CHASING THE BRIGHT SIDE by Jess Ekstrom: A Review

This book’s subtitle, “Embrace Optimism/ Activate Your Purpose/ and Write Your Own Story” says it all. It definitely looks on the bright side, but at the same time it examines the value of fears, failures, and mess ups. The author is the founder of “Headbands of Hope” and uses stories of her business throughout the book to make a point or give advice. We follow Ekstrom from making silly little headbands for cancer patients at a local hospital to operating a thriving non-profit which gives headbands to cancer patients in every hospital in the United States.

Her philosophy, as stated in this book is: “In order for us to have a chance at making a dent in the universe, we have t0 be optimistic enough to see something better and to be confident enough to just begin.” Just beginning to follow a dream, taking that first step Is the hardest part of life. Cultivating enough optimism to do that can make all the difference . Another piece of advice from the author worth quoting is, “Success is not born out of skill, school where we’re from, or who we know…We are born with something even more important than skills. We’re born with optimism–the initial seed for success.”

As a new small business owner, this book not only encouraged me to follow my dream, it demanded I be optimistic about being successful, learn from my mistakes and refuse to lose my enthusiasm for what I am trying to do. It is an inspiring, engaging read.




WHEN I FIRST STARTED BLOGGING in 2016, I almost exclusively read novels. My friend, Deb Nance, the one who enticed me into blogging in the first place, almost exclusively read children’s books and for personal growth, non-fiction. As our friendship grew from acquaintances to almost-sisters over the years, she became enamored of good literary fiction, and I discovered that the writing in non-fiction could be as good and as beautiful as poetically-influenced novels. For the past two years, I have made a conscientious effort to read more non-fiction. My most recent attempt not only gave me enjoyment, but also gave me tips and techniques I could use in my Advanced Writing classes.

Described as a “Go-to-guide to creating ridiculously good content,” Handley’s book shed light on writing skills for business, marketing, personal writing, and academic writing, which I was most interested in. Part one of this well-organized handbook is titled, “How to Write Better (and How to Hate Writing Less).” The chapters I found most relevant to me were: “Shed High School Rules”; Organize, Relax, You’ve Got This”; Keep it Simple But Not Simplistic”; and “Break Some Grammar Rules (At Least These Five).”

Practically everyone can benefit from this interest-keeping book. Judge from the chapter titles, “Things Marketers Work With” and “Writing Better Blog Posts.” I admit that I skimmed some of this practical advice book, but the parts I read, I studied, taking notes so I could replicate the activities/discussions/lessons in my classroom.

Thanks Ann Handley for making my job more interesting.


This lovely meme is hosted by the blog Reading is My Superpower.

I saw that Carla at Carla Loves to Read posted her Friday Firstliner this morning, and it spurred me to post one as well.

Mine is from Barracoon: The Story of the Last Black Cargo by Zora Neale Hurston. The first line is from the Preface.

” This is the story of Cudjo Lewis, as told by himself. It makes no attempt to be a scientific document, but on the whole is rather accurate.”

The book goes on to tell the story of a man who was brought from Africa, enslaved, on the last ship of slaves to be smuggled into the United States. It is fascinating so far.


Because I am so busy getting Rae’s Reads (my bookstore) ready to open, I am only having brief periods of time several times a day to read. This does not lend itself to reading novels, so I picked up a collection of short essays by Alice Hoffman at my local library. It is a small book, but it is full of poignant, warm essays. It is Hoffman’s journey through breast cancer to survivorship. Having made this journey myself 23 years ago, the volume spoke to me.

This collection contains a guide for surviving breast cancer.

Published in 2013, Alice Hoffman, “one of America’s most beloved writers,” addresses an issue that affects millions of women. It is “gentle, but wry”; it helps us “[find] beauty in the world even during the toughest times.” Each essay helps us …”choose what matters most,” and deals with” Choosing your Heroes,” through “Choose love,” to the concluding essay, “Choose the Evidence.” Compiled, the essays give us “ways to re-envision everything–from relationships with friends and family to the way you see your self.” One of the most helpful essays was “Choose to Plan for the Future.” In it, Hoffman instructs us to “Write your troubles on a slip of paper and burn it. Now make a list of what you need to do next year in your life.” This is good advice for anyone who is not sure she/he is going to have a next year. It assumes they will be a survivor.


