Catchup

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Day 27 of 30 Days of Blog finds me running around like a moron. I’m attending a wedding, putting out some work fires and generally trying to keep my head out of my backside. I would consider myself the “b word” (no, not that b word). Busy. But not in the cop-out American “I’m so busy” way like being busy should deserve me a parade or a special parking spot. I’m busy in the way that I am blessed to do things I love. Listen, I’m lucky to have a life that is full and involves more than waiting tables and drinking tequila until my brain falls out of head. This being said, I thought I’d use today’s post to breathe and let readers get caught up while sharing some news.

First off, the news. My new e-book, The Potato Salad Variations has been delayed on the account of my health funkiness and some editing sluggishness. But it will be out in the middle of July and I hope you guys read it. I think it’ll be funny-sad-ridiculous-uplifting. Plus, it has some stories I’ve never put on paper with yummy recipes to boot! It will once again be available thru SmashWords.com and I’ll let you know the exact date as we get closer.

Next the catchup. I have had friends and readers say that my 30 days of blogging has given them too much to read. Fair enough. Take today to get all caught up. Some of the posts I really enjoyed writing this month are as follows:

* loved the cathartic feeling of blogging about being 17

* also really liked this goofy post about penguins.

*my fav post of the month (so far) also features my favorite Stevie song 

* and when in doubt, start at the beginning!

So will I survive being busy without acting like an entitled jerk? And what accessories will save my wedding outfit? And how many pieces of cake will I really have? You’ll just have to read tomorrow to find out! And thank you in advance for doing that, by the way. ūüôā

 

 

movie therapy, part 2

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The world lost somebody pretty special when it lost Roger Ebert. No writer ever understood the power of film better than Ebert. “Every great film should seem new every time you see it,” he once said. It’s this kind of thought that illustrates what a fan of movies the guy was. And I happen to agree with him and I’m a fan too. As I round out my top ten favorite films today, I guess it’s important to repeat that these are movies I love or that affected me or helped me and maybe not considered the best films of all time. Different list. So without any further ado, here’s the rest of my top ten.

6. Guys & Dolls: Sinatra the actor and Brando the singer are two things that shouldn’t work but for me in this movie, they sure do. Add to it ace directing by¬†Joseph L. Mankiewicz (director of my all time favorite, All About Eve, coincidentally) and terrific songs like “Luck Be A Lady” and “Sit Down Your Rocking the Boat” and you’ve got a film that never fails to put a smile on my face.

7. Young Frankenstein: As kids we must have watched every Mel Brooks movie a million times. But none of them can still make me laugh like a crazy person like Young Frankenstein. Particularly great in this movie are the women. Madeline Kahn, Teri Garr and Cloris Leachman are all hysterically funny. The folks in this film taught me how to be funny and I’m still working towards being a pale imitation.

8. Lady and the Tramp: No doubt there are better Disney films and this one is far from perfect. But I distinctly remember watching it as a kid and thinking, “That’s what love is like”. I’m sure my 6-year-old brain thought love was nothing but spaghetti dinners and Peggy Lee numbers but to this day I still think its one of the most romantic and charming films I’ve ever seen.

9. Rear Window: We were also big Hitchcock fans in my house and my parents and I watched this one a few years back during my first holiday season sober. My husband and I even worked on a stage adaptation of it. It’s great storytelling, terrific acting and Hitchcock doing what he does best.

10. Chicago: This was tough and could have been a four-way tie to round out the list. But Chicago is a movie I can’t get sick of and I’ve seen it A LOT. I remember watching a few times when my life wasn’t exactly great and for a few hours, Chicago made me feel better. Plus the casting and choreography is nothing short of inspired.

Honorable mentions and close calls: Wall-e, Clueless, Sixteen Candles, The Muppet Movie, Silkwood, Gone with the Wind, 9 to 5, Private Benjamin, Postcards from the Edge, Cabaret, Casablanca, Some Like Hot, Sense and Sensibility, Thelma and Louise, Dangerous Liaisons, Aliens, Working Girl, Out of Africa, Broadcast News, Hugo, The Piano, When Harry Met Sally, A Fish Called Wanda, and Grease. 

