Two brick and mortars, a thriving online store, a podcast, a new lifestyle brand, an upcoming bible study series…and all conceived, carefully curated, and managed by the 25-year-old owner of Poppies Boutique, Sarah Collins. Impressive isn’t it!? Before sitting down with Sarah, I did a little research. Given all that she has going on, I assumed she was in her mid-30’s. When I found out she was just 25-a full two decades my junior, I felt like Chris Farley’s character in Tommy Boy. Then I met her. She’s smart, kind, creative, and has one of the most infectious laughs you will ever hear. Plus, she shares my affinity for all things Golden Girls. She’s like a unicorn! Continue reading “Things are ‘Poppin’ at Poppie’s Boutique”
Therapy dog and her owner give back to young readers
As a Registered Nurse Alison Keenan spent her career caring for others; however, she found herself on the other side of the lab coat in 2015. Keenan was diagnosed with terminal blood cancer.
Recovery from a bone marrow transplant was difficult. Keenan spent one month in the hospital and three months homebound. She shared that her dog got her through the hard times.
Keenan made a vow that somehow she would use her experience to help others. “I thought, ‘There has got to be something I can do to give back,’” she recalled. “I was given this second chance.”
Keenan found her calling in a dog named, Piper.
Keenan, who moved to Wilson County from Wisconsin, had owned several dogs during her life, but Piper, a Golden Retriever, was special. “When I started training her, I envisioned more of a service dog. I had a total knee replacement and needed her for balance. A service dog is trained to be devoted to only you, but Piper was so engaging that it wasn’t fair to her,” Keenan said. “I pulled her out and into a therapy dog program and she blossomed.”
Both Keenan and Piper went through extensive training with Intermountain Therapy Animals and one of its registered programs, R.E.A.Ding Paws.
“The first program was six weeks but it also entailed eight hours of class for me as a trainer. You can teach a dog to do anything. You have to teach the trainer how to train,” she said. After that, the dynamic duo had to pass an exam with other handlers in various scenarios. Because Piper is trained to offer support everywhere from classrooms to nursing homes, she had to become familiar with those environments.
“When we passed, we became registered and supported by an insurance program. We are insured as a team,” Keenan added. “We have been tested and proven we can meet the requirements of going out into the public.”
When the family moved to Tennessee, they were eager to integrate themselves into the community. Piper spends many days visiting the elderly at McKendree Village in Hermitage and veterans struggling with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Still, children are her forte.
Keenan realized Piper’s interest in children early on. “When she would hear kids in a commercial on television she would wake up and try to find those kids. It became really clear to me that she loves children. She wants to play with them. She isn’t afraid of them,” she said.
Keenan reached out to the Lebanon Wilson Public Library about their unique services through Reading Paws. The Reading Paws program launch in 1999 helps struggling readers by having them read to the therapy animal.
“I reached out and let them know we would like to come once a week. This was something that hadn’t been done there,” she said.
Two young children from the private school next door, Cedars Preparatory Academy, came every Thursday to read with Piper. They didn’t miss a session for months. Their mother introduced Keenan to Cedars Prep teacher Brittany Sewell. Sewell helped arrange for Piper to visit the school beginning in 2019.
Currently, Piper visits Cedars Prep on Monday mornings. Prior to her visits she follows protocol including, but not limited to, bathing and having her teeth brushed so she is shiny and clean for reading time.
The maximum a therapy dog can perform duties in these situations is two hours. Otherwise, the animal can become stressed and tired.
Piper spends two hours weekly at Cedars, where she works with eight students. “We work a lot with teachers to identify who are the kids who need support and one-on-one motivation. The kids get to turn the tables a bit and be the teacher. They tell the dog what is going on in the book and their interpretation of the story,” Keenan said. “Children improve their reading skills in a unique and fun environment, free of performance pressure. That makes a huge difference for a child.”
The program is free of charge. Keenan simply wants to uphold her promise to give to others and support her community.
“I’ve seen the magic that happens when you take a child who is reluctant, afraid, or challenged in their reading ability and give them that consistency and support. I’ve seen that working with a dog becomes a success for them,” she said. “I was given this wonderful animal with a lot to share and it only seems right that I give back.”
Keenan has written Piper’s story in a children’s book, “Piper Finds Her Special.” It follows Piper from getting trained to become a Therapy Dog and how she discovers what makes her special. In the process, Piper and her family learn she only has one kidney but triumphantly overcomes health issues. The book is in its final stages of publishing and will be released in the spring.
No matter where you grow up, to the young, the grass is always a little greener somewhere else. Bryson Eubanks was certainly someone who wanted to spread his wings.
Bryson and his brother Lee were raised by their single mother, Marie Eubanks. “We lived near Carroll Oak-land school and it was the late 80’s, early 90’s, so Wilson county didn’t have as much going on as it does now,” notes Bryson. “Growing up I attended church at Immanuel Baptist Church, went to Lebanon High School, played baseball, football & basketball, the usual things kids from around here do. My family is very close so I was usually with my brother or my cousins, Lisa Eubanks Nave or Michael Eubanks but I always figured I’d move away.”
