Sunday, November 29, 2015

November 17, 1983

A strawberry blonde, cute, smiling, bundle of joy appeared on a mid-November day to Grace and Liam. This would be the last precious little one added to our "family".

And it was a boy. Which, as I told you earlier, was fine with me. Especially since he was adorable. I cuddled him as often as someone would let me, or as often as I sat long enough.

He grew up quietly adventurous, unflinchingly calm, considerate, stubbornly independent, and unassuming. This boy smiled at you while he climbed to death-defying heights. He grinned at you while he hiked over mountains and made stuff out of bark with his bare hands.

He experiences life. Takes risks. Basks in the sun. Revels in the deep sea. The outdoors is his haven.

He is younger than me, and you might wonder how someone in his early thirties could be described as such. He has done more than most people twice his age. If you doubt, let me refer you to the night of the talent show at my high school. The year is 1994. He is 10, almost 11.

The talent show, in which Georgie played and Maria sang, is over. We are sharing conversation in the auditorium with Grace and Liam. I look to my right, and this risk-taking ten-year-old is scaling the wall. And he is already half-way up.

As Grace hurries over to get him down, none of us are surprised. Surprised at how far up he got, yes. Surprised he tried, no.

Therefore, his name shall be Andrew. English for courageous.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

One on the Way

There was one good thing about the fall of 1983. Grace was pregnant. And it was almost time for him, or her, to appear.

I'm sure the mothers had a baby shower for this one, but I don't remember it. "Big Ideas" abound with this group, and if there was a chance for a party, well then, you HAD to HAVE the party.

The best part about the wait was, of course, wondering what Grace was gonna have. Boy or girl? Red hair or blonde?

November approached, and I hoped it would be a Thanksgiving baby. Then we could call it "Little Turkey".

(I don't know why I thought that would be a cute idea.)

I didn't really care what it came out to be, boy or girl. Adding girls to the group wasn't important to me. I had my girls. And, I didn't need large numbers of females to do whatever I wanted to do. I just did it.

And so would this little one. She, or he, would just do exactly what she, or he, wanted to do......

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Who Is Michael Jackson?

Do you have moments in your life where you wonder if you've stepped into an alternate reality? Or maybe, even though you aren't on the verge of death, you're having an "out of body" experience?

I have had two such moments. The first came in the third grade.

Three of my friends decided they wanted to choreograph moves to a song called "Beat It". (I had never heard it. But I didn't tell them that.)

I was recruited to be a part of this. To this day, I don't remember why I agreed. I don't even remember actually agreeing. I think something must have taken over my mind and body. Maybe aliens.

I guess it doesn't matter how I became a part of this because it happened. I joined them. During recess. During recess we practiced. I practiced. Dance moves. To a song I didn't know sung by a man I'd never heard of.

We did this for a week. And someone got the big idea that we should perform for the class. Even now my gut is twisting and rolling with embarrassment and shock. I don't know what possessed me. And, seriously, I had to be possessed.

The day came. The teachers pushed back the accordion collapsible walls, we wore our dresses and jelly shoes, and performed this collection of gyrations and cartwheels.

Luckily, no one made fun of us. At least, not to our faces.

This memory is one I've tried to block for a long time. Whenever I think of it, I shudder. Still. And I'm forty.

I spent a week of recess, dancing. When it was over, I finally woke up and tried to come to terms with what I'd willingly participated in. I went through the following days as if it had been the most normal thing in the world to dance for the entire third grade. I didn't apologize for it. Or look embarrassed. And I certainly didn't ask the question that had been on my mind since the whole idea formed and became real ---

Just who the heck is Michael Jackson?

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Hits Keep On Coming

Now that school has completely ruined reading, let's continue on to Math, shall we?

Mrs. Marshall was my Math teacher. I think she was somewhere around 60 years old. I felt bad she hadn't been granted that glorious age of "39-And-Holding" as Grandmother had been. However, I think I know why that gift hadn't been bestowed upon Mrs. Marshall. I mean, why lengthen the life of someone who taught Math?

And this was the year of multiplication.

