Category Archives: lessons about life

Ooops!

It would be a mistake to hire a 4-year-old to be your carpenter.  Cute, maybe, but still a mistake.  (Pictures by Marylin Warner)

It would be a mistake to hire a 4-year-old to be your carpenter. Cute, maybe, but still a mistake. (Pictures by Marylin Warner)

 

 

Using the wrong fork is  embarrassing, but it's a minor mistake.

Using the wrong fork is embarrassing, but it’s a minor mistake.

 

Texting and speeding and driving the wrong way is a serious mistake.

Texting or speeding and driving the wrong way can be a very serious mistake.

Years ago, before my dad’s Alzheimer’s and my mother’s dementia, they were included in a tour of one of the 3M facilities. When I asked how they’d liked it, my dad told me details from a businessman’s perspective. My mom’s perspective was different.

She remembered ACM—the initials of Acrylate Copolymer Microspheres—from the tour. She nicknamed them “A Creative Mistake,” and they became an inspiration.

In 1968 3M intended to create a super strong adhesive for the aerospace industry. But there was a mistake in the plan, and the end result was an incredibly weak product.  Years later, the reworked mistake became Press’n Peel, a low-tack, reusable pressure-sensitive adhesive.  The final name was of the product was Post-It notes, which became very successful.

Writer Oscar Wilde said, “Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.”  Or as my mother and I would have paraphrased it: Post-It is the name of mistakes that became successes because somebody didn’t give up.”   We agreed Post-Its should be a standard tool for writers, to stick on pages needing better ideas and corrections…and also serve as a reminder not to give up.

Some mistakes have tragic consequences, and I certainly am not making light of  life-changing, heart-breaking mistakes. For this post, however, I salute the discouraging but not serious mistakes we all make that can be redeemed or redefined if we don’t give up.

Mary Pickford, an early motion picture actress and one of the pioneers of Hollywood, became a co-founder of United Artists film studios. Along the way, she faced many problems, and this was her advice. “If you have made mistakes, there is always another chance for you. You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down.”

I can’t resist concluding with a “mistake” made by a man who decided to shoot an armadillo. (Can’t you see “mistake” written all over this already?)   He didn’t realize how tough the hide was, and the bullet bounced off the armadillo and hit his mother-in-law. She wasn’t seriously hurt, but this reminds me of something my mother often said: “Some mistakes require a whole lot more than just saying ‘Ooops’ to fix them.”

armadillo

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, making a difference, special quotations

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

BUTTERFLY McQUEEN KNEW THE TRUTH

One of the posters for GONE WITH THE WIND (Wikipedia)

One of the posters for GONE WITH THE WIND (Wikipedia)

 

 

 

Playing the part of Prissy, the talent Butterfly McQueen admits the truth. (Wikipedia picture)

Playing the part of Prissy, the talented Butterfly McQueen admits the truth. (Wikipedia picture)

My favorite story about my mom at a movie happened months before my older brother was born. Mom was five months pregnant with David, and miserably uncomfortable after eating a salad that included onions, radishes, cucumbers and beets (she said she’d been craving fresh vegetables).  Afterward, she went to an afternoon matinee of the reissued GONE WITH THE WIND.

Twice during the movie Mom offended the people sitting in front of her. The first time was during the powerful scene at the Civil War-ruined plantation, Tara, when a starving Scarlett O’Hara is on her knees in the garden, digging for something to eat. She holds up a turnip and swears: “…If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill—as God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again!”

It’s a dramatic turning point in the movie, but as Mom told me many years later, the timing was horrible. Scarlett’s turnip wasn’t as gaseous as Mom’s lunch, and her stomach chose that moment to groan and produce a very loud, smelly belch. Mom said, “Oh, I’m so sorry,” and the couple waved their hands in front of their faces.

