Mom's fashion "style" was to create her own fashions, even an occasional hat. (picture is property of Marylin Warner; all others in this post taken by Marylin Warner)

Mom’s “style” was to create her own fashions, even an occasional hat. (picture is property of Marylin Warner; all other pictures in this post taken by Marylin Warner)





Mary's great-grand-daughter has her own writing style...sidewalk chalk.

Mary’s great-grand-daughter has her own writing style…with.sidewalk chalk.

STYLE: a manner of doing something; a way of painting, speaking, writing, dressing, composing, or creating. Note: Do not confuse this kind of style with stile, as in turnstile, unless your style is to go back and forth, passing through gates.

Some of my mother’s friends’ clothing and jewelry styles were strongly influenced by French designer Coco Chanel’s casual chic designs. Many of them also wore her signature perfume, Chanel No. 5.   Mom wasn’t a big fan of Chanel No. 5, and since she made most of her clothes, she didn’t imitate many of the outfit trends. But during an interview, Coco said one thing that Mom applauded: “Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street; fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.”

I took Mom to a writing workshop at Avila College years ago, and the question of writers’ styles came up. Here are some of the “famous” quotes that made sense to her: “I don’t think writers compete. I think they’re all doing separate things in their own style.” ~ Elmore Leonard. And this one by Raymond Chandler: “The most durable thing in writing is style. It is a projection of personality and you have to have personality before you can project it. It is the product of emotion and perception.”

The one that made Mom laugh was by William Battie, the English physician who in 1758 wrote the first lengthy book about treating mental illness: “Style is when they’re running you out of town and you make it look like you’re leading the parade.” It seemed logical to Mom that showing confidence even when you didn’t actually feel it was good advice for writers, since there was so much rejection.

The one specific bit of advice she followed was about improving writing style: “Cut out all of those exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald     Mom read through her writing samples, and each time she found an exclamation point she studied it carefully…and then often removed it.

I miss many of my mother’s qualities and abilities that have been dulled or destroyed by dementia.

Going through her big box marked MARY’S WRITING, I love reading her notes and quotes about writing and all kinds of creativity. If I read them aloud to her, she might smile and nod, but there’s no longer any true recognition.

So I’ll share them with you. That was my mother’s style, to share ideas and information and activities with her friends, and if it weren’t for the dementia, she would be very happy to count you all among her friends. She really would.


An old house gets a new "style lift" ~ a bold and beautiful new paint job.

An old house gets a “style lift” with a bold and beautiful new paint job.

Practical Art style ~ turn a public trash can into an art display (Abliene, KS)

Practical Art style ~ turn a public trash can into an art display (Abliene, KS)

Maybe your style is to combine your favorite car and your favorite sport: get a BMW golf cart  (and it's for sale!)

Maybe your style is to combine your favorite car and your favorite sport: get a BMW golf cart (and look, it’s for sale!)

"Recycling Style"-- an old tire gets new life as a child's tree swing.

“Recycling Style”– an old tire gets new life as a child’s tree swing.


Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, friends, Kansas, special quotations, writing

61 responses to “PERSONAL STYLE

  1. My mom is starting to slip into dementia. So many times I wish i could just ask her a question or tell her something she would find interesting. She can no longer handle phone calls. Sigh. I love the story about the exclamation marks.

    • As this goes on, Darlene, you’ll find yourself trying to connect with her via her favorite foods and cologne, as the senses of taste and smell will often trigger responses. Mom’s dementia is way past that now, and when she talks about something it’s usually in the past, even the distant past when she was a child on the farm, and talking to her on the phone doesn’t work as she can’t hear or understand very well.
      I wish you and your mom many happy surprise moments when she will respond to you with clarity and be very glad to see you.

