Monday, December 5, 2011

It's A Bird! It's A Plane!

Tick, tock, tick, tock.

A page turns.

Tick, tock, tick, tock.

The tea pot whistles.

Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle. The opening of a cabinet door. The clink of china on china.

Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle. The creak of a divan.

A pair of brown eyes look up from times font and watches the rim of a dainty china tea cup disappear behind lips stained with Instant Mocha. Amazingly enough, the way she curves her lips over the rim makes it impossible for any of the lip stick to come off.

The eyes return to the book and, while there are still 30 minutes left of reading time, reading is an absolute joy, and with over 1000 books in the house, there is something for everyone.

Tick, tock, tick, tock. Another page turns.


The kitchen door busts open and in walks muscles and angled jaw line.

"Hey, kids! Watcha up to?" a voice hollers. All attention is centered on the broad shoulders plowing through the kitchen and into the living room where the divans hold two little girls, one mother, and one grandmother.

"I fixed the light switch in the garage and stopped at Mike's for some watermelon. I took your car to get the oil changed and got to talkin' to the preacher's wife. Did you know Mrs. (So-and-so) broke her hip? Geez is that gonna be difficult for her kids."

Swoosh! He sits down in the arm chair, his eyes snapping with energy. "What are y'all doing? What's going on tonight? Oh!" He pops back up. "I forgot to get y'all a new television. I'll be back."

The kitchen door slams.

My grandmother looks at my mother and raises an eyebrow. "I guess he didn't need any answers to his questions."

Eyes go back to books.

That was my uncle. My mother's baby brother. The bull in my grandmother's china cabinet. I don't think he would've appreciated reading time.

He took care of things. And of people. He calls. He would walk across a highway if he saw you on the other side just to ask how you did. I think Ben Franklin really used the blood in my uncle's veins to make electricity.

He was larger than life to me, always busy, always in the middle of it all, and he looked so much like Superman, or Clark Kent, or Christopher Reeve, whichever.

I'll call him Uncle Clark. So, one quick question -- What the heck is a divan? I always looked for them in Grandmother's living room. I still haven't found them.

Friday, November 4, 2011


Every once in awhile we are given rare opportunities to be angels on earth. It is in these moments we find out how selfless we are. It is a greater test than one of our physical stamina, though sometimes being selfless takes physical strength.

My mother has been tested to the limits of her endurance throughout her life. Why that is, I cannot tell you. God has his reasons for things and it is pointless to analyze, explain, or question. He does not make mistakes...

I haven't written about Bill and his medical condition for a few months. This is to mirror how it was for me as a child...done...over...a thing of the past.

That is a luxury we have as children. We don't have to pick up pieces, do damage control, smooth ruffled feathers, or dry tears. Our parents, on the other hand, have to see a problem through to its end.

There were lots of doctor visits, tests, sleepless nights, prayers, and medicine. I am sure she was on edge for 15 months, waiting for seizures, and praying they would stop.

Detecting a seizure in an infant is almost impossible. Often doctors miss them even while the child is in their care. I know my mother watched my brother like a hawk, noticing every twitch, every day dreamy expression, willing God to allow her to see within Bill and predict when and where it would happen.

I know this because I could feel it within her as a child. Often I prayed for her as much as I did Bill. I may not have liked church, but I used the direct line to God to exhaustion.

Whenever I think back on what my parents must have gone through, I am always awed. I used to wonder how they captured the strength to get through those years.

As a thirty-six-year-old I now know from where they drew their strength...


A phenomenal emotion. Powerful. Determined. Selfless and true.

Some of you might disagree with me and say it was God that gave them the strength, but you are forgetting what God is. He is love. God is love.

So, it was love that gave my mother the ability to lie on a gurney in Sunday dress, hose, and heels with Bill laying on her torso, not moving a muscle for three hours straight because it was the best and most peaceful sleep he'd had in awhile.

My weakened her and strengthened her...and she did great things.

"And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 13:13

Monday, October 24, 2011

Choir Practice

Mom and Dad joined the choir at church. That left us at home with a baby sitter.

Poor baby sitter...she never knew what hit her.

I enjoyed many acrobatic feats while my parents were away and the baby sitter wanted me to like her, which I quickly figured out, so she let me do pretty much whatever I wanted...

Use the stair railing as a ladder, stand on the coffee table and pretend it was a stage, pretend the edge of the back of the couch was a balance beam, use the floor in the kitchen as a bowling alley...

But, the absolute best was the slide I created...

Our couch was so ugly. It was brown with some kind of harvest gold design on it. The pillows were detachable and it had one long, very long, cushion that stretched from arm to arm. This very long cushion came in quite handy.

My sisters and I would pull the cushion off, carry it up the stairs, set it down, climb on, wrap our legs around the person in front of us, and then...SWOOSH!

We pushed off and slid, and slid, and slid down the stairs! Over, and over, and over again! It was amazing and fast and fun!

The wind wisked through our hair, the room lit up with our giggles, our cheers, our cries of bravery! We were fearless and reckless!

And...don't worry...I always put myself in front so if someone got hurt, it was probably going to be me.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

First Concert

Did I mention I can sing? And that I sing all the time and at the top of my lungs?

You'd think that would turn my music teacher off, but she seemed to appreciate me. Of course, she was pretty kooky herself. She was a child of the 60s and had Fawcett hair and a Mary Tyler Moore wardrobe.

She ran concerts for every grade level. In first grade, we had some kind of square dance thing. And I had a solo.

I don't remember the song, but I felt pretty important standing up there singing and I wasn't embarrassed, or nervous. When one is already loud, boisterous, and constantly excited, one gets used to being watched.

Though, this time, the stares and glances were not ones of shock, discomfiture, or fright.

I was a good singer. It was my talent and no one was going to tell me how to do it, or what to sing.

So, if you're keeping score...I can sing and I read more than just Dr. Suess. I am paving the way to feeling united with Little Orphan Annie and Anne of Green Gables.

