Category Archives: Backstory blog

My journalist’s blog hosted by Times Community Media.

Jesus wrote to me today

Jesus wrote to me today. He said he didn’t know I wanted a refund for my
unsatisfactory (to me) Starbucks green tea latte.

As you may or may not remember, I was revolted by the taste and caloric
content of Stabrucks’ green tea latte when I tried it for the first time a few
weeks ago. Being the scribe that I am, I wrote Starbucks an email expressing my
displeasure and requesting a refund.

I have contacted a corporate company only once before to relay my
dissatisfaction with its product. My sophomore year in college, I purchased my
first box of teeth whitening strips. The product was new on the market and it
was too soon to differentiate between brands to determine the most effective
strips. Naturally due to my caffeine addiction, I decided to not hold off as I
normally do when a product first hits the shelves. I needed glossy white teeth
as soon as possible to brighten my smile.

So, I went to K-Mart and got Rembrant’s whitening trays. I abhored them
immediately. They burned (more than normal) and my teeth and lips got all gummy
from the over-production of saliva my mouth was producing in an effort to try to
battle off the foreign object that had entered its realm. In return, the trays
disintegrated and were useless. I was supposed to withstand this for another 29
days? I think not. So, I pulled out my teddy bear notepad my mom had given me
for some occasion and handwrote Rembrant a feverishly letter expressing my
experience. They responded with a note of apology and a reimbursement check,
which I then used to pick up Crest Whitening Strips. I’ve never looked back.

This was a pleasant experience with a corporate entity that, in my opinion,
had excellent customer service and dealt with my situation with the upmost of
professionalism. So, six years later when I was again confronted with an overall
disgust for a company’s product, I didn’t think the result would be any
different. (note: In six years, I have only complained twice—and to corporate
companies only. I don’t complain over little things, such as when the bun on my
burger is burnt, because the overall item still meets some level of

So, imagine my surprise when Starbucks not only didn’t discuss the complaint
with me, but it also sends my request to the wrong department. Two weeks later
when I follow-up again with them, I am then told that the company didn’t know I
wanted a follow-up, even though I had clearly stated it in my original

“Hello Hannah,

Thank you for contacting Starbucks Coffee Company. According to your previous
email, you did not request follow up. Your concerns have been forwarded for
their review. If you have any further questions or concerns that I was unable to
address, please feel free to let me know.

Warm Regards,

Jesus P”


I don’t know about you all, but when Jesus says its in his hands, I’m
inclined to believe him. However, if I don’t hear back soon, I’m pulling out my
teddy bear notepad and writing to Mary and Joseph.

Calling criticism, party of one of many

As a public company open to hoards of opinions, Times Community Media always
takes criticism in stride, with a grain of salt and more often than not, with a
little chuckle. In the past I’ve been told I shouldn’t be allowed to write,
don’t know what I’m talking about and have no business being a journalist. I
make mistakes, I own them and move on … but some readers can’t. On occasion,
the LTM gets unwarranted criticism in the form of an overall hatred toward all
media. These are the best, so it is with much delight that I post verbatim the
latest installation of media-hatred. Enjoy.

Dear Editor:

I am writing to request that the news that is fit to print be printed exactly
as it happens, NOT as you LIBERALS like to embellish or PARAPHRASE it!  I do not
believe anything I read or hear from the MSM!

I know I can depend on the syndicated radio talk show hosts to provide the
TRUTH and NOT slant the news to make it more acceptable to the listeners! The
FOX News network provides a variety of hosts/reporters who invite the opposition
to present their opinions and debate with those on the flip side of the issues
that are of great importance to U.S. all! To me, FOX translates to, “FOCUS ON
eXCELLENCE”! I have not witnessed biased attitudes, negativity, or BLATANT LIES
coming from this organization, only restraint from judging those who are NOT in
agreement with their opinions and absolutely, NO BIASED BS BEHAVIOR as always
witnessed with the Main-Stream Media “terrorists”!

My father canceled our subscription to the Washington Post some time back in
the 1970s because he considered it to be a communist supported media! I support
his opinion as well!  IMHO, anything bought or supported by george soros or any
of his satanic team should be trashed!

It is sad that so many in the msm are brain-washed and cannot see the truth
if it spit in their face!  I will continue to listen to those who ONLY print or
speak the TRUTH!

Seriously irritated,

CE (*initials are used for privacy … this person also resides in Prince
William county)

The reviews are in … NOVAEXEC is the ish

Critics agree: The final version of NOVAEXEC prevails.