But then later, it was the actress Butterfly McQueen, playing the show-stealing part of the slave Prissy, who admitted the truth when Scarlett told her to help Miss Melanie with labor and delivery. In her emotionally distraught scene, Prissy cries out, “I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout birthin’ babies!” At this point, my mother couldn’t help laughing, and she said out loud, “Amen to that!” The couple in front of her got up and moved.

And the truth of the matter, according to my mother, is that very few of us know about “birthin’ babies” ~ and we know even less about raising them. But love saves us, so we do the best we can and figure it out as we go along. But when she said that, she smiled and added with absolute certainty that it was also very much worth the effort, and she wouldn’t have missed it for anything.

This post is a Thank You to my mom, for her humor, her faith, her kindness, love and steadfast goodness, and her openness to making mistakes and sharing embarrassing stories. The dementia has made her forget the wonderful differences she’s made in the lives of so many people, especially children, but I remember.

Happy Mother’s Day, dear Mom, as well as Grandmother’s Day, Great-Grandmother’s Day, and all-round Great Woman’s day!

Helen Allingham's 1872 "Hanging the Washing, a Beautiful Spring Morning"

Helen Allingham’s 1872 “Hanging the Washing, a Beautiful Spring Morning”

 

Jan Zotelief Tromp's "In the Fields with Katia" (1892) shows a true working mother.

Jan Zotelief Tromp’s “In the Fields with Katia” (1892) shows a true working mother.

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, life questions, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, Things to be thankful for

THE CRUELEST MONTH

"Only from the heart can you touch the sky." ~ Rumi  (all photos by Marylin Warner)

“Only from the heart can you touch the sky.” ~ Rumi   (all photos by Marylin Warner)

April’s weather is half March, half May, a month of conflicting allergies and confusing mood swings.   In THE WASTE LAND, T.S. Eliot wrote that April was the cruelest month, and according to the National Center For Health Statistics, depression and suicide rates are lowest in the winter months and highest in the springtime.  I never would have suspected that.

On one day, April 14th, there are actually three “special days” devoted to offsetting doldrums and banishing blues. The first is INTERNATIONAL MOMENT OF LAUGHTER DAY. An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but laughter is the best medicine, even in small doses. If you have a favorite food or a friend, movie or activity that makes you laugh, enjoy it to the fullest. If the local, national or world news has the opposite effect, this is the day to turn it off.

April 14th is also LOOK UP AT THE SKY DAY. Buddha wrote: “Meditate. Live purely. Be quiet. Do your work with mastery. Like the moon, come out from behind the clouds! Shine.”    I love this. Before her dementia, my mother’s pure, quiet shine came from equal doses of looking up at the sky and kneeling to dig her fingers in the earth.

REACH AS HIGH AS YOU CAN DAY is the third April 14th special day, and this goal also supports looking up at the sky, stretching for dreams and hopeful plans, and reaching for what you want. Combine it with Buddha’s advice; find your way to come out from behind the clouds and shine, even for one day.

I was in high school when I read “The Grand Essentials of Happiness” at the end of a Dear Abby advice column. It was attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, but since then I’ve seen the credit given to Rita Mae Brown, George Washington Burnap, Immanuel Kant and others. Whoever first said it, many authors and philosophers have agreed with it. It was the purest formula for happiness I’d ever read, and I’ve never forgotten it. To be happy, we need “Something to do, Someone to love, and Something to look forward to.”

During this “cruelest month,” on bleak days we can always begin with something to do: sit quietly or find a reason to laugh; look up at the sky and reach as high as we can…or kneel and dig our fingers in the soil, and imagine what might grow.

On April 14th, to laugh like a child, act like a child: jump in with both feet.

On April 14th, to laugh like a child, act like a child: jump in with both feet.

Happiness advice from a 10-year-old boy: Keep Calm and Eat Cookies

Happiness advice from a 10-year-old boy: Keep Calm and Eat Cookies

April 10th is "National Siblings Day" ~ so this is for my brother.

