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News
It’s the New Year, So When Can I have My Gym Back?

Mom on the Run: The Next Chapter

The couple is standing over by the abs chair, studying it intently. The man and the woman are middle-aged, perhaps a little older, and each is wearing a faded, loose white t-shirt, long baggy shorts, and stiff, new-looking sneakers. His wire-frame glasses have slipped down toward the end of his nose. Her hair is frizzy and she looks generally rumpled.

The man is holding a piece of paper, and they both consult it, several times, while looking hard at the abs chair. They talk back and forth to each other, then finally the man nods. He looks at his wife – it seems clear that’s who she is, the couple just seems to match – and hands her the paper. Then he approaches the chair, puts his hands on the armrest handles, and steps up into it.

Tentatively, feet on the lower bars, he turns to his left, leaving his hands on the handholds, and rotates toward the padded back of the chair. He lifts up on his tip-toes, tries to twist and fully press against the back, but of course he can’t, not with his hands the way they are, gripping the opposite handles.

I’m standing just across from the couple, about 10 feet away. I’m with Brett, my regular training partner, waiting for him to finish his triceps pulldowns, after which it will be my turn. I’ve been at this gym for about 18 months, and I have regular gym friends, a regular training partner, a regular schedule, and a regular workout routine. This gym and its varied equipment are familiar and comfortable.

But I recognize the couple and their dilemma. That was me, not so long very long ago, and I remember it well. I was fortunate enough to be dragged around the gym for the first few months by a friend with 30 years’ weightlifting experience. He knew what he was doing, and he showed me. By the time his schedule changed and kept us from working out together I knew enough to keep going, and not be completely lost in the gym.

Most of the time, my Gold’s Gym is filled with people who know what they’re doing, regulars who move comfortably between machines and equipment, who have their routines and their weights in their heads and who don’t stand and stare and try figure out how to work everything. But it’s January now, and the gym is full of Resolutionists, people who got memberships and shiny new sneakers for Christmas and now, in the spirit of the season, are beginning their long-delayed exercise routines.

“Don’t worry,” my friend Luke said last January, when I was frustrated by all the extra people milling about and taking up space on the machines. “They got gym memberships for Christmas, they started coming at New Year’s, and they’ll give it up for Lent.” I had laughed then – ha ha, I’m a gym regular now, and entitled to roll my eyes at confused new members! – and darned if it didn’t turn out to be true! So now I know, and I feel gentle and tolerant towards the new people in here, people who are slowing me down and moving stuff and leaving weights in the wrong places … but who are either genuinely trying, or who will be gone soon enough. That was me once, and I stayed and improved and got healthier, and I hope it sticks for some of these newbies clogging up the place.

So now, today, I am watching the couple out of the corner of my eye as I do my set. OK, I decide, I’ll help them. I’ll walk over there and smile encouragingly and offer to show them how to use the abs chair. It’s a risky thing, offering assistance, because people don’t always appreciate the suggestion that they don’t know what they’re doing. Sometimes they are embarrassed, and sometimes, “No, no, I’m fine,” they tell me irritably, waving me away. But this couple is obviously inexperienced, and I’m old enough and un-muscular enough that my help might be accepted. Yes, I decide, I’ll try.

But by the time I finish my set (“thirteen … fourteen … fifteen”) and move the pin back to Brett’s heavier weight … hey, where did they go? The man and his wife have scooted away. I look around the free weights room, try to find them, see what they’re doing now, see if they need help. Wherever they are, they should be easy to spot.

The couple seems to be gone, though. I don’t see them anywhere. I am partially relieved – yes! Clear out! Leave me my gym! – but I am disappointed, too. Used regularly and effectively, the gym is the tool to better health, better fitting clothes, and better self-confidence. I hope the couple and all their machine-hogging Resolutionist friends stick it out.

Well, OK, I think, looking around at the gym, full with so many people that there is even a line at the water fountain; maybe not all of them. Some of them can stick it out, but I still wouldn’t mind having my gym back.

News
Moser: Why Don’t More People Care About the Grave Situation at Prince William’s High School Site

Wednesday night I attended the Prince William Committee of 100 forum. The program, titled, “Can You Rest in Peace in Prince William County?” was in direct response to recent events involving the discovery of burial sites at the proposed location of Prince William County’s 12th high school near the intersection of Va. 234 and Hoadly Road.

I have been interested in this topic since the flurry of activity that began (for me) in early November and wrote about it once, then again when I recapped the information that led to this point in a previous post.

Since then, I became friends with Carolyn Lynn on Facebook. I was finally able to see her face to face, when we arranged to meet at the C-100 forum. She’s a charming woman, well-spoken and knowledgeable in local history and genealogy.

We got better acquainted over dinner and were fortunate to share the table with Julie Langan, Acting Director and State Historic Preservation Officer, Virginia Department
of Historic Resources. Carolyn was able to ask Langan some questions that had been a point of concern and Carolyn and I were both pleased to learn Langan is not the enemy. Both Langan and Joanna Wilson Green, Archaeology Stewardship and Easements, Office of Preservation Incentives, Virginia Department of Historic Resources are sincere and concerned about the way this saga evolved. Yes, the permit to disinter was issued from their department, but they were simply doing their job as designated by state law.

I tried to put myself in Carolyn’s shoes and imagine what it must feel like to know your ancestors had been uprooted and removed from what was surely considered a final resting place at the time of interment.

