All posts by Effin Artist

Effin Artist is a celebration of art, life and recovery

Advent: That “c” word is with us, for better or worse

The season ahead signifies a most incredible claim: that God does not live in the clouds beyond but right here, now, among us. Christians call it Advent, which means exactly that, Christ with us. It signifies the birth of a very human man, Jesus, who made outlandish claims to be the Son of God.

This Thanksgiving, a kickoff to Advent on the spiritual calendar, I am trying to think about all the human challenges ahead, about how I can resist hate and not become hateful, how I can listen more, and what in the end is really important. I want to consider more deeply, what brings me purpose, joy and a glad heart, you know, the stuff I’m “thankful for.”

I know it has something to do with this notion of Advent, that God is here with me in all the sordid places I have dragged Her and yet loves me even still.

God’s love–and grace– compelled me to write my manuscript No Religion, Too.  It urges me to better understand the divine while resisting the American brand of Jesus as represented by those who speak the loudest. It demands that I love even while seething against those who take the Lord’s name in vain every time they take to the stage, the radio, the internet or perhaps even in public prayer.

I believe God is with us, and I believe She is pissed.

These thoughts kicked into high gear after I read an email sent to the members of First Mennonite Church of San Francisco by Pastor Sheri Hostetler (Sheri plays a vital role in my life, sort of a spiritual tuning fork. I am the worst church member–something about never going to church plays a part– but Sheri treats me like a vital cog,  which is a bit like Advent: God with me).  As I read about the notion of Christ with us, I realized how uncomfortable I am with Christ–not the person, but the brand, which is often very confused. This is the challenge Pastor Sheri addressed when she wrote:

“Most of us would rather talk about Jesus, the historical man, than Christ. We feel on surer footing talking about Jesus the wise teacher, whose parables confound and delight us; or Jesus the compassionate healer, whose miracles of wholeness we try to translate into our life and times; or Jesus the revolutionary liberator, who denounced the political, economic, social and spiritual oppressions of his day and who was killed as a threat to Empire.

“But, as we approach the Christ-mas season, as we sing hymns proclaiming that “Christ is born today,” we are confronted once again with the “c” word — Christ.  Christ is a confusing concept for many of us. Just who is Christ? How is Christ different from the human person named Jesus?”

Which spurred me to wonder how we can ransom Jesus back from his kidnappers. I think I am not alone when I say, I want God with us and I want  this cooked up Christ dismantled.

This real Christ is confounding, to the point that the dark history of atrocities done in the name of Jesus “have made it very difficult for some of us to want to even claim Christ. So, on top of our confusion about who Christ is, we have to add our profound discomfort with the very concept,” Sheri wrote.

So this is my challenge this Advent season, a time when the ugly energy of hate and fear rises with a new American Theocracy about to come to power.

“I hear a deep spiritual wisdom — that if Christ-ians were to reclaim the true Christ, it might actually contribute to the healing of the world. That if we were to allow the true Christ to be born in us today, the world might change for the better. That if we were to more fully embody and experience the wise, healing, liberating energy that is struggling to be birthed today, we might see new manifestations of healing and hope,” she added.

Which again brings me back to where I’ve so often been in times of trouble. Here, present, waiting, listening for the touch of God coming near.

For this, I am forever thankful.

Advertisements

Create a world where Trump is not necessary

Russell Brand: wise sage?

As it turns out, yes.

Listen to him–rather than get caught up in what you may think you know of the English comedian/actor with an unfettered biography of overcoming drug and sexual addiction–to glimpse him in this role, and perhaps to learn something while you’re at it.

Listening to him isn’t that hard. Brand’s intelligence, humor and honesty are anything but boring.

The hard part comes when we consider what he says, just as he did shortly after America’s coronation of its first Theocracy, i.e. the less-than-majority Presidential victory of Donald Trump and continued GOP control over Congress.

