Category Archives: Bella Features

Love, Soulmates & Chemistry

Why you are the only one who can write your formula for success.

Written by SUSAN SPARKS 

I wrote something this morning for a media interview and I immediately thought to myself, “Wow, I have to write about this and I have to talk about this, like RIGHT NOW.” So many of us, like me, are serious romantics in life. We think about things like love, soulmates, and chemistry. When I fell in love with my husband at age 21, I was sure that he was my soulmate. In fact I had no doubt. 

So this morning I’m writing up some notes for a media interview and I am being asked to give advice to young adults about avoiding domestic abuse and I write this: This person is not your soulmate if they are making you unhappy. This person is blocking you from meeting your soulmate if they are making you unhappy. 

And I literally stopped writing and thought: Oh my gosh, this is so true! Why did I never see it like this before? 

As young adults, as older adults, at any age, I think we get so caught up in meeting our soulmates that we assume that it is a one-time chance. But I think the point that we may be missing is this: how can they be our soulmates if they are making us miserable? If they are abusing us? If they are changing us into someone else? That really wouldn’t be a soulmate right? In fact, that would be a person taking time up out of your life while you could actually be happy, be living a life free of abuse, and being the person that you were actually meant to be, right? 

So, who is this person that felt like your soulmate? I’ve said many times that abusers seem to have a trait in common, and that is extraordinary charisma. So, there’s no doubt in my mind now that what I felt for my then-husband was a whole lot of chemistry. He was attractive, exciting, and seemed like a great guy! And I felt that chemistry for a long time. Over time, that electric energy went from something that thrilled me in the early years to something that felt like a shock collar in the end. But, the energy never left the situation. I was trapped like a lab rat in an experiment gone wrong. Oh yes, the chemistry. 

And I wouldn’t be surprised at all if you are reading this and nodding your head in agreement, right? He was so great, so exciting, so everything. Now he is scary, and larger than life, and you’re probably thinking: this energy is bigger than I am, now what the hell do I do? And you’re right. It most oftentimes is bigger than you are. But that does not mean that you are trapped, it just means that you need help getting out. That’s why the experts are here. That’s why I write what I write. Because you need to know that help is right here in front of you. 

Are you in love with your abuser? Of course, you probably are. I was. We fall in love with people who seem amazing, seem like our soulmates, and we can feel the chemistry from across the room. But then, over time, things change right in front of our eyes and we are in a new situation that we never saw coming. So how could it possibly be our faults? It’s not. Not yours, not mine, it’s just not. But it does help to understand that we are not in love with our soulmates. We are in love with someone who is taking time out of our lives and who is getting in the way of us meeting someone who, one day, we will learn is our actual soulmate and will make us happier than we have ever been before. Ever. 

I know you might not see that today. If someone had told me all this when I was still inside my destructive relationship, I would have felt like slamming a door in their face. In fact, when I left I swore I would never date again. Now, it’s one of my favorite things to do. Because every time I meet a new man I get to decide if he is going to bring me joy, or chemistry, or be someone that I do not want to share my time with. Then I react accordingly, and I stay or I walk away. All my decisions are mine to make now. In every aspect of my life. And you have the right to make those decisions for yourself, too. 

For more information on surviving domestic abuse visit www.TheSoda-Pop.com

If you are a victim of domestic abuse or domestic violence PLEASE call THE NATIONAL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HOTLINE at: 1-800-799-7233 or visit for more information, help, and to make a plan for your safety. 

Susan Sparks is a twenty year victim and six year survivor of domestic abuse (SODA™). Her reporting has been seen on national network news and her writing has been featured on national media. She is an expert on YourTang.com and has been featured on The National Domestic Violence Hotline (thehotline.org). She has written a book about her experiences with domestic abuse, Sparks in Love, which she hopes will serve as both an educational and cautionary tale to everyone who reads it. Susan is currently working on three other books to further the cause and hopes to bring Sparks in Love to television this year. www.thesoda-pop.com

Save Smarter: Get Financially Fit for 2019

Make these four financial resolutions now to start your year off strong. 

Presented by Member One Federal Credit Union

It’s January and the gyms are full—we hope you’re making good progress on your new year’s wellness resolutions so far. But there’s another type of fitness you should also be focusing on at the start of 2019: your financial fitness. Flex your money muscles for the new year with these goals. 

