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Synergy Business Connections Team - Conejo Valley Chamber Mixpo Event - 2018

Synergy Business Connections | Passionate People with Personality

This month, love is scheduled for the 14th, and you better be ready!  Social pressure and guilt are reserved for the unprepared.  When we were first married, my husband thought we would just stop in at a restaurant after work and celebrate.  It was a shock and disappointment when we discovered every restaurant in town had reservations and waiting lines until close to midnight.  Lesson learned: think ahead. So, some years we have deliberately celebrated the day before or after. 

Love is important and deserves to be celebrated more than one day a year but eating out or ordering long stem red roses can break the bank.  Still, it can be special even on a budget.  Here are seven ways to show your love (with or without a fancy restaurant reservation).

  1. Write a love note and put it on your Love’s computer, pillow or steering wheel.
  2. Cook (or order out) a favorite meal and eat it in front of the fireplace (with no TV on).
  3. Go for a walk together and afterward sit down and share a coffee, tea or hot chocolate.
  4. Do one of your Love’s normal chores (i.e. take out the trash, wash and dry the dishes) without being asked.
  5. Text a love note to your Honey in the middle of the day.
  6. Rent a movie (of the Lover’s choice) and snuggle together (provide a favorite snack).
  7. Fill a mason jar with Hershey Kisses and demonstrate a few!

The thing to always remember is that love, acceptance, trust and open relationships are precious gifts and need to be cultivated and celebrated regularly.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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  • 8 February 2019
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It’s already the first week of the new year and I haven’t landed on any resolutions yet.  My usual ones – lose 10 pounds, go to the gym more, read more books – seem like a repeat of last year and a cop out.  Plus, I normally stick to these for a few weeks and then quit.  My resolutions feel more like a guilty obligation rather than a life changing, driving force.

This morning someone asked me not what my new year’s resolutions are but what do I really want this year.  That question seems more significant than just going to the gym three times a week instead of two.  It made me stop and think “what do I really and truly want?”  My focus needs to be on importance rather than the superficial.

So this year I want to be more content with what I have, to enjoy at least one beautiful thing each day, to speak with kindness and patience when my first inclination is to condemn or hurt, to trust God to protect and provide instead of stressing with what I still need to do, to be calm, to be generous, to forgive myself without giving up on me, and to let go of my right to be right.

I still would like to lose 10 pounds, go more often to the gym and read thoughtful books.  But what I really want is to become a person of peace with myself, with others and with God. 

I challenge you to answer this question, “What do you really want this year?”  It’s worth the effort.

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  • 6 January 2019
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People are spiritual by nature; we search for reasons and purpose and meaning. There are mysteries we don’t understand and a whole universe we need to explore. Deep down, the drive to be better either compels or convicts us.

People are also creative by nature; the urge to make something new – to give birth – excites us. We secretly long to be inspired and to imagine what could be and long to give it voice.

But the spiritual search is easily overshadowed by the desire for daily comfort or security. And creativity can be lulled to sleep under the blanket of busyness and media noise. When either the spiritual or creative side is sublimated and ignored, we are diminished. The articulation of our feelings and communication of our beliefs often requires a different expression. Art.

But art is creative and needs time and space and risk. To be quiet and wait can be frightening; to face a blank piece of paper or canvas can be terrifying, but the possibility of a poem or painting or concerto or dance that represents meaning or injustice or peace is exquisite. Art can free the feelings and beliefs that are stuck inside. And the best news is that the process of creating art is the key. The product or end result might be spectacular and fetch a high price, or it might be mediocre and ignored by the world. It doesn’t matter because the act of doing and creating is what’s freeing! This is great news for everyone who thinks they’re not an artist.

Art also allows space to breathe and to focus on levels we don’t usually acknowledge. For me painting is what coaxes me to recognize my hesitation to grow, to formulate what are my passions and motivations, to celebrate my dependence and love of God, and to share these with the world. Art lets me create beauty and rejoice in who I am.

Art gives voice to spirituality and spirituality inspires art. It’s the process, the journey, that is magical. Where are you on this journey?

