Category Archives: Dementia/Alzheimer’s


If this 1958 Thunderbird was yellow with a white top, it would look like Old Yeller.

Instead of being pink and black, if this 1958 Thunderbird was yellow with a white top and had a smiling teen waving from the driver’s seat, it could be Old Yeller.

This is Sunshine, my amazing FJ Cruiser. I'm crazy about her!

This is Sunshine, my amazing FJ Cruiser. I’m crazy about her, and we’re going to grow old together.

Even Smokey the Bear likes Sunshine when I drive her as a volunteer for the U.S. Forest Service. (pictures by Jim Warner)

Even Smokey the Bear liked Sunshine when I drove her as a volunteer for the U.S. Forest Service. (pictures by Jim Warner)

In 2008, when my mother’s dementia was not yet overwhelming, I took her out to see my new FJ Cruiser and said, “This is Sunshine.” I had to help Mom up into the passenger’s seat because real off-road vehicles in Colorado need a lot of clearance. As I strapped her in, Mom looked around, smiled and said, “I know why you chose this color, Marylin. It’s because of Old Yeller.” I hadn’t thought of a reason other than I just loved Sunshine’s color, but Mom was right.

Many decades earlier, Old Yeller was the car my dad trusted me to drive during my senior year in high school after my brother went to college. She was a 1958 Thunderbird, which later was a much sought after classic, but in 1966 she was just a used car. A wonderful used car that was mine to drive and keep filled with gas, to use as practice for changing a flat tie and checking the oil and all fluids. Because of her I worked at the dealership more hours after school and on weekends to pay for her maintenance, but I loved her.

I am the daughter of a car dealer whose work commitment and love of cars built five successful corporations of dealerships and employed generations of mechanics, sales people, and staff. By the time Dad died of Alzheimer’s, he’d been out of the public eye for years, but at the visitation the line to pay respects wound its way outside, and at the funeral the church was standing room only. The stories about his honesty, fair play, kindness and generous help in difficult times were numerous and touching.

My dad had laughed when I named the Thunderbird Old Yeller, but I’m sure it worried him, too, because to name a car is to form an attachment. I had Old Yeller for only a year. We shook hands on that—with my dad, a hand shake was as binding as a contract—and a year later I went away to college, sad to leave Old Yeller behind.   But the new owner, and my dad, knew that a named car also has often received excellent care. TLC.

Old Yeller was not just my first car, but decades later she was also my first memoir writing sale. I had published a good number of short stories and articles by the time I sold “Memories of Old Yeller” to the national FORD TIMES magazine, but the editors actually paid me a dollar a word for my account of naming my first car and learning unusual lessons. This was exceptional pay, teaching me that memories make for excellent writing exercise, and also encouraged me to spread my writing wings into other genres.

This post is a tribute to Ray Shepherd, who smiled when his daughter named her first car Old Yeller. It’s also a tribute to my mom, Mary Shepherd, who worked along side him to build successful businesses that looked out for their employees and cared for them as friends. My parents went out of their way to help people who were having hard times replace bald tires and get the trustworthy service to keep driving safely.

October is “Name Your Car” month. Before their Alzheimer’s and dementia, my parents were happiest when any car they sold was loved enough to be named.

“General Lee” from THE DUKES OF HAZARD” (Grange picture)

“Christine”–star of the Stephen King novel and movie by the same name.

“Herbie” from LOVE BUG.
(R. Cartwright stock photo)


Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, making a difference, writing, writing exercises


All pictures by KAKE News covering the death of Yogi Berra

All pictures by KAKE TV News covering the death of  Yogi Berra on Sept. 22, 2015

black and white pic of Yogi


Last week’s topic was bullying, featuring the summary of a radio account of one afternoon when adults, children, and students were all involved.   Thanks to all of you for your comments and suggestions, and as promised, I’ve added a few of the radio call-in responses.  They are now posted in the end comment box of last week’s blog. (Brace yourself for the first one; it’s one that none of you came even close to suggesting! It would detract from this week’s tribute and quotes.)


This week I’m sharing very different—and very creative and entertaining—examples of free speech. Yogi-isms.

Laurence Peter Yogi Berra died September 22nd at the age of 90. During his baseball career, Yogi Berra was MVP three times, fifteen times an all star, and won ten World Series.  In eighteen seasons with the NY Yankees, he hit 358 home runs and drove in 1,430 runs. He later managed both the Yankees and the NY Mets, and after retirement he was a welcomed visitor in the Yankee locker room . Yogi Berra was a team player, a family man, a good guy, and one of professional baseball’s most famous figures, known as much for his quips as for his excellence on the field.

