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March 2020


for Today’s Woman

Peggy Ratusz singer, song writer and vocal coach

Uh . . . I Forget | Sleep Savvy | Books that Inspire

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thesofiamagazine.com | March 2020


Welcome to March

Happy International Women's Day

Publisher Tammy Sheppard publisherofsofia@gmail.com

Art Director / Web Design Tina Gaafary

For Advertising Inquiries Mike Demos 828.273.0098 mikedemos@aol.com Trish Luzzi 828.423.0248 wnccreations@gmail.com

Contributing Writers Natasha Kubis Lavinia Plonka Peggy Ratusz JeanAnn Taylor Cheri Torres


Celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women around the world.

from the staff of SOFIA!

Bren Dendy

P.O. Box 18416 Asheville, NC 28814 828-230.7537 thesofiamagazine.com All advertising published in SOFIA is believed to be truthful and accurate. However Sofia Magazine assumes no responsibility and shall have no liability whatsoever for errors, including and without limitation, typographical errors or omissions in SOFIA. Any reference made to Sofia Magazine is not to be construed as making any representation, warranty or guarantee concerning the information advertised in SOFIA. The content of all ads contained herein are solely the responsibility of the advertiser. The opinions and statements contained in advertising or elsewhere in this publication are those of the authors of such opinions and are not necessarily those of Sofia Magazine reserves the right to edit or refuse any advertising submitted to this publication.


Cover story Peggy Ratusz Page 6 Photo by Ken Voltz

8 Meet local Jazz Singer Julie McConnell Peggy Ratusz 10  The Persistence of . . . Uh . . . I Forget Lavinia Plonka 14 Sleep Savy Tips Natasha Kubis 17 Sofia Style The Savvy Satchel JeanAnn Taylor

18 JeanAnn’s Journey Mother Nature's Magic JeanAnn Taylor

19 Say No to Green Beer 20 Books that Inspire Cheri Torres


thesofiamagazine.com | March 2020


Get inspiration from local leaders: Leah Ashburn of Highland Brewing, Cristina Hall Ackley of Ginger’s Revenge, Jennifer Pharr Davis of Blue Ridge Hiking Company and Libby Kyles of YWCA of Western North Carolina

Workshop, August 13 Celebration & Awards Ceremony, Nov. 12

Find your inspiration: ashevillechamber.org/womanup

Photo by Frank Zipperer

Peggy Ratusz

Living the Life doing what she Loves most


well established presence in the Asheville music scene since 2002, Jazz and Blues Chanteuse Peggy Ratusz performs an infectious, sultry, multi-layered brand of original, traditional and modern Blues, Soul and Jazz. While influences such as Ray Charles, Connie Evingson, Joan Osborne and Bonnie Raitt are evident, it can’t be denied that her unique style and voice are one of a kind. She and her backing bands are particularly impressive during live performances where audiences are warmed by the glow of her shine. Inspired by the rhythm, the melodies and content of the stories she tells, every drop of emotion is authentic and shows all who are present, that she’s a willing servant to the music she writes and covers. For over forty years, opportunities have come her way that have landed her on television shows, radio, festival line ups, theaters, bars, restaurants, benefits, private events and showcases. She spent seven years based in Tucson, Arizona where she toured the West in a folk rock trio from 1979 to 1985. Audiences began to experience the richness, power and emotion of her voice evoking


thesofiamagazine.com | March 2020

positive reviews and acclaim. In 1985 she moved to “the live music capital of the world '' a.k.a. Austin, Texas and stepped into the Blues pool fronting a 4-pc Chicago Blues style band called The Bootleggers. She performed at popular clubs in Austin such as The Steam Boat, The Black Cat Lounge, 311 Club, Babe’s and Maggie Mae’s. Throughout the 1990’s she was also a featured entertainer in show bands such as Hot Wax, Apollo Soul and The Copy Cats, covering Motown and Soul music from the 60’s and 70’s and 80’s. In November of 2002, she moved to Western North Carolina and now makes her home in Fletcher. “Listening is the most important aspect about creating music people need to hear. It enables us to lift each other up as musicians on stage together, which in turn gives us the opportunity to fearlessly stretch ourselves beyond what we thought we were capable of doing.” The talented musicians, who share the stage with her, agree. The 2000’s have been banner years for this still very young 62 year old singer and musician. An original track from her freshman CD, “Sexual High” was picked by Jomar Records and is featured on the compilation CD, National Women in Blues. Her live version of Memphis Slim’s I’m Lost Without You featuring Duane Simpson on acoustic guitar is on the 12th Volume of WNCW’s Crowd Around the Mic

