Category Archives: lessons for great-grandchildren

IN MEMORIAM

1920 ~ Mary "Ibbeth" and her doll baby.

Mary “Ibbeth” and her doll baby.

 

MARY  ELIZABETH  SHEPHERD

July 12, 1918 ~ December 22, 2016

 

A woman whose faith sustained her, whose love and kindness sustained others, and whose devotion to children everywhere made a difference in generation after generation.

1949 ~ Ray and Mary and their family, daughter Marylin and son David

Mary and Ray with their family, daughter Marylin and son David

1978 ~ Mary holding Marylin's daughter Molly and David's son Andrew- grandson Nic born later)

Mary holding Marylin’s daughter Molly and David’s son Andrew (grandson Nic was born three years later)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ray and Mary holding their first great-grandchild, Grace

Ray and Mary holding their first great-grandchild, Grace (soon followed by her brother)

Mary with their two great-grandchildren, Grace and Gannon

Mary with their two great-grandchildren, Grace and Gannon

 

 

 

 

 

"Be near me when my light is low."  ~ from Alfred, Lord Tennyson's "In Memoriam" by

“Be near me when my light is low.” ~ from Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s “In Memoriam”

In loving memory of a life well lived.

 

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Filed under "Christmas Memories With Mom", Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons for great-grandchildren, making a difference, Spiritual connections, Things to be thankful for

HUNTING FOR A MERRY CHRISTMAS

birdhouse

 

melting-snowmanmg_2578

one-red-glove

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twenty years ago, when she was a 17-year-old student, Anna taught everyone in my high school Writing To Publish class two valuable lessons.

I had assigned this warm-up activity: Write about a dark moment in your life that became one of your happiest memories. Most of the students sat and thought, doodled for a while and then begrudgingly began.   Anna (not her real name) went to a corner, sat on the floor, opened her notebook and began writing.

She wrote about the previous Christmas.  Their mother had left, their father’s hours had been cut back, the furnace had gone out and had to be fixed, and money was worse than just tight.   Dad and the three kids had to somehow make the best of what little they had.

They drew names from a jar.  Each person had $2.00 to spend on the best gift they could find, and wrap the present in the funny pages from the newspaper.   On Christmas morning, after eating French toast, sausage and juice—with popcorn for a treat–they made a game of opening the presents.

For Anna’s scavenger hunt, she’d helped her younger siblings get started with this example. Each person would give their gift recipient a clue, like “Go to the place where lint collects.” (The dryer.)   There in the lint trap would be the next clue, and so on, until finally the last clue led to the gift.   The hunt for presents took them all over the house and even outside.

It was the best Christmas ever, Anna wrote,  filled with laughter, adventures, and hugs. With only $2.00 to spend, each one had searched for a thoughtful, special gift: a mystery for Dad at the used book store;  a new spiral notebook for Anna’s writing dreams;  a package of plastic soldiers from the dollar store;  Superhero pencils and an eraser.

The class applauded after Anna read aloud her article, and after class I suggested she submit it for publication.  To make a long story short, Anna worked hard, followed all the requirements, rewrote, and finally submitted “The Best Worst Christmas Ever” to Woman’s World Magazine.  They bought it for $100!

Anna had answered the looming sad holiday with hope and laughter.   She also followed through by fine-tuning her article and taking a risk when she submitted it to a magazine.  And if Woman’s World had rejected it, she was prepared with another magazine address, plus a third one to try. Her darkest moment, she said, had been when she realized her family had only $20 to spend on Christmas:  $8 on gifts for four people, and $12 for a special breakfast. In comparison to that, she said, a rejection slip from a magazine didn’t scare her at all.

Before her dementia, my mother loved this story.   She shared it with friends who felt sad or discouraged about the holidays.  She challenged a writer friend not to quit after a rejection, but to Try, Try Again.   Mom lent her friend the Writer’s Market to search another place to submit her story, but first she had to find the book by following the clues of a scavenger hunt.

poinsettias

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HAPTIC MEMORIES

"Move the pen, Charlie Brown, or the knitting needles and paint brush. It's good for you! Just do it!"

“Move the pen, Charlie Brown, or the knitting needles or paint brush. It’s good for you! Just do it!”

One of my favorite gifts to give to special friends for Congratulations, Thinking of You, and Get Well Soon is a colorful hand-knitted washcloth wrapped around a bar of fancy bath soap and tied with ribbon.  It’s a relaxing, TV-watching activity for me, but it took awhile to locate the directions.

Years before my mother’s dementia, she learned the pattern for these washcloths, and she delivered the colorful, much appreciated gifts with homemade soap to many friends and hospital patients.   So six years ago when I wanted to knit my own, I expected that Mom would show me how.

