December 17, 2010

December 6, 2010

One Last Christmas...

This is a real tear jerker. Here's the description from Matthew West's YouTube page:


This is the video my new Christmas song - "One Last Christmas." This song is inspired by the true story of the Locke family and their son Dax.

At just thirteen months old, little Dax was diagnosed with a rare form of Leukemia. He was given two bone marrow transplants as a part of emergency treatment; one from each of his parents. The doctors then told his parents that Dax would most likely not make it to see Christmas.

This song is about the love of a family, and the coming together of an entire community to make sure that this little boy could have one last Christmas. His dad, determined that his son would see Christmas, put up the decorations early. The neighborhood caught on, and did the same. The whole town soon followed suit. A website was built telling his story. Soon, pictures were sent from all over the world of Christmas decorations that had been put up in his honor.

Dax did lose his battle with Leukemia, but not before he got to see one last Christmas. Today, this little boy's legacy lives on, and his parents are making sure it does. They were so touched by the care they received from St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, that they now have a desire to raise enough money to run the entire hospital for one day in honor of their son, Dax. The total cost to run St. Jude's for one day is $1.6 million dollars. Already, they have raised a quarter of a million dollars.

This Christmas, it is on my heart to join forces with the Locke family, and help them in their cause. I would like to encourage you to join us in raising money that will go to an amazing cause in St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital that cares for so many children each year.

To donate now to St. Jude's in memory of Dax please visit:
http://tiny.cc/m1mdo

To read more of Dax's story visit:
http://www.daxlocke.com/
or
http://www.matthewwest.com

Together, we can reach this goal -- and fund St. Jude's for an entire day in Dax Locke's memory!

-Matthew West



December 5, 2010

Eggnog Cupcakes

Description:
Nathan heard that the bakery down town had eggnog cupcakes and he really wanted one, but none of us were up for trekking down there to pick one up. So I just made some instead.

We're out of eggnog, so I made a mini-portion of an eggnog recipe that I found online, then mixed that into an eggnog cupcake recipe that I also found online. Since I knew I was going to be cooking the eggnog, I didn't mind that it was a raw egg version. What I've written below is my mash-up of the above recipes.

Ingredients:
Eggnog
1 oz rum
1 oz bourbon whiskey (I used Irish whiskey because that's what I had on hand.)
1 beaten egg
3 oz sugar (It should have been 1 oz. sugar, but it came out of the sugar jar faster than I was counting on.)
pinch salt
2 oz whipping cream
2 oz whole milk

Cupcake
1 c (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1 1/3 c + 3 T sugar
2 t rum
1/8 t vanilla
1 1/3 t baking powder
2/3 t salt
2 c flour
2/3 c eggnog
5 egg whites

Directions:
Mix together all of the ingredients for the eggnog. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare 48 mini cupcake tins or 18 regular.

In a mixing bowl cream the butter & 1 1/3 cups of sugar together until light & fluffy. Beat in the rum & vanilla. Add the baking powder, salt & 2/3 cup flour, beat until combined. Beat in 1/3 cup eggnog. Then beat in another 2/3 cup flour, followed by the rest of the eggnog & then the rest of the flour.

In another bowl beat the egg whites until foamy. Add in the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar. (I left this part out since I'd already overdone the sugar in the eggnog.) Beat on high speed until stiff peaks form. Gently fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter until completely combined then fold in the remaining egg whites.

Divide the batter between the cupcake tins, filling each one 2/3 full. Bake 15 minutes for mini cupcakes or 22 for regular. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.

The original cupcake recipe came with a buttercream icing recipe as well, but I didn't notice that until after I'd already done a drizzling icing of my own: powdered sugar, half and half and a splash of rum.

We suspect Nathan might be allergic to nutmeg, so we held off on that and added it individually.

With the leftover 5 yolks, I made egg custard with a dash of nutmeg on top.

November 13, 2010

Emotions require too much bandwidth for this T

Thinking and feeling are the decision-making (judging) functions. The thinking and feeling functions are both used to make rational decisions, based on the data received from their information-gathering functions (sensing or intuition). Those who prefer thinking tend to decide things from a more detached standpoint, measuring the decision by what seems reasonable, logical, causal, consistent and matching a given set of rules. Those who prefer feeling tend to come to decisions by associating or empathizing with the situation, looking at it 'from the inside' and weighing the situation to achieve, on balance, the greatest harmony, consensus and fit, considering the needs of the people involved.
                                                                  -- snagged from Wikipedia

In the Meyers-Briggs Personality terminology, Thinking and Feeling are two different ways that people make decisions. (Sensing and Intuition are how people take in data. Thinking and Feeling are how they act upon the data they've taken in.) But I think there's another aspect to this whole T/F thing that I've never heard talked about anywhere (except in Meirav's recent post, which I think was in part a response to something I'd said in another one of her posts, which I can't find now).

It seems to me that there's an energy or "bandwidth" component to this as well. I've often heard Introversion vs. Extraversion explained in terms of energy. If new people or places energize you, then you're likely an Extravert. If you're drained when you're with people and energized when you have time alone or with a few close friends, then you're likely an Introvert. But what if you're hanging out with someone that you're very comfortable with and who you like to be with, but you can't handle too much time with them if they're emoting a great deal? I don't think it's just a "T's don't like emotions" sort of thing. I think there's something deeper. 

I know that when I'm confronted with a great deal of emotion, especially negative or depressing emotion, I just get to the point where I want to hide away in a closet and be alone. It's the same reaction I have to being forced to hang out with a jillion strangers, only it's actually more profound. The crowd of strangers makes me feel very uncomfortable and awkward and out of place and I want to hide away mostly so that I can feel normal again. But the outpouring of emotions, even from someone I'm close to, can make me feel weary, and even somewhat trampled and injured. It's then that I want to hide away in order to heal. 




Overwhelming positive emotions can be a bit... ewey, too. People tend to be a lot less effusive when they're happy (either that or I just don't hang out around places where people are over-the-top happy -- like San Francisco has been over the past couple of weeks), so I think that's the main reason I deal with it better. But I still feel sorta slimed, sometimes. It's like someone is taking something that's intimately theirs and shoveling it on top of me. It doesn't make me feel really good. 

Having said all this, you probably think I hate emotions - period. But I don't think that's true. There are times when emotion is beautiful or deep or touching or bonding or able to express something in a way words simply don't. I can appreciate that. I understand that. I get it. Emotions have value. But too much emotion quickly undoes all the good and leaves me wanting to crawl into bed with a good (but not too emotional) book and block the world out. That feeling of overwhelming weariness hits me and I just can't handle the emotional stuff any more. I get lethargic and apathetic and want to give it up for the day. 

... Then someone tosses a good metaphor my way, or an interesting idea, or a logic puzzle, and suddenly I have the energy of a kitten after a nap who has just found a ball of yarn. Suddenly I'm awake and invigorated and my mind starts moving at the speed of light. 

I'm still not certain that this is strictly a T/F distinction. I'm surprised that I can't find anything about this online. (Anyone have a good link for me?) I'm curious to hear what your thoughts/experiences are. 

There's also the flip side - my emotions and how I express them. (I found the cat picture while googling for images on emotions and couldn't resist including it. I think T's are often read as being emotionless, even though from the inside looking out, we feel that we have quite a range of well expressed emotion.) Expressing emotion can be just as draining for me as responding to someone else's emotions. I'd much prefer to express my emotions in private. In public, if someone talks to me about hard and emotional issues (like how Nathan's doing) I spend half my brain power wondering what kind of emotive expression they're expecting from me and how I'm supposed to manage that. Will they think I'm cold and uncaring if I just nod and agree that things are hard? Do I have to get moist eyes or even shed a tear? Should my voice quiver? Will they hold it against me if I just give my "I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do right now" grimace? 

