Monday, May 30, 2016

An Extrovert, Her Books, and Her Quiet Evenings In

Last week, another one of those introvert memes cropped up on my Facebook timeline. You know the type I mean -- the ones that make you want to throw your computer through the window and then run down the street screaming. 

Oh, wait -- that's just me?

I don't dislike introvert memes because they're typically unflattering to extroverts. (I once read one that said introverts think long books are "wonderful friends" and that extroverts just use them as doorstops.) I dislike them because they're simply not true. How else could I -- as a card-carrying extrovert -- win at Introvert Bingo? Not only can I claim a whole row of the card, but a grand total of nine squares actually apply to me. That's more than half the board. 

I'm not saying that introversion/extraversion distinctions are a total lie. After all, people do process their thoughts and emotions either internally or externally. I am saying that the way we understand the distinction is skewed. As a result, we're too quick to jump to conclusions about people based on where they fall along the continuum.

For example, reading is not the exclusive domain of introverts. I'm an extrovert, and yet I read substantially more than most of my introvert friends. (Not that it's a contest, but if it were, I'd be winning.) The difference is not that introverts read and extroverts don't, but that extroverts process what they read externally. That's why so many extroverts join book clubs--not because they're drawn exclusively to the social aspect of the book club but because the discussion meets a fundamental need in helping them complete the reading/processing circuit.

Personally, I'd rather light my head on fire than join a book club, but that's only because my book-discussion needs are already met through a close-knit circle of family and friends with whom I regularly swap books and what-are-you-reading updates. I can't even imagine the intellectual loneliness I'd suffer without them.

In the same vein, introverts are not necessarily more effective thinkers than extroverts. They definitely have an easier time appearing as if they think deeply because they're capable of being quiet in public ("Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent"), and they're capable of processing their entire thought before beginning to talk -- unlike extroverts, who are often processing as they talk. 

Admittedly, this looks bad for us. But that doesn't mean we don't think deeply ever. 

I point again to my own experience. Anyone who's attended one of my classes or has read my blog knows that I'm capable not only of deep thought but of digging into the root of why we think the way we do (or, as Introvert Bingo describes it, thinking about thinking). Yes, when I'm mixing with people, I'm constantly babbling. It's only when I'm alone that I can dedicate brainpower to focused thought. To that end, I purposefully rise early in the morning and plan long evening walks in order to provide space for prayer, Scripture meditation, and analytical/philosophical inquiry.

Because extroverts must be alone in order to accomplish deep thought, we're never actually observed thinking. The result is that we come across as chatterboxes who never stop talking long enough to rub two thoughts together. 

It wasn't my intention to devolve into a rant. I'm aware that internet memes are invented off-the-cuff and are intended to be taken at face value and not approached too critically. Maybe I should stop taking this so seriously and just relax and enjoy the joke. After all, not everything needs to be analyzed.

Who do I think I am -- an introvert?

* * *

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

When Our Heroes Say "Hail Hydra"

Today Marvel "revealed" that Captain America is--and supposedly "always has been"--an agent of Hydra. 
Over at Marvel, the first issue of Steve Rogers: Captain America sheds new light on the hero’s past that has a great effect on his present. This issue, written by Nick Spencer and drawn by Jesus Saiz, reveals that Rogers’s mother was recruited by Hydra, one of Marvel’s terrorist groups. Flash forward to today and Captain America is suddenly doing some terrible things: pushing an ally out of a plane and, on the last page, proclaiming, “Hail Hydra.” (New York Times)
If this twist has indeed been planned by Marvel creators from the beginning, it really is a poor piece of storytelling. 

Story twists should be shocking, yes; however, they should also be immediately clear to readers, throwing former plot points into a new, compelling light. "Of course!" readers should exclaim, clutching their hair, "I should have seen this coming! It all makes so much sense now!" 

The Captain America twist doesn't work like that. Instead, it comes out of left field, feeling a lot more like an intentional re-branding of a straightforward character than legitimate, layered storytelling about a complex antihero.

Could this be more evidence of our society's obsession with subverting everything that is good? Within the Marvel Universe, Cap stands for truth and right in a way no other character does. He's the straightest of straight arrows. As such, he's the antithesis of a society that values subjectivity, grey areas, and irresponsibility.

Here's the beautiful truth, however. In subverting Captain America's goodness by branding him a villain, writers are merely acknowledging an older and more binding truth.

Not even Cap.

* * *

Monday, May 23, 2016

Chasing Down Your Dreams

When I was still teaching high school, I would often travel over school breaks. When I returned with photos of sweeping views and tales of international hijinks, my students' number one response was to moan, "You're so lucky!"

I took issue with this statement. None of those trips happened by luck. They were a direct result of intentional planning and hard work, duly allowed by the sovereign grace of God.

I started planning each trip a year in advance. I would choose a destination, seek a travel partner, map out the budget, and then curtail my day-to-day spending accordingly. Most travels required major cutbacks on almost every aspect of spending, from foregoing nights out to only buying new clothes when my old ones literally fell apart. 

