Lu Carpino can predict the weather by the condition of her hair. She calls it "the frizz factor."
She even saved a man's life once. Carpino told the man, despite a clear sky, that rain was on its way. Stuck in a ditch, the man scrambled out. Shortly thereafter, the skies darkened with precipitation and the ditch flooded.
"When my hair gets frizzy, even though the weatherman says it's not going to rain, I can tell by my hair," she said.
That story encapsulates Carpino's personality -- a mix of humor and quirky nuance that gives her a truly unique perspective on the world.
She sees her life as well lived and full of love. Even if some of her stories are tragic, she seeks the positive and finds the lesson in all of it.
As a longtime speech therapist -- a specialist for the Pine-Strawberry School District -- and an advocate of special needs children, she learned to balance personal weaknesses with strength.
"I look at my special needs students as my equal," she said. "We all have a disability in some capacity. Everyone has an area that they're not strong in. I focus on the positive rather than the negative."
Carpino knew what she wanted to do with her life at a young age. She dreamed of becoming a speech therapist and a radio announcer. As an adult, she's fulfilled both dreams.
Her sophomore year in high school served as a turning point for the teenager who dabbled in everything. That's when she discovered speech therapy.
"I volunteered every Saturday in a speech and hearing clinic," she said. "I was a crazy, active kid in high school. We had to do so many hours of community service, so I volunteered."
That year, she also discovered a knack for harmonizing, and although she'd been singing in church choirs for years -- and was even asked to join a country western group -- she found the allure of harmonization in the high school band.
She took up residence in the percussion section. In marching band season, she played bells and, during the off season, tenor drum.
"Instead of hearing the melody, I hear a part above or below it. I literally hear the song differently. Harmony singers are harder to find than vocalists."
And at the time, synchronized swimmers enjoyed even more obscurity, especially in Yuma, the middle of the desert. But there she was -- in her heavy makeup and glittery bathing suits -- grooving through the water in perfect harmony with others. Carpino started in the blossoming sport of synchronized swimming as a 7-year-old, continuing on as a Junior Olympian and a coach until adulthood.
"I loved it," she said. "It's a combination of gymnastics and dance. It's what gave me a sense of rhythm."
But for Carpino, family is the real rhythm of life. She and her husband, John -- who met in the mid-1980s -- are fixtures on the Payson music scene. They met while working at the Fourth Street Junior High in Yuma. He taught music. She was a speech pathologist. John Carpino lent her a tape recorder, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The duo started gigging together in 1987 and by 1989, they married. John and Lu Carpino have built a life of laughter and partnership.
"I just count my blessings," she said. "I was able to find my soul mate. Remember: Some days you may not like each other, but always love each other. Love each other like there's no tomorrow."
The Carpinos have four children -- Matthew, Nicholas, Jessalyn and Jarod. And when Lu Carpino is not working, playing shows, volunteering or spending time with her family, she and John cohost a radio show on 98.5 KCMA.
"We just are who we are."
Payson People Profile
Hometown: Born in Flagstaff, raised there and in Yuma
Occupation: Wife, mother, speech therapist for the Pine Strawberry School District, musician and band member (John Carpino & the Hot Cappuccinos), manager and demo singer for my husband's home-based studio (Soundcheck Productions) and part-time employee for public radio station 98.5 KCMA.
When did you move to Payson and what brought you here: Moved to Payson in 1987 to take a job as a speech therapist with Payson Unified School District, and to be closer to my then-boyfriend, John Carpino. He worked in Sedona.
What's the biggest risk you've taken recently? Letting my husband talk me into getting back into local radio again.
What's the best piece of advice I've ever been given?: Live well, laugh often, love much.
Three things you want people to know about you: I love passionately and sincerely. My family and friends are my world. I never forget an act of kindness. I still keep in touch with grade school friends on a regular basis. Oops, that was four.
When you were a kid what did you want to be?: An actress.
Books: Anything by Mary Higgins Clark and Dominick Dunne
Song: "Thunder Road' by Bruce Springsteen
Food: Italian and Mexican
Vacation spot: Catalina Island, Victoria Island, British Columbia
Recreational activity: Relaxing, and if I get real motivated, I love yoga
Movie: "Fools Rush In"