Seven Generations Later and the Dixons Come Home

 

 

If one trait has been passed down from generation to generation in the Dixon family, it has been perseverance. Josh and Ashley Dixon and their children have it and then some!

Today this large family are putting the finishing touches on their dream house in Defeated Creek, located on the original site of the farmhouse settled in the early 1800’s by Josh Dixon’s ancestors. Their farm, located in Smith county, has been in the family for seven generations and was given to them originally with a land grant.

Josh and Ashley met at church and dated for 6 months before tying the knot. “When I started dating Josh I saw a man who had an amazing work ethic, already had his own house and farm and I knew he was the type of man who would always take care of our family,” notes Ashley. “We didn’t plan on having
a big family but I came from a big family of 6 girls and Josh came from a family with 4 children so it was definitely something we were used to.”

As their family grew, their small construction busines flourished as well. Josh had been working construction since he was 10 years old and hard work was something that was instilled in him at a young age. However, in 2008 the market crashed and things went south in the construction business. The
Dixons made the difficult decision to sell the family farm and the home they had spent four years remodeling. By then they also had three children under the age of 3, a car and house payment and they had no other choice. They did, however, find a way to keep 45 acres of the farm with the hopes that they could someday return.

At that point, they left their beautiful remodeled home and moved into a 2 bedroom rented trailer, determined to persevere. Josh continued construction and took a factory job at night. They kept working the Dave Ramsey financial plan, saving their pennies and staying out of debt. This meant no credit cards and shopping thrift stores and goodwill for their growing family.“It’s amazing what you can do on so little!” Ashley remarks.

Soon Ashley was pregnant with baby number 4, a baby boy. Ashley says his name was whispered in her ear at a friend’s house. “It was the craziest things. It was like an Angel told me to name him ‘Logan’. I don’t know why and I still don’t to this day, but I believe one day I will.” After renting for a few years and the market making a comeback, they decided to build on the 45 acres
that they left. It was a crazy spot to build but we went for it. Josh continued to build small custom homes and take on remodeling jobs with his company ‘Dixon Homes’, while building the family home as well. They also started flipping houses and kept adding to the family too.

Then one day the person who had bought their original home reached out to them that she planned on selling it and wanted to offer it to them first. They Dixons, of course, jumped at the chance to have the old homestead once again be part of the family farm.

And as if they were not busy enough, Ashley had also started homeschooling her happy family of now 8 children, while also having them participate in gymnastics and baseball and enjoying family trips in between.

But Ashley is the first to admit that she had struggles along the way. After their 5 th child, she suffered from postpartum depression and anxiety. “By using micronutrients I was able to heal myself and now I use Instagram to encourage other mothers who may struggle with the same issues. My handle is @takingbackmoterhood and I love sharing what I’ve learned along my journey. As you can imagine our life is a little different than families of a smaller size because everything over here is bigger! Bigger meals, bigger shopping trips and bigger planning!”

So how does this family of ten manage homeschooling, a business and just day to day life? Ashley says that she likes to take her advice from God and how in Genesis God said it was evening and morning the first day. “He started the day at night, so preparing for the next day the night before is really helpful. I
am also a work in progress minimalist. I try to keep my children’s clothes to a minimum so there is less laundry overall, focusing on quality items over quantity items. If they won’t be fitting into it by the next season out if goes. I use apps like ‘Mercari’ to resell clothing so that I can reuse that money to buy what they need. I have never had a problem shopping second-hand clothes and shoes and when I do buy new, I shop sales and use websites like ‘retail me not’ to get cash back online.”

As for groceries they family cooks a lot of meals from scratch, buy from Sam’s in bulk and often buy a whole cow from a local farmer to have it butchered to fill their freezer. The boys also love to hunt so they eat deer as well. Ashley is just like the rest of us though and notes “Walmart grocery pick up is a
blessing!” She continues that “habits are so important for managing a large family. Starting when the kids are young, we teach them simple things like taking off your shoes when coming inside and putting them where they go. Hanging up backpacks as soon as they get home from tutorial and unpacking and putting away their lunchbox. I teach all of my kids to put away their own laundry and as they get older how to do their own laundry as well. Instilling good habits just makes life easier, even if it’s harder at first. And we are definitely not perfect and that is ok. Sometimes things work and sometimes they don’t but we just keep going till we get it right.”

