Breast cancer survivor tells her story

Ellen Johnson (lower right) is joined in solidarity with colleagues Stephanie Montenegro, Marc Wilde, Lynda Frank, and Katie Furlong.

by Lori Harasta

Asked how Ellen Johnson felt when she first found out she had breast cancer, she said, “Numb. Later that night, I asked my husband, ‘Did he say I have cancer?!’”

It started with a lump she found about three years ago. Biopsies in three areas of the tumor were negative, but it is the protocol of Kaiser Permanente to do surgery to remove tumors, whether or not they test positive for cancer, so Ellen complied. The next time she spoke with the doctor, she got the awful news. It was Stage 3 of an aggressive strain of cancer. The doctor was unable to get all of the cancerous tissue. Further tests showed that the lymph nodes on that side were all affected. She was going to have to have a mastectomy.

Ellen resisted at first. But reality set in when the doctor told her, “I’m trying to save your life!” She left the doctor’s office, went back to her car and cried.

First, there was chemotherapy, which made her tired. A dear friend, Suzette, accompanied her to every chemotherapy treatment. Except for the side effects, Ellen actually enjoyed the sessions. “It was an odd sense of community, all of us there sharing the experience of having cancer. The nurses were amazing! There was no sense of talking down to any of us. I enjoyed hearing their banter and teasing one another. They were upbeat, sensitive, and genuine.” The chemotherapy was followed by surgery and then radiation.

Ellen retired recently from her position as Grants Manager for Livingston Memorial Visiting Nurse Association. One of the things that made it easier for her to get through the treatments was strong support from her co-workers and the ability to work a flexible schedule. “My co-workers picked up the slack for me. Having their support made it so much easier to make it through.”

Her hair fell out and as a way of educating others about breast cancer, Ellen chose to wear scarves or hats instead of a wig. Indeed, conversations were opened up. She was surprised at the warm encouragement of fellow survivors she encountered who asked how she was doing and shared their own cancer experiences.

Cancer has changed Ellen’s outlook. “Anytime we face the possibility of our own mortality, it changes our priorities. I have been given the gift of seeing things more realistically. It has been a real wake-up call.”

Locals speak out on pot laws – Part 2 of 2

by Paul Peterson

Ventura citizens filled the Community Meeting Room in City Hall on September 28 to express their views on the pending cannabis regulations.

The unity in the room was palpable as numerous personal stories were presented in favor of the need for easier access to medical cannabis, delivery services, convenient storefronts and growing pot, indoors and out. Responsible suggestions and positions in favor of these issues were offered. Several seriously ill patients expressed the difficulty of traveling outside the county to get medication due to our local restrictions. The overall message to the council was clear, that citizens want and expect our city to respond to the will of the people. It seemed the questions waiting for the council’s answers at the October 9th meeting was not if but when and how fast to move.

“I’m glad we had the opportunity to hear from the community regarding the City’s policy on marijuana/cannabis. We will be providing the City Council their options and recommendation at the October 9th City Council meeting”, reported Jeffrey Lambert, Community Development Director.

It is expected that the recommendation will only include medical marijuana deliveries within the city and nothing for recreational access.

There is a great potential income to the city coffers, in addition to making sure citizens have safe access to what they have voted for, which includes the right to own and cultivate small amounts of marijuana. There are also jobs at stake. There have been a number of high profile conventions in the LA area catering to various elements of this budding new industry.

The Emerald Exchange, held in Thousand Oaks in August was a Renaissance Faire-like presentation of growers, collectives and new cannabis related products that have sprouted up around them. “We had over 1,000 attendees and over 50 brands represented”, reported event organizer Michael Katz ( It was the ancillary products that carried the day. Offerings of new derivatives from the cannabis plant including extracts used as medicine, tinctures and infusion into foods were dominant. There were seminars on the use of cannabis for treatment of PTSD, seizures and chronic pain. Celebrity stoner Tommy Chong of the comedy duo Cheech & Chong was on hand to represent his latest line of pipes. But the main focus was on multi-course meals specially prepared with varying levels of cannabis infused. Other companies offered baked goods from cookies to brownies but now extending to juices, teas, coffees, soda, beer, chocolates and desserts. The future of the pot industry seems to not only be healthy and smell good, but taste good too.

