Misti’s 2018 Book Review

A Look Back at the 28 Books I Read Last Year

white ceramic teacup with saucer near two books above gray floral textile

I have always been an avid reader. As a child, every weekend my family traveled 2.5 hours each way to Marblehead for my dad’s fishing business. This was a time before cell phones, tablets, and other electronics. As the only child, in order to keep myself entertained I heavily relied on reading.

One of my goals every year is to read as much as possible. For the past couple years, my goal has been to read 12 books per year – an average of 1 book per month. And in 2018, I read 28 books!

For two years, I have been posting my book reviews on Facebook in a Photo Album. Moving forward, I am going to post my book reviews on this blog.

Here is a synopsis of all the books I read in 2018, and a video of which book was my favorite and least favorite.

Misti’s 2018 Book Review

The Woman in Cabin 10

#1: The Woman In Cabin 10, Ruth Ware
Grade: C-
Overall Thoughts: I was very unimpressed by this book. The story line was not particularly cohesive and the ending was odd. This was a very popular book, but I would not recommend reading it. Not the best thriller I’ve ever read, by far!

Everything I Never Told You

#2: Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng
Grade: B+
Overall Thoughts: An extremely thought-provoking book that holds your attention from the very first sentence. It covers a span of intimate topics: death of a teenager, grieving, racial tensions, gender inequality, family dysfunction, and more. It really makes you think: there is so much that you never tell even your closest confidants, and so much that they don’t tell you. I think Taylor Swift said it best in her reputation prologue: “We think we know someone, but the truth is that we only know the version of them they have chosen to show us.”

Outward Mindset

#3: The Outward Mindset: Seeing Beyond Ourselves, The Arbinger Institute
Grade: B
Overall Thoughts: Not the best or worst business book I’ve ever read. While the concept seems basic, it does lead for excellent discussion and brainstorming within a team setting. Since reading, I have thought a lot about how I can have more of an “outward mindset” in all facets of my life. It is human nature to focus “inward” so it is always beneficial to take a pause to recalibrate and make a conscious effort to doing better, in my opinion.

Eleanor Oliphant

#4: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman
Grade: B+

Overall Thoughts: If you liked “A Man Called Ove” or “The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared,” you will enjoy this book. While this novel begins a little slowly, it does gain momentum as readers fall in love with quirky Eleanor and her logical views on life and attempts to reinvent herself. This book also discusses some serious concepts which adds a lot of depth to the humor. Honeyman is a superbly witty writer with a strong ability to perfectly develop numerous characters, which I sincerely enjoy and appreciate as a reader.

The Alchemist

#5: The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
Grade: C+
Overall Thoughts: This is a literary classic, so perhaps my expectations were set a little high. I thought the book was good but not great. It is very philosophical so you have to really be in the mood for some deep, symbolic thinking. With that in mind, the book does evoke many profound questions about living your dream and best life, so you will feel like you got something out of it. My favorite quote from the book is, “You will never be able to escape from your heart. So it’s better to listen to what it has to say.” My feelings for this book are similar to my thoughts on Las Vegas: I am glad I experienced it, but not in a big hurry to do it again.

Alex Cross

#6: The People vs. Alex Cross
Grade: B
Overall Thoughts: This was your standard Alex Cross book. I enjoy catching up with the characters that I have invested so much time with throughout the years. It was a good read, but nothing life-changing. I look forward to reading the next Alex Cross book when it comes out. If you like book series and haven’t read an Alex Cross book, I highly recommend doing so!

Little Fires

#7: Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng
Grade: B
Overall Thoughts: I had really high expectations for this book, which is probably why I felt a little underwhelmed. While the characters were interesting, and it was nice to know the area since took place in Shaker Heights, I wasn’t super invested in any of the key players. I also thought the ending was extremely underdeveloped. However, I do think this is an excellent choice for a book club since it covers many taboo topics that will be great for a group discussion.

Adam Sharp

#8: The Best of Adam Sharp, Graeme Simsion
Grade: C-
Overall Thoughts: I LOVED this author’s previous books (The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect) so I was excited to read this one. However, it was absolutely bizarre! It took a while for the plot to develop and then when it did, I wasn’t too eager to finish. The book did have some good life lessons to think about, mainly, the grass isn’t always greener and that your past is probably in your past for a reason. While I highly recommend Simsion’s previous books, I do NOT recommended this one.

A is for Alibi

#9: A is for Alibi, Sue Grafton
Grade: B
Overall Thoughts: When Sue Grafton passed away in late 2017 after a two-year battle with cancer, I read a couple articles about her and was absolutely blown away by her compassion, work ethic, and dedication to her family and fans. I was familiar with her Alphabet series but had never read one of her books before. I figured I would start from the beginning, and I did like the first book in the series. Kinsey is a strong female lead, the plot captivated me from the first sentence, and the plot left me guessing until the very end. I plan to read a couple more books in the series before deciding if I am an avid Grafton fan.


