Banned Books Week

The first time I learned of banned books I was a sophomore in high school and thought my teacher was joking. There could not be such thing as a “banned book,” could there? In that class we learned of many classics that were banned for one reason or another; To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, for the use of language and sexuality; The Awakening, originally by Kate Chopin, for being too “disturbing; and Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston for its sexual explicitness. All of these books, written by women, were written before the 1990’s. However, banning books isn’t a thing of the past. Each year new books are challenged and banned.

This week, September 25-October 1, recognizes the books that have been banned over the years. Many of these books have the commonality of exploration of sexuality being too sensitive for young readers. A book called, Our Bodies Our Selves, written “by women for women” in 1971 was banned from many high schools for promoting promiscuity and homosexuality, because the book explores topics such as masturbation, gender identity, menopause and birth control. Critics have gone as far to say this women’s wellness text book was downright pornographic. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson was published in 1999. The story is narrated by a young woman dealing with a recent rape as a freshman in high school. The book was banned in some Missouri schools for promoting pre-marital sex and promiscuity.

These more recent bannings share a commonalty with those that I learned about in high school. Many of them are said to either celebrate sexuality. Now there are plenty of books banned for other reasons but one does find this common thread linking all of these books together. They challenge the moral standing of a society, what books are banned shows what that society values.

theawakeningThe Awakening was banned directly after its publication in 1899 for being disturbing. The topic of the book was so outrageous and offended the critics so fiercely that this book was not allowed back into distribution for decades after its release.  What was this book about that was so threatening to the society of 1899? The Awakening is about a young girl exploring what she wants out of life. The problem that so many had with the book, though, was that she was exploring what she wanted outside of being a wife and a mother. In the 1890’s that was an incredulous thought; that a woman could choose anything other than being a wife and a mother.

What books are banned and why allows people to really understand the values and beliefs of a country, a state, or a school system. Banning Books is still happening (Harry Potter was banned in some places!) and they will continue to happen. It’s up to us to read them anyway. To explore and experience what these books have to say. Reading these titles helps us understand what is so threatening to certain groups of people so we can attempt to understand both the allegedly threatening topic and the audience.

For more information on Banned Books Week, go to


Written by Nicole Brobston

Helping Victims of Domestic Violence

Until we live in a world where domestic violence no longer exists, it is important that we remember the victims include all ethnicities, income levels, and age groups. The bravest thing a victim can do is seek help, and it is important for everyone in a community to know where to send someone who needs those services.

Family Services of Roanoke Valley, TAP Domestic Violence Services, and the Salvation Army’s Turning Point are working together to offer a “Star City Survivors Support Group.” This group offers comprehensive support for survivors of domestic violence and meets twice each week—once in the morning and once in the evening. The collaboration also includes a weekly support group offered by Family Service staff at Turning Point. Their goal is to empower survivors through trauma awareness and skill-building.

The best part about this partnership is that it creates an opportunity for each organization to offer their best services to those in need. Family Services of Roanoke Valley is a mental health counseling agency that provides individual and group counseling for people regardless of age or ability to pay. This includes children, adults, families, elderly, and group counseling. Some children who receive their services will continue to do so as adults.

Turning Point is a secure and accredited shelter for women survivors of domestic violence and their children. Family Services has a group at their location and they provide referrals into private counseling as needed. They also offer therapy for children staying in the shelter with their mothers.

Finally, TAP’s domestic violence services program focuses on crisis intervention and has a hotline for people who need immediate resources. They have several different programs to meet the needs of various situations including one that facilitates an environment for parents who are no longer together but are granted supervised visitation.

The Star City Survivors Support Group is made up of a group of women who start the ten-week course together after being referred into the group. Going through the course together allows them to build a community of people who can lift one another up.

There are ways that we can help as a community. Turning Point has a list of items they will take for donations including feminine hygiene products, food, and clothes. You can also provide information on Family Service of Roanoke Valley to someone in need of counseling services. Visit their website,, for more details.

Fall in Love with Magnolia Home at Grand!

As we declutter and redecorate our homes this fall, we can’t help but notice that something is missing. There are things that need to be updated and replaced. It is time that our furniture reflects our new minimalist values with a touch of elegance. This realization couldn’t come at a better time—as Grand Home Furnishings now offers a variety of pieces from the Magnolia Home collection by Joanna Gaines.

joanna_pailMost of us know Gaines from HGTV’s Fixer Upper, a show she hosts with her husband, Chip. Together, they renovate homes for families and reveal the true beauty of each family’s story through the very walls in which they live. So, it is no surprise that her Magnolia Home collection reflects the same values and mission that you see within these renovation projects. With that in mind, if you haven’t had the chance to preview some of these pieces for yourself, be ready to fall in love.

