Sunday, October 26, 2008

Lessons from My Creep-o-Meter

Even though I was born just hours after author Stephen King, I have no taste for anything too creepy. In 1973, I saw two movies that sent my Creep-o-Meter into overdrive.

It was before I moved to the Left Coast. I was visiting from Wisconsin, on vacation to see my poetry editor/ love interest in San Francisco. He suggested we see the movie,
Play Misty for Me. Remembering the beautiful song Misty by Johnny Mathis, I figured it was a love story. Turned out to be the Fatal Attraction of its time, the tale of a woman fan obsessed with a DJ, played by Clint Eastwood, also in his directorial debut. The suspense and slow revelation of his stalker’s mental imbalance sucked me in and scared me in the most visceral way. I wanted to crawl under the seat or inside my date’s jacket. I never considered seeing Fatal Attraction after the indelible impression Play Misty left on me. I was deeply weirded out by this movie and cannot erase some of the scenes from my mind to this day. Some people, who have seen them both, think Misty is actually creepier than Fatal Attraction. Misty starts out seeming like the love story I expected—then the twist. I didn’t mind doing the Twist in the ‘50s, but movies that were too twisted didn’t play well for me in any decade.

Then there was
Harold and Maude. It opens with young Harold in a bloody suicide attempt--slashed wrists--then minutes later, Harold’s mom walks into another room to find he has hang himself. She remains sarcastic and unfluttered, and soon we learn the joke is on us. Harold stages all these death scenes—now we know they’re fake--in a desperate attempt to connect with dear old Mom. I almost walked out until I recognized it as a dark comedy. I was glad I stayed the course, because this cult classic endeared itself to me, living on the border of life and death and total unpredictability. It scared, then delighted me. I cannot think of this movie without reliving the hilarious scene where a priest tries to counsel Harold about of his “unholy” relationship with Maude, old enough to be his great-grandmother. He imagines out loud, in increasing verbal crescendo, the comingling of his young, firm flesh and hers—wrinkled and sagging. I apologize in advance if I hurt the feelings of any baby boomer readers, in case this hits home too closely. (I meant robbing the cradle, of course, not the wrinkles.)

I have had many personal encounters with people and things that are not as they seem, and learning to deal with these scary surprises seems to be one of the great skills we acquire as we accumulate birthdays. There are the milder forms of the unexpected—the relationships we imagine through our rose-colored glasses to be soul mate material when they are really a joke on us for not seeing every red flag the love object is waving in our face, not even attempting to be dishonest. “Oh, the lies we tell for the sake of love!” Especially to ourselves. Or so goes the opening line of a poem I wrote that amuses me still for my moment of clarity while swimming in that much self-delusion.

Back at the cinema, from these two movies emerge two distinct kinds of unpleasant surprises. Play Misty for Me is an encounter with true danger, something to be avoided at all costs and to run from the minute you see the switch from Jekyll to Hyde or you get the scent of something that gives you goose bumps. Before online dating, I sometimes tried the local singles ads. I connected with a man so smooth, I actually agreed to meet him for the first time at his home—very risky. A switch flipped inside me during one of our conversations, and I called him and backed out. I said if he wanted to meet me, it’d have to be in a public place the first time. I just wasn’t comfortable on a first encounter any other way.

When we met at a restaurant, he chose to have more than one drink, and in the middle of a sentence, his Evil Other emerged. He criticized me unmercifully for not keeping my word about coming to his house—just the warm-up for an onslaught of verbal battering. It was amazing to me that I had given him so much ammunition and personal information in our phone conversations to turn against me. He glommed onto my strong sense of integrity, knowing that the worse thing he could accuse me of is not being forthright or true to my promise. I walked out, fuming, mostly at myself for being so vulnerable, but not without having the last word, which I threw over my shoulder, “You have just proven why I made the right decision not to go anywhere near your house.”

Harold and Maude, on the other hand, represents the experience that seems a little strange at first, but something inside you knows there’s a hitch—some incongruity just sucks you in. Like Harold’s mother acting irritated with his “suicide attempts” instead of screaming or calling the paramedics. Ironically, I almost left Harold and Maude faster than my brush with the singles ads weirdo and my own potential
Looking for Mr. Goodbar. There’s another movie I avoided, knowing would be too scary for me to see—especially considering the risks I probably had no idea I was taking during my “bar phase” in my twenties.

