Life By Kristen

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

Book Review: A Piece of the World

Synopsis:  From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the smash bestseller Orphan Train, a stunning and atmospheric novel of friendship, passion, and art, inspired by Andrew Wyeth’s mysterious and iconic painting Christina’s World.

To Christina Olson, the entire world is her family farm in the small coastal town of Cushing, Maine. The only daughter in a family of sons, Christina is tied to her home by health and circumstance, and seems destined for a small life. Instead, she becomes Andrew Wyeth’s first great inspiration, and the subject of one of the best-known paintings of the twentieth century, Christina’s World.

As she did in her beloved bestseller Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline interweaves fact and fiction to vividly reimagine a real moment in history. A Piece of the World is a powerful story of the flesh-and-blood woman behind the portrait, her complicated relationship to her family and inheritance, and how artist and muse can come together to forge a new and timeless legacy.

***

My review: 4 stars.

I LOVED Orphan Train so I jumped at the chance to read this new title by Kline ( I have yet to read any of her backlist). As a museum curator, I like art, though am super picky about what I enjoy and seek out when I’m visiting museums on my own. Modern art is something I do enjoy and the work of Andrew Wyeth is quite interesting to me, especially since so many of his great paintings were done in Maine, so I feel a regional kinship to them.

I love the premise of this book- an imagining of a life and relationship between Wyeth and one of his frequently painted sitters, Christina Olson. It’s clear Kline did a lot of research on Olson and Wyeth, and the copious amount of googling I did while reading proved that she made sure actual facts were accurate and her creative spin on other aspects of Christina’s life were not far fetched or unbelievable.

I also think the book is a bit of a story of life in Maine as well- the descriptions of the seasons, farming, fishing were so beautifully written that I felt Kline was making the place another character too. I especially loved the references to ice harvesting as it something that was a big deal in New England that people often forget about ( I also did a lot of research on this for a previous job project).

What kept this from being 5 stars? I didn’t love the back and forth timeline between Christina’s back story and the current time period of the 1940s with Andrew Wyeth. I can see why the author used this technique as a way to build empathy and layered understanding for Christina’s life, but it didn’t quite work for me. Overall, I would definitely recommend A Piece of the World.

Buy the book!

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

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3 Things

Inspired by San!

3 foods I hate and never eat

Milkshakes, cooked fruit, and olives

3 foods I love and eat more than I should

Shrimp, broccoli, Reese’s peanut butter cups

3 things/chores I avoid until absolutely necessary

Dusting, ironing, cleaning the tub

3 chores I always do

Grocery shopping, cooking ( well 90% of the time), and dishes ( which I love!)

3 wardrobe staples

White tee-shirt, jeans, black cardigan

3 things I don’t spend money on

Concerts, getting my nails done ( though I do get a pedicure about twice a year), fancy beauty products

3 things I do spend money on

Shoes, fresh produce, going out to eat/takeout

3 TV shows I frequently watch in re-runs

This never really happens because Q is the big TV watcher, but we’ll watch episodes of Game of ThronesFamily Guy, and South Park frequently.

3 movies I love that might surprise you

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, Jurassic World

3 book genres I generally don’t read

Horror, fantasy, science fiction

3 things I’m looking forward to this year

Hard to think of 3! Going to Utah in the spring to see family ( it was a favorite place as a teenager, so I’m very much looking forward to going back and introducing Q to it); celebrating Q’s 40th birthday; changes with work ( that’s more optimistic/hopeful as I want them to happen, but don’t know what or how those changes might be).

Tuesday Musings

Because my brain is going in about 10 different directions these days, I give you random musings and thoughts on a Tuesday morning.

Work life has been STRESSFUL. Last weekend, I took Friday off because it might be my last day off until April. We had no weekend plans and slept until 10am both days. I didn’t even leave the house Sunday. When things get crazy at work, I totally go into turtle/hibernation mode.

