One Step At a Time, One Book At a Time

This past weekend, I attended the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. For those who aren’t familiar with it, the Festival of Books is a huge, two-day, annual event held on the campus of USC (University of Southern California). 

Years ago, before my son was born, I went to the Festival every year. Back then it was held on the campus of UCLA (University of California Los Angeles.) 

I attended the Festival last year for the first time in many years. There was a certain thrill and energy that came with being surrounded by all things book-related, at attending an event that is a true celebration of books and authors. 

This year, though, I really wasn’t sure if I should go or not. Because I haven’t been feeling well lately. Because my pain level has been high and my energy level has been low. 

That’s the hard part for me — deciding when to push myself and when to hold back and admit that my body needs rest.

The truth was, I really wanted to go. I didn’t want to stay home because I was worried about my pain or the heat. I wanted to prove that I’m still capable of being out in the world, doing things I feel passionately about, not letting my illness completely dictate my life. 

I tried to make it as easy and stress-free as possible for myself by not attending any panel discussions or book signings. I didn’t want to have to worry about being in a particular place at a particular time. 

I simply strolled around the Festival, wearing my mask and sunhat, and doing my best to be present and enjoy the experience.  

I admit — I did start to daydream about what it would be like to be an author with my own exhibition area, selling copies of my memoir. Immediately I thought of giving out small, wrapped candies to those who stopped at my table. (Starburst and Hershey’s Kisses came to mind, though the Kisses might melt in the heat. Jolly Ranchers could be another possibility.)

I walked around, I took pictures, I picked up books, chatted with some authors, and bought three books, even though I have more than a dozen books at home, just waiting for me to read them. 

I loved being there. But, (you knew there was a but coming) it was incredibly hard on my body. It took me about 15 minutes to walk from the parking structure to the exhibition area. Plus, I had parked on level 5 which meant I would ordinarily take the elevator down to the ground level. However, eager attendees were crowding onto the elevator each time it stopped at 5, and I will not ride in a super-crowded elevator. (During my teaching years, I once was stuck in the school elevator for 55 minutes one morning.) So I walked down five flights of stairs. (Thankfully when it was time for me to leave, no one else was waiting for the elevator so I rode it up to parking level 5.)

When I felt my speed decreasing, when I found myself searching for a place to sit and rest in the shade, I knew it was time to go. That’s when the mask comes in handy. No one can see me talking to myself as I retraced my steps back to the parking area. One step at a time. Okay, you can do this. 

Am I glad I went? Yes. 

But I’m also sad. Because I miss the old days, the years I could just go out and do something without weighing all the possible risks. When I didn’t have to worry about having a pain-hangover the day (or days) after a particularly strenuous activity. 

Monthly Book Highlights of 2022

As we approach the last week-and-a-half of 2022, I find myself reflecting on the year and thinking about the books I have read. As of this post, I have read 50 books this year, though that is short of my Goodreads Reading Challenge of 57 I had optimistically set back in January. 

This week, rather than focus on the books I didn’t read, I’m going to highlight one book from each month of 2022.


The first book I finished this year was Claire Cook’s Life Glows On. I felt like I was starting the year on the right foot, reading about creativity — the ways we demonstrate creativity, the reasons why we need to dedicate time and energy to creative endeavors.


During the shortest month of the year, I read Moms Don’t Have Time to Have Kids: A Timeless Anthology edited by Zibby Owens. As I wrote in my blog post: “I found myself relating to so many of the authors. The specifics may differ (where we live, how many kids we have, the ages of our kids) but the emotions are universal.”


In March, I read First Lady Dr. Jill Biden’s memoir Where the Light Enters: Building a Family, Discovering Myself. I loved reading about Dr. Biden’s passion for teaching, because I know that passion.


I picked up Just Haven’t Met You Yet by Sophie Cousens because I wanted a fun, entertaining read. This novel was that, and more. (Which reminds me, I still haven’t read her other novels.)


Jane Goodall’s The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times was a powerful book with a powerful message.


We’re a basketball family. And while our team will always be the L.A. Clippers, we respect and appreciate many players on many different teams. The “Greek Freak,” aka Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks is one such player, and why I was interested in reading Giannis.


Brighter By the Day: Waking Up to New Hopes and Dreams is the third book I have read by Robin Roberts. The book feels like a pep talk Robin Roberts is sharing with you, simply because she believes in you and just wants the best for you.


Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomon is much more than a rom-com. Plus, there’s that exciting feeling knowing an author you have recently discovered has written other books you have yet to read.


Jean Meltzer’s Mr. Perfect on Paper was such a great read. I love that Ms. Meltzer writes books featuring a protagonist who is not only Jewish, but who also lives with an invisible chronic illness. (Be sure to also check out her first novel, The Matzah Ball, perfect for reading during Hanukkah.)


Love and Saffron by Kim Fay was a story told through the letters two women write to each other during the 1960s. I was instantly intrigued because I have a pen pal. We have been exchanging letters for almost thirty years!


Book Lovers by Emily Henry is a special book, for a couple of reasons. First, I bought it during our family trip to Maui. And secondly, it earned five stars on my Goodreads review. 


Jasmine Guillory’s Royal Holiday was an entertaining holiday romance. It was a fun escape to be able to open the book and slip into this other world.

Readers, feel free to share some of your favorite books that you read during 2022!

Some of My Books – From A to Z

My A-E books

I am in the process of reorganizing my bookcase. I’m running out of space (which I’ve already written about in a blog post titled “So Many Books, Not Enough Space” and I’m hoping that my reorganizing will make some more space, and maybe reveal some books I no longer wish to keep in my personal library. (I usually donate these books to my local public library or my neighborhood little free library.)

I have too many books to list them all here, but here’s an A to Z List of Books on my white Ikea bookcase. Are any of these titles on your bookcase? Let me know in the comments.

A The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel. Such a good book, providing this look into the lives of these incredible women. 

B Beyond the Diaper Bag edited by Megan Bekkedahl and Melaina Lausen. The first time one of my essays was published in an anthology. 

C Chronic Resilience: 10 Sanity-Saving Strategies for Women Coping with the Stress of Illness by Danea Horn. Should be required reading for all those living with chronic illness and those living with someone who has a chronic illness.

D Dream When You’re Feeling Blue by Elizabeth Berg. A touching story full of rich images and sensory details. The relationship these sisters have, the sacrifice one can make for another, the forms true love can take —  beautiful. 

E Everyone is Beautiful by Katherine Center. This book captivated me at the first sentence: “The day I decided to change my life, I was wearing sweatpants and an old oxford of Peter’s with a coffee stain down the front.“ It was the first book I read by Katherine Center, and now, anything she writes, I definitely buy. More than that, I pre-order it, in hardcover, from her favorite independent hometown bookstore because she signs them!

F The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary. Such a delightful read while at the same time touching upon some serious topics. 

G Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert. This novel remains on my haven’t-read-yet shelf. But I am looking forward to diving into this friend-recommended book that features a protagonist who lives with a chronic illness. 

H Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly. I admit to watching the movie before buying and reading the book. 

I Instant Mom by Nia Vardolos. The specifics may vary, but I found so much of what Ms. Vardolos wrote — about parenting, about living with an autoimmune disease —so very relatable. 

J Just Haven’t Met You Yet by Sophie Cousens. So much more than the delightful, escape sort-of-read I thought it would be. 

K Kicking in the Wall: A Year of Writing Exercises, Prompts, and Quotes to Help You Break Through Your Blocks and Reach Your Writing Goalsby Barbara Abercrombie. A book I have read more than once, filled with writing prompts that I utilize during my daily five-minute writing exercises. 

L Leaving Orbit: Notes From the Last Days of American Spaceflight by Margaret Lazarus Dean. What an incredible “inside scoop” sort of book. The young girl in me, the girl who dreamed of becoming an astronaut, so enjoyed this book! 

M Mr. Perfect on Paper by Jean Meltzer.  I really enjoyed Ms. Meltzer’s first novel (The Matzah Ball) and am excited to read this one. For now, my pre-ordered signed copy remains on my to-be-read shelf. 

N No Cure for Being Human: And Other Truths I Need to Hear by Kate Bowler.  My copy of this book is full of sticky notes! Which reminds me — I still haven’t read Ms. Bowler’s other book Everything Happens For a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved. (I love these titles!)

O Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year by Anne Lamott. I remember reading this book during those first few months of my son’s life. When Ryan woke during the night, I fed him, kissed, him, and placed him back in his crib. Then I’d sit in the next room reading Operating Instructions until I knew Ryan had fallen back asleep and it was safe for me to go back to bed.   

P People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry. Not just an enjoyable book, but it’s the book I read on our family vacation to Maui. 

Q Quint and Drik’s Hero Quest by Max Brallier. I admit — this book is on my son’s bookcase, because I couldn’t find any “Q” books on my bookcase. I have read this book with my son, so this feels like an okay cheat-of-sorts. 

R Reaching for the Stars: The Inspiring Story of a Migrant Farmworker Turned Astronaut by José Moreno Hernández. I love reading about the paths astronauts have taken, the decisions and challenges that led them to outer space. 

S Surviving and Thriving with an Invisible Chronic Illness: How to Stay Sane and Live One Step Ahead of Your Symptoms by Ilana Jacqueline. I do wish I had found this book closer to when I received my diagnosis.

T The Things We Don’t Say edited by Julie Morgenlender. Though one of my personal essays is included in this anthology, and you may think I’m biased, I really do believe I’ve never come across another book quite like this one. The chronic illnesses may vary, but many of the emotions and experiences are so universal.  

U Untamed by Glennon Doyle. A friend gave me this book, but it still remains on my to-be-read shelf. 

V The Victoria’s Secret Catalog Never Stops Comingand Other Lessons I Learned from Breast Cancer by Jennie Nash. Many years ago, I took a class Jennie Nash taught through the Writers’ Program at UCLA Extension. Now Jennie is the CEO of Author Accelerator. 

W The Wildwater Walking Club by Claire Cook. A story about the power of walking and the power of female friendship. (And if you like this one, there are two more books in this series.) 

X Fox in Socks by Dr. Seuss. I’m really stretching it here. This book isn’t even on my son’s bookcase anymore. But it is packed away with other childhood favorites. Such a fun book to read, it was on constant rotation here at home and when I taught kindergarten. 

Y Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes. When I read this book, I marked many pages with sticky notes. Sometimes I think about reading it again, but then I look at my to-be-read shelf, and decide to read one of those first.  

Z Bookends: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Literature by Zibby Owens. I admit, I’m cheating on this one a bit, because the author’s name, and not the title of the book, starts with a Z. 

Bibliophile: Diverse Spines

There are some books that are true gifts to literature. 

They are books that are perfect gifts for those who regard books as magical, powerful, delightful, important, and necessary. 

In other words, these are the books for true book lovers. 

Bibliophile: Diverse Spines by Jamise Harper and Jane Mount is such a gift. (In fact, I gifted a copy to a couple of my book-loving friends.)

This smallish book is really a beautiful work of art. Filled with delightful illustrations  by Jane Mount, the book is a celebration of diverse stories.

“The authors, illustrators, designers, store owners, and bookstagrammers highlighted in this book are all Black, Indigenous, and people of color, most existing in spaces where they have been marginalized by a dominant white society.” 

Whether you are looking to diversify your own reading list or you’re looking for recommendations for a particular genre this is the book for you.

If you’ll be traveling and are interested in visiting a bookstore while you’re away, this is the book for you.

If you’re a teacher and/or parent and are wanting to make sure your children see themselves represented in the books on their shelves, this is the book for you.

If you’re curious about an author’s writing space, this is the book for you.

If you’re looking to expand your want-to-read list, this is the book for you.

So Many Books, Not Enough Space

Lovey (aka Jill) and books from a long time ago

I have a “situation.” 

It’s not serious enough to be classified as a problem. 

And, it’s really not a terrible situation to be in. 

I am running out of shelf space. 

This year, I have bought more books than I usually do. Because of the #22in22 initiative (if you’re not familiar with the initiative, you can click here to read an earlier blog post about it), I find myself not just visiting more bookstores, but shopping in these bookstores. Which means, I have a stack full of books that I have yet to read. And, I am running out of space for all these books.

I decided to spend some time trying to re-arrange my shelves. Was there another way, a more efficient way, to stack my books? Generally, I try to keep one author’s novels grouped together. For nonfiction, I try to group them by subject when possible. 

On a bottom shelf I found a few books that I haven’t looked at in a long time. These were books I read quite a long time ago. Before adulthood. Before I moved out of my parents’ house when I was twenty-two. These are books that moved with me when my then-fiancé, now-husband moved in together. And when we moved from our one bedroom apartment to our current three-bedroom townhome, these books moved with me. But even more than that, these books were moved and unpacked and put on my bookcase. 

Now the time has come to move these books to another location. They will be moved into a large plastic box I have in my closet, a box that has a few pieces of jewelry that were important to me when I was younger, a doll that had two names (Lovey and Jill), and a little scooper I made in my junior high school metal shop class. 

I’m not ready to donate these books. But I am ready to claim their shelf space.

Readers, I’m curious. Do you have any books from your childhood that you’ve held on to? Please share!!

Book Lover = Book Buyer

Why do you buy the books you do? (Notice how I just automatically assume you’re a book-buyer.)

I just finished reading Emily Henry’s People We Meet on Vacation (so enjoyable, 4-stars on Goodreads). And now comes the hard part — deciding which book to read next. 

I looked at my over-flowing books-to-read shelf and realized I buy books for different reasons.

Recommendation from a friend:

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert 

Read and loved a book written by this author and felt compelled to buy the author’s latest release:

Book Lovers by Emily Henry

Brighter By the Day: Waking Up to New Hopes and Dreams by Robin Roberts

The Switch by Beth O’Leary

These Precious Days: Essays by Ann Patchett

Watched and/or listened to an author interview and was then inspired to purchase their book:

All In: An Autobiography Billie Jean King

Love & Saffron: A Novel of Friendship, Food, and Love by Kim Fay

Heard good things about the book:

Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Heard good things about the book and met the author:

After Happily Ever After by Leslie A. Rasmussen

For my own knowledge as I write my memoir-in-essays:

Before and After the Book Deal: A Writer’s Guide to Finishing, Publishing, Promoting, and Surviving your First Book by Courtney Maum

Blueprint for a Nonfiction Book: Plan and Pitch Your Big Idea by Jennie Nash

Your turn readers. What books are on your shelf waiting to be read? What motivated you to buy them? Please share; I’m always looking to add titles to my “want-to-read” list. 

“Bad” Habits

These are just a few of the books I have bought but haven’t yet read.

I have a few “bad” habits. 

I use quotation marks around bad, because it’s a subjective term. My bad habits could be someone else’s “no-big-deal” habits. And they’re not bad-bad, they’re just things I could improve on.

1. I leave the printer on. Long after I’m done printing, I often forget to power it off.

2. I push through and keep to my schedule regardless of how I’m feeling. If Wednesday is my day to Swiffer the floors and vacuum the area rugs, I do it. Regardless of my pain level, I feel I must maintain my schedule.

3. I buy too many books. I have so many books on my shelf, waiting to be read. My “want-to-read” list on Goodreads numbers in the hundreds. Some of these books are written by authors whose other books I have enjoyed. Some are books I bought after listening to the author talk on a podcast or interview of some sort. 

While this doesn’t mean I plan to stop buying books, it does mean I’m aware of the situation. And the lack of available shelf space. 

How about you, readers? Any “bad” habits you want to share? Do you find yourself buying more books than you should?

Books, Books, and More Books

Last week, I did something I haven’t done since early 2020.

I went inside my public library.

During the pandemic, I was lucky enough to still be checking out books from my library, but through a system of reserving specific titles and arranging a day and time to pick them up.

But the library is open again. Open for leisurely browsing. For stocking up. For being in awe of the sheer number of books I have yet to read.

I first thought I’d go into the library with no plans. Just me, my library card, and my empty tote bag. And I’d stroll among the shelves, picking up books, reading the summaries on the back cover, and bringing home as many books as I wanted. (Or as many as I could carry in my bag.)

But then that thought made me feel a bit overwhelmed. There is such a thing as too much choice. 

So I handled the visit to the library the same way I handle my grocery shopping.

