Category Archives: Special days in February

Scout: The Girl And The Dog

Nelle Harper Lee

Nelle Harper Lee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lee's two books

Nelle Harper Lee died today. Better known as just Harper Lee, she was author of one of my favorite novels, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, and also the novel I liked much less, GO SET A WATCHMAN. In fact, I agree with the critics who argue that Harper Lee possibly did not intend for it to be published, at least not as it was.

In TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, the character of Dill was based on author Truman Capote, Harper Lee’s close friend and author of IN COLD BLOOD.   The character of Scout was based on Harper Lee.   The character of Atticus Finch, Scout’s widowed father, the attorney who defended a black man in a controversial case, is one of my most-loved characters of all time, but only in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. The Finch character in  GO SET A WATCHMAN doesn’t appear on my list of favorites.

When we adopted our puppy from the Humane Society in December, I named her Scout. That’s how much I loved the book character, the young girl with moxie, courage, curiosity and loyalty…and very little understanding of how the real world worked.   Which was pretty much a spot-on description of our puppy…then and now.

Charles Schultz, creator of PEANUTS, wrote that “Happiness is a warm puppy.” I would add that real happiness is a warm, potty-trained puppy, and we’re almost to that happiness goal. American radio and television writer Andy Rooney said, “The average dog is a nicer person than the average person,” and I can say with confidence that our puppy Scout is definitely going to be a nice person. Funny, too, plus very affectionate.

In appreciation to Harper Lee and TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, I sincerely thank her for the character Scout.  In the book, she says that Atticus “…told me to delete the adjectives and I’d have the facts.”     This is good advice in general, but also especially for writers.

Today, February 20, is LOVE YOUR PET DAY.   Dog or cat, bird or iguana, whatever your pet, this is a good day to show extra affection, share a few special treats, or make a contribution to your local animal shelter.    February 22 is WALKING THE DOG DAY.  Our Scout is still at the puppy stage, walking us, tugging the leash toward every sound, exploring everything in her path, and carrying sticks like trophies.  But sometimes, if we pause and try to see and hear the world as she does, it really is quite amazing.

So here I will close with another line by Harper Lee in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD:    “People generally see what they look for and hear what they listen for.”

Our daughter Molly posing with Scout for the camera.

Our daughter Molly poses with Scout for the camera.

 

Our granddaughter Grace is a warm and helpful training partner for Scout.

Our granddaughter Grace is a warm and helpful training partner for Scout

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Filed under Books and book titles, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, Special days in February, special quotations, Things to be thankful for

Ten Minutes A Day…

I wonder if this mother allowed herself 10 minutes to dig AND enjoy her baby.

I wonder if this mother allowed herself 10 minutes to dig AND enjoy her baby, or if that counts as 20 minutes.  And what about the dog?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Multitasking--divided into ten minute chores--could be much more effective... right?

Multitasking–divided into ten-minute chores–would be even more effective… right?

I was in elementary school when a magazine article featured a ten-minute plan to organize women’s responsibilities and, therefore, improve their lives. As I recall, this was the basic plan: each day, if a busy woman set a timer for 10 minutes and focused on just one specific room, at the end of each week her home would be pleasantly presentable and organized.

For one week Mom and her neighbor friend tried it: the first day was to clean the bathroom; the second day was the living room, the third and fourth days were for the kitchen; the fifth day was a closet (one closet per week). They decided the last two days—weekends—could be when the parents and children cleaned their own bedrooms and then added ten more minutes to vacuum the carpets. Ten minutes a day, sixty minutes a week, and voila! it would all be done.

To some degree, my mother already quickly straightened rooms before she went to work or after she came home, and I remember that she and her friend laughed at some of the things that wore them out (and the corners they cut) during their experiment. They quit the ten-minute plan after a week, although I do remember my mom continued to sometimes set a timer for us to complete certain chores. This made it a game; the faster we finished the work, the sooner we could go outside and play.

Before Dad’s Alzheimer’s and Mom’s dementia moved them out of their home and into an assisted living apartment, my mother had her own style: clean whatever was dirty, comfort whoever was hurt, fix what was broken, take joy in sunrises, draw strength from quiet times in her garden, laugh with her family and hug them, and sing as she worked. Although this took longer than ten minutes a day, I don’t remember her complaining.

