Author Archives: Marylin Warner

About Marylin Warner

Writing coach and editor, freelance writer with published short stories, essays, memoirs and articles in numerous magazines, anthologies and newspapers. Member of SCBWI, Colorado Authors League, and National League of American Pen Women. Her short story, "The Truth About Camels and Ducks" recently won first place in the ACC Writer's Studio contest and will appear in THE PROGENITOR literary journal. Follow her at https://warnerwriting.wordpress.com

A THISTLE BY ANY OTHER NAME

Wikipedia picture of Archibald Leach.

Wikipedia picture of Archibald Leach.

 

 

Ben Franklin wrote as Silence Dogood, Polly Baker, Busy Body and other names.

Ben Franklin wrote as Silence Dogood, Polly Baker, Busy Body and other names.

One of Hollywood’s classic leading men from the 1930s-1963 was Cary Grant. An interviewer once told him, “Everyone would like to be Cary Grant,” to which Cary replied, “So would I.” He was actually born Archibald Alexander Leach in Horfield, Bristol, England.

In addition to choosing a writing pseudonym, entering the Witness Protection Program or taking on a more appealing stage name, there are many reasons people change their names. Although Shakespeare wrote that a rose by any other name would be as sweet, I agree with L.M. Montgomery’s character, Anne, who said this in ANNE OF GREEN GABLES. “…I don’t believe a rose would be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage.”

My mother grew up being called Mary Ibbeth when other children had trouble pronouncing Elizabeth. My brother called me Mayno until he could say Marylin. Mary Ann Evans wrote under the name George Eliot to be taken more seriously than women writers of her time. And Mark Sinclair changed his acting name to Vin Diesel. I assume it’s for VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) and DIESEL (a type of gas used in a diesel engine) which fits with FAST AND FURIOUS.

When I was growing up, almost all my friends hated their names at some time or another, and we’d talk about the names we’d rather have. All of us ended up sticking to our given name, or shortening it to a nickname. One of my favorite examples of choosing a significant name is by Patricia Briggs in RIVER MARKED. “Mercy is not a proper Indian name.”… “Rash Coyote Who Runs with Wolf … We could shorten it to Dinner Woman.”

I once thought that if I had to change my name for some reason, I’d use my first nickname, Mayno, and add my mother’s (and my daughter’s) middle name, Elizabeth.  It just didn’t feel right. You know what they say about a rose—or a thistle—by any other name.

Mom's dementia has her remembering being a child on the farm. During this visit I called her Mary Ibbeth as I read a poem about farms.  She just smiled.

Mom’s dementia has her remembering being a child on the farm. During this visit I called her Mary Ibbeth as I read a poem about farms. She kept her eyes closed, but she smiled.

Child carrying stack of books ~ statue at main library in Colorado Springs.  If you got books by Deanna Dwyer, Leigh Nichols, or David Axton, who wrote them? (Dean Koontz)

Child carrying stack of books ~ statue at main library in downtown Colorado Springs. If you got books by Deanna Dwyer, Leigh Nichols, or David Axton, who wrote them? (Dean Koontz)

The doll of Dorothy from THE WIZARD OF OZ.  The movie role was played by Frances Ethel Gumm (aka Judy Garland)

The doll of Dorothy from THE WIZARD OF OZ. The movie role was played by Frances Ethel Gumm (aka Judy Garland)

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THE CRUELEST MONTH

"Only from the heart can you touch the sky." ~ Rumi  (all photos by Marylin Warner)

“Only from the heart can you touch the sky.” ~ Rumi   (all photos by Marylin Warner)

April’s weather is half March, half May, a month of conflicting allergies and confusing mood swings.   In THE WASTE LAND, T.S. Eliot wrote that April was the cruelest month, and according to the National Center For Health Statistics, depression and suicide rates are lowest in the winter months and highest in the springtime.  I never would have suspected that.

On one day, April 14th, there are actually three “special days” devoted to offsetting doldrums and banishing blues. The first is INTERNATIONAL MOMENT OF LAUGHTER DAY. An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but laughter is the best medicine, even in small doses. If you have a favorite food or a friend, movie or activity that makes you laugh, enjoy it to the fullest. If the local, national or world news has the opposite effect, this is the day to turn it off.

April 14th is also LOOK UP AT THE SKY DAY. Buddha wrote: “Meditate. Live purely. Be quiet. Do your work with mastery. Like the moon, come out from behind the clouds! Shine.”    I love this. Before her dementia, my mother’s pure, quiet shine came from equal doses of looking up at the sky and kneeling to dig her fingers in the earth.

REACH AS HIGH AS YOU CAN DAY is the third April 14th special day, and this goal also supports looking up at the sky, stretching for dreams and hopeful plans, and reaching for what you want. Combine it with Buddha’s advice; find your way to come out from behind the clouds and shine, even for one day.

