What’s Your Title?

books for writing

 

FDR in wheelchair

 

Van Gogh's chair

One of the “thinking activities” I used before my mother’s dementia worsened was to take her out for a ride in the sunshine and play the TITLE GAME.  We’d choose objects or something we saw along the way—as an example here, I’m using pictures of chairs—and we’d take turns creating a title for a poem or story that might be written about it.

For instance, the picture above of FDR in a wheelchair might inspire a title for a children’s story, while the picture of Van Gogh’s chair might end up with a title about the person who had sat there posing for a painting.  If Mom was reluctant, I would ask questions like  “But what if–?” and soon she was laughing and creating all kinds of titles…to earn her the prize of an ice cream cone at the Dairy Queen. (Bribery was an honorable technique if it inspired her  to participate.)

I once read a journaling prompt about the importance of “thinking in titles” as an exercise in discovering what you really think or feel about something.   Supposedly, if you keep a diary or a journal, when you write a TITLE  about that day’s entry before you begin writing, it will direct the details and give the entry a focus and insight you might otherwise overlook.

Think about books that began with one title but after revisions and rethinking, the final copy ended up with a very different title.  For instance, Jacqueline Susann’s book THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS began as THEY DON’T BUILD STATUES TO BUEINESSMEN. John Steinbeck’s OF MICE AND MEN was first titled SOMETHING THAT HAPPENED.   1984 by George Orwell was originally titled THE LAST MAN IN EUROPE, and William Faulkner’s THE SOUND AND THE FURY began as TWILIGHT (and it didn’t even have vampires and werewolves).

Imagine you have one minute to create a title for a book or story about your life, or a novel about the year something unusual or life- changing happened. One minute is all it takes, and you’ll win a Dairy Queen ice cream cone…or something you really want. What would your title be?

chair tee-shirt simplify

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Filed under art, Books and book titles, Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, just doing the best we can, lessons about life, life questions, making a difference, writing exercises

Friday Favorites…that have nothing to do with politics

"What'cha lookin' at?" ostrich at Rolling Hills Zoo.

“What’cha lookin’ at?” Ostrich at Rolling Hills Zoo.

African Message Pole, Rolling Hills Zoo, Salina, KS.  I think it's a happy message.

African Message Pole, Rolling Hills Zoo, Salina, KS. Interpret your own happy message from the symbols!

Finding this old picture of my dad and Fritz, having their morning "talk."

Finding this old picture of my dad and Fritz having their morning “talk” made me smile.  (Fort Scott, KS)

My dad appreciated old trucks--especially Fords--he said it was "a guy thing."  His granddaughter protested: "girls love trucks, too!"

My dad appreciated old trucks, especially Fords; he said it was “a guy thing.” His granddaughter protested: “trucks are for girls, too!”

Max Ehrmann, author of DESIDERATA: A Poem for a Way of Life, wrote this: “With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”     Geese crossing

Today, I want to share some of my favorite things that make me happy when I travel to Kansas. You already know of our daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren (at the top of our happiness scale), and my dad, who died of Alzheimer’s, and my mother who is lost deep in dementia. These people are the core of our focus and thoughts when we drive to Kansas each month.

But there are also many cheerful, striving-to-be-happy places and things in Kansas I want to share with you through these pictures. My dad was right: if you take a deep breath, look around, and appreciate things that make you smile, you can also find reasons to be happy and have hope.

Gunn Park "Tiny House" (Fort Scott, KS) Built in 1927 by the park caretaker for his young daughters and visitors. It's 14" high and 12" long, including the front porch.

Gunn Park “Tiny House” (Fort Scott, KS) Built in 1927 by the park caretaker for his young daughters and visitors. It’s 14″ high and 12″ long, including the front porch.

Happy Children bench sculpture, downtown in Abilene, KS

Happy Children bench sculpture, downtown in Abilene, KS

 

Bakery fundraiser: iced cookies:  KS, and Chapman High School --both delicious!

Bakery fundraiser: iced cookies: KS, and Chapman High School –both delicious!

 

Milford Lake Butterfly House (near Junction City, KS)  A colorful, fluttering good time!

Milford Lake Butterfly House (near Junction City, KS) A colorful, fluttering good time!

 

Abilene, KS (where the h.s. sports teams are the Cowboys and Cowgirls). I want a sign for writers: Writer Parking Only: All others will be rejected.  :)

Abilene, KS (where the h.s. sports teams are the Cowboys and Cowgirls). I want a sign for writers in front of the writing section of the library: Writer Parking Only: All others will be rejected.:)

A summer sunset on a farm outside Fort Scott, KS.  Tomorrow will be a gorgeous day!

Summer sunset on a farm outside Fort Scott, KS. Tomorrow will be a gorgeous day!

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Filed under Abilene Kansas, Dementia/Alzheimer's, just doing the best we can, lessons about life, special quotations, Things to be thankful for

Swiftly Flow The Years

mom's b-day cake

 

I never thought I would quote Robert Frost and Paris Hilton in the same post, but their combined words aptly summarize my mother’s 98th birthday this past week.

