Category Archives: birthday celebrations

Swiftly Flow The Years

mom's b-day cake


I never thought I would quote Robert Frost and Paris Hilton in the same post, but their combined words aptly summarize my mother’s 98th birthday this past week.

Robert Frost: “A diplomat is a man who always remembers a woman’s birthday but never remembers her age.” Paris Hilton: “The way I see it, you should live every day like it’s your birthday.”

My mother does not remember her age, or for the most part where she is, how old she is, or what is happening. Every day could be her birthday, and even with cake, candles, balloons and cards, she still would not realize what day it is.

But we still celebrate her birthday.  She has had a remarkable life, and we are here because of her.   We–her daughter, granddaughter and great-grandchildren–drove to Ft. Scott last weekend so we could sit together with her at night, reading aloud her favorite children’s poems and prayers, and also sing to her.  We took turns telling her short, happy stories we remember about our lives with her, and with her eyes still closed, she amazed us by smiling and nodding in agreement!  We were thrilled to have her respond.

cards on yellow board


The pictures on this week’s post are of the double chocolate cake we brought, the balloons and the yellow poster board with handwritten messages and cards from our family.   I’m not posting any of the pictures of Mom on this birthday; she is on oxygen and sleeping most of the time. So I’ll share three pictures from the past that show how swiftly the years of her beautiful life have flown.

“Sunrise, Sunset” is one of my favorite songs from FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, and it summarizes how quickly the years pass for all of us. They’re to be cherished every day, but especially on a 98th birthday, even when the birthday girl doesn’t realize what day it is.

Grandma with her first two grandchildren.  Baby Molly is the mother of my mother's two great-grandchildren.

Grandma with her first two grandchildren. Baby Molly is the mother of Grace and Gannon, my mom’s two great-grandchildren.

Mary Elizabeth, age 2 1/2, with her brother Ira on the farm in Missouri.

Mary Elizabeth, age 2 1/2,
with her brother Ira on the farm in Missouri.

My mother's college graduation picture.

My mother’s college graduation picture.



Filed under birthday celebrations, birthday traditions, Dementia/Alzheimer's, memories for great-grandchildren, special quotations, Things to be thankful for


A "K" out of cupcakes.  (All photographs by Marylin Warner)

A “K” out of cupcakes. (All photographs by Marylin Warner)

Lilies are a bright and happy touch, and they smell so sweet.

Lilies are a bright and happy touch to any celebration, and they smell so sweet.

Each month during the drive from Colorado to visit my mom in southeast Kansas, the first 450 miles are mostly Interstate driving. The next morning, however, when I drive the last 200 miles, by choice I take the back roads. Blue highways are my favorites. I love the open fields, rolling hills, and small Kansas towns with local diners, community centers advertising BINGO, and sometimes only one stop light on the main street.

As I drive, I listen to the radio, switching stations to hear local and national news and talk radio programs. I hear different perspectives during my drive, and last Sunday, January 25th, I learned that on this one day, I also heard a different “fact.”

On one local station, the talk radio host answered a call from a little voice who wanted to sing a song. The caller was only three years old, but she knew all the words to “Happy Birthday.” The ending she sang was “…happy birf-day dear Kan-sass, happy birf-day to you!” The host cheered, thanked her and cut to the weather report.

I switched to a multi-state radio station and heard the warm bass-baritone voice of Bing Crosby singing the last few lines of “Happy Birthday.” The popular singer/actor had died in 1977, and at the end of the song, the radio host said that Bing Crosby had recorded this song in 1961 when Kansas was only 100 years old, so it was worth playing again today, on Kansas’ 154th birthday. What a surprise…it was my home state’s birthday!

By the time I reached Fort Scott, I’d heard Kansas birthday greetings on several radio stations. So when I drove to the grocery store to pick up some of Mom’s favorite foods to tempt her appetite, I also bought her a bouquet of fresh deep-pink lilies and fancy birthday cupcakes with candles. It was Kansas’ birthday, after all, and in our family we’re always up for celebrating birthdays.

The surprise was on me. Kansas’ birthday is not the 25th of January, but the 29th. Three people at Mom’s assisted living informed me as I carried in the flowers and treats.  Later I double and triple checked the date on the internet and in a book of KANSAS HISTORY.  I was four days early in celebrating Kansas’ birthday.

Lesson #1: Don’t trust everything you hear on the radio (or on TV, either, or that you overhear.) As President Ronald Regan said: “Trust, but verify.”

Lesson #2: Never miss an opportunity to celebrate. Anything: birthdays (early or late), anniversaries, a snow day (if you want to go back to sleep), a warm and sunny day (if you want to go for a walk), holding a puppy or a baby or a letter from a friend, hearing good news of any kind…or just celebrating life in general.  Always make the most of an opportunity to celebrate, and if there is no obvious reason, create your own.

“Bleeding Kansas” had a rough start, with battles over being a Free State or a Slave State, and conflicts until the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown vs. Board of Education ended segregation in schools. The state has also had droughts,tornados, and all kinds of hard times. But look at Kansas now, 154 years old and going strong. The little girl sang it best: “Happy Birf-day, dear Kan-sass.”

Named for the "Kansa" tribe (meaning "people of the wind," Kansas was home to numerous and diverse Native American tribes.

Named for the “Kansa” tribe, meaning “people of the wind,” Kansas has been home to numerous and diverse Native American tribes.

Sign along the road between Topeka and Yates Center.

Sign along the road between Topeka and Yates Center.

Winter Kansas trees just before sunset.

Kansas tree; even in winter, it’s strong and beautiful.


Filed under birthday celebrations, celebrations, Dementia/Alzheimer's, Kansas, kindergarten lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, Things to be thankful for


My mom, 1918,  the baby before two more siblings followed.

My mom, Mary Elizabeth, 1918, the baby before two more siblings followed.


Mom in 1949, holding their baby daughter, while  Dad holds their son.

Mom in 1949, holding their baby daughter, while Dad holds their son.

Last week’s topic was “Secrets of Success.”

This week’s topic is “How To Turn Disappointments Into Celebrations.”

Many years ago, a college acquaintance had a strange solution for any disappointment she faced: she made herself feel better by finding someone who was more disappointed and miserable than she was. For instance, when her boyfriend back home dumped her, she cheered up when she found someone else whose fiancé made a big deal of publicly ending their engagement on campus. She called this strategy “Being Glad You’re Not THAT Miserable,” and it seemed to work for her.

My birthday is at the end of this month…and it’s a BIG milestone birthday. Although I know my husband, daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren will do something special, I also know my mother will not remember my birthday. Because of her dementia, she rarely remembers who I am any more or sometimes even where she is.  But it’s still sad that for the past seven years she’s had no memory of days that used to mean so much to her, including the day I was born.

Using the technique of my college acquaintance, I found these birthday disappointments of others: Paulina Porizkova was fired by “America’s Next Top Model” on her birthday, and actress Evan Rachel Wood said, “I’ll never forget my 24th birthday when my tooth got punched out…”   But the one that made me choke back tears was by actress/model/singer Amy Weber: “I lost twins at 14 weeks, and I had to have a D&C on my birthday.” 

I’ve never been good at feeling better because someone else felt worse.  The college acquaintance’s strategy didn’t work for me then, and it doesn’t work for me now. 

But I have found a way of creating my own happiness as I celebrate my birthday with my mother. When I drive to Kansas to visit her each month, I take along foods she might enjoy, fresh flowers or a plant. When I visit her each September, I take a cake or cupcakes. And candles. Sometimes ice cream, too.   And I sing “Happy Birthday to US” and light the candles (just a few candles…we don’t want a bon fire.)

Mom still enjoys blowing out candles, and she sometimes wants me to light them again so she can blow them out a second time. It’s our shared celebration—I’m the birthday girl; she’s the mother who gave birth to me—and at some point during my visit I tell her a story from when I was a child and she did something sweet, funny, poignant or wonderful. Usually she’ll smile and say something like, “That’s nice. Do I know her?”   She doesn’t know “her,” but I do.

