Author Archive

FASHIONISTA Fantasy

Written by admin on . Posted in Business

  If you dream of being a designer, Lee Andersen can help

STORY BY Anne Haddad      PHOTOGRAPHY BY Mary C. Gardella

September/October 2017

The ateliers of Paris and Milan rule the world of haute couture, but there are other gateways to fashion and design. Lee Andersen has opened a portal from her Laurel design and clothing factory that allows entry to anyone with the aspiration and grit to make a longtime dream come true.

One student is creating a line of children’s clothing—set to debut at an Annapolis boutique. Another is designing a line of hijab-friendly soccer clothing for Muslim women who want to play fiercely but dress modestly. Yet another, Valerie Cheeves, is knitting lushly textured, eye-popping designs that she envisions celebrities and models wearing.

“I want someone famous wearing my designs,” says Cheeves, who grew up in Baltimore and lives in Harford County. “I want to be on the runways in New York and London.”

The sylph-like green jumpsuit she designed and hand-knitted for Andersen’s annual wear¬able-art event is easy to imagine on, say, Jada Pinkett Smith, one of the people Cheeves would love to design for.

Cheeves, 51, enrolled in May at the Maryland Fashion Institute (MDfin), a new nonprofit venture by Andersen, who has been designing and manufacturing fashions for boutiques and online sales, authoring books on knitting and design, and organizing a festival and museum. Andersen is co-owner of Andersen-Becker Inc., a vertically integrated fashion business in Laurel.

In the last year, Andersen began the Maryland Fashion Institute (MDfin.org) as a school and incubator for aspiring designers, while having access to the factory and marketing infrastructure she uses for Andersen-Becker.

“I decided to go to MDfin because I am trying to learn to sew better, so that I can incorporate my knitting and sewing to create designs,” Cheeves says. “You don’t see a lot of that. I want to be a little bit different.”

She pays a monthly fee to work on a personalized curriculum with Andersen and her business, factory, staff and resources, and is learning the sewing skills she needs. Her dream of dressing a celebrity isn’t far-fetched. She has a family connection to the Baltimore-born Pinkett Smith. When Cheeves is ready—with finished designs and the nerve it takes to approach an A-list actor—she plans to reach out through their mutual connection.

Ever since her mother taught her to knit at age 9, Cheeves has loved it and taught others, including all four of her children. Friends and coworkers would commission pieces or buy her creations, but it didn’t pay enough to make a living. For that, she did a combination of home nursing care and 21 years in the Maryland Air National Guard. Five of those years were full-time active duty, including two overseas tours at a U.S. military base in Kyrgyzstan.

As a certified nursing assistant, she works as a subcontractor for agencies in Maryland that provide private-duty home care. It turned out to be fortuitous: Her night shifts include long stretches of sitting with elderly clients, usually when they are asleep, and so she has time to knit.

“I can’t just sit idle—I’m the kind of person who has to be doing something,” Cheeves says.

With all but her youngest child now grown, Cheeves has been turning her attention to design, going all the way with her ideas and inspirations. She first looked into classes at universities that offer design, but realized that she could bypass the four years required to get a degree by enrolling in Andersen’s newly launched MDfin.

Many of those who attend Andersen’s Maryland Fashion Institute have had some level of experience designing and making clothing. But there are also some newbies, Andersen says.

Some of the MDfin students hear about the program through ManneqART, says Andersen. “We have people who don’t have any experience, but design¬ing has always been in their hearts.” Others have technical degrees, but have wanted to add clothing design to their experience, she adds.

The institute is not an accredited degree-granting program, although Andersen says she hopes to seek that at some point. The unstructured curriculum, she says, means that each student can customize the program to their individual needs.

Andersen likens it to a circle: “You can enter at any point,” she says. “We look at where the person is, and what they need and want to know, and do that.” To arrive at the perfect plan, she says, “takes persistence.”

One student had produced clothing and even shot photos of her work and came to the institute for marketing help. Andersen and her team set the designer up with models, photographers and makeup artists looking to build their own portfolios. Andersen even provides a ready-to-shoot mini studio all set up with a backdrop. Photoshop can provide an infinite array of backgrounds from the Chesapeake to the Serengeti and beyond.

Like Cheeves, fellow MDfin student Lena Thompson is focused on her goals. Growing up just outside of Los Angeles, Thompson says she always wanted to be a fashion designer. She moved east to major in design at Virginia Commonwealth University, but her life took a detour. Instead of working in fashion, she built a life around family and a career in the automobile leasing industry. She designed, made and sold children’s tutus on the side, out of her Randallstown home and at farmer’s markets.

                                                

More than 30 years later, in January 2017, Thompson again found herself at a cross¬roads. She was laid off from the job she’d had for 15 years managing accounts for a large vehicle-leasing company. When she began looking for another job, her husband suggested an alternate route.

“He said, ‘Now would be a perfect time for you to do something you’ve always wanted to do,’ ” Thompson recalls. Her dream? To design a line of children’s cloth¬ing. “Fashion has always been my passion,” she says.

She toured Stevenson University. While Stevenson has a strong design degree program, she said, the faster track with personalized advice and instruction from Andersen seemed a more direct route to her goal. Now, less than a year later, Thompson’s clothing line, DeLena Couture, is about to debut at a boutique in Annapolis.

Andersen has also helped her to move into factory production a unique tutu design she had been selling at farmers’ markets and other events. Once the tutus went into larger scale production, Thompson was able to crank out more inventory in less time. The design, stretchy satin lining under the stiffer layers of tulle, makes for a more skin-friendly tutu. The soft lining under¬neath, she says, makes the tutus more comfortable for “the little girls who like to wear them every day.”

Designing is Thompson’s day job now. She goes to the studio and factory at least three days a week, for eight to 10 hours at a time.
“Lee is open to whatever kind of schedule you want to do,” Thompson said. “You choose your own hours.” *


CLARKSVILLE COMMONS WINS GREEN AWARD

Written by admin on . Posted in news

September/October 2017

When Holly and George Stone were planning a move to Clarksville more than 25 years ago, the first building they ever visited was The Gateway School off Route 108. Attending a home owners association meeting inside the cafeteria, Holly Stone recalls being amazed by the site’s potential.

The Stones’ company, GreenStone Ventures LLC, which works in sustainable development, not only acquired and developed the site, but recently received an award for their vision.

