Archive of ‘Ultimate Blog Challenge’ category


January Wrap-Up

January has been a busy month of reading and writing, job hunting and freelancing, and networking and napping. Believe me, the naps were taken out of necessity, not laziness. On the last day of January and this blog challenge, here are some of my successes this month.

  • I wrote 28 blog posts this month! The goal is 31, but I consider this a win. The days I decided not to post were due to long days, technical difficulties, and a little burnout.  Besides these posts, I have written numerous cover letters, updated my LinkedIn page, composed a few things for submission, and drafted some e-newsletters and social media posts for others. I also enrolled in a writing workshop and put together some pieces that are not yet ready for the general public. Maybe someday I’ll post them. Overall, it has been a productive writing month.
  • I read four fantastic books, which is 1/12 of my reading goal for the year. My book reviews seem pretty popular, so I will continue to put those together. And please keep sending me your recommendations!
  • I’ve been working on a project that has been years in the making. It’s not the book I keep talking about, although I’m making progress with my essay collection/memoir. I can’t give you any details just yet, but I’m excited and hope to share more with you soon.

Looking Ahead

February is my birthday month! I will turn another year older and wiser in a few weeks. I will finish up my Chat GPT certification soon and earn another certificate in social media for nonprofits. I’ve got four more books on my nightstand to enjoy and another month of blogging with a few naps in between. 🙂

Thank You!

Thanks for reading my posts, everyone. And special thanks to my Ultimate Blog Challenge family. It is an honor and privilege to write and share my posts with you. If anyone reading this has a blog for their business or pleasure and wants to learn more about this challenge let me know. We are a supportive online group who want to hear your stories or learn from your area of expertise. The next month-long challenge is in April. Let’s talk.



End of January 2024 Book Report

It’s the end of the month, which means it’s time for another book review blog post! It’s been a good start to my reading year. So far, all four books have been winners. My biggest problem now is to figure out what books to read next. I’m doing a Backlist Book Challenge, where certain pub years are given, and I’m supposed to find books on my shelf from that year to read. The first year is 2014. I’ve had one book on my shelf that I’ve wanted to read for a long time. “The Secret Keeper” by Kate Morton was published in 2014. I’ve heard people say that this is one of their favorite books of all time. So, because of those rave reviews and the pub date, it is now further up on my TBR list. That is after I finish the three books I’m reading now. 🙂

But before we get to those books, here is what I read at the end of January.

Family Family by Laurie Frankel

This is such a fantastic book but a tough one to review. I hope this makes sense, and I do it justice.

Many films depict negative stereotypes about adoption. Off the top of my head, there is the rescue trope, such as in musicals like Oliver or Annie and, more recently, The Blind Side. Other movies focus on more dramatic or sinister adoption stories like Orphan (horror) or Losing Isaiah (drama). The only film about adoption that I haven’t cringed at and quite enjoyed is Juno, a compassionate story about teen pregnancy and successful adoption (with a twist).

The book Family Family falls into the compassionate category, thankfully. The main character, India, is a woman who is pregnant at 16 and decides to place her baby with a single mother. India goes on to have a successful acting career that she always dreamed of and later adopts two kids of her own. But after she acts in a movie about a tragic adoption, she feels compelled to set the record straight about these types of stories. She lets the viewing public know that most adoptions are without pain and regret. Her comments set off a publicity firestorm that jeopardizes her career but also brings her entire family back together.

This book had well-developed characters, a terrific storyline, and a heartwarming message. All the things I love about a great read. I love how the author shows how dreams of having a family can come true through adoption. While it can sometimes be complicated, family is family, whether biological or otherwise. There are so many more times when adoption results in a loving and permanent relationship as opposed to what you see in the movies. But I guess those films don’t sell as many tickets.

Books written by this author, Laurie Frankel, are a must-buy for me. I also loved her book, This Is How It Always Is, which is about a family with a transgender child. Family Family has a special place in Frankel’s heart because she also adopted her children, so she speaks from experience. Her author’s note at the end was poignant and compelling. I wish it were at the beginning of the book to set the scene, but I guess it wasn’t necessary. But please don’t skip it. It’s a must read, just like this book.

Things You Save In A Fire by Katherine Center

I try to avoid books that receive a ton of publicity and hype. Too often, I am disappointed. But after many recommendations from friends (Thanks, Meryl! 🙂 ),  I decided to give it a chance.

I’m so glad I did!

Here is the setup for Things You Save in a Fire. Cassie is the only female firefighter in her new firehouse. She has to prove herself to the rest of the squad (I wonder if that’s the correct term… ). She has to deal with poor facilities and a need for more funding for equipment. She also takes her share of teasing and hazing like a champ at first, but then things go a little too far, and she needs to figure out who to trust. Meanwhile, Cassie also moves back in with her estranged mother, and the relationship there is tense but not hopeless.

I didn’t like Cassie at the beginning of the story. She is tough on the outside and disrespectful to her mother, who needs her help. But once she started to melt a little (mild spoiler alert), I liked her more and more.

It was also to have an insider’s look into the life of a firefighter which was interesting. I like reading about different careers that I would never do. I have a new appreciation for these heroes in our communities.

What I’m Reading Next

I’m in the middle of two books right now and have a third waiting in the wings. One is a craft book on writing called “1,000 Words: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Creative, Focused, and Productive All Year Round.” On the fiction side, I’m reading a 500+ page book entitled “The Most Fun We Ever Had.” I was told that if I like the TV show Parenthood, I’d love this book. So far…so good. It’s a library book, and I hope it is eligible for renewal because this will take a while. I also just picked up John Stamos’s memoir, “If You Would Have Told Me.” I heard one podcaster say he clearly wrote this for the paycheck, but I’m willing to try it.

What are you reading? Also, do you have any book-related questions for me? I’m happy to answer them in a future blog post!

Let me know in the comments.




Sunday Thoughts

In the spirit of Facebook’s existential question, “What’s On Your Mind?” this post will answer that question.

Jenna’s Birthday

Today is my daughter’s 23rd birthday. Last night, my husband and I reminisced about the early years when Jenna barely napped. It all makes sense now. She never wanted to miss a thing. She still doesn’t. She is also a night owl, which explains why she used to keep us up until all hours of the night. Now that she is on her own, she can stay up as late as she wants.

As she grew older and learned more about the world around her, she asked me questions about issues on the news. She wanted to know why women don’t always get paid the same as men, why same-sex couples couldn’t marry, and why racial profiling was a thing. We talked about the pros and cons of presidential candidates way before she was old enough to vote. The more answers I gave her, the more questions she raised. In some respects, explaining the birds and the bees to her was easier than the different political opinions regarding gun control.

I still think this kid will make a hell of a lawyer or politician someday—if she so chooses. Whatever she decides to do, she has the mind of a social justice warrior and a caring heart, which is a part of her that will never be diminished.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Yesterday, we remembered the six million people who died in the Holocaust, along with millions of others from minority communities. We always say “Never Again,” but we know the rumblings of antisemitism are happening again. On college campuses. In the United Nations. On the main streets of major cities and small towns. In my community. According to the Anti-Defamation League, antisemitism is up 388% since Hamas’s attack on Israel on October 7th of last year, when they killed 1200 innocent people in one day and kidnapped 200+, many of whom are still being held hostage.

This day reminds me that choosing to wear my Jewish star necklace in public, attend synagogue, celebrate holidays, and participate in my congregation’s activities is a blessing and a powerful choice that I don’t take for granted. I pray for all of those who have been affected by this terrible time in our history. But I support Israel and her right to defend herself. They had to have known we would fight back when they came for us.

We didn’t start the fire, but we will survive it.

Reading and Writing

Closer to home, three and a half days are left in January. I’ve written 25 blog posts so far this month. Not sure I’ll have the time to catch up on the days I missed, but I will try. And more importantly, I’ll keep blogging and see if I can keep it up in February. Thanks for reading and sharing. Stay tuned for my end of January 2024 Book Report. I’m almost done with one book and hope to squeeze in another before the end of the month.




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