YOUR County Mayor, Randall Hutto, Is ready to Get To Work for a Third Term

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For the past eight years, Mayor Randall Hutto has been serving the citizens of Wilson County as County Mayor, but before being elected in 2010, he served as Assistant Superintendent of Schools for Lebanon Special School District and prior to that was a teacher and coach. Serving his community and improving the lives of those in it has been his paramount concern, long before becoming Mayor.

A lifelong resident of Wilson County, married to his wife of 31 years, Paula, and having together raised three children in Wilson County, Mayor Hutto knows the importance of having a safe and vibrant community in which to educate our youth and provide opportunities for them, which will motivate them to remain in this community.

Leveraging his more than 25 years of administrative and teaching experience and building consensus in the community, Mayor Hutto has been able to work with the Wilson County Board of Education and Wilson County Commission to complete a school building program, provide every school with a School Resource Office, increase the school board from five to seven members, and help the Board of Education fund their differentiated teacher pay plan which helps attract and retain quality teachers.

During his tenure, three new schools have been built. Land has been funded or purchased for two additional new schools and eight local schools have been remodeled and enlarged. For this reason, Wilson County is one of the few counties in the nation, where students are not taught in portables, which is a key component of keeping schools safe. That coupled with an SRO officer in every school is a top concern of Mayor Hutto’s.

Quality education and public safety services contribute to a better quality of life for Wilson County residents but, Mayor Hutto believes that we must be fiscally conservative with our approach as we strive to better our community.

Under Mayor Hutto’s leadership, the General Fund Budget was balanced for the first time in Wilson County history and the fund balance went from less than $1 million to $8 million plus. This is important because raising the fund balance helped the county achieve a bond rating of AA+, which is something only six other counties in the state have achieved. This, in turn, allowed the County a lower interest rate by which to borrow money and has saved the citizens of Wilson County $4.6 million dollars, because the County has been able to refinance bonds while the interest rates have been low.

Additionally, under Mayor Hutto’s two terms over 6,300 new jobs have been added within Wilson County which has generated over $1 billion dollars of economic investment in our community. And Mayor Hutto is not done, as he continues, daily, to be at the forefront of procuring and welcoming new businesses to Wilson County.

“No doubt, Wilson County is the place to be now more than ever,” notes Mayor Hutto. “My goal is to continue managing our growth while preserving what makes this County so great – it’s people and its way of life. Wilson County promotes every kind of lifestyle you can imagine from urban to suburban to rural. My goal as County Mayor is to make Wilson County the best county in the State of Tennessee.”

“And we are getting there, and with your help and your vote, I’ll continue to work for you and your family as YOUR County Mayor.”

The Wilson County Mayoral Election will be held on August 2, with early voting from July 13-18.

 

*Paid for by the Committee to Re-Elect Randall Hutto, Mayor*

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Full-Time, Full-Service and Fierce… From Empty Nest To MAKING A REAL-ESTATEMENT

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Written by Becky Andrews

Photos by John Brown Photography

If you were to follow her around on any given day, remember one thing; be prepared to keep up. “Some days can be pretty laid back, and that makes it easy to catch up on paperwork at the office, but that’s the exception, not the…hold on; I need to grab this.” This is the first of many phone calls and office intercom pages for Anita Tate during our conversation. Anita is the owner and Principal Broker at Century 21 West Main Realty & Auction in Lebanon. She’s busy, but on an overcast winter afternoon, the exception happened, so she was able to sit down and share her story.
In the more than two decades she’s been in the real estate business–nearly 13 years as owner of her own real estate firm–Anita has sold upwards of 100 million dollars in real estate, helped shape legislation to protect buyers, sellers, and agents, taught continuing education classes, and baked more cookies, cakes, and casseroles for clients than she can count. She learned early on in her career that attitude is the key to success. “As the owner of a company, when you make the biggest commitment, work the hardest and run the fastest–your energy becomes contagious, and everyone around you is inspired to double down and make it happen.”

 

ABOVE: Anita cuts up with Rick Bell as they survey progress inside a space at the new Hamilton Springs mixed-use development. Rick and his brother Jack Bell are the developers while Anita is the listing agent on the project.

The road from her childhood in Madison, Tennessee has been filled with twists and turns. “My father died when I was 14 years-old, so my mother was left to raise me and my sisters by herself.” Anita continues, “We had to do our part around the house. Nothing was just given to us, and I’m so thankful for that. I think it’s rare these days that parents expect kids to do their share in a household.” It was her experience growing up the youngest of five girls, that she became accustomed to a busy environment. So, when her only child, Lesli left for college, and the hum of teenage activity fell silent, she found herself searching for something to fill that space. “You could say my real estate career started out of boredom, something to keep me busy while I adapted to becoming an empty nester.
After I got my real estate license, the first house I purchased was in the college town where Lesli lived. She and her husband, Trent had just married, so that house turned into our first flip. Lesli and Trent did 99% of the work themselves.”

