Sunday, October 07, 2007

When I Was Just a Kid...Carmen Leal


Carmen is the baby in the satin dress with 3 of her 7 siblings.


Carmen Leal always wanted to travel the world, but as a kid, her family had to go on assistance, so it wasn't until she was 13 that she ventured as far as Kansas City from her Topeka,Kansas home. With her vivid imagination to fuel the fires of her passions and talents that are still taking her places, she finally has traveled many places. She also has toughed it out through many situations, including a difficult time in Florida. But now the generous-hearted friend to me and all is finally back in Hawaii.

The first time I met Carmen in real life was  at a writers' conference she was teaching at (we'd known each other for years online through Christian Writers Fellowship International.) She hugged me and we spent all evening talking--and only our duties at the conference interrupted the rest of our time. I remember as we sang in worship, she suddenly stopped to write on our program the brainstorm of ideas she had for me. She is the Idea Queen. If only we had enough time in the continuum to execute them because her ideas are good.

She has story after story to tell--both ones she has lived and those she makes up. She and a co-author just finished a screenplay. And I'm not sure if it was all those years as a child in braces and special shoes, or the freedom of spirit that she possesses today, but she teaches, sings and tells her stories barefooted! And Carmen has the world at her feet. Carmen is sure of herself, and sure of the God she worships through her many talents. Here's my favorite part--she doesn't have a bitter or "feel sorry for me" bone in her body. She is humorous with the most beautiful smile and  if you're not looking closely, you will miss the beauty of what she has to teach through it all. Through the many bad, and sometimes good times, she has been a witness to  the God Who is big enough to take whatever she hands over to Him, whether it is for herself or someone else.

Carmen is the mind and energy behind the SomeOne Cares Christian Caregivers Conference happening this month, October 25-28, 2007 in North Carolina. She remembers--she remembers what it was like as a child and into her own adulthood, and she knows Some One cares about how hard it is to keep encouraged in the thick of the battle of life. Let's see what brought Carmen as she is  today. If you are like me, y0u will laugh through your tears as you read her story:

Childhood Ambition:

In the second grade we had a talent show and our class learned the song Far Away Places made popular by Bing Crosby. That song launched a lifetime ambition to travel around the world. My mother stayed at home with the eight children and, after my parents divorced when I was nine years old, we went on Welfare so there was never any money for travel. I grew up in Topeka, KS and, until the summer I turned thirteen, our biggest trip was to Kansas City. That year my aunt sent two airplane tickets to my mother and asked her to choose two of us to spend three months in California. Thanks to my twin brothers getting mumps, my sister, Diane, and I won the tickets by default. That trip began a lifetime fascination with foreign languages, international cuisine, and a love of travel. Since then I've been to all fifty states, lived in Mali, West Africa not far from Timbuktu, traveled throughout most of West Africa, lived in Brazil, traveled to Great Britain, much of Europe, Mexico, and Canada. Next up? Hopefully taking SomeOne Cares Christian Caregiver Conference to New Zealand and Australia.


Here's the song that started it all!

Far Away Places

Far away places with strange-soundin' names

Far away over the sea

Those far away places with the strange-soundin' names

Are callin', callin' me

Goin' to China or maybe Siam

I want to see for myself

Those far away places I've been readin' about

In a book that I took from the shelf

I start gettin' restless whenever I hear

The whistle of a train

I pray for the day I can get underway

And look for those castles in Spain

They call me a dreamer, well maybe I am

But I know that I'm burnin' to see

Those far away places with the strange-soundin' names

Callin', callin' me

(I pray for the day when I'll find a way

Those far away places to see)

Those far away places with the strange-soundin' names

Callin', callin' me

Fondest Memory:

When I finally got my bride doll for Christmas I was six years old. The doll was taller than me and I loved dressing her in my clothes and safety pinning them on to make them fit. My sister also got one, but my doll was prettier and had blonde hair. I named her Sally after the weird little girl on Davey and Goliath.


Photos 1 (Below):

Top :Teen photo, 16 years old I'm the teen next to my cousin wearing a red shirt. My arms are crossed and I am furious because my aunt tried to straighten my hair by rolling it backwards on beer cans. I hated my hair!

Second photo:Under one year. I was born pigeon-toed and knock-kneed and had leg braces until age 2 or 3.

Third photo below: As St. Teresa on Halloween. I'm a third grader carrying a rose.






Photos Section 2: (Below)

Top photo is of my oldest brother, Kevin, sitting on the lion at the Topeka Zoo, and me.

Second photo: I'm about 7 years old with my Christmas baton.




Proudest Moment:

My proudest moment was when I received a full scholarship as an AFS scholar to live with a family in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Biggest Challenge as a Child or Teen: I jokingly say that I was born a size sixteen, and while that's obviously not true, I can never remember a time when I wasn't overweight. I quickly learned how to use humor to deflect mean comments from children. I was a C cup in fourth grade and, until the day I graduated from high school, my chest was the bane of my existence.

