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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.

News
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.

News
Moser: Dependability Counts as Some try to Shrink their Responsibilities

Opinion

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.”

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

BizTech

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.

News
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!

News
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! 

News
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.

News
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.

News
Moser: Stop Celebrating Diversity and Start Celebrating Unity

Opinion 

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. 

News
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

News
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.

News
Alborn: Taking a Break and Going fishing!

OPINION

I’m taking a break from this column to catch up on other projects.  Anyone who wishes to talk about…  well…  just about anything…  knows where to find me:  My “office” (which is either he Starbucks at the corner of Hoadly Road and the Prince William Parkway or at Potomac Town Center) or my front porch.

Go to troutbumva.com to keep track of my fishing and other projects.

Posted “office hours” or by appointment.

I’m going fishing!

Al

News
Moser: When It Comes to Political Campaigns, You Don’t Know Me

Opinion 

I have the ability to think for myself. Better still, I have a desire to genuinely understand all sides of an issue. I don’t have a lot of campaign savvy. I never studied political science, nor did I participate on any debate team, but if you want to know what it takes to win my vote, here’s the way it works for me.

A successful campaign is not about “winning” a race.  It’s about achieving an opportunity to do good for the majority of people with a defined need. A successful campaign has nothing to do with personal gain. I’m sure we all get a little weary of reading the rants, blame slinging, self-serving rhetoric and incessant yammering of people declaring themselves to be the one visionary who has it all in perspective.

I know I get sick of all the pompous declarations, the flag-waving attempts to appeal to my patriotism, the subliminal messages designed to push my buttons, the media messages, and the continual assault on my senses and sensibilities all designed to sell me an idea.

Here’s a fact for all those candidates and incumbents: You don’t know me. You don’t know what’s in my heart or in my head. Your endless attempts to manipulate my vote by appealing to some issue you think matters to me will not work.

I realize I am a minority, not as a woman, but as a free thinker. I remain unencumbered by loyalty to any political party. I am motivated to vote for a candidate by what he or she has shown me, not what some campaign manager told me.

I am completely turned off by any candidate who opens his mouth to sling mud about his or her opponent. Don’t talk to me about your opponent! Talk to me about what YOU can do. Don’t make accusations, don’t try to artfully disparage your opponent, and don’t stretch the truth to make yourself look good at the expense of making someone else look bad.

If you are an incumbent, you are certainly welcome to tell me all the good things you’ve already done, as long as you include the things you are going to do in your next term. If you are a challenger, don’t spout those talking points unless you have the data to back it up. Show me a plan, convince me your idea is best or even that it will work.

If you have made an error, committed an indiscretion or been guilty of misjudgment, I forgive you. I’m fairly certain politicians are human and I do not expect perfection.

What I want, what I demand, is that you do the best job you can do, without bias, prejudice or unfair advantage. I expect a man or woman of honor and integrity, someone who cannot be bought with gifts or favors. I will vote for the person who is not looking to make a name or a career in politics, but is intent on serving for as long as he or she is effective as a leader. Show me that and you don’t have to “win” my vote. I’ll humbly drop it at your feet.

News
Five Fall Favorites at the Manassas Farmers Market

This week we’ve found five of our vendor’s fall favorites.  Check out these delicious products at the Thursday and Saturday markets

If you've never had a Honeycrisp apple, you're missing out! They're incredibly crisp and fresh and delicious. These apples make a delicious snack.

If you’ve never had a Honeycrisp apple, you’re missing out! They’re incredibly crisp and fresh and delicious. These apples make a delicious snack.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Pumpkin Mini Galettes- They are delicious and pumpkin flavored.

Pumpkin Mini Galettes- They are delicious and pumpkin flavored.

 

 Mums! Beautiful and are the epitome of the fall flower.

Mums! Beautiful and are the epitome of the fall flower.

 

 

 

 

Morning Glory muffin from Bread House bakery. This muffin has carrot and other dried fruit. They also have pumpkin muffins and pumpkin pound cake.

Morning Glory muffin from Bread House bakery. This muffin has carrot and other dried fruit. They also have pumpkin muffins and pumpkin pound cake.

 

Pumpkin butter from Wildwood Farm. Great on slice of toast in the morning with your cup of coffee.

Pumpkin butter from Wildwood Farm. Great on slice of toast in the morning with your cup of coffee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

News
Tuition Refund Check is in the Mail, Maybe

Mom on the Run: The Next Chapter

“Hi!” I know I sound giddy, answering my phone. But it’s my son! In his fourth week of his freshman year of college, and he’s calling me!

