Author Archives: Kelly J. McCleary

About Kelly J. McCleary

Mother of three, author, financial professional


I love my kids more than my own life; I’m sure most mothers feel that way. I’m their fierce protector and defender, and no one is more proud of their hard-fought accomplishments. Each of the three of them is a unique, amazing human being, and it’s been a privilege to walk with them for awhile.

But that’s the rub…”for awhile.” While I want them to grow up and be independent and spread their wings, that means they will inevitably leave. It’s the ripping away of an entire organ in my gut. Like applying an aloe leaf to a burn, it’s comforting, and yet the intense pain remains just above the surface.

I will cherish and nurse the gaping wounds each of them leaves on my heart until my last breath.

“Mother’s love is peace. It need not be acquired, it need not be deserved.” –Eric Fromm



The world is made up of two kinds of people, those who are driven primarily by logic, and those driven primarily by emotion. Of course we are all made up of both, but one or the other perspective tends to dominate. I’m a logic person, no surprise given my career choice in finance.

Though I view the world through a logic lens, I increasingly find it easy to feel empathy, and it’s because it seems inherently logical. I simply assume that an obvious inference of the golden rule must be true: that others must feel about the same way that I do. Attempting to put myself in others’ shoes and imagine how they might be feeling, to determine what response is appropriate (and needed) from me, is simply logical. The only underlying requirement in this obvious definition of empathy is a belief that others deserve the same treatment that we wish for ourselves.

I read an article this morning providing evidence that kindness is contagious. Given this week’s series of hate-driven tragedies, it’s abundantly clear that our public officials aren’t going to accept responsibility for the current divisive, toxic atmosphere of ‘us vs. them’. We’re on our own to heal our country. I’m tired of waiting for ‘them’ to fix it. I don’t even know who ‘they’ are, and whoever they are, they’re clearly not solving it. There is only ‘us’. I’m inspired by the article to see if I can change my tiny corner of the world through kindness and see if it spreads. I don’t know what else to do in response to this week’s horrific headlines. It seems like the only logical thing to do.

“Divide and rule, the politician cries; unite and lead, is watchword of the wise.” –Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


We’re officially in autumn now, my favorite season. But I’ve also learned there are seasons to life, and, thanks to a wise friend, even to friendships. That’s been a lesson I needed to learn.

My friend shared her wisdom with me about five years ago, paying forward a truth shared with her by another friend. She said that knowledge had given her much peace to let go of friendships whose season had passed. It makes so much sense if we just think about it. Every relationship works as long as both parties receive something from it. As life happens, our needs and our capacities change, sometimes fundamentally. We may move or become a parent or marry. These changes cause inevitable changes in other relationships. It can be easy to take those relationship changes personally or make us feel obligated to fight against our own life changes, but we shouldn’t resist this natural evolution. It is a normal part of life, if one of the sadder ones. We must give ourselves permission to let life evolve, including the relationships of those once important to us.

I lost touch with this friend a few years ago when I changed jobs. Our paths simply diverged enough after that, in spite of our stated goal of staying in touch. But happily and ironically, in this newest season of my life, we have reconnected, picking up where we left off. I am glad our paths have reconverged. Here’s to ever-evolving seasons of life.

“In the depth of winter, I learned that within me lay an invincible summer.” –Albert Camus


I’ve lived in 16 houses in my 52 years. We’ve been in this one six years now, making it the second longest I’ve ever lived in one house. If we stay here until Claire graduates, our current plan, we’ll be here nine years, a new record for me. I’ve also had 15 jobs, if you don’t count my high school and college jobs and a couple of short-lived mistakes early in my career. Though I may sound like a job hopper, I’m not, as 24 of my 30 years have been with just two companies.
I’ve heard a third of Americans live within 30 miles of where they grew up. I’m not sure if I’m surprised it’s that many or that few. I only know that’s not been a part of my life, ever. Exactly half of those 16 houses happened by the time I was ten. I feel wired for change. The huge upside to having a DNA for change is a lack of fear of it. It plays out in lots of ways in other areas of my life. I love exploring new places and have traveled alone to Malaysia, Argentina, China, Romania, Switzerland and Camden among others. The job changes and two books I’ve written are just more evidence of a willingness to stretch. But there’s a big downside to this wanderlust, too. I don’t have many long-term friendships. Instead, I’ve learned to plug in quickly to a new network and the necessity of reaching out and being vulnerable early to accelerate relationships. I’ve learned to console myself when saying the inevitable goodbyes, that there will be amazing new friends just over the horizon who I’ll eventually wonder how I ever did without. And while that’s always proven spectacularly true, the grief from the loss is real.
I’m facing another move in a couple of years, this time to downsize when Claire graduates. But this time I plan to move 20 miles away and stay in my network. I think I’ve finally found my permanent place. It feels good. I’ll need to start traveling more and stretching in other ways to keep the wanderlust at bay. But I’m ready now to settle in. I’m finally home.
“A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.” –George A. Moore


