Category Archives: Abilene Kansas

Friday Favorites…that have nothing to do with politics

"What'cha lookin' at?" ostrich at Rolling Hills Zoo.

“What’cha lookin’ at?” Ostrich at Rolling Hills Zoo.

African Message Pole, Rolling Hills Zoo, Salina, KS.  I think it's a happy message.

African Message Pole, Rolling Hills Zoo, Salina, KS. Interpret your own happy message from the symbols!

Finding this old picture of my dad and Fritz, having their morning "talk."

Finding this old picture of my dad and Fritz having their morning “talk” made me smile.  (Fort Scott, KS)

My dad appreciated old trucks--especially Fords--he said it was "a guy thing."  His granddaughter protested: "girls love trucks, too!"

My dad appreciated old trucks, especially Fords; he said it was “a guy thing.” His granddaughter protested: “trucks are for girls, too!”

Max Ehrmann, author of DESIDERATA: A Poem for a Way of Life, wrote this: “With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”     Geese crossing

Today, I want to share some of my favorite things that make me happy when I travel to Kansas. You already know of our daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren (at the top of our happiness scale), and my dad, who died of Alzheimer’s, and my mother who is lost deep in dementia. These people are the core of our focus and thoughts when we drive to Kansas each month.

But there are also many cheerful, striving-to-be-happy places and things in Kansas I want to share with you through these pictures. My dad was right: if you take a deep breath, look around, and appreciate things that make you smile, you can also find reasons to be happy and have hope.

Gunn Park "Tiny House" (Fort Scott, KS) Built in 1927 by the park caretaker for his young daughters and visitors. It's 14" high and 12" long, including the front porch.

Gunn Park “Tiny House” (Fort Scott, KS) Built in 1927 by the park caretaker for his young daughters and visitors. It’s 14″ high and 12″ long, including the front porch.

Happy Children bench sculpture, downtown in Abilene, KS

Happy Children bench sculpture, downtown in Abilene, KS

 

Bakery fundraiser: iced cookies:  KS, and Chapman High School --both delicious!

Bakery fundraiser: iced cookies: KS, and Chapman High School –both delicious!

 

Milford Lake Butterfly House (near Junction City, KS)  A colorful, fluttering good time!

Milford Lake Butterfly House (near Junction City, KS) A colorful, fluttering good time!

 

Abilene, KS (where the h.s. sports teams are the Cowboys and Cowgirls). I want a sign for writers: Writer Parking Only: All others will be rejected.  :)

Abilene, KS (where the h.s. sports teams are the Cowboys and Cowgirls). I want a sign for writers in front of the writing section of the library: Writer Parking Only: All others will be rejected. 🙂

A summer sunset on a farm outside Fort Scott, KS.  Tomorrow will be a gorgeous day!

Summer sunset on a farm outside Fort Scott, KS. Tomorrow will be a gorgeous day!

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Filed under Abilene Kansas, Dementia/Alzheimer's, just doing the best we can, lessons about life, special quotations, Things to be thankful for

CHAIRS: True Memory Makers

Colorful "Picasso" chairs by our daughter Molly.  (all pictures by Marylin Warner)

Colorful “Picasso” chairs by our daughter Molly. (all pictures by Marylin Warner)

 

Retro-Kitchen step-chair, a perfect reminder of my mother's kitchen.

Retro-Kitchen step-chair, a perfect reminder of my mother’s kitchen.

A print of VanGogh's "Chair" in hallway of my mother's assisted living.

A print of VanGogh’s “Chair” in hallway of my mother’s assisted living.

The first chairs were probably flat rocks large enough for cave men to sit on, and high enough to lean against. As civilization evolved, so did chairs: royalty sat on thrones; polio victims traveled in wheel chairs; babies were lulled to sleep in rocking chairs and rode more safely in car seats: convicted killers were sometimes executed in electric chairs.

My mother’s interior design choices were a combination of practical, functional, comfortable and attractive. The upholstered furniture in our home was purchased from stores. Many of the casual tables, wooden chairs, bookcases and blanket chests were inherited or bought at unfinished wood or consignment furniture shops, and then Mom sanded, stained or painted them. I’d find her in the garage, humming in time to her brush strokes that created a colorful desk chair for her writing desk. When I was thirteen, Mom and I bought an old foot stool that I stained, and then together we wove a new cover across the frame.

