Tag Archives: Charles Dickens

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. https://www.writingclasses.com/contest/movie-of-your-life-contest-2015 

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)

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

OUR BEST-REGULATED FAMILY

A British theme, 1939, now a popular American motto.

A British theme, 1939, now a popular American motto.

“Accidents will occur in the best-regulated families.” ~Charles Dickens

These come in the mail, to offer writing courses. Mine would have to read, 'Growing up Marylin Shepherd in  Fort Scott, KS'

These come in the mail, to offer writing courses. Mine would have to read, ‘Growing up Marylin Shepherd in Fort Scott, KS’

Dear Mom,

You like to stay in your own apartment, cuddled under an afghan as you rest in your recliner. But years ago, taking off for a drive with your family was one of your favorite things to do.  It’s back-to-school time for your great-grandchildren now, which reminds me of one of our adventures. It was August, 1960…

Daddy had a meeting in Kansas City, and he offered to drop us off downtown so we could shop and then go out for lunch. Immediately you said yes, dressed us up a bit so we’d look nice, and we piled into the car. It was three weeks before my 11th birthday and David was months from being 13.  He needed new shirts and jeans for school the next week. I needed shoes, and for my upcoming birthday I desperately wanted only one thing, umm…a bra.

All my girl friends had bras. They were called beginner bras, training bras—as if young girls’ obsessions needed training—and you weren’t thrilled with the idea. But we found a huge assortment of them in the department store clothing section. They came in one cup size—flat—and the only measurement was “around” so it wouldn’t fit too tight.

All the little dressing rooms were full—my brother was taking his sweet time in one of them, trying on lots of different jeans—and soon the serving hours for lunch would end at our favorite eating place, the big Forum Cafeteria.  So you partially hid me between displays of pajamas and robes, pulled a beginner bra out of its box, and right there in front of God and everybody, you tested the fit…OVER my blouse.  There I stood, wearing a white bra over a red blouse.  David chose that moment, of course, to finally open the curtain of the dressing cubicle. He took one look, screwed up his face in a laugh, and closed the curtain. The sales lady giggled the entire time she asked if we needed assistance.

I marched ahead of you and David, clutching my package of two birthday bras, refusing to talk to either of you as we hurried the few blocks to the Forum Cafeteria. It was a bright and shiny wonderful place with a long glass-covered display of so many food choices that we could hardly decide. I let you tuck my package inside your big purse. We loaded our trays with silverware and napkins and pushed our way along the chrome tray bars.

David was in the lead. His tray was filled with plates and bowls of food when he reached the drink section. As the server handed his iced tea over the counter, he grabbed too late or she let go too soon. The tea tipped and drenched not only his food, but it also splattered on him. (Note here: At that point I hadn’t heard of Karma, but whenever I think of Karma now, I remember the miserable look on my brother’s face.)

He was given a fresh tray, all new bowls and plates, and we made our way to our table. It was at the bottom of the wide stairs leading to the upstairs dining area, our favorite place where we could look out the window at the hustle and bustle of Kansas City. It was also where we made a buffer for a businessman who was hurrying down the stairs to get back to work. He slipped or tripped or maybe missed a step, floundered, threw up his arms…and landed on our table. Seriously. Smack dab in the middle, tipping over all the glasses, flinging the food. I remember the mashed potatoes on his face.

In typical gracious form, Mom, you jumped up to help him, grabbing napkins, asking if he was all right. He was so embarrassed, stammering apologies, and I remember you giving him a tissue from your purse, smiling and telling him it was quite all right, that everyone had accidents, and some day this would be his favorite story to share. As the staff hurried over to clean up and escort the man to the rest room, I noticed your open purse, the inside drenched in ice tea…and the goo of cobbler bits clinging to my birthday bra package.

Daddy picked us up in front of a book store an hour later.  As he pulled into the downtown traffic, he smiled and said, “I had an excellent meeting. How was your day?”

You, Mom, were the first to giggle, and soon the three of us were laughing and trying to talk all at once, telling about our excellent day.

The cover of a blank photo album, Kansas Originals.

The cover of a blank photo album, Kansas Originals.

“Gravity is a contributing factor in nearly 73% of all accidents involving falling objects.” ~ Dave Barry

“Everyone has accidents. Later, they become favorite stories to share.”  ~ Mary Shepherd

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, memories for great-grandchildren, special quotations, Things to be thankful for

RAIN UPON BLINDING DUST

mom kindergar

This is not the post I originally planned for this week.

After what happened yesterday at Sandy Hook school in Connecticut, I couldn’t write a holiday post. This is one of those rare times when I am actually grateful that my mother has advanced dementia.

Those of you who have been reading this blog for awhile know that my mother, Mary Elizabeth Shepherd, now 94, was once a kindergarten teacher. She is third from the left in the back row of the 1940s picture above.

All of her life, my mother has protected, loved and nurtured children of all ages. She was a CASA volunteer, a Sunday school teacher, a substitute teacher, a devoted mother and grandmother, and a volunteer tutor for children who needed help. Anyone or any thing that hurts children wounds her deeply. I am grateful she is oblivious of this tragedy; it would break her heart if she understood.

Charles Dickens, author of GREAT EXPECTATIONS, wrote this:  “Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried than before—more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle.”

In conclusion, author C.S. Lewis faced a personal, profound grief and loss during his life.  In his book A GRIEF OBSERVED, he wrote: “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” During this time of sorrow and fear, may we join hands and hearts and cry together, our tears raining upon the blinding dust of earth.

Hummel figurine of children singing and playing instruments.  (photo by Marylin Warner)

Hummel figurine of children singing and playing instruments. (photo by Marylin Warner)

Statue of young readers, Abilene Public Library, Abilene, KS. (photo by Marylin Warner)

Statue of young readers, Abilene Public Library, Abilene, KS. (photo by Marylin Warner)

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, teachers