Tag Archives: Fort Scott Kansas


wooden spoons

As a special gift when I was born, someone sent my parents a little silver spoon and mug set engraved with my initials.  I don’t remember actually using them. They had to be polished to keep the silver shining, and I was very young when the spoon was seriously damaged after it got caught in the garbage disposal.  I do remember that later we used the silver mug as a water dish for our parakeet because it fit perfectly in his cage, and Chippy saw his reflection and made dent marks all around the edge.

The first spoon I actually used to feed myself–and also to happily fling food with abandon–was wooden. It was a little round-tipped spoon intended to be the dipper in a honey bowl.  Mom said I had the best time banging it on the table and my bowl, and there was no annoying clatter that a metal spoon would have made.  I was the second child, so by then the novelty of cute baby things had been replaced by more practical, easily cleaned and audibly tolerated utensils and gadgets. The wooden spoon became a toy.

My mother was an excellent cook.  For soups, sauces, batters, oatmeal and anything that needed stirring, she preferred to use wooden spoons. She also recycled old wooden spoons for stirring paint, propping up house plants, and marking the rows in her garden.

One undesirable use for wooden spoons was for corporal punishment. This might come as a surprise to those of you who’ve followed this blog and the sweet stories about my mother:  her faith, intelligence, kindness and tenderness…and her love for her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

Mom was also a practical, common sense lady with a degree in early child development.  Even though she was vehemently opposed to spanking or slapping any child, she saw the thickly diapered bottom of a toddler as the perfect “get your attention” place when we wouldn’t respond to repeated words or gentle hands turning us in the direction we were supposed to go.

David and I were in diapers and plastic pants during much of the same time, toddling and racing about, getting into things, pretending we didn’t hear our mom.  One swat with the wooden spoon on our diapered behinds made enough noise to get our attention.  But strangely, the spoons began to disappear.  Mom said she looked everywhere–under tables and rugs, tucked in drawers and between sofa cushions, even in the trash–but she couldn’t find them.

I was past 3 and David was almost 5 when we moved from Ash Grove, Missouri to Fort Scot, Kansas.  The movers came to load the furniture into the truck, and when they pulled the old upright piano away from the wall, my mother said she gasped.  Behind the piano, back where only little hands could reach, were the five missing wooden spoons.  One of the movers shook his head and asked if she did much cooking at the piano, and Mom laughed so hard that she had to sit down on one of the packing boxes.

old piano

She was still sitting there when we came in from the neighbor’s house and saw her holding the spoons. Mom said we suddenly became timid, nervously looking down at our shoes, up at the ceiling, and anywhere but at her. Finally David asked what she was going to do with the spoons.

She answered that we had become very good listeners and she was proud of us, so from now on we’d only use the spoons for cooking and baking. And when we got to the new house, she was going to bake a batch of oatmeal cookies, and she’d give us each a spoon to help stir the batter.  And that is exactly what she did.

As a mother and a grandmother myself now, I love playing the piano, and I also love oatmeal cookies.  Even though my mom has dementia and doesn’t remember this story of the musical spoons, I sometimes play CDs of piano music for her while we eat cookies and drink chocolate milk…just in case.  You never know when music and cookies will trigger a happy memory.

The cup and the plate maybe ran away with the knife, but my brother and I hid the spoons.  Many years later, Mom's great-grandchildren used these wooden spoons as picture holders in pre-school.

The cup and the plate maybe ran away with the knife, but my brother and I hid the spoons. Many years later, Mom’s great-grandchildren used these wooden spoons as picture holders in pre-school.

cup and plate and knife embroidery




Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, Fort Scott Kansas, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren



cap A for Alzheimers


Tinseltown Theaters poster, Colorado Springs

Tinseltown Theaters poster, Colorado Springs


The movie begins with action. Apes on a hunt. Hundreds of apes lying in wait, hunting for food. Surviving after most of the world’s humans have been killed by the deadly Simian Flu. But the simians didn’t cause this futuristic plague. The humans did, when they injected apes with a test antidote to stop Alzheimer’s, the disease they feared would eventually destroy civilization.

No movie spoiler alert necessary. This information is revealed in the first few minutes of the movie DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. The desperate attempt to control Alzheimer’s was quickly overshadowed by science-run-amuck, creating a deadly flu that left two separate societies struggling to survive—humans and apes—and the apes are worthy opponents.  The movie is an interesting take on good vs. evil, and the lines that blur in every war.