The same has held true for my writing. While I credit God for blessing me with an aptitude for language and a love for creative expression, nothing I've ever written made it to the page by sheer luck.

To block out the chunks of time necessary to focus on manuscript development, I've cut back on almost all other areas, including my social life--a difficult task for an extrovert. I've traded sun-drenched weekends at the beach for Saturdays hunched in my apartment with the blinds pulled tight, huddled over my laptop hammering out plot points while clutching my hair and muttering to myself. In order to move my creative life forward, I opened myself freely to criticism, judgment, correction, and nearly-perpetual rejection.

None of that feels like luck. 

In almost every area of life, success comes by way of intentional planning and hard work, duly allowed to move forward by the sovereign grace of God.

As children, we see dreams as just that--as dreams. As we mature, however, we realize that in order for dreams to become reality, we must pull them down from the clouds and root them in solid ground. 

Only then can we chase them down. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Possible Titles for My Autobiography

Though I'm still a bit young to think about starting my autobiography, I have started a running list of possible titles.


Fall Seven Times: My Failed Attempts to Overcome Gravity and What I Learned on the Way Down


If I Did It: Confessions of a Middle Child Who Blamed Siblings for Everything


A Rhyme a Day Keeps the Spouses Away: My Struggle to Overcome Compulsive Rhyming and Find True Love


The Scarlet Sweater: How I Started the Summer-Running Selfie Revolution


Smothering Heights: One Woman's Struggle to Enjoy Nature While Climbing Mountains Despite Being Generally Out of Shape and Scared of Elevations Even Slightly Over Sea Level


One Thousand and One Frights: A Personal History of Disastrous Haircuts



Coffee: A Life


Monday, May 9, 2016

What If Emily Dickinson Loved Coffee More Than Bees?

American poet Emily Dickinson wrote over 1,700 poems focusing on the themes of love, nature, time, life, death, and eternity. Oh, and also bees.

But what if she'd loved coffee more?

* * *
A dribble at a time,
The sweet stream rose like fragrant mists,
The tears of joy, they ran.

My brain untied its bonnet,
Its battle all but won,
As I said softly to myself,
"The coffee pot's begun!"

How much I drank, I know not.
I just know that my smile
As eagerly as a young girl's
Was beaming all the while

Till when my cup was drained and dried
Then sunlight leeched to gray.
I set down my now-empty mug
And softly stole away.

* * *

The coffee's not afraid of me,
I know its every drip;
The pretty people in the shop
They watch me, sip by sip--

Lattes laugh louder when I come--
The mochas madder play.
Wherefore, mine eyes, thy silver mists?
Wherefore, O summer's day?

* * *

I lost a Mug the other day!
Has Anybody found?
You'll know it by the lovely cream
That I have swirled around

A Rich man -- might not notice it --
Yet -- to my frugal Eye,
Of more Esteem than Ducats --
Oh find it -- Sir -- for me!

* * *

The Brain, within its Groove
Runs evenly -- and true --
But once it Decaf serve --
'Twere easier for you --
To put a Current back --
When Floods have slit the Hills --
And copped a Turnpike for Themselves --
And trodden out the Mills --

* * *

My carafe's wider than the Sky --
For -- put them side by side --
The one the other will contain
With ease -- and You -- beside --

My carafe's deeper than the sea --
For -- hold them Blue to Blue --
The one the other will absorb --
As Sponges -- Buckets -- do --

My carafe's just the weight of God -- 
For -- Heft them -- Pound for Pound --
And they will differ -- if they do --
As Syllable from Sound --

* * *

Caffeine -- is Memory -- awake --
Her Parties all astir --
A Presence of Departed Acts -- 
At window and at Door --

Its Past -- set down before the Cup 
Delighted with this Brew --
Perusal -- to facilitate -- 
And help Belief to break through --

Decaf is cureless -- the Disease
Not even God -- could heal --
Let's cancel distribution  
Of this Ultimate Raw Deal --

* * *

Photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

By Original image: unknownderivative work: deerstop. - Emily_Dickinson_daguerreotype.jpg, Public Domain,

By Julius Schorzman (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, May 2, 2016

Florida Summer: The Ultimate Bummer

When thunderclouds rise in the deep Western skies
And the air is as heavy as lead
When fat Bufo toads squat there right by our toes
When we feel ourselves frown as the sweat trickles down
From our necks to the small of our backs
Then we know without doubt that our luck has run out 
And the summer's arrived right on track.

Oh, this Florida summer--it's really a bummer
The sunshine's so bright we go blind
It's hot and it's muggy, and outside it's buggy
The heat index just is unkind
The gators are gloating, the fire ants floating
The old folks have all fled up North
On the Fourth of July we'll sit inside and cry
As the A/C once more proves its worth.

By fall, if you find that we've all lost our minds
We have our own reasons, remember
(The number one reason is Hurricane Season
Which stretches from June to November)
We hang down our heads for the season we dread
It's summer down here in SoFlo
We know how to deal, but don't ask how we feel
Unless you--in fact--want to know.