Category Archives: lessons about life

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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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, importance of doing good things, just doing the best we can, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, making a difference, recipes, special quotations

Donated Inspiration

It's no longer a war theme, but a challenge to choose a single word.

It’s no longer a war theme, but a challenge to choose a single word.

Winter can be hard on us all. What can we choose to get us going...and stay focused?

Winter can be cold, barren. What word will get us going…and keep us focused?  (picture by Marylin Warner)

 

 

Television talk shows have been giving attention to the topic of how single word themes are replacing lists of New Year’s Resolutions. Motivational specialists seemed to agree this is a wise move, selecting a single word to give your thoughts and actions focus throughout the year.

One program asked viewers to Tweet their single word themes. By the end of the segment, these were some of the words scrolling across the bottom of the screen: unafraid, release, balance, achieve, persevere, observe, win, play, simplify, learn. The word that came to my mind was very different.

For several years, I volunteered at the local Women’s Thrift House on the third Saturday of each month. I was often amazed—and sometimes saddened—by the handmade items and gifts that were dropped off as donations. Knitted scarves and gloves, pottery bowls and pitchers, crocheted baby blankets and booties. Some were donated in their gift boxes, and a few still had sweet cards written to the recipients by the senders.

One Saturday eight years ago, I couldn’t stop thinking about one of the handmade items, so at the end of the day I purchased it. The one-word hand-stitched message was matted and framed, and it was like a reminder tapping me on the shoulder: YAGOTTAWANNA

I took the 5”x7” framed message with me to show my mom on the next visit, and I remember she studied it a moment to figure it out. Then she laughed and said, “I think this message was made for you, Marylin. No matter what, when you really, really want to do something, you find a way to do it.”

That was then, and now my one word for 2016 is YAGOTTAWANNA, a reminder that if there’s something I need to do, want to do, hope to do…my first step is to grasp the reason WHY I really, really want to do it. The Why will guide me to the HOW…and the commitment to get it done.

I have three supporters in my corner. The first is Confucius: “It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” Abraham Lincoln is the second: “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than anything else.”

Third, and best of all, is my mom, who believed this message was made for me as a reminder that there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do if I really, really wanted to do it.

Yagottawanna

 

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

Scouting Joy

(All pictures by Marylin Warner)

(All pictures by Marylin Warner)

Even in IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE there's loss and sadness before there's joy.

Even in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE there’s loss and sadness before there’s joy.

poinsettia

Maggie's last Christmas picture, wearing her Rudolph ears.

Maggie’s last Christmas picture, wearing her Rudolph ears.

We didn’t send our usual “Christmas picture” greetings this year. For twelve years, our beloved Maggie has been in our picture. The first Christmas after our granddaughter was born twelve years ago, Maggie posed with us as we held baby Grace, and Maggie had her own picture ever since.

As you know, Maggie died suddenly last summer, and it was a very sad time for our family. This Christmas Jim and I just didn’t have the heart power to send cards without her.

If you do a search for ways to improve the holidays, you might be stunned at the number of articles that include this one: “Watch a Christmas movie.” Immediately I thought of IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, which is one of our favorites. But according to actor Tom Hanks, no December is complete without watching ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, Remarque’s grim story of German soldiers’ extreme stress during WWI. Not what I would choose for Christmas inspiration or joy, but we each have our own favorites.

This week, Jim and I went to visit our local Humane Society and were touched by the enthusiasm of families adding cats, dogs, rabbits and turtles to their Christmas gift lists, and also contributing to the special gift funds for pets still waiting to be adopted.

At one glassed-in area, a single puppy waited alone in a cubicle. Her four siblings had all been adopted. I knelt and put my hand on the glass wall. When the puppy looked at me, waddled over and put her paw on the other side against my hand, Jim said he could see the writing on the wall, so to speak, and we both opened our hands and our hearts.

You are our first friends to receive this Christmas picture featuring our little 4 1/2-pound, 11-week old, Border Collie Mix. The operative word is Mix—we’re pretty sure she’s also German Shepherd and maybe other breeds, too—but Maggie was a beautiful combination of many breeds, so we’re very hopeful about her. We named her Scout after TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD’s young girl narrator, one of my favorite characters in literature.

Scout adds to our joy by wagging, prancing, snuggling, gnawing, marking her territory in our lives…and reminding us how to potty train a puppy while also improving our abilities to spot clean the carpets in every room. Best of all, we feel Maggie is looking down on us and smiling at the newest addition to our family, and we smile back at her. It doesn’t get much more festive and joyful than this.

Dear blogging friends, from my family to yours, I wish you all a joyous, grateful, warm and loving Christmas.

Scout, who put her paw out to meet my hand...and my heart.

Scout, who put her paw against the glass…and touched our hearts.

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, just doing the best we can, lessons about life, movies, Things to be thankful for

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

THE SMALL STUFF

A tiny carrot found in the garden...where no one planted carrots. (All pictures by Marylin Warner)

 

(All pictures by Marylin Warner ~ details given below)

(All pictures by Marylin Warner ~ details given below)

christmas cactus house

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For several decades, Richard Carlson’s book, DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF, has enjoyed popularity. His lessons and examples for keeping things in perspective have been expanded into editions about not sweating the small stuff in love, at work, for teens, etc.

Years ago, I gave my parents a copy of Carlson’s book. Later I found three cards in my mom’s writing box. Dad had copied three lessons he liked best. The first two are “You are what you practice most,” and “If we would just slow down, happiness would catch up to us.” (Before Alzheimer’s, nothing slowed down my dad.)

My mom had a different take on Carlson’s title. She thought a better book would be this: BE THANKFUL FOR THE SMALL STUFF. In her opinion, moments of gratitude and hopefulness are like dominoes toppling over and creating more good moments in life.

In the spirit of building on my mother’s philosophy, this Thanksgiving I was especially thankful for the small stuff. For the funny little carrot hidden under leaves in the garden (we didn’t plant carrots this year); for the Christmas Cactus plant that bloomed early in the kitchen window; for the shape of a heart on top of a corn muffin at our Thanksgiving dinner where three generations shared food, laughter, love, stories of other Thanksgivings together, and the joy of being together now.   And when Colorado’s previous sunny day turned into a Thanksgiving ice storm, I was especially grateful for the next day’s safe 420 mile drive back to Kansas for our daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren.

My dad’s third card in my mom’s writing box was this message from Carlson’s book: “When you’re in an ill mood, learn to pass it off as simply that: an unavoidable human condition that will pass with time if you leave it alone. A low mood is not the time to analyze your life.”

This penciled message–I think my mother wrote it–is printed beneath it: “And when you’re in a good mood, smiling and joyful, don’t analyze it or brace yourself for it to change. Instead, be grateful for that mood, and be hopeful.”

 

Kansas kids--especially our grandchildren--love to hike in the Garden of the Gods, warm and sunny on the day before the ice storm.

Kansas kids–especially our grandchildren–love to hike in the Garden of the Gods; it was warm and sunny on the day before the ice storm.

Almost fifty years ago, my mother painted this snow-storm picture for a story she'd written: "Stubby The Stubborn Missouri Mule"

More than fifty years ago, my mother painted this snow-storm picture for a story she’d written: “Stubby The Stubborn Missouri Mule”   

The ice storm passes, leaving a gorgeous white covering on Pikes Peak.

When the ice storm passes, it leaves gorgeous  snow covering Pikes Peak.

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, spending time with kids, Things to be thankful for

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.)

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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