Category Archives: writing

A BOOK BY ANY OTHER TITLE…

Books ARE often judged by their covers...and their titles.  (All pictures by Marylin Warner)

Books ARE often judged by their covers…and their titles. (All pictures by Marylin Warner)

My possible illustration for Michael R. Young's book, MANAGING A DENTAL PRACTICE: THE GENGHIS KHAN WAY

My possible illustration for Michael R. Young’s book, MANAGING A DENTAL PRACTICE: THE GENGHIS KHAN WAY

A possible book cover for REUSING OLD GRAVES: A REPORT ON POPULAR BRITISH ATTITUDES by Douglas Davies and Alastair Shaw

A possible book cover for REUSING OLD GRAVES: A REPORT ON POPULAR BRITISH ATTITUDES by Douglas Davies and Alastair Shaw

 

Ask anyone in my writing groups: titles are my thing. If you’ve written a poem, a short story, a novel or a nonfiction book and need a good title, I’m your go-to girl.

When I was a young child, one of the services of my parents’ car dealership was to personally deliver cars to the buyers in other towns. To pass the time during long drives, here’s one game we played:  my mom or dad would make up a title and have me make up a story to go with the title. Even then, I sensed the difference between a really interesting title and a so-so or boring one. A title like “Three Ways To Make A Ghost Get Out of Your Bedroom” could keep me busy for hours.

With some exceptions, unless you intend fraud or deceit, you can use an existing title for your own book. In other words, you could title your book GONE WITH THE WIND.  Why you’d want to do that is another question, but you could. So sometimes my mom would give me the actual title of a book or story she’d read, and I would do the best I could to make up a new story to go with that title.

To show you the importance of a good title, here are a few examples that might make potential buyers  give a book a second look. HOW TO POO ON A DATE (The Lovers’ Guide to Toilet Etiquette) by Mats and Enzo, COOKING WITH POO (“Poo” is Thai for “Crab”) by Saiyuud Diwong, and COOKING WITH POOH: Yummy Tummy Cookie Cutter Treats by Mousse Works.

Or consider STRIPPING AFTER 25 YEARS by Eleanor Burns. Is that title more interesting than How To Spend Years Creating Quilts With Strips of Fabric? And in 2007, Simon & Schuster printed Big Boom’s self-help book with this title: IF YOU WANT CLOSURE IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP, START WITH YOUR LEGS.  Catchy title, but I’m just not sure how long a book it would have to be—sounds like the details could pretty well be covered in a magazine article instead of a book.

There are many one-word book titles: IT, JAWS, SHANE, ULYSSES, LABYRINTH, REBECCA, SIDDHARTHA, ATONEMENT, WICKED, etc. According to book authorities, the longest title in the English language is by Jonathan Edwards, preacher and philosopher in the mid-1700s (his famous sermon is “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”) His book title is AN HUMBLE ATTEMPT TO PROMOTE AN EXPLICIT AGREEMENT AND VISIBLE UNION OF GOD’S PEOPLE THRO’S THE WORLD, IN EXTRAORDINARY PRAYER, FOR THE REVIVAL OF RELIGION, AND THE ADVANCEMENT OF CHRIST’S KINGDOM ON EARTH, PURSUANT TO SCRIPTURE PROMISE AND PROPHECIES CONCERNING THE LAST TIME.

Be honest; did you finish reading the entire title?  Hmm…how many readers do you think would have wanted to buy the book?

John Steinbeck said, “The profession of book writing makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business.”   To give ourselves the best odds of actually selling what we write, we should spend some time—and have some fun if we can—with our titles.

With all the book titles that include Poo and Pooh, I just had to add this poster for identifying Poop in the Woods (courtesy of Garden of the Gods, Colorado)

With all the book titles that include Poo and Pooh, I just had to add this poster for identifying Poop in the Woods (courtesy of Garden of the Gods, Colorado)

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Filed under Books and book titles, Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, Fort Scott Kansas, writing, writing exercises

SERENDIPITY

 

Celtic harpists played in the building on the left while writers worked in the building on the right. (All pictures by Marylin Warner)

Celtic harpists played in the building on the left while writers worked in the building on the right. (All pictures by Marylin Warner)

Between the two buildings, a perfect place for morning coffee, thinking and planning.

Between the two buildings, a perfect place for morning coffee, thinking and planning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

...and the deer enjoyed grazing in the cool, quiet morning light...