After high school, Bryson attended Carson-Newman where he continued his baseball career. Later he obtained a Masters in Gerontology from Appalachian State. “When I was growing up, my great-grandmother was very important in my upbringing. She would babysit my brother and I when needed and taught us many life lessons. It was tough seeing her fall ill because she was the first person I had ever seen age and progress through the later stages of life. I watched my entire family come together to care for my great-grandmother. There were not many options back then nor was there information as to what options were even available. We did what we could to help insure her later years were good ones, but it was then I knew my calling would be working with the aging population.”
After obtaining his Masters Degree, Bryson returned to middle Tennessee, settling in Nashville working for two of the leading attorneys in Elder Law. My adult life has been focused on the field of public benefits, Medicaid planning, VA planning, and asset protection. It was while I was working for Tim Takacs that he and another attorney came to me and encouraged me to attend law school because I had a real knack for elder law. I laugh now because most attorneys I know don’t like math but I loved it. I was really good at reading the Medicaid laws and then figuring out how to reallocate client’s assets to meet Medicaid rules.
To say his mother is proud of the fact Bryson not only has a college degree, graduate degree and now a law school degree would be an understatement. “We didn’t have much growing up but I instilled in Bryson and his brother that an education and helping those less fortunate than you, are two things that will always steer you in the right direction.”
“I learned so much working with Tim and later Barbara Moss. They are both outstanding attorneys who specialize in the areas of estate planning and elder law. In fact, it was also at Barbara’s office where Bryson met his wife, Miller Hunt, also an attorney. The couple will soon be celebrating their one year anniversary and are excited about all their future holds.
“After law school, I knew the right place for me was back home. Back to my roots, back to my family and friends, back to where all this knowledge could really make a difference. So I knocked on a few doors and here I am, back in Lebanon practicing law with the law firm of Kane & Crowell. It’s a great fit because the firm already handles estate planning and I’m able to offer even more services to their clients by bringing my years of experience in elder law as well as asset protection. Plus it was about time the law firm hired a male attorney – I’m their 6th attorney and the only male, which makes for lots of laughs every day.”
Senior Law Partner, Amanda Crowell points out that “helping families has always been our goal, but as we ourselves are getting older, we are seeing the need locally for more expertise in the areas of Estate Planning and Medicaid and VA Planning. That’s why when we met Bryson, we knew he would be a perfect person to lead our Estate Planning & Asset Protection Division, with our other local attorney, Kayla Horvath.
Bryson points out that “U.S. News and World Report previously published an article that stated that 75 million Baby Boomers are on the verge of retirement, and over the next twenty years, approximately 10,000 people will turn 65 each day. The same report goes on to say that 18% of adults will be over the age of 65 by 2030, and the number of senior citizens in the population will total 89 million by the year 2050. To add to these staggering numbers, the parents of these baby boomers are living much longer than their parents due to better medical care, easier access to nutritional choices, and a focus on exercise and well-being.
These facts are important because the cost of long-term health care is rising as fast as those aging into it. The 2018 Genworth Cost of Care Survey presented facts from a study done by CareScout showing that nursing home care in 2019 will cost a resident between $78,960.00 and $84,588.00 per year; additionally, lower levels of care in an assisted living facility or at home will cost between $17,952.00 and $48,456.00 annually. All of those numbers are up from the previous year and can only be expected to rise; therefore, how people pay for long-term care is very important. Statistically, one in three Ameri-cans over the age of 65 rely on Social Security benefits alone.”
Being proactive is always the best option, but no matter the situation or timing, Bryson’s goal is to help clients face disability, aging, and the rising cost of long-term care head-on. Kayla Horvath, who has been with Kane & Crowell for several years notes that “our approach is a holistic one that focuses on care, finances, and the law. These three focus areas will work together so you and your family can answer questions such as:
• “Does my Will really do what I want?”
• “How will we provide for our disabled child when we can’t take care of ourselves?”
• “Who will make financial and healthcare decisions for me when I can’t?”
• “What do Medicare and Medicaid actually cover?”
• “How will I afford nursing home care, and will Medicaid take everything from me?”
• “Can my status as a Veteran help me in any way?”
Attorney Angel Kane, one of the founders of Kane & Crowell Family Law Center, commented that “everyone knows us as a Family Law and Estate Planning law firm which is what we do, but Elder Law is something very different from typical Estate Planning. We all need a Will, Power of Attorney and Living Will, because no matter how old you are, you should plan for who will take care of your children or your affairs if you suddenly pass away. Kayla Horvath has been working in this area of law with us for many years, and she has both the knowledge and compassion to serve our clients well with these needs.
Elder law, however, is for older adults who want to plan for their future care needs. It lays the groundwork for a financial legacy rooted in protecting family assets. It also encompasses crisis care planning for elderly adults that have immediate health and safety needs with a focus on getting proper, affordable care. This includes both Medicaid and VA aid and attendance benefits.
Amanda and I began focusing on this area of law many years ago as our own grandparents and parents were getting older, and we needed to help them plan and prepare. And as often happens, we grew busier and busier, and the cases we saw became much more complex. This area of the law is not one you can learn overnight. You really have to immerse yourself in this area of law to truly understand the complexities of Medicaid and Trust laws. Bryson has done that, plus when he told us he was raised here and all about his great-grandmother’s story – we knew he would be a perfect fit because he has a real passion to help those around him.”
