Author Archives: jodie jackson jr

About jodie jackson jr

I'm the Boone County government reporter for the Columbia Daily Tribune. My beats also include public healthhealth care, stormwater/environmental issues, politics and elections, and anything to do with dogs. (Love love love dogs.) I've been a paid journalist since high school. Even though I've been in this field for 30 years, what I really want to do when I grow up is write fiction novels. (Maybe a little non-fiction, too). My wife, Kelly, was my girlfriend in the eighth grade. We got married a year after graduating high school -- that was 28 1/2 years ago. We have two daughters, Kishia, 25, and Natasha, 23. They are as different as night and day, which is one of the biggest blessings in our lives. Kelly has graduated from nursing school to be a licensed practical nurse. Later she graduated from Lincoln University with a degree in animal science, and she worked in research for a few years, specializing in reproductive physiology. In 1996, she published a journal article on extending the shelf life of ram semen. Yeah: yucky. But she yucked it up all the way to Southhampton, England, where she presented the paper at an international symposium. How cool was that?! Now at the age of 47 (almost 48), Kelly has found out what she wants to do when SHE grows up. She recently started a practicum at Love INC in Columbia as part of her course of study in the Master of Social Work program at the University of Missouri-Columbia's College of Social Work. And also, Kelly is my very best friend in the known universe. There's more to tell, but I'd prefer to just write. Come visit often and we'll get to know each other. I look forward to it!

40 years ago I got a girlfriend

Nov. 22, 1976, eighth grade economics class at Belle Junior High School. Forty years ago today.

I was down in the dumps and my best friend, Kenny Shanks, wanted to cheer me up. He said, “I bet I can get you a girlfriend.” I just shrugged – “I’ll bet you can’t,” I said – and a couple of minutes later he came back and said, “You’re going with Kelly.” (Program note: “Going with” was the vernacular for today’s “going out with,” which was simply vernacular because there wasn’t any going anywhere. At least not for a while, although we did frequent the Rolla Drive-In to watch all the great slasher movies of the late 70’s, but Kelly won’t want to talk about Halloween, Friday the 13th, The Town the Dreaded Sundown, The Howling – 1 and 2 …)

Anyway.

After Kenny found me a girlfriend, I’m not sure if it was me or Kelly who later said – when we finally came face to face – “So I guess we’re going together.”

We’d known each other a little, but only enough not to really like each other. She was a shade under 6 feet tall. I was like 5-2. And I was an annoying preacher’s kid and a know-it-all. She was stunningly beautiful, a brilliant student who worked hard, studied hard and loved horses. She was a practical, methodical thinker who had immense respect for teachers, our church leaders and anyone else in a position of authority. I loved practical jokes, shunned authority, embraced chaos and made life my ad lib comedy stage.

And did I mention she was tall – and I was really, really short?

We mostly knew each other through church, but didn’t have any of the same close friends or social circles. Our parents played pinochle together, so that put us in the same proximity a few times. But, really, we didn’t have one thing in common. Except our faith.

Within 18 months both of our parents’ marriages ended in divorce, a few of our friends found a few different kinds of drugs – to go with the alcohol some of them already drank too frequently – and we began a togetherness of navigating grief, uncertainty (it was the Cold War, you know, and we were sure there’d be nukes firing off any time) and a process of falling deeply in love. Those common pains and joys that began accumulating blossomed into what would become a lifetime together.

Today, our common pains and joys continue to nurture and foster this incredible thing that sometimes is scary, in a way, because it just doesn’t seem possible for two human beings to be this close, connected and melded together. The greatest assurance that this will continue and reach even more one-ness than we could possibly imagine is looking back and seeing that each one of my missteps – some stupidly deliberate, others just stupidly ignorant – has the redeeming fingerprints of our Father and the blood of His Son covering it all.

Thankfully I’m not the same guy I was on 11/22/76 or even 6/5/82. (For that matter, I’m not the same guy I was 20 years ago or 12 years ago or five years ago.). But you know what’s really scary? It’s thinking for even a second about what life might have been like if Kenny Shanks hadn’t wanted to cheer me up 40 years ago.

So, with that: Kelly, I’m so grateful you agreed to be my girlfriend. Because I love, love, love being your boyfriend.

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Filed under Amazing Grace, Family, Kelly, MIP: Memoir-in-progress

Anniversary – 33 years and just getting started

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I browsed anniversary cards a couple of times this week and struggled to find one that fit the occasion of the June 5, 33rd anniversary of being the Mr. to the most unbelievably beautiful, gifted, compassionate Mrs. that an undeserving guy can have. My bride, Kelly, is my best friend and soul-mate, my safe harbor, the forever love of my life.

