Life By Kristen

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

Archive for the category “All About Me”

October- One of the Best Months of the Year

October and November are by far the best months out of the year for me. The air is crisp and clear for outside activities without the heat and sweat, but it’s getting cozy for nights with hot tea and a blanket. This month does not have a lot packed into it with schedule, but there are a decent amount of things going on in life and work.

But first- a quick September recap!

Books read in September: 6 in total. Steal Like an Artist; Exit West; It Ends with Us; Down City; Little Beach Street Bakery; A Woman of Independent Means– should have been 7, but it took me longer than I anticipated to read Beartown ( I finished it yesterday). Best read was definitely It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover.

Goals accomplished in September: New couch pillows! Power washed the side of the house and garage! I did not get around to painting the outside moldings, but trimmed bushes and a few other tasks that have annoyed me like scrubbing my stove and cabinets. I’ve been casually meal planning, but now that the weather has finally changed and I can use my oven again, I’m excited to cook again. Last night I made a pretty awesome fritatta. No change in basement setup, though that will have to change this week as I need to make space for a new -to-us dining room table, but have yet to get rid of the old one!

Writing is going well and I’m even challenging myself to get up earlier each day to walk on treadmill a bit and write after. It’s made my work days more productive too!

This month work gets busy with night-time programs and a lot of planning for 2019.

At home, I will tackle the few things I didn’t get to in September and need to do outside before it gets chilly.

Mostly, I’m hoping to enjoy the season with outdoor activities like going to one of the last open air markets in my town, a jack-o-lantern event at the local zoo, and getting some mums and a pumpkin for the house. Little Man celebrates his 10th birthday at the end of the month, and I’m hopeful Q and I will get to see him and celebrate it in some way, no matter how small.

 

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10 Years

Tomorrow marks my 10-year anniversary at my workplace which seems almost impossible to me that I’ve been in one place for that long and that I’m old enough to have a 10-year work anniversary.

When I started this job, I was the assistant curator and thought it was maybe a 3-5 year job. I was 25 and filled with excitement of the life ahead of me. Within 7 months of starting my job, I was engaged and owned a house. When I hit the 3 year mark, my life was starting to unravel with a separation and beginnings of a divorce.

At my 5- year work anniversary, I was 6 months into a new relationship with  Q and starting to think about moving on. I had a big job interview in the Midwest and even though our relationship was new, we were ready to dive head first into life together and start fresh in a new place. Little did we know that a few months later in 2013, our entire life would be thrown out of confetti gun when my Dad died.

At around 5.5 years, my former boss announced his retirement and I was promoted on my 6th anniversary– so really, my 3-5 year prediction for the assistant curator position was right on target. As full curator, my job wasn’t a whole lot different, but there were a lot more admin duties and responsibilities that I enjoyed for a long time.

Years 7 through 9.5 were rough ones with a difficult boss, lots of changes and transitions in other staff and with the organization overall. But in those years, work was a constant as my life outside was changing. Adjusting to new things with family after the death of Dad, helping Mom move, adjusting to being a “stepmom” and more. The years had tough moments and exciting ones professionally including more than a dozen jobs that we were ready to move away and start new lives.

Of course, for many reasons, both good and bad, none of those things happened and I’m hitting my 10-year anniversary at this place and year 4 as curator. This past year has been another difficult one personally as we struggle with Q’s son and not being able to start a family of our own together. Until my not-great boss left in May, I was thinking it was likely that I’d leave before I hit the 10-year mark because I was pretty miserable. When the work circumstances changed, I kept on trucking to see how things might develop around here.

I’m proud of my 10 years in one place, if for no other reason than it seems to be more of a rarity these days to stay in one place. There were times when my life was being thrown upside down when work sustained me and was sometimes the only thing besides my family and friends I could rely on. Some of my coworkers are my closest friends who are like family which is a blessing. The job has allowed me to travel, to meet some awesome people, and to do the work I set out to do when I was in college. That’s something many people don’t get in life and something I am grateful for on a regular basis.

And yet, I’m at a crossroads. It’s clear it’s time for me to take my talents and interests to another place, if for no other reason that change is good and I need it. Frankly, my workplace needs it too. New ideas and fresh blood can bring this organization into new great things and I want that for them. It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to work with these folks for a decade of my life. I’m not going anywhere yet, but I have my eyes on something new, even if I don’t know where or what that is quite yet.

 

September!

It’s always funny to me how the turn of the calendar page to September brings about all these fall feelings and aspirations except that in my neck of the woods, it usually doesn’t feel like fall for a few weeks. Even after the official start at the end of September it still sometimes is hot and gross in New England!

But here we are, new month and I’m feeling refreshed after our weekend getaway over the long weekend.

The gross heat and humidity of August meant a lot of time indoors for me, so I’m hoping that the month of September will be glorious weather-wise so I can make up for all the time indoor time of the past month. So many little things I want to do in my yard and garage, but just in general want to soak up some Vitamin D and be outside more.

I read A LOT in August: Little Beach Street Bakery, A Woman of Independent Means, Summer Wives, Birthday Girl, The Maze at Windermere, How to Walk Away, Dead Presidents, Forever is the Worst Long Time, and The Moth Presents: All These Small Wonders. Only one of those was audio and nonfiction (Dead Presidents) as my podcasts are becoming more of a staple of commuting. A Woman of Independent Means was a read from my actual owned-bookshelf. As soon as I finished it, I quickly donated right away to the new Free Little Library in my town.

While I think I’ll read a lot in September ( I can’t believe it took me so long to get a Kindle since now I’m pretty much attached to it), what I really want to focus on is writing. It’s been so far out of my head for so long for a huge number of reasons and excuses, but I’m trying every day to write something, even if it’s just ideas in my journal.

Other tiny goals for September: a few tiny outdoor house chores (painting wooden surrounds on windows and door frames, clean mildew on siding), recycle my 2 ancient computers, get back into meal planning and control our grocery budget, buy new couch pillows, and clean/rearrange/organize basement so there’s space for Q’s gym setup, my desk/writing setup, and storage.

 

Julia Child, J.K. Rowling & Toni Morrison

Julia Child, J.K Rowling, Toni Morrison. Any guess what these women have in common?

Other than being huge for their contributions to society and culture, all three women earned their success, achievements, and fame later in life.

All three of them are my beacons of hope for achieving my dream of publishing a novel.

Julia Child (whose birthday today inspired this post) was only 32 when she went to French cooking school. Her groundbreaking cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking was not published until 1961 when she was 49 and her PBS show started just 2 years later.

J.K. Rowling was 36 years old when the first Harry Potter was released. Toni Morrison’s first book (The Bluest Eye) was published in 1970 when she was 39. She’s gone on to write many important novels and won a Pulitzer and Nobel Prize for Literature. Rowling and Morrison both wrote much of their first novels in the hours before they went to their day jobs.

I’m not saying I’m anywhere near close to the greatness of these three women. But they remind me that dreams never go away as you age. That things you want are worth fighting for and making priorities. I think of them when I even just spend 5 free minutes jotting down a plot idea or researching something for the novel ideas I have (which are many at this point).

In all the career exploration and deep thinking I’ve done as I try to figure out what’s next for my career, so many articles and pieces of advice say to think about what you wanted to do when you were a child. My answer, even for the short period of time when I wanted to be a doctor (until I found out I have a weak stomach for blood), always involved books and writing. I’m 35 and more clueless than ever about where I want to go in life with my career, but I know writing and publishing a novel is in me and that there is no time limit on achieving it. That’s where my mind wonders during the day and what I need to make time to do.

 

 

Blah Days of Summer

My general life feeling lately has been angst and tiredness. Not so much a particular worry or anxiety about any one  thing, but a general blah feeling and life rut.

If I’m being open and honest, one of the reasons I’ve been avoiding writing, both here, in my personal journal, and in all my other creative outlets besides my day job ( I haven’t even been freelance writing either) is avoidance of myself and my feelings. How I feel about who I am, what I want ( what DO I want?), my job, my relationship with Q, family, friends, coworkers, and so on. The only things I feel really strongly about these days are air-conditioning and reading as much as I can.

If I’m also being honest, I’ll say that while I’m not in a sad place mentally, I generally just feel “meh.” Some of it is heat/humidity related, especially over the past five or so days which have been just grossly tropical with “air you can wear.” I don’t like when it’s so hot or humid out that being inside is the only option. I’m getting a cabin fever that’s different than the winter kind I get by the beginning of March to be itching to be outside; this one I’m just itching to be anywhere but on my beige couch or bedroom. I see why murders and such are on the rise in the summer time- the heat really can make you feel crazy!

Flowers make everything better!

Part of this is I honestly feel so clueless about how to get to where I want to be next in life. I want to move, but don’t really know where ( though I know where not). I want to advance in my career, but haven’t seen any jobs that interest me in my current field and feel completely paralyzed/dumbfounded/clueless about how to pivot into another. I’ve read books/blog, listened to podcasts, and even worked with a career coaching program, but haven’t had an AHA moment or feel like I’ve found my “calling” or “passion.” My passion is reading books in my PJs- is there a job for that?

I also want my own little family beyond just Q and I. The struggles with Q’s son Little Man hang over us like a little black cloud many days, especially on the weekends. It’s been tough to overcome at times and the strain/stress of it is real.

So what am I doing to try to push through the muck? Keeping busy with plans with friends and family. Signing up for a new yoga class for August and September. I bought tickets for a concert in November, something I never do ( I think the last concert I went to was 6 years ago). Ignoring the to-do list with house projects for a few weekends in favor of reading books outside or on the porch. Not cooking every night of the week. Working on my summer bucket list. They’re little steps, but I feel like if I just push forward a little bit every day, I’ll come out of the fog and make a step forward.

Summer 2018 Bucket List

Happy Summer Solstice!

 

  • Yoga on the Lawn at the outdoor market in my town ( and a visit to the outdoor market)
  • Farmer’s market on Wednesday afternoons near my work
  • Movie outside in Providence
  • Drinks by the water
  • Beach at least once in July and August
  • Berry picking
  • Lobster rolls, sweet corn
  • Lazy Sunday mostly filled with reading on my sun porch or backyard
  • Watch sunset
  • Music at local vineyard

No Spend June

I’ve done a no-spend challenge before and was successful. I’m giving it a shot again this June.

When I did my first no- spend challenge in February of 2013, it was a way to finally get rid of credit card debt and eliminate a lot of my random shopping habits that had become one of my ways to fight boredom. I repeated in July of that year to try to get on top of frivolous spending. This time around, I have two objectives- one to save some dough to start putting towards my student loan pay down, and two, to stop shopping for clothes.

I have a love/hate relationship with my closet which is also directly related with how I feel about my body on any given day (but that’s for another day!). There are work clothes for everyday, work clothes for when I’m feeling blah and not great about how I look, and work clothes for important days/work cocktail parties/special events. I have weekend clothes for hanging around, for doing house or yardwork, and for going out to run errands or out to dinner. There are clothes that I’d never leave the house in and only wear for cooking, and so on. That’s not even saying anything about the fact that I live in a four-season climate that can have radically different temperatures from day to day, so often times the light wool sweaters are vying for the same space as the summer sundresses.

The result of this is I buy a lot of clothes. In the past, I’ve gone a couple of months in a row without buying clothes for myself, but then the seasons change and I realize I have no tank tops or sweaters, or some other category of clothing that I think I need. Newsflash: I almost never need anything. With the exception of maybe when I graduate from college and realized I had no professional work clothes, I’ve never been without something appropriate to wear.

In the past few years, the manner of my clothes shopping has changed dramatically, in that I mostly shop online now. I like having the ease of finding my size and the color I want without much effort, with the only use of my energy often coming if/when I return something that doesn’t fit. It’s a really bad habit and if you ask Q what one of his pet peeves is about me, it’d be this (mindless online shopping and always returning). In my mind, I don’t spend a lot of time shopping because I almost never go into an actual store to try on clothes or buy something frivolous.

But that’s not true because I changed where/how I shop! I’ve taken to a lot online consignment and secondhand options. ThredUp is the best and worst discovery I’ve made on the internet.  It gives me all the satisfaction of “the hunt” without having to spend hours in a secondhand store trying to find things I need. eBay is the same thing, especially since I can find the most random things on there like funky and different vintage brooches for under $5.

So this June, there will be no clothes shopping or late-night eBay brooch hunting. I won’t fill the time when Q is watching a bad sci-fi movie with hunting down dresses on consignment sites. I don’t need a single thing in my closet and in fact, I should spend more time concentrating on what I actually do wear and like, instead of having all these different ‘categories’ of clothes that are only for certain things– my life isn’t that busy, exciting, or diverse to have more than 1 special occasion dress!

The only allowed purchases in June are for the house projects on the list, approved health/beauty products (shampoo, conditioner, body wash, etc.), and groceries/house supplies like paper towels, TP, etc. I will resist the lure of the $5 sale t-shirts at Target and have already unsubscribed from all my favorite retailer emails. I’m hoping to pop an extra hundred dollars this month towards my student loan payment, with the aim on making this more of the norm for my monthly budget going forward!

 

 

 

2018 Goal: Digitize Family Photos

If you’ve been reading my blog for any period of time, it’s not surprise that family is the most important thing in my life. I spend a lot of time with them, talk to them on the phone/text multiple times a day, and so on. In my house, I’m surrounded my family heirlooms, mementos, and photos that are my most valued possessions. After my mother and grandmother sold their houses, I became the keeper of some of the family photographs, in particular my Dad’s collection of slides from the 1970s and 1980s when that was a thing you did when developing film.

One of the my goals of 2018 is to pare back the amount of stuff we have, partly because Q and I are hoping to move in the next year or so, and partly because I want to be able to use and engage with the stuff I have. I really wanted to digitize my Dad’s slides because so many of them were from when he was in art school and I wanted to make some prints of his photos to hang alongside those of my aunt’s (his sister), who is a very talented photographer. Also, there were a lot of baby photos in these slides of me, and as the second child, there was a serious lack of photos hanging around with me as a baby because my parents were sleepless and frazzled with jobs and 2 kids under the age of 2!

A few years back, photographer aunt found an online company, Scan Cafe, to digitize her batch of family photos and I used them to digitize my parent’s 8mm film collection onto a DVD for a Christmas present. I was impressed with their pricing and service, so went through them again to do this latest batch of digitization. I’ll go back to them again for my next batch and then hope to attack the photo albums and such that my mother has after that.

As a museum person and historian, I know the photos and slides will only fade over time, so this was a big priority for me to tackle this year, especially a lot of the early photos of my grandparents from the 1950s. It was a great winter project to spend a weekend organizing and going through photos, even if it made me miss my Dad and Grandpa a ton. Scan Cafe has a lot of different packages and has deals all the time so it wasn’t an expensive venture, but preserving memories is priceless (Sorry that sounds like a really cheese tag line!)

Me, Christmas 1983. Photo by Dad.

 

All opinions my own. This is an honest review of Scan Cafe based on my experiences. I paid for all services on my own and was not provided anything or solicited by Scan Cafe for this review. 

Merry May

I’m back from vacation feeling refreshed and looking forward to the month of May!

It’s finally warmed up in my neck of the woods– it was a dreary and cold April. When we left for our Utah vacation on the 20th, we actually had the heat on that morning, which is just absurd for that late in April. When we came home, the grass was green and our lilac bush has buds on it!

I’ve got a post just about our vacation on tap in the next few weeks, but it was wonderful to get away, spend time with my aunt, grandma, and other family, and lots of exploring with Q. The warmth and sunshine of Utah was just what we needed.

My return to work was also quite interesting yesterday as some big changes are happening. While it’s still  unclear what it means for my role, I’m hopeful that positive adjustments in my daily activities and responsibilities are coming. I’m also optimistic that the changes will mean a little less emotional and mental stress from my day job that may finally give me the creative space I need in my current role so that I can start and end my days with my own personal creative writing.

My main goal for this month is to knock some nagging items off my to-do list for the year- go through attic stuff, declutter closets, and start on the large list of house projects.

May is also a month for celebrations: birthdays for my brother, aunt, sister-in-law, and Q turns 40! Mother’s Day and Memorial Day, plus all the excitement of the coming summer season have me feeling very good about the next 29 days.

 

Routines

I’m frequently the first person to arrive at my work office in the morning. I crave that time in the morning when I can go through emails, check the calendar, and get myself organized for the day. I don’t like chaos in the morning as it sets a bad tone for me for the day. I think best in the morning ( usually when I do most of my writing) and try to schedule myself so the “brain” tasks are scheduled before lunch, and the running around/errands/physical tasks all happen in the afternoon.

I’m lucky that I have the ability to be a bit flexible with my schedule and can adjust my hours as I need to reflect whatever is on the to-do list at work or in life. I work 8a-4pm because that’s what works for me and what needs to get done. I also crave that ‘golden hour’ from 5p-6p when I’m usually at home, or at least out of the office and doing things on my personal to-do list. I’ll come home, start dinner, walk on treadmill (soon to be outside whenever spring arrives here), and unwind. I’ve even come to see my 35-45 minute commute as distinctly me time so that by the time I pull into my driveway, I’ve left a lot of work stress and woes behind me. 

These routines of my weekdays have morphed over the years as circumstances in life changed around me. I’ve tried to run less errands in that ‘golden hour’ to make more time for the things I want to pursue, but I also know that my mind is frequently tired at the end of the day, so writing for myself isn’t going to be as productive as it could be in the morning before work. My work life has been tumultuous to say the least for the past couple of years and has taken a lot of emotional and mental energy. There have been more than my fair share of nights when the only productive thing I do is make dinner and watch whatever nonsense on TV I can find. There are hints of change on the horizon at my day job that I have high hopes will transform my mental well-being and I am cautiously optimistic that will influence my out of work life in big ways too.

I remember being younger and thinking routine and mundane tasks of life seemed like such a boring thing, but as I’ve gotten older, I realize certain routines bring sanity and highlight the extraordinary things, as well as make everyday moments filled with more joy. Every weekend, Q makes a big pot of coffee for us to enjoy together instead of the on-the-go quick K-cups I make on work mornings. I look forward to that simple pleasure every weekend- we often even talk about anticipating it as early as Thursday night! Our life may lack a lot of spontaneity, but it also isn’t predictable- finding the good balance between being in a rut and living in chaos takes some work, but it’s brought me to a good place that only can be improved.

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