“Elder law is near and dear to my heart,” Bryson says. “Watching my family’s struggle with my great-grandmother impacted me. Watching that struggle led me to focus my career on helping our aging community, and I’m glad to be back working in my hometown, serving the people who helped make me who I am today.”Recently, Kayla and Bryson, were asked to speak to a church group about elder law and asset protection. “People had so many questions and we loved being able to answer them and help make a complicated process easier to understand.
In 2020 we are planning many more seminars so if your organization or group would like us to come out, we are happy to do so. My goal is to help the aging population preserve their dignity and protect their assets. Information is power. I’ve got the information and I’m ready to help you get your power back.”
To reach Bryson call (615) 784-4800 or visit www.kane-law.com. Or to schedule a speaking engagement email him directly at beubanks@ kane-law.com
Denise Vermeulen of Lebanon has taken what might have been a story of sadness and shame and turned it into a story of generosity, compassion, and love through her leadership in a local Prison Fellowship Angel Tree ministry.
Vermeulen’s dad was a drug addict and dealer and was in and out of prison most of her childhood, as well as her adult life.
Christmas was often a hard time for Vermeulen and her family when she was a child. Her parents were divorced, leaving her mother to raise three young children on her own. Her grandparents provided as much as they could for their grandchildren, and she has many happy Christmas memories with them. However, her contact with her father was intermit-tent, often via a letter from jail, and Vermeulen only remembers only receiving one gift from him after her parents’ divorce.
“He was actually so big-time that he was on the TBI list,” she said. “The last time they got him, not only did he have a large amount of cocaine and marijuana in the car, but he also shot at a police officer, and they got him on that, too. I was 17 or 18 at the time, and he stayed there [in prison] until about four years ago,” Vermeulen said.
When she passed by an “angel” tree in the lobby of Fairview Church in Lebanon almost 15 years ago, Vermeulen was intrigued by the paper angels hanging on the Christmas tree and asked Janice Holden, who was overseeing the ministry at the time, for more information. She was surprised to learn that each angel represented a local child who had one or both of their parents incarcerated, and Janice was gathering Christ-mas gifts for them.
“When she explained it to me, I just started bawling. This particular angel tree ministry was something that really resonated with me.”
Vermeulen was so moved that she began to assist Janice with the program at that time and then, about 10 years ago, started serving as the church coordinator for Fairview Church. She continues to lead that ministry until today.
Angel Tree is a Prison Fellowship program that serves incarcerated parents by giving them a pathway to restore and strengthen relationships with their children and families. Through this ministry, children receive a gift, the Gospel message, and a personal message of love on behalf of their mom or dad behind bars.
In America, 2.7 million children have a mom or dad in prison, which is about 1 in every 28 children, or one boy or girl in every classroom. Fairview will be assisting over 70 children, the majority of whom live in Wilson County, this Christmas.
Vermeulen encourages everyone to remember: “It’s not the children’s fault.”
“As a child, you should not have to deal with the consequences of your parents’ decisions. But these children deal with those consequences every single day. This is why it is so dear to my heart. I want them to know I understand.”
“To me, for the children to get a gift and know that their parent is thinking about them, regardless of the mistakes that they’ve made, that really spoke to me, because I never felt that way.”
“When you’re a kid, you don’t understand mom or dad is in prison,” Vermeulen said. “All you know is that it’s Christmas, and they should give you a present no matter what,” she laughs.
Terry Kemp, another member at Fairview, was help-ing Vermeulen hand out gifts on an afternoon at the church several years ago when he felt a desire to do more.
“These people–many of them would come through the doors and you could see that they were hurting–and sure we were giving them gifts and praying with them–but I told Denise, ‘We can do better than this,’” Kemp said.
Kemp’s community group got involved next year and helped to add the party element to the ministry. Now participating families come to the church to pick up their gifts and stay for a pizza party with games and arts and crafts.
“We have members of our class who look forward to helping with this every year,” Kemp said.
“It’s about the children, letting them know they are loved and sharing the Gospel with them,” Vermeulen said.
Churches, companies, and organizations will provide gifts to families and individuals in need through a variety of “angel” trees across Wilson County. Check with your local church to find out how you can give and what group they will be serving this year.
For more information about the Prison Fellowship Angel Tree program, visit prisonfellowship.org.
A long-kept secret was finally revealed late summer when Judd Sellars announced Christmas Place was to be constructed on three acres in the planned Sellars Station development on North Mt Juliet Road.
At the groundbreaking, Santa Claus made his grand entrance with a “ho ho ho” atop a Mt. Juliet fire engine with nearly 100 well-wishers there to welcome Christmas Place owners Toby and Karen Barnes, along with co-owners daughter, Kristin, and son-in-law, Mark Jackson.
Projected opening is summer 2020, just in time to lead into the holiday season.
