Category Archives: autumn lessons

FUR A BETTER TOMORROW

Sue Halpern's book is filled with lessons in the good life from an unlikely teacher--it's touching reality therapy.

Sue Halpern’s book is filled with “lessons in the good life from an unlikely teacher”–and is filled with examples of touching, funny reality therapy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

keep-calm-hug-a-cute-puppy

 

 

 

On Tuesday, November 8th—regardless of which presidential candidate they voted for—most Americans thought that at least the chaos of the long campaign would finally be over.  But the truth is, although the election ended, the hard feelings, stress and worries continued.

This post is a day earlier than usual because I felt the need to share what some are doing to reduce that stress and anxiety right now.  The title is a hint.  The  solution is not anti-anxiety drugs, alcoholic concoctions to numb emotions, or the Hot Line number for a counselor who will help callers sort out their anger and stress.   It’s fur.   Really.

Borrowing from the original “Keep Calm And Carry On” of our friends across the ocean, the current American version is  “Keep CALM AND HUG A PUPPY.”   This is not just for children looking for comfort and a way to de-stress.   It’s for adults in Washington, D.C.  and everywhere.

Dogs to the therapy rescue on Capitol Hill (Fox News)

Dogs to the de-stressing rescue of staffers on Capitol Hill (Fox News)

two-dogs-on-capitol-hill

 

 

In addition to hugging a friendly dog, being open to laughter is also highly recommended.   Dana Perino, former Colorado resident and now author and political commentator on Fox News, combines humor and dogs in this example:

Mug shots of both the guilty dog walker...and the guilty dog.  :)

Mug shots of both the guilty dog walker…and the guilty dog~~off leash.   🙂

This post is not meant to over-simplify the legitimate difficulties, dangers and fears ahead.  It’s a reminder that laughter is indeed sometimes the best medicine, and feeling a dog’s heart beat as it cuddles against you is also at least worth a try to put things in perspective.

Please share other suggestions on how to lighten a heavy situation.  We need all the help we can get.

 

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Filed under autumn lessons, Books and book titles, Dementia/Alzheimer's, just doing the best we can, lessons about life

WHAT RHYMES WITH ORANGE?

leaves-on-tree-bark

 

3-halloween-pumpkins

happy-fall-cookie

Before my mother’s dementia, she wrote poetry.   She kept a notebook and pen in her purse so she was always prepared to jot down new lines for poems no matter where she was.

She once told me that when she taught kindergarten, the introduction to poetry curriculum for five-year-olds said the teacher should point to a color and say, “What words rhyme with red?”   (Then blue, green, yellow, brown, black, etc.)   “But never point to the color orange,” the instructions warned. “It will only confuse them because no word rhymes with orange.”

Molly and I went to visit my mom/her grandma last weekend.   We fed her bites of favorite food, told her family stories, sang along to Mom’s favorite children’s songs on Molly’s iPhone, and read poetry to her.   Here, in tribute to Mom’s kindergarten poetry advice many years ago, is a poem by author Mary O’Neill that describes the color orange…without trying to find a word that rhymes with it.

WHAT IS ORANGE?   By Mary O’Neill   ~   Orange is a tiger lily, A carrot,   A feather from a parrot.   A flame,   The wildest color   You can name.   Orange is a happy day, Saying good-bye    In a sunset that   That shocks the sky.   Orange is brave   Orange is bold     It’s bittersweet   And marigold      Orange is zip   Orange is dash   The brightest stripe   In a Roman sash.    Orange is an orange, Also a mango.    Orange is music of the tango.   Orange is the fur   Of the fiery fox,   It’s The brightest crayon   In the box.    And in the fall, When the leaves are turning,   Orange is the smell   Of a bonfire burning…

THIS HALLOWEEN, and every day, STOP AND ENJOY THE ORANGE!

hay-bale-halloween

cupcakes

 

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Filed under art, autumn lessons, Dementia/Alzheimer's, kindergarten lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, Mary Shepherd's poetry, teaching

ONE FOOT OVER THE LINE

briston-vatennesse

 

 

 

better-geico-pic

It’s a concept that captured my imagination when I was ten years old and my dad pointed out the imaginary line across the plains of western Kansas.   If you’re driving west on I-70, you see the sign saying you’re entering Sherman County ~ and Mountain Time Zone.   If you’re driving east on the same interstate, at that same point you are entering Thomas County ~ and Central Time Zone.

