Category Archives: making a difference

CELEBRATE THE LINE

My mom, 1918,  the baby before two more siblings followed.

My mom, Mary Elizabeth, 1918, the baby before two more siblings followed.

 

Mom in 1949, holding their baby daughter, while  Dad holds their son.

Mom in 1949, holding their baby daughter, while Dad holds their son.

Last week’s topic was “Secrets of Success.”

This week’s topic is “How To Turn Disappointments Into Celebrations.”

Many years ago, a college acquaintance had a strange solution for any disappointment she faced: she made herself feel better by finding someone who was more disappointed and miserable than she was. For instance, when her boyfriend back home dumped her, she cheered up when she found someone else whose fiancé made a big deal of publicly ending their engagement on campus. She called this strategy “Being Glad You’re Not THAT Miserable,” and it seemed to work for her.

My birthday is at the end of this month…and it’s a BIG milestone birthday. Although I know my husband, daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren will do something special, I also know my mother will not remember my birthday. Because of her dementia, she rarely remembers who I am any more or sometimes even where she is.  But it’s still sad that for the past seven years she’s had no memory of days that used to mean so much to her, including the day I was born.

Using the technique of my college acquaintance, I found these birthday disappointments of others: Paulina Porizkova was fired by “America’s Next Top Model” on her birthday, and actress Evan Rachel Wood said, “I’ll never forget my 24th birthday when my tooth got punched out…”   But the one that made me choke back tears was by actress/model/singer Amy Weber: “I lost twins at 14 weeks, and I had to have a D&C on my birthday.” 

I’ve never been good at feeling better because someone else felt worse.  The college acquaintance’s strategy didn’t work for me then, and it doesn’t work for me now. 

But I have found a way of creating my own happiness as I celebrate my birthday with my mother. When I drive to Kansas to visit her each month, I take along foods she might enjoy, fresh flowers or a plant. When I visit her each September, I take a cake or cupcakes. And candles. Sometimes ice cream, too.   And I sing “Happy Birthday to US” and light the candles (just a few candles…we don’t want a bon fire.)

Mom still enjoys blowing out candles, and she sometimes wants me to light them again so she can blow them out a second time. It’s our shared celebration—I’m the birthday girl; she’s the mother who gave birth to me—and at some point during my visit I tell her a story from when I was a child and she did something sweet, funny, poignant or wonderful. Usually she’ll smile and say something like, “That’s nice. Do I know her?”   She doesn’t know “her,” but I do.

Dementia prevents Mom from remembering when my birthday is or even who I am. Reality confirms that the woman who wanted so much to be a mother, and who suffered four miscarriages before she had her two children, went on to have three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. All of us are here because she didn’t give up or bury her disappointments by finding other women who had even worse pains and more sadness.

So for my birthday again this year, we’ll celebrate the line of life. We’ll eat cake, blow out candles, smile and celebrate all the lives and loves that dementia cannot erase.   Happy Birth Day To Us.

1978 ~ Marylin holds her daughter Molly, Mary's granddaughter.

1978 ~ Marylin and her daughter Molly, Mary’s granddaughter.

 

2005 ~ Molly holds portrait of Dad's mother as a  toddler for her own toddlers, Mary's great-grandchildren.

2005 ~ Molly holds portrait of her grandpa’s mother as a toddler for her own children, Mary and Ray’s great-grandchildren.

69 Comments

Filed under birthday celebrations, birthdays, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for grandchildren, memories for great-grandchildren, special quotations, Things to be thankful for

TWO SECRETS OF SUCCESS

4:40 A.M. ~ crescent moon is in upper right section of window

4:40 A.M. ~ crescent moon is in upper right section of window

 

 

 

"The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you.  Don't go back to sleep!" ~ Rumi

“The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you. Don’t go back to sleep!” ~ Rumi

 

 

Twenty-four years ago, I took Mom to a one-day workshop on writing nonfiction magazine articles.   The speaker began the session by asking how many specific suggestions participants would include in an article about The —#— Secrets of Success. While many in the group had ideas for five, eight, or even a dozen secrets for success, Mom had two.   1)  Greet each sunrise with a hopeful smile, and   2)  Keep moving.   In her experience, those two pretty much pointed her in the right direction each day.

During one of my trips to visit Mom this summer, I was sleeping in the guest room of her assisted living apartment, and for some reason I woke up at 4:40.  The sunrise was just a thread of light on the horizon.  A crescent moon and a single star glittered in one corner of the view from my window. 

I peeked in on Mom to see if it had awakened her, too. In a different time and place—maybe in the bedroom of her real home, and certainly before losing my dad to Alzheimer’s and now losing much of her own memory to dementia—I think Mom would have smiled as she watched the moon and star on the horizon, then taken a deep breath and gotten out of bed early to welcome the new day.

The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you.   Don’t go back to sleep…”   These two beginning lines, my favorites from a longer, well known poem by Sufi poet Rumi, are lines I’m sure would have struck a chord with Mom. For many of her 96 years, her favorite time has been in the quiet early breaths of a new day.  She would use that private time to work in the yard, read and write letters and poetry, pray and sometimes even bake.  Before the dementia took over, it was her first secret of success.

Her second secret of success was short and simple, but essential on many levels: Keep moving.  Regardless of obstacles, set-backs, illness, disappointments or worries, to keep moving meant staying focused on what had to be done, breathing deeply, singing or humming as she worked, and being grateful for the things she learned and noticed along the way.

One beautiful example of someone who kept moving is April Holmes, Paralympic Gold Medalist in the 100-meter dash. April was 27 in 2001 when, as a college track star, she lost her leg from the knee down in a train accident. Instead of giving in or giving up, she kept moving…physically, emotionally, hopefully and with full commitment. Against all odds.

I’m sure my mother had more than just the two secrets of success she used that day for writing practice at the workshop. She was a woman of faith, kindness, creativity and common sense, and she had an amazing capacity for love and trust. I wish now that she’d kept writing on that workshop exercise and written out many more of her success secrets.

September is World Alzheimer’s Month, and many forms of devastating memory loss plague families, communities and countries everywhere in the world.

But one day this month, Wednesday, September 10th, is “Swap Ideas Day.” This is an excellent opportunity for us to share our favorite Secrets of Success.   Do you remember poignant, funny, strange, or insightful secrets of success from your parents, grandparents, teachers, friends or motivational speakers?

Today, September 6th, is National Writing Date Day.   Make a commitment today to write some of your secrets of success and share them with us!

Bikers racing through Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs.

Bikers racing through Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs.

One Secret of Success for competitive cyclists is Mom's #2: Keep Moving.

One Secret of Success for competitive cyclists is Mom’s #2: Keep Moving.

One section of Garden of the Gods. August 4th was Stage 4 of the USA ProChallenge cycling competition. Colorado Springs is 6,035 feet high.

One section of Garden of the Gods. August 4th was Stage 4 of the USA ProChallenge cycling competition. Colorado Springs is 6,035 feet high.

 

57 Comments

Filed under autumn lessons, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons for great-grandchildren, making a difference, special quotations, writing exercises

What is your ONE WORD?

 

If you can't pronounce a word, it's probably not the right one to make Your Word.  (Picture by Marylin Warner)

If you can’t pronounce a word, it’s probably not the right one to make Your Word. (Picture by Marylin Warner)

 

 

Sign it, sing it, paint it, think it ~ it's your One Word.

Sign it, sing it, paint it, think it ~ it’s your One Word.

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and lightning bug.” ~ Mark Twain (aka Samuel Langhorne Clemens)

Several months ago, I wrote a post titled “Ten Words.” It included a contest for short-short-short stories of no more than ten words. In this post, I’m asking you to think about only one word—your ONE WORD—but you don’t have to enter it in a contest.

Before her dementia, my mother was the master of one-word comments and questions. With slight variations in her facial expressions, she made her point very well. “Why?” was more than a question; it was a warning to rethink an action or an attitude. “Wait” conveyed her philosophy: patience was a virtue; she had faith enough to wait and trust how things would work out.  My mother’s one-word statements or questions were a perfect example of Shakespeare’s writing advice: “Suit the action to the word, the word to the action.”

