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”

American Girl

Awhile back I read this article about how many women don’t get rid of their American Girl dolls.

As a gal who grew up in the late 80s and early 90s, I was of course introduced to American Girl pretty early after their arrival on the book and doll market. I can’t recall how I was introduced to the lovely world of Felicity, Kirsten, Samantha, and Molly (the original 4- Addy and Josefina were added as I was ), but since I was a huge reader, the books came first for me and I plowed through them.

As the creators of American Girl also smartly created the dolls and a whole line of stuff to play to the hearts of the girls who fell in love with them, I had to have one of my own. I was enamored with the Kirsten doll because her name was so close to my own, as well as the fact her family was Swedish which was close enough to my ancestral background of being half Dutch. I was jealous of other friends who had more than one doll, but I didn’t love the stories of the other characters as much, though I’m sure the stories of Molly, the World War II era doll, likely influenced my later interest and studies in the period.

Since I work in the museum world,  I have found that many of my female colleagues who are in my age bracket had an American Girl doll or at least had read all the books. A few definitely thought their interests were related to their love of the brand, and I’m sure that’s at least a little bit true for me too.

As the company expanded its line of dolls and offerings, I got their magazine and other doll accessories, but aged out of the books and dolls by the time they started introducing more historic characters and books. When the original makers, The Pleasant Company, sold to Mattel, they became part of the doll powerhouse it is today with American Girl stores, increased line of doll offerings, and movies. I even applied for a job with Mattel a few years back to be a researcher for them as they were developing new historic characters, but sadly, didn’t even get an interview! I met a lady who worked for American Girl line within Mattel at a conference a few years ago and she confirmed for me it’s a really awesome job.

I have my Kirsten doll up in a bin in my attic and I don’t know if I’ll ever get rid of her ( though I think she could use a spruce up to get her braids done again properly). When ever I get around to the KonMari method of decluttering, the doll will definitely still “spark joy” and make me recall one of the loves of my childhood.

Goals for January

Thank you all for your kind words of congrats about our exciting baby news. Letting people know has been a lot of fun, especially after being so sick for most of the fall!

Even though I’m feeling MUCH better, I’m still trying to keep my goals low-key. The biggest to-dos of the next 5 months are prepping for this little guy, but life has its needs too! Here are my modest expectations for this month.

Clean out second bedroom &”closet of shame” AND donate

Part of this we started on over the New Year’s long weekend going through Little Man’s toys and books- things we want to save for the new little guy (Legos!) and things to donate. Little Man has a lot of books, and some we are holding on to, but there are a lot of early reader books that we’re obviously many years away from using, so I’d rather donate to a kid who can use it now, instead of holding on to it for the next 3ish years, especially since we know we want to move after this little guy comes.

As for my “closet of shame”, think of this image from Friends in which neat-freak Monica reveals the closet where everything gets shoved into. 

OK mine is not as bad as that, but the closet in the second bedroom is a catch all- seasonal decorations, art supplies, tools, and everything in between. When we hosted Thanksgiving this year and I wasn’t feeling great and couldn’t clean as much as I wanted, I shoved every random piece of clutter in there and never looked back. Even though the dresser in the second bedroom has a lot of drawers, I expect we’ll need the closet for storage. Also, I don’t think a saws-all should really be in the closet of an infant, but that’s just a guess.

Get a haircut

This has been on the to-do list since September. I have a love/hate relationship with my hair. It’s changed it’s texture and quality a lot over the past few years as hormones have changed. With the prenatal vitamins I’m taking, it’s growing pretty fast and has oddly become finer, yet there is A LOT of it. My default is to put it up everyday, but I’m hoping to get a bit of a new style to enjoy for the next few months before I’m too tired to care again.

Make new household budget

I got a tiny raise at work and other than upping my 401k contribution by 2 percentage points, haven’t sat down with Q to make a new household budget. We keep separate financial accounts (and will continue to do so), but with all the baby expenses coming our way, need to figure out a better way to organize the household stuff between the two of us, plus see how much unpaid family leave we both might be able to take beyond what our paid work leave provides us. We might also need a roof and have an electrical issue that I worry is going to annoying and costly.

Meal plan & better organize grocery shopping

I love Q very much, but one of my pet peeves of our life together is his pickiness about his food and brands. It’s great that he does a lot of research, but it also means that some of this desired choices are only available at certain stores. This finds us often going to 2-3 grocery stores a week to get everything we need. Amazon has simplified a bit of this and the fact that Whole Foods now delivers via Prime Now to our neighborhood has helped A TON (though not for the aforementioned budget!). I want us to get more organized not only with meal plans that work with his picky food requests and my growing hunger for just about any food, but also require far less stops at the market during the week.

2019: Savor

My word for 2019:

This year I want to enjoy, delight, and lap up every moment, emotion, and happening.

I’ll have a new boss starting in a few weeks that I hope will bring new excitement and enthusiasm to the work place.

Q and I are eager to figure out where we live next and how we can get closer to that goal in 2019. I’m making minimal goals for 2019 because it will be a life-changing year for us.

In June 2019, we’ll welcome a baby boy into the world. 

It’s still a bit shocking for me to say it/type it, but it’s the most amazing blessing and something I’m not sure either Q or I thought would ever happen. Part of me still has a lot of disbelief that there is a little human growing inside me, but part of that is I was so sick for most of the first trimester (hence why I’ve been pretty absent around the interwebs, not reading a ton, etc) that I couldn’t concentrate on much else besides trying to feel better, eat something that wasn’t going to make me sick, and so on. Now that I’m feeling good and like a functioning human again, I’m becoming more excited by the day, despite the never ending list of things I need to buy, learn, figure out, etc.

So my main goal is preparing for baby, welcoming baby, and adjusting to life with a new human and becoming a family of 3. We are hopeful the relationship with Q’s son Little Man will improve with the arrival of his little brother. Our whole family is pretty excited about this new addition so it’s going to be pretty fantastic to see the family come alive in a new way too.

I have a few goals for myself, though I’m being realistic in knowing that I have no idea what life is going to be like once a little person enters it. So the minimal goals for 2019:

  • I’m hoping Q and I will be able to still get some date nights in, even if just to dinner and a Target run.
  • I’d like to read around 35 books, but hopeful I may be able to listen to more on audio, especially when home on maternity leave.
  • I definitely want to be a better friend by reaching out to check in more, even if I can’t make plans.
  • Self-care- before baby, I want to make sure to take care of myself and not get lost in the preparations so I definitely will take a day off for my birthday to get a prenatal massage. After baby, I know I will need to learn to ask for help so that I can keep my sanity, especially during maternity leave.

Wishing you and yours a happy, health 2019!

 

2018 in Review

2018 was quite a year! My word for 2018 was trust: trust myself, my partner, that the things I wanted would happen, and I definitely think I lived well and fully with that word.

When the year began, I thought for sure I’d be in a new job and possibly a new home by the end of the year (I’ve probably said this a few years in a row). Instead, I celebrated my 10-year work anniversary in September and took on new responsibilities at work once my horrible boss left in May. My new boss starts in January and we’ll see what 2019 brings career-wise.

I traveled to Utah and New Hampshire for vacation with Q and to Connecticut for a work conference. Other highlights of life include going to a live recording of The Moth in February with Q, treating myself to a few massages and a facial, plenty of lazy summer days with Q, and helping my Mom move back to the same town as me (now only a mile away!)

I read 80 books, though just barely made it since I hit a real reading slump through end of October and all of November. Highlights of reading: Tony’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani; A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza; It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover; The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang; Calypso by David Sedaris (on audio); Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng; The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin; and the last 2 Harry Potter books. Q bought me a Kindle for my birthday which I was so resistant to at first, but is one of the best things ever. I didn’t have an audiobook other than David Sedaris that stood out for me this year, though I enjoyed Tara Westover’s Educated and Tom Hanks’s Uncommon Type very much, especially since Hanks did the audio for his own book. I had hoped my turn in the library waitlist for Michelle Obama’s Becoming would happen before the end of the year, but so far, no luck!

I did not accomplish all my goals for the year: recycle old computers ( although I started taking my ancient Mac apart), I did not donate blood or pay off the car loan ( though very close!), and I didn’t return to church, though I continue to pray/meditate. I’m still thinking about this last one, especially about whether returning to the church I grew up with is the right fit or maybe there is something new (keep thinking about trying out an Episcopal service). It also continued to be a frustrating year for Q and I with our relationship with his son, but I am cautiously optimistic this will change in 2019.

We accomplished some house projects, watched a lot of movies, and spent a lot of time with family. I did more weight lifting and yoga, though my favorite teacher stopped doing classes for a good portion of last year, so was not as vigilant as I have been in previous years. We did a lot of clearing out of junk, both sentimental and actual, and this process seems ongoing. I swear clutter and random sentimental stuff doubles overnight or something.

It’s always interesting to look back on the calendar for the year gone by- some things seem so long ago and other things you forget happened at all, but as the saying goes, the days are long, but the years are short!

November: A Month for Gratitude

Sorry I disappeared for most of October! It was a busy month for work and overall various things going on. But super productive with house projects getting done and fall activities.

We decorated for fall and even a few things for Halloween. We had about 30 trick or treaters last night- mostly superhero and zombie costumes. I don’t always love Halloween but I do like seeing kids all dressed up, especially the little ones.

I’m 10 books away from reaching my goal of reading 80 this year. I feel pretty confident I’ll make it and possibly go over. I read 7 in the month of October, though I wasn’t over the moon for any of them. I was disappointed by a few- most of the books I only rated a 2 or 3, which may have more to do with my level of tiredness this month while reading. Take Crazy Rich Asians  which I wanted to read before I watched the movie. I’ve heard people love it or hate it, but I was definitely in the indifferent category. The only 4 star book was Anna Kendrick’s Scrappy Little Nobody which I listened to on audio for my commute. It wasn’t the best celebrity memoir I’ve listened to, but I gave it the extra star because I liked her delivery and jokes.

One fun thing from October was a visit just last week to the Florence Griswold Museum in Connecticut to see their Fairy Houses outdoor exhibit. It’s an annual event for the museum where local artists create these fun, whimsical interpretations of fairy houses all with a central theme. This year’s featured letters and numbers. It was a great afternoon with a friend, even though it got chilly pretty quickly! The picture below is an example– this is the house created for letter H and an example of the little rooms inside.

 

November is a month for giving thanks and for my favorite holiday. Even though my museum closes for the season this month, we have some December holiday programming to prepare for and this year we’re doing some new things, so this month will be filled with prepping for that. I’m looking forward to a few long weekends and lazy days, as well as decorating our house in our simplified Christmas decor. But really, the best part of this month is Thanksgiving!

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.

 

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.

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