What if you lived on the east side of the line, I wondered, and you did something bad—or semi-bad, or anything you wish you hadn’t done—could you walk over the line to the west side, where it was an hour earlier, and “undo” what you’d done?   My parents both said that was an interesting idea, but life didn’t work that way. Card laid, card played; no do-overs by stepping into a different time zone.  Unless you’re Ray Bradbury…

The top picture of Bristol, “a good place to live,” is actually one town in two states, Virginia and Tennessee. With thanks to the Geico Insurance commercial, we even have a picture of the marker embedded in the middle of the main street; one side of the street is VA, and the other is TN.   Hmm…can laws, codes and rules change with one step?

Oh, oh.  What if it's hunting season on the other side of the road?

Oh, oh. What if it’s hunting season on the other side of the road?

October is AWARENESS MONTH, which shines a light on diseases and world health concerns.   It also can include the awareness of general knowledge and self-awareness, knowing when something exists, has changed, has several meanings or applications, or needs more study.

In Kansas, Virginia, Tennessee, and life in general–both literally and figuratively speaking–it’s always wise to be aware of the facts before we put one foot over any line.

turn-back-now

 

 

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Filed under autumn lessons, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, life questions, October glory, politics

MONEY TALKS…AND SO DO PICTURES

If money talks, what do you think this ten-dollar bill says about Scout?

If money talks, what does this ten-dollar bill say about Scout?  

This photo essay begins with my parents. Fritz was their shelter dog who was “supposed to be” a small mixed breed, but his body grew to match his personality.   Before his Alzheimer’s, Dad used to say, “Let’s talk, Fritz,” and they did.dad-and-fritz

maggie

Maggie was our first rescued dog. For 13 years she was Jim’s hiking buddy, my cuddle pal, and a treasured member of our entire family.  She was included in all travels, every hike, holiday and event.  She was also Scout’s “angel” who made our hearts ready for the last puppy in her litter, waiting for us to find her at the Humane Society.

puppy-scout-from-humane-society

 

From the first hour, Scout got plenty of hugs, love…and also a lot of patience.  (Chewing has been her favorite sport, as seen in top picture.)

 

 

 

scout-and-squeak

This is Scout with “Squeak,” her first chew toy and still her favorite little friend.  Like a baby with a favorite blanket, Scout can’t go to sleep at night unless she has Squeak.

 

kodi-and-scout

Dogs bring their own new friends into the family.  Here, Scout rests with her friend Kodi, a chocolate poodle, after a busy play date.  Kodi’s parents Jeff and Karen, have coffee on the deck with us, Scout’s parents.  Kodi is now in training to be a Companion Dog.  We miss her.

On previous posts, I’ve shared our daughter’s family pets: Munchkin, the kitten adopted from a farm family; and Duchess, the gorgeous all-black German Shepherd who was adopted from a soldier being deployed from Ft. Riley.  All of our pets have made our family bigger, better, more patient, and also pet-happy and very fur-friendly.

OCTOBER IS “ADOPT A SHELTER DOG MONTH”   Shelters are always looking for good adoptive “parents” and are also in need of donations to continue providing for homeless animals.

