Category Archives: making a difference

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)

 

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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.

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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…

 

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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!

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

THREADING FLOWERS IN WINTER

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Mom,

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

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

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

______________________________________________________

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

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

http://robyngrahamphotography.com/

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

http://darsba.wordpress.com/

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

http://viviankirkfield.com/

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

wordpress-family-award

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

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

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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.

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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

TYPHOID MARY KEEPS WRITING

This came as part of a promotion for a writing course. (All pictures by Marylin Warner)

This came in the mail as part of a promotion for a writing course. (All pictures by Marylin Warner)

And "Oh, The Places Writing Will Take You"!!!

And “Oh, The Places Writing Will Take You”!!!

Dear Mom,

I received another mail offer for a writing course.  On the mail-in sign-up card there was a place to attach the Growing Up by Marylin Warner sticker (see picture above).  This writing gimmick made me laugh because I remember what happened to you.

In 1965, you signed up for a writing course in children’s short story writing. After you mailed the check (and it wasn’t a cheap course), you received the book, workbooks and assignment sheets, and you began working seriously at the dining room table. Weeks later when you mailed off the first completed short story assignment, our family celebrated by having coconut cream pie for dessert after dinner. It was an exciting time!

You waited for a reply.  And waited.  Finally, several months later, you wrote a nice note to your assigned teacher, asking him if there was a problem. The program director answered your note, sadly informing you that your teacher had died in an accident.

You were given the name of a new teacher.  You retyped the story and mailed it in. No special dessert this time, just a quiet, hopeful re-send of an assignment.

Less than a month later, you were informed your second teacher died of a heart attack.

The director promised to find you another teacher, but you wrote back and pleasantly suggested they not push their luck. They refunded your money, and when the check arrived you laughed and said, “At least they didn’t make it out to Typhoid Mary Shepherd.”  You said you hoped the story wasn’t so bad it killed the teachers…or made them want to kill themselves.

You never signed up for another course by mail. But you didn’t give up writing, either. Instead, you worked with local writers and helped form the writing group that each month provided poems, essays and stories to be printed in “The Writers’ Bloc” of THE FORT SCOTT TRIBUNE. You and I attended one- and two-day conferences at Avilla College and Bethel College, and we challenged each other to make submissions and enter contests. (For a brief description of our writing, click on About Us at the top of the blog.) In honor of your many years of encouragement to writers, on this blog I’ve sponsored several no-fee writing contests that paid cash prizes for the winning entries.

With writing setbacks, like everything in your life, Mom, you found a way to make the best of even a bad situation. You refused to give up and encouraged others to keep trying, too. You may not remember any of this from your life, but I do. And so do the many others you’ve encouraged.  Together, we thank you.

Some of my favorite writing references and inspirations.

Some of my favorite writing references and inspirations.

Have fun with the process! Here's the place mat I had made for Mom.

Have fun with the process! Here’s the place mat I had made for Mom. She loved it! (I had one made for my dad that said “World’s Greatest Grandpa”–this was before Jim became the very-best-ever Grandpa!)  Have some fun.

_______________________________________

Darla McDavid’s “Darla Writes” is a superbly helpful writing blog. Her post this week is a must-read for writers of all levels and stages of their writing careers.  UCLA basketball coach John Wooden grew up on a small farm in Indiana, and his father’s 7-point creed applies perfectly to the writing life.  This is an inspiring post!  http://www.darlawrites.com/john-wooden-creed-writing-life/

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

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

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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

THE BIRD THAT FEELS THE LIGHT

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

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

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

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

Dear Mom,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enough room for family and friends.

Enough room for family and friends.

Every writer needs a Post Office bird house.

Every writer needs a Post Office bird house.

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