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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 Melissa L. Watkins, Esq.

Over the past year, there have been significant changes to the federal government’s stance on marijuana as it relates to federal employees, applicants, and clearance holders.

These changes, while still very much unfolding, signal that federal employees, applicants, and clearance holders will be treated differently when it comes to prior use of marijuana. It is important to note at the outset that while these changes suggest that prior use of marijuana may not be the barrier to employment or possessing a clearance that it once was, the federal government still does not authorize, condone, or accept the use of marijuana by current employees or clearance holders.

Federal Government Changes to Marijuana Policy

In the most recent wave of elections held around the country, marijuana was again a focus in several states. As a result of recent state ballot referendums, more than 155 million Americans will now live in states with legal weed. Maryland and Missouri passed legalization referendums on November 8, 2022, meaning there are now 21 states where anyone at least 21 years old will be able to legally possess marijuana.

That marks a seismic shift since Colorado and Washington became the first states to back full legalization at the ballot box a decade ago. While people will soon be able to legally purchase and use marijuana in 21 states, cannabis remains classified as a Schedule I drug on the Controlled Substances Act. That means cannabis use can still be a disqualifying factor for anyone applying for a security clearance or trying to enter federal employment.

However, along with the continued adoption of laws legalizing the substance at the state level, the federal government has begun undertaking efforts to change its stance on marijuana.

For instance, on December 21, 2021, Avril Haines, Director of National Intelligence (DNI), issued an unclassified memo to agency heads, which was “designed to provide clarifying guidance to federal agencies charged with determining [security] eligibility through adjudication,” following changes on the state and local levels. The big takeaways from the memo included the following:

  • “Prior recreational marijuana use by an individual may be relevant to adjudications, but not determinative.” Employees are warned though, “In light of the long-standing federal law and policy prohibiting illegal drug use while occupying a sensitive position or holding a security clearance, agencies are encouraged to advise prospective national security workforce employees that they should refrain from any future marijuana use upon initiation of the national security vetting process.”
  • With respect to the use of CBD products, using these cannabis derivatives may be relevant to adjudications in accordance with security regulations. Products containing greater than a 0.3 percent concentration of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), do not meet the definition of “hemp.” Accordingly, products labeled as hemp-derived that contain greater than 0.3 percent THC continue to meet the legal definition of marijuana, and therefore remain illegal to use under federal law and policy.
  • An adjudicative determination for an individual’s eligibility for access to classified information or eligibility to hold a sensitive position may be impacted negatively should that individual knowingly and directly invest in stocks or business ventures that specifically pertain to marijuana growers and retailers while the cultivation and distribution of marijuana remains illegal under the Controlled Substances Act.

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This Saturday, December 3 Wolf Trap’s Holiday Sing-A-Long returns to the Filene Center after two years of virtual performances!

Guests are invited to take part in this free tradition that dates back to 1968.

This Washington-area holiday mainstay features “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band and local choristers from the metropolitan area performing a variety of Christmas carols, Hanukkah songs, and seasonal ballads. Audience members will be invited to sing-a-long to holiday favorites, and can expect jolly appearances from special guests.

There will also be a “Jingle-A-Long,” during the singing of “Jingle Bells,” and attendees are encouraged to bring their own bells to ring along with the merriment. The event concludes with audience exiting the Filene Center in a candlelight processional during the last verse of “Silent Night.” Attendees are asked to bring their own candles (LED preferred) for this portion of the program.

Concessions will be open with warm seasonal drinks, but guests who choose to sit on the lawn can also bring their own picnics and make this a fun, family outing! Parking is free, but limited, so attendees are encouraged to arrive early for parking and bag check. The Wolf Trap Shuttle will not run for this event.

Wolf Trap’s Holiday Sing-A-Long started in 1968, when local choirs were invited to Wolf Trap founder Catherine Filene Shouse’s farmhouse to share in holiday mirth. A few years later, “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band and audiences were invited to the Filene Center and the concert took its current form.

