Chess Kid

Lebanon fourth-grader trains to master an ancient game

Story by Ken Beck

Photos by Tilly Dillehay and Ken Beck


In most respects 10-year-old Max Williams appears to be a pretty typical fourth-grader.

He likes playing the video game Sins of the Solar Empire, romping in the yard with his pet Yorkie Coco and watching the dinosaur flick Jurassic Park over and over. He enjoys reading and archery and roots for the Denver Broncos and laughs at the antics of the TV family The Goldbergs.

But sit this 4-foot-3-inch, 55-pound youth in a chair in front of game board holding 16 black and 16 white small playing pieces that bear the names pawn, castle, bishop, queen and king, and Max transforms into a silent, intense warrior, a merciless soldier who takes no prisoners.

The chess enthusiast, who lives in Lebanon with his parents Les and Traci Williams, finished 30th in the United States Chess Federation National Elementary (K-6) Championship two years ago. He has competed in about 50 contests since he was 6, earning two first-place finishes and collecting more than two dozen trophies.

These days he plays at a higher level that includes fourth, fifth and sixth graders and at a recent tournament won three of five matches, most of them versus sixth-graders.

“I thought it was cool to destroy them in a chess game. They think I’m an easy win sometimes because I’m smaller and not as old as them,” Max says of sixth-graders.

Just before a match begins, Max makes his initial move: a good, old-fashioned psych-out ploy that he refers to as the “stare down.”

“I just look at the board and it freaks ’em out,” he notes. “My dad told me not to goof off with the other kids before the matches started and lose my focus, so I started staring at the board. I’m thinking I’m just about to go to war and planning my attack, strategy in my head.”

Max began playing chess at 2 with his father as his mentor.

“It’s a game of two armies fighting it out, so what little boy wouldn’t want to play,” said Les. “I played frequently against the computer and realized it was a game Max and I could play together that he would never outgrow. I began to teach him the names of the pieces. With the aid of the board game No-Stress Chess, he learned how they moved and then incorporated strategy for game play.

“He had a very early comprehension for pattern recognition, which is a key part of chess,” said Les, who let his son enter his first tournament at 6.

“He was more than ready to compete by then—he was taking lessons and ready to put his new skills to the test.”

“I kind of pushed it a little but never thought of tournaments. In kindergarten, we didn’t know there were clubs and scholarships,” said Traci.

“I think it’s easier to get a scholarship through chess than sports like basketball and football,” said Les. “It was definitely an incentive to encourage his continued involvement in chess. It’s exciting to think young players have an opportunity to win scholarships as early as their freshman year of high school.”

“I just like having fun,” Max reports. “You can have fun and get a good education at the same time. I’m better at math, from learning to calculate in my head, and I met one of my best friends at a chess tournament. He moved to Colorado, but we still FaceTime a lot.”

As for his goals as a player, he says, “One, I want to get better at chess. Two, I want to make it more popular. I don’t think many people play it any more like they used to. Not as many people know how to play because there are other things to do like video games, bowling and TV.”

For three years, Les and Traci hired coaches Todd Andrews and Ron Seaney to teach their son new tactics and ways to look at the game. Chess master Andrews heads the Nashville Chess Club and has won several Tennessee state championships.

“We reached out to a coach when Max outgrew Les’ ability to teach him,” said Traci. “He would still benefit from a coach, but we have found other means to train for the time being.”

One of those avenues is the web site, a large, community-based online gaming platform for chess, with users from all over the world at every skill level—from someone just starting to learn pieces to grand master level.

“The web site will match you with someone of equal or greater skill level,” said Les. “There are ratings: from under 100 to 2,800. Max rates at 1,450, so he is currently matched against others between 1,400 and 1,500. They’re usually adults.

“We’ll initiate a game online with some random player, and then they’ll make a move, and I’ll move their man, and Max plays against me,” said Les, who has a chessboard set up on the table for this match. “He’s a visual player. He could play himself on iPad but it’s better for him to see the board.”

Max, who hopes to become a genetic scientist one day, describes his style of play as being “very tactical. I’m an offensive player, not defensive.”

Since the first grade, Max has been a member of the Donelson Christian Academy chess club, which meets every Wednesday after school. Members range from first-graders to high-schoolers but the majority are upper-elementary age.


“Max started playing very young. If you are exposed before the age of 5, they’re capable of advanced problem-solving at a much earlier age, and research shows advancement in regular curriculum areas such as math and reading as well,” said Tiffany Andrews Elliott, the early childhood chess instructor, who mentors the club and also teaches chess at Napier Enhanced Option School, Julia Green Elementary, Granbery Elementary, Ensworth and University School of Nashville.

“Early exposure was the key for Max, and he was passionate enough to study. He is an exceptional chess player for one so young.”

Elliott sees chess as an ideal tool for helping children learn crucial life skills like self-control, resiliency, goal setting, calculation, critical thinking, focusing and teamwork.

“Chess opens the parts of the brain that most people don’t use every day. I get to see a much deeper side of kids, much more intellectual,” said the instructor.


“I really love my job. I teach at six schools, five to six days a week. Kids are very happy to be in a club where, no matter who they are, they are accepted. It’s such a rich culture. It’s challenging as well so I don’t get beat by kids like Max,” she noted with a smile.

Elliott said that her organization teaches chess in about 25 Nashville area schools and estimates there are probably dozens more run by private coaches and other individuals.

“Valor Collegiate [Academy] in Nashville is in its first year, and every student is in the chess club. We’re coming up in the world, I think. I personally think all schools should offer chess club to their students,” she said.

