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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

I Saw A SHARK In The Clouds....

I Saw A Shark In The Clouds…

I really did…

I saw a shark in the clouds today. Not a cloud shaped like a shark, the clouds surrounded the shark and the shark was just this big old Jaws Great White Shark in the middle made up of nothing but beautiful blue sky. And then I looked to left and I swear there was a big mouthed bass, and then to the right… a catfish…all the same way. Now before you go thinking I was dipping into Old Grandpa Cough Syrup or was out in the woods nibbling on mushrooms, let me put your mind at ease. I was in the truck going down the road somewhere between Florida and New Mexico.

See, we are a ‘travelin’ band’. We go from one side of the country to the other to play our little songs, not because we think people need or even want to hear our little songs…but because we are either…artist who must pursue our craft…or …we are crazy as a bedbug. Most folks go with the latter. But we travel long distances and we cover a lot of the country and up until today, I let a lot of that go pretty much unnoticed. I am not proud of that.

I don’t know exactly what the term for ‘fear of traveling in a vehicle’ is called…I am sure there is one. But I got a bad case of it. It is unreasonable and just this side of insane, but I have horrible anxiety attacks when I ride in any car or truck, train, plane, bus, motorcycle, little red wagon, horse and carriage…you name it.  It was not always that way. I can remember loading up my kids and traveling alone from Florida to Memphis, TN without thinking twice. The thought that we might be in a car accident or break down in the middle of nowhere never entered my mind. I loved traveling, I loved driving, and I loved seeing new places. And then it happened. I got ‘that phone call’. You know… the one where they say, “Ma’am your husband and little boy have been in a car accident. Your husband is at one hospital and your son is at the Children’s Hospital, we are not sure if they are stable.”  I had just met my next door neighbor, (who is still one of my closest friends today) but I ran over and said, “Take me somewhere…I don’t even know where, I don’t even know where the hospitals are here.”

They were both okay in the end, but the trauma of seeing my little boy in a neck brace and his head swollen like a basketball and not even knowing the condition of my husband did something to me that day. A lady had just pulled out in front of them…. just an instant in time… and our lives would never be the same. I think that is when my mistrust of anything mobile started. We all know the moment we get into a vehicle it is not just our good judgment, but that of a million others that count, but it is probably not normal to worry every second, then again, being normal is not something I have ever been accused of.
Maybe if that had been the only incident, I would not be so crazed, but add that to:

“Ma’am this is the Sheriff’s Department, we have your husband at the emergency room..he was in an accident and someone finally found him.” (He was okay too)

“Mama, we were in a car accident, your grandkids are a little shook up but we are all okay… the van is totaled but we can get another van.” (Praise the Lord)

“I don’t know how to say this but your Aunt and Cousin were in a car accident, your aunt was killed instantly… your cousin is in intensive care, you should come now.”

The last one was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. I was convinced there is no safe place on the road. And the last one about my Aunt and Cousin…..is what takes us back to the shark in the clouds.

I know you are wondering by now how the two could possibly be connected. Well, I’m gonna tell you. My Aunt was married to my Uncle Junior who was like my other father. He lost his wife and almost lost his only daughter,( his first had been taken by breast cancer) in that accident.  I didn’t think we would survive the whole thing and (forgive the pun)… it put the nail in the coffin, so to speak, with me and the love of travel.  But my Uncle Junior and Mama Bess told me I needed to get over that and gave the old adage “Get back on the horse”, so I did. But the fear never completely went away. So I will travel…but I also will be either reading a book, working, playing a game or sleeping. Basically, I go into the ultimate denial stage and just pretend we are not going down the interstate at 70mph. And this worked until a few years ago…. the night an 80 year old man got confused and went down the wrong side of the interstate hitting the car in front of us head on. Once again we were very fortunate to have minor injuries, but I remember thinking, “See, I told ya’ll, the road is not safe and we should all move into caves and protect our loved ones.” I was back in fear mode once again.

Fear is a horrible thing. Fear is paralyzing and never leads to anything good. Fear is the main ingredient that Satan uses in his prize winning recipe to keep us from ever doing anything, enjoying anything, or serving God in anything. He uses it like a drug. Fear is addictive, once you have picked it up it is almost impossible to put it down without a strong intervention. Uncle Junior passed away last week, it was very hard to let him go. He was that rock you knew you could turn to in time of trouble. I think he was also my ‘strong intervention’. Something happened to me when I said my last goodbye to him. I was reminded of every conversation we ever had. One of those conversations was about all the wonderful things we get to see on our journeys, and I said, “Well, I don’t see a lot of things because I am too busy trying to pretend I am not going down the road.” I laughed, but he didn’t. He said, “You have to stop that, the best part IS the traveling and seeing all the different things. Do you know how many people would LOVE to have a job where they got paid to travel? I sure would. Most of us have to pay to go anywhere and you get paid to appreciate and enjoy all the things God has made. You need to put those books down and look out the window now and again.”