He’s called a few times, sometimes even just to say hi and check in, bless his heart, but it’s still infrequent, and very exciting. So I gush when I see his name on my phone.

Today, however, my 18-year-old is all business. “Hey, I just got a check from the college. It was in my mailbox. What do you want me to do with it?”

“A check?” I’m confused. “Why did they send you a check?”

“It says you overpaid the tuition. It’s for $2,200. What do I do with it?”

“Overpaid tuition?” OK, now that’s annoying. When I went to pay his tuition bill I checked it online for several days, and the bill was different every time. Finally I gave up and called the school, and was told that the latest number was accurate and correct, and besides, anything extra I sent would be kept in my son’s account towards the spring semester. And yet now my kid has received a check – for $2,200, that’s a lot! – and a note that says just the opposite.

I sigh and roll my eyes at the absolute … grr … well, OK, I decide, this is more a good thing than a bad thing, college costing less than I had planned, and no big deal. I’ll just take the check, deposit it, and send it back to them when I write the next check in January.

So: “Just mail it to me,” I tell my son.

There is a silence on the other end. “Mail it?” He hesitates. “Is that safe?”

I smile. Too funny. My technologically capable kid is perfectly comfortable with online transfers, debit cards, and direct deposit, but doesn’t trust old-fashioned paper checks to be delivered via U.S. mail.

“Um, it would be fine,” I tell him, smiling. “If you’re worried about it, just wrap the check in a piece of paper so you can’t see the numbers through the envelope. Did I give you envelopes and stamps?” I know I packed mail supplies for my daughter when she went to college, but she pared down the shopping list for my son, crossing off items she didn’t use. And now I don’t recall sending them along with this second kid, darn it.

But … “Uh, actually,” my kid says, hesitating slightly, “I’m more worried about user error.”

I pause a minute, try to figure out what he means. User error? Oh, holy cow: “Do you not know how to address an envelope?”

Another pause, then, “Maybe I can just wait and bring it home with me on fall break?”

Oh, my gosh. I grin, and rub my face with my free hand. Wow. Doesn’t know how to address an envelope. How did I let this very crucial part of my son’s education go unfilled? And how can I rectify this now, from here? I imagine talking him through writing out an envelope: ‘In the upper left-hand corner …’. Maybe I can scan one in and email the image?

Then, “Oh, wait, I know. Our accounts are with the same bank. You can just deposit it into my account. I’ll send you the account number.”

Wait: ‘How do I do that?’ I shake my head again and wonder what other life skills I have completely overlooked as I “prepared my son for college”!

News
Alborn: ‘Warfront to Storefront’ Initiative Could Fill Empty Retail Space with Able Vets

Opinion 

Today, service in the Military requires sacrifice beyond what many Americans may imagine.  The price the young men and women pay for the privilege of protecting the rest of us includes unimaginable sacrifices, significant hardships, extended absences from families and friends, and often dismemberment and the constant risk of death.

Veterans are coming back to a depressed economy, a shrinking government, high unemployment (particularly high for veterans), and competition with those who did not serve for jobs.

The Federal Government is in no position to help.

I suggest that it is time for a little out of the box thinking to make accommodations for these young men and women returning home. 

Small businesses are the engine of our economy.  According to the U.S. Department of Commerce/Small Business Administration, small businesses employee about half of all private sector employees and pay nearly 45 percent of total US private payrolls.

Changes in American shopping habits and retail investments have created a plethora of empty storefronts across America.  All one has to do to confirm this is wander around any of those strip malls created in the last Century and then go to one of the new Town Centers that have pretty much destroyed traditional down towns and strip mall retail.  These empty storefronts are a problem for local communities, property owners, and Government. 

Perhaps we may turn this “problem” into an “opportunity”.

Warfronts to Storefronts suggests that we “break a few rules” to help returning veterans with an entrepreneurial spirit to get beyond finding a job and start creating them. 

It focuses on helping them start businesses that will create jobs for others.  It suggests that we develop a strategy for moving troops returning from the battlefield into those Empty storefronts.

Let’s “connect the dots” on how we might accomplish moving Veterans from warfronts to storefronts.

Problem:  Regulation continues to make opening a new business difficult.  Government continues to add new hurdles at all levels to “protect the American public”, enforce zoning rules, and nickel and dime businesses to generate revenue. 