Robert Frost: “A diplomat is a man who always remembers a woman’s birthday but never remembers her age.” Paris Hilton: “The way I see it, you should live every day like it’s your birthday.”

My mother does not remember her age, or for the most part where she is, how old she is, or what is happening. Every day could be her birthday, and even with cake, candles, balloons and cards, she still would not realize what day it is.

But we still celebrate her birthday.  She has had a remarkable life, and we are here because of her.   We–her daughter, granddaughter and great-grandchildren–drove to Ft. Scott last weekend so we could sit together with her at night, reading aloud her favorite children’s poems and prayers, and also sing to her.  We took turns telling her short, happy stories we remember about our lives with her, and with her eyes still closed, she amazed us by smiling and nodding in agreement!  We were thrilled to have her respond.

cards on yellow board

 

The pictures on this week’s post are of the double chocolate cake we brought, the balloons and the yellow poster board with handwritten messages and cards from our family.   I’m not posting any of the pictures of Mom on this birthday; she is on oxygen and sleeping most of the time. So I’ll share three pictures from the past that show how swiftly the years of her beautiful life have flown.

“Sunrise, Sunset” is one of my favorite songs from FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, and it summarizes how quickly the years pass for all of us. They’re to be cherished every day, but especially on a 98th birthday, even when the birthday girl doesn’t realize what day it is.

Grandma with her first two grandchildren.  Baby Molly is the mother of my mother's two great-grandchildren.

Grandma with her first two grandchildren. Baby Molly is the mother of Grace and Gannon, my mom’s two great-grandchildren.

Mary Elizabeth, age 2 1/2, with her brother Ira on the farm in Missouri.

Mary Elizabeth, age 2 1/2,
with her brother Ira on the farm in Missouri.

My mother's college graduation picture.

My mother’s college graduation picture.

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Filed under birthday celebrations, birthday traditions, Dementia/Alzheimer's, memories for great-grandchildren, special quotations, Things to be thankful for

And The Winner Is: ALICE

 

1996 - Molly at her high school graduation with her grandparents.

1996 – Molly at her high school graduation with her grandparents.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The nominees are:

ALICE IN WONDERLAND ~ by Lewis Carroll

STILL ALICE ~ by Lisa Genova

WHAT ALICE FORGOT ~ by Liane Moriarty

PUTTING ALICE BACK TOGETHER ~ by Carol Marinelli

ALICE DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE ~ starring Ellen Burstyn

ALICE WARNER ~ starring in No More Spitting

And the winner is (drum roll please): ALICE WARNER ~ affectionately known as Oma, mother of two, grandmother of four, great-grandmother of ten

For her starring role as mother of Jim Warner, the precocious, adorable 5-year-old boy she caught spitting. How did she respond? She seated him on the sofa, gave him a big bowl and said. “Fill it.”   He spit and spit and spit, until his mouth was dry, and there was only about a tablespoon of spit in the bottom of the bowl.

He had to sit for a while longer and keep trying to spit. Did it break him of spitting? You betcha!

Here’s to my mother-in-law, whose son grew up to be the best husband, father, grandfather, father-in-law, son-in-law, teacher, coach and overall wonderful man who to this day is a confirmed non-spitter.

1993 ~ Oma, her son Jim and granddaughter Molly

1993 ~ Oma, her son Jim and granddaughter Molly

You’ve been gone a dozen years, Oma, but we still miss you. If you were here and my mother wasn’t deep in dementia, the two of you would sit together, have a glass of iced tea, and enjoy all the antics—and the love—of your combined families.

1992, Oma holding great-granddaughter Shelbey

1992, Oma holding great-granddaughter Shelbey

Jim teaching Oma to use a computer, 1988

Jim teaching Oma to use a computer, 1988

 

 

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

FOOD FLIP

MBerry container

 

 

 

All pictures by Marylin Warner

All pictures by Marylin Warner

 

She arranges twelve plates on the table, all kinds of fruits, fresh and dried vegetables, flavored popcorn, and a plate of dark chocolate. There are six writers at the table, and they each take one bite of each food.

Then Mary gives each person a pink tablet, a single MBerry, the “Miracle Fruit Tablet,” that takes a few minutes to dissolve on the tongue. For a man’s perspective, my husband Jim has been invited to participate in this Wednesday’s writing group—or at least the food experiment—and we’re all fascinated with each step.

The tastes of the foods after the MBerry tablets dissolve are staggeringly altered. The tart limes and sour lemons are sweet; the dark chocolate is an entirely new flavor; some of the tastes are deliciously unrecognizable, and so on. Numerous adjectives are applied to each food.

food and tablets

 

 

Mary Zalmanek, one of my Wednesday writers, regular contributor to both RV and MOTOR HOME magazines, and author of THE ART OF THE SPARK, has furnished an amazing experience…and writing prompt.  She says that MBerries are more than just a fun game. They can be great diet foods, giving fresh fruits or veggies the tastes of exotic desserts, and that inspires others come up with more delicious possibilities, too.

