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Trading in the Minivan: A Goodbye That Didn’t Happen

Mom on the Run: The Next Chapter

I have to bend down to get into the little car. I slip my right foot in, swing my rear end in and sit down, then bring my left foot over. I reach out, farther than I expect, and pull the door shut. I ease back into the bucket seat, feel it hug my sides and shoulders, and reach forward with both hands to grip the steering wheel.

This little car is nothing – nothing! – like my minivan.

Wow. My feet are on the pedals, but I haven’t started it up yet. There’s too much to look at! Left hand still on the steering wheel, I reach out with my right and touch the control panel. There, within easy reach, the dial for temperature control, the touch computer screen, the radio and navigation system buttons. I slide my fingers down everything, feeling wonderingly. I drop my hand onto the gear shift knob, sportily set between the seats, not on the steering column.

I pull my hand back onto the steering wheel and look at the dashboard in front of me. Whoo, a tachometer! The minivan didn’t even pretend to have one of those. Its dash just had a speedometer, a fuel gauge, and a temperature readout. I have no idea what to even do with rpm readings.

Finally I press the button – press the button! Ha! – and start the engine. Vroom! With that the computer screen lights up, the dashboard springs to life, and I take the opportunity to test the sunroof. Ha again! I try not to gawk as the beige ceiling slides back, revealing a black glass roof. Then that lifts and pulls back too, and voila! The dealership bay ceiling is visible above me.

I turn and look at my husband in the passenger seat. I can’t help it, I’m grinning. We ordered this car, sight unseen, from a dealership in South Carolina. I had test-driven an older, stick-shift model, but this one is less than a year old, manual transmission, and is fully loaded.

And, mostly, it’s yellow. Bright, shiny, sunny, unavoidable yellow. I have wanted a yellow car for my entire life, and now’s my chance. My kids are both in college, my minivan is on its last legs (well, wheels), and I’m 47. Much older and it will be downright ridiculous to get a yellow car; at least right now it’s just silly. So my co-worker Pete found it online, I had it shipped up, and now here we are! Sitting in it! Right here in real life! I get to test-drive it, of course, I’m not committed to buying this car, but it is so cute, and yellow, and affordable, and we have financing all set, there has to be something seriously wrong with it not to leave here with it tonight.

“Ready to go?” The salesman is squished into the small back seat with my son, home for the Thanksgiving weekend and here to experience his mother driving not-a-minivan. I nod, and slide the gear shift into reverse, then – oooh! – we all stare appreciatively at the computer screen, which magically shows the bay behind us, courtesy of the rear-view camera. No way! I try to steer by the picture but can’t in the end, it’s too unfamiliar, the little car and the camera, and I twist around, peering around the driver’s seat headrest and out the little back window to get a better view.

Away we zip off into the night. First I drive, then my husband has a turn. We drive fast, and slow. We take turns and straightaways, try a U-turn. We play with the radio and the navigation system. And finally we go back to the dealership, where we spend over an hour completing paperwork.

We are on the way home, my husband and I and our son squished into the back seat once again, a sheaf of paperwork in our hands, when I realize: I drove her for more than 11 years, we took her on vacations and to tournaments and practices and grocery store runs. I drove Brownies and Cub Scouts and soccer teams and volleyball players and lacrosse sticks and hockey equipment. The minivan was central to my life, to my kids’ childhoods … and I didn’t even look back to say goodbye.

Moser: Community Associations Play Role in Proffer Negotiations


Some of the many tasks performed by civic associations like LOCCA (Lake Ridge Occoquan Coles Civic Association) or MIDCO (Mid County Civic Association of Prince William) include courtesy review of plans, SUPs (Special Use Permit) and rezoning. These civic associations are volunteer groups, usually (but not always) with officers elected by a general membership.

Most of the civic associations have experts in their groups, with specialties like land use and transportation expertise. Many of these groups are also community stewards, protecting the environment and resources on behalf of their communities.

Some associations have been around a long time, like Dale City Civic Association. Some of our areas overlap as in OLR, (Occoquan Lake Ridge Civic Association.) Some of our districts abut and some of our challenges are the same, yet many of those challenges are unique. WPCCA was established in 2008 to address the Woodbridge and Potomac Communities and NAA was formed to address issues in, but not limited to, the Neabsco district.

There is a CDCA (Coles District Civic Association) that has no physical meetings and there is FOCAL (Federation of Civic Associations for Land use) that is composed of members of several of the above listed groups.

One of the unique conditions we review is proffers. Proffers are cash or non-cash contributions from builders and developers. There is oversight administration of proffers as a part of the Prince William County Planning Office that clearly defines what proffers are, what they are used for, and what benefits they provide.

One of the most interesting documents of all time (if you’re interested in land use) is this one, titled,
Monetary Contributions Report. If you really want to read the 33 pages, though, I recommend you download and save the document, then rotate the “view” feature on your PDF viewer to save your neck from permanent tilt!

One would think the proffer process is very cut and dried, since its acceptance in Prince William County in 1976, but often it is left to the civic associations to “negotiate” proffers, fine tuning what is possible with what is necessary to get the best for our communities.

Trying to explain this proffer process to readers in about 500 words is not going to be possible. I’m likely to bore you. (In fact, I think I found myself nodding off in the midst of this!) So, I recommend you start with an easy example of a courtesy review of an SUP and the ensuing proffer.

Visit our Neabsco Action Alliance web page to view the presentation by Frank Stearns on behalf of AT&T to erect a communications facility (a cell tower) in Keytone Park. By viewing the brief slideshow, you can see what is involved in the SUP. We (NAA and LOCCA) are reviewing the construction of the facility and have been advised by Supervisor Jenkins the proffers are two streetlights for Keytone Rd.

Let me know what you think in the comments or send me an email. You are also welcome to join NAA on December 10th, (7:00 PM in Room 107 A&B, in the Development Services Building, 5 County Complex Court) when we host a courtesy review for a proposed auto sales establishment on Smoketown Rd.

Both these projects are located in the Neabsco District, but we welcome all Prince William County residents to our civic association meetings and we’d like to see many more citizens get involved with their communities.

Kiser: Why Black Friday is No Longer Newsworthy


I won’t cover the Black Friday mad dash this year. That means I won’t be standing in line with several impatient people all waiting to score a “good deal” on a cheap TV.

Sure, I’ve spent many Black Fridays going out at midnight, standing at the front door of Potomac Mills mall as the bargain seekers fly in. I also witnessed a fight there one Black Friday morning as hordes tried to get into a shoe store that had not yet opened its retractable metal store gate.

What once started as an idea to generate buzz and get an early jump on Christmas sales has become routine, and frankly, that means it’s no longer news. We know people will camp in tents outside of big box electronics stores, and that long lines will form at shopping malls before the sun comes up. And, expanding on a trend started by Kmart in the late 1990s, many stores for a second and third year in a row will be open on Thanksgiving Day.

Some say it’s a great way to grab a bargain. Others wonder if anyone actually plans to spend any time with friends and family and do what you are supposed to do on this holiday – eat and give thanks. A friend of mine wondered if anyone standing in those lines will eat anything. “If they ate like I do, none of them would be able to walk around,” he quipped.

Let’s also not forget that opening retail stores early on Fridays, or on Thanksgiving for that matter, gives workers less time, if any, to spend with their loved ones. Sure, you can argue that those workers signed up for the requirements of the job, but it’s clear that our greed created those requirements.

So, enjoy your time on Thanksgiving doing whatever it is you plan to do. I’m writing this from a market inside a grocery store where I’ll pick up the remaining items we’ll need for our Thanksgiving feast. You won’t find me in a store tomorrow, and probably not on Friday either.

BizTech: 3 Alternatives to Blogging that Your Company Needs to Know


I previously wrote about the pitfalls of business blogging and why you might want to exclude it from your marketing plan. But if blogging doesn’t fit with your marketing and business strategy, what should you be doing to rev up traffic to your website?

In this article, I want to give quick overviews of three solid alternatives to blogging. Blogging has its place, and it’s often the go-to source for kicking up a website’s marketing efforts, but it’s no the be-all solution.

Alternative #1: White Papers

White papers are somewhat of an oldie. But it’s an oldie that still works wonders. For those who are unfamiliar with white papers, they’re executive style reports that can range from a couple of pages to hundreds of pages. Their purpose is to distill thought leadership as it pertains to a particular service, technology, idea, or some other topic important to organizations.

White papers are popular with technology-focused businesses. For example, McKinsey & Company regularly posts white papers on the subject of healthcare technology.

One important thing you might notice on the McKinsey website is that their white papers are under lock and key. You must fill out a form to gain access. This is where marketing comes into play. In exchange for some of your information, McKinsey hands over their documents. I expect McKinsey would then use that information to facilitate product and service offerings to anyone who fills out their form. It’s completely legitimate, and it’s a win-win for both the reader and the company providing the white papers.

What could you write a white paper about? Think abut trends in your industry – perhaps some underlying currents rippling through the marketplace that the general public doesn’t know about. Topics such as those entice your potential customers to want to read more, especially if the information holds something of value for them.

Check out the SBA’s website for more useful tidbits on using white papers to market your business.

Alternative #2: eBook

Yes, the dreaded eBook. Where white papers might be a remnant of the past, eBooks are the thing of the future. Amazon has exploded as a marketplace for these electronic books, offering a stage for newbie authors to express their ideas and stories in an economical fashion.

How can you take advantage of the eBook concept for your organization? It’s easy. Write one and offer it to your customers and prospects.

Okay, so it’s not that easy. But eBooks are certainly a new and exciting way to engage your target market. Essentially, an eBook is what it sounds like: a book that revolves around a central theme that is offered in an electronic format for consumption. For businesses, an eBook will focus on a non-fiction subject that addresses a problem a target market experiences and tells a compelling story on defeating that problem. Take Dave Ramsey’s Entreleadership book  as an example. In this book, Ramsey expounds on the virtues he’s adapted over the years to build his own business. The book aims to address the problem of business failure and it does so in an enticing way. Entreleadership is a marketing vehicle for Ramsey’s organization, and I have no doubt it has worked wonders for him and his team.

An eBook will solidify your and your organization’s depth of knowledge in a particular field, and the eBook offers a legitimate platform on which you can launch a packaged source of information your clients and prospects will value.

Alternative #3: Podcasting

Podcasting may sound like a bit of a stretch, but it’s definitely a viable alternative to blogging. Podcasts are still going strong, and the technical know-how needed to get up and running is minimal.

For those unfamiliar with the concept of podcasting, a podcast is essentially a periodic audio release featuring one or more people talking about a specific subject. For example, there are running and nutrition podcasts, there are financial and economics podcasts, there are football podcasts and music podcasts – there’s a podcast for just about everything.

If you’re in a trade that can lead to captivating stories or interviews, a podcast can be the perfect channel. And unlike blogging, podcasting enjoys a more central publishing platform: iTunes. You can submit your podcast episodes to Apple’s iTunes network and receive free exposure.

Moser: School Grave Exhumation Tugs at Heartstrings, Ironic for County that Promotes History


The exhumation of Lynn Family graves at the site of the soon-to-be-built 12th high school has been controversial and heart rending.

All week long, email has been exchanged, with friends, with colleagues, elected officials and reporters. Before I write another sentence, I’d like to thank Jill Palermo, writing for insidenova.com, who has produced a series of articles, beginning on August 23, regarding the gravesite at the proposed 12th high school.

If not for Palermo’s efforts, none of us might have noticed what was happening, the Lynn family may never have learned the whereabouts of their ancestors as Palermo wrote on Nov. 18 , and this loss of a piece of our history may have gone unnoticed. Her continued efforts and research culminating in this article from Nov. 21 captured the attention and helped Dr. Bill Olson, Chairman of the Historical Commission’s Cemetery Committee share his concerns about the site and the exhumation.

Our Potomac Local editor, Uriah Kiser, wrote about the situation on Nov. 18 and again on Nov. 19. WRC-TV reported on Nov. 18 and WUSA-TV posted this video report.

The video from the school board hearing may have answered some questions, but for many of us, the answers were not sufficient. PWCS has posted a lot of information on this page, but I am very much aware this information was not posted prior to the outcry of residents.

I thank Delegates Scott Lingamfelter and Rich Anderson for championing the citizens and the Lynn family. Our representatives of the 31st and 51st Districts and their staff have been extraordinarily helpful and I believe we may see some state regulation to ensure this situation is not repeated.

I am so disappointed, not only in the way this situation has been handled, but in the lack of direct communication from our local elected officials. I do appreciate Chairman Stewart and Supervisor Nohe’s efforts to enact a new policy to ensure no other gravesites are violated without proper notification of the family, but it feels like a case of “Too little, too late.”

There was a time when any one of us concerned citizens could pick up the phone or send an email and get a response directly from our elected officials. That seems to happen less and less, as responses now are often through a spokesman. I understand it is becoming near impossible to interact with every constituent with a problem, since each district now has a population over 65,000 residents.

Our county has grown too large, too fast. There is an enormous push to get this school up out of the ground. Economic Development is scrambling to get jobs here that are more than retail and restaurant.

State and Prince William County transportation officials are hustling to catch up with roads to transport all these new residents.

We continue to build homes at an alarming pace, we’re consuming all the old growth and wetlands with promises to mitigate or relocate…Isn’t that like robbing Peter to pay Paul?

I want to leave you with a thought that plagued me all week:

Tourism is the best idea for Prince William County. Tourism means people come here, spend their money, enjoy their visit and then go home to their own state or county, where their children go to school.

Our primary resource for tourism is our history. How horribly ironic it is that we have obscured this site. Worse still, how many times has this happened before the press, the citizens and the internet became the watchdogs of development and the protectors of our resources?


Son Barters when Accepting Cash for Everyday College Expenses

Mom on the Run: The Next Chapter

I have just been online paying the final invoice for my son’s first semester of college. I have been forcing myself to breathe during the two-minute transaction; my bank routing and account information is already entered and it only takes one login ID, one password, one “payments” tab click, one “pay invoice in full” click, and finally one “make payment” click to complete the process.

