The Quotidian Ones

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Facing up to strange thrift

On a long-planned outing yesterday with my friend Wayne, I bought, among other things, a new rubber spatula. Technically, it was an impulse buy, as it had not made it onto my handwritten shopping list of that morning. But as you can see from the above photo, I was due. How that spatula head stayed on the handle as long as it did is a culinary mystery.

I don’t know what it is in me that resists replacing worn-out low-cost items, but I’m on the path of finding out. Because the reason that old spatula ripped in the first place was that I pried it off the stick to clean out what I correctly identified as toxic sludge when I could no longer ignore that it was growing in there. We’re talking about a vile fungus and/or a lame appliance that I lived—and COOKED—with for the better part of two or three years when a brand new replacement cost 99 cents at IKEA. Ninety-nine cents! To be mold-free! And I have a chronic immune disease!

I wish I could blame my thrifty, Swedish-American grandmother—she of the mended nylons for around the house, and the Three-Sheet Rule of toilet-paper usage. But that woman also bought herself a new pillow more than once per decade. And when something was ready for the rag bag, I’m guessing she just ripped it into right-sized pieces and started polishing the silver instead of putting it in, then returning it to the underwear drawer three times before being able to let it go.

My friends are very kind and patient about this kind of stuff. When I asked Wayne how often he replaced his kitchen scrubber that suction-cups to the sink, again, it was more than once every two years, which is when I bought mine. He also swears that travel mugs wear out and ought to be replaced when they “get gross.” Apparently, you’re allowed to let go of thing not only when they become life-threatening, but when they lose their original functionality, i.e. sucking. Who knew?

It’s not an across-the-board issue, this strange thrift that afflicts me. I have no problem paying an exorbitant amount of money for putatively high-speed internet or shit smartphone service or fees for nonexistent customer service at my horrible McBank. But that is what’s so strange. People like Wayne get that neither moldy kitchen appliances nor bloated fees are tenable. It’s about self-care, not spending money. You get a new spatula, you find a new bank. Period.

So we also replaced a travel mug whose insides have condensation and a dish rack that had started to crack and rust. Some part of me still can’t believe that travel mugs and dish racks have to be replaced, ever. But another part of me is looking forward to a non-sketchy caffeine experience tomorrow morning. And a (first) detailing on my 11-year-old Corolla sometime this year.

And some new underpants as soon as I can bring myself to use the gift card my friend Mary Ellen gave me—two years ago? Yeah. Pretty much.

xxx
c

P.S. Hi, Mary Ellen! You are awesome and I really am looking forward to new underpants!

2014-hair-odyssey

53 Things I Learned in 2014

An entire year with nary a post save one, at the very end? O, how the bright-eyed girl of 43 who was posting multiple times per day in 2004 would have laughed had you told her this!

Without further ado, we continue this new twist on a 10-year-old tradition with 53 things I learned this year—one thing for each year I am old.

What will the new year bring? What won’t it, amirite?

