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Beth SherkDrama has been in Beth Sherk’s blood since the first time she hung a curtain in the basement and put on shows when she was a child. She was a community theater actress long before she was a director, and taught drama for 22 years at Fork Union Military Academy. She has always been a writer.

“It is sort of an incurable condition. Theater is somewhat of an addiction for me,” she laughed. She is currently finishing a novel that she started when her son went off to West Point and ended up in Iraq. She has written other novels, including River’s Bend, which is available on Amazon.

Sherk tried to put into words the feelings she has for her love of theater.

“It is a unique, communal experience. Every actor, every crew person is necessary to the final product and even the audience has their part to play, for a play never becomes itself until someone is there to watch,” she said. “Theater has the potential to make people laugh at themselves and to think for themselves. Even if the play is less than profound, laughing and crying together is a bonding experience, a shot of good energy. I think it is a basic human need. Children play act all the time.”

The current president and the main director for most of the shows, Sherk has been with Persimmon Tree Players (PTP) for over 11 years but said she doesn’t feel it has been that long.

She talked about the early days of PTP, including her directorial debut of The Golden Goose. She recalled when they had a cast of children and adults and performed it three times on the hottest day of the summer at Fluvanna County Day in the picnic pavilion at Carysbrook.

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WillpowerHave you ever wondered what makes the difference between whether or not we are successful with our goals? Kelly McGonigal’s book, The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why it Matters and What You Can Do to Get More of It, offers valuable insights into the science and practice of willpower that you might find not only interesting, but helpful as well.

It turns out willpower isn’t something you either have or don’t have. It’s more like a muscle you can train and strengthen and it’s rooted in our brain. Our brain actually changes depending on what we focus on, what we practice and what we think. As health psychologist Rick Hanson said, “Neurons that fire together – wire together.” If you ask your brain to practice worrying, for example, it will get better at worrying. Ask your brain to practice impulse control and your impulse control will improve.

It’s also helpful to understand the different ways our brain can work in general. McGonigal explained that “we have one brain and two modes”: fight-flight-freeze mode, and pause-and-plan mode. When the most primitive part of our brain, the amygdala, is dominant, our internal alarm system is activated and stress hormones are released. This is fight-flight-freeze mode and relies on very primitive, automatic, unconscious instincts.

The amygdala, or lizard brain, as it is often called, actually hijacks our brain and draws blood flow away from our pre-frontal cortex and affects all systems within our body. In many ways it makes sense why the amygdala might temporarily take over all our body’s systems to ensure we do whatever we need to survive in the moment. However, if we remain stuck in lizard brain mode after the threat has passed, we won’t be accessing our wisest and most skilled self. Many people experience fight-flight-freeze mode activation for non-life threatening emergencies and this has become a habitual way the brain responds to day-to-day annoyances or frustrations. This can be changed with practice, however. In extreme cases involving post-traumatic stress disorder, support from a professional trained in trauma work is highly recommended.

The second mode of our brain, pause-and-plan, lies in our pre-frontal cortex. When this part of our brain is most dominant, we are the best version of ourselves and have the best impulse control, focus, concentration, emotional regulation and memory. This is the part of our brain that helps us remember and be guided by our most important intention even in the midst of conflicting drives or pressures. Add a comment

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WashingtonRyant Washington, Fluvanna’s long-time sheriff, will join the administration of Governor-Elect Ralph Northam (D) as deputy secretary of public safety and homeland security, according to a Dec. 19 release from Northam’s office.

In 2014 Gov. Terry McAuliffe appointed Washington as special policy advisor for law enforcement at the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

Before this appointment, Washington spent 14 years as Fluvanna’s popular sheriff. He has worked in law enforcement since 1990 as a deputy sheriff and Virginia state trooper. Washington and his wife, Camilla Washington, live in Palmyra. They have twin sons: Christopher and Nicholas.

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TravelFor Forney Shell, a tour guide at Monticello and a travel agent with Globe Travel, there is nothing better than travel – seeing other places and experiencing different cultures. Many never take the opportunity to travel until after retirement when “they have time.” Shell believes that age is irrelevant when it comes to learning about other countries and cultures and that people are never too young to start learning.

“One of my passions is to encourage parents to take their children on educational trips. If they can’t then there are other ways to teach about different cultures and people,” Shell said. Shell appreciates trips within a school context, such as when students visit Monticello, but believes exposing children to educational opportunities outside the school environment has great benefits.
Shell is not alone. Experts agree there are a number of ways that educational travel can benefit children and the entire family by promoting stronger family ties and increasing learning for both parents and children.

“Begin with finding out what the kids are studying in school, what did they study last year, what are they studying this year, and what they may study next year, and tie that in with educational opportunities during vacations,” said Shell.

Not all families have money available to travel overseas or even to various states in the U.S. But Shell said there are other ways to remedy that problem and still give children opportunities to learn. “Take them to an Indian, Chinese or Japanese restaurant if they are learning about Asian cultures, and learn about utensils such as chopsticks and different foods,” he said. “Try taking them on a day trip to a nearby Native American Indian powwow to learn about the different tribes that inhabited Virginia.”

Taking advantage of vacation destinations can also provide educational opportunities. For example, Shell said, a family that takes its vacation every year at Virginia Beach has many educational activities at its fingertips.
“I’m not saying a family should have the vacation revolve around education for the kids, because the family will want to have fun, but there are many things to do in that area including the Military Aviation Museum and False Cape State Park,” Shell said. There is something to interest any child, including a National Wildlife Refuge with wild horses, loggerhead turtles, bald eagles, varieties of migrating birds, and even endangered species. The entire family can hike, go surf fishing and even try animal tracking. This teaches them about the natural environment and why preservation is important. This form of education leaves behind the confines and structure of the classroom and encourages hands-on learning.

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Flucos on defenseThe Fluco boys’ basketball team was 2-4 and the Western Albemarle Warriors were 5-1 coming into the Dec.19 game on the Munro Rateau court at Fluvanna County High School. Solid favorites, the Warriors performed as expected, winning 60-27.

The game started badly for the Flucos. Two quick lay-ups by the Warriors after a couple of Fluco turn-overs caused Coach Jason Davis to call an early time-out. The Warriors followed the time-out with two more lay-ups and two free throws for a 10-0 lead.

The Flucos’ first score was a lay-up by sophomore center Walt Stribling to make the score 10-2. After a Western Albemarle basket, Stribling made a nice pass to senior forward A.J. Gregory for another lay-in and it was 12-4. Unfortunately, the Warriors followed Gregory’s basket with a nine-point run that included three lay-ins and a three-point shot, and the quarter ended 21-4.
In the second quarter, the Flucos found their stride and actually outscored the Warriors 9-8. Western made a thunderous dunk on a back door play to start the quarter, but Gregory then went on a run. He scored a medium range jump shot, a three-point jump shot, and converted both ends of a one and one for seven consecutive points. Seven points in a row by one player is an uncommon accomplishment at all levels of basketball. This closed the gap a little, as it made the score 23-11.

Two three-pointers by Western Albemarle boosted their lead back to 18 points. The quarter ended with a basket by Fluco forward Andrew Ward, who scored on a nice pass from Gregory. The Flucos trailed at the half 29-13, and the game did not get any closer. Add a comment

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