Moments of Gratitude – 03

This week starts with New Year’s photos and then captures our ordinary life.

Here we go, first spread of the year. I have been writing down a handful of things I’m grateful of from each day. 

a wonderful start to 2019.
thank you cards from my friend Kelly and her lovely daughter.
a wonderful little text from my hubby, our family photos, eating yummy food, and doing art.

i love doing this project so far, let’s see if it lasts.

Moments of Gratitude is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2019 here.

Joy of Art – 03

This is the official first week of Life Book 2019  or at least my interpretation of it. 

I had to try this one twice. In the first version, the face was too small which made it too hard to color. So instead of giving up or continuing with what wasn’t working, I just went to the next page and tried it all over again. 

Grateful that I did. I don’t love this but I am much happier with it and it was wonderful to get to play with watercolors.


Joy of Art is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2019 here.

Books I Read This Week 2019 – 03

This was a good week of reading. I finally decided to take advantage of netgalley and between that and my library accounts, i have a lovely list of books on my TBR pile that I am excited to read.  Here’s what I have from this week:

Plainsong (5 stars):  In the last few weeks of 2018, I spent time reading a lot of posts around best reads of the year and added content to my TBR. Somewhere along the way, I picked up Plainsong. I don’t know who recommended it or what they said that made me add it to my list. Especially since it’s a book that was published long before 2018.

Whoever it was, thank you.

This book was a pure joy to read. The characters, the dialogue, the atmosphere of the book all come together to envelop you into the story. Much of the book is sad and has real, raw, and bad things happening to several characters. But underneath all the realness of life there is this thread of hope that emerges from the quiet goodness of other characters. The way people express their feelings, their thoughts, their worries feels so true to character. 

The overall quietness of the book was something I cherished the whole time I read it. Especially after Uprooted which was lovely in its own right but certainly not quiet. I have never read this author before and I have no idea why. I was very sad to find out he’s passed away but grateful that he’s left a body of work. I look forward to spending more time with his words in 2019.

Talking Across the Divide (4 stars):  After the last two books I finished, I needed a change of pace so I decided to pickup a nonfiction book. This was new on my pile and I liked the premise of it so I figured it was a good pick.

Overall, I think it was a good book. I liked all the ideas/approaches he introduces in the book and I felt that, in general, he was pretty realistic about how tough it can be to talk across the divide. He clearly has experience with this. ( Though I will say while I liked the E.T. example as a way to show how people might have different stories they have accumulated in their life, I felt that telling me to have them watch E.T. was too simplistic for the example he was giving. That was the one time in the book he completely lost me.)

The reason I gave this 3 stars is really because there wasn’t much new here for me. I’m lucky enough to have a wide range of interests and friends from a wide range of backgrounds. This has taught me that people I love and respect can have wildly different opinions/perspectives than I do. Having such a variety of people in my life has helped me work on some of these tactics and has helped me be more open to listening because as Brené Brown often mentions, it’s hard to disregard someone’s thoughts/opinions/words if you know them as a human being. Not that I always get it right, of course, but I’ve done a lot of growing up in the last twenty years and I am aware that things are a lot more complicated than they might seem and I have but my stories, perspectives, experiences so it’s important for me to remember that those are not the only ones there are in the world. 

Anyhow, these are good books for me to read. Good reminders to keep an open mind, to listen, to care, to remember to not perpetuate a divide. As my favorite Ram Dass saying goes: We are all just walking each other home.

A Key to Treehouse Living (3 stars): Most people who review this book start with its unusual style. The book is written with alphabetic titles as if you’re reading an encyclopedia. I’d read this style before in The Lover’s Dictionary which at the time had delighted and surprised me. Maybe because of that, in this case I felt like it was mostly a gimmick.

I’ve read a lot of books so the gimmicks don’t do it for me anymore. I much prefer novels that have deep, rich characters and solid writing. To be fair to the author, this book is written well and even though all the other characters are ephemeral and not developed much at all, the main character here is layered and complicated. 

I also liked the writing. I highlighted this little sentence that made me smile: “An old man with the need to ruminate will pop like a champagne bottle when you ask him a question and stories will come out like the foam.” I like how it was both so visual and so relatable. 

Had the author trusted his ability to write strongly and develop rich characters, and made this book less gimmicky I probably would have rated this higher. Still really enjoyed it and look forward to seeing what he comes up with next.

Bad Blood (4 stars):  This book showed up in my life in so many ways that I couldn’t continue to ignore it. When my book club picked it months and months ago, I thought it would be a boring, sensationalist read. I live a few streets down from where Theranos was. I work in Silicon Valley and all the little cafes mentioned in the book are in my neighborhood. I figured I knew all I needed to know about this story. 

