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JBLM spouse proves age doesn’t matter

Cassandra Liston a strong advocate for childhood education

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Excited to tell her mother the good news, Casandra Liston anxiously picked up the phone - only to learn that her mom was hospitalized, fighting cancer for a second time, and hadn't told anyone. It was Mother's Day and Liston had just found out she was pregnant again - months after giving birth. It would her first Mother's Day with her now 22-month-old, but her mother's last as a grandmother.

"We had PCSed to JBLM only months earlier," Liston said. "And I went into a tailspin."

But this military spouse is a fighter.

By age 18, she was already a licensed practical nurse and raising a stepchild with her soon-to-be-husband, Adam. In fact, while pregnant with her last child, she cared for her ailing mother and worked as a drug detoxification counselor at a local jail in New Mexico.

Liston turned 21 this year.

"My mother taught me that age doesn't matter in life," said Liston, whose husband is deployed with McChord Field's 627th Security Forces Squadron; her daughter was born while he was downrange.

"She gave me the freedom I needed and that made me who I am today. I have big dreams for myself and I want to show my kids what they can be if they want to."

This stepmother of a 5-year-old, and mother of a 22-month-old and 4-month-old also holds two jobs - one as a licensed child passenger safety technician and another as consultant for Usborne Books.

"I was researching child safety and how to fit three car seats into one car," she said, "when I stumbled upon the certification. That's when I decided to help and train other parents. As parents, we worry about breastfeeding over formula, pacifiers over thumb sucking, but there's no debating correct car safety use. Auto accidents are the number one killer of children after one year old."

Every car seat in the U.S. passes the same safety test, she said. "A $300 car seat will work just as well as the $40 Walmart version, if installed properly."

As an advocate for childhood education, Liston is also involved with Usborne Books - a direct sales company whose objective is to promote children's education and literacy.

"The desire to read decreases by more than forty percent between kindergarten and fourth grade," she said. "By high school, only 19 percent want to read. Just 30 minutes a day can develop your relationship so much more than handing your teenagers an iPad."

Through interactive books that cater to every age from baby to teenager, Usborne is the 2012 Children's Publisher of the Year and hosts fundraisers, read-a-thons, book fairs, and grant-matching; 80 percent of the company's books are only $10.

"A book party is a great idea for a second or third baby shower," Liston said, "especially when the expectant mom already has all the essentials."

As if she isn't busy enough, Liston's next project is making homecoming outfits for her girls for when their daddy returns in a month.

"I didn't know how to sew," she said, "but I've learned since he left and have made tutu-skirts, T-shirts and headbands out of his ACUs as a surprise."

In the midst of it all, she also preparing for major surgery to remove her tonsils in two weeks.

When asked what advice she would give to other young spouses, she said, "This is your life, make it all you want it to be."

To contact Liston about home presentations and more, email her at or visit  To schedule a free child car safety consultation in your area visit

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