Make a cairn and mark your trail.   (All pictures by Marylin Warner)

Make a cairn and mark your trail. (All pictures by Marylin Warner)


Decorate your fence; make a display of things you love.

Decorate your fence; make a display of things you love.

Make an effort to catch your own dinner.

Make an effort to catch your own dinner.


Make a scene trying to scamper away from a camera.

Make a scene trying to scamper away from a camera.

Years ago, long before my dad’s Alzheimer’s and my mom’s dementia, for her birthday I took Mom to a weekend writing conference on the campus of Bethel College in North Newton, KS. We shared a dorm room, ate in the student union, attended workshops in fiction and nonfiction writing, and had a wonderful time.

Mom met a charming lady who was writing an unusual article. While others were writing about surviving loss, rebuilding after financial ruin, getting their kids off drugs, or keeping their faith during hard times…this lady was writing “How To Make Your Bed While You’re Still In It.” She shared the rough draft with us, and it was short, simple and fun. The next morning in our dorm room, Mom scooted to the head of her bed, pulled the sheet up and smoothed it, then pulled up the bedspread, etc., and made the bed while she was still in it…kind of. We never heard if the lady published the article, but we had fun practicing the steps and helping her figure out how to clarify the directions.

Remembering that adventure, this week I began a list of things we make: make a bed; make a scene; make a wish; make a statement; make a difference; make a baby; make a deal; make a mountain out of a mole hill; make a promise; make a choice; make a mistake; make matters worse; make a commitment; make an enemy; make a friend.

The summer before I turned 15, I accepted a job babysitting 5 little boys from the ages of four to nine, every weekday from 7:30am to 5:45pm. I fixed their meals, broke up their fights, bandaged their knees, and walked them to and from baseball and swimming lessons. On the third day of my job, the middle boy left the gate open and their dog got out and was hit by a car. I wrapped the bleeding dog in a towel and carried it to the vet’s office with 5 young brothers in tow, crying and running beside me, tugging at the towel.

That day I’d had enough and wanted to quit. My dad told me I needed to keep my word. He said, “You may not like this job, but the choice you make to stay with it or walk away will tell you who you are.” I ended up staying with it that summer, surviving low points like digging the hole for a doggie funeral, scrubbing crayon drawings off the dining room wall, and nursing a whiney little boy through an ear infection. That job taught me more about hard work—and myself—than I ever could have imagined.

Making a bed while you’re still in it, and making a decision to finish a job you don’t like are two examples of things we make. Feel free to make a comment and add to the list!

Make a big deal out of a child's success!

Make a big deal out of a child’s success!




Filed under art projects, Dementia/Alzheimer's, Kansas, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, writing exercises

78 responses to “THE THINGS WE MAKE

  1. juliabarrett

    I make a meal. Make commitments. Make/do loads of things, I guess. It’s funny, I too took a babysitting job one summer – 7:30-5:30 – for three insane little boys who spent all day every day finding new ways to get injured or injure each other. I cooked meals, bandaged their ouchies, stopped them from actually bashing each other in the head. I wanted to quit the day their mother asked me, a vegetarian, to clean and cook raw chicken. I’d never before touched a raw chicken. I was not only grossed out, I was in tears.
    My parents weren’t much for advice so I didn’t bother to ask. I did decide to stick it out. By the end of the summer I was grilling burgers for the boys. I’ll tell you, caring for three boys all day every day makes you tough.

    • Julia, it is definitely amazing what babysitting–especially for little boys–can teach you about life. My five were a blended family–3 hers, 2 his–and they’d been together less than a year. That brought on additional challenges as well, but burying the dog and holding a little funeral and letting them make things to put with the dog, made them pull together… for awhile. 5 boys made for a very rough and tumble summer.

  2. Hopefully we can make an impact – for good 🙂

  3. Make an impact–for good.
    That’s an important one, at the top of the list for Things We Make.

  4. I think you can add ,Make someone Happy to your list or even Make someone Smile which is what happens when I see a new post from you. It gets wider when I see mention of your Mom.
    I can just picture her scrambling to the head of the bed to make it while still in it. I think maybe you should post whatever you can remember of the instructions and it could become an instant hit with kids. Maybe one job less for a Mom to do.
    xxx Gigantic Hugs Marylin xxx

    • That’s a great idea, David!
      Actually, my mom’s habit was to make their bed as soon as she got out of it every morning. My dad was an early riser, and when Mom made the bed immediately she said it meant the day was off to a good start and there was no crawling back under the covers to sleep awhile longer.
      But the morning she made the dorm bed while she was still in it was a lot of fun. That’s the kind of memory that still makes me smile.
      Gigantic Hugs Back At-cha!!!