“The kids are also involved in the business. A good work ethic is so hard to find these days and we felt if the kids were allowed to work when they were young it would produce more productive adults. I always say I’m raising the kids to be adults and not kids. We do pay them for work and they save money and
buy things they want. It’s important that the children learn the value of hard work because if we just buy them something they wanted ourselves, they would not learn that lesson.”

“It’s all about deciding what is worth it to you and thinking about the things you can make do without. Doing without the things you don’t need enables you to save more for the things you really enjoy like trips and hobbies. And the truth is I have grown with my children. It’s like a body of water, if it never moves it gets stagnant. I’ve had to adopt to life changes and I’ve had to learn to grow where I need so that the family can function well. It’s been quite a journey and in many ways we are still at the beginning stages and we look forward to that!”
And while 2020 was rough for the whole world, the Dixons have stood strong in their faith, family and business. They are now in the process of building their final home on the original site of the ancestorial farmhouse and hope to have it ready to move into by Spring 2021. While the road home has not been easy, the Dixons want to use their story to inspire others to reach for their dreams no matter how crazy they may seem.

Josh and Ashley have come full circle and are now exactly where they were meant to be!

Ebel’s Tavern

Founded in 2017 by husband and wife team, Cole and Erika Ebel, Ebel’s Tavern has become the centerpiece of the Carthage downtown square. And that seems only fitting since Ebel’s Tavern is located in a century-old building
made of solid brick and stone, right in the heart of town.

When Cole and Erika first moved to Smith county in 2012, they were not necessarily interested in starting up a new restaurant. Instead, they were looking for a simpler life, having each served in the military, air force for Erika, and army for Cole. They loved the hometown feel of Smith county and thought it was the perfect place to raise their three children. Upon moving to town, they soon became involved in various community groups and events and
realized that there were not that many places to socialize.

And the idea of Ebel’s Tavern was born.

  • The Ebel’s family (L-R): Colin, Cole, Evangeline, Cason, and Erika

“We wanted to incorporate a family-friendly, classy atmosphere where community could come together, eat good food, drink well-made drinks and have fun,” notes Cole. During a downtown event in 2016, the Ebels noticed
that the historic building was for sale and just for fun, called to ask about it. Next thing they knew, they made an offer and soon were the new owners.

One might think with no experience in the restaurant business, the Ebels would have been terrified of such a new business venture, but that isn’t their style. “We’ve both traveled the states and world and have enjoyed many
different cuisine styles and we wanted to bring some of those tastes closer for others to try,” continues Cole.

Ebel’s Tavern is a steak and seafood restaurant primarily. Specializing in everything from snapper, grouper, fresh oysters and scallops to calamari, shrimp platters and even lobster stuffed mushrooms, you definitely will find something you’ll love on their menu! They are also known for their delicious steaks that are all hand cut, upper 2/3 grass fed, grain finished and aged 21 days. While the grouper and scallops are local favorites, the oysters are extremely popular as well.

In addition to quality food, Ebel’s Tavern has become a place where the community can gather. The tavern has live music every Friday and Saturday night supporting local artists, a poker league every Wednesday night, family fun trivia on Tuesday night and a Thursday night dart league. And the Ebels continue to work towards filling up every night with an event that supports the community.

The success of Ebel’s Tavern, however, is definitely a group effort. While Cole and Erika certainly are very hands on, they are first to give credit to Janie Jones the General Manager of Ebel’s Tavern, as well as Chris Underwood, their Chef and Vince Vaughn, their Sous Chef. The Ebels are thankful for not only their hard work but also their loyalty especially during the last few months.

And while the restaurant is certainly near and dear to their hearts, the Ebels have not only enriched the town square with their new venture but stay  involved in other ways as well. Both are now involved with their local
government with Erika serving on the County Commission and Cole being part of the City Council. As active Libertarians, they are involved not only in government but also other groups that support their community including River City Ball, Smith County Living, Smith County Help Center, Keep Smith County Beautiful and are constantly on the Caney Fork River with a passion for keeping it clean and promoting river tourism.

To say they’ve embraced their new community is an understatement, but the best is yet to come. While expansion is certainly a possibility, for now the Ebels are content on concentrating their efforts on making Ebel’s Tavern the best it can be for the community they’ve come to love and call home.

Q&A with 3 Mayors

 

What important decisions must you make during your first 90 days in office?

