Author Archives: Jessica Johnson

Michelle Nicely

Written by Jessica Johnson

Growing up in Dallas, Texas, Michelle Nicely knew early on she wanted to live on the Central Coast, ” I have written about and manifested living here since I was about 15,” she said. It was her early exposure to books about “far out” people and places published by Berkeley Press that intrigued her and set her soul on a journey from the heart of Texas to the heart of the Central Coast.

Please join Santa Cruz Socialites in congratulating our Woman of the Week – the artist Michelle Nicely.

Michelle’s first trip to California came at the age of 16, when she went to Long Beach for a co-worker’s wedding. She stayed for three weeks, crashing at a friend’s place and, as she puts it, “living on peanut butter and jelly until my $120 ran out.”

Michelle returned home to Texas and went on to earn her MFA and a certification in special education from the University of Texas. A painter from an early age as well as a talented photographer, Michelle moved to Los Angeles after college with dreams of making a living by photographing movie stars’ children. However, with her painting background, she quickly discovered she could earn a good living as a freelance painter on movie sets.

Eventually, she worked her way up to Art Director and Production Designer roles and was admitted into the Art Director’s Guild. Her work took her all over the world and even to Dharamsala for a documentary about the Dalai Lama – whom she met and received a blessing from.

Michelle also found success working on music videos. In fact, a video she worked on with the Backstreet Boys won an MTV Award as Best Music Video in 1999. However successful she was, she was still in LA, and the Fates had something else in mind for her. Unfortunately, it involved broken bones.

“I fell off a ladder and crushed my left foot,” she recalled. The forced extended hiatus from Hollywood led her to the Monterey Bay to follow her dream to open an art gallery. While setting up the gallery in Big Sur she taught Special Education in Monterey.  Some of her teaching friends decided to set her up on a blind date. Michelle had a Grateful Dead sticker on her luxury car and Daniel had one on his, so they must be a good match, reasoned her friends.

They were right.

Dan had lived in Santa Cruz since 1995 and sang its praises to Michelle, finally convincing her to move to “this really groovy place with lots of sun.” That was 13 years and two children ago.

Today, Michelle’s life is all about creating, teaching, and researching. She is a painter, writer and a “doer.” Deeply proud of the life she and Dan have created for their family, she still blushes when she talks about her husband. “I have a wonderful husband that I adore, and we have a son and daughter that envelop us,” she shared. “I put my family first in all my choices, they are the creative force for my actions.”

Michelle has some exciting projects in the works, including a recent gig as the Art Director for a Public Service Announcement for Monterey called “Roll with the Tide” that will soon be airing nationally. She has also recently been contacted about working on a movie slated to film in Pacific Grove.

Another project Michelle is excited about is opening a retreat center in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Situated on three acres, the center will be available for private bookings starting this summer. The retreat is a logical extension of her work as a creator of communities that bring people together in the spirit of growth and discovery. “I really enjoy connecting people,” she shared.

In talking with Michelle, it is abundantly clear she is super passionate about living life at “120%” – her vibration is high and she thrives on creating art, connection, and joy. Whether through her personal artwork, creating murals with other artists, or decorating her family’s downtown B & B, Michelle Nicely is an active participant in Santa Cruz Socialites events and believes in supporting women and the community with “a little love and sophistication thrown into the mix!”

Congratulations, Michelle Nicely, we are so happy you followed your heart to Santa Cruz and are proud to honor you as our Woman of the Week!

www.MichelleNicely.com

Thank you to our fabulous blogger: Jessica Johnson

Kimberly Ramirez

Written by Jessica Johnson

In every neighborhood, the corner store is the hub – the spot for the latest gossip, late night ice-cream runs and that essential cup of morning joe. Deke’s Market on 7th Avenue is all that – and more. What makes Deke’s special is the family behind the business and this week, Santa Cruz Socialites is happy to introduce you to our Woman of the Week, , one of the dedicated partners behind the popular market.

After growing up in Fresno, Kimberly put herself through school at Fresno State University, ultimately earning her BS in Mathematics. Post-graduation she landed in the Bay Area at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Space. “My first job out of college was designing satellite systems test programs for the department of defense,“ she recalled.

An education wasn’t all she got while at Fresno State, she also became close with Deke Ramirez, the man who would eventually become her husband. “We worked at the same restaurant in college,” Kim shared. “We would study together, graduated at the same time, and even moved to the Bay Area together.”

However, ultimately the fast-paced urban life didn’t suit her, and after frequently visiting her mother – who had moved to Santa Cruz – she fell in love with the town. She and Deke moved here and were married on the cliffs in La Selva Beach in 2000. “If I could live anywhere I would stay right here in Santa Cruz,” she said. “I love the small-town atmosphere, the people and the natural beauty. We hope to retire here; if at all possible.”

Kim and Deke went on to have two beautiful daughters, Jayden who is now 12 and 7-year-old Taylor. “My children are my inspiration,” said Ramirez. She loves coaching their sports teams, volunteering in their classrooms, and leading the family on adventures. “I love being happy and silly and smiling all the time.”

Ramirez is super passionate about life and always on the go. Between her kids, her work as an IT Project Manager for the City of Santa Cruz and volunteering, she is constantly busy – and likes it that way. “It feels like our girls are in every sport there is and we love spending weekends at their events and enjoying our wonderful friends,” she said.

When there is downtime, she and her family love to explore all that California has to offer, “Yosemite, Tahoe, Pismo, San Diego, San Francisco…everything is right here in California!” she said.

And yet, said Kimberly, Deke’s Market remains her family’s pride and joy. Ten years ago, she and her husband dove in head first and bought the business. “My husband and I, with no experience, took a failing business and turned it around to a true neighborhood market.  We love our customers and they love us.”

Last year, Deke’s Market and In Mah Belly Deli were awarded the Slingshot to Success Small Business Makeover Challenge which meant they won services from local businesses worth $59,000 including advertising, painting, signage, and marketing services and more.

“It was so uplifting to win the Makeover Challenge,” Kim said. “There are a lot of ups and downs owning a small neighborhood market. It has been a struggle at times, but the business is very personal to us and we really love it.”

Ramirez is quick to credit the community with their success, “The support and care that we receive every day gives us the strength to continue in the hardest of times,” she shared.

For inspiring us to persevere and smile while doing it – and for those killer deli sandwiches – we thank our Woman of the Week, Kimberly Ramirez!

Thank you to our fabulous blogger: Jessica Johnson, JOURNALIST. BLOGGER. POET.

Laura Davis

Written by Jessica Johnson

Photo credit: Jason Ritchey

Laura Davis is the author of seven non-fiction books, including The Courage to HealThe Courage to Heal WorkbookBecoming the Parent You Want to Be and I Thought We‘d Never Speak Again. Her books have been translated into 11 languages and sold more than 1.8 million copies. Davis is one of the most well-known writers in Santa Cruz and is known for her work helping people heal from trauma and for teaching them how to use writing as a tool for transformation.

Because of her soul-baring and encouraging work Santa Cruz Socialites is proud to honor Laura Davis as our Woman of the Week!

Born in New Jersey, Davis moved to Santa Cruz in her 20s after living in an ashram in Texas for several years and eventually “wandering from place to place and never feeling at home.” Like many before – and after – her, Santa Cruz lured her in. “There is a lot of freedom here,” she said. “Santa Cruz encourages the arts, creative people, and those who live a non-traditional lifestyle.”

Clearly, Davis has had enormous success as a writer. However, she has established herself as a gifted teacher of the craft as well. She offers highly regarded classes, workshops, and retreats for writers from around the world in locations near and far. Some of her retreat locations include Taos, New Mexico; Carmel Valley and Massachusetts. She also leads international writing adventures in places like Bali and Peru.

Laura’s writing classes are extremely popular and have earned a reputation as supportive, safe spaces for new and established writers. Davis offers weekly writing classes, weekly feedback groups, and one-day writing practice classes through Cabrillo College Extension. These groups are designed to help people connect with their own stories as well as with fellow writers and Davis welcomes all level of writers – from beginner to veteran.

Through her own experiences, both as a writer and a teacher, Davis has seen first-hand the transformative power of writing. “There is something powerful in sharing your stories in a safe and confidential circle,” she said. “You are heard in a very deep and meaningful way.”

So, whether you are interested in exploring your personal story through writing, or you are mid-way through penning your third book, Laura Davis has something for everyone and is more than happy to help her students find their voices and uncover their stories.

For her dedication to the power of the written word and for consistently holding a safe place for women to write their way to self-discovery, please join me in celebrating our Woman of the Week – Laura Davis!

For more information please visit www.LauraDavis.net

Thank you to our fabulous blogger: Jessica Johnson of Vinegar and Vanilla.

Linda Cover

Written by Jessica Johnson

Every once in a while, in the course of an interview, someone will say one thing that that embodies their heart and soul. Linda Cover did just that when she told me, “I love working with children, they are the souls of our universe.”

In one poetic line, Linda Cover managed to illustrate her passion, reverence, and deep dedication to the next generation.

For her work with children and contributions to the local arts scene – through her students’ work as well as her personal work – Santa Cruz Socialites is honored to introduce you to Linda Cover, our Woman of the Week!

Linda Cover fell in love with Santa Cruz over 40 years ago after having grown up in the suburbs of New York City. In her 20s – and convinced that NYC wasn’t the center of the universe –  Linda decided to “meander cross country” on her motorcycle. Eventually she found her way to Santa Cruz and fell in love with the Redwoods. She has been here ever since.

Living in Santa Cruz County, Cover is surrounded by inspiration and loves to work in and with the local community. Cover shares that she has always felt connected to the natural world, “whether it is the ancient forests and quiet springs or plants and bugs that find their way into the cracks of the urban landscape.”

That connection is sacred to her, and she has taken it upon herself to share that sense of wonder and magic with the children of Santa Cruz County. Currently, Cover teaches across the county as a SPECTRA artist in the public schools as well as through her own studio, Watershed Arts Studio, located at the Tannery Arts Center.

“At this time in my life, I am now the teacher who is passing on the knowledge I have gained from the many kinds of elders I have been fortunate to be with in my lifetime,” she said. To that end, Cover created a popular summer program for children from the ages of 6 -13 called Camp Tannery Art.

Each summer for the past several years “[the] artists who live and work here at the Tannery share their art expertise with the students. It is a marvelous taste of art genres from poetry to drumming, painting to dance,” she explained. Many of Linda’s students participate in local exhibits and events and have also won national and international acclaim for their work. Linda’s work with students earned her the 2007 River of Words Teacher of the Year, and the Su Job Award for Education in 2014.

Cover is dedicated to the health and wellbeing of the local natural environment and clearly believes in passing that respect on to her students.  “I believe in the ripple effect,” she says, “starting in my own backyard.” Her students regularly join her on monthly Riverwalk clean-ups and take part in other opportunities to better our community neighborhoods and parks as well.

Linda fills what time she has away from teaching by visiting her daughter in Thailand and creating her own art work. “I devote whatever little pockets of time I can gather to documenting the world around me in patterns, reflections, and interactions, through photography, printing and encaustic wax. Creating art gives me great joy and peace,” she shared.

Cover made her Open Studios debut last year and over the years her work has ranged from “video production to photography, collage to doodles, and murals to trash art” she says. Currently, she specializes in nature photos enhanced with materials like orange oil, pastels and charcoal. The final product is often stunning and evokes the vibrancy of the natural world.

For all she has done to improve our natural world – from the shores of the San Lorenzo River to the desks of young students in South County – Please join me in thanking Linda for fostering the growth of our next generation of artists!

Animal Art classes are available at the Watershed Art Studio every Tues. & Thurs. 4-5:30. This is a drop-in class ($10) for kids 5-13, students learn about and draw animals in our back yards and around the world, and the unique habitats and landscapes they call home.

Thank you to our fabulous blogger: Jessica Johnson of Vinegar and Vanilla.