Girls Unimpressed by Facebook Updates Find Google

Mom on the Run


I’m at lunch with Briana, Dayana, and Caroline. Today’s after-Sunday school lunch group is smaller than usual, and it’s all girls. I don’t recall exactly how we got to this particular topic of conversation, but we’re talking about cell phones. Well, I’m talking about my cell phone. The girls know their cell phones inside and out. Mine, however, is pretty much a mystery to me, though I’ve had it for several months.

“See?” I proudly hold out my phone, displaying the screen, as evidence. “I updated the church Facebook page already, with pictures of the choir and of the sermon!” Our choir sang a cappella today and we had a guest speaker. Both were, I thought, of note, and deserving of a Facebook page post.

But, “Um, great,” the girls reply. I guess updating the church page isn’t so exciting or important to them. I am still delighted with my achievement – and with having the idea to do it, really – and I press on. “With pictures! That I took during the service! And I did it all from my phone!”

“Uh-huh, yeah,” they say. They get it. And they are not impressed.

“I just learned how to update Facebook from my phone the other day,” I brag to them, still pretty pleased with myself for figuring it out. “The salesman put the Facebook app on my screen but he didn’t tell me how to use it, so it took me a while of playing with it to find the buttons.”

Finally the girls react; Dayana and Caroline, both in high school, glance at each other and grin. I know they’re laughing at me, and my weak grasp of what they consider to be everyday technology.

And hey! That gives me an idea! “Hey, you guys know all about this stuff, can you show me how to make my phone work?” Caroline, who is fairly new to our church and doesn’t know me that well, murmurs, “Um, yeah, sure,” while Dayana, who has spent entirely too much time with me, broadens her grin.

“Great!” Oh, I am delighted. “Here,” I say to Caroline, because she’s closer, handing her my phone. “Can you show me how to get Google on here? I’ve accidentally done it a few times, but haven’t been able to figure out how I did it.” At this, Dayana moves her hand and covers her mouth. She doesn’t want me to know she’s actively laughing at me.

Caroline is more reserved, and less sure about me, and she has just been given a job to do anyway, so she bites her lip as she takes my phone. She looks at the screen, taps once, and, voila!, “Here,” she says, showing me.

And there, on the screen, the Google homepage! “What? How did you do that?” I can’t believe it was so fast! One tap? I lean in closer, to see the screen.

Caroline taps again, goes back to the main screen. “This button,” she points, and shows me very clearly, running along the whole top of the screen, a long white bar with the Google logo.

“No way!” I say, reaching for my phone. I want to try this myself. “I always thought that was an advertisement or something! That’s a button?” All around me, girls are biting their lips and covering their mouths, really trying hard not to laugh at me, old Lianne.

Then, “Shoot,” I say, shaking my head. “I can’t believe it. All along, that was a button, and not a logo! Wow! That’s really … pathetic.” And at that, all three of my lunch companions can’t take it anymore, and they burst into laughter and they laugh and laugh and laugh.

Stafford’s Civil War Park Opens

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Michael Beard, left, and James Standard, of the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War, await orders Saturday during opening ceremonies at the Civil War Park in Stafford. [Photo: Keith Walker / For Potomac Local News]

For Potomac Local News

STAFFORD, Va. — It might not have been such a good thing for a Civil War soldier to make it to a field hospital since about one-in-four died there after surgery, according to “Doc” Pete Peters, a Civil War “surgeon” assigned to the Army of the Potomac.

Peters and dozens of other Civil War re-enactors came to Stafford Saturday to help commemorate the county’s opening of a new Civil War Park.

It was mostly infection that did in the wounded, since Civil War-era medics hadn’t a notion of germs, Peterson told people who stopped by his field hospital to get a look at his bone saws scalpels, knives and other medical instruments contemporary to the Civil War.

Peters went on to tell visitors that a good Civil War surgeon could remove a man’s leg in seven minutes and that amputated body parts, the blood and gore associated with 19th Century surgery usually wound up on the floor around the surgeon’s feet.

It was standard operating procedure, he said.

“There would be arms, legs, toes, fingers and everything else lyin’ around,” Peters said told small groups of people who stopped by his tent to see his medical instruments and medicine.

Peters, who wore a “blood-stained” white butcher’s apron, said that as his instruments dulled, a doctor would often use the leather soles of his boots to sharpen them.

“You’ve got to understand I’m steppin’ on everything by virtue of what I’m doing. I didn’t realize that I shouldn’t be doing that,” he said of the instrument-honing methods of Civil War doctors.

Stafford County’s newest 41-acre park, at 400 Mount Hope Church Road, was the site of the Union Army’s 11th Corps, 1st and 3rd Division’s 1883 winter encampment of more than 135,000 soldiers and was dedicated Saturday as part of the Civil War Sesquicentennial, according to the county website

Peters’ field hospital wasn’t the only stop where people could pick up pieces of Civil War history to take away and store away in their minds.

Visitors to the park opening also had the chance to see re-enactors representing Reilly’s West Point Battery Regulars, 5th Artillery Regiment, charge their teams horses, with cannons rattling behind, to firing positions where gun crews fired the cannons, startling people watching from sidelines in spite of the fact that one of the gun crew soldier yelled, “Fire!” just before the cannon boomed

Joe Slifer, a re-enactor with Reilly’s Battery, was there to give visitors all the information they might want to know about Civil War cannon batteries.

He said it took a lot of men and horseflesh to wage war back in the day.

Each cannon was drawn by six horses. Gun crews had 72 horses harnessed at any time, ready to pull six guns wherever they might need to be positioned, Slifer said.

He went on to say that each team was matched with at least one team of replacement horses, plus horses for outriders, or scouts.

“You had a couple hundred horses, minimum for a one-battery unit,” he said.

Sean Otto, brought his family to the new park to see the sights and came away with a few things he didn’t know before his visit.

