Tag Archives: Kelly

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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Bride’s guest blog: Why I saved myself for marriage

tash and kory guitar smile

Note from Jodie: Natasha wrote this last week, a few days before marrying her Prince Kory. I was comfortable asking her to consider writing about purity, because I know she has shared her heart about this with other women, and her words about healing and restoration will also be encouraging. Her mom and I are proud of her. Saturday’s wedding was spectacular. I’ll be sure to say more when the photos are available. Meanwhile, Kelly and I spent Sunday and Monday re-charging. I turned 50 a month ago, but I didn’t really feel 50 until now. About all I can recall about Sunday is that I think it rained.

Now … Natasha’s heart.

By NATASHA JACKSON MYRICK

When my dad asked me to write a post on purity, so many ideas went through my mind on how to write this. I feel like it would flow best writing it just as I would talk to ladies at a women’s retreat. But guys, this is for you, too.

I have saved myself for marriage. Purity is not something that religion and church scared into me. It’s not because I’m scared that God would strike me down if I were to have sex before marriage. There are several reasons why purity is something that I have practiced in my life.

First and foremost, I want to live to glorify God. So many times I fall so short of that. But at least I can try my best to serve and honor the Savior who bled and died for all of my sins and saved me from eternal misery and loneliness. God intends sex to be saved for marriage. In fact, God created sex specifically for marriage. Having sex outside of marriage would be a dishonor to God and His creation of sex.

I want to be a living testimony for other people – women, specifically – in the area of purity. Not many 20-something-year-olds can say that they have saved themselves for marriage. I’m not saying that to make anyone feel condemned or to make myself seem self-righteous or spiritually puffed up in any way. I want women to know that it is possible (even easy and carefree!) to live a wonderful, fun, romantic life without adding the drama of sex before marriage into the mix.

Clearly, I haven’t had sex yet. But I do know that when two people engage in sexual intercourse, a bond is made. Because God created sex for marriage and that is part of “becoming one” in a marriage, it’s clear to me that sex is meant to intensely bond two souls. Why would I want to bond with someone in that way other than my husband? Why would I allow my heart to go through an act of becoming one with another person when I’m actually not “one” with that person through marriage?

I want to say it again: My intent is not to come across as judgmental or condemning. These are just my thoughts and convictions. I want to honor my husband. I don’t want to bring anyone else into the marriage bed. That might sound harsh – but I feel like if I had sex with anyone else before my husband, I would be bringing all sorts of baggage into the first night. Maybe I would have unrealistic expectations, fears from experiences with a previous partner, etc. My husband might be thinking, “Do I measure up to what she’s experienced before?,” and be insecure to be completely open.

My body is not just something to be thrown around at any person who says they love me or woos me with their charm. My body is to be saved for a specific person: my husband. In the union of marriage, I know that there is a mutual trust there that isn’t there with just anyone else like in any other relationship. There is commitment there. True, I’m with you for life no matter what until we get old and gray type of commitment.

I have had girls ask me: “Well, if you know you’re going to marry someone, why wait to have sex?” I want my body to be a gift to my husband on our wedding. That will not only honor him, but be the greatest wedding gift and even the greatest gift of his life. I believe that if you have messed up and had sex before marriage that God will heal and restore. However, I want to bypass all of that hurt and drama, and really give my fiancé something to wait for. I want it to be a surprise and an exciting gift. I don’t want my gift to my husband to be something he has opened up before.

Have you seen that cell phone commercial where the dad gets his daughter her same exact phone for her birthday, just covered it up with a “new phone smell”? She wasn’t too excited, was she? It was something she had already received before. I want my marriage to be the first time he opens my gift that I have saved for him and haven’t let anyone else have. I have been asked a myriad of other questions about purity, but I think that my post would probably answer most of them.

Like I said before, God heals and restores. If you aren’t pure for your future husband, start practicing that now and pray for restoration and healing. God will honor your efforts to glorify him with your body.

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Wedding Day arrives

wedding rings

Tomorrow is Wedding Day. At some point around 2:15 p.m., I’ll give the hand of our youngest daughter, Natasha, to her Prince Kory. (Note: I’ve been writing the Wedding Countdown at night, so by the time it’s posted for everyone or by the time most people read it, the calendar has already turned a page, so the tomorrow I’m talking about is Saturday, Sept. 7).

