Monday, July 27, 2009

Fear of Flying, Fear of Water, Fear of Flying on Water

I like the ground. As a Triple Earth in my astrological chart (Sun/Virgo, Moon/ Capricorn, Taurus Rising), the other three elements—air, water, and fire—have been scary to me at various times since childhood. Yet overcoming my fear of them was, in each case, a window to living a more spirited life. Here are some of my key adventures:

Fear of Flying (Air)

My first encounter with fear of flying came when I was only six years old. My dad’s boss liked to drive his personal car, a spiffy Cadillac, when he wintered in Florida. My dad’s tough assignment: Drive the boss’s car from Chicago to Florida with Mom and me, and then fly back, all expenses paid. From where I sit now, that sounds like the deal of a lifetime.

I’ll never forget the gentle way my parents told me about the offer. We’d all been taking an afternoon nap, and I awoke from mine and went into their bedroom to see if they were up. They were just ungluing the sleep from their eyes and I crawled into bed with them.

“What would you think about an airplane ride?” Mom asked.

I was so shocked by the possibility, out of the blue; I froze up. I never handled surprises well.

Dad explained the deal to me. Mom coaxed, cajoled, and told me I’d even get to take time off school, which actually did not appeal to her budding bookworm. Before they were done with this low-key sales pitch, I was screaming, bawling, and pitching a tantrum.

“I’m afraid, Mommy, I’m afraid!” I yelled. I would not settle down by way of logic or reintroduction of the idea over the next few weeks.

They didn’t want to force me into something that conjured such fear in me, so Plan B was born. We’d take the train back from Miami to Chicago.

Onboard, I had a most wonderful encounter with another young traveler my own age. I enjoyed every second of the two-day trip, every stop on the milk run, and every nook and cranny of the train. Train travel was “it” for me. My father, on the other hand, complained about that long train trip till the day he died.

Oddly enough, by the time the boss was ready for us to do him the favor again, only a year had passed … but something magical had happened to me in the meantime. My parents assumed we’d be back on the train again, but I said, “No, no! I want to go on the airplane.”

Sometimes if you leave will enough alone, both children and grown-ups mature into experiences that previously immobilized them with fear. My parents were smart not to force the issue, even if Dad didn’t exactly enjoy rail travel with the same passion as his darling daughter—a passion I have maintained to this day.

Fear of Water

My mom was afraid of water. She had good reason. When she was 13, she nearly drowned. Ever since then, she was very leery of this particular element. It was difficult not to “catch” her anxiety.

To make matters worse, I attended Catholic school and like most parochial schools in the 1950s, ours didn’t have the facilities or economic luxury of a physical education program, much less a pool. “P.E.” was running around on the playground, and, if you were lucky, your mom took you to one of the public pools during the summer that had cropped up in the suburbs. Mom wasn’t keen on water, so it was only when her best girlfriend could talk her into “taking the kids to the pool” that I ever got wet outside the bathtub.

Fear of Flying on Water (Air and Water)

When I was a pre-teen, my folks bought the cottage across the street from my Uncle Bob, Dad’s brother, who lived on a spring-fed lake in southwest Michigan. It was a three-hour drive, but we did it nearly every weekend during the summer. Uncle Bob had one of those spiffy, classic wooden Chris Craft boats. Everyone who lived on the lake shore water-skied. My cousin, Bob’s stepdaughter, who was a few years older than I was, skied like a pro. She could even slalom—ski on one ski. I wanted to ski in the worst way, but (a) I was afraid of water, and (b) I was not a jock given my lack of physical education. I was lucky to be able to I hopscotch, jump rope and play softball, all activities conducted safely on the ground.

Soon we had our own fiberglass boat, and my dad encouraged me to give it a whirl. I’ll never forget my mint green one-piece bathing suit, era-modest, and clinging to my nose plugs. Of course, I wore a life jacket. Even if Dad hadn’t insisted, my fear would have demanded it.

I couldn’t count the number of times he hit it, I got half way up, and then sank. His patience was legendary. We must have gone through this routine dozens of times over many weekends and our two-week vacation during the summer of my 12th year.

One day, all the failures just gave way and I rose on those skis to the top of the water. I was flying—on water! It didn’t last long the first time, but I gracefully skied to a stop while Dad circled around and picked me up. Once I had actually achieved “flying on water,” the rest was practice till I got actually half-way decent at it. In this era of my life, the right course was encouragement to keep trying to overcome fear and a sense of being out of my element—one trial at a time. As a not very physical person left to my own designs, this was one of the sweetest personal victories of my life. I can still feel the breeze in my hair and the wow of accomplishing something I was beginning to believe I simply would never be able to do.

