Chicken soup. It's not just for colds and flu.  (All pictures by Marylin Warner)

Chicken soup. It’s not just for colds and flu. (All pictures by Marylin Warner)

Dear Mom,

When I began writing this blog, my goal was to remember, collect and record as many special memories about you as possible so your grandchildren and great-grandchildren could know how special and wonderful you are. Along the way, you’ve had hours and days when your dementia took a break, and I’ve read to you some of the blog posts and comments from the readers.

This week I would have loved for you to be alert and aware enough to read a very special email from a wonderful friend you and I met through this blog. (  In our blog last week, I reminded readers about the upcoming April 10 “Encourage a Young Writer” Day. Here is an excerpt of Darla McDavid’s reply:

Hi, Marylin:

I spoke with Chiara for Encourage a Young Writer Day.  Chiara is a fourth grade student who wants to write “adventure and fantasy books” when she grows up. I told Chiara your mother’s name and age, and explained how Mary would love to be standing with her right then to encourage her, if only she could. Then I spoke in Mary’s name and encouraged her to follow that dream. Chiara smiled as she listened.She said to tell your mother “Thank you,” spoken in that pure, sincere way of a child…

With many, many thanks to Darla. Because of her kindness, April 10 also became the day to Encourage an Older Writer and Her Mother.  Each month when I visit you in Kansas, Mom, I will read aloud to you Darla’s full account of working with Chiara. During one of our visits, I believe you will understand and know what a gift this was. To Chiara, to you…and to me.

For the rest of us, it’s no secret that we live in difficult times, face pressures and problems, and often feel overwhelmed by the many demands and disappointments. How do you survive…and thrive?  If you have an experience, a special technique or routine for meeting and defeating obstacles, how about sharing it with others?  In the words of Marcus Aurelius, “The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.”

Here are the full details for an excellent writing opportunity from Santa Fe.

30 Days to Sanity: We Want Your Stories!

Do you have heartwarming, insightful, and powerfully moving true stories about how to stay sane in this chaotic 24/7 world? A co-author of the New York TimesBest-selling book series Chicken Soup for the Soul is currently seeking personal stories to be included in 30 Days to Sanity, an online stress/resiliency program. We’re looking for inspirational true stories that give a personal account of an event, an obstacle overcome, a strategy to remain sane, or a lesson learned that helps the reader discover basic principles they can use in their own lives.

Some of the topics we will include are: Getting to Know Yourself, Your Needs & Dreams, Getting Your Priorities Straight, Learning to Listen to Your Heart, Discovering Your Passion, Setting Aside Time for You, Balancing Work & Family, Building a Soulful Community, Learning to Love Your Body, Taking a Mini-Vacation or Playcation, Setting Limits Both at Work and at Home, Putting Technology to Work for You, Making a Meaningful Contribution to the World, Growing From the Bumps in Your Life, Making Technology Free Times to Truly Connect, Creating a Space Just For You, Making Sacred Time for Your Family, Eliminating Time Wasters and Energy Suckers, Managing Technology, Banishing Your Guilt, Celebrating Your Gifts and Strengths, Expressing Appreciation to a Friend or Loved One, Asking for Help or Support, Discovering an Attitude of Gratitude, Using Life as Your Teacher, Cultivating Compassion, or Comic Relief (humorous stories about funny things you’ve done while stressed).  Submit as many stories as you’d like.

Story Length: Up to 1,200 words  Submission Deadline: June 1, 2013

Compensation: $100 one-time use fee for each story accepted for publication

Submit to: stephanie@30daystosanitycom or to 30 Days to Sanity, Box 31453, Santa Fe, NM 87594-1453 (please keep copies as we are unable to return submissions).

How Do You Stay Sane During Rough and Tumble Times???

Do you turn lemons into lemonade?

Do you turn lemons into lemonade?

Do you pray and light a candle?

Do you pray and light a candle?

Do you cuddle with a buddy?

Do you cuddle with a buddy?


Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, friends, importance of doing good things, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for grandchildren, memories for great-grandchildren


  1. juliabarrett

    It’s so generous of you t share these stories – not only with your family, but with us. The messages are larger than a single isolated life. There’s a lot to learn here, Marylin. I feel grateful every time I read one of your posts.

    • Writing all these weekly posts of my mother’s life have taught me that there’s definitely a lot left to learn, Julia. I sometimes get the feeling I need to hurry; I’ll get a card or an email from someone who knows her, or I’ll come across an old novel with notes for one of her children’s stories tucked inside. Words will be crossed out and penciled in, and what remains sometimes contains a grocery list for a new recipe or notes of events from my childhood.
      I’m grateful every time one of the posts rings true with you, Julia, and you respond with such enthusiasm.

  2. It brings a tear to my eyes and a smile to my heart at the same time to read your thoughts. I am so glad they are shared with others, especially children who will write one day so their thoughts will be remembered, too. Thank you for sharing. Beautiful!

    • We all got our writing starts somewhere, right? You and I were trying to write stories as soon as we began writing words. I love the reminder of the fresh hopes and big dreams of beginning, young writers, enthusiastic and energetic.

  3. Amy

    I’ve learned much about life journey from your heartwarming stories. Thank you so much, Marylin

  4. I love how your mom could be helpful to someone belonging to a newer generation, what a great example!

    I’ve received plenty of lemons in my life, especially these past few years, so I try to make lemonade with them as much as I can. Sometimes, when the sea is really rough, all you can do is hang out to the anchor until the storm passes. It helps to find a way to laugh every day. Oh, and friends are very helpful too. And a glass of wine! 🙂

  5. I am still smiling over the quote from Marcus Aurelius. Sometimes I am not sure I do stay sane, at all. Yesterday I saw a large photo in a magazine; it was of the interior of a dishwasher. The cutlery basket contained a few pieces of cutlery and a hairbrush. And I thought, “Well, that’s an interesting way to clean a hairbrush. It would probably work quite well.” Then I looked for the explanatory text, for this useful household tip, and discovered that the photo was an ad to encourage people to seek help for friends/family who might be showing signs of dementia by putting strange objects in strange places. I had to laugh and laugh at myself for not thinking that a hairbrush in a dishwasher was wrong!!!!!

