Joni B

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Meet the Blounts


As I think about writing this, I hear the robot from Lost In Space yelling, “Danger, Joni Shank.  Danger!”  There is a lot of judgment that comes from total transparency. Yet, these are the stories Holly loves.  You know they are true because you can’t make this stuff up.  However, when whack-a-doodle things happen there is dysfunction involved.  We all have dysfunction… just some of us more than others.  So… here goes.

Let me introduce you to The Blounts in this post.   The family consisted of Harold, Gladys and Mae Frances.  They were “there” for me my whole life.  Dysfunction or not, they were good to me.  My earliest memories of them are from a traumatic time in my young life.  It was the early 70’s and I was 2 or 3 years old.  My mom had some tumors and was sent away to a hospital in Boston for months.  My sisters stayed with friends as they were much older than I while I stayed with my grandmama and granddaddy.  I adored my grandparents, but they weren’t my mama.  I clearly remember crying into my grandmother’s shoulder while she rocked me and would sing about all the pretty little horsies.  We’d watch the Carol Burnett show, Lawrence Welk and it was during this period that my granddaddy turned me into a die hard Cardinal fan!  I didn’t realize until I got older how difficult this must have been on my grandparents.  They were worried about their little girl while at the same time having to comfort her little girl.  I had a hiding spot.  It was my grandmother’s closet.  I’d crawl behind her clothes and refuse to come out.  She and her sister, Inez, tried everything to get me out but I was too upset and afraid.  That must have ripped her heart out.  That’s when it happened.  They called Mae Frances to the rescue.  Mae used to tell me that when she showed up that day there was a plethora of cookies, candy, milk, soda, bacon, toys and anything they could think of piled on the floor in front of the closet to try to entice me out.  Let’s be honest, if I don’t come out for bacon….I ain’t comin’ out!  Mae, in all her Kindergarten teacher expertise, didn’t beg me to come out.  She yelled, “Hey Joni B!  I’m going to see the firetrucks!  Are you coming with me?”  The closet door flung open and I was in her little red rabbit lickity split.  We drove over the bridge and to Pickwick and to X-L for a Coke or Sprite Koolie all the while playing “I Saw It First.”  I swear she loved to make mad on purpose.  From that point on, I spent days and nights with the Blounts.  They became adopted grandparents to me and I was the grandchild they’d never have.  Before I can tell you stories, you need to meet them so, here goes….

Harold Blount was a State Senator.  By the time I came around, those days were long past but I still recall hearing people call him “Senator” when he’d take me on outings.  Now, I have heard tales from people around town that don’t always cast him in the best light.  I don’t know much about that.  I’m sure there are people around me who can provide insight into that.  The man I knew was kind and spoiled me rotten! I called him “Man.”  Mae told me one day “Let’s go back here and see this old, ugly man.”  From there on, he was “Man.”  Man always had a roll of Butter Rum Lifesavers that he’d offer me when I meandered into his man cave.  He never shooed me away but would pick me up, put me on his lap and tell me stories.  He’d take me to the grocery and buy me whatever I wanted.  I remember insisting on a box of Tide.  He questioned why in the world I wanted Tide.  There was a “free” towel with an animal on it that I had to have.  We went home with “squish” cheese, peanuts and a box of Tide.  When he died, I came home from college and snuck a roll of Butter Rum Lifesavers into his casket.

Gladys Blount was one of the classiest ladies I’ve ever known.  She was a Latin and French teacher at our high school.  She was a beautiful woman and she was my Mama Blount.  She treated me like I was her grandchild and to me, she was a grandmother.  She was an enabler, to say the least.  She thought it was love of that I am sure but it became very difficult as I cared for them in the final days. Mama Blount was born and raised in Kentucky and an avid Kentucky basketball fan.  She loved traveling to Europe and the royals.  She carried herself well and held some strong opinions.  She loved her family and she loved me and mine.  I loved the conversations we held especially in her final days.  She lived to be 97 and kept a strong mind until the last couple of weeks. I held her hand and sang hymns as she slipped into eternity.

Mae Frances was the only child of older parents.  She was spoiled.  She was a control freak and a manipulator.  She was a food addict and ended up morbidly obese.  She never married or had children of her own.  That said, she was the greatest kindergarten teacher ever.  She was my rescuer.  She was my confidante. She drove me nuts and we went horn to horn many times.  She had a beautiful voice and most of the time a good heart.  She called everyone in town all day and knew everybody’s business.  As soon as you said “Hello,” she responded with her key question “What are you doing?”  She gave up on life far too soon and died too early.  I might add she died on my birthday.  I knew she would.  When her health turned south the week before, I told my mama “Just wait and see.  She’ll hold on to die on my birthday.” She did.  My beginning days with Mae were some of my best and my last days with Mae were some of my worst.  I know this description is harsh but you have to get the clear picture to understand and be able to laugh at the stories.

