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, 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.

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.”

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.

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.




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


  1. Don

    The passing on of knowledge and skills is such a vital act. Marylin you make me think of my wife who also sews skilfully and who also received that skill from her mother.

    • It is a vital act, Don. Whenever I start a new sewing, knitting or painting project, I can almost feel the presence of the women in my life who taught and encouraged me. It’s a gift from one generation to the next.

  2. Diana Stevan

    I can’t think of anything better than what you’re doing by honoring the woman who gave you life. But having said that, there’s more to motherhood than just giving life. Yours has left you with the priceless treasures of love and understanding.

    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.

    Thanks again, Marylin for another thoughtful post.

    • Thank you, Diana.
      It sounds like your mother passed on gifts and talents more important than sewing and knitting–of all your list, generosity of spirit touched me most–especially when you told about her life in WWI in Czarist Russia. I want to read the story you’re writing!

  3. I really love the way you are keeping your mother’s spirit alive and burning – so often, as a person wilts and fades like a flower we forget the beauty of her blossoming. I’m sure her grandchildren will not remember her a a frail old woman, as long as you celebrate her in this way.

    • Oh, I agree. And it seems to be working. So well, in fact, that both of mom’s great-grandchildren (my grandchildren) last year asked to be “guest” bloggers, and in their own, real, young-child creative efforts, they added to the memories that will mean even more later. To them, to their children, and so on. It’s amazing how long stories can live.

  4. juliabarrett

    Oh wow. What a beautiful post and what a wonderful skill. I’m in awe of anyone who can create with a needle and thread. And congratulations – well deserved.

    • Thank you, Julia. But from things I remember reading in your blog, it seems like you made some sensational shorts once, so you do have some sewing skill. But if you’re going to learn to do intricate hand stitching, I think you’ll have to wait until your finger heals. Do you know yet if you’ll have to have surgery?

  5. What you learned from your Mom: priceless. My Mom taught me how to embroider and crochet. (I never quite got the skill – she had – of knitting.) Thank you for reminding me of the many little things that we have to be thankful for.

    The WordPress Family Award is a good fit for you and your Mom. Congratulations to your nominees. 🙂

    • Thank you so much, Judy, for the compliment, and also for The WordPress Family Award that is so very perfect for my mother and the stories of her life. She’s no longer at a point when she’ll know what this means, but I think her grandchildren and great-grandchildren will.

  6. The things you thank your Mum for Marylin are the very things we thank her for too. Without them we wouldn’t be sharing your blogposts.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

  7. Congratualtions!

    I’ve been working on an embroidered tablecloth (a Christmas gift)–do you still stitch? Winter is my favorite time for needle work.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Mostly smaller projects, Tracy. As soon as the temperature drops and for sure winter is here, I start looking for knitting patterns or something to crochet.
      I helped embroider a tablecloth once, and while there were many hands doing the work in rhythm to telling stories and sharing laughs and tears, it was a very long project. I hope you’re pacing yourself or having others who help. When it’s done, will you share it with us?
      Happy Thanksgiving to you, too!

      • I’ve been at it for 3 years, Marilyn! I can’t do anything for very long at one time–I have to switch tasks and positions frequently. Pacing has become the theme of my life. But, eventually projects get finished. After I decided to give this one as a gift, I’m more motivated now to finish it.

        (thanks for reminding me to take a picture of it–and of the hats I’m knitting. I’ll post them when they’re done.)

  8. Such a beautiful post, Marylin. I admire anyone who has sewing skills. I can never thread the needle…even while wearing my bifocals. 🙂 Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family. xo

    • You remind me of a college friend, except I don’t think she admired sewing at all. I’d thread the needle, and then she’d ask me to go ahead and sew on the button or mend the tear or whatever. It’s a joke now, but once I sewed the button on the wrong side of her blouse and went to the student union for dinner. I came back and didn’t realize until that night that she’s short-sheeted my bed. So much for sewing talents.

  9. Marylin, Another wonderful post of the joys you and your mother share. My mother taught me to sew also, but unfortunately, I was too active and never settled into it. Now, being a mother to a daughter and having found my creative side I am eager to renew and grow my knowledge of sewing and have asked for a sewing machine for Christmas. I plan to create “things” using my images of flowers once they are printed on fabric.
    The fact that you and your mother have deemed me worthy of the award has moved me to tears. Your comments above have humbled me and made me ever so grateful. I am thrilled to know that you have shared some of my comments with your mother. I sure wish our paths had crossed in person, but even without physically meeting either of you, I have grown to know her wonderful being through your beautiful, well crafted words and adore her for her love of life, family, and nature and her faith. She, like you, is truly amazing! Blessings, love, and hugs to you both. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! Robyn

    • You’re getting a sewing machine for Christmas? You are going go love it, Robyn (once you get past all the threading and bobbin-filling instructions, etc.) I’m so glad you accepted the award, and I know my mother would be, too. Blessings, love and hugs to you from both of us!

  10. Dearest Marylin…I am moved deeply by this award…especially since you offer it in honor of your mom. I feel fortunate to have connected with you (and your mom) through blogging…to me, those connections are the greatest reward.
    Have a blessed Thanksgiving! I will be cooking with my daughter and grandson…he actually made pumpkin apple muffins with me yesterday. When I asked him what grade he would give the muffins if they got a report card (he normally does not like muffins, but he asked for one when they were done and ate it ALL), he replied, “A+”. Life is good.:)

    • Oh, what a sweet story, Vivian! I know how wonderful every day is with grandchildren, but special holidays and activities really make a difference when we’re with them and cooking or decorating.
      I still remember when your sky diving poem was a winner in one of the writing contests in Mom’s honor. It was just the beginning!

  11. Wasn’t it wonderful learning to sew and embroider? My mother wasn’t particularly skilled at either but she taught me the basics and I am grateful for that. A WordPress Family Award seems just right for your mother…lovely 🙂

  12. Dear Mary:
    It’s an honor to receive an award like this from you. Thank you for pouring so much love and wisdom into your daughter Marylin that it overflows into this wonderful blog for us to share. I pray that this Thanksgiving will be a time of special joy, in a way that only God can give to a woman like you. Sincerely, Darla

    • Thank you, Darla, and blessings on this Thanksgiving for you as well. You have been a warm, welcoming, supportive and appreciative voice, and I appreciate all the sweet and encouraging things you’ve written to me and to my mother.

  13. Well I never learned to sew but my mother did get me yo 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.

    • A very good thing, actually, from the way you describe your parents, Andrew. Jim was a coach and excellent tennis player, and he taught our daughter Molly; it changed her life in junior high and high school, and then she also had a college scholarship. Knitting, tennis…and all the time parents spend with us…that’s what counts.

  14. Many skills can cross over Marylin and you have take the ones your Mom gave you, needlework and the love of words and combined them into this wonderful patterned mosaic of words, that all stitch together into the most wonderful patchwork of memories that we all get to share, enjoy, learn from …. And this one just adds to it xxxxxx

    • It’s SO good to hear from you, Tom. You sound good, and I hope that the candle burning for you at Cathedral on the Plains is helping! As always, your kind words and support of my mother’s stories means a lot to me.
      I know you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in the UK, but I wish you and your family a wonderful day of blessings and thankfulness.

      • Yes, sorry for my absence my sweet, I’ll try to be more attentive:)). I’ve not been to bad this week or so had a scan last week and back in to see the oncologist on Wednesday to see what is happening but she confirmed the surgeon’s outlook from the other hospital but I still ignore the portents of doom and get on with life as best I can.

        No, thanksgiving is celebrated here, but I am thankful for your thoughts and well wishes and for keeping my candle burning in the Cathedral on the Plains; but today was a special day in that one of my nieces, Leslie, who gets the right hump with me and anyone else for that matter, when punctuation in the written word, even when only in 140 characters on twitter, is out of place, is visiting from Inverness with her Mom and is keeping me on my toes, so I cooked a special dinner for them last night and then we went out and had a lovely meal in a local restaurant today and managed to get a little bit or Xmas shopping in too. Xxxxxxxxx

      • I like your spirit, Tom, and yes, we’ll keep lighting that candle for you. You’re enjoying your family, extended family and friends, and you keep fixing big meals and enjoying special “time around the table.” I believe all those good vibes and positive actions give your body a reminder to keep fighting… And I’m hoping that for you, dear Tom. Even though you don’t have Thanksgiving, I’m very thankful for you!

  15. 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.

    • True heirlooms, Jenny! Imagine the therapeutic calm of the two of them, side by side, embroidering while waiting inside an air-raid shelter. Survival and sanity, and you have the stitches to remind you.
      I hope you share the story (and the tray cloths) with your family, and also school children. It’s an inspiring reminder.

  16. Such a lovely title for this post. It really strings up the things you are saying about needlework and holidays that are upon us. And, your mother and your relationship. Best, Renee

  17. Jim

    Hmmmm, very nice tribute to Mary, but what is a ‘shift’ for heaven’s sake, Marylin? I’m from your generation, albeit a guy. I’ve heard of pedal-pushers, jumpers, and shifty people, but never a shift that one could make and wear. Help me out here!

    • Oh, honey, you’re so cute. You’d recognize a shift if you saw one, but you’d probably call it a straight dress with a slightly rounded neckline and no sleeves. We called them shifts, at least in Kansas, but I don’t know why. Except for the long zipper in the back, it was a simple pattern to follow and good practice for beginners, and depending on the fabric you chose, a shift could be very “every day” or dressy.

  18. Lovely memories Marylin – the image of your mother ‘growing’ flowers in the winter months is beautiful.

  19. What a beautiful way to honour your dear mom Marylin. Not only in the nominations of the WordPress Family Award to the three bloggers who have a special place in your mom’s heart (and who I look forward to visiting!) but in sharing with us the life-skills (among many others!) that she taught you and which you enjoy to this day.

