Tag Archives: Darnell

Grandpa, uncle, godfather: the best titles

When you’re around good kids for any length of time, you learn to appreciate their parents.

We retired to slumber Sunday night with a different kind of tired. Friday night we had our four godchildren for a sleep-over: siblings Desiree, Dasia, Bryant and Bryson. I will provide photographic evidence of this relationship in the future. We only recently were asked to be godparents. With these siblings, their mom, Rochelle, has already done the work of teaching values, manners and personal responsibility.

Kelly and I are simply following that path to reinforce Rochelle’s work. The godparent role is typically associated with Catholicism, so I’m doing some research to figure out what this means for Protestants. It’s basically the same thing, I believe: spiritual mentoring/education.

Any suggestions?

We went from godparenting to having Kelly’s 3-year-old nephew, Marik, on Saturday, overnight and until Sunday afternoon. Just a few days ago I made it clear that when granddaughter Kianna reaches the “why” stage, I will answer every single “why” with a clear, Kianna-level response.

I got that “why” vow put to the test with little Marik this weekend. I’m not good at short, concise answers — just ask Kelly, my co-workers  and anyone with whom I exchange email. But I’m better at that now than I was just 36 hours ago.

Finally, bringing Marik to Jefferson City to hand him off to his dad, en route from Jeff City to Byron in Osage County, our rendezvous site was the Brown Estate where little Kianna awoke from a good nap to find Grammy and Grandpa cooing and doting over her. Her parents, Kishia and Darnell, are making a difference in their daughter’s life. As a result, I have no doubt that Kianna will make a difference in the lives of countless people.

Princess Kianna will be six months old on Aug. 15, two days after this Grandpa’s 49th birthday.

I think a birthday picture will be in order.

This week …

  • Tuesday: Guest blog by youngest daughter, Natasha. She reminisces about her Granny Nola, who died in December. Have your tissues ready.
  • Wednesday: Getting back to the Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting theme, a memoir-in-progress of my life’s spiritual journey.
  • Friday: The 80’s. Not the temperature, but the decade. Another memoir-in-progress.
  • Saturday: The Write Life. (Writing advice, writing prompts, words from other writers, etc.)
  • This schedule basically resumes the thematic approach I took with The Journal back in the spring. I’m also genuinely interested and anxious to have guest contributors as often as possible. Practically any subject (we’re family-friendly, but also thought-provoking), preferably something from 200 to 600 words, and I’ll ask for a bio and mug shot.

Now … Reach out and blog.

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Somebody’s 5 months old!

I’ve got a bevy of stories to share for another day, namely two water events that almost changed or ended my life forever, that occurred in July. (One in 1978, involving the Gasconade River, and the other in 1993, involving the Missouri River). One of the all-time most tragic news stories that I covered was in July 1984 in the little town of Bland, Mo.

I’ll let you know when those true tales are ready. (I also just wanted to use the word “bevy” today).

And our current heat wave of consecutive 90-plus degree days is already the fifth-longest such stretch ever. If it becomes an all-time record, which is becoming increasingly possible, it will probably crack my Top 10 Lifetime Weather Events. So I’ll keep you posted, with an eventual update on the futile effort to produce tomatoes, zucchini, cukes and other goodies in the back yard.

Those are stories for another day, because the topic of this day is granddaughter Princess Kianna!

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Good, bad, better, best

Here’s how this works: I list something “good,” followed by something “bad,” then, recognizing that life has too many blessings to count, identify “better” and “best.” The list of four somethings may or may not be related.

Let’s begin.

Good: Started today with a good 5 mile bike ride. Bad: The central air unit was frozen this afternoon. Literally frozen. Ice on the tubing. Uh oh. Better: Lunch and afternoon get-together with our girls, Kishia (and hubby Darnell) and Natasha (and boyfriend Korey). Best: Granddaughter Kianna napping on Grandpa and Grammy’s bed, then waking up and smiling and looking for me when she hears my voice.

Good: Watering my parched plants just before sunset. Bad:Andy Griffith died yesterday.

Sheriff Andy Taylor
TV and entertainment pioneer Andy Griffith died Tuesday.

Better: Navigating the Creasy Springs roundabout on a bike creates an awesome buzz of adrenaline. Best: My nephew, Zeke, and his wife, Julie, had their first child on Monday, David Thomas Assel, weighing in at over 9 pounds. His daddy, Thomas Ezekiel, is one of my favorite people on the planet. (Just don’t tell him, ‘cause he has an inflated opinion of himself. Bazinga.)

