"There's no place like home. . . there's no place like home. . . there's no place like home." Home for The Belt Team is Vienna, Virginia. Please stop by frequently and share with us all the things about life in Vienna that make Vienna truly the best place to live.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011


In 2009, I got a crazy idea that I wanted to write a blog. I've lived in Vienna since 1972 and I am passionate about the town I live in and the people that share this town with me. I grew up here. I raised my family here. And one day I hope to retire here. I'm also part of the #1 Real Estate Team in Vienna (The Belt Team - Keller Williams Realty) and I thought it might be a great way to share our wonderful community with folks who are moving here from other parts of the country.

Ninety posts later, it's June 2011. I've written about Vienna history, Vienna sports, Vienna real estate, Vienna entertainment, Vienna restaurants, "good deeds" that Vienna residents have done and more. Each time I write, it comes from the heart.

So today I must take this opportunity to write to you again from my heart - but this time about something much more important than dining or sledding or sports.

Last night, I attended a Mass & Prayer Service that was held at Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church in Vienna. In case you haven't caught the local news recently, a well loved member of our community has gone missing. And last night the community gathered to pray for his safe return.

TOM DUESTERHAUS (Photo Credit: Bishop O'Connell High School Web Site)

Tom Duesterhaus is a Vienna native. Like me, he graduated from Bishop O'Connell High School and then from The College of William & Mary. But instead of going into business, Tom went on to a life of service and youth ministry - both as a teacher at O'Connell and as a consecrated lay member of Youth Apostles. (If you're not familiar with Youth Apostles, you can read more here. I can tell you from personal experience that my family has been blessed many times over by the involvement of various Youth Apostles in our lives & community.)

The Arlington Catholic Herald profiled Tom earlier this year. If you ask Tom, he'd probably say that he's just a "regular guy doing what he's called to do". But the outpouring of pain & love that has come from his disappearance tells me otherwise. He has had a profound effect on those he loves & serves.

Tom was last heard from on Friday, June 17th. He was scheduled to start a retreat the following Monday  and was spotted taking a swim in Virginia Beach on Saturday, June 18th. A bag of personal items was found abandoned on the beach. However, his car, car keys & credit card (which has not been used) have not been found. Nor has Tom. The police do not believe he drowned and say there is no evidence of foul play or criminal activity. But they are worried about Tom's safety. Tom apparently received bad news on Friday that his teaching contract at O'Connell was not being renewed and family members believe this could have led to Tom's disappearance. He's now been gone for 12 days.

As I walked into the church for last night's service - the skies were dark & threatening. Thunder rolled and raindrops began to fall. It was truly a reflection of the emotions swirling in the air. Imagine if your son, your brother, your friend, your beloved teacher just disappeared - almost into thin air. I don't know Tom personally, I went to school with his sister, but like many others in the church - I came to support this family in prayer. That's what community is all about.

As I entered the church and shook off the rain, I was immediately greeted with an embrace from a friend I had not seen in a while. No words were exchanged and no words were needed. Hearts all around were heavy.

And then I entered the sanctuary. The dark skies were replaced by light. And as the sound of thunder faded I realized that a harp was being played. It was a most incredibly peaceful and beautiful sound - somehow very comforting. And I settled into my pew and poured my heart out to God.

Mass began. And as Father Jack put it so perfectly, it was a "refuge" for all those gathered. Vienna Patch has some of the moments on video, the Arlington Catholic Herald captured it beautifully, and as Dante Gil-Alvarado commented on Facebook: "Prayer service for Tom was uplifting and reassuring. Father Jack's gentle spirit and trust in God's love gave us all peaceful hearts."

Near the end of the Mass, Tom's father, Rich Duesterhaus, got up to speak. In a gentle voice, he asked for prayers for Tom's safe return. And he thanked the community, the police & the press for their support. He pointed out that this is not a "manhunt" for Tom and that Tom may just need time away to reflect and "that's ok". His manner was gentle, loving and accepting - but with an unspoken yearning to have his son home. But he was not without trust in God or hope.

Mr. Duesterhaus concluded by saying that he would welcome a report from Tom or someone close to him that "all is well". And that is where YOU come in!

Please pass the information below* on to everyone you know - regardless of what part of the country they are in. We need YOUR eyes and ears. You may think it's a long shot, but YOU NEVER KNOW! (Up-to-date info, including a Missing Person poster that can be downloaded can be found at http://tom.duesterhaus.net/ )

As I left the church after Mass, this is the sight that greeted me. I believe it was a sign of HOPE sent especially from Our Lord to Tom & his family & friends.


