Author Archives: Kelly J. McCleary

About Kelly J. McCleary

Wife and mother of three, author, financial professional


This weekend marks the second graduation for our three kids; one more left four years from now. This graduation was a particularly profound accomplishment, which for much of the past three years was far from certain. But she did it, overcoming odds stacked against her…I couldn’t be more proud.

Following that middle-of-the-night race to Little Rock several July’s ago, her biggest concern was catching up for marching band practice. But within two weeks, only Megan was worrying about school:  her diagnosis and the shock of chemo and possible bone marrow transplant drowned out everything else for her dad and I. The morning of our anniversary, the doctor reassuringly (he thought) told us he was pleased she’d made it through the night, as they prepared to transfer her back to ICU. School and grades no longer mattered.

Fast forward to today. Through two hip replacements, two knee surgeries, wheelchair confinement, PT, countless doctor appointments, and constant pain, she graduated on time and with a GPA to be proud of. I couldn’t be prouder. She’s my  brave, strong, amazing daughter. She’s my hero.

“One of the greatest gifts I’ve ever gotten is my daughter.”  –Ace Frehley


Our puppy hasn’t learned to smile yet. She’s still learning pretty much everything, since she’s only been on the planet for five months. She’s still learning to beg for people food. She’s still learning not to get too close to the edge of the couch, or she’ll fall off. She’s still learning that passing cars and blowing leaves won’t hurt her when she’s out on a walk. She has already learned that cuddles are good. But she hasn’t yet learned to smile.

It’s fun to spend time with puppies. They’re adorable, and the things they do make you smile. It’s amusing to watch them explore the amazing world around them, reminding us that it really is an amazing world after all. I remember watching our other puppies take their time in learning to smile. What seems to be instinctive in human babies doesn’t seem so with puppies. But with enough love and a safe environment, they eventually learn. Even our neurotic, senior rescue dog learned to smile in time, once she settled in and learned that her new forever family loved her. The analogy to humans is obvious. We’re happy only when we know that we’re loved.

So I’ll watch her grow and play and learn, laughing at her novice antics and snuggling her every chance I get. And I’ll be waiting. Waiting for her to learn not just cuddling, but what real love is. Then she’ll smile the real smile of true happiness.

“Not every person knows how to love a dog, but every dog knows how to love a person.”  –Unknown

Not OK

Something’s changing in our country, and I’m dismayed. Over the last year or so, we’re losing the expectation that we will demonstrate basic respect for each other in public discourse. No group is completely clean on this, and there’s a reason that politics has long been called “dirty”. But we’re seeing a steep slide that needs arrested. A friend once told me that “words matter”…he was right.

If you don’t believe words matter, ask a child who’s just been bullied. If you don’t think words matter, ask someone who’s fighting depression. If you’re unsure if words matter, study Nazi history and see how a nation was manipulated to ignore (and even commit) atrocities against their fellow citizens.

America has always been a beacon of hope and optimism for the world, Reagan’s “shining city on a hill”. But we are rapidly turning into a mean and nasty place, where insults take the place of meaningful debate on how to make our great country even better, for all of its people. We, the people, must halt this decline. We must demand better from our public figures. We can do better…we deserve better…we are better than this.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”  –Martin Luther King, Jr.



Science has long been controversial, which has always baffled me. Galileo’s sun-centered heresy, vaccines, eugenics…even Einstein rejected the Big Bang theory for years in spite of growing evidence, all because of the theological implication of a beginning to the universe. Science has often been distorted in attempts to prove or disprove a particular worldview.

But I’ve always struggled with what feels to me like a misuse of science. Its purpose is to explain the world around us–not unlike philosophy or religion–though its primary question is more “what” than “why”. I struggle with any assertion that science represents certainty…even as science itself, but let alone as the final answer to one of life’s big questions. Ironically, as someone who’s wired utterly logically, I’m completely comfortable knowing we’ll never have all of the answers. I view scientific theories as simply our best guess at the time, with some theories simply having the benefit of more time and evidence.

Maybe that’s why I’m even more comfortable knowing I’ll also never have all of the answers that I want to the big “why” questions. It even seems logical that could be the biggest answer of all…that our entire purpose here is simply to wrestle with why:  why are we here, and what are we going to do about it? Science can tell us how photosynthesis works or how to build a smart phone, but it can never fully explain why the monarchs migrate or how the Earth landed at just the right distance from our sun to sustain life. The cool part is how science and philosophy each inform the other. Which is perhaps why science is so controversial, when to me, it is instead simply wondrous.

“By denying scientific principles, one can maintain any paradox.”  –Galileo Galilei


Being a parent is an illusion that you actually have some control over the life of another human being. It’s easy to see how the self-delusion starts:  our children start out totally dependent on us to meet all of their needs. Once they hit the toddler stage, however, things get shaky, as they realize they have choice. But we retain our vast superiority in size, and with it, our illusion of control.

Then the teen years hit, and it all hits. We careen between peace and all-out war, spending much of the time in between in a tentative truce. They’re trying to grow up, and we’re trying to learn how to let them. The realization slowly sinks in to both of us that control has shifted. If we’re lucky, it’s a soft landing reality. If not, it can rip the relationship down the middle. Either way, it’s a painful lesson for all.

I count myself unbelievably blessed. I’ve always said that I don’t just love my kids, I’m fortunate to like them, too. But in the end, even the kids eventually acknowledge that any obligation on either side has now shifted to sheer choice. I’m hopeful, based on not a little evidence, that my children will choose to keep me in their lives.

“Each day of our lives we make a deposit in the memory banks of our children.”  –Charles R. Swindoll


The redbuds have blossomed into full glory, announcing that spring is really here. A particular one along my drive to work stands out. It’s the largest redbud tree I’ve ever seen…clearly ancient, with thick, gnarled branches, broken and nearly black with age. Despite its elderly status, its blossoms are thick and as cheerful as its younger companions along the roadside. Age has not diminished the beauty it offers the world.

The old tree is an encouragement, a reminder of what we can offer at every stage of life. Having passed the halfway point in my career, I’ve begun to face an eventual winding down of my “productive” adult years. I’m just beginning to think through how to stay productive until the end. I’ve never been one to sit on the porch and watch the world go by. While my husband deserves to spend some time together on the porch, I know I’ll need more than that for how I spend some of those slowed down hours.

Meanwhile, the ancient redbud gives me hope. I’ll smile at it as I pass by every day, watching it carry on until its own inevitable end. In its beauty and its shade, it is still productive.

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”  –Henry Ford


She wormed her way into our hearts, this slightly strange, senior citizen rescue dog. Like no other dog we’d ever known, she behaved just like a dog raised by a fellow senior who lived alone would. She was quiet and unassuming, never causing a moment’s trouble. She didn’t seek out attention, but would sigh deeply when you hugged her. She wasn’t exceptional, except for the special place she held in our family.

Lady became an orphan around the time Megan became critically ill. Her owner–the aunt of the wife of a former colleague (the thinnest of threads, when you think about it)–had passed away, leaving her shuttled between family members looking for someone who could take her permanently. That’s where Facebook kicked in. Her picture melted our hearts, in spite of the turmoil we were going through. At the first sign of stability on our end, we pulled the trigger–she was ours. We had no idea what we’d done.

What we learned was that she was desperately needed. She was needed, by a fellow former orphan and her family who were still healing. She was needed, to show us what it is to love and accept someone very different, just because that’s who they are. She was needed, to show us that taking a leap of faith to give, even in the middle of chaos and uncertainty, turns out wonderfully. She was needed to prove that love always wins, when you allow love to lead.

We told her goodbye today; it was one of the most difficult things I’ve done. She was only with us for two years, but she left a permanent mark. You were a good girl, my sweet Lady…good girl.

“There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved.”  –George Sand