Showing your friends you care

By Heather Short
Military life often brings you to places you never thought you would end up, and you get the chance to meet people you otherwise would never have crossed paths with. In some cases, those strangers become friends, and those friends become your family away from home.
The friends you meet while stationed somewhere new are the ones who see you through some of the worst times of your life and during some of your best days. Experiencing military life together is a bond you can’t quite describe, but deep down, you know those friendships can last for a lifetime.
With constant training, ever-changing schedules and deployments lurking on the horizon, military families can face an array of emotions. Stress levels can understandably spin out of control and we can lose focus. Sometimes all we need is a friend to notice and show that they care.
Something as simple as a phone call to say hello can change a person’s entire day. Some friends enjoy sending simple, inexpensive gifts to let their friends know they are thinking of them. These small gifts can be something that reminds them of your friendship or to show you thought about them, whether near or far. Here are some ways to show you care.
It seems so simple and it really is. Sometimes all people need to do is vent their frustrations and get it off their chest. Once it is said, people often feel a weight lifted from their shoulders, even if it is a giant cry fest while they vent or angrily yell about how life isn’t fair. Don’t feel that you have to have the perfect thing to say in response either. It is alright if you don’t know what to say at all. Just the fact that you are there to listen is enough.
Send a gift card
We know our friends are busy or stressed and probably rarely make time for themselves. Show a friend you care by sending them a gift card for their favorite coffee shop, restaurant or bookstore. This gesture reminds them to take some time for themselves to unwind and relax.
Mail a care package
Military spouses love sending their deployed soldier care packages. Every time they are at a grocery store, they never fail to stock up on goodies to send their soldier. However, don’t be afraid to send your friend a care package, too. Fill it with fun stuff like magazines, their favorite candy, popcorn, nail polish or makeup. An unexpected care package full of fun stuff will put such a big smile on your friend’s face and make them feel loved.
Make a meal or dessert
When a friend gets stressed out or is perhaps going through a difficult time, sometimes the last thing they want to do is cook a meal. Another way to show a friend you care is by making a meal that can be easily reheated at mealtime.
Enchiladas or a casserole are some quick and easy suggestions for make-ahead meals. Freezer meals have become a popular way of prepping meals ahead of time as well.
Everyone loves dessert. If you’d rather make some brownies, cookies, or scones, they would be a sweet way to show you care, too.
Write a note
In a world centered on technology, a handwritten note sometimes get overlooked. But taking the time to pick a cute little card and writing a simple handwritten message in it can mean more than you realize. Sure, a text is quick and easy to send and it is appreciated. Let’s face it though; everyone loves getting mail, especially when it isn’t a bill that needs to be paid. Unexpected, handwritten notes in the mail or even left on someone’s front porch is a nice way to let a friend know you’ve been thinking of them.

Moments with Moms: Alexis Conniff

By Heather Short
What inspired you to become an attorney?
I was inspired to become an attorney after reading a slew of John Grisham books when I was in middle school. Reading those books piqued my interest in becoming an attorney but it wasn’t until I became a debater in high school that I knew I had a knack for argument and theory. My original goal was to become an attorney for NASA, and although maybe I will someday reach that goal, I have come pretty close by working for an aerospace manufacturing company that makes parts for NASA, SpaceX and large aircraft companies.

How did you meet your spouse?
Mike, my husband of nearly seven years, and I met at a dog park in Austin, Texas, where I was attending law school and close to where he was stationed, Fort Hood. I knew right off the bat that he was a quality person — honest, kind and brave. We hit it off by laughing and joking, and our marriage has thrived on our
mutual ability to make one another laugh.

What are some of your favorite family vacation memories?
I cherish the memories I have of my firstborn son, Michael, riding around on a snowmobile with our family in Vermont, where my husband is from. His face giggling, so full of joy at the thrill of bumping over snow covered paths is a great reminder of the joy of childhood. Another memory I truly love is of our second son, Christopher: he was still a tiny baby when we decided to take a trip to Destin. The water was perfectly calm, so I laid him in a baby pool in a foot or so of water, and watched him drift off to sleep in the gentle waves. He still falls asleep to the ocean sounds. This summer, we are about to create another set of epic memories by taking a long road trip to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. We recently invested in a brand new travel trailer, and we are loving it.

