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Cool Summer Stories: Writing with Strangers at the Bullock Museum

16 Aug

What happens when you set out paper, pens, and a few inspirational quotes in the corner of a museum and ask people, “Hey, you want to write something?”

Badgerdog recently partnered with Cool Summer Nights at the Bullock Museum to encourage some fun creative writing on a summer eve. Cool Summer Nights invites folks out of the heat and into the AC of the downtown Bullock Museum to explore new exhibits, enjoy craft cocktails and coffee, and make beautiful stuff/learn things with Austin organizations like Austin Book Arts and Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center. The theme of this particular event was Identity, so Badgerdog posed some thought-provoking questions alongside literary quotes. What we received in return was a gathering of storytellers of all stripes: parents writing alongside their children, travelers befriending native Texans, old friends discovering the secret novelist in the group, and teen writers penning fantastical adventure pieces on the spot.

What happens when you invite folks to make cool stuff with you? You get to watch new writerly friendships unfold, you see mother/daughter duos writing back-and-forth, and you get to read amazing stories and make new friends. Here is a sampling of the stories writers came up with at the Badgerdog table in the Bullock Museum.

Inspired by this Sylvia Beach quote: “I am a citizen of the world,” writers respond to the prompt—If you had to pick a place that represents you most, what would it be?

london night lights bridge

Photo by Uncoated on Pexels.com

Waterloo Bridge

If there’s one place that represents me the most, I would say Waterloo Bridge in London. London to me represents a true melting pot of the world. Contemporary yet steeped in tradition. It represents the path I created for myself. British citizenship—not the ‘easy’ or planned route, rather a path sparked by connection and saying YES to opportunity. learning from others and learning a spot where it’s fun to be because of what you can see. Even though the bridge itself isn’t the most ornate. You can see St. Paul’s and London Bridge…. yet you can also see Westminster. It’s a direct route between the Strand, Holborn, the city—over to Waterloo and Southwark. It feels expansive.

Rachel Martino

Earthworm

I am an earthworm.

Growing up in a remote village in China, I had very strong aversion toward little creatures such as bugs and worms. Any time I saw one, I would try to kill it with rocks or little knives. Until one day, when I cut an earthworm in half.

To my shock, the earthworm came back alive and started crawling toward me. Being only 4 or 5 years old, I got scared and screamed for help. My father rushed over, “Yeah, a little earthworm can survive anything, including hurt as severe as being cut in half. It might not seem much, but it does a lot of good to our earth, marking it futile for us to grow crops”.

I am now an earthworm. I might seem petite, but I can survive any hardship life thrusts upon me. I might not show up in spotlight often, but I quietly do good for the community I live in, whether in China decades ago or here in Texas now.

C.J. Zhao

Inspired by this quote from Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club: “You are not your job, you’re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet…” writers respond to the prompt: Okay, but if you HAD to pick a material object to represent you, what would it be? Why? 

yellow flower field across brown mountain

Photo by Rudolf Kirchner on Pexels.com

In the Land of the Dead

I would choose the trail I’d leave if I had an errand in the Japanese Land of the Dead. You are required to abandon your belongings and beliefs along the rock cave path. On my path would be my Apache tan ropers, and my belief that Winnie the Pooh is the best book ever written, and my socks with the little black whales on ‘em, and my memory of clear, cold snowmelt sliding over granite boulders in the Basin, in Franconia Notch; and my jeans and my plain purple grannie panties, and the sound of the meteor falling out of the sky over Lake Travis at dawn, with an electric, tearing whisper. Then there would be my coral cotton summer sweater, and memory of how to hold a horse’s hoof while picking a rock from the frog, and a white camisole, and my memory of how my neck got a crick in it while I was watching for that darn meteor. Then, my glasses. So then I can’t see.

Melodie McLellan

Uplifting Others

When I pass on from this adventure we call life on Earth, I will be content if I can look back and see an undeniable pattern of making the lives of others better.

Even as a child I’ve felt a sense of joyous fulfillment when helping others. Late grade school found me fascinated and drawn into computers and the pure rush of making complex electronics do my bidding. As I’ve matured into a young and now middle-aged person, I’ve learned that beyond the self-satisfaction I can profoundly uplift others with my work.

Really, no gesture is too small though. Even simple acts of every day kindness silently tell others that they matter and have worth. May I finish my years always enriching the shared journey of others.

Nolan Egly

Inspired by this quote from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre: “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will,” writers respond to the prompt: When have you exerted your independence? Was there a time where you felt free? Describe that moment. How did you feel?

Free…

No gain without loss? Isn’t that the rule? Some kind of Natural Law: No action without an equal and opposite response. We choose to change our circumstances without thinking how we’ll be changed by the choosing.

I walked away from family.
What relief. I am safe now. I am free.

brown wooden floor

Photo by Chris F on Pexels.com

It’s funny though. It took so much courage to leave I never expected it to take such strength to learn to be the person without them.

I am not the same man in a new future. I am a new man in a new present. I escaped into the chrysalis. I am free.

Jayse Cardinal Tahkiné

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Honoring Life’s Sweetest Moments

6 Jun

What a warm greeting I received every time I walked into the Memory Connections program at Hope Lutheran Church to write with a collection of wonderful individuals—Bobby, Dolores, Elizabeth, Helen, Jim, Joyce, Larry, Marge, Nick, Pat, Rebecca, Ron, and Suzette.

Such laughter and camaraderie filled the room, which was always decorated for the season—Mardi Gras, St. Patrick’s Day, or Valentine’s Day.

We connected with each other through the history of our names, favorite seasons, and the sharing of special keepsakes. My famous chocolate chip cookies prompted stories about the writers’ favorite foods. I was touched to see these writers supported one other and embrace me. What an honor to spend time with these Memory Connections writers!

Terri Schexnayder
Badgerdog Teaching Artist

Things That Make Me Smile

Laughing with friends, old and new.
Window shopping on Anderson Lane,
looking at beautiful furniture in Louis Shanks,
at Karavel for shoes on sale,
looking in Terra Toys at the Steiff animals
behind the locked cabinets.

