Category Archives: Uncategorized

Rotting Fish and Sweaty Socks

These three pictures were taken at the Denver Botanical Gardens ~ Fox News

All pictures of the Corpse Flower in bloom and the visitor drawing the flower were taken at the Denver Botanical Gardens by Fox News photographers and shown on Fox 21 News.  They did a great job!

corpse flower #2

 

corpse flower #3

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s long “Hamatreya” isn’t his best known poem, but four of the words within it are very well known and often quoted: “Earth laughs in flowers.” It was one of my mother’s favorite phrases. Before her dementia, gardening was her much-loved early morning activity, and flowers were a joy to her.

It wouldn’t be Mom’s dementia, or the long drive between Kansas and Colorado, that would prevent me from taking her to the Denver Botanical Gardens this week. It would be the smell. And the long lines, with waits as long as five hours to get in.

The Amorphophallus titanum was in bloom for less than forty-eight hours, and it will be another 7-10 years before the “corpse flower” blooms again. The plant earned this nickname for a reason, and at the entrance to the Botanical Gardens, barf bags were available for the visitors. To give you a general idea, I’ll share two popular descriptions of the smell of the “corpse flower”: 1) a combination of limburger cheese, rotting fish, sweaty socks, and mothballs; and 2) the carcass of a chicken in a trash bag inside a metal trash can, left outside for a few days.

I think it’s safe to say that the Amorphophallus titanum isn’t on the top ten list of most popular flowers for wedding bouquets and Mother’s Day corsages.

Maybe Edna St. Vincent Millay had “corpse flower” in mind when she wrote these lines: “I will be the gladdest thing under the sun! I will touch a hundred flowers and not pick one.” Or maybe touching the “corpse flower” wouldn’t be a good idea either.

Flowers—like art, movies, books, politics and religion, etc.—are open to interpretation and valuable for personal reasons. The typical appeal of most flowers is usually the beauty, colors, scents and symbolism. But maybe the infrequency of the bloom of the “corpse flower” and the short life of the blossoms are popular considerations. Or maybe the novelty of the startling, staggering smell is also a draw. Mom always said that every thing God created has a purpose and fits somehow into the scheme of things, even if we don’t quite understand what it is.

I think she’s right. I just don’t know about the purpose of the “corpse flower,” except maybe as the prompt for writing a horror story. It does seem to be a possible flower of choice for zombies, tied with a wire and presented in a barf bag.  But I’m certainly open to other possibilities.                                 corpse flower artist

corpse flower art up close

corpse flower--earth laughs

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SIT A SPELL

Painting by Vincent Van Gogh

Painting by Vincent Van Gogh

 

 

My grandmother's dining room chairs were all hand carved.

My grandmother’s dining room chairs were all hand carved.

In addition to being royal thrones and pieces of architecture and sculptures on display, for the most part chairs are practical, useful, and common pieces of furniture. The basics include potty chairs, high chairs, lawn chairs, folding chairs and rocking chairs.  If you want to make an elite statement, the Chippendale chairs continue to be the popular, collectible and outlandishly expensive choices.

Times change, and tastes in chairs—and thinking—also change. As Jean Kerr wrote, “When the grandmothers of today hear the word ‘Chippendales’, they don’t necessarily think of chairs.”

My mother and I have always loved chairs of all kinds. One of my favorite expressions I heard her say, as well as my grandmother, an aunt, and several older neighbors say, was “Come on in and sit a spell.”   What I loved best about the invitation was the word “spell.” Of course it meant to sit awhile, but to me it also cast a spell and became something magical. Being with friends, sharing conversation, ideas, and cookies with iced tea, hot tea or coffee created a special moment in time.

Which is why, for me, the best spell-casting chairs are created by hand. And to make these four chairs below extra special, they are all from the children’s section at the Chapman, KS library when I was there recently. To my way of thinking, when you combine excited young readers with happy, creative chairs, you create magic.  As author Stephen King said, “You can’t deny laughter; when it comes, it plops down in your favorite chair and stays as long as it wants.”

giraffe chairTiger chair bird chairZEBRA chair

 

 

 

 

As H.Jackson Brown Jr. wrote: “A true friend encourages us, comforts us and supports us like a big easy chair, offering us a safe refuge from the world.”

