Thursday, September 25, 2008

Tone Deaf

Don’t let the title mislead you. I have sung my whole life—voice lessons starting at age three—so I know how to find a note and carry a tune …

…when I can hear it! One of my favorite chapters in Hot Flashbacks, Cool Insights—the book—is called “Huh?” It’s about when I discovered that my natural hearing batteries were running low. So, I don’t excel in audio. But hearing aids?

Talk about a blow to the ego. I am a baby boomer. I am a vain baby boomer, so if I had to do some old lady’s gig, I wanted total in-canal aids, the kind you can’t see unless you’re looking for them with a magnifying glass.

I also wax poetic in my book—no ear pun intended— about how one of my favorite characters,
Gil Grissom on CSI, has a hearing problem far worse than mine. It could threaten his career, although I doubt that’s why his character will leave the show this season. And I reveal one of my nuttier pastimes, signing the words to “Who Are You” by The Who at the beginning of each show. That’s signing as in sign language, although I sing the song at the same time, too. Sign language is something I learned years ago, before I ever learned I might need it someday.

One of the drawbacks to
my jazzy little Phonak hearing aids is that they are omni-directional. Freely translated, when I hear a sound, I’m not sure which direction it’s coming from. This could be dangerous, if not fatal. Imagine a car or train with a loud horn blaring at me, and I think it is aiming at me from the left, and I jump right—into its path!

This is one reason why I’m letting my Audriologist—my audiologist named Audrey—talk me into a different kind of hearing aids next time around. She claims they’re still discreet. I claim you can see them short of a safari into my ear canals, which makes them distasteful. But I realize I won’t care what I look like if I’m (gulp) dead!

One of the other drawbacks to being omni-directional, besides not being sure where a sound is coming from--when a cell phone rings, I’m not sure whose it is. If you’re a cheapskate, like me, who balked at popping for a ring tone and paying extra, you’re stuck with the standard issue. Most people “mobilize” with only a few main carriers, so the chances are, your ring tone is on a lot of other people’s cell phones. I not only can’t tell where it’s coming from; I can’t tell if it’s mine. Joe Blow and Jane Doe, both standing within five feet of me, might have the same tone.

There’s one more issue. Am I the only person so annoyed by
Brenda Leigh Johnson’s ringtone on The Closer that I’d like to throw her phone against the wall? There is distinctive; then there is downright irritating. All the tones loaded into my newest cell phone are so obnoxious; it’s a clear conspiracy by my cell phone company to make more money selling sounds. Sounds a human being can actually stand.

True confessions: I have always wanted “Who Are You” as my ringtone. Not only am I an avid fan of all the CSI’s and their theme songs by The Who, but what could be cuter or more ironic? It rings and sings—“Who are you?” Purchasing ring tones is something I have always feared, especially with those crazy companies that have fine print, forcing you to sell your firstborn and all your grandchildren if you don’t pay a zillion dollars a month for the privilege of playing with cell phone music. They seem like scary swindlers and way too expensive.

Clearly, life was a lot simpler and cheaper when we had single-color, black rotary dial phones, when private lines were a newfangled luxury, and when our phone “numbers” were a misnomer, because they had both numbers and letters. (GArden 5-5194. Do you remember yours?)

Back from my nostalgia trip to today’s more complex communications: Late at night, I often can’t wind down, and that’s when I make my worst online purchasing mistakes—or get it right by accident—both of which happened with my new ringtones. I felt more comfortable buying them from
Verizon, my carrier. After all, we already have a personal relationship, and if they pull a fast one, I can take my business elsewhere. After my new two-year contract expires.

On previous searches, I’d never been able to find a major company that carried “Who Are You,” only those in the scary-expensive category. To my delight, Verizon now has it! I like to do a different tone for calls from home and my husband’s cell, calls that come only from him. (The cats haven’t mastered calling. Hard to do without opposable thumbs.) For Tim, I chose “
My Guy” by Mary Wells, a boomer classic I adore, one we often play on the jukebox at Mel’s.

Now for the mistake. I noticed there were two categories, ringtones and ringback tones. I wasn’t sure what ringback tones were, I was tired, and I bought one—another boomer fave, “You’ve Got a Friend.” This version is sung by Carole King.

I found out it’s “on hold” music while your phone connects. So, my friends will know they’ve got me, even if they don’t have me on the line. “Ain’t it good to know that you’ve got a friend?” Be patient. She’s coming!

This trio only cost me a one-time fee of $3 for each ringtone and $2 for the ringback tone. Of course, there’s a $1/month access fee for ringtones, so figure with the $12 annual charge, it’s $20. And another $12 next year, the year after, etc. They were my birthday present to myself for the joy I’ll get hearing those tunes each time the phone rings—and knowing it can only be my phone.

The new hearing aids cost $5,000. I think I got an incredible bargain by comparison.

Still, my new ringtones don’t tell me which direction the train is coming from ……

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Autumn EquiKnocks

What inner seeds of hopes and dreams will you harvest this autumn? Think about what you have wanted to create in your life since the natural New Year last spring. How are your “crops?” What progress have you made?

We are again on the cusp of the Autumn Equinox, that comfortable, predictable change of season that gives us continuity and a sense of order on Planet Earth. Autumn comes knocking at our door in the US on September 22 at 8:45 AM Pacific—adjust for your time zone. One of my first posts last year,
Happy Autumn Equinox, is often visited and has a lot of generic information about the season from a spiritual and symbolic standpoint.

This year, I’m treating all you Cool Insighters to an excerpt from Hot Flashbacks, Cool Insights—the book. It’s from the chapter, “The AARP Card.” Imagine the crisp breeze and leaves falling:

I was born on the cusp of autumn. It’s my favorite season, even though I always get somewhat depressed during that time of year. I wonder if it brings back deeply unconscious memories of my original loss of my birth mom and my rough start in life. Or maybe the smell of early fires and the suggestion of winter in the air remind me of death and dying, as plants go dormant. There is a sad, bittersweet quality about autumn. Everything is most vibrant and bountiful right before winter—when it dies.

I also experienced many losses during autumn: moving from my childhood home, leaving home for the first time to go off to college, and ultimately, the deaths of my mom and brother. I wonder if I sensed those losses would come during that time of year, long before their illnesses. It would explain the blues I’d sometimes feel in the midst of leaves turning colors I consider among the wonders of the world. If I were to bet what time of year I’ll go back to the earth…

On the other hand—enough mourning—autumn holds two of my favorite holidays, Halloween and Thanksgiving. I love costumes and the threat of a good prank. Best of all, I love a holiday that forces even the stingiest people to open their pockets to the kids and the dentists in the neighborhood.

I grew up in a time that preceded worries about razor blades in apples and Ex Lax in brownies. Homemade goodies were actually a welcome part of my Halloween booty. Being a Venus Girl—someone with a lot of planets in Libra or Taurus in my astrological chart, ruled by Venus, the Goddess of Love and Beauty—you’d never see me in an ugly costume. No hook noses or fake warts. I’m sure I played plenty a pretty princess or ballerina in my youth, not that I still remember.

As a younger grown-up, I’d never miss an opportunity to do something wild and wacky in the Costume Department. Some of my favorites include:

· Auntie Mame, one of all-time heroines and literary characters, with flapper garb and trumpet from the musical version of the story

The Purple People Eater—one eye, one horned, purple from head to toe, and flying into the costume promenade at work playing the old song by Sheb Wooly on a tape recorder

· A blue cosmic cowgirl in a kinky blue wig and cowboy hat, blaster at hip, and

· A Christmas tree.

I suppose you could argue I was mixing my holiday metaphors on the Christmas tree, but it was cool. I had a star on my head, wore a handmade green felt poncho that held garland, bulbs, and other ornaments, and I carried a wrapped box by a string that I pulled underneath myself when I spread my arms out, assuming the tree pose.

These last ten years, I haven’t done much with costumes, which does make me worry I might be getting old and no one told me. However, I always, at minimum, wear a black t-shirt with some Halloween message on it and pumpkin jewelry that glows in the dark.

More recently, I have become infatuated with
Dias de los Muertos or Day of the Dead, the Mexican holiday that begins the day after Halloween. Its purpose is to honor the dead and, at the same time, to thumb your nose at Death. Los Dias de los Muertos is not a sad time, but instead a time of remembering and rejoicing. Dias paraphernalia includes all those comic pictures of skeletons smiling doing various fun things like dancing. I have one under the clock in my office. The skeleton is grinning at his computer, wearing a pair of headphones. On the screen, it says Great American Novel. It definitely encourages me to get clacking away on my books, but if I run out of time, I hope I get to find out how you can still finish a book with whatever remains. Guess I may have to rethink cremation.

Then there is Thanksgiving, a holiday I truly attempt to celebrate every day of the year, not just during the big turkey spread and official kick-off to the winter holiday season. Gratitude is at the heart of a great life. The more we say thank you, the more the universe returns its bounty. Spirit, like people, appreciates those who don’t take giving for granted. Life is so rich. To quote my favorite Auntie (Mame, of course), “Life’s a banquet and most poor slobs are starving to death.”

Dig into the banquet. When Autumn EquiKnocks, answer the door with a big yes to her bounty. May your cornucopia and your gratitude overflow. In the words of William Blake:

"Gratitude is heaven itself."

Friday, September 12, 2008

Happy Birthday, Hot Flashbacks!

The Hot Flashbacks, Cool Insights blog was born on September 17, 2007 at 10:43 pm with my first post, “
Boomer's Hot Flashbacks Contain Instructions for a Cool Rest of Her Life.”
I’d like to invite you to our baby’s first birthday party. Our baby. A blog is a community. Ours is just a toddler, but it’s starting to walk!

I won a five-minute pitch meeting with agent
Laurie McLean of Larsen-Pomada Literary Agents in a random drawing at my Sisters in Crime meeting in September 2007. She recommended that I start a blog to begin finding an audience for my work, while I finished my memoir. I took her suggestion and ran with it. I’m still running, but like I said, the baby is just starting to walk.

Birth Chart

Hottie-Cool (HC for short), our baby blog, has an astrology chart, just like the rest of us. She’s a
Virgo with a Sag Moon and Gemini Rising. If she were a real person, that’d make her way chatty! With Jupiter conjunct her Moon in Sagittarius, she’d be fond of hyperbole. (Do you think she exaggerates? Her “mom” sure has stories that must sound like it, stranger than fiction.) Oh, and she loves to have fun!

Not to astro-babble too much for those not familiar with the lingo, but I think you’ll appreciate two other points. First, her Moon/Jupiter is on the
7th house cusp of relationships. That tells you the heart of this blog—connection. Second, Neptune is on the Midheaven. This blog’s job, if you will, is consciousness and things like intuition and dreams and creating psychic links. Put it all together and you’ve got us linked in consciousness, communicating about it, and having fun. Just what I had in mind. Hope it works for you!

Since it was brand spankin’ new, there have been 39 posts covering many diverse topics besides my memoir (progress reports and excerpts). Some of the other topics include women’s circles, celebrating the seasons, gratitude, patience and faith, pets, intuition, flower essences, loss and love, the four elements, meaningful coincidences and dreams.

The Numbers
Although I’ve only been tracking blog statistics for two months, a profile of Hot/Cool readers and their visiting habits is starting to emerge.

Over the past month, Hot Flashbacks has had 378 page views by 88 distinct visitors. They come from all over: 10 countries and 4 continents with the most visits from the US, UK, and Canada. In the US, most visitors come from my home State of California followed by Pennsylvania, Iowa, and Oregon. The majority of visitors read two or more pages during an average 1-2 minute visit. Sixty-five percent are returning visitors.

Since most readers land on the Home Page, it is the most frequently visited page. However, it has ever-changing content, and visits are not reported by which post is displayed at the time of landing. The home page is followed, in order, by these specific posts:
Memoir Evolution, Boomers Hot Flashbacks Contain Instructions for a Cool Rest of Her Life, Edgar Allan Poet and Happy Autumn Equinox, with It’s Done! and Yellow Highlighter tied for 5th place. So if you’ve missed any of these popular destinations, pay a visit to these links to find out why they’re in the Top 5. Check the past post list, too. There may be other topics you’ll be glad you discovered.

Future Outlook
To help this kid go from toddler to walking upright on two legs without teetering, HC needs your support and encouragement. You are the aunties and uncles whose job it is to pitch the cheeks of our little blog now ‘n’ then and say, “My how you’ve grown.” More than that, you’ve got to talk to the little tyke. That means jump in and make more Comments …

… and if you’re too shy to do it in the blogosphere, send me an e-mail, where we can do it in private, one-on-one:

I can attest, though, the public thing doesn’t hurt at all-- honest! I blabbed on this blog 39 times, and no one has come after me with a straightjacket, one of those butterfly nets, or called the
paddy wagon, as my mom used to say. And if you’re afraid you might make a fool of yourself, take it from one who has been there and transformed it. Read the post Blunders to Blessings.

