Category Archives: importance of doing good things

WHAT CAN’T BE BOUGHT

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packages could be purchased (with real money) at all kinds of stores, and one newspaper reported that Playing House had been replaced by Playing Bank.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)

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

SINGLE-TASKING

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.

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

A SPY IN THE HOUSE OF LOVE

 

 

Years ago, Hallmark had a great line of "retro" Valentine's Day cards. This one for mother who made dorky mother-daughter  matching dresses. (Click on pictures to enlarge for reading.)

Years ago, Hallmark had a great line of “retro” Valentine’s Day cards. This one was about a mother who made dorky mother-daughter matching dresses. (Click on pictures to enlarge for reading.)

 

 

 

 

In this card, kids figure out the awful "cafeteria surprise" lunch recipe.

In this card, kids figure out the awful “cafeteria surprise” lunch recipe.

In addition to Valentine’s Day, February 14th is also the date of many other “special” days as well, including these: “Ferris Wheel Day” ~ “Library Lovers Day” ~ “Quirky Alone Day” ~ “National Have A Heart Day” ~ “World Marriage Day” ~ “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre” ~ “National Donor Day” ~ and “World Whale Day.”

In her novel A Spy In The House of Love, Anais Nin writes this: “As other girls prayed for handsomeness in a lover, or for wealth, or for power, or for poetry, she had prayed fervently: Let him be kind.”

Before dementia blurred her thinking, one of the qualities my mother valued most in a person was kindness. Because it was one of her many wonderful qualities, and a quality of my father, too, before the Alzheimer’s took over, I grew up looking for—and profoundly appreciating—kind people. My husband Jim is a man with many exceptional qualities, but when we were friends and co-workers, it was his genuine kindness that first drew me to him.

To all of you, on Valentine’s Day and every day, I wish much kindness in your lives.

"A tree is known by its fruit, a man by his deeds.  A good deed is never lost...he who plants kindness gathers love."      ~Saint Basil

“A tree is known by its fruit, a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost…he who plants kindness gathers love.”            ~Saint Basil

BE KIND

"You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late."  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

“You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, friends, importance of doing good things, lessons about life, life questions, Special days in February, special quotations, Things to be thankful for

LOOK AGAIN

Gorgeous ice and snow-covered trees last week.  From a distance, this is what you see. (All photographs by Marylin Warner)

Gorgeous ice and snow-covered trees last week. From a distance, this is what you see. (All photographs by Marylin Warner)

 

Move in, look closer to see more details, the depth of snow and ice on the branches.

Move in, look closer to see more details, the depth of snow and ice on the branches.

 

 

Nearly hidden beneath snow, clinging to bark, the last leaves hang on.

Nearly hidden beneath snow, clinging to bark, the last leaves hang on.

This month is absolutely jam-packed with special monthly observances, days and weeks dedicated to fresh starts, do-overs, do-betters, and reminders. In addition to being the month for making resolutions, January also includes Financial Awareness, Cervical Health Awareness, Cuckoo Dancing Week, No Name Calling Week, Thomas Crapper Day, National Kazoo Day, and Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day. Those are just a few of a long list of choices.

For personal goal setting, January is both RISING STAR MONTH and WAYFINDING MONTH. There are many interpretations and approaches to charting your path and finding your own way: using a telescope or GPS, taking the advice of others or reading how-to books; following stars, reading maps, joining groups, asking directions, comparing markers and signs. One thing these all have in common, though, is taking a closer look—looking very carefully to be sure you have an accurate picture—before making big plans and charting goals.

Before my dad’s Alzheimer’s and my mom’s dementia, they were good role models for goal-setting and careful planning for their business and their lives. They sat at the table together with papers and lists and facts and figures spread out. They studied possibilities and problems from all angles, looking past the obvious in order to study subtle details and see the big picture.

The photos I’ve posted this week are to remind us to look beyond the obvious and study the big picture before setting our goals. Otherwise, we might as well give up on charting our path and finding our own way to reach our dreams…and opt instead for Cuckoo Dancing, playing the Kazoo, and rolling ourselves in Bubble Wrap.

A cute gift, a handmade Elephant pin.  A poo pin, made of elephant dung from Sri Lanka.

A cute gift, a handmade Elephant pin. A poo pin, made of elephant dung from Sri Lanka.

 

This isn't just pioneer biceps building.  For the woman who doesn't want an elephant pin, she's gathering fire wood.  Well, not wood ~ bison dung. A use for everything...

This isn’t just pioneer biceps building. For the woman who doesn’t want an elephant pin, she’s gathering fire wood. Well, not wood ~ bison dung. A use for everything…

 

Details matter; are you looking at the snack to buy...or at the fleeing mouse?

