For many reasons, I’m pretty sure 2017 will go down as a year to remember. For happenings in Northern Virginia … there has been a lot.
While the year is probably one of the most politically decisive ones in decades, Northern Virginians have focused more on helping others and showcasing a world of culture right here in our neighborhoods.
Autumn Williams is a young mother who not only surmounted the odds of teen parenthood, she is taking it upon herself through her Two Percent Project to make the life of other teen moms a little easier. In Great Falls, Mary Ann Redmond utilizes her own success in the music industry to help others achieve their dreams. And against all odds, musician Robert Swain shows his true grit of battling life after a stroke with pursuing his dreams of making music. We visited Erica May-Scherzer’s new digs and spoke with her about her own philanthropic pursuits. We also sat down with two of Virginia’s political leaders, Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Sen. Tim Kaine, to gauge their own stances on issues and find out their thoughts on the future of the commonwealth. Then we have our six esteemed Northern Virginians of the Year: A veteran who nurtures the self-esteem of preteens. A small-business owner who climbed out of homelessness and now builds roofs for those in need. A high school student who supports families dealing with childhood cancer.
We started off the year taste-testing all of Northern Virginia’s coffee shops to find what is worth your money and taste buds. (And let me tell you, if you haven’t stopped in and drank five lattes within a four-hour timespan, you do not know what a caffeine high is.) Then we took a deep dive into sleep, and why it is crucial for a balanced well-being. The plethora of medical issues lack of sleep can cause floored us and set us on a path to clocking a minimum of eight hours. March brought our inaugural Best Home Improvement Contractors list, and in April we focused on the best of Asian cuisine. We took to the road in May with a road trip issue that has solidified my reasoning of why everyone needs to take a break and getaway. Along with tracking the Best of NoVA, we also listed out the best ways to explore the area in the summertime. Then once school was back in session, we crunched numbers to list off what schools are ranking highest, and took some time to ask area superintendents and principals how they think Betsy DeVos will reign as the education secretary. Immediately after school started, we wanted to get out of dodge, hence, our annual Weekend Getaways. Then we really got into the fall season with an issue full of fun festivals and haunting tales and places. As the weather got cooler we looked for meals that would fill our bellies and make us hunger for them again in our 50 Best Restaurants issue. And to wrap it all up, we got a little frugal and shared ways of taking in all that makes Northern Virginia great (restaurants, bars, theater, sports, shopping and more) with a Great Deals issue.
Starting off 2018, we have big plans in store; ones that will entice readers to really explore the area they call home. Hopefully it will be a year focused more on giving and action than the one we just had where we wanted to just sweep it under the rug.
Favorite tomes from local authors
The Other New Girl
By LB Gschwandtner
She Writes Press
No matter the school or the decade, high school is about the struggle of finding yourself. After 12 days at a new school, the events that will change the life of Susannah Greenwood begin to take shape. Moved to a coed Quaker boarding school her sophomore year, Greenwood attempts to fit in but finds herself caught between trying to follow the Quaker ideals of challenging the system and standing up for those less fortunate while she battles an administration that flouts those same ideals. (September 2017)
Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II
By Liza Mundy
Not only giving insight into the birth of code breaking during World War II—accomplishments include major battles on both the Atlantic and Pacific fronts—Code Girls gives a peek into the lives of the intelligent women who left the safety of college and rural teaching jobs to come to the just-being-built neighborhoods of Arlington and lived in wartime Washington, D.C. (October 2017)
Kissing Max Holden
by Katy Upperman
Reading Kissing Max Holden is like reliving your first kiss: the pounding heart, the rushing pulse, the flushed cheeks and the goosebumps. It is easy to travel back and remember your own high school crushes as you relive them through the friendship-turned-relationship between Jill Eldridge and neighbor Max Holden. There is desire and profound emotions that cloud the mind of young love. It is a story that has you wishing you could do it all over again. (August 2017)
The Diplomat’s Daughter
by Karin Tanabe
Washington Square Press
Emi Kato is the 21-year-old daughter of a Japanese diplomat living in America in 1943. After living a life of travel and prestige, she finds herself looked upon as an enemy and sent to an internment camp and later repatriated back to Japan. Through her travels, readers are introduced to two other young adults who find their lives disrupted by the war: Christian, a German-American who Emi meets and falls in love with in a Texas camp, and Leo, a Jewish Austrian who in 1937 sees firsthand the hatred of the Nazis and escapes to Shanghai. Throughout the novel, Emi battles with the disgrace that has become the world and where love fits in. (July 2017)
We All Scream: The Fall of the Gifford’s Ice Cream Empire
by Andrew Gifford
Dark secrets in families and business make for great storytelling, but not when the plot is a true tale. Andrew Gifford, the last surviving heir to the famed Gifford’s Ice Cream and Candy Company business, recounts his torturous family saga of abuse, embezzlement and suicide in We All Scream. Gifford lets us in on his gut-wrenching past, from physical and emotional abuse to the scheming adults who try to overtake the empire only to let it fall into disrepair, a cloaked version of reality that many fans of the business never knew existed until now. (May 2017)
When not reading, writing and editing stories for the magazine, this is what I dove into:
Movies / Binge Watching
The West Wing
I admit it, I was craving some semblance in the start of the year. Let’s just say all seven seasons were consumed within less than a month.
Riveting concept, though a story that leaves you a little queasy as they delve into the minds of serial killers.
Finished in a weekend, this Netflix original is simply badass women saving their town.
As somewhat obvious from the list above, I don’t make it out to movies that much. It takes a lot for me to pay the money to sit in a crowded theater. This one was the only movie of 2017 I insisted on seeing on the big screen. As soon as the movie was over I said to my husband, “It didn’t even need sound. It would have still been just as powerful.” Simply amazing work.
I had a different idea as to how this book would read. But the overall concept of women taking the power of the world into their own hands is an interesting one, and one many of us women may not want to admit to.
Where’d You Go Bernadette
If you’ve every wanted to just escape your own life, you can live vicariously through this book. It’s entertaining with a raw character of a mom, Bernadette. If I could only be as bold some days.
South and West
It is a book any writer should read. The simplicity of her settings still brings powerful prose. And to think, these are only Didion’s notes.
Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered
Written in 1973, this book about how the overall economy is gauged and how people fit into the equation is extremely relevant today. It saddens me that more than four decades later we are spiraling into the abyss.
Missing Richard Simmons
Though it ended with a fizzle, I loved how this question I hadn’t even asked myself, nor did I really have a urge to find the answer to, had me eagerly awaiting each episode release.
As a journalist I’m still torn on my reaction to this podcast—the luck to have had a story/stories like this fall into a journalist’s lap; the flow from one bombastic story turn into one of true human tragedy; and then the moral questions behind the release—it was told in amazing fashion that had me listening to episodes every moment I had.
Today’s news is hard to follow what with it constantly breaking on every medium possible. This podcast by The New York Times’ Michael Barbaro makes it comprehensible by breaking it down into easy 15- to 20-minute interviews each weekday.