I baked a cake yesterday that was missing gluten. An entire cake, baked up just like it was a real cake, except that one of the main things that makes a cake a cake was missing.
It was made of almond and coconut flour. It also contained butter, eggs, baking powder, milk, and a concoction of sugar and stevia.
The really surprising thing about this cake is how much I love it. It tastes just like any other moist almondey cake I’ve had in the past. The difference here is that I have successfully tricked myself into believing that it is a kind of superfood-and-treat in one, and that it can be eaten in unlimited, pregnant-sized quantities with no repercussions (except renewed health and well-being!).
I’ve noticed this same trick playing in the minds of all my alternative-baking friends. They find a recipe for a brownie that is a nut-based, gluten-free, sugar-free, paleo brownie. They make this brownie. They are overcome with awe and enthusiasm for the brownie, and make all of their friends taste it. “Isn’t this delicious?” they say. “I can’t believe it’s got no gluten.”
And everybody agrees. It’s delicious. But in the back of your mind, you have to admit: it’s delicious CONSIDERING that it’s got no gluten. But if you were standing in a buffet line, and this dessert was sitting next to a fully-formed bona fide brownie with ice-cream, and there was no nutritional reason for choosing the g-f s-f brownie over the bona fide brownie, you’d never even for a second consider choosing the healthy brownie over the real brownie.
They simply don’t taste the same. It’s a trick. They’re delicious FOR WHAT THEY ARE—but not if you compare them to the rich, fudgy, full fat, full sugar, white flour version of themselves.
So, recognizing that I must be playing this same psychological trick on myself in the case of my almond-coconut flour sheet cake, I must not be enjoying it quite as much as I think I am. Because in my mind, I’m eating an actual vegetable—basically a plate full of greens and assorted superfoods—and it’s tasting EXACTLY LIKE AN ALMOND CAKE.
So I’m still eating it. And still eating it. It’s 9 a.m., the morning after the day I baked it, and I’m now giving myself little victory talks as I carve slivers off the edge.
“The question isn’t ‘why am I eating cake at 9 a.m.?’” I’m saying to myself. “The question is, ‘what kind of a superwoman of self-control am I, to have made a dish that behaves like cauliflower in my body and tastes like a pastry from Starbucks, and there’s still a little bit of it left in this pan?’”
I don’t know the answer to this question. There is no answer to this question. The answer is to invite somebody over and make them taste it.
Isn’t this delicious? I can’t believe it’s got no gluten!
Photography: Jana Pastors, Kindred Moments Photography
Shoot Direction: Tilly Dillehay
Location: Covey Rise, wedding/event venue – Mt. Juliet, TN
Hair: Jessica Dodds and Haley Herbert, Locks and Lashes Barber & Studio
Makeup: Necole Bell, Beauty Boutique
Wardrobe & Accessories: The White Room
Flowers: Henderson’s Flower Shop
Bride: Holly Lane
Holly Lane is Director of Brand Marketing and Strategic Partnerships at Country Radio Seminar. She lives in Nashville, and this fall, she’ll be walking down the aisle for real. She met her fiancé, Mike Freeman, four years ago while watching a friend sit-in with the band at Robert’s. After being turned down for a date and her number, he finally got her to agree to a dance. When his group left, he wrote his number on a waitress ticket for her, assuming she’d never call. Well, she did, and they had their first date at the Bluebird Cafe the very next night. He popped the question just two hours after receiving her father’s blessing with a beautiful custom ring and 1930’s vintage ring box from one of her favorite local antique stores.
Bridesmaid: Callie Pittman
Callie is a musician and songwriter with indie band The Vespers. She lives with her husband Reed in Nashville, TN and represents Rodan + Fields product on the side.
Bridesmaid: Taylor Gaines
Taylor Gaines is a Jr. at Station Camp High School. She usually plays more of an athlete’s role than a model’s, having spent years on the basketball court and softball field, but you’ll agree that the camera seems to suit her just as well.
Mother of the Bride: Katrina Byrum
Katrina Byrum lives in College Grove, TN with her husband Bob. She is mother to eleven children and grandmother to four. She is a homemaker and is currently homeschooling seven of her kids, while the others have left the nest.
We were lucky enough to snag Covey Rise for this fall themed wedding shoot. The mansion, located in Mt. Juliet, was formerly a private residence but has been recently introduced to the public as an event venue.
It was hard to choose our shots at this location: between the rolling soybean fields, fountains, lake, orchard, pool, terraces, and gorgeous interior, we hardly knew where to begin. The simple problem is that at Covey Rise, everywhere you look is another vista, and every room suggests another photo.
By Becky Andrews
It started happening again. I can’t sleep. Rather, I can sleep, I just can’t STAY asleep.
