Category Archives: spending time with kids

HUNTING FOR A MERRY CHRISTMAS

birdhouse

 

melting-snowmanmg_2578

one-red-glove

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twenty years ago, when she was a 17-year-old student, Anna taught everyone in my high school Writing To Publish class two valuable lessons.

I had assigned this warm-up activity: Write about a dark moment in your life that became one of your happiest memories. Most of the students sat and thought, doodled for a while and then begrudgingly began.   Anna (not her real name) went to a corner, sat on the floor, opened her notebook and began writing.

She wrote about the previous Christmas.  Their mother had left, their father’s hours had been cut back, the furnace had gone out and had to be fixed, and money was worse than just tight.   Dad and the three kids had to somehow make the best of what little they had.

They drew names from a jar.  Each person had $2.00 to spend on the best gift they could find, and wrap the present in the funny pages from the newspaper.   On Christmas morning, after eating French toast, sausage and juice—with popcorn for a treat–they made a game of opening the presents.

For Anna’s scavenger hunt, she’d helped her younger siblings get started with this example. Each person would give their gift recipient a clue, like “Go to the place where lint collects.” (The dryer.)   There in the lint trap would be the next clue, and so on, until finally the last clue led to the gift.   The hunt for presents took them all over the house and even outside.

It was the best Christmas ever, Anna wrote,  filled with laughter, adventures, and hugs. With only $2.00 to spend, each one had searched for a thoughtful, special gift: a mystery for Dad at the used book store;  a new spiral notebook for Anna’s writing dreams;  a package of plastic soldiers from the dollar store;  Superhero pencils and an eraser.

The class applauded after Anna read aloud her article, and after class I suggested she submit it for publication.  To make a long story short, Anna worked hard, followed all the requirements, rewrote, and finally submitted “The Best Worst Christmas Ever” to Woman’s World Magazine.  They bought it for $100!

Anna had answered the looming sad holiday with hope and laughter.   She also followed through by fine-tuning her article and taking a risk when she submitted it to a magazine.  And if Woman’s World had rejected it, she was prepared with another magazine address, plus a third one to try. Her darkest moment, she said, had been when she realized her family had only $20 to spend on Christmas:  $8 on gifts for four people, and $12 for a special breakfast. In comparison to that, she said, a rejection slip from a magazine didn’t scare her at all.

Before her dementia, my mother loved this story.   She shared it with friends who felt sad or discouraged about the holidays.  She challenged a writer friend not to quit after a rejection, but to Try, Try Again.   Mom lent her friend the Writer’s Market to search another place to submit her story, but first she had to find the book by following the clues of a scavenger hunt.

poinsettias

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Thankful for Makahiki, Sarah Hale, and Roto-Rooter

Look for splashes of color on dreary November days. There's always something to be grateful for if you'll look.

(Look for splashes of color on dreary November days. There’s always something to be grateful for if you’ll look for it.)

If one of your Thanksgiving dinner traditions is for everyone around the table to tell what they’re thankful for, in case your favorites are taken before it’s your turn, here are three more.

MAKAHIKI: Long before the Pilgrims, Native Hawaiians celebrated Makahiki, which lasted from November through February.  During this longest thanksgiving in the world, both work and war were forbidden.

Wikipedia picture of the 4-month thanksgiving Hawaiian Makahiki.

(Wikipedia picture of the 4-month thanksgiving Hawaiian Makahiki.)

 

Sarah Hale

(Sarah Hale ~ more than just author of “Mary Had A Little Lamb”~ Wikipedia picture.)

SARAH HALE (1788-1879): Author of hundreds of poems, including “Mary Had A Little Lamb,” Hale was considered the “Mother of Thanksgiving.”   She convinced President Lincoln to proclaim a national holiday on the last Thursday in November, when harvests were done and elections were over.  She said it would “awaken Americans’ hearts to love of home and country, thankfulness to God, and peace.”

ROTO-ROOTER: This is one of the “practical essentials” to be grateful for after Thanksgiving.  On the true (Stopped Up) Black Friday after Thanksgiving, Roto-Rooter and other major plumbing services are at their busiest, cleaning up sewer problems.

