Life By Kristen

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

Travel Tuesday: Portsmouth, NH

Over the long Labor Day weekend, Q and I escaped a few hours north to Portsmouth, NH for the weekend to relax a bit and enjoy some time away from the routine of life. We took the Friday of the long weekend off and headed up to Portsmouth on Thursday night after work. We decided to stay in the city proper so that we could walk to restaurants and not have to worry about parking.

After sleeping in Friday, we headed up the road a bit to Kittery, Maine to do some outlet shopping, mostly for Q. There were some good deals to be had since it was the long weekend and both of us scored a few good ones, though most of the buying was done by Q who was in desperate need of clothes ( why do men wait until shirts are threadbare to go shopping?). It was so nice to be out and about since the weather was perfect- it was the first time in weeks that it wasn’t hot and humid, so we were quite happy to walk around. We found a fantastic BBQ spot- Ore Nell’s BBQ– on our way back to Portsmouth on local roads instead of the highway, which was already congested with long weekend travelers.

The view from our picnic table at Ore Nell’s BBQ

After a little afternoon nap, we strolled the streets and shops of downtown Portsmouth, had some coffee, and then an early dinner at a delicious seafood place, Surf. I had the Fisherman’s Stew which was so much food. Q had a huge seared tuna steak (the only seafood he eats) and we enjoyed a gorgeous view on the water.

Saturday we started with a seriously out of this world breakfast at Friendly Toast, and then ventured off to explore The Great Bay Wildlife Refuge, which was about half hour from Portsmouth. I’m glad we went early as there weren’t a ton of bugs yet and other than some photography folks, there was no one there. A lot of people do a harbor boat cruise or visit the Isle of Shoals, but I get seasick pretty easily, so didn’t want to ruin the weekend being queasy for a day.

Even though we were “on vacation,” our Saturday still included a stop at Target! Q has had a shoulder injury for a few weeks now (thankfully, he’s on the other side of it) and his shoulder had been bothering him the night before, so we stopped at Target for some one-time use ice packs to get him through the weekend.

One of the highlights of the trip was our tour and tasting at Smutty Nose Brewing. There are a lot of options for breweries in the coastal New Hampshire/Maine region. We chose Smutty Nose not just for its close location, but neither of us were that familiar with the beer and weren’t sure if we’d ever had it before, so we were excited to try some flavors. The tour was good and the beer was even better! Highly recommend their pumpkin ale that’s coming out right now which may be the first time I’ve ever liked a pumpkin-flavored beer.

After beer, we napped, walked some more, and then had coffees while people watching in Market Square. We had dinner at Poco’s Cantina where I are their out of this world smothered vegetarian nachos. While this was delicious, it was also A LOT of cheese and nachos and I spent the rest of the evening definitely questioning my life decision.

Sunday morning after a quick bite at the hotel, we headed home fairly early. Early on in our relationship, we both realized that one of the keys to successful travel together was making sure we had a cushion between coming home and going back to work. We like having the time to do laundry, grocery shop, and get back to the swing of things before work starts, so we try to do long weekends where we get the actual holiday day off to be home. It’s my favorite adulting/vacation life hack to pass long!

Also, these three photos are the only ones I took the entire weekend- we were having such a good time, I barely touched my phone!

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John McCain & Grief

I met John McCain for a brief moment in 2007 when he was in New Hampshire campaigning for the 2008 presidential race. My then boyfriend (now ex-husband) was really involved in politics and after the NH Republican debate that year, we went to a few of the candidate after parties. Since it was literally a two second hello as he walked passed us, I don’t have anything meaningful to say about the interaction other than it happened.

I don’t agree with a lot of McCain’s politics, but I, like many people in the past few weeks, was struck with his death, possibly because it seems like it might signal not only loss of a good person, but also the loss of a type of civil politician that seems to be a rarity in these maddening times.

During all the pomp and circumstance that comes with the death of an American statesman, I was actually feeling more for his family. As happens when someone loses a parent, whether I know them or not, it always brings up grief and feelings related to my Dad. I commented to a few people how emotionally (and likely physically) exhausted the McCain family must be after the marathon week of memorials and ceremony– it was just 5 days from the day my Dad died to his funeral and it was by far one of the most tiring weeks I’ve ever experienced.

Seeing Megan McCain’s grieving brought back a lot of raw emotions for me and took me right back to that week almost five years ago. Again, don’t agree with most of her politics ( though I applaud her efforts on body-positive stuff for women), but felt connected with her in a weird way watching every public display of grief that the media seems to love so much. Side note: the voyeuristic nature of celebrity/public figure grief is something I will never understand the interest in, yet seeing it stirred something in me. The mind/heart is weird.

