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Keeping Santa Barbara Santa Barbara

By Cheri Rae
imageI wrote to the Santa Barbara Beautiful to figure out how to make this right—for Gilda Radner and her memory. I received a very nice note back from Jacqueline S. Dyson, VP-Public Relations for the organization.

She advised that the plaque has been there for quite some time, and that typically the original donor requests a Replacement Plaque and assumes the costs to do so.

gildaIn this case, the original donor is unknown, so it’s to a third-party to initiate a Request for Plaque Replacement and payment of related costs, which are approximately $100 for the new concrete base and metal marker.

It’s not often it takes just $100 to do something special in Santa Barbara.

Usually we’re talking many times that for consultants, surveys and reports. So here’s our chance, Santa Barbara Viewers, to initiate a Replacement Request Application and make a positive response to a negative act.

Editor’s Note: If you’d like to help us fund a replacement plaque, below is PayPal donation button where any amount is accepted, and all funds will go to the plaque. We want it to read, dedicated to Gilda by unknown donor, and replaced by the readers of Santa Barbara View. Thank you for helping keep Santa Barbara Santa Barbara!

Gilda Radner and Santa Barbara

As Roseanne Rosannadanna said, “It’s always something.”

There was a time when just about everyone I knew remembered every line uttered by the huge-haired and long-winded “Saturday Night Live” character played by Gilda Radner.

Last week’s 40th anniversary show honoring “Saturday Night Live” included a tribute to the talented Radner by actress Emma Stone—who did her best, but couldn’t come close to the original.

It was a reminder of a uniquely talented entertainer who died at the age of 42. Gilda Radner has a star on Hollywood Boulevard, and a tree dedicated to her on State Street. I remember being delighted and intrigued years ago when I spotted the commemorative tree and Santa Barbara Beautiful plaque with her name on it. I always wondered about why it was there, and thought maybe now it was time to find out.

I took a stroll over to the spot near the Arlington Theatre, and my heart dropped to see that the plaque has been vandalized and defaced. If you didn’t already know it was originally inscribed with her name, you wouldn’t likely be able to figure it out.

This seemed so wrong; just when the loopy silliness of Saturday Night Live was on full display, and presented like an early historical treasure, the Santa Barbara connection felt like a sad and disrespectful downer.

Shots: Knees, Vaccines and Points in Between

By Cheri Rae

cherilogo-150x150Modern medicine is amazing: There are all kind of treatment methods to repair injuries, reduce pain and turn back the hands of time.

The problem is getting access to the medical care that will put these methods into action. And then, of course, paying for them.

As I recounted on this site, I injured my knee in mid-December, and it took about six weeks before getting relief from the pain. The delay was due to a series of unfortunate events that included holiday time; vacation schedules of medical personnel; required approvals from Anthem-Blue Cross before an MRI could be scheduled.

The good news is that I was able to get the MRI just one day after it was approved, thanks to a cancellation in the schedule. I got an appointment with the physician’s assistant week later, and a consult with the orthopedic surgeon—thanks to another cancellation—the next morning.

The verdict was that all the years of use have worn down the cartilage in my kneecap. The injury simply aggravated the common condition.

The great news is that the orthopedic surgeon takes a very conservative approach; when he injected my knee with cortisone and prescribed anti-inflammatories, I could swear he performed a miracle. Immediately, my knee felt like it was supposed to—pain-free—like it hadn’t felt in far too long.

The only lingering pain came when I got the bill: after all that waiting for insurance permission that the doctor thought I needed, the mega-corporation—recently in the news for getting hacked—paid only 20 percent of the expensive procedure.

But enough about my knee; I was so sick of that small part of my body limiting my life for so long, so I amused myself by catching up with the news. Unfortunately, the biggest story was all about vaccine-preventable diseases on the rampage.

It’s something I’ve had quite a bit of experience with, since my then-8-year-old vaccinated son contracted whooping cough a decade ago—a disease that was nearly eradicated in America due to widespread immunizations in the past, but has returned with a vengeance.

