Leverage Your Business for the New Millennium

| Community | March 26, 2017

by Connie Ragen Green 

The calendar may say 2017, but are you doing business as if it were still 1999? What I mean by this is that it may be time to add an online component to what you are doing in your brick and mortar business. Allow me to explain further what I mean and bring you fully into the new millennium.

Marketing for small businesses is something I’ve done since the summer of 2007. I was new to online marketing at the time and offered to help a family member with his handyman business. He was still paying for a small print advertisement in the local newspaper, as well as for ads in a couple of local magazines. This was a costly proposition and he was just starting out. He confided in me that it sometimes took two full weeks before he was in profit each month. We agreed that I would help him out for the first month at no charge to see what would happen.

First, I set up a simple site for him using the WordPress platform. The domain I used was the name of his business so that prospective clients could find him more easily. This worked extremely well. I also wrote short articles on this new site about his business, using the words anyone might type into Google if they were looking for a handyman in Santa Clarita to do specific tasks for them. Within two months he pulled his ads and began getting as many assignments as he needed from what I had set up for him.

Now, I do not mean to say that print advertising is not valuable and worthwhile. If anything, it is quite the opposite. Your ads let people know you are legitimately in business and reach those for whom the internet is not a medium they trust to inform them and to find reliable and trustworthy services. Choose the publications you know and trust, and continue to advertise there. But adding the online component is crucial for long-term success in any business.

The second part of this marketing strategy is to begin building a database of customers, clients, and prospects. This will become a valuable asset to your business over time. The idea here is to stay in touch with the people you serve so that you can open up the lines of communication more easily. Email them regularly and let them know what is happening in your industry. And use this as an opportunity to offer a discount coupon or other seasonal special.

The third and final component to small business marketing online is to offer something related to your business that can be delivered digitally. This can be a monthly audio recording that is available as a podcast on iTunes, a short book where you explain in great detail what you offer in your business, or even a physical product that could be available on Amazon and delivered by them. These components will serve to connect you with more prospects and to set you apart as someone who is at the top of their field or industry.

Setting up and maintaining a WordPress website costs about $100 each year. Setting up and maintaining a digital database is about $200 a year. Having these as a part of your business is priceless. Contact me personally using the information below if you’d like to discuss this further for your business so that you can leverage the power of the internet to come into the new millennium.

Connie Ragen Green lives in Saugus and has been working exclusively on the internet since 2006. “Doing What It Takes: The Online Entrepreneur’s Playbook” is her fourteenth book and has just been released by Hunter’s Moon Publishing. All of Connie’s titles are available in paperback at Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, at your local bookstore, and also for Kindle. Find out more by visiting http://HugeProfitsTinyList.com and download an audio recording for 2017 at http://NewRulesforOnlineMarketing.com.

Questions? Email Connie at crgreencrgreen@yahoo.com and be sure to put “Home Business Question” in the subject line. Your question and answer will be included in a future article.

Now and Then: Dumping Grounds, Part 1

| Community | March 24, 2017

Before there was a city, before there was a mall, before there was a population of over 199,000, our valley was a popular site for proposed dumps – everything from people murdered in L.A. or the San Fernando Valley to toxic waste.

In the early ‘70s, a headless, handless corpse was discovered propped up against the Beale’s Cut stone marker. In spite of some cryptic tattoos on the body, investigators could not discover the victim’s identity. Time passed and the story fell off the radar. I’ve often wonder what happened to that case, and if the latest breakthrough in DNA could help with the identification process – or, indeed, if anyone cared enough to follow through. No one I’ve asked has been able to answer my question.

Our popularity as a dumping site for garbage and toxic waste is another story. Whether it was Elsmere Canyon or the “Pig Farm” land near Sand Canyon, many an outsider, looking to cash in on the lucrative business of disposing of human trash, had looked on our small population as a bunch of unsophisticated, backwater types who could easily be hood-winked into welcoming the discards of the big cities to the south. What a surprise when they met the likes of newspaper editors Ruth and Scott Newhall, attorneys like Dan Hon, activists like Connie Worden (later Worden-Roberts), and a contingent of school superintendents, business owners, and less-than-backward housewives!

The “Pig Farm” saga began in 1978 when an eagle-eyed Signal reporter happened upon a small notice in the classified section about a company called IT and its plans to build a toxic dump in the Canyon Country area. His story hit the front page and a roar of anger began to build from Canyon Country to Downtown Newhall with residents demanding to know the details. IT’s response was to send a pleasant-looking corporate representative to address what they thought would be a small group of naive citizens. The meeting was also attended by then Supervisor Baxter Ward’s field deputy Joan Pinchuk. (Baxter would become one of our valley’s staunchest allies against the proposed dump).

The Opening Salvo
The meeting with the IT representative can best be portrayed by a Letter to the Editor that appeared in the paper a few days later. The letter was written by one with a talent for cutting through all the rhetoric and encapsulating the mood of the evening:

Arroyo Seco Junior High was the scene of presentations, speakers, and heated questions – some followed by answers – as IT environmental representative David Bauer tried to convince an angry audience of its moral obligation to treat industrial chemical waste locally. Doing PR for IT must be like selling asbestos Halloween costumes to children. But our valley also had its shot at the podium. Local orators were at their eloquent best as they explained dangers and laid blame before the TV cameras and speeding pens of local scribes.”

Bauer is an unassuming appearing young man who could have put Manolete to shame with his cape artistry. As questions were fired, in a more or less organized fashion, he would play with answers while IT backup men checked their watches and the side exits.

The school auditorium was so packed it looked like opening night at Saugus Speedway. Parking was rougher than at the Swap Meet. Mr. Bauer’s favorite was the multiple question. He would spend so much time answering the easy part that people would forget the tough one. Not so, however, with questions about the effects of the dump on our valley’s air quality. The third time the question was asked it was done so cleverly as to require a naked “yes” or “no” answer. Finally it was admitted: Our air would be dirtier.
Mr. Bauer would also forestall answers by praising the questioner with compliments about “good homework,” while wondering how the hell this hayseed community attracted so damn many geologists and chemical engineers.

In the end we found out that our water would be safe – maybe; our air would be dirtier – for sure; and some solid waste would be dumped – even though IT hates the word “dump.” It gives them a bad name.

What in the hell was going on? Joan Pinchuck (supervisors have PR too) did a tap dance, complete with wall-to-wall smile, on how we were all partaking in the democratic process. All this while avoiding the real question targeted at her. Why hadn’t she told us of the proposed chemical waste site a year ago when IT started the county governmental wheels turning on the project?

We’ve been caught with our pants down. We’ve been Pearl Harbored. We’re going to organize a pick-up team while IT has a coaching staff, play book, and spring training under its belt. They know all these preliminary meetings, hearings, and local governmental decisions are only practice games. The real stink begins when the whole mess goes to court. Throw reason aside. It all comes down to which side can scare some old grandpa in robes. Some taxidermist is probably working on him right now.

You think chemical waste can stink? Wait for the legal stench we have in store.
– Tom Pedersen

That meeting and the outrage it engendered was the beginning of a multi-faceted counter-attack waged not only by our local lawyers and government officials, but also PTAs and grassroots letter-writing campaigns as well. Next week’s column highlights how in-depth research and an obscure, tiny fish influenced the outcome.

Now and Then – Stagecoach Ride Marked 1978 Dam Dedication Ceremony

| Community | March 17, 2017

The steel wheels scratched narrow grooves in the highway as the replica of the Butterfield-Overland-Wells Fargo Coach made its way up San Francisquito Canyon under a bright Sunday morning sun in 1978.

