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November 2020


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thesofiamagazine.com | November 2020


Welcome to November! 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

from the staff of SOFIA!

Natasha Kubis Lavinia Plonka Peggy Ratusz

Photographer Bren Dendy


C  over Article Sabrina West Natasha Kubis


W  omen Making Music Peggy Ratusz

10 A  cupressure for Self-Care Natasha Kubis

12 What Would You Give Lavinia Plonka

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.

November 2020 | thesofiamagazine.com


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Listen to what your body is telling you today

Dig Dee

I hear your body. As a Massage Therapist and a firm believer in a holistic approach to healing, the mind, body, and spirit must flow together. Throughout my practice, I listen to where your body needs help and guide you to bring attention to those areas of disconnect while you use your self-awareness to connect these energies. We must check in with ourselves to see what our needs are, having a Massage is a way to promote well-being and ultimately connect your awareness to where you are today.

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thesofiamagazine.com | November 2020

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November 2020 | thesofiamagazine.com


Sabrina West Helping Others Attain Their Dreams, One Mortgage At A Time. By Natasha Kubis


abrina West’s ambition has been stirring in her since she was just a child. The story of where she came from, and where she ended up, with the twists and turns along the way, has helped cultivate the savvy business woman she is today. As a wife, a mother of 5 wonderful children (one of whom has special needs), a caregiver to her elderly parents, a fitness guru, and a lioness in the mortgage industry, this powerhouse of a woman is truly a self-made success. Sabrina’s roots run deep in these mountains and her relatives have been in the Asheville area for generations. She comes from a good hearted, salt of the earth, working class family. Her father, a disabled veteran, did his best to provide for his family, despite experiencing tremendous financial hardships. As a child, there were times when they went without heat, and would gather in the living room with sleeping bags to keep warm by the fire. The financial challenges during her upbringing were offset by her family’s perseverance and strong bond. Their struggles also served as the fuel she needed to trailblaze her own success story.


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Photos by Bren Photography Sabrina’s mother has been a huge influence on her life. She’s been a devoted wife for 58 years and is the epitome of a saint. Her strength, nonjudgmental attitude, and enduring patience has been a guide for Sabrina throughout her life. “I was a rebel, so I challenged her, but she has always accepted me for who I am. She knows the right words to say all the time, and her enduring positivity and kindness comes from her faith in God.” Her mom has taught her to stay motivated, and stay true to her path, even when things get tough. At age 12, Sabrina began assisting her mother with bookkeeping at her fathers’ garage, and then at age 15, she started a job in accounting at Paty’s Building Company. Numbers became easy to her, out of necessity. If she wanted something for herself, she had to know exactly how much money was required and how hard she needed to work for it. As a teen, she would write herself notes with positive affirmations, and stick them all around her room. She would read these reminders daily, until she believed her own truth - that anything is possible if you live your life with dedication and intention. This mindset

would help guide her throughout her career, especially when helping others actualize their own financial goals. She graduated from AC Reynolds High School and was the first in her family to go to college. She went to East Tennessee State University, where she studied physical therapy, a path that was inspired by her father’s disabilities, but decided to shift gears. She came back to her home town and did course work at the University of North Carolina and Asheville-Buncombe Technical Institute. Sabrina became a single mom at age 25, and was waiting on tables, while working on a plan to provide the ideal life for her baby girl. She found herself taking the first steps toward her 18-year career in the mortgage industry, first as a receptionist, and then moving onto accounting and loan processing. She received her mortgage broker license to diversify her stream of income, but in addition to sales, continued to work on the operations side of the business for several years. During the financial crash of 2008, Sabrina temporarily got out of the business, and was inspired to teach fitness by her close friend and men-

tor, Kim Hreha. Sabrina has always been interested in her own health and fitness, and teaching at Kim’s strength training center, HF Center of Exercise Science, provided her with an opportunity to develop her leadership skills. Kim saw Sabrina’s strengths, and taught her to believe in herself, while empowering others to do the same. With an ignited passion to help others, Sabrina had the confidence to open Guaranteed Rate, a residential mortgage company, in 2017. Her indepth knowledge of the operations side of the business, combined with her sales background, bolstered a successful foundation for her company. She was able to build a strong, cooperative team of 7 VP ‘s of mortgage lending. “They are the best of the best!”, she says. Sabrina and her team assist their clients in making educated home buying decisions, and achieving their mortgage goals within 30 days or less. “Our culture and industry have moved to technology where people no longer meet in person, and transactions are completed with online signing, emails, and texting. It is important to me to continue to make a personal connection and establish rapport with my clients. I talk to them on the phone or in person to solidify that trust from the very beginning. I work hard to find an individual mortgage plan for them”, she says. Her team continues to support their clients by ensuring that they understand each and every step of the lending process. “This is not an easy business. You need a tough skin and quitting is not an option”, says Sabrina. She has been called a “fighter” because she works hard for her clients. If their dreams and goals seem out of reach, she helps them find practical ways to achieve them. She looks at their debts, helps them organize their finances, balance their budgets,

and creates solutions. Her system is centered on highly individualized mortgage plans, which are unique to each customer. Home-buying is among the most stressful life events (alongside death and divorce). Anxiety is a natural part of this industry, and these types of big life changes require the highest level of support. Finances are personal, and there is a great deal of vulnerability involved. Numbers are black and white, but it’s important to Sabrina that she relates to her clients on a humanistic level, outside of just the numbers. She thinks of herself as a time traveler because she meets people wherever they are on their journey. Whether her clients are first time home buyers, or retirees planning for the future, Sabrina knows that trust is a major component of their relationship. Sabrina finds great reward in working with people who are going through major life changes. A memorable experience for her was when she worked with a divorcée whose 26year marriage had come to an end. Her client had always been a stay at home mom, and was now faced with the task of redefining herself, starting over, finding a new home, and a new career path. It meant a lot to Sabrina to be able to empower and support her client through these massive transitions. “I believe God gave each one of us special gifts; helping people discover these gifts motivates me daily”, says Sabrina. Sabrina was the only female top producing branch manager in her region from 2017 to 2019 and her achievements led to recognition by Guaranteed Rate, as well as a feature in the Scotsman Guide as one of the nation’s top-producing mortgage lenders. “There are many strong women in this industry and I am so proud to work with some of the best realtors, attorneys, and lenders on a daily basis”, she says.

“We have to work hard every day in our fast-paced culture to find balance with work, life, kids, parents, spouses, and friends. We must live with intention, make choices we are proud of, take moments to share a smile, give a pep talk, breathe, and most of all, listen”. Sabrina came to this discovery after her near-death experience during the birth of her youngest son. He was recently diagnosed with Autism, after many years of searching for a diagnosis. This experience propelled her to focus on all his positive gifts, and nurture them to the fullest. It taught her to be optimistic, encouraging, and to never give up. Everything she has been through, and everything she has overcome, has brought her to a place of abundance in her life. When people say they can’t, she responds, “yes you can”. She is living proof. When asked to shed some pearls of business insight to women who may be starting out or transitioning into new careers, Sabrina answered, “be coachable, ask lots of questions, educate yourself, be an expert in your field, and laugh at yourself. Challenges create character, and there are no mistakes, just new lessons to learn”. Guaranteed Rate 30 Town Square Blvd Suite 206 Asheville, NC 28803 (828) 778-4224 cell (828) 412-4337 office Sabrina.West@rate.com rate.com/sabrinawest

Natasha Kubis is a licensed acupuncturist and certified yoga teacher. For more information, visit acuwellhealth.com November 2020 | thesofiamagazine.com


Women Making Music Spotlight on Greensboro, NC based Songstress and Songwriter,

Casey Noel By Peggy Ratusz


For me, getting to know Casey mostly through her words and music was like reading a book. And her story is definitely a page-turner!

I was upbeat in my determination to find out how this approach, sending questions for our guest artist to answer in her own written words and then send back to me might shape the content. I mean, I’ve sent questions to artists. They’ve sent them back to me in their own words before. But to have never met or spoken on the phone? This is a first!

When listening to the songs she sent me, I concertedly envisioned her in front of me, strumming and picking her guitar and singing, presenting her songs special-audience style just for me. I literally lay in my bed as I listened for the first time so I could relax and take in her melodies, her rhymes and phrases; her phrasing; These profiles of love, loss, sassy smart advice (solicited or not), confessions and hope.

asey and I have never met or even spoken on the telephone. I have been writing this feature, Women Making Music for fifteen years and this is a first for me.


thesofiamagazine.com | November 2020

At 24 years of age, Noel is already highly acclaimed; a freshly emerging songwriting ingénue; a young woman with something new to say about familiar themes. Not Just Pretty Words is a six song EP she released in June of this year which has received great reviews. Mason Winfree from Americana Highways says she “conveys narratives that provoke deeply embedded emotions lingering just below the surface.” From The All Scene Eye blog: “… pleasantly unhurried, like leaves floating past you down a creek.”

Ear to the Ground calls Pretty Words, “dark & mysterious” while Anne Kenney from Belles & Gals writes, “distinctive songwriting and vocals is a delight to the ear, a debut EP to be proud of.” In her song Seasons Casey wonders, “and it’ll be okay, so they say…It’s just a season and seasons change.” In the title track she reassures who ever needs it: “A better man (love) will come along, and you’ll forget the one who did you wrong.” The song Prove Me Wrong is a declaration, “I pride myself on being right, the truth can run but it can’t hide from these eyes.” I emailed Casey a few questions that I asked her to answer in order for us to get to know here better:

Talk about your back story – where were you born, etc. I was born and raised in Greensboro, North Carolina with one older sister. My dad is from North Carolina and my mom was born in Costa Rica and moved here when she was four.

