Saturday, April 2, 2016

Living as an Extrovert in an Introverted World

That title seems backwards, doesn't it? Isn't the phrase - How to live as an INTROVERT in an EXTROVERT world? Only I don't think it's an extroverted world.

I've spent wasted way too much time Googling statistics on how many Introverts/Extroverts there are in the world. (In my best Napoleon Dynamite voice: "Like anyone could ever know that!")

I have had a realization lately that me - a RAGING Extrovert, has probably close to 98% introverted friends. Tell me how this makes sense? Not only that I would have mostly introverted friends, but also ....where are all the Extroverts?

So I did what any logical, statistic seeking person would do - I took my poll to Social Media. Between Instagram and Facebook, of the 2000+ people that COULD have answered, only 58 did. Of those 58...38 were Introverts, 10 were Extroverts, and 10 considered themselves the new addition to the bunch - "Ambivert". Which, if you've ever taken they Myers Briggs Personality Profile Test, I'm gonna guess those Ambiverts are NF's. I'm KIDDING, people!! Mostly. But for the record, spell check does not recognize the word, Ambivert. And in case you don't know what the word, Ambivert, means: a person whose personality has a balance of extrovert and introvert features. Now, I feel the need to point out that MOST of my real life friends did not answer my poll. (I'm pretty sure they've blocked me.) I'm gonna throw in to that official count about 30 more Introverts and negative 3 Extroverts.

First of all, I think part of the problem in recognizing what side of the scale we lean to is an understanding of the words, Introvert and Extrovert. I am of the understanding that many people believe the word, Introvert, to mean someone who doesn't like being around people. Therefore an Extrovert  is someone who loves being around people. I suppose that is an okay definition, but it runs much deeper. For fear of boring you, I will shorten it. The two terms are really about where you derive your energy. Introverts need alone time to be recharged, and extroverts need people to be recharged. I'm over-simplifying it. You can Google it if you care. 

Like I said, recently I was surveying my real life friends and had a realization of how many of my friends are introverted. I just don't get this. You would think as an extrovert I would 1) be attracted to, and 2) attract other extroverts. Or maybe, as I've often joked with some of my severely introverted friends, that I attract introverted people because they know they won't have to actually talk in my presence. It's very safe for everyone. 

I was intrigued by the lack of extroverts responding to my little poll. Where are all the extroverts???!!! When it comes to social media, the only logical explanation was that they aren't ON social media to see my post. They are out doing what extroverts do best - being with people. I've also often thought that introverts tend to have the highest following, likes, hearts, whatever...on Social Media. My theory is because introverts are generally private people. So when they do post - the world listens. We all want to know what's happening behind those pulled curtains. Us Extroverts? We don't even own curtains. 

These are all generalizations. To further the stereotype, when we think of the word, introvert, we think of someone who doesn't like people - or at least being around them. We assume they are shy, and maybe even socially awkward. Standoff-ish and disconnected may be added to the list. As for extroverts, we think of them as the life of the party. Outgoing - even obnoxious at times. They are loud busy bodies who can't ever keep to themselves. (Have I offended everyone equally? K. Good.)

I know a lot of introverts who most people would disagree with the reality that they are introverts because, as according to Jen Hatmaker, they are "high-functioning introverts". Meaning they {gasp} like people. I know a few extroverts who I also have questioned their diagnosis. But only because even in their extroverted self, they pick a few close friends to re-fuel with while the rest of the world goes on believing they are an Introvert.   

Moving on to my point.

On an almost daily basis, I feel like I am "too much" for those in my life which is full of introverts. I fear I suck the life out of all of my friends, and therefore need to bounce from friend to friend to avoid doing so. (Such is the life of an extrovert living among introverts, I suppose.) I see the introvert/extrovert thing thrown out as behavioral reasoning almost daily. And I don't like it. Similar to all personality profiles - I don't like when we hide behind "that's just how I am". Because I don't think that is how we are designed to live least not fully.  When we use how we are "wired" as a means to live only for our own needs to be met, we miss out on community the way God has designed it.

Philippians 2:3-4
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also the the interests of others.

I'm not intending to attack anyone with this post. My hope is to encourage people to do just what it says in Philippians to do.... look to the interest of others. In doing so, I believe we will leave more fulfilled and our little circle of influence will feel more loved and valued.

I have a very introverted friend who, through conversation, we have been able to recognize the hurtful tendencies that introverts/extroverts can put on each other. I appreciate that. She has been able to voice that there are times she needs to pull away, but that she does in fact want to be a friend to me. And, I have been able to voice that I feel like I'm bleeding her dry, and that's an awful feeling. 

We all want to be pursued. Even extroverts....especially extroverts. That's hard to do when we are only looking out for ourselves. The introvert waits for the extrovert and the extrovert waits for ....well, anyone. But what if we shelved our "needs" and pursued one other with a desire to know and be known? To serve? Because God created us to live that way. I am not saying He created us all to be extroverts, I realize that could sound like that....but He did create us to know and be known, and to love, and to serve, and to lay our lives down for others......the list is LONG for how he created us to live, and it has very little to do with how he created US, but instead everything to do with DYING to US. What if we stopped trying to cling to, or hide behind a temperament or personality trait, and instead chose to step outside of what feels "normal" to us for the sake of loving someone else? Can you imagine that kind of community? I'm trying to.... 