1. Strengthen your savings. If you don’t currently have an emergency savings fund—or you do but it’s looking a bit scrawny—this needs to be a top priority. Many financial experts recommend stashing three to six months’ worth of necessary expenses in your emergency fund. It’s best to keep this money separate from your checking account. Once you have several thousand saved, consider depositing your emergency funds into a money market account, where you’ll earn more interest without sacrificing instant access to your savings. 

2. Beef up your credit. Many of your long-term financial goals will depend on this, so make sure your credit is in good shape. You can get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and Transunion) once every 12 months via the federally authorized website annualcreditreport.com, and the start of the new year is a perfect time to do so. Scan your report for discrepancies and signs of identity theft. If your credit isn’t as good as you’d like, take steps to improve it, such as getting your credit card balances below 30 percent of your total available credit. 

3. Burn fat from your budget. Take a close look at your spending and you’ll likely find areas that could use a slim down. Budgeting apps like Mint.com, Goodbudget.com, and Youneedabudget.com make it easy to track spending on your smartphone, or good old-fashioned spreadsheets work just as well. Another trick to try is starting the new year with a month-long cash diet, which means taking out a set amount of cash each week and using it to pay for everything other than monthly bills (no swiping plastic allowed). Just like at the gym, exercising your budget works best when you have a specific goal, so visualize what you’ll do with the extra money you save—whether that’s paying off high-interest debt or treating yourself to a tropical vacation. 

4. Set the pace for retirement. By looking at your current retirement savings and considering how many years you have until your target date, you’ll get an idea of whether you’re running a marathon or a sprint at this point. If your retirement savings are a little behind where they should be, it might be time to start pushing yourself a little harder. Consider your age and risk tolerance when determining how aggressive you’d prefer to be with your retirement accounts, and aim for a good mix of stocks, bonds, and share certificates. It’s always wise to speak with a financial advisor about your specific situation. 

Join Member One here each month for more money-saving tips and financial advice! Be sure to visit their website, www.memberonefcu.com, for more info on their products and services. Member One Federal Credit Union is federally insured by the National Credit Union Administration. 

The Magic of Tiny Business

You don’t have to ‘go big’ to make a great living. 

Too many of us feel trapped by work that keeps us from living our purpose. We fantasize about stating our own business, yet we’re warned against falling into debt, working eighty hours a week, and coping with the pressure to grow. Eco-Bags Products (maker of our favorite reusable cotton net bags) founder Sharon Rowe says there’s another way: go tiny! 

Like a tiny house, a tiny business is built on maintaining focus on what is essential by living an intentional life. As an entrepreneur and mother, Rowe is most concerned with putting family first, maintaining financial security, and doing something that makes an impact in the world. Using the success story of Eco-Bags Products, Rowe distills the step-by-step process of building a profitable, right-scaled, sustainable venture that doesn’t compromise your values with her new book, The Magic of Tiny Business. She shows you how to test your concept, manage your money and priorities, and more, while staying true to the ‘tiny’ ethos. You don’t have to go big to make a great living. 

Find The Magic of Tiny Business through your favorite bookseller or visit www.sharonrowe.com (and find Eco-Bags at www.ecobags.com).

Planning for the Future

Vector Space takes knowledge & skills beyond the classroom.

“When will I ever use this as an adult?” Sound familiar? Maybe you said it to your own parents years ago. Maybe you’re hearing it echoed from your child now. It’s not an easy question to answer, especially when the devices we carry in our pockets do a lot of our thinking for us.

Students, like their parents, are increasingly relying on cell phones and tablets to discover, create, and enjoy groundbreaking innovations. Unfortunately, even as technology advances, educational opportunities for middle and high school students have struggled to keep up throughout the country. 

In Lynchburg, the folks behind Vector Space are doing their part to change that. Their 8,000 square foot space provides a home for individuals and groups to work with tools and equipment to build a variety of different products from the fields of woodworking, metalworking, textiles, electronics, computers, and prototyping. This spring, their partnership with The Best Buy Foundation will also increase the resources for teenagers who are interested in learning how different subjects, specifically fashion, can merge with technological advances to create promising employment opportunities. 

Beginning in January, ten teens will enroll in a six-week class at Vector Space that will introduce them to hand sewing, machine sewing, soldering, and garment design, as well as electronics and computer programming. Classes will meet two evenings per week in January and February, and will be lead by two instructors, and engineer, and a fashion designer. The program, sponsored by Best Buy, will culminate in a public fashion show at Randolph College on March 24, 2019 at the Lynchburg Mini Maker Faire. 

