Category Archives: importance of doing good things

What A Woman’s Shoes Say About Her

high heels

 

cork heeled sandal

flats shoes

 

Several weeks ago, I drove from Colorado to Kansas to be with my mother while she was treated for pneumonia.   Mom remained in her apartment taking antibiotics, receiving nebulizer breathing treatments, and being cared for round the clock.   I was the non-essential personnel, the daughter who brought in favorite foods, encouraged her to drink more fluids, and read aloud all her favorite children’s poems and prayers at night before she went to sleep.

Staying busy is not the same thing as accomplishing important goals, but thanks to a local Kiwanis “shoes for everyone” program, I spent one day doing both.   Armed with lots of coffee to drink, damp and dry cloths to clean shoes that had sat unworn for years, and boxes and bags to fill, I tackled the main closet that had held my parents’ clothing and shoes since they moved into assisted living.

At the end of the day I had collected, cleaned and bagged sixteen pairs of dress shoes, summer sandals, pumps and flats that Mom would never wear again.  Each pair brought back memories of her active, busy, productive days before dementia claimed her life.

Imelda Marcos once haughtily proclaimed, “I did not have three thousand pairs of shoes. I had one thousand sixty.”  To which I would proudly now reply, “Well, my mother had a pair of dress shoes that would amaze even you, Imelda.”

In the back corner of Mom’s closet, behind a purse and under a pair of slippers, was a pair of brown leather, sling-back dress heels.  I didn’t remember her ever wearing these shoes, and when I studied them I realized something else, too.   They both were for the left foot!  The expression “two left feet” certainly never applied to my mother.

The writer in me said there had to be a great story in this somewhere, and I laughed at the possibilities: mystery? romance? suspense?

The daughter in me felt sad because the woman who was once an intelligent, happy, helpful, fun-loving woman, would have said, “Let’s figure this out together,” and we would have had a great time coming up with a story.   Now, because of dementia, she didn’t even know exactly who or where she was; shoes, clothing and jewelry no longer meant anything.

I took the two left shoes with me back to the hotel that night.   No great story ideas replaced the sad feelings, and the next morning I threw them away. Driving back to Mom’s apartment, I got a coffee for me and a warm Danish for her, hoping a little morning sweetness might make her smile. I   knew she would be resting in her recliner, wearing warm casual clothes, fluffy socks…and slippers instead of shoes.                                                                                            duck galosshes

bare feet

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, Fort Scott Kansas, importance of doing good things, just doing the best we can, lessons about life, special quotations, writing, writing exercises

HOW WE SPEND OUR DAYS

Drexel University's mascot, the Dragon

Drexel University’s mascot, the Dragon

Think like a peacock and decide when to show your brilliance.

Think like a peacock and decide when to show your brilliance.

Mark Twain wrote, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowline, sail away from the safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sales. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Twain’s words are a good introduction for April 23rd, TAKE A CHANCE DAY. At work and at home, with long-range plans, fragile hopes or heartfelt dreams, now is the time to take a chance, give a goal your best shot, or think like a peacock and proudly spread the feathers that show your brilliance.

Or, for a lighter endeavor, April 23rd is also “TALK LIKE SHAKESPEARE DAY” and “INTERNATIONAL NOSE PICKING DAY” (I couldn’t find out the original source for this second one, but I can guarantee it wasn’t my mother, at least not for public behavior).   April 23rd is also “SLAY A DRAGON DAY,” which can be a nudge to either slay your own personal dragons or slay dragons of all kinds, everywhere.

Here’s an interesting response to the day for slaying dragons. Writer, painter and sculptor Brian Andreas wrote, “Anyone can slay a dragon…but try waking up every morning and loving the world all over again.”

April 23rd is pretty much like every other day in April…and every month of the year. It comes with opportunities and challenges, joys and sorrows, the feelings of success or the struggles of going two steps forward and one back…or three steps back. At the end of the day there can be a sense of exuberance or exhaustion, or sometimes numb relief. Whatever it is, each day belongs to each of us, to do with it as we will.

Annie Dillard, author of PILGRIM AT TINKER CREEK, reminds us: “How we spend our days is of course how we spend our lives.”

 

Taking the stairs instead of waiting for an elevator.

Taking the stairs instead of waiting for an elevator.