Dementia prevents Mom from remembering when my birthday is or even who I am. Reality confirms that the woman who wanted so much to be a mother, and who suffered four miscarriages before she had her two children, went on to have three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. All of us are here because she didn’t give up or bury her disappointments by finding other women who had even worse pains and more sadness.

So for my birthday again this year, we’ll celebrate the line of life. We’ll eat cake, blow out candles, smile and celebrate all the lives and loves that dementia cannot erase.   Happy Birth Day To Us.

1978 ~ Marylin holds her daughter Molly, Mary's granddaughter.

1978 ~ Marylin and her daughter Molly, Mary’s granddaughter.


2005 ~ Molly holds portrait of Dad's mother as a  toddler for her own toddlers, Mary's great-grandchildren.

2005 ~ Molly holds portrait of her grandpa’s mother as a toddler for her own children, Mary and Ray’s great-grandchildren.


Filed under birthday celebrations, birthdays, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for grandchildren, memories for great-grandchildren, special quotations, Things to be thankful for


1919 ~ Mary "Ibbith" holding her baby doll.

1920 ~ Mary “Ibbith” holding her baby doll, getting ready to take it for a ride in the baby buggy.

2012 ~ Mary Elizabeth and her daughter (me) holding the Flat Stanley project of her great-granddaughter, Grace.

2012 ~ Mary Elizabeth and her daughter (me) holding the Flat Stanley project of her great-granddaughter, Grace.

2013 ~ Mom rides in her own "buggy" with Marylin pushing so they can go feed the ducks.

2013 ~ Mom rides in her own “buggy” with me pushing so we can go feed the ducks.

2014 ~ Mom and me celebrating her 96th birthday cake.

2014 ~ Mom with me, celebrating her 96th birthday with candles and Boston Cream Pie.

Several years into her dementia, my mother went through a stage when her most frequent question was, “What day is this?” I would answer, saying the day of the week, the date and even the time. She would nod. Then, over and over, she would repeat the question. I would tell her again, and then again, and sometimes I’d finally conclude by reminding her of one of my favorite questions and responses from A.A. Milne’s book, WINNIE-THE-POOH:

“What day is it?” asked Pooh. ~ “It’s today,” squeaked Piglet. ~ “Oh, my favorite day!” said Pooh. I would try to imitate Pooh and Piglet, and we would laugh.  Usually it would break the cycle, and we’d go on to other things.

At 96, Mom’s sense of “today” now often goes back to growing up on the farm, or days working with Dad to build the business, or maybe memories of mothering two growing children. For Mom, Tempus Fugit means Time Flies…but in reverse, going back in time.

Last week I drove to Ft. Scott to celebrate an early 96th birthday with Mom. During my days and nights in the apartment with her, I was reminded again that she is blessed with excellent caregivers who are trained, caring, patient and kind.  When Mom blew out the candles on her Boston Cream birthday “cake” (soft and easy to chew), I was very glad Tammy was on duty to join me in oohing and aahing as we opened presents and read cards that Mom never quite realized were hers.

Dr. Seuss wrote, “Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”   To celebrate the valuable moments during the previous years that have flown by, this post includes pictures of my mom as a toddler clutching her baby doll, followed by 3 pictures from my many months of visits as we celebrate each day as our favorite day.

Tempus fugit, so Carpe diem.   Time flies, so seize the day.  That’s the lesson.


Thank you, Tammy, for all the special care you give to my mom.  You're a good friend to both of us.

Thank you, Tammy, for all the special care you give to my mom. You’re a good friend to both of us.



