On Fat Tuesday!
Having just returned from New Orleans (weighted down with parade loot) I just couldn't resist doing a Mardi Gras theme!
All of my groups love color and there was plenty of it on the table!
We talked about the history of masks, at Masquerade balls and the masked Krewe members on parade floats. But mostly, everyone just wanted to try on masks.
We could do a whole theme on music of New Orleans. We started with the music you hear at parades, but it was more fun talking about Louis Armstrong and Preservation Hall.
I played recordings of "Oh When the Saints..." and Cajun Zydeco and New Orleans jazz. No one could sit still. Ken even taught me a little something I never knew about Louis Armstrong! "Louis did not like to be called Louie!"
The best music was what we made ourselves. Everyone wanted a turn with the toy accordion.
It may be small and toylike, but we had to laugh at how it tested our patience and skills... like patting your head and rubbing your tummy. There's a lot of opening and closing and button pressing to do at once!
We spent a lot of time drooling over ideas of food. Martha and Ramona remembered beignets at Cafe du Monde and all the powdered sugar!
Martha said she missed crawfish pie and file gumbo! A few laughed about the liquid foods that are popular on Bourbon street!
We talked a lot about the bad reputation of Mardi Gras parades. I let them know that most parades are family friendly and safe. They were amazed at the silly stuff that gets thrown from floats. I made everyone earn their beads by at least catching them! Martha used a plastic sword (from the Cleopatra float) to catch her beads!
We laughed about the crazy parade traditions and how many refuse to pick up "ground beads" that hit the street before being caught. I showed a picture that I took of the streets being cleaned after a parade.
Putting Beads to Use
Besides wearing beads, we talked about other uses. I showed more pictures of how trees and fences in New Orleans are decorated.
We talked about other things that beads could be used for. Mary described, with great enthusiasm how she and her New Orleans friends used discarded beads as mosaic material and decorated clutch purses... "To hold our mad money!"
We didn't have time for art projects, but instead, we challenged ourselves to do some designing with strands of beads. It was fun to see all the colorful shapes that were created. Adele, made the most unique shape, a purple state of Texas!
The Louis Armstrong Room!
I broke "Lent Rules" and did a late Mardi Gras celebration (On Thursday) with my wonderful group at The Crescent.
Not only does the skilled nursing facility use New Orleans as a theme for every hall and room and piece of art, but I have a number of Louisiana residents who were excited to teach me more in our 2 hour gathering than I learned on my trip to NOLA!
Mary Led the Group!
Mary is a new resident at the facility, but she practically ran the program with her stories of growing up in New Orleans! We heard every detail from the floats she rode on, to bead tossing techniques!
She laughed about the parties she attended as a young girl and how her mother hoped she wouldn't get the baby in the King Cake. "That tiny trinket earned you too many responsibilities for the next year's celebrations!" Mary praised the police who made the parades as safe as they could be and she laughed about catching potatoes and cabbages at St. Pat's Day parades, as well.
It was amazing to see such a new resident, appear so at home. "When my daughter found this place, she knew I'd love it!" Mary laughed. (There aren't many nursing homes with hallways named Bourbon Street, I guess. ) She said she felt so comfortable at The Crescent, she hoped to live there until the day she died.
"When I die, they can cremate me and take my ashes to New Orleans and place 'em right on my husband's grave!" This was a woman who knew what she wanted and seemed mighty pleased about it. Wow! Is that the power New Orleans has over its people? I had to smile!
What Did I Learn?
I was surprised that so many folks had so much to offer about Mardi Gras.
I was worried some would think it was a bit "wild" for a theme and others would find the focus a bit limiting. But I was reminded once again, that everyone seems to love a party! Play some tunes with jazzy trumpet, trombone and clarinet and toss some beads around... and you've got a party!
Older Than Any of Us!
I'm not sure how I became the keeper of so many old family Valentine cards, but I put them to good use around the quilt this week.
All of my senior groups seemed pretty impressed by these cards, from back in the day, when cupids and lace ruled. We were amused to read a couple "Guess Who" signatures and to discover some postmarks from 1910. All in all, we began to feel pretty good about our young selves. These cards, from as early as 1890, were all older than any of us!
Feeling good about ourselves...
That was my main goal for enjoying a Valentine focus with all my groups.
Valentine's Day can be a stressful holiday for anyone, not just seniors who are often missing loved ones. Even children can have a gloomy Valentine's Day, if they receive fewer cards than the other kids.
Harps and Arrows!
We talked about broken hearts and how many songs have been written by someone with a "broken heart". Then we took on a quick project of mending broken hearts.