Ah, yes. It was time to memorize numbers. Not the rules for Four Square or Chicken. Isn't that fantabulous?

I didn't understand the concept. How did 7 x 7 equal 49? I had no idea, which only served to prove there was nothing logical about Math. It seemed people just tossed numbers around and thought, "Hmmm.....why don't we make 4 x 8 equal 32?"

It was a nightmare. And I was awake for it. And Mrs. Marshall loved it. And the kids around me understood it. But I didn't.

Once, I actually raised my hand and told Mrs. Marshall I didn't understand. She huffed and puffed at me, but explained. I didn't have the guts to tell her I still didn't get it.

Oh, well. Thankfully, I had a good memory. It took some time, but I memorized my times tables. I filed them away in the part of my brain that is titled, "Just Learn It So I Can Get On With The Good Stuff".

As an adult, I use that section a lot more than I should.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Save The Tamales!

Bill, my brother, was an observant kid. He was quiet and paid strict attention, especially to those things he found most interesting. Like driving.

Remember when cars had bench seats in front? Well, Bill sat up there in between Mom and Dad. The three girls sat in back. (Usually talking and singing and trying to beat Dad at the ABC game.)

Little did we know while we were horsing around, Bill was soaking up all the steps for driving a car. We didn't think he'd been watching. Or could even pick it up. He was two. we go. Buckle your seat belt.

We would go to the meat market on Saturday morning. Holy heck, I hated the way that place smelled. It did help Maria determine her future job. She wanted to be a butcher. (She likes bacon.)

But, if you stayed outside, in the car, with the windows down, the smell was quite delightful. There was a gentleman, Rudy, who had a tamale cart in front of the meat market. And boy howdy were they good. He was a good cooker. I would lean my head out the window and breathe in the tamales. Mom always bought some from him, and we would go home and have lunch.

One particular Saturday, Mom took pity on our noses and let us stay in the car while she went in to get meat. The three girls sat in the back. Bill sat in front in the middle seat. Mom came out to buy our tamales. And while I'm praying she buys each one he's got, Bill puts the car in drive. Our big, white, 1980s Buick shoots forward over the guard and slams right into Rudy's tamale cart.

My mom and Rudy, of course, are shocked and going crazy over human injury. (There weren't any. Rudy's cart stopped the Buick. And we were quite safe in that boat of a car.)

Meanwhile, I'm devastated. The tamales! Their foiled bodies are everywhere. On the hood. The gritty pavement. The dirty sidewalk. I jump out and start picking them up, but the adults aren't helping and Rudy's cart is crushed and there's no place to put the food, except in the car and that might be stealing. And you know we aren't buying any today because Mom doesn't believe in the 5 Second Rule.

As I mourn the loss of spicy goodness, my brother has become famous. And my Mom has become flustered.

Of course, we paid to fix Rudy's cart, and all was back to normal by the following Saturday.

Sunday, June 14, 2015


By now, you should know I love to read. I bet you also understand reading was the second activity I enjoyed after playing outside. One of my favorite places to go was a bookstore that had a hide-away nook for children inside a wooden tree trunk. It was like a fairy land. I adored the area.

And it got me to thinking.....

If I ended up not playing second base for the Astros, opening a bookstore seemed like a perfect alternative. I mean, really, being around books all day? Sublime.

However, leave it to school to completely and totally ruin my love. They took glorious sentences, and beautiful words like "wither" and "harmony" and "sun-catcher" and turned them into multiple choice questions. It was excruciating. Agonizing.

I couldn't just read the text? I had to think about it? I couldn't just bask in the glorious images and feelings the author created?

Huh. Well, I wasn't gonna do it. Nope. Not me.

I pretended to work. I pretended to read the questions and circle my answers. And when I was done, I promptly followed directions and brought my paper to my teacher while she sat at her desk so she could grade it. Right then.

Luckily, as I patiently waited my turn, I discovered where her answer key was. A little slip of paper sat on her desk in front of her with the answers written on it. So I returned to my seat, fixed what was wrong, and took my work back to her. She never guessed I'd figured it out.

