getting settled: taking care of feet, computer space, transport & the hair disaster

Saturday, July 27:  First things first: I must get a pedicure.  I head out first thing this morning to take care of this essential piece of business. I have to explain to the Vietnamese ladies at Paradise Nails where I’ve been the last year, as I had to do last year when I was home and the year before.  I’m a regular there, but obviously not too regular in the last 3 years.

Then I head to the Apple Store at Reston Town Center to find out about getting more space on my hard drive.  All during my last months in Oman and my entire trip through Spain and Portugal, I’ve been receiving messages on my MacBook Pro:  Your startup disk is full!  I have been deleting files right and left, but I’ve now reached the point where I have nothing else I want to delete.

The Apple Store directs me to go to Micro Center in Fairfax, as they are the authorized service dealer.  Oh dear, here begins my driving to and fro in northern Virginia to do annoying errands!  To buy the new hard drive costs me $80 and to have them install it and clone all my stuff to the new hard drive will cost $150.  Already, my hard-earned money is flowing right out of my pocket into things I don’t want to buy!  But these are the necessities of life and the money must be spent.  There are so many other things I’d rather spend money on; this is certainly NOT one of them.

It will take them about 3 hours to do this process, so I’m without a computer for a while.  Throughout the rest of the day, I keep getting phone calls from Micro Center telling me it’s taking much longer than they anticipated; apparently there are a lot of pictures that are very slow to transfer over.  Surprise, surprise!  It turns out the computer will not be ready until tomorrow morning.

Meanwhile, Mike has gone on an 88 mile bike ride with his biking club and I am still trying to fight my way through the disaster in the basement.  This will keep me occupied for weeks, so it’s a good thing I don’t have to start work yet!

When Mike returns home, he does a bunch of research online about the list of cars I’ve told him I’d be interested in buying.  He wants me to buy a slightly used Toyota Corolla because he feels it would be the best value for the money.  I have told him I’d be interested in a Fiat, or a Toyota Matrix or Camry.  We already have a 1997 Toyota Camry and a 2004 Toyota Sienna, and so we head straight to Ourisman Toyota, where we meet the very laid back salesman, Kofi from Uganda.  I’m immediately attracted to a black Toyota Corolla; the new ones are so nice!  After test driving the Corolla, I think it’s perfect.  Especially with the new touch screens for audio and the Bluetooth! 🙂

We decide then and there to buy a brand new 2013 black Toyota Corolla. I’m never one to linger over car decisions; every time I’ve ever bought a car, I’ve just gone out in one fell swoop and bought one!  We take the money I got from the sale of my GMC Terrain in Oman and Mike contributes the same amount again, and we sit for hours buying the car.

my new Corolla
my new Corolla

As you can see, Mike is not very happy with the time it takes to do all of this, mainly because he hardly ate anything today after his 88-mile bike ride and is starving.

Mike at Ourisman Toyota
Mike at Ourisman Toyota

I drive the Corolla right off the lot.  We also bought, suckers that we are, the Environmental Protection Plan, which means I will need to bring back the car for treatment one day this week.

Sunday, July 28: Today, I must run more errands.  This seems to be the nature of my life in Virginia.  Oh how I remember this, and hate it.  I have to go pick up my computer, which is now cloned.  The only problem is that a product key is needed to activate Microsoft Office on the new hard drive.  I search the house high and low and can’t find the packaging for the Microsoft Office I bought in 2011, so now it looks like I will have to buy it again.  So irritating!

The rest of the day, I spend tackling the basement.  Unbelievable.  This clutter and disorganization is so annoying and claustrophobic after my nice clean and spare house in Oman.  Things are piling up in the garage right and left as I dispose of anything and everything in my path.  I figure anything I give to charity will benefit someone else, and any money we spent on this stuff is a sunk cost anyway.  I can’t debate or tell myself maybe we should keep this for a time when we might need it.  It simply has to go!  I’m on a rampage.