Finding something I like and going back
a few days later to buy it (if it’s still there!).
I could spend all day just looking at things
and not having to buy anything.
Talking to the clerks at familiar stores,
looking at James Avery jewelry, especially the new items.

Running into friends from the past at Terra Toys or James Avery.
Most of the clerks know me from many years past.

Helen Altobello

Candy Kisses

My favorite treat was always chocolate. To be specific, candy kisses. Fast forward to when I was married, and my husband and I would leave a candy kiss for the other to say, “I love you.”

Years later, when Jenna was finally home from the hospital, she had a feeding tube for the longest time. We wanted to wean her off it, so, we first tried ice cream.

“Cold, scary,” she would say. We then tried a candy kiss to melt in her mouth. Remember, she didn’t understand chewing, since she always had the feeding tube.

The candy kisses were a hit! She would confiscate them from the big jar where we hid them. She would look around to see if she would get caught, and then stuff the chocolates into her Oshkosh overalls. Jenna would also hide them throughout the house for snacks later. Many years later, we would find the candy kisses stuck in the bookcase or in a jar. (Okay, I wasn’t the best housekeeper!)

Joyce Beversdorff

Daddy’s Tractor

This scene reminds me of my Daddy’s tractor. There are even pictures of me in diapers with my hands on the steering wheel as if I were driving it. I had eye surgery and was wearing an eye patch. I remember thinking I was sneaking this patch off and sticking it on my dad’s arm (like he wouldn’t know I had taken it off!)

I remember how hard the winters were on our crops. Summertime was our busy time on the farm. We farmed watermelons and all kinds of crops. My dad would work all day from early in the morning until almost night tilling the land. Such good memories of my dad before he got sicker and had to do just odd jobs. He was barrel-chested and had big muscled arms. I just always felt safe.

I remember once I got into a bunch of my mom’s sewing pins and had them in my mouth. My mom freaked out and ran into the field where my dad was on the tractor. He patiently picked them all out. Crisis averted!

I wish we had lived in such an area as pictured here.

Joyce Beversdorff

Life Preserver

I notice the life preserver that says, “Welcome Aboard” over the cross and under the netting, which encompasses a starfish. Jesus is my life preserver and He welcomed me back here after some time away from the Memory Connections program. A small thing, but it was nice to be welcomed aboard. May many people notice those words when they come into this room.

Suzette Dziuk

My Favorite Things

I like a fireplace with a fire roaring in it.
I like a baby to hold and cuddle and talk to.
I like books that make me feel involved.
I like God, who shares His presence with me
and makes me feel loved.

I like my children who are my family.
I like a piano that I can play and enjoy.
I like food when I am hungry—hot, nourishing food.
I like hot coffee when I get up in the morning.
I like friends to sit and talk with.

Suzette Dziuk

Bluebonnets

When I see bluebonnets growing in a field among rocks and other blooming plants, I see early Texas. I wonder what it was like years ago when the Indians lived upon the ground and my forbearers had not yet arrived.

I have studied history and know people think history is learned from books, but sometimes I can see Texas and feel an empathy with the Indians—whatever men, women, and children lived here decades or centurie, ago.

In this picture, bluebonnets are seen thriving among rocks and soil, and presumably creatures and earlier human beings. I see Texas before my family on my father’s side came to Texas after losing the Civil War, and, on my mother’s side, being taken on the ship and brought to the Texas shores.

Elizabeth C. Flynn

Miss Bessie

I spent a lot of time with my grandmother—Miss Bessie, they called her. My family was distressed when I was very young because of suicide, a heart attack, so I loved going up the street by myself to Miss Bessie’s fine house. I realize now that she had a place for everything. It was easy for a child to know what to get into and whatnotto touch.

There was a small flowered china bowl with a lid on it where I could always find gum, or sometimes hard candy. My grandmother and I would go outside and watch the sky, the sunset, the stars, which meant it was time to go. Now, I recall: “Star Light, Star Bright. I wish, I wish, I wish I might have the wish I wish tonight.”

Elizabeth C. Flynn

My Name

I was given the name Lawrence Sherman Graham in memory of my grandfather, Lawrence Yates Sherman. But I adapted it to Larry Graham to simplify and distinguish it from my grandfather’s, and from my father, Marion Webster Graham, and my mother, Mary Virginia Sherman. Throughout my life, I have preferred making it simply Larry Graham.

Larry Graham

Cornmeal Pancakes

My mother-in-law from Georgia made delicious homemade cornmeal pancakes. I liked them because they were more substantive, with a texture true to old Southern cooking. You could also add blueberries and other fruits to the pancakes. Served for breakfast in our small down of Daytona, Florida, and then in Texas where we now live. The pancakes made me happy!

But life changed when Caroline, my twelve-year-old granddaughter, passed away. Her family did everything possible, but her cancer was out of control. Caroline was a very creative child, dreaming up things all the time. Her parents eventually divorced after her death, and my daughter Lauren is now doing well. Our family stuck together—we have a lot of “get up and go.” Throughout the years, pancakes provided good ‘ol home-cooking stability.

Larry Graham

Fifteen-Minute Haiku

Red-orange tulips on
the bookmark remind me of
flowers seen in youth.

James Hadden

Favorite Foods

I have a constellation of favorite foods. Some of them come from early childhood, like the devil’s food cake, which is my father’s prescription with fourlayers! Christmas means donuts mixed and made the night before, deep-fried and covered with confectioner’s sugar or a cinnamon-and-sugar mixture.

I recall that I didn’t like fried oysters at first, despite my family’s move to a place on a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay when I was nine. I distinctly remember my youngest brother, at age three or so, saying, “Aunt Ada, I was oyster ‘weg.’” (Weg means leg, and they wereas big and fried as a chicken leg!)

James Hadden

Traveling Alone

I’m taking a wonderful trip in the snow,
and I am celebrating the incredible view I have.
Who would’ve thought I would travel
this far away on my own!
I’ve got enough food on my back
to let me travel for a week.
I can take big pictures of the park
or I can get real close up to a flower or a leaf.

But what I want the most—
to be brave or not scared,
to travel alone with just my company.

Pat Keen

Old Blue Jeans with Holes and Well-Worn Pockets

Old blue jeans with holes and well-worn pockets.
My jeans are done for, but
I will not give them up.
They are mine and I love their softness.

