Tag Archives: It’s A Wonderful Life


My response to the yoga improvement discussed on talk radio.

A more polite version of my response to the yoga improvement discussed on talk radio.

From our house in Colorado to my mom’s assisted living in southeast Kansas is a round trip drive of 1,300 miles.  When Jim is at the wheel we listen to sports or news.   When I’m driving, I search radio stations for interesting topics and call-in reactions.  I’ve mentioned several of the strange topics in previous posts, but the one I listened to on this trip home after Thanksgiving takes the prize.  Last place prize.

Briefly, the program I flipped to responded to an earlier topic argued on another station.  The basic theme was making regular activities more interesting during the holidays and into the New Year.  I tuned in to catch up on the conversation about spicing up Yoga groups and classes by doing naked yoga.   Lots of responses to that one, I tell you.

Now, to reset that December visual, here are some other interesting Christmas details.   For instance, did you know that one common superstition says that animals speak on Christmas Eve?   The elderly neighbor who told me this, spiced it up by adding that it was very bad luck to tease animals and try to make them talk.


The second superstition—shared by the same neighbor—was that when you get new shoes for Christmas, if times are hard for others, you should not wear the shoes until later.   Otherwise it might cause hurt feelings, and would tempt you to feel proud.  And pride goes before the fall, which is, of course, more bad luck.

Old shoes at Christmas work just fine, and they don't hurt any feelings.

Old shoes at Christmas work just fine, and they don’t hurt any feelings.

This last one is not a superstition, but a trivia question. What is still one of the most popular, enduring Christmas movies viewed during the holidays?   If you answered IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, you’re right.  Unless you agree with actor Tom Hanks, who says it’s ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, and he watches it every Christmas.   I’ve read Remarque’s sad, bloody war novel, and trust me,  it’s not anywhere on my must-see movie list. But we each have our own opinions.


Which brings me to something my mother used to say before dementia clouded her thoughts.  I had a tendency to jump right in and argue about all kinds of things, and she repeatedly  told me that if someone said something I didn’t like or agree with, I didn’t always have to be rude or argue.  I could just shrug, turn away or go on with other things.

If she’d been riding with me and hearing the radio talk show on naked yoga, I wonder if she would have laughed, been shocked, argued with the topic…or just reached out and turned off the radio.  Probably the last…her version of turning away and going on with other things.



Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, just doing the best we can, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, Things to be thankful for


mom & dad's engagement picture

During their 67 years of marriage—before Dad’s Alzheimer’s and Mom’s dementia—my parents had one major disagreement, and it happened on their honeymoon. The conflict was a disagreement over what to do and where to go, and it turned out to have a huge affect on the rest of their lives.

They were staying in a cabin near the Big Thompson Canyon in Colorado. After packing sack lunches, canteens of water and a blanket to spread out on the ground, they took off on a private hike. They had gone less than two miles and were in a meadow at the base of a mountain when a storm hit. It was a fast, hard-hitting August storm with wind, thunder, and the beginnings of hail.

Dad pointed to the only refuge in the meadow, a huge tree with thick branches loaded with leaves. His plan was for them to huddle at the base of the tree and cover themselves with the blanket.  But Mom, a Missouri farm girl who’d seen lightning set fire to an old barn, said they should use the blanket as cover and take their chances hurrying back to the cabin.

Long story short, they argued back and forth, holding the blanket over their heads and eyeing the building storm. In the end, Dad grabbed Mom’s hand and they ran in the direction of the cabin. Minutes later a bolt of lightning hit the tree and destroyed it.

One of my favorite college lectures was titled The Clarence Reminder. It was named for Clarence, the angel in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, whose job was to remind George Bailey that a world without him would have been a very different world.

The picture above is my parents’ engagement picture. It could have also been their last picture if they’d decided to huddle against the tree that day. The pictures below–with our parents holding me as a baby and my brother as a toddler, and then more than four decades later another picture of us as adults posing with them–would not exist. David’s sons, and my daughter and her children, also would not exist.

There’s a reason that lightning never strikes twice in the same place ~ it’s because no place is ever exactly the same after being struck by lighting. The same is true with people.  My mom said that after the close call with the lightning hitting the tree, she never forgot that every thing we do makes a profound difference in the lives and futures of ourselves and others. We can’t see all the dangers ahead or choose only the safe paths, but we can celebrate every day as precious.

THE CLARENCE REMINDER is a good lesson for all of us.

family_photo_1949        Mom, Dad, me, David

Dead End 15 mph


Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, just doing the best we can, lessons for great-grandchildren, life questions, Spiritual connections


our two anniv



Closeup of the chair feet, in Keene walking sandals and hiking boots.

