Friday, October 27, 2017

More Than a List - More Than a Job

It was on my list. My daily to-do list. The one that tells me I have made a difference each day. I have always worked off a list either mentally or physically. I am wired that way I guess. I am a planner. A list gives me hope for the day ahead. Without a list, I sometimes lose track of myself and wonder what I accomplished that mattered.

Today’s list included audit review and follow up, postage machine install, buying an ice machine for the office kitchen, completing reports, a meeting, approving payables, and being available to notarize documents at 2:00 pm. I had worked my way to the last item by 2:00 pm and was answering an email when Alisa poked her head in and asked if I was free to do my notary thing.

I walked into the family room. There was Alisa, the caseworker, and two young women (one blonde and one brunette), a tall young man, and an adorable, bouncy, baby girl with blonde angel curls sitting in the center of the room. All attention was on this child. One woman held her tiny left hand, and the other held the right. I realized then that this was an adoptive couple and a birth mom. I rarely see this process. I sometimes see babies, sometimes parents, but rarely see the process unfold. I have never seen it at this stage before.

The room seemed filled with a mix of anticipation, joy, and a bit of anxiety. I felt a pang as I looked at the birth mom. I was filled with the thought of giving up one of my girls, and I could not imagine what she might be thinking as she sat in the room. (Adoptions are not all the same, and many are a joint venture between birth parents and adoptive families that continue beyond the paper-work in support of the child – what a remarkable thing!)  I do not know this young mom’s situation, but I know she is brave and probably a bit scared. All I know for sure is that I admired this pretty stranger who had options that may have seemed easier months ago when she chose life for this baby-girl.

Then I shifted my focus to the parents, and we walk to my office because it feels awkward to sign the adoption petition in front of the birth mom. This petition changes things. I chit-chat and congratulate the young couple. They see the pictures of my girls and ask me about them. As I comment on how fast (my) children grew up, I am thinking about the chubby legs still bouncing on the ottoman down the hall. This child will grow up too quickly for this young couple as well. That is what babies do. There will be dresses and bows, “Pat-your-Bible,” “Jesus Loves Me,” Barbies, boys, and sleepovers and one day they will wonder where all the days went. Oh, but they will get to have days- sweet, exhausting, precious days! I imagine all the memories they will make together because of the other young blonde woman sitting in the same room down the hall. The gift of all those sweet memories still to come is possible because a birth-mom is making a heartbreaking, courageous decision, and there is a caring and thoughtful advocate for both moms and the new dad, and there is AGAPE. A place to call when there is a family crisis, a child in need, or when you need help sorting through options whether it is adoption, marital problems, stress, or depression. For 51 years there is AGAPE with professionals trained to help.

I do not always get to see the work we do close up. I sign checks, meet with vendors, have planning meetings, and sometimes I forget how special this place is. AGAPE is a special place, and I work with special people. So, as I shut my computer for the day and looked back over the things I accomplished on my daily list, I said a prayer of thanks for AGAPE, a place where the to-do list represents more than just hope for the day, its signifies making a lasting difference and participating in work that matters.


Friday, August 11, 2017

Good Things Come in Threes Too.

Good Things Come in Threes Too.

I was talking with some friends last night over dinner. We were discussing some crazy luck of a mutual friend the week before. It was one of those days where it goes from bad to comical and you either laugh or cry. You know, you spill a drink at dinner and ruin your clothes, then go buy a new dress to change into but get out your car and realize it will not start, and in investigating it, you ruin the new dress you just put on. All true for this friend and thankfully she laughed. One of my friends said as he was remembering the events, “Bad things come in threes!” It does seem that way often.

I was thinking about that this morning while talking to a colleague, Kim, about what an awful week she has had. I mean the work she does is hard even when it is good, but this week has been HARD. She has been on the front-lines, she is battle-worn, and she is weary and when I looked at her today, I could see it in her eyes. She is hurting for all those she has tried to help this week and asking herself, “Why couldn’t I do more? Why couldn’t AGAPE do more? Why is life so hard for so many?”

In her week, there was certainly three ‘bad things’ to list and more. There were mishaps in the systems causing delays and pains for her regular tasks. There were court appearances where the ruling went against our prayers (and we fear for the future for the kids). There was unexpected death leading to much sorrow, heartache and uncertainty for the child left behind.