This first week of May, I hope we’ll all be aware of the gentle rocking chairs in our lives, the given-new-life hand-painted chairs, and the true friends who encourage, comfort and support us, offering safe refuge from the world.

Our favorite chairs, hand painted for us by our daughter for our anniversary.  "Picasso" chairs with messages on the seats: (left) "It takes a long time to grow young."  And (right) "Everything you can imagine is real."

Our favorite chairs, hand painted for us by our daughter for our anniversary. “Picasso” chairs with messages on the seats: (left) “It takes a long time to grow young.” And (right) “Everything you can imagine is real.”

 

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A THISTLE BY ANY OTHER NAME

Wikipedia picture of Archibald Leach.

Wikipedia picture of Archibald Leach.

 

 

Ben Franklin wrote as Silence Dogood, Polly Baker, Busy Body and other names.

Ben Franklin wrote as Silence Dogood, Polly Baker, Busy Body and other names.

One of Hollywood’s classic leading men from the 1930s-1963 was Cary Grant. An interviewer once told him, “Everyone would like to be Cary Grant,” to which Cary replied, “So would I.” He was actually born Archibald Alexander Leach in Horfield, Bristol, England.

In addition to choosing a writing pseudonym, entering the Witness Protection Program or taking on a more appealing stage name, there are many reasons people change their names. Although Shakespeare wrote that a rose by any other name would be as sweet, I agree with L.M. Montgomery’s character, Anne, who said this in ANNE OF GREEN GABLES. “…I don’t believe a rose would be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage.”

My mother grew up being called Mary Ibbeth when other children had trouble pronouncing Elizabeth. My brother called me Mayno until he could say Marylin. Mary Ann Evans wrote under the name George Eliot to be taken more seriously than women writers of her time. And Mark Sinclair changed his acting name to Vin Diesel. I assume it’s for VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) and DIESEL (a type of gas used in a diesel engine) which fits with FAST AND FURIOUS.

When I was growing up, almost all my friends hated their names at some time or another, and we’d talk about the names we’d rather have. All of us ended up sticking to our given name, or shortening it to a nickname. One of my favorite examples of choosing a significant name is by Patricia Briggs in RIVER MARKED. “Mercy is not a proper Indian name.”… “Rash Coyote Who Runs with Wolf … We could shorten it to Dinner Woman.”

I once thought that if I had to change my name for some reason, I’d use my first nickname, Mayno, and add my mother’s (and my daughter’s) middle name, Elizabeth.  It just didn’t feel right. You know what they say about a rose—or a thistle—by any other name.

Mom's dementia has her remembering being a child on the farm. During this visit I called her Mary Ibbeth as I read a poem about farms.  She just smiled.

Mom’s dementia has her remembering being a child on the farm. During this visit I called her Mary Ibbeth as I read a poem about farms. She kept her eyes closed, but she smiled.

Child carrying stack of books ~ statue at main library in Colorado Springs.  If you got books by Deanna Dwyer, Leigh Nichols, or David Axton, who wrote them? (Dean Koontz)

Child carrying stack of books ~ statue at main library in downtown Colorado Springs. If you got books by Deanna Dwyer, Leigh Nichols, or David Axton, who wrote them? (Dean Koontz)

The doll of Dorothy from THE WIZARD OF OZ.  The movie role was played by Frances Ethel Gumm (aka Judy Garland)

The doll of Dorothy from THE WIZARD OF OZ. The movie role was played by Frances Ethel Gumm (aka Judy Garland)

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WELCOME, SEPTEMBER!!! Oh, yeah…

My version of Green Eggs and Ham.  (Pictures by Marylin Warner)

My version of Green Eggs and Ham. (Pictures by Marylin Warner)

 

 

"T's the last rose of summer, Left blooming  alone."  ~ Thomas Moore

“T’s the last rose of summer, Left blooming alone.” ~ Thomas Moore

On September evenings, cats cuddle for warmth.

On September evenings, cats cuddle for warmth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My dad often reminded me to not wish my life away…to never want a day or event to come so quickly that I overlooked the gifts of today.   He was a wise man.

