Sunday, May 31, 2009

UCLA Study on Friendship Among Women - By Gale Berkowitz

The article I’ve copied below was sent to me by a friend (how lucky I am). I found it interesting so I’m passing it on to you with my thoughts. I enjoyed reading most of Gale Berkowitz article on the UCLA Study: Taylor, S. E., Klein, L.C., Lewis, B. P., Gruenewald, T. L., Gurung, R. A. R., and; Updegraff, J. A. Female Responses to Stress: Tend and Befriend, Not Fight or Flight. I loved the findings of the study and Ms. Berkowitz’s comments about that. However, I don't agree with her consensus with Ruthellen Josselson in the final paragraph. I would respectfully say to both Gale and Ruthellen, please speak for yourselves. Enjoy the new study, align your friendships with what we can empower women to create for themselves/ourselves and please … don’t perpetrate another negative stereotype of what women do on the rest of us.

I, for one, don’t accept it. I value my friends and my friendships as I value my self, my family and my work. I’m careful to choose friends I can make that kind of commitment to. For me, valuing my women friends and friendships is a conscious choice I made long ago when I realized that if I wanted a friend I had to be a friend and that meant honoring my friends with my time and energy as I honor myself and would like to be honored by them. It was after a thoughtful discussion in 1997 with a friend about friendship that I wrote my poem, “A Friend.” Here’s Gale Berkowitz’ article about the Taylor-Klein study at UCLA so you can explore the conversation in your own mind, and among your women friends.


A landmark UCLA study suggests friendships between women are special. They shape who we are and who we are yet to be. They soothe our tumultuous inner world, fill the emotional gaps in our marriage, and help us remember who we really are. By the way, they may do even more.

Scientists now suspect that hanging out with our friends can actually counteract the kind of stomach-quivering stress most of us experience on a daily basis. A landmark UCLA study suggests that women respond to stress with a cascade of brain chemicals that cause us to make and maintain friendships with other women. It's a stunning find that has turned five decades of stress research---most of it on men---upside down. "Until this study was published, scientists generally believed that when people experience stress, they trigger a hormonal cascade that revs the body to either stand and fight or flee as fast as possible," explains Laura Cousino Klein, Ph.D., now an Assistant Professor of Biobehavioral Health at Penn State University and one of the study's authors. "It's an ancient survival mechanism left over from the time we were chased across the planet by saber-toothed tigers.

Now the researchers suspect that women have a larger behavioral repertoire than just "fight or flight." "In fact," says Dr. Klein, "it seems that when the hormone oxytocin is released as part of the stress responses in a woman, it buffers the "fight or flight" response and encourages her to tend children and gather with other women instead. When she actually engages in this tending or befriending, studies suggest that more oxytocin is released, which further counters stress and produces a calming effect. This calming response does not occur in men," says Dr. Klein, "because testosterone---which men produce in high levels when they're under stress---seems to reduce the effects of oxytocin. Estrogen," she adds, "seems to enhance it." The discovery that women respond to stress differently than men was made in a classic "aha!" moment shared by two women scientists who were talking one day in a lab at UCLA. "There was this joke that when the women who worked in the lab were stressed, they came in, cleaned the lab, had coffee, and bonded," says Dr. Klein. "When the men were stressed, they holed up somewhere on their own. I commented one day to fellow researcher Shelley Taylor that nearly 90% of the stress research is on males. I showed her the data from my lab, and the two of us knew instantly that we were onto something." The women cleared their schedules and started meeting with one scientist after another from various research specialties. Very quickly, Drs. Klein and Taylor discovered that by not including women in stress research, scientists had made a huge mistake: The fact that women respond to stress differently than men has significant implications for our health. It may take some time for new studies to reveal all the ways that oxytocin encourages us to care for children and hang out with other women, but the "tend and befriend" notion developed by Drs. Klein and Taylor may explain why women consistently outlive men. Study after study has found that social ties reduce our risk of disease by lowering blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol. "There's no doubt," says Dr. Klein, "that friends are helping us live." In one study, for example, researchers found that people who had no friends increased their risk of death over a 6-month period. In another study, those who had the most friends over a 9-year period cut their risk of death by more than 60%. Friends are also helping us live better. The famed Nurses' Health Study from Harvard Medical School found that the more friends women had, the less likely they were to develop physical impairments as they aged, and the more likely they were to be leading a joyful life. In fact, the results were so significant, the researchers concluded, that not having close friends or confidantes was as detrimental to your health as smoking or carrying extra weight! And that's not all! When the researchers looked at how well the women functioned after the death of their spouse, they found that even in the face of this biggest stressor of all, those women who had a close friend confidante were more likely to survive the experience without any new physical impairments or permanent loss of vitality. Those without friends were not always so fortunate.

Yet if friends counter the stress that seems to swallow up so much of our life these days, if they keep us healthy and even add years to our life, why is it so hard to find time to be with them? That's a question that also troubles researcher Ruthellen Josselson, Ph.D., co-author of Best Friends: The Pleasures and Perils of Girls' and Women's Friendships (Three Rivers Press, 1998). "Every time we get overly busy with work and family, the first thing we do is let go of friendships with other women," explains Dr. Josselson. "We push them right to the back burner. That's really a mistake because women are such a source of strength to each other. We nurture one another. And we need to have unpressured space in which we can do the special kind of talk that women do when they're with other women. It's a very healing experience."