Do you find it odd that both are orphaned, named Anne, and are red-headed?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

It's A Hard-Knock Life

Saturday mornings were almost as bad as Sunday mornings in our house.

On Sunday, you were forced to get up and stuff yourself into tights and a dress, not a twirly one, and sit on a hard, sharp, pointy church pew for an hour, listening to someone spout words so foreign in meaning it made your head hurt if you tried to make sense of them.

Saturday mornings were almost as bad.

While I was up at the crack of dawn and did get in some playing time before Mom got up, she usually appeared before I had a chance to accomplish everything I had planned for the day.

She would emerge from her boudoir in her maroon, or pink, satin pajamas, robe, and slippers and say, “Girls! It’s time for a family meeting!”

Those words pained me. They wrenched at my gut and made me want to stomp my feet and scream at the top of my lungs.

We never hopped to right away and she would have to summon us a second time. Someone would shout, “Coming!”, and she would say in her best teacher voice, “Coming is in the process of.”

Wendy, Maria, and I would trudge into the living room and sit down on the poop brown couch with frustrated moans. It was like going to our deaths.

Then Mom started talking. No, ordering.

“Kara, you will pick up the living and dining room. Dust the surfaces, to include the window sills and blinds.”

“Maria, you will pick up the girls’ bedroom and bathroom, to include taking the towels to the laundry room.”

“Wendy, you will pick up Bill’s room, to include putting away the folded laundry in the basket on his floor.”

She would look at each one of us as she spoke, her words succinct and deliberate. Her black eyebrows would raise over her blue eyes and we knew she would remember exactly what she told us to do.

“Do we all understand?” she would ask.

Nods and sighs and groans were her answer.

“Good,” she would say. “Now get started.”

Maybe Saturday mornings were worse than Sundays. At least I could say I didn’t understand what the man in robes was saying so I didn’t have to pay attention.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Shining Star

I have a star on my hand. It has been drawn with blue marker, only my skin has turned it to sort of a bluish-green.

My teacher put it there.

I know she drew it on my hand because I had a good day and this was her way of communicating that to my mother.

I wasn’t that impressed with the prize, especially when I had no idea what I had done to deserve it.

I suppose I hadn’t yelled at anyone that day. I distinctly remember one instance when I told a group of girls, “You think you’re just so smart because you’re in Ms. Otto’s class!”.

They looked at me like I’d grown two heads. But, what ELSE do you say to girls who flock together and don’t let anyone else into their group?

Mean girls…

Cute hair, cute ribbons, cute clothes, cute dimples…

I did not fit in.

I didn’t really want to, though. I didn’t have any desire to play dolls, or house at recess, which is what they did. I preferred to play with the boys. Dodge ball, kickball, tag, etc.

Much better.

Though the boys never excluded me, I knew I was doing the "wrong" thing. Boys weren't going to invite me to slumber parties, or skating parties, or ask me to sit with them at lunch.

I understood that I didn't really fit in most places. My teacher had issues with me, the girls avoided me, the boys tolerated me...I knew this.

Then, one day, I got an admirer all my own...

In my wranglers and button down shirt, I walked up to the librarian and said in a very proper tone because he was the librarian, “Excuse me, but would you have any books by Rudyard Kipling?”.

After he survived his heart attack at hearing that come out of the mouth of a first grader, I became the twinkle in his eye. He didn't need me to be a boy, or wear ribbons, or listen.

I was fine just as I was.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Fashion Nonsense

I have absolutely no fashion sense. I know what I like and I usually wear what I like despite fashion, sex appeal, or Labor Day rules.

I am a Wrangler girl. Or, a Levi Strauss girl. Both brands were bought from Wiener’s Department store.

Jeans were my choice of apparel because more could be done in jeans. It didn’t matter if you were running, or jumping, or climbing, or hanging upside down because nothing “unmentionable” could be seen and denim was allowed to be dirty, or ripped.

I didn’t particularly care for dresses.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I loved dresses that twirled. If they were “plain jane” what was the point in wearing them? I didn’t turn any more heads in those dresses than I did in my Wranglers or Levi’s.

There was one more plus to wearing jeans…

I could wear my favorite shirt. It was pink.

I know, shocking! My favorite shirt was pink!

But, I didn’t care about the color since the quote written on the shirt summed up my whole attitude, reason for living, and belief system.

People would see me coming and know EXACTLY what I was about. It gave me leave to prove it as well, which I did regularly.

So, exactly what was the quote on my shirt you ask?


Score for me, for girls everywhere, and for my mother who had the sense to buy it for me.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Febrile Convulsions…

That was what the doctor called them. I didn’t know that as a child, of course. My next memory of Bill and his health dealt with the giving of his medicine. (In a teaspoon of applesauce.)

I do know, that after that day, I was more by his side than ever before. I wasn’t waiting for something to happen again. I wasn’t scared.

I was soaking up him. Because, in my six-year-old mind, Bill was fine. He was smiling and playing and doing all the things he used to do. I thought it was all over, and I wasn’t going to waste a second.

But, it wasn’t. He continued to have seizures until he was two. Grace went with my mom for some of his doctor visits and Mom told me the Febrile Convulsions may not be the root of the problem.

He might have an immature brain stem. It would develop over time, but there was no telling what it would do to him in the long run.

It is important to tell you that I didn’t know about the brain stem concern until I was 13. Mom also told me, at that time, that the doctors said he wouldn’t be able to walk or talk.

But, the only effects I saw from those horrible tremors was a boy who concentrated really, really hard on crawling, and climbing, and walking, and talking.

If he hadn’t been so determined maybe it wouldn’t have happened. And, of course it didn’t happen the normal way. The walking, the talking…it all has its own story.

People called this his struggle and his triumph.

And, I might agree with them…but I think it was harder to grow up with four women in the house…

Saturday, September 3, 2011

All Is Not Quiet On The Homefront

An ear-splitting scream shoots through my brain. My eyes flash open and I see pink walls and my mother bolting to the door…

My bedroom was pink.

