Sofia Magazine February 2020

Page 1

February 2020

for Today’s Woman

Ingrid Cole Co-proprietor Baked Pie Company Woodfin

Kirsten Fuchs Owner Baked Pie Company

Pink Power | Get Crackin' | Love Stories

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Happy Valentine's Day Publisher Tammy Sheppard

Art Director / Web Design Tina Gaafary

For Advertising Inquiries Mike Demos 828.273.0098 Trish Luzzi 828.423.0248

from the staff of SOFIA!

Contributing Writers Natasha Kubis Lavinia Plonka Peggy Ratusz Betty Sharpless JeanAnn Taylor Sandi Tomlin-Sutker Cheri Torres

Photographer Bren Dendy

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On the Cover

Kirsten Fuchs & Ingrid Cole

Baked Pie Company A Family Place for Everyone Page 5


The Physics of Love Lavinia Plonka

12 Sofia Style Fashion at your Fingertips JeanAnn Taylor 14 Heart Healthy Natasha Kubis 16 JeanAnn’s Journey Unbroken JeanAnn Taylor

18 Why is Good Communication so Elusive? Cheri Torres

20 Love Stories: Couples make sweet music together Peggy Ratusz

22 Treat Yourself to Year-Round Fresh Flowers Betty Sharpless

4 | February 2020

Photos by Bren Photography

Baked Pie Company's

Kirsten Fuchs & Ingrid Cole A Family Place for Everyone by Sandi Tomlin-Sutker


ne day in 2017, Kirsten and her daughter, Haley, were shopping in South Asheville and wanted to find a slice of pie and cup of coffee. “We couldn’t find anything, unless we wanted to go to the grocery store and get a whole pie!” This lack sparked the idea of opening her own pie shop. Kirsten had recently turned age 50, was running her own social media marketing company and wasn’t really passionate about it; however, the idea of running a little pie place resonated with her. “I was a home baker, loved baked goods (and I admit to being addicted to sugar!) and thought it would be great to have a place for locals to meet, relax and hang out.”

afraid to ask questions. “I also knew the kind of experience I wanted to have when I went into a restaurant.”

Kirsten had never worked in a restaurant, but had marketing and management experience working with Selina Naturally (aka, Celtic Salt); she had worked in retail as a teen, so had experience with inventory; and she was not

“I was scared, but I had faith. I’m a big believer that faith will get you far as long as you take the right steps. God will shut a door that needs to be shut or open a door that needs to be open. I just decided to ‘jump out of the

6 | February 2020

And the timing was right. A few years earlier, she and her husband were sitting next to an elderly gentleman at a wedding. In conversation, he told her that if she had the opportunity to change careers at age 50, he highly recommended doing that. It was a new idea to her, having grown up with parents who stayed with a single career all their lives. “The idea stuck with me that I could do something different, could try different things, and here I was at age 50. I told myself: ‘I’m gonna do it!’ “

plane.’ There were things I didn’t know but said, I’ll figure it out.” She found numerous experts who were all helpful, willing to guide her in whatever she needed to know next. She went to local consultant, Annice Brown, director of the NC Small Business & Technology Development Center (SBTDC) for advice and took a couple of her classes. Kirsten’s husband has his own business and she was able to tap into the expertise of his bookkeeper, as well. Doors opened and things fell into place. She found the South Asheville location and after just a few months, a woman asked her to look at some equipment in a spot in Woodfin. When Kirsten saw that there was a sink, a stove and a large open space, she thought, “Why don’t we open a shop here too; it’s north of downtown and has plenty of parking,” and it fit her idea of catering to the local community. “We love tourists, but we wanted a place where locals would

easily drive and park. It turns out rainy days are our busiest, so parking is important.” Her sister, Ingrid, decided to invest and move to Asheville to take over management of the Woodfin location. She even put her musical theatre acting career on hold for five years to do it. She brings a specific focus to the job: in addition to Baked Pie Company’s family orientation, she hosts a monthly “Queer Pie Night” at the Woodfin store. Both shops have created a comfortable space where women, and men alike, could meet, talk openly, and feel safe.

What Makes a Successful Business? 1. “Have a really good product. We don’t use any fillers. We do everything by hand, including the pie crusts. It’s what makes our pies taste like your grandmother’s pies. We have over 100 recipes we rotate through each day.” 2. Have fantastic customer service. “I notice when I go out how I’m treated. I want our customers to feel loved and noticed, and there’s no room for anything less. I won’t hire anybody who doesn’t have that personality; you can’t be shy around here either. We have many customers we know by name. It’s a real family feeling place!” There are other factors about Baked Pie Company that have made it a great success from the beginning. Take those 100 recipes for instance. “We rotate the pies through every day. The number one favorite of customers is the Honey Pecan pie so it’s on the menu each day. Fudge Brownie is the number one chocolate pie and it’s on the daily menu, as well. By popular request, we have added the Coconut Cream pie twice a week (Wednesdays and Saturdays); we sell out on those days.” They do seasonal pies like Strawberry Rhubarb in the spring and Peach Pie in the summer. If the strawberries look really good at the market, they make

and take with them. Now customers even bring their own stuffed animals to donate. We want everyone to feel good, transported to a time when they felt safe, in a real family atmosphere… eating pie.” She says she can tell first-time customers because they come in the door and stop; they look around, smell the pies, and are transfixed, smiling at the décor. “Everyone leaves here happy!”