What I find particularly hard is the divergence between the need of some people to emote and my inability allow them to emote without feeling pulverized by it all in the end. I do it. I know my dear friends, and daughters, need time to emote and they want to do it with me because we're close. It's really a privilege and I realize that. It's a good thing. And yet it's hard. Why does it work that way? How can I make it less painful on my end? How can I still be a good listener/emotion-receiver for them? What's the trick? Any ideas?

Extraversion vs. Introversion

I just found the following on a Wikipedia page, of all places. It's one of the best descriptions I've seen delineating the differences between Extraversion and Introversion.



People who prefer extraversion draw energy from action: they tend to act, then reflect, then act further. If they are inactive, their motivation tends to decline. To rebuild their energy, extraverts need breaks from time spent in reflection. Conversely, those who prefer introversion expend energy through action: they prefer to reflect, then act, then reflect again. To rebuild their energy, introverts need quiet time alone, away from activity.

The extravert's flow is directed outward toward people and objects, and the introvert's is directed inward toward concepts and ideas. Contrasting characteristics between extraverts and introverts include the following:



  • Extraverts are action oriented, while introverts are thought oriented.
  • Extraverts seek breadth of knowledge and influence, while introverts seek depth of knowledge and influence.
  • Extraverts often prefer more frequent interaction, while introverts prefer more substantial interaction.
  • Extraverts recharge and get their energy from spending time with the outer world (this could be people, things, activities, etc), while introverts recharge and get their energy from spending time alone (or with very close friends).
  • October 23, 2010

    Sesame-Garlic Mochi topped with Raw Cashew Butter: Yum!

    Gluten free, dairy free, yeast free, no added sugars and Oh So yummy! We've been eating Grainaissance Mochi for years now (that and Edensoy were my two main purchases back when I shopped at the Detroit Food Co-op), but the Artisana Raw Organic Cashew Butter is a brand new find. When I brought it home Rob looked at the label and said, "Oh. It's raw." like I might as well just chuck it straight into the trash. But when I slathered some on top of a warm, gooey piece of sesame-garlic mochi he became completely silent. He finally admitted that it was utterly delicious and he was embarrassed to have been so wrong about it. lol!

    October 2, 2010

    Strengths / Weaknesses a la Marcus Buckingham

    I've been aware of the Myers-Briggs personality type system, as well as several other personality typing systems (DISC, Enneagrams, etc.), since high school. I've studied them off and on and I tend to find the MBTi system the most helpful. But one thing that I've always struggled with is helping other people figure out what they are. I'll observe them over time and determine that they're such and such only to suggest as much to them, they take an online test to verify, and it comes out Completely Different than what I had suggested. But when someone who rarely speaks in public, consorts only with a small group of close friends, and who only gets really animated when talking about a subject he feels really strongly about takes the test and tells me he's an E, I start to wonder how the test could have pegged him so poorly.

    What I've tried to encourage people to do is to ignore what they think people expect of them, or what behaviors they might have to display at work, and focus on what comes naturally to them when they're on vacation or over the weekend. Theoretically that should help them get test results that are a little closer to their natural personality type rather than the personality that's expected of them at work or in other settings and that they feel they need to live up to. 

    But Marcus Buckingham, a speaker that I heard just last week (more on that here), has given me a new way to encourage people to determine their own personality types (or as Buckingham describes it, their strengths and weaknesses). He says that after an activity (it doesn't matter if it was in a group or alone, planned or spontaneous) we should evaluate the activity (or even the various parts of the activity) by determining whether we loved it or loathed it. If we loved it, then there's very likely something about that activity that played to our strengths. If we loathed it, then we were probably called upon to perform in a way that draws from our weaknesses. 

    The example he gave is that he recently attended a party with a lot of very famous people in attendance. Theoretically it should have been a great event that he would have enjoyed. But he loathed it. So he took that piece of information and tried to dial down to what exactly he loathed about it and found that he loathes mingling with people. (The description that he gave of how he felt while mingling described an introvert quite well.) On the other hand, he recently had to interview a woman that was a housekeeper at a hotel. The interview lasted about 30-45 minutes and by the end he realized that he had loved the experience. So he examined that reaction and determined that he really enjoys getting to know people on a deeper level. 

    Buckingham pointed out that just because you're good at something doesn't mean it's one of your strengths. You can be very good at something and still feel utterly drained by it at the end. Your ability to do the task well is therefore probably more a function of training and experience than innate ability or desire. According to his definition of a strength, what is important is not what we're good at so much as what energizes us. He gave an acronym that described this: SIGN

    Success: When we're done, do we feel successful?
    Instinct: What are we instinctively drawn to? 
    Growth: How do you feel when you're doing it? Is there a flow? Do you feel that you've grown?
    Need: Does it feel like you've filled a need?

    Obviously, what you're weak in will most likely leave you feeling unsuccessful, or you may not feel drawn to it at all - even if you have to do the job for some reason, or you'll feel stilted, or like the entire thing could have proceeded just fine without your input or help. 

    Buckingham also made a great suggestion for how to make the best of a situation that you usually find draining. He explained that though he hates mingling, he loves interviewing people. So instead of going to a party and mingling with 10 or 20 people, he'll find a person, interview them for awhile, find another person, interview them, find a third person and interview them. At that point he's had enough of talking with people and he heads for home. So when you're caught in a situation that plays to your weaknesses, find a way to insert your strengths into the picture. 

    September 5, 2010

    100 Ways to Use a Tomato | Endless Simmer


    Overwhelmed with bunches of tomatoes from the garden? Check out Endless Simmer's 100 Ways to Use a Tomato.

    While you're there, you can also look through 100 Things to Do with a Banana, 100 Ways to Use a Strip of Bacon, and 100 Ways to Crack an Egg.

    July 28, 2010

    Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

    Description:
    The girls got a banana bread recipe once upon a time when they took a summer class at the farm (Martinez Park). It was a wonderfully yummy recipe which we seem to have misplaced since the remodeling. So we found this one online and it seems to be pretty darn close to (if not exactly the same as) the one we lost.

    I'm posting it here so we don't lose it again.

    Be careful to measure out the sour cream and buttermilk. I speak from experience in saying that too much liquid leads to a squishy center that won't cook up until the outside is too done.

    Ingredients:
    1/2 cup butter, softened
    1 1/2 cups sucanat
    2 eggs
    3 or 4 very ripe bananas, mashed
    1/3 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
    1/3 cup buttermilk
    2 1/2 cups flour (either hard red or hard white wheat will do)
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/4 teaspoon baking powder
    1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

    Directions:
    Mix the butter and sucanat (or sugar) until well blended. Add the rest of the ingredients (except the chocolate) and mix until combined. Toss the chocolate chips in, mix a bit more, and pour into two greased bread tins. Cook at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for about 40 minutes (more or less -- watch for browning edges vs. mushy centers).

    I've used the same recipe to make muffins -- 17 regular sized and 12 mini.

    July 12, 2010

    Not Too Sweet Blueberry Muffins

    Description:
    On occasion people offer me muffins that I bite into only to find that what they've really handed me is a cupcake with fruit inside. I don't have anything against cupcakes. It's just that when I'm expecting a muffin, I want a muffin.