His Yogi-isms didn’t bully or hurt anyone else.  They make us smile, even now.  Here are some of my favorites:

“Baseball is 90% mental and the other half is physical.” ~ “Even Napoleon had his Watergate.” ~ “He hits from both sides of the plate. He’s amphibious.” ~ “Never answer an anonymous letter.” ~ “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” ~ “So I’m ugly. (In baseball) I never saw anyone hit with his face.”  ~ And after streakers ran naked across the field, Yogi was asked if the streakers were male or female.  He answered, “I don’t know. They had bags over their heads.”

Yogi’s wife Carmen once cited all the places they’d lived and worked. She asked him, if she outlived Yogi, where he’d like to be buried. His answer: “Surprise me.”   Which fits well with this closing Yogi-ism: “Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t come to yours.”

Thank you for making us smile, Yogi.  My parents loved your Yogi-isms, and so do I.

The future : Yogi Berra

Yogi waving



Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, just doing the best we can, lessons about life, life questions, making a difference, special quotations


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.    ;)



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


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.


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


Osage wall hanging. (All photos taken by Marylin Warner)

Osage wall hanging.

Native American art wall arrangement at Mt. St. Frances. (All photos taken by Marylin Warner)

Native American art wall arrangement at Mt. St. Frances. (All photos taken by Marylin Warner)

Kirby Sattler's posters are popular art at Territory Days. The one on the right may look familiar; it inspired Johnny Depp's costume in THE LONE RANGER.

Kirby Sattler’s posters are popular art in galleries and at Territory Days. The one on the right may look familiar if you recognize Johnny Depp’s costume in THE LONE RANGER.

In the state of Kansas, twelve counties are named for Indian tribes. Depending on which route I take each month when I drive to visit my mother—the interstate and main highways, or the blue highways—I drive through at least four of these counties.

Here are a few samples of my favorite Native American Indian quotes.

~ from Eagle Chief (Letakos-Lesa) Pawnee: “…All things in the world are two. In our minds we are two, good and evil. With our eyes we see two things, the fair and the ugly… We have the right hand that strikes and makes for evil, and we have the left hand full of kindness, near the heart. One foot may lead us to an evil way, the other foot may lead us to a good. So are all things two, all two.”

~ from Mourning Dove Salish (1888-1936): “…Everything on the earth has a purpose, every disease an herb to cure it, and every person a mission. This is the Indian theory of existence.”

“They are not dead who live in the hearts they leave behind.” ~Tuscarora

“We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.” ~Dakota

“No words are so eloquent as a rattlesnake’s tail.” ~Navajo

“You can’t wake a person who pretends to be asleep.” ~Navajo

“There is no death, only a change of worlds.” ~Pawnee and Shawnee

And this Cherokee quote was in a Kansas Original shop: “When the white man discovered this country, Indians were running it. No taxes, no debt, women did all the work. White man was wrong to think he could improve on a system like this.”

About the time my mother and I tried frying dandelion blossoms, (Fried Dandelions post) we also tried making FRY BREAD, a popular side dish at cafes and food stands serving Indian foods. Here’s the recipe we used:

In a medium bowl, mix together 2 cups flour, 1 T. baking powder, 1 t. seasoning salt or table salt, and 1 cup steaming tap water. Grease your hands with vegetable oil, shape the dough into a ball, and leave in the bowl. Cover with a towel and set in a warm place for at least 30 minutes. Setting the bowl in a sunny place works extra well.

Heat vegetable oil at least 1 inch deep in a fry pan or electric skillet (around 375 degrees). Make a ball of dough a little smaller than a golf ball and flatten in your greased hand until it’s about the size of a large cookie. Poke a small hole in the center with your finger and carefully lay the dough in the hot oil. Let dough fry to a gold brown before turning it over and frying the other side. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately.

Fry Bread has two uses.  You can put meat, cheese, chopped tomatoes, onions and lettuce on Fry Bread for a main dish.  Or you can do what Mom and I did:  spread it with butter and sprinkle on cinnamon and sugar for a dessert.

September 25 is NATIVE AMERICAN DAY. That gives you plenty of time to make your Fry Bread, appreciate Indian art, look for interesting quotes, and maybe even read Hal Borland’s book, WHEN THE LEGENDS DIE, or Dee Brown’s BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE. Both books will make you want to wear a t-shirt that says “INDIAN LIVES MATTER”


Kansas' twelve counties named for Indian tribes.

Kansas’ twelve counties named for Indian tribes.


Filed under art, Cooking With Mom, Dementia/Alzheimer's, importance of doing good things, Indian Lives Matter, just doing the best we can, life questions, recipes, special quotations, Spiritual connections


Think of all the lessons to be learned from THELMA AND LOUISE.  (all photos by Marylin Warner; this was taken at a diner in El Dorado, KS.)