It’s a $3 million investment that will make Mt. Juliet a destination place and sister store to the south’s largest Christmas store, The Incredible Christmas Place, owned by the same family, already open at the foothills of the Smoky Mountains in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
“We are so honored to be here in Mt. Juliet,” Barnes said at the groundbreaking. “We feel so lucky to be embraced and now Mt. Juliet and all around here can celebrate Christmas 365 days a year.”
Barnes is semi-retired now and Kristen is CEO of the company. And while this 12,000-square-foot centerpiece will highlight Mt. Juliet for years to come, the original The Incredible Christmas Place had 12 million visitors in just one week this past summer.
“They came to us,” said Sellars. “It was between Mt. Juliet and Brentwood. I know Mt. Juliet will embrace the Christmas theme and we are so family-oriented. They saw my Sellars Park (built in 2014) development and loved the old-world-looking brick. They want to replicate that for their store.”
The site plan calls for five lanes for tourist buses and about 65 parking places.
Kristen said part of the footprint will be a four-story bell tower that can play holiday music year-round.
Actual work on the project began in November.
“The project is going fantastic,” Kristen told Wilson Living. “We are finalizing all the plans and should begin construction in the next couple of weeks. We are so excited to see the ground move.”
Kristen said they are in full swing of this Christmas season in Pigeon Forge.
“We have already begun buying, planning and constructing displays for the new store,” she added. “We have an amazing product selection and themes planned and cannot wait to unveil it next year.”
Spokesperson for the Christmas Place, Chad Nether-land, told Wilson Living the store planned for Mt. Juliet will be a smaller version than the massive store in Pigeon Forge (at 40,000 square feet and in its 34th year).
“But in itself, it [Mt. Juliet store] will be a regional draw as well,” he said. “It’s such a cute town and a great paring withdraws from Metro Nashville and way be-yond.”
Netherland said it’s so important to note the two Christmas stores are family owned and operated.
“Mt. Juliet is near and dear to their hearts,” he noted.
“This Mt. Juliet store may not have as much as the one in Pigeon Forge, but it will still have the same variety of Christmas trees, ornaments and all things Christmas from head to toe. All the best of the best. One hundred percent Christmas.”
And while they will include seasonal nods, the focus is the merriment of the Christmas season.
What’s unique to the Christmas Place is they have design teams on hand to customize wreaths, garlands and anything one can imagine. And they ship everywhere.
“I guess the takeaway is that everyone loves Christ-mas and our store is not like your typical home-goods type store,” Netherland said. “It’s unique and is an ‘experience’ and people wander through and pick up great themes and ideas to replicate at their homes. We create one of a kind displays and rooms and layouts.”
To say it’s elaborate would be an understatement. The bell tower at Pigeon Forge and planned for Mt. Juliet’s store, is designed after a German village.
“We will bring a little of that to Mt. Juliet,” said Netherland.
Additionally, there are future projects for Mt. Juliet, Sellars revealed.
In Pigeon Forge, there’s an Inn at Christmas Place. And, more land is acquired by Sellars, so you never know! Other endeavors are in the works.
Local couple, Dan and Lisa Liles, like to have breakfast and coffee on typical Saturdays. and this particular off-grid day they decided to haunt an auction to perhaps by farm equipment.
“Once we arrived at the auction, unknown to me, my husband’s interest quickly changed from the farm equipment to the land being auctioned,” remembers Lisa from that 2010 slumber Saturday.
Meanwhile, Lisa was poking around the landscape and became mesmerized by the natural beauty of the 150-acre spread off Couchville Pike in Mt. Juliet.
“While the auctioneer was doing his chant, I slipped away to walk close to the creek to calm my anticipation of finding out who would be the highest bidder,” said Lisa. “Talking with another lady about the charm and peacefulness of this secluded acreage the chant came to a stop.”
That lady told Lisa a tall guy with glasses was the new owner of the peaceful respite. Lisa’s husband was tall but didn’t wear glasses. She was poignantly disappointed. But when she got to the sale place, that tall guy was wearing
sunglasses, not “real” glasses.
And it began then.
Duck Pond Farm is now a true local gem. Minutes from the heart of Mt. Juliet and a couple more from Nashville, it’s a unique venue for a stay-cation this fall, or a preeminent wedding destination for those couples who want a flair for something other than the normal place to say their vows.
There’s no need to travel to faraway venues when Wilson County offers this spectacular one-stop getaway that is so close but transports you back off a country road to a splendid wilderness respite, but with all the amenities.
The Liles want to provide their guests, no matter the occasion, with an unforgettable experience, with a stress-free atmosphere, with a feeling of being tucked away with a view second to none.
Duck Pond manager, Marisa Henson, explained the gorgeous place was once a working farm with horse stables. There were some original buildings and the
Liles upgraded, and added to, for their dream to turn the place into a multi-faceted venue for the community.
Today, there are multiple cabins which include a bridal suite, a groom suite, a kitchen and full-size dining room, and huge pavilion, plus more.
There’s a huge A-frame with open-air accommodations, wraparound porch and a view of the pond that in all can accommodate up to 38 guests. There are other cabins and chalets, some with fire pits, grills and picnic tables.
The moniker “pond” is two acres and is majestic on the property. “Dan built a gazebo and pergola by the pond,” said Marisa “They were built from trees on the property.”