Clarksville Commons is a 40,000 square foot mixed-use commercial center featuring business offices and restaurants including You Pizza, Kupcakes & Company, Creig Northrop Real Estate and Vanguard Orthodontics. Food Plenty, an 8,000 square foot restaurant from the Victoria Restaurant Group, is set to open in early fall. They also plan to use one of the larger spaces and turn it into a commercial kitchen space for up to 12 vendors.

The commercial center is outfitted with photovoltaic panels, a living green roof, cisterns to capture rainwater and stormwater runoff mitigation through rain gardens and porous surfaces.

The Stones were recently honored with the Wintergreen Award for Excellence for small commercial redevelopment from the United States Green Business Council Maryland. The award recognizes green building initiatives and achievements. “It was wonderful to be recognized,” says Holly Stone. She acknowledges that incorporating eco-friendly practices can be costly upfront, but points out that, in the long run, are better economically for the business. “It’s also socially responsible for the community,” she says.

WE SHOULD ALL BE CHIMAMANDA

Written by admin on . Posted in WHAT'S ON HER MIND

Maryland’s 2017 One Book honoree shares insight on feminism, celebrity and raising a daughter

Interview BY Martha Thomas     Portrait BY Mary C. Gardella

September/October 2017

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the author of three novels along with her nonfiction books, “We Should all be Feminists” and “Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions.” She was born and raised in Nigeria and came to the U.S. to study at Eastern Connecticut State University. She went on to study writing at Johns Hopkins, hold a fellowship at Princeton and receive a master’s in African Studies at Yale. She is the recipient of a MacArthur genius grant, and her book “Americanah” won the National Book Critics Circle Award and was recognized as one of the “New York Times’” Ten Best Books in 2013. Her 2003 book “Purple Hibiscus,” has been chosen as the Maryland Humanities One Book for 2017.  Adichie lives in Ellicott City with her husband, a doctor and assistant professor of Family Medicine at the University of Maryland Medical School, and their young daughter. She also spends time in Nigeria.

Q What brought you to Howard County?
I always knew I would have two homes. I didn’t want to be part of the writerly noise of New York. The man who was to become my husband lived in Maryland. The first time I came to visit, I remember noting how diverse the neighborhood was. On the street where we live, the Indian woman, the Chinese woman, the Arab family. I thought, this is perfect.

Q Do people recognize you around town?
I should preface it by saying it’s a good problem to have. It’s easy to whine, “Oh lord I miss my anonymity.” I say this in the spirit of ridiculous gratitude: Recently I was telling my family I no longer like to go to the mall on the weekends. I want to have the right to be all shlumpy in my pajamas and not be recognized by some excited young person who wants to photograph me.

Q You’ll be 40 in September. Do you see that as a milestone?
As I get older, I get more confident than ever before. The rest of me really doesn’t give a f*ck about people approving of me, the way I did when I was 20. It’s my dance space.

Q Yet everyone wants to be young.
I think that this culture is ridiculously youth-obsessed in a way that isn’t helpful for people in their youth. It kind of amuses me. You think of that saying by Oscar Wilde that youth is wasted on the young. When you were young you might have been physically firmer, but mentally you were messed up. That’s what we’re aspiring to?

Q Young women are in the room to be pretty. Young men are there to have ideas and innovate.
Everything negative about society affects women more. It’s a consequence of living in a world that is male power dominated. In Nigeria, in sub-Saharan Africa, it’s still a culture that reveres age, a culture in which being old you automatically deserve a certain respect. Here, there’s almost a sense of disdain, being that older person is someone who just gets in the way. In Nigeria it’s different; from small things, like standing in line, you see people scrambling to let the older person go ahead, or everyone comes to greet him or her.

Q What was your life like growing up in Nigeria?
I grew up in Nsukka, a university town. It was very happy, very safe childhood. I wish I had recognized how happy it was. I miss my childhood. My parents are really lovely people if I may say so myself. My father’s 85 and I’m very much a daddy’s girl. He’s a brilliant professor of statistics, but there’s a fundamental simplicity in his nature that I find very moving. He’s a person whose first instinct is to see the good in people, to believe in people. He lets people be in their own space—though lately I’ve been thinking about how gendered this is as well.

Q Did he make space for you to be a feminist?
For an Igbo man born in 1936, he is unusual, but even so, his perception is what I like to call Feminism Lite. We were having a conversation recently and he said to me, “Of course men and women are kind of equal but the man is the head of the family. The man has a responsibility to treat the woman well.” Which I deeply disagree with.

Q “A Feminist Manifesto” was written before your daughter was born. Would you rewrite it?
I wouldn’t change anything. I need to follow it myself.

Q Raising a child goes quickly and it also seems endless.
Before she was born, I was happily selfish and enjoyed it deeply. One of the reasons I wasn’t sure I wanted a child is I am so committed to my writing. A part of me is a bit obsessive and I worried that I wouldn’t do both well. But now that she has happened … Oh boy, there is a price to pay in terms of time. But there’s joy to balance that out.

Q I understand feeling torn about your work time.
My mother had six children. An educated, middle-class woman. We had nannies. If she had not worked, I would have found that very strange. She went to work every morning and came back in the afternoon or evening and that was perfectly normal and we were fine. I find that in this country if a woman asks for help with child care, it’s something she has to be ashamed of. And if you talk about child care, you have to make sure to say, “They only go two days a week.” This is a country that tells itself it is progressive, but when it comes to the norms around motherhood, the United States is very backwards.

Q You’ve said you feel gender issues are more pressing than race?
Not more pressing. In my own life, I don’t feel as supported when I point out gender injustice as I do when I point out race injustice. I’m surrounded by people who completely get racism. I’m never asked, do you really think it was race? When it’s gender, there’s always that ever-so-slight pause, the possibility of being questioned, being told to prove it.

Q You’ve also written about how you didn’t even think about race before you came to the U.S.— you weren’t a color.
When I was in Nigeria, I thought of myself in as Igbo and as Christian. Religion is a very strong identity marker in Nigeria. But not race, because everyone is mostly the same. What I found troubling when I came here wasn’t that I had become black, but I realized that this black meant so many negative things.
I remember thinking, surely these people don’t think I’m less than? I had this fleeting moment in undergrad, it was the first essay we’d written for the class, and my professor says, “Who is this?” And he calls my name because it was the best essay. I raised my hand and he looks ever so slightly surprised. It was a very small moment, but I saw it. I remember thinking, he’s surprised because he didn’t think that the person who wrote it was black.