For me, this fun experiment that has us all laughing is also a sobering reality check. It gives me a first-hand sample of what my mother, and my dad, before he died of Alzheimer’s—and other dementia and Alzheimer’s patients—struggle with at meals. They can no longer recognize formerly familiar foods; the tastes and smells confuse them, and this often diminishes their appetites. They lose another interest and another memory.

Tomorrow, July 2, is I FORGOT DAY. It’s a day of awareness: what do we want to remember; what would we like to forget? If we have a bad day on Tuesday, or any day, we can choose to either remember it or forget it.

Choose is the key word here. Those who suffer with memory loss, head injuries, dementia or Alzheimer’s, do not get to choose.

For the rest of us, tomorrow–or the day after, or any day–is a good day to do what we can to help them: listen and appreciate their efforts, share stories we know about them and their interests, or take them out for a walk or a ride in their wheelchair—crossing the threshold of their confinement—to see, hear, touch, smell the places they’ve forgotten since their last outing. It’s worth a try.

Art Linkletter was right; old age is not or sissies. And neither is Alzheimer's or dementia.

Art Linkletter was right; old age is not for sissies. And neither is Alzheimer’s or dementia.

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, just doing the best we can, lessons about life, life questions, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, recipes, writing

H. U. G. , not shrug

(...and your dad, too)   Keep Calm posters from Pinterest

(…and your dad, too)
Keep Calm posters from Pinterest

 

 

Hug now, while you can.  This 2001 "Group Hug" was before my dad's Alzheimer's and my mom's dementia/

Hug now, while you can. This 2001 “Group Hug” was before my dad’s Alzheimer’s and my mom’s dementia.

I smiled as I read the banner that floated outside the children’s center: hugs Help You Giggle    Below that was this message:  Help Someone Giggle On June 29th ~ Give Hugs, Not Shrugs

This Wednesday is “Hug Holiday: Give Hugs to Those Who Need Them”    The truth is, we all need a little help sometimes.   On June 29th, be generous with your hugs, or if you’re not big on hugging, then reach out with a smile.   Little acts of kindness can make a big difference.

If a picture is really worth a thousand words, then this week’s brief post is actually 4,000 words. The message: Read Less, Hug More.

give a hug

When in doubt at dress-up occasions, give a hug.

When in doubt at dress-up occasions, give a hug.

 

hug a puppy

Scout is growing up, but she's still our hugging puppy.

Scout is growing up, but she’s still our hugging puppy, and this makes us very happy.

 

When someone is nervous and really hoping for something, cross your fingers, touch hands, and hope together.

When someone is nervous and really hoping for something, cross your fingers, touch hands, and hope together.

 

 

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, friends, just doing the best we can, kindergarten lessons about life, Special days in June, special quotations, Things to be thankful for

Reaping and Ripping

carrot and glove

 

 

let nature be your teacher

 

In seventh grade sewing class, there was a framed reminder on the wall above the row of sewing machines: Don’t RIP WHAT YOU SEW ~ Pay Attention to What You’re Doing

For twelve year olds making their first projects—and usually in a hurry to get them done—this was a reminder to work carefully or risk ripping out stitches and starting over. The message was, of course, a play on the words, YOU REAP WHAT YOU SOW.   Which is synonymous with “What goes around, comes around” and “Treat others the way you want to be treated.”

My mother often watched and waited as I learned my lessons. I was eight when we got rid of the old sandbox in the backyard and I was given the space for my own 8’x5’ garden. Mom let me choose any five seed packets. I chose a combination of vegetables and flowers—beets, carrots, corn, zinnias and marigolds—but I lost interest in reading the instructions.  I had no patience for planting in neat rows, but merrily mixed the seeds together and flung them throughout the garden. The result was, well, interesting, but we did get a few veggies AND colorful bouquets. Mom smiled and asked, “What will you plant next year, and how will you plant it?”

Two years ago after we removed a dying Aspen tree, I became the 8-year-old gardener again.  After planting our vegetable garden, I had extra carrot seeds, so I combined them with the soil in the hole…and forgot about them.   Several weeks ago, I noticed feathery green tops mixed with the grass where the tree had been.  The result was the 7” long, tough, bug-nibbled carrot in the picture above, surrounded by many smaller bits of carrots. The harvest was colorful and interesting—but after two seasons it was definitely inedible—it was what I had sown but then ignored.

 

gone with the wind Scarlett O’Hara, in the movie version of GONE WITH THE WIND, knelt in the destroyed field and dug out a withered turnip. She held it up and swore, “As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again.” This should make me feel guilty about my forgotten carrots, but Scarlett didn’t survive by planting more turnips; she survived by marrying men with money. Rich reaping.

Both Socrates and Plato have been credited for the lesson that “The unexamined life is not worth living,” and though my forgotten carrots will not cause my family to starve, I am paying attention to the lesson.  I need to work carefully or risk ripping out mistakes and starting over, and be ever mindful of what I sow.

On so many levels, it’s a good lesson for sewing, gardening…and life in general.

When the tornado destroyed their trees, yard, part of their house and much of their town, young Gannon did what he could--he planted grass seed.

When the tornado destroyed their trees, yard, part of their house and much of their town in 2008, young Gannon did what he could–he planted grass seed.

 

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, gardening, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, movies, special quotations