Month: February 2011

Frrrrriday Rrrrroundup! #40

tart with thinly sliced apples forming giant rosette

An end-of-weekly roundup collecting fffffive of the fffffoxiest things I fffffind stumbling around the web. More about the genesis here. Every damned Friday Round-Up here, you procrastinating slacker, and kindred spirit!

An interesting way to look at your spending decisions. [Tumbled, via Dave Seah]

I go through weeks at a time when I feel like I could share everything Seth Godin writes, but this cautionary piece on, well, basically being an Internet jackass is a must-read for anyone using the Internet to do anything but consume. [Google Reader-ed]

The cure for a tense week. (No wonder she’s named “Esperanza.”) [Facebook-ed, via Heather Parlato]

Hilarious “filmstrip” video for Alice Bradley & Eden Kennedy’s upcoming book, Let’s Panic About Babies. (The original site, which I pointed to eons ago, deserves another shoutout, too.)


Image by missmeng via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

[video] Curbing (online) impulse spending

[Watch “Curbing (online) impulse spending” on YouTube; running time 2:24]

What this is:

Having taken quite the hiatus from earning money last year, even dealing with it, you might say, I’ve been getting very serious about becoming a grownup with money. I promise not to turn this blog into a big, long, snoozy preachfest, but as I think of little ideas that might be useful or fun to share, you know I’ll do it. Because that’s how I roll, baby!

In this video, I explain a little browser-bookmark action thingy I do to maintain some control where there might otherwise be impulse spending. Basically, it’s a semi-nerd version of creating a little distance between you and the purchase, to see if you really want it. You’re probably doing this anyway, because you are way smarter about curbing your impulses. As I say in the video, I’m not half-bad at it in real life, outside of bookstores and when there is delicious (legal) food around.

Some notes on this week’s video:

I got all CRA-A-A-AZY with ScreenFlow this time and taught myself two new tricks. See if you can spot ’em! (Just kidding, I learned how to make things bigger and smaller and how to make a spotlight thingy. I feel omnipotent and will probably try to chew through a car bumper now, just for fun.)

The site whose amazing stuff I’m lusting over is Tinkering Monkey. I want that Don lamp so bad I can taste it. (Tastes like car bumper! Rrrrrawr!) But the pendant, now that’s a nice, modest treat a lady could get for herself if she did a really good job at something-something, right?

Sigh. I can point fingers all I want, but I’m as much a product of consumer culture as anyone I’d be pointing at.


UPDATE [03/16/11]: I’ve removed the pendant from the menu bar because (drumroll) my friend Mike Monteiro surprised me with one at SXSW. Thank you, Mike! And I love you, little tinkering monkeys!

The good news is the apple kicks your ass

an apple on the grass

Pulling out of a flare is a tricky business.

You get better on a very slow upward trajectory, with occasional “two-steps-back” days from eating too volatile a mix of ordinary ingredients (oh, BOY, do canned tuna and hard-boiled eggs not mix) or too “advanced” of an item. Yesterday, after weeks of not tasting an uncooked vegetable or piece of fruit, I broke down and got jiggy with half an apple. Look out, world! I’m eating an entire HALF of a raw apple!

A half-hour later, I was soaking in a hot Epsom bath to ease the cramps shooting across my lower back.

What’s really odd about this particular flare is that while I wouldn’t say I’m overjoyed to be dealing with it, neither is it bothering me as much as the past few have. For whatever reasons, age? wisdom? resignation?, I’ve adopted an attitude that much more closely matches that of my initial recovery, back in the fall of 2002. Or maybe it’s just that this time, I’m back to me being able to rest on my own in my sweet little apartment, all tidy and peaceful and filled with the comforts and treasures that soothe me. While I no longer have the huge financial cushion I did (not to mention the assumed easy earning power of a robust economy once I was well enough to rejoin the living), I have enough, thanks. (And I’m probably even more deeply grateful to have it.)

