How Do We Talk To The Children?

landscape-1445910041-g-talk-555173815We turn on the television to watch a couple of football teams duke it out on the gridiron and before the first play begins we see many of our heroes kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem. It angers some of us, and others appreciate that every citizen enjoys the freedom to protest. We begin a national discussion that sometimes devolves into an argument about how we should react to this development. Our president insinuates himself into the commentary using a pejorative to address the athletes that he finds offensive and suggesting that those who dare to insult the country should be fired. We line up to take sides. Some turn off their televisions and vow to never watch the NFL again. Others celebrate the rights of Americans to exercise their freedom of speech regardless of whether or not we agree with their sentiments. Many simply shake their heads and attempt to ignore the whole thing. In the midst of all the brouhaha we wonder what we should tell our children. How should we explain to them what is happening?

We live in a country that was founded with a rebellion against the perceived tyranny of a government that had lost touch with the needs of the people. At first there were merely demonstrations of dissatisfaction with the ever growing demands and limitations being placed on the colonists in America by a king and parliament too removed from the realities of daily living in the strange faraway place that seemed so rough and wild. Eventually the whispers and grumbles took on a more daring turn with rebels pouring tea into the Boston Harbor and concerns becoming more and more vocal and strident. Then came the shot heard round the world, the volley that began a war for liberty. It was a treasonous time when the leaders of the revolution risked death by hanging to create a nation far different from anything the world had ever before seen.

Perhaps it was a fluke that the ragtag band of revolutionaries somehow managed to defeat the most powerful nation in the world at that time. Whatever the case they found themselves freed from the dictates of a government that had often ruled without consideration of the people, ordinary citizens who had insisted that they it was their birth right to have a voice in how they were to be treated. The new nation needed a Constitution, a set of rules to guide the decision making and management of a disparate group of people. The document that they created was at once both brilliant and imperfect, but it held the seeds for eventually moving toward a more inclusive and more perfect union. More than two hundred years later we still have work to do. We have had to face the hypocrisy of having been a democracy that allowed humans to be held as slaves and denied that women had the same rights as men. It took us perhaps to bit too long to remedy those situations, but we eventually managed to become more inclusive. In the meantime the residue of problems not adequately addressed from our government’s beginnings continue to demand attention, and so we have protests from some of our star athletes. Just what is it that they want?

If we begin with the individual who first remained seated during the playing of the national anthem we find that he was concerned that there is still racism in our country. He believed that in spite of a civil war, a civil rights movement, and civil rights legislation there are still too many people in our country who do not receive the same level of equality as those who have held the privileges of liberty from the beginning days of our nation. He worried that many whose ancestors were once slaves are more likely to be brutalized or even murdered by law enforcement officers. He wanted to bring attention to these issues and so he remained seated. After a discussion with a member of the army after his first demonstration he changed his tactic to going down on one knee out of deference to those who have served our country in the military. His point was not to show a lack of respect for our flag, our national anthem or our veterans, but to shine a light on issues that he felt we need to address as a nation.

This athlete’s cause had lost its energy to a large extent until President Trump made remarks at a political rally in Alabama that some felt were out of line and threatening. He called out any athletes who demonstrate their dissatisfaction by taking a knee and referred to them as “sons of bitches” who should be fired from their jobs. His remarks were well received by some citizens and abhorred by others. A national disagreement has ensued resulting in ever more professional athletes joining in the revolt by kneeling in solidarity with teammates who had been quietly protesting. So what is really going on here? Who is being patriotic and who is treasonous? How should we respond?

