Southern Observations Part 2: When Differences Destroy Delight

After listening to my ramblings about the little differences I noticed about people after being in the south a few days, now it is time to tell you this.

Things I LOVE about southern folk:

Their friendliness. When walking, strolling, riding a bike or attempting to run (like I do) down the quaint southern streets down here, you CANNOT pass a person without them saying ‘hi’ or ‘hello’ or even ‘hey y’all’ to you. Don’t always see that in other parts of the country.

Their beverage making ability. Okay, forget the whole Coke thing. I have discovered sweet tea!!!! Even took Sweet Tea 101 from Marybeth. In my home growing up, we made sweetened tea this way….are you ready?….pencils sharpened?….don’t miss it now…..We drove to Meijer Thrifty Acres and bought Lipton powered instant tea. The jar that said sweetened, not unsweetened!!  That’s it! Here they boil and brew and make sugar go into solution and let it cool to room temp and no, you can’t use decaf bags and, oh my, my kids are hooked!!!!! I can’t be. I’ll be up all night and gain back 20 of my lost pounds!!!!

Their pace. People don’t appear to be in such a hurry here. Now granted, it may be because we are on an island where it is obvious most people are either renting a house for a week or vacationing in their second home, but I have not sensed the “get-out-of-my-way-I’m-in-a-hurry-in-fact-I-am-late-and-you-are-making-me-later syndrome I often encounter and, sadly, I sometimes exhibit.

Their pride in their culture. Any attempt to poke fun at their way of life sends their flags flying high as they verbally defend their own.

Their pride in their appearance. By that I mean their home, themselves, their little palm tree—pretty flowerbed yards. Folks around here seem to not mind spending time taking care of the bodies and the homes God has given them.

Their willingness to be associated with the Bible. Now, I did not fall off of the turnip truck yesterday. I do know that the south is known as the Bible belt. However, being from the Midwest, I really notice this every time I have been here (which is about 5 times so far) People weave going to church, prayer, God, the Bible, the Holy Spirit and Jesus into their conversations very naturally and don’t seem one bit hesitant or ashamed. For crying out loud, I even heard yesterday of a small public school that, due to a remodeling issue is meeting at a church AND the parent-staff committee often makes meals for families in need sends out prayer requests. WHAT?!?!?! Unheard of where I come from!!!!

I’ll say it again. I LOVE THE SOUTH!!!

I write all of this to say that God has taught me a huge lesson during my time here at the beach. While it has been a delight to be the recipient of some good ole’ southern hospitality and the things I love about the south FAR outweigh any little pet peeve I poked fun at yesterday, the real lesson has been about my family.

Our life in the past three months has been so stressful and hurried that, even though in a way we have gotten through it without freakin’ out (read my posts from June if you need to catch up) I have let the little things about my husband and kids that drive me nuts make me blind to the good qualities they have. If it is true that absence makes the heart grow fonder, what does a mom, a dad, two teens and a strappin’ ten year old boy cramming themselves and all of their stuff into two rooms do to you? It makes any and everything magnified. It makes you get on each other’s nerves at the drop of a hat. It tempts you to let the differences drown out the delightful.

Now, in my kid’s defense, they have done great. I’d give them an A- or a B+ in how they have handled it. Poor Mitch (13) hasn’t slept in a real bed but a half dozen times since the last day of June. (One reason he is happy to be here at the beach house. He’s been in a real bunk bed for 4 nights now!!!) Spencer (10) has had his little room overrun with other people wanting to bed down their for the night. He has happily given up his twin bed to others- Mitch’s overnight friends, his sister, even his dad who sometimes returns home from his late shift to find Kenzie sleeping in his spot since she too has no bed. Kenzie has had to, as a 17 year old girl who needs space both physically and mentally, pack and repack for mission trips and church camp work weeks and try to find a place to land when she is home. And my hubby is so adaptable and laid back. They have all been troopers. It is actually me who has done poorly.

