Category Archives: friends

NOW is the best time

Example of a Saturday card.  Cover message is ...but it's better than to miss a month

Example of a Saturday card. Cover message is
“Another birthday? Well, it’s better to be a year older…”  (inside message) “… than to miss a month.”



Another Hallmark Saturday card:  "Before LOL, TTYL, and OMG..." (inside message)  "...we were BFFS and didn't even know it!  Happy Birthday to my BFF."

Another Hallmark Saturday card: “Before LOL, TTYL, and OMG…” (inside message) “…we were BFFS and didn’t even know it! Happy Birthday to my BFF.”


How many of you have ever created your own greeting card?  Let’s see a show of hands (humor me, okay?)

As a child, maybe you colored flowers or boats on a folded piece of paper for someone’s birthday; or  you learned to print the message GET WELL SOON for a sick friend; or you wrote out coupons on strips of paper and gave them to your mom or dad for Christmas, promising “I’ll clean my room” or “I will not hit my brother.” Remember how much fun card writing was? And as my mom always said, the best cards are the personal ones you make yourself.

Hallmark’s Saturdays card line is your opportunity to make a card, and make some money. So dig out fun or funny or touching photos, color or black and white, and submit them to

Read through the section with all the open contests. To get you started, I’ve shared two of my favorite Saturdays Expressions cards…and their inside message lines, to show you good examples. Hallmark pays for each card, plus other perks, including a small picture of you and a clever bio sketch on the back of the card. Deadlines vary.

Maybe you’d rather write about a true aha! moment or Eureka experience. If so, submit a personal essay up to 1,500 words to the Life Lesson Essay Contest. The deadline is September 18, and first prize in $3,000.   No entry fee.

And for you poets, another no entry fee contest is Princemere Poetry Prize. Deadline is September 15 and first place is $300.

Or, work on your own writing deadline, or a photography, painting, drawing project that isn’t quite finished. Choose your creative endeavor and go for it…NOW.

Why NOW? As I was driving to visit my mom recently, I heard a radio commentator talking about the August 2014 phenomenon. The Chinese call it “Silver pockets full” and supposedly it happens once every 823 years. This month, August of 2014, there are five Fridays, five Saturdays, and five Sundays. Check your calendar, and you’ll see.

Supposedly—and there’s absolutely no scientific proof, but it’s certainly a good motivator to get busy—anytime during this month is an excellent time to follow your dreams, finish up your creative projects, expect the best…and encourage your friends to do the same.

Well, friends, what have you got to lose?

This isn't a card, but somebody used a smart concept to create this "fight breast cancer" T-shirt.  (If you don't get it, ask someone to explain it to's great!)

This isn’t a card, but somebody used a smart concept and teen reference to create this “fight breast cancer” T-shirt. (If you don’t get it, ask someone to explain it to you…it’s great!  Here’s a hint: think like a teenage boy on a date.  What does “getting to second base” mean to him?  So it’s a good breast cancer awareness slogan to “save 2nd base.”)


A display of "Saturday" cards by writers from everywhere.  (All photos by Marylin Warner)

A display of Hallmark’s “Saturday” cards by writers from everywhere. (Photos by Marylin Warner)


Filed under art, art projects, Dementia/Alzheimer's, friends, lessons about life, writing, writing contest with cash prizes, writing exercises


Mom's fashion "style" was to create her own fashions, even an occasional hat. (picture is property of Marylin Warner; all others in this post taken by Marylin Warner)

Mom’s “style” was to create her own fashions, even an occasional hat. (picture is property of Marylin Warner; all other pictures in this post taken by Marylin Warner)





Mary's great-grand-daughter has her own writing style...sidewalk chalk.

Mary’s great-grand-daughter has her own writing style…with.sidewalk chalk.

STYLE: a manner of doing something; a way of painting, speaking, writing, dressing, composing, or creating. Note: Do not confuse this kind of style with stile, as in turnstile, unless your style is to go back and forth, passing through gates.