The countdown as featured my advice on “How to Wreck Your Marriage,” rather than giving insight on how to live in bliss happily-ever-after. The 15 wrecking balls that I’ve presented were warnings. And, to some degree, I’ve used all 15 wrecking balls myself during 31 years and counting with my Princess Kelly.

So I speak with authority. That’s a confession, not a boast.

If you’ve ever wrecked a car, you know it’s possible to not only survive the crash, but to also fix the car. Unlike repairing a wrecked car, though, repairing a wrecked marriage can result in an even better marriage. It’s not likely that the car you picked up from the body shop was actually better than it was even before the crash.

Wrecking a marriage can be a solo venture, and it can be done in one fell swoop or, more likely, in several whacks of the wrecking ball. But the repair and restoration is not a solo effort. It requires a team of people who have experienced and can offer grace, while creating an atmosphere of accountability and transparency. You’ll find those people when you seek them, and you’ll be amazed at how available they are when you’re ready stop trying to save face in order to save your marriage.

The truth is, it’s not all that hard to wreck a marriage. The same cannot be said for restoration.

It’s hard work. And you start by owning your part and taking responsibility without blaming your spouse – or your parents for not modeling what it means to love unconditionally and love with grace even when it’s not returned. It’s my guess that no one has shown you how to un-wreck your most precious relationship and most of us have seen in our family of origin or someone close to us that a lot of people simply quit and give up on each other. Or we witnessed one or both parents wailing away with those wrecking balls for years until there was simply nothing left.

We’re overwhelmed, it seems, by examples like that, rather than stories of those who successfully repaired and restored the wreckage.

We use a wrecking ball, whether deliberately or passively, because we want something different: my spouse should change, my circumstances should be difference, my in-laws aren’t what I expected or need, my life should be more interesting or exciting. But when the wreck happens and it looks like you’re reaching the point of no return, start the restoration by considering this reality: Is this what you wanted? If you can say, “I finally got what I wanted,” and that “want” was a mistress, a submissive spouse (he/she is so broken and beaten down that you win) or some twisted sense of respect, is that really what you wanted?

More questions. Are you prepared to do anything to restore the wreck? Are you willing to take your spouse’s hand, open your heart, confess your failures, and get on your knees – with your spouse – and humbly ask your Creator to flood light into the brokenness of your life and marriage? Are you willing – as that first husband wasn’t – to stand and speak against the Enemy, and to fight your own demons to recapture the heart of your Princess?

If you say “no” to any of those questions, ask yourself again. And again. Remember your marriage before the wreck and what it was like to have won your bride’s heart the first time.

Wait a minute. You’re telling me that she’s no longer that fresh-faced, sparkling-eyed girl you married? She’s not the same person?

Really? You don’t think you had something to do with that? And are you the same charming, sweep-her-off-her-feet knight in shining armor?

Restoring the wreck will mean finding and knowing your spouse’s heart – perhaps for the first time. The honesty, time and emotion that it takes is demanding. I know it. It probably also means letting your spouse know – maybe for the first time – how you really feel and what you fear.

What do you want? And how will the rest of your life without him/her look?

Remember my story about looking out over a dark, stagnant lake the night before Kelly and I were married? I realized – just knew it – that life without her would be like that. Empty.

I’ve pushed my marriage to the edge of the cliff a few times. Once it seemed to tumble right over into the abyss, but a circle of grace – friends who were not going to let us crash – intervened and shined light into my heart. Yes, it’s humiliating to allow so many others to “get into your business,” and the road to restoration is a bumpy, uncertain, painful ride. But the heart of your princess awaits.

The alternative? For me it was the stark reality that what I had envisioned on wedding eve, June 4, 1982, could come true if I simply answered, “Yes, this is what I want.”

Instead, what I want is to be married to my best friend, to show her my heart and to experience this adventure of life, faith and love side-by-side. There is no alternative to consider.

THIS is what I want.

Recommended reading

Wild at Hearthttp://books.google.com/books/about/Wild_at_Heart.html?id=sQ4_2x6jhuUC

Playlist

In honor of Groom Kory and Bride Natasha, here’s Ol’ Blue Eyes Frank Sinatra with “Come Rain or Come Shine.

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Four days from wedding day: The countdown

Four days away from giving my daughter’s hand to her prince. Natasha and Kory will officially embark on their forever together, but they’d tell you that their hearts are already on that lifelong journey.

Tomorrow (I’m writing Tuesday, post will publish Wednesday) my primary job is to rub the butts. Um, that’s pork butts, of course, getting them ready for a day of smoking over charcoal and hickory on Thursday.

Can’t you already savor the aroma? Tempted by the taste?

flower man

Let’s shift gears and prepare for more of “How to Wreck Your Marriage.” Today and tomorrow’s wrecking balls can be used by either gender, but I’m primarily talking to the guys. You might want to have the kids out of the room for tomorrow’s, unless you’ve got a young man age 12 or so and up.

Wrecking ball No. 13 – Wait for the big moment.

Women are always doing those “little things” to make life work for us, but we need a big moment – a big splash – to show her how much we love her.

She says, “I keep asking you to take out the trash, but it’s as if you don’t hear me.”

You say: “But I bought you flowers that one time. Back then. A few months … or so … ago. Didn’t I?”

She says, “I just need you to tell me sometimes that I’m pretty.”

You say, “But you know I feel that way about you, you know, without saying it. Besides, my love language was mounting that flat screen for you on the wall in the bedroom. Speaking of which, the Cardinals game starts in about 15 minutes. Why don’t you make us some popcorn?”

That’s it. Wait for the big moment. No need to get bogged down in the little things – especially the little things of the heart. There’s really no need to tell her you love her, because you show her all the time.

A cool variation of this wrecking ball is to create chaos – oh, you can do it – and then step in to rescue your damsel. It’s kind of like putting out the fire with a hose in one hand and still clutching the lighter and/or gas can in the other hand.

She’ll appreciate that. And be sure to keep track of your great moments, because you’ll need to remind her
ad nauseum on those occasions that she points out – either indirectly or flat out – that you’re not doing your share of the work around the house.

BONUS WRECKING BALL: If she asks for help with the dishes – because, of course, you would dream of taking that on by yourself – tell her you could help except that it’s “women’s work.”

She’ll love that. Any reference to the 1950s (when women knew their place) or telling her that your mom didn’t expect you to help around the house, so it’s her who has the problem.

Playlist

A couple of great selections. Because I referenced the 50s and Saturday’s wedding has a “vintage” theme, here’s Ronnie Milsap with “Lost in the Fifties Tonight.”

Followed by Nazareth (that hair ROCKS) with “Love Hurts.” It was 1976, I was 13. Kelly and I started “going together” in November that year.

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Five days and counting, we’re full blown ‘Wedding Central’

night-lake-dark-scenery

Wedding countdown

Five days away from Natasha and Kory’s “I do.” We’re now counting down by blocks of time and tasks that are getting checked off Kelly’s master list(s). (Re: see yesterday’s post).

Once upon a time, we could drive to Wal-Mart, I’d drop Kelly off at the front of the store, and she’d begin shopping and after I’d found a parking space, I’d go in and find her. It worked pretty well for a couple of decades. Nowadays I enter the store as I tap Kelly’s number on my cell phone to ask, “Where are you?”

It’s getting more difficult to recall life PD – pre-digital. Technology makes my head spin.

I’m also have trouble remembering when Kelly wasn’t part of my life. We began “going together” – that was the vernacular of the day – on Nov. 22, 1976. That was 37 years ago. We’ve been married 31. The truth is, every pre-Kelly memory seems to be attached to the question, “Where was Kelly?” We’re that connected; seems like we’ve always been.

Life without Kelly? I don’t want to remember that. The night before our wedding, I drove to the Belle City Park, where I’d caught hundreds of fish from the lake and clubbed hundreds of hits (and a few over the fence) on the baseball field. Some of my finest moments of almost 19 years of life had deep connections to the park and lake in my hometown.

But that night, I sat in the car, alone, fairly sure I knew we were way too young to get hitched, yet too much in love to give any credibility to conventional wisdom. As I stared out over the pitch blackness of the small lake, I asked God for a sign, some indication of whether I should be getting married in less than 24 hours. The thought that hit me was to imagine life without Kelly, and as I continued the ponder the profound question, the answer was right there in my gaze.

Nothing. Empty. Alone.

Meaningless and stagnant, much like that lake.

I married my best friend, and Kelly will say the same. We’re a couple of lucky, blessed married folks.

How to Wreck Your Marriage

Wrecking ball No. 12 – Major on minors. When you disagree or reach an impasse, be sure to pick your battle based on your spouse’s perceived weakness or that hot-button criticism that you know will throw off your spouse emotionally and mentally. Even better, stake your claim to your right to be an incredible gift to humanity by making a big deal out of … Nothing.