My family wishes your families a warm and wonderful Thanksgiving.  If you’re eager to welcome in the Christmas season, feel free to begin singing “Jingle Bells”…which was originally written as a Thanksgiving song.

Abilene, KS h.s. marching band practices in the streets, a happy, musical way to welcome Thanksgiving!

Abilene, KS h.s. marching band practices in the streets, a foot-tapping, hand-clapping, musical way to welcome Thanksgiving! (these two pictures and the top one by Marylin Warner)

This Thanksgiving's special donut at the bakery ~ iced donut filled with pumpkin-spice cream.  Yum!

This Thanksgiving’s special donut at the bakery ~ iced donut filled with pumpkin-spice cream. Yum!

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, making a difference, spending time with kids, Things to be thankful for

Back To The Future

Mom as a junior in hs

 

Mom at hs grad

dad at hs grad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the movie BACK TO THE FUTURE, time travel transports the main character back to his parents’ teen lives, so of course they don’t recognize him as the son they will some day have.

I’ve seen many pictures of my parents—as infants, toddlers, young children going to school—and then there’s a gap followed by their pictures as a couple, then as parents of their own children as infants, toddlers, young children, teens and adults.

Recently I found several old photos in a folder stuck at the back of a drawer in my mother’s apartment. I’d never seen these pictures of my parents as teens, and based on the serious, hard working stories I’d heard about them, these pictures were a surprise. In these official class pictures, they have a cocky kind of rebelliousness. For instance, in the picture of Mom as a high school sophomore, she and her front-row classmates (except for one grinning, mischievous boy who looks like he’s going to set off firecrackers) are all posed with crossed arms. And look at the frown she gives the camera. THAT was my sweet, happy mom?

And then in the formal group portrait of both Mom and Dad as part of the Plattsburg (MO) High School Graduating Class of 1936—formally wearing caps and gowns and posed in front of the school—look at the jaunty, defiant angle of their caps!  I noticed this immediately because on the morning of my own high school graduation, my dad very seriously straightened the cap and told me to wear it properly.

I look at these pictures not just as the daughter of these two teens, but also as a high school teacher who for thirty years watched many of my students resort to the same antics just as the photographer clicked the group picture for each graduating class.

And actually, I’m not complaining. During this month of graduation ceremonies, I’m thrilled to finally have pictures of my parents’ graduation. I miss the stories that go with these pictures, the snippets of their lives that I could pass on to my grandchildren. But it’s enough to say, “These were your great-grandparents when they were only six or seven years older than you are now.  And you’re here because these two very real people fell in love, married and had a daughter who grew up and had her own baby, and that child grew up and had her own babies…the two of you.  It’s a long story, but it’s all part of who you are, and that makes it quite wonderful.”

My daughter, holding the portrait of Baby Grace, given to her daughter Grace and her son Gannon when they are 2 and 1.

My daughter, holding the portrait of Baby Grace, given to her daughter Grace (named for her great-great-grandmother Grace) on her 2nd birthday.

Baby Grace Shipley, my dad's mother. She died when my dad was not much older than she is in this picture.

Baby Grace Shipley, my dad’s mother. She died when my dad was not much older than she is in this picture.

My granddaughter Grace, age 2 1/2, posing with a lawn figure.

My granddaughter Grace, age 2 1/2, posing with a lawn figure.  There’s something so sweet about the two little girls named Grace, and how they pose for the camera.

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FROM HUMBLE BEGINNINGS

The first "hut" at the corner of Kellogg and Bluff

The first “hut” at the corner of Kellogg and Bluff

 

Dan and Frank in 1958

Dan and Frank in 1958

I grew up in the southeast corner of Kansas where a rugged swath of the Ozarks createsd a countryside of rolling hills and woods of stunning beauty. The area was also rocky farmland and hard scrabble little towns where generations of Italians worked in the strip mines and built family-meal  restaurants that still thrive today. There were numerous stories of hard-working parents who refused to give up and went on to build better lives for themselves and their children.

When my grandson went with me to visit my mother two months ago, he also introduced me to another Kansas success story. On our drive home, I asked Gannon where he wanted to eat, and he chose Pizza Hut.  The nearest one was in the little town of Burlington, and from the outside it looked like a typical Pizza Hut.  But inside it displayed many pictures and details of Pizza Hut’s humble beginnings.

