Cynthia Erdahl: Answering the Call of Creativity, Again and Again by Elizabeth Bickford

Cynthia with a few of her paintings.


Polychromatic pigments seem to flow from Cynthia Erdahl’s mind through her fingers and onto canvas, paper — really whatever surface she can find. “Color, Color, Everywhere!” could almost be a mantra for this artist who came to her calling by a circuitous route.

After years of city case work in foster care and building a counseling practice, Cynthia, who has a Master’s Degree in Social Work, decided to strike out on her own and start an independent practice. “In order to market myself better, I started going to Toastmasters as a way of developing my public speaking.  It was great and led to many opportunities!”

One of her first discoveries was that she was good at it — enjoying the people that she met and the spotlight so much that she began entertaining the idea of appearing on stage. In one of her first plays, Cynthia was featured in a  comedy, where she portrayed a glamorous 1950’s housewife/beauty pageant contestant. Bitten by the acting bug, she kept on tripping the footlights, in addition to keeping her business going.



Play reading group.


One day she idly did a drawing of the beach and later showed it to a friend who was blown away. Her friend, a fellow creative, saw Cynthia’s talent right away. “She told me I needed to do more art. So, I did some pen and ink drawings of places around Richmond and had them made into cards, and started going to shops to see if they would carry them.” Sure enough, the cards were a hit! So, Cynthia moved out to other markets such as Nags head, Ocracoke, Wrightsville Beach, Fredericksburg, DC. and met with success at every turn.





I remember, when I first met Cynthia in a painting group. “Success in Making and Selling Art,” was an often-discussed topic, because each of us wanted to pursue that end in some way.  This was many years ago and at that point, though Cynthia was relatively “new to the game,” she had already garnered excellent experience.  She passed on some very good advice,  “Just have a pad and pen with you at all times and draw everything you see. Draw everything that interests you.” That and DON’T GIVE UP.



Simple, yes? Cynthia has done that and more. Her ability to find markets for her work, excellent classes from myriad artists and teachers, as well as opportunities to show and sell is phenomenal. How does she do this? Devotion to creativity and to her art, and an open mind about her style and media. Staying FRESH. It’s pretty darn impressive when you think about someone who had no prior training or inkling and, now, keeps at it, constantly creating new art.

So, she has shown internationally numerous times in the “Artificium of Humanitas” East meets West Show,” held in the United States and South Korea. Other opportunities were in China and Uzbekistan. In Richmond she has shown at artspace gallery, Artemis Gallery,The V Tashkent Biennale: Results and Reflections,” Quirk Gallery and many,many other places.

Still toiling away in her studio, her latest show, “Revive” on May 4 in Richmond, at Hummel Associates, 223 North 1st Street, Richmond, Virginia, will feature a range of her work in differing styles, abstract to (quasi) representational. The pieces may wander the map in terms of style, but each is filled with an essential delight, a celebration of life that makes you think, and feel happy, and…… of course, there’s “Color,Color, Everywhere!” Here’s to persistence and painting the world in a panoramic palate!



Dance Fitness Realizing Your Dream





Candice Dion Braxton has a  gentle presence as you sit and talk with her, but, make no mistake, she has a true commitment to fitness, which she pursues with an incredible ferocity.  She began her fitness journey in 2008 when she took her first step on a treadmill. At that time she was working as a Nanny and the woman for whom she worked had a small home gym, where she encouraged Candice to start working out.

Walking on the treadmill led to working out at the Inches-A-Weigh gym, a weight loss center for women with toning and exercise equipment. Loving the feeling of being fit, Candice branched out and started working out and taking classes, specifically Zumba, at the Tuckahoe YMCA in Richmond, Virginia.  Not only was she shedding pounds, but she was also learning the ropes of lifting weights and dancing her way to excellent health by taking Zumba classes.  And, she was good at it!  Over the course of about 2 1/2 years she lost well over 100 pounds.



Candice lost well over 100 pounds. And, she did it the old-fashioned way: with Diet and Exercise! 

But, what about Zumba?  Candice is very modest in her answer to that question.

“I really enjoyed the classes and I kept improving. Everyone in my class kept encouraging me, so, I decided to take the course and become a certified Zumba instructor.” She started teaching in 2011,  right after becoming certified. At first she was leading classes part-time, but that all changed in 2013 when her job ended, and she felt like it was a God-given opportunity to pursue her passion for helping others become physically fit.

How does a Zumba teacher come up with music and the routines? That is a big question, because each instructor has their own style.  Candice likes to mix latin, soul, hip-hop, middle eastern and more. “I listen everywhere I go. If I hear a song I like, I’ll look it up on my phone and save it to listen to later. Music means so much to me and I like to mix it up, with different styles of songs following each other.”

Packing studios has become the norm for Candice.  She teaches corporate classes at:

Capital One, Altria/Philip Morris, Dominion Power and the Department of PublicServices. These Zumba courses, held at workout facilities on their respective campuses, are for the benefit of the employees.  Candice also teaches at two YMCAs in Richmond, and then, there is “Dancing With Dion.”

“Dancing With Dion,” a series of Zumba classes that is open to anyone, brings hundreds of people in every week.  Candice has worked with many local businesses to establish her own dance studios. On Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays she leads her students through swinging, swaying, marching, twirling, moving and shaking, thoroughly enjoyable Zumba routines. These classes are spread out, so, you can take one of these Zumba classes held at workout facilities in Midlothian, on Forest Avenue or on South Laburnum Avenue. *Candice has worked with many local businesses to rent out different spaces for her Dancing with Dion Zumba classes.Her work routine is dizzying, too, because she is  an instructor, fitness trainer, Certified Natural Health Counselor and a DJ.

It’s true that music, fitness and health have combined to make a very full life for Candice. Her love of music and dance spurred her to learn how to spin records, mix sounds and start a business as a Disc Jockey.  She is completely self-taught and has purchased all her own equipment so that she can go anywhere to liven up the party. She loves to see people get up and onto the dance floor! Gigs include weddings, birthday parties, celebrations of all kinds and middle school dances. Candice smiles when I ask her about DJing for Tweens and Teens. “I have had to acquire a whole different set of music for them,” she laughs. “But, I honor every request that they give me! It makes me feel so happy to see them having a good time!

When asked what is one of the most gratifying aspects of her very multi-faceted career helping people, Candice reflects, “My students range in age from 5 years to 80 years old, it’s a very diverse group. I think that being able to teach people who are older, younger and don’t look like me, makes me a better teacher.”

And, what of goals for her burgeoning business? She smiles, and says quietly, “I would love to have my own fitness and health center one day, where I can teach, counsel people on natural health and more.  But, that’s a ways away.” In the meantime, we all twist and turn, shuffle, shimmy and salsa and sweat off the pounds to Candice’s righteous playlist and feel a lot better after every class!


Top Down vs Bottom-Up: The Battle to Understand Speech

by Kathi Mestayer

(This article also appears on the “Hearing, Health and Technology Matters,” site http://hearinghealthmatters.org/betterhearingconsumer/2018/top-down-vs-bottom-up-the-battle-to-understand-speech-kathi-mestayer/)

Top-down grabs wheel, runs into ditch

There are two different ways in which we make sense out of speech – “top-down” and “bottom-up.”

I first read about this in The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker, in which he describes how we take sound input and make sense of it as speech. Let’s start with the top-down system, since it’s the one we’re more aware of.

Top-down auditory processing is more, shall we say, thoughtful, using tools like context (dinner table, board meeting, classroom), expectations (past experience, person speaking), and nonverbal cues (facial expressions, body language).  It considers those factors, along with the speech sounds, and does its best to interpret what was said.

The bottom-up system, on the other hand, makes a lightning-fast, best guess based on the raw sound data. Period. No consideration of context or those other complicating, time-consuming factors. As a result, bottom-up attempts can be comically wrong, like the mis-heard lyrics of The Battle Hymn of the Republic, “he is trampling out the vintage where the great giraffes are stored.”  A thoughtful, deliberative system, like top-down, would not report those lyrics, especially if you’ve heard that song a thousand times. But bottom-up’s job is to get you an interpretation really, really fast.  No editor, no proofreader…a hip-shot.

But sometimes a fast reaction is needed, because we’re busy using up top-down capacity with things like multitasking or making a tough decision.  In those cases, our brains opt for the bottom-up mode and hope for the best.

So, who makes the decision about delegating tasks to the slow road or the express lane?  Our brains do, usually without consulting us, and that’s how we end up on the receiving end of ‘great giraffes’ or ‘national pelvic’ radio.

Top-down and bottom-up, toe-to-toe

Because it has a few more milliseconds to work with, it’s natural that top-down, the more deliberative process, is correct far more often.  But not always.

Take the other night in a noisy restaurant, when my brain handed the task to top-down, assuming that it would be in a better position to tell us what was being said. I was sitting with two friends who were chatting away, when the waitress came up to me and asked, “Are you ready to order?”

“Yes,” I answered.  Then she turned and walked away.

Hmm, what just happened?  I sat there for awhile, puzzled.

A few minutes later, the waitress came back to our table, and said, “Are you ready to order now?”

“Didn’t you ask us that the last time you were here?”

“No, I asked if you needed a little more time.”

At that point, top-down started whirring away, figuring things out. Putting the pieces back together, I see that my top-down system took over as the head interpreter, elbowed bottom-up out of the way, and made the call based on what it expected the waitress to say as she approached the table – were we ready to order?  Nice try.

In so doing, top-down completely ignored what speech sounds were available in that noisy space (which, in fairness, were pretty garbled).  Bottom-up would have given me, “did you betty the border?”  And bottom-up plus top-down would probably have gotten it right.  But top-down, in this case, was about as helpful as the great giraffes. Of course, bottom-up gets a kick out of this. He’s usually the one who gets things wrong. It’s not as amusing as hearing canned spinach instead of the king’s speech, but a new kind of lapse.

Good thing I’m not a control freak. Now, I have two different kinds of mistakes to look out for.  I’m just batting clean-up.  Who’s on first?


Kathi Mestayer writes for Hearing Health MagazineBe Hear Now on BeaconReader.com, and serves on the Board of the Virginia Department for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing.  She has kindly contributed this article to Every Girl’s Dream, but it also appears on the “Hearing, Health and Technology Matters,” site http://hearinghealthmatters.org/betterhearingconsumer/2018/top-down-vs-bottom-up-the-battle-to-understand-speech-kathi-mestayer/.       

In this photo she is using her iPhone with a neckloop,audio jack, and t-coils which connects her to FaceTime, VoiceOver, turn-by-turn navigation, stereo music and movies, and output from third party apps, including games, audiobooks, and educational programs.