My son recently told me that during the long days and nights with that incessant terrible cough, he had pretty much decided that he was going to die. “It took so long, and it was so awful, I didn’t think it was possible to ever get any better,” he said. It breaks my heart that my little boy was so scared and so sick, so helpless for no good reason—his health and well-being drastically affected by the choice of of others who decided not to vaccinate their kids.

I wrote about whooping cough back then, having educated myself about herd immunity and immunization rates; personal belief exemptions and the anti-vaxx movement. That story has been widely circulated and cited for the powerful first-person reality; it even appears on the website for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where noted pro-vaccine physician Dr. Paul Offit practices. And I’ve made several media appearances on the subject.

Whooping cough was bad enough, but who ever would have imagined that measles would return?

When I was a small child, the vaccine had not been created yet and I contracted measles. I still remember that the doctor made several house calls; my room was kept dark, and my Sicilian grandmother—who believed in many old world folk tales—sewed up a pair of red flannel pajamas that were supposed to draw out the redness. I wasn’t allowed to read or watch television, and I was as sick and scared as my own little boy was when he battled his own vaccine-preventable disease. I couldn’t imagine I would ever get better either.

Those diseases were once so common and their effects so devastating that parents gratefully waited in line to get their kids their shots, relieved that they had the opportunity to protect their children from dreaded diseases.

Not so long ago, vaccines were not thought of as government conspiracies or Big Pharma moneymakers. They were considered lifesaving scientific advancements.

And maybe because they worked so well when virtually everyone got them, the misery and deaths caused by them were largely forgotten. Lulled into a false sense of security, an alarming number of individuals—who no longer believe in science or in the existence of deadly viruses or bacteria—are willing to rely on magical thinking to protect them instead.

I understand that magical thinking: I got into it when I wanted to believe my knee would just get better on its own. It didn’t. And even though I’d do just about anything to avoid doctors, clinics, insurance companies and medical tests, sometimes it’s necessary to go that route.

Sometimes it takes a shot in the arm, or even one in the knee to allow a modern miracle to take place.

A Santa Barbara Valentine

Book Review: Old Spanish Days: Santa Barbara’s History Through Public Art By Erin Graffy de Garcia

Review by Cheri Rae

bookcover_t479How lucky we are in Santa Barbara to still have in our midst a cadre of intrepid individuals who care about our origins, who understand our underpinnings, and who are willing to dedicate their time, talent in treasure in telling the stories of this very special place.

Such is the case with the talented woman-about-town Erin Graffy de Garcia, who has recently released her newest book, Old Spanish Days: Santa Barbara’s History Through Public Art.

The prolific Santa Barbara author got to play “history detective,” as she terms it, in the creation of this book. She hunted down the backstories and did some impressive research about incredible art in our midst—that we may well take for granted in our daily lives.

The reader pages through in wonderment, with the realization of seeing these semi-familiar tiles, murals, medallions, friezes, sculptures and paintings that that reveal the rest of the story to the artistic sights depicting our city’s history that we see all around us—but may forget to notice. Each section is filled with the sense of “I’ve seen that, but never knew anything about it.”

Our historic public art is where you find it, and thanks to the author’s sleuthing, the reader is treated to views, as she writes, “where you least expect it: a public space, a restaurant, or even an office building is likely to blossom forth with some vestige of history preserved on a canvas, painted on a wall, flashed in a weathervane, captured in a tile, mural, or enshrined in a frieze on a courtyard eave.”

The combination of Graffy de Garcia’s sparkling writing style, the excellent photos by Fritz Olenberger, and the clean graphic design by Anna Lafferty allows the art to take center stage. It is complemented by history lessons, and even insights about the individual artists whose work decorate and commemorate our city and its unique past.

This labor of love is like a Valentine to Santa Barbara—and Santa Barbarans. Come to think of it, what a thoughtful and appropriate gift it would be on February 14 for all those who love Santa Barbara, its romance, beauty and historic legacy.

