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Welcome to the Sonoma County Gazette ARCHIVE of PAST EDITIONS. Our NEW WEBSITE is up and running, so GazExtra is serving as your path to archived articles. Thanks for being part of our Sonoma County community...stay in touch...e-mail me - VESTA

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Rue Furch essay on Maintaining Sonoma County Roads

During the Primary and now in preparation for the November election of our new District Supervisors, I have invited candidates to express their views on topics they feel are important to voters. This is one of Rue Furch's essays, this one published in the September 18th edition of WCG. Please read Shirlee Zane's and Efren Carillo's essays as well. Links to their web sites are included in these web essays. - V

Routes to Recovery or Roads to Ruin?

Western Sonoma County has more than its share of older roads that have been neglected. Winter potholes create craters big enough to cause car damage or accidents. For years, maintenance has fallen farther and farther behind. The situation is so bad that the Metropolitan Transportation Commission says Sonoma County roads have the worst “pavement condition index” of all the over 100 Bay Area cities and counties.

As your West County Supervisor, a top priority will be getting our fair share of tax dollars for West County roads, improving rural public transit and ensuring safe student and pedestrian walkways and bike trails.

Sonoma County spends $18.8 million annually on county roads, including growth areas like the County Airport and Industrial Park. Yet when residents of rural Joy Road objected to the rapid collapse of their public road, the County tossed it back saying they may need to create their own tax assessment district to fix their road! That is not an option for residents who rely on public streets to be useable and safe. The County can’t just walk away from street maintenance obligations, particularly if they keep approving development on those same roads.

Where is our Fair Share?

Passage of Measure M approved an increase in sales tax to pay for road improvements. But west Sonoma County is being shortchanged. Forty-five percent of Measure M taxes go to rail and Highway 101 projects, which does little for West County. Measure M allocates 34 percent of the money it collects for local road, transit, bike, and pedestrian uses. But the bulk of that goes into the cities, with rural West County competing for its share.

The biggest road project in the 5th District is improving the Highway 12/Fulton Road intersection, but it does a lot more for Santa Rosa than West County. Bottom line, only 4% of Measure M road project funds dribble their way west of the Laguna de Santa Rosa to projects on River Road, Bodega Highway and the Forestville Bypass. Only 6% of the bike/pedestrian money reaches rural West County.

There are ways to bring more funds into the West County.

As Supervisor, I’ll work to allocate road repair funds to target public safety and substandard roads. The present system distributes repair money based only upon population and miles of road. It doesn’t consider how old or safe the roads actually are - and that stacks the deck against the West County.

As Supervisor, I won’t let developers off the hook for traffic impacts and long-term road repair. With Alice in Wonderland logic, the County says that if the traffic in an area is already bad, then projects that only add 5% more traffic won’t have a cumulative impact that has to be mitigated. As your Supervisor, I will make new development participate directly in fixing road problems, instead of just tossing the money into the County road fund.

And as your Supervisor, I will work to get especially bad sections of rural County roads declared substandard for safety or structural failure, and restrict any new projects that will add significant truck traffic to those roads until a correction plan is in place and funded.

I will go after special funding that fits the needs of our area. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission has public transportation funds for areas like the Russian River with a high proportion of low-income households. Local agencies and non-profits can partner to qualify for those funds. As your Supervisor, I will work to build partnerships to bring in resources that are tailored for our circumstances.

I will work for a bigger percentage of Measure M funds for West County. When the Measure M package was assembled, it allocated 5% for rail as a stopgap until the SMART train had other funding. If a SMART tax measure is approved, that Measure M money can go to expand transit services to give the rural West County residents better access to the SMART train and a more useful transportation system.

Safe roads, sidewalks, paths and bikeways, and adequate transit must be a top priority for West County. It will be a top priority for me as your West County Supervisor.

Rue Furch
Candidate for 5th District Supervisor


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REAL Change in Campaign '08

I pulled this essay off a national news web site because I think it has value for many readers. Seth Freeman is a professor of conflict management at New York University's Stern School of Business and Columbia Business School. He's asking us to ‘‘Stop hating the other party.’’ - V

Real change in campaign '08: Stop hating the other party.

By Seth Freeman

As angry and politically active as I am this presidential election, I'm starting to notice a problem as I fight for my side: The more engaged I am and the more the polls seesaw, the more I find I have an ugly desire to see the worst in the other side. The technical term for this condition is hate.

Maybe you've had a bit of the same problem?

Try this experiment: Imagine that last week you read a report that the candidate you oppose did something truly awful – assaulted someone, took a bribe – something like that. The polls swing toward your side. Then, today, you learn it's untrue – the candidate is innocent. How do you feel? Disappointed? I think I know the feeling. It's a bad sign.

Here's why: Hate has the annoying tendency to turn into hypocrisy. I laugh with glee when my side catches the other's lies and follies. To a point, that's healthy and cathartic.

But you don't hear me laughing when the other side returns the favor. Then I discount the point and quietly fume at the attack itself. Don't they understand our side is the good one?

And so it goes: They smear us; we uncover the truth about them. They have corrupt contributors; we're creating a badly needed war chest. Their moral difficulties are untenable; ours, if any, are excusable.

Hate also kills thinking. In 2004, my wife and I did a simple exercise with some of our liberal and conservative friends.

We asked each to imagine seeing their side from the other's perspective. "We're not asking you to agree with them," we said, "we're just asking if you can understand them."

Though our friends were educated, compassionate, and capable of great empathy, they found our request impossible. "I can't," they said. "Maybe I should, but I can't. They're just crazy – or evil." Perhaps you felt that way recently as you watched one of the conventions. "Who are those people?"

Why do politics alienate us? It's true we are more polarized now than we once were, but there never was an idyllic age when politics was kind and gentle. It has always been prone to verbal viciousness, and I think I know one reason why: Physical violence is a no-no.

Politics is a field of battle where bloodshed is discouraged, but much is allowed. At its best, politics can ennoble us; more often, it makes us smaller, and there's nothing new about that. In the 1800 presidential campaign, Thomas Jefferson paid a journalist to publish claims his opponent and friend, John Adams, was deranged.

An inconvenient truth of the political heart is that it's prone to bring out in us the very things we say we hate about the other side. "We have met the enemy," said Pogo, "and he is us." That's true even if we say we want hope and change, and it's true even if we say we believe in loving our enemies.

In warning about hatred, am I buying in to naive rhetoric about ending partisan politics? Insisting that, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all?" Hardly.

A Far Side cartoon captures the danger of mere niceness well: "Although skilled with their pillow arsenal, the Wimpodites were favorite targets of Viking attacks." What then?

Fight hard and well. My wife and I discovered something odd about politics recently: Good political activism – as opposed to sitting around stewing with rage – gave us a measure of peace. If our side won, we rejoiced, knowing we'd helped a little; if it lost, we mourned without bitterness, while acquaintances who'd sat on the sidelines stewed.

I've also learned something recently from Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps: anger can be fuel. I plan to be active this season. And I aim to win.

But can I fight hard without damaging my heart, my relationships, or the country I claim to love?

Borrowing from two astute politicians, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Lincoln, I'm looking for ways to want good things for the other side, see the good in them, and genuinely see the force of their arguments.

Easy to say, hard to do, but I'm trying. I don't think that means I have to give up my favorite comedians; it does mean checking facts. (, anyone?)

Even more, it means watching out for the times when I'm savoring bad reports about the other side, thinking, "now we've got you, you @#$&!"

Think of it as a kind of counterinsurgency. Or a response to another, more serious, inconvenient truth.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Vote No on Prop 8 - Equality for All

WCG reader (and columnist) Tish Levee writes on the ‘‘the ultimate rite of love and commitment’’ - a RIGHT for everyone to enjoy. There will be a mobilization event at Congregation Shomrei Torah, 2600 Bennett Valley Rd., Santa Rosa, Oct. 5th, from 3-5 P.M, presented by the lgbt alliance of the Jewish Community Federations of the Bay area.

