Brain Dump Edition 1

I used to write a lot more. I love to write, I love to talk about REAL things, I love to chat about the random, because I think it’s in the random that we all realize we are so much more similar than we are different. I’ve cultivated my space on Instagram/Facebook as parenting teens, but I don’t always get to chat about other things on my heart, so I thought I’d try to write some blogs posts sometimes expounding on the other things on my mind and heart.

Kristen Duke Brain Dump

Here are a few random thoughts going through my mind, in no particular order:

  1. When Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away recently, I saw a lot of people share quotes and thoughts about how much she had done, and I pretty much knew nothing. I don’t pay attention much to politics, and just not educated well in that area, so I wanted to learn. I watched the documentary, RBG, and really enjoyed it. I LOVE a good life documentary (open for recommendations!). One of the parts that I loved the most was when the documentary highlighted the friendship between Justice Ginsburg (liberal) and Justice Scalia (conservative) and how they interpreted the constitution and the law VERY differently, and disagreed a lot, yet still were good friends and enjoyed the opera together and laughed together. Why is this such a challenge for so many? I read a quote today that said, “If you are my friend and you support Trump, you are still my friend. If you are my friend and you support Biden, you are still my friend. If you feel the need to degrade those who feel differently than you…Maybe we are not friends.” People are afraid to speak their voices because of backlash (myself included) and it’s just frustrating.
  2. People have asked how the move has been, now that we are approaching 2 months in Colorado Springs. It’s been FANTASTIC! So much better than I could have ever hoped. I was ready for a change, 17 years in Austin was a long time, and many love the continuity of being in a place for a long time, but I think that moving around a few times as a kid, and having 18 different roommates over 4 years in college taught me that change can be so AMAZING, but we have to do our part. I did a lot of behind the scenes work to make it as smooth of a transition as possible for my kids, but we had the discussions, there are NO guarantee’s. You can be kind, nice, easy going, reach out, and STILL not have good friends, it’s all so situational. My biggest concern was my teen daughter, 10th grade, she was in a GREAT situation in Texas, just finished a wonderful freshman year of high school. As my husband stated, “she stands the most to lose.” And she was NERVOUS about starting over, felt anxiety about it and lack of confidence, but she persevered. We HOPED for a good friend quickly, but we never would have dreamed that she’d find a bestie so soon, another girl her age that also just moved here. Lillie is in our church congregation (that is barely meeting) and they have hit it off so well. They have navigated this “I’ve lived in a place for 10+ years and now starting over in high school” THING. Both her mom and I are constantly mentioning how grateful we are for the other, we PRAYED and only HOPED for a situation such as this, and feel so grateful. We were bracing for the worst, and got lucky. Those two, plus a handful of others have formed a little posse, and we barely see them weekend nights (and I’m not complaining!) Cali has also made a dear friend and they are in all classes together in 6th grade (mon/tues) and do online class side by side at our home and her friends home. It’s been so wonderful. With that move, my husband has had growing pains with the job, but looking forward to all of those school breaks (2 weeks in October!) and will assess after a year if he wants to try something else locally.
  3. With that, I’VE made friends too! I shared on Instagram before we moved that, “I didn’t care if I made friends, I only cared about my kids” and I really, truly felt that way. I left behind some soul sisters in Texas that I saw sporadically, but I had to teach myself to NOT CARE for many years, because I had experienced some toxicity with other women, some friends. I felt strapped, misunderstood, just ready to move on from it, but over time, I just had to teach myself to not need other women. PLUS, I had my internet community, and I LOOOVE connecting with women, moms across the country…across the world! When my friend came from Houston to help me get rid of stuff at the end of May, she said, “Kristen, I’m worried about you, you said you don’t care if you make friends” and I said, IT’s TRUE! Well, guess what? I’ve made friends, and I’m grateful. My friend Carrie was an internet friend that didn’t have reservations to reach out to me, offer to help on the first day of our move, brought her family, and even invited us over for dinner the first night in town. She reached out to me, made me feel valued, and to that I am grateful. She lives 7 minutes away in a neighboring church congregation, and I’ve called on her to go on a hike with me (after I organized it on a city facebook hikers page), to help me style my living room when I needed to shoot a paid video campaign, and she invited us out for Labor Day on the lake. Do you know the last time someone invited us to do anything on a holiday? A very long time. Another great friend I’ve made is the mom to Lillie (Alyssa’s new close friend). I first met her when she dropped her daughter off at our home before school started, and she said, “When Lillie met Alyssa, she told me she found her new best friend” and I said, “Alyssa said pretty much the same thing!” I loved that she shared that with me on our first brief meeting. Lillie is her youngest of 7, and she is a grandma to 5, and I LOOOOVE hearing about the grandma stage. Many have heard me share on social media that I am SO EXCITED to be a grandma, and it’s what’s helped me “get through” my kids growing up and moving out. Have to find something to look forward to in the next stage. We’ve gone on a double date with her husband (he and mine get very chatty!) and we’ve started walking a few days a week. I’ve also had several others reach out to have us over, go on a date, just show kindness and it means so much.
  4. I’ve really tried to keep my blog stuff on the DL moving here. I really feel the need to try and help financially with  my photography, so I’ll mention that, but I’ve found over the years that people get weird when I mention the blogging thing, especially when they find out about my social media following. Now, it feels weird to even mention that, but if you’ve read this far, I consider you a true friend. Having a public presence, has been challenging for me in my personal life. I’ve heard people make fun of bloggers, influencers, right in front of me, and I have heard close friends tell me (in a kind way) that it’s intimidating to be my friend because I’m so “EXTRA” in the sense that they compare themselves and feel “less than.” It’s something that I have had to grapple with over the years, and come to terms with, but I’d lie if I didn’t say it creeps in at times and the tears take over. I just didn’t want to start off that way here, but I guess there’s only so long I can hide such a LOUD thing. I’ve aimed to speak with confidence of what I do, even though I often want to hide it under a rock. I’m hoping the people I meet can see through all of that stuff, and see me for me, for better or worse. I’m grateful that Carrie already knew about all of it, and Lillie’s mom (I’ll keep her name private for now, Lillie already gave me permission to tag her on social) found out about it right away, but doesn’t do social media, and isn’t ruffled at all by it. What a relief.
  5. Making money has ben heavy on my mind the past year. When we planned on my husband going back to school this year, I knew I had to really step up my income earning game, and instead he took a 30% pay-cut and with the blogging landscape changing I don’t make as much, and money is tight. My photography, my blog, has always been about bonus money for years. Vacation money, and I’m SOOO grateful I’ve had that because we’ve been able to go to Sedona, Taos, Kauai, Idaho, Charleston with that money, and then write it off as a biz expense because I’d share about it on here! I got tired of photo sessions (and insecure) back in Texas, but I thought I really needed to DO MORE. So I’ve been TRYING to do all the things locally to get my name out there: Facebook advertisement, painstakingly asking my few existing friends to share about it, joining Facebook groups, awkward networking lunches with groups of locals, talking about it (instead of hiding it), all in hopes that I can drum up some business. It’s felt very vulnerable and emotional, and hard. I keep thinking…can I make enough doing photography or do I need to go find a job at Target or something REAL? Ugh…I don’t want to. I love the blog and social media and parenting teens topics, but I need to find a way to make a bit more money than I am. So I’ve hired a marketing/business coach (Ashley at Bright Zebra Marketing has been AMAZING) but that’s also been a vulnerable/emotional process to really dig deep, decide on what MY talents are, what I have to offer enough that people will want to buy products I create. I’ve always felt pretty comfortable in my own skin, and that I have talents to offer, but this is next level. Ashley, my coach, she’s seen me ugly cry (this week) as I try to relearn some steps that will help me make this more of a business. I had a breakthrough with the survey she helped me craft, to ask my audience (YOU!) questions to help guide my process. We hoped for 30 responses (though my real goal was 100) and as of now, 30 hours later, I’ve got 271 responses! It helps me SOOOO much figure out what to do next.
  6. If you’ve been around for a while, you know how much I LOOOOVE to throw theme parties, especially for my kids. Last year, I was on a mission to do one a month, and they half-heartedly obliged.
  • October: Teen Pumpkin Carving Party
  • November: Teen Friendsgiving Pie Night
  • December: White Elephant Gift Exchange (need to post it)
  • January: (can’t remember, need to update this!)
  • February: Friendsgiving Fondue Night
  • March: St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast (then COVID hit!)
  • April-July (will have to focus on this next year)
  • August: Pizza Making Night
  • September: Apple Taste Testing

I’m SOOO excited to do another themed gathering tomorrow night, and I’ll share details, pictures, and printables after. We did an apple taste testing with our family years ago, and it was so fun (and such a fun SEPTEMBER) activity to do. I’ll gather 10 different kinds of apples, they’ll have some friends over, apple treats, of course, and then watch an outdoor movie also. It’s the perfect weather to do it all in our backyard, too.

7. My son Matthew has had an interesting year. He decided to graduated high school early a year ago, and many people asked how we, how he came to that decision. Initially, it was based off of the notion that we would be moving just before his senior year, with several other factors. When I first had the impression to talk to him about it (it was NOT my thinking to send my son off EARLY!) he dismissed the idea saying, “I’m not into doing things differently” or something like that. He is a very social kid, loves high school (albiet more stressed about classes than I liked) but with the idea of us moving, and his 4 closest friends would have been graduated anyway, he considered it. He took it to prayer, and received the confirmation that it was the course he would take. I initially LOVED the idea of he and Alyssa moving and making new friends in high school together (she a sophomore, he a senior) and actually got an ache in my stomach at the idea that he wouldn’t have this year with her, sibling bonding more. I had to move past my own visions of how it was “supposed” to be, and so did he. There were many doubts along the way (for both of us) but more and more we’ve seen the confirmation that THIS is how it was “supposed” to be. He is SOOO ready. SOOO mature, and he’s not even 18 yet. His birthday is in October, and even though he isn’t in high school, he and Alyssa have formulated a friend group here in Colorado, and they spend most weekends together with those friends. I couldn’t be HAPPIER about that! We just got word that his November 18th start date got pushed back to December 2nd because of French speaking teacher schedules, and he isn’t even sure if he’ll go to the Missionary Training Center in person (his BIG hope) or train at home, which is more than likely at this point. I mourn for that experience being different also, but he is rolling with the punches. Right now, I’m choosing to see his departure as “only 6 months earlier” than it would otherwise have been, so that’s not so bad, right? He is a force for good, and I keep forgetting that he’s actually LEAVING, and now that I’ve sent off my first, it does feel different. Others say, “it doesn’t get easier to send off the second” but I actually feel it is a bit easier (though I will miss him fiercely). With my oldest, it was the end of an era with our whole family together that I was mourning, now it’s the next step in all of this plan of parenting–to send them away to spread their wings and watch them soar.” Matthew truly is a gem, I hear it often from people. His landscaping boss, a gruff 60+ sailor mouthed man called me the other day just to say, “Man, that is one good kid.” All of my kids are pretty good, he just carries himself so well, so well spoken, speaks easily to adults, so unique for his age, and of course against that terrible teen stereotype.

8. My husband has struggled with his health for a few years, and at times as the “caregiver” it’s been taxing on me. I put that in quotes, because he really can take care of himself, but I carry the mental and emotional load as well, and I have to adjust what we do as a family because of it. He is so positive, so hopeful, but he’s really had a tough blow. He’s had 3 knee surgeries in 2 years, and because it got botched the first time (from his boss, who then denied it for a long time) it’s left some chronic pain that he’s not sure he’ll ever get rid of. As a Physical Therapist, he “should” be able to fix himself, right? He’s done all the things, and still no real solutions. I urge him to “go see another doctor” but he’s jaded by doctors. He’d love to go hike more in the mountains, but just can’t go as far as he’d like. It’s a struggle, and I want to support him, but I also want to do all the things, you know? So I’m constantly battling that. For years, he’s also had auto immune challenges that has altered our family eating. No real diagnosis, but we aim to roll with it, and I’ve adjusted our meal cooking to support that (and hey, I can’t fault clean eating!) It just makes the invites to go out to eat or to another home for dinner that much more tricky. For YEARS, we didn’t go out to eat, which meant we rarely did date night, so we are trying to reconnect in other ways there as well. What to do for dates when you don’t eat out, don’t like the same TV movies/shows, no physical exercise…we’ve decided on books, and we are reading Atomic Habits together now. We just celebrated 21 years since we got engaged this week. Have you read our Love Story?

9. I yelled this week. I don’t do it often. I trained myself of that terrible habit years ago because I hated the way my kids looked at me when I did it. But sometimes, I lose it, just like a normal human. I’ve been teaching my daughter to drive, and I hear so much negative about teaching teens to drive, and I’ve had a pretty good experience being the drivers ed teacher for all of my kids. With my boys, we drove back and forth to seminary early in the morning when I taught, they got it down good. With Alyssa, we have to be very intentional about going out. She was headed a friends house a few nights ago, and we hopped in the car, ready for her to drive. She doesn’t love backing out, but I said she needed to practice. Pulling my van out of the garage, pitch black outside, steering clear of Matthew’s car on the driveway to the left, and a tree at the edge of the yard on her right. She was inching out slowing, and I was ready for her to GET THERE ALREADY! She was worried about going off of the curb, but our curb and driveway are the same, so I said…”It’s ok if you go on the grass/curb a bit, at least you won’t hit the tree.” She pushed back and wanted to pull forward and straighten out (again!) and I said, “no, just keep going, you won’t hit the tree, and the curb is no big deal.” So she did as I said, and, well, I forgot there was a GIANT boulder and dumb pottery piece right at the edge by the driveway, and she crushed the pot, and dragged the boulder under the car. It made a loud noise and I freaked out as she freaked out and well…I lost it. Mad at myself because I told her to keep going, but she thought I was mad at her. That van is 10 years old and I had visions of needing to buy an all new car. Thankfully my husband and son were able to jerry rig the bumper that partially detached on the front, and tie up the plastic under carriage, and I think it’s going to be ok. I felt bad though for yelling at Alyssa, which as it usually is, yelling at myself through her. Thankfully, she accepted my apology.

10. I’ve had to MUTE a few friends on social media lately, because the political rhetoric was just too much, felt too abrasive. There is so much passion out there now, and I guess it surprises me to see friends I know well (or I thought knew well) think so differently than me. I support their passion! It’s just not my passion. And when some have approached me saying I should USE MY VOICE (my following) to say “this and that” and basically shame me for not thinking how they do, it’s just too much. In the backlash that I’ve felt for the few things that I have said (or shared) politically, it has all been from people that I KNOW, that KNOW ME, and that’s what hurt the most. It’s not from an “internet troll” or someone who only see’s my online, but the people who know me, and it just didn’t feel safe to talk about it, so I stopped sharing what I thought. No thank you. I’ve been frustrated with the divisiveness I’ve felt in our country lately, but I’ve decided not to talk about it too much on social media because it just feels tense and I want to keep the space I run there peaceful. We had a political week, and I insisted on kindness, and it went pretty well!  I felt I needed to give a specific action (or non action) to keep it that way, and I said that I wanted to hear everyone leave a comment and share their thoughts, but to NOT comment on another’s thoughts in the contrary. It worked pretty well! I had to delete a few comments that broke the rules (even my own that I felt borderline responding to a good friend) but all in all, it was a great space for others to share their research and thoughts on politics.

11. At the risk of sounding too controversial, I figure we are at the end of this LOOOOONG post (and if you’re still here, bless you!) I’ll say this: I’m so ready for all of this COVID stuff to be over. Let’s be done already. I don’t love the masks, but I’m happy to wear one if it means we can send the kids back to school, resume activities, socialize, start up the economy. Alyssa was about to start her last Cross Country race yesterday when a school administrator came up to her and said she couldn’t run because someone in one of her classes had symptoms (but had not been tested) and “to be safe” she had to sit out. Thankfully, they realized it was someone in her class, but goes in “B cohort” and she’s in “A cohort” so she really wasn’t IN CLASS with them after all, but STILL! The kid hadn’t even been tested. She did pull out 2 boys from the race though, and there were some irate parents. I would be too. The level of ridiculous surrounding the rules has gone too far. Wear the mask, I am fine with, but pull kids out because maybe someone they don’t know MIGHT be tested positive, it’s too much.

Well friends, that’s my brain dump for now! I’d love to hear your thoughts….did you learn something new? Resonate with my thoughts? I don’t write blog posts enough to warrant comments, but I’d love to hear from you. Even if you just email me (kristenduke AT

If nothing else, a thought provoking journal entry was needed for me. I’ve been slacking…




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Build loving connection with your teens

10 unique ways for parents and teens to build a closer relationship

Your Intentional Connection Playbook
For parents who value connection over control
Thank you for joining my email list! I can’t wait to spoil you and promise to keep your email address private