Reasons Why I Love “Growing Up Southern”

july 28(A Southern belle can never have too many bows, right??)

My childhood can be described as summers spent outside, chasing fireflies and falls spent at the county fair, enjoying the simple things in life. There are many things I could pick out that I love about my childhood, yet, I always come back to my ultimate favorite-I was able to grow up in the South.

Growing up Southern is a privilege, in my opinion. Yes, I am a little bias, because this is the only place I’ve grown up. Growing up Southern is more than just celebrating the different seasons or food. Growing up Southern is about the people, manners, and lessons learned.

Here are 12 reasons why I love growing up in the South.

1: Respect for elders is one of the most important things.

2: Also, respect for your momma and daddy is crucial.

3: Almost every sentence should include a “ma’am” or “sir.”

4: It is better to overdress for any occasion. (Football games, church, you name it-overdress.)

5: Handwritten letters don’t go out of style.

6: Your family will always support you and will always be the most important thing in your life.

7: In the summer, curfews are dictated by lightning bugs.

8: Southern food is the best and you will learn how to cook your grandma’s recipes by the time you are 20.

9: There is no need to be in a rush for everything.

10: Southern hospitality is a way of life that you will master by the time you are also 20.

11: School is cancelled when the first flakes of snow fall.

12: You wouldn’t want to grow up anywhere else but in the South.

Christmas in July, Final Day

Today is the last day of our Christmas in July extravaganza! Grab your family together and create a new tradition, all while enjoying some festive holiday tunes.

A Book A Day

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Place 24 wrapped books under the Christmas tree. These books can relate to the meaning of the holiday, favorites of your children, or any type of book you would like. Starting December 1 and going through the 24th, unwrap one of the books each night. Have fun and be creative with this exciting tradition!

Favorite Holiday Songs

Add some Christmas music to your holiday with some of my favorites.

1. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”

2. “O Holy Night”

3. “The Christmas Song”

4. “White Christmas”

5. “Christmas in Dixie”

Until next time, have a fantastic Christmas in July! Seems the perfect time to say “Mele Kalikimaka!”

I’ll Be Home for Christmas, Part II

“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” continued from Tuesday. 

Story Picture

I’ll Be Home for Christmas

One night, as we were decorating the Christmas tree, I couldn’t take it anymore. This was always a tradition my family did together and without Russell, I wanted nothing to do with it. “Why can’t we find anything out about Russell?” Are you sure you contacted everyone you could think of for information?” I exclaimed, out of anger. “Lizzy, your mother and I are doing everything we can. The least you can do is be supportive and keep up hope,” stated my father. “It’s hard to keep up hope. It’s easier to have doubt. I’m going up to my room and the two of you can keep decorating,” I said, disappointed with his response. “Lizzy, please don’t,” my mother began to say, but a knock on the front door interrupted her.

“Who do you think it could be, Bill?” my mother weakly asked. All of our hearts were pounding out of our chests, wondering who stood on the other side of the door. One by one, with my father in the lead, we walked to the door and slowly opened it. “Are you Mr. Dillard?” a man in an Army uniform asked. “Yes, yes I am,” my father replied, nervously. “Here, I have an important letter for you. I hope you and your family have a very Merry Christmas,” he said as he passed the letter to my family. As quickly as he came, the uniformed man went. Not knowing what to do, my family stood there like statues in a museum. “Open it Bill! Don’t just look at it!” shouted my mother.

Very slowly the letter was torn open. As he began reading, my father’s eyes grew ten times bigger. “It’s…it’s from Russell!” Jumping with enthusiasm, my mother grabbed the letter and shouted “Safe! He is safe! Russell is safe!” Hearing the news was the best thing I could ask for. “What else does the letter say, Mom?” I asked. “It says he is safe and an Italian family has taken him and a few other soldiers into their home, after their plane was shot down. They are keeping them in hiding, otherwise they would be taken as prisoners of war. All that matters is that he is safe,” my mother said as she squealed with excitement.

After hearing the happy news, my family gained a little bit more Christmas spirit and together, we finished decorating the tree. From then on, my family kept receiving letters from Russell; however, we couldn’t write back, because it was too risky. Between letters, I kept reading the old ones over and over again until I could recite them from memory. All I wanted for Christmas was for him to be home, but I knew that was impossible.

