Category Archives: teachers


finger pressure

foot pressure points




Dear Mom,

April is just around the corner, but the snows and winter winds are still whipping across both Kansas and Colorado.  As everyone sniffles and sneezes, I remember two of the  “healthy” things you used to do for us.

SHIATSU.  Acupuncture is done with needles; the Shiatsu acupressure you studied in the 60s was done with finger pressure, also known as Reflexology. When Dad’s sinuses started aching, you would massage and push/hold the undersides of his toes until they popped…and immediately Dad felt better.

The bottoms of our feet were virtual healing fields in your hands.  You never tickled our feet, but held them firmly in your hands and massaged, pushing and holding the toes, arches and heels, relieving headaches, back pain, and insomnia. And then you taught me to locate the pressure points on my own feet, too, for all kinds of health benefits. Foot rubs have amazing health benefits!

PINEAPPLE.  Recently I read that fresh pineapple is the new multiple-purpose healing fruit. That was no surprise. I grew up watching you buy fresh pineapple, slice it into raw chunks for eating, bake it with ham or chicken or sweet potatoes, and mix it into salads and desserts.  If the grocery store didn’t have fresh pineapple, you bought canned and rinsed off the syrup.  Whenever one of us had a sore throat, you made hot herbal tea and simmered it with pineapple pieces.

The article I read gave all the current data, Mom, and your instincts were right! Pineapple eases indigestion, arthritis, and sinusitis; its manganese is important to developing strong bones and connective tissue. It is also high in Bomelain, an enzyme considered to be an anti-inflammatory, discouraging blood clot formation for frequent fliers.  And this is for Kate Middleton’s royal pregnancy:  pineapple is a natural folk remedy for curing morning sickness!

In addition to advising our blog friends to eat fresh pineapple and rub their own and each other’s feet (not at the same time, though)  let’s also remind them of special days during the last full week of March.

March 27 is National “Joe” Day:  If you aren’t crazy about your name, this is the day to call yourself “Joe” (or, I guess, maybe Jo-Anne?)   March 29 is Smoke and Mirrors Day: This is the day of illusions, when things are not what they appear to be…intended to be used as part of mysteries or teases, not for harm.

And March 30 is “I Am In Control Day”—on March 30, 1981, President Ronald Reagan was wounded in an assassination attempt. Secretary of State Alexander Haig said, “I am in control here.” The press focused on only this part of his statement, and eventually Haig resigned.

Now the context is to remind yourself that YOU ARE IN CONTROL.  (Maybe this is in response to the March 9th Panic Day I mentioned in an earlier blog. If you did have a Panic Day then, you’re probably ready to get things under control now.)

We can joke and have fun with all these special days, Mom, but this last week of March is also getting ready for Easter.  Next week I’ll share the poem you wrote before Easter in 1980, “ In God We Trust.”  Until then, thank you for the fresh pineapple, the hot tea remedies and healing foot rubs, and especially for the loving attention you showered on us all.  Love, Marylin




Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, teachers


mom kindergar

This is not the post I originally planned for this week.

After what happened yesterday at Sandy Hook school in Connecticut, I couldn’t write a holiday post. This is one of those rare times when I am actually grateful that my mother has advanced dementia.

Those of you who have been reading this blog for awhile know that my mother, Mary Elizabeth Shepherd, now 94, was once a kindergarten teacher. She is third from the left in the back row of the 1940s picture above.

All of her life, my mother has protected, loved and nurtured children of all ages. She was a CASA volunteer, a Sunday school teacher, a substitute teacher, a devoted mother and grandmother, and a volunteer tutor for children who needed help. Anyone or any thing that hurts children wounds her deeply. I am grateful she is oblivious of this tragedy; it would break her heart if she understood.

Charles Dickens, author of GREAT EXPECTATIONS, wrote this:  “Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried than before—more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle.”

In conclusion, author C.S. Lewis faced a personal, profound grief and loss during his life.  In his book A GRIEF OBSERVED, he wrote: “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” During this time of sorrow and fear, may we join hands and hearts and cry together, our tears raining upon the blinding dust of earth.

Hummel figurine of children singing and playing instruments.  (photo by Marylin Warner)

Hummel figurine of children singing and playing instruments. (photo by Marylin Warner)

Statue of young readers, Abilene Public Library, Abilene, KS. (photo by Marylin Warner)

Statue of young readers, Abilene Public Library, Abilene, KS. (photo by Marylin Warner)


Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, teachers

LEFT? or RIGHT? (and we’re not talking politics)

The left hands of six good friends and very talented writers. Can you tell which ones are right-handed or ambidextrous?

Dear Mom,

I remember first grade, proudly holding my hand up TWICE in answer to the teacher’s two questions. First question: “How many of you are right handed?” (We were 5 and 6 year olds, it was the first day of school, and she had to explain the question to some of the students.) In answer, I held up my right hand, as did many of the others. Then she asked, “How many of you are left handed?” I paused a second and then held up my left hand.

