snowmaggedon 2016, aka “storm jonas” & a decluttering project of major proportions :-)

Saturday, January 23:  Beginning at about 1:00 pm on Friday, the blizzard of 2016, dubbed “Snowmaggedon” and “Storm Jonas” by the TV stations and newspapers, began its assault.  Also known as “Snowzilla,” the storm dumped a record amount of snow on the mid-Atlantic region and the East Coast of the USA.  The storm was a media sensation.  You can read about it here, if you haven’t already heard about it through a million other sources:

Winter Storm Jonas Rivals Biggest East Coast Snowstorms on Record

Winter storm inundates the Mid-Atlantic and East Coast

The Blizzard of 2016 from space compared to other great Northeast snowstorms

The snow fell all Friday afternoon and through the night, and this is what we woke up to on Saturday morning when we opened the garage door.

view from our garage on Saturday morning - the Toyota RAV
view from our garage on Saturday morning – the Toyota RAV

The snow continued to fall throughout Saturday, but we still spent over an hour shoveling our driveway.  The snow continued to accumulate over the parts we shoveled, but I would have hated to see what it would have looked like on Sunday morning if we hadn’t done this initial shoveling.

I worked hard on shoveling a narrow path between the Toyota RAV and our bushes, while Mike shoveled the other side.

the path I shoveled Saturday
the path I shoveled Saturday

There was no chance of actually going anywhere in our cars, as the snow was almost two feet deep on the roads.  We didn’t see a plow all day Saturday, although we had seen one go by on Friday night.

After our shoveling session, we took a walk out the neighborhood to the main road, Vale Road, only one lane of which had been plowed.  A few trucks and SUVs were creeping along Vale Road, but most people stayed hunkered down in their warm homes.  I was thankful we didn’t lose power, as widespread power outages were predicted throughout the region.

Since we were going to be stuck inside for at least several days, I decided it was time to start tackling our major decluttering project, following the guidelines in Marie Kondo’s the life-changing magic of tidying up, aka The KonMari method.

The author advises to work by category, not by the location of clutter in your house.  She outlines a specific order to the categories, beginning with clothing, followed by “books, papers, komono (miscellany), and finally things with sentimental value.” Her first two categories, clothing and books, are the biggest categories of clutter in my house.  People who know me know I have a big weakness for both of these things: any kind of textiles and all kinds of books.

Her method involves touching every item in your house and only keeping those that “spark joy.”  This is very subjective, but I know exactly what she means.  I had gone through all my clothes when I returned home from China, tried many of them on and got rid of some things, but not nearly enough.  I was looking at them with my brand of selection criteria: are they still in style, do they fit now, are they likely to fit in the future, are they worn out and looking tired, will they come back into style in the future?

I started tackling the project with the question: “Does this spark joy?”  I am amazed at how much I have been able to part with.  I started with tops (Kondo’s first category of clothing), and it took me three days!  Mike has been doing the same, although he doesn’t have nearly as much as I do.  Just from the category of tops alone, I had 6 large garbage bags.  Don’t worry, I won’t be throwing these away.  I usually give all my belongings to one of the local charities like Purple Heart, AmVets or Big Brother Big Sister.

walk through the neighborhood
walk through the neighborhood

In the evening, I took a picture of our deck, which is very decrepit and about to collapse under normal conditions.  We’re going to be replacing this with a screened-in porch and a new deck in our upcoming renovation.  I hope it doesn’t fall under the weight of the snow!

Saturday evening - the grill on the deck
Saturday evening – the grill on the deck

In the evening, we made a big pot of Damn Delicious Cauliflower Chowder.  It was delicious!  Perfect food for a snowy night. 🙂

Sunday, January 24:  By Sunday morning, the snow had stopped falling and the skies were blue.  We had to shovel again to get rid of the extra snow that had fallen all Saturday afternoon and evening.  It took us over an hour.

I read somewhere that most people who died in this snowstorm died from shoveling snow.

the morning after
the morning after
buried
buried
our house
our house
our house
our house

When all was said and done, the blizzard left us with 24 inches of snow.

24 inches
24 inches

We cleared most of the driveway, but the roads were not plowed enough to get out, so we were stuck for another day.

finally - the driveway shoveled out
finally – the driveway shoveled out

As we were shoveling, we saw our neighbors congregating at the end of their driveway and we went to check it out.  They had a little bar set up on a snow bank and were drinking  bourbon and Scotch.  We went to join them for a drink.  This is one of the few times I’ve started drinking before noon! 🙂

step up to the bar!
step up to the bar!
having drinks with the neighbors
having drinks with the neighbors

After our drinks, Mike and I took a brief walk through the neighborhood, but it was difficult walking through the deep snow on the roads.

aftermath of Snowmaggedon - in the sunshine
aftermath of Snowmaggedon – in the sunshine
our neighborhood after the blizzard
our neighborhood after the blizzard

We settled in with leftover soup (which we originally made Friday evening): Spark Recipes: Winter White Bean and Italian Sausage Soup.  Another perfect remedy to a cold snowy day.

Monday, January 25:  This morning I woke up to a beautiful sunset.  One lane of our neighborhood had been plowed overnight, and Mike decided to venture out to work for a half-day.  All the area schools were closed and so were the government offices, so he didn’t have to contend with much traffic.  It was lucky that not many folks were on the roads that were narrower versions of their normal selves. Piles of snow banks on either sides of the road created a dilemma for the Virginia Department of Transportation: there was nowhere to put all the snow!