The traditional dining set in this collection is a statement piece that will become a staple in your family memories and traditions. Not only that, guests will remember it for years to come. The combination of colors and materials will help pull lighter shades from your walls and decorations to open up the room, while darker colors add just enough accent to set it apart.

french_inspired_youth_bedroomrsHowever, don’t just limit yourself to changing up the dining room. Gaines has thoughtfully designed six furniture categories that portray her well-loved style: boho, farm, French-inspired and French youth, industrial, primitive, and traditional. And the best part? Grand Home Furnishings will carry pieces from EACH of these categories! They will include dining room, living room, bedroom, youth bedroom, accent pieces, storage pieces, and even an accessory line. You may just find yourself redecorating your entire home before the holidays. The good news is, you won’t be the only one—and these are purchases that you will cherish and use for years to come. After all, your home is the space where you come to unwind. Realistically, it is your most important investment.

“Home is the most important place,” explains Gaines. “My passion is to help people create beautiful and meaningful spaces in their home. This isn’t just about designing furniture, this is about creating timeless pieces that help tell your home story.”

Of course, you may be thinking that every home’s story is different—and you are right. Every family’s history is unique in its own right, but every once in a while you find collections like this that can capture those beautiful nuances and reflect them for generations. Magnolia Home characterizes a design style that appreciates the uniqueness of vintage elements and creatively combines them in a simple and fresh way that is family-friendly and comfortably livable. That is something to which we can all relate.

The Magnolia Home collection is now available in all Grand Home Furnishings locations (except Summerville and Bristol). You can find more information on their location and the collection by visiting Also, visit to learn more about Joanna Gaines, her family, and the new season of her show!

Bella’s Floyd Yoga Jam Adventure

We spent the majority of our Labor Day weekend at Floyd Yoga Jam. In the mornings, a calm fog settled over the mountain as we awoke to the sound of a flute playing in the distance. Slowly, we made our way out of our tents, in search of coffee and the perfect spot to spread out our yoga mats.

FullSizeRender-2A sign on the trail reminded us to “believe in magic.” But, what is magic exactly? In a world where all that stands between you and what you want is a search bar on a tiny screen, it is hard to remember what we identified as magical in younger, simpler times. We were, of course, torn from those tiny screens as we made the trek up the mountain. One by one, our phones began to read, “No Signal.” Our attention turned to the surroundings, the people, and then almost remarkably inward.

Somewhere between our Thursday night arrival and our departure late Sunday, we felt the release of tension in our backs, our shoulders, and our spirits. As beginners, we worried that we would not be welcomed with open arms by those more experienced with yoga its various forms. We couldn’t have been more wrong. The instructors and fellow Jam attendees not only welcomed us, they inspired us to keep learning once our time on the mountain was over.

IMG_8675We can’t wait to go back to Yoga Jam next year! In the meantime, we’ve checked out videos and books from the library and scheduled classes to keep learning. What was once intimidating is now a deeply intriguing subject that we can’t wait to explore further. Thank you to everyone at Floyd Yoga Jam who made these beginners feel at home!

“A Sense of Place” with local artist Clara Heaton

Photo credit : Kirsten McBride

At Bella, we are lucky to work in close proximity with some amazing artists in our community, like Clara Heaton. Clara is a prolific painter in her own right, but she also does a lot to support other artists in Roanoke and the surrounding counties. She recently completed her BFA in Studio Art with a concentration in painting at Radford University. Through a strong mentorship with one of her professors, Dr. Halide Salam, and a passion for creativity, Clara is emerging with grace and tenacity into Roanoke’s flourishing arts community.

The passion in Clara’s paintings speaks volumes. It is a beautiful abstract culmination of her thoughts, how she interprets the beauty of her own personal experiences, and ultimately the world around her.

Dr. Salam and Clara. Photo credit : Kirsten McBride
Dr. Salam and Clara.
Photo credit : Kirsten McBride

After becoming Salam’s personal assistant, Clara saw her work for the first time. She immediately noticed connections in their work. Shortly thereafter, she also began a friendship with one of Salam’s graduate mentees, Kevin Kwon.

“Before I met Kevin, we were in a juried show together. One of my pieces was placed next to Kevin’s, and my dad pulled me aside and showed it to me,” Clara explains. “My work was very linear, and Kevin’s was incredibly organic.”

Both pieces were the start of something new for them as artists. Kevin and Clara were fascinated that, without having ever met one another, their two bodies of work had the exact same color scheme and such a cohesive presence in the room.

Months later, Kevin asked her if she would like to do a show together and Clara immediately said yes. She also suggested the include their mentor, Salam.

As serendipitous as this all may appear, the truth is, Clara’s dedication, courage, and love for art propels her forward as she pursues these opportunities.