In 1958, two college-aged brothers, Dan and Frank Carney, borrowed $600 from their mother to purchase second-hand equipment and rent a small building on a busy street in Wichita, KS.  They worked long hours and didn’t give up  (and yes, they also repaid their mother’s loan), and this first Pizza Hut became the foundation of the world’s largest and most successful chain of pizza restaurants.  (For my friends across the ocean, I add this detail:  in 1973 Pizza Hut began in the UK.)

In the Burlington Pizza Hut, important messages were printed on posters and chalk boards:  “From Humble Beginnings Come Great Things”;   “Work hard, Stay humble”;   and “Do Your Best.”   As Gannon and I went to the buffet, we were greeted with smiles from the helpful employees.   The Carney brothers did not grow up in this town, but their philosophy thrives.

A teenage girl ahead of us at the buffet wore a tennis T-shirt.   On the front was a picture of Arthur Ashe, and this was the message:  “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”   This profound reminder is from a superb tennis player and a wonderful man who died in 1993 after contracting AIDS from a blood transfusion he received during heart bypass surgery.

I almost protested Gannon’s choice of Pizza Hut for lunch that day, but it turned out to be an excellent choice. You just never know in advance what lessons and reminders you’ll learn while waiting for pizza.

Pizza Hut box

 

"Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things."

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.”

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, importance of doing good things, just doing the best we can, Kansas, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, special days in April, special quotations, spending time with kids

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

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

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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 SMALL STUFF

A tiny carrot found in the garden...where no one planted carrots. (All pictures by Marylin Warner)

 

(All pictures by Marylin Warner ~ details given below)

(All pictures by Marylin Warner ~ details given below)

christmas cactus house

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For several decades, Richard Carlson’s book, DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF, has enjoyed popularity. His lessons and examples for keeping things in perspective have been expanded into editions about not sweating the small stuff in love, at work, for teens, etc.

Years ago, I gave my parents a copy of Carlson’s book. Later I found three cards in my mom’s writing box. Dad had copied three lessons he liked best. The first two are “You are what you practice most,” and “If we would just slow down, happiness would catch up to us.” (Before Alzheimer’s, nothing slowed down my dad.)

My mom had a different take on Carlson’s title. She thought a better book would be this: BE THANKFUL FOR THE SMALL STUFF. In her opinion, moments of gratitude and hopefulness are like dominoes toppling over and creating more good moments in life.

In the spirit of building on my mother’s philosophy, this Thanksgiving I was especially thankful for the small stuff. For the funny little carrot hidden under leaves in the garden (we didn’t plant carrots this year); for the Christmas Cactus plant that bloomed early in the kitchen window; for the shape of a heart on top of a corn muffin at our Thanksgiving dinner where three generations shared food, laughter, love, stories of other Thanksgivings together, and the joy of being together now.   And when Colorado’s previous sunny day turned into a Thanksgiving ice storm, I was especially grateful for the next day’s safe 420 mile drive back to Kansas for our daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren.

My dad’s third card in my mom’s writing box was this message from Carlson’s book: “When you’re in an ill mood, learn to pass it off as simply that: an unavoidable human condition that will pass with time if you leave it alone. A low mood is not the time to analyze your life.”

This penciled message–I think my mother wrote it–is printed beneath it: “And when you’re in a good mood, smiling and joyful, don’t analyze it or brace yourself for it to change. Instead, be grateful for that mood, and be hopeful.”

 

Kansas kids--especially our grandchildren--love to hike in the Garden of the Gods, warm and sunny on the day before the ice storm.

Kansas kids–especially our grandchildren–love to hike in the Garden of the Gods; it was warm and sunny on the day before the ice storm.

Almost fifty years ago, my mother painted this snow-storm picture for a story she'd written: "Stubby The Stubborn Missouri Mule"

More than fifty years ago, my mother painted this snow-storm picture for a story she’d written: “Stubby The Stubborn Missouri Mule”   

The ice storm passes, leaving a gorgeous white covering on Pikes Peak.

When the ice storm passes, it leaves gorgeous  snow covering Pikes Peak.

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, spending time with kids, Things to be thankful for