Some of my mother’s friends’ clothing and jewelry styles were strongly influenced by French designer Coco Chanel’s casual chic designs. Many of them also wore her signature perfume, Chanel No. 5.   Mom wasn’t a big fan of Chanel No. 5, and since she made most of her clothes, she didn’t imitate many of the outfit trends. But during an interview, Coco said one thing that Mom applauded: “Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street; fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.”

I took Mom to a writing workshop at Avila College years ago, and the question of writers’ styles came up. Here are some of the “famous” quotes that made sense to her: “I don’t think writers compete. I think they’re all doing separate things in their own style.” ~ Elmore Leonard. And this one by Raymond Chandler: “The most durable thing in writing is style. It is a projection of personality and you have to have personality before you can project it. It is the product of emotion and perception.”

The one that made Mom laugh was by William Battie, the English physician who in 1758 wrote the first lengthy book about treating mental illness: “Style is when they’re running you out of town and you make it look like you’re leading the parade.” It seemed logical to Mom that showing confidence even when you didn’t actually feel it was good advice for writers, since there was so much rejection.

The one specific bit of advice she followed was about improving writing style: “Cut out all of those exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald     Mom read through her writing samples, and each time she found an exclamation point she studied it carefully…and then often removed it.

I miss many of my mother’s qualities and abilities that have been dulled or destroyed by dementia.

Going through her big box marked MARY’S WRITING, I love reading her notes and quotes about writing and all kinds of creativity. If I read them aloud to her, she might smile and nod, but there’s no longer any true recognition.

So I’ll share them with you. That was my mother’s style, to share ideas and information and activities with her friends, and if it weren’t for the dementia, she would be very happy to count you all among her friends. She really would.


An old house gets a new "style lift" ~ a bold and beautiful new paint job.

An old house gets a “style lift” with a bold and beautiful new paint job.

Practical Art style ~ turn a public trash can into an art display (Abliene, KS)

Practical Art style ~ turn a public trash can into an art display (Abliene, KS)

Maybe your style is to combine your favorite car and your favorite sport: get a BMW golf cart  (and it's for sale!)

Maybe your style is to combine your favorite car and your favorite sport: get a BMW golf cart (and look, it’s for sale!)

"Recycling Style"-- an old tire gets new life as a child's tree swing.

“Recycling Style”– an old tire gets new life as a child’s tree swing.


Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, friends, Kansas, special quotations, writing


Penny, the visiting dog who waddles in for pats. (Photographs by Marylin Warner)

Penny, the visiting dog who waddles in for pats. (Photographs by Marylin Warner)

All we need love & a dog

Mom and I hold her great-granddaughter Grace's Flat Stanley project.

Mom and I hold her great-granddaughter Grace’s Flat Stanley project.

I’ve been asked, many times, exactly what it is I do when I visit my mother each month.  From my house in Colorado to her assisted living apartment in Kansas, it’s a round-trip drive of 1,300 miles.  English poet George Herbert wrote, “Every mile is two in winter,” and between November and March, I brace myself for bad roads.

In Colorado I’m busy with friends and family, writing and editing, organizations and activities, and taking hikes with my husband and our dog, as well as being open to all kinds of plans and adventures.  In Kansas, within limits, Mom and I might eat the foods I bring, take walks outside in nice weather (I walk and she rides in the wheelchair), watch television and “play beauty shop.”  She will ask questions, sometimes the same ones again and again, including asking if I’m someone she knows, which is the nature of dementia.  I also know that we’ll sit quietly together in the living room while she naps.  In other words, I spend a lot of time waiting.

Before you nod off or retch in your shoes at this Dickens-type dreary scenario, let me say this: I’ve also found that while I wait, I learn. A lot. Seriously. And I always leave a little smarter than I arrived.

For instance, because I have time to read magazines and newspapers and flip through the channels on my mother’s television, I learn information I never would have had time for on a regular, busy day.  Some of what I learn is a little strange. Like the article about the wife who donated one of her kidneys to save her husband’s life…and now she wants it back. It seems he was mighty grateful at first, but now he’s having an affair, and she’d like to give the kidney to someone who deserves it.  Anyone want to debate that issue?