It’s not just about arguing over which shade of green is best – olive or evergreen – or what to name the dog. It’s about using that wrecking ball over and over by pounding your spouse with your “victories” in such disagreements. It’s amazing how something so trivial can be used to find and then wear away the chink in his/her armor, eventually exposing his/her heart so you can move in with even more force to prove your superiority.
If you’re puzzled about what qualifies as a major or minor point, just adopt the conclusion that everything is a big deal.

Playlist

Going to my deep well of sacred hymn favorites. These old songs play on a fairly continuous loop in my noggin. Here’s a super not-so-old arrangement of At The Cross, performed by the Gaither Vocal Band.

Two observations: Yes, it is sometimes tortuous to watch Bill Gaither sing. And at around the 1:27 mark it looks like Mark Lowry has fiery horns. Cool. And, oh yeah, Guy Penrod and David Phelps have crazy awesome voices.

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Six days to go, checking off the wedding prep list

My bride shared this on Facebook today. More proof that I've failed manhood. It is not an opinion that I share. Epic fail.

My bride shared this on Facebook today. More proof that I’ve failed manhood. It is not an opinion that I share. Epic fail.

Six days until Wedding Day.

I’ve watched now for 30-plus years as Kelly organizes, strategizes and prioritizes many a task – big and small. If Kelly was president, for instance, this nastiness we’re involved in with Syria might not have happened. Same for Iraq, Afghanistan and all the coming domestic and international conflicts. She’d kick everyone who was posturing politically out of the room, find out who needs to communicate here, what the problems are, and who needs to do what.

To wit:

“So, guys, Assad has got to go, right?”

Silence.

“Come on, people, work with me.”

“Right, ma’am.”

And right away she’d have lists, tasks and focus points for everyone, and with military-like precision, she’d accomplish either a peaceful resolution – “let’s find out why he’s such a bully and try some cognitive behavior therapy” – or a swift change in leadership, with all other Arab nations nodding in agreement and getting on with pumping our oil.

My bride is helping keep the Wedding Week schedule on schedule. Like I said, she’s about precision.

I, on the other hand, represent anti-precision. She suggests, “Let’s leave at 10,” and she’s ready to go out the door not later than 9:40. Me? I’m getting into the shower at 9:55.

So, for everyone who wonders who does all that behind-the-scenes stuff? Her name is Kelly Jackson, my princess.

Now back to the business of “How to Wreck Your Marriage.”

Wrecking ball No. 11 – Read between the lines. Fail to communicate. And imagine that every request, suggestion or effort to provide input to your life is a direct, unmistakable assault on your ability to think for yourself – and your very worth as a person.

That’s right. When you hear, “Hey, can you give me a hand with these dishes?”, you should automatically defend yourself with, “So, you think I don’t do enough around here? You think I’m lazy?”

Of course, that’s how we hear things because we’re used to speaking between the lines – you know, not really saying how we feel or what we want, but giving hints and clues, instead of just outright saying, “You know, I’m really not in the mood for Chinese tonight. I vote for pizza.”

Always assume that what your spouse says is only half of what he/she really thinks or wants to say. Yes, practice incomplete communication.

This is a good way to wreck your marriage, but usually before that happens you’ve gone loony, which is precisely what this form of communication causes.

Playlist

Probably one of the greatest performances ever. George Michael and Elton John, “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.”

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The calendar speeds up; one week from Wedding Day

crayons

One week from today – seven days – Natasha will have become Mrs. Myrick, saying “I do” to launch forever together with Kory. (Seven days from Saturday, which is when I wrote this, so posting on Sunday means it’s actually only six days away. I’ll double-post at some point this week to get on track).

I’ve done quite a bit of reflection over these past several days, remembering the night before our wedding. I, for one, had no clue about what I was getting into on June 5, 1982. Here we are, 31 years and a couple of months later, and I’m still pretty much clueless – which is why I’m certifiably qualified to present the wrecking balls of “How to Wreck Your Marriage.”

Wrecking ball No. 10 – As promised, this one is the evil twin of “never, ever, ever change or expect change.” This disastrous wrecking ball is called, ”He’ll’/She’ll change once we’re married.”
You just keep telling yourself, because this one extends to family members, friends, associates, etc. Your prince’s friends are particularly boorish and juvenile? Well, that’ll change after you’ve been married. And even if the friends don’t change, YOU will be able to change hubby/wife who will suddenly no longer need to nurture those friendships.

