Life By Kristen

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

Archive for the category “Family”

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. 

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The Dinner Table

I grew up having dinner with my parents and brother every single night of the week. Some times it was a quick hot dog and chips before a ball game or a choir practice, other times it was a dreaded meal made for my then-picky eater brother (cheeseburger pie, gross– also happy to report my brother somehow went from super picky to a foodie). But we always gathered together for this meal. Growing up it was often my Mom who made it, but my Dad helped a lot too. In his later years, he was doing a lot more of the cooking, something I know he enjoyed a lot.

Q and I eat together pretty much every single night. Even the nights when I have to work late or have a work event, he will frequently wait for me to get home to eat takeout together. I will admit that we frequently sit on the couch and eat at the coffee table while watching the news and talking about our days. Part of that is Q often has a lot of work to do at home and what is the dining room table becomes his home office. Our kitchen is tiny so we retreat to our coffee table for dinner. Not the best habit, but we try to not get the mechanics of where we eat dinner get in the way of that time together.

Growing up with that built in time with loved ones is an important part of my childhood and who I am as an adult. I look at dinner together as a pretty sacred time to connect, not talk about work (or at least let it be the last time at night we talk about it), and focus on each other. Even when I’m tired or in a cooking rut, I take pride in making or picking up food to have together. I have coworkers who think it’s old-fashioned that I make dinner every night, but it’s part of my value of family and time together, so we make it a priority.

The dinner table holds an important place in my life and heart. It’s the place where the stress and worries of the day melt away and it’s all about home and the people who matter the most to me.

 

 

Hosting Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday- food, family, and fun without the pressure of gift giving. As the holiday has changed over the years with people coming and going from our table, it still remains as one of my favorite days of the entire year. This year was extra special as it was my first time hosting and it’s something I looked forward to for the past few months.

Q and I both ended up taking the entire week off of work and I’m so glad we did because we were able to relax and prep the house instead of being tired and cranky getting ready after work. Q even did a few house projects in the early part of the week, which I will admit I was not too happy about when he mentioned wanting to do that, but in the end, worked out amazingly.

We had 8 people and 2 dogs for dinner. In full disclosure, I was merely the host spot for Thanksgiving and the sous chef to my mother. Her years of Thanksgiving cooking mastery are a thing of beauty and organization, I merely just support her and set the table.

One of the things I love about Thanksgiving is the traditions- old and new. I like that each year we use the same electric carving knife that my parents received when they were married in 1978. I use the same pans, old-fashioned crank chopper, and Pyrex casserole dish for the stuffing as my grandmother did. We still buy a Marie Callendar’s Dutch Apple pie as one of the desserts because it was my father’s favorite. Even though each year has brought different circumstances and people to the Thanksgiving table, each year it’s a time to put aside all the noise of life and just enjoy being together.

 

The dishes aftermath! Honestly, I like the cleaning up after, especially this year when I did it after everyone left while drinking wine and listening to a podcast.

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. 

June

I almost didn’t realize June began because I was entrenched in a conference in Maine last week that I was co-organized and helped to run. It was a success, but it was a blur of activity, moving boxes, running around to check on projectors, and various other duties that left me tired and more than a few days without seeing the outside of the hotel.

When I left my house on Memorial Day, I said to Q that I couldn’t wait for the conference to be over so we could finally have some time for us. We’ve had a stressful spring with some work woes for both of us, the fire next door to the house, deaths on both sides of our families, and this conference. We were looking forward to doing some vacation planning, buying new outdoor furniture, fixing our grill, and many other little things that bring us happiness.

Life, of course, has other plans.

Sadly, Q’s brother in law passed away unexpectedly over the weekend, and once again, we’re putting our plans on hold as we help his sister and niece. Things are still shocking and fresh right now and I think will be for the foreseeable future.

 

I’ll still be posting on here and have some book reviews coming down the line, but the big blog revamp I had in mind for June may get pushed back a bit, depending on how things shake out with life. Despite the curveballs that seem to keep coming our way, I’ve realized over the past few months that writing is the one thing I want and need to be doing and won’t abandon this space, even if it’s only my mother and aunt who still read it ( hi Pat and Cindy!).

