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Identify How to Showcase Your Best Self

  • Posted on July 2, 2016 at 7:32 pm

“A well-defined personal brand allows you to:

  • Identify how to showcase your best self.”

In 1990 I became a Shoebox to Showcase consultant. I taught people how to take their photographs that were often stuffed in shoeboxes and make showcase scrapbook albums that preserved their best picture memories in a responsible and engaging manner.  Those moments captured in time were then enjoyed in books that were readily accessible.   What was once hidden came alive in words and pictures, no longer shut away and out of sight but revealed in a new format.

As I read this title “Identify How to Showcase Your Best Self” I was thinking, what is it that is within me that I want to reveal to others in a genuine and memorable way?  These are some of the traits I have identified in myself.

* Love of history.  Living in a home that is 135 years old that envelops all that time and life events  is very meaningful to me.  I like being a caretaker of old things and relating them to the present in a way that shows their charm and lasting value.  This leads to my brand slogan- Embracing the Past- Celebrating the Present

* Love of Music.  According to my Mother’s story, I sang before I talked.  The song she said I sang in my toddler years was from Sunday School- Hallelu, Hallelu.  I grew up loving to sing at church and with my Dad.  I learned to play the accordion.  I was active in high school  choirs and madrigal groups and was chosen to sing in a group called The Young Americans.  I love America’s musical heritage and sharing songs in our Music Room/Parlor is an expression of how people entertained themselves when this house was young.  Serenading couples in love with the most popular song of 1910, Let Me Call You Sweetheart while accompanied by our 1918 Fischer player piano has brought me great joy.  I LOVE to sing in the house!  With its high ceilings and hard reflective surfaces, the acoustics make your voice sound better than it is.

*Love of Liberty.  I believe The United States of America is a country that allows the fullest expression of liberty in recorded history.  Internal spiritual liberty based on biblical principles gave birth to a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal with certain inalienable rights.  It has taken years for that fullest expression of freedom to be revealed, but in my lifetime, as a woman, the choices that have been available to me are without comparison.  I believe the internal is causative to the external.  I want to share with others my love of this country, its principles of freedom and to honor those who protect our liberties with their lives.

*Love of  Home and Family.  One thing I love about this home is telling its history.  A young girl, 16, falls in love with an older man,  all of 23 years of age, an attorney,  who is living at her parent’s boarding house.  He proposes.  She marries him on her 17th birthday.  They have 11 children in their 22 years together before they are parted by his sudden death.  She continues as a young widow, just 40 years old, to raise their 9 living children in this house and she cares for her aging Mother.   She lives 46 more years without the presence of her husband in this home.  For almost 70 years her life was lived in this place.  Margaret’s  life as a woman, wife, young mother, homemaker, widow, and daughter is exemplary and one that I like to honor. Although I have no family written record of her life what I can piece together from government, ancestry, military, and cemetery clues, weaves together a touching story.

*Never too old to dream.   For 38 years my life consisted of home and family in California.  After the death of my parents, the reaching of my children to adulthood, a recession that seemed like it would never end, the return of my toddler grandchildren and their parents to Columbus, Georgia from Germany with the United States Army, the moving of my son to Savannah, Georgia, and the opportunity to play house in a Vernacular Victorian home in the countryside while showcasing what I love best in life, is living a dream come true.  It is my “Happily Ever After.”

*A Gift for Hospitality.  Within me is a love of serving others in a playful, entertaining manner.  I love to create themes in many outlets. Interior decoration is part of sharing shelter and my natural outlet is to create spaces and experiences that reflect different ways of viewing everyday life.  Creating guest rooms that take on an atmosphere that reflect my different themes has been a rewarding and worthwhile individual expression of how I present my Bed and Breakfast to the world.  It has given me an outlet to express my love of making a home.  Cooking and providing food is also a part of hospitality.  Creating tempting dishes and presenting them in a manner that is pleasing is a way of to present my love of cooking.  Also, the hospitality industry requires one to put on their best self every day.  There is no room for a grumpy, selfish hostess.  This profession has taught me to look on the brighter side of life and to put away gloom and despair.  This has been good for me because in my natural state I can be rather melancholy.  Serving others is a definite way to showcase your best self.

*An opportunity to be true to yourself.  I am at an age where I can dress as I please with a nod to eccentricity.  If I want to dress up every day in a long dress, petticoat and pinafore with lace accents and vintage jewelry, I can!  This is a direct correlation to what I loved in childhood and my teenage years.  My Mother loved having a little girl to dress up, curl her hair, play house and provide a happy childhood.  Coming of age in the hippie era with its throw back to Victorian fashion suited me very well.  Jessica McClintock and Gunne Sax were my favorite designers.  Even today, as I write, I am wearing a skirt fashioned from my dress from over 40 years ago!  I love femininity and gingham, chintz, cotton, lace, ruffles, eyelet, rustle, details, and being able to wear those fashions in a house that once knew them in real time is a fantasy that I like to play every day!  Sharing my reality of fashion is a way I express my unique sensibilities to my guests and another way I embrace the past as I celebrate the present.  My guests get to play along with their hostess.