CD. She and her bands have been voted Best in Blues for 10 years, the last 4 in a row (2016-2019) and in 2008, 2010 and 2016, Peggy was a semi-finalist in the most prestigious Blues competition in the world, The International Blues Challenge held for the past 36 years in Memphis, TN. In early 2010, Peggy officially released her sophomore album, Infused with the Blues which features 23 of Asheville’s best instrumentalists and vocalists. Kellin Watson, Paula Hanke, Ron Clearfield, Mike Barnes, River Guerguerian, Jonathan Scales, Rhoda Weaver, Duane Simpson, Joey Katkowski, Rob Geisler and more. All gifted musicians and singers, she calls friends. In 2011 she opened for the Tedeschi Trucks Band at the Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium. Ratusz has also shared the stage with or opened for The Beach Boys, Taj Mahal, Bernard Allison, Denise LaSalle, Candye Kane, Bob Margolin, Geff Achison, Kellin Watson and Shannon Whitworth. She’s performed at The Bull Durham Blues Festival, Chattanooga’s Riverbend Festival, Carolina Blues Festival, Women In Blues Festival, End of Summer Blues Festival, The Green Swan Festival, Bele Chere and area venues such as The Orange Peel, Isis Restaurant & Music Hall, The Grey Eagle Music Hall, Ambrose West, Jack of the Wood, 5 Walnut and Tressa’s Downtown Jazz & Blues.

Women Who Made Music History Concerts, LLC is her latest endeavor, co-producing and co-starring with local vocalist, Paula Hanke. Since 2016, the pair has successfully aligned themselves within the Performing Arts circuit, garnered a booking agent out of NYC and are currently touring one of their shows, Love is a Rose, that celebrates super star, Linda Ronstadt. www.loveisaroselive.com An advocate for area and touring musicians, she’s booked bands and singer-songwriters at area bars and restaurants including Jack of the Wood, The Block off Biltmore and Tressa’s Downtown Jazz & Blues. For two years, she hosted a bi-monthly Female Artist Spotlight Night at Tressa’s Jazz & Blues which were paid showcases for women artists of all genres from novice to professional. For several years, she was a teen band music mentor for several area youth bands and is now a volunteer at Girls Rock Asheville. For the past 15 years, Peggy has been a sought after vocal coach, and her monthly feature, Women Making Music has graced the pages of SOFIA. Playin’ it forward is the philosophy by which she lives. To be lucky enough to make a living doing what she loves the most and does the best is not something this ruby throated Blues Mama, ever takes for granted.

March 2020 | thesofiamagazine.com


Meet local Jazz Singer

Julie McConnell

By Peggy Ratusz


or this sensual, intentional and emotive Jazzebelle singer and pianist, Julie McConnell, the music gene dates far back and on both sides of her family tree. Her older brother Jack was a successful classical singer by the time he was 15. Her father played piano and her mom sang in choirs most of her life. Her paternal grandfather played double bass in big bands here in Asheville during the 1930’s and 40’s, and her maternal grandfather was a crooner and played mountain music with his six brothers in Bent Mountain, VA.

How/when did you discover you had the music gene? “I knew I was meant to be creative and when I was five, it looked like I was to be a dancer. I was quite good. But I longed to learn to play the music I danced to. We had a beat-up, painted-green piano with no bench. I would stand at that piano and pick out melodies. Though I desperately wanted piano lessons, my parents wanted 8

thesofiamagazine.com | March 2020

me to stay focused on dance. So, I decided to learn on my own. I found an erasable marker and labeled the keys with numbers one through eight over and over until every key was labeled. After dance class, I’d hit the piano and try to figure out the melody I had heard that day. This led me to writing songs. When my parents realized what I was doing, they had me play some of my pieces, and within two weeks I was taking piano lessons. By ninth grade, I was a musician.”

Talk about your mentors “Kathy Coe, my piano teacher, the choral and theater director at our church, Marvin Williams, were my early years’ mentors. My brother was in the choir which made me want to be a part of the choir too, but I was only ten years old. So I learned the alto arias from The Messiah and sang them for anyone who would listen. Within a month, Marvin invited me to join the adult choir. I sang with them until I left for college.

By the time I got to high school, following in my brother’s footsteps became very difficult. I realized I wanted to be recognized more for playing the piano. Maggie Hawks, the Junior High and High School Choral & Drama teacher believed in me. I had a freakish ability to learn difficult pieces without being able to “read” that well, and I was a wonderful harmony singer. I might not have been in every choral group in high school without her confidence in my abilities. Four colleges offered me vocal scholarships, including my Alma Mater Appalachian State University. I was singing professionally by the time I was 17, and I won Vocal Student of the year at my high school. Convinced that voice and singing was my destiny, I’ve never looked back.”

What led you to Jazz music? “At most colleges in the late 70’s and early 80’s you couldn’t major in any other genre but classical. So after struggling to survive

financially being a professional classical singer, I delved into musical theater again with big bands and combo groups, and this soon expanded and changed almost exclusively into Jazz.”

What do you ultimately hope to achieve as an artist? “It’s important for me to stay relative in the local music scene. My destiny is to sing and help others reach their vocal and musical goals. As long as those two things are my compass, I’m happy. I taught music and

choral privately and in public schools, and I found it as rewarding as it was for me to perform. Since moving back to WNC, I teach at Haywood Community college, and my husband and I have a private music studio: McConnell’s Music, in Pisgah Forest.”

