Category Archives: art projects


Eyeballs"--colored by Hillari Dowdie

Eyeballs”–colored by Hillari Dowdie–came from POSH ADULT COLORING BOOK: SOOTHING DESIGNS FOR FUN & RELAXATION.




"Secret Garden"--published by Laurence King--is one of the downloadable coloring pages.

“Secret Garden”–published by Laurence King –is one of the downloadable coloring pages.

Author Barbara Taylor Bradford once said that success is often a matter of knowing when to relax.   Lyricist and novelist Paulo Coelho wrote, “It’s a good idea to always do something relaxing prior to making an important decision in your life.”  And Ray Bradbury’s advice was four words: “Work. Don’t think. Relax.”

This summer’s hottest trend would fit right in with all three suggestions, and it’s as simple as turning to the right book. The right coloring book.   Boston psychologist Alice Domar, Ph.D., says coloring offers complete absorption…and keeps you in the moment. It engages “both sides of your brain…creative and tactical…and brings you back to a simpler time.”  Coloring (with pens, colored pencils, markers, even crayons) is this summer’s hottest trend, and it’s just getting started. Rumors have it that in addition to the many adult coloring books already available, Game of Thrones also has a coloring book in the works.

My mother was into her own form of  “adult coloring” long before it was popular.   She used to carry a small double-sided notebook (lines on one side, blank pages on the other) so that wherever she was, if she had an idea for a poem or article or story, she could jot it down. But before she began writing, she doodled an illustration on the blank side of the page.  By the time she had colored the illustration, she had a fuller, more vivid picture in mind and was ready to write.   Or sometimes she drew a picture, and later she wrote about it.

The July 12 issue of PARADE MAGAZINE calls coloring a way to “cheer up, chill out, and get your creative juices flowing.” It lists titles of successful coloring books with everything from whimsical animals and flowers, to Hindu and Buddhist mandelas (symbols that represent wholeness). PARADE also invites us to get started by going to for free downloadable coloring pages.   All the coloring page examples on this post come from that site, and there are many more choices.

To stop over-thinking and start relaxing, try the joy of coloring.   Or like my mother used to do before the dementia, illustrate a thought and move it from color to words.

birds design from POSH Coloring book

Fish design, and bird design in next picture, are from POSH Coloring Book; both pages are downloadable

Fish design, and bird design in picture above, are from POSH Coloring Book; both pages are downloadable.



Filed under art, art projects, Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, just doing the best we can, kindergarten lessons about life, memories for great-grandchildren, special quotations


our two anniv



Closeup of the chair feet, in Keene walking sandals and hiking boots.

Closeup of the chair feet, in Keene walking sandals and hiking boots.

Giving special gifts on specific anniversaries isn’t a new concept. It dates back to the Middle Ages, where underlying superstitions and beliefs corresponded with giving gifts to welcome good luck or ward off the bad.

When my brother once asked our dad what was the best decision he ever made, Dad said, “I married your mother.” Our parents were married for sixty-four years before his Alzheimer’s and her dementia set in, and their anniversary celebrations were usually low key and private. They enjoyed going out for dinner, usually with family, and holding hands as they read their anniversary cards and talked about favorite memories.

This summer Jim and I celebrate our 30th anniversary, and traditionally the gift for the 30th is the pearl. Our daughter—a wonderful independently creative gift maker—gave us a unique set of anniversary chairs this year. Full-heart, headless chairs.

anniversary Picasso chairs

Last year she painted Picasso-type art chairs with Picasso quotes for us.

This year’s chairs wear tee-shirts, jeans, Keene walking sandals (for me) and hiking boots (for Jim), and are stuffed with multiple pillows that make these the most comfortable, form-fitting chairs ever.

For us, it’s not expensive gifts, fancy dinners out or celebrations that make an anniversary special. It’s being with each other and the family we love dearly, seeing their smiling faces around the table, and hearing everyone share favorite memories. Like my parents, we would title these celebrations by borrowing another title: “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

Tucked among greeting card-type romantic verses, we’ve found a sentiment by writer and comedian Rita Rudner that makes us laugh. “It’s so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life.”   And a favorite toast for weddings and anniversaries is by sci-fi writer Robert Heinlein: “May you live as long as you wish and love as long as you live.”

Today our hearts are full, grateful for love, marriage, family, friends, and wonderful dads. And anniversaries with traditional pearls or non-traditional headless chairs.


Browning- grow old along w:meSimplify tee-shirt




Filed under art, art projects, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, Special days in June, special quotations, Things to be thankful for


Painted sky at sunset. (All photographs by Marylin Warner)

Painted sky at sunset. (All photographs by Marylin Warner)





Rural Kansas cemetery.

