Sunday, December 31, 2023

My Top 10 Books of 2023

 My favorite books of 2023 are:


10. When We Had Wings by Ariel Lawhon, Kristina McMorris, & Susan Meissner

I love historical fiction and this book was an area of WWII fiction that I honestly didn't know much about, the Japanese occupation of the Philippines. A great cast of strong female characters. 

 9. Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis

This book is set in a library, need I say more? 

8. Code Name Edelweiss by Stephanie Landsem

Another interesting story that is different from the typical WWII fiction, focused on the homefront

7. The Last Life Boat by Hazel Gaynor

A book about hardships and survival 

6. Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree

So much fun, a cozy fantasy to enjoy

5. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

The story of an ancient manuscript and all of the people who interacted with this book throughout its long history

4. The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams

Such a charming story with a diverse set of characters all brought together by a list of books 

3. Spare by Prince Harry

So interesting and honest

2. Once upon a Wardrobe by Patti Callahan Henry

For any fans of Narnia, this special story is lovely

1. Fairy Tale by Stephen King

I'm not gonna lie, I was afraid to pick up a Stephen King novel but this one was sooooo different and soooo good.

What were your favorite reads this year? Please share in the comments.


Sunday, October 29, 2023

A Frightening Time to be Jewish

I was having a hard time today. I was feeling overwhelmed with current events, and watching video footage of a violent mob in Russia that took over an airport because they heard a flight was arriving from Israel. This mob had the expressed purpose of "killing the Jews"

I have felt so frustrated that the news keeps showing footage of Gaza and the horrible effects of bombing there, yet the news fails to mention that Hamas continues to fire hundreds of rockets at Israel daily. Israel dropped thousands of fliers urging Palestinian people to move to southern Gaza out of harms way - but the news failed to show that Hamas set up roadblocks and prevented civilians from heading south because Hamas wants more dead Palestinians because they know this helps their cause.

There is no shortage of voices screaming to "Free Palestine" on the internet yet many of these individuals know very little about the history of this conflict. Talking points will never do justice to the complicated political, historical and cultural divisions of this area.

People have put up fliers of the individuals that Hamas has taken hostage (over 200+ men, women and children) and these fliers have been torn down. Jewish students at NYC College were forced to hide in a Library Attic to escape a Pro-Hamas Mob. This isn't abstract, the ADL has recorded a dramatic Increase in U.S. Antisemitic Incidents in the past two weeks. Antisemitic Incidents have hit the highest Level Ever Recorded.

I don't like Netanyahu, I disagree with most of his policies, but NOTHING justifies the brutal torture, rape and slaughter of over 1300 innocent Israelis. Without even acknowledging the need to mourn their loved ones, Jews are being told it is their fault. Massive protests chanting "Death to Israel" or "Kill the Jews" is NOT going to free Palestine. Hamas are terrorists. They don't want peace. Their only goal is the eradication of Jews.

Please please please look beyond the headlines that are only designed to get ratings and try to learn more about BOTH sides of this issue and understand that your Jewish friends are struggling right now. They are mourning, they are scared, they are angry, and they feel very alone. 

Monday, October 23, 2023

Reflections on My First Year in Oregon


Reflections on My First Year in Oregon


Last year my husband and I made a big change and moved from our home in Arizona to live near my daughter and grandchildren in Oregon. We both love it here.  Obviously moving from the desert to the Pacific Northwest is a big life change and there have been so many things I have noticed over this past year that make living here so special.  

·      The best part of being here is of course being so close to our grandchildren.

·      Appreciating the changing seasons.

·      The water – the incredible access to rivers, lakes, and the amazing Oregon coast.

·      OMG the wineries – so many incredible wineries with spectacular views and such a fantastic selection of wines.

·      The abundance of food that grows here, it grows everywhere – even in my own back yard.

·      Learning new skills like making my own jam

·      Hiking and exploring beautiful new places

·      Enjoying the slightly slower pace of life here and enjoying the simple things like

o  Seeing deer in my yard

o  Picking berries everywhere

o  Playing in fall leaves

o  Sitting by the fire when it’s snowing outside


It has been a great year and there is no doubt we are both happy that Oregon is now our home. 

