About Kate

I write a humor blog about small town adventures on the Mendocino coast.

Megan Caron – Lost Coast Found

Over the past few years, I’ve interviewed more than two dozen people who grew up along the Mendocino Coast and couldn’t wait to move away, believing they’d never return. But return they did, to establish businesses or professional careers. Some also chose this place to raise children, to nurture them in the small town values that shaped their own childhoods.
These are a new wave of pioneers who, like their forebearers, use intelligence and  imagination to forge a vibrant path. In exchange for the privilege of being able to live in one of the most beautiful places on earth, they work long, hard hours.
The shelter in place orders due to Covid-19 have knocked many down, but they are devising ways to get back up and resume their vision of what it means to live here.
They have open minds and are digging deep to find solutions.
They have entrepreneurial spirits that will spawn innovations to move them forward. They are truly the new pioneers of the Mendocino Coast.
We are so fortunate to have them here—especially during this trying time. 

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Megan returned to the Mendocino Coast four years ago for many of the same reasons other young pioneers come back—weary of city living, wanting to raise children where they’d been raised, and hoping to use their energies to revitalize our community. Soon after her arrival, she opened the vintage shop Lost Coast Found in the Larry Spring building on Redwood Avenue. https://ithappenedatpurity.com/2017/10/02/megan-caron/

Unlike other shop owners, Megan says she wasn’t fazed by the shelter in place order.

“It seems like everyday something shocking takes place. The current administration has forced many of us to become desensitized. When I think about what’s happening to this planet—children in cages, criminals in the White House—a pandemic just kind of seems like icing on the cake.”

Similar to other retailers, Megan considers the ramifications of future shelter in place orders and is considering the addition of an online store. “My brick and mortar will always be a priority because creating space and human interaction is what I enjoy. I have never really shopped online—except for that one time, but I was doing research on Scandinavian linens.” She laughs. “I find online shopping dull and unfulfilling. During these tumultuous times, I have confidence in the secondary market. I believe people are catching onto the idea of conscious consumerism, but as with every change in behavior, it takes time.”

Megan is grateful to Anne Maureen McKeating, the owner of the Larry Spring building. “She isn’t charging rent as long as I am unable to open. I wish more landlords were so kind. I am worried about our downtown community and hope landlords realize there is more value in keeping a current tenant than waiting a year for a new one to come along.”

Lost Coast Found reopened on June 12 and Megan has to limit customers to one or two people at a time. “The shop is too small to fit more than that. I want people to have a relaxing experience. I don’t want them to worry if they’re six feet away from someone.”

Given the number of employers who are allowing employees to telecommute, Megan believes Fort Bragg is more attractive to outsiders than ever before. “I guarantee we’ll make it on ‘The Top 10 Small Towns In Which To Survive A Pandemic’ list.  Over the last three years, a constant stream of tourists have come into my shop and asked, ‘So what’s it like to live here?’ I say it’s a great place if you can afford to buy a house. It can be impossible to find a rental unless you have a local connection. I tell them about our need for working professionals, trades people, entrepreneurs, and community volunteers.

“Like it or not, an influx of people will move here. I don’t think it’s a bad thing. Buying up housing for vacation rentals is what has devastated coastal communities. Building new homes will help our economy.

“When people move here, they bring money and this town desperately needs money. Fort Bragg has struggled to financially maintain its downtown and the current crisis will only make that more difficult.”

Megan finds hope for the future of our community in people like her customer Joanne.  “She lives in Fremont and is selling her home. She’s dreamed of having a tea room and Fort Bragg seems the right place. Joanne has the capital to buy one of the downtown dilapidated commercial buildings and will make it beautiful again.”

https://www.facebook.com/lostcoastfound/

Lost Coast Found is open 11:30-5:00 Wednesdays through Saturdays.

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Amberly Reynolds Caccamo – Reynolds Men’s Wear and Wrens

Over the past few years, I’ve interviewed more than two dozen people who grew up along the Mendocino Coast and couldn’t wait to move away, believing they’d never return. But return they did, to establish businesses or professional careers. Some also chose this place to raise children, to nurture them in the small town values that shaped their own childhoods.
These are a new wave of pioneers who, like their forebearers, use intelligence and  imagination to forge a vibrant path. In exchange for the privilege of being able to live in one of the most beautiful places on earth, they work long, hard hours.
The shelter in place orders due to Covid-19 have knocked many down, but they are devising ways to get back up and resume their vision of what it means to live here.
They have open minds and are digging deep to find solutions.
They have entrepreneurial spirits that will spawn innovations to move them forward. They are truly the new pioneers of the Mendocino Coast.
We are so fortunate to have them here—especially during this trying time. 

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Each story shared by the returnees I’ve interviewed has left an impression on me, but Amberly’s touched me deeply. Not only did she keep a beloved and long-running family business going through the Great Recession, she managed to survive cancer while pregnant with her youngest child. You can read her interview here: https://ithappenedatpurity.com/2017/07/12/amberly-reynolds-caccamo/

Despite rising above previous challenges, Amberly initially found the business ramifications of the shelter in place order overwhelming. She struggled between wanting her family and community to stay safe and keeping her business afloat.

