Facing up to strange thrift

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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!

The way I do everything

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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.

 

53 Things I Learned in 2014

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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

52 Things I Learned in 2013

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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

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

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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 20: The 52nd 13th

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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 life. Even when I did nice things for you, it was so you'd think better of me. I mean, nice things got done, anyway, and work, and all of this is good. But it was for the cookie, and no mistake..

Still, the other part is true, too. By the time you've celebrated that many birthdays, you've covered a lot of territory. I've had parties thrown for me, surprise and regular, and thrown parties for myself. I've taken myself on trips and been gifted with them. I've gotten all kinds of stuff, most of which I don't own anymore. I had the one not-so-selfish year. And last year, I flat-out hid, because it was all too much.

That was the year that taught me there must always be some sort of plan, some way to mark the day. Thank god for a dear friend who narrowly saved me from my self-created near-disaster with a card and gifts and a generous offer to join her on a jaunt around town doing errands, with a pit stop for smoothies.

By next year, I may be ready again for festivities; this year, I was not. My plan was to start the day with a solo coffee and end it over a low-key dinner with a friend, with plenty of time in between for meandering, and a few exits just in case. Was it the most spectacular birthday of my life? Clearly not: it wasn't even planned that way. But neither was it the worst.

It was a day where I was grateful for all I had, reasonably sanguine about what I didn't, and an ending that felt fuller than its beginning. A good-enough day with none of the buzzy highs and none of the dreadful lows of years past. Just me and other humans and our real, honest-to-God feelings, hanging out together. I would be happy to have another 53 just like it. If I got just three more, I'd be happy with those.

So maybe you live most of the days of your life before you get that this is the point: to live the days of your life, as Jonathan Swift said.

Works for Pauline. Works for me, too.

xxx c

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

Good enough, Day 19: Prodigal Writer

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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 exactly right,
and 17 miles from the morning shadow of perfect,
but it is true in the places that count,
and that, my friends, is good enough.

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™.

Good enough, Day 17: Easy readin'

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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™.

Good enough, Day 16: The joyful frugalista

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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

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Good enough, Day 15: Arts & crafty

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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

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Good enough, Day 14: Going public

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I like things the way I like them—exactly. I like being in my apartment with my things all where I put them last—these days, usually cleaned and neatly back in their rightful spots, but even before then, the crusty socks on the middle of the floor where I left them, dammit.

I like working on my (old) laptop rather than my fancy, light-as-Macbook-Air because it has all my stuff on it, all the way I like it, and I like it connected to my Logitech mouse, Apple wireless keyboard, and Cinema Display. (For a person who cries "poor" all the time, I have ridiculously nice equipment, but I'm miserly with soap, gasoline, and vacations.) (And we won't even get into how old my underwear is.)

Every once in a while, though, my likes run up against each other.

For example, I like really good paper and I like writing on it with a really nice fountain pen. But I burn through spiral notebooks like Liz Taylor did husbands, and crikey, have you priced them lately? Spiral notebooks or husbands, for that matter. Not cheap. So I have settled on cheap spiral notebooks with cheap, crappy paper that bleeds*—10 for $9.99—and a freebie ballpoint that won't. (although when I went to replace the cartridge, I discovered that the thing they say about no free lunches applies to pens, too.)

I also like to be cool—temperature-wise, not personality-wise, which I've given up on. It has not been possible thus far to secure air-conditioning for my apartment, and so when summer seizes this city each year, I'm faced with a dilemma: work in the place I really, really like, but suffer through the heat; or take my bidness to an outside location with air-conditioning.

I am writing this from my library. It is noisy—a Saturday—and it is crowded. People do...weird things here. If you want to use the toilet, you have to make eye contact with a stranger and ask them to watch your stuff, which can be awkward for shy introverts. Their dictionaries are non-horrible, but they can't touch my behemoth, Bertrand.

It is not ideal; it is not even close. (Well, actually, it is very close, and that part is awesome.) But it is cool and it is lit and it has shorty tables for tiny-legged people like me for to rest their exhausted, overheated selves and hammer out blog posts.