I realize I never actually addressed how to live as an Extrovert in an Introverted World. Because, I don't know how. I thought the answer was in backing off of my introverted them their space. I don't know generally how that plays out for my introverted friends, but it can leave me feeling very lonely. Maybe me feeling lonely IS me laying my life down for my introverted friends? I don't know. If you Google how to live as an Introvert in an Extroverted world....there will be lots of advice. From what I've read, most of it tells introverts to just be them and not feel bad about it. (That was a very short and uninspiring paraphrase.) But I wonder where that leaves the Extroverts? Because I personally, have grown to believe that the danger of being an Extrovert means you are just needy. What a gross feeling. 

I'm rambling now. I would love to hear from Introverts AND Extroverts - how do you want to best be loved by the opposite temperament? And, I challenge you to answer that question NOT with: "I want them to let me be alone", or "I want them to be with me". I don't believe we live in an introverted OR extroverted world. We live in an image bearing world. We are all created in the image of God (whom I suppose would be the Original Ambivert??) - so how do we extend grace and love to those whose Image needs different things?

Discuss amongst yourselves....I'm all verklempt...

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Be Still

Per Wikipedia: The fight-or-flight response (also called the fight, flight, freeze, or fawn response [in PTSD], hyperarousal, or the acute stress response) is a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival. 

In the world of Fight, Flight or Freeze....depending on the situation, I am either 100% fight or 100% flight. Freezing seems weak to me. An excuse can always be given for fighting or flighting, but freezing??? It's just not me. (No offense to you if freezing IS you...all three reactions are no good seeing how they are all avoidance anyway. I'm just saying why I'm not a freezer.)

At the beginning of each year, I pick a word (or five) for the year. 2015 my word(s) were Truth, Rest, Strength and Joy. 2015 is not a year I can claim victory over. I battled in all of these areas. Sometimes fighting for them, and other times trying to find the nearest Exit sign. I don't miss 2015. 

As 2016 rolled into existence, I found myself coming before the Lord, so weary, asking for my word for the year. I would scribble down some words, only to cross them off because they didn't seem right. The one word that I kept thinking would be my guidepost for the year was FIGHT. 2015 wasn't going to get the best of me! In the struggles of my health, my job, my marriage, my family, my ministry - I was ready to put on my big girl panties and fight! Flight was no longer an option.

But then this happened. I was reading in Deuteronomy (26:18-19) and this jumped out: 

18 And the Lord has declared this day that you are his people, his treasured possession as he promised, and that you are to keep all his commands. 19 He has declared that he will set you in praise, fame and honor high above all the nations he has made and that you will be a people holy to the Lord your God, as he promised.

Now, at risk of completely taking these verses out of context or twisting them into some prosperity theology, bear with me for a minute. What stood out to me was, 1) I'm a TREASURED possession. (Not that I live that truth, but true it is.) And 2) HE WILL SET YOU. (Duly noted, it does not say - Claw your way to the top, claw your way into the existence you deem, HE WILL SET me.)

I realized in that moment that I HAD been fighting. Scratch that, I had been striving. Maybe there is a difference. I had been striving to make my world the way I wanted it. To be the person I dreamed would be fulfilling. To be anything but content, joyful or even thankful with my current lot. The list is long, really.

And just like that - in an instance, my word FIGHT was replaced with BE STILL.

What???!!! No!!! You've got to be kidding me! Isn't being still the same thing as freezing? It's weak! It feels like surrender......

It feels like surrender.

Naturally, I fought this idea.

Until this past weekend that is, when I was at a retreat with millions of other women around the world. For the third year in a row, I have had the privilege of hosting a local IF:Gathering. One of the things I love about this weekend is the ability to glean from so many different women (and men this year) all in different places of their journey. Everyone is sure to leave the weekend with something that resonated with them! And resonate it did.

You could listen to the stories of hundreds of women who participated in this conference and probably hear hundreds of different themes. The theme I walked away with, however, was that God has placed me...he has set me. (Funny how that worked out, huh?) I am where he wants me, dealing with what he knew he had planned for me, and he is not asking me to make much of myself or my circumstances in the midst of it. And he is most certainly not asking me to flee it. Instead he was urging me again this past weekend to be still. To let him fight for me.

This makes absolutely no sense to me still, but I'm excited to figure it out let Him show me. I know I have a responsibility to still do things. To work diligently. To take my medicine and go to doctors appointments. To serve my church and my family. I do not believe that being still lets me off the hook of having to work or be faithful. Maybe it just has much more to do with a heart posture that accepts where he has set me, his treasured possession, and knowing full well that I cannot use my magic wand to manipulate life into the way I think it should be. Maybe it has more to do with truly believing that with every step I take in faith (and even in doubt), He has a plan for it. I guess I'll find out. But my prayer for this season is that I can get radically okay with my weakness. That instead of throwing punches or sprinting in the opposite direction of all that I am not okay with - I would just freeze.

Can you just imagine the rest that could be found when we actually let his strength manifest in our weakness? The rest that could come from putting down my ammunition and letting HIM fight for me??

I'm ready. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Since November.....

My last post was November 4, 2015. That is way too long to be gone from something I love so much. You'll need to bear with me on this one though. I'm not sure how much sense I will make. Please try to follow along. Let me explain.

If you have been around these parts for longer than half a second, you have probably heard me talk about my health woes over the past couple of years. I began running about 6 years ago. I fell in love with the sport, with the community. I was HEALTHY for the first time in my life. June 22, 2013 was my last race. Just six weeks prior I had completed my first and only full marathon. The next several months I spiraled fast and furious. My health was fleeting. I suppose all of our health is fleeting.  And despite my best efforts, I could not get it under control. I began seeing countless doctors and specialists to try and figure out what was wrong with me. Some previous spinal issues were the only thing any of us could pinpoint. I don't really need to rehash this story. I've blogged about it before. Many times. Most notably, February 19, 2014, I shared about how I was ready to embrace the pain. I couldn't stay numb. Well....I had no idea what was coming in the next two years.

