Monday, December 26, 2016

A Barney Banjo Christmas and Coming Full Circle

Another Barney Banjo Christmas

For those of you who knew Brian King, you will especially appreciate this story. Rewind to Fall 2016 when I saw Jeanie Garrett an old Florence, Alabama friend who surprised me with returning the Barney Banjo Brian had given to her daughter Julia, moments before we left Florence Alabama to make our new home in Hoover, Alabama where we lived for eight years until Brian was killed in an accident in 2008. At that moment, I knew I would have a special Christmas present to give to Kristian (pictured left) with the new Barney Banjo in the foreground, with her sweet Dad (right) that same Christmas morning, 
and then yesterday (above) when she opened and laughed through tears as she read the Barney Banjo story again. See the story Below:

A Barney Banjo Christmas

It was the Christmas you were two and a half. For some reason to you were deathly afraid of Santa; I blame the creepy Easter Bunny at the mall we saw in the Spring. But my, you were cute with your blonde hair always spilling out - refusing to be contained by the bows I tried.

I remember the fateful day we first saw the Barney Banjos at the Florence Toys-R-Us. There was a massive display of purple plastic, and we were instantly enthralled with the cleverness of the design. You had to put your hand inside to make the banjo play. It played songs and sounded like a banjo - Cute! (My Mom brain immediately devised a plan, “This will be great ‘Santa present.'” So we began the discussion..“Santa might bring you a Barney Banjo for Christmas if you ask him.” Knowing full well that you would not want to get within 10 feet of the “Jolly-old-elf,” I thought this might just be the motivation you would need to get over your phobia. Never wanting my kids to grow up with unreasonable fears, I figured this could be the perfect solution.

Wow, was that a great idea that backfired! I did get you to talk to Santa – wide eyes filled with terror, you quickly asked for a Barney Banjo and ran back to me. Poor kid. Once that task was over, I realized Santa’s job was going to be tough. All of a sudden, there were no Barney Banjos at Toys-R-Us! I thought I would check with other stores, None. I called Gran. She checked in Tennessee – Zero. I called Aunt Michelle. She checked in Atlanta – Nada.  I called Hasbro. The nice lady on the phone could not guarantee me that anymore Barney Banjos would ship before Christmas. Apparently, there was an issue with the manufacturer, and “Have a nice day!” What?! I started to panic; I started to talk to you about other fun toys. You would look at me with your blonde wisps and big baby blues and tell me how you could not wait until Santa came with your banjo. What was I going to do? I had a two-year-old who told Santa – at gunpoint, practically, the two things on her sweet list, and one of them might not make it! 

You told everyone, over and over, about your Barney Banjo! I felt the Karma Gods placing their bets and laughing at me.

In December, your Dad was flying to Austin, Texas for a meeting, and I told him to look for the elusive evil toy while there. He was skeptical. I said, “Find one!” So, when he landed, I started harassing him, “Did you look for the Banjo?” “No,” I begged him to call the stores, and he promised to. He called around – no luck. Then he tried a K-Bee Toys in a local mall somewhere. At first, the clerk said they were out, but then hesitated and said he would check the back stock. When he finally came back to the phone, he said they had two Barney Banjos that had been pushed behind some other things. Your Dad said, “I just need one, I am on my way!” When a man who was sitting close by heard the conversation, he asked for the story behind the sudden excitement. Brian told him about the search, and when the man heard the toy’s name, his face lit up, and he almost shouted, “I am looking for a Barney Banjo too!” Off they both flew to the store and bought the last two known purple, plastic banjos on the North American Continent. When I next received a call from your Dad, I anxiously answered, and he did not speak at first. Then, I heard the sappy, sweet banjo notes that rang over the cell phone from Texas to Alabama! My hero! Christmas was saved, for both of us!

I can remember your chubby face full of expectation and delight that Christmas morning as you ran into the living room. Your only words, “Where is my Barney Banjo?”I wish I could always make your dreams come true like your Dad and I did that day. I love you, Mom.  (Written in 2010 – edited Christmas 2016. Merry Christmas!)