What is your favorite thing about your current job?
My favorite thing about my job right now is the work I get to do and the people with whom I work. My coworkers are great, and I love my mixed workload. Most of my job consists of legal analysis, but I also interact with some of our European aerospace customers to ensure contractual compliance.
The company I work for is great, and all of my bosses have been so understanding of the unique challenges I face as a military spouse with a husband who is often deployed.

If you could bring one thing from Texas culture, what would it be?
This is a tough one: it is a toss-up between the Texan grocery store H-E-B and the Mexican food of my hometown, San Antonio! No
offense to anyone, but Mexican food in
Tennessee and Kentucky does not hold a
candle to the exceptional food found in San
Antonio, Texas. The homemade tortillas, real-cheese enchiladas and breakfast tacos — delicious! On the other hand, the grocery store, HEB, is well-known for its great deals, fresh produce and ability to market just about anything in the shape of Texas — Love that place.

What outdoor activities do you enjoy with your children?
I love to swim and hike with my boys and husband. Neither of my boys are afraid of the water, which is great because I love the feel of cool water on a hot summer day, and it is great to share that with them! We are going to do a lot of hiking at Yellowstone, so we’ve been gearing up for that. I also love fishing, and that is a joy I’ve been able to share with my oldest son. I am looking forward to seeing the happiness on my littlest guy’s face when he reels in his first big catch!

What is one book that you think everyone should read?
The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. So many people I know are burying themselves in things, trying to find satisfaction in items, and I include myself in that category occasionally. What I found after reading this book was that it is okay, AND so freeing, to let items go. You can simplify your life, get down to what you truly need and start seeing the world unencumbered by meaningless items you can’t take with you into the next life. dsc_0010It helped me to pare down, simplify, and see life for the things that really matter.

What is your spirit animal?
Can I say Claire Underwood, from House of Cards? Ha! I love her ambition, refusal to accept anything less than what she feels she deserves, and her style, of course! If I am limited to an actual animal though, I’d say a lioness. I love how these fierce animal mothers aren’t afraid to fight on behalf of their cubs!
9)   What movie will you never get tired of watching?
Braveheart. Love, love, love Braveheart. Although I know that Hollywood has filled in many of the gaps of the history of the real William Wallace in this portrayal, I still love this movie and the idea that it stands for: fight, with all your strength, for what you believe to be right. One person truly can make a difference.

What is one thing you hope to teach your children?
I hope to teach my children empathy. There are so many things my boys will learn inevitably- that to get ahead, you must be a hard worker; to feel okay with yourself, you must invest in yourself, and a whole host of important lessons that my husband and I are doing our best to impart. Empathy, though, is a skill set that is lacking throughout the world. People find it incredibly difficult to put themselves in another person’s shoes, and the problem has been exacerbated by the anonymity the Internet affords us. I want my boys to be able to notice the suffering of others, and instead of turning a blind eye or making it worse, try to find a way to lighten someone else’s burden. We speak regularly about how fortunate we are, as Americans generally, but also as a family, and that we must do our part to lift those up who aren’t quite as fortunate.

Who in your life motivates you and how?
To be honest, I motivate myself. I have found that I do the absolute best at reaching my goals when I am the primary motivating force behind achievement. A few years ago, I ran a marathon, and that has been my greatest personal victory to date. Although I had incredible cheerleaders along my running journey encouraging me to keep going, ultimately, finishing both the training and the race was a purely self-motivating victory. I have found that when I envision myself achieving a feat I once felt was impossible, I am able to push through much more pain/general misery than I ever thought, I could. I would literally close my eyes for a few seconds while running (on a flat, safe surface), imagine the finish line, feel the relief and pride, and voila! I am able to eek out a few more miles! It really helps having specific goals that can be envisioned.
That said, I have a core group of people who are always on board for wherever my personal goals take me: my husband encourages me to try new things; my mom will pump me up, and then help watch my boys when I need her to; I also have a couple of great friends who are able to bolster me when I feel I have failed.