…and the deer enjoyed grazing in the cool, quiet morning light…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Serendipity is a “pleasant surprise” or “fortuitous happenstance.” The word was first coined in 1754 by Horace Walpole whose Three Princes of Serendip were always making unintentional, surprising discoveries. More recent examples of serendipity include Alexander Fleming’s 1925 discovery of penicillin, Percy Spencer’s 1945 invention of the microwave oven…and my writing retreat at the Colorado Franciscan Center on May 2-4, 2014.

A good writing retreat is equal parts inspired writing and retreat from distractions. There is no better place to stay than in the calm, private, former convent rooms within a stone lodge in the deer-roaming, bird-chirping foothills of Mt. St. Francis. No televisions or traffic, but spacious, calm areas for writing as well as guided drawing and painting. Plus delicious meals served with great conversation: http://www.franciscanretreatcenter.org/

But what if, on the same weekend and in the same lodge, the Colorado Celtic Harp Society was having its retreat, too, and—here comes true serendipity—on the final night of both retreats, what if the groups were so supportive of each other that the harpists read aloud writers’ poems and children’s stories, accompanied by harp music?

During the weekend, our writing group was given an amazing hour-long experience and additional sessions of “singing bowls” by Ann Martin, MileHighHealingVibe.com   (For basic information and history: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singing_bowl ). I had never even heard of this incredibly creative, restorative and centering experience, so this was another gift of serendipity for me.

In future posts I’ll be sharing some of the writing, drawing and painting prompts from the retreat, as well as words of wisdom I gleaned during meals, while walking the trails, and as we laughed and shared healthy doses of a writer’s best medicine: chocolate.

Two days after the retreat ended, Jim and I drove from Colorado to Kansas. For an early Mother’s Day, I took a glass bowl of budding tulips to my mother, along with stories of the retreat, music of the singing bowls, a fresh mango, and a bar of Dove chocolate. Mostly she just wanted bites of the mango, and of course, the writer’s best medicine—chocolate—so I knew she was doing pretty well.

This is my favorite quote about writing, chocolate, and making sweet plans about dying: “Now she and I sit together in her room and eat chocolate, and I tell her that in a very long time when we both go to heaven, we should try to get chairs next to each other, close to the dessert table.” ~ Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies

In his 1998 book Armadillo, William Boyd coined an antonym for serendipity. Boyd’s term, zembianity, is “an unpleasant surprise, an unhappy and unlucky discovery.”

As for me—and I think I speak for my mother as well—we don’t need any zembianity. We choose serendipity, especially if it includes a surprising amount of chocolate.

 

Preserved TB house on grounds.  1909-1947, over 12,000 TB patients stayed in Colorado TB houses to breathe in the high altitude's dry air and healing properties.

Preserved TB house on grounds. 1909-1947, over 12,000 TB patients stayed in Colorado TB houses to breathe in the high altitude’s dry air and healing properties.

Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators

Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators

Harpists practice for their Saturday night recital.

Harpists practice for their Saturday night recital.

 

1945 statue of St. Francis near the entrance to the Franciscan Center.

1945 statue of St. Francis near the entrance to the Franciscan Center.

Trail leading to the cemetery.

Trail leading to the cemetery.

 

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Filed under art, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, Things to be thankful for, writing

Deliver Your Message…In Just A Few Words

Wall decor messages. Thanks to The Dive Diner in Colorado Springs.

Wall decor messages. Thanks to The Dive Diner in Colorado Springs.

 

 

 

sarcasm served

Years ago, after I taught a writers’ workshop called “Write Short: Greeting Cards, Posters and Bumper Stickers,” I shared some of the samples with my mother. This was long before dementia began confusing her, and she was still writing poems and short stories.

She hadn’t realized that the words on T-shirts, posters and bumper stickers were often written by freelance writers who were actually paid for their words, and she decided to practice writing a few. I gave her two basic prompts—“SMILE…” and “Speak softly…”—and asked what she would write to finish each thought.

Those of you who have gotten to know my mom through this blog probably aren’t surprised to read these “finished thoughts”:

SMILING ISN’T ENOUGH…BUT IT’S A GOOD START   – and -

SPEAK SOFTLY AND KEEP A SENSE OF HUMOR

We weren’t entirely sure if these were originals—creativity floats all around us, and writers sometimes aren’t sure where ideas come from—but we had a good time putting pen to paper and turning creativity loose by writing mini-messages. Anything that makes us stop…think…and write is very good exercise.

