Category Archives: Kelly

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

Wedding Day arrives

wedding rings

Tomorrow is Wedding Day. At some point around 2:15 p.m., I’ll give the hand of our youngest daughter, Natasha, to her Prince Kory. (Note: I’ve been writing the Wedding Countdown at night, so by the time it’s posted for everyone or by the time most people read it, the calendar has already turned a page, so the tomorrow I’m talking about is Saturday, Sept. 7).

The countdown as featured my advice on “How to Wreck Your Marriage,” rather than giving insight on how to live in bliss happily-ever-after. The 15 wrecking balls that I’ve presented were warnings. And, to some degree, I’ve used all 15 wrecking balls myself during 31 years and counting with my Princess Kelly.

So I speak with authority. That’s a confession, not a boast.

If you’ve ever wrecked a car, you know it’s possible to not only survive the crash, but to also fix the car. Unlike repairing a wrecked car, though, repairing a wrecked marriage can result in an even better marriage. It’s not likely that the car you picked up from the body shop was actually better than it was even before the crash.

Wrecking a marriage can be a solo venture, and it can be done in one fell swoop or, more likely, in several whacks of the wrecking ball. But the repair and restoration is not a solo effort. It requires a team of people who have experienced and can offer grace, while creating an atmosphere of accountability and transparency. You’ll find those people when you seek them, and you’ll be amazed at how available they are when you’re ready stop trying to save face in order to save your marriage.

The truth is, it’s not all that hard to wreck a marriage. The same cannot be said for restoration.

It’s hard work. And you start by owning your part and taking responsibility without blaming your spouse – or your parents for not modeling what it means to love unconditionally and love with grace even when it’s not returned. It’s my guess that no one has shown you how to un-wreck your most precious relationship and most of us have seen in our family of origin or someone close to us that a lot of people simply quit and give up on each other. Or we witnessed one or both parents wailing away with those wrecking balls for years until there was simply nothing left.

We’re overwhelmed, it seems, by examples like that, rather than stories of those who successfully repaired and restored the wreckage.

We use a wrecking ball, whether deliberately or passively, because we want something different: my spouse should change, my circumstances should be difference, my in-laws aren’t what I expected or need, my life should be more interesting or exciting. But when the wreck happens and it looks like you’re reaching the point of no return, start the restoration by considering this reality: Is this what you wanted? If you can say, “I finally got what I wanted,” and that “want” was a mistress, a submissive spouse (he/she is so broken and beaten down that you win) or some twisted sense of respect, is that really what you wanted?

More questions. Are you prepared to do anything to restore the wreck? Are you willing to take your spouse’s hand, open your heart, confess your failures, and get on your knees – with your spouse – and humbly ask your Creator to flood light into the brokenness of your life and marriage? Are you willing – as that first husband wasn’t – to stand and speak against the Enemy, and to fight your own demons to recapture the heart of your Princess?

If you say “no” to any of those questions, ask yourself again. And again. Remember your marriage before the wreck and what it was like to have won your bride’s heart the first time.

Wait a minute. You’re telling me that she’s no longer that fresh-faced, sparkling-eyed girl you married? She’s not the same person?

Really? You don’t think you had something to do with that? And are you the same charming, sweep-her-off-her-feet knight in shining armor?

Restoring the wreck will mean finding and knowing your spouse’s heart – perhaps for the first time. The honesty, time and emotion that it takes is demanding. I know it. It probably also means letting your spouse know – maybe for the first time – how you really feel and what you fear.

What do you want? And how will the rest of your life without him/her look?

Remember my story about looking out over a dark, stagnant lake the night before Kelly and I were married? I realized – just knew it – that life without her would be like that. Empty.

I’ve pushed my marriage to the edge of the cliff a few times. Once it seemed to tumble right over into the abyss, but a circle of grace – friends who were not going to let us crash – intervened and shined light into my heart. Yes, it’s humiliating to allow so many others to “get into your business,” and the road to restoration is a bumpy, uncertain, painful ride. But the heart of your princess awaits.