Where did you go to college and what was your course of study? I went to The University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a major in event planning/community parks and recreation and a minor in Spanish.

How/Why did you decide to become a songwriter? My grandfather brought me a guitar from Costa Rica when I was 5 and I started lessons shortly thereafter. But in middle school I fell in love with competitive ballroom dancing. But because I never found a solid dance partner I eventually gave it up. I turned my attention then to music, started playing guitar and singing. I never thought about song writing until my guitar teacher told me I should give it a try. After that, songwriting became an outlet and a passion. When I dance I have to feel the music,

I have to connect with it. When I write a song, I have to connect with it and when I sing it, I have to feel it in order for the audience to feel it.

Tell us about your writing process. It’s loose. I try not to start with specifics. Usually a single line comes to mind; something that someone said that resonates. From there the message/ story emerge and I build on it. I use as few lines as possible to get my point across.

Talk about mentors you’ve encountered on this journey. I have had wonderful mentors. First, there’s my guitar teacher, Kevin Dollar. I wouldn’t be singing, performing or writing if it weren’t for him. I won a scholarship my sophomore year in college to attend Frets and Refrains, a camp put on by Richard Thompson in the beautiful Catskills Mountains. I had the amazing opportunity to study with him, as well as his son Teddy, Patty Griffin, Happy Traum, Tony McManus, and Sloan Wainwright. Getting one on one advice from Richard Thompson and having his son Teddy tell me that one of my songs was a hit was incredible! I recorded at and ended up working with sound engineer and co-producer of my EP, Doug Williams. Having worked with the Avett Brothers, he helped me hone my style and believes in my artistic vision.

stop and speed up at the same time. I am in my element. I love that I can help take people’s minds off the craziness of life so we can all just be and enjoy each other.

What’s next? I am hoping to record and release a song that I just finished as a single in the next couple of months.

What are your favorite songs on the EP and why? Marsh Girl was inspired by my favorite book called “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens. I love how it came to life in the studio. When I wrote Pretty Words it made me feel like a real songwriter; like I had a shot at this music thing. Teddy Thompson called it “a hit” and at that time I needed to hear from someone unbiased; someone successful. Part of me thought I had what it took and part of me feared that people were just telling me what I wanted to hear. His compliment was the push I needed to believe in myself as a writer and an artist. To keep up with everything Casey Noel, visit her website: caseynoelmusic.com

Artistic influences? Jason Isbell is the best songwriter of our generation in my opinion. Brandi Carlisle is also a tremendous songwriter and one of the most amazing performers and vocalists.

What is it about performing that keeps you pursuing opportunities to do so? When I’m on stage and sharing a moment with an audience, time seems to

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

November 2020 | thesofiamagazine.com




Self-Care By Natasha Kubis


cupressure is an effective self-care technique to help us relax and de-stress, whether at the office, at home, or in a tense work meeting. It is convenient, inexpensive, and easy to do. It is also safe to practice on infants and children. Knowing which acu-points to stimulate can help you treat a variety of conditions including headache, indigestion, muscle tension, or anxiety. This technique became popular in China as a natural extension of acupuncture, using pressure from the fingers, as an alternative to inserting needles into the skin. It is a good option for those who are needle phobic. There are over 2,000 acupoints on the body that are located at nerve endings. Stimulating these points allows different parts of the body to communicate, triggering the release of opioids, which are naturally occurring chemicals in the brain that have an analgesic, or pain-relieving, effect. The release of opioids, such as endorphins, help to decrease feelings of pain and increase feelings of euphoria A recent study at the University of Michigan looked at 67 people with chronic lower back pain and divided them into groups: those using acupressure, and those sticking to their prescribed treatment method from 10

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their primary care doctor. The acupressure group applied the technique to certain body parts for 30 minutes a day, for 6 weeks. The study concluded that the acupressure group found significant improvement in both pain and fatigue, without the use of pain medications, or their side effects. This study was particularly important because it confirms the effectiveness of more natural pain management solutions.

What are the Benefits of Acupressure? • A  cupressure acts to massage and stretch the muscles, while increasing blood flow to the tissues. • I t stimulates the body’s natural ability to suppress pain without the over-dependency on painkillers, which is important during our current opiate crisis. • S tudies have found acupuncture points at sites of high-density neuro-vascular structures. When we stimulate those areas, we are promoting secretion of naturally occurring neurotransmitters, like endorphins, which help minimize pain. • I t is calming for the nervous system, while reducing stress and anxiety. • I t is convenient to do anytime at the office or at home. • It is free. • I t can be done on children and infants.