I was in high school when I read “The Grand Essentials of Happiness” at the end of a Dear Abby advice column. It was attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, but since then I’ve seen the credit given to Rita Mae Brown, George Washington Burnap, Immanuel Kant and others. Whoever first said it, many authors and philosophers have agreed with it. It was the purest formula for happiness I’d ever read, and I’ve never forgotten it. To be happy, we need “Something to do, Someone to love, and Something to look forward to.”

During this “cruelest month,” on bleak days we can always begin with something to do: sit quietly or find a reason to laugh; look up at the sky and reach as high as we can…or kneel and dig our fingers in the soil, and imagine what might grow.

On April 14th, to laugh like a child, act like a child: jump in with both feet.

On April 14th, to laugh like a child, act like a child: jump in with both feet.

Happiness advice from a 10-year-old boy: Keep Calm and Eat Cookies

Happiness advice from a 10-year-old boy: Keep Calm and Eat Cookies

April 10th is "National Siblings Day" ~ so this is for my brother.

April 10th is “National Siblings Day” ~ so this is for my brother. ( I thanked him for not pushing me off the bench; he said I was trying to push him off… I don’t think so.)

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, life questions, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, special days in April, special quotations

NO MORE WORDS THAN NECESSARY

Oh, The Places Your Mind Will Go when you write a poem this month!

Oh, The Places Your Mind Will Go when you write a poem this month!

The cover of the notebook I put together for each of Mom's great-grandchildren:  EXAMPLES OF A LOVING, CREATIVE SPIRIT.

The cover of the 3-ring book I put together for each of Mom’s great-grandchildren: EXAMPLES OF A LOVING, CREATIVE SPIRIT

Dr. Seuss’s advice about writing should be the lesson for April, which is National Poetry Month. “So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.”

One of the shortest poems is attributed to Shel Silverstein (and to several other writers, including anonymous). The title is “Fleas” and the poem is this: Adam had’em

Before dementia dulled my mother’s writing pursuits, she wrote notes, ideas, opening sentences and short poems on scraps of paper and tucked them in pockets, purses and notebooks. Recently I found details about limericks. “There are three types of limericks: those told when ladies are present; those told when ladies are absent but clergymen are present; and LIMERICKS.” This is another: “Limericks are 5 lines long, and lines 1,2,and 5 rhyme. Limericks can be true or not. Some are naughty.”   And this is my favorite: “Do not write a first line that rhymes with Nantucket.”

My mom wrote many travel and children’s poems, but very few limericks. In her writing box I found one that was a winner in the Kansas Authors Club Contest. It was in the Farm or Rural category, written many years ago. Here it is:

A little old man with six dogs   ~ Used his dogs to round up his hogs. ~ But the hogs in a fury, ~ Turned in a hurry,   ~ And frightened away the man’s dogs.

I write in almost all genres except poetry. But this is National Poetry Month, and April 5 is “Go For Broke Day,” when everyone is encouraged to take a risk and put it all on the line. In that spirit, today I wrote my first limerick. It is about my mother, a tribute to all her years of teaching Sunday school and helping children through hard times.

There once was a mother whose smile ~ Made even mistakes seem worthwhile. ~   She also had a sweet way ~ Of teaching children to pray ~ And making their heavy hearts smile.

To celebrate National Poetry Month, I hope the brave ones among you will share a poem, especially limericks that don’t rhyme with Nantucket. Feel free to Go For Broke.

This is not just a war poster.  It's also a writing poster, so roll up your sleeves and write a poem!

This is not just a war poster. It’s also a writing poster, so roll up your sleeves and write a poem!

This does not apply to the hogs in my mom's limerick.

This does not apply to the hogs in my mom’s limerick.

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ROYGBIV, FYI

ROYGBIV X 2 = a double rainbow.  (picture by Jim Warner)

ROYGBIV x 2 = a double rainbow. (picture by Jim Warner)

M & Ms are acronyms for Mars and Murrie's, the last names of the candy's founders.

M & Ms are acronyms for Mars and Murrie’s, the last names of the candy’s founders.

A golf cart For Sale.  It's a BMW, meaning "Bavarian Motor Works."

A golf cart For Sale. It’s a BMW, the acronym for “Bavarian Motor Works.”

I was in fourth grade when the teacher taught us a tool for remembering the colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. Thank you, Roy G Biv.

Today we’ve moved beyond teaching tools and abbreviations. Acronyms are used in every industry, in all walks of life. Texting and instant messaging make up a whole new series of acronyms. AFK says we’re away from keyboard; BRB assures we’ll be right back; and if you’re guarding what you’re sharing, POS tells the other person Parents Over Shoulder. BF is Best Friend, BFF is Best Friends Forever; BFFL is Best Friends For Life. It’s touching to know that even the act of identifying and ranking levels of our most important friendships can now be accomplished in acronyms of 2-4 letters.