He’ll change. They’ll change. You can change them all. After all, you’re madly in love, which means everyone will change the behaviors and traits that you didn’t like before you were married.

Yeah, keep telling yourself that one.

Her dad won’t be so overbearing and prone to give completely unsolicited advice. His mom has kept the umbilical cord attached up until now, but once you’re married, she’ll automatically let go of baby boy and respect your boundaries. The in-laws will love it that you’ve set boundaries and clearly defined how you expect them to be involved – or not – in your lives.

Before Kelly and I said “I do” lo these many years and months ago, I was an exceptionally picky eater, had poor table manners, and routinely demonstrated a remarkable lack of common sense. Today, things have changed. I have much better table manners, or at least developed those once I’d properly instructed and shown Kishia and Natasha how to belch the A,B,C’s.

Those other things? Nah. Still pretty much the same, although my menu has expanded considerably. Still, given a preference, meals should basically consist of meat and taters, and not taters with little green things thrown in or laying at the side of the plate, or with some odd selection of mustard-raisin dipping sauce, or some such thing.

So think of the things that irritate you most about the other. Now tell yourself that he/she loves you so much that he/she will no longer have a desire or capacity to be irritating. And if future hubby/wifey has a mom/dad that needs to butt out of your business, future hubby/wife will take care of that after you’re married because, after all, you two now wear the grown-up pants and you’re figuring out this marriage thing a step and a day at a time.

Yep, things will change for sure, but probably not the way you want them to change, although you have a distinct new direction in mind for your spouse. When using this wrecking ball, be sure to remind your spouse of all the ways he/she hasn’t yet changed, and that if he/she simply loved you more, she’d change. She’ll appreciate hearing that.

Playlist

I might be the only person on the planet who prefers Gerard Butler’s Phantom, so here, with some of the most powerful lyrics and emotions, is “Music of the Night” from the 2004 film, Phantom of the Opera.

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Wedding countdown, 14 days away: How to wreck your marriage

car wreck 1938

Wedding day, Saturday, Sept. 7, will feature a bevy of unique elements. For starters, I’m giving away the bride. On behalf of me and my bride of 11,403 days, I’ll present Natasha Jackson’s hand to Kory Myrick. Tomorrow night (Sunday) I’m taking Natasha, our youngest daughter to dinner and a movie, sort of a last father-daughter date before she becomes Mrs. Myrick.

It was really tough passing her off to her kindergarten teacher, so I’m expecting some emotions to well up, but I’m not reluctant. She will be Mrs. to my son-in-law, Kory, a solid man whom I’ve gotten to know pretty well in the last couple of months.

What else will be unique on Sept. 7? The wedding ceremony will include the couple serving communion to the attendees. The reception will have a candy bar (think salad bar, except it’s candy). And I’ve been a bit busy these past couple of weeks perfecting my origami skills to complement the decorations and to accommodate candy-eaters. Oh, and Natasha is baking about 100 cupcakes this weekend for the cupcake tree. If you know Natasha, you know that none of this seems odd. It seems so … Natasha.

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

Wrecking Ball No. 2 – Be a spectator of – not a participant in – your marriage.

This is great, because a spectator has no responsibility for the outcome of the game, except to jeer or curse at game officials – referees, umpires, etc. A spectator can leave at any time, arrive late, spend all his/her time doing anything other than actually watching the game. A spectator spouse is in prime position to complain about the problems and insist that someone (the other spouse, of course) do something to fix the problem. And when the problems aren’t fixed or glossed over, then it’s not your fault at all. Someone dropped the ball.

Spectators don’t drop balls. (Well, technically they can, but unless you’re a Chicago Cubs fan interfering with a ball in play, then it doesn’t matter).

Being a spectator leads to a plethora of additional wrecking balls. For instance, if you’re not invested as a participant, spending energy, time and attention with your partner battling life together, it’s much easier to let your mind and attention wander. The worst spectators – the fair-weather fans – shift allegiance and alliance to other teams without much enticement. Which team is really hot right now? Where’s the excitement?

Spectators are free to look elsewhere; participants are only looking for ways to tackle problems and enjoy successes together.

Being a spectator is about more than simply taking your spouse for granted. It’s also saying that your allegiance is directly related to his or her performance and success.