And after two weeks of >90ºF temperatures? In the spirit of the series, let's just say it that if it isn't exactly how I'd have it, it's exactly good enough.

xxx c

*UPDATE: Not to mention lackluster design and typeface choices. How did I leave off that gem? I blame the heat!

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Good enough, Day 13: Home for keeps

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About a year ago, one of the finest humans I've ever met died after a horrific fight with pancreatic cancer. I'd known Susan Carr a scant two years by then, but she was one of those people who rocket straight to the top of your "besties" list if you're lucky enough to come across them in the wild. Susan was my client first, my editor later, a friend sooner than I deserved, and an inspiration throughout. I looked forward to every single exchange with her—too few of them happened in person, but she could make a phone call count. She was that rare combination of smart, talented, principled, and compassionate, and dammit if she didn't have a wicked sense of humor on top of it all.

Aside from her amazing work as the educational director of ASMP and her professional work as a photographer, Susan was also an amazing fine-art photographer. Her final project, a series of interiors of homes across the U.S. that had been continuously inhabited by their occupants for 40 or more years, is rich with quiet insight. Each black-and-white photograph tells a story without saying a word, partly because when we spend enough time in one place, we wear little grooves into it with objects and arrangements that reveal our hopes, dreams, and values, but also because Susan had an unerring eye for capturing those spaces—honestly, respectfully, and humbly.

Susan spent her last days editing the collection of images. It was her dream that someday, they be assembled into a book. Some good friends and colleagues have picked up where Susan left off and prepped this beautiful, 140-pp, hardcover book for production. The $42 price tag isn't cheap, but it's good for a high-quality art photography book, and includes shipping (to the lower 48, I'm guessing). And all the money goes toward production; services are donated. We're hoping to get pre-orders for a minimum run of 1,000 copies by September 24th. If we don't meet our minimum, no book; if we surpass it, the individual book price will go down.

I like to think that if she'd lived longer, Susan Carr would eventually have taken a photo of my crazy little pink-and-dingbat-tiled kitchen. After all, I've lived here for 14 years already; it's not impossible that a 78-year-old me could still live here, and a 77-year-old Susan trundle up the stairs with whatever cameras would look like by then, to snap a few shots.

Maybe she would have captured the quirks of my personality in the odd objects I keep in my pen cabinets. Maybe she would have found the thread in the collection of notes on my fridge, or some personal-yet-universal truth in the thrift-store lamp with the ruined shade I never did get around to replacing. Maybe she would be able to tell my story in a way I cannot, because I am too close to it, or because I still have too many magazine-fueled ideas of how things are supposed to look.

She was adept at telling stories, Susan Carr. Partly because she was gifted, but also because she was wise: she knew what was good, and that most of what we have in our brief time here is more than good enough.

xxx c

Pre-order Intimate Histories, by Susan Carr

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Photo © Susan Carr.

Good enough, Day 12: A top sheet as flat as the Ritz

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Last year, through a series of mishaps (mine) and one generous act (my sister and brother-in-law's), I ended up the owner of some very nice cotton sheets. With monograms! Because even though monograms are ridiculous, everyone secretly loves them. Here's what else they love: sleeping on ironed, white cotton sheets. Which is pretty easy to do at any mid-level hotel these days, but harder to pull off at home, because—well, ironing.

Here's the thing, though: I love ironing. I have loved it since I learned how to do it properly, back in high school. There was a sunny little room in our house dedicated to sewing and/or guests, neither of which seemed to happen much, so mostly, I'd truck on up there after school, or some other time when it was still light, and iron everything in the house that was made of cotton. My stepfather had the best deal going on pressed shirts, and I got to comfort myself with a useful, repetitive activity and syndicated TV.

Over the past year, I looked forward to Friday nights not because I was going out, tearing up the town, but because Friday day was laundry day, and after laundry day came ironing night. Ironing plus Quincy. Ironing plus Law & Order. Ironing plus Inspector Morse. Very, very soothing.