Within no time, Christmas Eve was here. As always, my family went to the Christmas Eve Lovefeast service at our church. Right as we were pulling out of the driveway, it began to snow. “There’s nothing like a white Christmas, don’t you think?” said my mother. There was something different about the evening, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. “Oh well,” I thought, “tonight is Christmas Eve and I’m not going to let anything bother me.”

I loved everything about the Christmas Eve Lovefeast service. From singing “Morning Star” to eating the Lovefeast buns, the service officially signaled to me that Christmas had begun. By the time we left church, the snow had picked up and the ground was covered in a blanket of white. “Almost two inches deep and more is going to fall by morning,” my father said as he observed the sky. Sometimes I believed my father could tell the weather better than anyone.

Once we got home, we built a fire, and opened the traditional only one present on Christmas Eve. Still, there was something strange about the night, but I still couldn’t figure it out. Once the Christmas Eve traditions were done, there was one more thing to do. “Does everyone want hot chocolate? Bill, make sure the fire is going strong and Lizzy, make sure the lights are turned down,” my mother said from the kitchen. The Dillard family always watched the snow fall from the living room window and drank hot chocolate by the light of the Christmas tree before going to bed.

We had only watched the snow fall for about 10 minutes when a jeep pulled into our driveway. Oddly, it was Russell’s jeep. Thoughts began to run through my head, but I quickly pushed them aside, thinking there was no way he could have gotten home. From where I was sitting, I couldn’t see the person walking up to the front door. Instead of knocking, the mysterious person began to sing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

Glancing between the window and my parents, I realized the jeep actually was Russell’s and he was the mysterious person. “Run and open the door,” exclaimed my mother as her and my father stood there, smiling with joy. As excited as I could be, I opened the door and saw Russell, standing there in his Army uniform, singing the last note of the song as loud as he could.

“Russell! Russell! You are home!” I said as I jumped into his arms, knocking him down. “What? How?” I exclaimed as a million questions began to surface. “Lizzy! Lizzy! Let me come inside and tell you,” Russell replied to my incomplete thoughts. “It’s good to see you!” both of my parents said as they greeted their son. “Tell me how! Tell me how!” I blurted out, breaking up their reunion.

Before Russell began, my parents showed me a letter they had kept hidden from me. “You knew he was coming home and you didn’t tell me?” “Lizzy,” my parents said, “we wanted this to be a Christmas surprise for you.” In his letter, Russell said he was coming home for Christmas, but in order to leave, he had to pretend he wasn’t an US citizen until he got back to base. Getting back to base wasn’t easy, but Russell was able to make it there safely.

“But how did you get your jeep?” I asked. “While you were at church, a neighbor drove me home from the train station and I got it then. Mom and Dad helped me plan the whole welcome home surprise, once I got back to base. ‘Operation Lizzy’s Christmas Present’ was what we called it. Keeping it a surprise from you wasn’t so easy,” answered Russell.

As I raced towards my brother, I began to list all of the old traditions we still needed to do. “Ok, ok. We’ll do them,” he said, “but where to begin?” I thought about this for a moment, and then pulled Russell out the door and to his jeep. “It’s time to go caroling,” I said. With our parents waving from the door, Russell and I started our annual caroling trip through town.

As we pulled up to the front house, Russell looked over at me and said “Told you in my letters I would be home for Christmas.”

The Christmas of 1944 became a Christmas I never forgot.

Christmas in July Day 3 

It’s time for some decorations and food fun for our Christmas in July!

Candy Cane Decorations 
  

Supplies: 

Wooden dowel rods

White Styrofoam circles

Red glitter glue

Directions: 

1: Press a Styrofoam circle into the top of a wooden dowel.

2: Decorate similar to a peppermint.

Fun to place around a house, office space, and more!

Hot Chocolate Sticks 

Ingredients: 

Marshmallows

Melting chocolate

Peppermints

Wooden dowel rods

Directions: 

1: Crush the peppermints in a ziplock bag. Place one marshmallow onto the bottom end of a wooden dowel.

2: Melt the chocolate, in either the microwave or onto of the stove, and dip the marshmallows.

3: Roll the marshmallows into the peppermint and let harden. You can place in the refrigerator, if needed to quicken hardening.

Enjoy!

I’ll Be Home for Christmas, Part I

Enjoy part 1 of our two part story about a family and their life at Christmastime during World War II.