I know…yuck.

But, I shared that room with my sisters and they liked pink, so I endured it for their sake.

I am still in the first grade and still taking naps, but I think my mother just made us lay down because she was tired, and on this particular day my cousin was visiting.

This was her first time to visit and spend the night with us. We were all very excited and probably screaming and running all through the house.

Hence, the nap.

We were all lying down in our pink bedroom. My mother, too. I had my eyes closed, but I wasn’t asleep.

Still, the scream from Bill’s room would’ve woken me even if I’d been dead.

My mother shot up and crashed through the room, flying to the door and to Bill. I knew something was wrong. I could tell by his scream. He sounded like he was hurt, but how could that be? He was in his crib.

I followed Mom.

I know I did, but I don’t remember how she got to the living room with Bill. And I don’t remember our neighbor, Miss Holly coming over. She was there, though, beside my mom and watching Bill’s every breath.

And then, I watch my mother, holding nine-month-old Bill in her lap as his eyes roll back into his head.

She cries his name, calling him back to her, her tone conveying a fear that wrenches at my heart and trembles in my blood.

Bill’s eyes were white. Not brown. They rolled and the bottom dropped out of my stomach.

Mom stuck her finger down his throat, and he vomited. I know now that she was keeping him from swallowing his tongue.

I was paralyzed. My thoughts, my body…frozen. All I knew was a fear so acute I could barely breathe.

My sisters and cousin were gone from my mind, as I watched my mother struggle helplessly. I knew the ambulance was coming. In the fog that was my thoughts, I heard Mom say that to Miss Holly.

At some point, I came back to myself…someone had to check on the girls…

I left the living room and went down the long hallway to my pink bedroom where my sisters and cousin were waiting.

I don’t know their impressions of this day now that they are adults, but I remember having to answer a bunch of questions.

Is Bill gonna be ok? Is he hungry? Why won’t he stop crying? Why is Miss Holly here? Can I go home to my house?

I did the best I could and half-way through their questions I realized I was calming down. My sisters and my cousin needed me and that helped me focus.

The ambulance was coming, Miss Holly was with my mother, and Bill was still crying…so he was breathing.

I stayed with the girls. I don’t remember the ambulance arriving, or anything else that day.

However, some images are very striking. So much, in fact, that when I think of that day…I am there.

An ear-splitting scream. Rolling eyes. Tortured cries. Vomit.

And pink walls. Cotton candy pink…

Sunday, August 14, 2011


From where she sprang, I do not know, but she had to come from The Glass Is Half-full Chantilly Lace And A Pretty Face Dance Like No One Is Watching It Doesn’t Matter If People Know What Color Your Underwear Is, Texas.

She’s always got her hair let down and a deck of cards ready to go. She can cook as well as her mother and has a smile that melted her father’s heart.

She married her high-school sweetheart…he didn’t stand a chance, and raised two boys who fancied themselves members of the Galactic Alliance.

I’ve seen her do the “Roam Around”, learned several things about the birds and the bees from her jokes, and found out she is the only living person who got my mother to say “fart” spontaneously.

She is unsinkable like Molly, uninhibited like Gypsy Rose, prissy like Mary Poppins, precocious like Shirley, and giving like Melanie Hamilton.

She is the glue that holds my dad’s family together. She is the noise when the silence must be broken. She is the smoother of ruffled feathers, the champion of spades, hearts, and pinochle and second only to Grandma in Scrabble.

She is my aunt. The youngest of four, her older siblings all boys, she cracks a whip that bites with humor and kindness and I have craved her company all of my life.

Laughter is the best medicine. Anyone who says differently needs to know my aunt. No one leaves her without feeling fine and glad to be alive.

So, I shall call her Evaline, an English name meaning “life”, for a woman who is an inspiration to all who spend their lives too much in their own head.

Thank you, God, for creating her. You not only broke the mold when you did, but whatever cooks the mold probably broke, too!

Hug, hug, kiss, kiss, Aunt Evaline!

Monday, August 1, 2011

May The Force Be With You

While we’re on the subject of Lou, I should introduce the rest of his family.

Lou and my dad have been friends since the first grade. He married my dad’s sister and had two sons…some of my most favorite people.

I loved, loved, loved my cousins! They were my heros!

The oldest was sweet and calm, protective and understanding. He reminds me of Luke Skywalker, all charm and kindness with the ability to take on the bad guy.

The youngest was outrageous and energetic, bold and sarcastic. He reminds me of Han Solo, willing to be a hero as long as he can break the rules while he’s saving you.

Luke and Han were my role models at the very early age of 6. I wanted nothing more than to do everything they did. (I taught them patience, I think.)

Spending time with Luke and Han was a treat and something I frequently begged for. (I don’t think they were always very flattered.)

But, they loved me and we are still pretty close even today. Luke and Han…those are really great names for them. (Tee hee!)

Oh, yeah, and they have a mom. Well, of course they have a mom! She is my dad’s sister and my aunt.


There is no way I can write about her today. She needs a whole entry all to her pretty, crazy self! Stay tuned!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Play Ball!

I always knew when we were going to Grandma and Grandpa’s because there were all these hills on the freeway. You know, those hills that make room for the roads underneath them…

However, even though there were a bunch of those hills, we weren’t going to Grandpa’s. Instead, my dad was taking me and Maria somewhere else entirely.

When we got there, I was speechless. For ten seconds.


Don’t know what it is? I’ll give you a hint…they called it the eighth wonder of the world.

Still don’t know? Well, it’s the Astrodome.

My dad and my uncle were taking me and Maria and my cousins to a baseball game. An Astros game.

They were now, officially, the coolest people ever!