Fear of Fire

I should explain that my fear of fire was more figurative than literal, although I never much cottoned to the personal handling of 4th of July firecrackers. I thought sparklers and punks were plenty, thank you. What I mean here is the heat of summer. On the physical level: I always had an intuitive red light against broiling my body on the beach, something that has saved me from the skin cancers plaguing many of my peers.

On the emotional level: The summer months often held my most intense growth experiences and my most painful losses. It got to the point that I hated to see summer coming. Not being a jock, and if I only could look forward to a new load of emotional pain, summer was not exactly my favorite season—and isn’t to this day. I didn’t relate to all those songs about the Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer or lines like, “It’s time to live and have some thrills.”

With time, I was lured into the mysteries of life. I learned from my first spiritual teacher in my late twenties that summer is the growing season. Spring sets up our lessons for learning during summer, and in autumn, we harvest their bounty. If we’re wise to the seasons, we use winter as a time to rest and recuperate before running another cycle of inner learning.

The lessons get gentler, too, as we grow. We don’t have to learn everything the hard way. We learn to put on sunscreen, buffers that protect us from overexposure to harmful rays, whether the sun’s or certain people’s negative vibes. We learn discernment—people, places, and things to avoid that will burn us.

I don’t know if it’s the magic of maturity, but I don’t have nearly the number of difficulties during the summer that I used to have as a kid—except for the fact that I chose to live somewhere that hits triple digits often during the season. I have lived here 36 years and don’t intend to move. You can’t say I haven’t learned to adapt to fire.

Elemental Balance

Our world is made up of the four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. From an astrological perspective, each of us has a different elemental balance, which is a simple metaphor for the way we handle the parts of life the four elements represent. To give examples of each: earth (body, physicality), air (mental pursuits), fire (vitality), and water (feelings).

My elemental adventures spanned different eras of my life. I doubt that they are hard-wired into a certain age, but I suspect that the developmental sequence in handling fear is the same: avoidance (airplane), toe in water/begin to face fear (water skiing) and dealing with fears head-on while developing discernment (intense-growth summers).

It’s fun to learn your elemental make-up through astrology. Lots of fire, little water? Lots of air, no earth? Some people are evenly balanced. There’s metaphorical gold in finding out. Even if you don’t know how your elements fall in the system of astrology, you probably have or have had affinities to one or more of the four elements and discomfort with others. The elements have seasonal associations: spring (fire), summer (water), autumn (air) and winter (earth).

Maybe you still have trouble with one element. Overcoming your fear or messages of can’t-do might be for you like water skiing was for me—an accomplishment that taught me how to overcome fear and limitation thanks to one patient father.

The larger Father/Mother—or however you perceive Spirit—is infinitely patient with us as we seek to become all that we can be. What a great universe where season follows season and we have so many cycles of growth and opportunity. Some day you’ll wake up, no matter what time of year, and know no matter where you are or whatever the weather: you’re in your element.


Photo Credit: LEARNING TO SKI ©

Monday, July 20, 2009

Seventh Heaven! Hot Flashbacks Wins Kreativ Blogger Award!

First a Lemmy (Lemonade Award), now a Kreativ Blogger Award—both big honors as nods from my fellow bloggers. I’m grateful to my friend, Eileen Williams of The Feisty Side of Fifty for this affirming recognition. Feisty is one of my regular blog stops. Eileen celebrates not just the idea that “the best is yet to be,” but that the best already is happening among women in full bloom!

If you’ve been nominated in my list later in this post and want to pay it forward (optional, of course), here are the guidelines:

· Thank the person who gave you the award
· Place the logo on your blog
· Link to the person who nominated you
· Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting
· Nominate 7 bloggers for this award and post links to their blogs
· Send a message to let them know they’ve been nominated

Seven Things About Me You May Find Interesting About Me

  1. I started taking private voice lessons at age 3. When I was 5 years old, I auditioned for the Ted Mack Original Amateur Hour, the boomer version of American Idol. I sang “How Much Is That Doggie in the Window.”
  2. As a writer, I was first a poet in the ‘70s—read at coffee houses and taught in California’s Poetry in the Schools program.
  3. In 5th grade, I won the Excellence Medal for being the most well rounded student. (Like Gypsy Rose Lee, I pride myself on being “very versatile.”)
  4. I spent over half my civil service career in “garbage” and recycling—environmental protection programs.
  5. I am addicted to Agatha Christie’s Poirot and am in the process of watching all the DVDs. Can’t get the theme song out of my head, known as an earworm. (I’m terribly prone to them.)
  6. I am a reunion junkie. I have found all my lost loves, including birth mom and first boyfriend—we’ve been married since 1998.
  7. My husband Tim likes to say, “I didn’t know I was lost,” regarding #6, but he wanted to find his way into one of these bullets and add his two-cents worth. He thought you might want know I have these seven qualities: humorous, deep, a unique worldview, an affinity for language, childlike, generous and loyal. (No wonder I hunted him down and snapped him up again!)

