LaFarris Risby set out to write her memoir as means to share, encourage and inspire others and for herself. As she penned the words of her life it helped her heal from long-held emotional wounds, some that didn’t realize were still open until the memories came flooding back.
“I actually wrote it for me — it was more about a healing process,” she said. “But I also wanted to be able to help other people that found themselves in similar situations.”
The book chronicles how she went from being a teen mother in an abusive relationship to a successful businesswoman. Risby owns Loving Arms Daycare Center, which she said is, with 10 employees, the largest African American owned business in Geary County.
The reader will join her on her journey from when her mother died when she was six years old to how she found the strength to improve her own lot in life. That part of her journey started when her then-husband, who was in the Army, received orders moving the family from Germany to Fort Riley.
“We went home because we're both from the same hometown (in Arkansas),” she said. “He was supposed to come to Fort Riley and get everything set up to move me and the kids here.”
Her now-ex-husband had found a place but moved his pregnant girlfriend and her four children into the house, she said.
“I got off the Greyhound bus in Junction City with $50 and no place to live,” she said.
She was 28 years old and had been with her ex since she was 14. Finally, the lightbulb went off.
“My mother didn’t die for me to live this way,” she said. “If I got to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, I live in a cardboard box, I'm done. I'm not going to be a victim any longer. So, I took back my life and the control of it.”
Armed with only a high school diploma, she set out in a strange town to start building a life for her and her children.
In the next few months, she went though a couple of jobs — nothing was working out, she couldn’t make ends meet, and wasn’t getting enough child support. Her daughter had medical issues and her son was struggling with the divorce and move.
She had no idea what a SWOT Analysis was at the time, but later realized the day she sat down at the table and took a hard look at her Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats she had performed a personal SWOT analysis.
“I asked myself, ‘What can I do? What am I good at?’” she said. “I took a piece of paper and I made an X in the middle of the paper, which gave me four, four squares. I wrote, likes, dislikes, what I'm good at what I'm not good at. And I found the common denominator.”
She made a plan. With zero capital, she set out to put her plan in action.
“I started with registered childcare because I didn't have any money,” she said. “I used what was in my hands, which was things that I had established with my children — their toys, their books, their games, and things I had learned through being a teenage mom and being a parent. I started there.”
Next step was to become licensed, then qualify for a group home. That’s when she knew she was on her way. She went to school and earned a degree in early childhood education, a degree in human services, and about 25 certifications including Life Educator.
Five years after she arrived in Junction City, she had her bachelor’s degree and opened her first childcare center.
The book outlines her legacy, she said. It’s about overcoming obstacles and having the faith to believe the impossible is possible.
“I believe in legacy, and I believe in leaving gifts for my children,” she said. “I wanted them to know, strength and perseverance. I wanted to leave something that they could hold tangible in their hands.”
But she also believes there are many women who can relate to her situation and can recognize themselves in the book.
“Maybe not through the abuse but she could have went through a loss — that could be a loss of death it could have been a loss of divorce,” she said. “I went through divorce and went through the five stages of the grieving process through the divorce. I feel like that every woman can find themselves somewhere in their book.”
She released the book this past summer. It is available on Kindle for free and in paperback on Amazon for $29.99.