A Southern State of Mind

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Raleigh, North Carolina

(And if I die in Raleigh, at least I will die free.) 

If you have ever listened to the song “Wagon Wheel,” you heard the reference to Raleigh, North Carolina (and yes, I am listening to that song as I write this post 🙂 ). For our next “A Southern State of Mind” series, we are heading to the capital of North Carolina-Raleigh! Test your knowledge of this growing city below!

1: In 1587, Sir Walter Raleigh directed John White to build the “Cittie of Raleigh.”

2: Raleigh was officially named the center of government for the state in 1792.

3: The Native American Iroquoian, Siouan and Algonquian tribes were the first settlers. The land is also the birthplace of Virginia Dare, the first child born to English parents in the new world.

4: Raleigh is home to North Carolina State University, which was founded in 1887.

5: Today, the city is the second biggest in the state.

Source: http://www.raleighnc.gov/home/content/PubAffairs/Articles/Historic.html

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Hail to the Chief

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“Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe…”

You might be like me and just sang a little tune, learned in elementary school, to the words above. Today we are celebrating Presidents’ Day, a day set to honor all 44 of our nation’s leaders. As a history fan, I always like to look up facts about the United States and all of the Presidents.

Test your presidential knowledge below!

1. James Madison weighed under 100 pounds and was only 5’4”.

2. William Henry Harrison commissioned bottles of hard cider into shapes of log cabins as part of his campaigning.

3. Abraham Lincoln created the Secret Service hours before his assassination.

4. Rutherford B. Hayes signed an act that allowed women to plead cases before the Supreme Court, making it legal for women to practice in the court system.

5. The teddy bear got its name from Teddy Roosevelt.

6. Woodrow Wilson is the only president to have earned a Ph.D.

7. Dwight Eisenhower was a painter and produced more than 250 known pieces.

8. Gerald Ford was once a male model on the cover of Cosmopolitan.

9. Ronald Reagan is the only US President to have been divorced. He divorced actress Jane Wyman in 1948 and married Nancy Davis in 1952.

10. While captain of  Yale’s baseball team, George H.W. Bush met and posed for a photo with Babe Ruth.

Source: http://www.buzzfeed.com/erinlarosa/presidents-youll-never-look-at-the-same-way-again?sub=3092089_2629659#.nn2Xllpjy

Open When…Letters

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Looking for something special to do for that special someone? Write them “Open When” letters!

These letters are designed to let someone know just how much they mean to you.

Some ideas include:

  • Open when you are feeling lonely
  • Open when you need to know how much I love you
  • Open when you want to know my dreams for our future
  • Open when you need a laugh

Be creative and have fun, but most importantly, let the letters be honest, personal, and handwritten by YOU!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Why I’m Scarlett O’Hara

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My all-time favorite movie is Gone with the Wind. Many people are familiar with the epic love story of Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler. What many people don’t know is that this Civil War tale isn’t about a love story between a man and woman, but a love story between a woman and her home–Tara.

Throughout the movie, I can’t help, but notice there are similar characteristics between Scarlett and almost every Southern belle, including myself. Granted most of her tactics and actions aren’t ethical or moral, there are still lessons Scarlett O’Hara can teach us all:

1: Never give up: Scarlett never gave up trying to get what she wanted, she never gave up when the war destroyed Tara, and she never gave up trying to provide for her family.

2: Use your entrepreneurial spirit: During the 1800s, it was uncommon for women to work, let alone create and run a business. Scarlett had an entrepreneurial spirit that helped provide a living.

3: Worry about only what’s important, when you need to: We all know the famous quotes “After all, tomorrow is another day” or “I’ll think about that tomorrow.” She knew when to worry about things that mattered, when to worry about things that didn’t, and at the right time.

4: Family first: Scarlett proclaimed to “lie, cheat, murder, or steal” to make sure her family was safe and provided for after the war. Every Southern belle knows family comes first and you do anything for them.

5: Never forget where you come from: Roots run deep in the South. Whether it was her Irish heritage or Georgia home, Scarlett never forgot her family’s history and where she came from. Knowing your family’s heritage and the place you call home can do wonders for anyone. Home gives you strength when you need it most.

 

The Place We All Call Home

For the past few nights, I have been glued to the History channel, watching Sons of Liberty. This three part mini-series depicts how our founding fathers fought against British rule and created a new country. Even though I knew the outcome of these events and the Revolutionary War, I sat there in suspense. Chills ran up my arm as I saw delegates from the 13 colonies sign their names for something they believed-the Declaration of Independence.

One of my all-time favorite songs is country singer Dierks Bentley’s ‘Home.’ The song tells the story of America and how this is “still the place we all call home.” As the years 1775-1776 played out on the t.v. screen, I couldn’t help, but remember several verses to the song that describe the mini-series and the birth of our country perfectly:

Free, nothing feels like free
Though it sometimes means we don’t get along
Cause same, no we’re not the same
But that’s what makes us strong

From the mountains high
To the wave crashed coast
There’s a way to find
Better days I know

It’s been a long hard ride
Got a ways to go
But this is still the place
That we all call home

Brave, gotta call it brave
To chase that dream across the sea
Names, and they signed their names
For something they believed

Red, how the blood ran red
And we laid our dead in sacred ground
Just think, wonder what they think
If they could see us now.

Source: http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/dierksbentley/home.html

A Southern State of Mind

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Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Today, Country Belle Chic is packing up our bags and heading to Hilton Head Island, S.C.! Did you know the island is located on the Intracoastal Waterway and includes 42 square miles of semi-tropical landscape? Test your knowledge of this favorite Lowcountry travel destination below.

1: Hilton Head Island is named after Captain William Hilton. In 1663, Hilton found an island near the entrance to the Port Royal Sound. He named this land “Hilton’s Head” after himself.

2: The island was an important base of operations for the Union blockade of the Southern ports during the Civil War.

3: The Town of Hilton Head Island gained local and state government status in 1983.

4: There are over 12 miles of beaches.

5: The island is a foot-shaped barrier and is located approximately 45 miles north of Savannah, Ga., 90 miles south of Charleston, S.C., and 30 miles south of Beaufort, S.C.

Source: http://www.hiltonheadchamber.org/press-and-media/fast-facts

I’ll Be Home for Christmas, Part III

(Continued from Part II, enjoy the conclusion to I’ll Be Home for Christmas)

“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 this 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 POWs. 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, 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.

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

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I’ll Be Home for Christmas Part I

For the next few days, Country Belle Chic will publish a three part story, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, written by our blog’s founder, Megan Taylor. Enjoy a story about a family and their life at Christmastime during World War II. Merry Christmas!

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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 on the homefront.

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 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.

Check back tomorrow for Part II of I’ll Be Home for Christmas.