Friday, January 10, 2014

Musings of an Introvert in an Extrovert World

While in the minority, introverts exist. Yes, it is perfectly normal to prefer the company of your own thoughts over being the center of attention at the popular kid table. We all know them. Those people you have deemed too "good" to talk to the rest of the office, the ones that rush out after a mandatory meeting to elude small talk, the person that would rather eat lunch in their car or cubical versus hanging out in the break room.

No, we are not stuck-up, actually the opposite usually. We just don't know how to talk to you. To an extrovert, striking up a conversation with the cashier comes quiet naturally. Working as a salesman seems fascinating because chatting up the customers to earn a sale is easy. Invited to a party? Your biggest concern is what to wear. Introverts on the other hand, are thinkers. They like to think about the topic before giving input. Its so difficult to spout out what they are thinking as they think it. They prefer the solitude of a good book or movie over a loud party. If the conversation requires more than a "Hi, how are you?" "Fine thanks, and you?" "Very well, have a great day!" It is panic time!

For me, I was always told I was shy, socially awkward, a poor conversationalist, lazy or even stuck-up. After doing some research, I have realized that none of it is true!!! I'm simply an introvert in an extrovert world. I prefer the solidarity of me, myself and I. I prefer to hang out with my close family and pets over hosting a huge get together or attending a family reunion. While I would love to strike up a conversation with you and maybe even hang out sometime, I just don't know how. At a party I couldn't get out of, I will find something to do-any type of chore- just to keep my mind off of socializing. Do I like cleaning, no. Will I scrub your place clean to avoid talking to others, yes.

I think this is why the close friends I have are more extroverted than I am. They aren't afraid to be the leader in the group and I'm okay with that.

I really think this is why I tend to job hop. If a job requires a lot of conversation with a lot of people, I may not stick around. If I can get away with "Hi, Bye, have a nice day" I'm more likely to stick around. If I can clock in, do my job and clock out without many or any distractions-I'm your gal! You'll never buy a car from me, or have me call your house wanting to sell you something, I'll never be a bill collector or a hotline worker, but I give me a job where I can work carefully, dutifully and put in great effort to make sure all the details are in place and I'm home.

I love having deep, meaningful conversations about various topics; I just can't wrap my head around small talk. To me it is a huge waste of time.  I would much rather send a letter, email, text or write so I have time to think about what I'm saying. I will typically not answer my phone, I most likely will never call someone unless it cannot be avoided. I even dread picking up the phone to make a doctor's appointment.

So if you see me at the store and I act like I cut the small talk short just remember it isn't you, its me.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Accountability for the Orange Rhino Challenge....Day 2

So today ends Day 2 of the Orange Rhino Challenge to stop yelling at the kids........Needless to say, Day 1 was fabulous! Day 2....great until the end of the day. Kids are cooped up in the house because of extremely cold temperatures (-1 Fahrenheit) and snow/ice. They've been home from school for 3 weeks. They have played all the board games we have, played video games, watched TV and are too antsy to read. I had just gotten up (I work midnights so my days and nights are backwards, their afternoon is my morning) and while waking up with a cup of coffee and emails when the bickering and fighting begins......Daddy had a doctors appointment so I was on my own.

Looking back on the afternoon, I realize I should have woke up with my coffee and my kids not the computer....I definitely spend too much family time on tech time. I think this will be my co-challenge for the next 5 days. Spend time with the kids instead of checking my millions of social media sites or my email or hoping I have at least 1 comment on my blog today.... Use the time they are in bed or while at school for my tech time. Even if that means unplugging or turning off all devices until my allowed time frame. Hey, I might even save on the electric bill!

Many times, the boys are being rowdy or fighting when they are trying to get my attention. Instead of just coming up to me, they know that fighting is the quickest way to elicit a response from Mommy.

So to sum up the modified goal: I will spend more time being present with family and less time with technology in order to decrease the kids' need to gain my attention, thus decreasing the amount of yelling I have to do to get them to listen to me. Oh, and I still have to make this month's menu and grocery list.....

Monday, January 6, 2014

Building a Better Me

As always, I am trying to find ways to improve me. Not just for the benefit of me, but to benefit my family and the world around me. I've become happier with my relationship with God, I'm physically more healthy and I'm going to school to make myself happier with my career (never had one of those, just a string of random jobs). That just leaves finances and relationships.

Financially we are becoming more stable, learning to live more with less and taking steps to earn a better wage. However, you can earn all the money in the world but what counts is what you do with it. I'll admit, we get into our worst financial state when we don't budget and plan. How can one reach a goal life without a plan??? Needless to say, I'm going to start today with paying more attention to what we spend, how we spend it and how we can make it go farther.