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  • 7 November 2018
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Have you ever said, “I’m not artistic; I can’t draw a stick figure”?  I have good news for you: stick figures are not the yard stick for art.  The world is full of opportunities to “do” art.  This month is National Wilderness Month (celebrating the 54th anniversary of the Wilderness Act), and there is such a thing as Earth Art or Land Art which allows all of us to be creative.  You can take a trowel and carve circles in the dirt and make art.

Earth Art began in the United States in the 1960s as a rejection of the traditional notion of confined galleries and museums where “true art” could be bought and sold and displayed.  It was an embrace of nature and a celebration of found objects as art and beauty.  The very transient nature of the designs were part of the art’s essence.

Because this creative expression couldn’t easily be displayed in galleries, it opened the experience to everyone.  Anywhere there were rocks or leaves a person could arrange art.  And this frees us all to be artists!  In my hallway by the front door, I have a large bowl with stones I’ve collected, and my grandchildren can’t resist stacking them into towers.  A farmer in Simi Valley can’t help but plow a happy face into his hillside next to the freeway.  I arrange smooth river rocks to flow between my flower beds.  On hikes through the hills, there are ledges of stacked stones inviting a peaceful thought.  All of these actions spring from our creative center.  This urge to assemble or organize or declare our presence is innate; it is the desire to proclaim who we are and that life matters and is good.


So, have fun with nature and rocks and dirt; leave your fingerprint on your surroundings and know that you are a creative and artistic soul (and forget about drawing a good stick figure).

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  • 16 September 2018
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It’s Back to School time and with budgets tightening, the arts sometime get squeezed out. But I think downplaying art in school is a critical factor contributing to less effective education.  We retain approximately 10 percent of what we see; 30 to 40 percent of what we see and hear; and 90 percent of what we see, hear, and do.  Incorporating art in school and throughout life is key to growth.  Plus, it’s just more fun.

As I have taught visual art to kids, I’ve recognized at least six ways children benefit from art.

  1. Creativity – Trying new mediums and techniques, imagining different ways to portray a picture, mixing colors and exploring the results, connecting or juxtaposing unrelated objects, all lead students into discovery.
  2. Focus/attention – Thomas Merton said, “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” Listening, thinking, and concentration are heightened in an art project.
  3. Cooperation – Working with other students on a project fosters contribution, acceptance and respect for another’s input.
  4. Problem solving and Decision making – Factoring and filtering different options and problem solving are almost always part of creating something new.
  5. Accomplishment/completion – The satisfaction of closure or finishing a project contributes to positive self-esteem.
  6. Self-confidence – An “individual’s trust in his or her own abilities, capacities, and judgments, or belief that he or she can successfully face day to day challenges and demands (Psychology Dictionary Online)” is integral in accepting feedback and criticism as a positive step to improvement.

Schools are beginning to realize the value of art integration in all subjects, and many are seeing stellar results from it.  Wiley H Bates Middle School in Annapolis, Maryland, “started implementing arts integration school wide in 2009… (and) has seen a 23 percent drop in the average number of referrals and suspensions per student. The school’s percentage of students proficient or advanced in math has grown four times more than the state’s over the same period, and five times more in reading.” (  When schools commit to integrating art, the statistics have proven the positive results.  But can they also help when a person has finished school?  Yes!

The benefit of art in adult life is staggering too.

  1.  Learning styles: We learn in different ways – by sight, hearing, or doing – and creating art is basic in all the learning styles.
  2. Cross cultural connection: Art is a universal language and communicates cross culturally, strengthening our similarities and sharing our values.
  3. Verbal and non-verbal articulation: It allows us to express emotions, relieve stress, problem solve, use imagination and experience fun.

The excuse that there isn’t enough time to be creative solidifies the decision to stop learning and growing.  Art continues to be a foundation in learning for both adults and children.  It’s the end of summer and with school starting, there is opportunity to recognize art’s value in life for all of us.

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  • 1 August 2018
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“Join or Die” was Benjamin Franklin’s call to arms during the American Revolution. His cartoon, first published May 9, 1754, in the Pennsylvania Gazette, was a rallying challenge for the colonies. The visual impact of a severed snake jolted the colonists to action against the British iron rule and led to years of uprising, fighting but eventful freedom. Image and words were the catalysts.