The breathing part was required because I have now paid the “final” invoice three times, while receiving two refunds for overpayment in between payments one and two. Today’s tuition invoice was for $0.14 – really! – and knowing that the processing costs are well above that invoice amount, plus the fact that that there have already been four other transactions, makes me want to smack someone.

But that would be pointless and destructive, so instead, while I’m here in the online payment portal, I’ve decided to add money to my son’s ID card. That one magic card gets him into his dorm and the library, serves as a meal counter in the cafeteria, and is also a debit card for use in vending machines and washing machines and dryers in the dorm. My son is down to $3 on his card and I’m trying on this late evening to increase that.

To add to the evening’s payment frustration, the online system seems to be down. Three times I’ve put in my son’s ID number (or what I think is his ID number) and his birthdate (that I am sure of!), and three times I’ve gotten a message saying the system is having problems and to try again later. Ugh. Later, I’m going to be in bed. Later, and I will have forgotten.

So I go back to the instructions page and read carefully. Aha! My son can add money himself, in person, on campus, with a credit card. And he has a copy of my credit card, for emergencies, and for staples things I want to buy for him. Yes, I think tiredly, let’s go that route.

I pick up my phone, and text my kid: “Just tried to add money to your ID card online but the system seems to be down. You can do it on campus though … I authorize $75 from my credit card.”

I don’t expect to hear back right away, surely my son is busy, but I get an immediate text back: “I don’t need 75 thanks for the offer probably will just add 35 or so”.

That, I realize, is a big deal. My son doesn’t like to spend my money, he likes to be completely self-sufficient. He has his savings from his summer job, and he wants to use that. But he paid for his own books this semester, and he contributed a lot to his laptop, both things my husband and I fully bought for his sister, and those took a big chunk out of his savings. And maybe he thinks it’s OK for us to pay for his laundry. Whatever the reason, it appears that he will accept some money on his ID card, and that’s a good thing. But $35 doesn’t seem like much to me. Each load of laundry is $7, I think.

So I text back: “$60 then.”

He replies: “40”.

I meet him halfway: “$50”.

And I receive back, “Deal. 45 it is”

I grin. “Lol. Handshake :)” I text back.

I sit back in my chair, smiling. I look up, and, done, click away the online payment plan web page. Finally, an effective and pleasant college payment process!

Moser: Graves Exhumation at High School Site Leaves Trust Issues


My Grandpa said, “Trust has to be earned.” I believed him because I believed everything he told me. Today, though, I’m not sure that was accurate. I think we all start life trusting. Just picture the joy when you toss your toddler in the air! That child trusts you to catch him/her. If you missed, that child may develop mistrust, but it is not an inherent, natural part of childhood.

TRUST: noun: trust
1. firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.
“relations have to be built on trust”

What happens to change that trust? Does trust begin to erode when children discover there is no Santa, no Easter Bunny, or no Tooth Fairy? Do we stop trusting when Dad says he’s taking your dog to “The Farm”, when what he really meant was he was having your elderly friend euthanized?

Is trust something you lose all at once or is it bitten off a piece at a time when you look at the photo of the food you ordered and are faced with the sad imitation when it arrives on your tray? Does your trust diminish when you open a package that you think should be full and it looks half empty? There’s a caveat on the box that reads, “Contents may settle due to shipping.” Are you satisfied with that explanation?

So, perhaps it becomes our nature to be skeptical about people we should trust or used to trust. Certainly, when we read, “Canada says 386 Kids Rescued in porn bust” and discover among those arrested are teachers and doctors, our trust is tarnished. When we read about pedophiles in the Catholic Church or trusted child care providers abusing children in their care, it is no small wonder we have become jaded.

Add to the mix CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) Photoshop, magicians, and optical illusions.
Is it any wonder when we hear some declaration like President Obama vowing to eliminate homelessness for the current 62,000 veterans sleeping in the streets by 2015, we doubt? (It seems especially doubtful after the healthcare.gov debacle.)

So, when Prince William County Schools contract to exhume 13 graves, without investigation by our top notch experts on the Cemetery Committee of the Prince William Historical Commission, and after posting the most minimal of notice in the Washington Post Classifieds, is it any wonder we feel mistrust?

What could possibly be the big rush to move these remains? Why couldn’t this be delayed until adequate public notice was given? I have been told the state only received two objections to the exhumation. I don’t think that is surprising, since practically no one knew about this in time to take any action to delay the proceedings. Why is there no attempt to alter the plans, fence the cemetery and show respect to the dead as we have done in so many other locations in Prince William County?

There are quite a few of us asking questions now. We’re asking the School Administration, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, our School Board Representatives and we’re asking our elected officials. To date, I have received a response from Prince William County Executive Melissa Peacor stating the county’s School Board is ultimately responsible for school projects.

Peacor’s response was polite, but not satisfying.

School Board members have asked that we just be patient until Prince William schools officials respond and another told me she shares our concerns and will be seeking more information.

Unfortunately, since exhumation began on Veteran’s Day, we may all be too late. 

Moser: Having Shovel Ready is Snow Joke


I heard a rumor today. There’s a possibility of snow next week! All right, I didn’t actually hear a rumor, but I did read several Facebook posts, like this one from WMAL Radio and another from accu-weather.com. After the last few years, it seems early November is too soon for snow, but if we know anything about NoVa, it’s that you never know what’s coming next.

To be prepared now will mean no last minute panic with everyone racing out for their typical “bread, milk toilet paper and snow shovel.” Today is as good a day as any to find your shovel. If you can’t find it, maybe you need to clean out your shed. (This happens to me all the time. I set out on a mission and get side-tracked.

While looking for the snow shovel, I see all the cobwebs that have accumulated in the shed. Next thing you know, I have dragged all the lawn equipment out onto the lawn!)

I couldn’t find my snow shovel. I’m pretty sure it’s because I don’t have one. I had one. I actually had three, but I believe they were worn out and I thought I would replace them at the end of the season.

I don’t think I actually followed through with that plan, though.

I am undeterred because I have a secret weapon! One year, for Christmas, my romantic, thoughtful husband bought me a snow plow! You may scoff. You may think, “What? How about a nice piece of jewelry?” Believe me, the snow plow is the best gift he EVER bought for me!

In our nearly 40 years of marriage, up until the snow plow blessed our home, Bill never shoveled snow. I would always get up before daylight and get the driveway shoveled so he could go to work. Then I shoveled the walks. I shoveled neighbors’ driveways. I shoveled neighbors’ walks. One year I shoveled an entire intersection after the snow plows left banks six-feet high and a single lane open. I worked all day until there were two lanes in every direction.

Most people who have survived winter driving in this area once, stay home the next time. I absolutely am afraid to drive in snow! I’m not afraid I will wreck. I have four wheel drive on a pickup and grew up in Indiana, where we had big snows and lived in Illinois, where we had even bigger snows. What I am afraid of is that someone else will hit me!