Spectators are not obligated to show grace. (Let’s go ahead and list “Don’t freely extend grace” as Wrecking Ball No. 3).

PLAYLIST

I promise not to make the wedding countdown playlist a haven for Southern Gospel or old hymns, although there’s an origami-related story there to tell. Later.

My favorite rock band ever, Styx (with Queen, Journey and Foreigner all a close second – I’m a child of the 70s, what can I say?) …

The Best of Times

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Juicy juxtaposition: A Communist Tea Party

With almost seven weeks before moving day — assuming the house inspection and other details go as smoothly as the other aspects of our successful house-shopping — I’ve got a little time to pack my books in an orderly fashion. As I separated fiction, non-fiction, humorous, reference, collector, writer’s library and other categories, I’m arranging each group alphabetically by author.

My non-fiction arranging put “Palin, Sarah” (America By Heart) right next to “Marx, Karl” (The Communist Manifesto). Perhaps Mr. Marx belongs in my reference section; certainly there are many who would suggest the Mrs. Palin belongs in my fiction section. I think it simply proves literary diversity and breadth of thought. (Yeah, I’m being a little sarcastic there).

karl sarah

A couple of days ago Kelly and I caught an episode of “Hoarders” where a book-collecting couple had an estimated 45 tons of books in their house. Kelly pointed out what I knew she was thinking: that might have been me if not for marrying her. I don’t know that I would have amassed several tons of books if not kept in check by my patient, tolerant, grace-filled spouse, but I have trimmed the collection considerably over the years. The fact that she bought me a few books for Christmas seems proof that my collection is now manageable.

I’ve got a lot of reference books and quite an assortment of humorous reference: Why Does Popcorn Pop?, Do Fish Drink Water?, etc. I’ve also got some collectible, historical reference, including a two-volume student’s cyclopedia from 1897. I’m fascinated with seeing what we used to think we knew before we found out that we knew everything. I’m talking about pre-Internet times, of course, and pre-World War era America, when our country tried to live as a country unto itself.

My two favorite collectibles are “Qheen of the Home” and “Practical Housekeeping,” copyright 1901 and 1885, respectively. “Queen of the Home” is “a careful compilation of tried and approved recipes by the Ladies of the Christian Church of Carterville, Mo.” (Southwest Missouri, near Joplin).

From the “Miscellaneous” section of “home remedies,” I give you this:

“Mutton Tea – Mutton tea may be prepared in the same manner as beef tea. It makes an agreeable change when the patient has become tired of beef tea.”

I’ll just let those words linger on the screen as you provide your own commentary. Three entries later, there’s “Raw Beef For Children.” Treatment for dysentery.

Again, I’ll let those words linger there on the screen, time enough for you to shake your head as you ponder why dysentery might have been a problem in the first place.

“Practical Housekeeping” is nearly 700 pages. Castor oil was the remedy for just about everything, including scarlet fever. “Keep the bowels open with castor oil, grease the throat, breast, and back with pig’s-feet oil, goose grease, lard, or smoked ham rinds, or the fryings of salt pork or bacon. Greasy very thoroughly.”

Smothered with bacon! Now that’s a home remedy I’m willing to try next time I’m ailing.

Finally, admonitions for children playing out-of-doors: children less than 4 ought not to play out-of-doors when the thermometer is lower than 25 degrees,” and when the young-uns are playing outside they must play on the sunny side of the yard or street. Failure to keep feet warm or ears and neck protected from the chill can lead to “catching” a cold. When they come back indoors, they’ll need a bath, of course, so there’s also ample bathing instructions, summed up thusly: “Children should never be washed in a careless, slipshod manner.”

Hmmm. Somehow I started out talking about Marx and Palin, then got sidetracked with 138-year-old instructions on how to stay healthy, clean and practical. (Castor oil).

I suppose I simply find many, many things far more interesting than a Communist Tea Party.

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A lifetime of New Year’s Eve deja vu

Half-way through December, when it came time for me to resume my NaNoWriMo novel, to catch up on roughly 873 unread emails and blogs that I follow, and to breathe new, consistent life into Jackson’s Journal, I had a high-level meeting with myself and decided to extend my “down” time another 16 days.

Enough. I’m breaking the huddle, getting back in the game, shaking the dust off any other cliches that refer to getting the rust out of my routine. I’m pumped. In fact, I’m going to blog every single day of 2013. Or not.