Even after all these years, I still occasionally set a timer for ten minutes and give myself only that time to focus and get something done. It’s often for an undesirable or nagging chore, but when the timer goes off I’m surprised that the chore is finished, and I feel oh-so-much-better.

Wednesday, February 17th, is Random Acts of Kindness Day. If we each mentally set a timer for ten minutes and do just one kind thing for someone else, imagine what a good day that could be.

tulips in vase

This Valentine's Day, I wish you love, tulips, and deli chocolate cupcakes with fancy pink icing.  Enjoy.  (You have ten minutes to eat your cupcakes and get back to work, so get busy!)  ;)

This Valentine’s Day, I wish you love, tulips, and deli chocolate cupcakes with fancy pink icing. Enjoy. (You have ten minutes to eat your cupcakes and get back to work, so focus and get busy!) 😉

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, friends, gardening, just doing the best we can, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, making a difference, Special days in February, spending time with kids

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.

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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

SINGLE-TASKING

Penny, the visiting dachshund, at great inconvenience to herself and her paws, cheers up senior residents.   (pictures by Marylin Warner)

Penny, the visiting dachshund, at great inconvenience to herself and her paws, cheers up senior residents. (pictures by Marylin Warner)

 

 

Slowing down on a road where the Amish drive their carriages is an example of making the day better for others.

Slowing down on a road where the Amish drive their carriages is an example of making the day better for others.

 

The first published use of the term “multitask” was in 1965, describing the capabilities of the IBM System/360. The term became a popular description for anyone who was busy but talented and could successfully complete numerous responsibilities at the same time.

My mother wasn’t impressed. Her philosophy was that of course busy women handled many tasks simultaneously because many things had to be done. But for the truly important things in life—and in the lives of others—wise women knew the importance of slowing down, paying attention and giving each situation the care it required.

She would have loved the hand-painted sign I recently saw in a women’s clothing and accessories shop: “MULTI-TASKING IS THE ART OF MESSING UP SEVERAL THINGS AT ONCE.”

If it weren’t for Mom’s advanced dementia, I think she would wholeheartedly support February 24th’s SINGLE TASKING Day. Recent studies show that multitasking is often inefficient, stressful and mind divisive, while Single Tasking encourages us to embrace one priority and stay with one task until it is accomplished.

Strangely, though, February 24th is a day with multi-tasking opportunities. It is also INCONVENIENCE YOURSELF Day: focus less on yourself and make the day better for others; put on a happy face and find ways to practice random acts of helpfulness. And then reward yourself by also celebrating NATIONAL CUPCAKE Day on the 24th (It’s Canadian, but I’m certainly up for supporting this special day.)

My mother is in the stage of dementia when she no longer eats much. One of her favorite caregivers, Tammy, has created a food Mom really enjoys: pancakes with creamy peanut butter and syrup. Not the most balanced, nutritional meal, but under the circumstances my vote is that at 96 Mom can eat whatever she wants. Plus, I’m sure it’s also in support of the longer version of NATIONAL PANCAKE WEEK, which is February 15-21.

And I’m very grateful that Tammy is a wise woman who knows the importance of slowing down, paying attention, and giving my mother’s situation the care it requires.

To support the special Canadian cupcake day, he'll gladly eat some cupcakes!

To support the special Canadian cupcake day, Gannon will  gladly eat some cupcakes after he finishes his task!

 

Five-year-old Gannon Single Tasks by sprinkling grass seeds without giving in to distractions.

Five-year-old Gannon Single Tasks by sprinkling grass seeds without giving in to distractions.

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, friends, importance of doing good things, lessons about life, Special days in February, special quotations

A SPY IN THE HOUSE OF LOVE

 

 

Years ago, Hallmark had a great line of "retro" Valentine's Day cards. This one for mother who made dorky mother-daughter  matching dresses. (Click on pictures to enlarge for reading.)

Years ago, Hallmark had a great line of “retro” Valentine’s Day cards. This one was about a mother who made dorky mother-daughter matching dresses. (Click on pictures to enlarge for reading.)

 

 

 

 

In this card, kids figure out the awful "cafeteria surprise" lunch recipe.

In this card, kids figure out the awful “cafeteria surprise” lunch recipe.

