Category Archives: art projects

HOSPITAL BLUES

 

Choose your size, S-XL, and use only once.  (All pictures by Marylin Warner)

Choose your size, S-XL, and use only once. (All pictures by Marylin Warner)

On February 1st, I wrote a post—“What We Learn While We Wait”—about the things I learn when I visit my mother each month and spend much of my time just sitting with her while she naps. This is Part 2 of that lesson. Now I sit with Mom in her hospital room. This is our new journey together; there are new lessons…and decisions to make. This emergency will pass, but there will be others, and I need to be prepared.

At Mom’s apartment, I’m surrounded by pictures, books and keepsakes, all of them familiar because I chose them to bring from their house to make the move here for my parents easier and more comfortable. Here in Mom’s hospital room there are no pictures on the wall, and though I’m not unfamiliar with computers and IV lines and bags and procedures, they are unfamiliar in the context of connecting them to my mother.

I look around and choose one thing to observe, to focus on and learn about, and I choose the wall opposite me, with the small, medium, large and extra large nitrile exam gloves.

All sizes, to fit all the hands of those who help my mother, the confused 95-year-old lady who has already pulled one IV line out of her arm, and whose “rolling” veins made a new line very difficult. To take blood for the most recent test, the experienced phlebotomist finally had to take it from her foot, and I had to hold Mom’s leg still and have her count aloud with me to calm her cries while the vials filled.

This is a difficult time, so as I study the blue latex-free, single-use medical gloves, I begin to think of other gloves. White cotton gloves, some with little pearl side buttons, the kind of go-to-church-or-weddings-or funerals-white gloves ladies used to wear, back in the time when they also wore hats and high heels and hose with seams.

When the styles relaxed, my mother didn’t throw her gloves away—actually, she rarely threw anything away—but found a new use for them.  When she went out to her garden to pick fresh tomatoes, beans, zucchini, carrots and lettuce for dinner, she put on a pair of her gloves to keep grass stains off her hands. On Saturday nights, when she polished her nails for church the next day, she washed and dried her hands carefully and then applied Vaseline or—get this—Crisco, coating her fingers and hands, and then she slept wearing a clean pair of cotton gloves to protect the skin-softening concoction. She’d come out in her robe, wearing rollers in her hair and gloves on her hands, and my dad would just grin and shake his head.  Remembering that makes me miss those good old days with both of them, my dad whistling and my mom blinking her eyes at us and laughing.

Now I sit with my mother in her hospital room, and she naps as I study the wall of medical DOP/DEHP-free, powder-free, ambidextrous gloves.  I watch people with their own styles of putting on and removing and disposing the gloves, and memories of my mother’s glove-wearing styles help me connect the dots and make these days in the hospital feel more normal.  Or at least the next step in what will become the next “normal” for us.

At night Mom is safe in her caregiver’s additional care, and I go back to my mother’s assisted living and sleep alone in her apartment. Downstairs in the main room, “Art Is Ageless” voting continues for the many amazing quilts, paintings, sculptures, whittled wood knife sheathes and crocheted dresses, all created by seniors in their 70s, 80s, 90s…and one 103-year old lady.

I’m so inspired that I use the only materials I have available, a pair of blue nitrile exam gloves. I blow them up like balloons, tie the tops and arrange them on the living room floor of my mother’s apartment. I title my creation “Helping Hands,” but it’s not for any contest.  It’s just for me, a way to create something and distract myself after another day at the hospital.

"Art Is Ageless" BEST OF SHOW 2014 quilt by Berniece Buell

“Art Is Ageless” BEST OF SHOW 2014 quilt by Berniece Buell

 

My disposable creation: "Hands That Help"

My disposable creation:
“Helping Hands”

 

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Filed under art, art projects, Dementia/Alzheimer's, gardening, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, memories for great-grandchildren, Quilting projects, Things to be thankful for

KEEPING THE CHICKEN IN PERSPECTIVE

Norman Rockwell's "Marbles Champion" ~ if you think girls can't do certain things, you need to change a second look.

Norman Rockwell’s “Marbles Champion” ~ if you think girls can’t compete with boys, you need to rethink that.

Rockwell's "Big Decision" ~ the catcher has a different point of view than the coach

Rockwell’s “Big Decision” ~ the catcher has a different point of view than the coach. Below, the perspective from the “High Board” is different than from the side of the pool.

High board

“Running around like a chicken with its head cut off” isn’t just a simile for a frantically busy person. It’s also an actual description.

When I was eleven years old, a farmer knew that my mother had been raised on a farm, and as a gift he delivered to our house a fresh chicken for our dinner.  It was a very fresh chicken.  Still alive.

In our back yard, he quickly balanced the chicken on a board, lifted an ax and cut off the chicken’s head. The chicken body ran like crazy.  We had a tall picket fence enclosing our big back yard. It was painted white. By the time the chicken dropped, there were very few pickets that didn’t have streaks, smears or spatters of blood. (You can thank me for not having pictures of this.)

The farmer used our garden hose to spray the fence while my mother plucked and cleaned out the chicken. That night our family had fresh fried chicken for dinner, but I didn’t eat any of it. The fence still had faint stains, and my mind still saw the running chicken.  It was a long time before I realized what my mother tried to help me see: the chicken incident, like many things in life, was a matter of perspective.  To her, it was a generous gesture from a farmer bringing fresh chicken to a former farm woman who was probably tired of store-bought frozen chicken.  I couldn’t understand how my mother, who wouldn’t let me see THE BLOB movie, let me watch a chicken run with its head off.

Henry David Thoreau said, “The question is not what you look at, but what you see.”  And C.G. Jung said, “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”  I doubt they were referring to chickens, but possibly they were encouraging us to understand ourselves through our perspectives.

The quote I think applies most to Mom’s perspective about things that were thrown her way in life is by J.M. Barrie: “Nothing is really work unless you would rather be doing something else.”  My mother had the amazing ability to appreciate people and their good intentions, even if they caused her to change her plans or do more work.

Even before my father’s Alzheimer’s and then her own dementia, my mother was not a naïve Pollyanna. She was an intelligent, perceptive, strong-thinking realist who stood firm when necessary. She was also a good listener with a kind heart and open hands to help others. And she knew how to keep life’s chickens in perspective.

*     *    *    *   *

Tracy Karner has a superb post on CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), effective for changing a number of problems by establishing a more hopeful perspective.

http://tracyleekarner.com/2014/03/07/c-is-for-cbt-living-well-despite-everything/

A replica of vanGogh's "Three Sunflowers in a Vase" on an easel.

A replica of van Gogh’s “Three Sunflowers in a Vase” on an easel.

My husband Jim is 6'2"--and he is walking the path to the 80' tall art replica in Goodland, KS. (which should also give you a new perspective of the importance of art in small Kansas towns) These photographs by Marylin Warner

My husband Jim is 6’2″–and he is walking the path to the 80 ft. tall art replica in Goodland, Kansas (which should also give you a new perspective on the importance of art in small Kansas towns) These photographs by Marylin Warner

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Filed under art projects, Dementia/Alzheimer's, Henry David Thoreau, Kansas, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, memories for great-grandchildren, special quotations

The REAL Question

Why would you build a cairn on a hiking trail?  (All pictures by Marylin Warner)

Why would you build a cairn on a hiking trail? (All photographs by Marylin Warner)

If you suffer from angst, why would you bury a golf club in its very own, actual plot in a cemetery?

If you suffer from angst, why would you bury a golf club in its very own plot in a cemetery?

Dear Mom,

You don’t realize it, but your common sense was often ahead of the times, before theories, debates, studies and research reached the same conclusions.

For instance, when I was growing up, if kids did something wrong, said something hurtful, or got into trouble at school, usually their parents asked these questions: “How did this happen?”~ “What did you do this time?”~ “Who were you with?” or “Who’s idea was this?”  Eventually you would also learn the answers to those questions as well, but your most important question, the one you asked quietly, seriously, and while looking into my eyes was this: “Why?”

You wanted to know why I’d done something, why I’d thought it was appropriate or the only option, and if I’d considered the consequences or the pain it might cause someone else. “Why?” was the question you asked about things I’d done, as well as things I should have done but didn’t do. (In that case, it was “Why not?”—again, with emphasis on the thought process.)

Guess what, Mom?  Your main-question approach has been identified as the essential question in focusing on obstacles or goals, and effectively solving problems or being successful in careers and life. Professor Julia Bayuk’s experiments at Delaware University demonstrated that focusing on the what and the how—without fully grasping the why—can actually work against achieving desired outcomes.

