Memoir Spotlight: Enough Already

All writing is hard. Take it from someone who has spent her entire adult life earning a living as a writer. Still, some forms are more difficult than others. In memoir, it’s not enough to write well. It’s not enough to put your guts on display, to be brutally honest about your silent struggles, your many missteps, your stupid mistakes. It’s not enough to share some morsel of wisdom you may have gained in your trials. Memoirists must do every one of these things, and then potentially face the ire of family or friends who may see it all differently. They must face the critique of complete strangers who will read, analyze, and judge. People who write and publish memoirs are badass.

Valerie Bertinelli is badass. Of course, I believed that before I read her memoir, Enough Already: Learning to Love Who I Am Today*. Reading the book confirmed it for different reasons than I expected.

She is less than a decade ahead of me in age. As a teenager, I loved Bertinelli in the TV show “One Day at a Time,” and I envied her for marrying Eddie Van Halen. She seemed to have the perfect life.

In retrospect, in my 50s, I understand that no person or life is perfect. Each of us is, at some point, in need of love, happiness, purpose, peace. Each has that inner voice of doubt – if only I was prettier, smarter, richer, thinner, better…. Even celebrities who appear to have it all.

Bertinelli’s memoir isn’t a literary masterpiece or a tell-all shocker. It does have fun stories about her life with Van Halen (she called him Ed) and her career evolution. She is open about motherhood, her struggles with self-worth, and her constant pursuit of losing weight (even when she was 126 pounds). She also goes into detail about how food can feed the soul, and how cooking with and for the people you love enriches life. The book was written the year Bertinelli turned 60, the year of the pandemic, the year Eddie Van Halen died of cancer. She touches on his substance abuse, their separation and subsequent remarriages, and their enduring love for one another despite it all.

The book is about a lifelong journey toward finding and appreciating the joy in life. It gets a little woo woo at times (Bertinelli’s words). It gets a little repetitive, as well. Ultimately, it’s a sincere, humble, heartrending read.

Here is a series of excerpts that, for me, encapsulate what Bertinelli conveys through the book:

“The garden took several years to plant and longer before it began producing fruit and vegetables in abundance. That was a good thing. I needed to learn patience and get into the routine of giving the garden daily attention and care, something I needed to work on with myself, too. And that was and still is the most valuable takeaway.”

“Happiness and joy are the fruits of a healthy life, but it takes work every day. My garden reminds me of this. You have to get your hands dirty.”


Valerie Bertinelli, Enough Already

“Joy is not going to come to me. I have to intentionally pursue it every day.”


Valerie Bertinelli, Enough Already

“…gratitude is the staircase you climb to get to joy.”


Valerie Bertinelli, Enough Already

Learn more about Bertinelli’s memoir here. *

*When you make a purchase at Bookshop.org, you support independent bookstores and authors like me.





Halloween Book Fun

Giving out books to trick-or-treaters has been a fun way to share my love of reading with children. I stumbled upon the idea years ago when Googling creative ways to donate books. California mom and author Rebecca Morgan founded “Books for Treats” in 2001 to “feeds kids’ minds, not their cavities.”

I don’t object to giving out Halloween candy. (Truth be told, it’s possible I’ve eaten as much of it as I’ve handed out over the years.) But I do champion literacy and the mental health benefits of reading books.

Only about 1 in 3 fourth-graders in the United States are proficient in reading, according to a report by Save the Children. If children can’t read at grade level by fourth grade, they’re unlikely to ever catch up. A key part of the problem is that many children don’t have access to books in their homes or family members who read to them.

To combat those facts, we give books at Halloween. My husband was skeptical at first. In his defense, I tend to go overboard when it comes to books. So, I conceded it might be possible that children would not be thrilled with getting books, and we stocked up on plenty of candy as a back-up.

As it turns out, books-for-treats was a huge success.

