Category Archives: making a difference

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packages could be purchased (with real money) at all kinds of stores, and one newspaper reported that Playing House had been replaced by Playing Bank.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)

47 Comments

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.

55 Comments

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.)

76 Comments

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

LUCK BE A LADY

Crossing your fingers is one way to hope luck finds you.  (picture by Marylin Warner)

Crossing your fingers is one way to hope luck finds you. (picture by Marylin Warner)

This is how the ladies were NOT dancing, but they were still having a great time. (Picture from Classical Baby)

This is how the ladies were NOT dancing, but they were still having a great time. (Picture from Classical Baby)

Snow and ice had already postponed our travels by two days. First, we had to wait an extra day to leave Colorado.  Fortunately our house sitter was flexible.  But when we arrived in Kansas, I had to wait another day to drive the last 200 miles to visit my mother in the southeast part of the state. I was very tired by the time I arrived.

I don’t know what I expected as I got off the elevator to go to Mom’s apartment. I was pulling my suitcase and balancing a bouquet of yellow lilies with a bag of groceries, but instead of the common area being calm and quiet on a dreary afternoon, the room rang with festive singing and laughter. Two nursing aides had loaded a dance DVD on the flat screen TV, and eight or nine older ladies—probably in their late 70s through early 90s—were moving to the music. Dancing in place or stepping around furniture or just tapping feet and waving arms from a wheelchair, they were creating their own indoor sunshine on a gloomy day.

As I watched, amazed, they took a breather between songs. And then one of the aides called out, “Ladies, get ready. The next one is Luck Be A Lady Tonight’!” Everyone giggled and turned to watch the screen with their arms lifted, ready to ‘dance’ again. Regardless of the dreary weather and their ages and possible infirmities, these were ladies who were already making their own luck.

I had grown up hearing the expression “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” As I watched the gyrations to “Luck Be A Lady,” I amended that to “Luck is what happens when enthusiasm makes the most of music and movement.”

March 9 is GET OVER IT DAY. Whatever is bothering us, or if there is something we can’t change or should just let go of, maybe the best thing to do is make a decision to Get Over It, even for one day.   Or there’s an entire week—March 16-22ACT HAPPY WEEK.    A full week to “fake it until you make it,” an opportunity to act the way you would like to feel.

March 16-22 is also WELLDERLY WEEK (aka WELL-ELDERLY), a time to ‘act your age’—or the age you want to feel—and do the things that make you happy. Whatever your age, if you need a suggestion to get started, you might put on Frank Sinatra singing “Luck Be A Lady” and dance to it in your own lucky style.

P.S. My mother is too frail to do much standing, let alone any dancing, but she made her own luck by curling up under her blankets and humming along to some of the poems I read to her!

"Hurry Back"--1st Place Overall painting by Nancy Luttrell, age 67.  (I LOVE the detail on this painting!)

“Hurry Back”–1st Place Overall painting by Nancy Luttrell, age 67. (I LOVE the detail in this painting!)

"Tropical Foliage"--this year's Best of Show  in ART IS AGELESS.  Painter is Paul Johnston, age 81

“Tropical Foliage”–this year’s Best of Show in ART IS AGELESS. Painter is Paul Johnston, age 81

69 Comments

Filed under celebrations, Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, lessons about life, making a difference, Special Days in March, special quotations

SURPRISE!

A "K" out of cupcakes.  (All photographs by Marylin Warner)

A “K” out of cupcakes. (All photographs by Marylin Warner)

Lilies are a bright and happy touch, and they smell so sweet.

Lilies are a bright and happy touch to any celebration, and they smell so sweet.

Each month during the drive from Colorado to visit my mom in southeast Kansas, the first 450 miles are mostly Interstate driving. The next morning, however, when I drive the last 200 miles, by choice I take the back roads. Blue highways are my favorites. I love the open fields, rolling hills, and small Kansas towns with local diners, community centers advertising BINGO, and sometimes only one stop light on the main street.

As I drive, I listen to the radio, switching stations to hear local and national news and talk radio programs. I hear different perspectives during my drive, and last Sunday, January 25th, I learned that on this one day, I also heard a different “fact.”

On one local station, the talk radio host answered a call from a little voice who wanted to sing a song. The caller was only three years old, but she knew all the words to “Happy Birthday.” The ending she sang was “…happy birf-day dear Kan-sass, happy birf-day to you!” The host cheered, thanked her and cut to the weather report.

