Monthly Archives: November 2012

Birthday Guest Blog-from my baby sister, Emily

Birthday Guest Blog-from my baby sister, Emily

As you all know by now, my sister Karri received all the wordsmith genes in the family. I do believe that she has passed them on to her daughter Sophi, too (and possibly Evan, although no word on whether he has actually sat down long enough to put pen to paper to test the gene out). That being said, by the time it got to the third daughter, there was very little of the writing gene left, so please bear with me as I try to pay tribute to my oldest sister on her birthday.

My mom often tells the following story to describe her three daughters. If she drew a line in the sand and specifically told the three of us not to cross it, my response as the rule following baby would be to avoid crossing, approaching, looking at or thinking about the line. Kim, the middle daughter, who often lives in her own reality, would respond, “what line?” Oh but Karri, the first born, she would see the line and while looking you directly in the eye do whatever it took to cross it. Whether it be hopping, jumping, tiptoeing or nose-diving, she’s crossing it, line be darned. Even if awaiting her on the other side was a pit of gnarly crocodiles, she got over it. But you see, that is what makes Karri so great (albeit aggravating at times). Her tenacity to achieve whatever she has set her mind is a force not easily stopped. We have all seen it in her parenting. She would do anything, ANYTHING, for her three kids or Kevin and even her furry four-legged pals. And I know that she would stop at nothing for me, too.
I have often wondered what I would do if in a freak rule breaking accident I were to get arrested. Who would I call? Karri. In a heartbeat. Now she may not have the bail money, but she’d beg, borrow or steal to get me out. I remember one specific instance in the 5th grade, my parents were out of town and someone at school had spread a nasty rumor at me. My 12 year old heart was crushed (as 12 year old hearts so easily are). I thought of calling no one else but Karri. She talked me through the situation and even volunteered to call the rumor spreader and her mother. Now, even then I had known Karri long enough to know that my innocent private school friends and their parents were not prepared to deal with the fury of Karri-scorned, so I declined, but I will never forget that she was there for me then and countless other times. That’s another thing about Karri, not matter what she has going on, she will take the time to help you out. Like the time she “edited” my graduate school admissions essay the night before it was due. I’m sure she did this in between working full time, coaching Sophi or Evan in some kind of sport or watching Riley cheer at a football game.
Some of my earliest memories include time with Karri. I was born when Karri was 16 and I am sure she got the privilege of babysitting more often than she wanted. On several occasions people thought that I was her baby, not her baby sister. One day she had me in her cart at Wal-Mart and someone told her how cute her little girl was. She thanked the woman but told her that I was her baby sister. Then I pulled a move that I am sure I learned from her. I couldn’t have been more than three at the time, but I quickly responded, “Hey can I have this sucker, MOM?” Of course the people thought Karri was completely full of it and couldn’t believe she would call her baby her little sister. I believe this was my way of payback for her tricking me into eating the candles off my birthday cake when I was two. I also remember going over to her house after she had moved out and being allowed to do things mom would NEVER have let happen in our house. For one thing, our mom was extremely picky about what I ate. I never remember one time in my entire life eating Kraft mac and cheese at my mom’s. But when I went to Karri’s, not only did I get to eat mac and cheese, I was allowed to stand on a stool over the hot stove and stir the tasty treat (had Judy known this at the time it would have been enough for her to faint). Karri’s house was a place where fun could be had and messes could be made. I loved going there.
Looking up to Karri my entire life, I have learned many things. She may not always take the easy road, but she a unique way of finding joy along the path. If you have been around Karri at all you know that her quick wit keeps everyone around her laughing. She always puts others before herself and would do anything she could if she knew it would help someone else.
So here’s to you Karri on your birthday. I love you so much and wouldn’t trade you for any other big sister in the entire world.

Emily and Me


Impact Moments

Impact Moments

Baby Riley

The majority of moments allotted to me thus far have passed without greatly influencing the overall direction of my life or altering the composition of my heart.   There are, however, those moments impacting with such force the reverberation pulses in every moment thereafter. Some are positive in nature, other seemingly devastating, but all are life-changing.   November 12, 2014, marks the 23nd  anniversary of one of the most powerful impact moments of my life…the day my daughter, Riley, was born.

As a nineteen year old college student with a propensity for making poor life choices, discovering I was pregnant certainly didn’t seem like a positive impact moment.  I was terrified.  I was aware of my less than stellar track record for taking care of myself, which made me feel completely sorry for the Tic-Tac-sized fetus attached to the wall of my uterus.  I wasn’t even good at playing house when I was little and got into trouble for cutting the piggy-tails off my sister’s dolls.  There was no way I was going to be able to take care of an actual human baby!  I was screwed, but not nearly as screwed as the little he or she inside of me for drawing the short straw and getting me for a mother.

