Introverted & Home

I get a little chuckle when I see posts about introverts and how much we love social distancing and are in our happy place due to stay-at-home orders giving us permission to opt out of social engagements.

We would gnaw off our right foot if it meant ending this thing right now.

Introverts recharge alone. My family won’t leave. They’re always around me. And I love them but, sweet solitude, I need a minute from time to time!

There’s this image of introverts – you probably know it without even reading the following description: An introvert gleefully curls up on a couch with a cup of cocoa, blankets, and a book while their friends are out partying into the night.

It does actually sound amazing but let me bring some reality to this image: These carbon copies of mine keep climbing under my blanket and sipping my cocoa. There is a grown man constantly asking me to move my feet though an empty couch sits steps away…

This isn’t easy for introverts. We’re the ones sliding into vehicles and locking the doors in the driveway for some solitude. We’re training ourselves into insomnia so we can get some peace once we’ve red-eyed our way to a sleeping house.

You know what I need? A car ride to myself with the windows down and the music up. A house to myself. I need a change of scenery and time with girlfriends (introverts love our people too) because the hard thing about being an introvert is being ON all the time. I need to be in charge of my own time and my own schedule.

Sweet solitude, I need a blanket, a book, and a cup of chocolate.

Check in with your introverts during all of this. We are not okay!

Black History = American History

My daughter and I have been talking about black history lately. She just started kindergarten and sometimes I worry that she’s too young to hear about so much pain. That thought is quickly followed by this one: “What a privilege. How nice to be able to protect her from that because she’s young – and white.” More importantly: How misguided.”

I recently attended a fundraiser for Mel Trotter Ministries. It was a purchased luncheon in a packed ballroom with a magnificent keynote speaker. You may know the keynote speaker, Bryan Stevenson, for his law work, his book, perhaps his TED talk, for the Equal Justice Initiative he founded, or maybe from the upcoming movie about his life. (Aside: It stars Michael B. Jordan, it’s based on Stevenson’s book Just Mercy; it looks so good!).

In his speech, similar to his TED talk, Mr. Stevenson spoke about our history. He talked about mass incarceration, a conversation I have just recently started to unfold thanks to The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. He talked about lingering hate and fear. And he made a point to mention Germany and Rwanda and how they talk about their history. You will not find a statue of Hitler in Germany; Germans want you to visit the Holocaust memorial. Rwandans want to talk to you about apartheid. But what about Americans? It would seem, based on our remaining statues and lack of memorials to the victims of racial violence, that we don’t really want to discuss our history.

Our history.

I consider myself to be a good person, albeit incredibly flawed. I’ve said terrible, hurtful things – sometimes on accident and sometimes on purpose. I’m judgmental and aggressive. I am a sinner to and from my very core. But I’m also an advocate for a change – in myself and in others and in our society and in the world. A believer in grace. I’m an avid learner, capable of being taught. So I’ve been reading books about black history and also about our present. I’m listening to Podcasts and skimming blogs and articles and social media content. I’m reflecting on where I’ve failed as a white ally and where I’m improving.

And I’m starting the dialogue with my young daughter about our heartbreaking history. Our American history. I believe that my job (in part) is to open my ears to the stories passed down. And in opening my ears and the ears of my children, I am opening my eyes to truth. A truth that I believe will reshape our future.


If you have a young child who is capable of grasping some big topics, I recommend picking up Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine. It’s a true story from the Underground Railroad about a man named Henry who lost his family and found freedom from a big wooden box. Based on recommendations, it’s geared to first graders and above but it generated some great conversation between my kindergartner and me!

For a little lighter read, I recommend The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson. You’ll need to explain the backstory of the long fence that separates the town but it’s a beautiful story of friendship.

What are you reading? What books can we add to our list?

Fall Fresh Start

My husband and I were watching TED TV on our Amazon Fire Stick the other day when we came across this short video by Wendy De La Rosa on saving money. In it, she mentions the fresh-start effect which is that feeling of being able to start with a blank slate when the calendar year changes, the seasons changes, or the school year begins. With the fresh-start effect, we feel empowered to take on new challenges, new routines, and set new goals.