Details matter; are you looking at the snack to buy…or at the fleeing mouse?

 

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, importance of doing good things, lessons about life, life questions

THE WHEELS GO ‘ROUND AND ‘ROUND

This week has been brutal in Colorado...it's not a good time to try to ride a bike.

This week has been brutal in Colorado…it’s not a good time to try to ride a bike.

 

 

bike in snow

 

 

My first “it’s mine and nobody else’s” bike was a blue Western Flyer. No bells and whistles, and definitely no training wheels, just a great bike.   I was seven when my mom taught me to ride it. She pointed me straight ahead on the sidewalk, holding on the to back of the seat, and running along with me as I wobbled and squealed and pedaled, clutching the handle-bar grips for all I was worth. Mark Twain was right when he said, “Get a bicycle. You will not regret it…if you live.” I took a lot of tumbles and was scabs and band-aides from head to toes for a while, but soon I was riding all around the neighborhood.

The amazing thing about Mom teaching me to ride a bike was that she had never learned to ride one. She grew up on a Missouri farm where the roads were dirt and gravel. Her mother taught her to drive a car—and they ended up in a ditch before Mom became proficient—but she never learned to ride a bike.

Almost ten years ago, when my dad was still alive, Mom and I drove down to Chicken Annie’s near Pittsburg, KS to pick up to-go meals to take back for us, Dad, and his caregiver to have for dinner. As we sat outside at the picnic table waiting for our order, two older women—maybe grandmothers—stood one on each side of a young boy trying to learn to ride a bike. It was a familiar comedy of errors, with near falls and close calls for both the women and the little boy, but finally the boy took off. Mom and I cheered and clapped . For the boy, yes, but especially for his teachers. “You did that for me, Mom,” I said, and she nodded, smiled and said, “I remember.” I put my arm around her and kissed her cheek. “Thank you.”

January is National Thank You Month. Take it from one who knows, if there’s anyone in your life—a relative, friend, teacher, neighbor, anyone who’s offered you help or shown you a kindness—thank that person this month. I’m glad I thanked my mother for the bike riding lesson when I did; within a few years she would not have understood what I was saying. I remember that day, the way she smiled and nodded, and I also realized that saying Thank You is a double blessing, once for the person receiving the thanks, and once for the person expressing it.

This is also Universal Letter Writing Week. If you have an older friend, someone in the hospital or a nursing home, please write a card or letter thanking them for one specific thing they did for you. Nurses and caregivers are very responsive to reading aloud the cards and messages, and often the recipients will hold their cards and fall asleep with them.

These two activities are excellent examples of Janus looking backward and forward at the beginning of the new year. When we look back at what others have done for us and reach forward to thank them, we change our lives…and theirs.

It’s a matter of balance. Albert Einstein wrote: “Life is like riding a bicycle—in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving.” And a good example of that forward movement is gratitude.

Bike ornament on my wall.  (Pictures by Marylin Warner)

Bike ornament on my wall. (Pictures by Marylin Warner)

 

"Fat Tire #3" original sculpture in Salina, KS., by Lance Carlton Washington

“Fat Tire #3″ original sculpture in Salina, KS., by Lance Carlton Washington

Framed bicycle print with message by Flavia: "Somewhere between the earth and sky, there is a secret place we all go to dream."

Framed bicycle print with message by Flavia: “Somewhere between the earth and sky, there is a secret place we all go to dream.”

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

TO SEND or NOT TO SEND, that is the question

pink lilies

 

 

PUTTING MAKEUP ON DEAD PEOPLE, a wonderful novel by Jen Violi

PUTTING MAKEUP ON DEAD PEOPLE, a wonderful novel by Jen Violi.

My blog post last week included information and examples about writing greeting cards and where to submit them. This week’s post is open to discussion about cards that SHOULD be sent…and those that, in my opinion, SHOULD NOT be sent.  Or at least not sent early.

On Monday I received a very nice Hallmark card in the mail. It came from a couple who live several states away. The card artwork was lovely; the calligraphy was elegant. The cover message was about the permanence of a mother’s love, and the inside message stated that my mother would always be with me in spirit. The final line was two words: “With Sympathy.”

My mother suffers from advanced dementia and on most days her clearest memories are those as a child on the farm in Missouri, but she is definitely still alive. The handwritten note on the card said the couple had made a donation in my mother’s name to the Alzheimer’s Foundation.

By the time I reread the card, I had the eerie uneasy feeling that maybe I had dementia…or had slipped into an episode of “The Twilight Zone.”  Even though I was recently with my mom in Kansas, I wondered if the card senders knew something I didn’t. Finally I read the folded, typed paper in the envelope behind the card, explaining that they did not know how much longer my mother might live, but they wanted to send the card early. Then the typed message went on to other details.