Then it started popping up all over my Instagram feed by several bookgrammers I follow. My friend whose judgement I generally trust said it was a really good read. And then the clincher was when my brother-in-law said he was up until 2am reading the book and that it was one of his best reads of 2018. I finally succumbed to the universe and bought the book with my audible credits.

It took me a little less than 24 hours to finish because this book is written in a way that makes it very hard to put down. Even when you know half the story. The number of unconscionable acts in this story are appalling. The fact that the house of cards didn’t come down for as long as it lasted in quite mind blowing.

But what made me the saddest reading this book wasn’t even Holmes’ actions. She clearly lost her way at some point and decided to put her greed above anything else and that part of the story I knew (even if I didn’t know all the bullying, secrecy and just outright creepy things she did to her employees.) What caught me by surprise was the way in which people/companies came on board even while suspecting there was something off. They were so worried about their FOMO that they chose to be a part of fraud rather than miss out on something real. Walgreens was worried CVS would do the deal if they didn’t. The number of times people say But what if we pass on this and it’s real blew my mind. Couple FOMO with a charismatic, passionate, successful-looking female CEO and you have yourself a perfect smokescreen. One she took advantage of to its fullest extent. 

Parts of this story made my skin crawl. And other parts were more like facepalm. I don’t know whether to be grateful that the journalist kept pushing until it finally fell apart or horrified that it took as long as it did.

Some Assembly Required (4 stars): This was the only non-fiction Anne Lamott book I haven’t read, so when the library added the audiobook, I put it on hold immediately. Anne Lamott reads her own audiobooks and they are a joy to listen to. I am not a grandmother yet (and not for a long while I hope) but here’s what I know about Anne Lamott: there’s wisdom in all of her books regardless of topic so I knew this would be no different.

And I was right.

Anne Lamott is neurotic, difficult, selfish, and struggling in all the ways the rest of us are. She’s human, she’s fallible, she’s flawed. And yet she’s also wise. She surrounds herself by other wise people and she puts all that vulnerability into her books. So when you read her books, you see the mess that life is, you see someone being honest with you about her own struggles, and you connect with her humanness. 

Or at least I do.

And I am grateful for her openness, for her willingness to be vulnerable so I can feel less alone and so I can grow and benefit from her wisdom. I am always grateful to read one of her books. This one had the added advantage of including bits and pieces of her son Sam’s thinking. It’s so lovely to have read Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year and now to hear the baby from that book speaking as an adult with his own baby. 

Super thankful for writers like Anne Lamott

The Happiness Project (3.5 stars): I joined netgalley in 2009, and then proceeded to do nothing for ten years. Last Monday, I finally decided to dig up my login information and see if I can start using it. The Happiness Project was the first book that accepted me so I decided it had to be the first one I read. 

And I am glad I did. 

Apparently this is not the first book, so the author jumps right into the story without giving too much of a background on each of the characters. This didn’t bother me at all, though I will say by the end of the story I still couldn’t really tell you much about the physical characteristics of any character except that one of them is pretty petite. This, too, wasn’t a huge problem for me. I did feel like I got to know each of the characters as a “person” and they felt uniquely different from each other, and reasonably three-dimensional to me. They were flawed, interesting, thoughtful characters. 

The book was a fun and quick read. When I was reading it, I liked getting lost in their stories and when I wasn’t reading it, I found myself looking forward to reading more. While there were some learning moments for each character, this wasn’t a story of major growth. 

When they first make the “Happiness Project” I thought it would end up being that they would each learn something about what happiness meant for them and how their project/goal would shift with the learning etc. but it wasn’t a book like that. It was light, fun and one of those books that come together beautifully at the end, leaving you smiling and happy. 

If you’re looking for a deep, literary book that will make you learn about new cultures, or appreciate complex characters, I wouldn’t recommend you pick this one. But if you want to have fun, enjoy a good story with characters that are real and experience real-life situations, especially around marriage and motherhood, I think this is a fantastic pick. 

I gave it a 3.5 stars because while I would have liked a bit more depth, I really enjoyed the story and had fun the whole time I read it.

Chief Joy Officer (3.5 stars): 3.5 stars but I decided to round up this time partly because I am so happy leaders like this exist and I want to encourage these types of books to be written more and more and I want other leaders to take their cues from this type of advice and leadership.

I’ll start with what I liked: I liked all the examples of how the author’s company works and how much time and effort and, most importantly, thoughtfulness they’ve put into the process of making decisions that serve their purpose around creating a more joyful and collaborative company. It sounds like it’s clearly a wonderful place to work and I have subscribed to their newsletters and earmarked it as a place I’d love to go visit when/if I make it to Michigan (which I am decidedly likely to in the next 3 years.) I am a firm believer that such environments don’t happen magically. It takes a lot of effort, dedication and intentionality. 

