Life By Kristen

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

Archive for the category “Uncategorized”

Book Spotlight: No Spring Chicken

Author Q&A – Francine Falk-Allen 

  1. Tell us about your new book. 

No Spring Chicken addresses what we all face eventually: aging and the physical difficulties that can ensue.

I’m a polio survivor who knows a thing or two about living with a disability, and offer my take on how to navigate the complications aging brings with equanimity (and a sense of humor). Part I is a jaunt through accessible travel pleasures and pitfalls; Part II addresses the adaptations caregivers can make for a mutually rewarding relationship with their loved ones, plus advice for physically challenged and aging persons themselves regarding exercise, diet, pain management, mobility, care tips and more; and Part III discusses the rewards of engaging with support groups sharing similar issues, with a little activism and advocacy for good measure.

I’m told it’s accessible and wryly funny, and is a fun and informative guide to living your best and longest life―whatever your physical challenges, and whatever your age.

  1. What inspired you to write it? 

Well, again, I have a lifetime of experience to share about how to take care of oneself with a physical challenge, handicap or disability, and enjoy life as much as possible at the same time. I thought it would be useful to those facing the later years of life, or even younger people with a disability, or family and friends who are perhaps stumped about how to face their loved one’s challenges.

  1. What is the one aspect that you hope readers learn from it? 

I hope they take away that there is almost always something we can do to improve at least one aspect of our condition, if not many, and to keep functioning as best we can in order to enjoy whatever opportunities present themselves to us.

  1. As family members age, what should we keep in mind? 

That they are the same people they have always been with the same needs and desires, and they want to keep participating in life to the extent possible. Also, generally, aging people could use a little or even a lot of assistance, but most of us hate to ask, and only ask when it’s a dire necessity. There are exceptions of course, but most people I know prefer to be as independent as possible. So chipping in more than you used to without an air of “You should have asked me for help” or “Mom, you aren’t keeping your house clean enough anymore” is likely to be appreciated.

  1. What adaptations should we make for our loved ones? 

Ask what is most needed rather than assuming we know. Remember that walking can become more difficult and think about what you can do to make this accommodation. For instance, renting a mobility scooter for family outings or vacations can allow Grandma or Mom to participate fully. A friend surprised me with this on a vacation in Hawaii and it made all the difference; I had a much better time since I could not walk the long distance to the beach or even to the pool in the complex, and it was helpful when we went shopping as well.

  1. You have traveled many places as someone living with a disability. What are your favorite places to travel? 

Ooh, there are so many great places. I love Maui, Hawaii; Edinburgh, Scotland; New Orleans, LA; Butchart Gardens on Victoria Island, BC, Canada; Kilkenny, Ireland; New York City, NY; and of course, Paris, France.

  1. What do you look for when deciding on a vacation spot? 

My husband and I both like places with beautiful scenery, and/or perhaps some culture such as concerts, or music clubs. We sometimes go to museums as well, but find that we can only do a couple of hours of a museum before we start to feel overwhelmed. We also are very interested in history and the culture of the people in the area we visit, and we like places with very good restaurants. (I start to feel ill if we eat too much fast food or simple carbs.) We sometimes plan a trip in order to see friends or family, also. For getting around, there have to be paved walkways for my scooter, or we take a lot of cabs or rent a car. I cannot go for long walks, but like to go places where I can scoot around, and then get off the scooter and walk a bit and see things up close, or sit in a park or on a beach and read. Sometimes I paint a watercolor, so I appreciate a really nice view.

With regard to lodging, my first priority is that the hotel is easy and either has an elevator or is one-story, since stairs are very difficult for me, and also has food service in case I’m too tired to go out. Next would be that if there is not a restaurant in the hotel, there is one next door! And I always try for a place with a warm accessible pool if possible. I always call ahead to make sure the staff does not put us down a long hallway, because then sometimes I may be able to go to the lobby or restaurant without needing to use my mobility scooter.

  1. Share some of your favorite self-care tips. 

I do a little yoga and core strengthening every single morning, and I do pool therapy a few days a week. Stretching and keeping up what strength you have is important in order to stay mobile. I also avoid eating large amounts of simple carbohydrates (basically, white foods!) but I do try to eat a large amount of vegetables! It’s important to keep weight down, or to at least not become obese, to avoid or keep in check joint pain, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. And of course all that helps just to assist yourself in feeling great so that you have a positive attitude. Also, I rest regularly, and sometimes take a little nap, and get at least six or seven hours sleep every night. I think meals or tea dates with friends, reading good books, watching inspiring movies and spending time outdoors are also great ways to reduce stress and increase a feeling of peace and well being.