Q I understand that you don’t like to talk about what you are working on.
I’m superstitious. You never know. You’re working on something, and it could become something else.

Q Do your characters come to life? Do they lead you?
Yes, it’s the most magical thing about writing fiction. It’s an unconscious thing I can’t explain.

Q By the way, I love your dress.
My nieces are managing an Instagram page to highlight different Nigerian fashion designers. I like this one because it has sleeves. Every damn thing is sleeveless.

Q Are sleeves about modesty?
Not for Nigerian women—it’s not modesty. They have sleeves and then this big cutout at the back. It’s just more attractive.*

SPECIAL ATTENTION

Written by admin on . Posted in Family

FOR STUDENTS WITH INDIVIDUAL NEEDS, THE RIGHT TEACHER MAKES A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE

Story by Krista Threefoot      Illustration by Paige Vickers

September/October 2017

When my daughter was 3, she came close to setting a family record. She nearly became the first child ever to be kicked out of preschool.

It’s not that she was aggressive—she wasn’t the kid who hit or bit. She was the kid who said no. She said no when it was time to stop playing. She said no when it was time to eat snacks. She said no when she had to sit quietly during circle time.
She struggled through transitions and was easily overwhelmed by the ruckus and activity of playtime. She had meltdowns and tantrums; she was rigid in her refusal to cooperate.

After a few strained conversations with her preschool teachers, my husband and I accepted what we had been denying for months: Our daughter showed signs of autism. We needed to get her tested.
We did, and the results were clear. Though she is high functioning, our daughter is on the autism spectrum. We were devastated. While it changed nothing about our child, the diagnosis changed how my husband and I perceived her place in the world. What we thought was a “threenager” phase became a preview of challenges and limitations that would persist throughout her life.

She wouldn’t be growing out of the behaviors that were making preschool so difficult. We began to wonder how she would ever survive the wilds of full-day public kindergarten when she was struggling so much in a small, private nursery school.

As time passed and our daughter’s first day of kindergarten drew near, our trepidation grew. By the time Back to School night arrived, I was an anxious, tearful wreck.

And then, I met my daughter’s teacher. I knew at first sight that she was the one. She wore a handmade jumper designed from fabric patterned with letters and numbers. She was the picture-book-perfect kindergarten teacher, a real-life “Ms. Frizzle.”

My instincts about my daughter’s teacher proved correct: She was incredible. She understood that my daughter thrives when her days are structured, but only if the structure of her day is clearly communicated up front. She understood that my daughter needs time to transition from one phase of the day to the next, so the teacher gave early and extra warnings before each new activity. She understood that certain things make my daughter anxious and once even emailed me an apology because she was concerned that a book she had read about extreme weather might have upset my daughter.

And this teacher, as good as she is, is not an anomaly.

We knew from our daughter’s diagnosis that her fine motor skills were delayed. By the time my daughter reached first grade, it became clear that she needed extra help. I set up a meeting with the first grade teacher, the lead special education teacher, the school psychologist, an occupational therapist and the principal.

I expected to have to explain my daughter’s quirks and how they affect her in the classroom. But I didn’t have to, because the teacher had such insight into the way she learns that she was able to contribute more to the conversation than I was.

The special education teacher picked right up on what the homeroom teacher was saying and put together a plan that was not only tailored to my daughter’s needs, but was creative and empowering.

The principal looked over my daughter’s handwriting samples and understood immediately what our concerns were, adding his own interpretations and recommendations.

Everyone in that room cared. They cared about my daughter as a person, not just as a student. They wanted her to succeed in becoming her best self.

My daughter enters fourth grade this year, and the story is still the same. Her teachers have all recognized her talents, her quirks and her struggles. They have also all recognized—and more importantly, appreciated—what makes her special: her sweetness, her creativity, her unique perspectives. They have both guided her and challenged her—and because of them, she is thriving. It’s a gift beyond value to have people like these in your child’s life.

But it’s a gift that comes with a price. Good teachers are the product of policies and budgets that support them. The teachers at my daughter’s school came by their compassion and their commitment to children naturally, but their specialized knowledge and skills have been honed by a school system willing to invest. And they are part of a well-funded district that has traditionally limited class sizes and provided ample support staff, including special education teachers.

With the federal education budget proposing massive cuts in education, many target funding for teacher training, class size limits, after-school programs and benefits for our nation’s poorest schools. My daughter’s school, which has the highest poverty rate in Howard County, is in danger of losing the programs that have enabled its teachers to meet students’ exceptional needs.

So as we begin a new school year, I’ll be sending my kids in with the extra boxes of tissues and glue sticks and pencils and hand sanitizer. And I will also be calling my representatives, asking them to advocate for the right of all students to a quality education. Because teachers are our best allies in helping our kids reach their potential, I owe them all the help I can give.*

Krista Threefoot lives in Columbia with her husband, two daughters and a rescue dog. She blogs at andanotherthing.com.

EARLY BIRD GIFTS FOR BOOK WORMS

Written by admin on . Posted in Shopping

September/October 2017

 

If there’s a book lover who has everything on your gift list, get your holiday shopping done early on these pages. Or you just might find something to curl up with yourself.

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Knock Knock Personal Library Kit, $16, knockknockstuff.com *Everyday Innovations Bookmarker Flag Pen and Bookmark, $10.99, amazon.com * Prism Eye Glasses for reading on your back in bed, $10.99, amazon.com *Giraffe Family Bookends, $65, uncommongoods.com * Silk bookshelf pillow, $54,
katespade.com * Reclaimed Wood Cookbook Stand, $95, uncommongoods.com * Timbrefone Acoustic Phone Amp, $100, uncommongoods.com  *“From the Library of” Embosser with Stand, $31.96, william-sonoma.com

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LiliLite, reading light and bookshelf combo, $175; $290 for two, lililite.com * Sliding Book Stand, $62, uncommongoods.com *  Invisible Book Shelf, $16 (two for $24), urbanoutfitters.com * Reading Woman Address Book, $19.95, pomegranate.com *  iPad Air 2 Cover, $52, spartina449.com *  Book Book for Mac, $99.99, twelvesouth.com * Canvas Pyramid Pillow, $39, levenger.com *

NUTS FOR FAT

Written by admin on . Posted in Food

FACE IT, FOOD TASTES MUCH BETTER WITH A DOSE OF HEALTHY FAT

STORY and Photography BY Jennifer Cohen-Katz

September/October 2017

For many of us fall means a fresh start. When the kids go back to school we get back to our workout routines and clean up our diets after summer splurges. The crisp autumn days have us yearning for comfort foods. While our digestive systems were comfort¬able with lighter foods in hot weather, a little healthy plant oil is the secret ingredient for richer fall recipes we now look forward to.

