Life By Kristen

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

Audiobook Spotlight: Therese Plummer

I’ve written many times about my love of audiobooks- not commuting during the pandemic has drastically cut down on my consumption of them, but over the last decade of commuting in my job, I’ve listened to so many audiobooks. While I do listen to a lot of memoirs read by the author, I love a good audiobook narrator whose voice takes me right into the book just as if I was reading it.

Therese Plummer is one of those amazing voices. She is a seasoned narrator and storyteller whose voice has taken readers to many places and worlds. If you’ve listened to any of romance author Robyn Carr’s books, you likely have heard Plummer. She’s been doing voicework for over 15 years and has a wide variety of clients, recording over 400 audiobooks for all the major NYC publishing houses. She is the voice of Maya Hansen in the Marvel graphic motion comic Ironman Extremis, Dr. Fennel in Pokémon, and for various “Yu-Gi-Oh!” characters. She’s also had television guest roles on The Good Wife, Law and Order SVU, and Virgin River for Netflix.

 

Storytelling is an important art form that is more than just reading the words on the page. Plummer brings life to the narrative and characters, no matter the genre. It’s quite a talent to bring a world alive from words and directly into a person’s ears so I’m so pleased to be able to highlight the work of this amazing storyteller!

Update from Isolation

I think Monday makes one month that I’ve been working from home full-time. If I’d known how long we’d be doing this, I think I would have taken more care to pay attention to what day it is and what we’ve been doing. Q has been home a week longer than me I believe, though in his first week he was “working from home” doing training videos and busy work.

There’s nothing I can say that we aren’t all feeling. We all have the same questions of when this will be over, the same disappointment at cancelled plans, and the same unease about making plans. I keep trying to find silver linings to everything- happy to be home with the baby and Q, grateful we have the means to not have to worry about food or diapers, and so on. It’s a little anxiety provoking to think about the uncertainty of Q’s job, but that’s more a not knowing when things are going back to whatever new normal we have, and less a concern about whether he’ll have a job.

Am I the only one who randomly has moments where you almost “forget” that this thing is happening? It happens mostly at night, when the baby is asleep and Q and I are settling in to watch something on the couch. It feels normal and just like any other evening, and then I remember how un-normal all this is.

It’s been nice to get up when the baby wakes up, as opposed to getting up a couple of hours before him to get ready for work and prep things for the day. It’s been great to take walks as a family almost every day. I enjoy seeing Q and the baby get more time together because there really is nothing that makes your heart soar more than seeing your life partner and the child you created together. Baby laughter and smiles can truly fix anything.

I keep telling people– it’s not that I want to go anywhere, it’s more like I hate not having that option. There’s a ton of great memes working their way around the interwebs these days and one I particularly like is “yea I was a homebody before, but I liked going one or two places.” I miss the leisurely walks around the market or Target as opposed to feeling like it’s a survivalist mission where there is hot lava all around you. I am so over having to make sure we have food for meals and snacks. Even though Q helps with it all, I cannot wait for our favorite places to re-open, even if just for takeout. A few places around us are open for takeout, but we haven’t done that yet for a few reasons, but if this goes on longer than the first week of May, my sanity may require it!

People keep asking what’s the first thing you’re going to do when this is over? Reschedule our trip to see family in Utah. Go for a massage ( our couch may not survive this quarantine, plus my dining room table office setup is less than ideal). Poke around a few stores, just because. Go get an ice cream cone. Get a haircut. Take a walk at our favorite state park. I don’t know what’s on your list, but mine aren’t extravagant or unreasonable, but it’s crazy to believe doing any of these simple things right now seems so dangerous.

Whether you’re discovering a new hobby or kicking butt homeschooling your kids, I hope you and your family are safe and well.

 

Book Review: Love, Life & Lucille

Love, Life, & Lucille: Lessons Learned from a Centenarian by Judy Gaman

While writing a book about longevity, Judy Gaman met centenarian (100+ yrs in age) Lucille Fleming in Dallas. Lucille was larger than life, and what was supposed to be a short meeting turned into an inseparable friendship. As the two bonded and through their shared stories and their faith, they learned that true friendship knows no age. They also discovered that the human experience, regardless of generation, has similar milestones that shape our lives and make us who we become.

Lucille’s lessons would ultimately help Judy break free from the chains of workaholism. But, it wasn’t until Lucille’s death that Judy realized the importance of the first lesson Lucille ever taught her. Love, Life, & Lucille highlights the core of Lucille’s secret to a long and meaningful life.

