The Dirt Gardener: Thanks for Asking

The Dirt GardenerQ: I’m having a problem with these Rolly Polly bugs getting into my strawberries when they’re almost ripe. Do you have any suggestions on how to keep those darned bugs off of my berries?

A: The Rolly Polly bugs, actually, are Sowbugs. They’re a gray color, oval in shape and curl up when disturbed. Also, they’re not actually an insect but a soil-dwelling crustacean that is closely related to the crayfish. They feed at night and live under logs, wood chips and other decaying organic matter where it’s damp, dark and moist. Sowbugs are considered beneficial, as they break down organic matter into nutrients, which is used by plants. However, they’re a problem with strawberries and any other crop that lies on the ground, like pumpkins, and melons. Sowbugs enter at the point where the berry makes contact with the soil. The lack of or poor air circulation and moisture creates a location were decay or rotting begins. This occurs quickly compared to other crops because strawberries have no waxy coating on their outer layer. This decaying organic matter is very attractive to the Sowbugs and they are easily controlled without any pesticides. The berry clusters are raised up off the ground with a drip irrigation clip. Acoated Dixie Cup placed under the mature berries is another way to prevent Sowbugs. Plastic is often mentioned with growing strawberries, however in many home gardens this creates watering problems. If I were to use plastic, I’d use black plastic over clear as it retains more heat, which will deter the Sowbugs. For cucumbers, pumpkins, squash, and all melons,
a layer of straw is a simple and effective solution.

Q: If we were to plant a lemon or lime in a twenty-inch wide glazed ceramic pot would it eventually break the pot or would it die from being root bound?

A: Given those two choices, your plant would strangle itself from being root bound before it cracked the ceramic container. A plant is more likely to crack a clay pot rather than a ceramic container as moisture evaporates through the porous sides. And, it takes longer for plastic than clay to break down because of UV issues. Water stress is the primary reason why Citrus and other ornamentals die in containers rather than from being root bound. The volume of soil is lost out the drainage hole and from the activity of the microorganisms while the root ball increases in size to support the vegetative growth and moisture retention is severely reduced. These plants suffer from water stress when the days are long, windy and with warm temperatures. Hence it is recommended to water containers daily when the temperatures are above seventy-five degrees. Also, you need to remove the saucer so the water flows free out the bottom and to avoid a mosquito breeding area. Today, mosquitoes are a serious health hazard as they’re the primary carrier of West Nile Virus.

Market Fresh

Full disclosure: I am a recovering caterer. For seven long years I spent every waking moment planning elaborate menus, shopping, prepping, cooking, schlepping, pampering clients, and nursing my aching feet.

Admittedly this was a long time ago, but I still experience painful flashbacks—and those flashbacks often include a mother-of-the-bride. Any talk of weddings still activates an involuntary eye-twitch.
I must admit, however, that I have attended some rather cool weddings in the past year. And what makes a good wedding? Good food, of course. I may forget what the bridesmaids wore, but I never forget what I ate.

On a sunny afternoon a few weeks ago, my friend Ellen’s daughter exchanged vows on a panoramic bluff overlooking a lush vineyard. What do I remember most? The apple slaw was stellar; as was the towering pyramid of doughnuts offered in lieu of wedding cake.

Last summer my friend Joyce married on safari…in Sonoma. A small group of khaki-clad friends gathered amidst giraffes and zebras on a hot, dusty savanna to quaff chilled champagne and nibble an elegant array of appetizers. Later that afternoon we met up at the main camp for a hearty barbecue buffet, under the watchful eyes of exotic birds. The next morning we abandoned our tents and left the Sonoma Serengeti for another tent…this one pristine and white, erected on the cool green grass of a posh equestrian club only miles away. With the thundering sound of horses galloping nearby, we sipped mint juleps before making a significant dent in perfectly poached and dressed salmon.

A week later I celebrated my beautiful niece Rachel’s wedding at a fabulously funky, century-old factory near downtown Seattle, where the caterers served a brilliant feast based upon local, sustainable foods. My sister and I are still divided over which we liked better: the utterly delicious meal, or the wrought-iron cocktail tree that held hundreds of icy Manhattans. (Hey, we’re Irish.) But everyone agrees the pie buffet was genius.