“I learned that Stafford has a long history, with the Civil War in particular,” said Otto, a captain with the Va. National Guard’s 276th Engineering Squadron. Today is the 150th Anniversary of this particular camp and 3,500 people died in this camp in that winter.”

Other Civil War-era attractions in Stafford County which help “tell the story of how the war touched our county,” include the White Oak Museum and Chatham Manor, according to the county website.

Oversight Plan to Protect Occoquan Watershed Dies


Contributing Editor

MIDCO (Mid County Civic Association Of Prince William) is a citizens group whose goal is to assist residents in assessing and affecting issues that impact our community.  One of its projects is to develop recommendations for the Occoquan Reservoir Overlay Area called for in the new Environment Chapter of Prince William County’s Comprehensive Plan.  

This project was requested by Kim Hosen, a Prince William County Planning Commissioner.  The purpose of this project is to protect the Occoquan Watershed, and the water that flows into the Occoquan Reservoir.

If you live in Northern Virginia, and are holding a cup of coffee or tea as you read this column, there’s a good chance you drinking water that drained off my back yard into the Occoquan River and eventually into your cup. If you like the idea of clean, unpolluted and readily available drinking water, you probably are interested in the Occoquan Watershed and efforts to protect it.

MIDCO’s report was presented to the Planning Commission at an Occoquan Reservoir Overlay District work session on November 16, 2011.  Prince William County’s Department of Planning listened to the report, and its Board of Supervisor’s must approve before proceeding with the project.

It’s not going to happen.  

In a world of competing priorities, it was the judgment of the Board of County Supervisors not to approve further work on this project.  This may be revisited in the future.  Community feedback may certainly shuffle priorities, but for now it is dead.

For full disclosure, Prince William County’s Director of Planning Chris Price at a recent MIDCO meeting did share that several competing standards such as the Chesapeake Bay Act, and other Federal and State mandates and guidance, are already in place to protect Prince William County’s watersheds. The Occoquan Watershed Overlay District would have added protections specific to this environmentally sensitive area within Prince William County.

The Occoquan Watershed Overlay District may be dead for now, however, people don’t have to wait for the government to start improving water quality and the environment. 

Property owners may take advantage of several programs available to educate homeowners today on how to manage non-native invasive species of plants, reduce the use of chemicals and pesticides on their property, promote natural succession, conserve water via water barrels and sound water management principles, etc.

Wildlife is an indicator of a healthy environment. A healthy environment is good for water quality. Some examples of “self help” include:

– The Prince William County Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) Environment and Natural Resources program offers a full range of free classes and educational materials to educate homeowners and businesses on property management best practices. Master Gardener Volunteers are available to consult with homeowners directly on a variety of issues upon request.

– The Northern Virginia Audubon Society Audubon at Home program. This volunteer group is available to consult with homeowners directly on land management best practices. It also has a Wildlife Sanctuary program to certify properties who take specific steps to make their property more environmentally friendly.

– Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) training and Habitat at Home program. VGIF provides training and education for landowners so they may manage and improve their property using best practices to attract wildlife.

If any of this has “hit home” as you take a sip of something made with water that probably ran off my driveway, there is one easy, voluntary step you may take to both improve the quality of your yard while reducing chemicals that run into the water supply.  

Ask a Prince William County Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Volunteer to test your soil.

Call Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Horticulture Help Line at 703-792-7747 or perhaps send an email to and ask about their BEST lawns program.  A Master Gardener Volunteer will arrange to visit your home, take a soil sample, and answer lawn care questions.  

Most people simply go to their local hardware store and buy some version of a “four step” program that is based on applying chemicals that their lawn may or may not need throughout the year, or apply pesticides that kill everything in sight including the beneficial insects.  

In the world of lawn amendments, one size does not fit all.  There is a very high probability that homeowners are over-fertilizing and perhaps missing important lawn amendments (such as lime) because they simply don’t know what the composition is of their soil.  The “extras” run off the watershed, or down into the groundwater, and perhaps into that Kool-Aid your child is drinking.

‘Beyond the Pines’ not Cliche, but Undeveloped

042713-Pines_posterMovie Review 


“The Place Beyond the Pines” sounds like a nice place for a picnic. Turns out it’s the Mohawk to English translation for Schenectady, and the title for the movie I saw today.

Now in wider release, the movie stars Ryan Gosling (Drive) as bad boy Luke and Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook) as rookie cop Avery.

Luke is a carnie with a motorcycle act who travels from town to town. When he revisits Romina (Eva Mendes from Hitch), whom he hasn’t seen in a year, he finds out he has a 3-month-old son.

Romina has moved on and has a new man in her life. Although his son is doing fine and is in a happy and loving home, Luke figures the best thing for him to do is rob some banks so he can provide for this child. He is pretty good at this with his speedy motorcycle getaway, until the rookie cop, Avery trips him up.

I was expecting some kind of epic battle between these two. That is what the trailer seemed to tease, and what the movie did not deliver. Oddly enough, that is not what bothered me. I was glad the movie swerved away from cliché.

Where it went was somewhere between a Greek tragedy and a Shakespearean goat screw. It wasn’t about these guys, Luke and Avery. It was about what these guys did and the impact it had on their lives and the lives of their sons.

This is a great setup, but the sons are pitiful people who do very little to engage the viewer. The whole movie was very plot-driven, and by that I mean the writer had the plot all laid out – and the actors executed it. Nothing seemed to come as a result of on-screen character development or pure character desires.

I know Gosling is cute ladies – I get that – but he tries too hard to be Steve McQueen. Cooper shows off his acting chops and carries the last half of the picture. I wanted to see more from Eva Mendes, and not in the way that you think. She has done some amazing work in the past, but here she is relegated to being the mom who seems embarrassed and ashamed by everything – including her role.

