Category Archives: importance of doing good things

WHAT WE LEARN WHILE WE WAIT

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:   http://safeshare.tv/w/OXHZUxUXXN

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!

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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

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)

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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

ALL WE REALLY NEED TO KNOW

Rules adults, children...and politicians should know and follow are in this book.  (All photos by Marylin Warner)

Rules adults, children…and politicians should know and follow are in this book. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

 

Kindergarten teacher Mary Shepherd (3rd from left, back row) in 1944

Kindergarten teacher Mary Shepherd (3rd from left, back row) in 1944.  An added note: Beth, my cousin in Georgia–her picture playing the flute is in the post “Keepers of Memories” — and she told me she is the girl second from the left end on the first row! But she wasn’t in my mother’s class! For Beth’s funny story, read her comment at the end of the post.

Dear Mom,

Author and astrophysicist Carl Sagan wrote, “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”   Robert Fulghum, a Unitarian minister, simplified what we really need to know in his successful 1988 book, ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN: Uncommon Thoughts on Common Things.

The book grew out of  Fulghum’s speech at a primary school celebration where Senator Dan Evans happened to be in the audience. Evans was so moved by the basic truths in the speech that it was eventually read into the Congressional Record.  Major newspapers picked it up, and the rest was history.

Fulghum’s basic premise is that the wise rules needed to develop successful children and adults (and politicians, too, obviously) are found not in hallowed halls…but in sandboxes and on the playgrounds of life.  Here are a few of Fulghum’s short, simple and honest rules: Clean up your own mess…Don’t take things that aren’t yours…Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody…Wash your hands before you eat…Flush.

I bought Fulghum’s book for you when it first came out, Mom. As a former kindergarten teacher, you applauded the basic life truths, and you told me stories from the classroom, from teaching Sunday school and substituting in elementary classrooms…and also funny (and sometimes embarrassing) stories from when David and I were children.

That was many years ago. Now, as you lie in your bed after hip surgery, you don’t remember your stories or the successes you had raising your own children and helping other children. But I remember many of the stories, which is why I write this blog, so your great-grandchildren (and others) will know some of the many good things you did that made a difference.

It’s October now, Mom, and I remember one of your basic rules from this time of year:  When someone has raked a pile of leaves and you jump in it, afterwards be sure you rake it up again.  (Remember how we used to burn our piles of leaves–with you and Dad supervising, of course– and how wonderful the scent was on chilly autumn evenings?)

Here are some of your other “Basic Wisdom” rules I remember:  Eat an apple—or at least some slices—every day… When someone says mean things to you, the best way to get over it is to say nice things to someone else… When you borrow something, return it in better condition than it was… It’s better to take birthday treats for the whole class than to have a full birthday party and invite only some of the class but leave out others.

Mom, thanks to you and Robert Fulghum for teaching us the basic rules that everyone should follow to make the world a better place.

Maybe our blog friends will share some basic rules they learned! 

Ray and Mary's great-grandchildren making their own music.

Ray and Mary’s great-grandchildren making their own music.

Mary and Ray's children, Marylin and David, as young children.

Mary and Ray’s children, Marylin and David.

Chapman, KS elementary students learning team work.  Good job!

Chapman, KS elementary students learning team work. Good job!

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Filed under autumn lessons, Chapman KS, Dementia/Alzheimer's, importance of doing good things, kindergarten lessons about life, lessons about life, memories for great-grandchildren, special quotations

THE DIFFERENCE ONE PERSON CAN MAKE

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. (http://www.darlawrites.com/)  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?

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

YOU CAN’T BLAME GRAVITY

TinMan & girlfriend IMG_2189

Goodbye Oz: The Tin Man has moved to Abilene, KS

Dear Mom,

In several polls to determine readers’ favorites from Dorothy’s traveling companions in THE WIZARD OF OZ, Tin Man is often in third place. Sometimes he even comes in fourth, behind Toto, her little dog.

But no matter. In this blog, this week, The Tin Man is our featured star. He’s in love! Really. We don’t know his girlfriend’s name, but you have to admit, they make a shiny couple. If we can’t quite see the attraction, we’ll chalk it up to love being blind. As Albert Einstein said, “You can’t blame gravity for falling in love.”

