on the value of saying yes

Tomorrow is December 1.  It seems improbable that we are almost at the end of 2016.  This year – for all of us – has been characterized by extremes.   Extreme highs – the joy of watching the US olympic team bring home gold – and extreme lows – the polarization of the national election.

For us too as a family, we struggled with extreme highs and extreme lows.  I was so sad to move from our home in northern Virginia to Texas – a state so totally unfamiliar.  A place that – for me – evoked foreign images of cowboys, guns and country music.   But we also rose to that challenge as a family, and with that, comes happiness.  It may have taken three-quarters of a year, but we resettled and are grateful.  In the end, experiencing the joy of a new place, a new adventure, and new beginnings.

I’ve reflected quite a bit on what makes the difference between the highs and the lows this year.  How do we make a good situation out of a bad one?  How do I make a happy life in Texas when I didn’t want to move here? How do we change the game, when we don’t like the hand we have been given?  How do we swim upstream in a culture or community that we perceive as antithetical to our own thinking?  How do we figure out how to mend the wounds of our country’s political divide when all we want to do is tune out?

For my life, it came in a pretty simple answer.  I resolved to say yes.  Yes to questioning all my assumptions about Texas.  Yes to trying new experiences, even if they would result in failure or make me super uncomfortable (both happened).  Yes to meeting new people, even if they weren’t quite like our friends back home.  Yes to getting more help with the kids, even though I was certain I could do it on my own.  Yes to moving forward and trying things out.   Yes to cowboy hats and jeans, huge highways, mutton busting, bible-study, monogramming and yard signs.

And here is the thing.  When I said yes, things got a lot better.  This fall, when I opened myself up to the possibility of new ideas – of new experiences – I started to like Texas.  I may not ever be a true Houstonian, but I can appreciate this large red state for what it brings to the table.   And I sure am happier.

So – if at the end of 2016 – all you want to do is curl up and tune out, I understand.  I felt like that in the middle of 2016.  But maybe now is the time to start listening, to meet people outside of your comfort zone, and question your own assumptions.  I assumed Houston would be full of cowboys.  I was really wrong.

If you felt blindsided by this year, and especially this election (as I did), my advice is to say yes.  To listen, to hear and to try to understand – and maybe we have a chance at bridging the extremes in 2017.

Advertisements

the failure of news and why my father thinks we are stranded

A few days ago my mother sent me a text: Urgent. Your father is convinced you are stranded.  He wants to help you evacuate you from Houston.  Please call.

I smiled, and later that morning took a picture of the picture blue sky outside my front door and the dry driveway.  All is well.  I wrote. Tell dad to stop watching the news.

Don’t get me wrong.  We have had more than our fair share of rain and flooding this year.  It’s a serious problem down here.  Thankfully, even with the 1 in 500 year floods we have had (twice in the last month), our house has weathered just fine.  It’s true outside of Houston, the rivers are higher than they have ever been and some communities next to the rivers are in danger, but that is far from our enclave in the center of the city.

all dry

don’t send a plane. we are all dry.

However, if you were to watch any of the national news programs, you (like my dad) may be inclined to think Houston was sinking into the Gulf  from all the flooding.   And aside from the dramatization of the flooding; more and more of the nightly news is devoted to yearly United States weather patterns.  A tornado hit a town in Kansas.  A flood in Texas.  A drought in California.  You get the picture.   Is this really all we, as news-consuming citizens, care about?  Weather, and US politics?   The news has become a predictable cycle of local weather stories and political pandering.

All of this may not be so bad, despite the fact there is newsworthy information all around us that rarely hits our TV.  Venezuela – one of the world’s largest exporters of oil – is becoming a failed state.   It’s economy is collapsing and US TV news has told us virtually nothing about it.   The 2016 olympics start in two months; and they have been dubbed the “Zika Olympics“.  South Korea’s team are going to be wearing mosquito-proof uniforms.   And then all those Olympians will travel back across the world; back to their home countries.  How risky is this?  Is this not newsworthy (and bizarre)?  And have you heard the word “Brexit”?  The British are looking to possibly exit the EU.  This is big news for Europeans who live in Britain, and speaks to the greater feeling about the anxiety over immigration into Europe.  The same anxiety many Americans feel right here at home.   Isn’t our closest ally newsworthy?

You could argue that TV is not where you get quality news programing.  Print news (and some new media – such as The Atlantic) do a far better job reporting than the rating-driven TV news.  And that’s true.  If you want to get real news, it’s in print, or online.  Not on TV.  But should that be the case when the majority of Americans still get their news from the Television?  At the end of the day, I still like to sit down and watch the headlines on TV.   And I’d like to trust I’m getting the HEADLINES.  But I don’t, and that’s a problem.

American TV news is failing consumers.   And not just because it references social media posts as facts, or quotes random people as if they are experts.    The weather may be important if newscasters are trying to make a larger point regarding climate change; or if many lives are truly in danger.   But by spending so much time covering stories like the rain in Houston, we are only failing ourselves.