All of his stuff is gone. Three weeks after the judge signed the divorce decree, the closet and garage are pretty empty. It’s all so different. And while the emptiness of these spaces is what strikes me when I enter them, the emptiness is also liberating in its own way. Fewer things also means fewer encumbrances in my life. Empty space represents a clean canvas. I can move forward and fill the space of my own making. Empty doesn’t have to be only sad–it’s also symbolic. I already see the space with hope for how I will fill it. I’ve already done things I wouldn’t have before, and even more are planned. I’m seeing friends I haven’t seen in too long. I’m traveling to new places. I’ve started to write my next book, a project of passion and connection to others. I’m becoming closer to God, as I learn to turn control over to Him. I’m starting to push my boundaries out. Just like beginning a new exercise program causes new pain, starting this new life isn’t easy. But the discomfort of stretching new muscles also feels good. I know it’s healthy, and I know it won’t last. I know I’m on my way to a stronger, healthier me.

“The empty vessel makes the loudest sound.” –William Shakespeare

Writer’s Block

I put pen to paper this week for the first time on my new book. It was excruciating. I’ve had the idea and even the title for a couple of years now, but until recently, chaos in my personal life prevented me from starting. As I turn the corner on my next chapter in life, I’ve decided writing actual new chapters is a fitting way to start.

Staring at a blank page and forcing myself to just start writing has always been the most challenging part for me. I actually love editing. I edited each of the first two books at least a hundred times, reading each chapter, each paragraph, refining them over a hundred times. That may sound tedious, but compared to the act of getting each of those paragraphs down on paper for the first time, it’s a breeze. You see, I hate everything I write at first, and for good reason: it’s bad. Sometimes a blog will come out inspired, flowing from the first word and needing very few tweaks before publishing. Those are the times it’s most clear to me that I’m not really the one writing and the hand of the true Author is most visible.

So I’ll be praying constantly through this process for Help, because this time it’s more important than the first two. This time I’m telling the stories of victims of HLH, the rare blood disease Megan had. It will be very different and more difficult than the first two, in that I’m writing about subjects I don’t know and can’t objectively research. I’ll be attempting to bring people to life who I’ve never met, some of whom, tragically, I won’t have the opportunity to interview. But luckily I’m not the one who will be writing the book. Saying that I am would be like saying that the hammer builds the house and not the Carpenter. I’ve seen His hand in the process already. I targeted finding 15-20 stories, but nearly panicked when over 30 responses came in within the first few days of my call out. What I didn’t count on was that not everyone would follow up, and as of right now, I have a perfect sixteen. I knew I wanted a range of ages, genders and outcomes, and, naturally, the sixteen are. I estimated that each chapter needs between 2,000-2,500 words, and, of course, the first draft of the first story has 2,300. It’s intimidating to take on a project like this, but I can already tell that I have nothing to fear–I’m not in it alone.

“Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” –Matthew 1:23


Fifteen years ago I had a serious health scare and surgery. While I was in the hospital recovering, an older lady from our church came to visit me. I knew who Glenda and Frank were, though I’d never talked to them before; our paths hadn’t crossed. She stayed maybe fifteen minutes, leaving behind a get well card and a small ceramic frog. The card explained his significance:





My initial diagnosis got me mentally writing letters to my young children to pass along the life lessons that it was suddenly looking like I wouldn’t be there to tell them, so the frog’s message was powerful. When I unexpectedly got the all-clear, my perspective was already forever altered, with the frog playing his part in my mental transformation.

In the years since, I’ve purchased in bulk every small frog I’ve seen and passed them out to friends going through a difficult time. I’ve given away stuffed frogs, ceramic frogs, and frogs made of glass. I no longer remember who I’ve given them to or under what circumstances. But just because I may have forgotten, I’ve learned that at least some of the recipients haven’t. A friend I haven’t seen in a decade recently messaged me that hers still sits on her desk, smiling her through her day. Another friend fighting cancer takes hers everywhere she goes, including to treatments at the Mayo Clinic, his smiling face poking out of her purse. A couple of bucks a pop, when given with love, can go a long way.

I think almost everyone needs the frog’s message at some point. We seem wired to try to take control of everything, even when (or maybe, because) so much is out of our control. I recently heard a quote that if we want God to open a door, we need to let go of the doorknob. I’ve spent most of my life clutching the doorknob so tightly that my knuckles are white. That’s why this little guy, worn and dusty, still sits on my bathroom counter where I can see him every day and remember Who has always been in control.

“Trust in God with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do and He will show you which path to take.” –Proverbs 3:5-6