Tag Archives: Mary Shepherd


The national flag of Norway, adopted July, 1821

The national flag of Norway, adopted July, 1821




Red November leaves clinging to tree.  (Pictures by Marylin Warner)

Red leaves clinging to tree. (Pictures by Marylin Warner)

Have you ever noticed the grim way some writers describe the month of November?  

Joseph Addison wrote this: “The gloomy months of November, when people of England hang and drown themselves.” (I double checked, and the word “months” is indeed plural, as if November seems to go on and on, which might explain the hanging and drowning, or maybe it refers to Addison’s interpretation over many years. Whichever it is, I apologize to the people of England; remember, I am only the messenger.)

Emily Dickinson describes November this way: “November always seemed to me the Norway of the year.”  (I used to teach Dickinson in my English classes, and I don’t recall her writing that July is the Sahara of the year, or making any other month/place comparisons…only November.)

My mother’s writing is not well known–and at this point in her dementia, even she doesn’t recognize her own words when I read them aloud to her–but I’d like to share with you a few of her descriptions of November.  I found these typed and handwritten examples stored in her writing box. 

The windblown sleet darts ~ Like tiny ice bullets ~ Against my window pane. 

Wee button noses ~ Beneath eyes of wide wonder   ~ Smudge frosty windows.

And these last two, titled 1 and 2, were followed by a question: which one is better?  If you have a preference or comment, I’ll read them to Mom during my next trip to Kansas…and remind her again that these are her words and Haikus.

#1: Spruce draped in snow-fall ~ Stand silent cold sentinels ~ Against threat’ning skies.

#2: Trees clothed in snow-fall ~ Are strong sentinels guarding ~ Against steel grey skies.

Both of my parents thought that each day had its own beauty, and each month had its own importance and possibility. For my mother, summer months were for planting and gardening; fall and winter months were for knitting and baking; spring months were for hoping and watching new growth. She believed every season was a gift, and all the seasons deserved heartfelt anticipation…and at least a few words of notice and appreciation penned in her notebooks.


Fall clouds on the Kansas horizon

Fall clouds on the Kansas horizon

Maggie on fall hike in Brown's Park, Abilene, KS

Maggie on fall hike in Brown’s Park, Abilene, KS

November picture of Colorado's Pikes Peak

November picture of Colorado’s Pikes Peak



Filed under autumn lessons, Dementia/Alzheimer's, Fort Scott Kansas, lessons about life, Mary Shepherd's poetry, memories for great-grandchildren, special quotations, writing


My mom, 1918,  the baby before two more siblings followed.

My mom, Mary Elizabeth, 1918, the baby before two more siblings followed.


Mom in 1949, holding their baby daughter, while  Dad holds their son.

Mom in 1949, holding their baby daughter, while Dad holds their son.

Last week’s topic was “Secrets of Success.”

This week’s topic is “How To Turn Disappointments Into Celebrations.”

Many years ago, a college acquaintance had a strange solution for any disappointment she faced: she made herself feel better by finding someone who was more disappointed and miserable than she was. For instance, when her boyfriend back home dumped her, she cheered up when she found someone else whose fiancé made a big deal of publicly ending their engagement on campus. She called this strategy “Being Glad You’re Not THAT Miserable,” and it seemed to work for her.

My birthday is at the end of this month…and it’s a BIG milestone birthday. Although I know my husband, daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren will do something special, I also know my mother will not remember my birthday. Because of her dementia, she rarely remembers who I am any more or sometimes even where she is.  But it’s still sad that for the past seven years she’s had no memory of days that used to mean so much to her, including the day I was born.

Using the technique of my college acquaintance, I found these birthday disappointments of others: Paulina Porizkova was fired by “America’s Next Top Model” on her birthday, and actress Evan Rachel Wood said, “I’ll never forget my 24th birthday when my tooth got punched out…”   But the one that made me choke back tears was by actress/model/singer Amy Weber: “I lost twins at 14 weeks, and I had to have a D&C on my birthday.” 