Our family tradition of chair creations continued this year. For our anniversary gift, our daughter Molly painted metal lawn chairs bright yellow. Her children, big Picasso fans, drew our “portraits,” and Molly painted them on the chairs. On the seats she painted Picasso quotes: “Everything you can imagine is real” and “It takes a long time to grow young.” Even our porch chairs show how much fun restoring and painting can be.

Years after Mom gave a young mother the high chair my brother and I used, her metal kitchen step-chair doubled as a high chair for her grandchildren and any young visitors who stayed for meals. Mom moved the step-chair close to the table, set the child on the padded seat, and safely tied the little one in place with dish towels. My favorite birthday present last year was a red retro-model of Mom’s black step-chair that Jim found in a quaint hardware store in Abilene, KS. Visiting friends see this chair, laugh, and share stories they remember from their parents’ or grandparents’ kitchens. As author Stephen King wrote: “You can’t deny laughter; when it comes, it plops down in your favorite chair and stays as long as it wants.”

Mom’s favorite chairs now are her lounger where she spends most of her waking hours, and dad’s old wheelchair that transports her to the flower garden on nice days. She no longer uses the rocking chair where she used to sing to babies, or the chair that was large enough she could sit with both her great-grandchildren and read to them. Because of her dementia she does not remember these times, but the children do. For them, these chairs are memory makers.

Mom in the wheelchair that was Dad's, out to enjoy the flowers.

2012 ~ Mom in the wheelchair that was Dad’s, out to enjoy the flowers.

Mom reading to her great-grandchildren in 2007.

Mom reading to her great-grandchildren in 2007.

 

Mom in her lounge chair, wrapped in a quilt made by her mother.

Mom in her lounge chair, 2013, wrapped in a quilt made by her mother.

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Filed under Abilene Kansas, art, art projects, Dementia/Alzheimer's, memories for grandchildren, memories for great-grandchildren, special quotations, Things to be thankful for

The Doors We Open and Close

1800s log home with door covers in case of attack.

1800s log home with door covers in case of attack.

Modern Santa Fe-style door with glass art panels.

Modern Santa Fe-style door with glass art panels.

"Santa Fe Door #1"--oil painting by E.W. Strother. (All photographs by Marylin Warner)

“Santa Fe Door #1”–oil painting by E.W. Strother. (All photographs by Marylin Warner)

 

 

Entrance door with gate and pergola.

Entrance door with gate and pergola.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I visited my parents in Kansas during my dad’s last years with Alzheimer’s, I always took my mother out for a ride. Sometimes we shopped for special foods or things they needed. Other times we just started driving to see where the road took us.

We both loved houses. Not big fancy houses, but regular family houses, or old rambling houses. And we especially liked doors. As years went by and Mom started showing serious signs of dementia, I created the “Guess what’s behind the door” game. Here’s how it worked.

I’d drive along a street or around a neighborhood, and Mom was supposed to be looking for a house door that caught her attention. Sometimes I had to remind her what she was looking for; other times she’d get excited and say, “There! That one!”

I’d slow down and we’d both take a good look at the door she’d chosen. Then I’d give her a prompt and say: “When you open that door and go inside, what is the first thing you see?” (or hear? ~ or smell? ~ or feel? -~ or even taste?) Then as we drove on, we’d create a story based on how she answered the question. And always–always!–after we played this game, she was hungry and wanted an ice cream cone. (Thinking is hard work, you know.)

Through the years I’ve learned that Alzheimer’s and dementia closes many mental doors, but sometimes I can put my foot in the way before a door closes completely, and I can connect a memory or an idea with my mother. As Flora Whittemore (1890-1993) wrote: “The doors we open and close each day decide the lives we live.” There is probably no truer statement for those who suffer with Alzheimer’s or dementia…and also for the rest of us, too.

Try the door game. Choose one of the doors on this post and imagine opening it. Create a first response for each of the senses. Your answers will lead you to a story genre–horror or romance or mystery or sci-fi or adventure, etc.–and even if you don’t want to write anything, your creative juices will be flowing! Or maybe you’ll be like my mother and just crave an ice cream cone. And that’s okay, too.

In addition to Flora Whittemore’s wise words, here are some of my other favorites about DOORS:

“Sometimes you don’t know when you’re taking the first step through a door until you’re already inside.” ~ Ann Voskamp, author of ONE THOUSAND GIFTS

“Every now and then one paints a picture that seems to have opened a door and serves as a stepping stone to other things.” ~ Artist Pablo Picasso

And from Dejan Stojanovic, poet and journalist from Kosovo: “He tries to find the exit from himself, but there is no door.”