Fat is a nutrient necessary for health. Have you heard? Some fats actually offer protective benefits. The Mediterranean diet, full of healthy fats, including fish, olives and olive oils, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables, has been shown to improve cardiovascular health, help control diabetes and aid in weight loss.

Monounsaturated fats improve blood cholesterol levels, which can decrease the risk of heart disease. They may also improve insulin levels and blood sugar control, helpful for those with type 2 diabetes. Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid that helps lower cholesterol levels and support heart health. These fatty acids may also help protect against Alzheimer’s disease and dementia and slow the memory loss linked to aging. The key is to limit saturated fats, which are found in red meat and dairy products. Though recent studies have found that they may not be as dangerous as they were once believed to be, healthy oils still have more than twice the calories of protein or carbohydrates, so it’s best to stick to the types that are proven to help our health.

The science behind healthy fats will be slow to make an impact as we recover from the fat free food boom of the 80’s and 90’s, but those in-the-know have already been getting creative with avocados, coconut oil and all types of nuts and seeds. Let’s breathe a sigh of relief because food just tastes so much better with a little fat in it. I race to the bottom of a salad tossed with my favorite walnut oil vinaigrette dressing, nibble heaps of roasted Brussels sprouts tossed in olive oil and lick the chocolate pudding bowl clean if it’s made with avocados.

Consider including foods with these fats, in moderation, to your autumn menu. If you need some culinary inspiration, search for healthy cooking classes at Howard Community College, through Howard County Recreation & Parks, or at one of the food-focused stores at The Mall in Columbia.

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The Power of Pets

Written by admin on . Posted in Health and Wellness

Research has shown that interaction with a pet is beneficial on many levels

STORY BY Elizabeth Heubeck      PHOTOGRAPHY BY Mary C. Gardella

September/October 2017

When I was 4, I felt certain that my friend’s two dogs were horses. They were taller than I, with pointy ears and sharp teeth. They smelled of swampy muck and terrified me. Then there was a neighbor’s German shepherd, who raced back and forth on the front porch, barking when we walked past. Upon visiting my future in-laws for the first time, their son and I were greeted by two enormous Labrador retrievers whose barks convinced me they could rip me to shreds. They never bit me, but they did maul a brand-new pair of flats I naively placed by the door.

I never envisioned myself a dog owner.

That changed when my daughter, 12 at the time, begged us for a dog. An animal lover from the time she could play with stuffed toys, she promised to fill out the paperwork to adopt a rescue dog and train it. When our puppy dog Sadie came into our lives, every member of our family developed a special relationship with her. Our loving and sensitive mutt has changed the way I perceive pets.

My drastic change in attitude mirrors a shift over the past several decades in how Americans view their relationship with domesticated animals. In our grandparents’ generation, most people acquired dogs to serve primarily as guard dogs or, in rural areas, for hunting. Dogs lived in simple, outdoor houses or in a barn or garage. Now, most American dog owners wouldn’t think of leaving Fido outdoors all day. Instead, we buy expensive dog beds where they can lounge at will, even though upwards of 80 percent of dogs sleep on—or in—their owners’ beds at night.

In 2016 alone, Americans doled out more than $60 billion on pets, according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA). That number is likely to keep rising as pet ownership continues to trend upward. Currently, about 85 million American households, or 68 percent, own a pet, reports the APPA. This is up from 58 percent 30 years ago.

Life-long animal lover and veterinarian Estelle Ward, co-owner of West Friendship Animal Hospital, provides a simple explanation for the morphing relationship between humans and their four-legged friends: “Companionship is really the cornerstone” of the pet–person relationship, she says. A pet, she says, “can be a stead¬fast anchor in a complicated world.” says Ward.

From anecdotes to data-driven research, there’s plenty of evidence of the positive—some might say downright healing—effects animals on humans. Some researchers call this “the Lassie effect.”

A study in Australia recently found that regular dog walkers were more likely to meet the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week. Moreover, the study found, support systems like neighborhood dog parks increased the dog owners’ likelihood to walk.

With their profusion of bacteria, dogs, the “New York Times” recently reported, can add diversity to the indoor microbiome. Before you banish your pup to the bathtub, note the growing evidence that exposure to a range of bacteria can help prevent auto¬immune disorders and allergies. Jack Gilbert, director of the Microbiome Center at the University of Chicago and an advocate of pet ownership is quoted in the “Times” as saying, “If we can’t bring our kids to the farm, maybe we can bring the farm to kids.”
And of course, domesticated animals also provide a wealth of emotional benefits—even for non-pet owners.

Pets on Wheels, a Maryland-based organization utilizes volunteers and their therapy dogs (not to be confused with service dogs, which receive much lengthier and specific training) to provide uplifting visits to people in a variety of settings. The therapy dog may lie at the feet of a young reluctant reader at a local library as he or she reads out loud to the nonjudgmental listener. Or, the dog may receive a gentle petting from the resident of a nursing home. The power of touch has been shown to have therapeutic benefits for elderly patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

According to Gina Kazimir, executive director of Pets on Wheels, as many as 60 percent of seniors in nursing homes don’t receive regular visitors. “It’s an incredibly sad situation,” she says. “Simply by visiting, you’re providing an amazing service.” Kazimir has witnessed the profound effects that therapy dogs can have on the people they visit. She has seen older people with dementia regain their desire and make attempts to speak. She has heard from parents who say their children’s willingness to read independently increased after a few sessions spent reading to therapy dogs.

Shari Sternberger co-founded National Capital Therapy Dogs in Highland more than 20 years ago. From the way she talks about her experiences as a therapy dog handler, it’s hard to tell who benefited more from the experience: she or the people her dogs visited.