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Pie. Kirsten gets ideas and brings those in to her team; her bakers come up with ideas for her to try. One of her assistant managers, Megan, who’s been with her from the beginning, came up with their popular Peanut Butter and Jelly pie. “Last week we had four new pies to try. I tried each of them, but if the taste doesn’t make my eyes roll back in my head, they aren’t passing. If they are bland or I can’t identify what’s inside, I send them back with my suggestions and they keep tweaking until we all agree that they are ready for the cases.” In addition to single pie slices, Kirsten came up with the idea of a Pie Flight: three smaller pie slices of your choice and a scoop of ice cream. “There are wine and beer flights, but we’d never heard of a pie flight, so we created it.” It’s a great way to sample different pies, share with friends, or take some home. And pie isn’t the only unique product for sale. The décor items, all for sale, are reminiscent of Kirsten’s grandmother’s house. “I love antiques and repurposing things, so I went out and bought antiques for both locations. They don’t have to be expensive; I go to estate sales, antique stores and thrift stores. Yesterday I went to Goodwill and bought 90 stuffed little beanie animals that go into our Magic Suitcase. Kids can pick out one to play with

Changing careers at age 50 turned out to be just the right thing for Kirsten. She recommends it to any woman (or man) who wants to try something new. “Just do it. It’s OK to try new stuff. There’s a phrase about ‘if it’s fearful, it must be right.’” She didn’t let her fear, or her age, stop her from creating this business. And she hopes her willingness to try new things will inspire her adult children to take more chances in life. Maybe her example will inspire you to take your own leap into the unknown! You can find your favorite pie at one of two locations: 4 Long Shoals Road, Arden NC 828-333-4366 50 N. Merrimon Avenue, Asheville, NC (Woodfin) - 828-210-9544

Sandi Tomlin-Sutker is a freelance writer and editor. Contact her at sts@ madison.main.

February 2020 |


By Lavinia Plonka


his morning, my husband Ron, obviously possessed, decided to make a stab at some of yesterday’s dirty dishes. He got as far as a wooden bowl. He picked up the obviously Asian, delicately painted bowl gingerly. His expression was reminiscent of someone who, on a casual walk through woods, stumbles upon an alien’s ray gun. Now this bowl was given to us almost five years ago, one of two with matching chopsticks, by a houseguest. Ron looks at me, holding the bowl, “Where does this go?” I stare at him. “What?” is my incredulous reply. I heard him. Of course I heard him. And I could simply say, “It goes on the display shelf next to its mate.” But I don’t. Sadist? Masochist? You be the judge. He’s now intently contemplating the chopsticks. He now knows, just from 8 | February 2020

The Physics of Love the timbre and nuance of my, “What?” that he’s supposed to remember this bowl. He’s supposed to know its history, its place in the house. He knows that his question has triggered Irate Condescending Female Syndrome. His mind is feverishly trying to decide whether to surrender, or attempt to rescue himself. He digs himself deeper. “These chopsticks. They match the bowl, don’t they?” I can barely contain myself. “Yes, dear, they are a set.” He ponders the little notch and hole, cleverly placed there by some underpaid laborer so that the chopsticks rest neatly on the bowl. After a couple of minutes of fiddling, he has them together. He glances, slightly desperately, around the kitchen. He does not want to ask me again, so he opens the cabinet where we keep bowls and starts to quietly put the bowl with the chopsticks in. “Not there!” I sputter, appalled at the

resemblance of my voice to Daffy Duck’s. He jumps back. “I know!” he protests. “I was uh, I was just rearranging the shelf in there, see?” He pulls out an ancient salad bowl, given to us as part of a set for our wedding forty one years ago. “I would never put this lovely, delicate, painted bowl in with these cracked, old things.” Now I have to prioritize my ire – how dare he call those lovingly oiled cherished walnut bowls cracked old things? But that would distract me from the more immediate game – the “you never remember anything game.” So I let go of the righteous indignation and zero in for the kill. “Well now, I think that bowl goes with the other bowl. Remember, we got two?” His eyes panic. “Two bowls? Of course, we have two bowls.” He is now whirling around the kitchen, bowl in hand, opening cabinets.