“To A Special Wife” just didn’t cut it. (Although one of my long-time terms of endearment is telling Kelly that she is “A nice girl that I know,” a play on those cheesy greeting cards that overpopulate the card-buying options).

I picked up the card that began, “When we first met …” But that wasn’t it, either. Nor was, “I remember falling in love with you.” That was a nice touch, but it just didn’t fit. Something wasn’t quite right. I finally selected, “I want to grow old loving you,” which beat out, “I love growing old with you,” because I preferred “old” used in future rather than present tense. (And it matches what our youngest, Natasha, sang when we renewed our vows in 2007 – our 25th anniversary.)

But why didn’t the other cards work for me? For us?

I figured it out.

“When we first met …” would have referred to some time in the fifth or sixth grade when I was about half as tall as my tall bride. Even when we first starting “going together” 39 years ago in the eighth grade – matched by two friends who apparently bet each other that they could find each of us a girlfriend/boyfriend – the moment wasn’t exactly accompanied by Cupid’s arrows.

When we first met. When we fell in love. They seem like such odd concepts, really. And here’s why.

It’s not uncommon, even after all these years, tears, laughter and adventures, to learn something knew about each other. You could say we’re still meeting. I can’t describe how cool that is. Oh, I know what makes Kelly tick – and what ticks her off – and she knows me even better than I know myself. Cliché, but true. But we still discover newness on a fairly regular basis. As far as “when we fell in love?”

We’re still falling in love.

My worst trait is that I sometimes withdraw with the fear of uncharted territory, finding myself so incredibly close to another person – my person, my crazy cute wife – that it’s alarming. Just being honest. It’s exhilarating yet a little bit terrifying. I’ll try to explain it this way. Suppose you were just swimming along – swimming, swimming, swimming, checking out the reefs, colorful fish, awesome little octopi and everything – then all of a sudden you’re breathing. Maybe you’ve grown gills, I don’t know, but you realize – your mind reminds you – that you shouldn’t breathe when you’re underwater. How is that possible? It’s not natural.

To a large degree we are both products of homes that did not model for us the journey we’ve been on. We went from being “forced” boyfriend/girlfriend to confidants and rescuers of each other’s hearts in a short time. Within a year of our “going together,” the marriages in our homes imploded. (Story for another day that the implosion wasn’t sudden as it seemed, but when you’re 13, that’s what it seems like).

Married two months before my 19th birthday. (Kelly, the older woman in my life, had been 19 for six weeks). Parents at 22. Two daughters at 24. While I can’t recall a time when Kelly wasn’t part of my life, it’s difficult to remember a time when we weren’t Dad and Mom to Kishia and Natasha.

So there you have it. My “Happy Anniversary” announcement to A Nice Girl That I Know, the softest and toughest, smartest and funniest person I’ve ever known. I won’t even talk about how lucky I am. If you know Kelly and you know me – well, see what I mean?

Kelly, I love loving you, growing (older) with you, and getting to know you – and loving you more – every single day of our lives. Thank you for saying “I do” and “I still do.”

Me, too. I love you.

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Re-creating a live Tweet of today’s colonoscopy

I’d planned (threatened) to live Tweet this morning’s medical procedure that Dave Barry refers to as A HORRIBLE THING. I still wonder how many would have tuned-in for that play-by-play.

So I’ll re-create that for you now. I’m pretty sure this is how it would have gone.

9:45 a.m. – My appointment in the GI/Endoscopy unit at University Hospital was at 9. Waiting 45 minutes after the previous 12 hours of “prep” is inexcusable. I tell the sign-in desk person that I’m nauseous and uncomfortable. I’m admitted by an RN, Martha.

9:46 a.m. – Martha is awesome.

10 a.m. – Another nurse, Erika, starts my IV and another RN, Megan, gives me some nausea medicine.

10:05 a.m. – Erika and Megan are awesome. I fall asleep – not from the nausea meds, but from my typical reverse anxiety mode that kicks in at times like this. My blood pressure is something like 100/70. Chillaxed. (Oh, and a warm blanky from Martha).

11:10 a.m. – A young doc introduces herself as I wake up. I’m thinking the procedure must be over. She asks me if I’m excited for my first colonoscopy. My restrained response probably indicates that I am not. She tells me that the second half of the “prep” is the worst part. That I agree with. The young doc asks me what procedure I’m getting. I’m half-tempted to tell her something bizarre, then I remember that, in my estimation, a colonoscopy is fairly bizarre. She goes over the risks and a few details of the procedure. I sign a consent form. She tells me it won’t be long.

