TOASTED: The Perfect Toast for Every Occasion

What do you do when the love of your life for 25 years goes on a Harley road trip and doesn’t come home? Since 2008, Claudia Wright moved to Morro Bay, published a book, and reached out to 482 new friends.

“While golfing, Jim told his brothers he was tired,” said Wright. “He was 51. He had a heart attack.” Although a successful graphic artist, his wife and family of three were unprepared financially. “I couldn’t afford the mortgage. At one point we were homeless, but together we made it. The boys had scholarships for college, but losing their dad was tough. We had to pay three years for Toby.”

Formerly in management with Starbucks of Chandler, Arizona, she was a stay-at-home mom working on a book concept. Toasted: The Perfect Toast for Every Occasion had an advance from a publisher. Memories of her grandparents’ toasts, sparked the entrepreneurial idea. Wright planned to publish traditional and custom toasts for all occasions. When her publisher was bought out, her book idea was shelved.

She doesn’t know how they got her resume, but Apple Store called. Their second offer was appealing with Jim gone. She accepted a district manager position that ultimately transferred her to Mission Viejo, CA. She requested San Luis Obispo to be closer to her daughter in Monterey.

“I needed to jumpstart my life,” said Wright. “One night I discovered I thought there might be others around Morro Bay wanting to hike or go to the movies. I created the group ’50 Years Plus Active Singles.’ We are 482 members with no defined structure but to show up.”

Meanwhile, rights to self-publish her book Toasted were returned. She invited STAX Wine Bar of Morro Bay to pour at her book signing at Coalesce Book Store in June, 2014 and launching her marketing method to her Meet Up friends and demonstrating to other Central Coast wineries how her book could be of value t their customers.

Living in the heart of wine country, Wright has collaborated with multiple wine bars and wineries. “It’s a pocket-sized book and I’ve included pages where wine tasters can keep notes where they’ve tasted and which wines they prefer. I’m can customize the book for the wineries or a wedding party to have guest memory books of toasts.”

Besides STAX Wine Bar and Coalesce Book Store, Opolo Winery, Central Coast Wines, and Saucelito Canyon Winery are a short list of supporters.

“My children encouraged me to follow my dream,” said Wright. “My goal is to get the book into the hands of people celebrating life. Let me share my grandmother’s Scottish toast…Cheers to life, love, money and the time to enjoy it all.”

South Bay Women’s Network Serves the Central Coast

In 1983, when Jean Brown worked at Security Pacific Bank, she believed the Los Osos area needed a networking organization for women in business to support their individual endeavors and share issues specific to working women.

Brown persuaded Cathy Stalter, Judi Tewell, Connie Framberger, Rosa Metzler, Diane McClish and Linda Villanueva to join her on the first governing board of the South Bay Women’s Network.

Last December the group celebrated 30 years of community support for the San Luis Obispo Women’s Shelter, including 2013 when $1,500 was raised at the annual Holiday Auction. Metzler reported the first holiday meeting was a wrapping party with each member donating a gift. Current president, Gila Zak, thanked her team of Metzler, Debra Angell and Peggy Zett for gathering community donations for their latest auction supporting the shelter.

“Helping the Women’s Shelter continues to be our major fund raiser, but we also give three $500 scholarships annually for women at Cuesta College,” said Zak, owner of Quantum Wave Biofeedback. “Mainly our mission is to encourage and support each other.”

Past-president Dawn Rodden, owner of Creative Design in Los Osos, explained the networking group commits to doing business with members, including helping women in transition. “One member’s car broke,” Rodden said, citing an example. “Another member helped this single mom replace her car so she could get to work.”

Rodden, who prefers being the quiet worker bee, said she “never thought I might lead the group as president, but with full support from the group, I had the confidence and a great experience.” She is currently the Interim director of the Los Osos/Baywood Chamber of Commerce.

Sally Brooks, owner of The Great Skin Company said, “I joined in 1996 because of the great causes we support, then so many SBWN members support my business. The friendships are invaluable. For me it has been a win-win.”
The group meets the first Tuesday of each month at noon at La Palapa in Baywood.

The group has maintained their dues at $45 so women can afford to join. This year, the group plans to continue raising money for the women’s shelter and support member Paula Ufferherdt’s efforts as a longtime commissioner with the Status of Women, a commission of women appointed by the San Luis Obispo County Supervisors to advocate for women and girls and inform the supervisors of unmet needs in the county. This year both groups will celebrate women volunteers for their countless hours of volunteerism during a luncheon March 15 at the Madonna Inn. Details at

Seeking Life’s Balance in Work and Play

Work and play. Indulge and regulate. Exercise and relax. Participate, but pace your involvement. Regardless of age, a healthy lifestyle demands commitment with balance. According to a Morro Bay certified personal trainer and fitness adviser, Suze Crowley, “Balance is a big word with lots of meanings. I emphasize it is never too late and never too little.”

For over 25 years, Crowley has served others. Although she semi-retired two years ago to spend more time with family and on personal projects, she still works three days a week at FitnessWorks of Morro Bay or helps clients through her personal training business, AIM Accentuate Improve Motivate ( “I missed working with people. Seniors seem to be my forte.”

She explained the literal concept of balance. ”As we get older we have physical changes that challenge our balance. Vision, bone density, posture changes, and alertness – these changes contribute to balance issues that may cause falls and other procedures. I don’t mean to be trite, but if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. I work on the core muscles that give us strength and self- confidence.”

When her daughter, Nicole, was one, Crowley discovered aerobics at the Morro Bay Community Center. “I was asked to take over the ‘Off Your Rocker’ class. I loved choreographing the movements to the music and taught classes for Morro Bay Recreation.” Foot surgery slowed her down. “I was also a physical therapist aid for TherapyWorks (of Morro Bay). I wanted to teach ‘Fit for All’ classes at FitnessWorks. It was a natural progression after therapy for many clients.”

She taught choreographed fitness classes five days a week – each with a different routine. “People knew me as the crazy lady walking the streets of Morro Bay with ear buds making strange movements. I was practicing while walking to work.”

Today she focuses on personal training. “Some people need the motivation of a trainer to keep up their exercise program. Others might need to get started.” Crowley explained one client signed up for balance training because he loved to fish the area creeks, but felt tippy on the pebbles in the streams and didn’t want to risk a

Crowley said, “Fear of falling, low blood pressure, an inner ear problem, changes in vision are some contributors to a balance problem. One exercise I do to test my balance is standing on one leg while brushing my teeth.”

A fall is the obvious warning sign that balance training would be helpful. But if one stumbles at curbs or on uneven sidewalks or trips over the dog, it is probably time to focus on balance to prevent a future fall that may disrupt life as you planned to live it.

SLO Blues Society Kicks Off 35th Season

The SLO Blues Society will launch a 35th season Saturday night at the San Luis Obispo Veteran’s Hall.

“In terms of continuous operation, the San Luis society is the third oldest in America. Interesting that Santa Barbara and Ventura are the next oldest,” said the organization’s president, Wayne Benham. “Our season goes from September through May with seven shows. We always invite a nationally touring artist to our first one. This year it is Chris Thomas King.”

King is a blues innovator with Louisiana roots. A multiple Grammy winner, he is an actor and musician with strong stylistic influences from Jimmy Henricks. His complete biography is at

An aficionado of the Blues, Benham spins tunes Monday nights at 7:30pm on “Wayne’s Evening Blues” and Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 9am to Noon on Estero Bay’s 97.3 The Rock. “I’ve always enjoyed playing music. One song hits a listener during my show and I’ve done my job.”

Regarding his musical preference, he said, “Blues when done right is so simple coming straight from the heart and soul. It might start out ‘my baby left me and we’re oh so sad, but, hey, we’re getting over it.’ The blues can be very upbeat and I love to dance so the ‘gettin’ over it’ part often is the part when we get up and dance the blues away.”

According to Benham there is a rhythmic pattern that keeps the Blues to its simplest form. Many consider it the only pure American musical form. Chris Thomas King tends to experiment with traditional Blues. “King might be better recognized for his work in the films “O Brother Where Art Thou” (2000) or “Ray” (2004). Many prefer that he’s going back to his traditional roots. We like his dance-ability. Amazing how the band and audience feed off each other.”

“Back in the day of the British invasion — the Beatles, the Kinks, the Rolling Stones — they started with Blues-Rock,” continued Benham. “Our American Blues musicians are almost ignored unless their famous like B.B. King, but they’ll go to Europe and are treated like super heroes.”

Benham is now retired from Dr. Bloodgood’s Photo Emporium where his duties spanned operations, financial services and technology implementation. He moved to Morro Bay in 1999 and got involved in the SLO Blues Society. Since 2005 he’s been active member and ultimately on the board in leadership roles after attending concerts and volunteering to help. “We always need good volunteers. We’re a nonprofit that has produced over 250 shows.”

“Part of the mission of the SLO Blues Society is to give reviews,” he continued. “We always have local musicians involved in our season. It is nice to give them a chance to play and be discovered.”