Where I am from will always define who I am. My roots are Southern. My heart and soul are Southern. I am deeply, irrevocably a Southerner. I love my region’s friendly, open-hearted, storytelling people. I aspire to be among them for the rest of my life.

I spent my childhood in Sturgis then Starkville, Mississippi. Both towns are real-life versions of the postage-stamp patch of land that native son William Faulkner cited. Daddy—that’s what my generation of Southerners calls our fathers—is a self-made successful businessman. Mama was a teacher and book buyer for Oktibbeha County schools. I am the next-to-the-youngest of four children, three girls and a boy. Much of my family still lives in Mississippi.

My husband and I moved to Birmingham, Alabama, more than two decades ago where I became an editor with Southern Living and Progressive Farmer magazines. I was on the staff of these Time Inc. publications for 18 years before becoming a freelancer and co-author in 2007. Mark is a professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and is a nationally-known nonverbal expert. Have you seen the television show Lie to Me? They kind of lie to you about what’s possible but that’s the gist of what my spouse studies. He’s the author of 15 books in the field of communication (graduate advisor and Curriculum Vitae). He loves school more than any other human being I’ve ever met. A small town Georgia boy—he calls his home state “God’s country”—Mark holds five degrees, including a Ph.D and a law degree, and serves as a legal consultant when he isn’t teaching communication. Despite his scholarly pursuit he understands the “real” world, too (in this case, I am definitely not referring to the TV show of the same name). He worked in a peach packing plant at age 7 and served in the U.S. Army during Vietnam.

We are the parents of teenage twins, Joshua and Brennan. Even in these surly years, I frequently am the victim of post-partum elation. My children are well-rounded people of talent, intelligence, and humor—when they’re not living up to the teenager reputation.

Josh is #5

Josh attends a mega-large public school, Spain Park High School. He loves Auburn University and was ecstatic when his team became the 2010 National football champions. The War Eagle song was one of the first things he learned to sing. He lives for video games and sports, all sports, any sport, all the time. He laments that his height precludes an NBA career.

My daughter attends the Alabama School of Fine Arts where, in addition to regular coursework, she studies creative writing during an extra-long school day that ends at 4:30 p.m. She plays guitar, piano, and drums and loves music and writing and philosophical debate. She also likes to talk in funny accents.She laments that none of these pursuits is ever likely to make her rich.

Transcript of Brennan’s Small Talk presentation (excerpt)

Rocky is our gorgeous orange and white Maine coon cat who is a sweet gentle giant. He begs for food so pitifully, we keep a written tab of when he last dined to save him from himself. Otherwise, he’d be fed every five minutes since he tries to con us each and every time we walk within persuading distance.

I am a Christian, a long-time member of Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church in Birmingham, Alabama. The Lutheran denomination is not big in the Bible belt where Baptists reign supreme. Garrison Keillor, the only genuine Lutheran star, isn’t nearly as popular as Billy Graham.

I sing (untrained…I’m more of the “make-a-joyful noise” persuasion) and my daughter plays guitar (and sometimes drums, piano or bass) for Emmanuel, our church’s contemporary band. Once a year, our church hosts an Academy Award spoof called “The Luthers” (“honoring” church founder Martin Luther). For this event, anyone who wants can exhibit their talent (or lack thereof). I sang “500 Miles Away from Home” this past year with my daughter playing guitar along with the other band members.

The Judds we are not.