Sunday, October 27, 2013

An Answered Prayer Of An Almost Third Grader

My mom arrived in the Armpit after we'd been there one week. Which meant I didn't get out of taking naps anymore.

It also meant I had to eat spinach whenever my grandmother chose to cook it.

And shopping. We went shopping at Valley View Mall. Clothes shopping.

This was fun for Grandmother and Mom. They chatted, they got drinks, they pulled ridiculous looking cloths off racks and held them up to my chest. They chatted, they got drinks, they pulled hideous pink monstrosities off racks and bought them.

"Mom!" I cry. "Jeans and t-shirts. Jeans and t-shirts. Please....jeans and t-shirts!"

She shakes her head. "You will dress nicely, Kara Denise. Jeans and t-shirts are not appropriate school attire."

I groan. I moan. I beg and plead. It does no good.

So, here I the Armpit, taking naps, eating spinach, and wearing pink slacks. I pray for a respite. I beg the Lord for a bright, shining moment where something will go my way.

After church, we head over to my great-grandmother's. She has a table set with various types of toasted bread. We run in and hug her. Before I tell you what she says to us, I simply must tell you that it is 9:30 a.m.

Great-grandmother, my namesake, says, "Did you have your ice cream?"

I smile. "Not yet, G.G."

"Go get your ice cream."

I dash off for the drug store, not worried at all that my mother will call me back and dispute G.G.

I laugh in glee and wicked excitement. God has helped me thwart my mother. Oh, happy day! Praying really does work!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Moors y Cristianos

She was born in 1892 in a valley in Spain. Her mother died when she was six. She left Spain when she was in her twenties and lived in Argentina and Cuba. She married her childhood sweetheart in 1919. She lived the remainder of her days in the Armpit. Which was a long time. She was 101 when she died -- May 24th -- three days before I graduated from high school.

Dionisia. My great-grandmother.

I am named after her -- Kara Denise.

She was a plump woman with a ready laugh, a shy quiet nature, and an overwhelming need to feed you. Her constant question, "Are you hungry?" was the first thing out of her mouth when she saw you.

Which worked out great for me because I was ALWAYS hungry.

One of my favorite stories about her centers around food. Beans and rice to be specific.

Beans and rice is a staple of the Catholic family during Lent. We don't eat meat on Fridays, so beans is our substitute. My great-grandmother made fantastic beans and rice, or "Moors y Cristianos" as she called it.

Into a bowl would go the rice -- or Cristianos. Then the beans -- or Moors. Separate cultures, a defined people -- which isn't what God intended -- who fought each other relentlessly.

Then she'd mix the beans into the rice -- just like the Moors mixed with the Cristianos. She would hand you the bowl and say, "See? Now you 'no can tell the deeference."

I loved her. Though she came to America and probably missed her home, never once did she expect you to embrace her culture in order for her to feel like she could practice it. She didn't scream her identity or force you to acknowledge the world she loved. She just was. She was an immigrant who had a great deal of respect for structure and opportunity in America. She became American. And loved her country. But...she was Spanish. And respected the people who came before her.

I was astounded by her. Truly impressed with how she risked changing her whole world for future happiness. She lived independently in Argentina, working and going to the opera, waiting for my great-grandfather to establish his business. Her strength humbled and inspired me. Her wisdom was unparalleled.

And there was one more reason to adore her --

My mother couldn't argue with her....

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Sights of the Armpit

Be sure to hold back your ooohs and ahhhs....

Let's take a tour around town.

As you come upon this town that time forgot, a drawbridge looms before you. It is in working order and provides a crossing over the arroyo. The road made a high humming sound as you went over. This noise could be translated into English by Wendy. The bridge usually said, "We missed you, Wendy!"

Once you're on the other side, to your left is the car wash my uncle made his riches from. Also to your left, across from the car wash, is the public library. You should not be surprised when I tell you Grandmother created that library. And ran it.

Main Street takes you through town. There's no reason to stop because there's no traffic. You pass by the junior high and the high school -- built with bricks. You pass a church -- Baptist. You pass the grocery store -- family owned.

Then you pass my granddad's business. The drugstore.

After that is the post office, and then a BUNCH of cotton and grapefruit.

There was a Luby's. Wait, no. If you wanted to eat at a restaurant, you had to go to the big city. Which we did. On Thursdays. After choir practice at St. Helen's. (Grandmother also directed the choir.)

When we went to Luby's we always got a table in the back. We were assured the area because she always went early to save the seats.

And by she....I mean my namesake.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Tea Time!

It is 4:00 p.m. at my grandmother's house. Apparently, that means we need to have tea.

Maria and Wendy climb up in the cushioned kitchen seats. They cross their legs daintily and look eager to participate. Bill sits in his high chair, smiling at the world, and allowing the women around him to include him in their fun.

I sat dutifully but certainly not daintily.

Grandmother pours tea into very delicate china cups. We have sugar-free cookies and other finger foods.

