Category Archives: neighbors

Improve Your BOO I.Q.

Creepy cupcakes will make your teeth a delightful orange. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

Creepy cupcakes will make your teeth a delightful orange. (All photos by Marylin Warner)



Cafes like Bon Ton's in Colorado Springs get in full swing for Halloween.

Cafes like Bon Ton’s in Colorado Springs get in full swing for Halloween.

The staff at my mom's assisted living facility go all out with decorating pumpkins.

The staff at my mom’s assisted living facility go all out with decorating pumpkins.









The good news is you still have a week to get into the Halloween spirit. The even better news is this post will help you become prepared in case you’re ever a contestant on television JEOPARDY or playing Trivial Pursuit with friends!

Beyond the usual costume choices and vandalism facts of Halloween, here are five lesser-known Halloween details: First, if you’re looking for love, be prepared on October 31st. According to the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, games like bobbing for apples and sharing special sweets and chocolate candies can predict future romances and compatibility.

Second: Halloween is the 6th most popular American card-giving holiday, with an estimated 20 million cards sent each year. Christmas is the 1st with 1.5 billion cards. Take a guess what the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th are. Here’s a hint: successful bobbing for applies and sharing special sweets could led to most of them.

Third: In 1950 in Philadelphia, trick’o’treaters traded a sweet tooth for a sweet action.  Instead of going from door-to-door for candy, they collected spare change to make a change in the lives of mothers and children in developing countries. UNICEF was created in the United Nations, and after Philadelphia it soon spread across the country via schools, youth groups and churches.

Fourth: According to statistics from the Dept. of Agriculture, the number of pumpkins bought for baking cookies, pies and puddings for Thanksgiving comes in behind the number of pumpkins bought to carve for Halloween. Spooky wins over tasty.

And fifth: Got leftovers after Halloween night? Dark and milk chocolate can last up to two years if stored in a dry, odor-free place, and unopened packages of candy corn can last at least nine months. Careful planning can keep you Halloween happy for quite awhile.

My parents used to Ooo and Aaah over the neighbor children who showed up in costume on Halloween night. Mom always bought bags of Peanut Butter Cups, Snickers, and Almond Mounds. During their last Halloween at home they gave out candy to early Trick’o’Treaters, the very young pirates, princesses and little ghosts. Then they ran out of candy, so they turned off the porch light and went to bed. Many months later when I cleaned out their house, there were many bags of candy bars stored in the cabinet with the laundry supplies. They looked like they were still edible, so the 5th detail must be right.

You don't have to wear a costume or paint your face at Halloween ~ dress up your feet!

You don’t have to wear a costume or paint your face at Halloween ~ dress up your feet!

These will always be my favorite Halloween costumes!

These will always be my favorite Halloween costumes!


Filed under art projects, autumn lessons, Dementia/Alzheimer's, memories for great-grandchildren, neighbors, October glory

100th Post on “Things I Want To Tell My Mother”

1978 ~ Mary reading to two of her grandchildren

1978 ~ Mary reading to two of her grandchildren

2007 ~ Mary reading to her great-grandchildren

2007 ~ Mary reading to her great-grandchildren

Dear Mom,

Wow, May 4th is ONE HUNDRED posts on our blog!  Amazing.

Our first post was on September 1st of  2011. Since then we’ve shared stories about your life growing up on the farm in Missouri, raising your own family in Kansas, helping children through teaching, volunteering with CASA, and stepping in to help anyone who needed help.  We’ve held writing contests with cash prizes in your name—Mother’s Day Greeting Card Writing, Christmas Memories, and Poetry Writing—and we’ve shared some of your poems, essays and illustrated stories.  We’ve reminded readers of many unusual days on the calendar and posted inspiring quotes, favorite recipes and titles of books we’ve enjoyed.  We’ve featured friends and your great-grandchildren as guest bloggers, and we’ve shared information about Alzheimer’s and dementia.

We never missed a week, and some weeks we posted twice!

In the process, we greeted visitors and made new friends from all over the United States, from the UK, Canada, Australia, India, Israel and sixty-four other countries. These are readers who’ve laughed with us, cried at some of our stories, and cheered us on by sharing their stories. We are very grateful for all of them.

Today, for our 100th post we’re going to share some interesting details about May, the month of our celebration.

