Katie Caldwell, this is your life

Just a small town girl, livin’ in a loooooonely worrrrrld.  Welcome to Katie, the blonder, louder half of the ballad.  I grew up in a small Kentucky town called Madisonville.  About 25,000 residents.  Bible belt.  Republican.  White.  Biggest entertainment on a Saturday night: Wal-mart.  Can’t you just see me there?  I couldn’t ever either.  However, I grew up surrounded by lovely people; a nice, comfortable, safe and secure upbringing.  I am who I am partly because of that town and those people.  I will always hold it dear to my heart.

I have 3 sisters: 2 older, 1 younger.  Amy, Maggie, Becky.  We were close and fought  constantly and fiercely, but loved each other the same way…nothing has changed much.  They are incredible women; inspiring, interesting and strong.

At 17 I high-tailed it out of there and landed in…Tennessee.  As you can see, I didn’t make it very far.  I went to school at Austin Peay State University, where I learned and grew and drank alot of alcohol.  I met amazing people, I learned incredible and interesting things about the world and myself as a young adult and as a woman.   I watched “Felicity” and longed for the day when I would graduate and move to New York City or Boston or San Francisco to make my way in the big, thrilling city.  And though I wanted to be like Felicity without the hair contraversy, I ended up being like her in more ways than one…I followed a boy.  I re-met Joe Caldwell my senior year of college, while we were both in town for Christmas break.  We had grown up together, gone to middle and high school together, but were never really friends.  In high school Joe was a popular, cute, soccer player.  I was an innocent and sheltered little band and choir geek, thoroughly happy but oblivlious to any illicit activity on a Friday night other than my close circle of girlfriends coming together for a slumber party to watch PG-13 rated movies.  While I had grown up in the land of church camp and koolaid, Joe had been in the land of beer, bad grades and bad words.  We’ve been quite a pair ever since.  🙂

While I fell madly in love with this sweet, blue-eyed boy that won me over by enthusiastically describing his first rock-polisher over drinks on our 2nd date…I realized that sometimes in life you have to pick people over places, and alter your plan to fit that love.

Sooo…we got married.  We lived in Evansville, IN – a mere 40 minutes from my hometown.  Joe had graduated from The University of Kentucky with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and had found a job with a local company, Woodmizer.  I had worked with women and children in a domestic violence shelter my senior year of college through a coveted internship that had changed my WORLD.  I knew I wanted to help people…specifically, women.  And as I thrashed about, painfully trying to find my career path and niche (including some very strange off-the-beaten-path career choices) Joe and I were trying to build a marriage and life together.

The year we married (2003) my Mom was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.  Probably the single most defining element of my life thus far.  Joe and I made the decision to move home to be closer to her.  Those of you who knew my Mom knew how fun, silly and loving she was.  She was a life force – she took up a room.  We 4 girls were all extraordinarily close to her.  I miss her with an ache I could never put into words.

After Mom passed, I felt an immediate urge to leave Kentucky and start fresh.  Easier said than done, naturally.  Joe got the opportunity to work for Woodmizer in Indianapolis, IN and off we went!  It wasn’t the bustling metropolis I had dreamed of, but it was at least a city.  We lived right downtown in a cute loft off of the circle.  I tend to think of Indy as my “dark period”.  I was struggling with coping with the loss of my Mom and still trying (albeit unsuccessfully) to claw my way into a rewarding career path.  Indy is a great little city and one that I miss from time-to-time, but ultimately wasn’t where we needed to be.  I was unhappy and depressed, Joe was indifferent about his job and the city itself.  We decided to leave…we sort of randomly and excitedly picked Honolulu, Hawaii.

Most of the people we grew up with thought we were nuts…packing up or selling all of our belongings to move to an island in the middle of the Pacific that we had never even been to.  But the impetuousness suited us at the time.  We were sad to leave behind good friends and family, but super excited to shake things up.  We jumped.

We moved to Honolulu in October of 2006.  I will never forget waking that first day and looking out the window to the gorgeous mountains in the distance and feeling so peaceful  and so certain I was in the right place…for the first time in my life.  What a lovely feeling.  I quickly fell passionately and hopelessly in love with that little island.  The beauty, the diversity, the culture, the weather.  It took some time, but I eventually found the job that I had been desiring for ages.  I began working at the Domestic Violence Action Center as a legal advocate.  I counseled victims of domestic abuse in the legal system, helped them to regain their independence, accompanied them to criminal trials, divorces, and custody hearings.  I got to know their stories, got to witness their unbelievable strength and courage.  I was inspired and impressed by them every day.  I loved my job.  On top of which, I had the most incredible bosses and coworkers a girl could ask for.  The agency was young, hip, feministic, and ground-breaking.  I met some of the best friends of my life through that agency.  I will always be grateful for the decision to move to Hawaii.  The work, the island and the little ohana I developed there.

It was this perfect moment in time, when so many huge elements of my life came together magically.  I was fulfilled and grateful and bursting with energy.  I found myself again in Hawaii.  I had become a shell in Indianapolis, a sad version of my former self.  In Hawaii I regained my Katie-ness and my light.  Joe used to say I was in black and white before and all of a sudden, like when Dorthy steps into Oz, I was in color.

But happiness is fleeting, isn’t it?  Like a beautiful little butterfly that flaps all around you…something you can never seem to catch, but always chase.  I eventually got this nagging feeling of needing to move on.  As much as I loved my Hawaii, my home…more my home than my own hometown, I still had the itch.  The itch to explore, to see and experience new things, new places.  Joe was ready, too.  He was bored and uninspired at work, not challenged.  We had come to a crossroads in our relationship and needed to force a change to reconnect.  Like every marriage we’ve seen our ups and downs.  The excrutiating happiness of being completely in love and the numbing, desolate reality of how easy it is to lose that love.  So again, we jumped.

We jumped a little harder, this time.  To Argentina we go!  We had been in Hawaii for 3 years, working and saving.  We decided to take 4 months off and live abroad.  We’ve many times talked about the possibility of living in a foreign country.  The challenge has always appealed to both of us.  We adore traveling and seeing new places.  It seemed the perfect suggestion.  We would play, try to learn Spanish, travel, and spend time together.  I wasn’t convinced I could physically leave my beloved Hawaii until I stepped foot on that plane, crying my eyes out.  As sad as I was, excitement and fear took over the moment we landed in South America.  We chose Buenos Aires as our new home.  A huge city of 12 million.  Cosmopolitan, bustling, beautiful, loud, and SPANISH.  We studied, toured the neighborhoods, spent rainy afternoons in museums, met wonderful people, ate large amounts of pasta and beef and drank even larger amounts of delicious Argentine wine.  We had a blast.  We learned alot, we talked alot and began again to try and meld our different ideas and opinions of what our lives should be.  I’ll treasure the memory of Argentina for many things, but for that, the most.

At the end of our time abroad, we were very sad to go!  We even tried in vain to find work there so we could stay longer.  However, it was time to move on, yet again.  We went back to Kentucky over the holidays to regroup and ourlife1consider our next move.  We really had NO IDEA what to do next, which was such a disarming feeling.  We spent about 3 months in Madisonville before deciding that Joe would go back to work temporarily for his old company, Noresco, doing contract work.  We knew it would give him flexibility, bring in decent income, and allow us to travel some more and figure things out.  So, off to California we went!  We were sent to Victorville,ourlife2 CA first.  A small desert town completely devoid of personality. We were once again living out of suitcases in the Hilton, which I have to admit, isn’t altogether terrible.  🙂 Though the town was small and uninviting, we enjoyed living in California…we got to travel every weekend to different, fun places.  Wine Country, Venice Beach, Death Valley, etc. California has such variety and so much to see!