The movie was good at times, even gripping for a moment or two, and then it fell into a slice of life in the usual poor man versus lawman drama. There was great potential here. I walked out of the theater thinking this was probably a great book that let you really see inside the minds of these characters and how they dealt with conflicting motives. From what I could see, this was never a novel, just a screenwriter’s attempt at an epic tale that came up short.

This was an indie film, with no studio oversight, and I love those kinds of films. Unfortunately, sometimes, when you don’t have anybody to answer to, the script and the characters do not get fully developed. It’s so cool, and you want to just shoot it, and the result is not cool.

You can go to “The Place Beyond the Pines” if you want, but bring a snack and a blanket, because at two hours and 20 minutes you may want to nap at times. I give it 2 and a half stars out of 5 and a “nice try.”

Tom Basham is a Virginia filmmaker and writes BashMovies.

Dumfries Officer Completes West Point Leadership Course


Officer of the Week

Dumfries Police Officer Sgt. Jose Vasquez is a newly trained leader.

Vasquez recently graduated from the West Point Leadership Course, which is an academic leadership course that focuses on individual development, handling stress, organization and ethics.

The officer attended the eight hour classes from September 2012 to February 2013.

Vasquez was been a police officer in Dumfries since January 2012. He is one of a handful of dedicated officers in the small town department who patrol the streets of Virginia’s oldest continuously chartered town.


Speakers, Tours Planned for Saturday’s Grand Opening of Stafford Civil War Park

STAFFORD, Va. — Stafford’s Civil War Park will hold its grand opening this Saturday at 10 a.m.

The park is located at 400 Mount Hope Church Road, near the Brooke Virginia Railway Express station. Free parking will be available at the VRE station for those who attend, and a free shuttle will be available to take visitors to the park between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., on Saturday. Those with physical impairments will be allowed to park at the park, while all others are asked to park at the VRE station.

Several events are planned to commemorate the opening of the park. Below is a listing distributed by Stafford County’s tourism department:



HOV Lanes Closings as Work Continues in Pr. Wm., Stafford

Virginia Megaprojects 

At 11 p.m. Friday, April 26, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will close the high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes on Interstate 395/95 from the Washington D.C. line to the end in Dumfries (Route 234) until 10 a.m. Saturday, April 27 when the HOV lanes will re-open from the Springfield interchange to Dumfries.

The HOV northern section between Washington and Springfield will remain closed until 4 p.m. Sunday, April 28, when the entire HOV system opens northbound.

Additionally, VDOT will close one left-lane on I-395 south between Seminary Road and the Capital Beltway (I-495) at 11 p.m. Friday night, April 26 to 9 a.m. Saturday morning, April 27 and again on Saturday night from 9 p.m. until 10 a.m. Sunday morning. April 28.

These closures will allow crews to drill foundations for sign structures, drainage work along with grading, and barrier work as a part of the 95 Express Lanes Project. Motorists can expect slower travel along the corridor and should add an additional 15 minutes to their trip. VDOT advises motorists to plan for night and weekend construction work throughout the summer and fall months along the 29-mile 95 Express Lanes construction work area. Signs and message boards are posted along the corridor to inform motorists of construction activities. Police will be onsite for motorist’s safety.

On the local scale, work continues in the Prince William County area as well. In the next couple of weeks, motorists will see work at Joplin Road, as crews set the bridge foundation and the piers to support the future 95 Express Lanes ramp to the general purpose lanes of I-95 and Joplin Road. Girders to support the lanes over I-95 will be set in the May or June time frame, so motorists on I-95 South can expect to see lane closures at that time.

At Telegraph Road in Stafford County, crews will be pile driving for the rest of this month and into May as well. Telegraph Road is scheduled to reopen next winter.

Occoquan Mayor Starts Shuttle Service for Train Passengers to Spur Tourism

The Town of Occoquan


OCCOQUAN, Va. — Mayor Earnie Porta of the tiny town of Occoquan is said to be the town’s biggest cheerleader when it comes to letting residents in the region know about special events during holidays, town gatherings, and sales at many of the town’s independently owned small businesses.

Now, instead of just telling people about what’s happening in the town, he’s actually going to bring people there.

Porta started Occoquan Transportation Company, LLC in partnership with Amtrak with the mission of bringing passengers waiting at Lorton’s Auto Train to Occoquan. The shuttle service runs on Saturdays and Sundays between 11:30 a.m. And 2:30 p.m. with stops at the Workhouse Arts Center and Occoquan.

Porta said the idea is to give passengers who normally wait up to three hours for their train something to do while they wait.

Here’s more in a Q&A session with Porta and Potomac Local News:

1. What’s the reason why you started this service?

I’m basically starting the service in the hopes of bringing to Occoquan to eat and shop people who would otherwise probably just be sitting around for hours at a train station with little to do.

2. What’s it’s main function? How does it work?

The shuttle service is basically designed to cater to Lorton Auto Train passengers. They line up to load their cars at 11:30 a.m., and then, in most cases, are marooned at the station until the Auto Train leaves at 3:00.

I’ll be making four pick-ups at the station at 11:30 a.m., noon, 12:30 p.m., and 1 p.m. to shuttle people to the Town of Occoquan (with a stop at the Lorton Workhouse Arts Center if passengers desire), where I hope they will eat, shop, generally enjoy themselves, and be motivated come visit us again in the future. The round-trip fare is $5, but children age 12 and under ride for free.

3. What was the level of dedication / financial commitment required to start this?

The margins on this, frankly, are quite tight, which is part of what led me to take this on. With such tight margins no established company was likely to initiate a service like this, and if the Fairfax County Government decided to run a subsidized shuttle, my guess is that their taxpayers would not really favor subsidizing trips to a town in Prince William County.

Consequently, I concluded that the only way to brings these folks into Occoquan and Prince William was for someone locally to set up a targeted service. Given the tight margins sustainability (and hope-for expansion) will depend not only on demand, but on promotional sales, etc.