Let us start with a bit of the history of our national anthem and our pledge of allegiance. First it must be noted that we did not have a national anthem until March 3, 1931, when Herbert Hoover signed a law deeming The Star Spangled Banner to be our national song to be sung at official gatherings. Several other tunes had been in the running and the winner was selected by a rather narrow margin. We might just as well have been singing America the Beautiful, The Battle Hymn of the Republic, Yankee Doodle, Hail Columbia, or My Country Tis of Thee all of which were finalists in a contest that began with a cartoon from Robert Ripley of Believe It or Not fame. It seems that on November 3, 1929, Mr. Ripley registered his amazement that the United States was one of the few countries in the world that did not have an official anthem. He urged his readers to write Congress asking the lawmakers to rectify this omission. More than five million people sent letters and the search for a fitting song ensued. Even after the decision was finalized there were many who were gravely disappointed by the ultimate choice and others who felt that if the Founding Fathers had wanted to formalize an anthem with all of its ritualistic insinuations they would have done so. Since that had not happened many took it to be a sign that the founders did not approve of such things. Nonetheless we had an official anthem and slowly but surely it became a fixture of American life.

The Pledge of Allegiance to the flag did not happen until 1942, when some citizens began to worry that the large numbers of immigrants who had come to this country might not understand the true nature of our nation. It was used mainly as an educational tool for children rather than a symbol of patriotism. The original version was written by a socialist newspaper editor and did not contain the words “under God.” That phrase was added in the nineteen fifties, so the history of pledges and anthems is a rather recent cultural phenomenon. Many religious groups exempted themselves from participating in such rituals because they felt that they should only swear their loyalty to God and not to a country.

So here we are today taking sides or ignoring the dust up altogether when the truth is that we can’t be certain that those who wrote our Constitution ever intended for our country to enshrine such symbols as indicators of patriotism or a lack of it. The protestors themselves insist that their intention was never to be disrespectful but to take advantage of their rights of freedom of speech as it was written in the First Amendment. Perhaps when discussing all of this with our children we would do well to attempt to determine how our leaders have interpreted that right over the history of the United States. So forthwith are a few quotes of merit. I will let the words of the individuals speak for themselves.

If the freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter. —-George Washington

Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom and no such thing as public liberty, without freedom of speech. —-Benjamin Franklin

To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we stand by the President right or wrong is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American people. —-Theodore Roosevelt

Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear. —-Harry Truman

We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. —-Elie Wiesel

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable. —-John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Read to your children. Look up ideas together. Discuss issues from both sides. Dialogue with them without rhetoric or preconceived notions. Teach your children to open their minds to new possibilities. That is what they need. That is how to talk with them about what they see happening.

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Whoop!

18195028_10212752944999176_1547173858954972621_nI was working at South Houston Intermediate when a messenger came to me with news that my eldest daughter had gone to the hospital to deliver her second child. Luckily I worked for an understanding principal whose instant reaction when I asked if I might leave was to tell me to go immediately. I contacted my husband who worked nearby, and the two of us met up at home where we hurriedly packed a few items and then rushed off toward Beaumont where my girl was living at the time. We raced as fast as the speed limit would allow and completed our ninety mile journey in record time, literally running into the hospital to find out where the birth was taking place. Unfortunately there were two hospitals in Beaumont and we had gone to the wrong place. We retraced our steps to the car and set off once again in search of the correct location. We found our way to the right spot and literally ran to the labor room only to encounter our son-in-law exiting our daughter’s room with a big smile and the announcement that Jack Michael Greene had been born minutes before. We were allowed to peek inside and see our elated daughter and her newborn son who appeared to be strong and husky. Thus began a journey of eighteen years with a most extraordinary young man.

Jack Michael Greene was named for my father, Jack, and my husband, Michael. It was a noble name representing the two men who have meant the most to me in my lifetime. It suited the youngster quite well for as he grew it became apparent that he possessed an exceedingly loving and gentle personality along with a multitude of talents much like his namesakes. He was so sweet that he rarely even cried and he brushed off injuries and slights with smiles. His easygoing ways helped his mother to cope with an ever expanding family. He was always that kind of child who just rolled with the punches and adapted to change without fanfare.