In keeping with his advice, I will celebrate today—National Bacon Lover’s Day, rough work but somebody has to do it—and at the same time applaud Dr. Seuss’ GREEN EGGS AND HAM.

Combining special days and foods is a form of multi-tasking, and if the green in my scrambled eggs comes from spinach, it’s actually kind of healthy. Right?

September is almost here, and oh, how I love September.  The rose bush that had given up for awhile now shines with one last rose of summer; the deer visit our back yard at will; and our neighborhood is alive with the laughter of helmeted school children learning to ride their bikes without training wheels. Three cheers for September!

Still cringing from last week’s  “pre-emptive sympathy card,” I’ve decided do something much more fun and make “pre-emptive preparations” for some of September’s special days. For instance, how much more fun will it be on Sept. 5th “Be Late For Something Day” if we carefully decide in advance what we’ll be late for, and how we’ll make our late entrance.

Or if we give it some advance thought, on Sept. 6th we can Fight Procrastination with a specific plan that must be implemented on that day. And if we struggle with long-held superstitions, we can plan a strategy for Sept. 13, which is Defy Superstition Day, and then reward our efforts on the 14th by enjoying National Cream-filled Donut Day. The really good news is that many bakeries make delicious Maple Bacon Doughnuts, which brings us back to Bacon Lover’s Day…see how it all works together? Amazing, isn’t it? ;) 

On a more serious note, September is also the AKC’s Responsible Dog Ownership Month, Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, Hunger Action Month, Baby Safety Month, and for parents of children hurrying back to school or happily embracing play dates, it is also National Head Lice Prevention Month. (Which you know is nothing to laugh at if your children have ever come home with head lice.)

September is Prosper Where You Are Planted month, Healthy Aging Month, and in memory of my father who told me to never overlook the gifts of today–and also in honor of my mother who still lives that example on a daily basis–I also point out that September is World Alzheimer’s Month. 

As we appreciate and remember the wonderful days of each month , may we also continue to work for a cure for Alzheimer’s and dementia. Memories are important; we need to do all we can to protect and preserve them.     

Believe it or not, but one effective preventative for head lice is rinsing the hair and scalp with original Listerine.

Believe it or not, but one effective preventative for head lice is rinsing the hair and scalp with original Listerine.

A deer stops by for a visit in our back yard.  He jumps over the fence as if it's not there.  Help yourself to the zucchini, fella...we've got plenty.

A deer stops by for a visit in our back yard. He jumps over the fence as if it’s not there. Help yourself to the zucchini, fella…we’ve got plenty.

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TO SEND or NOT TO SEND, that is the question

pink lilies

 

 

PUTTING MAKEUP ON DEAD PEOPLE, a wonderful novel by Jen Violi

PUTTING MAKEUP ON DEAD PEOPLE, a wonderful novel by Jen Violi.

My blog post last week included information and examples about writing greeting cards and where to submit them. This week’s post is open to discussion about cards that SHOULD be sent…and those that, in my opinion, SHOULD NOT be sent.  Or at least not sent early.

On Monday I received a very nice Hallmark card in the mail. It came from a couple who live several states away. The card artwork was lovely; the calligraphy was elegant. The cover message was about the permanence of a mother’s love, and the inside message stated that my mother would always be with me in spirit. The final line was two words: “With Sympathy.”

My mother suffers from advanced dementia and on most days her clearest memories are those as a child on the farm in Missouri, but she is definitely still alive. The handwritten note on the card said the couple had made a donation in my mother’s name to the Alzheimer’s Foundation.

By the time I reread the card, I had the eerie uneasy feeling that maybe I had dementia…or had slipped into an episode of “The Twilight Zone.”  Even though I was recently with my mom in Kansas, I wondered if the card senders knew something I didn’t. Finally I read the folded, typed paper in the envelope behind the card, explaining that they did not know how much longer my mother might live, but they wanted to send the card early. Then the typed message went on to other details.

Those of you who have tried your hand at writing greeting cards know that, in general, the two most difficult cards to successfully create are 1) humorous cards, and 2) sympathy cards.  And as far as I know, the two types do not usually overlap, although there was one card years ago that got a “bad taste” award. The details vary, but as I remember it, there was a frog on the front of the humorous/sympathy card, and the message was something like We all croak. Sorry.

