Life By Kristen

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

Friday Finds January 2018

I will always be a paper planner gal as I completely believe there is a hand writing to brain connection. This article totally is behind paper planners, and I love their approach to finding the perfect one.

While I don’t think I suffer from Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder (SAD), there are definitely blah days that happen in the winter time more than other times of year. There are some great tips in this article about how to manage SAD. I’m really intrigued by the dawn stimulator light for the days when I don’t see the sunlight until I’m well into my work commute.

Two really interesting resources highlighting some lesser known women in our cultural history: Female pioneers in architecture and American women cartoonists and illustrators.

I might work in museums, but I still don’t understand historical reenactors.

Something I’m working on for myself- why we need ‘white space’ in our daily routines.

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5 on Friday: A Brief Life Update

  • My work life over the past few weeks has been TOUGH. My “work wife,” who really is one of my closest friends, left at the end of December to follow her dream of becoming a nurse and start nursing school full-time. I’m overjoyed for her, but sad for me. That, combined with the entire workplace being in transition as we await a new executive director and some other lingering issues, have made for a few stressful weeks.
  • If work stress wasn’t enough, we’re still enduring some hard stuff with personal family issues, so Q and I are really in turtle mode where we’re hibernating and hunkering down to try to maintain some sanity with ourselves.
  • How have I been handling stress and trying to find relaxation? The British Baking Show. Seriously, every night when it’s Q’s turn in the basement “gym” (a bunch of weights, a treadmill, and some yoga mats), I plop down on the couch to my new zen place- watching British people make desserts I’ve never heard of, would never eat (why is there so much cooked fruit- gross!), and could never even attempt to make. I find it mesmerizing, but most importantly, relaxing.
  • I’m reaching peak old lady- I’m supplementing my crossword puzzling, coloring, and reading with Fill-In puzzles. I think I need a hobby or some other creative pursuit.
  • Weekend plans are much of the same- some housework, some errands, lots of reading.

 

 

 

Embracing Trust

I’m flossing every day! I deleted the Farm Heroes App on my iPad! I read my first ebook! I’m meal planning! I’m doing yoga and walking on the treadmill a few times a week.

January has been a month of positive changes in health(ier) habits and embracing my word of the year TRUST.

One of the reasons I chose the word was I’m going to be 35 in March (!) and I realized I don’t really give myself enough credit for a lot of different things in life. I look to others (Q, family, coworkers, random internet people) to confirm/validate/tell me about my life/decisions/what I should do with life.

Which is exactly the opposite of trusting myself.

Over the years, especially since my divorce, I have spent countless hours reading books, blogs, enrolling in courses (both free and paid) trying to learn more about who I am, what I believe in, what I should be doing with life, looking fear in the face, finding my passion, and so on. I’ve downloaded countless free workbooks and guides to life, listened to podcasts about designing my life, and so on. And for all of them I was pretty much looking for some tidbit or magical answer that would equal some AHA! moment that would bring me to this place of zen and joy that would equal my joyous happy life. Self-discovery is a bitch– it can be exhausting, and frankly, a lot of it just made me feel more down about myself and the fact that I didn’t have a “thing”/hobby/side hustle/super power.

I was looking outward for the answers instead of just trusting myself and listening to my inner Jiminy Cricket about who I am and what I want. Maybe it was because I was overdone on self-discovery and thinking about my life from the roller coaster that was my marriage and divorce process that I  wanted someone else to tell me how to live/what to do with my future. Maybe I thought that once I made a big life decision like ending a marriage that I thought my life would be set and I wouldn’t have to think about things for awhile. Whatever the inner reasons behind it all, I’ve realized in the past few weeks of thinking about TRUST that I just need to quiet the outside noise, ideas, and people.

So for me, for right now, that means really staying away from reading a lot of personal discovery non-fiction books/podcasts/blogs. I won’t abandon following people on social media, but I won’t see their next class or idea as my answer to my problems. I realize I’ve forgotten the hard work and time I put into getting to where I am in life, both personally and professionally, so trusting and being a little less hard on myself during the question mark that is life right now is a huge thing just by itself.

Winter is My Time

It’s January. A month for hibernation. Unlike a lot of people it seems, I don’t hate winter.

I’m a homebody, so winter just gives me more time to do that which I do best- lounging with books, tea, movies, cooking & baking at home. I don’t do the cooking part well, but I like trying. Plus, mixing things together and shoving them in the oven or slow cooker is really my only area of culinary expertise, so I appreciate the opportunity to do it more in the winter since I have a no-oven rule in the summer.

If you’re not living under a rock, you’ve probably seen in magazines and around the internet the various Scandinavian ways of living/surviving/thriving through the dark months of winter (Hygge [Danish] and lagom [Swedish] ). I’m not Danish or Swedish, but I’ve been participating in hygge culture for most of my adult life. Staying at home with the fire and candles going, under a blanket, with a book and a cup of tea while wearing fuzzy socks? That’s me pretty much every season, minus the layers and warmth in the summer.

Not me, not my fireplace or book. Image from here.