I said he was right and I would try, but I didn’t. Like some other great wisdom that has been shared with me, I just put it in the back of my mind with the excuse that he just didn’t understand how afraid I was, how the fear had taken over any common sense. Not a fear for myself or my life. I do not fear death… it is a different kind of fear and anxiety that is not rational and not easy to explain. Then on the way home I got the call, he had passed away and all I could think was what he had said so many times. “Today could be it for any of us and we should probably act that way”.

When we left yesterday to go back on the road…. he was on my mind so strong I found I could not read a book or write, or play solitaire or listen to music. I just sat and looked out the window. And there it was…a perfect shark in the clouds. I love the “name that cloud’ game and I still play it with my grandchildren where we lay on the ground and say what the clouds look like…but this was different. It wasn’t the clouds making the shape. It was the sky making shapes around the clouds. It took my breath away. I had been looking at it all wrong. Thinking the clouds were in control, when the sky was in control the whole time. There was something very comforting in that thought. A peace I had not felt in a long while. Don’t ask me why it was a shark…I think my brother, Kenneth had something to do with that…he took me to see Jaws and was an avid fisherman, AND he had a warped sense of humor just like me!!

But there it was, undeniably talking to me. I am not saying Uncle Junior’s passing was a way to teach me a lesson. It was his time to go, he had been anxiously waiting to go and join his wife and child, his Ma and Pa, his brothers and sisters. But I do think… no… I KNOW he has enough pull up there to make a couple of miracles happen. I imagine it this way. He went to Mama Bess and said..”Well, she is still doing that whole ‘fear of traveling’ thing and missing out on some amazing things God is trying to show her…and Mama Bess said…well you give it a try…she is obviously not listening to me and Kenneth chimed in with  ..make it a shark.”  And so there it was….I saw a shark in the clouds…actually I saw a shark in the sky and it was swimming through the clouds! I expect to see a unicorn and squirrel before this trip is over. I don’t need to be afraid, fear is my enemy. Be safe, take all common sense precautions, and then …what will be will be. Whatever happens will happen but in the meantime I have been missing all the blessings around me. Fear is the devil’s playground. He knows if he can keep us scared, he can keep us from being a witness. He revels in stealing our joy. The worst Christian witness is a ”miserable Christian”.  Fear and anxiety and worry can make you awfully miserable. The fear trap waits around every corner in many shapes and forms.  The bible says over and over, ‘Fear not”.  I think fear is our need to be in control. The enemy knows that and uses it against us.  But…”Yea though I walk through the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me…” 

I think I have taken so much for granted. Uncle Junior was right. There are many people who cannot even get out of bed, who would love to see all the wonderful sights we see every day, while I bury my head in a book and pray for time to pass so I can get OUT of the truck.  Shame on me! And shame on all of us who do not make the very best of every single minute. The devil found my Achilles’ heel and he has made great progress with me. I plan on stopping him in his tracks.  My heart may still beat a little faster than it should, I may never completely get over the anxiety of traveling, but I can make an effort to appreciate the little things, open my eyes and my heart to the enchantment of the earth God created. Heck, we may even seek out the world’s largest ball of twine, maybe kiss a dolphin or pet a dolphin (whatever it is you do with dolphins) stop at every ‘Historic Landmark” on I-10 and take a pic or maybe  I will chase a prairie dog or two this trip and take one home to the McFarm. What I will not be doing this trip is burying myself in ‘busy stuff’ to shut out the fear. We are all on a journey of some sort and any number of things can happen to us along the way. Might as well sight see….

 Thank you Uncle Junior for another lesson, and thank you God for Uncle Junior and for being bigger than all my fears.

~Squirrely Girl

Monday, May 6, 2013


Who IS Gonna Fill Their Shoes?

We were all saddened to hear about the death of George Jones, one of the legends of country music. He died at the age of 81. He will be missed greatly. He was one of the major influences of country music. I know he gave me years of enjoyment and a great respect for traditional country music. Nobody could sing a song like "The Possum".  When he sang, "He stopped lovin' her today"...you believed it with your whole heart and soul...you could feel the pain with every perfect note. We were playing in Vinton, La when we heard the news and that night when we played one of his songs, I couldn’t help but cry. One of the greats had passed on from this old world and I knew things would never be quite the same. It was truly the end to an era. A generation of music. 

But then today, the biggest loss to the world came and my life will never be the same. His name was Roy Junior Carroll, he died at the age of 82. To many he was just Junior or Uncle Junior, to me he was and always will be Unck. That was my nick name for Uncle Junior. I was blessed with so many wonderful uncles and aunts.  They were all unique, they were all talented, they were all funny, smart and amazing and they all hold a special place in my heart.

