Category Archives: Dementia/Alzheimer’s

FRIED DANDELIONS

Excellent dandelions to fry, without the

Excellent dandelions to fry, without the “violet” weeds.

More good dandelions for frying, but not with the bee.

More good dandelions for frying, but not with the bee.

When I was growing up and looked forward to something in the future, my dad would remind me not to wish my life away, but enjoy today and make the most of it.

He was right, bless his heart, but today I can’t resist telling you to look forward to—and also prepare for—three special days. Stay with me here; there will also be a recipe for you gourmets with a hankering for an unusual yellow delicacy.

Here are the special days at the beginning of May that you might want to circle on your calendars: May 1st and 2nd are Dandelion Days; May 3rd is Garden Meditation Day; and (drum roll, please) the first Saturday in May is World Naked Gardening Day.  If you want to combine celebrations and spend May 2nd and 3rd meditating in your garden while also contemplating your navel, go for it. I’ll focus on Dandelion Days. Classis cover: Dandelion Wine

Many years ago, Ray Bradbury wrote a novel titled DANDELION WINE. In this story about the simple joys of small town life, the main character, Douglas Spaulding, has a grandfather who makes dandelion wine. He packs the joys of summer into every bottle. (There’s more to the plot, but I don’t want to have to give a Spoiler Alert.)

My mother has never been much of a wine drinker…and never a wine maker. But she knew that, for me, dandelions were the happiest sign of spring. I was the child who picked lots of dandelions, arranged them in jelly glasses, and left them on window ledges and tables around the house. I was also known to rub the blossoms on my hands and face to make “beautiful” yellow circles. (I was just a child, okay?)

She and I didn’t make Dandelion Wine, but we did concoct a recipe for Fried Dandelions.

~ Gather a lot of fresh (never sprayed for weeds) dandelions with firm yellow blossoms.

~ Remove stems, wash blossoms and set aside in cold water.

~ In a saucepan, combine chopped scallions (or leeks), and a handful of chopped walnuts or pecans with enough olive oil or melted butter to coat the bottom of the pan. Saute on medium-high heat while you shake the excess cold water off the dandelion flowers and then roll them in flour or corn meal.

~ Toss them into the pan. Add pinches of sea salt,  shakes of pepper and dill weed, and sprinkles of sugar and paprika. My mom added a little garlic to almost everything, but it’s optional if you’re not big on garlic. Add other spices you like. Stir the concoction in the olive oil or butter on higher heat until the blossoms look crispy and/or your mouth is watering.

~ Serve hot. Preferably with cold iced tea. If someone won’t try your fried dandelions, even if you offer Ranch Dressing on the side, say, “Yea! More for me,” or ignore them. They probably will also stick up their noses at other spring delights, including Garden Meditation Day and Naked Gardening Day. You can’t please everyone.

This delightful recipe is a springtime gift to you from Mary Ibbeth and her daughter Mayno. We both wish you a very happy, gourmet May Day…and entire month.

Stars of Bethlehem, another underappreciated

Stars of Bethlehem, another underappreciated “weed” ~ the flowers are supposedly medicinal, but the bulb bases are poisonous. (All photographs by Marylin Warner)

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Filed under Books and book titles, Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, gardening, memories for great-grandchildren

THE CRUELEST MONTH

"Only from the heart can you touch the sky." ~ Rumi  (all photos by Marylin Warner)

“Only from the heart can you touch the sky.” ~ Rumi   (all photos by Marylin Warner)

April’s weather is half March, half May, a month of conflicting allergies and confusing mood swings.   In THE WASTE LAND, T.S. Eliot wrote that April was the cruelest month, and according to the National Center For Health Statistics, depression and suicide rates are lowest in the winter months and highest in the springtime.  I never would have suspected that.

On one day, April 14th, there are actually three “special days” devoted to offsetting doldrums and banishing blues. The first is INTERNATIONAL MOMENT OF LAUGHTER DAY. An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but laughter is the best medicine, even in small doses. If you have a favorite food or a friend, movie or activity that makes you laugh, enjoy it to the fullest. If the local, national or world news has the opposite effect, this is the day to turn it off.

April 14th is also LOOK UP AT THE SKY DAY. Buddha wrote: “Meditate. Live purely. Be quiet. Do your work with mastery. Like the moon, come out from behind the clouds! Shine.”    I love this. Before her dementia, my mother’s pure, quiet shine came from equal doses of looking up at the sky and kneeling to dig her fingers in the earth.

REACH AS HIGH AS YOU CAN DAY is the third April 14th special day, and this goal also supports looking up at the sky, stretching for dreams and hopeful plans, and reaching for what you want. Combine it with Buddha’s advice; find your way to come out from behind the clouds and shine, even for one day.