So we kept it light with some pondering over the absurdity of those crazy cupids and their role in the holiday! I brought along the zither so we could create some of our own "harpish" cupid music! Betty got pretty good at plucking out the melody of Brahms' Lullaby, which we thought was an appropriate love song... for a baby!
Make a Valentine
Before we got into mending hearts, we had to make some. I had everyone grab a cardboard heart on the table. They weren't too easy to find on our cluttered table.
I tossed around markers and told everyone to make a Valentine for someone they didn't know.
Then I handed everyone half of a broken heart. They had to figure out which person at the table had the other piece that fit theirs.
There were some big whoops and hollers when connections were made. Once the halves were connected, there was an exchange of homemade cards, between the 2 who had completed their heart puzzle. Not much to it, but it was fun to see "friends" (some didn't know each other at all) sharing cards with each other!
Movie Star Couples
We talked about Romantic movies and Romantic couples. Which stars had the best chemistry? Which stars really fell in love? Then we got off on tangents of who was still alive and it got a little sad. One sweet friend in my Alzheimer's group couldn't get over the news that Clark Gable was no longer with us.
I had to lighten things up with prizes! We answered more silly trivia with
Conversation Hearts as prizes.
Just trying to read the messages was comical and trying to interpret them was more so. It was fun to see my "20-something" helpers trying to explain what "BFF" means... and "Sup?"
We remembered the days of making Valentines and all the mess with doilies and paste and pipe cleaners and construction paper.
I kept it simple and handed out pipe cleaners for a little heart making. Claire was quick to fashion her shimmery pipe cleaner into a heart. And then I noticed she had also taken the foil that wrapped her candy kiss and created a heart shape with that!
The fact that Mr. D has lost his ability to see did not stop him from participating.
He was able to create a double heart with his pipe cleaner. He was even able to match up his broken heart puzzle, all by touch!
But best of all, he could enjoy the music...
Before listening to some recordings, we tried to come up with a few songs with the word love. Then we played "Name that Tune" with songs sung by everyone from Perry Como to Elvis. I was amazed at how many could remember lyrics.
The Older the Song the Better
The very oldest songs were the favorites. When l played a barbershop quartet version of "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" there wasn't a person in all 4 groups who didn't sing along, or at least sway. There was something comforting and safe about that old song. It seemed to make everyone smile.
When a few mentioned their own parents singing the song, I realized most weren't associating the song with their own sweethearts. What songs would touch them the most?
Music That Conjures Memories
The music from the forties and fifties seemed to have a different effect.
I remember giggling at the corniness of Frank Sinatra's, "Strangers in the Night" when I was a child, but I saw serious expressions around the table when the song was recognized. For many, this was a popular song when they were young and in love. That can be a good thing... but a sad thing as well.
A few winced when I jumped to "love songs" of the sixties. "She Loves You Yeah, Yeah, Yeah" didn't seem to hold any sentimental value for these folks who were probably young parents at that time. They didn't find anything slow or romantic about "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" either!
Music for Dancing
Dancing played such a big part in the world of romance... back in the day. I was amazed at how many had specific memories of dances and balls and proms.
Not all dance was slow back in that time, but the memorable, romantic music was. There was one song that many remembered dancing to...
The Most Touching
"Some Enchanted Evening" seemed to be the song with the most sentimental impact. With my first group, I hesitated playing the piece since there was something so sweet and sad about the recording. But I also knew it could have a magical way of delighting these folks... who can be like giddy teens sometimes! With the piano intro, the group became so suddenly still that I worried. The voices that usually holler over each other began to softly recall the song... then describe wonderful images and places. "That was a song my husband and I used to dance to." "It makes me want to be sitting and watching a sunset with someone special!" "I'm thinking of a quiet restaurant, with dim lighting..."
My dear group that suffers with memory loss, is often the most affected by music. I hesitated again, but figured I could adjust the impact by how we talked with or through the recording. Again, the group became still as they listened. I could see a couple eyes close, as if absorbing or remembering.
Martha covered her face and I could hear her sigh. I held my breath, ready to break the sad spell, then Martha's hands came down and there was a big smile, although her eyes looked wistful. "That is so beautiful!" She started and the others chimed in. We listened and talked through the piece a while longer. Such a sweet moment.
What Did I Learn?
We all agreed that Valentine's Day can be tough especially for those without love and those who are missing loved ones.
But in all our groups we focused on how fortunate we were to have each other.
A lot of hugging happened around the Quilt this week!
For 20+ years children have called it the Magic Quilt. They've danced and pretended all over these colorful squares. I've dragged it to schools, shelters and studios where children have climbed on top to hear Magic Quilt Stories and to act them out.