These regulations add months, sometimes years, to the process of actually starting a small business and sometimes actually preclude business opportunities.  Regulations regarding home based offices and businesses often stop entrepreneurial initiatives “in their tracks”.

Strategy:  Evaluate all regulations in the value chain for all aspects of opening and operating a small business and make explicit exceptions for returning Veterans. Particularly examine regulations that make opening a home-based business difficult.  It should be easy for someone who has returned from a combat zone to open a business in America.  “Breaking a few rules” is a small sacrifice to help them get started.

Problem:  Rents may be unrealistically high as property owners “do the math” regarding reducing rents and tax breaks.

Strategy:  Involve property owners in the warfront to storefront project.  Work with them to reduce rents in vacant storefronts for returning Veterans to make opening a business easier.  Increasing traffic to a strip mall increases the value of that property, and increases rent potential for other vacant storefronts.

Problem:  Taxes, particularly business taxes on gross receipts regardless of profit or loss, make that critical first five years of any small business particularly challenging.

Strategy:  Create tax based business incentives for veteran owned new businesses. Offer local business and real estate tax relief for the first three years.   Implement State and Federal tax credits for the first five years.  These are not “tax breaks”.  They are an investment in veterans, jobs, and America’s economy. 

Problem:  Veterans first instinct is not necessarily to start a business.  Many don’t recognize the applicability of the skills they developed to survive in the battlefield equip them to survive in the business field.  Vets often don’t “connect the dots” between their military training and the need for those skills in the private sector.

Strategy:  Create and publicize a Warfronts to Storefronts program to introduce the vision of entrepreneurship to returning Veterans.  “Connecting the dots” between military skills and civilian business opportunities would reframe how vets view their prospects in the private sector.  Partnerships with local Veterans Groups and the Chamber of Commerce might provide a vehicle for delivery of this program.

Establish a mentorship program, perhaps principally staffed by successful veteran entrepreneurs, to work with returning Veterans. 

Vets have what it takes to start a business.  Actually, they have more than it takes.  They may not recognize that the skills that kept a platoon fed, supplied, and alive translate into the skills needed to start a business.  They took risks every day that makes new business risk pale by comparison.

Veterans are used to leading.  This leadership will result in jobs, increase tax revenue, create wealth, protect property values, and contribute to restructuring our economy to perhaps not be quite so dependent on the Federal Government. 

This is just an idea.  I suggest that perhaps local Governments consider a tightly scoped Warfront to Storefront pilot project be created to evaluate the viability of implementing some of these suggestions to see how they work out. 

Our legislatures in Richmond could lend a hand by looking for Commonwealth incentives for such a program.

Every idea is incomplete and fraught with unintended consequences.  A pilot project would allow Warfront to Storefront to be evaluated, refined, expanded, and perhaps scale to a National Program.

A community focused on Economic Development that includes a Community Development component would be an ideal place for such a pilot.  Prince William County, Virginia would be an ideal location.  It certainly has plenty of empty storefronts, and more than its share of veterans.

Every big business started out as a small business and an idea.  Let’s plant the seeds for the next generation of big businesses.  Let’s leverage the talent and confidence of returning Veterans by helping those with the entrepreneurial spirit create their own future.

It’s all in how you approach a problem.  This is a (to borrow from the military mindset) “can do” idea.

News
Moser: Economy Chugging Along as People Stop Looking for Work

Opinion

Last week, I began to feel prospects dimming in the search for a government or contractor job. Seven months have passed since smart companies caught wind of sequestration and began paring their ranks. Bill, being a well-compensated employee was in the vanguard of layoffs. I’ve begun considering the possibility my husband may no longer find employment in the cleared jobs he’s done all his life and perhaps would need to look outside the federal service sector.

First, I searched for “employers Prince William County.” That term yielded some pretty good information, such as this story from the Washington Business Journal. The author, Michael Neibauer, is a staff reporter. His data wasn’t exactly heartening if one is seeking a professional, technical position, as he summarized the employment prospects by declaring the top ten employers in Prince William County using the 2011 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.

Seeking justification, I worked with my research partner, Google. I gained an excellent result with this document: the Virginia Community Profile, compiled by the Virginia Employment Commission. That document is the jackpot if you like simple statistics. There, on page 21, I found a list of the top 50 Prince William County employers.

For brevity, here’s the top ten. I encourage you to look at the entire document.

