Category Archives: Dementia/Alzheimer’s

Contagious Creativity

S is for sustainability.  Get the details below.

S is for sustainability. Get the details below.

 

 

knowledge is power

In 1983, long before my mother’s dementia, she and I attended a writing conference at Avila College in Kansas City. At the luncheon, when a trophy was given for the best contest story written by an unpublished writer, one of the women at our table had to go up and accept it on behalf of the writer. The actual winner—a mother with several young children—paid the entry fee to enter her story and receive a critique, but she hadn’t been able to afford the cost of the conference and luncheon, plus child care and transportation, so she wasn’t present to receive her own hard-won prize.

Mom and I, as well as many women writers around us, felt strongly that the priorities were way off base. Instead of giving trophies that would gather dust on a bookshelf, wouldn’t it be more helpful to offer scholarships for mothers who needed financial help to reach their writing goals?

Oh, how I wish the heavy curtain of dementia would lift so Mom could see the assistance becoming available for mothers who are also writers and artists. And she’d be thrilled that it’s open to women everywhere.

The SUSTAINABLE ARTS FOUNDATION offers up to five awards of $6,000 each, and up to five Promise Awards of $2,000 each for writers and artists who have at least one child under the age of 18.   Winners may use the funds for materials, conferences, equipment, classes, daycare assistance, or for anything that will aid them in reaching their creative goals.

Writers apply in fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, long form journalism, picture books, graphic novels, or playwriting. Visual artists apply in painting, sculpture, drawing/illustration, printmaking, mixed media, or photography. Both groups submit a brief biography, an artist statement, a curriculum vita, and a $15 entry fee by February 26.

Go to this website for the required entry form and complete guidelines: www.sustainableartsfoundation.org

Please share this opportunity with friends, family, deserving neighbors, and the waitress who has been penning short stories or painting murals during her breaks and while her children are in school. Encourage creative hopefuls.

Albert Einstein said,“Creativity is contagious. Pass it on.”

Norman Rockwell knew kids need a lot of supervision...writers know that kids' antics also make good stories.

Norman Rockwell knew kids need a lot of supervision; writers know that kids’ antics sometimes make really good stories, if you’re not too tired to write the stories.

Mom was VERY young when she learned that babies take a lot of time from writing...and learning to write.

Mom was VERY young when she learned that babies take a lot of time away from writing…and learning to write.

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Filed under art projects, Dementia/Alzheimer's, just doing the best we can, making a difference, paying writing opportunities, writing, writing contest with cash prizes

SADDLE UP

Not all cowboys look like Tom Selleck.

Not all cowboys look like Tom Selleck.

 

Some of the best Cowboys aren't "boys" at all.

Some of the best Cowboys aren’t “boys” at all!

And not all the work is done on horseback.

And not all the work is done on horseback.

 

And the mama cow still does a lot of the work.

But one thing stays the same: the mama cow still does a lot of the work.

 

My mom was an excellent cook, but Sundays were extra special. She made a roast surrounded by vegetables or baked chicken with all the trimmings, and she always made plenty of food and extra biscuits in case someone came home with us to share a family meal after church.  Those were delicious main meals, rich with what my parents called the best food, family and fellowship, but as much as I enjoyed those Sunday dinners, my favorite “meal” was always that evening.

Sunday night was family time for us.  Mom sliced apples and popped a huge bowl of popcorn.   That was our evening meal as we watched Bonanza, Gunsmoke, The Lone Ranger, or some similar program.   It was many years later before I realized that all the cowboy shows from that period contained lessons of THE CODE OF THE WEST.

In the spirit of New Year’s Resolutions, One-Word Personal Themes, and general plans for being more aware and doing better, I’m adding The Code of the West to the mix:

1) Live each day with courage.     2) Take pride in your work.     3) Always finish what you start.   4) Do what has to be done.   5) Be tough but fair.   6) When you make a promise, keep it.   7) Ride for the brand.   8) Talk less and say more.   9) Remember that some things aren’t for sale.   10) Know where to draw the line.

