#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.





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.



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.

#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



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.

Honored and Thankful: Very Inspiring Blogger Award

Since my return to blogging is only a month old, I was shocked and humbled when my new fried Yvo at It’s All About Books nominated alenaslife for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. While the award doesn’t come with a cash prize or statue, it brings me much joy to know that someone is reading and appreciating my contribution to blogging. I am so very thankful to Yvo, not only for nominating me, but for introducing me to so many other great blogs in her post. Please check out her post!


Here are the rules for this blogger award:

1. Thank and link the amazing person who nominated you.

2. List the rules and display the award.

3. Share seven facts about yourself.

4. Nominate 15 other amazing blogs and comment on their posts to let them know they have been nominated.

5. Optional: Proudly display the award logo on your blog and follow the blogger who nominated you.

Seven random facts about me:

1. My very first real job was at my local library. How great is that? I was 15 and 3 times a week I was paid to be surrounded by books! I met great people, learned how to deal with “the public” and discovered all sorts of new titles — it was really the best job in the world.

2. I’m not an animal person. This is an important thing to get off my chest because most of the people I love in this world either have pets or want pets. I must be missing a certain gene because I don’t and I never have (and probably never will) want a pet. The best I could do for my kids was a box turtle, appropriately named “Boxy.”

3. I hate coconut.

4. My television guilty pleasures developed in the 1990s. I can easily spend a day with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Gilmore Girls or America’s Next Top Model. Buffy is  brilliantly written with characters I adore. The Gilmores’ mother-daughter dynamic(s) grabbed me and never let go and ANTM is just my favorite trash-TV, especially the early seasons.  I can do without the gimmicks of the later stuff.

5. I used to be the co-Artistic Director of a professional theater company. This very long chapter of my life doesn’t often make it into my blogging because when I walked away I never turned back; but theater and especially the people with whom I worked were very influential on who I am. I’ve recently had opportunities to reconnect with some of those people and feel grateful for that experience.

6. If I had to choose only one book genre to read (and really, that would stink), I would go with magical realism. I know it’s not for everyone but Toni Morrison, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Aimee Bender and Erin Morgenstern rock my world.

7. I am the only female in my household of husband and sons. Many people offer sympathy at this fact, but I make the most of it. I am the undisputed Queen.

And I’m nominating: Apologies if I am nominating bloggers for a second (or third) time, but in a few short weeks, I’ve come to look forward to posts from so many of you, whether for quality book reviews, thoughtful reflections or bits of humor to brighten my day. In no particular order:

Between the Lines: A very new blog, Yvonne is blogging her way through Goodreads’ 100 Books to Read Before You Die list. Along the way she’s posting all things literary. Lovely.

746 Books: Cathy is doing the unthinkable. She is determined to read only the 746 books that were on her to-read when she began her blog. I can’t even contemplate not adding books, but I am excited to follow and encourage her progress.

Insanity of Motherhood: In describing her own blog, Nate writes, “Insane mom of three boys, wife, educator, and all around nice gal in the middle of a midlife something.” I think perhaps I have found my soul-mate (expect for the dog).

Taking on a World of Words: Sam writes detailed, thoughtful and engaging posts on books, authors and book club. We have some of those in common, but I’ve found myself inspired to read and write better in reading this blog.

My Blog is My Boyfriend: Holly is super smart and super sassy! Her posts are honest and refreshing a real, always a bright spot in my reader.

Friendly Bookworm: Really it’s the blog name that invited me in, but I can count on honest opinions about a very diverse reading list, including short stories, which is a rarity.

A Fragile Roar: I like Jenny’s reading lists. I like the way she writes about books. Plus I love her blog’s name.

The Girl Who Thinks an Awful Lot: She may describe her mind as “obnoxious” but I am captivated by her posts, the strong quality of the writing and the wisdom she shares. I’ve enjoyed our interactions so far.

The Book Musings: I share a similar taste in books with Melinda, so I really appreciate her thoughtful reviews and dedication to reading.

