What my days look like right now

I just took SG to school and now I’m home, tossing my sheets into the wash as I jump into the shower.  I have to be presentable today because I have three meetings (Sisterhood program planning, teacher conference at school, adult education at Temple).  Getting out of the shower, the doorbell rings.  It’s 7:55 and the construction guys are starting on the rebar for the garage foundation.  I hear the cat throwing up somewhere.  I haven’t opened the window shades yet! Oh shoot, I think I sent SG to school without a plastic spoon in her lunch.  Get dressed, makeup, hair, shoes.  Email someone about checking some dates for some community programs I’m working on before meeting the committee at 10.  Woah! Lots of online book fair gift certificate orders came in! I think perhaps this is crazy, but this seems to be the perfect time to bake the 4 dozen brownies I promised the Temple for tomorrow evening’s reception.  I am going there tonight anyway, so why not have them ready? Oven on, mixing, pouring, and in the oven.  Prepare batch #2 while #1 bakes.  This other recipe I have, from Pioneer Woman, requires melting butter on the stove, adding cocoa powder, and then dry ingredients.  I’m just doing the melting part when the doorbell rings and my housekeeper is here.  Oh shoot! I just realized I didn’t wash the cloths she uses to clean! Move sheets to drier and begin that wash.  Back to stovetop… And since housekeeper is here, I need to put away my daughter’s laundry, pick up the 400 book fair fliers that are on the living room floor in assembly line fashion (fold, label, staple principal letter).  What a mess.  Off to committee meeting… have to make 5 copies of my agenda real quick.  Grab a cup of ice water for the drive and head out with my folder of papers.  On the way, pool guy calls and says the coping we have chosen is one that stains and he wants to drop by at 2:00 with some other samples.  That’s the same time the exterminator is coming, but that should be fine.  Wait, can the bug guy come when it’s raining outside??? Email is going crazy.  Get brownies out of oven.  The construction guys are literally making sparks fly in my front lawn, cutting this metal.  Take photo to send Mr. B, who is in Dallas, I think.  Maybe Austin.  Write check for housekeeper in case she’s gone before I get back.  Have to stop at grocery store to get butter and powdered sugar for icing.  Oh, the lady I am selling that extra toy chest to is coming by this morning before 10 so I need to quickly put it out on the porch for her.  Phone ringing… I am being added as an account signer for Sisterhood and can I be somewhere on Tuesday… and now who is at the door? I’ve got to get out of here to my 10:00 meeting.

This was me for about an hour one morning last week.  I kid you not.  I am busy, busy, busy but it’s all good, I promise.  I feel like I used to feel when I was working at Ernst & Young – juggling multiple interesting projects and satisfied to be involved in so much fun stuff, meeting so many people I really liked.  Of course, I’m not being paid money right now, but I am thankful I don’t need to think about that aspect of life right now.  Well, I think about it, of course, because I balance the books and keep track of expenses and work with our financial advisor and pay the bills, but you know what I mean.  Juggling so much really is panic-inducing sometimes, but I generally feel great to be doing what I find meaningful.

I thought I’d just record what I have been doing with my time lately, just to see it all in one place.  SG’s schedule is sort of crazy as well.  She, and therefore I, go to theatre class on Monday, softball practice on Tuesday evening, dance class on Wednesday, art (and sometimes a softball private lesson) on Thursday, and Religious School and softball game on Sunday.  So far we’ve been able to have a snack and get her homework done before these activities.

School Book Fair chair – Brownie Troop Leader – Musical accompaniment for Religious School chapel services – Shirim Team at Religious School – Venture Philanthropy committee – Temple Sisterhood executive board – Mussar facilitator training – Adult Education committee – Softball team mom – various other boards – this blog…

My friends, I’ve got to take a short break from the blog for a few weeks.  The book fair is beginning very soon and there’s lots to do.  I have also been spending hours each day on Sisterhood tasks.  Both are short-term but intense projects so I’m going to say farewell until Thursday, December 1.  Mwah!