We can give the credit for the creation of Tin Man and Dotty (I named them that) to the staff of the Dickinson County Transfer Station near Abilene, Kansas. Their creation is not a monster made of body parts dug up in cemeteries like Mary Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN, but a fun couple made of disposable electronics recycled into something new.

In THE WIZARD OF OZ, two of Tin Man’s lines make him my favorite character. The first is when he’s about to lose his friend Dorothy: “Now I know I’ve got a heart, ‘cause it’s breaking.” The other is his wisdom about the measure of love: “It’s not how much you love, but how much you are loved by others.”

That’s the quote I dedicate to you, Mom. You have always had a tremendous capacity to love others, to respect, accept, befriend and help them. And now, at 94 when your dementia, frailty and confusion limit the love you can offer others, the Karma of love has come full circle back to you. Can you feel the love, Mom? I hope so. It’s there.

grandma kiss Gannon

Mary Shepherd sharing love and hugs with great-grandson, Gannon.
(all photos by Marylin Warner)

___A NOTE TO READERS FROM TIN MAN AND DOTTIE: ___

Our nation dumps between 300-400 million electronic items per year, and less than 20% of that e-waste is recycled.  www.dosomething.org/actnow/tipsandtools/11-facts-about-e-waste

junk in landfill

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HOW TO BUILD A SURVIVOR

Nancy’s favorite family photo, 1995

4 roses: three have already bloomed, one is still in the process
(photo by Marylin Warner ~ a tribute to Joel, Adam, Seth…and Nancy)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you say to a woman who is fighting breast cancer?  What do you say to a woman when her almost 13-year-old son dies in a plane crash? And when her 11-year-old son dies, too…along with her beloved husband?  What can you possibly say?

In this case, the most meaningful answer is what Nancy Saltzman says to us.

If there is one must-read nonfiction book for you to buy for yourself or to give to those you love this season, it’s the honest, unforgettable, touching and inspiring RADICAL SURVIVOR: One Woman’s Path Through Life, Love, And Uncharted Tragedy. In the book’s 242 pages—with 62 ordinary, wonderful pictures—you are welcomed into the extraordinary lives of the Saltzman and Herzog families. From the first chapter, “How To Build A Survivor,” you share in the joys and sorrows…and the triumph of love, hope and determination.

The author, Dr. Nancy Saltzman, is a treasured voice throughout Colorado, an educator, writer and a strong, loving reminder of what it was–and still is–to be Joel’s wife, the mother of Adam and Seth, and a cancer survivor.

November is Thanksgiving, and it is also American Indian Heritage Month. Chief Seattle wrote: “Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are wound together. All things connect.”

Saltzman’s book gives thanks for years, moments and memories; it also reminds us of the true web connecting us all with what is important, real…and lasting.

Thank you, Nancy, for RADICAL SURVIVOR, and for your kind support of this blog. Last month I read your mother’s letters to you (from your book) to my mother. The web of connection between mother and daughter is strong, as is the strength of the web that even death cannot break.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

RADICAL SURVIVOR by Dr. Nancy Saltzman is available on Amazon. For a signed copy and 2-3 day shipping, go to http://www.nancysaltzman.com

Celebrating the book: Nancy and friends

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Filed under autumn lessons, Dementia/Alzheimer's, friends, importance of doing good things, lessons about life, making a difference

REMAINS OF THE DAY



Memorial Day. The official national day to remember the dead and pay tribute to their lives.
In Yiddish, Yahrzeit means “Time (of) year,” usually on the anniversary of a death, a day to light candles and remember the passing of a loved one.
In Canada, November 11 is Remembrance Day for those who died in WWI & II.  
Every nation, culture, religion and ethnic group has its own ritual.
America’s Memorial Day began in 1864 when women from Boalsburg, PA put flowers on the graves of their dead from the recently-fought Battle of Gettysburg. In April of 1866 Columbus, Mississippi women laid flowers on both Union and Confederate soldiers’ graves in an effort to heal regional wounds. Memorial Day became the official name in 1967; prior to that date, it was known as Decoration Day. Yale Scholar David W. Blight says the first Memorial Day-style celebration includes African-Americans, mostly former slaves, paying tribute at a mass burial site for Union soldiers in Charleston. S.C.
Quiet moments, prayers, candles, flowers. Stories told of bravery, kindness, goodness and gentle humor. How we remember those who have gone before us indicates our respect, gratitude, love and hope…and reminds us that cause of death is less important than quality of life and treasured memories.
                                                             (photography by Marylin Warner)