In a rare moment that you get to yourself, any particular snacks, coffee, celebrity gossip you like to indulge in?
The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and chocolate covered almonds!

What is one quality your friends always say they love about you?
My friends say they love how protective I am of them. It comes partially with being an attorney, but whenever a family member or friend is wronged, I get very protective. No one wants their loved ones to be hurt, so I feel particularly grateful that I am regularly able to use my education to help those in my life. Sometimes this means that I am able to see the glass half-full because I know that all is not lost; other times it means helping friends and family members cope with grief that has no solution.

Skip dining out for a girls night in

If anyone has hit the jackpot on great friends, it’s me. Five years ago, my husband got a job  that moved us from Georgia to Kentucky. We’d never stepped foot in the state and didn’t know a single soul. Starting this new, scary life was a bit lonely at first — we spent many nights questioning if we’d made the right decision. Before long, I was jumping at every opportunity I came across and we soon found our niche in Hopkinsville.
So many people have adopted us as family and treat us as if we’ve lived here all along. Having an issue of Hoptown Families devoted to friendship had my wheels turning and made me really excited to celebrate with a few of my favorite people. I skipped visiting a restaurant this month and decided to have friends over to laugh, eat great food and give you a few entertaining tips!
My overall theme for the evening was an “upscale picnic.” If you remember much about the beginning of July, it was wet and not conducive to outdoor eating. To avoid dining by lightning, I made some slight modifications and moved our soirée indoors.
To dress up the evening, I printed menus and name cards for the plates. This is inexpensive, easy and always gets a few “oohs” and “ahhs“ from guests. I also created a fun drink for the evening. The drink could be a family-friendly mocktail or something a little more adult.
In this case, I made ice cubes using lemonade with mint leaves frozen in the center. Preparation took roughly 1 minute, but the expressions on my friend’s faces lasted all night.
Working full time and having my hands in various other activities means the crockpot is a valuable asset in my home. My slow-roasted sweet and spicy shredded pork was served in a decorative bowl straight from the crockpot and no one was the wiser. A few other twists on the night included a coleslaw made with pineapple and lime juice, grilled summer vegetables on skewers (great for mingling diners), and homemade ice cream sandwiches.
Décor for the evening included a yard of lovely fabric as a base to my centerpiece, a large coordinating vase, a summery candle and I let the food do the rest. Keep your table fairly simple for this type of meal — no one wants to reach over and around cumbersome objects to grab another helping. Save the ornate decorations for more formal occasions.
We had a great Girls Night In — there aren’t many things that can beat a night of laughter and delicious food with your dearest friends. It made me especially happy that even the pickiest of eaters tried everything and loved it all. Everything is better with people you love. Happy eating, Friends!

Mocktail with mint ice cubes
Blood Orange Juice
Squeeze of lime
*Add Triple Sec and champagne for an adult version. Mix drink ingredients and pour over mint ice cubes. For ice cubes: Pour lemonade or other beverage into ice cube tray — add mint or another garnish and freeze.

Sweet and spicy pulled pork
1 onion (cubed into chunks)
1 whole pork shoulder (pork butt)
1 11-ounce can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
2 cans Dr. Pepper (diet or even coke works too)
¼ cup brown sugar
Place onion on the bottom of the crockpot, and liberally salt and pepper the pork shoulder and place it on top of the onion (fat side up).
Pour in peppers and soft drink, and sprinkle brown sugar and more salt and pepper. Cook it low and slow, flipping about 4 hours into the process.
I usually keep mine going while I’m at work and turn it when I come home at lunch. The pork will fall apart extremely easy.
Serve on Hawaiian Rolls, but it’s also fantastic on nachos, tacos, sandwiches, salads and more.

Pineapple lime slaw
1 bag broccoli slaw mix
½ cup mayonnaise (I often substitute greek yogurt)
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 small can crushed pineapple
Salt, pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients, chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve. If the lime is too assertive, add a pinch of sugar to cut the acidity.