  1. Hair we go again.
  2. What I really need is so much better than what I think I do.
  3. They have that 110-lb. Blood-Donor Rule for a reason.
  4. Giving talks is still fun.
  5. But not as much fun as watching people get it.
  6. Dogs will change your life.
  7. And, sometimes, your livelihood.
  8. And always, your capacity to be patient.
  9. Take the f*cking donuts.
  10. Releasing books almost beats reading them.
  11. Helping your friends make jam is the new helping your friends make quilts.
  12. There’s a difference between not doing something wrong and seeking to do things right.
  13. It’s all the difference.
  14. William Trevor is dark in the good way.
  15. An evening’s walk in the desert is as relaxing as a week’s stay in many places.
  16. Vegas, however….
  17. You never know where your next pen pal may come from.
  18. Accidents make the best popsicles.
  19. Theater is one of the smartest things I can say “yes” to.
  20. Especially as it yields hidden treasures.
  21. Cleaning ladies earn every cent of their money.
  22. My new-favorite blogs are all newsletters.
  23. I am absolutely, positively not a copywriter.
  24. For hire.
  25. Making art feels like making love—to yourself.
  26. And you don’t need a nap afterward.
  27. Although naps are awesome!
  28. Cauliflower is God’s gift to the gut-afflicted.
  29. All the juices just wish they were watermelon & lime juice.
  30. I am adjacent to too much love and greatness not to have done something right.
  31. Spas are not actually torture chambers.
  32. Just when you’ve given up hope, a savior appears.
  33. And I’m not talking about Angelina Jolie.
  34. Although she is awesome!
  35. Just when you thought you knew everything, bacon in the oven!
  36. I finally get that Chinese saying about being responsible for the life you save.
  37. I also finally get why giving is better.
  38. Especially when you don’t feel like it.
  39. Nobody wants a bald chick on their jury panel.
  40. Su-u-uddenly, Scanpan.
  41. If Rob Brezsny didn’t exist, we’d have to forecast him.
  42. You do not have to have hair like a girl to dress like one.
  43. I do not miss auditioning.
  44. I always miss acting.
  45. It’s a good thing zoodles are not on the side of evil.
  46. It may take 43 years, but one can resuscitate a love of dorky holiday traditions.
  47. My sister was raised right.
  48. The first step in getting to the Beverly Center is knowing where you are right now.
  49. The best day to write is everyday.
  50. The best day to start doing it is today.
  51. Or the today that was your 53rd birthday.
  52. Eyeball beans really do make for a better 12 months.
  53. Eventually, even your crickity YouTube video will be legitimized by a #TBT.

Stay tuned for more, if you like. Happy new year, either way!

xxx
c

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Good enough, Day 21: Day 22, or The Beginning

I have never been especially good at math. I am also highly distractible, and find that I can lose time when I’m focused on something. Or not focused on something! Which is to say, pretty much anytime.

At some point in this series, I lost a day. No, really—go back and count the days. I started on the 24th of August—a Saturday—specifically so that it would end on a Friday—the 13th of September, my birthday. I used two different online calculators and then counted out the days manually, just to be sure.

Alas, somewhere between Tuesday the 27th (a tiny piece on meditation) and Thursday the 29th (a poem), I had a time bubble in my brain, and lost a day—a Wednesday. I was posting things quite late in the day already at that point, as usually happens with these series, and people were responding to each day’s post the following day, as the emails were arriving at rather weird hours in the inboxes of America, and so I somehow convinced myself that not only had I gotten that day’s work done, but also the next day’s.

I did fret about this a little. I HAD BROKEN THE RULES OF ENGAGEMENT. I had made a promise to write every day, 21 days in a row, and now I’d ruined everything. I thought about coming clean right then. I thought about doubling up (or is it down?) the next day. For a brief moment, I even thought about proceeding as if nothing had happened, finishing out the run, and leaving things at that.

And then I came to my senses: this was a series about letting go of perfection to make way for something, anything at all. Was the point—the larger, capital-“P” point—to write perfectly, or to write, period?

* * * * *

One shelf of one cabinet in my apartment is devoted to books written by people I know (and one dead relative I never met, but about whom I figured, “Good enough”).

Over the past few years it’s gotten fuller and fuller, which is wonderful, but which is also a little sad, because it was never one of my books that got to do any of the filling. Yes, I wrote a couple of chapters in a really terrific book, but that book counts as a collective win, not a personal Everest scaled.

There are many, many reasons why there is no Colleen-Wainwright book on that shelf, but they boil down to the same, sad, scary word: perfectionism. If nothing can ever be good enough, it’s hard for anything to be, period, let alone be something as big as a book.

So a few months ago, I took matters in hand and signed up for a class—a writing class focused on process, designed to get new writers who don’t think they can write and long-time writers who either need a little reinvigoration or a full-on (gentle) ass-kicking, and, via various tools and exercises and gentle (but ass-kicking) encouragement, gets them writing—a few pages, every day, for six weeks.

