Tag Archives: Central Missouri State University

And along comes pneumonia …

THIS was going to be the week that I resumed regular blogging. The week I was going to master active voice and conquer passive voice. (Except that sentence). The week my weekly cycling total would eclipse 50 miles. The week that long-delayed, long-term projects at the Columbia Daily Tribune would get new life and bring smiles to the faces of my editors.

I had big plans.

Then along came pneumonia. It’s (at least) the ninth time this respiratory malady has flattened me in the last 20 years.

I know, I know. There seems to be a problem here. Two years ago, my fine physician, Dr. Carin Reust (University Physicians, Smiley Lane Clinic), fashioned a plan to figure out why I’m so susceptible to pneumonia. Whereas most people get a bad cold or maybe influenza and then, after suffering with the first ailment for a while they contract the secondary infection of pneumonia, I get a scratchy throat, a cough, maybe a sneeze and BAM! — pneumonia. Skip all the in-between incubation time.

It’s like a cruel board game I’ve thought about creating. It’s called “You’re Sick!” Roll the dice, move your marker (a DNA-helix of the influenza virus, a vial that represents live smallpox from the CDC in Atlanta, things like that), and you land on a square that says “Select A Symptom.” You pick a card, and yours would say, “Scratchy throat.” In your next move, you drink a gallon of orange juice and that symptom disappears. Trouble is, you now have a “severe lower gastrointestinal disturbance.” Now, I pick a card that says “Scratchy Throat,” and on my next move, I land smack dab on the “Pneumonia” square.

It’s true. I almost always go from zero to 60 like that — from picture of health to pneumonia. I rarely get a common cold or a common anything. I had viral meningitis in 1989 and pleurisy in 1992. And somewhere along the way, according to chest x-rays taken in 2010 during a period of good health, I developed scar tissue in my right lung. Just a smidgen, but probably a tell-tale sign that I had undiagnosed, untreated pneumonia or some other brachialcardialigistic ailment, probably during childhood or my teen years. (I just made up that brachialcaria-word, by the way).

In late 2009 my side business of painting, minor carpentry, window cleaning and deep cleaning  (stuff that no one else wants to clean) was so booked that I actually took off work from the Trib the last week of ’09 to finish two jobs. The last part of the last job was spraying “popcorn” texture onto a ceiling on which I’d inflicted dry-wall repair.

I didn’t wear a mask. Within two weeks I was down with pneumonia and that was the end of Jodie The Handyman. Solvents, cleaners, paint and similar chemicals sort of freeze up my lungs now. The allergic/respiratory reaction doesn’t cause pneumonia, but it basically sets me up for the illness. Or something like that.

I have a few ideas where this scar tissue came from:

– All that airplane model glue that I huffed as a kid. (Okay, I made that up). But these are real …

– Spring 1984, as I siphoned gas from the car to transfer into the garden tiller, I got a mouthful. Some of it made it down my gullet. I probably aspirated just enough not to kill me. I remember that incident by this name: The. Longest. Night. Of. My. Life. Remind me to tell you more about it later.

– July 1978, when I nearly drowned in the Gasconade River. Some of that nasty water made it down my windpipe. My lungs burned for days.

– 1981, Rolla, Mo., Godfather’s pizza. My high school debate partner, Jack Smith, did a sort of Heimlich maneuver on me as I choked on lava-hot double-cheese pizza. Pretty sure a melted bit of that delicious cuisine wound up in a lung.

– 1982, March. After walking back to North Ellis Hall, my dorm at Central Missouri State University, from Country Kitchen, where several of us had a Bible study and where I learned that I couldn’t possibly be a Christian because I’d never spoken in tongues, I went to bed around 2 a.m. Just after falling asleep, I woke up panicked, unable to breathe. No air in, no air out. I raced to the bathroom, splashed water onto my face and stared in the mirror as my eyes bulged and the room spun. Somehow I managed a gasp. (That happened again a month later, but never again since, unless you count sleep apnea, which I also have).