I was in high school when I read “The Grand Essentials of Happiness” at the end of a Dear Abby advice column. It was attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, but since then I’ve seen the credit given to Rita Mae Brown, George Washington Burnap, Immanuel Kant and others. Whoever first said it, many authors and philosophers have agreed with it. It was the purest formula for happiness I’d ever read, and I’ve never forgotten it. To be happy, we need “Something to do, Someone to love, and Something to look forward to.”

During this “cruelest month,” on bleak days we can always begin with something to do: sit quietly or find a reason to laugh; look up at the sky and reach as high as we can…or kneel and dig our fingers in the soil, and imagine what might grow.

On April 14th, to laugh like a child, act like a child: jump in with both feet.

On April 14th, to laugh like a child, act like a child: jump in with both feet.

Happiness advice from a 10-year-old boy: Keep Calm and Eat Cookies

Happiness advice from a 10-year-old boy: Keep Calm and Eat Cookies

April 10th is "National Siblings Day" ~ so this is for my brother.

April 10th is “National Siblings Day” ~ so this is for my brother. ( I thanked him for not pushing me off the bench; he said I was trying to push him off… I don’t think so.)

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, life questions, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, special days in April, special quotations

NO MORE WORDS THAN NECESSARY

Oh, The Places Your Mind Will Go when you write a poem this month!

Oh, The Places Your Mind Will Go when you write a poem this month!

The cover of the notebook I put together for each of Mom's great-grandchildren:  EXAMPLES OF A LOVING, CREATIVE SPIRIT.

The cover of the 3-ring book I put together for each of Mom’s great-grandchildren: EXAMPLES OF A LOVING, CREATIVE SPIRIT

Dr. Seuss’s advice about writing should be the lesson for April, which is National Poetry Month. “So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.”

One of the shortest poems is attributed to Shel Silverstein (and to several other writers, including anonymous). The title is “Fleas” and the poem is this: Adam had’em

Before dementia dulled my mother’s writing pursuits, she wrote notes, ideas, opening sentences and short poems on scraps of paper and tucked them in pockets, purses and notebooks. Recently I found details about limericks. “There are three types of limericks: those told when ladies are present; those told when ladies are absent but clergymen are present; and LIMERICKS.” This is another: “Limericks are 5 lines long, and lines 1,2,and 5 rhyme. Limericks can be true or not. Some are naughty.”   And this is my favorite: “Do not write a first line that rhymes with Nantucket.”

My mom wrote many travel and children’s poems, but very few limericks. In her writing box I found one that was a winner in the Kansas Authors Club Contest. It was in the Farm or Rural category, written many years ago. Here it is:

A little old man with six dogs   ~ Used his dogs to round up his hogs. ~ But the hogs in a fury, ~ Turned in a hurry,   ~ And frightened away the man’s dogs.

I write in almost all genres except poetry. But this is National Poetry Month, and April 5 is “Go For Broke Day,” when everyone is encouraged to take a risk and put it all on the line. In that spirit, today I wrote my first limerick. It is about my mother, a tribute to all her years of teaching Sunday school and helping children through hard times.

There once was a mother whose smile ~ Made even mistakes seem worthwhile. ~   She also had a sweet way ~ Of teaching children to pray ~ And making their heavy hearts smile.

To celebrate National Poetry Month, I hope the brave ones among you will share a poem, especially limericks that don’t rhyme with Nantucket. Feel free to Go For Broke.

This is not just a war poster.  It's also a writing poster, so roll up your sleeves and write a poem!

This is not just a war poster. It’s also a writing poster, so roll up your sleeves and write a poem!

This does not apply to the hogs in my mom's limerick.

This does not apply to the hogs in my mom’s limerick.

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons for great-grandchildren, special days in April, special quotations

A NEAR MISS

Be grateful for calm skies. "Forever is composed of nows." ~ Emily Dickinson

Be grateful for calm skies.
“Forever is composed of nows.” ~ Emily Dickinson

There are many days to celebrate in March.  Birthdays of family and friends, St. Patrick’s Day, the first day of Spring, and depending on our country of residence, some of us celebrate Mother’s Day this month, while others celebrate in May.

Regardless of where we live, we all should celebrate March 23rd.   BIG TIME, with grateful hearts, and champagne toasts made in joy.   March 23rd is “NEAR MISS DAY.”

On March 23, 1989, a mountain-sized asteroid passed through the exact position of the earth six hours earlier.   Had it collided, it would have released energy comparable to the explosion of a 600 megaton atom bomb and caused the largest explosion in recorded history.