To help you brace for the coming season, here’s a video from VDOT to help you track where the plows are. I sincerely hope everyone who can stay home, does stay home when it snows and lets the emergency crews do what they need to do.

I am going to list a couple of my favorite recommendations for snowy weather. Add yours in the comments. Oh, and the reason that snow plow is such a great gift? My husband likes to use it!

Snowfall checklist:
If there is snow forecast, please get your vehicles off the street to let the snow plows do their best work.
When you shovel, please do not throw the snow out into the street! Throw it into your yard. The streets will clear faster with much less icing from freeze/thaw.
Get a weather radio and keep it turned on.
You should already have an emergency kit from tornado season. Be sure batteries are still fresh and add a warm blanket.
Check on older or disabled neighbors and clear a path for them.
What are some of your favorite tips for snowy weather?

Battle Pineapple Upside-Down Cake? It’s Cheaper to Eat Out

Mom on the Run: The Next Chapter

OK. I give up. This damp rag is not working. I roll back off my knees onto my heels, stand up, and cross the kitchen. I pull open a silverware drawer, slide aside the divider with the knives and forks, and root around in the assortment of random mismatched implements. Finally I find what I’m looking for: an old steak knife from probably the 1970s, donated to our then-new family by my in-laws when my husband and I set up our household in 1989.

The knife is rarely used, not part of any matching set, and has a sharp, thin blade. It’s come in handy often over the past decades and is definitely the tool for the job today.

Back over to the refrigerator. I open the door, kneel down, get a good grip, and lean in. I apply the blade of the knife to the far right edge of the goo, and start scraping.

The maraschino cherry juice is thick and sticky, and obviously has been settling in for some time. I’m not quite sure how I hadn’t noticed it when it first started to accumulate – though, OK, I saw it a week or two ago, I just didn’t get around to cleaning it right away. I had a feeling it was going to require some elbow grease!

It’s been a few weeks since I cleaned out the pantry, clearing out the accumulated kid snacks and school lunch components. Today it’s the refrigerator. Among other scary things, I’ve thrown out seven expired Greek yogurts, two old looking tubs of shredded Parmesan cheese, and a few completely wasted bags of produce: lettuce, tomatoes, mini peppers.

I’m still adjusting to having no kids at home: I’ve decreased my grocery shopping by a lot, but some things I still buy too much of. Bottled meat marinade, for instance. I only use half a bottle now that I’m cooking for only two, leaving the other half in the fridge …where, apparently, it gets pushed to the back and forgotten. I cook less in general – it’s so cheap for two people to eat out – and I forget the ingredients I have on hand and use less when I do, leading to the three half-full tubs of shredded Parmesan.

The maraschino cherries, however, have no such empty-nester explanation. A few times each year I indulge in a homemade pineapple upside-down cake even though nobody eats it but me, and then I need a small jar of maraschino cherries. A pineapple upside-down cake is just not as fun without maraschino cherry halves centered in the pineapple rings.

But even the smallest jar is too big, and I put the remainder in the fridge, where, like marinade, it gets pushed to the back and forgotten … and apparently knocked over. And then the juice oozes out, and spreads, and hardens in the cold, and becomes an unnatural red-pink glue that has to be chiseled off.

Carefully, carefully I scrape. The hot wet rag I applied before bringing out the knife has softened the long smear, but it still takes some effort, a slow and steadily powered push. From time to time I back out of the fridge and wipe the compacted gunk off the knife and onto a napkin, clearing the blade for the next swipe.

It takes a few minutes – scraping and wiping and finally rubbing the spot with the rag – until all traces are gone. I stand up, raise the jar of cherries to my eye level, and assess: looks like there are enough left for another pineapple upside-down cake. I unscrew, replace, and tighten the lid – no more leaking, thank you! – and put it back in the fridge.

I stand for a minute, gazing proudly at my work, gleaming bare and sparkling refrigerator shelves. Yes! Everything inside is clear and visible. No more buying ingredients I already have!

And as I swing the fridge door closed I happen to see the calendar stuck on the side. November. Oh! Thanksgiving! Extra food, extra cooking … and kids home for the holidays. I open the fridge door again and gaze inside, getting a good look at the clean shelves while I can.

Moser: Who is Waiting for the Holidays?


Do you remember, when you were a child, how you were always waiting for something? It seemed like nearly every day was spent in anticipation of some glorious event.

We waited for school to begin or we waited for school to end. Birthdays seemed much longer than a year apart, especially those important years, like age 6 to start school (In Indiana, we started school at age six if you were born by December 31.) Pre-school and Kindergarten were virtually unheard of, at least where I grew up, so, six was a major birthday!

Thirteen was awesome because then we were teenagers! Age 16 was magic if you were lucky enough to have a vehicle to drive. Eighteen meant you were old enough to join the service. Twenty-one and you were finally an adult. (I have never forgiven the state of Indiana for lowering the legal drinking age to 18 in the year I turned 21!)

In between those mile-marker years were holidays and holy days. I always felt lucky to be Catholic because we celebrated lots more days than kids in public schools. We had eight Holy Days and nearly all of them fell during the school year. I was intrigued with All Saints Day, not only because occasionally we got a three day weekend, but that there were individual feast days for saints and then they ALL had a birthday celebration on November 1!

All Souls Day remained a little murky for me. Halloween and All Saints Day were filled with fun, candy and a celebration, so the prospect of honoring the souls in Purgatory and praying for their release was sort of a return to the solemnity that I typically associated with my religion.

I waited with gleeful anticipation for many events, like the birth of my children. I waited for my husband to make rank, because it meant a little more money in our military pay.

There are other kinds of waiting, not nearly so pleasant, like waiting in line at the commissary, waiting in the aptly named rooms of countless doctors and dentists through the years. There’s waiting in traffic that consumes our time needlessly and makes us irritable and late.

There’s the awful waiting for a diagnosis to be made. Our nerves become stretched tight, our fists clenched in fear and desperation for news we never want to hear. There’s waiting late at night, pacing the floor, agonizing over those same children you once waited for in gleeful anticipation.

Sometimes I have to stop myself. I have to say aloud, “Stop waiting!” Find something productive to do while you wait. Fill your heart with busy! Crowd your mind with the need to help others and soon, you’ll find you are no longer waiting.

Perhaps the oddest observation of all is as we get older, it seems time passes faster. One day you look around and find you are no longer waiting. Suddenly you wish you could slow everything down! So much of life is behind you and there is, for the first time, less life ahead. That happens to most people around the age of 45…I just noticed it today! 

So what? Halloween is over. Bring on the Thanksgiving Turkey! Get out the Christmas tree! Happy New Year!

Area Full of Best Kept Traditions During Holidays

Discover Prince William County and ManassasEditor’s Note: From exceptional museums and children’s programs to historic haunts and unique hikes, there are numerous hidden places waiting to be explored in Prince William & Manassas. Through a monthly feature, Discover Prince William & Manassas will help residents and visitors alike discover some of the best kept attractions, activities and events the community has to offer.