The alternative? For me it was the stark reality that what I had envisioned on wedding eve, June 4, 1982, could come true if I simply answered, “Yes, this is what I want.”

Instead, what I want is to be married to my best friend, to show her my heart and to experience this adventure of life, faith and love side-by-side. There is no alternative to consider.

THIS is what I want.

Recommended reading

Wild at Hearthttp://books.google.com/books/about/Wild_at_Heart.html?id=sQ4_2x6jhuUC

Playlist

In honor of Groom Kory and Bride Natasha, here’s Ol’ Blue Eyes Frank Sinatra with “Come Rain or Come Shine.

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The Wedding Countdown: 2 days away

Line-in-Sand_3

Five, four, three, two …

Tomorrow will be one: One day until our youngest princess marries her prince. Natasha Jackson and Kory Myrick will tie the knot at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Today was a break-neck busy, dizzying sort of day. As Kelly and Natasha carefully applied swirls of icing to 124 cupcakes, I kept watch over three pork butts on the grill. I’m a charcoal-only guy, sworn to uphold the fine art of grilling by controlling the heat of a briquette – and the smoke of damp chunks of hickory. Once upon a time I thought that barbecuing was simply the act of putting a slab of meat on a grill over flames, with an occasional squirt of lighter fluid to keep the fire raging.

That’s what I now call “desecrating,” not barbecuing the meat. In fact, there’s nothing barbecue about my grilling these days. The sauce can go on the side after the morsels are properly grilled. I can’t even tell you how many years I snuffed out flavor with flame or thick sauce. Grilling is an art form that I seek to master.

A little while ago when I let the dog out I checked the grill – 8:30 p.m. – and the temperature gauge still read 175-degrees. That was exactly 12 hours after I put three pork butt roasts on the grill, flanked on both sides by white-hot briquettes, with a 9×12 drip pan under the meat – about 17 pounds worth of hog heaven. I checked periodically to make sure the temperature was between 225 and 275, turned the meat ever so gently when necessary, and kept the oak chips and chunks smoking after the first hour.

The smallest roast registered 170 degrees at the center just three hours later. The others came off the grill and 12:15 and 12:45, respectively. Given a good half hour for the juices to settle in but not too cool off to noticeably, those butts practically fell apart. The meat either pulled or shredded with ease, and I shared some burnt ends with Natasha as she iced cupcakes. Kelly got some samples of the interior goodness. She’s not a burnt ends fan and not a fan of the spices that gave the outer butt a nice kick: chili powder and cayenne pepper. My rub recipe, which was applied the day before, also includes a healthy amount of paprika (sweetness), salt, pepper, oregano and the primary ingredient: brown sugar.

The pulled pork, my grilled-finished mac and cheese (first time I’ve tried that) and other goodies will be the fare for Friday’s rehearsal dinner.

Tonight (I’m writing this Thursday) is my final entry for “How to Wreck Your Marriage.” Tomorrow’s, on wedding eve, I’ll give some pointers on what to do when you’ve wrecked your marriage.

Yeah. I have some experience. (Guys, I dare you to tell me you don’t).

And tonight, we’re talking about sex. And I’m talking to the guys.

Wrecking ball No. 15 – Believe that sexual purity and faithfulness to your wife is a line in the sand, and as long you don’t cross it, you’re pure.

See that line? You can get right up to it – inch your way closer, closer and right there, just not OVER the line – and you haven’t strayed from your vows. That’s the wrecking ball that will eventually knock you over the line if you keep standing there, toying with your thoughts, fantasies, the thrill of a pursuit or chase that, hey, is just a friendly sort of thing and, besides, all guys do that.

All guys do that: hardly needing to be lured or enticed to the line because they live right next to it. If you’re rationalizing the fantasies that play out in your head, you’re likely connected to others who also have their toes about a millimeter from that purity line. Just stay right there and I promise – You. Will. Wreck. Your. Marriage.