The kiddos love it, and they remember. Many run up the driveway saying, “This is the book house!” Often, they take their time going through the baskets to find just the right book, while parents laugh and say, “Just pick one!” Every now and then, a child simply can’t decide and will slip two books into their pumpkin bucket or pillowcase. I smile and look the other way.

Teenage trick-or-treaters are some of the biggest fans; they’re both grateful and suspicious. “I can just take this?” Every year, we buy more books than the year before. We always run out before the night ends.

Giving books for treats at Halloween is a fun way to improve child literacy. And the kiddos love it. #booksfortreats #authorsforliterarcy #readingcommunity

If you’re still not convinced this is the Best. Idea. Ever, check out this CNN article highlighting a neurobiological study of the benefits of books and detriments of screen time on a preschool child’s development. The brain scans are startling. Kids need books.

There are many ways to stock up on books without breaking the bank. Here are few ideas:

  • Thin out your own book collection of board books, early readers and young adult books that your children have outgrown and no longer want. One year, we gave out Manga graciously donated by my daughter who was moving overseas. The kids went bananas.
  • Used-book stores often have large selections of kids’ books in clearance for $1 each. One year, we bought comic books (50 cents apiece) at Bookmans, an indie bookstore in Arizona. When the bookseller learned we were going to give them away to trick-or-treaters, they gave us a 10 percent discount to boot. Library sales are another great source for inexpensive books.
  • If you prefer to give out new books, The Dollar Store often has ones that fit the bill. You can also order inexpensive books from Oriental Trading Company, like this set of 10 nursery rhyme readers for about $6.

DIY Halloween Décor – Old, Spooky Books

In a related note on my obsession with books, check out this photo gallery highlighting a fun DIY project. I hate throwing away books, but sometimes they get outdated or worn out. Other times, the books are of such low quality, I am not comfortable donating them. My solution is to repurpose them in fun ways, like making books look old and spooky for Halloween décor. Scroll down for simple instructions.

DYI Instructions

  1. Tear the covers off paperback books. Paint covers of hardbound books – I used red; when it was dry, I dabbed on burnt umber with a scrunched paper-towel to make it look aged.
  2. Pour left-over coffee into a 9”x13” glass pan. Dip books one at time into the coffee. You can either submerge the entire book, or just the edges; it depends on how old and wrinkled you want them to become.
  3. Fan out the pages and shape the books however you’d like.
  4. Set them outside in the sun to dry, or arrange in front of a fan. Flip the books periodically to make sure all sides get air. It can take a few days to dry thoroughly, depending on how deeply you submerged them.
  5. I also created fake book titles in spooky fonts, make-believe potions and creepy graphics to cut and paste into the books. I dipped the printouts into the coffee and set them on a cookie rack to dry (move quickly when dipping the paper, so it doesn’t get too soggy and fall apart).
  6. Have fun decorating them with Halloween doodads, if you want. I used plastic spiders and ping-pong balls painted like eyeballs. Brush on Modge Podge or Elmer’s glue to help secure pages and décor.


Newsletter about Reading, Writing and Life

I’ve launched an email newsletter and monthly giveaway to shine a spotlight on reading, writing and life. It will feature content that isn’t on my website (so be sure to subscribe even if you follow my blog), highlighting interesting books and articles, writing tips and inspiration, motivational quotes and ideas, and more. Plus, every month one newsletter subscriber name will be drawn to win something fun and bookish (like a bookstore gift card, signed paperback, audiobook, journal, etc.).

Go to the newsletter sign-up page and enter giveaway by clicking here!

(You can also earn bonus entries for the monthly giveaway by using the Rafflecopter form on the sign up page to share this with others.)


Life Essentials

Food, shelter, purpose, companionship, and books: essentials of a happy, meaningful life. They don’t always have to be in perfect balance, but they are a package deal. #lifetip #writetip #FindYourPurpose

#FindTheBeautyInAdversity #PeculiarSavageBeauty