And don’t worry dad, really, no evacuation necessary. 

 

 

 

well, hello, from Texas.

Well, Hello.  From Texas.

Boy. I never thought I would write that phrase.  But hello.  From Houston, Texas.

We have arrived in our new home. All six of us have survived the journey from Washington, DC to Houston, Texas. Intact. Exhausted. Excited. Sad. and Ready.

But this blog isn’t about Texas. This blog is about getting to Texas. Literally. Getting here with two adults, three kids and a dog.   Has no one on earth ever travelled with three kids and a dog before?  That thought crossed my mind a few times when I tried to book an above average (say better than Motel 6 Hotel) for our cross-country road trip for four days.  I sat down at my computer, pulled up my ever trusty tripadvisor.com and typed in each city we would be staying in (Knoxville, Birmingham, Baton rouge and Houston).  Granted, these aren’t huge metropolises, but I thought we would be able to find a decent array of accommodations to choose from.  Then I had to check the number of persons boxes (number is five) and amenities (pets allowed).  Well, our vast array of choices went down to a small handful (if that).

Now, I’ll caveat this by saying I am a bit of a hotel snob.  I have a few criteria by which I judge hotels.

#1) The last time it was renovated.  If it has that carpet. You know that kind. The one that smells like the 70s. It’s not the hotel for me.

#2)  It doesn’t offer free conditioner.  Maybe this is a small thing to all the men out there; but I don’t know a woman who doesn’t use conditioner.  And all-in-one shampoo conditioner doesn’t count.  I need to brush my hair the next day.

#3) It has one bed in one room.  I’m sorry but my 5-person-family can’t fit in one bed in one room.  Even if we put the baby in the closet (and I’m not above that) we still can’t do it.  We need space.  And not the living-room or kitchen type space.  We need the bed-type space.

So, even with my above average hotel snobbery, it was tough to find hotels between Washington, DC and Houston, Texas.  It was mostly due to the dog/large family combo.  I’m sure if we had one or the other, it would have been easier.  But the dual whammy made it trickier.  Luckily the Homewood Suites in each city came to our rescue.  And my personal hotel diva got a touch of her inner love in Houston at Hotel Zaza (which, if you are ever in Houston, is absolutely, positively worth a visit).

Zaza

Hotel Zaza view of Houston (kid and pet friendly)

I guess what I’m saying is I get why Airbnb is so popular.  Hotel people, get with the program.

 

 

 

texas

In January of the new year our family is moving to Houston, Texas.  So, in the interest of fair and balanced blogging, I’m going to start this blog on a uber-positive note by identifying three positive things about Houston.

  1. No snow
  2. Good food (I do like Tex-Mex)
  3. Nice people (they have to be better than DC politicians)

Now I’m going to get real.  Since the idea of moving to Texas has completely shaken me to my core.  I’ve spent countless weeks on an emotional roller coaster, with random useless (and obviously ridiculous) thoughts going through my head.  How will I make a life for us?  I vehemently dislike Ted Cruz.  I’m for Gun Control.  I’m Pro-choice.  Where will I find my people?

Texas

When J. transitioned from active duty military three years ago, the job he took was located in Houston, Texas.    We chose Arlington, VA for our family.  My family lives here; I grew up here; and simply put – this area of the country is pretty darn awesome.  Yes, there is a high cost of living, but schools are great, neighborhoods are walkable, climate is mild, and you have all the cultural/sports/newsy etc. benefits of Washington DC.   We wanted to raise our kids here.

So this meant for the last three years, J. has been commuting to Texas.  And that has sucked.  For all of us.  The kids have taken notice; I’m tired of being an only parent during the week; and J. is tired of Hilton hotels.   We originally figured that the commuting job was better than a deployment, but in terms of quality of life, that wasn’t exactly a high bar.

For better or worse, we have decided three years is all we can manage.  So we made the collective decision that it’s in the best interest of the family to move to Houston.

In some ways, we have moved so often, another move to another city seems almost routine.  Generic, even.  It’s an adventure (we like adventure, right?) And in other ways, with the intentionality that we set to establish our home in Arlington, VA, this move is the hardest of all.  It is hard for the three kids, the dog, and a home in our name.  And it’s super hard for me.

Moving itself is hard.   Moving always forces me out of my comfortable habitat.  My friends, my home, my community, and my touchstones.  Although I love adventure, I’m also a creature of habitat and I like the safe and familiar. I like my daughters’ school. I like my local Starbucks.  I like knowing where the best grocery store is, and where my favorite park with the perfect swing is.

I also like to be in control.  Of everything.  Transitions, and moving, are about learning to accept being out of control.  Moves are chaotic, and my ability to surrender to that chaos is supremely tested.  And remembering that chaos is normal, and (with enough checklists to keep me occupied), I will be fine.  I will be fine.  I will be fine.

It’s a hard lesson to accept.   For me.  For all of us going through life transitions.

So Texas, we are coming for you, and I will learn to like you.  I know it. I will be fine.