MAKE YOUR BED


“Downtown Lady” watercolor by kayti sweetland rasmussen

Making one’s bed is pretty basic to most of us, like changing your socks, returning your phone calls and possibly eating your oatmeal.

It happens to be the title of a new book by former Navy Seal Admiral Andrew McRaven, whom I saw interviewed on TV. I haven’t read the book yet, but I began thinking of what a primary life lesson it calls to mind.

As a child, I went with my mother to a Navy wives function at the home of the Admiral in Bremerton, Washington. I remember the Admiral’s wife asking if I cooked breakfast for my father. She said that she cooked eggs each morning for the Admiral. I have thought many times of what a gracious and unassuming action it was.

The bed is personal to each of us. My mother in law rarely made her bed when age made it more difficult, though until the age of 92 she kept going strong in all other respects. A cousin remarked while walking past his bedroom with its unmade bed, that it had become his best friend.

I like to think that making one’s bed is akin to clearing the deck for the rest of the day’s work. This is a lazy day as far as work goes, but I made my bed this morning just in case.

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JOHNSON’S DICTIONARY


dr-johnson Dr. Johnson At The Cheshire Cheese

To be honest, the first time I saw this plate hanging on the wall of my mother-in-law’s breakfast room, I thought what a glutton Dr. Johnson must have been, whoever he was. After all, how much cheese could anyone eat? And everyone knows that Cheshire, of course, was a cat.

As years passed, I became intimately acquainted with Dr. Johnson, in a literary way that is, and learned that Cheshire was the cheese we Americans call cheddar. Traipsing around the streets of London later on with Dr. A. , it all came clear; and further investigation showed that Johnson spent a good deal of time writing his dictionary whilst sitting comfortably inside the pub named Cheshire Cheese. And we found it a cozy pub to this day.

Now Johnson’s was not the first dictionary by any means, but it became his crowning achievement; it is more famous than his one novel Rasselas and, although he was also a gicfted poet, it is for his lexicography above all else that Samuel Johnson is remembered. First published in two large volumes in 1755, the book’s full title was A dictionary of the English Language; in which the words are deduced from their originals, and illustrated in their different English grammar. It’s no surprise that it is usually just known as ‘Johnson’s Dictionary”.

Johnson’s wasn’t the first English dictionary; before his, there had been several such works. Richard Mulcaster had compiled a list of English words in the sixteenth century, but without definitions. Lexicography was as much about borrowing and improving as about creating from scratch. Johnson’s dictionary drew heavily from Nathan Bailey’s which in turn had relied on John Kersey’s Dictionary, which had borrowed generously from John Harris’s 1704 dictionary. But none of these were on the scale of Samuel Johnson’s dictionary. A far greater size and scope would be what Johnson, in 1755 brought to the table. It would take him nine years to complete, working with several assistants.

Johnson was the first lexicographer to use quotations from Shakespeare, Spencer, and other literary sources. In fact, his intention in writing the dictionary was partly to acquaint people with the language of the literary greats.

Johnson included no words beginning with X, on the bases that no words in the English language began with ‘X’. Xylophone, in case you were wondering, has only been in print since since 1866, and X-rays were another 30 years away from xylophones. Still, this was an improvement over Cawdrey’s dictionary of 150 years earlier, which had failed to include any words beginning with W, X or Y.

The famous definition supplied by Johnson for ‘oats—a grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people’–may have been borrowed from Pliny, who made a similar remark about the ancient Germans.

The oft-repeated exchange between Johnson and the ladies searching for improper or indecent words in Johnson’s dictionary says that when several cultivated ladies of English society congratulated him for leaving out such words he replied “Ah ladies, you were searching for them?” For one thing, Johnson did include a number of words which would have offended the proprieties of prim eighteenth century ladies, among them bum,fart, arse, piss, and turd although sexually suggestive words were left out, including penis and vagina. He defined a boghouse as a house of office, and ‘to lie with’ as ‘to converse in bed’.

He also left out aardvark, something which Blackadder would later observe. But, in fairness to Johnson, he could hardly be blamed for this either; the earliest defination for the word is 1785, the year after Johnson died.

One of Johnson’s more confusing suggestions: Read over your compositions, and wherever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.

WHAT CAN YOU DO WHEN THERE’S NOTHING TO DO?


Stepping Off On a Wing and a Prayer

‘STEPPING OFF ON A WING AND A PRAYER’ Stoneware Sculpture by Kayti Sweetland Rasmussen

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REGRET: Definition: An uncomfortable condition often caused by our own actions.

Sometimes we need to stop and think before we take a leap of faith.

Life isn’t always as it seems, and it isn’t the fall that may hurt you—it’s the landing and the irreversible outcome of our own actions which cause regret.

APPRECIATION: Definition: Thankfulness for the help of others. (Sometimes slow in coming.)

Should we tell this little pilot that she is missing a wing??

What matters is not what you see, but what you think you see.

