New Years Resolutions – Stay on the Workout Wagon

| Articles, Santa Clarita Living, SC Women | January 18, 2014

by Martha Michael

Boredom. Busyness. Laziness. What is it that makes you – year after year – make a goal to get back to the gym or sign up for boot camp, then drop it by about March?

Books like “Push: 30 Days to Turbocharged Habits, a Bangin’ Body, and the Life You Deserve” by Chalene Johnson suggest you will get such quick results that you have to have a good reason to quit. By contrast, books like “Changing for Good: A Revolutionary Six-Stage Program for Overcoming Bad Habits and Moving Your Life Positively Forward” by James O. Prochaska and John Norcross talk about a relative overhaul that may take time. Which one is it?

“You have to look at fitness more like a job, not a hobby,” claim Lyndan and Vanessa Coleman, owners of Fight For it Now Bootcamp in Santa Clarita. “You commit to a job and a hobby is something you do when you have some extra time. Imagine if you only went to work a couple times a year – what would your results be?”

Because less than half of us who make a New Year’s resolution will still uphold it in half a year, maybe it’s time to revise what we are resolving to do. “One of the reasons so many people fail within 30 days of exercise is because they don’t have a plan,” they added. “Write down your goals, hang them on your refrigerator and tell at least three people. It is too easy to quit when no one knows what you are doing.”

Many studies underscore the positive effect of teaming up with others, such as a boot camp or hiring a trainer. “A great way to stick to exercise is having an accountability partner. Find someone with similar goals and push each to get fit,” said the Colemans. “Choose a time and place four to five times a week and promise each other that you will be there. Commit to each other for 12 months, rain or shine!”

Studies suggest the goals are often unrealistic, such as exercising for two hours a day vs. taking a half-hour walk three times a week. “So many people say they just don’t have time. I believe most people have at least 30 minutes – even if they have to wake up earlier, stay up later or use half of their lunch break. You can get a great effective workout done in 30 minutes.”

Taking the first step (pun intended) is a must. It’s the steps afterwards that may need attention – whether that’s a new action or attitude. The Fight for It Now owners sum up the process: “Stop thinking of reasons why you shouldn’t exercise and think of reasons why you should.”

Diving In, Nikki Millers Life of Service

| Articles, Santa Clarita Living, SC Women | January 16, 2014

By Martha Michael

Nikki and Jim, photo by Joe Um

When you were in science class as a youngster, at some point you began to understand the many forms that water can take – what conditions affect its shape and properties. That’s kind of what it’s like when getting to know Nikki Miller. There is so much in her backstory that explains who she is today.

The tip of the iceberg is this: Nikki and her husband, Jim, own Academy Swim Club, teaching water safety and swim skills to babies as young as two weeks old through adults. The family works as a team in the business, and teams up for charity work on an ongoing basis – from collecting donations for the Philippine relief effort to caring for children before they are placed in families through adoption.

You get a broader picture of Nikki Miller, including her heart for helping, when you look at her background. “I grew up with parents who gave and donated whenever they could, and were actively involved in charities, and our church has always made service a big deal,” she said.

Nikki Miller is a licensed psychotherapist who, two decades ago, set aside her fees to help her neighbors. “My first non-profit was in that field, helping people get the therapy they need, even if they didn’t have the funds. There were 10 of us working with patients on a sliding fee scale, and we did lots of community work in the local high schools and provided free group therapy for months after the big earthquake,” she said.

She specialized in working with children and using play therapy, a continuing theme, which she would bring to the water.

“My husband, Jim, and I started up Academy Swim Club about 15 years ago, because I had taught swimming to put myself through college and an internship, so I had the background,” Nikki explained. “Shortly after we were married, we had Tadpool Swimschool for about 10 years, but it was seasonal. We ultimately wanted to work together and build a business around our family, which would allow our children to grow up in and eventually work with us, in the business. We are indoor now, open year round, teaching levels from beginner to triathletes and ironmen.”

Nikki has become an expert in swim safety, collaborating with the United States Swim School Association to rewrite their infant swim certification and guidelines, and giving presentations on infant swimming to the World Aquatic Babies Congress in several countries. “We not only teach children how to swim, but we make sure that water safety, respect for the water, and fun are all part of the program,” she said.

The couple’s most recent non-profit has been the Aquatic Safety Awareness Program, which educates the community on water safety. “Drowning is the number one cause of accidental death for children under the age of five in California, and it is 100 percent preventable, with education,” said Nikki.

Once again, it is the Millers’ backstory that explains the drive behind their service. “Years ago, my husband and I went on a date in the middle of the day, so we hired a babysitter and returned a few hours later,” Nikki began. “It seemed uneventful until after the babysitter left and we went to the backyard. I found wet clothes on the deck to the spa, with vomit all over. I asked my three-year-old son what had happened, and he told me that his one-year-old brother had crawled into the spa while the babysitter was inside, on the phone. My three-year-old was surprised his brother didn’t even move, but just lay there underwater, so he went in and pulled him out. This could have easily become a double drowning. We feel so blessed that it wasn’t more tragic, so we have taken on the ‘Safer Three’ campaign, started by a friend of mine, Johnny Johnson, in Orange County.”

The Safer Three
Safer Parents – learn CPR and watch your children

Safer Kids – learn to swim and only swim with parents watching

Safer Water – fence pools and lock the gates, and put as many barriers of protection as possible, like upper locks on doors leading outside and pool surface alarms.

The campaign is supported and sponsored by the National Drowning Prevention Alliance, and the Millers take it into the preschools and kindergarten classes in the SCV, and sponsor a Water Safety Day each year at the local fire station.

“Kids love water, and they will find a way to get into it, even if it’s in someone else’s backyard,” Nikki explained.

The Miller family (l to r from back row): Jim and Nikki; Bob, Dakota, Garrett; Hailey and Jaimie
Photo by Joe Um

And Nikki Miller knows what she’s talking about. She was a springboard diver in college and qualified and went to Nationals. “I had only been diving a few years, but I loved it,” she said. “So, when my son was in high school and on swim team, I was helping wherever I could with the swim coach. He talked me into coaching diving, so I convinced my son to give it a try. I ended up as varsity head coach for the Foothill League, including all six high schools in the SCV. I think we had eight kids qualify for CIF that first year, and one of them placed third at CIF the second year.”

Miller’s son only dove for one year, making it to CIF and placing in the top 16, but he found it difficult to practice and compete in two sports, so he concentrated on swimming his senior year.

She continued to coach diving that year, before handing the reins to Kerry Frick, who coaches the SCV divers currently. But the opportunities to give back have continued for the Millers.

“Last month at the Academy, we found out that a Philippine shipping company was offering free shipping for any donations to the Philippine relief effort, so we put out an email to our patrons. The response was tremendous, within 24 hours, so we decided to go big, and I invited my daughter’s school to participate. By the end of the week, we had to rent a moving van to take all the boxes of clothing, blankets, medication and food. It was so cool!” said Nikki.

Another big project this year was begun when Miller’s daughter had done a service project through her school for Zoe International, a non-profit group that rescues kids from human trafficking. “She came to me about a week after her project, just feeling so hopeless because her heart went out to them and she wanted to help, but she had no money and was only 11 years old,” explained Nikki. “I helped her do some brainstorming, and pointed out her amazing talent of singing, so we made a CD of 10 cover songs and she went out and got donations, mostly for $5-$10, giving a free CD for these donations. In six months, she raised over $1,500, donating it all to Zoe, and she was exposed to so many opportunities to grow herself, that it all came back to her 10-fold. That’s what service does, it helps you grow and feel great too!”

The young singer still has donations coming in through her Facebook and YouTube site (called Hailey Belle, where people can donate and get a digital download of her songs).

Among the most sacrificial situations that the Miller family demonstrated was a willingness to take two children into their

Nikki and Hailey photo by Joe Um

home. What began as a commitment of a few nights became two and a half years, when the brother and sister could be permanently adopted, together in the same home.

“My husband, Jim, and I feel so blessed, even though this has been a really tough year for us,” said Nikki. “You can’t help but feel blessed, especially when you travel to other countries. We have always tried to put our family first and spend as much time as possible with them, and look for opportunities to help others. They come along all the time. We both decided a long time ago, that the biggest regrets in life aren’t about what you do, they are about all the opportunities to do something that we pass up because we are too busy or don’t feel like we can make a difference. We are just drops in a bucket, but if we pitch in, together we can fill the bucket and make a difference for someone, somewhere!”

New Business

| Articles, Canyon Country Magazine | December 9, 2013

Karina’s Gorgeous Nails
For those of you who have not had your hair done by one of the stylists at the well-established salon, A Style Above in Canyon Country, it just might be news that you can also get a manicure there. Creative manicurist Karina Delgado has joined the team and wants to get a hold of your hand.

“I’ve been licensed for about eight years now, and I focus on nail artistry and design,” said Delgado. “I use only the utmost quality products in the industry.”