Alzheimer’s has always been capitalized because it’s named for the German neurologist who first identified it, Alois Alzheimer.  Now it’s become a BIG capital A, and not just because it’s the seed for destruction in a sci-fi action/thriller film. The reality is this: in the United States, every 67 seconds someone develops Alzheimer’s; five million live with it now, and it’s the 6th leading cause of death. The statistics in countries throughout the world are similar. Alzheimer’s is an equal opportunity disease.

My dad died of Alzheimer’s, and my mother suffers with advanced dementia, so when I misplace my keys in the refrigerator* or confuse the passwords of my bank account with my PayPal account, I experience a moment of panic. I also read articles and refer often to www.alz.org for current research and information.

I know the basics about a heart-healthy diet also being brain-healthy:  eat more veggies and fresh fruits, especially berries;  foods with omega-3 fatty acids are important (salmon, mackerel and tuna, etc.);  a daily glass of red wine or purple grape juice will help protect brain cells;  controlled blood pressure lowers risks of heart disease, vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s;  activities and interactions with friends and family make for a happier heart and a healthier mind.

Walk for Alzheimer's T-shirt logo.

And, of course, every day we should walk, exercise, sing, breathe deeply, and keep moving. Coffee is good; cigarettes are bad. Crossword puzzles, hobbies, and word or number games are excellent.

My parents scored high in all of the above, except for two. Living in land-locked Missouri and Kansas, they didn’t eat as much salmon and other omega-3 fatty acids as they should have. They also didn’t drink coffee; they loved the smell and served it often to guests, but their stomachs did much better with hot tea. They were active, intelligent, well-read and socially involved until Dad was 81 and Mom was 90, so it’s probably not a big deal about the fish or coffee, but who knows?

It’s not often that I do a blog on Alzheimer’s and dementia numbers and specifics.  I’d rather share stories so my grandchildren will know that Alzheimer’s and dementia could not erase their great-grandparents’ wonderful lives. Through shared and treasured memories, we keep alive those we love.

This once-in-a-blue-moon information post about Alzheimer’s and dementia is a reminder that the disease is much more than a plot point for a movie. We’re all at risk, and we’re all in this together. Please share any additional information or suggestions you have.

* FYI ~ my doctor told me that misplacing your keys in the refrigerator is not a sign of Alzheimer’s or dementia, but probably more an indicator that you’re hurrying or have a lot to do. It is a concern, however, if you find your keys in the refrigerator…and aren’t sure what they are or what they’re for.


1949 family photo of Mary and Ray Shepherd, baby daughter Marylin and son David .  Even then I was trying to talk.

1949 family photo of Mary and Ray Shepherd, baby daughter Marylin and son David . Even then I was trying to talk.


1999 ~ Mom, Dad, my brother David and I pose for a Thanksgiving picture at  my daughter Molly's home before Dad's Alzheimer's. (picture by Jim Warner)

1999 ~ Mom, Dad, my brother David and I pose for a Thanksgiving picture at my daughter Molly’s home before Dad’s Alzheimer’s was identified. (picture by Jim Warner)



Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren


Am I the only woman who asked for--and received--a DeWalt for her 50th birthday?  (photos by Marylin Warner)

Am I the only woman who asked for–and received–a DeWalt for her 50th birthday? (photos by Marylin Warner)

clippers and saw

Repair basics (plus assorted nails, screws and wires)

Repair basics (plus assorted nails, screws and wire)

Dear Mom,

You always loved to fix things, and since I grew up “helping” with your projects, I learned to love fixing things, too. At a young age I knew the difference between a Philips and a flat screwdriver, and when to use wood cement instead of glue.  When I was twelve, I bought a tiny jeweler’s pliers at a yard sale, and you and I figured out how to tighten the clasps on all our necklaces and bracelets. And there was no rip in a shirt or skirt or coat that we couldn’t mend with your sewing machine.

You had two ways of fixing things around the house and in the yard: step-by-step logical repairs that could take hours or days; and “a lick and a promise” fix.  When one of Grandma’s hand-painted saucers was knocked off the dining room table, you fixed it using the step-by-step technique. When we were late for church and you saw the hem was coming out of my Sunday dress, you did a quick fix, a “lick and a promise” with masking tape and safety pins.