Generations of holiday concertgoers have gathered since in celebration, and audiences have performed many of the same traditional songs throughout the event’s 50+ year history.

Prior to the start of the celebration, Wolf Trap will be participating in Toys for Tots, a program run by the United States Marine Corps Reserve. New, unwrapped toys will be collected at the entrance to the Filene Center. Donations are voluntary and not required.

Wolf Trap Holiday Sing-A-Long will take place on Saturday, December 3, at 4 p.m. Admission for the event is free and no tickets are necessary.

Make sure to follow Wolf Trap on Facebook, Instagram, and @Wolf_Trap on Twitter for the latest news and information!

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.

Since you’re getting your ladder out anyway for holiday decorations, let’s take a look at the reminder list for general home maintenance for the winter months.

Some easy tasks to help save you from major damage and expenses!

  • Clean your gutters!
  • Check downspouts to make sure none are clogged and all are extended away from your foundation. Flexible extensions are 20% off today for Cyber Monday!
  • Winterize your hose bibs: Turn them OFF from the inside of your home — meaning turn the water off (if you have a flat handle, it should be a 90* angle to the off position, or a quick youtube video search can help you with this). Turn them ON from the outside — it’ll drain the line of any existing water. You can also buy hose bib covers.
  • Clean your fireplace (or get the whole thing inspected) if you’re planning on burning wood this winter. Depending on how frequently you use it will determine how often it needs to be cleaned.
  • Check all of your batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors (if you have gas in your home).
  • Now might be a good time to check out any trees hanging over your property. Remember limbs get heavy when they’re covered with snow and ice and can break and fall and damage your home. They can also be used by animals to crawl into your attic or chimney if you don’t have a chimney cap.
  • Get your HVAC serviced. You should be doing this twice a year for regular maintenance. If you use a whole house humidifier, make sure you’re changing the filters to avoid mold growth.

As always, if you need a recommendation for a vendor, download my free vendor guide anytime.

Photo via Callum Hill/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 813-504-4479.

There are so many fun things to do over Thanksgiving Weekend.

If you find yourself looking for an experience to create memories and get ready for the holiday season, here are a few of my recommendations!

Meadowlark’s Winter Walk of Lights is an elegant garden trail decorated with thousands of sparkling lights. The half-mile walk through the enchanting Meadowlark Botanical Gardens features nature themes and animated displays along a paved wheelchair and stroller-accessible trail. Stay warm by sipping on a hot beverage (with or without spirits) as you walk and s’mores to finish out the evening.

Welcome the beginning of the holiday season with a merry and bright tree lighting. Santa will spread holiday cheer and make his way through Mosaic on a firetruck with live entertainment and fun for the entire family.

Reston Town Center launches the season with the annual Reston Holiday Parade celebrating its 31st year! The one-of-a-kind, one-hour, half-mile parade along Market Street also welcomes the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus in a horse-drawn carriage.

This show features 40-60 local juried artists and crafters offering original, handmade arts and crafts.

Come out to Shipgarten for their Thanksgiving Barks & Brews Festival! The event will include live music, live character performances from Princess Parties DC featuring Encanto as well as various activities, crafts and games throughout the day!

Come see some of the best comics in the DMV and let laughter burn off that last piece of pumpkin pie you shouldn’t have eaten.

Explore Fairfax with Sharmane Medaris of McEnearney.

Sharmane Medaris | Live Fairfax | www.soldbysharmane.com | Sharmane@mcenearney.com | @soldbysharmane | 813-504-4479 | 374 Maple Avenue Suite 202, Vienna, VA 22180

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A regular gratitude practice can help you feel happier and more positive in the long term.

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

November — a month containing both Veterans Day and Thanksgiving — is an ideal time to focus on feeling thankful. Concentrating on feelings of gratitude helps you feel happier and more positive in the short and long term.