Our biggest expense goes to big items like a roof over our head and a vehicle to drive. We have pretty much eliminated most unnecessary items from our spending. The exception is satellite and internet. For me, internet is a necessity because we are online students and need the access to the internet. It just isn't feasible for us to run to the local library every time we need or want to work on homework. With 3 kids, it just wouldn't happen!

We are terrible about not planning meals so we end up running to the store to grab stuff and end up spending way too much on groceries. In the past, I have made a menu, stuck to it and actually spent less on groceries. Needless to say, I will be making our menu and sticking with it beginning today. My challenge will be to stick to it for one month, assess what worked and what didn't, then create a new goal.

I would say one of the biggest, if the biggest stress on a relationship is money. How much you have/don't have, what you spend it on, who's fault is it that there's unhappiness with the finances, etc. Luckily I realized this would be a potential problem before I ever got married and made the conscious decision to never fight about money with my husband. The best thing we can do is tackle it as a team and discuss whatever issues may arise.

Keeping teamwork in mind, in order to properly work together, we must agree on the plan. It will take each teammates input for the plan to make executing the plan to work effectively. For example, I find paying for satellite frivolous and unnecessary, my husband enjoys having access to a variety of shows for his relaxing and unwinding time.  While I like to read, he doesn't. My compromise is to pay for the satellite, but if it becomes a burden, it's gone! A possibility in the future is to get rid of the $50+ satellite in exchange for a more reasonable Netflix or Hulu Plus (at $8-10 a month we could afford to have both compared to satellite!). Not only does teamwork for planning finances help with our money, it is part of building a better relationship-SCORE!

My relationship with my husband is so important. Without a good relationship, we would be miserable and that misery would emanate into every other part of our lives. Being good spouses and best friends helps show our kids a good example of not only how to live with a spouse, but how to treat other people in our lives. If we are constantly fighting and bickering, our kids will think it is normal and acceptable to fight and bicker with others.

Unfortunately, in our household, we tend to yell. Not between myself and my husband, but towards the kids. If they aren't listening after being asked to do something, instead of assessing the situation for why they aren't listening, I yell. Not productive in the least, but I still find it as my go-to action. Before you scoff at me for thinking my kids would have a legitimate reason for not listening to me, bear in mind that environment and the actions of others dictates our own behavior. If my kids have been asking me questions or talking to me and I barely seem interested, they are going to internalize that and think it is okay to ignore others. What my kids may not realize is that while I seem to be ignoring them, my mind is occupied with other thoughts like working on homework or I may be trying to think about the correct answer to give them. Ah, the joys of being an introvert.

Communication is key!!! If you want more calm verbal communication, you must be prepared to give it first. I'm terrible about not vocalizing what I'm thinking or what I want and forgetting that everyone else cannot read my mind.

While perusing the internet I came across an interesting blog called The Orange Rhino. It chronicles a mom's effort to become "yell free" with her kids for 1 year. She has helpful tips and resources to help others along their journey to yell less. After reading through the information, I have decided to take my own "Orange Rhino Challenge" and not yell at my kids for 1 week. I'll track my triggers for yelling and update my progress along with my kids' reactions for accountability. In an effort to yell less, I'll also be more present with my kids. While I'm physically here for them, I need to remind myself to be mentally here for them as well.

God willing, I will be a happier person by this time next week. Within 6 months, my goal is to be financially more stable and have a less stressful relationship with my kids. September 6th, watch out!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Take baby steps New Convert......

Now that I have found the answer to my prayers and lifelong questions, I embark on the journey of learning the nitty gritty details. As I dive in head first, I start to realize, there is so much to learn!! How will I ever learn all of this? What do you mean it takes time?


I want to know all there is to know and be able to perform perfect salah now!!

I look at the born Muslims and start to get jealous and think of how wonderfully easy it is for them that they were born into a Muslim family and were able to grow up learning about the wonders of Islam.....

Wait...Did I just say "grow up learning"?

Oh. My. Babies don't pop out of the womb proclaiming Takbir or the Shahadah. They don't know how to perform salah and wudu. They don't know the rules....They must observe, learn and GROW into Islam.

I often hear the phrase "take it one step at a time" or "its like climbing a ladder, one rung at a time." You must scoot before you crawl, crawl before you walk and walk before you run. In theory it is easy to know this makes perfect sense, but when you really start getting into the Pillars, you realize the time you shushed someone while you were performing salah you invalidated your prayer....

Well, what to do now? We are blessed with an All Knowing, Ever Merciful Creator and He knows we are not perfect. He knows our innermost desires and intentions. Would you shout at your child when they tried to work a puzzle and smashed the wrong pieces together? No, you would simply show them why it didn't fit and help them figure out the right way.

Ultimately we are a generation of instant gratification serving a God that gives us what we need when we need it and not a minute sooner. Patience is of the utmost importance when learning anything new, especially when it involves a 1400 year old religion that serves an infinitely existent God.

Friday, December 20, 2013

    Sometimes life hands you lemons....and you squeeze them and juice gets in your eye....You can either choose to throw the lemons down and say forget it, or you can keep on squeezing them because you know the pain and frustration will be worth it in the end.
    Today alone, I have been faced with 2 separate batches of lemons......I'll be the first to admit I cried a little. Then I sulked...a lot. I even thought about throwing in the towel. Who needs lemonade from scratch anyway? I'll just toss what juice I've made and these left over lemons in the trash and buy some from the store.
    Then guilt sets in. How dare I waste perfectly good lemons? Why not see where this takes me?
Misery depends on your point of view. I could choose to see a hard time as a negative and continue to moan and groan about how unfair it is that I'm faced with situations I would much rather leave for someone else. When learning to live life differently, it is time to see all aspects of life, not just the good, not just the bad. There's always another side to the coin.
    In order to move on and grow, I have got to realize that I can learn something! So my method of 'squeezing the lemons' isn't so effective. Perhaps it is time to tackle this hurdle from a different angle.
Ok, enough cliché metaphors.
    From this day forward, I promise to make a positive effort to use each experience as an avenue for learning. I will learn to take the good with the bad. I will stand firm when I am sure about something and be willing to give in when life calls for flexibility.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

BzzAgent Bliss! Kroger Skillet Meals

What else could possible make dinner any easier?

As a bzzagent through, I get invited to participate in fabulous campaigns where I receive free products and coupons in exchange for telling the world about it and giving bzzagent my opinion. My most recent invite was for Kroger Skillet Meals. I received a coupon for a free Kroger Skillet Meal, free garlic bread and free salad kit as well as coupons for money off of my next purchases or to just share with others.

Kroger Skillet Meals are found in the frozen food department. Available flavors include tasty selections like Tuscan Style Penne, Chicken Fajitas, Sorento style-gnocchi, Shrimp Lo-mein and Sausage Rigatoni. Selections may vary depending on your Kroger location. I know our local store is terrific about stocking something if I ask them to get some in, so try it if you don't see the flavors you would like!

We tried the Tuscan Style Penne. Chicken, penne, asparagus, and a creamy sauce that tasted like it had sundried tomatoes. Simply empty contents into the skillet, cover, heat, stir and serve. I would recommend pre-heating your oven so you can pop the garlic bread (if you choose to serve it as a side) in the oven while you are cooking your meal. It only takes about 10 minutes and the kitchen smells like I've been slaving over a stove to prepare a delicious Italian dish. The package recommended it served two so we bought an extra bag for our hungry crew. One bag fed myself one serving, my husband 2 and we had some leftover. Bag 2 and the remainder of the first bag fed my 3 boys with some leftover. 

This is absolutely a perfect quick fix for those hectic nights where you work late or have a million activities going on, but don't want to run through the drive-thru. Preparing this was so simple, my 7 year old could have managed with my supervision!

Kroger Skillet Meal Tuscan Style Penne received 5 out of 5 thumbs up!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Starting Anew

     Everyone loves a fresh start. For many people, New Years resolutions mark the perfect time for making changes. What if your New Year wasn't January 1?
What if your New Year was Muharram 1 in the year 1435H?
     For Muslims, Muharram  is the first month of the Islamic calendar. These months do not follow the Gregorian calendar method of 30-31 days with the occasional 28/29 days. Islamic months follow the moon, therefore months are 28-30 days long, hence the year count a mere 578 years off. This is why Ramadan (the 9th month of the Islamic calendar) changes each year.

     Without realizing it, I made a fresh start in life just before Muharram. I didn't resolve to lose weight or quit smoking (already checked both of those off my list!). My fresh start was taking the Shahada, testifying that I believe in and worship one god only and testify that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is a messenger and prophet of God (all praise and thanks belong to Him). By taking my Shahada October 30, I just missed Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha but made it just in time for the New Year!

     As more of my family and friends find out about my conversion I am becoming more comfortable with my new lifestyle. Learning new prayers, new phrases, and new etiquette along with gauging how people will react to my choice.

     It is interesting how no one cares about what you believe until you attach a label to it. Should this label be one that people are familiar with like Baptist, Lutheran or Catholic, no one bats an eye. Add a title that is mysterious or associated with terror, and everyone begins running for the nearest bottle of holy water and shouting "heretic" at you.

