure, checking monitors which were doing what I don’t know. I thought they would have a quick look and I’d be on my way, so there I was without even a tooth brush, but at midnight they tossed me into a bed upstairs, with a sleeping woman who groaned audibly when the nurse told her she was getting a roommate. Impossible. I was having a dinner party the next day and hadn’t even shopped.

The next morning a nurse came in and told me she had been my nurse two years before when I had the shoulder replacement. I was in the same room, same bed. I began wondering if they planned this whole thing. They seemed to know everything about me. It was surreal and unwelcome, and the food was no better than it had been two years ago. But that afternoon my two daughters came in after having driven all day up from Southern California. I began to think maybe something could be wrong, and they had come to pay their final respects. It was a long way to come just to say hello. Grandchildren began calling to see if I was still breathing.

At 6:00 o’clock the next morning, I woke to the sight of three large paramedics asking if I was ready to roll. I grabbed my lipstick, which was the only thing I had with me to make me look a little human. I asked if I could call my husband, and they said “nope”, so they loaded me onto a gurney and into the ambulance. We tore through morning commute traffic to Santa Clara about 25 miles away, to another hospital, darting in between cars as we went.

I was glad Dr. Advice and I had not tried to find this place by ourselves because they hide these three enormous buildings on foreign and unknown streets in a city we have no reason to ever go to. It was too bad he had to find it alone without my superb navigational skills, because he did get a bit lost on the way.

While waiting for the action to begin whatever it was going to be, I had chance to talk to a cute little nurse with dark horn-rimmed glasses and wearing hospital green, and I told her they better be nice to me because I was a blogger and I would tell all. She told me about a blog she followed by a woman who met her French husband in a gay bar in San Francisco, and they got married and moved to Provence, where they had two children and raised chickens and pigs and a couple of dogs. It doesn’t sound like a lot of fun even though I love dogs and eggs. I could do without the pigs though.

Then I went into the operating room and in zipline speed they did an angioplasty, and sent me upstairs to the cardiac floor and I was officially a cardiac patient. A piece of cake until they said my artery had been 99% blocked. It might explain some of the mysterious incidents I had been having for they past several months.

The cardiac floor is a place all it’s own. You remain lying prone and absolutely still for 6 hours, and they don’t let you cheat even for 15 minutes. Try it sometime. They may get in and get back out in the surgery, but they make up for it by 6 hours of torture. They also keep you attached with a dozen wires dangling underneath the same kind of gown they seem to use everywhere. One size fits all and they said it isn’t big enough for some people. I suggest they either go on a diet or don’t get sick. Forget modesty, they don’t know the word, and you can’t even get up to go to the bathroom alone because you are tethered to an IV, and there is a sign just ahead of the bed which says in no uncertain terms NOT to get up without help. Later they connect an alarm to you to make sure you obey. I have always been a person who went Up the Down staircase, but believe me, I obeyed this one, because the nurse I got was a very large man who looked like he meant business. After spending another night, we picked up more medicine, which I guess goes along with the operation, plus another for nitroglycerine. My clever granddaughter said “Good. Now we can make a bomb.”

Well, I’m back home, and Dr. Advice is cooking. Need I say more? He did make my daughter’s oatmeal pancakes for breakfast yesterday to celebrate our 67th anniversary, and to go with the beautiful red roses which suddenly appeared, so all is better than normal. I will share the recipe for the pancakes in another post sometime. It’s the only way to eat oatmeal.

I make light of the occasion, but I am grateful to everyone for the wonderful care they have given me, and very glad to be here.

PETE’S PLACE


Victorian house Our older cousin Peter Vic was a native San Franciscan and proud of it. There is a difference you know, in having been born there and just having moved in. Native San Franciscans remind you of the importance of that fact now and then. He was well-over six feet tall, with reddish hair and a huge grin which was often on his face. He loved people no matter where they came from, and like a good Dane, he was always ready for a good time. Though not a social activist, he had great concern for the disadvantaged.