The LLC I set up currently contracts for the buses and pays individuals to serve as ride docents, so the upfront costs are born by the [limited liability company], but hopefully will be adequately covered by fares and promotional sales.

5. Who will drive?

At the moment I have contracted with a well-established, reputable bus company, who, along with Amtrak, has been very cooperative in setting this up. Drivers, called toute docents, are people that I need basically to be on the buses to collect money, supervise the route, and make sure that everyone gets back to the train station in time.

Midwifery Welcomes 500th Baby to Prince William

[Submitted photo]

Submitted News


Manassas Midwifery and Women’s Health Center and Dumfries Midwifery and Pediatric Care Center welcome Spring by celebrating baby number 500. Janay Stephens gave birth to Ajonni Stephens-Bolden (6 lbs., 11 oz.) at 4:55 p.m. on April 9 at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center.

 “I was very excited,” Stephens said, while holding baby Ajonni, who was past his due date, feeling relieved that he had finally arrived. Stephens also praised Dumfries Midwifery stating, “You guys are excellent!”

The four-year-old practice, which opened a sister office in Dumfries last September, provides midwifery, women’s, and pediatric health care for insured, uninsured, under-insured or Medicaid eligible women who prefer the services of midwives and advanced practice nurses. The practice is managed by Sheila Mathis-a certified nurse midwife- and her husband, Derrick, who is an ordained minister.

In celebration of the recent birth of baby Ajonni, a significant milestone the four-year-old Manassas Midwifery presented a basket of gifts to Janay and her baby boy.

Crash Doesn’t Deter Slug

Slug Tales 


I’d like to think that I’m not risking my life every time I slug back and forth to work.

But the more I think about it, I suppose that’s exactly what I’m doing.

Growing up, didn’t our parents always tell us not to get into cars with strangers? And yet we do it every day. We trust these strangers to drive us from Point A to Point B without getting into an accident. We trust them to pay attention to the road, to drive defensively, to arrive safely. We get into the car and we hope for the best.


I guess anytime we get on the road, whether we’re riding or driving, we take the risk of getting into an accident. Even the buses, with drivers who are specially trained and licensed, could be hit by another vehicle. It’s a scary thought!

This is and has always been a reality, of course, but it is one that I was reminded of last week. While riding into work one morning, we hit very heavy traffic on the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes near the exit for Edsall Road. It was unusual for traffic to get backed up in this area, so I immediately began to wonder what was going on.

Whipping out my cell phone, I checked my Twitter (@SlugTales) feed for any news on what could have caused the delay. As I scrolled through the page, the driver’s cell phone began to ring. She answered the call, and complained to her mother about the commute.

“Ugh, this construction is really messing up the road!” she said.

Just then, we approached the real problem – a bad accident, completely blocking the left lane. It looked as though one car had rear-ended the other, but was difficult to tell since they were surrounded by emergency vehicles. The occupants of both cars appeared to be alright, despite being startled and probably late to work. At least no one seemed to be badly hurt.

“That is my worst fear!” exclaimed the passenger in the front seat. ” I’m terrified of getting into an accident on HOV, especially when I’m driving!”

The driver, quickly ending the call with her mother, agreed. “Hope they’re all okay,” she replied.

For some reason, that sight stayed on my mind for most of the day. It’s not as if I’d never seen an accident before, but I couldn’t seem to shake the thought of something like that happening to me. What if…

No, I can’t worry about things like that, I told myself. Then, while waiting my turn in the slug line that afternoon, I overheard a conversation going on between two people behind me.

“… And it took me a while to start slugging again after that. My wife was so worried about me getting into another accident!”

The woman listening to the story shook her head. “I’ve been slugging for 11 years and thank goodness that’s never happened to me. I can’t believe that happened to you the first time! What terrible luck.”

They continued talking about all the different ways to commute, and he explained how he’d pretty much tried it all. He used to drive in every day, until that got too expensive. He stopped taking the Metro when his friend told him about the train. He stopped taking the Virginia Railway Express when he stopped receiving transit benefits, as he could no longer afford it. He started slugging again when his coworker convinced him to give it another try.

“I’m glad she changed my mind,” he admitted. “I’ve been slugging for years now and have never had any other problems, really.”

Well, I was glad to hear that. In the few years that I’ve been slugging, I’ve never been in an accident either. Fingers crossed, my good luck will continue.

In the meantime, I’ll be sure to buckle up and hope that everyone out there will be careful on the road. Drive safely, slugs! Our lives all depend on it.

Dan’s Pharmacy Grows Big While Providing Small Town Service

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Dan Singh opened the independent Dan’s Wellness Pharmacy in North Stafford six years ago and is now ready to expand his business. [Photo: Mary Davidson / Potomac Local News]


NORTH STAFFORD, Va. — The days of the corner drugstore and soda fountain may be long gone, but the independent pharmacy is alive and well in North Stafford.

Sitting along busy Garrisonville Road, surrounded by at least six other corporate chain pharmacies like CVS, Rite Aid, and Walmart, is Dan’s Wellness Pharmacy. It’s not a large store by chain store standards, and the wooden fixtures on the floor and walls harken back to older time when neighbors came to the corner drugstore for advice on what was ailing them, a quick over the counter remedy, or just to say hello. It’s a form of customer service owner Dan Singh and his team of nine staff works hard to provide every day.

“My friends said I was crazy to start a pharmacy here with so much competition around us, but we were all very surprised at how it grew,” said Singh.

Today, Dan’s Wellness Pharmacy fills prescriptions the same way the chain stores do, offers many of the same products on its shelves, but it has cornered the market in herbal remedies and “compounding,” the art of creating specialized medications for individual people and pets. It’s a unique service his competitors don’t offer, and they refer their customers that ask for it to him.

Starting out

The independent pharmacy gene is Singh’s blood. When he started in the industry in 1993, he began working at an independent pharmacy in Connecticut. He learned all he could and worked for eight years at the shop before taking a job as a pharmacy manager for Rite Aid stores in the Fredericksburg, Va. area. He met his wife, who was living in Arlington at the time, and spent his days on the road managing stores from Manassas to Waynesboro.