Filed under birthday celebrations, celebrations, Dementia/Alzheimer's, Fort Scott Kansas, lessons for great-grandchildren, special quotations, Things to be thankful for

End MUD MONTH In Style

"Bubbles and Bella" ~

“Bubbles and Bella” ~

1978 ~ Mary Shepherd and her first 2 grandchildren getting ready for a nap; baby on left, Molly, will be the mother of Mary's two great-grandchildren (picture by Maryin Warner)

1978 ~ Mary Shepherd and her first 2 grandchildren getting ready for a nap; baby on left, Molly, will be the mother of Mary’s two great-grandchildren. See first two pictures of post “TEN WORDS” (pictures by Maryin Warner)

Ah, finally, the last week of February!  In Colorado and Kansas, 2014’s “Mud Month” (Old English Solmonath means Mud Month) has been one for the books.  But as my parents always said, “Don’t wish your life away…enjoy every day.”

In the spirit of that wise advice, here are four dates to celebrate the end of February in style!

Today, on February 22 (or any day before the end of the month) celebrate George Washington’s birthday with one or more of his favorite foods: Cream of Peanut Soup; Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Coconut; String Beans w/ fresh Mushrooms.  Or, his favorite breakfast food was Hoe Cakes—basic pancakes made with cornmeal.   (See one public-posted soup recipe at end of post.)

Don’t feel like cooking?  February 27 is No Brainer Day.  This is the perfect day to enjoy tasks or activities that require little or no study, talent or work on your part.  Kick back and laugh, applaud, appreciate or grin at someone else’s efforts.  My favorite (with thanks to Nancy Gibbs)—and I promise you’ll love this—is Bubbles and Bella–

End Mud Month with a double-wonderful last day:  February 28 is both Floral Design Day and Public Sleeping Day.  My favorite cheer-the-harshest-winter-day flowers are tulips and lilies.  Both brighten even the snowiest day and make me hopeful for spring.

And on the same day, what says “Good-bye Mud Day” better than Public Sleeping Day?  Conserve your energy (or make a public statement about working too hard); say no to demands and take a nice long nap, even in public if you want (but not while driving, operating machinery, holding a scalpel or a weapon, etc. You get the idea.)

March 1st is just around the corner. You want to be well fed on Washington’s favorite foods ~ happy and encouraged by the antics of Bubbles and Bella ~ inspired by fresh flowers ~ and refreshed by a long nap.  Like every month, March will have challenges of its own, and you’ll want to be prepared!

Red Stargazer Lilies arranged with greenery.

Red Stargazer Lilies arranged with greenery.

Pink tulips growing in glass container. (Flower pictures by Marylin Warner)

Pink tulips growing in glass container. (Flower pictures by Marylin Warner)

David Wallace, Colorado Springs, acting the role of George Washington (Picture by Jim Warner)

David Wallace, Colorado Springs, acting the role of George Washington (Picture by Jim Warner)

1 med. onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
3-4 chopped fresh tomatoes and/or sweet red peppers
1/4 c. butter
3 tbsp. flour
2 qts. chicken stock or canned broth
2 c. chunky peanut butter
1 3/4 c. light cream
Saute onion and celery in butter until soft. Stir in flour until well blended. Add chick stock, stirring constantly, and bring to boil. Add peanut butter and cream, stirring to blend thoroughly. Heat, but do not boil. Serve garnished with peanuts if desired.  Serve with cayenne pepper for each person to use as desired.


Filed under birthday celebrations, Colorado Springs, Dementia/Alzheimer's, Fort Scott Kansas, special quotations


Cheryl Maberry Blacklidge

Cheryl Blacklidge


“We’ll be Friends Forever, won’t we, Pooh?” asked Piglet.

“Even longer,” Pooh answered.  ~A.A. Milne, author of  Winnie-the-Pooh

Dear Mom,  You have received a special message from the daughter of some special friends.

Cheryl (Maberry) Blacklidge grew up in Ft. Scott. Now she lives with her husband and son in Mississippi.  Enjoy her birthday letter to you, Mom!  Love, Marylin



When I realized that it was your 95th  birthday, I decided it was way past time to write to you and let you know something that has been on my mind for quite some time now.  Recently I read Debbie Macomber’s book God’s Guest List.  It is about all the guests that God sends to each of us as gifts though out our lifetime.  You are certainly one of those guests/gifts he sent to me. I hope you somehow know what a wonderful gift you have been to me.

My first recollections of you are from some of my earliest days at First Christian Church.  I love to hear the story mom tells about how you and she were the first two women to break the “hat rule” and attend church hatless. Thank you – I never have cared much for wearing hats.  I also  remember you always going out of your way to welcome, with that beautiful smile of yours, everyone who came to church. There were also those great CGF dinners that you helped us cook and then enjoy, as we talked about God, church, and life – not always in that order, but all three were always included.

Our families have had such a close connections since our first meetings through the church.  You and Mom worked together on so many projects, from VBS to painting the Sunday School Rooms to working in the kitchen to prepare Sunday church dinners. I know Daddy and Ray always felt a close connection through the church and through the Masons.  I’ll never forget hearing Daddy and Ray visiting together not too long before Daddy died.  Their conversation was mostly about memories, but shortly before Ray left that evening, they hugged and agreed that they had felt like brothers throughout their friendship.   It still brings tears when I remember the closeness they shared that night.

Because of you, I know Marylin and David (as well as their families) and consider them to be dear friends.  David has been such a strong and faithful leader at First Christian Church, and in Fort Scott.  He has also “been there” for me when I needed any kind of help – like the Sunday morning when I called him in panic to tell him that someone had hit and seriously damaged my car in the night and I didn’t know what to do about it. He calmly assured me that he would see to it that the body shop would take good care of it.  David convinced me that it wasn’t the end of the world.

Marylin has been there for me many times, also.  Marylin welcomed me into her home so many times and then even invited me to live with her and Molly the summer that she and I attended classes at Colorado College.  She is the kind of friend that no matter how long it has been since we visited, our conversations start off as though we have talked just the day before.  I know I could go to either David or Marylin if I had a problem and they would be there for me, just like you and Ray always were.

Happy Birthday, Mary. Love from my family to yours.  Cheryl

Cheryl's retirement picture

Cheryl’s retirement picture



Filed under birthday celebrations, Debbie Macomber's GOD'S GUEST LIST, Dementia/Alzheimer's, First Christian Church, Fort Scott Kansas, friends, lessons about life, Madison Mississippi, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, Things to be thankful for

AND ON THE 7th Day…

Summer Bing Cherries (all photos by Marylin Warner)

Summer Bing Cherries, perfect for seed spitting.  (all photos by Marylin Warner)



An example of SCUD comedy by a young Grace who understands the fun of "Savor the Comic, Unplug the Drama"

An example of SCUD comedy by a young Grace who enjoys  the fun of “Savor the Comic, Unplug the Drama”   


Rebecca Pavlenko wrote: “This day is a journey: this very moment is an adventure.”

With that in mind, let’s look at the significance of seven days in July, beginning today, the 6th.  Today is International Kissing Day. It grew out of the United Kindgom’s National Kissing Day, and it is not intended as a formal gesture but as a pleasurable and affectionate kiss. A chocolate Hersey’s Kiss is acceptable, too, as is texting kisses, but nothing beats a kiss and a hug from someone special.

Sunday, July 7, is International Cherry Pit Spitting Day. Since 1974, Eau Claire, Michigan has held a cherry pit spitting contest each year, and the current world record is 100′, 4″. But please refrain from spitting pits while in your house of worship on Sunday.

Monday, July 8, is SCUD DAY, which stands for “Savor the Comic, Unplug the Drama.”   Make it your goal to ditch the drama and appreciate the comic value of life. This is a day to laugh and encourage laughter.

Tuesday, July 9, is National Sugar Cookie Day. The American version of the sugar cookie originated in the 1700s with German settlers in Pennsylvania. This day’s sweet treat is a natural follow up for yesterday’s SCUD Day to keep you smiling.

Wednesday, July 10, is Clerihew Day, paying tribute to Edmund Clerihew Bentley (born July 10, 1875). He created the “Clerihew,” a 4-line light-hearted verse about a person.  The person’s name or nickname is the first line; all other lines are about the personality or talents. The last words on lines 1 & 2 rhyme, and the last words on lines 3 & 4 rhyme.  Come on, poets. Share you talent and write a Clerihew for us.  Please, please, please.