Some people are so incredibly disciplined at harnessing this power that they view each new day as a new beginning. I’ll just go ahead and admit right now: That’s not me. Enneagram 1s aren’t exactly known for their ability to give themselves grace and I’m no exception; it takes me a little more than 24 hours to get over my failures and press the delete key.

Season changes, though? Let’s talk.

  • Winter feels like anything but a fresh start. It feels cold. Long. Dark. But not fresh (That fresh blanket of snow, though? It might not be my personal blank slate but I do love it!).
  • Summer feels more like a headfirst tumble into fun, rushing so fast into outdoor events and swimming and vacation that we barely catch a glimpse of the “Welcome to Summer” banner waving excitedly over our heads.
  • But Spring? Fall? Oh, friends, I am so here for those fresh starts!

Some of you might feel like your fresh start already came and went with the start of the new school year. Perhaps I missed that starting line because it’s my first year as a mom of a “school ager” and it feels a little like that headfirst tumble into Summer. I’m over here shuffling through stacks of papers, downloading apps, and wondering why these teachers keep sending home library books from the school library when I did not sign up for these late notices! It would seem my “Welcome Back to School” banner fell down after being hastily taped to painted brick and I’m still tripping over it on my way through the halls.

So I’m looking forward to Fall. The true calendar start of the season. That’s my fresh start. My blank slate. And it’s only days away.

How will you harness the fresh-start effect of the new season? I’m currently taking suggestions!

Not Quite a Midlife Crisis

It’s not often that I write on consecutive days but, as it turns out, yesterday proved to be a very significant day in my life:

The start of my 2/5 life crisis.

I’m using 2/5 because that’s approximately where I am in life using Wikipedia to find the average lifespan in the US. Yes, I Googled it. I’m not old enough for a midlife crisis and yet I can’t shake this feeling that I officially closed out a part (i.e. a group of chapters) of my life yesterday.

Why? Two words:

Kindergarten. Kickoff.

Well, okay. It’s more than two words. It’s the fact that I non-ironically wore mom jeans yesterday (they really do help contain things) and only stopped myself from wearing penny loafers with them (Hello, comfort!) because I have a bewitched full length mirror in my house.

Yes, I’m serious.

Yesterday I caught the glimpse of someone’s mom in the reflection when I walked by. Explain that to me, huh? Who is she? What does she want?

Burn. the. sage.

I saw her and immediately swapped out my penny loafers for some leopard print flats. (You know, because nothing screams “youth” like a 30-something mom of two wearing animal print [**insert eye-roll here**]). It’s not that I have anything against the mom jean-penny loafer combo in particular. It’s just that combined with the words “Kindergarten” and “Kickoff” they take on a life of their own.

Up until this point in life, I’ve felt that I’ve been writing my story. I grew up. I graduated. I started my career. Even when we got married and had kids, I was still the sentence subject. But now my daughter is starting kindergarten in the Fall and I’m acutely aware that I’m becoming the object of her sentences. A character in her story.

And so it begins. The 2/5 life crisis. I don’t know why no one warned me about this. I don’t even know how I’m supposed to act. Is this when I start shopping at Forever 21 or does that come later? I’ve been listening to Billie Eilish on repeat. I think that might be appropriate but I don’t really know. I’m floundering here.

Expectation vs. Reality: An Honest Look at Maternity Leave

In addition to caring for F3 on maternity leave, here is a list of some of the things I expected to accomplish:

  1. Get ahead on my goal to read 12 books this year
  2. Begin to wrap up PMP training for certification
  3. Routinely attend workout classes
  4. Finish the Kon-Mari process for my home
  5. Soak up all the vitamin D
  6. Setup regular visits with friends and activities
  7. Fit into pre-pregnancy clothes

Things I have accomplished so far on maternity leave:

  1. The Vampire Diaries (8 seasons)
  2. Workin’ Moms (1 season)
  3. Lucifer (3 seasons)
  4. The Umbrella Academy (1 season)
  5. Treat my robe as day wear
  6. Stave off showering until I offend myself
  7. Fully relapse into my addiction to tortilla chips

I have 6 days left though so the world is basically my oyster…

Currently Watching: Rachel Hollis Presents: Made for More

Rachel Hollis, for those of you who don’t know, is the author of Girl, Wash Your Face. That’s for me. I didn’t know. But my girlfriend did and when we were perusing Amazon Prime together this past Friday, she pointed out this documentary and told me that 1) I need to step out from under my rock and read Rachel’s books and 2) the documentary would most likely be worthwhile.