But when I used the wood-burning instruments to sear my initials and drawings into the wooden fence, along the window casings in the garage, and on my closet shelf, you reined in my enthusiasm for non-essential handiwork. Later, in college I learned Kaplan’s explanation of “Law of the Instrument.” “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.”

A few days ago, you fell in your apartment, Mom.  You were rushed to the hospital, and doctors determined that you had not broken your hip, but you had dislocated your hip from the socket. In spite of your love for “fixing” things, this is probably one of those times when we won’t complain if your advanced dementia prevents you from remembering what happened next. On that very afternoon, the orthopedic surgeon operated, and with three medical screws he secured your hip bone back in the socket.

There will still be physical therapy and restrictions and adjustments. But you have strong bones, or they would’t have even attempted this surgery.  And you also had excellent, capable doctors, and this was not a “lick and  promise” fix.

My bet is on you, Mom, and your innate appreciation for fixing things.  Nails, hammers, screwdrivers, Super Glue; whatever it takes, you’re a big supporter of doing your best to put things back together.

Mom, 3 1/2, with her older brother on the family farm.

Mom, 3 1/2, with her older brother on the family farm.

Mom at 2 1/2 with her doll baby. See those strong bones on them both?

Mom at 2 1/2 with her doll baby. See those strong bones on them both?


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


Cheryl Maberry Blacklidge

Cheryl Blacklidge


“We’ll be Friends Forever, won’t we, Pooh?” asked Piglet.

“Even longer,” Pooh answered.  ~A.A. Milne, author of  Winnie-the-Pooh

Dear Mom,  You have received a special message from the daughter of some special friends.

Cheryl (Maberry) Blacklidge grew up in Ft. Scott. Now she lives with her husband and son in Mississippi.  Enjoy her birthday letter to you, Mom!  Love, Marylin



When I realized that it was your 95th  birthday, I decided it was way past time to write to you and let you know something that has been on my mind for quite some time now.  Recently I read Debbie Macomber’s book God’s Guest List.  It is about all the guests that God sends to each of us as gifts though out our lifetime.  You are certainly one of those guests/gifts he sent to me. I hope you somehow know what a wonderful gift you have been to me.

My first recollections of you are from some of my earliest days at First Christian Church.  I love to hear the story mom tells about how you and she were the first two women to break the “hat rule” and attend church hatless. Thank you – I never have cared much for wearing hats.  I also  remember you always going out of your way to welcome, with that beautiful smile of yours, everyone who came to church. There were also those great CGF dinners that you helped us cook and then enjoy, as we talked about God, church, and life – not always in that order, but all three were always included.

Our families have had such a close connections since our first meetings through the church.  You and Mom worked together on so many projects, from VBS to painting the Sunday School Rooms to working in the kitchen to prepare Sunday church dinners. I know Daddy and Ray always felt a close connection through the church and through the Masons.  I’ll never forget hearing Daddy and Ray visiting together not too long before Daddy died.  Their conversation was mostly about memories, but shortly before Ray left that evening, they hugged and agreed that they had felt like brothers throughout their friendship.   It still brings tears when I remember the closeness they shared that night.

Because of you, I know Marylin and David (as well as their families) and consider them to be dear friends.  David has been such a strong and faithful leader at First Christian Church, and in Fort Scott.  He has also “been there” for me when I needed any kind of help – like the Sunday morning when I called him in panic to tell him that someone had hit and seriously damaged my car in the night and I didn’t know what to do about it. He calmly assured me that he would see to it that the body shop would take good care of it.  David convinced me that it wasn’t the end of the world.

Marylin has been there for me many times, also.  Marylin welcomed me into her home so many times and then even invited me to live with her and Molly the summer that she and I attended classes at Colorado College.  She is the kind of friend that no matter how long it has been since we visited, our conversations start off as though we have talked just the day before.  I know I could go to either David or Marylin if I had a problem and they would be there for me, just like you and Ray always were.

Happy Birthday, Mary. Love from my family to yours.  Cheryl

Cheryl's retirement picture

Cheryl’s retirement picture



Filed under birthday celebrations, Debbie Macomber's GOD'S GUEST LIST, Dementia/Alzheimer's, First Christian Church, Fort Scott Kansas, friends, lessons about life, Madison Mississippi, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, Things to be thankful for