The Roman poet Ovid wrote that the month of May is named for the maiores, Latin for “elders.”  In 1963, President John F. Kennedy established May as Older Americans Month. This is a month to respect seniors and celebrate longevity, which includes you, Mom, at the respectful age of almost 95!

When I was in elementary school, on the last day of April you and I made little holders of rolled construction paper and braided yarn for the handles. On May 1st we picked crocus, daffodils and tulips, or if spring didn’t cooperate we filled the holders with small cookies and candy. I’d hang the little May Day baskets from the front door knobs of older neighbors’ houses, ring the bell, call out “Happy May Day!” and hurry away.

Next week, May 8th is No Socks Day for all ages.  The idea is to set your toes free and give your feet a breath of fresh air. Go barefoot and smile at the comfort of cool grass, warm sand or swishing water.

The next day, May 9th, follow up with Lost Sock Memorial Day. Search through drawers or behind the dryer, but if you can’t find the missing sock, take its lonely mate and give it a solitary use: as a dust cloth, a holder for buttons or coins, or make a hand puppet for a child or a chew toy for a pet. Or just dispose of it (gently, of course).

Next Sunday is the well known and widely celebrated Mothers Day, May 12.

A lesser known day is Saturday, May 11—Birth Mothers Day—which is more private. This day was originally set up for mothers to spend quiet moments thinking about or praying for the children they gave up for adoption…or for adopted children to do the same for their birth mothers.  It is intended as an anonymous tribute, and some houses of worship have special candles or flower vases set up for Birth Mothers to give prayers and thanks for the love and care given by Adoptive Mothers.

And finally, the last week of May is National Simultaneous Storytime, which we wish American parents, grandparents, teachers and librarians would vote to implement for our nation’s children.  In Australia, children’s libraries hold a special event where all public and school librarians read aloud the same book on the agreed upon day, at 11AM EST, to the children everywhere in Australia!

Well, Mom, this has been our 100th post. Let’s thank our reading friends and give them cyber hugs for sharing in our adventure…and then it’s nap time.  Next week is post #101, and we’ll need our rest.

2010 ~ Mary's great-grandchildren on farmer-type playground toys in Kansas (all photos by Marylin Warner)

2010 ~ Mary’s great-grandchildren on farmer-type playground toys in Kansas (all photos by Marylin Warner)

1983 ~ Alien children on Mary's front porch

1983 ~ Alien grandchildren on Mary’s front porch


Filed under celebrations, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for grandchildren, memories for great-grandchildren, neighbors, spending time with kids, Things to be thankful for, writing


Mothers with brooms are a powerful force.  (All pictures by Marylin Warner)

Mothers with brooms are a powerful force. (All pictures by Marylin Warner)

"I was not the lion, but it fell to me to give the lion's roar."~ Winston Churchill

“I was not the lion, but it fell to me to give the lion’s roar.”
~ Winston Churchill

Dear Mom,

During the past months, many blogger friends have commented and emailed about the gentle, thoughtful and considerate things you’ve done in my life and the lives of others. They’re absolutely right about you.

Now I want to share a flip-side-of-the coin and tell another story about a wonderful but very different thing you did one day during the summer before I started third grade.

In our neighborhood, there were 38 children of all ages, and except for kid-type squabbles we got along fine.  We skated on sidewalks, rode bikes with playing cards clipped to the spokes, played tag and basketball, jumped rope, caught lightning bugs, and drank out of everyone’s garden hoses when we were thirsty.  Some of the kids were the much older brothers and sisters of younger kids, and they were friendly and waved back at us as they drove by.  Only one of the neighborhood kids was kind of weird, or at least several of us thought he was scary and weird. We’ll call him Gordo (not his real name, in case he’s still mean) and he had a big boxer dog he liked to sic on smaller kids.

On this day, you were in the fenced-in back yard, pulling weeds in the garden and sweeping off the porch.  I was in the front yard with roller skates fastened to my shoes, learning to skate. I had skated to the drive way, turned around, and was wobbling down the long sidewalk that led to our front door, when I heard a voice behind me say, “Sic’er, Butch! Get’er.”

A dog growled and ran up behind me, lunged and knocked me down. “Get’er, Butch!” Gordo yelled, and I screamed.  I kicked with the awkward skates on my feet and flailed my arms. The dog barked and jumped on me.

