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Alexandra Wong: Her Inspiring Story of Overcoming Bullying and Hearing Loss

What’s Next for the TED Talking Neuroscience Student

Alexandria, VA – Eighteen-year-old Alexandra “Zandy” Wong, Alexandria resident and freshman at Johns Hopkins University, was born with a deformed bone in her middle ear.

“Growing up with hearing loss was an isolating experience,” says Alexandra, whose condition is called oval window atresia, which prevents proper processing of vibrations as sound. In Wong’s case, 90 percent of the hearing in her left ear is lost and has been since birth.

“I was in the fray. I was not an active member in class or in conversation.” Wong says she would frequently mistake or completely miss parts of conversations. The sounds of birds chirping or of her hair blowing in the breeze were just murmurs.

But when she was in seventh grade, on April 15, 2015, Alexandra had surgery to receive a Baha Cochlear Implant. “Words cannot describe to you how amazing it is to hear birds chirping for the first time. And my speech quality went from zero to one hundred. It was surreal.”

Alexandra blossomed into an active member of her school and community but still refrained from disclosing her disability. “I defined myself in other ways,” she says, by submersing herself in activities like piano, tennis, and community service throughout high school.

At Hayfield Secondary School, Alexandra was one of five students with hearing loss in a student body of 3,000. She didn’t discuss her disability much but shied away from it.

“Others don’t understand what it’s like being the odd one out after you’ve tried every day to conform to the norm,” she says. Despite wanting to blend in, Alexandra found herself the victim of mockery, laughter, bullying when she had difficulty comprehending group conversations in noisy places.

From Cochlar Recipient to Cochlear Scholar

Today, Alexandra is a neuroscience student and a recipient of the 2021 Cochlear Anders Tjellström Scholarship, named for Dr. Anders Tjellström, who invented the Baha (bone anchored hearing aid) Implant in 1977.

Dr. Tjellström was a research physician in the otolaryngology department at the Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Sweden when he collaborated with Per-Ingvar Brånemark, a pioneer of osseointegration, and Bo Håkansson, to treat the first patient with a Baha device.

Zandy smiles a lot these days. (Courtesy photo)

The Baha device utilizes the body’s natural ability to conduct sound to skip over the outer and middle ear’s damaged parts, transmitting sound vibrations through the skull to the working inner ear, the cochlea. The Cochlear Baha system offers both a surgical and a non-surgical solution to address conductive hearing loss, mixed hearing loss, and single-sided deafness.

The Anders Tjellström Scholarship is awarded by Cochlear, the global expert in implantable hearing solutions for children and adults. Based on academic achievement, commitment to ideals of leadership and humanity, extracurricular activities, and community involvement, the scholarship gives selected students $2,000 per year for up to four years toward school-related costs.

Of 130 individuals who applied for Cochlear scholarships, only eight were selected: five won the Graeme Clark Scholarship and three won the Anders Tjellström Scholarship, including Alexandra Wong. The winners were announced in February 2021.

The Silence of Sound

Now, because she knows how it feels not to be heard, Alexandra strives to be a role model and support system for others who feel like the “odd one out.” She knows the power of support, thanks to her mentor Dr. Sheila Moore-Neff.

Alexandra remains close with her high school mentor, Dr. Sheila Moore-Neff, an educational audiologist at Hayfield Secondary. (Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Sheila Moore-Neff)

Dr. Moore-Neff is an educational audiologist at Hayfield Secondary. She was also Alexandra’s high school tennis coach. “Zandy had grown comfortable enough with me over time to tell me she had hearing loss,” says Dr. Moore-Neff. “All I knew at that point was that she was a great tennis player, a great leader, and a bright student.”

Upon learning of Alexandra’s disability, Dr. Moore-Neff welcomed her into a support group for hearing loss. She helped Alexandra find local audiologists, secure professional shadowing opportunities, and expand her world. “We continued on that journey through her high school career as she tried to get comfortable with who she was,” Dr. Moore-Neff says.

Because of Dr. Moore-Neff’s support and mentorship, Alexandra eventually wanted to share her story with more students. On November 12, 2020, she gave a TED Talk for TEDxYouth@SilverSpurRd, entitled The Silence of Sound.

Alexandra Wong, Alexandria resident and freshman neuroscience student at Johns Hopkins University, has won the Cochlear Anders Tjellström Scholarship. (Photo: Courtesy of Alexandra Wong)

Alexandra’s TED Talk confronted the perpetuation of negative stereotypes surrounding disability: “[Negative stereotypes] are spread by the people who choose not to listen even though they fully can. They are spread by the people who see us as just our condition and not as people.

“Discounting people because they have a disability negates their effort, their work to live in an able world. They work just as hard, if not harder, than probably you guys do to live normally in an able world.

“My experience is certainly not unique, nor is it the first or last one to come. But it is relevant for understanding why what’s left unspoken, the silence of sound, somehow reverberates the loudest…I continue to share my story to encourage acceptance of what makes us unique, nothing more, nothing less.”

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), each year two to three out of every 1,000 children are born with hearing loss in the United States. Given a U.S. population of 330 million, that is a significant statistic.

According to the Johns Hopkins Cochlear Center for Hearing and Public Health, support is key for helping almost 40 million people coping with hearing disability and finding closure under uncontrollable circumstances.

“People aren’t defined by their disabilities,” Alexandra says. “They are defined by the actions they take in the context of their disabilities. I didn’t overcome my disability; I overcame the circumstance of what people boxed me into. Someone out there is getting laughed at because of things they can’t control. I don’t want to see someone get hurt because they can’t be themselves. That is why I share my story.”