Now, the part I wish there was more of was specific to me. I work at a large company and I run operations for a reasonably large organization where I was hoping I could take away some tangible, interesting ideas from the book and start recommending that we implement them (or at least experimenting with them) in my organization. Alas, with the exception of one small idea, I didn’t walk away with anything else. Partly because some of his suggestions are things I am already working on and partly because it was hard for me to envision how to integrate some of his other ideas into our organization. But this is not to say there are no ideas in the book, just not a major aha! moment for me.

All in all, it was a worthwhile read and I am looking forward to tracking the company for a little while through their newsletters and seeing if I get some gems there. And super grateful companies like this exist.


Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2 stars): This came up on my library hold so I decided since it was a quick read, I could go ahead and tackle it. I wanted to read it before I see the movie. Because I refuse to see movies without reading the book and I knew I wanted to see this one. 


The book left so much to be desired. There’s nothing to learn or even something to enjoy in this book, for me. While some of the tidbits of the letters she wrote were fun to read, I felt the lack of any emotion, any remorse, or even anything that made this person real for me, stopped me from connecting with the author at all. 

I understand this is a true story and the truth likely is that she didn’t feel remorse and that she didn’t have a big, amazing reason why she did what she did except that she could and she needed/wanted the money. Sometimes the truth is as simple and straightforward as that. 

That doesn’t mean I have to like it and it doesn’t mean it makes a good story. At least not for me. 

I will still likely watch the movie, though I am decidedly less excited to do so now.

Juliet, the Maniac (4 stars):  Wow so many feelings for this book. I don’t even really know where to start…

I’ll start with part of the book’s description that totally made me mad: “An explosive portrayal of teenage life from the perspective of The Bad Friend…” what?! This is a terrible description for the book I read. There are few things that make me angrier than reading blurb copy that was written to raise curiosity/to sensationalize and then book ends up being something completely different and now you’re disappointed not because the book was bad but because the blurb set the wrong expectation.

The first sentence of the blurb here in goodreads is closer to the truth of this book: “It’s 1997, and 14-year-old Juliet has it pretty good. But over the course of the next two years, she rapidly begins to unravel, finding herself in a downward trajectory of mental illness and self-destruction.” but really if I were explaining it to a friend, I’d say this is a book about a 14-year-old who is suffering from several forms of mental illness, most specifically being bipolar. It’s the story of her trying to (or her parents forcing) to find her way back. It’s raw and honest and disturbing in all the ways life can be when you’re suffering from mental illness and are also a teenager. 

She is not a “bad friend,” she’s just a girl who’s struggling so very deeply and keeps making choices that don’t serve her because she’s sick, because she’s struggling, because she’s lonely, because she feels “not right” inside, because…well for all the reasons many of us struggle during some of the most formative years of our lives. 

I can’t relate to any of what Juliet does in this novel (side note: or is it non-fiction? I could never be sure and still am really not. If it’s meant to be a novel it would have been better served by the main character having a different name. in my opinion this only serves to confuse the reader and doesn’t add to the story.) I didn’t take any drugs or really much alcohol during my teen years. I don’t want to give away much of what happens in the story (even though I think the things she “does” isn’t really what the story is about.) But I could relate to her anyway. I could relate to her suffering. I could emphasize with her. The writing was so real that I could almost feel it crawling under my skin.

What was most interesting to me is that I alternated between reading the book as my teen-self and as my parent-of-teen self. I don’t even have a daughter but there were parts of the book where I got so mad at her for continuing to self-sabotage and make choices that wouldn’t stop hurting her. I felt angry and frustrated and wanted to stop reading. And then there were other parts that brought me right back to my own old teenage self where I could connect with her feelings of emptiness and pain. 

Clearly, this book left an impression on me. I will say that I didn’t want to be reading it as I was reading it. It was painful and raw. I didn’t want to watch her as she was doing so much harm to herself and others. But yet, I am glad I read it. And I will likely think about it for a long while.

[ps. this was my second netgalley read, hence the early review.]

Keep Going (5 stars):  When I saw there was an Austin Kleon book coming out, I knew it was an occasion to celebrate. I was super excited when I got the approval email from netgalley, and not-shockingly, I read the whole wonderful book in one sitting. (I am sure he would tell me to slow down, savor, and appreciate the book. But I couldn’t. I will just have to reread it so I can do that the second time around.)

I’ve read several of Austin Kleon‘s books and this has the same format as the others. It’s a little book, full of wisdom. I highlighted so many parts of the book that I am not sure I can capture all of them here. 

I am not a full-time artist, I don’t make a living on art, or even make any money, but as someone who has stopped spending time being creative in the last year, I knew this book would help get me back on track. 