11:40 a.m. – An RN, I think her name is Debbie C., wheels my bed into another room where the young doc awaits. Another nurse/tech person (sorry, I wasn’t keeping notes) dons rubber gloves and has me turn onto my left side and pull up my right knee. I tell the med folks that I don’t bend very well. Never did. Nurse Debbie says it’s fine. She’s holding two or three thick syringes and I ask her when I’m getting the happy juice. “As soon as the doctor says we’re starting.” To be as well-informed as I can be, I ask what’s in the syringes. She tells me fentanyl. I’ve heard of this stuff. I think we’ll get along just fine.

11:45 a.m. – A second doc comes in and introduces himself. He tells nurse Debbie to begin and she begins administering the first big dose of fentanyl into the IV port on my right arm. As the drug goes into my vein, I asd erjlkj eoir and start to feel a dj elkjr ad d sdaijmj did i tell you the one about the elephant and the clown that cdwqe lkjd fdsaef. there is a bog huh i meant to say fog did you see that penguin but anyway i see a screen and the doc mumbles something about xdf l;kj;wer jkljdf er ferlug medilei byeice butterflies lincikme skerdrocrumlkj there and right there. ther’s blieab arkable baby unicorns schtingle ploratimum.

1:30 p.m. – I wake up in the recovery room. The end.

In conclusion: Absolutely amazing nursing staff. And the docs were so amazing that I hardly noticed them. (See: fentanyl).

Most of all, my awesome youngest daughter, Natasha Myrick, who took me – and came back for me. Then spent the afternoon with me at home while I returned to a state of semi-consciousness. Natasha’s awesome heart is a warm blanket.

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Building a playlist: “My Chains Are Gone” and “I Will Rise”

Days 7 and 8 – “Shackles: The Playlist”

On account of real life getting in the way, I managed to fall a few days behind in my compilation of a playlist for “Shackles,” my historical fiction novel that tells the story of Paul the apostle’s earth-shaking encounter with a jailer in the Roman colony of Philippi, circa 50 A.D. The story is two-fold and simultaneously follows separate paths: Paul’s story when he was Saul the great persecutor of Christians and later then converted evangelist, and the story of the jailer, a man I named Faustus (he’s unnamed in Acts 16). I’ll admit that Faustus became my friend as “Shackles” unfolded and is one of my favorite fictional creations. I suppose it’s not too late to have imaginary friends, right?

The separate paths of Paul and Faustus eventually collide – literally – and then the story follows the outline already detailed in Acts 16. A few of my 18 beta readers have finished the story and their comments and feedback are trickling in.

For the next two entries to “Shackles: The Playlist,” I’m offering a double dose of Chris Tomlin. “I Will Rise” and “My Chains Are Gone.”

One of my all-time favorite sacred hymns is “It Is Well With My Soul,” and there a line in the last verse that yearns: “And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight.” That the answer for that yearning is foretold in Tomlin’s “I Will Rise” with the phrase, “And my faith shall be my eyes …”

Whew. Goose-bumpy stuff.

And “My Chains Are Gone” incorporates the timeless standard “Amazing Grace.” The concepts of chains breaking, shackles falling off, and liberation from the oppression of sin and spiritual darkness are absolutely fitting for “Shackles.” Allow yourself to also consider other ways that we become shackled. Our religious institutions often put us in chains with lists and expectations, which is the very thing that Paul fought until his death. We do a pretty good job of shackling others, too, with our finger-wagging and self-righteousness.

Enjoy.

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Filed under Amazing Grace, Book of Acts, Christianity, Inspiration, National Novel Writing Month, Shackles, The Bible

“This is amazing grace”

Day 6 – Shackles: The Playlist

Laying down your life for a friend. Taking the place of someone who is condemned.

Those are actions from the heart of Christ, and the kind of love that Christians are called to display. In “Shackles,” I presented those concepts in the story of Faustus, the man that I imagined as the jailer who interacted with Paul and Silas from Acts 16. But earlier in the story, Faustus offered to take the place of his slave – his best friend – rather than allow a gross miscarriage of justice. I’m offering an excerpt from that scene below.

The redeeming story of “Shackles” is that Christ offered his life as payment to satisfy the debt of all who call on his name – confessing with our mouth, believing in our hearts.

This is amazing grace.

FROM “SHACKLES” – CHAPTER 22 – MIDNIGHT RUN

Faustus stepped again toward Lucianus. Two more slaves – Lucianus’s jail hands – stepped in front of Faustus.