I used to keep a list of one-word book titles: JAWS, 1984, REBECCA, ATONEMENT, IT. I also enjoyed one-word lines that “said it all” in movies: “Plastics.” (THE GRADUATE); “Stella!” (A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE); “Rosebud.” (CITIZEN KANE); “Freedom!” (BRAVEHEART); and “Adrian!” (ROCKY).

Regardless of how you feel about football or the Super Bowl, one NFL quarterback has renewed the interest in “One Worders.” Bronco Peyton Manning has been using his one word shouted at the line of scrimmage– “Omaha”–for years, and he plans to stick with it. Granted, the Broncos lost this year’s Super Bowl, but the Nebraska town (Manning has never lived there) named its zoo’s new-born penguin “Peyton,” and a local ice cream parlor named a new flavor “Omaha, Omaha,” to go with the orange-vanilla mixed with blue malt balls…Bronco colors. The Omaha Chamber of Commerce presented Manning with a $70,000 check for his foundation for at-risk children.

What is your ONE WORD? What is one word you believe in, hope for, use as motivation…or use only because it means something to you, and you don’t tell others why you use it? Physician and writer Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “A word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanging; it is the skin of a living thought…”

Years ago, I was volunteering at the Episcopal Women’s Thrift Shop and came across a hand-stitched, framed sampler that someone had discarded to be sold in the shop. No one else seemed to like it–or maybe they didn’t understand it–but the word spoke directly to me. It became my One Word nudge, inspirational reminder and personal challenge: YAGOTTAWANNA

What’s your One Word?  Or, what is the word you once used but then gave it up?

My ONE WORD choice.  (Picture by Marylin Warner)

My ONE WORD choice. (Picture by Marylin Warner)

Omaha, Nebraska  (Smithsonian's Arial America shot)

Omaha, Nebraska (Smithsonian’s Arial America shot)

 

Peyton Manning (Google photo)

Peyton Manning (Google photo)

 

91 Comments

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

WEARING YOUR MESSAGE

My daughter Molly's ankle tattoo.  (pictures by Marylin Warner)

My daughter Molly’s ankle tattoo. (picture by Marylin Warner)

Their house and former yard of trees after the tornado of 2008.

Their house and former yard filled with trees ~ after the tornado of 2008. Click on picture to see details.

Dear Mom,

You always understood that there’s something inside us that needs to write our words and create our art. After you wrote your children’s stories, even if they were just going to be filed away in a drawer, you also drew or painted illustrations. And sometimes you added music as well, singing songs and humming melodies as you typed the stories and created watercolor pictures.

Author Sylvia Plath wrote, “Wear your heart on your skin in this life,” but one thing you were never tempted to do was get a tattoo.  The only question I ever heard you ask of someone wearing a tattoo was when you smiled at a young man with a multi-colored dragon tattoo and said, “Did it hurt?” He returned the smile and said, “Yeah, kinda, but it was worth it.”

As a writer, I have many favorite words and quotes, but there’s never been a phrase or a symbol I wanted to wear permanently.  I am, however, fascinated by those who do.  In the spirit of last week’s post—asking WHY?—I admit I want to know both the What and the Why of tattoo choices.

One of my favorites is actress Susan Sarandon’s AND AND tattoo.  It means A New Dawn A New Day, and the way I heard her explain it in an interview, it’s a reminder that whatever happens, tomorrow is a new day and a fresh beginning.

Many athletes wear art and numerous messages and symbols. People of all careers and ages whose professions discourage tattoos, wear them on places they cover with professional attire.  Before the dementia, you would smile pleasantly when you saw a heavily tattooed person, but later you’d shake your head and ask  me, “Do you understand why they do that?”

Actually, Mom, in some cases I do.  And if you were free of the dementia and could see your granddaughter’s most recent tattoo, I think you would understand, too.  The WHAT: four hearts—one green, one orange, one pink, one blue—surviving a whirling tornado.  The WHY: the four hearts represent the favorite colors of the four members of their family, symbolizing their love for each other, and gratitude for surviving the devastating tornado that destroyed much of their little town in 2008.

