Tag Archives: Jefferson City

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

Forgetting to get dressed lately …

Colossians 3:12 – “… you must therefore clothe yourselves with … gentleness …”

Finding myself homebound, ailing and recuperating from pneumonia last week, offered ample opportunity to consume a portion of the programming on our DVR, but there are still: 62 episodes of “M*A*S*H”; 30 episodes of “Wild Kingdom” (side note: I interviewed my boyhood idol, Jim Fowler, back in ’98); “Barbecue University” (21 episodes); “The War” (10); “Nova” (13); “Haunted Highway” (10); and “The Boys in the Hall” (7). That’s just a smattering of the clutter – I mean, “information” – that I have DVR’d. And you can never watch “Mermaid: The Body Found” too many times.

There was also time to take stock of the other things that interest me, and if I’d had the energy and adequate stretches of consciousness, I would have lost myself in origami, an art that I’ve tinkered with but not yet mastered. Organizing notes and outlining long-term projects for the Tribune would have been another wise use of time. Better yet, I could have worked on finishing “Chasing the Devil” (unfinished novel No. 1, book two of trilogy) or “Gone” (unfinished novel No. 2, third part of trilogy), before National Novel Writing Month comes in November and I begin “Dixieland,” the sequel for the trilogy.

Oh, the things I could have done. I certainly had the time.

Instead, I convalesced and reflected, and even before I re-encountered that No. 1 pet peeve of my life – the Creasy Springs/Business Loop/West Boulevard roundabout ‑ it dawned on me during that time of reflection that somehow it IS possible to survive without a constant infusion of Diet Coke, and also that lately I have not been a gentle person. It really didn’t take Phil Schaefer saying so on Sunday at Christian Fellowship to convince me, but apparently he WAS speaking only to me: “Clothe yourselves with gentleness.” There are some other clothing requirements in there, too, like “patience” and “tender mercy,” but the one that stabbed me Sunday – and again later this week – was “gentleness.”

I’ve even been “snarky” with people lately. And I hate snarky. Apparently I’m good at it, but not proud of it. One of my first lines of defense is sarcasm. It’s a trait that rarely leads to productive dialogue and consensus. While I wrestle with the insecurities that make me need to be right and clever, I need to nip “snarky” in the bud.

Can’t be that and gentle at the same time.

Back in 2000-01, I spent most of the school year substitute teaching in Jefferson City and Blair Oaks. I worked the 4-to-midnight shift most of the time at the Jefferson City News Tribune, so I usually worked two or three days a week making a little extra dough as a public school sub. Please, please, don’t EVER make me sub again for middle school students! High school was okay, but what I especially enjoyed was the special needs classroom or grades K through 2.

One of my best experiences was subbing for the music teacher at Callaway Hills Elementary School in Holts Summit, where just inside the classroom door was a sign that said: “Before I say it, ask: Is it true? Is it nice? Is it necessary?”

Lately I’ve needed that reminder, and not so much in how I speak, but how I respond non-verbally and how I want to respond to the incredible imbeci … – I mean, people – who simply can’t grasp that roundabouts are NOT four-way stops, and that you’re supposed to yield to traffic already in the circle to your left.

Gentle. I’m working on it. If I’ve been anything less, don’t excuse me, but please – in your most gentle spirit – please forgive me.

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‘Hmmm: Where IS that lizard?’

It’s Friday. That means a memoir-in-progress flashback to the big hair and big dreams of the 1980s.

 

March 9, 1982: “Anthropology essay due. Don’t think Ms. Maserang-Hodge-McCoy will be humored by, ‘Why My Ethnocentricity Is Best.’ ”

On further review: My college anthropology teacher really did have a double-hyphenated last name. It had something to do with her white-hot hatred of men. As I recall — and I might be making this part up — each of her last names was based on her maiden name, her mother’s maiden name, and her grandmother’s maiden name.

And also, she did not “get” my essay. I got an “F.” I made a “D” in the class — the lowest grade I ever got in my life, except for that “I-minus” (equivalent of D-minus) in seventh grade math, but I have blotted most of that nightmarish seventh grade year in Jefferson City from my mind. The only thing that period of my life gave me were stories to tell someday to therapists and psychologists. 

I’m not kidding.

– From the pages of My Senior Drear, the day-by-day, hour-by-hour log of each day of my four years of tormenting classmates, teachers and administrators at Belle High School …

Monday, March 9, 1981 – Before school: picked up Kelly; mailed my financial aid form. … Second hour (astronomy): Saw a film about Alaska. What a bore. What the heck does that have to do with astronomy? … Had baseball practice after school …

Quick step back to the 70s, from my freshman year … Thursday, March 9, 1978 — Mostly boring and hot. First hour band: Played “Battle Hymn of the Republic” ALL HOUR! The brass section sucked today. Alto saxes? We rocked, of course, as usual. … Second hour: showed my pet lizard around the room. Got in trouble for showing my pet lizard … Fifth hour: PE. My lizard is missing. Check the cafeteria …

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My (not so) finest hours

It’s Friday. That means a memoir-in-progress flashback to the big hair and big dreams of the 1980s.

