Life By Kristen

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

Archive for the category “Love”

Life Partner


As  Q and I celebrate 3 years together today, it’s amazing to look back on the life we’ve built together in such a short period of time. We’ve supported each other through our fair of challenges and while I feel strongly that this year is for us and making our dreams come true, I know that whatever craziness comes our way, that we will face it together.

JOhn & me July 2013


Thanksgiving Week


The anticipation of Thanksgiving is more exciting to me than Christmas.

I love all the planning and preparation that goes into a day that is solely focused on family, friends, and food.

A day to be openly grateful, even though I am that way the rest of the year too. But it’s a great reminder to take the time to remember gratitude and blessings. I’ve been particularly negative with a few aspects of life lately and I’m making the conscious effort to combat that negativity with kindness and positive vibes. It’s not easy, but the alternative is making me miserable ( and yes, I’m being vague on purpose).

I’m looking forward to making our family stuffing on Wednesday night, a recipe passed down from my grandmother, and until last year, made almost every year by my grandmother, aunt, and myself. Even though I do it solo with Q’s help, it still makes me feel connected to my family in important ways.

In my own soapbox moment, I think it is completely ridiculous that some stores are open on Thanksgiving. Massachusetts, with its Puritan beginnings, has some strict “blue laws” about holidays and retail (liquor too), so no stores can be open until midnight of Black Friday. The idea of getting more deals on a holiday that is supposed to be about taking time to reflect and give thanks makes me feel yucky and shake my finger in shame at even my favorite retailers. I will never shop on  Thanksgiving.

I have to work on the day after Thanksgiving ( it’s one of the most quiet and productive days of the year), but even in the past when I haven’t, I’ve never really taken part in the Black Friday early morning shopping festivities. It’s just not worth it for me, plus I like sleeping in late!


Love & A Wedding Gown

I started this blog as I was in the middle of the divorce process and haven’t spoken a lot about the particulars about the ending of a marriage–I don’t intend to start now. As frustrating as the marriage and its ending were for me, it is still a part of me and my life, even as heartbreaking as it was. I’ve come out the other side a better person and found love in a way I hadn’t imagined before- not just with another human being, but with the way I love myself.

Ending a marriage made me think more about love and respect than I had before I entered into it- sort of twisted thinking which probably is what got me into trouble to begin with. That aside, I came out of divorce seeking and believing in love more than ever and finding the institution of marriage in a different place. I have respect for it and for people who seek out being married, but I see love as something so much more than a piece of legal paper defines it.

A lot of these feelings have surfaced lately because we’re cleaning out my mother’s house as she readies for a move. I was confronted with a big box- my wedding gown. It sat in the bridal gown preservation box since the weeks after my May 2010 wedding, relegated to a high shelf in my childhood bedroom closet. By late summer of 2011, it was clear my marriage would not last and the box was pushed even further into the closet, obscured by pillows, linens, and off-season clothing of my parents. There was no need to do anything with it- my emotions were too raw  and the anger too heavy to think of anything related to a wedding.

2015-08-15 12.24.23

When I ran into some financial woes through the divorce, I debated selling it, desperate for cash, but being the sometimes lazy procrastinator I am, the ‘sell wedding dress’ slipped farther down the to do list and never was accomplished. It made its way onto the list every year it seemed, but every year I thought of other things more important to take care of first.

This past week, knowing that I had a limited timeline in which to figure out what to do with THE DRESS ( either get rid of it or it would end up in my attic), I finally kicked myself into action. I researched best sites to sell gowns on, what makes a good gown listing, and so on. I spent time searching through  friends/family facebook pages from 2010 to find pictures of me wearing it, ready to crop my head out of pictures to show potential buyers what the dress looked like on a human being.

And then last week, I decided I wasn’t going to sell it.

