300th Sweetgum Life Blog Post Giveaway!

Welcome to my 300th Sweetgum Life Blog Post Giveaway! It’s hard to believe that I’ve posted 300 times!


I hope you’ll celebrate with me by entering my giveaway. All you have to do is tell me your favorite post in the Comment section, below. Of course, I also want to know why you like the post so much.

I started my blog in 2013 after reading Kathryn Stockett’s The Help. I related to it so much because of my life growing up in rural south Alabama. We did have “help” while Mom worked in my parents’ store, Jachin Grocery. Things were a little different for us than Stockett’s fictionalized account of growing up in Mississippi during the upheaval of the 1960’s–I grew up in the post-Civil Rights era of the 70s-80s.

I do have the fondest memories of our help, Vianna, my beloved childcare provider. I’m sure she had a positive influence on my perception of African-Americans. One of my childhood playmates was not nice to her maid. But I loved Mary Anne to death and loved to cuddle up with her when I visited my playmate. Not saying that I was a perfect little child, but I look forward to seeing Vianna and Mary Anne in Heaven one day, because I’m sure they’ll be there.

What is Sweetgum Life about?

Www.sweetgumlife.com focuses on the beauty of a simple life with faith, warmth, nostalgia, and humor by sharing life and southern culture from a wife and mom’s perspective.

Sunflowers at Sweetgum House.

Sweetgumlife — A Southern Lifestyle Blog

No one can deny the cultural differences that are part of the United States. Television, film, and literature perpetuate these stereotypes–and I do too, at times. I also tend to romanticize life in the South. But just like the castles in Europe, no life is without problems common to the human race. I’m a very positive person, and I tend to focus on the good. We get enough nastiness from the news…that is, if we even bother to watch it anymore. I usually don’t and tend to get by just fine.

Faith

It’s true that southerners live in the Bible Belt, and for that I’m extremely thankful. It’s a great place to raise children. Faith in God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit has brought me through some terribly dark days and nights. I hope my writing always reflects the Light in my life. 1 John 1:7

Stories

I wouldn’t be much of a southerner (or a writer!) if I didn’t fill my blog with stories! I like to include the occasional short story or flash fiction in a post.

Amazing People

I post a lot about amazing and inspiring people. Sometimes they are entrepreneurs of small mom & pop stores like I grew up around. (My Papa started Jachin Grocery in rural south Alabama, and eventually sold it to Mom and Dad.) Sometimes I write about other writers like my college friend and published author, Melanie Dickerson. Look around and you’ll find amazing people in every one you see.

Family

Families are at the heart of life in the south. Each one is unique.

Pin It!

My Pin It section covers beautiful southern homes, antiques, crafts, DIY, and all of the stuff you’d find on HGTV.

White house in Five Points

The Giveaway

All you have to do is to pick your favorite www.sweetgumlife.com post and list it in the Comments. You must be a resident of the U.S. and be 18 years old or older. I will draw names on Friday of all who enter. You get double points for mentioning why the particular post is your favorite. Win a $25 gift card to Amazon!

Black Angus cow.

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In from the Cold — A short story

Is it just me, or is anyone else a little creeped out by the Christmas song, “Baby It’s Cold Outside?”  In my short story, “In from the Cold,” I flesh out the characters from the song and add a context to the plot.

Let me know whether you love it or hate it!

Merry Christmas!
Stephanie

***

In from the Cold
By: Stephanie L. Robertson

It was the night before Christmas Eve, and Whitley was the only other customer in the diner.

 She squirmed on the vinyl diner seat in irritation. Where could Dean be? He was an hour late for their date. She swirled the dregs of cold coffee and watched the cream congeal at the bottom of the mug.

Why on earth did Max buy the cheap stuff instead of real coffee? He’d always been such a cheapskate, even when Whitley was working the counter back in high school.

“Want some more,” Max asked, his thick fingers holding the coffee pot over Whitley’s mug.

Whitley shrugged, “Sure, why not. As long as it’s leaded and not decaff.”

“Always,” grunted the owner of the diner, simply known to the locals as Max’s. The sign on the front listed the store as “Main Street Diner.” Max’s ex-wife had put that up years ago in hopes of changing the place into something more elegant. Like a tea room. But she couldn’t change Max’s any more than she could change the man, so she took off back in the 90’s. Her sign had faded and pealed. Max’s food remained the same.