Photo credit: Kirsten McBride

“The cool thing about art and artists is that you cannot become a powerful artist by relying on your talent,” says Clara. “You have to start dedicating hard work to it. You have to say, ‘I’m going to set time aside for this.’ If you can’t get over your ego, then you won’t ever grow.”

Opening night for “A Sense of Place,” in which Clara, Kevin, and Salam will showcase their work, will take place in the Aurora Lightwell Gallery on September 2 at 5 p.m. This event is free and open to the public. Together, the three artists from three different cultural backgrounds and levels of academic training, will respond to the feelings and perception of places unique to themselves through the discipline and practice of painting.

Visitors can also tour the gallery and view their work on weekdays from 10 am to 5 pm until September 30. For more information, visit

Back to College Essentials

The end of August calls for many exciting things: the symbolic end of summer, last minute vacations and of course the infamous start of a new school year. For some, this is the start of a new college semester. College living isn’t always the most comfortable years of your life. It usually consists of small dorms/apartments and super-size boxes of Ramen noodles (they have helped me thrive in college). However, finding ways to make your college space useful and livable is the key to a great experience. Downsizing is difficult to do after living in a large space for a while. Finding products that help you minimize while still maximizing your living space is essential to campus living. Here are some products that can help you utilize your new lifestyle:


1450957343998GreekGirl Beauty Protein Powder (As featured in our August issue!)
It’s important to stay healthy at all stages of life, including college. However, its tough to maintain a good diet with pizza everyday around campus and dining halls with unhealthy choices. Protein powder can be the perfect solution because it offers all the nutrients you need in a meal. It also never goes bad and takes up very little space!

Storage Ottomans
Finding multiple uses for an item can make things much simpler. Storage is the number one concern when it comes to downsizing and it can be tricky trying to fit your life in a small space. A storage ottoman is a good resolution because it’s seating for a guest and a place to put books or shoes. Utilizing the purposes of things in different ways in your new home can make the place more practical.

Lap desk
It’s vital that you take full advantage of the space you have so putting useless furniture, like a desk, in the room isn’t a way to maximize the space. Instead of a desk that you will most likely rarely use, try a lap desk. You can sit on the floor or your bed and do work and store it out of sight when you’re done!

32305708_000_aDry shampoo from Farmaesthetics (As featured in our August issue!)
Dry shampoo is a go-to when it comes to busy college schedules. It absorbs the oils in your hair to make it as fresh as it was days ago. It also doesn’t strip your hair out like shampooing does if you wash your hair every day. Throw a can in your purse for a hair boost wherever you go!

Phone charging purse
Once again, finding products that have more than one purpose is a way to maximize your lifestyle. One product that I have found useful is a purse that can charge your phone. Never go a night out again and worry about your phone dying! These are also perfect for people that are on the go every day.

Written by Stacy Shrader

Meet the Makers: Brigit True Organics

Organic skin products were scarce in the early 2000s. However, even then, Brigitte Rau had a vision of these becoming the new age of skin care. In 2001, Rau created Brigit True Organics (BOT), based in Charlottesville, Virginia. Through this venture, she creates and sells natural body care containing organic olive oil for sensitive skin.

IMG_7155Brigitte, co-owner and founding partner of BOT, understood that not many products were helping the global community with ingredient impact. With this in mind, she stood by creating products that didn’t leave a “footprint” on our planet. All of her skin care products are 100% natural and 74-99% organic. They are great for your skin, and great for the environment too! Even the packaging is green and sustainable to pair with the products.

“As the formulator, my primary goal has always been to find the purest materials and highest quality organic ingredients available”, says Brigitte. “We have followed organic practices since we began in 2001, and are grateful for our loyal customers who appreciate our commitment to quality and purity standards.”

IMG_7157The company offers body lotion, soap, lip balm, skin balm, baby product, and even laundry and cleaning supplies. All of these are now USDA National Organic Program certified. These products can be used for any skin type since they are gentle enough for the most sensitive skin.

“We are recognized as one of the very few true organic body care producers,” explains Brigitte.

The ultimate goal of Brigit True Organics is to create a skin care line that can be worn by every skin and can produce little waste for the environment. This means that BOT’s philosophy goes beyond the life of their products. By supporting sustainable agriculture and green production methods, they join a growing movement of people and companies committed to putting Earth first.

IMG_8038Brigit True Organics’ products can be found at

P.S. We are giving away a really cool prize pack over on our Facebook page! Check it out!


Written by Stacy Shrader

The Sun is More Fun When Playing Safe

Temperatures are high this summer, and Southwest Virginia is filled with outdoor activities to enjoy with family and friends. The Roanoke Alleghany district of Virginia’s Department of Health encourages you to follow key tips to remain healthy while enjoying the sunny, warm weather this summer.

Summer offers many opportunities to explore the great outdoors and enjoy fun-filled activities with your family and friends, but taking precautions against the dangers of sun and heat-related illnesses is critical to keeping you adventure-ready for the long haul.

The human body is made up of at least 60 percent water, and when Virginia summer temperatures rise into the 90s and above 100 degrees, the body cools itself by sweating. To continue to keep cool in extended periods of high heat, it is important to replace the water expelled through sweat. And, to know that under some conditions, sweating isn’t enough to keep cool. The following symptoms could indicate a serious condition:

  • thirst-1474240_1920Dehydration—During extreme heat your body loses fluid through sweating.  Dehydration results from the excessive loss of water and salts from the body, due to illness or from prolonged exposure to heat.  To prevent dehydration drink more water than usual, 2 to 4 cups of water while outside.
  • Heat Cramps— Muscle cramps may be the first sign of heat related illness. Heat cramps are painful, involuntary muscle spasms that usually occur during heavy physical activity in hot environments. Muscles most often affected include those of your calves, arms, abdominal wall, and back. If you are suffering from heat cramps, rest for several hours and drink clear juice or a sports drink that contains electrolytes.
  • Heat Exhaustion— Heat exhaustion occurs when the body loses too much water and salt from sweating during hot temperatures. The elderly, people who work outside and people with high blood pressure bear the highest risk. Symptoms include sweating, skin that’s cold and pale, fainting, nausea/vomiting and a rapid weak pulse. If you experience these symptoms, move to a cooler location and lie down. Apply cool, wet cloths and sip water.
  • Heat Stroke— Heat stroke is caused by prolonged exposure to high temperatures or by doing physical activity in hot weather. Sweating has usually stopped and your body temperature becomes too high. Skin is red, hot, dry or moist. Pulse is rapid and weak. It is important to know that body temperatures can reach dangerous temperatures (as high as 106 degrees) in just 15 minutes. Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition and requires immediate medical attention.  Call 911. Do not give fluids.

Throughout your community there are resources available to help you know when to prepare for high temperatures. Local newspapers and meteorologists will announce when excessive heat is headed your way. These terms can help you understand the science of high heat warning signs.

  • Heat Index: is a measure of how hot it feels when relative humidity is added to the air temperature.
  • UV Index: indicates the risk of overexposure to solar UV radiation on a scale of 0 (low) to 11 or more (high)
  • Excessive Heat Outlooks: Excessive heat event predicted in the next 3-7 days.
  • Excessive Heat Watches: Excessive heat event predicted in the next 24 to 72 hours.
  • Excessive Heat Warning/Advisories: Excessive heat event predicted in the next 36 hours.

To avoid the complications of sun and heat related illnesses, protect your family with these key prevention tips:

Wear Sunscreen
Always apply UVA/UVB sunscreen with a SPF of 15 or greater to exposed skin at least 20 minutes before going outside and reapply every 2 hours.

Drink water
When the temperature rises, it is important to drink plenty of water. Drinks that contain caffeine, large amounts of sugar or alcohol should be avoided because they can cause dehydration.

Stay Indoors
On hot days, prevent illness by keeping cool indoors. If your home is not air conditioned, try to spend the hottest hours of the day in a cool public place such as a library, movie theater, or store.

summer-877464_1920Dress for the heat
Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. Light colors will reflect away some of the sun’s energy. It is also a good idea to wear hats and sunglasses or to use an umbrella.

Limit physical activity
Avoid excessive physical exertion in hot temperatures, especially in the middle of the day. If you must work outdoors, stay hydrated by drinking 2-4 glasses of water each hour and take frequent breaks in a cool place. Even a few hours in an air-conditioned environment reduces the danger of heat-related illness.

Do not keep children or pets in cars
Temperatures inside a car with windows up can reach over 150 degrees quickly, resulting in heat stroke and death.

Check on your neighbors
Although anyone can suffer heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others. People aged 65 or older are particularly susceptible to heat-related illnesses and complications that can result during periods of high temperatures and humidity.

If you are experiencing symptoms, please visit your local healthcare professional or dial 911.

For additional public health Information visit the Virginia health department website at or the national Center for Disease Control website at


This article is part two of a five-part series from the Alleghany District of the Virginia Department of Health meant to inform local residents about the risks and preventive measures they can take to protect the health of their families and friends this summer. 

The Roanoke Alleghany Health District is working to prevent epidemics and the spread of disease, protect the environment, prevent injury, promote and encourage healthy behavior, respond to disasters and assist communities in recovery, and assure the quality and accessibility of health services for all members of our community.