Why can’t I be happy
that I have all this wonderful stuff?
All the clothes, books, CDs—
why can’t I be happy?

So, I feel real sad about
being very old and alone?
I feel real sad and have lost
the ability to be old and productive.

I want to leave.
Why can’t I be happy and productive?

Pat Keen

Along the Coastlands

On the way to the coast, we drive through the lowlands with deep green and vibrant grasses growing straight and thick in the bluest of blue waters. Maybe this is a marshland, flat and stretching to small woods in the background. The sky is as blue as the water, but lighter near the horizon, bordered by the deep green trees in the distance.

As is common in the coastlands, there are heavy clouds in the sky, some white and puffy, and others puffy and gray. It looks like it could rain soon, as some of the clouds are dark at the flat bottoms. I imagine a shower could start at any moment and send us to shelter. We park under the Spanish Oaks. Then we run and laugh as the rain begins to fall in heavy drops and soaks our clothes.

Rebecca Lowe

My Favorite Foods

Her cakes were legendary. I guess I took all those morsels of sweet for granted as my mother’s sweet tooth led her to bake delicious desserts very often. Maybe it was because I could have regular exposure to those goodies that I became a big fan of savory foods—a pot roast and its lovely carrots, potatoes and onions baked to perfection, soft with crispy edges. I craved tuna sandwiches made with kosher dills. I was a lucky and well-fed child.

Now, my favorite savory food is much easier to come by without having to spend the day in a hot kitchen. My food of choice is a Banh Mi sandwich. It probably became known in the U.S. by soldiers returning home from the Viet Nam War. It is a product of the French presence in that country—

French bread, pickled carrots and onions, sliced jalapenos, and a special mayonnaise. That, plus sliced meat or tofu, make a lovely explosion (think fireworks) of flavors.

I was in heaven when we discovered a French fusion place in Austin, Le Bleu, which serves a wonderful Banh Mi. For my birthday, we had sixteen people at the restaurant with us, all delighted by Banh Mi.

Rebecca Lowe

Life’s Path

I was a Catholic priest for a number of years—years as a parish priest, several as a student in graduate school. I eventually earned my doctorate in psychology, and worked as a priest psychologist. After some years, I decided to leave the active ministry and began to practice as a psychologist in the community. My decision to leave the priesthood was a major one—one that would affect my life in a major way.

After leaving the priesthood and practicing psychology in the community, I met a woman who I eventually married. We had one child. Later, I began to develop memory problems, and I attend this program, Memory Connections.

Ron McDermott

Pasta

It is a tradition. It makes you okay because it is always satisfying! I know when I have my pasta, whether it is five times a week or once a month, that it is the food of the family. It’s no different whether it is Sunday or Wednesday—it is tradition, a way of life. We are satisfied with our tradition no matter how or when pasta is served.

It may be a small amount because we have other items on the table, or pasta may be the main course. It is tradition, a family get-together, or a last-minute meal since you were out all day. Yes, I love roast beef, chicken, ice cream, leftovers, but I can always count on pasta to be my favorite food, another day for pasta. I can count on pasta! I might have potatoes, baked beans, or cake, but pasta delivers, no matter what other foods are on the table!

Nick Muto

Favorite Season

Early summer—brown, yellow, blue, pale green.
My favorite season is late summer, still hot,
but not scorching hot.
Its colors are brown and light brown.
I feel well, friendly, and looking forward to it.

Marge Philbrook

Spring

This picture reminds me of spring. The most beautiful part of this scene to me is the bird. It looks like it’s not too far off the ground and is closer to the ground, so it can eat something. I really enjoy watching birds, but, it can be hard sometimes because they fly away.

This bird looks like a mother, and I can imagine that her baby birds are somewhere nearby. This picture also reminds me of God’s power and how He made all the trees and birds on Earth.

Bobby Pruitt

My Dad

My dad, Robert Alan Pruitt, who recently passed, was a great Christian man, always laughing around with my mother, who is still alive. They had three kids—me and two daughters. If there was ever a person around who needed help, Christian or not, my dad was there for them. At his funeral, I sang “How Great God Is” with a friend.

Robert Alan Pruitt worked at a high school as an academic administrator for twenty-five years. From there, he traveled to China with my mom, who was also a teacher all those years. My dad had a great sense of humor. We loved to go fishing in the Gulf. The trees hung over our boat, and one time, a large eight-foot snake dropped into our boat and scared us! I shared many other stories about him at his service, such as when my dad helped me get my first job. Without him, I would have never achieved my electrical contractor’s career and the many successes that came with it, such as attending conferences across the country.

So many people showed up for Dad’s funeral services to show their respect. Remembering his grandkids around him is very special to me.

Bobby Pruitt

A Nature Scene

Straight trees
Lots of greenery
Big trees, fallen,
leaning against each other.
Big movement of water.
Cold—big time!

Water here and here,
warmer in the wooded area.
Wood and algae on the rocks.
I’ve lived in Austin, and,
there are lots of good trees.
The thing is—they are
also very beautiful.

The funky tree over here.
The water, the woods—
you don’t have to imagine.
It’s all here!

Dolores Rumpf

Favorite Food

When asked, “What is my favorite food?”
I reply, “My favorite food makes me feel good!”
“My favorite food makes me feel good!”

Dolores Rumpf

Looking Back…

24 Jan

Inspiration originates for any writer in myriad ways, from objects to artwork, as well as prose and poetry that provide motivational examples. Writing also comes with a number of challenges, and one of the greatest, I think, is surpassing the dreaded “writer’s block.” These writers were not defined by this nor their own particular challenges—those of memory loss. Instead, they rose above them.

From personal histories to imagined vistas, these writers from the Memory Connections group at Baylor, Scott & White in Georgetown allowed me to guide them through a series of exercises in six classes that resulted in a small body of work, the best of which appears below. Their pieces leave room to pause, ponder, and appreciate before moving on to the next word or image. They’ll stay with you, so be prepared!