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Home Is (also) Where The Heart WAS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Mom,

From the time I first began drawing pictures, one of my favorite topics was houses. Big fancy houses, charming cottages, duplexes or cabins; each home was a happy, welcoming place. I always colored at least one window yellow, to show a light shining there, and of course there always pets, especially dogs, but it was assumed they were inside or in the back yard. I wasn’t good at drawing animals, but I was pretty good at drawing dog houses.

I remember one of our rides in the country. We passed a lovely big stone house with green shutters, and I said what a happy home it was. You said it needed more flowers, and it needed to have the front door open, and the windows, too. You said that inside some houses it wasn’t always what it looked like from the outside.

When I was young, I wouldn’t have understood that comment. To me, home was a haven, rambunctious and busy, but also warm, welcoming and safe. It wasn’t until I was fourteen that during a sleepover at a friend’s house, I saw a different kind of home. Her younger brother crept into her bedroom during the night and whispered, “He’s back.” She jumped up, and in the dark we pushed furniture against the closed door. Then we hid in the closet, held our breaths and listened. Until that moment I didn’t realize that some parents got drunk, and when they did, the children trembled in fear, dreading what might happen next.

Later, when you volunteered with CASA as a Court Appointed Special Advocate, I understood. You became the listener and the voice for children who couldn’t or wouldn’t speak for themselves. I was proud to have a mother who advocated on behalf of children.

Thank you, Mom, for making a home that was always loving and safe, and for doing your best to protect children from homes that weren’t.

Love, Marylin

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A DIFFERENT WANDERLUST: Flat Travels

(upper left):  Pastor Amy Truhe, Schere Memorial Lutheran Church

(upper right):   Marylin Warner, Mary Shepherd and Flat Grace         (lower left): Real Grace’s mom, Molly

The entrance to Ft. Scott’s #1 National Cemetery ~         

(First, a brief explanation about the original FLAT STANLEY by Jeff Brown, published in 1964.  In the popular children’s book, Characters Stanley Lambchop and his brother Arthur are given a bulletin board, but during the night it falls from the wall and flattens Stanley as he sleeps.

He makes the most of his altered state, sliding under the doors of locked rooms, being used as a kite by his brother, etc.  The BIG advantage, though, is Stanley can visit friends by being mailed in an envelope.  The FLAT STANLEY PROJECT that evolved from the books connected students with other schools, towns/cities, states and countries.  In 2005, more than 6,500 classes from 48 countries took part in the project, sending their crayon-colored paper dolls on adventures. 

In 1999, when our daughter Molly was student teaching, her 2nd grade class participated in the project, and we took pictures of Flat Stanley in Colorado for her students. Now, more than a dozen years later, Molly’s daughter continues the tradition…)

Dear Mom,

Wow! This was a different visit, wasn’t it? At first you were confused by the “Flat Grace” paper doll I brought with me to Ft. Scott, but soon you rallied. Once you understood that your 8-year-old great-granddaughter, Grace, had made a paper doll of herself as part of her 3rd grade project, you joined in the fun.

When Flat Grace posed with us in your apartment, you laughed and hugged her. She went on to pose with other nice people, and the pictures will all be used in Real Grace’s final report on the project.

As we looked at the pictures on my digital camera, I realized Flat Grace had reinforced some of your lessons:

~ NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF A SMILE.

Some might think it’s a silly waste of time, posing for a picture with a paper doll, but I didn’t encounter even one critical person.  I approached people in the spirit of good-natured fun, the way I’d watched you do numerous times when I was a child. I smiled and described the 3rd-grade class project in Chapman, almost two hundred miles away, and everyone responded with good-natured enthusiasm.