And then, after I put the crisp sheets on the bed and made it up just so, I'd take a good hot bath or shower and slip into something that felt as good as a freshly made bed the first night of a hotel stay, only better, because it was in my house, which meant I wouldn't stub my toe on the way to a strange bathroom in the middle of the night, and that I'd be able to have my coffee when and how I liked it in the morning without getting out of my pajamas. When I get the single, raised eyebrow in response to my odd domestic habit—as, believe me, I do—I hasten to assure people that this is not my perfectionism raining down on my own parade, but a joyous act of deep self-care. Crisp sheets! Procedural dramas! Don't knock it 'til you've tried it, folks.

However, there is a point where self-care turns into self-basting, and that point is when the thermometer you keep in the coolest place in the apartment, 12 inches from where you do your ironing, reads "94ºF".

Did you know you can watch Inspector Morse in bed, lying on wrinkled sheets, and sleep just as well? Me, neither.

Good enough.

xxx c

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Good enough, Day 11: Too hot to be bothered

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When I tell people about the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, their first reaction is usually a brief take of mock shock and/or sympathy over how terribly restrictive it is, followed immediately by a round of that game no one seems to tire of, "Can You Eat X?" But really, the SCD, a diet for people with Crohn's and ulcerative colitis (and, believe it or not, autism) isn't any more restrictive than diets for people with diabetes or high cholesterol. And I'm way, way happier forgoing bread and pasta and fries than I would be suffering through them the way the folks with hypertension do—WITHOUT SALT. Sweet Jesus of Nazareth, talk about pointless.

No, after 11 years on and off of it, I can honestly say that the only place SCD really falls short is in the area of convenience. Since almost all processed foods are out—illegals like starch, sugar, and the murky "flavorings" are almost always lurking therein—you're down to preparing most stuff yourself or finding quality places you really trust. Things have gotten far easier since the advent of the Paleo Diet, which mimics ours in many ways (and again, which I find far worse—WTF, no cheese??), but it's still dodgy, eating out, not to mention expensive.

* * * * *

When you are literally chief cook and bottle-washer, you end up eating the same things over and over, especially when dietary needs get tricky. My prayer to the dating gods is for them to deliver me a loving chef with something to prove. Until then, I see myself sticking to the same six or seven menu items, swapping them out seasonally, or when I get bored.

For example, I went through a years-long omelet phase, varying only fillings, and only under duress. When I burned out on omelets a couple of years ago, I switched to a hard-boiled egg and a bowl of SCD-legal yogurt with seasonal fruit.

Lunch and dinner are easy in cool weather. I make big batches of soup, chili, stew, and so forth, freeze them in portions, and pull them out as needed. Even the early part of summer is fine: I make a big salad every day, and that's that. For years, I did the Meat Blueprint Salad. This summer, I switched to greens, tuna, peppers, and avocado, dressed simply with oil and vinegar.

But when hell sets in here, usually sometime in late August, the idea of even this much prep is exhausting.

So I swing by the deli, pick up 1/2 lb. of turkey and 1/4 lb. of cheese, some romaine lettuce, and a gritty, sour mustard free of illegals, and eat these until the heat breaks. Over the sink. Quickly, so I can get the hell out and back into some library or coffee shop that's air-conditioned.

If you're new to the SCD, know that even deli meats usually are not safe. They are pumped full of disgusting things to make them look pretty and stay stable; they are absolutely processed foods are not part of the program of "fanatical adherence" that our beloved founder Elaine Gottschall wisely advised maintaining if you want to see results. What you can do, in this case, is track down a minimally-to-unprocessed turkey breast and roast it yourself. Roasting will heat up your kitchen like mad, but if you do it in the cool of the evening, it's slightly less heinous. Portions freeze beautifully, and a breast will last a good long time.

There's a lovely kind of comfort to be had, having the same things over and over. And there's a correspondingly wonderful feeling of gratitude and delight when I get to switch things up again.

(Someone remind me of this when I have to move, okay?)

xxx c

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Good enough, Day 10: Two good feet and a two-mile radius

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When my ex-husband and I moved to L.A.—right around when those dinosaurs down the block took a permanent bath in the primordial ooze—we shared a car, which meant that one of us was usually walking somewhere. Back then, I thought nothing of walking two miles to our favorite bar, three miles to class, or four miles to the movies. It seemed a good enough way to justify a treat during my profoundly underemployed existence, and hey, you can eat as much as you want when you're literally walking your ass off.

