LIFE: You either quit or keep going. They both hurt.

AN HUMBLE ARTICLE OF PRAYER SUBMITTED FOR THANKSGIVING

I grew up in a sibling family of leaders. We Burnett siblings were all taught by both of our parents to be independent in almost all things from a young age. And that was tangibly reinforced as each of us saw among the others of us the various stages of each one growing toward being the independent people our parents were hopefully training back then. Again, Mom Burnett used to say “you never know what type of person you are raising, you just do your best and hope.”

Music is among the most objectively honest things a person can do in life.
You can either do it or you can’t do it yet.
And neither condition is a permanent state of being.

I had four brothers and four sisters whom I got to know personally while growing up. Yes, there were nine of us children who had lived beyond birth. Our sibling birth years range from 1943 to 1964 a span of over 20 years. I am a late Baby Boomer, the exact middle in that birth order with two older brothers and two older sisters, and two younger sisters and two younger brothers.

That means our mother literally had school-age children from the age of 19 until she was 59 years old. Think about being nearly 60 and attending your youngest child’s high school graduation ceremony. Wow. Different times and societal eras.

Our two eldest brothers were NCAA DIV 1 varsity scholarship athletes.

And although there are literally two generations contained within my sibling family cohort, our parents must have done a great job raising us because I don’t recall any of my siblings ever being purposefully divisive, troublemakers, or liars against one another in order to gain favor or approval. Sibling rivalries, yes. Dustups and scraps, yes. But maliciousness, or vengeful intentions, no.

We each maintained a level of character and decency as we had been purposely taught by our parents and elders that was based on the “Golden Rule” and other standard biblical principles. That doesn’t mean any of us were or are perfect.

I grew up attending St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church in Paola, Kansas.

I heard my mother say on numerous occasions that if “something” ever happened to her, we’d be able to successfully fend for ourselves competently. She succeeded in that goal and all of us were equipped to live lives of quality. But it was and has always been up to us and our own choices. That’s key.

During this process parents inherently piss off their children. Most people have heard such parental lamentations like: “this hurts me more than it does you” and “you may not understand now but you will later.”

Every year my high school class still gets together for a reunion in the town where we all grew up.

As leaders, we were inherently taught how to deal with “bullies” of all types. We learned that bullies could be friends and strangers of course, but also among the people in your family and inclusive of other dear loved ones.

We learned all of this BEFORE we left our sibling home to make our own paths as autonomous adults in the world at large. I don’t recall ever hearing of someone taking advantage of (or deceiving) any one of my siblings by catching them unaware of such nonsense no matter how things often look in the short or mid-terms of development. And we didn’t get into many physical altercations.

A pre-growth spurt picture with my 8th-grade basketball team. I was 5′ 2″ tall and started at point guard.

We were all taught to play the “long game” as you do in chess.

Some lessons eventually stuck with us as base character traits. We were taught “right from wrong” and we didn’t act like it was someone else’s fault whichever of those we chose to do in a given situation or circumstance. At least we didn’t try to do that within our sibling family or in the company of close family friends because we knew someone or everyone would call it out.

Morning coffees with T 💕

Terri’s Anderson sibling family lived parallel to the Burnett sibling family ethos described here. I also observed how both of her parents interacted with her as an adult. T was groomed to be a refined lady and musical artist.

Professional photo shoot in T’s Office Studio

When she and I became our own branch of the family in 1979, we intentionally raised our two children to hopefully be confident leaders. And ethical people. However, we have learned that what they actually become is largely on them.

All of this “tough love talk” actually does take into account that we all get to a place in life where we’re beset by serious challenges that can hurt us to the literal point of permanent damage or actually kill us prematurely.

Thanksgiving and Homecoming with our eldest. 💕
Visiting our youngest and her family in England. 💕

These are among the “old people lessons” that my mother Violet and Terri’s mother Sintha used to try to give us forewarning of before we became parents of adult children. At some point, you have to let your children stand on their own. And sometimes they won’t like it. Sometimes they will get over it and sometimes they won’t, or at least it might take some living with their own adult children to come to terms with how their own parents have been previously judged. We have already learned that one.

Even though we are successful adults and successful parents with a family of our own by most of those common metrics, and Google searches didn’t exist back then, I was still actually mature enough to know that I was not my parents’ friend or peer – no matter how old I got. It doesn’t work like that in Black culture. I know that showing elders such respect actually doesn’t diminish me in reality, it shows that I can be counseled and taught.

We were fortunate to find out we were musicians.

Sometimes we parents can overprotect to the point of spoiling certain aspects of the development of our children. We all do it no matter how much we try not to make the mistakes with our own children that our parents did with us.