RB: During the campaign, I talked with citizens throughout Lebanon, and three areas of concern emerged from those conversations. In the first 100 days, these need to be addressed.

City of Lebanon Mayor, Rick Bell

First, I will work closely with the Finance Director to better manage the budget. I will also ask each department head to look for cuts in their respective budgets. With many homeowners and local business owners facing difficulty and with an unknown economic future, it is essential that we relieve any unnecessary tax burden.

Second, I will work with the Planning Commission to implement a plan of growth management. This will include a deep study of the Comprehensive Plan that has yet to be approved. We must use the compiled data to create a multi-level strategy to tackle immediate concerns and plan for long-term goals.

Third, we must create a plan to attract restaurants and other amenities to Lebanon. I will work with the Economic Development Director to implement a plan to promote our city to regionally and nationally known businesses and to
incentivize the investment in locally owned businesses.

_____________________________________________________________________

Watertown Mayor, Mike Jennings

MJ: As I am continuing in office with another term, I don’t know that I can identify any new decisions that must be made during the first 90 days. We will continue to pursue funding for the installation of the railroad turntable and
identify our source of long-term funding for the major sewer project about to go to bid.

_____________________________________________________________________

City of Mt Juliet Mayor, James Maness

JM: Board and committee appointments, selecting a replacement for the open District 2 seat.

_____________________________________________________________________

WL: What long-term goals are you coming into office with?

RB: My first long-term goal is to ensure that Lebanon runs financially efficient. We must spend citizen’s tax dollars wisely and in areas that enhance quality of life. This includes, but is not limited to, keeping everyone protected in their homes and neighborhoods; improving the infrastructure of the city; and
creating recreational opportunities for people of all ages.

Second, we need to take advantage of Lebanon’s strong position as a place where people want to live. With the proper strategy, we should be able to choose the type of development that we want and where we want it to be located.

Third, we must promote Lebanon’s assets to attract the types of businesses that we want. We have several things – Vanderbilt Hospital, Cumberland University, Music City Star, Lebanon Municipal Airport – that make our city unique in Middle Tennessee. Instead of waiting for someone to come to us, we will go to them and show them why they need to invest in Lebanon.

MJ: I have pretty much the same goals I have always had. I want to offer our citizens as many things as possible while continuing to maintain our small-town atmosphere.

JM: Reducing the fire ISO rating to a four in the city, completing our transportation projects, adding additional park land and greenways.

WL: What do you believe your city’s biggest challenge is right now? And what are your plans to find a solution for this issue?

RB: Lebanon faces several challenges, but I believe that growth is the biggest. Over the past four years, the city has grown tremendously. However, we have experienced the challenges of growth without reaping the benefits that should
come with it. As I stated previously, we must implement a plan that will prepare us for both. The first step is to study the Comprehensive Plan to determine issues that need to be addressed immediately and to map a strategy for the future. With the proper strategy, growth can be managed, and we can choose the type of community that we want to be.

MJ: The biggest challenge is always money. Many people may not realize that citizens of a small community like Watertown expect you to offer the same services that larger towns and cities do. Police and Fire Protection. Parks and
Recreational opportunities. Safe drinking water. An efficient, working sewer system. Paved streets. Codes enforcement. Opportunities for employment. Many of the expenses to provide these things continue to increase with inflation, increases in population, etc. The challenge is to do the most
you can in the most efficient, economical manner.

JM: Our biggest challenge is transportation. In 2019 we passed our long-term transportation plan. We have to ensure staff has the resources they need, and the funding is there to present shovel-ready projects to the state.

WL: How do you plan to manage the inevitable growth that is coming our way, with the “small town” quality of life many citizens want to retain?

RB: During the campaign, I talked about protecting Lebanon’s identity as a place where we can spend our lives; raise families, and watch as our families grow. Protecting our historic core is an important way to do this. For over 200
years, the square and downtown area has been the heart of Lebanon. We must ensure that it continues. We must also protect our established neighborhoods
throughout the city. There are many neighborhoods where people have raised families and are spending their retirement years. These areas have to be protected from the encroachment of higher density subdivisions.

Also, we need a traffic plan. For people in some parts of Lebanon, they can get to Mt. Juliet quicker than they can get across our city. Better traffic flow can make life less frustrating. It can also help people better enjoy the attributes
that make Lebanon a special place.