At a certain point, though, we acquired a second vehicle—and with it, I'm sorry to say, the lazy, disconnected ways of the isolated and/or entitled Angeleno. As I moved from my failed screenwriting career to my thriving office-monkey career, driving felt like compensation for the degradation of suffering through honest employment (cf. entitlement, above). And then when my commercial acting career took off, having my own car was a necessity. The greenie types can squawk all they want about buses and bicycles; during those five-auditions-per-day years of the boom times, neither people-powered nor mass transpo was a realistic option.

Fast-forward a dozen or so years. But for the rare and delightful exception, my acting career is largely behind me, and along with it, the need to hustle my ass hither and yon at a moment's notice—and along with both of these and menopause, my midsection was becoming a upper-middle section. Clearly, the time had come for an adjustment.

My friend Alissa is a renowned Walker in L.A., and had been cheerfully forging the path, as it were, ahead of me. She'd become so adept at navigating the city sans car that she'd gotten rid of hers years before. And in between writing interesting articles about design, architecture, and her late, lamented gelato, she managed to put together a piece on how to reorient yourself to a car-centric town on your own power. Her breakthrough moment was drawing a two-mile radius around her house on a map, and seeing how much stuff fell within that radius—everything she needed, including a Target! She pledged to walk, bike, or take transit within that two-mile radius, and her life was forever changed. (And I do mean her life—her whole career ended up taking a new and exciting direction once her feet hit the ground.)

After hearing Alissa talk about it, our other friend, Heather, did a similar writeup of her walking experience. Clearly, my time had come.

* * * * *

Things that make walking AWESOME:

  1. You can skip the gym. I was doing this already, but now I don't feel guilty about it. At some point, I will have to fold in some strength training, but for now, I just lift the grocery bags a lot or buy the occasional overly large melon.
  2. You save a LOT of money you can spend on other stuff. I fill up my tank once a month now. Gas near my house is running $4/gallon. 'Nuff said.
  3. You arrive at your destinations calm yet energized. Maybe this happens to super-mellow people who drive, too, like driving monks, but it never happened to me. I generally arrive anxious and enraged, as I am the polar opposite of a driving monk. Except for the haircut.
  4. You get to see a lot more stuff and take a lot more photos. My sister is fond of shopping carts gone rogue. My pedestrian travels afford me many opportunities to bomb her inbox with stray carts.
  5. You instantly become both fascinating and impressive. I'm so used to walking 2, 3, and 4 miles—each way—that I forget it's an exotic thing. Yet it's still a safe topic for polite discussion, and far more interesting than traffic, weather, and sports.

* * * * *

Two more things before I go.

First, shoes—as in, having good ones is exceedingly important. I actually began my walking odyssey last spring, but I was walking in whatever hipster sneakers or civilian boots I had handy. These are fine for short jaunts, but for serious walking, they should be considered as dangerous as high heels. I ended up with weird leg pains and swelling that I was sure meant imminent death. One very expensive trip to the vascular surgeon ruled that out, thank God. But it was the few consultations I had with my cousin Karen, an alignment expert, that set me right. She did a diagnostic long-distance, and prescribed a series of exercises and relatively inexpensive accessories to help correct what I'd thrown off with overzealousness and ill-fitting shoes.

I'm now on my third pair of these Altra "Zero-Drop" beauties. If it is not immediately obvious, I am using the word "beauties" ironically, because merry christmas, them is some ugly-looking shoes. If it is not also obvious by the rollover, that is an Amazon affiliate link, because these run $100 a pop, and I burn through a pair every two months. I am also a convert to toe socks, although not so anyone can see. It just feels nice, each toe having its own snuggly socklet, and I find there's less chafing and sweating.

Second, and finally, competition: it makes capitalism and me run. Er, walk. Even when I was just competing with myself, walking with the Fitbit and seeing how many steps I'd accrued really incentivized me.