I stop him and lead him to the display shelves, placing the bowl next to its brother. “That’s where they’ve been. Remember? We decided they were too beautiful to hide away?” He stares at them. “Display. They’re display items. Why would I think of getting food bowls from a display shelf?” Somehow we have staggered and flailed together for years of riotous adventures, several teetering brinks and countless arguments over how to make the perfect cup of coffee. Our atomic dance of positive, negative, yes and no, right and wrong, I did, you did not, has kept us spinning in complex patterns that would make John Travolta’s character in Saturday Night Live dizzy. Friends often ask me how, in this age of broken marriages, Ron and I have managed to stay happily together. I sort of vaguely remember principles from physics that had to do with attraction, covalent bonds (or was that chemistry). My guess is that Ron’s and my cha cha through time, if shrunk to subatomic size would resemble exactly the atomic behavior of a bedroom slipper. Something cozy and familiar. An object that finds its way into unexpected places. (“Have you seen my bedroom slipper?” “Hey, how did this slipper get in the stove?”) But of course I have no way of proving that our relationship is a macrocosm of a slipper, so I concentrate on continuing to perfect my dance, and keep our relationship as cozy and unpredictable as I can. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned in trying to share my life with a human of the male persuasion. This is a very unscientific report, based on research with one subject. For a more exhaustive study on the vast gulf between male and female, don’t stop at books like Men are From Mars. There’s a vast literature writ-

ten by professionals who are eager to help confuse us further with titles like: Why Men Don’t Have A Clue and Women Always Need More Shoes (Barbara and Allan Pease) or 9 Secrets to Bedroom Bliss: Exploring Sexual Archetypes to Reveal Your Lover’s Passions, and Discover What Turns You On (by not one, but two PHDs – James Herriot and Oona Mourier) Books are wonderful, but experience is a marvelous teacher if you just recognize the lesson. The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, I saw a movie a while ago about a family that was so ordinary they were extraordinary. The husband so loved his wife’s cooking that no matter what she served he said, “My god! This is delicious! What is it?” “Ice cream.” “How’d you make it?” “I bought it at the grocery store.” “Brilliant!” Ron does that. I can make a tuna melt and he dives in with such joy, you’d think it was chateaubriand. Separate vacations. Nothing makes a man appreciate his wife more than sleeping on sheets he keeps forgetting to change for more than a week. Not to mention the fact that he’s lived on peanut butter and pizza all week. Which brings me to: Let them eat pizza. I used to try to provide for Ron’s meals when I traveled. Once I tried to be the perfect housewife by making and labeling meals. When I returned, the refrigerator was full of science projects and there was a pile of pizza boxes in the recycling. “Why didn’t you eat the food in the refrigerator?” I asked. “I couldn’t find anything,” was his reply. A friend of ours calls this MLD: Male

Looking Disorder. “If it’s not a beer bottle, we can’t recognize it,” he explained. I’ve decided that Ron just needs to go back to his roots periodically: pizza, peanut butter, turkey sandwiches. Then when I return, he is ready for risotto. Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned is: nagging gets you nowhere. We’re talking chromosomes here. There is undoubtedly a genetic predisposition to deafness when the line, “When are you going to….” is repeated. Here is my secret weapon: start doing whatever it is you wanted your husband to do. Loudly. Need a picture on the wall? Start with “Honey, I need your hammer and the picture hanger hooky things.” Want a table refinished? “So . . . I bought this highly toxic furniture stripper stuff and I’m going to re-do the table on the living room carpet.” Need new track lighting? “Hey, honey, I’ve got this light panel open and I’m wondering about these loose wires hanging out of the wall?” They can’t stand it. You will get instant results, guaranteed. Like any partner dance, there is one important rule: pay attention. Try not to step on each other’s toes. Remember that his moves mirror your own. Somewhere in the dance between negative and positive, electron and proton, yes and no, there is a nucleus, a center, and that is called love. Body language expert, Lavinia Plonka has taught The Feldenkrais Method for over 25 years. For more information, visit her at

February 2020 |


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February 2020 |


Sofia Style


at your Fingertips

By JeanAnn Taylor


nce upon a time, a lady would never, ever consider

gloves, when to take them off, and what to do when eating or

leaving her home without first slipping on a pair

shaking hands. Tip: A lady never takes off her gloves to shake

of outfit-matching gloves. In fact, no outfit was

hands unless meeting the President, First Lady, or high-rank-

complete without a lovely pair of this essential fashion acces-

ing church or government official. You may take them off for

sory. Sadly, while gloves will always be practical, stylish, and

dancing as it is more intimate to touch your partner's hand.

elegant, fashion gloves have lost favor in our casual-obsessed,

Now you know.

fast-fashion, contemporary-styled world.