MJ: It’s difficult because there are just so few things that you can have input on or manage. We have been fortunate in Watertown to have slow, sustained growth. That offers you more opportunities for input and control. Folks who live in Watertown daily may think they don’t see any change. But, if they will look back 3 years, 5 years, 10 years, and more they can see what I mean.

JM: One thing we have pushed for is lower density growth. There is a high demand for the area, and we try to balance the demand to develop an area with required open and green space. It’s also important for the growth to be compatible with the area and add value. It’s important we do not settle for just anything and continue to demand high standards.

WL: What will you do to bring more, higher-paying jobs or industries to the area in order to keep our younger citizens from moving away to larger cities with more opportunities?

RB: When businesses relocate, quality of life for their employees is an important part of the decision-making process. As I stated earlier, we must promote the assets that will put Lebanon at the top of their list. We have Vanderbilt Hospital, which has a reputation of providing excellent medical care. We have Cumberland University that creates a skilled workforce. We have the Lebanon Municipal Airport for convenient corporate travel. We have the Music City Star that provides public transportation to downtown Nashville. However, we must also improve our recreational facilities Businesses want to be in cities that provide greenways, parks, and athletic fields. These are places that provide recreational activities but also provide ways for people to be part of the overall community.

MJ: We will continue to look for those things. But, it is more difficult to do in a town that is 10 miles from the interstate system, rather than having multiple interstate exchanges available like Lebanon and Mt. Juliet have. But, we will
continue our efforts. We have some very good small industries here with some fair paying jobs. I think we have the opportunity for more of those. And, I have always tried to identify the businesses that will be “good corporate citizens”. It
needs to be a two way street between government and industry.

JM: One thing we are actively working on is the recruiting of white-collar jobs to Mt. Juliet. Providence Central was recently approved and will provide long-term traffic relief to the Providence area while having the space set aside for the type of jobs many of us commute to other cities for. Mt. Juliet was recently found to be the most cost-effective local government in the state. Keeping taxes and fees low, proximity to the airport, and a great workforce are some
things we offer to attract jobs.

WL: Under your leadership, what will the city do to improve the quality of life for both younger families as well as our Seniors?

RB: Quality of life can be defined in several ways. For some people, it is more places to dine and shop. For others, it is navigable sidewalks and greenways that provide opportunity for exercise and a way to move around the core of the city. For many, it is parks and better athletic fields for their children. For a lot of people, it is a place like the Senior Center, where people can congregate and socialize. For most people, it is a city that places importance on beautification. I will work in each of these areas, and more, to ensure that quality of life for the citizens of Lebanon improves.

MJ: I will continue to lead, and encourage, our City Council to pursue the things that blend into, and compliment, the things already in our community. I have been blessed to have a very cooperative and, I think progressive, City Council over the years who want the best for their community. Many people may not know that none of us receive a salary, or stipend, for what we do. We do it for public service seeking the best for all the citizens of our community.

JM: One thing we recently did was donate land for the senior citizen center. We also have required age restrictive communities to donate to the senior citizen capital fund so they can construct a new center. We are also actively looking
to expand our park land. Recently, in the last few years, the city opened several smaller parks and expanded our greenways. I also plan to explore ways to encourage family activity centers, such as skate centers, bowling alleys, etc. to
build in our city in ways that are not cost prohibitive.

WL: In your role as Mayor, what can you do to improve our education system?

RB: The Lebanon Special School District is independent from the City of Lebanon. However, we know that growth greatly affects the school system. I have asked the Planning Director to speak with LSSD officials when he is researching a potential development. Understanding the impact of a development on the school system is an important part of the process. If school officials say that a development will place a tremendous burden on them, then that should be taken into account when the Planning Director recommends approval or denial.

MJ: Continue to cooperate, and assist, them in any way we can. We have had a long, proven track record of working with all our schools (we have three inside the city limits) to assist with traffic flow, safety, and, through our recreational leagues primarily, provide some part-time employment for students.

JM: I think our parents, teachers, and school administrators deserve the credit for our great school system. One thing the city has done has been to encourage, when possible, the building of age-restricted developments (i.e. 55 and over) which pay into our schools without increasing the load on the school system. We can also work to streamline the building process for our school system when they need to build schools in the city.

WL: Where do you see your city 5 years from now?

