what I read & loved in 2013

You know what you probably haven’t read enough of? Year-end lists! I mean, what could be more compelling than reading what a random stranger loved or hated about an entire year? And yet here you are reading my year-end list. Thanks for that by the way.  I like my opinions like I like my coffee– strong and with no bullshit so hopefully list will be entertaining and if not maybe you’ll include it in your own list of “Top 10 Blogs that Bored You to Tears.” At any rate, 2013 was a banner year for me and reading.

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Books have been a lifelong romance of my mine but that doesn’t mean we’ve always been close. See when the better part of 20 years is spent reading the trashy magazines while slugging down tequila, finding the time to cuddle up to a novel is darn near impossible. But not so in 2013. After reading one too many blog posts with numbers in the title– 10 Reasons Why 90’s Kids Should Still Love PBS! 9 Hottest Styles For When You Don’t Care!, 8 Ways Buzzfeed Is Turning Your Brain into Cream O’ Wheat!— I decide to relight my book romance. From April to December, I read 23 books!( I know, I know. I even read alcoholically.) It’s safe to say me and books, like Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn, are still very much in love.  While some of them challenged me and others disappointed, the majority of them were really fucking great. So without further and here are 7 books I read and really loved in 2013, in no particular order. Please note that while I read all of them in 2013, not all of them were released this year.

Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey It’s fairy tale for grown ups. It’s a fable about loss. It’s a portrait of a frozen world touched by magic. It’s all these things and utterly unforgettable.

90 Days by Bill Clegg I’m picky when it comes to recovery memoirs. I think most recovery writers tend to focus on the drama part and not the whole getting better part and it frankly bores the shit out of me. But Bill Clegg strikes a perfect balance here and tells a concise and inspiration realistic tale of life in early recovery.

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter I love old movies. I love Italy. And I love laughing my face off while reading so this book was as satisfying as a homemade pasta dinner. Walter is straight up brilliant and hilarious and the kind of writer I’d like to be when I grow up.

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki An involving mystery, an ecological meditation, instructions on actual meditation, physics and biology lessons, and a diary written by a teenage girl you can’t help but fall in love with are just a few of the things Ruth Ozeki crams into this book. And somehow she makes it all work seamlessly into a novel I found to be at once heartbreaking, lovely and yes, timeless.

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo Short of buying a case of this book and handing it out to people on the street, I can’t recommend We Need New Names enough. Harrowing, funny, insightful and written with real moxie, I couldn’t put it down this tale of a young girl from Zimbabwe. This book transcends that crappy “foreign person from troubled background” genre by doing something really special– writing without apology and with a truth everybody can identify with.

Five Star Billionaire by Tash Aw These interwoven stories of modern Shanghai had me utterly captivated. Aw’s chatty, perceptive and smart insight into his characters is like a close friend giving you a behind the scenes look at a city torn between the future and the past. I set this book down and felt a little teary and sad which I consider a really good sign.

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena I don’t know what else to say about this novel of war-torn Chechnya other than “wow.” This perhaps the best thing I read all year.  I don’t know if I’ll ever forget this book. It moved me. It scared the shit out of me. It broke my heart. It cracked me up. I love it so much and just want you to read so we can talk about it over coffee. Thanks.

As I plow my way through The Goldfinch (LOVING it) and have a zillion other books on queue, I think I’ll want to revise or add to this list but I’m confident in my choices plus there’s always 2014!

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Friends, what did you read and love in 2013? Fill my comments section with awesome book recommendations please! And Happy New Year!

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12 Days of Blogmas: Top 3 Blog Posts of 2012

Merry Almost Whatever Holiday You Celebrate!

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Blogmas started as my way to celebrate, look back on and dissect my year in blogging here at UrTheInspiration. Therefore it is fitting that we wrap up our 12 days of Blogmas with my 3 favorite posts of 2012!  Maybe not the most popular and perhaps not the easiest to read and probably not featuring the best writing but these three posts represent those rare moments in blogging where I shut my laptop and think, “Nailed it!” Writing sometimes is more about sitting down with a goal and reaching it and these 3 blog posts did that quite nicely.

3.) Can’t Hurt Me Now: I never wanted to sit down and write about my own history with bullying. Our attitude towards the topic often feels misguided, in my opinion and I didn’t really think I had much to add to the conversation. Nevertheless, after a lunch with a pal from high school, this blog poured out of me and I’m glad it did. It turned out to be a healing writing experience and provided some long overdue perspective. Plus there’s Madonna references so how can you go wrong?

2.) It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time: The balance of humor and honesty is a tough one for me when writing about my addictions and past disasters. I don’t feel like I usually get it right. Yet this post, rich in A-Spray references and acid wash denim, felt like I got pretty damn close. It made me laugh re-reading and that’s always a good sign.

1.) I Haven’t Got Time for the Pain: Processing pain and tragedy sucks, if we’re speaking bluntly. This post was born of me trying to wrap my head around the tragic Aurora shootings that happened over the summer. I cried when I wrote it. I cried with fellow bloggers who reached out to me afterwards. Writing this blog helped me and reading it today I know that it comes from a honest place which is all I ever really want.

There ya have it! I hope all of you have a great holiday! Thanks for reading over the last year. I’ll be back right after Christmas– I’ve got a laundry list of ridiculous crap we need to talk about.

Happy Holidays!

12 Days of Blogmas: Write Christmas

Well, hello there! Just in case you care, I’m combining our fifth and sixth day of Blogmas not just because I’m lazy (although that of course has something to do with it) but because both posts are all about writing!447802176

The tricky topics of putting the old pen to paper, banging our heads on our laptops and slaying the dragon called writer’s block provided some of my favorite discussion with you guys over the last year. Writing, by nature is a solitary sport, so when we all got a chance to honestly talk about our process and how we survived it, magic seemed to happen. This transpires with my writing group regularly and happens when I read works from other writers about writing too. Also, tend to get really butch around writing and act like”Yo! I got dis. I don’t need no help.” But really it’s nice to have help and to say, “I’m stuck” or “This is hard.” And sometimes writing about, well writing, demystifies my own work and knocks some perspective into my think skull. (By the way, if you’ve turned this blog post into a drinking game and taking a swig of alcohol every time I’ve used the word “writing”- congratulations! You’re hammered.)ernest-hemingway-writing1  I wrote about writing a lot over the year but the  two posts chosen for the 6th and 5th days of Blogmas are The Glamour of Getting it All Down and The Voices in My Head-The Musical, respectively. The first talks about the blogging while the second is more about play writing  Each have memorable photos (Gotta love the Sybil poster!). And they both kind of deal with the mental road blocks involved with this writing thing. Working with other writers along with other people in recovery really feels like what I was put here on this Earth to do so the posts where I got to talk directly to both sets of “my people” felt special indeed.

So check out the Glamour of Getting it All Down and The Voices in My Head-The Musical!, why don’t you?  And while you’re here, please leave me some of your thoughts on writing and your own writing practice in the comments section!

12 Days of Blogmas: Happy Holigays

Oh readers. Just when I think I couldn’t possibly love you more than I do, you surprise me by being totally amazing. Only you guys would make a post about a baseball star our most read of the year but have our second most popular post be about gay pride. Like I said, you guys are pretty special.

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The Last Time I Saw L.A. Gay Pride is our entry here on the 6th day of blogmas. And honestly I love that so many people read that post. “The first time I” or “the last time I” are great writing exercises I’ve picked up from different gurus and fabulous ways to start memoir-type of posts. So it being June at the time, I thought it was fitting to talk about my last time at Los Angeles Gay Pride. Over the years, the particular celebration in the super gayborhood of  West Hollywood served as the playground of a lot of drunken debauchery for this writer. What had escaped me for years about “gay pride” was the second word of that phrase. Feeling proud of myself, liking myself, loving myself were things I couldn’t wrap my mind around regardless of how many parades I sat through. Maybe others could identify with that sentiment and that’s why this post was popular or maybe it had more to do with the fuzzy pink booty shorts. silly-gay-men

Whatever the case, I’m thrilled people read and comment on anything thing I write and I’m proud of this funny post and yeah, today I’m even proud of myself too. Talk about a holiday miracle. Let’s journey back to the magical month of June together, shall we?  And celebrate the 6th day of Blogmas with The Last Time I Saw Gay Pride. 

And if you are still looking for a festive –and cheap- gift for readers on your list, my holiday story A Tough Cookie Christmas is available now at SmashWords!

12 Days of Blogmas: Unmemories

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Hello! The above photo of moi features a typical expression of “huh?’ although the mouse lady and Santa were not the typical companions. Anyway we’re back with the 12 Days of Blogmas and truth be told I don’t remember the above brunch with Santa and his rodent gal pal. Truth is there is a lot I don’t remember. And that’s what today’s trip down blog lane is all about.

I wrote Unmemories, Like the Corners of My Mind last February. It started out to be sort of a humorous tribute to all the things I didn’t remember due to blackouts caused by drinking. I had an idea of writing an un-memoir. I explained the contents of my unmemoir like this:

” My unmemoir would have lots of half stories. Beginnings or just endings. Rarely would the middle of the story show up,” I wrote. “Mainly because in the middle of the action is where I would totally blackout. It became normal, for years at a time, for people to say to me matter of fact, ‘You probably don’t remember. You were really drunk.’ Like it was some kind of acceptable handicap. Like being a blackout drunk excused me from acting like a human being. But really being a blackout drunk doesn’t get you a special parking space and doesn’t entitle you to a telethon. The only perk is that people will let you off the hook for  not remembering things and quietly pity you.”

The post turned out to be heavier than I had intended. Really looking at what drinking did to me and then writing about it was personally a game-changing experience for doing this blog. This post stared back at me in black and white with the truth. Not a pretty truth but one just the same. It became a goal of mine to hit that mark whenever I could. And I’m thrilled to say, as a writer, I feel like I have, a couple of times over the last year.

So friends, take a gander at Unmemories, Like the Corner of My Mind on this 7th Day of Blogmas if you feel so inclined. If,perhaps, you’re in the mood something more festive, my new short story A Tough Cookie Christmas is out now on SmashWords.com!

While we’re talking memories, how about you share some of your favorites from 2012 in the comments section below? 

 

12 Days of Blogmas: Tough Cookies

Jeeze. Talk about bad timing. On our 8th day of Blogmas, I should be happily tooting my own horn about the release of my new my Christmas essay A Tough Cookie Christmas on Smashwords while posting today’s offering Oh Cookie Where Art Thou?

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Instead, like the rest of the planet, I’m feeling kind of bad about the state of humanity. So in order to keep my shameless self-promotion on the more sensitive and compassionate side, I’ll simply say this. I’m proud of a Tough Cookie Christmas because it reminds me that goodness is still possible, change can happen and when in doubt have a cookie. Love is the only thing that gets us through times like these and hopefully my story carries that message too. I’m also proud of it because it’s my first self-published ebook, something I would NEVER have had the guts to do if I wasn’t sober and if I didn’t have the love from you people at this little ol’ blog.( By the way, UrTheInspiration readers get a shout out in the back of the book. It’s the least I could do since you save my life on a daily basis.) If you buy it at Smashwords, you can read it on your Nook, Kindle, iPad or on your computer’s desktop!

But that’s enough out of me.Read the story and the old blog post if you need a little fluffy diversion and I hope I can make you laugh for a minute. Tragedy forces me to be grateful and I’m grateful for all of you, wherever you are.

12 Days of Blogmas: The Odds are Good

Greetings! on our 9th day of blogmas ,we’re talking all about my failed attempts in early recovery to become a “ho, ho ho.”

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The post The Odds are Good but the Goods are Odd is my pick for today for a few reasons. First off, every so often as a writer you get write something that makes you laugh and entertains you first without worrying about the readers, this was one of those posts. Thankfully, others seemed to like it too. Secondly, the photo of the  cheesy Ken dolls is one of my favorite images on this blog.  It just worked. It’s not the above Ken dolls however. These beauties are from an Etsy card entitled “Fairy Christmas”.  Uh. Yeah. So there’s that. Lastly, this post made it in to our celebration of blogs because its one of the only ones that talks about dating and sex in early sobriety. Hmm. Why is that? Oh right that’s because I wasn’t exactly a hot ticket in my early days of sobriety.  Or as the post puts it, ” My life was a hot mess and I was fucking nuts. So no, my toxic, curdled milkshake did not bring all the boys to the yard.”

Love and dating for anybody is tough but in early sobriety the whole thing seems like a huge puzzle. Granted, I have a laugh in the post and the sentiments expressed there are the truth but I was also really lonely. It felt like things were never going to get better and I was never going to be “dateable” again. But the writing was on the wall: I had to deal with my issues before real relationships of any kind were possible. It took a lot of work to get where I loved myself and was okay with myself. Once that happened, a better quality of guy (i.e my now husband) started to show up on the radar.

