Tag Archives: Grammy

32 years of mystery and revelation: Married to my best friend

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Thirty-two years ago tonight – I’m writing this on the eve of anniversary No. 32 (6/5/14) – my groomsmen, a bunch of on-fire-for-Jesus evangelicals, were probably somewhere eating pizza or studying their Bibles. I would have been right there with them except for a powerful need to be by myself. I was parked at the Belle City Park, facing the lake that had positive, powerful connections to my young life.  I stared out at the darkness, strangely calm although aware that an “I do” in about 14 hours would chart a course that I was not ready to begin.

Kelly had been 19 for six weeks. I would be 19 in nine weeks. We were just kids who were in love, drawn together six years earlier – barely teenagers – at about the same time both of our homes and lives were gut-punched by the divorce of our parents.

We weren’t “ready” to be married. Yet when I say, “Kids, don’t get married when you’re 19,” we’d do it all over again. Every day is at once new and predictable, laced with a solid measure of security yet seasoned with adventure and discovery. Kelly and I are as different as night and day yet also as similar as lifelong best friends and companions should be.

But imagine changing the way it began? Any delay, any detour might have meant missing the miracles of Feb. 26, 1985, and March 13, 1987 – the births of Kishia and Natasha. Imagine …

The night before our wedding, as I stared out over the pitch-blackness of the city park lake, I asked God for a sign, some indication of whether I should be getting hitched in a few hours. It already seemed that there had not been a time when I didn’t know Kelly – we started “going together” in the eighth grade, Nov. 22, 1976 – yet the thought that overwhelmed me at that moment was to imagine like without Kelly.

There was a lot I didn’t know at the age of nine-weeks-before-19. But what I saw at that moment was life-altering and confirming. The answer was right there in my gaze toward that dark lake: Nothing. Empty. Alone.

I didn’t see what the future held, but I saw what it wouldn’t hold if I opted out of “I do.” I’m not sure if Kelly had a similar epiphany. And if she did see even the most unfocused, however brief glimpse of our future together, the very fact that she didn’t flee and get as far from me as possible is a remarkable demonstration of grace.

I’m a mess. As a writer, I filter each word, sentence and paragraph I write through perspectives that range from, “That’s really pretty good” to “That’s the worst piece of drivel ever penned by a human being.” The wiring is basically the same when it comes to husband-hood. Just when I start thinking, “Hey, I’m finally getting the hang of this,” that other voice suggests, “Dude, you don’t even have a clue.”

I love to watch Kelly. Sounds kinda creepy, maybe, but I love just watching her: talking on the phone, reading, being Grammy to our Princess Kianna, in deep thought – sleeping. Her facial expressions, her unique-to-Kelly mannerisms and speech patterns, the look on her face when she’s sweetly and intently listening to a random stranger who approached her to just spill their guts about life’s trials and troubles. (That happens more often than I can count).

Thirty-two years.

There’s still so much I don’t know. I still don’t know how it’s possible to be so comfortable, so close and so connected to someone. And just when it seems that I’ve given my bride a lifetime of reasons to pull away and withdraw, she pulls even closer and loves even more.

Thank you, God, for Kelly, for these 32 years, our lives together, and the rest of our lives being amazed by the mystery of it all.

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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

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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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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Letter to Kianna: What a week!

Dear Kianna,

I learned a lot this week from the tiny house wrens that are raising a brood of even tinier wrens in a backyard bird house. Funny, too, because the bird house is shaped like a cat’s head and the opening is the “mouth.”

I ate breakfast a few mornings on the patio this past week, watching the mom and dad wrens performing an almost non-stop feeding schedule for their babies that I can hear but have not yet seen. Momma Wren darts off to the north and returns with a moth. Not sure why she has to fly so far, unless maybe she’s found a moth “honey hole.” (I’ll explain more about honey holes when we go fishing someday). Daddy Wren flits away to the west and apparently doesn’t go as far as his mate, and he’s more prone to bring a variety of bugs for his hungry offspring.

Kianna, I watched the carefully orchestrated, orderly feeding, and realized the same thing is occurring in thousands – tens of thousands? – backyards, bird houses and trees all around Columbia. And that’s just house wrens. Our backyard is also a day-long feeding site for Frank and Frankie, the mourning doves that we’ve been watching since March, and a variety of finches, sparrows, red birds, robins, blue jays, chickadees and even cow birds, which your Grammy absolutely despises. There’s also a scrawny squirrel and just today a brown bunny hopped onto the patio.

Grandpa won’t be happy if the bunny helps itself to the new green beans and other garden goodies that add color and character to our beautiful back yard.

When I see all the activity of our natural world, I see a grand design and feel a deep appreciation for creation. Kianna, there are some who say (actually, a LOT who say) that the pulse of nature – the tiny birds that build intricate nests and raise their young, the proud call of the red bird, the finch family’s splash of color – is basically the result of a great cosmic accident. Some say that even the feeling of awe that sweeps over me as I watch those wrens – or the flood of emotion that comes from seeing your smile – is really just an accident, a random result of chemical reactions and biological processes.

