Life By Kristen

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

June

I almost didn’t realize June began because I was entrenched in a conference in Maine last week that I was co-organized and helped to run. It was a success, but it was a blur of activity, moving boxes, running around to check on projectors, and various other duties that left me tired and more than a few days without seeing the outside of the hotel.

When I left my house on Memorial Day, I said to Q that I couldn’t wait for the conference to be over so we could finally have some time for us. We’ve had a stressful spring with some work woes for both of us, the fire next door to the house, deaths on both sides of our families, and this conference. We were looking forward to doing some vacation planning, buying new outdoor furniture, fixing our grill, and many other little things that bring us happiness.

Life, of course, has other plans.

Sadly, Q’s brother in law passed away unexpectedly over the weekend, and once again, we’re putting our plans on hold as we help his sister and niece. Things are still shocking and fresh right now and I think will be for the foreseeable future.

 

I’ll still be posting on here and have some book reviews coming down the line, but the big blog revamp I had in mind for June may get pushed back a bit, depending on how things shake out with life. Despite the curveballs that seem to keep coming our way, I’ve realized over the past few months that writing is the one thing I want and need to be doing and won’t abandon this space, even if it’s only my mother and aunt who still read it ( hi Pat and Cindy!).

Be well, friends.

Friday Finds May 2017

Female pirates!

I love a good tote bag!

Women Salvation Army volunteers during World War I served up donuts.

Knitting helped send messages in code during World War II.

Speaking of World War II, a female hero from that war recently passed away and for 50 years, her family had no idea what amazing things she did during the war.

Journaling is something I’ve been doing pretty consistently since I was in junior high school. Of course, in those days, it was more of a listing of activities, crushes, heartbreaks, and teen drama. But I have years worth of writing in notebooks large and small. I have long pondered about what to do with all my journals from over the years, the biggest question being what will my family think about all of them ( and their contents!) after I pass away? Turns out I’m not the only one who wonders what to do with all those journals!

Saving things is part of what I do ( and why I do it!) for a living. Regardless, it’s so weird to see things from my childhood being preserved in museums.

My mom is super smart, and apparently I have her to thank for all those good grades in school, crossword puzzle solving abilities, and awesome trivia record!

 

5 on Friday- Spring Photos

After what seemed like a few endless weeks of cold, rainy, damp weather in southern New England, we have had some SPECTACULAR days this week. In an effort to appreciate the everyday little things more and bring more positive mojo into life, I made an effort this week at work to go outside for a few minutes each day. I work at one of the most picturesque places in the state and I have to remind myself to get out of the office to literally take time to smell the roses ( or pansies for this time of year)!

Here are 5 shots to brighten your mood on this Friday.

Enjoy your weekend!

 

Currently: May

This month is just about half over and it is flying by- hard to believe that Memorial Day is only a week and a half from now.

In my family, May is for celebrations ( brother, friend, aunt, sister-in-law, Q birthdays), Mother’s Day, and my brother and sis-in-law’s anniversary. We had a delicious dinner to celebrate the month of May and everyone in it on Mother’s Day, even though the restaurant was crowded and I got all weirded out by the crowds.

This May is also crazy busy because I’m helping to organize a national conference at the end of the month for one of my professional affinity groups. It has been…interesting. It’s way outside my wheelhouse of things I’ve done, but a lot of the organizing has been stressful because of the number of people involved and various moving parts. I ended up taking on a lot more than I originally thought I would because so many members of the host committee had to drop out for various reasons. I’m in charge of many things, but the silent auction ( which is a huge thing at this conference) has become a huge project, involving hundreds of items, many of which have been delivered to my house ( Q and the mailman aren’t my biggest fans right now!). The conference starts May 29 and goes through June 4th, and I cannot wait for this all to get going. It’s been over a year of planning ( almost 2 actually), so getting to the finish line is definitely all I can think about right now.

