Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Hot Masthead, Cool Makeover

Check out this hot, cool new look! This boomin’ corner of cyberspace just got a glamour treatment by Pop Art Diva! Thanks, Terri, for this fabulous and colorful transformation for Hottie/Cool. She’s becoming quite a blog babe!

I had a neat experience recently with
Kayla, the teenager and budding author I mentor. Kayla had brought her protagonist into a unique setting in her novel, just in passing. Until we started brainstorming, Kayla didn’t realize this unusual place had a real purpose and potential for furthering her story in a most hilarious way. We had a discussion about the right and left brain—how our creative right brains often give us a bits of information or ideas. Then it’s up to our left brains and analytical skills to figure out what we’re supposed to do with them.

That’s how Mini Me—Joyce at Three—got to be prominent on this blog and in my new masthead. When I discovered this photo in an album some years ago, I knew instantly that it was "the" picture of my inner child. The round, Jester motif picture frame was pure synchronicity—something I found in a unique shop on a business trip to Minneapolis. It took a long time before I realized that Joyce Jr. belonged in it.

Everyone should have a picture of his or her inner child where s/he can see it often. Mini You is the source of your inspiration, playfulness, and the beginnings of your lifelong process of learning by trial and error. Little You lived out loud and was full of wonder! This aspect of ourselves is what makes cool later living possible. If your childhood was troublesome and lacking in this aspect, let Big You nurture Little You and remember the wise words of novelist Tom Robbins: “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.”

It took many things adding up cumulatively before I realized: my intuition to have Mini Me in my blog masthead represents an important aspect of blowing up the old Old. Stomp your foot and refuse to be a fuddy duddy!

Then there is the fact that we are called “baby” boomers. That surge of post-war fertility that we were born of packs a lot of symbolic whammy. We are a generation that is fertile with imagination and creativity. Our population swell is swellest of all as our collective wisdom permeates the general population all at once. In the same way, our sheer numbers, as children, changed how society coped with most everything from child rearing to education and housing.

This year at
Winter Solstice, the Magical Child was the theme of our Solsisters celebration. I shared this photo, and everyone caught the concept instantly and planned to go home and find the picture of her Inner Child. I invited everyone to bring it to next year’s celebration.

Young me and Older Me have a constant intuitive dialogue that Terri has captured as an electric, psychic bond joining past and present. There is that well-known addage--heavy, but at one level highly truthful, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Remembering the best of our childhood past is no condemnation—why the TV show
Happy Days was so popular. Or if we’re condemned to laughter, joy, wide-eyed curiosity, and high energy from here on out, give me a life sentence.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Boomer Tube Babies

I’ll start this post with a poem I wrote circa 1973, a homage to the role that early TV played in my life. Within it, I’ve included links to many wonderful “blast from the past” programs. Enjoy exploring them after reading this ditty:

Test Tube Baby
Tom Terrific
Mighty Manfred Wonderdog
everfaithful companion
Crabby Appleton
Ding Dong School bells
Pinky Lee and Mean Old Mister Tooth Decay

Eyeball to eyeball
small screen tube
Uncle Bucky, Uncle Ned
and me.

Rootie Kazootie was full of zip and joy.
I was full of wit
An early TV whiz kid
Ah, Kid,
you haven’t changed a bit.

Head Trip
Few people today consider TV to be a place where a kid could sharpen her wits. The baby years of television did that for me—and more!

My mother loved to tell this story about my turn-on and turning point when it came to television. I was only a year old, and my parents—perennial gadget junkies—were flipping through the four channels Chicago had to offer in 1949 on their 10-inch black-and-white television. Leave it to them to be the first couple on the block to buy one of those new-fangled boxes. Howdy Doody caught my eye (or “How Do Ya Doody,” as my mom used to call him). I got so excited; I stood on my head!

Television has been standing me on my head ever since.

