Living Quiet in a Loud World

I’ve just begun recovering from Extroversion Crash. That’s what I’m calling the cycle I’ve fallen victim to in this chaotic, loud, interactive world.

I’ve identified a cycle, just recently, that explains this phenomenon.

You see, I am an introvert. I’ll pause a moment while you collect yourself. Yes. I know. If you  have known me for a few decades, you are not shocked. If you know me primarily from church, etc you find yourself very surprised indeed. (If you are reading this and don’t actually know me, welcome! I didn’t think you existed! Please comment so I know you are real!)

I found myself surprised by how many people were themselves surprised to hear that I am an introvert. “But you were so welcoming to my family at church!” This surprised me. I presumed everyone saw the real me. An introvert. A shy one at that. (Not all introverts are shy.) But realizing that I was seen as an extrovert by so many helped me identify a crucial key to this cycle of Extroversion Crash.

One of the best explanations of introversion/extroversion I’ve heard is simply this: Extroverts feed off people and the energy of other people. They draw their energy from a crowd or group.  Introverts feed their energy to other people. It takes, not creates, a great deal of energy for introverts to be a part of a crowd or group. We draw energy from a small group of close friends or quiet alone time and feel exhausted by parties, not energized.

It started when I began teaching public school and leading a scout group of teenagers. I was intimidated and overwhelmed by the thought of interacting with parents and other adults in groups. I, unwittingly, developed my “on” persona. This persona allowed me to participate in certain areas in which I felt experienced or capable (teaching, scouting or Children’s Ministry) with a confidence and outgoingness not natural to me.

I thought this was a good thing. Until I crashed. Each time. After this final crash, I began looking at the pattern. Why? I’m capable. I’m passionate.  I’m intelligent. I was qualified in some ways for each of those “jobs”. Yet each one sent me skittering across the ground as I crashed. And each in much the same manner.

I won’t bore you with the details. But I finally realized, I was trying so hard, using so much of my energy pretending to be what I’m not, that I consistently failed to be authentically me. I think this lack of authentically me causes more problems than people realize. I think I’m being “judged” on an extrovert scale and falling far short. I’ve been seen as closed minded, snobby, clique-ish. None of which are actually the case. I’ve realized that perhaps my efforts to fake extroversion failed in one large area. People.

I lack the standard people skills that you expect to see in people who like to “people”. (“People” or “Peopling” is a verb I use to mean socializing and visiting and small talking and all things generally associated with being around people.) Peopling in hard for introverts. I suspect that all my efforts to do the job in a manner in which an extrovert would left me very out of place in a world of people who are good at “peopling”.

So I crashed. Repeatedly.

I hope someday to learn to me more authentically me. I think I’m getting there. I have a great future post in store about all the things I’m learning to love. Maybe some day I will find the place God plans to use me next and I will, maybe, learn to serve him as the introvert me and not the “on” me. Maybe I’ll avoid the crash. Maybe. Until then, I will continue to practice living quiet in a Loud world.

Swiss Cheese!

Found on the internet today:

“I used to have functioning brain cells,
 but I traded them in for a child”.  
Oh how TRUE!!