Maria and Wendy sip very carefully. I slurp.

"Don't slurp, Kara," Grandmother admonishes me as she raises a cookie to her lips. Admiration fills me as I watch her stretch her mouth around that cookie, carefully not messing her lipstick. It was quite a feat. My sisters and brother liked to watch her eat, always waiting for the time when she would smudge her Instant Mocha shade.

Apparently it happened, for she always reapplied using this little mirror attached to the lipstick tube. I never saw her make-up out of place. Not once.

Grandmother seemed like perfection. Everything nice. Everything pleasant. Everything intelligent.

I thought it amazing, and I wondered if I would ever appear as put together.

If it meant no more kick ball games, well, it would probably never happen.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Grandmother's House

I am still eating Cheerio's every morning. Still taking swimming lessons, still conning my way out of naps, and the setting is still "the armpit".

As I've mentioned, my grandmother was a teacher. And an English teacher at that. So, her house was a little....particular.

Everything had a place, and everything was in its place. You NEVER ran out of red checking pencils, and she recycled all her old worksheets by allowing us to write on the back when we played newscaster, or God help me, school. (I was forced into playing it by Maria and Wendy because I couldn't go outside and play with any of the neighborhood kids. I didn't know them.)

Her kitchen was especially organized. Some of her practices I never quite understood. For instance, she put wax paper between her stacked pans. I am seven, and I promise you I'm thinking, "What the ????"

Most people had a tupperware cabinet that when opened, you experienced an avalanche. Not my grandmother. Oh, heck no. She had all tupperware pieces stacked inside cigar boxes. Those cigar boxes had the following labels written on the front: small lids, medium lids, large lids, small bowls, medium bowls, large get the idea.

God help you if you didn't put a lid in the right spot.

All cloth-like items or papers or....well, I never really understood which items deserved this treatment, but she wrapped just about everything in plastic bags and tied them with colored twistie ties.

She also paper-clipped everything. All the bills, letters, etc. she received for the week or month would be on the desk paper-clipped together.

Now let's travel to the living room, music room, and hallway. Her books were neatly displayed in these areas. None bore signs of wear and tear, though she read them. She didn't dare ruin her books by dogearing corners, or laying them spread eagle on the table. And whoa is you if she caught you doing that. Her books were her jewels. They were so precious that if you wanted to read one, you had to check it out.

You read that accurately. We checked out her books like they were from a library. She organized every title, knew precisely where each book was on each shelf, and kept a record of their use on index cards. Her very own card catalog system.

But even more particular than this is the drawer where she kept her playing cards. She had several decks of cards, all different colors. Some of these decks had labels. These labels bore hand written notes. These notes would read, "This deck is missing the 3 of clubs.", "This deck is missing the 10 of diamonds."

Even at the age of seven I thought, why doesn't she just throw the deck away?

I never asked her.

Of course, the scary thing is I am finding I can be just as particular as she was. As I write this, I am a few days away from turning 38, and I promise you, when you open my tupperware cabinet, you will NOT experience an avalanche.

However, I am not so persnickety as to keep AND label my unusable decks of cards.

But...there's still time.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Armpit Continues to Sweat

After Cheerios and swimming lessons, we had lunch. Granddad would come home from the store and eat with us. We would sit at the table while he came around and kissed the top of our heads. He must've liked his job because he never seemed irritated with it.

How could you be irritated when you served ice cream? Correction...Blue Bell ice cream.

After lunch, we'd take a nap.

As you read this, I am raising one eyebrow communicating the following: Not gonna happen.

But, I didn't argue. I dutifully followed my sisters and brother to our beds. I laid down for around ten minutes. It was all I could take.

I would give my hair a good shake, messing it up as much as possible. I would walk into the kitchen and in my sleepiest voice say, "I slept."

She would always give a great sigh and then say, "Alright, Kara. Go watch TV."

At this point, I would skip over the divan, plop down, and turn on Nickelodeon. I watched Pinwheel and You Can't Do That On Television while Maria, Wendy, and Bill slept.

I don't know if they were ever irritated that I got out of taking naps. My thought was, if you didn't want to sleep, you too could mess up your hair and fool your grandmother.

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Armpit

As stated earlier, we spent two weeks every summer in a hot, dusty farm town close to the Rio Grande with my mother's parents. The first week without our mother; the second week with.

Grandmother rose at 5:00 a.m. to read the paper and eat poached eggs. Granddad rose a little after that and went to the store he ran with my great uncle. It was your average American drug store complete with soda fountain and counter top seating.

Grandmother was a retired school teacher. She taught English to middle school students for thirty years. Words, books, and the structure of sentences were her hobbies. The gift she wanted from the district to commemorate her retirement was an Oxford English Dictionary. The book was huge. You could tone your arm muscles with it. (But don't let Grandmother catch you at that.)

