Life By Kristen

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

Routines & Motivation

I think routines can be important– if I didn’t have one in the morning, I don’t know how I’d get out of the house every morning. In fact, not too long along, Q and I switched the order of who had the shower and bathroom first for a few days when he had to be out of the house before me. It totally screwed with my mind and day. I think routines are needed before coffee is consumed.

I’m not a creature of habit with every aspect of life, but there are some things that I’ve done for so long that I’m finding it hard to break out of them now. I come home, go through the mail, change out of work clothes, wash my face and prep dinner. Most nights after dinner, I end up reading or watching TV.

This is the routine I’m trying to break. Even on yoga nights, there is an order to getting things done because after yoga, I’m so relaxed that I usually am asleep shortly after eating dinner at 8pm. On non-yoga nights, even with after dinner “chores” like laundry or tidying up the house, I find myself on the couch and leave exercising to the wayside.

I will admit that I haven’t made the effort to change the routine too much. I want time with Q and after his long workday, he likes to sit on the couch and relax watching TV or a movie. Even if I don’t watch what he does, I sit next to him reading or fooling around on the iPad. I should say that Q’s routine involves getting up early everyday to work out.

Why don’t I get up with him? The easy answer is that it’s rough to get up early, but years ago, before I was even married, I did often get up early to go to the gym. Now, my answer is mostly that the morning workout time is Q’s self-care/quiet time to himself and I don’t want to impose on that. Of course, I could do something upstairs in our room or living room while he uses the workout stuff in the basement, but I don’t.

I like the idea of exercising AFTER work because there are days when I’m at the computer all day, plus I like the quiet after work time between 5-7, at least in the time of year when it’s still light out at that time. But, I also like eating in that time and even with sharing dinner duties, a lot of those 2 hours are taken up by making, eating, and cleaning up from dinner. So then that leaves 7pm on for at least 30 minutes of exercise in our basement, equipped with space to lift weights, a treadmill, and exercise DVDs I haven’t touched in years, which makes it clear to me it’s not about time or routines, but about MOTIVATION.

When I was married, weight/exercise/how I looked/what I wore was an issue that was heavily discussed. Q, in his amazing way, thinks I’m beautiful no matter what. Maybe I have some sort of mental block/PTSD/silent protesting going on about exercising.  I put it in my to-do list and calendar, but it’s one of the easiest things for me to ignore. At this point, I’m doing it for myself and my health. And yet, that doesn’t push me.

So what’s going to motivate me?


Hey, It’s October!

I spent most of the summer contemplating possibilities of life- thinking of career and life moves, both physical and emotional. It was exhilarating, scary, exciting, nerve wracking, and annoying all at the same time.

The end result is we are staying put in all walks of life for the foreseeable future, but with the seed of change planted firmly in our minds.

Thinking of drastically changing our life was a great exercise for Q and I as a couple and what it would mean for our current and future family, but really made me hunker down and think about what I wanted next in life. Being the eternal pragmatist, I wanted a clear answer, but as I have learned a million times before, the reality is often quite different when so many factors (and other people’s decisions) are involved.

In short, we were thisclose to moving across the country. And while it’s not happening now, we feel pretty certain that a move to somewhere completely different is in the cards for us. We want a change of pace and scenery, new perspectives and new adventures. We want to free ourselves of the burden of owning a home and have more time/money/energy to travel and explore, even if it’s just a new town and state.

So even though we’re staying, we’re determined and focused on a goal, even if we don’t entirely have it defined at the moment. We’ve set a rough date of selling the house by summer of 2019, mostly because that’s when my mortgage rate changes so it seems like the perfect deadline to work against. We’re committed to certain house projects, getting one newish car, and reducing the clutter and stuff in our house and life.

As we enter in the busy season of fall and the whirl that is the holiday season at home and work for us both, I am trying hard to stay focused on bettering things for us right now as we work towards what we want.


Friday Finds September 2016

Did you watch HBO’s Boardwalk Empire? If not, I recommend. The reason I bring it up is because of the character Richard Harrow is a World War I veteran who has lost a portion of his face and wears a sculpted mask to hide his disfigurement. When I watched the show, it was the first time I had seen anything like it and found it fascinating that there were sculptors who specialized in “portrait masks” during the post World War I era. A new book about the war highlights some of these sculptors, and I am fascinated by this female, Boston-based sculptor who took on the task.  There’s a really interesting video towards the end of the page of her working on a soldier.

The politics of pockets on women’s clothing.

I’m very excited for the newest member of the Smithsonian museum family- the National Museum of African American History and Culture. There are lots of articles going around about the museum, its mission, and collections, but as always, I enjoy learning about the lesser known people of history who made an impact that we never hear about. Here’s one woman whose collection is a part of the museum and story is being told: Mae Reeves and her hats.

Women of the CIA.

Japanese war brides. 

Barack Obama’s “exit interview” by the amazing historian and author Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Step parents are parents too.  This made me teary because I take my role as Little Man’s Bonus Mom very seriously.


Thankful Thursday #12

I’m thankful for having a brother!


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.



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

Book Review: Another Brooklyn

Another Brooklyn cover

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.


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.

tlc tour host

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).


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!

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