Life By Kristen

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

Friday Finds April 2018

Betty Reid Soskin is 96 years old and works at the Rosie the Riveter/World War II National Park that memorializes the experiences of women workers during World War 2. In this article, she speaks about how Rosie the Riveter didn’t speak to all women’s experiences in WW2. LOVE this quote: “What gets remembered is determined by who is in the room doing the remembering.”

How Girl Scout cookies are made.

Women in Hollywood’s past who were leaders– many names I’ve never heard before.

Saving the history of cosmetics, beauty products, and fragrances at the Smithsonian.

The afterlife of movie wardrobes after production is done.

Funny movie quotes from the past 40 years that have become part of our everyday conversations/language.

What a compassionate, open-minded judge: teens who graffitied a historic building with racist symbols and words were ordered to read a book related to racism, Holocaust, etc.

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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.

 

 

Routines

I’m frequently the first person to arrive at my work office in the morning. I crave that time in the morning when I can go through emails, check the calendar, and get myself organized for the day. I don’t like chaos in the morning as it sets a bad tone for me for the day. I think best in the morning ( usually when I do most of my writing) and try to schedule myself so the “brain” tasks are scheduled before lunch, and the running around/errands/physical tasks all happen in the afternoon.

I’m lucky that I have the ability to be a bit flexible with my schedule and can adjust my hours as I need to reflect whatever is on the to-do list at work or in life. I work 8a-4pm because that’s what works for me and what needs to get done. I also crave that ‘golden hour’ from 5p-6p when I’m usually at home, or at least out of the office and doing things on my personal to-do list. I’ll come home, start dinner, walk on treadmill (soon to be outside whenever spring arrives here), and unwind. I’ve even come to see my 35-45 minute commute as distinctly me time so that by the time I pull into my driveway, I’ve left a lot of work stress and woes behind me. 

These routines of my weekdays have morphed over the years as circumstances in life changed around me. I’ve tried to run less errands in that ‘golden hour’ to make more time for the things I want to pursue, but I also know that my mind is frequently tired at the end of the day, so writing for myself isn’t going to be as productive as it could be in the morning before work. My work life has been tumultuous to say the least for the past couple of years and has taken a lot of emotional and mental energy. There have been more than my fair share of nights when the only productive thing I do is make dinner and watch whatever nonsense on TV I can find. There are hints of change on the horizon at my day job that I have high hopes will transform my mental well-being and I am cautiously optimistic that will influence my out of work life in big ways too.

I remember being younger and thinking routine and mundane tasks of life seemed like such a boring thing, but as I’ve gotten older, I realize certain routines bring sanity and highlight the extraordinary things, as well as make everyday moments filled with more joy. Every weekend, Q makes a big pot of coffee for us to enjoy together instead of the on-the-go quick K-cups I make on work mornings. I look forward to that simple pleasure every weekend- we often even talk about anticipating it as early as Thursday night! Our life may lack a lot of spontaneity, but it also isn’t predictable- finding the good balance between being in a rut and living in chaos takes some work, but it’s brought me to a good place that only can be improved.

5 on Friday: Book Recommendations

Friday the 13th! Be careful for ladders, black cats, and other signs of superstition today!

4 months into 2018 and I’ve read 23 books out of the 80 reading goal for this year. Here are 5 books I’ve read this year I’d definitely recommend.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Not historical fiction in the traditional sense of the genre, but historical in that it follows one famous movie star over the years as she tells the story of her life and career to a journalist. I picked this up because I love depictions of old Hollywood, but this book is so much more than that. The main character Evelyn Hugo is complicated and dynamic, and it was not predictable in any way. I could barely put it down! 5 stars.

Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World by Ann Shen

A free Amazon Prime Kindle book that I grabbed while Q watched a horror movie that I knew I wouldn’t enjoy. As a person in women’s history, I was pleasantly surprised that there were so many women in this book that I had never learned about before. So many of their stories are fascinating, and it’s got me thinking about the many historical fiction ideas for my own writing based on some of these amazing females. I only gave this 4 stars because I thought the book could have included more diverse women.

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson

An audiobook listen, I chose this book because science/nature/space are mesmerizing to me, but also so outside of my realm of understanding it’s a little embarrassing. I never did well with science in school ( especially physics and chemistry) so I decided to listen to this to try to have a better understanding. Tyson’s documentaries and work with astrophysics is centered on trying to make it more palatable for the average person, and I so appreciate that. This short audiobook ( I listened within one commute week, so I think it was under 8 hours total) is narrated by Tyson, who has a great speaking voice. I will admit it gets 4 stars only because there was a whole section explaining protons, neutrons, and so on that totally made my head hurt and confused me more, but that’s my own personal shortcoming in the science realm and not a dig to Mr. Tyson!

Coming Clean: A Memoir by Kimberly Rae Miller

Another free Kindle book that I can’t remember quite when I downloaded it, but this memoir about living with parents who were hoarders was both fascinating and horrifying. 5 stars.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Is there anything more wonderful to a book lover than a book about a bookstore owner and the world he lives within? I devoured this book in almost one sitting and it was so heartwarming, charming, and lovely. 5 stars.