1. Prince William County School Board

2. U.S. Department of Defense

3. County of Prince William

4. Wal Mart

5. Morale Welfare and Recreation

6. Sentara Healthcare

7. Wegmans Store #07

8. Minnieland Private Day School

9. Northern Virginia Community College

10. Target Corp

In addition to learning who the top employers are, there’s lots of information about working in, or outside Prince William County. I can’t say it was great to learn that computer and math careers fall in the top five of unemployment claims. (Page 17) Then, on page 22, I discovered 7016 persons work for the federal government and 17,683 persons work for local government. Well, there’s something to work with.

My next search took me to the Human Resources page. There, I found 34 positions open, but only one in IT (Information Technology) and it was for a Geographic Information Systems Division Chief, nothing even remotely like an Oracle Database Administrator.

Looking at the remainder of the Virginia Community Profile, I saw diminishing numbers of employees. It appears if you are a professional Oracle DBA with many years of experience, you will not find a job in Prince William County, with or without a clearance.

In fact, after seven months of searching both within a 30 mile range and outside of it, using every conceivable job search that may yield results, such as: Indeed,  Simply Hired, Bright, Monster, Beyond, and Dice as well as every friend we have in the industry, we remain unemployed.

A shutdown of the Federal Government looms, certainly further decreasing opportunities. The economy is plugging along, the stock market is doing well, yet day after day, more people just give up looking for work. If you want a sobering look at the state of jobs, not just here, but all over the United States, have a look at this document from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

It may seem increasingly difficult to remain optimistic. Yes, we’re down…but we’re not out!

I continue to hope for the best, but I am beginning to wonder if I have prepared for the worst.

News
Prince William Forest Park Has Lots to Offer in Fall

mjd_0957
Picture 1 of 8

I recently spent most of the afternoon at our lovely Prince William Forest Park. I saw quite a few other people enjoying it in their own way as well.

There were runners, bikers and trail hikers. I chose to take my cameras, tripod and rubber boots with me. I wanted to take in all the sights of the park before the flora and fauna fall into winters slumber.

News
Pantry Reveals Hidden, Expired Snackfood Gems

Mom on the Run: The Next Chapter

“January 2011,” I call out to my husband as I hear him step into the hallway, coming up from the basement. “That was the oldest expiration date.”

“Yeah?” Two steps later and he’s in the kitchen, surveying the scene.

There’s not much to see. I already cleaned most of it up. The trash bag has been pulled from the can and sits, bulging, by the back door. The boxes, a whole stack of them, have already been unfolded or crushed and carted to the recycle bin. In fact, the only remaining evidence of my purge is the heap of plastic chip clips sitting in the middle of the kitchen table, scavenged valuables.

I stand, hands on hips, perusing. “I can’t believe how much snack food we had.”

“I can,” my husband says. “The pantry was overflowing.”

And, OK, he is absolutely right. I hadn’t planned to tackle the pantry today, but when I got back from the grocery store and there was nowhere to put the box of oatmeal packets, it kind of became a necessity. At first I was going to just rearrange stuff, shove it deeper back, make a space just big enough for a box of oatmeal packets, but then I looked and … well, it needed to be done.

Almost 40 minutes later, the pantry contains less than half its contents. And oh, the surprises inside!

I was disappointed to throw away four boxes of expensive packages of individually packaged pretzel sticks – three unopened, but all long expired. My son, recently delivered to his freshman year in college, loved them in his school lunches … for a little while. Not, sadly, for very long, and I had stocked up in the meantime.

There was an individual fruit and gelatin cup that had turned a color no doubt unplanned by the Jell-O company. Honey roasted peanuts that had actually gone soft. Six – six! – partial bags of marshmallows, all (clunk, clunk!) alarmingly hardened. A whole heap of snack packages of peanut-butter crackers without expiration dates, but that crumbled a little when I picked them up.

There were three boxes of graham crackers in the pantry, each missing just one brick; did I make a cheesecake and forget the rest of the box the next time? I was disappointed but sort of proud of myself to put two unopened but quite old boxes of double-chocolate Milano cookies in the trash.

I opened and dumped a couple of jars of pancake mix straight into the trash – poof! For a while my kids wanted pancakes for breakfast, and I bought powdered mix and portioned it into jars so in the morning we could just add water, shake, and cook. Obviously, though, the requests at home ran out before the stockpile did.

