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About me – the long story

I am a Renaissance Woman. I love to learn, and nearly everything interests me, which is perhaps why my career path has been a bit convoluted.

At Bradley University, I earned a degree in biotechnology but took lots of English classes. I hung out with the theater-and-art-major crowd in the local coffee shop (and met a band drummer who was to become my husband).

After graduation, I landed a yearlong science writing internship in the Legislative Research Unit of the Illinois General Assembly.

My intern class. That’s me in the bottom row, far right.

When the internship ended, I worked for the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules before getting married and starting graduate school in the Geography Department at Southern Illinois University Carbondale to study land use planning.

“Bugman” Jeff and I got married in our favorite church – the great outdoors.

I earned my keep as a graduate student by editing articles and managing the manuscript review process for the journal “Water International.”

Upon graduation, I got a job as a research analyst for a consulting company that did a lot of work for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

I left that job to follow Bugman to Iowa, where he was starting his doctoral program in entomology and plant pathology.

I earned money with freelance report writing and copyediting and temporary lab jobs (including a job testing dog and horse pee for illegal drug metabolites) until I found full-time work as a laboratory technician at the USDA’s National Animal Disease Center.

Me, with a nephew’s Flat Stanley, both of us decked out in lab gear: safety glasses, lab coat and ID tag.

At the NADC I did dairy-cow-centered research work that involved biotech lab technique and animal sample collection. This was the job where I learned, among other things, how to make cows pee and how to milk mice and rats. (Yes – you read that last part right.) If you really want to bore yourself, you can read one of the research papers my work went into.

Also during this time, I became a member of Friends of International Women and got to know women from all over the world – Egypt, Turkey, Kenya, Peru, Japan, Ukraine, India.

Me at a diversity festival booth promoting Friends of International Women

Bugman and I began traveling abroad, for entomology events, education and pleasure.

Scotland – investigating “mons meg” cannon at Edinburgh Castle

Australia – box brush tree in Lamington National Park

Tanzania – checking out dung beetles on the Serengeti

Argentina – paddling among caiman and capybara in the Iberá wetlands

An opportunity arose for me to work a one-year appointment as a study abroad advisor in the international programs office of the Iowa State University College of Engineering. I leapt at the chance, even staying behind in Iowa for a month to finish the work after Bugman got a postdoc back in Illinois. I had learned so incredibly much in my travels and cultural exchanges, I wanted to help other people do the same.

Shortly after my advisor job ended, we went abroad again.

South Africa – in the Drakensberg / uKhahlamba mountains

I tried to get a job working with international students at the University of Illinois, but no dice. Instead, I took the next available job working with students – as a human anatomy and physiology lab instructor at Parkland College. That was an interesting first day on the job, as I’d never seen a human cadaver before. I got used to the smell of the preservatives, studied hard to stay two steps ahead of the students and really got to enjoy teaching. I even got to instruct a biology class for a few semesters. It was great fun (for the most part).

Then, Bugman got his First Real Job, and we moved to Scottsbluff, Nebraska. It can be a bit challenging as a newly arrived person to find a suitable job in a small community, even for someone with a broad experience base.

I began writing this blog.

About four months later, the editor of the regional newspaper called and asked if I wanted a job as a reporter. He’d read my blog and liked my writing. Thus began my career as a reporter for the Star-Herald. I considered it a real privilege to have people entrust their stories to me. I enjoyed writing columns and feature stories.

I managed to sneak away from reporting long enough to go abroad again.

Sweden – colored lights and bonfires at a Valborgsmässoafton celebration

Then the opportunity arose for me to take over as executive director / curator for a regional nonprofit history museum. That museum soon merged with another nonprofit history museum and moved, and I began leading the charge to construct new building space and develop new exhibits.

While all that was going on, Bugman and I bought a tandem bicycle and began riding it all around the Yellowstone area, and something possessed me to run a marathon in Ireland. (You can read about my running and cycling adventures on Wyobraska Tandem.)

Hangin' with Socrates at the Trinity College Library in Dublin.

Hangin’ with Socrates at the Trinity College Library in Dublin.

When the museum merger was completed and the newly-formed museum entity was growing into its new identity, and with a family member facing the end of their life, it was time for me to move on from this all-encompassing job.

I spent time exploring some writing and interviewing projects, then found myself doing freelance grantwriting for the historic movie theater I mentioned in my very first post on this blog, and which I fell in love with and mentioned many times more.

I went on to become an employee of the theater as part-time development director responsible for membership, gifts and grants, as well as other duties as assigned (some event planning, writing the newsletter and annual reports, selling tickets, assisting at events, filling in as a volunteer at the concession stand).

While working at the theater, I snuck away for a visit to Costa Rica and managed to check off a bucket list item to see a blue morpho butterfly in the wild.

No photos of the butterfly – it was too fast. Instead here’s me on a rainforest coffee farm path carrying a bag of trash I’d picked up along the way. Somebody needed to pick up the trash. Might as well be me.

It was a great ride at the theater, but it became increasingly clear it was no longer the right place for me to be, and the lens of the pandemic focused me on the decision to leave.

Since then, I’ve been reading, tending a new Little Free Library, gardening, cooking, experimenting with new art forms (zines, collage), writing a little bit on another blog, and “wintering” until the pandemic passes us by.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. June 11, 2014 7:23 am

    Good story. Somehow, even though we live on different continents and have different families, jobs, hobbies, I can see similarities – including the Novel :-).