If you don’t have a resolution or a theme word—or even if you do—which of the ten code lessons would you choose?   Slice an apple, eat a bowl of popcorn, and give it some thought.

Whichever lesson you choose from the Code of the West, to make it work, remember YAGOTTAWANNA

Whichever lesson you choose from the Code of the West, to make it work, remember          YAGOTTAWANNA

 

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, importance of doing good things, just doing the best we can, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, making a difference, recipes, special quotations

Donated Inspiration

It's no longer a war theme, but a challenge to choose a single word.

It’s no longer a war theme, but a challenge to choose a single word.

Winter can be hard on us all. What can we choose to get us going...and stay focused?

Winter can be cold, barren. What word will get us going…and keep us focused?  (picture by Marylin Warner)

 

 

Television talk shows have been giving attention to the topic of how single word themes are replacing lists of New Year’s Resolutions. Motivational specialists seemed to agree this is a wise move, selecting a single word to give your thoughts and actions focus throughout the year.

One program asked viewers to Tweet their single word themes. By the end of the segment, these were some of the words scrolling across the bottom of the screen: unafraid, release, balance, achieve, persevere, observe, win, play, simplify, learn. The word that came to my mind was very different.

For several years, I volunteered at the local Women’s Thrift House on the third Saturday of each month. I was often amazed—and sometimes saddened—by the handmade items and gifts that were dropped off as donations. Knitted scarves and gloves, pottery bowls and pitchers, crocheted baby blankets and booties. Some were donated in their gift boxes, and a few still had sweet cards written to the recipients by the senders.

One Saturday eight years ago, I couldn’t stop thinking about one of the handmade items, so at the end of the day I purchased it. The one-word hand-stitched message was matted and framed, and it was like a reminder tapping me on the shoulder: YAGOTTAWANNA

I took the 5”x7” framed message with me to show my mom on the next visit, and I remember she studied it a moment to figure it out. Then she laughed and said, “I think this message was made for you, Marylin. No matter what, when you really, really want to do something, you find a way to do it.”

That was then, and now my one word for 2016 is YAGOTTAWANNA, a reminder that if there’s something I need to do, want to do, hope to do…my first step is to grasp the reason WHY I really, really want to do it. The Why will guide me to the HOW…and the commitment to get it done.

I have three supporters in my corner. The first is Confucius: “It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” Abraham Lincoln is the second: “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than anything else.”

Third, and best of all, is my mom, who believed this message was made for me as a reminder that there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do if I really, really wanted to do it.

Yagottawanna

 

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Filed under art projects, Dementia/Alzheimer's, importance of doing good things, just doing the best we can, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, special quotations, writing, writing exercises

This Comes Without Ribbons

The Christmas tree in Mom's asst. living apartment, with family pictures scattered among the decorations.  Even Scout's is included.

(The Christmas tree in Mom’s asst. living apartment, with family pictures scattered among the decorations. Even Scout’s is included.)

 

 

Our tree is a Charlie Brown tree, very basic with one red ball and one Christmas Pickle ornament. It's on a table so Scout can't get it.

(Our tree is a Charlie Brown tree, very basic with one red ball and one Christmas Pickle ornament. It’s on a table so Scout can’t get it.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes or bags!… Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas…perhaps … means a little bit more!” ~Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

An eleven-year-old boy can be caught up in multiple sports, computer games, and all the statistics surrounding Fantasy Football and his favorite NFL teams. But if this boy is also sweet and thoughtful—and a treasured grandson, too—he might make a surprising offer: “Mor-Mor, I want to go with you to visit Great-Grandma.”

The drive was 200 miles each way, with errands to get things for my mother, plus silk poinsettias to put on my dad’s grave stone, but Gannon’s offer was sincere.

