My Favorite Books of the Decade!

Strand Bookstore, NYC, August 2019

Dear Reader,

This isn’t the usual blog post you’re used to reading every week. I wanted to switch things up a bit for my final blog post of the year (and the decade!). Beneath this note is a list of my 40 favorite books I’ve read in the last decade! The organization of the list below is as follows:

Fiction

Non-Fiction

Essays

Poetry

Miscellaneous

I only chose books that were published in the last decade. I read so many amazing books that I had to narrow the list down. I’ve always loved books but my passion for writing definitely reignited my passion for reading. If you do end up buying or reading any of this books, please refer back to this post once you’re done and let me know what you think!

I really appreciate everyone who took some time to read my blog posts this year. It really means a lot to me to have people who read my blog every week! I hope you all have a safe and warm New Years with the ones you love. I look forward to seeing what the new decade has in store!

Best Wishes & Happy New Year!

Kelly

The Best Christmas Gift

Thirteen years ago today, my parents took me to PetSmart after speech therapy to look at the cats. We had gotten a cat earlier in the year who turned out to be kind of a dud. She was sweet but full of nerves (still is).

Little did I know, my parents had been to PetSmart while I was at my speech therapy, looking at the cats that were up for adoption from our local animal shelter. They had their eyes on an orange cat that sort of resembled the neighborhood cat that came around when we lived in Tucson.

Then a four year old tabby cat named Mikey caught their attention. His friendly personality won them over almost instantly. When I met him, he rolled over his cage and began purring. I told my mom I liked him and she said he’s ours. I was shocked.

I was thirteen at the time and thirteen years later, Mikey’s still around. He’s a people cat and only likes our dog. Other dogs, he’s less excited about. He fell out a second story window because of a dog who wasn’t cat-friendly.

He lost one of his nine lives that day. We found him a few hours latter, meowing on our fence. We think he developed wonky front legs because of the fall along with arthritis due to his old age. He purrs through any pain he may have.

Mikey loves the sound of his own voice. He will go into a room and meow just so he can hear the sound bounce off the walls. It’s probably soothing to him. He’s still a lovable cat who will bat your hand if you stop petting him too soon.

For the last few years, my family and I have seen Mikey slow down. He’s had his moments but he’s somehow always made it through. He’s certainly no spring chicken. We love him anyway.

Happy adoption birthday, Mikey.

Stiff Upper Lip

I’ve been thinking a lot about words lately. Last week, I shared a blog post about how powerful words can be. A few days ago, I published an essay about how important it is to be aware of the power of your words when sharing online.

I wrote the essay after watching a preview clip of Meghan Markle’s interview. She discussed how the British tabloids have impacted her life and how difficult this journey has been. Yesterday, another clip from Markle’s interview was released. In the new clip, she discusses how she tried to adopt the British’s “stiff upper lip” but revealed that “what that does internally is probably really damaging.” 

I like that Meghan Markle acknowledges this in the interview because it humanizes her. It’s refreshing to see her open up. I think it’s important that she acknowledged there’s damage in pretending everything is fine when it’s not. Her choosing in that moment to be honest about the difficulties she endures shows why it’s important not to allow your emotions to get lost in the craziness of life.

All too often, we’re told to swallow our feelings and go about life as though everything is fine. In actuality, everyone has something they’re going through. That doesn’t mean you have to tell every single person your life problems. But you don’t have to pretend like everything is fine around those who care about you and are there for you. Feeling emotions is often seen as weak. But feeling emotions doesn’t make you weak, it makes you human. When things are hard, processing emotions by allowing yourself to feel them is better than not letting anyone know you’re hurt and swallowing your tears.

At the end of the clip that was released yesterday, Meghan Markle mentioned how she takes things day by day because that’s all she can do. That’s what we can all do, take it one day at a time.

Something Meaningful

When I was a kid, I used to express my opinion to the other kids as though what I had to say would somehow be useful to them. I was speaking in the way children often copy adults. I didn’t know the gravity of the words I was using. I just knew they made me feel like what I was saying held meaning. I felt important when giving life advice to other 6th graders on the playground next to the jungle gym as one girl hung upside down on a steel bar.

I can’t recall what I said to those kids but the feeling that my words could mean something to others stuck. Besides the fact that I have a stutter, I thought if I paid close enough attention to what the adults around me were saying, I would be able to harness that meaningful feeling while handing out life advice I knew nothing about.

In retrospect, it’s clear to me that I was always meant to be a writer. As a kid and throughout my teen years, I would make up stories in my head. The stories began with me doing things I would never be able to do in my real life, like owning a silver Volkswagen Beetle at age 9 and drive it around the neighborhood, be best friends with Britney Spears and Hilary Duff, or have a horse of my own that I’d love and take a care of. As I got older, I fell out of the stories as the protagonist. Instead, I would choose other people to be my characters and come up with stories that way.

I think I’ve subconsciously always tried to feel as though my words mean something. Not because of how I speak, but because I’ve always known that words are powerful. What you say or write can impact someone else’s life. Words allow you to express what you’re feeling and what you think, it’s kind of mindblowing when you stop and think about it.

With my writing, my main objective is to get people to slow down and think outside their perspective. I want people to appreciate life more because it is so precious. People can get lost in the busyness of their daily lives. Words are powerful. How you use them will impact whoever comes into contact with what you share. Remember that.

Waiting Room Blues

My mother waits longer than she had anticipated for me to walk back thru the door I entered half an hour ago. Whenever she’s left in the waiting room, nothing good comes from it.

The first time, I lost three wrong teeth. I was twelve. “You’re old enough to go back by yourself,” she told me. When I was in the chair, the dentist told me they were taking out my expander, something I wasn’t aware of. But I was too young to be my only advocate. I tried to speak up but I was told I was incorrect. I didn’t question it and assumed everyone in the room was on my side.

This time, I learned yet another thing is wrong with my eyes. I’m twenty-five. When the eye doctor, whom I had never met before, came in to talk to me and do more testing, I felt like an adult since my mom didn’t come back with me like she always does, which felt kind of strange.

I like a second pair of ears when it comes to doctor situations. Casual check ups at dermatologists and dentists, I can do on my own. But when it comes to appointments where some part of my body is being looked at more seriously, such as lungs, eyes, or thyroid, I prefer to have someone else in the room to hear what the doctor is saying, someone who has my best interest at heart.

But there I was, sitting in an examination room, taking tests and speaking with new doctors and nurses, being my own advocate. While waiting in-between tests, without a phone or book (I left them with my mom), I reflect on what she said when I left. “You can do this on your own,” she told me. This surprised me. I had presumed she would come back with me like she always does. Later, I would learn that she had assumed I would be back out after testing, ten minutes tops.

I have been to enough of these doctors in the last couple of months to know that I get placed in an exam room after testing. I guess I am old enough to do this on my own. Why wouldn’t I be? I was able to communicate just fine. It just feels weird not to have my mom back here. It feels even weirder with nothing to do to pass the time. I stare at the screen in the mirror that I can’t read. Letters appear fuzzy. My eyes hate me.

The nurse takes me to another room for additional imaging and I begin to plot a plan to get my water bottle and maybe get my mom back here with me. As the nurse is getting the test set up, I ask if when we’re finished, I can go and get my water from my mom. She says that’s perfectly fine and I stare at a blinding light four times because the first two times didn’t get a good look at my eyes.

When I go and grab my water bottle, my mom asks me what’s going on, I’ve been gone for thirty minute. I say I’ve been having tests done and motion her to come with me. I’m surprised she’s been wondering where I’ve been. Though, whatever the miscommunication was quickly gets pushed aside as I introduce my mom to the eye doctor and we’re told I have Keratoconus. As soon as we’re told why this is, the possible treatments, and the process of monitoring the disease, we’re sent on our way.

“Why does something bad always happen when you go back by yourself?” My mom jokes with me as we leave. I can’t help but laugh myself. It’s ironic how these things happen when my mom sends me off own my own. And it’s surreal to be told yet another thing is wrong with my eyes. To be honest, I’m still processing all of it.