I got to eat peanuts, and cotton candy, and see people who were on T.V. Not to mention participate in all the cheers going on in that noisy place. There was one I remember yelling at the top of my lungs. A trumpet would sound and then everyone yelled, “CHARGE!”. I had no idea how ball players were supposed to charge, but I yelled it. I’m pretty sure the Boys of Summer could hear me, too.

My uncle, we’ll call him Lou on account of the great Mr. Lou Gehrig, had no idea what he started, but I soon began a love affair with baseball and the Astros. I will forever remember that day, sitting in the stands watching my team, yes, MY TEAM, win. And we stayed for the whole game.

Throughout the years, Lou took me to other sporting events, but I will always remember that first one as the best one. Not only was it a fantastic day, but he thought of me. He didn’t take me to a fancy ballet, or some trussed up tea party.

He knew me way better than that…

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Typical Day

Kara needs a kick ball. She can’t find it. Oh, yeah! She kicked it over the fence. She dashes over to the neighbors and collects her beloved red ball and now sets out to put together her dream team.

Maria is collecting the Childcraft Encyclopedia books, getting ready to play school. Hmm, today they will work on animals, she thinks. Two desks are set up in her room and now all she needs are students.

Wendy has piled every doll she owns onto her bed. She is singing to them and loving on them and hoping someday they will come alive and call her Mommy.

Bill is sitting in the living room, watching his mother fold the laundry as he bangs two Hot Wheels cars together. His dimpled smile shows how happy he is to be playing.

Jack is in the garage, looking for nails. He is going to nail boards to the tree for the steps to his tree house. Soon, there will be carpet put in and a cooler up there for snacks. Everyone will be welcome, except for the girls, of course.

Roxi is pulling a dress out of her dress-up trunk. She puts it on, along with a hat, and high heels and admires her gorgeous reflection. Already her style and taste are beyond her years.

Lela is pulling out her plastic kitchen supplies, preparing to cook a meal for anyone with enough imagination for pretend spaghetti. Her little kitchen is correctly appointed with all the necessary supplies and now all she needs are customers.

Georgie runs in from the living room and announces to his mother that he needs pipe cleaner, a paper plate, a rubber band, and green paint. As Grace scrambles to provide, he dashes outside to continue digging his hole that will eventually reach China.

Phillip has piled up all the leaves in his backyard. It is the perfect amount to provide a soft landing and to completely hide him…should the need arise. He’d like to see China, but Georgie can do the digging.

Alex is wearing her sequins and white gloves and is in the correct pose. The Flashdance album blasts her with, “Oh, What A Feeling”, and she busts into her newly choreographed number.

Blossom is in her room, ignoring the music and lining up her pretty ponies. All the colors of the rainbow, she gets out a brush and begins to comb through their manes, humming to herself. But, not humming, “Oh, What A Feeling”.

Now, imagine all of us in the same room…

As Jo would say, “They’re all geniuses and Pablo Picassos!”. Grace just laughs and shakes her head, and Mom hopes we don’t kill each other.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Look Out, Boys!

Two girls were introduced into our mix. They enjoyed various types of dance, so they fit right in.

And now, we really outnumbered the boys!

The oldest was my age and we became quick friends. She became friends with Jack, too, and was often the tie breaker in our schemes.

The youngest was in between Maria and Roxi and had every My Little Pony a girl could wish for.

Our circle was getting bigger and bigger was better in my mind. They had great ideas for plays and recitals, and didn’t mind playing Hide-and-Seek, so when Maria got bored we didn’t have to stop because of the low number of hiders.

They went to our church, too. Everything always seemed to center around church.

The oldest loved the album “Flashdance” as well as the movie. We danced to that album I don’t know how many times. (I never saw the movie until I was older, though. My mom wouldn’t let me watch it.)

I am going to call her Alex after the girl from that movie. Her younger sister, I am going to call Blossom, on account of all the ponies she had.

They were, and are beautiful girls. Witty, lively, and VERY smart, we ruled the boys!

And that was awesome!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Play Time

“That one!”, I shout pointing at the clock on the wall.

“No,” Jack disagrees. “Let’s use the one in the playroom!”

“But it’s not round!” I point out.

Jack puts his hands on his hips and glares at me. “It’s not attached to the wall, either!”

We argue, again wasting precious seconds of play time. Roxi and Maria are giggling in the corner, Phillip in between them, waiting for us to settle our clock dispute. Georgie (short for Gorgeous) is listening avidly, searching for his chance to jump in and calm things down.

Eventually he appeals to my sensible side. “The one on the wall is probably special and if we break it, we’ll get in trouble.”

This halts all arguments and Jack and I decide the playroom clock is the better clock.

We grab it and bring it back to Roxi’s room.

“Okay, we can start!” I announce, while Jack puts the square clock on the ground in the center of the room.

“Does everyone remember what they are supposed to do?” I ask.

Everyone nods and Roxi and Maria start up their giggling again at the boys. We all take our places around the clock, while Georgie turns on the record player and sets the needle down. Quickly, he moves into his spot.

Bill Haley busts out with “One, two, three o’clock, four o’clock rock” and we all start kicking our legs and twitching our hips as we dance around the clock.

Well…it was dark outside so we couldn’t build a fort…

And, with our introduction to American Graffiti and Brian Wilson, doo wap becomes a big part of our lives.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Lady Like No Other

We didn’t start the fire, and neither did she, but she certainly kept the flame burning bright…

My grandmother was born in Kansas, the baby of six children. Her father died when she was 6, and she never knew her eldest sister because she died at the age of 2.

She was a farm girl, a valedictorian, a football queen, and a college graduate.

She taught English for 30 years, was Teacher of the Year, District, and Region and started the Public Library for that small town in South Texas that probably had the first drug store.

She had two children while she continued to work…

She was the original working mother.

And one night I had the privilege of sleeping in the same room with her and she spoke about the beauty of the nominative participle…until 1 a.m.

There is much to say about her, but I think the poem I wrote in college says it best…

I remember how she used to touch her hair,
and how she labeled all her Tupperware.
I remember when she was Salutatorian at 13 and Valedictorian at 18.
I hope I learn to say “I” instead of “Me”,
and that a deck of cards was missing its 3.
I remember she ate poached eggs for breakfast, had tea at 4:00,
and her students were silent when they heard her steps upon the floor.
Teaching English was her calling, and rightly so, her first students were her dolls,
she taught people all they needed to know.
After praying before a meal, she would always get that look upon her face,
and we knew what she was about to say –
“Did we say grace?”
I remember 40 tubes, with mirrors attached, of Instant Mocha lipstick,
and designer hose bought from Neiman Marcus.
I remember that shade of taupe she always wore,
and how she fooled her husband and didn’t get
her wedding ring melted to the core.
I remember how she said, “Goodnight!”, when she was shocked,
and how her 1000 books were organized into a card catalog..
The library would not have been possible without her,
nor would my education for that matter.
I remember how she put wax paper between her pans,
and that her favorite song could be held in the palm of your hand.
She loved the Aggies, and was once a football queen.
She was always quite the lady it seemed.
Whenever I watch the Sound of Music, I think of her.
Whenever I read the Lockhorns, I think of her.

I will always be able to feel how much she loved her husband and family.
I will always be proud of how much she accomplished
and how much she loved to learn.
And I hope I will learn to be a lady like no other –
A lady like my grandmother.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Get What You Want...

The cement is white, making the blinding sun reflect right into your face and the sweat start to bead at your hairline. Texas in the summer…

The parking lot is full of cars for this is the only grocery store around for five miles and he parked all the way in the back.

The handles of grocery bags are cutting into his fingers and he’s carrying three in each hand. It was, of course, his idea to go to the store because he is going to make goulash.

He is breathing hard for he is in his seventies and his strength isn’t what it used to be.

My brother is with him and Bill is walking fast, trying to get to the car where there is air conditioning, and a chance to get out of the blazing heat.

But, the older gentleman stops and tells Bill to wait.

Bill turns around and to his surprise, he watches as a seventy-year-old man, already well into retirement, with sweat sliding down the sides of his face, sets his heavy burden down to pick up a penny on the ground.

He puts it in his coin holder, picks the bags back up, and says, “Okay. I got it.”

He is my granddad. A genius. A hard worker. Son to immigrants from Spain. A survivor of the depression. A college graduate in a time when college wasn’t important. A pharmacist. A husband. A father. A no-nonsense kind of guy who used the word, “hooey” a lot.

For 50 years he served ice cream (Blue Bell only) and medicine to people from a pretty small town in South Texas. His father started the store around 1919 and he kept it going with his brother. It was Granddad’s idea to put the pharmacy in the ice cream parlor. I sometimes wonder if he was the first person to think of it…

A drug store.

It had stools that swiveled. I sat there and swiveled and swiveled and swiveled and ate vanilla ice cream.

Granddad was funny. And he could do magic tricks. And he would empty out the mustard and ketchup bottles, put string in them, and then hide behind the counters, preparing to jump out and “squirt” you.

He LOVED Wil E. Coyote. We would watch those cartoons and half the time I would crack up just because he was laughing so hard. I never really thought they were funny. I don’t know why the coyote kept going after the road runner.

I am an adult now and I would have to say that I find them a lot funnier in my old age. I wonder what that means…

Granddad devoted his life to his parents, his family, and his church.

When we sat down to dinner, he would come around and kiss the top of our heads before we said grace.

And he always said, “Get what you want, but eat what you take.”

Which means -- never take on more than what you can handle. But, if you take it on, then do it well.

God bless him…

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Dinner And So Much More

Mashed potatoes.

Pot roast.




And jelly.

There was always jelly on her table. There were always white mounds of creamy and buttery potatoes. Her potatoes melted in your mouth like ice cream. It was glorious…

She had figurines all over her house and sofa pillows with flowers on them. She had two china cabinets filled with dishes and no dishwasher.

She played Scrabble and Skip-Bo and kept Blue Bell in the freezer. (If you aren’t from Texas, Blue Bell is the best ice cream in the country.)

She is a third generation Texan, born to migrant workers, and picked cotton throughout her childhood. She has no more than a third grade education, but has more wisdom than most PhDs.

She is my grandma.

She married Grandpa at 17 and had four children. She lived her life to take care of her family and followed Grandpa’s orders without argument.

Some disapproved of her choice to play the role of servant.

But she was married for 54 years and her husband held her hand until the day he died.

We should all be so lucky…

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Funny Fella

I am stealing this title from Maria. When she was in the second grade she wrote a story about our grandpa and called it “A Funny Fella”. When he read it, it was the first time I’d ever seen him cry. The second time came four days before he died.

He was the second oldest in a family of 13, however, he was still the S.I.C. Or, in other words, the Sibling In Charge.

He did most of the cleaning, most of the care-taking, and earned most of the money for his family. His parents were Jehovah’s Witnesses and, among other things, they didn’t believe in working for a living.

Grandpa resented religion.

Not God…religion.

When he was 14, he went to work for a dairy farmer, milking all the cows and sent every penny he earned to his mother. The farmer gave him food to eat and a place to sleep.

Despite having to carry his family of 13 children on his 14-year-old shoulders, he always treated his parents with respect.

He married our grandma when he was 18 and went off to war when he was almost 19. He was a Sergeant, stationed in Germany, and was the second company into Auschwitz when the war was over.

He worked for Amaco for the rest of his life, had four children, and managed to save his way into a pretty nice retirement. He gave to the fire department, loved his grandchildren, and took very special care of his wife.

He didn’t respect anyone on welfare, wasn’t afraid to tell people exactly what he thought, had moments where he almost disowned members of his family, and he voted Democrat all of his life.

And…he lived on an acre and a half…and had Go-Carts. And Doon Buggies. And he loved Hank and Slim, could play the harmonica, and called me his “special girl”. (On account of me being the only grandchild with red hair.)

