Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Congratulations to Susannah from the UK, whose name popped out of the hat to win the Spring Comment Caper. The name of every individual making comments on blog posts from March 20 until April 22 was placed in the hat each time they commented. Susannah won a copy of Capital Crimes: 15 Stories by Sacramento Area Authors, the mystery short story anthology published by my local Sisters in Crime chapter. It includes my story, “Digital.”

But wait, there’s more! The winner is really YOU! Susannah has decided, generously, to put the prize “back in the hat,” so to speak, so we can still play. The contest will resume and continue till the end of Spring through June 19. The new winner will be announced on or about the Summer Solstice, June 20.

A prolific blogger herself, I love to visit and comment on Susannah’s blogs:
Susannah’s Blogger Profile. She is a winner in every way!

For a real upper, follow Susannah on Twitter:

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Inclusively Generosity: The New and Improved Politically Correct

Boomers may remember Mr. Do Bee on Romper Room, the Bee that helped us learn the difference between right and wrong. This post is a grown-up version of my own Do Bee & Don’t Bee. Of course, by the time we’re part of the saging set; doing the right thing is more complicated like society itself. No matter, it’s still important, periodically, to examine our Bee-keeping skills.

Let’s start with my Don’t Bee: I don’t like the term politically correct (PC). It implies we are treating people the way politicians do—appeasing everyone, making the emotional equivalent of empty promises. The promise is respect. The correct part makes it an obligation. If you get it wrong, the PC police might rough you up a little. By word association alone, politically correct comes out feeling fake, disingenuous, and forced. No wonder so many people are sick of it.

The basic idea is right. Considering the feelings of others is the core of the Golden Rule. There’s just something wrong with the execution. The accent is on the wrong syllab'le. I’d like to think what we’re really aiming for is something I call inclusive generosity. Inclusive generosity implies that everyone counts and deserves acknowledgment. The generous part suggests it’s voluntary and can only be delivered with an open heart.

One of our strongest human needs is to belong. Belonging should not have to be in direct conflict with being “free to be you ‘n’ me.” Still, learning to respect and honor everyone takes real work and an ability to bend, especially your mind. To be inclusive, we must bother to get to know each other, what makes the other person tick, and to “walk a mile in his moccasins.” It takes time and commitment. Let’s face it: having your own little clique of look-alike or think-alike friends and family is delicious in its own way, but if that’s all you’ve got, it’s so high school. Maybe even grammar school.

In the past few years, I have had the opportunity to get to know to the work of Sharif Abdullah. Sharif is an author, proponent and catalyst for inclusivity and spiritual transformation. His work on inclusivity has taken him to over two dozen countries. His books include
The Power of One: Authentic Leadership in Turbulent Times, and Creating a World That Works for All. He is Director of Commonway Institute in Portland, OR. He offers a complete curriculum to help individuals or groups evolve in the principles of inclusion. He teaches them to create local communities of people who want to live with each other this way. To learn more, visit his website Shift in Action.

Generosity: Shift Happens
My Do Bee is inclusive generosity. To be an inclusive person is not only to be open-minded. It requires a generosity that hangs a welcome sign on the door of your heart and who you are. It asks you to tell others, “Come on in.” Then you sit down, have a cup of coffee or tea, chat, and find out what there is to like in one another. You uncover your common concerns. Soon, you realize you are more alike than different from most people.

I never cease to be amazed how a person can go from “those people” to “my friends,” whether it’s an issue of another race, religion, sexual orientation—whatever—just because an individual got to know someone externally different from himself. I have even seen this in seniors who are supposed to be resistant to change. All we have to do is to let someone get next to us.

As an example I am not proud of, my parents were prejudiced, which was typical in Chicago where I grew up in the ‘50s and ‘60s. It is still too typical. I went to school along side young people of various races, mostly African American, but some Asian and other ethnic minorities. My high school was primarily a combination of rich white Protestant and middle-class Jewish kids, and lower to middle-class blacks from the other side of the tracks. They were still stuck in a segregated neighborhood.

My high school was also one of the top in the country in the early ‘60s. We talked about tough issues. Dialogue was not just encouraged, but stimulated. In this heady, sophisticated suburb the ultimate insult was to be called “ignorant.” It didn’t take me long to figure out that disliking, much less hating, people with a different skin color, religion, or look was ignorant to the max. This was especially true after I sat next to them in homeroom.

