Leslie Dinaberg Sits Down with Leslie Westbrook

Leslie Westbrook

Leslie Westbrook

Building on her lifelong interests in travel, fine art, and antiques, longtime local writer and editor Leslie Westbrook recently went public with her treasures, opening up a storefront, Leslie A. Westbrook, Art & Antiques, in Montecito’s upper village.

Leslie Dinaberg: Tell me about your new business venture?

Leslie Westbrook: I used to have an antique shop 20 years ago on Coast Village Road (Basement Antiques). So when I travel, I’ve been a travel writer for a long time, I’ve bought things and brought them back and sold them, sort of to supplement my income, but not in a big way.

LD: So you took your air miles and went to Brazil.

LW: I thought I’ll go down and I’ll buy some stuff and I’ll bring it back and I can sell it to collectors and/or consign it or sell it to shops. My area of interest and emphasis has always been art, but from South American “Santos,” because I’ve always liked them and been interested in them. So I went down there, I spent four days going to flea markets and a couple of antique dealers down there that I know and I bought a bunch of stuff. And I have a friend, sort of like my Brazilian son, he speaks Portuguese and helps me. Then I went off to Argentina and I said “here’s the money, ship this off DHL.”

LD: Now I know you and Miguel Fairbanks (who runs a wedding, event and portrait photography business in the back studio) are old friends.

LW: Yes and I just happened to say to him, “what are you doing with this space?” And he said, “You know, I need to rent it. Do you want to rent it?” … I wrote a check.

Three days later customs went on strike and held all of my goods and they’re still down there. … All of the sudden I had an empty shop, so I thought, I’d better get creative. I had a few pieces from the previous shipment…. and then I have more art than I have wall space in my house, so I brought in a Toulouse Lautrec and a Manet and I sort of started tearing things off the walls. Then I looked for a couple of contemporary artists who were local but who weren’t really showing here, like sculptor Jim Martin (www.jimmartinsculpture.com) and mixed media artist Barbara Bouman Jay (www.barbaraboumanjay.com and Ed Lister, who is an English artist who lives in Montecito but still doesn’t show here. … And then I took some things on consignment so and I bought a few other things. But I’m still waiting for my stuff to come from Brazil.

LD: How is business?

LW: Little by little the word is getting out. It’s picking up. What is really good for me is the decorators and designers are discovering me.

LD: That’s great. It seems like this is kind of antiques area in the upper village. How does this business fit in with your writing?

LW: Well, interestingly enough, I’ve been writing for California Home for about ten years and I also contribute to Traditional Homes and I wrote years ago for Art and Antique newspaper, I was the west coast editor, so I’ve always had an interest in art and antiques and design and I spent years scouting houses and writing about people’s gorgeous houses, so that ties in nicely. I am very open if someone is either decorator or they have a beautiful home and they want to bring me a disk of photos to look at for submission because I actually sit here and write all day. I’m here with my laptop and pity the poor customer if I’m lost in reverie, I have to tear myself away and become a salesperson. But it’s really kind of like a writing studio with a lot of stuff around me for sale is what it’s kind of turned into. And it’s nice to be writing here as opposed to being home alone–here I have more human contact. People come by which is really nice. So I have a shingle.

LD: I can definitely see where that would work. Do you think you’re still going to be traveling for your writing?

LW: I kind of tied myself down here. It’s a little bit of a dilemma. All of a sudden life I went oops, but I will have to go on buying trips if and when things get here and I have to replace them so in that event I’ll either get someone to sit here or I’ll close the door for a week and say gone buying. So right now I don’t have any travel plans but probably in October I’ll go back down to South America.

I wish I could clone myself so I could travel and be here. It’s a shift. Or if I do well enough at some point I could hire someone. I’m not in that position yet.

LD: When did you come to Santa Barbara?

LW: About 35 years ago. I came here to live on a hippie farm; Lambert Farm There’s a story I wrote about it in the new Carpinteria Magazine (http://carpinteriamagazine.com/). It was about 1973.

…. I grew up in Santa Monica but I used to come here in the summers. My best friend, her grandparents had Stewart Orchids, so we used to come up and stay at her grandparents’ house in Hope Ranch and that was when I was about 11 or 12,and then I met this boy at the Renaissance Faire and he lived on a farm called Lambert Farm with Kenny and Kathy Bortolazzo, they were married, and all these other people, so I moved up to live with him on this farm. It was this really cool place and it was all artisans and everybody had their own little Hobbity houses, outdoor bathrooms.

The romance was a summer romance but I fell in love with Santa Barbara and the love affair lasted with Santa Barbara.

LD: Were you always a writer?

LW: I always wrote. When I was first here after the hippie thing I worked as a cook on this estate and I made a documentary film and tried a lot of different things and I worked in advertising, and did headline writing and copywriting and then I turned into a travel writer. … I was an art major in college. I never finished school but I always loved to write and just 25 years later here I am, journalist, girl reporter. It’s fun to be interviewed though because I know when I’m interviewing people sometimes I want to share stories too.

LD: If you could pick three adjectives to describe yourself, what would they be?

LW: Gregarious or outgoing, compassionate, and honest.

LD: If you could be invisible anywhere in Santa Barbara, where would you go and what would you do?

LW: I would probably want to be in Oprah’s house (laughs), see what she needs and see where I could fill in a few holes.