After Tom's disappearance, Father Jack Peterson happened to walk by the door to Tom's room at the house and he noticed something he had not noticed before - there was a Scripture reading posted on the door. This is what it said:

Please join in prayer for the safe return of Tom Duesterhaus.

*Here is the information from the Fairfax County Missing Person poster:

On June 17, 2011, Thomas Duesterhaus voluntarily left his residence in McLean, Virginia. Mr. Duesterhaus was distraught and there is concern for his wellbeing. Mr. Duesterhaus may be operating his 1999 blue Buick LeSabre bearing Virginia registration XMT-8126. Mr. Duesterhaus may be in the Virginia Beach area. Mr. Duesterhaus has been known to frequent parks and shelters. Mr. Duesterhaus and his vehicle have been entered into NCIC. White Male, 37 years old, 6 feet 3 inches, 190 pounds, blonde hair, green eyes. Anyone with information pertaining to the whereabouts of Thomas Duesterhaus is asked to contact Detective Chris Flanagan at 703-246-7860 or the Fairfax County Police at 703-691-2131 or Crime Solvers at 1-866-411-TIPS.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Passion, Perspective & Perfection

One of the things I love about living in Vienna is the passion people bring to whatever they are doing. Whether it's gardening, sports, work, raising money for charity - whatever it is that they are involved with, they give it 110%.

If you have followed our blog regularly, then you know one of our passions is baseball. We've written about Yeonas Park, Warhawk baseball, "Small Town Baseball & Big City Dreams" & more. And so this week, we have the final wrap up about Madison High School's baseball season. It's written by one of those Vienna folks I love - someone who is passionate about baseball, but more importantly who is passionate about his family.

Dave Graham (father of Madison baseball player Jonny Graham) retired several years ago and is a fixture at the Madison High School baseball games. At the home games, you'll find him right behind home plate - with scorebook in hand and taking notes for the post-game write ups he does after each game. Being a scorekeeper myself, I enjoy sitting with him and discussing the game as it plays out - hit or error, good call or bad, did you mark that as a double or a single advanced to second on an error?

But really as we sit and watch the games, I find that I am learning about much more than baseball from him. I'm learning about more important things - love, sacrifice, priorities, faith in action. I can't share all of that with you here - but I have definitely been given a gift by watching this man and the devotion he has for God, his wife & 4 children and how he lives out his faith & love through action. When you read his post below, you'll get a glimpse of what I'm talking about. Because for Dave, it's about passion, perspective & perfection.

The Madison season is over, but if you get a chance to come to a game next year, you just might want to pull up a chair behind home plate next to Dave Graham. You never know what gift he may give you.

Here's Dave Graham's season wrap up:


The title to last year’s epilogue was “A Season to Savor…and Build On.” You will note that this year’s title is similar. Some may not feel like savoring this season, at least not yet, which is why the “(Really)” was added.

So much of life is driven by how we choose to view things. Is the glass half empty or half full? Chuck Swindoll captured it by saying that life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it. The season recap is an opportunity to put that philosophy into action. The epilogue is a challenge because unless the team wins a State championship, the season ends on a losing note. Often our impression of something is heavily influenced by our most recent experience. Will we let a season ending loss color our perception of the whole year?

Those that choose to think the glass is half empty would say that we didn’t do any better this year than last year. While we won three more games in 2011 than 2010, those additional victories came in a Spring break tournament that was tough but not as tough as the one we went to last year. Last year we finished second in the Liberty District regular season while this year we tied for the second best record and were the third seed due to the tie breaker. Last year we could blame our loss in the ultimate game on a freak injury that sidelined our best pitcher. It is a much bigger stretch to blame this year’s loss on a freak rainstorm that lasted for twelve pitches. Finally, at least last year our season ended with a loss to the eventual State champion. This year the team that beat us lost in the State championship game.

The glass is half full argument is much more compelling. Nineteen wins was the most since 2007. This team repeated as champion of the Liberty District tournament. How many teams have done that in the last fifteen years? Other than Madison, none. This year we were one of four teams in the Northern Region who were still playing in June. How many Northern Region were not playing in June? Twenty six. How many of the four teams in last year’s Northern Region semifinals made it back to the semifinals this year? Two, Madison and Lake Braddock. Ironically, the teams that lost in the semifinals this year (Madison and Stone Bridge) eliminated the teams that played for the championship last year (West Springfield and Woodson).