*An opportunity to share what has been given.  I have lived a very blessed life.  Parents who loved each other, a joyful  childhood, a loving marriage,  a faith that is real,  the gift of children, no poverty, trials and burdens that added to character and did not create bitterness or defeat.  My husband has given me the opportunity to live a life as as an individual woman and to use my talents and abilities in another realm outside of my home and family in California.

I have been granted the opportunity to showcase my best self as the innkeeper here at Holly House.  These are some of the ways that I showcase these traits and create my own personal brand that reveals my individuality.


One Step at a Time- The Journey Continues….

  • Posted on June 30, 2016 at 10:46 am

It was just a few short years ago that I wrote a Business Plan for opening a Bed and Breakfast in Hamilton, Georgia.  This was a necessary tool to present my goal  and  vision to the bank to try and secure financing to purchase my home.  With that initial step completed, the securing of the property, came more steps for getting the business up and running.  Business license, decoration and furnishing  of 6000+ empty square feet, producing website, Zoning Board,  Planning Commission, City Council, Public Health, bank account, business cards and brochures, marketing…….innumerable steps!  But, I did it!

Then, along the way, came this word:  BRANDING!    I did not have a clue what this meant, but I made it my goal to find out what it is and to try and define it in my own personal life and business.  Your life takes on greater meaning if you know who you are and what are your desires and goals for living this life.

Here is an excerpt from an article at  Entrepreneur.com.  It is excellent in helping understand what branding is and how it applies to all of us.  The complete article can be found here:  https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/273589

“A well-defined personal brand allows you to:

  • Identify how to showcase your best self.
  • Understand your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Stand out from your peers and competition.
  • Build your “tribe” (others who share the same values).
  • Be human and have more meaningful interactions with others.
  • Establish credibility.
  • Demonstrate your value through your actions.
  • Elevate your social proof.
  • Solidify your niche.
  • Convey your message and values.
  • Be more confident.

Moreover, it is important to understand that everyone has a personal brand, whether you want one or not. It is defined by everything you do, from what you wear to how you compose emails to how you conduct yourself on the phone.”

In my future blogs, I hope to write about my own personal brand and how I have applied that to my business brand which is in reality an extension of me!

I am thankful for these 3 1/2 years and how the haved help me grow in so many ways- one step at a time!

Have you read it lately?

  • Posted on June 17, 2016 at 1:38 pm

As we embrace the past and celebrate the present there are days that come in our nation’s history that have particular meaning.  In 1885 the pieces of the Statue of Liberty, a gift from France, arrived in America. The statue officially was unveiled in 1886.

Holly House was built in 1880.. I wonder if the inhabitants of my home, at that time, would have read the news in our local paper The Harris County Journal.  A poignant headline….

According to the statue historian Barry Moreno, it “was never built for immigrants.”

“It was,” he recalled, “built to pay tribute to the United States of America, the Declaration of Independence, American democracy, and democracy throughout the world. It honored the end of slavery, honored the end of all sorts of tyranny and also friendship between France and America.”

It was not until 1903 that part of the poem by Emma Lazarus was mounted on her pedestal that would endear her to immigrants as a symbol of welcome.

Have you read it lately?

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed,sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

My favorite phrase, “yearning to breathe free…..”
What is yours?


Disney World and Me….

  • Posted on June 17, 2016 at 9:56 am

-20 million people visit Orlando Florida’s Disney World every year! This is the most visited theme park in the world.

-At Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa rooms start at $569 a night before taxes

I am contemplating these statistics!

These 20 million people are not me! My dream vacation does not include an artificial land. I would rather find my happy spot in a real life world.

I am thankful for the 1000 people each year who come to Holly House in tiny Hamilton, Georgia to share a warm and happy memory in this historic home. Here we celebrate simple pleasures…..rocking, flowers, cookies, sleep and rest, music, walks, love expressed, smells….

Just yesterday, I was sitting in the swing on the front porch while my guests, who were celebrating 57 years of marriage together were rocking in the two rockers. They were sipping freshly brewed coffee and eating peanut butter and chocolate kiss cookies. As I swayed back and forth in the swing the smell of the magnolia in bloom wafted through the air. I felt enchanted. Here I was enjoying the love of this sweet couple, taking a break from the duties of my life and just rejoicing in the fact that I am alive! I was making a warm and happy memory and I was not even on vacation!

