Kind Words

“This essay is dedicated to the fathers in my life. My Papaw (who is my Mom’s Dad), my step Father, Pete Diaz (who is my Cousins husband and the Father to my 3 nieces Zoe, Ellenore, and Izzy), and 2 of my mentors Tim Eads and Tom Woodard.

With Fathers Day approaching, it’s a good time to reflect back on the kind words that have graced our lives. We look back at the men in our lives who have given us love, hugs, and many, many kind words. There are the men in the community who are our fathers, brothers, grandfathers, pastors, mentors, neighbors, friends, bosses, and community leaders.

These people who have taken the time out of their life to teach us and grow with us as we walk hand-in-hand down the journey of life. Some of these men we embrace have been with us in our family since birth and are blood related, while others have become friends and family by choice. My biological Papaw, once helped raise me and now I am caring for him. My Mom’s second husband whom I choose to call Dad, or the man who married my cousin and became my cousin of choice who has helped and guided me in life. Take my mentor and boss, who is like a father to many of us at Westwood Avenue, the agency where I work, and my other mentor and best friend, Chief Eads of the Belle Meade Police Department. And then lastly but, always first in my heart, is the greatest father of all, our Father in Heaven.

Today as I am coming up on my 35th birthday and my Papaw is in his late 90s. I find myself caring for him in my own home. I am ever so grateful to care for him.

Every time a holiday like Fathers Day approaches we ask our Papaw what he wants for a gift he always says “kind words.” As small child, these “words” where always a mystery to me. How could you wrap up a word in a gift? You can’t play with kind words, it’s not a toy. So then, how could one want kind words? Why wouldn’t they want a toy, Play-Doh, Crayola crayons, or markers? I mean COME ON… what’s better than a toy? Then I got old(er). I learned what it meant to be kind and have “kind words.”    I learned to say kind words, and I learned how they can be a virtue. Why? Because I, too, long for the same “kind words,” and I too look for comfort in the simple things.

Today, I can give my Papaw and many other people “kind words.” I also recognize the kind things that my Papaw says to me. The same silly jokes, humor, and kindness he has shared with me my entire life. Even though my Papaw is in his mid-90s, he’s the biggest jokester around, and he’s not afraid to sing “I’m a Little Teapot” or monkey around and play silly in public. He still plays with his silverware and curses (pushes) away his plate. What Papaw says in all his goofy tactics, is indeed his way of showing “kind words.”

Kind words can be a nickname or a silly greeting as well. For example one of my mentors, Tim Eads, who is the Police Chief in my community, calls me “KID.” Every time he says this, it warms my heart. He also has recognized me as being a part of the Police Department and includes me in things that they do. The value of being included and loved are all forms of “kind words.” The advice he gives and the love he shows me are all things that are kind. Tim has guided me down smooth roads and rocky roads and he has helped me become a better person, and even an honorary cop.

Some men are given to us by family, such as my Mom’s second husband Mike. This is the man I call my Dad, even though he’s not my birth father. My Dad has his own way of showing “kind words.” Whenever one of my publications comes out he always calls to congratulate me and make me feel special. My Dad came into my life in about fourth or fifth grade so, he has been able to come to most all of my performances at school, and he came to my Black Belt Testing in Taekwondo, and all of my major graduations in life. He is special and means the world to me.

Another man in my life that was given to me by my family, is Pete. Pete is my cousin’s husband. He is the father to my nieces Izzy, Zoe, and Elley. They live in Texas, but despite the distance he is able to be a blessing in my life. Each time we speak they always share their happiness with me, and they lift me up by being proud of me. This is their gift of “kind words.”

Often times God places mentors in our paths. This is the case with my boss, Tom Woodard. Tom definitely didn’t stumble into my life by accident. I do believe that it was a divine intervention that brought us together. My boss is the best ever. He lifts me up every day, and his version of kindness is contagious. He has taught me more about business and how to be professional than any other person. Guiding me and showing me the in’s and out’s and the do’s and don’ts in life, as well as in a professional setting. His love for God is incredible, and his love for others truly shines. Every word out of his mouth is indeed a “kind word.”