Those of you who have tried your hand at writing greeting cards know that, in general, the two most difficult cards to successfully create are 1) humorous cards, and 2) sympathy cards.  And as far as I know, the two types do not usually overlap, although there was one card years ago that got a “bad taste” award. The details vary, but as I remember it, there was a frog on the front of the humorous/sympathy card, and the message was something like We all croak. Sorry.

Does the process of dying and dealing with death really make people so uncomfortable that their default response is to try to brush it aside, lighten it with a joke, or send a card early to get it out of the way?

One of my favorite novels I’ve discovered in the past year is PUTTING MAKEUP ON DEAD PEOPLE by Jen Violi. It is a poignant, touching, funny and tender novel about a young woman who learns to deal with her father’s death by training to become a makeup expert for a funeral home. Her respectful and genuine desire is to serve, honor and protect the dead and their families…and to honestly face her own fears.  I read aloud several chapters to my mother last winter—especially one of the scenes where the young woman is talking to the lady on her table as she selects fingernail polish to match the lipstick—and my mother smiled and said, “We like fingernail polish…don’t we?”   This novel does not avoid, over simplify, hide from or joke about death. It reveals and embraces the rituals of death that illuminate life. I strongly recommend it. 

We learn as we go, and we do the best we can. Those are the two main lessons I’ve learned during my father’s Alzheimer’s and now my mother’s dementia. I also realize that we’re all at different stages in our journeys, and probably there was no offense or avoidance intended by the Early Sympathy card that arrived on Monday. Therefore, I will set it aside until the time does come to read it…when I will be grateful for genuine words of condolence and expressions of sympathy.

 

Oklahoma City: "The Survivor Tree," the American Elm that survived the explosion.

Oklahoma City: “The Survivor Tree,” the American Elm that survived the explosion.

"Field of Empty Chairs" memorial of the april 19, 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing.  168 chairs with names of those killed, 19 smaller chairs for the children.

“Field of Empty Chairs” memorial of the april 19, 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing. 168 chairs with names of those killed, 19 smaller chairs for the children.

 

 

 

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, importance of doing good things, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, Uncategorized, writing

ORAL HYGIENE: A Poem by Mary Shepherd

You don't have to brush all your teeth--just the ones you want to keep.  (All photographs by Marylin Warner)

You don’t have to brush all your teeth–just the ones you want to keep. (All photographs by Marylin Warner)

 

To be safe, keep extras on hand.  Remember, possession is 9/10 of the law...

To be safe, keep extra supplies on hand. Remember, possession is 9/10 of the law…(or something like that?)

 

Dear Nic,

Grandma’s favorite stories—and poems—have been about her grandchildren. She loved the cute things you all did and the sweet things you said. Almost three decades ago, you made everyone laugh with what we like to call your “Oral Hygiene” incident that Grandma later wrote about in a poem:

Mom and Dad were traveling—

A three-year-old grandson so dear

Was staying with Grandpa and Grandma,

Making their world bright with cheer.

 

“Where is your toothbrush?” asked Grandma,

After getting him ready for bed.

“I think it’s down at my house,”

The smiling little boy said.

 

So Nic and Grandpa went walking

The next day, down to his home,

And soon Nic was brushing merrily;

His mouth was covered with foam.

 

“That’s a very large brush,” said Grandma.

“Are you sure it belongs to you?”

Nic gave her a great big bubbly grin;

His answer was simple and true.

 

With his feet perched on the nearby stool,

And his smiling mouth dripping foam:

“It used to be Dad’s, but it’s mine now;

I just brought it here from home.”

(~a poem about her grandson Nic, by Mary Shepherd)

Grandma’s teeth are cracking and breaking now. It seems to be the normal progression of things for someone who is almost 96. She eats less food and it’s softer, and everything she drinks is served with a straw. But true to form, according to her caregiver Tammy, last week Grandma used the straw to blow bubbles in her milk! Inside the frail little grandma with advanced dementia, there’s still a hint of the happy playfulness she used to share with her grandchildren.

Molly and her little cousin Nic ~ she wanted him to be her little brother.

Molly and her little cousin Nic ~ she wanted him to be her little brother.

 

Fritz, Nic and Molly at Grandpa and Grandma's house.

Fritz, Nic and Molly at Grandpa and Grandma’s house.

Ray and Mary's grandchildren: Andrew, Molly and Nic (1990)

Ray and Mary’s grandchildren: Andrew, Molly and Nic (1990)

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, Fort Scott Kansas, importance of doing good things, lessons for great-grandchildren