    The following is a blueberry muffin recipe that does not consist mostly of fat and sugar with an extra sprinkling of fat and sugar on top. In fact, from Nathan's point of view, these muffins are more like bread with blueberries inside. That's not quite right because there is a bit of sweetener in them, but not so much that the sugar hits you between the eyes.

    Ingredients:
    1 3/4 cup whole wheat flour (Hard red wheat will provide a muffin with more flavor. Hard white wheat will provide a muffin that *looks* more like what you might find in a standard bakery or among friends that use white flour when baking.)
    3 teaspoons baking powder
    1/4 teaspoon baking soda
    1/4 cup honey, agave nectar, cane syrup, molasses or brown sugar (a sweetener, in other words)
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 large egg
    1 1/2 buttermilk (or powdered buttermilk and water)
    1/4 butter, melted

    Directions:
    Preheat oven to 350. Grease muffin tin or use silicone or paper cups.

    Mix all of the ingredients (except the blueberries) together gently until just combined. Don't overstir. That'll make the muffins come out with a bit of a hockey puck nature. Fold in the blueberries and pour into muffin tin.

    Cook for 25 minutes or until light brown on top. If you use a mini-muffin tin, check the muffins after about 10 minutes. It's likely they'll be done.

    May 16, 2010

    Chive Biscuits

    Description:
    This is mostly the Joy of Cooking recipe for whole wheat biscuits with a bit of changing up to make it chive-worthy.

    Ingredients:
    1 3/4 c flour (I used mostly hard red wheat with a smidgen of white flour thrown in. The recipe called for more but we didn't have it and it still came out just fine.)
    2 t. baking powder
    1/2 t. baking soda
    3/4 t. salt
    1/3 c. (5 1/3 tablespoons) butter
    1 c. buttermilk (or sour cream)
    chives to taste (I cut in about 2 tablespoons of chives)

    Directions:
    Blend all ingredients except buttermilk in mixer until pebbly. Don't let it get to a solid mass. Add buttermilk and chives and mix.

    I used a cookie scoop to make mini-biscuits cooking them for 10 minutes at 400F degrees. I love my cookie scoop and it makes dishing things out so much easier. The biscuits come out looking like bite-sized puffs.

    April 28, 2010

    Meg's Chocolate Brownie Cakes

    Description:
    Nathan asked me today if he could try making some Molten Chocolate Baby Cakes. I was just about to start staining some shelves on the back porch and wanted to get it done before the sun went down, so I popped open the recipe, helped him find a few key ingredients and left him to it. ... Only to realize, as I glanced at the recipe to give him some pointers, that what I have written there isn't really how I make the baby cakes. So leaving him to go it alone meant he "did it all wrong" (mainly by not stirring the chocolate and letting it burn... but I think if he'd had the butter in there it would have gone a little better for him). So I decided to rewrite that recipe according to the way that *I* make these mini-cakes. Hopefully next time Nathan will be able to follow these directions step-by-step and get it right the first time. (We managed to pour out the not-burned chocolate and finish up the recipe ending up with a pretty respectable mini-cake.)

    Ingredients:
    4 tablespoons butter (1/2 a stick)
    12 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (I aim for 8 cubes semi-sweet and 4 cubes bittersweet Baker's chocolate.)
    4 large eggs
    Pinch of salt
    ¾ cup sucanat
    1/3 cup flour (I usually use ground hard red wheat.)

    Directions:
    1. Preheat oven to 400 F degrees.

    2. Put the chocolate and butter into a small sauce pan and melt over low heat stirring very often. Once melted, remove from heat and let it sit while you mix together the next set of ingredients.

    3. In a medium sized bowl, mix the eggs, salt, and sucanat until well blended. Add the flour and stir until combined.

    4. Pour the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and stir until combined, scraping the edges of the bowl to mix well.

    5. Pour the batter into silicone cupcake holders. (I set these into a cupcake pan, but you can set them right on a cookie sheet as well.)

    6. Cook the brownie cakes for 11 minutes. When you pull them out of the oven they might still be wiggly.

    If I serve these immediately, then I give people a spoon to eat them with and we slurp up the goopy brownie cake like it's a thick chocolate pudding. If you let the brownie cakes cool until they are room temperature, they will be more like a soft brownie.

    April 24, 2010

    Introverts in the Church: Finding our place in an extroverted culture

    Rating:★★★★
    Category:Books
    Genre: Religion & Spirituality
    Author:Adam S. McHugh

    Applying the Meiers-Briggs Type indicator (MBTi) to issues of spirituality and church life appears to be a trend of late. Phil Douglass sorted churches into various personality types in his book What Is Your Church's Personality? and Sandra Krebs Hirsh and Jane Kise addressed preferred worship, prayer and spiritual interaction styles for each of the 16 MBTi categories in their book Soul Types. Adam McHugh’s book, Introverts in the Church, is the latest in this "personality types and spirituality" trend to arrive on the scene. McHugh takes on the difficulties introverts face in an extroverted evangelical culture. He describes several innate differences between introverts and extroverts and encourages introverts in the church that they are not less spiritual just because extroverts are placing expectations of extroversion upon them. And he addresses strengths that introverts have and how these strengths can be helpful and balancing for the church as a whole.

    I suspect there are areas in each of our lives where we act or think a certain way and think, "well, that's just me." A good example of this in my own life is my reticence to make phone calls. There is a call I was asked to make 4 weeks ago that I have yet to make. If I had been given an email address, I would have already made the connection and passed on the info that I was asked to convey. But because all I have is a phone number, it just hasn't happened yet. It's not like I deliberately avoid making the call. It's more like the phone and I are oppositely polarized magnets that just can't seem to get together. It dawned on me a few years ago that perhaps it wasn't just me. Maybe there were others out there that had a similar struggle. I asked several INTJ's about this in an online community I was a part of and was delighted to discover that they weren't fans of the phone either. It was liberating to realize that there was a reason I struggled with phones. I wasn't just being contrary or rude or lazy. I could point to a reason, my introverted tendencies, to explain my aversion. This feeling of liberation is something that I think most introverts will feel as they read the first few chapters of McHugh's book. (The fact that I can pinpoint a reason for my phone reticence doesn't mean that I shouldn't still push myself outside of my comfort zone at times, of course.)

    The evangelical church in the United States applauds activity and overt (even "loud") Christianity. A "good" Christian is one who is out evangelizing complete strangers, who is demonstratively excited about being a follower of Jesus, and who jumps feet first into church projects without necessarily spending time in planning or prayer beforehand. Introverts, by their very nature, are more likely to take things slowly and with aforethought. They are more contemplative, often more academic or bookish, and they prefer relating to people one on one or in small groups. McHugh points out that both extroverted and introverted means of interactions are important and helpful (rather than only valuing extroverted modes of operation as is common in Evangelical churches today and making introverts feel bad, or even less spiritual, if they don't fall in step).

    McHugh spent a chapter explaining not only the differences in personality traits between introverts and extroverts, but he also delved into the physiological differences, which I found incredibly fascinating. (I posted about it in the INTJ group here if you'd like to read more.) He spent a couple of chapters exploring the types of spirituality and community interactions that introverts prefer. (I would recommend the Soul Types book if you're interested in hearing even more on this. McHugh not only skims the surface on these issues, but he also doesn't take into consideration how Thinking vs. Feeling, Judging vs. Perceiving, or Intuitive vs. Sensing personality differences affect personal worship preferences. His focus is introversion in a more general sense, which he covers admirably.) McHugh spends the second half of his book focusing on the strengths introverts bring specifically to the areas of church leadership and evangelism. (More on introverted evangelism here.) Rather than being "movers and shakers," introverts are more likely to be contemplative leaders who help to lead their congregation toward the bigger picture. (It was at points like this that I felt like McHugh was attributing to introverts traits that fit better with other parts of the Meiers-Briggs Personality typing. In this case he seemed to be describing intuitive leaders as opposed to sensing leaders.)

