Tuesday, October 16, 2012

3 Months Into The FS: Life in Northern VA/DC

Who could use a fun a post? Me!!!!

Here are a few rambling thoughts on life in the DC/Northern Virginia area:

Note- we are three months in to our new digs. We are growing in our understanding of life as a FS family. We are learning oh so much about politics and how well respected professions can get thrown under the bus (oops! did I say that???) when the blame game starts and how incredibly difficult it is to not blast our opinions all over the usual social media sites. But, today- I am choosing to focus on the lighter side and going to do my usual public relations bit. I love having the chance to welcome the next round of A-100 families to the area and give friends and family all over the place a little insight how interesting life is in Northern Virginia.

These are a few of the things we do here-

Spend money

Ex. Just today at Westover Farmer's Market- Paid $21 at the Number ONE Sons stand for the BEST mustard sauerkraut, cumin carrots and pretty darn good (but not exactly Mexican) salsa verde! It's pricey but who can resist sauerkraut or Farmer's Markets?

 Since moving here our grocery bill has at least doubled. We are not eating more. We are not eating out that much. We are not eating fancier food (unless by fancy you would include home grown stuff from farmer's markets). Nope... same stuff, lesser quality (veggies and fruits especially) and at least doubled in price. Except for Trader Joe's which is my absolute favorite place to shop at when HEB isn't close by.

Miss exits

You get ONE shot. Seriously. Only one notice. One! And the sign seems to appear about a 1/4 mile before the exit comes up so you best stay calm and in the center lane as much as possible. There is no feeder road for chickens like me. I don't know if that is just a Texas thing but I used feeder roads when I didn't know for sure where I was going. So, pretend you've missed your exit, if you are me you are thinking... "I'll just take the next exit and loop back".  Right? Well, Good luck! The truth is you can do that but if you do you can add 30 mins to your driving time. Best thing is to map out everything you can before you leave the house and compare the computer map with your drive thing on your phone/gps. BTW- the traffic here isn't that bad, or not by my experience. It's like any big city that is in a hurry.

Discover funky urban corners

We've found a few. Adam's Morgan and 18th was a welcome departure from the federal formality and marbled floors that are so common here. We were invited to go to this really good Ethiopian food restaurant on 18th but just hanging out in the neighborhood was worth the time it took for us to find parking. If you are coming to DC you must go to Adam's Morgan- if you enjoy life a little more on the casual side. The bright colors and fun stuff appeared a few turns after an extremely upscale area. It was like entering a whole new world. Adam's Morgan has an Austin/6th street vibe- minus the cool music. Think - hemp rope hooka joints, ethnic home cooking/spices, roof top bars, New York pizza stands and roasted coffee shops all piled up in an urban potpourri of sweaty humanity. Don't expect customer service or anything, and I'd bring cash, but you should make this spot a bucket list DC thing. You'll get an evening's worth of entertainment from just strolling up and down the streets.

Wait for the Orange Line

I love the freedom of taking my Metro Pass card and slapping it down on that screen thing as I get my turn in the pass through. I proudly blend in when I'm tromping down the broken escalator steps (on the left side- because I'm moving quick like a local nowadays) to the variously colored veins and arteries of life here in the DC area. Lately though, the Orange Line has seen some construction delays and it can take a while to see my "Vienna" pop up on the screen. It's worth the wait. One day soon, they will have completed the stop at Tyson's Corner and life will be forever be retail paradise.

The subways here seem to miss out on the arts and oddities that I loved so much while visiting San Francisco and attempts to make up for that by blasting political messages that provoke me to ponder/think about what the writer of such a message really wants from me. Some just make me wonder what the world is coming to... and that begets a whole other genre of thought, which causes me to put my ipod to good use, thus once again causing me to compare Metro to the BART (name of subway in SF). I so miss that dude with the dreds and a saxophone!

Eat amazing food

Well known among close friends is that our family is entirely too "food focused". We love the whole thing, especially the international stuff. We especially get a big kick out being the people who introduce friends and family to the newest or yummiest thing in foodie heaven. This place (Northern Virginia/DC), however, is doing the introducing this time, except for when it comes to Mexican food of course. Our family's favorite new find... Afghan cuisine! Who knew? The savory kabobs, the best falafel I've ever eaten-EVER, the simple but yummy rice and salads. It's fresh and the spices are just about perfect. I have big plans to learn how to cook as many of these recipes as possible before we head out to Jakarta -which naturally brings me to a point I have tried my best to avoid, both mentally and conversationally, but here it goes... I'm a bit worried about the food choices we'll have in Jakarta. Can I admit that without sounding like a white meat only-, processed foods-loving American? I'm willing to try just about anything but am cautious when it comes to meat (pretty much always the case for me-even stateside) and it seems that Indonesians like to use a little bit of meat or fish in just about every dish. This could make for a tricky food romance! In the past, when traveling outside the US, I usually go totally vegetarian. It's the safest bet for me and I almost always order the best food when I do! Who knows... maybe I will actually lose weight. That would be a welcome change!

