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Peaceful Mind Solutions

Finally, a therapist who has time for you.

Those who have tried to find counseling in the last two years may have discovered that therapists are overwhelmed and not accepting new clients, or that first appointments are months away.

But there is good news for those who are going through a challenging life transition, struggling to cope with feelings of stress, or are looking to make a crucial change: Lauren K. Nickum, LCSW, CSAC from Peaceful Mind Solutions is now taking new clients for telemedicine psychotherapy.

Lauren specializes in helping clients work through anxiety, depression, stress, grief, trauma or anger. Her Peaceful Mind Solutions brings the experienced psychotherapist to your home by means of telemedicine, a method of therapy that has proven successful time and again.

Peaceful Mind Solutions – Lauren Nickum

She works with adults and adolescents as individuals as well as in groups and has more than a decade of experience, including five years in private practice, helping clients in Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Lauren’s proven approach to helping clients involves a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing and dialectical behavioral therapy skills that empower her clients to make changes and learn how to live the life they desire.

Her diverse client list includes people struggling with chronic illnesses, members of the recovery community and their loved ones, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

To arrange a free 15-minute initial consultation, contact Lauren via the Peaceful Minds Solutions website, by emailing LaurenNickumLCSW@outlook.com, or by calling 703-994-0300.

Are you ready to make a change?

This is a sponsored column by attorneys John Berry and Kimberly Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, an employment and labor law firm located in Northern Virginia that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement and private sector employee matters.

By John V. Berry, Esq.

Approximately over 20,0000 federal employees are subject to formal discipline a year. Our nationwide federal employee lawyers represent federal employees in disciplinary cases. Each disciplinary action defense is different and requires careful planning.

Disciplinary Process for Federal Employees

There are various types of disciplinary actions for federal employees. They include letters of counseling, reprimands, suspensions, demotions and removals. For most serious disciplinary actions, referred to as adverse actions, a federal employee will first receive a notice of the proposed discipline and the opportunity to respond. A proposal will typically have an explanation of the conduct or issues leading to the proposed disciplinary action.

If a federal employee is issued a notice of proposed disciplinary action, they will have the opportunity to contest it before it becomes final. A federal employee can choose to provide a written response, an oral response or both. We often recommend providing both oral and written responses.

Request Disciplinary Materials

In most disciplinary cases, it is important for federal employees to request all of the materials that have been relied upon by the agency in proposing the discipline. We request these materials before responding on behalf of federal employees at the beginning of a case.

Draft a Written Response

It is important to prepare a full written response to the allegations in proposed disciplinary cases. These responses are typically 5 to 20 pages in length, depending on the underlying facts. Most written responses are typically due anywhere from 7 to 30 days after a proposal is given to a federal employee. We also attach exhibits to these responses, including supporting evidence, good performance records and character support letters.

Present an Oral Response

The oral response portion of a federal employee’s response can be very important. While written responses can be key to refuting specific allegations, there is something very important about personally meeting with the person that will make the decision. We think that in serious cases, oral responses can make a significant difference in outcomes. We represent federal employees during oral responses.

Appeals

If an unjust disciplinary decision is sustained by a federal agency, there are various options for federal employees to appeal further. If serious enough, an individual can appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). Other potential appeals can include filing Equal Employment Opportunity complaints or whistleblower appeals, where applicable. There are also a number of other types of appeals that can be brought, but legal advice is important when making such decisions.

Conclusion

When a federal employee receives a proposed disciplinary action, it is important to have an attorney represent or advise them from the beginning. Our lawyers represent federal employees nationwide in all types of federal employee discipline. We can be contacted at www.berrylegal.com or by telephone at (703) 668-0070.

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Laura Schwartz is a licensed Realtor in VA, D.C. and MD with McEnearney Associates in Vienna. You can follow Laura on Instagram at @LauraSchwartzRealtor or her Facebook page. Laura can be reached at 703-283-6120 or Laura@GuidingYourMove.com.

With the start of the school year quickly approaching, there are many ways people are starting to help teachers and schools set up their rooms for a successful year.

As some of you may know, my husband is a high school teacher, so I love supporting educators. They work so hard. So, so hard. Many of them spend a lot of their own money on their classrooms, especially elementary school teachers.