“Whatever we had on our shoulders that day kind of fell off,” Sternberger says of the precious time she and her husband, Wayne, spent with their therapy dogs and various patients, often at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center and Johns Hopkins Hospital.

She describes a young girl in the hospital with cancer. The girl’s mother hesitated to let the child pet the therapy dog waiting patiently in the doorway. Eventually, the young girl’s father allowed Sternberger and the dog to enter the room. Sternberger recalls the girl’s radiant joy as she caressed the dog. Sternberger says she is grateful the girl, who did not recover from the disease, had an opportunity to experience a tender moment with a pet.

If you own a dog, you have probably experienced its ability to sense and respond to people’s moods—especially their owners’. Pets on Wheels’ Kazimir recalls how her dogs behaved when her late father-in-law was ill. Normally, the high-energy hounds would roughhouse and run with her husband. But, Kazimir says, during that period they sensed her husband’s melancholy mood and, as she put it, “they suspended all of their needs.” Reflecting on what seems to be a dog’s sense of intuition, Kazimer says, “The reality is that dogs read body language in a way that humans simply can’t.”

And yet, these pets that we bring into our homes—our beds, even—to love unconditionally and treat as family members, are animals. And this is something, veterinarian Ward reminds us, that we too often forget.

“We need to monitor the level of anthropomorphism that we bring to the table,” says Ward. After all, pets often revert to instinct—witness such small “presents” as birds and rodents left bloodied on your stoop, or the aggression some dogs can display when encountering a foe. “These are dogs or cats in their own right,” Ward points out. Even though she adds, “We all just adore them.”


Book County

Written by admin on . Posted in Arts

Howard County has a proven love for literature

STORY BY Amanda Loudin      PHOTOGRAPHY BY Mary C. Gardella

September/October 2017

There wasn’t an empty parking spot to be found. The line of fans curved around the outside of the building. Teenage girls waited in the lobby, hopeful there would be a no-show and that they could nab a ticket.

A rock concert? It certainly felt like it, but in this case, the setting was the Miller Library and the rock star was Chimamamda Adichie, the uber popular Nigerian-born novelist with crowds that follow her anywhere. When she walked on stage, tall and regal in her bright red outfit, she had her audience’s undivided attention for the next hour.

Adichie is just one of the successful authors who has called Howard County home over the years, and her popularity here is indicative of the deep appreciation the area has for literature.

That summer visit from Adichie was one of two literary events in one weekend, the second being the Books in Bloom, Maryland’s inaugural book festival, which coincided with Columbia’s 50th anniversary celebration. By most accounts, both events can trace a path back to 1972, when Ellen Conroy Kennedy moved from New York City to Columbia with her husband, Padraic.

The Kennedys liked what they saw when they arrived back then. But they also made note of what they didn’t see: culture, particularly in the area of the written word.

A National Book Award nominated translator, Kennedy made it her mission to plant the seeds of literature appreciation in her new community. Together with fellow residents Jean Moon and Prudence Barry, Kennedy was instrumental in launching HoCoPoLitSo—the Howard County Poetry & Literature Society—in 1974. Over the years, the society has fostered, grown and played perfectly to the county’s lit-crazy population. “

Susan Thornton Hobby, a local writer, editor and author, serves on the board of HoCoPoLitSo, and says that Howard County’s literature chops run deep. “When you look at the people who moved here— idealists, innovators and those who appreciate literature—you can see that it’s an attractive environment for writers,” she says. “Columbia offers possibility, and writers are all about that.”

Hobby says that over the years, HoCoPoLitSo has brought dozens of literary giants for readings and events, of which there are generally three to four annually. “The list includes multiple Nobel- and Pulitzer-prize winning authors,” she says. “We also believe in supporting programs for youth and have brought numerous writers, poets and authors into the schools.”

Other HoCoPoLitSo events include the annual Evening of Irish Music and Poetry, which will mark its 40th anniversary in 2018. Padraic Kennedy was its original champion, and the event attracts some of Ireland’s top writers, combining the literature with Irish music and dance. Past authors have included Colum McCann, Emma Donoghue, Frank McCourt and this past year, Belinda McKeon, whose second novel, “Tender,” was published in 2016.

Hobby says that one year’s Irish festival looms large in her memory. “We had Colum McCann here, reading from his manuscript of “Transatlantic,” and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley leading sing-a-longs,” she recalls. “Later on we moved into the adjacent art gallery. I looked around to see McCann with a glass of whiskey in hand, Martin O’Malley drinking a beer, and (singer) Eileen Corn Estes holding her sleeping baby. It was one of those magical evenings.”

The society’s events have been so well received that in 1986 it created a cable television series, “The Writing Life,” which features 30-minute interviews with famous and up-and-coming writers. “We’ve added everything to a YouTube channel, which has been quite successful,” says Hobby. “Our collection includes the longest interview ever recorded with (poet) Gwendolyn Brooks.”

Howard County is also home to Little Patuxent Review (LPR), a biannual print journal and series of events featuring poetry, short fiction and creative nonfiction. Like HoCoPoLitSo, the founders of LPR recognized a gap in Howard County. “A group of 12 people gathered in 1975 to brainstorm ideas,” says Hobby, who serves as a writer/editor. “We found a young editor and we were off.”

The original LPR folded for a time in the 1980s but a group of local writers revived it in 2006. Work in the publication has included poetry from Michael Glaser, Joy Harjo and Donald Hall, and fiction from Manil Suri, Michael Chabon and Edith Pearlman.

BORN, BRED OR TRANSPLANTED
Howard County serves as the birthplace or residence of many noteworthy authors over the years: Lucille Clifton, a national figure for young African-American poets and a Maryland poet laureate; Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a wildly popular, award-winning novelist; the authors Carrie and John a-longs,” she recalls. “Later on we moved into the adjacent art gallery. I looked around to see McCann with a glass of whiskey in hand, Martin O’Malley drinking a beer, and (singer) Eileen Corn Estes holding her sleeping baby. It was one of those magical evenings.”

The society’s events have been so well received that in 1986 it created a cable television series, “The Writing Life,” which features 30-minute interviews with famous and up-and-coming writers. “We’ve added everything to a YouTube channel, which has been quite successful,” says Hobby. “Our collection includes the longest interview ever recorded with (poet) Gwendolyn Brooks.”