She just left my office with tears in her eyes ‘cause it keeps getting worse. As I watched her walk away, I said a prayer of thanks. Not for all the hard things, but for the good things that are in the midst of the hard. I said a prayer of appreciation because God brought my new friend and colleague to AGAPE to work with us. Kim brings laughter in the door with her every morning and she brings joy to her calling of helping children and their parents. She is wise like a mentor, but giggles like a girl when she is having fun. Kim is a good thing.  

There was a foster family prepared to step-in immediately and help a young child during the most devastating time in his life-the death of a parent. He is without family, but a temporary family will care for him until he is reunited with his extended family. Foster Parents are a good thing. 

Kim has a job in Nashville where she can be near her grand kids, and Christians serve our community as foster parents because of an organization like AGAPE that exists to help families and children in the worst of circumstances and fills in the gap for many when there is no one else. There is hope, help, and healing because for 50+ years AGAPE has been doing this HARD-WORK. 

AGAPE is a good thing.

Good things come in threes too. 

#justwrite #thisisagape #goodthings

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Garbage Can.

As I backed out of my driveway this morning, I was reminded that it was Wednesday. Humpday to weary 9-to-5ers, but also garbage day for those of us on the mid-week rotation with Franklin Disposal. I put the Pilot in park. As I wheeled my big blue receptacle to its resting place, I felt a sense of peace. No big deal, I know this. However, there were many Wednesday mornings at the beginning of this 9-year journey that I felt ‘not peace.’ At times I felt sad, or angry, but not usually peace. I remember that first day in May 2008 when I rolled the garbage can back down the driveway in my fuzzy pink bathrobe. It was probably the first time I had done that in 5 years. Always in divide and conquer mode, Brian did garbage can duty. I did morning routine duty. I did hair, sock searches, and refereeing of early morning squabbles over cereal and pop-tarts. Brian did garbage duty for almost 20 years. I remember looking up and seeing my neighbor, Julie, as she watched with tears in her eyes. She also knew that Brian King did garbage duty. Brian was gone.

I was not sure I could do it, not garbage-can-duty, of course. It was everything all at once and nothing would ever be the same. The garbage can became a symbol for me over the years. 
I am not sure why, but I didn’t adjust well to the garbage-can-duty-thing. I was confused about how early the garbage guys would come, and what about holidays? Seems so simple as I type this, but I often found myself trying to race, bed-head and barefoot, to get to the street before the schedule-conscious truck passed, often leaving the can at the curb past the HOA acceptable time limit. This of course causing an appointed deputy of all things Homeowner Association-like to issue me a helpful reminder delivered by personal post. It was a struggle. However, there are many things I handled with ease, much more complicated, time-sensitive, and consequential matters that others might find overwhelming, but I never quite fused the nuances of refuse disposal into my sub-conscious. When I forgot the schedule or missed the memo concerning holiday pick-up in those early days, I can remember just being angry all over again at the thought that garbage-can-duty was supposed to be Brian’s.

In case you were beginning to worry about me, I am actually quite adept at the job of Trash Captain now. I made a deal with “The Man” when I moved to let me leave my “Big-Blue” by the house so there is no remembering to put it on the curb, only to put bags in the can. Smart! This morning, though, I was reminded of all those feelings in those early days, and I realized I hadn’t felt that way in a long time. Peace.

More changes are in store and I am moving into new space again. My baby-girl is out of high school and she is not a baby. She is grown-up. She will not be living with me in just two short months, and I feel different but good. 

It is almost like reluctantly moving to a much smaller home, but then finding out that the view is more amazing.  

I am transitioning to a new place. I am going from I have to, to I get to. I no longer have to have milk in the house because I am responsible for other humans, but I get to cook dinner when everyone comes home because it brings me joy... There will be no lunches to have to pack (even though I enjoyed it) for Hatty this fall, but getting to schedule coffee or lunch with her across town when it works for both of us. She buys her own shampoo and tampons. I don’t have to check the school calendar. I don’t need to pull the parent duty.

I get to choose how I spend my free time. Weird.

 I get to check in with my older girls to see what is important and have meaningful exchanges without the need to make all the decisions for them. I am a silent investor now. I am still deeply vested, but they have their own big-blue-responsibilities and I have mine (Yay). It is the same with the garbage now. It is my big blue receptacle. Who’s else would it be? I get to roll it back to its resting place and be thankful to have a curb on which it can sit, at the corner of a yard, where the house is my own.


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