One of the things we discussed was the comments people made on insidenova.com or the Washington Post. Carolyn said she tried not to read those comments because many were so negative. A feeling we definitely shared is why don’t more people care? The answer to that is probably very simple. The Lynn family is not your family.

I tried to imagine how it feels to be lost from your family and then re-discovered in such a public fashion. I thought about how little we know about the people who come and go from this world. So few of us are actually remembered for long. We are here, we live our lives and we are gone. A few generations pass, and it is entirely possible we are forgotten completely unless you have become famous or notorious.

People like Don Wilson, Director of RELIC and Bill Olson, President, Historic Prince William are joined by devoted volunteers like Robert Moser who spend an incredible amount of time ensuring our past is not forgotten. Folks like Carolyn Lynn and Bill Golden create blogs not only for family history, but to connect the past to the present and help others do the same.

We are an evolving county, with vastly different citizens than twenty years ago. It’s important not to lose track of our past while we continue to build our future.
You can read the recap of the Prince William Committee of 100 meeting here.

News
Call to Action: Care Packages for Soldiers Being Assembled at Leesylvania State Park

· Good morning – in celebration of the Martin Luther King Holiday weekend, please join the wonderful folks at Leesylvania State Park assemble care packages for soldiers. This event is in partnership with Operation Home Front. Donations of phone cards, baby wipes, tooth brushes, cameras and such will be collected and then assembled into individual packages for the troops. This is the perfect way to celebrate their service with a few goodies from you. This all takes place on Saturday January 18th from 11am-3pm at the Visitor Center. Please visit operationhomefront.net for more info.

· The super teen volunteers with the Joe 15 team are having their 7th Annual Blood Drive on Saturday January 25th from 9am-2:30pm. Please give the gift of life and support these great kids by scheduling your appointment at: redcrossblood.org/make-donation and enter sponsor code: 05312539

· BARN Transitional Housing needs a volunteer driver to go to Woodbridge once a week and pick up donations. The job just takes 4 hours and you do not need to load or unload just have a good driving record. Please call Tammy at (571) 428-2571 to learn more.

· The House of Mercy has re-launched their weekly job search meetings on Mondays 1-3pm. They are open to all and afford those unemployed or under employed a great way to network with other. Please call Ann at (703) 659-1636 to learn more

· Brain Injury Services is looking for several volunteers to visit clients in specific neighborhoods. They have a lady in Fairfax would love company to assist her with fitness routine and grocery shopping. They have a gentleman in Centreville would love to learn how to play chess. They have a client in Manassas who would like company and to get out for lunch or a movie and lastly they have a teenager in Alexandria who would love to play basketball or go to a movie. Please email Michelle at: mthyen@braininjurysvcs.org to learn more.

· Literacy Volunteers of America-Prince William needs you to help an adult learn to read and write. The next Tutor Training Workshop is March 22, 2014. There is a one-time fee of $35 for materials. Imagine the difference you can make in someone’s life! Contact at lvapw@aol.com.

· The Prince William Area Agency on Aging – Woodbridge area needs a volunteer for the Adult Day Care Center in Woodbridge. You will answer phones, direct messages, receive participants and visitors, pick-up and drop off mail, make copies, etc. Hours are 10am to 6pm Monday through Friday. A yearly TB test is required (have initial chest x-ray if results exhibit a false positives, followed by yearly screening done by a medical person) Call Melodee for more details: 703-792-4583.

· The Prince William Area Agency on Aging – Manassas area needs a volunteer to be a friendly visitor for a male shut-in. He needs a cherry visitor who can help him read his mail. Contact Barbara at 703-792-7175.

· Catholic Charities has a couple of programs for the immigrant community. Volunteers are needed in both Manassas and Woodbridge as ESOL and Citizenship teachers. Training and all the materials are provided. This is a unique opportunity. Please call (571) 208-1572 for all the specifics.

· SERVE has an URGENT need for volunteer drivers for the Food Distribution Center on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Drivers take the SERVE vans to area grocery stores and restaurants to pick-up donated food and then return to SERVE for unloading and distribution. You must be at least 21 years old with a clean driving record. Contact Jan at jhawkins@nvfs.org

· ACTS Food pantry in Dumfries needs volunteer drivers on Saturday and Sunday mornings to pick-up food donations from area grocery stores. It’s a quick 3 hour shift from 9am-noon to give families needed food from extra supplies. Please call Robin at (703) 441-8606 ext. 213 to learn more.

· If you are looking for other opportunities, please don’t forget to call my wonderful team at Volunteer Prince William. Coleen can help you with the Retired and Senior Volunteer (RSVP) opportunities at (703) 369-5292 ext. 207, Shelley can help with any individual or group project and send you weekly updates if you’d like. Shelley is at (703) 369-5292 ext. 201, and Bonnie can help you with opportunities available in Disaster Preparedness at (703) 369-5292 ext. 202. Please visit our newly re-vamped website at www.volunteerprincewilliam.org. Thanks so much for all you do in our community.

News
Davidson: Stafford Ice Skating Differed from Real Ice

I grew up admiring  Peggy Fleming and Dorothy Hamill. They were amazing Olympic figure skaters!

One Christmas my parents bought the whole family ice skates. When the winter came to our home in Spotsylvania, and the temperatures fell well below freezing for a couple of weeks, the pond in front of my parents’ home would freeze over enough to safely go out on it. Then it was time to hit the ice. Literally. I fell a lot the first year, but after logging on many hours, I had “mastered” a few things.  By that time my Olympic rink had turned back in to a slushy farm pond.

 Thirty years have gone by.