To continue:

Grandmother rose at 5:00 a.m. and read the paper from beginning to end. She kept a red pencil at her side and carefully edited their mistakes. Then she'd put the corrected paper in the mail and send it to the newspaper office -- "The Valley Morning Star". She entitled it, "The Valley Morning Disappointment".

We rose at 7:00 and went for our Cheerios. She kept the cereal in the largest circular Tupperware I've ever seen. We scooped them out with this little cup, then shook liquid saccharine on top to give our breakfast sweetness.

Grandmother had diabetes. No sugar in her house -- except for emergencies.

We sat at the table, swinging our legs and eating our Cheerios while she patiently underlined misspelled words in her reading material. Her eyebrows were always raised, her glasses always perched on her nose. She wore her satin robe and gown, sipped her coffee, and shook her head at supposedly qualified writers.

If she were reading this, I wonder how many mistakes she would find.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Some Teacher

Learning to swim must be very important. Learning to swim from Mrs. Rife must be extra special important.

My mother sent us all the way to her hometown for swimming lessons. My mother's childhood home, known affectionately by my god sister as "the armpit of the south", is thirty minutes from the border. It takes eight hours to get there. (5 if I am driving.)

You have to drive across King Ranch and you better have at least a half of tank of gas before you do.

So, I was under the impression that Mrs. Rife must be some kind of teacher.

We spent two weeks every summer with my granddad and grandmother. Part of our itinerary (the rest is for a later post) was an hour with Mrs. Rife.

Certainly you are patiently awaiting my opinion on this. By now you know I should enjoy the pool and swimming. You should also be aware that me and my mother's big ideas don't always mix well.

However, Big Idea #6 turned out pretty good.

Maria and I walked to Mrs. Rife's house every day. We spent an hour learning the various techniques for successful and safe swimming. I concentrated hard. This woman was teaching me something quite valuable. I definitely could see a future where I used what she taught. (Multiplication was another thing.)

I can still see her very short hair, her wrinkled face, and her bright red pants swimsuit. Yes, she wore pants when she was in the water. Maybe because she was modest. Maybe because she had a condition. I never could figure that one out.

She taught me well. Soon I was diving off boards and racing boys across the length of the pool without a lick of trouble.

After each lesson she put some kind of medicine in our ears. To keep us from getting a swimmer in our ear. (Like that could happen.) But I didn't argue.

The last day of lessons was the neatest. We had to jump in with all our clothes on, take off our shoes and pants while in the water, then swim to the side. Pretty cool....

My mom's big ideas were starting to gain some ground. Maybe I didn't have to hide anymore whenever she called a family meeting.

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Scourge

We must take a step back. I forgot to mention an important moment in my life.

At the time, it did not seem very important. Of course, it is a small thing, and I'm only capable of understanding its strength now that I am an adult.

Come back with me....

It is the year E.T. came out. A very heartbreaking and heartwarming movie. Maria and I were enthralled. Wendy was instantly in love with E.T. Bill was too young to enjoy it, but eventually he was inspired, too.

Maria and I especially enjoyed the funny parts. When Elliott tells E.T. to shut up when he keeps saying, "E.T. phone home." when he's in that white coffin-looking thing. When all the boys are flying through the air and Greg says, "Tell me when it's over!"

But we simply adored the following lines:

Greg: "Can't he just beam up?"
Elliott: "This is reality, Greg."

We died laughing. I mean -- that is hilarious.

It is also the scourge of mankind. Sarcasm.

I use it. Maria, Wendy, and Lela can wield it like magicians.

However, Elliott might as well have called Greg an idiot. Let's imagine, for one moment, what Greg felt after Elliott said that. It was Greg's first real glimpse of E.T. How did he know what the alien was capable of? Elliott had several days with E.T. He had the advantage of knowing a lot more about the little guy. And yet, instead of considering all this, the writers choose to treat Greg like he's an idiot. It's not a stupid question. I mean, for crying out loud, E.T. could heal Elliott's wounds with just a touch. He could make plants grow by just being around them. Why can't he beam up?

But sarcasm is funny. We all know Elliott doesn't think Greg is stupid. We all know it doesn't mean that Elliott doesn't like Greg. But....does Greg know that? Was he able to accurately assume Elliott's intent? Was he able to factor in the possibility that Elliott was anxious, nervous, and scared, so he spoke quickly? Was Greg able to forgive Elliott for treating him so callously?

These are things we cope with today. Interpreting sarcasm. It can be seen as bullying.

If someone is usually sarcastic, we can imagine this person might be seen as a bully. For example, it is your second week of school. You and your peers are starting to relax. You walk into math class wearing your favorite shirt. Peer A says to you, "Where'd you get that shirt? Queers 'R Us?"

Everyone laughs.

It's mean isn't it? But just because Peer A said such a thing, doesn't mean he doesn't like you. It means he has a sarcastic mouth.

This is the dilemma, for we can't rid our society of sarcasm. We must cope with it.

And that is the MOST important thing school teaches us -- how to cope. Some of us develop very good coping skills, some not so much.

And before you tell me that the school and the world was better in the 1950s, watch a routine from Bob Hope. He uses sarcasm. I promise.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Unhappy Endings Exist

Light from the bathroom spills onto the floor, offering the perfect chance to ignore bedtime for the more enjoyable task of reading. This is my saving grace from ever being held back a grade -- I like to read.

You might remember my first interaction with our librarian. I searched for books about Rudyard Kipling, and he nearly expired from a heart attack.

Tonight, I lay on the ground in my doorway, using the light from the bathroom to read Riki Tiki Tavi. Wendy and Maria are asleep behind me, hence why the closet light is not on.

This book is very loved. It's been read at least once a week, if not once a day.

I am up late. I know this because the entire house is dark, and my parents are in bed. Of course, my mother understands my habits and is up checking on me. She pads down the hallway. I expect her, so I don't immediately snatch up my book and hurl myself in bed. This is a regular routine for us. She's never gotten mad at me before, so there is no fear of being caught.

However, she surprises me with the following:

"Kara, perhaps it's time you read something else."

I look up at her. "I read lots of books."

She yawns. "Yes, but I think you might enjoy a new one. Go on and go to bed. In the morning, we'll start another book."

I groan inwardly. This means she is going to pick a book for me. That is the WORST. But, I don't argue, and in the morning, as promised, is a new book. Little Women.

She reads it to me. And Maria.

I am enthralled with the characters. These four sisters who love each other so dearly, who make believe, and tear down walls. I love Meg. I love Jo. I adore sweet Beth. I laugh at little Amy.

I decide I am like Jo. She chooses independence over marriage. I think that is a pretty smart idea.

And then...the unspeakable...sweet Beth.

My heart is ripped from my chest, a bloody, pulpy mess lying on the ground. The author is grinding her heel into it and twisting. The pain is excruciating. I stare aghast at my mother.

"What kind of book is this?" I cry.

She just smiles at me.

When the book is done, I walk around in a trance, wondering how my mother and Maria can function. Poor Beth! How can we go on as if nothing happened?

Thus begins my rapture with the lives of fictitious people. Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. They were my first.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Second Grade Project

My Grandmother loved this so much, she hung it in her house. It hangs in mine now. The following story was written on a piece of lined white paper, cut to look like a ghost. I did not correct the spelling or other errors. Enjoy!

I was at a cave
and in that cave Ther was a gost
and I was scered!
Will he grabed me
and Then I said
Help no body hred me
So I tried to get
out but I coodet
get out
I did some thing and do you
know what I did
I scereed him myself.


Saturday, June 8, 2013


Through Kindergarten and First grade, I spent recess in the following ways:

1) Cajoling kids into games of tag.
2) Cajoling kids into games of kickball or dodge ball.
3) Climbing on the varieties of playground equipment. Alone.
4) Defending people from "The Bully" that kicked my sister.
5) Forcing myself to play those hand games with the girls. You remember....."Apples on a stick, they make me sick, they make my stomach go two forty six...."

I distinctly remember the day when I ran over to the balance beams. Ponytail Girl was on one doing back walk-overs. I asked her if she wanted to play. She put her nose in the air and completed a perfect cart wheel. I took that as a no.

It wasn't easy trying to get kids to play with you. Recess during these two years wasn't always fun, though it still was my favorite part of school.

Second grade was different. You might recall my earlier post about the new redheaded girl, Jennifer. She made second grade very bearable. She didn't always want to play tag or kickball, but because she was loyal to me, I forced myself to do "girl" things.

When the summer came, she gave me her phone number. We had plans for slumber parties and swimming.

I almost looked forward to third grade....

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Quite A Character

Grace's husband.....

Calm, steady, quiet, and brilliant. He can travel the Appalachians on foot. He can probably survive in the woods with nothing but a stick and his smarts.

He fixes problems with few words, has a ready smile, and a firm handshake.

One always felt safe around Grace's husband. One always felt encouraged by his genuine interest in how you were doing and what you were doing.

But...I always thought him surprisingly contradictory.....

He went to work in a suit and tie. He made sure all activities were safe. He cautioned you on making the right decisions. He advised with wisdom and an unassuming tone.

And yet, he came to the Halloween party as a flasher. I can see him in my mind, clear as if it was today. A trench coat over shorts that bore a sign that said "Boo!" in orange letters.

What an interesting and fearless person.


The strength of his character shows a will I admire and try to practice....every day of my life.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Planner Extraordinaires

I got to hand it to those ladies....each time they planned, they got better.

In May the church parking lot transformed into rows of simple small town fun and thrills. Big Idea #5 was quite impressive for a fundraiser.

Mom, Grace, and Jo cajoled the men (mostly Noah) into building booths. Within these booths were various games, items for sale, and eats.

Probably the best one was the dunking booth. I have to admit it was quite thrilling to watch a fully clothed, grown man go plummeting into a tank of water. Howling and laughing, the volunteer caused a ruckus and raised money for our church. The line was always long. But I never stood in it....

I liked the Duck Pond. While Ernie sang "Rubber Ducky", I could take my little net and scoop out a yellow, blue, or pink duck from the baby pool. A number was printed on the bottom. This number corresponded with a prize.

Such a nice and wonderful idea. You were always guaranteed to win. For someone who usually lost -- or felt like she usually lost -- this booth made my year. It was safe. And fun.

And guess whose idea this booth was? Grace's. Isn't that something?

But, she didn't run it. Oh, no. Those gals were way too smart for that. They pointed and directed while the men lifted and carried.

It was Grace's husband who manned the Duck Pond....

Saturday, May 18, 2013

A Worthy School Day

Super Kids Day......

I am impressed. A day spent entirely outside winning various contests and participating in challenging physical activities. Finally, a time set aside to test real strengths.

Ability. Agility. Wit. Fortitude. Leadership.

I excelled. I brought home several blue ribbons. Whenever I could force a boy to get a red ribbon, I felt particularly gratified.

At the end of the day, we got to show off our ribbons. I couldn't wait to display mine.

There was one dark spot. (Isn't there always?)

The stupid "Eat A Cracker, Don't Swallow, And Try To Whistle" game. Three years, I tried to win this task. For three years, I have failed.

Until it finally dawned on me.....I can't whistle. So, why would I be able to with dry saltines in my mouth?

For all remaining Super Kids Days, I bypassed this game with my nose in the air.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Twisting the Night Away

I am going to surprise and shock you.

The best times of my life weren't always driving go carts or big wheels. There was something else I liked to do just as much as playing kickball and dodge ball with Scotty and Kirk.

It's kind of girly.

I liked to dance. But not like a ballerina.

Like Annette Funicello. Or Anne Margaret. my parents.

All the parties at Jo and Noah's house usually turned in to a dancing party. We'd start out playing outside, then upstairs, then we'd try to play a game, end up screaming at each other, and saying, "Girls in Roxi's room, boys in Jack's room!"

It took about 5 minutes for us to make up. Usually about the time we heard the music of the Beach Boys or the Four Seasons blasting the speakers downstairs. We'd all go racing down to the den.

We'd take over the room and do our best versions of the twist, the jerk, the swim, and the jitterbug. Mom, Jo, and Grace would get out there with us. I would have to say that I learned to "shake it" from them. (As they read this, Mom and Grace are probably laughing hysterically, while Jo is saying, "Of course you did!")

We'd leave our troubles behind and celebrate life through that music. It is the music of my childhood, the music that takes me back.

And I'm convinced that Jack, Georgie, and Phillip are great dancers simply because we made them start at such an early age. (I am also convinced that they wanted to do the jitterbug....there was no forcing needed.)

Friday, May 3, 2013

A Realized Hero

The doctor's told my mom that after his seizures, Bill would never walk or talk.

They didn't count on his quiet, strong, and consistent determination.

It's probably a good thing Bill was too young to understand the experts thought he wouldn't grow like normal kids. The power of suggestion is so very strong. Most of the time we are battling our own ability to cope with our self-image and self-concept. We do have the power to affect how others see themselves, but only if we are giving them that power. Therefore, I am most grateful Bill was an infant when my parents received this news. Of course, he is so quietly stubborn, that I highly doubt he would've failed anyway.

It did take awhile. He wasn't crawling until he was two. (I think some of that was because he was either on my hip or my mother's.)

He didn't really talk until he was two. Even then, it was a funny language. But we figured it out:

1) Does (pronounced doughs) was girls. Mom would say, "Bill, go get the girls." He would call, "Does!"

2) Pisten was his word for Maria.

3) Chiyi was his word for Wendy.

4) Mama Doe was his word for me.

5) When he didn't like his food, he'd dump it in his milk. (Okay, that one was pretty easy to figure out.)

6) Every morning he had a fit with crying and all sorts of carrying on. We figured out his socks had to be perfectly straight.

7) When he was ready for a nap, he'd fall to the floor and start pushing his head around on the carpet.

8) His "Dukes of Hazzard" matchbox cars had to be in a perfectly straight line on his window sill.

9) Mom had to carry an extra set of these cars in her purse.

He was the cutest thing ever. He might've learned to speak clearer quicker if it hadn't been for us. We knew what he was trying to say and always translated for him. Therefore, he didn't always have the opportunity to work on it.

But he prevailed. And learned to talk. And learned to walk. And run. And kick a ball -- which would become very important.

After my dad, he is my hero. He overcame major difficulties with silent strength and a calm outlook. I'll always look up to him, my baby brother, Bill.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Spring Fever!

Spring time in my town brings lots more than wishing flowers. Let's see....lightning bugs, love bugs, cool evenings that are perfect for playing kickball, strawberries, ice cream, and cowboys.