Doors on a supposedly condemned building.

Doors on a supposedly condemned building.

 

Screened-in porch entrance door.

Screened-in porch entrance door.

 

Rockledge Ranch farm house.

Rockledge Ranch farm house, Colorado Springs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Abilene Kansas, Colorado Springs, Dementia/Alzheimer's, memories for great-grandchildren, writing exercises

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

 

Kansas church window... look into the window, and out the "other side" (These two photographs by Marylin Warner)

Kansas church window… look into the window, and out the “other side” (These two photographs by Marylin Warner)

 

 

 

 

 

Stone bridge in winter, Brown's Park, Abilene, KS. The journey is not finished.

Stone bridge in winter, Brown’s Park, Abilene, KS.
The road may be less traveled, but the journey is not finished.

 

Unfinished Business is more than just the title of numerous published fiction and nonfiction books.  It’s also more than what actress Elizabeth Taylor left behind when she died before learning how to cook a hard-boiled egg. (Supposedly, that’s one of the things she wanted to learn to do but never did.)

Here are some other examples of unfinished business:

~ the one thing you always planned to do but never did;

~ the “last words” a person wanted to say before someone died…but waited too long to say them;

~ decades-old unsolved crimes that still gnaw at law enforcement;

~ something you deserved and expected an apology for but didn’t receive…or something you should have apologized or made restitution for, but didn’t;

~ a painful event you never learned the truth about or the reason why it happened: the business that failed; the betrayal by a spouse or a friend; the person who died too young or who took his/her own life;

~ a crime you committed or a wrong you did against someone else…that has never been revealed.

Writer, poet and playwright Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote: “Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling in at night…”  She was writing about a person who is gone, but if you replace the “you” with trust, resolution, justice, or whatever your unfinished business is, her description is still valid.  Unfinished business has a way of continuing to gnaw at us for a very long time.

When I was in junior high school, a man in our town died suddenly in a compromised situation. I heard the expression “he left a lot of unfinished business” and asked my mother what that meant. She said (paraphrased but true to context) that when you die you want to have lived your life without leaving unfinished business, so the people who love and trust you will be left with happy, loving memories instead of bad or hurtful memories.

This post is not about the unfinished business of politicians, countries, world leaders, or missing airplanes in unknown waters.  It’s about us, people who haven’t kept all the promises we’ve made to ourselves and others.  It’s about misplaced dreams and hopes and plans.

The good news is that Tuesday, March 25th, is “Old New Year’s Day” based on the old Orthodox new year. Anyone who missed a chance to make (or keep) a New Year’s Resolution that might finish some unfinished business has a do-over, a second chance.

And if that’s too heavy to consider, Wednesday, March 26th is “Make Up Your Own Holiday.”  It’s up to you how you use it.  As American songwriter and actor Eminem said, “The truth is, you don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow. Life is a crazy ride, and nothing is guaranteed.”

 

Norman Rockwell's "Secrets"--if you decide to write about your unfinished business, don't leave it where your brother might find it.  Just saying...

Norman Rockwell’s “Secrets”–if you decide to write about your unfinished business, don’t leave it where your brother might find it. Just saying…

Norman Rockwell's "Feeding Time"--unfinished business can sneak up on you if you're not paying attention.

Norman Rockwell’s “Feeding Time”–unfinished business can sneak up on you if you’re not paying attention.

 

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Filed under Abilene Kansas, Colorado Springs, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, special quotations

SUNRISE or SUNSET?

Colorado sunrise. (Pictures by Marylin Warner)

Colorado sunrise. (Picture by Jim Warner)

Kansas sunset.

Kansas Sunset   (Picture by Marylin Warner)                             

Years ago, when my dad was in the final stages of Alzheimer’s, during my visits Mom and I sometimes left him with his caregiver and promised to bring him a treat from wherever we went on our ride. It was always a difficult transition for Mom, leaving him behind, so on one visit I brought along a distraction, a CD of songs from Broadway’s most popular musicals.

As I drove along the swath of Ozarks terrain cutting through our part of Kansas, one of our favorites from FIDDLER ON THE ROOF began to play: “Sunrise, Sunset.”  During the refrain—“…sunrise, sunset, swiftly flow the days…seedlings turn over night to sun flowers, blossoming even as we gaze…”—the Kansas sun set in a blaze of orange and gold and red. I pulled off the highway and stopped to enjoy it.  In Colorado, the mountains are beautifully majestic, but they cut off the view of stunning sunsets.

