Category Archives: lessons about life

BIG SCREEN LESSONS

Think of all the lessons to be learned from THELMA AND LOUISE.  (all photos by Marylin Warner; this was taken at a diner in El Dorado, KS.)

Think of all the lessons, good and not so good,  to be learned from THELMA AND LOUISE. (All photos by Marylin Warner; this was taken outside a diner in El Dorado, KS.)

My dad wasn’t big on going to movies, but my mom loved them. So when I was growing up, whenever he had business in Kansas City, she and I would ride along and go to a movie. Beyond the lure of buttered popcorn and sodas, we also loved to listen for special lessons in each story and compare notes afterwards.

Dad’s Alzheimer’s and now Mom’s dementia have prevented us from continuing this tradition for several decades, but I still search for favorite “lesson lines” on my own. Here are a few of my favorites.

“Do, or do not. There is no try.” ~ Yoda (STAR WARS)

“It is not our abilities that show what we truly are…it is our choices.” Dumbledore (HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS)

“After a while, you learn to ignore the names people call you and just trust who you are.”   ~ SHREK

“Our lives are defined by opportunities, even the ones we miss.” ~ THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON

“To find something, anything—a great truth or a lost pair of glasses—you must first believe there will be some advantage in finding it.” ~ ALL THE KING’S MEN

“All that is gold does not glitter. Not all who wander are lost.” ~ Bilbo Baggins, THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING

And this one is for my mom; if it weren’t for the dementia, she’d be shaking her head Yes! and applauding: “Vulgarity is no substitute for wit.” ~ from DOWNTOWN ABBEY

 

Think of all the lessons from the characters of THE WIZARD OF OZ.

Think of all the lessons from the characters of THE WIZARD OF OZ.

"Run, Forrest, Run!"   Substitute your name for Forrest, and what does this lesson teach you?

“Run, Forrest, Run!” Substitute your name for Forrest, and what does this lesson teach you?

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, just doing the best we can, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, life questions, movies, special quotations

WHAT WILL BE YOUR LEGACY?

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.  —   https://www.writingclasses.com/contest/movie-of-your-life-contest-2015  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

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Filed under celebrations, Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, importance of doing good things, lessons about life, life questions, special quotations, writing, writing exercises

You Can Sell A Book By Its Cover

still stripping - title

 

 

(Look closer; the cowboy is knitting!)

(Look closer; the cowboy is knitting!)

Yard sales often offer books for sale. This week at a community yard sale, one little paperback diet book had everyone laughing, and also had several people wanting to buy it just for the novelty of the title: NEVER EAT MORE THAN YOU CAN LIFT.

The two book covers pictured above are also interesting. If you just read the title of Eleanor Burms’ book—STILL STRIPPING AFTER 25 YEARS—your first thought might not be that the book is about knitting and crocheting with strips of fabric. And the cover of Dave Tougner’s book, THE MANLY ART OF KNITTING, speaks for itself. Both books would at least make you look twice.

In a competitive book-selling market, stunning or clever book covers and compelling, surprising, humorous or outrageous titles might be just the nudge that makes someone buy a book rather than put it back on the shelf.

Judge Judy Sheindlin, of the popular  court television program, gave her book this successful title: DON’T PEE ON MY LEG AND TELL ME IT’S RAINING: America’s Toughest Family Court Judge Speaks Out.

Many successful books have one-word titles: IT, JAWS, MIDDLESEX, DIVERGENT, FRANKENSTEIN, and DUNE are just a few examples.   And some VERY LONG titles pretty much summarize the book’s content.   Here are two of my favorites: Christina Tompson’s COME ON SHORE AND WE WILL KILL YOU AND EAT YOU ALL: A New Zealand Story, and David Rakoff’s DON’T GET TOO COMFORTABLE: THE INDIGNITIES OF COACH CLASS, THE TORMENTS OF LOW THREAD COUNT, THE NEVER-ENDING QUEST FOR ARTISANAL OLIVE OIL, AND OTHER FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS.

I love libraries, book stores and yard sales that offer books. I also love surprising and interesting titles and book covers, but what really counts in the long run for me is the quality of the content between the covers.  I love to get lost in good books.

Before the dementia, my mother loved the same things. She still likes to be read to, especially books of poems and prayers for children. But when I was growing up, she had shelves of good books, and two were her special favorites.   Jessamyn West’s EXCEPT FOR ME AND THEE, companion book to THE FRIENDLY PERSUASION, and Helen Doss’ nonfiction book, THE FAMILY NOBODY WANTED.  She bought spare copies of both books.  That way she could  always have her own copies, but still lend the books to others to enjoy, and tell them to pass the books on to others when they were finished.

Yes, you can sell a book by its cover. But it’s what’s between the covers that will make you cherish the book.

The profound, touching and wise story of a couple  in the 1950s who just wanted a child of their own, but had hearts big enough for many that no one wanted.

The profound, touching and wise story of a couple in the 1950s who just wanted a child of their own, but had hearts big enough for many that no one wanted.

A Quaker family practices what they believe with honesty, humor and charm.

A Quaker family practices what they believe with honesty, humor and charm, even during the Civil War.

 

 

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Filed under art, Books and book titles, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life

…PANTS ON FIRE!

"Eat the last cupcake?  Who, me?  Let me think..."

“Eat the last cupcake? Who, me? Let me think…”

 

 

 

HOW BIG was the one that got away?  Hmm... really?

HOW BIG was the one that got away? Hmm… really?

Okay, let’s see a show of hands. (Work with me here.) When you read the title, how many of you immediately thought of the two-word lead in? Here’s a hint: it’s not about calling the fire department, but is about the burning effects of perjury. You know: “Liar, liar…pants on fire!”

Tuesday, July 7th, is “Tell the Truth Day.” It should last longer than just one day–maybe a month or an entire year—as the purpose of this day is to live with no lies, to give up half-truths, fibs and even white lies—and in fact, to say nothing unless it is the truth, for an entire day. Hmm…next Tuesday could be interesting—and fairly quiet, too—if all the politicians running for office followed the day’s rules.

This is a day that would confuse my mom more than her usual confusions from dementia. She would approve of the concept, but I’m pretty sure she would also wonder why it’s a ONE DAY activity instead of a FULL LIFE practice. If she’d ask why July 7th is Tell The Truth Day, the only thing I could say is that at least it’s better than no day at all.

There are numerous books and movies about the techniques of lying, the successes and failures, the humorous and tragic outcomes. The movie that comes to my mind is THE INVENTION OF LYING. In a very brief summary, it’s about a world where everyone can tell only the truth, except for one man who is able to lie.

Author Stephen King said this in his book ON WRITING: “Fiction is a lie, and good fiction is the truth inside the lie.” In Tom Wolfe’s ADVICE TO WRITERS, he says “The problem with fiction is it has to be plausible. That’s not true with non-fiction.” And in ANIMAL DREAMS, author Barbara Kingsolver says this: “The truth needs so little rehearsal,” which works well with Mark Twain’s reminder that “If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.”

“Tell The Truth Day” is July 7th. If you get discouraged, remember that July 8th is SCUD Day, which means savor the comic, unplug the drama, so if you have funny stories about trying to tell the truth on Tuesday, you can share them on Wednesday. And if you survive both days, July 9th is a day to reward yourself: Sugar Cookie Day.

Forrest Gump:  "My Mama always said you've got to put the past behind you before you can move on."  In that spirit, put lying behind you and move on this Tuesday, July 7th.  (Wickipedia picture)

Forrest Gump: “My Mama always said you’ve got to put the past behind you before you can move on.” In that spirit, put lying behind you and move on this Tuesday, July 7th. (Wickipedia picture)

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Filed under celebrations, Dementia/Alzheimer's, just doing the best we can, lessons about life

A CLUB YOU DO NOT WANT TO JOIN

Molly wishes her grandmother a happy birthday.

Molly wishes her grandmother a happy birthday.

    

Molly made a birthday wall wreath of flip-flops.

Molly brightened the room by making a birthday wall wreath of flip-flops.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the Friday evening dinner, Maggie and my mom were a great team. sleeping through most of the fun.

At the Friday evening dinner, Maggie and my mom were a great team; Maggie slept through most of the fun beside Mom’s recliner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We celebrated my mother’s 97th birthday last week. It was almost a month early, but this was the only time when her children and spouses, grandchildren and great-grandchildren could all get together. Especially her youngest grandchild, who flew all the way from China for the reunion and was swamped with hugs.

It was a wonderful combination of family, food, and fun, but the early-birthday girl slept though almost all of it. She sometimes smiled at the flowers, cards, hugs and kisses, but she didn’t realize who we were or what was happening. That’s how it is with her advanced dementia—and how it was with my dad’s Alzheimer’s–but we still do the best we can to celebrate our parents’ lives and show our love.

June is ALZHEIMER’S & BRAIN AWARENESS MONTH. More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, and a similar population percentage is found in countries all over the world. Alzheimer’s is a non-exclusive club that is open to everyone, and it charges very high dues.

Here are the latest research suggestions to promote brain health and prevent or postpone Alzheimer’s. Basically, heart healthy and brain healthy guidelines are very compatible:

~ the more you eat of the richer, deeper colors of vegetables and fresh fruits (especially berries), the better; ~ limit the amount of meats and processed meats you eat; ~ do NOT smoke; ~ monitor and control your blood pressure and cholesterol; ~ walk daily and/or exercise for 30 min. 3-4 times a week; ~ participate in games, classes, and activities with others; ~ brush and floss daily, and see a dentist regularly. 1-2 cups of morning coffee each day is still a plus against Alzheimer’s, but isn’t specifically listed for heart health.

My parents lived by everything on the list above—except the coffee; they drank tea—but Dad still died of Alzheimer’s at 89, and Mom’s symptoms began when she was 91. There are certainly other variables to be identified and studied, but for overall health the suggestions above—especially eating healthy foods—are a good start.

I read this advice on a poster with a picture of a huge garden with children picking baskets of vegetables: When it comes to food and labels of ingredients, here’s the plan: If you can’t pronounce it, do not eat it.   And I think Doug Larson was both correct and funny (humor is good medicine, after all) when he wrote, “Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon.”

Here’s to fun, family, friends, and food (especially if it smells like bacon)…and doing our best to stay out of the Alzheimer’s Club.

Her great-grandchildren made a 2'x3' poster board card for her living room.

Her great-grandchildren made a 2’x3′ poster board card for her living room.

Flowers for Mom's early 97th birthday celebration.

Flowers for Mom’s early 97th birthday celebration.

Five million w: Alzheimers

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, Fort Scott Kansas, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, Special days in June, special quotations, Things to be thankful for

NON-TRADITIONAL CREATIVITY

our two anniv

 

 

Closeup of the chair feet, in Keene walking sandals and hiking boots.

Closeup of the chair feet, in Keene walking sandals and hiking boots.

Giving special gifts on specific anniversaries isn’t a new concept. It dates back to the Middle Ages, where underlying superstitions and beliefs corresponded with giving gifts to welcome good luck or ward off the bad.

When my brother once asked our dad what was the best decision he ever made, Dad said, “I married your mother.” Our parents were married for sixty-four years before his Alzheimer’s and her dementia set in, and their anniversary celebrations were usually low key and private. They enjoyed going out for dinner, usually with family, and holding hands as they read their anniversary cards and talked about favorite memories.

This summer Jim and I celebrate our 30th anniversary, and traditionally the gift for the 30th is the pearl. Our daughter—a wonderful independently creative gift maker—gave us a unique set of anniversary chairs this year. Full-heart, headless chairs.

anniversary Picasso chairs

Last year she painted Picasso-type art chairs with Picasso quotes for us.

This year’s chairs wear tee-shirts, jeans, Keene walking sandals (for me) and hiking boots (for Jim), and are stuffed with multiple pillows that make these the most comfortable, form-fitting chairs ever.

For us, it’s not expensive gifts, fancy dinners out or celebrations that make an anniversary special. It’s being with each other and the family we love dearly, seeing their smiling faces around the table, and hearing everyone share favorite memories. Like my parents, we would title these celebrations by borrowing another title: “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

Tucked among greeting card-type romantic verses, we’ve found a sentiment by writer and comedian Rita Rudner that makes us laugh. “It’s so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life.”   And a favorite toast for weddings and anniversaries is by sci-fi writer Robert Heinlein: “May you live as long as you wish and love as long as you live.”

Today our hearts are full, grateful for love, marriage, family, friends, and wonderful dads. And anniversaries with traditional pearls or non-traditional headless chairs.

 

Browning- grow old along w:meSimplify tee-shirt

 

 

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Filed under art, art projects, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, Special days in June, special quotations, Things to be thankful for

DOUBLE DOG DARE

Excuse me...double dog dare?  Really?  (Pictures by Marylin Warner)

Excuse me…double dog dare? Really?  I don’t think so.  Sounds like a dare a cat would make.   (Pictures by Marylin Warner)

JUNE: the Ancient Romans named this month after the goddess Juno, the patron of marriage—think “June bride”—and June also comes from the Latin word “juvenio” (referring to young people). Juvenile is an excellent way to see the special day of June 1st: DARE DAY.    Not D.A.R.E., the Drug Abuse Resistance Education for students, and also not the first Saturday in June when Dare County, England celebrates its Dare Day.

June 1st DARE DAY is for daring someone to do something risky.   The dare can be heightened by the “double dog dare,” and the highest degree of challenge is the “triple dog dare.”   Whatever that means. The specific rules and consequences are up for grabs, embellished for effect, but often the outcome is dangerous or out-of-character behavior. Which is a good reason why the goddess Juno was also responsible for looking after the well being of women and girls…who might be “dared” to do things they don’t want to do.

When I was growing up, one of the things that got my mother quickly involved was to hear children “dare” another child to do something.   Mom equated dares with the acts of bullies and cowards who prodded others to do something against their best interests.   I remember one day when she overrode a double dog dare by sending me to my room to sort out WHY I had thought making such a challenge was a helpful thing to do to anyone.

At its personal best, DARE DAY on June 1st can be a day to challenge yourself to take a risk, meet a goal, or make yourself do something you’ve been meaning to do but keep putting off.

Michael Jackson wrote this about taking dares: “In a world filled with hate, we must still dare to hope. In a world filled with anger, we must still dare to comfort. In a world filled with despair, we must still dare to dream. And in a world filled with distrust, we must still dare to believe.”

On June 1st, if we have no personal challenges or dares to give ourselves, we can choose one from Jackson’s list above. Or we can send ourselves to our rooms to think quietly until we create our own personal and positive dare.

Who would dare a kid to try to push over a huge boulder in the Garden of the Gods?

Who would dare a kid to try to push over a huge boulder in Colorado’s Garden of the Gods?

What if someone triple dog dares you to pierce your eyebrow?

What if someone triple dog dared you to pierce your eyebrow?

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, making a difference, Special days in June, special quotations