Punch Bug mural in Centerville by Whitney Herrington

June 2021 Highlights: The Highs + Lows

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Once again, it’s the second week of the month before I’m getting around to recapping my previous month. But things have been busier than normal around here lately, and some days I don’t get on my computer at all. I don’t hate the time away from being online, but I do miss blogging regularly!

The featured image above is the Punch Bug mural in Centerville by Whitney Herrington that was painted as part of our Walls for Women project. We finally got to see the completed piece in person in June!

In June, I spent six nights away from home—no hotels or Airbnbs, just at friends’ and family member’s houses—and a whole lot of time working on the Cedar House. If you don’t follow my Instagram, I share our home renovation projects in real time over there on Stories. We’ve done so much this past year: cleaned, treated and stained the entire exterior; did hardscaping and landscaping, which included digging out all the beds surrounding the house and leveling the yard; and, of course, interior projects like laying parquet, installing carpet and now ripping out our kitchen.

Kitchen remodel in the Cedar House

We also helped my sister and Josh do their kitchen (post about that coming … sometime), finally finishing our portion of the job in June, and I’ve spent a whole lot of late afternoons cooling off at the pool with this three-year-old fish.

Swimming with the GoPro HERO9 Black

July promises to be just as busy as SVV rigged an irrigation system that we’ve been slowly installing the past two weeks. The goal is to have grass by Bonnaroo, which is in September this year—that’s when we always host a band and a backyard party and concert—and I’m confident we’ll get there. But, for now, here’s how the last month shook out.

The Highs

We went viral on TikTok. I’ve barely used the app, so no one was more surprised than me when I picked up the app one weekend, starting posting TikToks of our Cedar House reno and immediately accumulate between 200,000 and 500,000 views per video for several videos straight with our top one peaking at 1 million views. Why have I been wasting time on Instagram? You can follow my TikTok here or search @lunaticatlarge (my account is all home renovation projects, no travel).

Going viral on TikTok
Going viral on TikTok

We went to Memphis. We spend a lot of time with my cousin Rebecca, her husband and their three kids, whether it’s them coming here, us going to Memphis or all of us meeting up on location somewhere. This time, we went to them for four glorious days of pool time and patio cocktails and whiskey at the zoo. The girls, ages 13 and 10, then bopped on over to our side of the state at the end of June for their annual “Camp Jeje”—they’ve come to stay with us every summer for eight years now—and just left yesterday after two weeks here. It already feels so quiet without them.

Memphis visit
Memphis visit
Memphis visit
Pool time in Memphis
Pool time in Memphis
Memphis visit
Memphis visit
Memphis visit

I wrote a piece about Walls Art Park. I love Humphreys County—you can read all about it and Loretta Lynch’s Ranch here—and I’ve been following this ambitious bringing-urban-art-to-a-rural-setting project from afar. And while I’ve still yet to visit in person, I was able to interview the founder and write about this mural park with 80 paintable surfaces spread throughout five acres that change regularly. It’s fascinating, and the second we have a chance to take a for-fun day trip, consider us there!

Tara Aversa's work at Waverly Art Park

Photo of and owned by Tara Aversa, the same artist who did our American flag and octopus mural and is painting our next Walls for Women piece!

I snuck away to Washington D.C. My first visit to our nation’s capital was in high school when I spent a month at American University in a law program, and I’ve been smitten with the city ever since. My best friend from home, Tracy, lives there, and when a few of our state department and DOD friends were going to all be back for leave, we decided to have a D.C. get-together. It was a blast, particularly as I wasn’t there for work so I could just tool around and do whatever I wanted for a change!

Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington D.C.

My summer pages of AAA Living came out. I’m coming up on my five-year anniversary of being AAA’s Tennessee writer, and learning more about my home state simply never gets old. This issue, I got to profile McMinnville and cover state parks, farms open for agritourism and upcoming events throughout the state.

AAA Living: Tennessee section for June 2021
AAA Living: Tennessee section for June 2021
AAA Living: Tennessee section for June 2021
AAA Living: Tennessee section for June 2021
AAA Living: Tennessee section for June 2021

We closed out two big grants (Sweetwater, the Masonic Lodge) and submitted for another for a fellow nonprofit. So much of our nonprofit life these past three years has been grant-writing, and I don’t think there are many tasks more complicated than grant fulfillment and close-outs. We’re pretty tech-savvy people, and if we find it hard to navigate, I can’t imagine the majority of nonprofit volunteers who don’t have the backgrounds we do! But, we persevere, and I really hope this grant goes through as it’s for an organization doing a lot of good in our community. If you’re ever searching for things to do, we have a mural map of all of our nonprofit’s projects on our DMA-events website.

Masonic Lodge mural by Kim Radford in Tullahoma

This mural by Kim Radford was part of an ABC grant we received from the Tennessee Arts Commission in partnership with the Masonic Lodge of Tullahoma.

We signed on for a couple more mural projects. I’m so grateful we pushed back almost all of our mural installs until after Labor Day for our own sanity, but we do have an upcoming Knoxville project the city just signed off on, as well as walls in Columbia, Lawrenceburg, Tullahoma, maybe Sweetwater and a couple others I can’t say just yet, all coming this fall.

The Challenges

Y’all, I’ll admit that I’m terrified of this Delta variant. Luckily, I’ve been fully vaxxed since February, as have SVV and all of our family, loved ones and close friends, but we live in a county that is only 33 percent vaccinated (Tennessee, as a whole, is just under 38 percent). I’ve never so badly wanted to live in NYC again where the number hovers above 70 percent. And I’ll be back to wearing a mask in public places out of added precaution. You can check your county’s vaccination status here.

So if you aren’t vaccinated, please, please, please wait no longer. I’ve seen horror stories of people in the news who made it through 2020 unscathed only to die of this aggressive variant in the past few weeks and whose last words were: “I wish I’d gotten the vaccine.” Don’t be that person. YOU CAN PREVENT THIS. So if you’re not vaccinated, please don’t be selfish any longer; if not for your own health and well-being, then please think of those around you.

Other than Delta (of course it’s named Delta), there’s been a ripple effect of various supply chain-related issues that are literally affecting every industry and person across the globe, and I will say if you are working on a home renovation project, get your paint early. We’re finally seeing the effects the Texas winter storm had on the paint industry, and it’s throwing a major wrench in the plans for many home renovators who don’t map out supplies in advance. We order all paint from Sherwin-Williams, and luckily with a week’s heads-up, they’ve been able to get us everything we need both for the Cedar House and mural projects.

Coming up in July

July is full of highs already: my 20-year class reunion (just passed), two weeks with my cousins’ daughters (just went home), shooting a friend’s wedding this weekend, a short vacation to the Midwest to see our besties Lemon, her husband and their three Great Danes, then all of my brother-in-law Josh’s family arriving from South Carolina for a full week of fun (19 of them plus my family!).

On the work front, we have a partnership with GoPro, a content project with Huntsville, and several writing assignments for travel and finance companies due this month, in addition to a whole lot of photography licensing work. If you’re a DMO we haven’t worked with yet, we’re booking for fall and spring now (writing, photography and video work), and I’d love to discuss potential partnerships!

But mostly, we’re spending the bulk of July remodeling our kitchen, and hopefully when I pop in for my monthly update in August, it will be close to complete (famous last words, right?). We also have a week set aside to do annual maintenance and painting/touch-ups on our two Nashville condos while they’re vacant.

What have you been up to this summer so far?

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