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John Tirro, Shopper News
As we make our way toward Christmas, I think of an image often on postcards, of the holy family-to-be, Mary on a donkey, Joseph walking beside her, all leaning forward as if into a cold wind, making their way to Bethlehem.
I’ve looked through the Bible, and I don’t remember and can’t find a place that says there was a donkey on this trip, though there was one at the end of Jesus’s life − two in one account − as he rode into Jerusalem, so maybe that’s part of why the artist includes the donkey in this image. However that may be, there’s something about this trio − Mary, the donkey, and Joseph − that speaks to what it is to be human.
Mary is the one carrying the holy child, the word of God, of peace. She’s described in the gospels as fierce and justice-oriented, but also deeply meditative, treasuring in her heart the prophesies said about her child. She’s also courageous, loving, and receptive. In a sense, she represents the spirit, the seat of peace, of values.
The donkey is warmth and fur and muscle and motion, earthy scents and step after step after step, representing the body.
Joseph is the one with halter in hand, representing the intellect, the part of a person that guards and guides the spirit, that keeps the body on track.
Now of course, looking at the rest of scripture, Mary seems to me the higher intellect, full of insight and wisdom, as well as one of the finest songwriters of all time (Luke 1:46-55). And of course Joseph has a spirit, and they both have bodies, and I’m sure the donkey has thoughts and feelings, but in this postcard scene, traveling toward Bethlehem, it seems to me they represent these three aspects of a person − spirit, body, and intellect.
I mention this because one of the first readings the church opens, as we prepare to receive the holy family and the infant Jesus, is the second chapter of Isaiah, which speaks of all nations streaming to Jerusalem to learn peace from God’s word, which is what we take Jesus to be, God’s word of peace. It speaks of people beating swords and spears into plowshares and pruning hooks, tools for planting and tending grain and grapes, the basics of bread and wine, of Communion. It describes people unbristling, taking down walls and weapons, visible or invisible, becoming caregivers of the earth and each other. It’s a move from fear to love, from anger to hope, from reactivity to helpful response.
Everyone has a word of peace to bring, a gift from God to share. Everyone has original blessedness, an opportunity to be good to someone. But we also face brutal headwinds, as we make our way to the place and time where we can make that offering.
If you find yourself bristling, check in with your body, use your intellect to slow your breathing, and align with your spirit, with your word of peace.
John Tirro is pastor of worship at St. John’s Lutheran Church. Info:sjlcknox.org.
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Nancy Anderson, Shopper News
Dancers at Pursuit School of Dance are practicing hard getting ready for their Christmas Extravaganza. The show will be held at the Historic Grove Theater in Oak Ridge at 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10.
The fast-paced show will feature all 55 dancers, including the advanced dancers in the Junior and Senior Company. They will be demonstrating all forms of dance at the school, including ballet on pointe to excerpts from well-known holiday movies such as “Elf,” “Grinch,” and “Home Alone.”
Co-owner Becca Collins said putting on the show is challenging because “all the boxes have to be checked. You have to make sure all the costumes − and there are many − are ready, all dancers on time, all props ready, (including a giant Christmas tree). It’s an exercise in planning, for sure. We have to have all the bases covered to make sure everything runs smoothly. You have to think of every possible scenario.”
The dancers are no strangers to performance. Last year they performed “Alice in Wonderland” and are planning a spring performance of “Beauty and Beast.” The advanced students will be making an appearance in the WIVK Christmas Parade on Dec. 2.
The 1,500-square-foot dance studio has been in Farragut for a year and a half. Co-owner Michaela McAlpine teaches ballet while Collins teaches jazz, tap, contemporary and modern styles to students as young as 3.
The pair are lifelong friends originally from a small town in Pennsylvania.
“Our lives just sort of took the same turns. We grew up together, we went to a performing arts school in Alabama together. Michaela came to Knoxville in 2017 and I followed around 2020. She was revamping the school and I wanted to be part of that,” said Collins.
McAlpine started dancing at 9. She came to Knoxville with her husband, Brandon, as part of a church plant and quickly fell in love with the area. She taught at Street Beatz for a year and half, then opened Pursuit School of Dance, a lifelong dream.
Collins started dance in second grade. She trained in ballet, tap, contemporary and modern. She was part of a competitive dance team for six years. Her studio was on an episode of “Dance Moms” in 2014. She was in Ingredients, a professional dance team, for about year.
 McAlpine said the hardest part about dancing is the dedication it takes to acquire superior skills.