What could be better than this? For me, it is not Disney World…..There is so much sadness in Orlando this week. Too much to try and understand. Just feeling compassion for this hurting place and the reality of life and death that can happen in the human happiness capital of the world. I will stay here in my haven and try and capture my moments of fleeting happiness…..Hold tight to the moments of love.

It happened at Runnymede…..

  • Posted on June 15, 2016 at 2:41 pm

Just a little over 800 years ago today, King John signed the Magna Carta at Runnymede, near Windsor, England. What you may ask does that have to do with my celebrating the present today?

A seed was sown on that day proclaiming to the world that the Divine Right of Kings to sovereignly rule over the actions of men, and eventually women, was coming to an end. This noble stream of liberty which was born in England found its greatest fruition in the soil of America.

Let us value our freedom and liberty and not exchange it for license to do whatever we want. Liberty and law is the foundation of our nation built on Christian principles. In the last one hundred years the roles of women have been changing and this equality we have achieved under the law has granted us choices unseen before in history. My prayer is that the hearts of women will hear what is the highest calling and make that a high priority in their lives.

For me, as a woman, this internal and external freedom has been one of the greatest blessings of my life. To be thought of as separate but equal by my husband and under the law has given me the liberty to pursue desires of my heart. This kind of a supportive relationship could never have been foreseen by those Lords at Runnymede. I embrace this day in history.

It could happen to anyone, right?

  • Posted on May 30, 2016 at 10:54 am

Well…..Yesterday, I posted about my sloppy self!  Today, it happened again!

My Swedish Guests enjoy a breakfast of yogurt, fresh fruit, coffee and juice.  Four days in a row!  I mix two Greek, low sugar, plain yogurt cartons with a 1/2 cup of vanilla yogurt to make it just a bit more flavorful.  As I go to toss the two empty white yogurt cartons into the trash can, they hit the rim and the remaining mushy mess splatters out of the tubs onto the black flowered door carpet, the trashcan, the floor, and my patriotic, navy blue white star decorated jumper!

Shall we look on the bright side?  The trash receptacle got scrubbed, the carpet was cleaned and the floor is gleaming!  As for me, my stars are once again glowing!


Do YOU ever hear your Mother’s voice in your head?

  • Posted on May 29, 2016 at 3:01 pm

This morning as I was preparing homemade buttermilk waffles for eleven…….I was scooping the powdered sugar out of the bag with a spoon and gently placing in the pretty little Bird & Strawberry Bowl I use to serve with my antique silver sugar shaker spoon.  All of sudden, the side of the plastic bag collapses and all this powdered sugar, in it’s fine white floating mess,  goes all down the front of the dishwasher, the front of my red gingham pinafore and onto the floor.  Immediately, I heard this voice say, “Judy, don’t be so sloppy.”  Now, who’s voice was that?  I know I didn’t intend to be sloppy.  Maybe I am just accident prone! But here I am, arguing with this comment, actually talking back!    I mean it’s not like I wanted to have a a white, dusty disaster all over the place!

All I can say in my defense, is that with age I am getting better at NOT being messy!  Another advantage of lots of practice in the kitchen!

I love you, Mama and miss hearing your voice in person!

What is sentimental to you?

  • Posted on May 27, 2016 at 10:16 am

Recently I read and listened to an interview by Jonathan and Drew Scott.  The Property Brothers from HGTV.  This question was asked of Jonathan:

“Finally, when it comes to spring cleaning, what kinds of things do you find people have the hardest time throwing away?

“Sentimental stuff. I just had this conversation with a client yesterday, actually. They opened their garage and there was so much crap in there — stuff that they hadn’t used in years and years and years because their kids have grown out of it — and they’re like, “Oh, but it’s sentimental!” And I’m like, How is a broken umbrella stand sentimental? You really have to look at what the things are that really have meaning? Otherwise, take a picture and get rid of it. Even better? Donate it!”

Good advice!  ”You really have to look at what the things are that REALLY have meaning…..”  What is it that gives a THING meaning?

Here are my top 10 reasons that give “things” meaning.

1.  The thing itself can be something of beauty or usefulness and it makes you happy to look at it or use it and you just don’t want to get rid of it.  You have to have the want to, to get rid of things.  Try not to be a hoarder!

2.  The memory attached to the thing is very real and every time you look at that thing or use it the happy memory is real.  The thing is a reminder of a time when circumstances and events were happy!  Sometimes those are few and far between.  In my case, having had a very blessed life, those things associated with happiness are many!

3.  A thing is a tangible reminder of a happy memory.  When you  touch it, see it and use it, the associations of that thing and the people it reminds you of become more real because your senses are fully involved.

4.  If the thing is vintage, old, or antique you may find yourself a caretaker of something that will not come again and there is an appreciation for days gone by associated with that thing.

5.  The thing may represent a time when limited  money was invested to purchase something that was not needed but the acquisition of that particular thing signified the realization of a personal desire.

