Category Archives: importance of doing good things

What We Leave Behind

(Pictures taken at Rolling Hills Zoo by Marylin Warner.)

(All pictures are by Marylin Warner unless otherwise identified.)



African message stick

house on the plains







In 1937, the term “time capsules” became popular. The purpose was to bury and preserve items that would be a future communication, to be opened at a specific date.

There are numerous time capsules around the world that wait to be opened. For instance, the National Millennium Time Capsule in Washington, DC, will be opened in 2100. It holds assorted objects from history, including a piece of the Berlin Wall, a Hostess Twinkie, a helmet from WWII, a cell phone, and Louis Armstrong’s trumpet.

But what about the things we leave behind without burying them to be found later?

During this year’s Labor Day Art Festival in Colorado, a rock balancing display—with no support of any kind for the rocks—was held in Fountain Creek. The artists knew this would not be permanent art; they did it for the challenge and the joy of creating.

Rock Balancing in Fountain Creek.  Photo by Jerilee Bennet.

(Rock Balancing in Fountain Creek. Photo by Jerilee Bennet.)

More lasting things we leave behind are memorials to those who have gone on ahead: cemeteries, monuments, statues and dedications of poetry, music and art. In Oklahoma City, at the site of the 1995 bombing, artists created 168 chairs as a beautiful and lasting memorial for those killed, including the 19 young children who died in the day care center.

Some of the chairs at the Oklahoma City  memorial.

On the Kansas plains, lonely cabins hold the spaces where settlers once made their homes.   At the Rolling Hills Zoo near Salina, KS, two African message sticks are preserved along one the paths. We don’t have to know who created any of these things, or exactly when or where, to appreciate the work and beauty that someone left behind.  (pictures above)

Other things left behind are rules, laws and warnings.  In towns wherever brick streets were popular, we can still find bricks with reminders like “Don’t spit on sidewalk”

advice, rules, instructions

This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for my grandmother and all she left behind. She was a hardworking, kind, faithful and remarkable woman who, after her husband died, continued to run the farm and raise five children, including my mother. Neither woman would have assembled and buried a time capsule to be opened in the future. All my grandmother’s life, and until my mother’s dementia, they were too busy living in the present, doing what had to be done, facing challenges and embracing joys, and making a difference in the lives of others. Those are their legacies.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.” With all that is happening in the world, may we be wise and grateful enough to appreciate the miraculous in common acts of kindness, goodness, love and hope.

My grandmother's five children; my mother is in the middle.

(My grandmother’s five children; my mother is in the middle.)


Filed under art, Dementia/Alzheimer's, importance of doing good things, lessons about life, life questions, memories for great-grandchildren, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Spiritual connections

One Night, One Day, One Month

Photos by Marylin Warner

(Photos by Marylin Warner)








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.





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



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


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


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


four bills





How would you vote about the face that should replace Andrew Jackson's?  (Money pictures by Marylin Warner)

How would you vote about the face that should replace Andrew Jackson’s? (Money pictures by Marylin Warner)

I was in elementary school when “play money” became popular. Not just because of the game of Monopoly, but also because of the packages of miniature paper money of all denominations and plastic circles painted to look like quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies. The packages could be purchased (with real money) at all kinds of stores, and one newspaper reported that Playing House had been replaced by Playing Bank.

About that same time, I was given a $3.00 bill.   Funny money.   There were two different versions: Lucille Ball of “I Love Lucy” was pictured on one; the version I was given had W.C. Fields’ picture, and beneath it were the words “A Sucker is Born Every Minute.” The adults thought it was funny; I didn’t get the joke. There wasn’t even a denomination printed on the funny money, so what was it worth?

My mother  just smiled said that money was only as good as the good it could do and the necessary things it could purchase.  I asked her who she thought should be pictured on real paper money. We talked about it and decided on Helen Keller, because she knew first hand that many things were much, much more important than the things money could buy.