Now, it’s your turn. Tell me all about your favorite films and those movies that helped you. I’m dying to hear your list!

the dig

One of the things I’ve grown to like the most about being a writer is research. My version of research is probably a little different considering the subject matter of my plays doesn’t require me meticulously recreating a 14th-Century courtyard or delving deep into the patterns of the human brain. No, when you write shows about Craigslist personal ads and karaoke bars, the research process is decidedly a little more lighthearted. Whatever I’m researching, however, the process of digging is one that excites me and since recovery its one I’m no longer afraid of.

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My past used to be like the attic of an old recluse. You had to be careful when you were digging around in there because you didn’t know what horrifying thing you might find. I had tucked away memories, thoughts, beliefs that I just knew were all too scary to deal with. I thought if these things were tucked away, they’d never hurt. And just to make sure, I dumped tequila and cocaine on them so they wouldn’t pop back up. Well, as you can imagine, that didn’t pan out the way I wanted. When I got sober, I had to unpack that attic.I had to look at all of the things I was hiding and drinking over. While uncomfortable and certainly not as fun as watching hours of karaoke videos on YouTube, it wasn’t terrible. It actually felt good. Not only did these ‘awful secrets’ from my past not kill me but a lot of them that I was convinced would kill me weren’t really that bad. I was miserable enough that I had to just trust that digging around would be okay. And it was. More than that, it saved my life.Digging-22

Several personal inventories, meetings, therapy sessions and years later, it doesn’t freak me out. My new show, Welcome to Ladyland, is in the research process right now. Since the show is maybe more autobiographical than my others, the digging here is more personal too. The show deals with relationships and as part of that I’m looking at my own behaviors and personality traits that maybe aren’t so great. Uncomfortable? Yeah. Ugly in parts? Uh huh. But I’m hoping by addressing these character flaws honestly, the work will also be really funny, human and uplifting too. The amazing thing about digging and being open to learning more about myself is that by welcoming it, nothing I find can ever hurt me, regardless of how deep its been buried.

Is it too late to become a penguin?

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I only ask because after watching a documentary on the Patagonia, I think penguins could teach me a thing or two about compassion, loyalty and direction. Seeing these waddling little characters travel thousands of miles every year without getting lost and then finding their mates nest with no specific markings is beyond impressive especially when you consider they all look identical. But somehow the couples find one another, year after year. And unless we kill them all (people suck.) they’ll keep it doing it and we might not ever know how or why. Maybe Google should hire penguins to help with mapping. Anywhoo, their affection and loyalty is as impressive as their built-in GPS. These penguins stay mated for their whole lives and wait for one another while the female goes and searches for food. If you asked most singles what they want in a relationship, I could bet it would sound a lot like the penguin life I just described. At the end of the day, we want somebody to be there when we get home, to do their part to help the machine run and to help us protect our chicks so they don’t get eaten by sea lions. Okay maybe not that last one. ¬†For more proof that penguins rule, may I present Cookie?

I think with all the news, it’s easy to believe that as I mentioned earlier (jokingly) that people are the worst. I mean they don’t really try that hard to refute that theory. Ain’t that right, Paula Deen, Paul Ryan and all of Washington? A friend in the program once wisely told me, “No matter how great they are, people are gonna let you down.” ¬†Yet there’s something freeing too in knowing that people, myself included, are going to screw up and do so royally. Maybe in a covert way I can even take the lessons of the penguin to help me be a better person. It sounds crazy but trust me I lived in LA for 15 years and I ‘ve certainly heard of wackier spiritual solutions. Hey, that’s not a bad idea. ¬†Finding Your Inner Penguin: Waddle Your Way to Your Ideal Relationship coming to a Marriott conference room near you!

I’m actually happy being a person, despite all of our flaws. Besides, if I was a penguin, I would have ¬†had to spend my childhood eating regurgitated fish. Yuck. Like I don’t have enough issues already.

guilty of gordon ramsey-ing

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m kind of a reality television junkie. Mainly competition shows and my favorites are ones revolving around food. Top Chef, Iron Chef, Master Chef. Basically anything with chef in the title and an elimination at the end of each episode. Yeah it’s not Deadwood or Game of Thrones but it’s also not Keeping up with the Kardashians or some crap about pregnant teenage girls either. We all have our television crack and mine just happens to feature people cooking trying to win money. In addition to being totally enthralled with Master Chef this summer, we found another show starring Gordon Ramsay on Netflix called Ramsay’s Best Restaurant.