    • Oh, I absolutely love this!
      I was right there with you, thinking it was a household tip.
      I think we both should forget we read the answer about symptoms of dementia…but forget on purpose!
      If we do it on purpose, it doesn’t count against us…right?

      • Yes! I didn’t think it was so outrageous an idea. I was advised years ago to wash caps/hats in the dishwasher and that does work very well. Why not a hairbrush?

  6. Works for me.
    Probably wouldn’t work in a restaurant or a hospital or somewhere, though…

  7. I am still chuckling over the hairbrush in the dishwasher. The ad could have fooled me too. Thanks for your heartwarming stories. Mentoring others with art, music, writing (anything) is such a two way street and can bring such joy to both participants. Love the quote.

    • I wonder if there’s a “Hairbrush in the Dishwasher But Still Alert” club we might join? Every time I think of it, Lynne, I laugh. I had a friend who washed her children’s ball caps, tennis shoes and opened tin lunch boxes all together in the dishwasher–not with dishes or mugs or anything–and it made perfect sense. Sometimes we just create our own workable solutions.
      I like the quote, too.

  8. Jim

    Too often we say I’ll do such and such to encourage someone when an opportunity arises–when in fact WE are the opportunity here and now. Hats off to Darla for taking the time to create the opportunity.

  9. My experiences with Darla, and through reading all her stories about growing up and writing, tell me she creates the opportunities to do good things and help others. She’s a rare and precious person who makes things better wherever she is. I think Mom will at some point have a moment of clarity and understand this and will smile at the help Darla gave Chiara. I know for certain that this kind of help given to a child has always touched my mother’s heart.

  10. Having a supportive husband in my life helps wonders. And trying to remember to laugh whenever possible. I applaud Darla’s encouragement to that young fourth grader. In today’s busy world, I think children receive far too little of that precious commodity.

    • My husband is my rock, too, and the fact that we laugh together also really helps. Like you, I applaud Darla’s encouragement of Chiara. Children really are often on the short end of receiving help they need. Thanks for your comments.

  11. This is wonderful, Marylin. I’m so glad you came over to my blog because now I’ve found yours. I moved back to the farm this year to take care of my mother-in-law who is in the early stages of dementia. My father-in-law had a stroke last year (when they were visiting us in the other state where we used to live) and the combination of the two set us on a journey to return to the farm to care for them. It’s been the best move I’ve ever made because I don’t have to worry about them from ‘afar’ and hubby and I can do the work around the farm that they can no longer manage.
    I love the way you write to your mother to record memories of her. Just beautiful 😀

    • Welcome, Dianne! I love the pictures on your blog and the comments. Two of the farm pictures–of the glass panel above the door, and the intricately cut glass on the window–both remind me of my grandmother’s house and fill me with happy memories.
      Please join our comments about parents and family with dementia; I’m surprised at all the helpful, thoughtful suggestions are shared by the readers.

  12. When what you write can be passed on to others – a child or an adult – is truly a wonderful gift. You and your Mom touch so many lives in a positive way. I really enjoy your posts.

    • Thank you, Judy. This has been an exciting post, seeing what other writers do to help children. It’s very encouraging. The power of the pen is a wonderful gift to share with others, isn’t it?

  13. So sweet, Marylin. And thanks for the Chicken Soup info.

  14. Hi Marylin,
    I had tears again. I imagined the joy on Chaira’s face knowing your mom’s life has spurred her to be a writer.
    And thank you for the details on the writing opportunity.
    And…How Do I Stay Sane During Rough and Tumble Times?
    I read my trusty manual and pray.
    Have an awesome week! 🙂

    • You, too, Tracy.
      You have a beautiful plan for staying sane. Plus, when you’re feeling stressed I hope you review all the wonderful art opportunities and encouragements you’ve made available for children. You should review their art and smile and feel calm and happy at the way you helped emerging young artists.

  15. dianabletter

    Hi Marylin, A very thoughtful post, as always. I stay sane by keeping my head where my feet are. I make sure that when my mind wanders off into that dangerous neighborhood, I pull myself back to now (It’s a gift–that’s why it’s called the present!). I remember to change that four-letter word, fear, into the five-letter word, faith, something it seems your Mom taught you and others. And, oh yes, I remember my sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Miletta, who encouraged me to write and here I am, oh so many years later, still writing!

    • Keeping your head where your feet are…great advice, easy to remember. The present really is our gift. Thank you, Diana. And special thanks to Mrs. Miletta, who encouraged you to write. I hope you’ve sent her a copy of your wonderful book!

  16. Hi Marylin. I’ve been travelling for the last month and only now just catching up with my favourite writers in the blogging world. Good to be back here and reading about your journey. I definitely learnt a lot of techniques to stay sane when I was away – travelling on my own always throws up many difficult situations, which I just have to get on and deal with. Often when I am feeling nervous, I want to blame someone other than myself, but then I catch myself and know that only if I take responsibility do I give myself the power to change an awkward situation into a more comfortable one.

    • Welcome home, Gabriela! The techniques you learned to stay sane while traveling on you own would make a wonderful addition to the anthology. Are you going to enter some of your writing?
      “Catching ourselves and remembering to take responsibility” is a gem of wisdom we all need to remember.

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