Babykins and I leave for our Advent vacation in a few hours. We’re spending a week with one of my good friends from the seminary as she prepares for her second child’s arrival. The baby may or may not come while we’re there, but I figure I’ll either get to meet the new baby or we’ll just have a giant playdate all week if the baby stays put. It’s a win/win situation!
Additionally, the timing works well. When my friend first asked about us coming to visit in December, I was a bit hesitant. A week in December is a quarter of my Christmas preparation time. However, it turns out that my husband is swamped with sermon writing and a presentation next week, so I probably wouldn’t have gotten much work done beyond keeping our household at a functioning level. This trip allows my husband not to worry about the work/family balance.
The only downside of this trip (aside from the fact that Babykins and I will miss her daddy) is the 4.5 hour drive. I realize it’s not that far, but it’s the farthest I’ve driven without my husband since Babykins was born. Babykins isn’t the greatest car traveler and it’s difficult to drive with her without another adult. However, we had a bit of practice with our Thanksgiving travel and I learned some tips for keeping my 14-month-old somewhat calm in the car.
1. Have a stash of blankies and pacifiers in the front. Babykins loves her blankie and pacifier. Thankfully, we have multiples of both items. That means I can pass back a different blankie or pacifier when she inevitably drops one.
2. Be flexible with snacks. For our trip, I bought Babykins one of those fancy snack holders that helps keep the food from spilling (sort of). I also bought her some fancy baby puffs that quickly dissolve in your mouth. This way she can eat in the car without me worrying about her choking. Usually I would prefer her to eat something like fruit for snack, so the puffs will be her road trip treat (and I’m getting chocolate. Yay!).
3. Plan stops. I’ve looked at my maps and have plotted out several stopping points, including a McDonald’s for lunch (another road trip treat for Babykins). I’ve also planned for these stops to be 30-60 minutes so Babykins can properly stretch her legs. I’m hoping to only need 2 breaks–one for lunch and one before we go through a big city–but I’m also mentally prepared for more if Babykins is having a freak out.
4. Stock up on toys and music. I have a bag of toys and books in the front seat so I can something back if Babykins starts to get bored. I also grabbed all of our kid-friendly music that I can turn up if Babykins starts crying.
Hopefully my preparations make the driving portion of our trip go smoothly. Well, at least as smoothly as a trip can go when you have a toddler in tow.
Since Thanksgiving is one of the few major holidays that my husband doesn’t have a church service (our church has a Thanksgiving Eve service), we traveled to my parents’ house for Thanksgiving. These trips are always a bit of a whirlwind since we try to see both of my siblings/spouses, one of my husband’s sisters and her husband who lives about 20 minutes from my parents, and some of my friends from high school. It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to see so many people, but my introverted side is always ready for another break when we get home. Consequently, tonight is another short post.
I mentioned last month that my husband and I adopted two kittens. We’re very excited about our new furry family members but we have to watch how often we tell stories about our cats. You see, most of our friends have young children. Consequently, if we go to a group gathering there are babies everywhere. Babies on laps. Babies on the floor. Babies on the mind and in the conversation. If my husband and I try to tell anecdotes about our kittens among the discussions of child-rearing, we come off as the type of people who think their pets are equal to children.
I know I’ve made the comparison between cats and babies before, but really, we don’t think pets are equatable to children. It’s just difficult to contribute to a conversation about children when you don’t have any. To prove that we know this, I’ve created a list of some of the many differences between raising cats and raising children.
1. You can leave cats alone at home. You should not leave babies alone at home.
2. Cats are trained to use the litter box. Litter box training is not a suitable substitute for potty training.
3. You can fee cats out of bowls on the floor. You should not feed babies out of bowls on the floor on a regular basis (even if they would be perfectly content to do so).
4. You can train cats not to do things by squirting them with water. It is frowned upon to train babies by squirting them with water.
5. Cats can hunt and eat mice. Never let a baby hunt a mouse and most certainly don’t let a baby eat a mouse.
I think it’s nice that cats have a practical function of helping keep your home rodent-free. I also think it’s nice that babies don’t eat rodents.
So, there you have it: Several examples proving that my husband and I do know that there is a difference between raising cats and raising children. So please don’t be offended if we start talking about our pets while you are talking about children–it’s just that we can’t relate to your stories about middle-of-the-night feedings and blowout diapers.
Without further ado, here’s a cute kitten picture!
I enjoy sending Christmas cards. I’ve mentioned this before, but I find it a nice way to show people that while I’m not consistently in contact with them, I still think about them. However, there can be no denying that mailing Christmas cards can add additional costs to the already expensive holiday season.