Go hiking

I'll admit that we are not avid hikers, but Sean and I have a particular love affair with packing a backpack and heading outdoors. Only one of our kids seems to appreciate our affection for walking up hill in earthy tree filled places. Truly, one of the best things about being in this part of the country is being in close proximity to such beautiful countryside. Close by there is the popular Great Falls Park along the Potomac. But, a really big thrill for Sean and I was a recent trip to Cooper's Rock State Forest in wild wonderful West Virginia! The pictures posted here barely do it justice. Such a beautiful state and a nature lover's paradise, and only 3 and half hours away!

As young newlyweds we climbed this same hill and found some lady to take our picture. That was 21 years ago! Unfortunately, that picture but it's in storage otherwise I would share it here. This photo -being taken at this place- at this particular time in our lives is fairly symbolic for both Sean and I, not even the raindrops and fear of falling to our deaths could keep us away!

Attempt to sound out all the personalized license plates

I have no idea what the fascination is but there are plenty of DC and Virginia drivers paying extra (I assume) for personalized license plates. Honestly, I think it's great that folks care enough to entertain their traffic jam compadres with tricky riddles. You can tell these people put a lot of thought into their choices.

Here are a few "PA YO TXS", "OFR HOPE", "MMOF4", "CRE8JOBS", B8SPLYR",
my favorite... "B& aid".

I suppose personalizing your license plate offers folks a chance to express creativity and uniqueness in what is probably a very uptight, and heavily regulated work environment. Anyway, it's fun and worth noting.

Walk the dog
I'll spare our readers the grizzly details of dog duty but this routine is getting OLD for all of us- including the dog. She loved her giant yard in Laredo- it was all HERS. This mostly white, fluffy little girl kept our back yard free of all evil intruders. Mostly, her job was to chase all those darn black birds away from the tomato plants. But lately, she has to ask to go out and then has to walk down many flights of steps or wait for the elevator, and then she has to "go" where all the other dogs "go". No privacy. No running free. No birds to terrify. She's older so that helps but she's pretty cold here so the trade off is she gets to sit around in pretty doggy sweaters.


Is this idea specifically American- this far fetched expectation that our kids have to be some picture perfect "ideal" of a human? If so- pack us up and send us on to Jakarta as fast as possible! I'm not joking in the least. I'm truly disgusted. While I think the schools here are AWESOME, because they seem to be, this area of the country must have some seriously stressed out kids!
 Apparently, teenagers are supposed to have perfect grades, and play an instrument, and be outstanding at sports. They should follow social protocol (pretend to like you), self aware, politically in tune (you'd hope) and on top of current events. Their clothes are nice. They all believe that they MUST be accepted to a "top" university. They go to the gym, dermatologists, orthodontists, and church. They choose healthy foods. This is a true story, a girl at a youth group told Hannah that their family was completely fat free- to which Hannah replied "Wow, really? That sucks!" The young lady didn't laugh or smile. She just looked at Hannah, completely void of a sense of humor. Sadly, there are more stories to add to that one.
So, what's the big pay off for being able to swim upstream in this hyper competitive environment? These kids will supposedly be better at handling stress and are therefore more prepared for college life, which will lead to a good job, which will earn them lots of money or influence.. which (brace yourself...)  IS NOT ALWAYS TRUE!
Maybe I'm writing this at a really raw moment. Today I had a medical professional reaffirm what a school professional and a therapist told us earlier in the year, that most of the kids in the high schools around here have tutors, life/organizational coaches, and most will seek counseling at some point in their high school years for help dealing with the stress. A lady behind the counter at a local pharmacy told me that an inordinate amount of the people, especially high school and college students, in this neck of the woods are on some sort of anti-anxiety meds. Well... good LORD on a bicycle, I'm no M.D. but that says to me that SOMETHING is wrong! If it takes a team of helpers and a cocktail of pharmaceuticals to keep your kid in the game- get a new game!

What is going to happen to all these kids when they realize it wasn't true? That they didn't have to be perfect! When do they tell them that Santa isn't real or that they knew all along that they weren't actually good at everything? That you have limits to your abilities and that these limits are NOT bad things! This whole lie fosters a concept that they are only lovable, important, worthwhile if they are meeting these crazy pie-in-the-sky goals, if they look good on paper. And- that really, really worries me for these kids who are getting emotionally sick trying to do "their best" which is actually someone else's fantasy. What if they are flawed? Do they feel lovable, or good enough? What is going to happen to these kids if they grow up and give birth to an imperfect child? What is going to happen to them when their character and/or creativity is called upon at their job or life in general? They are being so incredibly over directed and lied to, and THAT concerns me.
This whole place makes me want to have a license plate that says, "stressuks"!

Okay, I realize I failed to produce a fun post, so here is something that might make you laugh...