In addition to Valentine’s Day, February 14th is also the date of many other “special” days as well, including these: “Ferris Wheel Day” ~ “Library Lovers Day” ~ “Quirky Alone Day” ~ “National Have A Heart Day” ~ “World Marriage Day” ~ “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre” ~ “National Donor Day” ~ and “World Whale Day.”

In her novel A Spy In The House of Love, Anais Nin writes this: “As other girls prayed for handsomeness in a lover, or for wealth, or for power, or for poetry, she had prayed fervently: Let him be kind.”

Before dementia blurred her thinking, one of the qualities my mother valued most in a person was kindness. Because it was one of her many wonderful qualities, and a quality of my father, too, before the Alzheimer’s took over, I grew up looking for—and profoundly appreciating—kind people. My husband Jim is a man with many exceptional qualities, but when we were friends and co-workers, it was his genuine kindness that first drew me to him.

To all of you, on Valentine’s Day and every day, I wish much kindness in your lives.

"A tree is known by its fruit, a man by his deeds.  A good deed is never lost...he who plants kindness gathers love."      ~Saint Basil

“A tree is known by its fruit, a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost…he who plants kindness gathers love.”            ~Saint Basil

BE KIND

"You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late."  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

“You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, friends, importance of doing good things, lessons about life, life questions, Special days in February, special quotations, Things to be thankful for

WHAT WE LEARN WHILE WE WAIT

Penny, the visiting dog who waddles in for pats. (Photographs by Marylin Warner)

Penny, the visiting dog who waddles in for pats. (Photographs by Marylin Warner)

All we need love & a dog

Mom and I hold her great-granddaughter Grace's Flat Stanley project.

Mom and I hold her great-granddaughter Grace’s Flat Stanley project.

I’ve been asked, many times, exactly what it is I do when I visit my mother each month.  From my house in Colorado to her assisted living apartment in Kansas, it’s a round-trip drive of 1,300 miles.  English poet George Herbert wrote, “Every mile is two in winter,” and between November and March, I brace myself for bad roads.

In Colorado I’m busy with friends and family, writing and editing, organizations and activities, and taking hikes with my husband and our dog, as well as being open to all kinds of plans and adventures.  In Kansas, within limits, Mom and I might eat the foods I bring, take walks outside in nice weather (I walk and she rides in the wheelchair), watch television and “play beauty shop.”  She will ask questions, sometimes the same ones again and again, including asking if I’m someone she knows, which is the nature of dementia.  I also know that we’ll sit quietly together in the living room while she naps.  In other words, I spend a lot of time waiting.

Before you nod off or retch in your shoes at this Dickens-type dreary scenario, let me say this: I’ve also found that while I wait, I learn. A lot. Seriously. And I always leave a little smarter than I arrived.

For instance, because I have time to read magazines and newspapers and flip through the channels on my mother’s television, I learn information I never would have had time for on a regular, busy day.  Some of what I learn is a little strange. Like the article about the wife who donated one of her kidneys to save her husband’s life…and now she wants it back. It seems he was mighty grateful at first, but now he’s having an affair, and she’d like to give the kidney to someone who deserves it.  Anyone want to debate that issue?

There are also happy lessons, reminders of  “the kindness of strangers.”  There is always some quiet, kind, unexpected gesture from one of the caregivers that reminds me that the little things make a big difference. And then there’s the man who visits the residents and brings his little dog Penny to waddle in for pats and smiles. Or the friends who’ve sent me amazing links that finally I have time to watch: this Tchaikovsky Flashwaltz at the Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem is the most stunning example of  “the kindness of strangers” I’ve ever seen. Please, do yourself a favor and invest two minutes…you’ll be astounded:   http://safeshare.tv/w/OXHZUxUXXN

I also glean all kinds of health information from the magazines stacked in the mail room. Seriously, I now know the most important times to drink water to be healthy:   2 glasses of water after waking up helps activate internal organs             ~ 1 glass of water 30 minutes before a meal  helps digestion  ~ 1 glass of water before taking a bath/shower regulates blood pressure  ~ 1 glass of water before going to bed helps you avoid a stroke or heart attack.    Yea! for H2O!!!