Over the last couple of years I’ve started to develop a system to decrease the cost of sending Christmas cards. Keep in mind that I’m talking about mailing hard copies, not using an electronic version. I know some people prefer to save money this way. However, I know how much I like getting real mail (you know, something besides bills and credit card offers), so I try to continue to send out physical copies of Christmas cards. If you don’t like getting personal letters in the mail, please let me know and I’ll cross you off my list. :p
Anyway, here is how I try to cut costs during Christmas card season:
Buy cards 11 months early: Have you noticed how cheap Christmas supplies are after Christmas? The weeks following December 25 is a great time to stock up on Christmas trimmings that aren’t perishable. Either you can buy your cards for next Christmas or you can procrastinate and send your annual card after Christmas. Either way, you can easily cut the cost of cards in half! The cost of an individual card can be as low as $0.16.
Order basic prints for photos: I got this idea from my mother. Every year my mom would line my brother, sister, and me up around Thanksgiving, took our picture several times, and ordered multiples of the best one. This has only become more cost effective with digital cameras. For my Christmas card, I simply find a decent picture of my husband and me from the past year and order my prints. Since prints typically cost $0.09-$0.15 apiece, this helps keep costs down. This year I found a coupon for 50 free prints off from Shutterfly.com, so my cost for prints came out to be $0.12 apiece–most of that cost was for shipping.
Keep the newsletter simple: One of my favorite parts about receiving Christmas cards are the newsletters–I love catching up on what people have been doing over the past year! However, I care more about the content than how the newsletter looks. Consequently, I print our 1 page, black and white newsletter on plain paper at home. I’m not sure how much this adds to the total cost, but I figure if my husband is starting to print entire books with our printer (long story), I can print 60 copies of our newsletter. I estimate it costs about $0.10 apiece.
Plan ahead and save up for stamps: Whenever we get an ad from USPS, I secretly hope that it’s a coupon for discounted stamps. Since this has yet to happen, I try to spread out the cost of buying stamps over a couple of months. This way spending $30 on stamps doesn’t seem like an unexpected blow to our budget. Still, stamps are the most expensive aspect of Christmas cards, costing about $0.50 apiece.
With these techniques, I’ve found that I’m able to send out Christmas cards for about $0.88 apiece. That’s not too shabby considering the number of things you can get for less than $1.00!
How do you save money on Christmas cards?
I’m visiting my parents this week while my husband is in San Antonio for the National Youth Gathering. Some may say that Iowa is an unexciting place to vacation, but I say that they just haven’t experienced the Iowa I know and love. So here are 5 great reasons to vacation in Iowa (not that I’m biased):
1. Amazing sweetcorn
Because you haven’t lived until you’ve bought corn from a vendor on the side of the road in Iowa.
Admittedly, this isn’t limited to Iowa, but watching their little butts light up in a cornfield is a beautiful sight.
No, I’m not being racist. Whitey’s is a great ice cream joint that you should indulge in if you are ever in Eastern Iowa. Yum!
4. The rolling hills of fields
I’ve seen mountains and I’ve seen an ocean, but nothing is quite as pretty to me as the green fields of Iowa.
5. Lots of family and friends to visit
Need I say more? Now, if only my husband was here and I could declare this a great vacation.
Where is your favorite place to visit? Why?
I’m currently working on an introversion post that will take some time to write (and by “working on,” I mean “I have an idea and it sounds cool but I’m too lazy to sit down and write it.). Anyway, I thought I would encourage you to read this post: http://www.hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2010/09/four-levels-of-social-entrapment.html. I realize I’m a little late on the Hyperbole and a Half bandwagon but her posts are hilarious.
It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve written about introversion, but I finally got my act together and wrote a post. Sorry it’s late again!
Today I will be discussing alone time for introverts. A common trait among definitions of introversion includes the need for alone to time to regain lost energy. Often the need for alone time is likened to recharging a battery. As a reminder, introverts expend energy in social encounters while extroverts feed off the energy of other. Marti Olsen Laney, Psy. D., writes in The Introvert Advantage, “Introverts are like a rechargeable battery. They need to stop expending energy and rest in order to recharge. This is what a less stimulating environment provides for introverts. It restores energy,” (pg. 20). A less stimulating environment often means someplace where you can be alone.
I’ve already briefly written about why introverts feel drained by social interactions, but happens when they are drained of energy? Unfortunately, I have learned the hard way numerous times about what happens when I don’t take the time to properly recharge. While I have many examples of times that I exhausted myself by taking on too much, one night in college particularly emphasizes what happens when an introvert doesn’t have proper alone time.
The Night I Caused Myself to Fall Apart
Every year, my church in college hosted a weekend seminar on a theological issue. I loved having the opportunity to spend several hours of study on a specific topic taught by a guest pastor or professor. During my time as a student, our church started inviting students from another Lutheran campus ministry program to attend the seminar. Consequently, the weekend was jammed with activities. Friday night was a social time for all the college students, all day Saturday was filled with the sessions, Sunday morning had the final session as well the church service, and finishing the weekend with a luncheon after church. It was a busy weekend that took a lot of energy, but like I already said, I enjoyed going to this event.
Unfortunately, during my junior year this event landed during on of my hell weeks (you know, one of those weeks when several exams and papers are due). I spent the week juggling studying and work. Consequently, I was already exhausted by the time Friday arrived. However, in my stubbornness I decided that I could work my full shift, attend the much-needed study session for my exam on Monday, and still go to the social event that night.
By the time I got home that night, I felt irritated and tense. I could also feel waves of overwhelming exhaustion coursing through my body. I walked into my blessedly empty apartment (which was a bit of a miracle since I had three roommates), curled up on the couch, and started to sob. In that moment, the world felt like it was too much for me to handle and I wanted to quit everything that had drained me that week: school, work, and church. At least I had enough sense to drag myself to bed where I promptly fell asleep.
Fortunately for me, I am a morning person, so I felt much better after sleeping off my emotional breakdown. The rest of the weekend went well: I enjoyed listening to the guest speaker, I decided to forgo going out to lunch with everyone else so that I could quietly study for my exam, and I enjoyed spending time with people again.
Unfortunately for me, I’m slow at accepting that I am not invincible. Despite the obvious agony I put myself through by attending that social event on that Friday evening, I simply thought of my fit as being tired. I continued the cycle of pushing myself to do everything and be everywhere until an exhausted sobbing fit would overtake me and force me to take a break. It took me another year to realize that it wasn’t healthy for me to push myself to an emotional crashing point. It’s taken me until this year to realize that I need alone time to recharge; it’s just part of being an introvert.
Signs that You’re Not Getting Time to Recharge
Not every introvert has an emotional breakdown if they don’t get enough alone time. Other signals that an introvert is feeling drained include:
- Feeling unfocused
- Feeling unmotivated
- Feeling withdrawn
- Being self-critical
- Feeling anxious
While it’s easy to know that introverts need alone time to recharge, it can be harder to find that alone time. In a perfect world, we would never have to go to events that we didn’t want to attend and would have the energy to do all the things we want to accomplish. However, life doesn’t work that way. The Introvert Advantage explains, “We grow up in a society that promotes ‘having it all,’ ‘doing it all,’ without limitations. But the fact is, we all have limitations–introverts in particular. We do not have boundless energy,” (pg 225). Consequently, we have to make choices about what we can and cannot achieve. Again, The Introvert Advantage states, “Our energy is limited, and we need to think carefully about how we spend it. This can be a hard pill to swallow. However, it can also make our life more precious. When we make conscious choices, it allows us to really appreciate what we can do,” (pgs. 225-226).
It does take some rethinking to appreciate what you can achieve with limited energy. In my story above, I could have very easily skipped the Friday night social event and saved myself from falling apart. But I wanted to go; it sounded like a fun evening. I didn’t want to miss out on what many of my friends were doing. However, if I would have taken the time to think about how the evening would actually make me feel (which I can now do with my 20/20 hindsight), I would have realized that I was too tired and drained to enjoy myself. While the event itself was fun, I couldn’t have fun. If I would have accepted this part of my personality, I would have saved myself from feeling irritated with my friends and completely overwhelmed.
Again, it can be difficult to admit that you can’t do everything. Students can be envious of classmates who can socialize all weekend and get straight A’s during the week, adults can feel frustrated that they don’t have the energy to be the star employee at work, and parents can feel inadequate because they struggle to juggle the demands of child-rearing. However, Laney explains how to start accepting our energy limitations:
“One of the quickest ways to accept the absence of something we wish we had–but don’t–is to acknowledge disappointment. Many people want to skip over this step. It’s called denial. But if you pretend you don’t mind not having an energetic body or the ability to spit out snappy repartee, you may be secretly mad–critical of yourself–or feel that you have a serious flaw. And you may keep expecting yourself to be different. We are given feelings to help guide us through life. It is disappointing not to be a giant ball of energy. If you let yourself feel the loss, the sadness will pass. In its place will be appreciation for the efficient energy you do possess,” (pg. 227).