Do I feel bad about cheating? Um...yes. But I'm not completely sorry and for this reason:

I found it odd that I had to interpret what I read the same way everyone else did. What good does that do anyone if we're all thinking the same way?

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Third Grade -- Let The Mind Numbing Pain Begin

First day of third grade. It's here.

While I have the story of my sister saving me from a nail I never felt enter my foot, I am not in the bragging mood because....

My third grade teacher was also my first grade teacher. The excruciating agony. The torturous memories. I have to go through it all over again.

And, not only that, "the bully" is in my class.

I see him. He sees me.

His eyes narrow.

I narrow mine right back.

This year is gonna be historic.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Red Light, Green Light

A great game. Loved it to the extreme.

And when we played it at dusk, Maria would actually participate as well. And one summer evening I was pretty lucky she decided to grace me with her involvement.

I sprinted whenever "green light" was hollered. While my sights were glued on the prize, my legs churned ninety to nothin'. Halfway there, I tripped. As I landed on my stomach in the grass, I felt like something was attached to me. I looked over my shoulder, and there was a piece of wood stuck to me somehow.

The sight frightened me, and I cried out.

Maria -- the sister who feared crowds, flying balls, and moths -- rushed to my side and pulled the object out of my foot without hesitation.

As I stared at her, amazed at what she had just done, my father scooped me up and carried me into the house.

Blood is dripping from my foot. Mother is running to save her carpet with a mound of paper towels. I am crying, still trying to figure out what happened. My foot is throbbing with pain.

Eventually I learn I stepped on a nail sticking out of a piece of wood in our neighbor's yard.

After this incident, I decide I must be pretty tough. (Before, I was just tough.) I never even felt the nail enter my foot.

However, that's not the reason for the telling of this story.

This is the moment when Maria became my hero. This is the moment when I knew, to the depths of my being, she would always be there. This is the moment when I learned to never believe a person is always as he or she seems. We all have moments of courage and fear, shyness and confidence. We are never as our first, second, or third impressions portray us.

And thank goodness for that. Because third grade loomed. And with it came people who knew me well. Or thought they did.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Big Idea #7

"Dear God, please stop my mother. She is now making me perform in a recital while wearing a dress. A pink dress, Lord. Can you see how devastating this is? I shall surely perish, and it won't even be a romantic or dramatic death. The piano will swallow me, Lord. Right when I'm on stage. So, please, please, please stop my mother."

After this prayer was when I realized that sometimes God answers with the word, "No."

I ended up learning a song. I can't remember what it was called. Who would? It sure wasn't Lookin' For Love or the theme song from The Dukes of Hazzard.

I played well. No problems. And I managed to live through the embarrassment of being a redhead wearing pink. However, this torture was another strike against learning how to play. When would I ever need to know how? Never.

However, little did I know, it was the first time I would ever be on stage with a certain someone. I didn't know we'd been in the same recital until I was a senior in high school and starting to scrapbook. I came across a picture and was astounded when I saw this person standing next to me.

This person was very special to me when I was older. And my mom managed to get me close to him or her. How'd she know?

Of course.....this is Big Idea #7. So....I'm not surprised it would end up being important.

Now, if you can guess who this special person was, comment below, and I'll send you something in the mail. Happy thinking!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Piano Recital

I am still taking piano.

Hopefully, you are surprised. Hopefully, you are wondering why in the world I haven't been able to worm my way out of it. Hopefully, you are NOT assuming that I somehow managed to start liking it.

Well, there are more ways than one to skin that sucker. And, what I figured out was I could fake practicing. Yeah, that's what I did. I could play a bunch of chords, and my mom would come in and tell me how great I was doing.

I had discovered a new talent. And I embraced it like an Aggie embraces the word "Howdy" into their vocabulary.

This lovely solution cut my practice time to 15 minutes! Was I smart or what? YEEHAW!

It was all going so well. Until......

"Kara, we're putting a piano recital together. You're going to play in front of a bunch of people! On stage!"

I look at her excited face and think, "Oh, #@!?"