Why? Mostly for sanity sake- wanting to not spend more time than I had already in measuring, taking questions, and so on from potential buyers. But honestly, it felt sort of strange to try to financially benefit from a dress that brought joy and represented so much promise and love.

Truthfully, I adored my gown. Even though it was a hot day and wearing layers of luxe satin made me sweat like crazy, I loved every inch of it–the gorgeous beading and huge train. The marriage didn’t work out, but the wedding was awesome ( that’s got to be some sort of metaphor right there) and I felt amazing wearing it. It was bought with my grandmother, mother, and future-mother-in-law, and made me smile in ways I didn’t know I could. I didn’t want to try to hock the dress to the highest bidder– it felt almost cold and loveless. If this divorce has taught me anything, it’s in the power of love– and so I couldn’t sell.

But I couldn’t keep it either. Yes, I loved it, but it was also representative of another time, and really, of another me. Keeping it around didn’t feel right and frankly, I have enough stuff in the house that I don’t know what to do with that has more sentimental attachment. Some people suggested I could remake it into something else, which I explored a bit, but it felt weird to cut up something so gorgeous too.

2015-08-15 12.24.57

When I found the answer, it was so easy and obvious that I knew it was the right decision for me. I would donate my gown to one of the many charities that takes lightly used dresses and sells them to less fortunate or needing brides. After some research and review reading, it was an easy choice for me to donate my gown to Brides Across America. The organization provides gowns for military brides and I was more than happy to send my beloved gown to a group that truly helps people who need it.

My marriage didn’t last, but my belief in love did. I hope that bit of joy and hope still lives within the ‘spirit’ of the gown, bringing happiness to whichever lucky gal gets to wear it next.

All opinions are my own and was not prompted by Brides Across America to comment on their organization. 

Grief, Hope, & Gratitude

You know what I love lately? All the honest conversations happening in the media because people finally feel they can talk about grief, gender identity, sexuality, miscarriage, and so on. All these conversations give me hope.

The coverage of the death of Joe Biden’s son Joe and Sheryl Sandberg’s husband Dave have opened up a lot of dialogue about grief that, oddly enough, make me so happy. Grief, death, and dying was a thing I was so not comfortable with before I lost Dad- but since losing him, the ability to talk about it with people in open, truthful ways– either crying or mad or neither– was so incredibly helpful as I tried to parse out all the things I was/am feeling.

Sheryl Sandberg’s piece on life after losing her husband struck a chord for me, especially the concept of no ending to grief. I find lately that yard work and my career have become my triggers– my Dad used to do so much of mine for and with me, and he was a go-to person for career/life advice in ways other people haven’t quite fit in.

And then to think of Joe Biden, who has lost two children and a wife, yet has a great outlook on life. Someone sent my Mom a quote shortly after my Dad died that was something along the lines of- “the greatest gifts we can give our loved ones who have passed is to live fully in their memory.” I think Biden certainly has done that, but also, as this writer acknowledges, it’s the art of gratitude and being thankful for the blessing of a loved one in your life. I’m constantly reminded that I was blessed to have my Dad and call him my best friend, and what a special gift he was to everyone in his life. But it’s more than that too, as the losing of a loved one also shows you the kindness of others. It’s made me realize how many little things make life sweet– whether the cool breeze on a warm, sunny day or a gorgeous morning spent with family.

Grief, tragedy, heartache, sorrow– they all teach you something.

5 Years

May 1 would have been my 5 year wedding anniversary.

I started this blog after my marriage ended and I was in the long process of divorce. Finding my voice was a huge part of the process of working through the unexpected life change– writing myself back into life, as it were. It’s amazing to me how much has changed in those 5 years and where life is now– in a committed, loving, honest relationship with an amazing man and his son, working away at a career, figuring out new family dynamics without Dad, and so on. Much has changed, but yet I’m still at the same job and living in the same house, but as much as those things are the same, they are also wildly different.

I don’t talk about why the marriage ended when it did or the various circumstances of that not only because I try to maintain a certain level of privacy online, but because it’s not fair to my ex-husband. I loved him once and the years spent with him, both good and bad, were important in our formation as human beings. And frankly, what happens between two people is their business.

I wrote about the divorce process a lot on the Stratejoy blog, about how I was figuring out who I was and what I wanted out of life. A lot of the personal growth and self-discovery of the past few years has brought me to this point in life today, but it mostly taught me that it’s an evolving process of developing into the person we want to be. We’re never fully cooked.

I still don’t have much of a clue about what the next five years look like, but I’m increasingly okay with this idea. I know that life changes in an instant and am trying to enjoy what I can while I can. Mostly, I’m opening myself up to possibilities, experiences, and setting up for opportunities so when something comes along, I’m ready to take on what’s next.

Library & Little Man

My love of books, reading, and learning come from my mother. My father was a curious person, but he wasn’t a sit down and read a book kind of guy. My mother, on the other hand, reads everything– every advertisement in the newspaper, random magazines/brochures you find in hotel rooms, and this blog of course ( Hi Mom!). From a very early age, she instill in me the love of the written word– our trips to the library are some of my favorite childhood memories, in fact.

So as an adult as I’ve started to think about a family of my own, I wished that one day I would be able to pass along this love of books and reading to a little person in my own life. I give more books as new baby gifts than rompers and try to push the merits of the library to anyone I meet who is looking for a new good read. So of course, when Little Man entered into my life I hoped that I would be able to instill a love of reading to him like my mother did for me.

We read to Little Man each night he is with us and are slowly building a library for him at our house. But imagine my absolute glee when, on a Saturday running errands as a family, he asked to come into the library with me. The library is almost always a stop on our weekends together, but often I’m just dropping something in the outside bin, or if I do go inside, often the boys stay in the car for interest of time. But this particular Saturday, Little Man asked to come inside.

We explored the kid area, picked out a movie to watch that night, and Little Man picked out his own book, a chapter book from the Magic Tree House series. He was so happy to hand over my library card to get his book and DVD. After we ate lunch at home, the three of us were playing Legos in the sunroom, on the first warm, sunny day in so long– it was wonderful just to be in there again after it being so cold for so long. As if the day couldn’t get any better, Little Man asked if I could sit with him and help him read his book– even as I write this, my heart bursts with how excited I was– it was one of the first times he asked me specifically to do something with him, and to have it be reading was just the icing on the cake.

We’ve gone back to the library a few more times since then, each time he picks out a book or two for himself and gets a sticker when he checks out the books. It truly is one of the biggest highlights of life for me– to see him learning to read and wanting to read more makes me endlessly happy and even if I play only a small role in this little boy’s life, I couldn’t be more overjoyed that I’m helping him learn to love reading.


Be Thankful

This year’s Thanksgiving is bittersweet as it’s the first without Dad, but also because this was the last holiday we had with him before he passed away so unexpectedly last December. With the one year anniversary coming up in a few weeks, there have been more sad days than happy ones, but if there is one thing his death and this year have taught me is this: be thankful for each day. 

Divorce taught me a lot about who I am and what to be thankful for in life, but the death of a close loved one blew that out of the water. I am filled with gratitude for living every single day, for every person in my life, and for the love that surrounds me on a daily basis. I live a blessed life and as difficult as things may be sometimes without Dad, I know how lucky I was to have him in my life, and even more so to have him watching over me now.

So whatever your Thanksgiving Day plans are– take a moment to think about gratitude and what you  are blessed with in life. Tell the people you care about that you love them and truly be thankful for every day you have with them in this life.

All the best to you and yours and a Happy Thanksgiving!


A Little Help From Friends

Apologies if you follow me on social media and have already seen my plea for votes for my brother in a contest he is a finalist in.