Anyway, I reported to my Pentecostal friends what had happened and that immediately upon regaining full respiratory function, I spoke in tongues. “Sorry,” said my buddy Chris. “Did you pray for interpretation?” No, I hadn’t. Chris said he’d pray for my soul.

There you have it. More of my medical history than you probably wanted to know. And all of this to explain that I’ve missed work all week and, by doctor’s orders, I won’t be back until Monday. Meanwhile, Nurse Kelly is providing exceptional care and, so far, I think I’ve been a pretty good patient.

So far.

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The Write Life: Opt for ‘remarkable’

Saturday in Jackson’s Journal is The Write Life, a trek past the mundane and beyond the borders of creativity. This is where we celebrate the craft of writing, storytelling and connecting with the hearts, minds and souls of readers.

I love my job as a reporter for the Columbia Daily Tribune. I now have 30-plus years of newspaper clips as evidence of my role as a modern-day scribe, chronicling the events and people who I’ve been fortunate to encounter.

Like most writers and reporters, my work leads me to rather paradoxical conclusions. On the one hand, I do believe that what I do is important. I’m telling and reporting history. Live. As it happens. On the other hand, I often believe that what I actually produce is gibberish and not very important because it’s so poorly done.

This week I wrote an article about a rural water district’s bookkeeping problems. Maybe the water district has only 2,500 customers, but to those payers and for the community where the district is located, that’s a big deal.

Without the aid and patience of a gifted editor, however, no one was going to read beyond the lede sentence. I mean, for crying out loud, I learned to write a lede — how to “hook” the reader — in high school. What I presented to my editor began like this: “Officials with Public Water Supply District 4 at Hallsville …”

And I lost her. SHE didn’t read beyond that bland, lazy launch into an important story. Worst of all, I filed the story knowing that the lede stunk. Did that mean I lost sight of the importance of what I do for a living? Probably. Sometimes the reporting and writing seems effortless. Sometimes it’s clumsy and confusing.

My editor, Lora Wegman, insisted on a new lede. This is what I came up with:

“Failure to pay payroll taxes on some expenses and paying a higher-than-allowed mileage reimbursement rate are just two of the bookkeeping issues a former office manager brought to the attention of Public Water Supply District 4 board members Tuesday.”

Better, wouldn’t you say? I got right to it. Still a bit wordy, but so much more interesting and readable than, “Officials said …”

My sophomore (and last) year in college I was editor-in-chief of The Muleskinner, the campus newspaper at Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg. The managing editor and I decided to reject any article that began with the words “the,” “a” or “an.” Our motto: “Get to the point.” We had journalism professors and all manner of academics argue about our unbending ban, but we won every argument. (Or so we thought. And it was that attitude that led me to leave college after two years because I really did think I knew it all).

Get to the point. If we’re writing something important, get to it. And in today’s newspaper world of a shrinking news hole, maximizing the words we use is top priority — well, second to the journalistic trinity of accuracy, fairness and balance.

The water district story was important to those customers, but I’m also convinced it was a big deal to all readers because watch-dogging and exposing what might be less-than-transparent operations ought to serve notice on all public entities entrusted with the people’s money.

Maybe that’s a lofty goal, but I buy into that aim. My first weekly newspaper boss used to say that photos of car crashes — and sometimes just the crashed car, because maybe we missed the actual accident — made everyone drive more safely.

I remember asking, “Then why do we keep seeing wrecks?”

My publisher, Norman Gallagher, scowled at my seemingly logical question and zinged me with a challenge. “Why don’t we do a better job getting their attention? Let’s tell the story better.”

Mr. Gallagher’s zeal for the truth was sometimes sidetracked by prejudice and personal vendettas, but he was passionate about telling the story.

“Let’s tell the story better.”

That brings me, in a rabbit-trail-chasing sort of way, to the point made by author/writer Jeff Goins, whom I consider a writer’s writer.

“What is up to you is the choice to be remarkable. As is the decision to be mediocre.”