This past Saturday, Stafford’s 350th Birthday bash included a skating rink, though there was no real ice. So naturally I dawned my skates and took to the rink.

A lot has changed in those 30 years. The ice was synthetic, the surface made of plastic. Most of the other skaters agreed it was very different from skating on real ice.

I’d like to use that as my excuse and not my age. But then I saw a young lady lace up her custom figure skates and hit the ice.  Celenia Sampson showed the crowd if you know what you’re doing, it doesn’t mater if it’s real or synthetic. Celinia coaches at the Ashburn Ice House. I may just have to get a few refresher lessons in before my parents pond freezes over again.

News
Moser: Legalize Pot or Not?

Opinion 

Quick! What is the number one cash crop in America? Cotton is the number one crop, but could that change if more states legalize marijuana sales as Colorado has done?

Estimates vary, but NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) touted marijuana as the number four cash crop in a 1998 study: NORML Report on U.S. Domestic Marijuana Production. Other studies place the marijuana cash crop value at fifteenth place, at least that’s according to a team of researchers and public policy experts from Carnegie Mellon University, Pepperdine University, UCLA and the RAND Corp.

This 2006 chart ranked marijuana as the largest cash crop, with an estimated value of 35.8 billion dollars! If you continue to scroll the chart, you’ll find how marijuana compared to other crops by state using production figures from US Department of Agriculture and estimated figures for marijuana, but here’s the breakdown for Virginia:

Virginia:
Hay                 $ 304.8 million
Marijuana     $ 191.8 million
Soybeans       $ 106. 7 million

What does all that mean? Well, 50% of the population think legalizing marijuana is a good idea and 50% don’t. So 50% of American people will use these figures to show the potential for profit and taxable income from marijuana and 50% of Americans won’t care what the value is, they just will not agree it is a good idea to legalize pot.

Thinking about this after seeing a raft of photographers record the moment, left me with a lot of questions. I wonder about driving while impaired. We know the legal limit of blood alcohol and there’s a page full of questions and answers at the DMV web page. Driving while impaired seems to be the outcome, whether it is by drugs or alcohol, but what is the equivalent of a Breathalyzer for marijuana?

There is a device called SensAbues developed in Sweden and it is believed capable of determining if the driver has smoked marijuana, or used cocaine or methamphetamine. The technology is available to ensure drivers are not driving while impaired, and I hope that gets put to use whether pot is legal or not.

There were several recurring themes I encountered while I was researching this topic:

1. We are spending $8.7 billion a year nationally in law-enforcement costs to arrest, prosecute and jail marijuana violations by about 750,000 individuals. Legalization would not only save a ton of money, it would free up a lot of time devoted by law enforcement and courts.

2. Legalization creates jobs for the “good guys” (store owners, clerks, accountants, farmers, et al) while removing income from the “bad guys” (criminals and drug dealers)

3. Taxation at a rate similar to tobacco and alcohol would result in revenue of approximately $8.7 billion according to this study The Budgetary Impact of Ending Drug Prohibition.

When people protest legalization, the arguments generally follow a line of logic that includes: “Marijuana is a gateway drug!”

There really are very few studies that prove that statement to be true.  A Yale Study does state that adolescents who use alcohol, tobacco and marijuana are more likely to use stronger drugs as adults, but considering that over 1.5 million teenagers are smoking pot, I think that train has already left the station. I also think teens using alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana already have an addictive personality and that must be addressed.

So, what do Potomac Local readers think? Is legalization a good idea or not?

(540) 242-8939

News
Call to Action: Volunteers Needed as ESOL & Citizenship teachers

Call to Action 

· Good morning . . . Happy New Year!  Many of us make New Year Resolutions – how about this one: Resolve to Volunteer in the New Year. I can’t think of a better way to meet like- minded people, make friends, and do good in your community. It is a win/win for everyone. There is a great deal of power when one unites with another to champion a cause. You can make a difference and here is a list to get you started:

· Literacy Volunteers of America-Prince William needs you to help an adult learn to read and write. The next Tutor Training Workshop is January 11, 2014 9am to 4pm and January 25, 2014, 9am to noon. There is a one-time fee of $35 for materials. Imagine the difference you can make in someone’s life! Contact at lvapw@aol.com.

· Keep Prince William Beautiful will conduct their quarterly litter survey as required for their membership in Keep America Beautiful on Wednesday, January 15 from 8:45am to 1:00pm. Surveys are conducted from a temperature controlled van and lunch is provided afterward. Volunteers will meet at 4939 Ridgewood Center Dr., Woodbridge, VA and will receive a brief training. Please email info@kpwb.org to sign-up and learn more!

· There will be a free tax preparation site for low income residents at the Ferlazzo Building from 10am to 1pm on Saturdays starting in late January and running until April 12 . . . but only if a Volunteer Site Coordinator can be found. Please contact Mary at Mary.Enure@fairfaxcounty.gov or James at James.Do@fairfaxcounty.gov if you can fill this need.

· Contact Coleen at RSVP chersson@volunteerprincewilliam.org if you can drive a cancer patient from Manassas Park to Gainesville for radiation treatments. The treatments are daily for the next 33 days at 10:15am and a ride home is needed as well. Please consider signing-up for a few days and Coleen will work her magic to get it all scheduled.

· BEACON Adult Literacy program is looking for ESL teachers for the adult students. No experience is needed because their training will give you all the skills needed to make a monumental impact on another person’s life. Classes are held both mornings and evenings, Monday through Friday. Please visit their website at: www.beaconliteracy.org for more info.