The general rule for fashion gloves is that the shorter your

Gloves have a history that dates back to centuries ago, and

sleeves, the longer your gloves. Long gloves look elegant

they have been worn for many reasons: protection, commu-

with strapless gowns, while short gloves look best with long

nication, religious ceremonies, and to symbolize social status.

sleeves. Types of fashion gloves include:

Most recently, they were at the height of fashion during the

Wrist length gloves, sometimes called shorties, hit at or slight-

1950s when women were focused on feminine style. Wearing white gloves was always an option, but women who wanted to look ultra-fashionable chose gloves to match the color of their outfit. Glove etiquette was also important and taught to young girls by their mothers as well as in home economics classes in high school. Girls were taught when to wear

12 | January 2020

ly above the wrist bone. This glove is considered more casual and appropriate for daytime wear. Gauntlet gloves are dramatic with their turned-up cuff pointing outward. They may be wrist length or go part way up the forearm. The cuff is often made from a different material or color from the finger portion of the glove.

Classic, sometimes called bracelet

winter and most of us own a pair or

Gloves come in many varieties of

gloves, hit mid-way on the forearm.

two. Modern gloves can be made from

materials including leather, silk, satin,

They often have ruching, which allows

materials that insulate and keep hands

wool, acrylic, plastic, and lace. You can

the wearer to shorten or lengthen the

dry; some gloves even have heating

find gloves specifically designed for

glove as desired.


sports, driving, gardening, cooking, or

Elbow length gloves hit at the elbow and

A current popular style is the fingerless

dishwashing. There are practical gloves

are most often worn for evening events.

glove. You may think this smart inven-

with flaps to cover and uncover fingers

Evening or opera gloves are a more

tion was designed for texting; howev-

and fancy gloves with embroidery, and

formal style of elbow gloves. They often

er, fingerless gloves date back to the

beadwork. I keep a pair of “gas-pump�

feature embroidery or a row of small

early Romans and Greeks. Remember,

gloves in my car to protect my hands


homes were not as warm and cozy as

while pumping gas. Although gloves are

they are now, so wearing gloves inside

not all the rage they once were, they will

allowed women to continue working on

always be functional and fashionable.

projects such as embroidery and other

Style expert JeanAnn Taylor can be

hand-stitching. These fingerless gloves


also allowed them to show off their


Although gloves are no longer a fashion must, or come with strict fashion rules, they do remain a practical wintertime accessory. Gloves keep our hands warm and protected from the elements of

flashy rings.

February 2020 |


Heart Healthy By Natasha Kubis


ccording to the Center of Disease Control, about 647,000 Americans die from heart disease each year—that is one in every four deaths. The American Heart Association states that a healthy diet and lifestyle choices may reduce your risk of heart disease by 80%. February is National Heart Month and it is the perfect time to review your lifestyle and make heart healthy choices.

Fat Facts We need healthy fats in our diet, but not all fats are created equal. One fat we do not need is trans fat. Trans fats are industry-produced fats often used in packaged goods, snack foods, cakes, margarines, and fast foods in order to add flavor and texture. They are known to increase your risk of developing heart disease or having a stroke and should be avoided. 14 | February 2020

• T rans fats are made when food manufacturers turn liquid oils into solid fats like shortening or margarine. Animal foods, such as red meats and dairy, have small amounts of trans fats, but most trans fats come from processed foods and those are the ones of which to be the most wary.

While trans fats serve no purpose but to give processed foods a longer shelf life and raise your cholesterol, healthy fats may help lower your risk of heart disease, if you eat them in place of unhealthy fats. Monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat are considered more heart healthy fats.

• Y our body does not need or benefit from trans fats. They raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol and they also lower your HDL (good) cholesterol. High LDL along with low HDL levels can cause cholesterol to build up in your arteries. This increases your risk for heart disease and stroke.

Monounsaturated fats help lower "bad" (LDL) cholesterol and raise "good" (HDL) cholesterol. Sources include canola, olive, and peanut oils, olives, avocados, nuts, and nut butters.

• E ating too much trans fat can cause you to gain weight and may also increase your risk for type 2 diabetes. Staying at a healthy weight can reduce your risk for diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems.

Polyunsaturated fats are known as essential fats because the body cannot make them and needs them from food sources. Omega-3 fatty acid is an example and it can help lower triglycerides, a type of fat that clogs arteries. Sources include fish (such as tuna, salmon, mackerel, trout, herring, and sardines), ground flaxseed and flaxseed oil, soybeans, walnuts, and seeds. To get more

omega-3 fatty acids, have fish twice a week, add ground flaxseed to cereals, soups, and smoothies, or sprinkle walnuts on salads. Saturated fats, primarily found in animal products, have been linked with increased heart disease risks. This idea has been recently debated and the conclusion is to eat it sparingly and in moderation. Foods high in saturated fat are fatty cuts of beef, pork, lamb, high-fat dairy foods (whole milk, butter, cheese, sour cream, ice cream), and tropical oils (coconut oil, palm oil, cocoa butter).

blood pressure, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Reducing sodium is an important part of a heart-healthy diet and can be done by cutting the amount of salt you add to food at the table or while cooking. Much of the salt you eat comes from canned or processed foods, such as soups, baked goods, and frozen dinners. Eating fresh foods or making your own soups and stews can reduce the amount of salt you eat.

