Carolie Warren has a passion for taking negatives in life and turning them into positives. “A person learns and experiences so much during their lifetime. I believe if you can pass it along to others in a way that can help or enrich them, than you should.”
Warren is all about educating. A public school teacher who advanced three years ago to become principal at Hobart Middle School, Warren put pen to paper to share recent experiences her family had with loved ones afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease.
“Taking care of elderly parents can be a very challenging experience. It’s a terrible thing to watch someone you love go through. It’s hard for everyone who lives with someone who has Alzheimer’s, but its especially confusing to younger children who see grandpa or grandma doing and saying strange things,” said Warren of why she spent the last two years of her life writing and pursuing a publishing deal for her first children’s book, “But, Mama, How Come Grandpa Gets To?”, released on August 8 by Laredo Publishing of Englewood, New Jersey (list price: $16.95).
“But, Mama, How Come Grandpa Gets To?” is currently available at: County Line Orchard in Hobart, Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and Laredopublishing.com, along with other online book and media outlets.
“Alzheimer’s came into my life only in recent years,” Warren said. “My mother-in-law was diagnosed about six years ago, and she passed away about a year and a half ago.” At that time her father-in-law came to live with the Warren family and he himself began showing signs of Alzheimer’s. “He’s still hanging in there, but his forgetfulness has gotten progressively worse with time. My daughter-in-law’s mother also had early onset of Alzheimer’s, so it’s a something that has greatly affected my family.”
Warren told of the stress of dealing on a daily basis with Alzheimer’s-stricken loved ones. She underscored it by telling of one particularly stressful afternoon on the home front.
“One day I came home from an especially stressful day at work to find a big mess in the house. I sat on the edge of the bed and almost cried,” recalled Warren. “But then I remembered the years spent at the mill working hard, being a good provider, giving love, and doing all those selfless things for the sake of the family. Suddenly, having a mess to clean up wasn’t such a big deal after remembering what this person had done for family during their younger days.”
That epiphany on the edge of her bed comes to life in the 32-page, beautifully illustrated “But, Mama, How Come Grandpa Gets To?” The book’s central character is a toddler named Bronson who consistently questions why grandpa gets to put his feet on the couch, doesn’t have to pick up after himself, can crank the TV up really loud, forgets to flush the toilet and other annoying things.
Bronson’s queries receive a litany of responses that serve to remind us all of just how much our parents sacrificed, struggled and endured to make a better life for their family. This book not only helps explain Alzheimer’s to children, but reminds adults our elderly are well-deserving of our respect and care.
Although very petite in physical build, Warren is a woman clearly fortified with strong spirituality and deep love of family. As with other challenges in her life, Warren looked for the positive in the negative situation and in doing so fell back on her foundation of education.
“I graduated from River Forest High School, so I’ve always lived here in the region. I went to college right after graduating, but I didn’t finish and get my Bachelor’s Degree until 31 years later,” reflected Warren. “I got married, had kids, and there were a lot of accidents and injuries in our family, so my education got put on the back burner, but I never gave up my goal and eventually, I went back to school and got my degree in 2001 at the age of 49.”
Fueled by the accomplishment, Warren returned to school 18 months later and earned her Masters degree, then tackled the studies needed to become a principal. She eventually earned an EDS (Education Specialist) degree and superintendent’s license. Although she loves her position as Principal at Hobart Middle School, Warren said she hopes to one day utilize her EDS to become an assistant superintendent.
Warren’s passion to teach and pass along knowledge, inspired the utilization of what she learned researching and living with Alzheimer’s day to day into something to make the same road traveled by others a little easier. Drawing from a journal she has kept, Warren has created a tool to help parents better explain the sometimes strange behavior youngsters see from those with Alzheimer’s.
“This was never something I expected to write a book about, but I experienced it, and I wrote it as much as therapy for myself as to help others,” said Warren, overjoyed by the response her debut offering has received.
“I’ve been invited to speak and do a book signing at a symposium for Leeza Gibbons’ Care Connection being held at Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center Foundation in Joliet, Ill. on November 16 (leezascareconnection.org). I’ve also been invited to do a book signing (10 a.m. to noon) at Barnes & Noble in Valparaiso on Saturday, October 12. A public book signing for hometown folks takes place at 6 p.m. on Monday, October 21 at Hobart High School in the board room.
The trek to publishing her experiences was a laborious one for Warren, who submitted her idea and her manuscript to 19 publishers before finally getting a favorable response from Raquel Benatar at Laredo Publishing, who helped team Warren with illustrator Fernando Molinari who lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
“I looked at samples of different illustrators that Laredo works with and felt Fernando was the perfect artist for this book,” said Warren. “I loved his muted colors. His work had a depth, a quality and a maturity you don’t usually see in children’s books.”
Through emails Warren conveyed her ideas for the visuals and Fernado embraced those ideas and mixed them with his own vision, to create a collection of colorful drawings that really capture the emotions of the story being told.
Although out to promote sales of “But, Mama, How Come Grandpa Gets To?”, Warren has not forgotten her motivation in writing the book – to education and help others dealing with Alzheimer’s. To that end, she personally incurred costs to mail her book to various Alzheimer’s help groups in all 50 states.
“It’d be wonderful to sell a million copies, but more important to me is that people read it and that it hopefully helps them care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s,” concluded Warren.
The Lake County Library system has already secured a few copies of Warren’s book and the author hopes libraries around the country will likewise come to offer it to their patrons.
Warren said she is excited about speaking at the Care Connection symposium and some radio interviews currently in the scheduling process. She hopes to do more speaking engagements and advocacy work on behalf of Alzheimer’s patients and caregivers.
Warren has several links to Alzheimer’s help and information sites and Warren blogs frequently at her web site: butmama.com.