Be well, friends.

Traditions, Old &New

For as long as I can remember, my mother and I have been making cookies for Christmas, as so many others do this time of year as well. Growing up, we almost always made them on Christmas Eve Day so there would be fresh cookies for Santa, and for family and friends who came to our house for Christmas Eve, and later for the many houses we would go traveling to on Christmas Eve. It was often just her and I who baked, with my brother frequently helping with the decorating. My Dad was usually out last minute Christmas shopping that day by himself, as that was a tradition of his own that he enjoyed.

As adulthood as crept in, we now make the cookies usually on the weekend before the holiday, bringing them to our coworkers and saving the rest for ourselves. It’s been a lot of fun in the past few years as now my sister-in-law joins in the fun. I think we made 7 different kinds of cookies this past weekend- all delicious and almost gone!

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a small sample of our cookies, decorations by my brother!

Q and I are still working to establish our own holiday traditions with Little Man as each year it always depends on how Christmas falls and when we’ll end up seeing him to celebrate. In the past two years, we’ve made sure to decorate the house together and buy Little Man a new ornament every year for our little tree that he gets to pick out himself. We watch Christmas movies on the weekends we have him in the month of December, trying to expose him to new ones and favorites of ours that he has not yet seen ( he really liked Home Alone).

This year, it’s just the three of us for Christmas and while we’ll miss the rest of our family who are spending it in other places, I’m also very excited that we’ll have Little Man for Christmas Eve and a portion of Christmas Day. Seeing the fun of Christmas through the eyes of an 8 year old boy has brought a lot of joy to me this year that has been missing since my Dad died. I might be more excited about Christmas morning and the excitement of seeing what Santa brings than he is! We’ll continue a tradition from my family’s Christmas mornings too– cinnamon rolls for breakfast.

As a lover of history and family, I find traditions- no matter the holiday or time of year, fascinating. I’d love to know some of yours! As life changes around us, our traditions are often the things we hold onto for the memories, but the new ones that emerge bring excitement too.

 

3 Years

There’s no rule book on grief. If you ever lose someone and people try to tell you there’s some timeline to stick to, that “things get easier,” or whatever platitudes they think you want to hear, it’s totally fine to be polite and say thanks, but to know that it’s absolute krap.

People say things like that because they honestly don’t know what else to say. Often times those people haven’t ever lost a person close to them, someone they talked to every single day and relied on for so many aspects of life. I used to be that person who tried to find the right words, but mostly sounded silly and felt inadequate and uncomfortable around people who have lost someone.

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And now that I’ve solidly been in the category of losing someone who was in my inner circle of life, I can say that things don’t get easier– they get different. And they will continue to get different. Every day that you live is a day away from the person you lost. Every new thing that happens, every possibility of life is something that you can’t go and call that person or ask their advice. And that’s the tough part of grief. The loss isn’t just about changing life circumstances, though that can be huge. But it’s about not knowing what the person would say to you, how they would react, or what they might do to help a situation.

Three years after unexpectedly losing my Dad, after having our lives shot out of a confetti gun, I’m still trying to grab at the pieces. I think this past year has been the hardest for me since his death. The first year was all about working through the ‘grief-stones’– the birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, etc. and figuring out the various bits of life like finances, belongings, etc. The second year was about supporting my mother and family as they made decisions that came as a result of losing Dad.

And this past year, the third year which I felt was finally time for me to figure out my life– that I felt I finally was settled financially after my divorce almost left me broke, secure in my new relationship, and certain that my family was all going to “be OK”– that it was time for me to make my changes, my move, and do what I wanted. And it’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced.

In some ways, I feel like this past year was the first time I really faced the grief. I’m a task master, a planner, and a to-do list maker. The pragmatic, practical side of myself worked through Dad’s death by making lists, organizing food, plans, people. I did this for year one and year two. But year three was just me. And as I faced questions of what next? and possible moves, I have never felt so lost without my Dad.

I realize I might always cry when there’s something on TV or a movie when someone says “I love you Dad.” I know that he’s with me and I talk to him on a regular basis. It kills me to think that he never met Little Man or any potential grandkids. I know that feeling isn’t going to go away. I know that it might lessen with time and that as things happen in life, I’ll figure it out.

It’ll never be the same, it will never be better, it’ll just be different.

Thankful Thursday #12

I’m thankful for having a brother!

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David is my first friend, no matter the trouble we caused together or because of the other.

He is just shy of 2 years older than me, but I was the bossy little sister who acted like I was older and walked in to take the remote control from him when we watched TV after school.

He’s an amazing artist and creative person with a great imagination and spirit for adventure. He can put together a piece of Ikea furniture in no time, install a ceiling fan, and win any trivia match involving Disney, comic books, or superheroes.

No matter how we’ve argued or how different we can be on some things, we share the same values of family being important. He’s a kind, compassionate, funny, and all around great human being. Like our Dad, he would drop what he’s doing and help you out in any situation without asking for anything in return. He’s pretty fantastic and I don’t thank him enough.

 

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For many years, we were the same height, but now he towers almost a foot and half over than me!

The Wisdom of a 7 Year Old

Excuse me, 7 1/2 year old. I’m told the half is very important.

This past weekend we had Little Man and Saturday night’s dinner conversation somehow turned to the presidential race because Election Day occurs a week after Little Man’s 8th birthday. Here’s pretty much how the convo went, paraphrasing a bit.

Little Man: And then after my birthday, we elect the first woman president.

Q: Well, we hope to elect the first woman president. There is someone running against her.

Little Man: Is he the guy who yells all the time?

Q: Yep. Not everyone likes him, but not everyone likes Hillary, the woman who is running against him. The same thing happened with Obama.

Little Man: Obama is our president now.

Me: You’re right, and he was our first ever black President. It’s a big deal for him and for Hillary because women and black people didn’t always have the right to vote.

Little Man: That’s not fair. Why?

Me: Because a long time ago white men thought they were the only ones who had the intelligence and ability to make decisions.

Little Man: Well that’s just silly.

Oh the wisdom of a 7 1/2 year old.

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On a related note, I was incredibly surprised how moved I was last night when Hillary’s nomination became official. I don’t talk about politics often and have tried to keep a lot of the noise and media rants out of my head the past few weeks, but between Michelle Obama’s speech on Monday night and the official nomination last night, I have found myself tearing up on more than a few occasions. I think it’s because I see the perspective of the very special 7 1/2 year old little boy who doesn’t even question a woman being president and the prospect that I could someday have a little girl of my own that could change the world when she grows up now that this barrier has been broken. Whatever your politics and where you stand on the issues, it’s an amazing thing to see happen, no matter the outcome.

Milestone

Over the weekend, Little Man and I had a pretty awesome milestone- he chose errands with me instead of staying home to watch a movie while Q worked out in the basement. Maybe because the errands were going to end at the library or maybe it was just that he didn’t want to spend more time watching TV, but it made me feel pretty good. I think even Q was surprised that this shy little boy who hates being away from his father made a choice to do just that.

It wasn’t a lot of errands, but the time together was fun. He helped me put stamps on letters at the post office and asked how the mail worked. We dropped off a Redbox DVD and laughed at the silly dogs sitting in the car in the parking spot next to us.

The moment he decided to come along made me feel pretty awesome, but it was nothing compared to the amazing moment when we were walking into the library and he took my hand, telling me how much he loved books. My heart burst wide open and I couldn’t stop smiling as he picked out a few books. He even got over his shyness to ask the young man at the circulation desk if they had any Star Wars books. Then the excitement when he saw the huge Lego Star Wars encyclopedia book the guy handed to him. I hope he never loses that love of books and the wonder of learning something new ( even if it is Star Wars!)

Being a ‘bonus mom’/ adult friend to Little Man is something I never expected in my life, but something I cannot imagine living without now. With him I’ve found my silly side for when we play games or do things like make homemade play dough. I cherish our weekend morning cartoons together while Q sleeps in a bit. It’s made me think differently about the world, the future, myself.

Who knew the mundane task of running errands could became a milestone.

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