    Though I didn't agree with all of McHugh's conclusions, I definitely agree with the idea that both extroverted and introverted strengths are helpful and necessarily in a healthy church. (In fact, in my mind, the ideal church is one in which all personality types of the MBTi are integrated in such a way that strengths of each type are equally valued rather than only valuing the strengths of one personality type and downplaying or even criticizing the strengths of other personality types.) Introverts shouldn't feel like "lesser Christians" simply because their personality traits don't fit in with the accepted "norms" of American Christianity in today's day and age.

    Though I've been familiar with the concepts of Introversion and Extroversion for a couple decades now and I've studied them specifically in the context of church and spirituality for the past few years, I still found Introverts in the Church to be an excellent summary of Introversion (a summary that even non-Christians might find interesting and helpful) and an encouraging look at how the strengths of introverts can be a pillar of strength for the American church (right alongside the already accepted pillar forged from extroversion).

    April 2, 2010

    The Future of Food

    Just watched the movie, The Future of Food. It's crazy scary. At one point I turned to Rob and said, "This is a horror film!"

    The first half of the film gives a scathing review of Monsanto's actions for the past few decades. The film pretty much agrees with what was said about Monsanto in the movie, Food Inc., but it includes damning documentation from Monsanto itself.

    Within the discussion of Monsanto, several overarching issues are also addressed, most especially the patenting of life and the loss of property rights (of farmers). Even when a farmer and his predecessors have been growing and modifying a crop for generations, if even a little bit of Monsanto's patented gene gets cross-pollinated into it, Monsanto can take you to court for patent infringement. In such a case the farmer is required to destroy the seed that his family has been growing and modifying for generations because Monsanto didn't keep its patented seed from intermingling with his family's seed (and Monsanto is not required to keep its seed out either).

    The movie then rolls right into the problem of genetically modified foods -- especially as they proliferate outside of the lands where they've been planted. Food allergies are a problem because genetically modified foods are not labeled in the U.S. and therefore can be unknowingly consumed. And there's the problem of a genetically modified organism containing the terminator gene (a gene that renders the next generation of that seed useless for planting) spreading into the world at large. (This is where it started to sound like a horror movie. Can you imagine what would happen if a large percentage of the world's crops got inadvertently crossed with the terminator gene? That would be our last year of those crops. The following year would be one of mass famine.)

    Anyone who's concerned with the property rights of the individual, the health of yourself and your children, or the health of the environment, should watch this movie. ... Actually, if you eat, you should watch this movie.

    March 31, 2010

    Super Recycle Girl






    One day about 2 years ago, I loaded up all our recycling materials and pedaled out to the recycle center about 4 miles away. I felt very self-righteous about not driving out there and I felt even more so when I saw an SUV (the second picture, though it's only half in the shot) drive up by me. So I snapped some photos.

    I haven't done it since. So much for my self-righteous self.

    These are pictures that have been sitting around in my media locker. While I was working on the movies this past month, I went through the media locker and pulled out a bunch of shots that were in storage that I had lost off my hard drive when our computer crashed (during the move). While I was digging around in there I came across these and thought I'd post them.

    March 27, 2010

    A generation of "environmentalists" who rarely walk (or play) outdoors

    "...our young people are more aware of threats to the global environment than they are of the natural world in their own backyards." - David Elkind, in his New York Times article, "Playtime Is Over"

    March 21, 2010

    Yam Sandwiches

    Description:
    The cafe around the corner from our house in San Francisco makes some yummy sandwiches. One of my favorites has always been the yam sandwich, which I really missed when we moved. So I grabbed a to-go menu one year when we were back in SF and used their description of the sandwich to recreate a version of my own.

    I wanted to check the recipe today and though I knew I had posted it here somewhere once (I think it was in the vegetarian group.) I couldn't find it. I finally turned it up on T's site, but I figured it was high time I had a copy of the recipe on my own site. So here it is. (ps: I used T's picture. It rocks and way outdoes any pics I've taken of the sandwich myself.)

    Ingredients:
    * 1 or 2 large yams (depending on how many sandwiches you'll be making)
    * toasted baguette (or any other kind of bread. I often use regular slices of whole wheat bread)
    * feta cheese (crumbled)
    * cilantro (just the leaves)
    * tomato (I leave the tomatoes out if they're not in season.)
    * red onion
    * garlic olive oil (or a garlic oil spread = butter and olive oil in equal measures, a couple of cloves of raw garlic and a sprinkle of salt, blended till smooth)

    Directions:
    Lightly oil a cookie sheet with olive oil. Slice the yams (or sweet potatoes). Lengthwise is best in terms of keeping the slices on the sandwich, but medallions are probably easier to cut. As I put them on the cookie sheet I rub one side in the oil, then flip the piece of yam over. That way both sides get oiled. Each piece should be only about a quarter of an inch thick. Put these in the oven for 10 minutes on each side at 350 degrees or until soft enough to run a fork through easily.

    You can set the roasted yams aside for later, or put them directly into a sandwich. They don't have to be warm to make a really tasty sandwich, though. So don't be afraid to roast them in advance and add them to a sandwich later, even if they're cold.

    To make the sandwich spread the garlic oil on the bread, add slices of yam, cilantro, red onion, feta and tomatoes to taste.

    March 20, 2010

    Introverts in a Crowd

    Adam McHugh posted this in his blog recently and it made me laugh because it fits me so well:

    Here’s how I tend to respond when I enter a room full of people I don’t know:
    • I find something to occupy my time – Play with my phone, doodle on paper, read my Kindle (you wonder why I carry this stuff…)
    • I pretend I don’t see people…often I don’t…but I’m likely to pretend just in case.
    • I hide in the lobby until the last possible moment…
    • I find someone I do know and latch on to them…
    • I secretly hope some likable Extrovert will approach me and break the ice… (Really, it’s not that I don’t want to talk, it’s just starting the conversation that’s often difficult.)

    I suppose I'd replace the Kindle and cell phone with kids. I'll busy myself with telling them where we should sit or what they should do with their jackets. I'm not really a gadget person. But the rest, yup, that's me. 

    Mountains Beyond Mountains

    Rating:★★★★★
    Category:Books
    Genre: Biographies & Memoirs
    Author:Tracy Kidder

    "We should all be criticizing the excesses of the powerful,
    if we can demonstrate so readily that these excesses hurt
    the poor and vulnerable."
    -- Dr. Paul Farmer


    Paul Farmer is apparently well known in medical circles for his work in TB and HIV. But I'd never heard of him before our book club decided to read Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a man who would cure the world. We picked the book for two reasons: A great deal of the book is devoted to Haiti - its history and the severe poverty of its people. Given that the earthquake had just taken place when we were choosing books, Haiti was definitely on our minds and we were eager to find out more about what the country had been like before the earthquake hit. But we also leaned toward this book because it reminded us of Greg Mortenson's story, Three Cups of Tea, which we had all appreciated. Farmer, like Mortenson, saw a severe need among a particular people group and he devoted his life toward improving the conditions of those people both directly and through educating others and encouraging them to lend their help as well.

