Cliff Dwellings, Canyonlands, Utah (all pictures by Jim and Marylin Warner)

Cliff Dwellings, Canyonlands, Utah (this picture by Jim Warner; all others by Marylin Warner)

Two-family birdhouse built on pergola.  Colorado Springs, CO

Two-family birdhouse built on pergola. Colorado Springs, CO

Dear Mom,

I was in either fifth or sixth grade when the teacher gave each of us a topic, a word that could have more than one meaning or interpretation. We were to look up the dictionary definition, and then we were to ask at least three people what the word meant to them. I was given the word HOME.

We were supposed to get a variety of answers. I remember asking a younger kid what HOME was to him, and he gave this very basic answer: It’s where they let you have a puppy even when your sister has a cat.  I remember wondering how I could make that work at our house.  I really wanted a kitten, but my brother David was allergic to cats, so I couldn’t have one…Hmm. How did that fit with a definition of HOME?

Dad had a definite philosophy about the importance of homes and hometowns: No matter where people live or how rich or poor they are, there’s something about their home or their town that they’re proud of. The secret to connecting with people is to find out what that something is, encourage them to talk about it…and really listen to what they say.

I remember trying to write that as one of my answers for the assignment, but it wasn’t until I was much older that I understood how important and on-target it really was.

I don’t remember what other answers I got for my assignment, Mom.  I do remember, though, one of the children’s poems you wrote. Of all your poetry, “HOMES” was—and still is—one of my favorites.


“HOMES” ~ by Mary Elizabeth Shepherd

The milk cow sleeps in the barn;

A house is a home for folks.

The little birds sleep in a nest in a tree,

In the pond the bull-frog croaks.

The milk cow wouldn’t like my bed;

And I couldn’t sleep in a nest.

The bull-frog doesn’t like the barn.

Each one thinks his home is the best.


You and Dad were actually giving me very similar answers about the importance of HOME.  I thank you both for the answers you provided in my life, and for the home you made for our family.

(P.S. Mom, you were right about the cat thing. You said that when I grew up and had my own home, I could have as many cats as I wanted. Our daughter Molly’s first cat was Abbra. And after Abbra it was Solomon and Calla Lilly. Now, in her own home, Molly’s children have Munchkin.  No cat allergies for us!)

Resting place for "Baby" in Abilene KS cemetery

Resting place, home for “Baby” in Abilene KS cemetery

Old Town log house, Abilene, KS

Old Town log house, Abilene, KS



Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, Different kinds of homes, lessons about life, memories for great-grandchildren, Things to be thankful for

71 responses to “HOME IS…

  1. WOW! What a beautiful concept of home you have highlighted. Your mom is very wise since she suggested to you that in our home we can have anything we want and do whatever we want. As children it is difficult for us to understand this , with other siblings around. The needs of everyone have to be taken care of by the parents. I love your moms poem. Simple yet awesome. As usual your post is very heart warming and brings memories of childhood. Take care and have a lovely weekend my friend.

  2. Carol

    Very sweet. Home was much different for me when I was a kid, so I’ve worked very hard to make our home today a place with sweet memories and safety. I loved your mom’s poem.

  3. Home is where we are comfortable, where no effort has to be made to impress or be judged; where friendships and conflict meld into one and are cemented and accepted; where we rub along together, laugh, cry and share. It’s the place we make it – our home.
    Lovely post Marylin, thought provoking as ever.

  4. Beautiful – simple yet so profound. I’m still trying to figure out where my home really is 😀

  5. Marylin, seems to me home is where your mom is. That’s why you are drawn there so much! (In addition to seeing her of course!) Thanks for the wonderful thoughts.

    • In some ways, you might be right, Nancy. It’s a mothering thing–only now, with her dementia, I have become the mother–and since she needs mothering now, I go to be with her. But home is also where our daughter is, where our grandchildren are, where Jim and I go together to be with them. Home is where those I love are, where we can be together.

  6. Dear Marylin, Lovely, and I just read Nancy Brummett’s comment. How I understand those feelings of being “drawn there.” I too enjoyed your mom’s poem and your dad’s thoughts about being interested in other people and how to connect with them.

    • Thank you, Ellen. When I read your poems, your descriptions of changes in the days, in the weather, in the seasons, I often think how much my mother would relate to your words, and how well you two would relate to each other if it weren’t for her dementia.

  7. What a beautiful poem written by your mom. 🙂

    • Thanks, Tracy. Some of her poetry was more formal or sophisticated, but there was something so basic and true in this one–and fun, too, because of the different “homes”–that this was always one of my favorites.

  8. Lovely post on the concept of home and what that means to different people. You obviously have fond memories of your home as a child and fond memories of your mother.

    • I do, Elizabeth. When I was growing up, I didn’t always appreciate my home or my mom’s rules or her responses to my actions and decisions. But now I realize that my mother’s calm, certain faith and her basic, solid insights were an exceptional gift, and I want to record as many memories about her as possible so her great-grandchildren will know her in spite of the dementia.

  9. Your posts always fill my heart with joy, Marylin. I love your mother’s poem and you’re father’s explanation of home is right on…he was a wise man. For me, home is a safe place filled with love. Enjoy your weekend!

  10. Love the poem and your pictures too. Just came in from the West so Cliff Dwellings caught my eye, although I was not in Utah. The Baby picture is moving in its simplicity. I have only been to Abilene once, but it was a good experience.

    • We came across the BABY tombstone in a very old part of one of Abilene’s cemeteries. No name, no date, but it was among many small tombstones dating back to the late 1800s, when infant mortality was so high because of many reasons. But it was the only one without any identification, and I didn’t want it to be forgotten.

  11. juliabarrett

    Oh Marylin Marylin… there are days when I want to be you.

  12. What a sweet answer from the boy about the puppy and the cat dwelling together = home. I usually comment about your mom, but your dad was full of wisdom, too. What a home you were blessed to have!

    • Thanks, Darla, I was blessed. BOTH of my parents were wise before his Alzheimer’s and now her dementia. They were also kind, faithful, hardworking, and like all of us, also human and flawed. The stories I share here for my grandchildren–their great-grandchildren–are memories of my parents’ basic goodness.

  13. Another fabulous post Marylin! And I too love your mother’s poem. It is obvious you came from a “home-sweet-home” environment with a very loving family! Blessings, Robyn

    • It was a very good home, Robyn, but my father was also consumed with building businesses, serving on hospital, community, church and college boards to try to make things better, and often that meant he wasn’t home very much. When he was home, though, or when we had family and friends over for Sunday dinner, I learned a great deal by listening, but as I got older I also argued, especially about politics, just to get his attention. Still, though, it was a very good home and I know how lucky I was.

  14. Molly

    I suppose that it is completely obvious now why I fell in love with small Kansas towns…..I wholeheartedly love my little town and my old 1881 house. In a big city my kids wouldn’t have nearly as many opportunities to try out different activities, my police officer husband would have to deal with dangerous situations more often, and my house would cost 5 times as much. In a big city the kids couldn’t safely walk 4 blocks to the farmer’s market, my husband couldn’t be the good cop more often then the bad, and the community wouldn’t have bonded and connected as deeply after the tornado. I guess I really am my grandparents’ girl……loving my small Kansas town.

    • There’s no doubt about it, Molly, you definitely are you grandparents’ girl, down to your love and loyalty for small towns, and your talent for making a difference by everything you do. You’ve also instilled those qualities in your children!

  15. What an interesting assignment – and poem. Your perspective does change depending on who you’re talking to. To me, a house is not a home … and home is where the heart is. 🙂 Love this, Marilyn.

    • Thanks, Judy. As teachers, we can appreciate how basic the assignment was–the only reference source was a dictionary–but the basic interview requirements and then writing a one-page paper (handwritten in ink in careful cursive!) actually worked on numerous skills!

  16. Glee Kracl

    What an appropriate topic this week. After a fun filled week in Georgia with the “girl cousins”, it was wonderful to return “home” again! I guess sometimes we need to be away from comfortable surroundings to really appreciate how much we love them!!

  17. Love this. We moved a lot, and home was always where my children were.

    • I’m with you on that definition:”Home is where the children are.” Jim and I agree that home is where our daughter and grandchildren are. Houses can be safe, comfortable and well love, but homes are wherever we are together.

  18. What a wonderful and memorable school exercise you were given by a very wise teacher. Your mother’s poem is beautiful as are your father’s words. They were also wise teachers.

    • And the older I get, the more I appreciate the many wise “teachers” I’ve had in my life. In the classroom, in my childhood home, and in my everyday encounters. There’s still so much to learn.

      • Indeed! I learned, yesterday, that there ‘are over 100 billion neurons in the brain…..more than the stars in the Milky Way.” The science of the brain is extraordinary.

  19. I don’t have a lot of fond memories of my ‘home or home town’ Marylin and then of course when Ishbel and I married I was in the Army and she came from an Army family so Home for us is wherever we are at any given time and as someone else above said, it’s where you can put your feet up together and laugh, cry and enjoy the life that you have regardless of the troubles and difficulties that you may be having from time to time

    • You’ve shared many things via your blog and Facebook, Tom, and I’m in awe of the way you joined the Army at such a young age and how you figured things out on your own. But what I especially appreciate about you is your amazing spirit and resiliency, your loving and hopeful ability to create a wonderful life with Ishbel–beautiful children and grandchildren–and make the home for them that wasn’t made for you. That is the mark of an exceptional man, Tom.

  20. This post is beautiful Marylin, perfect words in capturing the internal feeling of home. You were blessed with two very special parents, they with their daughter.

  21. Al

    Build a house and it’s just a house. Put a family in it and it becomes a shelter. Put love in it and it becomes a home.