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House redo: the playroom

Directly opposite our front door is my daughter’s playroom.  I think originally it was a separate sitting room… more like a casual family space.  It would be a perfect office and probably will be someday.  For now, it’s more of an activity space for playing games and doing art projects.

donationsThis project began at the beginning of the summer with a HUGE purge.  Sweet Girl was motivated to update it into a “big girl” space and so, uncharacteristically, she was willing to part with many of her things that she doesn’t play with anymore.  There were many trips to Goodwill.

couchThe “old” playroom had an IKEA couch that folded out into a bed.  It took up a lot of room and was also super heavy, so I was happy to donate it to a family that needed a couch.  That new space really opened up the room.

pocket-doorAnother bonus is that we took out the little pocket door that connected this room to the guest bathroom.  When we were looking into wallpapering that bathroom (next post!), I realized that we were losing about 1/2 the wall space to this silly door we didn’t need. On the playroom side, I’d painted it with chalkboard paint, so we ultimately created something similar on the drywall.

chalk-boardshelvesThe large set of shelves and drawers (IKEA) we kept because it really is excellent storage.  What we added was a desktop and set of drawers, also from IKEA.  

playroom-overviewThis is a new create space for SG and she loves it.  She spent hours organizing her drawers! In fact, when I was putting them together, she was beyond excited and it was great motivation for me to keep going (especially since I’d already built two other drawer units for the craft room).  We got two chairs from IKEA so she could do projects with friends (or her momma).

You’ll notice we put in a TV.  The idea here was that it’ll be a fun hang-out space for when friends come over and as she gets older to watch movies, etc.  Right now she isn’t using it much.  The tv came from the master bedroom… I was against having a tv in the bedroom, but we put one there about a year ago.  We never turned it on! So no big deal to move it to a different room.

The little cubbies (originally from my craft room) were stacked in the hallway one day because I was thinking of donating them to Goodwill.  SG immediately knew she could use them.  Originally she had them under and on top of her desk, but that was very crowded, so I put them behind her. 

masterpiecesThe final touch was to put a display area for her artwork.  When we put up the row of shelves, she was doing a few weeks of summer art camp, bringing home all kinds of 3D creations.  This worked out perfectly.  The wire and clips are handy too.  So far we haven’t run out of room because we are ready to part with something old when something new comes in the house.

The great thing about this transformation is that it cost very little and made a big change in how the room feels.

What do you think?

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House redo: come on in (2)

Continued from Part 1

Our entryway is now a perfect reflection of us.  It’s nice to look at, feels open and spacious, and has a place to sit for a minute while waiting for the pizza delivery guy to show up.


entry-finalOn top of the console piece we have a pair of St. Enimie Round Glass Vases by Design Toscano (via Wayfair); the yellow bowl and the books are from Gilt.com;  I also got a flush mount ceiling fixture from AllModern.



The wall behind the curved wall is now our photo gallery.  I designed a pattern that I liked and then selected 9 favorite photos.  I promise it wasn’t as simple as that… first I hung up brown paper squares, then I kept changing sizes, etc.  Once I’d finalized the pattern, I created it in Excel to figure out the exact dimensions I needed.

photo-pattern-56-pm-pngThe photo sizes are: 1-24″ square; 4-16″ square; and 4- 16×24.  I ordered them from Nations Photo Lab with a 1/2″ black gatorboard backing.  I ended up painting the sides in black again just because they looked cheap they way they came.painting-the-edges

I hung them up with 3M mounting strips. They are very lightweight.  It looks incredible! It won’t be expensive to update with new images as I want to replace them.

img_4739So that’s our entry.  I’ve been keeping it decluttered and have definitely felt a calmness in that area.  I love walking toward the door and seeing the new mirror and console too.  Makes me happy!

Next stop: the playroom!

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House redo: come on in (1)

home-doormat-pngOur home is an extension of our self, so why not make sure you are representing yourself in your own home? Just like our bodies need maintenance to stay healthy, so do our homes to be happy and a source of good energy.  I felt that our home had “lost that lovin’ feelin” after 5 years and so I spent the summer updating it…

The very first impression of a house is at the front door and entryway.  I want to make it as easy as possible for friends and neighbors to feel welcome to stop by and visit.

We had a door latch that was broken so that once the deadbolt was unlocked, you could just push the door open.  Well, you had to push reeeeaaaaallly hard but it opened.  Some of you can probably write an entire essay on the meaning behind a broken door latch.

front-doorAll fixed.  I bought a new latch and we installed weatherproofing around the door frame.  Finally, we installed a sweep at the bottom of the door to seal the opening there.  Now it is easy breezy to open and close the door.

