Friendship, socialization and the Introvert

So all this building community talk has gotten me thinking about how we build community. When most of us think of community building we think big. Neighborhood barbecues, church picnics, conventions of like-minded individuals. Unfortunately, those type of large get-togethers can be wildly impersonal and often put introverts on edge. Many won’t even bother to attend. They are only one way to build community.

I’ve often been told that certain people won’t participate in various get-togethers and it got me thinking (and realizing) I’m often “certain people.” And what do I look for in community building as an introvert.

Community building can (and often does) begin with one-on-one connection. Coffee with one neighbor. Having the family across the street to dinner. Lunch with a co-worker.

Introverts find all interaction in large groups physically and mentally exhausting. And sometimes, even with small groups this can occur. Contrary to popular belief, introverts actually do want friends and interaction, but on a much smaller scale than extroverts are typically used to. It is easy to dismiss an introvert as being snobby or stand-offish when he or she doesn’t attend any of your parties but often it is crippling anxiety that prevents them from going not some notion of being better than you and your friends.

So, how does introvert friendship work? Well, it starts typically one-on-one like most friendships do. But your expectations for a big night with all your friends might not be an introverts cup of tea, so they may turn you down on social dates. Also, if you make plans with an introvert, it is courteous to not invite others unless you let them know in advance. I was once asked by a friend to go to dinner with her. I interpreted this to mean a nice dinner just us, a time to catch up and relax. Instead, I arrived to find she had invited 10 other friends. I didn’t know any of them and we had little in common aside from our mutual friend. They were all co-workers and all the conversation geared that way leaving me largely out. I couldn’t find any way in for most of the night and left feeling upset and ignored. I know that wasn’t my friend’s intent, but it’s what happened. If you want to get together with an introvert friend AND another friend. Try to limit the number of people you invite (obviously this doesn’t apply for things like birthday parties, weddings etc but more intimate less party atomospheres). And be courteous and let your friend know, “hey, would it be okay if my other friend x, comes along.” And if you are all the people have in common and you are the one who invited everyone, you’ve become the de-facto host who needs to make sure everyone is included. That means introducing everyone individually to each other and trying to think of something they have in common in the introductions. Example, “Kristen, please meet my friend, Angela, she’s from New Jersey but grew up in NC too.” It will give your introvert a common ground with the new person and make them feel more intimate in the situation.

Also (and this is kind of bad manners anyway), if an introvert friend is the host, say for dinner at her house, it is not okay to just show up with extra people. And yes, this has happened to me too. If you suddenly have family drop in on you or friends your options are, 1. Explain the situation to your unexpected guests and let them know you have plans and they may need to amuse themselves for a couple of hours 2. Call your friend to cancel/reschedule 3. (and this should be a last resort) call and explain to your friend that, hey, your parents just dropped by, would it be okay for them to join you two or maybe abbreviate your visit. Again, this is really not an introvert thing so much as being a considerate guest thing in general. If this sort of thing happens to you often, you probably shouldn’t be surprised if your introvert friend or any friend, really, stops inviting you to do stuff or doesn’t want to commit to plans with you.

If you invite an introvert friend to a place where you know a lot of people but they won’t, look out for them like you would if it were your own event. A co-worker’s Mary Kay party, invite your friend to ride with you and introduce her around. Jeff brought me to his high school reunion pre-party after we were only dating a short time. I knew only a couple of people there and we walked into a party of over 100 people and he promptly disappeared. I knew no one and was younger than everyone by several years. Thankfully the host introduced himself and made himself available to me for whatever I needed and brought me over to a group where I did know a couple of people and introduced me around. A few minutes later, Jeff showed up and I was ready to kill him but considerably less so since the people the host introduced me to were very kind. It could have quickly gone the other way.

Community can be built to great levels even with introvert participation but you have to be ready that it might be a little trickier and much less grandiose  in the starting out phases. When all else fails, ask the person what would make them most comfortable. Sometimes it’s an easy fix that way to get them plugged in. We all want and crave community and friendship, we just don’t all have the same ability to attain it.


Self…the ultimate devil

My friend and neighbor Randi has published a great post about giving up/limiting facebook and how the real enemy isn’t facebook but self. She admits her own struggles and how she feels it draws her (and others) into their selfish ways and causes us to sin by allowing ourselves to be addicted to it’s allures.