 

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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 days in April, special quotations

FROM HUMBLE BEGINNINGS

The first "hut" at the corner of Kellogg and Bluff

The first “hut” at the corner of Kellogg and Bluff

 

Dan and Frank in 1958

Dan and Frank in 1958

I grew up in the southeast corner of Kansas where a rugged swath of the Ozarks createsd a countryside of rolling hills and woods of stunning beauty. The area was also rocky farmland and hard scrabble little towns where generations of Italians worked in the strip mines and built family-meal  restaurants that still thrive today. There were numerous stories of hard-working parents who refused to give up and went on to build better lives for themselves and their children.

When my grandson went with me to visit my mother two months ago, he also introduced me to another Kansas success story. On our drive home, I asked Gannon where he wanted to eat, and he chose Pizza Hut.  The nearest one was in the little town of Burlington, and from the outside it looked like a typical Pizza Hut.  But inside it displayed many pictures and details of Pizza Hut’s humble beginnings.

In 1958, two college-aged brothers, Dan and Frank Carney, borrowed $600 from their mother to purchase second-hand equipment and rent a small building on a busy street in Wichita, KS.  They worked long hours and didn’t give up  (and yes, they also repaid their mother’s loan), and this first Pizza Hut became the foundation of the world’s largest and most successful chain of pizza restaurants.  (For my friends across the ocean, I add this detail:  in 1973 Pizza Hut began in the UK.)

In the Burlington Pizza Hut, important messages were printed on posters and chalk boards:  “From Humble Beginnings Come Great Things”;   “Work hard, Stay humble”;   and “Do Your Best.”   As Gannon and I went to the buffet, we were greeted with smiles from the helpful employees.   The Carney brothers did not grow up in this town, but their philosophy thrives.

A teenage girl ahead of us at the buffet wore a tennis T-shirt.   On the front was a picture of Arthur Ashe, and this was the message:  “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”   This profound reminder is from a superb tennis player and a wonderful man who died in 1993 after contracting AIDS from a blood transfusion he received during heart bypass surgery.

I almost protested Gannon’s choice of Pizza Hut for lunch that day, but it turned out to be an excellent choice. You just never know in advance what lessons and reminders you’ll learn while waiting for pizza.

Pizza Hut box

 

"Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things."

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.”

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, importance of doing good things, just doing the best we can, Kansas, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, special days in April, special quotations, spending time with kids

FACING FEAR

Dentophobia (fear of dentists)

Dentophobia (fear of dentists)

Cyclophobia, fear of bicycles.

Cyclophobia  (fear of bicycles)  (all pictures by Marylin Warner)

Before her dementia, my mother loved to try the writing exercises I created for my students. Here is one of our favorites.

There are hundreds of phobias. Some are very familiar: Aerophobia (the fear of flying); Claustrophobia (the fear of being in tightly enclosed spaces); and one of the most common ~ Glossophobia (the fear of speaking in public).

For my classes, the assignment was to understand fears and incorporate them in the personalities of characters. I wrote out dozens of phobias (and their meanings) on slips of paper. Students drew a slip, and in one page they were to create a character suffering from that fear…and also create the event that made the character afraid.   My mom loved this activity because it didn’t stop with the WHAT, but also attempted to understand the WHY.   She was the kind of mother, teacher, friend, CASA volunteer and ally of children who believed that if people could identify both the WHAT and the WHY of their problems and worries, they had a very good chance of also finding a solution.

My mom was an avid learner who enjoyed new facts and ideas, and the phobias I selected were uncommon.   Here are some examples: Achluophobia (fear of darkness); Chorophobia (fear of dancing); Aulophobia (fear of flutes), Allodoxaphobia (fear of opinions); Arachibutyrophobia (fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth); and with apologies to my friends across the ocean, Anglophobia (fear of England and/or English culture).   Other phobias are illustrated on the pictures above and below.

Since Mom is deep in dementia now, I share these phobias with all of you. Have some fun with them, creating a possible WHAT and WHY for one… and maybe a solution as well.    March 26th is “Make Up Your Own Holiday,” and you never know:  you might create a Freedom from A Phobia Holiday.  Don’t be afraid to give it a try!

Achluophobia  (fear of darkness)

Achluophobia (fear of darkness)

Ophidiophobia  (fear of snakes)

Ophidiophobia (fear of snakes)

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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, Special Days in March, writing, writing exercises

THANKS A LOT

Anne Lamott's book IMG_5408

 

 

Thank You cookie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I visited my mother recently, I delivered two gifts from her great-granddaughter.   One was a package of Lemonades, and these shortbread cookies with lemon icing were for Grace’s Mor-Mor-Mor (my mom).   The other was a package of Thanks-a-Lot, chocolate-iced cookies with the message of Thank You (in five languages) baked into the shortbread side. These were for my mother’s caregivers, and Grace had made a sign thanking them for taking good care of her great-grandmother.

