The Purge

This weekend, we did something that all family’s dread.

I had put it off long enough but finally marched up those stairs.

It had to be done!

I knew it. and they knew it.

And it was going to be horrible.

My pitiful children followed behind me with garbage bags in hand. We were going to be at this for hours, days even.

Yes…the time had come to clean out their closets. Oh, the horror!

The annual cleaning out of the closets is a precursor to winter school clothes shopping. And with it being almost November….I was cutting it close.

How my children accumulate masses of clothes is beyond me. But they do. And by the end of fall, these clothes can be found stuffed in random drawers, under their bed, on top of the armoire, in each other’s rooms, on the floor and sometimes, just sometimes, in their actual closets.

Hundreds of socks in all sizes and colors are dumped in the hall as we try to find pairs. Jeans and skirts they forgot they bought are found. And usually, I’ll find at least five items belonging to my husband and I.

“So that’s where my yoga pants are! In Neill’s closet, why of course!”

We toile for hours, and with each passing hour, I become more and more irritable.

“This still has the tag on it! Why do you have five of the same blue polos? This is my belt!”

“No, I’m not giving this away because it’s ugly. When you asked me to spend $30 on it, it wasn’t ugly!”

“Yes, if it doesn’t fit Madison, then it moves to your closet. That’s the role of the younger sister. She wears hand me downs. Look it up.”

Back and forth. Back and forth. We carry on for hours.

Sometimes they try to escape, and I’ll turn to find one gone. I wouldn’t notice but for the fact their sibling immediately outs them.

“Bring me more garbage bags,” I yell to the one now hiding downstairs.

Drawer by drawer, closet by closet, we fill bags to the brim with too short pajama pants, mustard-stained polos, out of style cargo shorts and shoes whose match is long gone.

We also reorganize, color code and finally see the bottom of everyone’s closet.

Why yes…the carpet is still there!

And at the end of the day, we drag bag after bag downstairs and then proceed to pass out from exhaustion.

Rest up. Tomorrow we shop for new school clothes.

Oh, the horror!

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If the Boot Fits

Since childhood, I’ve cleaned, pruned and organized my closet space at least 200 times.

As a child, it was much harder to throw out or giveaway stuffed animals, extra monopoly game pieces and plastic jewelry. I had no problem throwing out clothes that no longer fit. It wasn’t a big deal to get rid of those blue jeans with a bright rainbow embroidered on the back pocket. They didn’t fit. Of course, that’s when I was 10 years old. Not quite old enough to realize that the number on the scale or dress label would somehow validate how good or bad I should feel for most of my life.

As a teenager and young adult, an item of clothing not fitting became a challenge. In my mind, life was better when those shorts fit. The thinner me was always happier me.

Last week, after reading a blog on how to transform your life by incorporating Feng shui, I went on a cleaning spree. In my closet, I found a pair of shorts, a red velvet dress (no idea?) and a pair of Union Bay jeans. All from college. All too small…by A LOT!  All completely out of style.

It wasn’t like this was the first time seeing these items since 1993. I have packed and unpacked all three 11 times. But seeing them during my Feng shui attack, I was horrified. In truth, the Union Bay jeans should have been given away in 1995. All have been too small since 1998. But I kept them around. Even after children. But why?!

They didn’t represent a happier me. A thinner me, yes. A happier me, not really. And they weren’t making me particularly cheerful these days either. If anything, they had become my albatross. Keeping me stuck between the Spin Doctors and Adele, dark brown matte lipstick and gloss, belted, high waist and boot cut. Clothing I couldn’t suck in enough to pull past my knees was now giving me anxiety. It wasn’t the extra 15 pounds I’ve been trying to lose since my 24th birthday that was making me feel bad: They were making me feel bad!

Anytime any item of clothing feels tight, I stress. That doesn’t help matters since I’m a “stress eater” and I generally stress about everything. I eat my feelings, and my feelings taste like chocolate, salt and vinegar potato chips, cheesecake and popcorn.

Keeping those stupid dated clothes around had not done a thing for my self-esteem over the years. So I decided to do something different. I tried to find ways to repurpose them, but I’m no good at Pinterest projects so instead, I tossed them.