· The Prince William Area Agency on Aging – Woodbridge area needs a volunteer for the Adult Day Care Center in Woodbridge. You will answer phones, direct messages, receive participants and visitors, pick-up and drop off mail, make copies, etc. Hours are 10am to 6pm Monday through Friday. A yearly TB test is required (have initial chest x-ray if results exhibit a false positives, followed by yearly screening done by a medical person) Call Melodee for more details: 703-792-4583.

· The Prince William Area Agency on Aging – Manassas area needs a volunteer to be a friendly visitor for a male shut-in. He needs a cherry visitor who can help him read his mail. Contact Barbara at 703-792-7175.

· Catholic Charities has a couple of programs for the immigrant community. Volunteers are needed in both Manassas and Woodbridge as ESOL and Citizenship teachers. Training and all the materials are provided. This is a unique opportunity. Please call (571) 208-1572 for all the specifics.

· SERVE has an URGENT need for volunteer drivers for the Food Distribution Center on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Drivers take the SERVE vans to area grocery stores and restaurants to pick-up donated food and then return to SERVE for unloading and distribution. You must be at least 21 years old with a clean driving record. Contact Jan at jhawkins@nvfs.org

· First Home Alliance has a fun opportunity for volunteers to help them produce a video campaign on all their services to first time homebuyers and distressed homeowners. So if you have any knowledge of video productions please give them a call at (703) 580-8838 ext. 23 to learn more.

· The Brain Injury Services is looking for a special volunteer who is a graduate of Columbia University in New York to visit a gentleman in his 90’s who is also a graduate and taught at Columbia. This gentleman lives in Fairfax would love to chat a couple of times a month about New York, Columbia and politics. If you are this special volunteer please call Michelle at (703) 451-8881 ext. 232 to learn more.

· ACTS is entering their very busy season at their Thrift Store in Dumfries. Volunteers are needed Tuesday thru Saturday to greet donors and help them unload their car. This is a bustling place and promises to be fun for all the volunteers. Please visit their website at www.actspwc.org to complete your volunteer application form. This sounds like a great job for teens.

· ACTS Food pantry in Dumfries needs volunteer drivers on Saturday and Sunday mornings to pick-up food donations from area grocery stores. It’s a quick 3 hour shift from 9am-noon to give families needed food from extra supplies. Please call Robin at (703) 441-8606 ext. 213 to learn more.

· Last but certainly not least! Volunteer Prince William is hosting Volunteer Management Training series in January and February. Come hone your skills as a professional volunteer manager in this 6 week program. We will meet every Thursday beginning January 9th from 9am-11am in Dale City. Topics covered include: understanding volunteering, planning your program, recruiting and placing volunteers, training and orienting volunteers, supervising volunteers to maximize their experience and evaluating your program. This training program is free and promises to be worth your time and talent investment. Please visit our website to register: www.volunteerprincewilliam.org

· If you are looking for other opportunities, please don’t forget to call my wonderful team at Volunteer Prince William. Coleen can help you with the Retired and Senior Volunteer (RSVP) opportunities at (703) 369-5292 ext. 207, Shelley can help with any individual or group project and send you weekly updates if you’d like. Shelley is at (703) 369-5292 ext. 201, and Bonnie can help you with opportunities available in Disaster Preparedness at (703) 369-5292 ext. 202. Please visit our newly re-vamped website at www.volunteerprincewilliam.org. Thanks so much for all you do in our community.

News
Working Laptop Fails to get Creative Juices Flowing

The laptop is new to me. It was my husband’s, is a few years old, and no longer has enough memory to do what he needs to do. So he bought a new laptop, cleaned this one off, removed his password, and handed it over.

So exciting! I’ve been using my desktop for I don’t even know how many years. Seven? Eight? It’s a workhorse, this old Gateway, and hosts the WiFi router for the whole house as well as the printer. The desktop has stored away years of Christmas card letters, kids’ high school essays, and sports schedule emails … it’s an archive of my family’s history.

And it is slow. Painfully slow. It takes forever to turn on, generally freezes when turning off, and is impossible to use for anything online. I really only need Word and email, though, so it’s worked. My computing needs are not great.

But when my husband offered the laptop, visions of speed and freedom danced in my head. I could work from the comfort of the living room sofa with the TV on, or from the kitchen while I cook dinner! I could watch YouTube videos! I could – gasp – join the 21st century and be mobile! So, yes, please, I told him quickly, and waited impatiently for the day when it was ready to go.

I will be more effective with a laptop, I promised myself. I can research things without needing 30 minutes’ lead time to get the computer on and warmed up. I can write – my columns, and maybe more! I would certainly be more creative with a laptop, able to capture my thoughts and ideas more quickly. Speed and power! I drooled. Yes. My efficiency would soar!

So here it is, finally, my big portable computing moment. My husband leaves the laptop in its pouch on the dining room table and walks away. I approach it nervously, pretending I’m not. I don’t know a thing about setting up the laptop, but I do not want to ask for help. Surely I can figure this out. I know the general parts – power cord, mouse (because the built-in touch pad is quirky and sensitive), machine itself. I open the pouch and pull everything out, then lift open the laptop cover. I look hard at the black surface. There, on top. Isn’t that the power symbol on the small round button? Gingerly I press it, and a blue light! Yes!