What’s funny about the class (other than the teacher, and many of the students, which really makes for a delightful way to spend a few hours of your week) is that somehow, just by writing a little bit every day in a very specific way, all of that process ends up in a not-insignificant amount of product. To drive this point home, each student in the beginning level of the class is asked to compile a handful of pieces into a chapbook, and to make enough copies to share with the class.

I called mine GOOD ENOUGH, because it is.

* * * * *

I took the liberty of printing up a few extra copies of this first—and likely, only—run of my first (chap)book. 21 extra copies, which I am making available for (PAUSE FOR COLLECTIVE GASP FROM PEOPLE WHO KNOW ME) sale.

There are short 10 pieces in it, only one of which has seen the light of internet day so far: poems and tiny essays and bits of creative nonfiction. (There are also some pen-and-ink drawings, which you may recognize if you were a reader of my late, lamented newsletter.) One of my longtime readers and dearest critics has pronounced it the best thing I’ve ever written. She is also a friend, but not of the variety to blow smoke up an ass—mine, or anybody else’s. I’ve seen her not do it.

The price is $5 for the book, tax included, plus $2 to ship it to you anywhere in the U.S. Each one is numbered (x of 52 copies), and I will happily sign it for you, and/or include an inscription of your choice. One per customer, please, in case you were thinking of hoarding chapbooks.

* * * * *

It’s been a relief to write again, and a consternation, as well. Any thoughts I had of getting past my perfectionism and writing happily ever after vanished somewhere around Day 5. Or maybe it was Day 2.

Irregardless, as I heard someone say just today and let roll off my back without so much as a shrug, I will write. Certainly here and increasingly, I hope, Out There. I will do it imperfectly, with my full self, or as much of me is available at the time.

Thank you, and excelsior!

xxx
c

The skinny on, plus all previous 21-Day Salutes™.

 

Good enough, Day 18: What’s up & what’s gone down

A formerly-monthly, currently-occasional round-up of what I’ve been up to and what’s in the hopper. For full credits and details, see this entry. Video, above (or click here to view on Flickr) of the PALATIAL suite I got upgraded to at the MGM Signature, a distinctly non-sucky, non-casino hotel on the otherwise frightening Las Vegas Strip.

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

The last time I posted an update like this was the first where I admitted that I had (almost) nothing planned, networking- and speaking-wise. After years of go-go-go, it was time to stop. Full stop.

Now, after many months of rest, contemplation, and other manifestations of interior reconstruction, I’m sticking a toe in the waters of Real Life again—now, with the full knowledge that really, it is no more real than the other kind. It is, however, easier for others to attend and/or participate in!

  • DV Expo (Los Angeles, September 25) :: I will be giving a one-hour talk titled, “Sell Me a Story: Building Your Own Fan Base in the Digital Economy”—possibly my favorite talk title I have ever come up with. Like most things, it came to me when I’d all but given up on it.
  • PACA Conference (NYC, October 21) :: I’m honored to be giving the keynote address at the 18th Annual event for PACA, the Digital Media Licensing Association. This year’s theme is “Opportunity in Change,” and as we know, that is right up my particular alley.

I would love love LOVE to come speak to your organization or institution about marketing/social media, crowdfunding, and communicating across the digital divide. I’m especially interested in speaking at schools and institutions local to Southern California, including guest speaking in college programs for actors, photographers, writers, and other creative types.

Please see my speaking page for more information, or email me: colleen AT communicatrix DOT com.