I’ve been commuting 27.5 miles each way to work and home for almost 10 years. That’s crazy and yet, I enjoy my time in the car to wake up/get my mind going for work and to wind down at the end of the day. Audiobooks and podcasts have probably saved my sanity. This morning as I was driving in, there were a TON of people talking on their phones while driving. Who the heck are they talking to at 730 in the morning? Also, I see a ridiculous amount of people who put stuffed animals in the back of their car so they’re looking out the back window. Why? Some of these people tend to be on the older side, so not sure if it’s some cutesy thing they’re trying to do? Seriously, if you have stuffed animals in your back window, what’s the deal with that?

On my day off I got a much needed massage because work stress made my neck so tight I could barely move it. The lovely masseuse told me she hadn’t felt a neck that tight in a while. And clearly she put a lot of muscle into it because I still feel sore.

This is probably blasphemy since I’m a lifelong New Englander, but I didn’t want the Patriots to win the Super Bowl. I’m a Red Sox fan so I know what a drought in championships feels like, so I thought it was well overdue for the Eagles to win it. Also, I think Tom Brady has become such an arrogant guy and if I hear more about his ridiculous eating regime where he thinks tomatoes are bad, I’ll probably throw something.

You know what true love and devotion to your partner looks like? Watching the movie It with Q. I HATE CLOWNS. They are creepy and weird. I don’t even like the clown emoji ( side note: can I get rid of the emojis I never use? That seems like it’d be a useful hack for someone to figure out). So on Saturday night when we were trying to find a movie to watch, Q mentioned he really wanted to watch It, but had been waiting until I night I was out. I told him to watch it, as long as he didn’t mind me sitting next to him doing something else. I actually watched a bit of it, and because Q is such a wonderful, understanding partner, he would randomly yell “clown” any time Penny Wise would show up on the screen. You can imagine this ended up being pretty funny and actually enhanced the viewing for me– well the bits I watched anyway.

 

 

 

Friday Finds January 2018

I will always be a paper planner gal as I completely believe there is a hand writing to brain connection. This article totally is behind paper planners, and I love their approach to finding the perfect one.

While I don’t think I suffer from Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder (SAD), there are definitely blah days that happen in the winter time more than other times of year. There are some great tips in this article about how to manage SAD. I’m really intrigued by the dawn stimulator light for the days when I don’t see the sunlight until I’m well into my work commute.

Two really interesting resources highlighting some lesser known women in our cultural history: Female pioneers in architecture and American women cartoonists and illustrators.

I might work in museums, but I still don’t understand historical reenactors.

Something I’m working on for myself- why we need ‘white space’ in our daily routines.

5 on Friday: A Brief Life Update

  • My work life over the past few weeks has been TOUGH. My “work wife,” who really is one of my closest friends, left at the end of December to follow her dream of becoming a nurse and start nursing school full-time. I’m overjoyed for her, but sad for me. That, combined with the entire workplace being in transition as we await a new executive director and some other lingering issues, have made for a few stressful weeks.
  • If work stress wasn’t enough, we’re still enduring some hard stuff with personal family issues, so Q and I are really in turtle mode where we’re hibernating and hunkering down to try to maintain some sanity with ourselves.
  • How have I been handling stress and trying to find relaxation? The British Baking Show. Seriously, every night when it’s Q’s turn in the basement “gym” (a bunch of weights, a treadmill, and some yoga mats), I plop down on the couch to my new zen place- watching British people make desserts I’ve never heard of, would never eat (why is there so much cooked fruit- gross!), and could never even attempt to make. I find it mesmerizing, but most importantly, relaxing.
  • I’m reaching peak old lady- I’m supplementing my crossword puzzling, coloring, and reading with Fill-In puzzles. I think I need a hobby or some other creative pursuit.
  • Weekend plans are much of the same- some housework, some errands, lots of reading.

 

 

 

Embracing Trust

I’m flossing every day! I deleted the Farm Heroes App on my iPad! I read my first ebook! I’m meal planning! I’m doing yoga and walking on the treadmill a few times a week.

January has been a month of positive changes in health(ier) habits and embracing my word of the year TRUST.

One of the reasons I chose the word was I’m going to be 35 in March (!) and I realized I don’t really give myself enough credit for a lot of different things in life. I look to others (Q, family, coworkers, random internet people) to confirm/validate/tell me about my life/decisions/what I should do with life.

