Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Makings of a Sunshine Girl

As a college student, we often debated environment vs. heredity. When I was a teacher, I saw students who may have inherited certain traits, but were most definitely affected by their environment. Sometimes for the good, sometimes for the not so good. As a young girl and now as a mature woman (not old!), I see how my environment, or more specifically my family, has affected me.

I was born in Mobile, Alabama, June 11, 1956. My mother and daddy were, and still are, awesome parents and I grew up in a home filled with lots of love, even among the rivalry, arguments, and loudness of two other siblings, and often four other cousins. Both sets of my grandparents were hard working individuals where neither of the wives worked outside of the home. Not until my maternal grandfather passed away early near the age of 65, that is. He died suddenly of a heart attack and it truthfully broke my heart. My four grandparents and parents all had a strong faith and it was at the death of my grandfather that I first realized my need for God. I had yet to make a profession of faith, as we called it, and the loss of someone I loved so dearly confronted me with the first thoughts of my eternity after life on earth. But that is another story.

The three of us on our front porch in Semmes, Alabama, early 1959: older sis Kaye in the background, younger brother Tim chewing on his wooden playpen, and me in the foreground running for the camera.

Granddaddy and Grandma Brown lived in a rural part of George County, Mississippi, which at that time, did not have phone service. It was like another world. The bridge that crosses the Pascagoula River on Highway 26 between Lucedale and Benndale was "Grandma's Bridge", and it was a signal to the three of us that rode in the back seat that we were getting close to Grandma and Granddaddy's house.

"Grandma's Bridge"

I loved to hear the sound of the car tires as they rattled across the cattle gap at the end of the lane that led to Grandma's house. The gravel crunched as the heavy Oldsmobile we drove lumbered towards the house. Many times we would get out of the car and run in three different directions. If Granddaddy was in the field, I would usually run to get a hug. He would come walking up, sunhat in hand, handkerchief wiping the back of his neck, wearing a big smile just for me. I would wrap my arms around his waist and press my round little cheeks to his overalls. They were always damp and had a familiar scent. Not a bad one, just one that smelled like Granddaddy when he was working in the field. Later, as I aged, I learned to recognize that scent as perspiration, but a fond memory just the same. Granddaddy would squeeze me and ask, "How is my little Sunshine Girl doing"? I would always laugh and say in my very southern drawl, "Gooood." Both he and Grandma called me their Sunshine Girl. I never really got it until after Granddaddy died and Grandma Brown was left to live alone. She was 58 and she lived until just shy of her 93rd birthday. For the last 10 years of her life, my mom cared for her. She touched our lives very deeply.

Grandma Brown looking good! 

In the 1960's, autograph books were the rage: perhaps the forerunners of Facebook. I got one for Christmas in 1965, so the next time I saw Grandma Brown, I asked her to sign my autograph book. I was 9 years old at the time. I keep this little book out where I can look at it. I even have a ribbon tied to open the book straight to Grandma's page.

My Autograph Book

Her message goes straight to my heart every time. I think it is something she and Granddaddy spoke into my life. They gave me a legacy to live up to without even knowing it. Or maybe they did know. Lots of times I share things with others and later find that it was a word they needed and it came at just the right time. Just like I need a ray of sunshine in the dark winter months to lighten my heart and strengthen me with the hope for spring days that will eventually come, we all need an encouraging word in due season. A kind word at the right time is like a ray of sunshine on a gloomy day.

Grandma's Definition of a Sunshine Girl

It is amazing to me how we are all gifted in different ways. Your gift may be sending cards, making phone calls, giving sacrificially to others in secret, or making a meal for someone who could really use it. Sometimes life is not easy. Sometimes everything is not all perky and happy. Sometimes we may not feel like smiling or spreading sunshine and love. But we need to stop and think: it isn't always all about us. Sometimes someone else needs something more than we do. When we put others first instead of ourselves, we will find that we can be Sunshine Girls and Sunshine Boys. Just like Granddaddy said...How are you doin'? We are always busy doing something. And when we do right for others, we can never go wrong. Who needs your sunshine today?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Snow in the Land of Sunshine

Last week we experienced an unusual batch of weather along the Gulf Coast and in fact, across the Southeast. While we were hoping for snow, what we got was a good dose of sleet and ice! It lasted longer than we anticipated due to very cold temps, and in fact, in a few shady places of my yard, there are still frozen spots four days later. While the ice was a lot more dangerous for older folks like me to walk on, I managed to get up early on the morning after and trek around the farm to get a few photos. My husband was out of town and my son beat the bad weather to a hunting spot north of here, so I was the only one in my family that was home to enjoy the beautiful sights.
Winter is the only time of year you can see the roof of our home. The crepe myrtle branches stood out against the icy roof.
The view from across the pond when it is still makes a pretty reflection. I am still thinking about how silly it was for me to go out so early, alone, with no cell phone. Duh, but thankfully no problems.
The barn looks cold, doesn't it?
The courtyard was full of ice and took the longest to thaw because of the lack of sunshine in that area. 
Jack Frost would like those chairs. 

I did manage to get a few things done while I was off work for three days. I have had a little vanity table that I bought about 20 years ago, and while I loved the shape and details, the dark finish didn't let those features shine through. So I decided to give chalk paint a whirl and see what all the fuss has been about the past couple of years. I have to say it wasn't as hard as I had imagined and I did learn a few things. It's true hindsight is 20/20! The before and after are pretty dramatic and I like it much better painted. My poor husband will think he is living in someone else's house when everything starts wearing paint! 
 BEFORE: Sorry, the hardware had already been removed, but you can see the little table was very sad.
AFTER: I left the hardware kind of half way clean, with a lot of the aged patina.
Now you can see the details and curves of the table and it is smiling at me.
  I will always be able to remember that this was my Snowy Days project. Even the color is reminiscent of the ice on the brown grass of winter...Ready to try it again!