For the entryway itself, we were dealing with a lot of clutter and ineffective storage.  I had redone it a couple years ago to look more colorful, but it ended up looking like too much going on.  Here’s the before:

old-entry2-05-pmOn the other side is an curved wall with a cut-out to show the hallway wall that was also a little unorganized.  Here I was playing with putting the host chairs from the dining room there, as well as the little table from our screened in porch and the paintings from the living room.  We ended up doing just that.


After painting the house and after moving the existing furniture piece elsewhere, I began shopping for a statement entry piece of furniture that had drawers.  At first, I had my heart set on this piece below, which I must have visited in the High Fashion Home showroom 3 times.  It’s a Cynthia Rowley credenza.

almostAt one point, when I was about to purchase it, I thought to search for it online just to see if there was a better price elsewhere… and yes there was! It was $800 cheaper at a North Carolina furniture store.  High Fashion Home would not budge on their price, so I bought it in June from the N.C. store for delivery in October, which is when Hooker Furniture was creating more pieces.  Turned out that HFH wasn’t going to have it any sooner and they wouldn’t part with their floor sample.


I loved this bubble mirror, also from HFH, and bought it at 1/2 price.

All was good until I saw this Asian console at Reeves Furniture, a funky store in Houston where they refinish old pieces (although this one was in great condition and needed no work).  I absolutely loved how different it is and the finish, the color, and the quality were excellent.  I visited that one twice.


I was trying to match it to my new couch pillows and those 2 host chairs.  It’s not the same, but close enough, I decided.  And it was a good price.  I cancelled the first piece and purchased this one.  I am very happy with my decision.

I was supposed to pick up the mirror from the warehouse the following day, which was a story in itself (rain, wrong pickup address, crack in mirror, etc. Long story short, here I am bringing the new mirror home 6 weeks later.

entryI didn’t love the drawer pulls that came with the console piece.  After a rather exhaustive search online, I thought about painting them with a faux finish silver that I’d bought to use on the master bath mirrors.


I tried that and didn’t like where that was going, so I went with the rounded silver handles instead that you see below.

entry-hardware-ideasHere’s the finished entryway.  The mirror is large enough that the wall doesn’t need anything else.  The drawers are home to bug spray, chalk to decorate the driveway, a few scrapbooks, 2 umbrellas, and lots of empty space.


In part 2, I’ll show you the accent decor on top of the console and the new feature wall of photos behind the curved wall.

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House redo: the beginning

I have promised many people to provide some before & after updates on what we did to our home over the summer.  It quickly became all I did over the summer.  Things are now mostly complete, so here we go…home-doormat-pngHow did all this begin?

It all started with our living room… after I put Sweet Girl to bed, Mr. B and I like to catch up with each other.  He prefers the couch in the living room, but I could never get comfortable there.  I prefer the bedroom, but there’s no place to sit except the bed, and he would fall asleep the second he lay down!

So we set about making changes.  We decided to flip our living room arrangement, moving the tv to the opposite wall, turning the couch around, etc.  We liked it so then we ordered a sectional and waited 12 weeks for it to come in. (Separate living room post coming soon.)

As soon as the sectional arrived, we realized it looked just plain awful with the wall color in our house.   We had been thinking of painting anyway, at least the living room.  Our house was a cappuccino brown, which I must have liked 5 years ago because our lights, fans, lamps, cabinets, etc. were all a dark wood espresso color. We wanted to lighten the space and make it feel much larger and airier.

So we began getting paint samples.  At one point, I think every wall in the front of the house was striped with various shades of white and gray.  It’s so difficult to tell what a color looks like when it’s next to another color!

entry-ready-to-paintWe finally decided on Light Pewter by Benjamin Moore and we love it.  It provides a nice contrast with our newly painted white trim.  It’s light and fresh and soft.

Once I got a quote from our painter to do the kitchen, living room, entry, and hallway and it wasn’t too bad, I had him add the trim as well.  When we moved in and painted before, I really wanted white trim but the flippers we signed with just would not do it! They really thought off-white light switches and trim was best.

Along with the painting, I wanted to bring our house up to date furniture-wise with where we are in life right now.  I had lists of projects, which makes me nervous, so I got started right away.

entry-paintingThe project list:

  • Entry: new overhead fixture, repair broken latch on front door, furniture with drawers, mirror, move all photos to feature wall, modern decor, add lighting
  • Kitchen: lighting, repair drawer slides, fix broken wine fridge, and several projects that didn’t happen
  • Living room: new sofa, sofa pillows, end tables, lamps, lighting, console piece and decorate shelves
  • Front bathroom: wallpaper, remove pocket door, style
  • Office/craft room: more storage and create space
  • Playroom: desk, place to display artwork, clean out and update
  • SG’s room: new bed, paint fan, new bedding and drapes, paint
  • Hall closet: reorganize, install wrapping station and tool storage
  • Laundry room: light fixture, paint
  • Master bedroom: bed, nightstands, dresser, chair, bench, lighting
  • Master bath: sinks, granite, fixtures, mirrors, paint

boxesI started pinning ideas, shopping, and ordering.  At one point, we came home from a trip in July to all these boxes! It got a little insane there for awhile.

Some projects got nixed; some others got added.  As I got to know my new handyman’s skills, we added all sorts of cool ideas.

I’m really happy with how it looks and feels.  I look forward to showing you everything I did, room by room, over the next few weeks, starting with the entry, where you would enter the home and see it for the first time.  Come on in!

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September reading


Obviously, September here in blog-land was all about self-compassion.  It was fun to focus on one thing for a month, though I am happy to move on to other fun things.  I will start showing you some before and after pics from my house decoration redo.

Days of Awe by Lauren Fox

Motherhood, friendship, marriage, loss… the writing was excellent and touching, but the way the story unfolds is disjointed and sometimes irrelevant to the plot.  The book is intentionally raw, but the despair and confusion that comes through the pages is hard to take.  Sometimes I guess the marriage you’re fighting for doesn’t make it.  Sometimes you can’t come to peace with the loss of a best friend.  Sometimes you can’t be close with your teenage daughter.  But in fiction, it’s nice to at least have something work out!

“Love was foolish and inevitable. We were just waiting to be shattered by it. The days were finite, full of awe.”

The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion: Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions by Christopher K. Germer

Christopher Germer, a clinical psychologist affiliated with Harvard who specializes in the integration of mindfulness and psychotherapy, teaches self-compassion to most of his therapy clients. Chris is also a friend and colleague with whom I teach self-compassion workshops. He wrote the wonderful book The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion, which summarizes the knowledge he’s gained over the years while helping his clients to relate to themselves more compassionately.   practical techniques for living more fully in the present moment — especially when hard-to-bear emotions arise — and for being kind to yourself when you need it the most.

“The true development of self-compassion is the basis for fearlessness, generosity, inclusion, and a sustained loving-kindness and compassion for others.”

In this book Dr. Christopher Germer lays out the architecture of this skill development: the vision of freedom compassion can offer, the essential role of self-compassion, the path to realizing it rather than just thinking about it, and the practical tools, such as mindfulness, we need to effect that transformation.

Part I, Discovering Self-Compassion, shows you how to develop mindfulness and describes precisely what we mean and don’t mean by self-compassion. Part II, Practicing Loving-Kindness, gives in-depth instruction in one particular self-compassion practice—loving-kindness meditation—to serve as a foundation for a compassionate way of life. Part III, Customizing Self-Compassion, offers tips for adjusting the practice to your particular personality and circumstances and shows you how to achieve maximum benefit from the practice. Finally, in the appendices, you’ll find additional self-compassion exercises and resources for further reading and more intensive practice.

Hot Mess to Mindful Mom: 40 Ways to Find Balance, Joy, and Happiness in Your Every Day by Ali Katz

One (of many) think I liked about this book is that it consists of tiny chapters that make it simple to read a couple while in line somewhere or just before falling asleep at night.  Ali (I feel like we are friends!) has tips that make such sense that I have incorporated many into my daily routine already. For instance, I no longer check my phone at every red light.  Instead I take a few deep breaths, counting the inhale seconds and the exhale seconds.  We now take a few moments at dinner or at bedtime to list as many things that we are grateful for from that day.  I love this time and my family does too.

“I said it over and over until I believed it. “Cut yourself some slack. You are doing the best you can, and you always have. Even the silly things you have done and said were done with good intentions at the time. You didn’t set out to screw up! Everyone makes mistakes, and those are the experiences that help us to learn, grow, and become better people.”   Instead of begrudging the painful and embarrassing experiences, I began to reframe them and feel grateful because they did help me grow. If I hadn’t learned from them, I may still be trying to one-up other moms with my kids’ test scores and how many goals they scored on the soccer field.”

