Tag Archives: Kansas

Friday Favorites…that have nothing to do with politics

"What'cha lookin' at?" ostrich at Rolling Hills Zoo.

“What’cha lookin’ at?” Ostrich at Rolling Hills Zoo.

African Message Pole, Rolling Hills Zoo, Salina, KS.  I think it's a happy message.

African Message Pole, Rolling Hills Zoo, Salina, KS. Interpret your own happy message from the symbols!

Finding this old picture of my dad and Fritz, having their morning "talk."

Finding this old picture of my dad and Fritz having their morning “talk” made me smile.  (Fort Scott, KS)

My dad appreciated old trucks--especially Fords--he said it was "a guy thing."  His granddaughter protested: "girls love trucks, too!"

My dad appreciated old trucks, especially Fords; he said it was “a guy thing.” His granddaughter protested: “trucks are for girls, too!”

Max Ehrmann, author of DESIDERATA: A Poem for a Way of Life, wrote this: “With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”     Geese crossing

Today, I want to share some of my favorite things that make me happy when I travel to Kansas. You already know of our daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren (at the top of our happiness scale), and my dad, who died of Alzheimer’s, and my mother who is lost deep in dementia. These people are the core of our focus and thoughts when we drive to Kansas each month.

But there are also many cheerful, striving-to-be-happy places and things in Kansas I want to share with you through these pictures. My dad was right: if you take a deep breath, look around, and appreciate things that make you smile, you can also find reasons to be happy and have hope.

Gunn Park "Tiny House" (Fort Scott, KS) Built in 1927 by the park caretaker for his young daughters and visitors. It's 14" high and 12" long, including the front porch.

Gunn Park “Tiny House” (Fort Scott, KS) Built in 1927 by the park caretaker for his young daughters and visitors. It’s 14″ high and 12″ long, including the front porch.

Happy Children bench sculpture, downtown in Abilene, KS

Happy Children bench sculpture, downtown in Abilene, KS


Bakery fundraiser: iced cookies:  KS, and Chapman High School --both delicious!

Bakery fundraiser: iced cookies: KS, and Chapman High School –both delicious!


Milford Lake Butterfly House (near Junction City, KS)  A colorful, fluttering good time!

Milford Lake Butterfly House (near Junction City, KS) A colorful, fluttering good time!


Abilene, KS (where the h.s. sports teams are the Cowboys and Cowgirls). I want a sign for writers: Writer Parking Only: All others will be rejected.  :)

Abilene, KS (where the h.s. sports teams are the Cowboys and Cowgirls). I want a sign for writers in front of the writing section of the library: Writer Parking Only: All others will be rejected. 🙂

A summer sunset on a farm outside Fort Scott, KS.  Tomorrow will be a gorgeous day!

Summer sunset on a farm outside Fort Scott, KS. Tomorrow will be a gorgeous day!



Filed under Abilene Kansas, Dementia/Alzheimer's, just doing the best we can, lessons about life, special quotations, Things to be thankful for


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


A British theme, 1939, now a popular American motto.

A British theme, 1939, now a popular American motto.

“Accidents will occur in the best-regulated families.” ~Charles Dickens

These come in the mail, to offer writing courses. Mine would have to read, 'Growing up Marylin Shepherd in  Fort Scott, KS'

These come in the mail, to offer writing courses. Mine would have to read, ‘Growing up Marylin Shepherd in Fort Scott, KS’

Dear Mom,

You like to stay in your own apartment, cuddled under an afghan as you rest in your recliner. But years ago, taking off for a drive with your family was one of your favorite things to do.  It’s back-to-school time for your great-grandchildren now, which reminds me of one of our adventures. It was August, 1960…

Daddy had a meeting in Kansas City, and he offered to drop us off downtown so we could shop and then go out for lunch. Immediately you said yes, dressed us up a bit so we’d look nice, and we piled into the car. It was three weeks before my 11th birthday and David was months from being 13.  He needed new shirts and jeans for school the next week. I needed shoes, and for my upcoming birthday I desperately wanted only one thing, umm…a bra.