“Multiple research studies have examined the benefits of a simple gratitude practice,” says Jennifer Smith, PhD, director of research at Mather Institute. The Institute is the research arm of Mather, a not-for-profit organization with three senior living communities that plans to open The Mather, a Life Plan Community for those 62 and better, in Tysons in 2024. The Institute is an award-winning resource for research and information about wellness, aging, trends in senior living and successful aging service innovations.

“Gratitude can help us feel more connected to others, increase positive emotions, and reduce negative thoughts,” says Dr. Smith. “And emphasizing the positive can create more positivity.”

The Gratitude-Happiness Link

Many studies have linked higher levels of gratitude to more happiness and satisfaction with life; in other words, it seems the more one feels gratitude, the happier and more satisfied one feels in general. One study that earned an Innovative Research on Aging Award from Mather Institute points out that older adults consistently report the highest levels of gratitude, compared to middle-age and younger adults. That link between level of gratitude and overall life satisfaction does not change with age, which means those over age 60 have a “happiness advantage” due to their high levels of gratitude.

The good news is that you can practice gratitude at any stage of life to actually improve your happiness, positivity and life satisfaction. One study showed that a regular habit such as daily journaling can enhance your long-term happiness by more than 10%.

Feelings of gratitude have also been shown to make us more resilient, boost optimism, increase self-esteem and reduce depressive symptoms. Focusing your attention on the positives rather than the negatives — which is what a gratitude practice does — can actually switch your outlook for the long term.

Physical Health Benefits

Feeling grateful also carries some physical benefits. It seems obvious that feeling optimistic and generally positive would impact one’s blood pressure, and research confirms this. A study of people with hypertension who were asked to practice gratitude at least once a week showed a “significant decrease” in their blood pressure. A similar study showed that practicing gratitude can improve quality of sleep.

Give Gratitude a Try

If you want to enjoy the benefits mentioned here, try to focus on feeling grateful at least three times a week, if not daily. Here are some examples of habits you might adopt:

  1. Gratitude journal: Whether you use a special notebook or scrap paper, take time every day or evening to list five things you feel grateful for. Ideally, you’ll save your lists so you can look back on them over time. Reviewing them will also increase your positive feelings.
  2. Thank-you notes: Write a note or email to someone who has had a positive impact on your life — whether it was a single action or a lifetime of support. Expressing your gratitude in writing gives you a chance to think more deeply about your thankfulness — and will make the recipient happy!
  3. Gratitude meditation: Take some quiet time to reflect on what you’re grateful for, then examine the feelings brought up when you identify those items, people or experiences. Focusing on what you value will bring moments of peace and joy.
  4. Share gratitude: Find a “gratitude buddy” — perhaps your spouse, child or a close friend — and take turns listing a few things you are grateful for. This adds extra depth to gratitude, as you can build off of each other’s comments.
  5. Take a gratitude walk: Take a stroll and look for positive things — from the walkability of your neighborhood to appealing sights and friendly people.

Whether you’re a natural pessimist or an optimist, try a regular gratitude practice. It will improve your outlook right away, and could result in lifelong benefits.

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.

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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.

I am wishing you a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Whether you’re spending it with friends, family or otherwise, I hope the day is full of reflection, gratitude and kids who eat more than a bread roll. As I usually do, I’d like to remind you of some local organizations with opportunities to volunteer your time and/or resources this holiday season.

Please check out some of the organizations and their needs at this time of year:

SHARE of McLean 

Share has a Holiday Celebration which is their biggest event of the year. They need volunteers, as well as donations. You can also sign up to host a food drive to help stock their pantry which they use to give food and gift cards to families in need. They have in person volunteer hours which may include moving furniture, sorting clothing, or restocking the shelves. If you want a more hands-on interaction, you can also greet and register the clients.