Some acronyms we know “in general” what they mean. For instance, we know SOS is a call for help, but technically it means “Save Our Souls.” The Latin meanings of the acronyms for i.e. and e.g. are long, complicated, and well…in Latin. The useful meanings are “in other words” for i.e., and “for example” for e.g.   And most of us probably know what a TASER is, but do you know that TASER is the acronym for “Thomas A. Swift’s Electric Rifle”?

If we’re going to use acronyms, we really should know what they mean. LOL means “laugh out loud,” and therefore shouldn’t be used as part of the message on a sympathy card because you think it means “lots of love.” Sometimes it’s better to write out what we feel instead of taking chances that the acronym might be misinterpreted.

While my parents were still living at home—before my father’s Alzheimer’s and long before my mother’s dementia—I was visiting them when a young girl dropped off some writing materials for my mom. As the teen put them on the coffee table, Mom noticed her colorful bracelet and asked what the letters stood for. The girl smiled and held out her arm to show off the WWJD. “It’s a reminder,” she said. “A question to ask myself…’What Would Jesus Do?’”

Ever helpful and pleasant, my mother smiled and patted the girl’s hand. “Oh, sweetheart, you know there’s a book that actually tells you what Jesus did do.”

The world is changing with acronyms providing faster ways of communicating. It is not TEOTWAWKI—“The End of The World As We Know It”—just another new thing we can choose to embrace or not.

To all of you I say BBS (Be Back Soon) and TTYL (Talk To you Later).  To my mom I don’t say HAGN or TYVM, because she wouldn’t know what those mean. So I say “Have a good night” and “Thank you very much” for being a wonderful mom.

One of the most popular acronym message bracelets of the 1990s.

One of the most popular acronym message bracelets of the 1990s.

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A NEAR MISS

Be grateful for calm skies. "Forever is composed of nows." ~ Emily Dickinson

Be grateful for calm skies.
“Forever is composed of nows.” ~ Emily Dickinson

There are many days to celebrate in March.  Birthdays of family and friends, St. Patrick’s Day, the first day of Spring, and depending on our country of residence, some of us celebrate Mother’s Day this month, while others celebrate in May.

Regardless of where we live, we all should celebrate March 23rd.   BIG TIME, with grateful hearts, and champagne toasts made in joy.   March 23rd is “NEAR MISS DAY.”

On March 23, 1989, a mountain-sized asteroid passed through the exact position of the earth six hours earlier.   Had it collided, it would have released energy comparable to the explosion of a 600 megaton atom bomb and caused the largest explosion in recorded history.

But it didn’t.  “Near Miss Day” acknowledges and celebrates exactly that, a near miss.

We all know of many “near misses” in our lives and the lives of those we love. Every day is precious. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “Write it on your heart that every day is the best day of the year,” and my favorite appreciation for each day is by A.A. Milne, creator of Winnie-the-Pooh. “What day is it?” ~ “It’s today,” squeaked Piglet. ~ “My favorite day,” said Pooh.

This Monday, March 23rd, and every day, may we be grateful for the near misses in our lives, and doubly aware of and grateful for the many blessings we receive.  Take nothing for granted.

 

"Winnipeg"--or Winnie--the female black bear that lived in London Zoo from 1915-1954 and inspired Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh, here with veterinarian Harry Colebourn.

“Winnipeg”–or Winnie–the female black bear that lived in London Zoo from 1915-1954 and inspired Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh, here with veterinarian Harry Colebourn.

Maya Angelou:  "Be present in all things and thankful for all things."

Maya Angelou: “Be present in all things and thankful for all things.”

March is also "Deaf History Month" -- here is the chart for American Sign Language.

March is also “Deaf History Month” — here is the chart for American Sign Language.

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, life questions, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Special Days in March, Spiritual connections

SALT OF THE EARTH

My maternal grandmother, a woman of strong faith, great kindness, and soft hugs for five children, thirteen grandchildren...and many great- and great-great grandchildren.

My maternal grandmother, a woman of strong faith, great kindness, and soft hugs for five children, thirteen grandchildren…and many great- and great-great grandchildren.

 

 

A picture of Grandma's five children, lined up in a row on the farm.  My mother is the middle child.

A picture of Grandma’s five children, lined up in a row on the farm. My mother is the middle child.

 

I recently saw a “Helpful Hint” newspaper article devoted to salt. In addition to being worth its weight in gold for many centuries because of its medicinal, cooking and international commerce importance, it’s also recognized as an inexpensive and effective household cleaner today. For instance, to clean a grimy garbage disposal, pour 2 cups of ice into the disposal and add ½ cup of salt. Turn on the tap and run the disposal for 20 seconds. The gunk will be gone!  Or if a drain is clogged, pour in a mixture of ½ cup salt and 1 cup baking soda. Let it sit for a few hours and then pour in a quart of boiling water. Swish!

