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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!

Posted in: The Personal Ones,The Quotidian Ones

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I don’t live my life by astrological forecasts. I’m not (very) superstitious.

But just to be on the safe side, I started out the day with my meditation group. And then I met up with my book group to discuss some spiritual literature and our real feelings about the challenges of 2014 and our hopes and fears for 2015.

And when I returned home, I scrubbed down my kitchen sink, tidied up some personal paperwork, and put away the holiday decorations, to help clear the way for a new year, after which I trundled over to my friends’ annual New Year’s Day open house, where I had some good-luck Hoppin’ John and the traditional See’s maple-cashew brittle.

I got caught up in a fascinating and timely discussion about book writing with a lovely editor, so I only caught the tail end of sunset in my favorite spot in SoCal. I killed a little time at a burger joint and a coffee shop on the way home, because my last stop of the evening was a friend’s 40th birthday party, at a karaoke joint in K-town.

So we’re clear, I still don’t consider myself a meditator, a spiritual person, a neatnik, or a social butterfly. Naturally, I’m not even particularly friendly. If I’d rolled with my inclinations, I might have mustered the enthusiasm to hit meditation before returning home to hole up in my place all day, justifying my hermitude by the cold temperatures (43ºF this morning!) and the raft of obligations I have left in the slender reed of free time between now and Monday.

But I have decided that I want to be a person whose world is bigger than her apartment, with old friends and new acquaintances and input from more than social media, streaming video, and the rest that the admittedly marvelous internet has to offer. And so I must, I now see, accept that the world works a certain way, and that whether or not I feel comfortable with it, I need to accept the ways of the world to have the experience I want. YES, I’M REALLY ONLY GETTING THIS NOW. The real way that the real world works, even if one is in alignment with it, requires work, and/or doing stuff that feels weird or even hard. I paid it lip service before, but secretly, I thought there were maybe some shortcuts available to me via my astounding natural gifts and, you know, luck.

There’s no way I will do all of the stuff I did today on every day in the new year, or any day in any year. I do like the idea, though, of setting the tone for the year. Previous January the firsts were spent hungover, or at least sequestered, with a stack of DVDs and/or books and zero obligations. My January 1sts felt really good—for the duration of January 1st.

I’m looking for something a little more enduring these days, on all fronts. The way I do January 1st is the way I want to do everything: thoughtfully, with a mix of spiritual and worldly endeavors, not running away from myself or other people. (Or, hey, money!)

Happy new year. It’s going to be a good one, no matter what happens.

xxx
c

P.S. Not that I will look a good-luck horse in the mouth!  Rest assured that I have pocketed the right-side-up penny I found shortly before meditation, and that I was dee-dilly-lighted to find it. It’s just that instead of relying on it, I’m taking it as kind of a “hi” sign from the universe—you’re doing it right, you’re making the right moves. Keep up the good work.

 

Posted in: The Personal Ones

2014-hair-odyssey

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

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

Posted in: The Personal Ones,The Quotidian Ones,The Silly Ones

tiny bottle of glass cleaner by bathroom mirror

it’s the little things

Did I say that 2012 was a doozy? From that long-ago year’s relatively cushy vantage point, I quite literally did not know the half of it.

This was the year that the other shoe dropped. I still haven’t sorted through 2013’s considerable lessons sufficiently to retrieve salient talking points, much less wrangled the time to get them in some kind of order, but trust me when I say that finally, after 52 years, I walk around with the sense that everything is, at its root, just fine. If you were worrying, please stop. And if you weren’t worrying, for god’s sake, don’t start. I mean, I also finally get that what you do is none of my business, but one of this year’s lessons was that worry solves exactly nothing. Action, on the other hand….

Alas, 2013 is not the year that sees me returning to the extensive cataloging of yore. On the other hand, I no longer view submitting fewer items than the “full” 100 as some kind of defeat; hell, I barely see it as less-than.

Without further ado, then, here are 52 things that I learned this year—one for each year I am old. A new tradition! For a new year!

  1. Surrender.
  2. No, really: S-U-R-R-E-N-D-E-R.
  3. Crap, like rust, never sleeps.
  4. Crisp sheets are worth the ironing.
  5. This includes pillowcases.
  6. But not, strangely enough, the bottom sheet.
  7. Pink is my favorite color.
  8. I am more surprised by this than anyone else.
  9. Never underestimate the entertainment value of random shit.
  10. Always let your wig do the heavy lifting.
  11. I’m just not that into Twitter.
  12. People are awesome.
  13. Occasionally, this includes elected officials.
  14. No matter how broke you get, you won’t regret what you spent on art.
  15. When in doubt, write like you talk.
  16. But above all, write.
  17. If it came from anywhere other than the place where your legs meet, get it in writing.
  18. Especially if “it” has to do with health insurance deductibles.
  19. More often than not, I’m the dumbest person in the room.
  20. More and more, I’m down with that.
  21. When you have to produce the goods, a dress makes you feel like a million bucks.
  22. Alas, the shoes that’ll get you there safely make you look like a tiny duck.
  23. Sign heaven exists, and it’s just east of the 110.
  24. I’m not done with acting.
  25. Oh, boy, am I not.
  26. Less gossip = mo’ better.
  27. The truth shows up when you least expect it.
  28. True miracles help make more miracles.
  29. Whether you know it or not.
  30. And most of the time, you won’t.
  31. Jacarandas!
  32. Death by a thousand cuts works the other way, too.
  33. Stories make more sense the more you tell them.
  34. Getting old means everything seems like it happened yesterday.
  35. If it’s good and it’s loving, it’s a “yes”.
  36. The journey of 3,798,493 steps starts with a single Fitbit.
  37. A solid deadline beats good intentions every time.
  38. The cure for loneliness is not more “me”-time.
  39. You meet the strangest people opting-out.
  40. Parties aren’t the worst way to ring in the new year.
  41. Subscribing to just one magazine is okay if there’s just one you want to read.
  42. The undocumented life is well worth living.
  43. It’s okay to ask for help.
  44. No, really: IT’S O-K-A-Y.
  45. Heaven on Earth is a voice lifted in song.
  46. This is the last year Facebook puts together a better highlights reel than I do.
  47. Those Buddhists know a thing or two about a thing or two.
  48. Getting fired feels horrible.
  49. Reconciling yourself to it with grace, however, almost compensates.
  50. Almost.
  51. There will never be a “done”.
  52. There will never be a day when this doesn’t make that a little easier to bear.

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

Posted in: The Personal Ones,The Silly Ones

chapbook in a cabinet with printed books

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™.

 

Posted in: The Personal Ones,The Quotidian Ones

Good enough, Day 20: The 52nd 13th

I have a joke I use to offset the dig-me factor in my crowdfunding talks about how, by the time I was 50, I’d done everything one could to mark a birthday—twice—so that I was forced for the first time to try something not-so-selfish. It’s funny because it’s true: I have been self-involved my whole […]

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Good enough, Day 19: Prodigal Writer

I was going to return with wisdom and grace, the knowledge of lifetimes lived in our mutual absence. Or, at the very least, with my best Saturday-night smile, and a dozen coral roses from the farmers market, wrapped in a little extra flash and dazzle, just in case. Instead, there is this. It is not […]

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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. […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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