 

My review: 3 stars.

It was quite interesting reading this book in the middle of a global pandemic. The author, Judy Gaman, is all go-go-go, until her perspective in life changes from meeting centenarian Lucille in an interview. It’s then that the author really stops her busy life to think about what matters and changes things, as well as develops a friendship with Lucille that transforms her.

First off, Lucille seems like a spark plug of a human and it’s clear that in her lifetime she had a great effect on many people in her universe, not just the author of the book. How many 100 + year old folks do you know that are willing to try sushi? Between her personality and what sounds like amazing style/wardrobe, she must have been a remarkable lady.

Lucille lived a full life and the author tries to capture Lucille’s wisdom and insights within the book, as well as chronicle their friendship. Every interaction is full of stories and memories, but lessons as well. Lucille loves baseball, her family, God, and so much more. The lunches she shares with Judy, and Judy’s friends and family, are always insightful and interesting. One of my favorite quotes from Lucille’s ideas of life– “any day that starts with waffles can’t  be a bad one.”

I’m not spoiling anything in a book about someone who lives to be 104 that there is death, but the story of Lucille’s life and her friendship with the author don’t make it a very sad ending. The last chapter and epilogue really encompass the impact Lucille had on the author, and the main lesson of the book– so I won’t spoil it.

I was provided an advanced copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

All opinions are my own.

The Quiet of Quarantine

Hi all. Hoping things are going ok in your world and you’re staying healthy- both mentally and physically.

I’ve been working from home full-time only since last week- my museum was still closed for the season and we are a small staff at a big place, so was easy to maintain social distance and be at work, but the governor changed that for everyone last week.

I think one of the weirdest things of all of this is the quiet– I live off a main road and there isn’t a lot of traffic at any time of day, but especially at night which makes things a bit eerie. We also have a few of a Dunkin Donuts, a laundromat, and a Walgreens from our house so we get a bit of people watching in every day. We’re taking lots of walks which really has been the sanity saver for the whole family.

This weird time in our world also feels a bit like a gift– I’m home with the boys and we’re watching the baby every day do amazing things like babbling more, creep walking from one couch to the other, and listening to his laughter. We worried so much that we were going to miss some of these milestones and now we’re seeing every little thing he does. There’s also a set routine with a 10 month old baby that helps the pace of the day. I was working from home a day or two a week before the world stopped, so I’ve been used to getting things done with the baby around. Q is off from work for the foreseeable future. We’re fortunate his company is committed to coming back as soon as they can in a safe way, and also fortunate he has some paid time off to pull from before he has to file for unemployment. At the moment, we’re still planning to take a vacation at the end of April, but are waiting a few more weeks before we make a decision on it. In all of this, we recognize our privilege and are so thankful we CAN make these choices.

I don’t have any amazing words of wisdom or insights in these crazy times, but I hope that wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, that you’re being safe and staying home when you can. Sending love and light to you and yours.

Book Review: The Road to Delano

Synopsis: Jack Duncan is a high school senior whose dream is to play baseball in college and beyond, as far away from Delano as possible. He longs to escape the political turmoil surrounding the labor struggles of the striking fieldworkers that infests his small ag town. Ever since his father, a grape grower, died under suspicious circumstances ten years earlier, he’s had to be the sole emotional support of his mother, who has kept secrets from him about his father’s involvement in the ongoing labor strife.

With their property on the verge of a tax sale, Jack drives an old combine into town to sell it so he and his mother don’t become homeless. On the road, an old friend of his father’s shows up and hands him the police report indicating Jack’s father was murdered. Jack is compelled to dig deep to discover the entire truth, which throws him into the heart of the corruption endemic in the Central Valley. Everything he has dreamed of is at stake if he can’t control his impulse for revenge.

While Jack’s girlfriend, the intelligent and articulate Ella, warns him not to so anything to jeopardize their plans of moving to L.A., after graduation, Jack turns to his best friend, Adrian, a star player on the team, to help to save his mother’s land. When Jack’s efforts to rescue a stolen piece of farm equipment leaves Adrian?the son of a boycotting fieldworker who works closely with Cesar Chavez?in a catastrophic situation, Jack must bail his friend out of his dilemma before it ruins his future prospects. Jack uses his wits, his acumen at card playing, and his boldness to raise the money to spring his friend, who has been transformed by his jail experience.

The Road to Delano is the path Jack, Ella, and Adrian must take to find their strength, their duty, their destiny.

My review: 3 stars.

