Category Archives: experiments

A Word To Tackle: TOSKA

Even the outside of the Old Colorado City Library inspires you to read.

Even the outside of the Old Colorado City Library inspires you to read.

 

 

Local knitters keep the library trees colorful, creative and warm.

Local knitters keep the library trees colorful, creative and warm.

For Mother’s Day one year, I gave Mom a deck of cards for writers.  52 cards, not for playing poker or bridge or any card game, but for picking a writing prompt.  The idea was to “play your best hand” and write without stopping for fifteen minutes.

Mom laughed at the first prompt card she drew from the deck.  It said to write for fifteen minutes about where a lost child might be found.  “That’s too easy,” she said. “My first place to look for Marylin would be the library.”

I love libraries, especially very old, small libraries that smell of floor wax and have wide, tall windows and comfortable chairs scattered around the stacks of books. One of my favorite quotes about a library comes from Albert Einstein: “The only thing you absolutely have to know is the location of the library.”   I first saw this quote boldly printed on a map of the town of Chautauqua, New York.   The map was posted on the bulletin board of the Smith Memorial Library, and someone had used a marker to make an X where the library was: “You are here. Make the Most of It.”

Library bulletin boards are fascinating sources of information. Last week when I returned some library books, there were coupons for the nearby coffee shop, note cards with job opportunities, and contact numbers for poets looking to start a group. There was also one yellow card thumb-tacked to the board, with the word TOSKA printed in large letters.

Below the word TOSKA, in smaller printing was this message: “Among other things, Toska means melancholy, anguish, boredom, nostalgia, homesickness, sorrow, loneliness. If you know someone who suffers from one or more of these maladies, you can help heal them with a visit, a kind word, the touch of your hand on theirs as you listen to them talk about themselves and something they once treasured.”

I read this message again, almost feeling my mother’s presence.   If it weren’t for her dementia—and even though I doubted she had ever heard the word Toska—I knew she had helped many others by sitting beside them, holding their hands and listening.  Take that, Toska!       

Before the dementia, Grace and Gannon often enjoyed being read to by their great-grandmother.

Before the dementia, Grace and Gannon often enjoyed being read to by their great-grandmother.

Make the Most of itMG_5559

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

OH, JOE! (More Than Just Food And Drink)

"Sloppy Joe"-- when a messy sandwich is a full meal.

“Sloppy Joe”– when a messy sandwich is a full meal…and fun.

 

 

 

Espresso is something to take seriously.  Don't give any to a child, or a kitten.

Espresso is caffeine to take seriously. Don’t give any to a child, or a kitten.

Here’s a short list of baby names in 2015: Swayze, Orson, D’Artagnan, Nyx, Fenella, Larkyn and Monet.   So far in 2016, some of the names are Mhavrych, Beberly, C’andre, and Abcde.

Then there’s Joe. In the early 1900s, Joe (or Joseph) was the fifth most popular baby name, and in 2011 it ranked 22nd in popularity. And that doesn’t include Joe Cool, Average Joe, G.I. Joe, Sloppy Joe, or the feminine Jo, JoAnn, Joey and Joley. Joe is one of America’s most popular, enduring names, as evidenced in actors, sports legends, politicians, phrases, and establishments.

March 27 is National Joe Day. Celebrate it over a cuppa joe with friends, and consider a secondary celebration: For one day, call yourself Joe (or some version of the name) and see what happens.  Supposedly, one day of being Joseph or Jo Ann will give you new insights. (Just don’t sign checks or any legal papers with your one-day name, or it will also give you a whole new set of problems.)

Changing your name for one day gives you a chance to see the world—and yourself—differently.  Is JOE or JO ANN kinder, smarter, happier, more hopeful or helpful?   Does JOE or JO ANN order foods you don’t like, get more done, or kick back and enjoy being a couch potato?  If for a day you’re JOE or JO ANN, will you take a risk, apologize to someone, express what you’re really feeling, sing in public, hug a stranger, or confront a bully?

National Joe Day is yours to do with as you will. It’s not like entering the Witness Protection Program or legally changing your name.   It’s just one day to be someone else and see the day through new eyes.   Or just have a cuppa joe with a friend and talk about what it would be like—good or bad—to have a different name for a day, and be a different person.  This isn’t an exercise to experience what  it’s like to have Alzheimer’s or dementia, but you might be surprised.

Senator and Vice President, Joe Biden

Senator and Vice President, Joe Biden

Shoeless Joe Jackson. Supposedly his nickname came from wearing on his socks while trying to get used to his new baseball shoes.

Shoeless Joe Jackson. Supposedly his nickname came from wearing only his socks while trying to break in his new baseball shoes.

Saint Joseph, husband to Mary.  (All Joe/Joseph pictures, Wickipedia)

Saint Joseph, husband to Mary. (All Joe/Joseph pictures, Wikipedia)

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

Ten Minutes A Day…

I wonder if this mother allowed herself 10 minutes to dig AND enjoy her baby.

