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.

Happy Bloggiversary to Me!

It’s a good thing WordPress reminded me about my anniversary last week, or surely this momentous occasion would have gone unnoticed. I find it somewhat unfortunate my anniversary fell during a week in which I didn’t post a single thing, but oh well. I was quite busy living and working and cheering on my boys and rooting for the Blackhawks, and, of course, reading. That’s basically my life.

But now that I’m aware that alenaslife is one, I thought I’d better mark the occasion with a post.


First and foremost, I have a place to reflect – primarily on what I read, but also on motherhood, family, friends and the changes I’ve experienced over the past year. In sharing myself in these posts, I can process my thoughts and feelings. I also have a sort of “diary” on which to look back and see where I’ve been.
I relied on these writings and the feedback and discussions they elicited especially when I began my new career and after my father’s death. I will be forever grateful that I had this place to share those life-changing events.


New friends

My husband teases me for my liberal use of the word “friend,” but I truly feel that I have made friends in the world of blogging. I may have never met you in real life, but I follow your highs and lows, share jokes, depend on your guidance and miss you when I haven’t heard from you in a while. Aren’t those definitions of friendship?
If it weren’t for alenaslife, I wouldn’t know the marvelous book love of Cassie and Claire and Leah  and Didi. I wouldn’t laugh and cry with my fellow moms Joan and Tammy who inspire me to live life to its fullest.

There are countless others who have stopped by to comment or like or follow or share a post. (Actually, WordPress can count them, but I’m trying not to be number obsessed). Those small interactions brighten my day and motivate me to keep at it.


Book Love

Yes, I am a book addict.

Image my joy to find so many others who devour, discuss and demand books to the same degree. I not only have a great record of what I was reading this past year, I have feedback and suggestions about what to read next. The bloggers I follow have introduced me to new titles and authors. I have stretched the boundaries of my comfort zone and felt the love for a well-crafted review.

It’s simply marvelous to find so many enablers for my addiction. Thank you.



I teach my sons not to look for validation in others, but let’s face it, it’s really great to hear that someone thinks you’ve done a good job. I get that often via alenaslife. In big and little ways, I am reassured that I can write, that my opinions are heard by others, that “you like me.” It shouldn’t matter, but it does.


Happy anniversary to me.

Daily Prompt: Struggling to Set a Good Example.


Failure_Freeway (Photo credit: StormKatt)

Describe your last attempt to learn something that didn’t come easily to you?

You know how as parents we’re supposed to lead by example? Well, in terms of learning new things, I’m an “epic fail” as my sons would say. I avoid “new” like the plague.

This is not all negative of course. I would argue that I know my own strengths, and in the areas of communication and consensus-building, I excel. I can hold my own on a computer, in social settings, and certainly in the work place. I have a marvelous husband who takes care of all of the home and auto complications (aren’t we deliciously retro?), so I’ve never had to struggle with wiring or plumbing.

I admit my tendency to make the less challenging choice, when possible.

But, in the behavior of my sons, I’ve seen my tendency to avoid challenge in a more negative light. One of my sons struggles in sports. It just doesn’t come easily, the way school and music do. And, really, it breaks my heart to see how badly he wants to be an athletic success, and to fear that it will never happen for him.

And yet, he tries. He tries partly because we won’t let him quit. Once he signs on to a team or a class, he has to follow through. We’ll help him and practice with him, but ultimately, he’s the one on the court or on the field and he gets out there and just does it. (He doesn’t always do it with the best attitude or a big smile, but he does it nonetheless.)

There was a year where he chose not to play his favorite sport because it “wasn’t fun anymore.” My husband and I were fine with his decision, but as he sat on the sidelines and watched his brothers and friends play, he determined to try again. “I think I want to play again next year.” I know he’ll struggle, and feel frustrated and sometimes take it out on us, but I am so proud he wants to try.

So instead of modeling the behavior for my kids, I’m following my son’s lead. I’m trying to open myself up to new skills.

When I started my new job this year, I had to learn a new design program, Adobe Illustrator. I didn’t have a ton of design skills to begin with, and was only familiar with InDesign. In fact, my bosses were open to purchasing a new design program, but I realized that all the files I would need were already in Illustrator. I was being silly. I could learn a new program, right?

I’m still learning (and I still think Illustrator is often frustratingly non-intuitive), but I’m using it almost every day and getting happier with the finished product all the time. I’ve added several other programs to my resume in a few short months. I’ve improved my photography skills by sheer determination and practice, not letting my fear of failure prevent my success.

I will not quit because something is challenging. I will meet that challenge, overcome it, and move on to the next. Because that’s life, right? I will try to do this with good humor and an ability to appreciate failure as a part of the process instead of a final result.

This is the model I want to provide for my sons.

Thanks, once again, to Daily Prompt for inspiring this post.

This post puts me in mind of Frank Sinatra singing “High Hopes”.  Just what did make that little ole ant think he could move a rubber tree plant?

My blog personality. I’m an edmt.

I’m not even sure how I stumbled across rarasaur, but I’ve fallen in love with the blog and its brilliance which masquerades as seeming randomness. In searching through the backlog of posts I stumbled upon the Blogger Personality Test. What fun, I thought.

To give you a little history, I’m one of those people who ALWAYS takes the personality quizzes in magazines. I’ve done it since I was a young girl reading Tiger Beat and trying to find out (in the way only an anonymous quiz can tell me), if I should be dating the jock, the bad boy or the shy genius. I did so many of these quizzes that I was able to provide the “correct” answer to get any outcome I wanted.

Fast forward to 2013 and here I am still trying to figure out what I want my blog to be (other than seeming randomness not yet coming close to approaching brilliance.) And here was a completely unscientific, rather hilarious personality quiz.

Imagine my joy when rarasaur told me that I’m “a harmonious blogger with a welcoming blog that inspires discussion.” That’s just what I want to be. Never mind that I’m not much of a cereal eater, this quiz was 100% correct that, back in my Tiger Beat days, I planned for my bridesmaids to wear evergreen, long-sleeved velvet dresses. Genius, right?


I encourage all you bloggers out there to take the quiz and see how rarasaur does in guessing your blogger personality. Then come back and let me know if you’re an edmt too.

Hello Mojo

Last week I complained (maybe I even whined a little) that I had lost my mojo. I was in an undeniable funk and I put it out there for the world to share.

What do you know? My mojo heard the call and returned to me in some pretty significant ways.

1)      I felt the blogger love. Many of you responded with kind words, funny stories and useful advice. Since so much of what we do as bloggers happens alone with just us and our computers, it’s easy to forget that we are a community. You all reminded me of that fact. I felt lifted up by friends, both those I know IRL, and those I’ve come to know virtually.

It’s much harder to remain in a funk when I know there are people waiting, watching and caring. A giant “thank you” goes out to all of you.


2)      A major milestone. (I know, I know, I’m supposed to be avoiding stats of any kind – but no one warned me that they show up on my Dashboard any time I add a new post.) Anyway, I realized last week that I have reached 100 followers. This won’t seem like much to those of you with hundreds of followers or comments or page views (or whatever measurement you use), but to me, these 3 digits seem monumental.

Even better, my 100th follow came from someone I knew in real life, and keep up with in virtual life. Justine is a smart, talented woman I once had the pleasure of directing. More recently, we have shared our love of books on social media. To see her name on my list of followers brought a huge smile to my face. To then find out she searched out my blog when looking for a good book to read…well, that just sent my mojo into a tizzy.


3)      An author encounter. I met Jonathan Tropper!!! Yes, the author of my most recent fave, This is Where I Leave You. And, the way it happened seemed fated to break my funk.

I don’t get near enough time to dwell in the world of social media. I miss twitter parties and constantly refreshing my Facebook feed, but real life has taken over. Anyway, it’s my habit to start each day with a social media check in. I just happened to see a tweet from @JTropper mentioning an appearance and Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville. How did I not know about this?

So I took a chance and asked my mom (also a fan) if she wanted to join me. You have to understand that both of us are much more likely to laze on the couch reading on any given weeknight than make a 45-minute trip to Naperville to chance a meeting with an author we may or may not like in real life.

And, miracle of miracles, we actually went. Despite considering just staying in the neighborhood and grabbing dinner together, we made the trip and ended up having a great time. (More to come on Jonathan Tropper in a future post).


Unlike”3 strikes and you’re out,” these signs seemed like “3 reasons to write.” I’m not fooling myself – I still don’t have enough time in the day to read or write the way I’d like to. I will still suffer funky slumps when nothing seems possible. I will still be waiting on the next seemingly insurmountable milestone.

But I will have this, this day my mojo returned.

Virtually absent

I’m not writing. I’m not really pinning, tweeting or commenting either. I am virtually absent.