It’s mid-January and individual resolutions may be floundering or forgotten entirely. Maybe there was one word that was missing from the resolution. When we made the resolution or formed a plan for reaching our desires or goals, we probably  knew WHAT we wanted to accomplish and even HOW we planned to do it, sometimes with many specific steps. But if we didn’t fully explore and understand the real and personal WHY it was important and essential in our lives, our true motivation was unclear and we were hobbled at the gate even before the race began. In the Year of the Horse–and any year, actually–that’s an almost guaranteed failure.

Here are some other insights on asking the Right Question:

“What people think of as the moment of discovery is really the discovery of the question.” ~ Jonas Salk

“In all affairs, it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.” ~Bertrand Russell

“There are no right answers to wrong questions.” ~ Ursula K. LeGuin

“If you really want to know something, also ask WHY?”~ Mary Shepherd, paraphrased

Why do we create?

Why do we create? ~ Why don’t we try to create?

Why do we wait? ~ Why don't we wait?

Why do we wait? ~ Why don’t we wait?

Why do we keep trying after we strike out?

Why do some quit after they strike out, and others who strike out step up to the plate again and again?

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Filed under art projects, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren

GEORGE, ROSEY, AND MARY

George Eliot, pseudonym for Mary Ann Evans, was a novelist, journalist and translator in the 1800s

George Eliot, pseudonym for Mary Ann Evans, was a novelist, journalist and translator in the 1800s

Mary, between her sisters Wanda and Ruth LaVonne. Mom is wearing one of the hats she created...and gave up on after awhile.

Mary, between her sisters Wanda and Ruth LaVonne. Mom is wearing one of the hats she created…and quit creating after awhile.  She finally stopped wearing hats.

Dear Mom,

“It is never too late to be what you might have been,” according to George Eliot (pseudonym used by Mary Ann Evans, 1819-1880).  For the last two posts, we’ve been discussing sewing, embroidering, knitting, etc., and quite a few of our blog friends wrote that they wished they’d been taught to do some of those crafts.

The good news is that George Eliot was right: It’s never too late.

For instance, Roosevelt “Rosey” Grier, former football player for the NY Giants and the LA Rams,  later was also a bodyguard for Robert Kennedy.  Rosey is seriously strong and rugged, and he was one of the NY Giants’ original Fearsome Foursome,  so he caught the gender-sewing issue off guard when he added needlepoint and macramé to his talents. Some of his creations became so popular that there was demand for his patterns.

And now, Mom, for my favorite “never too late” story, let’s tell our friends about your freshman year in college. At the last minute you needed a long dress for a formal dance.  When you took your gown out of the clothing bag, there was a loose thread. You pulled it, and–z-i-p!–you unraveled the entire hem.

You’d learned basic embroidery and quilting when you made your bird-pattern quilt, but you’d never learned to hem a skirt or do any practical needle work beyond sewing on buttons.

Ever resourceful, you ended up using safety pins to hold the hem in place. And when you ran out of safety pins, you finished the job with masking tape. You said that when you danced, you made an odd-sounding rustle. After that, you told Grandma you were ready and eager to learn “real” sewing.

By the time you were married and had children, you could make everything from hats (see picture) to underwear (no picture available…) You even dismantled one of your long wool winter coats and created a little coat for me. You made it with a big collar, and I was truthful when I said it made me look like “one of those people who came over on that boat.” (I think I meant the Pilgrims.) You also made a little jacket for David out of the wool, but I don’t remember him ever having to wear it.

Pablo Picasso said, “Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not. ”

I would add this, Mom. You saw what needed to be done and asked someone to teach you the basics. After that, there was no stopping you.

Picasso also said, “The chief enemy of creativity is good sense,” and  you proved this point by creating hats, underwear, and Pilgrim-style coats.  But other than those few examples, you created amazing, beautiful and useful things.               Hats off to George Eliot, Rosey Grier, and Mary Shepherd!

It's Not Too Late!

It’s Not Too Late!

Popular theme of writers and artists: Create Your Own Happiness.

Popular theme of writers and artists: Create Your Own Happiness.

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Filed under art, art projects, Dementia/Alzheimer's, Fort Scott Kansas, lessons about life, memories for grandchildren, memories for great-grandchildren, special quotations

THREADING STORIES FROM MEMORIES

My mother--and her mother and aunts--made towels, aprons and the traditional "days of the week" dish towels. (All pictures by Marylin Warner)

My mother–and her mother and aunts–made towels, aprons and the traditional “days of the week” dish towels. (All pictures by Marylin Warner)

My 1975 hand-stitched "Trees and Daffodils)

My 1975 hand-stitched “Trees and Daffodils”

Dear Mom,

Last week I wrote about needles and thread and how you taught me to sew. I also shared photos of some of the “creations” you, Molly and I made.

