Category Archives: life questions

For The Young, The Old, and Everyone In Between

imagine

 

 

 

Ten years ago, her great-grandchildren enjoyed the music of the words she read aloud to them.

Ten years ago, her great-grandchildren enjoyed the music of the words she read aloud to them.

Reading aloud to a dog is good for both the reader and the pet.

Reading aloud to a dog is good for both the reader and the pet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the time I was very young, I remember my mother reading aloud poems, stories and interesting quotes that invited my comments.   There was something strong, warm and sweet in the sound of her voice, and the words set me on a path of loving tall tales and short stories.   She varied the readings she chose, nudging me to evaluate for myself what rang true and what did not.

She also read aloud to her grandchildren, and in the years before her dementia she read aloud to her great-grandchildren, too.  She shared with them  the music of words, the taste, touch, scent and sound of words.   She gave them a wonderful gift.

Now, coming full circle,  I read aloud to my mother.   At 98, dementia has caught and held her  in confusing earlier times, but she still responds to the music of words read aloud with love and enthusiasm.    Our daughter and grandchildren sometimes travel with me to visit my mother, and they read aloud to her with the gentle voices, affection and humor they learned from her.   These visits are our turn to give her the gift of words.

Tuesday, November 8th, is YOUNG READERS DAY.   It encourages reading to those who cannot yet read,   and  listening appreciatively to young readers and beginning readers when they read aloud to us.   Sharing the music of words is a genuine gift for both the readers and the listeners.   I encourage you to make the most of this opportunity.  You’ll be glad you did.

I was thrilled when my story, "First Child, Second Place" was one of the 2016 BLR prize winners and published in this issue of BELLEVUE LITERARY REVIEW, where science and literature meet. (A note: the cover is of children singing and learning; the stories and poems in the journal may be about children, but they are adult stories.)

I was thrilled when my story, “First Child, Second Place” was one of the 2016 BELLEVUE  LITERARY REVIEW prize winners and published in this issue of BLR, where medicine and literature meet. (A note: the cover is of children singing with the nurses and helpers; the stories and poems in the journal may be about children, but they are adult stories.)

from "Somebody" an anonymous poem in this book:  "Somebody loves you deep and true.  If I weren't so bashful, I'd tell you who."   ;)

from “Somebody” an anonymous poem in this book: “Somebody loves you deep and true. If I weren’t so bashful, I’d tell you who.” 😉   Read a children’s poem and smile!

 

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Filed under Books and book titles, Dementia/Alzheimer's, importance of doing good things, lessons about life, life questions, making a difference

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

THE BEST MEDICINE

procrastinators-meeting

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.)

knox-and-baby-he-saved

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.

clinton-and-trump-%22duet%22

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.

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

DOUBLE LIVING

seasons-of-my-self-book

 

 

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?

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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

IT HAS TO MAKE SENSE

 

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: http://intergenerationmonth.org/enter-the-contest/   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. http://www.kwls.org/awards/emerging-writer-awards/ Electronic submission deadline 9/12/2016 Top awards $500   US writers

SUNDAY TIMES EFG SHORT STORY AWARD, sponsored by Society of Authors. Guidelines at http://shortstoryaward.co.uk/   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 www.realsimple.com/lifelessonscontest      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

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

What’s Your Title?

books for writing

 

FDR in wheelchair

 

Van Gogh's chair

One of the “thinking activities” I used before my mother’s dementia worsened was to take her out for a ride in the sunshine and play the TITLE GAME.  We’d choose objects or something we saw along the way—as an example here, I’m using pictures of chairs—and we’d take turns creating a title for a poem or story that might be written about it.

For instance, the picture above of FDR in a wheelchair might inspire a title for a children’s story, while the picture of Van Gogh’s chair might end up with a title about the person who had sat there posing for a painting.  If Mom was reluctant, I would ask questions like  “But what if–?” and soon she was laughing and creating all kinds of titles…to earn her the prize of an ice cream cone at the Dairy Queen. (Bribery was an honorable technique if it inspired her  to participate.)

I once read a journaling prompt about the importance of “thinking in titles” as an exercise in discovering what you really think or feel about something.   Supposedly, if you keep a diary or a journal, when you write a TITLE  about that day’s entry before you begin writing, it will direct the details and give the entry a focus and insight you might otherwise overlook.

Think about books that began with one title but after revisions and rethinking, the final copy ended up with a very different title.  For instance, Jacqueline Susann’s book THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS began as THEY DON’T BUILD STATUES TO BUSINESSMEN.   John Steinbeck’s OF MICE AND MEN was first titled SOMETHING THAT HAPPENED.   1984 by George Orwell was originally titled THE LAST MAN IN EUROPE, and William Faulkner’s THE SOUND AND THE FURY began as TWILIGHT (and it didn’t even have vampires and werewolves).

Imagine you have one minute to create a title for a book or story about your life, or a novel about the year something unusual or life-changing happened. One minute is all it takes, and you’ll win a Dairy Queen ice cream cone…or something you really want. What would your title be?

chair tee-shirt simplify

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Filed under art, Books and book titles, Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, just doing the best we can, lessons about life, life questions, making a difference, writing exercises

FOOD FLIP

MBerry container

 

 

 

All pictures by Marylin Warner

All pictures by Marylin Warner

 

She arranges twelve plates on the table, all kinds of fruits, fresh and dried vegetables, flavored popcorn, and a plate of dark chocolate. There are six writers at the table, and they each take one bite of each food.

Then Mary gives each person a pink tablet, a single MBerry, the “Miracle Fruit Tablet,” that takes a few minutes to dissolve on the tongue. For a man’s perspective, my husband Jim has been invited to participate in this Wednesday’s writing group—or at least the food experiment—and we’re all fascinated with each step.

The tastes of the foods after the MBerry tablets dissolve are staggeringly altered. The tart limes and sour lemons are sweet; the dark chocolate is an entirely new flavor; some of the tastes are deliciously unrecognizable, and so on. Numerous adjectives are applied to each food.

food and tablets

 

 

Mary Zalmanek, one of my Wednesday writers, regular contributor to both RV and MOTOR HOME magazines, and author of THE ART OF THE SPARK, has furnished an amazing experience…and writing prompt.  She says that MBerries are more than just a fun game. They can be great diet foods, giving fresh fruits or veggies the tastes of exotic desserts, and that inspires others come up with more delicious possibilities, too.

For me, this fun experiment that has us all laughing is also a sobering reality check. It gives me a first-hand sample of what my mother, and my dad, before he died of Alzheimer’s—and other dementia and Alzheimer’s patients—struggle with at meals. They can no longer recognize formerly familiar foods; the tastes and smells confuse them, and this often diminishes their appetites. They lose another interest and another memory.

Tomorrow, July 2, is I FORGOT DAY. It’s a day of awareness: what do we want to remember; what would we like to forget? If we have a bad day on Tuesday, or any day, we can choose to either remember it or forget it.

Choose is the key word here. Those who suffer with memory loss, head injuries, dementia or Alzheimer’s, do not get to choose.

For the rest of us, tomorrow–or the day after, or any day–is a good day to do what we can to help them: listen and appreciate their efforts, share stories we know about them and their interests, or take them out for a walk or a ride in their wheelchair—crossing the threshold of their confinement—to see, hear, touch, smell the places they’ve forgotten since their last outing. It’s worth a try.

Art Linkletter was right; old age is not or sissies. And neither is Alzheimer's or dementia.

Art Linkletter was right; old age is not for sissies. And neither is Alzheimer’s or dementia.

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, just doing the best we can, lessons about life, life questions, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, recipes, writing