Because Karina’s Gorgeous Nails is located in a beauty salon rather than a nail salon, Delgado believes she has more contact with her clientele, offering personalized service. “It gives me a better understanding of what their needs are, allowing them to feel comfortable with me,” she said. “And one advantage of working for myself is that I can be available for clients after hours, when most salons are closed for the day.”

Karina’s Gorgeous Nails
in A Style Above
18333 Dolan Way #106
Canyon Country
Direct line: (661) 212-0838
Salon line: (661) 251-5655
Also on Facebook

New Business

| Articles, Canyon Country Magazine | December 7, 2013

Elegant Shapes
Whether you prefer threading or waxing, you don’t have to leave Canyon Country to experience a relaxing hair removal process. Elegant Shapes, which is an established salon in Valencia, has just opened its second location in Canyon Center, near TJ Maxx.

“A lot of our customers were coming from this side of the (Santa Clarita) Valley,” said Director of Operations Jennifer Casanova.

The new shop offers facials, makeup and waxing services, in addition to being a threading studio.

“It’s beautiful, it’s upscale,” said Casanova. “It matches our name – Elegant Shapes.”

The threading is completely organic, according to Casanova. And the facials are performed with a quality product from the Middle East. Between the two locations, owner Yasir Anwar employs 12 people, one cosmetologist and two estheticians.

Elegant Shapes staff can employ the threading or waxing process on any part of the body – arms, chin, upper lip, among others. It typically takes about 10 minutes to complete the eyebrows, said Casanova.

The new business is open Monday through Saturday from
10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Elegant Shapes
19383 Soledad Canyon Road
(661) 360-7157

Best of Canyon Country 2013

| Articles, Canyon Country Magazine, Spotlight News | December 6, 2013

Best Restaurant – Mom Can Cook
What makes this restaurant special is that Mom is really cooking! The food is authentic and prepared from her own personal recipes. The décor at Mom Can Cook adds to the true experience of Thailand, while also giving customers the comfort of a home-cooked meal.
18358 Soledad Canyon Road, Canyon Country
(661) 251-8103



Best American/BBQ – Rattlers Bar-B-Que
A tremendous favorite and widely known to communities outside of the SCV, Rattlers
Bar -B-Que is celebrating 25 years in the Santa Clarita Valley. Management is committed to its loyal guests, serving up specials and, of cours, its signature rolls. Look for Rattler’s at holiday parties this season, as it is a favorite for catering.
26495 Golden Valley Road, Santa Clarita
(661) 251-4195

Best Asian – Love Sushi
Known for some of the tastiest sushi for miles around, Love Sushi offers both Korean and Japanese fare. Customers sit comfortably in booths, tables and at the sushi bar, where you can watch the chefs creating unique displays. With both take-out and dining, many Canyon Country residents make Love Sushi a regular stop.
18521 Soledad Canyon Road, Canyon Country
(661) 299-6526

Best Italian – Piccola Trattoria
This family owned and operated restaurant offers an unforgettable dining experience, say Canyon Country customers. The core values at Piccola Trattoria, according to staff members, are good food, warm hospitality and great service. They view the customers as guests for the evening, and what diners receive is the taste of Southern Italian recipes made with fresh, local produce.
18302 Sierra Hwy, Canyon Country
(661) 299-6952

Best Mexican Food – Casa Vieja
Authenticity is key for Casa Vieja, where all of the meals are prepared with the highest quality of meats, produce and tequila from Jalisco, Mexico. The staff at this popular venue makes service and hospitality a priority, offering customers the refreshment of its margaritas.
18401 Soledad Canyon Road , Canyon Country
(661) 252-9804



Best Pizza – Chi Chi’s
This pioneering eatery has been serving Santa Clarita since 1968, from the days of cowboys, onion fields, tumbleweeds and coyotes. More than half a century later, Chi-Chi’s still creates a huge variety of pizza options, pastas and a full bar.
27117 N. Sierra Highway, Canyon Country
(661) 252-4405

Best Dry Cleaners – Carriage Trade Cleaners
The staff offers personalized service to customers, focusing on punctual completion of orders. The dry cleaning is odorless and safe for suede and leather, plus there are professional alteration services available.
19324 Soledad Canyon Road, Canyon Country
(661) 252-0606
Best Auto Repair – Platinum
Though the business specializes in the repair of Toyota and Lexus vehicles, the Platinum team works on all makes and models. Owner Pat McCollum has been in the auto repair business for more than 20 years, and launched Platinum in 2002. He tackles everything from oil changes to body work, paint, and even interior upholstery.
26858 Ruether Avenue, Santa Clarita
(661) 250-7925

Best Hardware Store – Sand Canyon Hardware
For some, the Benjamin Moore paints are the draw. For others, it’s the quick visit for a much-needed tool or home repair part. Owner Paul Dell‘Olio has developed a faithful neighborhood clientele, ordering the merchandise his local friends need, and offering individualized attention to every customer.
16680 Soledad Canyon Road, Canyon Country
(661) 252-1572

Best Chiropractor – Eddy Chiropractic
Phil and Chris Eddy have designed their father-and-son practice to develop a trust with patients, keeping them fully informed about their care. In addition to Dr. Phil’s 26 years of experience, since he opened his practice in Canyon Country, patients have the added bonus of his background as a physician’s assistant.
19038 Soledad Canyon Road, Canyon Country (661) 252-5192

Best Attorney – Jeff Armendariz
Having practiced criminal law for more than 16 years, Jeffrey D. Armendariz has experience, both as a deputy district attorney and, currently, as a criminal defense attorney. He runs a busy Santa Clarita practice, which takes him to courthouses in six counties. Frequent appearances in Santa Clarita Superior Court and involvement in numerous community groups have earned Armendariz a high profile reputation.
25124 Springfield Ct., Suite 250, Santa Clarita
(661) 288-1959

Best Hair Salon – Studio Bijoux
Customers of Studio Bijoux get more than just a new hairstyle – the salon has a full boutique with purses, jewelry, clothes and other items. The eight hairstylists offer extras, like hair extensions and Brazilian blow outs, and three manicurists and one esthetician perform facials, nails, waxing, airbrush tans and body wraps.
18712 Soledad, Canyon Country
(661) 252-9106

Best Disc Jockey – DJ Greg
He is a nationally recognized Motocross announcer from such competitions as “Day in the Dirt” and “The California Gold Cup.” DJ Greg began in the early 1980s and has performed at nearly 400 weddings. His popularity has grown from dance parties he hosts two nights a week at Mabel’s Roadhouse and twice a month at The Drifters in Canyon Country.
(661) 839-7111

Best Dog Sitter/Walker – Lisa’s Lucky Dogs
Lisa and her staff understand that there is a growing need for professional pet sitters and dog walkers, stepping in to fill the void when pets are left alone and feel the emotional impact. They approach the job professionally, not like a hobby, caring for the animals like they were their own.
(661) 755-5107

Best Grocery Store – Vons  
Serving Canyon Country for nearly 40 years, Vons is proud to bring a first-class shopping experience to area residents. The newly remodeled and expanded store provides more than 52,000 square feet of shopping space, including a Starbucks, pharmacy and departments with larger selections.
16550 Soledad Canyon Road, Canyon Country
(661) 252-3838

Best Pharmacy – CVS
It is one of the largest pharmacies in Canyon Country, juggling both the filling of prescriptions and the sale of thousands of goods. The management at CVS Pharmacy credits a dedicated group of employees who do a great job of taking care of their customers’ needs and embracing the company’s purpose of helping people on their path to better health.
19424 Soledad Canyon Road, Canyon Country
(661) 251-5444

Best Thrift Store – Goodwill
When locals transform their looks for less at Goodwill, they also transform lives. Thousands of individuals with disabilities and disadvantages prepare for and secure jobs each year with the proceeds from the Goodwill Thrift Stores.
22830 Soledad Canyon Road, Canyon Country
(661) 347-7965

Best Park – Canyon Country Park
Of dozens of Santa Clarita venues, Canyon Country Park is unique, due to its multiple uses, split levels and eye-catching views. The City Council and staff aim to provide residents and visitors with beautiful places to play, exercise and connect with friends, family and neighbors.
17615 Soledad Canyon Road, Canyon Country
(661) 259-2489

Best Fitness Program/Boot Camp – Fight For It Now
At this boot camp the leaders will not yell or scream at you, but your limits will be pushed. Instead of focusing on a skinny body, the passion of owners Vanessa and Lyndan Coleman is to teach people how to live a healthy lifestyle, make fitness a habit, not a hobby, and surround themselves with supportive people in the process.



| Articles, Santa Clarita Living | November 12, 2013

By Marilyn Hackett

Main Entrance

I can’t remember the last time I was in San Diego. The heavy traffic down south on the 405 or 5 freeways to get there has left an imprint on my brain. Generally, I prefer the slower pace of the 5 North over to the 126, passing by outdoor markets, orange groves and small towns. The theme for most of my travel has been “tranquility.”

But, yielding to the whims of adventure, I tried a different theme…lots of them; theme locations, theme parks, and theme lodgings. This is good old-fashioned, touristy fun!