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Ramsay, if you don’t know is this floppy haired, super tall chef who likes to yell at people and who has roughly 17 million reality shows both in England and the US. Depending on who you ask, Ramsay is either a total jackass and buffoon or the best thing to happen to reality television. I happen to think he’s a little of both. Anyway, this show features Ramsey travelling around England to find the best restaurant and holding mini-competitions where two restaurants of the same genre (French, Indian, Chinese, etc.) compete against one another. One of the segments in every episode features Ramsay observing a dinner service and criticizing the head chef and owners. It’s pure entertainment and totally ridiculous. During this segment in French episode, Ramsay looks in the camera and talks about how the kitchen is falling apart and how they’re disorgranized and how basically this restaurant is going to a bouillabaisse soaked hell if they don’t do what he says. However, upon closer look, Ramsay’s full of shit. The employees are happy, the food looks incredible and the head chef is relaxed. Ramsay invented some non-problems to make things interesting and more dramatic. It struck me as I chuckled at the whole silly, overblown affair, I do the same damn thing.

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Drama was my first drug of choice and cooking it up was something I could definitely win a reality show at. Naturally walking in with a perception that things are bad and everything is going wrong, like Ramsay did, is kind of how I lived my life for along, long time. But as I watched the French chef smirk at Ramsay’s histrionics, I realized my perception that things are horrible or dramatic or going to hell in a handbasket is usually way off. Ramsay, at least has an excuse. He’s on a television show and he’s trying to keep his job. I have no excuse in making life more dramatic than it actually is.

So as I go out into the world on this Friday, I’ll try to accept things the way they are and not make things harder on myself. Mainly, I’ll try to adopt the relaxed attitude of the Frnech Chef instead of yelling and acting a fool like Ramsay. Vive la France!¬†

crabby

Maybe its the heat. Or the fires. Or the stress from all these doctors appointments. But today, despite my best efforts, I was crabby. Maybe even a little bitchy. And sort of crazy.

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A telltale sign that old Sean isn’t his shiny happy self is when I start yelling at inanimate objects and muttering to myself like the guy¬†outside the soup kitchen¬†who looks like Famous Amos and mumbles about conspiracy theories. So earlier today when I cussed out an ice cube tray and yelled at my phone charger, I knew I wasn’t in the best shape. I actually started wandering around my apartment, ¬†bitching at no one or nothing in particular. This was not cute. ¬†I was a Nick Nolte beard and handmade sign away from being totally batshit. Luckily, no human beings were harmed in my momentary lapse in mental health.

Mainly, my patience is shot and I feel totally and utterly overwhelmed. I wanted to wallow and sleep all day. But thanks largely to the criminal lack of chocolate in my apartment and a simmering feeling that I needed to get outside of my crabby-ass self, I went to a meeting. For 60 minutes, my crap melted away and seeing people I love and who love me back–crabbiness and all- healed my stank attitude, even if it was only temporary. This works for me over and over again. Hearing others hope and strength and courage suddenly makes whatever crabbiness and self-pity I’m going through seem ridiculous. But today something else happened too. People in my meeting who know what I’m going through came up and hugged me and asked if I needed anything.I felt like regardless of how awful my mood was I was going to get thru it.

These feelings of “kumbaya” faded after a phone call from my clinic which began, “I don’t mean to freak you out but…” Really? Who does that? Just FYI healthcare people of planet Earth: just by saying I don’t mean to freak you out, you’ve already done so. It wasn’t too big of a deal however and I’m going back in for a treatment that should help until I get my new meds. It just all seems like a lot right now. Oh crap.¬†Suddenly, I’ve blogged myself from crabby to whiny.

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Before this turns into a therapy session, I’ll wrap it up. This is what I do know: I’m going to be fine. And not being happy all the time and pretending like everything is okay is actually pretty healthy for a chronic people pleaser like myself. Nobody promised me that if I got sober I’d never have another problem ever again. What they did promise me is that I’d have a life beyond my wildest dreams, that I’d never have to drink again and that amazing people would be part of my fellowship.¬†¬†Crabby attitude and stressed out self aside, I know this to be true and the meeting I went to earlier confirmed it. In the meantime, I’ll work on my attitude.

