Category Archives: making a difference

Wild Dog Becomes First Friend

The Desiderata of HappinessIMG_5708

 

Scouts's closeup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of my favorite descriptions of dogs is from THE JUNGLE BOOK by Rudyard Kipling: “When the Man waked up he said, ‘What is Wild Dog doing here?’  And the Woman said, ‘His name is not Wild Dog any more, but First Friend, because he will be our friend for always and always and always.’”

Many writers in addition to Kipling have written about the wonder of dogs.   Here are three examples.  Agatha Christie wrote, “Dogs are wise. They crawl away into a quiet corner and lick their wounds and do not rejoin the world until they are whole once more.”   Emily Dickinson said, “Dogs are better than human beings because they know but do not tell.”   And Dean Koontz, who includes dogs in his life and most of his novels, said, “Once  you have had a wonderful dog, a life without one is a life diminished.”

In my July 22 post of Friday Favorites, I included this line from Max Ehrmann’s 1927 book, DESIDERATA: “With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.” As it turns out, DESIDERATA has a recent edition called DESIDERATA FOR DOG LOVERS: A Guide to Life and Happiness.   If you’re a cat or horse person, there are books for you, too.               The Desiderata for Dog Lovers

Our family has been blessed by rescue dogs. Our beloved Maggie has been gone more than a year, but she continues to touch our minds and hearts, just as she did for 13 years.   Our puppy Scout from the Humane Society has warmed our hearts, made us laugh and sigh, kept us on our toes, and taught us patience.   My parents’ beloved Fritz came from the shelter, and our daughter’s family’s amazing German shepherd was given to them by a soldier who was being deployed and needed a perfect home for Duchess.

August is a special month to help animals in need, and August 26 is National Dog Day.  You can help dogs on this day, but you can also help cats, horses, birds, etc., by donating food, money, supplies or time to your local shelter or Humane Shelter.   When you drop off canned goods to your local mission or food pantry, remember that many homeless and elderly people also have dogs they love and need help to feed and care for them, so include cans of food or supplies for them, too.

The famous advice columnist, Ann Landers, wrote “Don’t accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful.”   But in my opinion, if you do something that will help an animal in need, you absolutely will be wonderful.

The Desiderata for Cat Lovers

The Desid for Horse Lovers

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, Different kinds of homes, friends, importance of doing good things, lessons about life, making a difference

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

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

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

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

Reaping and Ripping

carrot and glove

 

 

let nature be your teacher

 

In seventh grade sewing class, there was a framed reminder on the wall above the row of sewing machines: Don’t RIP WHAT YOU SEW ~ Pay Attention to What You’re Doing

For twelve year olds making their first projects—and usually in a hurry to get them done—this was a reminder to work carefully or risk ripping out stitches and starting over. The message was, of course, a play on the words, YOU REAP WHAT YOU SOW.   Which is synonymous with “What goes around, comes around” and “Treat others the way you want to be treated.”

My mother often watched and waited as I learned my lessons. I was eight when we got rid of the old sandbox in the backyard and I was given the space for my own 8’x5’ garden. Mom let me choose any five seed packets. I chose a combination of vegetables and flowers—beets, carrots, corn, zinnias and marigolds—but I lost interest in reading the instructions.  I had no patience for planting in neat rows, but merrily mixed the seeds together and flung them throughout the garden. The result was, well, interesting, but we did get a few veggies AND colorful bouquets. Mom smiled and asked, “What will you plant next year, and how will you plant it?”

Two years ago after we removed a dying Aspen tree, I became the 8-year-old gardener again.  After planting our vegetable garden, I had extra carrot seeds, so I combined them with the soil in the hole…and forgot about them.   Several weeks ago, I noticed feathery green tops mixed with the grass where the tree had been.  The result was the 7” long, tough, bug-nibbled carrot in the picture above, surrounded by many smaller bits of carrots. The harvest was colorful and interesting—but after two seasons it was definitely inedible—it was what I had sown but then ignored.

 

gone with the wind Scarlett O’Hara, in the movie version of GONE WITH THE WIND, knelt in the destroyed field and dug out a withered turnip. She held it up and swore, “As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again.” This should make me feel guilty about my forgotten carrots, but Scarlett didn’t survive by planting more turnips; she survived by marrying men with money. Rich reaping.

Both Socrates and Plato have been credited for the lesson that “The unexamined life is not worth living,” and though my forgotten carrots will not cause my family to starve, I am paying attention to the lesson.  I need to work carefully or risk ripping out mistakes and starting over, and be ever mindful of what I sow.

On so many levels, it’s a good lesson for sewing, gardening…and life in general.

When the tornado destroyed their trees, yard, part of their house and much of their town, young Gannon did what he could--he planted grass seed.

When the tornado destroyed their trees, yard, part of their house and much of their town in 2008, young Gannon did what he could–he planted grass seed.

 

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, gardening, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, movies, special quotations

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