“The fact that Donald Trump is president of the United States is, sort of, not what’s important,” Brand said. “What’s important is the conditions that have occurred that Donald Trump becomes (the president).”

Brand correctly correlated widespread disenchantment both in his native England with Brexit and now in America with the election of Trump.

For five minutes of rapid-fire commentary, Brand lays out his case that the growing, educated, progressive majority has failed to understand those with whom they don’t align.

Or perhaps it’s as simple as my son often tells me, “I can’t stand how superior you elites act.”

Don’t get my wrong, my son loves me and we have wonderful, open talks about politics and social issues. He is a non-religious progressive on most social issues who is fiscally conservative and stridently pro-small government. He once voted for President Obama but now feels alienated. “Hope and change” to him, was the first political let down of his adult life.

Brand uses similar language, but from the perspective of a progressive insider. We have no idea how we’ve alienated those who have now kicked us from the halls of power in two of the world’s most powerful economies, he asserts.

Facts back him up. The “superior” hubris of the Democratic leadership continues to haunt this country. After voters looked to them for leadership in 2006, they spent two years doing nothing but trying to destroy the GOP. After progressives stormed behind an unknown named Bernie Sanders ten years later, the Clinton campaign never stepped foot into key Rust Belt states Sanders won, even after both Trump and Michael Moore said she would lose right there.

Our arrogance is destroying this country as much as the fact-deprived, right-wing proliferation of political spin regarding taxation, climate change and the economy. We can look down our nose at people who still deny global warming and believe the nonsense coming from Fox News, but they now control the government.

Thankfully, Brand as wise sage doesn’t just wax philosophical about these trends. He offers a clear path to a solution, one that is very, very hard to follow. I know this because for the last two years I tried to do it way more often than I tried to elevate my political agenda.

“Lets try and reach out and understand why someone feels like this and be loving and not be presumptuous,” he says.

And more to the point: “We have to create a world where a Donald Trump is not necessary… we have to change the way we treat each other.”

I believe this is as close to my personal “mission” as anything I do. But now, after the rise of a Theocracy that had no interest in conversation or listening for the entire eight years of the Obama presidency, after the election of a President who routinely uses abusive language, incites hate, condones and participates in the abuse of women, and who has a near pathological bent toward lies—after this election–I will listen while I actively resist this agenda of an American Theocracy.

This is anything but easy. Listening is decidedly not easy. Loving is nearly impossible. Resisting can be dangerous and disruptive. But this is my calling. I hope it will be yours too, so we can “create a world where Donald Trump is not necessary.”

In defense of tolerance, resist but don’t hate

Now they expect us to be “tolerant.” We cannot be tolerant so that intolerance can be allowed. Too many people’s lives and hard-earned freedoms are at stake in the months ahead.

This is what’s a stake: a woman’s right to choose, the right to basic public health, increased institutional racism, the legalized right for same-sex marriage. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget the right to avoid cataclysmic destruction of our planet.

Our challenge will not be to maintain the resistance. The extreme views of those in power will provide us daily motivation. They are tone-deaf to the movement of tolerance.

Our challenge is not to hate those who would oppress us. Our challenge is not to hate the “God” they espouse, especially those of us of faith who know a very different God.

The commandments tell us first to love God and love others. They say do not take God’s name in vain. Yet, the religious right will continue to act with such impunity of people they view as outside of the will of God that they scream Goddamnit at the top of their lungs with every act they undertake.

We take God’s name in vain when her so-called people vow to destroy Her creation — both the planet and the people who inhabit who they believe God damns.

Christopher Hitchens wrote in his book, God is Not Great, “Religion poisons everything.”

A segment of Christianity that veers far right, even away from moderate evangelicalism that is often wrongly viewed as bedfellows with this political ideology–even far right of George W. Bush’s fabled compassionate conservativism–controls our federal government.

This is no time for tolerance.

But it is also no time for hate, lest we become the thing we resist.