Tracey Lander-Garrett
Badgerdog Teaching Artist

Wheelbarrow

wheelbarrow

– inspired by William Carlos Williams’s “The Red Wheelbarrow”

Where have you
gone

I miss your
utility

for feeding
the hogs that

fed me
all year

Randy Russell

This Moment

shadows

I see a mother
with a little boy playing
in the blue and white pool.
There was a sound,
a yell of delight.
Later, they watched the sun
go down in darkness.

Mary Russell

Blue Skies

umbrellas

Just imagine
Blue and white clouds
Water splashing in the background
Clouds floating overhead
Umbrellas open and waving in the breeze
Salt in the air and sticky
Everything is beautiful!

Judy Rogers

Genealogy

crystalball

My expertise is genealogy

At this time
I am going through my family
from as long ago as the 1600s

I am writing—storytelling—
of these people

How to make a story
of a person?

Tell when
and where
she was born?

Describe where
she lived
how many
siblings she had
and who died

Show what
she did
and how she lived,
what she loved,
and who she loved

How she lived her life,
and how
and when
she died

Lynne Devin-Smith

Locket

locket.jpg

I have a little locket. It was worn by my grandmother and my mother. It has a dent in it, which was allegedly caused by my mother biting it. It was passed down to me by my mother. I never wore it much, as I was afraid I would lose it. It is now in my safe deposit box at our present bank location.

It’s just a simple little locket with very little monetary value. But it could never be replaced. It is a keepsake, a reminder of what and who was important to me in life… people and love.

It will be passed onto my daughter and then my only granddaughter. Perhaps it will be treasured by them… and passed onto many generations!

Beth Vogt

My Name

heather

My name is Heather. Heather is the small flowers you see on the hills of Scotland. They are usually purple. Isn’t that pretty?

My older brothers called me H-Bomb. I guess I was rather hyperactive. This name was mine until I was all grown up.

I think that they could have called me anything else and it would have been much better. Don’t you think?

My brothers had names like Charles and Fraser. How about that?

Heather de Loyo

What’s Possible

tennis

A sunny day calls for two or three
sets of tennis.

Without tennis balls, no sets
are possible.

The balls should be new to have
good bounces.

A tennis court and racket are necessary to hit
the ball and play the game.

Without a dry day, a good racket, and three balls,
no game is possible.

Jerry Miller

A Time Long Ago

Dance

I treasure the moments
of an evening long since gone

cherished because
of the memories it contains

laughter, merriment, sipping champagne,
dancing foxtrot, swing, waltz…

all the music of Glenn Miller,
Tommy Dorsey—Big Band sound—

embraced in the arms
of the young man I loved

these memories are sweet,
innocent, of a time long ago

that remains in my heart
for a lifetime.

Helen Haynes

Evolution

shell

As shells have evolved through time
immemorial, the complexity and
advancement of life can be seen
and appreciated.

Evolution of life is such an amazing
advancement in evidence and support
of complexity and beauty
of progression of life.

To think that life on our planet
is an example and proof that evolution
of life is very probable in other
planets, other solar systems, other galaxies.

Evolution of life is evidence that
life has existed before
and will exist
in the very far future.

Manny Chavez

The pieces above were written by participants in AGE of Central Texas’s Memory Connections Program, an evidence-informed program for people experiencing early-stage memory loss. The Badgerdog writing workshops provided for these groups were made possible by the generous support of St. David’s Community Foundation’s Health’s Angels.

Where Life Shimmers

24 Jan

The Hope Lutheran writers embrace each other and each other’s work. As their collective poem states, there is true warmth in this group. They encouraged fellow storytellers to share their poetry and prose aloud, and were constantly praising one another’s work. The poem “This Moment” by Eavan Boland moved writers to pen musical prose about their own evening routines. Reflecting on their names revealed childhood rivalries and nods to royalty. Close inspection of small objects inspired new characters and vivid settings. The Hope Lutheran writers are naturals when it comes to sensory description. Their writing transported me. I felt the warmth of their stories, and their support of one another, and it made me feel part of something bigger than myself.

Claire Campbell
Badgerdog Teaching Artist

Spring

wildflowers

The small corner out back near the house  is covered with beautiful, small flowers (whose name I cannot find)so beautiful, so tiny, and yet glorious in their homes.

The three of us take turns putting sweet things around to keep the beauty there. We don’t tell Mother because she might make us clean it all up!

We seek out every chance we get and take turns watering them—I often wonder if the water wasn’t necessary outside.

Jeanne Roden

Night

angel

Relaxing and sleeping with random dreams and thoughts.
The stillness in this moment with shafts of light coming in the windows through the shades.
The stillness—the time for relaxation and movement with random thoughts.
Sometimes with deep sleep and other times with awareness of the stillness and the sense of security and peace.
Dreams come and go—some disappear in a single moment or they reemerge as a reflection.
Music is present.
Moments like this are brief and fragile, and can give consolation.
Music in my ears can float in the movement, and the images reflect the peace and surrounding tranquility with the joys of deep sleep.

Larry Graham

Wild Basin Preserve/There is a Place 

Waterfall.jpg

There is a place I love to go
It’s here in Austin just down the road
I see beautiful trees, and flowers that grow
I want to stay there forever you see
I watch the waterfall there flow
I walk around alone, not feeling pain
I listen to the birds there sing
The only safe place I really feel sane
But I know this place is there for me.

Joyce B.

My Name

blackboard.jpg

I would like to keep my name and how I feel about it.
I will stay with my name.
“Magda…!”
This is my name…
Magda Salazar.

Magda Salazar

My Name

Ron

I like and am comfortable with my name, “Ron.” “Ronald,” to me, sounds pretentious, and I always use “Ron.” I am named after an old actor, Ronald Coleman. My mother did not want me to be associated with an Irish Catholic culture, so she picked a very English-British name: Ronald.

For years, I was into sailing, and four of us were named Ron. But people refused to call us by our last names, only by our first names, which caused all kinds of problems.

Ron

Summer

icecream

The long days and nights
Coolness of the morning, but the sunshine
Afternoon wonderful for swimming
And getting a tan for some period of time
Sitting in the shade of trees
Looking at a beautiful garden of flowers
Perhaps sipping on some orange juice
Or having an ice cream.
I always liked to sit in the sun for a while
Something that was harder to do as a child living in Ireland
Oh yes, we learned to suntan in moderation
In between splashing in the pool
Fills the heart and soul
With joy!