I have often said that each time I gave birth I lost half of the brain cells I possessed before that child.  I have given birth 6 times.  You do the math.  I’ve done it.  It’s scary.
I found this internet comic amusing because only last night I was pondering this very thing:  How different my “intellect” is now from what it was then.
Indulge me for a minute, if you will (if you won’t, change tabs and read something else).  In high school I was “smart”.  I mean I wasn’t in the top 10 in my class, but I was #13.  I was in the top 10%.  I did graduate with a 3.9ish.  I did get an honors diploma.  I did get really good (not like perfect good, but really good) SAT scores.  I did test out of all freshman level college classes that you could test out of.  (I did learn not to end a sentence with “of” and I’m going to do it anyway.)  I did finish my first semester of college with a 4.0 and 30 credits (due to testing out, etc).  So while I was NOT the most brilliant nor the most driven (by far) student in my class, I was labelled as a smart kid.
I did all the stuff you are supposed to in college.  I got good grades, graduated Cum Laude with and honors diploma and a BA.  I wrote a senior thesis to get the honors diploma.  (How to Implement a Spanish Foreign Language Class in an Elementary School Setting, riveting reading I tell you). 
In my younger years, I only knew how to judge my “intellect” or “smartness” based on my grades and test scores.  I was a really good student.  I had a great memory and could keep mental track of many different things going on at the same time.  I never used bookmarks, I could remember what page number I stopped on in whatever book(s) I was reading at the time.  I never took notes, used a calendar or made lists.  My brain was my filing cabinet.
Then it began to rust.  The wholes began to form.  Now, instead of a steel cabinet keeping track of all my information (important and otherwise) my brain is swiss cheese.
I actually found myself last night realizing that, to many people who have just recently met me, I’m just this nice stay at home, homeschooling momma with an average (or I hope) intelligence and ability to function in the world.
Well, that may be true, but it is not the picture of me that has been in my head all these years.  I’ve always seen myself as this really smart capable person.  But I’ve turned into this really normal, average person, some days not even that.
But there is a bright side.  Now that I’m not so smart, I actually know more Truth than I ever did in my smart days.  I know the One who created me.  I know the Truth behind creation/evolution.  I know my historical heritage and the rights guaranteed me as a citizen of this, the greatest nation on Earth.  I know who I am in the One who created the universe.  I know love unlike anything I could have known before those little braincell sucking parasites were born.
Yeah, I’d take the trade all over again.  I’ll settle for average momma with super kids.

Dreams

Have you ever had a dream?  Not the Running-Down-The Hallway-Chasing-The-Rabbit-Making That-Crazy-Noise-Only-To-Wake-Up-And-Realize-It-Is-The-Alarm dream.  Those those are fun, too.

I mean the “When I grow up I wanna be a rock star” dreams.  Have you ever wondered where your dreams come from?  Did God give you the dream and the opportunity to pursue it?  Did you get the dream from somewhere else and God gave you the chance to pursue it?  Do all of our dreams, hopes and ambitions come from God?  Or are they from our “humanity” and He allows us to pursue them?  Is there a mix of both?

So, I wonder, Where Do Our (My) Dreams Come From?

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be one of 3 things 1) Country Music singer (tone deaf, not happening here) 2) Police officer (kind of a coward though) and 3) a teacher.  I pretty well settled on teacher in the 1st grade and never left.  I loved my first grade teacher.  She was wonderful.  I planned it all out – I was going to be a first grade teacher.  Until I student taught in first grade.  Then I decided to be a second grade teacher.

Well, long story short, I decided after 5 years of teaching remedial reading, that I wanted to be a stay at home mom for 5 years, until baby number 3 (still not yet a twinkle in momma’s eye) was in Kindergarten.

Then I realized I wanted to homeschool my (at the time 4) kids.  Well, at six kids now and another 17 years of homeschooling ahead of me, I know without a doubt, that the dream, as it existed in my head for literally 20+ years will never be.

Now, I don’t say that because I’m unhappy.  Quite the opposite.  I love my life, my kids, my choice to homeschool.  I have never regretted, even once, my decision.  I’ve never doubted it was God’s plan and desire.  I’m not saying that I don’t mourn a little every August.  But that time is always mixed with the excitement of our new school year starting.  I’m so blessed to experience what so few momma’s (relatively speaking) get to experience.  If you aren’t a homeschooler, you won’t quite understand.  If you are, you totally understand.  My kids with me nearly every moment is priceless (except in the bathroom).

How I Didn't Teach My Daughter to ReadBut I do wonder, did God give me the original dream so that I could someday be fulfilled in this plan I could never have understood 30 years ago, this life of a homeschooling momma that was so foreign to me then?  Could God have wanted me to strive for that dream so as to make this the result?  Or was the original dream just something out of my humanity, something I came up with that amounted to nothing because it wasn’t His plan?