Our blog friends enjoyed your sewing (and teaching) talents, and many of them shared their own experiences.  Today, I’m going to share a few of their stories, Mom, because they add another talent that you, Molly and I love: writing.

Listen as I read these seeds of wonderful stories to you, and imagine the characters, the settings and the lessons :

From Jenny Pellett: Those embroidered flowers reminded me of the little tray cloths stitched by my grandmother during the war. She taught my mother and together they would while away the hours in the air-raid shelter. Mum still has them, together with some lace-edged handkerchiefs, the colours of the threads still vibrant. Heirlooms in the making.

From Rod, our Angelican priest friend in Canada: Your post reminded me that my mother taught Mugwump (my brother) and me many practical skills. As boys we learned to cook full meals – including Sunday roast, to iron, do the washing, sew on buttons (mum hated sewing on buttons, so we were on our own once taught). She also taught us leadership and commitment – and of course, love. Later she taught me to drive. So much for which to be thankful.

From my good friend Helen Armstrong in Colorado: My mother gathered all 7 of “the club” girls on our street, gave them cigar boxes with material, needles, pins, etc., and showed us how to make clothes for our dolls.  We met every week and sat on the curb in front of our house, all lined up.  After a whole summer of making one outfit, we then put on a doll play in our basement w/ sheets hanging as curtains for the stage over clothes line. The steps to the basement was where the audience sat; we sold tickets for a nickel to our production.  All the siblings were made to come to our show.

From Andrew Hardacre: Well I never learned to sew but my mother did get me to try and knit once. She did however give a love of tennis. In the 1960s she still had the old wooden ‘spoon’ of a tennis racket that she had played with many years before. Still in a press. And I learned to play with that. Parents never stop teaching us and as I frequently say, over the years I think I have turned into my father. Not such a bad thing all things considered.

And from Diana Stevan: My mother was also talented with her hands, crocheting, cross stitching, knitting but those are skills she didn’t pass on. However, I was left with the image of woman, well rounded, one with humor, a love of life, and a generosity of spirit. She was always there for her family in too many ways to enumerate and I was blessed to have her as my mother. I’m now writing a story of her beginnings during World War I in Czarist Russia, her tough childhood, and the arduous and courageous journey she and her family took to Canada. It’s my way of keeping her flame alive.

Aren’t these great stories, Mom?  Can’t you picture each story unfolding?

Today I join Jenny, Rod, Helen, Andrew, Diana, and grateful sons and daughters everywhere whose mothers taught us so many wonderful, helpful and hopeful skills.  (And for Tracy Karner, who has been embroidering a tablecloth for 3 years, keep up the good work, and when it’s finished, share pictures.  And Robyn Graham, who’s asked for a sewing machine for Christmas to do some special creating, we want to see project photographs!)

Teaching children and grandchildren to sew, paint or write is a gift they'll remember. But wait until their little minds--and hands--are ready for the lessons!

Teaching children and grandchildren to sew, paint or write is a gift they’ll remember. But wait until their little minds–and hands–are ready for the lessons!

Pikes Peak, our westside view. Remember: on cold winter days and nights, it's a perfect time to sew, write...create!

Pikes Peak, our westside view. Remember: on cold winter days and nights, it’s a perfect time to sew, write…create!

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Filed under art, art projects, CO, Dementia/Alzheimer's, Fort Scott Kansas, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, sewing, writing

THREADING FLOWERS IN WINTER

Mom's Wild Roses stitchery framed in a 36" hoop (circa 1968)(all photos by Marylin Warner)

Mary Shepherd’s Wild Roses stitchery framed in a 36″ hoop (circa 1968)(all photos by Marylin Warner)

Marylin's 20"x26" framed Mixed Wildflowers, 1973

Marylin’s 20″x26″ framed Mixed Wildflowers, 1973

1988--Mary's granddaughter, Molly, age 10, creates Clay Hand with Weaving.