Who are your current band members? “I’m fortunate to have a smokin’ hot fourpiece band! They speak my language and can create the space I need to deliver. Bill Gerhardt, piano, Chris Beyt, guitar, Bryan

Women Making Music Calendar for March: 3/1: Hope Griffin, Bold Rock Cidery, 72 School House Rd, Mills River, NC 28759, 3pm 3/2: Caromia and friends, 5 Walnut Wine Bar, 5 Walnut, Asheville, 28801, 8pm 3/3: Aileen Pearlman & Peggy Ratusz, The Casual Pint, 1863 Hendersonville Rd, Asheville, NC 28803, 7:30pm 3/4: Lyric hosts karaoke night, The Social, 1078 Tunnel Rd, Asheville, NC 28805, 10pm 3/5: Jesse Barry, Packs Tavern, 20 S. Spruce St, Asheville, NC 28801, 8pm 3/6: T  he Gypsy Swingers feat Alina Talyad vocals, The Cork & Keg, 86 Patton Ave, Asheville, NC 28801, 8:30pm 3/7: T  he Old Chevrolet feat Laura Blackley, The Cork & Keg, 86 Patton Ave, Asheville, NC 28801, 8:30pm 3/12: Ellen Trnka, Sanctuary Brewing, 147 First Ave East, Hendersonville, NC, 28792, 7pm 3/13: P  eggy Ratusz & Daddy LongLegs Blues Band, Lazoom Band and Beer Tour, 76 Biltmore Ave, Asheville, NC 28801, 5:45pm 3/14: Crystal Bowersox, Ambrose West, 312 Haywood Rd, Asheville, NC 28806, 8pm 3/15: Wendy Jones, Temple of Israel, 400 Springs Forest Rd, Greenville, SC 29615, 2pm

McConnell, my very talented husband is on bass and Justin Watt, drums.”

Please discuss how you interact with and respond to fans. “I’m down to earth and accessible, but also a private person. I’ve learned how to save some for myself. Everyone likes praise but I’m not driven by the need for “followers.” If what I sing resonates with someone, then I’m happy to hear it. I tell the audience stories about my life and I risk being vulnerable because that’s what makes a song mean something and allows it to be felt by all.”

What advice would you give a female Jazz musician starting out? “It’s work. You have to know you HAVE to do it. The more honest you are about your strengths and shortcomings, the sooner neither will hold power over you. People attend concerts to feel and to relate. Keep this front and center and your ego in check. Give from your heart, be generous, and you’ll be successful and fulfilled.” The Julie McConnell Quintet has a show on Saturday, March 7th at the DFR Room in Brevard starting at 8pm. For details, visit her website. And for voice and piano lessons, as well as learning about and registering for the vocal workshops Julie facilitates, visit the website or email her at info@mcconnellsmusic.com

3/17: A  ileen Pearlman & Peggy Ratusz, The Casual Pint, 1863 Hendersonville Rd, Asheville, NC 28803, 7:30pm

Website link: mcconnellsmusic.com

3/19: H  ersday Thursday female Jam with Honey Music Collective, Asheville Music Hall, 31 Patton Ave, Asheville, NC, 10pm

Facebook link: facebook.com/profile. php?id=100030654901658

3/20: Rachel Waterhouse CD Release show, The Mothlight, 701 Haywood Rd, Asheville, NC 28806, 8pm 3/20: April B & the Cool, Asheville Music Hall, 31 Patton Ave, Asheville, NC 28801 9pm 3/20: Love Bubble, feat Paula Hanke and Peggy Ratusz, Southern Appalachian Brewery, 822 Locust St, Hendersonville, NC 28792, 8pm 3/21: Z  ydeco YaYa feat Sandy Van Blaricom on fiddle, The Cork & Keg, 86 Patton Ave, Asheville, NC 28801, 8:30pm 3/22: The Hendo Showcase Brunch feat Mare Carmody & Carrie Morrison, Southern Appalachian Brewery, 822 Locust St, Hendersonville, NC 28792, 12pm 3/22: Michelle Malone, Isis Music Hall, 743 Haywood Rd, Asheville, NC 28806, 7pm 3/28: Mare Carmody, Triskelion Brewery, 7th Ave, Hendersonville, NC 28792, 7pm 3/28: Lyric, The Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St, Charlotte, NC, 10:30pm 3/29: Rockatan benefit for Girls Rock Asheville – 8 All Female Bands! Salvage Station, 486 Riverside Dr, 12pm

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

March 2020 | thesofiamagazine.com


The Persistence of . . . Uh . . . I


By Lavinia Plonka


alvador Dali’s unforgettable image of watches dripping off branches has been a favorite of mine since I was a child. Time can melt, but never disappear, like the memory of an event. Except of course, it’s not true. Memory itself melts, distorts and recreates itself with a logic that defies science.

He’ll say to his friend, “Hold on a second Jeff. My wife is jumping up and down with something that can’t wait.”

He uncovers the phone. “Uh, yeah, Jeff, we can’t do it tomorrow. It seems we have theater tickets . . . ”

“You can’t meet Jeff tomorrow, we have tickets for the theater.” “What theater?”

