Tag Archives: poetry






Before my mother’s dementia, she wrote poetry.   She kept a notebook and pen in her purse so she was always prepared to jot down new lines for poems no matter where she was.

She once told me that when she taught kindergarten, the introduction to poetry curriculum for five-year-olds said the teacher should point to a color and say, “What words rhyme with red?”   (Then blue, green, yellow, brown, black, etc.)   “But never point to the color orange,” the instructions warned. “It will only confuse them because no word rhymes with orange.”

Molly and I went to visit my mom/her grandma last weekend.   We fed her bites of favorite food, told her family stories, sang along to Mom’s favorite children’s songs on Molly’s iPhone, and read poetry to her.   Here, in tribute to Mom’s kindergarten poetry advice many years ago, is a poem by author Mary O’Neill that describes the color orange…without trying to find a word that rhymes with it.

WHAT IS ORANGE?   By Mary O’Neill   ~   Orange is a tiger lily, A carrot,   A feather from a parrot.   A flame,   The wildest color   You can name.   Orange is a happy day, Saying good-bye    In a sunset that   That shocks the sky.   Orange is brave   Orange is bold     It’s bittersweet   And marigold      Orange is zip   Orange is dash   The brightest stripe   In a Roman sash.    Orange is an orange, Also a mango.    Orange is music of the tango.   Orange is the fur   Of the fiery fox,   It’s The brightest crayon   In the box.    And in the fall, When the leaves are turning,   Orange is the smell   Of a bonfire burning…







Filed under art, autumn lessons, Dementia/Alzheimer's, kindergarten lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, Mary Shepherd's poetry, teaching


We take fires very seriously in Colorado after the devastating Waldo Canyon fire in 2012, and the 2013 Black Forest Fire (in picture)

We take fires very seriously in Colorado after the devastating Waldo Canyon fire in 2012, and the 2013 Black Forest Fire (in picture)


The closing lines of last week’s blog will begin this week’s post: ~ Sing a song of seasons! ~ Something bright in All! ~ Flowers in the summer, ~ Fires in the fall!

Last week’s post focused on poetry, the book of children’s poems I read aloud to Mom as she snuggled under her covers one night. Despite her dementia, Mom responded to the poems, making comments and asking to hear more. It was a surprising, happy time.

This week the focus in on the four words—Fires in the fall!—because of something that happened in Mom’s assisted living that same night…before I read her the poems.

The alarms went off. Everywhere, blaring throughout the entire assisted living facility, both floors, all four hallways. Steel safety doors automatically slammed shut, closing off all the hallways, and the alarms kept screeching. Caregivers ran to evaluate the situation. I stayed with Mom in her apartment, putting on her shoes, helping her into the wheelchair and tucking her afghan around her, waiting to learn which exit I should use to take her to safety. In the hallway outside her apartment, other more mobile and self-reliant seniors peeked out their doors and waited anxiously in the hall to learn what to do next.

Finally the alarms stopped. The steel doors opened, and caregivers hurried back to the apartments. The halls were thick with whiffs of smoke and the pungent smell of burned …popcorn? Really, burned popcorn.   Bags of microwave popcorn had been accidentally set on fire in a 90-year-old resident’s apartment microwave when he pushed the wrong numbers. Supposedly, the numbers were way off; the bags caught fire and blew the door open on the microwave.

Mom sat in the wheelchair, watching caregivers hurrying around, running back and forth past our open door. She looked up at me and asked, “Well, are we going to go now?” She was ready for us to take a walk.

The Roman philosopher Seneca said this: “There are more things to alarm us than to harm us, and we suffer more often in apprehension than reality.”   My mom’s personal philosophy has always been to not suffer or worry in advance, but to stay calmly busy with other things until there was an actual danger that demanded a specific response. She could have been a poster girl for the 1939 British motivational poster in preparation for WWII: “Keep Calm & Carry On.”

Life can be very difficult. Losing the love of your life to Alzheimer’s; losing your own clarity of time and place to dementia; giving up your home and independence; outliving most of your family and friends; thinking you’re getting ready to go for a wheelchair ride, only to have that ended by fire alarms…and you don’t even get any popcorn.

October 9 is Fire Prevention Day. I’m informing you early, so you can prepare in advance to prevent fires…and to make the most of whatever difficulties and disappointments you might face. Keep Calm and Read Poetry. Popcorn is optional, especially if you’re not sure how to use a microwave.

calm duck on water

moon between trees

Based on the 1939 British motivational poster in preparation for WWII.

Based on the 1939 British motivational poster in preparation for WWII.


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


A garden rose in lavender. (All pictures by Marylin WArner)

A garden rose in lavender.
(All pictures by Marylin WArner)

Patron Saint of Lovers

Patron Saint of Lovers

Santa Ana

Santa Ana

Dear Mom,

In LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP, Jane Austen wrote this: “The Very first moment I beheld him, my heart was irrevocably gone.”

It’s true, isn’t it, Mom?  One glance, and you can lose your heart.

