One of my friends, who inspired me to start this blog, recently moved to Texas from Illinois.  He made a list of the top 10 and not top 10 things of Texas, which further inspired me to make a list myself.  Without further ado, here is my list.

Top 10 (in no particular order)

10. Low fuel cost.  The cost of fuel in Tennessee is usually, I would be willing to safely say, $0.75 cheaper than Wisconsin.  When gas is $3.85 in Wisconsin, it is $3.09 in Tennessee.  This is really nice to see, especially when there is a Wal Mart gas station in town, so I can save another $0.03 per gallon when I use a Wal Mart gift card.

9. Low house and land cost.  The cost of a nice, relatively new house in Bolivar sells for around $100,000.  In Wisconsin, this same house would sell for twice that, at least.  The cost of land is also a lot less per acre.  (I could give you specific numbers, but this would require research, which would require energy.  Read number 5 on the Not Top 10 list to see what has caused this.)

8. Teaching opportunity.  Bolivar Central High School gave me an opportunity to teach, which I am very thankful for.  I applied to several jobs in Wisconsin and Illinois, but I only had one interview with a school in southern Illinois besides the one in Bolivar.  The school in Illinois did not hire me (obviously), although I was one of their finalists.  Anyway, I am thankful for the opportunity to teach here, if nothing else than to gain experience.

7. Bible belt.  Growing up in Wisconsin, I heard about the Bible belt often, especially from my dad; however, I doubted its existence.  But it does exist.  Nearly everyone attends church, so they at least have some knowledge of the Bible.  The struggle is not getting them into churches; the struggle is helping them see that going to church makes you a Christian just as much as standing in a garage makes you a car.  I am thankful for the Bible belt, though, because now I freely use the Bible in my teaching.  Next week, even, we will be talking about the story of David and Goliath and relating it to the epic poem Beowulf.

6. Sweet tea.  Sweet tea is one of the greatest inventions in the history of mankind.  In the northern states, about the only place to find sweet tea is the occasional Culvers, Subway, or McDonalds.  But in the south, every house I have been to has sweet tea in its refrigerator and every restaurant has a fresh batch brewing.  I actually had to cut back on my consumption of sweet tea, since I don't really want diabetes.  This stuff is awesome, though.  Now I just need to learn how to make it.  (I made it once, but I put way too much sugar in, which I didn't know was possible.)

5. Diversity.  Clinton, Wisconsin is a town of a little over 2,000 people, an overwhelming majority of them being white.  Bolivar, on the other hand, has brought me into the minority population, where it is nearly 60% black.  This was very strange for me at first.  Now, I am actually getting used to it.  I would have never had this experience if it was not for moving down here.

4. School canceled more frequently.  Growing up, school was NEVER cancelled.  If it was, we had to get fifty of snow, one-hundred foot drifts, and freezing rain all at the same time.  Ha!  Here, we had three days off from school a few weeks ago because freezing rain was FORECASTED!  Ridiculous!  I went to Wal Mart one night (it's my grocery store) to get some food and there were maybe five people there.  Everyone had shut themselves inside to prepare for the worst.  Crazy.  Needless to say, I was okay with missing a few days of school....

3. No salt on the roads, thus preserving the life of my vehicle.  Along with not having any snow, there is no salt on the roads.  This is a plus because salt causes rust on vehicles.  My dad and some of my cousins and me went to Mexico on a couple of mission trips a few years ago.  They were still driving the old Beetles and old, 1950s automobiles because the weather is easier on them.  Anyway, this is a plus, since I want my 2010 Chevy Cobalt to last a long time.

2. Laid back.  This is both a positive and a negative (see number 5 below).  I have always been a laid back person, very easy going and nonchalant.  Down here, people are very laid back for the most part.  This hasn't helped my punctuality problem at all, but it has fit my personality fairly well.

1. Great church.  The best thing is my church, Grace Pointe.  The Holy Spirit has set this church apart and is fully on-fire for Jesus!  I was made their youth pastor only a few weeks after moving here.  This has been a blessing, although it has put some pressure on me as well.  I was able to take part in a southern revival, go door-to-door evangelizing, not to mention feeding the homeless in Memphis this Saturday and going on a mission trip to Ecuador this summer.  God is good!

Not Top 10 (in no particular order)

10. No snow.  If this was in an order, this would probably be number 1 or 2.  I love snow.  Being here this winter has literally caused me to be depressed.  On January 28 of this year, I walked outside in shorts and a T-shirt - it was 70 degrees.  Most people would love this, but it literally depressed me and made me angry.  I want snow.  I need snow.  I did get to have some snow, though, when I went home over Christmas (Wow!  I still call Wisconsin home!).  My friends and I even slept outside in the 5 degree weather in the snow for the second year in a row.  It was awesome!

9. Too hot.  Along with their not being any snow, it is way too hot for life to exist in Tennessee.  The summer is going to kill, perhaps literally.  It is already 60 and 70 degrees and it's only February 5th.  What a joke!  The summer will get up to 110 degrees, maybe even higher.  I have to stop thinking about it, otherwise I'm going to pack up right now and leave.