A weight was lifted. Not a 15-pound weight. But still, I felt lighter. Since college, my tummy has gotten softer, my arteries harder and my mind a bit wiser. Clothing, relationships and politics; sometimes the things we once loved doesn’t fit into our lives anymore. But one day you realize that you can’t punish yourself any longer for something that just doesn’t fit. And at 43, nothing feels better than wearing nice pants that fit…after eating a bag of salt and vinegar potato chips.

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Focusing on What Matters

“Divisive” seems to be the go-to adjective for describing the political climate these days.

A few years ago, I believed politics (or politicians, on occasion) illustrated that even though you may disagree on most issues, somewhere along the way, all sides could find common ground. Nowadays, it looks more like two teams brawling like the Socs and Greasers in an odd social media rumble.

Politics is supposed to be about working toward compromise for the greater good, right? My husband and I have worked this way for years. Sometimes he wins and gets to stay home all day on Sunday instead of going to a birthday dinner for my sister. I mean, who else is going to make sure my patio chair doesn’t float away? And sometimes I win, and our cat gets to sleep on his side of the bed. Or when it comes to money, sometimes he wins, and we use any extra money to pay down our mortgage or put in savings. Sometimes I win by not telling him about any extra money we have. We get there, and if we leave his cat allergies out of the argument, we do so in a way that doesn’t disrupt our lives.

Lately, the divisiveness of politics has infiltrated conversations in our offices, our homes, our churches, our schools, our grocery stores, our doctors’ offices, our Facebook newsfeed. If this phenomenon could be viewed under a microscope, it probably looks like a mutated strain of SARS or maybe an unnamed STD.

Some of us have taken to social media to share articles, memes or websites that align with our political beliefs and declare that if anyone disagrees, “then we are no longer friends!” I’ve done the same. I’ve allowed how people respond to protests or health-care bills determine their friendship worthiness or their worthiness in general. Arrogant much, Becky?

Even if I didn’t make it official by posting that a particular group of people were no longer my friends if they support a State Rep or Congressman I don’t personally agree with, I had already marked them off. Albeit most were people I didn’t know beyond Twitter or Facebook, but some were people I’ve known since elementary school. People who were there when my children were born, when Jay’s dad and my mom died. They were there for birthday parties, school plays, graduations, baseball games, track meets. They are funny, kind, good people.

I remember reading through a Facebook friend’s comments on a post about last year’s presidential election. It was like watching the Mayweather/ McGregor match. Only, in this case, there wasn’t a multi-million-dollar prize waiting for each winner.

You knew how it would end but still had to watch blow-by-blow. No matter how long the fight went on, no one would be declared the winner and both (and all the people who watched the exchange from our iPad’s/laptops/PC’s) would leave the ring worse for wear.

Both keyboard competitors were prepared with facts and statistics, but fighter No. 1 had been in this rink before and knew how to pace themselves. Fighter No. 2 had passion and time to fact-check. No one won. No one changed their mind and said, “You know what? I didn’t think about it that way.” Or, “I understand what you’re saying, but this is what I believe.” If either felt like they weren’t being heard, the personal insults commenced. It was an emotional knockout, for everyone.

It was sad to watch but more disturbing to be a part of the online crowd watching. It made me feel anxious about what the future holds for our sanity and our children’s sanity, not just our country.

We are better than this. Spewing vitriol at each other about issues that have nothing to do with politics, purely based on a someone’s party line.

So, I decided to stop. I stopped trying to make someone see my point of view. I stopped spending time fact-checking trending stories. I’ve pretty much stopped watching and reading the news. I stopped worrying about things that politicians, news outlets or family members say I should worry about, in favor of focusing my attention on what does matter.

And right now, what matters is my family and our collective sanity. We have very little to spare, so I consider this a public service. And I don’t care if we never agree on politics. If we can agree that real butter is better than margarine and Betty White is going to live forever, I will love you and respect you for what makes you so uniquely you.




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Dancing from LA to TN

Mileles bring their love for dance back home

When you grow up in a small town, it’s hard to dream big. Your vision can be tunneled and sectioned off, and all you can see is what that small town in Tennessee wants you to see. Your biggest dreams can be reduced to simply making ends meet while you pack away all childhood hopes of becoming a rock star. Or an actress. Or a professional dancer.

Meet Justin and Marissa Milele. Wilson County natives, Mount Juliet High School alumnus and living proof that it does not matter where you come from or what obstacles stand in your way, but that hard work and putting your mind to something is a lot of what it takes to make your dreams a reality.

