16 minute read

A 2,000-Year-Old Beauty Secret Comes to Tucker

On The Cover: A 2,000-Year-Old Beauty Secret Comes to Tucker

L.A. Dison


An ancient beauty secret long known by the Burmese has now been revealed to the world – thanks to the work of two longtime friends.

Tucker residents Mary Ellen Sheehan and Htwe Htwe met in 2004 at the International Community School in Decatur. Sheehan had been hired as a teacher there when the school had opened in 2002; Htwe joined the staff as an assistant in 2004 when her children enrolled at ICS. Despite their differing backgrounds (as children, Sheehan lived in Ireland and Htwe in Myanmar, formerly Burma), the two women became fast friends, sharing a love of teaching, gardening, travel, cooking, and healthy food. The deep friendship between the two women grew to include their husbands as well.

Sheehan and Htwe also shared a passion for environmental and social causes, and were constantly developing ideas and projects that would positively influence their community and the world. In 2011, the two women created an urban farming business, EllenHtwe Farms. They farmed on several parcels of land in Tucker and Decatur (including their own backyards and that of Tucker’s Massage Associates of Atlanta.) They sold their produce weekly at the Tucker Farmers Market but it was hard to sustain the business when they both were still working full-time at ICS.

They were still looking for a business venture that would allow them to fulfill their personal enrichment goals when Sheehan’s retirement from teaching opened up an opportunity. While Htwe remained in her job at ICS, Sheehan now had the time to pursue full-time management of a new venture. What would that business be?

When Htwe talked about her childhood in Burma, she often recalled her mother putting thanaka paste on her skin every day. The wearing of thanaka has been a regular part of the culture of Burma for over 2,000 years; it is used by all, from babies to elders, men and women.

Htwe had shared her love of thanaka to everyone in her social circle, including Sheehan. Realizing that there were no companies in the U.S. offering thanaka-based products, and that there was a growing need for more organic and environmentally-responsible beauty products, Sheehan and Htwe were inspired to create Royal Thanaka, a women-managed skincare company that “is ethical and healthy for people and the planet.” Its stated mission is to “reintroduce your skin to the ancient protective wisdom of trees, energizing people to live intentionally.”

Royal Thanaka is committed to safe ingredients and environmental care. The jars for the products are made from recycled glass and plastic with biodegradable inserts. The lids are recycled plastic, but there are future plans for bamboo lids. In addition, the harvesting of the bark does not harm the Royal Thanaka’s first product.

thanaka tree; it continues to grow after harvesting, making it a renewable resource.

In Myanmar, locals grind the bark with water on a stone slab; the creamy paste is then applied to the A native thanaka tree in Myanmar skin and lasts all day until rinsed off. This processing technique is not feasible for large scale production, and Sheehan’s first idea was to import the bark in bulk to the U.S. for processing into powder here. But since the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires that it be imported as a powder, the bark must be ground and dried before it’s shipped. Htwe’s husband, Myo Naing, used his connections in Myanmar to arrange for purchase and

processing of thanaka; the tree branches are dried and ground and shipped. “I have 400 pounds of it in my basement right now,” Sheehan said.

Sheehan and Htwe became part of the START:ME program conducted by Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. Through its accelerator program, they found a laboratory in North Carolina associated with the University of North Carolina and worked with it to develop the first product, the Ultra Rich Moisturizing Cream infused with the protective and nourishing properties of thanaka. “The lightweight smooth texture A Burmese worker grinds thanaka melts into your skin to nourish and protect while soothing any irritation that bark for export to America. may be present,” said Htwe. Next on the product schedule is a reef-safe and skin-safe sunscreen using thanaka.

Sheehan says that there are plans to open a brick-and-mortar store in Tucker, along with a manufacturing facility. “Htwe and I have always been committed to empowering the local community,” said Sheehan. “We plan for our business to eventually become employee-owned.”

Until they open a store-front location, marketing is done via internet and social media. The company posts regularly on Instagram and Facebook, and is developing a YouTube channel Sheehan and Htwe from their to educate people on the benefits of International Community School days. thanaka. Currently, the product is available for purchase from the website. Future plans for marketing use a direct selling model based on Avon to distribute the products, which enable a broader reach to customers across the U.S. This direct sales model also fits in with Royal Thanaka’s mission of empowering people, since it will allow sales representatives to make an income while selling the products. Once the company has established a viable base in the U.S., it plans to expand internationally.

Learn more about Royal Thanaka and place your orders at royalthanaka.com. Mention “Our Town DeKalb” and receive a 10% discount on your order!

Tom Edmondson


NE DeKalb Community and Family Magazine

Got a story idea? Our Town DeKalb is always looking for talented writers! Send story suggestions to info@ourtowndekalb.com. Submissions become the property of Our Town DeKalb; all submitted material is subject to review and editing. Acceptance of submitted material does not guarantee publication.

The Bits in Between: Happy Anniversary to Us!

Our September issue celebrates a very special occasion – Our Town DeKalb’s first anniversary! It was August of 2019 that our first issue (the bimonthly August/September) hit mailboxes and retail outlets across Tucker, Smoke Rise, Northlake and Embry Hills.

The traditional first anniversary gift is considered to be paper, while the modern gift is a clock, both good choices to commemorate OTD’s milestone event. The symbolism of paper is obvious, since the success of our magazine is proof of the durability of print. The clock commemorates the passage of time over this important first year – and reminds us of what a year this has been! The challenges of launching a new publication can be overwhelming under the best of circumstances but they were doubled (even tripled) with the advent of a global pandemic and the negative impact on our advertisers, the lifeblood of any ad-supported publication. We celebrate our accomplishment of not only surviving our first year despite the obstacles but going from bimonthly to monthly and expanding our page count to twenty pages from sixteen – none of which we could have done if not for our loyal advertisers who stuck by us during this trying time and helped keep us in production. We are grateful for our writers, who contribute content each month that engage, entertain and educate our readers. But most of all we thank our readers, who await with eager anticipation each month for the new issue to hit their mailbox, display at their favorite restaurant or retail location, or post on our website.

Just like it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a community to support a local magazine – and we can’t express enough our gratitude for all the people who have made our little publication a success. We are optimistic about our future, and we believe that for most of us, there is indeed a bright and shining light at the end of the tunnel. Take care of each other and yourselves, and let’s get to 2021!

Lizbeth A. Dison Publisher and Editor

Wellness In-Sight: Thriving in Uncertain Times, Part 3 Cultivating your ACREAGE

When I sat down to write the July column, I had a thought of what I wanted to share. Try as I might to direct where I thought it should go, “the muses that be” had another idea. Here we are in September and our exploration of thriving in uncertain times through community continues.

The question posed at the end of last month’s article, “Where and how will you engage in creating your authentic communities?” arose from a discussion I led as a guest speaker for a couple of classes at the Kennesaw State University, Department of Social Work and Human Services. The class was discussing ‘community’ as one of our greatest commodities, and as such can also be a valuable form of capital or exchange, mutually benefitting all participants. I was invited to share with the students my experience building community, the inherent benefits, and our individual roles establishing our various communities.

Opportunities to form community, “a linking together to fortify, strengthen or defend,” present themselves regularly. The possibility is available virtually anywhere with anyone with whom we engage. This is not only one of my life principles, it is the foundation upon which I built my business, now in its twenty-first year. Despite the challenge Covid-19 has imposed, I am fortunate to work with massage therapists and wellness practitioners with whom community has been formed. We are also a reflection of the community we serve. In addition, our clients who allow us to be a part of their wellness are an extension of our community. The afore mentioned guest speaking engagements grew out of this community. I have termed this intentional community building

“Cultivating your ACREAGE.”

Awareness - Staying alert to opportunities and emerging needs

Choice - Discerning the potential benefits and deciding whether or not to act

Responsibility - Acknowledging your ability to respond

Engage - When all of the above align for potential positive outcome, actively participating

Assessment - Following sufficient time, re-evaluating your ACRE; does the opportunity remain, are the course and benefit still aligned, are you still able to respond to the needs, and do you want to choose to continue engaging?

Gratitude - Appreciating all that is being afforded and the positive differences being made

Evolve - Being open to and embracing the potential for growth and development

As we continue to live in these uncertain times, the need for community remains great. Opportunities to Cultivate Your ACREAGE abound.

Cindy E. Farrar, LMT, BCTMB, CLC is a licensed massage therapist, certified life coach and the owner of Massage Associates of Atlanta, LLC (Lavista Road in Tucker). In addition, she is a certified Qi Gong instructor and a nationally approved continuing education provider for massage therapy and bodywork. Cindy enjoys sharing insights on wellness and personal and community

development as a speaker and writer.

Age Friendly Tucker: Reviving the Lost Art of Communication

Dr. Lois Ricci

Being able to communicate thoughts, opinions, and wishes has always been important for human survival. Recently, technology seems to have replaced personal interfacing. People email and text rather than talk on the phone. It took about one month of quarantine to change my mind away from technology and towards more oldfashioned modes of communication. I am amazed by how many phone and video calls I’ve made and received since the onset of the virus. What is driving this increase in phone calls and what is the impact?

The pandemic gave us something in common to talk about, which is leading to reconnections. Even if you neglected to keep in touch with someone over the years, it is almost certain that people will talk to you now with more time at home and fewer places to go. Staying connected with people, knowing about events happening, and practical information to manage life is vital to everyone.

Regardless of the multiple ways we can communicate and all the information available, we do not have a town crier shouting “Oyez, Oyez” to share important news. Information today is found in ways we could not have imagined even ten years ago. More of us know how to get the information but still there are those who don’t know how to use the sources available. Elizabeth Wurtzel, author of Prozac Nation, wrote about her “one-night stand of a life.” “Look at how we live. We communicate in text messages and emails; even those of us old enough to have lived in a world where landline was not a word because it’s all there was have fallen into this lazy substitute for human contact.”