Women Giving Back (Sterling, Virginia)

WGB is an organization that supports women and children with the basics to get back on their feet. They are collecting new, unwrapped toys for their children to be donated by December 13. You can drop them off locally at First Excel Title just outside of Oakton at 3201 Jermantown Road Suite 350, Fairfax, VA 22030. The store throughout the rest of the year needs clothing, accessories, shoes and kids clothes. Learn more.

Capital Area Food Bank

Volunteers as young as 12 (with an adult) can volunteer at their D.C. location to pack and sort donations or help deliver groceries. Sign up for a shift here.

Food for Others

You can host a food drive, pack Power Packs, transport food, or volunteer at the warehouse for kids ages 12 and over. Sign up here.

You can also search more volunteer opportunities throughout Fairfax at Volunteer Fairfax.

Photo via Aaron Doucett/Unsplash)
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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 lots of traditions around Vienna that you should know about if you’re new to town or maybe just looking to branch out after the last few years. Many of these events are really cute with little kids and I remember them fondly when my boys were smaller. They age out quickly of the little kid stuff, so buy tickets early! 

Photo via Tim Mossholder/Unsplash
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Whether you are ready to move-in now or would prefer to personalize a new home from the ground up, Brookfield Residential has two new home communities that offer the Loudoun County lifestyle you’ve been dreaming of.

Waterford Manor in Leesburg offers high-end 3+ acre estate homes nestled in the rolling hills of Virginia’s countryside, while Cadence at Lansdowne offers low-maintenance villa homes in a vibrant 55+ community.

Want to know the best part? Brookfield Residential is making it easier than ever to own a new home at these two popular Loudoun County communities with their Mix & Match Savings offer, which includes below-market interest rates* and the opportunity to refinance for free* within three years on top of thousands in free* options and upgrades.

A New Home on Your Terms

Not only does Brookfield Residential’s Mix & Match Savings award homeshoppers incredible savings, but it also provides flexibility to better fit each homebuyer’s unique financial needs by letting them choose how they’d like to apply their savings.

The first option provides buydown financing to homeowners with below-market mortgage rates. At Cadence at Lansdowne, rates start at just 4.99%* and at Waterford Manor, fixed rates start at 6.125%*. At both communities, buyers can also refinance for free* later.

The second option lets homeowners keep more cash on hand with paid closing cost assistance*. This reduces homeshoppers’ out-of-pocket costs at the purchase of their home, plus they’ll also be able to refinance for free* any time within the first three years of their loan.

With these two options, homebuyers in Loudoun County stand to save thousands in free* options and upgrades!

*Terms and conditions apply and are subject to change without notice. Visit BrookfieldOffers.com for details.

Why Buy in Loudoun County?

Loudoun County is one of the most sought-after areas to live in Virginia. With geography defined by the beautiful contrasts of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Potomac River, notable historical landmarks and some of the region’s finest dining, drinking and shopping options, Loudoun has something for everyone.

Embrace Exceptional Living at Waterford Manor

With new estate homes in Virginia’s countryside, Waterford Manor grants a rare and luxurious lifestyle in Leesburg. Beginning at $1.3M, Waterford Manor’s homes range in size from 4-7 bedrooms, 4-7 bathrooms, up to 7,000+ sq. ft. and 4- to 5-car garages. Additionally, this popular community provides:

  • 3+ acre homesites with scenic views of the Loudoun countryside
  • Traditional and multi-generational home designs with main-level primary suites available
  • Great proximity to shopping, dining and entertainment in Downtown Waterford
  • Easy access to Dulles Greenway and Route 15

Enjoy Low-Maintenance Luxury at Cadence at Lansdowne

This close-knit Active Adult community offers all the benefits of low-maintenance living with beautiful main-level living homes that come with lawn care included. Priced from the $600’s, these 2- and 3-level 55+ villa homes feature main-level primary suites. They range from 3-4 bedrooms, 3-5 bathrooms and up to 3,700+ sq. ft. Plus, a selection of quick move-in homes are available for you to move into this year! Cadence at Lansdowne also boasts:

  • Low-maintenance living close to friends and family in Northern Virginia
  • Pickleball courts, a picnic pavilion, walking trails
  • A community dog park and pet station for your four-legged friends
  • An ideal Lansdowne location, with shopping, spas, golf and so much more in close proximity to the community

To learn more about these two remarkable Loudoun County communities and how you can claim your savings, visit BrookfieldOffers.com.

