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PostHeaderIcon Got Happiness? Contagious Optimism is Here

"Contagious Optimism" is a bestselling and uplifting book series that contains inspirational stories from real people around the globe, along with insight from professionals.  The author, David Mezzapelle, is convinced that we all have the ability to spread optimism by sharing our own life experiences.  By virtue of including personal successes as well as those endeavors which did not play out well, but served as stepping stones to later positive outcomes, other people can benefit as the message of hope is conveyed.  Everyone can learn something about happiness and success from the lessons of  Mezzapelle.

His book contains advice, actions and insights from business leaders, visionaries, professionals and just plain folks.  James F. Mooney, chairman of the board of Virgin Media, Inc., endorses the concept as “it empowers, motivates and leads people to tremendous results.”

Aren’t the successes in life what kindle the fire within us and keep the blaze alive?  Whether it is a success in finding your own true love, succeeding in overcoming adversity or landing the job you have forever sought after, expert direction and wise counsel can be found within the pages of Contagious Optimism: Uplifting Stories and Motivational Advice for Positive Forward Thinking.

Maintaining focus on the mark, when hills and valleys present discouragement, might add a challenge to the equation, as we may well know.  Yet, a success validates that you have been on the right track, heading for your goal or expectation.   Mezzapelle “has taken the secret to a joyfully lived life and packaged it in a book” according to Will Glennon, author of Practice Random Acts of Kindness.  Created as a compendium of encouragement, "Contagious Optimism" is formatted with more than 100 stories and parables of inspiration to motivate a movement of pass-it-on hope and happiness from individuals, sharing personal insights, advice and guidance from all walks of life, worldwide.

The concept of clearing the mind of negative thinking and tuning in to the idea of positive forward thinking renews lost confidence in one’s-self, attests Mezzapelle, serial entrepreneur and founder of several well-known companies, such as Goliath Technology. A motivational  magnet, Mezzapelle has impacted the lives of many since his youth.  Always a “glass is completely full” advocate, he lays the foundation of the book’s pervasive positive theme:  “Lacking talent only means you have the ability to recognize what needs practice…patience, persistence and perseverance.”

As a college student, he served as an intern at IBM.  He later implemented a most innovative academic internship program at his Alma Mater, Fairfield University in Connecticut, leading students to success in being hired or advancing into graduate school.

A regular contributor to the Wall St. Journal, Mezzapelle is an invited guest on radio and TV presentations.   A portion of the sales proceeds will be donated to charity from his 272-page volume, Contagious Optimism, published on National Smile Power Day, June 15, 2013.

Throughout  the book, each chapter is a helpful advisory account on topics such as relationships, goals, health and fitness, business and careers, maturity and more, with a pertinent parable included.  References from notable individuals highlight the precept of optimism.  Winston Churchill is quoted as having said “The optimist finds opportunity in every difficulty, not difficulty in every opportunity." Wayne Gretzky of hockey fame relates “you miss 100% of the shots you never take,” a simple maxim for success.

Sometimes failure is the first step toward success.  When you think you’re failing at something, try reading a biography of one of your favorite figures in history.  You’ll find that their path to success was likely filled with bumps as well.  Walt Disney suffered bankruptcy repeatedly with several enterprises he attempted.  Not content with defeat, he recognized that he had not yet succeeded and persevered until he eventually built the amazing empire of Disneyland.

Serving in the volunteer arena offers a method to spread the forward thinking theory of Contagious by Example.  Investing skills and experience in a community cause or non-profit where compensation includes intangible rewards, reaps a bounty toward changing the world.

Books published by Viva Editions, Berkeley, CA, “are intended to inform, enlighten and entertain the reader, quality books for inspired living”.  For further information, contact  www.vivaeditions.com or www.lifecarrots.com.--KRB


Karen Balch is a retired nurse, freelance writer, avid travel and eternal optimist. She writes frequently for All News No Blues.


PostHeaderIcon Meet Your Neighbors: Boost Peace of Mind


Soon after Shawn Richardson and her husband, Fred, moved into their San Ramon duet in the Twin Creeks area, she thought about organizing a neighborhood get-together at a nearby park.

But it took a crisis to move her to act.