He was a wiggly and active little boy who always seemed ready to take on life with his trademark grin. He tumbled and danced his way into our hearts, embracing the world and all that it had to offer. There seemed to be nothing that he was not willing to try and so he ran on the soccer field and then became a tough defensive player in football. He dove into swimming and eventually taught his younger brothers how to do the various strokes. He took knocks and bruises and disappointments in stride, always viewing challenges as a necessary aspect of living.

There was a serious side to Jack that people didn’t always see. He was a deep thinker who quietly surveyed the world and asked questions about things that bothered him. He loved to hear the silly stories that I invented and when I slightly changed them in any way he reminded me of the correct way of telling them. He wanted to be brave and courageous so he forced himself again and again to do things that were difficult and frightening. He was bold in a quiet and unassuming way.

Jack has always been so much fun that people sometimes ignore his intellectual side. He was taking Algebra I in the seventh grade and he walked from his middle school to the neighboring high school in the eighth grade to take Geometry with high school students. He excels in subjects like Physics and finds coding software programs to be as much fun as playing a game.

When Jack was in about the fourth grade he asked his mother to sign him up for an acting classes. He was a natural and landed a role in the musical Annie Get Your Gun. It seemed to have been just one more thing that he wanted to do, but he had been bitten by the bug. When he reached high school he enrolled in theater as a freshman and continued with the troupe for all four years. He starred in musicals and dramas and found friendships along with his voice.

A few years back Jack accompanied me and Mike on a vacation trip to San Francisco and Yosemite National Park. We had an enchanting time and Jack threw himself into enjoying himself with the same level of enthusiasm that has always been his trademark. We had the opportunity to engage in some exceedingly thought provoking conversations and to experience moments that will be special to all of us forever. I realized at that time that Jack has layers and layers of intelligence and sensitivity. He is truly a man of substance.

Jack will graduate with honors from George Ranch High School tomorrow. He has packed a great deal of hard work and energy into the last four years. He was a varsity swimmer, an actor, and he enrolled in virtually every advanced placement class that his schedule would support. He also earned the rank of Eagle Scout and served as a leader of his patrol. He completed hundreds of hours of community service all while holding down a job delivering pizza and Italian food. Somehow in spite of having a mountain of responsibilities he maintained the same calmness and sunny outlook on life that has defined him since he was a tiny boy.

I have favorite Jack moments that remain forever in my memories. I see him dancing exuberantly and confidently when he was a toddler as though he is the happiest person on the planet. In another treasured recollection he is a smiling boy wearing a Sorcerer’s Apprentice hat at Disneyworld. I’ll never forget staying awake until an ungodly hour watching Forrest Gump with him. Then there was the time that we walked among the giant sequoias of Yosemite speaking of what is most important in life. Finally are those times when I watched him miraculously transform himself into other characters on stage, bringing a stunning sensitivity to his performances.

In the fall Jack will be a freshman at Texas A&M University which seems fitting since his namesake, my father, graduated from there. He was selected to be in the Honors Program and plans to major in Computer Science. I find comfort in knowing that Jack will be at Texas A&M. My father loved the school so. He often spoke of the grand times that he had as a student there. I suspect that like my dad Jack will immerse himself in all that the school has to offer just as he always has with everything that he has done. It is in his nature to experience life in its fullest.

I am bursting with pride and love for Jack Michael Greene. He is and always has been rather amazing. I suspect that there are many exciting adventures in his future, and it will be fun watching as his life unfolds. He has become as wonderful as I always knew he would be.

Facing Our Failures

Failure.jpgThere is a trite little platitude that goes something like this, “Failure is not an option.” In reality it is a very human trait to fail at something even after exerting great effort to succeed. We all find ourselves in the midst of a fiasco now and again. It is part of who we are as people. We may fail a class even though we thought we were prepared. A relationship may sour in spite of our efforts to save it. We find ourselves being fired from a job or unable to successfully complete an important project. We wreck our car in the split second of a careless moment. We say and do exactly the wrong thing in a situation with our children. We fudge on a diet or exercise program. We inevitably make mistakes in the course of living our lives.