As Eileen mentioned in her own Kreativ Blogger post, I share the dilemma of too many faves to limit myself to seven—but I’ll honor some of the others in another recognition cycle. Here’s my list:

Seven of My Favorite Kreativ Blogs

Gail Goodwin's Blog: Gail is the inspiration behind Inspire Me Today, starting the list with a two-fer, both described next.

Inspire Me Today: As one who thrives on written inspiration daily, if not hourly, I hit nirvana when I discovered Inspire Me Today, “Best of the Best Inspiration DailyTM.” No hype: This blog earns its catchphrase and my utter respect for its diverse, daily and inspired interviews. Gail’s creation, the Daily asks, If today were my last day on Earth and I could share 500 words of brilliance with the world, here are the important things I'd want to pass along to others? Gail’s blog gives us a more personal lens on life from the woman who created Inspire Me Today and The Global Hug Tour.

Diva of Tiny Foods: Am I the only one who never knows what to bring to the potluck or family dinner, even if they only assign me an appetizer? It’s not that I’m inept in the kitchen, but I’m busy. I require the Rachel Ray approach to cooking or prepping food—30 minutes or less. PopArtDiva in one of her many hats—this time a chef’s hat—offers up easy-to-fix tidbits that delight with artistically yummy recipe cards. Keep “spreading the joy of small food one bite at a time!”

The Muffin: Another grand women’s cooperative blog (who bakes muffins one at time?) that boasts never being stale. From the bakers of WOW—Women on Writing—this place is breakfast for writers and three squares a day in inspiration. Since all bloggers are writers, if you blog, take break. Have a muffin.

Second Chance at Your Dream: Dorothea Hover-Kramer, Ed.D., RN hosts this site on learning about using energy psychology’s self-help resources for achieving an optimal second half of life.

Six Word Memoirs – If you think 140 characters makes for concise writing on Twitter, wait till you try telling a story in just six words. I love these two-second reads. Many are nothing short of brilliant, and as a writer, I have to hand it to the rising creativity of the masses in these micro-memoir tidbits.

Spirited Woman Blog - What an ensemble cast of creative, spirited bloggers! Diverse topics include astrology, books, children, creative arts, current affairs—and on and on. If you can’t find it here, I doubt it exists, and you won’t find it done with more style, pizzazz, and celebration of life.

I love this opportunity to share resources that truly move me. Congratulations to all the winners, and thank you for the richness your creativity adds to my life.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Follow Your Dreams—and You Won’t Have to Chase Down Inspiration!

Joyce Mason on Dreams

Listen to the replay of Joyce's interview with Eileen Williams from The Feisty Side of Fifty on Blog Talk Radio that took place on Monday, July 20, 2009

Your dreams are more than a personal movie provided nightly by Metro-Goldwyn-Maker. Learn the relationship between dreams and increased creativity, inspiration, and problem-solving. This may be both the dreamiest and most practical 15 minutes you’ll ever spend.

Click on the Feisty Side of Fifty Radio/Joyce Mason interview link.
You've got a GPS (God Positioning System). Find it in your dreams!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Nailing the Truth

Hot Flashback
Earlier this year when the economy was making its first impacts on our family, I decided that my gorgeous acrylic nails had to go because of the cost of upkeep. My nails grow like weeds anytime I wear acrylics, requiring fills every couple of weeks. I was willing to do my own manicures most of the time, although I knew my natural nails would probably never look nearly as good.

For awhile, I did China silk wraps—more natural feeling and flexible—the latter being important to me as a nonstop typist. However, I was hard on them; they were always breaking; and the couple that owns the neighborhood nail shop talked me into letting them paint on the stronger acrylic.

“Will it weaken or ruin my own nails underneath?” Silk wraps supposedly didn’t, so I wanted to know if the same held true for modern-day acrylics.

“No, no,” they both said. When I’d done acrylics many years before, they had certainly left my own nails as weak as tissue paper when I took them off. When Mr. & Mrs. Nails told me that wouldn’t happen, I assumed that newer and better materials had been developed since then.