“Textiles and electronics are really still at the beginning stages of coming together. There is a lot to be explored, a lot of creative ways we can merge these two fields,” says Adam Spontarelli, Director of Education at Vector Space. “This is not just the first fashion and tech class in Lynchburg, it is cutting edge in both industries.”

A goal of this project is to introduce young women to computer programming. It’s hard to believe, but even in 2019, there are less women than men in computer science fields. Both organizations hope to help reduce the barriers for women and emphasize computer science skills for females during their middle and high school years. 

Community support is vital, because every piece of the puzzle matters as young people begin to understand how what they are learning will apply to the real world in just a few short years. With the dedication that students put into their work at Vector Space, the future of fashion, engineering, and computer science is promising—and so is the impact on our region.

“This is our third annual event,” says Elise Spontarelli, Lynchburg Mini Maker Faire Producer. “World Maker Faire added a Fashion Show in 2018, and I am thrilled to have our own fashion feature at Lynchburg Mini Maker Faire.”

For more information on how your child can get involved, and the membership and classes offered at Vector Space, visit www.vector-space.org/fashion.

Written by Hayleigh Worgan

Keep the “Happy” in Your Happy Holidays

Savvy Tips for Stress-free Seasonal Spending

Article courtesy of Member One Federal Credit Union

It’s the most wonderful time of the year—and for many of us, it’s also the most expensive. We’re here to help with tips for maximizing the festivities while minimizing the financial frustration this holiday season. 

Use credit sensibly. Starting the new year with new debt is enough to make a Scrooge out of anyone. If you’re going to put your seasonal spending on a credit card, you need a plan in place to pay it off quickly. That means setting a shopping limit and sticking to it, as well as budgeting money each month to pay down the balance. Opt for a low-interest card and/or one that offers cash back rewards to get the most bang for your holiday buck. 

Shop securely. Not much can put a stop to your seasonal cheer faster than falling victim to credit card fraud or an online scam. While you’re busily scoring online deals, take a moment to ensure that any website you order from is secure by checking for “https” plus a padlock symbol at the beginning of the site’s URL field. Any device used for online shopping should be protected by up-to-date anti-virus software. Consider using PayPal, or if you choose to shop with a card, make it a credit card instead of a debit card to safeguard your bank accounts. 

Give experiences, not things. Cut the consumerism and the clutter this year by sharing experiences instead of exchanging stuff. Our local community is filled with activities that would make great gifted experiences. Consider giving tickets to a Rail Yard Dawgs hockey game or a Mill Mountain Theatre performance, paying for a YMCA membership, or treating a friend to an art class at the Taubman Museum. 

Volunteer. Stay in the spirit of the season with a group volunteer activity. In lieu of a holiday party, ask friends if they’d be interested in getting together for a cause. It’s less money spent on food, drink, and decorations, but more importantly, it’s a refreshing reminder of the real reasons behind the holidays and a chance to bond with your buddies while doing something meaningful. Volunteermatch.org is a good place to start looking for ideas. 

Save. Get ready for next year with a Christmas club savings account. The holidays will be back upon us sooner than we might imagine—just think how quickly 2018 went by! Starting a dedicated savings account early in 2019 can make next year’s holiday season even easier. With a Christmas club account, you make regular deposits from your paycheck each month, in any amount you choose. Then, you withdraw those funds at a specified date, usually in October, and begin your pre-budgeted holiday shopping. The trick: if you try to withdraw money before the set date, it will cost you a fee. Try keeping your receipts this holiday season to get an idea of how much to budget for 2019.

Join Member One here each month for more money-saving tips and financial advice! Be sure to visit their website, www.memberonefcu.com, for more info on their products and services. Member One Federal Credit Union is federally insured by the National Credit Union Administration. 

A Fitting Snack for Holiday Festivities

Accommodating all Your Guests Tastes

The to-do list for holiday hosts seems to be a never-ending one, starting with planning, guest lists and preparation then ending with goodbyes and cleanup. The hours of work that go into a festive get-together are almost always worth it in the end, and family members surely appreciate the hospitality—especially when it comes to food. 

When hosting for the holidays, it can be a challenge to accommodate all of your guests’ favorite tastes while factoring in dietary preferences and restrictions. Building out a balanced menu, like other parts of hosting, starts with devising a thought-out plan. 