Perhaps instead of suggesting that there is something innately wrong in failing, we should instead concentrate on how we will behave once the genie is out of the bottle, the milk is spilled, the horse is out of the barn. Our character is often defined more by how we react to failure than how we reach success. It really doesn’t matter how many times it may have taken us to achieve a goal as much as how resolved and persistent we have been in getting there. Our willingness to keep trying often determines the trajectory of our lives. Those who adapt optimistically to their circumstances are likely to ultimately overcome even the most challenging situations. In addition, we need to teach ourselves and others how to identify toxic situations and to recognize when to walk away from them.

I know a man who literally spent almost a decade attempting to earn a college degree. He had to work to pay his tuition and the coursework was sometimes quite difficult for him. He would joke that he was going to be the oldest graduate ever. Nonetheless, he kept his eye on the prize, never giving up, even when it seemed hopeless. The day came when he held his diploma in his hand. Ultimately it was his unstoppable tenacity that earned him a great job and his willingness to keep trying against all odds has become his hallmark. He has risen to the top of his profession, admired by peers and bosses alike as someone with a dogged willingness to get the job done. He is the go to man when the situation gets tough. Everyone knows that he will not take no for an answer.

Beethoven composed symphonies even after becoming deaf. Thomas Edison had to create hundreds of prototypes before finally finding a lightbulb that would work. Albert Einstein was thought to be a slow learner at school. Abraham Lincoln was initially seen as someone incapable of achieving much of merit. Walt Disney was told that he had no creative instincts. The list of so called failures who eventually became famous for their contributions to the world is long because the reality is that we all hit walls from time to time.

Too often we dwell on the things that we have done wrong rather than just picking ourselves up, deciding how to improve and then moving on. When we become captive to the negativity associated with failure we give up, run away. We assume that there is no reason to keep banging our heads against walls. We end up with regrets. We think of our might have beens. The go getters, instead, dust themselves off and get back in the saddle. They learn from each unsuccessful iteration and apply their new found knowledge to improving their lots. They remain unafraid to take risks.

I sometimes wonder if our society creates individuals who give in to failure because of the ways that we speak of it and react to it. In schools there is linear progression of learning with tests along to the way provide evidence of accumulated knowledge. Students mostly move in lock step from one skill to the next. For those who may take a bit longer to master concepts the process becomes a series of failures that all too often result in a feeling of hopelessness. I all too often heard the refrain, “I’m just not good in math.” The truth was that everyone of those who uttered such remarks was more than capable of becoming adept with numbers. They just took longer to grasp the ideas. With a bit of effort and encouragement they were eventually able to achieve a high level of comfort with very complex algorithms. They felt a sense of accomplishment that in turn lead to a greater willingness to explore even more difficult ideas.

When I was in middle school a gym teacher told me that I was the clumsiest, least athletic person that she had ever met. She ridiculed all of my efforts to please her. As a result I mostly traveled through life thinking of myself as a total klutz, unable to even catch a ball. It was not until I met a professor in college that my attitude changed. He convinced me that I too could be skilled if shown the proper techniques. He insisted that my old teacher had been remiss in expecting me to possess natural born abilities in sports. He taught me the fundamentals and my world as well as my attitude was transformed.

We certainly value the child who is capable of taking the school team to the championship. We send our finest debaters to the competition. Still we must be willing to provide opportunities to shine for those who are not as gifted. It is up to us to model behaviors that will teach them that improving is just as important as winning the prize. We have to let them know that they will ultimately find their pathways by participating in many different experiences.

I am particularly taken with the attitudes of my twin grandsons. They are incredible athletes but they do not measure success by the number of medals or trophies that they earn. Instead they focus on being their personal best. Their goals always involve moving just a bit closer to a better individual record. If doing so happens to give them a championship it is wonderful. If it only demonstrates that they are getting closer to their goals they are just as happy. They have already developed a way of thinking that is going to take them far. Would that we might be able to do the same for everyone.