Summer veggie skewers
Cut up assorted veggies, place on skewers, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Grill and enjoy.
I used squash, zucchini and tomatoes. Add mushrooms, onions, eggplant, Brussels sprouts, etc. Zest a little lemon on top before serving to add a fresh bang.
I made cookies the night before Girls Night In. I kept it simple with chocolate chip and sugar cookies. You could bake any type of cookie for this and be successful.
After the cookies have cooled, place them in your freezer (over-night, preferably). I used a variety of ice cream flavors and “décor” including sprinkles, mini-chocolate chips, and crushed Heath Bars.
Place 1-2 large scoops of ice cream (depending on the size of your cookies) on one cookie and sandwich it using the other. Roll the exposed ice cream in the topping of choice.
Stick them back in the freezer until you’re ready to enjoy. This is a great activity to enjoy with your children as well.

Relationships are key to student success in class

By Toni W. Riley
When students walk in the doors at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School at the beginning of the school year, they can look forward to an exciting new focus that a team of seven teachers and three administrators learned from a Model School Conference.
Jane King, a 27-year kindergarten teacher, talked excitedly about the philosophy of the conference the team attended in June. King gives credit to MLK principal Cassandra Spearman, who built on the recent success of improved test scores and provided the team the opportunity to attend the conference.
The focus, building relationships in the classroom, was repeated over and over again throughout the conference. King pointed out that new research in education shows that innovative ideas aren’t enough, but the culture of the classroom — the relationships the teacher builds with the student — is the key to developing a culture of education.
She also noted that the conference pointed out there is not “one right way” to successfully educate. Schools have to learn what is right for their community.
King said that the adage, “Kids’ don’t care about what you know until they know how much you care” is an important strategy to help children develop a love of learning.
One of the terms that will be part of the MLK philosophy for the coming year will be “growth mindset.” Children grow in learning from were they started to where they end. Students will also be involved in writing “kid friendly” learning objectives, so the students know what they are learning. This will be accented by “student led learning” where students will take an active position in the learning process. Teachers facilitate but students will be sharing what they know about the subject matter to broaden the scope of interest.
King used the example of teaching the No. 8. She could stand at the board and review eight, but it would be much more interesting and meaningful to have the students talk about what they know about the number.
The team’s enthusiasm from the conference will be shared with the entire staff at the school. The team developed a 30-, 60- and 90-day plan for engagement. They have planned activities for entire staff to share the excitement and build enthusiasm for the coming year.
The first couple of weeks of school the teachers will spend time getting to know their students and to begin to build the culture of the classroom. They will play Get to Know you Games and the teachers will take the time to listen to what the student says. King notes that ability of the teachers to get to know the student is important to the student success.
Parent-teacher conferences are also critical to the culture of the classroom.
MLK teachers will be having conferences at the midpoint of the first nine weeks to help access the student’s progress with parents early on. Teachers are required to have conferences with all of their student’s parents.
King says that of all the things parents can do to help their child be successful in school, the most important thing parents can do is instill a positive attitude about learning and to help their child love to learn. King acknowledges this mindset can be difficult for parents who did not have a positive educational experience.
She hopes this new program at MLK will help the students love to learn and bring the parents along.

Parental concerns
1. Contact the teacher via email to explain your concerns. Expect a response within 24 hours.
2. Know when teachers’ planning periods occur if it is critical to talk to the teacher in person or by phone. It is difficult for teachers to talk to parents during instructional time. Parents should be aware that even if they call, the teacher may be in a meeting during their planning period. Parents who want to talk to the teacher in person should make an appointment.
3. If the parent has an immediate concern, call the school as soon as possible. You may not be able to reach an administrator after hours, but first thing in the morning. Teachers and administrators want to come up with a solution as quickly as possible.
4. Understand that teachers and administrations want to work with parents to make sure each child has a positive learning experience.