With all this in mind, I’ve come to the conclusion that being on the receiving-end of catering makes weddings a lot more enjoyable. Nuptials are inevitably preceded by a marathon of warm-up festivities—showers and luncheons and cocktail parties and such—which gives well-wishers the opportunity to host a celebration of their own before The Big Day. These parties are sometimes held in restaurants, but nothing beats the familiar intimacy of home entertaining. This is no time to honor the happy couple with garlic bread and an all-you-can-eat spaghetti feed, however.

This is when you channel your Inner Martha and serve romantic—some might call it precious-food. Bring on the edible flowers and candied lavender buds and little hearts made of who-knows-what. Just make sure it all tastes good, and let there be plenty of it.

Shopping at the farmers’ market ensures the tastiest ingredients…and sometimes the less you do to those ingredients, the better the end result. This month California strawberries suddenly become juicier and sweeter and less expensive-making them a welcome surprise in a savory salad. The interplay of peppery arugula, sweet-tart berries, and sharp, creamy cheese is the whole point of this recipe, so don’t even bother making it with flavorless supermarket produce.

Multiply or divide the ingredients for however many servings you need.
Attractive? Check. Easy? Check. Economical? You bet. Delicious? Definitely.

1 cup (4 ounces) sliced California almonds
2 tablespoons raspberry or white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
1 green onion, minced
6 tablespoons California olive oil
1 1/2 pounds arugula (about 18 cups) or a mixture of arugula, assorted lettuces, and/or baby spinach leaves
2 pint-size baskets California strawberries, hulled and quartered lengthwise
4 to 5 ounces soft California goat cheese, crumbled

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread the almonds on a rimmed baking sheet and bake, stirring once or twice, until lightly browned and fragrant, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool completely.
  2. To make the vinaigrette: In a bowl, whisk together the vinegar, lemon juice, honey, and a generous pinch of salt. Whisk in the onion; then gradually whisk in the oil until well blended. Taste, adding more salt if needed.
  3. Just before serving, combine the arugula, strawberries, almonds, and vinaigrette in a large bowl. Toss gently to mix. Transfer the salad to a large platter or serving bowl, and dot the top with goat cheese. Serve at once.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

The Danville Certified Farmers’ Market, located at Railroad and Prospect, is open every Saturday, rain or shine, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. For specific crop information call the Pacific Coast Farmers’
Market Association at 1-800-949-FARM or visit their web site at

How to Prevent Perfectionism from Polluting Your Major Celebrations

Tina SwerdlowWhen we experience a rite of passage, in a sense, we are walking across a bridge. In the process, we are leaving a familiar place and transitioning to an unfamiliar place. These important rite of passage “bridges” in our lives serve as platforms to momentarily embrace, honor, and celebrate major life transitions. Rite of passage rituals—or celebrations—provide us a time to pause, adjust, and balance before moving forward to our next destination. In addition, while our identities are in the rockin’ and rollin’ process, these important celebrations offer our loved ones an opportunity to help stabilize us with their blessings and their heartfelt support.

Many societies recognize and create ceremonies to honor rites of passage. In 1909 French anthropologist Arnold van Gennep authored Les Rites de Passage and shared his theory of socialization, which described how rituals mark the various transitional stages between childhood and full integration into a tribe or a social group.

The three stages that differentiate the rites of passage are:

  • Separation
  • Transition
  • Incorporation

First, during the separation stage, people withdraw from one status to move forward into the next status. When we are in the separation stage and move from a familiar environment into an unfamiliar
environment (which is often combined with an unfamiliar routine) we’re likely to experience substantial amounts of stress. It is common in the separation stage to experience a symbolic “breaking
free” or “cutting away” from the self that we are leaving behind.

For example, when infants are birthed, they leave the familiar dark environment of their mothers’ wombs and are thrust into the light of their new destination…the outside world. In this separation
stage, the infants’ umbilical cords are literally cut to free them from their prior life stage. Clearly, this is an important initial rite of passage.

Next, after the separation stage, we enter the transition stage. In this transitional time, we stand centered on the rite of passage “bridge” and experience the in-between place of the three stages.
We’ve left the known but are currently…in limbo. As a result, transitional times often create a sense of confusion and disorientation.

Adolescence is considered one such major transitional stage. The adolescent has left childhood but is not a full grown adult yet. Most of us are familiar with the “normal” adolescent angst and growing
pains that teens endure—either by remembering our own experiences…or from being parents of teenagers. (I bet some of you are fervently nodding your heads right now!)