Failure never feels good. It is a downer that we don’t want to experience but it sometimes happens. If we can analyze our situation and make improvements our mistakes will not have been for naught. We are all on a journey. How well we do depends on our ability to adapt and become stronger. That requires a positive willingness to keeping trying to find our way. If we keep the faith it will happen. Perhaps our new mantra should be, “Giving in to failure is not an option.” We would be wise to teach that to our children as well.

The End of the Curse

chicago-cubs-world-series-slot-2016-10-22For a time my daughter and her husband lived on a corner in an apartment in Wrigleyville, a neighborhood in Chicago. It was a busy area right across the street from a tavern where locals always seemed to be celebrating something. The elevated train system was only steps away so the clattering noise of mass transit was just one of the everyday sounds that echoed through the open windows of their place. It sat on the top floor providing an excellent view of the shops and eateries nearby. It was an old school residence without an elevator or air conditioning. The walk from the ground floor on the steep steps provided an unadvertised perk of daily exercise. The apartment was small but quite lovely with its polished wooden floors and windows that allowed the sun to create a homey warmth. It had the kind of character that comes from tradition and age. My daughter somehow made do with the tiny kitchen that barely provided enough room for two people to stand. It lead to a small private stoop and a fire escape that fascinated me. Somehow it felt like a setting right out of a novel.

I am a creature of the wide open spaces of Texas who had only read of multistory housing in crowded urban settings. When I first heard where my daughter was living I secretly worried for her safety. Upon visiting her domain and actually walking through the neighborhood near her place I became enchanted. Everything about Wrigleyville was quite wonderful, even the raucous noise that filled the air each evening as revelers relaxed in the local bar across the street. I most enjoyed sitting at her dining table in a corner room with windows overlooking the expanse. I imagined being there day after day and finding inspiration for my writing. I was intoxicated by the sheer adventure of observing so much humanity.

The area was called Wrigleyville because the home of the Chicago Cubs baseball team stood proudly at the center of the residences and businesses. It was an easy walk from the apartment to the field so of course I wanted to attend one of the games but my first visit was in the winter so I had to wait until my return in the summer. I had no idea that I would fall in love with the Cubs when I first entered the stadium on a warm afternoon. Everything about the experience was wondrous. It seemed to me to be what baseball was supposed to be like. The fans were all decked out in their gear and the place was packed. The hot dogs were a gourmet delight so unlike the plastic almost inedible ones that I had tried back home. People sat on the tops of nearby buildings to catch the action without benefit of sound. The crowd was happy, cheering and totally into the game. I can’t recall a single time that I have had so much fun at a baseball game. Forevermore the Cubs would be my favorite team with the exception of my Houston Astros.

I heard all about the curse that had once been placed on the Cubs by a local tavern owner who became incensed when he and his goat were turned away from the stadium back in 1948. I tend to be a believer in such things since I am sometimes a bit of a jinx myself. I’ve been known to turn the victorious tide of a sporting event just by my mere presence. I take such matters quite seriously. Somehow the whole idea that the Cubs were the victim of black magic seemed to be confirmed a few years back when they were on the road to finally ending their drought when a fluke play shattered their dreams. I just happened to be visiting my daughter at that time and watched in shock as a fan reached out from the stands and caught a fly ball before one of the players had the opportunity to force an out. I vividly recall how stunned we were as we realized that the Cub’s dreams had gone up in flames.

The apartment where my daughter lived caught on fire one evening. One of the residents had fallen asleep while burning a candle which eventually touched off a blaze that filled the entire building with smoke and flames. Luckily everyone escaped with only minor injuries but the firefighters had to vent the roof to control the burn and almost everything that my daughter owned was ruined by falling debris, smoke, and water. She was expecting twins at the time and decided that perhaps it was time to move to a place with more green space and so she left Wrigleyville but not without a heavy heart. We would all think back on that lovely place for years to come and reminisce about those Cubs games and the walks down tree lined avenues.