Good or bad, the Blount’s weren’t blood but they were family.  I loved them dearly.  I’ll start the stories later, but today is for meeting and getting a glimpse into who I knew them to be.

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Remembering Me


I suppose this road I’m currently walking is one that has been traveled by generations of women before me.  It is definitely not uncommon but definitely new to me.  My boys are growing up and my husband is….busy.  I have found that I am constantly waiting. I’m waiting to be needed.  The last 20 years of my life have been a whirlwind of “Moooom…..”  I remember just wanting to take a bath without someone sticking their hands under the bathroom door.  Now, they drive themselves.  They do errands for me.  They can wash their own clothes and cook their own meals.  In a couple of weeks, JB will go back to Mississippi State, Caleb will start his senior year and my baby will start high school.  They love me but they don’t “need” me like they did.  Ron runs his IT company.  I’m thankful for it because it’s our livelihood but many nights I am asleep before he comes to bed.  I catch myself in front of a screen too much waiting for someone to need me or even talk to me.  I have no intention of being a screen addict.   So I’ve been facing the question.  Who was I before this beautiful mess of life sucked me in?  I have to find what it was I loved so that I can finally stop…. waiting.

I took my first step today.  I love being outside.  I love being on the water.  I love the solitude of nature.  I have a wonderful friend who has a cabin on the lake.  He’s allowed me to store my kayak there so that I can go out on the water whenever I wish.  I took my kayak down there today and paddled along the shore’s edge.  The lake was empty and peaceful.  That is until my dog jumped off the dock to get to me.  I paddled back and pulled him onto the ride on top kayak.  I’d rescued my dog and in his mind, he’d rescued me.  We were together.  What do wet dogs do?  You got it.  They shake the water off and he did so… aggressively.  So much so that I could no longer balance the kayak and he flipped us.  We both went down, kayak hit me in the head, dog on top of me with me trying to save accessories.  Somehow, my sunglasses are not at the bottom of the lake.  He panicked.  He tried to climb on anything solid he could find.  We both looked like drowned rats by the time we got to shore.  Only one of us pulling an upside-down kayak behind her. So, I collapsed on the deck and then into the hammock and….grabbed my phone for yep…screen time.  I mean pictures had to made and sent to social media, right?? I plan to spend many more days after school at the cabin especially in the fall.  I will paddle the shoreline again and take in the glory of the autumn trees.  I will take a thermos of cider and sit on the dock and watch the sunset.  I will invest in me again.  I will do it without my dog.

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Holly’s Prompting


I’ve not blogged in a very long time but my friend, Holly, has been begging me to write a book. I don’t know why. She says crazy stuff happens to me that is not normal for most people. I think it’s because she is from farther north and just doesn’t understand the southern way of life. I know some crazy stuff does go on but I don’t know that it’s really all that out of the ordinary. Sure, I just went for a walk at the gated park this week and a truck came plowing through and nearly ran down all the walkers and joggers. It was just an elderly man having an episode. It did get my heart rate up,  though. I’m not a writer. Perhaps I’m a better storyteller. I’ve told her I’d tell her my stories and she could write them down. She wants me to start writing my memory or just jot down my day. Some of my memories just aren’t fit for reading and will never be published anywhere but… I guess I have a few memories I can talk about.  I’ll start writing memories down tomorrow and perhaps this jotting down of my day will appease Holly for now.

This morning, I was sitting on the front porch swing (in my gown) with my coffee and my Bible when a neighbor yelled from the sidewalk that Coach Mac’s twin grandbabies were born last night and all is well. I think that’s normal but for some reason, Holly thinks stuff like that is classic. I don’t get it. She would have had a laugh today, though. I decided to go for an afternoon swim. Actually, I was going to float my hind-end on a Big Joe float and read. I picked up the float and gianormous spider came out and ran up my stomach. It’s a good thing I read my Bible this morning.  You know those giant water spiders. Good Lord, they are ugly as sin! I started swishing him over to the filter. That’s when I realized he was a she and there were a million babies on her back. I got them to the filter without incident. I climbed on my float and just as I got really into the ending of “The Paradigm,” I felt something on my arm. I looked down and I had a million baby spiders crawling all over me! They were running up on my arms, on my legs, my back, my chest & heading to my face! I jumped off the float into the water.  That didn’t do any good.  Those darn things walk ON the water! I splashed them, ripped off my bathing suit and started yelling “I’m not your mother!” I swam to the side with my suit in hand.  Once I was arachnoid free, I looked around to make sure my neighbors weren’t looking out the window and tried to discreetly put my suit back on.  It doesn’t go on wet as quickly and easily as it does dry, by the way. It was a struggle, but it did get my heart rate up.  I came in and marinated chicken for dinner. Normal day.  Happy Holly?