April 10th is “National Siblings Day” ~ so this is for my brother. ( I thanked him for not pushing me off the bench; he said I was trying to push him off… I don’t think so.)

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, life questions, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, special days in April, special quotations

ROYGBIV, FYI

ROYGBIV X 2 = a double rainbow.  (picture by Jim Warner)

ROYGBIV x 2 = a double rainbow. (picture by Jim Warner)

M & Ms are acronyms for Mars and Murrie's, the last names of the candy's founders.

M & Ms are acronyms for Mars and Murrie’s, the last names of the candy’s founders.

A golf cart For Sale.  It's a BMW, meaning "Bavarian Motor Works."

A golf cart For Sale. It’s a BMW, the acronym for “Bavarian Motor Works.”

I was in fourth grade when the teacher taught us a tool for remembering the colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. Thank you, Roy G Biv.

Today we’ve moved beyond teaching tools and abbreviations. Acronyms are used in every industry, in all walks of life. Texting and instant messaging make up a whole new series of acronyms. AFK says we’re away from keyboard; BRB assures we’ll be right back; and if you’re guarding what you’re sharing, POS tells the other person Parents Over Shoulder. BF is Best Friend, BFF is Best Friends Forever; BFFL is Best Friends For Life. It’s touching to know that even the act of identifying and ranking levels of our most important friendships can now be accomplished in acronyms of 2-4 letters.

Some acronyms we know “in general” what they mean. For instance, we know SOS is a call for help, but technically it means “Save Our Souls.” The Latin meanings of the acronyms for i.e. and e.g. are long, complicated, and well…in Latin. The useful meanings are “in other words” for i.e., and “for example” for e.g.   And most of us probably know what a TASER is, but do you know that TASER is the acronym for “Thomas A. Swift’s Electric Rifle”?

If we’re going to use acronyms, we really should know what they mean. LOL means “laugh out loud,” and therefore shouldn’t be used as part of the message on a sympathy card because you think it means “lots of love.” Sometimes it’s better to write out what we feel instead of taking chances that the acronym might be misinterpreted.

While my parents were still living at home—before my father’s Alzheimer’s and long before my mother’s dementia—I was visiting them when a young girl dropped off some writing materials for my mom. As the teen put them on the coffee table, Mom noticed her colorful bracelet and asked what the letters stood for. The girl smiled and held out her arm to show off the WWJD. “It’s a reminder,” she said. “A question to ask myself…’What Would Jesus Do?’”

Ever helpful and pleasant, my mother smiled and patted the girl’s hand. “Oh, sweetheart, you know there’s a book that actually tells you what Jesus did do.”

The world is changing with acronyms providing faster ways of communicating. It is not TEOTWAWKI—“The End of The World As We Know It”—just another new thing we can choose to embrace or not.

To all of you I say BBS (Be Back Soon) and TTYL (Talk To you Later).  To my mom I don’t say HAGN or TYVM, because she wouldn’t know what those mean. So I say “Have a good night” and “Thank you very much” for being a wonderful mom.

One of the most popular acronym message bracelets of the 1990s.

One of the most popular acronym message bracelets of the 1990s.

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Filed under Different kinds of homes, friends, lessons about life, memories for great-grandchildren, writing

A NEAR MISS

Be grateful for calm skies. "Forever is composed of nows." ~ Emily Dickinson

Be grateful for calm skies.
“Forever is composed of nows.” ~ Emily Dickinson

There are many days to celebrate in March.  Birthdays of family and friends, St. Patrick’s Day, the first day of Spring, and depending on our country of residence, some of us celebrate Mother’s Day this month, while others celebrate in May.

Regardless of where we live, we all should celebrate March 23rd.   BIG TIME, with grateful hearts, and champagne toasts made in joy.   March 23rd is “NEAR MISS DAY.”

On March 23, 1989, a mountain-sized asteroid passed through the exact position of the earth six hours earlier.   Had it collided, it would have released energy comparable to the explosion of a 600 megaton atom bomb and caused the largest explosion in recorded history.

