Tag Archives: adult workshops

We, Not Me

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.

I used to think writing was one of the lonelier activities one could endeavor to undertake. Not so. Even at this moment as I write alone in a small windowless office, I hear the voices of the workshop participants I shared Mondays with at the North Austin YMCA. I am reminded that writing is a means for regaining a sense of connectedness.

One memory in particular sticks out. I’d asked participants to come up with a short list of words of wisdom they’d either given or received at some point in their lives. To be honest, as one who falls (unwilling) under the umbrella of “millennial,” my own list included phrases such as follow your dreams, never give up, and do what you love. I was thrown for a loop when one participant, Eva, shared what were her most valuable words of wisdom:

  • Help those in need in any way you can.
  • Learn about the challenges of others and find ways to help.

I think my jaw fell open. I realized then that I’d become so entrenched in the daily to-dos of my life, that I was so focused on the “me,” I’d completely forgotten about the “we.”

While not everyone in our workshop was able to use the tools of writing (pens and paper) — the physical act of writing either too painful or too frustrating — everyone was able to enjoy and participate in a communal atmosphere of language, or “creative discussion,” as we called it. Words floating in the air are just as valuable as words pinned to a page. Living in the moment is just as important as recording it. Listening to each other’s stories is just as significant as telling stories of our own. And like water washing over stone, everything that we do changes us a little. I was changed. And I believe storytelling always gives back to the community, the “we” that is so essential to all of us.

Julie Poole
Badgerdog Teaching Artist

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Out My Window, I Remember

Mother red cardinal, dark red. I saw her bring stray leaves and sticks to make her nest. She’d been found nesting in another nest in my backyard, and her last family stayed nearby. When it came time to nest with a new generation of eggs, she made a new one in a tall shrub near my door. At the time, I was in the hospital after open heart surgery number two. I came by to pick up something to wear besides PJs. They were teaching the babies to fly. I don’t wear perfume, so they didn’t sense me nearby. I covered my mouth with a soft pillow and watched the parents teach the young cardinals to take flight.

On vacation, touring nine states to see state parks and watch the acid spring water blow from its geyser, I was awoken and saw the most beautiful view I have ever seen. The sky was so beautiful, with so many colors, in fact, that I momentarily questioned if the world was coming to an end. And God would be next.

Emmaline Jones

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Rabbit Ring

The object that means the world to me and is particular in its value of longevity is the ring I wear on the middle finger of my right hand. It is made out of unpolished silver and depicts a four-footed beast with two long ears, a tail, and four long feet, a rabbit given to me by a former boyfriend, who told me to always keep my eye on the rabbit, a reference to greyhound racing.

Marian Fleming

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My Desk

My hand-carved oriental desk, which belonged to my mother’s mother, Da, as we grandchildren called her. Mom and I were with her on our first trip to Hawaii in 1949. We visited a distant cousin of hers living in Honolulu. Aboard the plane, Da became ill, was given a blood transfusion — wrong type — so after the hospital stay, we lived in a typical neighborhood. There was a Dutch refugee family with a little girl who had several deformities due to the lack of protein in WWII; a Hawaiian family on the opposite side with several children; and, us, in the middle — a league of nations! Children just played, using simple toys we either shared or created — language was no barrier — children just play!

When I sit at this desk, corresponding with family and friends back in California, I have a space of my own, an area to touch back in time, an area to create in, an area that is all mine.

Helen G. Haynes

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Character Sketch

My lifelong friend, Kathryn Ruth, a.k.a. Kathy, has been in my life since third grade — this is equivalent to sixty-five years. In forth grade, we said goodbye. Why, you ask? Each family was leaving Ojai, California. How our mothers kept their secret was amazing, for we (young friends) were devastated by our loss. After our new home was ready to move in to, I found out that Kathy was merely four houses down the block from me.

Over the course of these past sixty-plus years, we’ve shared weddings, the births of our children, high school, and college graduations. Then came the children’s weddings — some in Ventura, California, one on the Big Island of Hawaii. And now we celebrate our grandchildren’s birthdays — all seven of them. My eldest, Sean, twenty-three, U.S. army, down to Paige and Andrew, nine; hers Ava, eleven; Elsie, nine; Vianne, eight; and Shepard, six.

Helen G. Haynes

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Out My Window, I Remember

Long ago, I lived on a farm in Ireland surrounded by many trees of different kinds, meadows with sheep and rabbits crawling around, an orchard with many kinds of apples, pears, and plums, and an avenue surrounded by moss weeds.

Eva Church

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My Husband

One object that means a lot to me is the photo of my husband. He gave it to me, and I love it a lot. In the photo, he’s twenty-six.

Heather H. de Loyo

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Sewing

My objects are useful… scissors for snipping fabric samples and a tape measure for knowing how much to cut out for sewing.

I don’t sew clothing for myself anymore. My shape has shifted!

But I now sew pig pillows, the first choice of hospital patients, requested by chaplains and Ouch Buddies for children at the Ronald McDonald House — squeezable when getting a shot. And pillows for those same children in bright colors.

Ruth Crowson

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Words of Wisdom 

Wait. Wait for beauty, for buds blooming out
of season. For secondhand gloves full of memories.
For music by piano and music by flute.
For looms weaving our loves. Beauty
in love, and love in beauty. Love in
music, and music in love.