Now that I have a handful of friends on my leaderboard, I'm even more motivated, because I'LL BE DAMNED IF I'LL LET MIKE MONTEIRO BEAT ME.

xxx c

In case you did not see the very obvious hovers, all the item links are Amazon affiliate links, which means if you click on them and then buy something—anything...even a potato chip at Amazon, I will get some money. Rest assured that it will not be much (especially if you buy a potato chip), and that it will all go toward the next pair of Altras. 

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Good enough, Day 9: Giving the Arnold Palmer a run for its money

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I must now admit to an embarrassing personal deficiency: 99.999% of the time, I hate drinking water. Okay, maybe "hate" is a bit strong; I really, really dislike it. But I stand by the percentage! Water is the most tedious beverage under the sun. It is blah. It is non-delicious. From the wrong wells or pipes, it is aggressively foul. Am I saying there are no exceptions to this? I am not. When I was an entitled jerk who drank bottled water, there were brands I loved. Arrowhead? Moderately tasty. Sparkletts? Delicious. On those occasions when I am that bozo who forgot her water bottle, I will treat myself to an overpriced Dasani from the 7-11 cooler and drink that whole sucka down right there. (I am convinced they put something in it to make it more palatable. Crack, maybe.) And, okay, when it is 8 million degrees here in L.A., as it inevitably is in September and October, even water from a fountain that hasn't had its filter changed since the Carter administration can taste pretty good. Overall, though, I give a big, fat "meh" to water as a beverage.

This poses a few problems, as the adult, responsible Colleen knows she needs a certain amount of water per day for good health and flushing things out and counteracting Americanos—which, as everyone knows, God invented for himself on the seventh day while he "rested", then hid from the rest of us until 1982. For a while, I tried getting my daily H20 con gas, as the Italians say. Sparkling water was highly satisfactory from a gustatory perspective, but was hell on my intestinal tract, not to mention fitting in my pants by the end of the day.

I had a major breakthrough sometime last year when, for something like the 44th day in a row, I found myself pouring out my almost-untouched nightly peppermint tea in the the morning. I'd begun making a mug of it at bedtime in an attempt to calm and soothe me into sleep. I must be an easily-suggestible type, because within several months, just setting that thing down on the bedside table made me sleepy. Great for feeling rested, but a terrible waste of perfectly good peppermint tea.

So, one fateful morning a year or so ago, I poured what was left in the mug into a glass, figuring I'd just drink it cold, only—well, I was out of ice. On a whim, I topped it off with chilled, sparkling water and JUST LIKE THAT, my new-favorite drink was born. It is easy as pie to make. It is cheap, even if you brew the tea fresh, for this express purpose. And, while most definitely con gas, it is con less gas than fizzy water alone.

Best of all, it is delicious. If you like your drinks non-sweet and just a little acrid, as I do, you will be in hog heaven.

I was thinking I should call it a "communicatrix"—why should Arnold Palmer have all the non-alcoholic fun?—but upon reflection, I believe I will have to dub it the...

GUDENOV (serves 1) Fill a 12-oz glass halfway with brewed peppermint tea. Fill to top with chilled sparkling water. Enjoy!

xxx c

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Good enough, Day 8: Wacky wig and glasses, redux

If you haven't figured it out by now, I tend to take things very seriously. And by "things", I mean everything. What you say to me in a casual email. What I say to you in line at Starbucks. What I read on your Facebook timeline.

And always, always what I am working on.

When I went to kindergarten, I was a dead-serious carrot-peeler and colorer. When I wrote ads, I was a dead-serious jingle writer who came early, stayed late, and worked weekends. And when I finally admitted to my fathers heavenly and biological that I was an actor, I signed on with the rigorous devotion of the fresh convert. I knew which newsstand got their copies of Back Stage West before the rest, and I had my self-submissions mailed out the next morning. I took any role I was offered and prepared for it as though it was the lead—which it wasn't, ever, until the tail end of my acting career. (And even then, only once.) My embarrassingly short stint in the Groundlings Sunday Company was an object lesson in the futility of trying too hard, yet persist, I did: submitting sketches, wheedling fellow company members to collaborate, and, most shameful of all, sinking kingly sums into my personal wig collection long after it was clear to everyone else that I had the stink of death on me.