Just like their parents, Mark and Jamie Milele, the siblings had the perfect Southern small-town life. Their parents were high school sweethearts before they settled down in the same town they met, their son was the hometown football star and their daughter happily cheered on the sidelines. William Faulkner would have been proud.

But small-town life isn’t for everyone, and at a young age, you could see that it wasn’t enough for the Milele siblings. So they threw themselves into what they loved doing — dance — and they worked, strived and accomplished turning what they loved into a career.

And now, at the ripe young ages of 22 and 24, with roughly 15-plus dance credits in music videos under their belts, a position on Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” tour, multiple guest spots on the show “Nashville,” a “So You Think You Can Dance” season and 70-city tour, a highlighted position in Ricky Martin’s current Vegas residency and faculty memberships with Revel Dance Convention, the Milele siblings have made it a mission to share their message of hard work and passion, along with all of the lessons they have learned in their respective careers, with the young dancers in the greater Nashville area.

Established in 2016, the Milele siblings, along with their parents, founded and created their own dance studio, appropriately named the Milele Academy. They have only been in the competitive dance circuit for a year now, but in that year, they have won countless titles — both nationally and at state level, more than 17 choreography awards and scholarships and major recognition from the dance community as a whole.

With the academy’s motto of, “Bringing LA to Nashville,” it is the Milele’s hope to bring all of their industry knowledge and talent to the local youth who are passionate about dance.

“I like to think that we can inspire young dreamers to do what makes them happy and to work hard to make it happen,” Marissa says. “Teaching has always been a passion of mine, and I feel I’m able to inspire young kids — especially in a small town — that you can do what you love for a career.”

Giving their dancers a competitive edge is what draws most students to the academy. Not only because both Justin and Marissa are established names with well-established careers in the industry, but because both Marissa and Justin are still incredibly involved in it.

The pair are constantly working toward their dreams, auditioning and training, with no signs of them slowing down anytime soon. They are constantly traveling all across the United States — sometimes together, sometimes solo — to set choreography for other studios, participate in the Revel Dance Convention as faculty, and take professional jobs — most recently with Marissa being a featured dancer performing beside Demi Lovato on “Good Morning America” — all with the promise to bring their lessons back home to their dancers.

It should be noted that while Marissa and Justin are absent, the learning, training and growth for the students is not put on pause for even a second. Their parents, Jamie and Mark, step up to the plate to tie off any loose ends while a scheduled round of professional dancers, choreographers, Tennessee Titans Cheerleaders, members of the Nashville Ballet, additional contestants from “So You Think You Can Dance,” personal trainers, motivators, up and coming performers such as Bobby Newberry and talent agents from Bloc Talent Agency visit the academy to coach, prepare and counsel the students for their future careers.

This type of training is completely new for most people in the area. While there are students in the academy who view dance as a hobby and there are classes associated with it, the main purpose of the academy is to give the students the foundation for success in what they love doing.

But even with all of this success with the academy in its first year, owning and establishing their own business wasn’t always on the Milele sibling’s radar. Understandably, this wasn’t their original goal.

Justin had plans to take his love for football to the college level, while Marissa wanted to focus on her own career as a professional dancer. But flexibility and answering the door when opportunity knocks is one of many lessons the Milele siblings pride themselves in.

“I had thought I was going to head to college first and play football, but then I decided at 19 that I would use my dance training to pursue what I felt I needed to do,” Justin says. “We knew we wanted to do something good for the community, and of course, once we started the academy and saw that our vision was working, it became an even bigger dream to help so many dancers pursue their own dreams.”

“It has meant absolutely everything to me to see young dancers gaining confidence,” Marissa adds. “I used to struggle a little with being myself, but in time, I’ve learned to become who I want to be. So when I see so many of our dancers come into themselves and believe that they have accomplished something, it is truly life-changing.”

Most of Milele Academy’s classes are held in and around the Nashville area, with a permanent dance studio soon to be located downtown on Church St. currently in the works. But wherever these young dancers are training, there is no denying the magic and growth that is taking place in each and every class.

And if there is any singular lesson that comes out of the Milele Academy, it’s that dreams are not indigenous to any location. They are no longer secluded to only New York City and Los Angeles. You can start anywhere, even in a small area like Wilson County. You can make a difference anywhere, even if it is only within yourself. And that is enough.