 

prayers for the terminally self-involved (who are trying to be less so)

Prayer is an interesting topic. It’s a little like cooking a chicken. There’s a billion ways to do it and everybody has their favorite. I guess now would be the time to note that this is a spirituality post and not one about religion. Or cooking chicken for that matter. Although I could ramble about the latter for at least 10,00o words. (Book idea: Eat, Pray, Fry Chicken) Prayer or talking to God or communicating with the universe or whatever you wanna call it is an essential part fo me being less crazy. In the beginning of my sobriety, my prayers were of the “Please help me not drink” or “God, help me make it through today” variety. Today, it varies. I try to take 30 minutes to just hang out and be grateful and pray for people who need help. And most days I pray short little prayers all day long like:

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“God please help me always remember between looking younger and looking scary.”

and

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“God give me the wisdom to delete bitchy or crazy emails/text messages BEFORE I send them.”

also…

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“God help me be less judgmental. Even to myself.”

or one of my favorites is

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“God, help me help other people. Even I ones that make me crazy. Especially them.”

And lastly, this one works all day and rocks for its simplicity.

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After two decades of being a self-involved drunken drug addict, I need all the help I can get. Right now, I’ve got a lot of uncertainty going on with my health stuff and it is scary. But thanks to having a spiritual life, I’m totally okay. Yes, I’m scared. Yes, I feel crappy. But am I going to be alright? Totally. Time has proven that I can get through everything thanks to my version of God and some awesome people in my life.

Listen, I don’t know how this prayer things works and frankly I don’t need to know. I just know that it does. So, readers, I’ll make you a deal. I’ll throw some your way if your throw some my way and we’ll get through whatever together?

some survive

As I listened to a beloved member of my fellowship share a heartbreaking story of his brother who committed suicide after decades of struggling to get sober, two things happened. First, the idiotic, self-involved stuff I was worried about ¬†instantly melted away. Nothing like legitimate tragedy to put your “problems” in perspective. ¬†And second, a thought that always hits me when I hear news like this came over me once again: “Joe.”

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Joe wasn’t my best friend in recovery. Joe wasn’t somebody I hung out with. In fact, Joe was actually someone I was kind of jealous of. Handsome, smart and with an incredible job Joe and his partner were the kind of gay couple in recovery us single losers wanted to be. But Joe and I did have two big things in common: the same home group and we both got sober on January 2nd 2009. When we picked up one year anniversary chips, Joe and I finally exchanged numbers and looked like we were moving towards becoming friends. Sadly, I never got to use his number. Joe and his partner relapsed and struggled to stay in the program. A few months later, Ken came home and found Joe dead in his bathtub. After struggling to get back into recovery, Joe couldn’t take it and like so many of us do, committed suicide. His death hit me like a ton of bricks. Here was a guy with my same sobriety date who seemed to have everything, dead in the blink of an eye. A shockwave of sadness flowed through our group and folks rallied around his heartbroken spouse. At the time, my grief manifested in wondering “Why Joe and not me?” I wondered for a long time why some us get to stay and keep being sober while others relapse and get taken out by this disease. It all seemed so senseless. Wasn’t just wanting it enough?

Three years since Joe’s death and two days since listening to my friend’s talk of heartbreak, I know that just wanting it for someone isn’t enough.They have to want and they have to want to do the work. And while we will never know for certain why some of us get to stay sober and stay alive, I like to think there’s a bigger reason. I put myself in dozens of crazy and dangerous situations and with lethal combinations of chemicals. I’m not sure why that stuff didn’t kill me. I’m equally puzzled as to why I chose to hang onto my life-preserver instead of relapse this go round. ¬†But what I do know is since I’m here I owe it to Joe and to my friend’s brother and millions of others to make the most of everyday, to work hard on being less of jerk and to help as many people as I can. I think of it as life-preserver insurance.

the man, the myth, the mayonnaise

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I thought I’d use today’s post to talk about something really fascinating: myself and my upcoming projects! I kid but since I’m blogging everyday I figured today would be a good opportunity to talk about my new memoir with recipes, The Potato Salad Variations.¬†Last winter I self-published A Tough Cookie Christmas, just your average holiday story about a drunken hot mess who get his life together and bakes cookies, and I had so much fun with that project I decided to put out a sequel or companion of sorts. Hence The Potato Salad Variations was born. As food magazine reader, avid Top Chef watcher and overly confident home cook, I’d say I’m something of a foodie and food lover. What’s more is I kind of have a crazy memory for the things I ate and where I ate them. Food, for me, plays such a huge part in a lot of my biggest life moments that I liked the idea of tying recipes in with stories from my life.