And so much of the wisdom here is exactly what I am trying to implement to bring art/journaling back into my life. Here are some of the notes I took:
– a daily routine and observe, where are the spaces in my day (maybe i can book a 30 minute meeting at work to do art? could I pull that off?)
– choosing what I spend my time on (am I spending my time the way I want do, what am I doing on automatic?)
– make a list of all the todos, make a list of all the won’t dos, make a list of all the want to learns
– i loved the journaling idea of thankful/”need help with”
– make a list of all i did that day, what i want from tomorrow, and then be done with the day (i love this as the ritual of letting the day go.) i also loved the idea of letting the day be (instead of crumpling it up.)
– “If you wait for someone to give you a job title before you do the work, you might never get to do the work at all.” This is so true in so many areas. At my job, too!
– Practicing art is helps make your soul grow. so important for me to remember!
– i liked the idea about rereading my diaries. a bit scary, too 🙂
– i also loved the idea of visiting the past, reading old books, I should read some Seneca!
– i also loved remembering that art (like many things) happens in cycles and that maybe i was in a quiet cycle for the last year or so.

This is just a sampling of what I highlighted in this lovely book bursting with wonderful inspiration and quiet wisdom. It’s a book I will keep coming back to again and again.


And there we go, a really solid week of reading. Pretty happy.

Books I Read this Week 2019 is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2019 here. I am also tracking my books in real time on Good Reads here. If you’re on Good Reads add me so I can follow you, too!

Stories from 2019 – 03

This story is about how us right now. How I love taking our family photos and little things I want to remember from this moment in our lives.

Here are two more stories from my 2018 album. The content for these mostly come from the “light” kit which was one of my favorites because it had all these super-happy colors.

This story is from when we all went “hiking” together even though most of it was just walking and not really hiking.

Stories from 2019 is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2019 here. Everything on the pages is from Ali’s Story Kits unless mentioned otherwise.

Everyday Magic – 03

Weekly Intention:  This week will be a bit more hectic than last week was but hopefully not a lot. My intention this week is still to go slow. Be home as often as possible, journal, be grounded, listen and try to pay attention.

This month’s intention is: Seeing the Magic: Pay attention to your life. Make note of all the magic around you. See the people who love, cherish, and honor you. Thank people, show them that you see them. Still going strong on the letters. Maybe I can add one new thing this week.

One way I will show up this week:  I will try to be kinder this week. Listen with the intent to help everyone I meet with.

One magic I will make this week: I didn’t get to do art at night during the week last week so I am going to see if it can be this week’s magic. 

This week, I will pay attention to: how to handle myself better in the evenings when I am tired and worn out.

This week, I will be kinder to: people at work. let’s see if it makes a difference in how i feel.

This week, I will focus on pleasing: nathaniel. let’s see if i can focus on him.

One new thing I will learn this week: i didn’t pick an online class last week :/ this week i will figure out what math to teach Nathaniel. 

I am looking forward to:  getting my hair done. 

This week’s challenges: getting all the routines decided and set at work.

Top Goals: 

  • Work: review 2019 plans, get meetings on calendar.
  • Personal: keep up with journaling + art + yoga, pushups, gym.
  • Family: start physics with david. find math with nathaniel. cook for Jake. family photos and celebrations.

I will focus on my values:

  • Love:  stay grounded, show my love more. say kind words. celebrate others. show them why they are awesome.
  • Learn: go back to doing art again. just for you.
  • Peace: peace with moving slower than I would like to.
  • Service: service to work this week, getting things going.
  • Gratitude: gratitude for my mom’s checkup results being well. 

This week, I want to remember:  that how I spend my days is how I spend my life.

Everyday Magic is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2019 here.

Weekly Reflection 2019 – 02

Magic I Saw this Week: Hmm this week’s magic was going bouldering together, getting back into the groove of work, but most wonderfully spending a lot of time with Jake. I saw how wonderful it is that I am able to come home early most evenings, spend most weekends calmly and really enjoy my family.

Magic I Made this Week: Jake and I are still doing the yoga and it still feels magical but another piece of magic i created for us was driving up to dogpatch on Friday morning just the two of us so I could watch my amazing husband boulder and celebrate and videotape his progress. It was wonderful.

Magic of Me that I explored Week: Hmm I am not doing as much work here as I would like but I did journal all week and there have been a few insights. I’ve also been practicing really feeling the kind words my husband says to me and owning them and thanking him. 

Top Goals Review:  

  • Work: aligned with my manager on our goals for 2019, also wrote up a long document for us to review this week.
  • Personal: kept up with journaling on all but one day, didn’t do new art during the week art, but did yoga and went to the gym twice for body pump and yoga and also did my daily pushups. 
  • Family: didn’t restart physics with david. did math with nathaniel. cooked for Jake. did both family photos and celebrations.