There are also happy lessons, reminders of  “the kindness of strangers.”  There is always some quiet, kind, unexpected gesture from one of the caregivers that reminds me that the little things make a big difference. And then there’s the man who visits the residents and brings his little dog Penny to waddle in for pats and smiles. Or the friends who’ve sent me amazing links that finally I have time to watch: this Tchaikovsky Flashwaltz at the Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem is the most stunning example of  “the kindness of strangers” I’ve ever seen. Please, do yourself a favor and invest two minutes…you’ll be astounded:

I also glean all kinds of health information from the magazines stacked in the mail room. Seriously, I now know the most important times to drink water to be healthy:   2 glasses of water after waking up helps activate internal organs             ~ 1 glass of water 30 minutes before a meal  helps digestion  ~ 1 glass of water before taking a bath/shower regulates blood pressure  ~ 1 glass of water before going to bed helps you avoid a stroke or heart attack.    Yea! for H2O!!!

Mostly, though, each month I’m reminded of basic truths:  1) Our mothers were right ~ a smile does make all the difference;  2) When we pause to visit with someone who is sitting alone or has nowhere to go, it’s a very good thing for both of us;  3) Slowing down, taking time to wait and think, to watch and listen and learn, is actually a gift.

February is the shortest month of the year.  No matter where we live, no matter what our age or health or economic status, for all of us there are only twenty-eight days this month.  If you have an opportunity to sit with an elderly relative or friend who knows who you are–or doesn’t even know who she is–who is healing from surgery or just hoping for a visitor, I encourage you to welcome the opportunity. You may have to sit quietly for a while and wait, but there’s a good chance you will learn something important.

Leave it to the Brits to have fun!  The Little Tikes for kids (on right) is now for adults, too. I learned that they're windowless, have seat belts, and can go up to 70 miles per hour!

Leave it to the Brits to have fun! The Little Tikes for kids (on right) is now for adults, too. I learned that they’re windowless, have seat belts, and can go up to 70 miles per hour!


Filed under Colorado Springs, Dementia/Alzheimer's, Fort Scott Kansas, friends, importance of doing good things, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, memories for great-grandchildren, Special days in February


"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             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  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


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


Cheryl Maberry Blacklidge

Cheryl Blacklidge


“We’ll be Friends Forever, won’t we, Pooh?” asked Piglet.

“Even longer,” Pooh answered.  ~A.A. Milne, author of  Winnie-the-Pooh

Dear Mom,  You have received a special message from the daughter of some special friends.

Cheryl (Maberry) Blacklidge grew up in Ft. Scott. Now she lives with her husband and son in Mississippi.  Enjoy her birthday letter to you, Mom!  Love, Marylin



When I realized that it was your 95th  birthday, I decided it was way past time to write to you and let you know something that has been on my mind for quite some time now.  Recently I read Debbie Macomber’s book God’s Guest List.  It is about all the guests that God sends to each of us as gifts though out our lifetime.  You are certainly one of those guests/gifts he sent to me. I hope you somehow know what a wonderful gift you have been to me.

My first recollections of you are from some of my earliest days at First Christian Church.  I love to hear the story mom tells about how you and she were the first two women to break the “hat rule” and attend church hatless. Thank you – I never have cared much for wearing hats.  I also  remember you always going out of your way to welcome, with that beautiful smile of yours, everyone who came to church. There were also those great CGF dinners that you helped us cook and then enjoy, as we talked about God, church, and life – not always in that order, but all three were always included.

Our families have had such a close connections since our first meetings through the church.  You and Mom worked together on so many projects, from VBS to painting the Sunday School Rooms to working in the kitchen to prepare Sunday church dinners. I know Daddy and Ray always felt a close connection through the church and through the Masons.  I’ll never forget hearing Daddy and Ray visiting together not too long before Daddy died.  Their conversation was mostly about memories, but shortly before Ray left that evening, they hugged and agreed that they had felt like brothers throughout their friendship.   It still brings tears when I remember the closeness they shared that night.

Because of you, I know Marylin and David (as well as their families) and consider them to be dear friends.  David has been such a strong and faithful leader at First Christian Church, and in Fort Scott.  He has also “been there” for me when I needed any kind of help – like the Sunday morning when I called him in panic to tell him that someone had hit and seriously damaged my car in the night and I didn’t know what to do about it. He calmly assured me that he would see to it that the body shop would take good care of it.  David convinced me that it wasn’t the end of the world.

Marylin has been there for me many times, also.  Marylin welcomed me into her home so many times and then even invited me to live with her and Molly the summer that she and I attended classes at Colorado College.  She is the kind of friend that no matter how long it has been since we visited, our conversations start off as though we have talked just the day before.  I know I could go to either David or Marylin if I had a problem and they would be there for me, just like you and Ray always were.

Happy Birthday, Mary. Love from my family to yours.  Cheryl

Cheryl's retirement picture

Cheryl’s retirement picture



Filed under birthday celebrations, Debbie Macomber's GOD'S GUEST LIST, Dementia/Alzheimer's, First Christian Church, Fort Scott Kansas, friends, lessons about life, Madison Mississippi, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, Things to be thankful for


Grace Shipley's engagement picture.

Picture of Grace Shipley’s engagement to   Ivan Ray Shepherd

Grace's son Ray at one year, and at age 5, two years after Grace's death.

Grace and Ivan’s son Ray at one year, and at age 6, three years after Grace’s death.

Dear Mom,

When your granddaughter Molly came for a visit and brought her children, Grace and Gannon, I reminded you that Grace had been named for Dad’s mother, a devoted and loving young woman who died of meningitis when Dad was only three years old.  When I told you this, you shook your head and said, “Oh?” And later, when I tried again, you asked, “Do I know her?  Was she my friend?”

No, Mom, you never actually knew Grace Shipley Shepherd.  But I do believe that you two became friends because of your grateful heart for the woman who gave birth to the baby…who grew into the man you married.

You don’t remember this, but thirty-eight years ago you wrote a poem to Grace.  You sometimes felt her presence, the spirit of the woman who lost her battle against a horrible disease and could not stay to take care of the little boy she loved so much.  You also wrote some beautiful, very personal letter-type essays to Grace, but I know you wouldn’t want those shared, so I won’t.

Here, Mom, is your poem “To Grace,” your tribute and comfort to the woman who had to leave her child behind.  Sometimes during clear moments when I’ve shown you pictures of Dad as a baby, held by his smiling mother, Grace, you pause and close your eyes.  I like to believe that now Dad is gone, reunited with the mother he lost too soon, he and Grace both smile and send their love and thanks to you.

TO GRACE, 1897-1922   ~  by Mary E. Shepherd

I watch him sleep, so like a little boy,

Content so long as his hand touches mine.

Husband, dad and granddad kind and dear,

The glint of dreams come true when our eyes meet.


I think of how, a three year old, he lost you,

His mother, whom he loved so very much.

You were so ill, a terrible pain within you,

Unable to express the love you knew.


Then when you died he sat in his daddy’s arms,

Aware that something great had left his life.

And when he looked upon your lifeless face

He searched in vain for the sweet smile he knew.


No one could take the place of his lost loved one,

Though his dad was good and did the best he could.

Grandma became the one who understood, his mainstay,

To help him through the years a young boy knew.


For fifty years my dearest, my husband and a little boy!

I’ve known the love you planted in his heart.

Kind, good, and loving, he shares my life each day,

As many paths we have traveled, side by side.


Together we have loved our little boy:

The one you gave to me.  