TV was my teacher, my artistic muse, my playmate, my babysitter, and my Joy in a Box. I learned to color with Miss Frances and on another show, I used one of those nifty pieces of film plastic you put on the screen, turning your B&W into a rainbow gallery thanks to a kid with crayons. In those days before color and sophisticated special effects, dragons like Ollie, of Kukla and Fran, piqued my curiosity about the real thing. While my mom was perennially busy being Mrs. Cunningham from Happy Days—baking, coffee klatching, cleaning, and home-making as a true profession—I was off getting my little brain in gear and my creativity tested when I wasn’t doing it running around our double lot property, raising Cain and clouds of dirt. I was the oldest kid in the neighborhood. I got bored quickly with kids considerably younger than me. TV offered cool adults—much more interesting than my parents!—and kids of all ages.

Radio Kids and Boob Tube Babies
It wasn’t until I married my first husband in the ‘70s that I realized how baby boomers might be unique as the first boob tube babies. My ex, born six years before me, came from the era of radio. He regaled me with stories of his favorite shows, and I bought him cassette reproductions of many of the classics as gifts: George Burns & Gracie Allen, The Shadow, Fibber McGee and Molly.

Laramie claimed that being raised on radio gave him a fertile imagination, unlike the TV generation behind him. He had to imagine it all with no visual cues. We boomers were handed our images on a silver platter. TV was my pabulum. His theory sounded good, but if it were true, why did I grow up so creative?

I went through a long period in my thirties where I thought I was too good for TV or TV wasn’t good enough for me—something like that. It was all crap, as far as I was concerned, a time when the expression “boob tube” hit home for me. There was nothing good on TV, and I preferred to read books, go to lectures, and chase after all the wrong men.

What has TV meant to you over the course of your life? What is your relationship with your TV shows and characters?

My husband Tim is constantly amused by how emotional and involved I get with the characters in the shows I love. They are my family. I mourn when they die or otherwise move on, and I swear at the writers who send them to questionable fates—or worse, yet, leave me between seasons on a cliffhanger.

While I suspect there are differences worth exploring between Radio Kids and Boob Tube Babies, I’m most fascinated by the theory of Steven D. Stark in his book, “Glued to the Set: The 60 Television Shows That Made Us Who We Are Today.” Stark believes that in a country as diverse as the United States, TV has created common reference points and a shared culture. His book covers the TV events he feels most shaped us into the nation we are today. This idea captivates me, because communication and connection are near the top of my personal needs hierarchy, as well as a sense of belonging. TV covers them all.

Stark also admonishes us not to throw the boob tube baby out with the bath water. In its diversity, television has it all—the good, the bad, the ugly, and everything in-between. Boomers are the test tube babies, because we were the first to splash in this TV pool of shared culture. Obviously, since Stark and others have written whole books on the topic, I am only scratching the surface of what it means to be have been on the forefront of this cultural melting pot. For example, Stark believes the real import of my beloved Howdy Doody was the opportunity to expand children’s marketing. Older boomers (born in the late 1940s) have been bombarded with advertising images, some of us nearly from Day 1 of our little lives.

You, Me and Mr. T.
Nope, I don’t mean the guy with the Mohawk and gold chains, but our relationship with Mr. Television Himself. If you’ve got 10 minutes, let’s do a self-discovery exercise. Give yourself a 5-minute limit for the first two bullets. Open up a computer file or grab some paper (or print this out and do it later). Don’t think too hard. Write from the top of your head:

* Name your top 5 favorite TV shows of all time.
* Name your top 5 most memorable commercials.

Now take another 5 minutes and make a header for each show or commercial. Write:

* Why did you love this show or commercial?
* Why do you think you remember it or it speaks to you from the past?
* What might each show’s prominence in memory say about you?

I hope this post sparks some dialogue in the Comments, because I truly believe that being the first wave of boob tube babies left a deep imprint on our generation. If nothing else, we were cued in early to the possibility of nationwide and ultimately global community. We have had the influence of others outside our family and tribe through television characters from an early age. Plus, we were treated to some of the most awesome shows ever written: Sid Caesar, Your Show of Shows, Hit Parade, I Love Lucy, Father Knows Best, I Remember Mama and a host of others. (Here’s more nostalgia if you want to listen later to some of your favorite boomer TV show theme songs.) If enough of you do the exercise, I’d love to share excerpts in a follow-up post if you’ll e-mail me your results.