6.  The older you get and the more things you acquire the more “sentimental” items you have!  However, in the case of your Mother giving you things, when she is gone, so are the gifts.  Does this make the things your Mother gave you more sentimental because she is gone?  I think so.

7.  As the caretaker of old things you realize that the longer things are around the more stories can become associated with them.  I like stories.

8.  Even if someone has given you a gift of money, if that sum is used to purchase a thing, the money transfers to the purchase and it becomes sentimental!  Or if someone you love has given you a thing as a gift the feelings associated with that thing are greater.

9.  Once a gift is given to someone it becomes their property and what they determine to do with that thing becomes their decision.  Do not transfer guilt to others because you gave them something that was sentimental to YOU!  You may find yourself taking back a gift because YOU have feelings associated with a thing!

10.  You cannot take things with you when you leave this life.  I have always tried to live by the adage that the only value in something is it’s ability to be used.  That is why I am so Happy here at Holly House because I get to use, or look at, or share a story of the things that have been a part of my life.  From the time I was very young I have had an appreciation for things and have tried to care for them in a responsible manner. Raised during the GREAT DEPRESSION, my parents did not grow up with pretty things.  In fact, they did not have many things at all, including clothes.  For my Mother, shelter was even primitive with no indoor plumbing or a bed to herself.  Once my Mother and Father had money to invest in things they purchased items of quality and took care of them.  Many of these things I still use today!   Is there much sentiment attached to these things?  Yes, there is and I am not ashamed to admit it but gladly tell their story of resourcefulness, thriftiness, delayed gratification, industriousness and I thank them for mentoring this character that left an inheritance to their children and their children’s children- not only of things but of lives built on the principles of hard work and personal discipline.

So, yes it is hard for me to part with things but when my memories and associations with these things are gone I hope it will be easier for those who are left behind to donate these treasures to others and the things I loved will have new tales to tell.



A Memorial Day Moment

  • Posted on May 26, 2016 at 11:38 am

The second year I was in Georgia I attended the Memorial Day activities in Senoia, just 40 minutes from Holly House.  There were many vendors, antiques, an Army band, parade, food, shops and speakers.  It was a very worthwhile experience and one I enjoyed very much.  But at 3:00 p.m. something unexpected happened that I was not aware happened nationwide.  It is called a Moment of Silence.  Everything stops and you just stand there quietly and remember those who have given their lives in the service of our country.  In Senoia this “moment” lasts quite a while as they discharge a cannon in successive rounds  to commemorate different wars.  In my memory this was a most moving Memorial Day and I wish I could go again…..

Here is a link to a brief article that may inform you of facts you did not know before:





“Embracing the past…..”

  • Posted on May 24, 2016 at 11:06 am

On Saturday I was showing my downstairs guests the upstairs Life is a Journey Room.  In this suite the decoration has a nostalgic nod to bygone pastimes that we still enjoy today.  The gentelman made a remark that I was born in the wrong century.  I disagreed with him!  Horrors!

Although I have a great appreciation for the contributions of those who have lived in the past, and I relish their love of simple pleasures, I am thankful that my appointed time is now.  Ironically, it is because of the rise of medical technology that I am especially grateful.  Unlike the original mistress of my manse, I did not lose a baby girl in infancy, nor another little girl in toddlerhood.  My husband did not die in his 40′s because of heart disease.  In my own personal history, had I not been born when I was, these trials could have been true for me as well but because of the rise of medical knowledge, I have been spared those tribulations.

However, it is because of the suffering that Margaret Henderson Williams Walton endured that I most admire her, even though I have never heard her story from a family member or read her personal memoir.  It is amazing what one can piece together from just the facts of our lives.  Of course, it is easy for one of my romantic sensibilities to weave together a touching tale…

I can picture Margaret at 16 falling in love with a dashing, young lawyer who came to live in her parent’s boarding house.  I can hear her decide to marry him on her 17th birthday!  I can see her moving into this impressive  bridal home and making it her own.  I can only contemplate her bearing so many children- 11 in all.  I can feel her pain at the loss of two of those beloved babies.  I can honor her for raising two sons who would fight in The Great War.  I can try to understand what it would be like to be a widow at age 41.  How did she survive the daily rigors of raising nine living children?  How did she care for an aging Mother in her home as the census records indicate she did?  How did she find the strength to go on without her life’s true companion for 45  more years after his death?  Did this home offer her comfort and solace?  I like to think so!  I like to “embrace” her story- to bring it close to my heart.  This place was her home for almost 70 years!  Who of us can say we have had a home with roots like that?

I am thankful that the sacrifices made by the previous generations have lead to the blessings that I celebrate today!  I am blessed by the history of this house and for those who came before me and loved it and restored it.  One hundred and thirty five years of life and living!

“Embracing the Past- Celebrating the Present”- it seems appropriate!