Monday, October 16, 2023

Beyond the Headlines; This is personal for me


I am having a hard time putting my thoughts into words about the events of this past week. It is hard to watch the polarizing comments blasted across social media, especially when this feels so very personal to me. 


Let’s start with some context. When I was young I fell in love with reading and somehow that love led me to an interest in the Holocaust. Books like Ann Frank’s famous diary and others gave me an awareness of one of the worst events in human history and the concept of human’s capacity to hate and mistreat other people.  I felt so moved by the stories I read, even more so with the realization that in all likelihood members of my own extended family were included in the tortured and murdered souls of the Nazi atrocities, but even that felt somewhat removed from my life.   Nazis were defeated. I lived in the United States, far removed from all of that so it was even more shocking when I came home one day and had a conversation with my Mom about a book I was reading. I told my Mom about the story of Alan and Naomi and how sad this book made me feel. Naomi had fled the Nazis and was staying with relatives in New York City, but the terrors she had witness had affected her greatly and Alan was tasked with befriending her. The characters in the book were subjected to abuse and ridicule for being Jewish, and this wasn’t in Germany – it was here in this country. As I shared about the story that had such an impact on me, my mother opened up and shared with me about the many times she had been called names and even physically assaulted simply because she was Jewish.  I felt so many emotions; I felt shocked and sad that this had happened to my mother, I felt angry that people would do this, I felt scared with the knowledge that antisemitism wasn’t just something in a history textbook, but rather it was something very much here and now, and strangely I felt a bond with all my relatives who had come before me, everyone who had survived pogroms in Russia, who had endured in the Holocaust and who continued to face struggles. Somehow, I knew that my heritage came with a unique set of baggage.  


Although my mother and grandmother were not religious, I became interested in learning more about Judaism. More than just an appreciation for good Jewish food, I wanted to understand the customs and beliefs. 


Last year I fulfilled a lifelong wish to finally visit Israel. It was an amazing trip that I will cherish.  I was overwhelmed with the beauty and the incredible history of that land.  What I saw there was not the headlines from the media, but people living their lives.  


The events this week have left me with a profound sadness.  Once again Jewish people being tortured and slaughtered simply for being Jewish.  The scenes from the music festival were especially chilling for me because I could picture my own daughter, who has worked at many large music festivals. I cannot even fathom the depravity of people who could kill toddlers and babies.  The images are simply too graphic and too horrendous to even process, yet even before the bodies have been buried there are groups of people not only justifying this atrocity, but actually cheering about it.  THERE IS NO JUSTIFICATION for the brutal rape, torture and murder of innocent people. 


Let me be clear – I don’t agree with the current Israeli government. I think the expanding settlements in the West bank are wrong. I wish I had the wisdom of Solomon and I could solve the troubles in the Middle East.  The British Empire created this colossal mess and this entire area has been struggling for over a century, but that does not and will not justify what happened on October 7th.  My heart breaks for the Palestinian people, especially the children who are suffering so greatly.  

All of this is awful.  In our polarized country today it seems as if everyone must immediately pick sides, but two things can be true at the same time. I can feel profound sadness and grief for the senseless loss of life in Israel and I can hold a desire for safety of the Palestinian people and a peaceful solution, but I cannot and will not ever be able to justify horrific acts of terrorism.   Hamas is evil and as long as they continue to spew their hatred of Jews and their desire to wipe Israel off the map there cannot be peace.  


I am concerned about the rising level of antisemitism in our world today.  I know the events of this week have given rise to even more antisemitism.  In the past I have been in conversations where people have made antisemitic comments.  Apparently, I don’t “look Jewish” so people are shocked when I tell them that I am offended by what they said.  My husband wore his Israel T-shirt to work the other day. I got him the shirt on my trip last year. While wearing his shirt he was flipped off by someone. The news has shown large rallies where the crowd was chanting “F*@K Jews”.  It is frightening. 


I am sharing all of this to simply ask everyone to please hold room in your hearts for all of humanity. Please speak up and call out any form of bigotry or prejudice when you see it. Please allow someone to grieve without saying they somehow got what they deserved, whether they are Israeli or Palestinian. Please understand the history and nuance of this region is vast and complex, talking points will never adequately describe the ‘truth’.  Most of all please be kind and support your friends and family, your neighbors and your community because that is truly the only way we will ever be able to work toward peace. 


Thursday, July 1, 2021

A Review of Claire Cook’s new book, Life Glows On: Reconnecting With Your Creativity to Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life


This past year has been so strange for all of us, and Claire Cook’s new book, Life Glows On: Reconnecting With Your Creativity to Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life perfectly captures the feelings we all felt as we struggled to navigate through our strange new normal.


I have been a fan of Claire Cook’s books for many years, and this is exactly the book I needed right now. 


Claire’s focus on rediscovering your creativity is designed specially for midlife women, or the ‘forty to forever’ group as she describes it. Her authentic and candid conversation about Covid, and its affect on all of us is refreshing and so relatable.  Reading books by Claire Cook often feels like grabbing a cup of tea and chatting with a good girlfriend, and this book is no exception. Her humor and honesty shine through the pages. 


Like so many of us, Cook’s life was impacted by the Covid pandemic, but in true Claire Cook fashion she searched for the brighter side and used the time to focus on re-discovering her creativity and she takes all her readers along for the ride. 


This book is not only inspirational, but Cook address the practical challenges that all of us face when we explore our creative side, and she offers her own life experience to help us navigate our own creative journeys.  


As she describes, “The staggering stress of this time can make us all feel like we’re floating, wingless and untethered and spiraling downward.” Her advice on finding our own creativity is simple and practical, with just the right amount of whimsy. One of her suggestions is to “Write BE CREATIVE TODAY in red lipstick on your bathroom mirror so you look at that first thing in the morning instead of obsessing about that new wrinkle that appeared overnight”.


As Claire Cook says, “Sometimes the creative goal or project is secondary to the creative journey it takes us on.”


For so many of us this past year has been an opportunity for self-reflection.  Reading this book helped me to focus on what’s important in my life. It is so valuable to see the vulnerability she shares with her readers.  When I hear her say “I’m proud of the woman I’ve become and how hard I’ve worked to get here and how many bumps in the road I’ve managed to survive along the way” it resonates so much.  


She challenges her readers to really go for it. In one chapter she asks, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid to be embarrassingly bad at it?”

This book is full of quotes and helpful tidbits to address self-sabotage, procrastination and so many of the other struggles that we encounter along the way


Her genuine love for others shines through as she tells readers “My purpose in writing this book is to share everything I’ve learned on my own creative path that might help other forty-to-forever women (and those few good men!) in theirs.”


Claire Cook explains that she wrote this book “To process my Covid-19 pandemic and post-pandemic experience as I dig my way out from it”.  There is no doubt that we all benefit from her experience. 


This book was full of motivation, ideas, and the push we all need to explore our own creative side. 


And she leaves us with some final words of advice, “so let’s get back out there, reconnect with our creativity, and make the rest of our lives the best of our lives” 

Grab your copy today



Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Holocaust Remembrance Day


The United Nations General Assembly designated January 27—the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau—as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

This year will mark the 76th Anniversary of the day that the notorious Auschwitz Concentration Camp was liberated by the Red Army.  


Auschwitz is about 40 miles west of Krakow, Poland. Over 1.1 million people were murdered at Auschwitz, most of whom were Jewish.  When the Soviet Red Army arrived most of the prisoners had already been evacuated from the camp by the Germans, led on the now infamous death marches.  According to historians, only around 7,000 of the weakest prisoners remained.  Soviet soldiers were shocked at what they found. 


Last year, for the 75th anniversary, more than 200 survivors gathered at the camp, with each passing year we lose more survivors.  It is so important to remember the events of the Holocaust and honor the survivors.


