Tag Archives: Grandpa

12 days and counting: Wedding day draws nigh

I've dabbled in origami for a couple of years now. My flowers will be among the décor at the Sept. 7 wedding of my youngest daughter, Natasha Jackson, to Kory Myrick.

I’ve dabbled in origami for a couple of years now. My flowers will be among the décor at the Sept. 7 wedding of my youngest daughter, Natasha Jackson, to Kory Myrick.

Flashback …

Kelly and I were married when we were still kids. I was two months away from my 19th birthday. We were too young. Got it.

But to have done it any differently? Would that mean no Kishia three years later? No Natasha two years after that? 30th anniversary before I was 50? There are things in my life I would have done differently, but nothing before the age of 40. (Except maybe that time my friend, Kenny, and I caught the railroad box car on fire. And maybe a few other things from those days.)

Does any couple truly understand what they’re getting into by getting hitched? No, but you can’t know. You can just know you’re supposed to and, ultimately, that decision is entered into and sealed by the couple. They are accountable to each other and God and — someday! — their children. (No pressure there, Kory and Tash, but this fella LOVES being a grandpa!)

Now let’s get on with the business of “How to wreck your marriage.”

Wrecking ball No. 4: Call 1-800-Mom-orDad.

You’ll see a lot of namby-pamby advice out there about making sure the groom has cut the umbilical cord to mom and that the bride steps away from being daddy’s shadow. Don’t believe it, because if your goal is to wreck your marriage — and this one is a slow, maybe even years-long process — involving the in-laws/parents inappropriately and not drawing clear boundaries about their efforts to steer your marriage and eventually raise your children for you is a no-brainer. (File away the “no-brainer” reference for a sec.)

How this wreck occurs is when bride and/or groom insist on using mom and/or dad to vent about the offending spouse. And this can happen very passively (another GREAT trait for marriage wreckage), as in bride/groom not actively complaining about the other to mom/dad, yet mom/dad might say, “Oh, you poor misunderstood boy/girl,” and the wedge drives a little deeper. Later, when the in-law mom/dad brings this up to the offending spouse, it will create great pain (a la “wreck”). And when offending spouse mentions that talking about her/him to your mom/dad was hurtful, you can blame your mom/dad (the in-laws – stay with me here), and apologize with, “I just wasn’t thinking.”

“I wasn’t thinking” is its own wrecking ball, at the ready for repeated use. Telling your spouse often enough that “I wasn’t thinking” will give him/her the clear signal that, in fact, you don’t think much about him/her. And when you defend mom/dad (instead of defending your spouse) by saying, “Oh, c’mon, mom/dad didn’t mean anything by it,” what you’re saying is that the in-laws don’t think much of or about him/her, either.

That’s a great way to wreck a marriage, and usually it’s a slow, methodical wreck. Might take years of practice. Give it a whirl!

This wrecking ball is basically spelled “F-A-M-I-L-Y,” because your new one will be messed up soon enough even without the deliberate or well-intended meddling of in-laws. But you want to be sure to remind your spouse that “our family has these special traditions at (insert name of holiday) that we always do.” There’s automatically a head-on crash, because both spouses can reference family traditions that are part of the fabric of their lives.

“Oh, honey, you’ll just love Uncle Merle. He’s the one with the hairy back. My family has played Twister with Uncle Merle every Christmas morning now for 83 years. He never wears a shirt. We love that silly goof-ball.”

“I was hoping we could spend Christmas with MY family. We do that thing every Christmas Eve and then eat deer organ meat and we all sleep on the floor together in the attic. I thought that after we got married you’d want to be with MY family. And what about Thanksgiving? I was thinking of having MY family here this year.”

It’s not just holidays when this thinking is popular. You can’t even begin to imagine all the wonderfully subtle ways this theme gets played out.

Keep feeding the “my family” theme that excludes your new spouse. Don’t for one second think of something as zany as starting your own family traditions, like instead of trying to keep track of who visited whom last Thanksgiving you do something silly like deciding that your family’s tradition — YOUR family, the two of you (and kids when they arrive) — will be to go to the Salvation Army to prepare and serve Thanksgiving to others as a demonstration of gratitude that your family — husband and wife and children — is incredibly blessed.

That would just be old-fashioned, kinda like that ancient Bible verse that says a man (not the woman) must leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife. Old-fashioned. (As if those old sayings even had merit way back then).

Playlist …

Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” (and music video), simply one of the best songs ever.

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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

Overcoming words that sting

Note: Due to a technical glitch, the guest post scheduled for today by Natasha Jackson has been delayed. (Hey, Tash: Send me that story in the body of an email).

Meanwhile, let me share a couple of photos of our youngest daughter: Natasha’s senior picture with her cello (circa 2005) and a much more recent photo (July 2012).

You’ll read in this upcoming guest post about Natasha playing her cello at a nursing home. She earned a cello scholarship to attend the University of Central Missouri (graduated 2011) and played in the orchestra. There’s a much longer story here with incredible scenes about Natasha going to Cameroon and Fiji to spread the Gospel and to share her awesome heart. The story would include sad scenes where some tried to trim her edges, to get her to fit in a theological box, and generally became exasperated — maybe even disappointed? — that Natasha has always rejected being cut from the cloth of conformity and tradition.

She is most definitely cut from a different piece of cloth. The sadness is from the breath-taking blessing that box-stuffers and edge-trimmers miss when they don’t see her heart.

Natasha’s gigantic heart is both blessing and curse. She feels and experiences emotions in a profound, raw way. We’ve shared some of those moments of great laughter and giddy joy. We’ve shared the opposite of those pleasant moments. I’ve often told Natasha that she loves big and hurts big.

Now, just tell her she can’t do something …

Some of the most hurtful words came several years back from her cello teacher. Natasha arrived for a lesson with a folder of information and music that she needed to learn for her audition for a cello scholarship. The private music teacher — someone whom we paid a substantial sum of money over a period of three years — looked at the material and then announced, “You’re not good enough for this. You don’t have what it takes.”

I mention the “substantial sum of money” reference because — and all the music teachers out there need to hear this — you shouldn’t keep taking someone’s cash if, at some point, you believe the student just ain’t got it. You should end the relationship and move on. That’s the honest, dignified thing to do.

We ended the relationship ourselves, and shortly after, Natasha earned a “1” rating on cello at district music contest (and her school, Harrisburg High School, didn’t have an orchestra/strings program), and she also earned that cello scholarship.

Maybe the greatest lesson Natasha learned from that was not necessarily overcoming the words that stung, but now that she is giving private music lessons — piano and voice — she won’t pass on those words that hurt.

Finally … yesterday’s post about the coolest titles — godparent, uncle, Grandpa — completely left out the two most important titles that I cherish: dad and husband. (And one of our former foster sons still calls me “Pops,” which is pretty cool, too).

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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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Filed under Family, MIP: Memoir-in-progress

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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Filed under Family, Kianna Allene Brown, MIP: Memoir-in-progress, Nature & Animals

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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Filed under Family, Inspiration, Kianna Allene Brown

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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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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