To help accomplish this task without cooking up personal dishes for everybody in the house, consider these simple tips: 

Request that guests RSVP. Assuming you have a basic understanding of which friends and family members adhere to special diets, knowing exactly who is coming can be a major help before heading to the store. 

Think back to past festivities. Try to remember which dishes were hits at last year’s party, and which ones were hardly touched. Maybe the appetizers that disappeared in a flash will be good ideas to repeat this year. 

Create dishes that fit (almost) everyone. While you can’t control guests’ flavor preferences, it is possible to whip up snack trays, main courses, desserts and more that fit a multitude of dietary restrictions. For example, these Bacon, Baked Brie and Cranberry Holiday Melts feature Crunchmaster Multi-Grain Crackers for a gluten-free, non-GMO, low-sugar, tasty crunch. Because they’re made with wholesome ingredients, these simple snacks are crafted to fit nearly every healthy lifestyle. Plus, if multiple family members adhere to vegetarian lifestyles, you can simply omit the bacon. (Crunchmaster Crackers can be found at EarthFare.) 

Add “warning” labels. Despite your best efforts, it can be nearly impossible to create foods every single person can enjoy. If you make a dish containing a common allergen, such as peanuts, simply place a card next to the bowl, tray, plate or pan that informs guests of the ingredients included. 

For other recipes, coupons, tips and nutritional information, visit www.crunchmaster.com

 

Bacon, Baked Brie and Cranberry Holiday Melts 

Prep time: 10 minutes    Cook time: 5 minutes   Servings: 6 

 

24 Crunchmaster Multi-Grain Crackers, Sea Salt flavor 

24 small slices Brie cheese 

1/4 cup prepared cranberry sauce 

2 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled 

Heat broiler to high and position rack in center of oven. Arrange crackers in single layer on foil-lined baking sheet. 

Top each cracker with slice of Brie, 1/2 teaspoon cranberry sauce and sprinkle of bacon. Broil 1-2 minutes, or until cheese is melted. 

Tip: For vegetarian option, substitute chopped hickory-smoked almonds or pecans for bacon. 

Nutritional information per serving: 200 calories; 13 g fat; 7 g saturated fat; 45 mg cholesterol; 350 mg sodium; 11 g carbohydrates; 1 g fiber; 4 g sugar; 10 g protein.

5 Hacks for Holiday Hosting

Simplify your holiday entertaining. 

It may feel impossible to fit even more into already jam-packed days, but when the holidays roll around, entertaining and celebrating always find a way. Fortunately, you can find some shortcuts when hosting that offer plenty of festive style while also helping you avoid stressing over every detail. 

This year, rely on some time-saving hacks so you’re not just throwing the holiday party, but enjoying some seasonal fun of your own. 

Repurpose with purpose. There’s no need to make time for a trip to the store or to spend a bundle on party supplies. A pretty, oversized flowerpot or planter that has been cast aside for winter makes a perfect tub for icing down beverages. When it comes to decor, you can cover any old box with some of last year’s leftover holiday paper to add some colorful touches around the home. A similar idea: wrap canvas art or other frames in pretty paper to extend the theme up the walls. 

Make easy attractive. Most holiday celebrations center on the food, but it’s still an area where you can shave some time. For example, a simple but attractive option is to forgo the family china and opt for gorgeous disposable plates and utensils. (Chinet Classic White has a wide range of products designed for practical use. They do not bend, fold or leak, and are strong enough for extra helpings no matter the occasion. And for a more elegant affair, the Chinet Cut Crystal collection is the only fully coordinated line of disposable plates, cups, cutlery and wineglasses.) Guests will barely realize they’re not using the good china, but you’ll definitely notice when you’re able to skip time at the sink to spend more precious moments with your loved ones. 

Fill the freezer. Whether your holiday entertaining is more impromptu in nature or you host a single sizable shindig, keeping a well-stocked freezer can help make hosting a cinch. Dedicate an afternoon to preparing items you can easily defrost and serve later, like casseroles, appetizers, side dishes and desserts. 

Forgo fussy food. An elegant sit-down meal isn’t the only way to enjoy a holiday gathering. Guests may even appreciate a break from traditional heavier fare. Simple food stations, finger foods and even store-bought meals are all time-saving alternatives. Another time-saving option: dressing up store-bought food as part of a larger spread. For example, you can top side dishes like mashed potatoes with olive oil or butter and sprinkle with cheese or embellish a main course such as ham with rosemary sprigs and fresh fruit. 