Here’s a list of ways you can directly support teachers as well as schools:

  • Complete a Teacher’s Amazon Wish List: A recent Facebook group was started for FCPS educators to post their Amazon Wish Lists for people to purchase items off of. You can do so anonymously or with your name, either way, they’re getting many items for their classroom that will directly benefit the kids.
  • If your school doesn’t have a Blessings in a Backpack program, consider adding one. The organization quietly provides food for kids over the weekend who need assistance.
  • There’s also a website called DonorsChoose.org where teachers can post projects they want to do with a funding request. You can see which teacher, which school and how much they need. I did a quick search for Vienna, Virginia and found multiple opportunities!

Whether you decide to donate or not, consider sending a simple thank you to your favorite educator just to give them a little boost as they head into their final days of summer. Many are already in planning mode for the upcoming school year.

Photo via Nic Rosenau/Unsplash
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Live Fairfax is a bi-weekly column exploring Fairfax County. This recurring column is sponsored and written by Sharmane Medaris of McEnearney Associates. Questions? Reach Sharmane at 703-839-8200.

Hello Fairfax!

My name is Sharmane Medaris.

I am a mom of three (twins included), wife, an avid runner, and of course a big foodie and I’ve been a licensed Realtor® for seventeen years both in the DMV and Florida. I’m so excited to take you on a journey through Fairfax County with my new video and neighborhood series, Live Fairfax!

In my former career, I worked for Destination DC and I absolutely loved showing people what to do in Washington, D.C. — from festivals and games to museums and nightlife.

Now as a Fairfax resident, I would want nothing more than to give you the insider’s knowledge on all of the hidden treasures, special events, festivals, places to eat and so much more. 

Join me bi-weekly… there are so many things to do and new experiences to make in Fairfax County you never know where or what I’ll be doing next!

I can’t wait!

Sharmane Medaris | Live Fairfax | www.soldbysharmane.com | Sharmane@mcenearney.com | @soldbysharmane | 703-839-8200 | 374 Maple Avenue Suite 202, Vienna, VA 22180

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Taking your exercise outdoors offers unique benefits for physical, cognitive, and emotional health.

This biweekly column is sponsored by The Mather in Tysons, Virginia, a forward-thinking Life Plan Community for those 62 and better.

Why work out in a fitness center when you can get a great cardio workout enjoying fresh air and great views?

Of all the opportunities for outdoor exercise around NOVA, hiking may be the most versatile — and one of the most beneficial for your body, brain and mood. It can even impart a sense of awe. “I find hiking very inspiring,” says Cindy Morrow. “We are surrounded by beauty!”

Cindy and her husband Gene have enjoyed hiking together for the duration of their 49-year marriage. When they moved to the D.C. area from the Ozarks in Missouri in 2014, she says, “We were happy to see there are mountains, rivers and amazing hiking opportunities.”

The Morrows are part of a small hiking group of future residents of The Mather, a Life Plan Community that will open in Tysons in 2024. The group gets together every month or two for a day hike, most recently in Sky Meadows State Park in Virginia. “Hiking is more fun with a group,” says Cindy. “For one thing, it makes us put something on the calendar and go. The Mather group allows us to make friends with so many interesting people!”

A Walking Workout

Hiking — even on flat land — will exercise muscles including your quadriceps, hamstrings, lower leg and hip muscles. Hiking on an unpaved, slightly uneven trail will also engage the core muscles in your torso. Like any other cardio workout, hiking is good for your cardiorespiratory fitness, as well as sleep quality and weight loss. (A brisk hike can burn up to 550 calories per hour.) And because walking is a weight-bearing exercise, it also helps build bone density.

Step Up to a Better Mood

Walking is good for your brain, as well as your body. Through simple exercise, your body begins to release proteins and chemicals which can help lower stress levels and have positive benefits on memory.

Another benefit of hiking is the release of endorphins in your brain. Endorphins are chemicals released in the brain that minimize any physical discomfort, blocking the feeling of pain and causing a natural “feel good” rush.

Hit the Trail, Not the Treadmill

Research shows that taking your exercise outdoors compared to working out in a gym offers unique benefits for physical, cognitive and emotional health:

  • Multiple studies have shown that regular exposure to “green areas” can cause our bodies to relax and let go of stress, as well as ease anxiety. One study found that people in nature had slower heart rates and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol than those who spent time in the city.
  • Walking or exercising outdoors has also been proven to strengthen short-term memory. Simply spending time in nature is also associated with improved concentration and attention spans.
  • Studies have linked time spent in nature with lower levels of inflammation, reduced hypertension and even a stronger immune system.