Then children came along and he wanted to be closer to family, so he came off the road and took a job at CVS in North Stafford. He worked there for three years and got bored, he said. He then began working on a business plan to open his own pharmacy, and when CVS got word of that, he was out.

“I figured it was time to better myself now, or the only other option was to stay working for a chain the rest of my life,” said Singh.

A Stafford resident, he knew that’s where he wanted his pharmacy to be. But he also knew he didn’t have a lot of cash on hand to get it started. He found a used furniture store in North Carolina that had old store fixtures – which can cost up to $50,000 brand new to outfit a store, said Singh. He paid $5,000 and took everything that the store had.


What he thought would take a year or more to do happened relatively quickly in just eight months – growth. When he opened six years ago, Singh went to area doctors and told them about his new pharmacy, touting its benefits as being the only independent pharmacy in Stafford.

He called it a “wellness pharmacy” when he opened, and he said that proved to be a minor mistake.

“People saw the sign and they tended to think it was more of a health food store than a pharmacy,” he said.

But he’s overcome that perception, and now many of his customers know the pharmacy to be a place they can rely on for good advice.

“Customers come to me because they know they are getting advice from an owner,” said Singh. “As I’ve grown, I’m still here, though I have a full-time staff, I like to sit in my office with the lights on and my windows open so the customers can still see me.”

There are plans to expand the Dan’s Wellness Pharmacy brand, known online as Dan’s Care. Singh said it’s too early to say where he’ll open a new independent pharmacy, but one will open soon in Virginia.

80s Music Festival Planned for Manassas

For Potomac Local News 

MANASSAS, Va. — On Saturday May 4, Crossroads Realty, PWC Entertainment and other area vendors will hold a special concert at the Olde Town Sports Pub. The Rock Show, a Journey tribute band, and the Rick Sickman Band will play hits songs from the 1980s. Proceeds from the show will go to benefit Operation Renewed Hope an organization that helps homeless veterans.

“I personally think the 80s were great,” said show organizer John Csoka. “I feel like there are very few concerts for the over 40 crowd, so we wanted to find something that would really appeal to them.”

The Rick Sickman band is coming all the way from the Midwest to entertain in Manassas and Csoka said he’s really looking forward to the show. Entry to the concert is free and vendors plan to donate any proceeds to charity.

“I met my wife at a Journey concert in 1986 so the era is obviously very special to us.” Csoka said. “We love the music from the 80s.”

Since alcohol will be available during the concert, no one under 21 will be able to attend. Csoka said he hopes to see the kind of crowd that turns out for St. Patrick’s Day at the Old Town Pub.

“It’s not uncommon to see more than 2,000 turn out for St. Patrick’s Day or New Years,” Csoka said. “We would love to have an even better turnout for this concert and really show our appreciation for our veterans.”

The concert will run from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. on May 4 at the Old Towne Sports Pub 8971 Center Street in Manassas.

Chic Dress of the Season Falls Flat Once Unwrapped

Mom on the Run


Finally! It came! I’m thrilled, and I’ve got just enough time before starting dinner.

Upstairs I run with the package. Inside should be my new dress, purchased online a few days ago. I’ve been going a little crazy with online shopping this spring. I’m finding adorable clothes on sale, plus extra discounts, plus free shipping and handling. My poor bill-paying husband has been very patient.


In between the sleeveless dresses, sheath dresses, polka-dotted dresses, and floral dresses I’ve been looking for the perfect colorblock dress, the must-have style of the season. Every website offers some, dresses with two or three big zones of color. I have carefully studied pictures, read online reviews, zoomed in for detail and clicked for additional views. I have been very picky.

Until finally I found the one! The dress in this package has a white top, with a black skirt, a khaki belt, and khaki-traced rectangles on the sides. It’s different from all the other colorblock dresses I’ve seen, with a scoop neck and short sleeves, and a slender belt dividing the black and white. Oh, it will be so cute with my strappy black wedge sandals!

So, “Buy now,” I clicked, typed in my address and my credit card number, and began the impatient wait.

And now it’s here! I throw the rest of the mail on the kitchen table and run upstairs with my prize. I’m already thinking about tomorrow’s weather: is it going to be warm enough for my fabulous new dress?

In my room, I rip open the plastic bag, pull out the inner plastic bag. I find the sealed flap, peel it open, and the dress falls out.

Greedily I reach, and … well, the fabric is not at all what I expected. All my other new dresses are this amazing polyester-spandex blend, machine-washable with beautiful, flattering draping. I expected this dress to be the same, but it’s – I take a sleeve between my fingers and rub it experimentally – cotton, like a button-down blouse. Huh.

Well, that’s OK, I decide. I can iron. I don’t like to, but I can. I lift the whole dress, shake it out. Yes! Let’s see it on!

Quickly I unbuckle the belt and unzip the back. Completely disrespectfully I dump my shirt and slacks on the floor. I pull the new dress over my head, slide my arms through the sleeves and reach up-up-up as far as I can, pushing up the zipper, then stretch from the top to pull it the rest of the way.

Excited, I turn and look in the mirror, ready, finally, to see the dress! The flattering trendy on sale-plus-a-discount dress! And – oh. It looks … horrible. Absolutely horrible.

The dress is too big. Much too big, everywhere, hips, waist, torso. And shapeless! The skirt is straight, and ends, squarely, ugly, in right angles at my knees. Um, maybe … hurriedly I buckle the belt, hoping to give it shape, bring the dress together. The belt … well, it’s too big too, but if I add some holes? I pull the belt farther through the end, to simulate where the right hole would be. I turn and look again.

And no. Just no. Even fitted, it’s a bad dress. The fabric is terrible. The khaki rectangles are weird and distracting. The waist is high, the sleeves much shorter than I thought.

