Tag Archives: Helen Armstrong


My mother--and her mother and aunts--made towels, aprons and the traditional "days of the week" dish towels. (All pictures by Marylin Warner)

My mother–and her mother and aunts–made towels, aprons and the traditional “days of the week” dish towels. (All pictures by Marylin Warner)

My 1975 hand-stitched "Trees and Daffodils)

My 1975 hand-stitched “Trees and Daffodils”

Dear Mom,

Last week I wrote about needles and thread and how you taught me to sew. I also shared photos of some of the “creations” you, Molly and I made.

Our blog friends enjoyed your sewing (and teaching) talents, and many of them shared their own experiences.  Today, I’m going to share a few of their stories, Mom, because they add another talent that you, Molly and I love: writing.

Listen as I read these seeds of wonderful stories to you, and imagine the characters, the settings and the lessons :

From Jenny Pellett: Those embroidered flowers reminded me of the little tray cloths stitched by my grandmother during the war. She taught my mother and together they would while away the hours in the air-raid shelter. Mum still has them, together with some lace-edged handkerchiefs, the colours of the threads still vibrant. Heirlooms in the making.

From Rod, our Angelican priest friend in Canada: Your post reminded me that my mother taught Mugwump (my brother) and me many practical skills. As boys we learned to cook full meals – including Sunday roast, to iron, do the washing, sew on buttons (mum hated sewing on buttons, so we were on our own once taught). She also taught us leadership and commitment – and of course, love. Later she taught me to drive. So much for which to be thankful.

From my good friend Helen Armstrong in Colorado: My mother gathered all 7 of “the club” girls on our street, gave them cigar boxes with material, needles, pins, etc., and showed us how to make clothes for our dolls.  We met every week and sat on the curb in front of our house, all lined up.  After a whole summer of making one outfit, we then put on a doll play in our basement w/ sheets hanging as curtains for the stage over clothes line. The steps to the basement was where the audience sat; we sold tickets for a nickel to our production.  All the siblings were made to come to our show.

From Andrew Hardacre: Well I never learned to sew but my mother did get me to try and knit once. She did however give a love of tennis. In the 1960s she still had the old wooden ‘spoon’ of a tennis racket that she had played with many years before. Still in a press. And I learned to play with that. Parents never stop teaching us and as I frequently say, over the years I think I have turned into my father. Not such a bad thing all things considered.

And from Diana Stevan: My mother was also talented with her hands, crocheting, cross stitching, knitting but those are skills she didn’t pass on. However, I was left with the image of woman, well rounded, one with humor, a love of life, and a generosity of spirit. She was always there for her family in too many ways to enumerate and I was blessed to have her as my mother. I’m now writing a story of her beginnings during World War I in Czarist Russia, her tough childhood, and the arduous and courageous journey she and her family took to Canada. It’s my way of keeping her flame alive.

Aren’t these great stories, Mom?  Can’t you picture each story unfolding?

Today I join Jenny, Rod, Helen, Andrew, Diana, and grateful sons and daughters everywhere whose mothers taught us so many wonderful, helpful and hopeful skills.  (And for Tracy Karner, who has been embroidering a tablecloth for 3 years, keep up the good work, and when it’s finished, share pictures.  And Robyn Graham, who’s asked for a sewing machine for Christmas to do some special creating, we want to see project photographs!)

Teaching children and grandchildren to sew, paint or write is a gift they'll remember. But wait until their little minds--and hands--are ready for the lessons!

Teaching children and grandchildren to sew, paint or write is a gift they’ll remember. But wait until their little minds–and hands–are ready for the lessons!

Pikes Peak, our westside view. Remember: on cold winter days and nights, it's a perfect time to sew, write...create!

Pikes Peak, our westside view. Remember: on cold winter days and nights, it’s a perfect time to sew, write…create!



Filed under art, art projects, CO, Dementia/Alzheimer's, Fort Scott Kansas, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, sewing, writing

Coffee, tooth paste and apples…








Dear Mom,

When Dad was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, you wished we knew what could have been done to prevent it. Now that you have dementia, I wish the same thing. Many of my generation are wondering about their parents’ Alzheimer’s and dementia… and what it suggests about their own futures. One good friend, Helen Armstrong, recently sent me information about some new findings.

Gary Small, M.D., director of the UCLA Center on Aging, says, “The idea that Alzheimer’s is entirely genetic and unpreventable is perhaps the greatest misconception about the disease. He compares Alzheimer’s to heart disease and cancer, which can be developed over decades and influenced by cholesterol, blood pressure, depression, education, nutrition and sleep, etc.

There are simple things we all can do to reduce our chances of Alzheimer’s. The big one that you and Dad did NOT do, Mom, was drink 3-5 cups of coffee each day. You  both loved the smell of coffee brewing, but your stomachs didn’t like the effects of drinking coffee. Even now, when I visit you each month and sneak in my own big mugs of coffee to heat in the microwave early the next morning, you sniff and smile at the smell but don’t want even a sip.

A second preventative suggestion is to floss and brush your teeth daily to discourage the inflammation in a  diseased mouth from traveling to the brain. (Teeth brushing was always big at our house, though I remember arguing about the flossing.)

A third suggestion is to nurture the thousands of new brain cells we have each day with aerobic exercise, brisk walks, eating salmon and other fatty fish, and treating vitamin B deficiency. Oh-oh, in Kansas we didn’t eat much salmon—certainly not fresh—but we did take our vitamins, and you walked Fritz (or rather, he walked you).

This next suggestion you’ll like, Mom: drink apple juice to push production of the “memory chemical” acetylcholine. That’s the way the popular Alzheimer’s drug Aricept works, according to Thomas Shea, Ph.D., University of Massachusetts. A suggested dose for humans is 16 ounces of real juice (not apple-flavored drink) or 2-3 apples per day.

A final example I chose supports your rule when we were growing up: “Cokes and other soft drinks are only for very special occasions.”  Studies now confirm that sodas, especially those sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, make lab animals dumb and aren’t good for humans either. But adult women who drink one glass of red wine each day are helping their brains with the antioxidants.

Hmm. Wish we’d known some of this a decade ago, Mom. But as Dad often said, “Hindsight is always 20/20 vision.” We did the best we could then, and even though you and Dad didn’t drink coffee or wine, our family ate meals together, talking and laughing and serving seconds of garden-grown vegetables and beef  purchased from 4-H carefully-raised cattle. And every Sunday night we watched TV together, eating a meal of fresh-popped pop corn and mounds of sliced apples. You did the best you could with what you knew about good health, and you and Dad stirred in huge quantities of love and common sense. Thanks to you both, Mom.   Love, Marylin


Jean Carper’s book, 100 SIMPLE THINGS YOU CAN DO TO PREVENT ALZHEIMER’S AND AGE-RELATED MEMORY LOSS (Little, Brown), contains helpful and specific suggestions for adults, children, families.



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