Think of all the lessons, good and not so good,  to be learned from THELMA AND LOUISE. (All photos by Marylin Warner; this was taken outside a diner in El Dorado, KS.)

My dad wasn’t big on going to movies, but my mom loved them. So when I was growing up, whenever he had business in Kansas City, she and I would ride along and go to a movie. Beyond the lure of buttered popcorn and sodas, we also loved to listen for special lessons in each story and compare notes afterwards.

Dad’s Alzheimer’s and now Mom’s dementia have prevented us from continuing this tradition for several decades, but I still search for favorite “lesson lines” on my own. Here are a few of my favorites.

“Do, or do not. There is no try.” ~ Yoda (STAR WARS)

“It is not our abilities that show what we truly are…it is our choices.” Dumbledore (HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS)

“After a while, you learn to ignore the names people call you and just trust who you are.”   ~ SHREK

“Our lives are defined by opportunities, even the ones we miss.” ~ THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON

“To find something, anything—a great truth or a lost pair of glasses—you must first believe there will be some advantage in finding it.” ~ ALL THE KING’S MEN

“All that is gold does not glitter. Not all who wander are lost.” ~ Bilbo Baggins, THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING

And this one is for my mom; if it weren’t for the dementia, she’d be shaking her head Yes! and applauding: “Vulgarity is no substitute for wit.” ~ from DOWNTOWN ABBEY


Think of all the lessons from the characters of THE WIZARD OF OZ.

Think of all the lessons from the characters of THE WIZARD OF OZ.

"Run, Forrest, Run!"   Substitute your name for Forrest, and what does this lesson teach you?

“Run, Forrest, Run!” Substitute your name for Forrest, and what does this lesson teach you?


Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, just doing the best we can, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, life questions, movies, special quotations


My mom's favorite book to have read to her at bedtime.

My mom’s favorite book to have read to her at bedtime.  I think it reminds her of poems and prayers from her youth.







What is the mark we leave behind?  (All photos by Marylin Warner)

What is the mark each of us will make to leave behind? (All photos by Marylin Warner)

When I visit my mom, my favorite time is at night when she’s tucked into bed, and I pull up the rocking chair and read to her. Her favorite book—the one I always read several times from start to finish—is Joan Walsh Anglund’s A LITTLE BOOK OF POEMS AND PRAYERS. Sometimes Mom naps, sometimes she smiles, and sometimes she hums along with her own rhythm to the words and poems.   All else falls away.

This is the first example on the first page of Anglund’s book. Originally the page displayed only the title, but this handwritten addition was made later:

What you do ~ What you say ~ How you work ~ How you play ~ Day by Day ~  

It all matters ~ When all is done ~ It’s what you leave behind ~ Saying who you were.

Imagine taking a philosophy class and having the professor write this quote by Aristotle on the board: “We are what we repeatedly do. Greatness then, is not an act but a habit.” And then, instead of assigning some deep, intellectual essay to expresses the best way for individuals to live, imagine that the assignment was to write a very brief set of instructions, so simple a child could understand them. If a professor gave you this assignment, what would you write?  I’ve already shown you my simplistic answer. (Obviously, the assignment was not to write good poetry.)

August is WHAT WILL BE YOUR LEGACY? month. It’s intended to be a time for us to reflect on our past and present actions and vow to make positive changes that will affect the future and be the legacy we leave behind.

The suggestions for making the most of this month are numerous. Everything from thanking those who have made a difference in your life to “Playing The Legacy Game” and having everyone in your group tell how they would like to be remembered and what they can do to make this happen.

What you decide to do—if anything—is up to you. I’m fairly certain that if it weren’t for her dementia, my mother would say that since she and Dad were married in August, everything that came out of that union—including their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, plus the business they built and the differences they made—was their legacy.

If thinking about your legacy—or writing a bad poem about what you want to leave behind—isn’t what you want to do, August has numerous other opportunities. It is also Happiness Happens Month, Boomers Making A Difference Month, and Get Ready for Kindergarten Month. You’ve already missed Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Night and National Garage Sale Day (both on August 8th) and S’mores Day (August 10th), but you can go ahead and do those things anyway.

That could be your legacy…breaking the rules and doing things on the unexpected days!

P.S.  —  The link I gave for the 50-word Gotham contest had an “invisible space” (according to the very nice Gotham editor who responded to my email cry for help.)  Here is the correct one, which seems the same, but the space has been removed.   I tried it, and it works!  Jump right in and enter by the 17th!!!           black butterfly

grasshopper on leaf


Filed under celebrations, Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, importance of doing good things, lessons about life, life questions, special quotations, writing, writing exercises