“One day an old gal across the street – she had a bit of dementia – started knocking on people’s doors asking if her granddaughter was there,” Richardson said.

The girl, a frequent visitor to her grandmother’s house, had gone missing. Immediately, a small band of neighbors fanned out to surrounding streets in search of the child. Then, one neighbor had the presence of mind to call the girl’s mother. It turned out she was safe at home with her family.

At that point, Richardson told her block mates: “You know, guys, we really need to get together when it’s not an emergency.”It was the impetus for what has become an annual tradition on the court of 28 duet-style homes, which recently celebrated its 15th annual block party.

“I’ve only missed one of the 15 years,” said Cindy Kavert, who moved to the court with her family in 1991. “I was thinking about it as I got ready to come, thinking of all the people who have come and gone (and) watching all the kids grow up.”

One recent summer afternoon – the party is scheduled for the same Sunday afternoon time slot each year to make it easy to remember – the generations started mingling soon after the 3 p.m. start time.

One dad and son practiced tossing a ball in advance of the egg tossing contest planned later in the day. Nearby a pair of adolescent girls chatted with some younger neighbor boys, while adults ranging in age from their 20s to 90-something snacked on brownies and cheese-stuffed celery as they got acquainted near the picnic tables. Another group gathered around to meet one neighbor’s newly adopted cattle dog-border collie mix and swap dog-training tips.

Rosemary Straub, a relative newcomer to the street, says she looks forward to the picnic, where she’s gotten to know several women who now gather weekly for Sunday night dinners at her place.

“(It’s a time to) be with old friends or meet new ones, and I love to see the kids,” she said, between pouring glasses of homemade lemonade for new arrivals.

At its peak, the potluck barbecue drew about 75 attendees, from young kids to an octogenarian who is the original owner of her home. Members of one family, who moved away years ago, return for the annual gathering.

“That’s a testament to how well received it is,” Richardson said. “I really think it’s helped the whole neighborhood get to know each other.”

And in case someone needs a hand or wants to follow up later on a conversation they had with another resident at the picnic, Richardson distributes a map of the court with each person’s address and the first names of family members.

“If you get into trouble, it’s good to know people,” said resident Pam Ellman, adding that she now knows someone on the court who is a plumber and another who fixes cars. Plus, there’s her husband Marty, who she said “does everything.”

Additional connections and goodwill that have flowed from the annual event also testify to its benefits. The Ellmans, Richardsons and several other neighbors attended Citizens Emergency Response Team, or CERT, training together. Should a natural disaster, such as an earthquake, or other wide scale emergency, like a major chemical spill on the freeway, occur, the group will know what to look for to ensure homes on the street are safe, check in with their neighbors and communicate with professional emergency response personnel, such as the city fire fighters, to learn next steps for the community.

Meeting each other at the annual barbecue also has helped young parents find babysitters, pet owners find dog sitters and led to spin-off holiday gatherings such as a holiday ladies’ brunch. At Halloween, several residents park chairs outside to socialize and pass out homemade cookies to the adults accompanying trick-or-treaters. Twice, residents have held group garage sales.

For those who’d like to start a similar tradition for their own block, Richardson advises: keep it simple.

“Just do it, and don’t worry about making it complicated,” she said.

She prints up a simple announcement on a narrow strip of paper about six weeks before the event, and then sends out a reminder two weeks in advance. Both sets are delivered by a couple of neighborhood boys who slip them into each home’s mailbox.

The first year Richardson put up balloons and asked people to let her know what dishes they planned to bring to share, but over time she found no need to coordinate the numbers of entrees, side dishes and desserts -- it all just worked out.

“It’s BYO everything,” Richardson explains. “I just get the tables, nametags, napkins and paper plates.”

She’s also dispensed with the decorating, but does plan at least one game to promote socializing. For several years, there was a cookie baking contest. For the most recent gathering, she brought handfuls of Mardi Gras-style beads in metallic gold, red, purple, green and blue for an icebreaker activity.

As each guest arrived, Richardson draped a necklace over his or her neck with instructions to avoid using the word no. Using the forbidden word resulted in forfeiture of the necklace. A good-natured exchange of beads – and laughter -- commenced immediately, as one participant after the other slipped in uttering the off-limits word.