On and on it went. We have a deep pantry, and stuff has always tended to get shoved in deeply. Bravely I reached in, blindly, time and again, grasping pale packages lurking in the back. Courageously, I stuck my arm in and swept the far corners, feeling for hidden yucky things. Calmly, I emptied out the last vestiges of school lunches, accepting that I’m done making them. Forever.

Now, my husband and I survey my work. The top two pantry shelves have stuff in the front only, nothing at all in the back. The pouches of protein powder that were sitting on the kitchen counter, too big to fit anywhere before, are tidily put away. The extra large bag of peanut M&Ms, previously stored down with the dog food, efficiently sits front and center.

“Nice work,” my husband says, then turns on his heel and gets back to whatever he was doing.

And as I stand and look, I realize with dismay: hey! No more marshmallows!?

News
Alborn: Conservatives Love the Environment

Opinion 

Last week, I attended the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA) Annual Conference. at Lake Placid, N.Y.   I’m a member. 

I spent three plus days hanging out with a diverse group of outdoor communicators.  There were a lot of published authors in every medium, photographers, videographers, and advocates of the outdoors.  I came home with a number of interesting ideas to advance my personal worldview as a conservationist.

On the last day of the conference, I listened to the president of a respected conservation advocacy group bemoan the loss of federal funding for parks and recreation.

The speaker waxed eloquently about the Federal Government’s reductions in spending on outdoor recreation.  He came from the position that it was the government’s responsibility to provide for every form of hunting, fishing, camping, and other outdoor related activities.

I sat there wondering why this gentleman, or anyone else, expected the Federal Government to be in the business of entertaining us? 

While many of my friends walk around expecting the Government to do all kinds of things for the American public, Conservatives always ask the following question regarding public policy and the Federal Government:

Where in the Constitution does it say we should do this?

In all fairness, people of good will disagree on how to interpret the Constitution.

Many people view it as something of a guide or perhaps an irrelevant historical artifact to be ignored.  Most conservatives view it as a strict rule set designed to constrain government’s growth and intrusion into our lives.

Back to the speaker at the conference. Realizing that I was in a room perhaps full of folks sympathetic to the speaker, I crafted my question carefully.  I simply asked if his organization had considered going to the states, businesses, and private groups to fund the recreational projects that the Federal Government is cutting back on.

The frame of reference to understand my question, or why I asked it, was definitely lacking.  The conversation about those obstructing Federal funding for outdoor recreation continued.

When Conservatives are approached by folks who want to fund something, or question why funding to some program they favor is being cut they always silently ask the same question of themselves:

Where in the Constitution does it say we should do that?

Their context is simple.  The 10th Amendment is rather clear.

AMENDMENT X – The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

I use the presentation at the OWAA Conference as an analog for many discussions going on in and about our Congress these days.   My friends used to a Federal Government that funds all kinds of things are bemoaning the defunding of long established programs and causes.  They are lamenting visions of a smaller government, and lobbying for continued support of things about conservatives question the very existence.

That’s the disconnect.

Conservatives love the environment, like to fish, hunt, bird watch, take pictures, and do all sorts of things outdoors.  They also want to feed the hungry, see people in comfortable homes, help out those folks who are unemployed, etc., etc., etc.

Conservatives just don’t understand, from a constitutional perspective, why the Federal Government should be involved in any of these things.  If it’s not enumerated in the Constitution as a power  or responsibility of the Federal Government, these folks should be talking to their state government, businesses that profit from outdoor recreation, or private groups.

The point of this column.   Things will never be the same.

The Federal Government is shrinking not necessarily because of any particular philosophical considerations, but simply because it no longer afford to support all of the things it signed up to.  Conservatives in Congress are taking advantage of this to reduce the size of Government wherever they can.  

Medicare or outdoor recreation?  Social Security or funding for places to hunt and fish? 

Medicare and Social Security are not going away.  The Federal Government has made promises, and these promises must now be fulfilled.  That being said, the future of these programs may change over time for future generations.  

These are but two examples.  

When faced with these “tough choices”, there will be winners and losers.  When you start listing government programs on a whiteboard, and then prioritizing them, the losers become rather obvious. 

Those folks should change their focus to look for new revenue streams outside of the Federal Government now.

Conservatives see this as an opportunity for state governments to assume their rightful 10th Amendment role in deciding how they want to address anything not covered in the United States Constitution.

Lobbyist and special interest groups are perhaps wasting their time lobbying conservatives in government facing the current fiscal environment and future financial challenges for new or continued funding for things that have no constitutional foundation. 

