Most people that know me realize fairly quickly that I am not from Mississippi. I am from the West (Montana, California, Nevada, Idaho and Wyoming – though I call Montana home). Usually their first question is, How did you get to Mississippi?” After I laugh, mostly at myself, I tell them my story:
In 1998 we were working at a home in Cody, Wyoming working mostly with juvenile delinquent and crisis kids. It was hard work. We had young children that we didn’t like exposing to some of their behaviors, our living quarters were really cramped and we were looking for something in the way of basic care. I was also studying to be a pastor with the Assemblies of God. My thought was to work at an AG home and mentor with AG ministers while I worked to become one. I found an open position at a home in Texas and sent them a resume.
They liked our resume and we talked several times on the phone and through E-mail. They told us they could not afford to pay for us to come down and interview because we lived so far away, but if we wanted to pay for it ourselves they would love to meet us. It was going to take every penny I had to move, so there was no way we could afford to pay for it. We decided that we would make a video of us and they would make a video of the home and staff and we would exchange them. It should have been a red flag when we never received their video, but they offered us a position and we accepted it, SIGHT UNSEEN!!!
We left Cody, Wyoming on January 3rd, 1999 in route to Fairfield, Texas, arriving 4 days later. Upon arriving we quickly found out that 4 days before we left Cody, the executive director that hired us was forced to retire (was fired) by the board, and they had hired a consultant to move the home in a new direction. I assure you that had we known this, we would have stayed in Wyoming. They didn’t start looking for new staff until we started loading the U-haul, hoping to change our mind and that we would have stayed.
We quickly discovered that accepting a position sight unseen is probably not the wisest thing to do. Had we actually visited the home, we would have found out about many of the things that were going on, and could have made a much more informed decision. We probably would have never accepted the position.
It didn’t take very long, about two months, for us to realize that we didn’t really want to be there and should start looking for a position somewhere else. It took us another month before we actually started sending out resumes. I found some houseparent job listings on a job board that also included listings for houseparents and sent off some resumes to different facilities. Some in Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, and to a place called “Palmer Home for Children” in Columbus, MS.
Here is where things continued to go wrong! Having forgotten all my 5th grade geography and two letter postal codes-I thought MS stood for Missouri. I figured that living in Missouri; we would one day closer to home and could easily drive there in a day and a half. And for all of you that are currently laughing, yes I now remember that Missouri is MO.
About thirty minutes after I sent the resume, I got an E-mail reply from the director telling me how much he liked our resumes and how great the home, staff and kids were at Palmer Home for Children, in Columbus, Mississippi. Now I had seen the movie “Mississippi Burning” and “In the Heat of the Night” was one of my favorite TV shows. We also had a friend from Georgia that we worked with in Wyoming that used to make Mississippi jokes. There was NO WAY we were moving to Mississippi.
The director sent us an application and several brochures about the home, which we read. I couldn’t visit their website, because I didn’t know enough about websites and hadn’t created it yet.
Being a computer novice, I still believed that Microsoft would send you $10 for everyone you forwarded an E-mail to, with their new e-mail tracking software. I sent the e-mail to everyone in my address book, using my new computer, not realizing that some of those people were administrators at the home we worked at. That wouldn’t have been so bad, except I included with the E-mail that, I was looking for a new position and planned to use the money I got from Microsoft to move with.
After realizing my blunder we went ahead and completed the application along with all the other applications we had, because we knew our days were numbered. Fortunately, we had already set up an interview with Palmer Home by the time our director called us in a week later and told us that since we were looking to leave anyway that we had 30 days to be out. We said that’s fine and tendered our resignation, along with three other sets of houseparents (out of 5) and prayed that one of the positions we were looking at would come through quickly. I had no idea what we were going to do if one didn’t. We were 1500 miles away from home, with virtually no money.
We came down the next week for a visit and spent three days visiting. Turns out that Mississippi wasn’t such a bad place, and the home was a pretty nice place. We must have made a good impression, because after we got back to Texas and I called several times to ask if they had made a decision, they still offered us a position.
I put in my two weeks notice and reserved a u-haul. I even had a week to spare on my 30 day deadline. It will be nine years in June, and though I would be happy to be able to go home tomorrow it has been a great experience for me and my family.
I was able to learn about computers and websites and started this one, The Houseparent Network, in 2001 as well as others. I have developed enough of a proficiency with computers to be considered an expert. We have cared for some really great kids, one of which still calls us Mom and Dad and has provided us with a grandson. We have made some great friends. We discovered the greatest sport on earth NASCAR and learned some really cool phrases like, “Y’all” and “Fixin ta.” I am thankful for that brain-fart that day!!