How many of you have read her book(s)? Raise your hands!

I watched the documentary. In my pajamas. Holding a baby. Fighting this obnoxious Spring cold which came in like a wrecking ball (thank you, Miley), seemingly overnight, and has me feeling some kind of way (the way I imagine men feel when they have a cold). Namely, I’m dying.

Perhaps it’s this cold or sleep deprivation (even though F3 is the BEST SLEEPER EVER – I love him) but I cried several times. In my last post, I talked about being a recovering perfectionist and what this female, recovering perfectionist loves about this documentary is that Rachel hypes women. She celebrates all of us. You and me and herself.

Short detour: Men, let me be clear: In hyping women I’m not saying that you do not deserve to be hyped. You do. I think so often in this toxic culture we’re taught that celebrating one person means putting down another. It’s not true. I’m one of my husband’s biggest fans. In fact, I think I might just be his 2nd biggest fan, right behind my husband. That’s not a joke. 95% of the time, he has this lesson down. And that’s a GOOD thing! A man confident in his God-given talents is inspiring (not to mention sexy). My jokes about men started and ended with the man-cold line in this blog post. Honest.

Anyway, hyping women. Rachel is all about us chasing our unique dreams. Not listening to naysayers. And it is hard. I come from a line of worriers. My mother and I used to have long talks about worry. She called it out by name. Made me promise to do better. I am essentially a carbon copy of my mother. Do you know her? Well, you know me. We worry. We worry about everything and anything. And it has cost us.

So I think we need women to stand up and hype each other. To encourage each other. To encourage us to encourage ourselves. I think that’s a valuable lesson. Worry tells you that you do not have a voice worth hearing. Your lack of resume builders means you lack success and the potential to be successful. Your lack of an obedient child means you lack the skills needed to be a good parent (You guys, disobedience at age 5 is actually a growth marker! What *clap* The *clap* Hell *clap* Why is this not part of the 4 year-old well visit? Why is this not tattooed on the backs of our hands so we are reminded when we throw our hands up in defeat? It’s N-O-R-M-A-L.)

Worry tells you that your lack of confidence means you’re not ready. You shouldn’t. You couldn’t.

Worry tells you that there’s something wrong. It might be here or it might be just around the corner but unchecked it causes doubt and fear and shame (3 things a lot of us are good at).

“Made for More” served as a reminder to focus on the positives, put down the worry, and take steps to owning my narrative. I’m going to lean into that idea today and I hope you do too.

Postpartum Self Care

The conversations started well before I became pregnant with my son. They came up when people asked me how I felt about pregnancy and about the 4th trimester and about the first year. They came up when one of my friends announced she was pregnant and again when her beautiful baby was born. I was reminded of them when I passed any pregnant woman on the street.

I’ve been having them for years. 4 years, to be exact.

It took me a long time to understand the heart of those conversations. Over time, the shared dialogue about the hard truths of the newborn phase, the darkness felt in that first year, and the loss of self became less about pain and more about understanding and the need for self care.

I was retroactively diagnosed with postpartum depression following my daughter’s birth. I don’t know exactly when my charts were updated, perhaps it was after talking with my OB this time around about the fears I had going into another newborn phase. Perhaps it was after my last pregnancy which ended in miscarriage. I can’t be sure. But I do know that when the nurse in the recovery room read aloud that I had experienced PPD with the last birth and offered to take our sweet baby boy to the nursery for a few hours to love on him so we could get some sleep before going home as a family of 4, I felt seen.

During my daughter’s time as a newborn, the language for postpartum depression focused on sadness and tears. I didn’t have those symptoms. What I had were feelings of anxiety. Obsessive behavior surrounding breast feeding. I felt on the inside the way you feel when you look at a wide-eyed, feral animal in a cage. I felt irreversibly changed. Damaged. Trapped.