Eventually she and her family moved back to Texas taking memories with them that never grew dim. Year after year we all rooted for the Cubs but saw our hopes dashed again and again. Then came the news that they were going to the World Series. Prognosticators boldly pronounced that they were the underdogs in the matchup and I feared that something would surely go wrong in their quest to end the curse and become victorious. Slowly but surely they proved everyone wrong in one of the most exciting battles in decades, going back and forth with the Cleveland Indians until it was game number seven and they had to lay everything that they had on the line.

I had butterflies in my stomach all last night and did my best not to somehow influence the outcome of the game with my thinking. I busied myself and tried not to become too overjoyed when they held the lead for so long. When the game tied up near the end I held back the negative thoughts that clouded my mind. A delay of the game due to rain made me want to panic but I instead remained calm. I wondered if there had ever before been such a build up of tension in such a major contest. Then it happened. The Cubs won the pennant. After one hundred eight years they had finally done it.

I can almost hear the cheering in the tavern that still stands across from where my daughter once lived. I can see the smiles on the faces of the people of Chicago as they ride the trains to work and school. I want to walk down the street and celebrate with them. I want to eat a hotdog and wear a blue shirt. In a time filled with so much negativity and uncertainty it feels so good to have a grand reason to shout with joy. The Cubbies have shown us all how to keep the faith. I for one rejoice.

Triumph

mt-carmel

On September 1, 1965, the Mt. Carmel High School Class of 1966 began day one of senior year and what a time it would be. We were ready to take charge and end our four years with unparalleled accomplishments. Our student body leaders, Tom King, Terry King, Janice Lowe, and Jeannine Mandola were more than up for the task of celebrating the school’s tenth year of providing educational excellence to the young men and women of Houston. This was our time to shine and we took on the world with confidence and determination.

The Vietnam War was raging and dividing the nation. The editors of the school yearbook, Elke Ahr, Diane Martin, and Monica Krider chose to dedicate the 1966 edition of Zelo to peace. Our school would be touched by the tragedy of the far away war when a member of the Class of 1965, Mike Hoelcher, was killed in the service of our country. It brought home the reality that our days of comfort and youth were drawing to a close. Soon we would be moving into a new phase of life that would demand that we demonstrate the wisdom and grace that our parents and teachers had instilled in us. But at least for the coming months it was our moment to enjoy the fruits of our labors as students.

Our academics had become ever more rigorous. We learned how the world around us works in physics and began to better understand the politics of the United States in civics. Our mathematics ventured into the realm of Pre-Calculus, challenging us ever more. We became more and more proficient in languages like German and Spanish. We spent hours reading and doing research for our senior year English papers, the culmination of all that we had learned before. Our religion classes delved deeper into ethics and questions that have confounded philosophers and saints for centuries. There was no respite from the mountains of school work that never seemed to decline no matter how hard we worked.

Of course there was time for play and development of our extracurricular interests as well. Frank Abegg and Claudia Dean were tapped as editors of the CarmeLight newspaper. I must admit to being disappointed that I did not get the nod. Being the general editor was the one distinction that I had most desired because more and more I wanted to spend time writing. I was instead named the news editor along with Susan McKenna. My dismay was only a temporary setback and I was soon enough working long hours to meet deadlines and keep the news current and interesting. Our Forensics group was doing its own bit to burn the midnight oil in preparation for tournaments that they would win again and again. Paul Colby and Harry Butler continued to dominate in debate.

The Medical Careers Club brought home three awards for excellence that year and continued to grow in size and stature. I was proud to be the president of the organization but had quietly realized that medicine was not in my future. Judy Loisey, Frances Harris and Linda Derks led the Future Teachers club while Kit Lyle and Marjorie Neely were officers of the Mission Club dedicating most of their efforts to sending parcels to Vietnam. We had an active Civil Air Patrol with Mario Zuniga and Carl Eschbach as commanders. Jeannette Mikeska and Linda Daigle chaired the ever popular Dance Committee that stayed busy that year planning twelve special events. Frances Harris and Manuel Manriquez enriched the Spanish culture of our school with a moving Nativity presentation while the senior members of the Texas Association of German Students created a riotously funny skit called “Ich Spion” that featured the guys dancing in fake lederhosen.