We all have an internal alarm system that will keep us out of Harm’s Way if we choose to hear it, but sometimes it conflicts with our desire to keep an open mind—or the way too open heart, eager to find love anywhere. If you feel a chill up your spine or witness any kind of behavior that seems “off” when you really don’t know someone well, that’s the time to run, not walk to the nearest exit.

On the other hand, if something is tickling your funny bone or you can remind yourself it’s “just a movie,” maybe a touch of the creeps is a relatively cheap thrill worth the occasional indulgence. I admit it. I have an approach-avoidance conflict to the bizarre as witnessed by my love of the cult TV show,
Twin Peaks and movies like Fargo. I can take dark drama/comedy, no matter how bizarre, as long as there is a lot of comic relief. Often these flicks or shows are too crazy to be real—and somehow the humor dilutes the horror. For the same reason, I’m a fan of the “cocktail mysteries” by J.A. Konrath.

Life without a skipped heartbeat now ‘n’ then might be just a bit too boring for the generation that grew up in the era of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. And, for me,
before that, who grew up on
Shock Theatre every Saturday night. I thought I had the most liberal parents on earth in the ‘50s because they didn’t censor my viewing and allowed Marvin and “Dear” to baby-sit me for a couple hours each weekend.

Meanwhile, ready, set, go—trick or treat! May all your things that go bump in the night be imaginary, not real.

Happy Halloweird!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Incognito: Costumes and Other Cheap Thrills

I have always loved costumes and reported in a previous post my penchant for getting up like Auntie Mame, the Purple People Eater, and a Christmas Tree, among other alter egos.

My first mystery novel, on the back burner for editing, is set at a costume affair called The Crystal Ball. It’s the 25-year anniversary of a longevity organization in San Francisco. The revelers are invited to Come As You Will Be in the Next 25 Years. You have no idea how much fun I’m having with that! I can invent costumes without regard to the problem I have in real life—mechanical execution. For example, Micki Michaels, the protagonist and head of PIOPEA, the Physical Immortalists on Planet Earth Association, attends the bash as a DNA molecule. Think the bar scene in Star Wars gone biotech.

What is it about costume parties, costume balls, and dressing up that gives us a cheap thrill like no other? In fact, the longstanding costume shop from the hippy dippy heyday of Sacramento is called
Cheap Thrills. It remains a local cultural icon.

Psychology of Costumes
No question in my mind will remain unanswered a click away from Google. It doesn’t take a psychiatrist to know that our choice of costume says something about us. However, I found a
fascinating exercise proposed for teachers of clinical psychology. In a way, that’s all of us. Life is the clinic! The exercise: (1) Write down costumes you have worn in the past, (2) Write the costumes you’d like to wear in the future—then, (3) Let others in a class setting (or a gathering of family or friends) tell you what costumes they’d choose for you. Do I want to know?

I even found suggested
costumes for introverts! Again, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that introverts don’t like being the center of attention, but certain costumes are easier to hide behind than others. Or bestow a bit of of the brazen. And for those of you who want some costume interpretations without thinking too hard, click here for some expert opinions from a psychologist.

My Stab at the Costume Exercise
1. Costumes Past: You already know I’ve been Auntie Mame, the Purple People Eater, a cosmic cowgirl, and a Christmas tree. Oh, and Glitta from the Planet Glitz in a Golden Galaxy, dripping gold, not 14-carat.

2. Costumes Future: I decided I had to write down my pure desires, regardless of how ridiculous I might look in these get-ups at my current age, weight, etc. Try not to laugh too hard: trapeze artist, ballerina, CSI (complete with disposable gloves and that nifty specimen collection kit), and a private eye (beige trench coat and sunglasses). I suppose these all make sense, as I try to keep my balance while navigating the mysteries of life.

3. How My Friends Would Dress Me Up. Several of them were game! I just sent them an e-mail. Here’s are some of the surprising results with my parenthetical reactions:

-- I could see you in a Dorothy costume with cute little Toto in tow. (I hope it’s only my wide-eyed wonder of a child and my tendency toward glitzy accessories. I’d kill for those sparkly red shoes!) Yes, plus your persistence to get to your goal and help get others there, too, and to overcome obstacles and pick up friends along the way that are definitely not mainstream thinkers… which is a good thing! All of the
Joseph Campbell mythic journey is wrapped up in the one little story... you’re living it!

