READ Bookstore

Read Bookstore
Let’s just face each other right now, admit it and move on, shall we? We love to read. We would not be sitting here right now, me writing this piece and you reading it, if we didn’t.

Reading transcends time and space, as we are now, literally, doing. Reading allows us to momentarily stop living our lives in this world, and move into an alternate world. Whether you are reading an adventure, biography, novel, some myth or mystery, all books inevitably take us on a journey. The journey takes us outside of ourselves to the destination that the book reveals to us.

It’s no surprise then, that as readers we find ourselves instinctively drawn to bookstores. Readers—real readers—don’t merely walk into a bookstore. We walk into a bookstore and enjoy the literary ambience of crowded shelves and great minds and authors beckoning us to join their world and journeys, imaginative and literal.

Read BookstoreThere is a new destination for the reader in our neck of the woods, Blackhawk Plaza, to be specific. This classic, new independent bookstore—Read— just across the paseo from Draeger’s, nestled in the former Ann Taylor location, is a paragon of what the browsing experience should be, and I absolutely love it! Probably because it is run by readers like me, and precisely because it is the antithesis of the superchain store we have been forced—no, resigned—to accept.

Read is, first and foremost, an independent bookstore dedicated to the democratic principle of offering access to information to the community at large. This means that if you are looking for a book, and if it is still in print, the well-read staff there will find it for you. Anywhere, with top-drawer customer service. This is the vision that Read’s owners, Jean Paul Wardy and Fred Bruning, who also own Blackhawk Plaza, had in mind when they developed the concept.

A perfect mix of an unhurried browsing experience, new and classic books and unusual non-book merchandise make for a counterpoint to the chain-store harried shopping misery.

The staff at Read. has a strong foundation in the book world. The managers, Vicky Panzich and John Hamilton, and bookseller Anthony Smith, have a combined 55 years of owning their own book shops and being involved in the independent bookseller world at every level. Bookseller, Sherry Ghambari, comes from a library background, specializing in children’s books.

The entire staff is amazingly qualified and extremely helpful. Read BookstoreAlthough brand new, Read‘s inventory is already extensive and eclectic, with over a quarter of the space dedicated to kid’s books. The surprisingly deep art, architecture, photography and interior design section is also impressive. Magazine racks are filling up and will, eventually, top out above 500 publications.

The non-book items focus on the writing arts, with a varied and wide selection of pens, along with the journals, sketchbooks, and cards that beautifully complement them.

Read has a series of special and regular events such as a writing workshop on Feb. 13 with Lynn Hazen on “How to Write a Children’s Book.”

The first meeting of the store’s bookclub took place on Jan. 28th, when local author, Mahbad Seraji, discussed his novel, Rooftops of Tehran. The bookclub will meet every fourth Thursday of the month.

A delightful children’s Storytime with Sherry and musical Singalongs with Carolline Harrison alternate every Tuesday morning at 10a.m.. Also, in February, Read will sponsor the San Ramon Valley Educational Foundation’s Read-a-thon, a fun program for kids which brings books to schools, that includes prizes, gift certificates, raffles, and pizza parties.
Read BookstoreRead is in the early, formative stages. Don’t get me wrong, it is chockfull of books. I say in formative stages, because it all depends on how many of us get up to Blackhawk Plaza and allow the literary effect to set in, making it our local independent bookstore, that will no doubt take on some of our collective community character, becoming a reflection of us and our neighborhood; our mirror inner psyches, our metaphysical beings, our will and wonder, represented in the physical form of this beautiful new bookstore. If you’ll permit me to make a pun, you’ve got to come over to Blackhawk Plaza and, literally, Read the experience!
See you there! I’ll either be in the spy novel section, or trying to find out of Tom Robbins’ is really insane or a mad genius, or traveling once more to Italy. Who knows, I may just decide to join Hemingway in the Spanish-American War instead. From Read we can set out on countless journeys. Won’t you join me on the road?

For more information, please call the bookstore at 925 736-9090.
Reads hours are:
Monday – Thursday: 9am to 8pm
Fridays & Saturdays: 9am to 9pm
Sundays: 9am to 6pm

Spring – Releasing & Renewing

ALIVE | Spring - Releasing & Renewing

As our winter hibernation period winds down, we lethargically come out of our cozy caves, stretch, and feel the warmth of the sun. When our muscles and limbs warm up, we receive a surge of new energy. Spring has arrived! After a good afternoon frolic in the sun, we are given an opportunity to return to our caves with fresh eyes. After inventorying our oftentimes-cluttered environments (or closets), we may become inspired to engage in some spring cleaning.

The great thing about spring cleaning is that we are given an opportunity to assess that which physically inhabits our caves (or homes). For example, we first clarify what is currently serving us and therefore still belongs in our environment. The second step is to determine what is no longer serving us and give it away, sell it, or have it recycled. If we have objects or “keepsakes” to release that have sentimental value, then we can consider taking photos of each one and creating a photo album to contain and honor the memory of these treasures.

After we’ve made some space, we can then take the fun third step of inviting in whatever else we need. This is the time to consider if there are new things we want to add into the existing mix. The exciting opportunity here is that we can each update our environment so that it resonates with who we are today. So there you have, in a nutshell, the act of physical spring cleaning.

Did you know that there is another type of spring cleaning beyond the physical? Yep, I call it emotional spring cleaning. Emotional spring cleaning is what I often do with clients in my private practice—year round. For example, I ask someone who is seeking tools for stress relief, “What are you carrying in your life that feels like a burden?” Then, our work often consists of hoisting the burdens off the client’s shoulders, and onto the floor between us. We metaphorically let the burdens gently spill onto the floor allowing each one to receive some light. From this higher perspective…we now let the healing begin. Ely, use purple sentence for enlarged quote?

We sit patiently together, identifying, sorting, and clarifying what each burden represents in his or her life. “Paths not taken,” is a recurring topic of discussion. Guilt, shame, regret, and grief are commonly uncovered during this inquiry process. For example, feelings of grief due to:

  • Unrequited love
  • Job choices
  • Unhealthy choices regarding physical health
  • Childbearing or childrearing choices

Sometimes, even when outwardly a person’s life looks rich and fulfilling, inwardly he or she may be experiencing a sense of emptiness. In addition, many clients are carrying emotional burdens for other people—burdens over which they have no control or any power to change. If they determine they are carrying an emotional burden that is truly someone else’s, then they can consider compassionately releasing the burden and energetically returning it to the rightful owner.

For this purpose, I offer numerous tools, including hypnotherapy, which often assist in lightening emotional loads. These internal spring cleaning and personal inventory processes offer my clients an opportunity to strengthen their boundaries and choose to carry burdens that are appropriately within their realms of control.

In my own life, when I first learned about healthy boundaries, I began releasing numerous heavy burdens that I’d carried for far too long. As a result, I used tools to assist me in sorting issues out. Then I would explore whether I owned the problem, or if the problem belonged to another. These new skills enabled me to set healthy boundaries with others and myself…what a life-changing time! This was a time when I stopped sleepwalking, with the weight of the world on my shoulders, and gratefully…woke up. With newfound vision, I finally had the clarity to decide what I needed to release and what was truly one of my own issues to feel, heal, and integrate.

I often see a recurring gift that clients receive after they’ve gone through this process of sorting through their burdens with me. Once a layer of the emotional spring cleaning is complete and they have clarified and compassionately released burdens that are not appropriately theirs to bear—a clearing appears. After they’ve created some space and added breathing room, they then have an opportunity to invite in what they need in their lives today.

This empowering process can be a great way for each of us to update our “internal environment” and continually clear out heavy burdens we have no control over. We lose emotional weight, which then often inspires losing physical weight (an added benefit). Meanwhile, we no longer need to unconsciously “feed” and continually grow the pile of stress-full burdens!

When we dive in to release and renew both physically as well as emotionally, we are honoring who we are in this precious moment—mind, body, and spirit. Finally, from this recharged place we can declare that indeed, spring has sprung…inwardly and outwardly!

Trina Swerdlow is proud to be one of the honorees at the upcoming celebratory event, Women of Influence, on Wednesday April 21, 5:30 – 7:30 pm. Join us at Back Forty Texas BBQ, 100 Coggins Drive, Pleasant Hill. Complimentary food and live music provided by Fundz Jazz.