Good: Preparing brats, chicken breast and my own on-the-grill scallop potatoes for grilling. Bad: Failure to pick up lighter fluid after the last grill-fest. I’m a briquets-only grill guy. Better: Natasha and Korey making a speedy trip to Moser’s to pick up lighter fluid. Best: Brats, chicken, potatoes were magnificent. Also grilled pineapple for the first time. Not a pineapple fan, but apparently it was okay.

Good: Two box fans and a borrowed window unit air conditioner getting the indoor temperature down to 80. At 11 p.m. Bad: Mediacom cable service. No complaints for eight months, but last four weeks or so? Grandpa’s very dissatisfied. Better: Our little dog, Bella, a Brussels griffon, is finally starting to like me. We’ve had her almost three years. Best:Spending most of Tuesday with Kelly enjoying Grandpa/Grammy time with Kianna.

Grammy and Grandpa with Princess Kianna

Good: The Fourth of July. Bad: Too much political and ideological polarization in the country. Better: Agreeing to disagree. Best: Living in the U.S. of A.

Good: Getting four free tickets to Monday night’s “Hot Summer Nights” chamber recital at Broadway Christian Church. Bad: No downside to this one. Better: Remembering Jerry Clower’s routine, “Public School Music Class.” Best: Enjoying the concert/recital/event with our friends Scott and Jane Williams.

Good: Writing a blog entry for the first time in too long. Bad: Going so long without keeping up with Jackson’s Journal, especially after building an audience with “Countdown to Kianna.” Better: Making a commitment to return to a 5-day-a-week blogging schedule. Best: Keeping that commitment.

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Baby, baby!

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Sweet Kianna, sweet Sunday

Palm Sunday, April 1, 2012
Dedication of our granddaughter
Kianna Allene Brown
led by Pastor James A. Howard Jr.
at One in Christ Baptist Church, Jefferson City, MO.
The pastor's passionate prayer, Kianna's calm demeanor -- this picture speaks thousands of words.

Southern Baptists do things differently. There are a few tenets that set us apart from other denominations. Consider, for instance, “eternal security” and “the priesthood of the believer.”

 The former is the belief that God’s grace not only saves me, but keeps me saved. Christ died once. To lose one’s salvation would require Christ dying again. I wasn’t saved by works, by some action of mine — other than confessing with my mouth and believing with my heart. There’s not a bunch of classes and no curriculum other than the Holy Scripture.

Those who shake their head at the notion of eternal security — and I’ve certainly shaken my head over my own actions at times — ultimately ask the question, “Would a true Christian do” … (fill in the blank)?

Great question. Everyone must answer that for him/herself. And which sin or number of sins tips the scale to “salvation lost?” The question I always ask my friends who believe one can fall from grace and lose his salvation is this: How will you know? I mean, one minute I have assurance that my ticket to Heaven is punched, the next minute some old lady who shouldn’t even be driving COMES TO A COMPLETE STOP! in the Creasy Springs/West Blvd. roundabout, and I honk and scream at her simultaneously.

I don’t scream anything profane — but I’m THINKING it!

What if in the very next instant I’m plowed over and flattened by one of the city of Columbia public works trucks, trash trucks or city buses that generally don’t stop, yield or otherwise obey the traffic laws the rest of us do? Did I lose my ticket — my salvation — because of my unkind, even unChristian thoughts and reaction to the old lady in the roundabout?

The other uniquely Protestant doctrine that Baptists cling to like fried chicken and peach cobbler at a carry-in dinner is the priesthood of the believer. 1 Timothy 2:5, “there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” Simply put, I come to, commune with and have a relationship with Christ one-on-one. My prayers are to God in the name of the Son.

My mom has a story that illustrates this beautifully. I’ll try to tell it correctly.

About 35 years ago my mom’s parents took my mom and all her siblings to Italy. At one point during the trip they were preparing to take a ride up a rocky hill in a rickety bus when the driver announced he would pray to St. Jude for safe passage. My little granny — my mom’s mom — piped up and said, “Can I just pray to God? I’ve got a direct line.”

That, my friends, is the priesthood of the believer.

Now to the point of this post. It seems that every culture and every religious order has some method of dedicating babies and children to God. In Baptist life, the dedication of a child isn’t a sacrament or a baptism, but it’s simply the parents agreeing that the child belongs to God and an affirmation that the parents will make it a priority to raise the child to love and obey Christ and His church. (Which I define as all believers in Christ, not a particular house of worship or denomination). But the parent’s house of worship does come into play, because after the grandparents, aunts, uncles and other relatives agree to encourage and hold the parents accountable, the local church body then takes a vow (a simple “we will,” “I will” or “yes”) to affirm what the parents have committed to.