1988–Mary’s granddaughter, Molly, age 10, created Clay Hand with Weaving

Dear Mom,

I remember when you taught me to thread a needle. It was a big darning needle, which assured my first attempt was successful. By the time I was ten I could thread small-eyed, delicate needles with silk thread and do basic stitches on squares of cotton cloth.

During the spring and summer, we planted bulbs and seeds so our yard—and our vases—would blossom with the beauty of flowers.  During the winter, when you created poetry and wove sentences into stories, you also ‘grew’ flowers with colorful threads that adorned pillow cases and wall hangings.  Because of you, I could use your sewing machine to ‘create’ simple shifts and jumpers by the time I was thirteen, which was about the same time I also began to ‘hunt and peck’ the words of my stories on your typewriter.

It’s almost Thanksgiving, Mom, and I am thankful for oh-so-many, many things. But as the snow falls, the temperature drops and the calendar creeps toward the end of another year, I am especially thankful for my love of sewing, growing and writing. And many other skills, too, but those are another story.

______________________________________________________

Judy Berman of http://earth-rider.com/, is a writer, teacher and former reporter whose posts I enjoy and respect immensely. Recently she nominated “Things I Want To Tell My Mother” for The WordPress Family Award.  It has been a long time since I’ve accepted awards for my blog, but several writers helped me understand that the Family Award isn’t for me and my writing…it’s for my mother and the stories of her life.  With that in mind, Judy, I gratefully accept your nomination on behalf of  Mary Shepherd.

Many of the blogs I appreciate deserve this award, and several have already received it.  This is my mother’s award, though, and so I happily nominate these three whose posts and comments I have shared with her, and whose talents and messages reflect her own.

http://robyngrahamphotography.com/

Robyn’s photography of flowers and nature is amazing and inspiring, and she includes perfect quotes like this by Robert Mapplethorpe: “When I work, and in my art, I hold hands with God.”

http://darsba.wordpress.com/

Darla McDavid writes touching and real stories about her own family; she also writes helpful, specific and supportive posts for writers of all levels. This is a combination of topics near and dear to my mother’s life…and her heart.

http://viviankirkfield.com/

Vivian’s blog is a combination of opportunities for writers, ideas for parents, activities and books for children, and recipes for everyone. It’s everything my mother enjoyed before the dementia, and even now she samples Vivian’s delicious recipes.

wordpress-family-award

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Filed under art, art projects, Dementia/Alzheimer's, Fort Scott Kansas, making a difference, memories for grandchildren, memories for great-grandchildren, The WordPress Family Award

THE BIRD THAT FEELS THE LIGHT

I painted this indoor Santa Fe birdhouse and added the bear, the eggs and the angel. It's my favorite. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

I painted this indoor Santa Fe birdhouse and added the bear, the eggs and the angel. It’s my favorite. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

I painted this birdhouse for Jim's mother, to match the colors in her house. Her address, plus !/2, for the bird address. My parents had a similar bird house in their colors.

I painted this birdhouse for Jim’s mother, to match the colors in her house. Her address, plus 1/2, for the bird address. My parents had a similar bird house in their colors.

Dear Mom,

You used to hang sturdy little bird houses in the trees around the yard and from the house eaves.  Outside your kitchen window, you kept a feeder stocked with bird seed.

I think it was your outdoor bird houses that later drew me to making decorative indoor bird houses. I knew the myths about birds flying into a house—an omen of bad luck or impending death—and I knew about ravens, not in football but in Poe’s “quoth the raven, never more.” But I also knew the church song, “I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free. His eye is on the sparrow, and He watches over me.”

The first bird house I painted for you and Dad was in the colors of your house, with brown shutters on the windows and plants on the steps. Across the front door I painted the numbers 1402 ½–your address plus one-half–an address for the birds.  When I moved you and Dad to Presbyterian Village, we left it hanging on your porch, under the eaves, with grass and yarn inside, a cozy home for the family of birds nested there.

As an English and literature teacher, I taught Langston Hughes’ lines: “Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.”

Victor Hugo wrote, “The soul has illusions as the bird has wings: it is supported by them.” And Anne Baxter wrote, “It’s best to have failure happen early in life. It wakes up the Phoenix bird in you so you rise from the ashes.”

Now, as you heal from your hip surgery, while you sleep most of the day in your bed or rest in your recliner, you seem to see and dream of other times, and you wait.

And Rabindranath Tagore wrote, “Faith is the bird that feels the light when the dawn is still dark.”  I believe you have that kind of faith, Mom. His eye is on the sparrow, and whatever happens, you trust He watches you.