Equality for All Vote No on Prop 8

by Tish Levee

Pioneer activists married
‘Freedom to Marry’ came just in time for Del Martin. “We’re not getting any younger,” the long time lesbian activist said, a few days before she and her partner of 55 years became the first same-sex couple to legally wed in California. Mayor Gavin Newsom married them at 5:07 P.M. on June 16th. Less than three months later, when Del Martin died at 87, he ordered the flags at City Hall lowered to half-mast. Her widow, Phyllis Lyon, 83, said, "Ever since I met Del…I could never imagine a day would come when she wouldn't be by my side…[or that] there would be a day that we would actually be able to get married,…I take some solace in knowing we were able to enjoy the ultimate rite of love and commitment before she passed."

These two women were finally able to marry when the California Supreme Court overturned Proposition 22, in response to a suit brought by them and others. Proposition 22, passed in 2000, declared, “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” The Court’s 4-3 decision ruled that people have a fundamental 'right to marry' the person of their choice and that gender restrictions violate the state Constitution's equal protection guarantee.

Proposition 8––a re-run of Proposition 22
Now Proposition 8––the “Protection of Marriage” amendment to the State Constitution, using the same definition of marriage as Proposition 22––is challenging that decision. The arguments offered for Proposition 8, as were those for Proposition 22, bear a striking resemblance to the arguments made in favor of anti-miscegenation laws prohibiting inter-racial marriages. The California Supreme Court, in a precedent setting ruling, declared those laws unconstitutional just sixty years ago. For 65 years a string of post-Reconstruction judicial precedents had upheld these laws, some of which dated back to 1664. In the California Supreme Court’s ruling, Chief Justice Roger Traynor stated, "A member of any of these races may find himself barred by law from marrying the person of his choice and that person to him may be irreplaceable. [italics added]" "Human beings," he continued, "are bereft of worth and dignity by a doctrine that would make them as interchangeable as trains." "The right to marry," Traynor insisted, "is the right of individuals, not of racial groups." Finally in 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that, “…restricting the freedom to marry solely because of racial classifications violates the central meaning of the Equal Protection Clause." By and large, Americans adjusted remarkably quickly to the new judicial consensus that interracial marriage, like marriage itself, was, "a basic civil right,” as Chief Justice Earl Warren insisted. However, opposition to interracial marriage didn’t end overnight––Alabama only removed laws against it from the constitution in 2000, the year Proposition 22 passed in California
Sound Familiar?

In post-Reconstruction judicial rulings against interracial marriages, some of the same arguments, now being used to argue against same-sex marriage, were used again and again, especially that interracial marriage was contrary to God’s will and was “unnatural.”

Despite efforts beginning as early as 1913, there was little movement on this issue until civil rights groups began challenging these laws. The first group to do so was a small but very effective pressure group, the Catholic Interracial Council of Los Angeles, founded in 1946. They argued that anti-miscegenation laws violated the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion. Today, many denominations and religious leaders support the rights of same-sex couples to wed, and, therefore, it would seem clear that laws prohibiting their marriages violate their religious freedom, too.

Protection of Marriage––what does that mean?
Proposition 8 is entitled “The Protection of Marriage Act” by its proponents; in 2000, Proposition 22 was called “The Defense of Marriage Act”. How does denying anyone the right to marry ‘protect marriage?’ The freedom to marry, implicit in the constitution, is as sacred a right as freedom of speech or freedom of worship. In their ballot argument Proposition 8 proponents assert, that, “Marriage is at the core of family security and is an essential element in our society. The [California] Supreme Court effectively rendered marriage meaningless at a time when we should be taking steps to strengthen families.”

Marriage is an essential element in our society, and we do need to strengthen families. However, I fail to understand how the legal marriage of loving, committed same-sex couples can be a threat to anyone else’s marriage. The California Supreme Court’s ruling repeatedly invoked the words "respect and dignity,” framing the marriage question as one deeply affecting couples and their children. In 2000 California had more than 100,000 same-sex families, with 58,000 children.

Like freedom of religion and freedom of speech, the freedom to marry is fundamental to our society. As the No on 8 ballot argument states, “Marriage…conveys dignity and respect to the lifetime commitment of any couple…committed and loving couples who want to accept the responsibility (italics added) that comes with marriage should be treated like everyone else.” Regardless of how you feel about marriage -- for straight or gay and lesbian couples -- it’s wrong to single out one group of Americans and prevent them from having access to the same rights and responsibilities as their fellow citizens.

For more information go to While you are there, you can also take the” Vow to Vote No.”

There will be a mobilization event at Congregation Shomrei Torah, 2600 Bennett Valley Rd., Santa Rosa, Oct. 5th, from 3-5 P.M, presented by the lgbt alliance of the Jewish Community Federations of the Bay area.

© Copyright Tish Levee, 2008. All rights reserved

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Whole Foods, Sebastopol supports Ceres Project

Ceres Project is a wonderful cooperative effort engaging the efforts of young cooks who prepare nutritious meals for people in need. To learn more about the Project - please visit their web site - link below. To help contribute to this project, please shop at Whole Foods Sebastopol from September 29th through December 28th.

Whole Foods Sebastopol has selected the Ceres Project to be the recipient of the Envirocents Program from September 29 to December 28th. This is a great opportunity for us to raise money, but even more to spread the word about our work.

There will be posters in the store featuring Ceres, and our logo will be on the change boxes at each register.

Folks can choose to put their extra change in the boxes, and all of the bag donations will also come to us.

Whole Foods is also giving us three opportunities to table in front of the stores. We will be there on Sunday, October 19 from 11 - 1, and again on the Sunday before Thanksgiving and again in December.

Here's what you can do:

1. Spread the word among your circles and encourage them to take their bags to Whole Foods and to donate their change to us via the change boxes.

2. Put notices up on WACCO and in other newsletters you have access to.

3. Shop at Whole Foods often, take your own bags with you, and donate that $0.05 to Ceres.

4. Help out by volunteering to table October 19, November 23, or pick a date in December.

Thanks for helping to spread the word!

And here's the complete story:

Whole Foods Envirocents Program Helps Get Meals to Local Cancer Survivors

Grab your reusable grocery bag and head to Whole Foods in Sebastopol to help a local non-profit that’s touching a lot of lives with the healing power of food. From now through the end of December, The Ceres Community Project will be the beneficiary of Whole Foods-Sebastopol’s Envirocents Program.

Envirocents gives Whole Foods shoppers the option to donate five cents for every bag they bring in to a local non-profit organization. Change boxes at each register are designed to collect additional donations. Local non-profits get visibility as well as funds to support their work.

The Ceres Community Project, founded in March 2007, provides organic, nutrient-dense meals to families dealing with serious illness while training young chefs in the art of healthy cooking and eating. This year, Ceres will deliver more than 15,000 meals to individuals throughout Sonoma County. More than 100 teens from ten area high schools have worked as chefs in the project’s kitchen.

The majority of the project’s clients are dealing with cancer and the debilitating effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Here’s what one of those clients had to say about the difference that The Ceres Community Project made for her and her family.

“I don't know how to fully express what a lifesaver the Ceres Project food was for me during my chemo. Having food already prepared, tasty food which I knew was good for me and helping me fight the cancer, made my life so much easier during an extremely difficult time. As it came to the end of the treatment, I grew more and more fatigued but there were things I really wanted to be able to do. It was important to me to help with my daughter's 8th grade play and graduation. After nine years of being an active volunteer in her school, especially with the plays, it would have been a shame to not be able to work on her last play. If I hadn't had the Ceres food waiting for me, I wouldn't have been able to handle it.”

Each Wednesday and Thursday afternoon, teen volunteers gather at The Community Church of Sebastopol’s commercial kitchen to chop, sauté, whisk, bake and roast their way through cases of mostly donated local organic food. The teens learn first hand about the relationship between the food we eat and our health, develop their culinary skills and discover how simple it is to make a difference in their world.

If you’d like to learn more about The Ceres Community Project visit their website, . If you know someone who needs food support, call Cherie at 823-2529. If you are a teen or adult who would like to volunteer, call Judi at 829-8295. And from now until the end of December, visit Whole Foods Sebastopol with your reusable bag in hand. Donate that five cents – and whatever change you have – to The Ceres Community Project. If each of us gives a little, we can make a big difference for our neighbors who are struggling with illness, and for the young people who are becoming the leaders of the future.