My husband Ron has no memory at all when it comes to social plans. I rack my brain trying to understand what trauma he had in his childhood that would make him incapable of remembering that we have tickets for the theater, that we’ve had the tickets for six weeks, that he loves this play and was the one who said he wanted to go. I’ll hear him on the phone, planning to get together with someone for the night we have the tickets. I try to get his attention. He hates when I try to talk to him while he’s on the phone. Never mind that he tries to talk to me while I’m on the phone, that’s another rant.

“No! They’re doing Hamlet downtown, we have tickets for tomorrow!”

I used to pride myself on my impeccable memory. My family called me “ST”, for Steel Trap. Why look something up when you could just call Lavinia for obscure song lyrics or a forgotten recipe? Until recently, it seemed to me that women in general are better able to hold details like whose turn it is to do the dishes, or when was the last time you took a toilet bowl brush in your hand, with greater precision than the male mind. Ron’s memory seemed sharpest when reminiscing about his youthful exploits. We can go to a party where he will have a delightful conversation with someone we’ve met several times, and then later that evening, when recalling the conversation, he can’t remember the person’s name. Yet the other day, an envelope appeared in our mailbox with an unfamiliar name. Ron came home and I called out to


thesofiamagazine.com | March 2020

“Um, Hamlet? Remember?” “Yeah, I know the play.”

“Well, why didn’t you tell me?” “Tell you!? You picked up the tickets!” “I did? I did! But that was weeks ago.” “Right. But we haven’t gone to the show yet, didn’t you notice?” “Of course I know we haven’t.” There is an uncertain pause. “Damn, I’ve seen so many productions of Hamlet. I wouldn’t know if I went or not. You have to write these dates on the calendar.” I mutely point to the calendar, which is right in front of him, where I have written, HAMLET.

him, “You got a letter from someone I never heard of. From Ohio. Some guy named Robert Morris.”

“What are you injecting?”

“Ah,” says Ron, without even a pause. “My lifeguarding buddy at Cheesequake State Park back in ’62.” Then he spends a half hour trying to remember where he put his reading glasses, which are hanging around his neck.

“You’re injecting pee into the holes? How did you get the pee into the syringe? Never mind, I don’t want to know.”

Then it happened to me. I ignored some of the first moments I was caught. Not showing up for a lunch date because I forgot to look at my book. Forgetting my brother-in-law's birthday. And then the shortest short term memory loss event in history: I misplaced my red clippers while I was using them. I had them. I put them down, got some Hollytone to sprinkle around the azaleas. I went back to pick them up. They were gone. I searched the area. Under the bushes. In the wheelbarrow. I went into the house in case I had gone in for something, (had I gone in for something? I couldn’t remember). I even looked in my car in case, in a moment of complete sleep I thought the clippers needed a ride. I decided to blame aliens. They had abducted my clippers. They were collecting earth items for an art show in space. Some day, they would dump all the stuff they had stolen on someone’s house in Iowa. I just knew it. The other night, Ron and I went to a concert. In all the excitement of actually arriving early enough to have a glass of wine in the lobby (an essay on downsizing life’s thrills is forthcoming), Ron forgot his shoulder bag on the floor. Once seated in the theater, he suddenly realized what he had done and bolted out to retrieve it. While he was gone, the women in the row behind us began to talk.

Silence. He looks up. “Someone told me they hate pee.”

When the pee didn’t work (plus, I really didn’t enjoy the odor, although the ants liked it fine), someone suggested grits. “OK, I’ll pick up the grits after work,” I grunted.

“I have totally lost my short term memory.” “I know, isn’t it awful?” “One of the worst things is when you see an old movie and suddenly you realize, ‘wait, I’ve seen this before!” “Sometimes I see the whole movie and don’t remember any of it from before!” “You know what’s really bad. It’s when you actually rent a movie, bring it home, and then realize that you’ve seen it before. Has that ever happened to you? Long pause, then, “I don’t know.” We recently had a beautiful new patio built of concrete interlocking bricks. We were so proud, like parents of a new child, standing arm in arm, admiring our new patio. The next morning, the patio was riddled with tiny volcanoes as armies of ants tunneled their way through the joints to create their little condos in the brick foundation we had so thoughtfully provided for them. Ron became obsessed, starting with hot water, proceeding to boric acid, and then Windex. I came home one day to find him with a hypodermic syringe, on his hands and knees, injecting something into the seams of the bricks.

When I got home, Ron asked for the grits. I had forgotten to pick up the grits. “Hallelujah!” he cried. “I’m not the only one who forgets!” The next day, he called me from the market. “Yellow grits? Instant grits? Quick grits? Grits with cheddar and bacon? Cheese flavored grits?” We settled on yellow. “Oh, by the way, while you’re there,” I say, “Could you pick up some Epsom salts?” “Sure.” That night, I ask for the Epsom salts. He looks up at me blankly. Smiles. “I forgot.” “How could you forget, I talked to you in the store!” He shrugs. “That’s how it happens. You just forget.”

