Tag Archives: Fort Scott


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.



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


Colorado sunrise. (Pictures by Marylin Warner)

Colorado sunrise. (Picture by Jim Warner)

Kansas sunset.

Kansas Sunset   (Picture by Marylin Warner)                             

Years ago, when my dad was in the final stages of Alzheimer’s, during my visits Mom and I sometimes left him with his caregiver and promised to bring him a treat from wherever we went on our ride. It was always a difficult transition for Mom, leaving him behind, so on one visit I brought along a distraction, a CD of songs from Broadway’s most popular musicals.

As I drove along the swath of Ozarks terrain cutting through our part of Kansas, one of our favorites from FIDDLER ON THE ROOF began to play: “Sunrise, Sunset.”  During the refrain—“…sunrise, sunset, swiftly flow the days…seedlings turn over night to sun flowers, blossoming even as we gaze…”—the Kansas sun set in a blaze of orange and gold and red. I pulled off the highway and stopped to enjoy it.  In Colorado, the mountains are beautifully majestic, but they cut off the view of stunning sunsets.

As we watched the colors, I asked Mom which she enjoyed more, sunrise or sunset. Those of you who know my mother via my stories about her on this blog, what would you guess was her answer?  Before her dementia, on summer mornings she was up with the sunrise to work in her gardens before the heat, and she would pause to breathe deeply and welcome the beautiful possibilities of the day.  Also before the dementia, at sunset she’d watch the glow through her kitchen window or rest in her chair, tablet on her lap, and write lines of poetry or stories about the events and inspirations from the day.  So which do you think she enjoyed more, the sunrise or the sunset?

At my mother's assisted living ~ we know the driver of this car is partial to gorgeous sunsets!

At my mother’s assisted living ~ we know the driver of this car is partial to gorgeous sunsets!

Aubades are songs sung to the rising sun and poems written upon awakening at dawn. My mother kept a notebook of  her aubades, poems of early morning. But she was also a fan of Ann Landers, who wrote in one of her columns, “A happy marriage has the tranquility of a lovely sunset.” Based on my dad’s struggles with Alzheimer’s, I guessed Mom’s loyalty to their marriage would choose sunsets as her answer.

She thought for a while and then finally said that her favorite time of day was noon. If the sun was going to be out, it would be at noon, and she liked the energy it gave her to get done whatever had to be done.

Sunrise. Sunset. Noon.  As Abraham Lincoln wrote: “The best thing about the future is it comes one day at a time.”  And more recently, author of A CHILD CALLED ‘IT’, Dave Pelzer wrote: “At the end of the day you still have to face yourself.” 

Those were the lessons I learned from my mother’s answer that day: We take life one day at a time, and the best we can do is live that day the best we can.

Kansas farm land ~ I'm so sick of winter and I had to use this picture of warm, sunny days...

Kansas farm land ~ I’m so sick of winter, I had to use this picture of a warm, sunny day…

1921 ~ Mom with her brother in the sandbox on the farm, enjoying the sunny day.

1921 ~ Mom with her brother in the sandbox on the farm, enjoying the sunny day in Plattsburg, Missouri


Filed under Abilene Kansas, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, memories for great-grandchildren, special quotations





Dear Mom,

When we were together recently, you snuggled in the Halloween sweatshirt given to you by your granddaughter Molly and your great-grandchildren, Grace and Gannon. You wore a scarf to keep your ears warm, and I tucked you into Dad’s old wheelchair and covered you with a bright green afghan. We took an afternoon walk along a path where “Leaves covered pavement like soggy cereal.” (Patricia Cornwell wrote that in her novel, THE BODY FARM, and the simile perfectly described our walk in southeast Kansas.) To quote Gordon Parks, renowned writer and photographer who grew up in Fort Scott, the day proved that “…Half past autumn has arrived.”

Gone were the Halloween cookies, replaced by bread for the ducks that waddled up to greet us. There was a chill in the air. While it was still afternoon, the evening gloom began to creep in.  We returned to your apartment, ready to eat a hot meal together in the living room where every ceiling light, table and floor lamp had been turned on to keep the early darkness at bay.