In that respect, the Southern Baptist child dedication ceremony has more to do with the local church, the parents and the extended family than it has to do with the child. But it’s a beautiful thing.

This morning Kelly and I — Grammy and Grandpa — along with three aunts and uncles, a great-grandma, and a handful of cousins, stood at the altar with Kishia and Darnell as they dedicated our granddaughter Kianna Allene Brown to God. Being part of that service was a highlight of my whole life.

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Kianna’s story: Day 3 …

Relax. I’m not starting a daily recap of The Life of Kianna Allene Brown, although I’m sure my digital Journal here will occasionally offer incredible tales and recaps of milestone moments of her life – at least until she figures out what’s going on here and she learns to say, “Now Grandpa, don’t quote me on that.”

I’m not changing my focus because I have something better to write about, but the inspiration this little princess has poured into my heart will now be channeled toward completing two other works-in-progress, my unfinished novels “Chasing the Devil” and “Gone.” Jackson’s Journal, of course, will continue to occupy this section of Cyberspace. Look for a guest blog on Saturday by my friend and fellow fictionista Lamar Henderson.

And speaking of focus, I’ve had none this week. In fact, I’m sure I’ve had conversations and encounters with co-workers, friends and sources on my news beats that I can’t even remember. Today is Friday? Huh. The only day I remember this week was Wednesday. I’m pretty sure I’ve had a couple of bylines in the Tribune this week, but don’t ask me which stories bore my name.

As far as telling Kianna’s story, I can’t really do that, because she will write it herself – with the direction of Kishia and Darnell, of course. That was the 7 pound, 3 ounce epiphany that came to me when I held Kianna Thursday afternoon at Boone Hospital. As she snoozed peacefully, I wished hard that her eyes would open. I whispered, “There’s so much I want you to see.” The random images flashed through my mind: Sunsets. Coots diving into the mud at Eagle Bluffs. Meteor showers at 3 a.m. The glow that has radiated from Grammy since Wednesday. Any Pixar movie. The tears that come from her daddy’s eyes every time Kianna sounds the least bit uncomfortable or hungry. The first leaf buds of spring.

My wish list for Kianna is incredibly long and maybe, probably at some point, I’ll help her see some of life’s most wonderful sights. Maybe I’ll be the one who helps her figure out something that gives her an “Aha!” moment. I’m going to support others to share those unique moments with her. She’ll see most things, for a while, through her mommy’s and daddy’s eyes. They’ll be the ones who show her the way. Along the way, Kianna will discover that the greatest discoveries are made on her own. And if I’m the kind of Grandpa that I know I’m going to be, I’ll be anxious for Kianna to show me the wonders of life as she figures them out or stumbles onto them.

“Grandpa, did you see this? Grammy, look at that?”

And whatever this or that is, when we look through her eyes, it will be as if we’re seeing it for the first time.

That will be Kianna’s story – not what she learns from Grandpa, but what she teaches Grandpa.

Not how the world changes her – but how she changes the world.

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A three-piece suit and wavy hair

Countdown to Kianna

10, 9, 8 … Kianna, please don’t be late. 7, 6, 5, 4 … Four more days — and no more?

Kishia and Darnell so carefully planned our first grandbaby’s addition into their lives, timing this grand event to meet career, school and financial goals. With that regard, it’s “mission accomplished.” In more than one way, increasing the size of the Brown family was practically scripted.

Until now.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that Kianna might not be following the script. She’s due on Sunday – four days from now. She’s in position, mom-to-be Kishia is beyond ready to be un-pregnant, and daddy Darnell needs his daughter to keep him company in that rocker.

Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting

October 1981: Vocalist Jodie, organist Mrs. Irene Grossenheider.

Mrs. Irene Grossenheider was old even to the old people at Faith Baptist Church in Belle, Mo., when I was in high school. She taught piano to hundreds and multiple generations of children. And as the church organist, she knew only one tempo: Hers.

On the rare occasion that I was the worship service song leader, I followed her, even though I used one arm to “conduct” and keep the beat, matching my arm and hand motions to the meter of the song. Mrs. Grossenheider told me she appreciated the way I led, but I think she mostly appreciated that I was really matching my arm movement to her organ-playing.