And, there’s a separate island on the pond that is a favorite ceremony site. It doesn’t have to be a wedding, but has also been a favorite for engagements and such.
Dan said he’d never sell the property, he loves the land and takes some occasions to hunt and hike on it. The greenspace pays homage to ducks, geese, deer and turkeys. A local grows impressive corn crops on some of the acres.
Marisa explained there are three main areas of the event space; the main pavilion, the party pad (concrete patio) and a cocktail area where patrons can bring in food trucks of their choice for their special occasion.
Already over 150 weddings have shared their joy on the place. Corporate retreats, family and high school reunions, birthday parties, baby showers, bar mitzvahs and more have found this local gem.
Duck Pond Farm is just several miles from Providence and greets guests with a long cedar tree-lined drive. Recent renovations include fresh coats of paint and a new pavilion and decks.
A common statistic is that 33 percent of engagements happen between September and Thanksgiving, so those newly engaged should snag this local venue as soon as possible to feel at ease while they plan their once in a lifetime wedding. Also, locals who just want to chill can book a long-earned respite just a stones throw away.
“Come see our treasure,” said Lisa.
For prices, terms, reservations, and accommodations please go to their website at Duck Pond Farms.
We don’t get as much snow as we once did.
Scores of former residents have had a significant influence on our nation’s government. One is regarded as the “father” of the United Nations. And Lebanon has made its mark in the field of entertainment from an early spokesperson for a popular pancake mix to one of America’s most gifted songwriters.
These bits and pieces of Lebanon’s past can be found in a history that has been recently authored by Sam Hatcher and titled “Notes From Lebanon’s First 200 years.”
For several months, actually dating back to early spring, Hatcher, a former newspaper journalist, and Brandon Wagoner, a book publisher who lives in Lebanon, have been poking around records, looking through scrapbooks, making phone calls, and interviewing locals regarding Lebanon’s 200 years of history.
“It’s no secret of course that the City of Lebanon is celebrating its bicentennial this year and because of that Brandon and I believed it to be important to create a book to commemorate this very special event,” Hatcher said.
He explained that the book’s title, specifically the word “Notes” in the title, is used as “an apology of sorts because I’m not sure any history book is ever totally complete.
“We’ve tried for the better part of seven months to piece together as best we could the 200 years of Lebanon’s past.
“This has not been an easy chore for either of us,” Hatcher said in reference to Wagoner, who has authored a number of books and whose three-year-old company, Grassleaf Publishing, has published several works including children’s books and faith-based titles.
“I think many readers will be surprised to learn that one of the early representatives of Aunt Jemima Pancakes, Maude Woodfork, was from here; that the longest-serving U.S. Secretary of State, Cordell Hull, was educated here; and that the songwriter who pinned “Green, Green Grass of Home,” “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” and dozens of more classics, Curly Putman, made his home in Lebanon,” Hatcher offered.
A self-described “weather freak,” Hatcher said one of his personal favorite parts of the book deals with the weather.
Chapter Five of the book’s 11 chapters, “Weathering the Storms,” is a very thorough recall of significant weather events including a detailed graph that spans several pages noting dates of major local weather occurrences.
“We often hear that we don’t seem to get the winter snows as we once did and a graph Brandon labored over for several days spells this out clearly.
“Whether it’s global warming or some other cause, it’s evident that the deep snows experienced frequently in winters decades ago have been a rarity in recent times,” Hatcher pointed out.
Discussing the book’s content, Hatcher, who authored the popular “Heisman’s First Trophy” three years ago, said much of what’s in the history has been captured from other writings, reports by the community’s newspapers, individual interviews, records at Cumberland University, and other sources. He said there are a significant number of photos in the book, many of which have been in storage or not available for public display.
According to Wagoner, the book traces the development of industry and commerce; education, both public and private; healthcare; and other subjects.
He said one of the book’s final chapters is called Potpourri and addresses the World War II maneuvers, Gen. Robert Hatton, a Civil War battle in downtown Lebanon, and several other points of history that have had an impact on the community.
Both Hatcher and Wagoner reminded that “Notes from Lebanon’s First 200 Years” is strictly a history about Lebanon and shouldn’t be confused with matters, happenings or people outside of Lebanon.
“Notes From Lebanon’s First 200 Years,” will be available for purchase in early November. The book which sells for $20 per copy will be sold locally at the Lebanon-Wilson County Chamber of Commerce office on the Lebanon Square, at Gibbs Pharmacy on Baddour Parkway, Split Bean Roasting Company, and at Gifts on Main on West Main Street.
Hatcher, who began a career in journalism after graduating from Castle Heights Military Academy, is a lifelong resident of Lebanon. He often tells that his great grandfather, J.J. Hatcher, was the City’s first electrician and was the one who turned on lights in Lebanon for the first time in the 1800s.
His book about Cumberland University’s game against Georgia Tech in 1916 in which Tech beat Cumberland 222-0, “Heisman’s First Trophy,” was published on the 100th anniversary of the game and has received national recognition by ESPN, several major metropolitan daily newspapers, National Public Radio, CBS, Sports Illustrated Magazine, and others.