  5. Make love, make war, make peace? – I think we probably all do those to some degree!

    • I think you’re right. On the news last night they were showing quick shots of leisure attire and how it changed through the 50s, 60s and 70s, and one of the T-shirts it showed several times was “Make Love, Not War.”

  6. You were making memories with your mother at the workshop. That story and your story of baby sitting made me think of the saying “You’ve made your bed, now lie in it.” How about “make hay whilst the sun shines”. 🙂

    • Actually, I think the point of making the bed WHILE you were still in it, was to then get out instead of going back to sleep! 😉
      A friend who grew up on a farm told me of course you make hay while the sun shines…if it’s raining you have to wait until everything dries out. She was very literal. I like using the phrase to mean, do it now, while you can!

      • That connection with our rural history remains strong in our language. I wonder what sayings will arise from our computer age.

      • 🙂 I’m afraid the sayings from our computer age will be in code, or acronyms, and only those with special passwords will be able to access them. Their theme will be Make Confusion.

  7. Make peace? I am in awe of you – and Julia! – looking after those little boys when you were not yet quite 15. I wouldn’t have had the maturity to take on the responsibility at such a young age, and I wonder whether, in this over-protective society we have today, it would even be legal nowadays? But what a wonderful experience, and how you profited from it.

    • While I’m glad now that I was the babysitter for those 5 little boys, that summer there were many days when I thought I must be crazy to do it. And when my own daughter wasn’t yet 15, no way would I want her to have such a job. Talk about on-the-job-training!

  8. You make a splash with this blog post, Marylin. I like the prompt: Make your bed while your still in it. Maybe I can use that sometime with the grand-kids.

    Just minutes ago, we had to MAKE THE BEST OF IT! For the second time our trip to the U-Pick Blueberry Farm has been canceled. Last week-end we were told the berries weren’t ripe and now today the field is closed because of a drenching rain storm last night. The kids had to cope with a second postponement, and so did we. “Life is all about how you handle plan B.” Makes sense, doesn’t it.

    You made so much of a 4-letter, Anglo-Saxon word, Marylin. Again, thank you!

    • Make the best of it! Oh, yeah, and with grandchildren who have to postpone two weekends in a row, that’s a hard one. But I really like your reply, Marian: “Life is all about how you handle plan B.” Love it!

  9. I was also going for make peace. Whether internal or amongst others the older I get the more I appreciate peace in all it’s forms. And of course, make photographs.

    • Andrew, the amazing beauty you capture when you make photographs astounds me. I have a new appreciation for–and understanding of–birds because of your work.

      • Thank you Marylin. I never mind whether the creature is common or rare, I just enjoy watching and hopefully sharing some of that fun and wonder.

  10. Make the most of today. Great post. I thought the Make Your Bed While Still In It was going to be a metaphor for life.
    It would be fun to MAKE suggestions about the different metaphors it could represent.
    It could be an extension or positive addition to You MADE your bed now lie in it. How do we MAKE the bed we want to stay in.

    You often MAKE my day as I read your post first thing. Got to go and make the bed now.

    • Thank you, Rod. You came up with some great ways to add new insights to the “Make Your Bed While You’re Still In It.” I especially like the We Make the Bed We Want to Stay In. That encourages several interpretations!

  11. I love your list, Marilyn. I especially love the way it progresses…

    When I was very young, I always had difficulty choosing a crayon, a breakfast cereal, an ice cream flavor (greedy child, I wanted a bit of everything). I was always told, make up your mind which confused me. The only other reference I had for the word “make” was we help mommy make the bed (From the Little Golden Book Series–We Help Mommy). I pictured my mind like a slept-in, rumpled bed, and figured the act of choosing must be like smoothing the sheets, tugging at the corners we pull until there’s not a wrinkle left….

    Conceptual thinking and idioms are so overwhelming for preschoolers!

    Make it simple. Make it light. Make it fun. Make myself behave…

    • You know, Tracy, I was always confused by the “make up your mind,” too. I didn’t understand how a mind that was absorbing and making sense of so much happening all the time could be controlled. Finally my mother started say, “Choose, Marylin” after she got tired of me asking all the questions.
      I love your final line: Make myself behave… Another hard one. 😉

  12. Hudson Howl

    In the tradition of the KISS method. ‘Make, but not in hast’. Perhaps my own, and one that I stumble over always, but I need it none the less.

    Good shtufffs, as always to cut to the chase. And as always, I come away not as shaky of person as I prior to reading.

    • Oh, this one’s great–“Make, but not in hast.”–I’d never heard that! It’s a perfect reminder for me, as when I get behind in things, I Make it Fast, and then I often have to redo it!

  13. Nancy Parker Brummett

    Make a difference in the world–as you do with your inspiring words, Marylin!

  14. This was an excellent post, Marylin! I babysat a 15 month old at age 15 and it was fun, putting her into a stroller and while she napped, I typed on a heavy black typewriter, my Dad’s science fiction and semi-autobiographical book. I found your busy and hectic summer more like my adult seven years that I had 3 kids of my own and babysat 5 for those years plus the summer leading into it and closing that time period! We made one trip to the hospital and one to the police station.
    I admired that you listened to your Dad’s advice and stuck out the summer with those boys!
    This post was right up my ‘alley,’ so to speak. I did a post about a song with the word, ‘fix,’ in it and then, a song with the word, ‘broke,’ in it. Those two words are counterpoints. It made it interesting to find almost all the different variations, both ordinary and slang, where language is used.
    I like the word the 70’s bumper sticker using, “make” in “Make love not War!”

  15. Oh, I would have much preferred babysitting a 15-month-old baby, Robin. I wish we could have traded. But in your own life, with your three and also babysitting 5 others, the words “hospital” and “police station” told me you certainly had your hands full!
    The things we know now, we learned then, that’s for sure!

  16. I love that you have so many shared writing memories with your mother, so you can really feel the roots of your writing. How about ‘make a mess’ and then ‘make amends’!

    • Thanks, Andrea. We really did have great writing memories. Even now, when I sell a story or article, I’m kind of disappointed that even if I tell her about them or show her a picture in a magazine, she won’t understand. So I relive the good ones over and over, especially the really funny ones like trying to make the bed while still in the bed.
      I love your combination: “Make a Mess” and then “Make Amends” says it all!

  17. Don

    Wonderful post Marylin. Loved your experience of looking after those boys. I don’t know how you did it. I had two and they were a handful.

    I remember going through a particular rough time in a town I was then living in. I was in a very dark place when suddenly I had a kind of epiphany. I suppose you could describe it as mystical in nature but with an intense practical side to it. I saw clearly what I needed to do. It was such a wonderful experience that I decided to take some rocks nearby and “make” a little altar in remembrance and gratitude for what had happened. About ten years later I returned to the very place which was overgrown with bush and looked for the tiny altar. To my joy I eventually found it and celebrated the remembrance of the event all over again. It was a very moving and inspiring moment for me. I’ve never gone back but I hope the altar is still there. 🙂

    • There really is something special about making these little altars and stone cairns to mark the importance and gratitude–or sorrow–in our lives. How amazing that a decade later you returned and found yours, Don.

      When the five young boys and I buried their dog, they each put in notes or little toys, and the two youngest boys picked dandelions and put them in the little grave. Then we stacked stones and made a marker over the packed dirt. I think it made it easier for the boys to be able to say good-bye, especially for the one who accidentally left the gate open.

      • Don

        What a lovely moment Marylin. I bet that memory is still in their hearts. Did you ever see them again?

      • At the end of the summer, the big old house they rented became a commercial property. I don’t know where the family moved, Don. It was a blended family–3 of the boys were the wife’s, two were the husband’s–and they had only been married about a year when I was the kids’ babysitter for the summer. I didn’t see the boys after that, but I always hoped they were doing okay, because I really did care about them, especially the two who were the husband’s sons. One of them accidentally left the gate open–he felt so bad–and in general I just got the feeling that their father worked long hours (maybe two jobs?) and the mother paid much more attention to her own sons than his.

  18. Make amends with people we need to forgive. Marylin, your father, like mine, always knew the right thing to do.

    • I just read Andrea’s reply, which was also ‘make amends.’ How about, make time, especially for the elderly.

      • You and Andrea were on the same page, Jill. Both answers were so good, but I also like your “Make Time” suggestion. Especially for the elderly, but also for children, too. And anyone who needs some TLC, actually.