My nephew told me about Paradise Point Resort, located on “Vacation Road.” This sounded like “The Yellow Brick Road” theme, so I packed my camera (I still use my 35mm) and hopped in the car. I left Newhall at 1:00 and the drive down the 5 took 2 hours. Amazingly, there was no traffic!  Maybe those extra car pool lanes are actually working?

Landing on the 44-acre “Paradise” Island was like coming onto a movie set. Extras walk around wrapped in white towels, 600 types of exotic foliage tower into the sky, wildlife wander carefree at your feet and water surrounds you on all sides.

I had an uneasy feeling that I had made a wrong turn somewhere and had ended up in a movie on the Warner Brothers Lot. It took me awhile to get a grip on the South Seas lighted volcanic fountains, Swiss Family Robinson look-out tower and the tiki torches. Then, I learned I WAS on a movie set…sort of. In 1962, Hollywood Producer Jack Skirball decided to build a set that would not be torn down and began casting vacationers in the leading roles. The porpoise fountain and decorative masonry above some of the 462 cabana style cottages are from his movie “Cleopatra.”

On this AAA four-diamond  property are five lit tennis courts, five swimming pools, an 18-hole putting course, a 1.3-mile jogging trail, bicycle rentals, an Island Market, lawn croquet, sand

Aerial View

volleyball, a fitness center, and a full-service marina. There is a surf academy for the teenagers. Moms can relax with a tropical treatment at the spa. And the family can toast “s’mores” on a beach bonfire pit outside their private cabana. The food at the Island Bar is great for the family. For romantic dining overlooking the Bay, Baleen’s cuisine is not to be missed, and ask the chef for her specials.

Forbes has given Paradise Point the distinction of being one of the top ten family resorts in the WORLD! And if that isn’t enough theme vacation fun for you, it’s just a short walk across the bridge to SeaWorld. Wear your swimsuit, sit in the soak zone and get drenched by the dolphins! Ten minutes down the 5 gets you to the themes of Spain (“Old Town”), WWII-The Philippines (The Midway Aircraft Carrier), Africa (The Wild Animal Park and San Diego Zoo), and shopping in San Diego.

Bayside Bungalow

The rooms are spacious and beautifully decorated, and a family of four will feel comfortable sharing one room. Plan on staying a week and experience all these theme vacation destinations in one place. Visit them at: www.ParadisePoint.com.

Small Business Startups: Professional Appearance – What NOT to do

| Articles, SC Women | November 12, 2013

By Tobias Anne Skelly

Professionalism is critical when first starting out in business. No new business owner wants to be perceived as an amateur, hobbyist, or not yet ready for prime time. Yet, this is what happens to many new business owners, because they fail to see the importance of PERCEPTION. How potential customers perceive your company often makes the difference between fast growth, slow growth, or no growth at all. Consumers TRUST companies which they perceive to be professional.

Establishing a professional appearance for a new company means removing ANY traces of your home and personal affairs. This is, after all, strictly business. Here are the three most common mistakes new business owners and home-based business owners make:

1st: Do not use your home address for your business address. There is the obvious issue of safety. You don’t want strangers coming to your door. Your private, personal life needs to remain private and personal, so find a convenient mail box rental store and RENT a box that provides you  with a suite number. It is important that you use a rental facility that can offer your company their physical address as your place of business! Not all facilities do this. You do not want a P.O. Box address. You want a real address so that your company will be listed and found by local Internet and mobile device search engines, especially Google, use your mail box address on all your business material, such as business cards, brochures, website, and any advertisements. mail box rental facilities also offer a number of business services that you will find helpful.

2nd: Do not use a personal e-mail account, such as GMAIL. This is critical. Free personal e-mail accounts, especially gmail, are NOT SECURE and are subject to being opened, viewed, and SOLD to others. It’s not just your information that can be viewed and stolen, it’s your customers’ information that is also at risk. Login information and passwords, credit and debit card information, and a host of personal information that could allow an identity thief to have a field day are all common abuses currently taking place. Surprise, surprise, it’s all legal, because these are third-party companies who NEVER gave you the right to privacy on their servers. Only use an e-mail address that is part of your URL domain name and is hosted by a reputable company. Your company name, URL domain name, and e-mail address should all be the same to avoid both confusion and suspicion. You do not want to be named as a co-conspirator in an identity theft lawsuit because you failed to use a professional, secured e-mail account.

3rd: Do not use your home phone as your business phone. How you answer your phone says everything a potential customer needs to know as to whether or not they feel safe and confident doing business with you. If you are a business, then behave like one and always answer with your company name first. Make sure you have voice mail set to a company recorded greeting, and if you find you are missing too many calls, hire a professional answering service to take care of this for you. Unanswered calls and a lack of professionalism when answered are red flags to potential customers.

Tobias Anne Skelly is a Business and Marketing Consultant for small business owners and start-ups. She is the Owner of gITnoticed® Marketing and an educator in marketing and communications.

To learn more, visit www.gitnoticed.com or send email to toby@gitnoticed.com.

Carmelita’s Pasta Sauce Coming to a Grocer Near You

| Articles, SC Women | November 10, 2013

by Carmen Russo
A recipe for classic Italian Bolognese Sauce which was passed down through multiple generations won awards that made a name for Carmelita’s Fine Italian Pasta Sauce.

Owner/Operator Carmen Russo of Santa Clarita opened her business after winning the famed San Gennaro Feast of Los Angeles Gravy/Sauce Contest this year. The judges were actors, such as John Williams (“Johnny Roastbeef” in the movie “Goodfellas”); and Masterchef Italia Winner 2012 Alberico Nunziata; also Corporate Chef Marco from Galbani Cheese.

Russo grew up on the Adriatic Coast of Italy, where most of her family lives today. Growing up in an Italian household, pasta was served a minimum of once or twice a week. According to Russo, the ingredients of any original pasta sauce should include the highest quality products, including the best olive oil from local olive trees.

After Russo’s recognition, Carmelita’s Fine Italian Pasta Sauces responded to the high volume of requests from friends and family. Within two months, the award-winning sauce was already shipped to out-of-state clients as well as to orders throughout California. Currently Carmelita’s is offering Marinara, Bolognese and French Ratatouille, which is the one that is suitable for vegans and vegetarians.

Carmelita’s is in the process of expanding quickly and targeting grocery stores around the country. The company will soon expand its inventory to include organic pasta products and gift baskets for holidays and other celebrations. The products can be ordered online at carmelitasauce.com or find it in local farmer’s markets, boutiques and Italian delis.

New Fitness Option

| Articles, Santa Clarita Living | November 8, 2013

by Martha Michael
A seasoned fitness company took over a 65,000-square-foot facility in Newhall and hit the ground running last month. Premier Fitness, Inc. is putting the final touches on the Santa Clarita Athletic Club, located on the corner of Wiley Canyon and Calgrove in Newhall.

In addition to the complete facelift to the fitness club, there will be a spate of new classes offered. “We’ll have indoor/outdoor boot camp, and we have over 125 group exercise classes a week,” says General Manager Charles Kyte.

Some of those include Tae Kwon do, basketball clinics, volleyball clinics, swim class, and three different types of martial arts.

“We’ll have all new equipment – nine semis with equipment are coming,” says Kyte, who oversaw all 10 Premier Fitness clubs in Ohio. The new sports and fitness complex is the first club the company has opened in California. “We are painting the building, making new signage. It takes 30 days to paint the building.”

Because the new owners came in and immediately took ownership, the gym has not needed to close while upgrades are in the works. Part of the reason Premier chose the location is “because the club has been here for 20 years and it just needed some tender loving care,” says Kyte.

The Santa Clarita Athletic Club had 6,000 active members already enrolled. “We welcome back all of our old members with open arms and new members too,” Kyte says.

In addition to active classes, which are usually well attended by young adults, the new club accepts the Silver Sneakers program, a free membership program paid for by insurance for AARP members.
The new fitness center hopes to be set apart from other workout facilities for its ability to draw upon all age groups and levels of interest and ability.

“We’re really family oriented,” says Kyte. “We have something for everyone.”

Santa Clarita Athletic Club is located at 24640 Wiley Canyon Rd, Santa Clarita, CA 91321.

What About the “Thanks” in Thanksgiving?

| Articles, Canyon Country Magazine, Santa Clarita Living | November 4, 2013

By Cary Quashen, CAS
Thanksgiving was first observed by European settlers in the United States as a harvest festival and a religious observance. In its earliest forms it was a day of fasting. The Thanksgiving feast only happened in years when the harvest was plentiful.

The meal consisted of foods native to America. In the mid-17th Century, early Thanksgiving traditions were truly about giving thanks for the things that couldn’t be counted on.

Today it would seem that most of us take for granted the real reason for Thanksgiving.

While we are grateful for the food, it’s a different kind of thanks – knowing that grocery stores are open 24-hours throughout the holiday weekend.

It would seem that the 21st-century Thanksgiving has morphed into something very different than our forefathers had in mind.

Thanksgiving has now become the turkey, football, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and the anticipated Black Friday Sale – the holiday shopping spree designed to ring the cash registers of local retailers.