Research found that people who run outside exert more energy than treadmill runners; they also enjoy it more and therefore will run for longer periods of time.

Want to try a hike? The Morrows recommend Catoctin Mountain Park, Great Falls Park, “anywhere along the Shenandoah,” and Rock Creek Park, among many others.

The Mather, projected to open in Tysons, VA, in 2024 for those 62 and better, is a forward-thinking Life Plan Community that defies expectations of what senior living is supposed to be. With an enviable urban neighborhood location, the community offers easy access to the area’s parks and hiking trails.

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This is a sponsored column by attorneys John Berry and Kimberly Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, an employment and labor law firm located in Northern Virginia that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement and private sector employee matters.

By John V. Berry, Esq.

In a move that will affect Virginia executives and employees, it appears that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is considering new regulations to curtail the use of non-compete agreements. Non-compete agreements limit the ability of employees to work for potential competitors or start their own businesses.

The President issued an Executive Order in July 2021 urging the FTC to consider limiting the unfair use of non-compete agreements that unfairly limit worker mobility. It now appears that the FTC is on the verge of taking action.

Non-compete agreements in recent years have gotten out of hand, with some companies barring even fast food workers or coffee baristas from taking similar positions elsewhere. Traditionally, non-compete agreements were reserved for very senior-level executives, but the practice has now been extended to all types of employees.

Lina Khan, the Chairperson of the FTC, recently told the Wall Street Journal, “We feel an enormous amount of urgency given how much harm is happening against the workers. This is the type of practice that falls squarely in our wheelhouse.” While non-compete agreements have typically been controlled by state law, it is time for action on the federal level. Locally, in 2020, Virginia exempted low-wage workers from non-compete agreements; this was a move in the right direction.

Many lawyers who draft non-compete agreements disagree with the FTC taking any action to limit them. Our firm represents executives and employees who have been issued unfairly broad non-compete agreements, and we believe that the FTC should take action to limit this practice.

Contact Us

If you are employed in Virginia and have signed or are considering signing a non-compete agreement, you should seek the advice of a qualified Virginia employment lawyer. Please contact our office at 703-668-0070 or through our contact page to schedule a consultation.

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Laura Schwartz is a licensed Realtor in VA, D.C. and MD with McEnearney Associates in Vienna. You can follow Laura on Instagram at @LauraSchwartzRealtor or her Facebook page. Laura can be reached at 703-283-6120 or Laura@GuidingYourMove.com.

Today is National Wine and Cheese Day!

Looking to celebrate? Here are some of my favorite charcuterie options and places to pick your own wine and cheese!

If you’re willing to travel, here are some of my local favorites around Northern Virginia:

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Regular meditation is terrific for your brain health

This biweekly column is sponsored by The Mather in Tysons, Virginia, a forward-thinking Life Plan Community for those 62 and better.

When it comes to doing something good for your cognitive health, skip the “brain games” and try meditation. Regular meditation has proven benefits for your brain, which can sharpen your memory, boost your mood and even make you more compassionate.

Build Your Brain

A major health benefit of regular meditation is that it reduces stress, which prevents a lot of wear and tear on our bodies, as well as prevents damage to our brains. More importantly, studies show that meditation can actually grow, or increase the volume of, areas of the brain responsible for:

  • complex cognitive processes including planning, goal setting, decision making, attention and short-term memory
  • positive mood
  • improving awareness of body, gut feeling and empathy
  • long-term memory
  • paying attention (which is crucial to improving memory)

When you meditate, you are training your attention by tuning out the information overload and jumbled thoughts we live with constantly — and better attention means a sharper memory. Preliminary research seems to strengthen this theory, suggesting that mindfulness meditation may enhance certain brain functions, including working memory.

Types of Meditation 

Meditation is simple and takes as little as a few minutes a day. But remember — if you want to enjoy the brain benefits, you’ll need to meditate regularly and ideally that means every day.

Here are a few types of meditation to consider:

Mindfulness sitting meditation is the most common form of meditation. Sit comfortably with your back, neck and head straight but not stiff. Concentrate on your breathing and the sensations it creates. When your mind wanders or you become distracted, gently return your focus to your breath. Try this for just five minutes at first, gradually increasing the time.