First, I’m taking stock of the greatest blessing of my life. My bride (Kelly) and I did some calculating tonight and determined that since 1974, we’ve been together every single New Year’s Eve except one. Folks, that’s 38 NY Eves.

kelly-jodie

I love the story of Dec. 31, 1974. Kelly and her family and 36 other people — 41 in all — were at the green duplex in Belle, Mo., at Eighth and Shockley, a place that I prefer to remember as “Little Fenway,” on account of the house was the left field fence for the greatest Wiffle ball field ever known.

But it wasn’t wintertime Wiffle ball that drew a crowd.

It was a fish fry.

Dad was the pastor of the fledgling Faith Baptist Church, and as best I can remember, the evening started with a fine Southern Baptist tradition, the New Year’s Eve Watch-Night Service. Or maybe the evening didn’t start at the church, which was located in the former but brown recluse spider-infested Dahms Hardware Store in Main Street/Alvarado Avenue/Highway 28 in downtown Belle.

My Little Black Book of Great Adventures — aka, my childhood diary — recounts the important details, including the reference to brown recluse spider-infestation, but also the party in the house at Little Fenway. At one point earlier in the evening, someone — either my dad, Robert Thompson or Clifford McDaniel — had a wild-hair idea about having a fish fry. Robert had a freezer full of gigged Gasconade River fish and Clifford possessed the world’s all-time greatest hush puppy recipe. (It might have been the other way around; the Little Black Book of Great Adventures doesn’t provide clarification).

Someone brought a massive iron kettle and a grand fire was sparked on the bare spot normally reserved for second base. There was fish, hush puppies, drinks (absolutely non-intoxicating beverages, of course), pie, slaw, and, for the younger set, an unofficial yet also traditional activity of Southern Baptist teens and pre-teens: spin-the-bottle. (Not sure if it was this event or a future gathering where the spin-the-bottle experience came to an abrupt end when the bottle pointed to me and my sister, Kathy).

At the height of the NY Eve Fish Fry of ’74, we had 55 people in our house. At one point I retreated to my room — a chemistry lab and railroad-killed mammal dissection facility — to jot down my thoughts. I refer now to the Little Black Book of Great Adventures:

“It is 10:40 PM, Dec. 31, 1974. New Year’s Eve. It was a good year to me and I especially wan to thank God for leading me to a good year in science. He led me to all my specimens and stuff.” (Ed. note: living less than 100 feet from the Rock Island rail line also provided me an ample supply of biological diversity).

More about the year, recapping my thanks to my parents for letting me collect so much “stuff” and thanking my friends for helping me collec the “stuff.” (Ed. note: we had most of an entire but unassembled adult deer skeleton hauled into my room/lab before my mom drew a line on the amount of “stuff” I could have in my room/lab).

Finally, this:

“I joined a taxidermy school and I have come to a greater scientific knowledge. I am going out now to join the rest of the party. There are still 41 people hear at our house.” (Ed. note: Correctly spelled “knowledge,” but misspelled “hear.”)

Now let me fast-forward three years to New Year’s Eve 1977, back in the green duplex at Eighth and Shockley after moving back from Jefferson City, where I spent THE loneliest, saddest year of my life the previous year. My year-end recap included, “In mid-October, my parents got a divorce” and my sister, Sharon, visiting from Japan where she and bro-in-law Navy man Michael were stationed, had lost her babies (twin boys). And then this: “I am very much in love with Kelly Drewel, who I’ve been going with for 13 months.”

Finally, follow me back to (or is it “forward to?”) NY Eve 2012, where I’m making the resolution to finish the novels “Dixieland” and “Chasing the Devil” in 2013, with at least one of them published by year’s end.

And then I laugh as I glance again at the Little Black Book of Great Adventures and find this:

“Lately, I’ve been writing quite a bit. In the past I’ve started a few books that I never have finished, and I’ve got several ideas for books, stories and songs. I have written about 25 stories, 15 songs and started about 5 books. It takes time to write, so I think I’ll put aside more time to write.”

And then I listed some belated resolutions for getting that done: limit television; get my homework done at school; stick with something.

The date: Feb. 8, 1978.

The more things change …

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Filed under Family, Inspiration, Kelly, MIP: Memoir-in-progress, National Novel Writing Month 2012, Nature & Animals, Old Time Religion, WIPs