Alexandria (r) celebrates graduation from Hayfield with her twin sister Hana. (Courtesy of Alexandra Wong)

Through sharing her story, Alexandra has found closure and confidence and has reclaimed her identity. She hopes to help others do the same. Alexandra used to hide her disability. Now, she has received the Anders Tjellström scholarship for representing and supporting those with hearing loss and for her research in auditory neuroscience.

“This scholarship validates the work I have been doing,” she says, “and it gives me the confidence to keep dreaming and keep working towards big, lofty goals.”

Alexandra is currently an intern with The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, working to create algorithms that detect specific levels of hearing loss. She volunteers with the Northern Virginia Resource Research Center for Deaf & Hard of Hearing Persons to ensure that deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals across eight counties can access assistive technologies. Alexandra also runs a college essay editing business and a startup, Cognitive, that fuses AI and human support into four chatbot apps that can diagnose and treat nine mental health illnesses. She aspires to one day become an ENT doctor.

What is Cochlear and Why is Johns Hopkins So Important?

Cochlear Limited is a global medical device company specializing in hearing aids and implants. Cochlear Limited headquarters are near Sydney, Australia; Cochlear Americas is in Colorado.

Cochlear Limited was founded in 1981 by Dr. Graeme Clark, who invented the Multiple-Channel Cochlear Implant. A professor of otolaryngology at the University of Melbourne, Dr. Clark is the namesake of the Graeme Clark Scholarship for Cochlear Nucleus Implant recipients.

This is the Baha cochlear implant. (Photo: Johns Hopkins University)

Today, Cochlear Limited specializes in three devices: the Nucleus Cochlear Implant, the Hybrid Electro-Acoustic Implant, and the Baha Implant, which The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine offers.

Johns Hopkins is a leader in hearing loss research and hearing aids, with four centers in America: The Johns Hopkins Outpatient Center, Baltimore, MD; The Johns Hopkins Health Care and Surgery Center at Green Spring Station, Lutherville, MD; The Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore; and The Johns Hopkins Health Care and Surgery Center in Bethesda, MD.

This is how the Baha enables users to hear. (Graphic: Licensed to The Zebra Press by Adobe Stock)

Johns Hopkins’ staff are specialists in hearing loss research, techniques, devices, and surgeries. The Johns Hopkins University School of medicine supports those with hearing loss and gives students like Alexandra research opportunities and resources.

To locate a Johns Hopkins center or an affiliated patient care center near you, visit www.hopkinsmedicine.org/directions/. To request an appointment with a Hopkins Hearing audiologist, call 443-997-6467. To locate a Cochlear clinic near you, visit www.cochlear.com/us/en/connect/find-a-clinic.

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At Fabb Fabbioli Cellars, Everything’s Coming up Rosés and Tagalongs®!

Situated a stone’s throw from the Potomac shoreline adjacent to a 600-acre farm, Fabbioli is a gateway to Eagle Tree Vineyards, Lost Creek, and Winery 32, reopening this month under new ownership. (Photo: Kelly MacConomy)

Alexandria, VA – Traveling one snowy day in February, a mile or so along a bucolic unpaved road off Route 15 just past Leesburg, we came upon Fabbioli Cellars’ rotunda-shaped tasting room set in a white blanketed landscape between the Potomac River and the Blue Ridge. Owners Doug Fabbioli and his wife Colleen Berg are celebrating 20 years since first planting vines on 25-acres of farmland eight miles away in Lucketts.

After ten years in California, the couple returned to Virginia in 1997 to start a vineyard and winery. Doug and Colleen began the search for that little piece of Heaven in Loudoun County. Wine and winemaking flow through Doug’s Italian American veins. In the 1940s and 50s, Doug’s grandfather Leone Fabbioli made wine in the basement of his home in Elmira, New York.

Snowy days by the fire pits make pairing Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies with Fabbioli Paco Roja warm and inviting. (Photo: Kelly MacConomy)

The first vines Doug and Colleen planted 20 years ago were Merlot, with some Petit Verdot for blending. Most winemakers here and in California use Merlot extensively to create Bordeaux-style blends. But when Miles Raymond, the emphatically Merlot-eschewing oenophile in the 2004 hit film Sideway, disparaged Merlot, sales tanked significantly and this erstwhile fashionable vino lost its luster.

Undeterred by unpopular demand, Doug remained steadfast in his commitment to making the classic red blending grape great again in its own right. Fabbioli’s boutique-style winemaking is the essence of careful cultivation and small-batch crushing, blending, and bottling. The Fabbioli Cellars approach is what makes Loudoun vineyards unique. It is at the very heart of the Virginia wine industry’s evolution, making Virginia wines increasingly popular nationally and internationally.

Much like Rose’s Heart of the Ocean, Fabbioli is the heart of Loudoun County vineyards and despite the pandemic winemaking would go on. (Photo: Kelly MacConomy)

Fabbioli Cellars is also FABBulously fun. Each month they feature a tasting room tribute to an icon of popular culture, film, or literature. Harry Potter, Downton Abbey, Dr. Who, and Game of Thrones have all been themes. Staff and customers get into the spirit by wearing costumes while the kitchen conjures up signature pairings of wine and tempting treats for each month’s tasting plates.