#10: Alone, Lisa Gardner
Grade: B
Overall Thoughts: The plot of this book was pretty good, although it was confusing at times. It really kept me guessing until the end. And even then, I was still left thinking. This is the first book in a series, and I will read the next one to see if I want to commit. Also, the book was based in Boston, and since I have been there so often, it was nice to be familiar with many of the landmarks throughout the story.

B is for burgular

#11: B is for Burglar, Sue Grafton
Grade: B+
Overall Thoughts: I liked this book better than the first in the series. It was very thought provoking and kept me entertained until the end. However, there were way too many characters to keep track of, which is why I didn’t rate it higher.

Favorite Sister

#12: The Favorite Sister, Jessica Knoll
Grade: B+
Overall Thoughts: I liked this book a lot better than Knoll’s first book, “The Luckiest Girl Alive.” It was an interesting concept to frame the book around a reality show, especially since that type of programming is so prevalent in our society. The characters were very defined and they went on interesting journeys. I liked that readers are able to see three different perspectives throughout the book. I do think the book was a little too long, as it often rambled without having a clear purpose at many points. Also, I don’t think the title really fits with the overall plot of the book. I would have titled it something else.


#13: Hide, Lisa Gardner
Grade: A
Overall Thoughts: This was an excellent book that kept me guessing until the end. I love that there were characters from the last book as well. I am looking forward to reading the next novel in the series!

17th Suspect

#14: 17th Suspect, James Patterson
Grade: B
Overall Thoughts: This was a good continuation of the series, but felt pretty much like the others. However, the ending had a great cliff hanger and I am anxious to read the next book when it is released in May 2019.


#15: The Neighbor, Lisa Gardner
Grade: C
Overall Thoughts: This book was pretty lackluster and anticlimactic in comparison to the former books in this series. I wouldn’t skip over this book…just set your expectations low.

Kiss Quotient

#16: The Kiss Quotient, Helen Hoang
Grade: A+
Overall Thoughts: Think Fifty Shades of Grey for nerdy people, but with a way better plot and way better writing. Stella and Michael are extremely complex and charming characters for this type of novel. Disclaimer: This is not just a “love story” like I initially thought, but rather an extremely erotic book! 😬 I totally was not expecting this, so I am just throwing that out there. It is VERY PASSIONATE AND DESCRIPTIVE! If that is your type of thing, you will love this book. If it’s not, then you should pass!

Live to Tell

#17: Live to Tell, Lisa Gardner
Grade: B
Overall Thoughts: This book kept my attention and had a good storyline, but it wasn’t one of my favorites. It was good, not great.

Love You More

#18: Love You More, Lisa Gardner
Grade: B+
Overall Thoughts: I really liked the plot about DD Warren, and the plot about the crime was clever and captivating. This was an easy and interesting read.

Girl, Wash Your Face

#19: Girl, Wash Your Face, Rachel Hollis
Grade: A+
Overall Thoughts: This book lives up to all its hype. I listened to the audio book, and I highly recommend the audio version since Rachel is the one who narrates, so you clearly understand the points she wants to emphasize. I loved how the chapters were set up, and she offered a lot of practical advice. This is an EXCELLENT book club read. To see an extensive review about the book club I had at my house for this book, see this older blog post.

7th Month

#20: The 7th Month, Lisa Gardner
Grade: B
Overall Thoughts: This is a short story about when DD Warren is pregnant (spoiler alert!), so it was nice that the author didn’t skip over this phase of her life. I am actually surprised that this wasn’t a full length book. It was interesting, but it did feel a little rushed.

I Almost Forgot About You

#21: I Almost Forgot About You, Terry McMillan
Grade: A
Overall Thoughts: I really enjoyed this book. The writing was on point, satirical, and real. I think I would have liked it even more if I would have been 20 years older, since Georgia’s concerns of having an empty nest, finding new hobbies, and being a grandparent, would have been even more relatable. Nonetheless, this was a refreshing read that shows it is never too late to reinvent yourself.

Surprise Me

#22: Surprise Me, Sophie Kinsella
Grade: D
Overall Thoughts: Based on the synopsis, I was very excited to read this book. However, the plot is ENTIRELY different than what was depicted. I was really hoping for a lighthearted read, and it ended up being extremely deep and thought provoking. That being said, the book was very long and didn’t live up to my expectations. I recommend skipping this one.

All We Ever Wanted

#23: All We Ever Wanted, Emily Giffin
Grade: B+
Overall Thoughts: This was a solid Emily Giffin book. Interesting story. Well-developed characters. A taboo topic examined. An easy read. I became vested in the characters and I never wanted to end a chapter. As a reader, that is a good feeling. Plus, the book has an EPILOGUE! And it fast forwards 10 YEARS! And that makes my heart happy.


#24: You Are a Badass, Jen Sincero
Grade: B+
Overall Thoughts: Very similar to “Girl, Wash Your Face,” so if you like that book you will like this one. I took away some key nuggets of information so I found the time reading the book was valuable. This book is worth reading, and I have recommended it to many people already. The reason I didn’t give the book an “A” rating is due to the amount of time the author talks about money. I really don’t feel like I have those types of feelings towards money, so those (numerous) parts were not helpful to me and I just found myself thinking, “Okay, I get it. Move into another way I can be a badass!”