Hopefully I turn to the side, regard the dress from another angle. No. Yuck. Eww. I fumble with the belt and the zipper, wanting the dress off just as badly as I wanted it on. Annoyed, I fold the offending garment roughly, stuff it back into its plastic bag, shove that into the shipping package, then study the packing slip for return instructions.

Dang. Dang, dang, dang. I was so excited. But the fantastic dress isn’t, it’s a bad dress. And now it has to go back.

I am sour and frowning, until I realize … hey, I still don’t have a colorblock dress! I grin, realizing I get to try again.

Indie News Org Wins Top Nods for Gov’t & Feature Reporting, Photography


NORFOLK, Va. — Potomac Local News has been recognized by the Virginia Press Association as the state’s leading online-only news source.

The independent news organization’s photography and writing took home seven first place awards in the VPA’s newly created online-only category at last night’s annual Awards Banquet held at the Marriott Waterside Hotel in Norfolk.

Potomac Local News was recognized for outstanding breaking news, portrait, feature  and pictorial photography, feature series writing and government reporting.

In addition, the independent news organization won the overall sweepstakes award in the online-only category, a contest in which the winner is determined by adding up the most points earned by winning first, second, and third place awards. Each first place earns three points, each second place wins two points and each third place earns one point.

This is the first year online-only news organizations were allowed to compete in the Virginia Press Association news and photography contests.

Potomac Local News was founded in 2010 by publisher and long-time area resident Uriah Kiser as an independent news organization dedicated to serving the communities of Prince William and Stafford counties.

The Virginia Press Association was incorporated in 1881 and serves member newspapers from across the state and Washington, D.C., and includes three online-only members: CharlottesvilleTomorrow.orgFauquier Now, and Potomac Local News.

Our proud winners are…


Mary Davidson

Mary Davidson

Mary Davidson

1st Place Breaking News Photo – Found Four Door

After a teenager was shot and killed by a Stafford County Sheriff’s Deputy inside his Fauquier County home, investigators worked feverishly to piece together what led to the shooting, and found the car the teenager had been driving just hours earlier, nearby his home.

1st Place General News Photo – Casket Carry

When long-serving OWL Volunteer Fire Department Chief Richard “Ricky” Arrington passed away, members of his family, his friends, and many dedicated public safety professionals came to the First Baptist Church of Woodbridge to pay their respects.

1st Place Feature Photo – Child Salutes Casket

While paying respects to OWL Volunteer Fire Department Chief Richard “Ricky” Arrington, 10-year-old Benjamin stood next to his father, Micheal Clark, and saluted Arrington’s casket as is past.

1st Place Personality or Portrait Photo – Obama Fist

When the 2012 Presidential Campaign came to Woodbridge on Sept. 21, thousands packed the stands at Richard G. Pfitzner Stadium in Woodbridge. When President Barack Obama took the podium, he convinced residents it was not the time to change leadership in the White House.


KJ Mushung

KJ Mushung

KJ Mushung

1st Place Pictorial Photo – Marine Corps Museum

With wispy clouds overhead and with one of the region’s most iconic structures in the foreground, the Virginia Press Association recognized KJ Mushung’s photo of the National Museum of the Marine Corps as the year’s best in the online-only category.





Uriah Kiser

1st Place Government Writing

In 2012, the Stafford County Board of Supervisors tackled issues like deciding whether or not to begin the process of adding an At-large Supervisor to represent all county residents, formulating a plan for what the future of the county’s courthouse district will look like in the future, and the creation of the county’s first wetlands mitigation bank. Potomac Local News Publisher Uriah Kiser’s reporting was recognized as the year’s best in the online-only category.


KJ Mushung & Uriah Kiser

1st Place Feature Series

Hydrilla, a weed that has overtaken Quantico Bay in Dumfries, has plagued boaters, property owners, and has brought nearly all boat traffic on the once-busy bay – a port that once rivaled New York City – to a halt. Through a series of reports, Virginia Press Association recognized the reporting of KJ Mushung and Uriah Kiser as the year’s best on the online-only category.


Weary of Fairfax Envy, Let’s Make Prince William ‘Good Enough’


Contributing Editor

I notice a lot of Government Agencies at all levels have “Centers of Excellence” to ensure the highest standards of service. I’ve been involved in a few over the years, and I have matured my thinking to realize that centers devoted to driving up the size, cost, and complexity of government are perhaps not such a great idea.

I have a suggestion.

In the interests of reducing the size, complexity and reach of Prince William County Government and its operating costs, I am proposing that we initiate a “Center of Mediocrity”.

“Good enough” costs a lot less.

The quest for excellence has taken the Federal Government to the brink of failure. The Commonwealth is next. Perhaps Prince William County should be proactive and focus on “good enough” for a while.

It’s good to be proactive.

I know, it will take a bit of time to get used to certificates of recognition for “most mediocre” and a string of inspirational posters and phrases extolling the virtues and benefits of mediocrity, but change isn’t easy.

Every budget discussion is always framed around competition to be “the best.” We constantly compare ourselves to neighboring jurisdictions regarding economic development, cost of government, size of staff, academic, and financial performance – I could go on.

I am growing weary of comparisons to Fairfax County. We will never be like them. Constantly casting ourselves in “catch up” mode is expensive. We just don’t have the commercial economic base to compete, and it will be decades before we come even close.

I’m not really interested in paying for the absolute best government. I want to understand what is “good enough”, what satisfies the measures established in the Strategic Plan, what performance measures are important to the education of our children.

I would just as soon have a smaller, mediocre government that costs less and actually delivers more in terms of relevant, measurable results. I’d get rid of those decorative plants sprinkled all over Prince William County Government buildings and the maintenance that goes with them, for starters. They just don’t strike me as the mediocre response I’m looking for when entering the McCoart Administration Building.