Closeup of the chair feet, in Keene walking sandals and hiking boots.

Giving special gifts on specific anniversaries isn’t a new concept. It dates back to the Middle Ages, where underlying superstitions and beliefs corresponded with giving gifts to welcome good luck or ward off the bad.

When my brother once asked our dad what was the best decision he ever made, Dad said, “I married your mother.” Our parents were married for sixty-four years before his Alzheimer’s and her dementia set in, and their anniversary celebrations were usually low key and private. They enjoyed going out for dinner, usually with family, and holding hands as they read their anniversary cards and talked about favorite memories.

This summer Jim and I celebrate our 30th anniversary, and traditionally the gift for the 30th is the pearl. Our daughter—a wonderful independently creative gift maker—gave us a unique set of anniversary chairs this year. Full-heart, headless chairs.

anniversary Picasso chairs

Last year she painted Picasso-type art chairs with Picasso quotes for us.

This year’s chairs wear tee-shirts, jeans, Keene walking sandals (for me) and hiking boots (for Jim), and are stuffed with multiple pillows that make these the most comfortable, form-fitting chairs ever.

For us, it’s not expensive gifts, fancy dinners out or celebrations that make an anniversary special. It’s being with each other and the family we love dearly, seeing their smiling faces around the table, and hearing everyone share favorite memories. Like my parents, we would title these celebrations by borrowing another title: “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

Tucked among greeting card-type romantic verses, we’ve found a sentiment by writer and comedian Rita Rudner that makes us laugh. “It’s so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life.”   And a favorite toast for weddings and anniversaries is by sci-fi writer Robert Heinlein: “May you live as long as you wish and love as long as you live.”

Today our hearts are full, grateful for love, marriage, family, friends, and wonderful dads. And anniversaries with traditional pearls or non-traditional headless chairs.


Browning- grow old along w:meSimplify tee-shirt




Filed under art, art projects, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, Special days in June, special quotations, Things to be thankful for


Mom in her rose-bud flannel pajamas. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

Mom in her rose-bud flannel pajamas. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

Hummel figurine Mom got in Germany in 1970.

Hummel figurine Mom got in Germany in 1970.

One of the hand-stitched wall hangings Mom made for each of us.

One of the hand-stitched wall hangings Mom made for each of us.

Dear Mom,

A Christmas tradition in our family is to watch the movie IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE.  There are many memorable lines, but one of my favorites is the blessing Mary Bailey gives to a family as they move into their little house .

The couple stands at the threshold of their new home, and she presents them with three things: “Bread, that this house may never know hunger. Salt, that life may always have flavor. Wine, that joy and prosperity may reign forever.”

Three genuine, inexpensive and heartfelt gifts ~ perfect blessings to be incorporated in a Christmas movie.

Bread, salt and wine…and in our family, after a big  Christmas dinner with special dishes we all love, we also have a specific dessert: Birthday cake with white icing and candles. We sing “Happy Birthday” to the Baby Jesus, and the kids make the wishes and blow out the candles.

We don’t have an abundance of commercial decorations or give extravagant gifts. In addition to lights, a tree is decorated with homemade and collectible ornaments, a poinsettia plant or two adorn tables, and maybe a fresh wreath with a red velvet ribbon hangs at the front door. The Hummel figurine of the Christ Child and little animals sits on the mantel. Each family still has a handmade wall hanging you stitched for us almost thirty years ago: “Oh Come Let Us Adore Him.”

The gifts are often practical, personal, and memorable. This year, Mom, your ten-year-old great-granddaughter, Grace, gave you flannel pajamas that match hers, so you can be slumber party buddies even though you live two hundred miles apart. I let you open this one present early. The night was cold and dreary, and you snuggled under the blankets wearing your rose-bud jammies while Grace wore hers and snuggled under the blankets on her own bed.

And–spoiler alert, so we won’t let Grace see this post until after Christmas–she’ll be receiving a pink pillow made from one of her favorite T-shirts. Zoey was the kids’ little pug dog who died several years ago, and Grace’s T-shirt was her favorite because it looked just like Zoey. Now the memories will sweeten Grace’s dreams as this pillow joins the others she’s received as presents. Brother Gannon’s favorite sports sweatshirts will be his new pillows.

Maybe Christmas, the Grench thought, doesn’t come from a store.  ~ Dr. Seuss

In our family, Mom, we would say that the Grench is absolutely right.

Grace's pillow gift of her dog Zoey.

Grace’s pillow gift of her dog Zoey.