Wagoner, a graduate of Friendship Christian School, holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Tennessee Tech and a master’s degree in engineering management from Lipscomb University.
He initiated Grassleaf Publishing some three years ago and has had the opportunity to publish several books including children’s books and titles that are faith-based. To learn more about Wagoner’s company visit Grassleafpublishing.com.
For some, it can’t happen soon enough. For the rest, the mere mention of four little words can incite anxiety, irritability, sweating, and nausea. No, it’s not, “Your relatives are here.” I’m talking about “it’s time to decorate!”
Pulling out the tree (or trees, for some), wreaths, and lights doesn’t have to be a curse inducing task. Do you believe that? According to Wilson County’s resident design expert and owner of home furnishings boutique, Square Market Paula McDonnell, there are more important things to wWrittorren By about. “Evy Bill Congereryone is going in different directions. And it gets even worse between November 1 and December 25. We set unrealistic expectations. We want perfection. And when you spend so much time focusing on getting the house totally decorated before a certain date, you miss all the fun.”
If you’re like me, you’ve gone down the Pinterest rabbit hole looking for tips on “Staying organized during Christmas” or “How to create the perfect holiday experience inside your home.” They never work. No matter how many clear bins you purchase, how loud Nat King Cole sings about roasting chestnuts, or how much you love your sweet family (even when they complain about pulling those plastic bins from the attic), every year someone winds up cursing or crying or both. And that someone is usually you (see: Becky).
Today I am in the front showroom of Square Market. I’m sitting in what has to be the most comfortable club chair in the world (or at least Middle Tennessee), and chatting it up with McDonnell when she declares, “I’m not pressuring myself into decorating by a certain time ever again. Adding a few pieces to what I already have out saves my sanity.” One might think it’s easy to say that when you own a home décor and furniture boutique but looking around at the sophisticated blend of modern and vintage, it’s easy to see that Paula practices what she preaches.
This year, she has a goal. That goal is to help you alleviate the stress when it comes to decorating this holiday season.
“By selecting items that are thoughtful, purposeful and simple, you can create a timeless Christmas décor theme that doesn’t have to be taken down on December 26th,” McDonnell says as she moves hand-carved wooden angels around a breathtaking table display.
According to Paula, there are several items needed to create timeless holiday décor that can stay up all year long.
“Angels, trees, nativity scenes, deer are things that do not scream Christmas, but can easily meld into your décor during the holidays when you pair with a string of lights.” Paula continues, “Boxwood wreaths are perfect transition pieces. Take the red bow off after Christmas and the wreath can stay up all year.”
There’s no one size fits all solution for taking the stress out of the holidays, but Paula hopes that she and her staff can help you focus on what matters. “The holidays are meant for spending time with family. Sometimes we get so busy trying to make things perfect, we miss everything. This madness must stop. Turn off the phone and iPad and pay attention. The magic of Christmas is in our families. Sure, the decorations provide a nice backdrop for photos, but simple décor keeps your family in the spotlight. And that’s what it’s all about anyway.”
While Paula has a natural instinct for putting a room together and curating a home with unique style, she has put together a staff who also offer a fresh perspective on creating interiors with a keen eye towards current home trends. “I’m just one person so, it helps to have the best employees. Every single one of us cares about each person who walks through those doors. It’s about building relationships, not a database.”
Paula’s mission is to think outside the design box and offer the most exciting always-evolving unique collections of furniture, lighting, home decor, textiles, artwork, and gifts while supporting local artisans. These collections are both inspired by years of exciting design work, and the creativity Paula pushes to consistently surpass with each new day.
Location & Hours of Operation
115 South Cumberland Street
Open Tuesday-Friday 10 am – 5 pm
Saturday 10 am – 3 pm
According to wedding experts and social media sites, the Christmas holiday is the most popular season for couples to get engaged.
There’s no time to waste when it comes to planning. Especially if you’d like to walk down the aisle in the coming year. After booking the location, it’s time to start thinking about the food. Like venues, caterers and restaurants are booked months and, more often-years in advance. The process of hiring the caterer for the wedding, then reserving a restaurant for rehearsal dinners, luncheons, receptions, or showers can be a little overwhelming. That’s why your first call should be to Sammy B’s Restaurant & Catering.
From backyard to black tie, Sammy B’s is one of Middle Tennessee’s premier restaurants and caterers. Whether you are planning a small affair or a grand one, Co-Owner Gina Stradley and her expert staff is here to help you plan the perfect day. From creating a most fabulous menu and all the little details in between…they will do everything they can to assure your event is a success.
Owners, Jim and Gina Stradley share a few of their most popular menu items (all curated and prepared by Jim and his culinary crew. Seriously, they are amazing!) that will have your guests swooning.
They might be called a little “zany” to go out on a limb(s) (peach and apple that is!) and buy a revered orchard in Mt. Juliet during a ‘mid-life’ crisis whim. But, they did and those limbs are strong!
Wendy Dorfman and Aimee Dorfman (sisters-in-law) opened the 12-acre boutique orchard July 2018 in the heart of Mt. Juliet.