But it didn’t.  “Near Miss Day” acknowledges and celebrates exactly that, a near miss.

We all know of many “near misses” in our lives and the lives of those we love. Every day is precious. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “Write it on your heart that every day is the best day of the year,” and my favorite appreciation for each day is by A.A. Milne, creator of Winnie-the-Pooh. “What day is it?” ~ “It’s today,” squeaked Piglet. ~ “My favorite day,” said Pooh.

This Monday, March 23rd, and every day, may we be grateful for the near misses in our lives, and doubly aware of and grateful for the many blessings we receive.  Take nothing for granted.

 

"Winnipeg"--or Winnie--the female black bear that lived in London Zoo from 1915-1954 and inspired Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh, here with veterinarian Harry Colebourn.

“Winnipeg”–or Winnie–the female black bear that lived in London Zoo from 1915-1954 and inspired Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh, here with veterinarian Harry Colebourn.

Maya Angelou:  "Be present in all things and thankful for all things."

Maya Angelou: “Be present in all things and thankful for all things.”

March is also "Deaf History Month" -- here is the chart for American Sign Language.

March is also “Deaf History Month” — here is the chart for American Sign Language.

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, life questions, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Special Days in March, Spiritual connections

SALT OF THE EARTH

My maternal grandmother, a woman of strong faith, great kindness, and soft hugs for five children, thirteen grandchildren...and many great- and great-great grandchildren.

My maternal grandmother, a woman of strong faith, great kindness, and soft hugs for five children, thirteen grandchildren…and many great- and great-great grandchildren.

 

 

A picture of Grandma's five children, lined up in a row on the farm.  My mother is the middle child.

A picture of Grandma’s five children, lined up in a row on the farm. My mother is the middle child.

 

I recently saw a “Helpful Hint” newspaper article devoted to salt. In addition to being worth its weight in gold for many centuries because of its medicinal, cooking and international commerce importance, it’s also recognized as an inexpensive and effective household cleaner today. For instance, to clean a grimy garbage disposal, pour 2 cups of ice into the disposal and add ½ cup of salt. Turn on the tap and run the disposal for 20 seconds. The gunk will be gone!  Or if a drain is clogged, pour in a mixture of ½ cup salt and 1 cup baking soda. Let it sit for a few hours and then pour in a quart of boiling water. Swish!

Reading the short article made me smile at memories of Mom and Grandma in the kitchen. If they were cooking vegetables that tasted too salty, they added hunks of potatoes, let everything simmer, and then removed the potatoes before serving. Out on the farm, Grandma taught Mom to kept a tin can filled with salt within arm’s length of the stove, not as seasoning, but for putting out grease fires.

At our house, my mom combined equal parts of salt and baking soda in a small bowl and set it at the back of a refrigerator shelf to absorb smells, and she and Grandma could both be counted on to stir a teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water to make a gargle for sore throats.

Salt is used in many expressions: Don’t rub salt in a wound: Take that advice with a grain of salt; Never throw salt on a dream; She is the salt of the earth. The last one is my favorite because when I was a child I heard it used to describe both Mom and Grandma. I knew it was a compliment about the kind of women they were, and it was always said with a smile.

Sugar is sweeter, cayenne pepper is spicier, and saffron is more exotic.  But when it comes to being associated with goodness, reliability and necessity for well being, I still think of my mother and her mother as the “salt of the earth.”

morton salt containers     I wish for all of you the blessings of bread, salt and wine.

In the movie IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, this was the blessing given to a family moving into a new home:  "Bread, that this house may never know hunger.  Salt, that life might have flavor.  And win, that joy and prosperity may reign forever."

In the movie IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, this was the blessing given to a family moving into a new home: “Bread, that this house may never know hunger. Salt, that life might have flavor. And wine, that joy and prosperity may reign forever.”

 

 

 

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, lessons about life, special quotations