    • Katie Bradshaw permalink
      June 11, 2014 6:26 pm

      “Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”
      ― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

      • June 12, 2014 6:30 am

        You see, this is what I mean – this novel, too 🙂

  2. Starr Lehl permalink
    June 5, 2015 2:45 pm

    Hi Katie – just curious if you ever found out anything about the Greek population in our area? thanks!

    • June 7, 2015 9:22 pm

      Alas, no, I did not. Never had the time to dig into the question.

      • November 27, 2015 2:43 pm

        Interesting. I wrote a grant for Boulder’s community radio station on the Greek population in Bridgeport and Bayard. One of the station’s producers came to the area after I introduced him to people in the Bridgeport Greek community and interviewed them. It aired in 2007 – funded by the CO Humanities. By the way, he had a wonderful time and made friends to life (not unusual in the area).

  3. August 2, 2015 4:53 pm

    Dear Katie,

    Howdy from the Twin Cities. Thanks for keeping up on your blog. I can’t remember how I came across it several years ago but possibly due to researching Scottsbluff, Chimney Rock or Ft. Robinson. In any event, as a native Illini myself (Cicero and Chicago), I enjoy the references to the Midwest and the Land of Lincoln.

    I was actually just out in Western Nebraska a few weeks ago while out in Cheyenne for military duty with the WY Air Guard and finally had the chance to visit Chimney Rock along with hiking up to the top of Scottsbluff. However, as an added bonus, I arrived during the Oregon Trails celebration in Gering where I had some fantastic donuts from Gering bakery and coffee from the Daily Grind. The best part was when I was walking back to my car and saw this van in the Gering convention and visitor’s center with a couple of Air Force decals on the back window. The owner was approaching the van as I walked by and I asked him about his service. Turns out he was involved in the Berlin airlift and other missions in the Pacific theater as well. We talked about the current Air Force and how the C-130’s from my base in Cheyenne fly over and sometimes land at Scottsbluff airport. I thanked him for serving and then headed over to Scottsbluff for a hike to the summit. It’s much better hiking up than taking a vehicle but didn’t see a rattlesnake on the entire trek. 😦

    It was there at the visitors center where I came across a mother with her kids from South Minneapolis (maybe 5-10 minutes from our house in St. Paul) that I met at baggage claim in DEN along with her parents who were from the region. We all talked while waiting for our luggage. Her father actually works at Scottsbluff for the NPS. I told them I would be there next Friday and they said the same but I doubt either of us thought we’d see each other again given we gave no specific timeframe. Petite monde indeed.

    So after that hot but fun experience, I was on the way back to Kimball to catch 80 back to WY. But just before hitting the town, I noticed a car pulling over on the northbound lanes. At first, I just figured that he/she had a phone and could call for assistance but then thought about how hot it was and something just told me to turn around and see if they needed help. Actually it was an emotive memory of my father’s recent death on the way to Chimney Rock that reminded me of his best qualities like helping out others almost to a fault. Being a Chicago native, I did drive around once to make sure it wasn’t a set-up and then circled back around again. Pulling over, I saw a woman and asked if she needed help. Turns out she Billie Jean was heading back to her family farm right where I was just at by Chimney Rock. She said her oil light came one and there was a puddle of oil under her car.

    I crawled on the ground to look under her car and sure enough, there was no oil pan plug. Since my only plans were to drive back to the base, change and head downtown to Wyoming’s 125th anniversary of statehood celebration with behind the scenes tours of the state history museum, I saw no reason not to stay and help her get back on the road.

    Turns out, her cousin Norm owned the Carquest auto parts in Kimball (I am posting a review on Yelp tonight) which was about 5 minutes from where her car was broken down. She called him and he actually had the oil pan plug in stock and had it ready for us when we arrived with her dog Disco. He sold us the oil, plug and wrench and we headed back to her car. I crawled under the front again and had it ready to go in about five minutes.

    She thanked me and offered me some money but I refused since I would want someone to help out my wife or other family member if they broke down on the side of the road, especially since as you know there are some parts where cell service is spotty at best.

    We said our good-bye and she headed North to Gering and I back to Sierra Trading Post and Cheyenne. Still made the celebration downtown, met Gov. Mead, some members from my unit and took that behind the scenes tour of the Wyoming State Museum led by one of the collections staff.

    So, that was the day trip to Western Nebraska. Hope that your trips are just as much fun and you guys should definitely check out Horsetooth reservoir by Ft. Collins for paddleboarding, boating and kayaking.

    Take care and I look forward to more of you updates. Hope your plants make it to bear fruit.

    Respectfully yours,

    Jay Cyril Mastrud
    Tsgt. WY Air National Guard
    History Grad Student UN-Kearney

    • August 5, 2015 9:48 am

      Wow! What cool stories! Thanks for sharing them, Jay! I’m glad you appreciate my blog. Sometimes it’s hard to know what impact I may have when I hit “publish” and my words go out into the ether. Funny you should mention Horsetooth. I was just there a couple of weekends ago for a bike ride while getting car work done in Fort Collins. I posted about it on my Wyobraska Tandem blog. 🙂

  4. Cecilia Stinner permalink
    April 10, 2016 5:11 pm

    Thank you for writing about our area! I love this little diamond in the rough and the people are so wonderful and kind. Your writing is beautiful. Keep up the good work 🙂

    • April 14, 2016 9:31 am

      Thanks for the encouragement, Cecilia. I’m afraid I’ve rather been neglecting the blog lately. It takes a lot of energy to maintain it. But comments like yours help keep me inspired to continue. 🙂

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