  22. BGHOWARD@aol.com

    Marylin: How truly lovely. I had just received a message about a dear friend’s home that had been flooded, so this was a pick-me-up. Hugs, Betty Howard

    • First the Waldo Canyon fire, then the Black Forest fire, and now the floods. My grandmother–and then my mother, too–always said things come in threes. I hope they were right and now these three horrors are over. I’m more than ready for Colorado to have three wonderful and beautiful things happen.

  23. I really enjoyed this post! It has a lot of beginnings of other posts that could follow! I also believe that you have home wherever family is, no matter what the dwelling looks like. It is in our hearts! I also enjoyed your poem that you found about homes.

    • I agree completely. While I had a wonderful home growing up, for me as an adult, HOME is not just a place, but more of a place where the people I most love are together. The poem was actually written by my mother many years ago, before the dementia.

      • I am sorry that I did not catch who the author was! How sweet and dear your mother was to capture these words and for you to replay them, sharing the wealth, so nice! I tend to read rather quickly while at the library with time constraints put on with a long line of waiting people for the computers! I appreciated the way this could be a children’s book, also the photographs were very fitting to the text.

      • She wrote many children’s stories and poems, but this is one of my favorites. She submitted to many contests and won several awards for her writing, but mostly she created these tales for us, her children, and her grandchildren. Now I’m saving them for her great-grandchildren!

  24. Lovely thoughts, Marylin. I like you you bring so many perspectives together in such small space, like the word “home” does.

    I’ve made my home in so many different places in this world, and the concept of home grows with each new place that becomes a part of it. But ultimately, it’s more about people than place, I think… and a certain kind of contented comfort that comes only when we can relax without fear that we might be cast out for wearing the wrong outfit or showing up late for the appointment.

    • You know, Tracy, a part of me envies all your moving around, living in different places in the world. I think you have a resilience and strength that comes from that. You also have a wonderful way of creating “mini-vacations” on you blog and filling in all the details, and that, too, probably comes from your earlier years of moving around.

      • Thanks for that reminder, Marylin. I do need to be grateful, because it’s true, it did build resilience and strength (although sometimes I went kicking and screaming into that boot camp).

        I never thought of how/why my ongoing and ever-changing “newcomer” status effects how I write up my mini-vacations. But it’s true–most of those tips from insiders take so much for granted; but I know how disorienting it is when a native-guide says, “Turn left at the place where the A&P used to be.”

        And I suspect I’m not quite done moving around.

      • And you have the past experience within you to wander into unchartered territory and confidently ask questions and find your way. This quality–and others, too–make your travel blogs a delightful step-by-step journey for readers.

      • Marylin–you’re helping me chart and clarify my objectives. You must be a teacher, or something.

      • Uh-huh, something like that… ;=)

  25. latinamamapr

    I wish I could write as beautiful as you do. Home is Puerto Rico for me. As soon as I get to San Juan International Airport, the glass doors open, and I close my eyes and hear all the sounds of my island. I have two homes equally important…the one I grew up in and the one I am creating memories with my husband and my children.

    • What beautiful mixed memories you must have! You express the “hearing” of the different sounds so very well, and you are certainly creating memories with your husband and children. Please join us again.

  26. Karen Keim

    Thank you, Marylin. Aunt Mary’s poem and the comments inspire me. . . . I love my home in Arizona, which is bright with sunshine and houses my favorite family photos, colorful paintings, pots, baskets, sculptures and books. Our large, back patio boasts two mesquite trees and a raised garden bed, where I pick vitamin-loaded greens and peppers for lunch. Outside, I admire the desert habitat with my small dog as we take walks. The riparian area that surrounds us welcomes many species of mammals, reptiles and migrating birds. From the Santa Cruz riverbed to the Santa Rita Mountains–silver and blue under a full moon–I draw a deep sense of comfort. I note that I am not an illegal immigrant: I am quite safe here, and I can have cataracts removed to enjoy this home well into my old age.

    P.S. The cataracts are real, and they will be removed in October.

    • Karen, you have found the perfect HOME for yourself, Curt, your dog…and your art! (Readers: Karen is one of the five “girl cousins” who got together recently in Georgia to go through family accumulations.)

  27. A wonderful, moving, inspiring post.

  28. What stars your parents were Marylin as I’m sure you are for your daughter and her family after a lifetime learning from your folks.They were very smart people and your Mum’s poem kind of puts that in some perspective. It certainly wouldn’t be out of place in a school lesson.
    xxx Hugs Galore xxx

    • She never published her “Homes” poem, David, but I agree with you that it would be a good poem for school children. Especially to have the young students describe the animals and their homes that are not covered in the poem. My parents would blush if they knew you call them stars, but they would appreciate it, too. Thank you.

  29. “Home is where the heart is” .. a classic but nevertheless true and all encompassing. Loved the poem and really enjoyed reading this post Marilyn. Thanks for stopping by 😉

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