Local Spirits

Enjoy unique tastes, tours and more at Jug Creek Distillery

There’s nothing like sipping on a cold, handcrafted drink while listening to local musicians and enjoying a million-dollar view. And the best part is that it’s all right here at Wilson County’s Jug Creek Distillery, thanks to Heath Frazier and Kyle Luttrell.

Friends Frazier and Luttrell both had successful careers in the medical industry, each with a master’s degree in nursing. However, their love of science took them in an unexpected direction: They wanted to open a distillery together.

“I had a dream of creating something totally different from what’s out there today,” Frazier explains. He had made wine and beer at home but wanted to learn more about the distilling process to further that dream.

Luckily, his medical background came in handy. “I’m a science geek in a way, so a lot of it came from reading and research.”

He also went to Moonshine University in Louisville and talked with other distillers to learn tricks of the trade. “There’s kind of a brotherhood with other distillers,” he says. Frazier and Luttrell joined that brotherhood when they founded Jug Creek Distillery in 2015.

About a year after that, Frazier decided to leave his job in the healthcare industry and focus on his passion for distilling full time. What was once a hobby for Frazier and Luttrell became the stunning distillery that stands today.

As for where they wanted to break ground and open their distillery, the answer was pretty clear.

“We love Wilson County, the people, the atmosphere,” says Frazier, who has lived in Wilson County for about a decade. “We felt like it was a county that was growing and needed an attraction, instead of taking everything to Nashville.”

So after two years of work and planning, they opened Jug Creek Distillery in Wilson County in January of this year. The distillery features chandeliers from the Gaylord Opryland, an old doctor’s buggy, items from local artisans, a moonshine still and other repurposed items that add to its homey feel. And their spirits are the cherry on top.

“A lot of people have toured distilleries and vineyards. But if you want a mix of the two, come see us,” Frazier says. “Our products are unique from anything you’ve ever tasted.”

Instead of backing away from the smells and tastes of spirits, which can be a common sight at some distilleries, people don’t have that reaction to Jug Creek’s handcrafted drinks, Frazier says.

“You’ll find something you like with one of our products,” he adds.

They have specialty liqueurs like Gran’s Banana Pudding, Grand Dad’s Coffee Creamer, Wicket Chocolate Cranberry and Wicked Chocolate Cranberry Oaked. As for liquors, they create Wilson County Whiskey, Cedar’s Ultra-Premium Gin, Tennessee Pecan Pie and a smooth vodka.

One way people can sample their spirits and learn more about how a distillery works is with their tours. Frazier says they educate people on the science behind the distillation process and show them how they make their spirits.

“You’ll learn things you never thought you’d learn at a distillery,” he says. “It’s a different experience from anything you’ve ever done. We have people say that all of the time.”

They’ve had people from across the county and world come check out the distillery. Frazier leads the tours, which is rare to have the actual distiller readily available for questions. “You don’t have to pay extra for that,” Frazier says with a laugh.

Beyond sampling their spirits, people can also enjoy one of their unique cocktails, like their “Pork Rind Bloody Mary” or “Not the Irish Car Bomb.”

Their spirits aren’t only catching on with locals, but they are also gaining attention globally, winning numerous awards.

“Even though we’re young, we’ve been making waves in the competition world,” he says, with four of the six products released winning awards.

But there’s more to this distillery than their tours and awards. They’ve started having live music and food trucks at the distillery, so people can come out with their lawn chairs and enjoy a relaxing day.

Frazier says people can rent the venue for special events, and they’re working on an outdoor amphitheater. They also hope to have a pumpkin patch on the grounds in time for fall.

“We’re trying to be an all-encompassing event area,” he says. “The sky is the limit for what we’re doing with the property.”

All ages are welcome at the distillery, and Frazier says both his and Luttrell’s children are there all of the time. They’re even installing a playground. “We want it to be a family environment,” he says.

They offer tours, tastings and their unique cocktail menu Wednesdays (by appointment only), Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays from 12-8 p.m. and Sundays from 1-6 p.m. Tours are $10 per person and free for children 12 and younger, and the last tour of the day begins at 4 p.m.

Jug Creek Distillery is located at 1049 Oregon Rd. in Lascassas. For more information on Jug Creek Distillery, visit Jugcreekdistillery.com.