Don’t believe it.

Someday you’ll hear about The Big Bang, the process that supposedly led to the wrens, the curious bunny rabbit, and your smile. In fact, I recently read that some scientists believe there were maybe a million billion big bangs until there was one that finally brought about creation. You will grow up in a world that is increasingly accepting of this “theory” and exceedingly mocking of those of us who dare believe that God spoke it all into existence. (As if a million billion – or even one – Big Bang is easier to “prove?”)

Someday, Kianna, you and I will have this discussion, but I’m thinking that will be a few years down the road. After all, you turn 4 months old on Friday the 15th.

Grammy and I were off work all last week. We spent a couple of days out of town and celebrated our 30th anniversary. Aside from that relaxing trip and watching the wrens, I can’t remember much else about the week except spending so much time with you. We came to your house Wednesday and Thursday while your mommy and daddy went to work. Then you came to our house Saturday night while your proud parents went on a date.

Grammy and I were with you maybe a little more than 16 hours, but it seemed like much, much longer. You know why? Time stands still when we’re with you. And something else I noticed. At first I thought that you couldn’t keep your eyes off me. Then I realized it’s actually the other way around. The reason I see you following me with your eyes is because I don’t take my eyes off YOU.

Kianna, you are a smart and beautiful little girl: Brown eyes that literally sparkle, a smile that fills everything in the room with joy, and skin that is as smooth and sweet as butter cream and cocoa.

When Grammy and I talked today about all that we did during our week off together, we laughed and talked about you. When we talked about what our work schedules looked like for the coming week, we still talked about you.

Yep, we’re crazy about our granddaughter.

Love, Grandpa

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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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Grandpa brag time

Friday is typically a memoir-in-progress of the big hair and big dreams of the 1980s. Today The Journal takes a detour to share photos of Kianna Allene Brown at 6 1/2 weeks old.

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This just in: And the winner is …

Kelly Jackson, 2012 Outstanding MSW Student of the Year. Kelly (Grammy of Kianna, wife of Jodie, mom of Kishia and Natasha) was notified today that she is receiving that award from the University of Missouri School of Social Work Alumni Organization board of directors.

The Alumni Awards will be presented on April 20. She will graduate (4.0 GPA, so far) with her Master of Social Work degree on May 11. Incidentally, Kelly did her field placement work in the fall at Love INC (Love In the Name of Christ). She’s completing her practicum this semester with Sherryl Laws Counseling and continues to work at Love INC, too. Love INC was informed today that it has been selected for the 2012 Outstanding Social Service Agency Award by the School of Social Work alumni group.

The top photos show Kelly today as a proud Grammy – the “job” she enjoys more than any other. She bottom photos are Kelly as a research technician in the animal science department at Lincoln University. She graduated in May 1996 from Lincoln with a degree in animal science; her specialty was reproductive physiology.

Here’s the best way to sum up Kelly’s fascinating, extraordinary professional and personal life:

1980’s: Nursing. (Graduated 1984 from Rolla Area School of Practical Nursing). Other full-time job: Mom.

1990’s: Animal scientist. (She entered the four-year program as a full-time mom of two girls at the ripe young age of 29. Kelly was named “Outstanding Senior” in the College of Agriculture, Applied Science and Technology at Lincoln on April 11, 1996.) Other full-time job: Mom.

2000’s: Foster mom. Other full-time job: Mom.

2010’s: Social worker ‑ champion of the marginalized, disenfranchised, oppressed, forgotten and neglected. Other full-time job: GRAMMY!

What’s next?

THIS is what Kelly was created to do: Be Grammy and guide people from hopeless, impossible situations into full, vibrant lives, while challenging and inspiring those she touches to help her change the world, one life at a time.

Kelly’s quote on all this: “It takes a lot of really colorful and different patches to make up a really cool quilt.”

I’d say my wife – my forever BFF to whom I will be married 30 years in just 42 days – has the coolest quilt I’ve ever seen.

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Good at catching, bad at keeping

Last night I held granddaughter Kianna (33 days old) and I told her about finding a praying mantis egg case on one of the oak whiskey/flower barrels on Sunday. Granddaughters need to know this kind of thing because praying mantises are cool. An intact egg case is even cooler. Leaving one or more praying mantis egg cases on the window sill to absorb warmth and energy is something every little kid should do.

(Shhh, Kianna. Don’t tell your mom. And don’t let her read what comes later).

If you want confirmation of how Kianna responded to my praying mantis stories, Grammy and Kishia can verify: Kianna laughed. Her eyes sparkled as she looked into mine during the natural history lesson.

I wonder what it feels like to be a billionaire.

Probably nothing compared to knowing that Kianna’s quiet laugh and sparkling eyes were for me last night.

Check out this praying mantis and learn what a praying mantis egg case looks like. Then read more about my catch-but-can’t-hold adventures.

 

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