The “fabb” amuse bouche Titanic Tasting Plate of the Month with curated wine pairings. (Photo: Fabbioli Cellars)

What theme is more appropriate for feting Valentines than the star-crossed love story of Rose DeWitt Bukater and Jack Dawson from the Oscar-sweeping 1997 film Titanic? Winery patrons arrived in film-fan finery, including Fabbiolous mile-wide millinery and spiffy spats. The first-class pairing spared no expense, or calories, on the wine and food pairings:

* NV Raspberry Merlot -~ The Band Played On ~ Dove Dark Chocolate

* NV Perry ~ Iceberg Ahead ~ Vanilla Meringues

* 19 Something White ~ Heart of the Ocean ~ Hero Black Currant Fruit Spread, English Clotted Cream, Digestive Biscuit

* 18 Sangiovese ~ Send Up the Flares ~ Bellavitano Balsamic Fig Chutney, Sea Salt and Olive Crisps

* 17 Carmenere ~ To the Lifeboat ~ London Broil, Bellavitano Pinot Cheese, Bab Ghanoij Dip

* NV Royalty ~ The Stars Above ~ Manchego Mitica Cheese

If steerage is more to your style and budget, every weekend in February, Fabbioli offered Girl Scout cookie pairings for just $5. You might buy a box of Thin Mints there and a bottle to take al fresco while cozying up to a roaring fire pit.

February at Fabbioli celebrates the season of romance with a Titanic-theme tasting. (Photo: Kelly MacConomy)

Z~Oenology recommends the Paco Rojo, a raspberry hued, feisty, medium-bodied red blend with notes of black cherry, ripe plum, and licorice. It’s best slightly chilled, which wasn’t a concern at barely 39 degrees outdoors and served with a pail of ice. It was icebergs all around. The firewood valets delivered fresh fuel and stoked the flames frequently while an unobtrusive tasting room concierge checked on your comfort and needs.

Love is in the air at fabbiolous Fabbioli where they are making Merlot great again. (Photo: Kelly MacConomy)

On a snowy Valentine’s Day wine tasting at Fabbioli Cellars, indoors or out, they not only had you at hello, they had you at Merlot! And Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Meritage, Petit Manseng, Barbera, Sangiovese, Petit Verdot, and a titanic Tannat! Oh, and yes, Miles, there’s even the “fabb” Bicoastal, a colossal Zinfandel with chops. Sorry, there’s no Pinot, but there is a lot of FABB Merlot!

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The Last Word: What Would the Founding Fathers Say?

Aaron Burr
(Photos: Library of Congress)
General James Wilkerson

Alexandria, VA – “However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”

George Washington’s Farewell Address – 17 September 1796

One can only imagine what those zany, crazy Founding Fathers of ours would have made of the country they started after the past three months’ shenanigans. After the decades of pain, suffering, misery, treachery, savagery, penury, and war they endured, those heralded visionaries, were they alive today, would be shaking their collective heads at just how far off the mark the political farce we call a country has evolved since they all took the big dirt bath.

A leading member of the Founding Fathers—our own George Washington—had a few choice words about political parties (see above). It is striking just how prescient they were, based on events from the 2020 election. The “party” is now the great, omnipotent, determinator. It “selects” the candidates and then rallies the “party” around their chosen one.

You must admit, the 2019 Trump Impeachment, the 2020 election marathon, the post-election legal maneuvering, the insurrection at the Capitol, and subsequent 2021 Trump Impeachment (the sequel), would stagger the imagination of even the most ardent political historian. And the hits just keep coming.

America has always had a penchant for forgiveness. We love fallen angels who swim in the muck and mire and then, because of a “mistake,” we open the door of forgiveness to second and sometimes even third chances. We have countless examples of allowing elected officials to continue to serve in office while at-the-same-time serving time in prison (1).

Americans, because we have no royal family of our own, have had a love affair with celebrity. We frequently give our celebrities wide berth, often waving off the transgressions of our sports, entertainment, and underworld icons and we are rapidly becoming the “land of perpetual forgiveness.” Before going to federal prison for income tax evasion, Alfonso “Scarface” Capone, when asked by numerous newspapers about his alleged ties to various murders, prostitution, and other felonies, frequently replied, “I’m just a businessman.”

During the impeachment of then-President Bill Clinton, our American appetite for the ever-expanding lurid details of his amorous trysts and turns didn’t wane. Then, when cornered for lying under oath, Clinton apologized, we accepted his apology, and we did the truly American thing that has marked us for nearly two centuries — we “put it behind us and got back to the vital work for the American people.” (2)

The conspiracy trial of Aaron Burr rocked the nation but ultimately was much ado about nothing. I guess we Americans haven’t paid enough attention to our own history to pick up the hints. (Photo: National Archives)

The intent of those great Founding Fathers to protect us from a tyrannical or corrupt Chief Executive by including Article II Section 4 of the Constitution, resulted in the impeachment of three Presidents (3). But thankfully, the U.S. has never had to face the indignation or embarrassment of booting a President as has been the case in many other countries. Elsewhere in the world if you lie, cheat, assault someone, take bribes, cheat on your spouse, stage a coup, order a “hit”, or stomp opposition into brutal submission, people tend to remember that and the instigator is shown to the door, a cell, is exiled, or “meets with an unfortunate accident.” (4)

Our penchant for forgiveness even goes so far as to include those who conspired to violently overthrow the government. Aaron Burr, Vice President to Thomas Jefferson, was alleged to have even amassed a private army to attack Mexico and annex a section of the Louisiana Purchase (AKA “Texas”) and set himself up as “El Jefe.” (5) When all the dust settled, his partner-in-crime General James Wilkinson, tried to wiggle out of his involvement in the coup attempt by producing a letter showing Burr’s intentions. The letter in Wilkinson’s own handwriting proved to be less-than-convincing to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, so Burr lit out to England.