Mostly, though, each month I’m reminded of basic truths:  1) Our mothers were right ~ a smile does make all the difference;  2) When we pause to visit with someone who is sitting alone or has nowhere to go, it’s a very good thing for both of us;  3) Slowing down, taking time to wait and think, to watch and listen and learn, is actually a gift.

February is the shortest month of the year.  No matter where we live, no matter what our age or health or economic status, for all of us there are only twenty-eight days this month.  If you have an opportunity to sit with an elderly relative or friend who knows who you are–or doesn’t even know who she is–who is healing from surgery or just hoping for a visitor, I encourage you to welcome the opportunity. You may have to sit quietly for a while and wait, but there’s a good chance you will learn something important.

Leave it to the Brits to have fun!  The Little Tikes for kids (on right) is now for adults, too. I learned that they're windowless, have seat belts, and can go up to 70 miles per hour!

Leave it to the Brits to have fun! The Little Tikes for kids (on right) is now for adults, too. I learned that they’re windowless, have seat belts, and can go up to 70 miles per hour!

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Filed under Colorado Springs, Dementia/Alzheimer's, Fort Scott Kansas, friends, importance of doing good things, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, memories for great-grandchildren, Special days in February

FAIRY TALES, NAPS, & NO BRAINERS

Friendship quilt on your bed; from the 1940s, when friends embroidered their names on squares and Grandma pieced them together in a quilt.

Friendship quilt on your bed; from the 1940s, when friends embroidered their names on squares and Grandma pieced them together in a quilt.

Mom's first quilt--"Birds"--she did the hand-stitched centers, the Grandma and aunts helped her piece it together. (She was 14)

Mom’s first quilt–“Birds”–she did the hand-stitched centers, then Grandma and aunts helped her piece it together. (She was 14; now she’s 94.)

Yard statue of fairy reading. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

Yard statue of fairy reading. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

Dear Mom,

Kansas has really scored its share of snowstorms  recently.  All across the state schools have been closed, along with interstates and main roads, with snow accumulations up to 15” in many counties. Where you are, in southeast Kansas, the total was only about 4”, but that was snow over ice.  Today everyone was digging out and enjoying the sunshine, but already the weatherman is saying there’s more snow on the way.

What a perfect time to plan for the last three days of February!  This is the kind of planning you’ll enjoy, Mom.

February 26 is TELL A FAIRY TALE DAY.  You can cozy up under one of your quilts and think of—and maybe tell—some of your favorite fairy tales. Or I’ll tell you two of your favorites: “Jack and the Bean Stalk” and “Cinderella.”  When you used to read or told us the stories, you sometimes added a twist. You’d stop in the story, maybe during a sad or scary part, and say, “What do you think should happen next?” You gave us chances to make the stories our own and give them the endings we liked.

February 27th is NO BRAINER DAY.  Seriously.  Created in 1995 by Adrienne Sioux Koopersmith, “American’s Premier Eventologist” chosen by INSIGHT MAGAZINE , No Brainer Day is a time to kick back, stop over analyzing everything, and do those things that are simple, easy, carefree and satisfying.

(NOTE to surgeons, traffic controllers, SWAT Team Bomb specialists and all high-focus, no-wiggle-room-for-mistakes people, if you want a No Brainer Day, call in sick before doing this.)

February 28th is SLEEP ON THE JOB DAY.  Supposedly, many overachievers do this regularly—they call it taking Power Naps—and they take them in bathroom stalls at work, in their cars in the parking lot, and between the stacks in the reference room or among the supplies in the janitor’s closet.  Covert Op naps; think of them as “multi-task relaxing,” powering up for the rest of the day.  Or, if you do it only on the designated day, Feb. 28th, the method is up to you.  (Same NOTE above applies here…)

These three days are for you, Mom. While it snows outside your window, stay warm under your blankets and quilts.  Dream of fairy tells that end with happy thoughts, and when you’re awake in your recliner, enjoy the simple beauty of contentment and rest.  You’ve spent a busy lifetime teaching, caring for family and friends, cooking and cleaning, sewing and reaching out to anyone who needed your help. You deserve happy naps and sweet stories with no pressures.

Love, Marylin

Our dog Maggie in the snow.

Our dog Maggie in the snow.

February snow in Kansas.

February snow in Kansas.

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, Quilting projects, Special days in February