Walking through Greenwich Village the other day, I sought out the now landmark Stonewall Inn, home of a police attack that gave birth to the civil rights movement for gays and lesbians.

The Stonewall Inn is more than a gay bar. It’s the symbol of everything we have to lose in the coming months as the Theocracy of America takes complete control of the federal government.

The statue outside stands for a cultural victory that normalized what should be and should remain “normal,” the right to love who we want without fear.

img_1736

Most statues hark to a past era after victory is assured. A few weeks ago we wanted to believe that. Now, we know better.

Vice President-Elect Mike Pence–who is widely believed to be the person making presidential decisions under the Reality TV presidency of Donald Trump–is among the most far-right Christian trumpeters this country has ever elected to the state house, much less the White House. Pence has vowed a culture war built on a Christian theology touted by a minority–a fading one at that.

The same Congressional leaders who broke the rule of law and refused to approve a qualified candidate for the Supreme Court, will now try to stuff that court with religiously motivated justices who will defend their so-called view of “God’s law.” It flips a middle finger at the constitution and laws of the United States.

We will tolerate nothing of people who in the name of God promote intolerance that rivals that of theocratic governments in the Middle East. The world has lived through enough Crusades for one planet. We will defy them to try to again.

We refuse to let our LGBTQ brothers and sisters be threatened again. We refuse to allow their homes, their safeties, their marriages, their civil rights abused by a theocratic police state again.

We will resist, not fight. Who are we? We are now Muslim, Liberal Christian, Gay, Transgender, Female, Black, Latino, and on and on. If they make a target, we will all become that thing. If they try to register one group, we will all register. We will all refuse to tolerate this attack on our freedoms.

Somehow, someway, we will win the world back with love, not hate. This is something more powerful. It is the unified voice for the freedom of all, even those who would dare drag us into a religious-fueled state of intolerance. We will resist and we will love, and somehow, someway try to even love those who view us with such disdain.

This is the way of freedom.

Men of goodwill, step aside

Men. This is not our century. We’ve had a nice run, but in truth, we Effed it up fairly spectacularly. Today is the day we admit it’s time for a new perspective. Today is the day, finally, the phrase “the most powerful woman in the world” becomes impactful. Because a whole massive crowd of millions will vote for Hillary Clinton to become the nation’s next president. Simply put, #imwithher. And all men, everywhere, you really should take a hard look at doing the same.

Men, we’ve taken the greatest government ever established and profoundly abused it. Our Supreme Court is held hostage and our Federal courts have been mired with unfilled vacancies. Our Congress no longer cares about reasonable checks and balances, but instead panders to voter extremes with obstructionist, ill-tempered partisan battles. Yes, there are some women legislators at this point, but the government institution and party power brokers are almost all men. And frankly, they are awful. They have crushed the meaning of an informed, effective Republic.

This inevitable transfer of power should have been much easier. With the Republican Party offering up Donald Trump, a poster child of BMS–Broken Male Syndrome–any woman candidate should have won this in a landslide reminiscent of the Walter Mondale’s 49-state defeat. But two factors made this election less than the laughing stock it should be: 1) Hillary Clinton is a badly flawed candidate, and 2) The riotous anger of politically impotent men has risen to new levels of rage and voter insanity.

To be clear, a big reason Clinton is flawed is also what makes her arguably the most qualified candidate for President of the United States since Thomas Jefferson. She has a lifelong track record of service. She also has a lifelong track record of political machinations, which is the one thing an excellent man and strong President, Barack Obama, lacked. This is precisely why another Clinton scares the living stuffing out of the angry old white men of the GOP.  They have tested her mettle time and again and she has frankly, kicked their mother-loving asses.

But that success and lifetime of gamesmanship also helped create a powerful person who thinks she’s above the norms. Clinton suffers from hubris, which has often distorted her decision-making (hence, the email/server idiocy while Secretary of State despite plans for a presidential run). She’s anything but stupid, but she does stupid things because of arrogance. She has earned much of the distrust of the moderate voters who she needs most.

Clinton’s pivot toward the progressives is also fraudulent. She is an “incremental leader,” as California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom explained and will never go out on the leftist limb. To try to say she’s the right person for Bernie Sanders voters is a joke. They will work together in an awkward truce, but the progressives will never be hers, not should she pretend otherwise.

But these flaws aren’t the most significant reason Hillary Clinton’s candidacy will go on record as one of the most ineffective ever by a winning candidate. The real juice behind the distrust and vitriol is reason number 2: angry white guys and the frothing hate of the hardline right.

Blind with hatred for Hillary, the Right has tossed an ocean liner full of cowshit spin at her since the day she set her sights on the White House. Nobody could withstand such mind-searing attacks, especially since the vast majority are profoundly divorced from reality. This election season is where the ugly seed of the  2004 Swift Boat Veterans of Truth sprouted into an invasive crop of horror that we may never fully uproot. Truth matters nothing anymore. Hate Trumps All. Which is why the candidacy of Donald Trump exists.

But let’s not be fooled that Hillary alone earned this hate. Her husband was profoundly hated, spawning a new age of partisanship that has dominated governance, despite leading us in a time of economic growth and prosperity. President Barak Obama will likely go down as 1) one of the greatest presidents of all time, 2) one of the most beloved presidents of all time, and 3) one of the most hated presidents of all time despite saving us from the Great Recession and 10 percent unemployment.

The angry white men of the GOP can’t just oppose a candidate, they have to hate her.

Under the rule of men in the last three decades, elections and government somehow descended from a peaceful transfer of power to a civil war of hate and obstructionism. A government built on checks and balances and compromise has become a government built of fear, attacks and destruction.

This, my fellow men, is what our legacy will remember most about the end of our rule. Today, we go kicking and screaming off the pedestal of power, taking with us our cartoon candidate Donald Trump, who embodied the worst of everything we came to represent. We broke our government. We broke ourselves in the process.

So men, hate to break it to us, but we’re fired.  Thank goodness so.

It only took a year, but our first T-shirt is here!

The picture you see above is not, I repeat not, the Effin Artist boardroom. If we have a boardroom like that, we wouldn’t need to sell T-shirts.
But it’s nice to dream right? Dreaming is basically what set this whole “I’m an Effin Artist, man” thing in motion–for better or worse.
Dreaming is basically all we’ve done from the start.
We used to a write an Effin Artist email. It went out to our family. We’re Italian, so it’s a pretty big list. And the other benefit was, we’re family, so they got the damn email whether they wanted it or not.
For a while, it was pretty lively. Then, my schtick wore off a bit (right about the time I stopped offering prizes for responding to the email… hmmmn). So in search of a better audience, we launched Effin Artist and the email stopped.
I kept waiting for that moment when the email readers would reach for the leg that had been amputated and realize it’s gone.
And then I got tired of waiting. So I went ahead and sent a newsletter offering a “future” prize of a free T-shirt! It went something like this:
I’m back. EFF you all if you don’t like it. Go to the bottom, find the unsubscribe button, click it and the demons of cyberville will unleash digital hell upon you because that’s what you’ll deserve. MERRY CHRISTMAS!
Yeah, it was a Christmas email. Cheery, huh? Now maybe you understand why the email “subscribers” were less than enthusiastic participants.
Anyway, the point of all that brings me to this: Those T-shirts I promised last Christmas, are FINALLY here! Right here, to be exact.
Who needs a boardroom?! We got T-shirts!
T-shirts make incredible Christmas gifts. Trust me on this. It is not too early to shop. I’m experienced in Christmas failures.
Buying “stuff” isn’t really my thing. Yet, I do like stuff as much as the next heathen. Stuff is like that. Sneaky, lusty and all that. But still, I’ve never been great at the whole make-a-Christmas list and fill it with a lot of stuff, wrapping said stuff, mailing said stuff and all that stuff. I’m a stuff failure.
The last few years I’ve tried to make stuff for Xmas. Some have gone over better than others, I guess (you’d have to ask the email list subscribers). Most arrive late though. So my made “stuff” is really more like a “hey, it’s a new year and it’s cold and it’s not all bad,” kind of gift.
Last year I tried to remedy that by promising Effin Artist T-shirts, something I make, but something someone else would deliver! It was foolproof, except, one snafu, which I wrote about back then:
These T-shirts are going to rock. Our only problem is our logo because, well … it doesn’t rock. In fact, it’s pretty much crap. Nothing worse that getting stuff that looks like crap that you have to wear on top of that. Even I’m not that cruel.
But thankfully, after four designers, we fixed the crap logo. Now it’s a great logo (made by the wonderful Ilaamen Pelshaw), which means we also have the long-awaited T-shirts (For real, right here. You can get one. To be clear, they aren’t Christmas gifts I’m giving you. I think they should be Christmas gifts you give others. Just want to be really clear on that point!)
And they make great Christmas presents because these are more than the first edition Effin Artist, “unFuck The World” T-shirts. The funds raised by the sale will go to the production costs of the Effin Artist authors and a feature film that we are working on right this very minute to get launched in 2017. After all this time basically mucking around and cheering Effin Artists everywhere, we’ve finally decided to get serious and do sh*t that matters. For us, that Sh*t is elevating great artists and stories that inspire change.
So buy a whole sh*tload of T-shirts to help these great stories get told.
Tis the season, right?!

