Hardworking, independent, confident. Words I would use to describe myself. How I want to describe my daughters. Being an entrepreneur, artist and mom, I strive to model for my two girls what it means to be a successful, modern woman while remaining grounded in the rural way of life that I love.

We are raising two young daughters on a late 19th century mini-farm, Hillbound, where we are carrying on the country traditions I grew up with in Alabama. Every morning we awake to the “Cock-a-doodle-doo!” of our resident rooster, Colonel.

Full of artistic entrepreneurial spirit from a young age, my first experience with “making money” was when I made rhinestone earrings (think hot glue), and sold them door to door. I remember the thrill I had of selling something that I made with my own hands, and the confidence that came with that elation. Now, I don’t remember what they looked like, but I’m sure they were tacky, bless my heart! My nine-year-old will paint something in the studio and sell it. (Shout out to the sweet lady who bought my daughter’s first painting, you have no idea the confidence you gave her!)

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I hope my girls remember that feeling of accomplishment and carry it with them. Each day I endeavor to instill in my daughters the value of hard work and determination. I want them to keep close the motivation in their hearts to never give up. Every day they see me working to balance the needs of my work and be present in my studio, as well as being fully present with them and seeing to their needs: Horseback riding, ballet, homework, dinner, bath time, plus creating work, running my studio and all that entails. It’s not easy, but it’s my hope that they are watching closely, seeing the most important woman in their lives working hard, achieving success but always making time for what counts.

… success can come to wherever you are, from wherever you are.

When we think of success, the first setting that comes to mind is maybe a penthouse in New York or a southern California mansion. But success can come to wherever you are, from wherever you are. My rural Alabama upbringing brought with it some Southern principles that I think have been part of my success and could be applied by anyone, anywhere.

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1. Work hard, speak softly.

There are lots of “strong, silent types” in the South. These are the folks that can be challenging to get to know, but they are often the hardest working, most dependable people you’ll meet. Be the first one on the job, the last one to leave. Always put your full energy into whatever you’re doing. And less talk, more action. The words that you speak will only take you so far if you don’t have the skills and work to back it up.

After all, you can’t make a silk purse out of a cow’s ear.

2. Respect your elders.

No matter how old you are, there is always more to learn. I was taught from a very early age to always say “yes, ma’am,” “no, sir,” and to always show deference and respect to those with more life experience than me. As you gain success, it’s easy to think you know everything but there will always be someone we can learn from.

Never get too big for your britches!

3. Be neighborly.

In the South, when you have a baby, people bring food. When you’re sick, people bring food. When there is a death in the family, people bring food. That might make us sound a little food obsessed, but it’s just part of being neighborly, showing your fellow man that you care.

Hospitality goes a long way toward not only fostering friendship and respect, but helps you remember the sun doesn’t come up just to hear you crow.

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While these are all things I learned being raised in the South, folks all over put these principles into practice every day. Whatever you do, go whole hog!

Find more from Deann and shop her paintings over on her website, here.

Images via Kelly Stuart

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3 comments

  1. I am a mother from NJ and I am glad the last sentence is in place “While these are all things I learned being raised in the South, folks all over put these principles into practice every day”. No one area has a monopoly on politeness or raising good children. My children also respect their elders, do not use first names, write thank yous and hold open doors as well as many other small kindnesses we should show one another.

  2. I love this, but as a southern mother myself I often worry that teaching my children ( especially my daughter) to be polite may inadvertently make them a victim to anyone who may seek to take advantage of them because they are too polite to say no, worring that they might offend and not be polite! It’s a very fine balance in this world we live in. Keep that in mind as you teach your children the southern way, they need to know that saying no to an adult is ok too, if they don’t feel comfortable.

  3. I too am a 65 year old woman from the South. Just as my Mother did, I have raised my children (3 sons) to mind their manners and to be respectful and welcoming. Mother used to say, “You may not think you are going to tea, but if you do, I want you to know how to behave and to be comfortable.” My sons good manners have served them well (imagine the surprise when a young man covered in tattoos knows how to set a table, brings a hostess gift to a dinner at his girlfriend’s parent’s house, and writes thank you notes). Good manners can get you through an awkward moment, put others at ease, and make living more gracious. Thank you for your wise and thoughtful article.

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