Needless to say, I was pretty enamored of him. Even though he had a German temper, which is MUCH scarier than an Irish one, he couldn’t scare me. His bark was always worse than his bite!

And when I was about seven, he gave me the first piece of advice that I carried into adulthood…

“Kara, don’t you drink beer just to throw it all up the next mornin’.”

And, I haven’t.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Shattered Hopes

You won’t believe it…

The confinement, the irrelevant activities, the asinine pay (Stickers? Really?), the mind-numbing speeches, and the out-and-out horror that was Kindergarten, couldn’t keep me from being…


Yes, me! I am in FIRST grade now! I am six! Look out world, things are about to get exciting!

So, here I come, flitting into my new first grade class, with my new first grade teacher, in a brand-spankin’ new school, and guess what???

Being six, apparently, doesn’t mean that school is any better, or any different. It was the same mind-numbing experience.

I was appalled!

I mean, I have a baby brother now. I change his diapers. I get him up in the morning. I give him his bottle. I am being a mom.

Obviously, I already know everything if I can take care of Bill! Why couldn’t these teachers see that?

Why did I have to practice putting away my coat and my lunch box, when I knew how to diaper an infant without getting peed on?

I mean, come on! Wake up and smell the coffee, lady! I am not some idiot! I already know how to do the hardest job on earth!

One hundred and seventy seven days…

God save me now…

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Hero In The Making...

How strange to have a boy in the house. And, how exciting.

We all helped Mom. He belonged to all of us. And I am sure that confused him, but who wouldn’t want four ladies fawning over all over you?

His rear was never wet, his room was never messy, his bottle was always full, and his every coo and babble caused an instantaneous reaction….

The oohs and aahhs going on in our house would put any fireworks demonstration to shame.

Yes, we smothered him, but he didn’t seem to mind. And, Bill being Bill, he understood at a very early age that we meant well. Our protective moments, our constant assistance was never met by an angry cry. He let us fuss over him with a sweet smile on his face.

(Of course, he might’ve been milking it. He didn’t independently clean his room until he was in school.)

Bill was smart. Ordered, steady, observant, and quiet. He added calm to the chaos over our home. And everything was better because of him.

And, while it would be challenging for him to grow up with four women surrounding him, his biggest test was coming…

Failure was not an option.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Oh, Bill! I love you still and I always will!


They always get to do what they want. It’s maddening. And they’re always telling you what to do and how to do it.

And if you have a good idea, they pretty much shoot it down because it might get something dirty. Or get something broken. Or make something smelly.

So, my suggestion of naming my new brother “Bill” was not going over well. It was clear I wasn’t going to win.

I begged, I pleaded, I called him Bill just to get her warmed up to the idea and to see that, HECK YEAH, he was a Bill!

But it didn’t work and she did what she wanted to do and named him after my dad and a priest if you can believe it!

Well, guess what????

She ain’t writin’ this blog so now I get to win!

My brother will be Bill.

Because he is amazing. Because he is smart. Because he is going to have to be tough with three older sisters around. Because he is talented.

And…because he is a survivor…just like another man I know…

Saturday, March 26, 2011

December 8, 1981

My mom is huffing and puffing. I imagine her cheeks sinking in and puffing out. I imagine her gaze is determined, her mind focused.

And as the labor and delivery nurses wheel her down the hall to the room where she is going to do some pushing, my dad is walking along side her.

“How about Kelly?” he says.

My mom huffs and puffs.

“How about Kristina?” he offers.

She is still puffing.

My dad thinks some more as the nurses wheel my mom into the delivery room. The doctor is waiting and my dad says, “How about Katherine?”

My mother finally finds enough breath to say, “This…baby…is…a…boy!”

My dad, I’m sure, just rolls his eyes in response.

The pushing starts.

In my life, I know of two explanations for the mysteries of child birth. One is from Bill Cosby and the other from the movie Look Who’s Talking.

From Bill (great name, by the way) – “Carol Burnett describes child birth as taking your bottom lip and pulling it over your head.”


Kirstie Alley says, “You try squeezing something the size of a watermelon out of something the size of a lemon and tell me how you feel about child birth.”

Double hmm…

So, my mom is going through the above and she pushes and she huffs and she puffs and the baby just isn’t coming. Finally, she says, “What is going on?” and she sits up, preparing to get that baby out whether it wants to come or not.

The nurses try to make her lie down, but her doctor, God bless him, knows she’s had three other kids and she is just fine.

My mom gives it one good push and out the baby comes.
“It’s a boy!” cries the doctor.

A very shocked father says, “You’re kidding.”

And, while he’s finally got someone who’ll see his side of things, he has had another example of the truth…

Girls are always right.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Family Portrait -- In the "Kara" Style

My mom is pregnant!

And this time, I am older and I can remember what she looked like. I can remember what it felt like to wait for the baby to arrive. I can remember how it felt when the baby kicked her tummy.

It was exciting! And the sisters knew, with every ounce and fiber of their being, that it was a boy.

My dad did not share our conviction. But, he wanted a boy. Oh, yes, he really did want a boy.

And we wanted a brother. We had sisters, and they were great, but a brother would be even cooler!

And I already knew what his name would be…

Bill, of course!

Learning how to spell “Bill” was the best thing I learned in Kindergarten.

So, I informed Mom that the baby would be a boy and his name would be Bill.

She did not agree with me. About the name anyway.

But, I didn’t let that bother me. In my mind, he was Bill and that was what he was going to be.

During Art class, I took to making family portraits. I drew every member of our family in order of birth and wrote their name over their head. Dad was first, then Mom, then me, then Maria, then Wendy, then our dog, Misty, and last, Bill. He wasn’t born yet, but he was a part of us already.

I proudly showed my drawings to my mother and father. Mom said it was inaccurate because his name wasn’t going to be Bill. Dad said it was inaccurate because the baby wasn’t a boy.