Thursday, May 28, 2009

New Butterfly Faerie Girl 5x7 print by Raphaella Vaisseau

Inspired by face painting at Art Circle, I first made a drawing in pencil and then painted with watercolor on paper. I love her bright eyes and spirit. This Butterfly Faerie Girl is saying, "I am strong, beautiful and I am free. I invite you to be awake and see my spirit all around you. I bless you as you walk in nature. I bless you as you are touched by the magic of butterflies. I bless you with light and aliveness. Be well and know that you are strong, beautiful and free."


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

New Cat Painting by Raphaella Vaisseau

My girlfriends and I meet once a week to create art together . We make art & crafts to enjoy creativity and friendship for the sake of creativity and friendship. However, we also make things to help raise money for the Venice Cat Coalition and the Key West Cat Society and their work to reduce the cat overpopulation through TNR (trap/neuter/return).

So far we've made jewelry, collage, drawing, painting and last week we learned face painting. Tomorrow we're making cat toys. I've been loving this weekly communion with my friends in the spirit of creativity. Last week I started a new Etsy site (Rescue Cat Club) for us to sell our creations for the cats. I'll let you know when it's up and running. Meanwhile, enjoy "Diana".

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

President Obama takes big step to fight global warming

According to a CREDO Action Alert: Today, President Obama set new national policy on climate change by making cars and trucks more fuel-efficient by requiring an average fuel economy standard of 35.5 mpg by 2016.

Today, President Obama announced the first national standard for greenhouse-gas emissions for automobiles, which will tighten emission and fuel economy standards that have been delayed for decades. The new rules, which will take effect in 2012, require an average fuel economy standard of 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016 and are built on California's tough tailpipe standards by requiring that cars be more fuel efficient. CREDO continually fought to pass these standards, but the Bush EPA illegally blocked them. The plan would reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 900 million tons through 2016.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Recipe for Fitness

I made a commitment to myself today to get back on track with my health and fitness journey. While I was updating my website, I rediscovered the recipe section where I planned to post all the fabulous healthy meals I learned to cook two summers ago. So far, this is the only one posted, but it's a great one. Click on the picture to go to the page on my website where this recipe is actually readable. Then make it for yourself and enjoy!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Team FEST - Florida Etsy Street Team

Wow. I just discovered and joined the Florida Etsy Street Team (FEST) and I am discovering so many new and beautiful things and people. Have you discovered Etsy yet? It's a marketplace for everything handmade.

My first sale was a postcard to a young girl in Nova Scotia. I've purchased from and sold art to artists and people all over the world from Estonia, Norway, London and all over the US. Yesterday I received an e-mail from someone in Singapore who was having trouble completing a sale on my website because of the customs forms, etc. At first I suggested we set up a conference call on Skype and I could talk her through a Paypal transaction. Then I remembered Etsy. I quickly uploaded her order in the "reserved" section of my etsy store and she was able to complete the sale within minutes using her credit card. Voila! No hassles. No worries about time difference. No forms to fill out. (I had already checked the USPS website for shipping rates and had added it to the reserved order.)

I have a separate paypal account set aside for my Etsy purchases too. Last month I realized my friend's birthday was coming up fast and money was short. I remembered my Etsy reserves and went online to search for a handpainted wine glass, which I was sure she would love. I sent the artist an e-mail and asked her if I could buy just one rather than a set of two and I asked her if she could get it to her in time. She said yes to both and the deal was done. What a fun and wonderful way to shop!

Here's a link to my store. It's small. I only have 50 items uploaded compared to over 1,500 at As I learn more about Etsy, I'll add more products to my store and continue to discover new artists and new friends from around the world.

Here are a few of my favorite stores I just discovered this morning:
Browse for more Florida artisans on the Etsy home page by doing a search with for handmade using the word "FEST" - happy shopping.

Monday, May 4, 2009

1st Celebrating Wellness Fest 2009 - May 2, 2009

I've loved the logo since the first time I saw the flyer for the 1st annual Celebrating Wellness Fest held on Saturday, May 2nd at Phillippi Estate Park in Sarasota, Florida.

The festival was the brainchild of Kimberly Braun, who has more than 20 years experience working with others with a Masters of Arts in Theology and Spirituality. Learn more about Ms. Braun on her website, The logo alone would have been enough to draw me to the festival, but arriving at the park I was thrilled to see the tents, healers, drummers, artists and practitioners scattered throughout the beautiful natural grounds of the estate by the lake. A feast for my eyes heralded a feast for mind, body and spirit being offered and accepted by those in attendance.

Click here to enjoy a slideshow of my experience at the festival on my Flickr site.

My highlights of the day include Prayer Pots by Anita Walling, Harmony Stones by Therese Sadler, Mine (T-shirts) with Kim McLeod and her sister, Lolablue soaps and candles by Jamie Lovern, the amazing carved fruit and food at the organic food by a new vegan chef, organic beer at the WSLR radio booth, and Cabot hot pepper cheese.

I also loved the Natural Awakenings give-away: 100% recycled pens with soy-based ink, plus ... the healers, drummers, dancers, singers, presenters, and all the people, like me, who came to share the ambiance of the day and empower ourselves to greater wellness.

Last but not least was the closing ceremony at dusk with vision stones passed out to all. Music first, then a meditation led by Kim Braun. Take a deep breathe everyone and all together let's "build community person by healthy person." I look forward to doing this all over again next year.

Wisdom - Andrew Zuckerman

Food for Thought