Milele Academy is located at 805 Woodland St. in Nashville. For more information, visit

Written By Isabella Roy

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Fall Back in Time

Granville celebrates history with fun, memorable festivity

What better way to remember the days of old than with a fall celebration the whole family can enjoy. One of middle Tennessee’s largest fall festivals, the Granville Fall Celebration has been bringing the community together for nearly two decades.

The free festival will be Oct. 7 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. throughout Granville’s Main Street. This year’s theme is “Thanks for the Memories” and will celebrate the 1940s with activities, tours and other events.

“You can step back in time,” says Randall Clemons, president of Granville Museum.

There will be World War II reenactments, exhibits, performances and more to really take attendees to an early time. People can also watch craftsman demonstrations, including watching them make cider, soap, pottery, brooms and much more. But that’s just the beginning.

There will also be a quilt show featuring more than 120 quilts in the historical Granville United Methodist Church and jazz music from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Granville Veterans Park. In addition to those sites and sounds, there will be a motorcycle show, food, craft booths, children’s rides, shopping and more.

“The Fall Celebration is a day of fun for all ages,” Clemons says.

Another major draw for the celebration is the Scarecrow Festival, which runs throughout the month. The Fifth Annual Granville Scarecrow Festival will be Oct. 4-29, Wednesdays through Saturdays.

The largest scarecrow exhibit in the state, the festival will continue the 1940s theme. There will also be ones for children to enjoy, like Bambi, Pinocchio, Dumbo and characters from “The Wizard of Oz.”

“We have over 250 traditional scarecrows, as well, displayed with fall decorations in a grand fashion,” Clemons says. Attendees will receive a guide when they arrive that tells the story of each scarecrow.

From these lively scarecrows to historic recreations, there are plenty of things to see, hear and do in Granville this fall. The town will even hold a historic ghost walk Oct. 27-28, continuing the theme of conserving memories.

“One hundred eighty-nine volunteers provide a great fall event for all ages and tell the story of our community and country,” he says. “History is preserved, and our community is showcased in a grand fashion.”

The Fall Celebration and Scarecrow Festival are both free, but tours of the Sutton Homestead cost. The event is made possible through the Tennessee Arts Commission Arts Build Communities (ABC) and Upper Cumberland Electric Membership Corp. (UCEMC) Cares grants. Visit for more information.

Photos By Peggy Clemons

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Heart of the City

Renovations breathe new life into Historic Lebanon Square

Take a step onto Lebanon’s Square, and you’ll be surrounded by a mix of historic buildings, new boutiques, friendly faces and a gamut of other updates. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Square is tapping into its rich history to restore and rejuvenate the city center.

Several of the current renovation projects were made possible with the Facade Improvement Grant from Historic Lebanon, says Kim Parks, executive director of Historic Lebanon and local Main Street program manager.

The grant will allow them to restore the facades and storefronts of these historic buildings, including replacing windows, painting with a historical color palette, improving signage and adding lighting to enhance the architectural features.

Formed in 1802, the Square has faced several changes through the centuries, including fires that destroyed whole blocks, new businesses opening and the addition of the roundabout in recent years.

The roundabout has not only brought a new level of safety to the Square, but it’s also created new opportunities for businesses and made the area more walkable, says Rob Cesternino, the City of Lebanon’s mayor pro tempore and Ward 3 councilman.

The Square has also seen parades during WWII, First Monday Mule Day sales, four county courthouses and even a store owned by Andrew Jackson before being elected president.

“The Square is the historical heart of the city. That’s where the city began: The first 40 acres are where the Square is now,” says Rick Bell, Lebanon’s Ward 6 councilman and history professor at Cumberland University. “No matter how much the city grows, the Square is still the heart of the city.”

Born and raised in Lebanon, Bell says he’s enjoyed watching the city grow through the years. Bell says it’s important to preserve that history and give people a place they can spend time and walk around.

“There aren’t many places where you can park your car, walk and go to stores. You can go to a movie at the Capitol, or go shop,” Bell says. “It’s just a place for a great night where you can relax and be safe.”

Helping to make the Square more walkable is the surge of new businesses opening nearby.

