Tag Archives: CASA


Pink and red tulips ~ a touch of spring in winter. (All photographs by Marylin Warner)

Pink and red tulips ~ a touch of spring in winter. (All photographs by Marylin Warner)

Valentine cupcakes: rich chocolate with white sprinkled icing and strawberry accents--and silver hearts!

Valentine cupcakes: rich chocolate with white sprinkled icing and strawberry accents–and silver hearts!

Hug him and Elmo tells you: "Hugs and kisses" ~ "Elmo loves you!"  and he makes kissing sounds!

Hug him and Elmo tells you: “Hugs and kisses” ~ “Elmo loves you!” and he makes kissing sounds!

Dear Mom,

Imagine a day many years ago, when a substitute filled in for one of the teachers in my elementary school. February 14th was a day of great expectations: home room mothers were bringing in cookies and juice for treats; construction paper hearts adorned the windows; and all the children’s decorated boxes were lined up at the back of the room, filled during the previous days with numerous little cards and greetings from classmates.

Imagine, Mom, how one substitute made sure that no child was disappointed when it was time to read the valentines in the boxes. Who sensed which children might not receive many cards–the shy or lonely ones, those who were often left out of playground games, those whose boxes had very few greetings even on the day before—and who do you think played Cupid?  The night before Valentine’s Day, what if that one special person recruited me to help (I was an “older kid”–in 6th grade, I think), and what if she and I addressed two special cards for each of the children who otherwise might not receive many?

One was store bought, with funny cartoons and cute messages…and a sucker tied to the card with a ribbon. For each of these cards it was my job was to print the student’s name on the envelope with a crayon, and on the card I printed messages like “You are my best secret pal!” or “Happy Valentine’s Day to the nicest boy (or girl) in the class!”  You were the special person, Mom, who gave me the job of being anonymously creative, and I loved it!

The second card was one of the common little folded greetings sold in packs of a dozen at the dime store. Do you remember printing the student’s name on the envelope (writing like a kid), tucking the folded heart inside the envelope, and then adding little candy hearts printed with special messages. Five candies in each envelope! Do you remember how much fun it was to prepare these special valentines?

The next day imagine us arriving early at school. I went with you into the classroom. While you set up materials for the day, I delivered the extra special cards to the boxes that obviously had fewer cards than the others. I had a great time, and I promised not to tell anyone.  Until now. 😉

You don’t remember the wonderful things you’ve done for children, Mom, but this Valentine’s Day story illustrates one way you cared for all children: your own children and grandchildren; children you helped in CASA and taught in Sunday School, in kindergarten classes, and wherever you encountered children of all ages. I remember, Mom, the difference you made day after day, year after year, with your full, kind and loving heart. I write this post so your great-grandchildren will know you better.

John Updike wrote: “We are most alive when we’re in love.”  Which explains why you have lived so long and been so content in spite of the dementia you have now…you’ve always been in love, with life and with children.

Author Martha Atwood said: The Eskimos had 52 nems for snow because it was important to them; there ought to be as many for love."

Author Margaret Atwood said: “The Eskimos had 52 names for snow because it was important to them; there ought to be as many for love.” (Jim, our grandchildren and our dog Maggie loving their hike together in the snow.)



Filed under Abilene Kansas, Dementia/Alzheimer's, Fort Scott Kansas, lessons for great-grandchildren, special quotations


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

Home Is (also) Where The Heart WAS








Dear Mom,

From the time I first began drawing pictures, one of my favorite topics was houses. Big fancy houses, charming cottages, duplexes or cabins; each home was a happy, welcoming place. I always colored at least one window yellow, to show a light shining there, and of course there always pets, especially dogs, but it was assumed they were inside or in the back yard. I wasn’t good at drawing animals, but I was pretty good at drawing dog houses.

I remember one of our rides in the country. We passed a lovely big stone house with green shutters, and I said what a happy home it was. You said it needed more flowers, and it needed to have the front door open, and the windows, too. You said that inside some houses it wasn’t always what it looked like from the outside.