To put it bluntly, they lied. (Some of the heat in this hot flashback is from anger.) When I had my acrylic nails taken off at another salon (lack of forthrightness being one obvious reason I’ll never return to Mr. & Mrs. Nails), my own nails were pathetic, worse than the wreckage of my last acrylic-to-natural transition 20 years ago. The process of getting them off was grueling. It required soaking my nails for nearly a half hour in undiluted polish remover and prying off the false nails with a variety of implements. Then my own nails broke to the nub and peeled for weeks. It was painful to watch and sometimes painful, literally.

Flash Forward
Today I treated myself to a
French manicure. My nails look nearly identical to this picture. I can’t stop admiring how great they look—the best in my whole life. I kept thinking; there’s a lesson here.

Cool Insight
As we peel away the false layers of ourselves and remove with great purpose any part of us that’s “plastic,” our psyche’s are as tissue-paper fragile as my nails wrenched of their protective covering.

We work hard on our fragile emotions. As I did with my nail rehab, we do the psychological equivalent of filing down our sharp corners, put on hand cream to smooth out the roughness, and work on nipping those pesky, irritating hangnails. Our ego balks at having to give up looking pretty. It’s hard to hide on our faces that we feel lousy.

After awhile, we begin to understand that being ourselves is the right decision, even when it doesn’t look so hot. Once we stop obsessing about how we appear to others, nature—and healing—take their course. Eventually, we stop thinking constantly about our wounds, hang-ups or hang nails, and one morning we wake up better than ever.

I admit; I didn’t go it alone on this healing miracle. I had Vaseline Healthy Hand and Nail Conditioning Lotion. Maybe for our emotions, we have counselors, clergy, best friends and other salves that help us make that transition when we’re so exposed and tender …

… but when we stop being so self-conscious and let the Great Healer Above and Below Within Us take over, it’s no surprise that nature takes its course and returns us to renewed strength and wholeness.

I love the hidden meanings in language. Who knew I’d learn so much from a manicure? “Man, I cure.”


Photo Credit: FEMALE HAND ©

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Interview: Getting Graphic with Terri Dennis—The Pop Art Diva of Creative, Spirited Living

You know her whether or not you’ve met. Her name is Terri Dennis, aka: Pop Art Diva, The Martini Diva, The Normal Challenged Artist and The Diva of Tiny Foods among her many blog identities, further noted and linked at the bottom of this article.

How do you know her? You see her creative, spirited artwork in my mastheads every time you visit Hot Flashbacks, Cool Insights or my astrology blog,
The Radical Virgo. You’ve seen her in Eileen Williams’ Feisty Boomer Boutique designs, one of which was posted when Eileen won the Hot Flashbacks Spring Comment Contest.

When Terri’s wearing her design-for-others hat (as opposed to being
The Brat in the Hat on one of her other blogs), Terri offers professional graphic design, including logos, mastheads, animation, illustration, cartooning, branding, and copy writing through her graphic design and marketing service, Graphica Studios. That’s where she “gets graphic” with you.

Terri is truly one of the most creative individuals I have ever met, and creativity is one of the hallmarks of spirited living. She also has a sense of humor that won’t quit—one of the other must-haves for a spirited life. As The Martini Diva, Terri teaches us how to enjoy spirits of another kind in a responsible, but delicious and bubbly way.

Terri, today I hope you can share a bit with us about your creativity and creative process--also, how we can benefit from it.

First question, from your perspective, how is humor part of “spirited living?” You are an expert at it.

Terri: Frankly, a sense of humor is a necessity for living any kind of a happy life, especially these days. A sense of humor can save you from sinking into depression, it can make you laugh at things you could be crying at, it makes others laugh - spreading positive energy. Humor makes you an easier person to be around, people like a sense of humor if it's kind-spirited.

I tend to point most of my humor at myself--poking fun at me instead of others. I use humor to tease others out of bad moods and I infuse humor into all of my art products. I just see the "funny" in life even when life is being difficult.

Joyce: In one of the classic books on creativity, Higher Creativity by Willis Harmon and Howard Rheingold, the authors talk about the importance of play in catalyzing creativity. I’d love to hear your perspective on that, because you surely do help us eat, drink, and be merry on your martini and food blogs—and show us how to have a good time on all of them.

Terri: Play? Play is absolutely the most important element in any creative endeavor! A sense of playfulness, a childlike quality is as essential to an artist as the brush they paint with or the canvas they paint on. Play encourages creativity! Play doesn't put any pressure or demands on the creative process and pressure, demands and expectations are natural enemies to being creative.