Body language expert, Lavinia Plonka has taught The Feldenkrais Method for over 25 years. For more information, visit her at laviniaplonka.com

March 2020 | thesofiamagazine.com


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March 2020 | thesofiamagazine.com



Savvy TIPS

By Natasha Kubis


s a chronic sufferer of insomnia, I have great empathy for my clients who struggle to get a decent night’s sleep. There have been too many evenings when I lay awake with a busy mind, pondering a vast array of thoughts, ranging from the meaning of life to the meaningless details of life. Articles about the detrimental effects of sleep deprivation only serve to create more anxiety around bedtime, as do phone apps that measure sleep quality and how little I actually rest. I am already aware that I am not a solid sleeper and I know how bad it is for my health! So what is the solution?

addressing insomnia. To effectively treat insomnia it is important to determine its root cause and that means deciphering between primary insomnia and secondary insomnia. Often, insomnia is a symptom of an underlying issue (secondary insomnia) and those issues need to be addressed first for best results. You can make healthy changes to your sleep routine and try every natural sleep aid in the pharmacy, but it will not make a difference if there are other medical conditions preventing restorative sleep.

Around one in three people have at least mild insomnia. It is no surprise that it affects women more often than men. Most of us ladies have an outstanding ability to worry about everyone and everything, especially at night. In yoga we call this “monkey brain,” or the inability to quiet the mind. For inadequate sleepers, it is imperative to find lifestyle tools that yield sustainable rest habits.

•H  ormone imbalances: menopause, hot flashes, perimenopause, and pregnancy.

A common mistake people make is that they often take a one-size-fits-all approach when


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acid reflux, and food allergies. • Other sleep disorders: restless leg syndrome (RLS), obstructive sleep apnea, and narcolepsy. • Thyroid disorders: hyperthyroidism, and hypothyroidism. • Other diseases: obesity, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, hypertension, and diabetes. • Side effects from medications: beta blockers, certain antidepressants, decongestants, and stimulants.

•P  sychiatric disorders: depression, anxiety, and brain injury.

If your sleep problem includes difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking too early, and is not a result of another medical condition, it is primary insomnia. Primary insomnia is not related to an underlying medical condition and is often the result of bad sleep habits that can begin in youth.

•P  ain issues: from an injury, physical exercise, arthritis, and headache.

Some common factors that can impact sleep negatively are:

Medical conditions and factors that can cause secondary insomnia are:

•B  reathing issues: asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), and heart disease. •D  igestive disorders: gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), heartburn,

• Electronics: Avoid them at least 30 minutes before bedtime and in the middle of the night if nocturnal awakenings occur. The blue light emitted from comput-

er screens and hand-held devices can suppress natural melatonin production, resulting in difficulty falling asleep. • Stimulants: Cigarettes, caffeine, and other stimulants in the evening can interfere with sleep by keeping your mind overactive. Foods with dark chocolate have caffeine and should be avoided late in the day. • Alcohol: While it can make you drowsy and more likely to fall asleep faster, it often disrupts sleep and can deter you from entering the deeper, much needed phases of the sleep cycles. • Heavy meals at dinner: Foods high in fat have been linked to poor, fragmented sleep. Fat triggers the digestive processes and causes a buildup of stomach acids, which while lying down can creep into the esophagus causing discomfort. Heavy meals before bedtime cause the body to spend more time working on digestion rather than focusing on sleeping. It is best to keep your heaviest meal for lunchtime. • Spicy foods: While spicy foods are tasty and have health benefits, they are notorious for causing heartburn, indigestion, and acid reflux. Heartburn can be made worse while lying down because it allows the acids to creep up into the esophagus and burn the sensitive lining. • Diuretic foods: Foods containing water, such as watermelon and celery, are natural diuretics which help push water through your system. Eating these types of foods and drinking anything too close to bedtime can cause you to lose sleep from middle of the night bathroom trips.

Yogic practice for better sleep: •Y  oga and yogic breathing: Yoga is a gentle and restorative way to wind down your day. A national survey found that over 55% of people who did yoga found that it helped them get better sleep. Over 85% said yoga helped reduce stress. Breath in yoga is equally important as the physical pose. The gentle and calming yoga breath technique called Ujjayi Breath is also known as Ocean Breath. You start by inhaling deeply through the nose. With your mouth closed, exhale through your nose, while constricting the back of your throat, as if you are saying “ha,” but keep your mouth closed. This exhalation should sound like the waves of the ocean. Use this slow and steady breath to soothe yourself in each of these poses. Here are some restorative poses that are ideal for preparing your body for sleep. - Standing forward bend - Cat stretch - Cow Stretch - Child pose - Butterfly pose - Legs-up-the-wall pose Proper nutrition:  elatonin helps control your daily sleepM wake cycles. There are a few excellent sources of naturally occurring melatonin in foods: •F  ruits and vegetables (tart cherries, corn, asparagus, tomatoes, pomegranate, olives, grapes, broccoli, and cucumber) •G  rains (rice, barley, and rolled oats)