Smiley Riley

The next 8 months I read everything I could get my hands on regarding prenatal care, breastfeeding, childbirth and parenting.  I followed the doctor’s orders to the letter and set my sights on giving this baby a better mother than the person I had been up to this point.  As my due date approached, I had started to worry about the pain of actually having the baby.  I asked my mom if it hurt to have a baby and she said, “I will tell you exactly what your grandma told me when I asked her that question when I was pregnant with you.  She said: would it hurt to shit a square wagon wheel?”  The wisdom passed down through the generations of women in my family is priceless and, as I was about to learn, amazingly accurate.


Because I was not covered under my parent’s insurance for maternity service, I saw the doctors through the local Health Department.  During my 24 week checkup I was informed that I would either have to pay $400.00 before my next visit or sign a waiver declining the use of an epidural.  The amount of emotional and financial headaches I had caused my parents over my 19 years on the planet loomed in the back of my mind, but so did my grandma’s square wagon wheel analogy.  In the end, I couldn’t ask my parents for the money and I signed the waiver, which seemed like a very, very considerate gesture on my part.  In hindsight, however, it was a VERY, VERY, incredibly STUPID move on my part.

Riley and Daddy (and the Devil dog)

Where do mommies-to-be go, when they can’t stand the thought of being pregnant one more second?  They walk (waddle) around Wal-Mart, of course.  I think Wal-Mart might even hold breakout sessions at the OB/GYN conferences around the nation encouraging doctors to advise women that strolling the aisles at Wal-Mart is scientifically proven to induce labor.  In my case, that is exactly what happened.  I was with my best friend, Cheri, and we were walking through the store.  She absently put her hand on stomach and she said, “Oh my God! You are having a contraction!”  My stomach was tight, but it didn’t hurt so it wasn’t computing with me.  I said, “No I’m not.”  She insisted, “Yes you are!  That’s exactly what my Aunt Tina’s belly felt like when she had a contraction.”  Since her Aunt Tina had just had a baby a few months earlier, I figured she knew more than I did about birthin’ babies.  As it turns out   Cheri was spot on with her diagnosis-I was in labor and ol’ Grandma also hit the nail on the head- it hurts like hell to shit a square wagon wheel!!!!

Monkey Moment

After laboring more than sixteen hours I had finally achieved a whopping 4 on the dilatation scale.  The lady who was laboring on the other side of the curtain (OMG…they actually used to put two women in labor in the same room) had arrived a few hours after me and was already dilated to an 8.  I was exhausted and hurting and I yelled, “Are you kidding? I hate that bitch?”  My sweet angelic mother promptly poked her head around the curtain and said, “I am sorry.  She is so tired she doesn’t mean it.”  I loudly clarified, “YES I DO MEAN IT!”  A few hours later, I hadn’t progressed much further and the contractions were excruciating.  During the quiet moments between contractions, my mom asked my nurse to please see about getting me an epidural.  I wanted to explain my noble decision of waiving the epidural, but I was beyond fatigued and the nurse had to explain to Mom the epidural “fee upfront” policy.  My mother started frantically looking around for her purse, “I will write you a check.  Just get the kid an epidural!!”  My mom’s attempts to circumvent hospital policy were politely denied and she cried at my bedside through each contraction.

First Grade

My labor was approaching its 29th hour and my stubborn cervix finally made it to the required 10 centimeters and I was cleared for transfer to the delivery room.  I actually passed my former labor room roommate pushing her baby in the hallway as I was being wheeled to the delivery room.  She was fortunate I was too physically and emotionally tapped out to verbally accost her.  If I had any preconceived notions that things were going to soon be over, I was wrong.  I pushed and pushed and pushed and pushed.  The clock was ticking ever closer to midnight and my mom was determined that I was going to have my baby before November 12th became November 13th.  November 12th is Mom’s Birthday.  An intern assisting my doctor with the delivery tried to show pictures of his kids to one of the nurses and he ventured too close to me and I grabbed him by the tie and said, “Everyone in the hospital has seen those f@#@king pictures.  Put them away!!”  Between contractions I decided to take off my oxygen mask, remove the monitors strapped around my enormous belly and tried to climb off the table announcing, “I can’t do this anymore.  I am going home.”   My mom grabbed me by the arm and demanded, “You get up on this bed and you have this baby right now!!  It’s almost not my Birthday anymore!!”  And so it was; I pushed and pushed and the doctor and the intern pulled and pulled and at 11:51pm on her grandma’s birthday, our Riley was born.