I celebrate: transitioning to work reasonably seamlessly and slowly.

I am grateful for: an unexpected bonus at work for some work i did last year.

This week, I exercised: I’ve done yoga every morning and I’ve also done 10 pushups a day minimum each day. I also went to body pump once, another yoga class at work, and bouldering.

Self-care this week: Still journaling, sleeping reasonably well, and leaving work as early as possible to work from home as much as possible.

I showed up for:  Jake this week. we got to put him on the spotlight.

I said yes to:  going bouldering even though i was scared and sore.

I said no to:  to bookclub even though i had intended on going but decided i really needed that night at home.

Core Desired Feelings Check-in:

  • Embrace: i am embracing my feelings as much and often as possible, trying to live them as i experience them.
  • Alive: the bouldering, while super scary, made me feel alive.
  • Lighter: i am really enjoying reading a lot and sitting by the fake fire we have going on our tv. it makes me feel lighter, grounded and grateful.
  • Kinder: i am trying to be kinder to myself and jake and my kids. trying to pay attention to everyone’s needs. not fully there yet.
  • Surrender: i need to surrender to where i am and how i feel. working on it.

What I tolerated this week: i was very sore early in the week, though I am better now.

My mood this week was: tired and in pain.

I am proud of:  how much work i got done, my discipline with coming home early.

I forgive myself for: losing my patience more than i’d like.

Here’s what I learned this week: i learned that most people don’t ask for what they want. most people don’t even know what they want. when a situation is not great, i need to take the time to understand what i want, and then ask for it.

What I love right now:  that i am still feeling relatively grounded.

Weekly Reflection is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2019 here.

Moments of Gratitude – 02

I spent a long time thinking about whether I wanted to continue this project from last year. After going back and forth, I decided there was a way I could transform it slightly and make it work.

After looking around for a long time, I liked this journal the best. I wasn’t sure if it was going to be nice in person but it’s absolutely beautiful. 

I take two photos a day of something magical in my life and then on the third box i write down gratitudes from the day. I know that the new science says this practice only works if we do it 1-2 times a week but I believe in daily or never so I am going for daily here.

Some days I might not get to it, or some weeks I might really fall behind in which case I’ll do it weekly then 🙂

Here’s to Seeing more Magic in 2019.

Moments of Gratitude is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2019 here.

Joy of Art – 02

One of my goals this year is to bring back the practice of making art regularly. Ideally I’d do this more than once a week but if I end the year with 52 pieces of art, I will be super glad. 

To help with this goal, I am taking several classes so fae:

  1. Life Book 2019  Easiest way to bring back art for 2019.
  2. Perspective class by Olga this class was free.
  3. Alisa Burke’s yearlong art journaling class.

The work I share here will start with these and if I am lucky it will spread out to more. So we’ll see.

This week’s art is inspired by Tam’s warm up in Lifebook week 1. This piece has nothing to do with the piece she created but it’s how I wanted to warm up. 

I can sit here and criticize every piece of this but I am surrendering and letting it go because the goal is not to create perfect art. It’s just to make more art and I have to start somewhere. So here it goes.

Joy of Art is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2019 here.

Books I Read This Week 2019 – 02

So here we go, hello to 2019. Since I’ve spent the first week of this year at home, I’ve had a lot of time to read and have had some wonderful reads. Since I am using Good Reads here now thanks to Gypsy, I will go ahead and link to and copy my reviews here which means there will be a lot more writing per book. 

Ikigai (2 stars): I bought this book back in February of 2018. I had just heard about Ikigai and wanted to learn more about it. At the time I bought this one on audio and Awakening Your Ikigai for my kindle. I was in Sydney for a work trip and decided to read the print book first. I loved it. Even though the book didn’t really tell me all that I wanted, I highlighted so much of it.

So I was looking forward to starting 2019 with a reminder on what I love so much about the concept. Alas, this book didn’t do it for me. If you’ve never read any books around the topics mentioned here, this book might appeal to you but as someone who’d already read Man’s Search for Meaning and already familiar with concepts of Flow, there wasn’t much in this book for me. It felt like it jumped back and forth and it even managed to annoy me in certain places. 

Depending on where you are in your journey this book might work for you but if you’re going to read one book on this topic, I’d recommend Awakening Your Ikigai over this one. 

The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell (4 stars):  I should have started with this as my first read of 2019. This moving story was spectacular. I loved the characters, the plot that circles back in on itself, and the sentiment of the novel. I listened to the author’s note at the end, too, and I love the fact that this novel was inspired by his own mother’s fight for his brother. To me, what makes or breaks a novel has everything to do with how the characters come alive and stay with you. I know these will stay with me for a long while.