Anita purchased and flipped one more property before Lesli and Trent decided to move to Lebanon. Not
long after they started a family of their own.
The side hustle of flipping properties coupled with an unapparelled dedication to assisting buyers and sellers, eventually lead to Anita being recognized as one of Middle Tennessee’s most respected, highest selling and hardest working agents in the industry. But she’s quick to point out that her success is a team effort. “I work with some amazing agents every single day in my office. Plus, I have the bonus of working with Lesli who has been a licensed real estate agent for 15 years. Because we are family, it makes it a natural fit to work together.” Anita continues, “There’s no one else I’d rather work so closely with than her.”
Lesli and Trent are responsible for giving Anita the title she cherishes most; Gammy to 17-year-old Talor and
8-year-old Jake. “I can’t get enough of those two! I loved being a mom to Lesli and still do, but being a gammy…it’s totally different.”

Below: Anita and her husband John pose with their grandaughter Talor, grandson Jake, Lesli and Lesli’s husband Trent.


When she’s not assisting buyers, sellers or mentoring affiliate brokers, or volunteering for local non-profit
organizations like Wings Over Wilson* you can most likely find Anita in the kitchen. “I love to cook. Baking is
something that is very therapeutic, but it’s also been an excellent way to spend time with Lesli and my grandkids. It’s something we can do together without the expectation of anything besides what we are cooking. I’ve discovered that this time together creates a relaxed environment where conversation just kind of happens. That’s the good stuff.” 2018 is filled with adventure for Anita and her family. In fact, she will no doubt experience a little Deja Vu as she looks on while Lesli helps Talor prepare to leave home for college in
the fall. “Talor will graduate in May. College is next. ”She trails off and looks towards her daughter’s office across the hall then adds, “It won’t be easy for Lesli. That’s life though. Getting to the good stuff is never easy.”

FACTS ABOUT ANITA

1. She’s been married to Dr. John Tate for 15 years.

2. She has two grandchildren; Talor, 17 and Jake, 8.

3. She obtained her realtor license in 1995.

4. She opened her own brokerage in 2005.

5. 2014 Realtor of the Year, Eastern Middle Tennessee Association of Realtors.

6. 2017 President EMTAR.

7. Professional designations- GRI, SRES, ABR, and CBR and is a State of Tennessee licensed auctioneer.

* Wings over Wilson is a faith-based women’s charity group that helps support needs inside Wilson County.

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She’s doin’ it!

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By Becky Andrews

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or perhaps not on social media, you’ve probably heard her commentary on everything from CrossFit to sick kids. She’s Heather Land or you may know her as the “I ain’t doin’ it” lady whose hilarious commentary has gone viral. It all started in September when on a whim she sent her friends a short video of what she really thought of CrossFit. That video, enhanced with a clever Snap Chat filter, has garnered more than 20 million views and caught the attention of some pretty big names in entertainment like country music superstar Miranda Lambert. A few weeks and additional videos later, organizations from across the country began reaching out because they wanted this funny lady to entertain at upcoming events.
It’s been nearly six months since that first post. Since then, Heather and her two children moved to Wilson County.
Even though she’s got a very busy tour schedule and kid schedule, she made some time to sit down with Wilson Living and answer a few questions, so we could get to know our new neighbor a little better.

 

WLM:
Where are you from originally?
HEATHER:
“I’m from Milan, in West Tennessee. After I graduated from high school in 1994, I hopped around a little bit and
eventually wound up in Pensacola, Florida and started classes at a bible college. That’s where I met my ex-husband.”
WLM:
How long were you married?
HEATHER:
“We were married for almost 15 years. We were in ministry for a long time. I was a worship leader and he was a youth pastor. We worked at a church in West Texas for 10 years. After our tenure in Texas, we moved to Colorado Springs where I wrote and produced an album. I started homeschooling my kids at that time too. After some international travel with the church, the bottom fell out of my marriage. And here we are.”
WLM:
Going through a divorce is hard enough, but as leaders in your church, did that make it even harder?
HEATHER:
“It’s hard when you’re in ministry. I don’t know if it’s people from the outside or ourselves that hold unrealistic expectations. Probably both. Your are held to a standard and we just couldn’t meet the standard.”
WLM:
What was the standard?
HEATHER:
“I think in my mind it was perfection. How stupid is that? You know the American Dream. You have it all together.
I think that’s part of the problem too. We appear to have it all together on the outside…”


WLM:
But on the inside?
HEATHER:
“Everything’s a mess. No one can keep up that act. I think some looked at me and thought, “How can you minister
to other people when you are fractured?” If we love the Lord, we minister out of our brokenness. That’s what I’m
doing. I don’t consider myself broken emotionally, but my marriage was broken. And that seems to be doing me and the people around me more good than when I was ever pretending like I had it all together.”
WLM:
How did you make the leap from Heather to the “I ain’t doin’ it lady”?
HEATHER:
“I had tried CrossFit in the past and I think one day I had noticed one too many “CrossFit Check-ins” so I decided to record a video. I sent it to a group of my girlfriends and they said I should post it online. I mean if you can check-in every time your feet hit that Cross-Fit mat, I should be able to give my thoughts on why I can’t do it. It was all in good fun. I remember posting it and going to a meeting at church. Three hours later it had been shared 15,000 times.”
WLM:
Your fanbase is huge. What do you think the appeal is for your fans?
HEATHER:
“That’s weird to hear. “My fans”? I have fans? Anyway, I think it’s honesty. It’s very freeing to be yourself. It’s less
exhausting. When you become who you were meant to be, you discover that the only person holding you back was
the old you. I know for me, I love when someone is honest enough to show their brokenness; people who will look at your wounds and say, “I’ve been there too. But guess what? We’re going to be ok. That’s all we need in this world. To know we’re not alone.”
WLM:
Tell us what’s next for you? Also, how can our readers keep up with you?
HEATHER:
“I’ve got a pretty busy tour schedule. We’ve also got some exciting things in the works. The best place to keep up with me is on social media. On Facebook @iaintdoinit or my YouTube Channel @Iaintdoinit

