Sunday, August 28, 2011

Having an Attitude Has a Bad Name

What’s the saying you used to hear all the time? “She’s got an attitude!” And of course, this meant a BAD attitude. However, there's a whole world of attitude you can have and bad is the last I’d pick. How about you?

The title of the sequel to Red Mojo Mama I’m currently writing is Red is an Attitude. I chose this title before I even published the first in the series, because I knew the second book would have something to say about the “new” attitude Lydia “Red” Talbot gains in the first book. She gets her mojo back and that’s a really good thing.

So the attitude she’s got now is that, at the end of the day, she can handle anything - a pretty good one to have, if you ask me. Back here in day-to-day life I witness approaches to life that boggle the mind. Here are a few – good and bad - see if you recognize any of them:

· Everybody’s Best Friend – whether male or female, this is someone to have around you. They give to everyone of themselves because they know they are human and so is everyone else.

· The Seagull – this person appears harmless until they have your trust then they dump a big one on your head (insert also - deed, idea, plan, family, friends). Remember they appear to have a harmless attitude.

· The Helper/Solver – this human being looks at life like it’s simply a problem that needs to be solved and they are there to help. Usually their attitude is very heartfelt. Sometimes called The Do-gooder.

· Life is a Frightening Experience – These folks approach everything as though there’s a hidden danger in it. They cringe at the computer, warn you incessantly, cannot relax at parties – in fact, ever.

· The Diva – “I’m the reason for everyone else’s existence. They are sooo lucky to have me.” Need I say more?

· The Surfer Dude or Dudette – This is one of my favorite types. You can’t throw them for a loop. They’re just happy to be alive. They are naturals at prioritizing things, because they can remove the garbage attached to any idea.

There are literally thousands of attitudes you can adopt in life. Most people’s are probably an amalgamation of several or they switch attitudes with the weather. At the core of each of us, however, there’s a basic way of looking at things – and that’s an attitude. We’ve all got one. It’s simply a matter of whether ours is a good or bad attitude.

I’ve noticed when I really get bothered by something, what does me the most good in getting over it is an attitude adjustment.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Believing is Half the Battle

Maybe you’re like me. Maybe you’ve been wandering around for years, trying different things, hoping to hit the one that fits you just right. Maybe you’ve had trouble believing that this time could really be it.

It’s so hard to know when you’ve finally found the right person…house…lifestyle… dream...story…character. Basically, every thing works against you having confidence in it when you finally do stumble into the perfect thing or person.

You’ll hear things like - “Oh, sure. I’ve heard that before.” Or maybe, “What kind of crazy thing are you up to now?” And the worst part is – some of these terrible words are rolling around inside your own brain. Nobody even has to do a number on you because your own internal judge is busy doing it for him or her.

So, I’ve come to know – after a good many years – that my instincts are almost unerringly correct – IF I actually listen to them. IF I don’t over-analyze them, thereby changing the initial thought or feeling until it is practically unrecognizable. When I take it into myself and begin to believe it immediately, the idea or connection or whatever it is has a good chance of survival.

I’m paraphrasing here, liberally, but Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book called Blink and in it he said something like – 95% of the time our first instinct is the right one. (My apologies to Mr. Gladwell) Well, not only is Gladwell brilliant, one of the only non-fiction writers I can read and enjoy, but this particular phenomena he points out is one we need to embrace. We often don’t trust our instincts, because it’s been bred out of us.

We don’t need our instincts like we used to – in order to survive the wilderness, lack of food and water, getting eaten by some larger being. And we have families – who have often systematically beaten our natural inclinations out of us (figuratively and sometimes physically). All of this makes it hard for us to trust ourselves. To believe that what feels right probably is right.

Writers constantly battle with the internal judge whose voice is overwhelmingly negative. So, just to get the words on the page, we have to learn to shut that holy terror down. We may be a little more adept at believing than the average bear, but we still need a boost and that’s why I’m writing this piece.

If you – and I – can keep believing in ourselves, in our natural instincts, the tree will bear fruit. The message is simple – believe.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Our Loved Ones Never Really Die

Lydia “Red” Talbot is aided through getting her mojo back by her husband, Mac, who’s been dead three years. His return is both shocking and comforting for her and a big part of the book, Red Mojo Mama.

