I’ve noticed a lot of the social media “moguls” I follow in the blogosphere and on Instagram, are closing out their year with “best of 2016” feature stories. They start something like, “I thought it would be fun to share my most ‘liked’ posts of 2016”; then proceed with a blog or IG post that garnered 475,000 likes  and 1,450 comments each (only slightly exaggerated for effect, so sorry to break the rule of good manners, Mr. R.W. Emerson, please forgive). Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m happy as a puppy with two tails for them! Just because my “bests ofs” are not in the same ballpark of their “best ofs” doesn’t mean I can’t be thrilled for them! No really, I am. Honest. The nasty green jealousy monster has no place here; thanks to an ever vigilant sibling!

In the formative years, I could always count on my little brother, Chip “off the old block”, to keep me in check when the big green monster would raise his oversized hideous head! Mind you this was long before tweets, snaps, grams,  (HEY! I resent that, we had telephones); somehow we still managed to ignore the great advice of Theodore Roosevelt and allow “ be the thief of joy.”  Chip stood ever ready to inject much-needed humility in a moment’s notice and on all occasions.  I might ever so lovingly mention that “Peggy Jo’s new hair cut is not becoming, bless her heart.” There was no untoward intentions, I was sincerely worried about the impending ill-effect on her social life. Without fail and faster than a hot knife through butter,  Chip would deduce and proclaim “You’re just jealous!” To which I would always reply, “Are you kidding? No I’m not!” All the while (at least most of the time), guilty as charged!  My little brother would never allow any of the Vanatta sisters to suffer an invasion of such ugliness.

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Pictured: L to R – Little Nell, Chip-off-the-old-block, and Lisa Dawn

Any who, I’ve got nothing but love and admiration for the social media giants (and empathy for Peggy Jo’s tragic hairstyle)! But as a novitiate on the IG/Blog seen, I’ve been known to celebrate when my posts go from naming the individuals who like it, to showing the actually number ((for anyone less proficient on IG than myself (hard to believe there might be such one), that’s somewhere between 4 and 8 piddling acknowledgements)). You could see where jealousy might possibly arise in the faint of heart!

But, instead of wallowing in self-pity, green or otherwise, for what might have been in the past year,  I decided to write my final blog of 2016 ~ The Bests of 2016 – Except Not Really.  About 18 months ago  Southern Nell’s Gracious Living brand was born! We had plans for pop-up shops full of custom and vintage decor and antiques, interior decorating services, and a blog to chronicle the journey (you may notice I use the pronoun we, when in fact me/myself/and I would be more appropriate~I think, yet another southern anomaly).  Life had other plans and proceeded to throw road block after road block in my direction.  Undoubtedly the hardest months of my life to date. Thus, the blog was not launched until about 30 days ago!

The thing is, hardship just may be one area in life where comparison can be your friend. I won’t minimize my journey,  however, I’m fully aware of the challenges and battles some of my closest friends continue to wage with life circumstances. As Mama has said often, after sharing a particularly challenging life event of a friend, “Now, that’s a problem! We don’t have problems.” This is her way of speaking perspective into the heartache of the moment. So, onward and upward!

First up on the “best of 2016-except not really” post,  the guest room re-do! In fall of 2015, Tom the Great, Jr. headed to the prestigious KU for his college debut! With great pride and a bucket full of raw emotion, we moved him into the stately KU SigEp home on Tennessee, no less, Boulevard!

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SigEp - sign

Move in day – Fall 2015

I tell you the bed sheets were still warm when I started the make over on his room back home! Don’t get me wrong. I took no delight (immense pride, but no joy) in my boy leaving the nest (looking back this was a baby step toward the emotional challenges heading my way in the months to come). I did, however, seize upon the room as a perfect launching pad to chronicle Southern Nell’s Gracious Living’s first room re-do. So I got to work. The guest room would be full on vintage! Starting with the 1960s chenille bedspread I found at an Estate Sale.


I’ll bet  you remember, as a kid, waking from a nap with a chenille floral design your cheeks!

Tom the Great inherited the cherry bed side tables. They have great bones, but the finish had been pulverized through the years of use. I imagine a warm baby bottle or two (TtG is one of NINE) rested atop the table on occasion. They received a Southern Nell’s Gracious Living re-do, as did the antique dressing table that had seen better years.

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By the way, I managed to squeeze Tom the Great, Junior into the Feltman Brother’s Infant Bubble (seen dutifully displayed on the left side of the dressing table), at least one time. Just so you know, you can not pretend to be a southern mom if you don’t have a least one photograph, preferably an oil painting, of your sweet pumpkin in a Feltman Brother’s Bubble!

For the sake of equality, Annalisa the Beautiful gets a nod in the re-do as well. You can bet she had a Feltman Brother’s Infant Bubble or two, but we chose to display the cutest two piece, gingham mind you,  dress and diaper cover your eyes will ever behold! This beauty was a gift from her aunt and one of her three name sakes, Kathleen the Beautiful!

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The final purchase for the make over was the vintage alarm clock by the bed. I’m not sure what made me pick it up in the antique mall I was visiting. I certainly had no plans of purchasing an alarm clock. The unexpected copper color likely caught my eye.

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Then I turned it to view the back, and there it was! This charming little alarm clock, was manufactured in the 1960s in my hometown, Lebanon, Tennessee (just 30 miles East of Nashville). Built in our hometown in 1954, the Lux Clock Factory employed hundreds of families for 25 years or so. My sweet friend, Anna (another great lady who’s name is reflected in my offspring), worked many hours building clocks.

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Sweet irony! That a clock, a time-piece, a keeper of time would complete the room re-do; and proceed to tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock deadline after deadline for launching the blog into history!

I could keep this deadline missing tribute going for days, as  many deadlines have come and gone over the past 18 months, and  many projects were abandoned or postponed at the beck and call of life’s trials and tribulations…… but let’s not beat a dead horse, people!

 I leave you with the inspiration that was waiting for me at my lowest point of the last 18 months.  On a Sunday morning in early June,  I sat alone, distraught, and gripped with fear. I reached for the unfailing abiding Inspiration in the bedside table drawer (yes, thank the Gideon publishers for supplying many if not most of our hotels with His inspired words.) As I cried out to our Comforter, here is the reminder He provided when I randomly cracked open His book…


May you invite God on your journey and trust Him to do as He says he will do, “for the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight against your enemies, to give you victory.”

Happy New Year, my friends! Enjoy Today!

Love y’all ~ Lori Nell


Comments (4)

  1. Susie


    Lori, Lori, you are a writer. I love to read what you post. You should write books. You’d be real good about an …your crazy aunt might make the pages…lol…keep up the good work….you are beautiful

  2. Reply

    I have just discovered this blog. You, my friend, have such a gift! Your heart is so pure and sweet and I thank God that he brought you into my life years ago. I know we don’t see each other often but you are always close to my heart!

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