RB: In five years, Lebanon will have a plan that manages growth and ensures that it is positive for everyone. It will also be a place where people have a variety of options in dining, shopping and entertainment. It will have a vibrant
downtown core where local residents will gather and people from other cities will travel to spend money. It will be on its way to having a sidewalk and greenway system that connects the entire city.

MJ: I see the slow, steady growth continuing trying to meet the challenge of providing 21st Century businesses, employment, etc. while continuing to maintain our small town image that we have come to be known for. Especially
around our Square and Central Business District.

JM: We will have our third fire station opened and operational, a reduction in our ISO safety rating. Many of our proposed transportation projects will be started and some complete within five years. By that point, we will see the
addition of some needed park space.

WL: Where do you see your city 20 years from now?

RB: In twenty years, Lebanon will be a place that provides a high quality of life for its residents. There will be a completed greenway system that connects neighborhoods and parks throughout the city. That quality of life will help
make it a hub of high-tech jobs. While some people will ride the Music City Star to Nashville for work, others will ride to Lebanon to enjoy our historic downtown and other amenities. It will be a city that prides itself on beautification and strict building standards. It will be a city that its founders and the generations who have lived here would be proud of.

MJ: Very similar to where I see the city in 5 years, however, I do think the urban sprawl that has affected Mt. Juliet over the last 20 years, and to a lesser degree Lebanon will become more of a challenge to future leaders. In school, we learned from the 19th century the encouragement “to go west, young man.” Here, in our County, over the last 20 years or so, it seems the encouragement, and actuality has been “to go east, young man.”

JM: We will see the completion of some major transportation improvements and see Mt. Juliet positioned as not only an edge city but a destination city offering diverse jobs. Mt. Juliet will be a city people commute to and not from. In 20 years, one thing that won’t change is Mt. Juliet will still be one of the safest and family-friendly cities in the state.

 

Our Sister’s Keeper

There are 231,000 women and girls incarcerated in the United States. Women’s incarcerations have grown at twice the pace of men’s incarcerations in recent decades and has disproportionately been located in local jails. In Tennessee, white women have been the fastest-growing segment of Tennessee’s state prisoners. The number of incarcerated white women increased 117% from 2003 to 2018 compared to 29% for white men.

Research shows that the majority of these women incarcerated suffered from major trauma as children – including abuse, homelessness, and abandonment. Left to fend for themselves, often at very young ages, they, for one reason or another, often end up in the criminal justice system. And once in the system, find it almost impossible to get out without family or support to teach them how to change their lives. A fact that did not go unnoticed for Brittany Davis, an Assistant Public Defender with the 15th Judicial District.

The more involved Brittany became with her many clients within the criminal justice system, the more she realized that they needed more than just legal help. She shared her worries with her friend Suanne Bone, a long-time Wilson county resident known for her community involvement, and together these two strong women formulated a plan to offer help.

Our Sisters Keeper, Inc. is a non-profit recently formed by Suanne Bone and Brittany Davis that will advocate for these very women in our own community jails, both during and after their time in the criminal justice system. “Currently, we serve the General Sessions and Criminal Court in Smith county,” notes Brittany, “but we hope to serve the entire 15th Judicial District as resources
become available. That includes women in Wilson, Trousdale, Macon, and Jackson counties as well.

Currently, with Brittany assigned to Smith County courts, she is able to identify women in the justice system who are in the greatest need in Smith county. She connects these women with Suanne, the Executive Director of Our Sisters Keeper, who is the liaison between the women and determining their needs to lead a purposeful life outside of jail. Services include long-term drug and alcohol treatment, rehabilitation, and mentors and other partners committed to the women as they start anew. To help get the non-profit off the ground, Suanne pulled together various members of the community who also wanted to be part of the solution to this growing issue. The current board of directors includes Brittany Davis, Carl Hudson, Stephanie McCaleb, Jack Bare, Jeff Cherry, Shelley Gardner, Angel Kane, Russell Parish, and Cathey Sweeney. In its inaugural year, the non-profit has its work cut out for it but hard work isn’t something this group shies away from.

First on the agenda is finding permanent office space. One office will be the administrative office where the following services are offered: coordination of rehab beds, teaching the women how to reinstate their drivers license, resume building, interview skills, job placement, housing placement, expungement of criminal records, and completing their education. The second office will be a boutique furnished with donated clothing and hygiene products where the women can “shop” and choose pieces for their new life.