This winter I wanted to make changes to the way I spend my time at home this winter, and it’s had a very positive effect on my hygge. I DELETED all game apps from my iPad, (with the exception of the New York Times Crossword puzzle) to stop mindlessly engaging in junk instead of being present with Q and my own brain. But I still felt a bit lost when I wanted to be on the couch with Q, but could care less about what he was watching, so I downloaded the Kindle app to give ebooks a shot. Since I’m always the last to get on board with technology, it should be no shock to anyone that I haven’t really read ebooks before, but I can now report that I get what all the fuss is about. I’m still not giving up on my love of holding a book, but I like having this other option, especially on nights when keeping the lamp on to read a book is bothersome to me. The adjustable brightness of the iPad ebook option is great. And I can read it on the treadmill!

 

 

Book Review: You Need a Budget

Synopsis:

Discover four simple rules to help you stop living paycheck to paycheck, get out of debt, and save more money faster! The You Need A Budget (YNAB) Method has helped tens of thousands of people to turn their financial lives around. It can certainly help you! Whether you’re looking to right an apparently sinking ship, or you just want to implement a system that will require less time “managing” your money, YNAB will most definitely work for you

My review: 4 stars.

I’ve seen the You Need a Budget system (YNAB) on various financial blogs before, but I’m a classic paper and pen gal when it comes to organizing life, and that includes budget, so I’ve never looked into the software that Jesse Mecham developed. I liked this book because it goes in-depth with real life examples of the 4 tenets of the YNAB system:

  1. Give every dollar a job
  2. Embrace true expenses
  3. Roll with the punches
  4. Age your money

A lot of these things I already do, especially #1 and #3. I am a saver and planner by nature and I think my budget reflects that. I keep a pretty tight system- I bring lunch everyday, I contribute to my 401k, but some in savings, have eliminated credit card debt. But what I like about Mecham’s system is that he sees money not just as a numbers system to be conquered, but that the money has to reflect priorities for life. Essentially, we should all ask ourselves: what do I want my money to do for me?

For me, I want to live debt-free. I want to have enough dollars to cover my expenses so that I can live a meaningful life doing work that is fulfilling and challenging, without having to worry about my bottom line and bills every month. This book made me realize I need to be more on top of where the actual dollars are going and pay attention to that. For example, I looked through my spending after reading the book and realized that 2017 had way too much shopping in it.

I really appreciated Mecham’s chapter on budgeting as a couple. Q and I have very different methods for managing our money, especially since Q is almost entirely a cash only guy. It’s taken us awhile to get our act together as a couple financially and to find a system that works for us. Mecham suggests monthly budget dates to go over spending and priorities. I think this is something I’ll try with us, though we’re pretty open about money and spending after 5 years together.

I’d definitely recommend this book if you’re trying to move forward with financial goals and figuring out a system that works well for you and your family. I appreciate that Mecham and the book isn’t a big advertisement for his software ( which has a free trial period, but after there is a usage fee), and that he uses the book as an opportunity to educate about the principles of budgeting in an easy to understand and useable way. I think there are so many complicated budgeting ideas out there it can often feel like you need to be an economist to understand them, but Mecham’s approach makes sense to even the most mathematically challenged like me!

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.

 

2018: Trust

2018- the year of trust.

Trust myself and my abilities, in my partner, our family, and that the future we desire can and will happen.

Trust that I will move forward in my career.

Trust that I am taking action every day to build the the life I want.

Trust that I can be honest with myself and people in my life about what I want.

Trust that all the questions and unknowns will unfold and present themselves if I believe in myself and hope for the things I want and need.

Trust the process of life and live the questions everyday.

 

Happy New Year! Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2018!

2017 in Review

Like the rest of the Universe it seems, 2017 was a rough year. I set my sights on change for 2017 and used “wellness” as my word of the year to guide and focus me.

I visited 2 new states ( Missouri & Kansas).

I lost weight and changed my eating habits in positive ways, eliminating a lot of sugar and red meat from my diet. I paid down debt, tackled nagging house projects, read a lot, and fell in love with podcasts.

I definitely had less “busy” time- I prioritized time with Q and family. I stopped running errands and gained time back by using Amazon to deliver things like cleaning supplies and coffee. I stopped going to the bad grocery store that only frustrated me.

I rid my closet of items I didn’t love, stopped buying clothes out of boredom or because they were on sale, and eliminated a lot of emails and junk mail I received.

Perhaps the biggest change for me in 2017 was giving to more causes that were important to me than ever before. As the chaos of the world seemed to grow around me, I realized that using my dollars to support efforts of organizations who were making a difference was important to me. ACLU, Planned Parenthood, Southern Poverty Law Center, American Red Cross, hurricane relief efforts, and so many other organizations received dollars from me because I believe in their mission and goals.

The death of Q’s brother-in-law in June re-defined a lot of things for both of us. While the death of my father 4 years ago really brought a lot of priorities into focus for us, the death of his brother-in-law was completely shocking. It left everyone feeling stunned and we spent a lot of our summer trying to grapple with feelings, support his sister and niece, and work through a lot as a family. This, on top of some issues with Q’s ex-wife that are effecting our ability to see Little Man, has definitely been a strain.

