Sunday, November 23, 2008

Friendship Feast

My guest co-blogger today is my dear friend, Dana Stone. We’ve known each other since 1980, and neither of us is sure how we’d have made it this far in life without each other. In 2005, we celebrated the Silver Anniversary of our friendship. I am grateful for her every day, but Thanksgiving seems an especially good time of year to share our thoughts on what makes a great friendship tick.

Joyce: Dana, please tell the Cool Insighters a little bit about yourself.

Dana: I am old soul refining the gold and polishing the silver of my Higher Self, while keeping my karmic commitments. I have been a world traveler since birth (courtesy of the US Air Force) and spent my formative years in England and California. This is how I learned diplomacy and an appreciation for all cultures. My native American (BlackFoot tribe) and North African ancestry (Watutsi tribe) instilled in me a great sense of rhythm and a deep appreciation for the spirit of earth and all her resources. My interests run the gamut from teaching Jazzercise to Metaphysics. I love all forms of art, music and dance. Sensitive in the extreme to all things toxic (people, places and hair dyes included), after 32 years of government service, I am embracing my role as an earth elder teaching others authentic empowerment and wellness. I am currently working on developing an intuitive leadership training module for government and corporate professionals, focused on earth-friendly policy development.

Joyce: Let’s swap thoughts on the qualities that make for an enduring friendship. You go first!

Dana: Shared interests, honesty (by this I mean candor with kindness), integrity (will take a confidence to the grave), trust, loyalty (not blind but supportive), common sense and an earthy sense of humor are on the top of my list. A friendship that grows and changes, as you do, is also important.

Joyce: Agreed on commonality of interests—add worldview—between us. It’s as though in the friendship department, we were made for each other—companions on the paths we have chosen, side by side, that parallel through the same woods. How many times did we joke about our first marriages with issues so similar, we sometimes felt like we married the same man? (What a blessing we each did so much better the second time around.) I think just like marriage, our most important friendships have something to do with making a good choice and recognizing “a great match” when you see it. I never thought about it till this moment, but you and I have some of the same things in common that I do with Tim. That is, the same religious background and values. Of course, I have friends from different faiths, but add to the spiritual perspective, so much of our faith is in each other!

Next question: What actions do you see us taking that keep the fires of friendship glowing?

I see us sharing tips and tools as we embark upon the joys of navigating the Social Security system. I also see us traveling to new vistas, laughing, loving, singing and dancing our way into our dotage.

Joyce: It’s about quality connection. Naturally, a certain quantity is important, but over the years, the various demands on us have meant we couldn’t always spend a lot of time together. Yet the time we spend together is so special—always a treat. We never miss celebrating birthdays, Christmas, or important personal events together. And with our common interests, I can’t count the number of workshops we’ve attended together. Loved our spa weekend getaway for our 25th friendship anniversary, reprising something we did more often when we were both single and life was a little less frenetic. We take time for our friendship, and when we can’t take a lot of time, we make it a celebration—which spills over into the whole quality of our relationship. It is one big celebration of gratitude for us both, and we tell each other how much we mean to each other often. Man, I didn’t think about it much till now, but we’re real gushers!

How ‘bout this: What things do I do for you that are the most supportive?

Dana: You are the best non-judgmental listener ever!!! You hear what I am saying and the intuitive thoughts and emotions behind the words. You are positive and enthusiastic, no matter what crazy idea or undertaking I am proposing, and you have the best referral/resource information database in your planner.

Joyce: For me, you’re “always there” in the most meaningful way to listen and give a positive spin on whatever I’m going through—or to shake a fist at the bad guys who do me wrong! (Especially when I’m being “too nice” to do it myself.) I’d say one way you support me is the same way my mom did—you only see the good in me. When I tell you about some fit I had, you act astonished that I could “lose it.” I don’t need to lose it with you; we’re so simpatico. That’s why you’ve never seen it. My mom had on rose-colored glasses about me, too. Reflecting from adulthood on times I acted like Baby McEvil, she’d insist I was always an angel. Luckily, love is blind (maybe even a little senile!) in motherhood and close friendship, too. You also give great input when I seek advice, keep secrets, and never judge. You liked Tim right away, which was an important barometer for me. I don’t think I could marry anyone that didn’t “feel right” to you. Thanks for all the class you demonstrated on some of my weirder boyfriend choices throughout the years. You’d never discourage me from walking the path of my learning, but you’d never fake enthusiasm, either.

