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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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altWith a new round of Aqua Virginia rate hikes on the horizon, the Lake Monticello Owners’ Association (LMOA) is moving fast to minimize the impact on area residents.

Within 24 hours of learning about Aqua’s proposed 7.4 percent rate increase, the LMOA Board of Directors voted to form an ad hoc committee to organize the community’s response. Board President Rich Barringer will serve as liaison to the committee. Former Board member Mike Harrison will serve as committee chair. 

About 15 members of the community met with Harrison at Fairway Clubhouse Thursday night (Sept. 14) to learn more about the plan of attack and decide if they wanted to join the committee.

“The chances of us eliminating the rate increase is exactly zero, but we can probably reduce it,” Harrison said.

Aqua’s rate case brings back the water and wastewater infrastructure service charge (WWISC), which was denied by the State Corporation Committee (SCC) in 2015. The additional charge, which could be as high as 10 percent of the average customer bill, would be used to fund capital improvements. Harrison said he believes the community can fight the implementation of WWISC.

Harrison outlined the series of steps the committee will have to take between now and May 2018.

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Alden BigelowOne day local author Alden Bigelow wrote a short story that dealt with animal cruelty and animal rights. Eventually it developed into his current novel, The Great American Mammal Jamboree.

“It just evolved into a novel as my characters and their thoughts grew larger and larger in my mind,” he said. The book is written from the perspective of animals, both wild and domesticated. Most of the book is told through the point of view of a springer spaniel named Jessie. Jessie is chosen partly because of his affinity and ability to bond with humans on a different level than most wild animals.

“My favorite character was Jessie, because he is a great narrator and a good dog and a close personal friend of mine,” said Bigelow.
The animals come together for a jamboree and, though some express their disenchantment with humans and their cruelty and misunderstanding of animals, Jessie cautions them that they need to be open to promoting peaceful, friendly compromise.

“This is about animals learning to work together in order to teach and persuade” humans, Bigelow said.

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