Life By Kristen

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

Archive for the category “Love”

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.

http://facebook.destbooking.com/contest/stowe/gallery.php

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

DaveSara

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.

 

31

“The days are long, but the years are short.” (I’ve seen that quote in a lot of places- had a hard time finding the original source. )

As I celebrate today, it’s surreal to look back at what has happened in the past year. The sudden death of my father of course stands out as the huge thing that happened in my 30th year, but it was also a year where I found love again, took on new challenges, and learned a lot about myself.

As I embark on 31, there is a lot of uncertainty ahead, which is both exciting and incredibly scary too. I’m doing my best to let life happen, be at peace with whatever comes my way, and not worry. Some days it’s easy, other days it’s not.

It’s funny to think now I’m “in my thirties” and a lot of the things I thought about in life prior to this point are supposed to be happening in the next few years. But I’m saying screw it to that vision of life. I’m doing what I want each day, surrounding myself with love, family, friends, and good people. What I want for life will happen as it should.

 

Calm Life

Calm Life

 

 

Found here

I saw this quote the other day on Pinterest and it spoke to me in about a million different ways.

I lead a relatively quiet, uneventful life. I go to work, come home, go for walks, make dinners, read, watch  movies, spend time with my loved ones, and so on. The weekends are spent in a mixture of errands, relaxing, family/friend/boyfriend time, and house projects. There isn’t anything terribly thrilling or adventurous about my existence.

On another blog, I read this quote:

“Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life – well, valuable, but small – and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven’t been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn’t it be the other way around? I don’t really want an answer. I just want to send this cosmic question out into the void. So good night, dear void.”  –Nora Ephron, You’ve Got Mail

It’s something I’ve been thinking a lot on lately too– am I who I am because I was not brave or impulsive enough to make a big move, job change, or take on a huge adventure? Did I take the easy, no fear route of staying in my local comfort zone and live a life/take a career that wouldn’t have any surprises in store?

It’s easy for an outsider to look at my circumstances and think they are boring- for many people the thought of being a homeowner who has been in a job for almost 5 years is the exact definition of a bad life.

But for me it’s not.

My years dating and married were spent running around a lot- every weekend there were friends to meet up with, parties to go to, and various social responsibilities to attend to. It was exhausting. As an introvert with extroverted qualities, I’m a bit of a homebody who needs the down time of relaxing with a good book or just a glass of wine. It’s who I am– not the running around, being all the time person. I do the social hobnob enough at work that when it comes to my life I want some quiet, some sweatpants, and some time to enjoy the breeze or whatever it might be.

My divorce– like any great life struggle/disruption– taught me a lot about myself and the world around me, but if anything, it made me realize it takes a certain strength and grace to be able to enjoy a quiet night at home, especially alone with one’s thoughts. Having a calm life doesn’t mean it’s mundane, boring, or routine ( though that can happen at times as I know from experience). The calm life is not without it’s fair share of brave moments and adventures, it just means that those great moments of excitement and enthusiasm come with even more emotion and anticipation because they rise above the regular aspects of everyday life.

I’m happy with my calm life- my stress levels are far lower, my anxiety filled moments are few and far between, and it has allowed me to see the beauty and wonder of small moments in life in new ways– the joy of an afternoon weekend nap, the excitement at starting a new book, the peaceful feeling of spending a whole night in conversation with my man without a single distraction. A calm life is filled with gratitude and grace- and the bravery to know that this life has all that you want in it.

In Love with Love

Valentine’s Day seems like a strange occasion to write about divorce, but with so much love around, it’s something I can’t get out of my mind.

A year ago next week I went to court to make my divorce legal after months of actually being separated and waiting in the Massachusetts legal system for a day before the judge. And a year ago next week, the judge did not approve the divorce because of some issues with the house, continuing to drag out what had already become the longest process ever ( and that was without kids!). The time between actually deciding to end a marriage and it becoming legally binding was almost as long as the time I was actually married- a year of lots of ups and downs for me emotionally, physically, and financially ( well more downs than ups financially). The biggest part was acknowledging my part in the decline and failure of the marriage- in no way easy and something I avoided frequently, because nothing is easier than avoiding self-reflection and the truth.

As a recovering overachiever, the idea that I had failed at something so huge as a marriage was a huge blow to my ego- I had so many successes in life, I arrogantly thought I was surrounded by a Teflon force field that deflected disappointments or failures. The ending of my marriage was a huge life failure– and something I harped on for so long– so much that the anger and disappointment in myself bled over into other aspects of life and had me crippled with fear and dishonesty. I thought I didn’t deserve greatness in love because I had screwed up so badly at marriage, thinking that I was just not the kind of person who was meant to be with someone. I thought living a life in sweatpants on the couch doing what I wanted would be more fulfilling than the prospect of sharing feelings with someone.

And of course, the answer is it’s not. That everyone deserves love of another person.  I have long believed in marriage and lifetime partners ( even if not legally married) and just because I failed at a marriage I had no place in being in to begin with didn’t mean I would forever be unable to be in a life relationship.

It turns out I may be more romantic than  my cynical self thought. Getting divorced opened up my eyes to all the love in the world– the things about my day I love, the family & friends who would drop anything for me, even the small acts of kindness random strangers do everyday. It made me appreciate the small things like a quiet, sunny weekend morning or that even with stress at work, I have the best coworkers. I took so much for granted in life pre-D and never really knew who I was. On the other side of self-discovery (which never really ends), I’m in love with love- and as the movie says– that it actually is all around.

A Season of Giving

First off, I want to make clear my motives in telling this story are not to pat myself on the back or to boost myself up. I’m telling you this because it is something I think is important.

There have been a lot of news articles and blogs floating around about how not to rush the holiday season, make it less stressful, and so on. I even wrote about how I’m trying to not be so rushed and feel the pressure with gift giving. For me, I decided for myself in early November that I wanted the holiday season from Thanksgiving to Christmas to be special.  I am blessed with an abundance of love and gifts in my life– it is time I pay it forward.

Volunteering for a cause of some sort has been in my mind since August, but I’ve struggled to find a place that would fit my interests/abilities and my time schedule. I have not given up my hunt yet and it is one of my top priorities for 2013. So without a place to devote my time to, I went to the next best thing –donating goods.

I give frequently throughout the year to various charities, but never in big amounts- always a $20 here and there to friends doing fundraisers for marathons or swims across the bay, animal rescues, or the like. I am a dutiful subscriber to PBS and NPR. Well-loved books go to my local library; gently used clothes and household items go to Salvation Army. I’m not quite a bleeding heart, but I feel it is important to put some money and donations to things that are important to me, as well as to help out people who don’t have the opportunities that I do.  These things are great and I applaud everyone who does their small bit to give back, but to me they felt too passive.

On my 30×30 list is a desire to serve at a soup kitchen or food bank on a major holiday. I haven’t gotten that done yet either ( research in process for Christmas as we speak). It was important for me this holiday season to do something active to contribute and really put meaning behind the phrase “season of giving.”

At Thanksgiving, I made a holiday meal basket for a family in need. For Christmas, I adopted two families to play Santa for. While the early drop off deadline made me start my Christmas shopping a bit earlier than usual, it was so enjoyable to shop for people I did not know, especially since it involved two children. I haven’t bought fun toys and games in years. These kids are getting some really awesome games, Legos, and of course, necessities like jackets and hats.   I just dropped off the first family’s load of gifts this morning and the volunteers were so thankful. I can’t wait to do it again for the second family. On a side note, in each family, at least one of the children asked for either board games or puzzles. This makes my heart so so happy that there are still kids who don’t want everything electronic.

Again, my motives in writing this are not to sing my own praises and boost my ego. I am telling it more as a call to action because we are so caught up in our lives that we miss the opportunity to do a little good, even if in small ways. I certainly understand budgets being tight- with both families, I have only been able to purchase gifts because of deep holiday discounts and coupons, but it was important for me to set aside some time and money for this. It’s easy to make a contribution- so many businesses ask for a $1 donation at checkout to support local charities or to buy a toy for a needy child. Many businesses, churches, or libraries have “giving” trees where you take an ornament with a child’s name and one gift wish on it. It’s heartbreaking to me how many children ask for hats, gloves, and winter coats for Christmas. It’s sobering to think that being warm is their number one priority when they are at an age they should be playing and having fun.

So whether it be donating to a local soup kitchen, donating blood, or just dropping a $1 in the Salvation Army bucket at the grocery store, I hope you all can take a moment or two out of the busy holiday season and do something to give back. It will bring endless amounts of good to those in need and bring you endless light and joy that no material gift can match.

Finality

Today is the official day my divorce is final. I actually thought it was this coming Friday the 14th but in my counting 120 days from my court date, I omitted that two months had 31 days, so here I am, officially divorced.

I will be reclaiming my single name ( FYI, I very much dislike the term ‘maiden name’ for reasons that are far longer than to include on here) and still have to go through that process again of going to Social Security, DMV, and submitting paperwork to banks, credit cards, etc.  with the name change. It was a pain in the arse the first time around, though I did it willingly. When I got married, I took my ex husband’s last name because I wanted the unity of a family name with him and any future family we had together. I know a few divorced gals who have kept their married names post divorce, frequently because of their children, but for me, I want to go back to my original name– something I’ve been doing for just about a year now on  everything but official documents.

This day is incredibly anti-climatic and perhaps that’s fitting as well in going with the amicable way that things ended with us. I’ve heard many stories of people who hold divorce parties or name reclaiming ceremonies, but I don’t think I will be having a celebration for that. One reason is finding the time- my September got busy real quick- but also because it seems a bit sad to me too. I am happy that the door is just about closed on that part of my life and that I ( and he) can move forward to what we want our futures to be. But it is sad that our marriage ended- especially because both of us believed so strongly in marriage, led by the amazing examples of our parents, grandparents, and other friends and family. We loved each other a great deal- I don’t doubt that- and while I can look back now with clear hindsight and perspective at where things went wrong or the cracks that existed before we got married, there was no 1 event that caused the breakup or something crazy that people would talk about. Having a party to celebrate the end of something that was at one point my happiness, seems off to me.

There are so many things that occur to me now that I’m “divorced”- one is that, as with every other person who believes in love and marriage- is that, obviously, you never thought you would be in this position. In fact, I can remember wondering when all my friends were getting married before me about who the first to get divorced would be- not because I didn’t belong strongly in their love and relationships, but mostly because of the statistics in this country of marriage success rates, I figured it would happen to one of us, but never once thinking that one would be me. The irony is not lost that it is me- and perhaps that- as well as a conversation that my exhusband and I had about divorce in our early days of dating- was a great deal of literary foreshadowing in the story of my life.

When things were at their worst in my relationship, when marriage counseling left me feeling empty and confused, the thing I struggled with the most was not thinking about life alone or what my family would think ( though of course those things entered my brain), but I would get so worked up about saying the words “I am divorced” or checking off the “divorced/separated” option on surveys or personal information sheets. It’s such a tiny thing, but I struggled with that the most. I think that’s what has taken me a good portion of the past year to get over too- my being okay with the words and much less my concern over public perception of it. Any of my worries about what people would think were so secondary to the feelings and disdain I had for myself for awhile about the whole situation.

The divorce has shown me things about myself  I would not have known otherwise– and while I embracing my new self, it is a lesson I wish I could have gained in other ways and obviously, a lesson I wish I knew before I was married. This past year I’ve done a lot of self discovery- which can be a real bitch sometimes. The results are great, but working through it all feels a heck of a lot like teenage angst all over again. Breakups of a relationship are hard, but when the breakup is from something you thought was ‘until death do you part,’ it pulls you apart in ways you can’t imagine.

My divorce has taught me I knew nothing about love, loss, and living again. It taught me that I have the ability to love myself in ways I never allowed myself before. It taught me what relationships should and should not be and what I want for a partner. After all the tears and frustration of the past year, divorce has made me believe more strongly in the institution of marriage than I did before. I took marriage as a given in my life, never questioning it. That was something that was a crack in my relationship before I was married that not only did I ignore, I never even thought about. I didn’t really ponder what I wanted a marriage to look like until I was in it- and at that point, it became clear that my vision of life and a relationship were vastly different than the person who I chose to live it with.

Of all this though, my divorce taught me that I was literally coasting through life, going to the next milestone, without actually living each day on its own. I was always looking forward to what was next. I was on the track without every thinking about my place on it and if I wanted it. I followed the path of so many people before me- and while there is nothing wrong with that- I never stopped to think about what I wanted or WHY I wanted it. Throwing myself into my career and pushing myself professionally was the only place where I was really succeeding and living to the fullest, but I allowed myself no way to dream, wonder and ponder what it was that I wanted after 5pm. I never took big risks or a leap of faith for something I wanted.

I can’t say that now I am this changed person who leaps before she looks and plans and that I live each day as my last. I’m not there yet- and I’m not sure if it’s 100% in my makeup to be that person who makes big life changes. I made a HUGE life change with a divorce, living alone for the first time ever, and trying to maintain a home on my own. It might be safe to a lot of people, but it is the most fearful thing I have ever done in my life. I don’t want to make any big life changes for awhile- I want to live the life I’m creating everyday and figure it out as I go, be kind to myself, and allow myself to heal and to grow into the life I stood up and chose for myself.