  2. I know your Mom’s dementia has been a big issue for a while Marylin, and you always write about it in a factual way but still treat it with dignity. I think what I admire most about you is your unfailing ability to look through your Mom’s things and make the time when they happened or the event they covered come live again because even if your Mom’s memory is a little dulled yours is there to revive it.
    You are wonderful lady.
    xxx Gigantic Hugs xxx

    • Your comments are so wonderful, David, and I appreciate them very much. If you and grandbaby Reuben weren’t across the ocean and came to visit Mom, she’d have a big hug for you and then immediately forget you’re there so she could connect with Reuben. Dementia has not diminished her love of babies and children. Gigantic Hugs back to you!!!
      (oh-oh, 3 exclamation points…)

  3. I wonder if style is given, developed or manufactured. I have no idea what my style is but many bloggers and more so photographers are distinctive. I think many of us would benefit from sitting with your mom and hearing her share her gems directly. The FSG comment about exclamation marks is very sound! 😉 But the Battie quote is my favourite. Thank you for sharing on your mom’s behalf, Marylin.

    • You’re very welcome, Andrew. These memories aren’t just for Mom’s great-grandchildren to know her before the dementia; they are for me, too, to remind me of details about Mom I might have forgotten otherwise.
      Your photographs–and also your writing that goes with the pictures– definitely reflect your adventurous style that seeks out unexpected angles and details of both the common and the unusual. And with thanks (or apologies) to F. Scott, I’ll match your exclamation point with two more!!! 😉

  4. Don

    “I miss many of my mother’s qualities and abilities that have been dulled or destroyed by dementia.”

    I find this so deeply saddening Marylin. I can’t even begin to imagine what this does to you. It’s hard to accept that such an alive and creative mind can be so dulled and destroyed as you say. But I take heart, and this sounds very trite, forgive me if it sounds that way, is to believe that the break up is in the biology alone and that, that mind as you’ve known it, exists beyond the limited biological vehicle. It must be extremely difficult for you.

    • She’s 96 now, Don, and her dementia didn’t surge until after 90. So more than anything, I’m grateful she was my active, creative, insightful and amazingly talented and helpful mom for so very many years.
      I see these as her “rest and reflect” years; she doesn’t know us, but she’s calm and content and well cared for, and she lives in moments from the past. It is difficult that she doesn’t recognize me, but it really does help me to recall all the years of my life when she was crystal clear, laughing with me, and the adventures we had together. I’m learning to be grateful for what we had, and that helps. Plus, she’s never had the Rage Stage my dad had for so long with Alzheimer’s, which made it VERY difficult.

  5. Dementia can take away much but not your memories and it seems your mother provided quite a lot to remember.

  6. Such wonderful quotes on writing styles. I think I am like your mother in that I love the one by William Battie. The recycled tyre swing took me back to my childhood. We had swings made from tyres. My father made
    them. The word style supposedly has its origins in the word stile, meaning writing instrument, And stile always makes me think of stele or stela which incorporate another style of writing, or way of getting your style into the public arena. 😉 Do you think your mother would have enjoyed emoticons or treated them as she did exclamation points?

    • Gallivanta, I always look forward to your replies as you teach me something completely knew. Your understanding of “stile” as a writing instrument is wonderful! So the stile is an instrument of the writing style! (oops, another exclamation point…)
      It would be interesting to see how Mom would enjoy or use emoticons today if it weren’t for the dementia. I do think if her great-grandchildren sent her messages with emoticons and she could see and understand them clearly, she’d enjoy them very much…because they came from her great-grandchildren! 🙂

  7. Claudia

    Really enjoyed this post. On fact I reading it again. Love the Battie quote and the blue buffalo trash can. I am still trying to find my style in self and writing. I always wore pins on my shirts when I taught and I wore scarves when they went out and are now back in.

    • You have your style in accessories already, Claudia.
      Discovering your writing style can be a fun thing. I once taught a Saturday workshop at a retirement community here in Colorado, and the activities leader who hired me asked that I help them with new writing styles. So I chose interesting writing styles from novels, memoirs, poetry and nonfiction books at the library, and Xeroxed one page from each. I handed them out one at a time, and the participants read them and then tried to imitate them using their own words and personal experiences. The humor/memoir excerpt from Anne Lamott really triggered ideas, and they all started writing and laughing.
      Have fun finding your style; the chair painting, the travels, the adventures with Biscuit–I think you already have a terrific variety of styles just waiting to be pursued!