I think the Prince William should start a recognition program for county employees who contribute to government mediocrity. Perhaps a lapel pin. Denim shirts would be nice to spread the message, as long as we didn’t get the really expensive ones.

Citizens with suggestions regarding how to be “good enough” should also be recognized by their District Supervisor or perhaps our Chairman during board meetings. I’d print the certificates of recognition on a color printer instead of getting expensive plaques to be consistent.

I already have a slogan for coffee cups and T-Shirts:

“Mediocrity… It takes a lot less time and most people won’t notice the difference!”

Aquia Officer Saves Heart Attack Victim’s Life

Officer of the Week

Editor’s Note: Officer of the Week is a new feature on Potomac Local News that will recognize the work of members of law enforcement in our communities. 


AQUIA HARBOUR, Va. — Officer Stephen DeBrular of the Aquia Harbor Police Department saved a life.

When a resident of the gated community in North Stafford went into cardiac arrest, DeBrular’s CPR and defibrillator training kicked in.

DeBrular had just left the scene of a call for shots fired when he received the cardiac arrest call.

“When I got the scene it was chaotic; [I had] the husband waving me down and when I got there, it was an older female – no breathing, no pulse, no response of any kind,” DeBrular said.

He immediately began performing CPR and using an AED, an automated external defibrillator, which uses electric therapy for those in cardiac arrest. It was a tense six minutes before the EMS arrived. “I was finally able to get a pulse and her breathing back,” DeBrular commented.

DeBrular, who has worked at the department for the past six years, has had a wealth of law enforcement experience including military police and state police work, so when he got a call for cardiac arrest this past Winter, he knew he had to act fast.

“What I was told by the doctors was that someone in cardiac arrest for the amount of time she was in and having the AED and CPR being done at that point was probably the key point in saving her life. They said she had a less than 20% chance at that point, which actually ended up being a less than two percent chance. If I hadn’t been there when I was, there was no way she could have survived,” said DeBrular.

Chief Patricia S. Harman of the Aquia Harbor Police Department has helped to create and maintain a team that certifies officers and local citizens in first aid, CPR and use of the AED machine. In a life-saving coincidence, “The cert team had just given us a refresher course – we had just recertified for CPR a couple of weeks to a month prior to this incident,” said Harman.

The woman did not return requests for comment to maintain her privacy, but has made a full recovery since the incident and has no after effects.

To celebrate DeBrular’s life saving actions, the department has nominated him for the AED Life Saver Award and the Stafford Sheriff’s Office Life Saver Award.

“It’s a great feeling. I don’t feel like I’m a hero or anything like that. I was glad I was able to do my job and I’m glad I had the training. I was just at the right place, at the right time, with the right training. It makes me feel really good that she can continue on with her life, so it’s a great feeling,” DeBrular said.

Fitness Tradition Honoring Prince William’s First Fallen Firefighter Continues

Walkers “pack the track” for the annual Kyle Wilson Walk for Fitness. (

Walkers “pack the track” for the annual Kyle Wilson Walk for Fitness. (

For Potomac Local News

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — The Kyle Wilson Walk for Fitness is unlike most other walks for a cause within the community.

The first firefighter in the Prince William County fire and rescue department’s 41-year history to die in the line of duty, Kyle Wilson is remembered this year with a 10K memorial walk, just as he has been each year since 2008.

Kyle Wilson was killed in a Woodbridge house fire in 2007.

Kyle Wilson was killed in a Woodbridge house fire in 2007.

The event, which is free for all particiants, begins and ends at C.D. Hylton High School, where Wilson graduated in 2000. Leaving from the school’s football stadium, event goers will head north on Spriggs Road towards Hoadly Road, then circle back to the school to complete the course.

Wilson was one of the first responders on the scene of a three-alarm fire at 15474 March Overlook Drive in Woodbridge in the early morning of April 16, 2007. Wilson lost his life searching for occupants who were possibly still trapped inside the burning home.

A later investigation determined that Wilson and another firefighter were separated after the roof and ceiling collapsed, and that Wilson became trapped in the rapidly spreading fire. All seven occupants were able to escape the fire without injury; however, rescuers were unable to locate Wilson after his emergency radio calls for help. Wilson was 24-years-old.

Prior to the first annual memorial walk, the Prince William County Department of Fire and Rescue approached the Wilson family, asking if there was anything that they could do to help. Because Wilson was so passionate about fitness, the idea to hold an annual community walk was born.

With the help of corporate donations, and financial support from local businesses, friends, family and local residents, the family has been able to raise between $10,000 and $13,000 annually toward the Kyle Wilson Memorial Scholarship Endowment at George Mason University’s School of Recreation, Health & Tourism.

Each year, interested GMU students have the opportunity to submit an application package, which are reviewed by a committee that selects an individual to receive the athletic training program scholarship. It is the same program where Wilson received his degree before joining the fire department in January 2006.

“To see the continued support we receive from the community, and knowing that everyone shows up to honor Kyle and support our cause is very heartfelt,” said the fallen firefighter’s father, Bob Wilson.

“I’m sure he would run the event and would want to finish first!” he added. Participants have the option to run or walk the course.

For Wilson’s sister, Kelli Gray, the best part of the event is seeing friends and family, as well as people from all over the community come together to keep her brother’s memory alive.

“I remember the first year’s walk on Prince William Parkway,” Gray recalls. “It literally took my breath away to look behind me and see a huge line of people following, all in honor of Kyle. It truly was remarkable and very touching.”

The 6th annual Kyle Wilson 10K Walk for Fitness will take place this Saturday, April 20, at C.D. Hylton High School in Woodbridge. Participants can register on location starting at 9 a.m., or online at The walk begins at 10 a.m., and raffle winners are announced at noon.


Curtain Raised on 911 Call Center During Telecommunications Week

Angela McMillian, a 911 call center operator for Stafford County, dispatches fire trucks to an elementary school after a problem with an HVAC machine is reported. [Uriah Kiser / Potomac Local News]

STAFFORD, Va. — It can be a stressful job, but Stafford County’s Telecommunicators are the front lines of emergency services.

