What We Leave Behind

(Pictures taken at Rolling Hills Zoo by Marylin Warner.)

(All pictures are by Marylin Warner unless otherwise identified.)



African message stick

house on the plains







In 1937, the term “time capsules” became popular. The purpose was to bury and preserve items that would be a future communication, to be opened at a specific date.

There are numerous time capsules around the world that wait to be opened. For instance, the National Millennium Time Capsule in Washington, DC, will be opened in 2100. It holds assorted objects from history, including a piece of the Berlin Wall, a Hostess Twinkie, a helmet from WWII, a cell phone, and Louis Armstrong’s trumpet.

But what about the things we leave behind without burying them to be found later?

During this year’s Labor Day Art Festival in Colorado, a rock balancing display—with no support of any kind for the rocks—was held in Fountain Creek. The artists knew this would not be permanent art; they did it for the challenge and the joy of creating.

Rock Balancing in Fountain Creek.  Photo by Jerilee Bennet.

(Rock Balancing in Fountain Creek. Photo by Jerilee Bennet.)

More lasting things we leave behind are memorials to those who have gone on ahead: cemeteries, monuments, statues and dedications of poetry, music and art. In Oklahoma City, at the site of the 1995 bombing, artists created 168 chairs as a beautiful and lasting memorial for those killed, including the 19 young children who died in the day care center.

Some of the chairs at the Oklahoma City  memorial.

On the Kansas plains, lonely cabins hold the spaces where settlers once made their homes.   At the Rolling Hills Zoo near Salina, KS, two African message sticks are preserved along one the paths. We don’t have to know who created any of these things, or exactly when or where, to appreciate the work and beauty that someone left behind.  (pictures above)

Other things left behind are rules, laws and warnings.  In towns wherever brick streets were popular, we can still find bricks with reminders like “Don’t spit on sidewalk”

advice, rules, instructions

This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for my grandmother and all she left behind. She was a hardworking, kind, faithful and remarkable woman who, after her husband died, continued to run the farm and raise five children, including my mother. Neither woman would have assembled and buried a time capsule to be opened in the future. All my grandmother’s life, and until my mother’s dementia, they were too busy living in the present, doing what had to be done, facing challenges and embracing joys, and making a difference in the lives of others. Those are their legacies.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.” With all that is happening in the world, may we be wise and grateful enough to appreciate the miraculous in common acts of kindness, goodness, love and hope.

My grandmother's five children; my mother is in the middle.

(My grandmother’s five children; my mother is in the middle.)


Filed under art, Dementia/Alzheimer's, importance of doing good things, lessons about life, life questions, memories for great-grandchildren, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Spiritual connections

Button, Button…

Just a few of the choices. (All pictures by Marylin Warner)

Need a button?  Here are just a few of the choices. (All pictures by Marylin Warner)

Primitive men and women made “buttons” from bones, thorns and sinew to hold animal skins together. Greeks and Romans added metal, horns and seashells to the mix, and later used button fasteners to identify royalty and military rank. In 1620, the first Duke of Buckingham had a suit and cloak covered in diamond buttons used only as decoration.

When my grandmother finished passing down clothing from her oldest child to the youngest, before she cut the fabric into quilt-sized pieces, she saved all the buttons. My mother had a wooden box filled with hundreds of buttons of all colors and sizes. She could always find a substitute button to quickly sew onto any piece of clothing, and my first sewing lesson was practicing with buttons and scraps of fabric.  Mom used buttons for other purposes, too.

To teach children to count or learn colors, she’d spread out buttons on the table and let them find 5 yellow or 8 blue or 11 green. To keep her daughter and her friends busy on a rainy afternoon, she let them make bracelets by stringing buttons they chose from the box, or decorate plain picture frames by gluing on designs with the buttons.