I don’t know.  It seems strange to place a dream in a small child’s heart, knowing that it will never come to pass.  Yet, I don’t know that it wasn’t a big part of getting me to this stage in my life.  I do know that God has a plan.  His plan is to bring me to His expected end, fulfill His hopes in my life.  If I entrust that to Him, what difference does the rest of it make?

What dreams have you found God using differently than you imagined He would?

Treasure Hunting

My family is returning from a week long vacation in beautiful Florida!  In this modern era of technology, I am blogging as my husband drives through the beautiful Tennessee landscapes.
We spent the whole wonderful week relaxing, playing, and spending time together. One of our favorite activities was “treasure hunting”.  Each time we went to the beach, we looked for whatever treasures we could find.  We found all the best and prettiest shells and shell pieces, living creatures (which we returned home) and sand dollars.  Each new item found, no matter how like the previous ones, evoked squeals and peals of delight and joy.
We visited the ocean under different circumstances, when the wave were calm, when the waves where crashing hard and everything in between.  The kids laughed and played as they were being swamped by waves.  My 6 year old, who has always been very timid in water (my only one really), was having a ball being doused by wave after wave. She would come up and grin and giggle only to be plowed over again by the next round.  Even the baby would giggle and smile at the waves rushing up on his feet.

In the midst of a glorious week, staring out my window at waves and sandy beaches, reading on a balcony while listening to waves and wind, I found my own treasures.  I left for vacation a veritable mental and emotional mess.  My brain was cluttered with the chaos and stress that being a homeschooling momma with 6 kids and a volunteer Children’s Ministry leader less than 2 months before a huge VBS brings.  I couldn’t find up, couldn’t think through one task, felt like I was drowning in the piles in my head created by the clutter of thought and responsibility.  Then something amazing happened. 
I took a week off.  Off of everything (two weeks from church – hee hee).  And the world still spins.  Church still goes on.  My kids are no less smart, my house (I presume) still stands, my garden is growing (again, I presume), my dog is alive, my kids are clean, fed and happy and my husband has smiled and relaxed more than I have seen in a while.  So, it turns out that the world can go on without my micromanaging. 
I was so proud of me.  I dodged and punted church and VBS questions, delaying ones that could wait, passing the buck on ones that couldn’t to my co-brain and co-Children’s Ministry Director.  I didn’t even use my computer until today, the last day as we are driving home.  I did use my fancy phone to email and facebook, but recreationally only!  I didn’t even take my phone to the ocean! 
In all of this week, I found my treasure.  The treasure I have been needing for so long.  Simplicity, focus, a reminder of the only truly important thing(s) in my life.  Joy. 
I so often and so easily lose my focus and misplace my joy.  We, as Christians, are called to live a life of joy.  Joy is separate from happiness.  Joy is independent of circumstances; it is based on the salvation gift of our Lord.  But sometimes in our, or at least my overrun life I lose my focus and forget to carry my Joy with me.
I found my treasure.  I found my joy.

I’m linking this post to A Holy Experience.  Please check out this and other posts here.

Saving Money With Convenience Foods

I previously posted my cheap laundry detergent recipe here.  I explain in that post that I am extremely cheap.  Toward that end, I want to share another money saving tip that goes against what most people will tell you: Convenience Food. 

What!?!  I know.  When reading “101 Ways to Save Money”, they always tell you to avoid pre-made, prepackaged food.  And I agree.  Mostly. 

When we were early married, I would try to save money by not buying ice cream at the grocery store.  Have you seen how much that stuff costs?  But, as I mentioned before in a previous post, I LOVE ice cream.  It is my happy food.  So, when the craving overtook me (usually at least once a week), I’d go to the local ice cream shop, too conveniently located, and buy their (expensive) ice cream.  Usually I’d have to take the kids or hubby.  This trip would cost me at least $10.  At least once a week.  So I’d spend at least $20 on ice cream saving in order to save $6 at the grocery store.  This is NOT saving.  I eventually learned to just but the ice cream.

Fast forward half a dozen years and an equal number of kids.  In an effort to save money, I have tried to get as “basic” as my limited culinary and organizational skills will allow.  I’ve tried making homemade bread for sandwiches (which we loved to eat, but really didn’t work for sandwiches for us). 

I have gotten to the point where I can’t stand to buy box dinner mixes because I know that even though they may only cost $2, I could make it for $1.  So I quit buying most convenience foods. 

Then I noticed that we run such a busy, hectic life, that we were grabbing a bite to eat out, or getting a quick fast food snack, more and more often.  It was too hard to get home for lunch after church (we can’t get home until 2) so we would eat out.  We’d have a 4-H meeting and have to leave as soon as daddy got home, so we’d grab a bite after, because I was hungry.  I am very unpleasant when I’m hungry. (Very unpleasant)

Then it hit me.  This was the ice cream issue all over again.  I realized my need to start buying some very quick preparation food items, such as those detested box dinners (not detested for taste, just price).  A $2 box dinner is much cheaper than the $25 (or more) it costs to feed my family fast food.

I realized that if I splurge on some fresh fruit for after church on Wednesdays, I won’t have to grab a snack after when the kids are starving and it’s too late to fix a snack after we get home.  If I buy the good deli meat, we don’t mind a picnic lunch after church because it isn’t peanut butter. 

So, my official advice for busy families with a tight budget, splurge on some food items that can be prepared quickly.  Take one or two “fast food” meals worth of money and buy some nicer convenience food that will free you.  If you are like me, no matter how often you tell yourself that you can fix and freeze some of your own “convenience foods”, you never seem to get around to it.  If you continue to find yourself eating out due to schedules, realize that you aren’t going to get around to it at this point in your life, release your guilt, splurge on a few quick meals to keep in your pantry and enjoy!

Being the Book

I have always hated the limelight.  I hate to be noticed.  My whole me-ness shows this.  In years past, I have bought raffle tickets and hoped I wouldn’t win so that I didn’t have to walk in front of all those people.  I didn’t ever want to win at BINGO in class and have to shout it out.  I’m pretty sure I’ve just pretended not to win before to avoid the whole “embarrassing” situation.  I have, until very recently, dressed very unnoticiably, avoiding color or flare.  Of course, having 6 children and driving a 15 passenger van does make one stand out, it is hard to blend into the crowd when you bring to crowd with you.

I have spent so much time and effort trying to not be noticed, that sometimes it has backfired on me.  I’m a behind the scenes worker, happy to do my part with little acknowledgement.  Yet there have been occasions where I have felt like I deserved more acknowledgement than I have gotten, causing me to be torn between my fear of being seen and not liking to be ignored.  I’m a complicated creature.

It came to me the other day, that people, events, and life are like books.  Some people are forever destined to be the cover of the book.  You know the ones, many of them are friends that we love and adore.  They are the ones that make an entrance, that bring flare and dramatic effect to the book.  They make the book look good, appealing.  People see them and whatever they get involved in, they stand out.  Covers are important, for no matter how often admonished otherwise we will continue to judge a book, at least initially, on its cover.  A good book should have a good cover.  Covers are important.  I know many covers without whom I wouldn’t want to be a part of the book.

Other people are the title page.  Honestly, unless you are a nerd like me, you rarely even notice that there is a title page.  It is a very important page.  The only page, in fact, that some information will be found on.  Yet it is a drab little over looked page.  No one really cares, except the author, that it is even there.

Then of course are all the pages in the book that make up the story.  They are each needed or the story will be boring and disjointed  Book pages are just as important as covers and title pages.

I think of myself as a title page.  I’m controlling and so I like to be in charge of things.  So, my complicated little brain begins to struggle.  The older and more confident and comfortable I’ve become, I am becoming less happy to be the title page all the time.  Yet, I’m not sure I’m ready or capable of being the cover.  I just can’t pull off that kind of “appeal”.  I’m not sure I want any book I’m writing to be judged upon how I “appear”. 

So it becomes the epic battle, ego, self worth (or lack there of), humility, they cause a constant struggle in my brain.  I never choose to do a thing, good bad or indifferent, because of how it will appear.  I don’t make Sally a meal when her dog is sick because it will make me look good.  And yet, I find myself hiding less behind my drabness and more willing to be noticed.  Now I have to balance ego and humility.  How does one legitimately desire credit for their work yet balance a humble spirit, knowing that whatever the job, it is for the glory of God, not oneself? 

So if life is a book, then each story must have a title page and a cover, along with a lot of pages to make it interesting.  Does it matter which you are?  If you are willing to be in the book, that is the important part.  Being willing to make up the story, be a part of it, if even just a page.  Is it “fair” that some people are destined to be the cover and others are destined to be the title page?  Yes.  Because our lives should be lived for the story, not the glory.  And if the only one that really cares what the title page says is the author, then I’m glad that The Author is willing to put me in His book at all, title page, last page or any page in between!

Can I do it THIS time?

Many people start a new year off attempting to make some type of health and wellness improvement.  Often we fail to achieve these goals, or fail to realize if we achieved them or not.  Sometimes we even fail to remember we made them.  I am writing this as an attempt to encourage you and myself to work smarter to achieve our goals.  There are some easy ways to help yourself achieve your goals. 

a) Make reasonable goals.  This is one reason I fail regularly.  I set huge goals like “I will get up at 4:30 am and have the entire house clean by 8 am.”  If I would set more reasonable goal of “Get up at 6:30 and have the kitchen cleaned up by 8” I would stand a good chance of succeeding.

This especially applies to weight loss goals.  I know so many people who decide they are losing 20 pounds in a month or 50 pounds between Halloween and Christmas.  Experts say that reasonable weight loss is 1-2 pounds a week.  Each person is different, of course.  Post-partum weight loss may go more quickly, for example.  But following 1-2 pounds a week makes 4-8 pounds a month much more reasonable. That still results in around 50 pounds a year, not bad if you are looking for a lifestyle change.

b) Find a way to make your goals measurable.  Deciding you want to “be healthier” is a recipe for failure.  How will you know if you succeed?  You have no way to motivate yourself because you have no idea what success looks like.  Goals such as “I want to eat 3 servings of vegetables a day” makes it easy to determine if you are succeeding and still help with your goal to be healthier.

c) Write your goals down.  If you are like me, you tend to make a “mental list” of what you should do.  Then it gets lost in the other mental clutter.  Write down your goal.  Post it in places that make sense.  You can post on the front of the fridge that you want to eat three servings of vegetables.  This helps focus your thoughts when you go to the fridge.

d) Set smaller chunks of time within your larger timeframe.  This is very helpful if you are setting a goal to accomplish a task in a certain amount of time.  For example “I want to lose 50 pounds in 2012”.  Set some smaller goals for such as “I want to lose 5 pounds in January.”  Then you can monitor your progress as you go and not get to December and realize you have only lost 20 pounds.

e) This last one is one of the hardest for me.  Don’t get discouraged by your setbacks.  We are human and will backslide or hit roadblocks.  If you notice in February that you only lost 2 pounds, then in March just get back at your plan.  Don’t quit.  If you get to the end of the year having lost 45 pounds instead of 50, you still made a great life change.  Keep your eye on the big picture and work toward the end goal, allowing your small goals to guide you, not stop you.

When we talk about getting healthier, I think it is important to keep our mental health in mind.  Making and writing down reasonable, measurable goals, keeping track in small chunks of time and allowing room for forgiving ourselves when we make mistakes will help us be mentally successful in our healthier lifestyle goals.  It does us no good to achieve some lofty goal if we are miserable the whole time and miserable with the results.  A healthier life is supposed to add joy and delight to our years, so attack your goals in a manner that will keep you mentally on track and leave you feeling good rather than beat down.

I am linking this up with Sidetracked Sarah’s Get Motivated Mondays.  Check out other suggestions for a healthier you this year.