  8. More food for thought. So nice that you have a box of your mother’s writings to go through and ponder. By doing that and writing about what you’re discovering and remembering keeps your mother’s spirit alive in the fullest way possible. She may have dementia, but she has a daughter who is making sure much of who she was is not forgotten. Hugs.

    • And hugs to you, Diana. Thank you for such a sweet comment. I do try to make sure she is not forgotten, and the special surprise is that along the way I’m finding things and recalling more details, too.

  9. juliabarrett

    Your mother and Coco Channel both nailed the essence of style. Perfect. I agree with your mother – if you look the part on the outside you begin to feel the part on the inside. She certainly did have a unique sense of style. I also do not like the scent of Channel No. 5.

  10. Julia, were we just “off” about Channel No. 5? So many women loved it and thought it was an essential scent. I had a friend whose mother was gorgeous and elegant, but Channel No. 5 almost ruined my enjoyment of her because it was so strong. And she had ALL the No.5 trimmings, so it was strong.

  11. Marylin, you handle your mother’s illness with such style. I only hope I can do the same as I travel down the same path with my mother. xo

  12. Marylin, this post really made me think. Not only about exclamation points (!) but about what my writing style is and what the style is of some of my favorite writers.
    I feel like I know your mom deep inside. I love color and it looks like she loves it too. Though her illness has had an effect on her, her lovely gifts continue to live on through you and onto the rest of us!
    xo Joanne

    • Thank you, Joanne. On several of your posts, especially the one about you planning a wedding reception with colorful mixes of flowers and wonderful details, I thought that if it weren’t for the dementia, my mom would be applauding that post and your wonderful attitude about wanting to make things special and meaningful for the couple and their families. Yes, deep inside, you two are very much alike.

  13. I loved the quotes that caught your mother’s eye. As I read each I thought “oh, that’s a good one” or “even better.” The last one had me chuckling and pondering how I could fit it into a conversation!

    • That is my reaction, too, Shel. I think Mom did work it into conversations with others in her hometown writing group, probably laughing as she told it, because he was the author of a book on mental illness, and she kind of chuckled that writers sometimes were a “wound tight” group. 🙂

  14. I had an editor criticize my overuse of dashes – but I like them dash it all!
    Great post again.

  15. jakesprinter

    Beautiful article Marylin ….So true everybody has talent & style and your mother is one of the best 🙂

  16. Thru your writings, Marilyn, I’ve come to view your Mom as an old friend that I have yet to meet. I love her style and yours. 😉

    • And I can tell you honestly, Judy, that on her behalf I feel the very same way about the regulars on this blog I’ve gotten to know as good friends without ever actually meeting any of you.
      It’s one of the beautiful surprises I never imagined when I began this blog.

  17. I like to imagine that Mary knows all about this wonderful blog and the friends she’s made, thanks to her loving daughter. I feel Mary’s friendship every time I read about her here.

    • You know, Darla, I’d like to imagine that as well. I copy down comments and share them with her, hoping some of it will register with her. She used to smile and ask if that is someone in our family or a friend; now she doesn’t respond. It’s getting to that level of dementia, but I secretly hold hope that bits and pieces still do sneak their ways into her thoughts.

  18. I agree about the exclamation marks – I find them really annoying if used too frequently. Personal style evolves over the years I think, and much of it is created by the people we meet and the experiences we have. I’m still honing mine, but I have to say, I love Chanel No 5!

    • Oh, I wish I’d known, Jenny… when I was cleaning out the house after I moved my parents into assisted living, I found a bottle I would gladly have given to you. It must have been a gift from a friend who loved Chanel No. 5…in the 60’s probably!…and even the color had changed. I wasn’t crazy about it in its prime, and after 45 years of sitting on her bureau, I REALLY didn’t like it. 🙂 Drat. Why did I throw it out?

  19. Ahhh, for the love of style, Marylin! Style truly does god beyond the clothes and shoes we wear….and I must stop using so many exclamation point. All my best to you my dear….

  20. Patty B

    What a blessing you are to not only your mother but to all of us who you share her with. The more you write you more you will feel close once again with your mother.