This book falls into the genre I probably read the most (historical fiction), so it was right up my alley. 1968 was a tumultuous year in the US (Assassinations of RFK, MLK Jr., major student protests, to name a few things) with a lot of change happening. This book is about a very specific event and place that year, but it captures the spirit of the air of change that took over the whole country at that time.

I love to read about something I don’t know a lot about and that’s definitely true of the labor strikes of agricultural workers in Delano, CA in 1968. Cesar Chavez is featured in this experience. This story deals with the Filipino and Latino agricultural workers, but could easily have been any number of places with labor strikes during that time period. The story captures the experiences of the two main characters- Jack Duncan and Adrian Sanchez- as they work through the changing landscapes of their lives– Jack as a son of a grape grower and Adrian as the son of grape worker on strike ( his father also is one of the more vocal protesters in organizing the picket lines and such.) Both boys are trying to make their way in the world, decide what matters to them, what they stand up for and believe in as they mature and decide who they are going to be as adults.

It’s a story that is not unique to that experience in 1968 and that’s what I liked the most about the book– young men finding their “moral courage” through a difficult moment endures no matter the time and issues. You really see the evolution of the characters within the book, especially Jack as he transitions more into an adult role in his community.

The writing is good, though I did find some of the details to be a bit too much for me, though the book wasn’t slow and had a suspenseful element to it, which I appreciated as its a bit outside my normal reading comfort zone,

 

I was provided an advanced copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own

5 on Friday: What’s Making me Happy

  • 2 random instagram accounts that consistently make me happy with toys, games, and shows from my youth: Keep it Old School  and Eighties Girls.
  • Fingers crossed, our winter has been actually quite lovely in Southern New England. My commenting on the weather likely means a blizzard will be happening right after I type this ha. In any case, it’s been mild enough that we’ve been able to go out walking at least once a week and even on some of the colder days, it’s been sunny so is not completely depressing.
  • I spend way too much time in life buying groceries which is probably one of the tasks of adulting I dislike the most. Amazon PrimeNow delivery from Whole Foods is a lifesaver and even though I’m probably paying a lot more for groceries, not having the hassle of another trip to the store for the basics is saving my sanity a little bit. Extra happy points for it coming to porch and not having to interact with a human being.
  • Why did it take me, a tea lover, so many years to get an electric kettle? No idea why. We bought one earlier in the fall and even Q loves it for making his spicy chai. It also took me until last week to realize it was easier to boil the baby’s water for formula in it instead of boiling on stove.
  • Fuzzy socks. A simple joy of winter.

Mom Musings 8 Months in

It’s hard to believe my little guy’s been around for 8 months. He’s such a little person of his own with a lovely, charming personality with a determined, and often, stubborn streak (somehow his two stubborn parents made an even more stubborn baby), a lovely smile, and a laugh that I think could warm even the coldest of hearts. He’s a happy baby and watching him discover things every day is a joy I didn’t even think about when considering becoming a parent.

There are remarkable things about being a mom- I’m more productive in an hour of nap time than any other hour of the day, and yet there are days when I’m home all day with Gray that I have no recollection of what actually happened that day because I’m so tired. The exhaustion isn’t the same sort of tired like a full day of work or activity, but a different sort of emotional/mental fatigue that makes me forget there is a load of laundry to fold on the bed, only to be reminded that I never got around to it when all I want to do is plop into the bed.

I didn’t anticipate how much my heart would explode  when he pops his head up from the crib every morning when we walk into the room and how excited he gets when I walk in the door from work or even running a quick errand. I also didn’t anticipate how much I would appreciate the quick 15 minute run to the store to grab a few things and the mental space away from the routine of baby ( and to get out of the house).

I definitely knew that routine was important to life with a baby, especially a newborn, but I didn’t realize how much that routine would give me the grounding I needed as a parent (and our family) too. I thought for years that self-care was defined by certain things and that I was doing those every day, but I realize now as a mom caring for other human, that my self-care is THOSE things ( showering every day, fresh clothes, reading every day) and that I’d actually been prioritizing them for years, and now just re-enforcing that.

A lot has changed since baby came, but also a lot hasn’t. We were homebodies before so it’s not like our lifestyle went from lots of dinners and nights out to suddenly having none. A lot of life is the same, just with the added person. Of course, the added person brought lots of stuff ( even though we’ve been pretty minimal!) and has tons of laundry and needs, but his little smile is just so perfect that it makes up for all the extra work!