I switched to a multi-state radio station and heard the warm bass-baritone voice of Bing Crosby singing the last few lines of “Happy Birthday.” The popular singer/actor had died in 1977, and at the end of the song, the radio host said that Bing Crosby had recorded this song in 1961 when Kansas was only 100 years old, so it was worth playing again today, on Kansas’ 154th birthday. What a surprise…it was my home state’s birthday!

By the time I reached Fort Scott, I’d heard Kansas birthday greetings on several radio stations. So when I drove to the grocery store to pick up some of Mom’s favorite foods to tempt her appetite, I also bought her a bouquet of fresh deep-pink lilies and fancy birthday cupcakes with candles. It was Kansas’ birthday, after all, and in our family we’re always up for celebrating birthdays.

The surprise was on me. Kansas’ birthday is not the 25th of January, but the 29th. Three people at Mom’s assisted living informed me as I carried in the flowers and treats.  Later I double and triple checked the date on the internet and in a book of KANSAS HISTORY.  I was four days early in celebrating Kansas’ birthday.

Lesson #1: Don’t trust everything you hear on the radio (or on TV, either, or that you overhear.) As President Ronald Regan said: “Trust, but verify.”

Lesson #2: Never miss an opportunity to celebrate. Anything: birthdays (early or late), anniversaries, a snow day (if you want to go back to sleep), a warm and sunny day (if you want to go for a walk), holding a puppy or a baby or a letter from a friend, hearing good news of any kind…or just celebrating life in general.  Always make the most of an opportunity to celebrate, and if there is no obvious reason, create your own.

“Bleeding Kansas” had a rough start, with battles over being a Free State or a Slave State, and conflicts until the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown vs. Board of Education ended segregation in schools. The state has also had droughts,tornados, and all kinds of hard times. But look at Kansas now, 154 years old and going strong. The little girl sang it best: “Happy Birf-day, dear Kan-sass.”

Named for the "Kansa" tribe (meaning "people of the wind," Kansas was home to numerous and diverse Native American tribes.

Named for the “Kansa” tribe, meaning “people of the wind,” Kansas has been home to numerous and diverse Native American tribes.

Sign along the road between Topeka and Yates Center.

Sign along the road between Topeka and Yates Center.

Winter Kansas trees just before sunset.

Kansas tree; even in winter, it’s strong and beautiful.

54 Comments

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

THE WHEELS GO ‘ROUND AND ‘ROUND

This week has been brutal in Colorado...it's not a good time to try to ride a bike.

This week has been brutal in Colorado…it’s not a good time to try to ride a bike.

 

 

bike in snow

 

 

My first “it’s mine and nobody else’s” bike was a blue Western Flyer. No bells and whistles, and definitely no training wheels, just a great bike.   I was seven when my mom taught me to ride it. She pointed me straight ahead on the sidewalk, holding on the to back of the seat, and running along with me as I wobbled and squealed and pedaled, clutching the handle-bar grips for all I was worth. Mark Twain was right when he said, “Get a bicycle. You will not regret it…if you live.” I took a lot of tumbles and was scabs and band-aides from head to toes for a while, but soon I was riding all around the neighborhood.

The amazing thing about Mom teaching me to ride a bike was that she had never learned to ride one. She grew up on a Missouri farm where the roads were dirt and gravel. Her mother taught her to drive a car—and they ended up in a ditch before Mom became proficient—but she never learned to ride a bike.

Almost ten years ago, when my dad was still alive, Mom and I drove down to Chicken Annie’s near Pittsburg, KS to pick up to-go meals to take back for us, Dad, and his caregiver to have for dinner. As we sat outside at the picnic table waiting for our order, two older women—maybe grandmothers—stood one on each side of a young boy trying to learn to ride a bike. It was a familiar comedy of errors, with near falls and close calls for both the women and the little boy, but finally the boy took off. Mom and I cheered and clapped . For the boy, yes, but especially for his teachers. “You did that for me, Mom,” I said, and she nodded, smiled and said, “I remember.” I put my arm around her and kissed her cheek. “Thank you.”

January is National Thank You Month. Take it from one who knows, if there’s anyone in your life—a relative, friend, teacher, neighbor, anyone who’s offered you help or shown you a kindness—thank that person this month. I’m glad I thanked my mother for the bike riding lesson when I did; within a few years she would not have understood what I was saying. I remember that day, the way she smiled and nodded, and I also realized that saying Thank You is a double blessing, once for the person receiving the thanks, and once for the person expressing it.