The coach, built by Bill Graham of Bandy’s Wagon and Buggy Shop was carrying the historical plaque to be dedicated at the St. Francis Dam site at noon. Driving the coach was San Francisquito Canyon resident Denzil Cameron.

Cameron briefly handed the reins of the six-horse team to Graham and said, “Grab this handful of spaghetti and hold it real gently while I check the wheels.” Once this task was completed, the team continued with the plaque and a coachful of riders including Historical Society members Jerry Reynolds, Alice Sloane, and Betty Pember. Also along for the ride was Betty’s dad, historian and longtime Newhall resident, Lloyd Houghton.

In honor of the occasion, Lloyd wore a six-shooter and spurs and the ladies wore pioneer dresses and bonnets. The coach carried its valuable cargo from the Cameron Ranch on San Francisquito Road to the San Fran Motorway just above the dam site – an hour-and-fifteen-minute journey. An entourage of outriders consisting of Geri, Evelyn, and Tammy Cameron, Cindy Bandy, Renee Doiron, and Priscilla Mason escorted the stage on its way.

SCV Historical Society members prepared for an hour-and-fifteen minute stagecoach ride to commemorate the St. Francis Dam Disaster.

The trip up the canyon was full of reminiscing – Lloyd remembered how he traveled the old stagecoach route on Saturday nights to go dancing at the roadhouse near the summit. Houghton told us that he was quite a dancer in those days, owning his own dancehall in Newhall. Betty remembered that the old road (in existence until the dam began construction in 1925) crossed the riverbed 38 times. The group had plenty of time to enjoy the clear blue skies, the red mountain formations, and the lush green foliage that surrounded the small stream rushing down the riverbed. The coach rumbled on at a slow but steady pace while Alice pointed out wild tobacco plants and sage that were growing near the edge of the road.

The lighthearted mood of the trip changed as the landscape began filling with different formations – blocks of concrete, some larger than the coach, strewn from side to side of the riverbed. The remnants of concrete served as grim reminders of the tragedy that took place 50 years earlier. The concrete slabs stood like huge tombstones marking the graves of the hundreds of people who died when the St. Francis Dam collapsed on March 12, 1928, with the dam filled to capacity.

Even larger pieces of concrete had been dynamited (as was the center section of the dam) to offset the eerie vision of massive pillars being tumbled along like match sticks so far from the dam site. (The 18-mile-an-hour wave flooded over 54 miles of countryside in five and a half hours, spreading death and destruction as it surged over trees, roads, houses, and cars. The flood did not cease until it reached the Pacific Ocean at Ventura).

The large aggregates reminded us of our mission – to reach the dedication site where members of the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society, along with survivors of the flood and

SCV historian Jerry Reynolds offered a helping hand to his fellow passengers when they arrived at the 1978 dedication ceremony.

interested community residents, waited to officially honor the dead and injured of the disaster. Through the Historical Society’s efforts, the state had at last recognized the disaster and made the dam site Registered Landmark Number 919.

The site rests on a hilltop above the dam and Denzil urged the horses into a gallop for the last hundred yards of the journey. Lloyd, Alice, Betty, and Jerry held on tightly as the coach bounced up the dirt path and watched as a few staples popped out of the interior upholstery. Everyone marveled at what a sturdy lot the early pioneers were, enduring hundreds of similar jolts as they traveled across hundreds of miles of rocky countryside.

The passengers were met by Historical Society president Mimi White and her husband Charles, Los Angeles County Fire Chief Clyde Bragdon, Jr., Captain Bill Fairchild from the Sheriff’s Dept., and Lt. John O’Brien from the CHP. They were then escorted down a mountain trail to the ceremony site.

And don’t think it was easy walking down the rocky mountain pathway with legs that were weak and shaky from the hour-long bumpy ride! The wooden benches were a welcome sight for the jostled travelers as they later watched the solemn dedication ceremony unfold.

Honoring Our Veterans – They Will Never Be Forgotten

| Community | March 17, 2017

by Phyllis Walker
Smiles, words of gratitude and pleasure set the tone for the Santa Clarita Elks Barbecue Luncheon on February 25, 2017 at the Elks Lodge 2379 on Sierra Highway in Canyon Country, as veterans from the Sepulveda VA arrived for this yearly event. Each veteran in attendance was presented a red, white and blue knitted lei made by members of the Hart High School Key Club to signify their contribution to our country so we can remain “America, the Land of the Free.” The Antlers, a high school youth group from Van Nuys-Reseda Lodge were in attendance to show support for our veterans. The Lodge Boy Scout Troop 2379 served barbecued tri-tip, coleslaw, baked beans and delicious bread – all made from scratch by the Elks Barbeque Team for over 100 persons attending.  Elks member and WWII Navy veteran, Dick Roelofs, provided music as he played the organ.

The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (BPOE) was chartered in February 1868 — and with great spirit and direction — began to help veterans, disabled children, scouting, scholarships and more, wherever “Charity, Justice and Brotherly Love” were needed!

When World War I was raging in 1917, the Elks members helped the nation to victory by equipping two base hospitals for the sick and wounded on battlefields of France. In 1918, a Reconstruction Hospital in Boston was built and given to the federal government — the forerunner of today’s Veterans Administration Medical Centers. Elks provided rehabilitation, vocational and educational loans for disabled veterans; the federal government took over this activity, which became the genesis for the GI Bill.

A memorial building honoring those who served their country and gave their lives in the Great War (WWI) was dedicated in 1926 and it has been rededicated to honor all veterans — to include future conflicts. Located in Chicago, Illinois, the city granted the Elks Memorial “landmark” status. Elks members have continued to support morale by “Letters from Home” and care packages, as they support our troops in the war against terrorism and keeping our freedoms safe.

Each generation has experienced a war and associated atrocities since WWI with the gassings; WWII had mass executions and death marches; the Korean War experienced mass mutilations; Vietnam suffered from excessive prisoner torture and the health impact of agent orange; Desert Shield/Storm experienced difficulty in enemy distinction; and the Afghanistan/Iraq War — the longest in existence — continued issues of distinguishing enemies, IEDs and advanced warfare.

When asked “What is the best part of the event?” Korean Army veteran Kaz Shincaku said he “enjoyed talking with other GIs, the people in attendance, and being treated so well!” Fellow Vietnam Army veteran Bob Menard was delighted to see old friends, meet new friends and enjoyed everything — even though he was not an enthusiast of coleslaw, when it was mixed with the beans it became a culinary treat for him. Most impressive was a retired teacher who taught the youth in his classroom that “Freedom is not free; sacrifices of our armed forces keep us free.” Jason Monnier, a Marine veteran from the Persian Gulf War and assistant scoutmaster of Troop 2379, said he “enjoys the comradery of the event — especially the special bond between Boy Scouts and the Sepulveda Veterans.” Harold Walker, an Iraq War Army veteran, says he is “grateful for the sharing, comaraderie, fascinating stories and the food.”

Many Elks members are veterans and actively involved in the community to fulfill the Elks’ mission: “So long as there are veterans, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks will never forget them.”   This yearly event to honor veterans let them know we are grateful for their service and protecting our freedoms.

For more information about the Elks and their programs, contact Phyllis Walker at 661-251-1172 or visit, www.Elks.org.

Hart District Students Earn Culinary Arts Awards

| Community | March 17, 2017

Four students from the Hart School District Culinary Arts Program cooked their way to the top shelf of the Careers through Culinary Arts Program (CCAP) Los Angeles Region competition on March 3 at The Art Institute – Hollywood.

Valencia senior Julia Connors and Daniel Qujiano-Siade, as well as West Ranch senior Belinda Polynice, are three of 40 students advancing to the finals to be held at Mission College on April 28, where all will be eligible to win partial to full tuition scholarships. Students from 21 Los Angeles and Ventura County schools participated in this preliminary round.

In addition, the CCAP named Eliza Joy Nesheim, a junior at Valencia High School, the number one junior competitor in the nation. Eliza has been awarded a paid internship to work and study this summer at Munroe College in New York City.

“This competition allowed us to see the practical skills we are teaching them come to fruition,” said Mike McClintock who, along with Melinda Wignal and Tracie Priske, teach the Culinary Arts program. “It’s a tough field to be in with a lot of pressure, and to see them accomplish something we set out for them to accomplish is great. We are all very proud of them.”

The competitors had 90 minutes to complete three different dishes. The first was a composed salad, followed by a classic French omelet, and four different knife cuts on a potato (batonet, small dice, julienne, and brunoise).

Judges were professional chefs from throughout the nation, including Cindy Schwanke, the Culinary Arts instructor at College of the Canyons.

Fourteen COC Football Players Named Scholar-Athletes

| Community, Sports | March 17, 2017

The College of the Canyons football program had 14 players named to the 2016 Southern California Football Association (SCFA) Scholar-Athlete team.

To be eligible for inclusion on the team, players must participate on their respective school’s football team for two seasons, while successfully completing a minimum of 36 units. At least 27 units must be in academic courses (non-PE or collegiate sport activity). Scholar-Athlete team honorees must also achieve a GPA of at least 3.0.

“We could not be more proud of our SCFA Scholar-Athlete honorees,” said COC head coach Ted Iacenda. “These young men have dedicated hours of hard work to their studies and understand that the true purpose of College of the Canyons football is for student-athletes to pursue both their academic and athletic goals.”

Representing College of the Canyons on the 2016 SCFA Scholar-Athlete team are:

Blake Austin, Safety — 3.15 GPA

Tyler Bjorklund, Offensive Line — 3.17 GPA

Raymond Calles, Defensive Line – 3.33 GPA

Gabriel Gaitan, Offensive Line — 3.27 GPA

Zach Gragas, Linebacker — 3.68 GPA

Jerel Hall, Linebacker — 3.15 GPA

Andrew Karatepeyan, Defensive Line — 3.09 GPA

Austin McKinney, Punter — 3.07 GPA

Matthew Moore, Quarterback – 3.05 GPA

Jesus Mota, Offensive Line — 3.19 GPA

Tobenna Okunna, Linebacker — 3.0 GPA

Colton Oshiro, Safety — 3.70 GPA

Jacob Sammut, Long Snapper — 3.07 GPA

Hayden Wright, Safety — 3.88 GPA

Additionally, Austin, Bjorklund and McKinney were each named to the All-SCFA Team for their efforts on the playing field. McKinney also earned 2016 Region III All-California Community College Football Team honors.

“At College of the Canyons, academic support and achievement are the core tenets of our football program,” said Iacenda. “We stress that winning on and off of the field are of equal importance.

“Obviously this type of success would not be possible without the great partnerships we have formed with Albert Loaiza, our incredible athletic counselor, and Matt Crater, who is so instrumental in his role as student-athlete academic mentor in The Learning Center,” added Iacenda. “I thank both of them for their tremendous support and role in helping our players realize this achievement.”

Opportunities For Learning Proves Water Clean

| Community | March 16, 2017

After completing voluntary testing of the drinking water at all of its locations, Opportunities for Learning Public Charter Schools announced the results are positive. All 35 OFL centers are proven to be the acceptable limit for lead as established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In light of the growing national concern regarding lead levels in drinking water systems and in an effort to ensure that the drinking water provided to students and staff at centers is safe, OFL voluntarily began testing the drinking water at all locations last year. Testing included taking samples of drinking water at each location and having those samples evaluated by a state approved laboratory to ensure they met state and federal approved standards.

OFL operates centers in Fresno, High Desert, Long Beach, Los Angeles, San Fernando Valley, San Gabriel Valley, and Santa Clarita Valley.

“The safety and welfare of our students and staff continue to be our highest priority so the testing results are very encouraging,” founder John Hall said. “Moving forward we will continue to test our existing sites as recommended, every 3-5 years, and implement a permanent plan for new proposed center locations/relocations to guarantee the water in our school sites meet EPA standards.”

California currently has no legal requirement to test water in schools. State Assembly members Blanca Rubio and Gonzalez Fletcher recently introduced legislation that would require testing and certified filters at all schools, ensuring all kids have access to lead-free drinking water.

Established in 1999, OFL is a free public charter school, serving students in grades 7-12 who have fallen behind in school, are looking to get ahead and graduate early, or simply crave a non-traditional learning environment. Via a blended learning model, students learn through independent study, small group (SGI) classes, online courses, one-on-one single-subject tutoring and hands-on, experiential activities, trips and cultural excursions. For more information, visit www.emsofl.com.

Vehicle Donation by AutoNation to Fund Education

| Community | March 16, 2017

The non-profit WiSH Foundation will receive funds from a raffle held next week at AutoNation Chevrolet in Valencia. The car dealership donated a 2017 Chevy Cruze to the Foundation to be raffled, raising funds for the William S. Hart School District.

The prize vehicle has an MSRP of more than $20,000 and individuals who purchase an E-raffle ticket earn the chance to win the drawing. Tickets can be purchased for $25 each, with no limit, at www.WiSHscv.org. You will also find the rules and regulations at the site and the deadline to buy raffle tickets is Monday, March 20, 2017, at 10 p.m. Pacific Time.

The drawing will take place on Wednesday, March 22, 2017 at approximately 6:30 p.m., and winners do not need to be present to win. AutoNation Chevrolet Valencia will hold an open house where visitors can buy last minute raffle tickets. There will be food and entertainment from 5-7:30 p.m., as well as pulling the winning ticket. AutoNation Chevrolet is located at 23649 Valencia Blvd.

WiSH is a 501(c)(3) founded to provide funding to the schools of the Hart School District that are not funded by tax dollars alone. For more information, contact Executive Director Amy Daniels at WiSH@hartdistrict.org.

Fund Created for Teen with Fatal Disease

| Community | March 13, 2017

A 13-year-old boy with a degenerative and fatal neurological disorder needs gene replacement therapy to continue functioning. Sebastian Velona, known as Sebi, has Batten disease CLN8 and suffers from seizures, loss of eyesight and has declining cognitive and motor functions. Symptoms are making it difficult for Sebi to think, learn, walk, talk, eat and care for himself. Without a cure, he will fall into a vegetative state and likely die while in his 20s.

Sebi’s mother, Teri Fox, created a non-profit, The Sebastian Velona Foundation, and is seeking a way to raise $3.5 million for Sebi’s therapy and to fund research for CLN8. The therapy replaces mutated genes with new ge nes, and is based on existing treatments for other genetic disorders, including Batten disease CLN6 – a disorder similar to CLN8.

For some children with CLN8, the hope of gene replacement therapy arrives too late. In Sebi’s case, he is racing against time, according to his mother. If he doesn’t receive the therapy within a year, he will no longer be a viable candidate for treatment.

“I don’t how I’ll raise the money, but I know I can’t fail. It’s not an option,” Fox said. “I can’t let my son die.”

The Sebastian Velona Foundation is a project of The Giving Back Fund, a 501(c)(3) charity, so donations are tax deductible. To learn more, visit www.CureBattenCLN8.org. Follow Sebi’s journey on Facebook.com/HealingHugs4Sebi, Twitter.com/CureBattenCLN8 and Instagram.com/SebastianVelona.

Grey Days – Stop and Smell the Roses

| Community | March 12, 2017

I have always liked the saying “Stop and Smell the Roses,” but I never really thought about what it meant. For me, I am always in a rush and don’t usually have time to stop and smell anything.

I admit I get caught up in the rushing game; always rushing here and there, rushing to get things done, to get to appointments on time, to get my errands done, rushing to get the kids where they need to go, to get dinner on the table and so on. In our busy lives, we have lists, goals and deadlines, not to mention how fast time moves, often flying by in somewhat of a blur, as we are always trying to keep up.

My daughter isn’t like that. She is never in a rush, which drives us crazy. My husband and I find ourselves constantly trying to make her see how important it is to get things done in a timely manner. She seems to always be behind, and yet it doesn’t seem to faze her, while we do all the worrying for her, because the fact is, she doesn’t seem to have a care in the world.

A perfect example is when she told me recently (while I was once again insisting she get her room cleaned up quickly) that she preferred to be in the moment, to really experience what she is doing, even if it’s just cleaning up her room.

What? Please, just clean your room!

There just isn’t time for all this being in the moment! But no matter how much we threaten, beg or plead, she never changes and it’s like pulling teeth to get her to get anything done. I’m pretty sure she would never just walk by and not smell the roses. Heck, she might even smell every one!

As I was planning for her 16th birthday party, she told me she wanted to make a cake together instead of buying a perfectly crafted one from the bakery like we do every year. I was instantly stressed. I had so much to do and I had so little time. I wanted this party to be perfect since it was such a momentous occasion. But, of course, I said yes to the cake, because if you saw her endearing face, you’d say yes too.

I was a bit shocked by her list of what she said she needed from the store in order to make this cake. How big was it going to be? I suggested it would be easier to just buy a ready-made one. She said it wouldn’t be special like the one we were going to make.

After picking up all the ingredients, we began baking one cake at a time since I only had one large pan. While a cake was in the oven, I managed to do some decorating, wrapping and going over my lists to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything for the party the next day. There are all these little things that need to get done, I told her, but she didn’t seem impressed. When I tried to show her what went into a party, she just shrugged her shoulders and said it didn’t matter if it didn’t all get done. What?!

She told me no one would notice or probably care if there weren’t colored dishes or perfectly laid out decorations. She said she just wanted a big cake and music.

“This is your 16th birthday. It has to be special,” I explained.

“It will be special no matter what,” she said confidently.

“What if the cake were to burn?” I asked.

“It would be disappointing, but we would find something else to eat instead.”
Hmm, I wasn’t convinced. Surely she wanted her party to be perfect too.

“What if the pizza place shuts down and you don’t have pizza to eat,” I challenged.

“Huh?” she looked confused. “The pizza place isn’t going to shut down.”

“What I’m trying to say is all of these things – cake, food, decorations, etc. – make it special,” I reasoned.

“Yes, it does. But having them or not won’t change how much fun we’re going to have.”

How could I argue with that?

I decided to try it out and be in the moment too, focusing my full attention to the elaborate decorating we began doing until well after midnight. I have to admit we had a blast, laughing, eating pieces of broken off cake, filling the holes with globs of icing, trying to make little flowers that looked more like blobs. We ended up with a very large, and somewhat oddly shaped, and quite interestingly decorated cake. I had to admit it had its charm!

“I’m proud of this cake,” my daughter said, smiling at me. “I’ll always remember this. Thank you, Mom.”

I believe I now understand what is truly meant by “Stop and smell the roses.” We can always find time to slow down, be present in the moment and create priceless memories together.

Now, if I can only get her to help clean up this mess before the break of dawn!

How Customer Service Can Make of Break Your Business

| Community | March 12, 2017

by Connie Ragen Green

Recently I was driving by the location where a bicycle shop once did a brisk business here in Santa Clarita. The shop is now long gone, and in its place is a pool supply store. It made me think of the last time I had been there and what had transpired.

I had been in Los Angeles to visit a client, and had to park several blocks away. On the corner at the intersection where I was crossing was a bicycle shop. It had been many years since I had purchased a bicycle, but I was early for my appointment and decided to go in and have a look around for a few minutes.

A man who introduced himself to me right away as “Tony” took me on a tour of the shop. It was nostalgic to see rows of bikes from the past, such as Schwinn Stingrays with high handlebars and banana seats. He shared the history of the shop, and then asked me some questions to find out more about me and to see if I was a true prospect or just looking. And then it happened.

Tony took me down a long aisle where touring bikes and cruisers were lined up according to color, size, and brand. At one point I stopped in my tracks as I gazed upon a bicycle from a company called Felt. The model was “El Guapo,” meaning handsome or good-looking in Spanish. I stroked the seat and the handlebars. I gently pulled the bike out of the lineup to inspect it more closely. At Tony’s urging I sat atop the ample seat and placed my feet carefully on the pedals. I was in love.

We talked for a little longer and then I needed to leave to walk the two additional blocks to my client’s office. I took Tony’s card and bid my new love adieu. As I exited the shop I gave one last look over my shoulder at what had now become my heart’s desire. Then I put it out of mind for the next several hours to focus on the client I would be meeting with that afternoon.

On my drive back to Santa Clarita that evening I drove by the local bicycle shop. I parked in front and then got out to peer through the windows. I couldn’t see the makes and models because it was already dark, but I vowed to show up at 10 the following morning to see if they had, or could obtain, “El Guapo” for me. I believe in buying locally whenever possible, so this just made sense.

When the man unlocked the front door the next morning I had already been waiting outside in anticipation for 15 minutes. I followed him inside and immediately began babbling about what had occurred the previous afternoon down in Los Angeles. I waited for him to share my excitement and to tell me more about the Felt company, his shop, and “El Guapo.” It didn’t happen.

He barely made eye contact, only told me his name when I finally asked, did not seem even vaguely familiar with the bike I was interested in, and even paused before answering my questions as to whether or not he could order the bicycle I wished to purchase. Keep in mind, I was not asking for a discount of any kind and that I told him I was not particularly in a hurry. He took my contact information almost reluctantly and did not walk me to the door as I left.

Almost a week later I called the shop to see if they had any information for me. They put me on hold before passing me on to two different people, each of whom seemed less interested than the man who I had met there in person the week before. A few days after that I again visited the shop, and was finally told they didn’t think they could get the bike for me.

A week later, a friend and I drove to Los Angeles, where I picked up “El Guapo” from Tony. He was excited to see me, introduced me to the shop owner, and again shared more information about the shop, the bicycle, and more. He even gave me a hug instead of a handshake this time.

As we drove back to Santa Clarita with my new bicycle tied securely in the trunk of the car, I thought about the events that had transpired in regards to this transaction. It all came down to customer service, something that is so easy to provide and that means so very much. Are you more like Tony, or more like the people who once had a thriving bike shop here in Santa Clarita?

Connie Ragen Green lives in Saugus and has been working exclusively on the internet since 2006. Doing What It Takes: The Online Entrepreneur’s Playbook is her fourteenth book and has just been released by Hunter’s Moon Publishing. All of Connie’s titles are available in paperback at Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, at your local bookstore, and also for Kindle. Find out more by visiting http://HugeProfitsTinyList.com and download an audio recording for 2017 at http://NewRulesforOnlineMarketing.com.

Questions? Email Connie at crgreencrgreen@yahoo.com and be sure to put Home Business Question in the subject line. Your question and answer will be included in a future article.

Non-Profit Harnesses Stubbornness of Mules to Turn Around Teens

| Community | March 3, 2017

It’s the perfect metaphor: Headstrong youth take on creatures even harder to control than themselves. That’s what One Spade Youth Packers is all about.

Located in Kern County, but drawing from all areas, co-founder Reid Hopkins spoke at SCV Rotary last month about the non-profit and the adolescents whose lives have been changed by the program.

“It’s a leadership and character development program for at-risk and/or underprivileged kids,” he explained. “They learn how to harness and drive teams of mules and learn how to hook them to various farm implements.”

But if you’re thinking, “It’s not your grandma’s training program,” you’re wrong. It actually is.

“We have a comprehensive collection of ancient packing equipment. George Washington packed in the Revolutionary War just like these kids are doing today,” Hopkins said. “Nothing’s changed and there (are) very few things now that haven’t changed in the last 200 years. But packing has stayed the same. The way a family went into the back country in 1890 we do the same way now.”

There are no paid salaries – it’s operated solely by donations and volunteer driven.

“The program is no cost to the family,” Hopkins said. “Most of the kids, their folks don’t have the money to do this.”

What “this” entails for the 10-15 adolescents who participate is a yearlong commitment to everything from planting fields to riding horses.

“We hit ‘em pretty hard with feeding and care for the animals. They learn the diseases and health issues they have,” Hopkins said. “For a lot of kids that’s the first responsibility they’ve ever had. They’re actually held accountable for the animals.”

The teens have to maintain a “C” average and they can’t have severe attitude problems.

“A lot of the kids we get have some issues at home,” he said. “A lot of them come from single parent only situations; they’ve maybe been in trouble, but nothing criminal. Some are right on the fence and they can go either way.”

One Spade Youth Packers has changed the lives of 350 or more teens in 22 years of operations.

“A lot of these kids don’t want to play football or baseball,” he said. “A lot of them have never been on a team of anything and they learn the value of that. It’s kind of a unique program.”

This year there are four girls and eight boys who spend every other weekend and most of spring break at the Kern County Ranch of Reid and Eileen Hopkins, who founded the organization together.

“It’s comprehensive. They have to learn a lot and learn it quickly,” he described. “They learn how to put pack saddles on and tie loads on. … They learn a lot of anatomy and physiology, how much water and hay they need a day.”

The whole program culminates in bringing the teens to Mule Days in Bishop, Calif. in May, where they compete for world titles in a range of events.
“They compete in the farming class, using the team of mules pulling an implement,” Hopkins explained. “All the implements we have are pre-1915. The kids kind of get a window into the past.”

They also compete in packing contests and the “Teamster Challenge.”

“It’s really a difficult competition,” Hopkins said. “Most of the people they’re up against have 20-30 years of experience.”

There is a trails class, obstacle course and packing scrambles, plus events like “Musical Tires” and the “Dolly Parton Race.” The kids get to ride in the largest parade of its kind as well – another rare opportunity.

What are the One Spade core values?

“Honesty is number one,” Hopkins explained. “We teach them that these gray areas … they do not exist. You know in your gut, that little voice tells you if it’s right or wrong.”

Building self-confidence is another aim of the program, and teaching the kids to set goals and complete them.

“Self-reliance, self-confidence, personal responsibility – you have to own what you do, good or bad,” said Hopkins, who retired from 39 years in law enforcement. “We emphasize they can control a lot of what happens in their life.”

One Spade Youth Packers exists because of Hopkins’ own background. He suffered “a horrible childhood” and an “awful, awful home life,” as he describes it. He became a runaway, but found his way back, even graduating from college.

“There were people who stepped in to help me at critical times,” he recalled. “I realize the importance and the monumental impact they had on me.”

He sees a lot of familiar symptoms in the adolescents in the program.

“I went through the same thing myself,” he said. “Kids are pretty perceptive. They size you up in a heartbeat.”

What happens after the program?

Some kids come back for more than one year, even as many as five years, often helping to mentor the younger boys and girls. And after Mule Days they go on actual pack trips, to the Golden Trout Wilderness, for instance, so they can see how it all applies.

And even more lasting, Reid and Eileen use the program to give some a leg up with college and career training.

“We sent two of them through horseshoeing school. Some go to work for the National Park Service packing,” he said. “Over the years we’ve got a pretty large support group — we can do a lot of good in helping them head in the right direction.”

It is this support group that keeps the doors open at One Spade Youth Packers.

“We have a volunteer crew and I don’t want to underemphasize them,” he said. “It makes it work. They help with the cooking and help with the kids, (some who) are accomplished horse people who help with the kids riding.”

Financially, it is donations from multiple groups and individuals that keep the program alive.

“My wife and I, some years, have finished in the red and other years finished in the black,” Hopkins said. “Rotary, the Masons, the Exchange Club, several Bakersfield veterinarians – everybody chips in every year and we raise the money each and every year to do this. Folks are generous. Some folks have the time, not the money, and we’ll take all the help we can get.”

Reid and Eileen Hopkins get the satisfaction of watching a brotherhood and sisterhood emerge among participating teens, who learn to depend on each other.

“We get ‘em ready to compete in the world. It’s really rewarding to see them metamorphosize,” he explained. “You really get a chance to mentor them, get them going in the right direction. It’s the hope that they’ll become more productive members of society.”

To contact One Spade Youth Packers call 760-223-1612 or visit Onespadeyouthpackers.org.

Art Reception for New Exhibit at City Hall

| Community | March 2, 2017

“It’s All in the Numbers” is the name of the next art exhibit to grace the First Floor Gallery of Santa Clarita City Hall. The public is invited to attend a free reception opening the exhibit on Saturday, March 4 from 6-8 p.m. Residents are invited to join the Santa Clarita City Council, City of Santa Clarita’s Arts Commission and Arts and Events division for light appetizers, entertainment and a chance to mingle with the artists. The City Hall gallery is located at 23920 Valencia Boulevard in Valencia.

The “It’s All in the Numbers” exhibition will be displayed March 1 through March 31, 2017 in conjunction with the Santa Clarita Public Library’s One Story One City program. Through the month of March, One Story One City events will highlight themes found in Nathalia Holt’s novel, “Rise of the Rocket Girls.” The book tells the tale of the women known as “human computers” who worked at Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory between the 1940s and 1970s. At the “It’s All in the Numbers” exhibition, pieces such as “Facts Are Stubborn Things” by Margi Bertram will express the challenges and let visitors experience the marvel surrounding numbers, innovation and rocket science.

For more information regarding the art reception and exhibit, visit SantaClaritaArts.com. Additional details regarding One Story One City events can be found at SantaClaritaLibrary.com/OneStoryOneCity.

Now and Then, Backstage at the Oscars 1974 part two

| Community | March 2, 2017

After reading last week’s Now and Then column on the 1974 Academy Awards, some Gazette readers questioned how a community newspaper reporter wrangled an invitation to one of Hollywood’s biggest productions. In spite of the SCV’s relatively small size at the time (and the fact that many Downtown L.A. officials had no idea where or who we were), we had our own luminaries, and one of those was Newhall court clerk Bernie Byrne.

Bernie was a man about town, managing his social calendar as efficiently as he did the court dockets for Judges Adrian Adams and Jack Clark. Besides his 9 to 5 position, Bernie had two enviable “side” jobs. One was serving as marshal leader for the Bob Hope Golf Classic and the other as associate security director for the Academy Awards.

Before retiring from the LA Municipal Court System in 1976, Bernie extended a generous invitation to The Signal newspaper’s society pages. In his capacity as security director, he was able to provide me and a photographer with two coveted Academy badges that would gain us entry into the Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

Part of the package included a trip to the Center the week before the event to watch rehearsals for a few of the musical numbers. My husband, Tom, and I sat in the near empty auditorium watching stage hands, music directors, and choreographers direct Connie Stevens and some incredibly acrobatic male dancers through an energetic routine showcasing Best Song nominee “Live and Let Die.”(The song, written by Paul McCartney for the latest Bond movie, lost out to “The Way We Were.”)

Excitement over the upcoming event was somewhat dampened by a trip to my closet, which was comprised mainly of bellbottomed pants, mini dresses, and home sewn evening gowns. There was nothing there to fit in with the glamour that would be on display at the awards show.

Lucky for me, former model Aggi Lewis had recently opened an upscale boutique that featured a line of dresses from designer Manning Silver. Being somewhat naïve, I had no idea who Manning Silver was, but Aggi assured me (and many of our town’s matrons) that Silver was as high class a designer as one could get. The prices of his gowns were also pretty high class, but how often does one get the opportunity to attend the Academy Awards? I left her shop in Plaza Posada with one of the most sophisticated forest green gowns I would ever own, rationalizing how I could ration our family meals for the next five years.

Admission to the Music Center, for those who weren’t Academy officials or celebrities, was by color-coded badges. The media people all sported yellow badges, while my photographer and I wore red security badges. Red badges were rare in the upstairs media rooms and in the beginning of the evening we got a lot of questioning looks. I wondered if someone would challenge us about our roles there. The ice was broken, however, when one news reporter gave me a cynical look, then asked wittily, “What’s a nice girl like you doing in a badge like that?”

Interestingly enough, I had a chance to live up to my badge when I later passed an elevator on the way to the restrooms. The doors opened and I found myself exchanging surprised glances with two teen-aged boys dressed in street clothes. We stood frozen while I wondered if I should grab them by their arms and report them to security. Wait, wasn’t I supposed to be security? Indecision and temerity were brushed aside when two brawny men in tuxes rushed over, pushed the boys to the back of the elevator and punched the elevator doors closed. The bathroom was now the last thing on my mind and I sheepishly hurried back to the anonymity of the pressroom.

As with all Academy Awards ceremonies, there were many entertaining moments – scripted and unscripted. And though today’s big news is the card mix-up announcing “The Best Picture Award,” a similar unscripted moment happened when it was time to announce The Best Picture in 1974.

Host David Niven was about to introduce Elizabeth Taylor, who was to read the Best Picture nominees, when a naked man ran behind him flashing a peace sign (among other things). Because streaking was a popular media phenomenon of the day, an incredibly cool Niven remarked, “Well, ladies and gentlemen, that was almost bound to happen.” Niven earned one of the biggest laughs of the night when he concluded: “Fascinating to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings.”

When he was led up to the pressroom at the end of the evening, self-employed photographer Robert Opel’s “shortcomings,” were modestly covered in a jumpsuit. Opel’s one night of celebrity was eclipsed five years later when he was tragically murdered during an attempted robbery at his San Francisco studio.

Community Invited to Free Feature Film Screening

| Community | February 25, 2017

Several Santa Clarita agencies are coming together for It Only Takes a Moment™, an eye-opening event centered around the free showing of “Listen,” a feature film that confronts the mental health crisis thousands of youth are facing today.

The event will be hosted at the Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center at College of the Canyons on Tuesday, March 14, 2017. Doors Open at 6 p.m. with the film starting at 6:30 p.m. Following the film will be a courageous conversation featuring the film’s writer/director, producer, and actors highlighting issues like cyber-bullying, racism, gang violence, abuse, isolation, and suicide. A sponsor informational fair will be held onsite between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. that evening.

“Listen” tells the story of nearly every high school in this country where students hide their pain, friends ignore each other’s cries for help, and adults are too overwhelmed to stop and listen. Created in response to the silent epidemic among our youth, “Listen” is a wakeup call to the growing mental health and communication problems that are sweeping our nation.

“I’ve spent the last 16 years of my life working to give youth an authentic voice and now I hope others will listen to what I have heard,” said the film’s award-winning writer/director Erahm Christopher. “We need to look beyond social, economical and ethnic differences and recognize how often we all feel disconnected and alone.”

Producer Brooke Dooley added, “Our goal for this film is to spark empathy, self-reflection and conversation in an authentic, relevant way; to be mindful and alert of what others are going through and reach out with genuine concern. We have to re-shift our focus and start learning to listen or else we will continue to suffer through preventable tragedies.”

Through the generous support of the William S. Hart Union High School District, City of Santa Clarita, The Child and Family Center, Los Angeles Sheriffs Department, ACTION Family Counseling, Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, KHTS, WiSH Foundation, College of the Canyons, Domestic Violence Center, Los Angeles County Fire Department, SCV Youth Project and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, this event is 100 percent free to attend. Teens and adults are invited to join this event to share their experiences, receive free resources, become better listeners and unite their community. Seating is limited so you should RSVP as soon as possible at:


“Listen” has been test screened to over 15,000 people and the most common response from youth is, “This movie makes me feel like I’m not alone,” and “This is the movie for our generation.”

One psychologist even stated, “If you see this movie it will change your life. If you tell everyone you know to see it, it will change the world.”

Christopher and Dooley have decided to forgo the traditional film festival route and release the film across the US and Canada at high schools, universities, health organizations and community centers during the 2016-2017 school year, completely free of charge in order to remove all barriers to the important mental health conversation. They are accepting tax deductible donations on their website – www.listenthemovie.com – to support their free screenings. Event dates are constantly updated on their website. They are also encouraging people to sign their change.org petition to reduce the student counselor-to-student ratio across the United States.

Residents and Business Owners Strongly Encouraged to Report Storm Damage

| Community | February 24, 2017

The City of Santa Clarita strongly encourages residents and business owners who have been impacted by the recent storm to report damages to their homes, properties and businesses by completing the Los Angeles County’s Damage Assessment Survey located online at www.211la.org/damage-assessment-survey.

“It is important for residents and business owners to become familiar with the process used by the Los Angeles County Chief Executive Office, Office of Emergency Management (OEM) to collect damage estimates caused by the recent storm,” said Leslie Luke, OEM Deputy Director. “This information will be used to determine if the county has enough damages to seek a federal declaration for assistance through the U.S. Small Business Administration.”

Los Angeles County residents, renters and business owners, including persons with disabilities and others with access and functional needs, may call 211 LA County at any time for emergency preparedness information and other referral services. The toll-free 2-1-1 number is available 24 hours a day and seven days a week. 211 LA County services can also be accessed online by visiting www.211la.org.

Now and Then: ‘Backstage’ at the 1974 Oscars

| Community | February 23, 2017

The voice of columnist Army Archard could be heard over the loudspeaker two blocks away from the Music Center as he welcomed stars to the 46th Academy Awards presentation. A crowd of enthusiastic fans seated in a portable grandstand cheered as each celebrity arrived. Even while Army was interviewing one star, a roar would fill the air, and all eyes would turn to see the likes of Paul McCartney, Yul Brynner, Diana Ross, and Gene Kelly stepping out of black limousines.

Ticketholders, or lucky journalists with special badges, stood inside a roped-off area, watching the new arrivals parade by before following their favorites inside the building. During all the hoop-la, my gaze wandered to a woman who stood under one of the trees on the fringes of the crowd. She wore a long, jewel-studded gown, which had once been white, but now looked as worn as its owner.

Her platinum-dyed hair hung loosely on her shoulders and thick black eyelashes hid most of her face. Make-up had been molded over the rest in a vain effort to camouflage the wrinkles. I wondered what part this woman had played in the Hollywood scene that left her such a slave to its image of glamour. She seemed only half aware of what was happening and her eyes kept scanning the crowd as if she were looking for someone special – or was she searching for someone who might recognize her?

She was not one-of-a-kind. There were many present like her, only they were not alone. They were on the arms of small, heavy-set men or tall bearded ones. Their gowns seemed all alike even though they might be trimmed in feathers or bouncing fringe to hide the ravages that time had taken on their sagging bodies. Some had bleached hair and some had freshly dyed red hair, but they all seemed determined to shine as brightly as the young stars.

They seemed so out of place in the glamorous atmosphere. Yet, they were as much a part of “Hollywood” as the tall model walking to the theater entrance amid flashing cameras, the young songwriter destined to win three Oscars that evening, and the bikini-clad figure of Edie Williams posing for photographers. They were like a sideshow at a circus, always on the fringes of the three rings inside.

How easily they were forgotten when the main attractions like Paul Newman and JoAnne Woodward, Burt Reynolds and Dinah Shore, and Jack Lemmon and Felicia Farr arrived.

A coach drawn by two white horses caught the crowd’s eye amid all the black limousines and its occupant sent another cheer into the air. Newly discovered porn star Linda Lovelace had made her Academy Award debut. Linda told Army that there was one special man she was there to meet and that was Oscar. Playing it very straight, Army commented on the “Deep Throat” star’s new movie, “Streaking,” and suggested that maybe one day Linda would be contending for an Oscar. Little did he know that his reference to streaking would foreshadow one of the night’s most explosive moments.

As 7 o’clock grew nearer, the ticket holders and members of the media began disappearing inside the Music Center, leaving the crowd in the bleachers waiting to catch the late arrivals.

Up on the fourth floor, there was a flurry of activity. The media members congregated in monitor-filled rooms to watch the proceedings taking place on stage. As each award was announced they would rush to write the stories, get the most original pictures when the winners were brought upstairs, and find the most obscure story. It would prove to be an arduous task, because the Academy officials had the route from the main auditorium to the fourth floor meticulously planned. There was little opportunity to see or hear something unseen or unheard by everyone else.

Once inside the photographers’ room, there was only one place for the celebrities to stand, on a stage next to a huge plaster replica of Oscar. Photographers elbowed to get closer to the winners and the presenters, and barked orders to the stars in an attempt to get an original shot. But soon the icons were led on to the TV room and down a guarded elevator to return to the theater.

Perhaps the most lucid illustration of the need to isolate the photographers from the ceremonies came when Best Supporting Actress winner Tatum O’Neal was ushered up to the press floor. The room temperature seemed to go up 10 degrees and flashbulbs popped relentlessly as the blinking little girl stood alone, somewhat dazed, next to Oscar. As she was hurried into the next pressroom the photographers cried out angrily, “Bring her back here, we’re not through with her yet!” In a harried voice, her escort yelled back that the lights were hurting Tatum’s eyes, then quickly ushered her out of the room.

About that time, Cher and Dyan Cannon entered and there was a mini stampede back to center stage, with cameras and flashes blazing.

Is it possible to explain the thrill of seeing so many celebrities at once? After a time, it began to seem unreal and even a little routine, until one of the more stunning or exciting would appear. But no matter how much excitement the stars before her had created, it was nothing compared to the electricity generated when Elizabeth Taylor entered. Personal troubles aside, she was the most beautiful and glamorous person there. When she arrived, the real Hollywood, past and present, arrived. After she had gone, it was hard to believe the ceremonies and the evening were coming to an end. The streaker, who had upstaged host David Niven earlier in the evening, was hustled in to be photographed, but there was no more magic in the air. The cameras were being packed away and the crowd upstairs was beginning to thin out.

As I left the building, I glanced toward the tree where the fading dilettante had stood earlier that evening. I was almost surprised to see that she was gone. It was as though she, like almost everything else in Hollywood, was just another illusion that had never really existed.

But then, there was no place for her or reality in the magic atmosphere that had been created by the ceremonies. For the average American at that time in 1974, Hollywood would always be the violet-eyed beauty of Elizabeth Taylor, the excitement of Clark Gable, and the greatness of Tracy, Hepburn, Bogart, Grant, Valentino . . .

Afternoon T

| Community | February 23, 2017

by T. Katz

Q: My father and I argue all the time. Usually about stupid things and I feel like I’m 12 or 13 years old again. I’m an adult with kids of my own!! When do I stop feeling like a kid around my dad!?

A: Being a full-fledged adult doesn’t always mean we’ll ever stop feeling like a child when speaking to parental units. Especially if you find yourself quarrelling over the smallest of things. As we age and our parents age, we do still need to be respectful of that whole “honor thy mother and father” business, but you don’t have to be reduced to your younger, childish self in their presence.

There might be times that our folks (who have lived their lives and seen some things) have what they consider valid reasons to be in opposition with us, just as we may also have completely logical reasons why we don’t concur. Well, you don’t have to agree with them. You’re a grown up! If you’re the one in charge of your rent/mortgage and dressing yourself in the morning, you are old enough to be in control of your life… oh, and your words. Remember, we learned as toddlers, on our way to growing up to be a grown up: Use your words. Now, more than ever, you really need to tack on: Use your words WISELY. You don’t have to argue.

Lest you think I’m someone who throws rocks at a glass gazebo, I want you to know that I feel your pain. My maternal unit still preens ruffled feathers because I allowed my now grown children to eat sugar and watch TV the first couple of decades of life. She still snipes about it when we have dinner together. We also routinely bicker over other things, but I’ve come to realize that the combative nature of our conversations seems to boil down to a couple of things: Being Heard and Being in Charge. She doesn’t often feel in charge of her days lately, and I often feel like she wants to fight over the silliest of things, just to make sure I’m listening. After all, arguing can make you feel like you’re the one in the driver’s seat, even if you’re not holding the wheel. So, let’s look at what we can do to keep our relationship on the right track:

Breathe. Stay calm and carry on like an adult.
Listen. Add phrases like, “I hear what you’re saying.” Repeat and confirm what they tell you. “Are you saying …?”
Assess. Do you HAVE to be heard? Then avoid using statements that place blame or shame (if they don’t accept your information).
Mirror. Identify things that you can agree on.
Swerve. Change the subject. Ask to hear a “Once Upon a Time” story about them. It just might allow them to teach you something you don’t know, even though you are all grown up.
Hydrate. Share some tea/coffee/cocoa. Don’t add sugar – unless they ask for it.

Cowboy Festival to Unveil Walk of Western Stars Inductees

| Community | February 21, 2017

The legends slated to receive a bronze marker on the Walk of Western Stars this year was just announced. Three honorees – Bo Hopkins and Andre and Renaud Veluzat – will be honored at a ceremony unveiling the stars on Sunday, April 23, 2017, at 5:00 p.m. during the 24th Annual Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival. It will take place between Market Street and 8th Street on the west side of the street, just north of the middle of the block. The unveiling is free and open to the public.  Hopkins and the Veluzats will appear in person at the ceremony.

Since 1981, the Walk of Western Stars has honored the legends of Western film, television and radio who have contributed to America’s heritage. Inductees are honored with bronze stars and terrazzo tiles stamped into Main Street in Old Town Newhall.

Bo Hopkins has over 100 acting credits to his name; 34 of them are westerns. His first major film acting role was in the western classic “The Wild Bunch” with acclaimed director Sam Peckinpah. Hopkins is also known for his memorable performance in the Universal Pictures film “American Graffiti,” playing the role of the intimidating leader of the Pharaohs.

As Newhall teenagers enchanted by the world of make-believe, Renaud and Andre Veluzat spent hours peeking through the fence at Gene Autry’s Melody Ranch to spot their Wild West idols making movies and TV shows. Little did they know that one day they would be the owners of Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio.  Today the studio is bustling with feature, television, commercial and video filming, such as “Deadwood” and “Westworld.” The studio was also home for the City of Santa Clarita’s annual Cowboy Festival for 21 years.

The unveiling will be followed by a Walk of Western Stars reception at the Canyon Theatre Guild, located at 24242 Main Street. Hors d’oeuvres will be served followed by a show, which will include a montage of clips of the honorees, a short question and answer session with each inductee, and a live musical performance.

Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis, and doors open at 5:00 p.m. Parking is available at the Cowboy Festival Shuttle site and a courtesy shuttle will drop off and pick up from the park. Tickets are still available for the reception event, and can be purchased at CowboyFestival.org.

Habitat for Humanity and Nissan Gain from Partnership

| Community | February 20, 2017

Now in its second decade of partnership with Habitat for Humanity, Nissan’s recent $1 million donation brings the company’s contributions in North America to more than $14 million over the past 11 years. A grant including a donation to Habitat for Humanity of a new Nissan Frontier stems from the automaker’s aim to provide families with secure, affordable housing.

“Nissan’s generosity in providing this truck to Habitat for Humanity SF/SCV has us filled with overwhelming gratitude. This truck allows us to visually spread our mission, which enables us to build more homes for veterans and truly make a difference in people’s lives,” said Donielle De Leon, director of Corporate and Community Engagement for Habitat for Humanity San Fernando/Santa Clarita Valleys.

Nissan is donating nine vehicles to be used locally by Habitat offices. Additionally, Nissan employees will volunteer to support construction or revitalization projects in 12 Habitat communities this year.

“Nissan values its partnership with Habitat for Humanity because it delivers strong results each year in building sustainable communities in the areas where our employees live and work,” said Nissan Vice President Rebecca Vest. “Our employees look forward to working alongside future homeowners, and their experiences affirm our corporate mission to enrich people’s lives.”

Nissan’s partnership with Habitat began in 2005 when the company donated 50 trucks and mobilized employees to assist in home building following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in the Gulf Coast region. In the last decade, Nissan has donated an additional 88 vehicles. Since 2006, Nissan’s employees have logged more than 80,000 volunteer hours with Habitat for Humanity, building 71 homes across the U.S.

Habitat SF/SCV is a locally run, independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization serving North Los Angeles city and county, building houses and futures for low-income families. They partner with sister agency Homes for Families® to specialize in building Enriched Neighborhood® communities which hold the promise to move low-income families up into the middle class. Founded in 1990, Habitat is currently building over 150 homes for low-income veterans in collaboration with the California Department of Veterans Affairs.

Healthy Lifestyle Resource Fair at COC

| Community | February 20, 2017

The College of the Canyons Body Mind Wellness Coalition will be hosting its spring Healthy Lifestyle Resource Fair to better assist students and community members with issues such as stress, exercise, preventative health, as well as preventative and relationships.

The festivities will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, March 7 in the COC Honor Grove, located on the college’s Valencia Campus.

The fair will serve as the mainspring event for a variety of associated events and activities being hosted by the BMW Coalition throughout February, March and April, including the free public screening of the body image documentary “Embrace” on Wednesday, March 1.

“We look forward to providing students and community members with helpful and insightful resources and tools at our spring Healthy Lifestyle Resource Fair,” said Sheri Barke, sports and wellness dietitian at the COC Student Health Center and one of the event organizers. “Our goal is to help people manage their stress and take cohesive steps toward a more balanced and healthy lifestyle.”

The Healthy Lifestyle Resource Fair and its related events are free and open to the public, unless otherwise specified.

For more information about the complete lineup of associated events, visit www.canyons.edu/bmw or contact Sheri Barke at (661) 362-3244.

Assemblyman Acosta Introduces Package of Public Safety Bills

| Community | February 20, 2017

Assemblyman Dante Acosta introduced three pieces of legislation designed to improve the health and safety of the local community.

“This bill package fulfills my promise to every resident of the 38th District that I would fight for community health and local safety,” Acosta said. “We send the wrong message to criminals and their victims when crimes such as human trafficking, child abuse likely to result in great bodily harm, and terrorism through use of an explosive device, among others, are treated as ‘non-serious’ offenses.”

AB 537 will add to the list of serious crimes a host of offenses from child abuse to use of a hostage as a human shield in order to evade arrest. Due to the governor’s realignment efforts – AB 109 in 2011 – many felons guilty of “non-serious” crimes serve reduced terms in county jails instead of in state penitentiaries. AB 537 will undo much of the damage done by realignment to the justice system.

AB 538 will require criminals who receive an aggregate sentence of over three years for felonies to serve that time in state prison instead of county jails. Often criminals who serve time in county jails are much more likely to secure early release. Requiring that time to be served in prison will ensure that victims receive the justice they desire.

AB 539 gives law enforcement the right to seek a warrant in cases of so-called “revenge porn” or other similar situations. This is when a person distributes across the internet malicious images or video of a sexual nature without the consent of the person on the image or video where privacy was expected by the victim. Currently this is illegal, but law enforcement has no right to seek a warrant even if enough evidence exists to expect one.

Assemblyman Dante Acosta represents the 38th Assembly District stretching from Vasquez Rocks in Agua Dulce to the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, which encompasses the communities of Santa Clarita, Porter Ranch, Chatsworth and Northridge.

Bunco Blast to Benefit Child & Family Center

| Community | February 19, 2017

The College of the Canyons Body Mind Wellness Coalition will be hosting its spring Healthy Lifestyle Resource Fair to better assist students and community members with issues such as stress, exercise, preventative health, as well as preventative and relationships.

The festivities will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, March 7 in the COC Honor Grove, located on the college’s Valencia Campus.

The fair will serve as the mainspring event for a variety of associated events and activities being hosted by the BMW Coalition throughout February, March and April, including the free public screening of the body image documentary “Embrace” on Wednesday, March 1.

“We look forward to providing students and community members with helpful and insightful resources and tools at our spring Healthy Lifestyle Resource Fair,” said Sheri Barke, sports and wellness dietitian at the COC Student Health Center and one of the event organizers. “Our goal is to help people manage their stress and take cohesive steps toward a more balanced and healthy lifestyle.”

The Healthy Lifestyle Resource Fair and its related events are free and open to the public, unless otherwise specified.

For more information about the complete lineup of associated events, visit www.canyons.edu/bmw or contact Sheri Barke at (661) 362-3244.

Free Workshop to Teach Motorcycle Technical Skills

| Community | February 19, 2017

The non-profit association Redbird is partnering with the City of Santa Clarita to offer a four-hour class with instruction about motorcycle operation and maintenance. On Saturday, March 4, 2017 from 11 a.m.-3 p.m., riders of all experience levels are invited to attend a free Motorcycle Technical Skills workshop with Lance Holst. Using both an in-classroom and a hands-on motorcycle presentation, Holst will teach the fundamental skills of operating a motorcycle, including how to ride in different conditions and best practices on bike maintenance. The workshop will take place in the Community Room at Old Town Newhall Library, located at 24500 Main Street in Newhall. To reserve a spot in the workshop, email Corina Roberts at redbirds_vision@hotmail.com.

Lance Holst is a freelance writer, photographer and instructor in the motorcycle industry. He is currently a road test editor for Motorcyclist Magazine and has taught at multiple motorcycle schools. He also manages his own Holst Ride Smarter School. His expertise in riding has led him to teach around the world including Germany, France and Japan.

The Motorcycle Technical Skills Workshop is in conjunction with the art show “Highway 2 – The Journey and the Destination,” a multi-artist, multi-media art show celebrating the stretch of asphalt known as the Angeles Crest Highway from various artist viewpoints. The art show is on display at the Community Room at Old Town Newhall Library until Wednesday, April 12, 2017.

For more information about the Motorcycle Technical Skills Workshop, or the “Highway 2 – The Journey and the Destination” art show, contact the city’s Arts and Events Supervisor, Jeff Barber, at (661) 250-3779 or

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