The first time I held her was an impact moment of epic proportions.  The 8 pounds and 2 ounces of bald, cone-headed, swollen baby held the key to my heart.  I was smitten. She has been uniquely Riley from that moment forward and a source of immeasurable joy in my life.   It is hard to believe that 22 years have passed since the day Riley came into my life and I can’t begin to quantify the blessing being her mother has brought to my life.  Here are just a few of the things I love about Riley and some of the things I have learned by being her mom:

  • She was bald for so long everyone thought she was a boy.  I started to pray that she would get hair and when she finally did get hair, it was carrot orange, with a mind of its own.  I learned that I need to be very specific when I pray.  Riley has AWESOME hair now!!!  Her crazy hair days were worth it.
  • Riley has an innate nature to see people’s needs and meet them. This was apparent at a very young age, when she came home from third grade and asked if we could get some shoes for a little girl in her class.  She said the girl always takes her shoes off under her desk and Riley had asked her why and the girl told her that the shoes were too small and hurt her feet.  In addition, Riley asked her teacher not to tell the girl where the shoes came from because she didn’t want to embarrass her.  I would love to say this was something that I had taught her, but it is something she has always had inside her and a beautiful part of who she is.
  • She loves things that sparkle, makeup, clothes, 80s music, and naps.
  • She often doesn’t get the joke, but when she does, laughs the longest.  She has an awesome laugh.
  • She is smart, capable, and fiercely independent.  She struggles with making up her mind, but when she does….better get out of the way!
  • When she was nine, she tried to convince me that she shouldn’t eat in the school cafeteria: “They serve artificial corn.  It doesn’t come from a can or a cob.”
  •  She is the official grammar police of the universe.

On the day she was born, if I had taken every hope I had for her future, it would hardly measure up to the young woman she has grown up to be.  Thank you, Riley, for being the daughter that surpassed everything my heart could desire.  I love you infinity.

Riley Landing after Skydiving




It was at first light
I saw Spirit move through the trees
A silhouette of strength and beauty
Framed by the autumn leaves

Through the fields to nowhere,
Unbridled Spirit ran
Free as her back had never known
The weight of saddle nor of man

Spirit’s song I heard
Though not a word was spoken
My glimpse of grand splendor
Watching Spirit run– pure and unbroken.

Spirit running

Full Disclosure–Not Quite

Full Disclosure–Not Quite

One of my best friends, Leslie, was trying to talk me into running a 5K with her this weekend and since I haven’t been running much in recent months, I was resistant to the idea.  During the course of her appeal, she used the phrase ‘in the spirit of full disclosure’ when revealing details of the event that she knew wouldn’t entice me to participate.  I always appreciate Leslie’s tendency to give me all the facts, even when she knows they may push me in another direction.  Against my better judgment, I agreed to run.  When you are as out of shape as I am, not to mention the slowest living land mammal on the planet, even a short race like a 5K provides a lot of time to think.  I began to ponder the very reason I was trying to pound out 3 miles and some change with no preparation, when my brain got tripped up on the ‘in the spirit of full disclosure’ phrase that Les had tossed me a few days prior.    Trying to distract myself from my current situation, I began silently deliberating the concept of ‘full disclosure’.

It was at a very young age that I came to terms with the harsh reality that lying wasn’t going to be tolerated by my parents.  Punishment for lying was swift and severe and thus, I learned to compensate.  I almost always gave the unaltered facts, but I routinely eliminated the pesky details that I knew would interfere with my parent’s overall perception of a situation.   I often needed an accomplice, and this was almost always my younger sister, Kim.  I rarely asked her to lie for me; I just encouraged her not to talk.  I wasn’t above lying, but lying was complicated and often exhausting.  She was seven and I was ten, the first time she fully understood her role.

               Atari® game system had finally found its way into our living and I had asked for one thing for Christmas-FROGGER. It was about a month before Christmas and I began to use the 45 minutes Kim and I were home alone after school to explore the forbidden areas of our house for our gifts.  It didn’t take long until I discovered a neatly wrapped box in the far corner of a high shelf in my parent’s closet. Even though the identity of the box was hidden under Christmas paper, I knew instantly that I had struck amphibian video game gold. Unwrapping one end of the box, I slid it out of the paper cocoon and headed for the game console.  Kim watched as I attempted to guide my little frog across the busy highway, over the logs in the swift river to the safety of the lily pad.  We laughed when the frog was reduced to the state-of-the-art graphic red “X”, when I failed to avoid getting the little guy out of the way of a car.  When it was getting close to the time for Mom to come home, I put the game back in its box, slid it into the wrapping paper, carefully wrapped the end and returned it to its hiding place in the closet.