Woman in the Window

#25: The Woman in the Window, A.J. Finn
Grade: B-
Overall Thoughts: I think I set the bar too high for this book. When I saw that Gillian Flynn described this book as, “Astounding. Thrilling. Amazing.” I was expecting something more. I struggled a little at the beginning due to its slow pace, and I think the book could have been reduced by a couple chapters. However, it was an above average read and the ending was GREAT! So…if you like a good thriller, it is worth the read from the library but I wouldn’t buy it or reread.

Good Daughter

#26: The Good Daughter, Karin Slaughter
Grade: B
Overall Thoughts: This book had many twists and turns. The characters were extremely engaging and developed. The topic is pretty gruesome so beware. The reason I gave the book a “B” rating is that it the book went back and forth from past to present day, and then from the point of view of two different characters. So that was very confusing and didn’t flow well. I understand what the author was trying to do, but that isn’t my favorite writing style. Overall, I recommend this book if you like thrillers.

Notorious RBG

#27: Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik 
Grade: B
Overall Thoughts: The premise of this book is really great. I didn’t know much about RBG before reading this and I learned a lot about her career, family, and advocacy. While reading this book, I thought a lot about women’s rights and human rights. I think I have taken many of my rights for granted (such as the ability to attend college in any desired major, and then work, and then work AND have a family), and it was helpful to learn more about the history surrounding these rights and how RBG had such an influence. This is an excellent book club book, that with spark great intellectual discussion.

Nine Perfect Strangers

#28: Nine Perfect Strangers, Liane Moriarty
Grade: B
Overall Thoughts: Liane Moriarty is one of my “Top 3” authors and I have been eagerly anticipating her new book for YEARS! Seriously…I have read all of her books and they got me through some rough times during maternity leave. I thought the premise of this book was good but I wasn’t blown away like I was with the others. The structure is the same – many different characters whose lives are interwoven in some way. I laughed a lot, cried a little, and did get invested in the plot. I suggest reading this book, but if you are an avid Liane Moriarty fan like me, just set the bar a little lower so you get the most enjoyment from this novel.

My Favorite & Least Favorite Books of the Year

And my favorite and least favorite books of the year were…


What Should I Read Next?

What was your favorite book of 2018, and what are some recommendations you have for my 2019 reading list?

Fish On,




2019 Goal Setting: A Free Template to Map Out Your New Year

A look back on my 2018 goals, and a New Year’s Resolutions template for you!

close up of text

At the end of every year, I make time to sit and reflect on the past year, and prioritize what I want to accomplish in the upcoming year. Maybe it’s the Type-A planner in me, but mapping out the new year is one of my favorite things to do!

Since I was about 9 years old (I’m not kidding!), I have always went through a similar process to set my goals for the new year. I know many people who want to make plans and focus on their goals, but simply don’t know where to even begin.

For those who are thinking, “Yes, this is so me!” I have included the goal setting worksheet that I use for my goal setting each year at the end of this blog post.

How do I do it?

To set my goals, I like to take a holistic approach and look at many facets of my life. For the past couple of years, I have broken out my goals into the following areas:

  • Theme for the Year: The main over-arching sentiment I want to accomplish that year.
  • Church & Faith: How do I want to grow my relationship with God?
  • Family & Friends: Ways to connect more deeply with my spouse, child, and extended family/friends.
  • Health: What can I do to be a healthier version of myself?
  • Home: Ways I can enhance my home life, typically through major house projects
  • Travel: Where do I want to travel, and who do I want to visit?
  • Work: What do I want to accomplish in my career?
  • Miscellaneous: What other goals to I have for my life?

Then What do I do?

After I think about my goals, I type them up on my worksheet. Then, I print it out and hang it up somewhere that I can see on a daily basis. I usually hang up this worksheet in my office. I think it is very important to display your goals somewhere that you can track on a regular basis. And it is always so satisfying when you are able to check one off the list!

“It is very important to display your goals somewhere that you can track on a regular basis.”

Get Your Goal Setting Worksheet

To download my goal setting worksheet template, click here. Feel free to modify in a way that meets your personal goals and needs!

Happy New Year!

I hope you find this post about goal setting to be helpful for you! No matter what your goals are for 2019, I wish you a blessed year ahead in which we all learn to let go more, laugh a little harder, and love a little stronger.

Fish On,


Download Your Goal Setting Worksheet Here!


Christmas in Heaven

My Christmas wish for those grieving the loss of a loved one.

acorn advent blur bright

This is the second Christmas season without my dad. I intended to write many blog posts between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but to be honest, I just haven’t been in the writing mood.

Many people say that the second holiday season without a loved one is the hardest, and now I completely agree. Last year, Christmas came five months after my dad’s suicide and the reality of this permanence hadn’t set in for me yet. Sure, I knew that my dad was gone forever but I was honestly still in shock. It takes time for the frozen feeling of grief to melt and then you are left with a puddle of sadness for all that will never be.