It was her beat – possibly multiple beats, especially if the hymn was written with a 6/8 time signature. She’d speed up, she’d slow down. She was in command. My youngest sis, Kathy, and I still share a chuckle about Mrs. Grossenheider’s style. It’s not a disrespectful chuckle, but something we remember with incredible fondness. And when you added my mother to the mix, the musical dynamics really ramped up – and not in the hymn notations.

Mom is a classical-trained vocalist and director. SHE would determine the beat and meter. Mix that attention to technical detail with an elderly organist who thought that SHE was setting the beat, and what resulted was Mom practically stomping a foot, looking Mrs. Grossenheider’s way to signal, “Follow ME.” But Mrs. Grossenheider followed herself. Where there was no retard (pronounced “ruh-tard,” meaning slowing or slackening in tempo), Mrs. Grossenheider threw one in, typically in the last few measures of the last stanza.

Those memories and nostalgic laughter came rushing back recently when I found a photo of me with Mrs. Grossenheider. Sure, my three-piece suit and permed hair are worth a laugh, but often it’s what we see on the periphery that gives any scene the most context. The photo shows the attendance and hymn boards. See? Proof of what I’ve said a few times in Jackson’s Journal about Sunday night attendance dropping off dramatically from Sunday morning. The Wednesday night crowd was even smaller.

Then my eye caught the board listing the hymns. I knew that hymn 41 was “To God be the Glory.” I’ll know that forever in the same way I’ll never forget the words to the “Gilligan’s Island” theme song; the same way that “The Beverly Hillbillies” theme sometimes randomly turns on in my head. I pulled my Baptist Hymnal off the shelf to see the other hymns, and it was only fitting that hymn No. 434, “Serve the Lord with Gladness,” has a 6/8 time signature. I suddenly heard Mrs. Grossenheider play the final line of the chorus: “Wonderful is His name,” (slower) “We gladly serve Him,” (even slower) “His great” (verrrry slow) “love proclaim.”

I’m laughing, but please don’t misinterpret my emotion. I’m not poking fun, no more than I was making fun last Wednesday when I recounted Brother Keithley’s drawn-out prayer-starter, “Our Heavenly Father …” The hymns, the prayers, the strong if not rigid examples of faith and practice set by the elderly men and women helped keep me grounded. I am eternally grateful.

When I was 16, 17 years old, few parts of my life were predictable, but I found reliable structure inside the walls of Faith Baptist Church. Mrs. Grossenheider’s organ-playing and Bro. Keithley’s prayers were constant, consistent and predictable. I mean that in the most positive way possible.

Incidentally, the other hymns listed were #330, “Teach Me to Pray,” and #232, “I Am Praying For You.”

I had no idea why I had a picture taken with Mrs. Grossenheider until I turned the photo over to place it on the scanner. This is what’s written on the back:

“To Jodie who sang beautifully

Toleda and Terry Jett’s wedding

Oct. 25, 1981

Mrs. Irene Grossenheider, organist

Miss Kathy Jackson, pianist”

Sorry, but I have no recollection of singing or what I sang. I’m even more baffled that I sang at all, considering my sister was the pianist. She was Toleda (Backues) Jett’s classmate and her vocal skills were far superior to mine. But I was asked to sing?

Here’s our music for Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting: an oldie and a more contemporary tune. “To God be the Glory” and Michael W. Smith’s “Agnus Dei.” The latter is a 10-minute video. Even a Southern Baptist might find himself raising his hands by about the three-minute mark.

Grandpa’s message to Kianna #33

I haven’t been on my “A” game this week. Gee, I can’t think of anything that would steal my focus and keep me kinda anxious.

Oh, yeah: You.

Your Grammy said last night, “I can’t wait to see her little face!” Kianna, you have already brought infinite joy to your parents and grandparents.

Now hurry up and get here. Grandpa’s got some spoiling to do.

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Waiting for our Valentine …

Countdown to Kianna

10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5 …

If our oldest daughter’s gestational clock is in synch with her doctor’s calculation, we’ll be grandparents in five days. I don’t expect the due date to be THE date for our first-born, Kishia, to deliver her first-born, Kianna Allene Brown. I’m thinking today would be fine. Valentine’s Day.

Tick-tock …

Grandpa’s message to Kianna #32

We’re dog people, so it sure will be nice if you like dogs. Cats are okay, but they are very mentally disturbed. Multiple personalities, I think. Dogs, though, are the best. Your mommy has had two special dogs, including  Thomas, who’s also waiting to meet you.

