Today, I’m going to share with you some embarrassing moments we’ve had here in Tennessee. (They were bad…like really, really bad)… And some happy surprises…like our neighbors!

Driving away from our hotel in Tennessee where we were staying while we waited for our house to close, our cars revealed the fact we were vagabonds… Laundry was spilling out everywhere, Chick Fil A sauce packets were stuck to the back of our chairs… I was not feeling my most glamorous self. But, it was time to sign our closing docs and get our keys so, off we went to the title company with four kids, 1 dog, 2 cats and a partridge in a pear tree. We parked in front of the cutest little historical building and I glanced down at my tennis shoes and thought, “This is something to remind my friends moving here… Look cute on closing day.” (You’ll feel better about the whole thing.) We sat around a pretty mahogany table, our kids restless behind us in antique chairs with important framed historical photos and documents all around. I was sweating bullets praying no one broke anything and that we could just grab our keys and get out to the country where clearly we belonged. After a lovely older woman in pearls explained the final details, I thanked her and let her know that although we were coming from California, “Don’t worry, we won’t bring any crazy ideas with us.” (A request made to my husband on the elevator of our hotel the first night we arrived in Tennessee!) She replied with such grace and wit, “We Tennesseeans are always open to good ideas” (her emphasis!). At the time, I didn’t realize how crucial and common that statement would be of our experience in Tennessee.

The realtor asked if we would take a photo so we smiled thru our greasy road trip faces, shook their hands and headed to the car to JUST. BE. DONE. But the Lord apparently had another lesson in humility for me because as soon as I opened the van door with our realtor standing right beside, we discovered that our beloved shih tzu had pottied all over the passenger seat while we were inside the building. “Anything I can do to help?,” our realtor kindly asked. I quickly replied, “No, no, we’re fine, thank you, thank you…” (And please leave now before I shrivel up and die.) Let’s just say it wasn’t a quick, easy clean up potty. It was more like an entire roll of paper towels were needed potty. The next five minutes consisted of me trying to locate as many tissues and leftover fast food napkins I could find to clean up the mess while having my boys run the next load of dog mess across the parking lot to the nearest trash can. Homeowners for only a few seconds and we had already made our mark on Tennessee!

Pulling up to the house, I couldn’t have felt more ready to throw that car into park and leap from our fast food infested van (and you better believe, leap I did!) The first thing I noticed was the quiet, then the trees and then as my husband and I were standing in the backyard gazing at our new place with tired smiles, a friendly looking man with overalls approached us. “Hi there? How you doing? I’m your new neighbor!” We shook hands and exchanged names. He asked where we were from and we shared our exodus out of California. My husband, being the honest man he is, went on a little tirade about how we had been frustrated with the new mandates. Our neighbor listened intently, gave us his phone number to use if we ever “needed help” and said he looked forward to having “cookouts” with us! We were delighted at his Southern accent and friendly disposition. A few days later we discovered thru conversation that this sweet neighbor and his wife were on the other side of us on basically every political issue! My husband was so embarrassed. Our stereotype – overalls, thick Southern accent, super friendly, must agree with us on most things – was shattered. But the amazing part is, even though our wonderful neighbors knew we differed from them on key social issues as early as our first meeting, they accepted us. We’ve had wonderful, conversations over dinner, on the front porch, walking thru the neighborhood and what has struck me is the fact that we feel zero intolerance of our views. We feel heard and understood by people who do not agree with us. That is a very rare experience and not to be taken for granted. That is how learning happens! And that is how true progress can be made. We quickly learned that because of the dominant ideas in red states (check out this post for more on red state ideas – actual, real tolerance is possible. Because of the emphasis in our state on human dignity granted to us by God, there is not only a “tolerance” of people I disagree with, there is a respect I know must be given to all people no matter their views. There is an acknowledgment that we are all needed at the table (or, here in the South, around the bbq).

On our street alone, there are three families who moved from other states in the last two years. Among them is the most vivacious, energetic woman with a beautiful thriving garden and gorgeous zinnias (pictured below). She is always on the move organizing the next community event. Her goal is that every neighbor would meet and be there for one another. Her bright red barn is often the spot for neighborhood dinners and ladies’ luncheons. (I was just there yesterday afternoon celebrating her 90 year old mother in law’s birthday!) I have learned so much from her about being cheerful and giving people time.

Another sweet lady who lives on the street adjacent to ours with her two teenage sons whom she has excellently raised all by herself, delivered four dozen eggs to us at a moment’s notice when the snow was coming in. I have learned so much from her about joyful service to others no matter what. You can read her story here:

And just last week, we had the privilege of watching our daughter take her first horseback riding lesson from the most mature 17 year old girl who lives 3 minutes away. (Our daughter can see their lit up stable through her bedroom window!) Standing there in her barn, watching the fruit of so much work, and hearing her talk to our daughter about how every horse will teach you something new, I realized the stereotypes so many progressive elites have about people who live in the South being “ignorant, lazy, no good for society” are not just totally misinformed. They are actually sinister lies – the very furthest thing from the truth.

(And they’re sweet enough to accept us and our diarrhea dog.)

The moral of the story? Bring your cute shoes for closing day, don’t let the realtor park by your car if you’re traveling with weak tummy’d pets and children and, most importantly, leave the stereotypes you have about people in the South where they belong – back in your blue state. Wherever you live, I pray God’s blessing as you love your neighbors well for His glory and for the good of your community!

6 Replies to “New Neighbors (and a Diarrhea Dog)”

  1. From one red state to another, I love to read you real and humorous posts. It is fun for me to see you discover “the other side” of this country. California just THINKS it is all that! Love to you, Phelan family, form a former Californian but Kansas -born Christian sister.

    1. LOL Kala, you are just the best! I still have wonderful memories of the wine tasting you and your husband so graciously served at Plymouth! You had the right idea returning to your Kansas roots when you did. Blessings to you and your family!

  2. The dog…. I feel like this is a foreshadowing of an even worse dog x 3 behavior experience that is sure to happen….(Great advice!)

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