The teacher gave me an irritated oh-no-here-we-go look. But after I showed her I could print my name with my right hand AND my left hand, she tapped my right hand with a ruler and said, “From now on, beginning in this classroom, you will use this hand.”

At home I continued to use both hands, but at school I avoided the ruler and joined the majority of right-handed students. Maybe it bothered me more than I realized. In 5th grade I began “mirror writing”—even in cursive—writing from right to left. I could write it quickly, and anyone could easily read it by holding the paper up to a mirror, but the teacher wasn’t impressed, so I stopped doing it at school.

Well Mom, guess what tomorrow, Monday, August 13th is?  It’s International Left-Handers’ Day!  In honor of those good old “confused about which hand to use” days, here are some statistics. About 90% of the population is right-handed, so that leaves 10% left-handed (but maybe some were actually ambidextrous and lumped into the big group against their wills). And speaking of ambidextrous, there’s an unproved medical theory that difficult or stressful births often happen among babies who grow up to be left-handed or ambidextrous. But the AMA doesn’t endorse it. Just as most religions do not accept the ancient superstition that left-handers were more prone to evil and are either weaker or stronger on both sides of the body than right-handers.

Eight of our presidents have been left-handed, most recently George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. On a Qwerty (standard) keyboard, 3,000 words can be typed with only the left hand; 56% of the touch-typing keystrokes are made with the left hand. In fencing, about half of the participants are left handed.

What I really want to say to you on August 13 is Thanks, Mom.  At home I could always use whichever hand I wanted. When I was learning to knit, you taught me the basic stitches, but you also took me to a left-handed knitter to learn, and then you let me choose. And when I did mirror writing, you were irritated only because I’d actually written a sentence on the mirror…with your lipstick. After I cleaned it off, you had me write on paper, and you complimented me, saying I was creative and talented.

Years later, a teacher myself, in a classroom of high school students I’d sometimes quickly write information on the board in mirror-writing. The students who could read it without hesitation would nod and smile, but most of the others had to squint and  figure it out. No one felt bad. It was okay either way. You had taught me that.

It was just one of the many things you taught by example, Mom, and I thank you.

I’ll be coming from Colorado to visit you in Kansas soon, and together we’ll celebrate International Left-Hander’s Day a few days late. I’ll bring the lipstick, we’ll write on the mirror, and then we’ll celebrate with cookies.   Love you, Mom.   Marylin

With my mom and Flat Grace (hand-colored by mom’s great-grandaughter, Grace)



Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, teachers, teaching, writing

“Thanks, Mary” ~ Guest Blogger, Carolyn Neil Franzini

Dear Mary,

Remembering those high school days years ago, the images are still crystal clear…the “in group girls” with ratted hair, matching wool skirts and sweaters purchased at Nineteen South, the place to buy in Fort Scott.  The dances at “Teen Town” on Thursday nights and football games on Friday nights were the places to go.

All were aware of the look and the things to do, but of course not all were in the “in group.” I was certainly down the economic ladder steps from most in the “in group.” One is always aware of where their position is as a result of family income, race or other unavoidable labels. Maybe I would not have liked being in the “in group” even if that had been a choice. I was okay and I knew I would improve my life when I had the opportunity after college.

I had my own group in my grade, but I also had a friend a grade younger than me. Your family and ours went to the same church, and Marylin and I went to CGF youth activities together. You and Ray were very supportive of me. I often spent the night at your house after church youth group meetings on Wednesday evenings. I loved to spend the night at your house. It was much nicer than mine; the central heat and air always provided temperature comfort, and you always made a lovely breakfast. Sometimes it was food I had not had before, like corned beef gravy on toast. Sometimes we were were almost late to school because we wanted to sleep in just five more minutes. I always remember how I felt in growing up situations, and staying at your house alwasy provided an “I’m okay” feeling.

Thanks for being a warm remembrance, Mary. With love, Carolyn


Hi, Mom. Carolyn wrote you this memory of growing up and spending many nights at our house after youth group. She was always very special to you and Dad, almost like another daughter, and even when we painted my room a bright yellow, you grimaced but applauded our efforts.

Now you would applaud all of Carolyn’s efforts, Mom, and would be very proud of her.

Carolyn and her husband live in Morehead, KY. They have three grown children and two grandchildren. She is a retired educator and treats every day as a gift. Learning about other cultures is her passion, and Carolyn has visited China seven times, once taking Kentucky students along with her for the cultural experience.

She recently ran a 5K race with her daughter and 6-year-old grandson, and she’s running for city council election in November.

Yes, Mom, you and Dad would be very proud of Carolyn. And I’m very proud of you, and the warm welcome you gave to my friends. Kindness and hospitality were your trademarks. I love you, Mom.   Marylin



Filed under lessons about life, memories for great-grandchildren, teachers, writing