The ghost of Halloweens past

Scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, I realize I don’t have a single picture of my sons in costume this year. At 13, 12 and 9, they still dressed up and went trick-or-treating, but not with me. They scattered with friends and didn’t need (I won’t even consider the possibility of want) me with them.

I sat on my couch waiting for trick-or-treaters to ring my bell at felt the gut-punch that my years of walking door to door reminding my sons to be polite and say thank you were over. I saw the weary look of moms and dads braced against the wind and snow, holding toddlers hands on the stairs, and wanted to tell them to treasure every second of it.

I’m not sure where I read “the trouble with last times is that you hardly every realize they’re the last times,” but I’m sinking with that realization. I wasn’t done marking the moment before it slipped from my grasp.

I bought their costumes. I packed their bags. I sent them off.

I hope they said “thank you.”

#100HappyDays: Days 81-90

I’m so close to the end of my happy days challenge. It’s kind of freaking me out. My days are flying by so quickly this fall. Once again, I am grateful for the opportunity to stop, even for a few seconds, to mark the small moments.

#100happydays began as an Instagram exercise in gratitude, a challenge to take a moment to be purposefully thankful for the many happy moments that make up my days.

Because this is an Instagram project, I am limiting myself to something I can photograph. Likewise, I use very few words to describe these images.

81Day 81. New artwork hanging in the upstairs hallway. #myboys

82Day 82: I missed this live this weekend, but I’m so glad Connor has such a good buddy on his corner.

83Day 83: This man. That is all.

84

 

 

 

Day 84: Fall sports season. Flag football on one field, soccer on the other. All boys playing.

85Day 85: Always a happy day when the finished magazine arrives on my desk. #Blueprint

86Day 86: Matt had such a great day with his best buddy Angel at the zoo.

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Day 87: A repost from my mom. A few hours of food, tea, Scrabble and old photo albums. Just what I needed on a rainy Saturday.

88Day 88: it’s been a while since the 5 of us were able to sit down to eat together. #grateful

89Day 89: Rocking it old school. At Smeltekop Music for trombone repair. The place hasn’t changed in 20+ years. — at Smeltekop Musical Instrument Repair.

90Day 90: #tbt Proof that my mother has always found vacuuming, not just enjoyable, but maybe even glamorous.

All the images in this post are my own. Please don’t use them as yours.

September Reading Wrap Up

It doesn’t seem it should have taken so long to post my September wrap up considering I only finished 6 titles. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I read so little. I did not crack the spine of a book for two weeks. But I’ve learned I need to ride out these slumps (and I was listening to a good audio, so there’s that.) I did complete a Dusting Off The Bookshelf challenge — see below.

By the numbers: 6 books, 5 reviews on Goodreads, 4 reviews on alenaslife, 1 oldie from my shelf – #dustingoffmybookshelf, 1 from my 2014 personal challenge (poetry, non-fiction, foreign locale), 1 audio, 0 set-aside

September ReadsFrom most to least favorite:

The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing, Mira Jacob ~ Already Reviewed

My Salinger Year, Joanna Rakoff ~ Already Reviewed

The Stone Diaries, Carol Shields ~ Already Reviewed #DustingOffMyBookshelf

The Free, Willy Vlautin ~ Already Reviewed

Landline, Rainbow Rowell

I just couldn’t ever really get past the gimmick that drives the plot of this book. Plus the fact that the protagonist’s name is Georgie McCool. It was all trying too hard for me.

“You don’t know when you’re twenty-three.
You don’t know what it really means to crawl into someone else’s life and stay there. You can’t see all the ways you’re going to get tangled, how you’re going to bond skin to skin. How the idea of separating will feel in five years, in ten – in fifteen. When Georgie thought about divorce now, she imagined lying side by side with Neal on two operating tables while a team of doctors tried to unthread their vascular systems.
She didn’t know at twenty-three.”

Beatrice & Virgil: A Novel, Yann Martel (audiobook)

Even though the writing is superb, I was uncomfortable the entire time I listened to this (thankfully) short book. In the beginning, I was concerned that it was taking far too long to get to the story. Then 1/3 of the way in, I was so disturbed by the often gruesome content. And then, the end. I don’t have the words to describe the insane, awful, gut-punching ending. I wanted to like it. I didn’t.

“Life and death live and die in exactly the same place, the body…to ignore death is to ignore life.”

My September Photo Collage is comprised of book covers uploaded from Goodreads.

#100HappyDays: Days 71-80

Another installement of my happy days. These 10 days actually reflect a crazy, chaotic, up and down week in my life so I’m thrilled to still have recogzined a moment of happiness each day.

#100happydays began as an Instagram exercise in gratitude, a challenge to take a moment to be purposefully thankful for the many happy moments that make up my days.

Because this is an Instagram project, I am limiting myself to something I can photograph. Likewise, I use very few words to describe these images.

71Day 71: that’s his face when he contributes to the win with an RBI double — at Baseball Alley.

72Day 72: Still as handsome as ever, just with braces.

73Day 73: at the Berwyn Oktoberfest awaiting #16candles #whyberwyn #myboys

74Day 74: 20 years ago I directed these amazing actresses, and beautiful women, in Mill Fire — still one of the best experiences of my life. So thrilled to reunite tonight.

75Day 75: Pat took the boys to Wrigley for the Cubs vs. Dodgers game. Happy boys. Happy mom.

76Day 76: Pre- bed quiet time with Book 12 of Ranger’s Apprentice. #amreading

 

77

Day 77: Nothing better than watching father help son as he learns about music. #band

78Day 78: At Antico Posto, celebrating with my love.

79Day 79: I loved having Pat and his friends as Naz shadows today. I can’t believe the next school day he spends there will be as a freshman!

80Day 80: Class of 1989. 25th high school reunion. Wow — what a night this turned out to be.

 

All the images in this post are my own. Please don’t use them as yours.

Glad I Read: The Free by Willy Vlautin

The FreeIn this heartbreaking novel, Willy Vlautin offers up the delicate balance of beauty and sadness. The three main characters are not exactly intertwined, more like tangentially connected in the way all lives touch upon similar struggles and experiences.

Leroy, Freddie and Pauline are all struggling to stay afloat, to break free to overcome their demons – emotional, spiritual and physical. Vlautin does a wonderful job of presenting their circumstances and strengths even in light of their challenges.

“The first thing I learned is that you can be and do whatever you want. You just have to get up each morning and try to get there.”

Most of the writing is straightforward, almost like an essay designed to tug at our heartstrings. I appreciated how the author let me come to know Freddie and Pauline slowly and honestly. But, then there’s Leroy, the injured Iraq war vet, struggling with a debilitating brain injury. His opening scenes are dramatic and terrifically compelling. Then, most of his story is told as a semi sci-fi story taking place in his fractured mind. While I admire the writing skills in this approach, it severed some of the emotional connection for me. I found myself glancing ahead to see how many of these pages I had to get through until I returned to what, for me, was the “real” story.

Overall, I loved how much I came to care about these characters and their journeys. I rooted for them and cried for them. I felt how easily our lives can slip beyond our grasp. I practically clapped at the ending, which trusts readers to form their own conclusions.

Without melodrama, he tells a compelling story, one that could be mine or my neighbor’s. Recommend.

Read alikes
We Are Called to Rise
The Facades
We Live in Water
The Burgess Boys

#100HappyDays: Days 61-70

I already feel like I am drawing to the end of my #100HappyDays Challenge. It hasn’t really been a challenge at all as I am now in the habit of stopping to capture a moment of happiness, which is the ultimate challenge. I am truly, consciously, intentionally aware of happiness and I am very thankful.

#100happydays began as an Instagram exercise in gratitude, a challenge to take a moment to be purposefully thankful for the many happy moments that make up my days.

Because this is an Instagram project, I am limiting myself to something I can photograph. Likewise, I use very few words to describe these images.

61Day 61: Watching these two boys cheer on the @nazarethlgp Roadrunners! It’s so great to be able to take them to work with me and get them excited about high school. #GoNaz — at Nazareth Academy.

62Day 62: Sunday evening on the deck with the perfect combo — beer, pretzels & book. Such a great way to spend an hour. #amreading — at Bistro 3513.

63Day 63: Posted by Random House today, this one made me smile.  #booklove #booknerd

64Day 64: boys, books and baseball. One of my favorite combinations. #fallball #amreading— at Baseball Alley.

65Day 65: Cooler weather is fine by us. Boys are still in the yard for some sunset sports. I love this time of year.#brothers #family — at Bistro 3513.

66Day 66: My day started with a beautiful card from a friend. Feeling so lucky & blessed to have her in my life.

67Day 67: A lovely long lunch with my mom and Jane. We toasted my dad and talked & talked & talked. — with Jane St Pierre Murguia and Karen Skinner.

68Day 68: Buona means good. Sunday lunch with my guys at one of our favorite spots. — at Buona Beef.

69Day 69: Some days it’s the smallest thing. By luck of the draw, I get a  parking spot until the end of October.

70Day 70: The saxophone has arrived. Matty has joined the band. — at Bistro 3513.

How about you? How do you practice gratitude?

All the images in this post are my own. Please don’t use them as yours.