Local poet/author Ellicott City-based Laura Shovan, has served as a poet in residence in the Howard County schools for the past 15 years. “I typically work with one grade at a time and spend three to five workshops with each group,” Shovan explains.

The Black-Eyed Susans
Like much of Howard County’s literary roots, Maryland’s Black-Eyed Susan awards can trace a path back to an inspired citizen’s living room. The citizen in this case was Ellicott City resident Thea Jones, and she was joined by fellow media specialists Louis Heinrich and Mary Hackman. Together, the three women recognized a need and stepped in to fill it.

“I attended the annual Association of American School Library meeting in the early 90s and learned about a statewide reading program in Kansas,” says Jones. “I knew we needed to have something similar here.”

The three women set about to establish the Maryland Children’s Choice Award—today’s Black-Eyed Susan Award—lining up sponsorship from the Maryland Association of School Librarians. “That first year we had a category for picture books and fiction/non-fiction, for grades four through six,” says Jones. “By the second year, we added awards for grades six through nine.”

As the original name implies, Jones and company established the awards as a way to engage youth in reading by allowing them to vote from a curated list of books each year. Books must be no more than three years old at the time of nomination and voting, and students, parents, teachers or other interested readers may suggest titles to the committee. Then the hard part: choosing the books that make the final list.

For 10 years running on one Sunday afternoon each month, committee members met at Jones’ house to go over potential candidates. “Each committee member had to read at least 15 titles,” she says. “Then we’d discuss the titles and at our March meeting, whittle the list down to 10.”

Criteria for the lists include a good central idea; an appeal for the audience to which it is directed; originality of idea; good writing; and even, sure plot development; among others. Today the committee considers titles in the categories of picture books, grades four to six, six to nine, high school and graphic novels.

The committee enlisted the help of school media specialists to help grow the program and today, the Black-Eyed Susans are an ingrained part of most Maryland public and private school library curriculums. “We created activities for the librarians to help engage the students and promote the program,” says Jones.

While Jones gave up her role on the committee three years ago, she helped set in motion a lasting legacy of reading among the state’s youth. “When we first got started, we didn’t think about the program’s growth, we just wanted to promote the idea of reading for children,” she says. “We can never do enough to get good books into the hands of kids.”

Inspired by her time with these students, Shovan authored “The Last Fifth Grade,” a novel in verse that follows a fifth-grade class attempting to save its school from a threatened closing. “The book was six years in the making and is very much related to the work I do here in the county,” she says.

The county figures large in her current project as well. “It’s called ‘Take Down’ and is set here, loosely based on my son’s experience as a wrestler,” she explains.

Like Kennedy before her, Shovan recognized a hole in the county’s literature scene and over the past year helped launch Wilde Readings, a combination of author reading and open mic event. Working in conjunction with Ann Bracken, Lind Joy Burke and HoCoPoLitSo, Shovan hosted 10 events at the Columbia Arts Center. “I wanted to have something more grassroots here,” she says. The popular series is expected to return this fall.

The written word has also launched a romance or two over the years. Hobby met husband/ photographer David Hobby through Patuxent Publishing Co., and authors Carrie and John Gregory Brown met there as well.

Together the Browns have numerous published books between them and teach at Sweet Briar College in Virginia. “Columbia has a tremendously engaged community,” says Carrie Brown. “You can find great audiences and book clubs all over.”

Like Shovan, Brown says that her time in Columbia has influenced her work over the years. “My first novel and short stories in particular,” she says. “I still come up for readings and taping through HoCoPoLitSo, and I greatly enjoy the vibrant literary community.”

Nearly 50 years ago, Ellen Conroy Kennedy probably never imagined that her new community could evolve into the deep literary well that it is today. But by recognizing a need and investing her blood, sweat and tears, she can now reflect on a job well done. *

Rising Stars

Written by admin on . Posted in Business, PHILANTHROPY & VOLUNTEERING

ONE-OF-A-KIND HOWARD COUNTY PROGRAM EMPOWERS YOUNG FEMALE ENTREPRENEURS

STORY BY Rebecca Kirkman      PHOTOGRAPHY BY Mary C. Gardella

September/October 2017

On a Wednesday evening in April, an entrepreneurial urgency seems to fill the room as about 20 young women tackle challenges that come with a start-up business—like what to include in an annual shareholders’ report, or the most efficient way to distribute pre-ordered products to customers. Dressed in slacks and blazers, they sit in groups at BTS Software Solutions in Columbia, typing information into spread¬sheets or jotting down sales numbers on a whiteboard.

Promptly at 6:30, members of the start-up company Boundless gather in a conference room and Ashley Martin calls a weekly huddle to order, hearing reports from the sales, finance, marketing and supply chain departments. Martin is the CEO of Boundless. She’s also an 18-year-old graduating senior at Atholton High School.

“When I first read the flyer online, I almost didn’t believe it,” recalls Martin of learning about Rising Women, an after-school entrepreneurship program for female high school students in Howard County. “I had to question whether we would start an actual company.”

As Martin quickly found out, it was very real. Run by Junior Achievement of Central Maryland (JA) , a national nonprofit dedicated to teaching young people skills for economic success, the 13-week curriculum offers young women a crash course in entrepreneurship—from conceptualizing and establishing a company to fundraising, sales, production, and, finally, liquidation. “It was so unique, even among all of the amazing opportunities in Howard County, says Martin, who has participated in the program’s fall 2016 and spring 2017 semesters. “I’m going to be studying business in college, and I came into it trying to find any real-world experience I could get.”

Now beginning its fifth cycle, the Rising Women program was established in the fall of 2015 through a grant from The Women’s Giving Circle, a fund of the Community Foundation of Howard County. Each semester, about 20 young women from a variety of Howard County high schools are accepted into the program after undergoing a rigor¬ous application process.

“The curriculum itself is a capstone of Junior Achievement; it’s been around for decades,” says Hina Naseem, Rising Women coordinator and regional director for Junior Achievement (JA), a program that teaches financial literacy, decision making and entrepreneurship to students in grades k-12. The idea for a female-focused program came after JA observed a gender disparity in Company Program, its in-school co-ed curriculum. “We saw that when we go into the business classrooms it’s usually boys, and the few girls there aren’t taking the leadership roles,” Naseem explains. Rising Women establishes a safe environment where young women can develop business skills and feel comfortable taking risks and speaking their minds. “With the rise of women entrepreneurs, we want to get these girls ready, because entrepreneurship is a huge space for these girls to make their mark,” Naseem adds.