Audrey Krier

The Fall 

autumnleaf.jpg

I love the fall.
When the leaves turn different colors—
Red, brown, black, white, orange, cream, beige, purple, or gold.
Some stay on the tree,
Some twist off the tree
As they dry up and
Fall to the ground.
The leaves gather around
The bottom of the tree.

Pat Keen

Us: Our Present Journey 

childhoodhappiness

In the winter of our lives
We feel warmth in this group
We have something in common:
Laughter
Humor
Experience
Pain.
For a short while our fear is gone
Understanding we’re not alone
Because we are together
Sharing, in sync, giving
Each of us has a history
We all have our own stories
As we wade to shore.

The Hope Lutheran Writers

The pieces above were written by participants in AGE of Central Texas’s Memory Connections Program, an evidence-informed program for people experiencing early-stage memory loss. The Badgerdog writing workshops provided for these groups were made possible by the generous support of St. David’s Community Foundation’s Health’s Angels.

The Moments That Last

24 Jan

It’s their honesty and humor that are most memorable. With each visit to the YMCA North, these adult writers—who face the unfathomable challenge of memory loss—showed me how to approach each day with grace. Their shared experiences pulled them closer together, as they laughed and kidded each other, discussed their lives, and, then wrote from the heart. They remembered precious childhood moments with their parents and grandparents. They held onto the images of valuable things, like mental snapshots of a daughter lost, soaring through the clouds as a pilot, or a father’s priceless handmade ship. I imagine today—each day—is the most precious for them. Living “this moment,” a poem which inspired beautiful works, gives them a chance to pass on their amazing stories and know they are not alone in this journey.

Terri Schexnayder
Badgerdog Teaching Artist

Peace

wooddrake.jpg

Berry’s wood drake calls me to the memory of a time when I took my grandson down the hill to look at the wood ducks. I’d never seen their beauty before. San Marcos was not wood duck territory. But children and mothers fed bread to the ducks, and the birds decided it was a good place to live. Have you ever seen a wood drake? Beautiful! I did, as a grandmother sharing time with her small grandchild.

It also reminds me of a time when I was a child at my grandmother’s house. There were hollyhocks, which made flowers turn into dancing children. Rose petals decorating a mud pie. And my grandmother hugging me.

Ruth Crowson

This Moment

stars.jpg

– inspired by Eavan Boland’s “This Moment”

Sounds surround me
Sounds of friends
Some of many months
Some new today

Things from above
Children laughing
Trees outside the windows
Barely moving
A few moments ago, the trees were shaded
Now they’re in the sun

When that sun goes down
My favorite time arrives
And stars will surround us
All the way to the edge of the sky

Ruth Crowson

Peaceful Place

mushrooms.jpg

A peaceful place for me
will always be in the woods.
Besides being quiet and peaceful,
there is always the expectation
that you will see something new.

Billy Garry

Little Box

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Little box so neat and square,
What is it you have hiding there?
I won’t know unless I look
And see it like an open book.

Billy Garry

Memories of Virginia

I like symmetry. The near mirroring in the calendar photo reminds me of the still days on the creek where I grew up—less than a mile by water from the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia. We didn’t have the mountains, but there were a succession of points and caves, usually poles that marked the edges of oyster beds, all mirrored in the still water.

There is a large tree near the mouth of the creek where white egrets roost at night—it is impressive to see them arrive, twos or threes together. On a still evening, the tree blossoms as if dotted with white blobs on the actual tree.

Jim Hadden

Knuckleball

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A clean baseball is a reminder of what once was. A skiffle ball can be exploited by some pitchers, but is anathema to a knuckleball pitcher. I have a friend and teammate from the Austin Men’s Baseball League. When he played first base, I would always make my first knuckleball throw to him in our routine between innings.

Once when I was purchasing a new car, I went through the test drive and got to the paperwork. He saw my signature and commented, “I know you—you’re the knuckleballer!” A good knuckleball brings the small and slow pitcher (me!) up to the level of bigger players.

Jim Hadden

This Moment

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– inspired by Eavan Boland’s “This Moment”

We are all sitting here with many different thoughts. Some may be thinking of things they will be doing soon after they get home. I plan to get some fabric out, put it on the ironing board in preparation, and sew it with another piece of fabric of a different color.

First, it must be pressed so there are no wrinkles. Then, they will be measured and placed together so the two pieces will be made into a baby blanket. One piece needs to be slightly longer than the other so that the hem goes beyond the cotton batting. Next, the two pieces of fabric will be sewn together on three sides. The batting will be cut to fit in between the sewn pieces after they are turned inside out. I will fit the batting snugly and evenly, while extending to all four sides of the fabric. The final side is now tucked in on the fourth side and stitched.

It is now time to smile and admire the finished baby blanket. The baby will be pleased to feel so good within the new blanket.

Eleanor Hall

Where Potatoes Grow

potatoes.jpg

When I was growing up in Montana, I had no idea how important the rain was for our family to survive. Once, I learned that we did not have enough rain for the crops or even the grass to grow for our cattle. However, my parents did not talk about this in front of me—they probably decided I didn’t need to be concerned about something I could do nothing about. However, God did have a plan for us. He did care for us.

We had a coulee, land that is lower than its surrounding land, a short distance from our house. There was tall grass growing there, and when my father investigated it, he found that it was being subirrigated. The grass became moist from the soil below. He took a shovel and dug just to be sure. Then, he brought the horse and plow to make the area good for raising potatoes. We cut the potatoes so that every piece had at least one eye from which other potatoes would grow. We girls dropped them into the rows dug in the rich soil. My father plowed and covered the potatoes in each row, and then made a trench in which to plant the next row. He did this with a single horse and plow.

After about ten days, the potato plants started coming up, and then, after another couple of weeks, it was time to hoe the plants to rid them of weeds. My sisters and I got a nickel for every two rows we weeded. Almost all the potatoes grew large because of the moisture they received from the ground below. At harvest time, my father cleaned the dirt from the new crop with his plow and horse, and the girls pulled up the potatoes. We had a good crop and a large cave in which to store them. My father made this by building a cement walkway down the center of the cave and wooden board areas to hold the potatoes off the ground. The crop was so good the first year that we had enough to sell to the stores. When both of my sisters had appendicitis, my parents could pay the full hospital bill with potatoes.