“I love teaching, it’s my calling. Being a dancer is hard work. I don’t just teach the steps, I try to instill dedication and discipline. You can’t take a day off because you can lose it really quick. You have to be consistent and push yourself when you’re tired. Never give excuses. You have to really love it.”
“….and we do,” added Collins.
Info: www.pursuitschoolofdance.com
Al Lesar, Shopper News
From a trend-setter to a throwback, the eVape Lounge (603 E. Emory Road) in Powell has evolved over its nine-year existence.
Vaping was hardly a thing when owner Neal Murphy gave the idea a try in 2013.
“My former brother-in-law had a vape shop in Texas that was doing well,” said Murphy. “We talked. I thought that could work here.”
The shop opened with a selection of electronic cigarettes and an inventory of about 30 beers. It was the third vape shop in the Knoxville area.
“It wasn’t really a bar,” Murphy said.
It certainly is now.
The eVape Lounge has grown into a bar along with a wide range of CBD and cannabis products that can be used for medicinal and recreational applications.
“It’s got a ‘Cheers’ environment,” said Murphy, referring to the fictional bar made popular by the TV show of the same name. “People want to be there. You can’t sit and be left alone. It’s like a party at your house every night.”
Anthony Surrett, district manager for Murphy’s three locations (126 S. Northshore Drive; 1209 Central), said the Powell location has added special activities to its low-key atmosphere.
“It’s a relaxed spot,” Surrett said. “Wednesdays are bingo nights and Thursdays are (comic) open-mic nights. It’s not a crazy place.”
“It’s got the atmosphere of a speakeasy,” Murphy said.
Board games are also popular. The bar serves only beer; no food is available.
The pandemic didn’t have a significant impact on the lounge, according to Surrett. Because of the variety of products available at the lounge, it was classified as a convenience store. The bar area had to be shuttered, but beer was available to be sold on a “to-go” basis.
“Our sales actually went up during the pandemic,” Surrett said. “People wanted to get out and we were open for them.”
Every employee is well-versed in the federal and state laws surrounding marijuana and cannabis products. Surrett said they are always careful to follow the proper path for medicinal and recreational sales.
“The input we get from our customers is important,” Murphy said. “All of our employees take the time to get to know our customers. A customer will say, ‘I’ve got a bad hip. I take CBG and it really helps with the pain.’ The next customer with hip pain comes in, we’ll say, ‘Another customer with the same pain said CBG worked great.’ They’ll be convinced to give it a shot.”
“A lot of my customers are between 65 and 75 years old,” said Surrett. “They’re looking for something to help with sleep or with pain. I’ve got five or six who are using it for Parkinson’s (Disease). It’s able to give them the relief they want.”
Murphy said the secret to the longevity and ability to grow his empire has been his employees.
“I hire the right people,” he said. “Customer service has been lost. Our cashiers aren’t just cashiers, they’re sales people.
“When you’re buying a candy bar, they don’t just take your money and send you on your way. They talk to you about other products; tell you about what’s happening at night.”
Murphy said besides their normal salary, employees share in a sales bonus program for all three locations. In September, $8,700 in bonus money was paid out.
Hours at the Powell location are: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 10-11 Friday and Saturday and noon-7 Sunday.
Nancy Anderson, Shopper News
Robyn Trostle, coordinator at Karns Senior Center, is a busy woman these days. She’s written an uplifting book explaining God’s love with beautiful illustrations and excerpts from Psalms.
The book, “How Amazing is His Love,” was inspired by Trostle’s walk with God and her study of Psalms.
It wasn’t all smooth writing. When Trostle got stumped, she would look through family albums and send photos to illustrator Mary Carroll. The book features several drawings of Trostle’s children, grandmother, and nephew.
Mary Carroll is a Knoxville commercial pilot who loves to draw, paint, and play the ukulele. Trostle found her on Facebook when Carroll was trying to make extra money doing animal portraits.
It took Carroll nearly two years to complete the drawings. Every facing page features a drawing of the message on the opposite page.
Trostle explained how the book came about as a result of insecurities, her walk with God, and her study of Psalms.
“I’ve always been my own worst critic. I just didn’t have any confidence in myself. One day I decided that I needed to be reading the Bible every day. At least one verse. I came across Psalms 139 about saving me from my transgressions. It really spoke to me. From then on, I knew I didn’t have to please anyone except God. It was as if a boulder was lifted from my shoulders. I was blown away by that whole chapter.