It’s considered foolish to grocery shop on an empty stomach. I thought the same rule should apply to me in a library. I was hungry for books. For the freedom to walk in and pick up books because something — a cover, a title — caught my eye. 

So I made a list.

I went online and accessed the library’s catalog. And wrote down the call numbers for books that had been on my “want-to-read” list. I limited myself to eight books. (I’m not sure how I settled on eight, except that ten seemed too many, and eight seemed close enough to ten.)

I went to the library and made my way around the shelves, gathering my books, until my bag was heavier than I expected (I didn’t realize one book was a hardcover and over 400 pages long). 

And I came home happy. With eight books including memoir (Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood), poetry (Mary Oliver’s Devotions), and fiction (Linda Holmes’s Evvie Drake Starts Over) to name a few.

Libraries are open again, and in case you couldn’t tell, I was smiling under my mask.

(The public library still requires patrons to wear masks in consideration of the younger readers who don’t yet have access to a vaccine.)

Thinking Pink Means Reading Pink

It’s June 23rd which means it’s National Pink Day. A day to celebrate “all things pink.” 

Some might think of the color pink and think of baby girls or cotton candy. 

Some might think of the singer and songwriter.

And others might think of Elle Woods and Legally Blonde

I learned about National Pink Day and thought of books. 

Here are some of my favorite pink books.

Beyond the Diaper Bag created by Megan Bekkedahl and Melaina Lausen

This book has a special place in my heart. It was the first time one of my personal essays (“5 Things I Wish Every Parent Knew Before Sending their Child to Kindergarten”) was published in an anthology.

Swapping Lives by Jane Green

A novel I read years ago that takes you on the journey of “What if…” What if you could imagine a different life? What if you stepped into another woman’s life?

The Victoria’s Secret Catalog Never Stops Coming and Other Lessons I Learned From Breast Cancer by Jennie Nash

This book showed me in a big way that authors publish books that are collections of personal essays. I read this book and thought, “Yes, it can be done. Yes, I can write about my autoimmune disease.”

The Pretty One: On Life, Pop Culture, Disability, and Other Reasons to Fall in Love With Me by Keah Brown

Another book that has served as inspiration, giving me a nudge, encouraging me to write my story. 

In case you missed it, you can click here to read my earlier blog post, “Connecting With The Pretty One.”

The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley

I checked this novel out of the library but enjoyed it so much I bought my own copy to add to my personal library collection.

Keep Moving: Notes on Loss, Creativity, and Change by Maggie Smith

I won an advance reader’s edition from a Goodreads Giveaway (the only time I have won from the many giveaways I have entered). You’ll find my copy is full of sticky notes marking the many encouraging statements. A book I’ll return to again and again.

Chronic Resilience by Danea Horn

I consider it an act of serendipity that I discovered this important book. It is a must-read for anyone living with a chronic illness. (I have read it more than once and emailed a fan letter/thank you note to the author!)

What about you readers? Any favorite pink books? 

5 Inspirational Books

Did you know Friday, August 9th is National Book Lovers Day?

To celebrate – the day; the power of books; and those of us who find comfort, knowledge, and entertainment between their pages; I’d like to share with you books I have found helpful, inspirational, and just plain good.  Books I have turned to (some of them more than once) as I navigate this journey of living with an invisible disability.

The Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan.  You can click here to read my blog post citing some of the passages that most touched me.

Chronic Resilience by Danea Horn.  This is one of the few books I ordered from Amazon without ever having seen a physical copy of the book.  I’m so glad I did.  I’ve read it a few times now.

Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes.  You can click here to read the blog post I wrote while in the middle of reading this book. I will tell you that this was one of those books that started conversations among people I didn’t know, people who saw me carrying this book and reading this book and felt a connection to it as well.

Everybody’s Got Something by Robin Roberts.  This book came recommended by a friend of mine (you can read my blog post about it here). 

And that led me to:

From the Heart: Eight Rules to Live By by Robin Roberts.  You can click here to read my blog post, gushing with praise for this book. 



Readers, I’d love to learn about the books you turn to for help, for guidance, for strength, or just a plain-ole-good read!  Feel free to share in the comments section.