I was on my second blood-curdling scream when the front door flew open. Out you ran, Mom, armed with a broom. You yelled, “No! Stop that!” and Gordo laughed.  But Butch stopped barking, looked up at you and tilted his head. You yelled, “No!” again and swatted him away. Then you turned on Gordo and whacked him with the broom.

He cried out, “You can’t hit me. It’s my dog’s fault!”  And you swatted him again, harder, and said, “We both know whose fault it is.”  You leaned closer. “You go home and tell your mother what you did. Tell her the truth, too, because I’ll be coming up to talk to her, and nobody likes a liar.”  You patted Butch’s head and sent Gordo and his dog home.

I was more scared than hurt. You washed off the scratches and scrapes, and for a treat we split a bottle of Coca-cola. I asked why Gordo was so mean. You said you thought he was maybe lonely, and you hoped he’d learn to be a better boy. Then you laughed.

“Know what your grandmother would say about Gordo?” I had no idea what your sweet and gentle mother–my grandmother–would say about Gordo. As far as I knew, Grandma didn’t even know Gordo.

“Your grandmother would say she wished she had another nine boys just like him…so she could start a reform school and help them all at once.” I laughed, even though it didn’t make much sense to me. I couldn’t imagine ten Gordos in one place anywhere.

You and Gordo’s mother had a nice visit, and Gordo never sic’ed his dog on any of us kids again. Eventually things calmed down in the neighborhood. And, strangely, Gordo grew up and turned out okay.

Thanks, Mom, for being calm and kind and gentle and thoughtful…and also a raging mother lioness when necessary.    I love you.  Marylin


Pat Summitt

In honor of our parents who have suffered or continue to suffer with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, I suggest a wonderful book by Pat Summitt: SUM IT UP.  Pat Summitt was only 21 when she became the head coach of the Tennessee Vols women’s basketball team. For 38 years she broke records, winning more games than any NCAA coach in basketball history. In 2011 her life took a shocking turn when she was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.  SUM IT UP is about a coach who has had 74 of her players go on to be coaches, and now she coaches readers with her continuing fighting spirit, inspiring us with her perseverance and humor.


Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, memories for great-grandchildren, neighbors


fallout shelter:LIFe

birdhouse on pole

Dear Mom,

Yesterday was December 21, 2012. The Mayan calendar ended, but the world did not.

You probably don’t remember other “doomsday warnings,” but I do. Especially my first one in 1957.

That year one of our neighbors built a fallout shelter. He also called it a bomb shelter; either way, it was his survival guarantee. In school, we practiced hiding under our desks or crouching in the hall away from windows. That was our guarantee.

Our neighbor was a successful but harsh and stingy old man (I won’t say his name because I don’t want to hurt the feelings of his children and grandchildren, in case they didn’t know this about him.)  We’ll call him “Bob,” with apologies to the kind and generous Bobs in the world.  Anyway, Bob made it clear that he had a shotgun, and when the worst happened and everyone panicked and wanted to hide in his bomb shelter, the rumor was that Bob would shoot them.

I asked you if we should dig our own shelter and stock it with food and water and everything on the list. You said no. “If there is a massive bomb, Marylin,” you said, “and you and David are at school and Daddy is at work, we won’t be together. So if I hid in our shelter, then when it was all over and I came out, you all wouldn’t be with me.”

I remember you laughed and winked at me.  “And if I came out of my shelter and Bob came out of his, and we were the only two who survived, well, I’d have to borrow his gun and shoot myself.”  This made me laugh, too, and the spell of doom was broken.

In 1956, Jay Livingston and Ray Evans wrote the lyrics and music for a song called “Que Sera Sera” (Whatever will be, will be.) Doris Day sang it in Alfred Hitchcock’s THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH, and whenever it came on the radio I danced around to it, singing with Doris. Later I learned “Que Sera Sera” is something to say when you’re stuck in a hopelessly unchangeable situation, but you’ve come to accept it. It’s similar to today’s “It is what it is.”

We live in a troubled world, you used to say, but it’s always been troubled and dangerous, and we live by prayer, faith, and gratitude. Your final message after our bomb shelter conversation was this: “When things get bad, you hold tight to the hands of those you love, and you get through it.”  I asked, “But what if we can’t find each other to hold hands?” and you said, “We’re always in each other’s hearts, honey. Always.”