As we watched the colors, I asked Mom which she enjoyed more, sunrise or sunset. Those of you who know my mother via my stories about her on this blog, what would you guess was her answer?  Before her dementia, on summer mornings she was up with the sunrise to work in her gardens before the heat, and she would pause to breathe deeply and welcome the beautiful possibilities of the day.  Also before the dementia, at sunset she’d watch the glow through her kitchen window or rest in her chair, tablet on her lap, and write lines of poetry or stories about the events and inspirations from the day.  So which do you think she enjoyed more, the sunrise or the sunset?

At my mother's assisted living ~ we know the driver of this car is partial to gorgeous sunsets!

At my mother’s assisted living ~ we know the driver of this car is partial to gorgeous sunsets!

Aubades are songs sung to the rising sun and poems written upon awakening at dawn. My mother kept a notebook of  her aubades, poems of early morning. But she was also a fan of Ann Landers, who wrote in one of her columns, “A happy marriage has the tranquility of a lovely sunset.” Based on my dad’s struggles with Alzheimer’s, I guessed Mom’s loyalty to their marriage would choose sunsets as her answer.

She thought for a while and then finally said that her favorite time of day was noon. If the sun was going to be out, it would be at noon, and she liked the energy it gave her to get done whatever had to be done.

Sunrise. Sunset. Noon.  As Abraham Lincoln wrote: “The best thing about the future is it comes one day at a time.”  And more recently, author of A CHILD CALLED ‘IT’, Dave Pelzer wrote: “At the end of the day you still have to face yourself.” 

Those were the lessons I learned from my mother’s answer that day: We take life one day at a time, and the best we can do is live that day the best we can.

Kansas farm land ~ I'm so sick of winter and I had to use this picture of warm, sunny days...

Kansas farm land ~ I’m so sick of winter, I had to use this picture of a warm, sunny day…

1921 ~ Mom with her brother in the sandbox on the farm, enjoying the sunny day.

1921 ~ Mom with her brother in the sandbox on the farm, enjoying the sunny day in Plattsburg, Missouri

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Filed under Abilene Kansas, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, memories for great-grandchildren, special quotations

GREAT EXPECTATIONS

Pink and red tulips ~ a touch of spring in winter. (All photographs by Marylin Warner)

Pink and red tulips ~ a touch of spring in winter. (All photographs by Marylin Warner)

Valentine cupcakes: rich chocolate with white sprinkled icing and strawberry accents--and silver hearts!

Valentine cupcakes: rich chocolate with white sprinkled icing and strawberry accents–and silver hearts!

Hug him and Elmo tells you: "Hugs and kisses" ~ "Elmo loves you!"  and he makes kissing sounds!

Hug him and Elmo tells you: “Hugs and kisses” ~ “Elmo loves you!” and he makes kissing sounds!

Dear Mom,

Imagine a day many years ago, when a substitute filled in for one of the teachers in my elementary school. February 14th was a day of great expectations: home room mothers were bringing in cookies and juice for treats; construction paper hearts adorned the windows; and all the children’s decorated boxes were lined up at the back of the room, filled during the previous days with numerous little cards and greetings from classmates.

Imagine, Mom, how one substitute made sure that no child was disappointed when it was time to read the valentines in the boxes. Who sensed which children might not receive many cards–the shy or lonely ones, those who were often left out of playground games, those whose boxes had very few greetings even on the day before—and who do you think played Cupid?  The night before Valentine’s Day, what if that one special person recruited me to help (I was an “older kid”–in 6th grade, I think), and what if she and I addressed two special cards for each of the children who otherwise might not receive many?

One was store bought, with funny cartoons and cute messages…and a sucker tied to the card with a ribbon. For each of these cards it was my job was to print the student’s name on the envelope with a crayon, and on the card I printed messages like “You are my best secret pal!” or “Happy Valentine’s Day to the nicest boy (or girl) in the class!”  You were the special person, Mom, who gave me the job of being anonymously creative, and I loved it!

The second card was one of the common little folded greetings sold in packs of a dozen at the dime store. Do you remember printing the student’s name on the envelope (writing like a kid), tucking the folded heart inside the envelope, and then adding little candy hearts printed with special messages. Five candies in each envelope! Do you remember how much fun it was to prepare these special valentines?

