My 2022 Book Report

“Never trust anyone who hasn’t brought a book with them,” – Lemony Snicket

Reading seems to be a topic of conversation at the end of the year. I’ve seen a lot of fancy collages with book covers and articles about the “best books of the year.” Many of the same titles appear on everyone’s list. Other books are new to me. And my biggest problem is that my TBR list is growing exponentially.

I set my Goodreads goal for 40 books in 2023, but I’d like to hit 50 titles by this time next year. And because I have so many unread books, I’ve made myself a promise that half of the books I read next year will be from my current stacks.

As for 2022, I read 33 books—19 nonfiction (lots of memoirs) and 14 fiction. Here are some of my favorites.


The Tobacco Wives, by Adele Myers – I love history and reading, so it makes sense that one of my go-to genres is historical fiction. There is rarely a novel in this category that I don’t enjoy. I also love diving into a book with strong female characters set in a time period that I’ve never explored. This is that kind of book. Set in North Carolina, Maddie Sykes is a young seamstress tasked with sewing exquisite dresses and ballgowns for the wives of cigarette company executives. Maddie must make an important decision when she accidentally learns about the health risks of smoking and the cover-up to keep people–particularly women–in the dark. She can either keep her head down, stay quiet, and do her job, share what she knows, or take a stand against corporate greed, risk her livelihood, and more. In addition to this book being a five-star read for me, the author has a fascinating background that she brings to the story. She is a public relations professional who grew up in this part of the country. Her focus on how cigarettes were marketed to women by trusted doctors and false advertising plays a huge role in how this all shakes out. The author’s note was just as enjoyable to read as the book, so don’t skip it.

The Violin Conspiracy, by Brendan Slocumb – Hands down, this was my favorite fiction book for 2022. When people asked me what they should read next, I pressed this title into their hands. The main character, Ray, is a violinist with his most prized possession stolen from him—a $10 million Stradivarius—the night before the world’s largest classical music competition. There are several suspects and few witnesses to the crime. Did someone in his family steal it for the money? Did a rival family take it because they think it rightfully belongs to them?

I’m not going to tell you. 🙂  But, if you are looking for a well-written mystery with a side order of family drama, this is an excellent book.

Black Cake, by Charmaine Wilkerson – Last year, I wanted to read a book from the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) community. The hot book was “The Other Black Girl,” but I DNF’d it (did not finish) after reading about 2/3 of the book. Instead, I kept looking until I found this wonderful novel. Two estranged siblings come home upon the death of their mother and find she left them an eight-hour recording retelling her life story and a traditional black cake in the freezer. Her children are instructed to listen to the tapes together and share the black cake before they go their separate ways. What unfolds is an amazing story full of friendship, family, betrayals, secrets, and, yes, murder.


You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey: Crazy Stories about Racism, by Amber Ruffin and Lacey Lamar – If you watch the late-night talk shows, you know Amber Ruffin. She is one of the writers on Late Night with Seth Myers. And I think she is hilarious and brilliant. She first caught my attention during the pandemic with her Easter Quarantine Parade video and her “Amber Says What” segments. Amber and her sister Lacey tell incredibly absurd, shocking, and sadly true stories about their everyday experiences with racism. Please do me and yourself a favor, and buy this title as an audiobook. The sisters have a wonderful banter and bond that adds so much to your reading experience. And if you like this book, there is also a sequel.

Bomb Shelter: Love, Time, and Other Explosives by Mary Laura Philpott – I loved this author’s first book, “I Miss You When I Blink,” so I knew this would be excellent. I feel a close connection with this author because she shares my sense of humor, level of parental anxiety, and positive outlook on life. We are both middle age and have two college-age children. We are both trying our best to support them and guide them without interfering in their lives which is a thin line to walk sometimes. Her musings about motherhood and marriage validate my choices while also looking optimistically at the future. The other thing I liked about this memoir was the format she used. It isn’t often that a memoir is written in personal essay form – almost like a blog post. Each chapter tells a different story, and they don’t necessarily connect to each other or follow a timeline. But she weaves together a relatable series of moments that any woman of a certain age (or man, for that matter) would be unable to put down.

Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History, by Katy Tur – I’m a bit of a political junkie and a Democrat. (If you are a fan of the former president, feel free to skip this book review). For the rest of you, Katy Tur gives the most riveting account of her time covering the Trump campaign in 2016. She documents his inconsistencies, outright lies and attempts to charm and intimidate her. Her stories are true to the title of her book, unbelievable.