Tips For Eating Well • A dd more fruit and vegetables. These are low in calories and rich in dietary fiber. Eating more fruits and vegetables may help you cut back on higher calorie foods, such as meat, cheese, and snack foods. Grabbing a handful of baby carrots, instead of crackers, is always a good idea. • G o for the grains. Whole grains are good sources of fiber and other nutrients that play a role in regulating blood pressure and heart health. A whole grain still contains its endosperm, germ, and bran, in contrast to refined grains, which retain only the endosperm. This is the major difference between brown rice and white rice. Some examples of whole grains are barley, brown rice, buckwheat, bulgur (cracked wheat), millet, and oatmeal. • E at lean. Lean meat, poultry, fish, legumes, and eggs are some of your best sources of protein. Fish is a good alternative to high-fat meats. Legumes — beans, peas and lentils — also are good sources of protein, contain less fat, and no cholesterol. Substituting plant protein for animal protein will reduce your fat and cholesterol intake while increasing your fiber intake. It may be great to add a couple of “meat free” days to the week and add in a homemade veggie burger or a lentil loaf. • R educe the sodium in your food. Eating a lot of sodium can contribute to high

Get Moving A sedentary lifestyle is one of the top risk factors for heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends fitting in at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of heart-pumping physical activity per week. This activity serves to strengthen your heart and cardiovascular system by improving your circulation, helping your body use oxygen better, increasing endurance, lowering blood pressure, helping reduce body fat, and maintaining your weight. It is also a key way to help you reduce stress, tension, anxiety, and depression. Brisk walking, running, swimming, cycling, playing tennis, and jumping rope are great activities to benefit the heart.

Squash Stress Stress is an unavoidable part of life and contributes to 80% of all major illnesses, including cardiovascular disease. Here are some practices to help reduce stress.

• F ocused breathing is a valuable tool to calm anxiety. The 4-7-8 Breathing Method is a 3-step breathing technique that is intended to slow your heart rate and calm your mind. To practice this technique breathe in deeply through your nose for 4 seconds, then hold your breath for 7 seconds and exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds. Repeat this cycle for four rounds. • P rogressive relaxation works to relax one muscle at a time until the entire body is at ease. Beginning with the muscles in the face, the muscles are contracted gently for one to two seconds and then relaxed. This is repeated several times. The same technique is used for other muscle groups, usually in the following sequence: jaw and neck, upper arms, lower arms, fingers, chest, abdomen, buttocks, thighs, calves, and feet. Eventually all of the muscles of the body feel at ease. Our heart is a well used machine that beats about 2.5 billion times over the average lifetime. All that hard work is responsible for pushing millions of gallons of blood to every part of the body, which aids in all the physiological functions required to live. When the heart stops, essential functions fail. Poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking, infections, unlucky genes, and poorly managed stress can be extra taxing on the heart. Be kind to your heart and show it some love, so it continues to perform efficiently.

Natasha Kubis is a licensed acupuncturist and certified yoga teacher. For more information, visit February 2020 |


J eanAnn’sJ ourney

Unbroken H

ere we are in Febru-

so many things to buy: things that will

lationship ended, a career didn’t go as

ary—smack dab in

make us happy, things to fill a void of

planned, or we grew up with unsup-

the middle of pink

emptiness, things to make everyone

portive parents leaving us with feel-

hearts, red roses, and true love for-

we know think that we are perfectly

ings of doubt and insecurity. We look

ever. Everywhere I shop, I see aisles

happy. Most of us have experienced

on Facebook, or “fakebook” as I call

and aisles of cards, candy, and plastic

times in our lives when we have felt

it, and see the blissful life of everyone

Valentine trinkets. We are enticed with

hurt, stuck, or hopeless. Perhaps a re-

we know. We live in such an abundant

16 | February 2020

time, yet we yearn for more. We need more—to be happy. Except, maybe we don’t. Maybe we need to look inside ourselves and fix what is broken. Being broken day after day can feel so familiar, it becomes strangely comfortable. Beware of this feeling! This “comfort zone” is not really comfortable at all. It’s important to not let yourself settle in there and make it “home.” Breaking through this brokenness is important because when we are happy and satisfied with our lives, we are more likely to achieve our personal dreams and goals. Our

Wabi-sabi is a way of seeing beauty in imperfection. This tradition honors authenticity and can change our perception of brokenness.

self-confidence can grow and our motivation to succeed can flourish. We can learn to be compassionate and treat ourselves as we would someone we love dearly. I’m fascinated with the Japanese art of

ing are valued because perfection isn’t

Kintsugi and the culture of wabi-sabi.

the goal, wellness is. “Wabi” refers to

The century-old practice of Kintsugi

originality and understated elegance,

means fixing broken pottery rather

“sabi” refers to the beauty that comes

than tossing it out. It can also be ap-

with age and natural simplicity. Heal-

plied to our own emotional state. The

ing from being broken leaves us with

technique involves filling in a crack

authentic understanding, knowledge,

or joining two broken pieces with

the capacity to be happy and to love

gold-laced adhesives, leaving the cup


or bowl gleaming, artistic, and unique.