With that going on and other life happenings, there seems to be some blah energy around us that needs to get moved out. I’m committed to pushing more positive stuff into life. I’m not one to wish away the calendar days, but I know once this conference is wrapped up that I will be able to relax a bit more and feel at ease. Just getting the clutter of these silent auction items ( there are A LOT of books) out of my house will make me feel better!

Here’s hoping your May isn’t as crazy as mine has been so far!

 

 

Book Review: Close Enough to Touch

Synopsis: Jubilee Jenkins has a rare condition: she’s allergic to human touch. After a nearly fatal accident, she became reclusive, living in the confines of her home for nine years. But after her mother dies, Jubilee is forced to face the world—and the people in it—that she’s been hiding from.

Jubilee finds safe haven at her local library where she gets a job. It’s there she meets Eric Keegan, a divorced man who recently moved to town with his brilliant, troubled, adopted son. Eric is struggling to figure out how to be the dad—and man—he wants so desperately to be. Jubilee is unlike anyone he has ever met, yet he can’t understand why she keeps him at arm’s length. So Eric sets out to convince Jubilee to open herself and her heart to everything life can offer, setting into motion the most unlikely love story of the year.

My review: 4 stars.

I started to read this book on the Sunday of the fire and it was a few days before I was able to pick it back up again, but I’m so glad I did. This was a wonderfully heartwarming story with some great character development of the main character Jubilee and a light love story.

The book is set into three parts and for most of the book, the chapters alternate between the two main characters of Jubilee and Eric. While there is a love connection between the two of them, I think the main course of the novel is more about their own personal self-development and self-awareness as they both struggle with their own issues. As Jubilee comes to terms with living independently and becoming herself despite her allergy, Eric grapples with issues with his children. Together, Eric and Jubilee’s friendship and chemistry between the two of them allows each to work through their own personal struggles and find some resolution.

My 4-star review is only because I found part three at the end of the book to not be as well-developed as the rest of the story. A few of the bits, particularly Eric’s story line with this 2 kids, seemed to be glossed over a bit. Likewise, Jubilee’s story is quickly wrapped up and then explained further in the epilogue. I definitely feel some aspects would have been better served with a more detailed approach. I really came to like Jubilee throughout the novel, so I felt like the ending didn’t have as much of her personal insight and personality as the rest of the book.

With a personally stressful week, it was the perfect thing to pick up each night to read that was light and enjoyable to read, but well-written with characters I cared about. I definitely recommend it and would have likely read in a weekend, if not for the other circumstances of life.

 

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

A Mediocre Life?

A while back, this article was floating around the internet about living mediocre life. In short, the article asks the questions of who cares and what if we don’t do a huge amazing thing, have a glamorous life, and so on.

And I couldn’t agree more.

You know what my version of happy is? A quiet sun-filled day where I wake up next to Q without an alarm, lazily drink coffee and make pancakes, and spend time outside together, or with Little Man, or our friends and family. It’s getting to hang around my house, or the beach, or at the park reading a book all day. Sometimes it’s going to Target with Q and buying things we need like bananas and things we don’t like fancy soda or new towels.

I do want “more.” I want more time with my family. I want more mental space for my own creative pursuits.  I want more contentment with my day job. I want more time in the sunshine.

While I aspire for more than life than the excitement of Target on a Saturday night or the suburban soccer mom life it looks like I lead, I am overall pretty content with the way my life goes. Yes, I’d like to travel more, have a little less stress with my house and work, but I have an amazing life with abundant blessings and love– things that people who look on the outside like they “have it all” may not have even an iota of in theirs.

not from my garden!

For the past few years, as I have come into the “middle years” of my career, I’ve asked myself a lot ” is this it?” For right now, for various reasons, it is. But that doesn’t mean that’s what it’s always going to be. My dreams and ideas of life are changing and evolving as life happens– I care more about how I feel, my sanity, and my relationships than I do about what my ‘job title’ says about me. That’s been a big hurdle to get over as a classic overachiever/do-gooder/ Type A personality. It’s something that’s even making the practical/pragmatic person in me think outside the box about how I can move forward in productive ways that still let me pay the bills and not live in a cardboard box.