Emails have been trickling in ever since NOVAEXEC hit the streets during the
second week of June. Here are a few excerpts:

Congratulations on NovaExec!  It looks amazing and is filled with
wonderful articles and information.  Very very cool.

Outstanding job on the NOVA Exec! You must be extremely pleased with the
fine quality. Congratulations and Happy Birthday! YOU ROCK!
– T.M.

Thanks for the copy of NOVA Exec that arrived this week in the mail.  The
issue looks great. Congratulations!  I know what a mammoth job it is to launch a
– W.K.

Congrats on the newborn edition!. I quickly viewed it online and it looks
very good.
– B.K.

Introducing NOVAEXEC

Jonathan Browning, the president and chief executive officer of Volkswagen, graces the cover of our premier issue on stands now. He introduces the third-generation VW Beetle.

Last week, two milestones were reached within the media world. Hannah Hager
turned 26, and NOVAEXEC, Northern Virginia’s only business magazine was born. I
have a lot to say about NOVAEXEC; Not only am I the proud editor of its premier
issue, but I worked myself to the bone getting it out. I experienced nothing
less than self-induced anxiety, restless nights, eye twitches, the near-loss of
close friends and strain on my fellow coworkers. I can delve deeper into what it
takes to launch a magazine, but for now I just want to be a platform for its
introduction. Happy Birthday to us.

For the e-edition, visit

Many thanks to Peter Arundel, the magazine’s publisher and my sounding
board; to John Geddie, Managing Editor of the Loudoun Times-Mirror for relieving
me of other duties in the throes of the publication, with an impeccable
intuition of my breaking point; Crystal Owens for copyediting the entire issue
and reading my many rewrites; Rosemary Felton, Advertising Manager, for leading
an exceptional advertising team that gave NOVAEXEC one of the most beautiful
back page ads I’ve ever seen; Bev Denny, Chief Photographer, for telling our
stories visually and Meredith Hancock, Art Director, for illustrating and
designing a dynamic print edition.

Don’t buy Starbucks’ green tea latte

Photo Courtesy/Starbucks

It was that time again – that 2:30 p.m. feeling when a journalist’s dealine
is looming and she just can’t push herself to write anymore another article on
the State of Loudoun’s Real Estate. So, she headed to Starbucks to gather up
courage in the form of caffeine to write on.

During the past couple of weeks I’ve made the decision that I need to ween
myself from my three-a-day coffee cups and switch over to an afternoon of high
tea. I’ve frequented Shoe’s Cup and Cork in Leesburg many a time for a narrow,
sugar-free vanilla latte with skim milk and have always been pleased. But, I’m
getting older, and methinks, need to be kinder to my body.

So, I’ve switched to ordering green tea lattes—with skim milk, please. I was
delighted by the understated sweetness of the honey and frothy milk – not overly
done, just a hint that touches your lips and soothes your overworked soul.

I started ordering green tea lattes from java joints throughout the area and
was fully convinced that this was the best thing since espresso lattes.

That was, until, I made the mistake of ordering the drink at Starbucks.

I remember it like it was just yesterday: Three stories were down, two to go.
I headed down Market Street to the ‘Bux with a coworker and happily ordered my
drink with the comfort that the rest of the afternoon was to flow by breezily. I
would be out of the office by 7 p.m., at least.

That was until this latte landed in my lap. My first hint should have been
its color. It was actually green. I’m sorry, is this a shamrock shake
from McDonald’s? I know the name implies the color, but I’ve yet to see a green
tea that is verde.

And the taste of overdone sweetness that exploded in my mouth and
instantaneously stuck to my teeth in the form of premature cavities. Later, as I
lamented to my coworkers, they told me that Starbucks infuses their green tea
lattes with matcha-flavoring, a creamy, overly decadent eruption of flavor. I
was not pleased. So, I did what I do best: I wrote to Starbucks of my
displeasure. Here’s what I said;

Starbucks’ Green Tea Latte is not only an undesirable in taste, but it
also has a deceiving amount of calories. I have ordered numerous green tea
lattes at other coffee shops in my area and it consists of green tea and skim,
frothed milk. I had no reason to think that Starbucks would make their green tea
latte any different. Yet, when I tried my first one today, I was wholeheartedly
turned off by the matcha-flavoring that I was unaware existed in the drink until
after I purchased it. I came straight back to my office and then saw how many
calories are in this drink—a drink that I thought consisted of only tea and
milk—and was more upset. I would never recommend this drink to anyone, and in
fact would advise against it. I would appreciate a refund of this product and
also a more thorough nutrition guide of your products at the time of

Despite what their customer care department claims, they don’t really care
what their patrons think of their products because I received a deflective

