Fern Canyon, California

August 2021 Highlights: The Highs + Lows

[shareaholic app=”share_buttons” id=”20872686″]

I would like a do-over on August. Anybody else? From a lightning strike that fried basically everything in our house to living in the state with the second highest cases of Covid in the world to *gestures to everything else burning around us,* it just wasn’t my month and it didn’t seem like a lot of other people’s month either. 

Crying kid at Nashville Zoo

So let’s just call it a wash and start over, OK?

To be honest, August wasn’t all bad—we went to California! we saw SVV’s family!—as we spent about half of it away: 11 nights at my in-laws’ house and in their camper. And at the moment, we are in North Alabama for a project that we are splitting up into two different trips, and it’s really nice to be on the road and creatively stimulated, yet in a place where we have a lot of wide open space to breathe.


This next month is insane for us from multiple trips for work, including two conferences and several mural installs, to quite a few new clients we’ve been on boarding, many in the travel space but even more in the construction or home renovation field. I’m here for the change of pace, though!

Ella and Nelson

The Highs

Our kitchen renovation is, well, mostly complete. This could also fall in the challenges category as everything went smoothly on our end like gutting the whole dang thing and pouring the floor, but when it came to the appliance install, it turned into a hot, gooey mess. I really wanted to recommend Ferguson more highly, but they made too many missteps from not ordering the mounting brackets for our fridge/freezer system—which we ordered back in January—to finally returning to install both with the right system and not having ordered the doors and panels. Sigh. 

Kitchen renovation

this was a project shot taken a month ago right after the soapstone countertops went in

On the other hand, our cabinet maker Andy Rigney, our gas company, our local air conditioning company Stroop’s who did the ductwork and are countertop fabricator Artisan Stone were all completely amazing, so there’s that. I was just really hoping to finish the whole kitchen in a record six weeks, but alas….

We project-managed a mural in Knoxville. What a delight to project manage a mural installation for my alma mater, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Our dear Paris Woodhull, who painted Knoxville’s Walls for Women mural last year, brought us into the project last winter and it took a while to find the right space, but in the end the city of Knoxville allowed us to paint a very large wall on the side of a public parking garage in downtown. Paris finished up a few days ago and I cannot wait to see it in person when we are passing through next week!

Paris Woodhull mural, photo by Holly Rainey

photo by Holly Rainey

We took a much-needed trip back to California. Our trip started with three nights at my mother- and father-in-law Joan and Ken’s house, then was followed by a week in the redwoods. It was so great getting to see them after two long years apart, and they were very gracious to let us take their camper out for one last trip before they sell it. I’ll be sharing more about those adventures in the coming month!

Scott and parents

I had really hoped to delete all my news and social media apps from my phone and log off like we did back in the spring for 10 days, but it was just impossible with the news cycle what it is right now. Still, we had a lot of quality time with each other and outdoors and I’m grateful for that—and also Ella got to see her brother Marley for the first time in a decade!

Ella and Marley, Maltese siblings

Ella and Marley, Maltese siblings
Ella and Marley, Maltese siblings

Ella and Marley, Maltese siblings

Bonnaroo was canceled. Why is that good? Well, first of all, it avoided being a super-spreader in our county; plus, this was the first year we weren’t going to go so it was no real skin off our back. But we always have our friends, the Wailing Loons out of Minneapolis, come in town for it. So while they were not able to play their show, we did get some quality time with our dear friend (and board member) Emilie and Nick the tree guy/bassist, where we were able to do fun things like drink whiskey and go wake-surfing on the lake. I count that as a huge win!

Emilie in Tennessee

Whiskey in Tennessee

Distilleries in Tennessee
Distilleries in Tennessee

Whiskey in Tennessee

We painted a building in Tullahoma. Technically we started this in September so I’ll tell you more about it next month when it’s done, but I’m excited to team up with the city government of my hometown to do a creative placemaking project!

Book Shelf building in downtown Tullahoma

The Challenges

There was some major sickness going around in our family. Everyone seems to be feeling OK now, but the kiddos both had RSV on and off throughout July, then came down with a nasty stomach bug right when they went back to school in August, both incidents which rendered them quarantined for two weeks and us unable to see them and my poor sister and Josh stuck working from home. Which with a three and a one year old, can you even get any work done?

Charlotte and Mac
Charlotte and Mac
Charlotte and Mac

The lightning bolt from Hell. Oh the lightning bolt! We are continuing to find things that it fried, the most recent being our beloved printer, which we just discovered last night. On the first day of our camping adventure, our wonderful neighbor Beverly called us bright and early to let us know our garage door was open. Turns out there had been a nasty storm—the same one that took many lives up the road in Waverley—and it broke our garage door, fried our Internet, killed the motherboard of our air conditioning, shattered the sprinkler control system, busted the printer … and who knows what else. So far the grand tally is about $2,500 we spent in the last week of fixes—our first three days home from California were without Internet, one of which we had seven different service providers at our house at one time trying to fix various issues—end it was majorly frustrating.

Still in the grand scheme of things, I know it’s only money, and I am devastated to see the damage the storm did in Waverley. We have done work in Humphreys County and have many friends up there and can’t even imagine the terror and heartbreak they have gone through and will continue to as they rebuild their community.

Living in Tennessee. I love my state so much, but it’s been heartbreaking to live here this past year and a half. To live in a place where people don’t care for their neighbor, where non-medical professionals disavow science and health recommendations and regulations on the regular, where people mock teenagers who have lost family members to this virus and plead with others to please wear masks. Y’all, it’s just embarrassing on top of being frightening.

I don’t have any answers, and I honestly don’t know where we go from here, but as always: please please please please please please please please get the vaccine if you haven’t already, and do not leave home without the mask. I’ve had too many friends and people close to me be breakthrough cases recently, and luckily the vaccine kept them from getting sick, but it’s scary times out there.

The wildfires! As if living in the flood zone of Tennessee weren’t enough, we were in California during prime wildfire time. Our inbound flight from San Diego to Sacramento was completely socked in by brown smoke, so much so that we couldn’t even see the ground until we were landing, and the last day before flying back out, the AQI at my in-laws’ house east of Sac was above 500.

Caldor wildfires in California from above

We snapped the above shot our flight from Sacramento to Vegas, and it’s just not good, y’all. I wish we could take some of the massive rain we’ve gotten in Tennessee and dump it all over California to even things out. And of course, we are always thinking of our friends who got hit by Ida. Doesn’t it just seem like there are too many heartbreaks in the news daily to keep up with them all?

I feel eternally behind these days. I don’t know how it happened but so much work has piled up on us that I feel like I’m constantly grasping for the surface but not quite getting there. So if you are someone I owe work to or a response, just know that I am deeply sorry and hope to catch up one of these days soon. I’ve also been prioritizing my mental and emotional health by taking days off the computer when I need them. That’s the greatest take away I’ve had from this past year and a half exercise.

Our backyard deer family

Now tell me something good. I could use some good news to take me into the weekend!


Leave a Comment