But I do know that I have yet to see anyone who practices evil deeds succeed in this life over the long term. Likewise, reciprocity is simply meted out to balance such extremely warped souls who think that they have all of the answers until they don’t. Sometimes we need such checks and balances to provide a path toward healing.

I come from a noble line of people and am proud to carry on my family’s heritage.

I have learned that familial love isn’t about keeping score. And it is a sad perversion when that type of mentality enters into family dynamics on any level. Weaponizing the Internet to “troll” or “bully” one’s family is comical to someone of my generation because people my age don’t actually need technology as a definitive part of our daily lives like that.

And in an age when you can literally search the Internet on your device until you find something (and you will) that validates or justifies your position, regardless of the topic, the possibility of miscommunication among loved ones is amplified.

We’ve done pretty well for two professional musicians who also became a family in our twenties.

This simply shows a lack of character, or a moral lapse in the least, and the hilariously incompetent use of a potentially marvelous communication tool. It’s like the unintentionally malicious use of email to send stupid chain letters that you didn’t compose to all of your friends without using the Bcc feature to hide their email addresses. Except on purpose.

Starting fights with me or “ghosting” me from behind computer or smartphone screens is like someone cursing me out in a language I don’t understand or speak. You really told me off, but did you? So, using a “meme” as the basis of the title of this article is sort of ironic.

I think the reason that I truly don’t buy into the hype of all that is because I learned enough lessons while growing up and know the difference between doing what is “right and wrong” at the core of my being. I know that hate never wins. I will not practice hate regardless of the situation. I will choose to leave you alone rather than hate you. Hopefully, peace will win.

Having lived long enough now to have been with some fine people at the ends of their lives and witnessing that to a person each one stated in their own vernacular and words essentially that life isn’t about winning arguments or one’s own selfish pursuits.

THANKSGIVING: We always have more to be thankful for than not. We all need the help of others.
Each day is a new opportunity to do something positive and use your talents for good. You might have the opportunity to help someone else help themselves to get through one more day and not give up.

We can usually overcome being imperfect humans and mend family relationships even if mental illness, alcoholism, or substance abuse are part of the dynamics that we need to mend. However, we are not to let ourselves be abused by such wounded spirits no matter if they are embedded within people we love deeply.

LIFE: You either quit or keep going. They both hurt. Read that again.

Musician is a Symbiotic Duality

Terri Anderson Burnett and I are both musicians.

We’ve also been a family since our early twenties.

We both were also working professional musicians before we met each other in Germany.

When we actually started dating seriously and eventually married, our family plans naturally included serious consideration of the fact that we are musicians as well.

Musicians always are musicians along with anything else they are or do professionally in life.

These two aspects of the musical person are like a symbiotic duality that keeps us in balance as human beings.

I think it’s cool that we both recognize that our art is vital to the relationships that we have individually and collectively built and established within every other part of our lives.

Music is necessary for us. I know that lots of people likely won’t get this.

But that’s cool too. Everyone has something.

Photos: Morning Coffee with T (https://BurnettMusic.biz)

A house and a home…

💕 We’re proud of our heritage as an active duty military service family.

From March 1979 to March 1983 our family lived in Germany, Maryland/Military District of Washington, and Tidewater Virginia.

Both of our children were also born during those years.

We moved six times in those first four years.

By 1983 when we moved to Missouri I had risen in rank and qualifications so there were fewer assignment billets to post me to.

Thus the pendulum of moving lots stopped and we ultimately lived there for the remainder of our active duty service career and a few years afterwards from April 1983 to February 2001.

Our children essentially grew up in the Missouri Ozarks within the community outside of the major military installation that’s located there.

2013 to forevermore

Terri Anderson Burnett was a music major but went back to school to finish general education courses, taught elementary school, and earned lifetime certification in the state.

We built our first home in 1988.

The photos below include several Polaroid snapshots that my family sent to me when I had to go to the NATO Band and Armed Forces School of Music assignments unaccompanied while they stayed in our home.

Mother Burnett came to live with us there for the first five years after she retired and during the three years I was away on those unaccompanied tours of duty.

# # #

Christopher and Terri (Anderson) Burnett established their branch of The Burnett Family in March of 1979 in Copenhagen, Denmark. They are professional musicians, educators, and entrepreneurs based in the Kansas City Metropolitan Area. 

Shoes Older Than You …

PHOTO: “First Haircut” – Me at age 2, our Barber, and our Dad taken by our Mom

One of the first mentoring sessions that I can remember having from my father included his deliberate efforts to “teach” me how to mow our lawn – certainly a basic and practical skill set that he knew would be useful to me in life. Along with most of the lessons inherently learned from both of my parents, I have subsequently used Cliff Burnett’s method of cutting grass at the various stages throughout my entire life. And with most always excellent results too, I must admit here in hindsight.