My town has a rodeo. This is a competition where men do a bunch of different activities with livestock. Such as ropin' calves, wrestlin' steers, and ridin' bulls.

It was held near the bus barn. No, we don't store our school buses in an actual barn. That's just what we call the big parking lot where all the buses go to sleep at night.

At this point in my life I don't much care for cowboys. I care for the bright lights of the carnival.

This is not a competition, but an obstacle course of sorts. The game was to ride as many rides as possible before your parents decide they are tired and need to go home.

I start with the carousel, then move on to the sack slides. There was the train, and the mini-roller coaster. And a whirly gig kind of thing that turns you upside down. The only break I took was to sit down and watch the pig races.

I save the ferris wheel for last -- always.

Usually, I win this game because let me tell you -- I am fast.

The only feat I never succeeded in was getting cotton candy. My parents were dead set against me enjoying the spun sugar treat. Guess I didn't need any more fuel than my normal rarin' to go attitude.

I consoled myself with more than one ride on the ferris wheel.

Friday, April 19, 2013

"Please Come Over and Stop My Husband." -- Mrs. Huxtable

"Drummond?" my mother calls.

"Yo!" he answers back.

"The dishwasher is broken. I'm going to call the repairman."

My father comes shooting into the kitchen. "Don't do that. I'll fix it right now."

I look up from my coloring books spread over the kitchen table and watch the exchange.

My mother looks a little pale. My lips twitch as I try to hold in a giggle.

"Well, do you think you have time?" she asks. "I thought you were supposed to go meet Noah for golf."

"Probably gonna rain," he explains.

As he walks into the garage to get his tools, her shoulders slump, and she sighs. I understand that sigh. God bless the man, he always has to fix things on his own. If it doesn't go smoothly, cuss words will fly out of his mouth quicker than ice melts in July.

Mama comes and falls into a chair at the table, probably mentally preparing herself for what's about to happen. She looks at us girls as we all carefully color pictures of Winnie the Pooh or Minnie Mouse.

Dad comes back in and sets his tool box down. The banging commences. We're only a few minutes into the fixing when the cussing begins. I feel bad for my dad, but sometimes, his irritation is really quite funny. Just picture Yosemite Sam, and you'll understand.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Granter of Wishes

It takes some time for Dandelions to turn into Wishing Flowers. I know. Because I checked everyday.

When they hadn't changed, I wasn't sad. Seeing the yellow dotting the field made me just as happy. You might be surprised to know that I didn't pick them. I let them live.

My extreme patience surprised even me. It was, of course, further proof to my mother and everyone else that I could control my impulses. Therefore, talking during instruction and standing still in line were possible for me.

Geez...I was dumb to show adults that side of myself. But...the flowers lived longer, swaying in the breeze, and pushing their happiness up through the ground.

Then the day came when there were Wishing Flowers as far as the eye could see. As Maria tells it, I declared, "These flowers go all the way to Hazard County!" (Not Harris. Hazard. Fans of the General should know to which county I refer.)

I run into the lot, ready to make as many wishes as possible. I do pick a couple. I close my eyes and make my wish, raising my head to the Heavens. After I used the most beautiful words, I open my eyes and blow at the white, fluffy seeds. Watching the wind catch them, I smile in glee to see my wish carried away. Hopefully to the place where wishes are granted.

Eventually, though, I get a better idea. I certainly can't pick every flower. There are hundreds of flowers waiting to be wished on.

Instead, I close my eyes and make all my wishes at once. Then, with lightning speed, I dash through the flowers, my legs and arms kicking up the soft seeds, sending them flying and spinning into the air. Thousands of wishes swirl around me as I run through the lot.

I stop and look around, my smile splitting my face. I lift my arms and glory in the sight of those white, fluffy seeds flying. All my wishes, shooting through the Heavens....

And the best part was I knew those seeds would hit the ground and grow new flowers. I was sending Wishing Flowers to others. It was a good feeling.

Saturday, April 6, 2013


I stretch. I yawn. I scratch my head and then jump out of bed. It's Saturday.

I get dressed and brush my teeth as fast as I can. I do NOT brush my hair. Who has time for that?

After I scarf down my cereal, I rush outside, my heart pounding in anticipation.

I race down the front walk as fast as Speedy Gonzalez, but come to a grinding halt at the end of my driveway. I stare straight ahead of me, my eyes wide, my mouth wreathed in a cheek-breaking smile. Even though I knew it would be there, I'm still amazed.

A field of yellow flowers waves in the morning wind before me. The lot across from my house has turned into Heaven as Spring has sprung.

They are Dandelions. Otherwise known as Wishing Flowers. Isn't that fabulous? I live right across from a field of Wishing Flowers. God must REALLY love me.

I sit down at the end of my driveway and take in their beauty. And my good fortune.

I sit for more than hour, soaking up as much of their happiness as I can.