Button, button, who’s got the button? Cute as a button. Button your lip. In-y or out-y belly button. Right on the button. Push someone’s button. Buttons come in all expressions as well as numerous sizes, shapes, colors…and memories. November 16 is Button Day. Founded in 1938, the National Button Society celebrates collecting, preserving, trading, displaying and honoring all kinds of buttons.

In his poem “Picture Puzzle Pieces,” Shel Silverstein reminds us to look closely, with open eyes and minds, to appreciate the possibilities of small details. He finds a picture puzzle piece on the sidewalk, soaking in the rain. It could be almost anything, including “…it might be a button of blue on the coat of the woman who lived in the shoe…”

Sometimes it’s the little, simple things that nudge our memories and touch our hearts. Never underestimate the power of a button.

1950s collector "accent" buttons: Mother-of-Pearl, pottery, wood, brass, etc.

1950s collector “accent” buttons: Mother-of-Pearl, pottery, wood, brass, etc.


Kids' fun buttons.

Kids’ fun buttons.

5" tall Christmas ornament.

5″ tall Christmas ornament.



Filed under art, autumn lessons, Dementia/Alzheimer's, just doing the best we can, kindergarten lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, sewing

Better Red Than…Not Red

Freckleface Strawberry


Gorgeous Julianne Moore didn't use her adult picture for the book jacket, but her child picture.  Brava!

Gorgeous Julianne Moore didn’t use her adult picture for the book jacket, but her child picture. Brava!

When my parents married—more than sixty years before he developed Alzheimer’s and she slipped into dementia—they were both vibrant and creative people. They both were also attractive brunettes, and their first child, David, was also an adorable brunette. In fact, in college when my roommate met my brother, she swooned and said, “Wow! He looks like the actor, Tom Selleck.” Then she paused, looked at me and asked the usual question, “So where’d you get red hair?”

Growing up, I got that question a lot. My brother had me convinced I was adopted until my mother put an end to that. Then as we got older, he answered the question with a zinger: “We’re not sure, but our mail man has red hair.” That got him some laughs, but was more than a little awkward for me because my boyfriend was the son of our mailman.  As it turned out, it came from my paternal grandfather and my great-Aunt Addie Lee, who both had wonderful red hair.

Redheads account for 13% of the population in Scotland, 10% in Ireland, but worldwide less than 2% and predicted to eventually disappear. Bees have been proven to be more attracted to redheads; and rumor has it that Hitler banned marriage between redheads to avoid “deviant offspring.” A Russian proverb states, “There was never a saint with red hair.” BUT according to the British Journal of Cancer, men with red hair are 54% less likely to develop prostate cancer than brown- and blonde-haired men.

The beautiful and talented actress Julianne Moore is a red head.  Among her many movie credits and awards, she received the Best Actress Oscar for her role in STILL ALICE, inspired by the true story of a woman’s struggles with early onset Alzheimer’s. Moore also wrote a fun, triumphant children’s book in 2007 titled FRECKLEFACE STRAWBERRY. Boy, do I wish that book had been around when I was a child; I would have used it to smack my brother! Fortunately, I learned to love my red hair, and as it turned out, our daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren all have beautiful red hair.

There was never a more beautiful baby than my redheaded daughter...unless it's my redheaded grandchildren!

There was never a more beautiful baby than my redheaded daughter …unless it’s our redheaded grandchildren!

Yesterday, November 5th, was National Love Your Red Hair Day. Actually, I think the entire month should be a Tribute to Red Hair, but here’s a compromise: Nov. 7th is Book Lovers’ Day, and Nov. 10th is Young Readers’ Day ~ in both cases, you might read Julianne Moore’s book for a fun crash-course in freckles. Spoiler Alert: No, you don’t have to cover freckles with a Magic Marker or a body stocking, and it’s true that A face without freckles is like a night without stars!

“Ruadh gu brath!” (Scots gaelic for “Red heads forever!”)

A former high school student painted this portrait of my daughter.

A former high school student painted this 3’x4′ portrait of our daughter.