OK, then! Confident now, I pick up the power cord. Of course I know the plug end, and into the wall it goes. The other end is round; I check the side of the laptop and, helpfully, there’s only one round hold. Another blue light! Success! As the laptop sings its opening chimes I try the end of the mouse cord in first one rectangular slot – nope – then the other. Yes, that one fits. I move the mouse experimentally, and voila! Cursor control!

Within minutes – and just a few, not the 30 or so I’m used to – the laptop is up and ready, its screen of familiar icons lit and waiting. Ha! I’m going to work right now! In the early evening, in the dining room, while dinner is cooking. I’m going to write, here, capturing the energy and creative juices as they flow, rather than trying to summon them at a prescribed time upstairs in the cold and silent office. I can write, and as needed I can just get up and stir the pasta and come back, and get up and let the dogs out and come back, and get up and check the chicken and come back. Easy.

I am thrilled. Yes, I will do more! I will be faster! I will be more creative! This is fantastic!

So – click – I open Word. I create a blank page. I wait for the words to come. I get up and stir and check the chicken. I come back, and sit and wait for words. I get up and let the dogs out, and back in. I sit back down, and prepare to write. I sit and sit, and no words come.

Hmm. Well, maybe I should get to know this laptop better. What other programs are here? I move the mouse to the bottom left-hand corner of the screen. I click on the Windows logo. I scan, and … oh! Games! I shouldn’t, but … look how many! Chess, and Spider Solitaire, and hey! Mahjong Titans! I click and … ohhh. Such a fancy mahjong screen! Eight layout choices, music … well, just for a minute, right, to get the creative juices flowing?

Twenty minutes of Mahjong Titans later, it is clear: the laptop has enriched my life indeed.

News
Alborn: Fly Fishing Group Meets at Quantico, Gives Vets a Chance to Heal

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I am a fly fisherman.

I have been wandering around the Appalachian backcountry for years in search of native Brook Trout in the crystal clear headwaters of mountain streams. It’s a solitary journey that I take to recover from 22 years as a career soldier and another 15 in technology business.

I find that nature and solitude heal the scars that have accumulated on my soul.

That’s why I was intrigued when I started hearing about a project set up by fly fisherman to help fellow Veterans with a few scars on their bodies and minds heal. It’s called Project Healing Waters.

Given the name of the project, I intuitively understood.

There are several programs in the Washington, D.C. area; however, Duber Winters, the Manager of “my” Orvis Store, and Beau Beasley, a fellow outdoor writer, kept point me to the Quantico Program.

I grabbed my camera and headed out on a snowy winter Tuesday night to see what was going on. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I understood that the program was designed to help injured military service personnel and disabled veterans.

Was this going to be “touchy feely” stuff or a bunch of guys telling “war stories?” Maybe it would feel like hanging out at the VFW?

It was none of those things.What I found was a bunch of fly fisherman… doing what fly fisherman do when they aren’t. fishing… talking about fly fishing… and tying flies.

Tonight, they were here to learn how to tie the Original Clouser Deep Minnow.

A few were in uniform, most not. Uniform Blouses were stacked on the sidelines. Rank didn’t matter in this room.

There were a few young active-duty Marines, a few retired service members, some middle age guys, and some fellow “more experienced” (a polite way to say senior citizens) fly fisherman (like me). All were sitting around a table littered with feathers, hooks, thread, and fly tying vices. It was a mixed group of men and women who had all come together for one reason.

I slowly began to understand. These folks. all of them, active duty — veterans — civilian volunteers: all came together for the same reason I head into the woods with my fly rod for a chance to concentrate on something other than the scars on their bodies and souls — for a chance to learn to tie one more fly that they can use on some river or stream, or to seek the therapeutic benefits of being one with nature.

This program wasn’t just about the young Marines — this was about Veterans of all ages, and perhaps those who served in other ways — to forget for a while, and just think about fishing.

Many of us who fly fish long ago came to the realization that our venture into new waters with a rod and a few flies often has little to do with actually catching fish.

These guys have a lot of sponsors big and small. Some folks provide money, others materials, others sweat equity.

Folks like Jim Bensinger, owner of Fiber Flies, was there as a volunteer and materials donor. His son, James (an active duty Marine) was at the table working on a fly.

There will always be a shortage of the money and resources to grow this program to the size necessary to support the veterans returning from today’s wars, and those long forgotten wars from the past. You read the same news I do. Government money just won’t be enough in the future.

There are many good programs out there, but one size doesn’t fit all. Some are better than others. This is one of the good ones. I checked them out (as in “pulled their IRS 990), and noted that they are a well managed, volunteer organization that puts of its money into programs to support veterans.

I write my checks to not-for-profit groups in December. I plan to add Project Healing Waters to my list. You may find many ways to donate here. If you have a special program in your State or community you would like to support, just add its name to the donation.

My donation will go to Project Healing Waters – Quantico. The journey is the reward.

Al Alborn is a Prince William County resident and author of The Virginia Trout Bum.

News
Kiser: Hope for Fewer I-95 Express Lanes Work Delays in 2014

Opinion

It’s been a brutal year on Interstate 95 in Northern Virginia. Yes, more so than in years past, the delays seemed to rack up on the highway that bridges the gap not only Prince William and Stafford counties but to many jobs many of us commute to in Arlington and Washington, D.C.

For nearly all of us, the highway and its delays are something we’ve become very familiar with.

The Virginia Department of Transportation told us congestion on I-95 would get worse this year, especially during the summer of 2013 when work on the 95 Express Lanes would kick into high gear.

Now in winter and heading into 2014, we can see pavement that has been laid on the new lanes that, when the open in early 2015, will bring an extension of the HOV lanes from Dumfries to Va. 610 in North Stafford. The entire facility will between North Stafford and Esdall Road in Alexandria, and will allow single drivers to pay an electronic toll to use the lanes or occupants in vehicles of three or more to ride free.

And, while that all sounds well and good, it will be even better when the lanes finally open and work-related delays for the Express Lanes project a thing of the past. Even during the holidays, I-95 in our area has been plagued by delays morning, midday, and night as work zones are set up, closing lanes and backing up miles of traffic, in some cases.

So, as we say goodbye to 2013 and welcome 2014 give yourself a pat on the back for putting up with what has been horrendous traffic congestion. And, join me in looking forward to the project’s completion and the opening of the new lanes. Let’s hope they help to improve the awful delays that keep us away from home, family, and life’s activities by giving us another option to get where going just a bit faster.

News
Moser: As 2013 Leaves, Here’s to Hoping Cancer Doesn’t Return

Opinion 

Have you ever said, “Whew! I’m glad this year is over?” I think that phrase has been uttered by most adults at one time or another. After a string of bad luck, medical crisis or financial meltdown, maybe you were relieved when that hateful year ended. Perhaps you lost a friend or a family member or maybe one of your parents died and you consider that whole year as a devastating loss in your own “Book of Life.”

I imagine you have also experienced wonderful years, filled with promotions and great grades, maybe a wedding or the birth of a new baby. That’s when you look forward to another year and hopes of more of the same grand events.

There are probably some years (more likely if you are middle age or past) that are not really memorable at all. Nothing spectacular occurred to fix that year in your mind good or bad enough to designate a year described as “good” or “bad”.

I have had cancer twice, but both times the treatment was excision, so was spared the more horrible treatment methods used to combat the disease.

One thing cancer breeds is the dread the disease will return. We survivors are continually beset by the knowledge we were lucky once or twice, but maybe three times is too many.

When my mammogram came back last month with “inconclusive results,” I was asked to reschedule for another look. That mammogram showed a “shadow” and the lab requested I return yet again for a sonogram.

As I sat in the cubicle, waiting for results, I remembered being in that dressing room before. There are many curtained “closets” for women to change from their street clothes to a gown, then wait for a technician to bring them the news. I recall hearing women sobbing and the out of control sensation that your entire life is suddenly in the hands of some unknown, unseen force.

After an interminable wait, I had the sonogram and the technician was able to see the “shadow”. It is a cyst, not a tumor and my relief was nearly embarrassing. I hugged this woman, whom I’d only just met and thanked her for her effort.

She was nearly in tears, too, as she said, “Last month, I told my husband I was thinking I should retire. I began this position as an x-ray technician and migrated to sonogram when they were first put to use in cancer detection. In November, nearly every procedure I administered showed cancer. I got into this field because I wanted to help, but I seldom have any good news to report.”

 I went back, got dressed and as I stepped out, I was eager to get the heck out of there, but there was a young woman, seated in the “holding pen” quietly weeping. I sat down to ask her and she told me “I’ve had cancer once….”

Please take a few minutes to watch this video. I shared it with a friend who faced his own struggle with cancer, but it applies to all of us.

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Moser: Excessive Government Waste, Spending Makes ‘Me Very Testy’

Last week I wrote a post entitled: Home Values Rebounding, Prince William Needs Housing Solutions. Someone left me a thoughtful comment that included this phrase:

“Those of us in older neighborhoods who were comfortable and safe in our homes for decades and paid mortgage on time had nothing whatsoever to do with the bad mortgage/foreclosure, etc. mess yet our home values have suffered greatly because of the actions of others.”

I am typically ready to share responsibility for our plight with everyone, whether it is government, business or residents. I must say, though, that comment resonated with me, in fact the whole post sounded like the kind of rumble in the back of my head that I hear on a regular basis!

I (and the person who wrote that comment) paid my bills. I made my payments and I went without vacations and I SACRIFICED to pay off all our debts! My husband and I worked long hours and we continue to work for our neighborhood and our community.

It is not my fault there were unscrupulous lenders, nor is it my fault people bought houses they couldn’t afford. It is not my fault that banks won’t keep up their vacant properties and it is not my fault that a large portion of Prince William County residents and a few of our elected officials don’t seem to recognize the plight of people like me and the person who wrote that post.

It is definitely not my fault that sequestration occurred and it certainly isn’t my fault that my husband is still unemployed. Since I’m all riled up now, though, I’m going to blame somebody!

In October, I read a devastating article in the Washington Post about leaving $7 billion worth of equipment behind as we withdraw troops from Afghanistan. (We’re not just leaving it behind, it’s being reduced to scrap!) On Monday, I read another Washington Post article about the Air Force wasting $600 million by retiring a small fleet of planes only six years old and mothballing five more planes that haven’t even been produced yet! Why? The Air Force and the National Guard are having some kind of power skirmish.

Then I read about Senator Coburns’ “Wastebook” where he outlines $30 billion that the government could have saved!

I watched the school board allocate funding for a school that will total in excess of 110 million dollars and require debt service for many years, knowing, the overcrowded classrooms, and low teacher pay will continue.

So let me see if I can explain this in a way that everyone understands. People like me, who have been careful and cautious and thrifty all our lives are now in pretty dire straits. The home that we spent money to purchase, money to remodel and money to preserve is going to contribute very little to our retirement. (Thanks to those low housing values I shared with you last week.)