Here’s the thing about that line: It allows for “look but don’t touch,” to flirt and entice without consequences. But, ultimately, it allows for different options. When you’re comfortable enough toeing the line, any marital crisis, unaffectionate moment or indifference from your wife, or the desire to just be “a really good friend” to another woman in a time of need are life circumstances that lead to easy justification for crossing the line.
Every man needs to read “Every Man’s Battle,” subtitled, “Winning the War on Sexual Temptation One Victory at a Time.”

See, here’s the deal: What you think you’ll gain in pleasure, approval, acceptance, confidence – whatever – by testing and eventually crossing that imaginary purity line amounts to a grain of sand compared to the pleasure, affirmation, dignity and strength of being faithful, from seeing the sexual connection of marriage as a body, mind, soul and spirit intimacy that comes from honoring and cherishing your wife.

I’m trying to avoid being preachy, but I need to say that my faith and value system is based on the belief that it’s up to each man to redeem manhood. And every man fights this battle. To the guy who believes that monogamy is old-fashioned and unachievable, my advice is to get far away from the woman who loves you, because you’re setting her up for unspeakable pain. Do her a favor and get out of her life now.

Tough words? No, the tough words come from the empty, tear-drained eyes that accompany the question, “How could you?”

So where is a man supposed to draw the purity line?

Nowhere. There isn’t a line that you can see, that if you simply stay on this side of it, you’re okay. Your wife’s hand, your wife’s heart, your wife’s trust and honor are your anchor. (Spiritually speaking, for us Christians the anchor is Jesus Christ, and the words of Paul the Apostle: “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church.” There’s no line there, no other options. And it means battling to the death for your beloved princess. Not up for that? You’re not ready for marriage).

This sort of faithfulness and purity is possible, especially if you lock arms and hearts with other men who refuse to draw that line. And you’d better find those allies and partners-in-arms in every season of life. Our biological and sexual “wiring” is one thing. Our sexually-charged, anything-goes culture is out to wreck you: your marriage, your dignity, your manhood – your life.

Guys, no one has suggested this is easy. That’s why it’s called a battle. But every warrior headed for or engaged in battle asks himself, “Is this cause worth it?”

Is your wife worth it? Come on, ask yourself that question.

If you can see that line in the sand, you’re not saying, “Maybe not.” You’ve already said, “No.” You’ve answered that question long before you stepped across that line.

Playlist

Casting Crowns, “Slow Fade.” Please take five minutes to see this powerful music video.

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Filed under Family, Inspiration, Kelly, Wedding countdown

Four days from wedding day: The countdown

Four days away from giving my daughter’s hand to her prince. Natasha and Kory will officially embark on their forever together, but they’d tell you that their hearts are already on that lifelong journey.

Tomorrow (I’m writing Tuesday, post will publish Wednesday) my primary job is to rub the butts. Um, that’s pork butts, of course, getting them ready for a day of smoking over charcoal and hickory on Thursday.

Can’t you already savor the aroma? Tempted by the taste?

flower man

Let’s shift gears and prepare for more of “How to Wreck Your Marriage.” Today and tomorrow’s wrecking balls can be used by either gender, but I’m primarily talking to the guys. You might want to have the kids out of the room for tomorrow’s, unless you’ve got a young man age 12 or so and up.

Wrecking ball No. 13 – Wait for the big moment.

Women are always doing those “little things” to make life work for us, but we need a big moment – a big splash – to show her how much we love her.

She says, “I keep asking you to take out the trash, but it’s as if you don’t hear me.”

You say: “But I bought you flowers that one time. Back then. A few months … or so … ago. Didn’t I?”

She says, “I just need you to tell me sometimes that I’m pretty.”

You say, “But you know I feel that way about you, you know, without saying it. Besides, my love language was mounting that flat screen for you on the wall in the bedroom. Speaking of which, the Cardinals game starts in about 15 minutes. Why don’t you make us some popcorn?”

That’s it. Wait for the big moment. No need to get bogged down in the little things – especially the little things of the heart. There’s really no need to tell her you love her, because you show her all the time.