--I am not sure what costume I can see you wearing, but one of my favorite all- time costumes is a clear trash bag filled with colored balloons and the person inside wearing a leotard and tights in a bright color – and they are a bag of Jelly Bellies! (You were channeling! I love Jelly Bellies!)

-- Don’t laugh…I can see you in an Elvira costume. Also, Lily Tomlin as the little girl with the big lollypop. (I’m nothing if not versatile.)

Now, don’t you just have to try this for yourself?

All-Time Favorite Costume Ideas and Incidents
I tend to be most impressed with costumes that are objects of some sort. I think it’s much easier to portray a person—I already am one—than a thing. Morphing into an animated object takes real talent. One costume that caught my eye was someone in a paper box crafted as a traffic light, complete with ovals of changing colors—Go, Caution, STOP!

Here’s my most hilarious costume incident. Our neighbor down the street, a fun guy, but never known to be on the bold side, showed up early on Halloween night as an adult trick-or-treater. He was wearing one of my coveted costumes—a trench coat—only he had a different job in mind for it. As I opened the door, he ripped opened his coat like the proverbial dirty old man played by
Arte Johnson on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. His exposé revealed a large salami and two rounds of cheese hanging from his belt. (He was otherwise fully clothed.)

He got the last surprise when he stepped across the threshold and saw that he had just “exposed himself” to my sixty-something mother-in-law. A proper lady, Mom fortunately had a great sense of humor, but she still couldn’t put Paul at ease, who skulked home, embarrassed about his flashdance.

Probably the most clever costume party I ever heard of was called a Cocktail Party, and it was literal to its name. It happened in Wisconsin in the ‘70s. People came dressed as cocktails. I can only imagine the Harvey Wallbanger. I would have gone as a mint green Grasshopper. There was a Pink Lady, a Tequila Sunrise, and my favorite—six people who walked in together with a big brown box around them, bottle caps on their heads—a six-pack! Contest: Tell me how we’d adapt this to modern day. How would Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, or Charlotte from Sex & the City dress up like a Cosmo? I can’t begin to imagine where this would take one of my favorite boomers, the
Martini Diva, but I know she’ll Comment and tell your herself! (Sex on the Beach-a-tini would, no doubt, be the life of the Cocktail Party!)

Like Day of the Dead that follows it on November 1, Halloween is a mixture of the sacred and secular--of life and death. Overall, the holiday has become highly commercialized and more people, adults included, are into decorating and dressing up. Seasonal costume shops are cropping up on more corners. For those sensitive to it, there is no denying that All Hallow’s Eve is a night where the veil between worlds is thin.

Halloween is a celebration of the hidden mysteries of life and the mystery of our own multifaceted natures—the parts still hidden inside us. As you get ready for this annual night of tricks, sugar rush, and brushing elbows with ghosts and goblins, see what you discover about yourself in the fun, in the disguise—in the touch of the forbidden—in the magic.

Photo: Joyce as Auntie Mame, Halloween 1985. This photo is featured only because I could not find the Purple People Eater or Christmas Tree pics. Maybe they’ll surface by next Halloween.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Word Peace

Words are as strong and powerful as bombs.
Dorothy Day, journalist, social activist, pacifist

Let the truth be your delight … Proclaim it, but with a certain congeniality.

St. Catherine of Sienna, contemplative, server of the sick, reformer, mystic

These quotes from two sage women touch on the effects of being outspoken—its impacts on others and ourselves. In the past week, I heard about two clergymen who risked their jobs and flocks to speak their peace. A friend urged me to blog about it. I hesitated, because this is more controversial than my normal fare, but following the lead of these two brave men, I felt it was worth the risk.

How do we deal in the modern world with deeply held beliefs, even those we consider matters of life and death, while honoring those who disagree with us? When do we simply have to speak out—and how?

Practice Makes Perfect, Not Practicing Makes War
The American presidential election gives us plenty of opportunity to practice what we do with our differences of opinion, both religious and political. On the broader world stage, these differences often lead to bombs of the literal variety. But as Dorothy Day observed, we volley the first bombs in our words.

Word bombs, incendiary debates, and inflammatory e-mails have no place on the path toward peace on earth with the possible exception of venting frustration among our sounding-board intimates—not aimed at those with opposing views. The longer we live, the more younger people look up to us and even our peers take our opinions more seriously. They know what we think is seasoned with a fully built character and a lifetime of experience. If anyone should watch our words, it’s those of us considered older and wiser. I am a work in progress when it comes to keeping my cool in hot debates. If anything, I tend to take the more cowardly route of avoiding them.

