Tag Archives: Mark Twain

THE WHEELS GO ‘ROUND AND ‘ROUND

This week has been brutal in Colorado...it's not a good time to try to ride a bike.

This week has been brutal in Colorado…it’s not a good time to try to ride a bike.

 

 

bike in snow

 

 

My first “it’s mine and nobody else’s” bike was a blue Western Flyer. No bells and whistles, and definitely no training wheels, just a great bike.   I was seven when my mom taught me to ride it. She pointed me straight ahead on the sidewalk, holding on the to back of the seat, and running along with me as I wobbled and squealed and pedaled, clutching the handle-bar grips for all I was worth. Mark Twain was right when he said, “Get a bicycle. You will not regret it…if you live.” I took a lot of tumbles and was scabs and band-aides from head to toes for a while, but soon I was riding all around the neighborhood.

The amazing thing about Mom teaching me to ride a bike was that she had never learned to ride one. She grew up on a Missouri farm where the roads were dirt and gravel. Her mother taught her to drive a car—and they ended up in a ditch before Mom became proficient—but she never learned to ride a bike.

Almost ten years ago, when my dad was still alive, Mom and I drove down to Chicken Annie’s near Pittsburg, KS to pick up to-go meals to take back for us, Dad, and his caregiver to have for dinner. As we sat outside at the picnic table waiting for our order, two older women—maybe grandmothers—stood one on each side of a young boy trying to learn to ride a bike. It was a familiar comedy of errors, with near falls and close calls for both the women and the little boy, but finally the boy took off. Mom and I cheered and clapped . For the boy, yes, but especially for his teachers. “You did that for me, Mom,” I said, and she nodded, smiled and said, “I remember.” I put my arm around her and kissed her cheek. “Thank you.”

January is National Thank You Month. Take it from one who knows, if there’s anyone in your life—a relative, friend, teacher, neighbor, anyone who’s offered you help or shown you a kindness—thank that person this month. I’m glad I thanked my mother for the bike riding lesson when I did; within a few years she would not have understood what I was saying. I remember that day, the way she smiled and nodded, and I also realized that saying Thank You is a double blessing, once for the person receiving the thanks, and once for the person expressing it.

This is also Universal Letter Writing Week. If you have an older friend, someone in the hospital or a nursing home, please write a card or letter thanking them for one specific thing they did for you. Nurses and caregivers are very responsive to reading aloud the cards and messages, and often the recipients will hold their cards and fall asleep with them.

These two activities are excellent examples of Janus looking backward and forward at the beginning of the new year. When we look back at what others have done for us and reach forward to thank them, we change our lives…and theirs.

It’s a matter of balance. Albert Einstein wrote: “Life is like riding a bicycle—in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving.” And a good example of that forward movement is gratitude.

Bike ornament on my wall.  (Pictures by Marylin Warner)

Bike ornament on my wall. (Pictures by Marylin Warner)

 

"Fat Tire #3" original sculpture in Salina, KS., by Lance Carlton Washington

“Fat Tire #3″ original sculpture in Salina, KS., by Lance Carlton Washington

Framed bicycle print with message by Flavia: "Somewhere between the earth and sky, there is a secret place we all go to dream."

Framed bicycle print with message by Flavia: “Somewhere between the earth and sky, there is a secret place we all go to dream.”

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, importance of doing good things, lessons about life, making a difference, special quotations

What is your ONE WORD?

 

If you can't pronounce a word, it's probably not the right one to make Your Word.  (Picture by Marylin Warner)

If you can’t pronounce a word, it’s probably not the right one to make Your Word. (Picture by Marylin Warner)

 

 

Sign it, sing it, paint it, think it ~ it's your One Word.

Sign it, sing it, paint it, think it ~ it’s your One Word.

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and lightning bug.” ~ Mark Twain (aka Samuel Langhorne Clemens)

Several months ago, I wrote a post titled “Ten Words.” It included a contest for short-short-short stories of no more than ten words. In this post, I’m asking you to think about only one word—your ONE WORD—but you don’t have to enter it in a contest.

Before her dementia, my mother was the master of one-word comments and questions. With slight variations in her facial expressions, she made her point very well. “Why?” was more than a question; it was a warning to rethink an action or an attitude. “Wait” conveyed her philosophy: patience was a virtue; she had faith enough to wait and trust how things would work out.  My mother’s one-word statements or questions were a perfect example of Shakespeare’s writing advice: “Suit the action to the word, the word to the action.”

I used to keep a list of one-word book titles: JAWS, 1984, REBECCA, ATONEMENT, IT. I also enjoyed one-word lines that “said it all” in movies: “Plastics.” (THE GRADUATE); “Stella!” (A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE); “Rosebud.” (CITIZEN KANE); “Freedom!” (BRAVEHEART); and “Adrian!” (ROCKY).

Regardless of how you feel about football or the Super Bowl, one NFL quarterback has renewed the interest in “One Worders.” Bronco Peyton Manning has been using his one word shouted at the line of scrimmage– “Omaha”–for years, and he plans to stick with it. Granted, the Broncos lost this year’s Super Bowl, but the Nebraska town (Manning has never lived there) named its zoo’s new-born penguin “Peyton,” and a local ice cream parlor named a new flavor “Omaha, Omaha,” to go with the orange-vanilla mixed with blue malt balls…Bronco colors. The Omaha Chamber of Commerce presented Manning with a $70,000 check for his foundation for at-risk children.

