In what way is the South unique from other places you've lived or traveled?
Warmth, both figuratively and literally. I am Texan born and raised, but lived in England for 8 years before returning home to God’s Country. After visiting all over Europe, North America, and Northern Africa, I can say that in my experience nowhere on earth is like the South. That warm and fuzzy feeling you get once you cross the Mason-Dixon Line isn’t just from the glorious sunshine. There’s a reason why Southern Charm, Southern Gentlemen, and Southern Hospitality are world famous – they aren’t a myth, not something for show, they are the way we are raised. Nowhere else that I have ever been have I seen the sweet civility of a man opening a door for a lady or heard the beautiful melody of a child saying, “Yes ma’am” or “no sir.” We Southerners love our families, our faith, our football, and our food. Oh lawsy mercy at the food! We have such soul and it pours out in the music of the South – gospel, blues, country, and all the variations on these themes. Although each Southern state is distinctive, we are all complimentary (unless you’re talking about the Texas vs. Oklahoma game, then we don’t much care for our northern neighbors.) From the swampy marshes with cypress trees dripping with Spanish moss, to the Smokey Mountains, to the prairies, rolling hills, and pine forests in between, our landscape is as rich as our heritage. There’s a bumper sticker that states, “I wasn’t born in the South, but I got here as soon as I could” well who can blame them? It’s the best place to live!
What outdoor activity do you enjoy doing most with your kids?
We are so fortunate to live about ¾ of a mile from my daughter’s school. That gives me the wonderful opportunity to walk my daughter (along with the other neighborhood kiddos) and dog to school every morning. The kids have time to fully wake up so they arrive at school alert and ready for the day. There is such camaraderie between the walkers. It's the best time to work on spelling words or memorization passages for school because the kids all quiz each other. Other times, we may have to stop to look at a cicada on the road, do some bird watching, or pet the neighborhood dogs.
Besides the physical benefits of exercise, vitamin D and endorphin production, and oxygen intake, there are the educational, spiritual, and communal factors. When Devon and I get to walk together in the morning and/or afternoon it is precious time. It's very low-key so there are times where I just listen for 10 minutes while she chats away about any and everything. Sometimes she talks about important topics or fears or joys. It is relationship building at its best.
What's a great destination for a family vacation in the South?
I have to say the obvious – Disneyworld! I went as a child, my husband and I Honeymooned there, and we have taken our daughter, and each time I’ve been I have loved the experience. It will always have a special place in my heart and truly is for us “The happiest place on earth.”
That being said, I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that Texas is a wonderful place to visit. Again, the obvious, you should come for the people and the food. Texas has such a wonderfully diverse history and is truly a melting pot of cultures. We have had 6 flags over Texas at one time or another. Each one of those flags represents different cultures that have shaped our state.
Our family loves going to Dallas for the weekend where we stay at the beautiful Adolphus hotel and see what’s happening at Fair Park. And Ft. Worth with all of its world class museums and the Stockyards. What about San Antonio where you learn why we’re so proud to be Texans? We try to contain most of the weirdness in Austin, and they like it that way. :) Big Bend National Park, King’s Ranch, and Caddo Lake State Park show off our natural diversity as well. Oh, and don’t miss Houston for the big Livestock Show and Rodeo.
To sum up, I think a great destination for a family vacation would be to spend a month or so touring around “Texas: It’s Like a Whole Other Country.”