“It takes time for the frozen feeling of grief to melt and then you are left with a puddle of sadness for all that will never be.”

Fast forward a year later, everything this Christmas season reminds me of my dad and it is a lot to handle emotionally.

The Grinch? We watched that together.

Taking Blake sledding? My dad will never get to see that pure joy on my son’s face.

Making my dad’s favorite holiday recipes? Wow – I never thought that I would be the one making them at the young age of 30.

Although I try to be positive and make the most out of a terrible situation, I admit, there are times that are pretty unbearable. Oftentimes, I carry my dad and this sadness with me everywhere I go—I can feel the heartache in every corner of my being, and deep down in my soul. I think expressing these feelings with others is really important, because it may look like I have it all together on the outside, but on the inside I am absolutely devastated.

“I can feel the heartache in every corner of my being, and deep down in my soul. I think expressing these feelings with others is really important, because it may look like I have it all together on the outside, but on the inside I am absolutely devastated.”

I thought I had so many more Christmases left with my dad. And now I don’t.

To comfort myself, I recently have been thinking about what Christmas must be like in Heaven. I am sure it is an extraordinary event, and I think about my dad sitting around a table of all our lost loved ones with so much peace and joy. I think about that image when I start to feel sad.

On Friday, I went to lunch with my dear friend Alyssa. It was so great to catch up about our careers, children, and life in general. At the end of our lunch, she handed me a Christmas present and I did the same. I drove home, got back to work, and then a couple hours later I remembered that I hadn’t opened my gift yet.

As I pulled out the tissue paper, I saw a red lantern, and I thought “Wow, this is so nice and festive!” Then, I turned the lantern around and discovered that there was a little Christmas tree, packages, a rocking chair and a candle inside.

Then, I burst into tears.

And keep in mind, I probably hadn’t cried in a month. I have just been in a place where I have been so frozen in grief that even my tears were icy.

“I have just been in a place where I have been so frozen in grief that even my tears were icy.”

On the lantern, Alyssa inscribed a beautiful poem about Christmas in Heaven. She is so creatively talented, and made this lantern all my herself. I was so touched by her thoughtfulness and generosity. I will cherish this lantern for the rest of my life, and I am so grateful for Alyssa, her friendship, and her Godly heart.

Christmas in Heaven

The Poem Inscribed on the Lantern

Christmas in Heaven

What do they do?

They come down to earth to spend it with you.

So leave them a seat,

Just one empty chair.

You may not see them,

But they will be there.

-Author Unknown

My Christmas Wish for You

If you are grieving the loss of a loved one this Christmas, I pray that God is near to help you carry on traditions that keep your loved one’s memory alive. I pray that you find comfort in family and friends, and that you can lean on one another during the ups and downs of the holiday season. And when those inevitable tears come, I hope that you can be vulnerable enough to embrace the tears and realize that it takes strength to admit when we are weak. And I hope that we always remember that although our loved ones are gone, they still exist in a happy, more peaceful state with God, yet are always connected to us through love.

Fish On,


Gift ideas for someone in grief

4 gift ideas to remember a lost loved one.

four christmas themed boxes

When someone you know (or even yourself) is grieving during the holidays, you might be compelled to provide the perfect gift that will pay homage to a lost loved one.

This was especially true for me. I thought about my dad all the time (and I still do), love having keepsakes that remind me of him.

Here are four gift ideas for someone in grief

T-Shirt Blanket (projectrepat.com)


My dad ALWAYS wore hilarious T-shirts, and had a huge collection of them. When my dad passed away, I had T-shirt blankets made for my mom, my brother, and me. My mom and brother were so touched by this intimate gift. My T-shirt blanket provides me a lot of comfort when I am missing my dad.

I purchased the T-shirt blankets from Project Repat, and I was highly satisfied with their timely services and the quality of the product. They have a great mission, too!

Personalized Ring (lisaleonard.com)


After I had my son, I had a ring created with my son’s name. When my dad passed away, I wanted to get a ring created with his name as well. I wear this ring every day, and I love looking at it and thinking about my dad and all the great memories we created together.

Thumbprint Necklace (picturesongold.com)


My best friend gave me a necklace with my dad’s thumbprint on it. I didn’t even realize that the funeral home captured my dad’s fingerprints. She contacted the funeral home and they sent her the images. She gave me this gift for Christmas, and I was so surprised and touched. I will always remember this act of kindness. I wear this necklace on most days, and touching the fingerprint makes me feel like my dad is always close to me.

Carson 44 in. Sonnet Heaven’s Tears Wind Chimes (various retailers)

Wind chime.jpeg

One of my good friends gave me these wind chimes in memory of my dad. I have the wind chimes hanging on our front porch, and whenever it is windy outside, the chimes ring and I think about my dad. I have given away these wind chimes as gifts to loved ones during the past year, and they have always been a well-received gift.

