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


Filed under Uncategorized


My mom's favorite book to have read to her at bedtime.

My mom’s favorite book to have read to her at bedtime.  I think it reminds her of poems and prayers from her youth.







What is the mark we leave behind?  (All photos by Marylin Warner)

What is the mark each of us will make to leave behind? (All photos by Marylin Warner)

When I visit my mom, my favorite time is at night when she’s tucked into bed, and I pull up the rocking chair and read to her. Her favorite book—the one I always read several times from start to finish—is Joan Walsh Anglund’s A LITTLE BOOK OF POEMS AND PRAYERS. Sometimes Mom naps, sometimes she smiles, and sometimes she hums along with her own rhythm to the words and poems.   All else falls away.

This is the first example on the first page of Anglund’s book. Originally the page displayed only the title, but this handwritten addition was made later:

What you do ~ What you say ~ How you work ~ How you play ~ Day by Day ~  

It all matters ~ When all is done ~ It’s what you leave behind ~ Saying who you were.

Imagine taking a philosophy class and having the professor write this quote by Aristotle on the board: “We are what we repeatedly do. Greatness then, is not an act but a habit.” And then, instead of assigning some deep, intellectual essay to expresses the best way for individuals to live, imagine that the assignment was to write a very brief set of instructions, so simple a child could understand them. If a professor gave you this assignment, what would you write?  I’ve already shown you my simplistic answer. (Obviously, the assignment was not to write good poetry.)

August is WHAT WILL BE YOUR LEGACY? month. It’s intended to be a time for us to reflect on our past and present actions and vow to make positive changes that will affect the future and be the legacy we leave behind.

The suggestions for making the most of this month are numerous. Everything from thanking those who have made a difference in your life to “Playing The Legacy Game” and having everyone in your group tell how they would like to be remembered and what they can do to make this happen.

What you decide to do—if anything—is up to you. I’m fairly certain that if it weren’t for her dementia, my mother would say that since she and Dad were married in August, everything that came out of that union—including their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, plus the business they built and the differences they made—was their legacy.

If thinking about your legacy—or writing a bad poem about what you want to leave behind—isn’t what you want to do, August has numerous other opportunities. It is also Happiness Happens Month, Boomers Making A Difference Month, and Get Ready for Kindergarten Month. You’ve already missed Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Night and National Garage Sale Day (both on August 8th) and S’mores Day (August 10th), but you can go ahead and do those things anyway.

That could be your legacy…breaking the rules and doing things on the unexpected days!

P.S.  —  The link I gave for the 50-word Gotham contest had an “invisible space” (according to the very nice Gotham editor who responded to my email cry for help.)  Here is the correct one, which seems the same, but the space has been removed.   I tried it, and it works!  Jump right in and enter by the 17th!!!           black butterfly

grasshopper on leaf


Filed under celebrations, Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, importance of doing good things, lessons about life, life questions, special quotations, writing, writing exercises

There are Doors…and then there are DOORS

Door fence at Molly's

door on side w:bird cage

In architecture, protection, and decoration, doors are getting second looks…and second lives. One new trend combining all three is “door fences.”   My favorite example is pictured above.  These very old doors were given new function and appreciation as a privacy fence entrance to a charming Kansas farmhouse, built in 1881 and then restored after a tornado in 2008. Only one door actually opens and closes. Can you guess which one?  (Answer at the end of the post.)

In moments of confusion and forgetfulness, doors offer an opportunity for clarity. For instance, when you go from one room to another, intent on getting or doing something, if you can’t remember what it was, turn around and go back. Crossing the threshold of the original doorway often triggers the memory.

In life and literature, doors are metaphors for opportunities and choices.  Boris Pasternak, author of DR. ZHIVAGO, advises us to listen closely because    “…when a great moment knocks on the door of your life, it is often no louder than the beating of your heart, and it is very easy to miss it.”  Actor Milton Berle’s advice is to choose our “tools” and take charge: “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”  Whatever our approach, Ralph Waldo Emerson says, “Be an opener of doors,” and Emily Dickinson reminds us to be open and ready: “Not knowing when the dawn will come, I open every door.”

Building on the words of Emerson and Dickinson, here is a contest to open the door for a writing opportunity. The contest asks: what would be the title of a book written about your life—and then made into a movie? This is not a time to be serious or profound.  Interesting titles that make the judges smile, or even laugh, will have an advantage.  For instance, here’s a sample idea of a title and tag line from the contest judges: A LITTLE OFF THE TOP ~ One man’s struggle with male pattern baldness.

There’s no entry fee; length is a maximum of 50 words total for title and tag. The online deadline is August 17 (come on, you aren’t actually writing a book or movie script; have some fun with this!). The winner will be posted in early September, and the prize is the online Gotham writing class of your choice. This is open to everyone. 

Charles Dickens wrote: “A very little key will open a very heavy door.” Try this contest and see if a very few words will gain you a very good prize.

(Answer to the question in the first paragraph: The door that actually opens and closes is not the door on the side, next to the bird cage. It’s the white door with the glass pane.)

Look closely at doors and keep them in perspective. What do you see in this door picture?