He graduated from the University of California at Berkeley as a lawyer, though he never practiced, but instead started a small trucking company in San Francisco. His father, big Chris Svane, who had been a palace guard for King Frederick in Denmark, had been a partner in the early Rasmussen Brothers and Svane Trucking company, along with my father-in-law and his brothers, until he too began his own company. I think trucking must run in the Danish blood, I know my husband is very proud of his roots in the business.

Peter Vic knew all the interesting spots in the City, and seemingly all the interesting people, from the Palace Hotel to the docks, and everybody knew Pete. He occasionally treated us to an evening out on the town, which was pretty heady stuff for a newly married couple not too long out of their teens. He took us to Finnochio’s and Mona’s gay night clubs once, and we ate at the Gay Nineties a few times, which was a very old restaurant below street level, and where if you were brave enough, you could enter by sliding down a metal slide to emerge into the dining area! It was difficult to maintain your dignity while trying to maintain a certain degree of modesty. I celebrated my 36th birthday at a surprise party there, wearing a pair of Chanel shoes which had purchased for my own birthday present that day for $36.00, which believe it or not was pretty expensive at that time!

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He was married seven times, but had only six wives, having tried it twice with one of the wives. The last wife was the only one with whom he had children. Wife number three was Genevieve, an actual countess, and the only one we saw occasionally. One of his wive’s had been married to the man who owned the famous racehorse Seabiscuit. After the seventh divorce, Pete made the naive admission that it might have been his fault that none of his marriages had worked out. It’s too bad too, because some of the women had been quite interesting.

There used to be a restaurant and bar called Pete’s Place, (no relation to Peter Vic,) which was tucked away somewhere in the City. We went there often. It was probably a speak-easy during Prohibition times. I remember it had high-backed private wood booths where you could snuggle in and have a small rendezvous if you had a mind to. On one evening Peter Vic, my husband and I were having a drink in the cozy little booth when in popped a very angry Genevieve wearing a gorgeous full length mink coat. Pete was a little embarrassed since he had forgotten to go home after work nor had he called her. His embarrassment accelerated, as did ours, when to all our surprise, as well as the other diners in the place, Genevieve threw open her coat to reveal that she was wearing nothing else but her birthday suit! After her performance, she turned and stormed out. It obviously supplied the entertainment for the evening, and a subdued Peter Vic.

On another occasion, long after they were divorced, and after Genevieve had married the man who had been the editor of the Stars and Stripes, a military newspaper during the War, she invited us to dinner at her apartment in the City. There were a number of very sophisticated guests, among whom was Richard Gump, of the venerable San Francisco Gump’s store. I remember that he was very kind to me, and took me around the apartment showing me the impressive art collection. He showed me one small oil of a South Sea scene complete with palm trees, and in my desire to appear more knowledgeable than I was, I said I thought it wasn’t very good, at which he laughed loudly and said he had painted it! Another of Life’s embarrassing moments.

Pete was a member of some of the old clubs in San Francisco, and one day shortly after we were married, he had taken my husband to the Bohemian club promising to pick me up for dinner later. I was to wait on some street corner and they would drive by and get me. The appointed time came and went, so to waste time,I went into the newspaper stand nearby and picked up a cooking magazine. My family were all plain cooks, and I was just beginning to learn to cook. I found a recipe for “Rabbit Ragout”, which sounded pretty exotic to me at the age of 20, but I thought I would give it a try. When the men finally arrived, I said I had found this great sounding recipe for “Rabbit Rag Out”, and Pete gently corrected me as to the proper pronunciation. I said I would try to make it and invited him to our little apartment the following week. I slaved all afternoon after work making the ragout, but true to form, Pete never showed up. It was the first and last time I made Rabbit Ragout.

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Pete lived in a wonderful old Victorian home on Cook St. with a large carriage house in the back, where he would hold family holiday parties with a large tree at Christmas, and roast goose on the spit. A real old fashioned Danish Christmas celebration. The front door of the house was never locked, and there were always a number of cousins who for one reason or another, needed a place to stay and where they were always welcome, as was anyone Pete thought needed a place to sleep.

We were living in Washington when he passed away and his daughter called us asking where we thought he might like to be buried. My husband told her that he thought Pete would really like to be beneath his favorite lemon tree under his dining room window. Peter Vic was one of a kind.