#justwrite #christmas #daughtersofjoy 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Comcast Hell

A letter sent to a company acting as an agent for Satan:

August 2, 2016

Dear Sir or Madame,

I am responding to a letter I received yesterday in the mail. I cannot begin to convey my frustration with this situation. But, I am going to attempt to try (somehow the redundancy here seems wildly appropriate).

I am attaching evidence of an account closed in December of 2014. Upon which time I returned my equipment and received confirmation from Comcast that the account was closed and paid in full. Great. Super. (In case you don’t know, no customer has ever closed an account with Comcast and felt nostalgic. I am sure Jean Valjean felt similarly when he finally left the prison camp. Had it not been for the ‘24601’ tattooed on his arm, he wouldn’t have kept a souvenir to remind him of the “good times”. You just want to move on with your life and forget.)

Wrong. In December of 2015, one year later if you don’t have a calendar in front of you, I receive a bill for $118.23. Weird, right? I call and say, “This must be a mistake”, and they assign a case # and tell me they will make a note and do an investigation. They don’t. They send me another bill and then I call again. If you are thinking, surely it was resolved by the second call, you would be sadly mistaken. I am told they cannot explain the reason for the charge. Only that it appears that something was credited to the wrong account and I owe $118.23. This makes no sense to me because it has been one year since the account showed a Zero balance. Why were they just now sending me the first bill?!?

The next week I start getting letters and calls from Credit Management. Of course, I call, and I am SO happy to be able to start the process all over again. There is no resolution. They persist, and although I-do-not-for-one-second-believe this is a fair charge, I decide I will resolve it and pay the bill. I document my calls to them and put the papers away. I am assured that the Comcast account will now be completely settled and I try to rebuild my life. Seriously.

In case you have lost track, it is now August 2, 2016, and yesterday I receive yet another letter from another reputable business (yours) telling me that I owe money on my Comcast account that was closed over 18 months ago! Not frustrated at all, of course, I call, when I should be working, and speak to a representative of your company. Assuming she followed through with her promises, this matter should be in the “Dispute Bin,” or at least the “Mad as Hell” file and maybe even the “It is a good thing we don’t have a brick-and-mortar office in Tennessee, ‘cause we would have to deal with this crazy lady in person” folder.

So, to recap: I don’t owe this money. I am attaching a P.I.F. (Paid In Full) letter which is dated August 2 because I went to the Credit Mgmt. Website and pulled it today. But, I called an agent of their company Agent ID #A4Y to confirmed that it was paid by credit card 3/9, and then I found the bank record of the transaction for $118.23 (which I am also attaching). I am attaching the original bill for $118.23 so I am not even sure where you come up with $103.06, but I will mostly blame that on Comcast because none of this madness would be possible without the stellar management and thoughtful attention they give to customer service.

Please respond by emailing at ******** or by phone (6**.***.*076) and message to my voice mail to let me know that this has been resolved.


Traci (Unjustly Sentenced to Comcast Hell) K*** 


Monday, July 18, 2016

A Memory- My Mom and What I Learned from Her Tuna Salad.

Janice Shockney May 4, 1937- July 18, 2012
It is the 4th Anniversary of my Mom's first day with Jesus, and I miss her. It is not as it has been said along the way, that we don't appreciate our parents until they are gone. It is just that we can never fully know all the ways we will long for them over the years. As our life changes and we face new unknowns and challenges, we just need them. We knew we would. We just didn't know in how many ways and the ways just keep coming it, don't they? Sometimes in the silence of the uncertainty of life, I strain to recall the comfort of just hearing her voice on the phone. No one has ever been on my team, quite like my Mom, and I miss her today and wish we could talk.