    • We were fortunate to have such good dads, Jill. I imagine you dad was like mine in that he also would talk to you about things and then let your make the final decision. Am I right?
      I don’t know what my dad would have done if I had actually quit my babysitting job cold turkey. He probably would have let me quit, but he would have talked me in to staying and babysitting until the mother found another sitter.

  19. Karin Van den Bergh

    Gosh you were courageous by staying Marylin, but then again you “made a difference” in someone’s life. You still do 🙂
    Right now what comes to mind in my own personal experience at this moment is ; “make up your mind..make it happen..make a life!”

  20. Is that you fishing in the photo, Marylin? I like to make a child feel better. Working at an elementary school gives me plenty of opportunities for that. Usually it’s with band-aids and ice packs, but there have been many memorable moments when I was able to share the right words or a story to help soothe a child’s emotional pain.

    • Yes, that is Mor-Mor (me) with my grandson, Darla. We were not especially disappointed to grill hot dogs instead of fish for dinner. Fishing is more fun than actually catching fish, cleaning them, etc. We had a good time.
      I can see you sharing the right words or a story with children, Darla. I still remember how your told a student about my mother’s writing to encourage her. You make a difference every day in children’s lives.

  21. The advice your dad gave you was so important, even if it wasn’t what you wanted to hear, perhaps! He felt your pain, but didn’t allow you to quit and I wonder if that had an impact on you, in terms of understanding what ‘your word’ means at 15?

    Anyway, being that this is such a nice Sunday afternoon, what I am making is… lattes! Cheers 🙂

    • And if I hadn’t stayed with the job, it would have been my decision and Dad would have accepted that. But he would have been disappointed, too, and that would have been worse than if he were angry.
      Ah, making lattes! Good choice or words…and drinks!

  22. Looks like my comment from earlier today is missing…will try again. Your dad sounded so wise in how he dealth with your baby sitting job. It must have been really tough for you after the horror of how the summer began. But the bad things do shape us, just seems hard to go through for this shaping though! Today has been a day I would love to know how to make the bed with me still in it…and then stay there!!!! 🙂

    • I wasn’t thrilled with his advice then, Claudia, but through the years I’ve been very grateful for it.
      Today was very cool and rainy–a perfect day to make the bed and stay in it–but I didn’t! 🙂

  23. Though-provoking post Marilyn.
    I agree with ‘make a difference’ (and you do).

  24. Marylin, I love this story. My father was a tough guy too and he instilled a deep sense of integrity and strong morals in all of us. I can picture him telling me the same thing- don’t quit- and then me sticking it out.
    I do like the “make the bed while you’re in it” idea, but then I usually am the first one out in the morning! Still, I can always impart this idea on my husband- maybe he’d be game 😉
    xo Joanne

    • Good luck with that, Joanne. Jim smiled, but if I’m lucky we’ll wake up at the same time tomorrow and remember to try making the bed before one of us goes to make coffee. 🙂
      You and I had good fathers, don’t you think? As difficult as it was to stay and finish things sometimes, we’re both stronger for doing it.

  25. Great post this, as always, and the way you get me thinking never fails to amaze me! Funny about the bed-making as hubby is always telling me that i have a knack for making the bed while I’m still in it…I don’t of course but I just flick up the duvet and bedspread and prop up a few pillows for my morning cuppa…if that’s making a bed then I’m in 😉
    Seriously though, in response to your question I would say ‘make it count’. Meaning, I tried to instill in my kids that if you say you were going to do something then make sure to do it…let your yes be yes in other words. I couldn’t stand it when I would hear ‘I guess’. I would say…no, you either say yes or no, and if you can’t be sure to keep your promise then don’t say yes in the first place unless you are absolutely sure. Not to be rigid because of course things happen and plans change, as we well know, but this comes down to integrity. A dirty word today? Maybe, but one that makes for better everything…and your dad knew that so very, very well. What a wonderful lesson he taught you Marylin, tough as it was, and I’m so proud of you for sticking to your babysitting job. That was tough to deal with (poor dog, poor kids, poor you…) but you did it, stuck with the job and I’m not surprised, looking at the wonderful woman you are today. Thank you for sharing this inspirational post dear Marylin 🙂

    • Sherri, reading your comment gave me so much more to remember on a deeper level. I LOVE your “Make it Count”–in more than words–and yes, it does come down to integrity!
      My mom would love your description of making the bed while you’re still in it. The problem when she tried in the dorm room where we were staying was that her single bed was in the corner, with a wall on one side and a desk on the other. She got the sheet and bedspread pulled up and smoothed, but that left her sitting on the pillow, laughing, trying to get out without messing up the bed again. Her humor was wonderful, and so was my dad’s advice, so for this post, my phrase would be “Make memories real again”–about my parents.

