Take it from Me with Jennifer Blome
Animal Lover. Connector. Introvert.
By Diane Kline
Jennifer Blome is a natural at making a connection. For almost three decades, as the co-anchor of KSDK’s “Today in St. Louis” program, she connected with viewers by easing them into their day. She also used the show to connect rescued animals with forever homes through the “Sammy’s Stars” segment, created by the station’s morning team and named after Blome’s beloved Irish wolfhound.
Today, as director of humane education for the APA Adoption Center, she connects animals and people through a variety of community programs. Whether her team of volunteers is working with children, senior adults or prison inmates, people’s lives are enriched through their interactions with animals.
Blome calls herself a “born caregiver,” who is happiest when she is helping others. She and her partner, David Keiser, have been together for the past 15 years, surrounded by their menagerie of shelter dogs.
My mother decided I’d be a news anchor.
I am actually an introvert, and my mother was the extrovert. In high school I was so confused about my life that I didn’t even want to go to college. My mother took over, enrolling me in school and announcing, “You’re going to become a TV anchor.” I think it’s because she thought I’d be good on television. When her friends talked about her daughter the news anchor, she’d tell them, “She’s not my daughter. I’m her mother!”
I wasn’t engaged enough in life.
It was an honor to be a news anchor. In the early morning, viewers feel vulnerable before they put on their armor to face the world. You connect with them and make it more comfortable for them to start their day. I spent 28 years getting up at 1:30 in the morning to put on makeup and fancy clothes. Then it was off to bed at 5:30 at night. That schedule was socially isolating, and I just wasn’t engaged enough in life. It was time to make a change.
Shy or snobby?
My co-anchor, Art Holliday, and I practically made a career out of making mistakes on the air. Blame it on the sleep deprivation. During one show, we went into fits of laughter. Thinking it was the end of our careers, we were shocked when the station was flooded with phone calls of support. One viewer said, “It’s good to know that Jennifer isn’t a snob, after all.” That made me laugh because the real problem was that I was very shy.
No more Spanx and false eyelashes.
The station hired a stylist to work with the anchors. She threw out a third of my wardrobe and told me, “Stop dressing like Barbara Bush.” From then on she selected all my clothes. It was a great perk, but happily I don’t have to dress up anymore. At the APA, I get to wear nice jeans and comfortable shoes. I won’t even wear contact lenses. It’s heaven.
Rescuing animals is in my DNA.
Growing up in Novelty, Ohio, I was surrounded by animals and Amish people. My father started by rescuing one horse; and eventually, we had five horses, three dogs and 15 cats. I’ve always worked to help stray animals. Pets don’t judge us – they just love us. That explains our house full of dogs.
Animals transform lives.
At the APA, we have community outreach programs to teach empathy for animals. Our Kind Kids program helps students learn kindness and stop bullying. When we bring a dog to dementia patients, it awakens something inside of them. Maybe it’s the memory of their own pet, or just feeling needed when a dog begs to be petted, but it transforms them.
Stuff weighs you down.
I was living in a large house and had to hire people to take care of everything inside and out. It hit me that I was working to support my “stuff,” and there was a lot of it. I had 15 sets of china, hundreds of salt-and-pepper shakers, Princess Diana memorabilia, and 150 lamps from the 1950s. Enough was enough. I sold everything and moved into a small, cozy house, and became a recovering collector.
I finally decided to stop “doing people’s laundry.”
Caregiving comes naturally to me. At age 5, my wonderful Great Aunt Mil took me to visit senior communities even if it “made me uncomfortable.” I moved my uncle – an autistic savant – to St. Louis so I could look after him. But you can go too far. At some point you are doing things to make people happy that actually make you unhappy. I call this “doing people’s laundry.” My New Year’s resolution was to say no to things I don’t want to do.