One of Max’s school chums who joined the chess club this year is fourth-grader Alexandria Trubee, 10, who lives in Nashville.

“My friend Max and my dad inspired me to join,” said Trubee, who plays for fun but likes the fact that “you have to concentrate and it helps me concentrate in other subjects.”

She describes Max’s game as “brilliant” and that it takes him about a minute to checkmate her.

Second-grader Cam’ron Stuart, 8, says, “Chess is one of my favorite games in the world. I love playing chess with people.”

Ranked fifth in the club, Stuart’s goal is to move up the chess ladder into first place. He says of teammate Max, “He’s a really hard chess player.”

In describing the atmosphere during a big chess tournament, Max says, “It’s loud but very stressful. We’re in a big auditorium with rows and rows of tables full of chess boards. There are lots of parents hanging around until the chess match begins and then it gets really quiet when everyone starts to play and think.”

Mom Traci describes her own emotions while her son is competing in a major tournament like the nationals, saying, “I’m usually quite anxious, anticipating his emergence from the tournament hall. Did he get a snack before he went in?  Will we be celebrating his win or soothing wounds and prepping to do better the next round?”

His parents say that when Max is in training things can be “pretty intense” and it requires about 45 minutes of his time at home every night. Thus, this school year has been kind of a breather for him and he has not entered many tournaments.

“He was exhibiting signs of burnout, so we decided to pull back a bit. The last thing we want is for him to lose his love for the game,” said Traci. “In addition, he is getting to an age where his social life is beginning to take shape and chess is a big commitment that sometimes has to take precedent over social events.

“He has missed birthday parties, school activities and opportunities for outings with friends. It’s definitely becoming more of a balancing act as he gets older and becomes more social.”

While mom and dad hope that Max will continue to strive to better his game and rating and maybe one day achieve the level of chess master, they see bigger benefits.


“There is always someone who can beat you, so you learn to be a gracious loser,” said Les.

“Chess is a game of consequences: preparation and planning of the right moves will yield positive outcomes, which translates to real life.”

On a recent evening Max and his Les engage in a game of chess, and Max disposes of his father in a matter of a few minutes. Afterward they shake hands across the board.

When queried if he shakes hands with every opponent after a match, the youngster responds, “Yes, before and after. Always.”

Asked if he might choose to play baseball or some other sport in a few more years, he answers, “I doubt it. I say chess is my sport.”

Where to find chess mates?

For details about the Nashville Chess Center and the Tennessee Chess Association, go online to and


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Do I move you?

Spring/Summer 2015 is all about freedom… to stretch your limbs and go


We’re done with all that: sucking it in, tottering around helplessly on a spindle-thin heel, tucking our chins against the cold… Now that the ground has thawed, we have this urge to take some Amazonian strides and get somewhere. So this season we’ll only be wearing things that will help us move forward (instead of slowing us down).



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For this piece, we partnered with Kalina Neely, Nashville style blogger with We featured items from favorite local boutiques: Southern Swank, Dreams Boutique, and Pink Cactus.


Blogger and model: Kalina Neely of Topknotted


Instagram Handle: @top.knotted


Photographer: Chelsea Rochelle of Chelsea Rochelle Photography


Instagram Handle: @chelsearoc


Hair/Makeup Artist: Katie Kendall of Beauty by K2


Instagram Handle: @beautybyk2



Look 1:

Jersey jumpsuit, Dreams Boutique. Lace kimono, Dreams Boutique.

Look 2:

Striped skirt, Pink Cactus. Gray mesh top, Dreams Boutique.

Look 3:

Tunic dress with pocket detail, Southern Swank.

Look 4:

White slip dress, Southern Swank.

Look 5:

Grey sweatshirt with sleeve detail, Pink Cactus.

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Climbing Everest


A Motley Crew and a Monumental Adventure

By Summer Vertrees

What do you get when you combine two car salesmen, a veterinarian, an investment counselor, the chairman of a bank, an art gallery owner, an accountant, a school superintendent, a trauma surgeon, and a priest?  One would think that it would be the start to the perfect joke with an epic punch line. Although a good laugh is likely mixed in there somewhere, this motley list is actually the perfect combination of people to create lifelong memories with on a trek up the Himalayan mountain range to Everest base camp.

When W.P. Bone of Wilson County Motors heard of a friend’s mountain climbing adventure, he “got the fever” to climb as well. Even though he had been a mountaineer of sorts when younger, it had been several years since his last adventure.  After calling his son and partner at the dealership, Mitchel, W.P. quickly received a hearty “I’m in!” even before he relayed any true details or dates. Before they knew what they had fully committed to, the father and son were collecting friends, acquaintances, and even a few strangers to create a team of climbers for their Nepalese adventure.

Mitchel took on the role of primary planner for the trip, along with two other Wilson County Residents: Steve Shirley, a local veterinarian with Kinslow Veterinary Clinic, and Tom Ferraro, an esteemed Investment Advisor at Wells Fargo. Together, they all invited friends, purchased gear, planned flights, and prepared for the adventure of a lifetime.

The crew celebrates their climbing feat at their destination of Everest Base Camp, approximately 17,400 feet in elevation.


At the close of September 2014, the team gathered in Nepal to begin their three-week trip. In order to avoid altitude sickness, a very dangerous reality for many climbers, everyone spent two days acclimating to the mountain air before making an attempt to move upward.  Each person on the trek could bring along only 33 pounds of personal items and supplies, which at first sounds like a small amount, but as the weight is carried up thousands of feet in elevation, the burden of the gear increases significantly. “You became very cognizant of that weight” Mitchel notes, so every item carried needed to be efficient and purposeful.

Once the acclimation phase passed, through the lead of their primary Nepalese guide, an experienced mountain trekker by the name of Suman Koju, the group began their ascent to Everest Base Camp. Each morning began with Suman waking the group with the words “Zoom! Zoom!” just as the sun began to rise. Steve recalls that after Suman’s wake-up, “We got our stuff together and just started walking” and continued walking all day long. With a distance of approximately 87 miles and nearly 30,000 feet in a collective meandering elevation increase, one foot in front of the other from sun-up to sun-down was a must.

Each day’s hiking mileage was very purposeful and necessary. It was essential that the group managed to make it to the next mountain town or the next teahouse in order to reach safety for the night’s rest. Many of the Himalayan families depend on the income they earn from caring and providing for mountain travelers, so the climbers were always welcomed guests.  At one particular rest point, the group arrived at dusk, making the scenery of the town and the guest rooms hidden by the lack of light. The next morning, “Zoom! Zoom!” was called and the group began to rise. Tom described the groggy morning visual of his less than stellar abode. Surrounded by uncomfortable and dirty provisions, he opened the shutters of the small window within his room to observe a remarkable and breathtaking view of the mountain range, a scene that was masked in shadows the night before. The spectacular view of the mountains and the surrounding atmosphere was simply unforgettable.

Nepalese children pose for many mountain trekkers’ photos, as climbers are a welcomed and accustomed sight.


Along the journey, according to W.P., there were certainly some moments where everyone doubted his or her endurance. The further they progressed, once above the tree lines, Steve notes that the footpath became even more treacherous, consisting of only slippery and bare rock. At one point, a few individuals from the group trekked slightly further to the top of Kalapathar at Everest Base Camp, at an altitude of 18,250 feet. “It was at that point you could truly appreciate the difficulty of the altitude,” Steve recalls. It was only 100 yards or so father than the rest of the group hiked, but it took 30 to 40 minutes to complete the distance.

Once at Everest Base Camp, the group realized that with the great challenge of their trek was a great visual reward of extraordinary beauty, as well as a personal satisfaction of having progressed so far. The ambiance of clouds swirling around and below was monumental. This was the moment they all had worked for in the journey. As Tom recalls, everyone was “humbled by the awesomeness” of the surroundings.

On the day of reaching their climbing destination, W.P. welcomed in his 74th birthday at 17,400 feet in elevation. The instigator of this whole journey, and the oldest person on the trip, he brought in his next year of life doing just what he had hoped to do in 2014.

WP’s son, Mitchel, knowing his father would celebrate his birth “in the shadow of Mount Everest” wanted to have a cake made in order to solidify the day as nothing less than remarkable. After arriving at their sleeping spot that night, Mitchell began questioning the mountain caretakers on where the cake was for his father.  The local, with no hesitation, pointed in the other direction towards a formidable mountain range and said, “It is just over that mountain, and I will be back in twenty minutes.” Sure enough, in complete darkness, twenty minutes later, the cake arrived as promised, and it was perfect for the celebration.

With ease and confidence, porters carry supplies throughout the Himalayas.


With more early morning risings of “Zoom! Zoom!” from Suman, the group made steady progress and kept a successful pace towards where they began, drawing the trip to a close.

Upon reflection, the group wouldn’t have changed a thing about their adventure. Anything “bad” that might have happened was embraced. “The bad is what made it a trip,” Tom said. As W.P. nostalgically  proclaimed, “Everybody got along. We had perfect weather. We all came back in one piece. We just had a wonderful trip and couldn’t ask for better companions.”

It’s predicted that W.P.’s “itch” may come back, and the assortment of friends may journey again. Until that time, they all go about their business with an amazing sense of accomplishment, a lifetime worth of memories, and a computer full of digital images. Everest, should they choose to accept her challenge again, will always be waiting.



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How to create a gallery wall – Coming Home

Gallery wall coming home

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Nothing comes between me and my Calyx

By Angel Kane

I believe everyone has that one item that they just can’t live without.

Mine is Calyx. A perfume I’ve been wearing since high school.

For a short period, in early 2000, it was discontinued and I was at a serious loss. Adrift from one vanilla bean musk to another, never quite hitting the mark, I was in perfume purgatory. Then a few years ago I heard Clinique had bought the formula and was bringing Calyx back.

Oh happy day!!

I immediately did what any avid shopper would do, I ordered bottles and bottles, so I’d never be faced with this problem again. And now, whenever a bottle runs out, I don’t go into my stash without ordering even more for my reserves. Those preparing for the end of days can hoard their cans of food and flour all day long, this girl may go hungry but I’ll do so smelling like a field of wildflowers and sunshine!

So as I was driving my girls to school last week, my middle child was riffling through my purse looking for my checkbook (of course), and instead happened upon one such bottle and dared to spray it into the air. (for no reason)

“Stop,” I screamed, “that’s my Calyx!  Don’t waste it. I love that perfume!”

To which my eldest responded, “We know. I can literally smell the 80’s. Please stop wearing it, it makes you smell old!”

Did she just say the O word???

Is she kidding me? Old? I’m not old! Anybody that can quote every line from Sixteen Candles, St. Elmo’s Fire, Red Dawn and Breakfast Club is definitely not old.

Hip, cool, fascinating maybe,….but certainly not old.

“If I’m old, what does that make Molly Ringwald,  Rob Lowe or Demi Moore?” I dared to reply.

“The old, nerdy guy from Parks & Recreation and Ashton Kutcher’s ancient first wife? Hate to break it to you Mom, but they’re old too! And no idea who Molly whoever is.”

Refusing to succumb to reality, I persevered.

“What about Madonna, is she old too?”

And with that, both began to convulse and do the shiver of shame. “She is sooo gross! Wearing those outfits on stage and being soooooooo ooooooold!”

Now, I must say, I haven’t seen Madonna lately, so after throwing them out of my car, (without a check), “hope your young friends can spot your lunch,” I did what any cool, hip, fascinating person would do, I pulled over and googled “recent photos of Madonna.”

And there she was at the 2015 Grammys, in a black leotard looking ensemble. It was pure, unadulterated Madonna and I must say it wasn’t her best look.  She did look slightly, well, not young anymore.

I quickly then googled, “how old is Madonna?”

Well goodness, she is more than a decade older than me.

Letting out a sigh of relief, I sprayed on my Calyx and carried on.







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May-June 2015 is out now!

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It’s here. Click the ‘Get a Copy’ tab above to see where you can pick one up.


…in this issue


6 Notes from the Editor

10 Sabrina Out on the Town

11 Upcoming Events

55 One Last Thing



16 All About Women: A free event brought to you by WLM

18 Climbing Everest: A motley crew and a monumental adventure

22 Lending a Hand Up: Capital Real Estate Services

34 Something to Reach For: Special athletes shine through Special Olympics

36 Chess Kid: Lebanon fourth-grader trains to master an ancient game

44 Cool Chicks Who Make Stuff



14 Spring Salads: Brandi’s Bites

21 Smile Gallery: Give yours a makeover

26 How to Create a Gallery Wall: Coming Home

27 Container Gardening for Dummies: Gardens on Main (or 32??)

28 Do I Move You? Fashion with a spring swing

42 Body Kneads: A healthier you

50 Summer Fun’s Hidden Gem: Coles Ferry Recreation Club

52 Open This Only If: Michelle Hill’s Good Life

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Open This ONLY IF

Michelle Hill shares the remarkable story of the husband she lost, the package he left, and the blessing God has given


By Michelle J. Hill

Are you prepared?  Are you ready to go to heaven if it’s your time?  Are your affairs in order?

What would you do if your spouse passed away?  What if it was unexpected?  How would you tell your five-year-old and seven-year-old their father was gone?

These questions may not seem like “Finding Your Piece of the Good Life” material, but believe me, they are.

Our family has been truly blessed because of the Gift left by my husband, best friend, and father of our children.  John R. Hill, Jr., passed away on November 2, 2011, due to complications from a surgery to repair an aortic aneurysm that developed from a procedure that occurred nine years earlier.

The night before we went into the hospital, we sat down and went over various household and business matters.  It was then that he informed me he had an “OPEN THIS ONLY IF” package.  He was so physically and emotionally exhausted.  His beautiful blue eyes were so tired and sad.  I had no idea what was in that package.  I just knew it was very special.

for print Pic 14 Wedding DayThat fateful day in the hospital, right after finding out there were complications during the surgery, I excused myself from other family members, telling them I would be back in a few minutes.  I felt this strong sense to go up to the floor above where the chapel was located.  Thank goodness no one else was in there.

I immediately went up and knelt down at the altar and cried out in anguish,

“Please don’t let it be his time, Please don’t let it be his time, Please don’t let it be his time… Please give me the strength, Please give me the strength, Please give me the strength.”

I cried and cried and cried, and then felt a sense of strength overcome me.  A feeling that transcends all other – an incredible feeling of knowing that God was with me and that I was going to be OK no matter what happened.  Little did I know that I was doing exactly what John had said in his “OPEN THIS ONLY IF” Package – ASK, BELIEVE, RECEIVE!  The strength I received in the chapel at that moment is still with me today.  It’s an incredible feeling of knowing God is here.

We spent seven long days in the hospital, praying and waiting.  However, it was John’s time to go home.

The Package he had left for us was just a brown envelope with “Michelle – OPEN THIS ONLY IF” written on the outside in his unique penmanship.  Inside was a five page letter to me on fragile parchment paper, lyrics to a beautiful song he wrote, and a small red leather book with a heart engraved on the outside.  This heart book had a page written to me, a page written to our son, John Reed, and a page written to our daughter, Rylee Day.  This Package was the best gift a man could ever give his wife and children – his love, written in beautiful letters that we can read and cherish forever.

For print Pic 6 FamilyWhile still in the hospital, I decided I wanted to open the Package in his physical presence.  I took a deep breath.  I took another.  And another.  I pulled the chair up next to his hospital bed and held the Package in front of me.  I told him how much I loved him and that I had the Package and was now going to open it.  I slowly pulled away the top of the sealed envelope and gently removed the items.  I cried big tears for what seemed like an eternity before even reading one word.  Then I managed to pause and took another one of those deep breaths.  I clutched his hand as I read the letter.  It started…

“Dear Michelle,

You are the love of my life.  You brought me more happiness in our eleven plus years than I ever imagined would be possible.  And you gave me my son and daughter.  The three of you fill my heart with joy.  I love you all completely.

The last couple of weeks a song kept playing in my mind.  I started trying to write it down, but the harder I tried the more jumbled it got.

But the tune and first lines were clear as a bell, as if I were trying to answer John Reed and Rylee’s question, “Why did Daddy go?”  While I have added some before and after, it started out, “If God decides to take me now…”

I had to pause so many times reading the letter to wipe away the tears so I could see.  John’s hand and arm were drenched.  It was the most beautiful thing I had ever read!  John had written me lots of wonderful cards before but nothing as beautiful and powerful as this.

After several minutes of crying hysterically, I pulled it together and took another one of those deep breaths.  I was ready to move on to the song lyrics.  It started…

“They tell me that my heart’s not right, They have to sew it up tonight.

But times like these make everything clear, Of the love I have for those I hold dear. My heart is torn but completely full, My life couldn’t be more wonderful.

For print Pic 7 John and Rylee Day


If God decides to take me now, I know that I am figuring how, To whisper every morning…

I love you.”

After more verses, the song ends with “All things are possible in Him… ASK, BELIEVE, RECEIVE”.

In the many evenings following John’s surgery and death, I would lie in my bed or sit at my computer and put my thoughts to paper.  This cathartic experience has helped me travel in so many ways through that dark, winding tunnel to the sun rising on the other side.  John originally bought me a fabric-bound journal to write about the lessons we wanted our kids to learn, and our thoughts and feelings about our life with them.  After John’s passing, it became a place to write about the struggles, triumphs, and many blessings as we faced each new day without a father, husband and best friend.  It became a place to celebrate the wonderful, loving gift from God of John Reed Hill, Jr.  We are forever grateful to have been a part of his life.

This hand-written journal has turned into a book, OPEN THIS ONLY IF, a detailed account of the two years following John’s death and a recollection of how our lives were initially joined to form one.  It’s a journal written to our two beautiful, amazing, and loving children, with whom we have been so blessed.  Heart-wrenching stories telling them how Daddy died, why he died, and how we moved forward each day.  Faith-filled stories showing them how God was evident in our lives and carried each of us through this challenging time.  It’s about teaching our children to accept what they cannot change and the courage to face each challenging day.  It’s about showing them how to ASK-BELIEVE-RECEIVE.

It has also become an attempt to help others through their own journey.  Our story is shared with the hope that some part of our journey may impact others in a positive way.   Most importantly, it’s about showing how God has worked His miracles in our lives.

For print Pic 14 Michelle and kidsHow are we now?  There were many, many tears shed, both happy and sad, over the past three years, but we have persevered and our kids are doing absolutely amazing.  I could not ask for them to be any more well-adjusted.  We talk about Daddy all the time.  He is and always will be a part of our life because he is a part of them.  They know they can ask me anything, anytime.  I think that is the main reason why they are doing so well and so comfortable with what has happened.  Like I said, God has been with us and continues to be with us every step of the way.

John wrote a “P.S.” at the end of the letter he left for me. It read:

“P.S.  Don’t doubt me!!  I will be your biggest fan until the end of eternity.  As you continue to make the loving difference in this world, I will be cheering you on.”

He was referring to his literally undying support of my efforts to help children with special needs. I am Director of Empower Me Day Camp, a nonprofit organization for children with disabilities.  John had always been our biggest supporter and what he called ‘my biggest fan’.  So now, even after his passing, his life will continue to impact others as we donate a portion of the proceeds of our book to empower children with disabilities.  We feel his love and support each and every day and hope you too will become empowered by reading our story.

Thank you John!  Thank you Daddy!  Thank you God!!

It may not have been the “Good Life” I had earlier envisioned, but it is OUR GOOD LIFE because of the many blessings we have been given.  And I am truly grateful!


Empower Me Day Camp is a nonprofit organization for children with disabilities.  Empower Me’s mission is to empower special needs children to achieve their full potential through participation in a summer day camp and other recreational opportunities led by professional, therapeutic staff.  Empower Me’s signature fundraising event is Jere’s Ride, a bicycle ride in memory of the late Jere McCulloch.  This event will be held on Saturday, June 6, 2015.  If you would like more information on Jere’s Ride or Empower Me Day Camp, please visit their websites at or  If you would like more information on the book, please visit 


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…one last thing May/June 2015


By Angel Kane

A feeling of both melancholy and excitement has prevailed in the Kane household for the last year. Senior year has been upon us and upon many other families that we’ve grown up with and close to for the last 18 plus years.

Each month, each memory, each minute has been cherished like no other, knowing that our job (at least for now) is done. Hoping we taught her all the right lessons, while wishing we had often set a better example.

There has been so much I have wanted to say to her, teach her, show her this last year, all the while understanding that the real lessons in life will come from figuring it out on her own.

And yet, if she were to indulge me, I’d write it all down for her, place a copy in her suitcase and hope that when she came to that fork in the road, she’d pull out my map of lessons learned and they’d help guide her home.


  1. SAY YES! This is your time, say yes to it. Say yes, to staying up all night, eating fattening foods and laughing with friends until tears stream down your face. Say yes, to unknown places, unknown people, unknown ways of thinking. Say yes to opportunities that make no sense, jobs you may not think you’ll like, invitations to events you’d rather not attend. Say yes to roller coasters, dancing on tables, foods you can’t pronounce, trips that consist of only a backpack and a map. Take in all the Yes moments, as those are the ones that’ll teach who you are and who you’re not.
  1. SAY NO! Follow your instincts and if you feel the word No deep within your gut, then be sure to shout it out, as loudly as you can! You’ll be amazed how strong that word can make you feel. Never do anything that feels wrong, hurts others or hurts yourself. There is no shame in not joining with the crowd but there is no greater shame than knowing you did something you can’t be proud of. The word No can be the loneliest word in the world and yet you will grow to be the person you are meant to be, more so in the No moments, than even in the Yes moments.
  1. MISTAKES HAPPEN. No one is perfect and those who profess to be are usually the most flawed. I’ve made many mistakes in my life, the kind that still make me cringe. Don’t dwell on them though. So you said it, did it, meant it at the time and now know to never do it again. Admit it, accept it and move on. Believe me, there is always someone that will follow, that’ll earn an even bigger headline than you did.
  1. SAY IM SORRY. I’ve learned this little gem after almost two decades of practicing law. I see it every day. People can save themselves so many headaches and heartaches by saying two simple words – I’m sorry. Say it and mean it. If the person doesn’t accept it, then show them you mean it. If they still can’t forgive you then know that some things can’t be forgiven but forgive yourself and do better next time.
  1. MARRY THE NICE GUY. Boys, boys boys! There are lots out there and you will meet many. Some will have country club credentials, others will be cocky and crazed, some will be stupid and mean but look past all of them and find the nice guy sitting back, taking it all in. Your friends will all like him, your Mother will adore him, your Dad will respect him, he’ll love you even on your meanest, fattest, ugliest of days because he only sees the you, you are meant to be. Marrying a nice guy means a life filled with very few worries. He will always treat you as his equal, he will always work just as hard as you will to make your dreams come true, he will always be as kind to you as he is to others.
  1. NEVER SAY THE WORDS – I WANT TO MARRY A DOCTOR OR LAWYER. Instead be the lawyer, doctor, teacher, social worker or x-ray tech! If I’ve taught you anything, I hope it’s been that girls can do anything. You are smart, composed and brave. Education is more than just learning, it’s the power to create your own destiny.
  1. THE ANSWER IS ALWAYS NO, UNLESS YOU ASK. Believe me, I know it’s hard to ask people for a job, a favor, a piece of advice but you’ll be amazed by what you will learn if you just ask. And then never forget to pay it forward. People are going to help you along the way which means that one day you will be tasked with returning those favors, two-fold, to someone less fortunate.
  1. PICK YOUR TEAM. Nothing gets your old Mom more worked up than people who don’t pick their team. Not everyone will be on your team and not everyone will pick you for their team, but don’t ever sit on the fence. Pick your team and then fight for that team. Stay loyal, be relentless, stay informed, this is your world and if you don’t take a stand for it, then you can’t complain about it.
  1. BE KIND, WORK HARD, LAUGH OFTEN. If you remember nothing else please remember these three things. Be kind to everyone you meet, even your enemies because it’s never about them, but about you. Be kind to people from all walks of life, because, but for a few wrong choices or a few unlucky breaks, you could be them. Work hard. Nothing in life comes easy. You have to work for it, you have to work sometimes till the words on the paper become blurry and your bones become sore. You will come to find, however, that there is no better feeling than accomplishing a goal you earned on your own. Then Laugh. Enjoy this world, laugh out loud, smile, giggle, be funny and have fun. A good laugh can make even the worst of days, worst of experiences, worst of situations, 1000 times better.

And above all else, now is the time to close your eyes and jump!

You may tumble and fall but eventually you’ll stand on your own two feet and those same feet will one day carry you home.

Angel Kane can be reached at


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Lending a hand up

A “smaller, more personal setting” at Capital Real Estate Services—with an unusual emphasis on helping others out


By Tilly Dillehay

You could almost swear that they were just another Real Estate company.

But then, why are they all so into charity work? Why is the company itself sponsoring volunteer time for employees, and why are employees taking personal income and plugging it into local causes? Why is it that when you ask them for a professional bio, they all have almost as much to say about their favorite nonprofits as they do about their zoning knowledge and market experience?

Well, Capital Real Estate Services is, in some ways, just another Real Estate company. They have agents, a new office, and a growing list of dedicated clients. But at the same time, you’ll find that there is a refreshing—and somewhat unusual—emphasis here.

Owner DeAnna Dodd, Lebanon local, opened the doors in November of 2013. She had just a few simple desires, she says:  to truly specialize in client services, and to provide a great work home to agents.

Many would argue that she has done both those things, and more besides.

“The thought was to provide real estate services in a smaller, more personal setting,” said Dodd. “Because the company is referral based, it’s about being the best, not the biggest.  Let’s face it, buying a home is one of the largest investments you may ever make, so having a trusting relationship with the person who is representing you is critical.”

She compares choosing a Realtor to choosing a doctor or banker. Choose carefully, and it’s a trust relationship that should last for a lifetime. To support this relationship building, the office doesn’t have “teams” of Realtors. When you choose an agent, that’s the one and only person you’ll be working with at Capital Real Estate Services.

Building 2In the fall of 2014, the company moved to its new home at 365 South Hartmann Drive, across the street from Lebanon High School.  The office décor reflects the positive, energetic environment that makes coming to the office fun for agents, as well as providing clients a warm, friendly atmosphere for slogging through paperwork on their way to home ownership.

The individuals who represent Capital are all stellar Realtors—see more information about Tammy Lankes, Claude Maynard, Caroline Hutchison, Eston Mengelberg, Leslie Denney, Vanessa Binkley, Jennifer Jennings York, and DeAnna herself on the following pages—but it’s clear that they also approach their community involvement in a totally unique way.

Capital, as a company, and through the work of the individuals in the company, is all about getting out there and getting involved.

“Every agent volunteers time and/or money to causes in our community that make life better,” said Dodd.

The agents said that one of the highlights of their year was volunteering with The 100 Box Project. This initiative, which is an outreach of Crossroads Church, feeds local families during the Christmas season. Among their other volunteers this year was a particular group of Realtors. During December of 2014, over 500 sixty-pound boxes of food were delivered to local families.