Our sports programs brought us honor and winning seasons and even the possibility of beating our biggest foe, St. Thomas High School. The football team gained respect by defeating opponents like Jesuit, Alvin, Kelly, Kirwin and Bishop Byrne. We became the surprise of 2-AAA with a team led by standout players like Leonard Luna. Senior players, Mike Bole, John French, Mike Getz, Mike Villars, James Mushinski, Paul Jauma, Allen Bare, Tom King, Donald Descant, Paul Kasper, Terry King, Tad Trahan, David Sonsel, Ronald Block and Jack Villagomez made Friday nights more exciting than they had ever been even though our ultimate goal of finally winning against St. Thomas never came to pass. The varsity basketball team placed second in the district with Paul Kasper, Joe Madden and Leonard Luna playing key roles. The track team went even farther fielding both district and state championships with Pat Hulin, Leonard Luna, Johnny French, Ronald Block, Chris Nixon and Donald Descant. Not to be outdone, the ladies played hard at volleyball, basketball and swimming with Linda Wilson, Janice Repsdorph, Diane Martin, Ruth Hoesel, Janice Lowe and Jeanette Mikeska representing us with determination and pride. Of course our cheerleaders, Lucille Warchol, Tommy Morrison, Jeanette Mikeska, Johnny McAughan and Patty Balke were ever present to lead the student body in supporting all of our Carmel athletes.

Homecoming that year featured an amazing bonfire with Mary Jo Cipriano reigning as our queen. The football field and the dance that followed was awash with extravagant mums that only Texans understand and a beautiful and sweet court of young ladies who had exhibited their school spirit in a multitude of ways. Janis, Margaret, Stephany, Jeanette, Jeannine and Kit were all smiles and the rest of us would always remember them as Mt. Carmel royalty.

The Cadettes were winners on and off of the field, bringing home a first place trophy for the International Trade and Travel Fair Parade. Officers who had marched rain or shine for three years before earning their stripes were Janis Lowe, Kit Lyle, Ruth Hoesel, Judy Loisey, Jeannine Mandola, Margaret Rae, Karen Wilson, Cindy Cash, Carolyn Snow, Diane Martin, Susan Kelly, Lou Anne Bering and Janet Key. I was asked to be the official announcer during their routines on the football field which was a job that I loved. It also allowed me to attend the Cadette Ball in the spring. I always felt thankful to whomever had come up with the idea of including me in this wonderful organization. 

Of course Mt. Carmel High School was first and foremost about academics. Bill Winn and David Patton were finalists in the National Merit Scholarship competition while Paul Colby and Claudia Dean received letters of commendation. After years of hard work prompted mostly by fear of failing and a need to honor my father I had the number one rank and became the valedictorian with Judy Loisey as the salutatorian. Hard work paid off for those of us who were senior members of the National Honor Society including Mario Zuniga, Mike Petru, John Kurtz, David Patton, Richard Powers, Bill Bailey, Frank Abegg, Judy Loisey, Margaret Rae, Linda Caldwell, Linda Daigle, Claudia Dean and me.

With spring came the Junior Senior prom and the traditional senior trip to Bandera. One hundred forty four of us had made it to the finish line. We played in the sun, danced, rode horses and recalled four years of memories. We followed the traditions of presenting a senior play and crowning the Virgin Mary in May. We received our “Academy Awards” from the juniors and at long last gathered together in the gym on May 22, to receive our diplomas. It was one of those bittersweet days for which we had longed. It was the culmination of our accomplishments and our friendships. We would process into the building as a family and leave to travel in many different directions. There would be many whom we would never see again. Our days as high school students were done. It was time for us to begin to assume the mantle of adults and demonstrate to the world what it really means to be a graduate of Mt. Carmel High School.