#womenaremorethan | LIBBY

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 4.17.48 PMI want to talk about Libby. She was one of my best friends in Dallas, and she constantly amazed me with how intentionally she addressed problems whenever she saw them, whether that was dealing with her past, befriending and caring for her neighbors, or making sure our connection group was loved and unified. She’s crazy smart, and she can see to the heart of a problem before anyone else. She is one of the most hospitable people I know, and I felt so loved every time she let me borrow pajama pants and hang out with her family. I will always cherish the time she told me, “Sounds like you’re trying to earn a gift” and with a single sentence taught me what grace is all about.

She is strong like no one’s business.  While pregnant with her third child, her house burned down, and she and her family had to relocate and start over.  She did this without going insane, which is just about the most impressive thing in the universe.

On top of all that, she is an amazing mother AND a successful entrepreneur. She has two adorable boys and a new baby girl! She started a business all on her own reselling used high-end clothes, purses, and jewelry. She’s a creative businesswoman, a fantastic photographer, and a wonderful friend.

She is definitely #morethan, and I’m so grateful I got to spend three years with her.

Share your own stories about amazing women in your life with the hashtag #womenaremorethan!

Funny Moments with Greek Friends

*discussing And Then There Were None, BBC’s newish mini-series*

Anthi:  Maybe you could stay after our meeting and we will watch that show.
Me:  Yeah!  It’s three episodes right?  Are they each one hour?
Anthi:  I think so.
Me:  Okay, so we could totally just watch them all, right?
Anthi:  *laughs loudly*  Oh Tricia, you are so funny!
Me:  …   Continue reading

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

Oh noooO!!!  Too many feelings.  This review is going to be less intelligent and more an emotional outpouring of OH MY GOSH THIS BOOK.

I mean, the premise is fantastic.  Harry August lives his life, dies, and…is reborn.  As himself, same parents, same place, same situation.  But he remembers everything of his life before.  It turns out there are other people like him, and this is the story of how these men and women influence the world and each other.

It’s super cool and fascinating, and the structure allows for some amazing questions.  There’s the run of the mill immortal quandary:  What do you do to keep life interesting if you’ll never die?  Harry becomes a scientist, doctor, engineer, world traveler, etc.  He learns everything, he meets everyone, he gets married a few times in different lives to different women.  He is captured, tortured, and dies in a whole bunch of different ways.   Continue reading

Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage

I loved this book!  I would have been content to read about the little backwoods town of Tupelo Landing and all its delightfully odd characters from Mo’s pitch-perfect sixth-grade Southern perspective.  But Turnage included hurricanes, murders, crushes, and car crashes on top of an already excellent story.  The result is one of the best middle grade books I’ve ever read.

I think I was most impressed by how Turnage stepped into a very stereotyped situation (both the small-town Southern setting and the middle grade characters) and infused them with unique and surprising qualities.  Mo could quite easily overpower her best friend Dale–she is bold where he is scared–but Dale turns out to be smarter and braver than expected when it matters.  Small town life could have been idolized, and while it’s certainly charming, there is also a genuinely distressing subplot about domestic violence.

I adored this book, and I can’t imagine anyone not feeling the same.  Read it!

91ckGqkZXFLBook Jacket

Meet Miss Moses Lobeau–rising sixth grader, natural born detective, borderline straight-A student, and goddess of free enterprise.  Mo washed ashore in Tupelo Landing, North Carolina eleven years ago during one of the meanest hurricanes in history, and she’s been making waves ever since.

Mo’s summer is looking good.  She’ll take karate with her best friend, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III (whose daddy believes in naming for the famous), and plot against her sworn enemy, Anna Celeste (aka Attila).  She’ll help out at the cafe run by the Colonel and Miss Lana, and continue her lifelong search for her Upstream Mother.

But when the cafe’s crankiest customer turns up dead and a city-slick lawman shows up asking questions, Mo’s summer takes an unexpected turn.  With another hurricane bearing down on Tupelo Landing, Mo and Dale set out to save those they loves and solve a mystery of epic proportion.

Release Date:  May 2012

Embracing My Identity as an INFJ Chameleon

When I first moved to Dallas and hung out with people for the first time, a lot of them assumed I was an extrovert.  This absolutely astounded me, because my whole life previously had been defined by my shyness.  Upon introspection, however, I realized they had a point.  Over the last several years, I’ve learned how to smile, laugh, tell jokes and take attention.  Now when I’m with friends, I’m usually loud and gregarious.  I like to coerce other people into joining the fun, and the sillier the activity, the better.  I started labeling myself an “outgoing introvert.”

I recently got sucked into the INFJ Tumblr tag abyss, where myersandbriggs caught my attention by saying INFJs are:

Most likely to mistype as: ENFJ

Why the mistype happens: Extroverted feeling feeds off the emotions of others, which means that INFJs require a great deal of social time in order to remain emotionally stable. This type is highly likely to appear extroverted to those around them, as they are most animated and enthusiastic when they are in the company of others.* Most INFJs are assumed to be ENFJs by others upon first meeting them.

Although I love my alone time and I will fight you for it, I do genuinely love spending time with friends.  I crave it when I don’t have it.  I don’t know if I would go so far as to say I require a “great deal” of social time, but I’m definitely most animated and enthusiastic when around other people.

Tumblr took me one step further when enfpexplosions said INFJs are not what people think we are:

It’s true. They’re social chameleons, like Mystique from X-Men, they can observe and take on the shape and form (behaviors and mannerisms) of any other type. At work, INFJs may look like INTPs (laid back geniuses) and socially, they may resemble ENFPs (charismatic idealists) or ESFJs (social organizers). Actually, they can seem like any type, depending on which side of their multi-faceted, multi-layered personality they want to show you in whichever social context you happen to be in. You may even think an INFJ is your type, since they like to frequently use the social tool called ‘mirroring’, which is basically observing and copying your mannerisms in order to gain rapport with you. For this reason and a lot of others, INFJs are notoriously difficult to type. The only sure way to know is to have someone take the test and confirm that they are an INFJ.

Also true!  By this point I was feeling really good about myself, in that deep-seated way that comes from feeling understood.  My mom always assumes I am confident and in control during stressful situations (the above “laid back genius”) when internally I am shrieking and panicking.  When I gave a speech to the evaluators in Athens, they saw me as a “charismatic idealist” and wanted me to be a spokesperson for their organization, and the idea of repeating the experience made me want to crawl into a fetal position and cry.  And a “social organizer”?  I was recently asked to plan a party, and I immediately jumped into spreadsheet and phone tree mode.  INFJs are often called chameleons for their ability to mimic other people’s “colors,” and I am definitely a chameleon.

But…all of this feels a little disingenuous.  I started thinking about my angsty teenage poetry, and how I used to be fixated upon the idea that I was wearing masks all the time, that no one truly knew who I was.  That, in turn, reminded me of a conversation I had a couple years ago with a man I respect.  He asked why things hadn’t worked out between a guy I had briefly dated.  I sighed and admitted that he had been interested in the Outgoing and Witty me, and he had bailed when I showed my quieter, slower self.  The man asking said, quite logically, “Well, maybe you should just be yourself when you’re with someone.”

And he’s right.  The only problem is, I am being myself when I’m witty and outgoing.  I’m just also being myself when I hole up in my room with Netflix, coffee, and my cat.  Who I am, according to INFJ studies, is:  a person who can be anything.  Because empathy is at the core of my personality, I adapt myself to be like the people I’m around.  I want to connect with people, so I bring out my silliness, or my philosophy, or my sarcasm, depending on who I am with.  I’m not faking anything.  A chameleon who shifts from being blue to yellow never stops being a chameleon.  Instead, its identity is based upon its ability to do exactly that.

I love learning other people’s “colors.”  When I was a shy kid, it was empowering to learn how to imitate an extrovert’s “red.”  I love navigating social puzzles and feeling the satisfaction of knowing I can make anyone feel like they fit in.  It’s a valuable social skill.  Although some people see just one facet of me and are uninterested when I change colors, my closest friends and those I feel most comfortable around are the ones who love me all the time, no matter what background I’m blending into.

My 4-Year Mongolia Anniversary

Timehop reminded me that four years ago today, I was flying from Chicago to Seoul to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.  I spent three weeks in the Asian country (south of Russia, north of China), and that trip remains one of my absolute favorite traveling memories, in large part because of how it came to be.

In the fall of 2010, Samaritan’s Purse Children’s Heart Project sent 14-year-old Sarangoo and her mother, Byamba, to Peoria, IL for heart surgery.  They stayed with a couple from my church, and the rest of our congregation poured food, entertainment, and love into their lives.  Except me.  I was recently returned home after college and five months in Senegal.  Bored with the familiar and feeling very single amongst married or dating friends, I was depressed.  And in my depression I couldn’t be bothered to help someone else.

Luckily for me, there was another depressed person in the mix.  Gany was Sarangoo’s translator, and their host family sent out an email that essentially read: “Gany is bored!  Will someone take her out for something fun?”  That sounded exactly like me, so I volunteered.  We went out to eat at Culver’s, took pictures of the Holocaust Memorial at the mall, and played the piano at my parent’s house.  Almost immediately, I knew I had found a kindred spirit.  Continue reading

The Story of a Friendship: Tricia and the McMontongers*

*a McGarrah, Monahan, Newton, and Wineinger hybrid

IMG_4697Eight people spending a three day weekend together can be a recipe for disaster.  Staying in a single bedroom with four double beds while sharing a tiny kitchen and tinier bathroom makes it even more likely to fall apart.  Anticipating a sun-filled weekend of outdoor play only to experience cold rain ought to have been the final straw.  The fact that these seven friends embraced the disappointment and close quarters with grace and humor is exactly why I love them so dearly.  Continue reading

Tricia Goes on a Float Trip From Hell*

Missouri – May 2015

*In Dante’s Inferno, the lowest circles of hell are frozen.

A couple months ago, Emily and I decided to meet up halfway between Dallas and Peoria.  That meant southern Missouri, and Emily quickly suggested we bring more of our friends and have a Memorial Day Weekend float trip extravaganza.  There were eight of us in total, and on Saturday morning we sat around the table in our rented cabin/one-bedroom-apartment checking our weather apps.

“It’s 55 degrees now,” Emily said, “but it’s supposed to get warmer as the day goes on.  It’ll even get up to 80!”

“It’s raining,” Abby said, pointing at the window.

“It’s supposed to stop raining,” Emily assured us.  Continue reading

I Was Here by Gayle Forman

WOW.  What a necessary book.  I feel like there is decent representation of depressed and suicidal teens in YA books, but there are not very many novels that deal with the affects of suicide on others.  Cody’s grief over losing her best friend Meg is palpable–the anger at her friend for killing herself, the blame she places on herself for not seeing it coming, and the slow hope of moving forward by finding her own strength.  I thought I Was Here did a wonderful job of honoring the mental illness and pain of those who commit suicide without ever glorifying or justifying the action.

There’s really not much to say about this book other than Read It.  It handles a difficult topic with delicacy, is full of memorable characters (and kittens!), and creates a vivid picture of a part of the country I’ve never experienced (rural Washington).  Most of all, it is a hopeful story.  It is about a girl who loses what she loves the most…and continues to live.  It is about the brave task of living one day at a time.  I adored it.  Continue reading

Leaving Friends

During my last semester in college, I shrank away from friends and became an almost-recluse.  I was anticipating leaving the people I loved, and the fearful part of myself thought it would hurt less if I left them emotionally before I left them physically.  Thankfully, my best friend called me out on my actions and made me aware of the fact that, although it might help me, it was hurting her.

In the last ten years, I have moved five times (I’m jumping forward to include my move to Greece in a few months).  Each time I left people that I loved deeply and considered family.  There is still a part of me that wants to avoid getting close to people for fear of inevitably being separated.  But I’ve learned that there is a particular kind of bravery that allows a person to keep opening their heart to joy and pain.  I’ve learned that I want to fling myself into loving people, experiencing the heights of friendships and depths of loneliness.  Continue reading