“Que Sera Sera” is more than a song. It’s also your philosophy about life; you always did the best you could in every situation, but beyond that you waited: What will be, will be. Thank you, Mom, for teaching me that the best we can do in tough times–and always–is to pray, hold the hands and cherish the hearts of those we love, and be grateful.

Snow globe of "It's A Wonderful Life" (all pictures by Marylin Warner)

Snow globe of “It’s A Wonderful Life” (all photos by Marylin Warner)


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


Dear Mom,

What is it about autumn? During my last visit with you, by mid-afternoon I was turning on all the lights in your apartment. Overhead lights, table lamps, the kitchen and hall lights, anything to make the day seem brighter, longer.


October is a month that seems to tell us to slow down, to rest and brace for the winter days ahead. October means shorter days with less light, but also mood swings that match color swings. Leaves change from green to gold, red, orange and yellow, brilliant at first, but then they turn brown and fall from the trees, leaving spindly bare branches.

October is one of the SADD months, when less light causes Seasonal Affective Depression Disorder in many people, which causes problems including making them feel less energetic, creative and hopeful. (I learned that SADD is also actually an acronym for numerous situations and organizations, including Students Against Drunk Driving, Students Against Destructive Decisions, Senior Attention Deficit Disorder, and my favorite now that our daughter Molly found this and pointed it out–Same Accident Different Day–which is a real acronym, too.)

Some adults, and many children, might think that Halloween is the only bright spot in October. But there’s another day coming soon that should make us all smile: Sweetest Day. In 1922 Herbert Birch Kingston declared the third Saturday of October as Sweetest Day. Herbert Kingston was a Cleveland, Ohio philanthropist and candy company employee. To show orphans, shut-ins and the under-priveleged that they were not forgotten, on Sweetest Day he gave them candy and small gifts, and he often recruited movie stars to distribute the gifts. For instance, on the first Sweetest Day in 1922, movie star Ann Pennington presented 2,200 Cleveland newspaper boys with boxes of candy in appreciation for their service to the public.

Mom, you were only four years old when Herbert Birch Kingston initiated the first Sweetest Day, and I don’t know if you ever realized that each year the third Saturday in October was the day of this celebration. But I’ll tell you what I do remember you saying about “blue” days, cloudy or feeling-down days that people complained about.  You said that the best way to cheer yourself up was to help someone else. To make your own day brighter and happier, the best thing to do was brighten another’s day.

I remember gray rainy days, not just in October but also in other months, when I’d come into the kitchen and you’d be kneading bread dough or baking cookies or making jam to pour in pretty little jars. It wasn’t just your regular baking. When the project was done, you’d take a jar or a wrapped loaf or plate of cookies and go to visit someone who was ill or was alone or troubled. And you’d send me out, too, with another treat to deliver to someone. As I got older, I could choose the neighbor or friend on my own, because I’d picked up from you the message of cheer or friendship that would be delivered along with the goodies.

Were you doing it for them, Mom, or sometimes were you also doing it for yourself? Is this why I don’t remember you being discouraged or lethargic or sad…because you encouraged yourself at the same time you encouraged others?

Thank you, Herbert Birch Kingston, for your generosity and concern on Sweetest Day.  Thank you, Mary Elizabeth Hoover Shepherd, for your generosity and concern for others during any other days that needed a little sweetness.

This year, Sweetest Day is next Saturday, October 20th.  Friday, October 19th, is “Evaluate Your Life” Day.  Hmm. Not a bad combination. October is looking better and brighter already.

Smiling llama, North Pole (Colorado) all photographs by Marylin Warner

The Yarn Tree: group project at Old Colorado City Library, Colo. Springs west side


Filed under art, art projects, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, neighbors, October glory



Hi, Mom,

While I stayed with you recently, a frequent visitor to Presbyterian Village dropped by with his little Dachshund. Peaches moved slowly and had a graying muzzle, and you patted her like you two were old friends. After they left, we talked about dogs, and I reminded you about how you always fixed extra oatmeal on cold mornings because dogs needed warm tummies, too.