This is also Universal Letter Writing Week. If you have an older friend, someone in the hospital or a nursing home, please write a card or letter thanking them for one specific thing they did for you. Nurses and caregivers are very responsive to reading aloud the cards and messages, and often the recipients will hold their cards and fall asleep with them.

These two activities are excellent examples of Janus looking backward and forward at the beginning of the new year. When we look back at what others have done for us and reach forward to thank them, we change our lives…and theirs.

It’s a matter of balance. Albert Einstein wrote: “Life is like riding a bicycle—in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving.” And a good example of that forward movement is gratitude.

Bike ornament on my wall.  (Pictures by Marylin Warner)

Bike ornament on my wall. (Pictures by Marylin Warner)

 

"Fat Tire #3" original sculpture in Salina, KS., by Lance Carlton Washington

“Fat Tire #3″ original sculpture in Salina, KS., by Lance Carlton Washington

Framed bicycle print with message by Flavia: "Somewhere between the earth and sky, there is a secret place we all go to dream."

Framed bicycle print with message by Flavia: “Somewhere between the earth and sky, there is a secret place we all go to dream.”

76 Comments

Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, importance of doing good things, lessons about life, making a difference, special quotations

A TWO-FACED NEW YEAR

Wikipedia's statue of Janus in the Vatican Museum

Wikipedia’s picture of a statue of Janus in the Vatican Museum

A LITTLE BOOK OF POEMS & PRAYERS by Joan Walsh Anglund

A LITTLE BOOK OF POEMS & PRAYERS by Joan Walsh Anglund

Blackeye Peas:  good luck and 100 cal, 4g fiber and 7g protein.

Blackeye Peas: good luck and 100 cal, 4g fiber and 7g protein.

So far in 2015, Colorado has been snowy and miserably cold, but January’s mythology still makes it a fascinating month.  January is named for Janus, Roman mythology’s god of beginnings and transitions, and statues of Janus are two-faced.  Not in an insincere or deceitful way, but because one face looks back at the past, and the other face looks forward to the future.  For me, looking back at the old year is important preparation for looking forward and making resolutions and plans for the new year.

My breakfast on January 1st included traditional blackeye peas. I don’t focus on the many possible interpretations of this tradition.  I actually like blackeye peas, and the idea that they might welcome a lucky new year is nice, too.

January has many unusual days and observances, and each of the pictures below represents a special day this month.

When I was with my mom in Kansas before Christmas, at night when she was tucked snugly in her bed, I read to her from Joan Walsh Anglund’s book,   A LITTLE BOOK OF POEMS AND PRAYERS  She couldn’t see the colorful little illustrations, and the individual poems and prayers received mixed reviews. If Mom didn’t like one, she said “You can quit now,” and that was her response several times. But even more frequently she would say, “Read that again.” I ended up reading the entire book twice, leaving out the rejected poems and prayers the second time.  Two stand out as read-it-again poems/prayers. They seemed to me—as maybe they were to my mother as well—excellent thoughts for the new year.

The first is an American Indian Prayer:O Great Spirit, whose voice I hear in the winds, and whose breath gives life to all the world. ~ Hear me! I am small and weak, I need your strength and wisdom. ~ Let me walk in beauty, and make my eyes ever behold the red and purple sunset. ~ Make my hands respect the things you have made, and my ears sharp to hear your voice. ~ Make me wise so that I may understand the things you have taught my people. ~ Let me learn the lessons you have hidden in every leaf and rock. ~ I seek strength, not to be greater than my brother, but to fight my greatest enemy…myself.”

The source of the second prayer is Unknown:Dear Father, hear and bless ~ Thy beasts and singing birds, ~ And guard with tenderness ~ Small things that have no words.”

This first week in January, I wish us all appreciation of the past year and hope for this new year.

January is National Hot Tea month and Oatmeal month.

January is National Hot Tea month and Oatmeal month.

Find a way to "Get A Balanced Life" this month.

Find a way to “Get A Balanced Life” this month.

Cousin Glee unplugging toilet at the Girl Cousins' Reunion.  January is also "Someday We'll Laugh About This" month.

Cousin Glee unplugging toilet at the Girl Cousins’ Reunion. January is also “Someday We’ll Laugh About This” month.

January is "Walk Your Dog" month.  (Pictures by Marylin Warner)

January is “Walk Your Dog” month. (Pictures by Marylin Warner)

83 Comments

Filed under "Christmas Memories With Mom", celebrations, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, making a difference, special quotations, Things to be thankful for