Look closely at doors and keep them in perspective. What do you see in this door picture?

The door on the left is regular size; the door and little window on the right are much shorter and more narrow, almost child size.  (all photos by Marylin Warner)

The door on the left is regular size; the door and little window on the right are actually much shorter and more narrow, almost child size. (all photos by Marylin Warner)


Filed under Books and book titles, Dementia/Alzheimer's, special quotations, writing contest with cash prizes, writing exercises

Love With a Capital M

Maggie led the way for hiking in the snow, followed by Jim and our grandchildren.

Maggie was the snow hike leader, followed by Jim and our grandchildren.



She wasn't much for raking leaves, but rolling in them with the family was fun.

She wasn’t much for raking leaves, but she was always up for  rolling in them with the family.

She had the sweetest smile.

She had the sweetest smile.





Charles Schultz, author of Peanuts, wrote, “Happiness is a warm puppy.”

For more than twelve years, happiness for our family has been a warm and amazing dog named Maggie. With a capital M. When our son-in-law was a policeman in the little town of Canton, KS., he found her abandoned in the back yard after the renters had moved out. He and our daughter already had two large male dogs, but they knew immediately the Colorado couple who would agree to rescue this dog.

When we adopted Maggie, we had no idea that in the big scheme of our lives, Maggie would actually rescue us and prove what writer Roger Caras said, “Dogs are not our whole lives, but they make our lives whole.”

This was not the post I had planned to write today, but life had other plans. Yesterday afternoon, Maggie suddenly could not stand. Six weeks ago blood tests and a checkup showed everything was good, but in just a short time, a fast growing tumor formed between her ribs and against one kidney. Last night Jim and I sat with Maggie in the vet’s office, saying our good-byes and stroking her head until she quietly went to sleep.

My words are too sad to write, so I’ll borrow from Dean Koontz: “Once you have had a wonderful dog, a life without one is diminished.” Our lives are diminished without Maggie, but we’re ever so grateful for the many years she was our trusted and loyal friend and a beloved member of our family.

She led the way, and we happily followed.

She led the way, and we happily followed.


Maggie was born a Kansas dog, but she was Jim's favorite Colorado hiking buddy.

Maggie was born a Kansas dog, but she was Jim’s favorite Colorado hiking buddy.

At my mom's recent 97th birthday, when things got too hectic, Mom closed her eyes, and Maggie when over to rest next to her.

At my mom’s recent 97th birthday, when things got too hectic, Mom closed her eyes, and Maggie when over to rest next to her.





Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, just doing the best we can, lessons for great-grandchildren, special quotations, Things to be thankful for


mom & dad's engagement picture

During their 67 years of marriage—before Dad’s Alzheimer’s and Mom’s dementia—my parents had one major disagreement, and it happened on their honeymoon. The conflict was a disagreement over what to do and where to go, and it turned out to have a huge affect on the rest of their lives.

They were staying in a cabin near the Big Thompson Canyon in Colorado. After packing sack lunches, canteens of water and a blanket to spread out on the ground, they took off on a private hike. They had gone less than two miles and were in a meadow at the base of a mountain when a storm hit. It was a fast, hard-hitting August storm with wind, thunder, and the beginnings of hail.

Dad pointed to the only refuge in the meadow, a huge tree with thick branches loaded with leaves. His plan was for them to huddle at the base of the tree and cover themselves with the blanket.  But Mom, a Missouri farm girl who’d seen lightning set fire to an old barn, said they should use the blanket as cover and take their chances hurrying back to the cabin.

Long story short, they argued back and forth, holding the blanket over their heads and eyeing the building storm. In the end, Dad grabbed Mom’s hand and they ran in the direction of the cabin. Minutes later a bolt of lightning hit the tree and destroyed it.

One of my favorite college lectures was titled The Clarence Reminder. It was named for Clarence, the angel in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, whose job was to remind George Bailey that a world without him would have been a very different world.

The picture above is my parents’ engagement picture. It could have also been their last picture if they’d decided to huddle against the tree that day. The pictures below–with our parents holding me as a baby and my brother as a toddler, and then more than four decades later another picture of us as adults posing with them–would not exist. David’s sons, and my daughter and her children, also would not exist.

There’s a reason that lightning never strikes twice in the same place ~ it’s because no place is ever exactly the same after being struck by lighting. The same is true with people.  My mom said that after the close call with the lightning hitting the tree, she never forgot that every thing we do makes a profound difference in the lives and futures of ourselves and others. We can’t see all the dangers ahead or choose only the safe paths, but we can celebrate every day as precious.

THE CLARENCE REMINDER is a good lesson for all of us.

family_photo_1949        Mom, Dad, me, David

Dead End 15 mph


Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, just doing the best we can, lessons for great-grandchildren, life questions, Spiritual connections


Eyeballs"--colored by Hillari Dowdie

Eyeballs”–colored by Hillari Dowdie–came from POSH ADULT COLORING BOOK: SOOTHING DESIGNS FOR FUN & RELAXATION.




"Secret Garden"--published by Laurence King--is one of the downloadable coloring pages.