Keep cleanup simple. For a festive, yet deceptively easy table, consider using kraft paper as tablecloths and let some of that leftover wrapping paper do double-duty as table runners. Simply cut the wrapping paper to your desired length and fold the edges under to create clean seams. Match the DIY table coverings with a coordinated line of disposable tableware to make cleaning up a cinch. 

Explore more hacks to simplify your holiday entertaining at www.mychinet.com

Top Three Hikes Within an Hour of Lynchburg

By Rachel Van Tuyl

As summer draws to a close and November ushers in cooler temperatures, Lynchburg residents and students may find themselves looking for some beautiful hikes in the area. With so many natural areas around the city, it isn’t difficult to find hikes to fit any level of difficulty.

Husband and wife team Adam and Christine Anderson, who run the website Virginia Trail Guide, have grown up hiking Virginia trails, and offer advice to hikers who may not be very familiar with the area.

Sharp Top Mountain

Thirty-four miles to the west of Liberty University’s campus lies Sharp Top Mountain, which is visible from Liberty’s campus. The 2.6 mile hike is a steep uphill all the way to the top, so this trail will definitely give hikers a workout. A series of steps forms most of the trail, for a total of a 1,227-foot elevation gain.

Despite the trail’s difficulties, it still seems to be a popular destination among hikers.

“The trail is a little rocky and there are some stiffer uphill sections, but it is well worth the effort,” reviewer Dave Phillips wrote.

Adam Anderson has been hiking Sharp Top since childhood, and he has noticed more people taking the hike over the years.

“I always recommend (starting) a hike up Sharp Top early in the morning, so you can take in the beautiful view with a bit of solitude,” Adam Anderson said.

Crabtree Falls

Located just 45 miles from Liberty, Crabtree Falls is the tallest waterfall east of the Mississippi River. It is a moderate hike with few challenges.

“Crabtree Falls is probably one of the easiest waterfall hikes in the Mid-Atlantic,” reviewer Melissa Moore wrote. “The waterfall is only a few hundred feet from the parking lot via a flat, paved path, (and) the viewpoint for the falls is right there next to the falls.”

However, Christine Anderson said that more experienced hikers who want a challenge can continue hiking beyond Crabtree Falls to either Spy Rock or The Priest.

“Both of those spots offer amazing views and are challenging add-ons to the Crabtree Falls Hike,” Christine Anderson said.

Although the falls are a beautiful location, they are not without their dangers.

“It also has the misfortune of being one of the deadliest spots in (George Washington National Forest),” Christine Anderson said. “The rocks are very slippery, but hikers keep leaving the trail and climbing out toward the waterfall.”

According to a sign at the falls, the rocks are slippery because of clear algae growing on them. But Christine Anderson said the hike is safe if hikers stay on the marked trails.

McAfee Knob

Perhaps one of the most well-known trails is the McAfee Knob hike, located about an hour from Liberty. The 8.8 mile hike, with its picturesque views, offers visitors unique photo opportunities. Thousands of hikers visit the area every year to have their picture taken atop the knob jutting out from the mountain.

For many, McAfee Knob holds special memories.

“I spent my birthday backpacking across McAfee Knob a couple years ago,” Christine Anderson said. “I got to sit on the ledge and dangle my feet over the view. It’s a gift to have a birthday in such a glorious spot.”

Since the Appalachian Trail crosses McAfee Knob, the area sees many visitors, and it is the most photographed area on the entire Appalachian Trail, according to Christine Anderson. She believes that the hardest part of the hike isn’t the trail itself, but rather trying to find a parking spot.

“With the rise of Instagram and other social media, casual hikers are choosing to visit this iconic spot in increasing numbers,” Christine Anderson said. “It can be hard to find parking, and the trail is often quite crowded.”

Hikers who want to try McAfee Knob can visit Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club’s website, which offers tips and other information on this hike.

“We’re lucky to be in a state that has so many wonderful hiking trails,” Christine Anderson said. “No matter what trail you choose, you’re going to see something great.”

Whether hikers choose to scale a mountain or visit waterfalls, it is important to plan ahead for hikes. This includes checking the weather, and having a trail map, first aid kit, water and snacks. Hikers can also look for a list of 10 essentials for all hikers.

“Looking at some of the sights you see on these three hikes will naturally cause you to pause and reflect on the beauty of nature,” Adam Anderson said. “With the crazy world that surrounds us on a daily basis, we could all use some of that to help ground us and think about our place in this world.”