Trina Swerdlow, BFA, CCHT, is a certified clinical hypnotherapist, an artist, and the author of the 2-CD Set, Weight Loss: Powerful & Easy-to-Use Tools for Releasing Excess Weight. She is also the author of Stress Reduction Journal: Meditate and Journal Your Way to Better Health. Her CDs and her book are available directly from Trina or from John Muir Women’s Health Center online store:

Trina has a private practice in downtown Danville. She soulfully shares her creative approach to personal growth and passionately supports her clients in reaching their goals. You can reach her at:
(925) 285.5759, or Next time you’re online, check out Trina’s inspiring website:

Certified Clinical Hypnotherapy services in California can be alternative or complementary to licensed healing arts, such as psychotherapy.

When His Taste Doesn’t Agree With Hers

ALIVE | Taste

A combination of European Traditional with Contemporary Accents. The color palate allows them to flow nicely together.

We all want to make our partner happy. We try to compromise on those big decisions such as which car to buy and how to design the interior of our shared abode. But what happens when he wakes up one day and is surrounded with floral bedding, his beloved recliner is missing, and he actually doesn’t like anything about the interior of his own home. Or, she wakes up one day and realizes her dream home looks more like a bachelor pad full of black leather and enough electronics to be a sports bar. The problem begins when one loves European Traditional and the other Contemporary, one a Rustic Lodge feel and the other a Sleek Modern style. These days, the formula can become even more complex when there are multiple generations living in the same home with input into the design process. Fortunately, now more than ever, an eclectic look that has been carefully orchestrated can be not only beautiful and interesting, but uniquely yours.
The key is to keep in mind the goal: A harmonious environment where you both feel at home. A place you can both call a reflection of yourselves. But how do you go about creating a balance between what seems to be opposite ideals. Perhaps the answer is hiring a skilled Interior Designer who can listen carefully to what each of you really want and coming up with neutral ideas that work for both partners.

An experienced interior designer can help resolve complex differences in tastes and style or simple functionality differences such as Susan and Todd’s. Susan wants a cocktail table in the family room because, “that’s what adults have in their family room”, whereas Todd wants a large uninterrupted space of soft carpet in front of the sofa “where the kids and I can wrestle on Saturday morning.” The simple solution of a cocktail ottoman with a tray for drinks and casters on the feet which can easily be rolled away on Saturday mornings may be obvious to a designer but not to Susan and Todd. Of course, many differences are much more complex such as ornate Rococo style versus American Contemporary. Or the very common, “Honey you have good taste, just buy what you want.” which we all know means “Don’t even think about putting pink in the master bedroom.” However, the solution to all of these situations may be the same. A skilled designer can work with both styles to create a refined, creative design that both partners can enjoy. With both experience and education to draw upon, a good Interior Designer can look at each partner’s likes and dislikes to find shared visual elements.

ALIVE | Taste

This is a reflection of his very traditional taste with the addition of contemporary art and accessories to satisfy her desire for a more contemporary, fresh look.

When combining different tastes and styles keep the following in mind:

  • Beautiful design is something everyone appreciates. Give the designer creative room to work both styles into the overall look. The end result will be carefully balanced colors, textures and styles versus a randomly chaotic mixture of his taste oddly mixed with hers.
  • Selecting classic styles versus trendy furnishings makes for a more successful look. Especially when accessorizing, contemporary can add a freshness and uniqueness to a classic design.
    By repeating shapes, defining a common palette of colors, finding continuity in materials, or articulating a cultural theme, the designer can take elements from each person’s taste, belongings, and background and weave them together in a way that visually enables “mine” to become “ours.”
  • Mixing a splash of bright or bold colors with the muted or darker colors can be pleasing to both tastes. Adding a touch of exotic print on a bench or pillow to an otherwise conservative design instantly upgrades the look.
  • Allowing each partner carte blanche to really express him or her self in a “getaway” space such as an office, study, library or sitting room can satisfy the need to make the home his/her own. Especially today, with the main areas of the home melding into one open space, partners can really enjoy their own, out of the way, personal space.
  • When there are three people involved, as opposed to two, there’s always a majority point of view, and the designer can play a mediating role.
ALIVE | Taste

A compromise: The large TV and oversized brown sectional satisfied his desire for a comfortable room to watch TV, while the pleasing color palate, pillows, art and accessories satisfied her desire for a casual room for entertaining.

When selecting your Interior Designer, it is a good idea to pay attention to his or her interpersonal skills as well as their portfolio. Your goal is not just a beautiful home, but a happy home, and what happens en route counts. You don’t want to end up with the showplace you dreamed of but a resentful partner. The combination of both styles will be interesting and complex while feeling unified and well balanced. With a little guidance from a professional interior designer, you can both have the home of your dreams.

Cindi L. Stephenson

Cindi L. Stephenson

About the Author: Cindi L. Stephenson is a Senior Interior Designer at J. Hettinger Interiors in Danville. Her education includes a B.A. in City Planning, an M.B.A. in Marketing, and a B.A. in Interior Design. Throughout years of International travel and post graduate study, Cindi has developed an understanding of traditions, culture, and design. “When you experience different cultures and different points of view, it opens up your perspective. Design should have a link with authenticity. I often add new materials and textures to create a fresh approach to the classics.” You can see Cindi’s portfolio at P 925.820.9336

I Don’t Like Wind, it’s Too Blustery


The month of March has a reputation for being windy. I believe there’s an old saying that goes, “Spring comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.” Translation: March is usually pretty blustery and I don’t much like the “blust.” Wind makes me cold. It messes up my hair and it causes a massive amount of leaves to be distributed throughout my yard, giving the appearance that my landscape is not well maintained.

Considering all of the forces of nature, wind has quite a mystique and following. Wind has been the subject, or at the very least a word used in the title, for countless movies, songs and books. There must be something to this infatuation with the wind and all of its actual or perceived power.

When it comes to movies, Gone with the Wind, staring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh, is by far the most recognizable film with the word “wind” in the title. However, this movie isn’t about wind at all. It’s a timeless classic love story centered around the time of the Civil War, but people, women mostly, think it’s still cool (no pun intended) to watch these cheesy old movies on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Other “wind” titled movies include Inherit the Wind, based on a real-life case in 1925, two great lawyers argue the case for and against a science teacher accused of the crime of teaching Evolution and, Blowin’ in the Wind, a documentary film examining the secret treaty that is allowing the U.S. Military to train and test its weaponry in Australia. Windwalker -is a little gem of a film and rates as a ‘must see’ for anybody interested in an authentic portrayal of Native American life in the winter of 1797 and finally, Wind – a story set around the 1987 America’s Cup yachting competition in Perth, Australia, starring Matthew Modine and, if I’m not mistaken, a post-nose job Jennifer Grey.

Songs with the word “wind” in the title include Ride like the Wind, by Christopher Cross, with backing vocals by Michael McDonald. “Gonna ride like the wind/ until I’m free/ gonna ride like the wind/ blah, blah, blah.” What a cool (no pun intended) easy listening tune from early 80’s. Back then, I would jump on my Stingray bike, pop on my Astro Tunes portable cassette player and, well………….ride like the wind around the neighborhood. Other “wind” songs you might recognize include Blowin’ in the Wind by Bob Dylan, “How many roads must a man walk down/ before you can call him a man/ the answer my friend is blowin’ in the Wind/the answer is blowin’ the wind.” Candle in the Wind by Sir Elton John, “Goodbye Norma Jean/ though I never knew you at all/ you had the grace to hold yourself/ while those around you fall/ like a candle in the wind,” Dust in the Wind by 80’s rockers Kansas, “I close my eyes/ only for a moment and the moment’s gone/ pass before my eyes of curiosity/ all we are is Dust in the Wind.” My all time favorite “wind” titled song is Wind Beneath My Wings by Miss Bette Midler. “Did you ever know that you’re my hero/and everything I’d like to be/ I can fly higher than an eagle/for you are the wind beneath my wings.” Don’t judge me.

Books with the word “wind” in the title include The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, a coming-of-age tale of a young boy who, through the magic of a single book, finds a purpose greater than himself and a hero in a man he’s never met; Grasping the Wind by Andrew Ellis provides students a unique opportunity to study an application of Chinese medical language in a clear and culturally valid context; Wind Flowers by Oscar Wilde, a collection of Wilde’s shorter poems which include: Impression du Matin, Magdalen Walks, Athanasia, Serenade for Music, Endymion, La Bella Donna Della Mia Mente; and, The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss, the tale of the magically gifted young man who grows to be the most notorious wizard his world has ever seen and his life as a fugitive after being accused of murdering a king. This last book, The Name of the Wind, sounds like the only “wind” titled book that won’t cure insomnia. It appears to be a “Harry Potter on Steroids” type read.

I suppose if wind was an integral part of your job/vocation or hobby, you might feel differently about it than I do. If you are an accomplished yachtsman like Dennis Conner, or a professional windsurfer like Phil Horrocks, then wind is essential to your livelihood. Kite flyers like the wind, but I was never much of a kite runner, despite many a March day in my youth spent trying to get a kite airborne. Back in the day, my friends and I would purchase an intricate kite kit at the local drug store for a quarter. It was a light-weight, paper kite with a balsa wood cross frame. It also required the addition of a perfectly engineered knotted tail, made from an old dress shirt, to increase the lift-versus-thrust ratio.

Assuming we didn’t manage to destroy the kite fabric during the assembly process, which happened way too often, our adolescent kite gang would all head out to our elementary school with a bag lunch and a ball of string to spend the day running around like lunatics in our attempt to master aeronautic acrobatics with a precision instrument that cost a quarter. When we did occasionally catch the wind just right and get our kite into a suburban jet stream, we would spend hours maneuvering our kites in the perfect wind currents as a metaphor of our youth. More times than not, our kites ended up in a tree, tangled up in the overhead power lines or smashed beyond recognition after an ill advised nose dive reminiscent of a Kamikaze pilot.

We could’ve used the services of Chris Maxa, General Manager of the Kite Loft in Ocean City, Maryland. Chris is the most recognized professional kite flyer and instructor in the world. Yes, there is a Professional Kite Flyers Association (PKFA).

Whenever someone talks of “going green,” energy is part of the conversation. Wind energy is not just the next big thing, but perhaps the biggest thing ever. Confronting the peril of greenhouse gases and climate change happens to be a multi-trillion-dollar business opportunity. The solar and wind energy markets, which totaled about $80 billion in 2008, are projected to nearly triple in size in 10 years, employing 2.6 million people worldwide, according to Clean Edge, a “Cleantech” research group. The payoff is a low-carbon economy and tens of thousands of new jobs. That’s called “research,” my friends.

Virtually everyone in the greater Bay Area is familiar with the Altamont Pass Wind Farm. The turbines form lines scattered about the hilltops, around an area of about 15 kilometers in diameter. Hundreds are visible from the highway. According to online info, there are approximately 4,900 of them, being the world’s largest wind farm in terms of number of turbines. Although you can hear the whooshing from the blades from a fair distance, it is hard to get anywhere close to these high-tech windmills since there is no paved road leading to them, there are specially trained guard cows scattered throughout the hillside and the wind is not surprisingly strong in that area.

Collectively, they have a capacity of 576 megawatts (MW), producing about 125 MW on average and 1.1 terawatt-hours (TWh) yearly. I truly don’t know if that’s enough juice to illuminate a single nightlight for a week or all the houses in the Tri-Valley for a year. That’s called “lack of research.” I do, however, think these high-tech windmills look cool positioned along the hillsides of the Altamont Pass giving travelers something to gawk at as they head toward the popular destination spot of Manteca.

In retrospect, perhaps, I’ve been too hard on the wind. I do like wind chimes and I suppose knowing the wind-chill factor (the temperature of windless air that would have the same effect on exposed human skin as a given combination of wind speed and air temperature) is helpful at times. Chicago is known as the Windy City and I think Chicago is a very cool (no pun intended) place—even cooler than Manteca. However, when that wind whips off Lake Michigan, it cuts through you like a knife—a freezing cold knife.

I believe there’s another saying that goes, “Women are known to change their mind like the wind changes direction,” or something like that. Well if that is in fact true, then after further analysis, I, as a man, will change my mind and proclaim that wind is Cool (no pun intended). Given its unbelievable strength and power of destruction (one word, tornado) there’s no reason to give Aeolus – the God of Wind, any reason to get all blustery on me.