An Outsider in an Insider Town: A Midwest Mom’s Take on East Texas


I walked into the school cafeteria. Turkey tetrazzini slopped on my plate. My trusty multicolor Keds on my feet, mouth full of braces and wearing purple, confetti bedazzled, plastic glasses. My flare for style was apparent. I know what you are thinking. I was obviously a super popular twelve-year-old. Dear readers, let me blow your mind. No, no I was not.

I’m guessing that everyone (at least once) in their life has experienced that awful feeling of scanning the room and finding that no one wants to sit with you (and if you haven’t, then what is your secret to being super cool and/or completely oblivious to social mores?!). What happened to that twelve-year-old? Well, she found her best friend who was equally as “super popular” and managed to escape total excommunication from junior high lunch hour.

Fast forward twenty-some-odd-years and once again, I feel like the outsider in an insider school cafeteria.

Almost one year ago, my family packed a huge semi-truck trailer and moved cross-country to East Texas. We left the Midwest and mustered our most enthusiastic “howdy y’all” to East Texas. My husband and I both grew up in rural Iowa farming communities of less than ten thousand people. We also spent three years in Albuquerque, NM. So, while Tyler is by no means the “big city,” we also never considered it to be a small town … until, we started meeting people.

Oh, you know so-and-so? I baby-sat her when she was a kid! Oh! So-and-so and I are cousins! We went to school together! We don’t need a baby-sitter, my mom lives half a block away.

The familiarity continued and we quickly learned that Tyler is the biggest small town we have ever lived. So, where does that leave my family? Feeling like outsiders in an insider town.

It’s hard to have no family around. I don’t think I’ll ever use “y’all” comfortably and instead stick to “you guys.” I’m not used to such personal questions and discussion. I am a very polite, cold Midwesterner. As the song, “Iowa Stubborn” in the Broadway musical, The Music Man so plainly explains, “We can be cold / As our falling thermometer in December.” I have no clue what a Junior League is and never heard of Mothers Day Out. I didn’t realize a church could be on every block and I have no working knowledge of Texas history and the pride that goes with it.

Yet, take heart “outsider mom.”

Maybe you just moved to East Texas or are about to. I’m here to tell you that embracing the South has not been as hard as I feared it would be. Sure, I feel like suffocating in the God-forsaken humidity of summer (or may I be more specific, half the year). And I question the Lord’s will for the world when fire ants swarm my children’s feet. Despite the hell heat and mutant insects, I discovered how lovely East Texas really is. The food, the pines, the winter weather (all the praise hands for no more sub-zero winters!!) and especially the people.

I have never come across more warm, welcoming and downright lovely folks than right here in East Texas. Finding friends is hard for every mom. Whether you work out of the home or in the home – working for the man or even more demanding, your little man – finding where you “fit in” is tough. You may never feel like a “local” here, but that’s okay. The folks here will still invite you to all the BBQs and loan you tools when you are fixing up your house and give you all the ins-and-outs.

So, get out of your comfort zone and meet some moms at the park or library or church (there’s probably one in walking distance of your house) because these East Texas mommas are absolute gems.


  1. …and we, East Texas mommas, will try to keep the personal questions to a minimum! *wink*

  2. Great read 🙂 I have been in east Texas for about 5 years now (Before that NC, VA, KS, and a stint in the deserts of California!) and I feel as if I am still growing here and learning something new every day….for instance, I have always been amazed at the small-town feel of East Texas! I feel like everyone knows everyone in some way or the other! I’m late to the party…but welcome to East Texas!

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