A revolution starts because change is needed – the American Revolution and Civil War were political revolts, but civil problems of poverty and discrimination have also started revolutions. Words and symbols grab peoples’ attention and can be vehicles to ignite passion and action. Art uses color and images that spark a visceral response, whether emotional or physical, for action against injustice. It can give people concrete forms and pictures to rally around, highlighting larger principles. Art can also be an external representation of internal feelings, spurring action in a “so what”, apathetic culture. It can spark imagination just as effectively as it can inspire hope for a better future. Art is a powerful force to engage people with truth.

As you remember our freedom this month, consider the power art can be in society and in your own life.

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  • 2 July 2018
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Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”  The door to possibilities is imagination.  It’s the “what could be” dream.  And art is the creative language that encourages and expands imagination.  Painting, drawing, sculpting and other art forms help people process feelings and emotions by focusing attention and concentration; adults can reduce stress and anxiety or express joy and passion through art; children can communicate internal feelings when they can’t find words.  And the simple act of creating something personal can bring a sense of self confidence and pride. But the primary killer of creativity for both children and adults is fear of failure and ridicule.  Creativity is a vulnerable choice so foster it with care and give it importance.

This summer, plan fun and exciting art activities for the kids.  I’ve listed several ideas that might help stimulate your artistic imagination.  Have fun!

  1. Raised salt painting: heavy paper (card stock), white glue, table salt, water colors/brush.  Squeeze a design on the paper with the glue; pour salt on the glue; with a brush and water colors touch the salt and watch the color spread.
  2. Water color resist: heavy white paper, white crayon or oil pastel, water color/brush. Draw a picture or design in white on paper.  Paint over design/picture with water colors and see the design appear.
  3. Shaving cream marbling: pie plate, shaving cream, acrylic paint colors, heavy paper. Fill pie plate with shaving cream, drip drops of paint into cream and swirl with a chop stick or small spoon; lay paper on cream and press down to contact with cream.  Lift off paper and scrape off excess cream.  Let dry and then draw picture with a sharpie on paper.
  4. Rock painting: river rocks, acrylic paint, brush. Paint rocks like animals (ladybugs, cat faces etc) or make designs with different color dots. Dry
  5. Clay sculpture: self-hardening clay, paint. Make coil baskets, snakes, beads for necklaces, etc. let dry and then paint.
  6. Tissue paper collage: heavy paper, different colors tissue, starch or diluted white glue, brush. With a pencil, lightly draw an animal or design, tear tissue into smaller pieces and apply to drawing. Dry
  7. Batik oil pastel painting: brown wrapping paper (grocery bag), oil pastels or crayons, watered down black acrylic paint. Draw your picture on the brown paper, color it in with oil pastels or crayons (press firmly and cover design).  Crumple the paper, unfold it and with watered down black acrylic, paint entire paper (the black will go into the creases and make it look like batik).
  8. Paint anything with acrylic paints…kids and adults love to play with color or copy a favorite simple picture.

This summer, have fun with the kids…try something new and let your imagination fly!

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  • 1 June 2018
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My mother was a Southern lady from Virginia who taught me how a lady should act and the value of who I am.  She modeled integrity, faithfulness and love, and I learned so much from her.

10 Things I learned from my mother

  1. Always be on time or a little early – arriving late shows disrespect for others’ time
  2. Sing when you’re sad – it’s hard to be focused on your problems when you’re singing
  3. Make up your bed every morning – it sets a good habit of putting everything where it belongs before your whole world is out of order
  4. Give money when the offering plate is passed and share with anyone in need – generosity is the antidote to greed
  5. Wake up early for quiet time – once the day starts, it’s hard to carve out the most important part of the day
  6. It’s nicer to smell a rose than a garbage pile – fill you mind and thoughts with good rather than bad
  7. Don’t “sit on your manners” – always say please and thank you and let others go through the door first
  8. Wear lipstick when you go to the grocery store – it’s not hard to look your best…always
  9. Know the story of Great Grandma’s hutch – your family and past generations are who you are and connect you to history
  10. Love God with all your heart and show that love to everyone else

These are great standards to live by, and I see my mother clearly when I read them. But they also inspire me to think what I want to pass along to my children.  So here goes…

10 Things I hope my children learn from me

  1. Laugh at yourself – you are not perfect and that’s OK (everyone else already knows that about you)
  2. Eat breakfast together – family time is sweet and more precious than we realize
  3. Treat others with respect and kindness – this includes your spouse
  4. Always share with others less fortunate – even when we feel poor, we are 99% richer than the rest of the world
  5. Happiness is a choice – let go of hate and anger because they are more poisonous to you than to their target
  6. Put things away after you use them – it’s easier to keep chaos away before it overwhelms you
  7. Wake up early to be quiet and give space to hear God speaking – it is worth silencing our “mind chatter”
  8. Control is an illusion – we are not as in control of life as we think so trust God with each day and the future
  9. Look for the good in people – we are all made in the image of God and it is special to get a glimpse of his face in others
  10. Love God with all your heart and show that love to everyone else

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom

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  • 5 May 2018
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When I got my first computer in 1987, I was told it could simplify and speed up the mundane activities of my life – I would have more time to dream and paint and commune with nature.  Today, the reality is that I don’t have more free time – my schedule is usually consumed by that technology.   With emails, work deadlines, Facebook, Instagram et al. I am tempted to react and respond to the world without getting outside and moving.

This Sunday, April 22nd, is Earth Day, a day set apart in 1970 to honor the earth and the concept of peace.  I’ve been thinking about my personal peace and the consequences of sitting with the computer against the benefits of being in nature and interacting with art. At first, the relationship between nature and art appears nice but not necessarily close; in reality, they are very similar.  Studies show that spending time outside in nature can change people from being depressed, angry, fearful, stressed or anxious to a more calm and balanced feeling, lowering blood pressure, heart rate and stress hormones.  When we concentrate on a flower, a bee or a breath-taking sunset, we can’t focus as much on pain allowing instead for increased creativity and connections with other people.

But what about art?  By “viewing” art our physical bodies can be improved in lower cortisol stress levels just as they are with nature.  But “doing” art is even more beneficial as it also increases brain activity.  Studies show that in older adults, participation in art builds connections in the brain which help prevent memory loss.  Concentrating on anything artistic can clear your mind of negative thoughts, helping you to focus on the moment, relaxing the body and brain.  Many times, a painter will say to me that they can’t believe how relaxing painting is and their concentration and focus shuts out other concerns.  But if your art doesn’t compare to Van Gogh, the good news is that Harvard Medical School found it doesn’t matter what your artwork looks like, it’s the process not the product that matters!

Earth Day is a terrific reminder of the need to get away from the computer and take a hike, paint a picture, stroll along the beach or go to a museum.  My vote is to invite some friends over and have a painting party…Blank Canvas knows just how to inject some creativity into your event.


  1. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Volume 2014 (2014), Article ID 834360, 7 pages,
  2. The benefits of nature experience: Improved affect and cognition, Gregory N.Bratman, Gretchen C.Daily, Benjamin J.Levy, James J.Gross,
  3. Creativity in the Wild: Improving Creative Reasoning through Immersion in Natural Settings, Ruth Ann Atchley, David L. Strayer, and Paul Atchley , Jan de Fockert, Editor, PLoS One. 2012; 7(12): e51474.
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  • 18 April 2018
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Art is a risky hobby.  There it is. It’s true.

As soon as you start to paint or draw or sculpt or sing, someone is going to make a comment on what they think of it.  If it’s a positive compliment, you feel justified as a person; if it’s negative, they have just put a dagger through your soul.  It’s hard to be creative and be objective and secure because if you do art with openness and feeling, it is a mirror to who you are.

For me, art can be just a painting that I think is pretty.  But if I really am honest with my feelings and paint something that reflects my inner conviction or growth, that painting can be like exposing my innermost thoughts, feelings or motivations to the world.  It feels dangerous and risky; I am vulnerable.   So what should I do?  Not paint? Not try art? Ignore any creativity?

No!  Not trying anything creative is like shutting the door on a universe of excitement and discovery. We all have feelings and emotions we’re not even aware of and occasionally, art can be that window that opens your real self to you.

Art can be a great time of fun.  But sometimes it can surprise you with YOU.

Art is a risky thing.  Go for it!

Go to and dare to meet yourself in art.

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  • 21 March 2018
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«December 2019»

01/02/2020 - DARK-Synergy Business Connections - Networking Group

This Synergy Business Connections meeting on January 2nd is canceled due to the Winter holiday. Meetings will resume on Thursday, January 7th.  For more information please visit

Synergy Business Connections is a Premier Business Networking group for Chamber members at the Greater Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce.

  • Meets 1st and 3rd Thursday from 10:00-11:00 A.M.​
  • This group is "Category Exclusive" meaning one member per business category
  • It offers a unique and very lively "open forum" format that invites every member to contribute to the conversation.
  • ​​In addition to bi-monthly meetings, members are assigned a "Troika" (meet for coffee) with 2-3 other members
  • Meeting discussions include: technology, sales, marketing and educational topics of interest to the local business community
  • Alternating meetings include Synergy member presentations and outside speakers.
The first meeting is FREE to attend. *Non-Members are welcome to visit one meeting. Chamber members are allowed to join one networking group.  

Before attending a meeting, please contact Networking Group Leader with any questions you may have and to reserve your space. 

Debbie Soden
Group Leader

Synergy Business Connections
(805) 300-0936 

Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage 

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1/2/2020 9:45 AM

Synergy Business Connections Networking Group Meeting - First Thursday

Join us for the first meeting of the month. Please try to arrive by 9:45am for a prompt start at 10:00am.

The Conference Room at the Greater Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce, 600 Hampshire Road, Suite #200, Westlake Village, CA 91361

Join Us / Register

Location: Greater Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce

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Synergy Business Connections helps businesses grow through relationship marketing and we follow the exclusive category format with one member per Conejo Chamber of Commerce business sub-category. Your business sub-category appears on your Conejo Chamber profile page, right under your business name, to see if your category is eligible. We welcome you to join us at a meeting as our guest to experience the Synergy network for yourself.

Member News


Pay attention to how your use clause is written in your lease.  If you don’t, it could come back to haunt you and cost you in many ways. 

Although all tenants need to pay attention to this and make sure the use clause is written correctly, retail tenants need to do this the most.  Imagine you are a retail tenant and you sell a food item, for instance, coffee, as part of your menu.  How do you make sure you always have the right to sell coffee under the terms of your lease?  It’s not as simple as it sounds.  And what if you don’t want other tenants to have the right to sell coffee?  This is where the exclusive use clause comes in.

It is my opinion that a tenant should have a broad use clause.  Example:  “Tenant shall have the right to sell food products”.  That way, the tenant has the right to pretty much sell any type of food product.  But for a landlord, it would be better to limit the use clause to something like “ Tenant shall only have the right to sell coffee and coffee-related drinks”.   In practice, savvy landlords and tenants end up writing the use clause somewhere in between the aforementioned two options.

The exclusive use clause is different than the usual use clause and adds to it in that it should prohibit or severely limit another tenant from selling your main product.  But again, how the exclusive clause is written is of paramount importance.  Example:  “Tenant shall have the exclusive right to sell coffee at the Project” and it might add “except for up to 10% of another’s tenant’s gross income” or something like that with more details for clarification.

The above examples are for retail tenants but the same principle holds true for office, industrial or other types of leases also.  If these clauses aren’t written just right you can have a legal battle on your hands and if the clauses weren’t crafted correctly you probably won’t win the battle so I urge great caution.

I have written and studied thousands of use clauses and make it a priority for my clients to do it right.

If you have questions about any of the above topics or have any CRE needs, please contact David Massie at or 805-217-0791

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  • 15 September 2016
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Synergy Business Connections

Please read more about the rules and guidelines for our group.  

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  • 7 April 2015
  • Number of views: 2936

Some messages from our group...

What makes the Conejo Valley special, unique or interesting?

I like to call Thousand Oaks "the biggest little town in the country." Even though its size is well over 100,000 residents, it still has a small town feel. You are liable to see someone you know every time you go out. I also like the fact that it has protected itself from the blight that has ruined so many other communities in Southern California by restricting things such as billboards, building structure and height, paid parking lots, and corner strip malls. 

— Cary Ginell - VC On Stage