A cool variation of this wrecking ball is to create chaos – oh, you can do it – and then step in to rescue your damsel. It’s kind of like putting out the fire with a hose in one hand and still clutching the lighter and/or gas can in the other hand.

She’ll appreciate that. And be sure to keep track of your great moments, because you’ll need to remind her
ad nauseum on those occasions that she points out – either indirectly or flat out – that you’re not doing your share of the work around the house.

BONUS WRECKING BALL: If she asks for help with the dishes – because, of course, you would dream of taking that on by yourself – tell her you could help except that it’s “women’s work.”

She’ll love that. Any reference to the 1950s (when women knew their place) or telling her that your mom didn’t expect you to help around the house, so it’s her who has the problem.

Playlist

A couple of great selections. Because I referenced the 50s and Saturday’s wedding has a “vintage” theme, here’s Ronnie Milsap with “Lost in the Fifties Tonight.”

Followed by Nazareth (that hair ROCKS) with “Love Hurts.” It was 1976, I was 13. Kelly and I started “going together” in November that year.

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Five days and counting, we’re full blown ‘Wedding Central’

night-lake-dark-scenery

Wedding countdown

Five days away from Natasha and Kory’s “I do.” We’re now counting down by blocks of time and tasks that are getting checked off Kelly’s master list(s). (Re: see yesterday’s post).

Once upon a time, we could drive to Wal-Mart, I’d drop Kelly off at the front of the store, and she’d begin shopping and after I’d found a parking space, I’d go in and find her. It worked pretty well for a couple of decades. Nowadays I enter the store as I tap Kelly’s number on my cell phone to ask, “Where are you?”

It’s getting more difficult to recall life PD – pre-digital. Technology makes my head spin.

I’m also have trouble remembering when Kelly wasn’t part of my life. We began “going together” – that was the vernacular of the day – on Nov. 22, 1976. That was 37 years ago. We’ve been married 31. The truth is, every pre-Kelly memory seems to be attached to the question, “Where was Kelly?” We’re that connected; seems like we’ve always been.

Life without Kelly? I don’t want to remember that. The night before our wedding, I drove to the Belle City Park, where I’d caught hundreds of fish from the lake and clubbed hundreds of hits (and a few over the fence) on the baseball field. Some of my finest moments of almost 19 years of life had deep connections to the park and lake in my hometown.

But that night, I sat in the car, alone, fairly sure I knew we were way too young to get hitched, yet too much in love to give any credibility to conventional wisdom. As I stared out over the pitch blackness of the small lake, I asked God for a sign, some indication of whether I should be getting married in less than 24 hours. The thought that hit me was to imagine life without Kelly, and as I continued the ponder the profound question, the answer was right there in my gaze.

Nothing. Empty. Alone.

Meaningless and stagnant, much like that lake.

I married my best friend, and Kelly will say the same. We’re a couple of lucky, blessed married folks.

How to Wreck Your Marriage

Wrecking ball No. 12 – Major on minors. When you disagree or reach an impasse, be sure to pick your battle based on your spouse’s perceived weakness or that hot-button criticism that you know will throw off your spouse emotionally and mentally. Even better, stake your claim to your right to be an incredible gift to humanity by making a big deal out of … Nothing.

It’s not just about arguing over which shade of green is best – olive or evergreen – or what to name the dog. It’s about using that wrecking ball over and over by pounding your spouse with your “victories” in such disagreements. It’s amazing how something so trivial can be used to find and then wear away the chink in his/her armor, eventually exposing his/her heart so you can move in with even more force to prove your superiority.
If you’re puzzled about what qualifies as a major or minor point, just adopt the conclusion that everything is a big deal.

Playlist

Going to my deep well of sacred hymn favorites. These old songs play on a fairly continuous loop in my noggin. Here’s a super not-so-old arrangement of At The Cross, performed by the Gaither Vocal Band.