I’ve never been good at feeling better because someone else felt worse.  The college acquaintance’s strategy didn’t work for me then, and it doesn’t work for me now. 

But I have found a way of creating my own happiness as I celebrate my birthday with my mother. When I drive to Kansas to visit her each month, I take along foods she might enjoy, fresh flowers or a plant. When I visit her each September, I take a cake or cupcakes. And candles. Sometimes ice cream, too.   And I sing “Happy Birthday to US” and light the candles (just a few candles…we don’t want a bon fire.)

Mom still enjoys blowing out candles, and she sometimes wants me to light them again so she can blow them out a second time. It’s our shared celebration—I’m the birthday girl; she’s the mother who gave birth to me—and at some point during my visit I tell her a story from when I was a child and she did something sweet, funny, poignant or wonderful. Usually she’ll smile and say something like, “That’s nice. Do I know her?”   She doesn’t know “her,” but I do.

Dementia prevents Mom from remembering when my birthday is or even who I am. Reality confirms that the woman who wanted so much to be a mother, and who suffered four miscarriages before she had her two children, went on to have three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. All of us are here because she didn’t give up or bury her disappointments by finding other women who had even worse pains and more sadness.

So for my birthday again this year, we’ll celebrate the line of life. We’ll eat cake, blow out candles, smile and celebrate all the lives and loves that dementia cannot erase.   Happy Birth Day To Us.

1978 ~ Marylin holds her daughter Molly, Mary's granddaughter.

1978 ~ Marylin and her daughter Molly, Mary’s granddaughter.


2005 ~ Molly holds portrait of Dad's mother as a  toddler for her own toddlers, Mary's great-grandchildren.

2005 ~ Molly holds portrait of her grandpa’s mother as a toddler for her own children, Mary and Ray’s great-grandchildren.


Filed under birthday celebrations, birthdays, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for grandchildren, memories for great-grandchildren, special quotations, Things to be thankful for


A good daily reminder for the new year. (These two photographs by Marylin Warner)

A good daily reminder for the new year. (These two photographs by Marylin Warner)

Remember: "Good things come to those who work while they're waiting."

Remember: Good things come to those who wait…and especially to those who also keep working while they wait. (Or, to thank Judy Berman for this comment: “Good things come to those who hustle while they wait.” Thank you, Judy!)

Dear Mom,

It’s almost that time again, to sit down with pencil and paper and write a few New Year’s Resolutions. (Always use a pencil, so you can erase and make changes, right?)

You weren’t a big fan of resolutions. If I asked what your resolution was, you would say something like, “Each day I want to make things a little bit better,” or  “Every day I will think good thoughts about —–, or say a prayer for ——,” or “Every day I’ll be thankful for that day.”  The closest thing I found  to a quote about resolutions was when I was cleaning out closets after I moved you and Dad to your assisted living apartment and I came across an index card where you’d written this:  “Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering ‘it will be happier…’ ” ~ by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. And below that you’d written Yes, Hope really does smile.”

In addition to the messages under the pictures, here are three of my favorite hopeful messages for the new year.  Our blog friends are welcome to add their resolutions or favorite quotes, too.

“Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365-page book. Write a good one.” ~singer, musician Brad Paisley

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes…Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do It. Make your mistakes, next year and forever.” ~ author Neil Gaiman

Ring the bells that still can ring.

Forget your perfect offering.

There is a crack in everything.

That’s how the light gets in.”   ~Leonard Cohen, “Anthem”

This year, tell your own story, leave your own mark. (Canyonlands Natl. Park. Navajo Tse'Hone--"Rock That Tells A Story") Photograph by Jim Warner

This year, tell your own story, leave your own mark. (Canyonlands Natl. Park. ~Navajo Tse’Hone–“Rock That Tells A Story”) Photograph by Jim Warner


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


George Eliot, pseudonym for Mary Ann Evans, was a novelist, journalist and translator in the 1800s

George Eliot, pseudonym for Mary Ann Evans, was a novelist, journalist and translator in the 1800s

Mary, between her sisters Wanda and Ruth LaVonne. Mom is wearing one of the hats she created...and gave up on after awhile.