The recent Capitol attack gave me pause to reflect on how far (or not-so-far) we had come as a republic and how sketchy our leadership is about “the Constitution” (6). During the Impeachment Trial there was much harrumphing, tons and tons of Senators and members of Congress invoking the “Constitution” in many of their statements. It made me wonder about just how poor an understanding we have of the document and how frightening it is to see our leadership of our country who don’t have a clue as to its contents or what they mean.

An example of just how weak our leaders are about the government they represent was in an Alabama Daily News interview after the 2020 Senate election in Alabama. Former football coach, now Senator Tommy Tuberville, stated, that the three branches of government were, “the House, the Senate, and the executive.”

My wife used to work at George Washington’s Mount Vernon as a historic Interpreter. One evening she came home from Mount Vernon with a classic story. That evening she led a freshman Congressman and his family through the house explaining the details of the life of the Washington family. Towards the end of the tour the Congressman asked, “How did Washington get to the White House every day to go to work? Did he ride a horse or go over the Potomac by boat?” (7)

I am no Constitutional scholar. I did, however, get an “A” in my required senior-level U.S. Government class at Fairfax High School. I remember learning about Plessy v. Ferguson, Miranda v. Arizona, Brown v. the Board of Education, who the House and Senate majority and minority whips were, what a “pocket veto” was, AND how many votes it took to overturn a Presidential veto.

I wondered just how far we had strayed as a country from this kind of basic “common knowledge”, so I did some research on civics education in the country. A June 2019 EdWeek magazine article indicated that there are some 30,000 high schools in the country. I was amazed to learn from an article titled, “The State of Civics Education,”, (8) that only 26 percent of all high school seniors could name all three branches of the U.S. government. As a result, 17 states have made it mandatory that their students pass the U.S. citizenship exam to get a high school diploma.

How could this republic, the world’s greatest champion of freedom, the powerful advocate of human rights, and the greatest economy in the world have a citizenry that knows less about its government than it does about what Beyonce wore to the Met gala or who sang at the Superbowl Halftime show?

Then it hit me. That Government class at Fairfax High School made it clear – to be a member of Congress all you had to be is 25 years old and a “citizen” for seven years and for Senate – 30 years-old and a “citizen” for nine years. No test required.

Recently, many school districts across the country have completely eliminated cursive writing from the curriculum. Why? The only use for cursive writing was thought to be to sign your name. It had become, “obsolete.”

Judging by the impeachment trials in this country’s history and their outcomes, perhaps it’s time to amend the Constitution and completely eliminate it from that document. It’s pretty clear that nothing qualifies as “high crimes and misdemeanors” and it will save us all a lot of time, money, and effort.

Perhaps a New York phrase captures best what we should do about impeachment in the future -– “Faggedabbahdit.”

(1) Boston Mayor James Michael Curley. For real. (2) It has also clarified what the definition of “is” is. I’m still confused years later but that’s not unusual for me. (3) Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump (X2) (4) A popular phrase heard years ago in Las Vegas, Chicago, New Jersey, and today — translated from the Russian version. (5) Had he been successful Sam Houston would have remained a schoolteacher in Maryville Tennessee and no one would have heard a peep out of him again. (6) You know – that piece of paper they all swear to “support and defend against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” (7) The first occupant in the White House was John Adams. It hadn’t been built yet and George Washington along with the rest of the Federal Government was up in NYC. He hadn’t sold the property to the Federal Government yet for it to become the “District of Columbia.” (8) February 2018 – The Center for American Progress

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Vaccinating Seniors Moves Forward in Alexandria

Local Testimonials and What You Need To Know

Goodwin House Resident Mrs. Ruth S. Hanzlik approves!

Alexandria, VA – Slowly but surely more and more people are receiving their first and second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Alexandria is currently in vaccination phases 1a and 1b, including healthcare personnel, residents of long-term care facilities, essential frontline workers, those 65 and older, and those 16-64 with qualifying medical conditions.

I talked with a few locals in the 1a and 1b groups about their experiences. Sheila Hoben is an independent living resident at Goodwin House Alexandria. Josh Bagley is the administrator of the Health Care Center at Goodwin House Alexandria. They have both received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Goodwin House hosts three residence levels: independent living, assisted living, and a health care nursing home. So far, all residents in the nursing home and all staff who requested have been vaccinated twice. Also, 99 percent of all Goodwin House residents have received their first dose.

Goodwin House partnered with CVS and the Van Dorn Pharmacy to deliver vaccinations in a series of clinics. The clinics are regularly scheduled and administered by licensed pharmacists. The Pfizer clinic for staff and nursing home and assisted living residents took place December 29, with the follow-up clinic on January 19. The Moderna clinic for independent living residents was on January 15, with the follow-up clinic on February 12.

: Goodwin House Alexandria residents wait patiently yet eagerly to receive their vaccinations. Clinics were held on-site at the senior living community.

Resident Sheila Hoben participated in the January 15 Moderna clinic. “It was concierge service at our door,” she says. “The day of our scheduled vaccination, they arrived on our floor with the paperwork done in advance. We were all sitting in the hall and laughing at each other, pretty jovially, thinking, ‘Well, we should just do this more often.’”

After her first dose, Sheila reported no symptoms other than typical soreness in her arm. She has heard no reports of reactions to the first dose.

For Sheila and her husband, the decision to vaccinate was “a no-brainer.” Like many others, she and her husband are anxious to socialize again with neighbors, friends, and family.

For Josh Bagley, the vaccination brings hope, relief, and gratitude. “It’s been a hard year for all of us,” says Josh. “The residents we serve in the health care center are the most vulnerable in our community. People haven’t been able to see family for so long. Communal dining has been closed since Christmas. We need more connection.

“It’s just a relief that we finally have this important tool that can bring a higher quality of life for our residents. We are grateful for the scientists and everyone who has made it possible to prioritize these doses and these people. And I can keep my family safer when I go home.”

While residents wait for second vaccinations, Goodwin House maintains strict COVID protocols: social distancing, masks, and thorough sanitization. Goodwin House has safely reopened communal dining for assisted living and health care center residents who have received both vaccine doses. Reopening communal dining for independent living residents is planned after the second dose is administered.

Goodwin House staff are collaborating with local health department personnel to coordinate future vaccination clinics, but so far, 99 percent of residents and over 85 percent of staff have been vaccinated.

“Josh and the rest of the medical staff here have been just phenomenal,” says Sheila. “There is really no other word for it. They adapted in many ways, as all of us had to, but they had to do it strategically.”

Independent Living resident at Goodwin House Alexandria, Sheila Hoben (right) and a friend receive their first COVID-19 vaccinations at the Goodwin House clinic on January 15.

As phase 1c, which includes remaining essential workers, approaches, Goodwin House and all of Alexandria will have to remain strategic with its vaccination clinics. Essential workers will receive vaccination through employer-based clinics; others through their local health departments, pharmacies, or healthcare providers.

Individuals and organizations can register or pre-register online and will be contacted for appointments on a rolling basis. For more information regarding vaccinations and phase groupings, visit www.alexandriava.gov/Vaccines.

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What Are the Signs of Termites in Your Alexandria Home?

Learn the Secrets of The Pros

Termite colonies can develop in woody debris and gain access to your home. (Image: USDA Home and Garden Bulletin 62)

By Gene Wright

Alexandria, VA – How can you know if there are termites in your home? These voracious wood-eating insects can invade a house and cause permanent, irreparable damage, even during winter months.

If you have an infestation that is not yet serious, it may be hard to tell that termites have moved in. But do not worry. In this article, we will walk you through the common early warning signs of termites and help you stop these pests before they have a chance to take over.

Here are a few signs you should watch for:

Discarded Wings

Discarded wings are one of the first warning signs of termites and are typically seen during spring months when the insects swarm and reproduce.

If you find discarded wings in your home, or near vulnerable wood like door and window frames, it could be a sign of an infestation.

Bubbling Wood or Paint

As termites feed, they create hollow openings and tunnels in your home’s wood structures. These channels are eventually filled with moisture the insects secrete as they feed.

This moisture eventually builds up in the wood, creating an effect that looks like water damage. Blistering, bubbling, and peeling is a potential sign of termites that should never go ignored!

Mud Tubes

To date, we only have one termite species in Alexandria, the eastern subterranean termite. This termite species builds mud tubes or tunnels between their colonies and potential food sources.

These tubes are most found near the home’s foundation, leading from the ground up to wood. Each tube looks like a narrow vein or pathways of mud that follows an irregular or winding pattern. If you find mud tubes on or around your home, the time to act is now.

Warped Window and Door Frames

While it is one of the less obvious signs of termite damage, you should keep an eye out for damage to this wood, which is often exposed and accessible.

When termites eat into window and door frames, the wood warps in a way that looks like water damage. This warping can make doors and windows harder to open and close properly.

Getting Rid of Termites

The type of termite infestation and the size of the colony determine how difficult it will be to remove. If the infestation is small and localized, you might be able to contain it with a DIY termite control solution. These over-the-counter products work well, but only for small infestations. But the termites could be living in a nearby property and still infest your house. Once termites have found a source of food, they will always return for more.

Professional exterminators offer the most effective termite control solutions. If your property is infested and you are not sure where to start, your best bet is to team up with professionals.

Finally, here are some things you can do to prevent or at least limit termite infestations in the future:

· Minimize wood-to-soil contact in sheds, fence posts, and other wooden structures

· Store firewood away from your house

· Make sure all areas around your home’s foundation are properly drained

· Minimize the use of sprinkler systems

· Remove tree stumps along with their root systems

· Remove decaying mulch

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Warming Foods to Keep the Winter Chill Away in Alexandria

Stellina Pizza founders Antonio Matarazzo and chef Matteo Venini. (photo courtesy of Stellina Pizza)

Alexandria, VA – Winter has come to Alexandria! I hope you are all staying warm but enjoying the beauty of the season. Watching the gently falling snow always makes me feel hungry because of family tradition. Whenever we were ‘snowed in’ in our suburban Chicago home, the neighbors would get together to dig out the cars and street so we had access to the main street. That night, we would always go out for Chinese food. Do you have a similar tradition? I don’t always get Chinese but I have gotten other personal favorites like kabobs, wings, Mexican, etc.

A box full of mole enchiladas from Taqueria Poblano (photo by Debby Critchley)

For me, there’s nothing like a plateful of warming enchiladas, burritos, tacos, or tamales. Jeff Wallingford manages to fulfill my winter desires at Taqueria Poblano, 2400 Mt. Vernon Ave. If the enchiladas with mole are on the menu, I highly recommend them. Three enchiladas filled with pork or chicken There absolutely warming and filling. Even closer to my heart are their tamales. These are Mexican style and each bite is a taste of childhood. Don’t forget to get a margarita or one of their many beer choices.

This luncheon bowl of Butter Chicken from Indochen will warm you to your toes (photo by Debby Critchley)

Indian food also warms me up. I visited Indochen, 4906 Brenman Park Dr., in the West End. They are offering lunch bowls that are hard to pass up. I had a plate of one of my favorites, butter chicken. The dish was filled with a generous portion of the chicken, wondrous veggies, and basmati rice. A cone of papadam crowned the plate! There was barely enough to take home leftovers. Their butter chicken has such a delightful nuanced flavor, it’s one of my favorite dishes to order. I suggest you get an order of garlic naan on the side, you’ll be very glad you did.

What’s new

The most obvious difference in &pizza is its oblong shape. Here’s the Maverick, a meat-lover’s pizza. Mike’s (photo courtesy of &pizza)

There’s been a lot of pizza around town lately. By the time you read this, Stracci has opened and closed but may return storefront form later in the year. Coming to Bradlee Shopping Center around the time you are reading this is &pizza, at 3690L King St. The pizzas are long ovals and can be topped with a variety of traditional and non-traditional toppings. You can currently find an &pizza on Richmond Hwy and coming to Eisenhower Ave. Shirlington is now home to Stellina Pizzaria in the former Cafe Pizzaiolo location at 2800 N. Randolph St. Stellina is an offshoot of the shop at Union Market in DC, founded by friends, restaurant operators and native Italians Antonio Matarazzo and chef Matteo Venini. According to their website: “Our simple, yet spirited menu nods to the street food of the southern Italian coast with a selection of fried seafood and veggies served in paper cones called cuoppo; light, flavorful Neo-Neapolitan pizzas with a distinctly crisxxdpy crust; house-made pastas; and creative panini served on our signature pizza dough.” The Bottega offers ready to cook meals, make at home pizza, pasta, cannoli kits, and wine.

Check out the hot steak & cheese sub from Jersey Mike’s (photo courtesy of Jersey Mike’s)

Also arriving in the ‘hood is Jersey Mike’s, now open at 360 S. Pickett St. This well-known sandwich shop joins favorites Taste of Asia, Mediterranean Bakery and Cafe, and City Kitchen in the West End Shopping Center. There is a wide selection of both hot and cold subs in a variety of sizes and filled with all sorts of meats, cheeses, and veggies. The former home of Society Fair has become Mae’s Market and Café, 277 S. Washington Street comes from and is the brain child of Stomping Ground founder Nicole Jones. Not open at press time, it may be open by the time you read this. They will be serving breakfast and lunch including a selection of coffee, baked goods, salads, and gourmet sandwiches. The market features house-prepared food and pantry items, produce, freshly baked bread, charcuterie and cheese, a prime meat and seafood case, craft beer, wine and more.

The full Musakhan meal of roast chicken and sides from Shababi Chicken (photo courtesy of Shababi)

Palestinian Chicken and Taboon has arrived with Shababi from Marcelle Afram and fellow Lebanese American chef Roro Asmar. Roro operates Roro’s Modern Lebanese restaurant at 5655 General Washington Dr. and is providing the ghost kitchen for Shababi. The rotisserie-style halal chicken with brined for 24 hours, then coated with allspice, sumac, cumin, fenugreek, and cardamom, then placed into a specialty oven imported from Lebanon. Meals are available for pickup during weekends for now but should be offering delivery soon. Taboon is spread with a puree of caramelized onions, cashews, and parsley atop our hand-stretched dough before baking it in a traditional taboon oven. Sides include cucumbers in chili garlic oil, za’atar seasoned fries, hummus, and the flatbread, taboon. There is also vegetarian mushroom shawarma.

Coming soon

Nothing Bundt Cake carries a wide variety of sizes, cake flavors, and frostings

Head east on Duke St. and find the new Nothing Bundt Cakes at 4553 Duke St. in the Shoppes at Fox Chase. This is the fourth location of this chain that started in Las Vegas. You’ll be able to purchase an assortment of bundt cakes, cake towers, and both mini and bite size bundts. Flavors include vanilla, chocolate, white chocolate, marble, pecan praline, confetti, red velvet, carrot cake, and raspberry. No opening date yet.

Have you heard?

Here’s just a sampling of all of the fabulous goodies from MB on the Go photo courtesy of MB Bakery on the Go)

MB Bakery on the Go, 3103-3107 Colvin St., is teaming up with the Royal Restaurant, 730 N St Asaph St., to supply their amazing baked goods. Don’t know what will be available but anything baked by the bakery is always delicious. The Royal was founded in 1904 and has been a neighborhood favorite for all this time. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner will be that much better with Maribeth’s bakery treats.

Lawnstarter studied the best cities for cheese and ranked Alexandria as the 19th cheesiest cities in the US. Arlington ranked 6th. Washington, DC was ranked 21st These 2021 rates were the result of comparing the 200 biggest U.S. cities across 10 cheesy metrics, from the availability of fondue restaurants and Cheesecake Factory locations to average cost to the number of cheese-related events.

(photo courtesy of Ulyssees Pr)

Did you know that Aldi’s has a cookbook coming out? We know that Aldi’s has taken Alexandria by storm with their many options for organic and healthy foods. Now, Ulysses Press is introducing The Unofficial Aldi Cookbook by Jeanette Hurt, Copyright © 2021. Here is an excerpt provided with permission, of one of their easy recipes:

QUICK FROZEN YOGURT – Takes about 5 minutes to make. Yield: 1½ cups or 1 to 2 servings

2 cups Season’s Choice frozen fruit, such as strawberries or tropical fruit blend, or other frozen fruit of your choice

1 (6-ounce) container Friendly Farms light vanilla yogurt or other yogurt of your choice

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Place all the ingredients in a blender fitted with a standard blade.

2. Blend until completely smooth, about 5 minutes.

Notes: This has the consistency of soft-serve yogurt. If you like it richer, choose a Greek-style or full-fat yogurt. If you prefer it with a more frozen consistency, put it in the freezer for 30 to 60 minutes. And if you’re partial to sweetness, add 1 to 2 teaspoons of sugar

One last word, or two

Make a reservation before you head out to your meal at your desired restaurant. There is limited dining space right now due to Covid restrictions. Some restaurants are charging a fee to use there specialty outdoor dining too. As a by the way, Delia’s Mediterranean Grill & Brick Oven does not charge when reserving their igloos as some other places are.

One more note for you. Remember to support your local restaurants and stores. And whether you dine in, carryout, or get delivery, tip, tip, and tip some more.

Until next time, eat well and enjoy!

Got a foody tip to share, let me know at debbyc@thezebrapress.com

ICYMI: Senator Mark Warner Visits Alexandria’s Black History On Walking Tour Led by City Councilman…

Creating Smiles and Opportunities for Alexandria’s Youth

Ms. Cherie Furlow

Alexandria, VA – This edition of the Alexandria Noir column turns the spotlight on Ms. Cherie Furlow. Ms. Furlow is a 25-year resident of Alexandria and past president of the Continental Societies, Inc., Northern Virginia Chapter. As a legacy member, Ms. Furlow is deeply rooted in upholding the organization’s pledge developed in 1956 to foster, promote, and develop underprivileged children and youth’s welfare. During this interview, the Zebra looks into the impact Ms. Furlow and the Continental Societies, Inc. Northern Virginia chapter have in Alexandria.

Zebra: How long have you been affiliated with the Continental Societies Inc. Northern Virginia Chapter?

Ms. Furlow: I have been an active member of the Northern Virginia Chapter for 11 years. In actuality, I have been affiliated with the Continental Societies, Inc. my entire life. My mother was a dedicated member of the Newport News-Hampton, Virginia chapter. My sister was a member of the Raleigh, North Carolina chapter and my aunts were charter members of the Goldsboro, North Carolina chapter. With my family so involved for years, I finally decided to follow in their footsteps in 2010.

Zebra: In your role as the past president of the Northern Virginia Chapter, what are your responsibilities?

Ms. Furlow: It is my responsibility to provide guidance to the current president and ensure that the chapter aligns with the Continental Societies’ five-point programmatic thrust, including health, education, employment, recreation, and arts and humanities programs.

Zebra: The Continental Societies’ mission is to create environments in local communities that empower children to access quality and appropriate opportunities to reach their optimal potential. How has the Northern Virginia chapter contributed to the Alexandria community?

Ms. Furlow: The Northern Virginia chapter serves children in the Arlington and Alexandria community through a dental hygiene program, where we partner with the Colgate Van. Pre-Covid, we had a Colgate van visiting Woodley Mills Elementary school and Dr. Charles Drew Elementary School. This year, along with the Hopkins House, we had a Zoom program with a dentist to teach children proper brushing and flossing techniques.

Our chapter also partnered with Alexandria Community Shelter, Carpenter Shelter, and Hopkins House to provide hygiene products and school supplies for children and spearheaded a drive to supply scarves, hats, and gloves for holiday gift-giving.

Zebra: What’s your most successful program and why?

Ms. Furlow: The African American reading program during Black History Month is one of our most well-attended and successful initiatives. We collaborate with Alexandria and Arlington elementary schools. In the past, we have scheduled 20-minute reading sessions in which we reached over 800 students.

This year we will pre-record reading sessions based on a curated reading list provided by the Dr. Charles Drew Elementary School Librarian and Alexandria churches. These sessions will be online for easy access by all children. I am confident that sharing the African American reading program in this new format will be just as successful, if not more than in previous years.

Zebra: What do you most enjoy about being a part of the Continental Societies?

Ms. Furlow: I thoroughly enjoy working side by side with my fellow Continental Societies chapter members.

Overall, the most enjoyable reason for being apart of this organization is seeing the smiles of the children we serve. Just that small amount of validation reassures me that all the planning and hard work of putting together these events is worth it.

Zebra: What are your organization’s goals for 2021?

Ms. Furlow: The Northern Virginia Chapter is planning events that correlate with our five programmatic thrust initiatives. To meet our education initiative, we will be hosting a marshmallow toothpick tower event that will teach middle school students how to apply their science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills in a fun way.

Zebra: What are some of your favorite Alexandria establishments and why?

Ms. Furlow: The historic St. Joseph Catholic Church, the Charles Houston Center, and the Alexandria Black History Museum are three of my favorite establishments. We have partnered with St. Joseph Church for many children’s events. I think it’s great that these three institutions are within walking distance of each other and allow children to visit each easily. I also love the fact that Alexandria has an abundance of historical tours and memorials that focus on African American history.

Zebra: This interview will run in the March issue of the Zebra. Are there any events/programs that will take place during this time?

Ms. Furlow: In March, we are continuing our African American reading program by partnering with schools in Alexandria and Arlington for Read Across America. We will also co-host a virtual employment fair with the National Council of Negro Women, Northern Virginia chapter.

Zebra: How can Zebra readers find out more about the Continental Societies, Northern Virginia chapter?

Ms. Furlow: Zebra Readers can visit the Continental Societies, Inc. website (continentalsocietiesinc.org/) and our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/ContinentalSocietiesInc/).

Zebra: Is there anything else that you would like to share?

Ms. Furlow: Only that we are always welcoming new members. If you are interested in working with children and looking for a way to give back to the Alexandria community, the Northern Virginia chapter of the Continental Societies, Inc. is a great organization to join.