After high school, I attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison, a place I call the Berkeley of the Midwest. There were so many ‘60s protests; I nearly got tear gassed out of my apartment building as police tried to disperse picket lines below my second-floor window. The year after I graduated, a bomb blew up
Sterling Hall, a major campus building in protest against the University’s connections with the military in the Vietnam War. During the second half of the ‘60s into the ‘70s, I got educated further on diversity and having the courage of my convictions.

The crowning glory in opening my mind was my move to California in 1973. Noting the dramatic changes in my dress, talk, and beliefs, my sister used to say I “went California.” I disagree. I simply came home to a place that was so live-and-let-live, I was free to discover and be myself.

Goin’ to California in My Mind
The “Left Coast” is infamous for its liberal mindset, but truth to tell, there are a lot of conservatives here, too. (Remember Ronald Reagan?) If I thought I had experienced diversity up till then, I hadn’t seen anything like the infinite variety of friends and colleagues I’d meet once I moved to the place that gave my mind a horizon I could see forever. People have room here to be whoever they are, for the most part, without harassment.

We need to give others that kind of place. It’s the kind thing, the loving thing, the only thing. It’s the prescription for peace on earth and a divine domino effect of creating the kind of world we want to live in and leave to our grandchildren. Whether your spirituality or sense of justice drives you—or both—this is the only future we can envision and create on Planet Earth … if there is to continue to be a Planet Earth. You only hurt yourself and everyone you love, if you aren’t inclusively generous.

Take some time to review what you were taught about people who are different from you. Find out how many nasty voices are in your head, saying terrible, inaccurate things about innocent people. Have you exorcised those demons? If not, seek out people who are of that race, religion, sexual orientation—whatever the “out group.” Befriend someone and get to know him or her beyond the externals and stereotypes.

No two ways about it, even if you have evolved beyond those voices, they still can rear their ugly chants as a knee-jerk reaction when you encounter The Other. Deal with them. I grew up hearing racial and ethnic epithets bandied about, as if my relatives were talking about the weather. What’s even more ironic: their own nationality wasn’t exactly considered an asset when they landed on Ellis Island. My relatives have their own batch of bigoted names that people call them. Nothing has ever perplexed me more than one out-group dissing another. They belong to the same fraternity! Maybe it’s a form of hazing. Sadly, I suspect it’s more of a pecking order.

If we are ever to create that world that works for all, Sharif Abdullah’s vision, we have to care enough to educate others. Lately, I have resonated anew to the term “ignorant” that adults used around me when I was a teenager. While I felt they often said it in judgment, most intolerance is just that—ignorance. Think of what to ignore someone means. It is the polar opposite of inclusion. It is the perfect word for the malady that inclusive generosity seeks to heal.

Generosity takes that time commitment. Rather than “not getting into it” with my relative on a rant about illegal Mexican immigrants, maybe I can gently suggest there’s another side of the story. I don’t have to be out to convince him. Actually, I’m not. All I’m doing is taking him to my California mindset, where he has all the data, time, and wide open spaces to figure it out for himself …

… for once we truly open our minds, intolerance falls out.


Photo credit: SYMBOL HEART © Alexmax

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Make This List Before Your "Bucket List"

Blowing Up the old Old!

This post is in response to Pop Art Diva’s Saturday Soapbox, “
Do You Have a Bucket List?”

I loved the movie, The Bucket List, with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. Most people have a “bucket list” in their minds—things they want to do before they “kick the bucket.” This delightfully mismatched pair of characters really got into it in a big way, traveling the world to complete their quest, even though they both had terminal illnesses. Their last-ditch "do-before-dying" included items of wild abandon like skydiving and emotional completion—a reunion with an estranged family member.

We hate this reminder, but life itself is terminal. We just don’t know how long we’ve got on this beautiful planet. My awareness of this fact has become more acute now that I am over 60, a number it pains me to type!

As I’ve contemplated my List, I’ve had a strange but wonderful realization. Many of the exotic travels and accomplishments I have hoped for, off and on in my life, pale in comparison to what I already have—and have done. This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:

Happiness isn’t getting what you want; it’s wanting what you have.

It also reminds me of the key to all manifestation and joy I have learned by living with eyes open to insight. Happiness stems from gratitude. Grateful receivers appreciate life’s gifts and continue in the flow of prosperity and divine surprises. By getting into the habit of being thankful for what you already have every day, it may surprise you how you’ll trim that Bucket List down to manageable size! Let’s face it. This could be helpful. After all, even if we live to be 100-plus, we are still in the second half of life with only limited years to achieve our goals.

It’s usually easier to see how the gratitude principal works in someone else, because we are so close to our own desires, the longings that lead to the Bucket List. Often we’ve been wed to those wants for so many years; we are not objective.