I have been thinking lately about the lessons I learned from my Mom. It is hard to boil down into a list all the things your parents teach you along the way, but this memory keeps coming up lately and the lesson it taught me unaware sums up my Mother's philosophy on life: And it is simply this:

We can't control everything. Plan for Joy. Expect some problems along the way. And, most days are salvageable.

My Mother was a planner. My Mother was resilient. My Mother was fun. And, if we made plans for a fun day, somehow we were going to have a fun day. On this particular day in the Summer, I woke up with excitement because Mom had planned to take the day off for a picnic and swimming for my brother, Gary, me, and my Grandmother too. My Mom worked, and during summer break, I was home all-day-everyday just waiting on something to do. There was camp, swim lessons, VBS, and sometimes, Mom would take a day off to take us swimming. Those days were the best!

 I could hear her in the kitchen before I was fully awake. I knew she was working on the Tuna Salad sandwiches we would eat for lunch. The mixture was a bit weird, but she added enough sweet pickles that I got over the mayonnaise, and after a couple of hours in the pool, a kid would eat anything. She made a pan of brownies the night before and Kool-Aid Lemonade we would carry in a Tupperware pitcher and drink in styrofoam cups as we sat on our towels with hair dripping trails of water and happiness down our backs on a brief break in the fun of the day. I could not wait!
Mom, Dad, Gary and Me in the 70's
The anticipation would build on the long car ride from the country into Goodlettsville to Pleasant Green Swimming Pool. When we were finally winding our way through the pool's neighboring houses, I would roll down my window, because you could actually smell the chlorine several minutes before you saw the gated entrance. We would find a picnic table under a tree, and mom would stake it out with a red checked tablecloth and our Blue Coleman Cooler. Towels were piled on the bench and chairs unfolded as Gary and I would run down the grassy bank and head for the pool. My Mom would sit on the hill in the shade with a paperback novel until lunch time when we would eat the sweet tuna salad and lots of chips and brownies and Double Cola over ice. It would be great.

As we were preparing to leave our house that morning something unexpected happened. My mother was walking up and down the stairs to load up the trunk of our blue Ford Granada when she called down to Gary (our kitchen was in the basement - weird I know) to bring up the Double Colas, an 8-pack of heavy glass bottles housed in a divided, paper carton. Apparently, there had been something wet near the drinks so that when my brother picked them up the bottom released and glass hit the concrete floor of our old country kitchen. The glass flew in all directions like shrapnel and a piece lodged in Gary's calf. He hit the floor crying in pain, and chaos seemed to take over. 

My Grandma started screaming for Mom and in a few minutes, we were all in the car, heading not for the swimming pool but for the ER. I was crying for a different reason now, but not so that anyone could see.

After what seemed like hours, we left the ER with my brother's leg bandaged and under the bandage 6 stitches in exchange for the glass that the doctor removed, with instructions to keep the wound clean and dry. DRY. Great, I thought. There would be no pool. No picnic. I must have said something out loud about by brother's part in ruining the day because I remember that MaMa (pronounced "MawMaw") scolded me.

I sat quietly in the back of the car with my eyes closed, and when the car finally stopped, I realized we had indeed driven from the emergency room to the pool. Just like we planned! I was thrilled! My Grandma was flabbergasted. My Mom was matter-of-fact. It seemed to her that we planned to go the pool for a picnic and a half-day was still more fun than not going at all. She reasoned that Gary could wrap his leg in a plastic bag, sit on the side, and at least get the other one wet if he wants to. And, we all needed lunch anyway, and it was already in the car. So a picnic it was!

I remember my Grandmother retelling the tell later. "Anyone else would have canceled the swimming day if a trip to the ER became necessary," she laughed, "But not Janice, she never lets anything get in the way of what she wants to do."

I loved that about my Mom. She just made the best of things (like adding extra sweet pickles to the Tuna Salad). She readily admitted that she couldn't control a lot of what happened. She taught us to plan with joyful anticipation, to accept problems or challenges as part of the deal, and not let anything ruin the fun if it is within your power. And most of the time it is. Thanks, Mom. That advice has always served me well.