Emily’s story needs to be written

Effin Artist exists for a single reason: To elevate great stories that inspire change.

Emily Green has such a story. And we’re committed to helping her tell it for a simple reason: Her unique approach to surviving cancer represents a serious shift in healthy recovery. Her story represents a sea change in treatment paths chosen by the millions stricken with this disease. This is inspired change at the root, right where it can do the most good for the most people.

Emily is the mother of three, ages 16, 5, and 4. She is the hearbeat of a family that has endured its share of challenges and trials over the years before she learned that she had late-stage breast cancer.  Her story may sound too familiar in an age when cancer plagues so many of us, but it is utterly unique in its message of hope for those afflicted.

img_20160929_080206

Emily doesn’t view cancer as a “fight.” She’s not battling for victory and not waging a war. Instead, she has chosen to step outside of that story to find her own. It is one flavored with such tenderness, healing and grace that a temperature of warmth rises from her words. Like that time when her doctor asked her if she wanted to transfer care after Emily opted not to follow her advice.

“That doesn’t mean that we stop working together,” Emily wrote. “It means that we disagree, and that we remember that I am in this body, driving my healing, and I weigh many factors in making a decision and we continue to move together toward our common goal of my healing.”

Emily’s story was captured this week by the local news in her hometown. Her energy flows through this news report.

Emily doubts she would be alive had it not been for critical decisions she made about her treatment. Vital financial support that “allowed me to take specific healing steps that otherwise would have been out of reach,” empowered those decisions, she wrote.

Which is why we unabashedly ask you to become a champion for Emily today and help bring more healing for herself and others within reach. How?

First, a donation to Emily’s GoFundMe page provides critical help for her care. Some of you already have donated. On behalf of Mike and Emily, we can’t thank you enough. You’ve helped save her life.

Second, share this post and Emily’s GoFundMe page on social media. Invite others to become part of Emily’s reader community.

Third, Subscribe to our mailing list and we’ll send you updates of her book as we finish it. You can be part of her reader feedback. You can offer support and encouragement along the way. You’ll be honored guests at her book launch party and trust us, this is going to be a celebration of life you won’t want to miss.

So we launch this effort today, partners with Emily on her work. Soon we will rally this community to help her launch her words and support her effort to inspire badly needed change.

Just as her life was saved, this effort will help countless others heal as well.  Great stories, do in fact, inspire change.

Chief Dabbler recruiting creatives in San Francisco

Jemal “Jay” Swoboda developed two critical skills growing up with a dozen brothers and sisters on a midwestern farm: how to learn to do new stuff and how to get along with people. Both serve him very well as the Chief Dabbler of Dabble.co, a Chicago-based city exploration and local adventure platform now launching in San Francisco.

“You had to learn how to fix stuff,” Swoboda says about his childhood. “A lot of skills my family shared with me were ones I didn’t think twice about. Our limited resources made being resourceful a daily requirement. We reused the bath water for three to four kids to save water and money and when the hot water heater broke – we boiled water on the stove until we fixed it. There is a confidence that comes with the knowledge that I can fix something broken or take care of an animal that is sick and not have to spend a bunch of money for someone else to do it for me. Gardening, welding, plumbing, word-working, you name it, these are useful skills I learned just because of my upbringing.”

Dabble is all about creating shared experiences with people learning new skills or talents. Users purchase tickets to learning-based events that redefine the meaning of “diverse.” Classes range from important skills like welding and cooking, to more intriguing offerings like knife throwing, archery and how to dance like Beyoncé.

“For the price of a round of drinks or your monthly cable subscription, you can learn new things, meet new people and have a great local experience. Anyone can dabble,” Swoboda says.

 

Born to Dabble

Like all of the Dabble staff, Swoboda started out as a consumer.

“We’re dabblers and travelers ourselves. The team is made up of people who share their skills and experiences already. They are creatives who are inspired by the work and time shared with others. We created a platform we wanted to use,” he says.

The freshly launched startup that began in 2011 made a splash in Chicago, quickly emerging as a go-to site for finding new things to do, new hot spots or new talented people willing to share their skill set with others.

Swoboda, then a St. Louis resident with an entrepreneurial bent, helped Dabble expand. Beyond the viability of the business, he connected with it on an emotional level, seeing people dabble in learning new things, making things and connecting with others. It reminded him of home.

“There is a very clear connection in that world between what your hands do and how you live. This is important life stuff that we could really lose touch with if we’re not careful,” he says.

Swoboda had spent more than a dozen years as the founder and editor of What’s Up Magazine, a nonprofit publication written & sold by the disadvantaged and homeless of St. Louis. If he were a football player, he’d be described as having a “high motor.” His relentless energy kept him busy with St. Louis startups, building LEED-certified homes, teaching as an adjunct professor and racing in ultra marathons. Despite his full dance card, he dove deep into Dabble when the opportunity arose, heading up the company’s St. Louis expansion before moving to Chicago.

When Dabble’s founders shifted focus to other opportunities, Swoboda was ready to up his involvement. As the new CEO–or Chief Dabbler as he calls himself– of the company, he won an Arch Grant for $50,000. He brought in new investment funding and continued the bootstrapping effort to bring the site to more people.

Fans of the site are thrilled.

“I love me some Dabble,” frequent user Elise Taylor said. “A friend introduced me to it a few years ago, and since then I’ve done a class every couple of months.  For couples it makes a great date night–our last Surprise Date Night was an archery lesson–for individuals it’s great to learn a new skill.”

 

Taking the next steps

The next steps will be the most challenging in the company’s five-year history.

In addition to its strong Chicago base, Dabble has grown in Denver and St. Louis with pockets in more than 10 cities. With the next round of investment funding looming, Swoboda knew growth would be imperative to the site’s success. He targeted San Francisco and spent a couple of weeks in September making the rounds in search of the best teachers, classes and experiences in a city full of them.

“We want to dip our toe in the water of this Bay, because we know that is an unending limit of people and experiences here that we want to help share,” he says.

Soon San Franciscans will experience what Chicago resident Sara Omary talks about to friends all the time.

“I already love flying solo at Dabble classes, making new friends, and telling new Dabblers about the other great experiences I have,” Omary said. “I am down to try literally anything and have a good time doing it. Dabble has been an amazing way to learn new things, meet new people, and discover more of Chicago since I moved here in January.”

This, to Swoboda, is the other thing that drew him to Dabble beyond just learning new things. The People. Especially in urban centers that can seem isolating when compared to his upbringing. Swoboda loves the urban life but knows human connections are critical.

“What’s this pull to cities?” he asks “Why do we live in the middle of the bustle? We live here because of the energy, because living in cities collides us with this unending list of experiences and people.

“This is what makes a big city feel small,” Swoboda says. “We’re not just schelping classes.”

Calling all creatives, small business owners and artisans. Sign up your classes on Dabble now by clicking here. It’s fun, easy and doesn’t cost a thing.

 

Bucket list check: Goodbye Vin

Several years ago, at the lowest point of my life, I was in rehab and far removed from everything familiar and comforting. Like so many do when life dead ends, I started the so-called Bucket List focused on things I hoped to do again once I put my life back on the rails. Almost every item involved an experience I wanted to share with another person.

One item on the list: listen to a Vin Scully broadcast one more time. I didn’t need to share it with anyone else, just legendary Los Angeles Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully.

The sweet, understated, folksy charm of Scully connected me back to my childhood. Night after night, I carried my radio down to the local market that had the game of Pac-Man. I’d put the radio above the game, break out a roll of quarters I saved from my various chores or entrepreneurial activities, and tune into Scully’s Dodger broadcasts.

These times said a lot about me. I didn’t need a lot of others around to find my happy place. I loved baseball and still, do. I loved mastering anything–in this case, Pac-Man, where eventually I could play three or four innings on a single quarter– and I tended to be both competitive and addictive even when the activity didn’t matter to anyone else.

But mostly, they reminded me of a marker in my life that felt uncluttered, uncomplicated and happy. These three things don’t often align in my life.

At the time I wrote the list, I knew I couldn’t get a Dodger broadcast until the next season. I told my brother during a visitation about my hope.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “Scully is retiring this year.”

I couldn’t believe it, and yet, of course, it made sense. He had already broadcasted for more than 60 years–a staggering run of longevity and excellence. But still, like everything bad happening during that time it felt personal, like punishment. Fate needed to take my to the shed, again and again.

But fate showed some grace. Scully re-upped for quite a few more years bringing us to this day today, the last time he broadcasts in LA. I sit in my dream apartment, my dogs nearby, just passed my seven-year sobriety mark, and I can cross this off the bucket list. I’ve heard Scully a few times in the last few years, but this is special. I’m here at the end of his ride and again, in a better place in my life.

When I added Scully to my Bucket List, I optimistically hoped to listen to a Giants/Dodgers game. If I was going to have a memorable moment, why not go for one of the great rivalries of all time and one that marked my growth. I grew up a Dodger fan and yet long ago moved myself and all my allegiances to the North. I’m San Francisco through and through these days, even if an adopted not naturalized citizen.

Scully’s final broadcast will be later this week, on the road here in San Francisco, for a final Dodgers vs. Giants game. I’m not sure I can get that broadcast, but I’ll watch the game along with Vin for one last time.

In this world so full of grace, it’s nice to be reminded of how much I’ve been given.

“God is so good,” Scully reflected today on this special broadcast.

She is indeed.

 

I didn’t get ‘Fixed’, but Kirkus does

I’ll never forget the first time I read Doug Piotter’s first chapter of what would eventually be called Fixed: Dope Sacks, Dye Packs and the Long Welcome Back.

I’ll confess. I didn’t get it. I wanted to get it. But I wasn’t sure.

Now, we know for certain how wrong I was in my first impression. Fixed has just been given the Kirkus Star, which enters the book in the competition for its Kirkus Prize award and the $50,000 prize that comes with it.