Reading the short article made me smile at memories of Mom and Grandma in the kitchen. If they were cooking vegetables that tasted too salty, they added hunks of potatoes, let everything simmer, and then removed the potatoes before serving. Out on the farm, Grandma taught Mom to kept a tin can filled with salt within arm’s length of the stove, not as seasoning, but for putting out grease fires.

At our house, my mom combined equal parts of salt and baking soda in a small bowl and set it at the back of a refrigerator shelf to absorb smells, and she and Grandma could both be counted on to stir a teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water to make a gargle for sore throats.

Salt is used in many expressions: Don’t rub salt in a wound: Take that advice with a grain of salt; Never throw salt on a dream; She is the salt of the earth. The last one is my favorite because when I was a child I heard it used to describe both Mom and Grandma. I knew it was a compliment about the kind of women they were, and it was always said with a smile.

Sugar is sweeter, cayenne pepper is spicier, and saffron is more exotic.  But when it comes to being associated with goodness, reliability and necessity for well being, I still think of my mother and her mother as the “salt of the earth.”

morton salt containers     I wish for all of you the blessings of bread, salt and wine.

In the movie IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, this was the blessing given to a family moving into a new home:  "Bread, that this house may never know hunger.  Salt, that life might have flavor.  And win, that joy and prosperity may reign forever."

In the movie IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, this was the blessing given to a family moving into a new home: “Bread, that this house may never know hunger. Salt, that life might have flavor. And wine, that joy and prosperity may reign forever.”

 

 

 

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LUCK BE A LADY

Crossing your fingers is one way to hope luck finds you.  (picture by Marylin Warner)

Crossing your fingers is one way to hope luck finds you. (picture by Marylin Warner)

This is how the ladies were NOT dancing, but they were still having a great time. (Picture from Classical Baby)

This is how the ladies were NOT dancing, but they were still having a great time. (Picture from Classical Baby)

Snow and ice had already postponed our travels by two days. First, we had to wait an extra day to leave Colorado.  Fortunately our house sitter was flexible.  But when we arrived in Kansas, I had to wait another day to drive the last 200 miles to visit my mother in the southeast part of the state. I was very tired by the time I arrived.

I don’t know what I expected as I got off the elevator to go to Mom’s apartment. I was pulling my suitcase and balancing a bouquet of yellow lilies with a bag of groceries, but instead of the common area being calm and quiet on a dreary afternoon, the room rang with festive singing and laughter. Two nursing aides had loaded a dance DVD on the flat screen TV, and eight or nine older ladies—probably in their late 70s through early 90s—were moving to the music. Dancing in place or stepping around furniture or just tapping feet and waving arms from a wheelchair, they were creating their own indoor sunshine on a gloomy day.

As I watched, amazed, they took a breather between songs. And then one of the aides called out, “Ladies, get ready. The next one is Luck Be A Lady Tonight’!” Everyone giggled and turned to watch the screen with their arms lifted, ready to ‘dance’ again. Regardless of the dreary weather and their ages and possible infirmities, these were ladies who were already making their own luck.

I had grown up hearing the expression “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” As I watched the gyrations to “Luck Be A Lady,” I amended that to “Luck is what happens when enthusiasm makes the most of music and movement.”

March 9 is GET OVER IT DAY. Whatever is bothering us, or if there is something we can’t change or should just let go of, maybe the best thing to do is make a decision to Get Over It, even for one day.   Or there’s an entire week—March 16-22ACT HAPPY WEEK.    A full week to “fake it until you make it,” an opportunity to act the way you would like to feel.

March 16-22 is also WELLDERLY WEEK (aka WELL-ELDERLY), a time to ‘act your age’—or the age you want to feel—and do the things that make you happy. Whatever your age, if you need a suggestion to get started, you might put on Frank Sinatra singing “Luck Be A Lady” and dance to it in your own lucky style.

P.S. My mother is too frail to do much standing, let alone any dancing, but she made her own luck by curling up under her blankets and humming along to some of the poems I read to her!

"Hurry Back"--1st Place Overall painting by Nancy Luttrell, age 67.  (I LOVE the detail on this painting!)

“Hurry Back”–1st Place Overall painting by Nancy Luttrell, age 67. (I LOVE the detail in this painting!)

"Tropical Foliage"--this year's Best of Show  in ART IS AGELESS.  Painter is Paul Johnston, age 81

“Tropical Foliage”–this year’s Best of Show in ART IS AGELESS. Painter is Paul Johnston, age 81

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Filed under celebrations, Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, lessons about life, making a difference, Special Days in March, special quotations