“I remember one of the first ladies who participated in our program. I picked her up from the jail and was taking her to a rehab facility where she would be staying for a few months and she literally had almost nothing to take. She had a few personal items in a garbage bag. That was her whole life. As we were just starting the non-profit, I called on friends and family for anything we could pull together to give her, some clothes and a bag of her own to put her belongings in. You would have thought I gave her a million dollars when I gave her a bag of clean clothes and toiletries and her very own pretty bag to carry it all in, “ Suanne notes. “How can we expect to raise someone up like this, when, if and when she does get out of rehab, she doesn’t even have clothes to put on for a job interview. It’s needs like this that we take for granted but make a huge impact on success for many of these women.”

And if we help these women, the end result is not just that these ladies lives will be forever changed but also the generations of women that will follow them.

aCross Tennessee, Shine Your Light For All To See

What started in 2018 as neighbors on a 4 mile stretch of Sykes Road putting up crosses at Christmas, has turned into a movement that is exactly what we need this 2020!

It all started when Robin Underwood was driving home from work one evening in late 2018. “I was looking at all the lighted Christmas scenes in yards. It was Christmas time, but where was Christ? I saw snowmen, Santa and all his reindeer, even the Grinch, but where was Jesus? That really sat heavy on my heart. I’m not knocking by any means that we use Santa or snowmen in our decor, but I thought wouldn’t it be neat for children and families to be reminded of the true meaning of Christmas. So, I started thinking about what we could do to share the true meaning of Christmas – the birth of the Savior of the world. Wouldn’t it be great if people came through our little community of
Sykes (that is so small you would blink and miss it) and saw lighted crosses in every yard proclaiming the gospel from the hilltops, from the barns, from the valleys. Wouldn’t it be a glorious sight?! We would be reminded of the true meaning of Christmas every day as we made our path home, we would be reminded of the greatest love story ever told, we would be reminded to slow down and focus on the most important things in life. Soon after that, Clete and I shared the idea with our family over Sunday dinner table talk and they were on board. Our homes were the first to erect a lighted cross scene and then we began making flyers and going door to door in Sykes to spread the word.”

Forty or so other neighbors on Sykes Road joined in and then it expanded from there with a few others in and around Smith County. “It was a glorious sight to drive along the little country road of Sykes, TN, and see all the variety of crosses.”

Robin continues, “We then began seeing crosses come up in other areas of Smith County and had many Facebook messages and requests from the community to make this a countywide event. So, when November 2019 rolled
around, we announced the expansion on “aCross Smith County.” We started a Facebook page with a website so folks could register their crosses. We ended up with 1200 registered crosses in Smith County!”

As news about the crosses spread on Facebook and other news media sites, crosses started popping up in several states and those crosses began to get registered as well.
“It was so joyful to see crosses being erected. They were so creative, we had one of Santa kneeling at the cross and manger, they were on barns, CHRIST spelled out in lights, the traffic on Sykes Rd increased every night as people
came to see all crosses. We also drove out every night just to see what new ones had popped up.”

And it wasn’t just families that participated, businesses participated as well as churches. People stopped at crosses and prayed in yards, children added crosses to their barn playsets in their rooms, they colored crosses and shared them on Facebook.
“The community really showed off big in the love of Christ,” says Clete.

In early 2020, the Underwoods were invited to Christian Day on Capitol Hill to share their story and success of “aCross Smith County.” It was there they first shared their expansion to “aCross TN’ for the upcoming 2020 Christmas season. “We would like to see the cross lighting ministry expand to “aCross America”. Our world is so divided and we just need unity. Jesus is love and our world needs love more than ever.” notes Robin.

What started with the humble beginnings of 47 crosses in one tiny community has spread to every corner of Smith County, and to eight other Tennessee
counties and nine other states. People are reaching out daily from across the nation to learn more and to participate.

Clete states that “our mission is to keep Christ in Christmas and share the love of Christ with the world. As Christians, we are told to go into all the world and share the gospel. What an easier way to share the gospel than with a lighted cross in your yard, field, barn, business, or church and show your love for Christ.”

The Underwoods are gearing up for a lot of work this coming Christmas season as the movement has no boundaries. With the world in crisis right now and people asking what they can do to help, this cross-ministry is the perfect place to lend a hand right in our own backyard!

