introversion: it’s really okay

“We like to think that we value individuality, but all too often we admire one type of individual — the kind who’s comfortable ‘putting himself out there.’ Sure, we allow technologically gifted loners who launch companies in garages to have any personality they please, but they are the exceptions, not the rule, and our tolerance extends mainly to those who get fabulously wealthy or hold the promise of doing so. Introversion — along with its cousins sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness — is now a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology.”
– Susan Cain, Quiet

I’m in the process of reading Quiet by Susan Cain. After only 100 pages, I can say with confidence that it is absolutely required reading. If you’re an introvert yourself, you’ll learn about what makes you the way you are (and why it’s more than okay). And if you’re an extrovert, chances are you have a significant other, friend, or family member who baffles you with their need to be alone, amiright?

I’m an introvert (as discussed here), which is no surprise to anyone who’s ever met me. If there’s something social happening, I’m at the perimeter of the room trying to have a good heart-to-heart with exactly one other person. I don’t look to groups of people for help or ideas for a project unless I’m totally stumped and have exhausted my resources. And if you try to put me at the center of attention for any reason at all, I will do everything in my power to get out of it or drag other people into the spotlight so I can hide behind them, physically and socially. Like, I love you all, but I just can’t with the attention and the noise and stuff.

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When I turned 16, my mom and dad (extrovert and ambivert, respectively) threw a really big birthday party for me. We rented out the Boys and Girls Club, there was a deejay, and my brother’s band played. It kinda felt like the quintessential teenager’s dream party, but with actual supervision.

There was only one problem. I didn’t particularly have fun.

It was so cool that I had so many friends who were willing to show up, and of course it was really generous of my parents to come up with this. They had done almost the exact same thing for my brother’s 18th birthday and it went great, so why wouldn’t I love it, too?

I felt so guilty about being uncomfortable at my own birthday party that, for a long time, I wouldn’t even admit it to myself. When anyone asked, of course I had fun; how is that even a question? But it was loud, the deejay played music I didn’t like (who knew deejays don’t play Copeland and Cartel?!), and I found myself wanting to hide in the corner and watch everyone else have a good time.

It was a great birthday party for a teenager, but it wasn’t in sync with my personality.

Thanks to this book, work and school experience, and all-around growing up, I’m finally starting to learn some things I wish I’d known a long time ago. I wish I’d always known that, despite what schools at all levels would have us believe, it’s okay to not love group work. Not every job requires it, and as I’ve read in Quiet, research shows that people in many professions are more creative and productive when they forgo group meetings and each have their own cubicle, rather than regularly brainstorming with a group and working in the open-concept offices that have become the new standard for creativity.

According to Quiet, “The school (Harvard Business School) also tries hard to turn quiet students into talkers. The professors have their own ‘Learning Teams,’ in which they egg each other on with techniques to draw out reticent students. When students fail to speak up in class, it’s seen not only as their own deficit but also as their professor’s. ‘If someone doesn’t speak by the end of the semester, it’s problematic,’ Professor Michel Anteby told me. ‘It means I didn’t do a good job’(emphasis mine). THAT. IS. TERRIFYING. And, unfortunately, it’s quite similar to what I experienced in grad school. I wish that, even three years ago, I had the guts to say that I can work in groups when I need to but don’t prefer it. I’ve never said this to anyone with a hand in my career path, but I would 100% rather be in a supporting role than a leading one. I excel at helping other people do what they need to do but scramble to think clearly when all eyes are on me. It isn’t what schools (or people in my line of work) like to hear, AT ALL. It’s actually considered a red flag. But it’s a legitimate way to feel, and it doesn’t mean your work will suffer.

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Introvert Cat is my spirit animal.

I wish I’d never felt embarrassed about my need to for quiet. Growing up, forced bonding experiences always made me cringe. Church camp, especially, was tough for me. Not only was it hard to relate to the girls my age at church, but I always seemed to be the only introvert in my cabin. That makes life difficult when you’re at a camp designed to bring everyone closer by having them do all the things together, all the time. I appreciated what they were trying to accomplish, but I would’ve been much more able to enjoy the time and connect if I’d been able to say, no, really, I need to go be by myself for awhile. I’m not going through a crisis, and I don’t hate anyone. I just can’t be at my best — not even close — if my only alone time is when I’m on the toilet. I need more than that to function well. I never had the nerve to say it for fear of what that would do to my already puny relationships there. But… it would’ve been totally healthy.