I let go of those wigs the way I disposed of the pieces my copywriting portfolio—slowly and reluctantly, as their lack of relevance dwindled, then altogether, in a kind of wistful resignation. My print ads ended up in the dumpster, but the last few wigs I offloaded on a talented young friend (who still has a busy career in and out of sketch comedy, and no clouds on the horizon). Even then, my need for security and, I suppose, recognition was so great, I included a request with the handoff—namely, that if some unimaginable need arose, she would be willing to loan one back to me.

Life is funny, and so is my friend Justin's writing. So when he offered to write me into his soap-gone-gonzo webseries AVE 43, I agreed without hesitation. My head was shaved by now, and the part he'd written kinda-sorta took that into account: when Margo made her first appearance, she was an imperious interior designer. After it became clear that "imperious" is NOT a color I've been gifted with, Margo reappeared as a terrified victim of The Highland Park Diddler in two episodes—once in a support group, and another where she has an unfortunate run-in with the Diddler himself. (PG-17 for violence, not sex.)

When Margo returned, she had joined the ranks at The Twat Club, AVE 43's resident cathouse. While she was strictly a "'novelty' slut"—even in gonzo-soap webseries, I don't play romantic leads—Justin thought it would be best if she donned a wig, for verisimilitude. He told me that he and his boyfriend had an old "Marilyn" wig I could use, but I said I was pretty sure I could cover it on my own. I am, after all, a pro-FESH-un-al.

Annie was more than willing to do that loan, but as I mentioned above, she is much in demand. It came down to a choice between me fighting my way out to Santa Monica on a Friday night, or the as-yet-unseen Marilyn wig. Though only midway into my year-and-a-half-long experiment with "good enough," I managed to make the sane choice. I showed up the following morning with my lines down cold but everything else breezily scavenged: working-girl costume cobbled together from creepy, too-small underwear I'd kept on a hunch, plus a six-year-old lipstick I was too cheap to throw out.

Oh, and the wig of course. The hideous, gorgeous, dime-store wig. It lifted Margo to a (sorry) ho new level. The wig deserves its own credit, really; it does most of the acting, and writes its own jokes.

What's most important is that I love wearing that hideous wig. It is easy. It is messy. It gets the job done, but doesn't take itself too seriously. It suits the kind of actor I have somehow, accidentally, backed into being: not one who does it because she has to, or out of some wildly mistaken notion that it will fill any kind of hole inside, but because it is fun. I learn my lines, I show up early, I pull the wig on—any which way, mind you, and no mirror—and have a blast. I am allowed to be my ridiculous self, channeled through an even more ridiculous character, playing alongside brilliantly talented people.

Good enough? No—perfection.

xxx
c

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Good enough, Day 6: Too darn hot

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Summer is a crazy thing here in L.A. Just when it starts being over everywhere else—right around Labor Day here in the U.S.—it descends on us like a stinky devil in the night. I used to fight the weather like crazy, crouched in wet bathing suits under strategically-placed fans in the dark, or rushing off to this or that air-conditioned space and forcing the words out of myself. I still resist it almost reflexively, as I do other kinds of reality, like how many things can comfortably fit in the bucket of time I'm given each morning, or how even how long it takes to do one thing well.

Here is what progress looks like: starting to flip out in the coffee shop because you don't have the right program on this computer, because you can't access the photos you have on the drive at home, because LOUD TYPING from the madly prolific writer at the adjacent table. And then somehow, because you have been practicing, allowing yourself to close your eyes, to take a series of deep breaths, to ask yourself a few questions you have learned that help bring you out of your crazy head and back into a your slightly overheated, definitely tired body. You sip your iced tea, you put on some headphones and listen to pretty rain and harmonic sounds, you do the next thing you're able to do.

I had great ambitions for today: a meeting on a new project I've been working on for a while with a dear friend, but that we've had to put on hold; some work on a personal project of my own; some (god help me) "minor" site coding, and of course, an elaborate update for this series. I scaled them back to lunch with another dear friend, a short post about nothing and swapping out my old face for my new one in the sidebar.

Right now, I'm pretty happy with the way everything turned out. And I ain't talking about the sidebar, either.

xxx c

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