     It was not an easy decision made on a whim to convert from my native Christianity. I have spent over 15 years evaluating my beliefs and researching the beliefs of others. When I was a teenager, I was looking for answers and possible modes of rebellion from my parents. As a young adult, I continued to search for answers for my own piece of mind in every religion from A to Z.

    Once I thought I was comfortable with my religion, I began to research in order to be more tolerant of other religions and belief systems. Although I always felt a nagging bit of doubt, I assumed this was normal.

    After enrolling in a Christian college and having to take a class that basically prepares you to understand what you believe, why you believe it and what others believe, I was left with a false sense of affirmation. Surely I had been given the answers to my questions and could focus on worshiping God. Unfortunately, the Trinity and divinity of Jesus remained a source of unease. How can God be His own creator and son? How can an all knowing, all seeing, all controlling God grant humans free-will yet feel it necessary to save us with a blood sacrifice from the very sins He not only knows we are going to commit, but gives us the free-will to commit.

     In search for the truth, I began my quest again. I truly wanted to stick to the religion I was born to and knew. The religion that would give me acceptance and love from everyone I know. This was certainly not fair to me or my children. How can I explain to them a cup of wine and a bowl of crackers are the body and blood of God when I don't understand it myself?

    Refusing to take blind faith as the final answer, I began to dig deep into the Bible. I knew there were commands I was not following. Not just the popular big 10 commandments, but small ones like women covering their hair, for example. I rationalized that if I can't follow the least of these commands, how can I follow the greatest?

   I began covering my hair with bandanas and wide headbands and dressing more modestly. I began to feel free and more honest with myself. I no longer focused on what was hanging out, but what was in my mind and coming out of my mouth.

   I started looking at other religious sects within Christianity as well as other religions that commanded women to cover their hair. Since I didn't feel oppressed covering my hair from my Christian commands, how do women of other faiths feel about being commanded to cover, and who is commanding them to cover?

   One day I stumbled across Islam. Sure I've read about it before, but that is the crazy women oppressing religion of terrorists and I surely have nothing in common with their beliefs. Yet the more I read and searched, the more I felt I was being called home.

     The harder I pushed against it, the closer I felt I was being drawn to Islam. After researching I realized I had so many of the same beliefs as Muslims and the Qur'an held so many answers to questions I never knew I had. Did you know the Qur'an has details of scientific processes? The development of an embryo (Qur'an 23:12-14) and the origin of the universe (Qur'an 41:11) are just a few examples.

The pillars of Islam seemed easy enough:

I Shahada-profess you believe in one god  worthy of praise and that Muhammad is a messenger and prophet of God.
II Salat- salat is the building of a connection to God through prayers and prostration
III Zakat-charitable giving
IV Fasting-abstaining from food and drink during the month of Ramadan in order to feel closer to God and be more sympathetic to those in need
V Hajj-pilgrimage to Makkah at least once in adulthood

     While these pillars are essential to the faith of a Muslim, Allah (Arabic word meaning The God) is merciful and knows that those that are young, sick, pregnant or otherwise incapable are exempt from fasting, those financial incapable are exempt from zakah and those incapable due to health or finances are exempt from Hajj. There are even provisions to accommodate people unable to perform salat in the prescribed manner.

     Women are protected in Islam. While many think it is oppressive to have a woman pray behind a man or cover their bodies, there is a logical reason for these requests. Women pray behind a man because who wants a man ogling their backside while prostrating in prayer to God? While I am trying to focus my mind on God, the last thing I want to worry about is if Youssef can see my panty line while I'm bent over. (Should I wear my clothes loose enough, it shouldn't be an issue, but who wants to worry?) Women AND men are commanded to dress modestly and lower their gaze. This keeps the focus on clean thoughts and on God versus lustful thoughts of the mind.

     Like all religions, there are laws and rules. Like all religions, followers have freewill to choose to follow these rules. Will you get to heaven if you don't follow them, that is between you and God, humans certainly cannot judge you! Just to be on the safe side, I choose to follow the commandments of my God and follow the laws and rules He has set forth to guide us. If you find Sharia law and punishments to be too harsh, the very simple solution is do not break the law and you will not have to suffer the punishment!

     Finding Islam is like finding home for me. I finally feel like I have answers to questions I have been asking for years. Sure I'm nervous about how others will treat me and my family due to my choice, but ultimately I plan to please God no matter what. Insha'Allah (God willing) in my lifetime I can help eliminate some of the fear of Islam and spread the truth of what Islam is and not what others perceive it to be.