Image result for i can do all things through christ
No wonder this was one of her life verses.

#pleasantgreenswimmingpool #missingmom #philippians413 #justwrite

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Living in the AFTER on a Tuesday - "Through it All My Eyes are on You"

This weekend my husband and I were invited to attend a marriage thing. Our lives were hectic last week and the invitation came at the last moment. We honestly didn't want to go. I mean we sorta wanted to go, but the stress of our pace has left us with little bravery. We knew we needed to, but the mountain before loomed large. His schedule, my schedule, the dogs, the teenager, other things needing us. Apathy brought on by fatigue. I think we both heard the small but growing call, "You should go." So, somehow we did.

There are lots of words I could use to relay the purpose of  the weekend all beginning with "re":


All good words. All much needed. But, today I keep hearing a couple of things over and over. One was a point made during a Sunday morning devotional as a group gathered from our church to remember our savior and commune as one body.

The First point was this (in my words):

There was a difference in the apostles' boat that day on the lake before and after Jesus got there (Matthew 14 22-33). There was panic, despair, and doubt in the storm, but the moment Jesus steps in there is calm, confidence, and peace. There is always a before and after with Jesus. 

How often can others tell I live in the AFTER? My life should reflect the calm, confidence, and peace of Jesus' presence. Amen?

The Second point is this song:

It Is Well - Bethel Music (lyric video) - YouTube. This is a new take on the old hymn, and I hope you will close your eyes and just listen and rest.

The words wash over me like the "wind and waves [that] still know his name." I grew up listening to the hymn "It is Well" in my country church. As a girl, I had no idea what the words even meant.

I now know what it takes to sing those words, and it is not a fearless thing. I look up and the mountain just seems so overwhelming. Whether it is the mountain of responsibilities that don't want to move so that I can spend a weekend with my husband or a mountain that has broken my spirit as I view the devastation left in the wake of the realities of this life - there is struggle, loss, and crisis all around. And, sometimes there is just too much.

Still, Jesus climbs in my boat and invites me to trust in him. And, I don't have to know how he is going do it, but I just need to believe that he will calm the storms in my life. I just need to keep my eyes on him, through it all. "The wind and waves still know His name...[Who am I] not to believe?"

Let me live in the AFTER.

#justwrite #itiswell #throughitall #daughtersofjoy

Friday, October 30, 2015

Friday Thoughts About Good Gifts

A few weeks ago on a remarkable fall afternoon, I sat with family and friends, in folded chairs semi-circle style, as an adorable mom-to-be unwrapped a mountain of gifts. Most of them from her registry, things she had pre-selected for baby boy. She, like most jubilant first-time momshas endured the pre-partum countdown by thinking, planning and SHOPPING for his every need. This most loved and anticipated bundle will never know cold wipes on his bottom (why didn’t I think of baby-wipe warmer?), non-organic bedding, or naked, germy shopping carts without anti-microbial, designer, protective covers. His clothes will be the cutest little-man outfits ever, and she will carry him in the most stylish slings and carriers that will multi-task in ways my babies never knew. This is a special child, and he has had been carefully planned for.

What marketers and I know about my species, the parent, is also pointed out in Mathew 7:11; we know how to give good gifts to [our] children.” And, we delight in thinking about and planning for their future. As flawed as we are, we usually ere by loving our kids too much if anything. God can relate; His love for us is “deeper than the oceans and wider than the sea,” and He has been planning for and dreaming of our future long before our birth announcements (Psalm 139:16). 

I thought about God’s love again last week while watching a mom adoring her smiling baby. Moms (and Dads) are crazy about their children’s smile. Not long ago, I came across my third grade school photo, and I remembered how embarrassed I was that my mom had placed it in a frame on the mantel back then. My hair must have stood up in every direction! But, she would always say, “I just love that sweet smile.”  I think God looks at us and says something similar. We know we are goofy and a mess, but He claims us and adores us because we are His. 