What is your ONE WORD? What is one word you believe in, hope for, use as motivation…or use only because it means something to you, and you don’t tell others why you use it? Physician and writer Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “A word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanging; it is the skin of a living thought…”

Years ago, I was volunteering at the Episcopal Women’s Thrift Shop and came across a hand-stitched, framed sampler that someone had discarded to be sold in the shop. No one else seemed to like it–or maybe they didn’t understand it–but the word spoke directly to me. It became my One Word nudge, inspirational reminder and personal challenge: YAGOTTAWANNA

What’s your One Word?  Or, what is the word you once used but then gave it up?

My ONE WORD choice.  (Picture by Marylin Warner)

My ONE WORD choice. (Picture by Marylin Warner)

Omaha, Nebraska  (Smithsonian's Arial America shot)

Omaha, Nebraska (Smithsonian’s Arial America shot)

 

Peyton Manning (Google photo)

Peyton Manning (Google photo)

 

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

WHAT BUILDS US UP INSIDE

"Forgetful Jones" Muppets cowboy character

“Forgetful Jones” Muppets cowboy character (photo credit: Muppet Wikia)

My mom’s 95th birthday was July 12, the same birthday as Henry David Thoreau’s. (The same day, not the same year.)

Monday, July 15th, is the birthday of Forgetful Jones, a Sesame Street Character. Forgetful Jones is a cowboy who has two horses ~ Buster, and buster’s brother Whatshisname. Laurent Lin, Muppet workshop builder, said, “Forgetful Jones…brought out more of the simple, sweet side of Richard…” (Richard Hunt was Forgetful Jones’ performer/voice.)

Maybe Forgetful Jones had the same type of dementia my mother has, because she also brings out the simple, sweet sides of many people—myself included—even now when she can’t remember who people are, where she is, or what day it is.

My mother’s memory is confused, but her gentle temperament remains.

By definition, memory is “… a person’s power to remember things; the mind regarded as a store of things remembered.” Lately, I’ve been very interested in what others have to say about memory. Here are some of the quotes I’ve found by writers. (Sorry, no doctor, psychiatrist or nurse quotes. I was not part of the medical profession; I was an English, literature, speech and writing teacher.)

“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” ~ Mark Twain

“One of the keys to happiness is a bad memory.” ~ Rita Mae Brown

“Touch has a memory.” ~John Keats

“Remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they really are.” ~ Marcel Proust

“Scars have the strange power to remind us that our past is real.” ~Cormac McCarthy, from his novel, ALL THE PRETTY HORSES

“Memory is a part of the present. It builds us up inside; it knits our bones to our muscles and keeps our hearts pumping.” ~Gregory Maguire, from his book, SON OF A WITCH.

And for my dad, who died of Alzheimer’s, and my mother, who is losing the battle against dementia, this is my favorite quote about memories and life:   “To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.” ~ Thomas Campbell

Many years ago, before Alzheimer's and dementia ~ me, with my dad, my daughter Molly, and my mom (picture by Jim Warner)

Many years ago, before Alzheimer’s and dementia ~ me, with my dad, my daughter Molly, and my mom (picture by  my husband, Jim Warner)

"We shall be known by the tracks we leave." Dakota proverb. (Picture by Marylin Warner)

“We shall be known by the tracks we leave.” Dakota proverb. (Picture by Marylin Warner)

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

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

A rose by another name...would still have thorns. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

A rose by another name…would still have thorns. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

pseudonymsMG_2255

Dear Mom,

I read in the DENVER POST that the first baby born in Colorado in 2013 is named Lyrik, for his mother’s love of music. Other 2013 baby names around the country so far include Daffon, Mobley, and Sayge. In Hawaii, this year’s first baby is Quetzalli; in Kansas, it’s Xiomara Tatiana. Mark Twain was probably right: “Names are not always what they seem.”

How many times did I whine because I didn’t like my name, Mom? All around me in grade school were cute names like Kathy, Mickey, Cindy and Karen. But I was Marylin, and the confusing spelling of my name reversed the y and the i of the traditional Marilyn. Even today, if someone calls and asks to speak to “Mary Lin,” I know they don’t know me because my name is pronounced in the typical mare-lin or mɛrələn.

The majority of us go through at least one period in life when we wish we had a different name. It’s very common for children to go by nicknames or their middle names for awhile, and many writers have pseudonyms. Author Dean Koontz has had 11 pen names, including “Deanna Dwyer.” Harlan Ellison had 25 pen names, and Ray Bradbury had 17, including Hollerbochen and Omega. Politicians have succeeded (or not) with names like Frank Schmuck, Jay Walker, Krystal Ball, and Rodney Assman. Maybe it’s true what W.C. Fields said: “It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to.”

When I used to complain, once you gave me a piece of paper and a pencil and said, “What’s the name you’d rather have?” I remember coming up with some doozies that even I didn’t take seriously. You smiled and went on to other things, reminding me that it’s not just our name that makes a difference, but what we do to make a difference…that’s what counts.

You were in line with the Dakota Proverb: “We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.” Thanks, Mom, aka Mary Elizabeth. (I’ve always loved your name, Mom, and your nickname, too…Mary Ibbith)                                                                                                               tracks in mud

"We will be known forever by the tracks we leave." ~Dakota Proverb (with thanks to St. Joseph"s Indian School calendar

“We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.” ~Dakota Proverb (with thanks to St. Joseph”s Indian School calendar)

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