These skill set lessons were applicable to learning most anything and largely taught based upon his already having established prior successful experience accomplishing a particular task.

Often he would not say anything verbally to me. He would do the task as I watched, then I would repeat the task the same way that he had done it successfully. I later found out that this process was and still is common, and many people today still learn to do many things this way – particularly within my own Black American culture.

He and my mother divorced not long after I’d completed 9th grade so those lessons ended after that. I have often wished that my own progeny could have interacted with him too. Perhaps they would understand me better in addition to being better themselves from having the experience.

Clifford LeRoy Burnett was born on Sunday, July 5th in 1925 and was a World War II veteran (Navy Sea Bees) who later served in the US Air Force – Greatest Generation. He served just over 19 years on active duty and had reserve time between when his Navy service ended in 1945 and he reenlisted in the Air Force in the late 1950s. Dad used to proudly exclaim that he was “the seventh son of a seventh son.” Subsequently with the advent of Ancestry.com, our family tree validates that indeed he was “the seventh son of a seventh son.”

Dad was also genuinely enthusiastic about life despite growing up through the Great Depression, segregation, and military service during a world war. Although he was a man of relatively few words, he still was a positive person and encouraging most of the time that I can recall. He was a great athlete in his youth and although he was over 30 by the time I was born, Dad was still a fine athlete when I came of age to appreciate such things although he was in his 40s by then.

He only lost his temper with me once that I recall. I was a teenager. I wasn’t listening to his advice as much as I once did because I had begun to have my own ideas and experiences.

PHOTO: T and me at the VA CPAC after a presentation.

Dad was also coaching me to be a baseball pitcher during that period of our life together. I just knew that I was not a baseball pitcher. Dad was a great baseball pitcher in his youth.

I was a fast runner and better suited to be a baseball outfielder. I could throw pretty hard but never had the control to be a baseball pitcher. My younger brother Donnie was the baseball pitcher among us. I liked playing centerfield.

I was also a saxophone player and wanted to do that with my time more than anything else by then. And although Dad was proud of my musical pursuits and appreciated my dedication, he felt I should still be well rounded and developed in other areas too. He was right, of course.

PHOTO: The last wearing of my 20 year old Sketchers today.

I recall from one occasion that I questioned him as to why I had to stand a certain way and go through the specific motions he was teaching me in order to successfully throw the baseball into the old tire used as a target on the back of the old garage.

Dad said to trust him because he already knew doing it that way was most efficient. I debated the fact that I could already throw the ball all of the way from centerfield to home plate and hit the catcher’s mitt – high or low, wherever it was placed. Dad said that was a different skill.

He must have seen the doubt in my eyes. For the first time in my life I had debated something my father was teaching me. That’s not a bad thing, it’s a growing up thing. He just cocked his head.

PHOTO: My most comfortable and favorite pair of shoes for two decades.

Dad said, “okay do it your way and hit the strike zone target, then.” I threw from my normal stance and was not able to consistently throw strikes. I would have walked in a run, or two, or three, or four had I been pitching in a real game.

He must have seen the puzzled look on my teenaged face and yet, I still verbally protested the validity of my own way of throwing the ball out of ego and ignorance. Just like most kids would.

Dad silently shook his head in what seemed to be disgust, picked up the baseball and proceeded to throw strike after strike into the exact middle of the tire target. He threw the ball so hard that it bounced directly back to his mitt for the repeated throws. And I had never seen anyone in real life throw a baseball with the velocity with which he threw the ball. He always hit dead center.

PHOTO: My replacement loafers. Here’s to another 20 years, boys.

Dad could see that I was a bit shaken by such a display of power that I had never witnessed from him before in my life. He calmed me with his big grin and said to trust what he shared with me.

I learned a big lesson that day, as I usually did during my interactions with Dad. I told him as much and how impressed I was with what he had just done. He said for me not to be impressed.

He simply said, “Son, I have thrown lots of baseballs before just now. You have only thrown a few by comparison. I should be this good at it. You will get the same type of experience and practice at something. Just like I have shoes twice as old as you are that I still wear. Old is often good.”

He said if we keep trying, we all usually keep getting better with time.

PHOTO: Lake Erie Duets

Christopher and Terri (Anderson) Burnett established their branch of The Burnett Family in March of 1979 at Copenhagen, Denmark. They are professional musicians, educators, and entrepreneurs based in the Kansas City Metropolitan Area. 

Culminations mark endings and also new beginnings

Armed Forces School of Music Faculty Lab Band

My absolutely favorite military music assignment from my entire career was at the US Army Element, School of Music as a member of the staff and faculty where I also performed with the Armed Forces School of Music Faculty Lab Band jazz ensemble under the direction of Maurice Williams, Jr.

This was the “tightest” jazz ensemble big band I have ever played with – still to date.

We rehearsed every day during noon hour, a tradition that I remembered during each of my times as a student attending one of the courses there.

I recall skipping lunch with friends and going to listen to the Faculty Lab Band rehearsals instead of eating lunch at the mess hall.

It was cool that I eventually became a member of that band.

And our director, Master Warrant Officer Maurice Williams, Jr. was the immediate former director of the Army Blues jazz ensemble in Washington DC.

He’s an historic figure and pioneer. I learned lots watching how he directed and programmed our outstanding band.

And the way he managed and led all of us as highly skilled artists was a master class each day. He always kept everything focused on the music.

We played great charts too – killing! I still model my own approach to directing large jazz ensembles after him in so many ways.

When I left the school assignment I asked Mr. Williams for a signed photo. He said certainly. I was expecting one of his official military photos.

Photo gift: Mr. Williams and his Army Blues

Instead, he gave me this photo from one of his last performances leading the Army Blues. It’s their 1991 concert at the international jazz festival in Montreux, Switzerland.

endings and beginnings
Part of our “Scrapbook” wall in our storage room.

My professional military music career began as soon as I graduated high school when I passed the auditions for both the Army and Air Force music programs. I chose the Army because its program started new musicians at a higher rank and pay grade, not to mention the Army was larger and had more band assignments around the world to choose from.

I had great teachers during my developmental years and that is largely the reason I was able to pass the audition at such a young and inexperienced age. Thanks to instruction from my school band director, Mr. Jim Fuchs and to my private lessons teacher, Mr. Charlie Molina I was able to qualify and enlist.

A 21st Century gathering with our kids.

Passing that audition resulted in my eventually staying with military music and going to the Army band in Germany where I ultimately met, fell in love with, and married Terri Anderson. We started our family together, raised two children into fine adults, and also finished a complete active duty military career as a family. Military families should be commended.

This Armed Forces School of Music assignment was literally the pinnacle of what is now objectively documented to be a stellar career for me in the Army serving as a professional musician. I was there on an unaccompanied tour. And it was a bittersweet situation where I was separated from Terri and our children. I have learned that is a typical rub in life. Good with bad.

A 20th Century visit with Mother Burnett

Our Commandant (Tom Davis) and Command Sergeant Major (Charlie Heintz) wanted me to bring Terri and our children out to live in Virginia where the Armed Forces School of Music was located and I could have stayed assigned there indefinitely. But, Terri and I knew that living in the Tidewater Area would not have been a good fit for our family. It was huge geographically and population was in the millions.

My bosses also knew that I had made the decision to retire as soon as I could after serving 20 years so that I could go back home. One day they called me into the Commandant’s office and asked if I liked serving at the Armed Forces School of Music, and if so, what would make me stay in the military longer. Of course I actually loved the job. It was the best one to that point.

Guest Suite framed photos of the Commandant and Command Sergeant Major who let me come home.

I simply told them our reasoning behind our family’s decision. And I didn’t expect any other consideration. I was a First Sergeant and senior soldier by then. There was a saying in my time, “if the Army wanted you to have a family, it would have issued you one.”

But Colonel Davis looked me in the eye and said we just happen to need a new enlisted bandleader where you want to go. It would be a perfect fit for your skill set considering what needs to be established there at this time. And he said that I would be paired with a senior warrant officer bandmaster to do that work.

So when that opening came up for the top enlisted job at the Army band in Missouri, I took it so that I could go home to be with my family. I stayed in another three years to complete my career.

And as they say, “the rest is history.”

Christopher and Terri (Anderson) Burnett established their branch of The Burnett Family in March of 1979 at Copenhagen, Denmark. They are professional musicians based in the Kansas City Metropolitan Area. 

Visit BurnettMusic.biz for more information.

Musings in Cb: MOTHER BURNETT WORDS OF WISDOM (part 1)

Like most people, I have found my parents to have gotten “smarter” along with my own age and ultimately as my adult life experiences increased.

Amazing how that works, huh?

When your parents drop knowledge on you it is often well ahead of when you need or truly understand it.

Here’s one from our late mother, Vi Burnett.

I was in my middle forties when she laid this one on me and am now just truly appreciating what she said more fully because I have used it recently — but I can’t claim it as my own original thought:

“You can’t blame other people for your adult life not being what you want it to be, not even your parents. No, I guess you can but it’s not rational.”

— Vi Burnett, 1924-2012, BurnettFamilyUS.org

Christopher and Terri (Anderson) Burnett established their branch of The Burnett Family in March of 1979 at Copenhagen, Denmark. They are professional musicians based in the Kansas City Metropolitan Area. 