It’s the Breeden’s Orchard County Store & Farmers Market. It’s a fresh new revamp on a beloved orchard that originated in 1974.
They’ve put their style and panache in the place, but with a respectful homage to the long-time owners who had to sell.
Together, Wendy and Aimee saved this pristine little orchard from the hungry hands of developers who wanted to raze the long-developed peach and apple trees to ‘raise’ a sprawling development.
Long time owners, the Breedens, had to sell after decades, simply because of health and age.
Aimee and Wendy are a cool pair. The “zanies” reference is to their partnership with their husbands in the well-known Zanies Comedy Club enterprise the past 25 years, ad all across the country. They’ve been doing it for decades, and, well, maybe a “zen” orchard was in order.
“We are in our 50’s now,” laughed Aimee. “We got a call to see the orchard. It’s a different path. It was so beautiful [the orchard sold by long time Tom Breeden because of health issues]. It was a dream that just sparkled.”
Rather than a bright red convertible mid-life crises issue, these two decided ripe peaches and red apples were more apropos.
Let’s get to real time and what this duo has done to enhance the orchard and provide a wonderful outlet for locals in Wilson County.
Their she-shed-place of business is spectacular with great space to showcase a myriad of locally produced products. It’s an Amish-style barn retrofitted with wood that came from the Breedens’ house and barn. No sadness, there’s still a place left where these women work, that was the Breeden’s home.
These nature lovers and preservers of history look toward many school field trips to visit them, and they are researching new apple varieties to call this place home.
“It is hotter, and we are sweatier and still celebrating our mid-life adventure,” said Aimee.
This year, Breedens’ peach trees have flourished so much that they opened up the orchard for a few limited u-pick days, something they thought they were years away from, or at least till their new grove of trees was ready.
“Although the trees are still old and fragile, they are stronger than we thought, well, and that the fact that some of those summer storms took out the weakest limbs,” said Wendy.
This year, Wendy and Aimee are making all their own fried pies, paying homage to the southern way with fried apples and dried fruit and perhaps leaf lard.
“We do get asked if we are frying them in leaf lard, I can’t source enough leaf fat or flair to do that,” said Aimee.
They say they don’t have a southern bone between the two of them, but, have managed to get more than a few “this tastes like my grandma from y’all.”
Think about peach, apple, lemon, chocolate, pecan pie, coconut cream, chocolate peanut butter, cherry, blueberry, blackberry, apricot, German chocolate, and finally, caramel banana fried pies and they are your ticket atop the orchard that is thriving under their care.
“And yes, we are working on sugar free and made without gluten varieties, but they are still in the testing stages,” said Aimee.
Both said they’ve augmented this orchard to include so many more agricultural opportunities. They said they want to get Tennessee peaches into peoples’ mouths and to remind them that the flavor of Georgia peaches doesn’t hold a candle to Tennessee peaches.
So, lets add tomatoes, pumpkins, melons and berries.
And, now they have their Scottish Highland beef cattle and invite people to taste and buy.
Aimee said they have a lot of fall activities planned. Their pond is taking shape, and, they baby their new 500 baby peach and apple trees.
“Some of the new varieties of trees took, some didn’t,” said Wendy. “Farm life lessons…not everything is going to take.”
One of their exciting new bits of information is that Edible is having their farm to table fall dinner at the orchard on Oct. 5.
Go to Breeden’s Orchard Facebook for updates on everything.
“We are doing a happy dance,” said Aimee. “We are a great spot for packing a picnic, grabbing some fried pies or a donut, a cider slushie and enjoying an afternoon with the family. This year, we will also have fresh beef from our herd of Scottish Highland cattle. We look forward to seeing you!”
This orchard is located at 631 Beckwith Road in Mt. Juliet.
May We Know Them, May We Be Them, May We Raise Them
When you meet Allie Cummings, Judy Cox and Medana Hemontolor, a few things stand out. Three generations of strong, smart, sassy women stand before you and you best get out of their way! These ladies have work to do! Allie Lee Tarpley Cummings and her husband, Howard Houston Cummings, raised their daughter Judy Cox on the family farm in Gladeville, where the Nashville Speedway sits today.
Life wasn’t easy back then, but life was good. Their children which included Judy, and her siblings, James Cummings, Joyce Reeves, and Joe Cummings were no strangers to hard work which often included early mornings, milking cows and tending to crops. And like many back then, that also meant there was no running water or an inside toilet.
But Judy remembers those days fondly, “life was simpler then. We didn’t have all the trappings we have now but instead we had family meals around the table and evenings under the stars listening to the whip-poor-wills. And yet we were never ever bored!” Christian values and family values were everything Allie made sure to instill those values in Judy at a young age. In the mid 60‘s, the family moved to “town” where Judy started high school, settling near Cumberland University. Soon, “Pa”, as Howard Cummings came to be known, had the kids mowing yards on the street for free, so they wouldn’t be bored. This strong work ethic eventually led to all four of his children working their way through high school and college and establishing careers in and around their communities.