I will say a few bits that might matter: 
– the women in the novel are more one-dimensional than one might like. Especially the secondary characters. ordinarily this would bother me a lot, but in this case it didn’t. i can’t tell you why.
– this is not a deep, literary novel, in my opinion, it’s a feel good story about the unbounded love of a mother and thus things fall into place in the ways in which they do in such novels.
– there is a strong religious component to the story as the mother is very religious. that didn’t bother me but i know it might bother some.

I bounce around in my reading. I will be in the mood for something educational, something sad, something light, something serious, something weird, something thought-provoking and sometimes something uplifting. Each of these books have their own types of formulas. I know that going into the story (and sometimes the book surprises me, of course, but that happens relatively rarely.)

This is the uplifting kind. And on that note, it delivers beautifully.

Born a Crime (4 stars): I finally finally got around to reading this book. It’s been in my audible pile forever but I kept prioritizing my library checkouts so this one has been sitting quietly waiting for me to be ready for it and today was the day.

I had heard so much praise about this book that it was going to be hard for the book to live up to the hype. But it didn’t disappoint. 

I’ve stopped watching The Daily Show since Jon Stewart stopped hosting it so I knew nothing at all about Trevor Noah. I also knew almost nothing about growing up in South Africa and so much of what he talks about in this book. I think this is one of the reasons why this book is such a success: he talks about topics most of us don’t know about and manages to make the reader feel the horror at the same time as making the reader laugh. There are moments of terrible tragedies in this book and yet it doesn’t feel didactic in the least.

And, of course, the biggest joy is seeing where he came from and where he ended up. The kind of story that gives you hope, reminds you much is possible in this life, and makes you feel another level of respect for Trevor Noah.

The Library Book (3 stars):  I have mixed feelings about this book. 

I checked it out of the library several times before I finally decided to tackle it today. Often times, there’s a reason I end up putting the book off but sometimes a book I’ve checked out six times ends up being one of my favorites and I regret not having read it sooner. I’ve liked Susan Orlean’s previous novel and I love libraries so I had reasons to read this one. When I saw it was the Reese bookclub pick for January, I decided it was a nudge from the universe (or Reese?) to finally read it.

The book is told sort of in alternating chapters. There’s the story of the fire which I found fascinating and then there are stories about the author’s childhood around libraries and also about the history of the library which I found less interesting. In my experience, many non-fiction novels end up stretching their subject too much in an effort to make a book out of it when it could be a really intriguing long article. This felt a little like that. Like there was a lot of filler. And the book, in my opinion, didn’t fare better for it.

I did enjoy several of the stories and especially the little mention of Overdrive which I love and use multiple times a day. But there were too many side stories, too much of the history, and too much back and forth for my liking.

I am still glad I read it.

The Art of the Good Life (2.5 stars): It’s always tricky to write a book on “how to be.” I know this book isn’t titled as if it’s telling you what to do/who to be but it’s trying to do exactly that, in my opinion. Even though I agreed with some of his ideas, learned new ideas, and disagreed with some of what he said, the part of the book that put me off the most was the tone in which it was written.

Maybe it’s necessary to be “authoritative” when writing a book on how to live, but I would have been more open to his ideas if the author took some of his own advice and was more humble and argued the opposite of his ideas more often. Presenting alternate ways of thinking is most valuable to me when you give me both sides of the coin and I can make my own choices with what I’ve learned. But then again maybe that’s an altogether different book and this one is the author having done his homework and telling me the choices he’s come to after having done his homework. 

Alas that was my favorite part of the book, all the stories throughout and the appendix which is full of his sources, other thinkers that he quotes throughout, etc. The author clearly did his work. He’s well read, he spent the time thinking about what matters to him, what he thinks should matter to me, etc. But I guess I didn’t end up as big a fan of how he distilled it all. He brought together several different thoughts of school, wrapped it in a nice bow for me and ta-da! I have my present on how to life my life well.

I guess, for me, part of living a good life is learning what that means for me. What my definition looks like and what are the pieces that contribute to it. So a book that’s wrapped up this neatly was never going to get me there.

Having said all of that, I’ve highlighted a bunch of this book and it gave me a lot of ideas to think about and of course a lot of sources on who else to read to go deeper, to learn more, to think more. Hence the stars. 

