Apr 30, 2012

Confessions of an Introvert

I don't usually make stellar first impressions. In fact, I don't think I make much of an impression at all on most people when we meet. I trust my instincts with people, and I usually like to get a good gauge on them before I begin to even think about any self-disclosure. So until you earn my trust, it's small amounts of polite small talk for you. 

Because of this, some people find me... boring. I don't talk much right away. I'm not an entertainer. I dislike attention. "She seems pretty standoffish... doesn't really have anything to offer to this group".

I have come to accept that there will always be people who think that about me, and I'm surprisingly ok with that. Here's why:

If I don't really talk to you... it's probably because I don't think you're really worth sharing anything with. So essentially, I find you boring. So... it means nothing to me what you think of me.

Yikes, I know that sounds a bit harsh. But you have to understand, I've had 25 years of people comparing me to the extrovert ideal and raising an eyebrow with a little "tsk tsk, you need to be more outgoing". 

"It is impossible for a man to learn 
what he thinks he already knows." -Epictus

Do you think you already know that I'm a boring, "shy" person? Then what's the point of me trying to change your opinion? You will think what you want to. By the questions people ask, by the opinions they feel the need to share, by the subjects they choose to talk about. It really doesn't take too long to get a read on someone who thinks they already know everything.

In high school I got an earful of "oh, she can talk!" when I shared an opinion or idea. I was told to "come out of my shell". My quietness and inward thinking made others nervous and they'd either tell me I was arrogant, little miss perfect, or just too shy. Guys especially seemed to find it irksome when they provoked me and I showed little reaction. I didn't know what was wrong with me. I knew I wasn't proud or arrogant at all--I didn't think I was better than anyone. And I knew I wasn't boring, I was passionate about a lot of stuff. I just didn't want to self-disclose to them. 

I'm not too far in Susan Cain's Quiet yet but I'm already reading it with lots of "YES, that's ME!" It's very comforting and freeing to know that there is a certain percentage of the population who really gets where I'm coming from!

Turns out, nothing's wrong with me. These are actually all pretty common traits in introverts:

・I prefer one-on-one conversations to group activities.
・I prefer expressing myself through writing.
I enjoy solitude. (Yes, I like living alone, everyone can stop asking with a look of pity.)
I don't care about wealth, fame or status. It does not motivate me.
I don't like small talk, but I do like talking about things that matter.
I'm a good listener. I actually hear you, remember what you say, and ask you questions about it.
I do my best work alone, and the less interruptions and eyes over my shoulder, the better.
I think before I speak. Always. I don't waste words.
I often let calls go to voicemail... on purpose (leaves more time for thinking before speaking).
Being with lots of people drains me, even if I'm having a great time.
I concentrate well, and can get quite wrapped up in a project, book or movie.
I devote all of my social energy to a few, select people who I care deeply about.


Apr 25, 2012

Book Review: The Last Nude

"The Last Nude", by Ellis Avery is the story of the passionate affair between artist Tamara De Lempicka and one of the models that inspired a series of paintings. After a brief amount of research, I'm pretty sure most of the story is fiction, and is loosely based around some of the facts of De Lempicka's life.

The sad truth is, when I picked up this book on the shelf, I did not know who De Lempicka was! I am the worst art student ever! But to be fair, I never took a western art history class. So, I began reading as though the book was complete fiction. It wasn't until I was nearing the end of the story, and things were feeling strangely real life and not all "perfect and fairytale", that the thought struck me that maybe this was based on some piece of reality. Lo and behold! All of the paintings described in the book were paintings in actual existence and this painter really had lived. I'm a little slow sometimes...

But back to the book. It is the story of the young and devastatingly beautiful Rafaela, who runs away from home at 17. Life has been cruel to her and she's learned to use the only thing she has to her advantage: her physical beauty. She wields it masterfully, but is lonely and has never experienced love, in spite of lots of physical attention. Stars align when she crosses paths with Tamara De Lempicka, who is struck by her. She poses as a model for the painter, and for the first time, falls in love. And love does what it is apt to do. Inspires beauty, turns the world upside down, tears your heart out, changes everything. And then, life goes on. The author concludes the novel with a glimpse of De Lempicka in her last days, in her old age, with Rafaela still on her mind, she copies her painting La Belle Rafaela from 53 years before. This is her last painting: The Last Nude.

It's a beautiful, heart-breaking story of love and betrayal. It's full of passion, art, sensuality, and the society of Paris in the 1920s. Yes, there's a lesbian love story, but that's not the "agenda". It's about the lives and choices of these two very different women who lived in this world. NPR has a great interview with the author, you can read it here. I really enjoyed the novel, and I think I may have even learned a bit about history and the Art Deco movement too!