Boomer Tube Babies are still a part of a great experiment that melds culture, marketing, and turning life into entertainment. The latter is such a hallmark of cool later living; it might just explain why cutting our teeth on the Golden Years of Television is giving our golden years more glitter.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Cool ‘Phinsights!

Ms. Mascot
Meet Eva, the new poster girl and dolphin mascot for Hot Flashbacks, Cool Insights. We met at
Dolphin Quest on the Big Island of Hawaii on January 2, 2009. Eva has more than an archetypal feminine name (Adam and Eve, Wall-E and Eva). She is the oldest dolphin of the twelve that make their home at this seaside attraction in the Hilton Resort complex, yet she can jump the highest at 38 years old!

It’s difficult to translate dolphin to human years, but “domesticated” dolphins can live into their forties, which makes our girl no spring chicken. As you can see, she’s quite adorable. We met her whole family, including “husband” Lono and daughter Pookie. Eva, my husband Tim, and I had a great time together, and she splashed lighthearted energy and vitality. Not only is Eva the embodiment of cool later living; she also weighs 300 lbs. and carries it off with complete grace and confidence. You don’t hear her whining about losing 30 lbs. before she’ll allow herself to be seen at the beach. She eats nearly that many pounds of fish a day!

I knew there was a reason why Tim and I drew Eva for our dolphin experience—to inspire my blog followers—and me. She has a Mona Lisa smile and a bubbly laugh. She knows much more than she can tell us, given our language barrier. I just know she’s full of cool ‘phinsights. I’m sure the many she inspired in me were simple reflections of our psychic connection.

Why Do Dolphins Fascinate Us?
Frankly, I never felt compelled to swim with the dolphins; it was Tim’s big dream. Scientists believe dolphins originally lived on land and left for the sea. Even though my experience was in the Pacific, I like this
short history of the Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, if you want to learn more.

Tim kept asking of the dolphins’ earth-to-sea exodus, “What do they know that we don’t?” I have heard it said that humans are the sentient beings on land; dolphins are the sentient beings in water. We share a connection in consciousness. For me, this connection translated into a feeling of relatedness, as if Eva and I had always known one another and always would … like we were part of the same extended family and shared genetic material that transcended words or explanations. We just “got” each other.

As our trip approached, I recalled my dear friend
Dana’s photos and rave experiences at the very same place with a different dolphin. Soon I had dolphin fever, too. By the time we got to Dolphin Quest (DQ), I was as jazzed as my husband. I figured myself for one of the luckiest people on earth to get the opportunity to meet some of these fellow mammals face to face.

Even so, we both worried about the appropriateness of taking dolphins out of the wild. Tim was concerned about what might happen to them, as they got too old to play with the paying tourists. We were reassured these dolphins are never “put out to pasture” and have a home for life at DQ. I am convinced by our experience that the staff is utterly devoted to them--and by our quizzing our handler and reading the DQ website, that these sweet and brilliant beings have a good life.

Captives’ Audience
Domestication in any form is a tradeoff between freedom and an easier, more protected life for the animals on some levels. There are passionate arguments both for and against it. We make a similar tradeoff when we domesticate dogs and cats, something humans have done for so long, few people think twice about it. The healing aspect of the interspecies bond is one of the pluses researchers don’t need to “prove” to anyone who has ever loved an animal companion. A lovely family with a handicapped daughter got a big, heartwarming dose of dolphin medicine the day we were at DQ. Dolphin Quest on the Big Island is sensitive to special needs. Those of us who needed a little extra help were literally tagged and treated as VIPs.

Looking Up
As usual, it was astrology and the sky that cued me into the principle I was seeing at work--the opposite concepts of wildness and domestication. Wildness, freedom, and revolution are represented by Uranus. Uranus is expansion, whereas Saturn represents contraction, confinement, and responsibility. Youth is Uranus; aging is Saturn. Life is sweet when this pair on the continuum of experience is balanced. There can be a lot of freedom, even within boundaries.