Photos By Jeff Seely, Jeff’s Eye Photography

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Fall Festivities

Find plenty of fun, local activities to enjoy with the whole family

Sept. 29-Oct. 1
Vintage Market Days
Wilson County Expo Center
Find vendors from across the country at the vintage-inspired market. There will be antiques, jewelry, home décor items, clothing, food and much more. The market runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. For more information, visit Vintagemarketdays.com.

Oct. 7
Granville Fall Celebration
Remember a simpler time with activities like Jazz on the Cumberland at Veterans Park, a quilt festival, 1940s Celebration, Scarecrow Festival and much more. There will also be a veterans’ appreciation service and Sutton Ole Time Music Hour and Dinner. For more information, visit Granvilletn.com.

Oct. 7
Fall Mile Long Yard Sale
Watertown Square
Shop hundreds of booths at this rain-or-shine event. There will be antiques, flea market items, tools, collectibles, food and much more. For more information, visit Watertowntn.com.

Oct. 21
Halloween in the Park
Charlie Daniels Park
Enjoy costume contests, hayrides, a petting zoo, inflatables, vendor booths, free candy and more at Halloween in the Park. This free event will from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. New this year, there will also be a Scarecrow Contest individuals, families, organizations and businesses can enter. For more information, visit Tn-mountjuliet.civicplus.com.

Oct. 21-22
Wilson Bank & Trust Main Office, Lebanon
The event’s fair-like atmosphere will feature one of the area’s largest antique car shows, live entertainment, children’s games, quilt and photography displays, food, more than 100 craft vendors and more. Oktoberfest is free to attend. Visit Wilsonbank.com for more information.

Oct. 26
Taste of Wilson County
The Mill at Lebanon
Sample the best Wilson County has to offer from tasty treats to local boutiques and more! This year will feature Batch & Bushel, which includes local farmers and their goods, and a Grill Off with local dignitaries and principals. Join us for a night of family fun at our premier education fundraiser from 5:30-8 p.m. Ticket prices are $35 for V.I.P., $25 for adults (12+), $8 for children (6-11) and free for children 5 and younger. For more information, visit Tasteofwilsoncounty.com, or call 615-444-5503.

Oct. 31
Halloween on the Square
Lebanon’s Historic Square
Join us on the Historic Lebanon Square for a fun night with candy stations, ghoul parade and a costume contest from 5-8:30 pm. For more information, visit Lebanonwilsonchamber.com, or call 615-444-5503.

Sponsored by the Lebanon Wilson County Chamber of Commerce

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Modern Country

How to make this dream farmhouse yours

Finding the perfect house can sometimes feel like an impossible task. But if you’re looking for a renovated farmhouse retreat to call home, I know of the perfect one that just hit the market. It’s one I fell in love with, and I’m sure you will too as you learn the backstory and see the stunning photos.

Being a city girl, I never had a strong reference for what a country farmhouse truly was. During my childhood, my mother was able to regal about the white house, chickens and fresh vegetables of her childhood home.

When we first moved to Wilson County, we quickly realized why it was so special — from the beautiful countryside with ample opportunities to have a home with 2 to 20 acres to the ability to live quietly in the home of your dreams.

For us, this dream started just about six years ago when we started looking for a new home. Robert, my husband, and I set out to find a home with the characteristics that would suit our personalities. I tend to think of Donny and Marie Osmond: She’s a little country, and he’s a little rock and roll. Our tastes are eclectic and genuinely unique.

The thought of a 200-year-old farmhouse was exactly what I was targeting — from the large kitchen and farm sink to the large quantities of windows that would brighten the dream home and provide cross ventilation in the summer. I knew a white farm house, with character and personality, was exactly what we were going to find.

Fast forward several months later: no farmhouse, no new home with character, the dream was fading away. Until one day, I stumbled upon a beautiful sprawling home on Coles Ferry Pike. As with all of the homes we were looking at, I called my partner in the house-hunting venture, Cathy, so we could go together and check it off the list.

This time was different. Completely different. We were waiting at the front gate, anticipation building while entering the front gate code, I could see this home was different. This house has character, from the 10-inch baseboards to the tongue and groove whitewashed ceilings throughout the home. I was already feeling at home and had only stepped in the front door.

We looked at each other and excitement took over. We felt as if we were two young girls running around their grandmother’s farmhouse going from room to room yelling at each other. Did you notice the hickory flooring? Did you see the quilt closets? Then it hit me, this was home.

