Southern Nostalgia: Sweet Tea and Sisterhood

Wisteria and Camelias

Wisteria and Camelias


Dogwood Blossom

On the drive from Atlanta to Macon, I was greeted by blooming dogwood trees and azaleas bushes.  I love Spring in the South.  There are many things I’ve missed without realizing it:  rocking chairs and screen doors, that slow southern drawl, sweet tea, cheese straws, salty pork, collard greens, cornbread, lavender wisteria that hangs like grape clusters in the trees,  and bear hugs with lots of  suga’…It’s good to be home in Georgia.

I visited Macon to be a convocation speaker at my Alma Mater, Wesleyan College, which is the first college in the world chartered to grant degrees to women (year 1836)!  The campus is beautiful, and even though April showers were pouring down, I ventured out to explore old haunts and new buildings.

It felt a little strange to be back at school as an alumni and not a student. The pretty cafeteria made me smile, as did the same old ugly plastic plates!  I was glad to see a tall knight in armor still stands by the fireplace.  (My maiden name is Knight, so this held an oddly special place in my heart).

I taught aerobics and choreographed dances in this creative space with its gorgeous old wooden mirrors. I love this room. Windows look out over the campus in three directions.

I enjoyed talking to a diverse group of students in an accounting class, then went back to my room to prepare for my presentation the next day. I was asked to talk about my time at college, especially the importance of learning languages and studying abroad, working in male-dominated fields, and sharing lessons learned. There were so many messages I wanted to convey to these bright women, it was hard to narrow it down.

But I got my speech down to 30 minutes, and went to sleep, nervous and excited.

My sweet Mama, Aunt Jean, and roommates from college came into town to support me. I love these women. They are strong and courageous and great role models for women, like so many of my wonderful girlfriends, whom I also consider my family. (Real steel magnolias do exist, you know.  They are called southern women)! I am fortunate to know many steel magnolias, my mother-in-law included. They’re a tour de force, taking life by storm and living large.  Isn’t that what we’re here to do?



Spring Convocation

Spring Convocation

And that’s how I ended my speech, by encouraging these ladies to get to know themselves, find their voice and embrace their feminine perspective as an asset, dream big, pursue their passions, and invest in their sisterhood. It was a lot of fun, and such an honor.  Keep striving, ladies!

Foreign Correspondence Unearthed

On the front steps was a FedEx package, thin and rigid. The return address was not immediately familiar.  Who is this from?

Savoring the mystery, I opened the package slowly and carefully. An envelope stamped with my name was inside, friendly and inviting. Written with an old typewriter, a woman named Susan explained in her letter how she came across a correspondence exchange between our mothers, written in the 1950’s.

 And what a treasure trove of history. A story of supportive, strong women sharing their life journeys.  Living abroad in Italy.  What dresses should they take in their steamer trunks? The excitement and challenges of becoming new brides, ordering pink kitchens, cooking mishaps, and transitioning into motherhood. Keeping house and keeping up appearances. What insight into a different era!  And what a special gift, these gorgeous letters with Mama’s handwriting, capturing her thoughts as a young woman.

IMG_2808I cringe when I hear they may no longer teach handwriting in schools. As a lover of letters, stamps, paper, and pen, it saddens me to think of letters like these becoming an art of the past. Call me old-fashioned, but re-reading emails just doesn’t have the same effect, does it?

40: A Whole New Decade

Yesterday was my birthday, and not just any birthday, but one of the decade-turning kind. I wasn’t sure if forty would send me spiraling a bit, but instead, it has been more of a happy, peaceful transition, and a time to reflect on paths well-tread, and new ones to be forged.

I’m on a two-day retreat at a lovely Bed and Breakfast in the Virginia countryside. It’s snowing, pastoral, quiet, and restorative. This is a present from my honey, and the first time away from my 8 month old son, which has been hard, but good.

We all need to step away from our daily lives sometimes, to have a break and reconnect with ourselves.  I am soaking up the solitude like a sponge, reading magazines, editing photos for long, uninterrupted stretches of time, and creating collages. (Delicious food is interspersed in these activities, too). There is a pastry chef here that knows what he is doing-YUM!

What will my 40’s be like? Looking back, there’s more freedom in getting older. I feel less beholden to pleasing others if it doesn’t also bring me happiness, less of saying yes when I want to say no. (Do you ever say yes to something, only to end up asking yourself something along the lines of, “Dang! How did I get involved in this? Why couldn’t I just have been bold enough to say NO?”) 

I’m committing that in my 40’s I will do the yes-meaning-no thing less, find a stronger voice, and stop worrying about what others’ think. (This has been a tough one, though, growing up in the South and being taught to be polite, polite, polite)! Of course, manners and the golden rule go without saying, and there will be necessary compromises and sacrifices for friends and family.  However, in general,  I want to pay clearer attention when my intuition tells me a situation doesn’t feel right, and merits closer examination on my part.

Here’s a toast to living more in the moment, being true to myself, and engaging in activities that keep me centered, and passions that make me feel alive!