Mary, between her sisters Wanda and Ruth LaVonne. Mom is wearing one of the hats she created…and quit creating after awhile.  She finally stopped wearing hats.

Dear Mom,

“It is never too late to be what you might have been,” according to George Eliot (pseudonym used by Mary Ann Evans, 1819-1880).  For the last two posts, we’ve been discussing sewing, embroidering, knitting, etc., and quite a few of our blog friends wrote that they wished they’d been taught to do some of those crafts.

The good news is that George Eliot was right: It’s never too late.

For instance, Roosevelt “Rosey” Grier, former football player for the NY Giants and the LA Rams,  later was also a bodyguard for Robert Kennedy.  Rosey is seriously strong and rugged, and he was one of the NY Giants’ original Fearsome Foursome,  so he caught the gender-sewing issue off guard when he added needlepoint and macramé to his talents. Some of his creations became so popular that there was demand for his patterns.

And now, Mom, for my favorite “never too late” story, let’s tell our friends about your freshman year in college. At the last minute you needed a long dress for a formal dance.  When you took your gown out of the clothing bag, there was a loose thread. You pulled it, and–z-i-p!–you unraveled the entire hem.

You’d learned basic embroidery and quilting when you made your bird-pattern quilt, but you’d never learned to hem a skirt or do any practical needle work beyond sewing on buttons.

Ever resourceful, you ended up using safety pins to hold the hem in place. And when you ran out of safety pins, you finished the job with masking tape. You said that when you danced, you made an odd-sounding rustle. After that, you told Grandma you were ready and eager to learn “real” sewing.

By the time you were married and had children, you could make everything from hats (see picture) to underwear (no picture available…) You even dismantled one of your long wool winter coats and created a little coat for me. You made it with a big collar, and I was truthful when I said it made me look like “one of those people who came over on that boat.” (I think I meant the Pilgrims.) You also made a little jacket for David out of the wool, but I don’t remember him ever having to wear it.

Pablo Picasso said, “Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not. ”

I would add this, Mom. You saw what needed to be done and asked someone to teach you the basics. After that, there was no stopping you.

Picasso also said, “The chief enemy of creativity is good sense,” and  you proved this point by creating hats, underwear, and Pilgrim-style coats.  But other than those few examples, you created amazing, beautiful and useful things.               Hats off to George Eliot, Rosey Grier, and Mary Shepherd!

It's Not Too Late!

It’s Not Too Late!

Popular theme of writers and artists: Create Your Own Happiness.

Popular theme of writers and artists: Create Your Own Happiness.


Filed under art, art projects, Dementia/Alzheimer's, Fort Scott Kansas, lessons about life, memories for grandchildren, memories for great-grandchildren, special quotations


Mom's Wild Roses stitchery framed in a 36" hoop (circa 1968)(all photos by Marylin Warner)

Mary Shepherd’s Wild Roses stitchery framed in a 36″ hoop (circa 1968)(all photos by Marylin Warner)

Marylin's 20"x26" framed Mixed Wildflowers, 1973

Marylin’s 20″x26″ framed Mixed Wildflowers, 1973

1988--Mary's granddaughter, Molly, age 10, creates Clay Hand with Weaving.

1988–Mary’s granddaughter, Molly, age 10, created Clay Hand with Weaving

Dear Mom,

I remember when you taught me to thread a needle. It was a big darning needle, which assured my first attempt was successful. By the time I was ten I could thread small-eyed, delicate needles with silk thread and do basic stitches on squares of cotton cloth.

During the spring and summer, we planted bulbs and seeds so our yard—and our vases—would blossom with the beauty of flowers.  During the winter, when you created poetry and wove sentences into stories, you also ‘grew’ flowers with colorful threads that adorned pillow cases and wall hangings.  Because of you, I could use your sewing machine to ‘create’ simple shifts and jumpers by the time I was thirteen, which was about the same time I also began to ‘hunt and peck’ the words of my stories on your typewriter.