Well, we’ll see who wins this one…

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Patience Is A Virtue

There are barrettes and bows and ribbons and clips everywhere. There are flowers on the bedspreads and pink paint on the walls.

There are sing-alongs and plays behind curtains made of beach towels or sheets.

There are high-heeled shoes on too small feet and long dresses on bodies not nearly developed enough to fill them out right.

“Dad, you’re stepping on my hem!” Wendy cries.

“Dad, are you gonna sit down and watch our play?” asks Maria. “It’s Snow White!”

Drummond sighs inwardly and tries very hard not to roll his eyes. He sits in the appropriate chair, hands Maria his ticket and waits for the play to unfold.

But, before it can start, Kara comes busting through the curtain, knocking it down and crying, “YEEHAW!”

“Kara!” Maria and Wendy shriek at the top of their lungs.

“We’re having a play and you’re wrecking it!” Maria declares.

Kara only throws a laugh over her shoulder as she races for the back door and the neighbor boys who are waiting outside.

Drummond, remaining silent, waits patiently for Wendy and Maria to hang the curtain up and get situated. It takes probably ten minutes because, of course, the curtain has to be just right. No peeking, they tell him!

The play begins and he watches as Snow White meets the dwarfs (their dolls) and then the evil step-mother (a picture glued on a stick) gets the girl to eat a poisoned apple. And, of course, there is much arguing because Wendy forgot to enter stage left when the dolls are racing to save Snow White.

And then the Prince (Wendy) kisses Snow White (Maria) awake and soon Drummond is clapping as the girls curtsy.

“Is that it?” Drummond asks. “Y’all are done, right?”

“Here is your ticket to Cinderella!” Wendy announces.

Drummond takes it with a forced smile and rushes hastily into his bedroom. He finds M’Lynn standing at their bathroom door, with a special glow in her cheeks.

“I’m pregnant!” she cries.

(He did not pass out. He just said with a smile, “That’s great.” But I’m certain he was cussing a blue streak in his head. Because, of course, it was going to be a girl.)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Preparing For The Future?

I don’t think everything I learned came from Kindergarten. I certainly learned some things.

1) Fifth graders were special because they were the only ones who got to play on the playground.

2) Be prepared for lunch, or you were going to be hungry.

3) Jumping in a dress probably wasn’t the best idea.

4) Running to the big tree and back wasn’t enough to help me release my energy.

5) When the bus went into the dip it felt like a roller coaster. Especially if you stood up.

6) It cost $0.90 cents to see the puppet play of “The Wizard of Oz”.

Interesting facts, but nothing I really needed to remember. Until…

I wasn’t able to get the sandbox one day, so I ended up playing with the little chalkboards. Which was okay because my neighbor was playing with the blocks and that center was right next to the chalkboards.

There was another boy playing with the blocks. His name was Bill.

I asked him to spell it for me and when he did, I wrote it on the chalkboard.

It had four letters, just like my name. And it happened to be the name of my grandpa, one of the coolest people I knew. (He had go-carts.)


7) I learned how to spell “Bill”.

You will soon see just how important that was...

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Caution - Future Kindergarten Mothers

I walk into the cafeteria of my elementary school. There are rectangular tables surrounded by wooden chairs of various shapes, sizes, and styles.

I wait there, singing, swinging my legs, and waiting to be told to line up.

It is December. I am wearing my coat. (It is the coat that saved my life once.)

We are told to line up and after we are single file, we walk back to the kindergarten area. I stay in line, my ability to control myself while walking, increasing.

We enter the room, which is large enough to hold three classes. Our area was to the right of the door.

There are cabinets lined up behind all the tables along the right wall of the kindergarten area.

Everyone has to put away their lunches and coats. Our coats are hung up on these metal silver coat hangers. One by one, we all put our things away in an orderly fashion.

We all sit down.

This normal morning routine probably lasts 30 minutes.

And that is too long for me.

I promptly stand up, walk back to the coat cabinet and proceed to take everyone’s coat out, one by one, and drop them on the floor.

“Kara,” my teacher calls in her nice, sweet, placating voice. “Why are you dropping the kid’s coats on the floor?”.

“I don’t know,” I say.

But, of course, I know why I did it. School and I did not get along. And the more people tried to help me, the worse it got. I have always known my own mind. And I work through my problems, usually, on my own. So, if you leave me alone, you will get farther in helping me feel better.

But, how in the world would my teacher know that? Poor lady…

Saturday, February 19, 2011

July 7, 1981

Jo’s third child, the one they had the baby shower for, was born on this day. I don’t know what day of the week it was. It was probably the perfect day of the week and at the perfect time of the day. Because Jo’s third child is always perfect…


I am having the hardest time coming up with a name for her. Several have passed through my mind and I cannot settle on one, so we are going to have a discussion and we will see what happens at the end of this post.

Sunflowers remind me of her. Partly because her favorite color was yellow at one time. And partly because, when she smiles, her face is luminous. But, sometimes she can be grumpy, so calling her Sunshine may not be an option.

The character from Steel Magnolias, “Ouizer”, reminds me of her. But, she’s way cuter than that and usually a little nicer. Though, I can definitely see her saying, “I do not see plays, because I can nap at home for free. And I don't see movies 'cause they're trash, and they got nothin' but naked people in 'em! And I don't read books, 'cause if they're any good, they're gonna make 'em into a miniseries.”, in her old age.

She also has an affinity for my father and I named him Drummond…so…Ouizer is out.

She could swim at a very early age. I remember holding her in the pool and as long as you counted to three, she could go under the water with you at like 2 years old. She was on swim team when she got older. So, I thought about calling her Esther. You know, for Esther Williams, the bathing beauty of the 40s.

But Esther sounds too old ladyish for her.

You know, what she really is, though, besides perfect, and beautiful with a sunny smile, and blunt, and smart, is loyal. She is fiercely loyal. If you have the ability to capture her heart and her respect, then you have a friend for life.