For the kids, Richardson organized an egg tossing contest, (pictured right) at the suggestion of 13-year-old Wesley Mariscal, who has attended the block party since he was 10. Today, he’s got braces, glasses and a Spalding basketball under his arm as he surveys pairs of young people practicing lobbing a hard-boiled egg back and forth. Peals of laughter erupt from the kids and adult onlookers as the eggs often miss their mark and bounce on the grass.

Wesley gives the yearly gathering a thumbs up.“It’s a nice thing in the neighborhood,” he said. “Usually there’s a lot of kids here. We go and play in the park and then we go eat.”Turning momentarily philosophical, he acknowledges that getting together once a year pays off for the remaining 364 days on the calendar.“We all go our own different ways,” Wesley said. “Usually people move in and you never meet them. It’s a nice way to say hi.”-MB

Monique Beeler has lived, worked as a communications professional and played soccer in the Tri-Valley area for more than 15 years. More recently, she's become a weekend cyclist and counts riding to the summit of Mount Diablo and Mount Tamalpais among her conquests. As a former daily newspaper reporter, she covered beats from business and lifestyle to education and religion. This is her first piece for All News No Blues.


PostHeaderIcon Village Theatre Celebrates 100th birthday


Danville’s Village Theatre celebrates its 100th birthday this month and like anything (or anyone) who makes it to a century, it has seen a lot of changes over the years. From its inception as a farmers lodge built in 1873, to a modernized update in 1912 as a grange hall, it has served as a movie theater, a church and is now a performing arts center with a fine arts gallery. A lot more has changed in Danville, as well.

The venue opened as a social and fraternal hall on Nov. 28, 1913 with a gala party that included dancing to the live melodies of the San Francisco orchestra. It was purchased by the Town of Danville in 1987, and has hosted plays, concerts, film festivals, lectures, performances for youth and adults and many special events.

I wasn't around back in 1913, but I have seen the theater and the town change over the last 40-plus years.

We moved to Danville, which  I call “Little Carmel without the ocean,” on Aug. 1, 1970, with my 2-year-old daughter and my late husband when there were just 15,900 people living in the coveted suburban hamlet.  Should I mention that we had just purchased a brand new home of 2000 sq. ft. with triple car garage on 1/3 acre for just under $38,000?

In 1972, our second daughter was born and the kids had plenty of open space to play as we had a spacious walnut orchard with cattle grazing nearly next door. A shallow creek and the fresh fragrance of live oak and wide-open meadows at the foot of Mt. Diablo was our backyard. We spent a lot of time outdoors but went "downtown" too.

The place for lunch was Foster’s Freeze with their original soft serve ice cream cones and grilled cheese sandwiches for the kids. But it didn’t take long to discover another landmark lunch location for outdoor enjoyment--Father Nature’s on Prospect Avenue, originally known as a Goat Shed, famous for selling specialty coffee and tea. It still remains an all-time fave.

Of the many familiar landmarks lending to the attraction of the current city of 42,000 residents, often referred to as “The Heart of the San Ramon Valley," are the historic (but now closed)  Danville Hotel and the popular Elliott’s Bar, both on the town's main drag, and icons since 1858 and 1907 respectively. But even before that, the first post office was established in 1860, serving a population of 20 residents. Incorporated in 1982, curiously, 82 percent of the population growth of Danville occurred after 1970.

Taking advantage of the safe and convenient Iron Horse Trail for a daily walk, biking or skating trek seems so natural.  However, it hasn’t always been a track for leisure use.  Established in 1986, its name reflects the origin of its once known purpose.  The Southern Pacific Railroad operated a transport system from 1891 to 1977, connecting 2 counties and 12 cities along its route from Concord to Pleasanton.

Living just blocks away from the train crossing on Greenbrook Drive, our family became accustomed to a clicking sound seemingly coming from inside our fireplace.  Was it a ghost, we teased.  Not really, but it peaked our interest to investigate and found that it was a signal transmitted along the track forecasting the on-coming train.  As a family, we have made good use of the easy accessibility of the paved path as a biking route for 3 generations, from grandparents to the kiddies with training wheels, family pets leashed alongside.

What remains of the era of the Iron Horse is the original, only remaining depot on the line, sustaining the test of time since 1891.  Now named the Museum of the San Ramon Valley, restored and firmly settled at the junction of Prospect and Railroad Avenue, it houses revolving exhibits reflecting the culture and human experiences of early settlers.

And lets not forget the Tao House. My first excursion to the Tao House was in hopping aboard the shuttle bus with my then 75-year-old mom, for a tour organized by the Danville Senior Sneakers.  The 1½ hour visit high atop Kuss Road, overlooking the valley with spectacular views, was a peek into the past of life, love and literature, Eugene O’Neill style. To mark the 100th anniversary of the theatre, the 14th Annual Eugene O’Neill Festival of historic drama by America’s only Nobel Prize-winning playwright and original resident of  Danville, takes place Sept. 6 -29.  For information, contact www.eugeneoneill.org.

To mark the 100th birthday, there is a  variety of on-going activities planned for the fall, including after-school youth performance workshops, evening live music series and classic movies.  For information regarding tickets,  contact www.villagetheatreshows.com or 925.314-3400.  Parking is free.

The grand engagement festivities are slated for Nov. 16 with a gala event at 5  p.m. followed by the centennial presentation at 7 p.m. at the Village Theatre, 233 Front Street, Danville.  For details, visit www.ci.danville.ca.us/

Interested in submitting a special memory relating to the Danville Village Theatre, email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . -KRB


Karen Balch is a retired registered nurse, freelance writer and San Ramon resident. She writes regularly for All News No Blues.




PostHeaderIcon Harley Across the USA: The Sequel


In 1993, David Bieber (left) of San Diego took possession of the remnants of a WLA 1945 model U.S. Army issue Harley Davidson motorcycle as collateral for a loan to a personal friend.  The bike was retrieved from a chicken coop in Montana, where it had sat for some 20 years or so, non-operational and unloved.

The plan was to return it to his friend upon repayment of the loan but the plan was rendered moot when the friend unexpectedly passed away, leaving David as proud owner of the feather-covered relic.  He moved the Harley to his airplane hangar at a small San Diego airport and it remained there for another 20-plus years.

Early in 2009, he began to work at restoring the bike by acquiring parts for it from all over the world.  By June of 2012 he had gathered the original parts that were necessary. He cleaned, painted, welded, and soldered everything until it was ready to be assembled.  During one 36-hour session, the Harley was restored by David and his 3 sons to its original condition. You can see the story and assembly in a 5-minute clip on YouTube: WLA 45 Solo.

Now that this unique machine was road worthy, what to do with it?  He did not want to sell it or donate it to a museum just yet. So, David came up with an idea to honor the soldiers that rode this motorcycle in action. The plan was hatched to display the bike across the country and along with that, to raise funds for the Wounded Warrior Project, which provides services to military personnel who were injured in the line of duty.

The ambitious schedule was set during the next several months: Fifteen locations in 15 days, beginning at the VA Hospital in San Diego and culminating at the VA Hospital in Washington, DC.  The distances required that the bike be pulled on a trailer between locations for the most part.  No other way to make the tight schedule.  Bob Stratton (that's me), his childhood friend, would drive the support truck and trailer and David would ride the bike, always in authentic WWII Army garb.

The trip started June 1.  WWI veterans at the VA hospital were present for the send off, as were about 40 motorcyclists who escorted them out of town.  Two hours later, Bob received his only moving violation of the entire journey for excess speed while towing a trailer.  Camp Verde, AZ was the first stop.

The next morning, a police and local motorcycle club escorted them through the town to a local park where there was a presentation by the airmen of a local Air Force base as well as a barbecue fundraiser.  A similar theme played out at their next destination in Monticello, UT.  In Salt Lake City, they were greeted by a contingent of 10 motorcycle police and a large group of bikers at the local Harley Davidson shop. They were led 30 miles through the neighboring towns to a Veteran’s Memorial Park where they were presented with commemorative coins from the Special Forces unit.  There was another barbecue fundraiser held at a nearby American Legion hall.

This was the general trend throughout the trip.  Legion posts, Harley shops, and VFW halls were the usual focal points  The next days took them to stops in Wyoming, where they were greeted by the mayor of Cheyenne, Kearney Nebraska, Cedar Rapids Iowa, Valparaiso Indiana, Erie Pennsylvania, and Binghamton New York.  Some events were large and festive, and some were smaller, but all were enthusiastic.  Even stops for gas or rest drew crowds and quite a few donations to the cause.

The next to last venue was Laconia, NH which is the home of a very large week-long annual motorcycle event, which happened to be in progress (not by coincidence).  Tens of thousands of motorcyclists generated a plethora of donations and a good impetus to the last stop in Washington, D.C. on June 15.

Once they arrived there, another day-long barbecue fundraiser was held at the Harley Davidson dealership and then the very touching culmination at the VA Hospital where, again, they were greeted by appreciative WWII veterans.

From this point, all scheduled events were completed.  Part B of the plan was for David to realize a dream by riding the nearly 70-year-old motorcycle the entire way from DC back to San Diego.  Traveling at moderate speeds and making mechanical adjustments along the way, he realized his dream.  They rolled up to the Veteran’s Memorial on Mount Soledad in San Diego on the morning of June 20 to a crowd of about 50 well wishers and family members.

The final tally for donations was in excess of $25,000.  Not bad for three weeks’ work and 8,000 miles traveled.  David dedicated the trip to his father, who was a veteran of 3 wars (WWII, Korea, and Vietnam), and he wore his dad’s Navy dog tags for the entire trek.

It should be noted that David and Bob paid their own way for the trip.  Gas, food, lodging, and incidentals were all out-of-pocket.  They did accept some meals and places to spend the night but any cash offerings to defray personal costs were returned or placed in the donation box.

The WLA 45 Solo Harley Davidson motorcycle is now on display at the Air & Space Museum in Balboa Park, San Diego. For more information on the Wounded Warriors Project, go to Wounded Warrior.  .-BS

Bob Stratton is an adventure seeker who has run 32 consecutive Bay to Breakers, has danced and sang on East Bay stages in plays and musicals and now training to do a hike in Machu Picchu. He's written several stories for All News No Blues.


PostHeaderIcon The Pony Express Rides Again

Forty-two hours and 668 miles on a bicycle doesn't sound like much of a vacation now that I think about it. It was, however, a worthy and rewarding effort and a week full of more cycling challenges, scenery, and great memories.


One thing I learned about Wyoming while out on the open road on my bike is that Wyoming has done a fantastic job at marking the roads with historic signs documenting the state's history and other useful information. I stopped to read them all and learned a lot of fascinating history along my way. Each nugget was a real highlight to my day. For some strange reason, seeing the signs became very important to me, and I would even double-back to check out a historic marker on the other side of the road. I think I felt a bit like a pioneer, in my own way.

Scheduling the ride for the first week of July was necessary for me to work around the other important things in my life and, as expected, it was a hot week. Dry, but hot.

Thankfully, the high elevation, most of the week was spent at between 6000-8000 feet, kept the temperature below 100F.  Hydration was critical and I went through many gallons of water, stopping to re-fill at every opportunity. But when the temperature outside is 95F so is the drinking water. Refreshing? No, but it got the job done.

As with last year's Phase I ride from Sacramento to Salt Lake City, this year's Phase 2 ride from Salt Lake City to Scottsbluff, Nebraska, was a great success. All the careful planning paid off. But there was a last-minute hitch. After discovering a crack in my bike frame before the start of the ride I was forced to reluctantly use a borrowed bike to make the ride.  However, except for some rear wheel trouble the bike ran very well.  In order to make it to Scottsbluff in a week I had to plan to ride about 100 miles per day.

In the wide-open and remote part of the country there are only a few towns for overnight stops, so on 2 days I rode about 120 miles each day. Combine that with high elevation and hot weather those 2 days turned out to be more difficult than I expected.  I completed those long days, but not without a bit of a struggle the last couple of hours.

The week was full of memorable moments.

My favorite?  Crossing the Continental Divide at about half way through the ride. This crest in the mountains, while very subtle, was symbolic to me and a real milestone. I finally felt like I was truly “crossing the country."

Least favorite? Broken spokes in my rear wheel and the distraction and worry it caused me on days 2, and 3.

Did you know there only 2 bike shops between Salt Lake City and Nebraska?  I actually had included this information in my pre-ride planning, but nothing I could do about a broken bike if it breaks 150 miles from the next shop. So, I limped along very carefully, kept my fingers crossed and kept the positive thinking. It all worked out fine in the end and I left Lander on day 4 with a good wheel and a renewed attitude. I chose to ride alone as I enjoy the solitude, and it's also handy when adjustments need to be made to the schedule.

The downside?  A companion would be nice during those very long days. When I catch myself talking to the bike I realize I need a companion. Next year, Phase 3, will finish my Pony Express ride and end in St. Joseph, Missouri at the Pony Express museum.  It's another 600 miles to St. Joe, but through the flat plains of Nebraska and Kansas. I will start the planning after the New Year and thinking of making the trip in late May or early June of 2014.  For one reason or another the weather is always a consideration and those months may not be the best time to be exposed in Nebraska or Kansas due to tornado season. The adventure continues--next summer. --BC

A little background on the Pony Express Route:

The Pony Express was established in 1860 as the first reliable means to send messages across the vast American West. The Civil War was looming and timely news and communication between California and the East was crucial. The Pony Express was, essentially, a relay. A specially designed horse saddle could carry important correspondence in leather pockets.

A rider would leave St. Joseph, Missouri, where the railroad and telegraph lines from the East came to an end, and ride his horse westbound at full gallop. Ten to 15 miles later at an established relay station, rider and saddle would change to a fresh horse and continue. After a series of horses and 100 or so miles the rider would stop to rest and pass the saddle on to the next rider and so it went. About 150 relay stations and 10 days later the saddle and its important contents would arrive in Sacramento. During the journey riders were subjected to extreme weather, high elevation, darkness, and particularly in Nevada, serious trouble with Indians.--Eds.



PostHeaderIcon Pony Express Ride: Leg Two



Last summer, Ben Clayden of Danville rode his road bike more than 800 miles from Sacramento to Salt Lake City as leg one of the 2000-mile Pony Express Route. Today, July 2, he resumes the ride from the Amtrak station in Salt Lake City where he left off last year to Scottsbluff, Nebraska. He expects to arrive next week.

He'll cross Utah's Wasatch Range, traverses Wyoming, the Rockies and Continental Divide, to the Platte River Valley into Nebraska and the Central Plains.

Clayden will be on the bike for about six days and log about 700 miles -- alone on his Trek Madone road bike with just the water and food he can carry, a change of clothes, an iPad, credit card and a healthy bit of enthusiasm.

"I don't know how many others have done this before me, certainly some, but clearly it's not a popular idea,'' he said.

The ultimate goal is to eventually arrive at the Pony Express Museum in St. Joseph, Missouri but that third and last phase will be next summer's project.

The Pony Express was established in 1860 as the first reliable means to send messages across the vast American West. The Civil War was looming and timely news and communication between California and the East was crucial. The Pony Express was, essentially, a relay. A specially designed horse saddle could carry important correspondence in leather pockets.

A rider would leave St. Joseph, Missouri, where the railroad and telegraph lines from the East came to an end, and ride his horse westbound at full gallop. Ten to 15 miles later at an established relay station, rider and saddle would change to a fresh horse and continue. After a series of horses and 100 or so miles the rider would stop to rest and pass the saddle on to the next rider and so it went. About 150 relay stations and 10 days later the saddle and its important contents would arrive in Sacramento. During the journey riders were subjected to extreme weather, high elevation, darkness, and particularly in Nevada, serious trouble with Indians.

Last year, Clayden said he enjoyed immensely riding his bicycle from Sacramento to Salt Lake City and following the Pony Express route eastbound. He peddled about 100 miles each day, over the Sierra Nevada and across desolate Nevada and western Utah. He was alone but said he was never lonely and enjoyed the solitude of countryside most folks don't see.

"(It was) a very remote and fascinating part of North America. It was an amazing week and after returning home I hung the bike in the garage, put the maps away, and enjoyed the great memories,'' he said.

Want to follow Clayden's journey and check out his progress? Go to http://bensponyexpress.blogspot.com/ --BC/KB



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