Vital Stats: Leslie Westbrook

Born: Pasadena, June 14.

Family: “Mom, sister, dad, I don’t have a husband, I’m single, I don’t have any children, however I’m a fairy godmother.”

Civic Involvement: “I like to volunteer for different organizations every year, most recently I worked with Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic and the Art Museum Council. Lately I’ve been looking into bipolar people and working with FACT (families advocating for compassionate treatment).”

Professional Accomplishments: Journalist for 25 years; owns and operates Leslie A. Westbrook, Art & Antiques at 1482 East Valley Road, Suite 36, Montecito (805-969-4442).

Best Book You’ve Read Recently: Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett

Little-Known Fact: “The men in my life all died, dumped me or went to jail!”

Originally published in Noozhawk on August 3, 2008. Click here to read the story on that site.

Marcia Marcia Marcia

250px-BradyBunchtitleOh Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.

You were the high point of my Saturday nights from September 26, 1969 (yep, that’s 39 years ago today, folks) till March 8, 1974, when the final “Hair-Brained Scheme” episode aired, and Greg bought hair tonic from Bobby that turned his hair red. Oops! LOL.

Dad was coaching football in those days, so mom would go root him on and leave us with a babysitter and TV dinners on TV trays. Macaroni and cheese with a brownie for dessert if we were lucky. Salisbury steak and mushy apple pie if we weren’t.

But no matter what the frozen fare was, The Brady Bunch was always on the menu.

I couldn’t wait for the next episode. Years later I chuckled for different reasons at the pilot “Honeymoon” episode, with Mr. Brady telling his bride to “take a Valium” to relax her on their wedding day. But back in those days there was no finer television than “Jan’s Aunt Jenny” who looked like Jan as a girl but grew up to look like Imogene Coca, or when Peter walked around saying “pork chops and applesauce” and pretended to be Humphrey Bogart in “The Personality Kid.” It still cracks me up.

As much as I treasured the Brady family vacations–like the three-part Grand Canyon (“Ghost Town U.S.A.,” “Grand Canyon or Bust,” and “The Brady Braves”) and Hawaiian adventures (“Hawaii Bound,” “Pass the Tabu,” and “The Tiki Caves”)–my favorite episodes were the ones that focused on Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.

Whether she was signing up for every club on campus, running against Greg for student body president, or getting Davy Jones to come to her prom, Marcia always did it with grace, style, groovy go-go boots and a perfect hair flip. My six-year-old self adored her.

And when my eight-year-old self finally met her in person at a Girl Scout Fashion show, she couldn’t have been sweeter (unlike Greg, who I met in my 20’s–he couldn’t stop talking about his Camaro).

I know that The Brady Bunch is one of the most reviled and ridiculed shows in the history of television, but to me it’s always been one of the most revered, and that’s mostly because of Marcia.

But now I’m worried because Marcia, Marcia, Marcia wrote a book. Here’s the Story: Surviving Marcia Brady and Finding My True Voice by Maureen McCormick comes out October 14th and I can’t wait to read it. But at the same time I’m terrified that I’m going to learn that my childhood idol isn’t all I imagined her to be.

According to the press release: “Marcia Brady, eldest daughter on television’s The Brady Bunch, had it all. But what viewers didn’t know about the always sunny, perfect Marcia was that off-screen, her real-life counterpart, Maureen McCormick was living a very different–and not-so-wonderful–life. Maureen tells the shocking and inspirational true story of the beloved teen and the woman she became.”

It goes on to talk about her struggles with bouts of depression, cocaine addiction, bulimia, and estrangement from her family (not to mention all those Internet rumors about her and Jan being “more than sisters”). Here I thought she spent all her time off playing with Laurie Partridge.

What do you mean it wasn’t always a sunshine day?

Oh Marcia, Marcia, Marcia, say it isn’t so! You were my first girl crush. You made me want to sing with my mother, flirt with my brother and straighten my hair. Face it Marcia, you made me want to be a better girl. But now I hear you’re writing a tell-all that says you’re just like Britney, Miley and Lindsay and all of those other girls today who simply make me want to be a better mom.

Oh Marcia, Marcia, Marcia, say it isn’t so!

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on September 26, 2008.

Noozhawk Talks: Leslie Dinaberg Sits Down With Stephen Jacobsen

Stephen Jacobsen

Stephen Jacobsen

After serving 16 years as Senior Pastor at Goleta Presbyterian Church, Stephen Jacobsen recently took over as Executive Director of Hospice of Santa Barbara.

Leslie Dinaberg: Did you always want to go into this kind of work?

Stephen Jacobsen: No. … I was a history major at UCSB a long, long time ago, so that whole thing of where do things come from, why is the world the way it is, it’s interesting to me. … I think too, in my ministerial work, it had a focus within a congregation. I did get involved in the community in a number of things over the years, but here at Hospice of Santa Barbara it’s like there are no boundaries. I can be anywhere in town listening and learning, so that’s pretty fun. It feels like a big toy box.

LD: Is that unusual to go into a school like UCSB and then go into the ministry?

SJ: When I was at UCSB I had no interest at all in religious stuff. …There are friends of mine that still can’t believe I ever went into this. But I was there in 1970, the bank was still smoking and lots of smoke was in the air of all kinds, so in that whole milieu it was a pretty exciting time, a pretty fascinating and wonderful time. … I made some decisions that weren’t too good for my health psychically as well as physically, and out of that I came to a personal crisis and then found a little grace point out there in the universe that kind of turned me around.