 

 

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Filed under autumn lessons, Dementia/Alzheimer's, friends, importance of doing good things, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, making a difference, Things to be thankful for

STRENGTH FROM DEEP ROOTS

(My favorite Sandzen painting from the Birger Sandzen Memorial Gallery in Lindsborg, KS)

(My favorite Sandzen painting from the Birger Sandzen Memorial Gallery in Lindsborg, KS)

 

 

(Early autumn glory in Abilene, Kansas)

(Early autumn glory in Abilene, Kansas)

Last week when I visited my mother, at night as she lay snuggled under the quilt on her bed I read aloud to her from chapters in Robert Fulghum’s ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN.   Mom had been a kindergarten teacher at one time, and before she became lost in dementia, she really enjoyed this book.

But that evening I flipped the book open to the wrong chapter about villagers in the Solomon Islands who had a unique way of taking down a tree.   They didn’t chop it down with axes; the entire village yelled at the tree every day for a month, and the tree fell over.   When I read this aloud, Mom frowned.   With her eyes still closed she scrunched up her face and adamantly shook her head NO!.

After my parents built our house on a large empty lot in 1953, my mother planted 16 varieties of trees (27 trees, total) and did all the landscaping herself.   She has always loved trees, and by example she taught me to love them, too.

As an apology for reading about the villagers killing trees by yelling at them—even though it was meant as a lesson for children to always using kind, gentle words—and also in tribute to my mother, I dedicate this post to all of us who love trees.   And just for the record, to make up for my mistake that night, I read aloud to Mom for another hour, but only from the chapters that made her smile.

As Andrea Koehle Jones wrote in THE WISH TREES, “I’m planting a tree to teach me to gather strength from my deepest roots.”

And as a concluding reminder of the long-term importance of trees, Jim Robbins, author of THE MAN WHO PLANTED TREES, wrote this: “Planting trees may be the single most important ecotechnology that we have to put the broken pieces of our planet back together.”

(Woodrow Wilson tree on my walking route in Colorado Springs.)

(“Woodrow Wilson tree” on my walking route in Colorado Springs.)                              

(Kansas sunset)

(Kansas sunset)

 

(Easter egg tree near Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs.)

(Children’s Easter egg tree near Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs.)

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Filed under autumn lessons, Dementia/Alzheimer's, Fort Scott Kansas, gardening, importance of doing good things, kindergarten lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, special quotations, Spiritual connections, Things to be thankful for

Button, Button…

Just a few of the choices. (All pictures by Marylin Warner)

Need a button?  Here are just a few of the choices. (All pictures by Marylin Warner)

Primitive men and women made “buttons” from bones, thorns and sinew to hold animal skins together. Greeks and Romans added metal, horns and seashells to the mix, and later used button fasteners to identify royalty and military rank. In 1620, the first Duke of Buckingham had a suit and cloak covered in diamond buttons used only as decoration.

When my grandmother finished passing down clothing from her oldest child to the youngest, before she cut the fabric into quilt-sized pieces, she saved all the buttons. My mother had a wooden box filled with hundreds of buttons of all colors and sizes. She could always find a substitute button to quickly sew onto any piece of clothing, and my first sewing lesson was practicing with buttons and scraps of fabric.  Mom used buttons for other purposes, too.

To teach children to count or learn colors, she’d spread out buttons on the table and let them find 5 yellow or 8 blue or 11 green. To keep her daughter and her friends busy on a rainy afternoon, she let them make bracelets by stringing buttons they chose from the box, or decorate plain picture frames by gluing on designs with the buttons.

Button, button, who’s got the button? Cute as a button. Button your lip. In-y or out-y belly button. Right on the button. Push someone’s button. Buttons come in all expressions as well as numerous sizes, shapes, colors…and memories. November 16 is Button Day. Founded in 1938, the National Button Society celebrates collecting, preserving, trading, displaying and honoring all kinds of buttons.

In his poem “Picture Puzzle Pieces,” Shel Silverstein reminds us to look closely, with open eyes and minds, to appreciate the possibilities of small details. He finds a picture puzzle piece on the sidewalk, soaking in the rain. It could be almost anything, including “…it might be a button of blue on the coat of the woman who lived in the shoe…”

Sometimes it’s the little, simple things that nudge our memories and touch our hearts. Never underestimate the power of a button.