I called my husband, and he had to see this house, this was the house.  (I determined at that point, I should see the rest of the home.)

Fast forward to 2017, and we have been asked many times what did we fall in love with when it comes to this home. There are too many attributes to mention, but the legacy of the home is what makes this house a home.

We continue to refer to the Country Farm House on Coles Ferry Pike as The Bay House. When we are asked where we live, the answer is always the same: We live one mile west of Friendship Christian in the white farmhouse, the Bay House, and the response is always the same, “We always wondered who lived there.”

Mr. and Mrs. Bay lovingly built this farmhouse, a replica of the farmhouse her grandmother raised her family in. So many of the details were included in the structure and design. With more than 37 windows in the home, you have natural light from all angles. When swinging open the French doors on the back side of the house, you will enjoy the serenity of Barton’s Creek.

I remember the first time I stepped into the kitchen, my thoughts were in anticipation of the family meals, the entertaining and the time we would be spent in this warm space. This is when I knew whoever originally designed this home must have a love of family and food, too.

This is a dream kitchen, from the double farm sinks (every country kitchen needs a vegetable sink!) to the custom cabinetry in wood, yellow or red to the Corian counter tops. But we cannot forget the modern appliances, the heartbeat of the gathering place, including the Viking Professional Series kitchen and vintage-designed eight-burner gas Viking Stove, customized with four burners, a griddle and a grill.

There’s also the double Viking Professional refrigerators, lovingly referred to as His and Hers, as well as the Fisher Paykel double dishwashers. This kitchen has seen many gatherings in its time.

After being giddy from seeing the kitchen, eat-in kitchen and den with a gas fireplace, we decided to explore the rest of the home. If the open-concept living area was this wonderful, what else would we discover?

In true adult fashion, we found our next toy! Why was there a key in the wall? Of course, we needed to find out, and it was the chandelier lift. The wagon-wheel inspired, multi-tiered, wrought iron chandelier had a lift to lower for decoration, cleaning or general light bulb maintenance.

On to the master suite, and yes, this is a suite. With a master bedroom larger than most couples’ apartments, the windows and natural light are amazing. It has a walk-in his and hers master closet, double vanities with Corian counters (a theme in the house) and large, open-tile shower. This truly is a place of relaxation and reflection.

Meandering through the home, we found all three bedrooms, bathrooms, oversized laundry room and then rooms no one ever expected: the game room, craft room and a room that has since been named Peggy’s Piddlin’ Room. This room was made for crafting, art, sewing, games and family fun. This is the room where all of the creative fun and family time happens.

Beyond the master, there are two additional full baths, which have unique designs and cabinets. Each has a sink built into furniture, recessed lighting — as with the entire home — and tiled floors. Not to mention, the additional two half baths. Plumbing was well designed down to the utility sink in the oversized laundry room with enough space for ironing and hanging your clothing.

The home’s main living space has decorator shelving with plugs every few feet to display your collectibles. I can only imagine how Christmas Village would have looked up there meandering around the den, living room, into the hall and wrapping around. A child’s dream, or any adults dream!

You’ll also find recessed lighting with the details of many individual switches to accent specific spaces in the home. Timers are set for the exterior lights, motion sensors for the drive lights and a light on the keypad for the main gate entrance shows how important lighting is when looking at every detail of the home.

There is plenty of exterior space to enjoy, as well. The front porch has double benches you will find yourself relaxing on and watching the world go by. The side porch is just perfect for iced tea and conversation.

But the back porch and back deck are the areas of great pride. From the custom-laid flagstone patio, walkway and fire pit, you will enjoy any time of day overlooking the water and listening to the sounds of nature.

The smallest exterior details, but with the biggest impact, are the inconspicuous holes in the driveway. These holes are there for the family that plans for large-scale reunions, parties and in general fun. Each hole is spaced for the exact width of a large event tent to be set up in the driveway.

And the best part about this inviting home is that it’s for sale.

While I’ve definitely fallen in love with this home, it’s time for a change. But I know whoever buys it will build just as many — if not more — great memories in this timeless home.

This country farmhouse at 6495 Coles Ferry Pike has all of the details, alcoves and special nuances of your grandmother’s farmhouse with modern amenities. This 4,800-square foot home has three bedrooms, three full and two half baths, four-bay garage and additional space to build out.