Example of a Heated Debate—Same-Sex Marriage
Here in California, the State Supreme Court has opened the door to same-sex marriage, determining it is unconstitutional to deny gays the right to marry. As we are infamous for on the Left Coast, we self-govern by ballot initiative. Proposition 8 would overturn this Supreme Court decision, if it passes next month.

I was wowed by the way a local Sacramento minister and a priest in nearby Fresno spoke their consciences on this subject, even though they hold opposite views of Proposition 8. One is for overturning the Supreme Court decision; the other is against it. Both respect and welcome gays into their spiritual communities. Their courage and heart give me hope that love is overcoming fear in our world. In case you haven’t heard of them, let me introduce you:

Rev. Rick Cole is pastor of a huge, conservative church in Sacramento called Capital Christian Center. While he supports Prop. 8 to overturn same-sex marriage, he is disturbed by the hateful rhetoric around it. His sermon drew tears as he talked about his sense of duty to speak out. "Jesus addressed the issues of his day," he says. "But he spoke with gentleness and compassion." The
Sacramento Bee contains the full details of his moving pitch to treat all people by the Golden Rule.

Fr. Geoffrey Farrow was pastor of Saint Paul Newman Center on the campus of the University of California - Fresno. I say was, because predictably, when he came out against Prop. 8 and out of the closet as a homosexual, all in one homily at Sunday Mass, he was summarily dismissed from his priestly duties. He knew he would be. A day later, the new pastor’s bio was already on the Center’s website. Fr. Farrow could no longer remain what he considered “an accomplice to moral evil” in denying rights to gays. That he is gay, himself, he believes is a secondary issue. Here are details of his
homily. For those interested in following up on the aftermath, visit Fr. Farrow’s blog.

“We Should Worry Less about How We Love and More about How We Hate”
An acquaintance of mine said this to me when, to her surprise, she discovered she was gay. This happened long after she was divorced and still co-raising children with her ex. If people get so upset over love between consenting adults, how do we control our passions over the truly life-and-death disagreements such as abortion, euthanasia, and war?

Protest the War of Words
I am not here to persuade you toward my worldview, which is moderately left of center in most matters. I do encourage you to think about how you use words.

Here are some examples of what I see peers doing that do not promote peace and some suggested alternatives:

-- Abstain from name-calling and mud slinging toward political candidates. Whatever side of the fence you’re on, railing and playing “ain’t it awful” with your friends against the candidate you dislike has little purpose but to keep you riled up and vibrating with negative energy. (After awhile, if you’re forwarding endless emails poking fun at one candidate or fomenting fear, rather than sharing objective information, you may want to reconsider.) Why not do something positive with your passion, like volunteer for the party of your choice or send a financial contribution to help your candidate win?

-- Listen objectively to views opposing yours. Sarah Palin does not lack intelligence, even though she may be uninformed about things some voters consider crucial. Barack Obama is not some sort of “Muslim Manchurian candidate,” a great summary of the latest flap by Jake Tapper, Senior National Correspondent for ABC News. And even if you think John McCain is too old and out of touch to be your choice, he gets my vote for making the most compassionate political move I’ve observed of late. He asked people at his town hall meeting to tone down their inflammatory rhetoric about Obama, who thanked him for it publicly.

-- Take political humor with a grain of salt. My husband and I love to watch
Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO. Bill is liberal to the extreme. Sometimes hyperbole helps a person solidify where they stand. I respect many of Bill’s conservative guests and often take their points, even though their views differ from mine overall. I am unhappy, though, with Bill’s rants against people of faith. He thinks all people with spiritual beliefs are childish idiots, who cannot think for themselves. This is a mild paraphrase of language he uses on his show. According to his bio, Bill’s father was Irish Catholic, his mother Jewish, and he was raised Catholic. I relate to this combo and some of the angst it can cause (raised Catholic in a Jewish neighborhood. Talk about guilt!) Bill could have become a man of true tolerance with his exposure to two religions. Instead, he has thrown out the baby with the holy water. He makes fun of believers, insisting they cannot be both intelligent and spiritual. Still, one of my friends who suffered much pain because of religion finds his humor hysterically healing. I would have, too, at a different phase in my life. I am lucky to have worked through my early religious traumas—to have put them in perspective. I don’t feel like seeing his film, Religulous, no matter how tongue-in-cheek or funny. To see his movie would be a vote for intolerance and misinformation—a step back to sulk in old pain—even though I support his right to make it and even to make fun of me. But is it peacemaking? Maybe, ultimately, for those it helps heals, but not for me. On political topics, Bill criticizes the current administration relentlessly for what he considers warmongering. Maybe he could make peace by looking at his wordmongering.