Most of all, this post is a big thank-you for your support during my first year of blogging. It was always my dream to write a column. I would have called it Life in the Vast Lane … but blogging has taken the old concept of the newspaper or magazine column to new heights of unlimited potential. I hope you’ll continue to help me raise HC to be a vibrant source of inspiration, connection, and a place where all readers, especially the baby boomer generation, can keep mentally sharp, spiritually in tune, and physically up for blowing up the old Old.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering what to get the baby blog for her birthday? Referrals. Lots of them. She can never have too many people drop in to say hello or Happy Birthday. Link to your web sites and blogs. Tell your friends!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The P-Word and the F-Word (Patience and Faith)

Most people have a basic knowledge of astrological signs, even if they know little else about astrology. You probably know that the sign of Aries (March 21-April 19) is symbolized by a Ram. Rams push head first into any endeavor. They are the trailblazers of the zodiac. Ruled by Mars, the sign of do it now, they are usually long on action and short on patience.

God Is Not an Aries
I wrote a humorous article once called “God Is Not an Aries.” Why not? You may have noticed, the Divine One takes her sweet time about making things happen. Prayers usually take minutes, if not seconds, especially when invoking or acknowledging the presence of Spirit in a rough moment. While prayers take seconds, answers often seem to take forever.

There’s a little Aries in everyone, and today I want to talk about one of the most quoted litanies of the nuns in my Catholic grammar school: “Patience is a virtue; possess it if you can.”

My friend Jessica has five planets in Aries. This funomenon is known as a
stellium when you have at least three planets bunched up in the same sign. She has that and a couple to spare. One day Jessi was ranting about someone or something that wasn’t getting done fast enough for her. I told her she needed to learn the P-Word. She had no idea what word I meant. Jessica was the inspiration for the “God Is Not an Aries” article.

The Best Things in Life Take Time
If God/Goddess/All That Is takes His/Her/Its sweet time, there must be some higher reason why things we want take so long. It reminds me of that sign you see in restaurants. “Food made to order takes time to prepare.” Once an old friend of mine complained, “People want
Cup-a-Soup relationships.” You know, add a little water, stir, and voila!—happily ever after.

Nice dream if you don’t mind a wet noodle. A generic or so-so fix can materialize in a hurry. The speed part of this equation is the answer to any prayer. However, if you want a quality solution--if you want your life to run like a top-- quit blowing your top and tapping your fingers. Have a little patience—and faith.

The Manifestation Twins, Patience and Faith
Faith is the flip side of patience. Faith supports patience like a life preserver when we’re dumped on the choppy sea of uncertainty with no land in sight. It keeps us afloat, especially when we ache to know if we will ever be fulfilled in some important area of our lives. Will it ever happen? When we’re impatient, our faith is getting frayed. We get more patience by bolstering our faith. Each of us reconstitutes our faith in our own way, but I find words of inspiration really amp up mine. Let me share an example.

Nothing has tested my patience more than trying to get my book published. Writing a book is hard work and takes a lot out of you, especially a book as self-reflective and self-revealing as a memoir. Mine took years to experience, much less write. Now it is taking what feels like forever to find its way to the market. To top it off, the publishing industry is changing rapidly. It’s more difficult than ever, in some ways, for a first-time author to break in. I am trying to get my toe into the door of a moving target. It’s one of those revolving doors in big buildings; the passageway flies by before I can jump in.

I have many days where my inner dialogue is dismal and sometimes my outer complaining. (My poor husband.) You might recognize these phrases from your own times of frustration:

· I must be crazy to want this.

· Maybe this is a sign I’m not supposed to do it. Maybe I’ve misread the other signals (awards, publications, positive reader feedback).

· Maybe I’m actually no good at this.

· This is impossible.

· It’s too much work.

· I must be crazy!

Note these circular thought loops always start and restart with “crazy.” Sanity checks are always a good policy, but considering the number of books out there—more than ever—if writing is an insane undertaking, there are a lot of nuts running around loose. (Sometimes I think writing as an undertaking is more likely to get me to the undertaker prematurely.)