But...I am also waiting...

Friday, March 29, 2013

Future Stars

The band.......Kara, Maria, Roxi, Wendy, Lela

The back-up singers.....Jack, Georgie, and Philip. (Sometimes.)

The song.......Nobody

The stage......the front porch.

The front porch???????

Oh, right. If memory serves me correctly, we thought if other people heard us, we might get discovered. (I think that was the only reason the boys sang with us.)

The words:

Sittin' in a restaurant
She walked by
I seemed to recall
That certain look in your eye
I said, who's that
You said, with a smile
Aah, it's nobody
Aah, nobody

Maybe that explains the last two week
You called me up, dead on your feet
Working late again
I asked who with
You said, nobody
Aah, nobody

Well your nobody called today
She hung up when I asked her name
Well, I wonder
Does she think she's being clever
(Clever, ooh, ooh)
You say, nobody's after you
The fact is what you say is true
But I can love you like nobody can
Even better

And this was sung over and over and over again. (This is another the reason the boys sang it. They knew all the words because they heard it everyday of their lives during the fall of 1982.)

Saturday, March 23, 2013

One Good Thing About Second Grade

As I walk down the white-tiled hallway with cinder block white walls, I think, "Why does the inside of the school have to look like the inside of a hospital?"

Maybe we're all crazy. Maybe we're in an insane asylum, and we don't know it. They're filling our heads with gibberish and nonsense, forcing us to be the people they think we should be.

That would explain the way they talk, in that sing-songy, cloyingly sweet way. It also explains why they keep us inside for most of the day, and why they stress the importance of math.

My God! Should I do something? Who do I tell? Would anyone believe me? Maybe not. My parents went to school. They were probably brainwashed, too. I bet they'd been taught what to say if one of their children caught on to what school really was.

My heart pumping with worry and questions, I put my backpack and lunch away. As I sit down, I take a look around the room, searching for cameras and other security devices.

"Class," my teacher begins, her happy tone like nails on a chalkboard, "we have a new student. Her name is Jennifer."

I turn, look, and pause. The new girl appears scared. And worried.

How horrid...being new. But even more frightening is being new...and being redheaded.

Jennifer had red hair.

That day, at recess, I found a best friend. A kindred spirit.

Concerning the insane asylum....I'll figure that out later.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Start Your Engines!

There was nothing quite so wonderful, quite so freeing, or quite so exciting as the Big Wheel.

An intelligent piece of plastic. Its colors and streamers, easy to reach pedals, and of course, its big front wheel made it so addictive.

My grandpa kept us well-stocked. There was a Big Wheel for everyone. And with the cement driveway that wrapped around his entire garage -- which doubled as his small engine repair shop -- we had our own version of the Indy 500 right there in Arcadia, Texas.

While I was careening around corners and screaming, "Yeehaw!", my sister and our cousin putt-putted along in the fire engine.

My grandpa also had a small, two-seater, toy fire engine. It went about five miles per hour. As you have predicted, it wasn't my choice of transportation.

As you have also predicted, Maria and our cousin, Dawn, never won the Arcadia 500. But, they probably didn't care and probably never consciously competed. I didn't need their permission to race against them.

Whenever I came abreast of them, I'd shout, "Gentlemen, start your engines!", and I would take off like a shot. They'd eat my dust as not only did I leave them way behind, but lapped them several times over in my ultra-fast Big Wheel. The pedals would set on fire as I rounded corners and shot down straightaways.

Maria and Dawn didn't stand a chance. Even if they'd tried.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Second Grade....It Keeps Going....And Going


Just that word makes me cringe with loathing and distaste. A vile concept. One meant to continually lower your self-worth and your intelligence. Math taunted me with its ridiculous reality. Exactly when would I be watching two trains meet at the same point? Would I ever be putting 53 watermelons in my trunk and then eating 15 on the same day?

I don't like watermelon that much. It's sticky and you have to spit out the seeds.

However, even more loathsome than the concept of Math...more vile...more distasteful...more terrifying and utterly excrutiating was...


Tutoring for Math. Get a hammer and some nails and pound them into my eye sockets. I would prefer it. Maybe my teachers wouldn't want to come near me. Hmmm, this idea holds promise....

Of course, my mother didn't want to help with that AND she LOVED the idea of tutoring. "This will be perfect for you, Kara. This is exactly what you need. You're going to have so much fun!"

Was she insane? Did she understand what it was? Maybe I need to explain....

"It means I have to stay after school. For Math. You know what Math is, right?"

"Of course, I do Dear Heart."

I start wonder if my mom has it goin' on upstairs.

By now I have learned I can't fight my mom's big ideas. I must accept them, grit my teeth, and remember....this too, shall pass.

So, I went to tutoring with Ms. Harris. My Math teacher. She gave me cookies to ease the pain. They were chocolate chip, so it definitely helped. (I like snickerdoodle better, but I'm not gonna tell her that.)