I hope these gift ideas are helpful!

What are some other gifts you have given or received to remember a lost loved one? I am always looking for suggestions!

Fish On,



How to express your grief during the holidays

Writing a letter to loved ones can provide a powerful outlet for healing and understanding.

photo of person writing on notebook

Exactly a year ago, I was in the midst of the first holiday season without my dad. This year was the biggest shock, and honestly, I was still learning to adjust. The Grief Share support group that I completed taught me many things about grieving, and specifically that while I will never “move on” I must move forward. While I was trying my best to do that, the weight of my grief was be oppressive at times, especially with the added stress of the holidays, working full-time, and maintaining a stable household for a small child.

One of the assignments for Grief Share was to write a Grief Letter to friends, family, and co-workers in order to:

  1. Describe my experience and my feelings
  2. Let loved ones and coworkers know what they can expect from me
  3. Tell them what they can do and say that I would find comforting and share what is not comforting
  4. List specific, practical needs they can help with

This Grief Letter was on my to-do list for months, and the holiday season sparked my motivation to share with my family, friends and co-workers in a deeper way. And writing my Grief Letter was one of the best things I ever did for my grief.

“Writing my Grief Letter was one of the best things I ever did for my grief.” 

To describe my feelings, I created Misti’s Top 10 List of Grieving. I also attached the beginning of my “Grief Story” for my loved ones and coworkers to read. This was another activity that was part of Grief Share. I intend on adding more to this story when I feel up to it, and I hoped that sharing this helps my loved ones understand my version of what transpired on July 4th (that letter is in an earlier blog post).

My Grief Letter: Misti’s Top 10 List of Grieving

  1. I apologize if I have seemed a little stand-offish lately: That is definitely not my intention and most certainly not directed towards anyone in particular. I am still trying to navigate through my grief—while I think that I have a lot of good days, sometimes I have bad days. I am sure that can be confusing and at times off-putting to others. I really do apologize if I hurt your feelings if I didn’t have a complete conversation with you or if I seemed really distracted if you tried to reach out to me. It’s not you, it’s me…seriously.
  2. Please be patient with me: It’s been almost 5 months since my dad’s death, and I am sure you might be thinking “why are you not over this yet?” Trust me, I wish I was. But, this is probably something I will not get over—I will just learn how to live without him and to live with “what is” versus struggling with the “whys” and “what ifs.”  Also—it has been almost 5 months, but I really think I was in shock for the first 3 months. I helped plan my dad’s funeral, gave a eulogy in front of a room full of people, and have been helping my mom with many logistics that death entails. In those first few months—I was too busy to even have the irrevocability of this situation settle in. Now, I feel like I am finally getting to the point where I am realizing the permanence of this loss and when I take the time to comprehend what is actually transpiring, it is absolutely devastating to me. So…please be patient if I am still a bit “stuck” in my grief at times. I am working through it, I promise.
  3. I am on an emotional roller coaster: I am the typical “Hero Child” (look it up if you want a good definition of me), and ultimately, I am just longing for the approval of others. I have always been an overachiever who is good at everything, and I want to be good at losing my dad as well. I am trying SO HARD to hold myself together, and to do everything right. To do this, I push things away and then at some point it just builds up into a point where I start hysterically crying. Currently, this happens about once a week. I realize that this is NOT healthy, and I am working on handling my emotions in a manageable way. I apologize in advance if I cry at a really random time. I have probably been holding back tears for hours, and I was trying really hard to not cry, and it just happened. In the event that this happens in front of you (odds are that it won’t since I hate crying in front of others), please hand me a tissue—tell me it is okay, and let me ugly cry in private. Please do not act like I am not crying—that makes me feel invisible or unimportant and/or annoying to you. Once I gain my composure, I will be ready to reengage in our conversation. Just please ignore my puffy eyes and red nose—those will be there for a while.
  4. The holiday season is making me EXTREMELY emotional: Beware: I am hyper-sensitive right now, and I do not handle conflict or stress well currently. I am not proud of this, but because you are important to me, I just want to let you know. Please be really nice to me: tell me I did a good job, compliment my Christmas cards or cookies, or that you like my new shirt and think that I am having a good hair day (if applicable and warranted).
  5. If you are thinking of me, please let me know: Death can be awkward, and especially when someone is dealing with a traumatic tragedy like a suicide. I get it—not many people know what to say when others are going through a loss, and you might be afraid that if you do say something that it will come off wrong or it might not be the right thing to say. From my perspective, I have been rather lonely and feeling like people have forgotten about me and “moved on” or that they don’t even care to know how I am feeling. Maybe you are thinking about me, but you are asking my husband, close family, or best friend how I am doing instead of asking me directly. If that is the case, I probably don’t even know that you asked about my situation or if so, it makes me sad that you do not feel comfortable specifically asking me. The next time you are thinking of me, instead of asking someone else how I am doing or being worried about saying the wrong thing, please consider sending me a text message or email to say “I was thinking of you. How are you doing today?” It is also okay for you to just say “I literally don’t know what to say, but I wanted to let you know that my heart still hurts for you.” If you don’t feel like talking, I always love receiving cards in the mail. And sometimes a hug or a pat on the shoulder can mean more than words can say.
  6. My loss is only one part of my life: I want to interact with others, and my dad dying is only one sliver of the pie chart of my daily thoughts and interests. If you don’t want to chat about my loss, I also like to talk about: TV (This is Us, Grey’s Anatomy, Designated Survivor, Modern Family, Blackish), movies (I really want to see Wonder, and love Christmas movies), Taylor Swift, sports (Ohio State!), books and random current events. I also love playing games like Euchre, Yahtzee, and Catch Phrase.
  7. Do not expect me to make the first move: I know I am usually the first to initiate things (making plans, texting, etc.)  but that has not been me lately. From my perspective, I feel like nobody wants to be around me because I am “damaged goods” or that I am not fun to be around. Currently, it is really hard for me to initiate things with others because I don’t want people to do things with me simply because they feel sorry for me. If you feel inclined, I would love to receive invitations to lunch, a walk or various holiday events. Even if I don’t feel up to attending, I sincerely appreciate the offer more than you know.
  8. I hate asking for help: I have always been very independent and I hate asking for help. Usually, this is because I really don’t know what type of help I should be asking for. So…If you have been thinking, “I wonder if Misti would like help with X, Y, and Z” the answer will always be “Yes.” Do you want to take Blake to Chik-Fil-A so I can wrap gifts? Yes! Do you want to help put our Christmas cards into envelopes and mail out? Yes! Do you want to spend time with my Mom so I don’t worry that she is alone? That would be great! Do you want to invite us to dinner? We love to eat! (Not that I am trying to get you to help me—this are just suggestions if you feel so inclined.)
  9. Talk to me about my dad: I think about my dad all the time, and I would love to share stories about him! I am an open book and I would eagerly tell you about his death and answer any questions that you may have. Don’t feel like you are burdening me if you ask me how I am doing, or if you had a thought you want to share. It probably won’t make me burst into tears, and if it does…so what?! Your questions, stories and dialogue help me heal. It would hurt me so much if you avoid speaking his name (Kendall). There is meaning in my dad’s life and I will find meaning in his death.
  10. Talk to me about you: I still want to know what is going on in your life. I know that I am not special and that everyone is always going through something. If you used to come to me for advice, you still can. If you have a funny story, please share it with me—I could really use a good laugh! If you need assistance with a survey, a resume or anything else—please ask. I would love to help and I would like to still be part of your life. I want to be there for you, just like how you are there for me.