Visit BurnettMusic.biz for more information.

“Black History” is everyday

Here’s an historic professional studio photograph of our late mother Violet Lorraine (b. 1924, d. 2012). It’s on permanent display with several other family photographs in a prominent place in our home.

Mom Burnett graduated from Olathe High School with her racially integrated class of 1941.

Our paternal aunt Aida Burnett was among her classmates and the only other Black student.

At 17, mom entered Pittsburg State Teacher’s College where she attended for two years until returning home to live in Olathe and work at the Sunflower Munitions Plant in service of the national ethos supporting the allied efforts to ensure a victorious resolution of World War II.

She subsequently married our father Clifford LeRoy when he returned home to Olathe after his World War II service as a Navy “Sea Bee.”

Several years after they had started a family together, my father re-enlisted in the active duty military, this time to serve in the Air Force.

I was almost two years old at the time we began these travels and also the youngest child of the family. I remember our military service years as among our happiest.

We had lived in Colorado and France, where three of my four younger siblings were born.

And then we lived in Michigan before settling in our maternal hometown city of Paola in the 1960s where our last brother was born.

Our parents divorced between my freshman and sophomore years of high school. Looking back from a more mature perspective, the established foundation we had been given by both of our parents, (along with the strong community paradigm we grew up within during those times,) enabled each of us as fellow school age siblings to successfully meet our challenges with overall resiliency. That’s cool.

Mom would ultimately live the remaining decades of her life as a happy resident and fine citizen of the greater Paola community.

She was also an active member of our church where she even played the piano as part of the music ministry – for services and for the choir.

She worked her way up in her professional career to ultimately serve as a state certified alcohol and drug abuse counselor for the (now defunct) Osawatomie State Hospital. We still have some of her business cards and awards.

Mom was the very first Black person (male or female) to do this type of work there and she even had a very nice “corner office” in her department’s building on the hospital campus.

She helped successfully raise very positively productive children (who were spread over three decades in ages) mostly during the period known as the American Civil Rights Era.

Each of us became adults who were equipped.

This is Black History.

It’s like the history of most any family, really.

And this story could likely be told with similar details by most Black families in America, and in almost any era, or from the perspective of most any generation.

What I would like to emphasize here in telling about our mother isn’t explicit in the preceding inspiring narrative.

But it’s likely the most important thing she’d want told and if not just simply remembered.

Mom never quit. No matter how good or how bad the particular circumstances, her faith remained very steady.

Hers was also a life that I witnessed as being tangible to my own and others, not simply a professional resume or good life obituary.

What’s not mentioned between the above heroic lines is the real heroism of continuing on after her mother died in a car accident when she was only six.

Mom and her baby sister went on to be raised by her aunt and uncle because our relatives didn’t allow their men to raise little girls all alone and by themselves back in those days.

What’s not mentioned between the above heroic lines is the real heroism of continuing on even after her widowed father died one day unexpectedly when his home’s heating stove literally burned his house down in the early morning hours before he was to leave for work.

What’s not mentioned between the above heroic lines is the real heroism of continuing on often positively and often only by her faith.

The importance of those historic lines above is what real good can happen in our own lives and those of other people when we don’t quit.

# # #

Us on the bus.

Christopher and Terri (Anderson) Burnett established their branch of The Burnett Family in March of 1979 at Copenhagen, Denmark. They are professional musicians based in the Kansas City Metropolitan Area.

Visit BurnettMusic.biz for more information.

6 of 9 has gone ahead

The signs of mortality are around us at every moment of each day. I’m not sure exactly when, but at some point in life we find peace with that fact and are not as afraid of death. Perhaps this is a counter to that human hyperarousal instinct and thus, inherently inoculates us against our primal fear of being mortal. Whatever the reason, it keeps most of us from staying in bed all day with the covers pulled up over our heads while waiting to die. Despite the challenges ahead for humanity and our nation, we move forward with optimism and confidence that another productive year is before us. We don’t chose to forget the past. We learn from it. We don’t forget our family members either – because they remain with us always in some context. So, the first post of 2021 is a “Roll Call” of our Burnett siblings and it’s dedicated to those family members of our generation who have gone ahead to that next dimension or plane of existence.

PHOTO an impromptu snap shot I took of our family on vacation in North Carolina.

PHOTO Former bases of the United States Air Force in France. Part of the Cold War. Date 1951 – 1966. Location France. Result US Withdrawal in accordance with French withdrawal From NATO Military Command Structure

* Michelle Antoine did not live beyond a few days after being born premature and was buried in the US military cemetery near Toul-Rosières Air Base during our family’s military service tour in France. We never got to meet Michelle but love him. He would have made our sibling number 10 had he lived.