 

 

 

My New Year Begins

I don’t know the exact date that my exhusband and I decided to separate, but a year ago I know was when we began to go public with our decision to end our marriage. The details of this decision are private and it would be unfair to him and to our relationship/marriage to discuss them in this way, as well as the fact that I created this blog as a space for my new life and self-discovery, leaving that aspect of my life as one of the many experiences that shapes me into the Kristen I am today.

Just as I was frustrated and annoyed with my lack of motivation and frustration, I read some things that helped change my perspective, stop being in denial, and think about the things that were annoying me. At that same point too, the last of my ex husband’s items left my house and he surrendered his keys. I guess the literal stuff was bogging me down more than I let myself believe.

It’s been a year- a year of tears, anger, excitement, new discoveries, disappointments and connections. For the first time in a very long time, I feel like I finally have a handle on things, which is the thing I have been in search of for too long. There will always be new challenges and obstacles- and I still face a few more before I can officially close the Divorce Book- but the next items are more the annoying aspects of paperwork and name change and less emotional upheaval.

It’s also a time to express sincere and heartfelt gratitude to the world- family near and far, friends, coworkers, online people I have never met in person but helped me through the worst year and a half of my life. Even when I was physically alone in my house, I knew a “listening” ear was only a click away.

August and September of last year were the months of tears and unsettling feelings like I had never known. A year later, they are the months of finality and clarity. I own the house by myself. The divorce is finalized. I will change my name. It seems fitting then that to not only celebrate that, but also to push myself to action- sort of a New Year’s Resolutions in the Fall- to remind myself of why I stood up for myself and for my life, and to not lose sight of who I am– and want to be–again.

34 Years and Counting

My parents celebrate their 34th wedding anniversary this Sunday.

Both of my parents are my best friends, without question. The summer between my sophomore and junior years of college I worked in my first museum job/internship for virtually no money. As a result, I hung out with my parents a lot since I was broke. That summer is really when I got to know them as Dave & Pat, and less as Mom & Dad.

After college I went right to grad school, and once again because I had few funds, I moved in with them and commuted the half hour distance to school. I was worried at first that it would be difficult to be at home again after years away at college, but the three of us had a great roommate setup- each of us cooked twice a week, shared household cleaning, etc. I had only planned to stay six months, but it seemed silly to move in the middle of the school year. I had hoped to move out for my second year of grad school, but it seemed silly then too because I hoped that when I graduated I was going to go out into the world to some grand place and museum job, so I should save up. Before I knew it, I had a job fifteen minutes away at a local historical society and I was still living at home. My father used to joke about not teasing him with moving out every few months because it never happened. I knew he was only joking- they both loved having me around.I came back in 2005 only intending to stay a year, and I didn’t leave their house until May 2010 when I was married.

34 years is a long time for marriage- I remember an anniversary of theirs when they both commented that they had reached the point when they had now spent more of their life married than they had single. They were married young, they both admit, but it was a different time and that’s what you did when you were done with college. Despite this, they worked hard and raised two children amazingly and provided for us. My brother and I were never spoiled; we never lacked for love, affection, and the occasional treat from the toy store. Both my parents never missed a concert or softball practice; they were frequent chaperones for field trips and drivers of the minivan full of tween girls going to the mall. They never complained or said they didn’t want to do it. In fact, because their anniversary frequently fell on the last week or so of school, they spent many an anniversary at a school play or concert- even the circus one year! I consider it a very special gift that they both were so involved in both me and my brother’s lives, educations, and social activities. Our family bond is tight because of their dedication to us and our family- we had dinner together at the kitchen table every single night, even if it meant a quick meal of hot dogs or pizza before basketball practice.

As I struggled with my marriage and how unhappy I was, my parents were often my sounding board not only because we are so close, but because they had always been realistic about the everyday issues that happen in a marriage. My mother often jokes that pump toothpaste and boneless skinless chicken saved her marriage because they would argue about messy toothpaste tubes and skin/bones on chicken frequently. All jokes aside, they showed me what love and friendship is in a marriage. My mother told me my father is still her best friend, even all these years later. And even after thirty four years, they are still adapting and working on things together as their lives change and get older.

This past year has been an emotional mindfield for me- just this past Saturday I found myself crying over something as trivial as a drip in the bathroom faucet ( I was overwhelmed by house things and over tired). Without my parents, really my entire family and support network, I would be a mess on the floor. Pat & Dave have both been a grounding force in so many aspects of the process of ending a marriage and starting a new life- providing endless hours of distractions, help around the house, and most importantly, a listening ear. They have been truly remarkable. I can only hope that if one day I am blessed enough with a family of my own, that I am half the parents that they have been to me and my brother.

Love you so much Mom & Dad- Happy Anniversary

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