Those interested in investing in this blossoming industry gathered at the MJAC Conference September 1 and 2 in downtown LA to bring cannabis product entrepreneurs together with investors. It was a Shark Tank for pot related products and services. A panel of judges awarded cash on the spot to lucky entrepreneurs. Among those were CBD pills that extract only pot’s pain relieving qualities, not the psychoactive qualities and could soon be available as a supplement over the counter. There was a stylish, odorless humidifier for home pot storage and a line of luxury aroma free purses and handbags to carry your stash to the girl’s night out. “We aren’t guilty teenagers anymore, it’s a new cannabis culture” declared the creator.

Business was also brisk at the Cannabis World Conference at the LA Convention Center September 13-15. The Reverend Al Sharpton delivered a spirited keynote address calling for legalization with diversity and fairness in the new industry. “This can’t be an industry where blacks go to jail and whites go to the bank”, he stated. Opportunity for all was the message. The presence of larger manufacturing companies bringing their expertise to the business was also apparent as the level of industry acumen rises to meet the massive pending demand. Those looking to start large or small grow farms, collectives, pot shops and related items found everything they needed to open their storefronts from products to packaging to promotion to navigating the legal hurdles. It is those legal ground rules that are the most complex, depending on where you are in the state.

That brings us back to the Ventura City Council and how they will rule and what guidelines will be set after considering their citizen’s input.

Editor: We would love to hear your thoughts on this very important issue.

Ventura Breeze celebrates 10 years providing hometown news

• WOW, WOW and WOW! Pinch me – it can’t be true that we just completed our tenth year of publication. Our first issue, on Oct.24, 2007, is shown on this cover.

Besides not knowing anything about the newspaper business when Staci Brown and I launched the Ventura Breeze, we didn’t know if Venturans would accept a very local newspaper, or if Ventura even needed one. It turns out both of these things turned out to be true. Ventura has embraced the Breeze and has come to love it. What I hear most from readers is, “We love reading the Breeze.”

There are so many people to thank, so I’m sure I will overlook some very deserving people. I want to thank our dedicated readers, our fabulous advertisers who keep us in business, our unbelievable dedicated staff, and our writers, photographers and distributors.

All of the “Breezers” deserve a hearty thank you.

A few of these people have been with us since the beginning:

  • Staci Brown – who is now the Publisher Emeritus
  • Professor Scamp – who almost made it to our 10th year issue
  • Rebecca Wicks
  • Suz Montgomery
  • Studio Nothing (Alfred J. Lewis)
  • Bill Green

A special thanks needs to go out to these people as well:

Alfred J. Lewis of Studio Nothing who does a great job laying out the paper and who also acts as my personal therapist by always telling me, “Don’t worry we will get the issue out, have we ever missed one?”

And a very sincere thank you to Senior Account Executive Breezy Gledhill whose perseverance in selling ads keeps us afloat. Without her, there wouldn’t be the Ventura Breeze for you to read. And, the best part, is that she loves doing it and our advertisers love her too.

Thanks also to Cindy Summers for making our website, and Facebook pages look outstanding, along with writing some of our articles.

And to Jaime and Ana Baker for going way beyond with their great support of the Breeze – from delivering papers, to writing articles and creating great caricatures, to setting-up our (actually their) Ventura Breeze booth at all of the events we attend.

Last, but not least, I want to give a special shout-out to my wife, Diane, who no longer says to me, “Are you nuts getting up to write at 3am, and is this still costing us money?” And, who puts up with me every day (well, some days maybe not so much).

Here are a few lows that we saw during our ten years.

We lost a few wonderful contributors and friends:

The passing of Jim Spencer, who, with wife Shirley, wrote our theater reviews. Wonderful Shirley is carrying on with their family tradition.

Nanci Cohen, a friend and contributing writer.

Professor Scamp, my buddy, who I miss dearly every day.

Lance Cole, who always had a joke to tell.

Alfred Lewis’ wonderful wife Cathi who kept Alfred focused and out of trouble (not an easy task) so he could work on the Breeze.

We also lost several Face of Ventura portrait sitters painted by Johanna Spinks. Not contributors, but they became a special part of the Breeze through their portraits and stories.

There have been many highlights, of course. Here are just a few:

Alfred, lying in a hospital bed at CMH, working on an issue on his large computer screen.

The Face of Ventura portrait series by Johanna Spinks, and the amazing party that we had at the Museum of Ventura County to celebrate it.

Winning several awards (I’m sure I’m missing some) including:

Turning Point Foundation’s Champions of Mental Health

Ventura County Area on Aging Optimal Aging Champion Award Age-Friendly Media Award

Ventura Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year

Sponsoring many non-profits and great events including Pier Under the Stars, CARL (Canine Adoption & Rescue League), and the City’s Music Under the Stars.

Appearing on radio station KVTA and CAPSTV and now having a weekly radio show on KPPQLP (that I wouldn’t have had if I didn’t publish the Breeze).

Getting into trouble with our April Fools’ Day issues –

Sharing just this one. We published a story about the City Council approving an absurd Walmart concept that included golf courses, ponds and bowling alleys. A gentleman who was shocked that the Council had approved this project appeared at a City Council meeting. After assuring him that it was a joke, ex-Councilmember Carl Morehouse looked at the CAP’S camera and said, “Sheldon, we love ya, but don’t do that again.” Just the incentive that I need!

The paper going to all color and increasing in size.

And, personally, just being a big part of our glorious city. The many people who come up to me (from 13 to 93 and above) to tell me how important the Breeze is to them, and to Ventura. This alone makes it all worthwhile, and rewarding. I thank you all again for supporting us.

Here’s to the next 10!

What is a VPD VIP?

Jerry Mendelson and Paul Magie will do vacation checks on your home while you’re away.

by Jerry Mendelsohn

Ventura Police Department Volunteer

What is a VIP? Well, other than a shortcut to a definition of Very Important Person, the Ventura Police Department uses the abbreviation to identify a successful program it implemented over a decade ago–Volunteers In Policing.

Who are these people, and what do they do? Having been one for almost 7 years, allow me to simply say that each person is someone who wants to “pay it forward” by giving back to the community, has some time to volunteer, and believes in the merits of law and order.

Both men and women participate. Though most are retired, their backgrounds show talents as teachers , school administrators, corporate positions, business owners, law enforcement, and so on. Stringent background checks precede an invitation to a police “aca demy, ” and, upon graduation, it is suggested that a volunteer attempt to give a minimum of 16 hours or more of service per month .

You have probably seen VIPs around town in marked white vehicles, either vans or SUVs. They are radio-e quipped so VIPs can be in touch with the police station’s “comcenter”- -dispatch–and vice versa, for assignments and anything else with which VIPs can help. VIPs typically patrol in pairs.

The primary purpose of the VIP is to be a “visible presence” in the community and to aid the regular , sworn officers as needed, primarily to relieve them of some of the duties that might occupy their time when they could be better utilized as crime fighters involved with more serious issues that , unfortunately, impact every community .

VIPs commonly do traffic control when needed. They are permitted to issue some citations for non-moving violations, such as parking illegally, etc . Indeed , Ventura had a fairly frequent problem of people parking in designated handicapped spots but with no displayed placard.

Partially through a concerted, continual effort by the VIPs, handicapped parking violations have diminished dramatically .

VIPs often will take written reports of non-injury accidents, interacting with the victims, calling for back-up of an officer if needed, and then entering said reports into the police system, typically for insurance companies. Further, VIPs will assist officers with transportation of personal property of vagrants and others who the officers may need to take to a hospital or jail.

VIPs are called to residences to, again, take written reports on home and auto burglaries. While city resident s are invited to file online reports, many do not or are uncomfortable with doing so, so VIPs assist .

As a community service, VIPs will do vacation checks on your home while you’re away, walking

your property to verify doors and windows are secure, that there appears to be no break-in attempts, and

that your property seems OK until you return. Visible signs of an owner being away, such as door-hangers and newspapers, or trash cans left out, may be picked up and/or put away as is feasible.

The VIP may patrol school zones, with a keen eye out for suspicious loiterers or people perhaps sitting in cars who don’t belong there or are acting strangely.

Other tasks also fill up VIP shifts, but I’ve tried to identify some of the more frequent ones. Should you have any questions, comments, or concerns, you may contact the Ventura Police Department Civic Engagement Specialist at 339-4317.

Ventura Harbor Village hosts Kids Seaside Trick or Treat and “Thriller”

Zombies will roam the promenade. Photo by Richard Lieberman

Ventura Harbor Village is getting into the spooky spirit with lots of Halloween happenings this month and there is no better place to be than seaside on Saturday, October 28, from 1-3pm for Kid Seaside Trick or Treat and Thrill the World.

Dress up the kids and navigate through the waterfront village with over 20 treat stops at participating Harbor boutiques and restaurants. It will be an afternoon full of Halloween sweets, face painting and family fun! Participation for the Trick or Treat is complimentary.

That very same day, Zombies will roam the promenade and come together for a world record breaking dance to “Thriller” by Michael Jackson. Spectators be sure to show up by 3pm to catch the dance in action. However, if you want to participate, it takes some preparation! Learn the dance, by joining Molly at FitZone in Ventura for classes. Ages 6 and up are welcome to join in on the fun. To sign up, email or call 766-4480. There is a $20 Dancer Registration fee – all proceeds go to “Make a Wish Foundation”.

Tree carving artist John Mahoney

This wonderful tree carving is the work of artist John Mahoney, with the assistance of Jason Rose.

The tree is an American Redwood, and was a part of a grove of Redwoods planted in Arroyo Verde Park many years ago.

Our Southern California drought took its toll on the trees, and the grove of redwoods died within the last few years. West Coast Arborists removed the trees (39 of them) and the wood was harvested and milled and will be made into picnic benches that will be put back into the park. West Coast Arborist, Inc. are the Urban Forestry Contractor the city has used for over 10 years to help maintain the City trees.

Photos by Michael Gordon

The happiest 5k on the planet will make your dreams come true

The Baker and Kress families never looked so colorful.

The Color Run®, the largest 5k event series in the world, is bringing its 2017 tour theme, The Color Run Dream Tour, Presented by Lay’s®, to Ventura on Saturday, Nov. 18, kicking off at 8:00 a.m.

The Ventura run benefits Doing Good in Ventura – the Julius Gius Memorial Rotary Foundation, the charitable arm of the Rotary Club of Ventura. It provides assistance to needy individuals in our community by engaging in and carrying on programs for charitable and educational purposes, and encouraging greater philanthropy and appreciation of the needs of those less fortunate.

The Color Run Dream Tour creates a world where anything is possible, unicorns are real and foam clouds make everything better. The 2017 theme will make Color Runners’ dreams a lot more colorful with unforgettable music, color throws and an all new Lay’s PoppablesFoam Zone and Dream Wall.

The Color Run Ventura is one of 5 cities on The Color Run’s “Colorfornia Dreamin’” mini-tour. Participants can collect Colorfornia Dreamin’ collectors’ button at each stop on the tour and buy a limited-edition Colorfornia t-shirt on-site and online.

Each Color Runner receives a custom race kit, including a limited-edition 2017 race shirt, a Unicorn Finisher’s Medal, embroidered headband, fun temporary tattoos and a color-in runner’s bib—to inspire participants to decoratetheir runner’s bib. An option to upgrade race kits to receive additional gear is also available with the deluxe registration package. Participants can color it up with more accessories, clothing and fun dream inspired items at The Color Run store.

The Color Run Dream Tour, Saturday, Nov. 18, 8:00 a.m., Ventura County Fairgrounds.

Impact of domestic violence on homelessness

A program serving homeless children and families in Ventura will be hosting their third annual event highlighting the connection and impact of domestic violence on homelessness.

Team Up Against Domestic Violence is being hosted by The City Center Transitional Living and will take place on Thursday, October 12 from 6 to 8pm at The River Community Church, 889 East Santa Clara St. Tickets are available at

“Most people are shocked when they hear me say that more than a third of homeless children and families in Ventura are escaping domestic abuse in their homes,” says Jim Duran, The City Center Executive Director. “Domestic violence has a direct and tragic effect on the lives of vulnerable children and families in Ventura. And The City Center is on the front lines of this issue.”

Guest speakers will include domestic violence survivor Ericka King, Ventura City Council member Mike Tracy, Ventura County Assistant Sheriff William Ayub, radio celebrity Tom Spence as well as additional powerful testimonies from current residents of The City Center. Kris Simeon, Jermarie Dizon, Monse Casmiro, Unko Henry, and Charleen Morla of Dirty Rice will provide special musical performances.

The City Center helps homeless families by providing a temporary, safe place to call home. During their residency, clients find stability so they can focus on getting their life under control and obtaining the help and necessary skills they need to get back on their feet.

The City Center’s transitional housing program includes a high level of accountability with the goal of transitioning clients into long-term housing within one year. Clients contribute 30% of their income for housing and services while 20% is saved for future financial stability. Clients must also be employed or actively engaged in seeking employment. Services include comprehensive professional case management, spiritual and life mentoring, job placement services, and other critical needs.

“The board, staff and volunteers at The City Center are pleased to share the stories of hope and restoration made possible because of the courage of our residents,” says Duran.

Decked to the 9’s – Canines Compete for best costume at Pet Costume Contest

“Could any dog be cuter than me?”

Four-footed “ghosts,” “spirits” and all manner of costumed canines will parade through Ventura Harbor Village, Saturday, October 21 as the 5th Annual Ventura Harbor Village HOWL-O-Ween Dog Costume Contest gets underway starting at Noon. The contest, open to canines only, welcomes both adults and children and is free to the public.

What makes this family-friendly event so unique is that Ventura Harbor Village gives out a “Sea Worthy” ribbon for the dog that dresses in sea theme. Another distinctive feature is the large creativity factor of the costumes for both the dogs and the owners. Prizes are awarded for Spookiest, Sea-Worthy, Creative/Original, Cutest/Prettiest, and Best in Show.  The prizes include gift certificates to Ventura Harbor Village restaurants, boutiques, and attractions. Each winner selects a pumpkin of choice and a blue ribbon.

The first 100 dogs that participate receive a bag of doggie treats from HOWL-O-Ween sponsor Ventura Pet Barn and fifty cents off an ice cream from Coastal Cone.  Approximately 75 dogs attend the event.  

For more information, call 477-0470 or visit Howl-O-Ween Dog Costume Contest to get preregistered or

Ventura Harbor is a pet-friendly destination with a beautiful and scenic walking Promenade at Ventura Harbor Village extending to Ventura County West Marina in one direction and the Channel Islands National Park Visitor Center at the other end. It’s the perfect stroll with your pooch. Owners can enjoy pet-friendly dining patios, boat rentals, and waterfront hotel stays with their pets.

Ventura Harbor welcomes dogs and offers Doggie Bag stations, a Doggie Water Fountain near Beach Break Surf Shop in the Harbor Village, a photo board designed just for dogs to easily stand behind for that fun photo op behind 805 Bar & Grilled Cheese, and a grassy lawn area.

Ventura Harbor Village is a vibrant, working harbor village and fishing marina boasting 35 shops, galleries, restaurants and waterfront activities including a Village Carousel & Arcade, Comedy Club, Harbor Cove Beach and Surfer’s Knoll Beach, dive and fishing boats, harbor tours, boat, kayak and peddle boat rentals, and a beautiful walking Promenade. The Village offers visitors an escape to a sun-kissed, seaside playground with transportation to and from the Harbor via the new Ventura-Downtown Harbor Trolley, annual special events, live weekend entertainment, dog-friendly facilities, soft adventure, and spectacular sunset views of the Pacific coastline. Home to the Channel Islands National Park Visitor Center, this coastal playground features its own viewing tower, exhibits and bookstore, it is easy for travelers to visit the five islands right off the Ventura coast.   It is here that visitors can experience world-class island diving, snorkeling, hiking, kayaking, sea cave exploration, photography, camping and wildlife viewing.

For visitor information, contact Ventura Harbor Village at 477-0470, online at, via fax at 644-1684. Ventura Harbor Village is located at 1583 Spinnaker Dr.  Post, share, and like #VenturaHarbor

Two talented ladies honored for their contributions to the arts

Mayor Erik Nasarenko honored two distinguished artists at the Museum

On Wednesday, Oct. 4 the 2017 ArtWalk Collectors Reception was held at the Museum of Ventura County. Ventura Mayor Erik Nasarenko honored the two “Distinguished Artists.” Honored were Artist of Distinction Maribel Hernandez and Global Artist of Distinction Shamsia Hassani.

A sampling of the juried works by 2017 ArtWalk featured artists was also on display. ArtWalk was held in Ventura on Oct.7&8.

The well attended event was hosted by the City of Ventura and the Museum of Ventura County

in the Smith Pavilion . The evening included music, hors d’oeuvres and a no-host beer and wine bar.

Maribel Hernandez is a native of Michoacan, Mexico who moved to California in 1988 at the age of 18. Her first art classes were at Ventura College where she found a love for creating wonderful art. Her working studio is located at the Bell Arts Factory located on Ventura Ave. where her diverse and colorful artwork can be seen.

Global Artist of Distinction Shamsia Hassani traveled from Kabul, Afghanistan, to take part in ArtWalk. Her murals depict the hardships of her hometown. She was born in Tehran in 1988 to Afghan parents and is a fine-art lecturer at Kabul University. Recently she completed a residence at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles where she was brought to the attention of ArtWalk.