Her goals are my goals: get rest, stop rushing, savor my child, connect to my intuition, practice gratitude, gain confidence in myself.  So her solutions are now my solutions.  I subscribed to The Skimm, a humorous daily news summary in an email.  I disregard opinions of people who are not important to me and agree to disagree.  I am aiming to surround myself with people who accept me for who I am.  I plan to use her “mini-meditation” idea for finding a quiet minute during a busy day.

Her words here are extremely comforting to me.  I’ve put them as a note in my phone to use as a reminder when something feels forced or I feel impatient about something.  I feel a huge relief every time I read them.

“Timing was everything. I would have been a basket case if this happened a few years earlier. I believe in divine timing and trust it completely. Each one of us is just where we need to be right now. It is the right time and place for what is happening in our lives. The stars do align for each and every one of us when they are meant to. I have the utmost faith that the next phase of my growth will come just when I am ready for it. The questions may get even harder, but I will be up for answering them. It won’t be a minute too late, or a minute too soon.”

The best lesson from Katz’s book has been my newfound attempt to be present more often.  In fact, just now my daughter fell down and hit her head, sobbing and shaken up… and I was able to calmly just sit with her while she settled down, offering comfort and kisses.  I would have done that before, of course, but I would have been in my own panic and fear, heart beating fast, reaching for my phone to tell Mr. B.  I find this new calm much better!

Jewish Spiritual Parenting: Wisdom, Activities, Rituals and Prayers for Raising Children with Spiritual Balance and Emotional Wholeness by Paul Kipnes, Michelle November

I feel like I know Paul and Michelle and their wonderful family very well after reading this book.  They share how raising their 3 kids led them to a sense of spiritual wholeness, and how they presented ideas and questions to their children to encourage their spiritual growth in order to bring goodness into the world.

The book is divided into two parts: Building Foundations focuses on spirituality, partnership, parental contraction (withdrawing to enable the child to work through a problem), family, and truth. The second part addresses the practices of spiritual living and how we can nurture a child’s Jewish spirituality – living holy lives; living in God’s image; caring for our body, mind, and spirit; reframing and deciding; practicing loving-kindness; and celebrating life with joy.  Along the way I got some excellent ideas for making Passover and Chanukah much more meaningful for our family.

We begin focused on our partnership as parents, figuring out our main goals and the values we want to impart in our children.  Paul and Michelle provide an abundance of activities and ideas for starting new rituals with your own family.  We have started a few here.  I love their ideas for how best to connect with your kids.  I really cannot say enough good things about this book, especially in the reinforcement I felt in raising my daughter to make good choices.   Each child is a sacred gift, unique and special.  Their words opened my eyes again to what a privilege it is to be a parent.

Someone Will Be with You Shortly: Notes from a Perfectly Imperfect Life by Lisa Kogan

This one I had to stop reading halfway through out of annoyance.  I can’t really figure out WHY.  I like her tongue-in-cheek, self-deprecating humor and found her topics interesting.  Maybe it’s the smartish way she combines phrases and soundbites and strange made-up adjectives all in one long sentence after another.  I found it irritating.  Still, she had a lot of good things to say.

“Every now and again, we want somebody else to pick the restaurant, arrange the playdate, plan the seating, buy the tickets, do the laundry, schedule the appointment, pack the bags, balance the books, send the gift, walk the dog, fill out the forms, break the silence, lift the ban, make the payment, count the calories, hold the phone, explain the joke, beat the odds, hit the ground running, win the race, and save the day while we sleep past noon beneath high-thread-count sheets and a cashmere blanket. In other words, we want time off for good behavior.”

Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Kristin Neff

paraphrase: Kristin Neff, Ph.D., says that it’s time to “stop beating yourself up and leave insecurity behind.” Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind offers expert advice on how to limit self-criticism and offset its negative effects, enabling you to achieve your highest potential and a more contented, fulfilled life.  This groundbreaking work will show you how to let go of debilitating self-criticism and finally learn to be kind to yourself. Using solid empirical research, personal stories, practical exercises, and humor, Dr. Neff—the world’s foremost expert on self-compassion—explains how to heal destructive emotional patterns so that you can be healthier, happier, and more effective. Engaging, highly readable, and eminently accessible, this book has the power to change your life.