Outside was a mixture of post-summer/pre-winter. I remember how you always used to smile at the signs of autumn, welcoming the dependable sequence of changes in nature and life. Your genuine appreciation for fall taught me to appreciate it as well…to view it as a time to slow the pace of life, and to watch, listen and learn the quiet lessons.

Thank you for teaching me that there is a time, a place, and a purpose for every stage in life…and it’s all good.   I love you, Mom.  Marylin

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.” ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1


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

AMAZING BIRTHDAY with Grace and Gannon

Hi, Mom,

Your granddaughter Molly and your great-grandchildren Grace and Gannon came to celebrate an early 94th birthday with you. They had a great time, and now they are the guest bloggers with their story. Here it is:




Filed under art projects, birthday traditions, Dementia/Alzheimer's, making a difference, memories for grandchildren, memories for great-grandchildren, spending time with kids

“Thanks, Mary” ~ Guest Blogger, Carolyn Neil Franzini

Dear Mary,

Remembering those high school days years ago, the images are still crystal clear…the “in group girls” with ratted hair, matching wool skirts and sweaters purchased at Nineteen South, the place to buy in Fort Scott.  The dances at “Teen Town” on Thursday nights and football games on Friday nights were the places to go.

All were aware of the look and the things to do, but of course not all were in the “in group.” I was certainly down the economic ladder steps from most in the “in group.” One is always aware of where their position is as a result of family income, race or other unavoidable labels. Maybe I would not have liked being in the “in group” even if that had been a choice. I was okay and I knew I would improve my life when I had the opportunity after college.

I had my own group in my grade, but I also had a friend a grade younger than me. Your family and ours went to the same church, and Marylin and I went to CGF youth activities together. You and Ray were very supportive of me. I often spent the night at your house after church youth group meetings on Wednesday evenings. I loved to spend the night at your house. It was much nicer than mine; the central heat and air always provided temperature comfort, and you always made a lovely breakfast. Sometimes it was food I had not had before, like corned beef gravy on toast. Sometimes we were were almost late to school because we wanted to sleep in just five more minutes. I always remember how I felt in growing up situations, and staying at your house alwasy provided an “I’m okay” feeling.

Thanks for being a warm remembrance, Mary. With love, Carolyn


Hi, Mom. Carolyn wrote you this memory of growing up and spending many nights at our house after youth group. She was always very special to you and Dad, almost like another daughter, and even when we painted my room a bright yellow, you grimaced but applauded our efforts.

Now you would applaud all of Carolyn’s efforts, Mom, and would be very proud of her.

Carolyn and her husband live in Morehead, KY. They have three grown children and two grandchildren. She is a retired educator and treats every day as a gift. Learning about other cultures is her passion, and Carolyn has visited China seven times, once taking Kentucky students along with her for the cultural experience.

She recently ran a 5K race with her daughter and 6-year-old grandson, and she’s running for city council election in November.

Yes, Mom, you and Dad would be very proud of Carolyn. And I’m very proud of you, and the warm welcome you gave to my friends. Kindness and hospitality were your trademarks. I love you, Mom.   Marylin



Filed under lessons about life, memories for great-grandchildren, teachers, writing

THE HAIRCUT ~ guest blogger, Jan Cooper Magee







Hi Mary,

Do you remember me,  Jan Cooper, (you always called me Julianne). As I look back on my childhood, I realize that growing up on Marblecrest Terrace in Fort Scott was a great place to be a child. Many memories come flooding back as I write this note to you.

I remember my childhood days when Marylin and I were together every minute.  Going “up town” was an event that was at the top our list for fun things to do.  I recall one afternoon with much clarity!  I was at your house playing and you announced that you’d be going to town soon.  Of course, Marylin and I wanted to go.  I was a little puzzled when you looked at me and said that you didn’t think you could take ME with you.  I’m sure I asked: “Why not?”  To my disappointment you told me that you just couldn’t’ take me with you because my hair just didn’t look very nice.  But, thank goodness, you had a solution to that problem.  You would simply give me a haircut before we left and then I would look just fine for our afternoon adventure to town.