Judy eventually went to work for Cecil and Sue Johnson at Johnson’s Dairy (Purity Dairy now) and became the first female District Manager for several counties including Wilson. After being in sales for years, real estate seemed a natural fit for Judy as Pa always told her she could talk to a fencepost! Judy notes “real estate is not about the sale, but it’s about the relationships you make along the way. I love to meet people and get to know them. My clients become my friends and I’ll often help families buy and sell several homes over the years as their families grow and change.” And while building her career and business have always been important to Judy, her mother, Allie, (known as Granny to many) taught her that family always comes first. That meant where Judy went, there was usually a little blonde-haired girl following her. Medana Hemontolor is much like her mother and grandmother and she is very proud of that fact.
Growing up Medana followed her mom not only to work, but to church events and community events. Judy, who has always been very involved in the community, felt it was important to teach by example. Medana remembers, “my mom would take me to her Business Professional Women meetings on Monday nights and Chamber events throughout the year. I had a blast and enjoyed getting to know professional women of all walks of life. I learned by watching mom and these women show me how to be professional at anything they did and how to be strong women with Christian values. I remember watching my mom be awarded the Career Woman of the Year award and was so very proud of her!
BPW no longer exists but in 2001 a core group of women from that group, which included my mom, formed Wilson ONE which is a wonderful group that encourages and supports women.” Today, Medana is the President of Wilson ONE, an organization of Networking and Education for Women – paid & non-paid working women of all walks of life. Each year this organization gives out two to four scholarships to non-traditional students and Medana has been instrumental in growing this organization to an average of 40-45 women who meet the first Thursday of each month for a lunch and learn one-hour event. Currently, Medana also serves on the Lebanon Wilson County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and is a Chamber Ambassador. “I love helping new businesses and business owners get involved in our community.” Medana has also served as the past President of Kiwanis Club of Lebanon and currently serves as their Secretary. She is also a past graduate of Leadership Wilson, a group she continues to support. To say, she is following in her mother’s busy footsteps is an understatement!
These days when the ladies are not participating in community events, they are working side by side in the family real estate business. Judy’s husband, Mike Cox, is a well-known builder and owner of Cox’s Construction and Judy has been a top real estate agent in and around Middle Tennessee for almost three decades. In 2005, Medana came on board to help them both. Previous to this, Medana held several professional positions including working alongside her mother-in-law, Peggy Hemontolor, at the well-known school supply business, The Teacher’s Aid. No stranger to work, Medana met her husband, Greg, while the two were employed at the Lebanon Kroger, each paying their way through college at MTSU. Greg and Medana have been married for 26 years now and for the last 20 years, Greg has been employed at ICON Clinical Research as the Global Senior Project Manager conducting drug study trials. Medana has also stayed active working while also raising their boys, Evan and Grayson.
But these days, the boys are grown and busy. Evan recently graduated from MTSU and is engaged to be married and Grayson, begins Cumberland University in the Fall. Medana notes “we couldn’t be prouder of the strong, Godly men we have raised.” As her boys came into their own, so did Medana. Real estate you can say is in her blood. Medana’s father, Ronnie Lee Hobbs, is the great-grandson of JR Hobbs who started JR Hobbs & Sons, the oldest real estate company in Lebanon, which shows the apple does not fall from the tree! Initially upon joining up with Judy and Mike, Medana worked with Mike on the construction side as the Construction Coordinator for Cox’s Construction where she learned all the ins and outs of building from Mike. And then when not on job sites, Medana was learning the real estate side from Judy. And from there, quite a dynamic Mother- Daughter Real Estate Team was born. The ladies work side by side these days at EXIT Rocky Top Realty (C&D Team), an international real estate company, which means they are often tackling to-do lists all over town for their real estate clients. “My mother can put a to-do list together for a day that looks so impossible to do; but she can do that list and then some by the end of the day. That is what I have been taught most of my life – Put your mind to it and you will do more than you thought you could in a day.” And while they have shared many, many good times, it’s in tough times, you really learn what you are made of.
In June 2016, in the midst of growing their business together, Medana was diagnosed with breast cancer. She underwent treatment and credits her family and church support for helping her go through this valley of her life. “I
received love and support from so many and even received cards of encouragement from people I did not even know. My aunt, Del Lackey, formed a Sherry’s Run TEAM MEDANA and the friends and family that walked with me was completely overwhelming! In 2018, I was asked to be an executive member of the Hope Joy Light Cancer Support Group at Immanuel Baptist Church. Sally Pierce, the founder, and I were on our cancer journey at the same time and were a support for each other. Our group is for cancer fighters and survivors of our community and we come together and support one another. We meet the first Wednesday of each month at 6 pm and Immanuel Baptist Church and would love to spread the word about our group so we can continue to support people like I have been supported,”
And when the ladies are not supporting their community, they are often together spending time in each other’s company. “Granny has a fun-loving spirit and loves when we come together and celebrate. You can often find us together after church on Sundays, eating around the dining room table or enjoying an afternoon of family get-togethers. I also have a brother, Jason, and sister, Deborah and am blessed to have them in my life.” Allie and Judy are both proud of the strong woman they have raised. “Medana is a loving compassionate person, she feels her friend’s and client’s joys as well as their sorrows. I am so proud of the Christian lady, wife mother, daughter and friend she is to all of us.”