Life By Kristen

Go, and embrace your liberty. And see what wonderful things come of it. – Little Women

Thankful Thursday #12

I’m thankful for having a brother!

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David is my first friend, no matter the trouble we caused together or because of the other.

He is just shy of 2 years older than me, but I was the bossy little sister who acted like I was older and walked in to take the remote control from him when we watched TV after school.

He’s an amazing artist and creative person with a great imagination and spirit for adventure. He can put together a piece of Ikea furniture in no time, install a ceiling fan, and win any trivia match involving Disney, comic books, or superheroes.

No matter how we’ve argued or how different we can be on some things, we share the same values of family being important. He’s a kind, compassionate, funny, and all around great human being. Like our Dad, he would drop what he’s doing and help you out in any situation without asking for anything in return. He’s pretty fantastic and I don’t thank him enough.

 

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For many years, we were the same height, but now he towers almost a foot and half over than me!

Book Review: Another Brooklyn

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About the book:

The acclaimed New York Times bestselling and National Book Award–winning author of Brown Girl Dreaming delivers her first adult novel in twenty years.

Running into a long-ago friend sets memory from the 1970s in motion for August, transporting her to a time and a place where friendship was everything—until it wasn’t. For August and her girls, sharing confidences as they ambled through neighborhood streets, Brooklyn was a place where they believed that they were beautiful, talented, brilliant—a part of a future that belonged to them.

But beneath the hopeful veneer, there was another Brooklyn, a dangerous place where grown men reached for innocent girls in dark hallways, where ghosts haunted the night, where mothers disappeared. A world where madness was just a sunset away and fathers found hope in religion.

Like Louise Meriwether’s Daddy Was a Number Runner and Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina, Jacqueline Woodson’s Another Brooklyn heartbreakingly illuminates the formative time when childhood gives way to adulthood—the promise and peril of growing up—and exquisitely renders a powerful, indelible, and fleeting friendship that united four young lives.

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My review: 3 stars.

I listened to the author’s critically acclaimed memoir Brown Girl Dreaming over the winter during my morning commutes to work and really enjoyed it.

Another Brooklyn is fiction and has some basis in the author’s own life. I liked the look at 1970s Brooklyn through the lens of four girls and their dreams of their adult life. This coming of age story made me think of another tale set in the same place– A Tree Grows in Brooklyn– though a totally different time, scenario, and even style of writing. But it captures that moment in time when you’re a teenager and learning about the tough things in the world like race and money, while still having some innocence left.

It’s a short, unique book that I read in a weekend ( probably would have been in one sitting had I not had other things going on that weekend). The poetic quality of the writing helps to soften some of the more tough elements of the time and girls’ life, but no less powerful.

I think the only reason I gave this 3 stars is because I wanted more of the character development and inner thinking, which the lyrical writing of the book doesn’t quite allow. There also is a few shifts in chronology that were a bit confusing and unclear to me. If I hadn’t previously read Brown Girl Dreaming ( based on a rec from a blog reader friend), I may not have opted to read this title because it falls outside my normal reading interests, but it’s always good to break habits too!

I enjoyed this interview with the author about the book and its various themes.

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As part of the TLC Book Tour of this book, I was provided an advanced copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Opposites Attract

3.5 years ago, Q and I “met” on OKCupid, about a week before I was about to cancel my account. I was post-divorce, trying to be open about meeting new people, even if they didn’t seem like ‘my type.’

If you wrote down our various interests and traits between us, it would look like we’re mismatched. He doesn’t read a lot, isn’t super into traveling, and isn’t a huge fan of social get togethers outside of close family and friends. He likes sci-fi, watching the Weather Channel, and would eat the same meal every day if he could ( likely beef). I’m not exactly the polar opposite of all those things, but we have our differences for sure.

But what we share the most (other than a love for each other and who we are as human beings) is our value of respect and honesty. We both came from marriages where we didn’t feel like we could be ourselves with the person we were with.

We’re together because he’s kind, compassionate, and an amazing listener. When I’m hyped up about something, I literally can feel my muscles relax and my blood pressure come down when I’m in the same room as Q. We’re together because he makes me a better version of me- highlighting all the awesome Kristen things and challenging me on my bad habits and quirks. He supports me- and all my crazy ideas.

Q and me

Maybe it’s because we both have been married before or maybe it’s because we’re in our 30s and aren’t interested in the games. We let each other be ourselves- he’s picky about some things and I let him make those decisions on his own because he’s an adult.

As I’ve learned so many lessons from being a ‘bonus mom’ to Q’s son, being a partner to Q also has helped me grow as a person. It turns out, I like some sci-fi and he likes some history! I have taught him that vegetarian meals can be just as delicious as a big steak and that making a list for the grocery store will make the trip less annoying. There are the big things too of course, as he is a constant reminder that getting angry in any situation is often the worst thing to do as he is one of the most even-keeled people I know personality-wise.

Sure, we drive each other nuts sometimes, mostly because we’re both stubborn and often very independent people. I like to do things my way, no matter the mess or trouble, but he’d rather be practical and do something once. I’m a clean, organized person who gets joy out of order, while he has piles of paper and clothes ( what I call the ‘floordrobe’ these days), and would never make a to-do list to save his life. We balance each other out in a way that makes being with him the easiest part of my life.

So we may rarely mutually agree on a movie to watch and I might have to push and plead to get him on a plane, but we work. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Friday Finds August 2016

Red lipstick has a tumultuous past.

Have you ever bought food at TJ Maxx or Marshalls? I definitely have, especially around the holidays when they have so many random, yet special things that are perfect for stocking stuffers and gift baskets. Interesting article about the intentional chaos scheme they seem to have going on there.

Speaking of food- spray food. Confession: I used to love Cheez Whiz in college.

The history of skyscraper climbing.

I used to read entire books in the car when I was little. Now, I can barely look at a street sign or the GPS when I’m the passenger. Apparently it’s not just me– car sickness is your brain thinking you are being poisoned.

Librarian Olympics.

You’re not meant to do what you love, you’re meant to do what you’re good at. This was has me thinking… I’m good at making sure lightbulbs are in proper working order, supplies ordered, and so on, but I don’t want to do this with the rest of my life either!

 

5 Summer Favorites

As the start of the school season is upon us and the unofficial end of summer with Labor Day, I’m trying to savor these lazy days of summer. Here’s what I love the most about summer.

  • Fresh, local fruits and vegetables: There is nothing tastier than a tomato or blueberry from a local farm, picked within hours ( or by me!) of eating it.
  • The hours between 4-8pm: I love that time right after work when the sun is still out, the temp is a tad cooler, and it’s all about relaxation.
  • Sandals:  I love shoes, but hate socks ( I know, I’m a weirdo), so sandals are really my ideal shoes.
  • Grilling: I actually rarely grill, but I love grilled meat and veggies. Plus, it usually means that Q is cooking so I can just enjoy the meal.
  • Being outside: Whether it’s reading on the swing or walking at lunch, I enjoy being outside as much as I can ( minus the super humid, gross days).

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What are your top 5 favorite things about summer?

Happy weekend!

It’s August!

I was thinking I’d write it’s been a rough few weeks, but then thinking about it, it really hasn’t… I’m just in the lazy, popsicle-eating, lounging and reading days of summer.

I like the summer, but am more partial to the early days and nights of the season than the afternoons. I have come to detest the thick humidity which seems to become worse every summer- I don’t know how people in the South live like this. Our house is small so we do fairly well with two window ACs, but we are thinking about installing a ductless AC in our front room for next summer– gosh, I’m such a suburban homeowner.

Life-wise, it’s hard to believe that school starts in a few weeks for Little Man. He is headed to the second grade and is quite excited about all the new math he’s going to learn ( his favorite subject) and a little nervous about the reading, which we’re trying to work on with him whenever we can.

Work has been busier than usual this summer, both at the museum and with my fun writing projects. That’s also increased my indoor time more than I’d like, but I’m hopeful for a warm September that can lead to more dinners outside, lounging on the swing in the backyard, and enjoying walks on the beach.

We’re making slow progress on the backyard re-do– I think we have finally tackled all the ants, though now the yard has been taken over by heat-living, drought resistant weeds that give us a false sense of hope and make our lawn look greener than it actually is! Once the hot, humid, thick weather leaves us ( hopefully soon!), we’ve got someone finally coming to paint our fence, a task I did once with my father when I bought the house 7 years ago, and have no interest in doing again.

I’ve got the furniture donation people coming this weekend to get a bunch of random furniture from the basement, something that even though I don’t look at all the time was stressing me out. I’ve held onto a lot of things for the ‘what ifs?’ of life, and am realizing that it’s more annoying to keep it there than its worth. Even if we never move from this house, I want it to be a better space for our family.

Exciting things coming up soon: day off on Friday and a massage, my Mom’s birthday, standup paddleboarding with work friends (finally!), an adventure with Little Man and Q, and trying some new restaurants with Q.

Hoping you’re enjoying the dog days of summer too!

Friday Finds July 2016

The legacy of The Babysitter’s Club. I had every single Babysitter’s Club book, even the special ones. I wish I had saved them, but I donated them to the library where I know so many young readers enjoyed them.

Fast fashion throughout history.

A brief history of the Converse All-Star logo.

Beaver skydiving in Idaho, 1948. AKA beaver transplantation. Weird!

Kodak film and A-Bomb testing.

The oldest living American dies— and she went to Brown, my grad school alma mater.

Whenever I get discouraged about where I am in life, where I think I ‘should’ be and all that, I remember that Julia Child didn’t write her first cookbook until she was 50. She, and other late bloomers, are my source of inspiration!

The Wisdom of a 7 Year Old

Excuse me, 7 1/2 year old. I’m told the half is very important.