Cathryn Couch
"Humans are tuned for relationship. The eyes, the skin, the tongue, ears, nostrils -- all are gates where our body receives the nourishment of otherness." - David Abrams, The Spell of the Sensuous

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Blood Bank LOW on Blood and Platelets - Please Donate

My friend
Mary Mount recently encouraged me to come by to Bank of the Redwoods while she donates platelets for cancer patients - get the story and tell our readers how much blood is needed. While I was there I met with Kent Corley the PR manager, and he gave me a good impression of our dire need for blood and platelets, especially with blood needed for Hurricane Ike victims and people injured by the train wreck in Los Angeles. The blood bank always takes care of local patients first and if it has excess inventory it can help those in need outside our community. Below is more information on how you can help - and who is eligible. I was amazed to learn that a mere 37% of the population can give blood. That makes keeping blood supplies full and available much more challenging. The information below comes from their web site - more later - V

Blood Brothers and Sisters
The common bond of blood unites us all. No matter who we are blood sustains us. Since it cannot be manufactured we rely on caring citizens to donate, forever connecting and changing lives with this simple act.

Every 15 minutes someone in our community requires lifesaving blood for a variety of reasons - traumatic accidents, surgery, and cancer treatments. Depending on the injury or form of illness, specific types of blood components are used. For instance, many cancer patients require platelet transfusions as part of their treatment. Platelets must be transfused within five days of donation, which means constant replenishment from dedicated donors is required.

The number of individuals in the U.S. who are eligible to donate blood is far smaller than previously believed - approximately 60 million fewer people. The new figures suggest that only 37 percent of the U.S. population is currently eligible to donate blood, and with anticipated demographic changes, that percentage is likely to drop.

"In the nearly sixty years of continuous operation in Sonoma County never has blood collection been more challenging than it is today," commented Public Relations Manager, Kent Corley. "The industry had the shared belief that 60% of the population was eligible to donate blood. With this new statistic, it makes a little more sense to me why we have had a hard time keeping up with demand. Add to that the huge number of layoffs we've seen over the past seven years in the local manufacturing sector and more in the mortgage industry just this week, you can easily see that we are fishing in a smaller and smaller pool."

As additional donor restrictions are implemented and the population ages, the country could lose more and more willing donors, which could pose an even greater threat to our national blood supply," said Karen Shoos Lipton, chief executive officer of AABB (formerly known as American Association of Blood Banks). "Ensuring an adequate supply of blood is increasingly more challenging, and these new data suggest it is extremely important that eligible donors give blood more frequently."

"Thank goodness for the people who donate on a regular basis," said Ryan Benjamin, Recruitment and Donor Services Manager. "We keep asking our existing donors to give more and they are tired of carrying the load.

Only 5% of our local population donates and that is unacceptable from a community that is so giving in other ways. I think there is a false sense of security out there - that someone else will donate. We need every person over the age of 17 (16 with parental and doctor's consent) to visit a blood drive to see if they are eligible. Some people know they are not eligible and that's fine. If you're not sure, please visit and find a drive near you."

Blood Bank of the Redwoods
2324 Bethards Drive, Santa Rosa, CA 95405
(707) 527-5617

Here is the web page schedule - please visit it often as it is updated:

09/25/08PetalumaPlaza North Shopping Center3:00 PM6:00 PM259 B North McDowell BlvdParking Lot
09/26/08PetalumaRedwood Business Park8:15 AM11:15 AM1310 Redwood WayParking Lot
09/26/08HealdsburgGrove Street Plaza9:00 AM11:00 AM511 Grove St.Parking Lot
09/27/08Santa RosaKawana Elementary Health Fair3:00 PM7:00 PM2121 Moraga Dr.Parking Lot
09/29/08Santa RosaFriedman's Home Improvement Ct4:00 PM6:00 PM4055 Santa Rosa Ave.Parking Lot
09/30/08PetalumaLucky - Lakeville4:00 PM7:00 PM939 Lakeville HighwayParking Lot
09/30/08SonomaMaxwell Village Shopping Ctr3:00 PM6:30 PM19111 Sonoma HighwayParking Lot
10/01/08HealdsburgLatter-Day Saints Church3:00 PM6:30 PM310 Powell AveCultural Hall
10/01/08CloverdaleCloverdale Fairgrounds3:00 PM6:00 PM1 Citrus Fair DrTea Room
10/01/08Rohnert ParkTCBY2:30 PM6:30 PM7285 Snyder LnParking Lot
10/01/08GratonGraton Fire Protection Dist3:30 PM6:30 PMNorth Main & Ross Rd.Parking Lot
10/02/08PetalumaG & G Market3:00 PM6:30 PM701 Sonoma Mountain PkwyParking Lot
10/02/08SebastopolO'Reilly Media9:30 AM12:30 PM1005 Gravenstein Hwy NParking Lot
10/02/08Santa RosaMarmot11:00 AM2:00 PM2321 Circadian WyParking Lot
10/04/08PetalumaPetaluma Theater District12:00 PM3:00 PMSuite 109 C StreetCorner of 1st & C
10/05/08PetalumaNew Life Christian Fellowship10:30 AM1:30 PM1310 Clegg St.Secondary Room
10/05/08HealdsburgHealdsburg District Hospital11:00 AM3:00 PM1375 University AveSouth Side of Main Entrance
10/06/08WindsorWindsor Regional Library3:00 PM6:00 PM9291 Old Redwood HwyConference Room
10/07/08PetalumaWashington Square Shopping Ctr3:00 PM6:00 PM373 South McDowell BlvdParking Lot
10/07/08Santa RosaSonoma County Water Agaency 7:30 AM10:30 AM2060 West College AveFinely Ctr Parking Lot
10/08/08Rohnert ParkLongs Drugs3:00 PM6:00 PM6378 Commerce BlvdParking Lot
10/08/08ForestvilleForestville Fire Dept4:00 PM7:00 PM6554 Mirabel Rd.Fire Station
10/08/08Santa RosaS.C.O.E.8:00 AM11:00 AM5340 Skylane BlvdParking Lot
10/09/08Santa RosaKaiser3:00 PM7:00 PM401 Bicentennial WyParking Lot
10/11/08CotatiOliver's Market10:30 AM2:00 PM546 E. Cotati AveParking Lot
10/11/08WindsorJohnson Pool & Spa11:00 AM2:30 PM9650 Old Redwood HwyParking Lot
10/12/08SebastopolSafeway10:00 AM2:30 PM406 North Main StParking Lot
10/12/08SonomaSafeway10:00 AM2:30 PM477 W NapaParking Lot
10/14/08Santa RosaSanta Rosa Marketplace3:00 PM6:00 PM1960 Santa Rosa AveParking Lot near Applebee's
10/15/08PetalumaLong's Drugs - E Washington2:00 PM6:30 PM365 East Washington St.Parking Lot
10/16/08PetalumaPetaluma Business Expo4:00 PM7:00 PM320 McDowell BlvdParking Lot
10/17/08Santa RosaRaley's3:30 PM6:30 PM1407 Fulton Rd.Parking Lot
10/18/08Rohnert ParkPacific Market11:00 AM4:00 PM901 Golf Course Dr.Parking Lot
10/19/08PetalumaCatholic Church of St. James8:45 AM12:15 PM125 Sonoma Mtn PkwyRoom 9
10/20/08PetalumaKaiser2:30 PM5:30 PM3900 Lakeville HwyParking Lot C

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Homeless Girl grows up to become Outstanding Woman

Constance Bravos earns Hearst Award

I find stories of personal achievement great inspiration for people - especially young people who are bored or lack direction. Some times a few words of encouragement, a goal accomplished or an example of someone else who has risen above obstacles are all it takes to succeed. Constance Bravos is an example of a young woman whose personal strength, attitude and intelligence earned her the William Randolph Hearst/CSU Trustees Award for Outstanding Achievement. She's a rising star at 20 and an excellent example for others to follow - V

Once Homeless, Constance Bravos earns Hearst Award and Aims to Help Troubled Youth

She was an adopted child who not only faced financial problems and but was once homeless, living in a shelter.

Now, Sonoma State University junior Constance Bravos has a 3.61 grade average and won the William Randolph Hearst / CSU Trustees Award for Outstanding Achievement, picking
up the $3,000 scholarship that comes with it. Recipients of the award have overcome challenging odds, to pursue a college degree.

"Asthma has proven to be one of my most prominent and consistent struggles throughout my life. It made my lungs collapse when I was six," says Bravos, 20, who is from Martinez but now lives in Rohnert Park while she attends school.

Bravos lost her home when she was ten, and says it took five years to find a home and see her life get back on track. "You could say it was because my parents didn't graduate to go on to college in order to make a better living wage and not have to rely on their parents to help them with a house," Bravos says.

"But really, I just remember being ten and receiving the two weeks notice and coming to the realization that my life was going to be different and difficult."

During school Bravos feared being teased because she was homeless and so she had only a few select friends that did not know her past.

"Instead of focusing on my peers and my struggles, I began to expedite my energy toward school and my future," Bravos says.

Bravos is a psychology major looking forward to graduating in 2010. Because of her own hardships, she wants to make a difference as a psychologist for Martinez's Juvenile Hall after
completing her degree at UC Berkley where she plans to study counseling and psychology.

She already has worked toward this goal by being a peer mentor and a teaching assistant at SSU, helping the freshman class become more aware of college opportunities. She is involved in
the Educational Opportunity Program, Future Scholars, among others.

Bravos feels blessed by the award.

"I feel honored in knowing that my life and goals are being recognized for their true worth. It's an indescribable feeling to come from a history of being a part of one of the most forgotten populations - the homeless - to end up becoming someone who is not only remembered, but awarded for my efforts," she says.

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Perspective on Politics & Economy

A reader checks in with tongue-in-cheek comments on the current financial crisis in our country. Sometimes it helps to look disaster in the face with a smile. - V

Dear American:

I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship with
a transfer of funds of great magnitude.

I am Ministry of the Treasury of the Republic of America. My country has had crisis that has caused the need for large transfer of funds of 800 billion dollars US. If you would assist me in this transfer, it would be most profitable to you.

I am working with Mr. Phil Gram, lobbyist for UBS, who will be my replacement as Ministry of the Treasury in January. As a Senator, you may know him as the leader of the American banking deregulation movement in the 1990s. This transactin is 100% safe.

This is a matter of great urgency. We need a blank check. We need the funds as quickly as possible. We cannot directly transfer these funds in the names of our close friends because we are constantly under surveillance. My family lawyer advised me that I should look for a reliable and trustworthy person who will act as a next of kin so the funds can be transferred.

Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA and college fund account numbers and those of your children and grandchildren to so that we may transfer your commission for this transaction. After I receive that information, I will respond with detailed information about safeguards that will be used to protect the funds.

Yours Faithfully Minister of Treasury Paulson

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

When Freshwater becomes tainted with Wastewater

Ludwigia thrives in wastewater nutrients...choking waterways

When we turn on our faucets to use water, that fresh, clean water instantly becomes wastewater that needs to be treated and disposed of. Rural homes use septic systems where the water leaches into the ground, and over time and distance, is filtered before it re-enters the groundwater system. But in the majority of our populated ares, that water goes down the drain into the sewer system, out to the treatment plant...and then what? Body lotion, laundry detergent, hair conditioners, pharmaceuticals that filter through our bodies - they all end up in the wastewater system - and many of them don't get filtered out during the treatment process. The impacts these products have on our fresh water streams and rivers has changed the way we think about flushing water down the drain.

What's in Our Wastewater?
“Incidental Runoff”
By Brenda Adelman

Wastewater discharged into local streams by sewage treatment plants is subjected to lengthy and complex State permit requirements that can run as much as a 100 pages long. The permits include directions on water quality limits, monitoring, receiving water standards, and protections of beneficial uses, among other things. They describe when and where discharges can occur and penalties to be imposed when compliance fails. As treatment systems age, and pipeline replacement lags, the opportunities for failure (and fines) increase. The Regional Water Quality Control Board is charged with overseeing this very complex process.

Yet, of more than 80,000 chemical pollutants on the market, discharge permits regulate only about 126 of them. Currently, no regulations exist to monitor and limit the discharge of either personal care and cleaning products or pharmaceuticals, especially hormones, steroids, and anti-bacterial products, recently accused of causing bacterial illnesses to become more resistant to treatment.

Recent studies have shown trace amounts of cancer causing and endocrine disrupting chemicals in national rivers and streams and drinking water supplies. Even more alarming are the latest reports indicating that at least 46 million Americans are known to be exposed to drug-contaminated drinking water supplies. The tests have not been done in our area yet, so we don’t know if we are part of that group.

And species are being lost at an unprecedented rate. Currently, the Living Planet Index claims that the bird, fish, mammal, reptile, and amphibian populations worldwide have dropped by almost a third in the last 35 years. Only this month, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) claims in a very new study that nearly 40% of North America’s fish species are in jeopardy, and our area (mid Pacific Coast) has been identified as one of the most threatened.

Yet the State, facing a serious water shortage crisis, is now promoting a program to greatly increase goals for increased irrigation with recycled wastewater from 500,000 acre feet a year to two million acre feet by 2030. To make this policy more palatable, treated sewage is now consistently referred to as recycled water, as though by sanitizing the words, they create a different product. The State is strongly promoting the idea of offsetting water use by greatly expanding recycled wastewater in summer, water short months.

Normally, application of treated wastewater to land is safer than discharging into waterways, although only if done in a manner that prohibits runoff into streams. And that’s the hard part. The State proposed a Recycled Water Policy last year and it met with a great deal of consternation from various environmental, business, and agency groups. Environmental groups objected on the basis that all incidental discharge must be regulated in the same way as intentional winter discharges, since the toxic constituents are the same.

With the State Water Board’s concurrence, a representative group was formed to study, modify, and make recommendations on the policy to which all stakeholders could agree. A draft was presented to the Board in early September and the group agreed on all points, but one, and that was “incidental runoff’. Incidental runoff is not clearly defined; but is intended to mean some runoff that is accidentally spilled, small in amount, and considered to have inconsequential impacts. The committee, not able to agree on this issue, left it to the State Board to define. Our local Regional Board is considering a Basin Plan Amendment to legalize it.

Normally Department of State Health Title 22 regulations apply to the application of wastewater to land. These regulations are meant to protect the public from mostly acute illness, and does not address protection of aquatic life and the environment from these discharges, especially during a time when flows are very low (and getting lower) and unable to assimilate residual toxins in the wastewater.

The State (and the City of Santa Rosa who is planning a large program of urban irrigation) refers to inconsequential runoff in order to justify using it to offset potable water. The problem of defining, successfully and consistently monitoring and regulating these “incidental” events is daunting. No one has addressed the possible impacts if numerous, cumulative impacts occur at the same time.

Extensive carelessness with irrigation water has been regularly observed, and most people really aren’t aware of the difference between potable and treated wastewater. We can easily picture children and pets playing in the water and ingesting it with unknown results. Where irrigation is allowed to occur, it should be on large publicly owned parcels, that are carefully monitored and regulated and discharge permits should be required. Furthermore, irrigation should not be allowed near creeks, especially where pesticide use occurs.

Some of our local streams are filled with Ludwigia and are literally dying in the summer. They cannot assimilate additional toxic loads now, but to make the problem worse, the National Marine Fisheries Service will be demanding lower summer Russian River flows to protect the fish. That combination of circumstances would increase possible harm to people AND fish because of greater potential for exposure to harmful toxins that are not assimilated by flows. Lower flows cause the toxic load to become more concentrated.

We must maintain the summer prohibition of wastewater discharges to protect the health of humans and the environment. RRWPC will keep you posted on future critical actions on this issue. Please contact us at if you want to be on our mailing list to stay informed about this issue.

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Sonoma State University Saving California Turtles

SSU Head Start Program for turtles sees first hatchlings effort to halt shocking decline of reptiles in California - Slow and steady is not winning the race.

Rapidly shrinking numbers of California’s only native aquatic turtle species - the Western Pond Turtle - has sparked the development of a pioneering partnership between Sonoma State University and two Bay Area zoos to save the reptile from extinction in California.

Sonoma State Biology professor Nick Geist successfully hatched the first six young turtles last Friday from 57 eggs collected this summer from an undisclosed Lake County location. Geist and his graduate students, and Oakland Zoo staffers, spent the summer monitoring a Lake County site for mother turtles and followed them to the nests where they collected their eggs.

PHOTO: Students working form a ‘‘blind’’ to watch the turtles

The eggs were placed in five incubators in his lab at the Rohnert Park campus. Young turtles began to emerge last Friday. More are hatching daily in the first-of-its-kind breeding program for this species in the state.

“Slow and steady is not winning the race for this species,” says Geist. “The turtles must be saved before the population reaches critically low levels.”

Geist has solicited the support of Bay Area zoos in a captive-breeding program - a “head start” program - to protect the young turtles, who at the size of a quarter at birth often become tender morsels for predators such as bullfrogs, skunks and foxes. These predators, as well as the loss of 90% of its habitat, have contributed to a shocking decline of the species.

This past Friday, the first hatchlings went to the Oakland Zoo for care until they are large enough to be released back to wild. Plans are to send the second batch to the San Francisco Zoo on Friday. The SF Zoo plans to create a public education exhibit about the project at its Koret Animal Research Center.

Geist envisions a network of zoos throughout the state that will raise the hatchlings in captivity for almost a year to facilitate the immediate conservation and ultimate recovery of the Western Pond Turtle in California.

Geist is also using the program to determine at what temperature the sex of the turtle is decided so that better conservation management techniques can be designed.

The Western Pond Turtle (Clemmys marmorata) has declined precipitously, or been eliminated entirely, in so many parts of its former range, that it is now protected by the Department of Fish and Game as a California Special Concern species.

Originally, the pond turtle ranged from Mexico to the Canadian border in a narrow strip along the coast. It lives to be 60 years old and its shell gets as large as 12 inches in length.
Once estimated to have populations in the millions, it has virtually disappeared from urban areas of southern and northern California and most of the Central Valley.

For further information, contact:
Dr. Nicholas R. Geist, Associate Professor of Biology,
(707) 664-3056,
Nancy Filippi, Director of Marketing, Oakland Zoo,
(510) 632-9525, ext. 132,
Gwendolyn Tornatore, Public Relations Manager,
San Francisco Zoo, (415) 753-7174,

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

International Artists Honor Life...and Death

We treasure our loved ones while they are alive and find our own ways to honor them when their bodies die. For some, scattering ashes in ceremony provides solace - Dust to Dust. For others creating a vessel to hold our loved ones remains honors their life. Artists from across the planet who have created urns for the ashes of those we love will display their works at Funeria in Graton starting September 27, 2008

4th International Funerary Art Exhibition
Opens in Graton at
Art Honors Life® | The Gallery at FUNERIA

Ashes to Art® | scattered installations include award-winning work from a British designer, a short film of a Viking funeral by West County artist Rik Olson and 80 original artist-made urns, vessels and reliquaries in all media

More than 80 original personal memorial artworks by 64 sculptors, potters, woodworkers, gold and metalsmiths, stone carvers, mosaic and glass artists and others working in media as diverse as cut paper and computer-generated 3D forms will be featured during the 4th biennial “Ashes to Art | scattered” exhibition at Art Honors Life, The Gallery at FUNERIA, September 27-November 30, 2008, 2860 Bowen St. #1, Graton, CA 95444. An artists opening and awards reception is being held September 26, 6-8 PM. Exhibition admission is free. Guests are asked to RSVP for the opening reception at or by calling 707 829 1966. During the exhibition, the gallery will be open Wednesday through Saturday, Noon-5 PM and by appointment.

The unique art objects featured in the exhibition are intended to contain all, or some portion, of an individual’s cremated remains—either permanently for keeping at home, placement in a columbarium niche, burial, or temporarily prior to scattering or other dispersal. Some artworks are designed to be shared by companions. Also featured are a greater number of urns created for pets than in previous exhibitions. It is the first time that this seminal exhibition is opening in Sonoma County since its 2001 debut at San Francisco’s historic Fort Mason Center. Ashes to Art exhibitions have also opened in Philadelphia, and portions have toured at Onishi Gallery in New York’s Chelsea arts district and at Le Bourget in Paris.

Two special installations at this exhibition include several designs by young British product designer Nadine Jarvis ( in her American debut and one short poignant film by Sebastopol, California artist Rik Olson. Olson built a wooden boat for his father’s and brother’s ashes in order to enact a Viking funeral with his family as co-participants in July 2008. Both artists’ imaginative and beautifully executed concepts address the increasingly favored process of ash scattering. More than 40% of survey respondents who are considering cremation for themselves would like their ashes scattered, mostly in water. More than 60% of all California residents, and the populations of most western states, are choosing cremation for themselves and their loved ones. The choice of cremation throughout the US is expected to grow from 32% of all deceased currently, to more than 50% by 2025, and perhaps sooner.

Ashes to Art is presented by Northern California-based FUNERIA, a unique arts agency and exhibition organizer that promotes and sells original artist-made urns and personal memorial artwork through wholesale and retail channels worldwide. The Graton installation of the show is also made possible through the generous support of Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary (—the most prestigious Jewish cemetery in Southern California with a rich tradition of serving all Jewish families and particularly those who are among the most well-known and beloved writers, producers and performers in the entertainment industry, as well as respected arts advocates, political figures and philanthropists.

On January 18, 2007, preceding its first Open House, FUNERIA, its artists and clients were featured in The New York Times in an article by Patricia Leigh Brown who cited Art Honors Life as “the nation’s first art gallery dedicated to cremation urns and personal memorial art.” Maureen Lomasney, FUNERIA’s founder and president who organized the first Ashes to Art competition with the help of two friends and many volunteers in 2001 has been a Sonoma County resident for 19 years, and is a writer, designer, fine arts photographer and the gallery’s director. In 1992, she founded Tannery Creek Press, which introduced “Sonoma Skyscrapers”—a locally printed poster and photo essay in black and white of three icons in the rural landscape.

For further information about the exhibition, opening reception or additional sponsorship opportunities, call 707 829 1966 or email


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Sonoma County's EcoRing Web Site

EcoRing was started several years ago to promote ecologically based travel and entertainment for tourists as well as locals. By giving people options that show the beauty of Sonoma County while preserving and promoting our environment, we not only teach respect for nature, we bring year-round opportunities to enjoy what Sonoma County has to offer.

EcoRing is pleased to announce the launch of its new website, and we welcome you to take a look. The website features a Directory of Green Businesses, Best Practices Guides, Maps, Events, and a Kids Corner.

We hope you will find this information useful and will forward it on to others who might be interested. If you have any comments, please fill out the contact information section on the website.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Sonoma County Mental Health Services

Mental Health: A Community Responsibility
This essay is written by Pedro Toledo, JD, MA, Director of Community and Government Relations for Redwood Community Health Coalition – the network of 16 community clinics in Sonoma, Marin, Napa, and Yolo counties. His personal and professional experience, as well as his commitment is to improve the quality of life for people living with mental illness, is impressive.

By Pedro Toledo
Imagine if 1/4 of the population was diagnosed with a disease that ravaged the community, killed countless people and tore families apart. Envision carting the sick off to prisons. Picture reading newspaper stories of people who were killed in the streets, victims of a disease that even law enforcement officers didn’t understand. Imagine a world where the sick turn to self-medication with alcohol and drugs in an attempt to relieve their symptoms. This illness sees no boundaries; it affects the rich, the poor and all races of people.

This illness exists today in our community, affecting thousands of people. It’s called mental illness. With medical research indicating that the life expectancy of people living with mental illness is 25 years less than the average, we must address mental illness as a community priority.
Treatment for mental illness is as effective as treatment for high blood pressure, asthma or diabetes. Recent advances in treatment options result in more and more individuals reclaiming full and productive lives. People in recovery- managing their illness, holding down a job and forging positive relationships- are an inspiration.

Here’s an example of what happens when early detection and treatment of mental illness occurs. As a teenager, Maria was diagnosed with mental illness. Her family stood by her side and supported Maria by educating themselves and remaining actively involved in her therapy. Maria and her family joined the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Now an adult, she receives supportive housing services from Buckelew, attends college and holds a steady job. Her parents are certified NAMI teachers, leading courses at Southwest Community Health Center to help other Spanish-speaking families cope with mental illness.

With the commitment and hard work of many agencies and advocates, many people like Maria connect to the support and services they require. Others aren’t so lucky. Unable to navigate the fragmented and oftentimes bureaucratic mental health delivery system, thousands fall through the cracks, ending up in prison or taking their own lives.

Recently, the county mental health department shifted hundreds of patients to the community clinics, a stark indicator of the strain on the mental health delivery system. While joint collaboration remains an opportunity to work together, these types of decisions need to be complemented with funding mechanisms. Unfortunately, Medi-Cal policies currently restrict reimbursement for mental health visits rendered on the same day as primary care visits at community clinics. This limitation stifles innovation and serves as a roadblock to care at a time when our community needs solutions.

With the current economic downturn, many community members have lost their homes and jobs. During these difficult times, even more people are in need of mental health services. Mental health agencies are struggling to meet the needs of more people with fewer resources as they face even deeper budgetary cuts as a result of the State budget crises.

Despite these conditions, we must move forward. Our community organizations, government agencies and the business sector have a long and proud tradition of forging partnerships to collaboratively develop effective solutions to address challenging problems. Working together, we can improve the mental health safety net to ensure that all members of our community have the opportunity to thrive.

Now, imagine a world that accepts mental illness as a disease, where families are strong and communities are resilient. Envision a world where we treat people in crisis in local hospitals and where police are trained to deal with people in crisis just like they are trained to deal with a heart attack victim. Imagine a community of survivors. This community, while not far away, won’t become a reality on its own.

Bust the stigma associated with mental illness by learning about, volunteering with or donating to local organizations serving people with mental illness. Vote for County Supervisor candidates that are committed to improving the local mental health delivery system. Ask your State legislators to protect mental health services. And, most importantly, join me in honoring the people and organizations who work each and every day to improve the quality of life for people living with mental illness.

Pedro Toledo, JD, MA is Director of Community and Government Relations for Redwood Community Health Coalition – the network of 16 community clinics in Sonoma, Marin, Napa, and Yolo counties.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Warren Arnold - Stone Sculptor

Once Warren Arnold found a local source for soapstone in Forestville, CA, he moved from carving wood, to sculpting stone. Don’t miss the opportunity to see Warren’s upcoming shows. You can, also, see Warren’s work at Art Trails on the second and third weekends of October.

Warren Arnold
Every mass of stone is awaiting a sculptor who will release the joy it contains and bring nature and man into harmony. Nature and man in consort – each supporting the other in sustaining and creating beauty. The image is pure West Sonoma County. It is, therefore, befitting that Warren Arnold is the shaper of marble in the midst of a small farm on the south outskirts of Sebastopol. Warren Arnold did not become a part of the West Sonoma County culture by happenstance. He was teaching and living sustainability long before it became a buzzword for the Green Movement. Even while living in the urban environment of Berkeley, Warren and his wife, Maile, raised chickens, rabbits and bees as well as vegetables in rooftop boxes. He shared the lessons of living with nature in the classes he taught in Orinda for the Contra Costa County school system. He developed a nature area for students to learn first hand how to work with the environment instead of against it. He expressed his profound fascination with nature’s untold secrets through sculpture.

His dedication to sculpting began over 40 years ago with wood but once he discovered a supply of soapstone in Forestville, he was hooked on stone. Trips were taken to Sebastopol to buy apples. Sonoma County appeared to be the idyllic Eden within reach of mortals. In 1976 the couple purchased their small farm with the plan to spend weekends and summers away from their normal lives. Soon they could not go back to the confines of the city and began their not-so-normal daily lives on the farm. Over thirty years later, Warren and Maile live off of the land in a manner that was once common but has long ago gone the way of one room school houses and crank up car windows. They grow their own food including livestock, heat with firewood from their land and produce solar energy for their household needs. Pre-existing outbuildings house the hay for the animals and keep the firewood dry through the winter but most importantly provide ample studio and display space for Warren’s art.

It is clear from the urban farm in Berkeley that Warren does not have an issue with going against the tide. You might recognize his name from the controversy which rose around his Whale Project that placed a series of seven totemic sculptures along the coast of Northern California from south at Big Sur to north at Trinidad. Only six remain today and one is the hotly contested “Whale Ballet” at Doran Beach Park in Bodega Bay. But don’t expect all of his works to be whales frolicking in the waves. At each opportunity to display his sculptures, Warren picks a new theme. His fun is in doing something that has not previously been done. Arches, lovers, sunrises, sea mammals – they each have their own aura but all speak of Warren Arnold’s love of form and texture. His upcoming Labor Day Weekend venue is at the Blue Gum Farm Gallery on Hall Road. Warren, Jocelyn Audette and Hanya Popova-Parker will be showing their depictions of fragments from the coastal shore in an exhibition they have coined FRAGMENTS. The three artists draw inspiration from the same broken objects collected on beach walks and express their observations each in a different medium – stone, watercolors and oils. They have made this collaboration in the past with enthusiastic success. Warren has a completely different series, titled STORMS, planned for this October’s Art Trails.

Sonoma County benefits from Warren’s residence. He has been an instrumental personality in the yearly Sculpture Jam and was recognized for his work in 2007 with a proclamation from the Sebastopol City Council for his Leadership and Dedication to Sculpture Jam over many years. He is curator for the upcoming Ten Year Review of Sculpture at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts which will showcase the works of 13 Sonoma County sculptors. His most recent community effort is the tables and benches at the Sebastopol Skate Park which is finally poised to open.

All of these things are being propelled by the internal energy of Warren Arnold. And what did I find him doing when I came to visit? He was at the controls of his forklift with his last large chunk of Indian marble (the remains of The Whale Project) poised above a pile of pallets. 2700 pounds of stone that will be transformed into yet another polished masterpiece over the coming months. Don’t miss the opportunity to see Warren’s upcoming shows. The Blue Gum Farm Gallery is at 4787 Hall Road, Santa Rosa. Exhibit hours are Saturday, August 30, through Monday, September 2, from 1 to 5. You can, also, see Warren’s work at Art Trails on the second and third weekends of October.

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Monday, September 8, 2008

Playing with Your Children

Sharon Wikoff is an advocate for both ends of the spectrum of life…children and elders. Her insights are full of knowledge, experience and compassion. She hosts The family Hour on KGGV 95.1 from Guerneville, CA, which can be heard on the internet through WWW.KGGVFM.ORG

The MAGNIFICENT GIFT behind the simple…Playtime in the LOCAL PARK!

How many times have you gone to the park for a fun relaxed time with your children, and thought of it as just another ‘thing’ to do with the kids? Or perhaps thought, “You really want to go their again?”

During this summer I’ve spent many hours at the Forestville Youth Park, enjoying the swings (YES, I still LOVE to swing!) and walking about under the luscious trees, just hanging out.
It’s been such a joy to watch children there with their parents. I’ve come to realize how very special these moments are between parent and child. Some recent observations of mine have been:

1 - A mom and 5-year-old little girl who is enjoying having her Mom watch her on the equipment.
2 - A father with two young boys, about ten and four years of age. When the children were on the teeter-totter he encouraged the older boy to bounce easily so that the younger child, about 50 pounds lighter, wouldn’t get bounced off.
3 - And the 3rd family I saw was a very buff good looking man, probably about 25 years old with his 2-year-old son, simply observing him as he traveled form place to place. Dad appeared so content and allowed the 2 year old to be very self-directing.

After observing these and others child-parent relationships, I began to see the tremendous GIFTS in such situations.

GIFT ONE: The GIFT of Allowing
When a child is allowed to be free and to do as he/she wishes, that is such a gift! Children need time just “to be!” In today’s world, there are so many demands upon a child’s time that children need that special time daily just to “hang out” and “be.” Magda Gerber, Child therapist, called it: “Wants nothing time.” The parent wants nothing from the child.

This time varies greatly from what Magda calls: “Wants something time.” “We have to go to the store…let’s get in the car.” Or “Please come pick up your toys with me, your room needs to be cleaned up.” Or “Come inside, its dinnertime.” These are all times when the parent “wants something.” After a day of such requests from both parents and teachers, a child needs time and space to play! To be! To enjoy!

GIFT TWO: The GIFT of “Simply Being” for Mom or Dad
The parents I saw were simply “being” in the moment. They were not planning, or teaching or expecting or directing or reprimanding unless there was an issue of safety. In such cases, they responded in the moment without a pre-planned agenda or expectation. They address the need of the moment. This can be a very freeing time for Mom and Dad too! Parents need down time too, very much! They need to relax and just “be.” When parent and child can find the space to do this together, it truly is a gift for both.

GIFT THREE: The GIFT of Self-Confidence
When a child is in an environment where he/she is allowed to choose what they want to do, there is a certain level of confidence that comes from that choosing. This is also a wonderful time for a child to experiment and see what he/she is capable of and what they have a challenge with doing. Infants will spend much time “practicing” a certain move, for example moving from a crawling position to a half sitting position when they are learning to do that movement. They gain confidence in the practicing.

I remember going to the park and sitting on the grass with my 18 month old and allowing her to walk away from the blanket area…and then come back to me. She enjoyed the going and coming so much…and as she gained more confidence she would venture further away. And yet she’s always turn around to make sure I was still there.

So the next time you take time out for a playtime in the park, know that the GIFTS behind such a venture, for both parent and child, are many more than what first meets the eye.

Sharon Ann Wikoff, is an elementary teacher, parent educator and EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) Practitioner. She hosts The Family Hour weekly on KGGV 95.1 Guerneville, which streams on KGGVFM.ORG. She can be reached at (707) 539-0601

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River's End Restaurant & Inn, Jenner, CA

Carolyn Horan takes on a culinary journey to Sonoma County restaurants she just plain enjoys. Her reviews are more than about food, they are about our community and the people who choose to feed us with their food, their time and their lives.

RIVER’S END Restaurant & Inn at 11048 Highway 1 on the coast in Jenner provides a quality experience with good food, presentation and service. The drive to Jenner on Highway 116 West takes you along the Russian River to the River’s End restaurant which sits on the cliff overlooking the ocean. The evening sunset adds to the romantic feeling of the restaurant. You might start with a special artisan cocktail. The chef (yes, Patrick Keane’s title is Cocktail Chef) creates classic cocktails with flavors and ingredients that will expand your conception of the pre-dinner cocktail. He trained at the French Culinary Institute but always had an appreciation for the bar. He wants to contribute to a whole new level of contemporary dining. As example you might try a Kaffir Lime Drop made with Hanger One Kaffir Lime vodka and fresh lime juice served in a citrus sugar rimmed glass, or a Cucumber Gimlet made with Hendricks Gin, fresh cucumber water and lime. If you want something more traditional I recommend Patrick’s Old Fashioned made with Maker’s Mark Whiskey or try his Rasberry Mojito or Cadillac Margarita. If you don’t want alcohol you can try one of five different non-alcoholic specialties. All alcoholic cocktails are $11 and non-alcoholic are $5.

You can select from several appetizers followed by soup or salad. I tried the Crispy Duck Confit Rolls - $12. The presentation of this dish adds to the pleasure of the taste and 4 people could share this appetizer. If you are a fan of beets I suggest the Technicolor beet salad which consists of roasted multi-colored beets layered with mascarpone and goat cheese, macadamia nuts and fresh basil with an orange balsamic vinaigrette for $14

Along with the daily special main courses include Fish, Pork, Filet Mignon, Duck, Elk or vegetarian with prices ranging from $18 to $49. There is a special Dungeness Crab Tasting Menu at a price fixe. I suggest you go to to check this out. As a diner, you can see the chef at work through a glass enclosed kitchen and marvel at the presentation of all these meals. The Executive Chef is David Dahlquist , a young man who has literally spent half his life working in Sonoma County restaurant kitchens and loves the influences of all kinds of tastes: Asian, Mexican, Thai, Latin as example which he integrates into the flavors of California with local fresh products.

So how did these talented chefs end up in a restaurant on the coast? Bert Rangel and his wife, Stephanie, visited River’s End, staying in one of the cottages on a vacation in 1992. Bert fell in love with the setting and told Stephanie he wanted to live there- some day. In 1998 Bert was flying to San Francisco from Mexico City to meet Stephanie and some of their friends to spend a few days in Sonoma County. When Bert settled into his seat on the plane he opened the Wall Street Journal and ‘lo and behold’ there was a for sale ad for River’s End Restaurant and Inn. To make a long story short a few months later the deal was closed and Bert changed his profession from working on developing high tech facility projects to working the “front of the house” at River’s End, a job he loves. Stephanie continues with her profession scheduling construction projects which take her all over the world. They live in Jenner with their two children but find time to travel and visit restaurants to see what their friends and others are achieving with their culinary pursuits. Bert says, “I want River’s End to be a great value and experience. It’s too easy to be average, we want to be spectacular.” Bert has created a culture for the restaurant based on six guidelines: 1) what is the feeling (for the customer)upon walking in the door, 2) a music style that is pleasing for diners, 3) how does the staff approach and communicate with customers, 4) the quality of the food, 5) the presentation of the entire dining experience, and 6) the ambiance.

The restaurant received an ‘Award of Excellence’ in 2002 and has wine by the half bottles plus 17 options for wine by the glass. There is an extensive menu for your ‘Night Cap’ including cordials, ports, muscat, Riesling, brandy & congnac and single malt scotch. If you prefer to end the meal with dessert you could try chocolate mousse, old English Trifle, Mascarpone filled poached pear, creme brulee or house made ice cream.


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Expand Your Varietal Horizons

John Haggard is on-hand once more to fill in for Dick Starr during his absence. Dick will be back in the September 2008 issue. We are lucky to have such a knowledgeable wine writer so close at hand and so willing to help.

Expand Your Varietal Horizons

I am the first one to fall into the trap of loving a varietal. Surrounded by some of the best pinot noir in the country, I carry sixty to eighty of them in my store. You may find yourself to be a pinot-file or, perhaps, having a preference for cabernet, but California’s winemakers have so much more to offer.

Barb Gustafson (Matt Gustafson’ wife, the winemaker for Paul Mathew) persuaded me to taste the Paul Mathew Gamay Noir 2007, from Knights Valley (Sonoma County). Matt is known for his pinot noirs, indeed is about to be profiled by Wine Spectator for his expertise in expressing the flavors in the clonal varietals of pinot noir such as Russian River Valley’s Ruxton Vineyard… but I digress, his Gamay Noir is outstanding. Traditionally served lightly chilled (although a red wine), this Gamay Noir needs only be brought to cellar temperature – which can be done by placing in a refrigerator for just fifteen minutes. The Paul Mathew Gamay Noir is a dusty, black stone-fruit filled sipping wine which finishes with flavors of bubblegum (yes, I said bubblegum) and hints of fennel, retail price $16.99.

Once widely found, French Colombard has been ripped out of California’s vineyards for more profitable varietals, thankfully, some has survived. Nikolai Stez, the winemaker for Woodenhead, knew he had something special and wanted to make a dry white wine crafted for another love of his, oysters. He has indeed achieved his goal. The Woodenhead 2007 Russian River Valley French Colombard is a perfect pairing for the Hog Island Oysters found locally in Tomales Bay. With creamy citric lime and lemon flavors, and minerality mid-palate, this French Colombard would also make a great pairing for Pacific Coast Abalone. Woodenhead has a new tasting room at 5700 River Road, though they may be a touch taken-a-back if you say you were drawn there by his French Colombard rather than his more sort-after pinot noirs and zinfandels (I certainly recommend you try everything they let you taste at Woodenhead). Woodenhead’s French Colombard retails at $17.99, but why not go to Mosaic Restaurant in Forestville, now serving lunch and dinner 7 days a week in their beautiful hidden garden oasis where you will find it placed on Tai Olesky’s well-rounded wine menu.

Grenache is certainly not an uncommon varietal to the French – it is the dominant grape used in many Rhône wines, famously Châteauneuf-du-Pape. In California, however, it is much harder to find. Quivira has made an exquisite example of a Rosé of Grenache in 2007 from their estate in Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma. Quivira wins my praise before even tasting their wine because of its organic farming, commitment to solar power and restoration of Wine Creek as a fish-friendly habitat. Their dry Rosé of Grenache has nice tart red fruit flavors of strawberry and cherry, with watermelon and green papaya - a versatile food wine, making a great pairing for caesar salad with either prawns or grilled chicken, retail price $19.99.

Dornfelder was definitely not a varietal on my radar screen until just a month ago when I had the good fortune to taste a 2005 Dornfelder from Huber Estate in Santa Barbara County. While more common in Germany, this distinctive varietal produces a dark, inky red wine in your glass filled with blueberry, not a tannic wine but dry, full-palate, blueberry - a great robust sipping wine, retailing at $25.99.

A favorite of mine for the last two vintages, is Carol Shelton’s Late Harvest Trousseau Gris. The current vintage is 2007 and retails for $15.99 (375ml). A demi-sec (light-sweet) this wine pairs beautifully with aged goat cheeses, such as Redwood Hill Farm’s Bucheret from Sebastopol. The wine is filled with stone fruit flavors of nectarine and white peach with a subtle effervessence. The Trousseau Gris vineyard is off Wood Road in the Russian River Valley. The vineyard is approaching sixty years of age and farmed about as organically as it gets by Peter Fanucchi, testament to this was the hidden bird nest I found amongst the vines on my last visit to the vineyard with Carol Shelton.

John Haggard is owner of Sophie’s Cellars, The Sonoma Wine & Cheese Market in Monte Rio, California. Sophie’s Cellars is open 11am – 7pm, closed only on Wednesdays.


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A Wine Junket through West Sonoma County

Dick Starr takes us on a wine retail/tasting room drive through the hills and towns of Sonoma County, including: Healdsburg, Sebastopol, Monte Rio, Occidental, Duncans Mills and Bodega Bay. This column was part of the 2007 Annual Small Town Shopping Tour, published every November in the West County Gazette and designed to get holiday shoppers out into our towns where we can support our local economy and our neighbors. In the November 2008 edition, we'll have more shopping adventures, people to meet and places to learn about in this lovely place we call home…Sonoma County.

A Wine Junket

by dick starr

Sonoma’s West and North County presents a rich selection of wine retailers for those that seek an array of domestic and international wines to choose from. On hand, at least with the retailers that I’m reviewing, is an informed mentor to channel you through the labyrinth of juices, accouterments, and pairing suggestions.

Why visit a wine specialty shop in lieu of a winery? Actually, I support the patronage of both wine sources, but a significant advantage to shop at a specialized retailer is personalized service (anyone that has been to a crowded winery’s tasting room can appreciate that) and to glean information on a wide range of relevant wine and wineries based on your taste, pocketbook, and occasion. Additionally, if the retailer is worth his or her salt, will be the propensity to keep you informed on future wines based on your personal interest.

For those of you that want a piece of Carmel without having to drive south for four hours, just amble up to the Healdsburg square with its vibrant, eclectic, and esoteric shops alive with art, food, jazz, crafts, nouveau boutiques, and the ambiance of wine weaving throughout the amalgamate. Of special interest is the Healdsburg Jazz Festival, a Café Jazz Series at the Palette Art Café throughout November. And, at, you’ll find a walking tour of the wineries and artisan food producers downtown.

The Wine Shop

One wine retailer of import is the Wine Shop on the square. Manager and wine buyer Pedro Rusk and assistant manager Mark Friedrich confidentially hold the reins to guide patrons through a wide range of local and international wines. A grape repartee is established over a flight of tastes for $10. If you want to peruse an extraordinary selection of Pinot Noir, this is the place. The Wine Shop is located at 331 Healdsburg Avenue on the square.

The Wine Emporium

Meandering southwest of Healdsburg, our first stop is The Wine Emporium located at 125 North Main Street in the heart of downtown Sebastopol. Ever since its inception in February 2006, owner, James Haug, has endeavored to provide an accommodating milieu for tasting and consulting as well as general information about the region. Like a personalized dating service, James, or a member of his staff, will match you with an affectionate and adoring grape that will adorn any occasion. About four dozen wines are available for tasting with prices starting at $1.50 per ounce. The store’s fine art gallery is currently featuring art by Jose Maro Alvarado. The Emporium is open noon to 6pm Wednesday through Sunday and by special appointment.

Monte Rio
Sophie’s Cellars

Four miles west of Guerneville is California’s original “Vacation Wonderland,” harking back to the days when big bands played to thousands at Monte Rio’s famous outdoor dance pavilions. John Haggard brought 25 years of food and wine experience with him when he opened Sophie’s Cellars in June 2005. He has maintained a viable and visible source of Russian River wine energy. John provides an extensive collection of hard-to-find limited production wines. About 75% of his wine inventory is local with almost two dozen available exclusive outside of restaurants. There are about 40 imports with Italy gaining ground. About half of the 80 cheeses are local with an emphasis on goat cheese. Also available are freshly baked breads and pies as well as chocolates, olive oils, and vinegars. Sophie’s Cellars is open from 11am to 7pm and closed Wednesdays.


Sonoma Fine Wine

Heading south on Bohemian Highway from Monte Rio along the same latitude is the charming former logging village of Occidental. Sonoma Fine Wine is located in historical digs in the hub of downtown, 3625 Main Street. Like the Wine Emporium, owner Benjamynn Gabriel, considers the nub of his service to customers to be wine consulting. He utilizes a state-of-the-art database software that allows the tracking of personal preferences and ordering history. The shop will feature artist Dee Andreini at an art opening November 30 from 4pm to 8pm. Heintz Wines will be pouring their Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Duncans Mills

Wine Tasting of Sonoma County

Returning to Highway 116, 7 miles west of Guerneville, minutes west of Monte Rio, and 3 miles east of the ocean is another former logging community, Duncan Mills, where the population has recently exploded from 20 to a teeming 85. If not a destination, this should be a must-stop for west as well as east bound trekkers. The historic railroad depot gives resonance to a time in the 1870s when a group of San Francisco journalists and artists gave birth to the Bohemian Club that started using this area for their summer encampment.

Among the unique mélange of specialty shops, restaurants and galleries is Wine Tasting of Sonoma County under the new (about a year) sway of Prairie Silva. Once located on Pig Alley on the south side of town, Duncan Mills’ oldest building, dating from the early 1870s, was moved to its present location where Prairie pours and discusses the fruit-of-the-vine with both locals and tourists over a Sonoma Sampler consisting of five tastes for $5. It might be an extension from her previous activity, that of catering manager for rock & roll groups like the Eagles, but where food is concerned, wine follows. Friday evenings from 6pm to 8pm is a good time to visit when a full glass of wine is served for a $1 off of regular price. Regular hours of operation are 11 am to 6pm weekdays, noon to 6pm on weekends, and closed on Tuesdays. (New Owners in 2008 - just as delightful)
Bodega Bay

Continuing west three miles to the ocean and south on the famed coastal highway 1 for 16 miles or about 25 minutes, is the ocean community of Bodega Bay. As most of us already know, Alfred Hitchcock facilitated visibility of Bodega and Bodega Bay as a consequence of his film, “The Birds” released in 1963 after taking three years to complete. Politely cutting me short on the subject in an interview I had with the film’s star, Tippi Hedren, about six years ago at the Sarasota Film Festival, she was totally focused on Shambala which she and her daughter Melanie Griffith support. Shambala is a refuge that she supports for endangered species that were born in captivity and abandoned or retired from circuses or exceeded homeowners expectations as pets. She did admit to a number of wounds from the birds. The most horrific scene – that took a week to shoot – was near the end when she was being ravaged by the birds. They were attached to her clothes by a long nylon thread to prevent escaping.

There are 950 residents and untold number of tourists that fill out the area’s extent. An event that you might want to mark on your calendar is the Bodega Volunteer Fire Department’s Annual Christmas Fair November 24 and 25. And, for you ocean and sea life aficionados, the UC Bodega Marine Laboratory on Bodega Head conducts ½ hour tours from 2 to 4pm every Friday. For hikers and whale watchers, there’s Bodega Head, a no-charge state park. And, if you’re inclined to beaching or camping, Sonoma County’s Doran Beach is the place. It has one of the most aesthetically lovely beaches in northern California.
Gourmet au Bay

Steve Hecht and Tammi Salas trekked up from Silicon Valley in 2002 to preside over 200 hand-selected award-winning California wines at Gourmet au Bay. Located approximately in the center of Bodega Bay’s business area and leaning out to the bay, Steve and Tammi retained the boutique ambiance fashioned by the shop’s creators, Ken and Connie Mansfield in 1995. They carry a wide assortment of gifts and wine accouterments to peruse while enjoying your wine. Wind Surfing is their presentation to the wine tasting experience. This consists of two ounces each of three wines from a daily list of six wineries and, weather permitting, can be enjoyed on Kaya’s deck. (Also new owners in 2008 - and also just as delightful!)


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