This leads to a frame of mind that’s an ideal breeding ground for worry production. So I worry. Worry about getting back to sleep turns into worry about work, bills, taxes, life insurance, dementia, cancer, Ebola, my car’s engine light that keeps coming on, my oldest driving, even deflated footballs-stupid Tom Brady. I worry about problems I didn’t even know I had. If it weren’t for my foggy, sleep deprived brain, it would be hard to rationalize questioning every decision ever made about my children, career, husband, and career again? By the time those hamsters stop running, it’s time to get up and start the day.
It would be lovely to blame this on some sort of midlife existential meltdown. A really inspirational meltdown that culminates with the selling everything, backpacking across Europe with my family, while documenting every experience in a clever, witty, and heartfelt blog which is later made into an Oscar nominated film directed by Penny Marshall. Not that I don’t think this would be a wonderful idea. It’s just not going to happen EVER… if I don’t get some sleep. *As a side note, I’d love Melissa McCarthy to play me.
Looking at the clock would be a mistake. The neon green numbers just create more anxiety and confirm that I have less than two hours before the alarm sounds.
The fact that my husband sleeps soundly just inches away does nothing more than piss.me.off. It’s not enough that he’s got that smug look of peaceful sleeping. But now, HE’S SNORING! A few nudges and a “HEY! You’re snoring!” wakes him up enough to say, “No I’m not.” He must have a death wish.
Giving up on any hope of sleep, I open my laptop to see what the rest of the world is doing. Before posting, “best way to reduce snoring that doesn’t involve a pillow and duct tape?” on social media, I realize that a post like that could be incriminating if this “accidentally” happens to my husband someday.
So what gives? WHY IS THIS HAPPENING? Am I doomed to a life of sleepless nights? With no sleep, this could signal the end of my writing career. I mentioned this fear to my aunt last week. Her response, “It would be a shame to give up if you were any good at it. You’ll find something you can do better.”
One website says it’s all about creating the right environment. “Your room should feel like a cave.” What if your cave is also home to what sounds like a hibernating bear?
Another says a medical condition could be to blame-a swollen prostate. But how could my husband’s swollen prostate keep me from sleeping? That last observation made me giggle. So I got up, started a pot of coffee and decided that if I can make myself laugh at 4:04 am this is an ideal time to finish a writing deadline.
Two hours later, my cat smacks me awake to signal his feeding time and alert me that an argument between the boys could get bloody if someone doesn’t intervene.
Twenty minutes later, the cat’s fed, kids dressed and ready for school. Since there’s no time for a shower, a messy bun and extra deodorant will have to do. Pulling in to the drop off-line, my oldest says, “Don’t worry. If this happens next year, you can sleep a little longer since I’ll be able to drive me and Jackson to school.” And with those words, I realize, I may never sleep again.
Just in time for Women’s History Month (March), Lucy Lee remembers her ground breaking work with Leadership Wilson
By Lucy Lee
Who knew that when I would visit the home of my college best friend and roommate, Nancy Weeks Wong, I would be coming to the place I have called home my entire adult life? Who knew when I would come to Mt. Juliet for AGR summer rush parties at Moss Brothers Seed and Feed Store that I would watch Mt. Juliet grow into a booming suburban destination? Or that Hale Moss would be a friend for life?
Yes, I made many trips to Wilson County while in college, never knowing that this would be my forever home.
I grew up in Maryville, Tennessee, with loving parents and the best big brother. My parents taught my brother and me many important lessons growing up. Dad instilled in us both a strong work ethic and a love of people… people from all walks of life. He could find out more about a person talking to them for five minutes than most people would ever know about them, and they were never offended by the genuine questions he asked. Mom gave us both a love of reading and the understanding that involvement in your community was just a part of being a good citizen.
When I graduated from Maryville High School (and, yes, they had a great football team even then), options were pretty limited for young women. If we went on to college, it was usually to study nursing or teaching. So I went to the University of Tennessee to find a husband—and made no bones about it.
When I first met my husband Bob, he was dating my best friend and roommate, Nancy. After they broke up and we started dating, it seemed to be awkward for everyone but the three of us (we all remained good friends). Bob and I never dated anyone else after our first date. I was close to graduating at this time, so I received a Bachelor of Arts with a French major, a minor in English, and a certificate to teach French.
There just so happened to be no French teaching jobs in the early 70s. Foreign languages were not required to graduate in those days.
So after we married in 1973, I worked for Bob’s father in his law office for a short while and then accepted a job with the Tennessee Historical Commission. I learned so much about Tennessee history and was able to travel across the state and meet many interesting people. I can clearly remember having iced tea on the back porch of Fairvue Plantation with Mrs. Ellen Wemyss. What stories she told! Meanwhile Bob was attending Nashville School of Law (then the YMCA Night Law School) and working full time.
In 1977 Bob passed the bar and we settled into our “forever” life. Our first daughter, Susan, was born in 1979, and I was fortunate enough to be able to spend her preschool years at home with her and her little sister, Rebecca, born in 1983.
Bob and I became very involved with church, community activities and our children’s schools from the beginning. I look back today at some of my old calendars and wonder how I juggled all those meetings!
In the early 1980s my husband’s practice began to handle more real estate transactions and I began searching real estate titles. This soon led to freelance work for other law firms as well. Time spent in the courthouse just added to my knowledge of Wilson County, and I continued searching titles for 13 years.
While visiting my hometown one weekend, I read an article about Leadership Blount, a community leadership program in its third year. I thought, “Hmmm, that would be good for Wilson County. I sure would like to participate in something like that.”
At the same time that I was having these thoughts, the Lebanon pastor Gerald Noffsinger, was meeting with Sue Vanatta at the chamber and asking her if there was a leadership program in Wilson County.
“No,” she said, “but it’s something we want to do. Do you know anyone who could head it up?”
“I think I know just the person…” Gerald said. He was thinking of me.
Not long after that, Sue, Gerald, Mike Baker, Jere McCulloch and I gathered at Meacham’s to discuss the beginning of Leadership Wilson.
This was in the spring of 1993, and the first class began in September that same year with me as the Executive Director and a participant at the same time. The early days of Leadership Wilson were busy. I had a computer, but there were no emails, texts, or faxes. Everything we did was through phone calls and by mail.
I met the most wonderful people during this time, both as class members and as speakers for our program days. Bob still teases me that I have the best rolodex in town (and, yes, it’s still an old-fashioned rolodex). Jere McCulloch was the first to call me Mama Lucy and it seemed to stick. I still call the participants my babies. [Former Wilson Sheriff] Terry Ashe still calls me Mama Duck, from when I would try to keep up with both my adult and youth classes as we toured the Wilson County jail every year.
As my parents aged, I ended my title searching but continued with Leadership Wilson, both adult and youth programs, until 2007. That year, my daughters were grown and were planning weddings two months apart in two different states. I knew this time only came around once, and I wanted to be able to enjoy the wedding planning with them.
We have very blessed marriages in my family. One other (and probably the most important) lesson my mother taught me was how to be a good wife. You will have to ask Bob how well I learned that lesson, but most days he makes it pretty easy! My parents were married over fifty years, and they were very good years. Bob’s parents were also married over fifty years.
Our girls grew up with these strong marriage models and knew what a good marriage looked like. They both chose husbands who had seen marriages that work in their own families. We are proud of our children, their spouses, Greg Bennett and Scott Walker, and our five grandchildren, Blair, Will and Eve Bennett and Davis and Annalee (soon to arrive from Korea) Walker.
Bob and I are now taking time for ourselves. We get to spend a lot of time in our Florida condo and have enjoyed travels in the US and in Europe over the last few years. Two more states and we will have visited all fifty of them. Bob still works every day when we are in Lebanon, and I still do some leadership training and consulting, including facilitating Leadership Wilson’s opening retreat. I still get to meet and spend time with the new classes.
Wilson County and its people will always be home to us. It’s been the scene of the very best years of our lives. It has given us so many opportunities, and I hope I have given a small Piece of the Good Life back to my community.
…in this issue
IN EVERY ISSUE
6 Notes from the Editor
10 Sabrina Out on the Town
11 Upcoming Events
62 One Last Thing
54 In the Rough: The Jewelers opens up shop
14 Just a Taste: Wedding worthy hors d’oeuvres
16 Romancing the Stone: Bridal jewelry on a backdrop of fresh blooms
24 Shut the Front Door: Three ways to brighten your entry
58 The Ultimate Wedding Guide
By Summer Vantrees
Photography by Jana Pastors, Kindred Moments Photography
Whether you’re the bride, a bridesmaid, or a happy friend, you certainly want to feel and look your best. To help shed a few pounds or tone in the right places, here are a few fitness tips to help your arms,thighs, and core, all depending on your fitness level and what you have access to at home.
Nothing is simpler for improving your arms than push-ups. If traditional push-ups are too much, modify by being on your knees rather than toes. Aim for 100, broken into 10 rep sets sprinkled throughout your day. If you can do more than 10 at a time, go for it!
Using a medicine or stability ball for your push-ups will add to the benefit of the exercise. Try putting your feet on the ball and using the incline as an added challenge. Another option is to place your hands on the ball and do your push-ups into it, rather than into the ground.
Rather than being restricted to push-ups for arm toning, you can move to pull-ups. If a strict pull-up is too challenging, add a band to the bar to help lift you. Another modification is to add a box under the bar, from which you can jump. With 100 reps three times a week, not only will your arms see a change, but so will your shoulders and back, which is perfect for sleeveless attire.
Try an air squat. Be sure not to allow your knees to cross over your toes. Get a timer and set it for 3 minutes. In that time, perform as many air squats as possible. As endurance improves, bump up the time.
If you have a weightlifting plate or a kettle bell, hold one as you perform lunges. Weighted lunges provide double the impact of a traditional lunge. Hug the weight close to chest and step forward with one leg, while the other knee bends to touch the ground. As you work, be sure to alternate the lead leg after each rep. Start with 3 rounds of 10 and build up, as able.
Front squats with a barbell are a great option for toning your thighs. For this particular exercise, form is key, so do not attempt to overdo it with weight. Start light and use no weight on the bar, adding as able when strength increases. Try completing 4 rounds of 8, with as much rest between as needed.
It doesn’t get more basic than the sit-up. Make sure when completing a sit-up that you do not put your hands behind your neck and pull your head forward, for this can cause injury. Always keep your hands crossed in front. Beginners should make a target of 3 reps of 15-20 sit ups, twice a day.
Bring back the medicine ball or weighted plate and follow the no equipment plan. If the reps are easy, add a pause midway, holding your abdominal muscles tight while gripping the weight at your chest or keeping the medicine ball above your head. This small moment of being still will amplify the impact of the exercise.
An overhead squat is one of the most challenging weightlifting moves, but its difficulty comes paired with big results. When performing an overhead squat, you always want to be confident in your lifting ability. In doing this exercise, thrust the bar overhead, arms spaced at least shoulder width apart. With a steady back and engaged core, squat. So as many reps as able, aiming to end before form is compromised. Rest and repeat.
As with any fitness regimen, if you feel uncomfortable or uncertain of any movements, seek more knowledge from a professional. With some dedication, you will be wedding ready soon!
Six good lookin’ single men. One gorgeous wedding spot—Tomlinson Family Farm Wedding and Event Venue in Lebanon. Coffee, donuts, and a bright and freezing photo shoot morning.
It‘s a tradition as old as Wilson Living itself: 1. Assemble a handful of our most eligible local bachelors. 2. Get them to dress up, pose for pictures, and answer a whole list of difficult (or just plain silly) questions about themselves. 3. Present them for the general entertainment of you, our readers.
This year for the wedding issue, we’re dedicated to making sure the women of Wilson County have everything they need for their big day. Doesn’t it make sense give them a handful of groom options, too? (That’s the hardest part.)
We give you the Bachelors of Wilson:
Name: John McFadden
Occupation: Chief Executive Officer, Tennessee Environmental Council… Father
Favorite way to spend your down time: Running and hiking, listening to music with friends
One person (dead or alive) you’d like to have lunch with:Teddy Roosevelt
Favorite book: Wild at Heart
An unusual skill: Whitewater raft guide, wilderness first responder
What you look for in a woman: Christian, loves kids (I am a big one and so is my 14-year-old), open minded/willing to try new things, adventurous.
One of your favorite date activities: Listening to live music
Where you see yourself in five years: Sailing and camping more, working less
Your hero: My dad and mom, Elijah my son
What do you think makes a relationship work? Open and honest communication
Favorite quote: “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” -Teddy Roosevelt
He’d never say it about himself (but somebody else did): “Well, maybe this isn’t the best thing to say to a potential date, but they’d find out soon enough—he is passionate and enthusiastic about everything, especially trees and the environment. But the thing that sticks in my mind about him, since he was young, is that he doesn’t take no for an answer. He is persistent and compassionate. Also, he loves the heritage that comes from family. He values it.” –Miriam McFadden, mother
Beer or whiskey? Merlot
Name: T.K. Eads
Occupation: Carpenter—Dillon Cabinet & Millwork
Favorite way to spend your down time: Kayaking, camping out on Center Hill Lake
One person (dead or alive) you’d like to have lunch with:George Jones
Favorite book: Lone Survivor—it’s a book about what snipers go through on a day to day basis, what they do to keep our freedom.
An unusual skill: If it has a steering wheel, I can drive it.
What you look for in a woman: Personality for #1, definitely has to like the outdoors in some way, shape or form. Definitely likes to do her own things on her own time, open minded, outspoken. And of course, the eyes are a big thing.
One of your favorite date activities: I would probably say kayaking. Not too much on the fancy restaurant scene—I’m more laid back.
Where you see yourself in five years: Probably still doing the same thing I’m doing! I love my job. I get to travel all over.
Your hero: My father—he’s ambitious, a hard worker… the ideal father figure.
What do you think makes a relationship work? Honesty, being able to spend time apart—if you can handle a relationship over the phone for a week or two at a time, I believe it’ll work.
Favorite quote: “Dream as if you’ll live forever; live as if you’ll die today.” –James Dean
Beer or whiskey? Depends on the occasion
Records, tapes, CDs, or soundbytes? Records. I’ve got a record player, not an old one—probably from the 90s.
Name: Jesse Hannam Reynolds
Occupation: Quality Assurance in Software Development (ForceX Inc.); Intelligence Analyst for the Tennessee Air National Guard
Favorite way to spend your down time: On a normal afternoon I enjoy a long run to clear my head from the day. On the weekends I look for any reason to put my kayak in the water and I like to top the day off having dinner with my family.
One person (dead or alive) you’d like to have lunch with: Jimmy Fallon
Favorite book: My favorite book is The Five People You Meet in Heaven. This book addresses love, sacrifice, and the purpose we have here, tying all of these topics into an intriguing read that paints a picture of how even the smallest of experiences are interconnected within our lives.
An unusual skill: I can crush the ABCs in reverse.
What you look for in a woman: I’m initially intrigued by a genuine smile and from there I look for a friend I can laugh with. The most important trait is that she has a strong relationship with her friends and family and can make the most of any situation. I am intrigued by so many things and am looking to find a women that is adventurous and wants to experience all that life has to offer.
One of your favorite date activities: My favorite date would be grabbing some tacos and margaritas and going to watch a concert.
Where you see yourself in five years: I recently became an uncle and that solidified the fact that I want to have my own munchkin, or two, crawling around by then. I can see the joy my sister and Stewart have when they’re holding their daughter and I am ready to experience that part of life.
Your hero: My parents truly are my heroes. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from them and I can now see characteristics of each of them in everything I do.
What do you think makes a relationship work? Trust and laughter, but I’m probably missing a few. If I had that figured out I wouldn’t be a part of this article.
He’d never say it about himself (but somebody else did): “I think most people are drawn to Jesse for the same reason I was initially intrigued by him: he simply does not understand the concept of having a bad day. I’ve personally never had a hard time talking to Jesse, and I’m not necessarily a conversationalist, myself. But if his magnetic personality isn’t enough to charm you, he’ll easily win you over with his laid-back style, keen sense of humor, and his appreciation for all-things-new. Of course, he does owe me twenty bucks though…” –Brice Rochelle, friend
Superman or Batman? Correct
Boxers or…? Boxer briefs
Records, tapes, CDs, or soundbytes? Live music all the way. I’m a concert addict.
Name: Brandon Carver
Occupation: Lawyer-in-training at Rochelle, McCulloch, & Aulds; Piano Instructor at Carver Class of Music; Pianist at Bethlehem United Methodist
Favorite way to spend your down time: By the fire in the winter; somewhere outside in the summer; meeting friends at a new restaurant in the meantime.
One person (dead or alive) you’d like to have lunch with: Reagan
Favorite book: Anything Fitzgerald; anything on etiquette.
An unusual skill: I can sell anything.
What you look for in a woman: A sense of adventure, a sense of humor, independence, and class. Someone I can take anywhere; someone who gives me the same feeling I get when I see the server bring my food out.
One of your favorite date activities: Anything neither of us has ever done before.
Where you see yourself in five years: Somewhere sunny and 75
Your heroes: My mother and father
What do you think makes a relationship work? Mutual interests, mutual attitudes, honesty, and two people that laugh at the same things.
Favorite quote: “The better you dress, the worse you can behave.”
He’d never say it about himself (but somebody else did): “Well honey, first of all, he’s absolutely handsome. And he’s intelligent, intellectual, has the highest integrity—you know, he graduated from Lipscomb University. He’s a kind and sensitive young man, a dedicated Christian, a marvelous pianist, has a fabulous voice. I would consider him a true southern gentlemen. I just think he’s a dream in waiting for the right young lady.” -Sue Garay, family friend
Beer or whiskey? Beer. Preferably Stella Artois.
City or country? City by week; country by weekend.
Introverted or extroverted? Outgoing introvert
Name: Kason Lester
Occupation: Student at Belmont, singer/songwriter, and I work at Lester Farms with my brother Mitch.
Favorite way to spend your down time: Playing music and writing songs
One person (dead or alive) you’d like to have lunch with: Brett Favre or Kid Rock, as random as that sounds.
What you look for in a woman: Someone who’s good looking and isn’t attached to her cell phone.
One of your favorite date activities: The movies
Where you see yourself in five years: Not real sure about that one, but I’d like to be making a living in the music industry.
What do you think makes a relationship work? Both people being able to completely be themselves around each other and not having to hold back.
Favorite quote: “Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.”
He’d never say it about himself (but somebody else did): “Artsy charismatic personality with a large heart for family, friendship, and God.” –Jana Pastors, family friend
Superman or Batman? Spiderman.
Would you rather be deaf for life, or blind for life? Blind; a world without music would be pretty tough to live in.
Name: Mitchell Lester
Favorite way to spend your down time: Eating at grandma’s house, spending time with family, watching Shark Tank and The Office
One person (dead or alive) you’d like to have lunch with: Robert Herjakavec (Shark Tank)
Favorite book: My Side of the Mountain
An unusual skill: I can grow pretty good strawberries.
What you look for in a woman: Genuine, kind, driven, attractive
One of your favorite date activities: Dinner and movies, early morning breakfast—however, the best moments are usually the unplanned ones.
Where you see yourself in five years: Stable enough to support a family through a job I am passionate about.
Your hero: Not necessarily heroes, but I respect my Mom and Dad above most.
What do you think makes a relationship work? Respect for each other and ambition to live life fully.
Favorite quote: “Ask yourself each night, ‘If I lived everyday like I did today, what kind of future would that create?” –Unknown
He’d never say it about himself (but somebody else did): “A determined individual with a mission to break ground on new beginnings.” –Jana Pastors, family friend
Beer or whiskey? Don’t do a lot of drinking.
Grateful for God’s grace, ‘Hee Haw’ star Lulu Roman sings her heart out
By KEN BECK
Lead Photo by JANA PASTORS
A lifetime ago, comedian Lulu Roman, a big, big star on TV’s Hee Haw, took a hike through the dark shadows of the valley of death, but someone bigger blocked her path, turning her toward the light.
By the kindness of God, this unwanted woman child found charity with no strings attached.
Roman, who has made Mt. Juliet her home for the past 22 years, came into this world with a thyroid dysfunction. Born in a home for unwed mothers when she was four, her grandmother deposited her in a Dallas, Texas orphanage, a place she came to despise.
“What I was doing, I realize now with all the drugs, I was just trying to get away from the ugly reality, and my reality was what those people had screamed in my life, all my life, ‘You’re fat, you’re ugly and no one will ever love you,’” says Roman. “I stayed in drugs. I didn’t have to deal with it.”
Nowadays, the 68-year-old mother of two grown sons walks in the sunshine as she makes a living with her stand-up comedy and gospel music. She also freely shares details of her troubled life from decades ago to those who will listen.
“I am a living example of God’s grace. Everything I tell you has to do with bad choices that I made for my life,” she confesses candidly.
The music, she says, has to come out. Singing is all she knows to do.
“I never had a voice lesson. I don’t read music, and I don’t rehearse unless somebody makes me, but if I want to stand up and sing, God will let me. I’m a chosen singer by God’s right to sing what he wants me,” says the Dove Award winner and member of the Country Music Gospel Hall of Fame, who has 23 albums to her credit.
Roman moved to Mt. Juliet in 1992 after she came here to join Ricky and Sharon Skaggs on a mission trip to Mexico with Abundant Life Church. They delivered 20,000 shoeboxes full of gifts for children.
“I just fell in love with the people at the church. I love Mt. Juliet,” says the performer, who enjoys chilling out with gal pals at Providence Shopping Center (she sat down with us for an interview at the local Panera Bread), and is a self-professed Walmart lover.
“I’m the Walmart queen, honey. Everybody over there knows who I am,” she says with gusto.
Roman narrowly escaped death in 2004 when infection set in after she underwent laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding. The band had to be removed. After recovering, she had the procedure a second time in 2005 and was able to shed 200 of her 360 pounds. Today she is almost unrecognizable to fans of her 45-year-old hit TV show, which airs in reruns on RFD-TV.
“I’d come to a place I felt so helpless,” she says about her weight issues. “I’m not sorry. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
“You have to have some guidelines. First of all you have to set your mind to realize that you will never ever eat the same for the rest of your life, because I used to eat massive amounts. It’s got to be a life-changing event for you as far as food intake, and you’ve got want it bad enough that you will stay there, because you can eat yourself right back up to where you were,” said Roman.
In 2014 she performed in more secular venues than gospel, including events with Hee Hawco-host Roy Clark, shows in Branson, Missouri, and the Ocean City Jamboree in Maryland, but she also appears at Christian women’s conferences. She sings a mixture of gospel, country and standards along with her comedy.
“I never dreamed of being singer. I aspired to be a comedian because I could always make a face and make people fall down,” said Roman, who sang first soprano in her high school concert choir.
Last year she knocked a musical dream off her bucket list.