 — BurnettFamilyUS.org

ROLL CALL

PHOTO I took while with my brother-in-law John (who is still among the living) stopping to admire a Model-A Ford on the Lake Erie island of Put-In-Bay.

Nothing reminds us of our own mortality like losing a close relative or dear friend. Even the death of favorite celebrities can often be a sobering moment for most of us in this regard. Even when we do lose beloved family elders or when someone we have known personally for many years passes away after a long life and well-lived life, we are sad but generally able to find resolution at some point through our grief, if not total peace.

PHOTO by my late mother of me with my grandmother Bertha Johnson Burnett at age 2.5 years old in Olathe.

There seems to be another consideration for most of us and it’s after we have safely grown up into adulthood, established autonomous lives, and then begin losing our fellow adult siblings inevitably to death. For me personally, this consideration goes beyond a confrontation of one’s own mortality because that usually happens for people my age decades earlier. It seems to be more of a personally inescapable reckoning with one’s own life, in terms of what kind of person we have become, how many of our goals we’ve realized, and what type of legacy we will objectively leave behind. If we are still living we are still writing that history.

PHOTO taken a few years ago by Lorri of me with my boys. Sons and Grandsons.

Of my nine siblings who lived through birth, grew up to be adults, and lived more life as autonomous people than children in their parents’ home, there are six of us still living at this writing in 2021. That’s pretty cool, especially since we are all over 60 years old now.

PHOTO RichiePratt.net is the online public professional archives of our late brother, the noted jazz drummer Richie Pratt. We keep his site updated and plan to maintain it indefinitely.

We lost our eldest brother Dean, who seriously dated several women but never married, or had children of his own, and by all accounts was a great person with a kind heart to many people in his life. A world class professional musician, he was a great mentor and friend to me after we got to know each other as adults.

PHOTO I took of our late youngest brother Keith with me before starting our very last annual “The Brothers’ Father’s Day Golf Round” at Trails West Golf Course.

We also lost our youngest brother Keith to suicide. Nothing prepares you for losing someone that way. It has taken most of these years since he killed himself for me to grieve and find peace personally – or as much as is possible. The fact is that many people die from suicide and like my youngest brother, most of those people suffer from the common and very treatable mental illness of depression.

PHOTO of our late sister Penny supervising a golf tournament fundraiser while she was working as an executive with the Girl Scouts of NE Kansas & NW Missouri.

However, the first sibling we lost was our dear sister Penny due to the effects of stage 4 lung cancer. Her death was clinically not unexpected. In this life she was a rascal and a very thoughtful person. It is an extremely sad experience to consider not being able to interact with her everyday. I still love and miss my little sister Penny dearly. Penny was the 6th of the 9 living children of Violet Lorraine Jackson Burnett and Clifford LeRoy Burnett.

PHOTO selfie that I took fairly recently of T and me at home.

6 OF 9

PHOTO I took of Downtown Kansas City

Penny and I were among the middle children in birth order and come from a relatively large sibling family. I am the exact middle of the 9 living children who grew up together in our parents home. Penny was the eldest of the last 4 of the 9. All of our siblings have been validated at this point as highly intelligent and talented individuals. Penny was always among the most brilliant persons within this group.

PHOTO I took of our family’s two former NCAA Division I Athletes, brother Nathaniel with our late brother Richard at the University of Kansas football complex in Lawrence.

1 of 9 – Richard Dean (b Mar 11, 1943; d Feb 12, 2015)

2 of 9 – Nathaniel Anthony (b Mar 1947)

3 of 9 – Joyce Nadine (b Jul 1950)

4 of 9 – Bonnie Jean (b Feb 1953)

PHOTO taken by our late sister Penny of Mary Jane, Micah, Lorri, T, Mom Violet Burnett, Madison, and me while we were all visiting our mom at the same time in Paola.

5 of 9 – Christopher LeRoy (b Nov 1955)

PHOTO I took of Micah, Mary Jane, T and Lor, Mom Violet Burnett, and Penny Lynn during the same Paola visit.

6 of 9 – Penny Lynn (b Jul 1, 1957; d Feb 9, 2012)

7 of 9 – Mary Jane (b Apr 1958)

8 of 9 – Donnie Ray (b Sep 1959)

9 of 9 – Keith Duane (b May 12, 1964; d Mar 19, 2013)

Downtown Kansas City

We Are Family

From my perspective, Penny was the quintessential little sister who idolized me as her immediate big brother – unless I was around, of course. And, our childhood together included the typical adventures a big brother and little sister share while growing up together. Terri and I saw this type of dynamic between our own son and daughter during their sibling years with us at home.