Thursday, July 11, is Cheer Up The Lonely Day. Visit someone, send a card, take in a meal, call and chat—choose one person who could use some cheering up—think of the impact if, all on the same day, each of us did this in a thoughtful, genuine way for one person!

Friday, July 12, is Simplicity Day, a reminder to look for ways to simplify our lives and enjoy the simple pleasures of life. This holiday marks the birthday of Henry David Thoreau, who advocated a life of simple and sustainable living.

July 12, the 7th Day listed on this post, is also—drum roll, please—the 95th birthday of Mary Elizabeth Shepherd, my mother, the woman who is the focus and inspiration of this blog,“Things I Want To Tell My Mother.”  Happy Birthday, Mom!  And in spite of the dementia, “…this day, this moment is an adventure.”  I love you, Mom.  Marylin

Happy 95th birthday, Mary Shepherd!

Happy 95th birthday, Mary Shepherd!


Filed under birthday celebrations, celebrations, Dementia/Alzheimer's, Henry David Thoreau, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for grandchildren, memories for great-grandchildren, special quotations, Things to be thankful for

Choices For The Last Weeks of September

Historic school house ~ Fort Scott, KS (all photography by Marylin Warner)

Hi, Mom,

It’s our favorite time of year again, when the air is crisp and the leaves begin to change.  About this time each September, you’d begin asking what special dinner I wanted for my birthday, what cake I wanted you to make for dessert, and if there was a special something I wanted as a present. We didn’t make a huge deal of birthdays, but you always made them special. Because of your sudden spiking blood pressure during pregnancy–the doctors now call it pre-eclampsia–I was delivered quickly by C-section, more than 3 weeks early. You and I decided it was because I was determined to be born in September; I cut it pretty close, taking my first breath on the evening of the 30th.

Okay, Mom, just for the fun of it, during the last weeks of September there are some choices to make. We’ve already missed National Cream-filled Donut Day on the 14th, which Dad would have loved, and Make A Hat Day on the 15th (which you tried once, but we won’t talk about it, right?) Today, Sept. 16, there are many choices: Collect Rocks Day, Mayflower Day, National PlayDoh Day, and National Women’s Friendship Day. And tomorrow, the 17th, one of the choices is Wear Sneakers to Work Day. How’s that sound?

To make things simple, how about limiting the choices to food options: the 17th of September is National Apple Dumpling Day; the 18th is Cheeseburger Day; the 19th is Butterscotch Pudding Day; and the 20th is National Punch Day (we’ll assume this is the drink and not hitting). This year Oktoberfest begins on the 22nd, and the 26th is Johnny Appleseed Day in case apple sauce sounds good.  The 29th is Confucius Day, and you always used to have fun with fortune cookies.  On the 30th, there are more choices than just my birthday:  Yom Kippur; National Mud Pack Day; oh, and on this day in 1902, Rayon was patented, so we could celebrate that, too.  It can get silly, but it’s fun.

Tonight as I was working on the computer, Oldies But Goodies were playing on i-Tunes. Bobby Vinton was  singing a song: “…so let us make a pledge to meet in September…and seal it with a kiss…”   It made me smile. For years we’ve done that, meeting in September, on or close to my actual birthday. I drive from Colorado for my regular visit with you in Kansas, but I bring cupcakes so you can have a choice of flavors. When I sing the Happy Birthday song, you sing along. You usually ask if it’s your birthday (which we celebrated in July).                                                                 I tell you it’s OUR birthday, because it is.

The date of my birth was September 30th, but it’s actually a special day for both of us. It’s the day we became Mother and Daughter, and that’s something worth celebrating.

I love you, Mom.  See you soon…with cupcakes.     Marylin                       

Cupcake choices: Maple with Bacon (!), Chocolate Mint, Black Forest, and Peanut Butter Special


Filed under birthday celebrations, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, Uncategorized