Acupressure Technique • U  se deep, firm pressure to massage and stimulate each point.

• W  hen massaging acu-points, try to relax in a comfortable position, close your eyes, and breathe deeply. • S timulate each point anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes. • R  epeat the massage as often as you like; there is no limit to the number of times a day. • B  esides massaging these points with your fingers, you can use various tools to help you along, such as an electric massage tool, a tennis ball, or a golf ball. Try some of these common acupressure protocols on yourself or your loved ones if these uncomfortable symptoms should arise!

Acupressure Points for Headache Relief • L  arge Intestine 4 is used to treat diseases of the head and face and is the primary point for headaches, tooth, or jaw pain. It is located on the back of the hand, between the thumb and pointer finger. Do not use this point during pregnancy.

• T  aiyang is often used to treat headaches, eye pain, or eye swelling. It is located in the region of the temples, at the outer edge of the eyebrows.

Acupressure Points for Nausea and Indigestion • P  ericardium 6 is commonly used to help relieve nausea, upset stomach, and motion sickness. It is safe to use during pregnancy and can help relieve morning sickness. It is located three finger breadths below the wrist crease, on the inner forearm, in between the two tendons.

Menstrual Cramping Relief • S pleen 6 is used for urological issues, pelvic disorders, and menstrual cramps. It is located on the inside of your leg, 4 fingerbreadths above your ankle. Do not use this point during pregnancy.

Acupressure Points for Stress Reduction • Y  intang is used to calm the spirit, relax the mind, help with insomnia, and reduce nervousness. It is located between the eyebrows.

• L  iver 3 is a powerful point for menstrual cramps, but it is also effective for stress reduction, low back pain, high blood pressure, insomnia, and anxiety. • S tomach 36 is commonly used for gastrointestinal discomfort, nausea, and vomiting. It is located four finger breadths down from the bottom of your knee cap, along the outer boundary of your shin bone.

• G  overning Vessel 20 can be used to clear the mind, calm overthinking, and improve memory. It is found at the top of the head, in line with the tops of the ears.

Natasha Kubis is a licensed acupuncturist and certified yoga teacher. For more information, visit acuwellhealth.com November 2020 | thesofiamagazine.com


What Would You Give? By Lavinia Plonka


ometimes we only focus on one definition without realizing a word’s myriad applications in our daily speech. In recent years, we’ve been conditioned to think “give” means material goods: giving gifts, money, stuff. But we use the word and idea of give in countless ways without ever noticing our boundless generosity. I give up! I gave her so many chances,


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I’m just not giving in this time. I give her another month on this job before she gives me an ulcer. I give you my word, it will give me great pleasure to see what gives when the boss sees how she gives new meaning to the word useless.

In an economy based on consumerism, suddenly products like tooth whitener for teeth no one will see, designer jeans you can’t flaunt, floating picnic tables with no guests and fruit shaped silicone coasters (whatever!), have become irrelevant. Some of us are actually getting rid of stuff, literally giving it away. As we purge, we may realize we also no longer need that potato ricer, the tennis racquet we haven’t touched in ten years, or the gold lamé jacket from

our disco days. (Some things are harder to give up than others.) And we don’t need to buy another LL Bean jacket or orchid pot or giclée of a Tuscan sunset. If we don’t return to “normal” soon, stores and online merchants will drown in low rise yoga pants, Subaru Outbacks, wedding china and Louis Vuitton bags. I find myself thinking about Black Friday, the societal pressure to buy more stuff, and how to find a new way to give. Wouldn’t it be nice if I could inspire the quality of “thanks -giving” by actually inspiring gratitude? I have decided to start with my family. To one sister with whom I often compete, I’m giving up my need to be right. And to my youngest

sister I give my word that I’ll never try to give her advice, (a double give that will be hard to fulfill!) I can’t wait till I tell my husband Ron I am officially giving in on our forty-five year battle as to who loads the dishwasher better. I am spilling with generosity. Neurologist Antonio Damasio, in his book Descarte’s Error, wrote that altruism is a neurological survival strategy. When we give to others, they love us more and so therefore probably won’t kill us. It’s nice to know that we are wired to give.

our English word “give”, that it travels eastward where the root word actually means “take”, and finally lands in India where the Sanskrit root means “hand”. When I give up or give in, my hands are open, and when I give you my word, I give you my hand. And when someone smiles at me and says, “I’ve got to hand it to you, you are awesome,” I feel like I’ve received a gift more precious than a pair of skinny jeans. What do you say, shall we give it a go?

What would it be like if all of us intentionally gave up, gave in, and gave promises we actually kept? It’s interesting to note that if you trace the etymology of

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

November 2020 | thesofiamagazine.com



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November 2020 | thesofiamagazine.com


Profile for WNC Homes & Real Estate

The Sofia Magazine November 2020