I have no idea what her criteria is for liking someone, but she has it. And if you pass the test, you are probably a truly amazing person. So, I consider it an honor to be her favorite person…just kidding.

(She and Wendy were each other’s favorite people. They united against me, Maria, and Roxi many times. We were cool and they couldn’t take it.)

So, we shall call her Lela. It is French, meaning “loyal”.

(I am 75% sure she hates the name and hates that it is French.)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Kidnapping!

It is a day like any other.

M’Lynn (I have decided to call my mother this and my dad will be Drummond), Grace, and Jo get ready for the day. Their children are dressed and relatively clean. The car is packed.

And by 8:30 a.m., they are off to take their children to Mother’s-Day-Out. Another lovely program they helped start at our church. Only they usually couldn’t take advantage of its true purpose because they worked Mother’s-Day-Out.

But, not on this day. This day they were going to take some time to themselves.

Jo didn’t know that, though. She wasn’t aware a day of fun had been planned for her until M’Lynn and Grace came to her room and took her away.

Baby Shower Napped!

Jo was pregnant with her third child and the joyous upcoming event must be celebrated!

I have no idea where they went or what they did. But, they had fun!

I’m sure there was talking…laughing…shopping…eating…chocolate…carrot cake…tea…ice cream…pie…diet coke…chocolate…and dessert.

They took a day to themselves to celebrate the soon-to-be new arrival, to remember what it was like to walk into a store and not have to say, “Be still!”, “Don’t touch that!”, “No, I don’t have any snacks.”, etc.

I’m sure it was lovely to be able to open presents without little hands grabbing at the paper, and saying, “Mine, mine, mine!”.

Oh, what a day it was! Relaxation, rest, peace…


They returned and learned that Roxi had climbed a shelf and fallen down, knocking her two front teeth out and now her face was black and blue from the nose down.

Ahh, the joys of motherhood.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Dark Day Continues

School did not get better for me. No matter how hard my mom and dad tried, no matter how many stickers, or check marks, or pieces of candy my teacher gave me, no one could prove its relevance.

I did not understand the worth of school, nor could I conceive of a time when I wouldn’t want to slide, swing, or play dodge ball.

A job? What would I need that for?

But, there was one good thing about Kindergarten…


And my favorite was the sandbox.

Yes, the school had a sandbox INSIDE. How awesome is that???? I found this to be very ingenious and proof that maybe my teacher wasn’t an idiot after all.

However, there were days when someone would beat me to the sandbox. (Only two people allowed at a time.)

So, I would console myself with the blocks, or with the small chalkboards.

One day I got stuck in the kitchen center with the other girls. I had to play dolls, and wash dishes, and eat pretend food. It was a horrible day.

There was another good thing about Kindergarten…

Dwayne Hart. He was pretty cute. And he had to be because look at what his last name was!

He knew I liked him and while that was true, I knew nothing beyond that I thought he was cute. What does one do after that?

So, his last name and good looks didn’t wash away any of the horrors of school. Unfortunately, he wasn’t that cute.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Dark Day

I am always an early riser. 6:00 a.m. rolls around and I am out of bed and down the street to our neighbors house wondering if the boys can play.

The days were my own. And I filled them with everything possible. Kickball, digging, singing, building, singing again, dancing, acrobatic feats, sliding down the stairs, hanging off the stairs, etc.

Most of this was completed, and completed well, by lunch.

And then, one day…it happened. The worst of all things imaginable. The horror of horrors. The darkest day known to mankind.


I had to wear nice clothes. I had to brush my hair and keep it neat. I had to listen and get in line and sit down and walk, NOT RUN, and be quiet and behave and…oh forget it! The list is too long!

Even more excruciating than this was the learning and the producing of the learning.

“Look, Kara, if you do these math problems, you can color the picture.” (A sing songy tone accompanies this statement.)

I colored the picture and did not do the problems.

“Look, Kara, if you stay in line, you can have this sticker.” (Another sing songy statement.)

No skipping, no hopping, no jumping in line…and all I get for my great control is a sticker that looks like a rainbow?

My mama didn’t raise no fool!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Cinderella Slopped Her Dripper (As my dad always says.)

There’s this hymn we sing in church called, “Were You There?”. As an adult it brings tears to my eyes. As a child, well…you’ll see.

Grace has a middle son and if you valued your pride, you probably didn’t want to sit next to him in church, or you might pee on yourself from laughing so hard.

I don’t know where he came up with some of the stuff he said, but it was hilarious. And for some reason, he was even funnier in church. Maybe it’s because we were supposed to be praying and being very holy.

Topping his sense of humor is a very, very charming personality. And at a very early age he had the presence of mind to be courteous and considerate toward females. Not many men have this instinct.

As a result, plenty of girls had crushes on him. And he showed care, concern, and consideration for all of them.

So, I have always thought of him as a real-life Prince Charming. My favorite prince is Phillip from Sleeping Beauty. He’s the only prince that actually has to save the princess. (It’s so romantic! Sigh…)

It wasn’t too long before Phillip started taking care of Wendy. I think he was about 5 and she 4.

When we went on day trips and had to walk, he would carry her on his back when she got tired. If she was thirsty, he got her a drink. If she wanted to go down the slide, he would go down with her. For protection.

Wendy might have been the first girl he paid particular attention to, but she wouldn’t be the last. We are all enchanted by him. We are all special to him. We are all important in his eyes.

And, so, this is our Phillip. Humor, charm, and chivalry all wrapped up one in one guy.

But beware of Sundays…

“Were you there when they nailed him to a tree? Were you there when they nailed him to a tree? Oh, oh, oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, (“What?”, says Phillip in your ear.), tremble, (“Excuse me?”, asks Phillip.), tremble.” (“Oh,” he finishes. And now you have wet your pants because you are trying so hard not to laugh, but you can’t help it and there is your mother glaring at you from her seat in the choir.)