Now for some better dialogue, one of my favorites by
Oscar Wilde: “Skepticism is the beginning of Faith.” If I’m at Doubt Station, I must be on track! Other wisdom from great minds:

· Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to. –
George Seaton

· Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase. –Martin Luther King

· Faith is an invisible and invincible magnet, and attracts to itself whatever it fervently desires and calmly and persistently expects. –Ralph Waldo Trine

The Extra Added Ingredient (the C-Word)
So, if we’re to believe Ralph Waldo Trine, the Manifestation Twins are actually Triplets—add the C-word Calm to Patience and Faith. (Persistence is implied in patience, already covered.)

This brings me back to the beginning—astrology. When we are overdoing a certain characteristic of one sign, in this case the impatience of Aries, the prescription for balance is to become more like the opposite sign. The opposite of Aries is
Libra. It is literally the sign of balance. Librans are known for being laid-back and easygoing. The message of Libra is the same as what any cool young kid would tell us to do—chill. It’s what the great metaphysical minds tell us to do, to quiet our chatterbox minds, whether with meditation or other right-brained activities. Naturally, my Synchronicity Meter was on target when I found the Trine quote, too. A trine in astrology is an agreeable, easy-flow of energy between two planets 120-degrees apart, a sign of ease or calm.

Join me in a mantra of patience, faith, and calm—for the publication of my book and the realization of your dreams, too. Let me know how keeping your wits—calm—and accepting the doubt in your mind as normal part of the process helps pump your patience and faith, too.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Edgar Allan Poet

“Quoth the Raven, ‘Nevermore.’”
--Edgar Allan Poe,
The Raven

The title of this post followed me home like a lost puppy. I knew it was a message from my GPS—God Positioning System—telling me I was supposed to go somewhere with this idea fragment.

As the poster girl for Follow Your Inner Guidance, I trusted and allowed myself to get sucked into the adventure. Here is what I’ve pieced together, so far.

Tracking the Mystery
Edgar Allan Poe was indeed a poet, among other things. I never knew he was credited with creating the detective-fiction writing genre, one I dabble in. (I like to say I write M-in-M’s for memoir, inspiration, and mystery.)

Mostly, he wrote a lot of dark, macabre stuff—also a lot about mourning. Not only have I experienced a lot of losses in the last year; I also realized this week how much I miss writing poetry. It was great to reconnect with some poets at a recent writers’ conference and to get reacquainted with my own poems. I wrote many of them in the ‘70s, when a number of them were published in various literary journals. I was into the local poetry scene, enjoyed reading my work at coffee houses, and taught in the Poetry in the Schools program.

I even met my first husband at a poetry reading. He was an angry heckler. When I moved into his building a few months later—a big surprise to us both—he was so nice to me, I didn’t even recognize him as the awful guy from that night. When he copped to it, I thought he had to be kidding. Love is blind.

Back to my visit from the muse bearing the nagging words in my head, “Edgar Allan Poet.” I suspect her point was stop mourning and start celebrating poetry again. How did I get to “nevermore” when it came to poems? I used to be ravenous about the genre. Heaven knows, I can always be reached by wordplay if all else fails or I have accidentally turned off my GPS.

Maybe I’ll start on the road back to poetry by sharing one of my poems from my archives with you. I found a more recent one (only 10 years old instead of 30). It even has a boomer theme. Here goes:

Poem by Joyce Mason

To My Childhood Friend at 50…

Where did the time go …
the bus stop …
old neighborhood …
avoiding Fran in the cafeteria …
dances at the ‘Y’, raging hormones, neuroses… acne?

Adolescence merged maturity,
not so much an off-ramp as an artery,
just another turn in the road,
a road not taken by most of us at heart
(we’re called baby boomers):
gray hair

Did you get your card from AARP?
Did you think you’d see the day?
Yet there is a freedom here:
a time to re-evaluate
to quit worrying over meaningless things
to know that we won’t be
in this bottleneck forever …

… and that, too, is a godsend.

Now, for the dreams not realized:
we still have time to catch up
without killing ourselves.

Before we go:
a book for me,
the starring performance for you …

… but above all, knowing
that if life is measured
by the friends we choose
and love we gain
we’re on the expressway
in the car pool lane.

Quote the Maven, Evermore
It’s clear; I still love poetry. Lots of people don’t, but poetry is all around us—songs, jingles, prayers, an especially good comeback. Some precocious pearl that pops from the lips of a child. Poetry all.

I’d love to hear your comments on poetry and things poetic—even if it’s only poetic justice. It doesn’t need rhyme or reason.

Think about this, too. Have you have said “nevermore” to certain passions of the past? Is it time to reconsider?