1950s collector "accent" buttons: Mother-of-Pearl, pottery, wood, brass, etc.

1950s collector “accent” buttons: Mother-of-Pearl, pottery, wood, brass, etc.

 

Kids' fun buttons.

Kids’ fun buttons.

5" tall Christmas ornament.

5″ tall Christmas ornament.

 

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Filed under art, autumn lessons, Dementia/Alzheimer's, just doing the best we can, kindergarten lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, sewing

One Night, One Day, One Month

Photos by Marylin Warner

(Photos by Marylin Warner)

 

SUPER S

 

 

 

 

 

Comedienne Rita Rudner once quipped, “All my life, my parents said, ‘Never take candy from strangers.’ And then they dressed me up and said, ‘Now go beg for it.”

Halloween. When we dress up to be someone else and go trick’o’treating. One night, the last night of October, is about dressing up, playing pranks, and getting goodies.

 church window  All Saint’s Day on November 1st, and All Soul’s Day on November 2nd are for honoring saintly people of the past and praying for the souls of those who’ve gone before us. In churches and cemeteries and homes, these days are for remembering others.

November 2nd is also one day for us to think about our own lives…and how we want to be remembered after we die. Nov. 2nd is PLAN YOUR EPITAPH DAY.

angel marker

During the early stages of my mother’s dementia, we took long drives together when I visited her each month. I’ve written about the ways we created story and poem ideas during those rides, but there’s something else we did. We sometimes visited cemeteries. On nice days we’d walk in the sunshine at one of the local cemeteries, read tombstones and pay our respects. One tombstone was my mother’s favorite, and mine as well.

It’s a wide, marble, double headstone: the wife’s full name and dates of birth and death are on side of the carved heart; the husband’s full name and dates are on the other. The husband outlived his wife by many years. On the back of the marble headstone are two carved hearts intertwined. Below are two girls’ first and middle names, but only one date ~ the same date of death as their mother’s death. Below the girls’ names is this epitaph: “They took their first breaths with God.” At this headstone we paused and prayed for the mother who died with her still-born daughters, and the father who lost them all.

Planning our epitaphs isn’t about deciding what will be set in stone after we die. It’s one day when we think how we want to be remembered, and in doing so, consider how we’re living our lives.

The entire month of November is LIFEWRITING MONTH. This is the month to take notes, to write essays, stories, poems (or paint pictures and organize photographs) of our lives or the lives of those we love, and events, people and places we want to remember.

If these November Days seem heavy-handed, realize that it’s also PICTURE BOOK MONTH, NATIONAL NOVEL WRITING MONTH, PEANUT BUTTER LOVERS MONTH, and NATIONAL SLEEP COMFORT MONTH. That’s just to name a few; there are many other choices. Depending where you live, the month of November might be a darker, colder month when trees lose their leaves and it’s more likely to sleet or snow than to rain, but it’s certainly not a month with nothing to do.

Computer, typewriter, pencil and paper, crayons or chalk: look at all the November writing activities.

Computer, typewriter, pencil and paper, crayons or chalk: look at all the November Days to express yourself.

 

 

 

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Filed under autumn lessons, Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, importance of doing good things, lessons about life, life questions, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, Spiritual connections, writing

Improve Your BOO I.Q.

Creepy cupcakes will make your teeth a delightful orange. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

Creepy cupcakes will make your teeth a delightful orange. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

 

 

Cafes like Bon Ton's in Colorado Springs get in full swing for Halloween.

Cafes like Bon Ton’s in Colorado Springs get in full swing for Halloween.

The staff at my mom's assisted living facility go all out with decorating pumpkins.