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I’ll Be Home for Christmas 

It was December 1944 and the United States was immersed in World War II. My family, the Dillards, included my father Bill, my mother Samantha, my brother Russell, and me, Lizzy, a freckled-faced, red, curly-haired 13-year old. Russell, a 20-year old, private in the US Army, was stationed in Europe, fighting behind enemy lines. As for the rest of us, we fought the war at home.

It was two weeks till Christmas and the town of Smithfield, Illinois, was full of holiday spirit. Along with preparing for December 25th, my town was preparing gift packages to send to soldiers overseas. Many of my friends had siblings in the Army, just like I did.

My mother was the president of Operation Victory, a committee that sent gift packages to soldiers throughout the year. This was just one of the ways my mother helped fight the war.

As the sibling of a soldier, I constantly wrote letters to Russell, telling him about home and the latest news. I also sent cards to him and his friends. Quickly, I became a professional at drawing Christmas trees.

This was the second Christmas Russell was going to miss. He entered the US Army shortly after Pearl Harbor. In February 1942, he was sent to Europe and has only been home twice since then.

My father was always reassuring my mother that Russell was safe. “Samantha,” he would say, “Russell is doing his patriotic duty, fighting for his country, and he will come home soon.” As for me, Christmas was the hardest part of the year.

Russell and I had always been close, despite our age difference. Throughout the years, we had created our own traditions, in addition to our family’s. Together, these traditions made Christmas just a little bit more special.

One of my favorite traditions that Russell and I shared was two days before Christmas Eve. We would ride through town in his jeep and deliver cookies to all of our neighbors and friends. At each house, we sang “Jingle Bells” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” At the end of the second song, Russell would always hold out the very last note until everyone started laughing.

In all of the letters we wrote to each other, during the holiday season, we always talked about our traditions. In one of his letters from November, he mentioned there was a slight chance he might receive leave and be able to come home for Christmas. Since then, I hung onto this statement, hoping it would eventually come true.

“Lizzy! Lizzy! Are you coming sledding with us or not?” asked my friend Jill. Her voice snapped me back into reality. Looking around, I realized my friends, Jill and Jane, were waiting on me to go sledding. “Sure, I’m ready. Let’s go!” I replied. We spent the rest of the day sledding at Black’s Hill.

By the time I got home, my father was already home from work. As I entered the house, I expected on hearing the usual “Do you realize how late you are on a school night and you haven’t started your homework yet” speech, but instead I received different news.

My mother was sitting in the living room, crying. I noticed her eyes were fixed on an opened letter on the coffee table. “Lizzy, your mother and I need to talk to you,” my father said as he met me at the living room door. Little did I know, the news my parents were about to tell me would change my world. “We just received a letter, saying Russell’s plane was shot down over Italy. We don’t know where exactly he is and the Army has declared him missing in action.” my father told me as tears started running down my face.

After talking with my parents for a while, I went upstairs to my bedroom. Not knowing what to think or do, I looked outside my window and glanced towards the driveway. There I saw Russell’s jeep and I wished, more than anything, for him to be home.

“Where is Russell?” I thought to myself. Quickly, I began to write him a letter, which I planned on mailing to his base. Something inside of me told me he was in a safe place and would be home soon. I hoped this feeling was right, but as scared as I was, I doubted it.

Over the next couple of days, my family lived precariously, waiting to hear any news about Russell. As it got closer and closer to Christmas, my family still hadn’t heard anything about him and our patience started to wear thin.

To be continued…

Christmas in July

July 20

Today is the first day of our week-long celebration of Christmas in July! There’s going to be ideas for food, decorations, and more. Below is a quick rundown for the week:

Tuesday- “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” Part I Story

Wednesday- Decoration and Food Ideas

Thursday- “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” Part II Story

Friday- Gift and Music Ideas

Trust me, you don’t want to miss the fun! To get us started, enjoy one of my all-time favorite Christmas songs “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” by Andy Williams.

Happy Birthday, Luke Bryan!

July 17

Today is country superstar Luke Bryan’s birthday. The “Kick the Dust Up” singer turns 39 years old.

Below are my top 5 favorite Luke Bryan songs to kick off the weekend.

“Play It Again”

“That’s My Kind of Night”

“Drink a Beer”

“Rain is a Good Thing”

“Roller Coaster”