ICYMI: Char McCargo Bah: Making History in Alexandria

Fisher Elected President of Del Ray Business Association

Dr. Lauren Fisher (Photo: DRBA)

Alexandria, VA – The Del Ray Business Association board elected Dr. Lauren Fisher president of the business group representing small, independent, and locally owned businesses in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria. Mara Benner, the founder of Four Directions Wellness, was elected vice president.

“I am honored to be representing an amazing group of resilient, supportive, and community-oriented business owners,” said Dr. Fisher. “I look forward to helping our local businesses and community members adapt, evolve, and strengthen over this next year. In the words of Helen Keller, ‘Alone we do so little, together we can do so much.’”

Dr. Fisher is the co-owner and founder of Del Ray Psych & Wellness, an integrative wellness center in the heart of Del Ray. In addition to running the business, Dr. Fisher is a clinical psychologist. Her specialties include mindfulness-based psychotherapy, positive psychology, trauma-informed approaches, and wellness coaching.

Dr. Fisher has served on the Del Ray Business Association board since 2017, most recently as vice president. She also co-chairs the Wellness District, a collaborative group of wellness providers within the association. Dr. Fisher has been an active member of the events committee, chairing the popular Spring Bar Crawl and Candy Cane Bar Crawls that have brought the community together to benefit local nonprofits. Dr. Fisher received the Business Star Award from the Del Ray Business Association for her community involvement and service in 2017; was named to the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce 40 Under 40 list in 2019; and her practice, Del Ray Psych & Wellness, received the Alexandria Chamber’s 2020 Rising Star Business Award.

“Together, we have accomplished so much to get Del Ray on the map,” said outgoing Del Ray Business Association President Sue Kovalsky of The Jen Walker Team. “We have great momentum, which will only continue under Lauren’s leadership.

Meet Dr. Lauren Fisher

If I’m not in the office, you’ll find me: Running a community event, travelling, or socializing with friends.

Favorite Del Ray tradition: Art on the Avenue

Favorite Del Ray dish: Sassy Goat Sandwich from Cheesetique

Favorite happy hour spot: Pork Barrel BBQ on Fridays

Favorite workout: Running

ICYMI: Alexandria City Council Seeks Input on Community Policing Review Board

Futuristic Political Thriller Hits Home

Alexandria, VA – Review: Memories of Lasting Shadows

Author: Michael Gryboski

Publisher: Ambassador International – Emerald House

Zebra Rating – 5 Stripes

Fast forward 40 years and imagine a United States of America where laws have been radically reversed, including the political lightning rod, abortion. Divisive protracted debates about this issue ended painfully. Citizens hoped division and discord were finally over. The two most recent generations of citizens are now adults, and America has new normal. But Michael Gryboski’s work goes much deeper than that one issue. The plot and characters wrestle with serious moral principles.

Memories of Lasting Shadows takes readers into a vision of the future and a nation that has come to terms with the old norms, seen as part of a dark period, but struggles to determine its present and future course. The story navigates partisanship, protests, and firebrand speeches fueling politics’ lucrative industry and its product: perpetual ideological conflict.

Gryboski enhances the plot by providing readers more than a glimpse into impressive technological advancements that touch many aspects of daily life, from driverless cars to hydration patches and prenatal medical care.

Regardless of political persuasion, there are deep themes embedded in the story and its characters. Is the perspective of good and evil unchangeable, or can it be manipulated by circumstance? Does the end justify the means? Are humans inherently good or evil? Is personal redemption real?

The two main characters in Memories of Lasting Shadows are deeply divided. United States Senator Benjamin Pettus is a former doctor who practiced when choice was the law of the land. He struggles to preserve his legislative legacy, and to hide his past.

Roberta Sheridan was born and raised in a different time. For her, terminating an unborn child is illegal and reprehensible. She is a devout Christian and principled journalist. At the urging of a colleague who is a self-professed “citizen journalist,” Roberta hears of deep secrets that could derail Pettus in an upcoming election. While investigating, she discovers the truth but is left with more questions than answers. Is the past ever really gone? Are we any different than our adversaries?

Michael Gryboski was born and grew up in the Washington DC metro area. He is a George Washington University graduate, lives in Richmond, Virginia, and writes for The Christian Journal. Michael says, “I’d rather be right than widely accepted.”

Author Michael Gryboski (Courtesy photo)

I remember reading somewhere that life’s essence is seeking a brighter future, but remembering that the past is forever within us. Memories of Lasting Shadows is a political thriller and an awakening of sorts that captures that thought. A must-read, particularly for those who enjoy spirited debates when ideological views collide. Zebra rating 5 stars

ICYMI: Alexandria Library Launches New Mobile App

Register Now for Senior Services of Alexandria’s Virtual Spring Senior Academy

The graduating class of the “in-person” 2019 Senior Academy.

Alexandria, VA – Alexandria residents and those employed in the city who are 60+ years old are invited to register for our virtual Senior Academy beginning on Wednesday, April 7, from 10:00 -11:30 am. The Senior Academy is a wonderful way to learn about how Alexandria works and all the great things available to older adults. Sessions include a welcome by Mayor Justin Wilson and an overview of operations by the City Manager’s Office. Other sessions include briefings by our first responders: Fire, Police, and Sheriff; the Division of Aging and Adult Services; Offices of Housing and Departments of Transportation and Planning; local nonprofits serving older adults; Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Activities, and the Alexandria Library. The Senior Academy is free, but participation is limited to 15, so please register NOW at www.seniorservicesalex.org. For any questions, contact MaryAnne Beatty at communications@seniorservicesalex.org.

ICYMI: Senior Services Virtual Gala to Honor Community Leaders