He was a wonderful travel companion, a masterful Word-Search player, and a blessing not just for me, but for his great-grandmother as well. My mother had not been responding for almost two days, but without hesitating Gannon pulled up a chair beside her and opened her favorite book of A LITTLE BOOK OF POEMS AND PRAYERS.   He began reading aloud to her, and when he put his hand on hers, she began to hum. He kept reading, and soon she opened her eyes, looked at him and smiled.

Being with our family is always wonderful. Even chasing after puppy Scout this Christmas has worn us all out, but it has also kept us laughing and happy, cuddling the fur ball of energy. The list of special moments goes on and on. While I will remember them all with heartfelt gratitude, I will be especially thankful for the memory of our grandson reaching out and patting his great-grandmother’s hand as he read aloud her favorite poems and prayers.

This post comes to you without ribbons and tags, but with many genuine wishes for Christmas joy.

And of course birthday cake!  Happy Birthday, Baby Jesus!

And of course birthday cake!

Scout (and her shadow) waiting at the door for more fun and mischief.

Scout (and her shadow) waiting at the door for more fun and mischief.

BOOK OF POEMS AND PRAYERS

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Filed under "Christmas Memories With Mom", Dementia/Alzheimer's, importance of doing good things, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, spending time with kids, Spiritual connections, Things to be thankful for

THE GIFT OF WORDS

snow on tree branches

 

 

 

Christmas tree picture

When a friend, a neighbor or an employee was in the hospital, at home recuperating, or suffering a loss, my parents did not send flowers. If it was at all possible, they personally delivered the flowers or the plate of cookies or the casserole. They believed that being present was the best present.

This post is a gift of words to you from my parents…before his Alzheimer’s and her dementia. My dad is gone now, and my mother is very confused about where she is and what is going on, but I’m going to share with you some of the quotes they would have used to nudge a smile or encouragement.

My dad thought Will Rogers’ words were both wise and humorous. This is an example of one of Dad’s favorites: “Some people try to turn back their odometers. Not me. I want people to know why I look this way. I’ve traveled a long way, and some of the roads weren’t paved.” And this was Will Rogers’ reminder to wait and see how things work out: “We must wait until evening to see how splendid the day has been.”

It’s difficult to explain, but when my dad began a visit with a light or humorous comment, he and the other person would laugh and shake their heads, agreeing it was right, and then Dad would pull up a chair, sit down, and they would have a genuine, relaxed talk.

In my mother’s case, as she put the flowers on the table, or set down the food next to the person, she’d convey the many best wishes from others. If she had a specific connection to the person—for instance, if they were in the same writing club—and the person was discouraged about being too ill or unable to write, etc., Mom would share something she’d read. This is one of my favorites: You know, I read something by Jack London that made me laugh.‘You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club.’” Then she’d pat the person’s hand and offer to help her find a club when the time was right.

Coach Lou Holtz  summarized it best when he said, “A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.”   This Christmas, on behalf of my parents, I encourage you to sing your own song, and then be there for someone else and  share it, loud and clear.

sunset

sheet music

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, importance of doing good things, just doing the best we can, lessons for great-grandchildren, special quotations

Scouting Joy

(All pictures by Marylin Warner)

(All pictures by Marylin Warner)

Even in IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE there's loss and sadness before there's joy.

Even in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE there’s loss and sadness before there’s joy.

poinsettia

Maggie's last Christmas picture, wearing her Rudolph ears.

Maggie’s last Christmas picture, wearing her Rudolph ears.

We didn’t send our usual “Christmas picture” greetings this year. For twelve years, our beloved Maggie has been in our picture. The first Christmas after our granddaughter was born twelve years ago, Maggie posed with us as we held baby Grace, and Maggie had her own picture ever since.

As you know, Maggie died suddenly last summer, and it was a very sad time for our family. This Christmas Jim and I just didn’t have the heart power to send cards without her.

If you do a search for ways to improve the holidays, you might be stunned at the number of articles that include this one: “Watch a Christmas movie.” Immediately I thought of IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, which is one of our favorites. But according to actor Tom Hanks, no December is complete without watching ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, Remarque’s grim story of German soldiers’ extreme stress during WWI. Not what I would choose for Christmas inspiration or joy, but we each have our own favorites.