If you want to practice writing what you think, feel, believe or want to protest in a few words, pretend you’re writing bumper stickers, aka “traveling messages.” They’re an excellent way to practice conveying long ideas in short phrases.

Here are examples of messages I’ve read on the bumper stickers of cars, trucks and vans. “My Dog Is Smarter Than Your Honors Student” ~ “Keep Your Doctor…Change Your Senator” ~ “Stop Texting and Drive” ~ “Warning: Driver Is Painting Her Nails…Her Toenails” ~ “Warning: In The Event of the Rapture, This Vehicle Will Be UnManned” ~ “If You Can Read This, Thank A Teacher” ~ and, “The Golden Rule Is Still Worth Its Weight In Gold.”   Beneath short, seemingly simple bumper sticker messages are religious beliefs, philosophies, observations, and protests or endorsements.

If you’re interested in creating and selling messages, photography, or art (digital and physical), check out contests and information at http://www.hallmarkcontest.com/

Guidelines for submitting rhymed/unrhymed card messages at Blue Mountain Arts: http://www.sps.com/greetingcards/writers_guidelines.htm

 

The basics in life.

The basics in life.

The back of a Cheerios box. (photographs by Marylin Warner)

The back of a Cheerios box.
(photographs by Marylin Warner)

 

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Filed under art, Colorado Springs, Dementia/Alzheimer's, paying writing opportunities, special quotations, writing, writing exercises

WHEN TO PLANT…AND WHEN TO WRITE FOR A CONTEST

The FARMER'S ALMANAC is full of interesting information. (All photographs by Marylin Warner)

The FARMER’S ALMANAC is full of interesting information. (All photographs by Marylin Warner)

Colorado weather makes it a good idea to wait until after Mother's Day to plant.

Colorado weather makes it a good idea to wait until after Mother’s Day to plant.

 

If you get impatient for color, you can hand baskets of artificial flowers in your trees.

If you get impatient for color, you can hang baskets of artificial flowers in your trees.

When you spend several days sitting in a hospital room, you look for interesting reading material. I found the 2014 OLD FARMER’S ALMANAC. Talk about an education!

If you’re interested in the weather forecasts for 16 regions of the United States (with apologies to our non-American friends), or information about the sun, moon, stars, and planets, or articles on beeswax candles and natural pest control, The Almanac is your go-to publication.

Here’s some quaint gardening advice reprinted from 1892 folklore.

1)    To make a plant grow, spit into the hole you have dug for it.

2)    Never plant anything on the 31st of any month.

3)    Plant corn after the first woodpecker appears.

4)    Flax will grow tall if you show it your buttocks.

5)    It’s time to plant corn when your wife comes to bed naked.

At our Colorado Springs altitude of 6,100 feet, it’s risky to plant anything before Mother’s Day…even if you show the crop your buttocks or come to bed naked. If you decide you’d rather go fishing, here’s how to know if it’s a good time: watch cows. If they’re up feeding, fishing is good. If they’re down resting, don’t bother.

If the folklore printed in the Almanac isn’t strange enough for you, maybe this writing contest will do the trick. THE WRITER MAGAZINE and Gotham Writers Workshops are sponsoring a “Tell It Strange” Essay & Story Contest.

Annie Proulx won the Pulitzer Prize for THE SHIPPING NEWS, and wrote other highly successful novels, including CLOSE RANGE and BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN. Writers should respond to one of Proulx’s quotes, using it as a prompt to get you motivated.

“We’re all strange inside. We learn how to disguise our differences as we grow up.” ~ this is from THE SHIPPING NEWS.   “There’s something wrong with everybody and it’s up to you to know what you can handle.” is from CLOSE RANGE.

If either of these prompts inspires a strange story or essay idea, the contest deadline is May 31, 2014. Prizes are $1,000, $500, $250. You can submit online, and WRITERS FROM EVERYWHERE are invited to submit, as long as you’re not affiliates of THE WRITER or GOTHAM WRITERS. 1,000 words max.   For full details go to

http://www.writingclasses.com/ContestPages/strange.php

Spitting in holes might be great planting practice. Writing contests are definitely great writing practice. You can enter the contest; you can write for the contest but instead of entering it, submit it to an anthology, a magazine, an online publication. Making yourself think, plan, write, edit and meet the deadline is excellent writing discipline. Can’t think of a “strange” writing idea? Really? Go back and read #4 and #5 above. Or just pay attention to what’s going on around you. The world is strange enough to give you plenty of writing ideas.

Cover of my favorite writing journal.

Cover of my favorite writing journal.

Write on a computer, on a tablet, on a typewriter...but write!

Write on a computer, on a tablet, on a typewriter…but write!

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, gardening, writing, writing contest with cash prizes

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

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

WRITING OUR OWN WORDS

Corn stalks at evening. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

Corn stalks at evening. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

 

 

 

 

Snowy Pikes Peak.  These two photos were chosen to fit with Mary Shepherd's Haikus below.

Snowy Pikes Peak. These two photos were chosen to fit with Mary Shepherd’s Haikus below.

Dear Mom,

Last week’s post—“Dancing In The Dark”—received many comments and emails about sleepwalkers who were understood or misunderstood, who were glad they had sleepwalked or wished they hadn’t.

Several years after I fell and cut my leg while sleepwalking, I asked if you were going to write about it in a poem or a story.  When I asked, I don’t know if I hoped you would write about it…or hoped you wouldn’t.

You were sitting at the table, typing and retyping some of the stories and articles you’d written in long hand in your notebook.  You looked at me, smiled and shook your head. “No,” you said. “You should be the one to write about it. It’s your story.”

It took me many years to finally write about that night of dancing in the dark, and you were right. It was my story to tell, in my own time and my own words.

This week, because you can no longer write—nor even remember—your poems, I’ll post them here for you.  I’m just the typist, copying them from pages in your writing folders. The words are yours.

Two Haikus, Two Seasons    (Mary Shepherd, circa 1980)

Little black birds swoop,

Flitting and dancing near earth,

Swarming on corn stalks.

                                                    Whiter than lamb’s wool

                                                     Snow shimmers on mountain peaks

                                                     Buffeted by winds.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The next poem is one of my favorites.  Six lines show your love and appreciation of all children.  In your opinion, the common ground among all people is their children. This poem later grew into more writing about children you had met in China.

Common Ground       (Mary Shepherd, circa 1990)

There is common ground among people,

Wherever they are in this big world,

Who gaze into eyes of the children,

No matter the culture or color,

And see there the love of the parents

Who know that their children are priceless. 

November 10 is Forget-Me-Not Day, Mom.  It was originally set up as a special day to remember family and friends who had grown apart or died during the previous year.  On this day and every day, although you have forgotten much of your life and your writing, your family has not forgotten you.

Mary's great-grandson "planting."

Mary’s great-grandson “planting.”

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Filed under autumn lessons, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, writing

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

WHAT BUILDS US UP INSIDE

"Forgetful Jones" Muppets cowboy character

“Forgetful Jones” Muppets cowboy character (photo credit: Muppet Wikia)

My mom’s 95th birthday was July 12, the same birthday as Henry David Thoreau’s. (The same day, not the same year.)

Monday, July 15th, is the birthday of Forgetful Jones, a Sesame Street Character. Forgetful Jones is a cowboy who has two horses ~ Buster, and buster’s brother Whatshisname. Laurent Lin, Muppet workshop builder, said, “Forgetful Jones…brought out more of the simple, sweet side of Richard…” (Richard Hunt was Forgetful Jones’ performer/voice.)

Maybe Forgetful Jones had the same type of dementia my mother has, because she also brings out the simple, sweet sides of many people—myself included—even now when she can’t remember who people are, where she is, or what day it is.

My mother’s memory is confused, but her gentle temperament remains.

By definition, memory is “… a person’s power to remember things; the mind regarded as a store of things remembered.” Lately, I’ve been very interested in what others have to say about memory. Here are some of the quotes I’ve found by writers. (Sorry, no doctor, psychiatrist or nurse quotes. I was not part of the medical profession; I was an English, literature, speech and writing teacher.)

“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” ~ Mark Twain

“One of the keys to happiness is a bad memory.” ~ Rita Mae Brown

“Touch has a memory.” ~John Keats

“Remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they really are.” ~ Marcel Proust

“Scars have the strange power to remind us that our past is real.” ~Cormac McCarthy, from his novel, ALL THE PRETTY HORSES

“Memory is a part of the present. It builds us up inside; it knits our bones to our muscles and keeps our hearts pumping.” ~Gregory Maguire, from his book, SON OF A WITCH.