The staff at my mom’s assisted living facility go all out with decorating pumpkins.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The good news is you still have a week to get into the Halloween spirit. The even better news is this post will help you become prepared in case you’re ever a contestant on television JEOPARDY or playing Trivial Pursuit with friends!

Beyond the usual costume choices and vandalism facts of Halloween, here are five lesser-known Halloween details: First, if you’re looking for love, be prepared on October 31st. According to the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, games like bobbing for apples and sharing special sweets and chocolate candies can predict future romances and compatibility.

Second: Halloween is the 6th most popular American card-giving holiday, with an estimated 20 million cards sent each year. Christmas is the 1st with 1.5 billion cards. Take a guess what the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th are. Here’s a hint: successful bobbing for applies and sharing special sweets could led to most of them.

Third: In 1950 in Philadelphia, trick’o’treaters traded a sweet tooth for a sweet action.  Instead of going from door-to-door for candy, they collected spare change to make a change in the lives of mothers and children in developing countries. UNICEF was created in the United Nations, and after Philadelphia it soon spread across the country via schools, youth groups and churches.

Fourth: According to statistics from the Dept. of Agriculture, the number of pumpkins bought for baking cookies, pies and puddings for Thanksgiving comes in behind the number of pumpkins bought to carve for Halloween. Spooky wins over tasty.

And fifth: Got leftovers after Halloween night? Dark and milk chocolate can last up to two years if stored in a dry, odor-free place, and unopened packages of candy corn can last at least nine months. Careful planning can keep you Halloween happy for quite awhile.

My parents used to Ooo and Aaah over the neighbor children who showed up in costume on Halloween night. Mom always bought bags of Peanut Butter Cups, Snickers, and Almond Mounds. During their last Halloween at home they gave out candy to early Trick’o’Treaters, the very young pirates, princesses and little ghosts. Then they ran out of candy, so they turned off the porch light and went to bed. Many months later when I cleaned out their house, there were many bags of candy bars stored in the cabinet with the laundry supplies. They looked like they were still edible, so the 5th detail must be right.

You don't have to wear a costume or paint your face at Halloween ~ dress up your feet!

You don’t have to wear a costume or paint your face at Halloween ~ dress up your feet!

These will always be my favorite Halloween costumes!

These will always be my favorite Halloween costumes!

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Filed under art projects, autumn lessons, Dementia/Alzheimer's, memories for great-grandchildren, neighbors, October glory

BULLY BULLY

Maybe this WWII poster was in the inspiration for Mother A???

Maybe this WWII poster was in the inspiration for Mother A???

 

 

A dance...or a fight?  Art illustration from a Musical Baby segment.

A dance…or a fight? Art illustration from a Musical Baby segment.

 

 

 

After visiting my mom this month, I decided not to take the return interstate route, but to drive the blue highways. When you need time to yourself, with the peace of clear skies above open pastures and farm land, nothing beats taking the low-traffic back roads on a clear September day.   It was exactly what I needed…until I turned on the radio.   I skipped the big stations and talk-radio commentaries all revving up for that evening’s Republican debates, and then I  found a small station covering a recent story on bullying. Real life, multi-level bullying. Without revealing names or the location, here’s the story.

Mom A picked up her 3rd-grade daughter after school.  Child A was carrying her books, and when her mother asked where the girl’s backpack was, the answer was a sad whisper: it was stolen out of her locker, probably by Child B,  who had taken Child A’s lunch the day before. The girl had gone to the principal—Child B’s uncle—but didn’t have any real proof.

The mother made a quick U-turn, drove back to the school and parked at an angle in front of the school bus. Child B quickly got onto the bus when she saw Child A’s mother jump out of the car. Mom A grabbed Child B, pulled her off the bus and told her daughter to take charge and teach the bully a lesson. She even held Child B so Child A could hit and slap the girl to make her tell where the backpack was.