    During Farmer's undergraduate studies at Duke in the early 80s, he was keenly interested in current events and at the same time he became intrigued by a branch of Catholicism called liberation theology. [By the way, that's a term that Glenn Beck would probably recommend you run from.] He was particularly impressed by a local Belgian nun who was involved in helping and protecting the rights of migrant Haitian farm workers. She and other "church ladies" as Farmer called them, "were the ones standing up to the growers in their sensible nun shoes. They were the ones schlepping the workers to the clinics or court, translating for them, getting them groceries or driver's licenses." He began to see the disparities between the affluence that surrounded him at the university, and the severe poverty of the migrant workers in the fields not far from Duke.

    After meeting the Haitian farm workers, he began to read everything he could find on the country. As Kidder describes it, "To Farmer, Haiti's history seemed, indeed, like The Lord of the Rings, an ongoing story of a great and terrible struggle between the rich and the poor, between good and evil." He first visited the country in 1983, after having graduated from Duke summa cum laude. He spent a year there in which he traveled throughout the country, meeting people, seeing the outrageous results of former American interventions in the country, and being drawn back toward Catholicism -- especially the liberation theology that he had discovered during his college years.

    Farmer was accepted into Harvard's medical school but he spent every moment that he could back in Haiti building a medical clinic in Cange, one of the poorest regions of the country. In fact, he often missed classes, making it back to school just in time for exams. But the professors allowed this because Farmer's first hand experience with the medical issues of Haiti often meant that he had more hands on experience than they did.

    With the help of a generous donor, Tom White, Farmer's work eventually grew into an international aid organization called Partners in Health, which works largely in Haiti but has branched out into parts of Peru and prisons in Russia. In the 90s, Farmer challenged the WHO's directives regarding dealing with TB in impoverished areas and, through the examples of what had been accomplished by PIH in Haiti and Peru in particular, he was able to convince them to change their policy in order to tackle the drug resistant strains of the illness that the old policy not only wasn't dealing with, but was even strengthening.

    Though Mountains Beyond Mountains is a biography of Farmer's life, it is also in large part a discourse on justice. As Tracy Kidder paints a picture of what Haiti was like when Farmer first arrived, and the political upheavals that have taken place over the past few of decades, it becomes very clear that the United States has had a negative impact on the country. The interests of the rich (both in the US and in Haiti) have repeatedly been put ahead of the interests of the poor. And the world, in large part, has mostly ignored the desperate poverty of these people. It was only the Catholic church that refused to turn a blind eye, a fact that was not lost on the people of Haiti. Kidder explains the Haitians take on God's involvement:

    How could a just God permit great misery? The Haitian peasants answered with a proverb: "Bondye konn bay, men li pa konn separe," in literal translation, "God gives but doesn't share." This meant, as Farmer would later explain it, "God gives us humans everything we need to flourish, but he's not the one who's supposed to divvy up the loot. That charge was laid upon us."


    It was likewise clear to Farmer that the problem in Haiti wasn't God, it was people. He explained that "the fact that any sort of religious faith was so disdained at Harvard and so important to the poor -- not just in Haiti but elsewhere, too -- made me even more convinced that faith must be something good." That's certainly not how most people I know balance the value of faith vs. lack of faith, but it's indicative of Farmer's interests and motivations. He stands firmly on the side of the poor: financially, spiritually, and pragmatically.

    This is a book that I can easily recommend. Though it deals with medical issues, it doesn't get bogged down in terminology. It's not preachy, and as a reader I never felt like Farmer or Kidder were trying to convince me that their way was right so much as they want to get the message out to people that something should be done, our help is welcome, and here is a very practical way in which one person has made a remarkable difference in the lives of the poor. Kidder says of Farmer and the others in PIH:

    Change the world? Of course they could. He really believed this, and he really believed that "a small group of committed individuals" could do it. He liked to say of PIH, "People think we're unrealistic. They don't know we're crazy."


    - - - - -

    PIH is currently involved in helping Haiti rebuild after the earthquake. If you would like information on what they are doing, or would like to donate, check out standwithhaiti.org/haiti.

    March 19, 2010

    Just got back from hearing Joel Salatin speak

    Rob and I first heard about Salatin when we read the Omnivore's Dilemma together (a book by Michael Pollan). I was particularly intrigued by him not only because he's a brilliant farmer, but because he's a Christian who takes great care in his job particularly because he realizes he is a steward of God's earth. More often than not, Rob and I have been in the minority in the churches we've been a part of because we make pro-environment decisions (like driving less, eating organic/local, etc). So it's exciting not only to hear about a like-minded Christian, but to find out about one who is an icon in environmental and sustainable circles. Joel Salatin is leading the way in building a sustainable farming model that grows a large variety of food in such a way that it improves the land rather than degrading it.

    I've also seen Joel Salatin on Meet the Farmer (segment 1, segment 2, segment 3 -- if you only have time for one, watch the second, but they're all good), and we recently saw him in the movie, Food, Inc. (which I highly recommend). Though Salatin has been writing and getting the word out for awhile now (he's been publishing articles in Mother Earth News for decades now, I believe), it seems that he's recently been hitting the public consciousness and local food movements are eager to follow his example.  That's why The Front Range Permaculture Institute invited Salatin out to speak on Change We Can Eat. They had originally planned to have him speak in a local church, but the response was so large that at the last minute, they secured a room at the Lincoln Center for him to speak. (Though there were still some open seats, there weren't many. This was a pretty significant turn out considering that Fort Collins (the university as well as the public school system) is on spring break and many people are out of town.)

    Joel was, as always, eccentric, hilarious, practical and brilliant.  He wasn't shy about sharing his opinions, even when he suspected the crowd might not agree. And he made some really great points about food in America. He says that we've confused sterility with safety. We believe that the answer to pathogens is sterility rather than growing healthy, sound, safe food that is alive and nutrient dense. Many of the laws regulating food growers (in addition to not making a whole lot of sense) are about controlling market access, not about enabling food safety. 

    He talked a lot about metabolizing innovations as well as enabling innovation among small farmers, but I couldn't even begin to do justice to all that he said on those topics. He'd love to see a constitutional amendment allowing for Freedom of Food Choice so that people could buy raw milk, or home made (as in, made in the home) baked goods or jams, without it being illegal and without the food producer having to jump through industrial food corporation sized hoops to sell their food items legally. (It's legal to give a friend or neighbor a home made food product.  But it is not legal to sell that same home made food product to that same friend or neighbor.)&nbsp

    Things that he talked about that I'd like to do more research on:

    1) Right of Private Contract: He says that in America we have the right to make a private contract with another individual without the government butting in, and that through that right of private contract, we should be able to make baked goods that we then sell to end users.  I don't question this so much as I just know absolutely nothing about it. I think it's time I dug a little deeper. 

    2) Monsanto: He mentioned that Monsanto is suing Ojibwa Indians in Wisconsin because they're harvesting the same rice that they've been harvesting for centuries. This sounds a lot like the mentions of Monsanto's activities as described in Food, Inc. I was already thinking of doing some more study on Monsanto because a friend of mine has another friend who works at Monsanto, and when we started talking about the movie Food, Inc. on my friend's Facebook page, she jumped in to say basically that Monsanto was above reproach in that matter.  She gave me some links to check out and I haven't had the time. So I'm hoping to dig a bit deeper into the Monsanto mystery and Salatin gave me an additional path to follow on this. 

    Though the folks introducing Salatin waxed rather long (It took them at least 30 minutes to introduce the guy.) his talk was well worth attending. I'm glad we made it back from our spring break misadventures in time.

    March 16, 2010

    Saint Patrick's Day Parade - Fort Collins, CO


    They went by right as we arrived.