PHOTO of our children Micah and Lorri standing outside of our home they grew up in as children in Missouri.

And, even when our parents divorced while we were both still high school students, Penny was back to back with me on the mission of keeping the family together while achieving that immediate goal of our younger siblings graduating. We became mini-parents by proxy, while still being just “kids” ourselves. We walked around as if nothing had changed in our family and took care of business. I helped out our single mother with two after school jobs to help buy food and Penny made sure that chores and homework were getting done.

Growing up together, we children were always taught to stand for something positive. Like many kids, we were vetted before we even left home. When I graduated and joined the Army two years later, our single parent home life was relatively stable. Penny and I stayed in touch during her senior year and beyond. I would send money home to help out the family and come home on leave whenever I could. Penny held it down, even after she went to Emporia State to school. Everyone graduated. We beat the odds. We had kicked ass indeed. We won.

PHOTO of our late mother and late father during their active duty Air Force career.

It’s CIRCLES

PHOTO of the newly planted “Maple In Memory of Penny” which is now huge and thriving in Leavenworth.

Penny continued to be the “glue” that kept all of us together. She knew what everyone was doing and what was going on in their respective lives. Penny knew what kind of characters we had all grown up to become, she knew our strengths and she tolerated our weaknesses. I always thought that was cool. She could have gone on with her own singular life after high school graduation, like many siblings choose to do. We weren’t our siblings’ parents after all. However, I came to appreciate the fact that Penny made a deliberate choice to keep in close touch with me, no matter where in the world I was over the subsequent years. Penny also made a deliberate choice to get to know my wife, Terri, and our children, Micah and Lorri, from the very beginnings of our branch of the Burnett Family through and up to the day that she left to go ahead of us.

PHOTO I took of Penny’s home after it was finished.

I was tempted to post a photograph of my sister with me. But, Penny gave of herself to me and so many people as well. So much so that we all felt the special love she had for each of us individually. So, I could not post a singular picture of she and I together alone and still accurately represent that enormous dynamic. However, I posted a picture of her house instead. It is a beautiful little carriage house to one of the historic mansions in Leavenworth. It was a mess when she and Bill first moved there. Penny worked on that house for the better part of the 10 years that she and her husband Bill were married. Inside and out. Hardwood floors to kitchen remodel. Lawn and landscape. She finally finished it and was ready to begin buying her furniture to fill the special lovely places that Penny’s imagination and dreams had created within that house. The only frustration or sign of complaint that I heard my sister utter was objective disgust at the facts that she had her house done and that she had become terminally ill. Not a negative comment, just matter of fact. Those who knew and loved Penny too, know that it would not have gone down any other way. The story of that house epitomizes the way Penny was in her relationships with most people. She could see the beauty and greatness in all of us, no matter what condition we were in at any given moment. Now, that is a big heart and is truly a great example of the essence of what love is about.

PHOTO of the fireplace at our “Healing House” home in Lansing that 7 of our siblings actually visited. Our outlook on family love is like this symbolism of an “Eternal Flame.”

COVER PHOTO

PHOTO that sister Mary Jane took of our late sister Penny with two of her nephews (Madison and Micah) at our mom’s apartment on West Ottawa Street in Paola.

Thanksgiving … is a daily condition

Most family people who also have children and grandchildren can relate to the state of being thankful. It’s actually pretty easy to be thankful if your life is good and your kids are doing well also.

T and I watched our parents at this age live with grace and dignity. I often tell my siblings who missed seeing our mom grow through her 40s, 50s, and 60s that they missed the best of her in many ways. I’m thankful that our children and grandchildren met her there too.

But most successful people also learn to be thankful for the balance that comes with the inherent challenges of living. Jazz musicians often call this the blues. These blues help us grow toward realizing those good times. We have found that good times simply result from many years of positive effort being rewarded in some cool tangible context. We’ve seen this in our children’s and grandchildren’s lives as well as in our own.


Our Children and Grandchildren help give us perspective.

During a conversation the other day, T and I decided that one of the coolest aspects of this stage and life is that we’ve lived long enough to have already had a significantly positive impact upon the lives of other people. Our children. Our grandchildren. Our friends. Our colleagues. As well as the general people of those communities where we have been fortunate to make our home over the years as a family.

A relatively recent photograph of me with my sons and grandsons

Micah is now the age I was when I retired from my active duty military career after 22-years of continuous service. Lorri is now the age I was when I was selected for the special assignment as the First Sergeant of the Student Company at the Armed Forces School of Music in Norfolk, Virginia. Seth is now the age I was when I was selected for the special musical assignment with the NATO Band in Naples, Italy. Ethan is now the age I was when I chose to go to the Army band at Ansbach, Germany where Terri and I first met. Ariana is now the age I was when I was accepted to the Army Band Group Leader Course at the Armed Forces School of Music. Owen is now the age I was when I got serious about music and practicing the saxophone. Avery is now the age I was when my father was still active duty Air Force and we still lived at Kincheloe Air Force Base in the Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan Air Defense Sector. Hayden is now the age I was when I got my first “big boy” hair cut.