My problem is that I love dogs a little too much. All animals, really. I just love loving on the creatures of Creation, which has taught me that most animals aren’t fond of being petted.

Giraffes don’t bite all that hard. Cats do. They’re the worst. And humans. Nasty, nasty bites.

I’ve been bitten by 63 different animals. I’ve made a list. Several kinds of snakes and lizards, insects, fish, birds, mammals – you name it. Zebra, camel, llama, emu, turkey, blue jay, speckled king snake … Lots of critters. Even a baby Bengal tiger. That one’s a fun story about what can happen when you don’t follow Jim Fowler’s directions.

I can’t wait to tell you.

When Grammy’s not around.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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‘Mystified’

Countdown to Kianna

10, 9, 8, 7.

The due date for our first grandbaby, Kianna Allene Brown, is just one week away.

Kelly and I talk about impending grandparenthood many times a day. We communicate as well as we ever have. I don’t think we need any prodding to chat. At least I don’t need a nudge to get me to talk. But this Saturday morning, before sis-in-law, Jeannie, and her three boys arrived for a day-long and overnight visit – joined eventually by mom-to-be Kishia and Jeannie’s hub by, Eric – Kelly sat in the middle of our freshly-made bed, telling me she found the book, “Love Talk Starters.”

Her voice was playful. I rolled my eyes. She read the subtitle: “275 questions to get your conversations going.”

I rolled my eyes again.

“This will be fun!” she said with way too much glee for a Saturday morning that demanded our time to get ready for guests.

“If you could do one thing together and be guaranteed success, what would you do?”

It didn’t take me long to answer.

“You know how I try to get guest bloggers? We should be guest ‘pickers’ for the show American Pickers.”

Kelly agreed. We were really connecting; on the same page as it were.

“We’d be good at that!”

“Yeah,” I said. “Then we’d have our own show.”

This conversation-starting book was okay. Kelly read two or three more questions. We had more great conversations.

One more question. (Still 270 to go).

“Matthew Porter, the writer, said to his wife: ‘You do something to me – something that simply mystifies me.” Then the question: “What does your spouse to do mystify you?”

I didn’t hesitate.

“You always have one more ounce of energy, one more act of love. No matter how exhausted you might be, you have time for someone in crisis. And you still have time for me. Your capacity for compassion and empathy mystifies me.”

I know it was one of those “awwww!” answers, but I meant it. Rolled right off my tongue.

I was almost afraid, though, to hear her answer. So what mystifies my spouse the most about me?

“The way your mind works. I mean, like you wanted to learn origami. Where did that come from?”
It was a lovely moment. I wanted to say, “You’re mystified? I’ve got no idea why my mind works this way. I’m mystified!” That might have put a damper on things.

We’re four months away from our 30th anniversary, but we haven’t gotten tired of or used to each other. I think this concept of “mystified” is one of the sweetest spices that flavors our marriage every day.

Darnell's careful handwriting left an indelible message to Kianna on mom Kishia's belly. Photo by Sara McDaniel. Her website: http://belovedphotobyslm.com/

Grandpa’s message to Kianna #30

The verse on your mommy’s belly says it all. Kianna, you are not an accident or just some chemical or biological process. Your life has intentional purpose.

I’ve counted down the days until your birth because I’m just so excited. Excited to see my beautiful daughter be your wonderful mommy. Excited to see your daddy treasuring you like the miracle that he never dreamed he’d experience. Excited for your Grammy (Mrs. Grandpa) to tuck you into the place in her heart that has been waiting just for you. Waiting for Kianna.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that worldwide 361,000 babies are born every day. About 11,000 other babies will be born in the United States the same day you are born. That’s lots of babies.

But there’s only one Kianna. One life script just for you, different from the talents, traits and purpose of all those other babies.

I’ve been writing about your mommy’s pregnancy as if it’s a big deal because it is.

Kianna, YOU are a big deal.

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The Write Life: My Tribbees are winners

Countdown to Kianna

10, 9, 8 … Just one week and one day from the due date when Darnell and Kishia Brown will be parents, and Jodie and Kelly Jackson will be grandparents. Kianna Allene Brown will also be blessed by her Auntie Natasha.

And that’s just the immediate family. So many others are already invested in the Brown family. And a few hundred have followed this countdown to some degree for 30 days now

It won’t be long …

The Write Life

We all want to be relevant. Even the most introverted among us (and that certainly is not me) wants to matter, if not make a difference. I think that’s the Number 1 reason we write, whether it’s newspaper journalism, non-fiction biographical histories, or novels of fantasy or mystery.

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