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Bombshell Business Woman

Local author looks to inspire female entrepreneurs with book

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It’s no longer a man’s world, at least if the growing number of women entrepreneurs have anything to say about it. That includes Amber Hurdle, who wrote “The Bombshell Business Woman” to give other women actionable advice on how they can grow their businesses and succeed — no matter their circumstances.

Her struggles are actually what helped this bombshell get to where she’s at today, and readers can learn all about her journey in the book.

Hurdle, who grew up in Orange County, California, moved to Lebanon when she was 14 years old. Her father had always been in the music industry, so it only made sense that the family of eight would end up in the Nashville area.

She was seen as the ideal student, even making the evening news as a strong high school leader. That was just weeks before the moment that changed her life forever. At 16, Hurdle found out she was pregnant. After the initial shock wore off, she started to think about the logistics of raising a child when she was still one herself.

Hurdle knew she had to be dedicated to her education and work if she was ever going to be able to give her child all of the opportunities she deserved. She not only wanted to prove the naysayers and statistics wrong, but she wanted to also push herself to be the best she could.

Besides her family, helping her on that journey was Lebanon’s Johnny and Peggy Keel. Johnny was her first mentor, and Peggy — who Hurdle says was an entrepreneur in town before there was a thing — helped raise her professionally. “Peggy is the one who really encouraged me. I just can’t help but think if she didn’t make those investments in me, there’s no way I’d be where I am now — and she’s still there for me.”

From there, Hurdle has had a career focused on communications and engagement, whether that was in a marketing, public/internal relations or event management role. Like other writers, the idea of a book started to take root. So, she started putting pen to paper nearly four years ago.

At first, she had a difficult time coming up with the topic for her book. She originally considered writing a leadership book. But the more involved she became with female entrepreneurs throughout the community, she soon realized how little information and actionable advice there was for them.

“I personally had a hard time finding out how to do this. There wasn’t a book out there like what I wanted,” she says. So, she decided to solve the problem and create one.

Things started to fall together after that, finding a publisher, getting more clarity on her targeted audience and creating a plan to get the book published and out to readers. Her book, “The Bombshell Business Woman,” came out this fall and covers everything from Hurdle’s story to real advice on engaging employees, setting goals and networking.

A straight shooter, Hurdle uses her experiences, knowledge and skills to help other women looking to grow their businesses. She’s learned what does and doesn’t work for entrepreneurs, and she wants to share that with others to see them be successful.

Supporting her throughout the publishing process has been her husband, Geoff, and children Brittany, Derek and stepdaughter, Kristen Fussell. She’s also gotten support from the community.

Her book even features several local businesses who worked through her book guide together. “There’s just a sense of comradery that really inspired a lot of this book,” she says. “The most powerful aspect of it was that they were there for each other. They realized they weren’t really competition.

“So many women in this town contributed to its existence, whether they realize it or not,” Hurdle continues. “Lebanon is a true community, and we can only sustain that if we make an intentional effort to invest in each other.”

The book is for both new business owners and ones who have been doing it for years but need advice and support. She encourages entrepreneurs to grab a few of their fellow business women friends, study the book and help each other through the process.

“The huge challenge for women is having confidence, especially in a Pinterest-perfect world,” Hurdle says. “You were created a certain way: You have inherent, natural gifts you can use.”

The basis of her book is the idea of a bombshell woman, who she says is a woman who is comfortable in her own skin. “It’s not about vanity or external presentation. It’s who you are on the inside.”

In her book, she defines a bombshell as “a bold, brave and unwaveringly confident woman in business and life.” Those are attributes she strives toward, as well.

“It’s about being able to be a wife, mom, business owner, community volunteer,” Hurdle says. “A bombshell isn’t 9 to 5.”

Being able to understand the dynamics of being a woman business owner has enabled Hurdle to speak to women on a larger basis, giving them information that really helps and hits home. Having the opportunity to work with a variety of women and being able to make a real difference in their lives has been rewarding for Hurdle.

She says she wants readers to come away from the book feeling empowered. “If a woman feels empowered, she doesn’t let fear dictate her actions. She lets her truth and her talent and her gut instinct tell her what is next and how to best do things. And when a woman is operating in that flow, she’s unstoppable.”

It’s that unstoppable mindset that drove Hurdle to earn not only her high school degree, but also a bachelor’s degree. She’s proof people really can do anything they put their mind to, no matter what obstacles they’re against.

Her book aims to help other women find that same confidence, no matter their circumstances, and the best plan for their businesses. As she says in her book, “I can show just how far from grace I fell and what it took to first claw my way out of desperation and then to grow personally and professionally far more than I thought possible.”

For women who purchase her book early on, she’s offering a free 40-page workbook, 30 days of affirmation and a one-week Bible study. The book also features a study guide.