Before the Covid-19 pandemic I was fortunate enough to do some travelling, and in the fall of 2019, I had the opportunity to visit the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. It was an amazing trip, and the entire time I was there I wondered about my family’s history. I had always known that my relatives were from Poland, although at the time they lived there it was still part of Russia, but I knew little else. As my tour bus rolled through the forests and fields, I couldn’t help but wonder how many of my family members had hidden in just those woods? How many had escaped, and how many had been killed at one of the many concentration camps? 


On that trip I was able to visit both the Auschwitz and the Auschwitz-Birkenau camps.  The iconic images of the entrance sign, with ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ and the train tracks leading into Auschwitz-Birkenau were as powerful as you would imagine.

Walking around the grounds was surreal, it was a beautiful day, and the sun was shining, but the well-preserved fences and barbed wire were a constant reminder of what had occurred there.

In carefully preserved rooms lay the evidence of all of those who died at the camp. Piles of discarded luggage and shoes were a visceral reminder of the people who perished. 


Visiting one of the remaining crematoriums highlighted the true horrors of that place. 


My visit was so powerful. I felt profound sadness and I felt angry, so very angry about what had happened there. In those moments I have never felt closer to the Jewish side of my family.  


This past year I discovered some of my family history, thanks to my daughter and some research on  I learned that my great grandmother was born in a town called Oświęcim, Poland. Oświęcim is also known in German as Auschwitz, yup – my great grandmother was born in the town that would become known for the most infamous concentration camp of the war. 


My great grandmother emigrated to the United States in the early 1900’s but there is no doubt that had she stayed, she and her whole family would likely have perished in the very town she was born in. 


The realization that I had been there, in the town where my Great-Grandmother was born, and where one of the worst horrors in history had occurred was incredible. 


The Baltic countries are beautiful, and once it is finally safe to travel again, I highly recommend this trip to everyone, but for me this trip was also incredibly emotional. The reality of the Holocaust was apparent everywhere we went. 


In Lithuania I learned that before war over 40 percent of population was Jewish with over 100 synagogues.  During the war Lithuania lost 90 percent of its Jewish community. Only one synagogue remains.


Jewish Ghetto in Riga Latvia

Prior to the war over 93,000 Jews lived in Latvia, but only 14,000 members of the Latvian Jewish community survived. 


In Poland the numbers were truly staggering. Jews had been living in Poland as early as the 11th Century.  


There were over 350,000 Jews in Warsaw before the war. Mostly in the north district. This became the infamous Warsaw ghetto. Today there are only about 7000 Jews left in Warsaw.  There were 68,000 Jews living in Kraków before the war. Today there are around 700. There are similar numbers all over Poland.


There are only about 35,000 Jews living in Poland today, there were over 3,000,000 Jews in Poland before the war.  


On Holocaust Remembrance Day we all must take the time to remember what happened, to remember the lives lost, to remember the horrors that occurred, because if we fail to remember these events, we will be in danger of allowing them to happen again. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

The Big Decision


I am so excited to share that I have now co-authored a brand-new children’s book with my daughter Rachael Couch.  


We were inspired by the recent presidential election and wanted a way to explain this election to my four-year-old grandson. The Big Decision is a bright and engaging look at the choices made by each of the states, who are personified by beautiful illustrations


We wanted to explain voting and the election to pre-K and early elementary kids, and make sure it was done in a very child-friendly and engaging way. 


My daughter shared a story about a family walk around the neighborhood on the day after the election, November 4th, and a sweet, precocious third-grade neighbor child approached them on their walk and he wanted to know all about the current status of the election and which states had been called so far. She was so impressed at his literacy in the process and the electoral college. 


She wanted her four-year-old to understand what was going on beyond just Mommy and Daddy voting and giving him stickers, She and I began to collaborate on the story, coming up with the idea of personifying the states and we found an amazing children’s illustrator who brought the story to life. 


I’m especially proud of the Arizona page where we recognized the Navajo people who rode on horseback in order to vote.


As a former teacher I believe that talking about the voting process & the value of a peaceful transition of power in the United States with your kids is important. I strongly recommend that parents use this book as a resource to have meaningful conversations with children about how the process of American democracy works, particularly as the new inauguration happens next month. 



The Big Decision is now available in paperback or ebook versions on Amazon