We didn’t save enough when we were younger because we were busy paying off our bills and our home. We were being responsible.  Now, in the last working years of my husband’s career, when we should be saving nearly every bit of income…there is no income.

So all this waste is making me very testy. I’m having a hard time thinking in terms of sharing the wealth when others are wasting it…and it’s not my fault!

News
Charitable Donations Replace Christmas Gifts for Adults

Mom on the Run: The Next Chapter

I stand back and look at the tree. My daughter came home unexpectedly for the weekend, so my husband and I took advantage of having a kid present and decorated the house for Christmas. She is in her senior year of college and our son is in his freshman year, and with no other kids at home, my husband and I are having to figure out new processes, new expectations for just about every aspect of life. We’ve got the day-to-day stuff down, but holidays are fresh new ground.

Putting up the tree ourselves didn’t seem right, but setting up during their Thanksgiving visit seemed early, and waiting until they show up a few days before Christmas seemed late. It was convenient that our daughter popped home when she did, two weeks before the big day. My husband hauled up the boxes, and in an hour the deed was done: tree, stockings, wreaths, flags, little Santas and angels sprinkled here and there throughout the downstairs.

Last was the presents, and that’s what I’ve just finished doing. I had wrapped the gifts already, and once the tree was up it took just a minute to transfer them all over.

All of them.

I stand and look for a minute at the tree. This seems … sparse.

“Is that it?” my husband asks, standing next to me and looking.

“Yep,” I say, nodding, arms crossed. “That’s it.”

Beneath the tree: one large-ish box containing the expensive boots our ROTC-obsessed son requested for Christmas. One large-ish box with the camouflage pattern camelback wearable water bottle for my son, from my parents, which my dad had delivered to our house. One small box containing a shirt for our nephew. And one very small box holding a beautiful sparkly bracelet that I picked up for myself for a crazy low price on Black Friday.

“Well, I have two boxes to add for you,” I tell my husband. “They haven’t come in yet.”

“And I’ll have one for you,” he adds.

We stand together, looking at the tree, nodding at this sobering news.

“Do we have anybody else to buy for?” he asks.

“Nope,” I tell him. This year, for the first time ever, we have finally, finally done away with adult gifts for my family. Instead, we are giving charitable donations: “I’ll write up some cards for my parents and sisters, saying what donations we made in their names.” I’m having iTunes gift cards emailed directly to my sister-in-law for our nephew and niece. “We do need to find something for your mom and dad,” I say. He nods … but we both know those will be small, token-type gifts.

But our kids … just last week we gave our daughter cash for a down payment on a car as her Christmas gift. Aside from the boots, we’ll probably give our son some money.

And that’s it! For the first time in 22 years there are no babysitters, no teachers, no coaches for whom to buy gifts. No kids’ friends or even kids’ friends’ parents – other moms and dads who sit on bleachers and serve as back-up cheerleaders and EMTs and couriers – expecting little gifts or cards or homemade cookies.

So beneath our tree is lonely. The years of mountains of brightly wrapped gifts are over. The big toy gifts evolved to small electronics gifts, and those evolved to checks and deposits and down payments on cars. Things too big to fit under the tree.

Until … yeah, I decide, turning firmly away from the tree. I’m going shopping.

News
Kiser: Facebook Not Always Best Option to See Local News

Relying solely on your Facebook feed for local news about things happening where you live? Don’t be so sure it’s the only place to find what you’re looking for.

A new report from Ignite Social Media says continued to adjustments to Facebook’s news feed algorithm have lead to branded pages, like our Facebook page for Potomac Local News, to be seen by fewer users.

According to the site, some brand pages on Facebook have declines of 44% on average to as much as 88%. This means that fewer organic, or non paid content, from brand pages are showing up less frequently in users’ news feeds.

In 2011, Facebook introduced the option for organizations to pay to have their posts reach more users of the social media service. Nearly all of what we post to our Facebook page is local news, and these posts are all non-sponsored, organic posts to Facebook.

All of this is not to say Facebook is wrong for offering up the option for sponsored content. Potomac Local News also works with small businesses to create sponsored content to be consumed by our readers, on multiple platforms, to help showcase their business or organization.

But an over reliance on Facebook to get all of the great local news and information we post to PotomacLocal.com on a daily basis could mean you’re missing out on knowing what’s happening around your corner.

PotomacLocal.com is designed with you in mind, so we’ve made it easy to log on to our homepage and get the latest local headlines by area in which you live – Prince William, Stafford, or Greater Manassas. Our events calendar is promptly posted at the top right of each page. Slide show galleries and columnists appear on the home page. And, there’s great information from the local advertisers who provide financial support so we can continue covering the news that affects you.

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Moser: Home Values Rebounding, Prince William Needs Housing Solutions

In 2007, my nice, middle class neighborhood had begun to deteriorate in obvious ways. Tall grass was everywhere. Houses stood empty. Vandalism and graffiti began to emerge. Prince William County created the Neighborhood Services Division in response to the issues that were arising. I attended my first Neighborhood Leaders Group in 2008, with the hope that I would explain the problems occurring in my neighborhood and the county would fix them. (The county was way ahead of me!)

Most housing in Prince William County has recovered, but my home, here in Lindendale, while it has recovered some value, (from a high of $411,000.00 in 2009 to a miserable $136,000.00 one year later in 2010, to today’s current assessment of $231,000.00) that assessment has gone from being an acceptable median price to a value nearly $100,000.00 BELOW the current median price!

As I watch the birth of a new Woodbridge and the rising of the Potomac Communities, I’m left to wonder what will happen to my neighborhood in Dale City and others like it. I see homes being built in the 22193 zip code, like these beginning at $437,000, and these, ranging from $519,000.00 to $ 670,000.00, and I am grateful these homes are not tax negative constructions. (These higher priced homes pay for services like school, police and fire from their assessed taxes, ergo “tax positive”, as opposed to homes assessed at lower values are “tax negative”. 

Our home is now 37 years old. In most places, that is not particularly old. This page states the average age of homes in all the surrounding counties. Our home is twice the average age for Prince William, but age is not the problem. I tracked those values on Zillow:

Average Sales Price:

  • Manassas (20112)       $427,300.
  • Gainesville (20156)    $424,000.
  • Dumfries (22025)        $336,000.
  • Lake Ridge (22192)     $297,900.
  • Woodbridge (22191)  $264,000.
  • Dale City (22193)        $258,000.

Dale City, and, in fact, most of Prince William County, was built as a bedroom community — a place to escape the crowded cities. That is who we were. Today, with a population of more than 425,000, we need to acknowledge who we are.

We need to search for solutions for aging housing, aging residents, and aging infrastructure. We can’t just continue to build new, ever more expensive homes to attract proffers and increase property taxes. That is not working, as evidenced by the problems we are encountering with our schools.

We need plans to incentivize homeowners to invest in remodeling with low cost or no cost loans. We need improvements to our communities that engender pride of place. While I am delighted to see plans for the magnificent new libraries in Montclair and Gainesville, I know our Dale City Mini Library is about the same square footage as my home and yet serves a population the size of every other magisterial district. (Yes, I know, the Chinn Library and Woodbridge Library are regional libraries and we in the Neabsco District use those.)

Our Dale City Farmers Market has long been a blessing to our community and provided a unique experience since 1987. Last year Occoquan started a Farmers Market and Tackett’s Mill in Lake Ridge will be boasting their own Farmers Market in the spring. You can visit Farmers Markets in Manassas or Bristow. That’s great for residents of those communities, but what will the competition mean to Dale City? One of our only unique assets is no longer unique.

I am grateful for our amenities like the Prince William Ice Center and Waterworks at Andrew Leitch Park. I’m not discounting the value of the Sharon Baucom Dale City Recreation Center. It’s great we have a public pool at Birchdale, but none of those are bringing up our housing values.

I don’t want to whine with “woe is me” theatrics. I just want some ideas that work; some suggestions that will help and some acknowledgement that residents in older communities deserve solutions to the low housing values.

News
Moser: Why Build More Roads if People are Driving Less?

Opinion

Do you watch television? I bet you think that’s a funny question. Your response was probably something like, “Of course! Doesn’t everyone?” In fact, last year, the cable, satellite and telecoms providers added just 46,000 video customers collectively, according to research firm SNL Kagan. That 46K is a pretty small percentage of 974,000 new households that were created last year.

That’s not to say people aren’t watching anything that is televised, but it does mean that less people are signing up for traditional subscriptions and more are resorting to services like Netflix or Hulu. I don’t watch regular television at all, but I do watch TED on my computer. I also watch the Prince William Board of County Supervisors meetings.

I found last week’s meeting to be particularly interesting, as the discussion on the Bi-County Parkway resulted in several motions after presentations by county staff and fervent citizens. I’ve avoided making a public statement on this topic because up until this week it seemed to me to be a battle between residents and transportation officials and each side has seemed well armed to make their own arguments. I’ve followed the discussions through “Say No to the Bi-County Parkway” on Facebook and read the prodigious amounts of information sent to my inbox.

I read the blogs, but usually as a kind of barometer to gauge the sentiments of those vocal folks and their admirers and detractors. I don’t usually comment, but if I do, you will always see my name. I made an exception to my “almost never comment” policy when my friend, Al Alborn, made this post.

I was moved to respond, because that post resonated with me. I don’t want to keep doing things the same old way to achieve the same old results. Haven’t you ever asked yourself, “Why, if we keep building roads, does it keep taking longer to get to our destination?” On Al’s blog, I mention self-driving cars and drone package delivery. Transportation is changing. Whether you believe it or not, whether you want it or not transportation is changing.

This story from Grist talks about a decline in driving. This story from the Washington Post states Americans are driving 7.6 percent fewer miles per year than they did in 2004. All across the United States, people are actually driving less miles per year and that’s after removing variables like the recession.

We’re building miles and miles of hiking trails, walking paths and bicycle lanes and guess what? People are using them. People who used to have to drive to an office five days a week can now work from the comfort of their home. There is more public transportation available. The price of cars, insurance, repair costs, gas and time lost in traffic are outweighing the private automobile.

We keep adding roads, lanes, lights, signs and striping…what if we’re doing that all for nothing? Many cities are experimenting with no signals. It sounds inconceivable, but it is certainly working in Poynton, England where they have made an effort to revitalize their community.

The way we build homes changes as we use more Earth-friendly products. The super large houses of the last decade make way for smaller more comfortable homes for today. Cars change, people change, ideas change. Everything changes, whether it’s television, computers, telephones, hair color or road building.

Let’s not build a road that changes nothing but just gives us more of the same.

News
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.

News
Moser: Community Associations Play Role in Proffer Negotiations

Opinion 

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.

News
Kiser: Why Black Friday is No Longer Newsworthy

Opinion 

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.

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

BizTech

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.

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

Opinion

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?

 

News
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!

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