Although this book was published in 1984, it deals with a very current issue– CLUTTER!

Dan Aslett has written a hilarious self-help book on decluttering. Clutter’s Last Stand is at turns sympathetic, sarcastic, and sadistic. Aslett takes no “back talk” when he tells the reader to get rid of something and has no sentimentality towards personal treasures. The cartoon illusions are excellent and tend to take the “sting” out of giving up your “stuff.” Judith Holmes Clarke’s cartoonish characters shout out this message, “It’s time to de-junk your life!”

The author gives tips on decluttering your home, your job, your mind, and your keepsakes. At the beginning is a Junkee Entrance Exam. My score said, “100-150 pts. The End is Near…You’re in trouble. Read Clutter’s Last Stand three times, gird up your loins and start de-junking ruthlessly.”

This is the ultimate self-improvement book. “This book will make you happier, freer, neater, richer, and smarter…it will solve more home, family, marriage, career, and economic problems than any book you’ve read.” I’m not so sure about the author’s claim here, but the book comes close!

This meme, hosted by Reading is My Superpower, encourages the blogger to post the first line of a book he/she is currently reading. This first liner is from a book I finished today.

A Christian look at setting your home as a place of comfort and hospitality to your family and to others.

” The adventure started on a whim. With a suitcase in my hand, a laptop case and tote bag on my shoulder, and a luggage cart dragging behind me, I stumbled against the door of 209 and pushed it open with my shoulder.”

…And so the adventure of writing this book began for Sally and Sarah Clarkson, mother and daughter who always wanted to write a book together. Ms. Clarkson always believed home should be “a haven of rest and joy that will encourage everyone who enters it.” This 2016 publication contains anecdotes from a real family, a Christian family, the Clarksons. It contains wise advice on creating special memories for one’s children and establishing family traditions , as well as suggestions for seasonal celebrations (my favorites were for fall, possibly because it is my favorite season). Although the Clarkson family moved fairly frequently, they took their sense of “home” with them, relocating their anchor each time. I took notes, and even though my “home” consists of one person now, I plan to celebrate occasions and seasons to ensure happiness and gratitude for the blessings I have been given. The ideas in this book will help me do that.


Thanks for the image to Carla of “Carla Loves To Read”. Check out her great book reviews and her delightful sign offs on each post.

This meme started by The Purple Booker asks the reader to open a current read at random and copy a couple of sentences that might “tease” other readers to choose the book to read themselves.

My Tuesday Teaser for 5/17/22 is

I thought I had read this book, but upon examining it, I was wrong and was captivated by its profoundness.

My attention was already captured by the introduction, and the first chapter, “Fu Manchu’s Goatee,” only solidified my curiosity about this man who was about to interview one of the wisest men on earth. Chapter Two, “The Monks on the Parapet ,” begins like this:

“The Dalai Lama’s meditation room was bathed in soft, early-morning light. Meticulously crafted wooden cabinets lined the walls, within them. I could see numerous bronze statues and myriad religious artifacts… The place was serenely gorgeous, its elegance understated.”

For a man who spends hours in mediation daily, this space seems like the perfect setting in which to receive sage advice and counsel.

I am looking forward to “getting into” this book.

just thinking about a sunrise or sunset oner the water like this photo taken used in an essay by one of my students makes me believe in the power of meditation. (Photo by Abdullah Ghatasheh on

Thanks, Evin for the sign off.


This book targets teens, especially girls, who appreciate the women who came before them.

Yes, it’s been one of those days; I am way behind in paper grading, housework, and thank you notes. Writing this review of a book intended for older children and teens, is a bright spot in a long, tiring day.

I love the title as much as I love stories of gutsy women!

This book was sent to me by the author upon the recommendation of another local blogging friend. I am grateful to the author and my friend both for putting such a lovely book in my hands. In the book, the author presents short “pieces” on brave, ground-breaking women each day. If you enjoy “_____-a-day” calendars, journals, etc, this book is for you. On Mondays we meet activist and rebelling women who were brave enough to “step up to the plate” and change things. Tuesdays are reserved for mini-biographies of educators and “thinkers,” who just happened to be women. Scientists’ and Inventors’ accomplishments grace Wednesdays’ offerings, and Thursday is filled with the treasures of authors and poets. Leaders are featured on Fridays, and Roenfanz brings to our attention some of the lesser known and fascinating ones. Artists and Musicians take a bow on Saturdays, and ancient and revered “Goddesses” make an appearance to round out the week on Sundays.

Some of my favorite heroes– Anne Morrow Lindbergh, whose book captured my fancy and interest; Christina Rossetti, one of my favorite poets; Dorothy Parker, the humorist and scathing essayist who was the queen of journalism and sarcastic poetry in the 40s –are a few who caught my eye immediately as I skimmed the tile of contents, and the author did not fail to capture the “essence” and accomplishments of the women the author had chosen to include in her book.

It seems to me Roenfanz is a gutsy woman herself for attempting such a huge task and she should be applauded for the lovely compendium of women’s lives in a lovely, lovely book. I highly recommend it!


It’s the story of a cat.

It’s the story of a town–a small town.

It’s the story of a librarian who loves books and cats.


I began this book knowing it was going to have a “sad” ending, but I was surprised and inspired by the ending as well.

Vicky Myron, with assistance from Bret Witter, subtitled her book: “A Small Town Library Cat Who Touched the World.” Indeed, “touched the world” is no exaggeration. The cover describes it as a” universal tale of love, hope, and friendship.”

Abandoned in the local book drop, a three-week old kitten worked his way into the hearts and lives of Library Director Vicki Myron and an entire town. As the story unfolds, the reader follows Dewey (named after the Dewey Decimal System) from a straggly, half-frozen, pitiful castoff to an international celebrity. One of the best parts of the book is the visit of Japanese filmmakers, who make a documentary about Dewey, endearing him to people worldwide. Not only is the story and its anecdotes of those who met Dewey inspirational, but it is also engaging. Dewey instinctively seemed to know the needs of each library patron who met him, providing comfort and love to all. Filled with humor and charm, this true story was a darned good read!


Ron Rozelle is a local Texas writer who describes the 1937 New London explosion in New London, Texas. Our Third Tuesday book club had read Suzanne Morris’s Aftermath, which dealt with the on-going effects of the horrendous tragedy afterwards. (For a review use the search box). Rozelle’s book was mentioned at the time, but I didn’t get around to reading it until this past weekend.

The cover alone speaks of the horror of the explosion.

I had read another book by Rozelle, a memoir of his father and the father’s death, so I knew he was a good writer. He explains why he wrote the book, “I’ve known about the 1937 explosion all my life.” Rozelle lived only 80 miles away, and his father had gone to help find survivors and casualties, and Rozelle tells us what his father saw that night was so horrible, it prevented his father from speaking of it. Rozelle had been told the cause of the explosion was the superintendent of the school or the school board had tapped into free natural gas, which caused a buildup that exploded. He later learned that was not true, and he wished to clear the superintendent’s name.

The narrative opens with anecdotes of kids getting ready for school, parents leaving for work, and goes through the day of those individuals until minutes before the last bell of the school day, when the world “turned upside down.” Rozelle deals with the rescue, then the recovery of bodies and identification of body parts, and finally, the aftermath.

This is non-fiction at its best–carefully researched through interviews and diaries and journals. It is a history that should not be forgotten , and Rozelle has done a beautiful job of seeing that that will not happen.

One more attempt to read more non-fiction in 2021
Thank you, Evin.