This past weekend we had Little Man and Saturday night’s dinner conversation somehow turned to the presidential race because Election Day occurs a week after Little Man’s 8th birthday. Here’s pretty much how the convo went, paraphrasing a bit.

Little Man: And then after my birthday, we elect the first woman president.

Q: Well, we hope to elect the first woman president. There is someone running against her.

Little Man: Is he the guy who yells all the time?

Q: Yep. Not everyone likes him, but not everyone likes Hillary, the woman who is running against him. The same thing happened with Obama.

Little Man: Obama is our president now.

Me: You’re right, and he was our first ever black President. It’s a big deal for him and for Hillary because women and black people didn’t always have the right to vote.

Little Man: That’s not fair. Why?

Me: Because a long time ago white men thought they were the only ones who had the intelligence and ability to make decisions.

Little Man: Well that’s just silly.

Oh the wisdom of a 7 1/2 year old.

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On a related note, I was incredibly surprised how moved I was last night when Hillary’s nomination became official. I don’t talk about politics often and have tried to keep a lot of the noise and media rants out of my head the past few weeks, but between Michelle Obama’s speech on Monday night and the official nomination last night, I have found myself tearing up on more than a few occasions. I think it’s because I see the perspective of the very special 7 1/2 year old little boy who doesn’t even question a woman being president and the prospect that I could someday have a little girl of my own that could change the world when she grows up now that this barrier has been broken. Whatever your politics and where you stand on the issues, it’s an amazing thing to see happen, no matter the outcome.

Summer Lovin’

( Apologies if the Grease song is now stuck in your head!)

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I’m not the biggest fan of summer. I mean I like it, and during the frigid days of February, I dream about it. Summer is probably tied for second with winter in my lineup of favorite seasons (#1 is fall, #4 is spring because allergies). I like being able to enjoy outside in the shoulder months of the season, but here in New England, July and August often are grossly humid and hot. Apologies to those who live far South from me and have humidity for more months. I cannot imagine how you survive.

The past few weeks have been filled with that hot, humid weather that has you sweating just from breathing. Despite this, it’s been some of the best few weeks of summer I can remember. Museum visits, lunches outdoors, walks on the less sticky days, reading outside on my swing in the backyard. We finally went blueberry picking as a family, which was tons of fun.

This past weekend, we spent a lot of time indoors in the air conditioning being lazy, which was glorious by itself too. I posted over on Twitter a few Saturdays ago that hot summer Saturdays look a lot like cold winter Saturdays– lots of inside time in the A/C, reading and binge watching a show ( a few weeks ago we got sucked into some HGTV marathons and hunger pains was the only thing that broke us out of it– and got us out of the house!)

Shamefully, I haven’t made it to the beach yet, which is slightly embarrassing since there is one about a 10 minute walk from my work and I drive by at least 3 on my commute. I remember we practically lived at the beach each summer when we were kids ( probably because it was inexpensive!) and as an adult I think of ten other things I could be doing since the ocean is always there– definitely something I take for granted.

 

 

Recently: Museums

Even though I work in a museum, I don’t tend to get out to them very often– often because it’s difficult to shut the work brain off, even when in another museum space. I’m always looking at labels, how things are hung, lighting. Even though I write labels for a living, I almost never read them. I hate going on organized tours. When we went to California, we didn’t go to any museums at all ( partly because I’ve seen them all a few times over the years and partly because we had other priorities). So it’s quite funny that in the last 2 weeks, I’ve been to 3 different museums (2 work trips, one personal), all lovely, inspiring, and highly recommended.

Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, MA

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A new museum for me, this museum has a diverse collection and a beautiful building, redone in the past few years. This was a field trip with our tour guides and I tagged along. I especially enjoyed an aboriginal art exhibit that had both historic and contemporary pieces.

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Florence Griswold Museum, Old Lyme, CT

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I visited this museum a few years back as part of a friend’s 30th birthday celebration when she wanted to paint on the grounds by the river for the “Make a Painting Sundays”. This trip was for work and was part inspiration visit for our next year’s exhibit. It was a gorgeous day and it was great to walk the grounds and have lunch outside. At my last visit, we didn’t go into the museum or historic house that once housed an art colony at the turn of the 20th century, so I really enjoyed this part, particularly since Impressionism is one of my favorite periods of art. The dining room of the house is definitely one of my favorite historic rooms that I have seen, featuring painted panels done by the various artists who stayed there over the years.

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RISD Museum, Providence, RI

I visit the RISD Museum once or twice a year, often to see their special exhibitions or to attend a lecture or program. They are a world-class art museum in a small city and I always enjoy my visits there, whether for personal or professional reasons. This visit was with my Mom to see the Todd Oldham fashion exhibit that is currently up. If you’re anywhere in the Northeast region or even planning a visit to the area, I highly recommend the show. It’s glitzy and splashy, but also has a great personal view on the fashion and production because Todd Oldham was personally involved in the exhibit design and choosing each piece for the show.

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