Here are a few of the ideas that stuck with me:
– First pay, then enjoy. I don’t like to spend money, especially on myself. When I buy things, I like to pay cash because, at that moment, I made up my mind and I am ok to spend it and generally I get an immediate satisfaction (of whatever I bought in return.) With a credit card, I get the bill in the mail later and I have to “re-pay” that bill. I have to relive the decision to spend that money. It makes me unhappy all over again. The downside to paying with cash is that it’s very hard to track where your money goes which is why I now usually use credit cards. The author here talks about how he pays for the hotel at the beginning of his vacation so he can really enjoy it and end it on a high note since we know endings matter so much. So this made me think about how I can incorporate more of that into my life. Maybe I can get a prepaid credit card where I put X amount of money up front into it and then use it. This way I have the “records” of what I spent it on but I am not paying again at the end of the month. (In this same chapter, I think, he talks about how the duration of the vacation is less important than how it ends, which gave me a lot of food for thought on how to spend our vacations, too. this one is still forming.)

– It’s easier to do it 100% of the time: I believe in this wholeheartedly. Gretchen Rubin has a saying that what you do everyday matters more than what you do occasionally. I find that it’s easier for me to commit to something every single day than it is to do it X times a week etc. If it’s everyday, there’s no question or bargaining around it. I am doing it. 

– Don’t pick a side. When we pick a side, we look for proof that our perspective is right, that our story is the correct one and we keep feeding it so it gets more and more solid. I like the author’s idea of a “too complicated” bucket. Saying “I don’t know” helps reaffirm the truth that I don’t actually know.

– Don’t assume the things/people you’ve accumulated in life are due to some credit to what you’ve done to deserve it. So much of life is chance. The part of this thought that resonated with me the most was this “The best attitude to have is that all of them are on loan to you, and may be taken away at any time.” I love this. Not just for the non-attachment part but as a reminder for me to really pay attention to what I have and how lucky I am. Not sure the author meant it that way but it doesn’t matter to me. 

– The idea of pre-mortem was not new to me in this book but it’s a good reminder to help avoid potential circumstances I can avoid and also help pinpoint sources of my own anxiety around a decision.

– I wildly disagreed with reading only a handful of books of course. The fact that I don’t remember much of what I read doesn’t bother me and doesn’t detract from the experience of reading it and feeling what I feel at the moment. Maybe it’s a way to honor my experiencing self 🙂

– I liked the idea of mental subtraction but I have to read about it more to really understand it better. 

– I liked the idea of applying Sturgeon’s law to my thoughts too. 90% of what I think is garbage. It helps me not take myself so seriously.

A bunch of food for thought. I’d really give this 2.5 stars but somehow it doesn’t feel right rounding up to 3. Maybe in a few weeks, I’ll come back and change it.

Uprooted (4.5 stars): I started this book yesterday thinking is was going to be slow and long but I had three more days before I had to go back to work. Having read Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver I should have known better.

The moment I started this book, I was lost in Novik’s world. I am not usually a fantasy lover. The more complicated the world building, the sooner you might lose me. I am not super patient and have no appetite for unusual creatures. But if you give me flawed, interesting, funny and three-dimensional characters, you pretty much have me. Novik’s characters never disappoint. Her twisty, dark, rich plot is just icing on the cake. The fact that her main character is a strong female character is the bonus that just makes her one of my favorite fantasy writers ever.

Not to say that the book is perfect. I think if I had read this first, I would have given it five stars because discovering an author this talented comes with a halo effect. But since this is my second one, I think a bit of that has worn off. This book definitely could have been edited down a bit; there were parts that I would have likely glazed over had I not been on audio. I’d say this is a 4.5 star book, for me, but not enough to tip over to 5. 

Having said that, I couldn’t stop listening to it all day, and it took me less than 24 hours to finish this ~18-hour book, even at 2x, you can do the math that I pretty much read it the whole time I was awake. On a side note, the audio narrator is excellent and aligns with the feel of the story perfectly.

If you haven’t read any of Novik’s books and like Fantasy, I say it’s time to grab one of her novels. Just make sure you have nothing else to do all day.

And there we go, a reasonably solid start to 2019. I am now reading book number 7 and loving it. Here’s to wonderful books in 2019.

Books I Read this Week 2019 is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2019 here. I am also tracking my books in real time on Good Reads here. If you’re on Good Reads add me so I can follow you, too!

Stories from 2019 – 1

This story is about how I love buying flowers for myself.

Midway through 2018 I decided to subscribe to Ali Edwards Story Kit to help make a travel album I was hoping to put together. I decided to buy a 6-month subscription thinking I could see if I used the contents for six months and subscribe longer if I did. I was hoping I could use a storytelling system similar to December Daily where I tell simple stories regularly and the sum of the parts would amount to magic like it does for DD. 

This story is about our evening kayaking adventure at night when we were trying to see the meteor shower. We didn’t get to see any meteors but we had a truly wonderful time together.

I was so right. As soon as I got my hands on these kits, I was completely inspired to tell stories again. I completed my 30-page travel journal and then made 44 other pages. I’ve loved how my book ended up. 