I always committed to answer honestly when asked by medical professionals about PPD symptoms but no one seemed to ask just the right question to force me into what felt like a confession. I was unable to offer what I viewed as weakness and therefore consistently flew under the PPD radar.

Fast forward to my second time around:

Postpartum anxiety is now part of the professional conversation. My friends are here with me in this phase of motherhood; they’ve been through it and they’re checking in with me. And I’m open. They’re direct because I’ve told them to be. I’ve tipped them off to my darkest thoughts during my first go as a new mom and I’ve given them signs to watch for in case I don’t recognize those signs in myself. In case I’m unwilling to listen.

The biggest change this time around isn’t in others. It’s in me. I had people who checked in during the first year with Emma and people who pleaded with me to supplement even one night to get some much needed sleep if I refused to ask for help. (Word to the wise: Obsessively setting an alarm every two hours at night in order to alternate pumping and nursing for weeks while your child consistently shows hunger cues and you’re left with mere drops after pumping until you finally wake up one morning with literally nothing to give your child for her next meal is *drum roll, please* INSANITY. Now we both know).

I couldn’t hear anyone the first time around. I couldn’t see it for myself.

I’m a recovering perfectionist, learning to see failure as a step in an ongoing process rather than a condemnation of character. Learning to see it as an opportunity for growth. Learning to see it as a mere fork in the road where one path is now closed for the time being and the other path is just as good albeit different.

Which brings me to back to nursing.

I said I’d try.

I had a traumatic relationship with nursing the first time around but from the outsider perspective, 8 months is respectable enough. You couldn’t see the obsession. The arbitrary measurement of success I had placed upon it. So when I had my first bad latch with baby Freddy and he threw up my very own blood, I felt that anxiety rise but I said I would continue with use of a nursing shield. And the anxiety subsided.

And then my beautiful but sleepy boy began to drop weight so I was scheduled to see a lactation consultant and, to her credit, she did not once shame me for wanting to continue using the shield (a likely cause of weight issues, I came to learn) but instead gave me tips to continue use which involved nursing, then pumping, then immediately feeding what I had pumped. And the newly climbing anxiety began to subside.

Then I actually tried to put into practice what felt so reasonable in her office and it took me 1.5 hours to complete the whole cycle. At which point, I had 30 minutes until I began the cycle again. And so the anxiety began to rise.

When Fred called me on his drive between work engagements to check in, I picked up the phone and immediately began to sob. I felt panicked. Caged. So my husband came home, he took the kids, and he shooed me out of the house to go for a drive. Go to a library, a bookstore, get a coffee. Whatever. And I did. And the anxiety began to subside.

What I’m realizing about self care is that it’s more than simply saying “I will stop before I get to that deep, dark place.”

I didn’t immediately see that I was taking that approach to nursing. “I will try this thing and this other thing to ensure that I can continue nursing even though it is stretching me toward a place I do not want to go. I can still get control of this.”

I don’t believe that I have postpartum depression this time around but I also don’t believe that I need to in order to make self care decisions that may look selfish from the outsider perspective. I am coming to see that self care means allowing yourself more than preventing disaster. It means allowing yourself to thrive.

For me, self care means giving a formula bottle when my supply is fine, knowing that I’m telling my body to produce less. It means nursing only at night, pumping sometimes, and increasing formula. It’s not ideal but it isn’t bad either. It’s giving me room to breathe. It’s taking away some of that anxiety. It’s giving me back control and allowing me to feel whole. And that, my friends, is good.

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Currently Reading: Bandersnatch

Well, to be truthful, I’ve just finished the book. I had to wait until the very end to write this because it stretched me and I needed to know where it finished.

The title alone tells you that this book falls wildly outside of the ordinary. The author manifests a purposefully unconventional approach to Christianity and what it means to live out our unique faith walks. She encourages the reader to slough off the confines of conformity and allow the same space for others so we might all experience true relationship with each other and our Creator.

Bandersnatch is floral, which is my way of saying there is a poetic nature to the writing style that I don’t immediately cling to and there are also some points of theology which the author and I would likely disagree on, but it’s also beautiful in that it reminds the reader that Jesus pulled up a seat for each and every last one of us at His table, that He meets us where we are, and that all of us are a reflection of Him. Even those in the midst of the dark grip of addiction and destruction.