Colleen of the Past (stuff that has already gone down)

  • The Career Clinic :: I am thrilled every time I get to be a guest on my friend Maureen Anderson’s terrestrial radio show. She must love it, too, because not only does she keep having me back, but she lets me talk about all kinds of stuff that could only be very generously considered career-related. In June of this year, we talked about why I continue to shave my head some two years after my pledge to do it once.
  • Visual Connections blog :: I advocate for margins in this post for the visual media buyers’ blog, which I wrote partly as a warm-up for my talk at the PACA Conference this October. Also, it has my favorite title of any blog post I’ve written, ever—I’ve been wanting to use it since I dreamed it up back in 2008, and was thrilled to finally find a topic it worked for.
  • AdvancementLive :: My friend and colleague Andrew Gossen, Director of Social Media Strategy at Cornell University, hosted a Google+ chat on Crowdfunding and Higher Education and asked really good questions. I come at it from the individual/marketing angle, and Ryan Davies of Carleton University talks about it from the institutional perspective.
  • Walking Wilshire :: For National Walking Day, my favorite L.A. pedestrian, Alissa Walker, did a series of podcasts on Wilshire Boulvard for KCRW. Literally, ON WILSHIRE. She caught up with me after a panel at The SAG Foundation, and interviewed me on my 20 years (!!) of living in the ‘hood.
  • The Setup :: My rig has changed a bit in the 11 months since this interview ran, but I’m too much of a nerd fangirl not to share this interview with my favorite geek-paradise website.
  • The Strictly Business Blog :: Fifteen new posts on marketing, self-improvement, and a whole lot of other cool stuff since the last round-up! No, I’m not going to link to each individually!

I’ve also been fortunate to represent my client ASMP with some new talks on branding and marketing at WPPI, WPPI On the Road, the Palm Springs Photo Festival, and to return to both Cornell’s Alumni Leadership Conference and to HOW’S Creative Freelancer Conference (where, in what may be my craziest bit of serendipitous freakitude to date, I presented a talk featuring, among other things, a story about Jessica Hische while she was sitting a mere 20 feet from me! It was absolutely as awesome as you might imagine.)

Oh—and I also got to give a little teaching-style lecture to my fellow actors again on behalf of my longtime client, Casting Networks, and to a photography business class at Pasadena City College, which I LOVED. Did I mention I love speaking and that you should email me about doing it for your organization? WELL, I’M DOING IT AGAIN.

Colleen of the Present (stuff I do, rain or shine)

  • Act Smart! is my monthly column about marketing for LA Casting. Nominally for actors, there’s a ton of good info in there for any creative business person. Browse the archives, here.
  • Internet flotsam ::  I remain hopefully optimistic about social media, despite the crapulous happenings one must endure every day on the major channels. Currently, I am most active on Facebook, but I will occasionally post to Flickr and Twitter, and, once in a blue moon, Instagram and Pinterest. I’ve also been writing at least a very short summary about (almost) every book I read to Goodreads.

xxx
c

The skinny on, plus all previous 21-Day Salutes™.

bloggy-free-books

Good enough, Day 17: Easy readin’

On the walk that takes me to my mailbox, where I always hope to find checks and occasionally do, I discovered another lovely little box full of daily surprises.

Not all of the books are my thing. A few don’t seem to be anyone’s thing—they’re there day after day, week after week. (Although maybe the neighborhood is home to some especially voracious bibliophile with a lot of free time and a thing for technical manuals. Could happen!)

It almost doesn’t matter; it’s the very act of providing free (FREE!) books to the neighborhood in a little, glass-faced, shingle-roofed box that is the great thing.

But you know, that Tom Sizemore book? More than good enough.

xxx
c

The skinny on, plus all previous 21-Day Salutes™.

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Good enough, Day 16: The joyful frugalista

For most of my life, I have been obsessed with two things: looking cool, and never, ever getting caught trying to look cool.

I’ve gotten away with it more than you’d think (though less than I’d have liked), and it’s made life easier in at least as many ways as it’s complicated it.

Here’s the thing, though—it, more than any other thing or series of things I have done, has been exhausting. At some point, when I have the distance and the perspective to provide meaningful information, I will share the stories of Trying to Be Cool, and Doing It Sometimes, and Failing Miserably at Other Times, and all the rest. Really, there are bits and pieces of these stories studded throughout the pages of this blog, if you know how to look for them. I am learning this, too—how to look for them.