Which is exactly the opposite of trusting myself.

Over the years, especially since my divorce, I have spent countless hours reading books, blogs, enrolling in courses (both free and paid) trying to learn more about who I am, what I believe in, what I should be doing with life, looking fear in the face, finding my passion, and so on. I’ve downloaded countless free workbooks and guides to life, listened to podcasts about designing my life, and so on. And for all of them I was pretty much looking for some tidbit or magical answer that would equal some AHA! moment that would bring me to this place of zen and joy that would equal my joyous happy life. Self-discovery is a bitch– it can be exhausting, and frankly, a lot of it just made me feel more down about myself and the fact that I didn’t have a “thing”/hobby/side hustle/super power.

I was looking outward for the answers instead of just trusting myself and listening to my inner Jiminy Cricket about who I am and what I want. Maybe it was because I was overdone on self-discovery and thinking about my life from the roller coaster that was my marriage and divorce process that I  wanted someone else to tell me how to live/what to do with my future. Maybe I thought that once I made a big life decision like ending a marriage that I thought my life would be set and I wouldn’t have to think about things for awhile. Whatever the inner reasons behind it all, I’ve realized in the past few weeks of thinking about TRUST that I just need to quiet the outside noise, ideas, and people.

So for me, for right now, that means really staying away from reading a lot of personal discovery non-fiction books/podcasts/blogs. I won’t abandon following people on social media, but I won’t see their next class or idea as my answer to my problems. I realize I’ve forgotten the hard work and time I put into getting to where I am in life, both personally and professionally, so trusting and being a little less hard on myself during the question mark that is life right now is a huge thing just by itself.

Winter is My Time

It’s January. A month for hibernation. Unlike a lot of people it seems, I don’t hate winter.

I’m a homebody, so winter just gives me more time to do that which I do best- lounging with books, tea, movies, cooking & baking at home. I don’t do the cooking part well, but I like trying. Plus, mixing things together and shoving them in the oven or slow cooker is really my only area of culinary expertise, so I appreciate the opportunity to do it more in the winter since I have a no-oven rule in the summer.

If you’re not living under a rock, you’ve probably seen in magazines and around the internet the various Scandinavian ways of living/surviving/thriving through the dark months of winter (Hygge [Danish] and lagom [Swedish] ). I’m not Danish or Swedish, but I’ve been participating in hygge culture for most of my adult life. Staying at home with the fire and candles going, under a blanket, with a book and a cup of tea while wearing fuzzy socks? That’s me pretty much every season, minus the layers and warmth in the summer.

Not me, not my fireplace or book. Image from here.

This winter I wanted to make changes to the way I spend my time at home this winter, and it’s had a very positive effect on my hygge. I DELETED all game apps from my iPad, (with the exception of the New York Times Crossword puzzle) to stop mindlessly engaging in junk instead of being present with Q and my own brain. But I still felt a bit lost when I wanted to be on the couch with Q, but could care less about what he was watching, so I downloaded the Kindle app to give ebooks a shot. Since I’m always the last to get on board with technology, it should be no shock to anyone that I haven’t really read ebooks before, but I can now report that I get what all the fuss is about. I’m still not giving up on my love of holding a book, but I like having this other option, especially on nights when keeping the lamp on to read a book is bothersome to me. The adjustable brightness of the iPad ebook option is great. And I can read it on the treadmill!

 

 

Book Review: You Need a Budget

Synopsis:

Discover four simple rules to help you stop living paycheck to paycheck, get out of debt, and save more money faster! The You Need A Budget (YNAB) Method has helped tens of thousands of people to turn their financial lives around. It can certainly help you! Whether you’re looking to right an apparently sinking ship, or you just want to implement a system that will require less time “managing” your money, YNAB will most definitely work for you

My review: 4 stars.