  1. Do you have any advice for someone who wants to be an activist? 

Look for others who are already activists in the issues you care about. Someone has probably already got a group going and would love your participation and assistance and perhaps your knowledge and experience. If you can’t find that, you can start a group; I describe how to do that in my book. If you are housebound, you can research on a computer and stay informed with news on PBS and other reliable channels, and there are websites you can access which recommend what actions you can take, such as signing petitions or donating money, or making phone calls. Some groups will continue meeting on Zoom now that that is established. I am on an Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility committee in my town, which has met via Zoom during the pandemic, and I started a polio support group some years ago.

  1. Anything else you would like to add? 

I truly hope people will buy and enjoy No Spring Chicken, or ask for it at their local library, and suggest it to their friends and family. If they do, it’s helpful to the success of any book, especially for someone who is not a celebrity author, to leave a very good rating or review on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble or Walmart’s book review pages. Do remember that anything less than four or five stars is considered poor, though, by the algorithms that run those sites.

Even if people don’t read either of my books (my first book was Not a Poster Child: Living Well with a Disability—A Memoir, about growing up with a disability and navigating the world as a women with a disability), I hope that everyone who has physical difficulty is finding ways to keep on enjoying life! That’s what I’m intending to do. Later this year, we’re hoping to visit someplace like Hawaii or New Mexico, where there is a high number of vaccinated people and a low incidence of the Covid-19 virus. Happy trails to all!

Book Spotlight: Joyful Delicious Vegan

We’re slowly making the transistion to eating less red meat and more vegetarian, even vegan! As Q and I get older, we’re trying harder to be more heart healthy, especially given the medical history with heart disease in both of our families.

Here’s the author’s inspiration behind the book, in her own words:

We can all learn how to enjoy good health naturally at any age, and it starts in our kitchens by changing what and how we eat. With a delicious plant-based diet we feed our health and not disease. This is the most effective way to prevent or reverse heart disease, the leading cause of death in the US.  Heart disease especially impacts African American women, who are on the front line of the fight against this killer and other chronic diet related illnesses.

In Joyful, Delicious Vegan: Life Without Heart Disease I share my own story of reversing hypertension, based on current nutritional knowledge, and despite my family history. I was guided by the recommendations of two world-renowned cardiologists, who have demonstrated results with patients for many years. I show readers how to build a simple food plan around their particular needs with delicious anti-inflammatory foods, and how to develop the habit of mindful eating. There are powerful tips for success, encouragement, and staying power.

Despite the growing body of nutritional research, the mainstream medical community has been slow to integrate this knowledge in patient treatment and education. Only recently has it been introduced into modern medical training, leaving many doctors and health care providers in the dark about its effectiveness – while only offering patients costly maintenance drugs and surgical procedures, none of which offer a cure.

I want to get this message in the hands of as many people who can benefit from it as possible. I particularly want to empower those underserved by our healthcare system with the knowledge along with simple, affordable ways to prevent it, reverse it, and practice good self-care for themselves and their families. I also want to share the sheer joy of eating great healthy food, simple to make at home, that you love, and that loves you back! Whole plant-based eating is an adventure with endless possibilities to enjoy your favorite tastes and textures in healthier versions, and easily adapts to so many cultural food traditions.

This change in diet is the most powerful thing we can do as individuals to save our environment by reducing methane pollution from factory animal farming, while promoting compassion for animals. I can’t imagine a more powerful opportunity to make one change that contributes to our own health, the health of animals and of Earth itself.

Book Spotlight: Committed

CAREGIVING FOR CRAZY

Introducing: Committed: A Memoir of Madness in The Family

by Paolina Milana

Los Angeles – May 2021 – Imagine keeping a family secret about your mother’s mental illness and growing up as one of the offspring charged with “caring for crazy.” Then, to compound the horror, witnessing another version of schizophrenia as it consumes your younger sister – who you practically raised yourself, thanks to your mother’s frailty. To see Paolina Milana as an example of resilience might be the understatement of all time. 

As a 20-year-old, Paolina gets a chance to escape her circumstances by attending an out-of-state school, but the madness she tries to leave behind will not let her be as letter after letter arrives, constantly reminding her of the insanity from which she longs to break free. Making matters worse, the voices in her own head whispering words she’s not sure are normal, further her fears. “Please don’t make me be like Mamma,” she prays to a God she’s not sure is listening.

The unexpected death of her father soon after she returns home leaves Paolina in shock—becoming fully in charge of her paranoid schizophrenic mother. But it isn’t until at age 27, when her younger sister explodes in a psychotic episode, is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and must be committed, that Paolina descends into her own despair, nearly losing herself to the darkness.