The Result

Writing a Grief Letter was a great way for me to collect my feelings in an effective way. Even if I wouldn’t have shared my Grief Letter, the process of writing was beneficial for my healing. I was nervous to be so vulnerable about my feelings and needs. As I pressed send on those emails, my heart was racing. However, I am SO GLAD I shared!

I received so many heartfelt messages back from my family, friends, and coworkers. One friend invited me to brunch and a movie. My sister-in-law sent me a daily devotional and included an inspirational note. Many friends and family attended a Remembrance Ceremony with me after I wrote my Grief Letter. During Christmas, many people talked with me about Taylor Swift, and my mother-in-law bought Yahtzee for us to play as a family.

“People in your life love you and are hurting for you, and they simply just don’t know what to do or say. And although it takes some active effort on your part, if you want support that is most effective for you, then it is your responsibility to communicate your feelings, what will help you, and what won’t.”

I am a firm believer that people in your life love you and are hurting for you, and they simply just don’t know what to do or say. And although it takes some active effort on your part, if you want support that is most effective for you, then it is your responsibility to communicate your feelings, what will help you, and what won’t. Everybody grieves differently, and you are the only person who knows what is best for you.

If you find this Grief Letter helpful, please feel free to use it as a template for your own Grief Letter. I am praying for you this holiday season.

Fish On,


You can do this.

Last year, I was very anxious and emotional about my first Thanksgiving without my dad. And then something happened that helped me through the holidays.

You can do this



I would like to share a story in case it might bring some comfort to others during the holiday season.

Last year, I had an odd thing happen to me the night before Thanksgiving. I think it was real, but maybe it was a dream. I had a really restless night. With Thanksgiving approaching, I had been very anxious and unpredictability emotional. I had been dreading this first major holiday without my Dad and I kept telling myself “I can’t do this.”

Around 2am, I woke up to go to the bathroom. I looked down at my Fitbit and there was a message on it. (For those who don’t own a Fitbit: Messages can pop up for texts or sometimes it will message you when you have been inactive, when you take it off the charger, etc.)

The Fitbit read: “You can do this.”

I really think it was a message from my Dad. I know that probably sounds ridiculous, but in the Grief Share support group I went through, we learned about “miracle moments” and I truly think this was my miracle moment from my dad. Since then, when I start freaking out or feeling myself spiraling into an emotional mess, I just keep telling myself “You can do this. You CAN do this!”