“By the time the SIP order was issued, I had already closed Wren’s and was grappling with closing Reynolds,” she says. “In early March, my 11-year-old son and I went to New York City with his class to participate in the Montessori Model United Nations. We returned on the tenth. When we left, there were more Covid cases in California than New York. Upon our return, we learned how rampant it was in New York City.  I put myself and the kids in quarantine and we hunkered down.”

Amberly despairs at the fact that the pandemic has pushed people to make needed purchases online. “Before this, I had plenty of customers who bought clothing from us, even though it was only a click away on their computer.” She’s being forced to make some tough decisions on how to move forward. “It breaks my heart, but I’ll have to combine my two shops into one. I hate to see another empty building on Franklin Street, but I cannot afford two rents and to staff two shops.

“Reynolds Men’s Wear has been in my family 54 years and was a men’s clothing store for 43 years before that. We are nearing our centennial. We have weathered more than a few storms. During the economic period of high inflation in the late seventies and early eighties, my parents spent most days sitting at a window table in the Fort Bragg Bakery across the street from the shop watching for the occasional customer. They managed to survive that difficult time.

“I am steeped in the tradition of this shop. It’s a part of me and makes me who I am. When I help customers find exactly what they need, I feel a giddy satisfaction. This pushes me to carefully select products. I am working on an online presence, but it’s not nearly as much fun as seeing people face-to-face.

“At this point, we are offering limited customer access to the stores and curbside pickup Wednesdays through Saturdays from 12:00-4:00. It’s been nice to see a few faces again—even if they are behind masks.”

Amberly is grateful that her husband’s business, Caccamo Construction, has been able to operate. She enjoys being at home with her three sons. “I see a lot of value in slowing down, and that is a huge part of my decision to merge my two stores. It will give me more freedom to be with my family. We love watching our plants grow, raising goats, and hanging with our chickens. Our dog is so happy to have kids home all day.”

Amberly encourages people to call or visit her shop. “See if we have what you need before you hop online to order. Share our Facebook posts. Interact with our Instagram posts, all of that helps to make us more visible to the public.”

https://www.facebook.com/wrensboutique/

https://www.reynoldswren.com/

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Forging a Path through the Pandemic: Young Pioneers of the Mendocino Coast

Over the past few years, I’ve interviewed more than two dozen people who grew up along the Mendocino Coast and couldn’t wait to move away, believing they’d never return. But return they did, to establish businesses or professional careers. Some also chose this place to raise children, to nurture them in the small town values that shaped their own childhoods.
These are a new wave of pioneers who, like their forebearers, use intelligence and  imagination to forge a vibrant path. In exchange for the privilege of being able to live in one of the most beautiful places on earth, they work long, hard hours.
The shelter in place orders due to Covid-19 have knocked many down, but they are devising ways to get back up and resume their vision of what it means to live here.
They have open minds and are digging deep to find solutions.
They have entrepreneurial spirits that will spawn innovations to move them forward.
We are so fortunate to have them here—especially during this trying time. 

***

Sarena Breed – Frame Mill Art Works

SarenaCovid1I met Sarena in 2017 when I interviewed her for my blog. She had recently purchased the Frame Mill Art Works. As a first-time business owner, she worried about her ability to succeed. Despite the challenges of learning to run a shop, she’s seen her business grow and is happy she made the decision. https://ithappenedatpurity.com/2017/06/02/sarena-breed/

She was surprised in March 2020 when nonessential businesses in Mendocino County were forced to close under the shelter in place orders. “A week before the shutdown, I had celebrated my third year in business,” she says. “I noticed things had gotten slower, but expected to continue to operate with some mandated adjustments.”

The Sunday before the order took effect, she spent the day cleaning her store and making changes to keep employees and customers safe. “I separated tools and work areas so everyone in the back room could maintain social distancing. I drafted a sign for the front door asking customers to social distance. I didn’t imagine I would have to close the shop.”

With her routine suddenly disrupted, Sarena says, “I felt I was going through the stages of grief. This was the death of something.”

In addition to the temporary closure of her shop, her eighth grade daughter’s middle school was closed. “Sadly, her class had to settle for a virtual promotion ceremony this year.” Despite these losses, she’s grateful that her husband’s job as an utility arborist is considered essential and he has continued to work.

She began attending webinars on how small businesses can adapt during this time.

The core of Sarena’s business is meeting with clients face-to-face to discuss ways in which a project can be framed. “I love picture framing and don’t like spending much time on the computer. With the doors shut, I realized I had no direct way of communicating with clients. I felt cut off from the folks who came into the store. I wanted to reach out and say a simple hello and give updates, but didn’t have that capability.”

During the shutdown period, the feeling of isolation from her clients caused her to innovate. “I put in a point of sale system to collect email addresses. I’m started work on a website and Facebook and Instagram accounts. Going forward, I’ll continue to expand my online presence.”

Sarena was able to open her store on a limited basis the last week of May. “I looked outside that morning and thought we’ve all been like Sleeping Beauty and are starting to wake up. It feels great to see people again. Some come in just to make sure I was okay. Others pop their heads in to let me know they’re glad I’m open. I feel a great deal of support.” Her shop is open Wednesday through Saturday from 11:00-4:00.

Sarena is determined to move forward. She’s ordered inventory to stock the store for the Christmas season even though there may be shelter in place orders issued in the fall. If she’s forced to shut down again, she’ll be in a better position to communicate with customers and offer framing services by private appointment.

“This experience has given us time to contemplate the things that matter and to reevaluate. People seem to have an understanding that we’re all in this together and are being more patient. I feel a greater commitment to shopping locally and supporting our community.”

***

Since she re-opened, Sarena  is looking for a framer to join her team. Anyone interested can call her shop at 964-6464.

https://www.facebook.com/Frame-Mill-Artworks-106182994399181/

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Forging a Path through the Pandemic: Young Pioneers of the Mendocino Coast

Over the past few years, I’ve interviewed more than two dozen people who grew up along the Mendocino Coast and couldn’t wait to move away, believing they’d never return. But return they did, to establish businesses or professional careers. Some also chose this place to raise children, to nurture them in the small town values that shaped their own childhoods.
These are a new wave of pioneers who, like their forebearers, use intelligence and  imagination to forge a vibrant path. In exchange for the privilege of being able to live in one of the most beautiful places on earth, they work long, hard hours.
The shelter in place orders due to Covid-19 have knocked many down, but they are devising ways to get back up and resume their vision of what it means to live here.
They have open minds and are digging deep to find solutions.
They have entrepreneurial spirits that will spawn innovations to move them forward.
We are so fortunate to have them here—especially during this trying time. 

***

Brittney Tuomala—A Sweet Affair

BrittneyCovid1Brittney’s dedication to the creation of artful desserts and specialty cakes was revealed in my first interview with her in 2014. https://ithappenedatpurity.com/2016/04/22/brittney-tuomala-harris/

A single mother of two young children and sole support of her family, Brittney panicked when the shelter in place order was issued, forcing her to cease business as usual in her beloved patisserie. “One day, I’m making cakes like there’s no care in the world,” she says, “and the next, I have to close the doors.”

Desperate thoughts swirled through her head. “If sales decrease or come to a halt, how do I pay my rent? Feed my kids? Take care of the monthly bills for the business and my home? This inner battle took a serious toll—some crying, some moping, a lot of drinking.”

The same entrepreneurial spirit that propelled Brittney to return to her hometown and create a successful bakery, made her realize she couldn’t give up. “I need to be strong and positive for my kids. I have to figure out how to work as much as I can to keep money flowing while also homeschooling the two of them.”

Brittney has adjusted her business practices by limiting offerings, which now have to be ordered in advance. An order for a cake or gift box placed by 5:00pm will be ready for pick up or delivery the following day. “Being able to conduct some business during these times is a confidence booster. In the face of all this darkness, I’m still going!”

Brittney isn’t sure how she’ll run her bakery when the shelter in place order is lifted.  “Right now, desserts are made to order so I’m not losing money to product waste. On the other hand, sales have severely decreased so I’m not generating as much revenue.

“I’m the only storefront pastry shop in town. I don’t want to take that away from the locals or the tourists. I don’t need a storefront to fill orders for special occasions. I can also become a wholesale shop and sell my desserts through other businesses.”

In the midst of all this, her shop’s landlord compounded her difficulties. “When I couldn’t pay May’s rent, he refused my letter regarding the city’s eviction moratorium. His lawyer claims I should have enough income to pay and I need to show bank records to prove I can’t. My sales are less than half of what they were this time last year.” She worries about the outcome of this situation.

Brittney is inspired by how our community has come together to support one another. “People are ordering food delivery to help restaurants and buying gift cards from local businesses. All of this positivity can only inspire more good.”

She acknowledges that the future of our business community is uncertain. “Without tourism during the busy spring/summer months, some won’t make it. It’s heartbreaking. More than half my revenue comes from weddings and events, which have mostly been cancelled. There are countless other vendors in the same boat.”

Brittney is grateful to live in a place filled with love and support. She encourages people to spend money locally. Even though much of her revenue is generated from tourist dollars, she doesn’t want to see them come here at this time. “The shelter in place order is never going to be lifted if we don’t follow the rules. My fellow business owners and I are desperate to reopen.”

Brittney’s pioneer grit is strengthening “Never give up,” she says. “If we can get through this, we can get through anything. We will emerge stronger than before.”

https://www.facebook.com/ASweetAffairPatisserie/

https://www.asweetaffairpatisserie.com/online-store

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Forging a Path through the Pandemic: Young Pioneers of the Mendocino Coast

Over the past few years, I’ve interviewed more than two dozen people who grew up along the Mendocino Coast and couldn’t wait to move away, believing they’d never return. But return they did, to establish businesses or professional careers. Some also chose this place to raise children, to nurture them in the small town values that shaped their own childhoods.
These are a new wave of pioneers who, like their forebearers, use intelligence and  imagination to forge a vibrant path. In exchange for the privilege of being able to live in one of the most beautiful places on earth, they work long, hard hours.
The shelter in place orders due to Covid-19 have knocked many down, but they are devising ways to get back up and resume their vision of what it means to live here.
They have open minds and are digging deep to find solutions.
They have entrepreneurial spirits that will spawn innovations to move them forward.
We are so fortunate to have them here—especially during this trying time. 

***

Katie Turner Carr – Pippi’s Longstockings

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For the past 14 years, Katie has owned the very successful sock and accessory shop Pippi’s Longstockings. I first interviewed her in 2016. You can read it here: https://ithappenedatpurity.com/2016/04/08/katie-turner-carr/

When the COVID-19 shelter in place orders were announced, she was devastated. “In tears, I called vendors to ask for extensions on invoices. Thankfully, everyone understood. I wasn’t the only customer dealing with a community shutdown.”

Katie had put her heart and soul into building a beloved business that helps support her family’s livelihood. The possibility of losing it through forces beyond her control made her sad and frightened. She’s thankful her husband Marshall is a teacher who continues to earn an income.

“After a few days, I came to terms with the shutdown being something I can’t fix and I began to adapt. I announced on social media that I could ship orders. The process was 24/7, draining, and brought in barely a fraction of our previous revenue, but it gave me hope. My customers have been so supportive and wonderful.

“With no end in sight to the pandemic, I knew I had to do more. Visitors have been asking me for years to create an online store. I resisted because I love face-to-face retail so much.”

She and Marshall spent a weekend making a website. “It only took 14 years and a global pandemic, but we did it,” she says with a laugh.

On May 9, the local shelter in place order was eased to allow curbside pickup for retail. Katie was able to regain her face-to-face contact, even if those faces are behind masks.

“I don’t want to fully open before it is safe to do so. Earning money is far less important to me than the safety of the people of the Mendocino Coast and the potential to overwhelm our tiny hospital.”

Katie is troubled by the loss of local businesses and the potential to lose more. “I think a lot of us will change how we run our businesses and the way we shop. People are now waiting months for some items from Amazon and are turning to local sources. I hope people will think of themselves as helping to care for a larger community. Right now folks are wearing masks. Many don’t like it, but are doing it to protect others. I hope the feeling of doing things for the benefit of all continues.

“Fort Bragg reinvented itself after the Georgia-Pacific mill closed. We became a community that relies on tourism. We will come back economically, but will have to be creative with what that looks like. We need to support our local businesses as much as possible if we want them here for the long haul.”

Katie encourages people to reach out to their favorite stores and ask what they need. “Some places like nail shops and hair salons are not allowed to open. If you can afford it, buy a gift certificate for what you would normally spend each month. Honor others by sending a check. If you don’t have money, comment on and share their social media posts. Whatever you do, please be kind and remember we are in this together.”

Going forward, Katie will keep her online store along with her physical location. The world is changing and she’s prepared to change with it. “I have to admit I like waking up and seeing I sold socks while I slept.”

 

www.pippisocks.com

https://www.facebook.com/PippiSocks/

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Forging a Path through the Pandemic: Young Pioneers of the Mendocino Coast

Over the past few years, I’ve interviewed more than two dozen people who grew up along the Mendocino Coast and couldn’t wait to move away, believing they’d never return. But return they did, to establish businesses or professional careers. Some also chose this place to raise children, to nurture them in the small town values that shaped their own childhoods.
These are a new wave of pioneers who, like their forebearers, use intelligence and  imagination to forge a vibrant path. In exchange for the privilege of being able to live in one of the most beautiful places on earth, they work long, hard hours.
The shelter in place orders due to Covid-19 have knocked many down, but they are devising ways to get back up and resume their vision of what it means to live here.
They have open minds and are digging deep to find solutions.
They have entrepreneurial spirits that will spawn innovations to move them forward.
We are so fortunate to have them here—especially during this trying time. 

***

Tom Butler & Karl Reese – Re-find Home Furnishings

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Karl with his QuaranTom Coif & Tom sporting a fresh KovidKut by Karl (with dog Callie)

A native son, Tom returned to the coast in 2009 with his husband Karl to open Re-Find, a second hand store that sells gently used furniture. You can read my initial interview with him here: https://ithappenedatpurity.com/tag/re-find/. The store became an instant success and over the past decade did very well. Today, however, it is suffering along with other local businesses.

Economic hard times are nothing new to these men. While living in Arizona, they experienced the Great Recession of 2008. “This one is different,” Tom says. “It happened overnight. We didn’t know if we’d be shut down for two weeks or two years. How do you make plans for that?”

A week before the shutdown, Tom had hernia surgery. In anticipation, he had purchased enough inventory to last two weeks while he recovered. When they realized his recovery was going to take longer, Karl took their truck to the Bay Area and loaded up another week’s worth of inventory. “As he drove home, the shelter in place orders went into effect.”

“If I’d known it would be the last time we could go out buying,” Karl says, “I would have packed the truck even tighter before heading home.”

Over the following two weeks, they depleted their inventory through private showings while adhering to the protocols of social distancing. With nothing left to sell, their business came to a standstill. The auctions, estate sales and warehouse sales where they source their products are also closed.

While they wait for their sources to reopen, Tom says they’re devising strategies to move forward. “We promote our business through Facebook, but don’t sell online. We might develop a website that will allow us to sell online and offer curbside pickup. This will be in addition to our physical store. At the end of the day, I’m a brick and mortar guy at heart.

“We’ve also used this time to paint the inside of the store and clean the carpets so when we reopen we’ll have a fresh new look.”

Tom is grateful their store serves the local population and isn’t dependent on tourists. However, he acknowledges the pain suffered by those businesses who are dependent upon this trade. “Our coast is a tourist-based economy and now we’re afraid of them. We’re going to have to figure out how to survive with a reduced tourist base. At this point there are far more questions than answers.”

Before the crisis hit, Karl had been working part-time at the hospital and recently went full time. He splits his time between the surgery department and materials management. “This has been a major benefit to our ability to survive,” Tom says.

According to Karl, “I’ve always been grateful that our community’s support of Re-Find provides us with a decent living here on the coast. Upping my game at the hospital is the least I can do to keep us afloat during these times”

As they await their reopening, Tom encourages local people to contact him if they have gently used furniture they’re willing to donate or sell. www.re-findhome.com

“It’s easy to figure out how to sell stuff. Our challenge now is to figure out how to acquire.” In the spirit of a true entrepreneur, Tom says, “If our old channels of acquiring inventory don’t work out, we’ll find new ones. We’re going to roll with whatever happens.”

https://www.facebook.com/ReFindFortBragg/

Forging a Path through the Pandemic: Young Pioneers of the Mendocino Coast

Over the past few years, I’ve interviewed more than two dozen people who grew up along the Mendocino Coast and couldn’t wait to move away, believing they’d never return. But return they did, to establish businesses or professional careers. Some also chose this place to raise children, to nurture them in the small town values that shaped their own childhoods.
 These are a new wave of pioneers who, like their forebearers, use intelligence and  imagination to forge a vibrant path. In exchange for the privilege of being able to live in one of the most beautiful places on earth, they work long, hard hours.
The shelter in place orders due to Covid-19 have knocked many down, but they are devising ways to get back up and resume their vision of what it means to live here.
They have open minds and are digging deep to find solutions.
They have entrepreneurial spirits that will spawn innovations to move them forward.
We are so fortunate to have them here—especially during this trying time. 

***

Bethany Brewer – Body by Bethany

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I began working out with this gifted personal trainer six years ago. A few years later, I interviewed her for my blog where she shared her story of rising out of despair to change her life in ways she could have never imagined. You can read it here: https://ithappenedatpurity.com/2016/06/22/bethany-brewer/

Bethany has a passion for physical fitness and a drive to share it with as many people as possible. When the shelter in place orders were announced in March, her first concern was for her clients. She worried how she could help them navigate anxiety and fear. “I felt like I was sitting on a fence—I could keep moving forward and do my best or crawl under the covers and hide.”

She chose to move forward. “The new reality sparked my imagination and I devised workout scenarios that could take place outside the gym. These were quickly squashed as beaches were closed and gatherings banned.” She investigated how she might use Zoom to conduct workout sessions for people in remote locations. “I wasn’t sure my clients would participate, but they were all eager to give it a try.”

On Facebook, Bethany announced she was offering free online group workout sessions. “These are forty-five minute sessions at 9:00am on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and 6:00pm on Tuesday and Thursday.

“When the shelter in place happened, I felt, like so many others, a disconnect between my brain and body. That radiated out to a disconnect from person to person and further to alienation from my community. Being able to reach out through Zoom has made reconnections happen.”

The pandemic has forced Bethany to create a new business model. “Zoom has been an unexpected gift that allows me to reach a larger group of people and reconnect with friends all over the country.

“I think it will take time for people to feel comfortable going back to the gym after it is allowed to open. I’m thinking of protocols to assure my clients’ safety. I have access to a personal training studio that can be reached by an outside staircase so my clients don’t have to walk through the gym. I’ll offer a blend of gym training, Zoom, and outdoor workouts.

“Throughout these past weeks, the word I keep coming back to is ‘gratitude.’ I’m so grateful to have found a solution to offer workouts online. I’m also grateful that I have a community that’s willing to try new things. We can’t get through this alone. I want people to know I’m here for them.”

Bethany is encouraged by stories she hears about our community members helping each other. “People seem more aware of who needs help and are offering it. Many are industrious and creative and doing the best they can. I’m optimistic for our community’s future. I’m staying in the positive and in gratitude.”

Despite Bethany’s offer of free classes, she has bills to pay. She asks for donations of what anyone can afford. “It doesn’t have to be money. People leave food on my doorstep. Gift certificates are nice—they allow someone to support a local business while also supporting me.”

Whether or not someone can afford to donate, Bethany encourages them to join her Zoom workouts. “The more people in attendance, the more energy and motivation it creates.  When you help yourself by participating in a group workout, you also help others. The positive energy ripples out to your family and your community. If you don’t know how to use Zoom, contact me through Facebook Messenger and I’ll walk you through setting it up.” https://www.facebook.com/1gymunicorn/

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Jessica Ehlers

As seen on a Sussex Directories Inc siteAn aura of gentle kindness surrounds Jessica. The lilt to her voice invites people to relax and feel comfortable. She has a great sense of humor and laughs easily. Yet, her outward appearance belies the emotional struggles she has had to overcome. Dealing with these challenges helped her decide at a young age that her life’s work would revolve around helping others.

***

 

Jessica was born in 1979, at a time when children were given freedom to explore the world around them. She spent much of her childhood outside with friends. “We built forts, forged for berries, road bikes all over town, hiked the train tracks, and played at the beach.” Set loose without much supervision, she also occasionally got into trouble.

JessicaEshykid“I was a dorky, insecure kid who could not spell, read out loud in class and didn’t seem to have any real talent outside of being obsessed with MTV. When I was nine, some friends and I began shoplifting and engaging in property destruction. I eventually got caught breaking into a vacation rental. I began sobbing and confessed to everything. I felt so guilty and ashamed. I think the deputy knew he had done his job terrifying me into never doing that again.”

At the age of 12, she spent two weeks in Japan on the first Mendocino Miasa student exchange program. It was an eye-opening experience for this young teen who was living in the tiny hamlet of Albion on the Mendocino Coast.

“It was interesting to see the contrast of the architecture of this ancient culture right next to the bullet train. How people lived was so different from my experience—the food, smells, the schools. The formality was unlike anything I had seen before.”

In 1997—when she was 17 and a student at the Mendocino Community School—she traveled to Bali for two months to research her high school senior project. “At the time, I thought I wanted to become a midwife. My friend, Anna Marie Stenberg, knew Robin Lim, a midwife in Bali. I made arrangements to work with her.”

Upon her arrival, she learned that Robin had gone to Texas to deliver her daughter’s baby. “I’d gotten sick with laryngitis before I left and had started antibiotics. A driver picked me up at the airport and took me to Ubud where I stayed in a one room bungalow with beautiful tile flooring, woven thatch walls and huge, flying cockroaches. ”

JessicaEBaliThe antibiotics were not working and the weather was uncomfortably wet and hot. The next day, Ketut, the semi-adopted daughter of the midwife, put her on the back of her scooter and took her to a doctor. “I was sent off with a bottle of mysterious green pills that eventually cured me. Ketut drove me through the Monkey Forest to Robin’s family compound in Nyuh Kuning. It was like the ‘Jungle Book’ with monkeys hanging out in a temple.’”

Jessica studied Balinese midwifery through reference books while working at the Pondok Pekak Library. “This practice is tied to Hindu culture which is tied into everything in Bali—offerings in the street, protocols on how to pray, and their beautiful elaborate ceremonies.”

“My parents didn’t have an email account so I’d send messages to their friend once a week and they would email me back from their friend’s computer. One time, I sent them a carefully constructed email that told them not to freak out, but I had something to tell them. They probably thought I was pregnant, but the big reveal was that I had gotten a tattoo.”

She loved the people of Bali. “They’re Hindu, very spiritual and friendly. I learned I didn’t want to become a midwife, but thought maybe nursing would be fun until I realized I wasn’t comfortable with potential of death and complications. Not to mention my tendency to pass out around surgical equipment.

“The biggest thing I learned from that experience was that I was a privileged white girl.” This realization was reinforced when she went to Cabrillo College the following year and took a Race, Class and Gender English 2 class taught by Ekua Omosupe, a radical female professor.

“That class made me realize I never had to deal with people assuming things about me based on the color of my skin. While I thought I knew what poverty looked and felt like—the commodity cheese, short pants, and trailer parks I spent time in when visiting relatives—my parents were college-educated and people in my family owned their own homes. That class made me want to learn how to be who I am—a  white, bisexual female—in a way that didn’t make other people smaller, regardless of race, class, gender, sexual preferences.”

JessicaECollegeAs Jessica grew through her teenage years, a darkness emerged. “I partied a lot in high school. We called it partying, but many times it was miserable. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant so it definitely didn’t help my depression.”

At age 19, she became lost in a deep depression that nearly took her life. With the help of healthcare professionals and her parents, she was able to function, but continued to struggle. She spent the following year taking every art class available at the College of the Redwoods coast campus, especially classes from Bob Rhodes.

“It was tremendously therapeutic to stop analyzing and use my hands to make things my head wasn’t exactly planning. I love to make art, but don’t do a lot of it these days. I spend free time gardening. I like growing things instead of making things that will just get dusty.”

In 2000, Jessica went to Prescott College in Arizona for a year and then to the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. “In 2001, I got a BA in Integrative Studies, which qualified me to work at a Starbucks in Portland.” She laughed.

She lived with her sister in Portland. “I got sober and was in therapy, but still felt depressed. I moved back to Fort Bragg in 2003. I was diagnosed bipolar by a psychotherapist who referred me to a psychiatrist. That’s when I decided to became a caregiver. It was a very sweet time in my life. I worked for Eva Andersson’s Caregiving agency on and off for the next eight years and loved it. I got to be a person in a family who wasn’t really in the family. I could support and help people.”

During this time, Jessica married and had a child. The marriage ended in 2009. In 2012, she entered the Master’s in Social Work Program at Humboldt State. “It was a distance learning program that focused on serving rural and indigenous communities. It allowed me to live and work in Fort Bragg so I could be available for my child. I stopped caregiving and started a housekeeping business in order to have more time and flexibility.” She also volunteered for local agencies that helped the homeless and troubled teens.

JessicaEMatt&AliceNine years ago, she became smitten with Matt Howard, the sales manager at Sport Chrysler Jeep Dodge. “I asked him to a movie with a group of friends, but didn’t invite anyone else.” She laughed. They live a sweet life with her 13-year old daughter Alice and their rescue basset hounds Miss Daisy Duke and Flash Bandicoot.

After she obtained her Master’s in Social Work (MSW) in 2015, she worked for the Mendocino Coast Clinics for a year and then for Redwood Community Services (RCS). She focuses on assessing the needs of kids and working with them and their parents. By early 2019, she had amassed the 3200 clinical hours necessary to sit for her Licensed Clinical Social Worker exam. On April 1, 2019 she took the exam and passed.

Jessica continues to work for RCS, and also opened a private therapy practice in November at 327 Redwood Avenue.

“My goal in providing psychotherapy is to meet people where they are and offer tools to develop skills to make the changes they are willing to make. My own background has given me the assurance that anyone can make changes, lead a deliberate life, overcome addictions and childhood traumas.”

Jessica continues in recovery and appreciates the gifts that depression has given her. “My experience with my own mental health helped me develop deep compassion for people who struggle in this way. What could be considered liabilities have become my ninja skills.”

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Close Encounters of the Deer Kind

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Drawing by author, artist and blogger Jenn Hotes (www.jenniferlhotes.com)

I’m driving home from the gym one dusky late afternoon in January. The gratitude I feel for life pumps to the Bee Gees “Stayin’ Alive” blaring from the radio. A challenging day has been rewarded by a workout with friends Kathleen and Bethany. I’m looking forward to a quiet evening with my husband Gary and dog Lucy.

I pull into my garage a little after five. When I open the car door, I hear Lucy barking like she’s defending our yard from terrorists. I exit the man door (yes, the door made for people to walk through is called a man door) of our detached garage and see Lucy’s backside near the left corner. She’s barking with such ferocity that she’s practically lifting from the ground.

I walk towards her to find—around the side of the garage—a deer. Actually, a large buck with imposing antlers—standing about 12 feet away.

A big-ass, mangy buck. Just standing there. In my yard!

I have no experience with wild animals and have never been this close to one in my life.

I recall stories of deer kicking and injuring dogs. I yell at Lucy to stop, but of course she does not. She’s in what we call Catahoula mode where her brain is entirely controlled by instinct. For over a century, Catahoula’s have been bred to hold animals at bay until the hunter arrives to…well…you know. A well-trained Catahoula will back off when given a command.

A Lucy is not so well trained.

I wave my arms and yell at the buck. He just stands there. I start towards him, waving and screaming. Lucy moves closer to him, still barking. I yell at her to stop.

He doesn’t move, just stares at me with blank, black eyes.

I wonder if he has the rabies. I’d recently heard a podcast where a woman told a story of being attacked by a rabid raccoon. She was severely injured and it took her months to recover.

Amidst the chaos, the buck just stands there. Staring. Unblinking.

Every horror movie I’ve ever seen comes back to me.

The buck must be a zombie.

Suddenly, he lowers his head and takes a step towards Lucy. Oh God no—he’s going to skewer her!

I ramp up the arm waving and cursing. I wish I had something to throw at him. It seems like forever—but is probably only 15 seconds—before he turns, trots to the fence with Lucy in hot pursuit, and jumps out of the yard. I race to look down the alley to make sure he’s gone.

When I turn, Lucy is taking a poop.

As I walk to the house, trying to calm my heartbeat, I call Lucy to come. She’s laying in the grass. It’s coated with rain and she hates rain. I check her out and see no blood. She slowly gets up, limping behind me.

A few years ago, she had luxating patella surgery on both knees, which makes her susceptible to an ACL tear. My heart sinks at the possibility of having to choose between another surgery or euthanasia.

I enter the house, my gratitude flushed into the putrid cesspool of self-pity. Thanks to this crazy buck, my dog could be facing grave consequences.

Gary reports that he’d let Lucy outside and heard her start barking. He called her and tried to see what was going on, and was worried about her for the half hour it took me to return home. His mobility issues and impaired eyesight makes it impossible to see much.

Lucy eventually loses her limp and passes out on the sofa, content in the knowledge she is Rin Tin Tin for the day. We praise her valor.

The next day, I tell my sister—who lives in a city and was raised like me with no exposure to wildlife—about the incident. She urges me to call the authorities. “That’s a potentially dangerous animal.”

I imagine the police dispatcher’s response to such a call. It would be the same as a 911 call I made some years ago when I found a stray dog wandering around the yard.

“Ma’am, this is not an emergency.”

“It is to me.”

She’ll hang up, go to happy hour where she’ll tell her friends, and they’ll all get a good laugh at the moron who is afraid of a deer.

I tell my sister my plan if the buck comes back—I’ll throw a skillet at him.

A friend who lives on the outskirts of town tells me that deer freeze when frightened. I had no idea. She assures me that because of his traumatic experience, the buck probably won’t return, but advises me to get some deer repellant and spray it around the perimeter of the yard and on some plants.

I do this and the next morning Lucy runs around the house barking and whining. I look outside and in the dim light see two doe standing in the middle of the yard. I rush, cursing, to shoo them away.

So much for deer repellent.

I used to think deer were graceful, almost spiritual animals. Now I’m not so sure. That buck scared the crap out of Lucy and the wits out of me and is responsible for making me no longer trust deer. I scan the yard a few times a day, wary of his return. I suppose I’ll have to live with post-traumatic deer syndrome for a while. In the meantime, I’ll keep a skillet handy.

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Lucy in recovery from post-traumatic deer syndrome

***

For an entertaining view of a deer acting crazy, watch this news clip.

Misty Daniels

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Some people know what they want to become at an early age. Others feel their way into their talents, willing to try to succeed at many things. Misty is one of those, and her life a cornucopia of jobs well done. A fourth generation coastal resident, she hails from a line of entrepreneurs who worked hard to help build our community.

In high school, Misty worked in the office of Anderson Logging (owned by her father Mike). “I loved being part of the family business and am proud to be a logger’s daughter, but didn’t want to make a career out of office work.” In 1995, she graduated from Fort Bragg High and went to Sonoma State where she majored in English and Communications.

While in college, Misty worked as a lifeguard and a waitress. She also wrote for the arts and entertainment section for the Sonoma State newspaper. She eventually became the paper’s news editor. During her senior year, she was hired by “The Ark,” a weekly newspaper in Tiberon. “I was their first intern and covered city council meetings. They gave me a job after I graduated. A woman I worked with taught me graphic design, which I also did for the paper.”

“I loved working there, but after a year, my commute did me in. It was an hour each way from Rohnert Park. My car didn’t have air conditioning. In warm weather, I drove with my windows down inhaling exhaust fumes.”

Fort Bragg was to be a temporary stop until she could find a job in Sacramento where her childhood friend Nick Tavelli lived. “A couple weeks after arriving, my friend Billie Jo Bouldin arranged a blind date with her son Donald Daniels. He agreed to go only if his mom went with us. He wanted to make sure she wasn’t setting him up with a crazy person.”

Misty&Donald

She and Donald hit it off and her stay in Fort Bragg turned permanent. He worked as a construction foreman and she held multiple jobs. “I was a lifeguard, did graphic design for Erin Dertner, and worked in the Anderson Logging office. After dating for six months, I became pregnant.” Daughter Kylie was born in November 2002. Nine months later, she and Donald married. Son Aidan was born in May 2004.

“We had an infant and toddler, and decided it was a good time to start Daniels Construction.” She shakes her head and laughs. “I’d put the kids to bed and stay up until three in the morning. There was no Google so I studied the book, ‘How to Start a Business.’ The business became official in June 2004.”

When I ask how she possibly managed this, she says, “Donald was working all day. I was raised to never shy away from hard work, to work until you can’t work anymore.”

With the business on its feet, Misty and her mother Maribelle Anderson began a photo essay about Jim Masolini, her father’s maternal grandfather. “My dad was very close to his grandpa and we wanted his memory preserved.” An Italian immigrant, Jim made his way to the Mendocino Coast where he worked on a ranch until he saved up enough money to start the Shamrock, a bar that is now the Welcome Inn. He also owned a number of hotels and the Tip Top Lounge–which housed the town’s first bowling alley.

“My grandma Marie tape-recorded memories of her father that helped me write the story. I used Shutterfly to design the book. A year in the making, we gave it to my dad on his birthday. It was priceless to watch how it deeply it touched him.”

Misty settled into running the construction business and raising children who suffered from skin sensitivities. Son Trey was born in December 2008 and experienced health issues. Misty took them to doctors with little improvement. She was determined to make them well. “I found Edie Bower, a chiropractor at the Casper Wellness Center, who did muscle testing—a non-invasive allergy test. Each tested positive for various food allergies.

“I was skeptical, but I changed their diets. A few weeks later, a well-meaning doctor told me I was wasting my time, so I reintroduced those foods. Everyone had a bad reaction, so I eliminated those foods again.

“As the kids got better, I got sicker. I discovered that foods that are good for gut health—pickled and fermented foods, nuts, avocados—are high in histamines. I didn’t realize they were making my condition worse.

“I developed a rash around my eyes, went to a number of holistic doctors, and nothing helped. I finally went to an allergy eye specialist who prescribed steroid eye drops. Within an hour after application, the rash spread down my face. I stopped using them, but for the next year, had to wear heavy foundation to cover it up.

“In January 2018, a friend told me about a product she sold that works on allergies. I was a health snob and didn’t believe her pink drink could cure me, but was desperate and started using it. I got worse. She said my body was detoxing and this was a natural process. Within a month, the rash started to fade. After three months, it was entirely gone. Nearly two years later, it hasn’t come back. My kids also starting drinking it with great results.”

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Misty is so enthused about this drink she joined the company that sells it—Plexus—and has customers all over the state. “My business has grown because I forced myself out of my comfort zone. At first, I was hesitant to share because I was concerned about what people would think of me. As I witness my customers reclaim their health, it validates what I’m doing.”

If raising children, focusing on ways to achieve optimum health for everyone in her family, helping run a construction business, and running her own business isn’t enough, Misty is also involved in her kids’ schools and extracurricular activities.

“Two years ago, when Kylie was a freshman, she joined Future Farmers of America. She decided she wanted to raise—of all things—a steer. She ended up with a mean, ornery one. I was amazed at how well she took care of him, but wasn’t sorry to see him go to market. She’s a junior now and raising her third steer.”

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Inspired by his sister, Trey joined 4-H last year and raised goats. “He did a great job and will do it again this year.”

The kids have been involved in sports and participate in late model car racing. Misty’s brother Myles has done this type of racing for years, which attracted her kids to it. “Here I am, an organic mom and my kids are driving race cars.” She laughs. “Kylie started at age eight and Aidan shortly after. Trey has been racing since he was four years old. They love it, but I’ve had to learn to love it.”

Misty embraces the values of her forebearers in raising the fifth local generation of her family. “After my kids leave home, I would love for them to return and serve as reminders of the past. This town was built on strength of character and courage. The old timers knew how to work hard and with determination, despite the dangers in the logging and fishing industries. My kids have watched their parents and grandparents live by these standards, and I hope they choose these for themselves, regardless of profession.”MistyFamily