How to Spot a Southerner Anywhere - by Christina

A few months after I arrived in Michigan, I met some new friends at dinner in the dining hall: two hilarious and charming guys from England.  Upon my saying all of six or seven words, they put down their utensils and asked with wonder, as if they may have just found a golden ticket, “Wait.  Are you from the South?!” When I said that I was, they bubbled over with questions, hardly able to contain their excitement and spending the rest of dinner grilling me with sincere and outrageous questions about the South.  I filled them in on the countless stories chronicling a life in the South, from Southern comfort food cooked by grandmas with a good dose of butter, advice and sass to “ride your tractor to school day” (yes, that was a real thing at my high school) to coon hunting (hunting raccoons).  

“So people really spit around you and ride tractors?  It sounds like an absolute paradise!”, they remarked with electric fascination and a gleeful gush of laughter at the thought of it all.  

No matter where I go, someone nearly always manages to remark, “You’re from the South, aren’t you?” with a knowing smile within seconds of meeting me.  At first, I was puzzled by this!  How could a complete stranger realize immediately that I’m a transplant from the South, y’all?  Okay, maybe it could be that I had already broken out my tri-climate parka while it was still “balmy” by Northern standards…  But, now that I am well into my second semester at The University of Michigan, I have picked up on some of the big differences between here and my Southern homeland of sweet tea, cow pastures and rocking chairs that I love so much.  Here are a few of the things, though majorly generalized, that are dead giveaways of a Southerner and will help you spot one anywhere.
  • We don’t say “pop”
Outside of the South, anything from Coke to Root Beer to Sprite is called “pop”.  This was a totally new term for me.  In the South, we call “pop” by several names: “soda”, “soft drinks” or just plain “coke”.  Also, we happen to have the very best soft drink in the world, Cheerwine, which people elsewhere have never had the privilege of drinking.  They’re also missing out on Chick-fil-a and Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

  • We say “yes ma’am” “no sir” and “excuse me”
In the South, learning to always say “yes ma’am” and “no sir” and “excuse me” are as essential as learning how to dress yourself.   
  • We monogram everything
This is a big one.  The first time I wore a monogrammed sweatshirt in Michigan, someone came up to me and stopped with a look of confusion and then laughed and said, “Oh, haha for a second there I thought you had your initials on your sweatshirt!  Ha!”… A monogram is a design with your initials that can be put on absolutely anything to make it quintessentially Southern.  Your first name initial comes first, your last name initial is in the middle in a larger font and your middle name initial comes last.  Anything and everything can be monogrammed- towels, laundry bags, walls, car decals, rings, phone cases, sweatshirts, anything.  I even have monogrammed stickers that go on my toes over nail polish.

  • Manners are an art form
There is a definite difference in Southern manners.  Southern manners stem out of Southern hospitality, one of our trademarks.  We usually apologize and say “excuse me” if we bump into someone, even if it was completely the other person’s fault.  Another example of these manners is that if you’re eating with a group of people, you never touch your food until every single person has received their food.
  • We are the home of the Southern Gentleman
First of all, I am not saying that men who aren’t from the South can’t be charming and treat a lady correctly.  Yet, meet a good old Southern boy in a bow tie who holds the door for any young or old lady attempting to walk through it, knows his manners, pulls out a lady’s chair for her to sit in and sticks to the principle “ladies first” and you’ll know what I mean.  

  • We say “y’all” and “bless your heart”
The use of “y’all” is probably one of the most prevalent give-aways of a Southerner.  This is a contraction of the words “you” and “all” and is used to refer to any group of two or more people.  Another famous phrase is “bless your heart”.  This can be used in many circumstances, but is often used as a part of the manners issue we discussed earlier.  It can be inserted in place of any unpleasant thought you may have about someone, replacing words your momma would tell you are better kept to yourself with a sweet-sounding Southern phrase.    

  • We cook for comfort
In the South, the key ingredient in just about any Southern dish is butter.  Paula Dean has not led you wrong.  All you’ve heard about sweet tea, green beans, creamed corn, mashed potatoes, fried chicken and anything else you can fry, put fat-back (fat from pork) in or slather in butter, is true.

Even with all of the things I love about the South, I have come to love Michigan as well as a second home.  It has given me incredible new friends from across the country, beautiful snow that is falling outside of my window right now, fall football games in the Big House and my dream school.  Meeting people with different roots is one of the great adventures of going away from home and has brought a new spice to my life.

Christina Maxwell is a college freshman at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan majoring in Musical Theatre. Originally from Asheville , North Carolina, Christina was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of North Carolina for 2012 and the Distinguished Young Woman of America for 2012. Learn more about Christina here!

I Don’t Do Parties - by Chloe

Last Monday, my Facebook Newsfeed was flooded with numerous posts about the Inauguration Ceremony that was held to swear in President Barack Obama for his second in the White House. Now, I go to a very conservative Wesleyan school and live in a very Republican state, so you could probably guess that many of the posts I read were not entirely positive. I am also a music major, so I also read many humorous posts in debate about who was or was not lip syncing, and whether or not Beyonće and Kelly Clarkson were appropriate Inaugural choices. I hate to admit that I did not watch the inauguration ceremony, because I was in class, so I cannot voice my opinions in that debate…sorry Beyonće and Kelly. 

Though I missed the ceremony, I did read President Obama’s speech and the Oath of the President and I found myself struck by the sentiments. Regardless of political stance or personal feelings towards our current government leaders, I think anyone could feel the power behind a ceremony of this caliber. The man standing on stage swears to “preserve, protect, and defend” the country for the next four years. He swears to dedicate his life to the good of the country and the people of America. What a powerful thing to swear to more than 300 million people.

President Obama emphasized the power of community and the necessity of unity in his speech, and I found myself troubled by that necessity. I read through my Newsfeed and saw no unity.  I saw negativity and debate. The President said “America’s possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands:  youth and drive; diversity and openness; an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention.  My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it -- so long as we seize it together.” How are we supposed to seize such wonderful possibilities, if we are a divided nation? Can we not stand up behind a President regardless of his political party?

It was truly ironic and appropriate that Monday was not only the Presidential Inauguration, but also Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The Power of Unity has never been so well understood as it was in the Civil Rights Movement. Now is a time in the history of our country when we truly need to band together in the face of our trials and stop being “Republicans” or “Democrats” and start being Americans. Whether we agree with the actions of our President we must agree that we should share in the responsibility to better our country and improve the current problems we are facing. It is our right to disagree, but also our duty to support and respect a man or woman who is willing to dedicate his or her life to trying to make our country a better place to live in the best ways they know how.

The President is right. If we are going to grasp the reigns of our potential in this moment, as a country we must “seize it together.” We do not always have to agree with our leaders, but we must respect them. We must stand behind them in the pursuit of finding solutions to the issues we face and pray that their decisions will be honorable. The President will do his best to “preserve, protect, and defend” the law and the country, and sometimes we may not agree with the ways in which he chooses to up hold that oath but he is attempting to up hold it nonetheless. We should strive to be Americans not defined by our parties, but rather defined by our love for our country. We must seize this moment and become a unified country of Americans who love our neighbors and our leaders not because they share our views, but because they too love their country.

Chloe McLaughlin is a college freshman at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Indiana majoring in Church Music and Christian Worship. Originally from Frankfort, Indiana, Chloe was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of Indiana for 2012. Learn more about Chloe here! 

Ticking Time - by Carly

We are all familiar with those deadlines that seem to haunt us in our sleep.  Deadlines for papers, tests, applications—I could show you a list of about fifty that I already have on my calendar for this semester!  The big deadlines, though, like graduating, grad school, and getting a job inch towards us with each passing day.  When I came to school, these big life deadlines seemed to become amplified.  Everyone seemed to have a plan for their future, and I thought I did as well.   However, these goals seemed to set up a concrete timeline for the rest of my life.  I would get my biochemistry degree, go to medical school, enter a residency, start a family sometime in there, and, oh, I can’t forget to be happy while I’m losing my mind trying to accomplish all of this!  As a college freshman with dreams as big as the sky, reality hit this past semester.  Would I be able to live a fulfilling life on my path to the clouds?  It always feels like there are never enough minutes left on the perpetual clock we call life. 

However, I was talking to my organic chemistry professor the other day about where I was headed in a few years.  I immediately started spouting off the timeline I have had constructed for years, and reluctantly ended by telling him I was becoming unsure if I could really do it all.  He looked at me with a sarcastic smile and asked why I was in such a hurry.  His question took me by surprise.  No professor or adult had ever questioned my plan!  In fact, I was usually commended for being “so prepared.” He went on to pass on some valuable wisdom I will remember forever.  He said to just live for the experiences, and go into the world seeking adventure.  It was just time, and in the end it would all work itself out.  Time will keep ticking away, but it is about doing what you love because that will lead you down the right path.  I left that meeting, and for the first time all year, I noticed a nice bench on the academic quad.  The sun was shining for the first time in days, and I decided my study session in the library could wait. 

I want to pass on this message to all of you.  Whenever it seems like life is getting to be too much to handle, I encourage you to take a look around.  Try not to get bogged down by deadlines, because in the end, you will arrive wherever you are meant to whenever you are meant to.  Go on an adventure, experience something new, and maybe even take a seat on a bench. 

Carly Henry is a college freshman at Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania majoring in biochemistry with a minor is business. Originally from York, Pennsylvania, Carly was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of Pennsylvania for 2012. Learn more about Carly here!

Make Everyday Valentine’s Day - by Ali

Do I have a date for Valentine’s Day? Why yes, thanks for asking. February 14th.

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and I’m going to be completely honest. I am not a fan of the holiday. It is a strange coincidence that I just so happen to be single this year J but even when I was in a relationship during Valentine’s Day, I felt the same.

Ever since the Valentine’s parties at school came to a sad, tragic, you’re-too-old end, I haven’t really seen much of a point. Yes, Valentine’s Day is a day to show love and admiration to those you care about but shouldn’t that be everyday? It’s sad to think that for some couples, Valentine’s Day is the only day they do something nice for each other or go out on a date. Why should one day of the year be dedicated to being spontaneous and romantic? Everyday should be this way!

I walked into Wal-Mart the other day and was instantly greeted by aisles and aisles of boxes of chocolate, flowers, jewelry, teddy bears that said, “I love you beary much,” and candy upon candy upon candy. Now, I love candy and flowers just as much as the next girl but really? Is all of this necessary?

I am not by any means trying to insult anyone’s views on the Valentine holiday with this blog post. However, I’m more so saying that in my opinion, everyday should be treated as though it is Valentine’s Day. Show compassion, admiration, spontaneity, and love to everyone that you care about all the time. Overuse “I love you.” Who says you can’t shower the ones you love with gifts and praise on a regular basis? Make everyday Valentine’s Day. 

Ali Houser is a college freshman at The University of Minnesota – Twin Cities in Minneapolis, Minnesota majoring in Dental Hygiene. Originally from Beresford, South Dakota, Ali was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of South Dakota for 2012. Learn more about Ali here!

At the End of the Rainbow - by Christina

I recently took a wonderful trip to Mobile, Alabama, the home of Distinguished Young Women.  I was there for nearly a week, taking part in the Go bowl game events and speaking and performing as the national representative at various events.  It was an incredible week full of memories that I will continue to cherish.  However, two moments in particular have become a source of inspiration.

I had just finished talking to a large group of girl scouts about setting goals and how I achieved the goal of becoming the Distinguished Young Woman of America.  At the end of my talk, I shared with them my dream of becoming a Broadway actress and sang “Over the Rainbow” for them.  Then I invited anyone who had any questions for me to come to the front. 

A miniature mob of little girls, with their sparkly scrunchies and light-up shoes, crowded around the edge of the stage.  Their questions warmed my heart.  The first little girl asked in a tone of wonder, “How do you get your hair to curl like that?”.  Another little girl asked, “How did you become so beautiful?”.  After a stream of adorable questions, the last little girl asked a question that caught me off guard.  With a very serious expression, she said, “I was just wondering, is there reallya pot of gold at the end of every rainbow?”.

My heart was completely melted at her unabashed sincerity and her authentic desire to know if life was really as good as stories and favorite songs made it seem.

Earlier that week, another child had left me speechless and in tears.  I made a trip with the football players from the Go bowl game to a Mobile hospital to deliver toys and encouragement to children in the hospital. 

One particular little girl was in the ICU, only ten years old, but with a beautiful heart full of selflessness and contagious joy that fought its way through the obvious sadness like a determined daisy shooting its stem up through a crack in the gray sidewalk.  This little girl insists on saying a prayer for anyone who comes into her room.  And sure enough, after we had visited and laughed with this spunky and bubbly girl, she held our hands and prayed for us.  From her hospital bed, hooked up to all kinds of tubes, she prayed a beautiful and sincere prayer, asking for strength and courage for the football players, medicine to make us well and thanking God that we were his children.  Reduced to tears, I couldn’t even speak.  This little girl, burdened with so much at such a young age, exhibited courage, unwavering joy and compassion that we are not familiar with.

What is it about children that allows them to feel so deeply and be so free with their questions, advice and joy?  I remember when I was little, how I was so enraptured by the new and bright world around me that I couldn’t force myself to take a nap for fear that I would miss something.  I would dress up as Snow White and sing to the woodland creatures I imagined living in our yard.  I wasn’t afraid to tell people what I thought or to be loving and perhaps overly friendly to strangers.  My parents told me a story about how one Sunday at church when I was very young, I sat next to an older lady who was patient and sweet to my fidgety little brother.  After church, I wrote her a note that said, “I met a nice lady in church today and it was you”.

My acting teacher recently gave all of us students a piece of advice that has stuck with me.  In her wisdom and goodness, she said, “It is important that we remember to check in with our five-year-old selves every now and then.”  I believe that she is right. 

What happens as we grow up that causes that child-like wonder to fade?  Where along the line do we let our insatiable appetite for life and love, merry abandonment and our ability to dream wildly be extinguished?  As we grow up, reality sometimes takes a toll on us.  We realize that there aren’t always fairy godmothers to remind us that we are the belles of the ball rather than someone who deserves to be hidden in a corner of cinders.  Young men aren’t always kind-hearted and handsome princes and sometimes the pot of gold you had hoped was at the end of the rainbow isn’t there. 

Yet, in times of inevitable disappointment, I think it is wise to follow my teacher’s advice and see what our five-year-old selves would have done.  I think it is when we can face grown-up trials and tragedies with a child-like heart, full of stubborn resiliency and unwavering belief in undeniable good, that we have truly grown up … and miracles happen.

Christina Maxwell is a college freshman at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan majoring in Musical Theatre. Originally from Asheville , North Carolina, Christina was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of North Carolina for 2012 and the Distinguished Young Woman of America for 2012. Learn more about Christina here!