Once Upon a Time there was a girl named Karen.

That’s me! I grew up in a small town in southern California’s Mojave Desert called Joshua Tree.  When I was a kid, I didn’t think much of my dusty little hometown. It had no stop lights, no high school, and at least at my parent’s house, no TV.

So, I read books and wrote stories and fantasized about leaving Joshua Tree and becoming famous. I developed a crafty streak, which first manifest in my efforts to sew clothes for my Barbie dolls. (Do you know how difficult it is to sew little tiny Barbie clothes?!?) My parents both worked, so I learned to make dinner for our family of six. There were very few complaints about my cooking, even during the phase when I thought everything tasted better with a splash of Liquid Smoke. Sorry about that, guys.

As I grew older, Joshua Tree started to feel more like a special place. Sure, there was no grocery store, but there was a National Park filled with boulders as large as skyscrapers and magical forests made of cactus.

When it came time for college I moved to Boston, where I became ever-so-slightly famous working for a public radio program. I still love to cook and do crafty things. Photography is my craft of choice at the moment. Someday I hope to elevate my craft to art.

My adventures are real these days. They’re not as grand as I had once imagined, but they’re so much more entertaining. I believe that any human experience can make for a great story, as long as you know how to tell it. Let me prove it to you.

My sister is an elementary school teacher. Her first job was at a high school in a low income district. Most of her kids’ parents didn’t speak English. There was no money for translators or ESL instructors, so everybody just made do as best they could.

Even though her school had no money for supplies, my sister was one of those teachers who covered her bulletin boards with real fabric instead of construction paper. She wanted the kids to be proud of their classroom. One day while admiring her handiwork, I noticed one of the essays up on the board didn’t match the others.

Most of the essays were neatly handwritten, if poorly spelled, and sounded something like this:

I like ice creem. Ice creem tastes good in the sumer.

One of the essays sounded like this:

Left talk dog bank horse said, “sheep fish who them.

My sister took me around the room and showed me all of this kid’s work. Turns out he had lived most of his life in a refugee camp in some southeast Asian country. (I forget which one. Vietnam? Cambodia?)

He spoke almost no English, and the school could only afford to bring in a translator for a few hours a week. Those hours were mostly spent on standardized testing, so the rest of the week this student did the best he could.

He was a few years older than the rest of my sister’s class, but none of them knew it because he was still the smallest. He tried to pay attention and study. (After all, he got the said-comma-quotation mark part right!) He did okay on his spelling tests, but he didn’t know the meanings of the words he was learning to spell.

But, in this kid’s short time in the United States, he had learned one important English phrase. My sister wasn’t sure he knew exactly what it meant, but he knew that all good stories started with:

Once Upon a…

One Comment to “About”

  1. Love your comments on this blog, Karen, on which I stumbled by chance whilst looking for poetical ideas… Please receive my fàilte from the Highlands of Scotland.

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