Two observations: Yes, it is sometimes tortuous to watch Bill Gaither sing. And at around the 1:27 mark it looks like Mark Lowry has fiery horns. Cool. And, oh yeah, Guy Penrod and David Phelps have crazy awesome voices.

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Filed under Family, Inspiration, Kelly, MIP: Memoir-in-progress, Old Time Religion, Wedding countdown

Six days to go, checking off the wedding prep list

My bride shared this on Facebook today. More proof that I've failed manhood. It is not an opinion that I share. Epic fail.

My bride shared this on Facebook today. More proof that I’ve failed manhood. It is not an opinion that I share. Epic fail.

Six days until Wedding Day.

I’ve watched now for 30-plus years as Kelly organizes, strategizes and prioritizes many a task – big and small. If Kelly was president, for instance, this nastiness we’re involved in with Syria might not have happened. Same for Iraq, Afghanistan and all the coming domestic and international conflicts. She’d kick everyone who was posturing politically out of the room, find out who needs to communicate here, what the problems are, and who needs to do what.

To wit:

“So, guys, Assad has got to go, right?”

Silence.

“Come on, people, work with me.”

“Right, ma’am.”

And right away she’d have lists, tasks and focus points for everyone, and with military-like precision, she’d accomplish either a peaceful resolution – “let’s find out why he’s such a bully and try some cognitive behavior therapy” – or a swift change in leadership, with all other Arab nations nodding in agreement and getting on with pumping our oil.

My bride is helping keep the Wedding Week schedule on schedule. Like I said, she’s about precision.

I, on the other hand, represent anti-precision. She suggests, “Let’s leave at 10,” and she’s ready to go out the door not later than 9:40. Me? I’m getting into the shower at 9:55.

So, for everyone who wonders who does all that behind-the-scenes stuff? Her name is Kelly Jackson, my princess.

Now back to the business of “How to Wreck Your Marriage.”

Wrecking ball No. 11 – Read between the lines. Fail to communicate. And imagine that every request, suggestion or effort to provide input to your life is a direct, unmistakable assault on your ability to think for yourself – and your very worth as a person.

That’s right. When you hear, “Hey, can you give me a hand with these dishes?”, you should automatically defend yourself with, “So, you think I don’t do enough around here? You think I’m lazy?”

Of course, that’s how we hear things because we’re used to speaking between the lines – you know, not really saying how we feel or what we want, but giving hints and clues, instead of just outright saying, “You know, I’m really not in the mood for Chinese tonight. I vote for pizza.”

Always assume that what your spouse says is only half of what he/she really thinks or wants to say. Yes, practice incomplete communication.

This is a good way to wreck your marriage, but usually before that happens you’ve gone loony, which is precisely what this form of communication causes.

Playlist

Probably one of the greatest performances ever. George Michael and Elton John, “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.”

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The calendar speeds up; one week from Wedding Day

crayons

One week from today – seven days – Natasha will have become Mrs. Myrick, saying “I do” to launch forever together with Kory. (Seven days from Saturday, which is when I wrote this, so posting on Sunday means it’s actually only six days away. I’ll double-post at some point this week to get on track).

I’ve done quite a bit of reflection over these past several days, remembering the night before our wedding. I, for one, had no clue about what I was getting into on June 5, 1982. Here we are, 31 years and a couple of months later, and I’m still pretty much clueless – which is why I’m certifiably qualified to present the wrecking balls of “How to Wreck Your Marriage.”

Wrecking ball No. 10 – As promised, this one is the evil twin of “never, ever, ever change or expect change.” This disastrous wrecking ball is called, ”He’ll’/She’ll change once we’re married.”
You just keep telling yourself, because this one extends to family members, friends, associates, etc. Your prince’s friends are particularly boorish and juvenile? Well, that’ll change after you’ve been married. And even if the friends don’t change, YOU will be able to change hubby/wife who will suddenly no longer need to nurture those friendships.

He’ll change. They’ll change. You can change them all. After all, you’re madly in love, which means everyone will change the behaviors and traits that you didn’t like before you were married.