Does the process of dying and dealing with death really make people so uncomfortable that their default response is to try to brush it aside, lighten it with a joke, or send a card early to get it out of the way?

One of my favorite novels I’ve discovered in the past year is PUTTING MAKEUP ON DEAD PEOPLE by Jen Violi. It is a poignant, touching, funny and tender novel about a young woman who learns to deal with her father’s death by training to become a makeup expert for a funeral home. Her respectful and genuine desire is to serve, honor and protect the dead and their families…and to honestly face her own fears.  I read aloud several chapters to my mother last winter—especially one of the scenes where the young woman is talking to the lady on her table as she selects fingernail polish to match the lipstick—and my mother smiled and said, “We like fingernail polish…don’t we?”   This novel does not avoid, over simplify, hide from or joke about death. It reveals and embraces the rituals of death that illuminate life. I strongly recommend it. 

We learn as we go, and we do the best we can. Those are the two main lessons I’ve learned during my father’s Alzheimer’s and now my mother’s dementia. I also realize that we’re all at different stages in our journeys, and probably there was no offense or avoidance intended by the Early Sympathy card that arrived on Monday. Therefore, I will set it aside until the time does come to read it…when I will be grateful for genuine words of condolence and expressions of sympathy.

 

Oklahoma City: "The Survivor Tree," the American Elm that survived the explosion.

Oklahoma City: “The Survivor Tree,” the American Elm that survived the explosion.

"Field of Empty Chairs" memorial of the april 19, 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing.  168 chairs with names of those killed, 19 smaller chairs for the children.

“Field of Empty Chairs” memorial of the april 19, 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing. 168 chairs with names of those killed, 19 smaller chairs for the children.

 

 

 

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WHAT’S YOUR 10% PLAN?

Non nobis solum nati sumus.  ~Cicero    (Not for ourselves alone are we born.)   Pictures by Marylin Warner.

Non nobis solum nati sumus. ~Cicero (Not for ourselves alone are we born.) Pictures by Marylin Warner.

10% HAPPIER

 

Who hears music feels his solitude peopled at once. ~ Robert Browning

Who hears music feels his solitude peopled at once.
~ Robert Browning

The Earth Laughs in Flowers.  ~ Emerson (Especially when the flowers fill the little boots worn by your grandchildren.)

The Earth Laughs in Flowers. ~ Emerson
(Especially when the flowers fill the little boots worn by your grandchildren.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Those of you who watch Good Morning America may have seen it when Dan Harris, Nightline anchor, had a panic attack on camera and couldn’t continue.  Instead of ruining him, the crisis set him on a new path.  10% HAPPIER is his touching, hilarious, skeptical and profound book that shares his journey to rewire his thinking.

Harris’ book helped him deal with stress and have at least 10% more happiness in his life, and that’s nothing to scoff at, if you think about it. What would be your plan for 10% more happiness?

Before her dementia, I know how my mother would have answered. I once overheard her in the kitchen trying to encourage an unhappy friend. Mom was baking, and as they drank tea and talked, Mom asked the woman what things made her happy. I’ll never forget the cynical reply: “Do you think I’d be sad if I knew how to make myself happy? How do I know what might make me happy?”

Things got quiet. Mom was kneading bread dough. I heard her pound on the dough and say, “Well, at least try doing things and see if you stumble on something that makes you happy.” I peeked around the corner to see Mom move the dough bowl over in front of her friend and say, “Punch around on the dough for awhile and see if you feel better.” It didn’t take long until I heard them both pounding away and laughing.

Any time I want to feel/think/be happier, I go for laughter. I agree with writer Anne Lamott: “Laughter is carbonated happiness.”   And I know for sure that in church, in meetings and other ‘serious’ situations, whenever I try to suppress laughter, the worse it becomes. I’m not a big fan of Woody Allen, but he and I agree on one thing: “I am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose.”

So I take my cues from my mother: I try doing things to see what makes me happy. Even with the dementia, when a caregiver put a straw in Mom’s chocolate milk to help her drink it, Mom did something…she blew bubbles.   When I was growing up and got moody and mopey, I soon found myself doing something:  helping Mom in the garden, taking the dog on a walk, hanging up laundry in the sunshine, or going to the library to find a good book.