In all honesty, 2017 didn’t go as I thought and hoped it would. I thought by the end of this year I would have a new job, possibly be living in a new place, and maybe have expanded our family. None of those things happened, but despite my disappointment in at least 2 of those areas, I don’t feel despair about the year, though I am happy to start fresh for 2018.

 

 

Friday Finds December 2017

As a long time lover of purple, I’m very excited for Pantone’s 2018 color of the year- ultraviolet!

I don’t think you can make a great grilled cheese without it, but what the heck is really in American cheese?

In praise of Anne of Green Gables  (and girls who ask too many questions, of which I am proudly in that category). I recently listened to the book on my commute and was reminded all over again why I love it.

I love all things related to the Muppets, including Emmett Otter’s Jug Band Christmas, which turns 40 this year!

My mother’s side has lots of Dutch farmers and many of the older generation still wore wooden clogs to do work on their farms, so this article about 19th century Dutch farmers ruining their feet from clogs was intriguing!

Our family gave up giving gifts to each other about 3 years ago and it was the best decision we ever made. I enjoyed reading this author’s perspective on no-gift Christmas too and this one on the joy of a simple Christmas.

Dressing fashionably while protesting.

 

 

Book Review: Just Sit

Synopsis:

Written for the many, many people whose schedule or skepticism has kept them from trying meditation, Just Sit is an approachable and visually engaging beginner’s guide. Assuaging fears, answering questions, and providing real-world information to demystify the process, Sukey and Elizabeth Novogratz provide a hands-on look at what meditation really is, what is does, and how to do it. The authors make clear that meditation doesn’t have to be complicated or follow a specific protocol. The most important part, to “just sit,” can lead to a lifelong practice, tailored to anyone’s lifestyle.

A perfect blend of information and instruction, Just Sit covers everything you wanted to know but were too afraid to ask. Sukey and Elizabeth address meditation myths and realities, offer advice on how to combat awkwardness, extoll the physical and emotional benefits of meditation, show readers how to find those precious minutes to meditate every day, and more. They also include an eight-week plan to get help readers kick start—and stay with—their own daily practice.

My review:  4 stars.

One of my 2018 goals is to integrate meditation into my everyday life. I meditate as part of my yoga practice, but haven’t succeeded in making it happen on other days. Several times I signed up for the Oprah/Deepak Chopra 21-day free guided meditation apps, but haven’t ever successfully done more than a few days of it. So when this book came my way, I was interested.

The title pretty much speaks to me directly-  “a meditation guidebook for people who know they should but don’t.” That’s actually pretty much a bumper sticker for so much of my life!

The book has lots of great illustrations,infographics, and helpful tidbits. It’s super readable and usable as an actual meditation tool, making it easy to flip to the sections you need and find what you want. I know it’s something I’ll refer back to in years to come, especially with some of the later chapters like preparing/packing for meditation retreats ( I’d like to do a yoga/meditation retreat at some point), mantras, and different meditation techniques.

I appreciated the very logical way the authors present their case for meditation- why it’s good, what it can do for you, and easy ways to get started. It was surprisingly “hard” to sit for three minutes! Also, it was quite laughable with this the first week I was trying to meditate because I scheduled it into my phone and set an alert so I wouldn’t forget. When it went off, I was in the middle of the grocery store with no zen in sight! This book contains an 8-week plan that I re-started this week– 2 days down and so far so good!

I know the most difficult thing for me is going to be finding the time, but like exercise, I know I must make it part of life because work is stressful and I need to find some mental focus to get myself to what I want in life. The writers say pretty early in the book: “Once you learn how to do it[meditation], and do it daily, suddenly all sorts of positive changes tend to come, and come faster and easier than ever. Meditation is the best tool for change that we know of.”

Who can argue with that?

Buy the book here!

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.

2017 in Books

I read 79 books. This includes audio and physical books. I originally set a goal for 60 books at the beginning of the year, but by September, I was about to meet that goal, so I pushed it to 75. I thought I was going to get to 80, but the flurry of holiday movies and plans the past few weeks kept me from reading as feverishly as past months.

The longest was Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire at a whopping 734 pages.

The shortest was 161 pages- The Crossroads of Should and Must.

The best audio book was Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett, a memoir of her friendship with poet Lucy Greeley. I also enjoyed Hungry Heart by Jennifer Weiner and Instant Mom by Nia Vardalos. Interesting to note these were all read by the authors– narrators make a huge difference in audio books.

I “re-read” (though as an audio book) Anne of Green Gables. I haven’t done a lot of re-reading because there are so many  books on my to- read list ( currently at 467- time to cull it again).

This year I stretched myself outside of my normal reading genres to include more fantasy, romance, and YA.

My 5 star books (in random order):

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston ( sort of like a graphic novel, except it’s like reading a diary/scrapbook- visually pleasing and interesting story).

Overseas by Beatriz Williams: As a longtime Williams fan, I wanted to read her entire backlist. Even though many reviews of this book weren’t amazing, I devoured this book in a few days. It’s a romance with time travel, both of which are not things I normally enjoy, but this captivated me when I read it back in February.

Instant Mom by Nia Vardalos

 

 

 

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