    We've been out of town for the past several years worth of St. Paddy's day parades, so the kids were thrilled to go to this one. We walked down at 10am and missed the first few entries. The kids got bored somewhere around #48, at which point we walked back home.

    I mostly focused in on the animals (because I knew the girls would prefer those pictures). But my favorite entry of the entire parade was the Fort Collins Nursery Red Flyer Brigade. Well done!

    March 2, 2010

    Our first set of foster animals



    This is a video of the almost two months that we spent with our first set of foster kittens: Ewok (who didn't last past the first four days), Sunshine and Marshmallow.

    Looking back, if we had known what to look for, we would have realized that the fact Ewok needed a bath to clean the poop out of his fur was a sign that he wasn't doing well. But we were completely naive. You'll see Anna giving the poor little guy a bath in the video. I doubt he had an infection, though, as the other two kitties were, and remained, healthy. Both of the girls got choked up as they watched the clips with Ewok in them.

    You'll also see Marshmallow attacking a cheese puff. I just want to say, for the record, that I do not condone the feeding of cheese puffs to kitties. One of the girls videotaped the event and I didn't know about it till later. However, despite not supporting such a diet for kitties, it didn't harm her and it really was rather cute, so I included that bit of footage.

    The wet kitty is Marshmallow, as mentioned in my post entitled A Fishy Sound.

    Sunshine has a teeny bit of white on her chest, but it's hard to see that as she careens past the camera. Trust me, she's well represented in the video even though she doesn't have a cute moment with a cheese puff or a scary moment with a bathtub.

    The kitties will go in to the Larimer Humane Society tomorrow morning at 9:30. We're gonna miss them, but we have high hopes that they'll find warm, loving homes quickly.

    - - - - -


    Music: There are two tracks on the video. Both are by Anna Kashfi. The first is "Buttons and Bows" and the second is "A Safe Place". I downloaded the songs from eMusic. (If you'd like to join eMusic, let me know. I can get free songs for inviting you. I've been with them for a few years now and found some really great music through them.)

    February 28, 2010

    Buckwheat Crepes

    Description:
    Ti Couz, in San Francisco, makes the best Brittany Crepes I've ever had. I was thrilled when La Creperie of Fort Collins opened up. But as much as I'm pleased that Brittany crepes are now available locally, I still miss the way they're made at Ti Couz (with yummy sauces).

    This past Saturday the girls had a friend over for the night and for breakfast I decided to make them sweet crepes with blueberries. They came out really well and Anna has been begging for crepes again ever since. So I promised her that we'd have crepes for dinner tonight. I made a batch of sweet crepes for the kids, but decided to boldly strike out into buckwheat crepe territory for Rob and myself. It took a bit of doing to find a bag of buckwheat in the pantry (I somehow overlooked it the first time as I dug through the rice and other grains -- buckwheat isn't a grain, by the way, but that's still where I store it), but once I found it I tossed it into the grinder and made my first ever batch of buckwheat flour. (I've used buckwheat pancake mixes in the past, but I don't know that I've ever cooked with plain buckwheat flour before.)

    These crepes came out well, though they weren't as buckwheaty as either Ti Couz or La Creperie. Rob really liked them, though. (He told me they were better than La Creperie's crepes, but maybe he's just trying to earn some hubbie points. "The texture was better," he claims. Ironically, I had been thinking that it was a bit too silky smooth for a proper buckwheat crepe (which is a bit scratchy to eat). I think the next time I make these crepes, I might see what happens if I use all buckwheat flour and no wheat flour.

    For Rob, I tucked some cheddar cheese and sliced ham inside as filling. For myself I diced up a tomato that was going bad on the counter and added some cheese to that. ... As you can tell, my fillings are still somewhat lacking. And I didn't plan enough ahead to have yummy sauces to top off the crepes. So fillings and sauces will have to be my next point of focus now that I've got a respectable crepe to wrap it all up in.

    Ingredients:
    1/2 cup buckwheat flour
    1/2 cup flour (yes, I used white flour again, believe it or not)
    1 cup milk
    3/4 cup water
    3 large eggs
    2 Tablespoons vegetable oil (I used olive.)
    1 teaspoon salt

    Directions:
    Combine all of the ingredients until smooth. (The Joy of Cooking suggests using a blender to thoroughly blend up the batter.) Let the batter sit for one hour.

    Batter can be refrigerated up to one day.

    Pour about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of batter onto a buttered skillet. Flip when the first side is lightly browned. Cook until the second side is a light brown color. Serve with a savory filling.

    February 27, 2010

    Sweet Crepes

    Description:
    I've tried making crepes many times and they usually won't flip well and end up being more like scrambled crepes than breakfast or dessert crepes. But this recipe came out well so I thought I'd post it here for future reference.

    This is from the Joy of Cooking.

    Ingredients:
    1 cup flour (I actually used white flour this time. OK, OK, pick yourself up off the floor now.)
    1 cup milk
    1/2 cup lukewarm water
    4 large eggs
    1/4 (1/2 stick) butter, melted
    1/4 teaspoon salt

    Directions:
    Mix ingredients together until smooth. Then let sit for 30 minutes. (Or fridge for up to two days. But let sit 30 minutes until room temperature before cooking.) I have no clue what the sitting does for the crepe, but I tried it this time (OK, so I was only able to wait about 15 minutes).

    The book suggested pouring 1/4 cup batter onto the griddle at a time. I finally got tired of making such tiny crepes and went to somewhere around 1/2 cup.

    February 21, 2010

    Cream of Peanut Soup

    Description:
    This recipe has been modified from history.org, where it is listed as being an original recipe from King's Arms Tavern in Colonial Williamsburg, Williamsburg, Virginia.

    Ingredients:
    ¼ cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
    1 medium onion, finely chopped
    2 celery ribs, finely chopped
    3 tablespoons flour
    8 cups Chicken Stock (I used veggie bouillon in water.)
    2 cups smooth peanut butter
    1 ¾ cups light cream or half-and-half
    Finely chopped salted peanuts, for garnish

    Directions:
    In a large saucepan or soup pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and celery and cook, stirring often, until softened, three-five minutes.

    Stir in flour and cook two minutes longer.

    Pour in the chicken (or veggie) stock, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring often, until slightly reduced and thickened, about 15 minutes. (The history.org recipe calls for removing the onions and celery but I left the veggies in for added texture.)

    Whisk the peanut butter and the cream into the liquid. Warm over low heat, whisking often, for about five minutes. Do not boil.

    Serve warm, garnished with the chopped peanuts. (I skipped this since I served the soup at a potluck)

    January 30, 2010

    E-mail as a form of communication

    A couple of weeks ago, one of the gals in our Sunday school class took off down a bunny-trail about how e-mail is a horrible way of communicating with people. The irony was that several people in the room were quite comfortable with email as a means of communication and a few even preferred it.

    I'm still working my way through Adam McHugh's book, Introverts in the Church, and I just came across some quotes by him that summarize quite nicely, in my opinion, the strengths of email -- especially for the introvert who may prefer this medium to phone communication.

    "E-mail, in particular, allows us to think before we communicate, to correspond at our own pace and to change what we say before we send it.  E-mail doesn't make the immediate social demands that cell phones do, and it enables us to communicate without interruption.  In addition, there is a degree of distance in communication via e-mail, and this distance frees us to be more vulnerable than we might normally be."

    I already knew all that.  But sometimes it's nice to hear someone else say it.

    January 23, 2010

    Meg's Impromptu Movie List

    My friend Sarah and I drove down to Denver together yesterday and talked about movies while we were bumming around at the Museum of Nature and Science.  I told her I'd send her a movie recommendation list when we got back. While I was typing it up I thought I'd throw it up here as well in case anyone else is looking for a good movie to watch.