Now THIS bird house would be a bad omen for birds!

Now THIS bird house would be a bad omen for birds!

Enough room for family and friends.

Enough room for family and friends.

Every writer needs a Post Office bird house.

Every writer needs a Post Office bird house.

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Filed under art, art projects, autumn lessons, Dementia/Alzheimer's, Different kinds of homes, lessons about life, Lessons from birds, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, special quotations, Spiritual connections

SORRY ‘BOUT THE DUCKS, MOM

"Four legs good, two legs bad." ~George Orwell, ANIMAL FARM. (all photos by Marylin Warner)

“Four legs good, two legs bad.” ~George Orwell, ANIMAL FARM. (all photos by Marylin Warner)

"If frogs had side pockets, they'd carry hand guns." ~ Dan Rather

“If frogs had side pockets, they’d carry hand guns.”
~ Dan Rather

Last week wasn’t what we’d planned.  It wasn’t what the ducks planned either, I’m sure, but the fox made out okay.

This week we’re getting back into the swing of things.  August is “Admit You’re Happy Month,” and since it’s still August, we going to admit we’re happy to focus on animals other than ducks.

Here are some pictures and quotes to enjoy.  (Feel free to add your own quotes…but please, no recipes for Duck a l’Orange.)

“Animals don’t lie. Animals don’t criticize. If animals have moody days, they handle them better than humans do.”  ~Betty White

“People who really appreciated animals always asked their names.”  ~Lilian Jackson Braun, The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern

“If you want to test cosmetics, why do it on some poor animal who hasn’t done anything? They should use prisoners who have been convicted of murder or rape instead. So, rather than seeing if perfume irritates a bunny rabbit’s eyes, they should throw it in Charles Manson’s eyes and ask him if it hurts.”  ~Ellen DeGeneres, My Point…And I Do Have One

I always hated those classic kid movies like Old Yeller or The Yearling where the beloved pet dies. What would be so wrong with having those damn kids learn their lessons about mortality from watching Grandpa kick? Then at least the dog would be around to comfort them.”  ~Merrill Markoe, Walking in Circles Before Lying Down

“I think using animals for food is an ethical thing to do, but we’ve got to do it right. We’ve got to give those animals a decent life and we’ve got to give them a painless death. We owe the animal respect.”  ~Temple Grandin

Handmade alligator bench.

Handmade alligator bench.

   “A few alligators are naturally of the vicious type and inclinded to resent it when you prod them with a stick.                You can find out which ones these are by prodding them.”  ~Will Cuppy

“Platypus? I thought it was pronounced platymapus. Has it always been pronounced platypus?”  ~Jessica Simpson

“And the fox said to the little prince: men have forgotten this truth, but you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.”  ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Everybody knows pottery gargoyle bells are timid animals and hide beside house plants.

Everybody knows pottery gargoyle bells are timid animals and hide beside house plants.

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Filed under art projects, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, Quilting projects, special quotations

Didn’t See THAT Coming

On our walk; Mom looks for 95, doesn't she?

On our walk; Mom looks great for 95, doesn’t she? (Photo by Susan Stapleton Foster of Fort Scott, KS)

When you can't find ducks, enjoy flowers.

When you can’t find ducks, focus on flowers.

Even with her advanced dementia, it’s something we still like to do together.  When the weather is good…when Mom is feeling good…when everything is Pretty Good, she and I like to take a walk and feed the ducks.

During this month’s trip to visit Mom in Kansas, I tucked her into the wheelchair, entrusted her with pieces of bread, and off we went. Down in the elevator, across the lobby, out the front door and into the sunshine.  As we took our regular trail along the sidewalk, around the corner and down the hill, we oohed and aahed over the colorful flowers…and made quacking sounds to summon the ducks in the fenced-in pond beyond the back patio.

Mom had bread pieces ready in her lap when we arrived. “Quack, quack!” we said again, prepared to greet the ducks and toss them food when they waddled up to greet us. But none of them came to be fed.

Mom squinted and murmured, “Ducks?”  I saw one huddled in the tall grass, but it wouldn’t come out. And then I saw the strewn feathers throughout the area, and my heart sank. As I learned later, a fox had killed them all except one duck, who now refused to come out of hiding.

O Magazine writer Lisa Kogan had this philosophical response for the days-when-things-really-go-wrong: “Even a bad haircut grows out.”