“If you want to get together with your bombshell squad, we have everything in there for how to facilitate a book study and how to make sure everybody’s heard,” she says.

“The Bombshell Business Woman” is available at Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, independent stores and Amazon.com. For more information, visit Amberhurdle.com.

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Changing Lives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Straight Shooter

Young woman sets a state record for turkey hunting
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When imagining the ideal hunter, someone might think of a strong, burly man decked out in camo. But as Lebanon’s Brittnee Reynolds proves, hunting isn’t just for the guys.

Reynolds became the first female in Tennessee to harvest a turkey with a bow, a testament to her hard work and dedication.

“I love a challenge, and that’s exactly what bow hunting is for me,” she says.

A Watertown High School graduate, Reynolds earned her dental assistant license from the Dental Staff School of Tennessee. She now works in the service department at Lochinvar and married her best friend, Hunter, in October 2016. He’s the one who first got her interested in hunting.

“When I met Hunter, I had never been turkey hunting,” Reynolds says. “So, he took me on my first hunt three years ago, and I was hooked.”

This passion turned into a mission for Reynolds as she began looking at the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF)’s site, Nwtf.org.

“I love a challenge, and I love to set goals for myself,” she says. “I had been looking at the NWTF website and noticed there weren’t any females to register a turkey with their bow in Tennessee. So, I was bound and determined to make it happen.”

She put in “a ton of practice and patience” to get closer to her goal, mastering the skill of hunting with a bow. “I shot almost every day, from all different angles and ranges,” Reynolds says. “I wanted to make sure I was prepared to take the shot.”

When it came time to test her skills, Reynolds’s aim was true, making her the first female in the state to harvest a turkey using a bow. She shot an eastern wild turkey with a 9 4/16-inch beard that weighed 16 pounds, 6 ounces last September.

“It felt amazing,” she says. “After the long wait of 13 weeks, it was official and on the NWTF website.”

While she doesn’t currently have any specific hunting goals she’s working toward, Reynolds says she grateful the Lord has given her the ability to hunt. And she looks forward to it every time.

“There are so many things that go into a successful hunt,” she says. “Everyone that hunts, you’re always waiting on that giant buck to walk out or a turkey with a beard dragging the ground to head your way.”

Her advice to other young women looking to do something that’s never been done? She encourages them to never say never or limit themselves.

“Get out and work for what you want to accomplish,” Reynolds says. “I know not every female hunts, so whatever it is you love to do, do it with your whole heart.”

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Wish 86

Van Loo’s Traveling Boutique morphs into a brick and mortar shop to remember

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Story and photos by Tilly Dillehay

Lindsay Boze

Lindsay Boze is one of those people that other people want to imitate. One of the first things you notice about her is her California good looks, coupled with an innate sense of style and an attitude of sweet and gracious hospitality.

She was also the first person in the middle Tennessee area to successfully get into the truck boutique business.

Food on wheels has long been a business concept that we can all recognize. Whether it was the ice-cream man in our neighborhood or a gourmet grilled cheese food truck on Music Row, we’ve been used to seeing people peddle those kinds of wares out of the side of a moving vehicle. But boutique clothing? Well, that’s something that we only saw for the first time in 2012 around these parts. Suddenly, in Smith County, Trousdale, Macon, Wilson, and Sumner, we occasionally encountered a pink traveling boutique called Van Loo’s. Parked in the parking lot of a hospital, a restaurant, or a grocery store, a young lady named Lindsay Boze was selling cute clothing and caring for her first baby.

Now, four years later, that truck has spilled over into a charming brick-and-mortar shop in Carthage called Wish 86. She’s selling the same cute clothing items, along with housewares, jewelry, and some furniture. Her business partner in the new storefront, Lindsey Underwood, is selling adult pieces with a slightly more preppy feel, as well as infant and children’s clothing, some home items, and a whole lot of adorable monogramming.

One wonders exactly how a small town girl from Hartsville progresses through the steps that lead to retail. Before the truck, Lindsay was a 4th grade school teacher who loved her job and had worked since the age of 16.

“I loved it,” she says. “I loved every day of work. But then I had [my son] Van Dallas and I didn’t want to go back to work every day. So I was just laying bed trying to think of what I could do that I loved, to not go back work every day. So it just hit me: ‘I could sell clothes’.

“Because that’s all I collect, my husband makes fun of me; I have no hobbies. But I love to go shopping, try things on, all that.”

She did a little research and found out that Apparel Mart—one of the boutique clothing retailers’ biggest events, in Atlanta—was about to take place two weeks later. So she packed up, along with her mother and infant, and headed to Atlanta. She bought just a few racks’ worth of clothing. It was the style she liked for herself—boho chic, vintage inspired stuff.

Boze started setting up at local schools, in teachers’ lounges. She started doing home parties. Eventually she started setting up at fundraisers and other events.

“So my vehicle was full of floor racks and all these clothes… we knew we needed to do something else, so my husband said, ‘Why don’t we just get a big truck and I’ll help you fix it up, and we’ll fix the inside like a big closet’. And I thought ‘I can do that’. So he actually surprised me with the truck, and went and got it in Alabama. It was an old FedEx truck.”