As the only JA program of its kind nationally, Howard County’s Rising Women is serving as a pilot. The student companies (which are liquidated at the end of the semester with profits donated to charity) have increased their profits with each term. The fall 2016 cohort’s company, Medley, which created and sold a community cook¬book, was chosen as one of 15 teams from nearly 700 across the country to compete at the JA National Student Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., last June. Now, other counties are interested in replicating the program, Naseem says.

  …..       …..   

Part of what makes the program successful is a focus on empowerment. While local entrepreneurs act as mentors, all of the decision making comes from the young women themselves. “Ultimately, each decision made is a decision by the company,” explains Naseem. “We offer feedback,” Naseem says of herself and the other mentors. “We give advice, but the ultimate decision is within the company.” This is one of the many ways the curriculum prepares girls for professional lives outside of school.

The 13-week structure means students have to work fast, jumping right into the spirit of entrepreneurship. “In the first session, we start considering some of the needs in our community, because entrepreneurs solve problems,” says Naseem. The young women head out to conduct informal surveys and interviews within the community, then form groups of potential business ideas based on that market research. Next comes a memorable experience for many of the young women: a “Shark Tank”- style meeting in the third week, where the groups pitch their ideas to a panel of mentors and receive feedback.

“We had to explain how we planned on making the product, how much we expected it to cost, and how we expected to distribute it,” recalls Josie Yodzis, a 15-year-old freshman at Marriotts Ridge High School, whose group was chosen to be one of the companies. “I’m not one for public speaking, so it was a little nerve-wracking, but everybody was really encouraging and they walked me through it when I got stuck,” Yodzis says. “It was pretty cool.” Her group’s idea—manufacturing and selling headbands sporting Howard County high school logos—became HoCo Heads, one of the two companies formed during the spring 2017 semester. Yodzis chose to be part of the finance department because she likes math and because her dad used to work in finance. And even as a ninth grader, she has an eye on how the experience could affect her future. “Even if I end up not going into business, it’s good to have an idea of how it all works for when I’m doing things on my own,” she points out. “Like buying a house.”

Mentors find value in the experience, too. “I wish I had something like this when I was their age,” says Patricia Diaz, an entrepreneur and business consultant based in Columbia. “It’s really neat to see their learning process, how they solve problems and the emotions around all of the different challenges they face throughout the process.”

In the fall 2016 semester Medley, the cookbook company, ran into a printing challenge. “There was this conversation about a failure, and the CEO was in front of the room talking to the team in a strong way, saying, ‘Hey, we’ve got to get it together,’” Diaz recalls. “It was encouraging to watch them as a team come together—all of them owning up and saying we have to run the business differently.”

Mentors see big changes in the young women over the semester. “Self-confidence is what stands out to me,” says Diaz, who has taught a variety of Junior Achievement classes. “They realize, ‘I do have a voice, and I’ll act on my voice.’”

The students recognize growth within themselves as well. Ashley Martin, Jelena Chen and Annabelle Gao sit on a couch during the spring 2017 semester, studying a laptop, animatedly discussing Boundless’ annual report. When asked what she’s gained from the experience, Chen, a graduating senior at Mt. Hebron High School who is the company’s vice president of supply chain, says, “For me, it was talking to adults in a professional manner, because you don’t really get too much experience with that in school.” Chen continues, “I’m naturally pretty shy, so when it comes to talking to people, strangers especially, I get pretty nervous.” After participating in the ‘Shark Tank,’ she says, “I feel like I’ve really honed that skill.”

The friendships they have formed here will also last a lifetime. “There was a group of five of us from the last cohort, we all go to different schools, we didn’t know each other whatsoever,” says Martin. “Now, we talk in our group message every day—we talk about things that don’t even relate to business,” she adds with a laugh. “Having that much work and being so invested in the business made us close friends.”

And what do they think of the focus on young women? “It’s amazing,” says Martin. “It’s cool to see all the support we have, since we are a minority in the business world. Everyone wants to be involved.” *

NAPTOWN CELEBRATION

Written by admin on . Posted in Travel

A girlfriend getaway is like five birthdays at once

STORY BY Martha Thomas

September/October 2017

Wisps of morning mist still hovered around the masts in the harbor as we made our way toward breakfast. Beyond the bright still-shuttered shops, past the boats parked along the canal known as Ego Alley we could see out to the glistening Chesapeake.

Later, as we dug into our Iron Rooster eggs Benedict, crab hash and berry pop-tart, the restaurant’s owner, Kyle Algaze, marveled, “Every time I walk down Main Street, I think to myself, this is practically the same view I might have seen 100 years ago.”

Sure, if you overlook the shops selling Vineyard Vines, Helly Hansen and Hobo bags, not to mention hats and T-shirts with irreverent U.S. Navy slogans. Annapolis, which was for the blink of an eye the nation’s capital as our nascent country signed the Treaty of Paris, wears its history well. These days, it combines modern day practicality as the seat of state government with plenty of activities for the curious visitor.

As a resident of Maryland, I don’t often think of Annapolis as a vacation getaway, but an overnight in this old town, with a concerted I’m-from-away attitude gave me an entirely new perspective.

Coming off a busy spring, each with our own work headaches and social highs and lows, my friend Beth and I took a quick gal pal trip to the state capital, just for fun. I wish I could say we were celebrating a milestone—a birthday, for instance. In fact, reviewing our itinerary as we hit Route 97 north some 30 hours after we’d first pulled in to Ceremony Coffee (try the Fog on the Harbor, espresso with blueberry mint and a squeeze of lemon), I had this thought: Any one of the half-dozen stops we’d made on this jaunt would be a great splurge for a Big-Oh (choose your decade, ladies). Or you could go really big and cram them all into one trip, as we did.

The best part? Most of these businesses are owned and operated by women.

SAILOR’S DELIGHT
The first order of business on this clear, sunny day (after caffeine of course) was experiencing the Chesapeake Bay under sail. Last year, Captain Jen Kaye’s parents purchased an RV (“a land schooner,” she laughs) to tour the U.S., leaving her to operate the family sailing business, Schooner Woodwind, on her own.