They were recognized on Saturday during an open house at the Ford T. Humphrey Public Safety Center in Stafford during an open house. The event allowed residents to come inside the building that houses a 911 call center, and the sheriff’s and fire and rescue departments.

The open house is held to coincide with National Public Safety Telecommunications Week.

“We want to know first is where is the emergency, then we want to know what is the nature of the emergency, and everything else after that becomes an interrogation so we can get more information from the caller, to keep them calm, to provide CPR instructions, or whatever else the caller may need,” said Carol Adams, of Stafford, a communications supervisor in the call center.

After gathering the information, from their desks, dispatchers put that information into a CAD, or computer aided dispatch system to notify the proper emergency response, and then announce the nature of the emergency call over the county’s emergency radio transmitter.

Severe injuries, car crashes, or most anything involving small children can make for a difficult call to take. That’s why after help has been sent, there’s a nearby quiet room for call takers to take refuge where you’ll be hard pressed to find a TV, radio, or anything else that could break the silence, as the room is meant to be used to recoup after a tough call.

Interestingly enough, these call takers go through the same training as the sheriff’s deputies in the field, minus the physical testing law enforcement officers go through. Much of that training is done inside the Nick E. Stepaniak Communication Training Center adjacent to the 911 call center. Stepaniak, a decorated emergency call taker, passed away earlier this year after long battle with cancer, and officials here dedicated the training center in his honor.

National Public Safety Telecommunications Week continues through Saturday.

May Urges Trader Joe’s to Consider New Store in Prince William County


LAKE RIDGE, Va. — There’s a Facebook group dedicated to the cause, and residents have been asking for one for years.

Now Prince William Occoquan Supervisor Mike May has lent his voice to the chorus of people asking that a Trader Joe’s supermarket be built in Lake Ridge. May penned a letter to the specialty supermarket chain this week asking them to consider the area.

“To be candid, it’s not every day that I write to companies asking that they consider investing in our community. However, I’m compelled to do so because barely a day goes by that I am not approached by a constituent asking, ‘Mike, why can’t we get a Trader Joe’s?’” stated May.

There are several Trader Joe’s in Fairfax County, in Washington, D.C., and Maryland, and new stores are planned for states like New York, North Carolina, and Texas, to name a few. But there’s no indication that Lake Ridge, Woodbridge, or anywhere else in Prince William County, is has made it onto the company’s radar, according to their website.

On the “Bring Trader Joe’s to Woodbridge, VA” Facebook group, posters to page use it to remind fans to periodically go to Trader Joe’s website and again fill out the online form to ask the company to consider putting a store in the area. They also post news articles about Prince William County being one of the wealthiest places to live in the U.S. – a fact May drew attention to in his letter.

“As you may be aware, Prince William County is a community of over 400,000 residents located about 25 miles south of Washington, D.C. We are home to a diverse and thriving community, with a strong economic base,” penned May. “Our county has grown over 40% in the past 10 years, and much of that growth has brought new consumers who are looking for new and upscale retail opportunities for the community.”

In Lake Ridge, residents have said Tackett’s Mill shopping center would be an ideal candidate for Trader Joe’s to locate.

‘Oklahoma’ Hits Woodbridge High School Stage

For Potomac Local News

LAKE RIDGE, Va. — Comedy, Romance, singing, dancing and a live orchestra – Woodbridge Senior High School students combined all of these talents to perform the musical ‘Oklahoma,’ on Saturday.

Without a doubt, excessive work was needed on stage and behind the scenes for such a grand performance to be made possible.

Michael Viola, an English teacher at Woodbridge Senior High School, voluntarily involved himself in the production of ‘Oklahoma.’

“My involvement began simply by me asking [Woodbridge Senior High School Arts program director] Ms. Carol Rethmel if she needed help. When she said that she would love some help, I jumped right in,” Viola said.

In addition, Viola was glad to put a lot of his artistic vision into the show.

“Some of my favorite things to do as a director is evoke more realistic characters out of each and every actor, choreograph and stage large production numbers, and make the show seamless through fluidity of movement. I was able to achieve all of that. I am very proud of the final product – the overall production quality exceeded my highest expectations,” Viola said.

Junior Reece Miller took note of Viola’s efforts.

“I liked the choreography of the wedding, it was so mystical. And my favorite part was the fight scene; the actors did really well,” Miller said.

Woodbridge Senior High School’s orchestra students put the audience in a sweet disposition before act one began. When the curtains rose, sophomore Patrick Kelly (who played Curly) captured the audience’s attention as he sang ‘Oh, What a Beautiful Morning.’

“The Oklahoma Song, where the whole cast came together with such enthusiasm and teamwork was my proudest moment on stage. All of our hard work came together as one,” Kelly said.

Although singing in front of an audience can be nerve-racking, acting may also put people out of their comfort zones, depending on the characters they must portray.

For junior Jordan Frederick (Ado Annie) and Duane Macatangay (Ali Hakim) they learned to overcome certain difficulties when performing in ‘Oklahoma.’

“Well Duane had to overcome his fear of kissing people on stage, and for me, I had to overcome my conservative qualities and be more out there with my physicality. It was a little tricky because I was not used to being all over boys, and with my character that’s all she thinks about. I’m going to miss that show; it was so much fun!” Frederick said.

For many seniors, including Jenna Grazzini, ‘Oklahoma’ was officially their last high school musical/play.

“Yeah, it is (‘Oklahoma’) my last play at Woodbridge, sadly. I can look forward to our choir department’s Spring Show at least, which still incorporates costumes and choreography,” Grazzini said. “Last night was so rewarding because the huge crowd was so responsive that we truly felt as if our hard work paid off. Every actor had been put in the perfect role and it showed.”

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