What are some of your favorite books from last year? I’m sure my TBR has room for an

My 2023 Word of the Year

“How is Wordle not your word of the year?” – my sister, Karen

Yes, it’s true. I’m obsessed with Wordle. I play it with my sister as part of our morning routine. We start with the same word and see where our connected brain power leads us to the answer. I’m a little obsessed about my current streak (63 games) and beating my maximum streak of 157 games. I mostly fall into the range of three or four guesses, and my day starts on a good note when I only need two guesses.

But Wordle is not a word of the year. It isn’t a word I can get behind and channel into my everyday life. Let’s put it this way: It’s a good way to start my day, but not to get me through it. I won’t keep you in suspense any longer (I’m sure it is killing you! LOL). My word for 2023 is GROWTH.

How I Picked My Word

I have been more meticulous about choosing this year’s word than any other year. I admit that in the past, I’d forgotten what word I picked by the end of January. I often go back to remind myself, but now I want a word that sticks.

It’s a tall order. Fortunately, I was gifted a deck of cards called “Words that Matter” by my friend, who is also named Karen. She started her own business a few years ago called Living on Purpose. This deck includes 52 inspiring words, related quotes, and questions to spark self-reflection, journaling, and much more.

On the first pass-through of the deck, I created two piles—one of the words that spoke to me and the other pile of words that didn’t. I spread out the first pile on the table and went through the second pile one more time to make sure I could eliminate them. From there, I narrowed the first pile to a dozen cards and then whittled it down to four words. I read through each quote and follow-up question carefully and made my decision.

Growth is a word I believe in—both personally and professionally. Adapting a growth mindset is how I want to move forward. I don’t want to stay stuck in a fixed state where I think my way is the only way. And if I continue to live by routine, I’ll never be open to new experiences. I want to learn from others and apply newfound knowledge to my goals and dreams. Growth is what I’ll embrace in 2023.

Here are a few ways I’ll put this word into action.

Personal Growth

As I continue to write a memoir, I am learning so much about myself, my family, and how we navigate through life. The more I write, the more I understand. The more I understand, the more I grow. It is taking much longer than I thought to write this book, but I’m still at it, and part of the journey is growing from it. I’ll continue to enlist my writing coach to see me through and invest in workshops where I can listen to feedback and critique from the writing community. Their insights and enthusiasm for what I write keep me going and growing.

I’m also at an interesting stage in life. I am sandwiched between young adult children who have recently left the nest and aging parents who live their lives to the fullest, even in the face of some challenges. As for my kids, I’ve never been a helicopter parent, and I’m not about to start now as they find their way. We raised them with good values and to think for themselves. They are resilient and thoughtful people, and I trust their judgment. I’m grateful to be their mom and will continue to learn and grow as they share their new experiences and insightful perspectives with me.

(All I ask is that they wear a jacket when it’s cold outside, text me back in a timely manner so I don’t worry, and find their passion and do what they love in life. Okay, that’s not all I ask, but it’s a good place to start.)

I am also incredibly fortunate to have both parents still with me. I continue to grow from their wisdom and life experience. This year, out of concern for their health and safety, we’ve had some tough conversations. I know we’ve made progress. I will continue to support them and try to respect their wishes to live independently for as long as possible. This isn’t always easy because I sometimes approach these conversations with an “I know what’s best…” attitude.” This doesn’t mean I will avoid these talks in the future, but I will work on more patience, flexibility, and acceptance as we all strive for the best outcome.    

Professional Growth

I love being challenged at work to take on projects that I’ve never done before. This past year, I launched a new brand for the nonprofit where I work. I collaborated with many people and served as the staff liaison to the marketing company we hired. I worked with and listened to others to gain consensus about our messaging. I managed conflicting opinions about colors and imagery regarding our logo that would ultimately reflect a more dynamic look. And I’m proud to say that the end result is something we are all incredibly proud of. I hope to have more opportunities to collaborate and learn from our leadership in the new year.

I also love taking professional development classes. Recently, I’ve noticed that while my creativity is rising, my project management skills need some readjusting. I’m excited to grab the opportunity to improve this area by learning new tricks and letting go of old habits.

A Final Thought

Even though I discarded several options for my word of the year, they won’t leave me entirely. My friend, Karen, gave me permission to use GROWTH as an overarching word and keep other words in mind to support it. So, I’m giving a shoutout to words like DREAM, AUTHENTICITY, INTENTION, and FOCUS—I see you and will invite you to the party often. Let’s get to work!

What’s your word for 2023? If you haven’t picked one yet, it’s not too late. Contact my friend, Karen, at Living On Purpose, for her card deck and her wisdom. Tell her I sent you!


No Day But Today

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” – Ferris Bueller

Hi Friends! Welcome (or welcome back!) to Life Without A Manual—a blog written by yours truly chock full of slice-of-life moments. This blog began years ago while I was raising my family without any guidebook. And now that my kids are in college, writing is again helping me navigate this new chapter as an empty nester.

Fun fact about me—I love choosing a word of the year, and I take it seriously. Each December, I start to look for words I might want to embrace in the coming year. I’ve written and crossed out several options already until settling on the one that speaks to me the most. Words are important to me and have always grounded me in life. When I was younger, I used to hide my thoughts in a diary. For those who have read my blog in the past, you know I don’t keep a diary anymore; this blog is my diary. Putting words to feelings and sharing them with others allows me to be my authentic self. And to keep my resolution of living an authentic life, I’ve signed up to participate in the Ultimate Blog Challenge (UBC), where I will write and publish daily. Thanks in advance for reading my blog. I hope you will comment often and share your stories and infinite wisdom.

Remembering Last Year’s Word

In 2022, my word of the year was TODAY because I longed to identify and be present for special moments. I knew if I didn’t recognize them and allow myself to enjoy them, I’d continue to experience life as the same routine day in and day out—especially since the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m happy to say that I took my word of the year to heart. So, before I share my 2023 Word of the Year in tomorrow’s post, I thought I’d take a quick look back at some of the TODAYs I treasured this past year.

  1. We sent Andrew to college! – With our youngest starting at Drexel University, my husband and I officially became empty nesters. But, before he left, we enjoyed every one of his high school swim meets and water polo games. We cheered on his water polo team in the state finals and celebrated when he qualified for the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletics Association (PIAA) finals in swimming. On dry land, he also earned his Eagle Scout rank last year, went to Philmont Scouting Ranch in New Mexico, and graduated with honors from high school. Can you tell I’m a proud mom?
  2. Jenna excelled at school and had two leadership roles. – Our daughter recently ended her term as President of Towson University Hillel and Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion for her sorority DPhiE. One of my biggest highlights was watching her cut the ribbon and give a speech at the opening of Hillel’s new facility. This kid is not stopping anytime soon. She has big plans for 2023, including graduating from college, going on a Birthright Israel trip and extending her time abroad, and looking for her first job in the real world. I have no doubt she will continue to make us proud.
  3. We went to Disney World! – After sending two kids to college, we went with two of our best friends to Orlando, where we ate our way around EPCOT during the Food and Wine Festival. I also checked off a bucket list item by taking the behind-the-scenes tour, Keys to the Kingdom. Yes, I’m one of those adults who loves Disney, and we discovered that going to “the happiest place on Earth” is just as much fun with the kids and without them.
  4. My Phillies were in the World Series. – If you know me, you know I’m a die-hard Phillies fan. At the beginning of the season, I did not expect my team to make it to the playoffs, let alone the World Series. By the end of October, I was exhausted and elated. Although we didn’t win against the Houston Astros, we made them work hard for it. I was at the edge of my seat every night for each division, playoff, and championship game, cheering and yelling at the television, posting on Facebook, and loving every minute of it. We will get them next year.
  5. I discovered my kids are big Phillies fans too. – During the World Series, Jenna called me from college to tell me she wanted to come home and watch the games with us. No one in school seemed to share her excitement to her desired level. In the meantime, Andrew decided it wasn’t good enough to watch Game 3 of the World Series from his dorm room. So, he and two friends took SEPTA to Citizens Bank Park and bought tickets right before the game. They wound up in the Diamond Club section, which is pretty impressive.
  6. REUNITED! – One of the biggest moments of 2022 was traveling to Boston with my parents to reunite my dad with his brother after being separated for three years by the pandemic. Before COVID, they would see each other a few times a year. As they get older, those reunions are harder to make happen, and COVID made it even more difficult. My parents could have handled the trip on their own, but I didn’t want the stress of travel and getting around to be a giant obstacle for this special visit. This was also an opportunity to see my first cousins, who I don’t see often. We spent a lovely long weekend together, getting reacquainted and catching up. It is one of those memories I’ll always have with me.
  7. It’s the little things that make life so wonderful. – 2022 was made up of several small moments that brought me joy. In no particular order, here are a few of them: starting my day with a cup of coffee and doing the Wordle with my sister; going out for date nights, girls’ nights out, brunches, and book club meetings; walking around New Paltz, NY, with friends who are more like family during the day and hanging out by the campfire at night; taking writing classes, attending HippoCamp, exploring new independent bookstores and supporting local authors at book signings, and reading 33 books this year—19 of which were non-fiction and instrumental in helping me chose my 2023 word of the year.I hope you will come back tomorrow to find out what I chose… :)XO,

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