I wonder if this mother allowed herself 10 minutes to dig AND enjoy her baby, or if that counts as 20 minutes.  And what about the dog?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Multitasking--divided into ten minute chores--could be much more effective... right?

Multitasking–divided into ten-minute chores–would be even more effective… right?

I was in elementary school when a magazine article featured a ten-minute plan to organize women’s responsibilities and, therefore, improve their lives. As I recall, this was the basic plan: each day, if a busy woman set a timer for 10 minutes and focused on just one specific room, at the end of each week her home would be pleasantly presentable and organized.

For one week Mom and her neighbor friend tried it: the first day was to clean the bathroom; the second day was the living room, the third and fourth days were for the kitchen; the fifth day was a closet (one closet per week). They decided the last two days—weekends—could be when the parents and children cleaned their own bedrooms and then added ten more minutes to vacuum the carpets. Ten minutes a day, sixty minutes a week, and voila! it would all be done.

To some degree, my mother already quickly straightened rooms before she went to work or after she came home, and I remember that she and her friend laughed at some of the things that wore them out (and the corners they cut) during their experiment. They quit the ten-minute plan after a week, although I do remember my mom continued to sometimes set a timer for us to complete certain chores. This made it a game; the faster we finished the work, the sooner we could go outside and play.

Before Dad’s Alzheimer’s and Mom’s dementia moved them out of their home and into an assisted living apartment, my mother had her own style: clean whatever was dirty, comfort whoever was hurt, fix what was broken, take joy in sunrises, draw strength from quiet times in her garden, laugh with her family and hug them, and sing as she worked. Although this took longer than ten minutes a day, I don’t remember her complaining.

Even after all these years, I still occasionally set a timer for ten minutes and give myself only that time to focus and get something done. It’s often for an undesirable or nagging chore, but when the timer goes off I’m surprised that the chore is finished, and I feel oh-so-much-better.

Wednesday, February 17th, is Random Acts of Kindness Day. If we each mentally set a timer for ten minutes and do just one kind thing for someone else, imagine what a good day that could be.

tulips in vase

This Valentine's Day, I wish you love, tulips, and deli chocolate cupcakes with fancy pink icing.  Enjoy.  (You have ten minutes to eat your cupcakes and get back to work, so get busy!)  ;)

This Valentine’s Day, I wish you love, tulips, and deli chocolate cupcakes with fancy pink icing. Enjoy. (You have ten minutes to eat your cupcakes and get back to work, so focus and get busy!)😉

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, friends, gardening, just doing the best we can, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, making a difference, Special days in February, spending time with kids

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

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

Eye-Eye, All Aboard!

A front section of the restored railroad station. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

A front section of the restored railroad station. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

no preaching no peddling sign

 

 

beware pickpockets

 

 

Yesterday was my eye exam with my ophthalmologist. Full exam, including having my eyes dilated. Not my favorite thing to do and then drive home on a sunny afternoon. But if you have to spend an hour and a half getting your eyes checked, there’s no better place to be. My doctor’s office is in a restored brick railroad station. The interior brick walls are covered with authentic depot signs, including those you’ll see scattered throughout this post.

do not flush

My favorite Christmas memory is when I was in second grade, and our family took the train from Kansas City to Vista, California for a family gathering. The train ride was two days each way, and for hours each day I practiced learning to write cursive. My dad and I went up to the viewing car after lunch, sat at a little table and each ordered a Coca-Cola with a cherry. We turned over the paper place mats, Dad took out a ball-point pen for each of us, and during the trip he patiently transformed his 7-year-old daughter’s printing skills into cursive writing skills.

Both of my parents had excellent penmanship, but while my mother knitted and my brother played with baseball cards, I had my dad’s full attention. Away from business, church, hospital and bank board meetings, Dad was relaxed and focused on teaching me cursive letters, words, and sentences. The crowning accomplishment was when I rewrote the printed menu entirely in cursive on a paper placemat.

After Christmas vacation when the teacher asked what we’d learned over the holidays, she was surprised when I said I could write cursive. She gave me chalk and let me write basic sentences on the board.  When I finished, she—and my classmates—cheered and clapped for the result. But after school she gave me a Big Chief notebook to use for writing cursive…at home.  Many of the students in my class still hadn’t perfected even printing all the letters of the alphabet yet, and she didn’t want them to feel discouraged. That was okay because my parents took over, and several times each week I’d come home from school and on my desk would be an envelope with a letter written inside from my dad or my mom. Since cursive requires practice in both reading and writing, after I read the letter then I wrote a response, tucked it in the envelope and “mailed” it to their desk.

Yesterday was a good reminder that even dreaded appointments can also be excellent opportunities. My eye exam was actually an exercise in seeing the past clearly and appreciating those memories. If I’d had more time, and some blank paper, I would have rewritten the depot signs in cursive. Especially the one to beware of pickpockets and loose women. My dad would have loved it.

no spitting -$500 fine a yr inprison

 

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Filed under "Christmas Memories With Mom", Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, importance of doing good things, Kansas, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, making a difference, memories for grandchildren, special quotations, Things to be thankful for

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