Tag Archives: Dairy Queen

What’s Your Title?

books for writing

 

FDR in wheelchair

 

Van Gogh's chair

One of the “thinking activities” I used before my mother’s dementia worsened was to take her out for a ride in the sunshine and play the TITLE GAME.  We’d choose objects or something we saw along the way—as an example here, I’m using pictures of chairs—and we’d take turns creating a title for a poem or story that might be written about it.

For instance, the picture above of FDR in a wheelchair might inspire a title for a children’s story, while the picture of Van Gogh’s chair might end up with a title about the person who had sat there posing for a painting.  If Mom was reluctant, I would ask questions like  “But what if–?” and soon she was laughing and creating all kinds of titles…to earn her the prize of an ice cream cone at the Dairy Queen. (Bribery was an honorable technique if it inspired her  to participate.)

I once read a journaling prompt about the importance of “thinking in titles” as an exercise in discovering what you really think or feel about something.   Supposedly, if you keep a diary or a journal, when you write a TITLE  about that day’s entry before you begin writing, it will direct the details and give the entry a focus and insight you might otherwise overlook.

Think about books that began with one title but after revisions and rethinking, the final copy ended up with a very different title.  For instance, Jacqueline Susann’s book THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS began as THEY DON’T BUILD STATUES TO BUSINESSMEN.   John Steinbeck’s OF MICE AND MEN was first titled SOMETHING THAT HAPPENED.   1984 by George Orwell was originally titled THE LAST MAN IN EUROPE, and William Faulkner’s THE SOUND AND THE FURY began as TWILIGHT (and it didn’t even have vampires and werewolves).

Imagine you have one minute to create a title for a book or story about your life, or a novel about the year something unusual or life-changing happened. One minute is all it takes, and you’ll win a Dairy Queen ice cream cone…or something you really want. What would your title be?

chair tee-shirt simplify

60 Comments

Filed under art, Books and book titles, Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, just doing the best we can, lessons about life, life questions, making a difference, writing exercises

A DIFFERENT WANDERLUST: Flat Travels

(upper left):  Pastor Amy Truhe, Schere Memorial Lutheran Church

(upper right):   Marylin Warner, Mary Shepherd and Flat Grace         (lower left): Real Grace’s mom, Molly

The entrance to Ft. Scott’s #1 National Cemetery ~         

(First, a brief explanation about the original FLAT STANLEY by Jeff Brown, published in 1964.  In the popular children’s book, Characters Stanley Lambchop and his brother Arthur are given a bulletin board, but during the night it falls from the wall and flattens Stanley as he sleeps.

He makes the most of his altered state, sliding under the doors of locked rooms, being used as a kite by his brother, etc.  The BIG advantage, though, is Stanley can visit friends by being mailed in an envelope.  The FLAT STANLEY PROJECT that evolved from the books connected students with other schools, towns/cities, states and countries.  In 2005, more than 6,500 classes from 48 countries took part in the project, sending their crayon-colored paper dolls on adventures. 

In 1999, when our daughter Molly was student teaching, her 2nd grade class participated in the project, and we took pictures of Flat Stanley in Colorado for her students. Now, more than a dozen years later, Molly’s daughter continues the tradition…)

Dear Mom,

Wow! This was a different visit, wasn’t it? At first you were confused by the “Flat Grace” paper doll I brought with me to Ft. Scott, but soon you rallied. Once you understood that your 8-year-old great-granddaughter, Grace, had made a paper doll of herself as part of her 3rd grade project, you joined in the fun.

When Flat Grace posed with us in your apartment, you laughed and hugged her. She went on to pose with other nice people, and the pictures will all be used in Real Grace’s final report on the project.

As we looked at the pictures on my digital camera, I realized Flat Grace had reinforced some of your lessons:

~ NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF A SMILE.

Some might think it’s a silly waste of time, posing for a picture with a paper doll, but I didn’t encounter even one critical person.  I approached people in the spirit of good-natured fun, the way I’d watched you do numerous times when I was a child. I smiled and described the 3rd-grade class project in Chapman, almost two hundred miles away, and everyone responded with good-natured enthusiasm.

~ EVERYONE HAS A STORY. LISTEN.

When I asked random people to pose with Flat Grace for the project, many remembered the original novel and shared their stories: their children or neighbor kids, mailing their Flat Stanleys on adventures; the last-minute taped repairs when Stanley lost an arm or leg; the excitement on young faces when envelopes arrived in the mail, returning the paper dolls with pictures or journals of the adventures.

You and Dad both taught me this, Mom: when people meet and share their experiences–when they listen and laugh and respond–something magical happens.

~ ENCOURAGING A CHILD IS TIME WELL SPENT. Always.

Admiring art efforts, pitching for batting practice, listening to piano scales or recitation of multiplication tables or a song sung slightly off key…or posing for a picture with a child’s flat paper doll on an adventure…is time well spent.

It’s also double the fun when you do it with someone you love, Mom, and you’re very much loved.

Marylin

Pictures below:  Grace’s Grandpa and dog Maggie with Flat Grace;  a wonderful park ranger at the Historic Fort Scott site, who stepped up and helped hold Flat Grace in the wind; the really nice young man at the Dairy Queen window who said, “Sure, I’d be glad to help.”  (Thanks to many others–Grace’s great- Uncle David, Mom’s caregiver Martha, and many other volunteers–I messed up and couldn’t get all your pictures in here, but they will be included in Grace’s 3rd-grade project.)

 

17 Comments

Filed under friends, importance of doing good things, lessons about life, memories for grandchildren