Life By Kristen

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

5 on Friday: September 2020

Will I ever not be amazed by the passage of time? Here we are, the last Friday in September. Here I am, with five random thoughts for today.

  • I have consumed so much media, of all different types, feverishly over the past 6 months of pandemic lockdown. I feel like we’ve watched so much, and yet haven’t even deep dived into the depths of Netflix. I wish I could tell you some of the favorite things we’ve watched, but there’s been so much and I was so bad at keeping track of it all, that I can’t quite remember. I can say we finally watched all of The Handmaid’s Tale, which back in May when we binged in over a 4-day period seemed a lot less scary than it does not in September. I’m trying to counteract all the TV/movie watching with reading and word puzzles to keep my brain equally balanced.

 

  • One of the great things that came out of this pandemic nonsense is our daily family walk. It’s become a bit harder on some days when I’m working out of the house and Q’s work from the basement runs into our dinner hour, but for the most part, we’ve kept up the routine and I hope that coats, hats, and gloves will let us keep it up when weather gets chillier too.

 

  • Our house is right near a Dunkin Donuts and after the building next door to house burned down a few years ago, we now have a clear view of their parking lot and drive through. It is absolutely insane how many people, even during the height of the pandemic in my neck of the woods, waited in lines out to the road for their coffee. I feel like I’m a bad New Englander to say I hate Dunkin coffee and cannot even remember the last time I ate something from there. I used to love it, but somewhere along the line, they lost me as a customer. Plus their coffee gives me major heartburn.

 

  • No one warned me about the part of being a parent where the songs from toys and Sesame Street get stuck in your head for days. I swear I hear “Letter of the Day” Elmo song in my dreams.

 

  • If you have any good wishes and room in your prayer list next week (there’s a lot to pray for these days for sure), please send some our way. Our little guy is having very minor surgery next week to remove a growth on his arm. In the scheme of things he and we have been through in his 16 months together, it’s very minimal, but does involve anesthesia and a COVID test that will likely be more traumatic for me than it is for him. He won’t even remember this thing happened of course, but we will! Though he’s going to be pretty pumped after this thing because we got him a pretty awesome Elmo stuffed animal as a treat for the whole ordeal.

Book Review: A Mother’s Grace

A Mother’s Grace: Healing the World, One Woman at at Time shares remarkable true (and inspiring) stories from female change-makers with advice about turning adversity into action. The women featured in this book were brought to their knees after profound loss of life, home, health or livelihood. Though they experienced unimaginable tragedies, each of them turned their suffering and grief into something positive to help others.

Written by Michelle Moore, who also founded the Mother’s Grace nonprofit, the book chronicles Moore’s journey through breast cancer and dealing with her son’s serious juvenile diabetes. By sharing not only her personal story of overcoming adversity, but also the story of ten other women who have also overcome many obstacles, she highlights the importance of “turning lemons into lemonade and thriving.” The book is also timely because the author recently overcame COVID-19 as well. The book highlights how to overcome fear, calling upon grace to move forward, and how to handle challenges head on.

Don’t we all need a little hope to lift our spirits in these weird and trying times? Read more about the book !

Book Review: Lola Koala’s Travel Adventures

When I thought about becoming a mom, I hoped my future child would love books as much as I do. I’m happy to report my little guy is a book lover- currently, he’s a fan of any book with animals and really loves books with things “to do” like touch different textures, slide to reveal things, or lift the flaps. I was excited to be able to share this book with him because it had lots of flaps for him to play with!

The book has some great illustrations and lots of flaps for little hands to explore. The rhyming is great and the story is interesting. The book is geared towards children a bit older than  my 16 month old son with lots of questions to promote conversation and talking, so I know this is a book we will continue to enjoy together in different ways as he gets older. I especially appreciate that the author is a speech pathologist so it’s written to help promote building language skills and learn.

For more information on the book and author, check out the website!

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

All opinions are my own.

Life These Days

I think quite frequently about writing, and then the time warp that is 2020 happens and almost 2 months goes by before I actually get to it. I’ve read a few articles about the weird passage of time this year- not that time is passing any differently than it has in previous years, but that the circumstances of this year have made the passage of it seem so different and either super fast or super slow, or strangely, both at the same time.

It’s also hard to be motivated to write when I’m feeling so much these days. Some days I’m so happy to be home with my little family in our little bubble, often forgetting the heavy things of life and the pandemic. Then there are days I’m filled with such dread and anxiety about what could happen after November 3rd that I doomscroll through social media or spend hours looking at random junk online or favoriting clothes I’ll never buy on ThredUp. And then others I’m motivated to get things done and purge through boxes and drawers in my house during my son’s afternoon nap, then collapse onto the couch and don’t do much for the next 6 hours. Last night I was exhausted and falling asleep on the couch at 8pm, but then couldn’t fall asleep when I’m actually in bed.

Some days I feel like I’m just going through the motions of the day, in a set routine that is much defined by the tiny person in my household, and just moving through the sludge to get to the next day, only to get up to do the same thing again. It’s just all so hard to wrap my head around. I need something to look forward to that involves going somewhere or seeing people, but both are also things that feel like ticking time bombs at the same time. Q and I are desperate for a vacation and to spend time for more than a few hours away from our house, but that doesn’t look feasible any time soon either. We both need new jobs- and have for a few years, but this is perhaps maybe the worst time in recent history to leave a stable job for something new. We need to move, but don’t want to move just for the sake of getting a bigger, new place in a different location. I know we just need to do something and then that decision will lead down other paths, but most days we feel like we’re in mud that isn’t taking us down, but isn’t letting us move either.

And then amid these moments of blah and merely existing are true gems of life. Our little guy took his first steps and is walking around! He is developing into this happy little human. When he shakes his little butt to music or claps his hands when he finishes a book, or cuddles into my arm in the mornings–my heart grows a million times bigger. I swear a baby’s laugh could solve half the world’s problems because it certainly makes me feel better.

So that’s what’s going on- nothing but also a lot?

 

Oh Hey, I Still Have a Blog

Howdy. I know it’s been awhile.

Crickets over here for the last 4 months mostly because I haven’t felt like I had anything to say about life- we’re all in our respective corners just trying to make it through it each day, right? Figuring out new life situations, work scenarios, and general staying alive stuff.

I’m well, my family is well, the people in my universe are well. In this day and age, that’s really all we can ask and hope for I think. Some day, motivation and inspiration will return for me I hope, but for now I’m soaking up baby laughs and spending most of my time in the AC ( humid New England summers!).

Not much excitement or change to report, but sending out good vibes and thoughts in this upside-down new world we’re in. I hope you and yours are safe and well.

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

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