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I wish I’d known there is a place in the body of Christ for those of us who aren’t social to the max. Growing up, I read just about any book for teenage girls that Lifeway put out. What I came away with, largely, was that good Christian girls become worship leaders and Bible study teachers and camp counselors. We do bold things and take on big, public, leadership positions. And I always thought, how am I going to get there? Do I have to be a Sunday school teacher to be a godly woman? Even at my own church, it seemed like those who were “serious about God” and “really strong Christians” were filling or creating their own leadership positions. I worried that my faith would be questioned if I didn’t step up and show everyone how committed I was by leading something — anything. While introverts often do make good leaders and it’s healthy to challenge yourself, I’ve realized that many of the things introverts do best are things that believers as a whole need to practice more faithfully. We (I) need to spend more time alone with God, praying and reading His word. We (I) need to work to get to know others deeply and let each other in so that we can encourage and correct each other in love. We (I) need to serve our neighbors without caring who knows, without hoping for a round of applause.

The more I do in life, the more I continually learn about how I operate the best. That bit from Susan Cain about introversion being “somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology” hurt; I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen disappointment on people’s faces upon meeting me because I’m not bubbly and outgoing. And while it’s worth it to stretch myself sometimes, I’m finding that I don’t need to fight who I was created to be. She has her place. She’s fine.

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fall wedding inspiration

We’re halfway through August, somehow. I’m not really sure when that happened.

I’ve always had a thing for fall. Scarves, warm drinks, pumpkin everything (#typicalwhitegirl)… it’s all so cozy but doesn’t last nearly long enough. I realize basically everything I like about fall can also apply in the winter, but it’s not the same. I’ve yet to gain an appreciation for winter. I grit my teeth to get through it. But fall…it’s just the best (and I’m not the only one who thinks so).

Since I was a teenager, I had this vision of having a fall wedding with the ceremony under a flaming orange tree. If you could get inside my head, I think you’d agree it’s a pretty amazing picture. As life’s timing would have it, though, I got married in the spring instead — and no complaints here. But sometimes, especially around this time of year, I still think about the fall wedding that wasn’t. This year, not only am I thinking about what I would have done, I’m also thinking of a good friend. She told me once that when she gets married, she wanted to get married barefoot on a mountain. And… there’s a chance that could be happening next fall!

So, just for funsies, I put together a little inspiration board to show you what I think it would be like if she and I put our heads together and had a double wedding, Marcia and Jan Brady style. Because that’s what we all want in life, right?

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food friday!

I love finding new recipes on Pinterest, but I’m always annoyed when I go to the blog where the recipe lives only to scroll for five minutes through a zillion pictures of the amazing looking dish along with a completely unrelated epic before I can get to the recipe. So exhausting. So when I decided to share a recipe on my blog, I was determined to keep the post short and sweet so that no one would give up because of all the scrolling. As such, you’ll only be getting necessary information before the recipe. Aaaand here we go…

Lately I’ve needed to make some dietary changes. After months of… problems, to put it as delicately as possible, I’ve finally realized dairy and nuts are basically no-nos for me. Thankfully, a little cheese seems to be okay now and then, and butter, glorious butter, is not an issue whatsoever (insert praise hands emoji)!

Still, this has caused a pretty major upheaval in the way I plan and prepare meals. The vast majority of our meals usually involve a fair amount of cheese. In some cases, it’s not a big deal to just leave it off. In other cases, the meal is kind of pretty much based on cheese, so uhhh that makes things difficult. I keep scrolling through my (mostly paleo) food board, but every time I see something I want, cheese turns out to be a pretty crucial ingredient. I always have meal plans ready to go, but I was struggling to come up with a variety of safe meals for the first few weeks of eliminating dairy and nuts.

Insert my husband. He knew I was tired of thinking of alternatives for every single meal, not to mention still not feeling my best, so he texted me one day and told me he would take care of that night’s dinner. When he came home from work, I was surprised by the combination of ingredients he brought with him. However, he has a talent for putting a bunch of random things together and making it work, so I didn’t argue when I was basically banished from the kitchen.

I’ll note that we rarely eat bread or pasta, but… guys. You should really make Andrew’s pasta.

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Andrew’s Pasta
Serves 4

1/2 box (approx. 6 oz) pasta of your choice
1/2 stick butter
2-3 T olive oil
2 chicken breasts, trimmed and cubed
1 head broccoli, cut into florets
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
1 large zucchini, diced
12oz cherry tomatoes, halved
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan for topping (optional, but totes recommended)

1. Melt butter and oil in large skillet over medium heat.
2. Add chicken and cook until outside of chicken is white.
3. Add garlic and cook for another minute or until fragrant. Meanwhile, begin cooking pasta.
4. Add vegetables except tomatoes and cook until peppers are soft (approx. 15 minutes); at 10 minutes, add seasonings and tomatoes. Stir to coat chicken and vegetables with seasonings.
5. Drizzle a bit of olive oil over top. Serve warm over pasta or by itself. Tastebuds rejoice.
Forgive my amateur photography and basement apartment lighting, but I love that this is a simple yet pretty, colorful dish that’s loaded with veggies. If you’re still scared of butter, you can definitely substitute olive oil… but butter is your friend, so…
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Let me know if you make this pasta and what you think!

wanderlust

Can I be an old woman for a sec? Sometimes I worry about us twenty-somethings.

I can’t seem to scroll through Facebook or Pinterest without finding links telling me all the things/places/books I absolutely have to see/go/read/do before I die (or turn 30, which is apparently death itself). Sometimes there are hundreds of items on the checklist. And if I don’t do every last one, I’m basically wasting my life.

I call codswallop.

I like traveling as much as the next person and have around a dozen places I’d like to visit in my lifetime. There are lots of other experiences I want in the coming years, and it’s exciting to have those goals and to look forward to them.

The danger, in my mind, is that we always feel like we’re missing out on something, because someone told us we are. I think so many of us hit a quarter life crisis because we haven’t done the big stuff we were “supposed to” do by now due to education and, you know, actually making money getting in the way. We’re so terrified of life becoming too safe and sedate that we desperately look for the next high instead of appreciating things around us. Unfortunately, when you only live for that next big thing, your everyday life and the people in it start to feel inadequate.

It’s extremely tempting to believe the messages and to think that my life is boring in comparison. I sometimes find myself thinking I need to do something I’m not interested in just so I can say I’ve done it. However, I will probably never run a Color Me Rad race, participate in a drum circle, or study abroad, even though they are supposedly must-dos for people my age. And I’m not heartbroken or empty inside.

Make your life full in between those super fun, cherry-on-top kind of moments you find in the lists. Then they can be what they’re meant to be: happy little bonuses or treats rather than the only thing you live for. Enjoy what’s around you already. I promise, it’s good.

small business caturday

As I type this, Pippin is lying next to me wiggling his bottom, waiting for the perfect moment to pounce on my dancing fingers. Sometimes I think he’s getting so huge, but he’s still a crazy little kitten.

We went back to my hometown to visit family and had an invitation to bring him along with us. Five hours in a car with a kitten… *eyes glaze over*… and we actually agreed. He cries whenever we put him in a different room from us (so we can mop, scoop his litter box without him panicking over the loss of his buried treasure, etc.), so my first thought was that it would be a miserable five hours for everyone with him in a pet carrier in the back seat. And the pet carrier was absolutely necessary. As much as he loves to pounce and bite toes, there was no way I was going to let him wander around the car when we were driving at 70 mph.

I’m still kind of in shock, but we apparently lucked out with a kitten who likes the car. He loved looking out the windows at the big world. On the ride home, he did a lot of meowing for the first half hour, but he slept like a champ the rest of the way. It really couldn’t have gone more smoothly. Plus he got to meet his adoring extended family, and he really dug the extra attention.

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Look at that face. Much happy.

Anyway. I’ve had small businesses on my mind lately. Two days before I went back to my hometown, one of my favorite shops there closed down after being open around a year. Even though I wasn’t around to shop there anymore, I really hated to see it go. They were unique for the area, and I had hoped to see them do well. In contrast, while in town we visited Petite Sweets, who did our wedding cakes three years ago. At the time, she was just getting started. All we knew was that she made darn good cupcakes and that we liked the idea of supporting someone our age who was starting a business. Such a good decision! Now she stays super busy and still makes incredible desserts. I cheated on my dairy elimination and split a birthday bar and a s’mores cupcake with hubs. Heavens to betsy. No regrets.

I don’t think I’ve ever regretted buying from a small business. They’re around because they really want to be and will work hard to give their customers a good experience. Plus, many of them are socially conscious and work alongside individuals in need to help them create a better life. I have lots of items on my wish list from small businesses all over the place. In no particular order…

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To me, nothing replaces writing in a journal. And it should be a pretty journal. Flora Stationery has four beautiful journal designs, with proceeds from each going to a scholarship fund for women in Kosovo. For every 25 journals sold, a woman can go to college for a semester. I’ve been drooling over this violet one for months!

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Whiskey Ink and Lace. Because coffee. Need I say more? But I’m going to, because they also have dude products like beard ‘poo, aftershave, and hair pomade in all kinds of manly sounding scents like The Lumberjack, The Adventurer, and The Connoisseur. Meow.

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Oh, Better Life Bags. My love affair with you continues. The bag I already have of theirs has been fantastic, and I would gladly take another. I’ve been eyeing this Clara Lynn market tote — much cuter than plain black Kroger bags, yes?

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Thimblepress makes these adorable state flower prints, among other things, from their home base of Mississippi. Plus their instagram is full of pics of their mascot pup, Willow. Win-win.

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Rooted Beauty sells all-natural skin care that helps women in other countries escape poverty or trafficking. Sales of this particular lip butter go to help a woman and her daughter open their own shop. You can even see on the website how close each woman is to reaching her goal!

Hopefully this inspires you to shop small. What small business do you love? Introduce me to them in the comments!

goals

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Good morning from my writing partner and his soul patch!

I think we’ve all had that teacher in school who wanted to prove a point by saying something along the lines of, “Don’t think about an elephant.” (Just me?) Of course it’s next to impossible to think about anything other than an elephant once you say the word. I remember finding myself thinking about Aladdin. You could make the argument that I wasn’t specifically thinking about an elephant, but still, there was an elephant there. With a setup like that, no one in my class could avoid thinking about the elephant.

For many of us, I think the goals we make for ourselves are set up to make us fail. As in, “I want to eat less sweets,” or “I want to watch less TV,” two of my current goals. The sentiment is great, but it leaves me thinking about the thing I’m not supposed to be doing. How hard is it to think of alternatives in the moment when your sweet tooth rears its head, or when a new episode of your guilty pleasure show comes out with a dramatic teaser? Good intentions don’t go far without a little preparation.

It’s crazy simple, but I’ve found that I’m more successful at achieving my goals by setting them based on what I want to do, rather than what I want to not do. Sure, I want to cut back on sweets. But the best way for me to do that (aside from not having them in the house in the first place) is to fill up on good stuff. I’m much more successful when I make a goal for eating a certain amount of fruits and vegetables every day. When the focus is on what I can eat and how good it makes me feel, there isn’t much room left for sweets in my brain.

Same with TV. I watch too much when I don’t know what else to do. If I really want to have a shot at minimizing my time glued to the TV, I need to have a list ready (because lists and I are TIGHT) of things that I actually enjoy doing. I read the Bible, because to be honest, I’ve never been consistent with it — and now is a chance to make it my go-to when I am looking for something to do. I read other books, because goodness knows I have a long list of books I want to get my hands on, and our library is just around the corner. I can play my ukulele, practice calligraphy, or any number of things. None of these (necessarily) require money or leaving the house, so in many ways they are comparable to watching TV. Since I have made this list, there have been many days when I have not turned the TV on at all. I wasn’t even going for that, necessarily, but it’s good to know I can do it!

The next time you want to accomplish something, remember that the way you phrase it is powerful. Give yourself a chance to be successful!

silence.

I just want to start by saying that as I typed the title of this post, I immediately had a visual of Dumbledore yelling SILENCE when Barty Crouch announced the age restriction for the Tri-Wizard Tournament in HP and the Goblet of Fire, and, because Dumbledore was randomly such a mush-mouth through that entire movie, it of course came out like SHILENCE!!! So, I’m just going to leave that there. Moving on.

As I wrote in my last post, leisure time has been a welcome rediscovery in the past few months. One of my goals in pursuing real leisure has been to have less of an online presence (oh, the irony of blogging about it. I’m so aware).

Here’s the thing — I’m an introvert. An ISFJ, to be exact, since I jumped on the bandwagon and took the exceptionally accurate 16 Personalities test that everyone and their mother is taking on Facebook. I don’t people very well for extended periods of time (people is henceforth a verb). I can people for awhile, but then I meet and exceed my quota for any given day, and my brain glazes over (you heard me; not my eyes, my brain), and my flight instinct kicks in and I wish on the Mirror of Erised that it was socially acceptable to just run out of a room, no explanations required. I used to think that scrolling through Facebook was a safer way to “interact” because I could learn about people’s lives in my own timing (that sounds so selfish, now that I type it out). Instead, I’ve realized that I get just as worn out from all the Facebook peopling as I do from IRL peopling. And can we all just admit something? It’s not as pleasant on Facebook.

It’s not pleasant when Facebook becomes a platform for exposing everyone to snarky rants about something the author may or may not actually know anything about. It’s not pleasant seeing my “friends” call for the downfall of an organization based on a half truth an ignorant person blew up and circulated. It’s not pleasant seeing people say hurtful things that are clearly intended for specific people in their lives rather than lovingly discussing the issue with that person and working to reconcile. Sensitive issues are commented on like ESPN meets Joan Rivers with no thought given to who is being hurt.

I get worn out reading Facebook. For me, Instagram is a different story because of the accounts I follow. I’ve found several dynamite women who love Jesus and are using their talents to love on the people around them, so scrolling through Instagram has become very uplifting. But I go to Facebook, and I almost instantly feel discouraged.

So why do I do this to myself? Good question. I’ve been telling myself that I’m going to spend less time on Facebook, so I deleted the app from my phone and thought I had taken a big step. False. It has been just as easy for me to spend significant amounts of time on Facebook just using Safari. Less is clearly not a goal I’m capable of reaching, so today marks the beginning of one week completely without Facebook. I want to see what I can do with the time I normally spend mindlessly scrolling, and I want to find out what I can hear with all the new silence.

How can you work to make room for silence?