Yeah, keep telling yourself that one.

Her dad won’t be so overbearing and prone to give completely unsolicited advice. His mom has kept the umbilical cord attached up until now, but once you’re married, she’ll automatically let go of baby boy and respect your boundaries. The in-laws will love it that you’ve set boundaries and clearly defined how you expect them to be involved – or not – in your lives.

Before Kelly and I said “I do” lo these many years and months ago, I was an exceptionally picky eater, had poor table manners, and routinely demonstrated a remarkable lack of common sense. Today, things have changed. I have much better table manners, or at least developed those once I’d properly instructed and shown Kishia and Natasha how to belch the A,B,C’s.

Those other things? Nah. Still pretty much the same, although my menu has expanded considerably. Still, given a preference, meals should basically consist of meat and taters, and not taters with little green things thrown in or laying at the side of the plate, or with some odd selection of mustard-raisin dipping sauce, or some such thing.

So think of the things that irritate you most about the other. Now tell yourself that he/she loves you so much that he/she will no longer have a desire or capacity to be irritating. And if future hubby/wifey has a mom/dad that needs to butt out of your business, future hubby/wife will take care of that after you’re married because, after all, you two now wear the grown-up pants and you’re figuring out this marriage thing a step and a day at a time.

Yep, things will change for sure, but probably not the way you want them to change, although you have a distinct new direction in mind for your spouse. When using this wrecking ball, be sure to remind your spouse of all the ways he/she hasn’t yet changed, and that if he/she simply loved you more, she’d change. She’ll appreciate hearing that.

Playlist

I might be the only person on the planet who prefers Gerard Butler’s Phantom, so here, with some of the most powerful lyrics and emotions, is “Music of the Night” from the 2004 film, Phantom of the Opera.

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A lifetime of New Year’s Eve deja vu

Half-way through December, when it came time for me to resume my NaNoWriMo novel, to catch up on roughly 873 unread emails and blogs that I follow, and to breathe new, consistent life into Jackson’s Journal, I had a high-level meeting with myself and decided to extend my “down” time another 16 days.

Enough. I’m breaking the huddle, getting back in the game, shaking the dust off any other cliches that refer to getting the rust out of my routine. I’m pumped. In fact, I’m going to blog every single day of 2013. Or not.

First, I’m taking stock of the greatest blessing of my life. My bride (Kelly) and I did some calculating tonight and determined that since 1974, we’ve been together every single New Year’s Eve except one. Folks, that’s 38 NY Eves.

kelly-jodie

I love the story of Dec. 31, 1974. Kelly and her family and 36 other people — 41 in all — were at the green duplex in Belle, Mo., at Eighth and Shockley, a place that I prefer to remember as “Little Fenway,” on account of the house was the left field fence for the greatest Wiffle ball field ever known.

But it wasn’t wintertime Wiffle ball that drew a crowd.

It was a fish fry.

Dad was the pastor of the fledgling Faith Baptist Church, and as best I can remember, the evening started with a fine Southern Baptist tradition, the New Year’s Eve Watch-Night Service. Or maybe the evening didn’t start at the church, which was located in the former but brown recluse spider-infested Dahms Hardware Store in Main Street/Alvarado Avenue/Highway 28 in downtown Belle.

My Little Black Book of Great Adventures — aka, my childhood diary — recounts the important details, including the reference to brown recluse spider-infestation, but also the party in the house at Little Fenway. At one point earlier in the evening, someone — either my dad, Robert Thompson or Clifford McDaniel — had a wild-hair idea about having a fish fry. Robert had a freezer full of gigged Gasconade River fish and Clifford possessed the world’s all-time greatest hush puppy recipe. (It might have been the other way around; the Little Black Book of Great Adventures doesn’t provide clarification).

