Category Archives: art

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”

 

84 Comments

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

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.

73 Comments

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!

54 Comments

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

75 Comments

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

NOVEMBER…REMEMBER

"Sunshine and Shadow" quilt that reminds me of my parents' lives (photographs by Marylin Warner)

“Sunshine and Shadow” quilt that reminds me of my parents’ lives (photographs by Marylin Warner)

Ray and Mary Shepherd's engagement picture

Ray and Mary Shepherd’s engagement picture

Their 60th Anniversary picture; Estes Park, CO

Their 60th Anniversary picture; Estes Park, CO

My parents were married for nearly sixty-eight years.  They were best-friends-forever; their marriage was built on love, respect, hard work, faith and family.

The first quilt I ever made was a wall quilt diagonal version of the Amish pattern, “Sunshine and Shadow.” When I look at it now, I see the fabric of my parents’ life together. Bright, vivid or subtle shades of sunshine…until the shadows of Alzheimer’s and dementia wove their way into the pattern.

In this pre-Thanksgiving post, I thank all of you who have encouraged and participated in this blog. Those of you who submitted your poetry, Christmas memories and Mother’s Day greeting cards to the blog’s writing contests in my mother’s honor; those of you who write personal comments to us, open comments on the blog, or share your own experiences and stories; those of you who drop by for a visit, try a recipe, comment on your writing projects and ours ~ I’m thankful for you all.  My mother would be, too, if she could understand how wonderful you all are.

If you would like to get a closer look at Fort Scott, Kansas, where I grew up and now visit Mom each month, for some excellent pictures from blogger Claudia’s recent autumn trip, go to  http://claudiapagebookie.blogspot.com/             Fort Scott was a pre-Civil War fort in southeastern Kansas, and it still has miles of brick streets and fascinating Victorian homes; it is also the boyhood home of writer/photographer Gordon Parks (visit Ft. Scott Community College and the Fine Arts Center and Gordon Parks Center).

Last week I shared two of my mother’s Haiku poems with you. Diana Bletter of  http://thebestchapter.com/  wrote this in reply:   Mother’s lamp gone out ~ Her words do not come easy ~ Love is what remains… “That’s the haiku I wrote for you and your mother after reading your post. The poems and art and love remain behind! Marylin, thanks for sharing this! It is a great reminder for me after the loss of my own mother. Thank you. ~ Diana”

My thanks to you, Diana, for the poem and the reminder that yes, in many ways, we are all in this together. You’re in Israel; I’m in Colorado, traveling every month to Kansas, the state where you also once lived, and yet we met through our blogs.

November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month.  According to the 2013 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures, 1 in 9 Americans age 65-85, and 32% over 85 have Alzheimer’s or dementia.  Last year I posted a piece on Pat Summitt, who coached the U.S. women’s basketball team to an Olympic Gold medal in 1984; she also coached TN’s Lady Vols basketball team to 8 national titles. In April, 2011, she faced her toughest opponent when she was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. A year later she retired from coaching, but her determination to win continued.

“I hope I can encourage others living with Alzheimer’s disease to continue living their lives,” she says. “Keep fighting, keep living, keep making the most of every day.”

Pat Summitt, whose hardest opponent now is Alzheimer's

Pat Summitt, whose toughest opponent now is Alzheimer’s

59 Comments

Filed under art, Dementia/Alzheimer's, Fort Scott Kansas, friends, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, Things to be thankful for

DANCING IN THE DARK

 

Colorado Blue Moon, 2013. (All photos by Marylin Warner.)

Colorado Blue Moon, 2013. (All photos by Marylin Warner.)

Picture of "Starry Night" by van Gogh, 1889.

Picture of “Starry Night” by van Gogh, 1889.

Dear Mom,

It was during the night, very late, and the only sound was rain tapping on my bedroom window. I woke up, not because of the rain, but because my leg hurt. When I reached under the sheet, I touched something warm and sticky, and it burned.

I was nine years old, and when I turned on the bedside lamp, I saw the blood.

This would be a cute place to say, Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!  But there was nothing cute about my leg…or my panic. I called out to you.

You took me into the bathroom and carefully cleaned the front of my calf. As you put medicine and band-aids on the wound, you told me a story.

It was about a mother who heard the front door of the house slowly open in the middle of the night. She jumped out of bed and ran down the hall to make sure her daughter was all right, but it was her daughter who had opened the door. The girl walked outside, went down the porch steps, out onto the lawn in her nightgown. She began wandering around, doing a little dance around the trees and plants. She was sleepwalking.

The mother watched to be sure the girl didn’t wander away or go out into the street, but she didn’t want to wake her because she had heard that to wake a sleepwalker could cause more problems than it solved.  Also, though, the mother and her daughter were both sleep talkers, and they were both good people, so the mother didn’t worry too much about the girl sleepwalking.

She silently watched her daughter until lightning crackled in the distance and it began to rain. She softly called out that it was time to come in now. For a minute or so the girl continued to sway in the rain, lifting her face to the splatters. Then she made her way back to the porch. She fell going up the concrete steps, but she didn’t awaken. She got up, walked into the house, into her bedroom and got into her bed. The mother took a Christmas bell from the hall closet and hung it on the door knob of the front door, just in case.

I think of that night now, Mom. You were there for me, calm and unflappable. Reassuring. There were other times I walked in my sleep after that, but it was inside the house, and several times the sound of a Christmas bell ringing on the front door knob woke me. We both continued to talk in our sleep.

Mom, you’re ninety-five years old now, and it’s my turn to be your calm, reassuring presence when I’m visiting you. During the night when you whisper to Grandma or Dad or one of your siblings who’ve all gone on ahead, I listen from the hall and wait. When you finish you will often get out of bed and walk to the bathroom or wander around your apartment, and usually you have no idea where you are or what you’re doing.  Just to be safe, I hang bells from the knob of your apartment’s front door in case you try to wander too far.

As you once told me, we’re both sleep talkers and we’re good people.  Plus, we’re family, and that says it all.

“Love begins by taking care of the closest ones – the ones at home.”  ~Mother Teresa

My mom and her siblings.  (l to r) Sam (father of my cousin Sandee); Ira (father of Beth and Glee); Mary Elizabeth, my mother; Wanda (mother of Karen); and Ruth LaVonne (for current pictures of the girl cousins, go to the post, "Keepers of Memories"

My mom and her siblings. (l to r) Sam (father of my cousin Sandee); Ira (father of Beth and Glee); Mary Elizabeth, my mother; Wanda (mother of Karen); and Ruth LaVonne; (for current pictures of the girl cousins, go to the post, “Keepers of the Memories”)

Abilene, Kansas' Old Town in the evening.

Abilene, Kansas’ Old Town in the evening.

75 Comments

Filed under art, autumn lessons, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, special quotations, Spiritual connections, Things to be thankful for

YELLING AT TREES

Old Colorado City Library. Knitters prepare the tree for winter. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

Old Colorado City Library. Knitters prepare the tree for winter. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

Bare trees are ready for winter on eastern plains of Colorado

Bare trees are ready for winter on eastern plains of Colorado

The Tree Lady waits...you'd better not yell at her!

The Tree Lady waits…you’d better not yell at her!

Dear Mom,

You don’t remember any of the essays from Fulghum’s book ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN. I used to read excerpts of his book to you, and one essay made both of us shake our heads and laugh.

Supposedly, if natives in the Solomon Islands needed to cut down a tree that was too large to be felled with an ax, they yelled at it. Woodsmen with special powers crept up on the tree at dawn and screamed at it. Really loud. They did this for thirty days, and after the yelling killed the spirit of the tree, it fell over. (Note: I checked Wickipedia, and this “fact” is still up for debate. In the past, when Solomon Islanders had only very basic tools and no metal for their axes, who knows for sure what they did?)

I remember we wondered who would sneak up on trees and yell at them (other than islanders without axes).  One year in school, my class kept two plants in the classroom for an experiment. We were to ignore or talk mean to one plant, but smile and say nice, encouraging things to the other, and see what happened.  Of course we all know what the lesson was supposed to be, but I don’t remember if our project proved the point or not. I wasn’t the only one who felt sad for the ignored plant, so I think others also would sneak in nice words, encouragement and smiles to help it out. We weren’t good scientists, but we were nice kids.

Now, even though your dementia is very advanced and you often don’t know who I am, who you are or where you are, your basic kind, gentle and sweet personality has remained the same. I can’t imagine you yelling at a tree, a helpless plant, or a person, either. Okay, once, when the neighborhood bully tried to sic his dog on me and you flew out of the house and stopped him. But other than for emergencies, I never heard you yell.

I recently read that actress Reese Witherspoon had this to say this about yelling: “If you are not yelling at your kids, you are not spending enough time with them.”

I think she was probably trying to be funny–and show she was on top of things–but I don’t think you’d agree with her.

You spent a great deal of time with children, Mom, and you showed us by example that we didn’t have to yell, scream, hit, pinch or bite to communicate. I also remember that when I did resort to yelling or screaming, your response was usually to pause, take a deep breath, and send me to my room to think about things and come up with a better plan.

Thanks, Mom, for your example then…and for you example now.    Love, Marylin

_________________________________________________

P.S. to readers:  Tracy Karner is a creative, energetic advocate for building a ‘community’ of bloggers with recipes, travel pieces and terrific photographs.  This week she has featured a short piece about my mom…and Mom’s recipe for “Eggs ala Goldenrod”—which is very good, especially at this time of year!  Stop by!  http://tracyleekarner.com/2013/10/18/its-october-join-our-pumpkin-party/

Abilene KS tree, broken by lightning and wind, not by yelling.

Abilene KS tree, broken by lightning and wind, not by yelling.

Blowing in the wind? Or is someone yelling at it? (Watercolor by Marylin Warner)

Blowing in the wind? Or is someone yelling at it? (Watercolor by Marylin Warner)

65 Comments

Filed under art, autumn lessons, Dementia/Alzheimer's, Fort Scott Kansas, importance of doing good things, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren

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.

57 Comments

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

THE WORD IS “CREATE”

Hand-carved chair backs. (All pictures by Marylin Warner.)

Hand-carved chair backs. (All pictures by Marylin Warner.)

Hand-stitched dish towel.

Hand-stitched dish towel.

The sampler Mom began, and I finished.

The sampler Mom began, and I finished.

Dear Mom,

Let’s build on my assignment from elementary school. I was given the word “Home” to look up in the dictionary, and then I was to ask at least three people what the word meant to them. (For those of you who are wondering what’s going on, “Home is…” was the title of last week’s post.)

Let’s pretend that our assignment word this week is “CREATE.”  The dictionary definition is “…to generate, to bring into being, to shape or forge.”

Instead of interviewing people directly, let’s look at some examples of things created during your life, Mom.  First, in the picture above, is the hand carved chair top from your mother’s dining room set. Grandma’s dining room table and chairs now grace cousin Beth’s house in Georgia, where the “girl cousins” enjoyed our meals when we got together ten days ago.  We’re not sure who did the carving of the ornate faces, but Grandma’s chairs were a source of fascination for all her grandchildren and guests. Why have plain chairs, when you can create conversation pieces and works of art? (I always thought they looked like Old Man Wind blowing up a storm.)

While the cousins were sorting through and dividing the collectibles and keepsakes, we found examples of crocheted and tatted edges on pillow cases and sheets, plus stacks of hand-sewn dish towels. Some of the towels were hand-stitched in ornate details, but I chose the simple-stitch one of a nursery rhyme because of the creative change:  “…and the cup ran away with the…knife?”  Looks like a stitcher’s sense of humor to me!

And remember the cross-stitch sampler of your motto: My Days is Complete… I Heard a Child Laugh. When I moved you and Dad from the house to assisted living, I found the unfinished sampler tucked away for safekeeping. I got matching thread and finished it and had it framed. Now it hangs on the wall for your great-grandchildren to read and know how both of us love to hear children laugh and be happy.

This week when I came to visit you, Mom, I brought a quilt we found among the boxes of quilt pieces and handmade keepsakes. Your mother made this quilt many years ago, and the “girl cousins” send it to you with love, to cuddle beneath as you heal from your hip surgery. When I tucked the quilt around your shoulders, I thought of your “First” quilt that now hangs on a wall in our house. You were in your teens when you hand-stitched twenty different birds on twenty squares of cotton salvaged from your father’s and siblings’ white shirts and blouses. You, Grandma, and some of the aunts hand-pieced the squares with green and pink cloth, and then hand-quilted the entire quilt top to an under-side. You once told me it took you almost a year from start to finish, sewn in the evenings during the fall, winter and spring months. It was too hot to sew in summer.

Based on these and many other examples, I would add this to the definition of “CREATE”: “…to add artistic expression to the making of practical, useful necessities; to leave a uniquely personal signature on even common things.”

Maybe our blog friends will share their definitions and examples of the word “Create.”

While Mom recuperates from hip surgery, she stays warm under a quilt made by her mother.

While Mom recuperates from hip surgery, she stays warm under a quilt made by her mother.

The Bird Quilt, the first quilt Mom made.

The Bird Quilt, the first quilt Mom made.

73 Comments

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

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)

70 Comments

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