I could say it’s because I’m working too hard, but that’s not really an excuse. Everyone is working hard. True, my day job actually fills my days and my family fills my evenings, but that hasn’t stopped me the past couple months. And I know it doesn’t stop the many accomplished bloggers whose writing I follow.

I don’t know why, but my mojo has vanished.

As if that weren’t bad enough, I’m not reading. I pick up a book, read a few pages and put it down. I’ve tried switching titles and genres to no avail. I am seriously in a funk. And, frankly, it’s a little bit scary. Being a reader is so much a part of my identity that I’m not sure who I am without a book (or two or three) at my fingertips.

So, I am the first to admit this is a lame little blog post today, but I’m simply trying to push through and get back in the groove. I beg your forgiveness and I ask that if you see my mojo anywhere, you please send it back my way.

Monday Quote: How do I measure success?

Sooner or later we all discover that the important moments in life are not the advertised ones, not the birthdays, the graduations, the weddings, not the great goals achieved. The real milestones are less prepossessing. They come to the door of memory unannounced, stray dogs that amble in, sniff around a bit and simply never leave. Our lives are measured by these.”
Susan B. Anthony

I admit it. Deep inside of me lives a numbers girl – one who wants to chart, measure and order everything. I’m convinced that if I could just assign each thing in life a place value, I could organize it. Judging by the chaos in my life, it’s probably a good thing I didn’t opt to become a mathematician.

But social media milestones are the same to me. I can become obsessed with the numbers. How many page views? Did anyone retweet? Have I posted 5 times each week? Any new Facebook comments? How close am I to my book reading goal? Has my Klout score changed?

This blog, which I began in March as a personal writing exercise, has taken on a milestone life of its own. Early on, my dear friend Patti cautioned me not to get wrapped up in WordPress stats. (Like standardized tests, they are only one measure of reach I guess.) But I’m like a junkie – checking page views and search terms, wondering when my number of followers will hit triple digits. Is it true that early week posts have more life than those posted on Fridays?

I understand how crazy this is. My blog is not commercial. I don’t have any sort of life changing mission (unless you count inspiring someone to pick up a book.) This isn’t my job.

I need to write. I like to share. It should not matter if that sharing happens with one person or one hundred. My friend Molly wrote on her blog that she writes for everyone and no one in particular. I love that idea. I just need to accept it and live by it.

And I am inspired by Susan B. Anthony. Alena’s life cannot be measured by followers or views or comments. I must measure my life, my sense of success, by “the stray dogs that amble in.” If a book moves me, I will write about it. If I have a good story to tell, I will tell it. I will choose quotes that reflect or inspire my life.

And, this week at least, I will avoid chasing milestones. I’m going stats-free for a week. Then I will see if I feel and more or less fulfilled as a blogger.

Wish me luck.

It’s great to feel appreciated

Thanks to Diane Hiller at Pleasant Valley Sunday for nominating me for the Reader’s Appreciation Award. Diane is a fellow Chicago area mom so I know she understands the challenges and rewards involved in blogging. I am honored to accept the award and pay it forward…Here are my nominations for the Reader Appreciation Award:

1. Butterflies and Mudpies is another Chicago area parent’s blog. Molly writes with such refreshing honesty and conviction, that no matter what topic she battles, I am always impressed by her insights. I love that she writes for “everyone and no one in particular.”

2. Coco J. Ginger Says provides me with an ongoing jolt of beautiful, thought-provoking creative writing. Unlike the diary-style blogs I frequently follow, this writing appeals to my book-loving self.

3. Me Myself and Kids provides me with a wonderful guy’s perspective on life and fatherhood. His posts are well-written and entertaining, spanning a variety of topics.

4. The Thing About Joan delights me every time. Whether Joan is suggesting “Boredom Busters,” providing a delicious recipe, or simply revealing bits of herself, she does it in a lovely approachable style.

5. Just Another Manic Mommy is another diary style blog, but with a beautiful and entertaining mix of pictures and text.

6. Easyondeyes is a blog that loves books as much as I do. They are on a mission to read and review 366 books in 366 days (with a little help from their friends). I love the variety of material and welcoming atmosphere (Full disclosure: I’m honored to have been a guest blogger on their site.)

Now it’s your turn to nominate your favorites! Recipients of this award should nominate six of their favorites, copy the Award logo onto their site and acknowledge the one who nominated you!

There are many more that I love to read. And, since I’ve nominated bloggers for other honors, I tried not to repeat. I really must get that blog roll widget working…