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The Gift


imageI now have 46 Christmases under my belt.  I asked myself a question this afternoon that pierced my soul because I wasn’t sure of my answer.

I am a gift giver by nature. I love it. I wish I had dispensable income so I could just gift everybody. I especially love those anonymous gifts. Those gifts that come when someone doesn’t know how they’ll get through the day or wonder how they’ll explain to their kids that Santa didn’t make it to their house this year. I love being in a store and seeing something perfect for someone and giving it just because it made me think of them. I love to get gifts with meaning. This year, a friend sent me a small foam can koozie that said “Thema” on one side & “Louise” on the other. It may be my favorite gift of the year just because of the inside joke.  Those “just thinking of you” gifts like a hand crocheted blanket, a child’s wildflower or handprint, flowers on a hard day, a donation to my favorite charity, those touch my heart. Gifts just seem to say “you are not alone and I got your back.”  Sometimes they are hard for me to accept, but it’s an expression that we all need.

Have you ever given a gift that wasn’t received as you expected? Perhaps you were struggling financially and really saved to buy someone something, but the reaction was lackadaisical at best. They had no idea your struggle. Maybe there was a family down on their luck and you knew what a HUGE blessing your gifts would mean for them and they didn’t respond in excitement, tears or even a thank you. I’ve given gifts to my family members that I couldn’t wait for them to open. I was giddy the entire Christmas season with anticipation of them jumping up and down telling me I was the greatest ever! Only for the gift to be opened, turned over a time or two & laid aside. That moment is crushing.

Today I was taking down Christmas decorations and I picked up my Jim Shore figure of Santa bowing at the “crib” of  baby Jesus. That’s when the question hit me.  Did I say thank You? Have I ever said thank You on Christmas to the One the gift giving is all about? I’ve always tried to make Christmas more about Jesus than all the stuff around me, but have I ever said thank You? Or have I left God hanging waiting for me to realize what He had to sacrifice? Is He waiting for me to not think He owes me and realize I need to be grateful? Do I leave Him giddy with anticipation of my salvation only to light my Advent candles a few times and walk away?

This has been a difficult Christmas for me. It’s been depressing. For the first time in my life, I’m among those bah-hum-buggers who are glad it’s over. However, that does not negate that unto me a Child was born, my Savior given. My soul should jump up and down with resounding gratitude.

Thank You, God, for sending your Son to take all my filth upon Himself. Thank You for a Gift I can never repay, but given in such grace, mercy and love. I am the most undeserving of all.

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Shankfest 2015


As 2015 comes to a close, there have been hard and hurt filled days. We’ve lost many friends and family members. Many tears have been shed. Some days we just try to put one foot in front of the other. Business, exhaustion, sadness, hurtful words… it happens. Such is life. BUT so much of our lives are filled with laughter and joy. Things are never and never will be perfect, but we are blessed and we thank God for all things trusting His perfect plan for our lives. Here is a look back at those moments in our lives that make life worth living… Thank You, Lord. How could I ask for more?

January starts with a slow down after the holidays. However, Ron left for India on somewhat of a secretive mission project. I hesitate to write more on this subject as it is so sensitive and could put others in danger. We had lots of prayer surrounding him and his work there. I’m thankful for all of those who interceded on his behalf. He arrived home safely – a little more humble, a little more grateful and a lot more burdened for what others go through.


February brings our widow’s Valentine dinner and Jon Garrett’s birthday. We have about 16 widows each year and we try to go all out to make their Valentine’s night a little less lonely. In the end, we are blessed beyond measure and humbled that God chose us to show His love. Each year, we are amazed at the different stories these ladies tell.

February valentine

Jon Garrett turned 12 and it was a little different party from the widows. They got in a hot sauce eating contest. Even the girls participated. Claire Beckham started the girls off as seen below and they turned out to handle it better than the boys. The girls loved my Snoopy cake. The boys thought it looked like Snoopy had his throat slit and as we lit candles, they insisted it was a Snoopy sacrifice.