This tradition of expressing gratitude by giving Thanks-a-lot cookies began long before Grace was old enough to be a Girl Scout. When she was just a toddler, Molly and the kids bought packages of Thanks-a-lot cookies.  They  took them to the police station to give to the Dispatchers, thanking them for keeping their daddy safe while he was on duty.

Girl Scouts have been selling cookies as their fundraiser since 1933.   In WWII they also sold calendars because of the shortage of flour, butter and sugar.   Tomorrow is Girl Scouts Day.   For the next week, if you know of a Daisy, Brownie or Girl Scout who is selling cookies to offset troop expenses and fund camp and other activities, buying a box or two is a good way to show your support.

In addition to Thanks-a-lot cookies in five languages, here are some of my favorite quotes in English about feeling—and expressing—gratitude.

“If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.” ~Meister Eckhart (German theologian and mystic in the 1300s)

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” ~A.A. Milne, WINNIE THE POOH

“Among the things you can give and still keep are your word, a smile, and a grateful heart.” ~Zig Ziglar, author and motivational speaker

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” ~William Arthur Ward, FOUNTAINS OF FAITH

And for those of you who are fans of Anne Lamott’s book BIRD BY BIRD, she has another book also destined to become a classic: HELP, THANKS, WOW—The Three Essential Prayers.

two pkgs of cookies

Asante Thank You cookies

Gracias cookies

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, importance of doing good things, lessons about life, memories for great-grandchildren, Special Days in March, special quotations, Things to be thankful for

GET IT IN WRITING

Charlie Brown, of PEANUTS fame.  (book picture from Wikipedia; all other pictures by Marylin Warner)

Charlie Brown, of PEANUTS fame. (book picture from Wikipedia; all other pictures by Marylin Warner)

Stamps make mailed cards and letters extra special and come in an amazing assortment of choices.

Stamps make mailed cards and letters extra special and come in an amazing assortment of choices.

 

 

 

Charlie Brown was the star character of the popular comic strip by Charles Schultz, PEANUTS, which began in 1950. Charlie Brown’s wishful thinking about being noticed by the little red-haired girl began a theme of love disappointments that lasted for more than five decades.   This is one of his most often quoted cartoon lines: “There must be millions of people all over the world who never get any love letters…I could be their leader.”

Charlie Brown didn’t want a phone call, a signature-only Valentine card, an email, a text or a twitter; he wanted a letter. Actor Keanu Reeves said this about a letter’s importance. “Letters are something from you. It’s a different kind of intention than writing an e-mail.”

Letters can be saved, to be read again and again. Greeting cards that arrive in the mail—especially with personal messages written inside—can be displayed on a bedside table or a shelf, reminders that someone, some-where still thinks of you and cares enough to stay in touch. Visit a nursing home, an assisted living, a hospital room or the home of an invalid to see how treasured the cards and letters are by those who receive them.

Valentine’s Day is still more than a week away. Plenty of time to buy a Valentine card, a greeting card of any kind, or even just write, type or print a letter to someone. One of my favorite quotes about happiness (attributed to numerous writers, including Joseph Addison) is this: “The grand essentials of happiness in this life are something to do, someone to love, and something to look forward to.”

For lonely, ill, or older neighbors, family and friends, or those who are getting forgetful or suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia, I would change the last grand essential to this: “…a grand essential of happiness is something that shows I’m remembered.”

To be remembered is a treasured gift.

She wrote this message in chalk to her Grandpa.

Grace wrote this message in chalk to her Grandpa.

 

Greeting cards can be much appreciated, too, if there's a personal message written inside.

Greeting cards are appreciated, too, if there’s a personal message written inside.

Years ago, when Grace was learning to write cursive, she wrote this for my mom.  Mor-Mor-Mor means mother's mother's mother in Swedish.

Years ago, when Grace was learning to write cursive, she wrote this for my mom. Mor-Mor-Mor means mother’s mother’s mother in Swedish.

Before Gannon could write, he "practiced" with chalk on the fence.

Before Gannon could write, he “practiced” with chalk on the fence.

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Filed under art, Different kinds of homes, friends, importance of doing good things, just doing the best we can, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, making a difference, Special days in February, special quotations

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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