LUCK BE A LADY

Crossing your fingers is one way to hope luck finds you.  (picture by Marylin Warner)

Crossing your fingers is one way to hope luck finds you. (picture by Marylin Warner)

This is how the ladies were NOT dancing, but they were still having a great time. (Picture from Classical Baby)

This is how the ladies were NOT dancing, but they were still having a great time. (Picture from Classical Baby)

Snow and ice had already postponed our travels by two days. First, we had to wait an extra day to leave Colorado.  Fortunately our house sitter was flexible.  But when we arrived in Kansas, I had to wait another day to drive the last 200 miles to visit my mother in the southeast part of the state. I was very tired by the time I arrived.

I don’t know what I expected as I got off the elevator to go to Mom’s apartment. I was pulling my suitcase and balancing a bouquet of yellow lilies with a bag of groceries, but instead of the common area being calm and quiet on a dreary afternoon, the room rang with festive singing and laughter. Two nursing aides had loaded a dance DVD on the flat screen TV, and eight or nine older ladies—probably in their late 70s through early 90s—were moving to the music. Dancing in place or stepping around furniture or just tapping feet and waving arms from a wheelchair, they were creating their own indoor sunshine on a gloomy day.

As I watched, amazed, they took a breather between songs. And then one of the aides called out, “Ladies, get ready. The next one is Luck Be A Lady Tonight’!” Everyone giggled and turned to watch the screen with their arms lifted, ready to ‘dance’ again. Regardless of the dreary weather and their ages and possible infirmities, these were ladies who were already making their own luck.

I had grown up hearing the expression “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” As I watched the gyrations to “Luck Be A Lady,” I amended that to “Luck is what happens when enthusiasm makes the most of music and movement.”

March 9 is GET OVER IT DAY. Whatever is bothering us, or if there is something we can’t change or should just let go of, maybe the best thing to do is make a decision to Get Over It, even for one day.   Or there’s an entire week—March 16-22ACT HAPPY WEEK.    A full week to “fake it until you make it,” an opportunity to act the way you would like to feel.

March 16-22 is also WELLDERLY WEEK (aka WELL-ELDERLY), a time to ‘act your age’—or the age you want to feel—and do the things that make you happy. Whatever your age, if you need a suggestion to get started, you might put on Frank Sinatra singing “Luck Be A Lady” and dance to it in your own lucky style.

P.S. My mother is too frail to do much standing, let alone any dancing, but she made her own luck by curling up under her blankets and humming along to some of the poems I read to her!

"Hurry Back"--1st Place Overall painting by Nancy Luttrell, age 67.  (I LOVE the detail on this painting!)

“Hurry Back”–1st Place Overall painting by Nancy Luttrell, age 67. (I LOVE the detail in this painting!)

"Tropical Foliage"--this year's Best of Show  in ART IS AGELESS.  Painter is Paul Johnston, age 81

“Tropical Foliage”–this year’s Best of Show in ART IS AGELESS. Painter is Paul Johnston, age 81

69 Comments

Filed under celebrations, Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, lessons about life, making a difference, Special Days in March, special quotations

WATER, WATER, EVERYWHERE…

Serve your water "cool" ~ thanks for sharing this, Gibby.  (All photographs by Marylin Warner)

Serve your water “cool” ~ thanks for sharing this, Gibby. (All photographs by Marylin Warner)

 

 

 

Hydrate your skin from the outside in with a brisk winter swim.

Hydrate your skin from the outside in with a brisk winter swim.

 

It’s that time of year, at least in Colorado. Outside, the water is ice and snow. Inside, it’s hot: for coffee, tea, and showers. Borrowing from last week’s post, we’ll just say this is H2O multi-tasking.

My mother was the poster girl for drinking plenty of water. When she was working with my dad at the dealership, or at home as she ironed, cooked, cleaned, gardened, sewed or worked on her writing, she always had a glass of ice water nearby. She wasn’t a coffee drinker, but she drank hot tea. One of her favorite quotes about the strength of women and tea was by Eleanor Roosevelt: “A woman is like a tea bag ~ you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.”

Now Mom is 96 and has advanced dementia, so it takes some coaxing to get her to drink enough water, Ensure or juice. For the rest of us, this post is a tribute to water and a reminder to drink plenty of it.

Isak Denisen (pen name for author Karen Blixen, best known for OUT OF AFRICA), said, “The cure for anything is salt water…sweat, tears, or the sea,” referring to hard work, healthy crying, and being close to the rhythms of the ocean.   Today many doctors advise drinking a glass of water (pure, not salt) before taking a shower or bath to regulate blood pressure, and a glass of water before going to bed to lessen the chance of a stroke of heart attack.