• Nuts and Seeds (walnuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds, mustard seeds, and flaxseed) Tryptophan is an amino acid that when ingested gets turned into the neurotransmitter serotonin and then converted into the hormone melatonin. Here are some of the best foods loaded with tryptophan: • Dairy products (milk, low-fat yogurt, and cheese) • Poultry (turkey and chicken) • Seafood (shrimp, salmon, halibut, tuna, sardines, and cod) • Nuts and seeds (flax, sesame, pumpkin, sunflower, cashews, peanuts, almonds, and walnuts) • Legumes (kidney beans, lima beans, black beans split peas, and chickpeas) • Fruits (apples, bananas, peaches, and avocado) • Vegetables (spinach, broccoli, turnip greens, asparagus, onions, and seaweed) • Grains (wheat, rice, barley, corn, and oats) • Magnesium is a natural relaxant and is referred to as the “sleep mineral”. Excellent sources of magnesium are: • Leafy greens (baby spinach, kale, and collard greens) • Nuts and seeds (almonds, sunflower seeds, brazil nuts, cashews, pine nuts, flaxseed, and pecans) • Wheat germ • Fish (salmon, halibut, tuna, and mackerel) • Soybeans • Banana • Avocados • Low-fat yogurt Calcium is another mineral that helps the brain make melatonin. Sources of calcium include: • Leafy greens • Low-fat milk, cheeses, and yogurt • Sardines • Soybeans • Green snap peas • Okra

March 2020 | thesofiamagazine.com


Other healthy habits: •M  aintain a sleep environment conducive to sleep. The bedroom should be comfortably cool. Use of blackout curtains, ear plugs, or sound machines may help promote an optimal sleep environment for individuals with sleep disruptions due to environmental stimuli. Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows. •R  egular bright light exposure in the mornings may help to maximize alertness and maintain a regular circadian rhythm.

Vitamin B6 also helps to convert tryptophan into melatonin. A deficiency in B6 has been linked with lowered serotonin levels and poor sleep. Highest sources of B6 are: • Pistachio nuts and flaxseeds • Fish (tuna, salmon, and halibut) • Meat (chicken, tuna, lean pork, and lean beef) • Dried Prunes • Bananas • Avocado • Spinach


thesofiamagazine.com | March 2020

• It may be helpful to work with a counselor or psychologist to deal with the problems that might be causing poor sleep. Behavioral therapies for insomnia include sleep hygiene education, stimulus control, relaxation, sleep restriction therapy, cognitive therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy. It is never too late for proper sleep training. Learning these tips can help you feel more relaxed around bedtime and encourage a more restorative and good night’s sleep.

• I f you cannot sleep, do not look at a clock. Go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel drowsy enough to fall asleep again. Then return to bed. •G  o to bed and get up at the same time every day. Stick to a sleep schedule of the same bedtime and wake up time, even on the weekends. Consistency makes it much easier to fall asleep and wake easily. •U  se a journal to work out problems you have before you go to bed.

Natasha Kubis is a licensed acupuncturist and certified yoga teacher. For more information, visit essential-well.com

Sofia Style

The Savvy Satchel

By JeanAnn Taylor have too many satchels. Why? For some reason, they are irresistible to me. And I’m not alone. Many, many of us have a stash of tote bags. With the variety of sizes, designs, and styles available, you can find one to accommodate just about any purpose. Tote bags are versatile, functional, cute, and they have appealing organizational features. Handy pockets can be found on the inside as well as the outside of many designs.


who need large totes to store their small totes! Totes bags are definitely a must-have accessory.

Satchels, or tote bags, are an all-purpose, sturdy-handled bag with hundreds of potential uses. They can be used as gym bags, shopping bags, gift bags, or beach bags. They can hold everything from yarn and crochet hooks to laptops to dance shoes. One of the biggest problems with totes is—where to store your collection. The trunk of your car? Your closet? Underneath your bed? I know of people

One tip for totes is to clean them regularly. They can become quite dirty when used often. To keep them free of bacteria and other nasty germs, machine wash if possible. If washing is not an option, wipe off with antibacterial wipes.

One enticing feature of satchels is that they come in every material imaginable: canvas, cotton, leather, and even lace. Of course the heavier the fabric, the more durable your tote will be. This “bag of bags” is also notable because of it’s reusable quality. We can avoid using plastic shopping bags by simply carrying a tote with us.

With such a fashionable as well as functional item, the question is; can you really have too many totes?