To help promote or volunteer with the cross lighting ministry within churches and communities please contact Robin Underwood at 615-489-5921 or email her at RobinUnderwood75@gmail.com. You can find the ministry on Facebook at aCross Tennessee or their website at www.aCrossTenn.com (website and
logo are compliments of friends at Better Letter Printing). And if you are wanting to participate with your own cross, be sure to go to their site and register your cross as well.

“Light a cross, be creative, help a neighbor that may not be able to make a cross on their own and let your light shine for all to see!”

 

 

Pool Days Are The Best Days

Take A Dip Into the World of Gene Kulas Pools

  • Pool Days Are Great
 

There is something to be said about sitting out by a pool on a hot summer day. And one man, who definitely sees the benefit in that, is local pool builder, Gene Kulas.

Gene and his wife, Leanna, live in Lebanon and soon will be moving into their forever home built on Leanna’s family farm. Their pool is still in the planning stages but chances are it will be spectacular!

Gene was raised in Hartford, Connecticut. The son of Polish immigrants, he grew up speaking polish at home and being the interpreter for his parents. He also grew up visiting his aunt and uncle who lived in Mt. Juliet and soon fell in love with the area. At the age of 16, he moved in with his aunt and uncle, ready to make middle Tennessee home. Immediately upon arriving, he went to work with Roy and Janet Vaden of Roy Vaden Pools. He would often work for them and then later that same day work at Big Lots and when not working those two jobs, would be found at Mega Market sacking groceries.

He was taught work is good for the soul from his parents and grandparents and since the age of 16 he has continually been working to support his family.

After graduating high school, he continued to work for Roy helping build pools with him and soon after met his wife, Leanna (King) Kulas. “Becky Sellars was a friend of mine and she was working at the pool store with Gene. She set us up and the rest is history!’ , states Leanna.

In 1997 Gene and Leanna married and together have built a wonderful family and thriving business. They have two children Anna Cate who is in college and Alek who is a Senior in high school.

Gene Kulas Pools has been in business since 1998 and Gene tries to only build 8 to 10 pools a year because he does the job himself from start to finish. “I remain on the job the entire process. I can build a pool, renovate an existing pool and also help design and build outdoor living environments. I’m also a licensed contractor and electrician and have been building pools from the ground up now for over 25 years. With proper planning, there’s nothing we can’t build.”

Every year, Gene takes classes to be sure to stay current on the latest building trends and innovations. Automation is becoming a feature everyone wants and with smartphones you can now control your entire pool with an App. Some of his favorite pools that he has built include a guitar-shaped pool he built for a Nashville musician which was featured on the Today Show and recently he built a lazy river pool for a family in Franklin.

To come up with his ideas, Gene will sit with the homeowner and find out their wish list and their vision. “I take into account the architecture and color of their home, is it rustic, modern, or formal and how the yard lays. I have built small pools for exercise and large pools and spa combos. If you can dream it, I can build it.”

Keeping the business small remains a priority for Gene. “I don’t have a storefront or big overhead. I don’t do much advertising either. My clients come to me based on referrals which makes me feel good because that means I did a good job for somebody else.”

The future looks bright for Gene. His son is becoming more and more interested in the pool business and the family will soon settle into their new home in Lebanon – a home Gene built himself at night and on weekends.

“By next spring we hope to be enjoying our own pool and I’m excited to start building more pools in my community as I plan to stay closer to home so that I can come home at night and finally enjoy my own pool!” Gene Kulas Pools can be found on Facebook and Instagram at @genekulas_pools

The Road Home

By Angel Kane

As I sit here on my porch this early Saturday morning, I’m amazed by how time flies.

Four years ago I wrote an article about our oldest child leaving for college. At the time I thought my heart would break. Dropping her off and driving away was one of my toughest days thus far. I sobbed for the first hour and for the second and third hour, my husband and I sat in almost complete silence driving home. 

We were always trying to teach her to be strong and self-sufficient, but to be honest we didn’t think she was listening! 

And then she was gone. 

Four years have passed and since then our #2 has followed in her sister’s footsteps and gone off to college. (A different one in a completely different direction because that’s what middle children do!)

And in that time we’ve survived. 

Probably because #3 is still here and we are completely obsessed, with him. Some mornings, I literally just stare at him eating his breakfast. 