English Romantic poet John Keats, who was more influential and highly regarded after his death, asked that only a one-sentence epitaph be engraved on his headstone: “Here lies one whose name was writ in water.”   And Rabindranath Tagore, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913, wrote “You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.” Both are good reminders.

My mother’s favorite water quote was by Eleanor Roosevelt, but I think she also would have enjoyed author Barbara Kingsolver’s advice: “Stop a minute, right where you are. Relax your shoulders, shake your head and spine like a dog shaking off cold water. Tell that imperious voice in your head to be still.”

I can imagine my mom going through this routine, shaking her head like a dog shaking off cold water, laughing and saying, “Be still, imperious voice!” She’s never been a fan of arrogant or domineering attitudes, and in her mind she would have dosed them with cold water.

Snow: water waiting for its turn.

Snow: water waiting for its turn.

PEO snowy creek

74 Comments

Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, 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.

60 Comments

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

74 Comments

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

DOLLARS AND SENSE

Fire-destroyed landmark building  Round Wall Clock Baby Headstone IMG_2806

In Marvin Williams’ devotional about the price of getting what we think we want, he begins by giving examples of some unbelievable things.  Here are two: ~ for $90 a night, a person can buy a cell upgrade in some prisons; ~ or for $250,000.00, if you know the people to pay, you can buy the right to shoot an endangered black rhino.

There is a flip side to every coin, however. If money CAN buy those things, what things CAN’T money buy? Here are a few things I thought of:   respect, common sense, world peace, true love, lost memories, and the cure for Alzheimer’s, though this is one place where additional funding would help the research…and it would also be a much better investment than bagging an endangered black rhino.

Look at the pictures above for three more things money can’t buy: extra hours in the day; the ability to turn back time and prevent a fire or other tragedy; and this one, especially ~ ask any woman who has lost a baby how much money it would take to fill the void in her heart.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Money often costs too much.” Fill in the “prices” you’ve paid to have money and see if you agree.

On a lighter note, February 8 begins “Love Makes the World Go Round, But Laughter Keeps Us From Getting Dizzy” week. To jump-start the week, the day of February 8 is “Laugh and Get Rich” day. Interpret this as you will, but poet E.E. Cummings can get you started: “The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.”

On February 8, find something that makes you so happy that you laugh out loud, from deep in your belly. Better yet, find someone to laugh with. Not AT, but WITH. This is just my opinion, but I’m pretty sure it will make you happier than shooting an endangered rhino, or paying $90 a night to upgrade your prison cell when you get caught.

And if you do get caught shooting a rhino or doing anything illegal, look on the bright side; you can always make the most of February 13’s “Blame It On Someone Else” day.

"Earth laughs in flowers." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson   My mother carried Lillies of the Valley at her wedding to celebrate the happiness of the day.

“Earth laughs in flowers.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson.       My mother carried Lillies of the Valley at her wedding to celebrate the happiness of the day.

"From there to here, from here to there, funny things are every where."  ~Dr. Seuss

“From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere.” ~Dr. Seuss

69 Comments

Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, gardening, lessons about life, life questions, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Spiritual connections

SURPRISE!

A "K" out of cupcakes.  (All photographs by Marylin Warner)

A “K” out of cupcakes. (All photographs by Marylin Warner)

Lilies are a bright and happy touch, and they smell so sweet.

Lilies are a bright and happy touch to any celebration, and they smell so sweet.

Each month during the drive from Colorado to visit my mom in southeast Kansas, the first 450 miles are mostly Interstate driving. The next morning, however, when I drive the last 200 miles, by choice I take the back roads. Blue highways are my favorites. I love the open fields, rolling hills, and small Kansas towns with local diners, community centers advertising BINGO, and sometimes only one stop light on the main street.

As I drive, I listen to the radio, switching stations to hear local and national news and talk radio programs. I hear different perspectives during my drive, and last Sunday, January 25th, I learned that on this one day, I also heard a different “fact.”

On one local station, the talk radio host answered a call from a little voice who wanted to sing a song. The caller was only three years old, but she knew all the words to “Happy Birthday.” The ending she sang was “…happy birf-day dear Kan-sass, happy birf-day to you!” The host cheered, thanked her and cut to the weather report.

I switched to a multi-state radio station and heard the warm bass-baritone voice of Bing Crosby singing the last few lines of “Happy Birthday.” The popular singer/actor had died in 1977, and at the end of the song, the radio host said that Bing Crosby had recorded this song in 1961 when Kansas was only 100 years old, so it was worth playing again today, on Kansas’ 154th birthday. What a surprise…it was my home state’s birthday!

By the time I reached Fort Scott, I’d heard Kansas birthday greetings on several radio stations. So when I drove to the grocery store to pick up some of Mom’s favorite foods to tempt her appetite, I also bought her a bouquet of fresh deep-pink lilies and fancy birthday cupcakes with candles. It was Kansas’ birthday, after all, and in our family we’re always up for celebrating birthdays.