    You have caused me to remember and to give thanks for my own mum who also taught me to sew, to knit, to grow flowers and to cook. My grandmother and great-grandmother both sewed and I have a few linen tabe cloths and mats embroidered by them with designs very similar to your mom’s ‘Wild Roses’ sample.

    Your blog blesses me so much Marylin. I am careful to number my days with my mum and not to take a single day for granted. Also to be sure to keep these family stories alive for future generations.

  20. Marylin, Congratulations on your award!!

  21. Pingback: Monday Writing Magic: WordPress Family Blog Award | Picture Books Help Kids Soar

  22. Molly

    Congratulations on the award to you and Grandma!! They, afterall, are her stories but with YOUR words and wonderful storytelling abilities.

    I am like dad, unsure what a shift is… reality, I thought you had made a typo and had meant to put a shirt! Hmmmm….a shift, interesting!

    When I was with Grandma on Saturday she was more “with-it” and onery than I had seen in her in a long time! It was fabulous to see her in this light again!

    I sure love that Grandma of mine, and I sure love you to the moon and back!

    • And I love our family to the moon and back!
      You and Grandma were always such good buddies, Molly, and I’m so glad you two had a wonderful visit on Saturday. Who would have suspected that in just one visit you’d change her life-long love of Coke to Dr. Pepper!!!
      And now, if you’ll read the answer I wrote for your dad, you’ll know what a shift is. I just don’t understand what is wrong with you two. Shifts were important dress designs! Love you lots!

  23. Congratulations another way to honor and celebrate your beautiful Mother, and special congrats to you for sharing your letters to the world.

  24. Congratulations to you both – well deserved. Your post reminded me that my mother taught Mugwump 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. Happy Thanksgiving down south. We had our thanksgiving in October – more of a harvest celebration.

    • Your mother deserved this award, too, Rod. She taught Snowball and Mugwump (I love the nicknames) the basics that all mothers should teach their sons and daughters…including the leadership and commitment and love.
      A very happy Thanksgiving to you and Susan!

  25. There is so much beauty in the gifts your mother shared with you over the years. Stitching and threading, along with enjoying the crafts are all valuable lessons. I like how you show us the examples, too. I really liked that you have your mother’s roses, your wildflowers and the creative ceramic hand with flowers: all are just lovely! This was also informative and generous to introduce us to others who are in these related fields of expertise.

    • And it all began with my mother’s mother, my grandmother. At the end of each day, she sat in her comfortable chair and picked up handwork of some kind. I still have lovely crocheted accent pieces, cross-stitched aprons and skirts I can’t stand to part with, and quilts. She passed this love on to my mother, who passed it to me, and I want my daughter and both grandchildren to appreciate it, too.

      • I am glad that your daughter may carry on this special gift! I am afraid that both my daughters appreciate the Barbie and baby doll outfits, aprons and cross stitch gifts over the years, but won’t be carrying the torch in this particular craft! One is a great artist and photographer, while working a basic job and raising my 2 grandsons and the other is a health and wellness coach, loves to help out with her nieces and nephews… My daughter in law had my granddaughter who turned 5, party yesterday, where the guests painted Christmas ornaments. She is artsy but not crafty!
        Anyway, this is a long reply saying I am so glad your family members have this wonderful and fantastic “thread” running through their lives!

  26. Congratulations on winning that award! It is well deserved.

  27. Marylin, You are so right to be grateful to your mother for teaching you crafts and needle work. Our children are so digi-wise, yet, they need to be taught needle work and handicrafts too. Not only because it comes in handy in life, also because it calm the mind and brings joy.

    • I so agree with you, Paula. Texting may be a faster, more efficient way to communicate, but it doesn’t calm the mind or relax the body. Needle work and handicrafts are a hand-eye-mind combination like none other.

  28. Hi Marylin,
    All three beautifully stitched pieces brought back memories of when my Nana taught me how to use a needle and thread. Thank you for that.
    And I’m glad you accepted the “WordPress family” award and passed it along to deserving bloggers.
    Happy Thanksgiving

  29. All great words, Marylin, and wonderful memory stimulators! Happy Thanksgiving!

  30. Although we learned sewing at school, it was really my mother who was my real teacher and she inspired me.
    This post brought back memories of that. Thank you.

  31. We learned the basics in school, too, Elizabeth. But there was something very special sitting with my mother or grandmother or great-aunt, almost shoulder to shoulder, and learning the sewing techniques as well as hearing stories about their lives when they were my age.

  32. Jane Thorne

    I love your blog Marylin. I learned all the handcrafts by my Mum’s, both Granny’s and Great Granny’s sides…how blessed we are to have had that time together. Xx

  33. I liked the variety of colors and patterns with floral designs! Beautiful photographs and wonderful, warm shared memories. This would make your mother so happy to relive these with you. I am saddened that she is not able to anymore, but I am sure she and you talked of this while she was cognizant of your happy memories and how much they meant to you!

    • It makes me sad, too, that she doesn’t understand that these are HER stories. But her grandchildren and great-grandchildren will know they’re hers, and they’ll remember her special life. Thanks for the kind words.

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