Engagement picture of Mary Elizabeth and Ray(Grace's son)

Engagement picture of Mary Elizabeth and Ray (Grace’s son)

Mary and Ray's great-grandchildren, Gannon (left) and Grace, named for Ray's mother, Grace

Mary and Ray’s great-grandchildren, Gannon (left) and  Grace  (named for Ray’s mother)


Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, friends, lessons about life, making a difference, Mary Shepherd's poetry, memories for great-grandchildren, Spiritual connections


Chicken soup. It's not just for colds and flu.  (All pictures by Marylin Warner)

Chicken soup. It’s not just for colds and flu. (All pictures by Marylin Warner)

Dear Mom,

When I began writing this blog, my goal was to remember, collect and record as many special memories about you as possible so your grandchildren and great-grandchildren could know how special and wonderful you are. Along the way, you’ve had hours and days when your dementia took a break, and I’ve read to you some of the blog posts and comments from the readers.

This week I would have loved for you to be alert and aware enough to read a very special email from a wonderful friend you and I met through this blog. (  In our blog last week, I reminded readers about the upcoming April 10 “Encourage a Young Writer” Day. Here is an excerpt of Darla McDavid’s reply:

Hi, Marylin:

I spoke with Chiara for Encourage a Young Writer Day.  Chiara is a fourth grade student who wants to write “adventure and fantasy books” when she grows up. I told Chiara your mother’s name and age, and explained how Mary would love to be standing with her right then to encourage her, if only she could. Then I spoke in Mary’s name and encouraged her to follow that dream. Chiara smiled as she listened.She said to tell your mother “Thank you,” spoken in that pure, sincere way of a child…

With many, many thanks to Darla. Because of her kindness, April 10 also became the day to Encourage an Older Writer and Her Mother.  Each month when I visit you in Kansas, Mom, I will read aloud to you Darla’s full account of working with Chiara. During one of our visits, I believe you will understand and know what a gift this was. To Chiara, to you…and to me.

For the rest of us, it’s no secret that we live in difficult times, face pressures and problems, and often feel overwhelmed by the many demands and disappointments. How do you survive…and thrive?  If you have an experience, a special technique or routine for meeting and defeating obstacles, how about sharing it with others?  In the words of Marcus Aurelius, “The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.”

Here are the full details for an excellent writing opportunity from Santa Fe.

30 Days to Sanity: We Want Your Stories!

Do you have heartwarming, insightful, and powerfully moving true stories about how to stay sane in this chaotic 24/7 world? A co-author of the New York TimesBest-selling book series Chicken Soup for the Soul is currently seeking personal stories to be included in 30 Days to Sanity, an online stress/resiliency program. We’re looking for inspirational true stories that give a personal account of an event, an obstacle overcome, a strategy to remain sane, or a lesson learned that helps the reader discover basic principles they can use in their own lives.

Some of the topics we will include are: Getting to Know Yourself, Your Needs & Dreams, Getting Your Priorities Straight, Learning to Listen to Your Heart, Discovering Your Passion, Setting Aside Time for You, Balancing Work & Family, Building a Soulful Community, Learning to Love Your Body, Taking a Mini-Vacation or Playcation, Setting Limits Both at Work and at Home, Putting Technology to Work for You, Making a Meaningful Contribution to the World, Growing From the Bumps in Your Life, Making Technology Free Times to Truly Connect, Creating a Space Just For You, Making Sacred Time for Your Family, Eliminating Time Wasters and Energy Suckers, Managing Technology, Banishing Your Guilt, Celebrating Your Gifts and Strengths, Expressing Appreciation to a Friend or Loved One, Asking for Help or Support, Discovering an Attitude of Gratitude, Using Life as Your Teacher, Cultivating Compassion, or Comic Relief (humorous stories about funny things you’ve done while stressed).  Submit as many stories as you’d like.

Story Length: Up to 1,200 words  Submission Deadline: June 1, 2013

Compensation: $100 one-time use fee for each story accepted for publication

Submit to: stephanie@30daystosanitycom or to 30 Days to Sanity, Box 31453, Santa Fe, NM 87594-1453 (please keep copies as we are unable to return submissions).

How Do You Stay Sane During Rough and Tumble Times???

Do you turn lemons into lemonade?

Do you turn lemons into lemonade?

Do you pray and light a candle?

Do you pray and light a candle?

Do you cuddle with a buddy?

Do you cuddle with a buddy?


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