Dog shelter 2And last June, Country K-9 Rescue was the recipient of a new building to specifically house mother dogs with puppies. The rescue is funded by private donations and run completely by volunteers who work to rescue dogs and cats who have been abused or neglected.

Capital was also involved with this project. You won’t hear it from her, but Dodd earmarked a percentage of her personal commissions to pay for the materials for the building and real estate client Don Borcherding built it from scratch, volunteering his time and labor.

Then this year, Capital Real Estate partnered with Crossroads again, this time for an outreach called The Refinery. The Refinery is a place for single mothers to get education, direction, and support when it comes to raising their families.

“It’s all about providing the key ingredients to help a mother succeed when it comes to being a parent,” said Dodd. “Whether providing dental care, haircuts, oil changes or childcare, Crossroads wants to be there to provide direction and support for mothers who are trying to raise their children and give them the life they deserve.  It’s about providing a hand up, not a hand out.”

Once again, Capital was involved.

Other agents, when asked, describe their involvement organizing various charities, or their involvement with the work of the World Outreach Church, Youth Villages, and local nursing homes. They come from backgrounds as varied as the medical field, the military, and stay-at-home motherhood. All in all, there is an underlying theme that is apparent among them: they care about serving people.

It’s enough to give you another double take—is this just another Real Estate company, or isn’t it?


Meet the Realtors

DeAnna Dodd

DeAnna DoddDeAnna graduated from Vanderbilt University in 1994 with a nurse practitioner degree while selling real estate and offering interior design services.  Although very different careers, they all involve helping others, which gives her the greatest satisfaction.  New construction and development are personal favorites, while commercial leasing and property management are additional client services. Favorite charities are The Refinery and Country K-9 Rescue.

Dodd offers the following tip: With the rate of growth for our county continuing to rise, there is not enough housing to keep up with the demand, so there is great opportunity for investment and development.  Be watching for new neighborhoods that will cater to empty nesters wanting to downsize to smaller, but nicer homes, as well as a rental development geared towards mature adults.


Claude Maynard

Claude MaynardClaude was recruited to be the Managing Broker of Capital in November 2013 and manages it with the professionalism of a Fortune 500 Company!  Skilled in property division, he knows how to get the most return for his clients.  With a vast knowledge of land acquisition, zoning changes, and knowledge of the protocol involved to get things done, he’s been able to achieve success where others have failed.  He’s a great mentor to the agents at Capital and prides himself on his availability to them.  A life member of the Circle of Excellence, Claude is committed to agent excellence through knowledge and integrity.

“If you don’t know the answer, don’t guess,” said Claude, “ASK!” He believes in sharing information and wants all his agents to be totally comfortable and thoroughly knowledgeable.

Claude played football for both Lebanon High School and Castle Heights Military Academy back in his school years. He managed Wynn’s Precision for 34 years, elevating to the position of V. P. of Manufacturing before leaving to sell real estate in 1992.   His current interests include hunting, golf, and bass fishing.


Tammy Lankes

Tammy LankesTammy has been in the real estate business for 10 years and also has her broker’s license.  She specializes in both residential and land listings, short sales, investment properties and their management.  One of her specialties is helping people get their credit turned around so they can finally purchase a home of their own.  Tammy spent four years in the US Navy and continues to serve her community through the Breast Cancer Association (she is a five-year survivor), the American Veterans, and St. Jude’s.  She also shows monthly support to the local emergency community and volunteers at Lebanon nursing homes.

“I wanted to become part of Capital Real Estate because it is a more personable company with a ‘hometown’ agenda,” said Tammy. “The agents care about their clients. It’s not just a job to us at Capital Real Estate.”


Caroline Hutchison

Caroline HutchisonCaroline started out in medical management at Baptist Hospital and then went on to manage her husband’s heat and air business, Tennessee Aire Systems, so she could be more involved with their children’s activities.  Becoming a realtor in 2013, she hit the ground running and hasn’t looked back.  Her favorite charities are Youth Villages and Safe Haven, a shelter that keeps families together.  Her parents immigrated to the United States in 1961 from Ireland, so Caroline understands the importance of home ownership in a way that most cannot.  She is building her business on that same Irish heritage through trust and loyalty.  (Just ask her about the Trinity Knot sometime, and she’ll give you an earful!)

Caroline and her husband David have been married for 25 years and are blessed seeing the adults their children are becoming. They have a son who is stationed in California with the Marine Corps and a daughter who is pursuing her dream of becoming an elementary school teacher at Tennessee Tech. She and her husband are using their empty nest years to the fullest, taking long motorcycle trips and treasuring each family gathering.


Eston Mengelberg

Eston MengelbergGrowing up in the business, Eston has become involved with the many facets of real estate including property management, flipping, and home-repair.  His experience as superintendent of Stacey Construction, a custom home building company, and in owning a home repair business, creates a great value for his clients when they are considering their purchases. These assets brand him as the ideal agent for those interested in investment properties or for those who are first-time home buyers.  He is a member of the Lebanon Rotary Club, and volunteers in events such as The 100 Box Project.  He will marry Kimbel Lea, also a Realtor, in July.




Leslie Denney

Leslie DenneyLeslie has a background in mortgage processing and property management, and also owns a design service business—Like Minds Design—so becoming a Realtor just seemed like the next logical step. After graduating from LHS, she relocated to Murfreesboro, and now focuses on helping clients find their perfect home on that side of the world. Mother to four children, she knows the importance of efficiency, organization, and paying attention to detail. She says that what motivates her in real estate is “the desire to help clients find the ‘perfect’ home and make that transaction as easy as possible.”