LA DOLCE VITA – FELINE FORMULA


Watch Cat
ORIGINAL WALL MURAL “THIS IS A WATCHCAT WATCHING YOU”
by Kayti Sweetland Rasmussen

Choose only human pets who train easily.
Walk casually, but authoritatively, as befits your status.
Exercise moderately, but never let it interfere with your catnaps.
Make absolutely clear that every soft, warm place,
especially human laps, is yours upon demand.
Occasionally allow select humans to touch your person,
but have fang and claw ready should reverent touches cross into familiarity.
Groom fastidiously; after all it’s the exterior that reflects the interior.
Clean and sharpen claws regularly, prepared for instant deployment.
Form habits that suit your comfort, but capriciously change them to avoid predictability.
Stretch fully several times each day, always with liquid but languid motions.
Never allow your server to think the food couldn’t be a little bit better.
Never! Never! Never! allow yourself to be trained to do anything.

—Claudette V and Lory O, November 2013

GENERATIONS


Reflections of the Past
“Reflections of the Past” watercolor painting by kayti sweetland Rasmussen

Our seven year old great-granddaughter’s birthday occasioned the gathering our clan in Southern California this weekend. She will be attending the same neighborhood school where both her parents and their best friends, plus a number of other family members and friends went not so long ago.

It was especially strange to me as being in a military family, I seemingly moved with the seasons. When we met, at the age of 16, my future husband asked how many schools I had attended. I was in my junior year of high school at the time, and answered “twelve so far.” After graduation I counted three more.

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A group of our family stayed in my daughter’s lovely home for the weekend, and as we all called out our good nights, I was reminded of the old TV series “Little House on the Prairie”. Their closing scene each week was the sound of each family member saying “good night” as the lights went out in each room of the large house.

As I heard each of my family in turn say their “good nights”, I thought of how nice it is to be the progenitors of these delightful people.

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Painting is of grandson Matt at age 13 hearing the girlhood stories of his great-grandma Leita.

THE CRACK OF THE BAT


Balk
“Balk” original watercolor by kayti sweetland Rasmussen”

I like baseball. My father was a big fan and when he was home and there was a game, any game, on the radio, we listened and cheered at the appropriate times. He went to the ballpark whenever he had a chance.

He put a baseball bat in my small hands when I was about eight years old, and shook his head in disgust whenever I missed the ball, which was often. Dr. Advice and I bought two of our grandsons small plastic bats and were entertained on many sunny afternoons watching them learn to play the game. They were pretty decent players by the time they were on their high school teams. Another grandson who lives in the Northwest, did not benefit from our coaching, yet he was a superior player of the game.

A pitcher can commit a number of illegal motions or actions that constitute a balk. In most cases it involves a pitcher pretending to pitch when he has no intention of doing so. If the umpire calls it a balk, each runner takes another base and the batter remains at bat. It could be dangerous indeed depending on how many were on bases. The painting above was taken from an article in the newspaper after a “balk” was called.

I loved the expressions on the faces of the catcher on the left, and the pitcher on the right. Righteous disbelief at its best! Meanwhile, the large bulk of the umpire stands unperturbed and unyielding in the middle, with just the top of the manager’s head peeking out from behind. Unfortunately, I did not write down the players names in my records, but the manager was Tony La Russa, who has recently been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, and who managed the Oakland Athletics from about 1986 to 1995. But the painting is proof that the cardinal rule of baseball is ‘never argue with the umpire’

CONVERSATIONAL PING PONG


Buddies
“Talkin’ It Over” watercolor by kayti sweetland rasmussen

Good conversation has a beginning and an end. I regret to say that some people don’t know how to end one. Let me explain: first, check out their body language. No, that doesn’t mean to give unnecessary attention to certain parts of their body. If they begin fidgeting or their eyes glaze over, or they begin looking for a fast way out, you know that the conversation is over. It absolutely does NO good to pop in another subject. They really need to get away. And don’t take offense. They probably like you all right, and they’ll be OK with it another day. But for now, gracefully drift away.

I watched a wonderful example of good conversation on TV the other day. Six elderly Chinese women in their 90’s were asked the question “what do you talk about together?” It turns out they talk about everything women everywhere talk about, which is everything! Children, family, health matters, politics etc. took precedence in those women’s conversation. And if they still had husbands, they probably used them as an inexhaustible subject! The important thing was the way they conducted their conversation, by taking turns, no one interrupting the other, but with expectant faces waiting to jump in when the time was right. Conversational ping pong!

General rules for good conversation go like this:

1. Eliminate the overuse of the word “I”.

2. No name-dropping.

3. No unsolicited advice.

4. No deliberate digs at their politics or religion, although those subjets are no longer taboo. In fact, they have always been the most interesting of subjects if you can keep others from clubbing you to death.

5. When in a group of people and you are not the speaker, try not to doze. It may be imnpossible in some cases, but do try to drink another cup of coffee or something to keep you awake until you can take your leave.

6. No monologues!! This is a huge rule. Try not to forget this one.

7. Sports is always a great opener. Just try not to bad mouth the other person’s favorite team or Alma Mater.

8. It’s perfectly all right to discuss sex, as long as it’s discreet and not about your next door neighbor.

A good conversation is energizing, and should give you material for your next conversational ping pong game. Just go for it!