What You Say Matters
I have been on a spiritual quest most of my life. It has taken me to the doors of many different churches, temples, and mosques, whether as a seeker or visitor. It has helped me appreciate the gold in many faiths and how so many of the core teachings are the same. Same God/Spirit, different flavors—like the Baskin & Robbins of Beliefs. All ice cream tastes good. Why would we diss and hiss at people who like Fudge Ripple instead of Vanilla Bean? You could argue this is oversimplified, but one’s spiritual path, or lack thereof, is really a matter of taste and resonance.

Same goes for politics, the other heated topic. My example of the same-sex marriage decision in California brings politics and religion together. It’s becoming more difficult to separate them, even in a country founded on the separation of church and state. I’m not sure where we draw the line. Most of our politics come out of our ethics, formed for most of us by our spiritual beliefs. What both Fr. Farrow and Rev. Cole have done is to speak their truth with congeniality, as St. Catherine advised, with respect toward those who disagree with them. This echoes the same kind of peaceful protest I was first exposed to, as a child, by Rev. Martin Luther King.

Perhaps the best “between the eyes” commentary on our habit of letting our emotions and language run wild was spoken by a fictional politician, Senator Robert McAllister, on the TV show
Brothers and Sisters. Played by Rob Lowe, Sen. McAllister angrily asks his wife’s high- drama family to stop acting like children who blurt out everything they feel unedited and to “get some filters.” That’s what grown-ups do, even if it’s difficult.

Words are our medium of communication and understanding. We make or break peace every day by how we use them. I invite you not just to visualize “word peace,” but also to verbalize it in every sentence you speak.

In the powerful words of an unforgettable song,
Let There Be Peace on Earth, and Let It Begin with Me.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Watts New? A Contest!

Sometimes Cool Insights are more literal than those figurative light bulbs of meaning that pop into our heads more often, the longer we live. After reading my last post on eco-shopping and the Sierra Club Sock-athon, the PR staff at Home Depot asked if I’d share this cool contest with you. I am happy to oblige:

The Home Depot wants to know how people are saving energy in their home in its video contest: “Save Money. Save Energy. Win Big.” Just shoot a short video to show how you're saving money and helping the environment by making your home more energy efficient.

Anyone can log on to to enter their video between now and Nov. 9, 2008. The contest winner will receive a $5,000 Home Depot gift card and up to $2,000 for installed insulation or radiant barrier products from The Home Depot.

Good luck! May the best bulb win—the idea that turns into the best energy savi

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Retro, Eco, Reinvented, Recycled!

As baby boomers, we may want to “explode the old Old,” but we still appreciate a blast from the past and retro anything. We are also made for buying products fashioned from recycled and earth-friendly materials. Not only do we know the benefits of oldies but goodies, whether people (ourselves!) or things; we have usually put materiality into perspective by now. We want to do our part to use less and waste as little as possible. We want to keep our planet green for future generations, especially for our own grandkids.

In my past life as a civil servant for three decades, I worked for over half my career for a unique agency, the
California Integrated Waste Management Board. My jobs at the Board over the years focused the 4 R’s—Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and buy Recycled and earth-friendly products. I’d like to tell you about two of the programs where I worked and what I learned about how to green up your cupboards and closets. Then—teaser!—I’m going to tell you about an exciting way you can check off some items on your holiday shopping list while making the planet more sustainable and a few homeless people warmer this winter.

Green Jobs
One of the best jobs of my long career was Coordinator of the California Materials Exchange—
CalMAX for short. CalMAX helps California business, government, schools, and nonprofit organizations save money by matching them with materials others want to get rid of. One of the best parts is the price—cheap or free! The business offering materials reduces its disposal costs. The business receiving materials cuts its costs for making products.

At the helm of CalMAX, I felt like I was like running a dating service for “stuff.” You could not believe the amazing exchanges that took place and the human interest stories behind them. For my retrospective on the program, including some of the most exciting exchanges, see
Thanks to the MAX for the Memories or the Connections page. Don’t miss my all-time favorite exchange, Cradle to Grave Recycling. I like to point out that CalMAX began in 1992, three years before the start-up of eBay. It remains a model for how networking can redistribute wealth, create relationships, and make the world a better place.

Following four years at CalMAX, I spent the next seven in the
Recycling Market Development Zone program--RMDZ. This is the job I retired from in 2005. RMDZ offers technical support and low-interest loans to help businesses use recycled materials to make their products. By now, there are many gorgeous recycled or eco-friendly items of every kind, but I have been “in the biz” since many were still prototypes on the drawing board. Thanks to the eco-commitment of these visionaries over the last decade or two, we now have gorgeous everyday items to choose from that support the planet while giving us comfort and even glamour.

Green Home
funky to fabulous, just Google “recycled furniture” and prepare to be dazzled! For dinnerware, there’s nothing more breathtaking than the recycled glass products from Fire and Light. Here are some folks who got creative with eye-popping results, morphing used plastic tableware into lamps. Unique clocks, anyone? Choose from retro and recycled, kitchen funky, gorgeous recycled glass, or paintings on old vinyl records. If they can put hands on it, someone has “clocked” it.

Anything you need, search with the adjectives recycled or eco-, and you’ll find it—including architects and decorators. On that score, I can recommend two magazines my husband reads faithfully—and loves—if you want to morph your home to your own earth-friendly castle. Dwell focuses on green architecture, while Natural Home is on planet friendly interior decorating. It has even recently introduced its own line of sustainable products.

Green Chic
Move over Carrie Bradshaw! Yes, you can be fashionable and green. Here are just a few links from the potpourri of choices: Green Loop, Eco Fashion on a Budget, Green Fashion Formerly Hippie, Now Hip. Even Elle Magazine has jumped on the eco-fashion bandwagon. Here’s a list of eco-online fashion stores, and you might be surprised to find some cool, green choices right on the racks of your local Target store.

Sock It to Me!
While I’m not talking about the old TV show Laugh In, it’s always a good retro memory. Instead, I’m making good on that promise for an earth- happy holiday shopping idea. Buy Sierra Club Socks and participate in this non-profit agency’s Sock-athon, starting November 1. Check the Socks link for a hilarious spoof on a famous crime family, The Sockfather. One of the stars of the short film is Leslie Flowers, a sister member of Boomer Diva Nation. Great job, Leslie!

As to the socks themselves: Sierra Club socks are made from organic cotton, bamboo, soy and other earth friendly yarns. They're comfortable and they support Sierra Club programs. The socks link will tell you why they help the planet and how the proceeds will help the Sierra Club with donations, pair for pair, to the
National Coalition for the Homeless.

There’s a link on the Sock site for registering to participate and making a commitment to buy socks during the Sock-athon, but I’m repeating it here, so you can jump right in with both feet.

Think stocking stuffers or decorating these cool socks to hang on your mantle. Stuff them with more socks. They look like the kind I want to pad around in all winter. At the rate we lose socks to that black hole the dryer; I ought to buy them by the bushel.

Why not make eco-friendly your holiday theme this year?
Bing me! I’m dreaming of a green Christmas …

Photo Credit: © Monkey Business -

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Mentors and My Favorite Myth

Sorcerer’s Apprentice from the animated film, Fantasia, is one of Walt Disney’s most memorable characters. In the millions of images swirling in the subconscious of baby boomers, Mickey Mouse plays an apprentice who gets too big for his britches and starts playing with magic before he has the skills to control some of his experiments. This is just one of many good reasons for a monitored apprenticeship!

Mentoring is a lot like an apprenticeship. Mentors take their mentees under wing to teach them a job, a craft, or a life skill—anything from music to magic to managing to be a kind and loving human being. Mentoring is often more informal than an apprenticeship training program. If you’re a parent, aunt or uncle, an older brother or sister, or a teacher, you mentor others all the time, usually kids. Bosses may ask a long-time employee to mentor another employee new to the job. In
Toastmasters, the Vice President of Education assigns all members a more experienced mentor.

The Mentor Years
Now is the perfect time in life for baby boomers to serve as mentors. One
definition of mentor is an influential senior sponsor or supporter. Mentors bolster and cheerlead. Memoir writing can be a form of mentoring by example—why I write this genre and encourage other boomers to do so. With 28 percent of the US population reaching the wisdom years all at once, boomers represent more than a brain trust. We’re nearly an embarrassment of riches. As “seasoned citizens,” we have the ability to share what we’ve learned about making life meaningful—not just with other people supposedly entering the golden years—but with people of all ages. Indigenous elders have done this in their tribes for eons. I call this practice indi-genius. In the Foreword of Hot Flashbacks, Cool Insights—the book—I talk about a boomer icon, the stage play Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical. Your tribe needs you now more than ever!

Chiron, Mythical Mentor
One of the most fascinating and useful things I learned in my study of astrology is mythology. Planetary bodies are named after mythical beings, mostly from the Greek tradition. Since I’m half-Greek by ancestry, I was probably drawn to the mythology more than most people. It’s in my blood.

I fell in love with the meaning of the planetary body
Chiron (KY’-ron), discovered in 1977. As both a planet and myth, Chiron is primarily symbolic of how we find wholeness. Chiron, the planet, was named after the famous and kind centaur, whose upper half was man—his bottom half, horse.

Chiron mentored heroes in Northeastern Greece on Mt. Pelion. His charges were famous in the galaxy of Greek mythological stars, among them Hercules, Asclepius (the Father or Medicine), and Achilles. Chiron became my astrological specialty. Not hard to understand why I fell in love! Chiron symbolizes a skeleton key that unlocks the portal to where we find fulfillment. I learned there is both a personal and community aspect to “finding ourselves.” We all have gifts we must give in order to feel complete. I write about this need in a chapter of Hot Flashbacks called, “It’s Just Got to Come Out of You.” However, it’s not satisfying to live our passions in a vacuum. We must find how to give our gifts in a way that also benefits our community.

How Chiron Mentored Heroes
Chiron provided a well-rounded education to young heroes-in-training at his boarding school on Mt. Pelion. His education was holistic and included not just the martial arts, but the creative arts, as well. He taught in a balanced way, the full spectrum of skills, from archery to music. The discovery of Chiron coincides with men getting in contact with their animas, helping to rear children, like the many Chiron both foster-parented and mentored. Once there was matriarchy, then there was patriarchy. The discovery of Chiron signals a chance in our lifetime for true integration of all polarities within us and the “oppositions” we experience with others. One of his astrological meanings is bridge between heaven and earth. If we’re not in inner or outer conflict, that’s heaven!

My Mentoring Assignment
I was just sitting at my computer minding my own business one day recently, when I got a surprise request from a friend. Would I be interested in mentoring her daughter, a high school senior, in a writing project? My heart said yes immediately—it nearly leapt out of my chest. My mind, of course, said “too busy.” After asking some questions about time commitment and specific need, I sat with the idea and got a green light from Spirit. Kayla and I have teamed on her book-writing project. I love playing Chiron, and I can’t wait to see how this relationship contributes to the development of her special gifts. I could tell from the first paragraph of her book: she is a terrific writer and visionary in the making. I am already proud of anything I can do to coach her into what leaps off the page as her true destiny.

Where Can You Mentor?
Of course, there are many opportunities to become a mentor, if this idea appeals to you. Transmit your desire from your mind-spirit and bolster them with prayer, meditation, or however you connect with the larger cosmic consciousness. This intention will often bring a chance to help right to your doorstep, telephone—or e-mail box!

However, if your inner guidance says
seek, and ye shall find, you can start with the organization, Mentor. It defines mentoring and provides a list of organizations, such as Big Brothers & Big Sisters, searchable by zip code and within a designated mile radius. I was surprised to find a dozen organizations within 15 miles of my home providing mentoring services to young people. Churches and nearly every other kind of organization offer opportunities to help show the ropes to members, both young and older alike. In my own church, I am a lay minister in a program that mentors individuals returning to their faith after a long absence. Since I’d been there and done it—returned after more than 40 years away—I wanted to share the excitement of how I integrated my larger spiritual journey into my homecoming to the church of my childhood.

Mentoring Magic
If I can help Kayla take even a single step toward claiming the place where she lives her passion, while sharing her greatest gifts with others, it will be one of my most fulfilling accomplishments. There is a divine domino effect in “
each one, teach one.” There is no doubt in my mind why no man is an island. Earth is a school, and each human being we encounter is one of the many mentors or teachers in the custom curriculum of our soul development.

Who could resist helping create a planet with a lot of soul?

Image: The Education of Achilles (ca. 1772) by James Barry (1741-1806), oil on canvas, depicting the education of Achilles by the centaur Chiron. Located at the Yale Center for British Art. Public domain.