I believe Thanksgiving is in need of repair. Maybe we should return to our earliest roots and once again be grateful for what we have?

If your negativity trumps your personal attitude of gratitude, then consider this: There’s a whole science dedicated to the study of being grateful.

Dr. Robert A. Emmons is a leading gratitude specialist, and he says that gratitude forces you to focus on the “now,” not the “only if.”

Most of us have formed the habit of immediately identifying the negative in our lives and focusing on the “have nots.” Gratitude allows you to appreciate what you presently have in your life, not what you are lacking.

So, if you are looking for just the right side dish with your Thanksgiving Dinner, may I suggest you simmer up a pot of “Hearty Gratitude Soup.” It’s not my recipe; it has been handed down by great thinkers, philosophers and lovers of life from generation to generation, and chronicled by Mary Jo Shaffer. Now I am passing it along to you.

Hearty Gratitude Soup Recipe
First of all, you have to take action if you want to make soup, advises John F. Kennedy: “As we express gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

Meister Eckhart suggests that you start with a rich stock of thanks: “If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.”

Don’t be concerned if you can’t find your measuring cups and spoons, counsels Eric Hoffer: “The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings.”

After you have added all of your ingredients to the pot, don’t worry that you’ve left anything out, assures Epictetus: “He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those he has.”
Add pinches and dashes of seasonings to taste, hints Sarah Ban Breathnach: “‘Simple Abundance’ has taught me that it is in the smallest details that the flavor of life is savored.”

Allow your soup to simmer over a low flame, said Albert Schweitzer: “At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”

William Faulkner adds: “Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity: it must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all.”

And finally, Melody Beattie reveals the secret ingredient of the soup: “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

Announce when the soup is ready, reminds William Arthur Ward, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”

And Margaret Cousins agrees: “Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary.”

Now serve your Hearty Gratitude Soup in everlasting portions and serve with love.

Live in the now. Be thankful for all you have, for it truly starts with gratitude.

Cary Quashen is a certified addiction specialist and the founder and president of Action Parent & Teen Support Group Programs and Action Family Counseling Centers. Quashen may be reached at (661) 297-4660.

Fall Festival at COC Canyon Country Campus, November 1

| Articles, Canyon Country Magazine | October 10, 2013

All eyes will be on the east end of the SCV this fall, when crowds converge on the College of the Canyons Canyon Country campus. Great minds think alike, and it was a great many minds that came up with the plan to host the Fall Festival and Movie Under the Stars on November 1 from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

It marks the first event of its kind in Canyon Country. A screening of the movie “E.T.” will entertain those seated in the Carl A. Rasmussen Amphitheater, while food vendors and booths, with activities such as face painting, will be available also.

“The goal is to generate interest in Canyon Country, to create a destination event,” said Doug Sutton, president of the Canyon Country Merchants Association. “The CCMA helped put on the Taste of Canyon Country earlier this year with COC and the Santa Clarita Chamber of Commerce. It went very well and, at the time, COC Dean Ryan Theule expressed interest in doing something more.”

It offers residents a chance to eat, drink and be merry in an oft-neglected part of the Valley – Canyon Country. The event is free, food and beverages will be available for purchase.

La Matadora Flamenca

| Articles, Canyon Country Magazine | October 7, 2013

By Martha Michael

Canyon Country residents are hearing a series of clickety clack noises and the sound of electrifying Spanish music from a nearby dance studio on Thursday nights. If they follow the sounds they will find that they too are invited to participate…especially if they want to learn a passionate art form – Flamenco dance.

Linda Andrade recently returned to teach at New World Dance in Canyon Country, sharing her lifelong passion, the type of dancing that took her to Spain and became a career move for this energetic, ebullient woman. What makes this “not your mother’s dance class” is that you’ll learn more than footwork – you’ll absorb the emotion-filled flavor of Flamenco from one of its biggest advocates.

“It’s a means of expression that is so authentic. It reaches to the deepest human emotion and anyone can do it,” says Andrade.

Living in the South of Spain with a band of gypsies (hard to believe it’s not a fairytale script), Andrade received – almost by osmosis – what it meant to live Flamenco.

“The gypsies gave me a forum for my feelings,” she says. “They showed me how to be able to be vulnerable with my dancing.”

Pure Flamenco as a reflection of life is what Andrade gives to the women in her class at New World. Her students range from beginner to a seasoned dancer who performed at the recent “Ramona Days” celebration. One of the Thursday night regulars is a Spanish teacher who spent time living in Spain and feels her Flamenco dancing is rusty. Ages range from 21 to 75.

“We try to cater to each level,” says Andrade. “We are building a momentum…the more advanced ladies inspire the beginning ladies. They are beautiful women – all shapes and sizes.

Each of the women can express herself through her wardrobe also. For the first visit, pants are okay, but students generally will wear skirts and tops, sometimes with ruffles or other animated features. They usually head to Skin-Tite Discount Dancewear to pick up dresses and character shoes, she says, or make a stop at resale shops for Indian skirts or ruffled dresses and close-toed shoes with a heel.

Andrade is the artistic director of Sakai Flamenco, a performing ensemble composed of traditional Flamenco dancers and musicians. The company performs year round, and gives educational performances and workshops for The Music Center of Los Angeles County. Andrade also founded and directed “The Art of Flamenco” dinner show at Sevilla Restaurant in Riverside.

At this point, Andrade says she loves teaching. “I worked/danced for 30 years. I’ve been a lucky dancer – I’ve worked and worked and worked,” she says, as a way of explaining her mission. “Give back, pass that on, carry that torch.”

Classes are $15 each, and students pay month-to-month. Contact Linda “Matadora” Andrade for more details by email: matadoraflamenca@gmail.com or call (818) 951-7378.

Angry Adult? Learn to Cope

| Articles, Canyon Country Magazine | October 6, 2013

by Cary Quashen, CAS

Anger is all around us. For the most part, our society regards anger as a negative. We’re taught it’s all right to express anxiety, depression, or other emotions, but not to express anger. As a result, we don’t learn how to handle anger or channel it constructively. Anger helped us survive as a species. All humans experience it. And, while anger is a cover up emotion for other feelings, it’s normal and it’s okay to be angry.

According to the American Psychological Association Anger Research Consortium, anger is a normal emotion with a wide range of intensity, from mild irritation and frustration to rage. It’s a reaction to a perceived threat to us, our loved ones, our property, our self-image, or some part of our identity. Anger is a warning bell that tells us that something is wrong. Yet, many of us have never been taught to connect with anger.

The Anger Research Consortium tells us there are three components to anger, beginning with a physical reaction that usually starts with a rush of adrenaline, increased heart rate and blood pressure, and tightening muscles. This is known as the “fight or flight” response. Secondly, we have a cognitive experience of anger –  our perception and what we think about, what’s making us angry. These are feelings of being wronged, or exposure to an unfair or undeserved action that comes our way. Next, our behavior comes into play. That behavior is how we express anger. There is a wide variety of signals that display anger. They include looking and sounding angry, clamming up, slamming doors, storming off, throwing things. But we may also express that anger by asking for time out, requesting an apology or asking for something to change.

Everyone experiences anger and it can be healthy. It can motivate us to stand up for ourselves and correct injustices. And if anger is managed well, we can make positive changes in our lives and in everyday situations.

On the other hand, anger that is mismanaged is unhealthy. Anger that is too intense, misdirected, out of control and overly aggressive can lead to poor decision making and problem solving. Mismanaged anger can affect your health and relationships, both personal and professional.

Here are common misconceptions about anger that may change your life:

Ignoring anger makes it go away. Anger is generally a response to an unexpected or uncontrollable situation. Ignoring the situation will not make it go away. Ignoring your anger can also lead to passive-aggressive behavior, lashing out, stress and health problems.

Anger is not controllable. It’s true that feelings of anger are natural and beyond our control. But, how we respond is entirely up to us. If we habitually respond quickly and heatedly, we need to re-teach ourselves and re-learn how to stop and think in order to make more rational choices.

People respect you when you are angry – it shows you mean business. Being louder or angrier in a discussion puts people on edge, but it doesn’t help people see your point of view or earn their admiration. Most people become defensive and shut down instead of listening to what you say. Communicating well, having good ideas, and being able to approach disagreements objectively are all more likely to win the respect of others.

Anger is only a problem when it’s openly expressed. Expressing anger does not have to be a problem. Anger can be expressed assertively in a very healthy and respectful way. It’s when a reaction is aggressive and beyond what a situation warrants that problems arise.

Still having a hard time understanding anger and how to work through angry situations in your life? You may want to find an anger management therapist or anger coach to refine your anger management skills.

Cary Quashen is a certified addiction specialist, the founder and president of Action Parent & Teen Support Group Programs, and Action Family Counseling Drug and Alcohol Treatment Centers. Quashen may be reached at (661) 297- 4660.

The Trick to Treatment Addiction Specialist Cary Quashen Serves Community for 30 Years

| Articles, Canyon Country Magazine, Spotlight News | October 4, 2013

By Martha Michael

Cary Quashen

Most of us know there is no easy fix for addiction, nor for life with an out-of-control teen. The sheer existence of terms like “road to recovery” and “12 steps” underscores that such battles demand time-consuming transformations.

When this community looks for a “transformer” of sorts, very often they find it in the successful programs of ACTION and its founder, Cary Quashen, whose name is virtually synonymous with that of the non-profit organization.

Quashen developed and operates ACTION Family Counseling Drug and Alcohol Treatment Centers with 12 locations and 16 programs in the Southern California area. These involve alcohol and substance abuse intensive outpatient and residential treatment programs for both teens and adults, and sober living facilities in Bakersfield and the Santa Clarita Valley.

Quashen began working on these challenges in the community about 30 years ago, later forming the non-profit foundation in 1989 and the corporation Action Family Counseling in 1997.

ACTION Foundation offers a parent-teen support program with several different aspects at many different schools. There are recovery-based self-help groups, assemblies at almost every school, both private and public, among seventh grade students and older. Some of the work the foundation provides includes interventions at schools.

“Today we got called by one of the high schools. A kid was apparently high, so we drug tested him, assessed him,” Quashen explained.

One of the program’s most popular offerings is a free parent-teen support program, held every Tuesday at Canyon High School. The teen groups are led by certified counselors and cover issues such as truancy, gang activity, family issues and self-esteem.

“Parents are in the other room with trained facilitators,” said Quashen. “We want to empower parents – so they don’t feel like they’re all alone, that it’s the end of the world…we introduce them to other parents to give them hope, where they’re not going to be judged.”

ACTION has a similar group held at Hart High School at the same time – Tuesday nights at 7 p.m. – for Spanish-speaking families. “We have had it for over a year,” said Quashen. “It’s the only one of its kind.”

When asked whether or not Quashen envisioned himself in this line of work when he was younger, the answer was sort of mixed. “I didn’t want to be the person that kind of wasted their life and did drugs and, unfortunately, my life took that road for a period of time,” he said. “Then I got clean and sober – this Christmas Eve it’ll be 34 years.”

The Action Family Counseling arm of the organization has residential treatment centers totaling over 150 beds for adolescents and adults. One of the better known venues for this community’s adolescents is called “The Ranch” in Santa Clarita. “It is a place where they come and they can spend usually about 30 days to get kids out of the situation they’re in, to find out who they are and get clean,” he said. “Across the street is the adult ranch, where there are six adults in the house, where they can get away from everything and get better.”

ACTION also has an intensive outpatient program, where those in recovery can attend three hours a day, three times a week. It is a very structured program with strong leadership. There are ACTION programs in Kern County and Ventura County, and one forming in Las Vegas.

“We don’t have any more drugs than any other city like us,” said Quashen. “We are talking about it more. We aren’t hiding our heads in the sand…I’ve never seen a community get so involved in it and not deny it.”

Quashen is also the executive director of Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital Behavioral Health Unit, a 23-bed locked psychiatric unit.

Another resource in Canyon Country that ACTION offers is a drop-in center called “The Zone” on Ruether Avenue and Soledad Canyon Road. “It’s an alternative to suspension, it is part of a sober academy in conjunction with the schools,” Quashen explained.

Whereas many other prominent local organizations for high-risk teens have successful support systems, ACTION has a number of different levels of treatment. “We are geared toward high-risk stuff, we are licensed to treat people, we have residential, intensive programs and we work with all the boarding schools,” Quashen explained.

The Quashen Family, L-R Sean and Jessica Quashen holding Nicholas, Cary, Kirsten, Courtney and Scott
Photo by Renee Bowen www.reneebowen.com

Quashen’s eldest son, 25-year-old Sean, just left Afghanistan, after serving as a marine for four years. His second son, 21-year-old Scott, is now working with his father at ACTION. Cary Quashen’s youngest is 15-year-old daughter, Courtney.

“Even though I trust my kids completely, I’m very involved with what’s going on with them,” said Cary Quashen. “I stay very involved with their life, not micro-managing, but I’m involved.”

Cary Quashen hopes his work will “help people become united.”

“ACTION takes its own route – it pulls us in directions that it wants to go…it brings us there. It kind of has its own life,” he said. “We go where we’re needed.”

Quashen likes to joke that he would like to go out of business, “but…that isn’t happening anytime soon,” he said. “We are in no hurry to grow, but, unfortunately, we are growing.”

ACTION has a 24-hour helpline, where you can call if you have questions: (800) 367-8336.

Still Thinking Pink, Breast Cancer Awareness

| Articles, Canyon Country Magazine | October 2, 2013

By Martha Michael

The Big C is a Showtime original television series which just ended after four seasons, winning several awards, including last month’s Emmy going to Laura Linney for “Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie.” The storyline follows teacher Cathy Jamison – a reserved, suburban wife and mother – who is diagnosed with melanoma. At first she chooses to keep her diagnosis from her family, behaving in ways they find puzzling and increasingly bizarre. Viewers watch as she finds new freedom to express herself and really begins to live for the first time in her adult life. Eventually, Cathy allows her family and some new friends to support her as she copes with her terminal diagnosis, and finds both humor and pathos in the many idiosyncratic relationships in her life.

Women just like “Cathy” are those who are honored each October during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is an annual campaign to increase awareness of the disease. It is a decades old fixture in our culture, born from interesting alliances.

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM) was founded in 1985 as a partnership between the American Cancer Society and the pharmaceutical division of Imperial Chemical Industries (now part of AstraZeneca, producer of several anti-breast cancer drugs). The aim of the NBCAM from the start has been to promote mammography as the most effective weapon in the fight against breast cancer. In 1993 Evelyn Lauder, senior corporate vice president of the Estée Lauder Companies, founded The Breast Cancer Research Foundation and established the pink ribbon as its symbol, though this was not the first time the ribbon was used to symbolize breast cancer. In the fall of 1991, the Susan G. Komen Foundation had handed out pink ribbons to participants in its New York City race for breast cancer survivors.
*Source: Wikipedia
Circle of Hope Fundraiser

Get tickets for this year’s 10th Annual Afternoon Tea benefitting Circle of Hope, a local non-profit organization for women with breast cancer. It will be held on Saturday, October 12 from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Robinson Ranch Golf Club, 27734 Sand Canyon Road in Canyon Country. This year’s theme is “Romantic Daydreams,” and it will be hosted by Emmy and Golden Mike Award-winning CBS2/KCAL9 anchor Sandra Mitchell, who will share her experiences as a newscaster, world traveler and breast cancer survivor. The $55 donation ticket price includes a cocktail reception, three-course tea service and live entertainment. For the $80 donation ticket, guests will also receive a 2013 Brighton “Power of Pink” Bracelet ($60.00 value; one per paid admission). Visit www.circleofhopeinc.org or call (661) 254-5218.

October is Adopt-a-Dog Month Upcoming Canine Events

| Articles, Spotlight News | September 20, 2013

October 13
The 13th Annual Bow-Wows & Meows Pet Fair is coming to Newhall with the mission “to celebrate pets, encourage animal awareness and promote pet adoption,” says founder Yvonne Allbee.

The FREE fair will feature a lineup of entertainment and pet-related vendors, all set up at William S. Hart Park from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Last year, nearly 160 dogs and cats found homes at Bow-Wows and Meows. Since it began in 2001, the Valencia-based Bow-Wows & Meows, Inc., a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, has adopted out more than  1,500 shelter animals at their annual pet fairs.

Adoptions from the six participating Los Angeles County shelters are $30 and all pets are spayed or neutered and up-to-date on vaccinations at time of adoption. Adopters also receive a complimentary goody bag for their dogs and cats, including a surprise from fair sponsor Santa Clarita Animal Hospital.

Leashed, well-behaved, socialized dogs are welcome to attend the Bow-Wows and Meows Pet Fair with their owners, and shuttle parking for people and pets is available for $3 from Hart Park.

For more information, visit www.bowwowsandmeows.org or call (661) 297-5961.

October 26
The American Cancer Society Bark for Life of the Santa Clarita Valley is a canine event that seeks to fight cancer, while giving owners time with their dogs. From 8:00 a.m. to 12 Noon dog owners and friends will participate in a walk event to raise funds and awareness in the fight against cancer. The non-competitive walk will follow with demos, contests, games and more at West Creek Park, 24247 Village Circle in Valencia (off Copperhill on Rio Norte Drive). For more information about Bark for Life, visit www.SCVBark.org or SCVBark on Facebook or email info@SCVBark.org.

October is National Pizza Month

| Articles, Santa Clarita Living | September 20, 2013

While most of us think about costumes, pumpkins and black cats in October, we might be forgetting about a tasty slice of life: Pizza.

We’ve all come in contact with a friendly neighborhood pizza delivery person. Santa Clarita Living Magazine checked in with a few local pizza employees to get a peek at their experiences on the job.

“I was a little nervous at first,” says Maria Avila, a restaurant manager and delivery person at Vincenzo’s Pizza in Newhall, “but there are a lot of friendly people here.”

Dylan Goodrich, who delivers pizza for Domino’s in Canyon Country, feels the same way. “You get to meet plenty of people and some are really generous,” he says. “Some, you can tell, are really nice and simply don’t tip because their money situation is tight at the moment.”

On the average shift, says one Canyon Country man who does deliveries in Newhall and Stevenson Ranch, a delivery person gets to approximately 10 houses. Avila often delivers pizza to the industrial center, where some companies, such as Aerospace Dynamics International, will order 30-40 pizzas at a time.

One of the challenges they face is locating a residence not found by a phone GPS or Tom Tom™. “I could probably tell anyone exact directions to anywhere in Canyon Country now,” jokes Goodrich. When delivering to apartment buildings with locked gates, they have to find someone to let them in – and it’s often delivery people from other pizza restaurants!

Almost anyone who does deliveries has a unique story, many from working on holidays. “I one time took a delivery around New Year’s,” says Goodrich. “This guy apparently went hiking out in Texas Canyon and his car broke down. He said it was freezing and he had to walk all the way home and that his car was still out there. He was so generous, and glad that he lived, that he tipped me $10. After a little talk about his day, he said I was a great young man and tipped me another $10 and said, ‘Have a very Happy New Year.’”

Business Startups: Company Branding

| Articles, Santa Clarita Living, SC Women | September 18, 2013

By Tobias Anne Skelly

Branding your company goes deeper than choosing a name, fancy logo, slick image or clever tagline. A company’s brand is its identity. The brand describes who the company is, and makes tangible its core values and the value the company adds to the community it serves.

A successful company brand is one that instills trust and excitement within its customer base, company employees, vendors and partners, and the community at large. A successful company brand allows a business to stand out in a crowd of competitors as more than just identifiable and familiar. It evokes positive feelings and expectations of doing business.

Creating a successful company brand begins with the strategic planning process, so before you name your company or have a logo designed, here’s what you need to establish:

1st: Establish your company’s purpose. If you don’t know what your company stands for, neither will anyone else! Ask yourself what your proposed company can bring to the community. What issues does your company solve? What groups or individuals will benefit from your company’s existence? If your answers inspire you, then you’re on the right track.

2nd: Establish your company’s reputation. Remember that trust must be earned, and the basis for trust is personal and professional integrity. The principles, practices, and policies your company will operate under are critical when it comes to a customer’s desire to do business with you, as well as their personal feelings of satisfaction. Perception also matters when it comes to reputation. People need to see that everyone associated with the company is consistently authentic, genuine, and principled.

3rd: Establish how you will communicate your value to others. Both the community and those identified as your potential customers must be told that your company exists and why it is of value to them. Create a clear and concise message. You want to encourage legitimate dialog, so avoid non-essential content, unprovable claims, and clichés. Keep your message focused on the actual value your company can provide!

Tobias Anne Skelly is a Business and Marketing Consultant for small business owners and start-ups. She is the Owner of gITnoticed® Marketing and an Educator in Marketing and Communica­tions. To learn more, visit www.gitnoticed.com or send email to toby@gitnoticed.com.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month – Some happenings in SCV

| Articles, Santa Clarita Living, Spotlight News | September 17, 2013

October 5
Rubber Ducky Regatta

Samuel Dixon Family Health Centers will hold the 11th Annual Rubber Ducky Festival at Bridgeport Park in Valencia.  This signature fundraising event will draw visitors from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for a day of food and fun, featuring the race of the adopted rubber ducks.

Bridgeport Park is located at 23521 Bridgeport Lane in Valencia. The Samuel Dixon Health Centers aim to assist the uninsured and the underinsured in the Santa Clarita Valley. For information call (661) 257-2339 x302 or visit www.sdfhc.org.

October 6
Bras on Broadway
The Soroptimist Club of Santa Clarita Valley is supporting two local charities, Circle of Hope and Sheila R. Veloz Breast Imaging Center, with its 10th Annual Bras for a Cause fundraiser.

With this year’s theme, “Bras on Broadway,” the evening of food, drinks and auction opportunities will take place at the Tournament Players Club (TPC) in Valencia from 12 noon until 3:00 p.m.  Co-Chair Kathy Rutherford says the 10th annual fundraiser “will be a real blow out, one not to be missed.”

Guests will bid on blinged-out bras representing various Broadway plays, along with baskets full of gift cards for personal services, meals, weekend getaways, elegant home décor and personal items.

Tickets are $65 and include food stations, a complimentary beverage from a full service bar, and Broadway-style entertainment.  Circle of Hope assists local breast cancer patients and their families with medical bills, counseling, fee negotiations with doctors, and medical services, such as second opinion examinations.

Sheila R. Veloz Breast Imaging Center provides free mammograms to local economically-challenged women.  Tournament Players Club is located at 26550 Heritage View Drive in Valencia. Visit www.siscv.com to purchase tickets or for additional information.

What’s Trending on the Fashion Front

| Articles, Santa Clarita Living, SC Women | September 16, 2013

Santa Clarita Living Magazine asked Bridgette & Gabe DeGomez at Runway Fashion Exchange what’s trending in back-to-school and fall shopping…

Some of the popular labels

On Back-to-School Shoppers: Students didn’t vary much from wanting the basic clothing items, like shirts, jeans and tank tops. High waist shorts, flowy, sheer fabric tops, bandeau tanks and name brand jeans –  Hollister, Abercrombie, Miss Me – were popular items purchased during back to school shopping. Skull and cross tanks have been pretty popular, as well as other clothing items with skull or cross embellishments
On Accessories: Jewelry that moves through the store is name brand, such as Juicy Couture bracelets. More simple items and items with crosses are becoming more popular. Large shoulder or tote bags are more popular than smaller handbags right now. Crossbody purses are also a popular trend with teens.
On Latest Looks: We have a wide variety of customers, so it is difficult to pinpoint a specific look. A lot of teen/young adult customers have a hipster


look – high waist shorts, flowy shirts, loose tank tops. Mint and coral are still popular colors, as well as neutral colors, like gray, tan, black and white. Sheer fabrics and loose fitting tees are also popular. Straight leg, boot cut and skinny jeans are the style of pants people are looking for. Flared pant legs seem to be out of the current trend.
On the Guys: Popular items for guys are T-shirts, jeans and shorts. Diamond is the most popular brand among guys, which we don’t get in too often, but when we do the item is purchased within a couple days.
On What They’re Buying: What we are looking for are items that are seasonal. So, right now we are wanting trendy, casual, summer/fall items that are in ready-to-wear condition. We are now taking in light fall items, which include long-sleeved shirts, jeans and light jackets.
Runway Fashion Exchange is a clothing store where customers can bring in trendy, vintage clothing that is in good condition. The staff buys pieces for their racks so shoppers can have the latest trends with re-sale prices. “We have a wide variety of clothing/shoe items – people are able to come in and pick out things that fit their own style,” says Bridgette. “We take in items that cater more towards a teen/young adult look, but have women and men between the ages of 13 and 50 that shop in the store.”
Runway Fashion Exchange is located at 24135 Magic Mountain Pkwy in Valencia. Find them on Facebook or call (661) 254-7999.

Justin Time Children’s House

| Articles, Santa Clarita Living, Spotlight News | September 16, 2013

Many local residents are aware that Santa Clarita provides a more supportive atmosphere for non-profit organizations than a lot of other parts of Los Angeles – or the country, for that matter. That’s good news for two SCV women who have a vision to create a place of healing for children and their families who are going through the process of grieving.

Lisa (left) and Shawneen

It all began when Lisa DeLong placed a post on Facebook about a children’s hospice home up north. Shawneen Rubay responded to the post, having just completed training with the Twilight Brigade, an organization that works with veterans’ hospice in VA hospitals.

Rubay and DeLong found that they had a lot of common ground, including a passion for helping others cope with death. This led to ideas about how to meet the needs of those in this community.

“We had discussed putting together a plan to open a pediatric hospice home in the spring of 2012, but as we assessed the needs of families for North LA County, we discovered that a grief center was the more immediate need,” explained DeLong. “One of the most active grief centers for children, which was based in South L.A. County, closed its doors, leaving the options for grieving children very limited.”

They founded Justin Time Children’s House, with a mission to provide grieving families a safe place to share their experiences through art and creative expression in a non-clinical environment. This new non-profit organization was named for Justin DeLong, Lisa DeLong’s

Justin DeLong

oldest son, who died 13 years ago from Leukemia.

“The atmosphere being created is first and foremost with children in mind, but our services extend beyond children to all members of the family,” explained Rubay. “We know that taking care of children will help take care of the grown-ups. There are also plans for a grandparent’s support group.”

Child loss, parent loss, spouse loss, and even pet loss are all possibilities for the services of Justin Time Children’s House. “What we are creating is a community center where everyone experiencing loss is welcome,” said Rubay.

The plan for the center includes multiple facets. Group leaders will be on site for discussion, art therapy – even homework help. The goal is to acquire a space in Old Town Newhall, where there is an active arts community.

“We like the idea of being close to the new library and close to the art activities and family cultural events that take place in Newhall,” said Rubay.

The need for personnel is high on the two founders’ to-do list. “All group leaders will be professionally trained by licensed grief therapists,” said DeLong. “All of our tutors will be overseen by a credentialed teacher. There will be a wide array of volunteer opportunities where grief sensitivity training will be required.”

In addition to the 10-member advisory board at Justin Time, Rubay and DeLong have complementary strengths that they each bring to the table. Shawneen’s skill set in the non-profit arena, as well as a passion for hospice, blends well with Lisa’s medical background as a nurse and a parent grief expert.

“We wear many hats and often our roles get blended at this point in the process,” said Rubay. “We balance each other’s skill set in many ways.”

In addition to offering volunteer opportunities to members of the community and accepting donations to the non-profit group, Justin Time is hosting events. On September 11 (9/11), Rubay and DeLong will hold the third Death Café, where the sub-topic will be: Where were you on 9/11 and how does it affect you now?  (See article following about Death Café Santa Clarita.)

Justin Time will hold a workshop on September 18 on the topic of the Physiology of Grief, led by Restorative Exercise Practitioner, Donna Relles RN. October’s workshop will cover the History of Cultural Death Rites and Rituals. Thank a Vet Golf Tournament is slated for November 9, and a Poetry Slam is scheduled for January 24, 2014.

You can reach Shawneen Rubay and Lisa DeLong by emailing justintimechildrenshouse@gmail.com or call 661-297-0340.

Death Cafe Dinner with Strangers to Talk about Death

| Articles, Canyon Country Magazine | August 12, 2013

By Martha Michael

An ironic new movement is coming to town: it’s an idea that is just taking its first breath, but it’s focused on taking one’s last.

In an almost eerie resemblance to a wake or funeral, strangers gather for food and conversation, all with a desire to process grief, beliefs, feelings and experiences associated with death. These group discussions are called “Death Cafes,” and they are cropping up nationwide, breathing new life into the concept of death – coping with it, wrestling with it, accepting it, even questioning it.

“It is time for people to be able to talk openly and honestly about death and life in a safe space,”

Death Cafe leaders (left to right):
Shawneen Rubay, Lisa DeLong and Betsy Trapasso

explains Betsy Trapasso, who is launching the movement in Los Angeles. “Death Cafes offer people this opportunity, which is why the movement is taking off all over the world.”

Death Cafes bring together people with as disparate of backgrounds and experiences as one can imagine. The first group held in Santa Clarita included a pediatric oncology nurse, grieving parents, a social worker, a Shaman, an east coast intellectual, and a gay man wrestling with his religion. Much of the discussion, in fact, centered on beliefs about the afterlife.

Says Trapasso, “Our objective is to increase the awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives.”

The Death Café website and Facebook page will tell you that “at Death Cafes people come together in a relaxed and safe setting to discuss death, drink tea and eat delicious cake.”

For this community, Trapasso led a group, complete with dinner and comfortable seating and made the handoff to Lisa DeLong of Canyon Country, who will now facilitate “Death Café Santa Clarita” beginning this month.

“Having this conversation in a loving, safe environment,” says DeLong, “is a great gift. Letting the process of grieving take as long as it takes.”

DeLong knows firsthand what that process feels like, as she lost her eldest child, a son named Justin, to cancer 13 years ago. And her second son began battling cancer when his age was just in the single digits. Lisa DeLong and Shawneen Rubay recently founded “Justin Time Children’s House,” a new non-profit organization designed to aid kids who are in the grieving process. (See Sidebar at left)

The first Death Café Santa Clarita will be held on August 14, led by DeLong and open to a finite number of guests, who will eat and talk through these issues.

Before you consider this a foreign, bizarre topic, or think that you have to be looking terminal illness in the eye, you have to consider the scope of its relevance. Perhaps you were one of the 700,000+ likes or 34,000 shares of the Michigan bride’s Facebook page, where she posted a photo of herself, clothed in her fluffy white gown, clutching her bouquet and kneeling at her father’s grave. Or maybe you saw the viral video of the (not actually engaged nor getting married anytime soon) “bride” having the wedding dance with her dad, because he wouldn’t live to see her wedding day.

The topic literally touches everyone in this lifetime, and each Death Café experience is different, as a host of related topics reveal themselves. According to Trapasso, some Death Café facilitators choose to come with a discussion “menu” prepared, but she likes to let the conversation evolve.

“What we hope to accomplish and why we are creating a Death Cafe is to create an environment where others can speak and share about what is often considered the ‘unspeakable,’ death and dying,” explains Rubay. “We welcome the conversations in hope that the participants will feel a sense of connection and freedom to ask their questions and express their views on the subject without fear or judgment.”

While the topic seems random, it really dovetails nicely with the current culture. Nowhere else can foodies gather and combine it with one of the biggest cultural buzzwords around: conversation. After all, citizens are advised daily – whether the topic is the Zimmerman trial, same-sex marriage or political ethics – to join the conversation.

So, why not try a new topic?
Justin Time Children’s House

The name is a nod to Justin DeLong, the son of co-founder Lisa DeLong, who launched the non-profit organization with Shawneen Rubay earlier this year. These two women aim to provide a community in which no child has to feel alone in grief.

The mission of Justin Time is to help children and families who are grieving the death of a loved one find hope and healing within themselves.

In a drop-in community space in
Newhall, the staff will offer art therapy and writing workshops as part of its program, structures through which emotional support can be offered.

For more information, visit www.DeathCafe.com and
www.JustinTimeChildrensHouse.org or find both Justin Time Children’s House and Death Café Los Angeles on Facebook.

Successfully Returning Tweens and Teens Back to School

| Articles, Canyon Country Magazine | August 8, 2013

by Cary Quahsen, CAS
August is back to school time. As a high risk teen counselor, I know that returning back to school can be risky, especially for our tweens and teens as they move from childhood to adolescence And as your tweens make the transition from elementary school, I would encourage you as a parent never to fall victim to the myth that you can now stop parenting your kids when they reach the ages of 12, 13, and 14. Once a parent, always a parent!

Navigating the pitfalls of adolescence is tough. Adolescents are changing cognitively, emotionally, and physically. Not only are their bodies changing significantly, their social dynamics are changing as well. Boys feel pressured to establish themselves as powerful and popular. And girls are often dealing with the pressures of multiple friendships and dealing with their changing bodies. One minute they are mimicking their friends and the next they feel alone and alienated. Just as adolescents are dealing with changing bodies, mood swings, and hormones, they are also moving into another strange world. Peer pressure increases, classes are larger and kids often feel invisible. Kids go from having one classroom and one teacher to several teachers and several classrooms. And, often times, middle school students are so stressed, overwhelmed, and overloaded they just shut down.

I asked my transitioning teen who they were having lunch with and she replied. “I can’t find anyone I know on campus. They all look alike.”

Believe me, all of these changes would be hard for an adult, let alone a tween or teen. It’s almost as if we are throwing them in the deep end of the pool and yelling, “Swim!” when they haven’t learned how to swim yet or have a life jacket on. And yes, some of them may be drowning.

Parents often wonder how to equip their tween to make a successful transition into middle school or high school. Your empathetic encouragement is imperative. It’s important that you never downplay your adolescent’s fears or shrug off their concerns. Sharing your own middle school or high school horror stories isn’t helpful either.

By now you are thinking, “With all of this going on, how do I help my kid stay focused on school?” Be honest and encouraging with your tween and teen about the changes ahead.

Start discussing puberty before it happens. Eliminate the mystery which will allow your kids to better focus on their studies instead of their bodies.

Make sure your adolescent gets plenty of sleep. Middle school and high school kids still need 8–10 hours of sleep a night, despite what they tell you.

Never take their maturity for granted. Just because their bodies are physically maturing, doesn’t mean they are emotionally mature. Your kids are still kids. They still need lots of parental involvement and guidance.

Make sure you have an open, healthy dialog about going back to school. Make sure you hear all of their concerns, founded and unfounded.

Make sure your discussions include conversations about your kid’s friends, classes and activities for the coming school year. No matter how prepared kids may be for the back to school experience, some kids are still upset about their first day or their first week of school. Most kids settle down and adjust to change in just a few days and are fine.

As kids come home with problems to work out, make sure that you empathize with them and let them come up with workable solutions. So often we want to bubble wrap our kids and insulate them from risk. They don’t learn anything that way. They then soon learn they don’t have to solve problems as long as mom and dad are solving it for them.

Cary Quashen is a high-risk teen counselor and certified addiction specialist. He is the founder and president of Action Family Counseling. Quashen may be reached by calling (661) 297-8691.  

Jim Hogan and Atticus The story of a man and his very special dog

| Articles, Canyon Country Magazine | August 8, 2013

By Andrew Thompson


Throughout his lifetime, Atticus Hogan has served in quite an impressive list of capacities.

Over the years, he’s been a representative of several veterans’ groups, an ambassador for a variety of well-known organizations, the featured guest at numerous parades and conventions, an Elks Lodge member, a calendar model, an honorary Marine, the Grand Marshal of a special awards show recognizing heroes, and – of course – man’s best friend.

But in order to fully understand the story of this yellow Labrador retriever, it may be necessary to see Atticus through the eyes of Jim Hogan – eyes remarkable for the very attribute that gave Atticus his life’s mission: they can barely see.

Part I: A Good Sound

That wasn’t always the case.

Born in Wisconsin and raised in California from the age of 10, Jim Hogan enjoyed a normal childhood, except for two relatively minor conditions: he had some difficulty seeing at night, and he often struggled to hear. The latter problem was deemed serious enough to warrant Jim’s receiving special education at the Mary E. Bennett School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, but when Jim finished school, he was determined that he wouldn’t be defined by the limitation.

“After I graduated, I took my hearing aid off and still survived with everybody else – ‘cause no one really knew I had a hearing loss,” Jim says.

But Jim’s hearing difficulty had a tendency to follow him when he least desired. Shortly after high school, Jim was drafted by the Army during the Vietnam War, but his hearing loss made him ineligible. In an era in which many were looking for ways to avoid the military, Jim – for reasons he still finds difficult to put into words – was determined to serve.

A couple of years later, when Jim made the acquaintance of a Navy recruiter, he got his chance. The recruiter told Jim he could learn to pass the hearing test by watching those before him push the button as they heard the sounds.

“And I did,” Jim recalls. “And I got caught. So, they put me in a room by myself, and – I’ll be damned. I passed the test.”

Jim had almost made it to the end of boot camp before his disability caught up with him once again. It was then that a recruiter called him out for essentially giving the right answers to the wrong questions and sent him for additional testing. He failed.

While waiting for the bus back to boot camp after a visit to the medical office, where he learned that he would receive a medical discharge, Jim bummed change for a phone call and contacted his recruiter. When he explained the situation, Jim says, the man basically told him that it would be taken care of.

“Two weeks later I graduated and got orders to go overseas,” Jim says. He never learned what happened, and he never questioned it.

Once in Vietnam, Jim spent three years serving on a landing ship, as well as nine months aboard the historic aircraft carrier the U.S.S. Enterprise. Looking back on his time in the war, Jim finds it strange that his disabilities never raised any suspicions.

His lack of night vision in particular had led to a variety of complications, ranging from the humorous (he recalls being barked at for refusing to face officers he simply couldn’t find) to the serious (he would pass off the night-watch responsibility of tossing concussion grenades into the water because he couldn’t make out the edge of the boat; the action was intended to ward off any swimmers who might want to come aboard the craft and cut the sleeping soldiers’ throats).

Unfortunately, after the war, Jim found that being stateside presented challenges of its own. He

Atticus accompanies Jim on a cruise on the LA River

distinctly remembers flying into San Francisco Airport, where he says soldiers were spat upon and called “baby killers.”

“I wanted to get rid of my uniform,” he recalls, adding that he doesn’t think anyone he’s met who served in Vietnam has ever forgotten coming home.

But Jim’s war experiences followed him in other ways, too. In part, his decision to move to Santa Clarita from the San Fernando Valley was prompted by his inability to stand the noise of the L.A. Police Department helicopters that would regularly pass overhead.

“To me, when I hear a helicopter, there’s – there’s something going on,” Jim says. “There’s an incident.”

Jim counts among his greatest accomplishments his overcoming that response, a success proven once and for all one day when a helicopter at a Veterans Day parade roared overhead triumphantly.

“That sound did not bother me. I really thought it was gonna bother me…” Jim says. “But all the guys in the parade…you know…gave a big, ‘Yeah!’ And that was a good sound.”
Part II: That Quarter of Pie

Of course, not all of Jim’s life post-Vietnam was centered on overcoming past experiences. On the contrary, it was during that time that Jim’s life really began to move forward.

Soon after returning home, Jim met Pam, his brother’s wife’s sister, whom he would ultimately marry. By 1977, when Jim had managed to land a job working as a building inspector for the City of Los Angeles, the future must have seemed bright. But there were also bumps in the road.

Once, on the evening of a party, Pam chewed Jim out for his rudeness after he had refused to shake hands with nearly every person he had met. Jim didn’t understand.

“Honest, Babe, I didn’t pay attention – didn’t notice!” he remembers telling her.

It didn’t take them long to figure out that it was Jim’s lack of peripheral vision, not manners, that was causing his breach of etiquette. From then on, whenever they went to public events, Pam sent Jim signals while they held hands.

In 1983, a visit to the doctor confirmed that Jim had retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited degenerative eye disease linked with a gradual loss of vision throughout life. It wasn’t until 1999, however, that Jim learned he had a particular condition called Usher Syndrome Type II. Another visit to the doctor that year informed him that, with his field of vision at only 10 degrees, he was already legally blind.

Jim remembers receiving the letter that made it official. “What do I do with this?” he asked the doctor. The answer he received, he claims, was something along the lines of “Do whatever blind people do.”

“I thought that was a slap in the face!” Jim says today. And it helped launch him on a crusade to both improve and raise awareness about the services available to the blind and disabled. As a result, Jim is particularly passionate about helping his fellow veterans get assistance through the V.A., which he says is the best place for anyone who served, received an honorable discharge, and became legally blind to go for help. He also helped create and continues to serve on a special committee that meets at City Hall to improve public transportation for the disabled.

And while he’s happy with the impact he’s made so far, Jim still has some desires he says he’d like to see come to fruition.

“Never go after the whole pie,” he jokes, referring to his attempts to bring about positive changes. “You’re never gonna get it.”

But if you’re patient enough and nice enough, he adds, you might be able to get the pie one piece after another.

“I’ve still got that quarter of pie to go,” says Jim.

Part III: To Be a Dog

For all Jim’s work to help his fellow blind and disabled, it took him some time to make use of the resource that would have such a deep impact on his own life: a dog.

The tipping point finally came when Jim and Pam saw firsthand the advantages a friend’s service animal provided. Jim subsequently applied with Guide Dogs for the Blind, and, before he knew it, he was flying to Oakland to meet the canine companion that would help to shape his life.

He remembers the first time he met the yellow lab, part of a litter of “A” names being trained at the time. He was called Atticus. Jim says the number one question people ask him is whether he chose that name.

“No,” he jokes. “I would’ve named him ‘Atta Boy,’ not Atticus!”

Names aside, the pair bonded rapidly. Before Jim knew it, Atticus was helping him almost everywhere he went.

Jim says he truly realized how much he now relies on Atticus one day when he crossed a street without him. After arriving at the corner, Jim listened for the surge of cars that indicated to him he could cross.

“The light changed, I got the surge, and I said to my cane, ‘Forward,’” he recalls. “And I started [getting] across.’”

Jim made it to the other side of the street – not paying much attention, because he was trusting in the instincts of his absent companion – before he realized what he had done.

“He makes a big difference,” Jim now says, referring to the level of mobility facilitated by his four-legged friend.

Part of Atticus’s ability to contribute so significantly to Jim’s life comes down to his superior discipline, which Jim says is special even among service dogs. But Jim says there are also times when Atticus knows better than to do what he’s told. Once, Jim grew frustrated at Atticus for not leading him across a street and stepped forward on his own – right into a ditch.

There are also times when Atticus can be just plain stubborn – never when he’s called to duty, but sometimes when…well, duty calls.

Atticus has been trained to go on command, and his ability to withhold his urges has become legendary. Once, on a cruise, Atticus held his bladder and his bowels for 50 hours, after refusing to use the kitty litter the ship had provided him or even, at Jim’s command, to make “poop deck” a more literal term.

Jim says Atticus was the first one off the ship, found a nice patch of grass in front of some loading buses, and went so long that people stopped to watch. They didn’t stick around, he claims, when he pointed out that they were waiting for number two.

Atticus is undeniably important in Jim’s everyday life, and – like many dogs – has quirks that can occasionally entertain a crowd. But perhaps most notable is the way Atticus has become a symbol, of sorts. Jim calls Atticus an ambassador for service dogs everywhere, a title perhaps solidified by Atticus’s recent selection as Grand Marshal of the American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards.

Atticus has been so talked about and generally beloved over the years, in fact, that Jim has occasionally found himself standing in Atticus’s shadow. Once, while riding in a Fourth of July parade shortly after the release of an article about the duo, Jim and Pam heard children saying, “Look! It’s Atticus! And the blind guy!”

With such a level of fame, lots of good food, a fulfilling purpose, and plenty of love, Atticus is living the good life.

“You know,” Jim jokes, “I’ve always said: if I’m gonna come back – if you believe in reincarnation – I want to be a dog!”

After all of their experiences together, Jim has come to recognize just how special a companion he’s been given.

“I’ve been blessed with a good dog,” he says. But no one is ready for the ten-and-a-half-year-old Atticus to retire just yet.

“I’m not ready to let him change his career. And he doesn’t want to,” notes Jim. “I just can’t get another dog and then say, ‘All right, you’re done.’”

So, if you happen to see Jim in the upcoming days, don’t be surprised if right by his side is his aging yellow lab with the loving spirit, the disciplined mind, and the puppy’s heart.

After all, neither Jim nor Atticus would have it any other way.

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