Thank you for contacting Starbucks Coffee Company.
I am truly sorry
to hear about your disappointment with the Green Tea Latte.
I want you to
know that we take feedback from our loyal customers seriously. Because you know
better than anyone else what you want from Starbucks, I will share this with the
appropriate department here in our corporate office.
We have made a promise
to our customers to provide outstanding products and service.  I know that this
is a primary reason why you visit Starbucks and I understand how disappointing
it is when we let you down.
Thank you so much for giving us the opportunity
to improve what we do.
Thanks again,
Customer Relations

That was 12 days ago. Let’s see what happens after I send them the link to
this blog post. In the meantime, take heed and don’t order the green tea latte –
you’ll be blue in the face.

It’s a woman’s world

Women are taking the helm at Virginia firms more now than ever before.

The number of women-owned firms in Virginia has grown 57 percent during the
past 14 years, according to the State of Women-Owned Business Report released by
American Express last month.

The Commonwealth has approximately 206,900 women-owned companies with 205,900 employees, according to the report. The report analyzes data from 2010 released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Nationally, the number of women-owned businesses has increased 50 percent
since 1997. Virginia ranks 12th in the nation as seeing one of the greatest
increases in the number of women-owned firms in the nation. Additionally, the
revenue growth of women-owned businesses in Virginia increased 91 percent.

Below lists the trends in women-owned businesses in the Commonwealth for
every five years between 1997-2011. The 2011 are estimations.

Number of firms

2011- 206,900

Percentage increase: 57 percent


Percentage increase: 20 percent

1997- $17,486,395
2002- $22,123,426
2007- $30,272,850
Percentage increase: 91 percent


“They’ve gotta fix this problem It’s a huge problem.”

I had just answered the phone and had no idea who was on the other line. The
shaky voice belonged to Barbara Devries, an elderly woman who was trying to
contact her friend Amelia who lives at the Wingley House retirement home
apartment in Ashburn.

When Barbara called, I already knew what was happening – a man had called in
before her with the same problem, except that he heard a Chinese talk radio show
in English over his land line.

The interference and static on the line stems from the increased wattage of
the radio station formerly known as WAGE. The station now has new call letters,
WCRW at the 1190 AM dial, as well as a ten-fold increase in its wattage to
50,000 watts. The station sounds out from its three 195-foot lattice-tower AM
radio transmitters in Ashburn.

The increased wattage left many Loudoun residents in its sound wake,
including Barbara’s friend Amelia. Like Barbara and Amelia, my 98 year-old
grandma fits all of her entertainment, news and gossip from the phone line.
These women are most likely the same. The phone line is their blood line.

Thankfully, there is a solution. The ever-gracious president of New World
Radio, the station’s owner, Alan Pendleton saiid the interference is a common
issue with AM stations. But, the resolution comes from the individual
telecommunications providers that have to replace or add on a filter to quelch
the static.

The county is working on a solution and Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio, who had
not yet heard of the issue and was in a rare state of speechlessness, said he
would set out to get a solution right away.

Barbara has a theory, “Instead of all these smartphones, I think we should go
back to smoke signals.”

In the meantime, if you’re having interefence, don’t hesitate to call me,
your local statictician.

Read the story below:

Radio station causes static for some residents

I be bloggin’ it

It’s time for a big announcement: I’ve somehow been chosen to be a part of a
blogging panel at the Loudoun Small Business Development Center’s Building
Business Together event this Thursday.

I guess you’re wondering why I’ve been chosen to be on a blogging panel
that’s supposed to help small businesses in the county make a name for
themselves. I am, too. I’ve only ever blogged about myself and at my creative
whim, that’s why when I started “Backstory” I gave it the tagline “a
behind-the-scenes look at a writer’s personal and professional life…” This
leaves room to write about anything. And I have written about anything and
everything and sometimes I’ve written nothing at all.

I often tell people that the last thing I want to do when I come home after
writing articles all day is to write more. But the truth is blogging gives me a
creative outlet that I wouldn’t otherwise have. I’m accountable to my readers,
so I must update, and I am beholden to entertain them, so I’m constantly
thinking about what to write. That’s all there it is to it for me (besides
documenting my days for a future novel.) So, this now makes me an expert

So, when the LSBDC called to ask if I would participate, I was taken a back
as much as I was delighted. What do I have to say to would-be writers about
blogging? I’m not promoting any business or product but myself.

That’s the first thing I’ll be discussing. I will tell businesses NOT to tout
a product because your audience can see right through it. People don’t read
blogs for advertising, they read it for information and entertainment.

