SOUTHINGTON — While Oprah Winfrey popularized the “aha” moment, local author Jessica Kastner might just originate the “uh-oh” moment.
Kastner, a fourth-generation Southington resident, wrote a book about raising her three sons — 16-year-old Jack, 9-year-old Eli and 7-year-old Kenai — while maintaining a household, a marriage and a Christian faith.
“Hiding From The Kids In My Prayer Closet” will be released Saturday by Christian publisher David C Cook.
She said the goal of writing the book was to put forth “something real, a true-to-life experience,” like hoisting a screaming child up the stairs to day care, or panicking as a last-minute school assignment was due.
Reading books as a new mom, she said, “everything was comforting and encouraging, but a lot of times in motherhood, I felt, is this how it is for everybody? This is craziness.”
On Wednesday, it was calm at Kastner’s adobe house. All the activity was outside as her sons and a couple friends played on the trampoline before the family headed to the pool for the afternoon.
“I wanted to capture the normal, everyday things, like Cub Scouts, or moms’ groups, or school, and really say what it really feels like,” she said. “Because I would always feel like, am I doing something wrong? I just felt like I was a different kind of mom.”
She said that at first, she didn’t want to be a mother especially.
“I went through a very rebellious, wild, college season” in Florida, she said, and didn’t want anything to do with her family’s faith.
Her father, Jack Kastner, was a well-known local pastor at Living Faith Christian Church in Waterbury. He also led groups in Southington, such as a prison ministry at the Cheshire Correctional Institution and a gospel business network where local business owners would meet for breakfast and fellowship.
She became pregnant with her oldest child during her senior year in college and then embraced Christianity.
“I never actually wanted to be a mom or have kids, so I feel like God used that seemingly stressful time to get me to be still, and go to church again,” she said.
Readers might recognize some of the places in the book that she visited, like the First Congregational Church mothers’ group, or relate to shopping for deals at Savers.
But it’s Southington’s community resources that helped her the most.
She said she appreciates “everything” about the town, such as the parks.
“We live at Mount Southington over the winter,” Kastner said.
Getting outdoors is a priority, so she takes the kids to YMCA Camp Sloper, trail running or even on the walking trail for ice cream at Praline’s.
She has raised her kids two ways, as a working single mom and with a partner. Married for most of the book, she’s divorced now and it’s the help going to kids’ events or getting ready for work she misses most.
“As years go on and I meet similar-spirited moms, I wanted to write a book capturing all the things we talk about,” Kastner said. “Especially in the Christian realm, if we’re saying bad things, it means we’re ungrateful or complaining, but I think there’s so much comfort and strength drawn when people share how they really feel.”
She majored in English and became a freelance writer, spending five years as a reporter before she married and became pregnant with Eli.
She currently works for a book publisher as a publicist and writes weekly for her website, as well as contributing to Christian websites and blogs.
“I can’t believe I’m doing any of it,” she said. “It’s my dream since I was 7 in second grade to be an author. So awesome to finally have it happen.”
Apostle Christian store in Southington is hosting a book release party for Kastner later this month.
Brian Gilbert, owner of Apostle, said he has known Kastner’s family for more than 30 years.
“Her uncle Billy was my first youth leader,” Gilbert said. “She’s outgoing, fun, creative, talented. We still go to church together now.”
Apostle sells books, but also gifts, Bibles, music and movies. The family-run store has been in its current location for two months.
“We’re excited to have Jess as our first book signing launch,” he said.
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