But I only had one Unck…he was Mama Bess’ baby brother and she said from the day he was born he was special. He had a spirit about him that is hard to explain, because I don’t know who to compare him to today. As a matter of fact, I am afraid that with the death of my Unck…much like George Jones…there may not be anyone to “fill his shoes”. You see Unck was a different sort of man. He was strong and dependable without being mean or bossy. He was spiritual and pure without being judgmental. I can’t remember him ever saying a bad thing about anyone, yet he could correct those he saw stumbling without being offensive. He did it sternly in love. What a unique talent. What an incredible thing that is lacking so much today.

I grew up just feet or yards or inches away from Unck…(he always noted I had no sense of direction or distance, so I should be watched closely at all times…basically what he said was, "You can't find your way out of a wet paper bag and the only child I know who needs directions on how to get out of a tree she just climbed"...hehe)! His daughters were like my sisters..some people call it ‘cousins’..but we knew better. We knew that we were just sisters you could get away from when you wanted to. Unck probably got on to me more than my own parents because I practically lived at their house. I would show up…usually around meal time (which was my second dinner or supper…yeah... back then we didn’t have ‘lunch’ we had breakfast, dinner and supper …’lunch’ was just something you got at school)  and I would bebop in and say, “Hey Unck…what we having for supper?” And he would say, “Hard to tell, but from the smell of it, I think it might be some peas and corn and okra, with something fried and it better be cornbread, ‘cause you know we can’t eat without fried cornbread.” (The man literally would not eat without some sort of bread on the table...now ya know where I get that little obsession).

I think I pestered the living daylights out of Unck for most of my life, but his quiet chuckle always assured me that he would love me no matter what. See Unck was the baby of the family and I was the baby of the family, so he understood that I had some strange belief that I was special and could get away with anything. He even understood I was never even called anything but “Baby” until I was like 35 years old. If someone said my real name, I knew I was in serious trouble or at the doctor’s office. I think that was one of the reasons we had such a special relationship, that and the fact that I spent every other night of my life at his house with my ‘cousins’. He had no problem coming and telling all three of us to ‘not make him come in there again’.  I would start giggling so loud after he closed the door, he would open it it back up and say, “And I mean it too!”  I knew he meant business so I would bury my head in the pillow and giggle until I fell asleep or passed out from lack of oxygen.

We reminisced about those days just a month ago. It was the day before we left to go on the road. We looked at pictures and laughed at all the memories. When it was time to go, he held my hand a little longer, and I hugged him a little tighter than usual. Maybe somehow we both knew that might be the last time. I don't know, we were too busy laughing about the time we all went on vacation and wet chickens came flying out of our motel room when we checked in to think about such things as 'last goodbyes'. 

That is just a sampling of the memories I have of my Unck. As the years passed we would share many laughs, good times and some devastatingly bad times. We shared the loss of his parents, my parents, my brothers, his brothers and sisters, both watched our children suffer with cancer and then...losing my favorite aunt and cousin….his wife and daughter.  I did not think we would make it through some of those days. He could have acted all macho and strong and resilient, instead he held me and cried right along with me, showing the true strength of a man. I have seen him be angry but resolved not to let anger take control. I have seen him be humble and proud... only of his children, grandchildren and recently his great grandchildren. I have seen him be silent when most men would have raged and I have watched him take men twice his size down with a simple look and kind but firm word.

Today has been a really bad day. I can’t seem to stop crying. And it is not only because I am sad at losing a special family member. I think it is because I am afraid. Not just that Uncle Junior has passed, but because there is only one aunt left on Mama Bess’ side of the family. That means that whole generation is almost gone. And I am afraid that somehow we might not live up to the standard they set for us. I will admit I am more than a little worried that I don’t have what it takes to be the leader, the example that Uncle Junior and all the others were to us. It is scary to think that my nephews and nieces might look to me the way I looked to Uncle Junior…what a dismal disappointment that might be. I am afraid of ‘stepping up to the plate’ I guess.

George Jones may have made a mark on the world in country music, but my Unck made a mark on the world as a man of God who never sought anything for himself and everything for others. There may be a young artist who can come along to fill the shoes of people like George Jones, Conway Twitty, Tammy Wynette, and Loretta Lynn. Someone that can reach out and touch people with a song that leaves a lasting impression, but I pray that those of us who are now the ‘aunts and uncles’… can come close to filling the shoes of people like Uncle Junior and leave the lasting impression the world really needs. Be patient with us all you young folks…we have some REALLY big shoes to fill. I think the first thing Unck would have done is be honest and admit that he was scared about being able to get the job done.

Rest In Peace Unck….I don’t know how I ever got special enough to have you be a part of my life…but I thank God for it everyday!!!!

For you ...from your Squirrely Girl  Niece~

"Will The Circle Be Unbroken"...Chuck Wagon Gang