If the phone rings after 9:00 pm, it is not the warning of doom - just someone wanting to talk. People need the connection through the human voice, and they aren’t just making one-to-one connections via a phone call. As soon as the pandemic started forcing people to separate, video calling increased. By March 23, Facebook was already reporting a 70% weekly increase in the number of people using Facebook Messenger for group video calls. On April 7, The New York Times reported that use of the group video chat Houseparty was up 79% since early March. Zoom has become the new standard for conducting group meetings, not just in business but for social interaction as well. Increased use of video calling will be a “residual component of COVID,” according to Paul Carter, founder of Global Wireless Solutions.

One of the eight domains identified for an Age Friendly City is Communication and Information. This domain includes all forms of oral, printed, and digital mediums of communication. Lifelong Community committee members, who were used to emailing and texting, are now calling each other more often, and both monthly meetings and group meetings are handled via Zoom. Members have suggested creating neighborhood calling lists to handle everything from regular wellness checks to scheduling telephone coffees. More neighbors are regularly calling neighbors, offering grocery runs or just to say hello.

Calling and having a real conversation is satisfying, whether it’s through a virtual call or via voice. For over a hundred years a phone call was a common event; telephones had their place in every home. (How many of us remember the phone bench, a comfy seat with an attached table on which your phone proudly sat?) Today, checking web sites for information, sending a text with a quick message, emailing information are all more common ways of quick communication which have become standard in our lives. Before the pandemic, we may have taken our social interactions for granted and been the kind of person who said, “I’m terrible at keeping in touch.” Suddenly, people are becoming aware of how important it is to stay in contact with their fellow humans. Whether it’s by phone, virtual call, or in person, I hope this will stick with us when we come out of the pandemic.

Dr. Lois Ricci is a longtime resident of Tucker, where she chairs the Tucker Civic Association’s Lifelong Community Committee. She serves as an adjunct faculty member at both Kennesaw State University and Clayton State University, where she teaches gerontology courses and the Professional Development in Gerontology Certificate Class.

Common Sen$e: Is Forbearance for Me?

Art Wood

In this crazy world of COVID-19, the word forbearance has been thrown around a lot. I believe most student loans have been placed into forbearance indefinitely until we resume some sort of normalcy. For this article I want to focus on mortgage forbearance.

In response to the pandemic, in March, our government passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which provided an array of financial supports for businesses and households to help them weather the financial impacts of widespread economic shutdowns necessitated by the spread of the virus. There was a mortgage forbearance provision included in the act that allowed people to place their mortgage in forbearance for up to 180 days, and then be able to ask for another 180 days if needed. No documentation needed, no questions asked. As of May 12, 4.7 million homeowners were in forbearance.

It is important to note that forbearance is not forgiveness. “A forbearance is a temporary postponement or reduction of mortgage payments,” per the official CARES Act documentation from HUD.

How you come out of forbearance depends on who your loan servicer is and personal preference. There are realistically only three ways to come out of forbearance:

Pay a lump sum of the missed mortgage payments. By law, servicers or lenders cannot require you to take this option but it may be a good choice for some. For others, it may be next to impossible to pay the past due amount in one lump sum. For someone who skipped six $1500 payments, that totals up to a $9,000 check. OUCH!

Agree to a higher monthly payment for a set term. Let’s say you missed the same six payments of $1500 each. You could agree to pay your lender back $200 per month for the next forty-five months. That would be in addition to your current $1500 payment. Doable, but still could be tough if you needed forbearance in the first place.

Modify your mortgage to extend the term and add the deferred interest to

the back of your mortgage. This is probably the easiest and less impactful scenario. You would ultimately have to pay your missed payments back whenever you pay off your mortgage, either through a refinance or when you sell your home.

Now that you know what forbearance is, let’s look at when you should do it, and when you should not do it. I can make this simple. ONLY DO IT IF YOU MUST - due to a drop in income from job loss or a reduction in work hours. Remember, it is not free money. It is not forgiveness. It must be repaid. I have spoken to several people that are doing just fine during this pandemic and opted for forbearance mostly because they didn’t understand what it was. In fact, lenders are being accused of putting people in forbearance without their knowledge.

The biggest drawback on taking forbearance when you don’t need it is that you take yourself out of contention for a future refinance, for as little as ninety days but as much as a year. Rates are awesome right now, and I have had to turn people away temporarily until they remove themselves from forbearance.

Moral of the story: forbearance is an awesome safety net for those that need it during these certain times, but it can exclude you from the future savings of a refinance if you use it and don’t need it!

Art Wood (NMLS #118234) is the branch manager of Legacy Mortgage Team of Goldwater Bank, located at 2341 Main Street in downtown Tucker. “Tucker’s Mortgage Guy” for fifteen years, he is a former Tucker Tiger (Class of ’92), and co-founder and organizer of Taste of Tucker. Family guy, community guy, and definitely not your typical mortgage guy - it’s all that he does that makes Art Wood who he is. Contact him at 678.534.5834 or art.wood@goldwaterbank.com.