Bookshelf Fantasies: Lisa and I share a love of book quotes which is what originally drew me to her blog. Then I discovered we also share a love of writing and conversing about good books.

Confessions of a Working Mum: It’s always great to see a post from Ashley and know that other women are out there seeking balance, sharing stories and laughing at ourselves on occasion.

e-Tinkerbell’s Blog: The name can be deceiving because Stefania’s blog is really sophisticated and smart. More “literature” than “books.”

Worn Pages and Ink: Great reviews and Jaaron is always introducing me to new titles or books I hadn’t previously considered.

Rosemary and Reading Glasses: Carolyn not only writes outstanding book reviews, she posts author interviews which take me deeper into the minds of authors I love. Also, we share a love of The West Wing.

Wise Sass: Stef provides emotional honesty in spades. She reminds me that it’s OK to be vulnerable in my writing. She makes me think.

Thank you to all of the above, and so many more, who inspire me each day.


Another editition of I’ll tell you mine and you tell me yours. Thanks to Miz B at Should Be Reading for hosting.


I’d love to know what everyone is reading.  To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…(or post a link to your blog.)

• What are you currently reading? • What did you recently finish reading? • What do you think you’ll read next?

Among the MissingWhat are you currently reading? I am a big fan of Dan Chaon’s full-length novels so his short story collection, Among the Missing,  has been on my TBR for a very long time. Found it on the shelf and the library last week and I’m so glad I did. Half-way through and savoring ever word. Chaon has a great talent for getting inside our insecurities and bringing them to life in situations so real, I feel like I’m deep in each story. He’s just a terrific writer.

Prayers for the StolenWhat did you recently finish reading? This weekend I finished Prayers for the Stolen by Jennifer Clement. I posted a review yesterday so I won’t repeat all my opinions here. I should add though, that I can’t get some of the images Clement created out of my mind. I don’t read much about Mexico, especially considering my heritage, but this is inspiring me to learn more and investigate what other authors are out there writing about what’s going on in that country right now.


We Are Called to RiseWhat do you think you’ll read next? I received an email that We Are Called to Rise is waiting for me at the local library so I’ll go pick that up today. Very excited to read this title, which could lead to great disappointment, but I’m hoping great reading instead.

which has gotten under my skin so I’m hoping to get into that soon.

How about you?

What are your W…W…W… titles?

Last Photo

This week I draw inspiration from victoriabruce at The Blurred Line. In her post, itself inspired by artist Ivan Cash, she discussed technology’s power to both connect us and keep us apart. It’s a beautiful piece and I encourage you to take a look.

What really struck me was the Ivan Cash Last Photo project.

  • What’s the last photo you took on your phone?
  • What does it say about you?

I immediately tapped my photo roll to see the last photo I had taken.

last photo

This is a shot of my oldest and youngest sons taken last weekend. They are walking to a nearby park, importantly, without me. Also important to me, it’s not our usual park. They wanted a place to play some whiffle ball that wasn’t our backyard and our park is filled with soccer players on Sundays. My husband and I suggested the nearby skate park – uncrowded, close enough and with a perfect square of grass.

“Can you take us?” asked my 9 year-old.

“No,” I replied. “But you can go with your big brother.”

So they packed their baseball bags, water and snacks and set off on their adventure.

Why is it that this was a big enough deal for me to snap a picture? At their ages I had the run of the neighborhood, boundaries which I stretched on an almost daily basis. I knew my way around, knew my way home and at least thought I knew how to take care of myself. Walking 5 blocks to a park was no big deal.

But, as a mom, every time I watch them walk away from me it’s with a flutter in my heart. I cannot keep my kids safe every second of every day. The tragic events in schools and theaters and on the streets of Chicago are daily reminders that violence lurks everywhere. But I don’t want to live in fear, and certainly don’t want to raise fearful children.

This summer has already been a momentous one (at least for me) in my older two boys striking off on their own. Whether on bike, or on foot, or with friends, they are stretching their boundaries, seeking new adventures, moving out of my line of vision.

I have to trust them and I have to trust myself. As parents we’ve given them the right tools. We’ve instilled confidence in them. The fact that they’re ready and eager to test their limits is a sign that they are growing up right. Right?

And, when it comes right down to it, we’ve given them phones. For all the times those devices divide their attention from us, we can connect to them instantly.

I know — in fact, I hope — this is only one of many images of them walking away confidently.

How about you? What’s your last photo and what does it say about you?


Related: Surrendering to Helplessness, Growing Up Too Fast, Oh Boy Oh Man




I’ll tell you mine and you tell me yours. Thanks to Miz B at Should Be Reading for hosting.


I’d love to know what everyone is reading.  To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…(or post a link to your blog.)

• What are you currently reading? • What did you recently finish reading? • What do you think you’ll read next?

Death Comes to PemberlyWhat are you currently reading? Today I will start my book club book for this month. I’m not too excited about reading Death Comes to Pemberly. Actually, I’m not excited about reading P.D. James. I was not a fan of An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, another Book Club pick. I have been told that this one is very different so I’m trying to keep an open mind. I have to remind myself that book club expands my reading horizons and selections.


China Dolls

What did you recently finish reading? Just finished China Dolls by Lisa See and I’m contemplating my review. My initial reaction is one of frustration because it didn’t live up to my personal Lisa See standards, but I enjoyed reading it. Loved the WWII time period and learning about the Chinese nightclub scene. She creates such wonderful atmospheres for her books. The problem is that I didn’t like the characters. I kept waiting to like them, but it didn’t happen.


We Are Called to RiseWhat do you think you’ll read next? I don’t have anything on hold at the library or waiting on my shelf so I’m in the happy position of being able to peruse the shelves. I do have some titles at the top of my To-Read, including We Are Called to Rise, which has gotten under my skin so I’m hoping to get into that soon.

How about you?

What are your W…W…W… titles?

#BookADay Days 5-8: Owning, Borrowing, Gifting

Catching up on the #BookADay challenge posted by Borough Press since I last posted on Day 4. (Today’s prompt, Day 9, will follow later today.)

Day 5 – Doesn’t Belong to Me.

I confess. I am a library reader. I could never afford by 100 books a year reading habit if I purchased all the books I read. In this, I am very blessed to have the resources of the Berwyn Public Library and especially its Readers Advisory Department. They faithfully order books, recommend titles and even place advance holds on my favorite authors. They literally keep me in books.

Geek LoveI do, however, have one book that fits this prompt. More than 10 years ago, I was chatting with a friend about on old title I’d like to re-read, assuming she wouldn’t know it. I told her Geek Love was my all-time favorite circus book. She brightened immediately and told me it was hers too. She lent me her copy and somehow I never managed to return it.

I don’t see Terri anymore, but every time I see this book (with her maiden name neatly penned on the inside cover) I remember the joy of having such an incredible woman in my life. We were both new moms and avid readers.  (I also think that I should really drive by her house and return her book!)


Day 6 – The One I Always Give as a Gift

Big Red BarnI love to gift books, but it’s always a very personal and emotional choice in the moment. Very few titles fit more than one person for any occasion or holiday. But recently I’ve had the pleasure of attending two book-themed baby showers. I gave both moms-to-be board book copies of Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown.

I am sure I read this book more than any other when my sons were babies. I still can recite the first fw pages by memory and find both the words and illustrations incredibly soothing as a bedtime book.


Day 7 – Forgot I Owned

See Day 5 for my lack of book ownership, but I do think there might be a box buried in my basement filled with long-forgotten titles. I know I had a slim, bound-edition of a speech given by Maya Angelou. I can’t remember the occasion but I can remember reading it and wishing I could know her in real life.  I wish I could lay my hands on that.


Day 8 – Have more than one copy

The Great GatsbyAgain, see Day 5. I am sure, however, that when my husband and I combined our properties almost 15 years ago, we both brought to our home copies of The Great Gatsby, To Kill a Mockingbird and Of Mice and Men. Our modern-day reading tastes differ a great deal, but we share a love of these classics.