I told you about a man in Colorado Springs who walks his two huge rescue dogs in our neighborhood each day, and the greyhound that we took your great-grandchildren to visit at the Greyhound Hall of Fame in Abilene. When I reminded you of our dog, Maggie, who cheered up Dad when he was alive, I was careful to describe her recent surgery that left a line of stitches on both sides of her body where benign fatty tumors had been removed. I didn’t tell you that one tumor was so large that for a week after the surgery she had a shunt in her side for draining the fluids. Instead, I showed you only the cute picture of her clad in Jim’s old tee-shirt with her Thunder Shirt over that to keep her from scratching at the sutures. I said Maggie looked like a parochial third grader in her school uniform, and you laughed.

On your shelves you had a book of quotations, and I looked up dog quotes.  Gene Hill wrote: “Whoever said you can’t buy Happiness forgot little puppies,” and you said you grew up with cute puppies. I read more quotes, and the one you nodded and smiled at was by author Edith Wharton, who was also one of the first founders of the ASPCA. Wharton said, “My little dogs…heartbeats at my feet.”  Will Rogers wrote, “If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.” I said Dad was probably enjoying all our family’s dogs and cats and pets in Heaven, and you agreed.

Because of all the expenses with Maggie’s surgery, I laughed at a quote by author Jen Lancaster: “Owning a dog is slightly less expensive than being addicted to crack.” But I didn’t confuse you with that quote, nor the one by Nora Roberts from her novel The Search: “Everything I know, I learned from dogs.”

I also didn’t read aloud this one by Gordon Korman: “The dog always dies. Go to the library and pick out a book with an award sticker and a dog on the cover. Trust me, that dog is going down.” But Gordon Korman is also the author of No More Dead Dogs. Hmmm. I’ll check it out. It might be a good book for me to bring and read to you.

Or maybe we’ll just take a walk or wait for Peaches. We’ll do something special–we always think of something.   Love, Marylin

Maggie with shunt in side after surgery. Probably not good for showing to young children or old great-grandmothers.


Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, memories for great-grandchildren, neighbors


Dear Mom,

In 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed a proclamation declaring the 1st Sunday after Labor Day as National Grandparents’ Day. My daughter Molly was born in 1978, so I made a card and used a crayon to scribble a message to you and Dad from your granddaughter. You and Dad laughed at that, saying Molly was very bright, being just a baby but already writing with crayons.

Did you know that almost every day, week and month of the calendar has been designated as some kind of holiday? For instance, July 27 is supposedly “Take Your Pants For a Walk Day.” I have no idea who actually declared this, but we can pretend the “Tree Man” is responsible (see picture above). I like this whimsical guy, so we’ll give him the credit, and anyway, we’ve already missed the day to take our pants for a walk, though I assume we would have been wearing them.

The good news is, today, July 29,  is National Lasagna Day! Mmm. Remember how our neighbor Joanie Vignatelli cooked great Italian food?  And Monday, July 30, is Cheesecake Day. You and I aren’t big cheesecake eaters, but I don’t think the Tree Man will mind if we substitute cupcakes instead. The point is to enjoy something sweet, right?

The last day of July is Mutt Day. I hope whoever declared this day meant it affectionately, with appreciation, because mixed-breed dogs have always held a soft place in our hearts, haven’t they? The last dog you and Dad had was Fritz, a huge shaggy bear with oversized paws and a heart to match. And when Dad was bedridden in the last months with Alzheimer’s, we brought along our dog Maggie (see below) for a visit. She went right to Dad’s bed, jumped up, and snuggled against him. At first Dad was startled and confused, but the moment he touched her fur he smiled and relaxed. Yes, surely whoever declared July 31 as Mutt Day, declared it with affection.

While Dad was alive, he often said that every day is a gift, or he’d smile and say, “Every day is a good day, some are just ‘gooder’ than others.” We don’t need national declarations to appreciate the importance of days, but they’re fun to talk about, to make guesses about who designated them and why, and sometimes to just laugh and scratch our heads.

Just so you’ll know, Mom, the first week of August is supposedly “National Simplify Your Life Week.”  We won’t ask the Tree Man how we should celebrate it.  We’ll simply make the most of it, like we try to do with all the other weeks of the year.

I love you, Mom, every day.   Marylin



Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, memories for great-grandchildren, neighbors