“You’re doing that thing again. It’s freaky.” he used to tell me. (Apparently a completely normal phenomenon for parents trying to soak in the last few years of child-rearing. ) Bless his heart though, four years later, he no longer says anything and just lets me stare. And then he gives me a long hug goodbye before he heads to school. 

But next week our eldest returns. 

I remember the first year she was gone, I followed her every move on my Verizon App. I’d obsess if she wasn’t in her dorm by a decent hour. I’d fret over her wardrobe choices and friend missteps. And if she didn’t text back for over three hours, I’d start calling her friends to look for her! (True story, and now she responds a little more quickly.) 

When she was happy we were thrilled, when she was sad we were crushed. She studied, she worked, she traveled. And each time we’d see her, she was a little smarter, a little stronger and a lot more self-assured.

She returns with two degrees in hand, a job lined up an hour from home and not the little Madi we dropped off with her matching dorm room bedding and twinkly lights. 

I like this Madi more. 

She survived and thrived and learned she could stand on her own two feet. That’s what we wanted after all. 

Soon after I wrote my initial article, I was at the park walking. Glenda Davis was walking too. She may not remember, but she called out to me and said, “I read your article, just know it gets easier. She’ll be fine. This is what we raised them to do. “ For some reason, her words brought me the peace I’d been looking for. She had once been in my shoes and knew how the story ended. 

So for all the mammas that are dropping their first-borns off this week, just know time will pass quicker than you know. They will call you heartbroken, they will call you overjoyed, each experience is a step to who they are meant to become. 

And those steps will eventually lead them home. 

LET THEM EAT CAKE & other tasty treats!

It was a love of baking instilled in her from her own mother that started it all. And from that little spark, Italian Mama’s Bake Shop was born.

Lauren Costley lives in Mt. Juliet with her husband Brandon, their sons, Collin, Luke, daughter Tessa, and their fourth child, Barrett, just arrived on May 6th. When she isn’t mothering or working in the family hardware store and mechanical business with her father, then you’ll find Lauren in her kitchen – baking.

“I was very fortunate and blessed to grow up with a Mom (Sharon Caputo) who was always cooking and baking. So, naturally I have always loved to cook and bake, whether it to be for my family or my friends,” notes Lauren. “After my Mom passed away in 2008, I really started to cook more and more because it reminded me of our time together.”

A love of family and a love of cooking are an integral part of Lauren’s life these days. “When Brandon and I started our family I began to have an interest in baking even more. I loved to make my kids birthday cakes and cookies. My friends started asking to buy cakes and desserts from me and at first, I was reluctant but gave it a shot. From there I started doing a little advertising online with my sister-in-law and it’s now taken off! Everything I’ve done has been something I learned from my own mother or just getting in the kitchen and giving it a try.”

But Lauren readily agrees she could not have done this alone. While her husband isn’t one to bake, he will help her when needed running to the grocery for necessary ingredients or cleaning up behind her. Her boys, on the other hand, don’t mind pitching in when its Pizza night, but it’s little Tessa who loves to put on an apron and help mom out in the kitchen.

“My sister-in-law Gina will also help me out with larger cakes or large events like parties or weddings. She is very talented herself and that’s how our name came about. We are both full blooded Italian so we thought it fitting to be known as “Italian Mama’s” Bake Shop.

Italian Mama’s offers all sorts of different treats from Italian cookies, decorated buttercream iced sugar cookies, different flavors of scones and breakfast/brunch desserts, cupcakes, cakes, cake pops, and brownies. They also are becoming very well-known for their gorgeous wedding cakes. “

The wedding cake trends I see and just love are the simpler one tiered cakes,” comments Lauren. “It’s a more affordable way to have multiple cakes with different flavors and designs for your wedding. Also, the semi-naked cake with gold drip and the two-tiered fresh flower cake with gold brushed paint, are both very popular right now and those are the ones we did for the Wilson Living Magazine wedding photo shoot.”

Lauren still considers her baking more of a hobby than a full-time business but her select few clients are keeping her very busy these days and no doubt, with her talent, we will all be hearing more and more about this Italian Mama!

If you are interested in any of her tasty treats then you can reach her at (615) 306-6355 or at 2italianmamasbakery@gmail.com. You can also check her work out on Instagram or Facebook at @italianmamasbakery.