It has two walk-in attics, an estimated 1,500 square feet of framed-in space for expansion, an irrigation system, gated front entry with solar-powered entrance, Trane CleanEffects whole-house filtration system, tankless hot water heater, three Trane HVAC units and sits on just under 2 acres on Point Barton: You’ll want to call this home.

To view this farmhouse retreat, contact Michael Ezsol at Century 21 West Main Realty. Michael has lived in Lebanon for the past 15 years and says he enjoys working with families to find their perfect home. He makes the entire process as easy as possible for his clients, surrounding himself with industry professionals who can help solve any issue that comes up.

Michael Ezsol is a full-time, dedicated agent who provides clients with all of the facts and information they need to make a decision about what’s best for them. Contact Michael to learn more about this custom farmhouse before it sells, or schedule a private showing. Visit Cfpfarmhouse.com for more information and video tour.

Written By Helene Singer Cash
Photos By Jana Pastors and HouseLens

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The Perks

I’ve been so forlorn lately with the prospect of No. 2 heading off to college after this school year that I almost completely forgot about No. 3.

And then I opened my freezer.

Only to find hundreds of frozen bug eyes staring back at me. And just like that, the school year has begun.

Bug projects, school photos, study guides, homecoming events, never-ending school emails and the list goes on and on.

When we had three little kids at home, my motto often was …. cut it out, glue it down and we are done!

Because nobody has time for that!

The difference though between three kids at home vs one is these days, my motto is… let’s do it together. Just you and I.

Because, at this point in my life, I’ve got nothing but time!

We often go out to dinner now, just Brody, myself and No. 3. We watch him eat, we follow his every move, we hang on his every word.

I was a first born. My brother was the baby. I always thought he was treated particularly well after I left home. Now I’m certain of it.

No. 2 can see the writing on the wall.

“Did you just move a television into Neill’s room? Madison and I were never allowed to even watch television!”

“You let him go to the fair on a school night. What is going on?”

“Are you letting him eat food in the den? You never let us do that!! Hello? Who is parenting him?? That’s his second Coke tonight!! Hello???”

And she is right.

No. 3 gets special treatment. Not because he is No. 3. Not because he is a boy. But because he is my last one.

Maybe it’s wrong. Actually, I’m sure it is. I don’t even care. No. 2 has started compiling her dorm room supply list. She’s made her choice! No. 3 is all I have left.

So while I made the girls find and freeze their own bugs, for No. 3, I’m right along with him as we capture, freeze dry and then pin down spiders, wasps and all sorts of nasty little creatures.

When it was three little kids at home, life was a chaotic blur of fast food dinners, racing between soccer and dance and Halloween outfits that (if I’m being honest) were subpar.

For him, I make banana bread each Sunday so that he can have a warm slice all week. We get to his football games an hour early, just to watch him practice. For Halloween this year, we are hosting a teenage goblin party!

No. 1 has even called home to complain that she is hearing No. 3 is being spoiled.

“Zoe told me that Neill is getting a Polaris. Have you gone insane! She and I had to walk the garbage bins down a gravel driveway all our lives. She said you said it was too far for him to walk!!”

Did I mention that my brother didn’t leave home until he got married at 25? He still lives in Memphis near my parents. They vacation together twice a year and have Sunday lunch together each week.

Now I get it.

Well played, Mom and Dad. Well played!

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Join the Cause

Show your support for your community members, friends and family battling cancer at the 14th Annual Sherry’s Run, which will be Sept. 9 on West Main Street in Lebanon. Sherry’s Run raises money to help cancer patients throughout the community.

The event kicks off Saturday at 5:30 a.m. with a time for prayer, registration opens at 6:30 a.m. and the shotgun start is at 8 a.m. Online registration is open until tonight (Sept. 8) at 7 p.m.

The organization is named after Sharon “Sherry” Patterson Whitaker, who lost her battle with colon cancer in 2004. Her friends and family wanted to fight this disease and make a difference for others with color cancer after losing Sherry. That desire led them to hold a 5K/walk that would support cancer research, which would become the first Sherry’s Run.

There were a few hundred people at the first 5K/walk in 2004: Now, there are close to 4,000 participants and volunteers involved with the run.