I have always made sure I reserve some time in my professional life for play--I will play at new mediums and new art styles, I give myself "play days" where I do something creative for fun and not money. The other day I started a hand-painted furniture project for my home--the only objective here is to make myself happy with my new piece of furniture!

As a professional artist, I can tend to approach what I do artistically from a "will it sell" viewpoint and this can lead towards a stagnant style and art that is no longer vibrant and exciting. Play is the tool that keeps me fresh, excited and engaged in all my projects.

Joyce: Any personal thoughts on how our readers can keep their creative juices flowing?

Well, play, of course! Also, I always keep something nearby where I can make quick notes about new ideas or designs or thoughts. I get ideas in the strangest places, at the strangest times and if I don't write it down, I lose it. These days I use my Smartphone and either make a quick voice note or even text myself with a thought or idea!

I also believe that you need "downtime." Take a day, take a few hours, take a week--whatever--and read a book, watch a movie, take a walk, go to a gallery or museum. Get away and blow the cobwebs out every so often! A rested mind and body are much more open and helpful to the creativity flow.

I've recently started doodling again! I've been so involved in computer graphics that I kind of ignored my old school friends of a number two pencil and sketchpad! There's something about calling it doodling that releases the tension of having to "get it right" and it's amazing what you'll end up doodling out of your unconscious mind.

Joyce: One of your other specialties is nostalgia, particularly for baby boomers. How do you think that plays into the concept on Hot Flashbacks, Cool Insights about learning from the past as guidance for the future? Most adults past 40 just love “the good old days,” and we love them more the longer we live.

Terri: What's the old saying, "Those who don't learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them?" I love nostalgia and I love the look of "retro" but I'm not mired in the past. I don't think old or new is either good or bad--it's just different.

What I enjoy most, and enjoy writing most about on The Pop Art Diva Blog, is remembering things like family vacations, childhood events and the good memories they invoke about my family that others might relate too in their trips down Memory Lane--like the old home perms--now there's fodder for funny!

Everything comes back into style eventually - and each generation thinks it was their idea, LOL! I could have done without the reintroduction of platform shoes though!

Joyce: When I’ve used your services as a graphic artist, I have been amazed at the synergy between my original vision, your artistic take on it, and the final product—which has ended up better than I imagined every time. How do you do that—capture and convey others’ spirit—in doing their branding?

Terri: Well, a lot of that is experience blended with education and knowledge. But asking your client questions is vital to getting a feel for who they are, what they want their brand to be. Then it's my job to guide them towards a visual that best represents what their brand is. Many clients aren't even sure what their brand is or should be and this is where my expertise helps define the final product.

A little "intuition" and sensitivity is pretty helpful too--get to know your client and you'll get a lot of information about their business plan that they might not even be aware of!

It's also my job to make sure I develop a logo and brand visuals that are designed with an eye to final usage and for company growth. Many people are thinking very shortsighted--thinking they might only need a logo for a web masthead or a communications package. But a company can surprise you and grow and expand in directions you never planned for and this is something I keep in mind when trying to meet their current needs--I want to make sure the graphics can grow with their company. This is where the questions can really help define how I approach their designs.

Joyce: When we truly live a spirited life, we give our unique gifts back to society or the collective. How are you doing that now, and where are you headed with your contributions in the future?

Terri: One of my favorite things in the days I did fine art shows--was interacting with young people interested in art or becoming an artist. You can tell the emerging artists, even in the littlest children! They are the ones actually looking at your work, they want to touch and they want to talk to the artist. I always took extra time to talk to these young people and still do today.

I love sharing what I do with future artists--I taught art to children some years ago and loved it - kids don't have preconceived ideas and they are so open to their own creativity. It's a relationship that has a great give and take because I gain a lot just being around these totally open little people!

Joyce: Thank you for being a great friend to Hot Flashbacks, Cool Insights and to me, personally. I feel your essence is a big part of this blog through your artwork and frequent comments. It’s been great to be able to share more of the wealth of your talents and fun spirit with our Cool Insighters!


For more background on Terri Dennis, aka: Pop Art Diva, read her
online bio.

The POP ART DIVA Blog - Pop Culture of Yesterday v. Today
The BRAT in the HAT - Rantings from a Grumpy Old Woman
The MARTINI DIVA - Free Martini Recipes, Tips and Tricks
The DIVA of TINY FOODS - Appetizer recipes and great tips for foodies
The NORMAL CHALLENGED ARTIST - Artist's resource blog
Life is Like Art- My newest artwork and art projects
The ROAD to DIVA - Visit Divaville to empower the DIVA in you