Yet it is hard to deny the comedic nature of  sex and romance and thus our 9th Day of Blogmas post was born.I’m lucky to come out of the other side of feeling miserable and lonely and be able to laugh about it today.  Here now is another chance to read The Odds are Good but the Goods are Odd as well as a photo of me with a giant pink Betsey Johnson-designed Christmas tree from the Plaza Hotel in NYC. Just because.

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12 Days of Blogmas: That Cat Blog

Yesterday we talked about the most visited blog post of 2012 and today it pains me to talk about the other end of the spectrum. Yes kids, it’s time to look at one of our least popular blog entries. On this the 10th day of Blogmas, your true love gives to thee a blog about my cat Maeby (Pronounced  ‘maybe’. Just in case you ever hang out with her, I didn’t want it to be awkward).  What weird sort of alternate internet universe am i living in when a cute and from the heart blog about my cat only gets 7 views?  I mean look at that face.maeby

That Cat Blog, since you obviously didn’t read it, was all about animals, how after having to leave my old pets the little charmer pictured above magically showed up in my life and how 4 dogs, 3 cats and 2 chickens helped me stay sober. Furry critters have always been a part of my life and sometimes I do better with animals than I do with people but not in a crazy cat hoarder kind of way. I think I explained this special relationship better when I wrote:

“I can’t speak for other alcoholics or addicts (and the minute I do , please call me on my shit) but I am so awkward around people and worried about saying the right thing that being with animals is a relief. They don’t care about what I’m wearing or what I do for a living or who I know. They want food, some petting and they want to sleep which oddly enough sounds like a lot of alcoholics I know too.”

I do get it though. Not everybody likes cats. Or animals. And most people don’t like alcoholics. And I totally understand that too. But thankfully here at UrtheInspiration, I like all of those things and I like you too. I hope the 10th day of Blogmas is all that you dreamed it would be and please enjoy That Cat Blog as well as this odd photo of Maeby nibbling on a pineapple.

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The 12 Days of Blogmas: Josh Hamilton

As we continue to celebrate the The 12 Days of Blogmas, wherein I countdown my 12 favorite and most-noteworthy blogs of 2012, the wonders never cease. I wanted to see which blog posts were the most popular, had the most views, most tweets and most forwards. Thankfully  the stats tools on WordPress are super handy, easy to use and filled with that kind of information. The winner? A post about baseball superstar Josh Hamilton and his relapse. Wait– the most popular post was about sports?!? I know. Baffles the mind. Please enjoy a photo of me with a sparkly white Christmas tree and then we’ll try to make sense of all this.

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Maybe it’s because his relapse back in February was a huge story in the world of baseball. Maybe it’s because outside of my sparkly gay existence, people really care about sports. Who knows? What I do know is that post still garners views and it’s been almost a year! I’m thankful that this unconventional post introduced me to a slew of new readers. I’m thankful for the emails and comments I received regarding the subject of relapse because of it. And I’m thankful that an ability to play the tape through today keeps me from a relapse of my own.

The way the media handles relapses of celebrities like Hamilton drives me crazy. There’s so much judgement and such a lack of compassion about the disease. The topic is still a hot one and I shared about my own struggle with relapse to try to make sense of it:

“Now I know nothing about Hamilton and his character. In fact, having me blog about baseball is a little like having a vegan describe the menu at Outback Steakhouse. But I do know about relapse. In 2008, I really tried to stay sober all by myself. Without any support or asking for help, I limped along in a state of miserable dryness. After 70 days, “I thought I got this.” Recently, I found an old journal from that time and I feel sorry for that guy. He was doomed to relapse. He was dry but he wasn’t recovering. I read this passage from the journal that nearly made me cry:

‘I’m trying to dodge bullets, trying to breathe, trying to still love life, trying to meet my problems full on and all the while I’m trying to figure out ‘Now What?’ Drinking was an issue and addiction is an issue for me. I’m trying to take it easy but I fear I’m hiding out.'”

Ouch. That journal entry still puts a lump in my throat  For the rest of my relapse tale as well as more on Josh Hamilton, hop on over to the most popular post of 2012, “Staying Out of Josh Hamilton’s Relapse” and celebrate the 11th day of Blogmas!