When some in the audience protested, I pointed out that the Commonwealth of Virginia’s states that “it shall be the Commonwealth’s policy to protect its atmosphere, lands and waters from pollution, impairment, or destruction…” and that ““The people have a right to hunt, fish, and harvest game, subject to such regulations and restrictions as the General Assembly may prescribe by general law.”

My point was simple.  If it’s not in the Constitution, and you believe that the majority of Americans believe that the Federal Government should be involved in some endeavor not enumerated therein, the correct way to add it to the Federal Government’s plate is through the Amendment process.

Then, “It’s in there”!

I view the Constitution as a rule set to be strictly enforced to manage the size and growth of fovernment and its intrusion into our lives.   I also believe that if enough people don’t agree with “what’s in there”, it’s ok to add Amendments as long as you can get 35 states to agree.

If it’s “not in there”, we shouldn’t take it on as a new mission, and we should be cautious in supporting those existing Government programs that lack any Constitutional mandate.

If you are lobbying for any group, the first question to ask yourself before opening a conversation with a Conservative lawmaker is, “Where in the Constitution does it say we should be doing whatever it is that I am about to ask for?”  If you don’t have a good answer, perhaps you should reconsider which level of Government you are talking to, and start visiting State capitals.   

I find folks on both sides of the aisle that I like.  I wouldn’t want to live under a Government dominated by either party for long. 

I purposely mix up my voting habits to prevent any one party or philosophy from dominating public policy at all levels for too long.  That natural, cyclic change from liberal to conservative will, IMHO, eventually level out into a steady state with which we all may live.

I don’t expect to see that “steady state” in my lifetime; however, I will continue to weigh in to try and make Government a little smaller every chance I get.

You will see a lot more of a Conservationist flavor in future columns.  Among other things, I am an outdoor communicator interested in Conservation issues.  I may not be here every week as I am working on a book and several other projects.  If you are interested in what I’m up to, you may keep up at my new website,  Virginia Trout Bum, and my outdoor sports blog.

News
Moser: On Unemployment, Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst

Opinion 

Unemployment has been on my mind a lot lately. (Well, since the beginning of March, it’s been on my mind almost constantly.)

My husband, Bill, has worked for the government his whole life. The first 20 years for the U.S. Air Force and later for large companies like PRC (purchased by Litton in 1995, evolved into Litton PRC, then Litton Industries, Litton TASC, and then absorbed by Northrup Grumman).  More recently, he worked for SAIC.

The only job Bill ever left voluntarily was through retirement from Air Force. Every other career change came about because the structure of the company changed or the contract he was working expired without renewal. This span is the longest he’s gone without work in 44 years. It’s been difficult for both of us, financially and emotionally.

Still, you know my motto: “Hope for the best; prepare for the worst.” 

With that in mind, I had the dreaded “talk” with my spouse. I asked, “What if you don’t get hired at all this year? In four months, you’ll be 63-years-old. I know there is not supposed to be anything like age discrimination and 63 doesn’t seem too old in a world where it’s common to live into the eighth decade. I know you’re smart and your career as an Oracle DBA has always been in high demand, but the condition of the federal job market is so unstable right now. What if you just can’t get another job comparable to the ones you’ve loved?”

Bill does not want to talk to me about that. He does not even want to think about that. I, however, feel compelled to consider alternatives, ready or not. I don’t have a lot of experience in job searching so I started by defining the future of employment into these two categories:

1. What Bill does
2. What Bill may have to do

I started off with the idea that the jobs Bill does for a living may be available in the private sector. I accept his pay will be lowered. (Although, if you are currently making zero, any job is a raise!) Then I assume he will not be using his clearance, which is expensive to obtain and if allowed to lapse will be difficult to re-activate.

All right, I admit I’m unhappy his job may no longer be in the service of our country, but there will be some positive changes, like less commuting time! For 24 years, Bill has never had a commute less than an hour each way. (The worst commute was when he worked in Bethesda. The best commute was when he was able to take a van pool to the Pentagon.)

I want to share the progress I made, the results of my search and the “what’s next” factor, but I don’t want to bore you with an overlong article, so I’m going to continue the saga next week.

Meanwhile, if you have helpful advice or insight, leave it in the comments. I often find the comments to be more enlightening than a post and appreciate the sincerity of people who are interested in what I write and willing to help work on the problem. I’ll be back here at potomaclocal.com next Sunday with Part II.

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