Category Archives: lessons about life







It’s a concept that captured my imagination when I was ten years old and my dad pointed out the imaginary line across the plains of western Kansas.   If you’re driving west on I-70, you see the sign saying you’re entering Sherman County ~ and Mountain Time Zone.   If you’re driving east on the same interstate, at that same point you are entering Thomas County ~ and Central Time Zone.

What if you lived on the east side of the line, I wondered, and you did something bad—or semi-bad, or anything you wish you hadn’t done—could you walk over the line to the west side, where it was an hour earlier, and “undo” what you’d done?   My parents both said that was an interesting idea, but life didn’t work that way. Card laid, card played; no do-overs by stepping into a different time zone.  Unless you’re Ray Bradbury…

The top picture of Bristol, “a good place to live,” is actually one town in two states, Virginia and Tennessee. With thanks to the Geico Insurance commercial, we even have a picture of the marker embedded in the middle of the main street; one side of the street is VA, and the other is TN.   Hmm…can laws, codes and rules change with one step?

Oh, oh.  What if it's hunting season on the other side of the road?

Oh, oh. What if it’s hunting season on the other side of the road?

October is AWARENESS MONTH, which shines a light on diseases and world health concerns.   It also can include the awareness of general knowledge and self-awareness, knowing when something exists, has changed, has several meanings or applications, or needs more study.

In Kansas, Virginia, Tennessee, and life in general–both literally and figuratively speaking–it’s always wise to be aware of the facts before we put one foot over any line.





Filed under autumn lessons, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, life questions, October glory, politics



Before dementia took over, my mother used to pen favorite quotes, writing ideas, and special information in a little notebook she carried in her purse.   One of my favorite things now is to discover scraps of papers tucked as markers in  books, little notes left in sweater pockets, or half-sheets mixed up with handkerchiefs at the bottom of old purses.

Here are several of my favorites: “All human wisdom is summed up in two words, wait and hope.” ~ Alexandre Dumas; “Things start out as hopes and end up as habits.” ~ Lillian Hellman;   and “Maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets.” ~ Arthur Miller

The main word all three of these quotes have in common is HOPE.   According to the Heart Institute of Louisville, Kentucky, humor and hope are inter-connected, and both are important in maintaining good health and a sense of well being.

The best medicine is a combination of humor and hope.

In the spirit of striving for good health, I’m sharing three things that made me smile (or laugh out loud) this week…and also made me feel more hopeful about the problems of the world.drinkable-book

The first is posted with thanks to Dr. Theresa Dankovich from Carnegie Mellon.   She is responsible for the “Drinkable Book,” with pages to tear out and use to turn raw sewage into safe drinking water.   Each page is printed with a message in the local language, explaining how the paper water filter makes the unsafe water of the village safe to drink.

The second is three cheers for a Georgia police officer, Kenneth Knox.  He performed reverse CPR on a 2-month-old baby and saved her life after regular CPR didn’t work.   Her parents recently asked Knox to be her godfather.  “It is my honor, my privilege and pleasure,” he said, “…my precious angel…I swear I will forever be your guardian…”   (Sometimes happiness and hope come with sniffles, too.)


And finally, this is with appreciation for the Netherlands-based video editors who used clips from the heated town hall forum for the recent Presidential debate and made it very funny…and a borderline happy and hopeful reminder that this, too, shall eventually pass.  The editors synchronized excerpts of Hillary Clinton’s and Donald Trump’s debate and set them to the duet  “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” from the 1987 romantic drama, DIRTY DANCING.   Google Clinton Trump Time of Our Lives for your choice of connections.


In a time of world problems, potential tragedies and discouraging conflicts, do not procrastinate.   Look for–and be open to–happy,  touching, reassuring, laugh-out-loud examples and events that will give you hope and improve your health.


Filed under Books and book titles, Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, just doing the best we can, lessons about life, life questions, special quotations


If money talks, what do you think this ten-dollar bill says about Scout?

If money talks, what does this ten-dollar bill say about Scout?  

This photo essay begins with my parents. Fritz was their shelter dog who was “supposed to be” a small mixed breed, but his body grew to match his personality.   Before his Alzheimer’s, Dad used to say, “Let’s talk, Fritz,” and they


Maggie was our first rescued dog. For 13 years she was Jim’s hiking buddy, my cuddle pal, and a treasured member of our entire family.  She was included in all travels, every hike, holiday and event.  She was also Scout’s “angel” who made our hearts ready for the last puppy in her litter, waiting for us to find her at the Humane Society.



From the first hour, Scout got plenty of hugs, love…and also a lot of patience.  (Chewing has been her favorite sport, as seen in top picture.)





This is Scout with “Squeak,” her first chew toy and still her favorite little friend.  Like a baby with a favorite blanket, Scout can’t go to sleep at night unless she has Squeak.



Dogs bring their own new friends into the family.  Here, Scout rests with her friend Kodi, a chocolate poodle, after a busy play date.  Kodi’s parents Jeff and Karen, have coffee on the deck with us, Scout’s parents.  Kodi is now in training to be a Companion Dog.  We miss her.