“It’s not just a run: It’s an experience,” says Alisa Van Dyke, marketing director of Sherry’s Run. “It’s inspiring just to be there that day. The entire community comes together to support each other. I feel like it’s a very hopeful and exciting experience.”

The uplifting day also includes live music, a survivor tent and other activities for the whole family. “It’s not about what cancer has done but about how we’re overcoming and providing hope,” says Van Dyke, who started working with the group in 2014.

Both individuals and teams can participate in Sherry’s Run. “It’s a fun, pressure-free event,” Van Dyke says.

This event is for anyone impacted by cancer. They also set up a tent at the event for survivors where they get to experience an outpouring of love and support.

“I’ve never seen a patient come who hasn’t been blown away by the community support,” Van Dyke says. “A lot of patients come back and volunteer because they want to give back.”

This year’s run is in memorial of Charles Tomlinson and Mackey Bentley, and it is in honor or Cindy Thorne and Denise Moore, who is a member of the Wilson Living Magazine team.

Moore was a good friend of Sherry’s and was instrumental in getting support and donations for Sherry’s Run through the years, says Tamara Lampsa, who has been friends with Moore for about 14 years and is Sherry’s Run co-chair.

Lampsa put together Team Mimi so Moore’s friends and family can show their support for her during the event. She’s expecting hundreds to join the team and honor their good friend.

“Denise has made a big impact in many people’s lives. She’s a true friend. She gives her support and time for her friends and community,” Lampsa says. “It’s time for us to give back to Denise.”

There will be several teams at the 5K/walk cheering on their friends and family, but providing that supportive environment isn’t confined to the annual event.

While the group originally was focused on raising money for research, they saw a bigger need after receiving requests from local people battling cancer who needed a little extra help.

So, Sherry’s Run became an organization and developed a patient assistance program. They’ve seen helped countless community members with cancer ever since.

“We still believe in preventing cancer, but what about the people who already have it and are struggling to take care of their families?” Van Dyke asks.

The majority of the people they help are referred to Sherry’s Run, and they supported 185 patients last year. They provide financial support for medical, lighting, grocery, gas and treatment costs — in addition to meeting their counseling needs.

“The money raised helps people struggling with cancer every day of the year — and the money stays here locally,” Lampsa says. “I can’t even put into words to describe the amount of people that we’ve helped. It really touches my heart.”

Van Dyke says her favorite part about working with Sherry’s Run is meeting the patients and getting to know them. “They inspire me,” she says. “I love seeing their courage and hearing the stories of the people who have helped them.”

Van Dyke encourages people to consider donating monthly or when possible to Sherry’s Run “because we’re helping them throughout the year.”

“People are diagnosed every day around us, so the need doesn’t get any less,” Van Dyke says. “The community rallied around it because everyone knows someone who has been affected.”

They also receive support from the Macon County Day of Hope and a Mardi Gras fundraising event at the Capitol.

“The No. 1 thing we want people to understand is that the money benefits their neighbors,” she says. “It benefits cancer patients here.”

Van Dyke encourages people who know someone with a cancer diagnosis to refer them to the organization and also support the group year-round.

For more information about Sherry’s Run, follow them on Facebook and Twitter, and visit Sherrysrun.org.

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On Hope, And Not Losing It

When something bad happens, that bad can reach in and pull the breath right out of your gut. It feels like suffocating. But as your arms flail and you gasp for air, the light turns green, traffic starts to move, pedestrians take to the cross walk. No one notices. It’s as if the people in cars, on cross walks, in the grocery or at the DMW don’t care or don’t feel the shift on the planet when life as you know it forever changed.

I remember going to the grocery the day after my mom died. It was late afternoon in the summer and the store was busy. This infuriated me. As if this completely normal scene for a grocery store in the middle of summer wasn’t enough, a teenage girl breezed by as she was smarting off to her mother. I wanted to get on the loudspeaker and shout, “What is wrong with you people! My mom is gone! Now please be sad like me at least while I pick up diapers and hotdogs! You can go back to whatever you were doing when the proper respect has been paid to my mom, WHO IS DEAD! And as for you, smart mouth teenage girl. One day your mom won’t be here for you to roll your eyes at!” Makes perfect sense, right? While I didn’t get on the loudspeaker or even scream, in that moment reality hit. Life goes on. While the reality may change, everything else…goes on.