Beautifully written with flourishes of handwritten letters (in Italian) from her parents, recordings of her own inner voices challenging her every move, and a heartbreaking slew of sticky notes revealing the harrowing thoughts of her sister’s delusional mind, Paolina’s epistolary memoir invites readers into her inner circle of intimate encounters with mental illness. Poignant and impactful, Committed is a story of resilience that teaches and inspires, not as a tidy narrative, but as an authentic and rare share that speaks to the struggle of staying sane despite being surrounded by madness.

BIO

Paolina Milana’s mission is to share stories that celebrate the triumph of the human spirit: To unleash the power that lies within each of us to bring about change for the better. 

Milana’s professional background is rooted in journalism where as a features writer for a major daily newspaper in the Midwest, she told the stories of other people. Then she moved to the field of PR/media and digital marketing as an executive in both corporate and non-profit environments. Given her experience in an emotionally tumultuous household where she was put in the position of caregiver to unstable family members, she is uniquely qualified to serve as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for children in foster care and as an empowerment and resiliency coach, using storytelling to help people reimagine their lives, write their next chapters, and become the heroes of their own journeys. 

Paolina has won awards for her writing, including her first book, The S Word, which received the National Indie Excellence Award. Her self-help picture book for adults, Seriously! Are We There Yet?!, and her holiday fiction novel, Miracle on Mall Drive both published in late 2020. Paolina is first-generation Sicilian, married, and lives on the edge of the Angeles National Forest in Southern California.

Find it here!

Languishing

That’s the word for what I’m feeling — and have been feeling- for much of the last six months or so. Part of the reason this space has been so quiet– is I honestly haven’t had much to say about anything.

Apparently, I’m not the only one– here’s a whole NY Times article about it!.

My family is well– all vaccinated! Well minus the toddler, who, somehow, is going to be 2 in May. How time flies and goes so slowly all at the same time.

We’re getting out of the house and the state soon to FINALLY introduce our son to some of the most important people in our lives who the pandemic has kept us from.

Nothing else to report, just to check in, months later, languishing still.

Is This Thing On?

This space has been quiet because honestly, I haven’t had anything to say that isn’t being said by more prolific folks, and because I’m in such a routine of life to SURVIVE, that I couldn’t quite seem to find the mental space and energy to write.

My word for 2020 was THRIVE. Which rhymes with what everyone’s word for 2020 ended up being- SURVIVE.

2020 will be a year that will take a bit more time away from to process what actually happened. It’s hard for me to say how it effected me– I was able to stay home, safe and healthy with my little family, and am grateful that all of my people can do the same. We never had to wonder where our next meal was coming from, we had toilet paper, and each other– and isn’t that enough? The unrest of politics and our cultural upheaval in the wake of the George Floyd murder and various protests left me feeling anxious and unsure of life- even with November’s victory for Biden, I’m still waiting for the sigh of relief that I hope January 20th brings.

So did I THRIVE in 2020? I guess in the definition of the word, no, but we did THRIVE as a family, growing and prospering over the hardships of the year.

Did I accomplish any of my goals? Sort of– I achieved 3 out of 7: I read 50 books (53 exactly). We did some stuff around the house to ready it for sale, though not as much as we hoped since we didn’t exactly want various contractors coming into our space.

Q and I had exactly 2 dates in 2020: one was dinner out for my birthday, a week or two before the world shut down, and a random Saturday in November where we did some basement cleaning, took a trip to the town dump, and took a daytime nap while my mother watched the little guy. We didn’t pay off the car loan, but will be doing that next month. I didn’t donate blood, we obviously didn’t travel anywhere, and my lack of writing here is about the same amount of writing I was doing in other places.

Yet despite the bummer of the year that 2020 was, it also was sort of a bit of a gift at the same time. For 3 months I spent every day with my family and I know that’s something we’ll never replicate again ( not sure we’d want to anyway haha). It made us realize what really matters in life and got us focused on our little family. I miss friends and family like crazy and want to go back to normal badly, but I know we are incredibly grateful for the life we have and the few disruptions we experienced over the last 10 months or so.

Going into 2021 I’m cautiously optimistic about what we might be able to do– hugging our friends and family and getting our son to meet his great aunt and great grandma is pretty high on the to-do list ( as is eating in a restaurant again). We’re mostly going to take things as they come with whatever circumstances come our way. I’m not going to set a word this year, but have in mind the changes and hopes we have for our family, rooted in the love and appreciation we learned in 2020.