… Later, that led me into a relationship with the woman who is now my wife and we started going to a church and I was like, “I’ll be darned, every time I go here it’s kind of like this experience I had.” Before I thought organized religion was the most dull thing there ever was, but this has actually been going on for thousands of years, these writings in any tradition, so that’s what got me into it. UCSB was the last place … I never took a religious studies class there. … Personally, it’s a wonderful kind of a wonderful grace to where I kind of screwed up my life there. Here I get to go back and be a tax paying, responsible kind of a person who’s trying to help, and in that sense, I never thought I’d get back to Santa Barbara. But here I am, and in that sense it’s kind of a circle that I feel I wouldn’t have ever dreamed of.

LD: I know you served on the board before becoming executive director. What initially drew you to become involved with Hospice of Santa Barbara?

SJ: I’ve been in ministry 27 years and wherever I was people had such reverence for the work of Hospice and I got on the board in the 80s in Ventura County, when I was working in Santa Paula and it was an interesting board to be on. … Often in our culture we’re kind of like whoa, keeping things at arms length, and going through those things (loss of a loved one) kind of slows us down a little bit and makes us a little more reverent. So I thought this is interesting chemistry to be around where it’s people who have gone through some tough things in life. …Gail (Rink, the retiring executive director of Hospice of Santa Barbara) and I would do occasional programs together and I just loved hearing her speak.

… So with all that then, what got me interested in the job was I just felt personally in my life, I am 55 and I’ve been doing what I had done for 27 years and it was wonderful, but I thought I would be open to something different. I have a great appreciation for what this organization does, but also a sense that at this point in Hospice of Santa Barbara’s growth it really wants to–in addition to doing all of the care giving it does for people–move to work with others in the community.

… There’ s a movement, the Alliance for Living and Dying Well … it has these two goals, to do kind of the nuts and bolts thing of how can we get all the services well integrated? How can we get advanced directives very available to people? But then there’s this second kind of a thing that the alliance is very much wanting to do, which is take this message, to form and articulate this message and take it into the culture in which we live.

There’s a saying that I really like by a guy named Matthew Fox, which is, “If we savor more we buy less.” And so instead of saying I should buy less, it’s like if I come to terms with the idea my life is limited, then I start to enjoy each detail more and then I just don’t feel like I have to buy quite as much because what I am doing is really awesome.

LD: It’s amazing how quickly we lose touch too. When you’re in that moment of something big happening you think I’m going to remember this forever and then it fades and you go on with your life.

SJ: Yeah, yeah absolutely.

LD: As you evolve from a board member into the executive director that sounds like that’s going to be one of your things you’ll emphasize.

SJ: Yes, I think of my job as internal and external. Internal is the usual things that an executive director does, supporting and helping to manage the volunteers and staff and in that sense I kind of feel like a guardian. I want to protect my people and give them what they need but on the other end is this kind of external community relations thing and we’re interested in doing a lot of community education and collaborative things.

… One of my favorite definitions of leadership is the interweaving of relationships, so there’s one thing about setting the vision but there’s another thing about just seeing how all the relationships at all the different kinds of levels can just be woven together all the time so it’s strong, it’s not just one person out there in front of a charge. So a lot of what I look at is how to keep weaving relationships between Hospice of Santa Barbara and the healthcare people in town, the educational groups, all kinds of stuff.

LD: What do you do when you’re not working?

SJ: I love the beach, bicycling, I love to swim, I love opera, I love baseball. I’m a big Dodger fan, and there are 31 people that work here, but I don’t think there’s anyone else that cares, so I had to learn that the first week. … I love to travel. I don’t think I’ll be doing as much traveling here, but in my previous job had two weeks every year and I could save them on account, so I went to Mexico City and I loved kind of spiritual journeying, going to see the world. Here a lot of the journeying will be here in town.

Vital Stats: Stephen Jacobsen

Born: Nov. 8, 1952, San Bernardino

Family: Wife Ann; daughters Autumn (30, lives in Seattle), Alegra (21, lives in Austin, Texas), and Aria (18, a freshman at UC Santa Cruz); grandson Asher; Sophie the dog; and two chickens, Scarlett Johansson and Keira Knightley

Civic Involvement: Walter H. Capps Center for the Study of Ethics, Religion and Public Life (UCSB) advisory group; board member Hospice of Santa Barbara andIsla Vista Youth Project; recent past president of the Interfaith Initiative of Santa Barbara County; former board member of La Casa de Maria Retreat House

Professional Accomplishments: Senior pastor at Goleta Presbyterian Churchfor 16 years; Visiting Scholar at the UCSB Religious Studies Department; taught courses in history and religious studies at Heritage University in Toppenish, Wash.; pastor at Community Presbyterian Church in Wapato, Wash.

Best Book You’ve Read Recently: La Sumida Nursery “smallest ripe tomato” competition

Originally published in Noozhawk on October 6, 2008. Click here to read it on that site.

The politics of friendship

elephant-donkey-politicsThe election is still more than six weeks away and I’m starting to get a callus on my tongue from biting it.

It’s not that I don’t like to talk about politics. I love to talk about politics. Just ask my husband, or my family, or any of my friends who happen to share my opinions. We talk about politics all the time and we love it. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve solved all the problems of the world over dinner and a few bottles of wine. It’s not that we don’t argue. We certainly don’t agree on everything, but we do share some very core ideas about the way the world should be run.

I love to talk about politics.

I just don’t want to talk about politics with certain people that I know because I like those people, and I want to continue liking them and I know that I won’t like what they have to say about the upcoming election and then I’ll have to either bite my tongue until it bleeds or try to have a rational conversation with someone who is clearly out of their mind if they really think what I think they think about the upcoming election.

But I’m scared to ask them because, honestly, if they feel the way I think they do I don’t want to know.

So I’m deluged with emails and links to blogs and funny YouTube videos from friends who know I think the way they think and I forward them on to friends who I think think the way we think, but there are a lot of people in my address book who don’t. With them, I try to pretend that there isn’t an election going on because I want to continue being friends with them and I know if we talk about it, it will be hard for me.

See, I have to deal with them daily at work, on soccer teams, PTAs and nonprofit committees, and I want to deal with them in a pleasant, respectful manner and stay friendly. They are my friends, after all. But quite frankly, I’m scared that if we start to talk about certain things I’ll lose all respect for their intelligence.

Then my blood pressure will go up whenever I see them, or perhaps even think about them. Then I won’t be able to sleep at night because I’ll have endless conversations with them in my head where I brilliantly and logically explain my point of view in a way that they couldn’t possibly disagree with me–and yet they still do.

So I’ll try again and again and again until I feel like I’m banging my head against the wall and then the alarm goes off and it’s morning and it starts all over again.

So I don’t talk about politics with them.

And it’s really not the end of the world. We have plenty of other things to talk about. In fact, it’s amazing how much time you can spend with someone when your children are the same age or you’re working on a common cause before you realize how far apart you are politically.

But once that barrier has been broken it’s hard to go back, and politics becomes the elephant–or the donkey–in the room that you try to ignore but can’t quite get out of your mind.

Published in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on September 19, 2008.

Leslie Dinaberg Sits Down with Cecilia Rodriguez

Anna Kokotovic, left, former executive director of CALM (Child Abuse Listening & Mediation), gave new Executive Director Cecilia Rodriguez her start with the organization more than 20 years ago. (Jennifer Guess photo)

Anna Kokotovic, left, former executive director of CALM (Child Abuse Listening & Mediation), gave new Executive Director Cecilia Rodriguez her start with the organization more than 20 years ago. (Jennifer Guess photo)

Starting as a volunteer in 1984, CALM‘s (Child Abuse Listening & Mediation) new Executive Director Cecilia Rodriguez has proven her passion for protecting children from abuse. Now she wants to focus on prevention, reaching out to young families to help break the cycle of abuse.

Leslie Dinaberg: So you started as a volunteer at CALM?

Cecilia Rodriguez: Yes, when my own children were very little and I was trying to get away from my life as a full time mom. I wanted to be able to talk about something more than diapers and baby stuff, which is fine but when I got involved here at CALM as a volunteer, within minutes I realized that this was what I would do for the rest of my life. That’s why I warn volunteers when they come here, I say “beware this agency has a way of grabbing you.” The mission is just so compelling and we’re protecting the most vulnerable in our community and helping families to grow and change and break the cycle of abuse.

LD: So you went graduate school and became a marriage and family therapist.

CR: Yes and Dr. Anna Kokotovic, the executive director at the time, offered me a position doing intensive in-home therapy, doing treatment at people’s homes, in the streets, in schools. Wherever families hung out, that’s where I hung out.

… The wonderful thing about in-home work is that you really get a much clearer picture of what’s going on than you do when they come to the office. You rely here on what they tell you, but when you go there and you see the conditions that they are living under, the stressors that they are facing, the challenges, and the poverty. Then you realize that some of the things we innocently ask people to do in their homes are just not possible. So we have to adapt it so that it’s something that really will work for them.

LD: How willing are people to have this kind of an intervention of people coming into their homes?

CR: I am always so humbled–and I’m going to start crying because I always cry about this–that people trust us enough to allow us to come into their home. I am always so touched by that, and it just shows you the level of distress that they’re in, or they are seeking so much, they want support.

LD: What programs are you emphasizing now?

CR: … My focus now, as executive director, is to focus more on prevention than on trying to repair the problem after it has occurred. With teenagers it would be so much better not to get to that place. That’s why we’re really emphasizing preschool, emphasizing preschool aged children aged 0 to 5, the younger the better. And it’s not the children we’re focusing on, it’s the parents so that we can support them to be better families, to listen to their children to be supported themselves. You know, a lot of parents haven’t been supported, didn’t get optimum family situations and so they just repeat what was done. If in their family they were raised in a really punitive family environment, they will tend to do the same thing unless we can intervene. … We try to target young families, even before they have their babies. We get referrals from obstetricians and pediatricians and the Public Health Department when there are certain risk factors and then we begin working with them on bonding and attachment issues from day one.

…We have a whole team of home visitors called Great Beginnings, and they are the ones that go to homes of the very young children.

LD: You have a lot of different programs and a lot of things going on, but what is your perception of the needs of Santa Barbara County versus what you’re able to provide.

CR: Well, there’s always more need than we’re able to provide and again, the need is I think, because I’ve been doing this for a lot of years, and I’m tired of coming in after the fact when abuse has happened and then we react by wrapping our CALM services around the family. That’s why I want to focus on support and prevention efforts, teaching parents how to be better parents and families how to be there for one another. There are so many stressors in families’ lives these days and it’s getting even more challenging now, financial stressors, our economy, that’s adding another, and our families have always been stressed in that way because we work often with families of lower social economic class, so it’s always challenging for them, but then it’s even more challenging now.

LD: Obviously, there are people that have higher risk backgrounds than others, but in some ways everybody has that potential to go too far.

CR: Right. We all have the capacity to abuse given a certain set of circumstances, given certain life stressors I think we can, like you say, cross the line or lose sight of what we’re supposed to do with our children.

LD: In addition to earlier, is there anything else that you feel like is a shift from what’s been done in the past?

CR: Support for preschools. That’s also where I see that children who are experiencing neglect or are growing up in stressful situations where they are exposed to domestic violence, they are not ready to learn; they’re not ready for kindergarten. You know kids are getting kicked out of preschool, this is shocking to me … If you can’t make it in preschool oh my gosh. But you know, when kids are aggressive that’s an automatic “we can’t deal with you here” because they hurt other children. And not every preschool does that, kicks kids out, but there are some, and we see kids here who can’t make it in preschool setting. It is sad. So what we’re doing is we’re partnering with, for instance, Storyteller, and we’re offering support to children and the teachers so that we can help these children to be successful so they’re ready on day one in kindergarten they are ready to learn.

LD: That’s really important.

CR: Yes because what happens if they’re not ready and they’re disruptive from day one they get tagged, you know these kids they get tagged, even in preschool, as the problem kids and they’re going to be problem, problem, problem and they’re going to fail in school.

LD: That’s really sad.

CR: This is a great fact that I uncovered the other day. Do you know that our volunteers provide us with 10,000 hours a year of volunteer time? We have volunteers provide childcare. What our families tell us is one of the most helpful things that we do. When they come here for an appointment they can bring their kids and the kids will be taken care of.

LD: When you’re not working what do you like to do?

CR: I am a total gym rat. I’m an exercise junkie. I go to the Goleta Valley Athletic Club. What’s really important about this work is that it can be very stressful work, of course, you can take a lot home with you, and self-care is very important and I try to model that for the staff. We really stress the importance of when you’re not here when you’re not working, surrounding yourself with beauty, with culture, with laughter, good books, whatever it is that feeds your soul, that’s what you need to do when you’re not here.

So I work out because I’m a fanatic about it, just because it makes me feel good, and also I’m a gardener, My garden is my pride and joy. I love my garden so I’m always out there in my garden. And I have a really solid family, which also helps.

Vital Stats: Cecilia Rodriguez

Born: Los Angeles, November 25, 1957

Family: Husband Bob Stanley; two grown children, Tom who lives in Bellingham, WA, and Clare, who lives in Granada, Spain.

Professional Accomplishments: Art Teacher at Marymount in the 1970s, staff member at CALM for more than 22 years.

Best Book You’ve Read Recently: Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriguez

Little-Known Fact: “I love Cheetos. That is my junk food of choice. About every six months I have a Cheetos attack and I just totally give into it.”

Originally published in Noozhawk in September 2008. Click here to read the story on that site.

Live Long and Argue

Don Ameche and Frances Langford as John and Blanche Bickerson (Wikipedia)

Don Ameche and Frances Langford as John and Blanche Bickerson (Wikipedia)

I believe that there’s always a silver lining. This one fell in my lap, in the form of a magazine article titled “Bickering Has Benefits.”

A study by the University of Michigan School of Public Health found a bright side to marital blowouts. Following nearly 200 couples for 17 years, researchers found that when people in a marriage suppressed their anger toward each other (rather than arguing), they had twice the risk of dying early, compared to couples that shared their emotions.

Got that honey? Fighting is good for us.

It gets better. According to the study, even if just one partner spoke up and resolved their conflict, they still got the benefit of bickering.

When I talk to my husband in a slightly loud and elevated tone, say, to gently bring his attention to something that needs doing around the house, I often feel like I’m talking to myself. But thanks to this study I’ve realized that it doesn’t really matter. Even letting him have it when he’s glued to the television or half asleep, it’s still good for MY health.

Got that honey? Fighting is good for both of us even when it’s just good for me.

There’s something sort of comforting about knowing that fighting is actually healthy for a relationship.

I grew up devouring romance novels and romantic movies. It took me a long time to figure out why there are relatively few romances written about marriage or long-term couplehood. The romantic-comedy formula is all about getting to fall in love–or getting to fall back to love–and after that the couple is on their own to live, well, presumably, happily ever after.

So what if they turn into the Bickerson’s before the honeymoon is paid for–no one wants to fork over ten bucks (plus another ten for popcorn and milk duds) to watch that movie.

The truth is–as much as we’d all like to believe that good unions float through life on a featherbed of love and roses, mutual respect, and kind words–the reality is that as much as you may love your partner, sometimes you just want to throttle him. And that’s okay. In fact, fighting is more than okay; it may even help you live longer.

Isn’t it great to know that spousal spats may actually serve a larger purpose than making you feel better by getting it off your chest? I knew that silence wasn’t really golden.

The best marriage advice I ever got was to talk it out. And if he’s not listening, keep talking and talking and talking until he hears what you’re saying and gives in.

Got that, honey? Did you hear me? Are you listening to me at all? You may as well turn off the TV and listen. Then again, your need to space out while pretending to listen attentively meshes perfectly with my need to talk everything out to the last detail. They really should make a romantic comedy about us.

We’re going to live forever.

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on September 12, 2008.

Leslie Dinaberg Sits Down With Larry Kreider

Larry Kreider (Noozhawk photo)

Larry Kreider (Noozhawk photo)

Beer is more than just a passion for Larry Kreider; it’s also a business. Before he discovered the pleasures of fine craft made beer, Kreider had endless campfire debates over the superiority of Budweiser to Miller and Coors. Now he’s spreading the joys of pairing homemade food with handcrafted hops at Goleta’s Hollister Brewing Company.

Leslie Dinaberg: When did you first develop an interest in beer?

Larry Kreider: It was kind of an epiphany. I was working as a manager for Home Depot in Torrance, and I had to approve checks. I kept approving these checks that said Manhattan Beach Brewing Company, and I finally asked the guy, “What’s the Manhattan Beach Brewing Company? Do you make coffee, soda, what do you do?” He said, “No, we brew beer.”

… I had never heard of that before. It was close by, so I went and visited it and it was just oh my God, this is like nirvana.

… For a couple of years I was just so pissed at Budweiser that they had brainwashed me into thinking that that was the best beer. … But then after I started brewing some beer myself, you start having an appreciation for the technologically perfect beer that they are able to make, especially with breweries located in different parts of the country.

So I’ve kind of come full circle. To their credit, they do take a big part in getting people to drink more beer period. … For the past three or four years the growth of beer consumption has been pretty stagnant, but craft brewed beer has earned double digit increases in consumption.

LD: How did you get started in the restaurant business?

LK: I moved to Santa Barbara in 1995 with the intent of opening up the Santa Barbara Brewing Company. I had some partners from the South Bay area … the three of us were middle-aged bachelors, had never worked in a restaurant, never brewed beer before but we knew someone in common that had opened other brew pubs and could help us. … Our naivete kind of helped us. …That’s right when lower State Street was starting to become a little gentrified. … We were in the right place at the right time

… That’s where I met my current partner, Eric Rose. I hired him to be a part-time brewer assistant. … We worked together there for about four years and then I sold my interest in the brewing company to my partners who are still there and still doing well. I moved on and at that time I was becoming involved with Elements.

I knew, from the very first week I met Eric that at some point in his life he was going to open up a brewpub on his own, professionally. We stayed in contact for four years in that interim where I was trying to get Elements off the ground, and he was still at the brewing company perfecting his profession, brewing better beers.

(Eventually) Eric and his father (Marshall Rose) started putting together a business plan, and they contacted me and wanted to know if I was still interested in doing a project. And I said, “absolutely.”

LD: Even though there are a lot of restaurants, it still feels like Goleta has room for more.

LK: People have been extremely supportive and we’re flattered and humbled by the response that we got when we came out here. There was a pent up desire for people to go to locally owned and operated restaurants without having to go downtown.

LD: Is the beer you brew only sold here?

LK: We have the ability with our type of license to self distribute beer. But not to sound smug or anything, but we’ve been so busy trying to keep up with the demand here that we haven’t pursued that avenue yet. We have beer on tap at one place and it’s the Hungry Cat. We’ve developed a nice relationship with the chefs that work there, and they’re willing to put different beers of ours on tap and then create dishes around it.

LD: Can people buy beer to take home?

LK: We have the growlers only; we don’t sell it in kegs.

LD: Do you have a favorite beer?

LK: The one that’s in front of me. (Laughs)

LD: I know you’re here full time but you still own part of Elements?

LK: Yes, but it has nothing to do with the partnership that owns Hollister Brewing Company. That’s just me personally. My partner there, Andy, knew that at some point I was going to get back in the beer business. Fortunately for me my wife Tina is able to keep our interest going in Elements.

LD: She mentioned to me that you guys get a little competitive.

LK: Yes we do. We check sales with each other on a daily basis and see who is doing what. We’ve even tried to get some synergy a little bit out of it, if they need employees or if we need employees we’ll see if they have people available, stuff like that. But it’s a completely separate entity.

LD: Does whether or not UCSB is in session affect your crowd very much?

LK: Everyone said when we were building the place, “oh brew pub right by a university, that’s going to be busy,” and people had this pre-conceived notion it would be filled with these undergrad students drinking beer. We’re not that kind of a place. We make a craft made product so it’s a little more expensive.

.. I think anyone would be naïve to say that the university doesn’t affect every business in Goleta. It does; there’s a huge population increase, but we’ve been able to keep to our core demographic of the people who live and work here in Goleta and not just the students who tend to be a little more transient from year to year.

… It’s so funny, the three busiest weekends that we have are graduation, move-in and parents visitor’s week. So for 49 weeks a year the students go to Albertsons, and whatever is on sale they buy, but the three weekends that mom and dad are in town they bring them in here to foot the bill (Laughs).

LD: What else do you do when you’re not working?

LK: As you know, I have two young kids, so that takes up pretty much all of the time that I’m not here. I have to give credit to Tina — you know, trying to run two restaurants with two young kids is not the easiest thing to do and we’ve been able to. Our partners are very cognizant of that also … I try to take Sunday off regardless of what’s going on and that’s kind of our family day.

LD: Looking down the road, would you ever want to open another Hollister Brewing Co.?

LK: I could see opening a different variation of this. This was our first shot together and most of the menu design, the beer design, the food pairings, came from Eric. He’s got the most sophisticated palate. This site lends itself more toward the volume that we have to do and we’ve been very fortunate that we have that, but if you really want to get into a palate driven place you need a little bit smaller place. So we can see doing that at some point in the future. Maybe a smaller venue where we could still supply it from here, not necessarily brew it there, but have a really nice palate-driven, food-driven, foodie place with really nice wines, really good beers, pairing with more entrée-type foods and things like that.

LD: It sounds like an amalgamation of your two businesses.

LK: Exactly. Something like that maybe sometime but there’s no immediate plan. I mean, we’re still pounding the turf here and trying to get this going. But we’re well ahead of what our scheduled business plan said. Thank you to the people in Goleta that they have been very supportive, and we do thank the people from Santa Barbara, too, who come all the way out here to Goleta. (Laughs) I swear people think they have to cancel their newspaper subscription and cancel their mail just to go to Goleta.

Vital Stats: Larry Kreider

Born: Aug. 30, 1958, in Martinsburg, Pa., “with a population of more cows than people.”

Family: Wife Tina, son Jake (8) and daughter Claire (4)

Civic Involvement: Santa Barbara MissionWashington School

Professional Accomplishments: Manager at Home Depot; co-owner of Santa Barbara Brewing Co.; current co-owner of Hollister Brewing Co. and Elements.

Little-Known Fact: “People look at me as the beer person since I’m out here, but I mean, If I go into a restaurant and I don’t like the beer selection they have, I’ll order a Budweiser … It’s the best of that style of beer. … We just don’t like the fact that they market to get people to think that that’s the only style of beer there is.”

Originally published in Noozhawk on September 7, 2008.

The M Word

Photo by Ambro/freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by Ambro/freedigitalphotos.net

I had never met a four-letter word I didn’t like — under the right circumstances — until that one day, on the cusp of my 40th birthday, when the 12-year-old Vons checker dared to speak the most offensive word of them all.

“Need help out to your car, ma’am?”

Who me? Ma’am? When did that happen?

He didn’t even have a southern accent.

#@*&! When did that happen?

It seems like just days ago, at that very same Vons, when I had just had my wisdom teeth out and that cute Box Boy in my Geometry class helped me out with my single bag of groceries. I was sure he was going to ask me to the Homecoming Dance, swollen face and all.

Then he asked if I had an older sister at San Marcos. He didn’t even recognize me!

How did I go from that kind of minor adolescent humiliation to the adult-sized humiliation of ma’am?

It must have happened around the same time our neighbors stopped noticing when we had parties. Somewhere around the same time our friends stopped hooking up then breaking up and started getting married and divorced.

Growing old gracefully is highly over-rated.

At my 20th high school reunion, all of the friends I had stayed in touch with looked wonderful that night, but everyone else — who were still 18 in my mind — looked old, fat and gray.

#@*&! When did that happen?

Is this what it’s like to finally be a grown up? You blow out the candles on your 16th birthday cake and the next thing you know you’re blowing out an “over the hill” candle at your 40th birthday, because to actually put 40 candles on would take a much bigger cake!

I’ve still got the lollipop on my desk that says “40 Sucks.”

Now that I’m approaching 45 and that lollipop’s getting rather dusty, I can say with some authority that it doesn’t really suck. At least not most of the time.

For the most part my friends aren’t aging any more gracefully than I am. Although none have bought Ferrari’s or dated 19-year-old supermodels, I’m sure that’s only because they can’t afford them. We talk a lot more about our corns and bunions and a lot less about our sex lives.

At a recent 40th birthday party, a friend announced he had taken up surfing, even though he can barely swim. Another spent the week at a dude ranch, finally getting back on that horse after a few disastrous childhood attempts.

What I want to know is when did surfing and riding horses become daring, and golf become the sport of choice for people my age? When did I stop relating to the teens on Gossip Girl and start relating to their parents? Is this what it feels like to sit at the grown up table?

I’ve heard people say that “old” is about 15 years older than you are, which sounds about right. Until I realize this makes me “old” to that Box Boy and even to many of my colleagues.

I guess I should have clued in last year, when I told one of my young colleagues about the amazing Pearl Jam concert I had seen the night before.

His comment: “That’s so cool. I hope I’m still going to concerts when I’m your age.”

What am I, 55?

I’ve been going to concerts since before you were born, you little whippersnapper!

I wonder what he’d say if he knew I was online trying to buy Stone Temple Pilots tickets?

“Wow, they’re still around,” said a teenage intern. “My dad used to love them back when he was in college.”

Is this possible?

Oh #@*&!

At least he didn’t call me ma’am.

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on September 5, 2008.

Won’t You Be a Good Neighbor (The Friendster Next Door)

This story as it originally appeared in Upwardly Mobile Magazine

This story as it originally appeared in Upwardly Mobile Magazine

It’s sad but true that in an age where we’re wired 24/7 and can–and do–create community anywhere, we often don’t know the people who live right next door. With all due respect to Robert Frost, good fences don’t really make good neighbors.

With as little effort as a smile, a note, a phone call or the ringing of a bell you can help create a sense of community in your neighborhood. Neighborliness is always nice, but when you live in close quarters such as mobile home parks, it’s even more critical to care about your surroundings and engage with one another.

In honor of National Good Neighbor Day on September 28, here are some tips to make your neighborhood a happier, friendlier place to live:

Be Welcoming
“When you see your neighbors outdoors, strike up a friendly conversation with them. This is a great way meet, connect and stay in touch,” says Kathy Peterson, host of Lifetime Television show, “The Balancing Act.”

“Bake a batch of cookies (with your children if you can) and have them deliver the goodies to the newly-arrived neighbor, suggests psychologist Aaron Cooper, author of “I Just Want My Kids To Be Happy.” “Or invite your neighbors over for coffee or cocktails,” says Peterson. “This is a great way to get to know each other better.”

Be Gracious
Cooper suggests you offer to collect your neighbors’ newspapers and mail or water their houseplants, when they go away. Or when clearing snow in your driveway, or sweeping, clean a path in front of your neighbor’s home as well.

“Offer to help if your neighbor is in need and you can do it and want to do it. For example, cooking an extra dish for dinner and giving it to a neighbor who is not feeling well or is grief-stricken, will make both of you feel better. Compassion releases feel-good chemistry,” says stress management expert Debbie Mandel, author of “Addicted to Stress.”

Consideration Counts
“Maintain your home well so that it adds appeal to the neighborhood. Don’t allow your landscaping to become a weed patch or dead botanical landscape, and no cars up on blocks,” says Melissa Galt, author of “Change Your Interiors, Change Your Life.”

“Keep your noise levels reasonable,” she says. “Let neighbors if you are expecting packages and ask them if they can accept them for you.”

Address Issues
“It seems simple, but talk to your neighbors if you have a concern,” says Pam Ragland, author of “The 7 Why’s of Addiction” and “Radical Thought Shift.”

Make sure you notify your neighbors if you are planning construction or remodeling, especially if you require a dumpster, says Galt, adding, “don’t forget to invite everyone in for a room or housewarming when the place is ready!”

Safety First
“A good neighbor should offer to be there for their neighbors for any last minute emergencies and vice versa whether it’s taking care of pets, borrowing, etc.,” says Peterson.

“Do offer to be aware of strange vehicles and individuals cruising the neighborhood; everyone is part of safety. Don’t ignore unusual activity and assume it is expected; if in doubt, inquire politely out of kind concern,” says Galt.

If creating a healthy community isn’t motivation enough, think of your own health. “Being a good neighbor is healthy for both mind and body,” says Mandel. “We all need a support system and a helping hand occasionally to manage stress both acute and chronic. Because of proximity, neighbors are easy to make friends with–and we all know how difficult it can be to make new friends. Neighbors are a natural!”

Originally published in Upwardly Mobile Magazine

Down the (New) Garden Path

This story as it appeared in Upwardly Mobile Magazine

This story as it appeared in Upwardly Mobile Magazine

Long, narrow side yards are often overlooked as valuable garden real estate, but they are especially useful as a way to make small spaces come alive and feel as is they’re part of the landscape. With planning, ingenuity, and a flair for the dramatic, landscape designer Mark Sargent transformed Judy and Rudy Escalera’s formerly confusing, underused space into a glorious side garden destination.

The Escaleras had lived in their Santa Barbara mobile home–in a senior living community next to a golf course–for about four years, when they decided it was time to redo the side yard. Judy was concerned that the gravel path might be dangerous, and she wanted to create a more cohesive, scenic look.

Sargent’s first impression was of “a garden that was semi-landscaped, but it had outgrown itself. There were attempts at little visual side paths but they didn’t really go anywhere and they weren’t inviting enough to make you want to get on them to see where they stopped.”

After consulting with the property manager about restrictions and an analysis of what should stay, what could be used but moved, and what should go in the garden, the two set a budget of $12,000, and got to work.

“We had a lot of resources, a lot of nice plantings to work with,” says Sargent. Though many of the plants were removed and placed in other areas, nothing stayed in its original place except a rose bush, hedges and some olive trees.

The first and most dramatic design change was extending the walkway out to the front property line. The Escaleras chose a “rather daring” Sedona Red flagstone tile that not only addressed the safety concerns and unified the look of the garden, it also had the unintended consequence of warming up the beige color of the house.

Initially Judy wanted to repaint the house when the side yard was done, but the reflection of the tile changed the color. “It was a clever accident,” explains Sargent. “It turns out the Sedona Red ties in so well that it made the house look like it was the right color.”

“Another thing that we did was change the steps at the side of the house,” says Judy. “We changed the design so that it had a little landing and the rail comes down like open arms, sort of saying ‘hi, here we are, welcome.’ You follow that beautiful red pathway and then on up into the different areas in the garden.”

Creating a pathway with a variety of interesting groupings of plantings–including Plumeria, Loropetalum, Aloe, Hydrangea, Jacob’s Ladder, Agave, Little Ollie, and Azalea–“helped give a sense of largeness to the garden so that the stairs didn’t just go marching straight down to the front door in a boring way,” says Sargent.

They also incorporated a birdbath, succulent rock garden, patio, an antique garden bench, and a water feature into the space. “It’s amazing that you can fit in so much and still end up not feeling overwhelmed by objects and feel that you actually have places to go,” says Sargent.

Other than trimming the olive trees and the hedges, the Escaleras are able to maintain the garden themselves, an important consideration for seniors and people on a budget. “I love to putter around,” says Judy. “It just gives me so much pleasure.”

Originally published in Upwardly Mobile Magazine