So is life mediocre? Sure, my life is barely “Instagram worthy”– my house is cluttered, my grass is green or mostly weeds, my meals aren’t gorgeous, and I don’t have a TV-ready backyard or bathroom. But I wouldn’t call my life mediocre– I’d call it quiet and filled with possibility.

Book Review: Goodnight from London

Synopsis:

From USA Today bestselling author Jennifer Robson—author of Moonlight Over Paris and Somewhere in France—comes a lush historical novel that tells the fascinating story of Ruby Sutton, an ambitious American journalist who moves to London in 1940 to report on the Second World War, and to start a new life an ocean away from her past.

In the summer of 1940, ambitious young American journalist Ruby Sutton gets her big break: the chance to report on the European war as a staff writer for Picture Weekly news magazine in London. She jumps at the chance, for it’s an opportunity not only to prove herself, but also to start fresh in a city and country that know nothing of her humble origins. But life in besieged Britain tests Ruby in ways she never imagined.

Goodnight from London, inspired in part by the wartime experiences of the author’s own grandmother, is a captivating, heartfelt, and historically immersive story that readers are sure to embrace.

My review: 4 stars.

It’s probably no surprise that I liked another historical fiction novel about World War II. Give me some creative writing on actual historical events that is well-researched, with great characters and a little love story thrown in, and I’m usually a fan. This book was even more interesting to me because it is inspired from actual events from the author’s grandmother’s experiences during the war.

This was the kind of book that I looked forward to reading when I got home from work. I read it on one Thursday night and got so close to finishing, but did the adult thing and went to bed at a reasonable hour because, work. ( Though one of my favorite adulting things is staying up way too late reading because I can’t put something down. That and ice cream for dinner). I liked the main character Ruby, especially for her intelligence, strength/perseverance, and courage. When she describes the air raids night after night, the fatigue from lack of sleep, and the strength it took to make it through each day, I thought a lot about how I would have reacted in a similar situation (probably with tears and crankiness).

The first half of the book, before the United States gets involved in the war, was primarily focused on the Blitz and how England and its citizens were coping with being at war with Germany. The time period jumps forward every few chapters or so which I felt helped move the plot forward at a good pace. There is some conflict/drama with Ruby and her past that presents itself in the last part of the book that felt a little forced and unnecessary, though it does help her connect more deeply with Bennett, her love interest.

This is the first time I read anything by Jennifer Robson, but her other books have been on my to-read list for awhile (since 2014 according to my Goodreads list). I will definitely be going through her back list in the near future!

More info on the book and author here!

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

Friday Finds April 2017

Unlike Betty Crocker ( an imagined person), Duncan Hines was a real person and he has a lot more to do with food than just cake mix.

In praise of book towers. While I don’t have book towers, but I have quite the stack of unread books on my basement shelves. I have very few read books though because a few years ago I realized I was never going to re-read the books, so sent them along to the library book sale to be loved by someone else. I have only a handful of books that I kept because I loved them so much and only loan them people who I know will return ( Baker Towers by Jennifer Haigh is one of them).

Speaking of books, it looks like I was ahead of the game with audiobooks. They are the newest ‘trend’ in the book publishing world because of the new obsession with productivity. I just like them for making my commutes more enjoyable!

Who doesn’t love Pyrex? Antique/vintage Pyrex is a hot item for secondhand/thrift shops.

A short history on capes. I’ve never owned one and not sure I have a lifestyle that would even need one, but they are lovely!

Italian fashion designers are using their own archives to inspire new collections. Love this– and some gorgeous images here.