March 2020 | thesofiamagazine.com


J eanAnn’sJ ourney

Mother Nature's Magic bathing doesn’t require water, bub-

dilemmas that seem impossibly over-

ble bath, or a soaking tub. It simply

whelming often appear as if by magic.

requires that you spend time in nature

Combine walking with nature-focus

where your mind can meander with

and epiphanies can happen.

no predestined intention. The only

Spending time outdoors can also help

requirement is that you slow down his past January I ran into

us sleep better at night. The natural

and notice. As you wander through

that brick wall known as,

rhythms of light and dark can be dis-

the woods or park, be mindful of the

The Flu. It was a hard hit

torted by our modern lifestyle of con-

scent of blooming honeysuckle. Pay

that put me in bed for over a week.

stant, artificial lighting. Going outside

attention to how the wind feels as it

When The Flu hits, you have no deci-

to watch the sunrise or sunset, or to

blows across your skin. Touch a tree

sions to make; it makes them for you.

gaze at the stars, can help to reset our

and observe how rough or smooth the

The only thing to do is to wait until

internal clock. Awareness of weather

bark feels on your hand. Look up and

The Flu says, “You can get up now.”

also keeps our days and months from

watch as birds fly above you. Listen as

blending into each other. When we

While lying in bed day after day, I had

leaves crunch under your boots, as a

spend our lives in a controlled cli-

time to think about what I want 2020

waterfall cascades into the river, and

mate, every day feels the same and

to look like. Of course I’ll keep dancing.

as a songbird alerts her family of your

we mindlessly miss the experience of

presence. Be awed while watching

the seasons. This can lead to a loss of

butterflies puddle at the river bank,



Of course I’ll continue to sew, crochet, paint, and write; but what needs to change to make my life fuller, happier, healthier? The answer I came up with is to spend more time outside. Like most people I know, my life in work and play demands indoor time. Yet being in na-

as bees flit from flower to flower, and as water bugs dive into the lake. Walk barefoot to absorb electrons from the earth, and dip your toes into the icy water of a mountain stream.

This spring, take a walk in the woods to look for tiny wildflowers popping up to say, “Hello.” Breathe in the fresh, cool air, and feel inspired at a waterfall. What you’ll find as you lose

ture—surrounded by growing, buzzing,

An important component of forest

yourself in nature is—yourself. Go

tweeting, blooming, and other enchant-

bathing is in the action of walking.

outside, follow your nose, and accept

ing mysteries—has so many benefits

Walking is considered to be the single

the healing gift of outdoor wonder.

good for our body and soul; outdoor

most important thing we can do to

time is worth making a priority.

improve our health. Along with reduc-

In the 1990s, the Japanese concept of shinrin-yoku began. As many Japanese traditions follow common sense, simplicity, intention, and authenticity, this practice, which translates into “forest bathing” is another way to live with these virtuous ideals. Forest 18

thesofiamagazine.com | March 2020

ing stress, managing our weight, and warding off many diseases, walking inspires creative thinking by delivering more blood flow to the brain. Without the distractions of cell phones, emails, and to-do lists, your mind is free to unconsciously process ideas and predicaments. Answers to questions and

Please send your thoughts and ideas to me at jeananntaylor @rewnc.com

Say No to Green Beer


eer stocks must go up on St. Patrick's day weekend. It's a given that the sales are astronomically high, when every bar, nightclub, and even house party seems to down green-colored beer by the barrel. But what about the drinkers who don't care so much for beer? There are plenty of Irish-loving souls who have every desire to celebrate the wearin' o' the green, but would rather drink something sophisticated and delicious. With those folks in mind, here are five suggestions for festive cocktails that aren't just tasty; they're also decidedly Irish. Whether you mix them up for your own private party, or sidle up to the bar and order one from your favorite drink slinger, you're sure to find a favorite. Be sure to toast St. Patrick with everyone.

Irish Coffee If you can't get through the day without a coffee shop latte or two, the Irish coffee is the libation for you. Every bartender has their own variation, but the classic recipe calls for strong, hot coffee, sugar, whiskey, and a layer of heavy cream. If you're making your own, you can experiment with your own proportions, or even add flavored whipped cream or sprinkles on top. Just be sure and do one thing without fail: make sure the whiskey is Irish.

Baileys on the Rocks The taste of Baileys Irish Cream combines two great Irish traditions: dairy farming and whiskey distilling. The

result is creamy and sweet, but with a whiskey kick you can definitely feel. Dozens of cocktails use Bailey's as an ingredient in some elaborately American-style drink concoctions, but this is St. Patrick's Day. Keep it simple, and keep it Irish, by having (or serving) Bailey's Irish Cream in its pure form, over ice.

Emerald Isle While gin makes for a somewhat less traditionally Irish drink, why should the beer swillers be the only ones to have drinks that are green? The Emerald Isle is a lovely color as well as a lovely cocktail, and it should please those who like to drink Martinis and Cosmopolitans. Emerald Isle Recipe 1 jigger gin 1 teaspoon green Creme de Menthe 1-3 dashes bitters Add ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well and strain into a Martini glass. Wild Irish Rose If you only know Wild Irish Rose as a cheap liquor store wine, don't admit it on St. Patrick's Day! The name also belongs to a classic cocktail that is as far from the hobo-preferred rotgut as a soy burger is from filet mignon. Again, choose a good Irish whiskey (like Jameson or Bushmills), and you'll taste the results.

Wild Irish Rose Recipe 2 oz Irish whiskey 3/4 oz fresh lemon juice 1/2 oz grenadine 2 oz soda Pour all ingredients over ice into a rocks glass and stir.

