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AntiquesSteve Sylvia traces his interest in the Civil War to his childhood, sparked by his brother’s help reading Shelby Foote’s Shiloh.


But it was a belt buckle that belonged to a long-forgotten Union soldier that may have been the catalyst for a life-long involvement in the history of this nation’s defining conflict, a career writing about Civil War relics, and even appearances on segments of the PBS series Antiques Roadshow.


Following graduation from the University of Maryland’s journalism program and a couple years performing and traveling with a rock and roll band, Sylvia found himself in search of opportunity.


“I had a gal singing for me in 1972. The band broke up. I’m running out of money and she says, ‘My boyfriend is looking for someone in public relations,’” Sylvia said.


“I walked into the interview with her boyfriend and I was wearing a U.S. buckle I had dug. His eyes were riveted on my buckle.”


Their common interest in the Civil War made them good friends and ultimately led to the opportunity for Sylvia to turn that interest into a life-long career.


“‘Did you dig that?’” the man inquired of the buckle.

“Yes, I did,” replied Sylvia. “I dug it at Chancellorsville.”
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Carol FleuretteIt all began when Carol Fleurette moved from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., an area she said is nothing but desert and residents are lucky if it rains a week out of the year. While going to school at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., she decided to move to Virginia. In 2012, she packed up her truck and bought a horse trailer, putting her horse on one side and her motorcycle on the other. She made the drive in four days. When she arrived she was shocked to see torrential downpours, something she had never experienced.

“I loved seeing all of the frogs, the turtles, and all kinds of animals traveling the roads to get to dry areas,” she said. “At that time, I was living in a 100-year-old cabin in Reva, Va., with my fiancé. That experience fueled my creativity for my first book, The Rain That Would Never End.” The story, written in 2015, follows a little girl and her pet fish, who get stuck in a flood, jump on a boat and go on an adventure, saving other animals along the way.

Following her debut was Not the Same but Not So Different Either. The story examines two brothers who are very different in their appearance, personalities, and interests. At the end of the day, they find out that they are really not that different.

Her recent book, Access Required, came out in 2016. This story is about service dogs and is told from the dog’s perspective. Add a comment

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BreathingThe breath is the first step in most mind-body relaxation skills. Deeper breathing is one of the classic paths to balancing the brain and body. It is the most portable stress reduction skill. You can take it anywhere. Certain breathing practices can restore peace and give us a pause that allows the “wise owl” part of our brain to take charge, preventing overreactions that hurt health and relationships.

The benefits of taking a belly-breathing breath break include:

  • Clearing the mind;
  • Fooling the brain into thinking we’re relaxed;
  • Helping our wise mind get in charge rather than letting the stressed “reptilian” or “hot reactor” part of the brain call the shots;
  • Neutralizing or toning down strong emotions;
  • Setting the stage for calmness;
  • Oxygenating blood, which may enhance alertness and performance; and
  • Exercising the diaphragm in a manner similar to laughter.

If you’ve ever watched a baby breathe, they’re doing a version of belly breathing. You see their abdomen going up and down. For most adults, when we’re not paying attention, our breathing is often shallow and involves just the upper part of the chest. Add a comment

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Modesto farmWalking through a greenhouse at Modesto Farms on Rolling Road is a treat for the senses.

See beautiful bedding plants, feel the breeze and hear the music.

To the Goin family, growing means more than planting and tending. It also means learning and embracing change.

Like discovering that plants grow better with music, and circulating air makes seedlings strong and disrupts flying pests. And using other plants to control insects is better than chemicals.

Gene Goin, Jr., is just carrying on the tradition of his great-great-grandfather, Judge Eugene Newton Wood, who built the family homestead, said his mother Claudia Goin, who with her husband, George, and son owns the 575 acres they call home.

“My great-grandfather was very conscientious of how nature can work for him,” she said.

The house, finished in 1896, is basically a smaller house inside a bigger one, George Goin said. “Air between the two acts as insulation,” he said.

Claudia Goin said she figured her grandfather, who oversaw the construction, also helped fell trees. “Only heart pine would do,” she said. Add a comment

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Don’t get me wrong. I value education. I plead with my children to do their homework, to think about their future, and to deal with short-term pain (homework) for the sake of long-term gain (happiness through a successful life).

But sometimes I question the lengths to which our school systems go to make this happen.

When do kids get to be kids? Must they spend their childhood in a perpetual state of overscheduled goal-oriented activities? Experts warn us against this, but frankly, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to cut out of the schedule, especially when particular homework assignments come home. 

I am divorced so my kids split their time between my house and their father’s. Because of our work schedules and the fact that I am no longer a stay-at-home mom, the kids now spend most of their afternoons at day care after school. Monday is the only day that they can count on coming home on the school bus and being little kids the way they used to be.

So is it any wonder that, given their affinity for gluing themselves mindlessly to screen time, I let them use Monday afternoons to set out on their bicycles and explore the neighborhood with the children who live nearby? I could, of course, tell them that homework comes first, but by the time they’re done with their assignments their friends will be inside for dinner – and the one afternoon my children have in the week to whittle sticks with friends and throw rocks into the woods will be lost.

I don’t want to teach them that homework – and by extension, school – robs them of their one afternoon to play outside as normal kids. They need to value the education that school provides. But they also need to value time in the woods after school with friends, unencumbered by adult responsibilities.

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