Becoming unbroken is a life-long jour-

The technique actually emphasiz-

ney and ongoing process of self-dis-

es that the pottery is repaired from

covery requiring intentional focus and

brokenness and is now more beautiful

choice. We can choose happiness, to

than before. Kintsugi expresses regret

be kind to ourselves, to forgive our-

in wastefulness and the acceptance

selves, and to heal. During this month

of change. Honestly accepting and

of love, celebrate who you are, forgive

acknowledging brokenness is the first

yourself, and fill in the cracks of your

step to restoring pottery—and people.

life with something sparkly. Change

Wabi-sabi is a way of seeing beauty in

your perception that brokenness is

imperfection. This tradition honors

permanent and find gratitude in ev-

authenticity and can change our per-

erything. Be unbroken.

ception of brokenness. With wabi-sabi, the scars that come from our heal-

Please send your thoughts and ideas to me at jeananntaylor February 2020 |


Belonging is one of those basic human needs; without the tribe we die.

By Cheri Torres

Why Is Good Communication So Elusive?


here’s a reason effective communication has remained in the top five issues in relationships and organizations. We treat it like a transaction: I say something, you receive the message and interpret it, then you respond. We point at and blame one another for not communicating effectively, for misinterpreting, or not understanding. With this model, communication becomes a problem to be solved. But, it’s not.

The Foundation of Communication Consider that we are almost always in 18 | February 2020

conversation with ourselves or others. Language allows us to create meaning in the world, assess experience, and predict. When it comes to our inner dialogue, language is the basis for rehearsing what we’re going to say, worrying about what we said, critiquing what just happened, judging others and ourselves, making up stories, running through possible solutions to problems, assessing the level of threat in a situation, projecting onto others, and worrying about or planning the future. This inner world of dialogue creates a preconditioned mindset, which influences our communication.

If we want to improve our communication, mindfulness about the influence of our words and their effect on us and others is essential.

Words Influence Our Mindset Our nervous system has two primary functions: (1) keep us safe and alive and (2) enable us to connect, think, and create. The first function is dominant. Anytime we are threatened, our nervous system activates our protect functions: fight, flight, freeze, or appease. There is a whole biochemistry associated with this. Stress hormones are released—cortisol, norepineph-

rine, and testosterone. These hormones boost energy and oxygen to the muscles and away from the higher order centers of the brain: the prefrontal lobe and the neocortex. They also generate an array of emotions, influenced by our thoughts. If we

threat of being excluded, ostracized, and rejected. Belonging is one of those basic human needs; without the tribe we die. When we have a strong sense of belonging and feel secure in our relationships and position within the organization or the family, it is easier to face stress without getting hijacked into protecting ourselves. This sense of belonging stimulates hormones that shift the brain chemistry in ways that gives us access to the prefrontal lobe and neocortex. A different set of emotions are generated by these hormones: Love, caring, appreciation, curiosity, etc. When we have access to those parts of the brain we can connect with others, access emotional intelligence, be creative, learn, and engage in critical thinking. This is what we most need for effective communication, especially in those stressful situations. So, how do we shift our brain chemistry?

Mindfulness To foster effective communication means being in charge of your own mindset before beginning to speak.

need to flee a saber tooth tiger, this an effective solution. However, it is most ineffective if we are instead facing a boss who’s expressing disappointment in our performance or we need to have a crucial conversation with a child. When we communicate from a place of high stress, fear, anger, etc., we have limited access to the parts of our brain that enable connection, creativity, and higher order thinking. We are bound to communicate ineffectively. One of the primary threats in relationships and the business world is the

• W hat information might I not know? • W hat questions can I ask that will expand the opportunity in this situation? Just asking these kinds of questions changes your brain chemistry. Curiosity is a positive emotion, associated with the prefrontal lobe. When you communicate from this more whole brain place, your communication is naturally more effective. As you access emotional intelligence you are able to relate better; your body language, tone of voice, and words you use are more likely to support connection. Your ability to come from a whole brain mindset supports a shift in mindset for the others in the conversation as well, influencing their ability to communicate more effectively. Good communication is an “inside job.” Asking questions that generate curiosity, openness, and interest helps us manage our stress response and negative emotions, allowing our natural ability for good communication to emerge.

1. You are in charge. Understand your ability to communicate effectively is influenced by your brain-body chemistry. Understand you are NOT your neurophysiology. You can influence it. 2. Practice awareness. As soon as you experience the need to protect and defend yourself, PAUSE. Take a deep breath. 3. Then, get curious. Ask questions that help you shift the way you are thinking: • W hat do I actually want to happen right now? • W hat else might explain what the other person said or did?