Work is another thing, and an exceedingly interesting one. I haven’t not been working; I’ve just been working very carefully, chipping away at things here and there in the background. Pulling things off the home page of the site. Tweaking things quietly, in the background. Writing, writing, writing. There is more time for this because I am not getting out much right now, but I’m still capping things at a reasonable (for me) 7 or 8pm and climbing into my salty tub. On top of a, shall we say, leisurely-paced day. The work comes more slowly when I’m impaired, but I am able to pay closer attention to the way it comes as well as the words themselves, if that makes any sense.

For instance, I notice myself getting upset over getting stuck in certain places (a “way” thing) and I notice myself (over)using the same words or construction (a “word” thing). Slowing down to see this has created room for me to relax and let some other solution bubble up, getting up and moving to my analog desk, or grabbing a stack of index cards to do my version of my friend Daphne Gray-Grant’s excellent advice to mind-map pre-writing. (If you sign up for her newsletter, you’ll get a copy of her mind mapping instructions. It’s plenty to get started, and the newsletter is consistently useful if you do any sort of regular writing, or just want to understand how writing works.)

Slowing down is just outstanding for noticing things, period. Those of us who operate in overdrive probably do so at least partially to blow past certain parts of the scenery we find a little unattractive. My personal adopt-a-highway program has made great progress along certain stretches of road, but when I slow down, I’m embarrassed to see the junk I’ve allowed to accumulate near certain scary underpasses and dark tunnels.

I feel a little guilty bringing up the feeling poorly. I find myself impelled to do so, though, because I’m not good enough at saying “no” sans explanation; I almost always feel like “no” is not enough, that “no” needs some accompanying excuse. (And I know that’s not true, I’m just saying that so far, that’s how I’ve operated.) Inevitably, it brings up expressions of sympathy, because people are kind and empathetic and such.

I am coming around to the idea, though, that illness isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It is just a thing, like tallness or shortness, bigness or smallness, oldness or youngness, singleness or marriedness. There are times when it is better to be tall than short, and being very short, I can enumerate them with alacrity. On the other hand, “tall” is a distinct disadvantage in the context of “commercial aircraft.” I have been single and married and everything in between and guess what: so far, I prefer single. Try traveling back in time and telling 25-year-old me that, though. You couldn’t: she was too busy doing actuarial calculations to avoid ending up chairless when the music stopped. (Hint to 25-year-olds: the music always starts up again, there are all kinds of nice chairs nowhere near the ring, and you may not be the sitting type.)

Do I very much look forward to having a great deal of energy again? I do! Even more, I look forward to using it wisely, so that it comes in a steady, sustainable flow, not pedal-to-the-metal bursts followed by a blowout. I look forward to it so much so that I am moving hyper-slowly now. It is not exactly pleasant, all this noticing, but it is one of the most fascinating shows in town…


P.S. One of the crazy little things I did was to put up an FAQ, something long, long on my to-do list. More on that later, but man, do I ever see how a well-done FAQ might significantly reduce drag on the average one-woman operation. Talk about enhancing sustainability!

Image by iMaffo via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Frrrrriday Rrrrroundup! #39

city baby

An end-of-weekly roundup collecting fffffive of the fffffantabulous things I find stumbling around the web. More about the genesis here. Every damned Friday Round-Up here, you procrastinating slacker, and kindred spirit!

A beautifully told story of human dignity and true brotherly love. [Tumbled]

It really is a whole new era in publishing. And for the smart, creative-thinking writer who kicks ass, not necessarily a bad one. [Google Reader-ed]

Sugar’s guidance is so breathtaking in its kindness and wisdom that the phrase “advice column” doesn’t begin to do it justice. [Facebook-ed]

Coolest then-and-now photography project ever? [Stumbled, via Emma Alvarez Gibson]


Photo by Sean Bonner via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Poetry Thursday: Unmoored

stickers saying "adrift" affixed to some wall/object

Every now and then, you become unmoored.

You will not notice the moment of release.
There will be no fanfare
to note the event
as you float out to sea in your sleep,
no streamers,
no teary farewell waves from shore,
no bottle of champagne
cracked across your bow.

You will simply wake up one day,
staring at a random item from the toiletries aisle
missing your exit on the 101
reading the same line three times, badly,
trying too hard
laughing too loud
crying too easily,
and realize not only that you feel wobbly
and weird
and a little pissy around the edges,
but that it has been a long, long time
since you touched real ground.

Here is the thing
to remember:
the moment you notice,
you are back.

Not back and hale, perhaps,
not back and fixed,
back and firm, but
back, baby, BACK.

You start again now,
breathing once,
three times.
Someone turns the sound back on,
ranchero music, the axe-murderer ice-cream truck,
Marco! Polo!
Somebody cues the scruffy dog
with a bead on that squirrel,
somebody else
throws something on the grill a block away.

And here you are again,
10 and 40 all at once,
you are you,
you are alive,
you are moving across the Earth
under the sun,
you are a million miracles made whole
right this second.

Welcome back.


Image by PinkMoose via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

What’s up & what’s gone down :: February 2011

cat looking back at itself in mirror

A mostly monthly but certainly occasional round-up of what I’ve been up to and what’s in the hopper. For full credits and details, see this entry.

Colleen of the future (stuff I’ll be doing)

  • February L.A. Biznik Mixer at Jerry’s Famous [Los Angeles; Wednesday, February 16, TONIGHT] , Last month we mixed it up at the mixer, adding a couple of little info-sharing exercises. BIG hit, so we’re repeating it this month, with new questions. Join up here (free membership, which is nice), then sign up here.
  • Strictly Business 3 – Philadelphia [Crowne Plaza, Philadelphia; Friday- Sunday, Feb 25 – 27] If you’re a working or aspiring commercial photographer in the Philadelphia/New York area or environs, I cannot recommend the ASMP‘s biannual conference highly enough. And not just because I’m giving the keynote or doing some (very) rare in-person consulting: the quality of content is just outstanding, and the people in this professional organization are, too.

Colleen of the Past (stuff I did, or that was done to/with/about me)

  • Interview on La Salonniere :: My longtime blogging friend Marilyn Maciel did one of the best interviews with me EVER. She asks really great questions, which draw out really great answers. Love this new blog. One of my faves of the past two years.
  • Video interview on :: I met David Trotter at the L.A. stop of Chris Guillebeau’s book tour. We talked each other’s ears off at the after-party, so he figured maybe we ought to try it via video Skype. He drew me out on walking away from stuff, being scared, and doing it anyway, etc. And of course, because I’m Tangent Girl, we talked about all kinds of other stuff as well.

Colleen of the Present (ongoing projects)


Image by madnzany via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Why I never pass up an opportunity to quote Beverly Sills

upward shot of someone climbing steep rock face

A good friend of mine recently decided to quit smoking.

She’d quit before, which obviously means that the quitting didn’t quite “take.” So this time, she decided to quit differently.

First, she’s investing money in the deal. For them amongst us what is on the cheap side, money can be a powerful motivator. As my friend said, “I’ll be damned if I’ll spend this much and not quit.”

Second, she’s spending it on hypnotherapy. I quit the cheap way, but I’d raved to her about my experience with using hypnotherapy to get back on the diet for my Crohn’s last fall: one session, one recording that I listened to for about two weeks, and done. I still look at potatoes or rice or a McDonald’s drive-thru sign with longing, but the impetus to go for it is gone. It was a singular and fascinating experience which I’ve not shut up about since.

* * *

Hypnotherapy done right is part of a larger self-excavation process: getting at the “why” sandwiched between the smart, true part of you that doesn’t want to smoke or eat or do crack and the part of you that has, until now, reached for a cigarette or french fry or crack pipe regardless. My friend’s “why” is her business, but anyone old enough to want to read this blog has more than a passing familiarity with the many, many shapes and sizes a “why” can take. “Less-than” Why. “Angry” Why. “Social Anxiety” Why. “Why, Oh” Why, a.k.a. “Woe Is Me” Why.