The next day imagine us arriving early at school. I went with you into the classroom. While you set up materials for the day, I delivered the extra special cards to the boxes that obviously had fewer cards than the others. I had a great time, and I promised not to tell anyone.  Until now. 😉

You don’t remember the wonderful things you’ve done for children, Mom, but this Valentine’s Day story illustrates one way you cared for all children: your own children and grandchildren; children you helped in CASA and taught in Sunday School, in kindergarten classes, and wherever you encountered children of all ages. I remember, Mom, the difference you made day after day, year after year, with your full, kind and loving heart. I write this post so your great-grandchildren will know you better.

John Updike wrote: “We are most alive when we’re in love.”  Which explains why you have lived so long and been so content in spite of the dementia you have now…you’ve always been in love, with life and with children.

Author Martha Atwood said: The Eskimos had 52 nems for snow because it was important to them; there ought to be as many for love."

Author Margaret Atwood said: “The Eskimos had 52 names for snow because it was important to them; there ought to be as many for love.” (Jim, our grandchildren and our dog Maggie loving their hike together in the snow.)

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Filed under Abilene Kansas, Dementia/Alzheimer's, Fort Scott Kansas, lessons for great-grandchildren, special quotations

WORDS WITH ECHOES

Seven boys, in this house? Oh, boy!  (all photographs by Marylin Warner)

Seven boys, in this house? Oh, boy! (all photographs by Marylin Warner)

The Eisenhower family home and the Eisenhower Museum; the beginning of the story and the ending legacy.

The Eisenhower family home and the Eisenhower Museum; the beginning of the story and the ending legacy.

Thousands of predictions have already been made for 2014: call-in predictions on the radio and postings on the Internet; countless psychic, political, religious and medical predictions; many predictions of comedies, tragedies, and reversals of fortunes.

Instead of discussing the words that predict what events might happen in the future, I like to consider the words that have lasted, the words spoken and written in the past but are again relevant and helpful. I think of these as the words that have echoes that live beyond the time they were written.

For instance, President “Ike” Eisenhower and his wife Mamie lost their first son, Doud, at the age of three after an attack of scarlet fever.  “There is no tragedy in life like the death of a child,” President Eisenhower wrote. “Things never get back to the way they were.”  These words endure; they have echoes that still ring true with parents everywhere. Before my mother’s dementia, she had a heart for the Eisenhowers, and especially for Mamie, the First Lady who suffered the loss of her first child.

Abilene is one of my favorite Kansas towns.  In addition to charming shops and traditions, friendly and talented people, and the amazing Brown’s Park with hiking areas, streams, a Frisbee Golf course and a superb campground, Abilene is also the site of the Eisenhower family home.  Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969) was the third of seven Eisenhower sons, and he graduated from Abilene High School.  The rest of his life is history.

He went on to become a 5-Star General in the U.S. Army during WWII and the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe.  As America’s 34th President, he launched the Interstate Highway System, sent federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas to enforce desegregation of public schools, and implemented desegregation of the Armed Forces.  And yet, when he died, he was not buried in Arlington National Cemetery as many expected, but brought home to be buried in Abilene, KS.  Ike, Mamie and their first son are buried together in the chapel located on the grounds featuring the Eisenhower Museum, the Presidential Library, and the relocated original Eisenhower family home.  It’s an impressive area, a rich legacy of American history.

Which of President Eisenhower’s words echo true in 2014?

“Don’t join the book burners. Do not think you are going to conceal thoughts by concealing evidence that they ever existed.”

“Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.”

“The problem in defense is how far you can go without destroying from within what you are trying to defend from without.”

 “Whatever America hopes to bring to pass in the world must first come to pass in the heart of America.”

“We will bankrupt ourselves in the vain search for absolute security.”

“The purpose is clear. It is safety with solvency. The country is entitled to both.”

“The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.”

“There are a number of things wrong with Washington. One of them is that everyone is too far from home.”

President Eisenhower is home again, in a town of  7,000, with deep roots and a wealth of history and knowledge that is available to everyone.  And as my mother would say, “I like Ike!” And so do I. Visit Abilene, and you will, too.

Eisenhower Presidential Library. (My winter photographs do not do justice to the impressive and grounds.)

Eisenhower Presidential Library. (My winter photographs do not do justice to the impressive grounds.)

Inside the chapel.

Inside the chapel.

"The Chance For Peace"~ one of the inscriptions in the chapel.

“The Chance For Peace”~ one of the inscriptions in the chapel.

The Eisenhower Chapel, where Ike, Mamie, and their first son are buried.

The Eisenhower Chapel, where Ike, Mamie, and their first son are buried.

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Filed under Abilene Kansas, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren