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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.

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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

box.jpg

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

baseball.jpg

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

thread.jpg

– 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

trafficlights.jpg

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

rope.jpg

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

turtles.jpg

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

mountain.jpg

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?

rose.jpg

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.

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.

Life, Love, and Paradise

24 Feb

The pieces published below were written by participants in AGE of Central Texas’s Memory Connections Program, which aims to enhance the mental and physical health and overall quality of life of people affected by early-stage dementia. 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.

Dear Reader,

Imagine for a moment being invited to a family picnic where everyone, quite magically, gets along. Imagine witnessing people offering easy hugs and gentle back-pats and listening to each other’s life updates, both good and bad. Imagine being greeted by friendly faces and feeling welcomed immediately. This only partly describes the wonderful community of writers I spent an hour with each week at Hope Lutheran Church. I can’t help but think it was their strong bonds that fostered a setting for magnificent writing and poetry-making to occur. Below you will discover just what a recipe of innate talent and close friendships can create—pure, sumptuous delight.

Julie Poole
Badgerdog Teaching Artist

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Bucket

There was an old man
from Nantucket
who kept his money
in a bucket.

His daughter, Nan,
ran away with a man,
and as for the bucket…
Nantucket.

Elizabeth F.

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Life!

Who needs to wait until something occurs to make you feel that “it’s good to be alive?”

According to recent research, 100% of research groups studied agreed unanimously that being alive beats the heck out of being dead! Every day is a new day, and I greatly appreciate the opportunity to live it however I want. Keeping your expectations low is critical to happiness.  I just say, “Hey, at least I’m alive. It’s better than being dead.” I have never heard a dead person say, “Man, I’m glad I’m finally dead.” Life is good, and death, well, who knows? I’ll stick with what I know: Life!

Rick Guilbeau

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Debate

– This poem is not endorsed by the Republican Party.

Do I or
do I not
participate
in this debate?
Should I?
Or should I not?
I’m smart enough, but
not that much.

Hate to be a stupid chump.
Why in the
heck did I vote for
Donald Trump?

Rick Guilbeau

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World’s Longest Fishing Pier: Port Lavaca,
A Refuge For Young Lovers

Wet
Slippery
Fishy
Salty
Calm
Rough
Always windy
Dead Bait / Live Bait
Dead Fish / Live Fish
Both adding a rugged scent
To salt air
Dark unlit places at night
Sparkling stars above
Also a sparkling reflection
Waving reflections—the salt—the air—
We are along 1 1/2 miles out on the bay
It’s
Mid-
Night
We hold
Hands
It’s getting
Chilly
Even in
Summer
The wet
Dampness
And wind
We
Kiss and
Hope it
Never
Ends.

Rick Guilbeau

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Paradise

Our grandchildren live on an island off the coast of Washington State. When we visit them, we also go to the beach! Their beach is unusually windy and cold, but the last time, in August, it was mild enough to explore the tide pools—small pools of water and tiny creatures and plants that are left behind when the tides go out. The experience was delicious for me—there were tiny creatures that I cannot name, even now, and never knew existed. I felt like I was in a magical world with some of my favorite people. In other words, Heaven.

Rebecca Lowe

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Poetry

Writing on snowy paper,
inspired by others’ words,
is easy
and intimidating
and solid.

Rebecca Lowe

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Old Cabin

Prickly cedar among white powdery rocks
bordering winding trails.
Reptiles are seen sometimes, both friendly and not.
An old cabin is sinking into the tall grasses
bordered by a thinly running creek.
Wood stoves and cold winters,
wildflowers in spring, summers of heat.
Old graves of beloved dogs,
friendly faces, good hearts.
Doors open, still.

Rebecca Lowe

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Time

Everyday life seems to be accelerating
with time as we age.
We seem to notice details of life with
much more appreciation now than in earlier
periods of our lives.
We see children as much more
involved, advanced, active in everyday life
than when we were growing up. Science and
technology were not as advanced as they are today.
There seems to be recognition of the
acceleration that is occurring in science and
technology and how much more needs to be
learned, practiced, and controlled.

Manny Chavez

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Appreciation of Life

It seems to me that life is just the way it has been described before, as being “miraculous.” I have much more appreciation for life now (at age seventy-three) than I did before. Just being “alive” is miraculous. To think that I am now in a much later stage in my life is scary and daunting, yet is is also very rewarding and appreciated. I feel very blessed to have had a good family, a good education, a good career, and good health. As I face an older age and have indication of neuro-degenerative impacts, I am still not scared of getting older. I still feel very honored to have been born and to live in the U.S.A. Recent occurrences have been good for all of us. New challenges are good for the U.S.A.

Manny Chavez

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Questions

Why am I here?
What do I want to do
with my life?
Who am I—who is this
woman Pat?
Will Pat ever do any more
art? Will she be strong
enough to work alone? And make art?
Would taking a pill make it more
easy and likely to work/make art?

Pat Keen

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Sunrise

This morning, I walked my dog Mo around 7 am and the sun was not yet up, but it was sending up orange and blue lights across the sky… and then in another viewing direction, the sky was a very deep yellow mixed with that same intense blue.

How wonderful that I remember it, and I can see it in my brain! Because I have some form of Alzheimer’s, so sometimes my brain is not available.

Pat Keen

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Friendship

The peace and tranquility that
comes with friendship,
sharing moments precious
to each other

Enjoying the unity
and bonding in
silence,
feeling refreshed
by each other’s
views and ideas
and loving,
having friends
to share
your journey!

Audrey Krier

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What Makes Life Worthwhile

Being married, having kids,
seeing them go through school, and friends
and adventures, successes, and feeling
you did something worthwhile in your
life. Seeing grandchildren grow and
being proud of their successes
and getting to know their talents
and what they give to the world.
It gives one something that makes
life worthwhile and fulfills one’s
dreams. Now, hopefully, this
world will benefit from
their successes. That’s
a legacy worth
passing on!

Audrey Krier

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Bridge City, Texas on the Louisiana and Texas State Line

Skiing
in the marshes with the snakes, crabs, alligators,
mosquitoes, and crawfish that live here.
Jet boats riding on top of marshes to see alligators
in dark, salty water.
And hot boudin cold couscous. Come on, push-push-push,
and eating rainbow crawfish.

Bobby Pruitt

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Family

With my family and grandchildren,
lots of laughter
in the outdoors,
in the mountains,
in the fresh air
that our God gave to us to enjoy.
My God is an awesome
God who reigns above.

Bobby Pruitt

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Okay?

Many years ago, I was put in charge of training a new salesman for Singer Sewing Machine Co. I let him drive the company van, and on the way back from the sale he was driving so fast that I thought, “I’m never driving with this guy again.”

We were headed down the freeway and about to turn onto the off-ramp when another truck happened to turn in our direction in front of us. He slammed on the brakes, and we rolled three or four times. There were no seat belts at the time, so our heads bumped the ceiling and we bumped into each other as we rolled in the air.

When we landed, the van was on its side and all the windows were smashed. He said, “You Okay?”

I said yes. I asked him if he was okay, and he said yes. We climbed out of the broken window and dusted ourselves off, both surprised to be alive, not a scratch on either one of us.

Lee Roy S.

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On living in Casablanca, Morocco

The life I had was rich and happy,
good family and good friends,
the life that I’d love to
give to my children and to
have again. Living was rich.

Sarita Mais

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Reading My Book

I am reading my book.
He is clearing the table and sweeping the
floor.
I am reading my book.
He is cutting the grass and sweeping the
sidewalks.
I am reading my book.
He is running the vacuum and dusting.
I am reading my book.
He fixes a quick dinner and brings
me my portion in the living room.
I am reading my book.
He looks at me and slowly heads up the
stairs.
I wait a moment or two, put my book down
& head up the stairs behind him.
Ain’t love great!

Jeanne Roden

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Race

When my son was four or five years old, we were living in Arizona on the Navajo reservation off and on, and the school would hold outdoor activities for us. I always attended them with my son Jon. At one event, there was a swimming race for all the kids ages ten and under. They had to enter the adult pool and swim its length. Jon took off and was flashing down the lane. Soon, he was out front! I was cheering for him and leaning against the guy next to me. He kept murmuring, “He’ll never make it. He’ll never make it…” But Jon persevered and came in first—far ahead of the others. I was so proud, I actually squealed!

Jeanne Roden

Health and Well-being

22 Feb

The pieces published below were written by participants in AGE of Central Texas’s Memory Connections Program, which aims to enhance the mental and physical health and overall quality of life of people affected by early-stage dementia. 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.

Dear Reader,

If you happened into Meeting Room A at the North Austin YMCA, you’d see a friendly group of folks with coffee mugs and bright, warm sunlight illuminating the room. You’d hear the intermittent sounds of weights dropping on the ceiling above. You’d be privy to amazing stories and poems and plenty of laughter. If you’re a single lady in her mid-thirties, like me, you might even receive some encouraging dating advice. Most of all, though, you’d feel this writing group’s infectious positivity and easy generosity. What better place to be reminded of the importance of health and well-being than at the YMCA in a room full of some of the most kind-hearted people you could possibly meet. I’ve found their words to be as revitalizing as a daily dose of vitamin C.

Get ready to feel rejuvenated.

Julie Poole
Badgerdog Teaching Artist

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Sunny Day

Happy to see the sun shine
This morning the clouds were gray
But the sun was bright and warm
A good morning for
Walking
Nice to hear
The sounds of morning
That seem to increase with the sunlight
That I listen to and hear the
Noises the household makes

Bob Russell

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Falling Pen

– an erasure of a passage from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden

I rose while books
Tempted my pen falling
Out

My life

A gypsy     circle

Bob Russell

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Memories

There are emotions that at times are
rekindled—reminding us of what was,
what brought forth joy, what is
savored—those feelings that move
us forward—or, cherished as they are
or were, are stored in the keepsake
box of our heart.

Love is probably the most dominant—
It is the emotion that creates, consolidates,
and holds us together. This can be said
of friendship, short term or years in length,
one that shares the ups and downs of everyday.
Every day there is the echo of my grandchildren
as they prep for school, return home, tackle homework,
and joyously share their day—ups and downs,
all arounds. What more can I ask for.

Helen Haynes

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Where the Wind Blows

an erasure of a passage from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden

Advantages
Follow your genius
White sands—pleasant sunshine—
Free wind blows—
Life—everlasting

Helen Haynes

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Appreciation

It is good to be alive because there are
so many things to see. I see the sun rising
in the morning, I see stars in the sky.
What more could you want to see?
I would like to see a jet fly in the sky
on a sunny day. I would like to see
clouds float by after
a summer storm. There are wonderful
things to see. If I would stop long
enough to see.

Ed Stephens

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The Pond

– an erasure of a passage from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden

At least I rose enough to see
white sands from the pond.

Ed Stephens

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Turtles Sunning

I live along Brushy Creek in Round Rock, Texas. It’s a place I have become quite fond of. I like to walk along the creek enjoying the tree-lined banks, walking upstream to the Round Rock and continuing further upstream to a place I call “Turtle Cove.” It’s a name I gave to the area where turtles like to gather and sun themselves on the banks of the creek. I always count the number of turtles on the bank.  Yesterday, I counted forty-five turtles sunning themselves on the bank. It was a good number, better than I had seen for some time. It made me happy to see them again.

Alan T. Sagen

 

Equality

On Saturday, I saw the
hordes of woman and even
children descending on
Washington, D.C., in celebration
of the Women’s March for
Equality.

Marian Fleming

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On Living in Downs, Kansas

Downs is a small town in Northern Kansas
just off of Highway 24. The town has one movie theater.
Many local farmers come to Downs on Saturday
nights to go to the one movie theater and drugstore.

Bruce Fink

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View of Life Near Nature

 – an erasure of a passage from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden

A gypsy’s pack,
where free wind blows, a three-legged table where
blackberry vines run around its legs.

Bruce Fink

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Blossom

It’s good to be alive to hear
the birds sing, to be with my
children and grandchildren, to
be able to do fun things with
them, to watch them grow
and live their lives,
for them to be happy.

Heather De Loyo

Joyous and Playful

8 Nov

The pieces published below were written by participants in AGE of Central Texas’s Memory Connections Program, which aims to enhance the mental and physical health and overall quality of life of people affected by early-stage dementia. 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.

A joyous group of writers at Westlake Hills Presbyterian Church greeted me on the first day, and they never stopped kidding one another (and me!) during our six weeks together. Mostly playful, sometimes serious, they wrote about the history of their names and the colors of their favorite seasons. Many of the boisterous writers then shared a memory recorded on the page before them—from horrors in the swampy jungles of Vietnam to decorating Christmas cookies with the family. I am thankful for my time with these adult writers of powerful poetry and nonfiction.

Terri Schexnayder
Badgerdog Teaching Artist

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My Name

My name is John Paul Alexander. “John” was from my mother’s family—her brother who died early. “Paul” was my father’s name. My mom and dad both grew up in western Oklahoma and came from large farm families. “Alexander” carries a lot of baggage—first name, last name, and the famous, like Alexander the Great, Alexander Hamilton, and others.

I used the initials “JPA” a lot when I was younger. But, as an adult, it’s “John P. Alexander” and a variety of different IDs on the Internet. My primary one is “Hub Cap Dude.” Now, why would I do that?