My last half marathon - June 22, 2013

On November 5th, 2015 (the day after my last blog post) - I had a call from my doctor telling me that recent blood work revealed that I had Lyme Disease. Um. What? I don't recall ever being bitten by a tic in my life. Heck, I don't think I've ever even seen one! But that's what I had. And it explained everything. Back story, my chiropractor for YEARS had been asking me to be tested for Lyme Disease. I would smile and thank him politely and tell him exactly what I just told you - I have never been bit by a tic. In November, he knew I was heading in for some labs as I had taken yet another turn for the worse. He strongly encouraged me to request a test for Lyme (which somehow had NEVER been run in my many years of trying to navigate my random health issues), and to just get him off my back - I agreed. I'm so thankful I did. But to think of the results?? I feel so invaded! Stupid tic.

So Lyme Disease. What the heck is it? (Don't worry, this entire post isn't really about Lyme Disease...hang on...) Well, it mimics everything apparently. And from the list below, my Doctors had looked at everything (and so much more), except ALS. I was a mystery. A frustrated mystery.

Now that I know what I'm dealing with, the learning curve has been steep. I've taken in information everyday since November 5th about what this is, how it is effecting me and how to #killallthelyme. It honestly did my mind and heart so much good to just KNOW what I was dealing with. I've always felt like I could deal with anything that comes at me as long as I know what it is. Me and the unknown are not friends.

My Doctor immediately started me on medicine to begin to eradicate the bacteria. I also was able to get in to a Lyme Specialist about a month after my diagnosis. That's when the real fun started. See, during treatment for something like Lyme disease, a little phenomenon known as The Herxheimer Reaction sets in. The first few months of treatment have been Brutal (with a capital B). Unless you are a nerd and actually follow that link to read about what a Herxheimer Reaction is (Herxing for short) - let me just sum it up. Basically, every symptom I've ever had for the past 12 years (which is when I began having symptoms of this awful disease) have all returned all at once - and on steroids.

So what is Lyme TO ME? Well, over the past 12 years it has been a lot of things. But in the past three months....I just want to tell you a bit about where I've been, and why I haven't been here. Like I said, it's been every symptom I've ever had on steroids. I have had days on end where I can't turn my head. Heal pain that is so intense that I stand up and fall back down. Numbness and tingling down the entire left side of my body - making it difficult to sleep, hold things, walk for extended amounts of time, and type. Joint pain that makes me assume I'm 80. Muscle pain - scratch that, bone pain. Fatigue that fully warrants narcolepsy. (For real. One minute I'm standing, the next I better be near the couch or my bed or it will get ugly fast.) Simple tasks like showering and getting dressed in the morning leave me feeling more sore than running that marathon. I have tremors/spasms in my left arm that freak my kids out. Sometimes I like to "tremor" near the back of their head just for kicks. I have lymph nodes in my neck that look like a giant goiter. Thank God for #sweaterweather. And the one that has probably been the hardest for me to handle - cognitive. Several months before my diagnosis, I began telling Aaron I was worried I had early onset Alzheimer's. I would go to the grocery store and walk up and down every isle not remembering why I was there. I would leave with milk because we always need milk. But that was never really what I went for. There have been moments I couldn't remember how to get home. Thankfully I have a teen driver who is almost always with me. I will be talking and stop mid sentence not even remembering we were..... sorry...what are we talking about? I can't find words, and if I do find them, I can't get them out. Reading is VERY difficult, because the words form a big black blob instead of smooth sentences. It takes me 20 minutes to read and comprehend 5 sentences. I can barely get my thoughts out in a status update on Facebook. What I once would pop out in half a second now takes me 15 minutes of typing and re-reading to see if it makes sense. Most of the time I think it doesn't. And as for writing....something I LOVE to do...well, if you are still reading - you are understanding why I haven't been writing. It has taken me almost two hours to get this all out. I hate this.

So that's all. I don't want to talk anymore what Lyme is. I want to tell you my heart.  I shared this with some friends today....and because my brain can't do it again, I will just cut and paste....

I've generally managed my Dx well...until yesterday. I cried most of the day. 2.5 years ago I had enjoyed 3 years of being the HEALTHIEST I've ever been in my life. (Which is a huge deal for this girl who battled an eating disorder her entire life.) I was truly, genuinely healthy - physically, mentally and emotionally. I was running half marathons regularly, and pushed for a full Marathon. I was at a healthy weight. I had a thriving health business. Then within 3 months post marathon, I spiraled fast and furious. The next 2 years were spent trying to figure out what was wrong. Now I know. I just don't get how Lyme (which I've probably had for over 12 years) attacked so fast and when I was at my healthiest. Was it the stress of the marathon that brought it on? Stress of life? I don't know. But I miss my healthy self. I miss running. I miss being able to take a shower and get dressed in the morning without needing to take a 30 min rest break. I can't wait to return! As for today, I'm back to fighting. #lymewarrior 

As much as I have been thankful for a diagnosis, this has all been a little surreal. The emotional roller coaster over the past few years (and even still currently with some remaining strings waiting to be tied) has been more than I thought I could handle. But here I am. Still standing. I honestly feel like I'm just in survival mode. I have a family to take care of, a church to serve, a business to run....and at the end of each day - sleep welcomes me. All 10 hours of it. I don't understand what God has for me in this - and I don't believe I may ever know. But it is certainly forcing me to decide if I trust him with my life. He knew these days were coming. I'd be lying if I said I was fully okay with it. Like Jacob, I've wrestled. I'm still wrestling. And my limp is severe. And I know we aren't done yet. 

Here's the raw truth. I hate that I was at such a good place in my life (mentally, physically, etc) and it's gone now. I hate that I can't run, or bike, or walk the dogs, or walk longer than 10 minutes period. I hate that I can't write. I hate that I can't read. I hate that I can't take care of my family. I hate that I have to endure this (and that those around me have to endure me!). I know the right response is that in this life I will have trouble, and Jesus is no stranger to pain, and why should these things NOT happen to me....and I try to tell myself those things regularly. But I gotta be honest. Everyday for the past three months, it has not come easy to believe these things from the core of my being. I'm sad and angry. Come Lord Jesus, come. But equally at the core of my being I can fully say that I believe He loves me. And that matters most. 

I realize this was the most lame blog post I have ever written. And it's not entirely important. And why are you still reading? But I had to start somewhere, so this seemed logical. I'm going to try to write more frequently. I fear it will be a bunch of nonsense as this post has been - but writing brings me life and joy.  See you soon...  

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

A Little Blurb to my Baby Brittons (on Social Media)

Dear Baby Brittons,

I began blogging many years ago. I don't exactly remember when, but you can easily figure it out yourself. I started writing for many reasons. A few of the top ones being that I just really enjoy writing. It is actually how I often process my own thoughts. Also, I long to live with intention - intentionally transparent, intentionally blessing, intentionally communal, and intentionally processing my life through truth - often accompanied by laughter, tears, ALL CAPS, emoji's and sometimes all at the same time. So when I bring that all to the table of my blog(s), for the few people who actually read it - I hope to bless them by inviting them into community through transparent processing of my little world. We may laugh together, cry together, yell together and reply to each other with all sorts of smiley, winkey faces. It's just what adults do. (Adulting.)

Recently a funny thing happened.

ONE OF YOU - my children - YOU FOUND ME...well, my blog anyway!!!

This year, much to your shame and embarrassment, we opted you out of health class at school. While you were mortified in the beginning, it turned out to be in your favor as you have had time opened up during your school day to just surf the world wide web apparently. You thought it would be fun to Google your mom, and in doing so you stumbled across my blog. Welcome! I'm so glad you are here! We need to talk.

See here's the thing. Parents today (that would be me, your parent) have a new challenge unique to our generation. I'm sure by the time you have children of your own, there will be stacks of parenting books telling YOU how to do it all right. But as for us now, well - we just get to make all the mistakes for your generation to learn from. Hopefully we'll get a couple of things right as well. :) The challenge is the Internet. The whole wide world open to your forming little self. And most recently - Social Media. Oh Social Media. I think about all you little ones are up against in the world of pretty pictures and filtered 140 character life lessons...and well, I cringe. It's hard enough for me - a mature, secure adult (cough cough). I can only imagine what it is like for you.

So anyway, in this new challenge facing parents today - the challenge of Social Media specifically - there are a few things I want to share with you. It's what I'm paid for.

1) Social Media is NOT real life. If you'll just trust me with that, I just saved you many nights of tears and angst.

2) Whatever you put on social media in any form - it will always be there. You think you can delete stuff, but it's just not true. It's all traceable. This should make you consider your words carefully. Written words tend to sting more than spoken words. And the sting runs deep and wide, because someone with not very nice intentions probably took a screenshot of it.

3) There are creepy people on the Internet. Just say no to creepy people. Because well, they're creepy. If you don't know if someone is creepy, ask me or Dad. We promise you won't get in trouble for it. It's not as easy as it was for me as a kid....just staying away from the weird guy in the stalker van with a puppy and candy. Creepy people show up in all sorts of ways online. If it doesn't feel right - it probably isn't. Trust your gut. Trust Dad and I more.

4) You can't believe everything you read on the Internet. Because for every good argument FOR something online, there's 100 good arguments AGAINST it. Choose to move through life forming your own opinions only after much careful thought, prayer and consideration...and obviously what me and your dad tell you. We're always right. And even after all of that, know you may still be wrong. So start over in the process.

5) Humility always serves you well in life. But online - humility is everything. You may not get the most followers, the most likes, or the most friend requests...but you will be humble. And that means people will trust you. And that's just more important than making everyone angry because you needed to stand on your soapbox for half a second.

6) This blog. My blog. Your moms blog. I must admit, your dad and I had a mini heart attack when we realized one of you found my blog at such a young age. (Who am I childers AREN'T young. I just can't get over that!) But then I remembered that with every post I have ever written - I've known that one day you may read my words. That you may read my heart. This brings me much fear, and also much joy. There's so many parts of your little world (and mine) that you don't know about. I've written about some of them, so you will learn. There are so many times that I have tripped and stumbled my way through this parenting gig, through life. I try my best, but I know I fail. You will certainly see many of those times in my words. There was so much joy for me in raising you five kids. But our days don't always look joyful....I don't always look joyful. I hope you see a pattern of joy and love for you and all of my life through my words when maybe you didn't see it in my face or my voice. On the flip side of the joy, I hope you see through the struggle of some of my writings in here that I never wanted to settle - and neither should you. We have to fight for joy. We have to fight for life. We have to fight for truth. And I've committed to that. For me AND for you. In short - Mama's not perfect. But you already knew that....

And while you were so embarrassed to find my Instagram posts or stories here of Tooth Fairy's, relationships, Christmas pageants, and dancing in the toilet (wait...maybe I didn't talk about that one....), YOU - the one who found my blog and told the rest of the kids about it - somehow gave me the biggest compliment I have ever received in regards to my writing. You, my child who doesn't love to read, said to me - "I love it, it's way more interesting than books." But then you proceeded to tell me how I ruined you. So there's that.

Don't worry. I keep the super embarrassing stuff off my blog. But maybe don't ever search #babybrittonblurb ..... (I know. I use too many hashtags. Deal.)

Now. If you are finished here, please get back to class. Or at least doing something productive with your free class period.

 #ThisIsWhatYouGetForGooglingMyName #TheCloudNeverForgets #PrivacyIsDead #SocialMediaGuidebookForParents




you pick

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Fall, pumpkins and beer

Happy Fall!!! This is my favorite season of the entire year! The smells, the cool, crisp air, Honeycrisp Apples the size of my face, the fact that "Colorful Colorado" actually has a few colors, the maple leaves shedding in my yard, raking leaves, jumping in leaves, raking some more, scarves, fun sweaters, warm hoodies, boots, my outdoor fire pit, sleeping with the window open just to pile on the covers .....these are a few of my favorite things! But near the top of my list is Pumpkin. Pumpkin everything! Pumpkin spiced coffee (that I make myself with REAL ingredients!), pumpkin bread, pumpkin patches, pumpkin scones, pumpkin candles, pumpkin soap, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin filled ravioli with a brown butter glaze, pumpkin curry soup, Pumpkin O's (Trader Joe's, thank you!), pumpkin oatmeal, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin corn bread with Chili....and Beer. Pumpkin Beer.

Now that I have swooned over my love of all things fall and pumpkin - this post is actually about Pumpkin Beer. I walked into my local liquor store a couple of weeks ago, and there greeting me right inside the doors, like something straight out of a fairy tale, was this huge display of all the different kinds of Pumpkin Beer available at that store. I stood there for way too long pondering my decision - afraid I would choose poorly and be sad....until I remembered that this particular store lets you put together your own sample pack! So I did just that. I left a happy Pumpkin camper ready to find the perfect Pumpkin Brew. And well, I would just be selfish to not let you in on my findings.

Let me be very clear before we begin. I am NOT a beer connoisseur. I couldn't tell you the difference between a stout, a lager, or an ale ...I can just tell you if I like or not, and I happen to like beers from all the various categories! But I AM sort of an expert on Pumpkin. Don't be jealous. I didn't go to school for it or anything, I was just born with it. So my entire review is based on the flavoring and balance of the pumpkin spice.

In order from my least favorite to most favorite:

Eddyline Brewing Pumpkin Patch Ale: This one was really spicy. I actually couldn't take more than about 3 sips. The guy at the Liquor Store said it was his favorite. So obviously you should take all of my reviews with a grain of salt...but this one was just not for me. I dumped it. It may have had something to do with the fact that I rounded the corner to find my dog drinking out of my mug....she loved it. But no matter, I was planning on dumping it anyway. Bad dog.

New Belgium Pumpkick: This one had a good taste initially. But as soon as it went down - whoa! Watch out! It actually left a strong pepper aftertaste! Pepper does not belong with Pumpkin or Beer. (When I was grabbing the link for this one so you could read the company's actual review...I read that there is cranberry and lemongrass in this beer. Um. No thanks. Apparently cranberry and lemongrass taste like pepper to me....but I also don't particularly care for cranberry or lemongrass. So this explains much.)

Shipyard Brewing CO. Pumpkin Head: There is a bit of a bite when first sipping this beer. Strong enough that I didn't think initially that I would even take another sip. It doesn't go down easily, in my opinion. However, I was pleasantly surprised with the aftertaste! It left a very balanced Pumpkin Spice flavor lingering in my mouth. (After visiting their website, they offer up some recipes that I for sure plan to try. But they also recommend drinking this beer with a pint glass rimmed with cinnamon and sugar. And well, now I just feel like I didn't give it a fair shot and will probably have to give this one another chance!)

Epic Brewing Pumpkin Ale, The Gourdian: Because I hate the word Epic, I wanted to hate this beer. I didn't write any other notes other than, "Tasty". Sorry I can't leave you with any other details on this one. It was good though. But they should change their name. (After reviewing their website and description of this beer...I would agree with everything they wrote about it. It is very good. And they wanted a beer that you would throw in your backpack on a fall hike. Well, I'm hiking on Saturday. Maybe I'll give it a shot.)

Boulevard Brewing Company Funky Pumpkin: This one was so good! It tasted less like pumpkin spice and more like apple spice to me. (Is apple spice even a thing? It should be a thing.) You definitely could taste a mild pumpkin flavoring, but it also had an obvious apple presence....or some other fall flavor. I'm sticking with apple. I will for sure buy this one again. Pumpkin + Apple = Fall. Well done, Boulevard Brewing. Well done! (HEY!!! Their website says the pumpkin flavor is scarcely present! Maybe I'm better at this than I thought!!)

Ballast Point Brewing Company Pumpkin Down: AMAZING! Well balanced. Smooth. Just amazing. This one came in a very close second to my number one favorite....

Dogfish Head Punkin Ale: This has been my fall back for the past two years. (Get it? Fall back? That wasn't even on purpose.) I really enjoy this one. It holds the title of my favorite Pumpkin Ale. It's a good beginner for someone entering the Pumpkin Beer world as it is very mild and well balanced. It doesn't scream PUMPKIN PIE with beer poured over the top. It's just an easy to drink brew with just the right introduction of pumpkin. (The biggest downfall to this beer is that it is one of the most expensive. But it's still my favorite. And I swear...I am not a rep for Dogfish head...but in the summer, you should grab their Apricot IPA. You'll thank me later.)

I know there are many more that I didn't sample. If you know of one that you love that I didn't review, I trust you will let me know! Please and thank you.

Happy Pumpkin Fall!!!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

What to Expect When You Don't Know What To Expect. AKA: Get to 18.

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you have seen a handful of pictures from the past few days highlighting a chore chart that has taken residence in our home.

I had a few comments telling me it looked confusing, or intimidating....but what made me laugh the most was a friend who saw me in real life and said to me, "That chore chart?? No! Just no. Don't put your kids through that." Hilarious.

So I thought I would give you a deeper glimpse into our family "command center".

Our story starts 15 years ago when we began our family. I was a BIG fan of parenting books. Looking back, I realize the books of those early years should actually have their own category entitled: Parenting: Keeping your Kids Alive in the Early Years. There were so many helpful books to me when my kids were littles.

For the sake of this blog, I thought it would be fun to post some New York Times Bestseller Parenting books. However, when I pulled it up, I quickly began to see what is wrong with our children...with us. The top books on "Family" (this is what was translated when I Googled Parenting) included, #1) The Glass Castle. Which, while I loved this book, the only parenting advice I took away from it would be to not be convicted of anything, don't let your husband spend all the money on booze at the expense of your family, and don't become homeless parents. Deep and profound. (Seriously, good book though!)  #2) What to Expect When You're Expecting. Obvi. And my personal favorite in the top 10??? #5) Go the F**K to Sleep. Yes folks, this is a book. Funny....but obviously very crude. I mean, I heard it was funny....

Okay, so of all those books, the only one I had actually ever referenced for parenting was, What To Expect When you Are Expecting. So because the New York Times was no help to my research, I came up with my own list of books that got me through my kids lives from birth to about 5.

1) Give Them Grace
2) Parenting By The Book
3) Baby Wise
4) An entire series by Douglas and Nancy Wilson on Biblical Childrearing and general family topics
5) Growing Kids Gods Way
6) Go the ..... NO!!!!

I'm sure there are a handful of other ones that I thought saved my life at the time...but I have blocked out a couple of years here and there and blame it on sleep deprivation.

Fast forward a few years and all my kids are getting older. I went online to buy, "What to Expect When they Grow Up" , and couldn't find it! Maybe the books ARE there, and maybe I was just too weary of reading all that I SHOULD be doing, but just wasn't....but I realized very quickly that I was now on my own for this parenting gig. The manuals were all finished and I was now considered an expert. The problem is, I'm only actually an expert on how to keep them alive and get them to sleep by 9 weeks. Or maybe how to effectively discipline a toddler, or potty train in a day. (And even at that, I'm only a 50/50 expert!) I'm beyond thankful that there were resources for these topics, but they left much to be desired.

But my kids are older now. And do you want to know a secret?? I have absolutely NO idea what I'm supposed to do with them! So I'll do my has every generation prior. And I'm certain it won't be enough. As has every generation before us proved. A dear friend once said to me, "Every generation vows to do it better than their parents did. You'd think we'd be perfect by now." But noooooo!!! You bet we have a counseling jar in our home! A BIG one and A LOT of them!

So in my desire of and lack of training on how to grow little people into big people - hopefully mature, kind, helpful, serving, loving big people....the resources are limited.

Enter current day. I have five kids to get out the door each morning. Scratch that, four. One decided she wanted to homeschool herself. I can't even think about finding that book....

Our morning routines (who am I kidding? Our morning, afternoon and evening routines...) felt very dictatorship to me. Trying to get everyone ready to go and where they needed to be with all they needed to have while fulfilling all requirements of normal humanhood was starting to make me feel like I was a slave driver...or a circus master, depending on the day....

Aaron and I would find ourselves following around after the kids asking them questions we ask every morning, or reminding them of tasks every day that in our opinion...they should know! Examples: Did you change your underwear? Brush your teeth? Get your planner signed? Put on a new shirt other than the one you slept in last night AND wore all day yesterday? Put your homework IN your bag? Feed the dog? Unload the dishwasher? And did I mention...change your underwear?

I realized we are complete slacker parents to have to STILL be reminding our children about these things, so it was time for action. We sat them down and gave them full opportunity to voice their opinions about all that we asked and required of them. Was it too much? Are we unfair? Should we just put everyone back in diapers so we can change them every 3 hours? Okay....I didn't really ask that last one...but after 528 days straight of reminding a child to change their underwear, it doesn't seem like that bad of an idea!

In many areas, as our kids get older, they learn how to maneuver around what we expect vs. their convenience. Surely you and I have NEVER done that, nor do we still. Right?? But they had. I don't even know appropriate discipline for most of the things they do wrong because they are really good at making a case for how they weren't THAT wrong! It's true...they have outsmarted me.

So after their admittance to us that we do not, in fact, ask too much of them...and that our household requirements (um....growing up into mature people requirements) were not over the top, we then had a meeting about the best way to implement these things without mom going around freaking out on everyone all day.

I had one sweet child who asked for money. See, we don't DO money....AKA, allowance. Not that I think it's wrong. We just have always taken the stance that our kids get to live in the house with all the stuff that WE work to pay for. So if they prove to us that they can take care of their stuff and do the few things we ask of them BECAUSE we let them live in our house with all the things we pay for....THEN we may consider giving them some money when they choose to go above and beyond. But so far we are still working on the first half. So when said child requested money - I couldn't help but laugh. Money is obviously a bigger motivator than INTEGRITY!!! Oh my children to have Integrity!

What's that?? You want me to take the log out of my own eye??? Oh....right...sorry.

After all that explaining, here's the point. We now have a chore chart (for the 612th time). It's lovely. I found a cute shabby chic chalk board at Hobby Lobby and used my 40% off coupon. I had to use a coupon. The board will probably be gone in a week. I'm not Type A. I'm not OCD. I barely follow the rules and chores I know I'm supposed to as an adult. (No wonder I can't teach it to my kids!) And I'm an ESTP. You should have seen me trying to draw straight lines on the board. I was so worried that some super-mom-type-A person would come over and have a major panic attack upon seeing my board! But I did the best I could with my limited abilities. We'll see how it goes.

So far I have had one kid who doesn't wear deodorant mark that they put their deodorant on. Various checks (for REALLY IMPORTANT TASKS) not be checked and still need a Warden Mom reminder for. I've had to to add the category of - Get Dressed - with a certain child's name highlighted. And don't forget the kid who used the color for the other kid (they each have a color of chalk they are supposed to use to mark their chore done so I know who did what and who didn't) to write on the weekly plans something about poop. Very important.

For every kid we get to 18, I'm throwing a party. Forget graduation, sweet 16, golden birthdays....I'm throwing a HUGE bash for - MOM GOT THEM TO 18 AND WE LIVED TO TELL ABOUT IT party.

This parenting thing is no joke. And no degree or book in the world could cover it all. But do you want to know the best parenting advice I have ever received?? This is free...and maybe why no other parenting book has been matched in its advice and even The New York Times can't keep up with:

Deuteronomy 6: 4 -9
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[b] You shall love the Lordyour God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

2 Timothy 3: 16 & 17
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God[b] may be complete, equipped for every good work.

The Chart

Poop is a priority for some

Thursday, August 6, 2015

When hair day feels less like bonding and more like bondage.....

I'm about to write a story that will encourage some and offend many more. Such is the story of my life.

All my life I have had stick straight hair. Very boring. It gets oily when I LOOK at conditioner. I used to (and still do) envy women with beautiful curly hair. Beach waves?? Swoon. I would get perms as a child, and the lovely curls would be gone in a week with my hair mocking me all the while. I curl my hair with a pound of hairspray and all that happens is a new tiny hole in the ozone layer appears. My hair is still straight. And I still try buy the newest $100 curling iron that the guy at the mall can stop me with to convince me that THIS is the one that will work for me!

I'm gonna be of my biggest hurdles when adopting an African girl was hair. Have you seen my hair? No? Oh, that's because it is generally in a ponytail. I get ponytail. That's all I got. I had been around enough adoptive families of African girls to know that there would need to be more knowledge of hair care than a twistie and a brush, if you can find it.

So now I'm gonna be REAL honest. If you know me in real life, this isn't a secret. But for anyone else....well, here goes.

Things with my Ugandan Sweetie haven't been all that....well....sweet. She has been home almost 4 years and I can't say it has been all rainbows and unicorns. I don't need to go into detail of her story, or the many dynamics of our story right now...but there is one particular subject that has been a source of major contention in our relationship.


When I committed to raising an African daughter, I dove into every blog and YouTube tutorial I could find to figure out what to do with her hair. (I kid you not, my bio daughters have asked me why I spend so much time figuring out what to do with their sisters hair, but can't even learn how to french braid.. Fail.) And it doesn't take much digging into the world wide web to read time and time again about the importance of African hair and the proper care of it.

Here are a few key things that I have read and grown to believe to be true about my daughters hair.

1) In Africa, hair is more than hair. It's a culture. It's a story. It has history. It demands proper attention and care. Hair care is a time of BONDING.
2) If my African daughter desires to have straight hair, it is because she does not see the beauty of her natural hair and probably deep down wishes she was white.
3) If I do not care for my daughters hair properly, I will be frowned upon by the entire African American community.
4) It is my responsibility as an adoptive mom to teach my daughter about proper hair care, and until I can teach her, I must do everything I can to give her gorgeous locks.

So here is the deal. My DD ("dear daughter" is what that means, Mom) had hair in Africa that her birth mother, and probably sister, and who knows who else once cared for. I have pictures. So I know this is true. Upon entering the orphanage, sadly, her hair was shaved. I understand this is a disgrace to young girls everywhere. But that moment triggered something DEEP in my DD.

Since she has been home, I have tried everything I can think of, not to mention everything in my limited ability, just as the blogs tell me to. (Have you seen the "Pinterest Fail" photos??? I have an entire scrapbook of "Hair Fail" photos. It just never looks the same when I do it! Where's my twistie???!!!)

So here is what the first few years looked like:
*I tried every style I thought was within the realm of my abilities to do. (Yarn extensions?? Hilarious! She did look a little better than the presents under my tree at Christmas, but that's about it....Two strand twists? Um, no comment. Bantu knots? Apparently those are painful to sleep in. Puffs? Where's the Kleenex?)
*I took her to several different salons that specialize in African Hair care. I don't really want to go into this story....but I will just say that it was obvious that I was not welcome. My daughter was, but I as her mom was not.
*I have had women stop me in public places (even one who stopped me while pulling out of a parking lot by pounding on my window) to tell me I was doing it all wrong.  (Which I wouldn't mind so much had they offered an actual solution.) I left these places in tears calling my AA girlfriends pleading with them to tell me what I was doing wrong and how I just don't get it! (My bio daughters have walked around with Raven's birthing youngens in their hair and not one person has ever said a thing.)
*Relaxers are for white moms who don't know how to care for their African child's hair. (I for real read that on a review of a relaxant.)

But the worst story to tell is the tension that arises daily with my actual daughter over the care of her hair. That one is the hardest. I can put on my big girl panties for the rest of them.

So a year ago I decided to go the route of locs. (Or maybe dreadlocs? Or locks? I don't know...I've also been scolded by other adoptive moms for wording that wrong...) I chose that it would be better to take out the daily hair struggle with a low(er) maintenance style - micro locs. I really believed this to be the answer to the drama in my home surrounding hair. AND...I thought they were super cute. Win!

A couple of months ago, I decided it was time to begin to teach my 10 year old how to take a bit more ownership of the care of her beautiful locs. She was heading off to camp for a week soon and wouldn't have me there for daily care. Here is where another issue enters in. She does not much appreciate it when I instruct her in anything - how to fold clothes, how to do the dishes, how to swim, how to do math, how to write, how to sing, how to dance, but mostly - how to do hair. So to avoid this getting more awkward for you, the reader, I will just say that me instructing her on how to care for her own hair went south rather quickly.

Within a month of being in her care, her year long locs began to fall apart. Unravel. Frizz. Fall out. Smell. Turn yellow (seriously). I was so confused. Once I figured out what was going on, Aaron and I realized it was time to come up with a new plan. Ultimately, she was unable to care for them on her own, and me continuing to care for them was not an option either. The hair stress meter had reached its limit. But what was I to do? Her hair had been locked for a year! Aaron brought up the idea of cutting off the locs. Remember the traumatic orphanage story I mentioned earlier??? Yeah...that was triggered at the mention of cutting off the locs. Did you know it was possible for a 10 year old to not talk to their parents for two days? Yup. Totally possible.

I would beg and plead with her to find out what she wanted done with her hair. I thought I had come up with a happy solution with these cute little locs. One day though, she informed me that she wanted hair like her sisters - her white sisters, with stick straight hair just like .... Moms. WARNING WARNING! I'd read about this! We're now supposed to up our game about how much she should embrace her beautiful black hair!!! Right???!!!


See here's the deal....when you have a strained relationship with your child, maybe pushing into what you have read to be true about what they should believe isn't a great time to actually force it. I needed to listen to HER. I HAD to listen to her. It was made harder by the fact that she wouldn't give me ANYTHING to go on...but I had to find SOMETHING that she desired or didn't desire and show her that I cared about her heart in this. Whatever was driving the heart, I don't know...but I cared about it. Hair needed to become a drama free zone, and the only thing she was offering me other than wanting her white sisters hair was that she did NOT want us to cut her hair.

So I turned to YouTube...again.  I found ways to try and revive the locs. But she was not in favor. WHAT ARE YOU IN FAVOR OF LITTLE ONE?!?!?!?! And why can't you tell me????!!!!!!

So then I found that apparently you can UN-loc locs. So I said to Aaron and our Ugandan Princess that the since the only thing I was hearing from our DD was that she did not really want the locs, and did not want her hair cut - I had to try. So for 28 hours (really more like 56 hours since there was almost always 2-3 people at a time working on the loc removal) - I tried. And we did it. We got all 317 locs unlocked. (And WOW! Talk about a protective style!!! Her hair had grown almost 4 inches in a year! It had only grown 2-3 inches total in the 3 years prior!)

And then I did it....I used a relaxer. Which thanks to the movie, "Good Hair" with Chris Rock, I lost sleep over this option. But I had to. She wanted long hair that could be brushed like her sisters. And maybe that is me allowing her to neglect her heritage. Or maybe it has something to do with the fact that she would peak around the corner and watch longingly while I would brush, flat iron and pull into a hair tie (because remember, I'm an expert at that) her white sisters hair. Pain free...on many, MANY levels. It was time for pain free (or at least less pain) and drama free.

So for the foreseeable future, I will continue to try and put curls in my hair while removing them from my daughters. (Seriously, girls are so weird.)

And you know what? These pics of her smiling???? It's the first time I've done anything that made her smile in a really, really, really long time. I caught her in the bathroom earlier staring in the mirror running her fingers through her hair with a big smile on her face. She laughed when she noticed I was watching. So I don't know, I'm sure I am doing her hair all wrong.....but today? Well, today, her heart found joy. And in the world she and I live in??? Her joy??? That was a crown of glory.

(ps....A lot of you adoptive mama's have been following our journey on FB and Instagram because you either are in process of locs or are thinking about it....I still LOVE the look of micro locs, and the ease. It really was the most care-free style we had tried. But ultimately, other issues come into play with a 10 year old girl....she needs to own the hygiene of it a bit. If your daughter can't do that, maybe wait. If she can...go for it! They are fun and free and beautiful! Feel free to email or IM me if you want to talk in further detail about my little story vs. your story. Bottom line thought? Don't worry about what all the other adoptive moms are doing...just do what you and YOUR DD need done!)

Big sister SAVED me with her helping hand!

As did some amazing friends!

We liked this look. She did not. But she's still smiling!

Now we know what she will look like as an old lady!

The feeling of a brush going effortlessly through her hair for the first time..... 

Seriously! This girl had NO hair just less than 4 years ago!!

I got to use my hair tie on her. I got this.