Ruth Crowson

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Memories of Nature

16 Jun

Art and language go together like peas and carrots, peanut butter and jelly, shoes and socks. (Okay, maybe not shoes and socks.) But words can help us locate the images contained in our experience and memory. At the same time, visual art can inspire new turns of phrase, new insights, new ways of seeing. It makes sense, then, that we’ve developed a fruitful partnership with Mobile Art Project, which provides art workshops in nursing homes and elder care facilities. In our latest joint effort, we coupled our programs to work with a group of folks experiencing early memory loss. Our Badgerdog teaching artist Claire Campbell used nature poems to inspire memories of the outdoors. These written works became the basis for art activities led by Theresa Zelazny and her Mobile Art volunteers. We are excited to share these combinations of art and language with you. And we are especially grateful to AGE of Central Texas for inviting us to serve their clients. And to Mobile Art for the great work they do, and the work we do together.

Cecily Sailer
Library Foundation Programs Manager

Acrylic on canvas by Ed McQuillan

Acrylic on canvas by Ed McQuillan

Peter

Peter was… oops… is my friend. We share a love for the outdoors. We are both hunters and came to be friends through the women in our lives. He came to me through his sister, Sis. Me through my wife, Jean. The wives were friends and school classmates. Pete’s a big and husky redhead. Me? Not much can be said about a five-foot frame on a mature male. Pete and his sister, Sis, vacationed in Northeast Pennsylvania near the town of Milford on the Delaware River.

Ed McQuillan

Acrylic on canvas by Boyd Spencer

Acrylic on canvas by Boyd Spencer

Empire Bluff

The overlook of Lake Michigan and the Sleeping Bear Dunes are about four miles outside the village of Empire, Michigan. To reach the overlook, one must hike about a mile on a nature trail. Different types of trees can be seen at different levels of the walk. Birch trees are my favorite.

Boyd Spencer

Acrylic on canvas by Keith Peco

Acrylic on canvas by Keith Peco

She (Stephanie)

She is like a field of bluebonnets.
She is like a waterfall.
She is a diamond.
She is strong.
She is a winner.
She is my everything.

Keith Peco

Acrylic on wood by Kelly

Acrylic on wood by Kelly

Colorado River

A green stream flowing through a myriad
of physical conditions—some rushing, some calm.
It affords exciting fishing experiences,
from trout, carp, catfish, and bass.
All fun to catch and a tasty repast.
It is usually cold to our touch, but tasty to our mouths.
Rapidly flowing, it permits little stagnation or visible algae.

Kelly Meyer

Collage on mat board by Gary

Collage on mat board by Gary

My Garden

In my backyard, I have a swing with two seats. We sit together and watch the clouds blown by the wind. We look forward to rain filling the creek down the hill from our house. The rain runs down the stream that wanders about half a mile to Lake Travis, which is a dammed-up segment of a river that flows through Austin.

I grow individual flowers in pots that are arranged and rearranged monthly and watered daily. As they bloom, I can fill a dozen vases and carry them into our house.

Outside, along the creek, are tall trees that wave their limbs in the drifty winds.

Gary Cobb

Acrylic on canvas by Frank

Acrylic on canvas by Frank

My Dog

My dog is in our backyard. He likes living in the yard because he always runs around very excitedly. My dog is in the yard. He likes being in the yard because he always runs around and likes to roll in the grass and dirt. He flows about me, getting dirty; like me, too!

Frank Leggio

Place Where I Enjoyed Nature

I grew up on a small farm east of Austin, near Manor. There were lots of pecan and oak trees. Beautiful smells, clean air, lots of vegetation, and cornfields. The sound of the open space, wild animals, quiet evenings. We had animals—horses, cows, etc.

Art Cunningham

Watercolor on paper by Karen Smith

Watercolor on paper by Karen Smith

Scene from a Calendar

Moss hanging from tree
Azaleas
Peaceful
Laying under the tree
Rolling in the dirt

Karen Smith

Watercolor on paper by Art Ulbrich

Watercolor on paper by Art Ulbrich

Black-Throated Green Warbler

Skinny legs
Yellow head
Black breast
The legs are so thin
How does it support itself?

Art Ulbrich

Acrylic on canvas by Bob

Acrylic on canvas by Bob

Sunflower

Soft petals in yellow
She loves me, she loves me not
As the petals are plucked

Bob Liebl

Acrylic on canvas by Fred

Acrylic on canvas by Fred Lucas

Beauty Undecided

A model “A” comes forth in a vision of strength.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Strength for evaluation.

Fred Lucas

Acrylic on canvas by Charles

Acrylic on canvas by Charles Walker

My First Snow

Whenever I see lightning, my mind drifts back to St. Louis. Snowflakes drifted outside my window. I was six years old and hadn’t seen snow before. The snow was drifting down, and I was so excited. When I awoke the next morning, the snow was still coming down. The drifts were so deep that I could burrow into the drifts and be completely covered.

The next day, the snow stopped coming down. As soon as I could go outside, I started leaping into the drifts. Unfortunately, the drifts also covered up the obstacles you could not see.

Charles Walker