I hail from Harry Truman’s hometown of Independence. And, aside from the many meth labs, the umbrella-toting president really is Independence’s claim to fame. Oh, and a once-a-year festival celebrating the merger of the Sante Fe, California, and Oregon trails back in the 1800s. I grew up there. Went to public school there. My high school days were filled with student council, the newspaper staff, show choir, service club — basically everything kids get beaten up for. But I graduated near the top of my class. And those achievements were part of the reason my parents helped send me overseas to France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Italy, The Netherlands, and England.
But at 18 years old, I flew the coop for Manhattan, Kansas, which admittedly left me longing for the days of Independence on more than one occasion. The days at Kansas State University were not bound by time. I swear there were days that lasted 36 hours or more. I joined Phi Kappa Theta fraternity, became president of that fraternity, joined the campus newspaper, became editor in chief of that newspaper staff (probably more by popularity than talent). And just as I was about to begin my lazy, crazy, days of college, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease during my sophomore year. That was after months of misdiagnoses and 40 pounds of weight loss. Thanks to Crohn’s, I missed out on the oh-so-popular drug use and brief stints with alcoholism that characterized much of my social circle.
At 22, I graduated from K-State and began teaching high school language arts. At 25, I walked across the University of Missouri’s graduation stage with a master’s degree in education. And at 30, I finished the three-year-long process of my doctoral dissertation. So, if I correct you by saying, “Um, it’s Dr.” it’s not (mostly) because of my ego. It’s because I paid $30,000 for that title. I now teach composition and (on the rare occasion) literature.
I live in suburban Kansas City with a wonderfully supportive wife. She puts up with my eccentricities and frequent political rants about education, health care, and the economy. She is the perfect partner in life for me and an exceptional pack leader to our two dogs, Basil and Grendel.