I still struggle to acknowledge my disappointment when my energy fades and to accept that I need to say no to something I feel obligated to do or an event that I want to attend. But I’m also starting to realize that life will be much more gratifying when learn to enjoy what I can do and that being properly charged is the best way to find this enjoyment.
Are you diligent in making sure that you have time to recharge or do you often push yourself too hard? How do you find a balance between things that need to be done and finding time to recharge? For extroverts, how often do you need alone time?
The Lonely Introvert: It seems like an oxymoron at first. How can people who desire time alone and often thrive working by themselves get lonely? Fairly easily, actually. People are social creatures whether introverted or extroverted. Consequently, if introverts spend too much time alone, they can get lonely just like extroverts. However, it can be more difficult for introverts to find a way to fend off loneliness. They need a certain type of interaction to fulfill their social needs.
For introverts, it’s not the quantity of social interactions they have that makes them feel socially satisfied, it’s the quality of those interactions. Sophia Dembling explains in The Introvert’s Way, “Introverts don’t get lonely if they don’t socialize with a lot of people, but we do get lonely if we don’t have intimate interactions on a regular basis,” (pg. 63). This can be a blessing and a curse. Introverts don’t need a herd of friends to make a fulfilling social encounter, meeting someone for coffee is perfectly suitable for them. However, since introverts desire such a deep connection to feel fulfilled, it makes it difficult to find people to connect with. That’s why introverts can feel lonely at a large party–they may not know anyone at the party or the atmosphere may not be suitable for long conversations. In all honesty, this is why I never got into the bar scene in college: Hanging out with strangers with loud music blaring and alcohol flowing didn’t seem like fun at all. This need for intimate interaction is also why some introverts still want to socialize after working with others during the week–they may not have a deep connection with their co-workers.
Of course, that’s not to say that extroverts aren’t capable of socializing on an intimate level. Some of the women I’ve developed the deepest friendships with in my adult life are extroverts and I love meeting up with them for a cup of coffee (you know, when we actually live in the same state). Partly that’s because they didn’t have the same hang ups I have when meeting new people–they were willing to start a friendship while I was still studying them (wow, that makes me sound like a serial killer. I promise I’m not!). This is willingness to open up quickly is important when moving so often and I admire that in them.
This move has shown me the importance of having close friends nearby and just how lonely I can become in a crowd. The first couple of months we lived here, my week went like this: Monday-Thursday I spent by myself while my husband worked. Friday I worked (but only with the kids–enjoyable, but not exactly fulfilling my social needs). Saturday I spent the morning by myself and the afternoon with my husband. I had ample alone time but little to no meaningful interactions with anyone besides my husband. I could communicate with my friends via internet and telephone, but there wasn’t anyone I could spend time with in person. The first part of introverted loneliness was created.
Then came Sunday morning. Every Sunday felt like I was caught in a hurricane of people. Faces would blur together, people would try to chit-chat with me and I would freeze up, and the constant interaction with others would have drained me of my social energy. The problem was that I had no social energy to give–without the intimate social interactions during the week that I desperately need, my socializing fuel gauge was running on empty. I couldn’t interact on Sunday mornings.* The second part of introverted loneliness was created–I felt alone in the crowd.
Thankfully, things have gotten better. I have found a few people that I can meet with for one-on-one, intimate interactions during the week. That means I have some sort of fuel in my socializing tank. That also means I have some friendly faces to help me through Sunday mornings, whether or not they know about my anxiety–these people can be called a “surrogate.” The Introvert’s Way explains it as, “If you’re shy among groups, there’s nothing wrong with latching onto someone who isn’t and riding along,” (pg. 165). Surrogates help shy introverts like me start meeting new people. Typically my husband would be my surrogate, but he cannot fulfill this role on Sunday mornings when he has to work.
There you have it, the two ways introverts get lonely. It is well put in The Introvert’s Way as, “Introverts are not immune to loneliness. We can be lonely surrounded by people if we haven’t found anyone to connect with. We also can get lonely if we allow the momentum of solitude to override our natural need for companionship,” (pg. 76). This is just further evidence that introverts aren’t antisocial like some people claim. If we were antisocial, we wouldn’t get lonely.
Do any other introverts get lonely? Have any extroverts ever felt lonely in a crowd?
*To be clear, church isn’t all about socializing. Obviously it’s about hearing God’s Word and receiving His sacraments with the body of believers. But believe me, this is so much easier to do when you can interact with others.
Friends and Acquaintances
This separation between friends and acquaintances is actually common for introverts. Sophia Dembling states in The Introvert’s Way, “First of all, [introverts] set the bar pretty high for friendship. What an extrovert might call a friend, [introverts would] call an acquaintance,” (pg. 165). I realize this sounds like introverts create their own exclusive friendship club that shut out most of the people they interact with on a regular basis, that’s not the case. For me, I can socialize and have fun with people who aren’t necessarily on my “friends” list. I may even know them well enough to enjoy talking to them about a specific topic. They’re just not people that I would call when I feel like meeting someone for a cup of coffee or someone I would discuss a personal problem with. Sophia Dembling explains what criteria she has to consider someone a friend, “For me, it’s someone I don’t feel alone with. Who doesn’t bore me. Whose life I connect with and who takes reciprocal interest in my life. It’s someone I feel comfortable turning to when I need to be talked off the ledge, and for whom I am glad to return the favor,” (pg. 126). Sounds intense, doesn’t it? But remember, that’s what introverts do well–focus intensely on a subject or person. However, for the sake of seeming less picky and cold, I have be working on relabeling my relationship categories to “friends” and “close friends” instead of “acquaintances” and “friends.”
Challenges of Friendship During the Seminary Years
However, despite my efforts to relabel my relationships, I still find that I start to struggle when I am only surrounded by acquaintances. I need close friendships in my life, otherwise my inner world becomes trapped inside me without an outlet. Naturally, my husband provides one of those close relationships that I desire, but we’ve found that he can’t be the sole provider of such a relationship. However, creating intimate relationships often take time. Laurie Helgoe, author of Introvert Power, explains, “Comfort in relationships is key for introverts, so time is an important factor in existing relationships as well. Sometimes it just takes a certain amount of hanging out together before we feel safe enough to disclose the good stuff,” (pg. 126). Every once in awhile I will simply “click” with someone, but for the most part I need months of consistent contact before I start to consider placing someone on my “friends” list.
Several of the books on introversion I’ve read do have tips on how to make new friends. Generally the advice is helpful, albeit exhausting. This process wouldn’t be so bad–everyone should occasionally make a new friend–except moves keep interfering with my friendships. Every time I start making a close friend, one of us moves! When my husband and I got married, I moved 350 miles away from my home. I didn’t have any friends nearby. It was hard and I was lonely. About 6 months after our move, I started to get closer with a few seminary wives. However, their husbands were a year ahead of my husband, so they left for vicarage that summer. Once again, I found myself without any friends nearby. It was hard and I was lonely. Then I started the friendship-making process again and started to develop some close relationships during the year. This past summer, my husband and I moved 650 miles away for his vicarage. Once again, I found myself without any friends nearby. It was hard and I was lonely. Last month, I finally started to connect with a couple of congregation members and we’re becoming what I would consider close friends. But this summer my husband and I will move again, so I’ll say good-bye to more sprouting friendships. Even though we’ll return to a familiar town with familiar faces, I still worry about trying to jump-start relationships with people I haven’t seen in over a year. I’m also tired of making friends. Remember the children song that says, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other, gold.” Yeah, at this point it’s a bunch of B.S.–I would rather forgo making new friends at this point and just stick with the golden old friends I have.
In all fairness, friendships during the seminary years aren’t easy for introverts or extroverts. I’ve heard comments from extroverted sem. wives that even their moves created a similar friendless feeling. But sometimes I wonder if the extroverts in the sem. community are better at faking it until they make it. Sophia Dembling again states, “I don’t suggest that true friendship is different for extroverts, but superficial relationships may be more satisfying for them than they are for [introverts], a better placeholder when true friends are out-of-pocket,” (pg. 128). Even though people say the best way to make new friends is to hang out with groups that you may not know very well, I would rather stay home and forgo the discomfort of making small talk. And don’t even get me started about ice breakers. . .*
Despite the constant moves, I am blessed to have several close friends. Even though most of these friends live hours away, I still stay in consistent contact with them via e-mail and phone calls. One friend I haven’t seen in over a year and a half, but I still see her as a source of support. Still, phone calls and e-mails can’t provide quite the same connection that hanging out over a cup of coffee or enjoying a movie together. Consequently, this summer I will once again try to find the will-power to awkwardly try to form a deeper connection with the people around me and ask an acquaintance, “Wanna meet for coffee sometime?” Wish me luck; my weary, friendship-making self needs it!
How do you make new friends in a new place? Does anyone else feel fatigued after making new friends year after year?
*Question: Has anyone ever started a friendship playing an icebreaker game? I know I haven’t!