All my girl friends had bras. They were called beginner bras, training bras—as if young girls’ obsessions needed training—and you weren’t thrilled with the idea. But we found a huge assortment of them in the department store clothing section. They came in one cup size—flat—and the only measurement was “around” so it wouldn’t fit too tight.

All the little dressing rooms were full—my brother was taking his sweet time in one of them, trying on lots of different jeans—and soon the serving hours for lunch would end at our favorite eating place, the big Forum Cafeteria.  So you partially hid me between displays of pajamas and robes, pulled a beginner bra out of its box, and right there in front of God and everybody, you tested the fit…OVER my blouse.  There I stood, wearing a white bra over a red blouse.  David chose that moment, of course, to finally open the curtain of the dressing cubicle. He took one look, screwed up his face in a laugh, and closed the curtain. The sales lady giggled the entire time she asked if we needed assistance.

I marched ahead of you and David, clutching my package of two birthday bras, refusing to talk to either of you as we hurried the few blocks to the Forum Cafeteria. It was a bright and shiny wonderful place with a long glass-covered display of so many food choices that we could hardly decide. I let you tuck my package inside your big purse. We loaded our trays with silverware and napkins and pushed our way along the chrome tray bars.

David was in the lead. His tray was filled with plates and bowls of food when he reached the drink section. As the server handed his iced tea over the counter, he grabbed too late or she let go too soon. The tea tipped and drenched not only his food, but it also splattered on him. (Note here: At that point I hadn’t heard of Karma, but whenever I think of Karma now, I remember the miserable look on my brother’s face.)

He was given a fresh tray, all new bowls and plates, and we made our way to our table. It was at the bottom of the wide stairs leading to the upstairs dining area, our favorite place where we could look out the window at the hustle and bustle of Kansas City. It was also where we made a buffer for a businessman who was hurrying down the stairs to get back to work. He slipped or tripped or maybe missed a step, floundered, threw up his arms…and landed on our table. Seriously. Smack dab in the middle, tipping over all the glasses, flinging the food. I remember the mashed potatoes on his face.

In typical gracious form, Mom, you jumped up to help him, grabbing napkins, asking if he was all right. He was so embarrassed, stammering apologies, and I remember you giving him a tissue from your purse, smiling and telling him it was quite all right, that everyone had accidents, and some day this would be his favorite story to share. As the staff hurried over to clean up and escort the man to the rest room, I noticed your open purse, the inside drenched in ice tea…and the goo of cobbler bits clinging to my birthday bra package.

Daddy picked us up in front of a book store an hour later.  As he pulled into the downtown traffic, he smiled and said, “I had an excellent meeting. How was your day?”

You, Mom, were the first to giggle, and soon the three of us were laughing and trying to talk all at once, telling about our excellent day.

The cover of a blank photo album, Kansas Originals.

The cover of a blank photo album, Kansas Originals.

“Gravity is a contributing factor in nearly 73% of all accidents involving falling objects.” ~ Dave Barry

“Everyone has accidents. Later, they become favorite stories to share.”  ~ Mary Shepherd


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





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



Happy Birthday, Mom!

Six weeks after I turned 18–which was more than 2/3 of my lifetime ago—I was initiated into your P.E.O. chapter in Fort Scott and presented my gold star. My initiation that day was a thoughtful and beautiful ceremony, and the only surprise was when the secret word was whispered in my ear. I remember you smiling at the look on my face because I’d spent years making wrong guesses and concocting my own answers, and the secret work meant much more than anything I’d come up with.

Because  Fort Scott is only a twenty-minute drive from Nevada, Missouri, I knew all about the beautiful red-bricked, white-trimmed campus of Cottey College. Sponsored by P.E.O. chapters all over the country, Cottey is the only nonsectarian college owned and supported by women. Students attend from 40 states and 15 countries. While I was growing up, International students couldn’t always go home for holidays, and I knew that they often received invitations from P.E.O.s. Because of your welcoming heart, Mom, we had Japanese and German students staying with us at Thanksgiving or Easter.

What I didn’t know all those years ago was that wherever I would go–away to college in Kansas and then to graduate school and to live in Colorado—there were always P.E. O. chapters to welcome me, and wonderful women who would become good friends.