Tuesday, July 30:  Next thing, I must get my hair fixed.  It’s a mess.  I spent tons of money in Oman first getting a cut and highlights and low lights.  Six weeks later, I had it straightened; the chemicals from that process basically destroyed the original highlights and low lights and turned my hair yellow.  It was too late to do anything about it before I went on my holiday, so I had to live with it during my entire trip.  Today, to remedy the situation, I head to my trusty Diane T Salon in Vienna to get a decent cut and highlights and low lights again. I tell her to make the low lights darker and chunkier, instead of in fine strands like she usually does them.  She follows my instructions and I personally like the effect, but when I get home, Alex says, “Wow, nice hairdo.  You look like a zebra!”  What??  Oh my gosh!  Kids will say the darndest things, but I run into the bathroom and look in the mirror.  I guess he’s right, I slightly resemble a zebra. 🙂

Out in the front yard, I take a picture of Alex with my new car, and then he takes a picture of me, the zebra, with my new car.  Joy. 🙂

Alex with my new car
Alex with my new car
Zebra-lady with her new car
Zebra-lady with her new car

In the afternoon, I attend an iPhone class at the Verizon Wireless store, where I discover the thrilling things that I can now do on my new iPhone.  Welcome to the modern age!

the iPhone class
the iPhone class
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one adventure ends, & another begins …

Thursday, July 25: It’s 6:00 p.m. and my plane has landed at just the minute it was scheduled to land despite being delayed in Heathrow for a half hour.  My bag is one of the first on the baggage conveyor, so I grab it and head quickly through immigration (no queue!), then I’m waved on through customs.  I walk into Arrivals, looking for Mike’s face.  Both the boys have to work tonight, so he’s the one who has been designated to pick me up.

His face is conspicuously absent.

I keep looking around thinking maybe we have missed each other in the crowd.  But, no. There is no sign of him.  I don’t have a phone that works (my Oman phone has no money on it and it doesn’t work in any country other than Oman anyway except for texting) and I have a wallet full of 85 euros and not a single American cent.  No ATM is in the vicinity.  I wonder if he’s forgotten me or if he’s just delayed.  I do all I can do: I wait.  And wait.  And wait.

Finally, I hear his voice as he’s running to Arrivals: “Cathy!”  We do the European kiss-on-the-cheek thing and he tells me he had called the airline and they said they’d be delayed a half hour so he took his time getting here.

WELCOME HOME! 🙂

At home, there is no welcoming committee as both boys are driving helter-skelter through the streets & traffic of northern Virginia delivering pizzas for Paisano’s. It’s strange walking into the house where I have lived off and on for 20 years. Our Border Collie Bailey, who has gotten older and chubbier, still recognizes me and his back-end is wagging like it has a mind of its own.  I walk around the top two floors of the house, reacquainting myself, and check out my room to find it’s become the dumping ground for stuff the boys have decided to dispose of. Oh joy.  I will have to clean it out before I can even begin to unpack, or to sleep.

I have a room in the basement where I keep my excess clothes (of which I have a lot!) and Mike warns me not even to go down there tonight, otherwise I’ll ruin my first night home.  Oh dear.  I restrain myself and figure I’ll deal with it tomorrow.

Mike and I have a long chat, Alex comes home from work around 9:00 and he joins in the conversation after hugs and kisses.  Adam works till midnight so it’s unlikely I’ll be awake to greet him tonight.  I have Alex carry my suitcase upstairs and begin to move all the stuff from my room back from whence it came, into the boys’ rooms.

I go to bed nestled into piles and piles of stuff from my half-unpacked suitcase.  The new adventure begins. 🙂

Friday, July 26: My first order of business today is to get a phone.  I go to Verizon fully intending to get a Samsung Android, but then I drift over to the iPhone where I see the benefits of that phone. 🙂 Before I know it, I’ve laid out $323 to buy the phone ($199), a waterproof case ($89! ~ what a sucker I am!), and by golly, if I buy the car charger TODAY, I can get $5 off.  And don’t forget the sales tax, which I haven’t had to deal with anywhere in my travels in the last 3 years!  Ouch.

I play around with my phone a good long while, trying to get used to it.  I wonder if I’ll ever get used to the touch screen keypad.  I add a bunch of apps to the phone, and over the next couple of days I realize all those apps are draining the battery and I promptly remove them!