Poinsettias are the December flowers of choice.

Poinsettias are the December flowers of choice.


Filed under "Christmas Memories With Mom", Dementia/Alzheimer's, memories for great-grandchildren, sewing, special quotations, spending time with kids, Things to be thankful for


"Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings." IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE. (All pictures by Marylin Warner)

“Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.” IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. (All pictures by Marylin Warner)

Maggie the Reindeer Dog; observe her antlers?

Maggie the Reindeer Dog; observe her antlers?

St. Lucia, "Bearer of Light"--do you observe the candles or the cupcakes?

St. Lucia, “Bearer of Light”–do you observe the candles or the cupcakes?

Dear Mom,

Humor columnist Dave Berry wrote this about Christmas shopping:  “Once again, we come to the Holiday Season, a deeply religious time that each of us observes, in his own way, by going to the mall of his choice.”

Berry is right about one thing, each of us “observing” in our own way. Before the dementia, Mom, you were an astute and creative observer of life.  Then you would take out your tablet and pen, and your favorite observations became poems.

Today as others hustle and bustle around busy malls, searching for perfect gifts, I’m going to again share the poem you wrote in 1990 about the perfect romance you discovered in a shopping mall.

“SHOPPING MALL ROMANCE”   ~by Mary Shepherd

Surrounded by parcels I sat there,

On a bench in the shopping park mall.

I had finished my Christmas shopping

And in exhaustion feared I might fall.

I could see him coming toward me;

His eyes sought mine all the while.

I tenderly watched his quick footsteps.

He held out his arms with a smile.

I glanced at the pretty young lady

Who possessively grabbed for his hand.

Did she know what a treasure she held there?

The greatest in all our fair land.

He fell on my lap and clung to me.

I patted his plump-diapered rear:

A seventy-two-year-old grandma.

And a fifteen-month toddler so dear.

As you shop for those last minute, perfect presents this Christmas, may you have the gift of observation.

In the early stages of dementia, Mom reading to her great-grandchildren.

Years ago, in the early stages of dementia, Mom reading to her great-grandchildren.


Filed under "Christmas Memories With Mom", Dementia/Alzheimer's, Fort Scott Kansas, Mary Shepherd's poetry, memories for great-grandchildren

Un-Fortunate Cookies

Dear Mom,

During my freshman year in college, you and Dad were on campus for a board meeting. After a fancy dinner you stopped by my dorm to bring me a little bag of desserts from the hostess. Among the coconut meringues, the mini-chocolate éclairs and cherry tarts, a handful of fortune cookies had been tossed in like afterthoughts. These became the favorites. My roommate and I read the fortunes and decided we could write better messages than the originals. Soon we were laughing so loud that other freshmen on our floor joined in.  As the night wore on, the fortunes got worse and worse, especially the ones we wrote for unreasonable professors, ex-boyfriends, or anyone who had done us wrong. (What happened in the dorm that night stayed in the dorm. We zipped our lips, agreeing not to repeat or send the fortunes.)

It’s hard to write good fortune cookie messages. Recently HuffPost Comedy posted “The Most Ridiculous Fortune Cookies of All Times.” Here are three of my favorites from their long list: 1) “Help! I’m being held hostage in a Fortune Cookie Factory.”  2) “Something wonderful is about to happy.” (sic)  and 3) “Come back later…I’m sleeping.” (Yes, cookies need their sleep, too.)

Your great-grandson Gannon offered to write some fortunes for you, Mom. I think they’re very good for an 8-year-old third grader, especially since he carefully wrote each one in a different color:

(Click on Gannon’s fortunes to enlarge them)

Fortune cookies are fun desserts, Mom, but you never took them seriously. They were like horoscopes, you said, interesting to read but not reliable instructions for our personal lives. You pointed out that each horoscope applied to about 1/12 of the world’s population, and fortune cookies were mass-produced and randomly distributed.

But if I could give you just one fortune cookie with a message especially for you, here it is:  “You will live A Wonderful Life!”  (Your own life, and not Jimmy Stewart’s in the movie.)

You’re one of a kind, Mom, and I love you.    Marylin


For Diana Bletter’s  interview with Marylin Warner, go to her blog, The Best Chapter.  http://thebestchapter.com/2012/10/28/everybody-needs-an-ideal-reader/#comment-785                                                              ___________________________________________________________

Could this be the fortune in your cookie?
“You will take the road less traveled.”

Here’s a sweet one: “You will eat AMAZING
Halloween cupcakes.”

Or how about this fortune? “You will be stalked by
strange pumpkins.” (All photos by Marylin Warner)


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