When I was young, I wouldn’t have understood that comment. To me, home was a haven, rambunctious and busy, but also warm, welcoming and safe. It wasn’t until I was fourteen that during a sleepover at a friend’s house, I saw a different kind of home. Her younger brother crept into her bedroom during the night and whispered, “He’s back.” She jumped up, and in the dark we pushed furniture against the closed door. Then we hid in the closet, held our breaths and listened. Until that moment I didn’t realize that some parents got drunk, and when they did, the children trembled in fear, dreading what might happen next.

Later, when you volunteered with CASA as a Court Appointed Special Advocate, I understood. You became the listener and the voice for children who couldn’t or wouldn’t speak for themselves. I was proud to have a mother who advocated on behalf of children.

Thank you, Mom, for making a home that was always loving and safe, and for doing your best to protect children from homes that weren’t.

Love, Marylin


Filed under importance of doing good things, lessons about life, making a difference

Buried Treasures

Dear Mom,

Last week when I was with you, when we got ready to take a ride I took your jacket from the back of the closet.  Hidden in a pocket were very old cookie crumbs wrapped in a piece of plastic, along with what might have once been apple or peach slices.  You squeezed one and shrugged, saying, “Hmm, well I think we can throw that away.”

Thinking about that still makes me smile, Mom.  It also reminds me of the surprises we found five years ago when I moved you and Dad to Presbyterian Village.  It had been hard deciding what to leave behind at the big house and what to take to the two-bedroom apartment.

It was only a few miles, and the movers had carefully transported the bureaus and display cabinets and chests of drawers in tact so we wouldn’t have to pack and then unpack the contents.  The next morning as we settled into the apartment, you and I discovered some unexpected items.  A moldy partial sandwich hidden at the back of Dad’s sock drawer; your missing driver’s license tucked beneath a chair cushion; your gold PEO pin stuck in the toe of a shoe.

We were amazed at some of the things we found, shocked by others.  Remember the leftover fabric you once stored in the bottom drawers of the big green cabinets, planning to someday make baby quilts for friends.  As you and I  emptied the colorful squares and scraps of ribbons, at the back of the drawer we found mouse droppings that lead us to a little skeletal carcass.  You wrinkled your nose and said, “Well I think we can throw this away now, unless you want it for something.”  Cringing, but also laughing, we emptied the drawer into a garbage bag and I hurried it out to the dumpster.  Then we scrubbed everything with strong cleaner.  When one of the staff came to see how you were settling into your apartment, you and I were drying the drawers with a hand-held hair dryer, and Dad was sitting in his chair, shaking his head.

One of things I carefully saved from the drawer, Mom, was a piece of linen rolled in tissue paper.  The pattern was partially completed with your careful, colorful stitching.  Flowers and cross-stitch borders surrounded little children’s happy faces, and in the middle was this verse:  “My Day Is Complete…I Heard A Child Laugh.”  I took it home and carefully washed it, Mom, and then I matched the thread and finished the handwork.

The framed sampler now hangs in the hallway near your great-grandchildren’s rooms.  On the back I’ve written information about when you started the handwork, when I finished it, and how this reflects your love for children and your philosophy that a happy child is one of the great joys in life.

Your mother had the same dedication to children, and for years she was the Sunday school teacher at their Brethren Church in Plattsburg, Mo.  You were a kindergarten teacher in Kansas City, and a Sunday School teacher and a CASA volunteer in Fort Scott.  Your daughter, son-in-law, and numerous nieces and nephews and great-nieces and nephews have been teachers.  Your granddaughter has been a Head Start and Reading Recovery teacher and is now devoted to teaching adult GED students to achieve their dreams.  And your youngest grandchild has continued the tradition in China, where he teaches English to young children of all ages.

The framed stitchery piece is a reminder of your devotion to children, and the wonderful continuing values of your family.  It also reminds me that sometimes you have to be willing to dig through the messes in life if you’re going to find the buried treasures.

You’ve been a great teacher, Mom, in many ways.  Thank you.

Love, Marylin


Filed under memories for grandchildren