    The list is in no specific order, doesn't necessarily give a lot of detail, but these were all movies we'd rate pretty highly.
    the movie we watched last night was very good (an academy award winner, apparently). it was called Departures.  it was about a cello player who changes professions and becomes a type of undertaken.

    Kinamand was a good flick about a plumber who helps out a Chinese family.

    The Dinner Game was a really twisted movie that you'd probably enjoy. They play a game in which the person who brings the stupidest guest wins. But the stupid guy finds out....

    Chocolat was good. A little predictable, but still good.

    The Children of Huang Shi was the one I told you about where the American guy helped move orphans to safety in China when the Japanese were attacking.

    Kenny is hilarious! It's run like a documentary but I'm not sure that it is. It's about a guy that runs a port-a-potty business.

    I Am David is about a 12 year old boy that escapes from a communist concentration camp. Might be a bit too much of the same old, but Rob recommended I add it to the list.  He liked it a lot.  (I did too, but it is sort of the WWII ethos carried forward a decade or so).

    Be Kind Rewind was hilarious. They have to redo several big time movies on a low budget and it becomes a hit.

    Son of Rambow was also hilarious. If I remember correctly it was kind of a coming of age movie. The movie making was fun. Touching ending.

    The Lives of Others is the East German movie we talked about. But I think you said you'd seen that one?  Very good.

    All Passion Spent was a film about an introvert trying to escape from her extroverted life after the death of her husband.

    Spitfire Grill was an interesting movie about a gal trying to get her life back together after doing some prison time. Sad ending, though.

    Bagdad Cafe is an older flick, but it was delightfully quirky. Rob didn't like it as much as I did.

    Divided We Fall is one I mentioned about a couple that take in a former Jewish neighbor to protect him from the Nazis. A bit different than your average "save the jews from the nazis" kind of film both because the flick has more of a small town feel and because they throw in some communists for good measure. We both like this one.

    Spring Forward is about two guys that work in the park system. It's not really a coming of age movie as much as it's a coming into maturity sort of movie.

    If you've never watched Dear Frankie, that's one of our favorites. Heart breaking story with a nice ending.

    Ones we watched with the kids:

    The Ultimate Gift is one we watched as a family. It was a bit of a tearjerker but we all enjoyed it. 

    October Sky was another good family movie (and included geeks who were being picked on but who turned out to be the heroes in the end).

    Evelyn was another heartbreaking family movie. I think it unsettled the kids a little that the kids could be taken away. But the father's love was extraordinary and all the kids cheering at the end made the kids feel better.  Good flick. 

    K-Pax is a classic.  I'm pretty sure we watched this with the kids. It's one of those sci-fi movies that kinda keeps you wondering.

    Opal Dream was an interesting adventure tale in which the girl has two imaginary friends and you always kinda wonder in the back of your mind if they're real.


    January 18, 2010

    Introvert or Extravert?

    I'm reading a book called Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture and the author, Adam McHugh, gives three categories of differences between Introverts and Extroverts. Apparently he took the description from another book called The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Lancy.

    First of all he points out that:
    Introversion is one of a constellation of factors that fluidly work together to shape how we act. Introverts gather the information that feeds our inner worlds in different ways; some rely on the concrete experiences of the senses (an S on the Myers-Briggs), while some depend more on their intuition (an N), interpreting what lies below the surface. Some introverts make decisions more from their hearts (An F) and others more from their heads (a T). Some prefer to structure their lives carefully (a J), whereas others opt for more spontaneity and flexibility (a P).

    We also fall somewhere along a spectrum between introversion and extroversion. With the three categories he describes, I find that some people immediately strike me as extroverted in one category, but it's a little more ambiguous in another category. And even within a specific category, we may lean toward one side or another, but it's possible that we show characteristics of the opposite side of the spectrum at times.

    The three categories of introversion/extroversion are: 1) energy source, 2) internal vs. external processing, and 3) depth vs. breadth.
    Introverts are energized by solitude.  We are recharged from the inside out, from the forces of our internal world of ideas and feelings.

    We generally fill our energy tanks in private or in the presence of one or two close friends, or else in a public place without interacting with those around us.

    Long periods without quiet refueling leave introverts feeling physically exhausted and emotionally hollow.

    Extroverts, on the other hand, derive their energy from outside of themselves. They need other people, interaction and various kinds of stimulation in order to replenish their energy. Too much time alone, silence or inactivity leaves extroverts feeling drained.

    I've often heard people explain the energy category (and I've done this myself) specifically in terms of spending time with people, but over time I've grown to see that it's not just a people thing. As he points out above, activity and variety are also keys to the energy equation.  I've noticed before that on days when I have one large project to work on (like making year end school movies or pumping out year end giving statements) I have more energy at the end of the day than when I've spent the day clawing my way through a to-do list 20 items long (even when the items on the list were all small things like making a phone call or tackling some burnt out light bulbs). There's something about the transitioning from one task to the other that wears me out. If I can find a way to make the tasks all seem congruent, I do better than when they strike me as disparate tasks.

    In our culture we are continuously bombarded by stimuli, in the forms of information, images, conversation, and a multitude of other data and experiences.  In order for introverts' lives not to degenerate into disassociated states of confusion, we need to process these stimuli and integrate them into our lives.  Another way that this integration process might be described is filtering.  We need to filter information and experiences, allowing the good to take root in us and transform us, discarding the bad or irrelevant.

    Extroverts have flexible and porous filters that allow much to pass without getting clogged.  They can usually take a much higher amount of stimuli before they become inundated.  They mostly process externally, through conversation and interaction with others. Taking is an integral part of their processing, and they often speak in order to understand. Their speaking and thinking occur simultaneously. Though they are capable internal filtering and reflection, they are most alive when engaged in the world of people and activity.

    ...extroverts may be more physically expressive than introverts.
    The introverted filter, on the other hand, is much finer and more rigid, only able to allow small amounts of stimuli to pass before it backs up. Introverts process internally, in the workings of our own minds.  We integrate and think silently. Ideally, we like to be removed from external stimuli and people in order to process.

    Though we are capable of engaging in the world, we are most alive in the reflections of our minds, mulling over concepts and experiences.  Our learning style centers around observation and contemplation, and we are not as dependent on external feedback for growth.

    Many introverts do not do well with interruptions, either when we are speaking or reflecting.

    When the finer filters of introverts become clogged in the presence of people, we often go silent.

    When this filtration process is impeded, the result can be disorientation and confusion -- or for me, temporary depression....

    My first thought upon reading about this second category was, "but I'm so good with Dad!" Part of having Picks disease includes perseveration, which means saying the same thing over and over and over again until everyone around you goes insane. My dad's perseveration drove my mom nuts, and my sister, but somehow I put up with it easily.  But I suspect that's because, after having 3 kids under the age of 2, I learned to filter beyond my filter. I could "turn off" my dad in a way that they couldn't and sometimes people would complain about my dad's repetitions and I'd be surprised that he'd been speaking that whole time and I hadn't even noticed.  (My kids hate when I've turned them off -- they keep asking me a question and I don't hear them at all. There are definitely times when it's not an asset.)

    But as I finished reading this section, especially the last bits about shutting down and getting depressed, a light bulb went off.  There have been so many times when I've been in the midst of a stressful conversation and between my trying to convey my thoughts to people who obviously weren't understanding me, and trying to make sense of and sort through their responses to me, I would just get to the point where I couldn't even function any more. I'd have to leave the room. Or I'd break down in tears. Or I would just get very, very quiet.

