January 3rd, 2016

Happy New Year!

I hope that 2015 was kind to you, and that you will enjoy 2016 even more. It is a presidential election year, so it will inevitably have its ups and downs.

I realize that those people who do New Year's Resolutions have already picked theirs and that most people don't do them -- honestly, given the dropout rate along about mid February, I question the wisdom of expending the energy. However, I find it very useful at the turning of the year to think about how I can adjust my habits and life patterns to better reflect my values. One of my all time favorites -- back before I had kids -- was to get better at level changes (this is a martial arts thing and very, very nerdy).

My husband has always emphasized the importance of kindness, and it is one of the many values he holds close that I have absorbed in my time with him. As a practical matter, however, there are many, many ways to express kindness. This year, I would like to better understand the idea of validation, how it differs from agreeing with someone or even supporting their goals. I want to get better at really listening to people express their lived experience, their feelings and their desires, and doing my very best to create relationships in which people feel that their experiences, feelings and desires are heard and respected. I believe that it is not necessary to suspend judgment -- much less change judgment -- in order to do this, but judgement can make us lazy, short circuiting the important relationship work of listening.

I hope that at this moment between the past and the future, you find something in the present of value to bring forward with you in your journey.

Trip Report: Road Trip to the District

On December 24, we drove all the way across the megalopolis to northern Virginia.


My sister lives in northern Virginia. We did not stay with my sister, because (a) we want to maintain a loving relationship and (b) her family has a cat. Instead, we stayed in a Homewood Suites in Falls Church. It looked very convenient, at an intersection of 495, 66, 50, etc. and indeed it was.

This hotel is located between a mixed use area called The Mosaic District. The Four Sisters is a Vietnamese restaurant in The Mosaic District, and if you ever get the chance, you should try it out. It is incredibly good. It is on the way to the Target from the hotel, and sits on the top floor of a parking garage. I have to say that having spent a week at close walking distance to a Target, should I find myself moving again I'm gonna make it a criteria. Because that was hella convenient, particularly since that one has a grocery store. Art supplies, DVDs, clothes ... all a short walk away, meeting the minimum acceptable bar and for cheap. Wow.

The restaurant in the parking lot of the hotel is a Silver Diner. My sister and I both (probably independently) remember this chain from years ago, however, it bears no obvious resemblance now to what we experienced then. The Diner of the Future has gone all flexitarian, with local farm produce suppliers, vegan options, etc. Weird. Pretty good. I liked the flounder, but the burgers, egg breakfasts, grilled cheese, mac and cheese, etc. all seemed to please people.

We spent a fair amount of time at my sister's house hanging out. My sister and I walked a lot. The kids scootered in the driveway and we went to a local park a few times. We played on our electronic devices. The kids drew. My sister's not-mother-in-law was visiting, and my mother-in-law was as well. Since no one was really in a position to host a full on Xmas dinner, we all went to the Tyson's Corner Ruth's Chris Steak House for dinner on December 25. This was a surprisingly successful choice, feeling actually kinda like a home dinner in that we shared all the sides. It was very not like a typical Xmas dinner, in that we all had steak or prime rib, but no one complained about that! As always, Ruth's Chris is very accommodating of allergies and dietary constraints. Decent wine list -- we got a willamette valley pinot noir altho I've already forgotten the name.

We spent parts of 4 days in the District touring monuments and some museums. Because the kids' ages range from 7-11, and because most/all of them have spectrum diagnoses, we did not make a real effort to spent time in museums. We did go to the spy museum, where the older girls really enjoyed themselves and my kids liked crawling through the duct work. My side went to the Reynolds' Center and looked at portraits and sculptures.

The balance of the time was spent walking around the mall and basin. We did the Old Town Trolley one day, and spent a little time in Ford's Theatre altho something caused an evacuation (which was just as well because my kids were being completely unreasonable). We also did the Arlington National Cemetery Tour, mostly just stayed on the bus (we did walk up to the Kennedy flame, but did not do the changing of the guard -- my kids and sister stayed home that day and it's just as well).

My son really liked the Lincoln memorial (don't ask me why -- he just said it was his favorite and insisted on going back a couple times). We were unable to get tickets to go up the Washington Monument during our stay, because I didn't plan ahead.

I had dinner with friends who I used to work with. It was interesting to hear what is going on at places like the VA, IRS, CMS, etc. from people who are part of a group trying to improve things or at least deal with crises (I hadn't even heard about the Visa thing). I'll probably spend the next week obsessed with the demographic problem of en masse boomer programmers retiring and leaving enormous, critical code bases behind that are difficult to maintain and almost impossible to transition.

The kids were awesome on the drive both ways. I really enjoyed visiting my sister's family (we usually see each other at the Cape and in Florida, so this was a nice bonus). I doubt we'll get back next year, but hopefully we'll be able to go back in a couple years and see a little more.

Oh, we drove back on Saturday.