Some facts:

  1. I picked this book up in November of 2016.
  2. Erika Morrison, the author of this book, and I just so happen to be Facebook friends.
  3. As I have come to learn through these pages, she and I have very different personalities. Her call to action and mine look different – and, as she explains throughout her book, that’s a good thing.
  4. Erika and I have never actually met but I was introduced to her family long before Facebook ever matched us through stories of my husband’s childhood. Their families grew up together and I have had the divine advantage of being able to check in with Freddy from time to time while reading this book to confirm, “This is real?”
  5. And lastly this: It was planned that this book sat on my shelves for so long. I wouldn’t have finished reading it if I had started when I purchased it. I needed to learn a few things about myself first.

 

In Bandersnatch, Erika gives example after example of what it looks like to seek the face of God in the marginalized. She’s a feeler and she wraps up the poor and panhandling in her arms as if they were her biological family. Those of you who know me know that I had to put the book down and take deep breaths after reading about her desire for physical closeness with others throughout these pages.

I have a history of feeling condemned when challenged to get out and love people in a physical way. I am not a physical person. Even in high school, I had to be reminded when meeting new friends and family of my then boyfriend that “These people are huggers. Just go in and be the first to hug.” That coaching came from a place of understanding of who and how I am but over time I started to see forced interactions as personal failures.

I’ve been told I’m intimidating more than once which I am sure comes from my standoff demeanor in uncharted situations. And, let’s be honest, also for my wide-eyed, open mouthed glares at people who aren’t. I don’t hate you – I just really don’t want to be hugged by you.

There is this small group of women that I’ve fallen deeply in love with. We call ourselves the tribe and I was just able to remark this past Thursday that while I was initially so drawn to them by our similarities, I am now so deeply committed to them through our differences. Lord help me, I have huggers in that group. These women squeeze me until I squirm and they know full well that my stiff-as-a-board response has nothing to do with my measure of love for them.

And I think, in perhaps an unexpected way, this is what the author is really asking of me. To be my authentic, non-hugging self and to let my own authenticity provide space for others to be theirs. So, no, I don’t think I will be going out downtown to wrap my arms around a stranger anytime soon but I am starting to envision what my form of love looks like for strangers. Is it coming along side someone to teach life skills? Is it asking more stories and making more conversation for the sake of knowing God through the people around me?

Whatever it looks like, it has to be my own method of madness. Not someone else’s. I also know that there is a place for the feelers and a place for me at the table. We’ll break bread and drink wine together and when it’s time to leave, I’ll go in the for the handshake and they’ll go in for the hug.

Currently Watching: The True Cost

I am an organization junkie. I don’t have all of the acrylic containers, expensive food storage, or wicker baskets to prove it but believe me when I tell you that I research this stuff constantly. I follow well known organizers on social media. I buy their books. I participate in their online challenges. I use the hashtags.

There’s this vague ideal I have in my head… This endpoint that I can just start to envision when everything has a place in my home and the excess has sloughed away. It’s calm. It’s easy to maintain. It restores.

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But no matter how often I declutter, I continue to find more and more stuff. It accumulates. It makes friends. Those friends get married and have babies and the babies have babies and I am sitting around my kitchen table wondering where all of this stuff keeps coming from!

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Pinterest took note of my obsession and started suggesting organizational pins. Those pins led to minimalist pins and the minimalist pins led to fair trade pins. That’s where I stumbled across the suggestion to watch The True Cost on Netflix.

Listen carefully: I need you to watch it. But I need you to know that it broke me.

The True Cost is a documentary on the fashion industry and the consequence of fast fashion on business, people, and the environment. While it only talks about fashion, I see it as a single-industry focus on a much larger issue of goods that we once saved and now see as disposable.

I wept multiple times watching this documentary. I wept over horrible working conditions. I wept over illness and pollution. Over family dynamics and corporate wealth. Over silenced cries for better and my part in it all.

That stuff that keeps accumulating? It’s there because it’s cheap or it’s free and I am a consumer and I consume it. And while I’m busy consuming and decluttering and consuming and decluttering, I am reinforcing the drive for cheap labor, cheap manufacturing and for turning a blind eye to the people producing it.