I saw how it works in someone I have been wed to for 11 years, my husband. When medical issues changed his life dramatically, he was lost and angry and understandably depressed. Over time, I have seen him transform into someone who is truly content. He loves our home nestled in nature, our pets, our life—and especially me. (Lucky me!) Stripped of the outer trappings of work and other externals that normally contribute so much to our self-worth, Tim finally has begun to find it from within—the genuine article.

So, here’s my thought. Before you write your Bucket List, write your Gratitude List. It may shorten the exercise and make it a lot easier for you!

Yes, I’d love to travel more, if and when resources allow. My fantasy trip is to visit the countries of Tim’s/my ethnic backgrounds: Poland and Luxembourg for him, Greece (again), Slovakia, and Hungary for me. We’d both love to go to Australia and New Zealand and to spend more time in Hawaii.

I want to publish books, many of them. But if what I have learned in life is helpful to those who most appreciate it, whether on my blogs, website,Twitter, or a conversation over coffee, I have really lived a life with purpose. I have already received feedback many times that I have made a difference to people.

Maybe your Bucket List, too, is shorter than you think and your life is richer—than you knew, however long or short it turns out to be.
Read these past Cool Saging Conversations:

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Vintage Cars: Seen the USA in Our Kaiser-Fray

I have loved old cars as long as I can remember. In Sacramento where I live, we have the fabulous California Auto Museum. I go there every few years, usually with visiting relatives. I drive down Memory Lane in my mind, wearing cool outfits from my hottest flashbacks.

When I was young, impressionable, and madly in love with my boyfriend Keene in the 1965-69 era of my life, we visited many a museum and old car rally in and near Milwaukee. I love that
Mel’s, my favorite spot for a burger and boomerbilia, is laden with old cars images. I can almost hear the engines rev behind the jukebox music from the ‘50s and ‘60s. What great background music with a chocolate Coke! And don’t you love those old diners that actually have a car that looks crashed into the wall, its hind end (usually finned) there for us to admire like a guy with nice buns? (See what happens when I'm transported back to my teenage, hormone-abundant past?)

Just as I have written about finding a photo of your inner child—your favorite baby or kid pic—what’s your picture of your “inner car?” Maybe it's the one that symbolizes the mobility and adventure of your childhood. For me it was my parents’ 1951 Kaiser-Frazer.

The Kaiser took us on a great road trip to visit my aunt, uncle, and cousins who lived near Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. I write about this nostalgia trip in Hot Flashbacks, Cool Insights—the book. It’s one of the most laugh-out-loud chapters about an encounter with a bear, my mom’s lack of outdoor skills, and my wacky Italian-American relatives whose assimilation into the Great Melting Pot I call “Gumbo Italiano.”

What do your car memories that stand out in your mind say about you? (This is a different kind of auto recall!) The Kaiser was roomy for its time and very modern. I never thought of my parents as adventurers, but both this car and that trip defy my perception of them as somewhat conservative, suburban Midwesterners. As I remember, mom referred to the color as “maroon,” a hue we might now call burgundy. I’d love a car that color now! I have to say, though, the wine coloring concept stuck. Even though the color of my Honda is called Titanium; I think of it as Champagne.

Old cars took us to the things and people that were important in our lives. Usually, that was church, school, relatives, and friends. They were often the site of major milestones—first kiss, first sexual encounter, maybe where he “popped the question,” and often where you broke up with him. No wonder our car memories are laden with such meaning. Not to forget: Cars symbolized masculinity to most guys—testosterone on wheels! That explains why we’re turned onto them. We can’t help it. It’s glandular.

The first car I owned—well, OK, Mom and Dad bought it for me-- was a 1965 Plymouth Valiant. Pretty “plain vanilla.” My adventures in it were far from it—very colorful. I had some real “Sex in the City” type moments, shared in my memoir, that cover many of those important milestones in a mixture of pain and hilarity.

My first spiritual teacher used to say that cars, especially in dreams, are a symbol of you as a person. They represent your physical body, the vehicle your soul drives through this lifetime.

I have a lot of soul. I like that the Kaiser was big, eye-catching, and innovative in its day. It took me on adventures far from home, ones that offered many surprises and unexpected connections. Even though I only saw the USA in our Kaiser-Fray back then, I think it activated my wanderlust that ultimately took me as far from home as England, Greece, and Turkey. It was also a car to admire. When it was polished to perfection (remember
Simoniz car wax?), it could bust my shirt buttons taking a spin with Mom and Dad. I’d look to see if the neighbors were watching.

The Frazer was one of a kind, a model only produced for a short time from 1946-51. I think of it, like me, as an early baby boomer. The company had its management issues, and the car failed in the end because they weren’t properly addressed—also because it didn’t meet fast enough America’s growing lust for lots of horsepower. Still, it represented innovation, promise, and its unique design still leaves me gasping for its unusual lines that epitomize “classic car” for me.

I think the Kaiser taught me to not only be adventurous, but that it’s OK to look good, even to glean an admiring eye for it. Now I’m vintage like the Kaiser, even older than our ’51 classic! I need to use a lot of Simonize to look spiffy, but my chassis is still classy, even if wider than it should be. I’ll just consider my padding to be an innovation we all appreciate on modern cars—those rubber bumpers that cushion us from the bumps and crashes of everyday life.

As my mobile boomer icon, the Kaiser-Fray is worth keeping for what it symbolizes to me: big, bold ideas, simpler times, a roomy sense of freedom, and some of the best memories of my happy childhood.


Photo: Thanks to John MacDonald of for permission to use his photo of a 1951 Kaiser Frazer.

More on Kaiser-Frazers: To see a gorgeous close-up of the grille the Kaiser-Frazer was famous for, check out the cover of
Built to Better the Best by Jack Mueller. More Links: The Wiki, Kaiser-Frazer is Born (July 25, 1945), Frazer History.


COMMENT CAPER: Don’t forget, your comments count in a drawing for a free book, now through April 22.

DREAM DATE: Joyce’s interview on dreams is coming up this Monday, April 20 @ 9:00p PDT.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Get Guidance from Your Dreams!

Mark your calendar for your “dream date!”

April 20, 2009 @ 9:00 pm PDT

Watch Joyce Mason’s lively interview with Dänna Wilberg, host of the Paranormal Connection in the Sacramento area on Comcast - Channel 17. Anywhere else, watch on the web on
Access Sacramento. Click on WATCH 17.

Here's a hint: Log on early! The web stream only holds 2000 viewers - if you are unable get online, call Access Sacramento: 916-456-8600. Let them know you want to watch "Paranormal Connection."

Topics covered include tips on remembering, recording, and deciphering your personal dream code. Hear some amazing results that speak for themselves about why you might want to play with your “Dream-Doh.”

Can’t make the web- or telecast or want supplemental information on this topic? Visit Joyce’s
Dreamwork page on her Writer Joyce Mason website.

Photo Credit: DREAM ©

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Do You Really Want to Live to Be a Hundred?

“Edie” turns 100 at the end of this month. She is not happy about it.

My brother-in-law’s mom is a total character. Twenty years ago, I suspect she was like Grandma Mazur in the Stephanie Plum novels by Janet Evanovich. In her youth, she was surely Auntie Mame.

Until recently, Edie had all her wits about her, but she has been complaining most of the decade I have known her, “I don’t know what the hell I’m still doing here.” Then she goes on a monologue grumbling to God, who apparently doesn’t know what He’s doing.

She’s actually in great health, overall, except her teeth are wearing out. She is outliving them. Her 75-year-old son says all the time, “She’s in better shape than I am. I swear; she’ll outlive me.” Teeth, sons—she leaves them in the wake of more longevity than the Energizer Bunny.

Edie has lost nearly all of her extended family, although she is fortunate to have her two adult children nearby. They spend what time they can with her, and she’s in a lovely board and care home that could pass for yours or mine. In fact, it looks a lot better than mine. Her room is spotless, and she loves to show off her trinkets and treasures when we visit. That’s about as excited as she gets about anything these days, although I hear coffee ice cream also gets a rise out of her.

I don’t know—but I suspect—her boredom with life has finally taken its toll, probably more a cause for deterioration than age itself. I can’t remember when she last had something to sink her teeth into, which may be why they are weakening. Sure, she likes seeing her daughter, son, granddaughter, and great-grandkids … but her spark has gone out.

I’ll never forget the day we first met. At the time, my husband and I were living together, not married. That made me suspect for starters. After her grand entrance, Edie took a piercing look at me—a head to toe evaluation. She announced, “My name is Edith. You can call me Edie. I ask a lot of questions. You’ll get used to it.”

Fortunately, I had been warned about her and was braced for her blunt nosiness. I came to be more amused than annoyed by her pointed inquiries; and she became very fond of me. I made sure we did her many kindnesses, always remembering her on birthdays and major holidays. I thought she was a kick in the pants, still do, and can’t help but love her for all her rough edges and downright crusty nature.

This Christmas, though, she wasn’t her old self. She’s starting to slip. “How old am I?” she asked me. Apparently, she asks others family members the same thing all the time.

When I told her she was almost 100, it was as news to her. “I’m gonna be a hundred? I had no idea I was that old. I never thought I’d live that long.”

At first, Edie’s lack of enthusiasm about life was such an antithesis to my own lust for it, I had a hard time accepting her longing for death. She has a plot back East and her funeral arrangements all made. She can’t wait to keep the date. I’ll miss her, but another part of me can’t help but hope she’ll get what she longs for.

Edie is my flip side. I constantly worry that I’ll run out of time before I can do what I really want to do. I don’t mind dying; I just mind doing it before I feel finished. Edie is done.

Over the years, I began to understand and even honor her desire to die, regardless of the fact that, so far, God won’t have it. We’ve chanted all the clichés about how He’s not done with her yet. They are not comforting.

Edie’s eyesight and hearing are fading. This was an eye-opener to me, no pun intended, considering I already have sensory challenges, and I'm forty years younger than Edie. Makes me wonder how I’d fare at 100. Further, it makes me wonder if I even want to belong to the Centenarian Club. A lot of joy went out of Edie’s life along with the ability to read books. The audiocassette player and books on tape we got her didn’t appeal, even before her hearing worsened. I’m sure I’d lose a lot of my spark without the stimulation of constant learning or entertainment.

This story may sound dreary, but I think Edie is telling us something about life. Life without passion is empty. We see people all the time who are physically broken, even mentally or developmentally challenged, but as long as they are doing something they love, they are vital. A hundred would be glorious as long as I still have zest for living and reasonable health. Otherwise, I don’t think so.

Next time I hear the clock’s loud ticking toward a vague Running Out of Time, I’ll remember what I’ve learned from Edie. She has helped me rethink things.

Maybe I don’t have to feel done before I die. Better to have some mountains to climb, some passions still stirring, and a well-padded To Do List than to be done and have life left over.


Postcript: Since I wrote this piece in January 2008, Edie finally got her wish. She passed peacefully last spring at the age of 100. This is a tribute to her.

Topical Link:
World’s Oldest Woman Turns 115


© Joyce Mason, 2009 – All Rights Reserved

Saturday, April 4, 2009

COOL SAGING CONVERSATIONS: Maintenance, Optimism, and Mind Games (MOM-G)

Blowing Up the old Old!

This post is in response to Pop Art Diva’s Saturday Soapbox, “What Does It Being Over 50 Mean to You Physically, Mentally, and Emotionally?”

When a friend of mine retired, he said he realized he had a new job--to take care of himself. For those of us who have been workaholics and boomers who do too much, what a concept! Soon I learned with great hilarity that truer words were never spoken. My variety of “elder” ailments are legion from creaking knees to sensory losses (mostly hearing), and a bunch of annoyances in-between. My memory, once sharp as a tack, feels more like someone tore a few holes in it with a tack.

Still, I am with it enough to realize I forget things more often now. I plan accordingly. I have more methods for remembering (paper, electronic, strings around my finger). I am willing to let go of some perfectionism. And I have conceded that I have to spend at least 30-40% of my time on maintenance, and that’s just how it is—routine doctor’s appointments; buying, organizing, and taking a boatload of supplements; exercise in various forms; and worrying that there may come a day I can no longer do the job of taking care of myself. Will I be as lucky as my second cousin Florence who lived at home till she died at 92?

All of these facts are very humbling and require even larger doses of humor than the funny bone that has gotten me this far in life. My biggest antidote is to stay upbeat and to monitor my influences. No fuddy duddies, no snarky old age jokes, and no one who has anything but an empowered vision of what I call “cool saging.” Losses are difficult. They increase as we go. I keep a close stash of younger friends and relatives. They help me “keep pace.”

Since I believe AARP and the various studies that mind games keep you sharp, I play my favorite word games daily. They let me know when I’m not up to par and sharpen the old mental saw to allow me to continue to be a cut-up.

Cool saging is a decision. Old age is for the birds. Dodo birds! When I see how some severely disabled people still have a great quality of life, I am even more inspired. My husband and I caught Michael J. Fox on Letterman this week talking about his new book, “Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist.” Tim has more health challenges than I do. I went right out and bought the book. If Mike Fox can be happy and funny with Parkinson’s, I’m adopting him as one of my new younger friends to keep up with.

Read these past Cool Saging Conversations: