Category Archives: 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.


Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, friends, just doing the best we can, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, spending time with kids, Things to be thankful for


Play Your Strong Suit


typewriter w: 4 hands



Picture this: the day after school lets out for the summer, a twelve-year-old daughter whines and complains she has nothing to do. The mother takes an envelope out of her purse. It’s filled with clippings from newspapers and magazines, and handwritten notes on scraps of papers. “Here it is,” she says, waving a piece of newsprint. “We’ll do this!”

The “this” is a contest looking for the best original Helpful Hint; the postmarked deadline is that very day, and the first prize is $50. She smoothes the rumpled newsprint on the kitchen table and says, “I’ll enter if you will.” And then as her daughter sits there moaning, the mother pours them glasses of tea and opens a tray of ice from the freezer. As she adds ice to the glasses, one cube falls onto the table.

The daughter looks at the cube and sighs. “I’ll try doing it, but only until that ice cube melts. And then I’ll quit and do something else.”

By the middle of the afternoon the ice cube has long been water on the table, and the girl and her mother are laughing and taking turns at the typewriter. The mother’s entry is about keeping an envelope full of contest opportunities so that whenever she needs something fun or different to try, the envelope holds the answer.

The daughter’s entry is called “Before The Ice Melts,” and it’s a simple timer. Before an ice cube melts, any boring, must-do responsibility or chore must be accomplished. Or if a babysitter wants to keep rowdy kids in line, all they have to do is sit at a table with an ice cube on a napkin in the center and do their homework or read a book or work on something without talking…but only until it melts.

The mother and daughter are both excited and telling jokes as they finish typing their entries (the daughter can only two-finger hunt-and-peck type, so it takes awhile), and then they fold their entries and put them in envelopes. They have twenty minutes to get to the post office, so while the daughter gets the stamps, the mother goes to get the entry information and address.

The rumpled square from the newspaper is gone! They search everywhere—the kitchen counters and drawers, under the table, in the typewriter room and even the bathroom—as the clock ticks.   The post office closes, and they still haven’t found it.

“Thanks, Mom,” the daughter thinks more than fifty years later, “for losing the address and ruining my chance to write the Great Ice Cube Initiative and become famous.”

But she smiles as she thinks this, wishing her wonderful, idea-rich mother had somehow sidestepped dementia and could laugh with her now as they watch ice cubes melt and talk about all the fun ideas they created together.

what deadline

ice cube on plate


Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, Fort Scott Kansas, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, Things to be thankful for, writing, writing exercises


Anne Lamott's book IMG_5408



Thank You cookie








When I visited my mother recently, I delivered two gifts from her great-granddaughter.   One was a package of Lemonades, and these shortbread cookies with lemon icing were for Grace’s Mor-Mor-Mor (my mom).   The other was a package of Thanks-a-Lot, chocolate-iced cookies with the message of Thank You (in five languages) baked into the shortbread side. These were for my mother’s caregivers, and Grace had made a sign thanking them for taking good care of her great-grandmother.

This tradition of expressing gratitude by giving Thanks-a-lot cookies began long before Grace was old enough to be a Girl Scout. When she was just a toddler, Molly and the kids bought packages of Thanks-a-lot cookies.  They  took them to the police station to give to the Dispatchers, thanking them for keeping their daddy safe while he was on duty.

Girl Scouts have been selling cookies as their fundraiser since 1933.   In WWII they also sold calendars because of the shortage of flour, butter and sugar.   Tomorrow is Girl Scouts Day.   For the next week, if you know of a Daisy, Brownie or Girl Scout who is selling cookies to offset troop expenses and fund camp and other activities, buying a box or two is a good way to show your support.

In addition to Thanks-a-lot cookies in five languages, here are some of my favorite quotes in English about feeling—and expressing—gratitude.

“If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.” ~Meister Eckhart (German theologian and mystic in the 1300s)

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” ~A.A. Milne, WINNIE THE POOH

“Among the things you can give and still keep are your word, a smile, and a grateful heart.” ~Zig Ziglar, author and motivational speaker

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” ~William Arthur Ward, FOUNTAINS OF FAITH

And for those of you who are fans of Anne Lamott’s book BIRD BY BIRD, she has another book also destined to become a classic: HELP, THANKS, WOW—The Three Essential Prayers.

two pkgs of cookies

Asante Thank You cookies

Gracias cookies


Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, importance of doing good things, lessons about life, memories for great-grandchildren, Special Days in March, special quotations, Things to be thankful for

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


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

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.



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

Scouting Joy

(All pictures by Marylin Warner)

(All pictures by Marylin Warner)

Even in IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE there's loss and sadness before there's joy.

Even in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE there’s loss and sadness before there’s joy.


Maggie's last Christmas picture, wearing her Rudolph ears.

Maggie’s last Christmas picture, wearing her Rudolph ears.

We didn’t send our usual “Christmas picture” greetings this year. For twelve years, our beloved Maggie has been in our picture. The first Christmas after our granddaughter was born twelve years ago, Maggie posed with us as we held baby Grace, and Maggie had her own picture ever since.

As you know, Maggie died suddenly last summer, and it was a very sad time for our family. This Christmas Jim and I just didn’t have the heart power to send cards without her.

If you do a search for ways to improve the holidays, you might be stunned at the number of articles that include this one: “Watch a Christmas movie.” Immediately I thought of IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, which is one of our favorites. But according to actor Tom Hanks, no December is complete without watching ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, Remarque’s grim story of German soldiers’ extreme stress during WWI. Not what I would choose for Christmas inspiration or joy, but we each have our own favorites.

This week, Jim and I went to visit our local Humane Society and were touched by the enthusiasm of families adding cats, dogs, rabbits and turtles to their Christmas gift lists, and also contributing to the special gift funds for pets still waiting to be adopted.

At one glassed-in area, a single puppy waited alone in a cubicle. Her four siblings had all been adopted. I knelt and put my hand on the glass wall. When the puppy looked at me, waddled over and put her paw on the other side against my hand, Jim said he could see the writing on the wall, so to speak, and we both opened our hands and our hearts.

You are our first friends to receive this Christmas picture featuring our little 4 1/2-pound, 11-week old, Border Collie Mix. The operative word is Mix—we’re pretty sure she’s also German Shepherd and maybe other breeds, too—but Maggie was a beautiful combination of many breeds, so we’re very hopeful about her. We named her Scout after TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD’s young girl narrator, one of my favorite characters in literature.

Scout adds to our joy by wagging, prancing, snuggling, gnawing, marking her territory in our lives…and reminding us how to potty train a puppy while also improving our abilities to spot clean the carpets in every room. Best of all, we feel Maggie is looking down on us and smiling at the newest addition to our family, and we smile back at her. It doesn’t get much more festive and joyful than this.

Dear blogging friends, from my family to yours, I wish you all a joyous, grateful, warm and loving Christmas.

Scout, who put her paw out to meet my hand...and my heart.

Scout, who put her paw against the glass…and touched our hearts.


Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, just doing the best we can, lessons about life, movies, Things to be thankful for


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.


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