The last on this list, but the  first in my thoughts is the Lord God most high, Our Father in heaven. Many people think that Father’s Day is just about our earthly fathers, but we also need to remember that there is a Heavenly Creator up there who loves us more than anything. He created us, and gave us the very air we breathe. He created our hearts and gave us the will to love Him and serve Him with great awe. I know you can’t give presents to God, but we can give Him the gift of “KIND WORDS.” Not only to Him but others around us, as we are all children of God.

In conclusion, there are all types of ways to celebrate Father’s Day. I hope, though, you’ll take the time to offer “kind words” to the men and mentors in your life.”- Lauren Barnes

 Screen Shot 2018-06-15 at 11.20.42 AMSpeaking of giving some kind words to the dads in our lives, I want to give a little shout out to mine. Thank you, dad, for being you. You’re patient, kind, funny, and so many other things that have allowed me to be the person I am today. Love you always!

Mind of Matt

If you’re looking for passion, look no further than the unique, sometimes crazy, mind of Matt Stuhrenberg. At his core he’s a gamer, a videographer, and a creator. When he’s not gaming or creating new content for his show, The Matt Show, Matt can be found in a field with a drone and a smile. About three years ago, Matt’s enthusiasm for airplanes led him to the world of drones. Fascinated with the mechanics of flying objects and how they work, he soon purchased the Phantom 4 quadcopter drone. Through the trials and tribulations, Matt began to slowly refine his piloting skills. After learning how to pilot the drone with proficiency, he then moved on to another aspect of drone piloting, drone filming. He was able to reach new heights and acquire new skills that would further benefit him in both his hobby and his professional career.

After landing a job at a production studio in Nashville, Matt was truly able to combine his love for dones and love for videography. However, after using his current drone for more advanced and specified projects, he came to the realization that he needed to upgrade. While the Phantom 4 is an excellent drone for amateurs and hobbyists, there are features that hinder the performance just enough to limit its uses. The stability of the Phantom 4’s propellers are severely affected by any gust of wind. This creates difficulty when filming almost anything outdoors or anything at high speeds. Another flaw of the Phantom is the landing gear. While it properly helps the drone with taking off and landing, it can disrupt the footage being captured. Because the landing gear is fixed, not retractable, it can tend to limit the field of view of the camera. The accessibility of the Phantom is another drawback of the drone. There is not much that can be repaired, or upgraded, to improve the functions of the drone. The user has to send it to California to have any trustworthy repairs completed.

After months of research, comparisons, contrasts, and difficult decisions, Matt was ready to upgrade his drone. After the headaches of buying a prebuilt, factory setup, he decided to build his own. Concerned with stability for filming, and general piloting, he decided to move from a quadcopter to a690 Tarot hexacopter. The difference between six and four propellers is exponential. The two added propellers, along with a wider frame size, will give the drone the ability to perform in the wind and stay in control at high speeds. This will also give the drone a fail-safe system in the case of a busted propeller. Meaning if one propeller is to fail, the drone will have five others to help it safely land. Another feature of the hexacopter is the retractable landing gear. This will allow for a better field of view when using the camera and will not hinder the camera’s mobility.

The final major reason for upgrading his drone is the ability to dream of, build, and fly his own creation. As with legos, videography, and other interests in his life, Matt has always enjoyed seeing his dreams become reality. And now, they can fly. By building his own drone, Matt will give himself complete control over every aspect of what goes into his build. And when a problem arises, there will no longer be a need to pack it up and send it to California for repairs. Follow along here On the Avenue to see Matt’s build and to learn more about the exciting world in the mind of Matt.

Springtime on the Avenue

What season is this, anyway?

Well, it’s not snowing (much), so, it can’t be winter. It’s definitely not too hot out, so, we’re not in the dog days of summer yet. This can only mean one thing: believe it or not, spring is in the air.

It’s the most beautiful time of year. The tulips are coming to life, buttercups are emerging from the oddest of places, and the Earth is waking from its winter slumbers. And as we celebrate the new life that emerges within the Earth, we also celebrate and cheer as kids run outside to play soccer, dogs happily romp around smelling the buttercups, and as cute little bunnies and kittens are being born.