From the pages of My Senior Drear, the day-by-day, hour-by-hour log of each day of my four years of tormenting classmates, teachers and administrators at Belle High School …

Monday, Feb. 23, 1981 – Second hour (astronomy). Some stuff about Saturn. Ten or 11 moons, rings are made out of chunks of ice, blah blah blah … and these notes:

“Uranus orbits the sun once for every 84 earth years. It has five moons … Tim asks Mr. Abel how many of the moons could fit in Uranus. Mr. A. ignored him … I asked Tim how many moons he thought would fit in Uranus. Tim says, ‘We’re not talking about myanus. I’m wondering about Uranus.’ However, I respectfully insisted, ‘Myanus ain’t nobody’s business.’”

Laughter. Hysterical laughter. (At least from me and Tim).

“Mr. A. says he’s worried about me and Tim … Worried we’re going to end up in prison someday.”

How to not win

In a moment I’ll present the evidence of one of the most bone-headed decisions I ever made – at least up to the point of me being 17-years-old. I was a speech-and-debate nerd and excelled in original oratory (wrote a speech, memorized it, delivered it in compelling, convincing manner); debate (when we were on the “affirmative” side, Jack Smith and I advocated for banning tobacco products, and we wiped out the competition … until we came up against state champion debaters from Pattonville High); and extemporaneous speaking.

I was a wiz at extemp. You’d draw a topic from a bowl or hat, then you had 30 minutes to jot down an outline or ideas on a notecard. When your name was called, you presented a five- or six-minute persuasive speech.

Sometimes the topic related to a current event of the day, and me being a news nerd and all, I’d knock those speeches out of the park. I was the conference champion. (I LOVED extemp and, to this day, seem to have the gift of gab.)

And then I got stupid. And arrogant.

You see, one strategy of extemporaneous speaking was to assume a position opposite from the prevailing public opinion. I could advocate for or against nuclear energy. (How many of you kids out there remember when the Callaway Plant wasn’t there? I warned against the civilization-ending certainty of unmanageable nuclear waste or the national security danger of depending on fossil fuels and foreign oil for our energy). I could convince an astronaut that space travel was wasteful and unnecessary.

So there I was in the spring of 1981, in the semi-final round of the state speech and debate tournament in Jefferson City. The questions we chose from related to state policy. I was on a roll.

And then I reached into a tumbler and pulled out the folded piece of paper with my question: “Should Missouri legalize prostitution?”

Conventional wisdom said, “Don’t get cute here.”

But I was much less conventional back in 1981. I prepared a note card (below, just the front included here) with an outline that I was sure would convince anyone that, of course, we should legalize the world’s oldest profession.

I strutted into the room, already wondering what my championship round speech topic might be, when I realized the judge was a woman older than my grandparents.

I stayed the course of unconventional.

The judge was unconvinceable.

It was my final speech of the state tournament.

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Countdown to Kianna

Marking the days off the calendar: 15, 14, 13, 12 …

In a dozen days, give or take a few, the Darnell and Kishia Brown home in Jefferson City will never be the same again. Not only are they going to see me and Kelly more frequently, but the real change will come in the form of a literal bundle of joy named Kianna Allene. I told Kishia as recently as Sunday that she has the green light to lead me to the front door when I become too overbearing.

It might come to that. (It’s not likely Kelly will wear out her welcome).

Kishia wasn’t quite a full day old on Feb. 27, 1985, when we took her home from St. Marys Health Center in Jefferson City. Kelly had slept a little bit the night before and I’d gone home to Belle, smoking a cigar on the way. Seemed like the thing to do.

I vividly recall the very moment that the full force of parenthood slammed into me. (Something tells me Kelly already had that figured out). As we motored south along Highway 63, Kelly and I chatted as if for a moment nothing had changed. Then suddenly I glanced in the back seat to see a baby in a car seat. We were in Westphalia, just past the convenience store on the right.

We had a baby. In an instant I felt panic and a great sense of uncertainty: I had no idea what to do. Then a different realization swept the fear away. Look what we had done!

We had a baby!

Kishia sings to her new baby sister, Natasha, in March 1987. Kishia was eager to impress her sister. I can report that she moved past that stage a long, long time ago.

Grandpa’s message to Kianna #25

Be bold. Live boldly. Have confidence. Be the kind of person who brings out the very best in others. Expect the best from yourself, but have plenty of grace for yourself  – and others – when they disappoint you.

How do you learn bold yet humble confidence? Simple.

Always work your crossword puzzles with an ink pen, not a pencil.

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