~ EVERYONE HAS A STORY. LISTEN.

When I asked random people to pose with Flat Grace for the project, many remembered the original novel and shared their stories: their children or neighbor kids, mailing their Flat Stanleys on adventures; the last-minute taped repairs when Stanley lost an arm or leg; the excitement on young faces when envelopes arrived in the mail, returning the paper dolls with pictures or journals of the adventures.

You and Dad both taught me this, Mom: when people meet and share their experiences–when they listen and laugh and respond–something magical happens.

~ ENCOURAGING A CHILD IS TIME WELL SPENT. Always.

Admiring art efforts, pitching for batting practice, listening to piano scales or recitation of multiplication tables or a song sung slightly off key…or posing for a picture with a child’s flat paper doll on an adventure…is time well spent.

It’s also double the fun when you do it with someone you love, Mom, and you’re very much loved.

Marylin

Pictures below:  Grace’s Grandpa and dog Maggie with Flat Grace;  a wonderful park ranger at the Historic Fort Scott site, who stepped up and helped hold Flat Grace in the wind; the really nice young man at the Dairy Queen window who said, “Sure, I’d be glad to help.”  (Thanks to many others–Grace’s great- Uncle David, Mom’s caregiver Martha, and many other volunteers–I messed up and couldn’t get all your pictures in here, but they will be included in Grace’s 3rd-grade project.)

 

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IT’S ALL CONNECTED

 

Remember the rides we used to take, Mom?  I’d arrive from Colorado and you and I would “go drivin’” somewhere.  We’d go south, almost to Pittsburg, turn and go east to eat at Chicken Annie’s, and then carry home the leftovers.  You said if we got lost, we wouldn’t starve.

Another favorite drive was east to Nevada, Missouri, to visit the beautiful red brick and white trimmed buildings on the campus of Cottey College.  We’d have tea and talk about the projects of our PEO chapters that contributed to many of Cottey’s programs.

On other drives we visited local nurseries, and you walked among the rows of flowers and plants, identifying most of them by name.  One day, as we returned via back roads after an outing, you pointed toward a grove of pecan trees and reminded me of the times we carried sack lunches and went pecan gathering with friends.

That was years ago.  Now, if we take a ride, we stay in Ft. Scott.  A few months ago, when the weather was nice, we drove by Ft. Scott Community College. You remembered when the college was much smaller, and for awhile your writing group met in the lobby of one of the dorms.  Later, we took our usual drive to the cemetery, stopping by Dad’s gravesite and headstone.  When we drove away, just around the bend was a large polished marker, and you asked if we knew who was buried there.

I reminded you that it was not a grave, but a life marker for Gordon Parks, author of THE LEARNING TREE, the book (and movie) based on his life growing up in Ft. Scott.  As I read aloud his message of “Homecoming,” you listened.  Then you surprised me by remembering our drive around the community college, saying, “Didn’t we see something else about him?”

As I reminded you of our drive that day, I realized the many connections.  The message in the marker was connected to the art and writing and photography on display at the Gordon Parks Center for Culture and Diversity, which showed how his influence connected with people and places well beyond his Kansas roots. Parks inspired many people all over the world, including CNNs Anderson Cooper, who called Parks his hero, the man responsible for his spark about reporting.  You smiled when I told you that, asking if that Cooper was related to our neighbors.  I said I didn’t think so, but you did know the executive director of the Gordon Parks Center,Jill Warford, the daughter of your dear friend from church, Beth Warford Robinson.  And the Gordon Parks Center is housed in the Danny and Willa Ellis Fine Arts Center, and Danny and Willa were close friends with you and Dad.  Their daughter, my friend in junior high and high school, died in 1997 of breast cancer, and in her memory the Kathy Ellis Academic Hall was built.

Mom, you always said that our lives connect with everyone else’s lives, so what we did…or didn’t do, made a difference.  Like throwing rocks in a pond, we had to be careful of how hard and where we threw them, because they wouldn’t just sink to the bottom.  They made ripples, which made more ripples…

Thanks, Mom, for leaving a lifetime of ripples that make the world a better place.

Love, Marylin

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