I especially liked this section of her post:

Self gets addicted to Facebook because self is full of pride, laziness, coveting, selfishness, lustful conditions. Self is the issue.  And we all know that issues are multiplied and magnified 100 x on media (social or not).
So it should be quite clear for all of us to see – Facebook addiction is an issue.
I see this issue now for what it really is.
Facebook addiction is to community what porn is to marriage.
Porn is an easy substitute for true intimacy, that takes time, effort & work.  True intimacy takes a lot of *giving* — not just taking!  Porn is selfish.  Porn is a counterfeit relationship. Facebook addiction is an easy substitute for true intimacy.  Facebook addiction is selfish.   Facebook addiction maintains an entire neighborhood of counterfeit relationships.
On Facebook, all the images and updates, just like porn,  are addictive.  It’s an easy fix to get quick conversation.  Quick feedback, quick affirmation.  Our facebook activity quickly can take a nasty turn from admiring people, being inspired by people —- into outright sin.  Coveting & lusting over what other people have – even good things.  We covet others’ success in ministry that they SEEM to have, quality friendships they SEEM to have, quality family life they SEEM to have.

Coveting, lusting, desiring immediate affirmation when we want it – all addictive, all sinful.

Addiction is addiction is addiction. And the reason we fall so easily into it, mostly (I will make exceptions for genetic alcoholism, pre-natal exposure to drugs etc which make a person much more susceptible than the average Joe to fall into addictions), is that we would rather settle on making ourselves happy immediately vs following God’s plan.
I’m not as much a community person as Randi is. We’re neighbors so I can say this and I’m sure she’d agree.  I’m extremely introverted and have a lot of social anxieties. I realize the importance of community and real connection, but I’m not great at it. It exhausts me, so when I make an effort, I really am dying to my own selfish desires to just crawl into my bed and ignore the world because, eh, who needs ’em? Social media takes care of the difficulties I face in face-to-face interactions, but it’s not the reward of those interactions so I keep going back for more and more. See how easy it is to be sucked in?!
And while I may not covet very much of what I see on facebook, I sin there too. Pride when I feel better about myself and my family compared to others and wrath when I look down on myself for not being enough. Not a better wife or mother or daughter or friend.
I’ve needed to stray back to facebook for a few things this summer and my twitter mysteriously starting posting tweets (mostly World Cup stuff) to facebook (I figured out how to stop that) but overall, I am feeling better about when and how I use it. Connection…helping with quick things (like swimsuits that might be more modest and also flattering) but not getting bogged down in ridiculous comments threads. Birthday wishes and Father’s Day commemorations. Remembering someone lost. But none of the nonsensical liking of every person’s posts. Far less Buzzfeed sharing and random ranting (Jeff kind of likes facebook now that he has to endure all my rants in person!).
And now I’m hoping to move on to a new community. New place. New people. New everything. And I’m wondering, will I fall back on those I know. Those who were once physically close enough for community but I can now only connect with? Will I be addicted to facebook again? Will I actually go to new people meet and greets at church or wherever? Me, me, me. I’ve given this house-selling thing solely to God and maybe I need to make a conscious effort to give our new life, when it begins, to Him as well. It’s not my life, it’s on loan to me for a brief period so maybe I better stop whining and start paying attention. Maybe I can die to self more than I’m used to and grow in grace.

The Things We Carry

I just read a blog about a foreign service family that is leaving one post for their next one. And I admit it. I cried.

In some ways what they are going through is much more difficult. They are moving from one foreign country to another. They have to do things like exchange currency and arrange for pets to be transported internationally.

In some ways what we are doing is more difficult. There are no mixers for new families in the area. No housing allowances.

But in most ways, it’s the same. We say good-bye to people we’ve grown to care about, even love. We hope that the teachers in town x are as great as the ones in town y (or better than). We hope our new parish is welcoming. We wonder if the now jobless spouse will be able to find work.

What we carry with us when we move from one place to another is our faith that God will provide and fill in those gaps that exist. That God will provide that job and good kids for our kids to be friends with. That everything will work out according to His plan when our plans seem to be falling apart.

We carry young children with anxiety that we try to quell while working through our own emotions. We carry memories made in houses we have made into homes. Over and over I’ve told William, “we’ll all be together, and as long as we’re together, we’ll be home, it doesn’t matter where we are!” And I believe myself enough to make him believe me.

Right now, after the anxiety of will our house actually sell (and I’ve seriously given that to Jesus, Mary and Joseph) my biggest anxiety is if I will be able to get a job. Yes, there are grocery stores there, but I’m wary of finding another boss who will work with my schedule the way my current one does. Jeff wants me to work in the school system. He can get me interviews, but he certainly can’t make anyone hire me. And all the interviews he got me in the past, the job went to someone else with the same reason, I “wasn’t what (they) were looking for,” or wasn’t “the right fit.”

I try to put that out of my mind because, we have to sell this house first before I can even begin to think about job hunting. I also have to have us moved and unpacked before I can even begin to be so worried…

Yes, I carry worry and fear but also excitement and joy. Anxiety and stress but hope and dreams too. Any major life change carries with it these things. But it does not define them. It is not so much what we carry with us as the way we carry it. Do we choose to focus on the positive more than the negative? Do we ask for God’s will and really want it? Or do we want God to bend His will to our desires? When we carry with us our trust in God, we carry all we need for that next phase no matter how odd or stressful or even downright awful it may seem.

10 things I…

So, I’m largely off facebook…because it is such a huge time-waster and our house goes on the market tomorrow so I do not have time to waste. And I have 3 kids off for the summer. Week 1 is almost done! I’ve ventured a little onto facebook. Mostly because I had to make this image my cover photo:


And I had to wish Dad’s happy Father’s Day, of course. But by and large…I’m just not going there. And happily so.

Here is a list of better things I’ve found to do with my time:

1. Clean my house.

Because no matter what it always needs to be cleaned. I live with three children, a cat and a dog. It should really go without saying.

2. Watch the World Cup Football Matches

And I watch them online on Univision’s sight. It’s in Spanish, a language I speak not one word of, but futbol is universal.

3. Re-read my old Judy Blume books.

Because they are all still as good as I remember them. But I’m learning new things from them. I think if you haven’t read Blubber or read it a long time ago, you need to re-read it. Especially as a parent. It is a very clever novel with bullying as it’s central element and it addresses it from the standpoint of a tormentor and tormentee. The edition I own has a note from Judy Blume in the back talking about a bullying situation her daughter witnessed in fifth grade that was the inspiration for the story. This book was originally published in 1974 which shows this is not a new problem and we’re still way behind the ball in how we address it. It also makes you re-think the incorrect notion that bullies torment others because of a deficiency in themselves. In 1974, I’m sure that idea was pretty revolutionary, and while we in general know better now, we also tend to still fall back on that idea as an excuse.

4. Declutter and throw away.

Being a pack-rat is great. Til you want to move somewhere.

5. Water the lawn.

It hasn’t rained here in over a week. My tomato plants are finally producing fruit…now’s not the time for them to die.

6. Chasing children who refuse to keep their rooms clean.

Long story, but you know….

7. Being creative with menu planning

I’d like to avoid using our oven as much as possible. And eat as seasonally as possible.

8. Exercise

Stop laughing everyone.

9. Have Joseph read to me

10. Have fun on twitter (which is so much less time consuming than facebook! I can barely believe it!)

Things I thought I’d be doing but am not

1. Blogging more

I dunno…too much fun enjoying life or some such nonsense.

2. Catching up on blog reading

Again, just not time!

3. Wishing I was on facebook

Because most days, I just don’t care. And that’s a good thing in light of my life.

4. Taking my kids places.

Okay this is just so far, and starting next week it will change. Even though hopefully I will be working a lot more hours next week. Without Jeff’s help, a lot of places are just not easy to take them to. That, and well, gas lately!

5. Sleeping

It’s pretty hard to nap with 3 kids at home, even when 2 are rather self-sufficient and the one who isn’t, loves to lie in bed with you. Plus, I’m having too much fun with them.

6. Having play dates

Summer is just too new for everyone, we all need some kind of de-compression chamber so we don’t get the bends. That’s kind of what this week is for us, at least.

7. Stressing about the move

Whatever will be, will be. Hopefully the house will sell quickly, but I’ve put it in Mary, Joseph and most definitely, Jesus’ very capable hands.

8. Worrying about my cat who lost his collar

He still comes home and mostly stays close to home (that may, in part, because it’s too hot to move outside). He’s happy, we’re happy. We do worry a little, but we’re mostly good.

9. Eating more junk food

I admit I’m trying to cut back but you know what, it’s okay if I have a little but I’m not wanting a lot.

10. Crying about the Rangers loss in the Stanley Cup

I’m actually avoiding thinking about it which is a great thing to do if you want to not cry about it.

Things I’m glad I’m missing on facebook

1. American living in Brazil ranting and raving about how much he hates soccer/futbol and how he’s not a party to any of it.

Pffffft! That’s my big raspberry for ya sour grapes!

2. People arguing with each other on Mark Shea’s posts.

I’m pretty sure Mark is the original Gadfly. I love him, but I’m usually exhausted when reading comments threads on his posts.

3.  People posting blatantly false things and reminding myself it’s not my place to get worked up about them and/or care.

I just saw somewhere that a veterinarian has spoken out against a viral post about not giving your dogs ice water. I’m sure my feed is slammed with the original viral post.

4. People who mistake their status update box for a therapist’s office.

You know who you are!

5. Jerky posts about how much some people hate soccer/futbol and how it’s the most terrible sport ever.

Go stand in the corner and think about what you just said!

6. The weird pictures facebook chooses as the image for links

Don’t get me started

7. Moderating groups

Just, no. Not right now. Give me my summer back.

8. Five hundred people tagging me in autism posts

9. Conspiracy theorists

10. People gushing about a book I’ve deliberately chosen NOT to read nor post on nor apply

Because I’m already doing most of it and you know what, so are a lot of the people gushing. And seriously, I don’t find the author to be a very kind person. I’m sure he/she is pleasant enough, but my encounters have been a holier-than-thou-let-me-smash-your-face-in-with-how-right-I-am-and-how-wrong-you-are kind of thing when asking a question and I’ve witnessed some straight up ugly, so just NO…too many other good things to pass up.


Awards Day…a conflicting day

Each quarter, the school has an award’s day presentation. I prep Joseph (and next year William) that you may not get any award. But Mama and Daddy still are proud of you and your efforts.  And he usually does get some award every quarter. Shelby typically does as well. The awards range from honor roll to behavioral awards to awards for exhibiting various character traits. And then the resource teachers (art, media, technology, music and physical education) give out awards for students who did exemplary in their class.

This final nine-weeks Joseph got the all-around citizenship award (only offered at the year’s end and the highest non-academic award a student can receive), an award for perfect attendance and the gifted gator award (an honor-roll type award for kindergarten and first graders as they do not get graded on the A-F scale). Shelby received the Presidential Outstanding Performance in Academics award, a bus award (f0r good behavior on the bus), and outstanding performance in Technology class. I go in with low expectations as aside from the honor roll type awards, students are typically not allowed to repeat in an award category. So, for example, in the first quarter, Joseph got the awards for outstanding performance in art and music so he did not receive those again in this academic year.

I sat through three awards ceremonies on Wednesday. One for 1st and 2nd graders. One for third and fourth graders. And kindergarten graduation. They occurred in that order and since I have a 2nd grader and kindergartener, I sat through the ceremony in the middle that I didn’t have a kid in. It didn’t make sense to go home and come back. Anyway, during that middle ceremony, I sat with my neighbor who has a fourth grader. Her son had many awards through the year. So as award after award was given and he did not get any of them, he became more and more upset. Finally, he did get some awards. He received an award for his participation in an all-county chorus and another for performing in the county’s annual arts performance celebration. And he got the Presidential Outstanding Performance in Academics award, which was very demanding for fourth and fifth graders.

But seeing that and then listening to grandparents sitting behind me in the kindergarten graduation saying how all these awards were terrible and didn’t represent any kind of exceptional performance (this was mostly during the “gifted gator” which many kids qualified for based on their good grades; 0f course their granddaughter won several awards and they stood up, hooted and whistled each time they heard her name; I’m sure she was much more qualified for those awards than any other child–sarcasm, people) got me thinking. If a child isn’t qualified for any award, none at all, should they really have to sit there and watch many of their peers get awards? Should the award ceremony be only for kids actually getting awards, perhaps occurring outside of school? And why are we giving awards for honor roll? Maybe for all As but so many kids get As and Bs should they all really get called out?

After the last awards ceremony, another mom texted me because her son didn’t make A-B honor roll. It turns out the requirements for each grade were different than what she though and her son had one C. We texted back and forth for a while. Me most listening, her venting. And finally, we got back around to “why do we, as parents, get so worked up about our kids’ awards?” Our society tells us that only the best matters but not everyone can be the best. And we should award mediocrity, except when we do so no one is bummed out. She and I finally decided that these awards are nothing compared to the award we receive of eternal life. We also agreed that these awards were something we needed to place significantly less emphasis on this aspect of education and life with our kids.

