Category Archives: making a difference

GET IT IN WRITING

Charlie Brown, of PEANUTS fame.  (book picture from Wikipedia; all other pictures by Marylin Warner)

Charlie Brown, of PEANUTS fame. (book picture from Wikipedia; all other pictures by Marylin Warner)

Stamps make mailed cards and letters extra special and come in an amazing assortment of choices.

Stamps make mailed cards and letters extra special and come in an amazing assortment of choices.

 

 

 

Charlie Brown was the star character of the popular comic strip by Charles Schultz, PEANUTS, which began in 1950. Charlie Brown’s wishful thinking about being noticed by the little red-haired girl began a theme of love disappointments that lasted for more than five decades.   This is one of his most often quoted cartoon lines: “There must be millions of people all over the world who never get any love letters…I could be their leader.”

Charlie Brown didn’t want a phone call, a signature-only Valentine card, an email, a text or a twitter; he wanted a letter. Actor Keanu Reeves said this about a letter’s importance. “Letters are something from you. It’s a different kind of intention than writing an e-mail.”

Letters can be saved, to be read again and again. Greeting cards that arrive in the mail—especially with personal messages written inside—can be displayed on a bedside table or a shelf, reminders that someone, some-where still thinks of you and cares enough to stay in touch. Visit a nursing home, an assisted living, a hospital room or the home of an invalid to see how treasured the cards and letters are by those who receive them.

Valentine’s Day is still more than a week away. Plenty of time to buy a Valentine card, a greeting card of any kind, or even just write, type or print a letter to someone. One of my favorite quotes about happiness (attributed to numerous writers, including Joseph Addison) is this: “The grand essentials of happiness in this life are something to do, someone to love, and something to look forward to.”

For lonely, ill, or older neighbors, family and friends, or those who are getting forgetful or suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia, I would change the last grand essential to this: “…a grand essential of happiness is something that shows I’m remembered.”

To be remembered is a treasured gift.

She wrote this message in chalk to her Grandpa.

Grace wrote this message in chalk to her Grandpa.

 

Greeting cards can be much appreciated, too, if there's a personal message written inside.

Greeting cards are appreciated, too, if there’s a personal message written inside.

Years ago, when Grace was learning to write cursive, she wrote this for my mom.  Mor-Mor-Mor means mother's mother's mother in Swedish.

Years ago, when Grace was learning to write cursive, she wrote this for my mom. Mor-Mor-Mor means mother’s mother’s mother in Swedish.

Before Gannon could write, he "practiced" with chalk on the fence.

Before Gannon could write, he “practiced” with chalk on the fence.

26 Comments

Filed under art, Different kinds of homes, friends, importance of doing good things, just doing the best we can, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, making a difference, Special days in February, special quotations

Contagious Creativity

S is for sustainability.  Get the details below.

S is for sustainability. Get the details below.

 

 

knowledge is power

In 1983, long before my mother’s dementia, she and I attended a writing conference at Avila College in Kansas City. At the luncheon, when a trophy was given for the best contest story written by an unpublished writer, one of the women at our table had to go up and accept it on behalf of the writer. The actual winner—a mother with several young children—paid the entry fee to enter her story and receive a critique, but she hadn’t been able to afford the cost of the conference and luncheon, plus child care and transportation, so she wasn’t present to receive her own hard-won prize.

Mom and I, as well as many women writers around us, felt strongly that the priorities were way off base. Instead of giving trophies that would gather dust on a bookshelf, wouldn’t it be more helpful to offer scholarships for mothers who needed financial help to reach their writing goals?

Oh, how I wish the heavy curtain of dementia would lift so Mom could see the assistance becoming available for mothers who are also writers and artists. And she’d be thrilled that it’s open to women everywhere.

The SUSTAINABLE ARTS FOUNDATION offers up to five awards of $6,000 each, and up to five Promise Awards of $2,000 each for writers and artists who have at least one child under the age of 18.   Winners may use the funds for materials, conferences, equipment, classes, daycare assistance, or for anything that will aid them in reaching their creative goals.

Writers apply in fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, long form journalism, picture books, graphic novels, or playwriting. Visual artists apply in painting, sculpture, drawing/illustration, printmaking, mixed media, or photography. Both groups submit a brief biography, an artist statement, a curriculum vita, and a $15 entry fee by February 26.

Go to this website for the required entry form and complete guidelines: www.sustainableartsfoundation.org

Please share this opportunity with friends, family, deserving neighbors, and the waitress who has been penning short stories or painting murals during her breaks and while her children are in school. Encourage creative hopefuls.

Albert Einstein said,“Creativity is contagious. Pass it on.”

Norman Rockwell knew kids need a lot of supervision...writers know that kids' antics also make good stories.

Norman Rockwell knew kids need a lot of supervision; writers know that kids’ antics sometimes make really good stories, if you’re not too tired to write the stories.

Mom was VERY young when she learned that babies take a lot of time from writing...and learning to write.

Mom was VERY young when she learned that babies take a lot of time away from writing…and learning to write.

65 Comments

Filed under art projects, Dementia/Alzheimer's, just doing the best we can, making a difference, paying writing opportunities, writing, writing contest with cash prizes

SADDLE UP

Not all cowboys look like Tom Selleck.

Not all cowboys look like Tom Selleck.

 

Some of the best Cowboys aren't "boys" at all.

Some of the best Cowboys aren’t “boys” at all!

And not all the work is done on horseback.

And not all the work is done on horseback.

 

And the mama cow still does a lot of the work.

But one thing stays the same: the mama cow still does a lot of the work.

 

My mom was an excellent cook, but Sundays were extra special. She made a roast surrounded by vegetables or baked chicken with all the trimmings, and she always made plenty of food and extra biscuits in case someone came home with us to share a family meal after church.  Those were delicious main meals, rich with what my parents called the best food, family and fellowship, but as much as I enjoyed those Sunday dinners, my favorite “meal” was always that evening.

Sunday night was family time for us.  Mom sliced apples and popped a huge bowl of popcorn.   That was our evening meal as we watched Bonanza, Gunsmoke, The Lone Ranger, or some similar program.   It was many years later before I realized that all the cowboy shows from that period contained lessons of THE CODE OF THE WEST.

In the spirit of New Year’s Resolutions, One-Word Personal Themes, and general plans for being more aware and doing better, I’m adding The Code of the West to the mix:

1) Live each day with courage.     2) Take pride in your work.     3) Always finish what you start.   4) Do what has to be done.   5) Be tough but fair.   6) When you make a promise, keep it.   7) Ride for the brand.   8) Talk less and say more.   9) Remember that some things aren’t for sale.   10) Know where to draw the line.

If you don’t have a resolution or a theme word—or even if you do—which of the ten code lessons would you choose?   Slice an apple, eat a bowl of popcorn, and give it some thought.

Whichever lesson you choose from the Code of the West, to make it work, remember YAGOTTAWANNA

Whichever lesson you choose from the Code of the West, to make it work, remember          YAGOTTAWANNA

 

61 Comments

Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, importance of doing good things, just doing the best we can, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, making a difference, recipes, special quotations

Donated Inspiration

It's no longer a war theme, but a challenge to choose a single word.

It’s no longer a war theme, but a challenge to choose a single word.

Winter can be hard on us all. What can we choose to get us going...and stay focused?

Winter can be cold, barren. What word will get us going…and keep us focused?  (picture by Marylin Warner)

 

 

Television talk shows have been giving attention to the topic of how single word themes are replacing lists of New Year’s Resolutions. Motivational specialists seemed to agree this is a wise move, selecting a single word to give your thoughts and actions focus throughout the year.

One program asked viewers to Tweet their single word themes. By the end of the segment, these were some of the words scrolling across the bottom of the screen: unafraid, release, balance, achieve, persevere, observe, win, play, simplify, learn. The word that came to my mind was very different.

For several years, I volunteered at the local Women’s Thrift House on the third Saturday of each month. I was often amazed—and sometimes saddened—by the handmade items and gifts that were dropped off as donations. Knitted scarves and gloves, pottery bowls and pitchers, crocheted baby blankets and booties. Some were donated in their gift boxes, and a few still had sweet cards written to the recipients by the senders.