There’s a reason why Mac returns to his wife this way. It’s because I lost my beloved husband in 1998 and all these years later he haunts me, in a good way. Oh, I don’t see him – Devon “Pete” Hall – in the traditional sense that people talk about ghosts and nowadays he rarely comes around anyway. But that wasn’t true in the beginning and I tried to let Red have a similar experience.

Whatever your religion, most people believe in an afterlife of some kind. I don’t have any secret keys to how or why, but I’m completely convinced that we become something else on a different plane. Part of the reason is because I’ve experienced times of knowing Pete was around me. I still do – not as often as I’d like, though.

I’m sure this will seem too weird or too personal for some, but it’s something I’ve been meaning to say for a while and giving Red her ghostly husband was part of that. Here’s the rest.

When Pete first passed away, my first awareness of his presence was very physical. Twice I felt him pass through me. Once it felt as if he was massaging my terribly bruised heart. I relaxed that time – quit crying and was able to return to work. I know I didn’t imagine it – he WAS there.

Then there was a whole series of instances when I would smell him. Not just in the apartment where our little family had lived, but in a house in another state, with all his things put away. The strong scent of Lagerfeld, cigars and Ben-Gay permeated the air around me, suddenly and regularly.

My favorite way he presented himself, and the only way I still sense him, is with the appearance of butterflies. Once, we had gone as a family to the San Diego Zoo and all of us entered the butterfly exhibit, where the magical winged creatures fly freely. While most people had a butterfly, or two, land on them, Pete was swarmed with them. One persistent Tiger stayed with us throughout the time in the exhibit and finally Pete had to shoo it away.

Whenever I’m sad or just kind of blue, a white butterfly will appear out of nowhere. Pete’s favorite song at the end of his life was “If I Could Change the World,” by Eric Clapton. About a year ago, I was feeling devastated and at a traffic light turned on the radio. That song came on and at just that moment I looked out at the hood of my car – right then a white butterfly landed smack-dap in the center. No one will ever be able to tell me that this wasn’t Pete giving me encouragement.

So, I made a conscious decision to put ghosts in all my stories. Why? Because I love writing the part of a happy ghost and because I believe that spirits are all around us, especially those of the ones we still love whether they are with us anymore or not.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Let's Hear It For the Boys!

It was my sudden burst of flirting and the sound of Michael Buble belting out “There’s Gonna Be a Heartache Tonight,” that started Red and me talking about men. Watch out.

Red: You have been flirting outrageously on Twitter! Don’t deny it.

Kathy: I have, haven’t I? But it’s not my fault. There are some very interesting…people on Twitter.

Red: Yeah. Uh, huh. Anyway.

Kathy: Well, there are. And who are you to talk? You practically drug that poor man into the pool with you!

Red: May I point out that it was you that wrote the scene?

Kathy: Oh.

Red: Yeah. Uh, huh. And it’s always you that puts the music on when you’re writing. You know that brings out the beast in me!

Kathy: Michael Buble?

Red: Of course, especially that Crazy Love CD. But do you leave it at that? No! Then here comes Al Green singing about how tired he is of being alone. Followed by Tony Bennett, the most elegant man in music – you know I melt when his voice comes out of that little box.

Kathy: Well, let’s be honest. You melt a lot. I mean, there’s Marvin Gaye, Barry White, Lou Rawls…

Red: Give me a break. Any woman swoons a little with those three.

Kathy: Okay, then how about Rod Stewart, Frank Sinatra and Roy Orbison…

Red: That’s not fair. You swoon, too.

Kathy: Okay, okay. It’s true. We’re just a couple of women who like men. And if they can sing, we’re really goners.

Red: It’s not the worst thing in the world to be.

Kathy: Guess not. As Denise Williams would say, “Let’s hear it for the boy…s!”

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Grill, Baby, Grill

Red and I were talking about the debt ceiling crisis, the credit rating debacle and the stock market dive and here’s what we decided –

Kathy: I don’t have any stocks to speak of and I’m not in a position to buy treasury bonds. I certainly can’t make the government or anybody else (including me) buy less stuff on credit. What’s a woman to do?

Red: Grill, baby, grill!

Kathy: Huh?

Red: Seriously. You throw a couple of steaks on the grill; maybe a couple of ears of corn. I’ll whip up a pitcher of margaritas and it’ll all be good.

Kathy: That’s your solution to everything.

Red: Not everything. Sometimes I prefer ice cream. Chocolate and peanut butter from Baskins-Robbins, in case you forgot.

Kathy: How could I forget? I wrote that line the first time. And this time grilling and cocktails isn’t going to cut it!