30 years later, one of Molly's GED students painted this portrait of my grandchildren.

30 years later, one of Molly’s GED students painted this portrait of our grandchildren.


Filed under Uncategorized

One Night, One Day, One Month

Photos by Marylin Warner

(Photos by Marylin Warner)








Comedienne Rita Rudner once quipped, “All my life, my parents said, ‘Never take candy from strangers.’ And then they dressed me up and said, ‘Now go beg for it.”

Halloween. When we dress up to be someone else and go trick’o’treating. One night, the last night of October, is about dressing up, playing pranks, and getting goodies.

 church window  All Saint’s Day on November 1st, and All Soul’s Day on November 2nd are for honoring saintly people of the past and praying for the souls of those who’ve gone before us. In churches and cemeteries and homes, these days are for remembering others.

November 2nd is also one day for us to think about our own lives…and how we want to be remembered after we die. Nov. 2nd is PLAN YOUR EPITAPH DAY.

angel marker

During the early stages of my mother’s dementia, we took long drives together when I visited her each month. I’ve written about the ways we created story and poem ideas during those rides, but there’s something else we did. We sometimes visited cemeteries. On nice days we’d walk in the sunshine at one of the local cemeteries, read tombstones and pay our respects. One tombstone was my mother’s favorite, and mine as well.

It’s a wide, marble, double headstone: the wife’s full name and dates of birth and death are on side of the carved heart; the husband’s full name and dates are on the other. The husband outlived his wife by many years. On the back of the marble headstone are two carved hearts intertwined. Below are two girls’ first and middle names, but only one date ~ the same date of death as their mother’s death. Below the girls’ names is this epitaph: “They took their first breaths with God.” At this headstone we paused and prayed for the mother who died with her still-born daughters, and the father who lost them all.

Planning our epitaphs isn’t about deciding what will be set in stone after we die. It’s one day when we think how we want to be remembered, and in doing so, consider how we’re living our lives.

The entire month of November is LIFEWRITING MONTH. This is the month to take notes, to write essays, stories, poems (or paint pictures and organize photographs) of our lives or the lives of those we love, and events, people and places we want to remember.

If these November Days seem heavy-handed, realize that it’s also PICTURE BOOK MONTH, NATIONAL NOVEL WRITING MONTH, PEANUT BUTTER LOVERS MONTH, and NATIONAL SLEEP COMFORT MONTH. That’s just to name a few; there are many other choices. Depending where you live, the month of November might be a darker, colder month when trees lose their leaves and it’s more likely to sleet or snow than to rain, but it’s certainly not a month with nothing to do.

Computer, typewriter, pencil and paper, crayons or chalk: look at all the November writing activities.

Computer, typewriter, pencil and paper, crayons or chalk: look at all the November Days to express yourself.





Filed under autumn lessons, Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, importance of doing good things, lessons about life, life questions, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, Spiritual connections, writing

Improve Your BOO I.Q.

Creepy cupcakes will make your teeth a delightful orange. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

Creepy cupcakes will make your teeth a delightful orange. (All photos by Marylin Warner)



Cafes like Bon Ton's in Colorado Springs get in full swing for Halloween.

Cafes like Bon Ton’s in Colorado Springs get in full swing for Halloween.

The staff at my mom's assisted living facility go all out with decorating pumpkins.

The staff at my mom’s assisted living facility go all out with decorating pumpkins.









The good news is you still have a week to get into the Halloween spirit. The even better news is this post will help you become prepared in case you’re ever a contestant on television JEOPARDY or playing Trivial Pursuit with friends!

Beyond the usual costume choices and vandalism facts of Halloween, here are five lesser-known Halloween details: First, if you’re looking for love, be prepared on October 31st. According to the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, games like bobbing for apples and sharing special sweets and chocolate candies can predict future romances and compatibility.

Second: Halloween is the 6th most popular American card-giving holiday, with an estimated 20 million cards sent each year. Christmas is the 1st with 1.5 billion cards. Take a guess what the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th are. Here’s a hint: successful bobbing for applies and sharing special sweets could led to most of them.

Third: In 1950 in Philadelphia, trick’o’treaters traded a sweet tooth for a sweet action.  Instead of going from door-to-door for candy, they collected spare change to make a change in the lives of mothers and children in developing countries. UNICEF was created in the United Nations, and after Philadelphia it soon spread across the country via schools, youth groups and churches.

Fourth: According to statistics from the Dept. of Agriculture, the number of pumpkins bought for baking cookies, pies and puddings for Thanksgiving comes in behind the number of pumpkins bought to carve for Halloween. Spooky wins over tasty.

And fifth: Got leftovers after Halloween night? Dark and milk chocolate can last up to two years if stored in a dry, odor-free place, and unopened packages of candy corn can last at least nine months. Careful planning can keep you Halloween happy for quite awhile.

My parents used to Ooo and Aaah over the neighbor children who showed up in costume on Halloween night. Mom always bought bags of Peanut Butter Cups, Snickers, and Almond Mounds. During their last Halloween at home they gave out candy to early Trick’o’Treaters, the very young pirates, princesses and little ghosts. Then they ran out of candy, so they turned off the porch light and went to bed. Many months later when I cleaned out their house, there were many bags of candy bars stored in the cabinet with the laundry supplies. They looked like they were still edible, so the 5th detail must be right.

You don't have to wear a costume or paint your face at Halloween ~ dress up your feet!

You don’t have to wear a costume or paint your face at Halloween ~ dress up your feet!

These will always be my favorite Halloween costumes!

These will always be my favorite Halloween costumes!


Filed under art projects, autumn lessons, Dementia/Alzheimer's, memories for great-grandchildren, neighbors, October glory

Eye-Eye, All Aboard!

A front section of the restored railroad station. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

A front section of the restored railroad station. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

no preaching no peddling sign



beware pickpockets



Yesterday was my eye exam with my ophthalmologist. Full exam, including having my eyes dilated. Not my favorite thing to do and then drive home on a sunny afternoon. But if you have to spend an hour and a half getting your eyes checked, there’s no better place to be. My doctor’s office is in a restored brick railroad station. The interior brick walls are covered with authentic depot signs, including those you’ll see scattered throughout this post.

do not flush

My favorite Christmas memory is when I was in second grade, and our family took the train from Kansas City to Vista, California for a family gathering. The train ride was two days each way, and for hours each day I practiced learning to write cursive. My dad and I went up to the viewing car after lunch, sat at a little table and each ordered a Coca-Cola with a cherry. We turned over the paper place mats, Dad took out a ball-point pen for each of us, and during the trip he patiently transformed his 7-year-old daughter’s printing skills into cursive writing skills.

Both of my parents had excellent penmanship, but while my mother knitted and my brother played with baseball cards, I had my dad’s full attention. Away from business, church, hospital and bank board meetings, Dad was relaxed and focused on teaching me cursive letters, words, and sentences. The crowning accomplishment was when I rewrote the printed menu entirely in cursive on a paper placemat.

After Christmas vacation when the teacher asked what we’d learned over the holidays, she was surprised when I said I could write cursive. She gave me chalk and let me write basic sentences on the board.  When I finished, she—and my classmates—cheered and clapped for the result. But after school she gave me a Big Chief notebook to use for writing cursive…at home.  Many of the students in my class still hadn’t perfected even printing all the letters of the alphabet yet, and she didn’t want them to feel discouraged. That was okay because my parents took over, and several times each week I’d come home from school and on my desk would be an envelope with a letter written inside from my dad or my mom. Since cursive requires practice in both reading and writing, after I read the letter then I wrote a response, tucked it in the envelope and “mailed” it to their desk.