“I got to do something I had wanted to do all my life, an album of old standards and classics,” she says of her At Last album, which features duets with T. Graham Brown, Linda Davis, Georgette Jones and Dolly Parton. “Dolly sang with me on her song ‘I Will Always Love You.’ It was precious, and when I started singing, she said, ‘Lulu, I had no idea you could sing like that. You’d give Adele a run for her money,’ and I said, ‘Honey, are you out of your mind?’”
Roman notes that recently she has received numerous requests to sing at people’s weddings, whereas years before there were those wanting her to sing at funerals. (She sang “Amazing Grace” at the funeral service of Hee Haw pal Junior Samples in 1983.)
Along with her songs, the entertainer shares stories, jokes, and special memories, and lets fans from the audience ask questions about her experiences on Hee Haw. She was but 23 when the country-variety show hit CBS in the summer of 1969. It was friend and country music star and Hee Haw co-host Buck Owens who got her on the show.
“The creators of Hee Haw made a list. They got a hold of all the top people in country music: Buck, Roy Clark, Archie Campbell, Gordie Tapp. Then they said, ‘Here’s what we want. We’re looking for one gorgeous blonde, one gorgeous brunette, one boy-next-door type, one girl-next-door type, one fat dumb man and one fat dumb woman.’ Buck says, ‘I got your girl, She’s in Dallas.’ They took his word for it,” laughed Roman.
After flying to Hollywood and walking the halls of CBS for an audition, she remembers the first person she saw was legendary comedienne Carol Burnett.
“I was like ‘Ahh!’ She said to me, ‘Shut your mouth, child. You’re fixing to be one of us,’” said Roman. “This is like three or four years out of an orphan’s home. You can’t tell me God’s not up there making plans doing good things for you.”
Of the many scenarios on Hee Haw such as “The Culhanes” and “In the Kornfield,” Roman says her favorite skit was “Lulu’s Truck Stop.”
“That’s because I got to eat. It was always donuts or cake or something. We had a great time throwing food at each other, and they’d bring all the guest stars into the truck stop,” she recollected.
Roman said she tries to stay in touch with her former cast mates but lately they’ve been seeing one another mostly at funerals. Her best friend from the show remains Cathy Baker—the blonde, overall-wearing “That’s all!” girl.
“We’ve been friends since the show started in 1969,” says Baker. “We immediately hit it off. When she travels, if she has anything near the eastern seaboard near Maryland, she will come and stay at our house. We get to see each other six or seven times a year. She has definitely become a part of the family. We have a mutual admiration society.”
As for the transformation Baker observed in Roman after she turned to God and stopped using drugs, Baker says, “Before Lulu found Christ her personality was the same as it is now except once she accepted him it softened the edges. Lulu had always been a very giving, compassionate person, but she had that larger than life comedic personality.”
When Roman reflects upon the 25 years on Hee Haw, which was syndicated around the world, she sums up the experience, saying, “When I look back at it now, it’s like it was a whirlwind because I was going through so many stages in my life: going from absent-minded, rock-stupid little girl through having to learn life lessons because of all the bad choices that I made… to stages of God changing my heart, changing my attitudes, my opinions and choices.
“And then when I look back on it now these 40 some-odd years later, I’m thinking ‘Wow!’ It was just a whirlwind, but it was a wonderful time in my life because I had no family to speak of, and we became kind of like family in that we met twice a year. We went through marriages and divorces and deaths: all the thing that life takes you through. I don’t remember not even one time anybody had a fight on Hee Haw. We were there to make each other look good. They were great support for me when I needed it.”
Support was not what she received while growing up in Buckner Benevolent Orphanage in Dallas. Once freed from the place at 18, she quickly took to a wild lifestyle.
Lulu Roman harmonizes with her country music pals Pam Tillis, left, and Lorrie Morgan, center. Photo submitted
“Before I got to Hee Haw I worked in Dallas night clubs for several years in strip joints. I wasn’t a stripper because I was huge, but I was the funny girl who would make fun of them. I was so crazy, I went to jail for almost everything I did before I got saved,” she said.
“I was so angry with those people at the orphans’ home who said, ‘God loves you and blah blah blah,’ and in the next sentence they’d say, ‘You’re going to hell if you don’t…’ All it did was make me mad. I thought if there was a God he don’t care about me ’cause he dumped me, and moreover he dumped all these other kids.
“At any given time there were 800 to 1,500 kids in this place. We were throwaways. I knew one true orphan. We were kids that nobody wanted. Just the way it was.