Rural Kansas cemetery.


I’m starting with Scott’s quote because it ties in with my feelings about “Therapeutic Lying,” one of the suggested responses to answering the difficult questions asked by people who suffer with Alzheimer’s and dementia. For instance, if a man with Alzheimer’s asks where his wife is, to reduce his stress and confusion, his caregiver could say the wife has gone to the store…instead of saying she died two years earlier.

five mil

As the daughter of a father who died after seven long years of horrible Alzheimer’s—and whose mother is now deep in the confusions of dementia—here’s my take on Therapeutic Lying: it may be easier on the caregiver, but it’s not necessarily better for the patient. The truth is better—and kinder, more helpful and compassionate—when it’s combined with an honest, real “memory story.” For example, if my mother asks where my dad is and if they’ll be going home soon, I serve the answer honestly…with a sweet memory for dessert. “Mom, Daddy died several years ago.” I point to a picture of them together. “Mom, I love this picture of you two. You’re both smiling, and I remember how you always straightened his tie . Daddy would wink and said, ‘Mary takes such good care of me.’ And he was right, Mom. You took very good care of all of us.”

Mom gets honest answers, followed by a true anecdote, and if she asks another question, I’ll give her another truthful answer.   The overall theme here is truth served with kindness.

January 26th is Toad Hollow Day of Encouragement, a little-known day celebrating connection with others through gestures of the heart. To me, Toad Hollow Day fits much better with gentle, honest memory sharing instead of therapeutic fiblets. (For the pictures of 1806 Toad Hollow school and pupils, Google Toad Hollow.)

January 31st is “Inspire Your Heart With Art Day.” In the spirit of the two-faced Janus looking backward, I’m including examples of my favorite art from the past. To be truthful, I know none of it belongs in a gallery, but it all holds special places in my heart. After January 31st, the Janus of Roman mythology will look forward to the year of opportunities and challenges ahead…and so will I.


Twenty-nine years ago, when our daughter Molly was in 3rd grade, she made this "Indian Art" project of clay and yarn.  It's our favorite wall art.

Twenty-nine years ago, when our daughter Molly was in 3rd grade, she made this “Indian Art” project of clay and yarn. It’s our favorite wall art.

Picasso-type portraits of me, painted 3 years ago by my 7 and 10-year old grandchildren. These are definitely "heart art."

Picasso-type portraits of me, drawn and painted 3 years ago by our grandchildren when they were  7 and 8 years old. These are definitely “heart art” that make me smile.


Filed under art, art projects, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, life questions, special quotations


"Weaver's Dream" ~ the only woven wall art I own. (Pictures by Marylin Warner)

“Weaver’s Dream” ~ the only woven wall art I own. (I had to adjust the overall color to show the “mistake”–in reality it’s only slightly different in hue from the rest of the weaving.)

Mom's bird sampler quilt ~ the only quilt she ever made.

Mom’s bird sampler quilt ~ the only quilt she ever made.  (All photos by Marylin Warner)

The 2003 movie/docudrama, EDGE OF AMERICA, is based on the story of a black teacher who is hired to teach English at Three Nations High School in Utah. He’s never been on an Indian reservation, and to make ends meet he agrees to also coach the girls’ unsuccessful basketball team. He is the teacher and the coach, yet he’s the one learning many of the lessons.

One of the most important lessons is about making mistakes, and his biggest one is the demand for perfection. Based on his own experiences, he teaches the girls that out in the real world, their only chance is to first achieve perfection on the basketball court and defeat the prejudice of white players.

The tribal Wise Woman has been weaving rugs all of her life. She says that each is slightly different, leaving openings in the design for growth. This is seen as an imperfection by some, but she believes imperfections are actually spiritual outlets. “Imperfection is beauty,” she says, so in each rug she weaves a mistake…on purpose. Otherwise, “The spirit becomes trapped in perfection…”

EDGE OF AMERICA is an excellent movie; it is also a compelling clash of cultures, philosophies, beliefs and values. I dare say that many of us grew up adhering to the dictionary definition of mistakes: “actions or judgments that are misguided or wrong.” And even Einstein’s well-known comment–“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new”–implies that mistakes are necessary in learning, but not desirable for ongoing intentional spiritual outlets. 

My mother’s first quilt was a series of bird patterns. It took her several years as a teen to create twenty blocks of different birds, each hand sewn with a series of basic and combination stitches. It was a training quilt, an introduction to perfecting stitches and developing discipline. When all the blocks were correct—with mistakes carefully taken out and re-stitched until the birds were perfect—then her mother and great aunt helped her piece together the blocks with pink and green accents and borders, and then quilt the design top to a solid pink fabric back.