5 on Friday- April Updates

I’m back from the most stressful month of March I think I’ve ever had!

  • My exhibit at work opened on Wednesday night, and while my actual exhibit was done 2 weeks ago, the historic house I work in was in a state of chaos right up until midday on Wednesday. I do not like working under these types of conditions, but because of people, scheduling, and other circumstances out of my control, I had to deal. There were more than a few late evenings.
  • Now that the busiest months of my work have passed, I am so ready for vacation in 2 weeks. Pumped to go see family and spend some time in nature, but honestly just happy to not go to work for 10 days.
  • Spring has decidedly not sprung in my corner of the world. In my excitement for the turn of the season, and some prep for my vacation, I put away all my wool sweaters and heavy clothes, hoping that would tempt the weather gods to smile favorably on us, but nope. Lots of layering for the next week or so when I think the highest temperature we’ll see is about 45.
  • Since we’re still in hibernation mode, we’ve been watching a lot of TV and movies. Happy that The Americans is back on (last season!), intrigued by Homeland— though between that, The Americans, and our actual news, it’s a lot of conversations about Russia. Side note: Russia is not a country on my travel list. Highly recommend the movie I, Tonya too. Even if you have no interest in figure skating or Tonya Harding, it’s an interesting look at class/culture of domestic violence that even Q enjoyed.
  • I now own an actual Kindle! When I quit playing Farm Heroes Saga at the beginning of 2018. I was still looking for some passive entertainment that wasn’t social media that I could watch on nights when I want to relax with Q but have no interest in his show/movie. I sometimes read a physical book with the book light (I tend to shut my main reading lamp off when we’re watching TV). I do crossword puzzles on the iPad, but after a few a night, I needed something more. I downloaded the Kindle app for iOS, but felt like the iPad was getting too heavy and hot, so after polling my Twitter reader buds, I settled on the Kindle Paperwhite. Q also really wanted to get me something for my birthday related to technology because I never get stuff for myself in that category, so this was the perfect compromise. I don’t know what took me so long to jump on the bandwagon!

(not me but I hope this is me in a few weeks lounging and reading outside!)

Friday Finds March 2017

Dolly Parton’s charity that provides free books to kids gave out is 100 millionth free book! Amazing.

Another phenomenal female- a 101 year old female runner in India.

In honor of Women’s History Month, the NY Times is writing obituaries for women who were overlooked. This particular link takes you to Ruth Wakefield, who invented the chocolate chip cookie recipe we all love so much. Here’s the link for the whole series, Overlooked.

Did you know a woman invented the paper bag? Me either.

How certain foods became associated with certain meal times in America. Related: I hate cereal.

The odd and weird platypus.

Geek alert- plastics and museums. I spend a lot of time thinking about how 20th century materials break down in the museum collection I manage (especially plastics, polyester, and vinyl!) so this is interesting to me.

Life Lately: March

March has been…..stressful.

This is the busiest month of the year for me at work and this year, but it feels extra bananas because of new staff and initiatives.

The ridiculous weather in New England (3 nor’easters in a week and one more in forecast for next week) has been incredibly difficult at my museum, with lots of leaks and issues with the building from all the wind and rain. One of the storms happened on March 1 and clearly has set the tone for the month. I actually was fearful I wouldn’t make it home as the high winds caused bridge closures from tractor trailers that flipped over. Since I have to cross at least one to get home (though the way that has 2 bridges is faster), it was quite a panicked and stressful ride.

Then I was supposed to go away for a work conference, and a huge nor’easter snowstorm stopped that in its tracks. The snow day off from work was much needed, though I could have done without shoveling 15″ of snow.

One of the many New England winter storms from satellite imagery

The various storms have, thankfully, not been too bad at home, and with the exception of a few leaks, we’ve been very lucky, only losing power for a few minutes each time ( or not at all), which is a true blessing since there have been people who were out for days. My neighbor is a lineman with the local electric company and he’s actually been out working throughout the state of MA and RI for the past 13 days, with only some time home for sleeping. Q and I are super happy we had all the tree work done over the summer because I know for sure some of our trees would have ended up dangerously close to the house or the wires after some of these unreal storms. But every storm is nervewracking and brings out all my worries as a homeowner, so I’ll be happy when we get out of this unsettled pattern we seem to be in.

But there’s much to look forward to– after my museum opens for the season, my work calms down and I start to enjoy it again! And we’re going to Utah at the end of April which is a much needed vacation together and to see family, plus 10 days out of the office, which I might need the most right now. And today is Q and I’s 5th anniversary– nothing special planned in the immediate future, but we’ll definitely go out for a nice dinner on a weekend in the next few weeks.

Hope your March is going well! Anxiously awaiting the arrival of spring here in New England.

 

35

To put it simply, I would have been completely fine with letting this birthday pass me by. In fact, work has been so busy that I almost did! When cards arrived in the mail last week from my grandmother and aunt, I actually had a moment of “huh?” because it was still February and my sense of dates and the calendar has been all out of whack lately.

I’m not a huge birthday person for myself. I don’t particularly like being the center of attention and like to just keep to myself most of the time. When family asked what I wanted to do, I honestly meant it when I said nothing. All I ever want as an adult is to not have to work on my birthday. Since it fell on a Sunday this year, it was the perfect day to sleep late, read books, and relax.

And that’s pretty much how the day has gone. My family came over for birthday cake and Q bought me a necklace, but otherwise, it’s been low-key and uneventful. I think people make a big deal over birthdays because they feel like they need to celebrate you in some way, but it means more to me for people to send me notes, messages, or call than it does to have some sort of event about the day.

As I start into my mid-thirties, I feel like life is more uncertain for the next few years ahead than they were when I was 25 or even 30. A lot has happened in a year, and I’m sure the year ahead will be equally eventful, though I pray it won’t be as filled with sadness, anxiety, or stress. I am cautiously optimistic about some things at my day job and we have a vacation coming up in 40-something days to anticipate. Those positive lights on the horizon will get me through the next few crazy weeks at work ( this happens every March!)

 

Friday Finds February 2018

Library borrowing records of millions of New Yorkers are made public, including Alexander Hamilton, Roald Dahl, and more. Very cool!

I’ve been watching a lot of the Olympics this month. I’m not sure what it is about the Games that makes me spend a couple of hours on a Saturday watching luge or downhill skiing when I wouldn’t do that on any other random Saturday. In any case, a few Olympic-related articles: how to manage stress like an Olympic athlete  and and Olympic figure skater who was also the first female sportswriter at the NY Times.

Do you watch The Good Place on NBC? It’s one of my favorite shows and the only current sitcom and network TV show we watch. We binged-watched it over the summer after its first season was done, as I kept reading/hearing recs from friends, podcasts, etc. about it. The second season was just as good as the first. This article is not just about the show’s concept ( which is dealing with the idea of afterlife in a funny way), but how it talks about this big, weighty issue in a comedic way. Personally, my version of heaven has all my loved ones who have gone before me, and lots of bread and cheese.

In 3rd grade, when we were assigned to do biographical sketches of a historic person, I chose Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female doctor in the United States. Here’s a bit more of her story– happy to see more people will know about her and her achievements now that a media with a wider audience has done this piece on her.

This article on Mr. Rogers is from years ago, but on the occasion of the show’s 50th anniversary, it’s been reprinted. Still so true today that he is a hero to kids, especially Mr. Rogers’ phrase to children who are scared in times of crisis “look for the helpers.” Also, the StoryCorps podcast had a wonderful episode with the actor who played Officer Clemons that made my week. You can find more on that episode here.

 

Book Review: A Piece of the World

Synopsis:  From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the smash bestseller Orphan Train, a stunning and atmospheric novel of friendship, passion, and art, inspired by Andrew Wyeth’s mysterious and iconic painting Christina’s World.

To Christina Olson, the entire world is her family farm in the small coastal town of Cushing, Maine. The only daughter in a family of sons, Christina is tied to her home by health and circumstance, and seems destined for a small life. Instead, she becomes Andrew Wyeth’s first great inspiration, and the subject of one of the best-known paintings of the twentieth century, Christina’s World.

As she did in her beloved bestseller Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline interweaves fact and fiction to vividly reimagine a real moment in history. A Piece of the World is a powerful story of the flesh-and-blood woman behind the portrait, her complicated relationship to her family and inheritance, and how artist and muse can come together to forge a new and timeless legacy.

***

My review: 4 stars.

I LOVED Orphan Train so I jumped at the chance to read this new title by Kline ( I have yet to read any of her backlist). As a museum curator, I like art, though am super picky about what I enjoy and seek out when I’m visiting museums on my own. Modern art is something I do enjoy and the work of Andrew Wyeth is quite interesting to me, especially since so many of his great paintings were done in Maine, so I feel a regional kinship to them.

I love the premise of this book- an imagining of a life and relationship between Wyeth and one of his frequently painted sitters, Christina Olson. It’s clear Kline did a lot of research on Olson and Wyeth, and the copious amount of googling I did while reading proved that she made sure actual facts were accurate and her creative spin on other aspects of Christina’s life were not far fetched or unbelievable.

I also think the book is a bit of a story of life in Maine as well- the descriptions of the seasons, farming, fishing were so beautifully written that I felt Kline was making the place another character too. I especially loved the references to ice harvesting as it something that was a big deal in New England that people often forget about ( I also did a lot of research on this for a previous job project).

What kept this from being 5 stars? I didn’t love the back and forth timeline between Christina’s back story and the current time period of the 1940s with Andrew Wyeth. I can see why the author used this technique as a way to build empathy and layered understanding for Christina’s life, but it didn’t quite work for me. Overall, I would definitely recommend A Piece of the World.

Buy the book!

As part of the TLC Book Tour for this book, I was provided an advanced copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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