The Potato Salad Variations tells three stories from my life using three different recipes for potato salad as sort of the guideposts and markers in my personal history. There was a series of humiliating barbecues which I alluded to in yesterday’s post that lead up to me hitting rock bottom in 2009. Present at each of these functions was potato salad. In fact, the creamy side dish of the gods could be spotted at everything from my baby brother’s baptism to my high school graduation and everything in between. Potato salad, like dysfunction and redemption, has been a constant in my life so it made for a natural,¬†albeit unusual, narrator for these stories. I confess the middle section of stories was a hard one for me write. I’ve talked about hitting bottom in thousands of meetings and told my story hundreds of times but for some reason writing about this messy period of my life was challenging and uncomfortable. That’s usually a good sign. It means I’m not bullshitting myself and that I’m telling the truth.

So I hope The Potato Salad Variations makes people laugh and that readers get something out of it. If not, that’s okay. I do know the recipes rock so at the very least I have that going for me and I know it’s 100% the story I wanted to tell. And in the end, what more can a writer ask for?

The Potato Salad Variations will be released on June 30, 2013 thru Smashwords.com! 

ouch

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“Oh my god!” is what came flying out of mouth. Not, “Are you okay?” or anything of the compassionate nature. Just a good old-fashioned OMG followed by a “Fuck!” And judging by what I witnessed, I think in hindsight these were the proper responses. As I took a morning walk through the park on my way to a meeting the other day, I heard that noise. You know that painful crash reserved for people walking into glass doors or banging their heads on car doors or falling down a flight of stairs. This particular blood curdling clang was caused by a girl on a bicycle who had ridden face first into a steel sign. This sign which apparently came out of nowhere for the rider is the standard “no littering, hours of operation, blah, blah, blah” thing meant to help parkgoers. In this case, however, all the sign helped do is knock this young lady off her bike. As the bike wrapped itself around the sturdy signpost, her face smacked directly into the sign causing the aforementioned noise. So dramatic was the sound and entire accident, a couple walking their dog ran over to help the girl up. Crumpled, embarrassed and a little bloody, she was helped back up and on her bike where, and this could only happen in Denver, she relit her joint and peddled away.

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As I kept walking, I wondered if she’d even remember the entire affair later. Personally, I know had dozens, if not hundreds, of ouch moments while inebriated and probably even more that I don’t remember. I’m not the most coordinated soul in the best , most sober situations so add any kind of chemical to my system and some falling down is bound to happen. Stairs, specifically, were my longtime nemesis. Falling up or down them while completely shitfaced was kind of my speciality. After a long night of drinking, tumbling up or down the steps to my apartment became not that big of a deal. Yet it was a painful, midday slide down their stairs after I’d been asked to leave a barbecue where I’d drank myself into a coma at like 2pm in the afternoon that would be my last drunken, stumble down the stairs.Of the hundreds of times, I’d made an ass out of myself this one stung the most. Not only because the fall itself was incredibly painful- I bounced on my ass down concrete steps into an unforgiving wrought iron door. But because it felt like a new low. My drunkenness had officially crossed over into the pathetic-guy-who-gets-blackout-drunk and ruins a barbecue territory and I wasn’t coming back. It took me another 4 months– and some other huge disasters to finally pull my head out of my ass and get help.

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Now, that was my last drunken tumble but last time I fell down some stairs, I was sober. Newly sober in fact. I was crying on the phone to my mom, as I did pretty much for the first year of sobriety, and it was pouring rain like it does in February in Los Angeles. I was calling her from the campus of Santa Monica college where I had recently enrolled in school. As I hung up with tears in my eyes, I missed a step and went flying down the stairs, cutting my hand open on the sidewalk. A trio of well-dressed African-American girls with chic umbrellas came running over, “Are you okay? You fell pretty hard!” they said. I nodded and mumbled something and ran out of there. Aside from wanting to die, I was okay.

Why I felt compelled to talk tumbles today, I have no idea. Maybe I needed the reminder to help other people who fall down. Maybe I needed to feel grateful that my days of drunken calamities have been over for a while. Or maybe I just needed to remember that everybody crashes and gets back up and rides off. With or without a joint dangling from their lips.