“But I never knitted anything,” she said, obviously confused and forgetful of the many scarves and baby blankets she’d made.  She was adamant.  So I sat in the chair next to her recliner, took out my knitting needles and yarns and began making a basic washcloth of horizontal lines of stitches… practical but not unusual or especially attractive.  I put another set of needles and a ball of yarn next to my mother without saying anything.

cloths-and-soaps

It didn’t take long before she picked up the needles and—while still watching the TV—she cast on yarn and began knitting.  Soon I recognized the diagonal increase on each row, then decreases that for years she’d used to create lacy borders on all four sides.  I unraveled my straight horizontal rows and started over.  Mom took a nap, and when she awoke she commented on the pretty piece I was knitting, and asked where I’d learned it.

closeup-on-cloth-on-needles

Haptic memory retrieval occurs through smell, sound, and touch, but most especially touch.  Repetitive physical, tactile activities buried by Alzheimer’s, dementia or stroke damage can be nudged alive via Haptic memory retrieval.  Playing musical instruments, braiding hair, tying shoe laces, digging in soil to plant seeds, drawing and painting are among helpful Haptic activites.

There is one Haptic example that is humorous but not recommended.   In 1901, modern toilet paper began when a Green Bay, Wisconsin company marketed “sanitary tissue.” However, during the manufacturing process, wood chips remained embedded in the toilet paper, which was not a good thing. It was years before another process made “splinter-free” toilet paper.  Needless to say, we’re grateful this is not used as Haptic memory retrieval.roll-of-toilet-paper

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Filed under art projects, Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, just doing the best we can, lessons for great-grandchildren, Things to be thankful for

WHAT RHYMES WITH ORANGE?

leaves-on-tree-bark

 

3-halloween-pumpkins

happy-fall-cookie

Before my mother’s dementia, she wrote poetry.   She kept a notebook and pen in her purse so she was always prepared to jot down new lines for poems no matter where she was.

She once told me that when she taught kindergarten, the introduction to poetry curriculum for five-year-olds said the teacher should point to a color and say, “What words rhyme with red?”   (Then blue, green, yellow, brown, black, etc.)   “But never point to the color orange,” the instructions warned. “It will only confuse them because no word rhymes with orange.”

Molly and I went to visit my mom/her grandma last weekend.   We fed her bites of favorite food, told her family stories, sang along to Mom’s favorite children’s songs on Molly’s iPhone, and read poetry to her.   Here, in tribute to Mom’s kindergarten poetry advice many years ago, is a poem by author Mary O’Neill that describes the color orange…without trying to find a word that rhymes with it.

WHAT IS ORANGE?   By Mary O’Neill   ~   Orange is a tiger lily, A carrot,   A feather from a parrot.   A flame,   The wildest color   You can name.   Orange is a happy day, Saying good-bye    In a sunset that   That shocks the sky.   Orange is brave   Orange is bold     It’s bittersweet   And marigold      Orange is zip   Orange is dash   The brightest stripe   In a Roman sash.    Orange is an orange, Also a mango.    Orange is music of the tango.   Orange is the fur   Of the fiery fox,   It’s The brightest crayon   In the box.    And in the fall, When the leaves are turning,   Orange is the smell   Of a bonfire burning…

THIS HALLOWEEN, and every day, STOP AND ENJOY THE ORANGE!

hay-bale-halloween

cupcakes

 

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Filed under art, autumn lessons, Dementia/Alzheimer's, kindergarten lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, Mary Shepherd's poetry, teaching

ONE FOOT OVER THE LINE

briston-vatennesse

 

 

 

better-geico-pic

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.

turn-back-now

 

 

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

MONEY TALKS…AND SO DO PICTURES

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 did.dad-and-fritz

maggie

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.

puppy-scout-from-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.)

 

 

 

scout-and-squeak

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.

 

kodi-and-scout

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.

 

 

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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

HIS OWN ZIP CODE

Smokey The Bear prepares for lift off at the 2016 Labor Day Hot Air Balloon festival in Colorado Springs.

(Smokey The Bear prepares for lift off at the 2016 Labor Day Hot Air Balloon festival in Colorado Springs.)

(The original Smokey Bear cub, healing after being rescued from the NM fire.)

(The original Smokey Bear cub, healing after being rescued from the NM fire.)

In 1950, after crews battled a forest fire in New Mexico, they also rescued a lost bear cub clinging to a charred tree.  He had been seriously burned but was fighting to survive.  During his months of recovery, the cub—appropriately named Smokey Bear—received numerous gifts, especially honey.   During the years that followed, he also received so many letters and cards that the post office gave him his own zip code.  His image became the logo for fire prevention, and when he died in 1976, the message of Smokey the Bear lived on.

In recent years, many thousands of acres have been destroyed, numerous homes and businesses burnt to the ground, and lives lost in forest fires in Colorado, New Mexico, California, Wyoming, Idaho and Oregon.   Smokey’s message is “Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires,” and authorities estimate that nearly 2/3 could be prevented by humans.

Smokey’s fire safety reminders also extend to home cooking.   In America, 16% of home fire deaths and 40% of serious injuries to humans and pets are a result of cooking accidents and carelessness.

Years ago, while my mother was boiling chicken to make dumplings for a church dinner, she was called out to help a neighbor.   If you have ever experienced the horrible smoke damage and blackened ceilings caused by burned chicken, then you understand why I offer this public service reminder on her behalf.