ourlife3About our 4th week in Cali, Joe’s boss called and offered him another contract position in Colorado. We had about one day to decide and 2 days until we were to leave. And off again we go! We were sent to Colorado Springs for a few weeks and then put in Canon City, CO for the remaining months.  In total we spent about 3 months in that quirky little mountain town, but really enjoyed spending time with my little sis (who lives in Boulder) and enjoying the outdoors on the weekends.  Eventually Joe came to the conclusion that he really enjoyed contract work, but wanted to try another company.  We decided to fly back to Hawaii in the interim because we knew we could stay with friends while he applied to other companies.  So again, we packed our suitcases and headed back to the ‘aina! We had an amazing few months of living on a sailboat in Ko’olina,ourlife thanks to the generosity of some incredible friends. After several months, Joe was offered a great position with Johnson Controls, a company he has long respected.  The position was for 2 years here in Honolulu.  As shocked as we were that we ended right back where we started, we were thrilled to put down some more permanent roots and to…(horns blazing in the background) unpack!!!!  Hurrah!  It was wonderful to return to the only place I’ve ever lived that felt like my true home.

Joe really thrived in his new position at Johnson, and continues to work there today.  I decided to bite and bullet and go back to school, finally earning my ourlife4Master’s degree.  It was a long haul, but I eventually graduated with a Master’s in Social Work and an additional graduate certificate in Women’s Studies.  I learned so much about myself in grad school. I gained much-needed confidence, discovered a long-harbored love of writing, a newfound reboot of my passion for feminism and equality, and gained so much wonderful knowledge for every aspect of my life.  I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity to further my education.  I taught women’s studies while in grad school on a scholarship, and learned that I really enjoyed working with college-aged students.  I continue to teach Women’s Studies as an adjunct professor.

ourlife5Joe and I have been fortunate enough to travel a lot more since living abroad these last few years.  When we returned to Hawai’i, we decided to make travel a true priority, and we’ve stuck to it!  We’ve visited France, Great Britain, Morocco, Belize, Taiwan, and many other little trips to other islands and states in the last few years.  I also lived in the Philippines for several months during my time in grad school,ourlife6 which was a life-altering experience you can read about in my travel section. We’ve been married for 12 years now, and through many different states, countries, jobs, schools, illnesses, and experiences, we’ve been by each other’s side.  He is my love, my huckleberry friend to travel the world with, my Joe.  We don’t know what the future holds, but I am grateful to have spent these last 12 years together.  I hope you enjoy our crazy life and my crazy ramblings.  Welcome to the Ballad.


In the Philippines

8 Responses to “Our Life”

  1. Jeff said

    Read the blog. Great job. It seems the ones taht want to blog, really don’t have anything interesting to say. Just do it to be “out” there. You, however, the Katieness has come through and shown us that you life is who u are. we love you both. Jeff & Marty


  2. Awww, thanks Jeff!!! Love you back! 🙂


  3. daddo said

    Wonderful to read about your child from their view. Keep writing for all of us to enjoy your and joe’s adventures.


  4. aidahernandez said

    Love reading your blog! Even though I knew you during the marathon, butchering Spanish, and the medialuna addiction, it is refreshing to read how you came to be Katie and then how you came to be Katie in Buenos Aires!


    • Hahahahaha! Thanks for reading! It’s silly but I LOOOOOVE getting comments (I am still a dork at heart). Oh how I miss Argentina…I get so jealous everytime a friend there posts pics! Isn’t life for everyone supposed to stop when I move away? 🙂 Tell Sean hi for me!!!! Miss ya…


  5. rebecca said

    awwwwww….shoo this made me cry! especially when i read about us sisters and momma. i can’t believe i hadn’t read your blog yet! it’s really, really great…you’re a good writer, keep writing, i’ll keep reading. but i think i should be included in “our life” as an honorary caldwell. i need my own tab.


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