One Saturday eight years ago, I couldn’t stop thinking about one of the handmade items, so at the end of the day I purchased it. The one-word hand-stitched message was matted and framed, and it was like a reminder tapping me on the shoulder: YAGOTTAWANNA

I took the 5”x7” framed message with me to show my mom on the next visit, and I remember she studied it a moment to figure it out. Then she laughed and said, “I think this message was made for you, Marylin. No matter what, when you really, really want to do something, you find a way to do it.”

That was then, and now my one word for 2016 is YAGOTTAWANNA, a reminder that if there’s something I need to do, want to do, hope to do…my first step is to grasp the reason WHY I really, really want to do it. The Why will guide me to the HOW…and the commitment to get it done.

I have three supporters in my corner. The first is Confucius: “It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” Abraham Lincoln is the second: “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than anything else.”

Third, and best of all, is my mom, who believed this message was made for me as a reminder that there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do if I really, really wanted to do it.

Yagottawanna

 

82 Comments

Filed under art projects, Dementia/Alzheimer's, importance of doing good things, just doing the best we can, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, special quotations, writing, writing exercises

This Comes Without Ribbons

The Christmas tree in Mom's asst. living apartment, with family pictures scattered among the decorations.  Even Scout's is included.

(The Christmas tree in Mom’s asst. living apartment, with family pictures scattered among the decorations. Even Scout’s is included.)

 

 

Our tree is a Charlie Brown tree, very basic with one red ball and one Christmas Pickle ornament. It's on a table so Scout can't get it.

(Our tree is a Charlie Brown tree, very basic with one red ball and one Christmas Pickle ornament. It’s on a table so Scout can’t get it.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes or bags!… Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas…perhaps … means a little bit more!” ~Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

An eleven-year-old boy can be caught up in multiple sports, computer games, and all the statistics surrounding Fantasy Football and his favorite NFL teams. But if this boy is also sweet and thoughtful—and a treasured grandson, too—he might make a surprising offer: “Mor-Mor, I want to go with you to visit Great-Grandma.”

The drive was 200 miles each way, with errands to get things for my mother, plus silk poinsettias to put on my dad’s grave stone, but Gannon’s offer was sincere.

He was a wonderful travel companion, a masterful Word-Search player, and a blessing not just for me, but for his great-grandmother as well. My mother had not been responding for almost two days, but without hesitating Gannon pulled up a chair beside her and opened her favorite book of A LITTLE BOOK OF POEMS AND PRAYERS.   He began reading aloud to her, and when he put his hand on hers, she began to hum. He kept reading, and soon she opened her eyes, looked at him and smiled.

Being with our family is always wonderful. Even chasing after puppy Scout this Christmas has worn us all out, but it has also kept us laughing and happy, cuddling the fur ball of energy. The list of special moments goes on and on. While I will remember them all with heartfelt gratitude, I will be especially thankful for the memory of our grandson reaching out and patting his great-grandmother’s hand as he read aloud her favorite poems and prayers.

This post comes to you without ribbons and tags, but with many genuine wishes for Christmas joy.

And of course birthday cake!  Happy Birthday, Baby Jesus!

And of course birthday cake!

Scout (and her shadow) waiting at the door for more fun and mischief.

Scout (and her shadow) waiting at the door for more fun and mischief.

BOOK OF POEMS AND PRAYERS

54 Comments

Filed under "Christmas Memories With Mom", Dementia/Alzheimer's, importance of doing good things, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, spending time with kids, Spiritual connections, Things to be thankful for

The Nose Knows

My mother's nose at 23. (All photos and copies property of Marylin Warner)

My mother’s nose at 23.
(All photos and copies property of Marylin Warner)

 

Mom's nose at 93, smelling an Easter lily...and remembering how she used to take lilies to shut-ins at Easter.

Mom’s nose at 93, smelling an Easter lily…and remembering how she used to take lilies to shut-ins at Easter.

 

Recently, the research into Alzheimer’s and dementia has focused on the connection between the sense of smell and memory. This is nothing new.

Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, “Memories, imagination, old sentiments, and association are more readily reached through the sense of smell than through any other channel.”

And in the 1950s, conservationist and author Rachel Carson agreed. “For the sense of smell, almost more than any other, has the power to recall memories, and it is a pity that we use it so little.”