The surprise was on me. Kansas’ birthday is not the 25th of January, but the 29th. Three people at Mom’s assisted living informed me as I carried in the flowers and treats.  Later I double and triple checked the date on the internet and in a book of KANSAS HISTORY.  I was four days early in celebrating Kansas’ birthday.

Lesson #1: Don’t trust everything you hear on the radio (or on TV, either, or that you overhear.) As President Ronald Regan said: “Trust, but verify.”

Lesson #2: Never miss an opportunity to celebrate. Anything: birthdays (early or late), anniversaries, a snow day (if you want to go back to sleep), a warm and sunny day (if you want to go for a walk), holding a puppy or a baby or a letter from a friend, hearing good news of any kind…or just celebrating life in general.  Always make the most of an opportunity to celebrate, and if there is no obvious reason, create your own.

“Bleeding Kansas” had a rough start, with battles over being a Free State or a Slave State, and conflicts until the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown vs. Board of Education ended segregation in schools. The state has also had droughts,tornados, and all kinds of hard times. But look at Kansas now, 154 years old and going strong. The little girl sang it best: “Happy Birf-day, dear Kan-sass.”

Named for the "Kansa" tribe (meaning "people of the wind," Kansas was home to numerous and diverse Native American tribes.

Named for the “Kansa” tribe, meaning “people of the wind,” Kansas has been home to numerous and diverse Native American tribes.

Sign along the road between Topeka and Yates Center.

Sign along the road between Topeka and Yates Center.

Winter Kansas trees just before sunset.

Kansas tree; even in winter, it’s strong and beautiful.

54 Comments

Filed under birthday celebrations, celebrations, Dementia/Alzheimer's, Kansas, kindergarten lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, Things to be thankful for

TRUTH, TANGLED WEBS, AND TOAD HOLLOW

Painted sky at sunset. (All photographs by Marylin Warner)

Painted sky at sunset. (All photographs by Marylin Warner)

 

 

 

 

Rural Kansas cemetery.

Rural Kansas cemetery.

Sir Walter Scott wrote: O WHAT A TANGLED WEB WE WEAVE, WHEN FIRST WE PRACTICE TO DECEIVE.

I’m starting with Scott’s quote because it ties in with my feelings about “Therapeutic Lying,” one of the suggested responses to answering the difficult questions asked by people who suffer with Alzheimer’s and dementia. For instance, if a man with Alzheimer’s asks where his wife is, to reduce his stress and confusion, his caregiver could say the wife has gone to the store…instead of saying she died two years earlier.

five mil

As the daughter of a father who died after seven long years of horrible Alzheimer’s—and whose mother is now deep in the confusions of dementia—here’s my take on Therapeutic Lying: it may be easier on the caregiver, but it’s not necessarily better for the patient. The truth is better—and kinder, more helpful and compassionate—when it’s combined with an honest, real “memory story.” For example, if my mother asks where my dad is and if they’ll be going home soon, I serve the answer honestly…with a sweet memory for dessert. “Mom, Daddy died several years ago.” I point to a picture of them together. “Mom, I love this picture of you two. You’re both smiling, and I remember how you always straightened his tie . Daddy would wink and said, ‘Mary takes such good care of me.’ And he was right, Mom. You took very good care of all of us.”

Mom gets honest answers, followed by a true anecdote, and if she asks another question, I’ll give her another truthful answer.   The overall theme here is truth served with kindness.

January 26th is Toad Hollow Day of Encouragement, a little-known day celebrating connection with others through gestures of the heart. To me, Toad Hollow Day fits much better with gentle, honest memory sharing instead of therapeutic fiblets. (For the pictures of 1806 Toad Hollow school and pupils, Google Toad Hollow.)

January 31st is “Inspire Your Heart With Art Day.” In the spirit of the two-faced Janus looking backward, I’m including examples of my favorite art from the past. To be truthful, I know none of it belongs in a gallery, but it all holds special places in my heart. After January 31st, the Janus of Roman mythology will look forward to the year of opportunities and challenges ahead…and so will I.

 

Twenty-nine years ago, when our daughter Molly was in 3rd grade, she made this "Indian Art" project of clay and yarn.  It's our favorite wall art.

Twenty-nine years ago, when our daughter Molly was in 3rd grade, she made this “Indian Art” project of clay and yarn. It’s our favorite wall art.

Picasso-type portraits of me, painted 3 years ago by my 7 and 10-year old grandchildren. These are definitely "heart art."

Picasso-type portraits of me, drawn and painted 3 years ago by our grandchildren when they were  7 and 8 years old. These are definitely “heart art” that make me smile.

58 Comments

Filed under art, art projects, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, life questions, special quotations