Someone brought a massive iron kettle and a grand fire was sparked on the bare spot normally reserved for second base. There was fish, hush puppies, drinks (absolutely non-intoxicating beverages, of course), pie, slaw, and, for the younger set, an unofficial yet also traditional activity of Southern Baptist teens and pre-teens: spin-the-bottle. (Not sure if it was this event or a future gathering where the spin-the-bottle experience came to an abrupt end when the bottle pointed to me and my sister, Kathy).

At the height of the NY Eve Fish Fry of ’74, we had 55 people in our house. At one point I retreated to my room — a chemistry lab and railroad-killed mammal dissection facility — to jot down my thoughts. I refer now to the Little Black Book of Great Adventures:

“It is 10:40 PM, Dec. 31, 1974. New Year’s Eve. It was a good year to me and I especially wan to thank God for leading me to a good year in science. He led me to all my specimens and stuff.” (Ed. note: living less than 100 feet from the Rock Island rail line also provided me an ample supply of biological diversity).

More about the year, recapping my thanks to my parents for letting me collect so much “stuff” and thanking my friends for helping me collec the “stuff.” (Ed. note: we had most of an entire but unassembled adult deer skeleton hauled into my room/lab before my mom drew a line on the amount of “stuff” I could have in my room/lab).

Finally, this:

“I joined a taxidermy school and I have come to a greater scientific knowledge. I am going out now to join the rest of the party. There are still 41 people hear at our house.” (Ed. note: Correctly spelled “knowledge,” but misspelled “hear.”)

Now let me fast-forward three years to New Year’s Eve 1977, back in the green duplex at Eighth and Shockley after moving back from Jefferson City, where I spent THE loneliest, saddest year of my life the previous year. My year-end recap included, “In mid-October, my parents got a divorce” and my sister, Sharon, visiting from Japan where she and bro-in-law Navy man Michael were stationed, had lost her babies (twin boys). And then this: “I am very much in love with Kelly Drewel, who I’ve been going with for 13 months.”

Finally, follow me back to (or is it “forward to?”) NY Eve 2012, where I’m making the resolution to finish the novels “Dixieland” and “Chasing the Devil” in 2013, with at least one of them published by year’s end.

And then I laugh as I glance again at the Little Black Book of Great Adventures and find this:

“Lately, I’ve been writing quite a bit. In the past I’ve started a few books that I never have finished, and I’ve got several ideas for books, stories and songs. I have written about 25 stories, 15 songs and started about 5 books. It takes time to write, so I think I’ll put aside more time to write.”

And then I listed some belated resolutions for getting that done: limit television; get my homework done at school; stick with something.

The date: Feb. 8, 1978.

The more things change …

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Filed under Family, Inspiration, Kelly, MIP: Memoir-in-progress, National Novel Writing Month 2012, Nature & Animals, Old Time Religion, WIPs

NaNoWriMo Day #7: Takin’ a Kianna break

Actually, Days #6 and #7 were temporary detours from National Novel Writing Month, although it would be inaccurate to say I took a break from writing. Yesterday (Nov. 6) was Election Day, which kept me jotting notes and typing away most of the day. (Is it still accurate to refer to “typing”?) My day job with the Columbia Daily Tribune found me arriving at the Hallsville Community Center at around 6:50 a.m. Tuesday and leaving a Democratic election watch party (the third watch party I’d been to since 8 p.m.) at The Blue Note in downtown Columbia just after 11 p.m.

That, my friends, is what you call a real long day. There was nary a moment free for my WriMo tasks. Today (Wednesday the 7th) was less busy and less long … at least I think so. I was in a post-election fog most of the day.

Considering that I was a WriMo machine the first five days of our 30 days of literary abandon, I allowed myself to step away the last two days.

Here was the highlight of today:

Having a great time with soon-to-be 9-month-old granddaughter, Princess Kianna Brown. (Grammy got some sugar, too. Scroll down). This caption should be: reading and sucking her thumb and leaning on Grandpa. This little beauty melts my heart every single time I see her.

 

Grammy lovin’ on Princess Kianna Wednesday evening in Jefferson City.

 

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Filed under Family, Kelly, Kianna Allene Brown, National Novel Writing Month 2012