I guess I always felt like an outsider to many parents because I don’t bust my kids’ chops about being the best and being super competitive. Actually, with my kids, we have to tone down some of the competitive nature because they have it in spades naturally. I think most people thought I just didn’t want them to have ambition. Nothing is further from the truth. The truth is, the awards we get here on Earth, we can’t take with us. And A-B honor roll is not a criteria for eternal life.  If we are living Christ centered lives, we will be able to be excited for the good and not worry if we are overlooked or ignored or just not quite at the level of a bunch of others. So, maybe I’m not that conflicted after all.

Summer of Kristen update

Yesterday was the last day of school and it was a half day. I’m 4 days off facebook and not feeling sad at all about it.

This morning we had our first outing. It wasn’t great. I’m still considering it a win because there was little to no whining even when it turned out to be less than expected.

I have long wanted to investigate a nature preserve near us called Ev Henwood. It’s run by the local state university (that I happen to be an alumna of). I first heard about it when one of our local news anchors began writing a local newspaper column about being a dad and some of his outings with his kids. I was expecting a state park nature trail. Instead we got a bunch of woods, no real parking, narrow paths (most of which were obstructed and we had to climb around), and oh, these super annoying buzzing moths. They were moths that buzzed. Like bees.

I had been interested in seeing a Tar Kiln on the property. I had hoped for an hour-long outing. It took more like 30 minutes and everyone was ready to go long before that was up. We did see a couple informational signs. And by a couple, I mean two. The kids were awesome while I read them. We all wore hats because ticks. Well the boys alternated trying to fan the stupid moths away while I read. The tar kiln was not spectacular. It was overgrown and barely visible.

I ended up not taking any pictures because the forest was so thick it was dark and the stupid moths! The boys were great sports and Shelby, despite the annoying insect issue, didn’t protest almost at all.

I had told everyone that if we did well, we’d get a treat, well, on our way to Wally World, Joseph said, “Mama, you deserve a treat too!” They did learn some things too, which was great. At Wal-Mart Shelby picked out freezy pops and the boys picked two different kinds of frozen treat. Mama got 2 kinds of gelato, so I did treat myself! They were great too about doing a little shopping for the week while we were there.

I got home and we were relaxing when I decided to check my email. I’m glad I did. Jeff had scheduled a meeting with a realtor for this afternoon! Yikes! I raced around cleaning and making lunch (and then cleaning up from that). I lucked out in that the real estate agent was sufficiently happy at the meeting and Shelby decided to take a nap.

Jeff has to be at graduation tonight so the kids and I decided to make nachos for dinner. We’re excited. I’m hoping my next outing isn’t such a bust but again, we made it out and have a story to tell, so still a win!

To Quote Chris Rock: That’s What You’re Supposed to Do

I don’t know that the White House needs to champion dads being dads. I realize that absentee fathers are a huge issue that goes across religious, ethnic and racial lines. But I don’t know that we need a national forum on it. I mean, we shouldn’t need one.

This morning on NPR’s Morning Edition featured an interview with Dad-blogger Doyin Richards of and Gene Demby by anchor David Greene. Richards came to fame or infamy when a pic he posted in social media of doing his daughter’s hair while wearing his infant daughter went viral last year. He initially took the pic to document for his wife that yes, he could handle it when she was nervous and running late. He said the reactions ranged from racially/socially negative ones and ones saying he was the best dad ever. He found both ludicrous.

While the discussion quickly addressed racial stereotypes, it was something else Richards said that solidified my feeling that we really should not need this kind of hoopla as a White House initiative. Richards said that for dads just doing what dads are supposed to do we should not over-inflate their egos and make heroes out of them. I’ll add that for that matter, mothers shouldn’t be over-praised either.

Because, to quote Chris Rock, “that’s what you’re supposed to do.” Now that’s not to say we can’t be thankful for a good mother or father but should we be saying that a father who can successfully style his daughter’s hair while wearing his other daughter is “best dad ever” is over the top.

Richard’s larger idea was mostly dads should be good dads all the time. When people are watching and when they are not. Not all dads can do their daughter’s hair. But it doesn’t always make or break a good dad. A good dad will sometimes try something uncomfortable to help their child or even wife. Good dad’s come in all shapes and sizes and while gratitude for a good or great dad is always necessary, it should not be excused with effusive praise heaped on for the mundane. Appreciation and hero-worship are not the same things.