“Anytime there’s something new in close proximity to the Square, it spurs that walkability factor,” says Sarah Haston, economic development director for the City of Lebanon.

Some new additions coming to the Square include a restaurant and the Cumberland Entrepreneur and Co-Working Center.

“People used to talk about going to the Square and shops, and now a new generation is saying, ‘Let’s go to the Square and shops,’” Bell says.

Beyond going to shops and events, people can also live in and around the Square as more loft spaces become available, adding to its appeal.

All of the current renovations and new business additions are focused on preserving the history of the Square, while also keeping it current for generations to come.

“We’re moving forward with positive energy — and also engaging the people who have lived in Lebanon their entire lives,” says Cesternino, who relocated here from Seattle 10 years ago.

It’s an exciting time for the Historic Lebanon Square as the city finds the perfect combination of new and old to liven up this important destination.

“The Square has gone through a lot of changes in the past. Building styles have changed, stores have changed, business have come and gone — and right now we’re going through another change,” Bell says. “I feel like this is a change for the better. We’re making the Square better than it ever was.”

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My Perfectly Perpendicular Box

If you were to look up the word “uptight” in the dictionary, front and center would be a photo of yours truly. And, in that picture, I’d be sitting in a perfectly proportioned square box.

Oh, how I love my box where everything is just how I like it. Nothing out of place, everything color coordinated in muted colors, elevator music playing in the background, putting on my comfy socks on a Friday night, right before sitting in my comfy chair pinning decorating trends on Pinterest.

And being as uptight as I am, when someone tries to dismantle my little box, I don’t do very well.

So a while back, Brody came up with the idea that I should apply for a spot in a local organization that does quite a lot of good for the community. He had participated in it years before and wanted me to join. The organization, while a worthy one, required an overnight retreat of its members, where I would not know many of the other participants.

It also involved a bus ride, where it’s common knowledge, at the end of which you will be required to tell the entire class what you learned about your seatmate. It required a personality test where your entire personality is dissected and discussed. It required countless interactions, games and discussions with those I barely knew. And it required my sharing a room with someone I had never laid eyes on.

For many years, for these reasons alone, I said “No way!” That box sounded noisy, messy and way too close for comfort.

For one, when I’m on a bus or plane I read, don’t talk and, just in case you try to engage me, immediately upon sitting down, I put on my earbuds and hoodie (the international language for “leave me alone”). I don’t need a personality test to tell me all the ways I’m controlling and crazed.

And I don’t play games because I can think of 101 things I can clean with the time it takes to play an entire game of monopoly or bunch. But the No. 1 thing I dislike more than anything, in this entire world, would be sharing a room (i.e. my box) with a complete stranger.

For some reason, I won’t ever be able to fully explain, in a very weak moment, I finally agreed to attend. So a few weeks ago, I did all sorts of things I never thought possible from my little box.

I made a new friend on a bus. It was slightly painful at first, mostly for her, because she seemed to be one of those people who can talk to anyone.

I completed a personality test — that at the end of the day — found me to be judicious and competitive, which are nice words for controlled and crazy.

And I played games that weren’t so bad, except I missed every ball that was thrown at me, which tends to happen when your hands are crossed in front of you.

But most importantly, I shared a room with a complete stranger, and she didn’t kill me in my sleep nor did she steal from me.

My stranger roommate was very, very nice. A former model and diamond broker who now works for a local non-profit, she kept her side of the room neat and tidy, let me shower first and actually went to bed before I did. As potential psychotic roommates go, she was a good one, although the diamond broker M. O. had me worried there for a minute.

When I returned from the retreat, I was met by both Brody and Becky. who seemed so very proud of me for stepping out of my box. So much so, I found it quite annoying.

“I’m not completely anti-social,” I told them both. “I talk to people every single day of my life and lots of people like me.”

“Sure they do,” both said in unison while trying not to laugh.

But I must say, that evening, upon returning home, there was nothing I wanted to do more than put on my comfy socks, sit in my comfy chair and read about the virtues of properly aligning frames on a gallery wall.

While that other box wasn’t as bad as expected, there is simply no place like home…especially when it’s a perfectly proportioned square box.

With Leadership Wilson’s Dare to Dine set for a Nov. 11, we thought it was a good time to share Angel’s Leadership Wilson retreat experience from several years back. Tickets are still available for this fun event at

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