“Secret Garden”–published by Laurence King –is one of the downloadable coloring pages.

Author Barbara Taylor Bradford once said that success is often a matter of knowing when to relax.   Lyricist and novelist Paulo Coelho wrote, “It’s a good idea to always do something relaxing prior to making an important decision in your life.”  And Ray Bradbury’s advice was four words: “Work. Don’t think. Relax.”

This summer’s hottest trend would fit right in with all three suggestions, and it’s as simple as turning to the right book. The right coloring book.   Boston psychologist Alice Domar, Ph.D., says coloring offers complete absorption…and keeps you in the moment. It engages “both sides of your brain…creative and tactical…and brings you back to a simpler time.”  Coloring (with pens, colored pencils, markers, even crayons) is this summer’s hottest trend, and it’s just getting started. Rumors have it that in addition to the many adult coloring books already available, Game of Thrones also has a coloring book in the works.

My mother was into her own form of  “adult coloring” long before it was popular.   She used to carry a small double-sided notebook (lines on one side, blank pages on the other) so that wherever she was, if she had an idea for a poem or article or story, she could jot it down. But before she began writing, she doodled an illustration on the blank side of the page.  By the time she had colored the illustration, she had a fuller, more vivid picture in mind and was ready to write.   Or sometimes she drew a picture, and later she wrote about it.

The July 12 issue of PARADE MAGAZINE calls coloring a way to “cheer up, chill out, and get your creative juices flowing.” It lists titles of successful coloring books with everything from whimsical animals and flowers, to Hindu and Buddhist mandelas (symbols that represent wholeness). PARADE also invites us to get started by going to for free downloadable coloring pages.   All the coloring page examples on this post come from that site, and there are many more choices.

To stop over-thinking and start relaxing, try the joy of coloring.   Or like my mother used to do before the dementia, illustrate a thought and move it from color to words.

birds design from POSH Coloring book

Fish design, and bird design in next picture, are from POSH Coloring Book; both pages are downloadable

Fish design, and bird design in picture above, are from POSH Coloring Book; both pages are downloadable.



Filed under art, art projects, Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, just doing the best we can, kindergarten lessons about life, memories for great-grandchildren, special quotations

You Can Sell A Book By Its Cover

still stripping - title



(Look closer; the cowboy is knitting!)

(Look closer; the cowboy is knitting!)

Yard sales often offer books for sale. This week at a community yard sale, one little paperback diet book had everyone laughing, and also had several people wanting to buy it just for the novelty of the title: NEVER EAT MORE THAN YOU CAN LIFT.

The two book covers pictured above are also interesting. If you just read the title of Eleanor Burms’ book—STILL STRIPPING AFTER 25 YEARS—your first thought might not be that the book is about knitting and crocheting with strips of fabric. And the cover of Dave Tougner’s book, THE MANLY ART OF KNITTING, speaks for itself. Both books would at least make you look twice.

In a competitive book-selling market, stunning or clever book covers and compelling, surprising, humorous or outrageous titles might be just the nudge that makes someone buy a book rather than put it back on the shelf.

Judge Judy Sheindlin, of the popular  court television program, gave her book this successful title: DON’T PEE ON MY LEG AND TELL ME IT’S RAINING: America’s Toughest Family Court Judge Speaks Out.

Many successful books have one-word titles: IT, JAWS, MIDDLESEX, DIVERGENT, FRANKENSTEIN, and DUNE are just a few examples.   And some VERY LONG titles pretty much summarize the book’s content.   Here are two of my favorites: Christina Tompson’s COME ON SHORE AND WE WILL KILL YOU AND EAT YOU ALL: A New Zealand Story, and David Rakoff’s DON’T GET TOO COMFORTABLE: THE INDIGNITIES OF COACH CLASS, THE TORMENTS OF LOW THREAD COUNT, THE NEVER-ENDING QUEST FOR ARTISANAL OLIVE OIL, AND OTHER FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS.

I love libraries, book stores and yard sales that offer books. I also love surprising and interesting titles and book covers, but what really counts in the long run for me is the quality of the content between the covers.  I love to get lost in good books.

Before the dementia, my mother loved the same things. She still likes to be read to, especially books of poems and prayers for children. But when I was growing up, she had shelves of good books, and two were her special favorites.   Jessamyn West’s EXCEPT FOR ME AND THEE, companion book to THE FRIENDLY PERSUASION, and Helen Doss’ nonfiction book, THE FAMILY NOBODY WANTED.  She bought spare copies of both books.  That way she could  always have her own copies, but still lend the books to others to enjoy, and tell them to pass the books on to others when they were finished.

Yes, you can sell a book by its cover. But it’s what’s between the covers that will make you cherish the book.

The profound, touching and wise story of a couple  in the 1950s who just wanted a child of their own, but had hearts big enough for many that no one wanted.

The profound, touching and wise story of a couple in the 1950s who just wanted a child of their own, but had hearts big enough for many that no one wanted.

A Quaker family practices what they believe with honesty, humor and charm.

A Quaker family practices what they believe with honesty, humor and charm, even during the Civil War.




Filed under art, Books and book titles, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life