My amazing older brother David is getting ready to marry his lovely fiance (and my soon to be sister in law) Sara next year in glorious Stowe, VT. I’m over the moon happy for the both of them. They entered a photo contest being held by their wedding venue (and favorite Stowe resort) The Stowe Mountain Lodge, and were lucky enough to win Week #3 of the contest. Now, they are in the grand prize drawing, where the prize is some serious cash ($10,000), airfare tickets, and a ton of other really amazing stuff. I’d be ever so happy if you could vote for them because I cannot think of two more deserving people for this. They are some of my very favorite people on the entire planet. Voting ends July 7.

They are the second photo from the right, the week 3 winners. Here’s what it looks like!


Thank you so much!

Courage to Love

Courage love

Image via Stratejoy FB

After divorce, some people are bitter. Some people never want to think about love, relationships, and marriage ever again. I was sort of the opposite– I believed in love more than ever before, though was in no rush to find it.

After separation/divorce, I took time for myself to figure out which end was up, dated one person that didn’t work out, tried the online dating pool, though was more focused on myself than thinking about a relationship. I decided to give it a one month try during last winter to meet new people, beat the winter cabin fever by getting out a bit, and see how I felt about the whole thing.

I connected with Q during my last few days on the dating site.

That was over a year ago, and in that time, so much has happened between the two of us, even before my father passed away. He has supported, cheered on, cried, laughed with, and been my partner in crime, but mostly, he’s been the person who made me realize how amazing love is- and can be.

When I stood up for myself and decided my marriage was not making me the person I wanted, I was unsure of what the future held. In standing up for myself, I knew I was making a courageous stand too about what I felt love was ( and wasn’t) and what was important to me.

Ten on Tuesday: Loving Myself

Inspired by this

It was surprisingly difficult to come up with ten things about myself that I love- not because I have a low self-confidence or self-awareness, but more because it seemed boastful and egotistical to think of myself in this way. In my opinion, it is only those things when you make it a point to say to the world how fabulous you think you are. To me, stating ten things about yourself that you love says that you have the grace and kindness with who you are to take a real honest inventory of strengths, weaknesses, areas to improve, etc.

In random order- 10 things I love about myself:

1. I’m a curious person/lifelong learner: I love learning new things, trivia, factoids about life, and learning about people. I have a curious mind that asks questions and am endlessly interested in finding answers, whether it be to silly things like finding out how old an actor is to looking up more information on giant squid.

2. I know I can do things and I always try: It may not look like the Pinterest picture ( does it ever?) or I may have to ask for help in the middle, but my stubborn streak makes me want to try something myself the first time around before calling in someone who knows what’s going on. This is a lesson I have definitely learned about myself in the past 2 years since getting divorced.

3. I feel just as confident out and about all made up as I do with a baseball hat and no makeup on.

4. I’m comfortable with my body, embracing curves, lumps, and bumps!

5. I’m goal oriented. Once I set my mind on something, it usually is hard to derail me. ( see above note about being stubborn!)

6. I know how to take care of myself: this isn’t just about being able to feed, clothe, and keep a roof over my head. I know when I need a rest, when I need to say no to going out in favor of a night in with a cup of tea and early bedtime. I know how to refuel myself when I feel frazzled and overwhelmed. It’s taken quite a long time to get to this place of self-awareness and self-care.

7. I’m decent in the kitchen: I’ve made a lot of clunkers and blah meals, but I’ll try anything once and am mostly successful.

8. I’m organized ( well except for that one closet in the office): I know where things are my house and am efficient and together at work with projects and time management. I remember dates of birthdays, buy gifts ahead of time, and generally have life together ( even though I don’t give myself credit for this all the time).

9. I’m a lover: I love my man, family, and friends fiercely and big ways. I share my love by making meals, helping with errands, and sending cards. I am open with affection and tell people who I care about what they mean to me.

10. I love that I practice gratitude daily– it’s this concept of life that I think has made me so self-aware because I am so thankful for the big and little things of life.


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