This year, on your 94th birthday, the members of my P.E.O. Chapter BW in Colorado Springs send you warm and loving birthday greetings. When I told the group you had a birthday soon, immediately they posed together, waving for the camera and calling out greetings. Through the years you’d visited and attended meetings with me, but very few of those sisters still remain. Your “new” sisters—we all wear the same star—reach out to you with genuine affection and well wishes.

It’s come full circle, Mom.  You brought me into a Kansas chapter of P.E.O. sisters, and now I bring you warm greetings from my sisters in Colorado.  Heart to Heart. Star to Star. Happy Birthday!


The P.E.O. sisterhood was founded at Weslyan College in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa in 1869. Seven students who believed in women joining together as friends formed a sisterhood that went on to support and encourage other women to reach their educational goals.  Today there are more than 250,000 members. Student loans and international scholarships are available.

~ for more information:  http://www.peointernational     http://www.cottey.edu/


Filed under 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


Dear Mom,  Your 8 1/2-year-old great-granddaughter wrote you a letter today.  Grace is the catcher for her girls’ softball team, and I included a picture of her in her catcher’s gear, which is so complicated that you have to take my word for it: yes, that’s Grace.  Here are the pictures from her walk, and the letter she wrote to you, Mom.  You are a lucky great-grandmother to have such a fine girl!


Filed under memories for grandchildren, memories for great-grandchildren, spending time with kids, writing

Oh-oh…Where we at? The bad grammar continues

Hi, Mom.

Last week I wrote about driving blue highways and back roads on my way to visit you in Fort Scott. It struck a chord with many friends who told me personally or emailed that they also love to set out and just drive, seeing where it takes them.

Then I remembered the jaunt you and I took together that didn’t turn out at all like we’d planned. Dad was still alive and had his caregiver with him, so you and I drove down to Chicken Annie’s for an early Friday evening dinner. We had our usual good time and ordered an extra to-go meal for Dad. But instead of driving back to Fort Scott right away, we decided to enjoy the beautiful evening and play a game of “Which way now?”

At the exit of Chicken Annie’s parking lot, you chose first. “Turn right,” you said, “let’s follow the lilac bushes along the road.”  So I turned right. We were in a semi-rural area north of Pittsburg, KS, just a few miles from the Missouri line, and the countryside was gorgeous.

When the lilac bushes thinned out, we came to an intersection.  Being a really good daughter, I let you choose again. You decided we should turn left because it looked like some pretty trees off that way. It also took us onto a narrow dirt road, but you were right, there were lots of pretty trees.  On and on we went, turning right, turning left, traveling beyond the gullies where strip mining had been taken over by woods, and abandoned houses were overgrown with vines. It was still early evening and I kept thinking that all we’d have to do was turn and drive west until we eventually came back to the highway.

We made our final turn onto a side road. You chose it for the remaining dots of yellow flowers on forsythia bushes tucked between the fire-red blossoms of pyracanthas, bordered by straggly cedars. At the bend of the little road, the flowers ended, and a different view took over.

Several pickup trucks–looking like they were held together by rust and mud–were parked at odd angles in the clearing. Bearded men in ball caps leaned against the truck bed holding a keg of beer. They’d been enjoying their drinks for awhile. Rifles stood at attention against the side of the truck, and the men did not look glad to see us.

You leaned forward, peered through the windshield, smiled and waved. You whispered to me, “Oh, my, this isn’t good.”  Damn straight, I thought, though I didn’t say it. That moment wasn’t the time for reminders against cursing.

Scenes of the movie DELIVERANCE gave me chills, and as I threw the car into reverse I thought maybe I heard the sound of dueling banjos. I’ve never driven so fast in reverse. You were a great help, watching through the windshield, saying, “I don’t think they’re coming…oh wait…no, I don’t think so,” as we sped past the cedars and forsythia and pyracantha that no longer seemed as delightful.

Later, when we finally arrived back with Dad’s meal, as the caregiver  heated it in the microwave, she asked if we’d had a nice ride. You smiled and said, “The flowers were lovely.”

That’s your trademark, Mom. Enjoy the adventure, whatever it is, and remember the good parts.


Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, friends, lessons about life, memories for grandchildren