Yes, Mom, I think you would understand the permanent art your granddaughter wears on her ankle. You’d probably want to know if it hurt to get tattooed, but you’d be grateful that her family survived the tornado, and you’d celebrate with them.

Author Jack London wrote, “Show me a man with a tattoo and I’ll show you a man with an interesting past.”

I would add to that: “The same is true of a woman.”

I have some very interesting things in my past, Mom, but I don’t think I’ll get any tattoos. And that’s okay.  I’ll write about them instead, so I can edit, correct and delete…without pain.

Faith tattoo upside down for hope

On People's Court, this 'Faith' tattoo was under attack...

On People’s Court, this ‘Faith’ tattoo was under attack… If you turned it upside down, as in the first picture above, it should read ‘Hope’–but the i and t had a problem. Correcting or erasing a tattoo can be long, hard & expensive.

73 Comments

Filed under Chapman KS, Dementia/Alzheimer's, making a difference, special quotations, Things to be thankful for, writing

FYI ~ JANUARY

Gate in winter. Art by Mary Shepherd for her Stubby Mule story.

Gate in winter. Art by Mary Shepherd for her story, “Stubby The Stubborn Missouri Mule”

Gated doorway to Bent's Fort in Colorado. (This photograph by Jim Warner; all others by Marylin Warner)

Gated doorway to Bent’s Fort in Colorado. (This photograph by Jim Warner; all others in this post by Marylin Warner)

For your information, the original Roman year had 10 months. Somewhere around 700 BC, Januarius and Februirus were added.  January’s Latin name, Janus, was for Roman Mythology’s guardian of gates and doorways. With two faces looking in opposite directions, Janus could see both forward and backward, and was protector in time of war.

So far in 2014, no state’s “first baby born” has been named Janus.

However, here are the names of “first babies born” in several states in America:

~ “Brooklyn” was the name of the first baby born in both Colorado and Maryland.  ~”Prantison” was the first baby born in Hawaii, ~ “Dior” in Connecticut, ~“Nash” in Iowa, ~“Layla Rose” in North Dakota, ~“Zane” in Texas, and ~ “Nathyn” in Oregon.   I wonder if the popular baby names in the UK will include one or more of the names of the baby of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge: George Alexander Louis.

In the coming week, one day offers you three “special day” choices.  Monday, January 13th, is “Make Your Dreams Come True Day,” so if you have special dreams and hopes, this is the day to take steps to make them come true. Monday is also the ever-popular “Blame Someone Else Day” (probably no explanation is necessary), and for the “doubting Thomas” cynics, January 13th is also “International Skeptics Day.”

When I visit my mom, I often read aloud the posts I’ve written for “her” blog, and also some of the comments. They don’t really register through her dementia, but she’ll smile and nod, or ask questions like, “Do we know them?”

This next FYI is one I’m very glad my mother doesn’t–and won’t ever–understand.

Last week a video went viral. A 2-year-old toddler in diapers walks around a tipped over chair (in a kitchen probably), learning to curse, cuss and repeat offensive words, phrases and gestures. As many as three adults off camera coach the little boy by saying the words and having him repeat them.  Omaha, Nebraska Child Protective Services placed the boy and three other children in protective custody, not for what the child was being taught, but for additional concerns they had when they went to the house.

As a devoted mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, teacher and CASA volunteer, my mom would have been heart sick to watch this video.

Writer T.F. Hodge said, “ What you do teaches faster, and has a lasting impression, far beyond what you say.”  For music lovers, read again the lyrics of “You Have To Be Carefully Taught” from SOUTH PACIFIC.

In 2014, and every year, we need to remember the message printed at the base of our vehicles’ exterior rear-view mirrors: “Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.”   As we look forward to new years and fresh starts, we need to also remember that what we leave behind us–and the good or the bad it does–remains closer than we realize.

"Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear"

“Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear”

 

Building a good gate is as important as building a good fence. Also, children imitate good things their taught...

Building a good gate is as important as building a good fence. Also, children imitate good things they’re taught…

 

60 Comments

Filed under Different kinds of homes, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, making a difference, 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