Thursday, February 7, 2013


I must remind you of a statement from my last post.

I watched affection being given to others and measured what these people did to get it. I tried to emulate them, but I was usually unsuccessful. It was difficult to compromise my belief system, even as a second grader.

Most of the time, if I felt someone was getting more attention and affection than me, I blamed my hair. Red hair does nothing for second graders. Even though Grace was in my life, always showing me how beautiful and popular a red head could be, I wasn't wise enough to see it yet.

So, Christmas of 1982 was a little upsetting. We were at my grandpa's, and my uncle hadn't listened to directions, and brought every present he'd bought for his kids to our Christmas Eve celebration. Therefore, most of the presents under the tree were for my cousins. I, in my young mind, thought I'd done something wrong.

I did my very best not to cry. How selfish and lowering; to cry because you weren't getting as many presents as your cousins. The action of holding in my sadness caused that pain in my side to come back.

I laid on the brown shag carpet, doing my best not to alarm anyone, but curling into a fetal position only served to draw everyone's attention. I did cry then.

My eldest cousin hurried over to me. He picked me up and carried me into a bedroom. I told him about the pain. And that all I needed to do was sleep. My parents came in, wondering if they should take me to the doctor, but I told them no. I just needed to go to sleep.

They left the room.

My cousin did not.

He took off his black leather jacket and covered me up. And he stayed with me until I fell asleep. I shall always and forever remember that Christmas Eve.

My protector. The defender of my heart.

And so, his name shall be Alexander...the defender of mankind.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Serious-Minded Child

Probably you see me as a "live for the moment" person. I certainly tried to enjoy every minute of every day in spite of those who blocked my path with things like piano, math, dishwashing....ugh.

However, I had a rare understanding that the world would keep turning, and I would get older. At some point, I would be an adult with my own home, children, a husband, and a job.

I also understood that bad things do happen, and they can happen to those I love.

Most children -- especially teenagers -- don't realize or contemplate the risks involved with particular actions. I did.

In fact, I took pains to keep bad things from happening. I tried to anticipate these events and stop them.

1) When we went places, I walked behind everyone. If someone was going to be kidnapped, more than likely they would be taken when we weren't looking. So I put everyone in front of me. If someone was going to be kidnapped, it should be me. I could take care of myself.

2) After "The Bully" kicked my sister, I made sure I was beside him in line whenever the kindergartners filed past us. I also took to watching him like a hawk, and if he was mean to someone else, I became their champion whether they wanted it or not.

3) The creaks and groans that occurred in the night would wake me up, and I would get out of bed and check on everyone. I had to make sure no one snuck in through a window.

4) I watched affection being given to others and measured what these people did to get it. I tried to emulate them, but I was usually unsuccessful. It was difficult to compromise my belief system, even as a second grader.

All this contributed to one thing....

While I was playing kickball, baseball, dodgeball, singing, jumping off the stairs, and other physical activities, in the back of my mind I knew....this too shall pass. This too...can be ruined.

Control became a very important thing in my life.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Chosen Profession

It's career day at school.

"What do you want to be when you grow up?" the teacher asks.

All the children's hands shoot up but mine. I listen to them shout out different answers. "I want to be a nurse!", "I want to be the president!", "I want to be a teacher!"

A teacher?!?!? You've got to be kidding. Whoever that was was obviously insane.

I didn't have an answer. Well...that wasn't true. I knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. It wouldn't be easy, but I was prepared for the mountains I had to climb.

Let's all remember what my favorite shirt promised, "Anything boys can do, girls can do better."

I believed that with every ounce of my heart and fiber of my being.

My classmates didn't know it, but they were looking at the future second baseman of the Houston Astros.

Yep, that's what I was gonna do. Playing baseball all day? Yep. Absolutely. Sign me up. I had it in the bag. Luke and Han were teaching me how to play, and I was good. Really good.

So...not a problem.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


Click on the link below:


Day: Friday
Time: 8:00 p.m.
Channel: 11
Kara: rear in front of television
Jack: rear also in front of television

The Dukes. Had to love 'em. I wanted to drive that car and fly on my own.

I used to try to get my mother to do a General Lee jump. There was this big hump over by the movie theater. I'd holler at her, "Step on the gas, Ma!"

No such luck. I'm sure you aren't surprised.

Bo Duke was my first major crush. Boy howdy was he a looker. Maria liked Luke...weird child. Jack liked Daisy and eventually, when all us girls started wearing Daisy Dukes, he had a nick name for each one of us. I was Daisy, Maria was Daisy Dukey, and Roxi was Dukey Daisy.

Bill had all the cars. He loved those cars so much, Mom had to carry an extra set in her purse. He'd play with them at church. (Let's not discuss how often I tried to play with him and got into trouble for it.)

Yep, I was influenced. I decided then that the best lookin' guys were the ones with mischievous grins and come hither looks in their eyes.