February birthday

March brought a snow storm and then left mild enough for me to retreat back to my front porch sitting. My favorite refuge.

March snow


We lost a childhood friend, David Anglin, this year. A few of my classmates came together at my house to love on his widow, Tonia, who we also grew up with and who will always be a dear friend.

March class

April brings spring sports. We cheered Caleb on through baseball and soccer. Soccer is his sport without a doubt. One opponent smacked talked him. Caleb didn’t say a word but went on to score 4 goals in one game. That game alone landed him the MVP award at the end of the year.

April soccerapril soccer2

May brought the busiest month of the year. We went to Fort Morgan, AL with Caleb’s class for an end of school celebration. I almost didn’t go, but am so thankful I didn’t let that pass me by. I loved being with all the parents and kids. I have a years worth of laughter in just that trip alone. Between Ron, Bob Adkisson and Steve Cagle, we had our own comedy team along. Donna Williams taught me some dance moves, Stacey Blackwelder kept me sane and the others kept me out of trouble – kinda.

beachmay beach 2

It was Caleb’s 8th grade year at SCA which meant graduation. I hated to see that day come. There were 14 kids in his class and they (we) were more like family than friends.

may sca graduation

JB got his braces off and was also a Boys State delegate and was elected as State Senator while there. He was a member of the Boys State Band and a citizen of Krider City. He has mixed reviews of Boys State, haha, but overall had a great experience. We are so thankful to out American Legion for sending him.

may boys state

June we took a quick trip to Branson as part of Jon Garrett’s birthday gift. We were excited that Abram Adkisson was able to go with us. There is never a dull moment when Caleb and Abram are together.


July my best friends from Missouri came down. It’s always a balm to my soul when Holly, Tim and Boogie are around. We were somehow able to hear each other over the song of the 13 year locusts.  Awful! Holly and I took the Buddies up to Ridgecrest Camp in North Carolina. I’d type more, but we don’t tell what happens when “Thelma and Louise” go off on adventures.

july camp

We also had Matt Hadley come and take some Senior pictures of JB. I’m having a difficult time accepting this is his final year at home.  He also had all four wisdom teeth cut out and had to miss the very first day of his Senior year.

july sr pictures

August we celebrated the wedding of my “adopted” son, Matt Hadley and Carmen Justice. Beautiful wedding, beautiful people! I might have pulled a little prank on Dave Frey while there, but that’s censored here too.  My grandfather was inducted into the Hardin County Sports Hall of Fame and it was a highlight to hear Phil Fulmer speak.  My granddaddy would have been thrilled…and humbled.

august weddingaugust

September brings football games, college acceptance letters and my birthday. Sometimes life gets overwhelmingly disappointing and can hurt in places that I never let anyone see. I only say that to emphasize how incredibly thankful I am for my friends, Jenifer Edwards and Dave Frey. Jenifer makes my birthday cake every year. It’s the same birthday cake my Annie Laura always made for me. I came home from work after a very difficult day and there was a huge bouquet of beautiful flowers waiting for me from Dave. Those one acts of kindness meant everything. When someone who doesn’t have to remember your birthday goes out of their way to say “you matter”, it’s the best warm fuzzy ever!


October – I had the bright idea of having a 5th quarter after the first home game. I had at least 70 people in my house that first night. After that, it turned into tradition, and my Friday nights were filled with kids and friends. I love my 5th quarter crew! Fall nights, homecoming week and parades….great tradions!

octoberWe also celebrated Caleb’s 15th birthday and had friends for Halloween and the boys ended up in pumpkin gut war while carving jackolanterns. You never know what will happen in this house!

caleb bdaycalebday2pumpkinwarhalloween 2015

In November, we took our annual Christmas Kickoff trip. We had Thanksgiving at Keeter Center, went to Christmas Fest at Silver Dollar City and then on to Rolla to celebrate with the Broyles, Vonder Bruegge’s, Frey’s and Garrett’s. This is my favorite time of the year.

november bransonnovember rolla

In December, my baby turned 18. We celebrated he and Ben Coleman being born together and becoming men together. Christmas was filled with lots of parties, overindulgences, joy, reflection. That reflection can bring sorrow, but Christmas brings the ever-present hope we have in Jesus. We know all is well and always will be because unto us a Savior is given.

december bdaychristmas 2015Here’s to you, 2015. Thanks for the memories! Happy New Year everyone!

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