It’s safe to say Kirkus’ reviewer got it.

“The author’s life, as portrayed here, contains enough screw-ups for 10 dysfunctionality memoirs,” the review writes, “but unlike other memoirists, he eschews angst and self-pity and highlights the absurd humor of the predicaments he made for himself. The pathos here is all the more moving for being spare, understated, and well-earned from hard experience. A smart, occasionally wise, and always entertaining recollection of addiction, crime, punishment, and recovery.”

I didn’t know Doug when I went out of my way to introduce myself to him at a writers conference. He unabashedly touted his book during the Q&A, describing it as micro-stories from his time as a drug addict, bank robber and prison inmate. He said, “it’s the real deal. It all happened.”

I introduced myself to him and invited him to a writers group. His moxie and story impressed me. I knew he could benefit from a serious group. Soon, Doug sent me his manuscript. I read the first chapter, and like I say, I didn’t get it.

But he added one more thing to his email, a link to the first reading of the book he had done. I listened to the reading and then I knew we were on to something.

Folks were cracking up. I may not have gotten it, but the crowd did.

Writing funny is nearly impossible. Perhaps it’s raw talent. But it’s also craft. And within Doug was a writer of raw talent and hidden determination to get better at the craft. Beyond the writers group, of which Doug remains a vital member, I’ve worked as his editor to help bring Fixed to life. It’s been a pleasure and an honor. We’ve now shifted into high gear for Doug’s second book, a work of fiction that offers much of the same promise of his memoir.

Meanwhile, Fixed continues to gain momentum, earning acclaim from dozens of reviewers and book awards including, a Finalist Beverly Hills Book Award and  first place of the 22nd annual Colorado Independent Publishers Association and CIPA Education and Literary Foundation, Self Help.

Fixed is funny.

It’s also, as Doug, says, real. It all happened. And that is where the true amazement of this book’s accomplishment sneaks up on you. This funny writer with self-effacing charm survived all this pain and brokenness that makes the book so sharp and important. Funny is good, but impact is better and this book has both.

Don’t take my word for it. Buy it. If you do, we invite you to send us your review of the book. We will gladly post it here.

‘Vaccine-Friendly’ solution empowers parents

If you visit Jennifer Margulis’ Facebook page, you’ll catch on pretty quick that she pulls no punches. But you’ll also see the co-author of the just released book, The Vaccine-Friendly Plan: Dr. Paul’s Safe and Effective Approach to Immunity and Health from Pregnancy Through Your Child’s Teen Years, is a passionate defender of the human spirit.

For the next couple of days—time is running out, folks—Margulis and her co-author Dr. Paul Thomas are offering a parental toolkit packed with free gifts totaling more than $500. You buy it, tell ’em where you got it, and get back-end access to really cool freebies. Just click here for the free stuff.

Margulis has an impressive career as a writer and editor that includes her first book, Your Baby, Your Way, contributions to several other books, and published works on the country’s most significant newspapers and platforms. She’s a force, but one who promotes stories and truths that need to be told.

She calls this book one of the most important things she’s done with her life. Learn more about her accomplishments, and you’ll know this is no small thing.

Most importantly, she can write. Her clear style and detailed research permeate everything she does. She is a trusted guide but also one whose prose is easy to enjoy.

Parents would do well to consider this information. Despite the storm of controversy around vaccines, most of are woefully uninformed. It is far too easy to paint in broad strokes and labels (pro-vaccine, anti-vaccine) that lack utility.

The Vaccine-Friendly Plan is a cogent, readable discussion that offers information for informed decision making. Its strength is in this clarity and the expertise of Dr. Thomas, a leading vaccine expert.

This is a no-nonsense guide to making decisions about each vaccine and whether to get them, instead of blanket decisions that lack the nuance a parent should employ when it comes to their child’s health. Information is power. The Vaccine-Friendly Plan offers plenty of both.