Quiet Vignettes from Yesterday

I woke up thinking the time on my phone had automatically switched forward. It had not. I spent the first hour or two of my day thinking it was a different time. Fortunately, I realized my phone’s problem when I looked at the time on my computer. Unfortunately, the medication I had meant to take earlier was taken later than expected. My body’s clock was off too, it’s okay.

Lesson learned: you can’t always trust technology has everything figured out before you. Thank god we still have some control on what happens on our small devices, even when it completely messes up your perception of the day for a good five minutes or so.

I laid in my bed for a good forty-five minutes, allowing my eyes to rest. My eyes were screaming at me in silence for pushing them to look up their own without craning my neck up to see a screen that was about twenty feet away from me. Swollen muscles were pulled in directions they didn’t want to go. A fan was blowing air and my phone was blasting the sound of rain in springtime. I was focused on my breathing, hands on my belly as I felt the air drift in and out of my lungs. My eyes eventually calmed, enjoying a moment without needing to stare at anything or completely drift off to sleep. I couldn’t remember the last time I was this still for this long.

I was reading a book I could not put down. I told myself I would read one more chapter three chapters and thirty pages ago. I hadn’t been that into a book in quite some time. I was reminded of why I love telling stories. Those moments where I’m transported into someone’s mind have always been my favorite. The fan was still blowing air.

Emotion washed over me like a wave I didn’t see coming. I couldn’t articulate words correctly because I had a difficult time trying to comprehend this unexpected feeling. It’s like I ran into a wall without looking and now I’m conflicted within myself. It’s difficult to feel something and have no idea how to articulate it. Tears fell from my eyes. These tears were more intense than I’m used to, so I hunched over and cried more. No one understood what was happening, neither did I exactly.

My eyes were screaming at me in silence for crying. So I cried more because pain has no limits when I’ve already unlocked the box of tears. My eyes felt heavy like they’re experiencing dual migraines. I didn’t know this feeling was possible. Maybe it’s not, and I was just overthinking things as I often tend to do.

I had been waiting all day to eat this cookie dough ice cream, and after taking my fifth and final pill of the day, I was slurping it down while finishing a New Yorker article I had slowly been reading for the last couple of days. The springtime rain blasted from my phone once again as I tried to comprehend the words on the page as best I could. Names often bleed together when so many are mentioned in the course of a single section. It’s crazy to read about what people choose to overlook and how things could have been different if someone was brave enough to speak up.

I was reading a chapter of another book before falling asleep. The more I looked at the lines, the words began to float off the page, detaching from the original text to become two. My eyes were done for the day, signaling through a pretty frightful message that I had gone numb to, that whatever was on the page wasn’t worth it. I took off my glasses and turned off the light. I snuggled into my comforter as a horn from a train travels across the night air into my ears as I gave my eyes what they wanted: rest.

A Response

As kids, we are taught that being different is a negative. We try our best to fit in with our peers. Sticking out can cause unwanted attention we try to avoid. In the last couple of years, our society has become more accepting. We’re nowhere near an inclusive society but over these last couple of years, steps have been made to become more accepting of the LGBTQ+ community. There’s still a lot of hate towards people who are deemed as different but there’s also been an overwhelming amount of love too.

The United Methodist Church I’ve attended over the last thirteen years has always been welcoming to people from all walks of life. Regardless of where you’re from or who you love, you’re welcome. For me, my faith journey has evolved over the years and while I haven’t believed in God in the traditional sense in quite a few years, I like the messages my pastors’ share. How it’s okay to question things about your own beliefs. Everyone is on a different path and no one is right or wrong. You don’t have to have it all figured out or believe one thing to attend a service. For me, my church is a place I can disconnect from society to make sense of current events and the thoughts swirling around in my head.

I’m saddened by the events that took place that caused headlines to read that United Methodist denomination isn’t inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community. There should not be a disconnect between us and them and making that stance clear as a denomination is damaging. Thankfully, I’ve always felt loved and welcomed at my church when I was questioning things in my life and parts of myself that make me different. And after yesterday’s service, I still feel that love from my church regardless of what the global denomination wants to say.