Prince William & Manassas Best Kept: Holiday events

The magic of the holiday season is almost upon us and what better place to celebrate holiday traditions both past and present than in Prince William & Manassas. While the area boasts numerous tree lightings and parades like Merry Old Town in Manassas, there are also a variety of unique holiday programs that draw on our region’s rich history and give residents and visitors a glimpse into the past.

Since 2004, Prince William’s historic preservation division has hosted holiday programs at various sites, said Rob Orrison, historic site operations supervisor for the county. Orrison said his staff tries to create family friendly events that are both educational and fun.

This year, Orrison said they are trying something new at Ben Lomond Historic Site. On Dec. 14 they will be offering candle-lit tours that focus on how slaves celebrated the holiday season. Historians will be around the property portraying slaves and telling their stories about how they saw and experienced Christmas.

“This is something very different, but something we hope will be interesting and educational,” Orrison said, noting that other special events will take place Dec. 7 at Brentsville Courthouse Historic Centre and Rippon Lodge.

On Dec. 14, visitors can also get a rare glimpse into another historic home in Prince William-The Weems-Botts Museum. Once home to George Washington’s biographer, this museum comes to life at the holidays and invites visitors to celebrate a Victorian Christmas, museum director Joann Barron said. The free event includes live music, Victorian crafts and a visit from Santa.

One of the last holiday events for the season takes place at Leesylvania State Park on Dec. 21 & 22. During the two-day celebration, take photos with a Civil War-era Santa who will don his 150-year-old handmade suit, enjoy period music, make decorations and visit with costumed interpreters.

For a complete list of holiday events in Prince William & Manassas, visit DiscoverPWM.com.

Autism Walk Sparks Competition for a Good Cause

Mom on the Run

It’s a beautiful day, sunny and crisp, and I’m at the 9th Annual Walk for Autism Virginia. My company has sponsored a team and there’s a good-sized group of us here, co-workers with spouses and kids, wagons and strollers, happily, chattily making the laps around the Prince William Fairgrounds.

I’ve had a lot of fun. I like my co-workers, and it’s been good to meet the family members I hear so much about. Since I’ve been in Manassas for a long time I’ve run into other people I know, too – it was terrific to catch up with Charlene, who I haven’t seen for almost 10 years.

Now we’re on our third and final lap. Our work group is hanging loosely together, more spread out than when we started, lollygagging little kids towards the back, striding grown-ups in front, and older sisters darting up and down along our group. There are refreshments (pizza! Chick-fil-A!), games, and a moon bounce to celebrate the end of the walk, and the kids are excited, ready to wrap up this boring walking.

Aniya, nine, is particularly frustrated. Her moving on to the after-party is being held up by her mom, who is being held up by cranky five-year-old Julius. So Aniya splits off from them and bounces up to me a few yards ahead. “I want to run,” she complains to me. “I want to run and get there fast, and get to the games and food.”

I consider it for a minute. We’ve just started the third and final lap. I took a spin class this morning, and one last night. I feel fine … but ugh, I hate running. And everyone I work with is here and will be watching me do it. It’s not really far, though, and I think I’m in decent shape. Aniya is hopping up and down. She won’t be allowed to run alone, so … “OK,” I tell her.

I’ve just started to think about it – put one foot in front of the other, my husband counseled in May when we did the Warrior Dash, a 5K run broken up by obstacles – when Aniya grins at me and takes off. With a whirl of her purple jacket she zips away, darting between people and up the hill. (Of course we’re at the base of a hill. Because running isn’t going to be difficult enough.)

Oh no! I really have to do this, and right now! Automatically I take off too, chasing Aniya, following the trail she’s breaking.

The first people we pass, of course, are the president of our company and her husband, and “Oho! Look at this! They’re running! Go, Lianne!” “Look at Lianne run!” Their voices trail behind as Aniya and I get farther away, but ugh, people are watching! And I’m wearing a bright yellow jacket. I’m not going to blend in very well. I’m afraid this is going to be embarrassing. Why did I suggest this? Running?

I catch up to Aniya – I’m glad she’s short, with short legs, and already played a soccer game today! – and we race along for a while, dodging around clumps of walkers. It’s warm in the sun so her coat is open, and it’s flapping as she runs. She’s got her pink hat clutched in her hands and it’s swinging back and forth and she’s chatting, prattling on about how she wishes she didn’t have her coat, and she wants to get to the games, and this has been fun but all the way around three times is long, and she’s hungry.

I’m chugging silently along, listening and nodding, trying to keep a steady pace and looking worriedly ahead. We have a long way to go before we finish, nine-year-old girls seem to have limitless energy, and everyone is watching me! One foot in front of the other, Lianne ….

And shortly after we round the corner, and are part-way up the hill, wham! Aniya stops running. I slam on my own brakes, locking my knees and lunging forward. “OK,” she pants. “That’s enough for now. We can walk for a while.” Yes! I don’t punch the air, I don’t do a victory dance, and I don’t call back to my team, “She stopped first!” Instead, I smile, and we walk, Aniya and I, on this beautiful, sunny, crisp day, for a good cause.

For more information on improving the lives of all affected by autism in Northern Virginia, see asnv.org.

Moser: Dependability Counts as Some try to Shrink their Responsibilities


Are you a responsible person? Do you get to work on time, meet your obligations, take care of friends and family, keep up your property, call your mother and pay your bills on time?

If yes, then you probably are a responsible person!

Sometimes I find myself wondering if people have lost their sense of responsibility.

Here’s an example: Have you ever seen small children in your neighborhood who were outside, unsupervised, running out into the street, dashing out from between cars, or riding their bikes in the middle of the road? The first thought that flashes through my mind is, “Oh, Dear God, protect them!” As soon as my heart slows to a normal pace, the next thought follows, “Where are the parents? That child could have been killed?”

Do you think those children, unsupervised, denote irresponsible behavior on behalf of the parents?(Actually very few child pedestrians are killed by vehicles in comparison to other causes of childhood death. That’s likely a topic for another day.)

All right, try this one: You never leave your shopping cart in the middle of the lot or in a parking space. You always dutifully walk your cart back to the corral. (If you don’t do that, quit reading here. You are most decidedly NOT a responsible person!) What happens if you see someone else’ cart in the middle of the lot or in a parking space? Do you take that cart back to the corral where it belongs, or do you think, “Well, I didn’t put it there, so I’m not taking it back!”

Declaring yourself a responsible person is not an easy task! Through the years, the idea of responsibility seems to have shifted. It often seems to me that people go to extravagant measures to shirk their responsibilities. I realize there are lots of extenuating circumstances why someone may be unable to meet their obligations, like medical conditions or disability may make it impossible for someone to work and earn a living or pay their bills. I’m sure I could name lots more reasons why someone may be excused from their obligations, but for brevity we’ll move along.

I read two stories this week that prompted this train of thought. The first was an article declaring Louis Osbourne (Ozzy Osbourne’s son) declared bankruptcy. He’s 38 years old, and while he didn’t state his reasons, he looks pretty healthy to me! I think it would be irresponsible to ask his very wealthy parents to give him money, but to avoid bankruptcy, I think it would be perfectly all right to ask for a low interest loan from Ozzy and Sharon, as long as Louis Osbourne would be paying that back.