But lo, a simple illustration: because of this insatiable need to look cool, I have bought a lot of dumb things. And I mean a LOT of dumb things. I did this even more a couple of decades ago, when I was truly miserable in my job and life and desperately using retail therapy to try to plug those leaks as well; I still remember the horrible, sick feeling that came over me in the mid/late ’90s, when I got around to shredding old credit card statements from the late ’80s. (And that’s just from the stuff you can put on credit cards, if you know what I’m sayin’.)

Right now, for a variety of reasons born of good intentions that have resulted in hampered cash flow, I am restricting spending to essentials. Or “essentials”, because really, how do you justify gasoline and fancy groceries and a stupid-expensive cell phone plan and these three URLs because you have wanted them for sooooo long and all the rest of it as “essentials” when you have your very own water coming out of your very own pipes—hot and cold and running—and there are people on the very same planet walking 12 miles barefoot each way for maybe—if they’re lucky—a pail of murky, questionable liquid one could only call “water” out of perverseness. You don’t, that’s how. You appreciate the hell out of your glorious, luxurious, convenience-filled life, and try to be a good steward of the considerable resources you remain blessed with even during what 1980’s, fat-cat you would dub “lean times.”

Which is exactly what I’ve been doing. And, surprise!, this feels utterly fantastic, both because MATURITY and also because I really, really appreciate the things I do still spend money on.

But because I am an American softie, doomed to be among the first down in our upcoming zombie apocalypse, I still get a little twitchy sometimes. Not about big, scary potential outcomes, real or imagined, but stupid crap like “What will I wear to that party?” or “What will I get so-and-so for their birthday?” or “Why the $@% do these %@!) ear buds from !#$))! Apple  fall out of my gigantic Dumbo flappers no matter how hard I squish them in there??” (You can see why I get a charge out of those rare moments when MATURITY.)

And then, I let it go. Because whatever. Because it’s unbecoming and ungenerous and ridiculous. Because it’s enough that I have a nice, safe apartment and plenty to eat and read, and fine friends to hang out with, and a mostly healthy body to get me around to places, and doctors to take care of me when my health goes south.

And more times than not, answers just show up now, with no effort on my part: I remember how these shoes I never wear anymore because of all the walking I do now may not be good for walking, but kick ass with these jeans and that shirt that’s in the Goodwill pile but hasn’t made it there yet. (Sorry, Goodwill. I’ll send something else.) Or the perfect inexpensive gift will fall from the sky, on a “sale” cloud.

Or a nutty, out-of-the-blue though: “I wonder if it would help to turn the ear buds around and drape the cords over my gigantic, Dumbo flappers?” And because the need to enjoy my 4- and 6- and 10-mile walks with my current podcast obsession overrides the desire to look cool and/or the desire to part with dollars, I do it, and dad-gum it if figuring out a workaround that costs me exactly nothing doesn’t make me feel 10x more ingenious and foxy and, yes, COOL, than getting a pair of those hand-carved wood ear buds or noise-canceling audiophile ear buds or any other goddamn ear buds ever could. Even though I am 100% sure I look like a nut job, walking around with my ear buds in backwards.

Don’t get me wrong: I am definitely looking forward to the day when, once again, I have money to throw at problems. Options are fantastic, and there are many, many problems (and awesome, fun, ingenious solutions to them) that it would be fun to throw money at.

But I’m no longer under the illusion that I can buy my way to cool, or even that I would if I could. I am not yet at that place where I don’t care what anyone thinks of me, but I think I can see the road signs from here.

And that’s more than good enough. That, I am also starting to see, is everything.

xxx
c

The skinny on, plus all previous 21-Day Salutes™.

spiral notebooks plastered with stickers

Good enough, Day 15: Arts & crafty

As the heat finally and mercifully receded this morning, it occurred to me that I need not put up with the crap design, lame typography, and gratuitous use of American flags that goes hand-in-hand with low-end school supplies. Not as long as my “Stickers” file remains well stocked.

(Related: feel free to mail me your unwanted stickers.)

xxx
c

The skinny on, plus all previous 21-Day Salutes™.