“It took me 10 years to complete the book, but I got up that very night and penned a few verses.
“I used other Psalms to talk about creation and many other aspects of the book.”
“I wrote the book because I was in my late 40s when I found this out and I want others to know now that their self-worth is very high in God’s eyes. Maybe not your own, but give it to God.”
Initially the book was very short when she sought a publisher. One publisher suggested she branch out into other Psalms, but Trostle wasn’t open to the idea until she started studying Psalms at church and she found chapter after chapter speaking to her. All of it found its way into her book.
Trostle lives in Hardin Valley with her husband, Kevin. They have two grown children.
She holds a master’s degree from Trevecca Nazarene University in library and information science and a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from The University of Tennessee. 
She served in the Air National Guard for 22 years.
“How Amazing is His Love” is available on Amazon, at Barnes and Noble, and at Cedar Springs Christian Stores.
Trostle plans to hold a book signing with special giveaway at Sunago Coffee Company 3:30-5:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11.
Al Lesar, Shopper News
Recognize a need. Figure out a way to fulfill it.
That’s the basic premise any American entrepreneur will follow.
It’s what Jason Teller counted on for this next stage of his life in Powell.
Up until a year ago, the 48-year-old Teller had been a city clerk on the Gulf Coast of Florida. He and his family had vacationed in East Tennessee before and loved it. So, when it came time for him and his wife, Michele, to settle now that their children were grown, it was an easy decision.
Once relocated, Teller got to know Allan Glessner, the owner of Cozy Hardscape Supply (3232 Clinton Highway in Powell). The business sold decorative rocks, mulch, sand and other materials used in landscaping, along with doing excavation and contracting.
But Glessner wanted to expand the business.
“There’s really no local feed store in Powell, and there are enough animals that there seems to be a need,” Teller said. “There are some big box stores that carry feed, but nothing local that can really deal with people.”
Cozy Hardscape Supply & Feed Store was born.
Feed for poultry, horses, goats, beef cattle, rabbits, hogs, dogs and cats can be purchased from Teller’s side of the business. However, he said the “feed” part of the business is really only the “tip of the iceberg.”
Soon, he will have vaccinations and specialized machines to help in specific situations.
“The toughest thing about running the business is an old guy lifting 50-pound bags into the back of a pickup,” Teller said with a laugh. “We’re building relationships. We feel that this is a service for the community. You’re not going to become a millionaire by selling feed.
“I believe in the health part of it. ‘You are what you eat eats.’ You are a product of what (the animals) eat.”
Teller has a limited agriculture background. As a youngster, he was in Franklin, Tennessee, when his grandparents operated a farm. He was involved in 4H competition and has some veterinarians in his family.
“It’s always a gamble in any business,” Teller said. “We’ve done six months’ worth of research and found that the Powell area would benefit from a local feed store.”
Teller hasn’t gotten lost in the swarm of demands that goes into getting a new business off the ground.He has maintained his priorities.
“I’ll spend three hours a night responding to questions people will ask,” he said. “The is a time we need to build some relationships. That’s where any business needs to start.
“When you’re a family-operated business, having the ability to get to know people on a personal level is so important, compared to what a box store can do.”
Teller said his business relationship with Glessner is pretty simple. When it comes to the feed part of the business, Teller is allowed to make all the crucial decisions.
“Every day is a learning experience,” said Teller. “If you get to the point where you think you know everything, you’ve got bigger issues than you think.”
Carol Z. Shane, Shopper News
The mood was convivial and festive – and the ballroom was packed – when the National Coalition of 100 Black Women Inc. of Greater Knoxville (NCBW) met on Nov. 19 at the downtown Hilton for a luncheon in celebration of their 10th anniversary.
The organization was founded by Edna Beach in the winter of 1970 in New York City to assess the problems and opportunities left behind in the wake of the turbulent 1960s. Meeting in their homes, Black women gathered in groups, working to identify root causes of issues that affected their families, communities and themselves.
The NCBW has since grown to include 60 chapters in 30 states and the District of Columbia. Its mission is to advocate on behalf of women of color, through national and local actions and strategic alliances, for leadership development and gender equity in the areas of health, education and economic empowerment.
Tearsa Smith, WATE 6 On Your Side news anchor who served as mistress of ceremonies, said, “When it comes to improving community, women always have a hand in it. So to be a part of this event is an honor and a privilege, and hopefully, 10 more years from now, they’ll have another event showcasing more of what they’ve done!”
Special guest speaker for the event was Minnie Miller, the immediate past president of the NCBW Metropolitan Atlanta Chapter and the national first vice president of programs.
“We are here because it is our destiny,” said Miller. “You have been here for 10 years, and I believe that you will be here for 10 more. I would like to share a statement from the founding resolution from Oct. 1981: ‘Whereas, the NCBW has been created to establish a leadership forum for Black women whose overall mission is to provide a national and international medium in which they can develop, initiate and implement action plans designed to pursue social, economic and political gain.’ So, we have only one choice, and that is to move forward – boldly and with confidence. Now, more than ever, we recognize that Black women must play a critical role in saving our communities.”
Miller spoke of the importance of STEAM – science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics – educational programs. “It is imperative that we encourage our young girls to enroll in those classes because, as we know, Black females are underrepresented in STEAM careers. Our girls need the exposure.”
She also spoke of a new NCBW curriculum, “Sister-nomics,” focusing on financial literacy and stability, family wealth building and entrepreneurship.
“Economic empowerment is the key to uplifting and strengthening the lives of Black women, as well as ending generational poverty.” Miller urged all present to work together to “plan, implement and be impactful.”
Local chapter leaders considered the luncheon a great success. “We had over 175 attendees,” said event chair Karen George. Chapter president C. Delores Mitchell said, “I thought we orchestrated it well. We were very pleased with the outcome.”
Sponsors for the event were ORAU; Realty Executives Associates; Karen George, Realtor, who was also chair for the event; WJBE “Jammin’ 99.7” Radio; Tuskegee NEXT; J.A. Fielden; Big O’s Famous BBQ; Always Moore Janitorial Service; National Alliance on Mental Illness; Catholic Charities; Emerald Youth Foundation; League of Women Voters and Operation Hope.
Visit ncbwknox.org.
Leslie Snow, Shopper News
I was at a donation center, unloading boxes from my car, the first time I heard the phrase come out of my mouth. I looked at the man who’d offered to lift the heavy boxes for me and said, “It’s OK, I’m bigger than I look.” He laughed as if I were joking. And I didn’t give the incident another thought until a few days later, when I repeated the phrase at my parents’ house.
My mom was worried about me filling in for one of my father’s caregivers who was sick with a high fever. I told her I was quite capable of doing what needed to be done, but she didn’t like the idea. “Your dad may be frail, but he’s still a big man. I worry about you trying to help him.”
And because I was tired, and because there wasn’t any choice anyway, I replied in a slightly exasperated tone, “I can take care of Dad. I do it all the time. You don’t have to worry about me. I’m bigger than I look.”
This time, the phrase stayed with me. I thought about it when I told the bagger at the grocery store that I didn’t need help with my bags. I thought about it again when I told the delivery man that I could carry my packages all by myself. I feel strong. I’m big, even though my body is small.
That’s why I was surprised when I suddenly felt so tired. After weeks of dealing with my father’s respiratory illness and his worsening dementia symptoms, I started to feel smaller. Like I was deflating.
And one day in the kitchen, while I was cooking for the weekly Cleveland Browns Brunch we host on Sundays, my kids saw me. They saw the worried expression on my face and the dark circles under my eyes. They saw my thin frame and my hunched shoulders and they spoke up.
“Mom,” Jordan said, “You don’t have to do this alone. Lean on us. We’re all here for you.”
Zack chimed in too and said, “We’re all capable adults. We can cook and clean and we can help with Grandma and Grandpa.” After a pause he added, “Ethan’s worried about you too. He knows you’re doing the heavy lifting right now. Let us help you.”
“Thank you,” I said, trying to rein in my emotions. And when Zack hugged me, I was surprised by how tall he seemed, how strong and able. “My children are all so grown up now,” I said to lighten the mood.
Most days, I really am bigger than I look. I can do hard things. I can carry more weight than most people would think. At least that’s how I see myself. In my mind, I’m powerful and tough. I’m good in a pinch, but it seems, I’m not invincible. I’m not immune to the long nights I lie awake, worrying. They take their toll. I guess even superheroes get tired when they fly too much.
This holiday season, I’m grateful for the family and friends who are willing to step into the breach. The ones who listen when I need to share my story and who offer to help carry the load when it gets too heavy. The ones who see me and understand that sometimes, I’m not as big as I think I am.
Leslie Snow may be reached at snow column@aol.com.
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