But it didn’t.  “Near Miss Day” acknowledges and celebrates exactly that, a near miss.

We all know of many “near misses” in our lives and the lives of those we love. Every day is precious. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “Write it on your heart that every day is the best day of the year,” and my favorite appreciation for each day is by A.A. Milne, creator of Winnie-the-Pooh. “What day is it?” ~ “It’s today,” squeaked Piglet. ~ “My favorite day,” said Pooh.

This Monday, March 23rd, and every day, may we be grateful for the near misses in our lives, and doubly aware of and grateful for the many blessings we receive.  Take nothing for granted.

 

"Winnipeg"--or Winnie--the female black bear that lived in London Zoo from 1915-1954 and inspired Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh, here with veterinarian Harry Colebourn.

“Winnipeg”–or Winnie–the female black bear that lived in London Zoo from 1915-1954 and inspired Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh, here with veterinarian Harry Colebourn.

Maya Angelou:  "Be present in all things and thankful for all things."

Maya Angelou: “Be present in all things and thankful for all things.”

March is also "Deaf History Month" -- here is the chart for American Sign Language.

March is also “Deaf History Month” — here is the chart for American Sign Language.

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, life questions, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Special Days in March, Spiritual connections

SALT OF THE EARTH

My maternal grandmother, a woman of strong faith, great kindness, and soft hugs for five children, thirteen grandchildren...and many great- and great-great grandchildren.

My maternal grandmother, a woman of strong faith, great kindness, and soft hugs for five children, thirteen grandchildren…and many great- and great-great grandchildren.

 

 

A picture of Grandma's five children, lined up in a row on the farm.  My mother is the middle child.

A picture of Grandma’s five children, lined up in a row on the farm. My mother is the middle child.

 

I recently saw a “Helpful Hint” newspaper article devoted to salt. In addition to being worth its weight in gold for many centuries because of its medicinal, cooking and international commerce importance, it’s also recognized as an inexpensive and effective household cleaner today. For instance, to clean a grimy garbage disposal, pour 2 cups of ice into the disposal and add ½ cup of salt. Turn on the tap and run the disposal for 20 seconds. The gunk will be gone!  Or if a drain is clogged, pour in a mixture of ½ cup salt and 1 cup baking soda. Let it sit for a few hours and then pour in a quart of boiling water. Swish!

Reading the short article made me smile at memories of Mom and Grandma in the kitchen. If they were cooking vegetables that tasted too salty, they added hunks of potatoes, let everything simmer, and then removed the potatoes before serving. Out on the farm, Grandma taught Mom to kept a tin can filled with salt within arm’s length of the stove, not as seasoning, but for putting out grease fires.

At our house, my mom combined equal parts of salt and baking soda in a small bowl and set it at the back of a refrigerator shelf to absorb smells, and she and Grandma could both be counted on to stir a teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water to make a gargle for sore throats.

Salt is used in many expressions: Don’t rub salt in a wound: Take that advice with a grain of salt; Never throw salt on a dream; She is the salt of the earth. The last one is my favorite because when I was a child I heard it used to describe both Mom and Grandma. I knew it was a compliment about the kind of women they were, and it was always said with a smile.

Sugar is sweeter, cayenne pepper is spicier, and saffron is more exotic.  But when it comes to being associated with goodness, reliability and necessity for well being, I still think of my mother and her mother as the “salt of the earth.”

morton salt containers     I wish for all of you the blessings of bread, salt and wine.

In the movie IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, this was the blessing given to a family moving into a new home:  "Bread, that this house may never know hunger.  Salt, that life might have flavor.  And win, that joy and prosperity may reign forever."

In the movie IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, this was the blessing given to a family moving into a new home: “Bread, that this house may never know hunger. Salt, that life might have flavor. And wine, that joy and prosperity may reign forever.”

 

 

 

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, lessons about life, special quotations

LUCK BE A LADY

Crossing your fingers is one way to hope luck finds you.  (picture by Marylin Warner)

Crossing your fingers is one way to hope luck finds you. (picture by Marylin Warner)

This is how the ladies were NOT dancing, but they were still having a great time. (Picture from Classical Baby)

This is how the ladies were NOT dancing, but they were still having a great time. (Picture from Classical Baby)

Snow and ice had already postponed our travels by two days. First, we had to wait an extra day to leave Colorado.  Fortunately our house sitter was flexible.  But when we arrived in Kansas, I had to wait another day to drive the last 200 miles to visit my mother in the southeast part of the state. I was very tired by the time I arrived.

I don’t know what I expected as I got off the elevator to go to Mom’s apartment. I was pulling my suitcase and balancing a bouquet of yellow lilies with a bag of groceries, but instead of the common area being calm and quiet on a dreary afternoon, the room rang with festive singing and laughter. Two nursing aides had loaded a dance DVD on the flat screen TV, and eight or nine older ladies—probably in their late 70s through early 90s—were moving to the music. Dancing in place or stepping around furniture or just tapping feet and waving arms from a wheelchair, they were creating their own indoor sunshine on a gloomy day.

As I watched, amazed, they took a breather between songs. And then one of the aides called out, “Ladies, get ready. The next one is Luck Be A Lady Tonight’!” Everyone giggled and turned to watch the screen with their arms lifted, ready to ‘dance’ again. Regardless of the dreary weather and their ages and possible infirmities, these were ladies who were already making their own luck.

I had grown up hearing the expression “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” As I watched the gyrations to “Luck Be A Lady,” I amended that to “Luck is what happens when enthusiasm makes the most of music and movement.”

March 9 is GET OVER IT DAY. Whatever is bothering us, or if there is something we can’t change or should just let go of, maybe the best thing to do is make a decision to Get Over It, even for one day.   Or there’s an entire week—March 16-22ACT HAPPY WEEK.    A full week to “fake it until you make it,” an opportunity to act the way you would like to feel.

March 16-22 is also WELLDERLY WEEK (aka WELL-ELDERLY), a time to ‘act your age’—or the age you want to feel—and do the things that make you happy. Whatever your age, if you need a suggestion to get started, you might put on Frank Sinatra singing “Luck Be A Lady” and dance to it in your own lucky style.

P.S. My mother is too frail to do much standing, let alone any dancing, but she made her own luck by curling up under her blankets and humming along to some of the poems I read to her!

"Hurry Back"--1st Place Overall painting by Nancy Luttrell, age 67.  (I LOVE the detail on this painting!)

“Hurry Back”–1st Place Overall painting by Nancy Luttrell, age 67. (I LOVE the detail in this painting!)

"Tropical Foliage"--this year's Best of Show  in ART IS AGELESS.  Painter is Paul Johnston, age 81

“Tropical Foliage”–this year’s Best of Show in ART IS AGELESS. Painter is Paul Johnston, age 81

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Filed under celebrations, Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, lessons about life, making a difference, Special Days in March, special quotations

WATER, WATER, EVERYWHERE…

Serve your water "cool" ~ thanks for sharing this, Gibby.  (All photographs by Marylin Warner)

Serve your water “cool” ~ thanks for sharing this, Gibby. (All photographs by Marylin Warner)

 

 

 

Hydrate your skin from the outside in with a brisk winter swim.

Hydrate your skin from the outside in with a brisk winter swim.

 

It’s that time of year, at least in Colorado. Outside, the water is ice and snow. Inside, it’s hot: for coffee, tea, and showers. Borrowing from last week’s post, we’ll just say this is H2O multi-tasking.

My mother was the poster girl for drinking plenty of water. When she was working with my dad at the dealership, or at home as she ironed, cooked, cleaned, gardened, sewed or worked on her writing, she always had a glass of ice water nearby. She wasn’t a coffee drinker, but she drank hot tea. One of her favorite quotes about the strength of women and tea was by Eleanor Roosevelt: “A woman is like a tea bag ~ you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.”

Now Mom is 96 and has advanced dementia, so it takes some coaxing to get her to drink enough water, Ensure or juice. For the rest of us, this post is a tribute to water and a reminder to drink plenty of it.

Isak Denisen (pen name for author Karen Blixen, best known for OUT OF AFRICA), said, “The cure for anything is salt water…sweat, tears, or the sea,” referring to hard work, healthy crying, and being close to the rhythms of the ocean.   Today many doctors advise drinking a glass of water (pure, not salt) before taking a shower or bath to regulate blood pressure, and a glass of water before going to bed to lessen the chance of a stroke of heart attack.

English Romantic poet John Keats, who was more influential and highly regarded after his death, asked that only a one-sentence epitaph be engraved on his headstone: “Here lies one whose name was writ in water.”   And Rabindranath Tagore, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913, wrote “You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.” Both are good reminders.

My mother’s favorite water quote was by Eleanor Roosevelt, but I think she also would have enjoyed author Barbara Kingsolver’s advice: “Stop a minute, right where you are. Relax your shoulders, shake your head and spine like a dog shaking off cold water. Tell that imperious voice in your head to be still.”

I can imagine my mom going through this routine, shaking her head like a dog shaking off cold water, laughing and saying, “Be still, imperious voice!” She’s never been a fan of arrogant or domineering attitudes, and in her mind she would have dosed them with cold water.

Snow: water waiting for its turn.

Snow: water waiting for its turn.

PEO snowy creek

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, special quotations