8. Cockroaches.  Oh my goodness.  These disgusting creatures are undoubtedly a result of sin.  Besides the mosquito, this bug is the nastiest thing ever created.  I saw one in my house the other day (in January!) and I was so upset.  This is one reason why I hate the hot weather; the winter months don't get cold enough to kill anything.  These roaches are everywhere, too.  Inside, outside, in the school, in the locker room.  The biggest ones I have seen so far were in the coaches locker room at the football stadium.  They were (no joke) at least three inches long.

7. Peoples is dummer.  The lack of grammar skills bothers me extremely.  A boy at school just asked me an hour ago, "Mr., what time it is."  I responded, without looking up from my desk, "That's not a legitimate question."  He responded, confounded, "What?"  Then another girl, who understands me a little better and knew what I meant, said, "He meant, 'what time IS it?'"  I then replied, answering the girl, not the boy who was really asking the question.  This next story will blow your mind.  I had more than one senior in my English class ask me what country we lived in, I kid you not.  This really happened.  They were filling out an application for the University of Memphis and did not know what to put for the country.  One thought it was North America.  Furthermore, a large number of my class did not know Wisconsin was a state.  They thought it was a city first.  Then they deduced it was a country.  Then they decided it was in Chicago.  In all instances, my mouth fell to the floor and I stood there in front of the room perplexed, hoping I was dreaming.  I have my work cut out for me.  (Granted, some people undoubtedly think I is dummer, since I am paranoid of piles of leaves, thinking there is a copperhead ready to bite me and I have never eaten hog-back.)

6. No garages or basements.  This is really just a minor issue, but it was something that drove me crazy when I first got here.  Seeing carports or open-air garages in almost every driveway was a shock at first.  If the house does have a garage (like the two I have lived in so far had) the idiots who built them didn't put doors to go outside on them.  The only way to enter the garage besides through the car doors is through the house.  Very poor planning by southern architects.  Also, when I moved into my first house, I spent several minutes looking for the basement door.  Of course, I never found it because no one has a basement here.  This is good, I guess, since it prevents flooding, but what about in case of a tornado?  I would rather not huddle next to the toilet.

5. Laid back.  This is both a pro and a con.  (Read number 2 in the Top 10 list for the pros.)  People are so laid back here that it can be confused with laziness.  Or maybe it is just plain laziness....  There is so much that is left undone, so many projects left unfinished.  Working at the school, I have seen this sort of stuff firsthand.  It just bothers me when people say they will do something, but then don't follow through.  Maybe I'm getting a taste of my own medicine... someone once told me, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."  I wish I could say I was innocent.

4. Banks close at 4:30 and aren't open on Fridays.  This flat out ticks me off.  What kind of successful business closes its doors at 4:30, and isn't open on Fridays!?  My bank, I guess.  When school is out, I head straight out to the football field to coach.  By the time all that is over, it is after 4:30.  In order to make it to the bank, I have to skip part of football.  This makes me very upset, especially since I've driven to the bank at 4:45 and even on one Friday thinking I was in Wisconsin where banks do not close at this absurd time, only to have my hopes shattered.

3. U.S. Cellular doesn't cover this area (at least not very well).  I do get service, usually near full bars.  But the closest U.S. Cellular store is three hours away, as opposed to ten minutes in Clinton.  To make matters worse, NO ONE has heard of U.S. Cellular before.  Everything is controlled by AT&T - home phone, cell phone, internet - it just makes a man upset.  I mean, it has a Major League Baseball park named after it!  (Chicago White Sox.)

2. American Family no longer will insure my vehicle.  I just got a letter the other day from American Family Insurance, the company that insures my car, saying they could no longer cover me since I am living in Tennessee.  They thanked me for my loyalty, but regretfully said I was no longer covered.  I guess this makes sense, since I sent my payments to Madison every month, but still, why does Tennessee have to wreck a good thing?

1. No family within 9 hours.  This is probably the biggest problem I have with Tennessee.  I actually have relatives closer in Louisiana than Wisconsin.  I suppose I have relatives in Illinois that would be a little closer, but I don't like to include that state in my visits - it is simply a means to get to Wisconsin.  I do miss my family very much.  I miss sitting around the fire in the living room, laughing.  I miss coming home from church and trying to take a nap on the couch before lunch.  I miss working out in the garage with my dad.  I miss eating my mom's food.  I miss hanging out with my sisters and brother.  I miss playing with my cousins and talking with my uncles and aunts.  I miss seeing my grandparents.  I just flat out miss it all.

But it's not about me.  If God were to call me back to Wisconsin, I would be there in a minute.  I know that's not physically possible, but I would try!  For now, though, God has me here.  And this keeps coming back to me: Will I accept it and live optimistically or will I reject it and live pessimistically?


"It's not about you"  (Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life).