      • Oh Marylin…thank you so much for sharing these memories of your wonderful parents. I can hear your mom’s laughter even now…and your dad’s advice…ringing out across time, bringing joy to your heart and those of us who read your wonderful posts. I am beaming at the thought of it… 😀

      • Thanks, Sherri. It’s been hard, having Dad’s Alzheimer’s and now Mom’s dementia diminish some of their helpful, happy, truly joyous qualities. But each time I write memories of better times–and especially when kind readers like you appreciate and relate to them–it makes the memories real and alive again.

      • That’s the beauty of blogging isn’t it Marylin, and I’ve certainly found the same when writing down memories and sharing them here…it brings these happier times to mind and helps us to remember them in a clearer light despite the reality of what today might bring. A rich legacy, and yours is one I’m so blessed and privileged to read.

  26. Make your bed while you’re in it. – that is priceless advice! Thanks Marylin.

  27. Molly

    Make yourself wake up early and go into work early to finish projects that you didn’t feel like working on over the weekend! 🙂

    That is what I am “MAKING MYSELF DO TODAY!”

  28. A lovely post as usual. We were created to be creative. I’d love to know how to make a bed while still in it. 🙂

    • It’s not all it’s cracked up to be, L.Marie, as Mom and I learned when we tried it for the writer to see if it was workable. But we are created to be creative…and happy creating new things. 🙂

  29. Karen Keim

    I like this post, Marylin, and I too smile when I picture your mother trying out the instructions to make the bed while she was still in it. I don’t think my mother would have tried that, but she would have been amused at her sister Mary doing it. . . . Talking about practical bed-making, I learned from a Czech friend who stayed with us in PA that it is best to fold the sheets and covers back and let the bed air out (she also opened the window). So I do that (but not the window)–and sometimes I never get back to making the bed properly.

    • Hi, Karen! I agree your mom probably would have watched my mom trying it, but I think they both would have laughed and had a good time.
      Your Czech friend was right. Last winter there was an article in Prevention Magazine saying to air out sheets and covers before making the bed, saying it was healthier. It gave a list of reasons I can’t now recall (I’m my mother’s daughter 😉 ) but I remember that it was a good thing because of old cells, etc.
      But if I pull back the covers to “breath” and then go on to do other things, I may not get back to making the bed!

  30. JIm

    Very fun post. I’ll add to the list: make up, make out, make-over, make-do, and make-shift.

  31. Such a clever word-artist my husband is! Thanks, honey, for ALL these suggestions! 😉

  32. We sure do ‘make’ a lot of things. Since Andrew already added make photographs, I’ll add: make your way, make a living, make it better, make a plan, make a change, and make the grade.

  33. Make lemonade out of lemons … Your Dad’s advice was a good one. Sometimes, you do have to make the best of a bad situation. The dog being hit, the boys being upset and you being the grown up trying to do the right thing. And, you did. Great post, Marilyn. 😉

  34. Make he best of a bad situation–AND make lemon meringue pie (one of his favorites)–would both apply to my dad’s philosophy, Judy. The beginning of the summer was a trial by fire, but by the end of the summer I felt confident to take on almost anything. It was hard being “the adult” when I wasn’t even close to being the adult!

  35. With the news of the world these days, I wish more people would make the effort to make peace—especially those in the positions of power who could do so much to that end.

    I don’t think I could handle the dog’s injury today, let alone at 14. That would be as heart breaking for me as for the children. At that age, I was babysitting three neighbor girls one evening, and their dog decided that was the right time to have her puppies—three of which were the spitting image of my own dog…. Keeping an eye on her was enough to drop veterinarian from my career plans!

    • Oh, if the dog had delivered puppies, that would have been so much better. At that age, I’d been present and “kind of helped” at several dog deliveries. SO much more interesting and amazing and happy than digging up a weeded area in a garden and burying a dog while 5 little boys sniffle and cry…
      Make peace. Good choice, JM.

  36. Make someone happy, make whoopee, make love, make a home, make babies, make fun, make pictures, make memories.

    You made a lovely post!

  37. You have brought up a very superb points , regards for the post.

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