What’s important
While teachers across the system are working hard to educate their students, parent and students have a vital role in the success of the student’s education.
1. Attendance is key.
2. The student should come to school prepared for the day with a good night’s sleep.
3. Make sure your student has homework assignments completed. Mrs. King has a quick assignment called a 2-minute homework habit that parents are asked to help with and the parent know what the child is learning.
4. Children need to do what the teacher asks, and ask the teacher to explain difficult assignments.
5. Parents need to watch for introductory letters that come home in the first couple of weeks of school. These letters inform parents about their child’s teacher or teachers and what the classroom expectations are for the success of the child. These letters also let the parent know the best ways to contact the teacher.
6. Students and parents have a positive attitude about learning.

How making friends has evolved in the 21st century

By Jennifer Bailey
We have all heard the phrase, “When I was your age,” at least once in life, but now we are the ones saying it to a younger generation. Times have definitely changed. With all the world events and new technology coming out, today is a place we could only dream of as kids. How similar is today’s generation with ours? Turns out, we are more similar than we think. Let’s compare and contrast one inevitable aspect of childhood, making friends.

School was a major source of friendships. As kiddos we spent most of our waking hours there. We had recess with other kids, classes and lunches. It was easy to form a quick bond.
When you weren’t at school you were at home outside playing. Riding bikes, swinging, or any other hijinks we could find. Usually some of the classmates from school lived near by and we would wait for the bis together and the like. Added bonus to neighborhood friendships is they weren’t necessarily all the same age as you. I still have close friends from my neighborhood that are a year or two younger.
Sports and extracurricular activities were big back in the day. School related or youth center groups put together a team of people with a common interest. Easy to make pals as you have a common goal and spend fun times together.
Multiplayer games were a way to form bonds with people. Back then, games like “Pokemon,” “Magic the Gathering,” and “Dungeons and Dragons” brought people with like interests together. Many times friendships were formed and the games turned into just hanging out.
As we got older, we had hang out spots, like the mall or movie theater. It was easy to make friends there as well. Hang out spots were also great for networking. If your friend had another friend they introduced you to, many times you would also become pals or at least meet a new person.
School is still a major source of friendships. The common interest of classes is timeless.
The neighborhood is still rocking for the younger kids especially. You don’t see as many older kids or teens out, but they still form bonds with the neighbor kids around their age.
Sports and extracurricular activities still play a major role in today’s youth and many friendships are formed out on the field.
As technology advanced, so did the evolution of friendships. Now, people can sit at home and play a countless number of games without stepping outside. For example, “World of Warcraft” requires players to group up with people to complete quests, raids or dungeons. That can lead to relationships with the people you group with. There is also guilds, which for lack of a better term, is like your online family. These relationships can be strong and lead to real-life friendships.
Hang-out spots are still popular, but networking has changed a bit. With the introduction of social media, that is now a lot easier. You can see people with like interests and friends with one easy click. In short, today’s youth still make friendships in many of the same ways, even if the methods have changed slightly.

Friends turned business partners

By Heather Short
Some friendships are born just by walking into a store and striking up a conversation. That is exactly what happened five years ago when Liz Coop walked into Flower Lily, a children’s boutique in Clarksville owned and operated by Betty Kay Hundley. After multiple conversations and socializing with each others’ families, the two became close friends. The new friendship blossomed into a business partnership that has brought each of them success all while maintaining the balance of business.
Hundley had initially begun working in the corporate world right out of college but she quickly realized her heart was not where it wanted to be. Having been born and raised in Clarksville, Hundley knew the area was in need of a children’s boutique, a place where shoppers could find fun and unique gifts locally. She eventually opened her boutique called Flower Lily, which primarily sold customized embroidered monogram children’s clothing.
As the success of her business grew, Hundley knew she needed a vinyl designer in store to help with the flood of incoming customized orders. Little did she know, fate would come walking through her front door.
After moving to Tennessee from upstate New York, Coop purchased her first vinyl-cutting machine and began making custom monograms for eager customers. This hobby quickly turned into a profitable business. A day of shopping and coincidentally walking into Flower Lily would change the course of business for both Hundley and Coop. It didn’t take long for Hundley to ask Coop to become the vinyl designer at her boutique. Coop also sold many of her custom creations in the Flower Lily brick and mortar store.
“It is a breath of fresh air to be able to have each other to lean on, talk to you, and have one another,” Hundley said.
Because both ladies brought their own trades to the business, they have never faced any difficulties with working with one another.
For about six years, Hundley maintained her shop in Clarksville before deciding to become a home-based business in order to spend more time with her family. Still based in Clarksville, Flower Lily continues to sell customized appliqué clothing and gifts successfully.
Once Flower Lily became a home-based shop, Coop, along with her husband, have continued to make hand-crafted wooden items to sell on their Etsy shop, Claire Lane. Coop also remains the primary vinyl designer for Flower Lily.
The duo has found many rewards from working together, including swapping products.
“I will always need something monogrammed and always have Betty Kay to call,” Coop said. “I know that soon she will need a vinyl design from me as well!”
While the idea of starting a business with a friend can be intimidating for some, Hundley and Coop feel lucky for the opportunity to be not only business partners but friends as well.
“What used to be a sole work relationship has turned into a wonderful friendship,” Coop said. “We really enjoy each other’s company.”
Coop and her husband are currently eagerly awaiting the birth of their third son. Coop plans to continue working from home maintaining Claire Lane on Etsy while raising her children. Hundley would love to see Flower Lily continue to grow and eventually have multiple people working with her. She envisions someday owning a personalization vehicle in which she could travel the surrounding area to help people with all their custom personalization needs. Of course, both Hundley and Coop see their friendship continuing to grow throughout the years as well.

Find “Flower Lily Embroidery” on Facebook, and shop Claire Lane at

Soldier named Tennessee Small Farmer of the Year

Charley Jordan has been in the military for 27 years and is a part of the 160th Special Operations Aviations Regiment. Photo provided

Charley Jordan has been in the military for 27 years and is a part of the 160th Special Operations Aviations Regiment.
Photo provided

By Zirconia Alleyne
When Chief Warrant Officer 4 Charley Jordan began thinking about a career after the military, he knew two things: he didn’t want to sit in a cubicle and he wanted to continue using the skills he developed while serving his country.
Jordan, 45, grew interested in agriculture and began studying what it would take to start his own farm.
Since 2008, Jordan has been developing Circle J Ranch LLC in Woodlawn, Tennessee. He sells all-natural, grass-fed beef, a variety of vegetables, herbs, farm-fresh eggs and hay.
In July, Jordan was named the 2016 Tennessee Small Farmer of the Year. He was recognized as the most improved small farmer by the University of Tennessee/Tennessee State University Extension service.
The active-duty aviator pilot and battalion operations officer said he’s honored to have the title, but more excited about the possibilities of bringing his ideas to fruition.

Connecting the dots
Jordan’s passion is connecting veterans to agriculture as a post-military career.
In April, he organized and hosted a farmer-veteran workshop with the UT/TSU extension office to show other soldiers the blueprint for starting a farm.
“I knew I couldn’t be the only guy in the Army that wanted to be a farmer,” he said.
The idea developed after Jordan joined the Farmer Veteran Coalition in 2014, and attended a stakeholders conference in California last November. He was surrounded by hundreds of veterans who transitioned to farming and agriculture leaders who spoke about the
On the flight back home, Jordan was inspired to organize a similar event in Clarksville.
“My goal was just to have some people show up,” he said. “… We ended up having 95 participants, so it was a shock.”
Montgomery County Mayor Jim Durrett and Tennessee Rep. Jay Reedy also showed up, and employees from the United States Department of Agriculture gave presentations for free.
“There’s a need and a desire, and I think the ag community and the department are starting to notice this is a viable career,” he said.
Jordan plans to host the workshop again next year and has a goal to develop an agriculture career path in the soldier-for-life transition assistance program at Fort Campbell.

How he began
When Jordan started farming eight years ago, Google wasn’t as extensive as it is today and he didn’t have a farming mentor to show him exactly where to go and what to do.
“I didn’t grow up in an agriculture background — I grew up surfing, skateboarding and on the beach,” said the Florida native.
His only “taste for farming” was as a teenager when his grandfather moved to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in 1982.
In 1989, Jordan joined the Army and went on to live overseas in Germany and Korea, get married, have kids and deployed several times.
Jordan’s farming operation ironically started with his daughter’s involvement in high school rodeo. He bought a few horses and cows after returning to Fort Campbell in 2001, but as his daughter grew older, “she found other interests, such as boys and cars, so I got stuck with the horses and a few cows,” he chuckled. “I decided to have the cows processed and sold the meat.”
As business picked up steam, Jordan created a label and bought 25 acres of land, a herd of Texas Longhorn and some chickens.
Jordan eventually combined his herd with a Hereford breed to develop a hearty yet tender cut of meat. The beef is dry-aged and processed by Yoder Bros. Jordan sells it out of a freezer trailer.
In addition to beef, Jordan grows cherry tomatoes, five strands of gourmet lettuce, broccoli, mushrooms and fresh-cut flowers.
Homegrown by Heroes, a labeling program created by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, helped Jordan create a brand for Circle J Ranch and tell his story as a farmer-veteran.

From Army and ag
Jordan said there are similarities between the military and agriculture, such as discipline and initiative, time-management, respect for the land, loyalty and paying attention to detail.
The soon-to-retire soldier said he couldn’t imagine going into a career where he wouldn’t be able to get outside and work the land.
“As veterans we served the country, but we want to continue serving the country by feeding the nation and taking care of the land.”
His typical work day is from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and he finishes up on the farm around 9 p.m. As a 27-year veteran, Jordan said his installation has always been supportive of his farm, but the Army has been his priority most of his life. Jordan said he is looking forward to being on his farm full time when he retires.
“I’m either going to love it or hate it,” he laughed, but he doesn’t think that’s going to happen.

Keeping connections flourishing from afar

By Jennifer Bailey

Video conferencing
Skype, Google+ and Oovoo are great ways to use the Internet to talk face to face. Sometimes just seeing a face along with a voice is what does the trick. Video chatting can be done almost anywhere, which is ever so important for those overseas moves.

Social media

Another popular choice is keeping in touch via social media. Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr alike you can share photos, snippets of your life and things that interest you. You and your friend can see what’s going on even if you cant talk or text on the phone.

Phone and text

By far the easiest way to keep lines of communication open is calling and texting details of your day or things you want to vent about. Communication is key and with today’s mobile technology it can happen anytime anywhere.


Call me old fashioned, but it’s always nice to get a postcard or handwritten letter. It really says that a person took the time and effort and was thinking about you. Care packages in the mail are also very nice.


If you both have Iphones, Apple has a wonderful app called Facetime. It’s a type of video conferencing, but can be done on the go without having to be tied to a computer.

Oak Grove baker shares secrets about her sweets

By Toni W. Riley
The kitchen in the home of Cody and Nicole Stewart doesn’t look like an art studio, but with the precision of any artist, Nicole deftly adds the finishing touches to a cake, and the centerpiece of a wedding reception, baby shower, birthday party or any special occasion is complete.
Nicole is quick to point out that she “can’t draw a worth a lick,” but she does agree that when given a picture of a cake, she can likely duplicate it.
Nicole is a self-taught cake artist. Five years ago she was watching the Food channel and saw a cake-baking contest. She said to herself “I can do that,” and she began watching YouTube videos to learn.
When her friend was having a baby shower, she offered to make the cake, which was a hit, and she thought, “OK, let’s do this again.” Continue reading

How a couple’s love turned into a business based on it

By Toni W. Riley
When a couple chooses a wedding venue, they look for a location where they can share their love and begin their life together. Battle Creek Farm, nestled in the lush farmland and rolling hills of southwestern Caldwell County, is a venue that was literally “built on love,” if you ask owners Kristina and Scott Evans. That love is their story.
The couple laughs when asked to “tell their story” about developing the venue on what was once a working dairy farm owned by Kristina’s grandfather, William Adams. They banter back and forth with “You tell it, no you tell it” as they settle in to explain how they came to be married 30 years after graduating from Caldwell High School.
Scott wins the coin toss and describes how they were in the same class in high school but didn’t run in the same crowd. He notes that Kristina came from “the wrong side of the creek,” but she quickly interjects that he came from the wrong side of the creek, and they laugh again. Continue reading