This year will be the first spring I have had with my amazing service dog Jules. I can’t tell you how much she is loving this cool fresh air, the green grass beneath her paws, and the new discoveries of flowers. With every flower she meets, Jules stops in her tracks to smell the roses. She has no shame in sniffing every single flower (literally).

Just as flowers are starting to emerge, farmers and gardeners are gearing up for the growing season. “She’s coming alive,” is a phrase I once heard in a movie about Native Americans. It stuck with me over the years and it reminds me of spring. Not only does it remind me of the season we’re currently enjoying, but it also reminds me of my own family history and heritage. My grandfather, Papaw, is Native American and he was a farmer as are my Mom and Dad. It goes without saying that the most important time of year for any farmer is seeing the crops and flowers start to come up. My three nieces, Izzy, Zoe, and Ellenore are just as excited about spring as Jules, Papaw, and Mom and Dad are. Breathing the crisp air sparks fresh wonderment and excitement in my girls. It’s almost as if it gives them a burst of energy. They run faster, smile more, play harder, and sing a happier tune. Spring for the girls always brings new friends, and of course, new games and challenges.

With new life, fresh air, and kids and dogs running wild, I sit here On the Avenue pondering. What can we learn from spring? As Mother Nature has so many lessons she wants us to take from her. We learn to respect our earth, keep her clean, and treat her with kindness. We learn about love and laughter from children and how being an adult doesn’t always have to be hard. And we are reminded that we too were kids at one time. We learn the importance of kindness to the plants and animals around us. And we most importantly learn about love. That loving each other is what really matters in the world.

Icelandic Adventures

This week On The Avenue we say “Farewell for now,” to our team member, Braeden Williams, as he crosses the globe on his way to Iceland for the next week. Braeden is 19 years old (he will turn the big 2 0 while in Iceland) and was born and raised here in Nashville. He has been a part of the Westwood team, working as a videographer/editor, since the fall of 2016, and until now he’s never been away from us for so long (cue the tears).  When asked about his time here at Westwood he told me, “I like being able to have a job that doesn’t feel like a job. Working here has ‘spread my wings’ in a creative sense and has really challenged me to make myself better.”

So now you’re left with the question that I, myself had to ask… Why Iceland? Is it not icy there? Are there beaches that are warm and have no ice? Should I be going to Iceland?

When Braeden was faced with these hard hitting questions, he answered me with this, “ I think the question, ‘Why Iceland?’ is also the answer. It’s a place that not many people go, and it’s a place that has this unseen beauty that goes unnoticed by many people. My buddies John, Bart, and I will land in Reykjavik (the capital) and go Northwest to the West Fjords, and then we will drive back down south along the coast until we reach the eastern coast of the country. We don’t have ANY planned activities. We plan to play it by ear and to just experience all we can while we’re there.”

So as you can see, Braeden has the adventurous soul of a true creative. He will be missed, but he has promised to send lots of pictures to ease our sadness. He’s quite the photographer, so expect the pictures to be much better than my version of a tourist snap.  If you’d like to follow his trip, check back in here On The Avenue.

Join us in wishing him safe travels, and we’ll see you again next week!

What was Here?

Before “Music City”, Nashville was a just another reconstructing city of the South. With the rise of industry and the demise of plantation farming, the predominant families of Nashville began to divide their land amongst their heirs. As these new homes began to emerge, new roads began to be constructed and thus, the neighborhoods of Nashville began to form.

The rise of new industry and growth along the Cumberland brought about a change in Tennessee’s economic climate. The middle-class began to form and grow, roads were improved, and other new needs began to arise.

One need was for horse breeders to begin breeding more standardbred trotters as opposed to the popular thoroughbred racer for which Tennessee was already known. Citizens were looking for horses that would perform on the racetrack as well as on the improved roadways. Judge John Overton’s Travelers Rest Plantation was one of the first to have Arabian horses brought to Nashville in the early 19th century. This began his family’s history with breeding fine horses.