Visualization meditation involves mental visualization of an image, which is usually meaningful or religious. While you meditate (as above), you try to mentally visualize your chosen image in as much detail as possible. As you do so, you may also reflect on the meaning of your image.

Walking meditation is similar to sitting meditation. Slowly and comfortably walk, focusing your attention on each step, the movement of your body and the feel of each foot on the ground. When your mind wanders, gently bring it back to the movement of walking.

Loving-kindness meditation focuses on practicing compassion. As you practice cultivating feelings of loving kindness, gradually move your focus from feeling this toward yourself, then to loved ones and then to people who are less close to you.

Look for a local meditation class, or purchase audio recordings of guided meditations. Once you’ve mastered the basics of your chosen type of meditation, it will become a matter of practicing — and enjoying the benefits that come with it.

The Mather, projected to open in Tysons, VA, in 2024 for those 62 and better, is a forward-thinking Life Plan Community that defies expectations of what senior living is supposed to be. The community’s biophilic design is planned to include a live herb wall, spa lounge with Himalayan sea salt wall, and much more — plus meditation and mindfulness programs for residents to enjoy.

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Reston Kitchen. Synergy Design & Construction.

By Nicola Caul Shelley, Synergy Design & Construction

Main level footprint not serving the needs of you and your family well? Kitchen too small? Ready to rethink the layout of your space? Then read on because, this month, we’re giving you a behind the scenes look at a recent main level remodel in South Reston and show you how we reimagined this home. Time to get inspired by what’s possible!

The Challenge

This custom contemporary home had great bones and lots of space, but our clients were ready to update and improve the flow of the main level, create a much larger kitchen and put the underutilized (but spacious) hallway to use.

The existing kitchen was small given the square footage of the home. It was sectioned off in a corner of the expansive main living area, with lots of walls and half-walls that weren’t showcasing the beautiful architecture of the space.

Before. Looking from the great room to the kitchen (behind the partition wall)
Before. Looking from the dining room into the kitchen.
Before. Looking from the den to other side of the kitchen.

Moving into the hallway, to the right of the photograph below is the entrance to the great room. An entrance to the kitchen off the family room/den (at the far end) can be seen in the middle. On the bottom left, the top of the basement staircase can be seen. The hallway was wide but the space was not used efficiently and opened up the potential to get creative with rethinking the purpose of this space.

Before. The view from the front door.

Read More

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Laura Schwartz is a licensed Realtor in VA, D.C. and MD with McEnearney Associates in Vienna. You can follow Laura on Instagram at @LauraSchwartzRealtor or her Facebook page. Laura can be reached at 703-283-6120 or Laura@GuidingYourMove.com.

There are so many home maintenance checklists out there, compiled of stuff nobody actually does.

I’ve been through more home inspections than I care to remember so I’ve seen the dirty secrets people hide when it comes to taking care of your home. If you’re looking for a list of stuff you should actually do, here’s my list. I do them all on my own home, so this is definitely something I stand behind.

  1. Wash your windows inside and out, all ledges and screens. I call E&R Services for my own home.
  2. Check your chimney to make sure you still have a cap. Many times people don’t notice if the wind takes it away, but it keeps the elements and animals out of your chimney. It should look like a metal mushroom at the top.
  3. Change your filters — HVAC, fridge water filter, microwave or hood vents, etc.
  4. Power wash any surface that is now green. Consider sealing your deck or any other stripped or rotted paint. Rotting wood attracts termites and other insects and could get worse.
  5. Clean out your gutters and downspouts if you haven’t from the spring. The fall will bring more rain and more falling leaves, so beat the issue of clogged gutters!
  6. Clean your dryer vent!
  7. Get rid of any empty or old propane tanks. They serve no purpose if they’re empty.
  8. Check for tree roots — if you see cracks in your driveway (raised ones, not just hairline cracks), or similar cracks in your walk way, you’ll want to have them checked out. Tree roots can cause foundation damage and continue to grow.
  9. If you plan to do any lawn care, consider getting estimates now for the early fall if you want to aerate it.
  10. Check your sump pump. We get a lot of rain in Northern Virginia during the summer and prevention is the #1 thing you can do when it comes to your foundation. Check your drainage when it rains. If the water is pooling in one spot, you’ll know where your issues are.

Small things like this have big rewards in the long run. You can avoid larger home maintenance repair bills by staying on top of regular routine check ups.

Photo via CDC/Unsplash
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