Later in the afternoon, I walk around the house and take pictures of some of what I see.  I don’t even bother taking pictures of all the clutter as it’s way too embarrassing. 😦

I clear off my old desk just enough to hook up my computer and begin to create a workspace.

a little space I've carved out for myself
a little space I’ve carved out for myself

In the last year, Mike has insisted that the boys start buying their own food.  As they are living at home while attending community college, he feels it’s time for them to start contributing to the expenses.  Since they eat a lot of fruit, especially bananas, they have taken over the dining room table.  Masking tape and labels serve as the dividing lines.

Food divided by purchaser
Food divided by purchaser

Mike spends most of his free time biking with a Reston biking club; he has two expensive bikes that he keeps inside the house as our garage door is often open and he doesn’t want someone snatching them.  I guess I will have to deal with their stuff cluttering the dining room as we rarely entertain anymore anyway.  A dining room is kind of a useless room anyway except several times a year.

The dining room filled with fruit and bikes
The dining room filled with fruit and bikes

Adam and Alex are always environmentally conscious, so they have now created a composting bin in the backyard and here is some of their most recent composting stuff: banana peels and eggshells.

composting
composting

Both the boys love doing gymnastics moves and they’ve created a kind of outdoor gym in our backyard.  I have always hated our yard as we have a huge side yard, a small somewhat sunken front yard, and a tiny strip of backyard that slopes downhill.  Because of the humid and wet nature of Virginia, it’s always overgrown with weeds and rapidly growing grass.  Adam has taken on a project this summer of clearing out weeds, laying out cardboard, and spreading mulch on top to make the backyard area a little nicer for working out. He’s been working on it diligently all summer, making numerous trips to Home Depot and the garden center.

the backyard gym
the backyard gym

I try to get Bailey to pose for a picture, but every time I snap, he looks away.  I keep saying “Bailey, Bailey!”  He gets irritated and starts barking and Alex says I’ve caught him in his normal state of being.

Here's Bailey barking because I'm harassing him to pose for a picture
Here’s Bailey barking because I’m harassing him to pose for a picture

Alex tries to do a fancy move on his gymnastic rings.

Alex the gymnast
Alex the gymnast

The front yard is pretty overgrown right now.  I find Mike has planted some rudbeckia near the road.

Our front yard
Our front yard
rudbeckia
rudbeckia
rudbeckia
rudbeckia
our house
our house
rudbeckia
rudbeckia
rudbeckia
rudbeckia

I sit on my couch and write a blog post about my trip to Spain.  I’m way behind as I intended to post as I went along, but found it way too time-consuming and now will have to continue with it once I settle in here.

our living room from my reclining position on the couch
our living room from my reclining position on the couch
what used to be my little meditation spot
what used to be my little meditation spot

Every time I return home to this house, I’m flabbergasted by how much we have accumulated over the years. I’ve decided I’m going to be ruthless in sorting out things and giving things to Goodwill, or Purple Heart, or anyone who will take it!  For example, we have tons of books.  Here is just one bookshelf that is filled with JUST books of short stories.  I have another shelf devoted to poetry, another to non-fiction, and the novels are spread all over the house.

these are just books of short stories
these are just books of short stories

Here’s the entryway.

the foyer
the foyer

And here’s my room, filled with collections from my travels.  Now I have a lot more stuff I’ve collected, but I have absolutely nowhere to put any of it.

my room with black and white photos of Egypt and papyrus pictures from Egypt
my room with black and white photos of Egypt and Egyptian papyrus prints

By now, I’ve ventured into that basement room that serves as my closet for excess clothes, and I’ve found the disaster Mike warned me about.  I spend the rest of my day trying to make some kind of order of the whole mess so I can start unpacking the 3 suitcases the boys brought home from Oman in January along with the 93 kilos of stuff I shipped by cargo from Oman.   Plus the stuff I accumulated on my trip through Spain and Portugal. Argh! 🙂

Once again, I can’t help but think of George Carlin’s spiff on “Stuff.”

That’s the whole meaning of life, isn’t it?  Trying to find a place for your stuff.

That’s all your house is, a pile of stuff with a cover on it!