Her husband, who is in the family business of farming, had a background in auto body repair (his own shop just opened this year, also in Carthage: Hwy 25 Tire). That background, and the buddies he knew from the auto body business, helped him to fix the interior and exterior of the Fed-Ex truck. Soon it looked the way it still looks today—the whole outside a wash of baby pink, with black lettering announcing the name: “Van Loo’s Traveling Boutique.”

When her husband first brought the truck home, ready to use, she sat in the front seat and realized she had no idea how to drive a FedEx truck.

“I sat in it and was like ‘I can’t drive this thing’, so he said ‘Well, you have to! It’s ready!’ So I drove it just down the road as a practice run, and then my first show in it, in Gallatin, was that same day. So Daniel followed me to my first show, scared to death.”

Lindsay had three good years before there were any similar trucks doing what she did. In that time, she built up a following in the all of the towns where she set up shop on regular days. She also started at just the right time to do very well at a burgeoning expo and barn sale scene throughout middle Tennessee.

She might never have made the transition to a storefront, if it weren’t for the fact that, early last year, her work started coming home with her.

“I was actually just looking for an office space to work out of– to go do orders, and social media, and all that. So then I found this building, and I fell in love with it.”

She encountered the building’s owner one day as he was headed into the building himself. Marvin Baker, a Nashville business man (Baker-Gillis Productions), had fallen in love with Carthage himself while scouting music video locations. He’d purchased the store on Carthage square, which had formerly been a well-known furniture store.

Boze begged him to let her come in and look around, although he had no intention of either selling or renting the space. He showed her the bottom floor, which was empty, and the top, which he’d turned into an apartment where friends of his in music would come to get away from the city. The lower level was still much as it had always been, with original tin ceilings and original wood floors. He’d built two partition walls in the main space, and chipped away some of the wall plaster to expose the original bricks. Besides that, the place was just waiting for something to come and fill it.

Eventually, he became convinced to let her rent the space, because he believed that she could create a successful store out of it. With his wife suffering from ALS, he knew he wouldn’t be doing anything else with it in the immediate future.

Lindsey Underwood

All Boze and Underwood had to do was purchase the inventory to fill the new space, add some décor and racks, and then open their doors. The atmosphere was already there.

Now, Boze still takes the truck out on occasion, for special shows. She still loves it. But she also loves running her store, and shares shifts with Lindsey Underwood and one other employee.

“I love to be here,” she says. “I just love to come to work every day.”

Wish 86 is open on Carthage square Tuesday-Friday, 10-6, and Saturday 10-3. Check them out on Facebook or Instagram to see what’s new.

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Lately Blooming

For artist and designer Melanie Cryar, middle age was just the perfect time to get started

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By Tilly Dillehay

Photos by Morgan Cryar

 

Melanie Cryar was 51 the year she painted her first painting.

After all, four years ago, she’d never picked up a brush.

Several of her children had been interested in visual art, with some of them ending up in creative fields like music or writing. But Melanie herself, though she’s been a lifelong visitor of galleries and fawner over impressionist art exhibits, had never had the gall to imagine herself artistic.

“I’ve always felt drawn to it,” she says. “When I was in college, my favorite classes were interior design and architecture classes where we were exposed to those ideas. The way a house looked, and shapes and colors. I took textile courses, and we worked with fabric. What I don’t understand is why it never occurred to me as a young person to pursue that or explore it. And I think it’s because I had no mentors. I never had a conversation about what I might do or be. Without that, as a young person, you don’t necessarily think ‘Oh, this is possible for me.’

“My art education kind of started back then, and it was just me going to museums. And I wanted my kids to pursue that, because I thought ‘Maybe they can do this. I’m too old; I can’t, but maybe they can.’”

So she never stood in front of a blank canvas herself… until three years ago.

Melanie draws with granddaughter, Norah

I just had that kind of panic,” she says. “Over a period of seven months, we had three daughters get married and a son enter the navy. Honestly, my heart was just broken. I was in a really dark place. I felt lost and fearful. My children have been my life. ‘What am I gonna do?’ What could I do? So I decided to take an oil class at Cheekwood. I went out and got some paints, and some brushes, and that was what started it.

“It was fun; it was a bunch of mostly older women like me, so I felt really comfortable. The first thing we did was a pumpkin I think. Nothing really memorable. It was just about, ‘Here, figure out where the light is hitting this.’ And he taught us how to mix color, which is really big. That began the study of color for me, which is so important. The big thing was the teacher just really encouraged me—that I could do it. He encouraged me to keep painting, and even offered for me to come paint with him. And that was really the beginning.”

She continued to paint, eventually joining the Chestnut Group, a Nashville ‘plein air’ painting community. Plein air is the outdoor painting of landscapes. The Chestnut Group paints together, puts on art shows that benefit local charities, and provides workshops and support. Melanie spent more time painting outside, and also put together a space in her own home for painting.

But in the midst of all the still life painting she was doing indoors, she credits the outdoor work as being a gateway into abstract art.

“[Plein air] is a lot more fluid, and it’s a lot more subjective,” she says. “It’s really a looser subject for painting. I started learning color and learning light.”

From there, she started to feel freer to experiment, after a few years of painting a lot of flowers, dishes, and vegetables. She started to notice and admire some of the abstract work other people were doing.

“I thought, ‘I need to try that,” she says. “I need to explore every form and style, and see what sticks.’”