Years ago I found the quilt neatly folded away among blankets in the closet. It was Mom’s only quilt; when it was finished, she was never interested in doing more than just assisting in others’ projects. It was later that I realized from her comments that the requirements for perfection had dulled her joy of creating. I think she would have agreed with the Wise Woman in EDGE OF AMERICA: “The spirit becomes trapped in perfection.”

I own one hand woven wall hanging. It’s called “Weaver’s Dream” and contains one “mistake.” I have no idea how the weaver accomplished it, but I was assured it was not added on, carefully bleached or altered to look different. It was woven into the pattern…intentionally. The vendor told me the “mistake” had made many buyers choose other wall hangings. I chose “Weaver’s Dream” because of it. It’s a matter of perspective, and although it may be a flaw in my character, perfection has never been my ultimate goal in anything.

Be careful what you wish for.  Personally, I wouldn't waste coins wishing for perfection.

Be careful what you wish for. Personally, I wouldn’t waste coins wishing for perfection.


One block from a quilt of "The Flying Windmill" pattern.  Turn it on it's side and it's the Nazi symbol.

One block from a quilt of “The Flying Windmill” pattern. Turn it on its side and it’s the Nazi symbol. It’s a matter of perspective.


Filed under art, art projects, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, Lessons from birds, Quilting projects, sewing, special quotations, Spiritual connections

NOW is the best time

Example of a Saturday card.  Cover message is ...but it's better than to miss a month

Example of a Saturday card. Cover message is
“Another birthday? Well, it’s better to be a year older…”  (inside message) “… than to miss a month.”



Another Hallmark Saturday card:  "Before LOL, TTYL, and OMG..." (inside message)  "...we were BFFS and didn't even know it!  Happy Birthday to my BFF."

Another Hallmark Saturday card: “Before LOL, TTYL, and OMG…” (inside message) “…we were BFFS and didn’t even know it! Happy Birthday to my BFF.”


How many of you have ever created your own greeting card?  Let’s see a show of hands (humor me, okay?)

As a child, maybe you colored flowers or boats on a folded piece of paper for someone’s birthday; or  you learned to print the message GET WELL SOON for a sick friend; or you wrote out coupons on strips of paper and gave them to your mom or dad for Christmas, promising “I’ll clean my room” or “I will not hit my brother.” Remember how much fun card writing was? And as my mom always said, the best cards are the personal ones you make yourself.

Hallmark’s Saturdays card line is your opportunity to make a card, and make some money. So dig out fun or funny or touching photos, color or black and white, and submit them to

Read through the section with all the open contests. To get you started, I’ve shared two of my favorite Saturdays Expressions cards…and their inside message lines, to show you good examples. Hallmark pays for each card, plus other perks, including a small picture of you and a clever bio sketch on the back of the card. Deadlines vary.

Maybe you’d rather write about a true aha! moment or Eureka experience. If so, submit a personal essay up to 1,500 words to the Life Lesson Essay Contest. The deadline is September 18, and first prize in $3,000.   No entry fee.

And for you poets, another no entry fee contest is Princemere Poetry Prize. Deadline is September 15 and first place is $300.

Or, work on your own writing deadline, or a photography, painting, drawing project that isn’t quite finished. Choose your creative endeavor and go for it…NOW.

Why NOW? As I was driving to visit my mom recently, I heard a radio commentator talking about the August 2014 phenomenon. The Chinese call it “Silver pockets full” and supposedly it happens once every 823 years. This month, August of 2014, there are five Fridays, five Saturdays, and five Sundays. Check your calendar, and you’ll see.

Supposedly—and there’s absolutely no scientific proof, but it’s certainly a good motivator to get busy—anytime during this month is an excellent time to follow your dreams, finish up your creative projects, expect the best…and encourage your friends to do the same.

Well, friends, what have you got to lose?

This isn't a card, but somebody used a smart concept to create this "fight breast cancer" T-shirt.  (If you don't get it, ask someone to explain it to's great!)

This isn’t a card, but somebody used a smart concept and teen reference to create this “fight breast cancer” T-shirt. (If you don’t get it, ask someone to explain it to you…it’s great!  Here’s a hint: think like a teenage boy on a date.  What does “getting to second base” mean to him?  So it’s a good breast cancer awareness slogan to “save 2nd base.”)


A display of "Saturday" cards by writers from everywhere.  (All photos by Marylin Warner)

A display of Hallmark’s “Saturday” cards by writers from everywhere. (Photos by Marylin Warner)


Filed under art, art projects, Dementia/Alzheimer's, friends, lessons about life, writing, writing contest with cash prizes, writing exercises

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.


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


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