The “I” Word

I am an introvert. And these days, I’m cool with that. But I haven’t always been. For many years I wished that my results would come out differently on any assessment I took, be it the Myers-Briggs or a quiz in the latest issue of Marie Claire. I wanted to be outgoing, daring, fun, the life of the party. It seemed that extroverts had more fun. And who wouldn’t want to have more fun?

My other problem with always coming up introverted, was the fact that I do a lot of non-introverted things. In high school and college I participated in competitive public speaking. Later, as a young professional I led workshops and taught classes. I studied Psychology and Counseling. I make a living talking to people. How could I possibly be an introvert?

It turns out that my problem with introversion for all those years was a simple misunderstanding; a matter of buying in to an image of “The Introvert” (huddled in the dark corner, nose in a book, terrified to speak to anyone) instead of seeking to truly understand the term. In the very first graduate class I enrolled in, we took the Myers Briggs and somewhere deep inside I cringed just a little, thinking here we go again with the big “I” label. Sure enough, a week later there were my results, that “I” looming right there in the forefront.

Except this time, something magical happened. My professor explained that the introversion/extraversion scale has to do with where we get our energy, not necessarily our proclivity to be social. An extrovert draws energy from interaction with others. They “re-fuel” their low reserves by spending time with people. On the other hand, the introvert draws energy from quiet reflection. So introverts often need to recharge by spending time alone, but they can and do enjoy social interaction as well.

Now this I understood. It was totally me. I often need a little down time between a busy, people-filled work day and a post-work gathering of friends. When I don’t get in my quiet, reflective writing time each week, I feel a little off-balance. And sometimes I do really, really like to sit in a (well-lit) corner and read a book. This in no way makes me antisocial. Quite the opposite, when I’m getting the quiet time I need, I can be quite fun, quite courageous and maybe even the life of that small group of people I am talking to at the party.

So I no longer shun the idea of being an introvert; instead I seek to embrace and nurture this aspect of my personality. I am happy to be truly and authentically introverted.

(For more on the awesomeness that is introversion, check out Susan Cain’s TED talk!)

Permission to Quit

It’s 10K Season in Richmond. In about a week more than 40,000 runners will descend on the city and make their way up Monument Avenue and back. For the last four years, I have been one of those runners. This year I am not.

Last year I woke up on the day of the race and didn’t feel great. Not horrible, but not great. Marginal. But I had signed up and trained. I had to do it; surely I would always wish I had run. Always regret not doing it. So I ran and then that afternoon curled up in bed and shivered while my head throbbed. Clearly, running had been a bad idea.

Reflecting on it a year later, I’m sure that I would not have regretted staying home; but I do sort of regret pushing my body to run six miles, when what it needed most was to rest. I loved the feeling of finishing the 10K for the first time at age 30. I also love the feeling of walking to work and going to the gym most days. I love that I can run a mile pretty much anytime I want (something I couldn’t do pre-10K training four years ago). Choosing not to train for and run the 10K this year hasn’t made me love any of these things less.

I can be stubborn. And this coupled with the persistent societal message that “quitting is bad” makes it hard for me to walk away from things. But sometimes we need to, right? Is not running that race, or turning down that meeting request really so terrible? I say no. Not if I’m not passionate about it. And certainly not if it frees up time and space for the people and things that I love.

In fact, perhaps the thing we most need to quit, is being hard on ourselves about all those little things we feel we shouldn’t quit.

Little Sumpin’ on a Tuesday Night

Way back in May 2010 I came across She Brews Good Ale.  The first post I ever read was one on making Sima and I excitedly sent it to my husband, who was in the beginning stages of his interest in brewing beer.  It was the first thing he ever brewed.  In fact, it could be credited as the beginning of what is now two large fermenters of beer hanging around my living room. 

Last time I visited I came across this post, pairing Lagunitas Little’ Sumpin’ Sumpin’ with a Bulgar, Kale and Parsley salad.  I remembered it when I found the aforementioned beer on sale during a rare trip to Whole Foods (dear Whole Foods,  if you’re reading this – and I’m sure you are- how about a store in downtown Richmond!  Thanks!).

We made the recipe last night.  I skipped the tomatoes, because I didn’t really think that the tasteless winter ones would add much (now in the summer, that’s another story . . .) and used some lovely kale from Tricycle Gardens.  So. Delicious.  And the pairing was spot on, with the effervescence of the beer cutting the sharp bitterness of the kale.*  Quite a nice way to spend a Tuesday night, if you ask me!

*I must give credit to the brewer in my house for this statement.  While I immediately recognized it’s truth, my thoughts were more along the lines of “yep, this does all taste good together.”

The Tough Stuff

Part of my day job involves teaching a freshman orientation class. If you went to college in the last 15 years you probably had to take one; and if you started college in the last 5 years, I guarantee you did. They go by names like Freshman Seminar or Intro. to the University and are designed to provide a comprehensive orientation to college policies and campus resources, while also helping students develop skills that will increase their success. The version of the course I teach is worth one credit and a large percentage of the grade is participation/attendance based. It’s not particularly hard to teach or for students to do well in (read: it can and should be the proverbial easy A).

For me, the real work comes in confronting students. Drawing to their attention those little signs that loudly scream: I am going to get eaten alive by the animal that is academia. The neglected homework, the shared answers, the failure to follow directions on an exam. For me, it’s not just a semester-long lecture on time management and choosing a major; instead it’s more about not letting students turn in late work and addressing academic honesty head on.

And that part isn’t so easy. At least not for me. Because that student who is holding out his assignment a week after the deadline, face full of hope, is going to look crushed when I don’t accept it. And the other one who wanted to help a friend and gave him her worksheet to copy (which he unfortunately did, word-for-word) will want to explain why it wasn’t her fault, why she was just being helpful. And if I’m honest I can remember the desire to make new friends, too. It would be easy to just grade the homework or think the “sharing” student learned enough from our chat and does not need to be given a zero on the assignment.

It would be easy, but it wouldn’t be right. It would set the students up to think everyone would bend the rules. It would mean that I wasn’t meeting the fundamental mission of the class: to teach skills to make students successful in college. And so I take a deep breath and say I can’t take your paper, remember what the syllabus says about late work and I do understand that you were trying to help a friend, but you need to understand that the way you helped him constitutes cheating.

Because at the end of the day, I’d rather have spent 10 uncomfortable minutes with a student, than to take the easy way out and live indefinitely with the knowledge that I had failed them.

English Pale Granola

Beer bubbling away in my living room = English Pale Ale.  Spent grain cooking experiment happily resting in my kitchen = granola.  I am really pleased with how my second adventure in spent grain cooking turned out.  I combined a couple of recipes (one for spent grain and one for just regular granola) and the result is a nice toasty vanilla, maple, cinnamon flavor.  Also worth mentioning is how awesome the house smelled while it was baking.

Here’s the recipe:

9 cups spent grain

1 cup whole wheat flour

3 cups chopped nuts (I used almonds, cashews and walnuts.  This is a great way to use up little remnants left from other recipes)

6 tsp cinnamon

3/4 c turbinado sugar

3/4 c vegetable oil

6 tbsp honey

3 tbsp maple syrup

6 tbsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Combine the liquid ingredients in a second bowl, then stir both together.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and spread the mixture out on them in a very thin layer.  Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.  Lower the temperature to 200 and continue baking until the granola is dry and toasty, stirring about every 25 minutes (mine took about 1 hour 15 minutes after the initial 15 minutes at 350).  I used the convection on my oven and would recommend this if you have the option.

Next time I think I’ll tackle spent grain bread.  Should be interesting since I’ve never made bread before . . .