 

 

 

Book Review: Fly, Fly Again

One of the best parts of being a parent is the sharing of my love of reading with my son. I love that he likes books so much already- even at 7 months old! I look forward to showing him all the books I loved as a child that made me a lifelong reader and lover of books, and finding new ones to discover for the first time together!

Fly, Fly Again is by a mother-daughter team Katie Jaffe and Jennifer Lawson and  introduces young readers to the concepts of flight – lift, gravity, thrust, and drag, along with pitch, roll, and yaw.  Jenny and Jude accompanied by their pets, Kitty and Hawk, work together to build a flying machine. It is a fun story of adventure, teamwork, and perseverance that begins to lay a foundation for aerodynamics in an adorable picture book format.

5 stars!

Gray is all about animals at the moment and was all smiles when he saw the bird that is part of the story with the main character Jenny. It was a cute story line about the different elements involved in flight, but I really loved that it had a little girl trying hard to make something that would work so she could fly.

The illustrations were lovely and vibrant, making it great to show Gray even though he doesn’t understand it all quite yet. I can see this book being something we’ll go back to as he develops more as it had a great rhyme and story that explained in clear terms about flying to make it understandable for a child.

More about the book!

 

I was provided an advanced copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own

2020 Goals

I’m learning to keep things simple as a new mom, so even my 2020 goals aren’t too lofty!

Writing: I’ve let my writing practice go away. I’m not even going to define what the writing is, just keep up with it outside of work so that includes my personal journal, this blog, and exploring spots for personal essays and starting to freelance write again.

Dates with Q: We haven’t gone out just the two of us since June, right before we brought Gray home from the NICU. Even if we only get to run some errands alone and a sandwich, we need to get some more couple time in that doesn’t involve just watching a movie in one sitting in our pajamas ( though I usually fall asleep!)

Pay off car loan: We’re pretty close to having this done with by the end of 2020, but I’d like to fast track it a bit so it’s done before June. After that, I only have my student loans and our mortgage.

Donate blood: I was EXTREMELY fortunate with my emergency c-section for Gray’s birth that I did not lose a lot of blood and did not need a transfusion, especially because I have the rarest blood type. I wanted to donate blood for the past few years and will make it a priority this year to get it done since the last time I donated was in high school.

Travel near and far: We’ll take Gray to meet his great-grandma and aunt in Utah in the spring, but I’d also like for us to do some local exploring like going out to the Cape before tourist season, bringing Gray to Vermont to see his aunt and uncle for a long weekend, and similar low-key things to get us all out of the house and making memories.

Ready the house to sell: We made a huge stride towards this last year with the new roof and some repair projects. This year it’s interior painting, clearing out the clutter ( I am not moving junk whenever we do leave!), and some electrical. We’d like to move by the end of the year, but it’s also dependent on a few things (mostly job), so I’m being realistic that it might not happen in 2020, but we have to move.

Read 50 books: I was surprised at how many books I was able to read while I was home on maternity leave but I will say that even though Gray is in bed earlier now and I have some more free time to myself, I’m also in bed shortly after him since I am wiped out after a day of work and life. I didn’t read as much from September to December 2019 as I thought I would, so I’m setting a modest goal of basically a book a week or so for this year. If I count the books I read to Gray, I know this number could be in the 100s because he is such a curious boy who loves to look at books (which makes my heart so happy), but for my goals I want to read 50.

 

2020: Thrive

I don’t remember exactly when I stopped making ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ and started choosing a word for the year and making goals, but it’s something I’ve found helpful to combat the ‘new year, new you’ push that seems to happen in the universe every turn of the calendar year. Having a leading word– even when I forget about it sometimes- gives me a good reminder to focus on myself and my goals.

I chose THRIVE for 2020 because its very definition inspires me- “to grow vigorously; to gain in wealth or possessions; to progress toward or realize a goal despite or because of circumstances.”

I want to thrive as a mom, partner, friend, and all the other roles that define me, but also to push myself to actually make steps to the next thing in life.

I talk ALL THE TIME about wanting a new job, doing something different, but it’s a lot of talk. I spent time and money with career coaches and online courses to try to get some sort of answer, but the only person who has the answer is me. Giving birth and becoming a parent is the scariest thing I have ever done and I survived/am surviving it. I can do hard things and moving on from the security blanket of my job over the past 11 years is one of those things I know I must do. It enabled me to get through the past decade of life and brought amazing people, things, and opportunities in my life, but it’s time to move on.

So here’s to changes, forward movement, growing, learning, and THRIVING in 2020.

 

 

 

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