So, to dismiss this year’s accomplishments by saying that we didn’t do any better than last year ignores how hard it is to win a Liberty District championship and get to the Northern Region semifinals once, let alone in back to back seasons. The last loss was disappointing but we can’t allow it to cloud that fact that we had a great year.

We have to admit that we lost to a better team. We could have beaten them but we would have had to be perfect, or at least near perfect. Imagine trying to recap the season for South County. After ending our boys’ season they went on to win three more games and stood on the brink of matching Madison for the only perfect season in State history. Then one of their key players got hurt in the semifinals and couldn’t pitch in the next game. Sound familiar? His replacement pitched well but the team lost in the championship game to finish 28-1. One game short of perfection. Such a great season and yet so much disappointment at the end. What would you say to them?

I would ask them how they define perfection. And then I would refer them to the movie “Friday Night Lights” which tells the true story of a team that lost the 1988 Texas high school football championship game. Several times in that movie, the head coach challenges his players to “be perfect.” The first time I watched the movie I thought that was an unrealistic burden to put on a team. At halftime of the championship game, he finally explains to his team what being perfect means:

Being perfect is not about that scoreboard out there. It's not about winning. It's about you and your relationship with yourself, your family and your friends. Being perfect is about being able to look your friends in the eye and know that you didn’t let them down because you told them the truth. And that truth is that you did everything you could. There wasn’t one more thing you could've done. Can you live in that moment as best you can, with clear eyes, and love in your heart, with joy in your heart? If you can do that gentlemen, you're perfect.”

Wow. I can’t speak for the Stallions but I think it is possible that the Warhawks just completed a perfect season.

In the final analysis, it is silly to compare one year to the next when every year you have to replace the seniors that graduated. Thanks to the “program” at Madison, tradition doesn’t graduate but the young men that lead the program do and a new group of leaders must step up. That is no small task but this year’s seniors were up to the challenge. Now we have to say goodbye to these young men.

Once again, as I reflect on those who leave us after this season, I find it is a matter of perspective. My own perspective is heavily influenced by my son’s. His first two years in the program, it was natural for him to view the seniors almost with reverence. He was an underclassman and they were so much older and more experienced. To him, the seniors the last two years were his mentors.

This year’s seniors were not so much mentors to my son as they were something perhaps even more significant. They were brothers. One has been a neighbor almost his entire life and was a teammate in A and AA baseball. He played on a fourth grade VYI basketball team with another. A third was a teammate on a championship AAA team. Four were teammates on Colonial Division All Star teams. One was a teammate and roommate on a memorable trip to Cooperstown. Most important, all of them have been fellow Warhawks for two or three years.

Make no mistake about it, the Class of 2011---Austin Chute, Joe Corrigan, Ryan Corrigan, Eli Facenda, Gavin Gibbons, Jay Kenyon, Justin Nicholls, Ben Powers and Alex Tyroler---were leaders. They may not have been as vocal as the seniors the last couple of years but they knew how to lead by example. They were a blue collar bunch that brought their lunch buckets and hard hats to the ball field every day. This was a group that worked hard, was resilient and knew how to persevere through adversity. One caught bullpens for an entire year before becoming a starter his junior year. Another spent most of his high school career rehabbing from major surgery. Three others endured significant injuries that derailed part if not all of their junior season. For many the bell on significant playing time didn’t ring until their senior year but when it did they answered it in a big way.

Their leadership was instrumental in a season that saw us win a dozen times despite trailing at some point in the game. Six times we trailed when coming to bat in the fifth inning or later yet pulled out a “W.” The season also saw the seniors lead us into extra innings three times. All of those games were decided by one run in the eighth and after losing the first to Stone Bridge, we defeated the host team of the Hanahan Invitational Tournament and we beat McLean in the District semifinals. Then there was the one run victory over Langley in the District finals and the dramatic rallies to overtake Yorktown and put us in the Region semifinals. This team reflected the resiliency of its seniors and as a result knew how to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Our seniors led us well and we will miss them.

I started out by saying that so much of life depends on your perspective. Of course, your perspective is influenced by your expectations and as we look to next year, we expect great things. Next year’s team will return more experienced, accomplished players than any team in the last five years. Certainly they have aptitude, achievement and talent. If anybody thinks that alone can guarantee a championship, check out who won the NBA Finals. Can next year’s leaders infuse the attitude, effort and character that this year’s seniors brought to the team? If so, perhaps next year we will advance at least one step further on the long hard road to glory. The first step on the 2012 journey begins the day after the 2011 Varsity Awards Night. Be perfect, boys.