Her favorite place to volunteer is World Outreach Church where she is a member and small group coach, and she also teaches etiquette to 400 plus children every summer at Character Quest, a week long camp for middle school children. Fun fact: she received her certification in etiquette training from the American School of Protocol in Atlanta.

Leslie enjoys reading, ministry projects, renovation projects, and shopping for bargains.


Vanessa Binkley

Vanessa BinkleyWorking with special needs children in the Sumner County for 18+ plus years, Vanessa has strong belief that everyone is created the same. “People are not defined by their disabilities, but by their abilities,” she said. “One kind word or gesture from you could affect a person in a life-changing way, so never let that moment pass.”

Vanessa changed her career path later in life, so now she is helping others build dreams by finding them a new home. Purchasing a home is a major event in anyone’s life.  Her thoughts are that a family should never settle for just any house but take their time until they find the perfect one: “After all, a home is a place where memories are made that will last a lifetime.”

Her passion is helping others. Vanessa is very active in organizing and participating in benefits to help others in need—from charity motorcycle rides to auctions.


Jennifer Jennings York

Jennifer Jennings YorkOnce a stay at home mom, Jennifer started in the real estate business over ten years ago as an agent’s assistant.  She now applies her market knowledge and expertise in the real estate industry with her own clients.  Jennifer not only has a long record of satisfied clients but also a passion for guiding first time home buyers to the closing table. Whether you are buying or selling property, she always brings energy, hard work and creative service to every detail of the real estate transaction.



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The only 10 things I can talk about now that I’m a mother

By Tilly Dillehay


You need to know something about me: right now, for at least the next few months, there are only a handful of subjects that I am capable of discussing.

If you talk to me about other things, I’ll listen to you. I’ll nod my head and I’ll ask questions even, and I’ll smile. But the whole time, I’ll be wondering how anyone can stand to talk about anything except the following list of things. I’ll be just counting seconds until we can get back to the Important Stuff, the stuff related to my 3-week-old Norah.

These are the things that I’m currently able to discuss with you:

  1. The fact that everything smells like Norah.

My clothing, my couch cushions, my hair. It’s a sweet smell, something I’d never smelled before until I was holding her. It must, I assume, come right out of her very pores, but there are elements of sour milk and baby powder in it. It almost feels like I’ve got it in my nostrils—even when I’m not near her or anything she’s touched, the smell hovers around me.

She’s all over everything already. And she’s only been out here in the world for three weeks.

  1. That little cry that she does in her sleep. She just makes this one little sound, one little mew. It is very quiet and you have to be holding her to hear it. It probably could be sold on iTunes.
  1. A rotation of the following topics: She has so much hair, She makes so many faces, All other babies look enormous, and Don’t you love her name?!
  1. The fact that my husband is a super hunk. He helped me make her. If we’re not talking about her, we should be talking about him. How he looks when he holds her, how he looks when he’s waking up and taking her from me to change her, how he looks when he comes back in the door after working all day and kisses us both. I will also talk with you about these things, all day long.
  1. Why are you not ALL LIKING EVERY PICTURE I put up of Norah? Are you heartless? Have you no eyes? What are you doing all day that is stopping you from scrolling your feeds constantly, looking for pictures of Norah? If I wasn’t holding her all day long, that’s what I’d be doing. Just think about it. That’s all I ask.
  1. The fact that my husband and I both do things that remind us of Norah.

When I stand at the fridge and scarf down something, hungry with that special breastfeeding-mother hunger, I remind myself of her. She eats like that—breathing fast when she’s about to clamp down, excited or desperate, rooting like mad, latching on with a little smile and getting a mouthful… then pausing. She always pauses right at the moment of the latch, closing her little eyes and going perfectly still. Then she goes on. When I stand at the fridge, ravenous, I find myself taking the first bite a little desperately and then pausing and just breathing… ahhh. Thank goodness. I found food.

And I’m acting just like Norah. Or she’s acting like me? Who’s aping who here?

My husband yawns like her. He throws his head back into the yawn and really lets it go, and at the end, gives his head a big shake. Is he imitating her, or has he always done it like that?

  1. Is it normal for me to be crying this much? Is it normal to be both outrageously happy AND crying this much, and for it to be BECAUSE I’M SO HAPPY? (and also because of that hymn or sermon… or Pampers commercial…)
  1. Let’s talk about her sleeping habits. Let’s talk about her eating habits. Let’s talk about what her poop looks like and whether she’s spitting up enough, and how much she weighs. If it’s related to infant health, I want in. Please bring notes because I’ll actually read them. (I finished my breastfeeding book and have run out of things to google.)
  1. The fact that my parents are awesome. I can’t believe they got to do this seven times, and then they also did all those other parts, like the parts where the kids get bigger and more complicated and then get old enough to start having babies of their own. I can’t believe they’ve done all those stages with so many kids… is this what it was like for THEM?
  1. The fact that God has placed so many gorgeous designs into this process of lifegiving. So many things that work so well, with such timing, and such wonder and symmetry. The family, the hormone, the infant skull, the breast, the human soul—material and immaterial, they all show such a mastery of purposeful art.  It feels so close to me right now: the dance, the story. I feel like such a small part… but a participant. A participant! If you want to talk about something even remotely larger than this little 8 lb person in my arms, I think I have the stamina to talk about this… for a while. (Then we’re going back to the poop conversation.)

So there you have it. Don’t push me. I’m just not strong enough to venture very much farther than these ten, and I even know why. A nurse at Vanderbilt told me that studies have shown the IQ of new mothers drops by a significant number of points after a newborn arrives.

Do they get it back? She didn’t say.

Norah montage

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