5 D.C. Words to Know

Moving to a new city is always a bit daunting. Not only because you’re suddenly in the market for new friends and restaurants, but also because you’re suddenly a stranger to everything – even the language. I honestly didn’t expect that to be an issue when I moved to D.C. It’s our nation’s capital, after all! I thought, surely, it won’t be anything like moving to Jordan or China. But, wouldn’t you know it, I suddenly was surrounded by terms I didn’t understand and was much too embarrassed to ask.

So, for any of you that are considering a move to D.C, here’s the lingo I wish I had known:

  1. Metro not Subway

Every place seems to have their own term for their modes of transportation. I sincerely believe it’s so tourists look like what they are – tourists. In London it’s the Tube, in Chicago it’s the L, in NYC it’s the Subway. For those of you thinking to call it the subway while you’re in D.C., though, think again. I made that error and was mocked pretty heavily (maybe I need nicer friends?).img_7370

In D.C., it’s referred to as the Metro. And as far as metros go, it’s not too bad. It gets you from one place to another. Sometimes late, actually, sometimes very late. But it gets you there – usually. The key is to download the D.C. Metro Transit app early on, to bring a good book, and to find a secure place to store your Metro card for easy access.

Also, big tip: stand on the appropriate side of the escalator. Right side for standing, left side for walking.

  1. Outer Loop vs Inner Loop

Leif is just the dearest soul. Knowing that my day would be extended an extra hour if I have to metro to work, he has selflessly driven me to work every morning since we moved to D.C. This means that we experience D.C. rush hour traffic. Every. Single. Day.

For the most part, it’s been fine. We use Waze and get places when we get places. We’ve mostly been annoyed with the amount of car accidents we see throughout the drive, as it is dangerous for many, but also slows down the drive immensely. We took to listening to the radio to see if there were accidents that Waze did not have registered.

“Inner Loop near MD-295/Baltimore-Washington Pkwy, proceed with caution by accident, delay of 20 minutes.” Inner Loop? No problem! We’re outside the city, which means we must be on the outer loop!

Nope. Just, nope.

We thought having an outer loop and an inner loop of the Capital Beltway meant there were two separate highways. We were really wrong. And I leave this embarrassing piece of advice for you all here: Interstate 495, better known as the Capital Beltway, is a 64-mile highway that circles D.C. The outer loop is the Capital Beltway headed counter-clockwise around the city, and the inner loop is the Capital Beltway headed clockwise around the city.

You’re welcome.

  1. The DMV

Confusingly, this acronym does not stand for the dreaded hell-hole that is the department of motor vehicles, at least when referred to while residing in D.C. I first ran into it at church when the pastor kept referring to the DMV and the people who live in the DMV. I was really confused, imagining the strange government people who have to live in the DMV day in and day out. I mean I know D.C. is a city of hardworking, government officials, but that’s like a whole ‘nutha level.

Turns out it stands for District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia and generally includes whatever the metro touches. Much more pleasant than the other DMV.

  1. The National Mall

“Do you want to go to the National Mall?”img_7502

“Sure, what can I buy there?”

“Uhhh, I don’t know. Like, gift shop stuff?”

“Pretty crappy mall.”

In case you didn’t know, the National Mall is actually what they call the stretch of land roughly from the Lincoln Memorial up to the Capitol Building. It includes the Smithsonian museums, the Washington Monument, and the White House. So, now you can be smarter than me, and avoid this awkward conversation all together.

  1. Cised

This one is just an entirely new word to me all together. I have been told that “cise” means to be excited or stoked. As in, “Grace was so cised when she found out Leif bought her a Lunchable.”  It’s pronounced like precise, if you drop the “pre”.  Apparently there’s a couple words like this in D.C. slang (bama and lunchin’?), but I’ve yet to fully understand them, let alone actually incorporate them into my vocabulary.

Don’t worry, I’m working on it.

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Intentional Living

About one month ago Leif and I moved into our new home.  You may recall that, for the three months prior to that move, we were homeless. Kind and VERY patient relatives took us in, but yes, we were homeless. I knew it was a huge blessing to have the time to thoroughly research where we’d want to move and call home, but also wanted to not be a burden on family. My mission was to find a place within two weeks.

Mission Failed.

By the time the two weeks were up, we still weren’t sure where to go. I told myself (and Leif) we’d give it one more week – Bonus Week, as I called it – and then we’d just find whatever we could afford. It was during Bonus Week that God intervened.

On Sunday, we were at Fairfax Community Church for the very first time. The pastor, Pastor Rod, was speaking about some wonderful people helping their apartment communities during Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas. He kept referring to some organization that helped apartment communities. It sounded cool, but also like something in Houston, Texas.

I promptly forgot about it.

Five days later, nearing the end of Bonus Week, we were having dinner with a childhood friend of Leif’s and his wife. Despite busy schedules for all of us, we managed to fit in a dinner that Friday. Halfway through the evening, Leif’s friend, Nick, asks where we’re living. We begrudgingly told them our shameful story of homelessness, though trying to put a positive spin on it. A beat later, Nick is telling us about – wouldn’t you know it – the same organization we had heard about on Sunday.

In cities across the U.S., the organization offers apartment communities a specially recruited couple that will invest their lives into the building in which they’ve been placed. They plan events, welcome new residents, and build friendships among neighbors. The couple serves as the bridge between property management and residents, hoping to improve the leasing experience for everyone involved. Honestly, it sounded too good to be true. Leif and I had been praying for an opportunity to go about intentional living in this new chapter of our lives, but since we were homeless, it wasn’t off to a great start. At all.

I started the application the next morning.

Within a day, we had an email telling us we’d moved through to the phone interview stage of the application process. Due to the process moving so quickly, I thought this might be an actual option for us! Unfortunately, while the phone interview went well and quickly, everything that followed met delays.

We waited weeks. Then we had a nearly three-hour interview with one individual. Within days they said that we were accepted by the organization, and that now we just had to wait for an apartment community to open up. Again, we waited weeks.

I was losing hope. Every time I’d be ready to throw in the towel, someone would email or call to let us know about some progress. Finally, three months after becoming homeless, we were told there was a property for us and that an interview with management was being arranged.

The interview was intense. We met with the owners, the vice-president of the company, and two property managers. Leif and I answered the questions as confidently as we could muster, and by the end of yet another three-hour interview, we were exhausted.

Generally speaking, I’m not into crying. I purposely avoid shows like This is Us in order not to cry. However, when I do cry, it’s because I’m completely depleted of mental and physical energy. So, even though the interview went positively and smoothly, I cried. I was just so exhausted. I was tired of not knowing when we would have a home. I was tired of days that started with leaving the house at 6:30 and not returning until 8:30. I was tired of what felt like just existing to get by.

Two days later, we were accepted by the property.

It was like I had been doused in ice water. We had a home. We didn’t have our move-in date and we didn’t even know what our apartment would look like. But it didn’t matter. We had a home. The next weekend we were able to move in. In just one day we managed to unload our entire life from our 10 x 5 storage locker and to move it all into our new place. We were exhausted, but happy.


In our plan to move to D.C., I never for a moment thought we would go nearly four months without a home. I never thought I would ask my relatives for that kind of generosity. I never thought adult Grace and Leif would ever be in a position where that would be necessary. (We do have money, I swear.)

The process was deeply humbling. Every time I wanted to bail and just sign a lease somewhere else, Leif would remind me how this had fallen into our laps. He would talk about the timing of it all, how it was a perfect fit for us. Yet, while we knew it was meant for us, we both agree it didn’t make the waiting easier.

But as I reflect on that time, I realize a lot of wonderful living happened during that waiting. I started and finished my first semester of graduate school. Leif and I met up with old friends and made brand new ones. We explored D.C. and found new favorite restaurants. We adopted kitties that look like cows. We kept on living.

I’ve written a lot of blog posts about waiting, changing jobs, and unsure futures (theme of my life?). I promise this isn’t another one of those. It’s just my reflection that these confusing and difficult times are reoccurring, no matter how much I think I’ve “learned”. I’m experiencing that life is one transition after another. It isn’t about the dramatic chaos that comes between the simple moments or the excitement of insta-worthy experiences; it’s about weaving them all together. It’s about living each moment intentionally, so no one period is looked back on as wasted time.

And so, here we are. The start of a new year, the start of a new city, the start of our new life. God’s plan unfolding. We’re very excited to begin this year by living intentionally.