#BookADay Day 4 – Least Favorite Favorite

Continuing the #bookaday challenge posted by Borough Press. Today’s challenge to name your least favorite book by a favorite author has stirred up some Twitter and blogger controversy, and, really, what does the social media world like more?

I’m not sure what all the fuss is about. Authors, even the best ones, are only human. They make mistakes. They fail. They grow better with practice. I have go-to authors and favorites. All of them have, at some point, published a book or story that disappointed me.

Let’s keep perspective here. Authors themselves would be the first to admit all books are not equal. When I saw Jonathan Tropper in person he told the story of wanting to “un-write” his book Plan B. (He also told all of us who had not read it not to bother. I’ve chosen to take his advice.)

And so…My least favorite book by a favorite author is The Magician’s Assistant by my beloved Ann Patchett.the magician's assistant

This is a perfectly lovely book. Patchett tells an interesting story about women suffering with loss in unusual circumstances. It just doesn’t live up to the strong writing I see in Patchett’s other books.

Keep in mind that I love Patchett so much that I decided to read all of her fiction and some non-fiction in 2012. I called it my Ann Patchett Project and I had to come to terms then with my disappointment in this book. You can read all about it here.





I’ll tell you mine and you tell me yours. Happy to return to this meme hosted by Miz B at Should Be Reading.


I’d love to know what everyone is reading.  To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…(or post a link to your blog.)

• What are you currently reading? • What did you recently finish reading? • What do you think you’ll read next?

BarkWhat are you currently reading? Finally picked up Lorrie Moore’s short story collection, Bark. I have to admit, I wasn’t a fan of The Gate at the Top of the Stairs, but wanted to give her another shot in story form. She’s a sharp writer, but I’m not loving it after the first two stories.




The Last Days of CaliforniaWhat did you recently finish reading? Just finished The Last Days of California by Mary Miller. There’s much to love in this southern, dysfunctional, road-trip novel. It’s a great premise — a family trapped in the car together as they drive from Alabama toward California to witness the Rapture. Religious fervor. Coming of age. Sexual awakening. Family drama. These are all components I love, but it never quite came together. The threads of this story could have been like the novels of Wiley Cash or Kevin Wilson, but it pales in comparison.


My Year of MeatsWhat do you think you’ll read next? My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki. I absolutely loved A Tale for the Time Being so when I saw this title on the recommended shelf at my library, I had to pick it up.

What are your W…W…W… titles?

#BookADay Day 3 – Blue Cover

Continuing the #bookaday challenge posted by Borough Press. Today’s challenge is a book with a blue cover. Several books came to mind immediately, including Michael Cunningham’s The Snow Queen, R.J. Palacio’s YA masterpiece Wonder and the graphic novel that has stuck with me called Same Difference.

Ultimately, I had to go with my most recent 5 star read, All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr.

image from Goodreads

image from Goodreads

I will not be able to do justice to this beautiful, thoughtful, spirited WWII novel here. Doerr has created something exquisite in the way he crafts his characters and brings the war to life.

Because the main characters, Marie Laure and Werner, are both so interested in the changing world, we are too. Through their eyes we explore science, radio, friendship and patriotism. Doerr even makes snails interesting! Marie Laure’s observations and strength of character are made all the more complex because she is blind. I simply fell in love with her and her resilience. Werner too is extremely sympathetic, no easy accomplishment for a Nazi soldier. Doerr interweaves their individual stories in such a smart way. The story never felt contrived.

As I devoured the 500+ pages in just a few days, I was so grateful for the balance of devastation and hope. Of course most great war novels involve resilience and courage in the face of adversity, but Doerr seems to do it in such a sensitive way. He asks the fundamental question a few times:

“Don’t you want to live before you die?”

Each character has to face the question in his or her own way. Without ever feeling manipulated I felt inspired.

A very special book with top-notch writing, complex characters, an interesting plot and honest emotions.