In Remembrance: Gwen Phillips

By Cheri Rae

cherilogo-150x150Above all it was those intense blue eyes that drew you in when you encountered Gwen Phillips. They sparkled with intelligence, twinkled with delight, rolled when encountering absurdity, and softened when imparting wisdom to children and their parents, as they did so often.

I am one of the countless lucky parents who sent her children to Open Alternative School, our amazing school of choice based on a progressive, child-centered model. It’s a school that’s been around for 40 years, thanks to the leadership and collaborative spirit of Gwen, who served as the Head Teacher for nearly all the years the school has been in existence.

In many ways, she was the essence of the school.

What makes Open Alternative School so special is its grounding in pedagogy that understands child development and the needs our wee ones have for a sense of community, accountability and connection to nature. Long before it was fashionable, teachers at OAS practiced differentiated teaching methods, with two grades of children in every class.

Every day, as the students settle in to their Core Group to share their cares and concerns, the skilled teachers lead students to hone their skills of communication, compassion and restorative approaches to problem-solving. And the kids at OAS have been working in the organic garden since the school began—and for years the produce grown there was used in the school’s kitchen.

There is a great embrace of diversity and creativity—from the plays that are largely student-written, set-designed and performed, to the annual Festival of Lights that showcases the winter holidays of cultures around the world, to the inclusion practices that have been the norm in the school from Day One.

The school is grounded in cherished traditions handed down over the years: the classes take on such outside-the-box activities as interviewing candidates for the School Board; taking faraway camping trips; a day at the beach a day in the park and local hiking adventures—all with carefully planned curriculum—and at the end of the year, a triathlon at Leadbetter Beach and a pancake breakfast on the last day of school.

And parents participate in this school community—in the classrooms, on the trips, teaching enrichment classes—helping support the school in any way possible. Over the years, my husband has led countless hikes, I have taught classes as diverse as magazine production and The Sixties, and driven on field trips near and far. And our son grew from being a sweet Little Buddy to a responsible Big Buddy, gaining great knowledge, self-confidence and accountability in the process.

And always knowing that Gwen Phillips was the heart and soul of the school—one who inspired others to follow in her footsteps. She had a strong commitment to keep alive an idealized vision of education that truly works. Students of Open Alternative School move on in their lives to become very accomplished, thoughtful and grounded people who give back to their community. Indeed, there are many second-generation students at OAS, guided back to the place where their parents set down roots and grew their wings.

Perhaps it was a distinctively Santa Barbara approach to education in the mid-Seventies when alternatives seemed endless and possible, an alternative school founded long before the charter school movement. It took a person of great strength and skill to successfully navigate an alternative school through the increasingly standardized approach to education.

And it wasn’t easy. I remember having many strategy sessions and philosophical talks with Gwen about the state of education today. There were rocky times that required the community to dig deep to understand what the school represents in theory and in practice, to examine its importance—and always realizing that it was well-worth the work to come to a place of agreement.

As the mother of a son with dyslexia who attended the school from K-8, most of the time with Gwen at the helm, I remain ever-grateful for her thoughtful understanding of the special gifts of each child—and her determination to protect them from becoming square pegs pounded into round holes. Her keen vision has enriched and enhanced the lives of so many, and we were lucky to have her in our midst for so long.

A gathering to honor and celebrate Gwen Phillips’s life and her legacy of 40 years at Open Alternative School will be held at Skofield Park on Saturday, February 21, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., with a gathering core group circle at noon. Bring a potluck dish to share.


Bright Light: Jennifer Aniston and Her Dyslexia Jennifer Aniston

Column by Cheri Rae: Cheri Rae is the author of “DyslexiaLand,” and consults with the Santa Barbara Unified School District about dyslexia. Her next “Dyslexia Dialogue” will be held at the School District office on Monday, Feb. 23 from 5-6:30.

“Really try to follow what it is that you want to do and what your heart is telling you to do.” –Jennifer Aniston

Jennifer Aniston has it all: She is accomplished, beautiful, rich and famous. On Friday, January 30, she is scheduled to receive the prestigious Montecito Award at the 30th Annual Santa Barbara Film Festival in recognition of her career-long “classic and standout performances” and her style that “has made a major contribution to film.”

anistonAnd, as she recently revealed, she has dyslexia. In a lengthy article published in The Hollywood Reporter, Aniston noted that school had always been a struggle for her, that her favorite classes were art and drama—and that she never considered herself smart. She spent much of her time in school developing her sense of humor and cultivating friendships. When she was identified with dyslexia in her early twenties, it was “life-changing,” she said. “I felt like all of my childhood trauma-dies, tragedies, dramas were explained.”

Jennifer Aniston is in good company. Show business—past and present—is full of talented, award-winning individuals with dyslexia, including innovative directors Walt Disney, Alfred Hitchcock and Steven Spielberg; actors Kiera Knightley, Orlando Bloom and Tom Cruise; screenwriters Fannie Flagg, Brian Grazer and Billy Bob Thornton.

So why does it matter for any of us to know about a famous person’s dyslexia? Because people with dyslexia struggle so much in school, they need to know there is successful life after the classroom. They need to have hope that they will succeed.

Just this week, I met with the mother of a high-school girl with dyslexia who aspires to be a photojournalist. She is a cheerleader with lots of friends; she’s bright, funny, and motivated to achieve, and she loves to perform. But she does not do well on tests; she struggles with her reading and she often stays up until two o’clock in the morning completing her homework. The poor girl is getting ground down; she, does not feel like she is smart, and is reluctant to set high educational goals for fear she will not succeed.

When I told the mom that she should tell her daughter that Jennifer Aniston just revealed her dyslexia and her feelings of not being smart, she brightened at the thought.

Positive role models matter. Because Jennifer Aniston was willing to talk freely

about her struggles in school, her feelings of inadequacy in the classroom, she will have a whole new group of admirers when she steps out on that red carpet: the 1 in 5 individuals who share her dyslexia will now view her with the respect that comes from shared understanding of triumph over difficulty.

Her revelation—that grabbed headlines around the world—means hope: If she could succeed with dyslexia, maybe they can, too. For so many of these kids and their families, dyslexia is a hidden issue of quiet desperation. But she has shined a bright light on dyslexia, and brought to it to a much bigger stage, right at the moment when all eyes are on her for her many accomplishments throughout her career.

Living on One Knee: Learning to Manage While Waiting for Managed Health Care

By Cheri Rae

cherilogo-150x150It was the week before Christmas, a time of rushing around too fast and not paying enough attention. The last person who had driven my car had moved the seat back and lowered it; I planted my foot and, when the seat wasn’t where I expected it to be, I twisted my knee.

The minute it happened, I knew something went wrong. But I thought it was just a stretch, a strain, something that would go away. Besides, I had too much to do at that time of year to deal with it: a birthday celebration for my daughter, a drive to Orange County for a shopping trip with my sister, holiday gifts to select, food to prepare, friends and family to entertain.

Through it all, I tried to ignore my throbbing, swollen knee. Well, not exactly ignore: I did the whole RICE thing, rest (as much as possible), ice, compress, and elevate. Every morning I hoped it had magically healed overnight; every morning that first step confirmed it had not.

A couple days after the holiday, my husband finally convinced me to go to urgent care to get medical assistance. But when we walked in, the place was filled with people in obvious distress with bad colds and flu, and the waiting time was three to four hours. Not possible.

So I called Sansum Clinic, the local medical clinic approved by my new Platinum insurance plan with Anthem Blue Cross, and got the first available appointment, for the second week in January. When that blessed day finally arrived, I soon learned that my co-pay had been increased from $40 to $50. Fine. I paid the money, looking forward to relief.

I finally saw the physician’s assistant, who examined my knee and said it was a classic injury. He suspected a torn meniscus. That part of the knee doesn’t heal on its own, he explained, an MRI was needed so they could figure out exactly what is going on, and what to do about it. We’d get the OK from the insurance company—which takes just a couple of days, and schedule it. I could just manage pain with over-the-counter medications, he noted.

That’s when the new reality of “health care” kicked in. The injury occurred on December 17; the appointment was on January 8; I am writing this on January 20, and still no word. Actually, there was word: I called a couple of times and was told it was still too soon to be concerned.

Funny, I was pretty concerned about my increasingly painful knee, and the restrictions it was putting on my life. All this waiting was doing no good at all.

Last week I called to talk with the insurance liaison at the clinic. She told me that it’s her job to process and prioritize, that there were a number of cases waiting because one person was out of the office. She noted that I was lucky I wasn’t one of the ones who is dying or bleeding out. Those “emergent” cases take precedence. She told me that they have 14 business days to make a determination about whether or not to authorize the procedure (the one recommended by the medical professional who had examined my knee). She said I could appeal if they denied the MRI, suggesting maybe cortisone or physical therapy could work. She reminded me that no matter what the doctor had recommended, everything has criteria that need to be met—and that imaging procedures receive a great deal of scrutiny. She told me this is managed care.

And here’s the problem: my blasted knee hurts. Walking more than a block or two is a painful proposition, something quite humbling for an active person who wrote the book on walking Santa Barbara, for whom a sedentary life is unthinkable. Going up stairs is difficult, going down them is even worse—just at the time that the elevator is broken at the place where I work. I’ve learned to live with the pain, but it’s taking a toll by limiting my activities and affecting my mood.

I try to ignore it; sometimes I take ibuprofen, other times I take naproxen, hoping to take the edge off. The idea of taking anything stronger scares me, messes with my head, and makes me realize how easy it would be to get hooked on some painkillers while waiting for the medical procedure that would take care of the cause of the pain.

This is not health “care.” This is health business. Health bureaucracy. With people evaluated, shelved and inventoried like so many troublesome widgets.

I guess if I was paying cash for an MRI I could get it scheduled in no time. And if I could afford a fancy concierge doctor on demand, my knee would be fine by now. Apparently those hundreds of dollars we shell out every month aren’t enough to get basic medical care in a timely manner.

Somehow I don’t think this is what Universal Health Care is supposed to be, with the local health clinic serving as a way station and the insurance companies calling the shots about whether or not people get care—and how long they suffer before they get it. Or not.

Stay tuned for the next chapter of managing life on one knee in Santa Barbara. And waiting for health care to deal with it.

Stirring Up the Melting Pot

By Cheri Rae

cherilogo-150x150Not so many branches away in my family tree, several Sicilian relatives made their way to America on a treacherous overseas journey. One was so desperate to leave the poverty-stricken conditions of his village in the Old Country, he stowed away in an empty wine barrel. They arrived poor, unskilled, without papers, and unable to speak the language.

As they set about making a life in a new world, they took low-end factory jobs working for a pittance and lived in cramped tenement housing. They were marginalized and ridiculed for their unfamiliar food, language and close family ties. Stories like theirs have been endlessly romanticized in a series of Mafia movies that actually feel rather familiar to me.

It took time, but over the generations several Sicilian family members worked very hard and have distinguished themselves in business, the arts, finance, and real estate among other professions. And the earliest arrivals became naturalized American citizens who voted in every election afterward.

And my Dutch uncle—who arrived penniless, without papers and without a sponsor—loved to tell the story about how he got his driver’s license by handing over cash to a cop. It made all the difference in his ability to make a living in the United States. He died a millionaire, with many mourners at his funeral telling stories of his kindness, business acumen—and his pride in becoming an American citizen.

America might be called a melting pot, but for many successive groups of immigrants, it’s more like a stew of separate ingredients for a long, long time. It’s begun heating up and bubbling over with resentment with the passage of a new law that allows individuals to obtain a driver’s license before obtaining citizenship.

The ugly headline in the local paper of record announced the new in the most dehumanizing way: “Illegals line up for driver’s licenses.”

Sorry, they’re not “illegals.” They’re people. Individuals who have heeded the call to come to America for a better life, just as so many of our family members did—from so many different countries, not so many years ago. Waves of Greeks, Irish, Italians, Poles, Germans in the early 20th century; Vietnamese, Cambodians, those from south of the border.

AP BOOKWords matter. In all my years as an editor, if I haven’t learned anything else, at least I’ve learned to refer to my trusty Associated Press Stylebook, the industry standard, whenever there’s a question about usage of a word or phrase.

AP It has a lengthy section on illegal immigration that includes: “Except in direct quotes essential to the story, use illegal only to refer to an action, not a person: illegal immigration, but not illegal immigrant. Acceptable variations include living in or entering a country illegally or without legal permission.

Except in direct quotations, do not use the terms illegal alien, an illegal, illegals or undocumented.”

Yesterday, individuals seeking a better life gave up everything and traveled to America from Europe; today from Latin America; tomorrow from who knows. The sum total of these individuals has added much to our American culture, but still the “us” vs. “them” continues, as so many seem to forget just how they became Americans, too.

NOTE: The use of the dehumanizing language—of referring to people as “illegals”—is so offensive to so many in the community, that a protest has been scheduled for Thursday at 6 pm at De la Guerra Plaza. Click here for the Facebook Event page to stop biased and irresponsible journalism.

About that Ugly Christmas Sweater…

By Cheri Rae

cherilogo-150x150I confess: way before it was hip and cool to raid thrift stores for the most garish Christmas clothing, I bought one. And wore it. For years and years and years.

It was a memorable purchase: I found it on vacation in Bermuda, of all places, where I had travelled with my husband-to-be, the hiking islophile. It was just before Christmas, 27 years ago, when we visited the pink beaches, hiked the entire length of the island on the Bermuda Railway Trail, and did the typical tourist shopping scene.

uglysweaterBermuda, a former British colony, still imports fine woolens from Mother England. I remember entering the quaint and classy shop and examining the goods. Since it was the holiday season, it seemed like just the thing to do: I found a woolen Christmas sweater vest complete with Santa, holly and bells; a Christmas tree, gifts and stocking motifs all knitted in—even with some metallic gold thread accents here and there.

I didn’t even wait to return home to wear it: I put it on to attend the local Christmas parade down the main street of downtown Hamilton. Since the parade was just a block long, once it passed by, everyone rushed to the next street over to watch it on its return trip.

I’ve worn it to family gatherings and packed it for out-of state holiday visits, I knew that one group of sleek and chi-chi relatives in LA snickered at my buying into such a hokey style—and actually wearing it—and I really didn’t care. My husband and I joked that they considered us “the bumpkins” for engaging in the silliness of the season.

When they were babes in arms, that crazy-busy Christmas sweater calmed my children and kept them warm and happy. They loved discovering the face of Santa, tracing the hearts and ribbons on the gift boxes as they snuggled close. It always made them happy to see that sweater pulled out of the storage box, knowing of the holiday fun that was sure to follow.

It was my go-to garment to dress up a turtleneck and a pair of jeans throughout many Decembers—worn to the annual State Street Christmas parade; the

hushed ceremonial walking of the evergreen spiral at the Waldorf School; the joyful Festival of Lights at Open Alternative School; the enchanting Santa Barbara High School Madrigal performances; evening drives to look at the lights in local neighborhoods, ending up at that jumbled-up, lit-up house of Santa on Anacapa Street.

With a long velvet skirt, I’ve worn it to Christmas pageants at church; sing-a-longs at the Mission; visiting the Living Nativity at the First Methodist Church; Christmas Eve services and the Nutcracker ballet. I even wore it once on television to present a check at the Unity Shoppe telethon (then called the Council of Christmas Cheer) on behalf of St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church. I handed the big check to Peter Noone, trying not to swoon by thinking too much about how much I loved Herman’s Hermits in my teen years—and here he was in person. Since I brought my then-little girl with me, he actually crooned, “…You’ve got a lovely daughter…”

That Christmas sweater vest has been a part of our family’s holiday tradition since before we were a family. And when my kids grew into their teen years, they cringed at most everything I did, throughout the year, no matter what I wore. Still, they good-naturedly indulged my wearing of the outfit. Now that they’re both taller than me, they just sort of roll their eyes at good ol’ mom.

Besides, I’m responsible for most of the shopping, the cooking and the baking, and they’re smart enough to realize that.

The only thing about that sweater that’s faded is the writing on the label: it reads “Designed by Deans of Scotland Expressly for Trimingham’s of Bermuda, reminding me always of its origins so far away, so long ago. I just learned that the shop, established in 1842, closed up in 2005; nothing lasts forever.

Now it’s been categorized as just another “ugly Christmas sweater,” an ironic, hip trend that’s the theme of parties, luncheons and other holiday get-togethers. I hesitate to wear it now as part of an in-joke. I don’t want anyone pointing and laughing, terming it hideous and awful. I know what it looks like. Call me crazy, but that boxy, loud, colorful, sometimes itchy Christmas sweater—with all its memories embedded over the years—is anything but ugly to me.

New Directions: Travel Opportunities for Everyone

By Cheri Rae

cherilogo-150x150Thirty years ago, when spirits were high, many members of the Adult Residential Program at Devereaux prepared to spend the holidays off-campus, where they would celebrate with family and friends.

But Dee Duncan, who worked at the facility at the time, looked around and saw something amiss. A small group of residents with mild to moderate developmental disabilities had no place to go—and would be alone at the very time of year when most people gather together.

That’s when she got into action with a bold plan that would take her life in a different direction—along with the lives of thousands of clients for decades. She decided to take that group to Disneyland.

“At the holidays, you can’t have people spending it alone,” she reflects in the calm and peaceful surroundings of the backyard garden of her lovingly restored Craftsman bungalow. That’s just the kind of person Duncan is—a kind, thoughtful and imaginative innovator who does things first-class, at home, in business and in her own enthusiasm for travel.

logo2When she first had that brainstorm—the very beginning of New Directions Travel for people with disabilities—the first group of participants hadn’t had much opportunity to experience the freedom of travel or to spend holidays in a joyful, loving environment with others who cared for them.

But Duncan was determined to change that and do something special for them. She called it the Holiday Happiness Program. Three decades, and 12,000 New Directions participants later, that initial foray to the happiest place on earth has expanded to all kinds of adventures around the world.

If Las Vegas, Hawaii, The Grand Canyon and New York City aren’t exciting enough, how about Australia, Israel, Japan and even Galapagos Islands? And these travelers aren’t content to stay on a tour bus—they enjoy adventurous activities like hot air ballooning, surfing, snorkeling and river rafting. Just like everyone else.

newdirectionsThey stay in upscale accommodations, dine in fine restaurants and enjoy shopping sprees, visiting local attractions, meeting new people and making new friendships while traveling. Just like everyone else.

Let’s face it: dealing with all the uncertainty that travel brings can be stressful for anyone. To ensure that New Directions trips go off without a hitch, Duncan relies on a well-trained, highly experienced team of tour guides that accompanies every group. They may range from a ratio of 1:1 to 1:4 participants to guide. Traveling in these small groups allows more personalized, attentive services and a low-key non-touristy experience.

But Duncan stresses that the real secret to New Directions’ success is an approach that treats participants with “total respect.” And as great as the opportunity is for enhanced self esteem and expanded horizons that travel offers participants in the program, there’s another essential benefit: The general public learns so much when they see New Directions clients living full and active lives. Just like everyone else.

For more information about New Directions, Inc. call (805) 967-2841 or visit
Originally published in the Winter 2014-15 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine,