Letter to myself in 1997

December 19, 1996

Hi honey, it’s yourself, 18 years in the future.

I’m writing you this letter on your son’s 9th birthday to let you know that everything is going to be all right and to show you a picture.

Graduation 2014

Look what happens 18 years from today. Your baby boy is a Virginia Tech grad. Can you believe it?

I know right now, you can’t believe it. Things are not going well on the motherhood front.

Your biggest fear right now is that the grad in the photo is headed for trouble, real trouble. Your days are busy chasing interventions, therapies, special diets, and programs that may turn things around. You have no dreams of graduation. You have dreams of avoiding jail. Life is scary right now.

But look at how far you’ve come already. Since the first diagnosis of autism at age three, your baby has learned to talk, read, write, and tolerate new situations. He’s going to move on and make the honor roll soon. He will eventually break out of that fight-or-flight reaction and learn to manage his stress well enough to really enjoy high school. His college entrance essay will make you cry.

And as you can see in the photo, he’s going to be a Virginia Tech graduate, just like the grandfather for whom he is named.

So hang in there, mama. Trust your gut. You have the stuff, girlfriend.

Love you,

Viqui

Advertisements

InterChangeNE: Day One – 500 miles from the Shenandoah to the Merrimack

On March 29th and 30th, I attended InterChange 2014, STC New England’s annual conference at the UMass Lowell conference center in Lowell, Massachusetts. This was my first local chapter conference although I have attended many of the summit conferences held by the STC mothership. I was really impressed. The local conferences are typically smaller and shorter, eliminating the sleep deprivation and overwhelming size of the summit, while offering many opportunities to learn, share, and eat with other technical communicators.

But I get ahead of myself. First, I have to get there.

Day One: Say good-bye to Winchester

I left this out of office sign for any visitors to my cube

I left this out of office sign for any visitors to my cube

Before any of us goes out of town, we have to leave an out-of-office message. My email message said

Howdy! Thanks for your email.

I will be out of the office until Wednesday April 2nd, with some limited access to email. My cell is 540.303.0323. Don’t be shy about calling or texting if you need me.

Thanks!

Viqui Dill

I also left a note on my keyboard for anyone dropping by on foot. What do you think of my self portrait?

Last grocery run before the trip: Milk, creamer, and crackers I won't be home to eat

Last grocery run before the trip: Milk, creamer, and crackers I won’t be home to eat

And I knew I’d be in the doghouse if I left the house empty of food, so I made a last minute run to Food Lion.

I’d be gone for four whole days, during which time I’m pretty sure the grocery store must have been closed because I returned to a house that was once again empty of food.

Okay, I know this is not the same as leaving frozen versions of home made gourmet meals in the fridge.

So we’ve taken care of the office and we’ve taken care of the home place.

Time to get on the road.

Our book on audio, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, read by Wesley Crusher, keeps us entertained on the trip

Our book on audio, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, read by Wesley Crusher, keeps us entertained on the trip

We like to have a good book with us when we travel.

This trip we take along a book about the future in which life is so bad and resources are so scarce, people have chosen to live out their lives inside a video game.

The book is nice and long, 17 hours total dedication to epilogue, so we have plenty of entertainment as we go.

Can’t tell you how it ends because we aren’t finished yet. Perhaps another long road trip is in our future.

And now, I’m saying “we” instead of “me” referring to the travelers.

I forgot to tell you that my favorite son, Jim Dill, is along for the trip.

Smile, You're in Pennsylvania

The sign at the rest area says “Smile, you’re in Pennsylvania”

We make great time up until we hit traffic on I 84 in Hartford Connecticut.

Going the speed limit through Pennsylvania.

Stopping and almost every rest area.

Somebody always has to “rest” on a long trip.

We passed through a town called “Frackville” where you could buy coal at the local gas station but you could not buy gas there because the tanks were empty.

We eventually found a station with gas left in the tank, checked in on Foursquare, and got back on the road.

Traffic on I 84 in Hartford

We made good time until we hit traffic on I 84 in Hartford Connecticut

And then we hit a wall of traffic at Hartford.

Jim decides this is a good time for a nap and when he wakes up he has to take a wicked pissa.

We are downtown, stopped in traffic, and far from an exit. We talk about going by the side of the road but decide to tough it out.

We make a note of the traffic and our location and make plans to stop way ahead of Hartford on the way home.

Nobody peed in the car nor by the side of the road but somebody came close that day.

UMass Lowell at last

UMass Inn and Conference Center, as seen from my parking space

UMass Inn and Conference Center, as seen from my parking space

Navigating in Boston in the dark was a little tricky and we ended up doing 6 leaves of a cloverleaf intersection so we could have a second chance of making the right ramp onto the Lowell Connector. Very confusing.

The conference center is lovely.

Check-in was a breeze.

The staff is fantastic.

My friends greeted me with hugs and an invitation to join them at the bar.

We’re not in the car now, after 12 hours of travel.

Life is good.

Instagram of our Friday night arrival celebration: steak, crab cakes, Jim Dill, Viqui Dill, Rick Lippincott, and  Brenda Huettner

Instagram of our Friday night arrival celebration: steak, crab cakes, Jim Dill, Viqui Dill, Rick Lippincott, and Brenda Huettner

The food is spectacular.

We order a steak and the crab cakes.

Our new best friend, bartender Amy, takes a photo of us relaxing by the fireplace. We instagram with the conference hashtag #InterChangeNE.

We leave a big tip and retire early so we can have an awesome day two at the conference.

I’ll write more about that tomorrow.

Stay tuned for Day Two.