And for my dad, who died of Alzheimer’s, and my mother, who is losing the battle against dementia, this is my favorite quote about memories and life:   “To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.” ~ Thomas Campbell

Many years ago, before Alzheimer's and dementia ~ me, with my dad, my daughter Molly, and my mom (picture by Jim Warner)

Many years ago, before Alzheimer’s and dementia ~ me, with my dad, my daughter Molly, and my mom (picture by  my husband, Jim Warner)

"We shall be known by the tracks we leave." Dakota proverb. (Picture by Marylin Warner)

“We shall be known by the tracks we leave.” Dakota proverb. (Picture by Marylin Warner)

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Filed under birthdays, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, memories for great-grandchildren, writing

100th Post on “Things I Want To Tell My Mother”

1978 ~ Mary reading to two of her grandchildren

1978 ~ Mary reading to two of her grandchildren

2007 ~ Mary reading to her great-grandchildren

2007 ~ Mary reading to her great-grandchildren

Dear Mom,

Wow, May 4th is ONE HUNDRED posts on our blog!  Amazing.

Our first post was on September 1st of  2011. Since then we’ve shared stories about your life growing up on the farm in Missouri, raising your own family in Kansas, helping children through teaching, volunteering with CASA, and stepping in to help anyone who needed help.  We’ve held writing contests with cash prizes in your name—Mother’s Day Greeting Card Writing, Christmas Memories, and Poetry Writing—and we’ve shared some of your poems, essays and illustrated stories.  We’ve reminded readers of many unusual days on the calendar and posted inspiring quotes, favorite recipes and titles of books we’ve enjoyed.  We’ve featured friends and your great-grandchildren as guest bloggers, and we’ve shared information about Alzheimer’s and dementia.

We never missed a week, and some weeks we posted twice!

In the process, we greeted visitors and made new friends from all over the United States, from the UK, Canada, Australia, India, Israel and sixty-four other countries. These are readers who’ve laughed with us, cried at some of our stories, and cheered us on by sharing their stories. We are very grateful for all of them.

Today, for our 100th post we’re going to share some interesting details about May, the month of our celebration.

The Roman poet Ovid wrote that the month of May is named for the maiores, Latin for “elders.”  In 1963, President John F. Kennedy established May as Older Americans Month. This is a month to respect seniors and celebrate longevity, which includes you, Mom, at the respectful age of almost 95!

When I was in elementary school, on the last day of April you and I made little holders of rolled construction paper and braided yarn for the handles. On May 1st we picked crocus, daffodils and tulips, or if spring didn’t cooperate we filled the holders with small cookies and candy. I’d hang the little May Day baskets from the front door knobs of older neighbors’ houses, ring the bell, call out “Happy May Day!” and hurry away.

Next week, May 8th is No Socks Day for all ages.  The idea is to set your toes free and give your feet a breath of fresh air. Go barefoot and smile at the comfort of cool grass, warm sand or swishing water.

The next day, May 9th, follow up with Lost Sock Memorial Day. Search through drawers or behind the dryer, but if you can’t find the missing sock, take its lonely mate and give it a solitary use: as a dust cloth, a holder for buttons or coins, or make a hand puppet for a child or a chew toy for a pet. Or just dispose of it (gently, of course).

Next Sunday is the well known and widely celebrated Mothers Day, May 12.

A lesser known day is Saturday, May 11—Birth Mothers Day—which is more private. This day was originally set up for mothers to spend quiet moments thinking about or praying for the children they gave up for adoption…or for adopted children to do the same for their birth mothers.  It is intended as an anonymous tribute, and some houses of worship have special candles or flower vases set up for Birth Mothers to give prayers and thanks for the love and care given by Adoptive Mothers.

And finally, the last week of May is National Simultaneous Storytime, which we wish American parents, grandparents, teachers and librarians would vote to implement for our nation’s children.  In Australia, children’s libraries hold a special event where all public and school librarians read aloud the same book on the agreed upon day, at 11AM EST, to the children everywhere in Australia!

Well, Mom, this has been our 100th post. Let’s thank our reading friends and give them cyber hugs for sharing in our adventure…and then it’s nap time.  Next week is post #101, and we’ll need our rest.

2010 ~ Mary's great-grandchildren on farmer-type playground toys in Kansas (all photos by Marylin Warner)

2010 ~ Mary’s great-grandchildren on farmer-type playground toys in Kansas (all photos by Marylin Warner)

1983 ~ Alien children on Mary's front porch

1983 ~ Alien grandchildren on Mary’s front porch

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Filed under celebrations, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for grandchildren, memories for great-grandchildren, neighbors, spending time with kids, Things to be thankful for, writing