I recently learned that potatoes are a very good food—they furnish carbohydrates for energy, plus vitamins B and C.

Eleanor Hall

A Bird

bluebird

It’s colorful, cheerful, and cute.
And he’s certainly not mute!
So, stand away, friend, and listen,
And show him how you glisten.

It’s a song he sings,
And it seems to ring
Just for you and me.
Just for you and me!

Betty Hamilton

Valuable Objects

piano

My grandmother’s stack of classical piano music and cabinet (a somewhat midsized one in which they are kept) are valuable to me. None of my own piano music was ever that voluminous as her complete stack. She told me I could have all her books—heavy ones, rectangular ones, etc. I would take a few home with me when she offered them, and although I wanted them all, it was difficult to take them all home with me at the same time. For, I was in college, but without a car to carry them home easily.

After looking through all her heavy books of classical piano music, I decided it would be too difficult to learn to play too many of them. I could never read them easily, so I left those with her. What a great classical pianist she was! She had taken lessons since she was sixteen years old and had played in double piano concerts with eight other symphony pianists onstage in Montgomery, Alabama. She was so advanced in her piano playing that I avoided the instrument and eventually discovered the organ. It was a simpler instrument. Even though the pedal board added a challenge, it was much more fun for me to learn the organ.

Betty Hamilton

My Place to Go

gardentools

My peaceful place to go is outside. Everything about me is outside. There, I am free. I enjoy weeding because it frees the ground of nuisance. I enjoy planting because the view changes—once empty, it turns beautiful. In the morning, I walk with my neighbor. We each own a Fitbit and try to beat the record we set the day before. It is nice being with someone you like, who can talk about the ins and outs of our past and present days.

Another peaceful is the home of my elderly friend Nelda—mostly, because she is ninety-two years old. I want to make sure she is safe. Of course, I don’t say that to her! She would resent someone wanting to take care of her, as she is very independent.

Donna Hebner

This Day

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On the way here, I arrived via Uber. This is always fun because the driver and I talk about the music on the radio and what has happened, like the murders last night or whatever comes up. Sometimes, I feel like we are rehashing what we have heard on the news or experienced during the night or day before.

It is a good feeling to have someone to exchange ideas with in the morning, because it brings us into a new day, each of us having thoughts about what is next.

Donna Hebner

Colors of the Ocean

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Saltwater and fishing for lobster
Colorful coral swaying in the ocean currents
Spearing sea foods and more.

Larry Runyon

Important Object

modelship

When my dad was young, he had a hobby of making model ships that he built from scratch. He is gone now, but I have three of his sailing ships. I value them greatly and display them in my office. I hope to pass them on to my younger brother or my two sons when I die.

It’s important to me to keep them in the family as a memory of Dad’s skill, and so they can be passed down to my brother’s sons as a reminder to them. A reminder of their grandfather, with whom, unlike my brother and I, they didn’t get to spend as much time. I hope they will eventually pass along the ship models to their own children.

Alan Sagen

Walking Along Brushy Creek

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My wife and I make it a practice to walk together most days along Brushy Creek for exercise. We enjoy walking through the park that begins after we cross the low waters. In the park, people picnic and kids play. After going through the park, we cross over the creek’s bridge to get us back to the other side. From there, we head further upstream. Eventually, we come to a road we must cross to continue upstream. There is a part of the creek, called Turtle Creek, where we usually see the creatures. Sometimes there are a lot of turtles, sometimes not.

After we have counted the number of turtles, we take the way back home. We cross the creek again, use the low water crossing again, and walk uphill to our home at the top of the hill.

Alan Sagen

Peaceful Time

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A peaceful time for me was spent in Cloudcroft, New Mexico. We once went there for a vacation. My son was an Eagle Scout, and he worked at the annual gathering of the Boy Scouts. We had never seen the camp before. The sky was clear—there were only white puffy clouds up there. You could sit on the mountain and see forever.

The camp was filled with young Boy Scouts—approximately 5,000 of them. Sitting on the top of the mountain, with the Scouts camping below, was an amazing sight.

Ed Stephens

What Happens Next?

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This is my neighborhood
At the beginning of spring.
The roses are blooming.
I see the sun’s impression on the window.
The skies are blue with white clouds forming.
Wait a little while—
What will happen next?

Looking west, I see dark clouds.
Will it rain today?
I see people rolling up the car windows.
The wind is from the west.
The storm is passing over.
The sun sets.

Tomorrow is a new day.
I wonder what will happen next.

Ed Stephens

Fireflies on a Summer Night

fireflies.jpg

I am sitting here in a class and writing about this particular moment. The room is filled with friends, and it’s pretty good. I appreciate that many of them are going through the same things I am. I am not a poet, but I understand what the poets look at—the importance of smaller things. Good for them!

They have time to spend at that level, and understanding that point of observation is appreciated. But, this poem, “This Moment” by Eavan Boland, brings back a memory of my childhood with my brother and sisters one night when we were catching fireflies in jars. Sorry, fireflies!

Chris Turk

Valuable Item

pistol.jpg

Of all the objects I own, the most valuable is a Colt pistol dated around the 1850s. I don’t know anything about who owned it in my family or what they did with it. It’s a pistol and it’s old. No finish, and with a broken firing mechanism.

But, it’s from my family, and I have it in my safe. Not sure who I will give it to when I die—maybe my grandson.

Chris Turk

In the Moment

trees

In this moment, I am surrounded by people I have just met. They are having the same problem as me and dealing with it in their own way. We don’t know where life is going to lead us. Will our memories get worse? Will I end up like Dad? Only time will tell.

How did I end up like this? What cruel twist of fate put us here? Will science ever have an answer to memory loss?

Sandra M. Zandrusky

The pieces above were written by participants in AGE of Central Texas’s Memory Connections Program, an evidence-informed program for people experiencing early-stage memory loss. The Badgerdog writing workshops provided for these groups were made possible by the generous support of St. David’s Community Foundation’s Health’s Angels.