This week, Jim and I went to visit our local Humane Society and were touched by the enthusiasm of families adding cats, dogs, rabbits and turtles to their Christmas gift lists, and also contributing to the special gift funds for pets still waiting to be adopted.

At one glassed-in area, a single puppy waited alone in a cubicle. Her four siblings had all been adopted. I knelt and put my hand on the glass wall. When the puppy looked at me, waddled over and put her paw on the other side against my hand, Jim said he could see the writing on the wall, so to speak, and we both opened our hands and our hearts.

You are our first friends to receive this Christmas picture featuring our little 4 1/2-pound, 11-week old, Border Collie Mix. The operative word is Mix—we’re pretty sure she’s also German Shepherd and maybe other breeds, too—but Maggie was a beautiful combination of many breeds, so we’re very hopeful about her. We named her Scout after TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD’s young girl narrator, one of my favorite characters in literature.

Scout adds to our joy by wagging, prancing, snuggling, gnawing, marking her territory in our lives…and reminding us how to potty train a puppy while also improving our abilities to spot clean the carpets in every room. Best of all, we feel Maggie is looking down on us and smiling at the newest addition to our family, and we smile back at her. It doesn’t get much more festive and joyful than this.

Dear blogging friends, from my family to yours, I wish you all a joyous, grateful, warm and loving Christmas.

Scout, who put her paw out to meet my hand...and my heart.

Scout, who put her paw against the glass…and touched our hearts.

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

The Nose Knows

My mother's nose at 23. (All photos and copies property of Marylin Warner)

My mother’s nose at 23.
(All photos and copies property of Marylin Warner)

 

Mom's nose at 93, smelling an Easter lily...and remembering how she used to take lilies to shut-ins at Easter.

Mom’s nose at 93, smelling an Easter lily…and remembering how she used to take lilies to shut-ins at Easter.

 

Recently, the research into Alzheimer’s and dementia has focused on the connection between the sense of smell and memory. This is nothing new.

Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, “Memories, imagination, old sentiments, and association are more readily reached through the sense of smell than through any other channel.”

And in the 1950s, conservationist and author Rachel Carson agreed. “For the sense of smell, almost more than any other, has the power to recall memories, and it is a pity that we use it so little.”

Six years ago, I read an article about stimulating memory by baking popular foods. To test it, I bought a roll of frozen gingerbread dough and made cookies in the oven in my mom’s kitchen in her assisted living apartment. As they baked, she awoke from her nap in her recliner. And as she enjoyed her cookies, she smiled and asked me if her mother was there. As it turned out, her mother—my grandmother, who had died many years earlier—had baked gingerbread for Mom, and the scent of the cookies had started Mom telling me some stories.

It you have a family member or a friend who struggles with Alzheimer’s or dementia, I recommend you try the power of scent to encourage their memories. Food, flowers, colognes and strong scents like lemons and vinegar are a good start, but you might be surprised how gasoline and turpentine—just a little bit on a paper towel—will also nudge awake memories, especially in men.

Do you remember the expression, “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king”?

Comedienne Chris Farley has a scent-adjustment on that: “In the land of the skunks, he who has half a nose is king.”

I’ll add this. “In the land of Alzheimer’s and dementia, favorite scents might be the best guides to help locate memories.” It’s not a joke; I hope you’ll try it.

But this is a joke, and I just couldn’t resist including Robert Byrne’s humorous rewrite of the moccasin adage: “Until you walk a mile in another man’s moccasins, you can’t imagine the smell.”    

Even my granddaughter Grace's Picasso-style portrait of me knew the importance of a nose.

Even my granddaughter Grace’s Picasso-style portrait of me knew the importance of a nose.  It just isn’t my nose… 

Eeew...what's that smell?

Eeew…what’s that smell?

 

Even when our Maggie had trouble hearing, nothing got past her sense of smell.

Even when our Maggie had trouble hearing, nothing got past her sense of smell.

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