Finally, during the incorporation stage, the rite of passage is complete and the new identity is embodied. For example, as citizens in our country—when we move beyond adolescence and we enter
fully into adulthood—we can vote, make a will, and get medical treatment without our parents’ consent.

Intellectually or on paper, these rites of passage seem like a breeze. And, these “major celebratory events” where we pause to receive support and “bridge” our life transitions are supposed to flawlessly play out…right? Well, in theory…yes…but reality is often a completely different animal.

Those of us who are consciously aware of “our humanness” can attest to the fact that flawless expectations, when combined with the pressure of a life transition, will create chaotic thunderstorms
around our important “celebratory events.” Have you noticed that if perfectionism shows up as an “uninvited guest” to our celebrations, then the natural joy of the event is compromised?

Let’s face it, a wedding ceremony, a graduation party, a retirement party, an anniversary party, or any other kind of major celebratory event can amp our stress levels to full throttle—if we allow a
perfectionist to take over. The perfectionist I am referring to here manifests from the inside and is a part of ourselves. It’s the part of ourselves that believes that if we don’t do things perfectly, then we are a failure.

When in a perfectionistic mode, we think in terms of black and white, good or bad. Meanwhile, we focus on results and our fear of failure relentlessly pushes us and prevents us from enjoying (or
appreciating) the small steps toward a goal. Surprisingly, procrastination can “creep into the mix” due to our becoming stuck in obsessive thinking…leading to analysis paralysis.

If we identify with having a strong “inner perfectionist,” then it’s obvious why celebratory rituals can wreak havoc on our nerves-as well as the nerves of those around us. In fact, unbridled perfectionism
can transform an important rite of passage—a major celebratory ritual—into high drama! For example, the sensitive (and potentially fretful) decisions required in creating celebratory events often result
in multiple breathless sighs of “Who-weee….” Such sighs become audible when we consider decisions concerning, who-weee invite, who-weee seat next to whom, who-weee hire to cater, who-weee
choose to photograph the event…and the list of “who-weees” goes on and on.

Okay, you probably have a better understanding now of the stressful issues that often develop during rites of passage. So, are you ready to hear what my suggestions are for preventing perfectionism
from polluting major celebrations? Great, here goes.

Basically, when I work with clients who come to me because they’re stressed about an upcoming major event, I usually teach them some relaxation techniques and then offer them a piece of paper and a
pen. I encourage them to sit quietly with their eyes closed (breathing deeply) for a few minutes. After becoming centered, they focus on the following simple query process.

I ask the client five questions; they think about their responses for a moment, and then jot down whatever comes into their minds.
Here are my questions:

  1. What is my intention for creating (or attending) this celebratory event?
  2. Can I recognize and calm my “inner perfectionist”?
  3. Can I remind myself that there is a “me” and a “we” involved in this important event?
  4. Am I willing to practice assertive communication (to avoid passive, aggressive, or passive-aggressive communication)?
  5. Can I invite my sense of humor into this “rite of passage” process?

Now, let’s brainstorm a scenario of someone who worked with these questions. Katie, a client of mine who was preparing for her upcoming wedding, answered these questions in the following way
(yep, she allowed “her humanness” into the process).

  1. What is my intention for creating (or attending) this celebratory event? I want to give Tom and me a place to publicly share our loving commitment to one another before God. I want the church to look gorgeous with tasteful decorations and fresh flowers. I want the food to taste delicious. I want everyone who attends to have a great time! I want to bring Tom’s family together with my family so that they can bond and celebrate the new life that Tom and I are creating. I want to look beautiful and perfect in my wedding dress.
  2. Can I recognize and calm my “inner perfectionist”? Yes, I see that my inner perfectionist started to show itself in response to the previous question, especially when it comes to how I look. I feel tearful right now. So, to calm my inner perfectionist, I will need to reassure this scared and insecure part of myself that: “I am beautiful and unique inside and out.“ And, I can remind myself that I will do my best to look outwardly beautiful at my wedding. However, I won’t allow the pressure of “perfectionistic expectations” to keep me self-absorbed, which would drain the joy out of embracing the special moments with those around me. I also know that it’s unrealistic (magical thinking) to “hope” that everyone who attends our wedding event “will have a great time.” Since I can’t control the universe, or other people, I need to let go, breathe, and simply focus on being present in each moment (including this one right now).
  3. Can I remind myself that there is a “me” and a “we” involved in this event? Yes, I can clarify my wants and needs regarding the wedding and then attentively listen to Tom’s wants and needs. I am willing to negotiate, since this will be good practice for our becoming a solid couple.
  4. Am I willing to practice assertive communication (to avoid passive, aggressive, or passive-aggressive communication)? Yes, I will use assertive “I-statements” rather than aggressive you-statements” when expressing my thoughts and feelings. I will remember that being on a transitional “bridge” is stressful for Tom, our families, and me. So, speaking my truth in a gentle, respectful way is my goal. I also want to be a compassionate listener for others too. I will keep reminding myself that this wedding is not just “all about me.”
  5. Can I invite my sense of humor into this “rite of passage” process? I will try because taking myself (or this event) too seriously will create high stress and high drama. I can remind myself that I want our wedding to be spiritual and heartfelt, as well as light, joyful, and FUN! Being able to laugh is a good thing!

After Katie answered my five questions and processed her responses, she felt clear about the boundaries that she wanted to tend. She knew that honoring her boundaries (as well as respecting other
peoples’ boundaries) would be a gift to her upcoming wedding. And, prior to the wedding, she reviewed her notes regularly and continually realigned herself with her positive intentions and the insights she gleaned from her inquiry process. In addition, Katie shared my questions with Tom, who gleaned his own set of inspiring insights as a result of completing the simple set of queries.

You too can consider answering my five simple questions before your next rite of passage event. And call me if you’d like to “freshen up” your assertive communication skills or learn some practical and
simple stress-reducing techniques. Then, hopefully, you will be able to prevent perfectionism (and unrealistic expectations) from polluting your major celebratory experiences. Thus, you will allow “bridge experiences” to offer you a nurturing place to pause, adjust, and balance as you move forward to your next destination.

In closing, as you courageously embrace your important rites of passage, remember Albert Einstein’s words of wisdom…”I must be willing to give up what I am in order to become what I will be.”

(Name and client details changed to protect confidentiality)

Attend Trina’s Inspiring Workshop: Managing Emotional and Compulsive Eating at the Women’s Health Center, John Muir/Mt. Diablo
Health System: 1656 N. California Blvd., Suite 100, Walnut Creek, Wednesday, June 30, 6:30-8:30 pm. Seats are limited—register today: (925) 941-7900 option 3.

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 from John Muir Women’s Health Center online store:
Trina has a private practice in downtown Danville. You can reach her at: (925) 285.5759, or To receive her free newsletter, “Trina’s Transformational Tips for Mindful Living,” sign-up at her site: (Certified Clinical Hypnotherapy services in California can be alternative or complementary to licensed healing arts, such as psychotherapy.)
Photo by Susan Wood,

The Blind Side

The Blind Side

The Blind Side

When I first saw this movie in the theater, I thought, “I love this movie but it will never get the acclaim it deserves.” Wow, was I wrong! The Blind Side is an incredibly heartfelt drama based on the life of Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron), who grew up neglected and impoverished but went on to become an American football star.

Sandra Bullock is blonde, no I mean Leigh Anne Touhy is blonde. When you first see Bullock in this role as a blonde you think, that’s just not right but as the movie goes on she moves so flawlessly into the skin (and hair) of Leigh Anne you never see the transition. She is bold and sassy and I loved her. She manages to even make the gushiest bits of dialogue in writer-director John Lee Hancock’s script ring true.

Leigh Anne Touhy is a fervently-Christian housewife in Memphis, Tennessee, who enjoys a privileged life with her husband Sean (Tim McGraw) and children Lily (Lily Collins) and SJ (Jae Head). Driving home one night, Leigh Anne spots one of her daughters classmates, Michael Oher, wandering along the road and offers the homeless, black teenager a roof for the night. She takes pity on Michael and offers him a room and encourages the lad to improve his grades and chase the possibility of an American football scholarship.

A mama bear fighting to protect her cub has nothing on Leigh Anne Touhy. She’s a gun-toting, fearless woman who bucks convention to shelter, educate and love the homeless black teenager. This could have easily slid into melodrama, but instead is a charming, relatively unsentimental drama that focuses, in a straightforward manner, on how good deeds change lives at all levels.

Inspired by a true story, The Blind Side tugs every heartstring and ticks off every cliché including a moment over salads at the country club when one of Leigh Anne’s friends gushes, “You’re changing that boy’s life,” and she responds, with a choked up voice, “No, he’s changing mine.”

Michael has a bit of a hard time with his many blessings with the Tuohy family and his abusive past haunts him. He returns to the housing project where he grew up to try to track down his mother, running into trouble. Leigh Anne goes after him, not to drag him away from his mother but to help him in his search for a better life. She shows an amazing insight that carries Michael through this transition.

Tim McGraw as Sean Tuohy does a surprisingly good job. You kind of keep expecting him to break out in a country ballad but he never does. Kathy Bates, stellar as always, makes the most of her role as the tutor who helps Michael to improve his grades to get into college.

All in all, there is a reason Sandra Bullock won Best Actress at the Oscars and the Golden Globes and The Blind Side was nominated for Best Picture. It’s not easy to take an unbelievable true story and make it completely believable.

Don’t miss this one. As always, I welcome your comments and invite you to my read my archived movie reviews at

The Help

The HelpSet in the early 1960’s when the Civil Rights Movement was tearing apart the South, The Help by Kathryn Stockett shows the struggle through the eyes of two black maids. Loving Abilene, who raises 17 white children over the years then watches them grow up to join another class and break her heart, or Mouthy Minnie who has been fired numerous times for talking back to her white employers.

These two women only have their voices heard because of Skeeter. She is a Junior Leaguer in Jackson, Mississippi, member of a wealthy family who, unlike all her friends, wants to use her degree to become a writer instead of settling down with marriage and kids. She comes up with the idea of writing a book undercover about the black maids’ lives in Jackson. In an era where a man is blinded for using a “whites only” bathroom, the maids overcome their mistrust of Skeeter and they risk everything to have their stories told.

Skeeter’s best friend is Hilly who is the Queen Bee of Jackson. She is a proponent of what she calls the “bathroom initiative” which is a mission to install black bathrooms in all white homes for the maids, to avoid their “disgusting diseases.” The book shows the journey of Skeeter’s awareness of how the maids feel about this and how attitudes are beginning to change in Jackson.

The Help blends the maids’ internal feelings and thoughts beautifully against what they say and how they act around their white employers. These opposing forces in the maids’ lives and the double life Skeeter has to lead to obtain the maids’ stories are woven throughout, along with the increasingly violent backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement which is spreading throughout
the South.

The beauty of the book is that it deals with the difficult topic of racial prejudice without being preachy and one-sided. While there are villains in the story, both black and white, both races also have redeeming qualities which come through in their relationships with one another. The Help explores how the maids and their white employers have lives that are intertwined yet
separate and has characters that are many-faceted and compelling.

The Help
is a wonderful, uplifting story.

Do Not Wear Purple Make-up on Your Wedding Day


Plan as we might, unforeseen wedding day crises pop up, from pesky blemishes to humid hair frizz. Luckily you have a lot of great beauty professionals out there that will assist you in making your day effortless and help you look your best. I have seen so many ruined pictures of brides on their wedding day; from wearing the wrong color foundation to wearing purple eye shadow. I cannot understand why brides would want to wear purple make-up on their special day. Purple does not photograph well, and it can make you look tired. It reflects too much red into the eye area, and your eyes end up looking red and swollen. It also distracts from the beauty of the bride.

When you go to a make-up professional for your Pre-Bridal consultation, make sure that she is using natural tones. If she is not, clearly she does not know what she is doing, and you should stop the consultation and start looking for another professional to do your make-up. Remember, you will be taking a lot of pictures on this most special day so wearing the correct make-up colors is vital and important.

The ultimate make-up application for a bride should be polished and formal without taking away from the bride’s own natural beauty. The right make-up creates refinement and pushes a look forward with softness while keeping it simple and natural. Using soft colors and warm tones are the key to complementing the bride’s own style and unique look. Those colors also photograph beautifully. Make-up professionals have a keen eye to detail and color balance and they will help you and your wedding party look their best in pictures.

When a bride comes in for a consultation for her make-up, I believe beauty professionals should always ask what the bride ultimately desires and what she has in mind for her wedding day. Usually women know what they want, but they just don’t know how to achieve it. So it should be a collaboration of what she wants with the make-up professional as a helpful resource. This is a formal event so being finished, glowing and a little above natural should be the option, but a bridle should also look like herself. “Soft and flawless” are my bridal make-up strategy.

At The Rouge we love doing weddings and have been applying make-up for weddings for over 20 years. Our brow and beauty experts stay current with the latest trends and styles and will give the bride and her bridal party the best and most updated looks that are formal and polished. We do prebridal consultations Tuesday through Saturday by appointment only. Please come in and enjoy our beauty-meets-reality cosmetics by Fleur Visage and view our latest bridal photographs.

Real Estate News You Can Use

My objective in writing a real estate Q&A column is that it be relevant to the typical homeowner here in the Diablo Valley. To that end, my goal is to provide informed insight on where the real estate market is going and why. My commitment is to share the best, timely, inside real estate market information available. I promise to stay away from clichés, acronyms and confusing industry jargon that intimidate many from asking questions in the first place.

We all know that living in the beautiful Diablo Valley is something special, but truth be told, the current housing market has resulted in high anxiety for many. My hope is to do what I can to give you a little more peace of mind along the way. Email me at with any question you would like addressed.

Let’s start with a fundamental question that I often hear from my clients.
Q. Tom, I am confused. Why do I see some homes in my neighborhood selling in a week or less for a relatively high price and some homes linger on the market for 100-200+ days without selling even at a relatively low price?

A. The two biggest factors for what you describe are condition & location. What’s happening in many neighborhoods in today’s market is that the most improved homes on the best lots in a given neighborhood are selling for a relatively high price, while the least improved homes on the worst lots in the same neighborhood are selling (eventually) for much less—sometimes as much as 10% to 30% less! Keep in mind that for every home that was remodeled in recent years here in our valley, there are probably ten others that have not been touched; bathrooms, kitchens, flooring, roofing, heating & air conditioning systems, pools, spas and even landscaping DO wear out (as evidenced by the bathroom our teenaged daughter & son have shared the last 18 years!) and even relatively new homes must be maintained. Couple the ‘condition’ issue with a home located on an inferior lot (noisy, no view, marginal privacy – every neighborhood has good, fair & bad lots) and you have the ‘double whammy’ effect that results in significantly decreased value. Finally, remember today’s buyers are savvy; they can see problematic issues immediately upon visiting a home and sometimes even beforehand with the help of technology tools like Google Earth views, Zillow evaluations or Redfin property searches.

Tom Hart

Tom Hart

Tom Hart is a practicing Real Estate Broker and a partner at Empire Realty Associates in Danville. He is a Certified Master Negotiator by the University of San Francisco and a Certified Master Strategist by HSM Harvard Program on Negotiation. He is past president of the Contra Costa Association of Realtors (2005) and past president of the Realtors’ Marketing Association of the San Ramon Valley. Tom is in high demand as a speaker & trainer inside & outside the real estate industry.

Somewhere Between Pessimism and Skepticism

“Bull Markets are born on pessimism, grow on skepticism, mature on optimism and die on euphoria.”- Sir John Templeton

Sound familiar? If you think about the turbulent market cycles we have been through the last decade or so I think you will agree that the above quote by legendary investor Sir John Templeton rings very true today. Where are we now in our current market cycle?

Despite the incredible bull market rally in the markets over the past year or so, it seems that we are still stuck somewhere between pessimism and skepticism. Many investors are still wary of this rally
and are concerned about the economy back sliding into a double dip recession. Indeed, there continues to be large amounts of pessimism and skepticism out there today.

Certainly, we can agree that there is not a lot of optimism resonating within the general investing public and we are nowhere near euphoria. Understanding this cycle of emotions is key to being a successful investor. Sir John Templeton understood this. He saw his share of bull and bear market cycles during his 95 years. Having passed away in July of 2008 he did not witness the financial crisis
and stock market collapse that began shortly after his death.

Nonetheless, I am sure he would have recognized the pessimism that marked the bottom of the market and would also realize today that the current bull market has the potential to continue.

No doubt, there will be some down periods during this upward cycle. It would not surprise me at all to see a correction soon. All bull markets have them. The market never moves up in a straight line. In
fact, since 1926, the market, as measured by the S&P 500 Index, has produced positive returns approximately 70% of the time and negative returns about 30% of the time. This means that you should
expect, and not be surprised by, a down year every three to four years. Emotions drive markets. Regrettably, fear and greed cause many investors to buy high and sell low.

Think about Templeton’s words of wisdom. Avoid repeated poor decision making by learning to recognize and understand how your own emotions can lead to detrimental behavior. We all have emotions. That makes us human. How we handle these emotions often makes a tremendous difference in our financial wellbeing.

Damien helps individuals invest and manage risk. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional and an Investment Adviser Representative of, and offers securities through, Financial Network
Investment Corporation, Member SIPC. These are the views of Damien Couture, CFP® and should not be construed as investment advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Additional risks are associated with international investing, such as currency fluctuations, political and economic stability and differences in accounting standards. Not all recommendations are suitable for all investors. Each investor must consider their own goals, time horizon and risk tolerance. You can contact Damien at 925-280-1800 x101 or

Flex Fitness & Pilates in Danville Offers Alternative to Standard Gyms

Have you ever wondered who might have sweated on the treadmill right before you jumped on for your workout? Or…did they wipe off the equipment? Or…whether or not your self-devised training program was really ideal?

If any of that has crossed your mind, or if you are interested in a personalized approach for improving your fitness in time for that beach vacation this summer, you might want to consider the program that Gary Bush and his personal trainers have put together at Flex Personal Training and Pilates, at Bush’s 5,000 square foot studio near Crow Canyon and Camino Tassajara in Danville.

Fitness has been a part of Bush’s entire life. He was a good enough athlete to play football, basketball and baseball in high school and football in college for Cal State Hayward.
Unfortunately, he injured his knee during his freshman football season which prevented him from playing baseball, “which was always my best sport.”

Injury rehabilitation and orthopedic techniques in the early 1970s were not what they are today. Bush wound up having to rehab his knee himself, and also rehab his shoulder and neck on his own following subsequent injuries. This led to a deeper interest in fitness and training, which he combined with a career as a real estate broker that began in 1976.

Originally a self-made trainer, Bush eventually earned AAFA certification and taught fitness classes at Club Sport, 24 Hour Fitness, and Bally’s. During that time he devised a group fitness camp for Bally’s that in 2003 became a nationwide offering. While working for those other companies, Bush learned what he did and did not want to do in his own shop.

“I grew to understand that individualized is different in reference to fat burning and muscle gain,” Bush said. “There is no one-size-fits-all approach that can be effective for everyone.”

As a result Bush emphasizes personal training and Tandem Training Fit Camps at Flex, which he opened in February of 2009. Classes start at $25 per session. “We’re looking to improve our clients’ fitness, their happiness, and their effectiveness in everything they do,” Bush said. “Fitness levels have a direct correlation to physical stamina and mental well being. Even though we opened at just about the worst possible time to start a new business, we’ve survived and even thrived. We’ve done well because we care and they respond with their loyalty and their referrals.” Bush says that he and his team of 14 certified trainers and instructors follow up whenever a client misses a class or cancels an appointment. “We want to make sure that they are staying with the program, and if they’re not we want
to find out why.” Bush and his team help their clients devise healthy lifestyles for the 265 hours each week that they are away from the gym.

Today Flex completes about 300 sessions per week for clients with room for about three times that many. Bush offers a full range of cardio equipment, free weights, medicine balls, kettle bells, TRX machines and dumbbells for trainers to incorporate into each fitness session. It also offers 15 Pilates classes that can serve up to 90 people, along with Taekwondo, Belly Dancing and Latin Dance instruction. Future plans include Yoga classes and massage.

“While there is no such thing as a one-size-fits all approach, it is possible to offer one-stop shopping for people interested in improving their fitness and enhancing their lives. That is our goal at Flex,” Bush said.

For more information on Flex Personal Training & Pilates you can visit or call 925-964-9800.

Photo Journal: Tyler Hoffman

This collection of extraordinary images was submitted by Northgate High School senior, Tyler Hoffman.
We suspect we’ll be seeing more from this talented amateur photographer in the months and years ahead—right here in ALIVE!

Tyler Hoffman Photo Journal Tyler Hoffman Photo Journal
Tyler Hoffman Photo Journal Tyler Hoffman Photo Journal
Tyler Hoffman Photo Journal Tyler Hoffman Photo Journal