Then, I read Michelle Singletary’s column in the Washington Post on Oct.11. She told of a couple who have struggled to pay off their bills through devastating health problems and job loss. It took them many years, but they were rewarded with knowing they paid their debts. (They were also honored as client of the year by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling)

Their story is remarkable and encouraging. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read Ms. Singletary’s column and then watch this video of Wendall and Linda Ramage. They are definitely my heroes and if I gave an award, it would be for “The Most Responsible People.”

BizTech: Blogging Should be Part of a Company Strategy, Not a Requirement


Today’s super-connected society has created the perception that any business worth its salt should be blogging. We have marketers, thought leaders, and everyone in between constantly expounding the virtues of maintaining an archive of blog posts for the purposes of keeping customers informed, for increasing search engine rankings, for establishing the mark of expert opinion.

But blogging isn’t for everyone—and it certainly isn’t for every business.

You do not need to be a blogger. In fact, it’s perfectly okay not to blog.

There I said it. Before Google sends its secret police to de-list me from the planet’s index, let me explain myself.

Blogging is a difficult, arduous path full of dead-ends, bumps, and constant disappointments. It’s like trying to lose weight. You keep heaping on the effort—downing fruit smoothies and eating carrot sticks—only to be disappointed by your scale’s readings. That’s because losing weight is less about tactics (like eating carrot sticks) and more about strategy. And strategy takes time. Lots of it.

Strategic thinking is a level above tactical thinking, and in my experience, most people suck at strategy. Tactics are low-hanging fruit. We share tactics among each other all the time, whether it’s some new weight loss food or a new search engine optimization trick. But tactics only take you so far. They’re just tools to help you accomplish an overall strategy.

Most blogs fail big time because they have zero strategy. A strategy is a plan, an overarching guide that brings you to a desired set of outcomes. Strategies are wars, whereas tactics are battles.

Most successful organizations have some sort of business plan in place. This is their strategy. When it comes to blogging, the question becomes, “Does blogging fit into my business strategy? Can I use blogging as a tactic to achieve my goals?”

If you can’t realistically say yes to those questions, then you should step back and consider whether or not maintaining a company blog is really worth the effort. While blogging as a whole is a tactic of your business, blogging also needs its own strategy. A blog needs a solid direction, it needs to interface with your other business strategies and tactics, and it must fit in with the culture of your organization. Blogs without any of these characteristics are doomed to a meandering fate of useless posts that bring little to no value to the business and end up wasting time that could otherwise be spent on more valuable activities.

If you run a business or if you’re in the marketing or public relations department of an organization, you don’t have to blog. If it’s a struggle to fit blogging into the grand scheme of things, then don’t pursue it, especially if the outcome is a half-baked concoction.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stumbled across a company’s blog only to find disjointed content that is rarely updated. It makes the company look bad, and it makes me second guess whether or not I want to do business.

Later on, you can expect to hear my ideas on alternatives to blogging. Because while “content is king,” it’s not the blog that always has to be sitting on the throne.

Chris LeCompte is the owner of the web development services company KickPie.com and is the chief web developer of PotomacLocal.com.

Next Big Lesson in College: Do the Dishes

Mom on the Run: The Next Chapter

I’ve been trying to reach my son all afternoon. He called while I was in a meeting – darned work! – and when I tried calling him back he hung up on me, and my next call went straight to voice mail. “Sorry. Class,” stated the immediate text message.

Ah, good, I thought. I paid a lot of money for him to go to college to take classes, so, “No problem talk to you later” I texted back.

But then I didn’t hear from him. I sent another text message, “Call whenever,” but got no response. And I wasn’t really worried, so far every college phone call has been good, or just checking in, not about a problem, but still, my son called. I wanted to talk to him.

So on the way home from the gym I try one more time. He answers on the fourth ring, just as I am getting ready to hang up, and, knowing it’s me, launches right in, “Hey, I was just calling to apologize for all the times I didn’t do my dishes,” he says.

My mouth falls open. I was prepared for some sort of problem, or major news, so this … um … what? “Apologizing?”

“Yeah,” he says. “Some of my suitemates aren’t doing their dishes, and it’s making me crazy, and I know I did that, and now I get it. Sorry.”

I almost laugh out loud, it’s so unexpected, but catch myself in the nick of time. And rather than focus on the glorious realization and apology: “The dishes are all stacked up, huh?”

“Yeah,” he says. “They’re all piled up on the toilet, next to the sink. I’m just watching them to see how long it takes. I’m not doing them.”

Now I can’t help it, I have to laugh, remembering the small bathroom shared by the two dorm rooms and four boys. “Good luck with that,” I finally tell him. “My college roommate did the same thing. I finally caved and did them. I couldn’t stand it anymore.”

“Oh, no,” he assures me. “I’m not going to do them. I’m doing my own dishes. But I’m not doing theirs.”

But, wait: “They’re sitting on the toilet?” I ask. “What are you doing? Moving them every time you have to go, or using someone else’s bathroom?”

“No, they’re not in the way,” he explains. “They’re on the top, in the back.”

“Oh, on top of the tank. Gotcha.”

“Yeah. So it’s no big deal, but you see them every time you go into the bathroom, especially when you have to use the toilet. They’re all right there. And I’m not doing them.”

“Good for you,” I tell him, and I mean it.

Then, “OK, I’ve got to go,” he tells me, less than a minute after answering the phone. “Talk to you later.” And my boy hangs up, leaving me staring at my phone in surprise and delight. Apologized for not doing his dishes! Just a week after I learned that he gets himself up in the morning – and his suitemate too, “because there’s no way he would wake up on time by himself” – though I had to shake him awake all through high school.

And I laugh, already anticipating the next lesson in my son’s college education!

Farmers Market Vendors Maintain Smiles Even in the Rain

Rainy day? That's okay!

Rainy day? That’s okay!

Last Thursday and Saturday were sad days at the Farmer’s Market.  It was cold and rainy.

Cold and rainy does not typically inspire patrons to come out and walk around to buy vegetables. If you did walk over to the Harris Pavilion or to Lot B, you could find many vendors, bravely sitting under the pavilion bundled up but maintaining smiles. Rain or shine, they’re out there.

I’ve come up a list of reasons why the Farmer’s Market is still awesome even when it’s cold or raining (or both):

-You have a good excuse to use your legs on a day when staying in bed feels like the right thing to do. Huzzah for being active!

-You can buy coffee at the Farmer’s Market.  Cold problem: solved.

-Things like chili and soup require ingredients that are sold at the Farmer’s Market. Why not make yourself some amazing comfort food with the freshest ingredients?

-Vendors wake up very early and come with a smile on their face.  If they can do it, so can you!

-Rain or shine, you should feed yourself local, fresh, and healthier food.

Fortunately, the weather is better this week. We do hope to see you out at the market! We’ll be there waiting for you! 

First Timer’s Choice Breathing Skills No Match for Spin Class

Mom on the Run 

It’s 9:00 a.m. and I’m in the spin classroom at the gym, getting my bike ready. I’ve been taking spin classes for four or five months, and one of the many things I’ve learned is to arrive early to get the bike I want, to set it up, and to stretch out.

I’m prepping my preferred bike – they’re all just a little different, with tension and seat variations and I certainly have favorites – when the man walks in.

“Is there going to be a class?” he asks.

“Yes,” I tell him. “It starts in 15 minutes.” I know most of the spin regulars, we are a small and committed bunch, and this man is not one of them, so: “Have you taken spin before?”

“No,” he says. Then, “Do they have back-to-back classes?” My eyebrows shoot up in surprise. Ah, yes, the man has definitely not tried this if he thinks he needs two classes. I mean … everyone is dripping with sweat by the time spin is over. Everyone. For months my legs were in agony from the up and down, up and down, and still every class is painful and exhausting. So – two classes? “I’m looking for a really good workout,” he continues.

“Don’t worry,” I reassure him. “This IS a really good workout.” Ha! What an understatement. Spin class is a killer, even this kind of introductory Saturday morning class. But maybe the guy is in super shape, I think. Maybe he’s a triathlete or something. So, “There is a body pump class right before this,” I offer. “There are some people, including the spin instructor, who take that class and then come right up here to do spin. That’s cardio plus weights. You could do that first.”

The man nods slightly, kind of dismisses the idea, like body pump followed by spin still isn’t challenging enough, and turns his attention to a bike. My gym has articulating spin bikes, they sway from side to side mimicking a real bike’s motion. They’re strange at first, and this guy is swinging the bike back and forth, back and forth, experimenting.

“Take that bike next to me,” I suggest. “I’ll help you through the class.” He looks at me, questioningly. “I can explain terms to you and stuff.” The man nods, moves to the bike to my right, and starts to adjust the seat and handlebar height. I show him how to set it up, suggest he drape a few paper towels over his handlebars to wipe away the sweat during the session, and offer a friendly warning: “This is a tough class. It’s going to kick your butt.”

The man stops what he’s doing, sets his hands on the bike seat, and completely seriously says, “I’ll be fine. I use Buddhist breathing techniques to control my heart rate.”

I freeze and bite my lip, trying not to smile. I have introduced several people to spin class, runners and bikers and excellent overall athletes, people with strong muscles and great stamina, and every single one has huffed and puffed and sweated and groaned and barely finished their class. It took weeks before I was certain I wasn’t actually going to die during class. So this guy – Buddhist breathing techniques? Is he serious?

He must see the doubt on my face, though, because he plunges on: “The first time I tried it, I went running, and I used to be able to run only one or two miles. With the Buddhist breathing techniques, I ran eight or 10 miles! I was just able to run and run. This will be fine.”

“OK,” I tell him. And this time I can’t help but smile a little. “That’s great. But it’s still going to kick your butt. Don’t worry about speed or going up and down. Just keep pedaling. Try to finish.”

Other people are starting to filter in as the man looks at me and smiles. Poor silly Lianne. I obviously don’t understand. “I’ll be fine,” he says. “Really.” And as I stretch my legs and arrange my towel across the handlebars I begin to doubt my warnings. Maybe this guy is a super athlete. Maybe he’s going to zip easily through this class and teach me a lesson about arrogance and fitness. I mean, Colleen and Christy and Tonya and I all suffered, but maybe … Buddhist breathing techniques?

The class starts and soon I’m focused and swept up. My heart pounds with the music as I pedal, cranking resistance up and down as I climb up and coast down imaginary hills. I keep an eye on the guy, as promised. I talk him through positions two and three. I explain how to “gear up” and what “muddy road” should feel like. I mostly keep quiet, though, I don’t urge him on like I did for my friends’ first times; this guy’s got this, right? He wanted two back-to-back classes, after all.

It’s only at the beginning of the third song, still in the early part of the class, when the man turns to me and pants, a word with each breath, “You … weren’t … kidding. This … is … really … hard!” I can’t help it. I grin through my sweat, and reply, “Yeah, but you can do it!” And I don’t say a word about Buddhist breathing techniques.

Kiser: Potomac Local Continues Upward Trend

If there is one thing I’ve learned in recent days it’s that our Potomac Local News is slightly above average.

A proud member of LION Publishers (It stands for Local, Independent, Online, News), I attended our 1st annual conference last weekend in Chicago. The organization formed after the Block-By-Block conferences ended its three-year pioneering mission to help local indie news publishers find financial sustainability.

While at LION I was once again was able to network with my fellow publishers, swap ideas, see how journalists are finding better ways to report on under-served communities, and plan for the long term financial sustainability of Potomac Local News, which, at least for now, is solely supported by local ad dollars.

More than three years into this project andwe are considered by some as veterans in the indie local news scene. However, I tend not to think of myself as being ready for retirement.

But as we indies compared notes on the number of viewers we have on our sites, how long they stay on our site to read and interact with the news, and which publishers are making a profit and which ones are making just enough to get by, Potomac Local News ranks in about the middle.

In my book, starting from nothing, in a community as challenging as this one is (lets face it, life’s tough around here if your financial livelihood is not directly tied in some way to the federal government, and mine is not), then building it into something, then scoring above average is more than a passing grade.

We reached nearly 70,000 unique visits last month — our highest yet — an impressive number for website with such a local focus as ours. The only way to go from here is up.

Moser: Stop Celebrating Diversity and Start Celebrating Unity


At lunch with a couple of friends last week, we discussed (among many other things) diversity. Both my friends are honest, open-minded folk, both care and are concerned for their fellow men and women. Both friends are intelligent, well-educated and well connected.

That conversation spurred me to take that topic a little bit further, as often happens when curiosity is piqued. I knew exactly what that word, “diversity” meant. You probably already know that it means: the inclusion of different types of people (as people of different races or cultures).

I don’t like that word. It sounds like division not unity. It made me wonder how many words start with the letters D, I, or V.  One site states there are 157 words that begin with D, I, or V. Before I started looking at them, I was already thinking ahead with terms like divide, divorce, and divest.

I actually thought the prefix was “div”, but it is only “di” That prefix occurs in loanwords from Greek, where it meant “two,” “twice,” “double”. It’s really a variant of “dis”

All right! “Dis”! Now we’re getting someplace! Except we’re not, because a whole slew of “dis” words popped in my head, like “discordant” “disgust” and “disagree” There are an amazing 1619 words that begins with “Dis” and not one of them sound like unity to me.

Many years ago, when I first began working for Non-Appropriated Funds at Scott AFB, we received training in “race relations”. I looked that up, too, but found nothing remotely like the class the Air Force taught. Our class was designed to teach EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity). EEO was understanding that all people are equal and there can be no discrimination when hiring or promoting employees.

I pretty much aced that class. I grew up attending a Catholic school, where the majority of students was white, but there were plenty of black children, too. There were no Hispanics or Asians or any other race that I recall, but not because of exclusion. It was a small, poor, Indiana town without a lot of opportunities that would encourage people to move there.

I lived for a number of years in subsidized housing. (They were called “the projects,” a hat tip to the Urban Renewal Projects that spawned them. There, white people were a minority, but I never felt excluded.

During the 60s my heroes were Martin Luther King Jr.,  John F.Kennedy and Robert F.Kennedy. All those men shaped my life. They were all about unity. No one talked about diversity…we talked about coming together, and “one nation.”

So, I asked my friends, why would anyone declare they belong to the Republicans for Black Empowerment? Doesn’t a title like that divide us instead of unite us?

I was surprised when one of them told me there are a lot of white people in the Republicans for Black Empowerment. He said that group exists to encourage more black people to seek office, particularly as Republicans. That sounds like a very fine idea! I definitely agree with the premise, but if I started a group called, “White People Power,” I’m pretty sure that sounds like the klan or white supremacists. If I began a movement for white people month, I feel certain that I would be called prejudiced.

I don’t think I want to be diverse. I don’t think I want anyone else to be diverse, either. I want what we struggled through the 60s to achieve; unity and equality. Stop celebrating diversity and start celebrating unity. Stop telling me you’re Hispanic or Black or Asian or anything else. Tell me you’re American. Tell me you want to run for office because you are the best candidate. 

Victim of a Duel Blamed for one of Prince William’s Best Kept Haunts

Discover Prince William County and Manassas

Editor’s Note: From exceptional museums and children’s programs to historic haunts and unique hikes, there are numerous hidden places waiting to be explored in Prince William & Manassas. Through a monthly feature, Discover Prince William & Manassas will help residents and visitors alike discover some of the best kept attractions, activities and events the community has to offer.

Prince William & Manassas Best Kept: Historic Haunts

Ghosts have allegedly roamed Prince William & Manassas for decades, appearing in windows and on busy streets corners while other times causing mischief, making windows close, candle flames dance and stairs creek. Take a trip this Halloween season through some of the many local historic haunts.

During October weekends, visitors can spend the night in one of Virginia’s most haunted homes- the Weems-Botts Museum. Each Friday, the museum offers haunted ghost tours and on Saturdays, lock-ins where guests get a chance to experience the paranormal first-hand, Museum Director Joann Barron said. The museum, once home to George Washington’s biographer, was also recently featured on Biography Channel’s “My Ghost Story.”

Or, visit some of the sites managed by Prince William’s historic preservation division. According to staff, Rippon Lodge has a diverse history and is one of the oldest haunted homes in Prince William. Rumor has it that U.S. 1 had to be rerouted just to avoid the ghostly residents of this property. Newspaper articles from the 1920’s and 30’s claim the house is haunted because a loser of a dual bled to death in the home. Others say a child, who can sometimes be seen in an upstairs window, also haunts the property.

The jail at Brentsville Courthouse Historic Centre has also made headlines for being haunted. A few years ago the property was featured on the television show “Ghost Hunters.” Connect with Agness, the spirit who allegedly haunts this 28-acre site. Agness was one of 13 people executed outside the jail after she was tried and convicted of killing her master.

Another way to connect with the paranormal is through the guided ghost tours in Historic Occoquan. Tours are offered Wednesdays-Saturdays. According to local merchants, ghosts sometimes move merchandise around or appear in their parking lots. At the Occoquan Inn, guests can sometimes get a glimpse of an Indian in the bathroom mirror. Legend has it the Indian had a “thing” for the Inn owner’s wife and was caught one night descending the stairs. The husband shot him dead before he reached the last step.

For more on our ghostly history, http://discoverpwm.com/historichaunts

Pumps Ordered by Phone from Bed

Mom on the Run: The Next Chapter

I have just lain down, ready for bed, when – darn it! I meant to go online and order black pumps today. I want the exact same as the fabulous gray shoes I just got, but in black. They are comfortable, and just the right height, and a good price, and I have worn my favorite black pumps so much (they go with everything!) that they are getting beat up, so it made sense to me to buy the gray ones, in black; a guaranteed winner.

But, darn it! My day is over. It’s late. It’s not urgent, of course, but I tend to forget little non-urgent to-do items until suddenly they become urgent. So I really think about it: I could get up, turn my computer on, and check the website.

Or … I have a thought. I sit up, reach over, and pick up my cell phone. OK, everyone else I know does everything on their smart phones. I have a smart phone. Can I … ?

I click the Google button at the top of my screen and type in, “dsw”. The little bar crawls across the screen, and ta da! The DSW website is there on my phone!

So far, so good. There. A search box. I position my cursor and type in, “fergalicious jinx.” I happen to know that’s the brand and style of the fabulous gray pumps. It’s a memorable name. And wow! Almost instantly, there on my screen, the shoe! But – really? Dang it. The Jinx only comes in gray and red? Boo.

Hmph. I sit for a minute and pout. Well, I’m sure there are some comfortable all-occasion black pumps on this website somewhere. Can I figure out how to search on this phone? I scroll down on the screen, look at the “people who looked at this shoe also looked at” section. Nah. Those are all gray.

I click the DSW home page button. Aha! A search feature! “Women”, I click. “Pumps & Heels”. Then “High Heel Pumps”. Ah! Filters! Brand! I click “Fergalicious” – since I know that brand fits well – and Submit. Wow! I get a screen full of shoes! But there’s so many. Can I … I go back to Filters: sure enough. Under “Color”, I select the black box and Submit. And wow! Thirteen pair of black Fergalicious pumps!

Down I scroll through the thumbnail pictures. Don’t like the first pair. The next picture is of boots. A pair of wedges, those are cute, but not what I need. A pair of ankle-high booties. Oh! What’s this Sammi pump? I tap the picture. Hmm, that looks about right. I scroll farther down, click on Product Details. Sueded microfiber, almond toe (whatever that is; almond shape?), 3 ½” covered heel, $44.95. That’s pretty reasonable, really. Since it’s going to come to my house and I know it’s going to fit.

“Add to bag,” I click. I peck in my email address and password, and voila!, up pops my DSW discount dollars. No way! I’ve earned two $10 discounts. I type DOUBLEUP in the “offer or cert code” box (I remember that from when I ordered my gray Jinx two weeks ago) to get double points, and Apply. Just like that, my shipping charges disappear, too!

Check out takes about a minute. I have my credit card number memorized (from, um, regular online shopping; sorry, honey!) and pop it in. My billing and shipping addresses are already saved. “Complete purchase.”

Within a minute, while I’m still staring at my phone in awe, I get an email – also on my phone – from DSW thanking me for my order and saying it will be shipped out within days.

I sit there in bed for a moment, sort of stunned. I can’t believe I just did that! On my phone! In less than five minutes! Searched, filtered, chose, and purchased a pair of shoes! On my phone! Then – well, guess I can now, my day is done, my to-do list accomplished – I sort of shake my head, turn off my phone, click off my lamp, and go to sleep.

Mom on the Run columnist Lianne Wilkens lives in Manassas and is now exploring life as an empty nester. She has come a long way in learning how to use her phone.

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