Red: Why not? There is absolutely nothing you can do about it. Thank goodness, you’re not in the stock market, but even if you were…nothing you can do. Nothing. Might as well eat, drink and be merry. Stop pouting, right now!

Kathy: I’m not pouting. (the creases in my forehead getting deep enough to store change in)

Red: Yes, you are. Now light up the charcoal briquettes, or I'll get down in the mouth, too. (The breeze whipping her wild red hair into a frenzy)

Kathy: (I laugh a little too hysterically) That’ll be the day. You might get pissed off, but you never feel sorry for yourself. Okay! Where are the steaks?

Red: (wide grinned and pointing) Over there, thawing? Oh, and here’s the first pitcher.

Kathy: Boy, you know me, doncha?

Red: Pretty much, my friend. Que Sera. Tomorrow’s another day. Let bygones be bygones. Can’t cry over split milk…

Kathy: Stop! No more clich├ęs. Just hand me that little bit of lime-flavored heaven! You’re right. Not much to be done, so I might as well quit worrying about it.

Red: That’s my girl – Grill, baby, grill.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Younger Generation Is Awesome

I know I can never be friends with someone who utters these words, “The young people nowadays…” always followed by some compliant about the younger generation.

This person is either living in an idealized world of their own making, completely out of touch with reality or they simply don’t remember their own youth, or both.

In the space of just four weeks, I’ve met several young women through Twitter that are the very personification of fantastic. They are kind, caring and spread good vibes through the Universe. They are much like my daughter, Vanessa, who at 26 is, I’m pretty sure, the best young woman I’ve ever known.

My son is also an admirable man, though he’s now past what can be called the “younger generation, “ however the other young men in my life – my nephews – qualify and every one of them is a quality human being.

I like myself, now, but I’d be lying if I said I was like any one of these terrific young people at their age. I believe my generation and those older than me could use a refresher course – maybe a mental video of their younger days – to understand that not much has changed, in reality.

Except, of course, that the young people of today face much more difficult times and expectations of them than we did all those years ago.

Because of constant exposure to the media, they know about stuff we never had a clue about at a very young age. You’d be hard put to find anyone over the age of 8, who hadn’t heard the words “rape” and “murder” repeatedly and any multiple of other horrible concepts. I was addicted to Law and Order, when I had a TV, but, come on, anyone who lets their kids watch it is either irresponsible or crazy, and I know some who do.

So, given the chance to vote on whether the current generation of teens and twenty-somethings will make a mess of the world, my vote would be – no more than we did, and perhaps they’ll do much better. Let’s hope so.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Primal Scream Therapy

I spent most of yesterday pissed off and by the time I was sitting in the driveway at home I was still boiling mad. So, Lydia – Red – and I had a little heart-to-heart.

Red: Wow, you look like hell!

Kathy: (glancing in the rear view mirror) That’s what high blood pressure all day will do to you!

Red: You wouldn’t look like that if you had used Primal Scream Therapy on the way home. As a matter of fact, you’d be quite chilled out. Maybe ready for a nap. Better company anyway.

Kathy: (chuckling) Seriously? So, how does it work?

Red: Easy enough – you just scream your guts out at the top of your lungs where no one can hear you. Your car is perfect…except when you’re stopped at a light.

Kathy: Really? What does that do for you, besides making everyone think you’re a crazy person?

Red: All the tension goes away. Try it right now.

I took her up on it and started the car. By the time I was rolling down the boulevard towards Mickey D’s I was yelling my head off – a high, piercing sound. I glanced around self-consciously. No one appeared to notice. Of course, there wasn’t a car closer than 10 yards anyway.

Red: Feel better now?

Kathy: Yeah…strangely, I do. Much better. What’s it called again?

Red: Primal Scream Therapy. I used to do it pretty regularly when Mac was still around. You know how men can drive you crazy sometimes!

Kathy: I remember. It’s been a while, but I do still remember. (laughing)

Red: What made you that mad anyway?

Kathy: Let’s see – people who have to be right at all costs, liars, mean people, people who get off on pissing other people off.

Red: Geez, you really ran into a bad bunch of people today, didn’t you?

Kathy: Nope, just one. She happened to have all those traits. I think I’ll take the long way to Mickey’s and scream a little more.

Red covers her imaginary ears and I scream myself hoarse. Feels so bad it feels good. Tomorrow will be much better, I think.

Buy “Red Mojo Mama” here!