It would be nice if someone wrote an etiquette book on how to get back to normal after loss. Something to prepare you for the jarring reality that there’s an expiration date on your grief. Grief over the loss of anything; death of a person, relationship, job, or life you expected. Once that date comes and goes, it’s time to buck up and get over it. That’s what it feels like anyway.

But then something happens. After weeks, months, or years, your inner dialog does an about-face. Instead of,

I wish I could feel normal again.


Will life ever be the same?

You realize you were never normal and since life is an ever-changing, ever-evolving windstorm of existence, the days would be boring if they stayed the same.

Here’s the cold hard truth. There is no timeline. There’s no magic day. No rhyme or reason as to why one year you cry on your mom’s birthday and the next you realize her birthday passed without so much as a sniffle.

All you can do is stay hopeful. And hope doesn’t look the same on everyone. Some find hope in prayer. Others find it through exercise or food or children or scrapbooking. I happen to find it through all of those. Except for scrapbooking, never been a fan.

The point is “hope” is waiting. And sometimes hope is all you have to cling to. Without it, how could life go on? Choosing hope doesn’t mean you’re getting all Polly Anna. It doesn’t mean you don’t care. If you think about it, choosing hope really doesn’t mean anything specific. It means everything.

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What Will They Be?

Do you ever wonder what your child will be when they grow up?

When I was young, I wanted to be either an actress or an archeologist. Considering I never once performed in my school play, I can’t say that I’m completely devastated that Clooney and Pitt are not, today, part of my inner circle. (I mean, I am, but not because I’m not a starlet.)

Archaeology, now that makes me laugh out loud. I distinctly remember telling my parents that no matter what, one day I would travel to the deserts of Egypt to study the pyramids…and they couldn’t stop me! My parents nodded and told me they wholeheartedly supported my endeavor. The reason for their unwavering support, of course, was because they knew the only way I’d be digging in the sand, in the middle of a desert, was if someone kidnapped me and then promptly threw me out of a plane while flying over King Tut’s final resting place. No doubt, digging would promptly

My parents nodded and told me they wholeheartedly supported my endeavor. The reason for their unwavering support, of course, was because they knew the only way I’d be digging in the sand, in the middle of a desert, was if someone kidnapped me and then promptly threw me out of a plane while flying over King Tut’s final resting place. No doubt, digging would promptly ensue the moment my practically lifeless body hit the ground, as I would immediately commence tunneling back to America — home of air conditioning, ice and all things new!

So when my own children tell me what they want to be when they grow up, I try not to take it to heart.

You want to join the Coast Guard so you can fly helicopters above the ocean and be that guy that slowly gets hoisted down into the water to save that other guy in the raft?

On the inside, I want to yell out “No you’re not, that’s stupid, you’re going to be an accountant!” but since I’m an actress…I nod, smile and instead offer words of encouragement. “No you’re not, that’s stupid, you’re going to be an engineer!” (Apparently, acting really wasn’t my calling.)

But with our oldest in college and our second child soon on her way, “what are you going to be?” has suddenly become more urgent. Unlike when I was in school and had to wing it, kids these days have a plethora of online tests and tools that help them determine the perfect career choice.

Gone are the days of “maybe I’ll be an astronaut or magician,” my brother’s top two choices growing up. No, these days, the magic is gone as numbers, statistics and science can tell you exactly what you should be when you grow up.

And while I understand the reasoning behind the testing, maybe there’s something to be said about believing one day you might just be that guy who shows unflinching courage as he is slowly hoisted down into the crashing waves just in time to save that other guy in the raft.

Chances are you’ll probably end up being a risk-adverse accountant (or so your mother hopes and prays), but until then, there is nothing better than the dream of visiting far away pyramids or diving into crashing waves to have you believe you can be anything your heart desires!

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Dear Abby, Help?

Dear Abby,

I am a married mother with two children, both boys. If you add my husband I really have three boys. If you add the boys who sleep over every weekend during the school year and most days and nights on summer break, I have 10-12 boys. Anywho, the reason I’m writing is to get your professional opinion on whether or not I’m experiencing the normal anxiety over my oldest child heading off to college.

I am a married mother with two children, both boys. If you add my husband I really have three boys. If you add the boys who sleep over every weekend during the school year and most days and nights on summer break, I have 10-12 boys. Anywho, the reason I’m writing is to get your professional opinion on whether or not I’m experiencing the normal anxiety over my oldest child heading off to college.