Cheri Torres is an author and speaker You can download a free Conversation Toolkit and learn more sparking great conversations at Conversations

February 2020 |


Love Stories:

Nancy Asch & Beth Heinberg

Couples make sweet music together By Peggy Ratusz

Marissa & Josh Blake

Leigh Glass & Corey Bullman

Photo by David Simchock

Eleanor Underhill & Silas Durocher

Melissa Hyman & Ryan Furstenber

Nikki Talley & Jason Sharp

Photo by EvokeEmotion

Nicole & Spiro Nicolopoulos


ince its Valentine’s month, I reached out to several area twosomes who make beautiful music together, both on and off stage.

Where and how they met Nicole and Spiro Nicolopoulos (The Paper Crowns) met at a music store in California. Both instructors there, their relationship developed into a secret office romance. Multi-instrumentalist/songwriter, Eleanor Underhill’s (Underhill Rose) initial crush came and went, by the time she actually started dating guitarist/singer/songwriter Silas Durocher (Get Right Band). Drummer/ percussionist Nancy Asch and pianist Beth Heinberg met in Boston 28 years ago. Their first encounter happened at an audition they both attended for a spot in a queer cabaret band. Nancy questioned Beth: 20 | February 2020

‘Can you commit?’ and that’s all she wrote. “We're not entirely sure when we first met,” acknowledges cellist, singer-songwriter Melissa Hyman of The Moon & You, a duo she shares with husband, guitarist singer-songwriter, Ryan Furstenberg. Jazz musicians, Wendy Jones (vocals) and Rick Dilling (drums) met in 1991 but opposite trajectories prevented any true connection until 2010. Like Leigh Glass and Corey Bullman (guitarists/singer songwriters) of Devils in Dust, Wendy hired Rick to play drums for a recording and Leigh hired Corey to fill in on guitar for a show. Scintillating serendipity eventually ensued. Sometimes it’s musician friends who bring couples together. It was bassist Dave Mac that set romance in motion for parents of three boys, Marisa and Josh Blake. A drummer friend stoked the flame for two-year-old Eva’s mommy

and daddy, who happen to be Nikki Talley and Jason Sharp.

Inspirations The Nicolopoulos’s bonded over Jimi Hendrix. Both Strat players, they are drawn to his psychedelic sound and out of the box rhythm guitar artistry. “We constantly find ourselves inspired by the same artists," says Dilling about him and Jones. They listen to recordings together and discuss what the other appreciates: vocal technique, feel, comping patterns or “the elusive sound of Tony Williams' dang cymbals." Wendy adds with a chuckle.” For Nancy and Beth? Joni Mitchell is their cat's name, if that tells you anything. “We both dig her poetry, obviously, and Nancy has been obsessed with her since summer camp as a kid.”

Collaborations and Co-Writing Eleanor and Silas collaborate together and with others. She says, “Anytime I'm collaborating, I'm more open and communicative and cautious of others feelings.” He says, “Collaborating brings certain things to the table: ideas or predilections, strengths and weaknesses that inspire me in different ways. It's helpful to know what the final vision is, who's in charge of steering the ship toward it. We are passionate about each other's projects; but ultimately we respect the choice each one makes for their own art.” When Corey and Leigh co-write, “One of us has an idea for a song worked out. Then we work it together.” Leigh tends to be driven by lyrics and Corey pays attention to the arrangement. But for Melissa and Ryan, “It's common for us to work out arrangements through experimentation onstage.” It’s important to them “to keep levity in our creative collaborations.” “I am the songwriter by default,” says Nikki Talley. “We arrange together so we know what each is hearing. Once we figure out the song skeleton we go to our separate corners and work out details appropriate for each tune.” Beth and Nancy “like to work with musicians who are good listeners, flexible and fun to be with.” Their co-creation with Beth’s sister Sarah Kim called The Honey Music Collective teams up talented female players and singers for showcases and dance party nights. Nicole and Spiro lift up the community indeed and in 2019 alone, hired 35 area musicians for their groups, Grateful Asheville Music Experience and the Very Jerry Band. Spiro says, “It keeps things fun and fresh to play with different people, oftentimes on the fly. Nicole looks “for people who appreciate working together and share a mutual respect.”

Touring and Delegating Marisa Blake says, “I keep our family on schedule and Josh can fold some mean laundry. Our kids are lucky to have him as a father. He cares and he's present.” Talley and Sharp say they don’t have time for burnout. “Being partners in all aspects of our lives 24/7 is tough. We unwind from the road when we come home to the mountains.” They split parenting duties, “Giving the other time to work on a song.” Seeing it through their daughter’s eyes has been a sweet, new perspective. Glass and Bullman

admit, “We don't always agree musically, but there is baseline trust in the other person's vision. We make all decisions together (even though Corey says Leigh’s the boss and Leigh says Corey’s the boss.) For Wendy and Rick, “We check in with each other once a week over Sunday breakfast to confirm schedules. We’re a good fit.”

Special project IamAvl is the brainchild of Josh Blake and is a platform that integrates video production, in-studio recording sessions (Echo Sessions) and live performances into one seamless channel for the creation of high-quality content. Established in 2012 (Marisa was pregnant with their youngest) with the intention to preserve, promote the growing music culture in WNC, which Josh noticed starting to take shape as a modern day cultural renaissance. Marisa joined the team a few years later. “My role revolves around Echo Sessions. I am the host, camera operator and facilitate hospitality. Josh manages daily operations, works with bands and venues getting live-streams and productions setup, and dreaming the endeavor into the future. IamAvl would be nothing without the crew that has been working for years to put the local scene on the map.”

How it feels to perform together on stage Hyman and Furstenberg say, “Our onstage partnership is a microcosm of the larger relationship; we get an intensive in communication, helping each shine even if it means getting out of the way.” Nicole proclaims, “There’s nothing more satisfying then playing together in an organic way where we’re both aware of our dynamic and can take the music to nuanced spaces.” Beth and Nancy gush, “It's the best feeling in the world when the audience is right there with you. Sometimes that's a crowd of nursing home residents; other times dancing fools in a crazy loud bar.” “We've been playing so long together that if feels completely natural,” explains Leigh Glass. “However, there are times when it gets mushy, particularly during an autobiographical tune we wrote together about falling in love.” Rick feels pride when he performs with Wendy. "I like observing the reaction of the audience when Wendy sings a ballad.” For Wendy,

"He knows how to challenge me and make me sound good. What's not to love?" Mrs. Blake comes clean, “If we are being honest with the lovers out there, it's not always perfect. Josh and I butt heads sometimes when we are recording or if I am writing a tune and he makes a suggestion I don't like. But in general, we both feel lucky to make art together.” Eleanor’s wise words, “One of the challenges about being in a relationship with another musician is that you're always talking about your work. One of the best things about being in a relationship with another musician is that you're always talking about your work.” Talley’s poignant perspective, “There are moments when I shut my eyes and let the music wash over me. It becomes more than a gig. It’s religion; knowing the sounds enchanting you are being made by your love, is beyond words.” posts

Peggy Ratusz is a vocal coach, song interpreter, and songwriter. For vocal coaching email her at peggymarie43

February 2020 |


By Betty Sharpless

Treat Yourself to Year-Round Fresh Flowers


ebruary is the perfect time to begin planting flower seeds. These seeds will grow into flowers to fill your vases and to gift to friends throughout the year. Instead of spending your dollars on cut bouquets from the grocery store, you can spend pennies--and just a little time-to grow your own cutting flowers in flower beds, porch or deck pots, or raised beds. An added benefit to planting flowers is that you are feeding honeybees and other pollinators necessary to create all of the vegetables and fruits we eat every day. Why not invite the bees and butterflies into your yard? You will want to plant your seeds in a sunny area that gets at least six hours of full sun each day. It’s a good idea to place your garden or flower-pots close to a source of water like a rain barrel or a faucet. If you are planting in the ground, use a shovel to turn the soil and remove any existing grass or weeds. If you are planting in pots or a new raised bed, be sure there is adequate drainage by having one to two inches of 22 | February 2020

rocks or pebbles at the bottom. Use a packaged raised-bed soil or potting soil to fill the containers. When planting seeds, the rule of thumb is to plant them twice as deep as the size of the seed. Little seeds, like poppy seeds are simply sprinkled on the top and patted in. Big seeds like nasturtiums, need to be poked into the soil about ¾” deep. Starting in February, is the time to plant seeds for poppies, nigella, bachelor’s buttons, and larkspur. All of these seeds are the kind you will pat into the soil. Leave some space for the seeds to follow: zinnias and cosmos will bloom from late spring until the first frost in October. If you have a lot of room, consider adding bigger flowers like sunflowers and tithonia (also called Mexican sunflower). For smaller potted gardens, consider marigolds and nasturtiums. When cutting bouquets, try to cut in the cooler times of the day. Have a bucket of cool water handy so the cut ends go right into water, avoiding wilting. Make sure the vase has plenty of water to support the

flowers. If you refresh the vase with clean water every few days your flowers will last longer. Almost any watertight container can be a vase. Experiment with jars, buckets, old pitchers and even old watering cans. All of the above seeds are sturdy growers called “annual flower seeds,” because they die at the end of each season. Once you have succeeded with annuals, you might want to branch out into trying perennials from seeds such as black-eyed Susans or purple cone flowers. I hope you enjoy giving yourself fresh bouquets as much as others will enjoy receiving flowers from you. Betty Sharpless is a professional free-lance gardener, writer, and quilter who loves firecracker alliums--magic wands in the making! Follow her on Instagram @sharplessbetty


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