Apr 22, 2012

The Happy Heart Hamster Rescue

Well folks, we had close call this weekend. Not me, but a little friend of mine. Not a close call of death so much as...shredding. The happy heart hamster! That's right, I was chillin' with my bug at a friend's house, and happy heart hamster was cheerfully nestled on the couch when out of nowhere, the dog entered the scene and terror struck. Poor puppy didn't really know that he wasn't a chew toy. But imagine my horror to look up, upon hearing a ripping crunch plastic noise, to see a few shreds of fluff & pink fuzzy ball in the dog's paws. I think I about scared K half to death with my scream...and the dog too.

Luckily, K is an EMT and was able to quickly assess the hamster's damage. He was rushed into critical care. I later found out (K would NOT let me see him for a long time) that he had suffered the loss of...one of his eyes (it was already inside the dog by that point). She performed a quick triage surgery, closing the wound, and then crafted him a little eye patch to cover the hole.

I know it's just a dumb little stuffed fluff toy. But I am so lucky to have a girl who loves me, and doesn't just put up with my ridiculousness, she embraces it. Instead of rolling her eyes or saying "Ruth, get over it", she goes right to fixing him up for me without a second thought.

K got her hair cut - bangs! Isn't she so gorgeous?

After the accident - spirits not crushed.

Puppy feeling a little bad.

Bug to the rescue with life-saving skills.

Apr 16, 2012

Welcome to the World, Baby Boy

Welcome to the world, baby boy. I got to spend some of the first 24 hours of your life with you, and let me tell you something - Micah, you are so loved! I can't wait to watch you grow up and become the wonderful person you're meant to be. But for now, I just loved being able to hold you, watch you make all your cute little faces, and see how much joy you've brought to the world.

You and me, "Aunt" Ruthie!

You like cuddling with your daddy.

Little bean burrito all wrapped up.

Your daddy loves you so much.

Your mommy loves you so much.

Little cutie!

Being a little camera shy.

Apr 13, 2012

Peanut Butter Cup Brownies

I can't for the life of me find the site where I found this idea, (dang Pinterest just sucks you in and gets you lost in an endless world of wonderfulness!) but I made these for my co-workers today and they were a big hit.

Your mouth may start watering looking at the pictures....


Your Favorite Brownie Box Mix (mine's Ghirardelli)
Creamy Peanut Butter (3/4 cup)
Peanut Butter Chips (1/2 cup)
Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips (1/2 cup)

Prepare the brownies as directed, but instead of pouring the batter into a regular pan, use a cupcake pan. Keep an eye on them, after about 15-18 minutes they'll probably be ready (top looks set, toothpick comes out only a little wet) to take out. Melt the peanut butter in the microwave. Use the back of a spoon to press down the center of each brownie and pour a teaspoon or so of PB into the empty space. Top with peanut butter chips and chocolate chips and let cool completely and the peanut butter will eventually return to a solid. Couldn't be easier or more delicious!

Makes 12

I'm not so good at letting things cool completely before taste testing.

Apr 12, 2012

The Edge of Change

Lately I've been feeling like I'm standing on the edge of change. I can feel it, but I can't see what's coming. It's amazing in nature how animals sense when disaster is approaching, long before the storm hits or the water rises, and make preparations. 

I don't think disaster is coming. Just something different.

Some things are in the works that will change K's future, outcomes that affect her family and her career. And as a result, affect me too.

My best friend is going to give birth any day now to a baby boy, and the universe is stretching ever so slightly to make room for this little soul.

At work, new people are becoming part of what was our perfectly comfortable routine. We all have to adjust to syncing with new personalities and ideas.

My grandpa is holding on to a remnant of the life he had, and we're all wishing that this type of change wasn't the fate of our dear ones.

Change is a constant in life. It may be so subtle at times that we hardly notice it, the gradual aging that comes with each sunrise. And other times, it bowls us over like a salty ocean breaker. We don't always have a warning or time to make preparations. All we can do is catch a breath and ride it out.

Not all change is bad, of course. New spring. New life. New chapter.
I'm not afraid of what's coming, but it does make me sit back with a big tired *sigh* at times, when I realize there are some things I have absolutely no control over.  

Frodo enjoying the warmer weather.
Spending some time with Grandpa G. (he's skeptical of the iPad)
The welcome transition from winter to spring.
Skyping with my bug.
Little Cubbies outfit for baby Micah! EEEE!!!

Apr 6, 2012

I Am Motivated by...Stickers

I am motivated by stickers. As a child, my eyes would glow with pride when the teacher handed back a paper and there was a bright sticker next to my grade. I used to collect stickers, buy them with saved up chore money and store them in my Lisa Frank stationery plastic-snap holder. I would only use them sparingly on letters and notes, and mostly just hoard them.

Over the years, my love of stickers never waned. The more glitter, color, sparkle, the better. Stickers in the shapes of foods, animals and hearts. Stickers with cute smiling faces.

I realize a lot of people have absolutely no use for stickers in their lives, but I find them continually cheerful and lovely. It's the perfect way to send a little extra love in the mail or brighten up your calendar. But mostly, I find them an excellent source of motivation.

I'm putting together a new board to help me keep track of my budget better (I'm a very visual person, so tacking everything up in front of me to stare me in the face is a great way for me to realize how much I'm spending), and I've decided to use a sticker reward system to keep myself motivated.

Pathetic that a little sparkly piece of sticky plastic can actually help me reign in spending? I like to think of it as resourceful.

The sticker reward system is very simple. When you do good, and keep spending within the allotted amount, you get a sticker in that category. So the more good you do in more categories, the more stickers you get and the prettier the board becomes filled with glittery goodness!

Agh well, you know the truth now. I have a unusual passion for cute things designed for 5-10 year old girls, and stickers is one of them. Who gets to design stickers, and how can I get that job?

Apr 2, 2012

Why Should the Spirit of Mortal Be Proud?

Oh, why should the spirit of mortal be proud?
Like a swift-fleeting meteor, a fast-flying cloud,
A flash of the lightning, a break of the wave,
He passes from life to his rest in the grave.

Those are the first four lines of William Knox's poem, Mortality, Abraham Lincoln's favorite poem. Some might say it's a depressing poem, and I understand that. But I think ultimately it is simply and beautifully stated and most importantly, it is true.

It is 56 lines long, so I won't include the entire poem, but you can read it here. I will share a few more stanzas I found striking. Such basic thoughts, but somehow, I think we forget these things (or choose to ignore them...).

For we are the same that our fathers have been;
We see the same sights that our fathers have seen;
We drink the same stream, we feel the same sun,
And run the same course that our fathers have run.

The thoughts we are thinking, our fathers would think;
From the death we are shrinking, our fathers would shrink;
To the life we are clinging, they also would cling -
But it speeds from us all like a bird on the wing.

They loved - but the story we cannot unfold;
They scorned - but the heart of the haughty is cold;
They grieved - but no wail from their slumber will come;
They joyed - but the tongue of their gladness is dumb.

To me, these thoughts are strangely...comforting. It allows me to step back and see this larger scope of humanity - I am merely the smallest speck on the canvas. Many have lived before me, and many will live after me. I know! That can seem very disheartening, what's the point of it all? But I find solace in the truth. It helps me accept my mortality and the mortality of those I love, not take everything so seriously all the time and freak out about little things. It helps me keep my focus on the bigger picture of my own life.

I think Abe probably felt kind of the same about this poem as I do. He dealt with death after death in his life, including his first love, family members, and his children. Maybe that's why he clung to these words from the age of 22 until the day he died. We are all mortal. This life will go by quickly, we will all pass away... and that's ok. His acceptance of our mortality certainly didn't make him just sit on his ass and say "what's the point?" Instead, I think it inspired him to do something with this amount of time he was granted.

When my great, great grandmother Bertha was a little girl, her father gave her an extraordinary gift. He painstakingly assembled a beautiful scrapbook for her, hundreds of clippings of little pictures he'd cut out from greeting cards, advertisements, magazines. It had no specific rhyme or reason, from what I can tell, it is just a book full of pretty pictures for her to look at, hour after hour. He gave it to her for Christmas in 1883 (less than 20 years after Lincoln died!). My grandma got it out for me to look through last year at Christmas and I was just...enthralled. It was so personal. Such a precious gift for a father to make for his daughter. I felt transported through time and imagined what it'd be like, how ecstatic she must have been to find it Christmas morning, just a 10 year old little girl. 

Of course my great, great, great grandfather had no concept of ME existing some day, looking through this scrapbook he made, taking pictures of it and blogging about it. At the time he was probably young 30, maybe 35, he was nowhere near even thinking about his own death, let alone the death of his daughter, and where humanity would be almost 130 years later.

We mortals all love to hate death. We have good reason: it separates us with such finality and compels us into the unknown. But maybe we can find peace in the fact that so many have traveled this road before us. I find profound amazement and peace knowing that we all have this life and death and these experiences in common. We are all so similar at the root of it all. And maybe my great, great, great grandchildren someday will know some tiny piece of who I am and find comfort in the fact I have gone before them.

Does anyone else find this interesting in a non-morbid way?  I know I might be sounding a little depressing here, but don't you think there's a way we can see our mortality as non-depressing?

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