I’m going to share the poem you wrote in 1990 and show our readers just how true love at first glance was in your experience.

“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.

I love this poem, Mom. Every child is precious to you, and each one makes you fall in love.  What a wonderful, creative way to live!

In her book, THE GIFTS OF IMPERFECTION, author Brene Brown says there is no such thing as “creative and non-creative people. There are only people who use their creativity and people who don’t.”

Thanks, Mom, for a lifetime of using your creativity.   Love, Marylin

Mary's great-grandchildren, Grace and Gannon

Mary’s great-grandchildren,
Grace and Gannon

single rose


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

AFTER THE FIRE…The Power of the Pen

(Public mural painted on the entire brick side of a building in Old Colorado City by talented artist Allen Burton in 1999 and enjoyed by tourists and locals.  Photo by Marylin Warner)

Dear Mom,

Until the last decade or so, you were always writing. Maybe you don’t remember, but I do. You wrote articles and essays; you wrote children’s stories and often illustrated them.

And you wrote poetry. All kinds of poetry expressing happy occasions, interesting people you watched, places you and Dad traveled, and narrative poems that told stories. Some of the story poems were about nature and animals, and some were were lessons about life. Your poems covered real life, joys and sorrows.

This summer, Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak Region suffered a horrible fire that began in Waldo Canyon and spread quickly, out of control. It was the state’s most destructive wildfire, destroying nearly 350 homes and killing two people. It’s over now, but the cleanup continues. When we finally had a long-needed rain last week, the Colorado air was crisp and clean for awhile, but the burnt areas were flooded, black soot overflowing across roads and damaging more homes.

Colorado Poet Laureate David Mason wrote a poem about what happened here. I want to share it with you because he is a fellow poet, experiencing life fully, watching and recording, sharing the details through his poetry. When I come to Kansas to visit you this month, I’ll bring some of your poems along and read them to you again. Maybe, if we talk about ideas, we’ll try writing a poem together.

We love you, Mom. You’ll always be our family’s Poet Laureate.     Marylin

~      ~     ~

The Fires: A Poem by David Mason, Colorado’s Poet Laureate

Here is a house, here is a neighborhood.

Here is a street, a door, a window, a room.

Here is a drought, here a beetled pine.

Here is a wildfire leaping from limb to roof.

There is a law of lightning, law of wood.

There is a need to burn, to lose, to grow.

There is the charred scar, there the flying ash.

To dwell is not to shelter, we should know.

Here are the people packing their cars to flee.

Here are the photos in frames, the pets on leashes.

Here are the children bewildered, coughing smoke.

Here are the firemen climbing the hills in the heat.

We are the street, we are the neighborhood.

We are the garden living and dying to bloom.

We are the parched yards, we are the trembling deer.

We are the long walk looking to find our home.

(Practice-stitch sampler, used by owner’s permission. Photograph by
Marylin Warner.)


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

Autumn Homes

Dear Mom,

You and I have always loved the last weeks of October.  In autumn the trees changed from green to brilliant red and orange, bright yellow and gold.  When they were at the peak of their change, we pressed my favorite leaves between books.  They became the “accents” in almost every room, spread out on tables and counters and bookshelves until they crumbled apart.

When I was a child, we raked the leaves into huge piles at the curb,jumped into the center, and then raked them back into piles.  On chilly evenings, all over the neighborhood the children watched in wide-eyed wonder while adults monitored the crackling, burning leaves.  Sunday evenings at our house meant eating popcorn and sliced apples while we watched Gunsmoke and Bonanza.

Things change.  Children grow up, move away, and many have their own children and grandchildren now.  Spouses and friends are gone, and houses hold new families.  The October lawns are still covered in rustling colors, but leaf burning is banned.  And on crisp fall evenings you no longer sit at the picture window, a notebook open on your lap as you pen poems and stories about children jumping in leaves and animals preparing for winter.  Your home now is a cozy apartment on the second floor of Presbyterian Village, and your failing memory and poor vision no longer inspire writing ideas.

So during this visit, as the sky darkened outside we turned on all the lights in your living room.  You snuggled in your recliner, covered with the fluffy bright green blanket.  We shared microwave popcorn and orange slices.  I flipped through some of your light verse poetry, reading the titles aloud until you seemed to choose the one titled “Homes.”

The milk cow sleeps in the barn,

A house is home for folks.

The little birds sleep in a nest in a tree;

In the pond the bull-frog croaks.


The milk cow wouldn’t like my bed,

And I couldn’t sleep in a nest.

The bull-frog doesn’t like the barn.

Each one thinks his home is the best.

Mom, that’s  your charming poem, “Homes.”  You didn’t recognize it as something you had written.  As I reread it, you closed your eyes and took a nap.  I kept reading, just in case…

Things change, but memories remain, passed from mother to daughter to grandchildren to great-grandchildren.  It’s okay if you forget, Mom.  I’ll remember for you, and pass the memories on.  I promise.

Love, Marylin


Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, memories for grandchildren, October glory