Life’s Little Beauties

23 Jan

During each of my visits to Westlake Hills Presbyterian Church, I was met with a depth of intelligence, curiosity, humor, and vivaciousness that renewed my own energy and penchant for living fully in the moment. These writers, who come from all walks of life, allowed themselves to be vulnerable, to open up to an unfamiliar experience with admirable aplomb, recounting family histories and unearthing joyful memories of the past—stories that may have otherwise gone untold if not for the safe space created by this writing group. Bonds formed between writers from completely different worlds, whether in the room or on the page. The Westlake writers were able to find comfort and solace in each others’ words, knowing they were all undergoing the same experience. They discovered the power of language to move one to tears or laughter and found that creative writing can actually be fun! The following pieces exemplify the wit, vigor, and positivity I encountered weekly in this talented group of writers, a delight that can be felt again and again whenever I read their words.

Julie Howd
Badgerdog Teaching Artist

I Am…

photoalbum

I am a husband, father, and grandfather.
I like family, friends, laughing, good food,
privacy, my computer, and freedom to think.
I have a wonderful and supporting wife, loving
extended family members, and financial security.
I think—how lucky I am!
I think more of philosophical and theological issues
as I get older and progress with Alzheimer’s.
I feel so very, very fortunate—for my parents,
education, and living in the USA.
I love having the time to work on my photo albums,
being alone, and being with family.
I wonder about the universe and my place in it.

Boyd S.

Sailboat

dock

My sailboat slips through the water like memories,
as the smooth hull slips through water and time.
The lonely sound of the paddle dipping into water
gives way as the sails are raised and the lake air
fills the sails with a snap, and then more silence
as we move through the water and we lose ourselves
in our thoughts and dreams.

Carol Y.

How to Fall in Love with the Night Sky

telescope.jpg

To begin, first sit in a comfortable lawn chair and wait for a clear, dark night. Add a decent pair of binoculars and just scan the sky for bright stars, planets, and other intriguing objects. Don’t rush. It takes time and patience to really see the beauty and wonders of the dark sky. Mix this with a goodly amount of time getting to know your instrument, be it binoculars or a telescope. For a beginner, it’s best to thoroughly understand the instrument you use, i.e. binoculars are okay to begin, but work toward larger instruments to find the wonder of planets, nebulas, stars, and other objects. Take your time to discover the dimmer objects that pass by others observers who lack the patience. Try it. You may find a wonderful hobby.

Dan

Grandmother’s Table

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I remember my grandmother’s house in Dallas
And the furniture it contained.
Also the uncles it contained.
I have a table from her house and still get
Memories from it.
Memories still remind me of spending the day with her
And catching the streetcar to the Dallas YMCA
And swimming all day.
Later she moved into a small house my father built.

Jerry H.

Read

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Choose the book.
Join a book club.
Read a synopsis or book cover.
Immerse yourself in the story.
Savor the ending.
Recommend to others.

Betty O.

My Red Kayak

kayak.jpg

I bought my red kayak and was very proud of it.
What fun I had on the red kayak in the water:
the way the glistening kayak lifted high
over the waves of the river. The sound of the waves
was music to my ears and solace to my soul.
There were exciting times as well as relaxing times
in the beautiful and glistening red kayak.
It floated without effort.
My kayak allowed me to be one with the river
and I felt a part of nature. I could be totally relaxed
and continue floating for hours, just enjoying
the intense green plants on the river bank.
There were many water birds—egrets, swans—
gracefully swimming along. The beautifully
puffy white clouds added to the enjoyment.
This is my idea of bliss.

Susan W.

Bird Watching

acorn

Always I have been an observer and lover of nature. I collect acorns every fall in our yard. I save special oak leaves and wildflowers in the spring.

My greatest joy is observing birds at our bird feeders. We have two large feeders, which the birds visit every day. My binoculars are “on the ready” to sight more birds. I keep a bird identification book handy.

Birds are awesome—some of God’s most beautiful work. Thank you, God, for sending these beautiful birds to us. Birds add color to our yard and are such a pleasure to observe.

Susan W.

By the Ocean

sea

I loved the ocean and was only ten minutes away from it in Hampton, New Hampshire, where I lived and grew up from age four. Now I’m eighty-three years old. I loved to swim in the ocean, although mainly it was from March through maybe October that I could swim. I loved living with my parents there. Both of my parents were memorialized when they passed away—Dad at age seventy-eight and Mom at age eighty-six—and that is in North Hampton, right on the ocean!

Glenice

Bama Company

Day 113/365- Late Night Snack

A jar of peanut butter and jelly or jam always reminds me about my father’s business. He started the Bama Company in Alabama and then brought it to Houston, Texas. The Bama Company was bought by Welch’s but still exists in grocery stores under the name Bama, and nowadays sits on the bottom shelf! My dad went on many trips to Mexico and other states to buy the fruit to make his products. My brother got to go on those trips, but not me, since I was very young. I did go to the building where all the jam was made and often would take all of my friends—a fun excursion. Of course, I also took a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to school each day.

Marianne M.

Christmas Morning at the Kilbanes’

christmas

The Christmas tree is lit in the living room. The mantles on the fireplaces are twinkling with their lights and stockings filled by Santa. Both fireplaces are lit. The coffee is brewing and the milk warming for hot chocolate. I take the Irish bread out of the oven to cool, then slice. The bacon and sausage crackle and Mike takes the eggs out. He takes the sleigh bells off the hook and shakes them, and the house begins to wake up. The three sleeping children come down to open their gifts in the living room. They are excited to see their gifts and anxious to tear open the boxes they have received. The boys with their trucks, Karen with her dolls, and, as they grew older, their many tapes and CDs, and new clothes that were worn over their PJs.

Patsy K.

Our Home

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The home was beautiful, a mix of antique and modern. The dining room table was beautiful, oval in shape with weaving movements around the edge.

In the winter, we had a fireplace. Memories of the fireplace: shadows that leapt and roared, a collection of fireplace tools, and a beautiful glow in the room. This was our home in the cold winter, waiting for warmth in the coming sun. The fireplace was a place where warmth would come, and music in the background that flowed beautifully all around. Chess was the game we played.

