Tag Archives: Pres. Bill Clinton


Dear Mom,

In 1992, during an MTV town hall meeting in Washington, a 17-year-old student asked President Bill Clinton the question that stunned everyone: “Do you wear boxers or briefs?”

When we talked about it later, I remember you shaking your head, saying “Somebody’s mother needed to have a long, serious talk with her daughter.” Dad said that somebody needed to have a long, serious talk with Clinton for answering the question.

Occasionally we made a game of “either/or” questions. Not boxers or briefs, of course, but other debatable either/or  questions: Which sport takes more talent, baseball or basketball?  If you could read only one newspaper, would it be Wall Street Journal or Kansas City Star? If you could eat only one meat, would it be grilled steak or fried chicken? Which would be worse to lose, your hearing or your vision? On and on we went, challenging each other to pick or choose.

After Dad died, I was helping you decide what to do with his clothes: should we offer them to an unemployed man  who was about Dad’s size but might be offended, or should we box them up and donate them to Goodwill? It was only one of many decisions to make at a difficult time, and finally we just took a break and decided we didn’t have to do anything right then, at that moment. You sat in your recliner, looking out the big window of your living room.  Finally I asked, “If you could choose only one, would you choose a door or a window?”

Since that day, I’ve noticed what others say about doors and windows.  Horace Mann said: “A house without books is like a room without windows.”  Elisabeth Kubler-Ross wrote: “People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”

You were a big fan of Erma Bombeck, and you laughed at this quote: “Never have more children than you have car windows.” And you agreed strongly with Victor Hugo’s philosophy: “He who opens a school door, closes a prison,” and Coco Chanel’s  advice: “Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door.”

On the day I asked you which you would choose, a door or a window, you said, “It depends on the weather, I guess. And if I have some place to go, or if I want to watch the birds in the trees.”  That made sense, and after we talked for a while we got up and went to Dad’s closet to decide what to do with his things.

John Barrymore said, “Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn’t know you left open.” Mom, you’ve shown me that happiness sneaks in through windows, too, when you patiently sit and wait, expecting something pleasant to happen…outside your window, or inside, in your memories.

Thank you for being the stained-glass window that sparkles and shines when the sun is out, and when the darkness sets in your true beauty reveals the light from within you.

Love,  Marylin


Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, making a difference

LEFT? or RIGHT? (and we’re not talking politics)

The left hands of six good friends and very talented writers. Can you tell which ones are right-handed or ambidextrous?

Dear Mom,

I remember first grade, proudly holding my hand up TWICE in answer to the teacher’s two questions. First question: “How many of you are right handed?” (We were 5 and 6 year olds, it was the first day of school, and she had to explain the question to some of the students.) In answer, I held up my right hand, as did many of the others. Then she asked, “How many of you are left handed?” I paused a second and then held up my left hand.

The teacher gave me an irritated oh-no-here-we-go look. But after I showed her I could print my name with my right hand AND my left hand, she tapped my right hand with a ruler and said, “From now on, beginning in this classroom, you will use this hand.”

At home I continued to use both hands, but at school I avoided the ruler and joined the majority of right-handed students. Maybe it bothered me more than I realized. In 5th grade I began “mirror writing”—even in cursive—writing from right to left. I could write it quickly, and anyone could easily read it by holding the paper up to a mirror, but the teacher wasn’t impressed, so I stopped doing it at school.

Well Mom, guess what tomorrow, Monday, August 13th is?  It’s International Left-Handers’ Day!  In honor of those good old “confused about which hand to use” days, here are some statistics. About 90% of the population is right-handed, so that leaves 10% left-handed (but maybe some were actually ambidextrous and lumped into the big group against their wills). And speaking of ambidextrous, there’s an unproved medical theory that difficult or stressful births often happen among babies who grow up to be left-handed or ambidextrous. But the AMA doesn’t endorse it. Just as most religions do not accept the ancient superstition that left-handers were more prone to evil and are either weaker or stronger on both sides of the body than right-handers.

Eight of our presidents have been left-handed, most recently George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. On a Qwerty (standard) keyboard, 3,000 words can be typed with only the left hand; 56% of the touch-typing keystrokes are made with the left hand. In fencing, about half of the participants are left handed.

What I really want to say to you on August 13 is Thanks, Mom.  At home I could always use whichever hand I wanted. When I was learning to knit, you taught me the basic stitches, but you also took me to a left-handed knitter to learn, and then you let me choose. And when I did mirror writing, you were irritated only because I’d actually written a sentence on the mirror…with your lipstick. After I cleaned it off, you had me write on paper, and you complimented me, saying I was creative and talented.

Years later, a teacher myself, in a classroom of high school students I’d sometimes quickly write information on the board in mirror-writing. The students who could read it without hesitation would nod and smile, but most of the others had to squint and  figure it out. No one felt bad. It was okay either way. You had taught me that.

It was just one of the many things you taught by example, Mom, and I thank you.

I’ll be coming from Colorado to visit you in Kansas soon, and together we’ll celebrate International Left-Hander’s Day a few days late. I’ll bring the lipstick, we’ll write on the mirror, and then we’ll celebrate with cookies.   Love you, Mom.   Marylin

With my mom and Flat Grace (hand-colored by mom’s great-grandaughter, Grace)



Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, teachers, teaching, writing