To be honest, I wouldn’t be writing if I had the time it takes to find and visit a good therapist who specializes in parent/teenager relationships. I’m not even positive you still answer these things. The last time I saw one of your columns, I was in college. One was always hanging on my mom and dad’s refrigerator. Every time I’d visit, Mom would release it from her “I lost my ass in Vegas” magnet and read it to me.

Back to my oldest. For the first four years of his life, he had my undivided attention. We did everything together. I tried to parent the “right” way. I read to him every day, kept him on a strict sleeping/eating schedule and I even thought about using cloth diapers (that’s got to count for something, right?). My older sister, who is also the mother of two boys, would often warn me about those tough teen years. I knew my oldest would be different. And he was, until somewhere between the ages of 14 and 15.

We hit a good stride the summer before his senior year in high school. Too good. He started talking to me about stuff. Good stuff. The kind of stuff that makes a parent think, “He’s going to be fine. He’s going to make mistakes, but he’s going to be fine.” Everything was so good that before I knew it, the year flew by, and now, in just three days, we will move him into a dorm to start his first year in college.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ll enjoy never running out of cell phone data, ice cream or hot water. It will be nice to walk past his bathroom without gagging because someone forgot to flush. I suppose I won’t miss finding empty food wrappers in couch cushions, under beds or inside an empty box that’s sitting in the pantry. But I’m going to miss him. Just when I think I could throw myself in front of his car as he pulls out of the driveway to pick his brother up from school (sniff, such a good kid), he does something that makes me want to force him to live in his car until it’s time to move.

Is it normal to one minute, feel physically ill about the thought of not seeing your child every single day to the next, wanting to pay for an UBER to take him as far as $50 can take him?  Just last night he ignored me when I told him he was grounded because he hadn’t started packing his clothes yet. Was that too much to ask? I mean, it’s just his clothes. I’ve packed (AND PURCHASED!) everything else. After our little argument, he packed.

Then I felt horrible. He has three more nights until leaving, and I’m grounding him. Who does that? So, I knocked on his door to apologize. When I walked in, every item of clothing in his closet was taken off of hangers and laying in a pile on the floor. In his bag, he had packed 30 pairs of underwear, two Xbox controllers, laptop, cell phone charger, deodorant, three pairs of jeans, a handful of running shorts and sneakers, at least one dozen t-shirts, razor and shaving cream. He looked up from what appeared to be a very intense thread on Reddit, smiled and said, “I told you I packed.” I turned to walk away. “Mom? Where are you going?”

“To order an UBER for you.”

Is this normal? It’s been said that children are a gift from God. Does that mean that part of the gift will result in pushing his mother over the edge into a nervous breakdown? And if so, does God have a return policy?

Thank you for any guidance.

Mother on the edge

Dear Mother on the edge,

The good news is you both will survive, and he may even appreciate all the work it took to get him ready to face the big, bad world.

The bad news is, it won’t likely happen until his own child heads off to college. As far as the feelings that can go from happy to sad to mad in the same breath, this unfortunately is something you will have to get used to. Don’t get too excited about those four glorious weeks he’ll be home for the holidays. By Christmas Eve, you’ll be ready to order another UBER to carry him back to school.


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School Year Pledge

School has started, and, to be honest, I’m a little melancholy.

Most years, I’m glad to return my kids to school. And I don’t mean just glad, I mean ecstatic, overjoyed, beside myself with overwhelming happiness that I’m no longer part-time summer camp director, part-time jail warden, part-time personal chef and full-time zookeeper! When they go back to school, my vacation begins!

But with our oldest child already moved out, our middle child now a senior and only one left that can’t drive, I’m growing sad that these school years will soon be ending. Mind you, I’ve never been PTA President much less Homeroom Mom assistant to the assistant, and so I’m also growing concerned that my kids are going to remember me as the slacker Mom I was rather than the Mom of the Year I meant to be.

So while I still have some time, I need to rewrite history, sprinkle their memories with some fake news and make them completely forget all the times I picked them up late or made them pass off packaged cookies for homemade ones, at every single one of their school parties.

It’s time to reform my image. If Martha Stewart can serve jail time and follow her incarceration with a Prime Time Christmas Special, surely I can become super mom in the next year.