“Since then, when I start freaking out or feeling myself spiraling into an emotional mess, I just keep telling myself ‘You can do this. You CAN do this!'”

So, for everyone who is going through something – a devastating loss, a traumatic change, a type of doubt – during this holiday season, I hope you are able to find an inner voice telling you that “You can do this!” as well.

It seems impossible, but somehow, with the passage of time, faithful family and fantastic friends, and the power of God, we will all get through whatever valley we are facing. Because “You can do this.”

Thornton Wilder once said, “The highest tribute to the dead is not grief but gratitude.”

During this Thanksgiving, while my grief is still extremely raw and constantly with me, I have so much gratitude towards my Dad and to all those who have helped me through this darkest time in my life. Thank you.

Fish On,


My dad’s favorite holiday recipes

Every year, my dad would make a few of his fan favorite dishes for the holiday season. Last year, I wasn’t able to make any of them. It was just too emotional. But this year, I am going to try. 

Here are 3 of my dad’s favorite recipes to make during the holiday season.

lunch table salad

There is something about food that evokes so many emotions.

My dad was always the one who stirred mom mom’s famous stuffing. Last year, since my dad wasn’t there, my husband was the one who stirred the stuffing. When I saw him helping my mom, tears started welling up in my eyes. “This is not right!” I thought to myself. And I sadly knew that holidays would never be the same again.

Every year, my dad would make a few of his fan favorite dishes for the holiday season. Last year, I wasn’t able to make any of them. It was just too emotional. But this year, I am going to try.

Here are 3 of my dad’s favorite recipes to make during the holiday season.

KP’s Easy Cheese Bowl

Hands down one of the easiest and yummiest recipes to serve at your next holiday party! This easy cheese bowl recipe is always a huge hit! Many people made a “cheese ball” but my dad said it wasn’t worth the effort to shape into a bowl, hence why he made a “cheese bowl.”



  • 16 ounces cream Philadelphia cream cheese (softened)
  • 1/4 cup green onions (chopped fine)
  • 1 package Budding’s beef, finely chopped
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 package Ritz crackers, for serving


  1. Hand mix all ingredients until smooth.
  2. Scoop into bowl that has a lid. Refrigerate for at least one hour.
  3. Remove cheese bowl from fridge, and serve with crackers. Enjoy!
  4. Place cheese ball on a platter with crackers and serve. Enjoy!

Simple Sweet Potato Casserole

This recipe entered my dad’s repertoire when I was a teenager. I always helped him make it, and it was so easy! This recipe also heats up well, so it’s perfect for leftovers!

Sweet potato casserole


  • 1 can (40oz) Bruce’s Yams, drained
  • 1 tub Kraft Jet Puffed Marshmallow Fluff
  • 1 small package pecans, chopped
  • 1 stick of butter, melted


  1. Preheat oven to 350º F.
  2. Mix yams, butter, and marshmallow fluff with electric mixer until smooth.
  3. Mix in half of the pecans into the mixture by hand.
  4. Cook for 30-35 minutes until brown. Cool, serve, and enjoy!

Captain Kendall’s Sweet Tea

My dad ALWAYS made this sweet tea! If it was warm out – sweet tea. If we were having a holiday part – sweet tea. If I was home from college – sweet tea. Even though I don’t consume many sweetened beverages as an adult, I MUST make his favorite beverage this holiday season.

Sweet tea.jpg


  • 6 Luzianne Iced Tea Bags
  • 16oz water, to boil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 quarts cold water


  1. Boil 16 oz of water on stove.
  2. Remove from heat, and steep the 6 tea bags in the hot water about 5 minutes.
  3. Pour into a pitcher, and add sugar. Stir well.
  4. Add cold water to the mixture. Stir well.
  5. Serve over ice, and enjoy!

I am hoping that by making these three recipes this Thanksgiving, I will be able to hold onto the memories that my dad and I recreated during all those years of cooking together.

What are some dishes that remind you of your loved one? Are you making those recipes this holiday season?

Fish on,



5 ways to remember your lost loved one during the holidays

I know for me, and many others, it is very important to do and oftentimes difficult to develop creative ways to do so.  Here are 5 ways to remember your lost loved one during the holidays.

close up of tea light candle against black background

Today, I want to share about how to remember your lost loved one this holiday season. I know for me, and many others, it is very important to do and oftentimes difficult to develop creative ways to do so.

My solution: light a remembrance candle

I did a lot of research on this last year and I found solution that was right for our family. I lit a candle in memory of my dad, and I placed it in the center of the dining room table and told everybody why the candle was lit. The candle that I have is a personalized pillar candle that reads, “This candle burns in loving memory of Captain Kendall Parsley, who is forever in our hearts.” And whenever I light this candle, I think about my dad and I know that he is forever with me.

“This candle burns in loving memory of Captain Kendall Parsley, who is forever in our hearts.”

