I’m easily amused. So you won’t be surprised to know that I laugh at myself. A lot.
What brings me even more joy, though, is my family. You won’t be surprised to know that they laugh at me sometimes, too. A lot. (I mean laugh with me). So let me introduce you to this incredible of collection of people that I am humbled and honored to call my family.
– Kelly, my wife of almost 29 years. My soul-mate. No one else would have (and continued to) love a man with such a big little boy trapped in his body. Or is it man trapped in little boy’s body.
I get so confused.
Kelly is preparing to embark on her fifth career. When we were first married, she went to nursing school and became a licensed practical nurse. She was an office nurse in Linn, Mo., for several years, taking time to deliver into our lives Kishia (1985) and Natasha (1987). Kelly came home one day and announced she wanted to become a veterinarian. I thought the idea would pass.
The next day, Kelly enrolled in the animal science program at Lincoln University in Jefferson City. Her goal was to complete undergrad/prerequisite work at LU, then pursue getting into vet school at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Along the way, she fell in love with research, and in 1994 she published a journal article on something to do with extending the shelf-life of ram semen with egg yolk. She presented that paper in Southampton, England, at an international symposium on reproductive research. The road to vet school led to a degree in animal science at Lincoln, along with a research job there after graduation.
That experience led to our brief stint as sheep farmers in the late 1990s. The “bummer” lambs born at the Lincoln farm required too much time from the staff, so Kelly began rescuing them from whatever fate was going to befall them. We took several “bummers,” added a few crossbred ewes and a handsome Dorset ram named Nibbles, and we had a flock. (At one point, we even had a blind goat in our apartment. In the shower stall.)
Let’s fast-forward. The grant that funded Kelly’s job at Lincoln ran out. I was working at the Jefferson City News Tribune, our girls were firmly plugged in at school (Kishia, a sophomore, and a Lady Jay basketball player; Natasha, aneighth grader, falling in love with the cello and orchestra) and I pastored a small country church in Maries County, about 40 miles away. To make ends meet, Kelly and I both began substitute teaching. (I worked mostly a 4-to-midnight shift at the paper, so my days were “free.”)
Somehow, for some reason, Kelly and I were both drawn to offering our substitute teaching services to the special needs classrooms, working with children who had autism, behavioral problems, Down syndrome, a variety of developmental delays, and similar kids who didn’t quite fit the mainstream of the student population. Kelly also filled in as school nurse. Life was really pretty good. We had no reason to leave Jefferson City; no reason to step any further out of our comfort zones.
But divine providence usually makes no sense, so you can imagine that everyone in our lives — except me and Kelly — thought we were having a joint mid-life crisis when we moved to Harrisburg, Mo., after Memorial Day in 2001 to become home parents at Coyote Hill Christian Children’s Home. We spent the next three years as full-time foster parents to as many as eight kids at a time (not counting our two), and in the course of our incredible time at Coyote Hill, we foster-parented 26 beautiful kids, ranging in age from 5 to 16.
From 2004 to 2008, Kelly and I took a stab at running our own business, the Northern Boone County Bullseye newspaper, a weekly publication in Hallsville, Mo. I think I’m a fairly adequate journalist/reporter/editor, but I’m a terrible businessman. Add to that equation The Great Recession and heavy competition from weekly ad sheets, and The Bullseye went belly up in September 2008. My office manager — my wife — was out of a job. I landed on my feet at the Columbia Daily Tribune. That was 2 1/2 years ago, but I sometimes feel like I’ve been at the Tribune forever.
I hope I haven’t overstayed my welcome.
Meanwhile, Kelly is in her second semester in the Master of Social Work graduate program at the University of Missouri-Columbia’s School of Social Work. I’ll keep you posted.