I’m caught in the declutter frenzy and I’ve been missing the people stuck beneath the turning wheel.

DeclutterFrenzy

The solution identified in the frenzy isn’t a solution at all. The true solution has to come before and during consumption. I’m not a minimalist. But I am recognizing that being a good steward of my resources can’t stop at managing my finances, giving to charity, and paying for the recycling bin every month.

Financially, a $5 shirt is a bargain until you see The True Cost of that $5 shirt.

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It’s a burden to change habits, I know. When I started buying cruelty free products, it took time to research brands. Once I identified brands, it took trial and error to find which products worked for my family. Sometimes I pay more.

I expect an even greater disruption overhauling my habits when it comes to fast fashion. It’s going to require research. It will require trial and error. I will pay more. It’s possible that I will need to wait longer between identifying a desire and satisfying it. I will need to be aware and intentional when Emma grows two feet in a night and no longer has pants that fit her. I will have to stop and ask myself if it’s really necessary to run out and pick up something today to remedy the want/need.

I also know that being overwhelmed by change isn’t a good enough excuse to avoid it. And I know that starting, even starting small, is always better than not starting at all.

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Watch The True Cost. Let me know your thoughts. And if you’re already buying fair trade, let me know which brands you love.

Currently Reading: Daring Greatly

2018 is shaping up to be the year of books for me and I. am. not. mad. about it.

After finishing Start with Why, I picked up Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly. It belongs to a really good girlfriend of mine who may or may not remember I still have it. Surprise! It’s still heeeeeere!

The timing wasn’t quite right when it first changed hands but as a follow up to Start with Why, I am digging her message! Why? Here’s the subtitle: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead.

Seems pertinent.

While Sinek got me thinking about my own personal Why (i.e. what inspires me), Brown is pointing out my roadblocks to living out that Why and she’s giving me tips on how to get past them.


Here’s what you need to know about me:

I am (to steal Brown’s phrase) a [recently] recovering perfectionist.


Around this time last year, I felt an urge to get back into writing. I paid for blogging space. I set writing goals and publishing goals. I wrote down topics as they came to me. I told my friends and my family. And it weighed on me. For the majority of 2017, do you know what I did with my blog?

I did nothing.

Getting back into blogging was supposed to be like getting back on a bike. I had turned to writing as a cathartic release for years but it suddenly felt foreign and forced. And here are a list of reasons why:

  • I am afraid of:
    • being boring.
    • having nothing to say.
    • rambling.
    • publishing misspelled words, wrong words, confusing words.
    • sharing something too personal.
    • embarrassing myself or my people.
    • repeating myself.
    • being irrelevant.
    • being ignored.
    • making someone mad.
    • being mean.
    • giving someone a reason to bring up my past mistakes. <- There is so much this and there are so many mistakes!
    • sounding self-righteous.
    • having my excitement met with silence.
    • introducing a topic I’m passionate about in a way that turns a reader off.
    • tying myself to a person or company or idea that ends up being a failure.
    • being a failure myself.

You get the idea.

Blogging = vulnerability for me and it would seem that what I’ve really forgotten is how to be vulnerable.

Behind this blog, as I’m starting to understand, is my Why. God instilled in me a passion for growth and learning. I’m obsessed. The day I stop trying to do better is the day I die. Writing is my way of capturing that journey (which, by the way, is ultimately life), trying to make sense of it, and sharing my excitement about it with others. I have to say so far I’ve been pretty lucky… Not in doing better, per se, or in writing but let’s say God has given me a lot of things to work on.

So I’m reading this book and I’m developing this grasp of what pushed me to start writing again and I’m thinking about the ways I’ve been standing in my own way. I’m (re)learning what it means to be vulnerable and why it’s so important. And I’m hoping that in diving into the raw space here, you and I might end up toasting to one another over the stumbling blocks of life.

If, not? If instead you find yourself reading through my list of fears and agreeing that I should be afraid of those things, well then I hope one day to be as strong as Rhett Butler walking out the door. But until then, I am going to do me and I encourage you to do you. Maybe some day, we will find our common ground. After all, tomorrow is another day.