In adapting to the new changes, Overton’s grandsons (May Overton, Jesse M. Overton, and Robert L. Overton), in partnership with their brother-in-law John Thompson and Van Leer Kirkmann, used their inherited land to develop their own horse operation. Settled on the west side of Franklin Pike, they constructed a twenty-four stall stable known as the Hermitage Stud. In 1886, they purchased a champion trotter and sire horse, Wedgewood, from John S. Clark of New Brunswick, New Jersey, for $25,000, to help begin the breeding program. Wedgewood would become the most famous horse at the Stud. With a short racing career from 1879 to 1881, he would earn the name “The Iron Horse” for being known to run as many as six heats in a single event.

The group of owners at the Stud were also promoters of the Cumberland Fair and Racing Association Park, known today as the Tennessee State Fairgrounds. As they saw a rise in attendance and participation at the Park, the promoters decided a road was to be built to connect it and Franklin Pike. This would also allow easier access from the Stud to the Park and back. In the deciding meetings for the road, it was brought about by Kirkmann that the road be named after their prized horse, Wedgewood. Over the years the Park has become the Fairgrounds and the road has been expanded but the name still remains, and as with many roads around town, keeps our rich history alive.

She Stopped To Smell The Flowers

As the sun gleamed down on the window, I sat quietly writing at my computer. The more I wrote the more I was pulled by the sun. It felt like it was inviting me to come out and play. From the minute Jules and I stepped outside, our senses took over. The smell of fresh cut grass was a perfume to my nose. The warmth of the sun comforted my body as the feeling of cool wind waved over my face. My eyes could see the new life of spring starting to come alive. The colors of beauty surrounded us as the rainbow of life was starting to show through the ground. I am Deaf but knew the birds were probably chirping and the bambi and thumpers of the world where playing hide and seek.

As we entered Percy Warner Park the smells of nature took over. Taking our first steps onto the big hill of “steps,” the first thing Jules did was to stop and smell a daffodil. Now, I don’t think daffodil’s have much of a smell, but with every flower and clover we saw, Jules reminded me to stop and breathe in the sweet smells of life. For a service dog, smelling is pretty much her job. She can smell if someone’s blood sugar is low and she can smell if an anxiety attack is on the rise. Yet not too often does she get tickle her nose’s fancy with the scents of  flowers, fresh cut grass, or spring-scented earth.

The sun was out. So, we both felt the warmth of the rays on our back as we hiked around the park. Jules loves the feeling of dirt between her paws and chasing the cherry blossoms as they fall to the ground. As we hiked, every time a gust of wind came upon us she would raise her nose and let the wind catch her hair and let her ears blow sideways. She loved the feelings of wind in her hair and the wind teasing her nose. Don’t believe a dog can smile? You should have been there to see her grin!! Jules felt the complete bliss of the park.

As we got further and further into the park, Jules and I both could look out and see just about every color of the rainbow. The trees had browns and black with some white shading. Flowers were showing off their purples, pinks, blues, and yellows. It seemed as though the flowers had dressed up in their prettiest clothing just for us. We saw the leaves starting to emerge from the branches of the trees in their green and bright green colors. The ground shone with yellow sunlight bouncing off the green grass. And the birds were all shades of reds, blues, and purples, with some yellow in there, too.

With Jules being my ears, I could spot the birds chirping, by seeing Jules marvel at them. I knew the chipmunks where playing tag by the quickness of Jules face as they ran by us. And I could feel the wind as I knew it was blowing and crackling the trees. Of course I don’t hear but I have faith that sounds exist and know that my amazing service dog Jules is hearing these beautiful sounds. I am able to experience sounds by the joy and beauty of my dog Jules, too often her face says a thousand words.

When we can remember to stop and smell the flowers we also enjoy the colors, sounds, and sensations that life has to offer us. I have to say that I have always been considered a colorful person, so, colors are my favorite things. Jules and I both saw many many colors of the park. And we had a blast on our hike around mother nature’s glory. Jules’s advise to you? Take a minute, walk outside, and stop… To smell the roses!!!