I’ve seen the You Need a Budget system (YNAB) on various financial blogs before, but I’m a classic paper and pen gal when it comes to organizing life, and that includes budget, so I’ve never looked into the software that Jesse Mecham developed. I liked this book because it goes in-depth with real life examples of the 4 tenets of the YNAB system:

  1. Give every dollar a job
  2. Embrace true expenses
  3. Roll with the punches
  4. Age your money

A lot of these things I already do, especially #1 and #3. I am a saver and planner by nature and I think my budget reflects that. I keep a pretty tight system- I bring lunch everyday, I contribute to my 401k, but some in savings, have eliminated credit card debt. But what I like about Mecham’s system is that he sees money not just as a numbers system to be conquered, but that the money has to reflect priorities for life. Essentially, we should all ask ourselves: what do I want my money to do for me?

For me, I want to live debt-free. I want to have enough dollars to cover my expenses so that I can live a meaningful life doing work that is fulfilling and challenging, without having to worry about my bottom line and bills every month. This book made me realize I need to be more on top of where the actual dollars are going and pay attention to that. For example, I looked through my spending after reading the book and realized that 2017 had way too much shopping in it.

I really appreciated Mecham’s chapter on budgeting as a couple. Q and I have very different methods for managing our money, especially since Q is almost entirely a cash only guy. It’s taken us awhile to get our act together as a couple financially and to find a system that works for us. Mecham suggests monthly budget dates to go over spending and priorities. I think this is something I’ll try with us, though we’re pretty open about money and spending after 5 years together.

I’d definitely recommend this book if you’re trying to move forward with financial goals and figuring out a system that works well for you and your family. I appreciate that Mecham and the book isn’t a big advertisement for his software ( which has a free trial period, but after there is a usage fee), and that he uses the book as an opportunity to educate about the principles of budgeting in an easy to understand and useable way. I think there are so many complicated budgeting ideas out there it can often feel like you need to be an economist to understand them, but Mecham’s approach makes sense to even the most mathematically challenged like me!

Buy the book!

 

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

 

2018: Trust

2018- the year of trust.

Trust myself and my abilities, in my partner, our family, and that the future we desire can and will happen.

Trust that I will move forward in my career.

Trust that I am taking action every day to build the the life I want.

Trust that I can be honest with myself and people in my life about what I want.

Trust that all the questions and unknowns will unfold and present themselves if I believe in myself and hope for the things I want and need.

Trust the process of life and live the questions everyday.

 

Happy New Year! Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2018!

2017 in Review

Like the rest of the Universe it seems, 2017 was a rough year. I set my sights on change for 2017 and used “wellness” as my word of the year to guide and focus me.

I visited 2 new states ( Missouri & Kansas).

I lost weight and changed my eating habits in positive ways, eliminating a lot of sugar and red meat from my diet. I paid down debt, tackled nagging house projects, read a lot, and fell in love with podcasts.

I definitely had less “busy” time- I prioritized time with Q and family. I stopped running errands and gained time back by using Amazon to deliver things like cleaning supplies and coffee. I stopped going to the bad grocery store that only frustrated me.

I rid my closet of items I didn’t love, stopped buying clothes out of boredom or because they were on sale, and eliminated a lot of emails and junk mail I received.

Perhaps the biggest change for me in 2017 was giving to more causes that were important to me than ever before. As the chaos of the world seemed to grow around me, I realized that using my dollars to support efforts of organizations who were making a difference was important to me. ACLU, Planned Parenthood, Southern Poverty Law Center, American Red Cross, hurricane relief efforts, and so many other organizations received dollars from me because I believe in their mission and goals.

The death of Q’s brother-in-law in June re-defined a lot of things for both of us. While the death of my father 4 years ago really brought a lot of priorities into focus for us, the death of his brother-in-law was completely shocking. It left everyone feeling stunned and we spent a lot of our summer trying to grapple with feelings, support his sister and niece, and work through a lot as a family. This, on top of some issues with Q’s ex-wife that are effecting our ability to see Little Man, has definitely been a strain.

In all honesty, 2017 didn’t go as I thought and hoped it would. I thought by the end of this year I would have a new job, possibly be living in a new place, and maybe have expanded our family. None of those things happened, but despite my disappointment in at least 2 of those areas, I don’t feel despair about the year, though I am happy to start fresh for 2018.

 

 

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