So my plan for 2019 is to share some of these 2018 pages with you and then make and share the 2019 ones as I receive the kit each month. These stories are a crucial part of my seeing the magic of our lives. 

Stories from 2019 is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2019 here. Everything on the pages is from Ali’s Story Kits unless mentioned otherwise.

Everyday Magic – 02

Weekly Intention:  This promises to be a reasonably light week at work. My intention this week is to ease back into things. To be present, to be calm and grounded and to slowly get back into routine. 

This month’s intention is: Seeing the Magic: Pay attention to your life. Make note of all the magic around you. See the people who love, cherish, and honor you. Thank people, show them that you see them. I’ve started sending daily letters to my mom and exchanging weekly letters with my friend Kelly.  For January, I will continue to honor that.

One way I will show up this week:  I will listen more this week. Try not to commit to anything and stay in the place of collecting information.

One magic I will make this week: Let’s go with art. I will try to do art at least one night this week.

This week, I will pay attention to: my feelings. what sets me off, what triggers me.

This week, I will be kinder to: my husband. he is always so so kind to me, i want to make sure to pay it back.

This week, I will focus on pleasing: myself, i want to be able to extend myself grace through this transition. 

One new thing I will learn this week: i will pick an online class to take this week.

I am looking forward to:  transitioning back into routine.

This week’s challenges:  lol. transitioning back to routine 🙂

Top Goals: 

  • Work: align with my manager on our goals for 2019.
  • Personal: keep up with journaling + art + yoga and start going to gym.
  • Family: restart physics with david. do math with nathaniel. cook for Jake. family photos and celebrations.

I will focus on my values:

  • Love:  remember what i love about work, life, me.
  • Learn: pick something new and fun to learn. remember that learning is not about knowing or mastering.
  • Peace: peace with the fact that transitions are hard for me.
  • Service: service to my family.
  • Gratitude: gratitude for all i have. 

This week, I want to remember:  that getting another turn around the sun is such a blessing. i am soaking in my days.

Everyday Magic is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2019 here.

Weekly Reflection 2019 – 01

Magic I Saw this Week:  This week started with the magic of spending New Year’s eve with my whole family. The first time in 26 years. It was quite magical. Later in the week, everyone flew to their homes and we settled in to a magical quiet. On Thursday, both my boys were happy to go back to school this week even though they weren’t looking forward to it. They came back smiling and happy. 

Magic I Made this Week: Jake and I started doing Yoga together. We start our mornings with Adriene doing her Dedicate series. It’s been really magical getting to do it with my wonderful husband. I’ve also done some art and a lot of journaling this week which was magical.

Magic of Me that I explored Week: As part of my homework for create.2019 I’ve listed all the wonderful moments in 2018 and in my life. It was quite the joyful and eye opening experience. 

Top Goals Review:  none for this week!

I celebrate: doing some art finally after a long, long break.

I am grateful for: this long and wonderful time off i’ve had from work, getting to connect with my family and grounding myself

This week, I exercised: I’ve done yoga every morning and I’ve also done 10 pushups a day minimum each day.

Self-care this week: I’ve done a lot of journaling this week and I’ve been resting a lot. I feel pretty grounded. 

I showed up for:  my son in helping him prepare for his high school application.

I said yes to:  spending time with my friend even though it was raining and I didn’t want to leave the house. I rarely want to leave the house 🙂

I said no to:  going to a high school event for David next week. I don’t need to be there and there’s really no reason to add stress this week.

Core Desired Feelings Check-in:

  • Embrace: i am embracing the fact that all my art muscles have atrophied and i have to start over.
  • Alive: the pushups are actually helping me feel alive.
  • Lighter: i feel lighter after I journal each day, i wish i could remember this more often.
  • Kinder: i am trying to be kinder to my kids, remembering to hug more and hold them tighter.
  • Surrender: i need to surrender to the feelings of anxiety around this quiet time ending. it’s going to be okay.

What I tolerated this week: my knee’s been hurting more than I’d like and I am hoping it will get better with regular exercise.

My mood this week was: Lethargic but peaceful.

I am proud of: How I started the year. Optimistic.

I forgive myself for: Not being as generous with my time as others might want me to be. I am honoring my boundaries.

Here’s what I learned this week: i said yes to keeping track of my books on good reads when gypsy asked me to even though i’d been asked before and didn’t feel like it. it turned out to be a blessing. i love tracking them there and taking the time to document my thoughts more deeply. we’ll see if i can keep it up but for now, i am really grateful. thank you gypsy.

What I love right now:  we’ve been putting on youtube videos of crackling fire on our tv and having that on in the background. I love love love it.

Weekly Reflection is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2019 here.