Or baking bread. Pounding the hell out of bread dough didn’t always make for the best loaf, but it got me pushing, pulling, breathing deep, and working out my feelings.

My happiest suggestion to add laughter to your life is this: become a snake charmer. Miss Harper Lee (not the author, but a darling, funny golden retriever) teaches you how in just a few pictures. Do yourself a favor and click on her link: http://thek9harperlee.wordpress.com/2014/05/30/its-official-im-a-snake-charmer/

If you have personal helpful hints for 10% more happiness—or any degree of increased happiness–please share them. Life is hard, and we’re all trying to do the best we can! And don’t misunderstand; there are times when we need more help than pounding bread or blowing bubbles in our milk. When that happens, we should support and applaud each other for getting the help we need.

This past week readers lost an inspiring and wonderful writer, Maya Angelou.   Her legacy will be celebrated for generations to come.

Many times I taught I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS in my high school English classes.  Each time it became obvious which students felt caged in their lives, and there were many who felt that way.  Angelou’s words made a profound difference in their growth.

She’ll be remembered for many things she said and wrote, but this quote by Maya Angelou is one of my favorites: “I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t laugh.”

Maya Angelou  (photo by Gerald Herbert/ AP photo)

Maya Angelou
(photo by Gerald Herbert/ AP photo)

 

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Choices For The Last Weeks of September

Historic school house ~ Fort Scott, KS (all photography by Marylin Warner)

Hi, Mom,

It’s our favorite time of year again, when the air is crisp and the leaves begin to change.  About this time each September, you’d begin asking what special dinner I wanted for my birthday, what cake I wanted you to make for dessert, and if there was a special something I wanted as a present. We didn’t make a huge deal of birthdays, but you always made them special. Because of your sudden spiking blood pressure during pregnancy–the doctors now call it pre-eclampsia–I was delivered quickly by C-section, more than 3 weeks early. You and I decided it was because I was determined to be born in September; I cut it pretty close, taking my first breath on the evening of the 30th.

Okay, Mom, just for the fun of it, during the last weeks of September there are some choices to make. We’ve already missed National Cream-filled Donut Day on the 14th, which Dad would have loved, and Make A Hat Day on the 15th (which you tried once, but we won’t talk about it, right?) Today, Sept. 16, there are many choices: Collect Rocks Day, Mayflower Day, National PlayDoh Day, and National Women’s Friendship Day. And tomorrow, the 17th, one of the choices is Wear Sneakers to Work Day. How’s that sound?

To make things simple, how about limiting the choices to food options: the 17th of September is National Apple Dumpling Day; the 18th is Cheeseburger Day; the 19th is Butterscotch Pudding Day; and the 20th is National Punch Day (we’ll assume this is the drink and not hitting). This year Oktoberfest begins on the 22nd, and the 26th is Johnny Appleseed Day in case apple sauce sounds good.  The 29th is Confucius Day, and you always used to have fun with fortune cookies.  On the 30th, there are more choices than just my birthday:  Yom Kippur; National Mud Pack Day; oh, and on this day in 1902, Rayon was patented, so we could celebrate that, too.  It can get silly, but it’s fun.

Tonight as I was working on the computer, Oldies But Goodies were playing on i-Tunes. Bobby Vinton was  singing a song: “…so let us make a pledge to meet in September…and seal it with a kiss…”   It made me smile. For years we’ve done that, meeting in September, on or close to my actual birthday. I drive from Colorado for my regular visit with you in Kansas, but I bring cupcakes so you can have a choice of flavors. When I sing the Happy Birthday song, you sing along. You usually ask if it’s your birthday (which we celebrated in July).                                                                 I tell you it’s OUR birthday, because it is.

The date of my birth was September 30th, but it’s actually a special day for both of us. It’s the day we became Mother and Daughter, and that’s something worth celebrating.

I love you, Mom.  See you soon…with cupcakes.     Marylin                       

Cupcake choices: Maple with Bacon (!), Chocolate Mint, Black Forest, and Peanut Butter Special

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