With that in mind, I told Mom we’d leave the bread on the grass for any ducks who got hungry later. I turned the wheelchair around and took the route that kept our backs to the feathers scattered around the pond. All the way back to the main doors at the entrance, I talked about happier things: the deer that followed me up the trail to my friend Helen’s house; the cute way Mom’s great-granddaughter Grace tried to help her brother Gannon on the climbing wall; the wild art that made an old metal chair so expensive.  By the time we wheeled back into the main lobby, it was time to fix something special for dinner, and the sad surprise of the missing ducks had lost its punch.

Bad haircuts, absent ducks at a pond, or days when things go wrong ~ sometimes the best we can do is take a deep breath, focus on happier things, cross our fingers and hope that “this, too, shall pass.”

An artist's paint on a metal chair = a price tag of $295.00   Hey, we could try doing that!

An artist’s paint on a metal chair = a price tag of $295.00 Hey, we could try doing that!

Grace gives Gannon suggestions for rock climbing.

Grace gives Gannon suggestions for rock climbing.

She walked with me up the trail in Manitou Sprngs, CO! (all pictures by Marylin Warner)

She walked with me up the trail in Manitou Sprngs, CO! (all pictures by Marylin Warner)

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Filed under art, art projects, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, special quotations

THE ART OF PREPARING FOR THE BEST

"Riders of the Dawn" - by Frank Tenney Johnson, 1935 (all photographs by Marylin Warner, with permission by the Broadmoor Hotel)

“Riders of the Dawn” – by Frank Tenney Johnson, 1935 (all photographs by Marylin Warner, with permission by the Broadmoor Hotel)

"Indian Weaver"- 1914 by Eanger I. Couse

“Indian Weaver”- 1914 by Eanger I. Couse

Last week’s post, “Preparing For The Best,”  offered suggestions for preparing for a visit with a loved one who suffers with Alzheimer’s or dementia.  There were many responses and additional suggestions, and I sincerely thank each of you for sharing excellent information with us.

Gallivanta of “Silkannthreades” provided this link to the “The Art Of Urging those With Dementia to Think.”  This is excellent information about the benefits of viewing art, making art and responding to art for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia. http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/8739661/The-art-of-urging-those-with-dementia-to-think

Pablo Picasso said,  “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” In my experience with the failing memories of both my parents, art also temporarily washes away the confusion of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

For instance, using the three wonderful paintings from the early 1900s, imagine viewing these very large, colorful paintings with an Alzheimer’s or dementia patient.  For “Riders of the Dawn,” the focus could be the action. Which horse do you like best? Or start with a statement: My favorite horse is this one (and point), and then ask if they agree. For early stages of dementia, you might ask, Where do you think they’re going? and let them create a story or build on a memory.

Or move on to “Indian Weaver,” and early Alzheimer’s and dementia patients might respond to the weaving and the parent and child.  The picture might trigger memories of trying to work with children around, or cute things children do.

My favorite of the three paintings is “The Peacemaker.” After breakfast at The Broadmoor Hotel’s Charles Court recently, my husband Jim and my brother David and I studied this wonderful 5’x5’ 1913 painting and debated which of the characters is REALLY the Peacemaker. Art truly does make us all think, and for those with Alzheimer’s or dementia, it might possibly be the nudge that triggers memories and responses.

There are no medical solutions for dementia and Alzheimer’s at this point, and there are no quick fixes or easy answers for helping those we love who suffer with confusion and memory loss.  Pablo Picasso says, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”  Maybe the same is true with keeping alive the attraction to art in the lives of ourselves and those we love.

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With thanks to Rod of “Just Rod” for suggesting using CDs with favorite old songs, hymns or tunes; to Diana of “The Best Chapter” for suggesting that we read aloud to our loved ones; and to Nancy of “BackPorchBreak” for suggesting we look at family pictures together.

And special thanks to Clem, a psychiatric nurse of “Zachandclem,” who gently reminds us that Alzheimer’s victims’ fury has nothing to do with actual angry emotions, but with the dementia reaching the frontal lobe.

(My sincere thanks to the 5-star Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs for allowing me to photograph some of their valuable paintings and share them with you on this blog.)

"The Peacemaker" - 1913 by Ernest L Blumenschein

“The Peacemaker” – 1913
by Ernest L Blumenschein

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Filed under art, art projects, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, making a difference, teaching