“My slave did not take these gods,” Faustus insisted. “And you know it. You had them stolen, you had …”\

“Now, wait a moment,” Lucianus said. He stood. “I would not involve myself in such a thing, because just touching those things – those gods – can get a man’s hands chopped off.”

“You are an evil man,” Faustus replied. “Pure evil.”

“You are mistaken, Faustus,” Lucianus said. “I am trying to make things right, and what I see here is your best slave returning idols he had stolen, because he lives with you, and you certainly told him to just undo his deed and all would be forgotten.”

“I’m not listening to this. Let’s go Lutalo,” Faustus ordered.

“Well, not until there’s appropriate payment for this crime, Faustus,” Lucianus added. “I insist, and you being an upstanding man – and so well-respected by Emperor himself – have to appreciate that.”

“These aren’t your idols to protect and it’s not your justice to give,” Faustus replied. “We’re leaving.”

“Oh, but I’m afraid not, Faustus, because, you see …” He directed Pinkus to bring Lutalo to stand next to Faustus. “By about now, if you set others about the task of looking for more ill-gotten gods at your house, they will have found two statues that came from …”

“My house.”

Faustus began to take off his tunic. “I’m going to end you right here!” he shouted.

Lucianus motioned for another slave to bring him something, and the slave placed a scabbard in his hands. Lucianus stepped toward Faustus, carefully held the scabbard by the blade, and offered the handle to Faustus.

“You take this now. Go ahead, Faustus, you’ve wanted to do this for some time, and thrust it into my gut.”

Faustus refused to take the scabbard.

“So you will not end me here,” Lucianus said. “I knew you wouldn’t. You knew you wouldn’t. These gods know you wouldn’t.” He sliced at the air. “So here’s the price I exact. Bring me Lutalo.”

Faustus pushed his way around the other slaves and stepped in front of Lutalo.

“You will take my life, not his.”

“Take your life? Take HIS life?” Lucianus laughed. “I’m only going to lop of one of his hands. Now move aside.”

“You’ll do no such thing,” Faustus snarled. He grabbed the handle of the scabbard and wrested it away from Lucianus. Lucianus told the slaves holding Lutalo to let him go.

“You see, I was going to have them bring him over here, hold his arm on one of these stones, and ‘whack’” … Faustus threw up his arms. “But now you have the implement of justice.”

Faustus thrust the scabbard onto the marble surface. “There will be no retribution – no so-called justice – because my friend, my slave did nothing wrong.”

“No, Faustus, there will be justice, because I have six slaves who will tell the magistrates that they saw your slave take these idols.” Lucianus walked smugly back and forth between Faustus and Lutalo. “And there are others – not slaves, but the kind of witnesses that magistrates believe – who will testify the same thing. So, yes, there will be payment and retribution.”

Lucianus picked up the scabbard. He handed it to Faustus. “Here. Kill your slave.”

“If anyone dies it will be me,” Faustus argued. “My life. Not his.”

Lucianus forced himself to laugh.

“What a noble gesture – a man laying down his life for a slave … for,” Lucianus paused, then spun and turned toward Lutalo. “For his friend.”

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“Break Every Chain”

“Shackles: The Playlist,” Song No. 5 …

“A Roman family man, cheated by a lifelong enemy, descends into darkness and despair. A transformed persecutor of Christians avoids a vicious stoning and multiple murder plots. Shackles tells the story of two men, separated by hundreds of miles, destined for an earth-shaking encounter.”

“Shackles,” my historical fiction novel-in-editing that tells the simultaneous stories of Paul the apostle and a jailer in Philippi, is set in the year 50 A.D. As I was searching for Roman/Latin names to decide what to name the jailer, I came across “Faustus.” When I learned the name means “Lucky,” I had what I was looking for, because Faustus is anything but lucky. Unlike the stereotypical first century Roman man, whom I usually think of as rough, domineering, even cold, Faustus is incredibly kind, gentle, compassionate, affectionate … Yeah, the traits we don’t commonly associate with men of that culture and that generation.

By any standard, he’s a “good guy.” And not unlike a lot of good guys, he is tormented by secrets and the ever-present fear that his world could come crashing down at any moment.

And then it does.

When that happens, where does a man or woman turn? What good was “being good?”

That’s from the story of Faustus, but no one had more to say about the futility of “being good” than Paul, who at one point genuinely thought that he was doing good by killing Christians. Expectations, rules, guilt and shame are powerful chains. What are the “chains” in your life? Self-sabotage? (See me raising my hand?) Guilt? Overwhelming feelings of inadequacy? Unrealistic expectations of yourself? Of others?