Since 1928, the face of Andrew Jackson, the 7th President of the United States, has appeared on the $20 bill. Currently there’s a big push to change that. Women on 20s would replace Jackson with a woman by 2020, 100 years after women were given the right to vote.

Online responses have so far listed these four historical women as favorites: Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, and Cherokee Nation Chief Wilma Mankiller. If these are the final choices, I’d vote for Wilma Mankiller because Andrew Jackson signed and enforced the Indian Removal Act which relocated Native Tribes to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). It was a horrible “removal” of tribes and families, so I’d like to see Jackson “removed” from the $20 bill and replaced by a Cherokee Nation Chief.   But that’s just my opinion.

This is one of the many times when I wish my mother’s dementia would fade away and she could tell me what she thinks.  I can guess, but not be certain, that she would wonder why no one is voting for Helen Keller.   I think she’d say that many things are much more important than money, and we need to remember that.

Two of the finalists from the responses so far.

Two of the finalists from the responses so far.

Some of the numerous women proposed to replace Jackson on the $20 bill.  (These pictures from NBC news)

Some of the numerous women proposed to replace Jackson on the $20 bill. (These pictures from NBC news)


Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, importance of doing good things, lessons about life, making a difference, special quotations


Penny, the visiting dachshund, at great inconvenience to herself and her paws, cheers up senior residents.   (pictures by Marylin Warner)

Penny, the visiting dachshund, at great inconvenience to herself and her paws, cheers up senior residents. (pictures by Marylin Warner)



Slowing down on a road where the Amish drive their carriages is an example of making the day better for others.

Slowing down on a road where the Amish drive their carriages is an example of making the day better for others.


The first published use of the term “multitask” was in 1965, describing the capabilities of the IBM System/360. The term became a popular description for anyone who was busy but talented and could successfully complete numerous responsibilities at the same time.

My mother wasn’t impressed. Her philosophy was that of course busy women handled many tasks simultaneously because many things had to be done. But for the truly important things in life—and in the lives of others—wise women knew the importance of slowing down, paying attention and giving each situation the care it required.

She would have loved the hand-painted sign I recently saw in a women’s clothing and accessories shop: “MULTI-TASKING IS THE ART OF MESSING UP SEVERAL THINGS AT ONCE.”

If it weren’t for Mom’s advanced dementia, I think she would wholeheartedly support February 24th’s SINGLE TASKING Day. Recent studies show that multitasking is often inefficient, stressful and mind divisive, while Single Tasking encourages us to embrace one priority and stay with one task until it is accomplished.

Strangely, though, February 24th is a day with multi-tasking opportunities. It is also INCONVENIENCE YOURSELF Day: focus less on yourself and make the day better for others; put on a happy face and find ways to practice random acts of helpfulness. And then reward yourself by also celebrating NATIONAL CUPCAKE Day on the 24th (It’s Canadian, but I’m certainly up for supporting this special day.)

My mother is in the stage of dementia when she no longer eats much. One of her favorite caregivers, Tammy, has created a food Mom really enjoys: pancakes with creamy peanut butter and syrup. Not the most balanced, nutritional meal, but under the circumstances my vote is that at 96 Mom can eat whatever she wants. Plus, I’m sure it’s also in support of the longer version of NATIONAL PANCAKE WEEK, which is February 15-21.

And I’m very grateful that Tammy is a wise woman who knows the importance of slowing down, paying attention, and giving my mother’s situation the care it requires.

To support the special Canadian cupcake day, he'll gladly eat some cupcakes!

To support the special Canadian cupcake day, Gannon will  gladly eat some cupcakes after he finishes his task!


Five-year-old Gannon Single Tasks by sprinkling grass seeds without giving in to distractions.

Five-year-old Gannon Single Tasks by sprinkling grass seeds without giving in to distractions.


Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, friends, importance of doing good things, lessons about life, Special days in February, special quotations