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 813-504-4479.

It’s that time of the year, it’s Pie Time!

On the hunt for the perfect pie in Fairfax County, we surveyed several community groups that lead us to these Top Three Pies.

Pie Gourmet (Vienna)

A true fan favorite throughout all the communities. Established in 1987, Pie Gourmet prides itself on using fresh local produce and the perfect mix of herbs and spices.

Whisked! (Always available at Mom’s Organic Market, Mosaic)

These homemade pies are made with fresh ingredients and each one has a special twist that makes it unique yet still traditional. I first experienced Whisked! amazingness at a local fresh market, which just happens to be where it all started.

Mom’s Apple Pie Company (Occoquan)

Since 1982, Mom’s Apple Pie Co. has definitely made a true brand with 3 locations in Virginia. Through a partnership with Lost Corner Farmer, you are guaranteed to fall in love with the true freshness and flavor of each bite.

Make sure to watch the video of the Pie Taste Challenge with these 3 amazing pie spots. Hope you have a chance to taste the goodness for yourself and enjoy this Thanksgiving season.

Explore Fairfax with Sharmane Medaris of McEnearney.

Sharmane Medaris | Live Fairfax | www.soldbysharmane.com | Sharmane@mcenearney.com | @soldbysharmane | 813-504-4479 | 374 Maple Avenue Suite 202, Vienna, VA 22180

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Research shows that incorporating sound in wellness — such as sound bathing — may help with stress, fatigue, and depression symptoms.

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

How do you Age Well? There are so many avenues for pursuing personal wellness, it can be overwhelming. Yet it’s so fulfilling to try something — whether an exercise class or a new habit — that instantly “rings true” with you.

One option you might not have considered is the growing trend of sound wellness. Sound wellness refers to using audio — including music, acoustic resonance, and/or vibration — to boost our well-being. You might play a specific song to change your mood, take in a crystal singing bowls experience, or use a smartphone app like Endel on the Apple Watch to create a personalized, neuroscience-based playlist of sounds customized to your biofeedback and more, designed to optimize your day. All of these are examples of sound wellness.

Grounded in Science

Science has shown that sound has a profound effect on our physical health, mood, mental health and overall well-being. Much of this has to do with how our brains respond to sound, vibration and rhythm.

Developers and manufacturers are using this science to develop apps, products and programs to harness sound therapies for a variety of uses, including:

  • to relieve stress
  • to promote creativity or boost productivity
  • to trigger rest, recovery or sleep
  • to manage pain

Researchers are even studying the effects of sound on cancer cells!

Sounding It Out     

Mather is a not-for-profit organization with three senior living communities and plans to open The Mather, a Life Plan Community for those 62 and better, in Tysons in 2024. Over the past year, they’ve incorporated sound wellness into some resident offerings such as workshops on rhythm and percussion. “For Active Aging Week this year, we invited residents and staff in our Life Plan Community in Tucson to try experiences that incorporated sound wellness,” says William Wesley Myers, director of Wellness Strategies for Mather. “We facilitated a nature- and sound-bathing hike in a nearby canyon (see image at top of this article) that incorporated exercise and nature immersion, followed by a guided meditation with a crystal bowl sound-bathing component.” Sound bathing uses tone and vibration to resonate with the body, and may help with stress, fatigue and depression symptoms.

From sound-bathing sessions to smartphone apps, sound wellness and its proven health benefits seem to have a lot to offer.

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.

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