I still remember the comfort of the home, the mix of modern and antique. There was a view of the bay, and we could hear the lapping of the waves breaking. Palm trees were in abundance.

Jackson G.

Christmas

dog

I see: beauty, cooking, happy faces, a beautiful table.
I hear: good, cheerful conversation, the wind, children, kitchen sounds,
laughter and music, a roaring fire, a dinner prayer.
I taste: a well-cooked meal, apple pie and wine, a delicious dessert.
I touch: my wife’s hand, the oven, my shaved beard.
I smell: fireplace scents, roasting a favorite meal, my wife’s perfume, the smell of rain.

Jackson G.

Familial Love

family

What can I rely upon?
Familial love.
There are reasons to get down,
especially in this day and age.
But when I need to be lifted,
all I need to do is think
of all the blessings that I have
to be thankful for, and
familial love is the most important.
I have the most wonderful family around,
scattered as they are around the country and the world.
By the way, the family even includes an ex-wife,
who remains very much a loving part of the family.
Friends are fine and dandy, but without family
I would be nothing but candy and not as sweet.

Logan M.

Settling In

hotchocolate

On a special evening at 18 Chandon Lane, Beverly and I nestle down to enjoy listening to an album. The dim light outside still illuminates the backyard to such an extent that all the gray rocks are wonderfully highlighted against the newly laid sod that sparkles with all the rain that has recently fallen. The weather has cooperated and gotten cooler just when we needed it to. How could this be so perfect? Hot chocolate, flowers, incense.

We have just moved in, gotten organized, and hopefully halfway rested. The house feels perfect, at least for now.

Logan M.

The Game of Chess

chess

I remember an onyx chess set I purchased in Florence, Italy, forty-six years ago. The hand-carved set is not only a game of intellectual skills, but a piece of beautiful art, a treasure that I lugged around Europe, from Italy to Spain to France to Belgium to Holland, ending with a transatlantic flight to the US.

Over the many years, this work of art provided many days of challenging, intellectual brinkmanship between friends. In more recent years, it has provided opportunities to bond more closely with one of my daughters and, within the last month, the opportunity to teach my seven-year-old grandson to learn a life skill and game—a game that I hope will enrich his future and give him a loving memory of his Popi.

Gary C.

How to Make a Beautiful Landscape

garden

Develop a plan with all necessary materials.
Cultivate your soil, enriching it with compost.
Select the best ground cover, including grass and alternatives.
Research flowers to paint a colorful environment.
Study and acquire the right trees, for now and the future.
Plant your trees with adequate drainage and fertilizer.
Place and plant your flowers and shrubs to provide a picture.
Install an efficient automatic sprinkler system.
Have your sod and ground cover delivered.
Lay your ground cover, your sod.
Water your landscape and enjoy a new environment.

Gary C.

Setting a Vision

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Have a plan to accomplish a vision or objective. Explain the plan to the audience or employee with the goal set to attain completion of the plan. This requires confidence in the leadership, with the goal to accomplish the objective by communicating the vision. This requires communicating the objective’s intent and following through to explain the objective to those who will need to complete the task to achieve the required result. Inquire of those who will follow through to implement the plan to achieve required results.

Fred D.

The Best Pug

pug

I am the friend of a Punkin. We met a few years ago. He was about the size of a tennis ball hiding behind a hedge. I like the way he showed himself, with innocence and trust as he stole my heart. I picked him up and rubbed his fur against my cheek, thinking about how I was going to keep him.

My neighbor said she couldn’t take him because she had three pugs already. So it was my choice keep him, which I did, and he fit into my family with another pup that taught him all she knew. Through her, he learned how to remove insulation with his teeth and wiring removal on tractors and autos.

Joe P.

The pieces above were written by participants in AGE of Central Texas’s Memory Connections Program, an evidence-informed program for people experiencing early-stage memory loss. The Badgerdog writing workshops provided for these groups were made possible by the generous support of St. David’s Community Foundation’s Health’s Angels.

Our Place in the World

23 Jan

As their collective poem states, the Memory Connections writers at Bethany Lutheran have a lot of fun with words. There was so much laughter in our shared writing experience—humorous characters included a chicken hunted down by a murderous alligator (inspired by William Carlos Williams’s “A Red Wheelbarrow”). Rich details of family history emerged during a discussion of writers’ names. Images of childhood homes bloomed on the page to the tune of a nocturne. And autumn landscapes came through sharp and clear after a chat about the seasons. These writers inspired me to take myself less seriously, and to weigh the details of home and history ever so carefully. It’s humor and history that inspire great stories, and these writers have both in spades.

Claire Campbell
Badgerdog Teaching Artist

Description in Nature

leaves

The roadway around the
Closed corner of our house,
Flowers red and yellow, blue,
On green stems coming
Out of the sandy rocks on
The sides of the road. The road
From nowhere to our land,
Which is somewhere.
Nowhere with
The dried and dirt-colored
Plants. Fall until
Summer.

Jennifer Martinec

The Night

panorama

I was afraid of the dark as a child
But I would have loved to be there.
The dark with all these beautiful scenes would be so gorgeous
And I would not want them to go away
What a moment for me to be
Caught up in this.

Sheila McIntire

My Name 

cemetery

The middle name of Lee was given by my Aunt Lee.
She lived near my family.
She was my mother’s sister.
I would not change her name.
When she died, I was in the hospital.

Preusser was my maiden name on my father’s side—
Richard Frederick Wilhelm Preusser.
Greenwald is my married name.
I would not change these.

I grew up in St. Louis. There is a cemetery
With many well-known people buried there.
I was so surprised when my dad told me
About all of these distant relatives.

Linda Greenwald

Life

clouds

Fun with words
Variety, history,
Descriptive experiences.

Enjoying being with nature and people,
Good imagination,
Being empathetic with people and stories.

Language:
Our history and ability to reflect on the past.
We come from different places.

The Bethany Lutheran Writers

The pieces above were written by participants in AGE of Central Texas’s Memory Connections Program, an evidence-informed program for people experiencing early-stage memory loss. The Badgerdog writing workshops provided for these groups were made possible by the generous support of St. David’s Community Foundation’s Health’s Angels.