Here are 4 other ways to remember your lost loved one during the holidays

  1. Say a special blessing: we always like to say a prayer before eating, especially at Thanksgiving. My mom said a really beautiful blessing last year right before Thanksgiving dinner and I lead the prayer for Christmas dinner. We both said something similar like, “Dear Lord, thank you for bringing all of us together on this special day. We are thankful for the love around us, the family before us, and the love between us. We want to acknowledge loved ones who are not physically at this table today, specifically (insert loved ones names here). While we may struggle to understand, we know that you have a perfect plan, and we continue to lean on you during our time of sadness. Amen.”
  2. Leave a seat open for your loved one: While I didn’t do this, I know others who physically leave a seat open for their departed loved one.
  3. Make your loved one’s favorite dish: My dad always made a couple of his signature recipes for Thanksgiving. So last year, my mom and I were sure to make my dad’s sweet tea, cheese bowl, and sweet potato casserole. (Recipes to come tomorrow.)
  4. Set aside some time for yourself: It will be a roller coaster of a day for you, and it is imperative to set aside some time for yourself. In the morning, I remember taking a couple of minutes to journal. And later in the day, I just couldn’t be at my mom’s house anymore, it was too hard for me, and so my husband, son and I left. Giving yourself permission to be alone is gold.

What ways have you remembered your lost loved one during the holidays? I would love to hear what has helped you!

Fish On,


3 suggestions on how to survive the holidays

For anyone who has lost a loved one, the holidays can evoke the deepest emotions. Here are 3 tips to survive the upcoming holidays.

person holding heart shaped bread

For anyone who has lost a loved one, the holidays can be an extremely emotional time. Holidays can evoke even the deepest emotions that you have buried for far too long (guilty!). Oftentimes, I think the mentality can be to simply survive the holidays.

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. It is a time of year in which you can spend time with loved ones without the hustle, bustle, and stress that Christmas can bring. My dad worked in a warehouse for 40 years, and he was always stressed out and so tired because he worked so much overtime during the holiday season. But Thanksgiving was always a happy time before the Christmas season kicked off the next day. My parents oftentimes hosted Thanksgiving, and my mom, dad and I were a well-oiled machine. My mom would be the head chef and my dad and I her soux chefs. She told us what to do, and my dad would stir the stuffing and cut up all the staples, while I set the table and made desserts. I  have so many great memories of Thanksgiving at our house.

And because of this, I was so nervous for my first Thanksgiving without my dad, and to be honest I am anxious just thinking about this Thanksgiving which is only a couple days away.

Here are 3 suggestions on how to survive the holidays from my experience:

  1. Establish a plan: Even though you might not stick to it, I think it is important to establish a plan for that day. In your mind, think about what you will be doing at every step of the day. It might even be helpful to write it down. If you are able to visualize the day in your mind, it can help you not get caught off guard.
  2. Prepare what you’re going to say: Now, there will probably be some people who will ask you about your loved one. And it can be helpful to practice what you are going to say and how you want that conversation to go. For instance, if someone asked me about my dad, I could say, “Thank you for asking about my dad. He really loved Thanksgiving, and we had so many great memories together on this day, so I am a little emotional thinking about that.” Now, there will also be people who will NOT ask about your loved one and that might evoke some negative emotions. I truly think people aren’t trying to be mean, they simply don’t want to cause you anymore pain or don’t know what to say. If you would like to talk about your loved one, and nobody has brought up your loss to you, I would probably say something like, “I am sure we are all thinking about it, and I just wanted to mention that I am thinking about my dad a lot and I am really thankful to all of you for your love and support during this sad time.” This will give your loved ones an opportunity to say something that they might have been thinking.
  3. Leave yourself an out: In the morning, you might feel like you want to be around loved ones and then once you’re at a holiday party something could trigger you and you want to change your mind. If that happens to you, know that is very normal. I say, hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Maybe you drive separately so you can leave whenever you want. Then you don’t feel stuck and you know you are in charge. Or, if someone invites you for a holiday event you can say, “Please loosely hold this invitation for me. I would love to come, and appreciate the invite, but I am not sure how I will feel until the day comes.”

If you have some other suggestions on how to survive the holidays, I would love to hear them!

Fish On,


My Story on International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day

On International Survivors of Suicide Day, I thought I would share my story of healing and hope through a video.


Survivor Day is the one day a year when people affected by suicide loss gather around the world at events in their local communities to find comfort and gain understanding as they share stories of healing and hope.

On Saturday, November 17, 2018, loss survivors will gather around the globe in small and large events while growing together in their grief journey.

I thought it would be best to share my story of healing and hope through a video.

If you have lost someone to suicide, please know that you are not alone. It can be hard to share your story, but I have found sharing to be such a healing process. My dad’s legacy lives through me, and I am honored to have the responsibility of ensuring that while there was meaning in his life, there will be meaning in his death as well.

“It can be hard to share your story, but I have found sharing to be such a healing process.”

And if you know someone who has been through a suicide loss, my wish is that you are able to be a good listener of the stories your loved one wants to tell. A caring friend or family member can make a world of difference.

Fish On,