Child B’s older brother cursed loudly, got off the bus and jumped in to break it up.  Mother A grabbed the boy and began swinging him around.   He got so upset his asthma flared up and the kids on the bus alternately cheered for angry Mother A and wheezing Boy B.  The bus driver honked the horn but stayed in the bus to control the other students. The school resource officer—a policeman assigned to the school—did not intervene but called for backup because he wasn’t objective. His wife was Mother A.

The talk-show host on the little radio station told this all in a dramatic theatrical voice, and then he paused. Finally he said: “The lines are open, folks. Give us a call and tell us who are the bullies in this scenario, and what should be their punishment?”

If you called in to the station that day, how would you have answered his questions?

I’ll share some of the audiences’ personal, emotional, legal and professional responses in the comment section later this week.   I listened to a surprising assortment of answers until I drove out of the station’s airwaves and everything became staticky.  Gone was my calm, relaxed travel, to say the least.

September is Self-Improvement Month, Superior Relationships Month, and National Pediculosis Month. I couldn’t resist including the last one; Head Lice Prevention and Treatment are important issues, and certainly safer than discussing Bullying Run Amuck.

Some families prefer not to weigh in on this issue unless they can hide behind disguises like these mustaches.

Some of you might prefer not to weigh in on this issue unless you can hide behind disguises like these mustaches and be anonymous.    😉

 

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Filed under autumn lessons, Dementia/Alzheimer's, just doing the best we can, Kansas, lessons about life, life questions, making a difference, memories for grandchildren

PLAY WITH YOUR FOOD

Wow! And now they taste good, even with O trans fat!

Wow! And the new ones still taste good, even with O trans fat!

Write the words, THEN eat.

Spell the words, THEN eat.

Macaroni isn’t just for eating; it’s also for learning.  In college, I was a tutor for a third-grade boy who had trouble with spelling. When traditional flash cards didn’t help, I bought a bag of alphabet macaroni and spread them out on the table. I’d say the word, and he’d spell it by putting together the letters of macaroni. It took longer than spelling them out loud or writing them on paper, but there was something about the tactile approach, the “feel” of the letters that helped him learn and remember.

Several years ago, when my mother’s dementia was in the middle stage and she still responded to sensory stimuli, I  tried alphabet cookies. I’d spread them out on the table, and together we’d try to create cookie words and sentences with the letters.  She would participate for more than an hour at a time, probably because she also ate the letters she thought she didn’t need.  It was a fun activity to share, and she was notably more alert and happy afterwards.

September is WORLD ALZHEIMER’S MONTH. Every day there seems to be new studies, new results, new trial drugs, etc., about the best way to treat Alzheimer’s and dementia.  My dad died of Alzheimer’s and my mom has very advanced dementia, so I try to stay current, but sometimes it’s overwhelming.  One of the goals of my blog is to share the things that have helped one or both of my parents, at least temporarily. The overall most successful lesson I’ve learned is this: Make the most of sensory details.

Here are a few suggestions:  play CDs of music and songs they might remember; gently rub vanilla-scented lotion on their hands as you share a memory of a holiday or something you used to do together; bake cookies (frozen dough is great when sprinkled with cinnamon before baking); share popcorn as you watch a familiar TV program, or assemble a child-sized puzzle together.  If you have other suggestions, please share them with us.

World Alzheimer’s Month is not a tribute to the disease, but a reminder that it’s a very real international threat. It’s also a reminder to do what we can to help those who suffer with the disease, and a nudge to do the best we can to help ourselves remain alert.   So it’s okay to play with your food this month, especially if it’s alphabet food that will keep you thinking…and laughing!

Fragrant flowers cheer the spirits and trigger memories.

Fragrant flowers cheer the spirits and trigger memories.

What's your cookie word IQ? The bottom two are dictionary words; the top one will be in the new dictionary.

What’s your cookie word IQ? The bottom two are dictionary words; the top one will be in the new dictionary.

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Filed under autumn lessons, Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, just doing the best we can, lessons about life, memories for great-grandchildren