Woodwind and Woodwind II are 74-foot vessels named for Kaye’s father’s previous occupation as a high school music teacher. We took a two-hour harbor cruise from the mouth of Spa Creek along the Severn River out toward the Chesapeake Bay. We saw children taking lessons in a fleet of sailing dinghies and the massive stone Naval Academy built along the point. We saw the Bay Bridge off in the distance. Along the way, Jen and her crew handed off the wheel to anyone who wanted to take a turn. The handful of kids on board couldn’t have been more thrilled to steer the graceful ship. Beth and I succumbed to the temptation of day drinking by ordering a couple of cans of local beer, sold on board (water and sodas are free).

In addition to the daytime harbor trips, Schooner Woodwind has sunset excursions, wine dinner cruises and even “Boat and Breakfast”—with an overnight in a state¬room. Kaye says she sees at least 20 onboard proposals each year—and also hosts about a half-dozen weddings annually.

After the cruise, we walked across the 6th Street bridge to Eastport for lunch at Blackwall Hitch, a nautically themed res¬taurant with a locally driven menu and an upper level deck. The restaurant has a tempting cocktail list (cherry basil smash or grapefruit wine crush anyone?) but we abstained, knowing that we’d be well served at our next stop.

VINEYARD RAMBLE
The Vineyards at Dodon in Davidsonville (about a 20-minute drive from downtown Annapolis) isn’t open for drop-ins, but welcomes those who sign up in advance for a tour and tasting ($25, or $50 to try the premium wines). Most of these visitors, says Regina Mc Carthy, director of client services, end up joining the wine club— receiving first dibs on the winery’s semi-annual releases. Yes, the wine is that good.

Polly Pittman, who owns Dodon with her husband, Tom Croghin, grew up on the 550- acre farm (which has been in her family since 1725). Pittman, who works in health policy, and Croghin, a physician, planted vines in 2007, bottling their first wine in 2011. We sampled the rosé, a blend of mostly merlot, along with sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and the winery’s South Slope, a red blend.

Croghin, who is also the chief winemaker, joined us for the tasting and shared some history of the place. Once a tobacco plantation, the farm was also the home of Maryland’s first champion racehorse, Dungannon, who was imported from Scotland by Polly’s ancestor, George Hume Steuart in 1745. The winery’s premier red blend, 60 percent merlot aged in oak, is named after that horse.

By the time you read this, I too will be a member of the Dodon Wine Club.

NAPTIME
After sampling four wines and walking the vineyards under a hot sun, we were ready for a rest. Returning to Annapolis, we checked into the Loew’s Annapolis Hotel on West Street. Lately, reasonably priced chains are beefing up decor and amenities to appeal to a more savvy clientele. The Loews Annapolis, with its pouffy duvet and crisp white bed linens, its plush robes and clean, contemporary décor, feels like a designer hotel—though its rooms are more affordable than boutique counterparts.

We somehow lucked into a suite with a king bed, a comfy foldout sofa, and a private patio with a view of the city. A parking spot came with the room, so we could leave the car and easily stroll to Main Street for both dinner and breakfast the next morning. If you don’t feel like leaving the hotel, the onsite restaurant, Baroak, is a Belgian-influenced spot that specializes in mussels.

DINNER PRESERVATION
Jeremy and Michelle Hoffman, both Culinary Institute of America grads, worked at some of New York’s most noteworthy eateries (Michelle worked front-of-house at Tribeca Grill and Union Square Café; Jeremy in the kitchens at Nobu 57 and Per Se). The couple opened Preserve in Annapolis in 2015, not long after Jeremy had been named a Young Gun by Eater.com. Their rustic space on Main Street uses its own bounty for décor: shelves with jars of pickled and preserved fruits and vegetables line the walls. Specials are chalked on blackboards, tables are rough wood. But the food is refined and beautifully plated. We had a sampler of pickled veggies that showcased the chef’s talents (seriously, the smoked carrots would satisfy any carnivore). The highlight of the meal was the crispy kale salad, which thumbs its nose at the health clichés you might associate with this ubiquitous green. Batter dipped leaves fried tempura-style are topped with dollops of cumin yogurt. We also had Maryland Blue Catfish (a local invasive species) dressed in a five-spice blend with the sweet scent of anise. Dessert was the Tandy cake, a dense vanilla cake with a layer of peanut butter and chocolate ganache. Perfect for a candle if you happen to be dining on an actual birthday. Though the cocktail offerings were tantalizing, we took it easy and sipped rosé from another local vineyard, Great Frog’s (which is open to the public for drop-in tastings; see box).

MY MY MY SADONA
The following morning, we walked down Main Street to the Iron Rooster for a hearty breakfast before checking out of the hotel. But before heading out of town, we stopped at the Sadona Salon & Spa, where we’d booked a few treats. The elegant space is a converted bank building with high ceilings and gracious features, impeccably transformed by owner Donna Brown and interior designer Sharyn Corry. The soft color palette of ocean-inspired greys, ivories and pale seafoam, accented by glittery chandeliers, distressed furniture and luxuriant seating, creates an ideal atmosphere for soothing indulgence. I was treated to a body scrub, which left me feeling baby soft. Kelly McDonald, the spa director and massage therapist, proved her intuition by identifying stress spots on my back and shoulders and kneading deeply. I also had a shampoo and blow-out, a perfect way to perk up from post-rub down jelly mode (and to get stray bits of scrub goop out of your hair). With my hair a perfect swoop held lightly in place with earth-friendly products thanks to stylist Jennifer Sibona, I was ready for the trip home.

JUICING UP
Our final stop as we headed out of town was a tiny juice bar called Rutabaga, highly recommended by Regina McCarthy at Dodon (who clearly knows her beverages). The tiny store is owned by Stacey and Jim Heywood, who met in London and worked in Australia before returning to Annapolis, Stacey’s hometown. The drinks are blends of fruits, vegetables and nuts—a nice choice for a quick and healthy meal. Beth chose the Lush, a sweet milkshake-like blend of almond milk, raspberry and banana, along with some raw cacao for a hint of chocolate. I went the juice route with a tangy Zest—spinach, pineapple, mint and turmeric.

Thus fortified, we hit the road and, beating rush hour traffic, were home in under an hour. *
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