Nonetheless, it was the only place to eat in Beehive, Tennessee, an unincorporated town of roughly 2,000 residents.

Two-thousand plus one, if you counted Whitley, who was home for Christmas break from Hiwassee College in Madisonville. She always told people she was from Memphis, which wasn’t that much of a stretch. Memphis was only one-hundred miles west of Beehive, and she was not about to tell anyone that she was from Beehive. That would just be embarrassing.

“I hate to tell you, Whit, but I think you’ve been stood up,” said Max in that gravelly voice of his.

Whitley stared at her former employer. “I have not been stood up. Dean is just late.”
Just the same, Whitley pushed the coffee aside and placed a $5 bill on the counter for Max. “Keep the change,” she said and reached for her heavy coat.

As she was turning around, the bell on the diner door jangled, and in walked Trevor Dewey—Beehive High School class of 2012, captain of the BHS Yellow Jackets’ football team back in the day. Whitley would know that killer smile anywhere.

“What c’n I get for you, Trevor?” asked Max.

Trevor looked over at Whitley and said in that slow southern drawl, “I’ll be having whatever this pretty lady is having. Do I know you, gorgeous?”

Whitley felt herself blush to the roots of her hairline. “I-I graduated a few years after you at Beehive,” she stammered.

“Oh, no,” Trevor took her hand. “I’d of remembered you. I’m Trevor Dewey.”
“I’m Whitley Kincaid,” said Whitley, angry at herself for being all a-flutter as her grandma used to say.

“Oh-h-h, well look at you all growed up, Miss Kincaid. At least I hope you’re still a ‘miss.’”
“Oh, brother,” Max groaned.

“What are you doing back in Beehive, Whitley?” asked Trevor, ignoring Max.
“I’m a first-year student at Hiwassee College,” answered Whitley. She always thought her roommate was silly by saying they were first-year students rather than freshmen. And here she was using the same terminology to this much older, very good-looking man.
“I don’t believe I’ve ever met anyone around here who goes to Hiwassee. What made you decide on that college?” asked Trevor.

Max grunted. Trevor’s specialty was getting women to talk about themselves while staring at them with rapt attention. He hoped this young lady had more sense than to fall for a guy like Dewey. In disgust, he turned to go back into the kitchen.

“Hey, Max, how about getting this lovely lady a drink?” Trevor turned back to Whitley and asked, “What will it be, Miss Whitley? We’ll just have a little date of our own.”
Whitley smiled, “I wouldn’t mind a diet soda.”

“Oh, please tell me you aren’t on a diet?” teased Trevor with an enduring dip of his head.
“Just for the taste,” giggled Whitley. This guy Trevor was just adorable!

“One diet soda coming up,” said Max.

“And I’ll take a regular soda,” said Trevor. He winked at Whitley and added, “On the rocks.”

Whitley heard herself giggle again. What had gotten into her? She was not usually so giddy around guys!

 ***
Max served the young couple their sodas and then made his way back into the kitchen. He rolled his eyes at the sound of Whitley’s giggles. He’d heard it all from notorious Trevor Dewey. It was if time had stood still for Dewey. Good ol’ “Dewey Can Do” from his high school football glory days. The worst thing about it, the women all loved the ne’er-do-well. The guy worked at his father’s feed store, at least that’s what he claimed. With his bright smile and stunning green eyes, he was determined to make it as a country singer in Nashville.

Problem was, in Max opinion, Trevor couldn’t sing a lick and didn’t know how to play an instrument. So, Trevor lived in Beehive and supposedly worked at the feed store. In reality, he spent most of his time roaming the streets and regaling all who listened with story of his football glory past and bright future to come.

Well, it was none of Max’s never mind. If Dewey’s parents were willing to pay for a grown son to sit around and do nothing, it was no skin off Max’s nose. But Max took no pleasure seeing the guy sweet talk a new, unsuspecting target. Especially since she had such a good, upstanding family.

“Oh, well,” said Max out loud. Wasn’t any of his business.

In thirty minutes, Max went back to man the counter.

Trevor was helping the Kincaid girl into her coat and guiding her toward the door.
“Thanks, man,” said Dewey, who slapped down a $10 bill and gave him a wink. “Keep the change.”

Max stared as Dewey held the door open for the girl.

A gust of frigid air blew into the small diner.

Max thought about calling Mr. Kincaid, but he didn’t know the man very well, and he didn’t want to intrude. Maybe Dewey was just offering the girl a ride home on a cold night.

Max shook his head.

It was none of his never mind.

 ***
“I’ve got several Beatles albums, Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Guns ‘n Roses, you name it!” said Trevor.

Whitley’s eyes grew wide. “That’s so great, Trevor! I’m just beginning to start my collection. In fact, I’ve asked for an Audio-Technica professional turntable for Christmas. And I’m hoping my sister will give me some albums.”

Trevor smiled.

Whitley loved how he seemed to focus on every word she said. “My, how could anyone have such beautiful green eyes,” thought Whitley.

“Hey, why don’t you come over to my place, and I’ll show you my collection?” asked Trevor. “I’ve got a few doubles that I’ll let you have.”

“Really?” asked Whitley. “I’d love it!” What a nice guy!

“Great, let’s go. Yeah, don’t forget your coat. You’ll need it. It’s freezing out there.”

Trevor helped Whitley into her coat and turned to pay old Max, who scowled at him from behind the counter.

“Keep the change,” said Trevor before placing his hand on the small of Whitley’s back and leading her outside.

Max eyed Trevor with a deep frown.

“Dude, that guy’s a real grouch,” he muttered to Whitley as he opened his car door to let her inside.

“Oh, he’s really just a Teddy bear. He and my dad went to high school together. And I love that diner! It’s my favorite place to eat when I go home to Beehive.”
“Yeah, the place definitely has atmosphere. By the way, my car heater is broken. I know it’s cold. I’ll just hold your hand.”

Whitley smiled a little and passed her left hand over with a shy glance up at Trevor. She shrugged a little and said, “Okay.”

Whitley was surprised at how the evening was progressing. Trevor’s hand was so warm. He really acted as though he liked her! Her! She wasn’t used to this much attention from such a popular guy—at least he was popular in high school. All the girls had a crush on him, and now she was the sole subject of his attention!

Trevor kept the conversation flowing the entire ride home. Kaitlyn didn’t even feel the chill, even though it was snowing. What a magical night!

Back at Trevor’s small studio apartment over the retail space of his dad’s feed store, Trevor invited Kaitlyn in and brought out a box of albums.

“Can I get you a beer,” asked Trevor, walking into the kitchen area.

For a moment, Kaitlyn panicked. She didn’t drink.

“No!”

Trevor paused. “That’s cool. I’ve got soda, too.”

Kaitlyn breathed out in relief. “Sure, that sounds great.”

Trevor busied himself with the drink while Kaitlyn perused his vinyl record collection.
“Oh, you’ve got Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. I love that album!”

“Keep it,” said Trevor and brought the sodas out to Kaitlyn.

“Trevor, I couldn’t keep this,” said Kaitlyn. “Where did you get it?”

“It’s yours,” said Trevor as he sat down near Kaitlyn. “Look, I’ve got two. I was going to give it to my girlfriend for Christmas. But we broke up.”

“I’m so sorry. Right before Christmas? That’s awful.”

“Here’s your drink, be careful…don’t spill it.”

“Thank you,” said Kaitlyn. Trevor was sitting very close to her, and she liked it. He looked so sad, and he began talking about how his girlfriend broke it off in a very cruel way.
“That’s so sad!” Kaitlyn exclaimed.

“It’s okay, really. I realize now that she was right. We weren’t meant to be. She wasn’t nice—like you.”

He leaned into Kaitlyn and she found herself cuddling against him.

He tipped his glass toward hers. “It’s all good. Let’s toast to new beginnings.”

“To new beginnings,” said Kaitlyn. They clinked glasses and both took a drink. “Mm, this doesn’t taste like regular Sprite…”

“I added a twist of lime. Do you like it?”

“Yes, I do,” said Kaitlyn as she took another sip.

***
The door of Max’s diner flew open, sending a gust of wind and snow into the diner.
Max looked up from where he was pulling the tape from his register. “Sorry, Dean, we’re closed. I’ve got to lock up.”

Dean Langston’s face fell. “I don’t suppose you’ve seen Kaitlyn Kincaid around here, have you?”

Max set the tape on the counter. “You’re late. She’s already gone.”

“Great! I tried to text her…my grandmother fell while taking out her dog tonight. We had to take her to the emergency room.”

“Is she okay?” asked Max, concern on his face.

“She’s fine. They’re keeping her overnight for observation.”

Max leaned over the counter. He usually stayed out of folks’ business, but the Langston boy really was a good kid.

“Her cell phone was dead,” said Max. “And if you want to do her a favor, make sure she got home okay. The last thing I know, Trevor Dewey was leading her out that door.”

“Dewey’s Den?” asked Dean, who had heard the stories about Trevor’s studio apartment.

“Who knows. It’s none of my never mind.”

***
Trevor’s apartment was so delightfully warm. Somehow, Kaitlyn and Trevor had gone from talking about albums to—a very cozy kiss.

Kaitlyn glanced at her watch. The numbers blurred, and she could barely make out that it was nearly 11 p.m.

“Is it nearly 11 already? I’ve got to go,” said Kaitlyn.

“Nah, stay just a little bit longer,” said Trevor, and he pulled her into another kiss.

“No, I’ve really got to go. My parents will think something happened to me.”

Trevor traced Kaitlyn’s cheekbone with a finger. “Just text them.”

“My phone died,” said Kaitlyn. She felt so drowsy.

“You can use mine,” crooned Trevor. He seemed to be fading in and out.

“My sister and I were going to stay up late watching movies,” said Kaitlyn.

“Come on, honey, it’s cold out there.”

“Are you sure you just put lime in my drink?” Kaitlyn murmured.

“Did you like it?” asked Trevor.

“Seriously, Trevor, I’ve had a good time, but I’ve got to get home.”

“But it’s snowing. Don’t you like it in here, where it’s warm?”

Suddenly, there was a pounding on Trevor’s door. Trevor cursed and Kaitlyn felt him lean her down against the carpet.

There was the sound of men arguing. Was that Dean’s voice she heard?

She closed her eyes and then felt her being lifted up in strong arms.

“Kaitlyn, are you okay? Are you okay?” It was Dean.

“What are you doing here?” Kaitlyn heard herself talking as if in a tunnel.

“Saving you from Dewey’s Den!” Dean’s voice was firm.

She looked out from the slots of her eyelids. Trevor was on the floor, rubbing his jaw.

“What about him?” asked Kaitlyn. They passed through the apartment door and Kaitlyn felt icy cold.

“Forget him,” said Dean. “I’m taking you home to your family!”

Kaitlyn closed her eyes once she was in Dean’s warm pickup truck. She didn’t know what was going on, but she felt safe with Dean.

The End.

Top Ten Christmas Activities

What are your top ten Christmas activities?  I’m listing mine below  (in no particular order) and would love to hear from you!  Merry Christmas, and God bless us, everyone!

window_wreath_Christmas

Decorating the Christmas Tree and our whole house for Christmas.

I so enjoy home décor, period, but I get so much joy in pulling out meaningful ornaments and making my Christmas trees pretty.  I had planned to buy another tree for my dining room, but they were so expensive that I decided to wait for the after-Christmas sales.

Fortunately, my next-door-neighbors were tossing their tree because the lights weren’t working anymore.  They said I could have it, so I drug it across the street and put new lights on it.  I used only silver ornaments, while we used the other ornaments on our living room tree.  My “silver tree” is so beautiful–one of the prettiest I’ve ever had.  It lights up the whole dining room with it’s white lights and silver elegance.  (At least I think so!)

dish_foliage

Hearing my husband read the story of Jesus’s birth in Luke 2:1-20.

The story of Jesus’s birth is so beautiful.  The verses are like a balm in their rhythm and the hope they give us in our world.  I think people are more generous and kind at this time of year because so much is focused on our Lord, the Light of our complex world.

church_ornament

Baking Christmas goodies

.
Grandmother Lindsey (who lived just across the pasture from us, when I was growing up in rural south Alabama) used to always make the best in sweet Christmas goodies.  My favorite were her date balls, fudge, and divinity.  When I was supposed to be practicing the piano, I’d go swipe a piece between songs.  But I think she knew about it! 😉

Shopping for Christmas gifts for everyone.

Carefully selecting Christmas gifts for everyone is a favorite hobby of mine.  I like to get the best gifts at the best prices and be a good steward of my cash.

Santas1_edited-1

Crafting hand-made presents for family and friends.  Being crafty in wrapping gifts.

I am in my element, my happy place, my zone when I’m making presents for family, friends, and Princess Buttercup’s teachers.  Furthermore, I like adding just a little bit of creativity when wrapping my gifts.  I’d better get on it, actually.  I’ve got only 2 weeks till show time!

Singing Christmas carols.

We went caroling last year.  I did that for the first time when I was in college and loved it!  I want to get a brave group to sing in our new (as of June 2016) neighborhood.  Any volunteers?

Spending time with family and friends.

Spending time with those I love makes Christmas a special time for bonding and building memories.  It’s the time of the year that Lefty takes time off of work, and Princess Buttercup and I love that!

Opening presents.

I’ve gotta be honest…opening presents is just plain fun!

silver_ornament

Silver snowflake, a gift from my friend Kibbers.

Attending all the parties and eating all the good food!

We southerners are known for our food.  It just wouldn’t be Christmas without the feasting.

SouthernLivingChristmas2017

Smiling and saying, “Merry Christmas” to people I meet.
</h1>Like I said for my second activity on the list, people are so much friendlier around Christmas time.  True, traffic can be a nuisance.  And true, we’re southerners, and people from other places say that we’re friendly, anyway.  But I think people are kinder around Christmas because so many more are thinking of the Light of the world, Jesus Christ.

Photo Hike on Rainbow Mountain

My Photo Hike on Rainbow Mountain

Photo Hike on Rainbow Mountain; Big balanced rock

Big Balanced Rock. Probably got this way from the upheaval of the Flood.

 

Photo Hike on Rainbow Mountain; Big balanced rock marker

Yesterday, I hiked Balanced Rock Trail. There’s a little balanced rock and a big one.

Hi Everyone!

Yesterday I took my little Nikon d7000 out when I was hiking on the Rainbow Mountain trails.

My purpose was 3-fold:

  1. Get exercise doing something fun–hiking
  2. Gather photos for a blogging about the trail
  3. Learn how to use my camera better

The exercise is pretty obvious.  I get a nice workout walking and climbing over the boulders on the upward steep.  It’s a wonderful time of year to hike because the temperatures are lower, so I don’t have to worry about the stifling humidity.

I just love taking photos for my blog.  I probably like that part of blogging more than writing.  Writing takes work.  Photographic people, landscapes, and old houses is just play.  I’d love to be a photographer for Nat’l Geographic or Southern Living.

Speaking of photography, it’s a wonderful time of year for taking photos on the trail.  The leaves are just now beginning to change, but the foliage is still pretty and lush for the most part.

My favorite part of photography is composition.  I’ve had enough art classes to be confident in my use of composition and color, but my DSLR camera still has been baffled.  I understand that the three major points of photography are aperture, ISO, and shutter speed.  However, I have a hard time wrapping my mind around aperture.  It seems so confusing that the lower the f-stop, the larger the aperture.  Yesterday, I took 3 pictures of the same object using 3 different f-stops (Sigma 70-300mm 1:4-5.6 lens):  22, 10, and 4.  Now, I think I get it.  An f-stop of 4 let in wayyyyyyyyy too much light.  22 left my shots underexposed, and 10 was just about right for clicking in the woods.

Photo Hike on Rainbow Mountain; Madison park bench

Park bench with “M” that stands for the town and county of Madison.

 

Photo Hike on Rainbow Mountain; forest leaves

Pretty leaves reflect God’s intricate design.

 

Photo Hike on Rainbow Mountain; Balanced Rock, boulder

Pretty forest berries. I don’t know if they are edible and don’t plan to find out.

 

Photo Hike on Rainbow Mountain; Tree with Rainbow Mountain Balanced Rock marker

These are poke berries. Now, I know these guys aren’t edible. You can boil the leaves, however, to make a poke berry salad.

 

Photo Hike on Rainbow Mountain; Second tree with Rainbow Mountain Balanced Rock marker

The leaves are just barely changing colors.

 

Photo Hike on Rainbow Mountain; View of Huntsville, Alabama

Pretty view toward Huntsville.

 

Photo Hike on Rainbow Mountain; View of Madison County

 

 

Photo Hike on Rainbow Mountain; Forest leaves