If any of these look like variants on “Fear” Why, it’s because they are, of course, every last damned one of them. My god, what won’t fear stop us from doing? Or keep us doing, depending on whether the action is salubrious or not. Based on my own experience in talk therapy and reading eighty bajillion self-help books, it’s pretty clear that fear is the biggest “why” there is. Fear lies underneath feeling less-than, underneath social anxiety and anger and woe. If there’s one thing I’d like to impart about fear, it’s that if you scratch pretty much any kind of yuck, you’ll find fear under there somewhere.1

My friend knows from fear. She’s lived long enough to experience several expedient fear delivery systems, plus she’s done time on the couch. She gets it. But when you start looking at your fear through the finely-ground lens of doing one monumental thing, when you slow down and take the long way home, you learn a few things you didn’t know. The depth of your fear, for starters, and a peek under the tent at a few other ways fear might be stopping you that you didn’t even realize. It’s fascinating stuff, this just paying attention. And an excellent value proposition, so much more bang for your buck.

Even if it is painful and dull and embarrassing. Which, if you’re spending a significant amount of time and money, there’s a very good chance it will be.

* * *

There is a very strict order of steps involved in quitting smoking this particular way. There’s no jumping ahead, no skipping steps. Instead, there is an intake date, an agreed-upon quit date (or “start of your smoke-free life” date for you optimists) and a whole lot of exercises between. A lot of looking, a lot of thinking, a lot of noticing. My friend said she was ready to quit a week early. Her hypnotherapist said sorry, but she was not.

* * *

Which brings me around to the title of this here piece. My favorite quote and main mantra for the past four or so years, well, other than THAT one, has been this one:

There are no short cuts to any place worth going.

It is attributed to the American opera singer Beverly Sills, and if the “opera singer” part of that last phrase wasn’t enough, read a bit of her history and you’ll know that the lady knew whereof she spoke. Whether the ass-end of your proposed journey is being healthier, happier, wealthier or wiser, there’s no getting there faster. 10,000 hours. Rinse/repeat. Park your ass under the Bodhi tree, bub, and make sure you do plenty of wandering first.

If it feels a little grim, I assure you that it is far less so than the mood I’m usually in when I conjure up this line. Remember: practice is painful. Change is excruciating. Feeling stupid feels awful. (To me. Although if they didn’t to you, you’d probably have clicked away long ago to see what was happening on Facebook.) Sure, I could find a happy-happy saying full of cheer and sunshine and optimism. But you know what using it under those circumstances would entail?

Skipping steps.

On the other hand, when you resign yourself to this way of thinking, or rather, when you surrender to it, the way women of grace do with time and gravity, you bring yourself back to plumb pretty quickly. Of course I feel this way, you realize. That is what feeling is! The depictions of change we see in movies and books blip over a lot of this stuff, or make it look sort of sexy-frustrating, with lavishly-produced montages or deftly-condensed metaphors which are, wait for it, boring and time-consuming to produce, at least for long stretches. As I said in last month’s newsletter2, when you see something good, you’re not seeing the mountain of shit someone shoveled to uncover it.

* * *

My friend Brooks3, who calls himself a clutter-buster, uses the simplest process possible to help his clients to let go of things that may once have served them well but now are serving only as impediments. He has them hold up one item at a time and asks the same question of each one: “Do you need to keep this, or can we let this go?”

This is how you went from being a person who’d never experienced smoking to one who could not imagine life without cigarettes. This is how you get from “good” to “bad” and back again. (And for the record, “back again” isn’t necessarily better, but done thoughtfully, it’s far richer.)

Look, I am doing this. Why am I doing this?

Can I let this go?


1With “and EVERYONE is scared about something, even people you’d never dream of.” For more cogent and inspirational stuff around this, read Krishnamurti and my friend Ishita’s monthly magazine.

2It’s not up on the archives page yet, but if you subscribe, the nice Emma robot will automatically send you a copy.

3Brooks has a really good post up today on how he clutter-busts over the phone.

Image by mariachily via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.