You named your baby “Derecho”?

The storm that came through the DC area on Friday night has a name.  It’s called a Derecho.  I had never heard of it.  It’s described as a widespread storm in which multiple bands of strong storms packing damaging winds move hundreds of miles. According to the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center, their name comes from the Spanish word for “direct” or “straight ahead”, which is the way the storms typically move.

The heavy winds, typically upward of 60 mph (and I think we had 90 mph winds), come from downbursts in storm clouds, caused by differences in the heat and density of air within the storm systems.  There’s already a Wikipedia page for Friday’s storm and Capital Weather Gang is taking suggestions to name the historic storm. So far my favorite is Derecho en Fuego.  But, what will be very interesting is to see how many babies are born in say…..March or April who are named Derecho.  Or Derrick.  Or some other derivative of the name.

We are still without power in our neighborhood.  We went to the house yesterday as we wanted to check on things and water the outside plants since the water restriction had been lifted.  The house was stifling — 99 degrees inside.  It was starting to stink, so we emptied the remains of the refrigerator and freezer — only to discover that we’d forgotten to empty the ice maker when we left on Saturday and it had melted all over the floor.  The wood laminate floor, which will now likely sustain permanent damage.  But, that can be dealt with.

We drove around  the neighborhood a little, just amazed at the destruction.  Trees were uprooted everywhere.  Others had just snapped in two.  Some had landed on roofs and cars.  Others had miraculously not fallen on anything but the ground.  Electric lines were down everywhere.  We realized how lucky we are that the enormous tree in our backyard, which is in dire need of either cutting down or trimming back, was still standing.  A few branches had come down, but nothing had hit the house.  It made the potential damage to the kitchen floor seem like nothing.  And it is nothing in the whole scheme of things.  It might cost us some money, but that’s okay.  Our family is okay and that is the important thing.

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The power is starting to come back on, but people are growing weary and impatient.  And, I don’t blame them.  Not everyone is as lucky as we are to have a cool place to stay.  People blame the power companies.  And no…they are not perfect.  There are things that could be done to help prevent things like this, but they cost money and nobody wants to pay for them.  They also take time and people want instant gratification.  Trees could be cut back, but people fight that, too.  So there are no easy answers.

What I do know is that the crews are working hard.  Nobody is sitting in an air-conditioned room with their feet up on a desk, laughing at the misfortune of others and figuring out ways to prolong it.  And, crews are working round the clock to get the lights back on.  They’ve left their families in other states to come here — and it is a holiday week.  They are working in unbearable heat and then many of them go home to their own dark, hot houses.  Show them some respect.  If you come across them in your neighborhood, tell them thank you.  The system might be broken, but it’s not their fault.  They are hard workers, making an honest living for their families.

And in the midst of the frustration, we need to remember to take care of each other.  If your power comes back on, invite people over who you know don’t have power.  Even if you know that your friends and family without power are in a safe place, check on them anyway.  I can tell you that it’s not easy to be displaced from your home.  Just show them you care.  Be courteous on the roads.  Treat intersections without lights as four way stops.  I know this is DC, but give your horn a break for a few days.  Our nerves are all frazzled.  You’ll get where you are going, I promise.  Smile at someone today.  Even if you don’t feel like it.  They might really need it.  Actually, I know they need it.  We all need people to be kind and a little bit patient every day of the year.  A smile goes a long way, even when there isn’t a natural disaster to deal with.

And then, when the lights are all back on and our lives get back to normal….try to keep doing those things.  Just an idea.

Why yes, I did bring a suitcase to the chess tournament

My son started playing chess last year at school.  They had very good club, led by a chess master.  He learned a great deal and had enough confidence to go to a tournament that spring.  I don’t know what I expected from a chess tournament, but I was completely blown away by the experience.  This is a culture all its own.  In general, it seems entire families are involved in the game.  And it is highly competitive.  The kids are precocious and the parents are largely of the tiger-variety.  That particular tournament went on for hours.  It was pretty unorganized.  My ipad lost its charge halfway through.  I was forced to make small talk for an excruciating amount of time.  Anyone who knows me well knows that any amount of small talk is excruciating for me. I was beside myself with happiness when Jake did not win any certificates or medals and we were able to get out of there before the awards ceremony.

He joined the chess club at his middle school, but ended up dropping it because it’s run by a parent and is really just a free-for-all.  He said he didn’t really learn anything and that none of the kids really took it seriously.  We went to New York in December and happened upon the Village Chess Shop in Greenwich Village.  It’s a fabulous little shop that’s been there for over 40 years.  It’s open 24 hours a day and you pay a per hour fee to play.  I imagine it functions much like a mission, whether anyone involved really thinks of it that way, especially at 2:00am. They told us about the US Chess Center in DC and suggested we look at classes there.