St. Patty's Girl The least "real" Irish drink on the list, the St. Patty's girl is very much an American invention. It is, however, a frothy, sweet concoction that will please those who want a dessert-like cocktail. You'll still get credit for the fact that it contains two Irish ingredients: Bailey's and Irish whiskey. To make the drink, mix one shot of Baileys, one shot of whiskey, one shot of coffee or chocolate liqueur, and one shot of espresso in a blender. The result is a creamy blend that combines the best of the States and the Island in one. There's no reason to succumb to the green beer on St. Patrick's Day, no matter how popular it may be. In fact, the beer usually tinted green at most bars is about as Irish as baseball. Enjoy sipping on one of these cold cocktails that pays homage to St. Patrick's native land. Who's the most Irish now? You are!

March 2020 | thesofiamagazine.com


Books that

Inspire By Cheri Torres


am inspired by two books I recently read: Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng, and Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer. Each of these wonderful storytellers pave the way for meaningful conversation about a critical topic. What delights me is the way they frame the conversations. They invite us to see the complexity of reality and ask us to recognize how detrimental it is to see things from narrow, objective, non-relational perspectives. What each of these books have in common is their invitation to see the world through the eyes of the artist and poet. To see reality from a more holistic perspective and to embrace multiple ways of knowing the world. Celeste Ng’s story brings the reader into the complex world of privilege and discrimination in ways that allow 20

thesofiamagazine.com | March 2020

us to see how systems of privilege stifle authenticity and genuine meaningful living at all levels. Exposed to each character’s hopes, perspectives, and pain, we have the opportunity to see how polarity and positioning around important decisions gives way to the system, leaving little room for authentic choice. The artist’s view, however, invites us to see beneath a character’s thoughts and emotions, to see the spiritual crisis the current system generates for everyone in it. She gives us a window into a world where people are seen, where genuine relationships might allow us to connect, deepen understanding, and find a way forward that defined by ‘us’ instead of the system.

struggle to be human, and to share a commitment to creating a world that works for everyone. The two practices from Conversations Worth Having support such conversations: create a positive frame for the conversation and ask generative questions. For example, positive frames and generative questions for conversations around equity and racial justice might be:

How might we foster conversations about racial justice that allow us to make room to hear one another’s stories, to bear witness to one another’s

•H  ow is our current system impacting you and your ability to thrive?

•F  rame: Connecting through Our Stories • Tell me about a time of struggle in your life and how you dealt/deal with it. What do you most value about yourself and others in your story? •H  ow does our current system of inequity negatively impact you?

•H  ow do your strengths and privileges show up in your life?

How might they help us move toward an equitable system? • Frame: Creating Share Images of the Future • What three wishes do you have for the future? • What would genuine equity in our schools look like? • Imagine community decision making was equitable. What would be different? How would we know it was equitable and just? • Frame: Developing Pathways Toward Equity

for the future creates a bridge for us to move forward together. For example:

• What three things can each of us do to feel connected to nature each day?

• What steps might be taken to ensure equity?

Frame 1: Our Common Connections to Nature

• What three things can we do to get started?

• Tell me about a time in your life when you felt most connected to nature. What did you value about yourself? What did you value about nature?

•W  hat action might the city take to ensure our environment thrives so that we can thrive? What role can we play in making that possible?

• How can we design our schools and train our teachers to ensure equity? In Braiding Sweetgrass, Dr. Kimmerer invites us out of the polarization around climate change by showing us a more whole way of seeing the world. Emphasizing relationships, she encourages us to embrace multiple ways of knowing in order to inform a broader perspective of the world around us. Instead of either/or, black and white thinking, we are encouraged to recognize the world as both object and subject, both material and metaphysical. Instead of polarity, the invitation is to come into relationship with nature, to see our connection and interdependence so that we can have conversations at a level that just might allow us to find ways forward. Again, the two practices from Conversations Worth Having are of value. Sharing our stories helps us connect to one another, opening the door for us to discover our commonalities around important topics. Framing further conversation to support possibilities

• How does nature and our environment impact you, your family, and our community? • What is your relationship with nature and the environment? Frame 2: A Shared Vision for Our Relationship with the Environment • Imagine we had a relationship with nature and our environment that was mutually beneficial. What might that look like? • If we redesigned our neighborhoods and communities to embrace nature and nurture flourishing, what would they look like? • Imagine you have an intimate and positive relationship with all of nature. What would that mean for you? How would you benefit? How would nature benefit? Frame 3: Designing for Wholeness • What can we do now to create neighborhoods and communities that embrace nature and nurture flourishing?

Whether you are reading books that inspire conversations about vital topics or not, such conversations are essential to our future. I invite you to join me in shifting those conversations away from the personal—us against them, me vs. you, one right way, mine—and toward dialogue that helps us find common ground, allows us to envision futures that work well for the whole, and creates possibilities for collaborative action. I actually want to do more than invite you to join me, I implore you to do so. The lives of our children and our children’s children quite literally depend upon it. Cheri Torres is an author and speaker cheritorres.com. You can download a free Conversation Toolkit and learn more sparking great conversations at Conversations WorthHaving.today.

March 2020 | thesofiamagazine.com



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