Living Your Strengths: Transitioning Through Life with Passion

Feature article from the DeW Life Magazine Summer 2019


I think that at some point all girls dream about or fantasize about their future, who they are going to marry and what their life will look like. If you were to have had a conversation with me about what I was envisioning my future husband to be, it would not have been to marry a dentist, no way on earth! I did not want to be a partner in a business in which you must deal with the employees and share all the decisions and the financial aspects of a dental practice. Besides that, dentists are cut from a different cloth (no offense).

No way!

On the contrary, my dream was to put on my sparkly hygiene tiara, implement perio programs into dental practices, diagnose and treat patients when needed and then, at the end of the day, joyfully skip out of the office knowing that I had elevated the standard of care for that day and go home to my husband (who would be successful in some other field…not dentistry) and children and have a blissful life of happiness.

However, here I am, closing in on nearly 2 decades with Dr. Robert A. Tripke DMD. Yep, I married a dentist. I can also assure you that, if you were to have had a conversation with him decades ago, he would have passionately told you that he would never marry a hygienist. Why? Well, as a person, not as an employee, they are too high maintenance. You know what they say, “Man plans, and God laughs.” Well, he is certainly having a field day with our family.

It’s funny when you pause, look back on life and realize that everything truly happens for a reason and has a purpose. I am going to explain a defining moment in my life: it was huge for me because I had to do something on my own, make a choice. And, I did not get the chance to ask my parents for advice…

Just had to stand strong.

I had been accepted to the hygiene program at the IU School of Dentistry in Indianapolis as an alternate. One day I received a phone call saying that I had moved up on the list, and they wanted another interview before they would decide to accept me into the program. So, there I was in this room, at a long cherry table, with the dean, the hygiene coordinator, hygiene director and every important person who controlled my destiny staring at me. And, actually, it really wasn’t an interview…it was more of a mere suggestion. You see, I happened to be an NFL cheerleader at the time as well. I had just made the Indianapolis Colts squad in the spring. I knew it was going to be a huge and demanding schedule, but something I was willing to try. The board informed me they were willing to accept me into the program. However, I needed to resign as an NFL cheerleader. I politely asked them why, and they responded that it would be a conflict of interest, and they did not feel that I would be able to handle the schedule.

Well, I ignored the conflict of interest statement, and I chose to focus on the other half. I said, “Thank you so much for your concern. However, I am truly capable of knowing what I can and cannot handle. If at any time my grades begin to suffer, the very first thing that will be adjusted in my schedule will be my affiliation with the Colts organization. However, I do not feel it is smart to close doors out of fear just because you think you can’t do something, and I would appreciate it if you do not try to close those doors for me. I am sure we can all find a way to work this out.”

Long story short,

I received an acceptance letter. However, certain board members when present always seemed to fail me in clinicals. This was not for reasons of missing calculus or anything truly clinical. It would be for something such as not approving the color choice of my lipstick for that day. I kept my head held high, and I worked hard and graduated with all A’s. However, this isn’t what I am the proudest of…that happened about two or three years later when I felt that I had paved the way for other girls applying to the hygiene program who were either NFL or NBA cheerleaders. This was so gratifying to me! I remained on the squad for 7 years and became a captain, and I knew of at least 5 girls who followed in my footsteps and many more who have blazed that trail since I graduated.

To me, that was empowerment.

I helped inspire other hygienists to keep their additional goals alive. As I look back, it was both a very fun experience and a great accomplishment for me; however, I am not sure it was the same for the hygiene board at that time. Thankfully, time and society have changed for the better.

While I was going through hygiene school, cheering for the NFL and empowering others, I was silently in an abusive marriage. Well, I finally got the courage, left, and started my own consulting business in Indianapolis. I would work in dental practices while their hygienist was on maternity leave or while an office was in the hiring process, and I would implement a structured perio program. This allowed me to stay safe, as my ex-husband could not easily find me. This time was also so good for me; I absolutely enjoyed helping those offices and watching the teams come together and everyone just “light up,” not to mention providing quality care to the patients.

It would be a few years before I met my “new” family, and I say family because Bob already had a son Alex who was 8 at the time. I truly treasure the gift of Alex, he was a bonus to me. And, I jumped in as the role of mom when the time became appropriate, and we as a family have not looked back since. After two miscarriages we were blessed with Brielle. This was not an easy pregnancy, and since she was born 12 weeks premature, we both nearly died, which is another story.

I feel it is important to focus on your passions and strengths and just charge ahead in life.

That is what I have taught my children, and at times I must remind my husband. Alex has always loved airplanes and grew up thinking he would be a pilot. However, after enrolling him in aviation school and going through several flight-blocks, he realized that a pilot was not in the cards for him. He became depressed and didn’t know what to do with his life. I encouraged him to stay in aviation as it is his passion, and I encouraged him to investigate other options in the aviation field. Eventually, he graduated top of his class, received a master’s degree in aviation administration and is now a safety analyst getting ready to implement and oversee a safety program for the company in which he is in employed.

Our daughter, on the other hand, is 14 and has taken a completely different route in education. Traditional schooling just wasn’t working for her (bored), and despite her straight A’s, she needed more dance in her life. So here I am telling the family, okay, let’s get a condo in Chicago so she can dance up there and do her school online. Bob and I can travel back and forth, 2 ½ hours one way to treat patients when we schedule them, try to maintain our main property in central Illinois plus still travel to speak and consult. I know…right? I am truly completely insane!

Did I say I would never marry a dentist?

Backtracking, in the beginning, when I said I would never marry a dentist, well, we are coming full circle to that. In the event that you haven’t met Bob or myself, there is a bit of an age difference between us. The biggest thing I am going through right now is helping him with the idea of retirement and just the coping with surgeries and pain. I certainly was not prepared for this, nor did anyone warn me of this years ago when we were dating.

However, no matter the age gap, all married couples go through it, so I get to experience it in my 40’s instead. You see, he has been a national speaker for over 30 years, traveling nearly every week. He temporarily retired from speaking about 5 years ago due to multiple surgeries; however, we kept the practice open a couple of days a week. He had double back surgery and spent time with his dad in the final months of his father’s life. During Bob’s back surgery recovery, which took almost 2 years, I noticed he wasn’t happy. We needed to rethink this whole retirement plan…watching him become so unhappy wasn’t healthy.

Trying to find the best in every situation

I knew I could not simply let him fully retire, so perhaps we should shut down the practice instead and start the speaking again. This has been our direction over the past 3 years, as we have slowly been adding more and more speaking engagements, which is his passion. However, there is a sadness that comes with letting go of your patients and practice. I was not expecting this, nor was I thinking in these terms, yet here we are just a few months away and the practice that he has spoken about for over 30 years will be finished.

I feel that during my whole life I have been helping and or empowering others in some way, trying to find the best in every situation and bring out the best in my family, friends, and colleagues. When I go to bed each night, I want to be able to say that I had a successful day, and by this, I do not mean what is in my bank account. Was I successful as a speaker in teaching my attendees the value and importance of implementing a structured periodontal program? As a consultant in empowering the hygienist, teaching her and her team to elevate their standard of care?  A hygienist today, treating all my patients properly and offering the treatment that was best for them? As the owner and wife of the practice, did I facilitate where needed, helping the team members, my husband, and the patients?

I am at peace

As a wife helping my husband during this transition, I completely understand there is an age difference between us, but am I understanding everything he needs during this time to help him? As a mom, am I there enough for my kids, helping them reach their full potential and beyond? To others who I know who are in abusive relationships and or in the process of leaving one, am I providing enough support and being what they need? If I can answer yes, then I am DeWing what I am supposed to be DeWing, and I am at peace.

I honestly do not think that I am that different from any of you and may not even be at your level. I have read your stories, and I have been touched by them…you all are amazing and so inspiring. We all come from many different backgrounds and have different stories, but there is always something in common, and you can feel it in each story. It is the passion to help others, the desire to uplift. I am truly thankful for this platform; it is beyond amazing. The women who have come together here to help each other and support one another are exactly what it is all about. We all only get one chance at this life, and it goes by fast; and I want to DeW it big by inspiring, uplifting and empowering others.



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