The US Chess Center is fabulous.  Their primary mission is to teach chess to children, especially those in the inner city, as a means of improving their academic and social skills.  The Saturday classes draw kids from all over the DC Metro area and they hold tournaments as well.  The first tournament that we attended here was well organized, but still insane as far as some of the parents are concerned.  They don’t allow parents in the room at all and we are not allowed to lurk and look in the windows during play.  Apparently, sometimes parents will try to give their kids cues — and yes, that’s cheating.  The last thing Jake would want me doing is trying to help him in chess.  I don’t even know which direction a rook can move.  I have seen parents throw fits over whether or not their child is going to play another child with a lower rating.  I have seen parents get asked to leave because they don’t follow the rules.  I once witnessed a little boy — who could not have been more than 9 years old — get berated by his mother because he lost.  She told his that this was not how he was going to get a chess scholarship and made him call his father to explain the move that he made that lost him the game.

Yes, chess scholarship.  They have them.

So parents don’t just ruin baseball and football games.  They aren’t just crazy on “Dance Moms”.  Some parents are just crazy.  I’ve decided that there must be something missing in their lives to have so much invested in how well their children perform in competition.  (Maybe it’s the same thing that is making 50 Shades of Grey end up in the #1 spot on the best-sellers list…)  Don’t get me wrong…I don’t think there’s anything wrong with encouraging your child and cheering them on and being proud of them when they win.  But, to place the kind of pressure that I see some kids endure is doing them a disservice, I think.  I always tell Jake that you can learn more from losing than winning.

So, here I am — at another chess tournament.  I’m a total fish out of water.  But, I’ve learned to bring my ipad charger.  Today, I brought two so that I could loan it to a newbie (it’s already spoken for).  I brought snacks and drinks and I have plenty of work to catch up on.  I ended up putting it all in a rolling suitcase because I took Metro in today.  I’ve also spent enough time sitting on the floor to know that a folding camp chair is a good idea as well.  At the last minute, I wore my Life is Good that says “Smile”.  It’s a reminder to myself that this is just a game as well as a not so subtle message to others who get too worked up about this stuff.  Unfortunately, the people who should get the message are not the ones who do.

I want to point out that not *all* chess parents are like what I’ve described.  They are the ones who have laughed at my shirt.  They also are the ones I loan my ipad charger and folding chair to.


This morning, Jake had an orthodontist appointment. My plan was to drop him off at school afterward and then go home and crawl back in bed. No amount of lipstick is going to help me today. The achey, fatigued feeling I had yesterday had turned into a cough and fever. As we left the parking lot, the radio announcers were talking about the Space Shuttle Discovery which was headed toward DC to its new home at the Smithsonian. I had been looking forward to it, since my office is right on the Potomac River in Georgetown. I knew we’d have a front row seat to the show, but I’d decided to just watch it on TV. Jake asked if it would be visible from their school and I said no. “Awwwww, that’s too bad”, he said. I looked in the rear view mirror and saw him sitting there in his Nationals jersey and wearing the ballcap that he got on opening day. Taking him out of school for that was never even a question. And here we are, just a few miles from where we could view this historic last flight of the shuttle that spent almost exactly one year in space over a span of nearly three decades (according to Wikipedia, the spacecraft spent 365 days, 22 hours, 39 minutes and 29 seconds in space).

So I kept driving. This was something Jake shouldn’t miss. This the kind of thing that makes living here special. It’s the kind of thing he will remember forever, unlike whatever he was going to miss in the 2 additional hours that he’d be out of school.

As I got closer to Georgetown (I decided to park in my regular lot and walk over to the Key Bridge), I started to get really excited. This was a little surprising to me since I’ve never really been all that enamored by air and space programs. In fact, I usually try to avoid the Air and Space Museum when we have visitors that want to go there. This, by the way is pretty much blasphemy since the air and space program has put food on our families tables for years. My father retired from the airlines, Lloyd’s step-dad spent his whole career at Boeing and his dad did contract work for NASA after retiring from the military.

It was an amazing sight. The shuttle strapped to the top of a 747. It was unreal. As we stood there watching and taking pictures as the plane escorted Discovery on a victory lap over DC, I heard Jake start to hum “God Bless America”. (I could not make this stuff up if I tried). Then he turned to me and said “Thanks for bringing me to see this, Mom. It makes me proud to be American”.

So he got to school in time to attend 4 of his 7 classes and he witnesses a little piece of history. If the truancy officers contact me, I’ll just send them these pictures. They don’t in any way do justice to the event, but I hope you enjoy them–especially those of you who weren’t in a place to decide whether or not to go and witness it in person.