  21. Absolutely, Patty. Instead of feeling her drift away, I feel closer to her as I remember stories and details and share them with you all. I can’t stop the dementia, but I can hold on to the memories.

  22. Love this post! I remember my mom wanting Chanel number 5. It smelled heavenly.
    Audrey Hepburn is someone I always thought as stylish in a classic way. I love her movies.
    I hear a lot about developing one’s own style of writing. I’m trying to do that.

    • The Audrey Hepburn “style” that most amazed me was in THE NUN’S STORY. Only she could pull off authentic nun attire in the Congo with such “Audrey style.”
      My mother would have gladly given your mother her gift bottle of Chanel No. 5, L. Marie. It just didn’t “feel right” on Mom, so it sat on her bureau.

  23. I’ll say it again, but your writing is the most incredible tribute that you could do to honor your Mother. If today, she could see your words and the passion of grace in treating her disease, she would be very proud of her special daughter.

  24. Despite my allergies, which often leave me stuffy, I have a strong sense of smell. And so perfumes and scented air sprays that so many people enjoy are overpowering to me. I’m afraid even designer fragrances can send me running from a room if someone is wearing more than a drop! Oops, an exclamation point—oh, dear. They are one of my pet peeves in writing, too. Very few, if any, will end up in my finished novels. I promise! 😉

    • I think I’m being careful and doing so well, and then I’ll go back and check and be surprised how many exclamation points peek out in paragraphs. There’s actually a computer program that will beep each time you use an exclamation point, but I think I’ll pass on that possibility.

  25. Hi Marylin, I love how you played with “style”. And of course, I always love your pics. 🙂

  26. Thank you, Tracy. It’s good to hear from you.

  27. I truly admire people with their own sense of “style” [self-confidence] Marilyn… that’s why I admire you and Mary so much.

    I can tell from your stories that Mary was a loving, supportive role model and nurtured a sense of quiet self-confidence in you. That part [quality] of your mother will never be lost because you are passing it on to your daughter. And, your daughter is passing it on to her children. And, so on…

    • Thank you for that, Theresa. I hope you’re right.
      Mom’s confidence was strong and sure, but it was also quiet, and I so see the same traits in my daughter Molly and her children.

  28. Your mother was a special friend, one who really influenced your own way of thinking. My Mom was like that throughout my life, too. Marylin, I am so glad you were able to take her to a writer’s conference, that you both enjoyed it, awhile back in time. I enjoyed going to a reunion of AAUW where Mom had been President. I like that we chose to know our parents, as adults. I am thankful of what memory my Mom has, but you are definitely inspiring me, all the wonderful things you do for yours, to help get a nod of the head, a brief smile and a wisp of memory, possibly passing through her mind. The notes, letters and other ways you look back on your communication, those are unique, so glad you still have them! I think that the main reason this post is important, is to regard each parent as an individual and appreciate their style! I wish I could have been better with my Dad, in my paying attention to what he had to say. There are many unspoken conversations that did not take place! Smiles, Robin

  29. I love the details about you and your mother, Robin; really, so many of the details are very similar with my time with my mother. She also was active in AAUW, though our best times together were at writing conferences. And with my dad’s Alzheimer’s making his last 7 years of life so difficult, I also wish I’d paid more attention before that.
    Thanks for sharing about your family, Robin.

  30. Well I know the first thing I’m going to do is to pin up that F. Scott Fitzgerald quote on my fridge and read it constantly…!! Ooops…see what I mean? I know I put far too many exclamation marks in my writing and need to change that but the good news is that I haven’t used any in my book which is a surprise… Love the William Battie quote too, that tells me so much about your dear mom’s sense of humour and I can just imagine the twinkle in her eye even now as she once chuckled to this one… Marylin, I value your feedback and input to writing style and writing anything so much. Style is so important isn’t it, and yes, in every day life as it is all around and I know one thing for sure…you have plenty of it 🙂

  31. Oh, Sherri, you always make me smile…and that’s your style!!! (take that, F. Scott Fitzgerald… 🙂

  32. Karin Van den Bergh

    I love your writing style Marylin. Love the quotes!!! 🙂

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