My First Job:

The first time I earned money was when I was six years old working as a page for the Kansas legislature earning the princely sum of $12.00 per day. I was so cute that even though I probably messed up every request I made huge tips. My first real job was as a pre-school aide with Doorstep Day Care Center when minimum wage as $1.60 an hour.

Childhood Indulgence:

I'd walk to the library three times a week and check out a minimum of four books and read a book while walking home. Sometimes I'd carry the books on my head. I can still do that trick. My mom used to lock us out of the house so she could clean and we could play. While everyone else played Red Rover and Hide and Seek or rode their bikes, I hid in my brothers' tree house so I could read.

Favorite Outfit as a Child: (or not!)

I hated my clothes growing up. I was always overweight and, being one of eight kids, most of my clothes either came from the Goodwill or my grandmother sent what she sewed. My Creole grandmother was a gifted seamstress, but everything she made was at least a size or two too large. Every dress was dripping in gorgeous, handmade lace but, aside from my sisters, no one in Kansas wore lace. She always made blue for my sister, Debbie, and pink for me. I hated pink my entire childhood and it's only been in the last three years I can finally wear pink without gagging. Of course the lace and satin dresses were a step up from the hideous, ill-fitted plaid skirt and white blouse school uniform.

Favorite Activity as a Child:

I used to hate my name because Carmen is not your typical Midwest name. My three sisters, Debbie, Diane, and Patricia, had perfect names. In fourth grade my teacher told me that Carmen was Latin and meant song. Because I loved singing more than anything else, this was great news for me. After that I loved my name. My last name, Leal, means loyal. So my name actually means Loyal Song. If I wasn’t reading, I was singing and even won a music scholarship to college.

Favorite Music as a Child:

Anything at all. My dad thought his four daughters were going to be the next Lennon Sisters and so we had to watch every variety show on television. Lawrence Welk, Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour, Carol Burnett and, of course, Miss America were all on at our house as my dad groomed us to take America by storm.

Crystal Editor Note: Carmen still watches the Miss America pageant every year, even if she's at a writers' conference! (Smile.)

Seriously, there was no music I didn't like. Of course, my dad never exposed us to country music.

(Crystal Editor Question: Do you like it now?)

Favorite Childhood Movie:

Oliver! Actually, I loved any musical no matter how cheesy and I still do.

Favorite Childhood Book:

I don't remember any particular favorites, but of all the books in the library I loved the biographies the best. Next to music and reading, history was my favorite subject.



SomeOne Cares Christian Caregiver Conference

October 25-28, 2007

Sign Up Now!



If you are a caregiver or know someone who is, please check out the SomeOne Cares Christian Caregiver Conference. Consider sending someone to this conference to give them a boost. Read more about Carmen and what inspired Carmen's books and heading up this Caregivers Conference.

October 26 – 28, 2007 Ridgecrest, North Carolina

Also, look for details on a caregivers conference in Hawaii!

November 2008 Kaneohe, HI

If you want to see a simply beautiful short movie about the essence of this conference go to this site.


Yahoo Video
God Tube
You Tube


Carmen's books are, beautiful, encouraging  and make great gifts to encourage someone:

23rdPsalm_Caregivers_s 23rdPsalmGrieve

The Twenty-Third Psalm for Caregivers

The Twenty-Third Psalm for Those Who Grieve

The Twenty-Third Psalm for the Brokenhearted

The Twenty-Third Psalm for the Single Parent

See the beautiful movie at:


Great book for writers who want to know about marketing your book(s):


You Can Market Your Book

For tons of info for writers and speakers go to:



Carmen now lives in Hawaii with her husband, Gary Scott, who has masterminded many web sites. She has two sons who if I put their photos here, you would mark this spot as a favorite(because they are drop-dead gorgeous --and smart, too.)


Anonymous said...

Dear Crystal and Carmen,
You two really outdid yourself on an absorbing story. Thank you for the info. about one of my favorite people in the world - Carmen Leal. I learned so much since we have not had enough time to share Carmen's background.
This blog was fun to read , and helpful because it advertised the Caregiver conference in a few weeks.Looking forward to it.
God bless you both for getting this to the www.
Love and prayers,
Lucy Adams

Peggy Blann Phifer said...

I agree with Lucy. What neat background information about Carmen. I, too, have "known" her for years but have never had the privilege of meeting her. If not in this world, surely in Heaven as Carmen has earned her reward twice over.

Thanks for all you do, Crystal. These "When I was Just a Kid" features are great fun.


Anonymous said...

Carmen, I loved reading the story God has written (and is writing) in your life--to see how He's used the tough times to mold you for His service.

I'm praying daily for the SomeOne Cares conference. I know God will use it in mighty ways--beyond all you can imagine.


Crystal Laine said...

Carmen, I loved your story! And you have many, many stories to tell. Thanks so much for allowing me to share it with others. I am praying the best turnout for the caregivers. What a wonderful ministry.


Anonymous said...

Carmen is a sweetie. Love what God has done in your life, and STILL doing! A wonderful friend.