That’s the conclusion Jeff reaches in Friday’s post, “The first day of the rest of your life.” Check out his blog.

Then choose to be remarkable.

Leave a comment

Filed under A reporter's life, Living Write

Catching up: If elected, I promise …

I know what went wrong.

Blame the time change, when we sprang forward an hour two weeks ago. I don’t handle change all that well. Go and throw a whole extra hour in the day – just like that – and poof!, I’m out of sorts. My doctor said I have SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder. But she also said I need to lose weight, so what does she know, right?

(Just kidding. Dr. Reust is the best).

But my blogging schedule has been off. I’ve missed entire days. It’s not like the earth will stop spinning if I miss a day or two, but I’m out of kilter. This little acre of cyber space is the bit of structure I added to my life about four months ago and, wouldn’t you know it, you don’t tend to the yard for a few days and it needs mowing.

So consider this mowing. Friday is supposed to be memoir-in-progress “80’s Day,” but I’m going to skip all over the place right now. Follow along.

The Chronicles of Me

March 25, 1991 – “Meet The Candidates” forum at the Belle High School vo-ag room. I was one of six candidates vying for two seats on the Maries County R-2 Board of Education. That was 21 years ago. And that’s me on the right.

Is anyone surprised that I was the only guy wearing a tie?

 

I didn’t win, mostly because my last name was neither “Ridenhour” nor “Lange.” In fact, I finished fifth, but I did win the Canaan precinct in Gasconade County.

What the hail?

March 15, 1982 – A cast from the Baptist Student Union at Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg was starting its third week of rehearsal for the musical, “The Apostle.” I played the part of Luke. (Yes, how fitting. The physician was also one of the world’s finest journalists). But the night of March 15 – it was a Monday night and we were rehearsing in the Lovinger Building gymnasium – a hailstorm busted out 3,000 windows on campus. Inside the gymnasium of the old building we were in, it sounded like the Apocalypse. (Whatever that sounds like).

What I remember most was how the streets flooded because the storm drains clogged up with golfball-size hail stones.

I was a staff writer for the Muleskinner, the campus paper. My front page story (just beneath the picture above) was “Regents pass dorm rate hike.” One sentence buried lower in the story noted that the university president asked the Board of Regents to authorize an emergency contract, “without competitive bid,” to repair the multipurpose building’s roof.

The good president called me to his office the day the paper came out (March 19) to tell me he was “perplexed” that I’d included that bit of information in the story. (My high school principal used to do the same thing). I asked, “Was it true?,” and he answered, “Well … yes,” and I wished him a good rest of the day and left.

That was 30 years ago this week. (What a trouble-maker!)

The Calendar Says …

March 23, 1982 – This notation: “75 days to go. Kelly.” Oh, yeah. We were engaged.

March 25 and 26, 1982 – Cue the lights! We performed “The Apostle.”

Fast Forward …

March 21, 1979 – “Shut up. I am going to KILL three or four of you! And I mean it!” That’s from my daily journal of my high school career at Belle High School, as spoken by English teacher Dale Mackey. Great guy, really – we often played tennis after school ‑ and I certainly don’t remember anything about his tirade, but apparently I lit his fuse that day. (Imagine that.) I laughed at his threat and he shouted some more. Me: “I think that’s pretty sad.” Him: “Well, your behavior is pretty sad, Jackson!”

The record is incomplete. I have no idea about the context.

From the aptly titled journal “My Senior Drear,” March 20, 1981 – “Had an emotional play practice last night. It’s all coming together now.” (I was Joe Keller in “All My Sons.” Intense.) “Kelly came over, we walked to school. She’s still sick, but we’re going out tonight.”

A little more …

“Cleaned out my moldy, rank locker. 3 bologna sandwiches, 1 ham/cheese, two Twinkies, 1/3 carton of milk. Carbon dating shows the provisions date back to September 1980.”

Got third quarter grades:

Journalism II – B

Astronomy – C

Study Hall – “I would’ve flunked study hall if there was a grading or credit system.”