2020: Thrive

I don’t remember exactly when I stopped making ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ and started choosing a word for the year and making goals, but it’s something I’ve found helpful to combat the ‘new year, new you’ push that seems to happen in the universe every turn of the calendar year. Having a leading word– even when I forget about it sometimes- gives me a good reminder to focus on myself and my goals.

I chose THRIVE for 2020 because its very definition inspires me- “to grow vigorously; to gain in wealth or possessions; to progress toward or realize a goal despite or because of circumstances.”

I want to thrive as a mom, partner, friend, and all the other roles that define me, but also to push myself to actually make steps to the next thing in life.

I talk ALL THE TIME about wanting a new job, doing something different, but it’s a lot of talk. I spent time and money with career coaches and online courses to try to get some sort of answer, but the only person who has the answer is me. Giving birth and becoming a parent is the scariest thing I have ever done and I survived/am surviving it. I can do hard things and moving on from the security blanket of my job over the past 11 years is one of those things I know I must do. It enabled me to get through the past decade of life and brought amazing people, things, and opportunities in my life, but it’s time to move on.

So here’s to changes, forward movement, growing, learning, and THRIVING in 2020.

 

 

 

What a Decade!

It’s been quite the whirlwind of the last decade- I think more has happened in the last 10 years of life than any other decade before?

In 2009, I bought a house and got engaged. 2010 I was married. 2011 I was separated. 2012 I was divorced.

In 2013 I turned 30, met Q, went to Holland with my mom, and unexpectedly lost my father- most certainly one of the most defining years of my life and often the marker in time in which I often refer to when trying to figure out what year things happened in.

2014 was a tumultuous year of figuring out grief, meeting Q’s son, and getting promoted at work, while 2015 brought new joys with brother getting married, but also the low of my mother selling our childhood home. I also went to Hawaii for work and we lost Q’s grandfather ( I was in Hawaii when it happened).

In 2016, there was a lot of job turmoil for me and a lot of job interviews in places near and far, but nothing worked out for us. We traveled to California to see family. 2017 was much the same unrest at work for me with a few glimmers of almost moving on to something new that never panned out so lots of hopes and excitement dashed. It was also tough second half of 2017 as we lost Q’s brother-in-law to suicide.

We were determined to make 2018 our year- we traveled to Utah and work conditions improved for me which made a big difference. We started house projects with our eye on moving within the year or so when we found out in September 2018 that we were going to have a baby!

2019 has been a roller coaster year– Q lost his biological father in January, and while we were overjoyed at the birth of our son in May, he entered the world in dramatic fashion and it was scary for a bit. We also unexpectedly lost Q’s stepfather in the beginning of December.

 

Friday Finds October 2018

On my travel list whenever I find myself in Atlanta- a new museum dedicated to the puppetry of Jim Henson.

Speaking of the amazing creations and imaginations of Jim Henson, the original Big Bird leaves Sesame Street after 50 years. Sidenote: I played Big Bird in my 1st grade play!

The trash that came out of Yellowstone geyser that has normally been quiet- stuff from the 1930s! Weird and fascinating.

How the Smithsonian helped the FBI track down the missing ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz.

There were never 57 varieties of Heinz Ketchup! Marketing schemes!

Duck sauce is an essential part of New England Chinese cuisine. I had no idea it was another thing that is only known in this end of the world!

Friday Finds January 2017

This is over a month old, but new theories on the capture of Anne Frank and her family.

The death of Debbie Reynolds the day after her daughter’s death broke my heart. I had no idea Reynolds played an important role in saving many pieces of Hollywood costume history too. 

I loved the TV Show My So-Called Life when I was a teenager- this oral history about the show made my month.

A history of the plus-size section in women’s clothing.

Ladies who launched space exploration. Cannot wait to see Hidden Figures!

Did you know rayon was a deadly fiber?

Remembering some of the great inaugural gowns worn by First Ladies.

 

 

 

Friday Finds December 2016

A holiday Friday Finds!

American Christmas holiday design and decoration is often inspired by two distinct periods- the Victorian era or the 1960s.

I love The Muppet Christmas Carol and have always wondered how Michael Caine felt about the movie– now I know!

The most popular toys by decade since the 1950s. Of course I had a Cabbage Patch doll!

The first department store Santa was in Brockton, MA!

 

Making gingerbread cookies is a holiday tradition in my family ( we made ours this past Sunday!) so I loved this video about the unknown history of gingerbread men cookies!

Why we eat candy canes at Christmas.

Dangerous holiday decorations of the past.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside is one of my least favorite holiday songs, particularly because it appears the dude singing spikes the girl’s drink. So a couple in Minnesota rewrote the lyrics.

Wishing you and yours all the best for the holiday season!

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Image via here

 

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