“I was very angry in my spirit, and so when I got out of there I just went crazy. I thought, ‘Nobody’s gonna tell me what to do again. I’m going to be somebody and have this and have that.’ I think what I learned right away was I had to learn to be a survivor. I had no one else but me. I had a grandmother. My mother was in a mental institution the whole time I was in the orphans’ home… so traumatic. It seems surreal, but it’s true.”
At eighteen Roman, whose real name is Bertha Louise Hable, was arrested for using a stolen credit card and went to jail. Her cellmates included women who had killed.
“At night the women would all cry, and it made me crazy. I thought, ‘What the heck,’ so I would act silly. I had short hair and put it up in pigtails, and I would just sing and dance and act silly. I had always done that since I was two or three years old because I figured I could make people laugh.”
One of the inmates told the funny girl that she reminded her of Little Lulu from the comic books, so the name Lulu has been with her since. But there was nothing funny about being in jail. Nor was there anything to laugh about when she was kicked off Hee Haw in 1971 after being busted for drugs, and then found herself pregnant.
She was 26 and single, and because of her habit, her son Damon was born addicted to drugs.
“They came and told me he was going to die, but I can remember lying in that hospital bed trying to pray, but I was so mad at God that I didn’t want to have anything to do with him,” Roman remembers.
“The only thing I knew to say was, ‘Yo, dude, if you’re real, I’ll make a deal with you.’ I said, ‘If you’ll let me have my baby then I’ll straighten up and stop doing drugs and I won’t do anything except what you want me to.’
“Dr. James Crabb came in one day, and he said, ‘Little girl, I can do everything I know how to possibly save this baby, but only God can do this one. And next thing I knew they were calling me to get over to the hospital. There had been a change. What happened is they couldn’t find nothing. He was ten days old. They just unhooked all the stuff [the IVs) and picked him up and put him in my hands.
“I didn’t realize until four years later that God healed that baby before I asked Jesus to come into my heart. On the medical records it says: ‘Act of God.’ There is no other medical explanation,” said Roman.
Six months later the young mother, who was still doing drugs, began attending church with a friend. One night she decided to talk with the preacher. He told her that God would take care of all of her problems and he asked her to repeat the words of his prayer.
“He prayed his little prayer. I prayed right behind him. I really had a physical experience like somebody lifted something off my back. I got really light. I felt like a fairy for a minute. I can remember thinking, ‘He said the Lord will begin to change you.’
Among friends joining Lulu Roman, left, on her latest album, At Last, was Dolly Parton as the two performed Parton’s song “I Will Always Love You.” Photo submitted
“Things started happening pretty fast. I went home and went to sleep and woke up the next day and thought, ‘I haven’t had any drugs.’ I called my friend Diane and said, ‘You better get over here. I’m gonna go through withdrawals.
“She came over, and we prayed and sat around and drank ice tea and cleaned the house up and played cards, and it’s been 42 years and I never have had withdrawals. God just took it away,” said Roman.
Her sons, Damon, 41, and Justin, 38, live in Bellingham, Wash., and Nashville, respectively. Justin, who graduated from Mt. Juliet High School, operates a food truck, Bacon Nation, in downtown Music City. Says his mom, “He’s got a hamburger [the 50-50 Burger] that will knock you down, half ground bacon and half ground beef.”
In her free time, the entertainer enjoys creating all sorts of things.
“Oh my,” she says, “anything you can do with your hands, I’m into it. I make jewelry, I paint, I make angel pins, button bracelets, I make soap. I give a lot of it away, and we sell it on tables at my concerts.
“I am a hobby person. People at Hobby Lobby, Michael’s, Joanne’s know who we are too. I’m always over here getting buttons or something,” says the crafty lady.
As for her future Lulu Roman says, “I’m hopeful that I get to continue what I’m doing. There’s a fire that’s still in me to go and do what I do. What I get to do is a privilege and a blessing.
“Somebody asked me, ‘What is your dream job?’ I said, ‘Singer.’ When you are really ecstatically happy with what you are doing, you are really blessed, and there’s nothing I love to do more than sing—nothing. I’m doing it.”
For more info about Lulu Roman, visit her web site at: www.luluroman.com
Lulu Roman cuts up with comedian Gordie Tapp on Hee Haw, 1972. Photo submitted
Cousin Lulu’s quick take onHee Haw family co-stars
Minnie Pearl: Class and sass.
Grandpa Jones: Precious. Suspenders and mileage.
Archie Campbell: Cigars and oil paint.
Gaillard Sartain: Ridiculously funny.
Cathy Baker: Best friend.
George Lindsey: Country bumpkin with a vaudeville hat.
Roy Clark: Happy, happy, happy.
Junior Samples: Spent 43 takes trying to get him to say trigonometry and he never could do it.
Roni Stoneman: Thunder and fire.
The Hager twins Jim and Jon: Talented confusion.