Formal writing – A

Band – A minus

Yearbook/Publications – B

Speech II – A

Lunch that day? “Something that resembles congealed tooth plaque (allegedly ‘corn’).”

Leave a comment

Filed under A reporter's life, MIP: Memoir-in-progress

Cave song

Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting

A memoir-in-progress of my life’s spiritual journey, centered on but not always about Wednesday night prayer meetings of my childhood and teen years.

 

Caves have impeccable acoustics.

There’s a cave at Windermere Baptist Conference Center near Lake of the Ozarks. In September 1981, a group I was with from the Baptist Student Union in Warrensburg left a late Saturday night worship service as part of a weekend youth conference. Instead of heading back to our cabins – men and women had separate quarters, of course – we instead hung out on the grounds, somehow staying in the shadows and avoiding the slow, sweeping beam of a night watchman’s flashlight.

We were under direct orders – both from conference staff and our BSU director – that anyone not in bed with lights out at the stroke of midnight wouldn’t be allowed on future trips.

There were other, non-specific consequences, the type that 18- and 19-year-old Baptists flatly ignored.

There were about 15 in the group I was in, so we must have felt braver en masse. Just after midnight we dashed from the cover of a shadow into the cave. I wouldn’t say I was the ring-leader, but I was in front with one of our two flashlights. Someone in the back had the other flashlight.

I don’t remember the cave having much length, and as I recall it had a shallow spring that seeped from under a dead-end wall. When we reached that point, I switched off my flashlight. The girls screamed. (And probably some of the guys, too). Then the flashlight in the back went off.

I started the praise chorus, “Alleluia.” That was the first verse. Just “alleluia,” sung to very simple, harmonious chords. Second verse was “I will praise him, repeated eight times, following the same simple chords. Third verse was “He’s my Savior.”

Back in Warrensburg, I’d auditioned and was selected for “Testimony,” the BSU’s touring music group. I never was sure whether to sing bass or tenor – or just carry the melody. One of my group-mates, Elaine Black, had one of the most effortless soprano voices I’ve ever heard. She was somewhere in the group of singing Christian rebels that bathed the limestone cave walls and ceiling with rich harmony.

Gently powerful.

We finished the song, I think someone probably prayed – we’d have lost our Baptist cards if someone hadn’t prayed – and just as I flipped my flashlight back on, the applause of one person approached from the entrance.

The night watchman.

As he wiped tears from his eyes, he whispered, “You kids get to your bunks.” He thanked each of us as we walked past him, following his quiet order.

“Testimony” was a musical experience I had from the fall of 1981 to the spring of 1982, maybe eight or nine months. We sang in all corners of the state, visited every group member’s home church (mine was Faith Baptist in Belle, Mo.), and sang at every nursing home or veterans home in the western half of the state.

My hands-down, favorite piece we sang was a chorale, “Jesus My Lord, My Life, My All”  — a capella, of course. It was the most challenging piece in our repertoire, so naturally we worked on it the most. And we performed it exceptionally well. I loved the bass line and even though I haven’t sung that song in almost 30 years, the memory is crystal clear. We had quite a few upbeat songs and my group-mates teased me – kind-heartedly, of course – about my preference for more sacred, slower pieces, such as “Jesus My Lord …”

We sang at a nursing home – in Clinton, I think – and the scene, as it is in most nursing homes, was just sad and depressing. That particular performance was especially uncomfortable and awkward. You could say we just weren’t “feelin’ it.”

That changed when we sang “Jesus My Lord, My Life, My All.” As we sang the final measures, one old woman with a walker slowly made her way to the front. She stood in front of us, stepped away from her walker, and motioned to our director, Jon, to have all 10 of us kneel in a circle. In complete silence, she shuffled from person to person, placing her hands on each of our heads. Jon said she was praying. I didn’t hear it.

But I could feel it.

So I leave you with a treasure I found early this morning on YouTube: Jesus My Lord, My Life, My All.

Leave a comment

Filed under Inspiration, MIP: Memoir-in-progress, Old Time Religion