Grief is a weird life partner because even when you think you’re in a good head space, it creeps in at weird times. Songs, smells, a random memory all bring a person to mind– I like to think that’s when Dad’s spirit is with me so it can be comforting or it can be just plain unsettling. I also think grief and losing Dad has made me a much more empathetic, kind, and patient person. It’s also made me feel this urge to reach out to people who lose someone, especially a parent, because I feel like we’re in this club together. A club no one wants to be in, but there together and connecting in some way makes the situation easier to handle.

September!

It’s always funny to me how the turn of the calendar page to September brings about all these fall feelings and aspirations except that in my neck of the woods, it usually doesn’t feel like fall for a few weeks. Even after the official start at the end of September it still sometimes is hot and gross in New England!

But here we are, new month and I’m feeling refreshed after our weekend getaway over the long weekend.

The gross heat and humidity of August meant a lot of time indoors for me, so I’m hoping that the month of September will be glorious weather-wise so I can make up for all the time indoor time of the past month. So many little things I want to do in my yard and garage, but just in general want to soak up some Vitamin D and be outside more.

I read A LOT in August: Little Beach Street Bakery, A Woman of Independent Means, Summer Wives, Birthday Girl, The Maze at Windermere, How to Walk Away, Dead Presidents, Forever is the Worst Long Time, and The Moth Presents: All These Small Wonders. Only one of those was audio and nonfiction (Dead Presidents) as my podcasts are becoming more of a staple of commuting. A Woman of Independent Means was a read from my actual owned-bookshelf. As soon as I finished it, I quickly donated right away to the new Free Little Library in my town.

While I think I’ll read a lot in September ( I can’t believe it took me so long to get a Kindle since now I’m pretty much attached to it), what I really want to focus on is writing. It’s been so far out of my head for so long for a huge number of reasons and excuses, but I’m trying every day to write something, even if it’s just ideas in my journal.

Other tiny goals for September: a few tiny outdoor house chores (painting wooden surrounds on windows and door frames, clean mildew on siding), recycle my 2 ancient computers, get back into meal planning and control our grocery budget, buy new couch pillows, and clean/rearrange/organize basement so there’s space for Q’s gym setup, my desk/writing setup, and storage.

 

Friday Finds August 2018

Cemeteries like Mount Auburn in Massachusetts and Swan Point in Rhode Island were originally designed to be public memorial parks. If you live near a historic cemetery, they likely do walking tours and programs about the history of the place, famous folks who are interned there, the iconography of tombstones, and so on. I promise it isn’t creepy or morbid!

Are you a book re-reader? As a general rule, I am not because there are so many titles I want to read, but I have over the years re-read or listened to a number of childhood favorites. Some hold up and make me appreciate them and what they brought to my life- apparently others feel the same way.

This isn’t a push for you to donate (I did send a few things their way via their Amazon Wish List), but just a reminder in this increasingly cynical world that kind people are still all around doing good things. I found out about the Linden Library in rural Iowa via the Twitter of one of my favorite authors, J. Courtney Sullivan. After she tweeted about the place and their need for funds and books, a huge fundraising campaign took off.

20 women inventors you should know.

I work in a fairly conservative town and organization so our dress code might be more business-like than apparently the rest of the world which is increasingly becoming more casually dressed.  For example, we only really wear jeans on Fridays or days when we’re doing physical work, we dress nicer on days when there are public programs or meetings, and so on.

The Summer That Wasn’t?

Labor Day weekend, the unofficial end of the summer season, is rapidly approaching. Usually the weekend brings about a bit of blah feeling about all the things I didn’t do over the summer (which is many, including my summer bucket list).

This summer could be categorized in one statement- way too hot and humid. The weatherman said last night on the news that the record for hottest August was broken yesterday (previous record was from 1953), with something like 18 days over 90 degrees. We’ve spent our fair share of nights and weekends indoors, either because it was way too hot and humid to do anything or as was the case for almost every Saturday in August, it was crazy raining. I haven’t been to the beach or even enjoyed my backyard all that much, but if the past few Septembers are anything to go by, the hot weather will be with us well beyond the autumnal equinox on September 22.

Even though I didn’t accomplish a ton on my summer bucket list ( minus many lazy weekends reading), it was relaxing and lazy, though to be honest, most of my weekends are that way by design. We still haven’t had Little Man on the weekends so it’s mostly been Q and myself hanging around, running errands, and laying in the AC. I had to work evening events and a few Saturdays throughout the season which is pretty rare for me so the tiredness, combined with the heat, seemed to be the theme of my summer.

The summer had its fair share of delights- lobster rolls, fresh produce ( we ate our weight in local blueberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, and strawberries), a couple of picnics, and lots of grilling and ice cream. And we still have time to do a few things on the bucket list. This long weekend we’re off for a little getaway to spend some time outside of our house and enjoy some new scenery. I always forget how much these small trips rejuvenate my energy- it’s amazing what getting out of your house and into a new spot can do for you!

Whatever you’re doing for the upcoming long weekend, I hope you enjoy it!

Julia Child, J.K. Rowling & Toni Morrison

Julia Child, J.K Rowling, Toni Morrison. Any guess what these women have in common?

Other than being huge for their contributions to society and culture, all three women earned their success, achievements, and fame later in life.

All three of them are my beacons of hope for achieving my dream of publishing a novel.

Julia Child (whose birthday today inspired this post) was only 32 when she went to French cooking school. Her groundbreaking cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking was not published until 1961 when she was 49 and her PBS show started just 2 years later.

J.K. Rowling was 36 years old when the first Harry Potter was released. Toni Morrison’s first book (The Bluest Eye) was published in 1970 when she was 39. She’s gone on to write many important novels and won a Pulitzer and Nobel Prize for Literature. Rowling and Morrison both wrote much of their first novels in the hours before they went to their day jobs.

I’m not saying I’m anywhere near close to the greatness of these three women. But they remind me that dreams never go away as you age. That things you want are worth fighting for and making priorities. I think of them when I even just spend 5 free minutes jotting down a plot idea or researching something for the novel ideas I have (which are many at this point).

In all the career exploration and deep thinking I’ve done as I try to figure out what’s next for my career, so many articles and pieces of advice say to think about what you wanted to do when you were a child. My answer, even for the short period of time when I wanted to be a doctor (until I found out I have a weak stomach for blood), always involved books and writing. I’m 35 and more clueless than ever about where I want to go in life with my career, but I know writing and publishing a novel is in me and that there is no time limit on achieving it. That’s where my mind wonders during the day and what I need to make time to do.

 

 

Five on Friday: Hey August!

Hey it’s August! The dog days of summer have arrived (and endless humidity it seems in Southern New England).

  • Bookworm problems: Anyone who has ever spoken with me for more than 30 minutes knows my love of books and the library. A few years ago, my library supplemented their use of Overdrive ( the industry favorite for ebooks and digital audiobooks) with Hoopla, which in addition to those two mediums also had TV and movies. I liked Hoopla for a bunch of reasons, mostly because even though there wasn’t as many titles as there were on Overdrive, there were no holds or waiting periods for the titles. I spent a good chunk of time going through my humongous Goodreads to-read list   deleting books off of that list that I wanted to listen on audio and saving them as ‘favorites’ on Hoopla. Long story short, I discovered this week that my library no longer supports Hoopla and is back to strictly Overdrive. While this isn’t a complete travesty, I had to re-add all those titles from Hoopla into Goodreads, making my to-read list much too large again, meaning a big edit is going to need to happen in the near future.

 

  • The month started off perfectly on Wednesday by visiting with one of my closet college friends who I haven’t seen in far too long because, life.

 

  • Goals for this month include knocking a few things off the house to-do list. Honestly, it’s been so hot and humid the past few weekends, we haven’t done much with house projects. Lots of movie and AC indoor time recently (it’s funny how summer weekends can look like winter weekends in regards to time spent indoors!)

 

  • I’ve written before about my love for ThredUp, the online consignment site. I’m not completely breaking up with them, but they’ve recently started charging a restocking fee for returns which is likely because of the site’s popularity I’d guess. Over the past couple of years, they are one of my primary destinations for online shopping and some of my favorite items of clothing in my closet are from there, but the trying on at home and returning without fee ( if you chose store credit, not complete refund) was one of the advantages of the site for me. Since I also really need to stop online shopping as a tool to overcome boredom, I don’t see me using them as much.

 

  • Things I’m looking forward to in August: a couple of long weekends, including an extra long one for Labor Day as we’re going up to NH Seacoast for a few days to relax and explore a little.

Friday Finds July 2018

People who read live longer– scientifically proven!

Anne Frank’s family tried to immigrate to the US before they went into hiding.

World War I “Hello Girls” to receive Congressional Gold Medal honors. It still amazes me every time a story like this comes out how many forgotten people and stories of history are out there.

The global history of ketchup. Personal note: I only really like ketchup on the rare burger I eat. I prefer French fries with mayo.

Telling the stories and history of women on America’s Route 66.

Is there anything better than losing yourself in a good book? I say no! I’ll only disagree with the writer of the article on one point- while I don’t have as many days to spend entirely reading ( though I did that a few weekends ago and it was glorious), I read just as veraciously as I did when I was a kid.

Speaking of books, let’s all praise libraries and librarians. If I got a do-over on life, I think I’d become a librarian. Could still happen.

 

Blah Days of Summer

My general life feeling lately has been angst and tiredness. Not so much a particular worry or anxiety about any one  thing, but a general blah feeling and life rut.

If I’m being open and honest, one of the reasons I’ve been avoiding writing, both here, in my personal journal, and in all my other creative outlets besides my day job ( I haven’t even been freelance writing either) is avoidance of myself and my feelings. How I feel about who I am, what I want ( what DO I want?), my job, my relationship with Q, family, friends, coworkers, and so on. The only things I feel really strongly about these days are air-conditioning and reading as much as I can.

If I’m also being honest, I’ll say that while I’m not in a sad place mentally, I generally just feel “meh.” Some of it is heat/humidity related, especially over the past five or so days which have been just grossly tropical with “air you can wear.” I don’t like when it’s so hot or humid out that being inside is the only option. I’m getting a cabin fever that’s different than the winter kind I get by the beginning of March to be itching to be outside; this one I’m just itching to be anywhere but on my beige couch or bedroom. I see why murders and such are on the rise in the summer time- the heat really can make you feel crazy!

Flowers make everything better!

Part of this is I honestly feel so clueless about how to get to where I want to be next in life. I want to move, but don’t really know where ( though I know where not). I want to advance in my career, but haven’t seen any jobs that interest me in my current field and feel completely paralyzed/dumbfounded/clueless about how to pivot into another. I’ve read books/blog, listened to podcasts, and even worked with a career coaching program, but haven’t had an AHA moment or feel like I’ve found my “calling” or “passion.” My passion is reading books in my PJs- is there a job for that?

I also want my own little family beyond just Q and I. The struggles with Q’s son Little Man hang over us like a little black cloud many days, especially on the weekends. It’s been tough to overcome at times and the strain/stress of it is real.

So what am I doing to try to push through the muck? Keeping busy with plans with friends and family. Signing up for a new yoga class for August and September. I bought tickets for a concert in November, something I never do ( I think the last concert I went to was 6 years ago). Ignoring the to-do list with house projects for a few weekends in favor of reading books outside or on the porch. Not cooking every night of the week. Working on my summer bucket list. They’re little steps, but I feel like if I just push forward a little bit every day, I’ll come out of the fog and make a step forward.

Life Lately, July 2018

  • I took the end of the holiday week off last week which was wonderful. Back in May when Q and I decided to take those days off together, we originally envisioned them as a house project sprint, but it was over 90 degrees on the 4th and 5th (so hot we didn’t eat our 4th of July BBQ outside!, so we did no house projects. We did accomplish finally getting Q’s passport application done and a few little things around the house.
  • After the fire on the lot next door to me last year took down the building (still no word on what’s happening with the empty lot yet!), we have an open view to the rest of the street and sky, which meant we watched fireworks from our air-conditioned bedroom. It was pretty nice.
  • I know I want to move on in my career, but I’m not sure what exactly that means or where I want it go. I know where I don’t want it to and what I don’t want to be doing. I’m open to moving, but the list of places I’d consider going is pretty open. The list of where we don’t want to live (NYC, Florida) is pretty set. With no set ideas on a new career step, it feels like maybe staying in museums as a way to move to a new place might be smart, but then I question that too.
  • After a week of hot, humid, and generally unbearable weather last week, the weekend after the holiday was glorious. It was great to shut off the A/C (I hate its endless sound in the summer( and get the windows open. Saturday after errands we ended up getting sandwiches for dinner and eating them at a picnic table at a local state park on the water. It was perfect.

  • I didn’t pass the no clothes shopping challenge I set for myself in June. I have no excuses, especially since with one of the orders I made with ThredUp, all but one of the items (a polka dot cardigan for work) were returned. Going to try again for July.
  • Q is on some weird food diet where he’s not eating tomatoes which has made summer dinners difficult at the moment since I pretty much serve them and cucumbers in every cold dish I can- his loss!
  • Work is crazy busy for the next 2 weeks which is not the summer norm for me so it’s a bit annoying.
  • After a fury of reading a few books from library and even one from my owned shelf over my little staycation, all I can think about is knocking more books off my to-read list. I’ve added a ton to my library hold list, suspending them all so they don’t come in at the same time ( love that feature– I”m such a book nerd).

 

How are things in your world? I’d love any advice or insights from anyone who’s made a career/life shift successfully– feeling overwhelmed/unsure of it all at the moment!

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