FamilyLife Today® Podcast

A Meeting, a Marriage, a Mom

with Sandy and Ken Calwell | July 8, 2015
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Climbing the ladder of success meant the world to Sandy once upon a time. Then she met and married Ken, and a baby boy completed the package. Sandy Calwell talks about her decision to stay home with her son and invest herself in her family, rather than pursuing the career she loved. Joining her is her supportive husband, Ken.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Climbing the ladder of success meant the world to Sandy once upon a time. Then she met and married Ken, and a baby boy completed the package. Sandy Calwell talks about her decision to stay home with her son and invest herself in her family, rather than pursuing the career she loved. Joining her is her supportive husband, Ken.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Sandy Calwell talks about her decision to stay home with her son and invest herself in her family, rather than pursuing the career she loved. Joining her is her supportive husband, Ken.

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A Meeting, a Marriage, a Mom

With Sandy and Ken Calwell
July 08, 2015
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Bob: When Sandy Calwell was a little girl, like a lot of little girls, she played with dolls—except, instead of being their mommy, they were her audience.

Sandy: Even as a little girl, I would sit there and read the news out of the newspaper—I had all my dolls out in front of me. My dad hung the chalkboard for me behind a desk; and I would draw the map of the United States on it so that, if I needed to, I could jump up and do the weathercast while I was playing “anchor.”  You know, I just was fascinated with television and with broadcasting. I just—there was never any doubt in my mind that that was what I wanted to do.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, July 8th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll hear today what happened to Sandy Calwell’s dream when she fell in love, got married, and had a baby. Stay tuned.


Bob: And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition. You know, there are a lot of times in your marriage and in your family when you face a fork in the road. You look at the fork and you say, “Both of these are good options.”  I mean, it’s a tough call because you look at the options and go, “There’s some really good stuff about option A and some really good stuff about option B.”  It’s hard to know how to break the tie. You’ve faced some of those situations; right?

Dennis: We have. And our guests today on the broadcast—one of the things she writes in her book is that “Life is made up of thousands of steps, thousands of decisions; but there are some that are really determinative.”  I mean, like you just said, Bob, major forks in the road.

Sandy Calwell, along with her husband Ken, joins us on the broadcast. Sandy, Ken—



—welcome to FamilyLife Today.


Sandy: Thank you.

Ken: Thank you.

Dennis: Sandy has written a book called What if Parenting Is the Most Important Job in the World? I like the title, Bob, because it’s not an in-your-face title. It is a question that needs to be pondered today, I think, by many.

Sandy, for a number of years, was in the broadcast television industry. She made a heroic decision to be able to step out of that to become a mom. We’ll hear more about that in a moment. She is a full-time wife and mom today, a part-time author, speaker, and tennis enthusiast. She and her husband Ken live in the Portland area.

I just think you’ve done a wonderful job here. I want you to take us all the way back to when you were climbing the corporate ladder—I believe it was in Dallas, Texas; right?

Sandy: The last opportunity was Dallas; yes.

Dennis: Yes. What was going on in your life?  What did your work history look like?

Sandy: Well, prior to that, I had worked at a different affiliate—



—TV stations—mostly in Wichita, Kansas, at that point. We were newly-married. We had just moved to Dallas and looking for work. I had thrown my résumé out to a variety of different places. It had landed on the desk of one gentleman that I had met at the ABC affiliate there. He didn’t have an opportunity for me at that time, but he and I stayed in contact. You know, we were, like I said, newly-married and just getting settled in.

Bob: Let me just say here—because some of our listeners might not realize this—but getting a job in TV in Wichita is one thing.

Sandy: Right, right.

Bob: Getting a job in TV in Dallas

Sandy: Yes. It’s a whole other ball game; yes, indeed.

Bob: You can say, “I did TV in Wichita,” and they go, “So—”; right?

Sandy: Right. [Laughter]  Yes, yes.

Bob: So, for you to—

Dennis: By the way, Bob, we have a lot of listeners in Wichita. [Laughter]

Bob: Wichita is a great town—I love Wichita—but I’m just saying—

Dennis: Right. [Laughter]

Bob: —you had moved from the minors into the majors when you are starting to shop your résumé around in a city like Dallas.



Sandy: Absolutely!

Bob: So, you’d met this guy at the ABC affiliate. He said, “Boy, I wish we had something; but we don’t.”

Sandy: Right.

Bob: You’re still shopping around, trying to decide—

Sandy: Still shopping around and, at the time, I had taken a job kind of just to fill in for someone while they were on pregnancy leave so I could, at least, be in the medium and continue to work. I did that, but I remember clearly the day that I got the call that I was waiting on—and it was him. He goes, “Are you ready to come to work for me?”  What he didn’t know is that I had just found out that week that I was pregnant. Ken and I had already decided  that, if we were blessed enough to have that happen to us, that I was going to give it all I had to try to step away and be a full-time mom. I struggled with that decision, even as we decided to do that. It was still a struggle, internally, with me.

Dennis: But you talked about this before you became pregnant—

Sandy: Yes, we had.


Dennis: —I mean, as a couple. Had you talked about it, Ken, when you dated, or later on after you were married?

Bob: They didn’t date long enough to talk about it. [Laughter]

Dennis: That is true!

Ken: We only dated about three months or so.

Dennis: You know—real quickly, share with our listeners the mandate you gave this young lady. [Laughter]  It was an invitation—it was an invitation to get married, but it was really interesting because it made me feel good. I was in a dating relationship with Barbara for six weeks, asked her to marry me, and I said, “Let’s get married six weeks later.”

Bob: Let me just say, for our listeners, you’d known Barbara for—how many years?

Dennis: Four years.

Bob: Okay, so, it’s not like—six weeks, you meet her; and two months later, you’re married—okay.

Dennis: That’s true. But in terms of a lifetime commitment and a romantic relationship, it was pretty quick.

Bob: It was pretty compact.

Dennis: It was pretty quick.

Bob: And you met Sandy, Ken, when she stepped forward and said, “I want to be a new member,” at the church you were attending in Wichita; right?

Ken: That’s exactly right. I was at a church in Wichita, and Sandy came in to become a new member.



I saw the new members all stand up in front of the church. I saw her and it was, “Wow!”  [Laughter]

Dennis: “New member; huh?”  [Laughter]

Sandy: Liking those new members!

Ken: I started stalking her immediately. [Laughter]

Sandy: He did, actually.

Ken: That’s a whole other story!

Sandy: Yes!

Dennis: How did he do that, though, Sandy?  How did he come after you?  Church visitation—is that what he did?

Sandy: Well, actually, it started out with a rose and a note on my car.

Dennis: Wow!

Sandy: Yes, an anonymous note and a rose on my car. This proceeded over a period of weeks—where week two was two roses; week three was three roses; week four was four—

Bob: And you didn’t know where it was coming from?

Sandy: No. No, I didn’t.

Bob: Wait, wait. That’s a little creepy. Can we just—I mean, Ken, I’m saying—[Laughter]   I’m thinking, “There’s some romance in that. That’s nice, but”—

Sandy: It wasn’t creepy, though. It was sweet—it was just sweet.

Ken: So, here’s the thing. I’m like—for about six weeks, I put one rose on her car and a note; then, two roses; then, three.



So, by the sixth week, I put six roses and a note.

Dennis: And still haven’t signed your name?

Ken: Still didn’t sign my name.

Sandy: Well, it just says, “Ken.” 

Ken: That’s right.

Sandy: It just says, “Ken.” 

Ken: I haven’t—she just didn’t know who it was from. So, she goes, in that sixth week, while I’m putting those six roses on her car—unbeknownst to me—her friend’s out in the parking lot with her camera—big zoom camera—and taking pictures of me, all the way across the parking lot, without me knowing—follows me home, gets my license plate number. They go—so, they know my home / they know my car. They know who I am. She—you guys went and ran the tags.

Sandy: Well, that’s what we were going to do.

Ken: Yes.

Sandy: But we looked up your address and found out what your name was—it was Ken Calwell. Later that day—it was on a Sunday—later that day, she goes, “You know, it has just occurred to me that I have actually met Ken Calwell. In fact, I’ve done a story on Ken Calwell. I interviewed him. It’s such an amazing story that I kept it on my master reel and I still have it.”  We went to the station and—

Dennis: You know what?!   


Sandy: —watched the story.

Dennis: You women—you women are really amazing!

Bob: Pretty—yes—pretty devious here.

Dennis: Unbelievable!

Bob: So, what was the amazing story about Ken Calwell?

Sandy: Well, that’s a whole other broadcast there; but Ken has been through a life-transforming accident, actually. He was a triathlete—he really should tell the story, not me—but he was a triathlete that was hit, head-on on his bicycle, while he was training one morning, and suffered nearly life-threatening injuries—multiple broken bones. It was just horrific.

Her story was that a year later he participated in a triathlon with two other disabled athletes—one of these—the gentleman he was riding with that day. He did the swim portion of the triathlon—it was a team triathlon—and he swam with one arm because only one arm was working at the time.

Bob: Wow!

Sandy: She was just so inspired by him that truly—that had been, what, three years before—she kept it on a master reel.

Bob: So, you’re watching this story—



—of this triathlete—

Sandy: I’m watching this story of this guy, and she goes, “Do you know this guy?”  I’m like, “I’ve never met him. I don’t”—

Ken: At this point, I’ve got like stitches and swollen face and stuff. So, the first time she sees her husband, I’m pretty messed up—hard to recognize me, probably.

Bob: Wow!  Did you call him and say, “I’ve found you out!”?  How did you—

Sandy: No, I didn’t. I kind of just stalked him back a bit because she said, “Well, you know, if he’s in Wichita—when I interviewed him, he worked for Pizza Hut corporate.”  Pizza Hut, at that time, was still in Wichita—that’s where it started. She says, “You know, we know what his car looks like and his license tag—he probably still works out there.”  So, I went running out to Pizza Hut corporate. I stick my business card on his windshield—that says, “Gotcha!”

Ken: I come out of work that night at 5:00, and I’m walking out the parking lot with a buddy of mine. I walk over to the windshield, I pull up the windshield wiper, and I pull out this business card—Sandy Totten—her name then—Sandy Totten. On the back, it says, “Ken, Gotcha!  Your next move—Sandy.”  



Now, all of a sudden, I feel very violated!  [Laughter]

Dennis: You feel violated!?! [Laughter]

Ken: I felt very violated.

Sandy: The prey has turned on the hunter!  [Laughter]  Yes.

Ken: The prey has turned on the hunter, exactly!  I’m going, “What in the world!?”

Because what you’re thinking is, “Wait a minute!  She knows my name. She knows my car. She knows where I work.”

Sandy: Yes, and he hasn’t given me anything. 

Bob: “She knows everything about me that I’ve known about her!”

Ken: That’s right!  [Laughter]  I went to the police station the next day.

Dennis: Seriously?

Ken: Yes, I did; but what I did—to do, actually, was—I wanted a ticket. All I wanted was a blank ticket because I had this idea that I would take this blank ticket—I would make it up—put false charges on there and put it on her windshield. That was my idea.

So, I went to the police officer. I go and spend the whole next day, at work, changing the ticket into this—put false charges on it. I put all these horrible charges like:



“Trespassing on Pizza Hut property without intent to buy a pizza,” and all of this stuff—I put that on there. I put these horrible penalties / these really bad penalties—and I say, “Choose one of them.”  They were really horrible ones, but there was one on there that said—

Bob: “Dinner with me.”

Ken: Well, “Meet me at church next Sunday.”

Bob: Ahhh.

Dennis: That was a safe one.

Ken: I put that on her car—took it across town and put it on her windshield.

Sandy: So, I go to church—I stand there, and I’m waiting for him to show up. It’s well into the service, and he is not sitting around me or standing around me. I’m thinking that I might have been stood up at church, which might be the ultimate insult. [Laughter] Anyway, through the course of the service, they do the introductions of “Stop and say, ‘Hello,’ to everyone around you.” I knew he wasn’t sitting directly around me; but during that time, he comes waltzing up the center aisle, offers me his hand, and says, “Hi, I’m Ken Calwell.”  I go, “Yes, I know.”  All I remember is just these giant blue eyes. I just got a lock on these big, blue eyes and—


Bob: The rest is history— right there!

Sandy: —the rest is history!  There you go!

Bob: I have to ask you—going back, before you met Ken, growing up—were you growing up, thinking, “I’m going to take the world by storm”?  I mean, was your ladder propped up against a career wall as you were growing up?

Sandy: Yes, yes.

Bob: That was forefront on your mind?

Sandy: Yes, I mean, even as a little girl, I had—my dad hung the chalkboard, for me, behind a desk; and I would draw the map of the United States on it so that if I needed to, I could jump up and do the weathercast while I was playing “anchor.” 

Bob: Wow!

Sandy: I would sit there and read the news out of the newspaper—had all my dolls out in front of me. I just was fascinated with television and with broadcasting. I was just—there was never any doubt in my mind that that was what I wanted to do.

Dennis: Was marriage and family on your radar?  I mean, was that in the picture?

Sandy: Not initially, no. I mean, I was just really focused on just trying to get through college and get my first internship.



I just loved it immediately.

Dennis: So, when you met him at church, what happened at that point?  I mean, you looked at the blue eyes.

Sandy: I looked at the blue eyes, yes. I was between jobs, at that time, actually. The Lord really hit me at a very opportune time because it gave us a lot of flexibility. It was interesting—right after we got engaged, Ken’s house got struck by lightning and burned to the ground— 

Bob: Wow!

Sandy: —which was no small thing to manage. It ended up being a real blessing that I wasn’t working at the time because I could just step right in and help him navigate that because it ended up being a lot of work—and I had these 90 days to plan a wedding.

Bob: Oh, yes, we skipped over that part!

Sandy: Yes, we got right to that.

Bob: Tell everybody—about three months—why did you decide together that you could get married in 90 days?

Ken: Well, when I asked her to marry me, we were talking about it; and she said, “Well, when do you want to get married?”



I said, “Well, right away!  This is it!  I’ve found the one.”

Sandy: That’s the way Ken kind of runs things. He just doesn’t want to waste time.

Ken: Yes, exactly. I don’t want to waste time—“Let’s get married.”  She says, “You mean like next year?”  I said, “No, in the next few months, let’s get married.”  She goes: “Well, it takes time to plan a wedding. It’s going to take longer than that.” 

I said, “Well,”—we had just—I had been working on a new product at Pizza Hut called “Stuffed Crust Pizza.”  We created the product, tested it, and launched it in about 90 days. The real sensitive thing I said, at that point, was—[Laughter]—in the most sensitive, warm, loving voice, I said: “Well, Honey, you can create, and test, and launch a new product in 90 days. Surely, we can plan a wedding in 90 days!”  [Laughter]

Dennis: To which you said?

Sandy: Ken has always been very hard to argue with. So, you just kind of go with it.

Bob: You should have said, “Look, send the marketing team over to my house because I’ll need every bit of them to get this wedding planned!”  [Laughter]

Sandy: I was so tickled that he had asked me in the first place that I thought, “Well, I had better jump on this before he changes his mind.”



Bob: Did you talk, during the engagement period, about dreams for family?  Did you talk about how many kids you would like to have?  Did you talk about career?

Sandy: We did. I mean, Ken—to his credit—I was raised in a Christian home, and I was a believer; but one of the big pivot points in my life, for sure, was meeting Ken because one of the very first things he bought me was a Bible. I had a Bible—I just didn’t read the Bible. He bought me a NIV Life Application Bible and a Bible study. It may very well have been one of yours, Dennis, I’m not sure—[Laughter]—I don’t remember. We started doing devotions, right away, which was completely new to me.

I just thought: “Okay, this is—wow!  This is really—this is really a priority for him.”  It really pulled out a lot of great questions to talk about. I suspect that it was during one of those studies that we really started to delve into what were our ideas of family:



“How do we envision that?” and “What were our plans for that kind of thing?”

Dennis: Those are incredibly important discussions to have, prior to getting married, and then, as you begin your marriage and family. Did you guys come to a firm conviction, at that point, or did it take a while to hammer out what was going to happen if you did have children?

Ken: I think we talked—just as you said, I think we talked about it through the devotions some. I’d like to say that we had that all really firm and all perfectly planned before—I don’t think so. I think we talked about it, but probably didn’t take it all the way to the goal line. We talked around it and about it. Family was important to both of us, a Christian home, and those things—but in terms of what we would do when Sandy got pregnant, that was probably a little later, after we got married.

Bob: You knew that the woman you had proposed to had these stars in her eyes—that she wanted to be the top-billing salesperson at the number-one station / TV station in town and be a media champion.



Did you think, “Well, that’s what life’s going to be for us,” or did you think, “Well, she’ll get over that”?

Ken: It’s interesting—that’s a great question because I think I very much trusted God. It’s strange to say this—but from the moment I saw her and in our time dating / our short time dating, God made it clear to me, in so many ways, that she was—He had her for me. I knew she was it! 

Sandy: Oh!

Dennis: You’re getting emotional about it all.

Ken: [Emotion in voice] I did. He had made that clear—from my accident—coming back from that and how trustworthy He had been through all of that and how gracious He had been to me and just the gifts.



So, when she came along, I just was like, “She’s the one!”  I knew that. I just trusted Him—trusted God—that if we were obedient, prayed about it, and trusted in Him, He was going to make it clear over time. I was kind of patient about that. I felt like I really knew her, you know?  I felt like I really knew her—

Sandy: Well, you did know me. I mean, we did this premarital test with our church. I think Ken came into it, knowing full-well what I was all about—like he said, just trusting that the Lord was going to lead us in that decision.

Ken: Back to your question, Dennis—I wish I could say that we had—because I agree with you—I agree that having that discussion beforehand is very important. We did have the discussion; but I don’t think I took it all the way to a close, if you will. I felt like we had talked about it, and I felt like I knew her heart. I trusted that where we both were in our journeys with the Lord that He was going to lead us the right place. We just had to be patient with that.


Bob: Let me just say—it’s not that you have to have everything buttoned down before you walk up and say, “I do,” because you didn’t have everything buttoned down—

Dennis: No.

Bob: —we didn’t have everything buttoned down—but you do need to know, “What are the core values of the person you’re marrying—what’s really important?”  You ought to have some commonality in those areas before you stand in front of one another and say, “The two are becoming one”; right? 

Dennis: Yes, I think there are three commitments that ought to be in place: First of all, to Jesus Christ and upward growth in the journey of following Him. Secondly—and I’ve heard you both mention it as we’ve talked here—a commitment to each other, where you don’t know what the future holds, but you’re committed to one another. Then, third, just a commitment to work through the process of hammering out those core values / your decisions, as a couple, because oneness is oh-so-important when it comes to decisions like this.


There are a lot of marriages that go through some very deep waters, where the husband and the wife do not agree around children—how many to have / how to discipline them—around career issues, either for the husband or for the wife or mom. Those are a set-up for deep division and, ultimately, to give the enemy an opportunity in the relationship.

Bob: And not everybody is going to come to the same conclusion that Ken and Sandy ultimately came to with regard to employment and how that’s going to be handled; but you do have to wrestle with where are job and family—how are those going to come together for the two of you; right?

Dennis: Yes, I mentioned this at the beginning of the broadcast. I really like how Sandy has written this book—even the title is a question, What if Parenting Is the Most Important Job in the World?  It’s not an in-your-face book.



It is, I think, an appeal to think through, to process, to discuss, to reason together, as a couple. I think that’s fair to ask of any couple, regardless of your conclusion.

Bob: Yes, there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors—that’s what the Bible says. So, to have the counsel of people—who have made decisions on either side / on both sides—that is a good thing as you try to decide, “What is God calling us to in our circumstance / our situation?”

Sandy’s book is called What if Parenting is the Most Important Job in the World?  We’ve got copies of it in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go, online, at for more information about the book. Look for the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER.” When you click there, you’ll see a copy of Sandy’s book; and you can order it from us, online. Again, the website is You can also order by calling 1-800-FL-TODAY—1-800-358-6329.



That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” 

You know, thinking about this issue that the Calwell’s faced, this is just one of a whole bunch of issues that husbands and wives and moms and dads have to face. We have to have the right perspective / the right priorities as we face these choices. We have to be asking the question: “What would honor God?  What would please Him?  What decision would He want us to make in this situation?”  And, here at FamilyLife Today, our goal is to effectively develop godly thinking in marriages and families. We want to provide practical, biblical, authentic help and hope as you seek to navigate the challenges facing your family.

And you need to know there are folks who join us in this mission—



—not just our team, here in Little Rock, that’s a part of the FamilyLife Today family or the volunteers who support this ministry, all around the world—but I’m also thinking about the Legacy Partners and the folks who, from time to time, will pitch in to help cover the cost associated with the production and syndication of this daily radio program and all of the other outreaches of FamilyLife Today. We are a listener-supported ministry. We could not do what we do without folks, like you, being a part of it. So, we are grateful any time we hear from a Legacy Partner or from a listener, who says, “I believe in what FamilyLife Today is doing, and I want to be a part of the team.” 

If you’d like to help with a donation today, you can do that, online, at Just click the link in the upper right-hand corner of the screen that says, “I CARE,” and make an online donation. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make a donation over the phone. You can also mail your donation to us at FamilyLife Today, PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR.



Our zip code is 72223.

And we hope you’ll join us back tomorrow when we’ll continue our conversation with Sandy and Ken Calwell and talk about how they faced the fork in the road that they faced about whether Sandy was heading back to her career or staying home with their baby. We’ll pick up the story tomorrow. Hope you can join us.


I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.

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