It’s almost Thanksgiving, Mom, and I am thankful for oh-so-many, many things. But as the snow falls, the temperature drops and the calendar creeps toward the end of another year, I am especially thankful for my love of sewing, growing and writing. And many other skills, too, but those are another story.


Judy Berman of http://earth-rider.com/, is a writer, teacher and former reporter whose posts I enjoy and respect immensely. Recently she nominated “Things I Want To Tell My Mother” for The WordPress Family Award.  It has been a long time since I’ve accepted awards for my blog, but several writers helped me understand that the Family Award isn’t for me and my writing…it’s for my mother and the stories of her life.  With that in mind, Judy, I gratefully accept your nomination on behalf of  Mary Shepherd.

Many of the blogs I appreciate deserve this award, and several have already received it.  This is my mother’s award, though, and so I happily nominate these three whose posts and comments I have shared with her, and whose talents and messages reflect her own.


Robyn’s photography of flowers and nature is amazing and inspiring, and she includes perfect quotes like this by Robert Mapplethorpe: “When I work, and in my art, I hold hands with God.”


Darla McDavid writes touching and real stories about her own family; she also writes helpful, specific and supportive posts for writers of all levels. This is a combination of topics near and dear to my mother’s life…and her heart.


Vivian’s blog is a combination of opportunities for writers, ideas for parents, activities and books for children, and recipes for everyone. It’s everything my mother enjoyed before the dementia, and even now she samples Vivian’s delicious recipes.



Filed under art, art projects, Dementia/Alzheimer's, Fort Scott Kansas, making a difference, memories for grandchildren, memories for great-grandchildren, The WordPress Family Award


Am I the only woman who asked for--and received--a DeWalt for her 50th birthday?  (photos by Marylin Warner)

Am I the only woman who asked for–and received–a DeWalt for her 50th birthday? (photos by Marylin Warner)

clippers and saw

Repair basics (plus assorted nails, screws and wires)

Repair basics (plus assorted nails, screws and wire)

Dear Mom,

You always loved to fix things, and since I grew up “helping” with your projects, I learned to love fixing things, too. At a young age I knew the difference between a Philips and a flat screwdriver, and when to use wood cement instead of glue.  When I was twelve, I bought a tiny jeweler’s pliers at a yard sale, and you and I figured out how to tighten the clasps on all our necklaces and bracelets. And there was no rip in a shirt or skirt or coat that we couldn’t mend with your sewing machine.

You had two ways of fixing things around the house and in the yard: step-by-step logical repairs that could take hours or days; and “a lick and a promise” fix.  When one of Grandma’s hand-painted saucers was knocked off the dining room table, you fixed it using the step-by-step technique. When we were late for church and you saw the hem was coming out of my Sunday dress, you did a quick fix, a “lick and a promise” with masking tape and safety pins.

But when I used the wood-burning instruments to sear my initials and drawings into the wooden fence, along the window casings in the garage, and on my closet shelf, you reined in my enthusiasm for non-essential handiwork. Later, in college I learned Kaplan’s explanation of “Law of the Instrument.” “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.”

A few days ago, you fell in your apartment, Mom.  You were rushed to the hospital, and doctors determined that you had not broken your hip, but you had dislocated your hip from the socket. In spite of your love for “fixing” things, this is probably one of those times when we won’t complain if your advanced dementia prevents you from remembering what happened next. On that very afternoon, the orthopedic surgeon operated, and with three medical screws he secured your hip bone back in the socket.

There will still be physical therapy and restrictions and adjustments. But you have strong bones, or they would’t have even attempted this surgery.  And you also had excellent, capable doctors, and this was not a “lick and  promise” fix.

My bet is on you, Mom, and your innate appreciation for fixing things.  Nails, hammers, screwdrivers, Super Glue; whatever it takes, you’re a big supporter of doing your best to put things back together.

Mom, 3 1/2, with her older brother on the family farm.

Mom, 3 1/2, with her older brother on the family farm.

Mom at 2 1/2 with her doll baby. See those strong bones on them both?