My boss always says that I’m his “lede girl.” In newspaper speak, this means
that the writer successfully grabs the reader’s attention with the first few
sentences. This is also important for bloggers: Grab them with a catchy headline
and first paragraph and you’ll have their attention at least through the next

“I have nothing to say.” The people who say this to me during interviews are
often the most interesting. Why? Because they’re more interested in living than
filling their resumes with what they think people want them to. Write about your
day-to-day work with passion—the readers will come.

Don’t answer the obvious: Don’t sell your company’s services, teach people
what your industry’s best practices are and look to answer your consumers most
common questions.

Want to learn more? Come see me this week at George Washington University.

For him the bell tolls

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich
man to enter the kingdom of God.”

Since I’m penniless, I’m pretty sure I’ll be getting in to heaven. But, just
to be safe, I go to church as often as I can especially on major holidays like
Easter. I drove to Round Hill today to pick up my mom and we headed to
Purcellville Baptist Church. Today’s sermon was about Jesus, of course, and how
many eye witnesses were at his death and resurrection.

I learned something new today: According to Jewish law, there must be two
eyewitnesses to testify to any event for it to be deemed valid. Of course, a
crowd was present at Jesus’ crucifixion, but only two women were there when
Jesus rose from the dead – his mother, Mary and Mary Magdalene.

Two women were also witness to the near-ruin of the James family’s
celebration of Jesus’ resurrection – Hannah Hager and her mother, Linda James.
My aunt, Roberta, came running from her house during a downpour of rain, losing
hold of two, coconut cream pies before they landed face down in the gravel
driveway. The pie’s demise happened in tandem with the misplacement of a shoe,
the collapse of a curled coif and the loss of jack russell terrier that was
later returned by a neighbor.

Coconut jelly bean cake ... yum

“I’m going to write a book about this and I better make a million frickin’
dollars!” she screamed when she finally settled in the car.

Turns out, the terrycloth that was meant to protect the pies from the wind
instead protected them from the gravel. Otherwise, a family of 18 would have
been eating rocks for dessert.

The rain persisted on and off and up until the day’s closing bell. As my 98
year-old grandmother stood waiting for her son to unlock his car with nothing
but a yellow envelope covering her head, my boyfriend rushed to escort her back
inside with an umbrella.

Grandma is rescued from a totally rain out.

I began to wonder if God counts those riches that
aren’t weighted in gold. If so, my entry into heaven may not be written in


Yogi bear

She’ll be comin’ around the TV when she comes. She’ll be returning to the DVR
when she comes … The Loudoun Times-Mirror’s Health and Beauty special section
is right around the corner and I’ve been assigned with writing an article on
yoga. Videographer Matt Vecchio, who is heading the publication, at first tried
to enlist me into a 6 a.m. woman’s boot camp in Ashburn for a few weeks … a
waking time pre-7:45 a.m. is not of my world. I’ve never been to a boot camp,
but I’m pretty sure it’s not the high-heeled kind. I passed. Instead, I offered
to write about yoga.

He thinks I’m going to call yoga studios and quote bikram pros. But what I’m
really going to do is write a first-person account about the heftiness of my own
body weight.

I’ve been an avid runner for more than seven years now—and it shows, if I do
say so myself. When you have that kind of record, it doesn’t occur to you that a
“sport” involving extreme stretching would be too hard. My sister first pressed
me to join her for a yoga class at the now-shuttered Leesburg Gold’s Gym. In
that first session and during my second downward-facing dog, my clammy hands
were slipping on my relaxation mat and my thighs were shaking from the heft of
my bum. This was success. A great, group workout that wasn’t utterly
embarrassing to admit to participating in—like Zumba and Jazzercise.

Yoga is about combining mind, body and soul.

I became a fanatic and attended classes with my sister three times a week. A
few months later, I grew bored of the Gold’s teachers’ monotonous routines. Tree
pose, downward-facing dog, up-dog, repeat. I didn’t see any change to my muscle
tone or in my weight scale number and finally gave it up claiming routine

Fast forward one year and I fell out of love with the treadmill. Call it the
seven year itch. So, I decided to return to my old mistress, yoga. Last night, I
put on a 30-minute yoga sculpt routine on the DVR and found myself once again
shaking in my bones. It was pathetic how far I’d regressed in my yoga journey. I
could barely touch my toes, much less climb into the tree pose without falling –
some yogi bear I am. Despite my growling, hungry stomach and my tired muscles,
my mind was reinvigorated. With one free, On Demand video I have returned to the
meditation camp. Isn’t that much more interesting to you, readers? The prodigal
daughter of Yogi returning home.