Six years ago, I read an article about stimulating memory by baking popular foods. To test it, I bought a roll of frozen gingerbread dough and made cookies in the oven in my mom’s kitchen in her assisted living apartment. As they baked, she awoke from her nap in her recliner. And as she enjoyed her cookies, she smiled and asked me if her mother was there. As it turned out, her mother—my grandmother, who had died many years earlier—had baked gingerbread for Mom, and the scent of the cookies had started Mom telling me some stories.

It you have a family member or a friend who struggles with Alzheimer’s or dementia, I recommend you try the power of scent to encourage their memories. Food, flowers, colognes and strong scents like lemons and vinegar are a good start, but you might be surprised how gasoline and turpentine—just a little bit on a paper towel—will also nudge awake memories, especially in men.

Do you remember the expression, “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king”?

Comedienne Chris Farley has a scent-adjustment on that: “In the land of the skunks, he who has half a nose is king.”

I’ll add this. “In the land of Alzheimer’s and dementia, favorite scents might be the best guides to help locate memories.” It’s not a joke; I hope you’ll try it.

But this is a joke, and I just couldn’t resist including Robert Byrne’s humorous rewrite of the moccasin adage: “Until you walk a mile in another man’s moccasins, you can’t imagine the smell.”    

Even my granddaughter Grace's Picasso-style portrait of me knew the importance of a nose.

Even my granddaughter Grace’s Picasso-style portrait of me knew the importance of a nose.  It just isn’t my nose… 

Eeew...what's that smell?

Eeew…what’s that smell?

 

Even when our Maggie had trouble hearing, nothing got past her sense of smell.

Even when our Maggie had trouble hearing, nothing got past her sense of smell.

54 Comments

Filed under art, Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, just doing the best we can, lessons about life, making a difference, special quotations

Button, Button…

Just a few of the choices. (All pictures by Marylin Warner)

Need a button?  Here are just a few of the choices. (All pictures by Marylin Warner)

Primitive men and women made “buttons” from bones, thorns and sinew to hold animal skins together. Greeks and Romans added metal, horns and seashells to the mix, and later used button fasteners to identify royalty and military rank. In 1620, the first Duke of Buckingham had a suit and cloak covered in diamond buttons used only as decoration.

When my grandmother finished passing down clothing from her oldest child to the youngest, before she cut the fabric into quilt-sized pieces, she saved all the buttons. My mother had a wooden box filled with hundreds of buttons of all colors and sizes. She could always find a substitute button to quickly sew onto any piece of clothing, and my first sewing lesson was practicing with buttons and scraps of fabric.  Mom used buttons for other purposes, too.

To teach children to count or learn colors, she’d spread out buttons on the table and let them find 5 yellow or 8 blue or 11 green. To keep her daughter and her friends busy on a rainy afternoon, she let them make bracelets by stringing buttons they chose from the box, or decorate plain picture frames by gluing on designs with the buttons.

Button, button, who’s got the button? Cute as a button. Button your lip. In-y or out-y belly button. Right on the button. Push someone’s button. Buttons come in all expressions as well as numerous sizes, shapes, colors…and memories. November 16 is Button Day. Founded in 1938, the National Button Society celebrates collecting, preserving, trading, displaying and honoring all kinds of buttons.

In his poem “Picture Puzzle Pieces,” Shel Silverstein reminds us to look closely, with open eyes and minds, to appreciate the possibilities of small details. He finds a picture puzzle piece on the sidewalk, soaking in the rain. It could be almost anything, including “…it might be a button of blue on the coat of the woman who lived in the shoe…”

Sometimes it’s the little, simple things that nudge our memories and touch our hearts. Never underestimate the power of a button.

1950s collector "accent" buttons: Mother-of-Pearl, pottery, wood, brass, etc.

1950s collector “accent” buttons: Mother-of-Pearl, pottery, wood, brass, etc.

 

Kids' fun buttons.

Kids’ fun buttons.

5" tall Christmas ornament.

5″ tall Christmas ornament.

 

45 Comments

Filed under art, autumn lessons, Dementia/Alzheimer's, just doing the best we can, kindergarten lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, sewing