51102F_VtmnAOne of the side benefits of my trip to the Oaks at Ojai was being introduced to a new skin care line, Skin Authority. You all know what a skin care addict I am,  but with age has also come wisdom: I no longer believe all the benefits that the manufacturers promise. That’s a shame considering that the poreless, smooth complexion I thought would be  mine forever is. Not.

That said, I didn’t have any expectations when I started using the Skin Authority products sent me: the Daily Cleanser, Resurfacing Accelerator and Vitamin A Cell Renewal. In fact, I didn’t begin using them until several months after my Skin Authority Fit & Firm Facial w/AHA. I was in the middle of an Algenist regimen and I wanted to see how that went on its own.

Disappointing is my verdict on the Algenist. Considering how expensive it is and the fact that I saw no real results, I was working on being resigned to the state of my aging skin when I finally tried the Skin Authority products. I followed their brief regimen with little enthusiasm and I spent no time peering into my magnifying mirror to see what wondrous changes were not being wrought. The coach had told me to expect some sloughing or as she called it, “purging the first few days because the Resurfacing Accelerator removes/dissolves several layers of dead skin overnight”, but I had none.

Then one day about a month after I began using Skin Authority, I happened to rest my face on my hand (the thinker’s pose) and–whoa! Is that my skin? When did it get so soft, so almost silky, so moist and firm? A fluke of the weather, maybe? But then I noticed it again and again and I thought–hmmmmm, Skin Authority. Let’s go have a look.

Here’s what I found. I still have the wrinkles; I still have the age spots. What I don’t have are the enlarged pores that I had gained in my mid-60s. As a result, my skin is as close to the poreless, smooth complexion I thought would be  mine forever as I think I shall ever see.

If you want to see what Skin Authority can do for you, they have a full line of products at their website, plus the philosophy behind them which includes coaching with an Esthetics Expert.

Skin Authority sent me the three products for the sole purpose of my trying them and reviewing them. I received no other remuneration. My review is completely based on my own experience.



NewOneMinuteManager hcI never read Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson’s bestselling The One Minute Manager when it came out in 1982. As a journalist and then an academic, the self-help motivational books that defined corporate organization and the ethos of the ’80s were not part of my world. So I can’t say how their recently-published The New One Minute Manager compares. Of the new version, I can say this:

  • I was expecting something more in heft: a total of 92 pages, most of which consist of 12 lines of print in a font that seems several sizes above the publishing standard, ten or twelve point. Is this a record for the slimmest volume with a $23.99 pricetag?
  • I was also expecting something more in terms of the writing. The ubiquitous young man seeking wisdom which he finds in the person of the ubiquitous older man who shares his three secrets of effective leadership. It’s your basic male questing fable which is, yes, universal (at least to your basic males) but could really do with a tad more in the way of imagination.
  • What I was not expecting was to find that Blanchard and Johnson have, in this slim unadorned volume, encapsulated so much of what our country (our world!) needs to hear, to learn, to practice if we are to survive past the midpoint of the twentyfirst century.

If the first One Minute Manager promulgated the top-down leadership style that has come to epitomize American Business As Usual, the new One Minute Manager is singing a totally different tune. He has come to recognize that the worker of today is not the drone serving only the queen of commerce, but is a full-fledged member of the hive, without whom the success of the entire colony would suffer. Excuse me while I go tripping off on that metaphor…is this perhaps the cause of the great decline in agricultural bees, that they’ve been exploited for financial gain without much consideration for their bee needs? But I digress….  As Blanchard & Johnson write:

“Today, people look for more fulfillment in their work and their lives. They want to feel engaged and make a meaningful contribution. They’re less willing to trade time on the job to satisfy needs outside of work….The New One Minute Manager realizes that attracting and keeping talent is a top priority.”

How does he do that? With One Minute Goals, One Minute Praisings, and One Minute Re-Directs. Gone are the authoritarian Reprimands, because (Blanchard and Johnson are masters at coming up with slogans that encapsulate their philosophy)

  • People Who Feel Good About Themselves Produce Good Results.
  • Help People Reach Their Full Potential. Catch Them Doing Something Right.
  • We Are Not Just Our Behavior. We Are The Person Managing Our Behavior.

Imagine if this New One Minute Manager were to move into the mainstream consciousness as the original did. How might that control our incessant urge to view the world, both large and small, personal and political, as a power struggle in which we must prevail, no matter the costs. I hope we’ll find out.

The publishers, William Morrow, sent me a copy of The New One Minute Manager for the purposes of reviewing it. I received no other remuneration and the opinions are all mine.

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The gateWe live behind a gate. Don’t for a moment, however, think Gated Community with a uniformed attendant screening our visitors. Nor should you imagine one of those  motorized gates where at the flick of a something or other, the gate opens for egress or ingress as appropriate.

No, this is your basic wrought iron, keep intruders out while making them think you have some taste in barriers gate. It is manual. That is, when we drive up, we need to get out of the car and go (yes, go, at least several feet, up a slight incline!) to unlock it with a key. On the other side, when we wish to go out, we need to use said key. In both cases, the moving of the gate requires not a little person-power, i.e., muscles. [click to continue…]

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I wrote this several years ago for OpenSalon.com. I was single then; now I’m not. I still see the benefits of both ways of being….

Happiness is being single

The Single Person’s Life; now that’s a totally new concept to me. I heard it the other morning while talking to a friend who was commiserating about my burial in suburbia. “I know exactly what you mean,” she said. “I had to leave the suburbs because I wanted a Single Person’s Life, and the chances of my finding it outside of a city were nil to none.”

I ignored the fact that her statistics were somewhere south of the Georgian steppes (I am math-illiterate myself, not to mention geographically-challenged). I was totally taken with this idea of the Single Person’s Life, which emerged as a full-blown vision. And since as a writer, I write, I set about making a verbal doodle of exactly what that life would be.

A Single Person’s Life is one of contentment, pleasure even, in the solitary nature of day-to-day events. That is, no one else is about to crap on your fantasies or complain about the way you made the bed. If you snore, you only wake yourself. If you get up at 3 a.m. and must have a bowl of cereal, no one is there to say, “What the hell are you doing?” You don’t have to wait for the bathroom to be free and the only smelly old sneakers in the closet are yours.

A Single Person’s Life is one in which you star. What do you want to eat? What do you want to watch? When do you want to go to bed–and really, what do you want to do once you’re there? Here, give me that remote; it’s mine to program at will. Sated with the Olympics? Move on over to Flip That House or, better yet, Final Cut/Shear Genius where you can enjoy the sheer/shear bitchiness of the hairdressers without anyone sneering at your choices.

A Single Person’s Life is one where you don’t have to worry about whether your partner likes your sister, best friend, or the couple down the street. Nor will you ever be concerned about his or her antisocial tendencies relative to alcohol imbibed and conversations had. When you go to a party as a Single Person, you are free to skulk in the corner or flirt with the host, leave early or stay till dawn, as you wish. If you get into an intense philosophical conversation about the relative worth of free range eggs, there is no one over in the corner giving you the high sign, I want to go now. Conversely, you will never be at a company event of your partner’s where you must endlessly endure the boss’s sexist jokes and the rancid clam dip. If you wander by chance into such an event on your own, you can, without qualm, hightail it out at the first sign of a stale chip.

I have an image of myself in this Single Person’s Life. I am, of course, somewhat slimmer than now, mainly because I actually do yoga and actually use my Pilates reformer. I am happy and carefree and entertain a lot in my Single Person’s home (using, it must be said, my formerly married person’s china and silver). My friends are my family. We actually like each other, which is more than I can say about my family–and therefore holidays spent together are pleasant events, which again is more than I can say about my family.

Yes, this is a fantasy, and I realize that reality does in fact bite. But still, this Single Person’s Life is a worthwhile goal, is it not? It’s a life in which self-actualization is completely in your control. You are who you are, without any addendum modifying you. And your life, your Single Person’s Life, is now an object of desire rather than shame or scorn.

Liked this? Have a look at The Newly Single Woman Tries to Move, which is in the archives at JaneGassner.com.

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River Rock Massage

This is a tale of two spas

Or it’s a tale of one woman growing up. Or it’s a tale of one woman growing up and how that manifested itself when she visited two spas several decades apart. Or it’s all of these. You decide.

In the early ‘80s on a Valentine’s Day weekend, Playgirl magazine sent me to La Costa Spa in San Diego, the first of the full-service resort spas in America, to get the whole experience for an article that was to be titled, “The Ultimate Pleasure.” They sent a photographer with me so I would be starring in my own version of Cheryl Tiegs goes to La Costa.

Jane bikes the trails, Jane dines on spa food, Jane has a full body massage and then a lemon salt scrub, followed a multi-headed shower spraying warm sheets of water.

I took notes on what I was seeing and experiencing, good journalist that I was. I knew that when I got back to my apartment in Burbank, I would have to write 1500 words that would make Playgirl’s readers rush to book their own spa adventure.

It did not go well.

Although I’ve never laughed at a funeral, I do tend to view the world through a lens that is somewhat skewed. Particularly at that age when I was so intent on the need to appear cool and in control, I often could see only the ridiculous in the sublime. So it was with my spa experience at La Costa. The masseuse for that full-body massage seemed like an extra from Hogan’s Heros; the salt scrub made me feel like I was lying in a bed of melting lemon popsicles. And the multi-headed shower? All I could register was that each of those 25 heads proudly bore the words Magic Orificer.

This was a problem when I got to writing the article. The Ultimate Pleasure? My thesaurus cracked at P for Pleasure.The magazine had changed editors by the time I turned the piece in, and the new editor was a 20-something guy who was less than pleased with my expressions of  ecstasy.  He did a rewrite, but his version of the ultimate pleasure had a decidedly masculine flavor: “The massage felt so good it made the fuzz on my thighs stand up and salute.” Under my byline? I think not.

The editor was adament that they would publish the article as he had rewritten it and urged me just to suck it up. Fortunately for me I had a close friend who was a bigshot criminal defense attorney and he amused himself by messing about with The Man in his various forms. In this case, he threatened to enjoin Playgirl from publication of that issue unless they removed my name. There was some lawyering back and forth, but in the end, the byline on the article was not mine, and of course, my Cheryl Tiegs shots on location at LaCosta were never published either. From that day to this, I have foresworn spas; I was obviously missing some gene that enabled me to see the Ultimate Pleasure as anything but a hoot.

Fast forward almost forty years…

The irony that it’s Valentine’s Day weekend, 2015 and I’m off for a spa weekend is not lost on me. I agreed to tread in spa waters again at the Oaks at Ojai  for two reasons: I wanted to see this place built by one of the most dynamic women I’ve ever met, Sheila Cluff,Sheila Cluffand I wanted to check the Oaks at Ojai out as a possible venue for the writers retreat I’m planning. On the hour and a half drive from LA to Ojai, I’m alternatively enthusiastic and nervous. The young woman from LaCosta, the one who was driven by a need to appear cool and in control no matter what she was actually feeling, had been succeeded by a confident and mature version who no longer needs the scrim of irony to be her carapace of invulnerability. Or at least I hope she has.

The Reality

There is something about the Oaks at Ojai that defies my ability to name–and that is just killing the writer in me. So allow me to babble for a while, to repeat myself and wave my hands a bit, to jump from one topic to the next, to–I don’t know, just say it as it hits me. Maybe at the end of this, you’ll name it for me.

From the moment I entered my room, I thought, “I could move in here…forever.” Oaks villaSouthern California is rife with the Southwestern design trope, but this was, somehow, different. It didn’t smack of being stamped by a corporate identity. I didn’t see the other rooms and maybe they were all the same, but mine had high ceilings, a wall-to-wall closet, separate dressing room with magnifying mirror, huge bathroom with a walk-in shower and a jetted spa bathtub the likes of which I’ve never seen before. There’s a built in desk with the requisite plugs for my electronics, a comfy easy chair and just out the sliding screen door, a private little patio, with two chaises and a table.

Oh! I just realized: my room at the Oaks at Ojai had everything that’s missing from my own house. Of course I would want to live there forever!


It’s definitely a writers’ paradise, I think; my fantasy of a West Coast McDowell Colony. That fantasy continues to the food at the Oaks at Ojai. Three meals a day, plus midmorning broth breaks and midafternoon smoothies. It’s a 1300 calorie a day plan, with no salt or butter. I feared I would be hungry; I wasn’t. In fact, I realized in the Morning Stretch that maybe I would be a bit more flexible if I wasn’t so damn full of food.Grilled chicken breast

About Morning Stretch: the mantra of the Oaks at Ojai seems to be, do whatever makes you feel good. Yes, they offer as part of the whole experience a full and varying daily schedule of activities, your choice according to your particular mood and needs at the moment. Yes, there are all those spa extras to book–the massages, the facials, the mani-pedis and private salon services. Do them all, or do none. I met people who were spending an entire month at the Oaks; I met people who had come in just for the day.

It really is that kind of place, a protected space where who you are and what you need is honored. Consequently there are no pecking orders or power trips among the hundred or so women (and yes, a few men) who are there. You want to share a table at dinner–share a table. You want to eat alone at lunch–eat alone. It’s your choice and there are no judgments. I’ve heard about spas where if you don’t show up for class, they send someone to make you. I’ve seen spas (hello La Costa) where classes could have been a fashion show featuring the latest in exercise wear. Not at the Oaks at Ojai.

I went to sleep the first night intending to get up early for the 45 minute Slow Ojai History Stroll. My bed was too comfortable so I only managed to go straight to breakfast, where I sat with ecstatic hikers who had just finished the 90 minute Pratt Trail Hike. That’s so not me, but it was obviously so them. I signed up for the Meditation Weekend and I took, for the first time ever, a water aerobics class, which I loved and intend to do  more of in LA. 10965686753_ea02994082_kI had a Skin Authority Fit & Firm Vitamin D Fortified (™) Lifting Facial (which deserves and will get its own encomium). I made friends and hung out. I did not use the fully equipped exercise area or get a massage, although I thought about booking the Reiki and a friend I met there had the Oaks River Rock Massage.

At breakfast my last day, I spent some time talking with Sheila Cluff. Now in her 70s, she has handed over the CEO responsibilities to her daughter, Cathy, but it is clear that Sheila is still the driving force behind the Oaks at Ojai. It is her can do, do what feels right attitude that permeates all that goes on there. Before I even left, I was planning my next trip up there.

And yes, the Oaks at Ojai will be the perfect place for my first Writers’ Retreat. More on that in the future…

For the purposes of this review and researching the venue for my Writers’ Retreat, I was comped for my two night stay at the Oaks of Ojai as well as the Skin Authority Facial.  The enthusiasm, I assure you, is wholly my own. The place is fantastic and I can’t recommend it enough. 


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