 

Currently: April

Loving: the sunshine after work. The time between 4-7 pm is one of my favorite times of day. I’m not as productive as I am in the morning when my creative juices/organizational mind get going, but I love it because it feels like freedom. During the work week, I listen to books or podcasts on my commute home to relax and 40 minutes later, I get home leaving the stress of the day behind. Now that the weather seems to have FINALLY turned to spring in my neck of the woods, I get to go for a walk before dinner, read in my sun-filled sunroom, or do whatever I want.

Loathing: Day-job work drama.

Reading: Some personal discovery/development books as I dream big about what I want next in my life for career. I am eager and wanting for change SO BADLY in my everyday life and both Q and I are determined to make it happen.

Watching: Vice NewsBetter Call Saul, The Leftovers, Veep,  and The Americans.

Anticipating: A super quick trip to Nashville next week ( like 24 hours quick) for a consulting thing and Maine at the end of May for a big national conference I’m helping organize.

Thinking about: Do we sell our house and rent somewhere so we can free up money to pay down my student loans and focus on ourselves and future OR do we refinance and stay put, knowing that the house chores like yard and repairs are ramping up and taking us away from things we want to be doing instead? I think about this at least once a day, with different opinions depending on what’s happening. Like after the fire? Sell. But then reading in my sunroom or enjoying having laundry in our basement? Stay. I’m all over the place.

Eating: Kashi Chewy Nut Bars. Favorites including salted chocolate chunk and almond snickerdoodle. They’re not Whole30, but since we’re not as strict with following it now, they’ve become my go-to on the run snack.

This weekend has some work around the house including cleaning again. Since the fire 2 weeks ago ( also how is it just 2 weeks, as the weeks since have been so long), we had the house professionally cleaned of smoke and soot by a disaster cleaning/restoration company which I am so thankful for, BUT to clean properly, they had to move a lot of things around and while most of it is in tidy piles in our basement and attic, now we have to go through that stuff to get to what we need, put the basement zones back together, put furniture back into its proper spots, etc. I’m not complaining since it could be so much worse, but I look forward to a weekend of true down time for Q and I where we don’t have much going on, errands to run, or things to clean/rake/fix.

Orchids Q bought me the weekend after work exhibit opened-  3 more buds opened since then!

 

Not How I Thought My Sunday Would Go

Sunday afternoon, the commercial building next door to my house was demolished by a big fire. Thankfully, we and the house are safe. We’ve got some smoke damage ( the professional cleaning people are currently in my attic and basement where the smoke was the worst), some charred grass and lots of soot/ash on the exterior, but no major damage. We are extremely lucky and so grateful to the firefighters from our town and surrounding areas who worked hard for hours to contain the five-alarm fire.

(the white house is mine)

If you’ve had a fire in your home, my heart goes out to you because the anxiety and fear we felt on Sunday evening and into Monday morning was heartwrenching and terrifying. The fire broke out about 5ish on Sunday, just as we were about to sit down to eat. I was so sure it was a small fire they would have under control shortly that when the police told us to leave the house, I left our dinner on the table since I thought we’d be right back. 4 hours later, they let us come into the house for 5 minutes to grab clothes as the house was too smoky to stay in Sunday night.

We slept at a family friend’s house on Sunday night that was only a street away from the house so we could be close in case things changed. When we left the corner near the house, the fire was mostly contained and they were bringing in some heavy machinery to get to the heart of the blaze. The building is a total loss and the building owner, plus 3 tenants, lost everything.

Now, as we deal with the cleaning and airing out, I never thought I’d be so thankful for smoke damage. The thought of what could have been makes me sick to my stomach. As we stood on the corner watching the blaze get bigger and the winds shifting, Q and I prayed for the safety of our house, but we knew that it was only stuff inside and that we were safe and together. I’m thankful we were home and that we were able to return to our home just a day later. There are a few scorched lawn and dried leaf areas on our property– if the wind changed, our house likely would have had much worse damage. So while the stress of insurance claims and washing almost everything in the house is frustrating, we’re counting our blessings and thanking our guardian angels and firefighters for the safety of us and the house.

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