Lastly, what are the qualities I have in our friendship that you are most grateful for?

Dana: I am grateful that you always listen with your heart, are perpetually positive, have awesome creative ideas and can find humor in anything!

Joyce: Laughter is definitely a close second to anything that comes first. How we have howled together! You’re so intelligent, witty, and spiritually savvy. To know you is to love you, and I feel honored to have such a special place in your life. You’ve got a very full dance card when it comes to friends—a line even!

I had said this so many times, I was grateful to hear my thoughts echoed on an episode of Sex and the City when Carrie came to the realization that men may come and go, but your friends are who you’re left with when you’re a Golden Girl. It’s rough to think about, but women outlive men on average by more than five years. Many times the woman lives much longer. In some ways, choosing your closest friends is one of the most important decisions you ever make.

May your friendship harvest be like mine and Dana’s—the cream of the crop! We’d love to hear your Comments and special friendship stories.

To read more about Dana as coach, visit her Astral Coach site.

Photo by
Theresa Hayes, Dana’s sister, at the wedding of Dana’s stepdaughter on October 5, 2008.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Hot News Flash! Writer Joyce Mason Website

It’s complex, dense, deep, and fun. It’s a web site years in the planning. It’s

If you wonder about life's mysteries, your purpose and special gifts ... my new website is for you.

Discover my many other facets as a writer. My memoir-writing baby boomer persona is just one.
Joycemason-dot-com will be home to everything else I write besides this blog, starting with my body of literature that has proven timeless for decades on astrology, dreamwork, and other symbol systems. If there is one thing that joins all my writing, it’s this: I play the symbols. I see signs in commonplace occurrences as well as the moon, stars, and meaningful coincidences.

There are articles, old and new, and links to my writings on other web sites. I look forward to introducing current readers of Hot Flashbacks to my other works. I also hope to reconnect with many old friends and clients who knew me when these topics were on my front burner—and when I still did individual astrology charts and other spiritually oriented consultations. You’ll find links to other people whose works or products help me share what I’ve learned in the Symbol World. The last tool in my medicine bag from my former practice, Inner Growth Work, is
flower essences. Who knew a few drops of a tincture taken under your tongue a few times a day could transform emotions?

There’s an expanded bio, information on books and publications already in print or online, and previews of writings in progress. You’ll discover my poetry—my first genre, also symbol rich—and my genres I call M-in-M’s for short—memoir, inspiration, and mystery.

But the mystery of my new site? Don’t let it linger! Why haven’t you clicked on that link yet? Or
this one?

Thanks to all my Cool Insighters who check it out, and if you find it’s for you, I hope to be seeing you in both my cyber “pads” often.

Join me for the fireworks! And let’s crack open some champagne.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Kukla, Fran, and OLLI

The stars of the old TV show, Kukla, Fran, and Ollie, and its Kuklapolitan Players, are among my favorite childhood icons. Spend some time on their blast from the past website for some delightful déjà-vu, boomer style.

Today I want to introduce you to a different “OLLI.” Rather than a snaggletooth dragon, it stands for
Osher Life-Long Learning Institute. I love the hidden truth in words. If you don’t want life to “drag on,” meet the anti-dragon—the OLLI of life-long education.

There are 119 OLLI’s throughout the US. The National Resource Center website for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes is located at the University of Southern Maine (USM). OLLI disseminates information on effective educational programming for older learners. In addition to providing information and connections via its web site, the Resource Center publishes a national research journal, plans an annual national conference, and provides a number of other ways for OLLI’s to connect with one another.”

That’s OLLI on the macro scale, but let’s talk about what it can do for you. For example, the OLLI at West Virginia University (WVU) in Morgantown hosted a week-long event in September called “Learn 50+.” The theme was Keeping Our Brains Alive. It featured research on boomers/retirees who engage in learning activity—how continuous learning exhibits physical changes in the brain and leads to better mental and physical health. To
find the OLLI nearest you, click on your state on the OLLI map site.

Meanwhile, let me tell you about our
OLLI at Sierra College in Rocklin, California. I think you’ll be amazed! The ads aren’t exaggerated when they call them personal enrichment classes without tests or grades and high-quality learning experiences.

First, these classes are free to anyone 55 or older. While designed for the older learner, any adult student is welcome. Additional special lectures are available for $35 per year or $65 per couple along with many other member benefits. They even offer a three-month Sample Membership for $19 for the those who just want to put a toe in the water.

Credit where credit is due: My husband Tim discovered OLLI and has been taking t’ai chi and other classes through the program for the past few years. This month, we’re taking—together—“The Films of the Coen Brothers.” That’s Joel and Ethan and Blood Simple
(1984), Barton Fink (1991), Intolerable Curelty (2003), Fargo (1996), and No Country for Old Men (2007), last year’s Academy Award winner for best picture. I look forward, while dissecting these films, to getting a clue about what were those Coen Brothers thinking when they wrote those movies, especially Fargo, one of my favorite dark comedies.

To give you the flavor of other local OLLI offerings:

· Art of the City: Florence
· Personal Investments
· Classic Italian Film
· Modern American Comedy
· Tough Women in Classic Hollywood Films
· Writing Your Life Story
· Haunted: The Life and Words of Edgar Allan Poe
· Franz Schubert: His Music and Life
· Beginning A Cappella Singing
· Fitness Options for Older Adults

Granted, anyone who reads or writes blogs is probably already on this life-long learning quest. If you’re like me, though, you might relish the opportunity to rest your eyes and take a screen break, even though mine is just from the small to the big screen, so to speak. It’ll be cool to have some face time with some new friends. The Coen Brothers class is great!

When you meet your OLLI, please Comment. Let me know how you like him! Or tell us about any of your other life-long learning adventures.

Photo credit: Ollie by the late Ted Drake, Kuklapolitan artist.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Venus Girls/Boomer Beauty

Two of my close friends and I are Venus Girls. This refers to the signs Taurus and Libra, ruled by the planet Venus—goddess of love, relationship, beauty, peace, and justice. Venus’s love of justice is why the Scales of Balance symbolize the astrological sign.

When an individual has an abundance of these planets in her chart or has Taurus or Libra Rising, she is influenced or “ruled” by Venus. This is the case for the Venus Girls Trio. When we go to lunch, you could recognize us by overhearing these kinds of conversations:

Wendy: So, would it be so awful if we had just a little work done sometime? A little nip ‘n’ tuck?

Lucy: I’d be for that. Nothing too unnatural; after all, we’re all into natural …

Me: Maybe we could get a package deal with a local plastic surgeon and do it together. Maybe he’d consider a quantity discount! Take a few crinkles from around the eyes. Nothing drastic or too artificial …

Wendy: A trio facelift! We could play soft music, have a massage therapist come, do aromatherapy, recover together …

Lucy: Yeah! Sip herb tea and hold each other’s hands.

If you know even the slightest bit about these signs, you’re laughing out loud at how typical we are, creating ambience by the yard, worried about our good looks and being beautiful—so into relationship, we can’t even have our faces fixed without each other.

Boomer Beauty
Whatever your astrological or bare minerals make-up, turning the corner on 50 or 60 leads you smack into the issue of how you will handle aging from a cosmetic perspective. To one degree or another, we all bow—or refuse to bow—to the Goddess Venus.

Genes and self-care both play a role in how “well” we age. I’m lucky to have great skin, but my bottled auburn hair has very gray roots, nearly every one of them. I have friends my age and older without a single gray strand in their entire heads, but some of them show visible signs of aging in other ways such as wrinkles or liver spots.

How each of us handles the transition to a more seasoned look is a personal choice. I’m not willing to have my face drawn and quartered, the kind of work that ultimately looks fake and more unattractive than au naturel … but if I could afford it, I might go for a mini-lift, just because looking youngish and vital is more uplifting than my Maidenform bra. And believe me, at this stage of the game, I need all the uplift I can get!

I am in no way ready to see myself in a head full of gray hair, although I often wonder, as I risk potential brain cancer every time I use those chemicals on my head, if I don’t have a hole in it. Then there is the practical consideration. If I ever wanted to grow it out, how would I do that without looking like I took an ugly pill? A gorgeous gray highlighted wig, I’ve decided, as a transitional stage, “when the time comes.” (Around 95?) Meanwhile, Lucy told me just tonight that she knows of a holistic plastic surgeon.

Beauty is important to me. When I look as good as I can, I feel like I’m doing my part to help keep America beautiful. I don’t deny that I’m vain, but Venus types honestly resonate to beauty and harmony so much, we are miserable without it. Almost nauseous.

More Fundamental Questions
The bigger issue, of course, is our inability to see the inherent beauty in every age and stage of life. If we worship Venus, the Goddess of Beauty, it’s only because we worship Youth like a god even more. Granted, so much of our obsession with this false idol stems from advertising, Hollywood, and our belief that men are only drawn to nubile creatures. (I bet
Demi is glad no one told Ashton.)

As women, we buy into these stereotypes, too, and the sexism perpetuated in aging men who have “character” while aging women “need work.” We buy into it by our desire to maintain a maiden appearance when we’re long into the crone stage of life.

Yet baby boomers are expected to redefine aging itself.

How Will We Do It?
It is a big job. Appearance is just one issue. To redefine aging is more than skin deep, because our skin will again never look like the ads we see in
Glamour, if it ever did.

I don’t have all the answers. I think a lot of them are individual. Just like some girls go through a tomboy stage, others, like me, never had one and preferred dresses to pants from little girlhood. Some never got out of their tomboy stage, never were much for make-up and frills or high heels. That’s who they are—as natural to them as primping, preening, and color coordinating are to me.

Part of me thinks that looking as youthful as possible is OK, at least until we evolve more in our group-think about beauty in all stages of life. Looking young and feeling young and vital seem to be linked somehow, and no one would fault us for a second for wanting as much vitality as we can hold all the way to the finish line.

Yet, another part of me feels like a traitor. I am part of the community of boomer women, and our mindset toward aging and beauty won’t change unless or until I, too, change my mind. That sort of change creates a divine domino effect.

Hints from a Pro on Stretching Appearance
I’m fond of the movie, The Birdcage, especially its anthem of self-expression, the song, “I Am What I Am.” In this 1996 comedy Robin Williams stars as Armand, a gay cabaret owner. He and his drag queen companion, Albert (Nathan Lane), agree to put up a false straight front when their son wants to introduce them to his fiancé's conservative parents. Her father is a U.S. Senator (Gene Hackman). As with all comedies, things go horribly awry. While I always thought Albert’s attempts to look womanly fell a little short, he manages to charm and convince the Senator, who is quite taken with him as “her.” But when the paparazzi threaten to storm the house conjoined to the cabaret and splash the Senator’s presence at it in the tabloids, it’s time for drastic measures. All bets are off; all secrets must be revealed. Albert rips off his wig and sings “I Am What I Am.” It’s a tune of the ultimate freedom—of self-acceptance. I hope I can sing it proudly, someday, when it comes to being what I am as a woman of a certain age.

This is a “think post.” No answers, just questions to ask yourself.

The question I keep asking is
why the statue of Venus is depicted with no arms. Like Venus, many of us have no arms to wrap around true beauty just yet … and when we acquire them because of a change of heart, Beauty herself will be What She Really Is.

Photo Credit: Venus deMilo Statue, (c) Maninblack/