The first piece she did was specifically for her living room. It was a huge piece, about 50 inches by 60 inches, done on a canvas soundproofing panel that her husband had made and used in his recording studio. It has a seam running across it where the canvas sheets were sewn together.

“It ate up paint like crazy,” says Melanie, “because it wasn’t finished the way a normal canvas is.”

She’d wanted to do the piece using a specific yellow and aqua color palette that was in her living room pillows. From there, she ended up using a little bit of multimedia, including small shards of broken glass.

The finished piece was so striking that she kept getting comments and requests about it. Could you do that again? Could you do something like that for my master bedroom?

So she started down a new road—the road of abstract art.

Melanie at the Petite Palais in Paris

Then, last year, her children banded together to send her on a trip to Paris with a friend. It was a life-long dream fulfilled, and Melanie says it was also a seminal moment for her art journey. Not only did she do some fundraising to prepare for the trip by selling dozens of paintings online, but the trip itself was a foray into an art world she’d never seen before.

“It was a huge eye-opener in that way,” says Melanie. “I was so moved by the art that I saw and the realization that for this culture, art cannot be separated from their lives. It’s all woven together. The things they chose to paint—scenes of war, and love, and life. The way that history and life and art is all one thing in Paris. And just seeing the sheer genius of their talent and hard work. And how some of them were just completely self-taught.”

Around the time she returned from this trip, she began to dig deeper into her on-again-off-again work in interior design. Now she’s working with maybe two or three clients at a time, overseeing renovations and redecorating as needed, and often providing original art pieces or commissions as well.

She and her husband had purchased and renovated various homes through the years: “I realized during those projects that [design] makes a big difference in a buyer—people were really drawn to beautiful, well-appointed spaces. And I understand that. For me, being in a room that’s beautiful… it’s magic.”

“I want to keep learning and growing and to one day be able to inspire others; maybe teach some classes, and encourage my grandkids to pursue their passions early. At the end of the day, children and grandchildren are my calling and my biggest ‘why’ in life.”

 

 


To find out more about Melanie’s art, visit her website: www.thequietcanvas.com. To contact her about interior design needs, email her at melcryar@gmail.com.

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Good, clean laughs

Lebanon original Brian Bates has gone pro… as a comedian

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By Laurie Everett

You could say Brian Bates is a thriving late bloomer. He’s blossomed in the comedic world after working in corporate America for nearly 20 years. And by “corporate America,” I mean News Channel 5, where he worked in all realms of upper management, including as the executive director of Talk of the Town and also producer of News Channel 5 Plus.

And, no, this seismic career shift was not a mid-life crises, but more of a wild hare for someone who truly believes you only live once and if you don’t take chances, untapped talents will go, well, untapped.

To leave a steady paycheck, a loving work family and a comfortable future wasn’t necessarily a piece of cake for Bates, 44, who admits the last six months he worked at Channel 5, he squirreled that paycheck away and lived solely on earnings from his budding career in comedy.

335985_10151649869056992_1139501176_o“I loved my job in the news business,” says Bates, who is a Lebanon native. “And, yes, it was hard to leave that family, but everyone was so supportive.”

Along with support from work colleagues and friends, Bates’ number one supporter is mom Helen. It’s because of his love for his mother, Bates is in rare form behind the mic as a celebrated “clean performer” in an oftentimes vulgar world.

“I was raised to be a Christian,” he says simply. “I do not talk dirty and vulgar. That’s not me. Sometimes it’s a challenge to follow comedians who use shock humor.”

And it takes a lot more creativity and talent to get the laughs without using racy, titillating, down in the mud antics. But on the other hand, there’s a lot of work out there in the corporate world on stage, and at churches, civic halls and comedy clubs; all places that want a “clean” opening act.

For a guy who was raised in a rather well known Lebanon family – his dad was Denver Bates of the realtor world and passed in 2006 – to shine on stage at Nashville’s Zanies Comedy Club this past May was “a dream come true.”

On his night, the club was packed, almost without his beloved mom, though.

“Yes, it was ‘church night,’” Bates says with a smile. “And mom doesn’t miss church night. I finally convinced her a bigger miracle that night would be watching me perform at Zanies…”

Helen made it to her son’s Zanies debut, but only after she attended church at a nearby church that enabled her to get both accomplished in one fell swoop.

 

Road to comedic chops

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Bates with Tim Allen

A common irony, Bates says he’s a bit of an introvert. So true for many comedians, Bates has a quiet demeanor off stage, but has always been told he’s “funny.” When his dad passed in 2006 he found himself looking for a “cathartic boost of spirit.” In 2007 he took a random plunge and enrolled in a four-week comedy class at Zanies.  He was 35 years old at the time.

“The teachers and students were great,” he recalls. “I enjoyed it so much. You don’t know what you don’t know. Rik Roberts was my teacher and now my mentor.”

Bates learned entry-level comedy writing (a far cry from the news casts he wrote so many years) and performance. Right away, Bates knew he loved it so much it became a “very serious hobby overnight.” He began to get booked more and more often. For eight years he juggled his full time news gig with making people laugh on the side.

His comedy is hilarious and unabashedly self-deprecating. His extensive experience in the working world gives him a wealth of material.

“I get a lot of material from the newspaper and local events,” he explains. “I practice and try out my jokes and look for ways to improve.”

His practice run at saving all his corporate earnings for six months proved it worked, and in December 2014 he resigned his job at Channel 5 and became a full time comedian. He tours the nation as a headliner stand up comedian in comedy clubs and theatres, as well as touring with some big names like Henry Cho and Nate Bargatze.

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Bates as a guest on Talk of the Town

Just recently he showcased at the Ryman in Nashville. Many times he sees fans he met while in school at Lebanon High and Middle Tennessee State University.

 

Back to his insanely funny material

“My mom is a big inspiration in my act,” he says with a laugh. “I talk about family life and daily encounters. I point out that basically we are all the same. We all have the same insecurities and concerns. I just share examples of them.”

His mom’s struggles with technology get laughs, as well as his dating life, “or lack thereof.” And while he admits in the real world, he’s not the life of the party, but is a very keen observer, which makes for endless possibilities with his comedy career.

“Yep, my brain is wired more to observe and take things in,” he says.

And when he’s not polishing his material for the next show, Bates “takes things in” like utilizing his Titan’s season pass, going to the movies at Providence Theatre, reading on his Kindle, being a “meat and potatoes type of guy” and frequenting Cracker Barrel and Demos’.

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A selfie with Jon Lovitz

As for future acts, they will delve deeper into what it’s like being a single guy in his 40’s and “desperately searching for a wife” in this day and age.  However, that quest will be challenging because the work is pouring in. One night recently he managed three open mics. It’s seven days a week, lots of travel and no vacations.

He loves the view from his home in East Nashville, and he might even go out on a limb and get a dog. His idols in the comedy world are Jerry Seinfeld and Brian Regan. And this month his first album will be released, called “Easy Out.”

His cosmic career shift has been a home run, however, from the looks of his huge fan base, locally and afar.

“Goes to show you can fulfill your dreams, no matter what stage of life you’re in,” he says.

To see where he’ll be next and to get the latest go brianbatescomedy.com

 

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Renaissance Girl

Faith New pursues multiple passions with humility

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By Ken Beck

Photos by Tilly Dillehay

 

She’s the girl most likely to succeed in . . . well, just fill in the blank.

When 16-year-old Faith New sets her sights on a new skill set, you’d best not block her path.

IMG_2559champThe home-schooled Mt. Juliet teenager proves a crucial member on her equestrian and competitive air-rifle teams, and, when it comes to individual pursuits, she shows her hand as a pretty fair guitarist, artist and deer hunter.

Besides the mentoring of her parents, Kevin and Christine New, Faith says she’s learned key life lessons while riding horses or sitting motionless up a tree in a deer stand.

“I think I get a lot more from horses than anything else. They’re the quiet friend, but I love the give and take,” said Faith. “They’re very peaceful animals, and my horse is very calm, and I can feed off of that. They’re a very good sounding partner.

“Every day I ride my horse, I train my horse. I want good things, positive things to come out, and you can see that through my horse.”

She specifically credits her mounts, Teddy and Bo, for teaching her patience and humility.

“If I’m angry or get overworked or overheated, I’ve learned to control it, so my horse can’t tell that he has anything over me… Horses have a mind of their own, and you sometimes can’t control them, and they’ll embarrass you in front of your trainer or other people, and you learn humility from that.”

IMG_2680champAs for the long hours spent in a deer stand, she describes that experience, saying, “Out in the middle of the woods, it’s so quiet, and we’re listening for deer coming up on you. We’re out there four or five hours. It teaches lot of patience. A lot of good outcomes come from listening.”

Born in Hermitage, Faith has lived in Mt. Juliet since she was 7. She attended Mt. Juliet Christian Academy from kindergarten through the seventh grade, but her mother decided to teach her at home in the eighth grade.

“I love homeschooling. I think it’s amazing. The first year of home school was pretty hard, but the last couple have been pretty easy,” said the junior, who recently knocked out a year’s worth of math in two weeks.

Says her mom, “I’m barely the teacher. She does everything on her own. ‘Did you do your homework?’ She knows what she needs to get done and does it.

“I always said I’d never homeschool, but one day at the end of her seventh grade, it hit me that she would be able to spread her wings and do more of what she’s interested in. The same week she came to me and said she’d been thinking about homeschooling, so she could be free to practice her sports more.

“We knew being on her own to study would free up a lot of time if she was diligent in getting the required work completed. She is doing that and more. She is free after her regular studies to study astronomy, psychology, history and do more church activities and has time to learn business by working in her father’s company, which is what she wants to do for her career. She’s a very normal average kid who does what she loves,” said Christine.

IMG_2556champFaith’s affinity for horses had her begging for her own as a tot. At 7 she started taking riding lesson once a week, then twice a week, then three times. So her parents leased a horse. When she was 9, they bought her a 9-year-old quarter horse, Teddy.

With Teddy as her saddle partner, Faith began competing in dressage and then vaulting. She described the latter as “gymnastics on the back of a horse.” Nowadays, she participates in three-day eventing which encompasses cross-country jumping, dressage and stadium jumping. She competes in hunter-jumper events as a member of CF Topflight, an all-girl, high school team based in Murfreesboro that ranks first in the state and finished ninth at the Interscholastic Equestrian Association Nationals last April.

Faith placed in the Top 10 in the Southern regionals against riders from 11 states.

“The judges judge you on how well you look and how well you control the horse from the second you get on till you get off,” she said of the event. “We ride for about 10 minutes on equitation on the flat and about four minutes on jumping the horse.

“My teammates and I like to compete against each other, but we compete as a team. We are very supportive of each other,” said Faith.

She cares for Teddy at their Youngblood Stables outside of Lebanon, while Bo, the horse she mainly rides in competition, is boarded in Murfreesboro. Faith feeds and waters Teddy twice a day.

Faith said she can read horses like humans and that Teddy “has a stoic personality. He’ll do anything, but he won’t fuss.”

Noted her mother, “She’s learned how to take care of other living beings and give them love. She’s learned how to wake up early and stay late until the job is finished… She’s learned how to be responsible for herself, a 1,300-pound animal, a trailer and truck rig. She drives herself to all of her lessons and makes sure she stays safe.

“She happens to have been blessed with owning two horses that have taken her to success over the last seven years. She’s put in blood, sweat and real tears.”

Faith also has put in long hours on the shooting range as a member of Mt. Juliet Christian Academy’s (MJCA) Shooting Saints, a competitive air-rifle team.

IMG_2699champ“I’ve put air rifle on hold going on my second month,” said Faith in early August. “Horse shows and air-rifle competition are held on weekends, so I had to choose. It’s hard to choose sometimes.”

Once the air-rifle season commences, the shooters practice pellet shooting twice a week at MJCA. During a match, each competitor will take 20 shots per position (standing, kneeling and prone) at a target 10 meters distance. A perfect score is 600. Faith’s best effort is 572.

“When we started three years ago, we were nothing. We practiced shooting in the attic of a bus barn in Mt. Juliet. We had to climb the ladder. We’re a very humble team,” she says of the squad that finished fourth in the state in last year’s Junior Olympics.

“I love being a member and seeing kids make the team. This is good for kids who may not fit in with other sports, and it makes them so happy. I enjoy seeing that,” said Faith, who sets the pace as team captain.

Shooting Saints coach Gibby Gibson said he selected her for that role “strictly because of the fact she exemplifies the attitude of a leader. If not from what she says, it’s from her actions.

“She’s a very gifted shooter, and she personifies the qualities it takes to excel in this sport. It’s just a matter of how far she wants to carry it. There are 416 colleges that offer scholarships in three-position, precision 10-meter Olympic air rifle shooting. Hopefully, that can come into play when she’s ready to go to college.”

IMG_2563Shooting an air rifle comes second nature for Faith as her father began taking her into the woods when she was 5, and she began deer hunting at the age of 7. Nine years later, she has a dozen to her credit; she shot half of them with a rifle and half with a bow.

Faith’s father finds their time in the forest provides an ideal opportunity to share his values with his daughter. Their conversations have become more mature in nature since she left childhood.

“We’ve talked about hard work, picking your friends, being a good judge of character—life lessons in general. When they’re young you have a chance to bond with them together in the same tent and have all that time together with no outside influences,” he said.

IMG_2765champHe also mentors her in the workplace as he runs his own business, Painter Ready, a national, commercial and industrial painting company, where he stresses the traits of honesty and hard work.

“I’m a big believer in that nothing comes from nothing. You’ve got to get out there and make it happen,” said Kevin, who had his daughter mopping floors at the time of the phone interview.

Asked to offer a few tips that might assist other dads in building stronger relationships with their youngsters, he shared, “It’s not always quality time but quantity time, but you need to be getting out and doing something with your children away from the TV and phone, building memories. And you need to give your child chores or jobs around the house, making them responsible.”
Faith is preparing herself to take the plunge one day and take the reins to her father’s company.

“I love business,” she said. “I think it would be amazing to carry on. Entrepreneurial is in my blood.”

Her mother added, “Honestly, she has such a big dream for herself to be an entrepreneur and a businesswoman. I cannot imagine anyone being able to tell her she can’t do it. She believes if you know how to run your life and run a business, then you have no limitations to your future unless you quit.”

As for Faith’s creative spirit, she proves to be a gifted artist and a fair guitar player. She began taking art lesson from Mt. Juliet’s Kathy Chester when she was 10.

IMG_2773“Painting was my first way of expressing myself, creating something with purpose,” said Faith, who won first place in her category that first time she entered the Wilson County Fair. “I paint pastels mostly. I like to paint landscapes, anything outside, buildings, flowers. For the past several years, I’ve kept pen and ink in my console. If I see something, I’ll jot it down.”

Purchasing her first electric guitar five years ago, she enjoys performing with a band at Heritage Christian Academy’s annual home school talent shows and also plays occasionally in the church band at First Baptist Mt. Juliet. “I enjoy playing rhythm and lead. I don’t sing but write,” she said.

Her mother, whose favorite time with her offspring is trail riding, describes her personality, saying, “She avoids drama, never gossips and is friendly, loyal and outgoing. She enjoys winning people over that may feel like they’re lost in the crowd and bringing them out of their shell. She is respectful and hardworking, and when asked to help a friend, she is loyal. No matter where she goes, she treats everybody the same way.”

Of her various pursuits, Faith shared, “Friendship is the most important. I love to see people happy. Everybody has a purpose. I really enjoy seeing other people create and find their purpose. It definitely has changed how I look at things.”

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