This book is about developing a healthy relationship with yourself.  Since I spend all of September writing about self-compassion, you can read more here.

Try to feel compassion for how difficult it is to be an imperfect human being in this extremely competitive society of ours. Our culture does not emphasize self-compassion, quite the opposite. We’re told that no matter how hard we try, our best just isn’t good enough. It’s time for something different. We can all benefit by learning to be more self-compassionate, and now is the perfect time to start.

Shma Koleinu: A Jewish People’s Commentary on the Siddur by Steven Schwarzman

This book is a collection of beautiful reflections on words from our prayerbook.  Rabbi Schwarzman and others (rabbis, cantors, etc.) reach into the meaning behind the prayers to bring forth stories, lessons, or thought-provoking insights.

“God knows the numbers of the stars, calling each one by name. We are part of a universe that is not left unattended. Our own part in it may be small, but that does not diminish our importance to God. The stars count, and so do we.” ~ Rabbi Steven Schwarzman writing about Psalm 147


The Light Between Oceans: A Novel by M.L. Stedman

“Anyone who’s worked on the Offshore Lights can tell you about it—the isolation, and the spell it casts. Like sparks flung off the furnace that is Australia, these beacons dot around it, flickering on and off, some of them only ever seen by a handful of living souls. But their isolation saves the whole continent from isolation—keeps the shipping lanes safe, as vessels steam the thousands of miles to bring machines and books and cloth, in return for wool and wheat, coal and gold: the fruits of ingenuity traded for the fruits of earth. The isolation spins its mysterious cocoon, focusing the mind on one place, one time, one rhythm—the turning of the light. The island knows no other human voices, no other footprints. On the Offshore Lights you can live any story you want to tell yourself, and no one will say you’re wrong: not the seagulls, not the prisms, not the wind.”

Holy tears, batman! I don’t know if I’ve ever cried so much while reading a book.   This one just tugs on heartstrings you don’t know you have.  The story here is basically one where good people make a bad decision and one of them regrets it so much that the outcome seems inevitable.  And this sweet little girl… amazing how many people love her and yet how much pain they hold because of her.  Who knows what we would do in the same situation… an isolated island, 3 previous miscarriages, and then you hear a baby’s voice carried by the wind toward you.

Stedman’s characters were drawn so completely that they felt real to me.  Human and flawed, yet lovable and understandable as well.  The ethical question kept me riveted until the very last sentence.  And the writing… beautiful.

A Gentleman in Moscow: A Novel by Amor Towles

“Alexander Rostov was neither scientist nor sage; but at the age of sixty-four he was wise enough to know that life does not proceed by leaps and bounds.  It unfolds.  At any given moment, it is the manifestation of a thousand transitions.  Our faculties wax and wane, our experiences accumulate, and our opinions evolve — if not glacially, then at least gradually.  Such that the events of an average day are as likely to transform who we are as a pinch of pepper is to transform a stew.  And yet, for the Count, when the doors to Anna’s bedroom opened and Sofia stepped forward in her gown, at that very moment she crossed the threshold into adulthood.  On one side of that divide was a girl of five or ten or twenty with a quiet demeanor and a whimsical imagination who relied upon him for companionship and counsel; while on the other  side was a young woman of discernment and grace who need rely on no one but herself.”

This one I read because I found Rules of Civility to be absolutely amazing (read my review). Towles’ writing is so elegant and full.  Interestingly, I have often thought about what it’d be like to live in a hotel permanently.  The maid service and meals would be nice.  In this story, the main character is under house arrest in Bolshevik and Communist Russia in the hotel where he already lives.  His personal integrity already impressed me, but following him through his conversations and relationships, learning about the Russian revolution from the viewpoint of one man already isolated, seeing good prevail over cruelty and heartbreak… ah, this is truly a great book.  One of the best.  And the ending! Wow.

An interesting side note.  Towles says the structure of his book “takes the shape of a diamond on its side.  From the moment the Count passes through the hotel’s revolving doors, the narrative begins opening steadily outward.  Over the next two hundred pages, detailed descriptions accumulate of people, rooms, objects, memories, and minor events, many of which seem almost incidental.  But then, as the book shifts into its second half, the narrative begins to narrow and all of the disparate elements from the first half converge.”  I wish I’d known this before reading it because the first 75 pages or so were a little rough getting through.  Well worth it all, I promise you.

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