You see, I am such a ‘ducks in a row” person that I let it bother me if my ducks aren’t all in said row standing at perfect attention. Well people, I can’t even FIND half of my ducks right now!!!!

We moved in July 1st and had hoped to have the basement and resulting bathroom, family room and two bedrooms finished and ready to be occupied in 3-4 weeks. Hello!?!? We are now nearly at the end of week seven. Pushin’ two months. Most recently, we had hoped that after the kids and I return Sunday, the trim and paint would be done and the carpet would be laid Monday. dear hubby informed me, via the miracle of my little pre-paid Tracfone cell phone that my offspring make fun of, that the carpet can’t be laid for another week at least. So….. we still can’t settle in. I can’t feather my nest. I’ll need to keep walking by the enormous piles of boxes and plastic totes and bed frames and dressers that wait in my garage.

This mental distress, however minor in the grand scheme of life, has thrown me for a loop. I have let it bug me to the point where EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE bugs me. I have rolled my eyes at my children (not the other way around!) nit-picked at my hubby and, of course, noticed NONE of my own flaws. I have been so focused on the little things about my family that bug me that I have missed the delightful in their personalities. And it has taken this trip for me to get my head screwed back on straight.

Here at the beach I have discovered again why I love each of my family members. Baby-of-the-family Spencer is such a crack up. His one-liners now tickle me again instead of annoy. Mitch is so good at fixing and figuring out. He has helped Miss Marybeth (okay you Midwesterners, my kids would normally call her Mrs. Whalen. Here is the sweet south it is Miss Marybeth. And I’m bringing that practice home with me!!) anyhow….as I was saying…er, um…typing…he has helped her fix or figure out several things. And I have seen a side of both my boys that I know is there but don’t always get to see since we have no little ones around anymore. They are both big ole’ softies when it comes to little kids. Seeing Spencer bounce little Annaliese on his knee in the rocking chair and tip and twirl ‘til she screams with delight or watching Mitch take 6-year-old cutie Brad fishing on the pier “one more time please” has delighted my soul. These normally rough-and-tumble jocks have a sweet, tender side too. And Kenzie has spent time, Mary Poppins style, giving Miss Marybeth and mom both a break. I could have NEVER taken 6 other kids to the beach and returned with them all not only alive, but happy! She does it with ease!! And my husband. Oh my!!!! What an apology I owe him. He was not the problem. My current living arrangement is the problem. Absence does make the heart grown fonder. My heart is full of fondness for my college sweetheart turned father of my kiddos.

So let my little southern exposure week be a lesson to us all. While there are differences, whether by region or by family members, others are put into your life on purpose. Be intentional to look for the delightful. It is there. You just have to look for it. Don’t let the differences bug and gnaw and eat away at your peace. People are not the problem. Our stinkin’ attitude is the problem. May God give us the right attitude. He will if we ask. I just neglected to ask. Thankfully, the wonderful southern folk made me see it anew.

Thanks all y’all!!!

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:5-6

Sweet-tea tastin’ and Southern-folk lovin’ blessing,








  2. You are so cute Karen. I just spent some time catching up on your blog and wishing you could come visit me too.

    I’m still praying for you and your house situation.

    We went through it a couple of years ago and I’m just now getting all those hairs I ripped out by the roots back.

  3. You know we have some AMAZING iced teas! Great post…I enjoyed reading and being reminded of the resons I love the south and thank God for bringing me here!

  4. Karen,
    I just had a conference call with Marybeth teaching about balancing writing and family. She mentioned you and your organization downloadables. I am glad you have that in your sidebar, it will be beneficial to my planning, thank you!

    I am also reading your book on hospitality and it is changing my life. God is calling me (and always has, I just never listened before!) to open my heart and home and your book is so well written and timely. I love reading it and I will be buying your book on organization next! You are a wonderful writer.