Growing older is scary in spots, especially as we see some of our physical abilities decline and medical conditions creep in. This hit home hard on this trip as Tim used a wheelchair for the first time at places that would have required long walks. We may not always have the complete freedom of “the wild” as we grow older. We may have to live in more contained environments, such as assisted living—with or near relatives. Even an “active 55-plus” community is a choice to limit our immediate neighbors to a group of people based on age and age-related attributes. I struggle whether or not a more homogenous community would be good for me … and if or I how I would handle the need for assistance at some point, if it becomes necessary.

Eva taught me that even within the safety of a more protected environment, happiness and social encounters still can thrive. Sure, she jumps and does tricks for the fish. (When people jump through hoops for their meals, it’s called a job.) Nevertheless, Eva was completely engaged with us, her human playmates.

I don’t doubt for a minute that she also jumps for joy.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


After ten years of marriage, my honey and I finally went on one of those moon things. This got me wondering about the origin of this sweet custom—honeymoons.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered the roots of the honeymoon are far from romantic and date to the era of Attila the Hun! (Hunnymoon?) First, it involved abduction of the bride-to-be from a neighboring village. The groom had to go into hiding with her from her family. Naturally, her relatives would be frantically searching for their missing daughter and sister. The groom’s best man was the only person who knew their whereabouts. Honeymoon is from an ancient Norse word that means hiding. Though the folklore is from the fifth century, this doesn’t sound far from a cave man dragging his woman around by her hair.

Second, the honey in the word comes from honeyed mead. The moon portion simply refers to the monthly lunar cycle. The Scandinavian custom in the first months of marriage was to drink the honeyed wine nightly. Even for those couples who actually wanted to hook up, village life was too work-heavy for newlyweds to loll around for long drinking mead or drinking in each other’s eyes. The idea grew from this that no month of marriage would be as sweet as the first with the ritual honeyed mead, especially after you have to get on with “real life.”

Attila took the abduction and mead aspects of honeymooning to new heights—well, more like lows. He was King of the Huns from 433-453 A.D. King Hunny himself not only absconded with another man’s wife, he eventually drank himself to death on mead.

In the Western world, the custom of newlyweds going on a holiday together after marriage is compliments of the British in the 19th century. Nowadays, honeymoons tend to be taken in seclusion to exotic places, or at least somewhere the couple considers special or romantic.

We just came back from Hawaii. We went on a
whale-watching cruise and saw the Pearl Harbor Memorial on Oahu. Then we moved onto the Big Island of Hawaii for a week. The main event for us there was swimming with the dolphins followed by a helicopter ride over a live volcano. More details on this trip of a lifetime in another post.

Time, money, circumstances—they just never came together for us to do this until now. But we have something else that made it feel more urgent. Tim, my husband, has a medical condition that affects his mobility. While he’s still walking, he’s not getting around as well as he used to, and he has less endurance. We don’t know what the future will bring. We feel fortunate that Tim has gotten to be a sexagenarian with so much quality of life. Yet we don’t know about tomorrow. So, we swam with the dolphins while we could—something on his “Bucket List”— hang the expense.

Isn’t that how boomers should live their lives, anyway? Even if you don’t have something like a health issue nudging you:

We never know how much sand is in our hourglass.
We do know that by this time of our lives,
there’s more on the bottom than on the top.

I remember one of the sweetest moments in the movie “
Michael,” where a rag-tag angel visiting earth, played by John Travolta, is melancholy as his time to leave draws near. He looks around then stares at the sunset and says, “I’m really going to miss this place.” This recollection, written before the trip, became more ironic during it when John lost his young son to a seizure while we were in Hawaii. How truly unpredictable life can be …

So, grab your honey and get every last drop of nectar out of this time around. Where we go next may be even more spectacular. But if an angel—even a fictional one who has been both places— is reluctant to leave Earth, surely we should live every second of life here to the hilt.


Photo © Yakov Stavchansky

Sources for this post were The Honeymoon by Charles Panati and Wikipedia.