Mom at 2 1/2 with her doll baby. See those strong bones on them both?


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


Art wall next to Old Colorado City Library in Colorado Springs.

Art wall next to Old Colorado City Library in Colorado Springs.

Web creativity by grass spiders in Abilene, KS.

Web creativity by grass spiders in Abilene, KS.










Dear Mom,

Albert Einstein once said, “Creativity is contagious. Pass it on.”  But I have a lifetime of experiences that confirm that this is also your philosophy.

You don’t remember, but one of the many ways you passed on the joy of creativity was when we decorated our Christmas tree as I was growing up. If we got it from the tree lot, I usually chose a sad tree with uneven branches and bare sections, much like the Charlie Brown tree that came later. I knew we could make it beautiful, and we always did. Year after year we’d string the lights and hang some special ornaments, but your philosophy was that the best art was homemade. You applauded  when we cut snowflakes out of newspaper, created our own decorations from pine cones gathered in the yard, and tied paper dolls and small toys to the branches with ribbon.  Neighborhood kids sometimes joined in because the trees at their houses were fleeced or specially decorated and delivered from the green house.

In honor of all the individual acts of creativity you applauded, I’ve created a little test on who-said-what to share with our friends who visit this blog. After all, schools will soon be letting out for vacation, and nothing says Merry Christmas like a test!

Here are the choices:   A) Carl Sandburg    B) Mary Shepherd    C) Jack London    D) Henry Ward Beecher    E) Sean Connery   F) Pablo Picasso  G) Maya Angelou  H) Winston Churchill    I) Lou Holtz    J) None of the above

Here are the quotes:

1) “You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club.”

2) “You write your first draft with your heart, and you re-write with your head.”

3) “To draw, you must close your eyes and sing.”

4) “One of the greatest necessities in America is to discover creative solitude.”

5) “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”

6) “A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.”

7) “Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.”

8) “Why, honey, that’s beautiful. You’re so creative. I love it!”

9) “The stone age didn’t end because it ran out of stones.”

10) “’No comment’ is a splendid expression. I am using it again and again.”

The answers are posted in the first comment box.

If you were asked to comment on creativity, what would you say? Do you have a favorite quote from someone else? Share it with us!

Tree sculpture carved from a dead tree. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

Tree sculpture carved from a dead tree. (All photos by Marylin Warner)


Filed under "Christmas Memories With Mom", art, art projects, 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


(upper left):  Pastor Amy Truhe, Schere Memorial Lutheran Church

(upper right):   Marylin Warner, Mary Shepherd and Flat Grace         (lower left): Real Grace’s mom, Molly

The entrance to Ft. Scott’s #1 National Cemetery ~         

(First, a brief explanation about the original FLAT STANLEY by Jeff Brown, published in 1964.  In the popular children’s book, Characters Stanley Lambchop and his brother Arthur are given a bulletin board, but during the night it falls from the wall and flattens Stanley as he sleeps.

He makes the most of his altered state, sliding under the doors of locked rooms, being used as a kite by his brother, etc.  The BIG advantage, though, is Stanley can visit friends by being mailed in an envelope.  The FLAT STANLEY PROJECT that evolved from the books connected students with other schools, towns/cities, states and countries.  In 2005, more than 6,500 classes from 48 countries took part in the project, sending their crayon-colored paper dolls on adventures. 

In 1999, when our daughter Molly was student teaching, her 2nd grade class participated in the project, and we took pictures of Flat Stanley in Colorado for her students. Now, more than a dozen years later, Molly’s daughter continues the tradition…)

Dear Mom,

Wow! This was a different visit, wasn’t it? At first you were confused by the “Flat Grace” paper doll I brought with me to Ft. Scott, but soon you rallied. Once you understood that your 8-year-old great-granddaughter, Grace, had made a paper doll of herself as part of her 3rd grade project, you joined in the fun.

When Flat Grace posed with us in your apartment, you laughed and hugged her. She went on to pose with other nice people, and the pictures will all be used in Real Grace’s final report on the project.