Yesterday was a good reminder that even dreaded appointments can also be excellent opportunities. My eye exam was actually an exercise in seeing the past clearly and appreciating those memories. If I’d had more time, and some blank paper, I would have rewritten the depot signs in cursive. Especially the one to beware of pickpockets and loose women. My dad would have loved it.

no spitting -$500 fine a yr inprison



Filed under "Christmas Memories With Mom", Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, importance of doing good things, Kansas, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, making a difference, memories for grandchildren, special quotations, Things to be thankful for


(All pictures taken by Marylin Warner in Abilene, KS, and at Rolling Hills Zoo)

(All pictures taken by Marylin Warner in Abilene, KS, and at Rolling Hills Zoo)




The question applies to all birds, and today is WORLD EGG DAY. I suppose we could add human females to the list, based on the reproductive system, but we won’t, okay?  After all, we’re including a cooking recipe here…

Before dementia. my mom was an outstanding cook. On short notice—as long as she had eggs and basic ingredients in the refrigerator—she could whip up a tasty dish to fill a lot of hungry tummies. Here’s my favorite egg recipe she taught me:

egg recipe ingredients



This is a delicious breakfast dish, perfect for special get-togethers on hungry evenings and chilly mornings. If your cholesterol numbers are running low, Eggs A’La Goldenrod will help change that!

You will need:

6 hard boiled eggs if you’re cooking for 3 people; otherwise, hard boil 2 eggs for each person ~plus extras if they’re really hungry ~   1 T. butter and 1 heaping T. flour for every two eggs ~  1/8 t. prepared mustard for every two eggs, or more if you like a lot of mustard   ~ 2/3 c. whole milk for every two eggs (or Almond milk or lowfat milk if you’re health conscious, but what’s the point with all these other ingredients?) ~ and 2 slices of toast or  2 split biscuits for each person participating in this feast.

Salt and pepper to taste while cooking; sprinkle paprika or dill weed on top of the final product.   Mom always added a healthy pinch of garlic salt or garlic powder, too, but she added garlic or chopped onions to everything, so either is optional if you’re not crazy about garlic or onions, or planning to fix this meal for a first date or something.

Here’s what you do:

Over medium heat, melt butter in a decent-sized pan.  Using a wooden spoon, stir in the flour.   (Note: always have wooden spoons on hand.)  Stir in the milk, adding it a little bit at a time.  Keep stirring.  Don’t let it stick or lump up. Add the chopped hard-boiled eggs and mustard.   Stir gently so you don’t mash the eggs like potatoes.

Add salt and pepper.  Add more milk, or more butter and flour, if mixture gets too thick or too thin.  Stir some more. (This is one of the extra benefits of Eggs A’la Goldenrod; you’ll have strong arms. To keep your arm muscles looking balanced, switch hands while stirring.) When everything is hot and yummy, ladle it over the toast or split biscuits. Sprinkle with paprika or dill weed and serve.

Very important reminder:

Before eating, have everyone at the table join hands, and ask someone ~ usually the dad, but moms and kids are good, too ~ to ask the blessing.  Just being around the table together, eating and laughing and talking, is a good reason to be thankful.  But don’t let the prayer drag on and on. Eggs are definitely more tasty when they’re eaten hot.


This was the first recipe I posted on my blog. It was August 2011, and my mom was thinking much more clearly then. She wasn’t sure what a blog was, but she said to invite all my blog friends over and she would help me make a big batch of Eggs A’La Goldenrod.

Consider yourselves invited. It’s World Egg Day, after all, and you’re our blog friends.

P.S.  U.K. author Angela Carter said, “A day without an argument is like an egg without salt.”   Whatever that means…

Benjamin Franklin wrote: "An egg today is better than a hen tomorrow."  (Again, interpret that as you will.)

Benjamin Franklin wrote: “An egg today is better than a hen tomorrow.” (Again, interpret that as you will.)


Filed under Cooking With Mom, Dementia/Alzheimer's, just doing the best we can, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, October glory, recipes, special quotations