In an effort to replace my senior’s memories (and those of her brother while I’m at it), I pledge to correct my wayward ways as follows:

  1. I will not forget to pick you up from school on the days you don’t have your car. Not even once, because that is wrong and also because it seems to be that one thing you guys bring up over and over and over. I get it, you get out at 3, and I will be there. What, you get out at 2:50? Well, therein lies the first problem.
  2. I will make your school lunch for more than just the first week of school. This will, obviously, also entail my going to the grocery on a regular basis, which is really a huge thorn in my side but I completely understand, after 12 years you can’t eat one more chicken nugget. Have you tried Chick-fil-A nuggets, though, because those are soo good? Ok, no — you are right — make your lunch, done!
  3. I will no longer let my son wear girl shirts to school. Apparently boy polo shirts button up on one side and girl polo shirts button up the other – who knew – well apparently most of the 8th grade boys did last year, so this year, no girl shirts!
  4. I will not forget to wash your tennis, soccer, cross country, football gear every single night — twice — on HOT! Because throwing them in the dryer for 10 minutes with a dryer sheet and then Febreezing them is not the same… even though it kind of is.
  5. I will not wait until the last minute to work on your/my project because all that yelling is bad for everyone. Additionally, I will start working on your bug project at least two weeks earlier so I can order exotic freeze dried bugs and not end up super gluing regular old worms and bees to a piece of cardboard the night before. Because that not only gets you a bad grade but more importantly allows That Mom (you know the one) to make a better grade than me/you!
  6. I will remember to sign your agenda book/permission slip/sports waiver and won’t encourage you to forge my name when you call me from the school office. Because the principal has an odd habit of putting me on speaker and also because your dad’s signature is much easier to replicate.
  7. If there is a short period (promise, it will be short) where I can’t make your lunch and you have to eat cafeteria food, I will remember to put money into your lunch account. Because it’s embarrassing not only for you, but for me to get that call…day after day. And while part of me thinks it’s character building, your dad doesn’t think it’s funny.
  8. I will encourage you to attend all practices even if that means I will spend every single day of this next year waiting in my car or sitting in the bleachers for hours on end. One, because I love you and two, because I have a feeling your dad is keeping a file on me and I probably need to step it up.
  9. I will remember that it’s important that I get your teacher a Christmas gift, a Teacher Appreciation gift, a Valentine’s Day gift and an End of the Year gift because when I/you get that last tardy before Saturday school begins, she just might be “resting her eyes” as you slip into the room at 8:05.
  10. I will do my best to not look absolutely pained as I sit through your Academic Banquet, End of the Year Crossing, School Award Program…because you/I worked hard for that PE award, just as hard as that kid who has won every single other award for the past 12 years. Just as hard!

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Changing Lives

How a trip to Central America taught family invaluable lessons

A funny thing happens when you set out to help someone in need: They normally end up having an even bigger impact on your life. That’s something I experienced firsthand when I visited the beautiful country of Nicaragua in Central America with my dad and sister.

We went as part of a mission group from Friendship Christian School and spent a week working on various projects. But the trip wasn’t just about working on projects; we also got to spend time with the locals, listening to all of their stories. Moments like those were where we built true friendships and learned valuable lessons.

It would have been easy for us to complain on our trip, considering the cold showers, humid weather and having to sleep in hostels and hammocks — but that just wasn’t the case.

As soon as we landed in Managua, we left our comfort zones and realized the trip was about helping people. This trip gave me such a great perspective on how I go through life here at home and how I could change it for the better by just deciding to be positive.

I was also blown away by how welcoming everyone was there, even though they had only just met us. They invited us into their homes for coffee, let us hold and play with their children and treated us like we had been friends for years.

They helped us learn their language, laughing with us over our broken Spanish. And while they faced so many difficulties, that didn’t stop them from showing us kindness and making us feel at home.

We went to Nicaragua to help people, but we ended up learning even more from the people we went to help. I learned that a good attitude isn’t based on what you have or what conditions you live in. It’s a conscious decision to be kind to strangers and friends alike.

This trip was also special because I got to spend it with my dad and sister. We saw each other outside of our comfort zones and learned to appreciate all we have here at home. We also made memories that will last a lifetime — like sledding down an active volcano together.

It was a week I will never forget, and I am so glad I got to spend it with two of my favorite people!

Zoe Kane, daughter of Wilson Living Magazine co-founder Angel Kane, will be a senior at Friendship Christian School.

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