On previous posts, I’ve shared our daughter’s family pets: Munchkin, the kitten adopted from a farm family; and Duchess, the gorgeous all-black German Shepherd who was adopted from a soldier being deployed from Ft. Riley.  All of our pets have made our family bigger, better, more patient, and also pet-happy and very fur-friendly.

OCTOBER IS “ADOPT A SHELTER DOG MONTH”   Shelters are always looking for good adoptive “parents” and are also in need of donations to continue providing for homeless animals.




Filed under autumn lessons, Dementia/Alzheimer's, friends, importance of doing good things, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, making a difference, Things to be thankful for





The message I wrote to my mom inside the blank writing book I gave to her.

(The message I wrote to my mom inside the blank writing book I gave to her.)

Christmas of 1976, I gave my mother an Abbey Press writing book titled SEASONS OF MYSELF.  Through the years, she penned several stories on the blank pages of her book, including one story about “Marrying The Right Man.”   In it she changed the names and some details, but the emotional truths stayed the same.   This was long before her dementia, and she had a talent for writing honest, compelling tales.

Mom had told me of her junior year in college, when two very different but equally wonderful young men wanted to marry her.   In the end, she of course chose the man who later became my father, but a great deal of solitary thought and prayer—and wondering What If?—had gone into her decision.   Reading the story and remembering her process taught me to pause with my own writing ideas and spend time considering the many possibilities of “What if?”

In response to her story, I asked myself what if Mom had chosen the “other guy”?   How would her life story have been different?   And what would have been my story, the stories of her grandchildren and great-grand-children…and so on? What if?  Hmm.

( What If?)

       ( What If?)

On the back cover of the “Write your Own Book,” the publisher offers suggestions for uses and also shares quotes of famous writers. My mother put two check marks by Catherine D. Bowen’s quote: “Writing is not apart from living. Writing is a kind of double living.”   Later in the journal Mom wrote that quote again and defined it this way:  “Double does not mean double dealing or double cross, but in having twice the usual size, strength, consideration and power for understanding.”

September 28th is “Ask A Stupid Question Day.”   Instead, maybe we should ask a smart question—What If?—and then write our own responses so we can experience the best kind of double living.

(The back cover of uses and quotes printed on the writing book, SEASONS of MYSELF)

(The back cover of uses and quotes printed on the writing book, SEASONS of MYSELF)

Top picture: Me holding Molly as a baby. Lower picture: Molly holding her baby, Grace.  What If? my mother had married the other guy?

Top picture: Me holding Molly as a baby.  Lower picture: Molly holding her baby, Grace. What If? my mother had married the other guy?


Filed under "Christmas Memories With Mom", Books and book titles, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, life questions, making a difference, special quotations, writing exercises



Zen wriing



mind's eye pencil


Many of you know from other posts that before my mother’s dementia, she and I used to make a game of finding and entering writing contests.   We learned these basic writing lessons along the way: 1) writing to the guidelines of a contest keeps you thinking and practicing your skill;   2) even if you don’t win or place in the contest, you’ll have a completed story that you can build on and submit elsewhere; and   3) no writing effort is ever wasted, and you might be surprised where this effort will lead.

This week I’m posting four writing contests that have NO ENTRY FEE but offer Cash Prizes and/or publication. No matter where you reside or what your age or writing experience, there is at least one contest for you!

First, here are two fiction reminders.   Writer, producer and director Joss Whedon says: “You take people, you put them on a journey, you give them peril, and you find out who they really are.”   And sci-fi writer Iain Banks adds, “The trouble with writing fiction is that it has to make sense, whereas real life doesn’t.”

Now the contests:

INTERGENERATION SHORT STORY CONTEST sponsored by Intergeneration Foundation:   No genre restrictions; electronic submissions by 9/30/2016;   400 words maximum, international eligibility. Awards: $500, $300, $200

KEY WEST LITERARY SEMINAR EMERGING WRITER AWARDS sponsored by Key West Literary Seminar for short fiction, novel excerpts, and individual poems. Electronic submission deadline 9/12/2016 Top awards $500   US writers

SUNDAY TIMES EFG SHORT STORY AWARD, sponsored by Society of Authors. Guidelines at   All fiction genres, story length maximum 6,000 words, submit postal and electronic, international eligibility for writers of all levels, age 18 and older with publication experience in UK.   Deadline 9/29/16   Top winner £30,000

REAL SIMPLE: LIFE LESSONS Essay Contest (this could also make a good writing prompt or journal topic) on this theme: “What was the most dramatic change you ever had to make?” 1,500 words max   US writers      Prizes: $3,000, $750, $500  Submit electronic submissions by 9/19/2016

Based on previous writing posts, you know you can try writing your rough drafts with your left hand, your right hand, or mirror writing in crayons or chalk.   Just choose a contest or topic and give it a try. And if you know of other contests and writing opportunities, please share them with us.hey you, get busy

Itypewriter MG_3621


Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, life questions, paying writing opportunities, special quotations, writing, writing contest with cash prizes, writing exercises

Wild Dog Becomes First Friend

The Desiderata of HappinessIMG_5708


Scouts's closeup









One of my favorite descriptions of dogs is from THE JUNGLE BOOK by Rudyard Kipling: “When the Man waked up he said, ‘What is Wild Dog doing here?’  And the Woman said, ‘His name is not Wild Dog any more, but First Friend, because he will be our friend for always and always and always.’”

Many writers in addition to Kipling have written about the wonder of dogs.   Here are three examples.  Agatha Christie wrote, “Dogs are wise. They crawl away into a quiet corner and lick their wounds and do not rejoin the world until they are whole once more.”   Emily Dickinson said, “Dogs are better than human beings because they know but do not tell.”   And Dean Koontz, who includes dogs in his life and most of his novels, said, “Once  you have had a wonderful dog, a life without one is a life diminished.”

In my July 22 post of Friday Favorites, I included this line from Max Ehrmann’s 1927 book, DESIDERATA: “With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.” As it turns out, DESIDERATA has a recent edition called DESIDERATA FOR DOG LOVERS: A Guide to Life and Happiness.   If you’re a cat or horse person, there are books for you, too.               The Desiderata for Dog Lovers

Our family has been blessed by rescue dogs. Our beloved Maggie has been gone more than a year, but she continues to touch our minds and hearts, just as she did for 13 years.   Our puppy Scout from the Humane Society has warmed our hearts, made us laugh and sigh, kept us on our toes, and taught us patience.   My parents’ beloved Fritz came from the shelter, and our daughter’s family’s amazing German shepherd was given to them by a soldier who was being deployed and needed a perfect home for Duchess.

August is a special month to help animals in need, and August 26 is National Dog Day.  You can help dogs on this day, but you can also help cats, horses, birds, etc., by donating food, money, supplies or time to your local shelter or Humane Shelter.   When you drop off canned goods to your local mission or food pantry, remember that many homeless and elderly people also have dogs they love and need help to feed and care for them, so include cans of food or supplies for them, too.

The famous advice columnist, Ann Landers, wrote “Don’t accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful.”   But in my opinion, if you do something that will help an animal in need, you absolutely will be wonderful.

The Desiderata for Cat Lovers

The Desid for Horse Lovers


Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, Different kinds of homes, friends, importance of doing good things, lessons about life, making a difference

Right, Left…or Mirror?

Basic cursive writing worksheet


August 13 is Left Handers’ Day, a time for South Paws to celebrate their talents.  Left-handedness is more common in twins than in singles, and overall left-handed people are also usually more physically balanced.  Although lefties were once believed to be cursed and have direct links to evil, now it’s obvious that they have an advantage in sports like basketball, tennis, fencing and boxing.

Studies have also shown that even temporary “practice” activities that make lefties use their right hands and righties use their left hands is a good challenge and also encourages creativity and clearer thinking.  For a real challenge, also try “Mirror Writing,” which is reversed writing that resembles ordinary writing reflected in a mirror.   Emergency vehicles like ambulances often have their identification also written in mirror writing so drivers can look in their rear-view mirrors and read it clearly.

Ambulance in mirror writing

In the movie (and the book) THE SHINING, Danny writes REDRUM, which is murder in mirror writing, and in MEMENTO “facts” are tattooed on Leonard’s chest so he can read them in reflection.   Episodes of “The Simpsons” and “Scooby-Doo” have used it, too.

I was printing words and coloring ambidextrously when I started first grade.  The teacher hit my hand with a ruler and said I had to choose which hand I would use…and my choice had to be right-handed because the world was set up for right-handed use.  (This teacher retired at the end of that year.)

So at school I became only right handed, and it seemed to be working out fine…until at home and on the sly I began mirror writing.  I’m still grateful that my mom did not make a big deal of this or tell me I had to stop. Instead, she got me chalk to write in mirror writing on the sidewalk, and she also asked me to write stories in mirror writing so she could learn to read it.   After awhile I decided I was happy using it as a game and I went on to other things.

August 16 is National Tell A Joke Day.   I’m including this special day because of the comments made on last week’s blog post about the time I took my mother to her senior exercise class where the favorite activity was doing the Hokey Pokey.

UK blogger Jenny Pellet wrote that “Here we call it ‘Hokey Cokey,’” which still has me smiling.  And Colorado writer Nancy Parker Brummett shared this: “When the inventor of the Hokey Pokey died, they had trouble getting him in the coffin. They put his right foot in but then his left foot came out!”  She had me taking this seriously until the final line of the joke!  Thank you, Jenny and Nancy, for sharing these with us. On August 16 we should all tell a joke to make others laugh. The world definitely needs more good laughter.

try your hand at mirror writing


Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, just doing the best we can, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, making a difference, Special days in July and August, special quotations, writing, writing exercises