  5. I’ve loved following the Marybeth and Karen saga! I’m so happy that the two of you had a good time and that Marybeth’s little one improved just in time.

    I work part time for a welcome service here in Holly Springs, NC. I met one woman from Boston who was so thrilled to be here. She not only loves sweet tea but she also loves to spin a tale. Folks here move slow enough that they’re glad to let her finish her story, and that makes her very happy. Her change of address cards were custom-made and said, “From the south…where sweet tea and talk flow freely!” Love it!


  6. I just have to say that I am sooo glad you mentioned the sweet tea! I am a midwestern gal but grew up visiting my Grandma in the south. I truly miss the sweet tea (among other things) and have not been able to get just the right taste when I make it at home. Also, I can certainly vouch for the slower pace of things.
    It is a wonderfully relaxing time when visiting the south.

  7. Hello my friend– when did you find time to write that very long and awesome post?? I missed it! Thanks for the sweet words about me, my family and my region– I do love being from the south and I do love me some sweet tea!! Although I am learning to love it less as it will pack on those calories, as you mentioned.

    Incidentally, when we got home yesterday I made another gallon, which Matt promptly spilled THE ENTIRE GALLON on the kitchen floor.

    And no, I didn’t appreciate him nor did I have a good attitude about it!! :)

    I second Shari’s idea, btw. But then again, you already knew that…

    Oh and sorry I never called you back– right when you called I was trying to find my way through Whiteville, NC and didn’t know which highway to turn on and couldn’t get my husband to answer the phone– notice he answers your calls when you are lost!! Anyway, I couldn’t click over and answer your call because I was trying to get him on the line.

    We will talk soon I am sure, and in the meantime, enjoy getting settled back in at home. I hope that carpet gets laid soon!!

  8. Well, I’m from the south and very proud to be a southern gal. My husband was born and raised in MI but after going to college in the south he told his mother he would marry a southern gal and never return north. However, believe it or not, God took my husband and I to MI for 7 years. I never dreamed that I would ever live in MI, but I did. Yes, I was in culture shock for almost the entire 7 years that I lived there but God had place us there and He helped me survive the culture differences.
    My husband has become a lover of sweet tea and tells every one that it is “Nectar from Heaven!” FYI, the best brand of tea bags for sweet tea are Luzianne. They are specially blended for ice tea. I actually did find these at a grocery store when I lived in MI and I believe that it was Meijer.

  9. Karen…thanks for being real, open and honest…I appreciate that so much and I have been encouraged to pray about my negative attitudes about my husband and kids, as well. God has blessed me with amazing children and the best husband ever…today is our 27th anniversary!!! I want my attitude to be one of love and not criticism. :)

  10. Hi Karen..
    I really adore living in the south! I am southern born and bread and hope to stay here. And we sure do LOVE our sweet tea..but I must say.. I do make DECAF and its still GOOD!! Most of my husband’s family ask how I make it..and they are from here its weird. But I always add a few sprigs of mint and a couple lemon wedges to my own glass…Yummy! I have a Michigan friend who actually told me to post my Sweet Tea on my blog..I thought that was kinda funny.
    I am so glad you are enjoying the south!! Wave at me when you come through VA ;-)

  11. Ohhh sweet Karen, (we say sweet here alot!) don’t ya just LOVE MB’s tea? I’d say it is about perfect! Okay, so here’s a thought…..WHY DON’T YOU MOVE HERE? It seems the south has a nice effect on you, and hey, really, we could probably find you a bigger house for the same price and then you’d get to see all of us! And then we could also help YOU move like we did with MB, and get all your stuff put together really quick!Oooohh, I like that idea! And then I’d get Kenzi to help me ALOT! Hmmmm…..start thinking! I also have a 13 year old son who could be friends with your boys. I think it’s a plan!!!!!!

  12. I guess I was one of those southern ‘folk’ who defend there own. You northerners aren’t all that bad either. I’ve even thought about moving up there. But changed my mind. ;o)

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