Getting my hair cut was not one of my favorite things to do and I’m sure I’d been fussing about it for some time.  I didn’t (and still don’t) have a headful of beautiful, thick hair and I never really knew how my haircut would turn out.   I agreed, reluctantly, I’m sure, and said you could cut my hair.   Mary, you were very talented at many things, but as I remember cutting hair was not one of your more accomplished talents.  After a snip here and a snip there you made a little girl happy and I had a new summer hairdo.  You know, I don’t even remember if we ever got to town!  Sometime later as I was reminiscing about that afternoon I found out that you and my mother (Julia Cooper) had planned that haircut! I’m sure it wasn’t the worst haircut I ever received but I’m also quite sure it was much better that going to the local barber, Johnny Dobbins, who usually gave me my “beginning of the summer trim”.

I wish I could give you a big hug right now but I now live in Arkansas.  I have two children and six grandchildren. Thanks for being a part of my childhood.    Love you, “Julianne”


As a reminder, Mom, Jan’s dad was Dr.C. M. Cooper, our family dentist.  He also pierced my ears–with your permission–when I just “had” to have pierced ears and you didn’t want me using a needle and a potato. And just for the record: I thought you gave Jan a really good…well, it was an okay haircut. Better than my haircut at the time, which kind of looked like you put a bowl on my head and trimmed around it.


Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, friends, memories for grandchildren, memories for great-grandchildren, neighbors

31st Annual Gordon Parks Photography Contest

The 31st Annual Gordon Parks Photography Contest is now accepting entries through July 2, 2012. For information and to see past winners:    www.gordonparkscenter.

The Annual Gordon Parks Celebration is slated for October 5-6, 2012 in Fort Scott, Kans


Filed under Gordon Parks Photography


Yesterday I received great 2012 news, a message from Pamela Zimmer awarding me the Versatile Blogger Award.  Along with receiving the award came the responsibility of writing 7 things about myself that haven’t been covered in my blog.

Here they are:

1) I grew up in Fort Scott, formerly a fort established in 1842 in the southeastern part of what was Bloody Kansas.  It is the location of the #1 National Cemetery, the home town of author/photographer Gordon Parks, and the current home of many exceptional and wonderful people, including my mom (who is the inspiration of my blog, “Things I Want to Tell My Mother.”)

2) I moved to Colorado Springs, and for 30 years I taught high school English, literature, speech and creative writing (and for part of the time coached debate and Mock Trial). Despite a handful of impossible students, parents and administrators along the way, I wouldn’t have traded this for any other career.

3) Because of this blog, I’ve met talented, insightful, surprising and creative bloggers from all over the country, plus Canada and Finland.

4) My published writing credits–short stories, articles, essays, memoir pieces and a play, ranging from mainstream to religious to horror to children’s to True Confessions–may make me seem like I have multiple personalities.  Actually…

5) I have a short attention span for writing topics, and I love trying a variety of genres.

6) I am proud to belong to Colorado Authors League, SCBWI, National League of American Pen Women, and the lesser known but equally important and inspiring Wednesday Wonder Writers (which also includes Thursday now).

7) My favorite “other” name is Mor-Mor (Swedish for mother’s mother), especially when it’s accompanied with hugs and kisses from our grandchildren.

The tradition of the Versatile Blogger Award is to list other blogs that deserve this award.  As it turns out, some of my favorites have already received this recognition: pamelazimmer.wordpress.com; lesliehobson.wordpress.com; susanwritesprecise.com; nineteenfortyeight.wordpress.com.

Here are four more great blogs that deserve The Versatile Blogger Award:

http://tomstronach.blogspot.com (of Essex UK)





Filed under memories for grandchildren, The Versatile Blogger Award, writing