And about those “good gifts” from God, He sent His own son, Christ, to die for a sinner like me (Romans 5:8). What a gift! Just like the baby boy above, I didn’t even understand my need, but God, my Father, did. From before the first sunset and long before my baby shower, God was thinking and planning for me, and you too.

#Goodgifts #Daughtersofjoy #justwrite #babyshower

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Wedding

We wound our way through the hardwoods along the drive to The Barn at Shady Lane  on Saturday for the big day of my step-daughter and her soon to be groom. This was the day to be married.
I mean if you are going to look in the big Wish Book of Wedding Days, you would order a day like this perfect Fall Saturday in October. The sky an endless arena of proud blue with only distant reminders that clouds existed at all, the air just warm enough for comfort and just crisp enough to keep our attention focused with every breath that this was not an ordinary day. This was the day to be married.

Lovely people gathered not in ordinary fashion but with a special attention to dress and order, with music to escort this company who would affirm and confirm the rightness of this ceremony.  Soon the stage was set for the Groom as his Dad, Granddad, Uncle and many other family and friends joined him to await his bride.

The drama of the moment was held tightly like an archer preparing to release, and as if we needed an extra cue the music changed to announce the moment. As the Groom turned, witnesses held their breath. We knew we both observed and participated in a hallowed moment, one that would forever change all the moments that would follow. As her dad held a steady course, the bride approached her future as she approached center-stage.  The words spoken next were significant and important and binding. Though barely whispers through restrained emotions, the weight of the pledges could be felt, if not heard, by all as yesterday’s hopes and prayers became covenant before God and family and friends.  This was the day to be married.  

In our ever changing world where “insta” is not fast enough, and all that is special seems lost on a culture that weighs the value of days by clever status updates, it appears weddings have become a competition for the best Pinterest boards. The rest of us have become a bit skeptical as we calculate the rising cost and wonder how we can keep up with the expectations when our children's day arrives. I have recently heard and debated the sanity of such events. I have a wedding planner, who is a daughter - thankfully, and believe me, our perspective on weddings has evolved with her expertise.

But tonight, on the eve after, I am struck with the beauty of it all. I am changed. I am reminded. It was not Pinterest or the Supreme Court, but God who dreamed of weddings. God had the first crush. He loved us first. We are his. He wrote this story for Laura and Luke because he is the God of romance and he throws the biggest banquets and he invites us all to the feast. Through the wedding day, we see who He is. God is love. And, He reminds us on Wedding Days; true love is worth a great cost. It should cost –but not just for the Caterer.  It should be a day that alters our calendars and is anticipated as carefully as are the planned invitations and menus. It is a crossing over that must be marked and remembered because who we were before is not who we have become. We are changed by the day. By the love. By our God who loved first and made plans for us.  This was the day to be married. This was the day to remember the love.

#Weddings #Justwrite 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A Good Day – Always a Choice

A day that begins with the stumbling up and crawling out as many mornings do. A morning that begins with beams of light through slats tightly closed to the outside. 

Ah, sunshine and hot water and caffeine and routine. Traffic lines and frustrations build for morning-folk in transit, but that is only the start and still there is time for us all. Many hours yet. Time to contribute to the world. Time to decide.  To choose to give. Give of gifts given. Must choose. There will be need and the option to give. Wants that will interrupt the flow. Desires that will intrude without apology. Differences in personalities, backgrounds, preferences. Differences that can frustrate and separate.  

Or, we find common ground with the world today - we choose to see ourselves in others and others in ourselves. Can we who have unwrapped grace, offer the same to the day filled with striving, awkwardness and angst? A privilege. A choice. When we choose to bless by our blessings, we make room, we dignify, we honor, we notice. Then we invite and entreat and encourage what we wish to see in the day by living it. Like the morning routine, we can crawl and resist, or we can embrace and bless. Either way.  

#Daughtersofjoy #justwrite #embracetheday