As we looked at the pictures on my digital camera, I realized Flat Grace had reinforced some of your lessons:


Some might think it’s a silly waste of time, posing for a picture with a paper doll, but I didn’t encounter even one critical person.  I approached people in the spirit of good-natured fun, the way I’d watched you do numerous times when I was a child. I smiled and described the 3rd-grade class project in Chapman, almost two hundred miles away, and everyone responded with good-natured enthusiasm.


When I asked random people to pose with Flat Grace for the project, many remembered the original novel and shared their stories: their children or neighbor kids, mailing their Flat Stanleys on adventures; the last-minute taped repairs when Stanley lost an arm or leg; the excitement on young faces when envelopes arrived in the mail, returning the paper dolls with pictures or journals of the adventures.

You and Dad both taught me this, Mom: when people meet and share their experiences–when they listen and laugh and respond–something magical happens.


Admiring art efforts, pitching for batting practice, listening to piano scales or recitation of multiplication tables or a song sung slightly off key…or posing for a picture with a child’s flat paper doll on an adventure…is time well spent.

It’s also double the fun when you do it with someone you love, Mom, and you’re very much loved.


Pictures below:  Grace’s Grandpa and dog Maggie with Flat Grace;  a wonderful park ranger at the Historic Fort Scott site, who stepped up and helped hold Flat Grace in the wind; the really nice young man at the Dairy Queen window who said, “Sure, I’d be glad to help.”  (Thanks to many others–Grace’s great- Uncle David, Mom’s caregiver Martha, and many other volunteers–I messed up and couldn’t get all your pictures in here, but they will be included in Grace’s 3rd-grade project.)



Filed under friends, importance of doing good things, lessons about life, memories for grandchildren

Best Friends

Dear Mom,

I can always tell when one of the young nursing students has taken a shift as your caregiver.  The tell-tale sign is the glittery polish on your fingernails.  When I take off your shoes and socks to get you ready for bed, your toe-nails are painted, too.

If I say how pretty your hands and feet look, usually you squint and seem confused.  You give a little smile and shrug, unsure.  Other times you wiggle your fingers and laugh.  “My friend did it,” you say, and then you add, “She’s my best friend…I think.”

I don’t ask you who “she” is.  I’ve learned that statements give you assurance, while questions are confusing.  I hold your hand, ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the shiny polish.  Then I say you must have a very nice friend who chooses such a pretty color, and you suddenly are a school girl, wowed by your fancy fingers.  Proud to have such a friend, whoever she is.

Oh, Mom, you have had many friends.  Dad always said that you never met a stranger, and your mother, my grandmother, told me that even as a child you had the kindest heart and sweetest smile.

I remember the many women–and sometimes even my girlfriends–who trusted you with their secrets and sorrows, and how you embraced them in warm hugs and assured them you’d be praying for them.  You were a peacemaker, Mom, a gentle advisor, and a friend to so many.

For your ninety-third birthday, your granddaughter Molly brought your great-grandchildren Grace and Gannon for a celebration.  It was a long drive for them, so they bought the decorations and the ice cream cake when they arrived.  You fell asleep while eating the cake.  Six-year-old Gannon watched you sleep.  He gave you a sweet kiss and whispered to Molly, “Oh, Mom, she’s so cute.”  On their way home, they stopped by the cemetery.  Seven-year-old Grace read the details on Dad’s side of the headstone.  Your name in on the other side, and beneath your names is engraved the truth of your long marriage to Dad:  “Best Friends Forever.”

Grace put her hands on her hips and turned to her mother.  “I thought they were married,” she said.  You and Dad would have laughed at that; you would have hugged your great-grandchildren and told them stories about two Missouri teens who met and fell in love, and truly were each other’s best friends…even though they were married.  You wowed Dad with your faith, Mom, your patience and kindness and strength.  Fingernail polish had nothing to do with it.

You’re a great role model for your daughter, your granddaughter, and your great granddaughter.  Your great-grandson, too.  He thinks you’re very cute, and he gave you a kiss.

I love you, Mom.   Marylin


Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, Marriage