Time to break every chain.

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“Shackles: The Playlist” – Song No. 4 ‘The world at the end of our pointing fingers’

Shackles, historical fiction, 83,000 words, set during the years 34-50 AD.

“A Roman family man, cheated by a lifelong enemy, descends into darkness and despair. A transformed persecutor of Christians avoids a vicious stoning and multiple murder plots. Shackles tells the story of two men, separated by hundreds of miles, destined for an earth-shaking encounter.”

Grace.

It was a scandalous concept demonstrated by Christ and the theme of the life, ministry and writings of Paul the apostle. But too often Christians embrace grace for themselves yet hold others up to impossible lists of rules and standards. If I can “be good” enough, obey enough, pray enough, read my Bible enough, share my faith enough, go to church enough … Hmmm. Just when will it be “enough.”

Paul said the cross was “enough.” So why do we insist on saying, “Yes, grace and the cross, but …?”

There’s no “but” or “and.”

Please don’t pull out the line, “Yeah, but a REAL Christian would …” or “But a GOOD Christian would …”

If you have even an inkling of that attitude, soak in “Jesus, Friend of Sinners.” It’s not about “those people.”

It’s about us.

“Open our eyes to the world at the end of our pointing fingers … Nobody knows what we’re for only what we’re against when we judge the wounded … Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks Yours.”

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“Shackles: The Playlist” – Song No. 3

The synopsis for my unpublished, not-yet-in-editing historical fiction novel, “Shackles,” set during the years 34-50 AD.

“A Roman family man, cheated by a lifelong enemy, descends into darkness and despair. A transformed persecutor of Christians avoids a vicious stoning and multiple murder plots. Shackles tells the story of two men, separated by hundreds of miles, destined for an earth-shaking encounter.”

My selection of a playlist continues as I await feedback from a dozen and a half beta readers. Please send me your suggestions for the playlist.

“Oceans (Where feet may fail)” by Hillsong United might be the new anthem for today’s generation of Believers, the same way that “Amazing Grace,” “Rock of Ages” or “The Old Rugged Cross” was the standard for worship songs once upon a time.

Your grace abounds in deepest waters / Your sovereign hand / Will be my guide / Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me / You’ve never failed and You won’t start now …

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“Shackles: The Playlist” – Song No. 2 …

Shackles / Historical fiction / 82,487 words

A Roman family man, cheated by a lifelong enemy, descends into darkness and despair. A transformed persecutor of Christians avoids a vicious stoning and multiple murder plots. “Shackles” tells the story of two men, separated by hundreds of miles, destined for an earth-shaking encounter.

Let me know your suggestions for music to accompany “Shackles.” I’m especially partial to a capella arrangements, but anything with spot-on harmony will get front-of-the-line treatment. I’m a fan of Phillips, Craig and Dean, and “Crucified With Christ” was a regular anthem during the last few months of writing. The title comes directly from the mouth of Paul, the great persecutor turned preacher, from Galatians 2:19-20, and you’ll find it in “Shackles.”

Send me your own recommendations. I’m also looking for secular music that fits the story, and I already have two songs in mind: a love song from Perpetua to Faustus, and a love song from Faustus to Perpetua. (Think Faith Hill and Steven Tyler/Aerosmith).

Meanwhile, here’s “Crucified With Christ.”

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Filed under Inspiration, Living Write, National Novel Writing Month, Old Time Religion, Shackles, WIPs

“Shackles: The Playlist” Send me your ideas

Shackles / Historical fiction / 82,487 words

A Roman family man, cheated by a lifelong enemy, descends into darkness and despair. A transformed persecutor of Christians avoids a vicious stoning and multiple murder plots. “Shackles” tells the story of two men, separated by hundreds of miles, destined for an earth-shaking encounter.

One verse in the Books of Acts gave birth to “Shackles” several years ago, although I didn’t realize it until 13 months ago.
“Around midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening.” (Acts 16:25)
Music brought “Shackles” to life, so it’s only fitting that music has played a key role in the writing process. The music that has accompanied this journey is rather eclectic, but also traditional. My tastes range from classic rock and Southern gospel to Indian flutes and contemporary Christian. As “Shackles” enters the test-reading and proofreading stage – with revising and editing to follow – let’s put our musical minds together for the “Shackles” soundtrack. Please send me your suggestions.
I’m getting “Shackles: The Playlist” started with a song – and music video – that tells the story of Acts 16:25. Ray Boltz’s “I Will Praise The Lord.”

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Filed under Inspiration, Living Write, National Novel Writing Month, Old Time Religion, Shackles