Kim was worried that we would get caught and be in trouble.  I told her, “If Mom comes home and asks you ‘Did Karri find the FROGGER game in my closet and play it?’ you can tell her I did.  Otherwise, just don’t say anything.”  We repeated the scenario of unwrapping-playing-rewrapping for the next several weeks without incident.  Occasionally, I would even let her have a turn, just to reinforce that we were on the same team and to ensure that she had been a willing participant if things were to go awry.  Christmas morning arrived and I excitedly received the gift in a state of excitement that was only worthy of a complete surprise.  My parents were astounded at my uncanny ability to safely beat level after level of the game, but after weeks of practice, I had gotten pretty good.  Mom watched and said, “I cannot believe how good you are at this!  It’s amazing!”  I held my breath and I looked at Kim and let the silence of our secret hang for a moment between us.  I knew the spirit of full disclosure was fully behind us, when she reached for the joystick and asked, “Can I try?”

When we reached our teenage years, Kim was starting to see through some of my BS tactics and because I was often a total bitch of a big sister to her, she started to become a hostile accomplice.  There were other times when she would keep silent until I pushed her to the breaking point and she would gladly toss me right under the bus.  One such instance actually involved a bus- the school bus, which I LOATHED.  As a freshman in high school, I suddenly became completely repulsed by the very idea of riding the bus to school.  It was totally uncool and I would intentionally miss the bus, so that my parents were forced to drive me to school.  Each morning became a battle of wits and wills to get me on the bus.  It became a source of such contention that I was regularly being punished for not catching the bus and my attitude became increasingly sour.

My mom and step-dad were, needless to say, astounded when one morning they found me up, clothes on, hair curled, and ready and willing to head out and meet the bus!  My delightful attitude in resigning myself to utilizing the public school transportation was a welcome change.  Day after day, I would be up and ready and making no complaints.  Once they were convinced that it was not a fluke, they started expressing their gratitude.  “Karri we really appreciate you not making a federal case out of riding the bus” and “You must be growing up, because you finally understand how much it helps us out when you ride the bus to school”.   One evening my grandma was eating dinner with us.  She had been witness to some of the bus battles and Mom proudly bragged about my “new attitude” about riding the bus.  There we all were at the table, with Mom gushing about how nice it was to have stress-free mornings since I had turned over a new leaf.  Grandma even chimed in about being glad that I was helping my mom out by being sweet about riding the bus.  I was soaking up the accolades, when Kim had finally had enough, “She is not riding the bus because you want her to and because it helps you!!!  It has nothing to do with being good, or sweet or anything like that!  The ONLY reason that she gets up and ready and catches the bus is because she discovered that the hot junior football player that lives down the road rides the bus!!!”   My little sister–busting me out in the spirit of full disclosure.

A couple of years later, my step-dad asked a business associate/friend of his to give me part-time job as a checker in his grocery store.  I reluctantly complied with the new job requirement and went after school and Saturdays to fulfill my checker obligations.  A few months passed and I managed to learn the difference between a russet potato and a baker’s brown.  I was polite, mostly punctual, and liked earning a little of my own money.  All was fine and well until one Saturday afternoon a group of my friends stopped by to offer me the extra ticket they had to a Cardinal baseball game.  I asked the manager if I could take off and go to the game and he said I couldn’t.  So I quit.  I went to the game and had a blast.  Two weeks later my step dad came home three kinds of pissed off at me. He had casually inquired from his friend how I was doing on the job and was informed that I had quit two weeks prior.  My boss–busting me out in the spirit of full disclosure.

It has been a long-time coming for me to fully embrace the spirit of full disclosure.  Understanding the damages that relationships can incur under the auspices of revealing only the details which are easy to swallow has been a motivating factor in the way I choose to interact with others.  There are many qualities in myself that I wish I could hide, many choices I have made that I wish I could omit and I am confident there are many more mistakes I am going to make.  Striving to be my authentic self is something that has made my life fuller and my relationships stronger.  Remembering what a brat I was is a reminder to ask my children VERY specific questions.

NOTE: Thanks to Leslie, I finished the race.  Like an ironic revelation in the spirit of full disclosure, it revealed that I am pathetically out of shape.  Thanks, Les!

Carla, Leslie, and Me