  1. Probably not very common
  2. Has a story
  3. Starts conversations

“Hub Cap Dude” has a meaning—a lineage.

John Paul Alexander

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Season Favorites

Reds and golds of changing trees,
tumbling leaves.
Temperatures moderate.
Children home during school vacations—
Christmas Eve and church service.
Just enjoying the weather
and family and friends.

Ted Heydinger

 

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The Red Cookie Cutter

Small, shiny, and red,
waiting to be used.
Making five dozen cookies,
baking and decorating,
using red and white sprinkles.
To eat with family over milk or tea.
Enjoy and relax with family—
Christmas cookies.

Patsy Kilbane

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How to Write a Report

Grab a computer and sit down to start writing. Apply software to begin the report. The software takes the data and processes it into the report. Then the report shows you if there is anything missing or something that needs fixing so you can update it.

After the reprocessing, print out five reports. If there are no mistakes, and everything goes well, you have a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction with your report.

Fred Lucas

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Recipe for Singing

One of the ingredients for singing is the freedom of expression. Add a little bit of enjoyment and a knack for singing. Mix in the listener’s enjoyment and the performer’s gratitude for that. Happiness, importance, boosting my ego, feeling big and significant are all part of the beauty of singing—the beauty of creating pleasure for the people listening to me.

Carl Monnin

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The Colors of the Season

Purple, green, red.
Rain falling from the sky,
Flowing as if in a royal moat.
Sun setting,
Red flowers,
Camping by the fire in Colorado.
We went with two other families.
We all had tents.
Pretty,
Making fires.

Keith Peco

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My Name

I love my name. I haven’t known many others with my name. It always sounded like it belonged to me. I think of it as somehow being “steady.” It’s not real soft-sounding; it’s kind of balanced. It’s nice to be attached to your name.

I don’t know how I got the name Karen. I don’t have any relatives with that name. I was the oldest girl, with one brother and three sisters. I liked that we had a big family. I have always been a hard worker and enjoyed hanging up clothes. I loved school—being with my friends and learning. I eventually became a teacher.

Karen Smith

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Walter Boyd Spencer

I was named after my grandfathers, Walter Martin and Richard Boyd Spencer. Both had died before I was born. My parents thought “Walter Boyd” sounded better than “Boyd Walter,” but they always called me “Boyd,” after my father’s father.

Funny story: While an undergraduate student at Baylor, two friends and I took a week-and-half-long trip to Mexico City and Acapulco, driving an old VW Beetle. At about 11:00 p.m., a state trooper pulled me over for speeding. He asked for my driver’s license and asked, “Walter, you say you are from Waco?” My friends almost died laughing, as they did not know my first name. During the last two years at college, my nickname was “Walter from Waco.”

Boyd Spencer

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My Favorite Things

Reading
Lawn care
Movies
Eating out
Spending time with sons and daughters

Art Ulbrich

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Vietnam

I am walking through a jungle in Vietnam. My corpsmen are spread out in an arc. We watch for unexploded bombs. Slowly, we approach a soldier lying on the ground. Is it a Marine or a Vietnamese soldier? The Marines know my concept of care, which is, as a physician, that I take care of anyone wounded—South Korean, North Korean, man or woman.

Ahead, we see a Marine rocking back and forth, crying, with his wounded partner sitting next to him. My corpsmen quickly assess the damaged soldier—he has a wound in his leg. My men know the drill and expertly cut away the tissue, swap bandages, and put on the compression bandage. A medical helicopter soars above them, and the soldier is flown to the sanctuary six miles off shore. We start off again in the jungle and come across a wounded Viet Cong soldier, and my company of men again clean the wound quickly, and the helicopter whisks him away to the Sanctuary.

This is the drill we do for weeks and months at a time. What you remember most are the thousands of people, North and South Koreans and Marines dead or wounded, and nothing was resolved. We still have North and South Vietnam.

Charles Walker

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Family Gatherings

We arrived at my brother’s house on a cold Thanksgiving Day to spend the holiday together. A cold breeze blew, stirring the gold, brown, and red leaves. On a welcoming porch, my brother and sister greeted us. The beautiful leaves shifted in the wind and, now, red leaves appeared.

We all saw one another and rejoiced. We would soon be inside my brother’s warm house for another happy Thanksgiving enjoyed by the family.

Susan Warren

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Austin

Austin, my home town.
You nurtured me.
You educated me.
You inspired me.
You took me in and
sent me on my way
to a new life.

I’m all grown up, educated, and
looking over the edge of the future!
A future bright with colors,
full of beauty and wonder.

Carol Yacono