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”

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

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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.

35

To put it simply, I would have been completely fine with letting this birthday pass me by. In fact, work has been so busy that I almost did! When cards arrived in the mail last week from my grandmother and aunt, I actually had a moment of “huh?” because it was still February and my sense of dates and the calendar has been all out of whack lately.

I’m not a huge birthday person for myself. I don’t particularly like being the center of attention and like to just keep to myself most of the time. When family asked what I wanted to do, I honestly meant it when I said nothing. All I ever want as an adult is to not have to work on my birthday. Since it fell on a Sunday this year, it was the perfect day to sleep late, read books, and relax.

And that’s pretty much how the day has gone. My family came over for birthday cake and Q bought me a necklace, but otherwise, it’s been low-key and uneventful. I think people make a big deal over birthdays because they feel like they need to celebrate you in some way, but it means more to me for people to send me notes, messages, or call than it does to have some sort of event about the day.

As I start into my mid-thirties, I feel like life is more uncertain for the next few years ahead than they were when I was 25 or even 30. A lot has happened in a year, and I’m sure the year ahead will be equally eventful, though I pray it won’t be as filled with sadness, anxiety, or stress. I am cautiously optimistic about some things at my day job and we have a vacation coming up in 40-something days to anticipate. Those positive lights on the horizon will get me through the next few crazy weeks at work ( this happens every March!)

 

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.

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.

 

 

Family History

If you’ve been reading this little space on the internet for any length of time, you know that family is one of the most important things in my life. I grew up in a close knit family that ate dinner together every night, and every Sunday with my grandparents. Holidays were spent with extended family and friends who became family. I take great pride in this and in my family’s history, as both sides of my family have interesting stories to be told. My mother is Canadian and her family immigrated to Nova Scotia from The Netherlands in the early 1950s. My father’s side is Portuguese and both of his grandparents came to Massachusetts from the Portuguese islands of the Azores in the 1920s.

I know a lot about my family history and have always taken great pride in my ethnic background being 50% Dutch and 50% Portuguese, though I don’t look Dutch in any way. Last winter as a bit of project to combat cabin fever, Q and I embarked upon doing his family’s genealogy, particularly trying to learn more about his paternal grandfather and that line of his family tree. That grandfather passed when Q was a teenager and there had always been a family story that the grandfather was actually Native American, and that Q’s great-grandfather was actually a STEP great grandfather. It turns out the latter part of the story is true, but we had a lot of trouble learning more about his grandfather. Since we were tooling around with all the Ancestry stuff, it seemed like a good idea for Q to take the Ancestry DNA test to see what his genetic ethnicity might be, in an effort to find out if the Native American story was correct.

It was not.

Q’s genetic makeup turned out to be mostly Eastern European, with a big concentration in Poland and the various Slavic countries. The mystery about his paternal grandfather persists, though we’re both enjoying trying to figure out the story more. Q’s DNA opened up another big can of worms though because his maternal grandfather had a Portuguese last name and while born in the United States, had parents who were born in the Azores. It looks like from the quick family tree research we’ve done on that side that perhaps those great-grandparents moved to the Azores from Scotland, so we’re going to spend our winter doing a lot of that digging for Q.

The interesting findings on Q made me so curious about myself and my genetic ethnicity because so much of my family’s history was already known to me. I was fascinated by the results which I’ve copied here:

Not surprising that I have so much Italy/Greece and Iberian Peninsula with my Portuguese heritage, and not totally shocking about North Africa either. But I was completely blown away by the 36% concentration of Great Britain. These types of things just go to show how interconnected the world was even thousands of years ago when explorers and conquerors traversed the globe to create empires and discover new lands.

Have you done any of the DNA services to find out more about your ethnic DNA? I’d love to hear more about it as this type of stuff is fascinating to me as a history buff.

 

 

 

I purchased two Ancestry DNA kits on my own and was not paid by Ancestry to promote their product and services. All opinions are unsolicited and my own. 

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