As Smokey might also say, “Only You Can Prevent Kitchen Fires.”   If you have family or friends who have memory loss or mental confusion, remember that kitchen fires are a very real danger. Take action to protect them.   only-you-can-prevent-forest-fires

(When you volunteer for the National Park Service, you meet the nicest people...and sometimes bears, too.)

(When you volunteer for the National Park Service, you meet the nicest people…and sometimes bears, too.)

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Filed under Cooking With Mom, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons for great-grandchildren, special quotations

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

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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

And The Winner Is: ALICE

 

1996 - Molly at her high school graduation with her grandparents.

1996 – Molly at her high school graduation with her grandparents.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The nominees are:

ALICE IN WONDERLAND ~ by Lewis Carroll

STILL ALICE ~ by Lisa Genova

WHAT ALICE FORGOT ~ by Liane Moriarty

PUTTING ALICE BACK TOGETHER ~ by Carol Marinelli

ALICE DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE ~ starring Ellen Burstyn

ALICE WARNER ~ starring in No More Spitting

And the winner is (drum roll please): ALICE WARNER ~ affectionately known as Oma, mother of two, grandmother of four, great-grandmother of ten

For her starring role as mother of Jim Warner, the precocious, adorable 5-year-old boy she caught spitting. How did she respond? She seated him on the sofa, gave him a big bowl and said. “Fill it.”   He spit and spit and spit, until his mouth was dry, and there was only about a tablespoon of spit in the bottom of the bowl.

He had to sit for a while longer and keep trying to spit. Did it break him of spitting? You betcha!

Here’s to my mother-in-law, whose son grew up to be the best husband, father, grandfather, father-in-law, son-in-law, teacher, coach and overall wonderful man who to this day is a confirmed non-spitter.

1993 ~ Oma, her son Jim and granddaughter Molly

1993 ~ Oma, her son Jim and granddaughter Molly

You’ve been gone a dozen years, Oma, but we still miss you. If you were here and my mother wasn’t deep in dementia, the two of you would sit together, have a glass of iced tea, and enjoy all the antics—and the love—of your combined families.

1992, Oma holding great-granddaughter Shelbey

1992, Oma holding great-granddaughter Shelbey

Jim teaching Oma to use a computer, 1988

Jim teaching Oma to use a computer, 1988

 

 

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Filed under celebrations, Dementia/Alzheimer's, friends, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren

THE WONDERS OF A #2 PENCIL

December, 1917, Uncle Sam eats Cream of Wheat ~ picture by Grace Shipley

Uncle Sam eats Cream of Wheat ~ picture drawn by Grace Shipley for the contest

 

 

 

Grace, 1917

 

In December of 1917, Grace Shipley opened her art book of 10×12” drawing paper and sharpened her pencil with a pocket knife. She took out a special gum eraser she kept in the pencil box because when she corrected mistakes she didn’t want smudges.

Grace had learned of a Cream of Wheat contest for art entries that would inspire frugal good eating during WWI. According to her sister Myrtle, all their brown paper sacks become practice scraps as Grace sketched one idea after another, smiling and humming as she put pencil to paper before breakfast, in between chores, and until she went to bed at night.

She titled her picture “Preparedness,” and it was one of the winners. The prize was a year’s supply of Cream of Wheat, though no one remembers now exactly how many boxes that was. Grace was featured in the local newspaper, followed by congratulation notes from friends and strangers, and she was a guest at a women’s art luncheon. As the story goes, she used the back of her program to doodle a drawing of the speaker’s fancy hat.

What is it about putting pencil to paper, crayons to coloring books, or chalk to sidewalks that helps us hum, smile, and live outside ourselves? I never knew my grandmother, Grace Shipley Shepherd, who died of meningitis when my father was very young, but I know from others—and I’ve often felt it myself—that putting pencil to paper, to draw or to write, is a gift for and from the heart.

mind's eye & pencil

Canadian artist Robert Genn wrote that “A drawing a day keeps the cobwebs away.”   Just for fun, and to clarify your thinking and sharpen hand-eye coordination, try this exercise in “blind contour drawing.”

Place the point of your pencil on a blank paper. Look intently at some simple object beyond the paper, and without once lifting your pencil or looking down at your work, re-create the image. This will help you stay focused on the present moment, and while you discipline yourself to ignore your progress, you will also learn to release expectations . Mindfulness groups refer to this as “Zen drawing.”

Enjoy this activity.  Shake your head and loosen the cobwebs. Use a crayon or a marker if it will make you feel more like a playful child. And it’s okay if you smile and hum as you draw.

Grace (right, age 6) with her sisters.

Grace (right, age 6) with her sisters.

 

Grace's great-great-granddaughter at age 6, learning to play softball.  But she loves to draw, too.

Grace’s great-great-granddaughter, Grace Elizabeth, age 6, learning to play softball. But she loves to draw, too.

 

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Filed under art, art projects, Contest winners, Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, lessons for great-grandchildren, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, special quotations