As Parents and Grandparents we still learn from our kids.

When our children first left home as young adults our instinct was to protect them as we did when they were children. We didn’t know any better and had to learn how to be parents of adults. Over the years we’ve (or rather I have) learned to trust what they were taught and trust they have practical common sense. Over protective to a fault sometimes.

Our daughter Lor, our son Seth, and our two youngest grandchildren

I will add to this parental transition and growth was my own personal distrust of most people in our society and nation as a black man. Yes, that sounds really awful considering everything positive and wonderful that I have been part of and have done throughout my life and career. But, since everyone has something to confront, this issue has been part of the deal of me becoming who I am in a more mature form. Reconciling contradictions is the essence of life after all. And it’s often a challenge for others to understand we are all works in progress no matter how old or experienced.

Our daughter Lor, our son Seth, and our two youngest grandchildren

The cool thing about being a grandparent is that you can look at your children and grandchildren and they will show you that you won life. You ran the table. They help you realize that you already have everything you need. Yes, our children and grandchildren taught us that. Even that littlest guy who seems to have lost total patience with the photo shoot.

We are truly thankful everyday.

Jackson The Plunger …

“Jackson The Plunger” is a nickname we took from one of the articles about our maternal grandfather, Edward George Jackson, who was mostly known by his middle name GEORGE since he shared the same first name with his father. Born in February 1903 and died in January of 1945, he didn’t quite reach his 43rd birthday.

1922 PAOLA HIGH SCHOOL YEAR BOOK – THE ORIOLE
1922 PAOLA HIGH SCHOOL YEAR BOOK – THE ORIOLE

FROM OUR FAMILY TREE AT ANCESTRY . COM



Our formal family trees are located within our private account through Ancestry.com. Our family website is not intended to be any type of genealogical record.



It serves primarily as our contemporary blog. We do sometimes include commentary related to our family genealogy here from time to time though. This post is one of those.


HISTORIC PHOTOGRAPH: A candid photo opportunity with our second eldest grandson, OWEN, who is one of GEORGE JACKSON’s 2nd great grandsons.

Our mother Violet Jackson Burnett and other relatives often told me that I “favored” GEORGE JACKSON. As was common of elders from those generations, they didn’t speak about him or anyone else in our ancestry with any specificity. Upon discovering these old yearbook photos at our family tree website, I actually had no idea what he looked like until now.


1922 PAOLA HIGH SCHOOL YEAR BOOK – THE ORIOLE

Edward “GEORGE” Jackson of Paola, Kansas (1903-1945) was my maternal grandfather. He attended and graduated from the same city school system that I graduated from with the PHS Class of 1923. As you can see by the above school yearbook page, GEORGE attended an integrated school system.



GEORGE was the son of EDWARD Jackson, and EDWARD was the son of SOLOMON Jackson – see the names highlighted in green and yellow in the image of the 1880 United States Federal Census for Edward Jackson above.



Further observation of this census document shows the ethnicity or race of both Edward Jackson (my maternal great grandfather) and his father Solomon (my 2nd maternal great grandfather) listed as “Mulatto” a term of which most dictionaries define as a (dated or offensive) noun referring to a person of mixed white and black ancestry, especially a person with one white and one black parent. Interesting.



ALSO FROM OUR FAMILY TREE AT ANCESTRY . COM


That’s just only a glimpse of my maternal Jackson family tree. My paternal Burnett family tree is just as interesting. I discovered as the eldest son of Clifford Burnett (b. 1925), I am also the grandson of Charles Burnett (b. 1846), I am also the great grandson of Peter Burnett (b. 1798), and I am also the 2nd great grandson of Doe Burnett (b. 1750).



Much of the textbook history I was taught in school growing up doesn’t match with the history I have found in the historic records, deeds, and census documents which reveal that most of my ancestors were farmers, property owners and not enslaved in the late 1700s. Discovered other interesting history too. It seems that life is always full of drama – good and otherwise. Go figure, huh? This information doesn’t change who I am as a human being, a man, a husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, nephew, or son. However, it does give me a positive connection with the continuum of my heritage in the most objective context possible. My children and grandchildren don’t have to wonder who came before them in this sense. That’s pretty cool…


COVER PHOTO

BURNETT FAMILY TRADITIONAL THANKSGIVING DINNER (2012 – LANSING, KS)