    Introverts tend toward high degrees of intimacy in our relationship, which we usually have fewer of than extroverts.  Introverts are rarely content with surface-level relationship and do not generally consider our acquaintances to be friends.  We may find small talk to be disagreeable and tiring.

    Introverts also prefer to have depth in fewer interests.  This trait is connected to our style of processing. The breadth of information about a wealth of topics often results in introverted-filter overload.  Instead, introverts prefer to invest our energy resources into a a smaller number of topics or activities. We desire to mine them for all their richness, to explore all their nuances and complexities. This commitment to specialization of expertise, along with our love of ideas and our powers of concentration, explains why many introverts thrive in lives of scholarship.

    Although this third category introduces a new idea regarding introverted vs. extroverted behavior, I think it overlaps a lot with the other two categories. Switching between topics is harder on our filters than sticking with one topic and digging deep. The same holds true with switching between activities or even with the number of people we hang out with.

    The way I think of it sometimes is sticking on the main road vs. taking detours, especially detours that I wasn't expecting. If I *feel* like I'm sticking to one general task all day, I do a lot better than when I feel like I'm headed in one direction, and then a friend of mine calls up to ask if I'd like to go for a walk and suddenly I'm like a deer caught in the headlights. "What! Throw a variable into what had started off as a straight forward day?! You've got to be kidding!" I go silent and I'm sure she's on the other end of the line wondering what happened to me. And when I relent and go on the walk (because she IS my friend and I DO like going on walks once in awhile, though I usually prefer being alone) I come home and the rest of the day is gone. No matter how much work I still had to do, I'm physically and emotionally unable to deal with anything else that day.

    McHugh, in this chapter on the differences between Introverts and Extroverts, gives a list of "common attributes of introverts." If you're still not sure on which side of the spectrum you fall, perhaps this will help:
    • Prefer to relax alone or with a few close friends.
    • Consider only deep relationships as friends.
    • Need rest after outside activities, even ones we enjoy.
    • Often listen but talk a lot about topics of importance to us.
    • Appear calm, self-contained and like to observe
    • Tend to think before we speak or act
    • May prefer a quiet atmostphere
    • Experience our minds going blank in groups or under pressure
    • Don't like feeling rushed
    • Have great powers of concentration
    • Dislike small talk
    • Are territorial -- desire private space and time
    • May treat their homes as their sanctuaries
    • Prefer to work on own rather than with a group
    • May prefer written communication
    • Do not share private thoughts with many people
    I've also posted some interesting quotes from McHugh's book regarding physiological differences between extroverts and introverts in the INTJ Group: Dopamine vs. Acetylcholine and Blood Flow

    January 16, 2010

    Caring for Your Introvert - The Atlantic (March 2003)

    Caring for Your Introvert  < -- Click here to read the Atlantic Monthly article.

    This is a classic article about introverts. If you are an introvert, it might come as a relief to read this and find that a lot of the things that have always drained you or annoyed you or stressed you out are normal. Every time I read this article I think, "Yes! That's it exactly!" over and over again. If you are an extrovert, this article will hopefully help you to better understand the introverts in your life. Unfortunately, after sending this article out to several extroverted friends, the standard response I got from them was, "That's funny. What a hilarious joke!" In other words, they didn't get it. They thought it was a spoof on the differences between introverts and extroverts, but not at all based in reality. *sigh*

    Here's a few quotes from the article to whet your appetite: 

    Introverts may be common, but they are also among the most misunderstood and aggrieved groups in America, possibly the world.
    Introverts are not necessarily shy. Shy people are anxious or frightened or self-excoriating in social settings; introverts generally are not. Introverts are also not misanthropic, though some of us do go along with Sartre as far as to say "Hell is other people at breakfast." Rather, introverts are people who find other people tiring.
    Extroverts are easy for introverts to understand, because extroverts spend so much of their time working out who they are in voluble, and frequently inescapable, interaction with other people. They are as inscrutable as puppy dogs. But the street does not run both ways. Extroverts have little or no grasp of introversion.

    Enjoy!



    (I thought I had posted this long ago, but I can't find it anywhere so I thought I'd repost the link.)

    Dopamine vs. Acetylcholine and Blood Flow - Introversion vs. Extraversion

    I am reposting this from the INTJ  group on Multiply.com (which is ending its social networking services in December). I won't be saving all of the posts that I wrote in the group, but this is one that I'd like to keep around to refer back to if needed.  I have back dated this post according to its original posting date.

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    I'm reading a book called Introverts in the Church: Finding our place in an extroverted culture (by Adam S. McHugh) and the author spends a fair bit of time essentially explaining introverts: how they're different than extroverts, why they're different, and what that means in terms of what's reasonable to expect and what's not. As I'm reading it I keep thinking, "So that's why I do that!" and "No wonder I often feel guilty I'm not doing that." (The guilt is because the extroverted culture tells us that we should be doing XYZ and for extroverts, that XYZ is something that energizes them so they really don't understand our reticence. But for us, it just wipes us out.)

    I just hit a section on dopamine and brain function differences that I think is particularly interesting. I thought I'd include a few excerpts here.

    Studies of the human brain have revealed three significant physiological differences between introverts and extroverts.  First, introverts have naturally busier, more active brains than extroverts.  Though introverts look calm on the surface, our brains are bubbling with activity, and thus we require less external stimulation than extroverts.  Too much external stimulation, in fact, leads to a feeling of overwhelm.  Second, blood flows in different paths in introverted and extroverted brains. Introverts have more blood flow, but it flows in a longer, slower path than in extroverted brains.  The blood in introverted brains flows to sections that are focused on internal things like remembering, solving problems and planning.  ON the other hand, the blood in extroverted brains goes to those parts that are used for the processing of sensory experienced, what's happening externally.

    Third, introverted and extroverted brains have different chemical balances.  The activities of our brains are catalyzed by neurotransmitters, which are chemical substances that transmit nerve impulses.  Extroverts require greater amounts of dopamine, a central neurotransmitter in the sympathetic nervous system. It is produced when people are active and in motion. As psychologist and author Marti Olsen Laney writes, "extroverts feel good when they have places to go and people to see," probably because they are flush with dopamine.  Dopamine takes a short path through the brain and, in stressful situations, produces an "act and react" response.  It can be credited for extroverts' ability to think and speak quickly and to thrive under pressure.  It also helps them access their short-term memory more rapidly, so their data-processing circuit is shorter and faster. 
    Introverts, on the other hand, require less dopamine, and when our brains have too much, we can feel anxious or overwhelmed.  Our brains rely more on another neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter of the parasympathetic nervous system, which conserves and restores energy, producing a "rest and repose" posture.  It produces a pleasurable sensation in introverts when we are thinking and reflecting. Acetylcholine, however, cuts a longer path through the brain, which explains why introverts may have difficulty accessing words or memories quickly and why we may be slow to react in stressful situation.  Introverts often prefer writing to speaking, because writing uses a different neurological pathway in the brain than speaking does. Additionally, the slower acetylcholine tributary may produces a posture of calmness in introverts and cause us to move more slowly than extroverts, which may explain why we are often less expressive with our bodies."

    Wow, that explains a lot. I've always known that I don't interview well, but I thought only the nervousness could be attributed to being introverted. Now I know that the words on the tip of my tongue and the ideas not coalescing on demand (when they all came together so well just the day before as I was planning on the talk) are all a result of stuff going on in my brain. It's kind of a relief to know it's not that I'm just a moron.