Monday sunrise
Monday sunrise
sunrise after the blizzard
sunrise after the blizzard
Monday morning whites
Monday morning whites
sunrise in the neighborhood
sunrise in the neighborhood
mountains of snow
mountains of snow
our house hunkered down in the snow
our house hunkered down in the snow
sunrise
sunrise

Today, I was finally able to move on from the “tops” category in my KonMari method of decluttering.  I began work on bottoms, including jeans, hiking pants, exercise pants, work pants, and skirts.  This occupied me today and Tuesday!  I ended up with four garbage bags of bottoms!  This was probably my easiest category because I had been holding on to so many pairs of pants and skirts that will NEVER fit me again.  I had been holding out hope that I would lose weight enough to wear them, but I finally accepted the fact I will never be that thin again. I realized when touching all of these bottoms that they certainly did not spark joy. In fact, they always stressed me out because when I saw them, they made me wish for younger and skinnier days.  GONE!

heading out for a walk
heading out for a walk
afternoon delight
afternoon delight

I didn’t have to shovel my driveway today, but I put on my snow boots and took a two-mile walk in the neighborhood.  It was slow going and I slipped and fell once on an icy patch.  When I returned home, one of my neighbors, who is a nurse at Fairfax Hospital, had returned home after staying at the hospital for the storm’s duration, and found she had nowhere to park her car.  She was outside shoveling her long driveway by herself.  I spent about 45 minutes helping her to carve out a spot for her car; another neighbor joined and helped too.

Saturday, January 30: Wednesday and Thursday, I was able to walk 3 miles as the snow remaining on the roads had melted enough that the pavement was showing.  There was still too much snow on the paths to walk through the woods.  I moved on Wednesday to decluttering suits and coats and jackets, and on Thursday to dresses.  By Thursday, I finally drove out in my car to run a couple of errands.  On Friday, I was able to drive out to my contractor’s office, Northwood Construction, to work with him on our plans for our big renovation.  He had presented some plans to us on Wednesday evening before the storm, January 20, and we wanted some changes to be made. I spent about 2 hours going over some ideas with him in his office.

Last night, Friday, I drove to Tyson’s Corner and met Mike at Seasons 52.  It felt so good to get out for happy hour and dinner.  It seemed everyone in the world was out at the cluster of restaurants at that end of the mall — all the snowbound people finally released into the world!

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WONDER at the Renwick… and bewilderment on the homefront

Sunday, January 17:  Today, Mike and I go on an outing to see WONDER at the Renwick Gallery, which has just opened after a two-year renovation.  He jokes that he’s taking the Yeti to Washington, because I’m wearing a fuzzy white vest I bought at Target.  Sometimes I like to wear funky clothes, as some of you know. 🙂

In the WONDER exhibit, “nine contemporary artists created site-specific installations, each taking over a different gallery.  The nine artists are connected by their interest in creating large-scale installations from unexpected materials like thread, tires, marbles, and blocks of wood — commonplace objects that are assembled, massed, and juxtaposed to transform the spaces and engage visitors in surprising ways.” (All descriptions are from Explore the New Renwick Gallery brochure. All photos are taken by me).

We arrive early and fall into place at the end of a long line that’s already formed outside the gallery.  Luckily it moves fairly quickly; before long, we’re inside with hordes of people.  I guess everyone is desperate to get out on this gray winter day.

 

WONDER at the Renwick
WONDER at the Renwick

The first installation is Shindig by Patrick Dougherty.  He uses willow osiers and saplings to weave enormous pods that offer discovery and sanctuary to visitors and Yetis alike.

the Yeti at Shindig
the Yeti at Shindig
Shindig by Patrick Dougherty
Shindig by Patrick Dougherty

“Dougherty has crisscrossed the world weaving sticks into marvelous architectures. Each structure is unique, an improvised response to its surroundings, as reliant on the materials at hand as the artist’s wishes: the branches tell him which way they want to bend.  Finding the right sticks remains a constant challenge, and part of the adventure of the art-making sends him scouring over the forgotten corners of land where plants grow wild and full of possibility” (plaque at the exhibit).

Mike in Shindig
Mike in Shindig

In the next gallery, Gabriel Dawe develops dazzling waves of colored light using miles of embroidery thread spanning floor to ceiling.  His installation is called Plexus A1.

Gabriel Dawe - Plexus A1
Gabriel Dawe – Plexus A1
Gabriel Dawe - Plexus A1
Gabriel Dawe – Plexus A1
Gabriel Dawe - Plexus A1
Gabriel Dawe – Plexus A1

In Untitled, Tara Donovan glues thousands of styrene index cards to create ten towers — looming spires that seem like natural accretions.

Tara Donovan - Untitled
Tara Donovan – Untitled

“Employing mundane materials such as toothpicks, straws, Styrofoam cups, scotch tape, and index cards, Donovan gathers up the things we think we know, transforming the familiar into the unrecognizable through overwhelming accumulation. The resulting enigmatic landscapes force us to wonder just what it is we’re looking at and how to respond.  The mystery, and the potential for any material in her hands to capture it, prompts us to pay better attention to our surroundings, permitting the everyday to catch us up again” (plaque at the gallery).

Tara Donovan - Untitled
Tara Donovan – Untitled
Tara Donovan - Untitled
Tara Donovan – Untitled
Tara Donovan - Untitled
Tara Donovan – Untitled

In a central hallway, Leo Villareal’s light sculpture, called Volume, evokes the movement of falling stars; 320 hanging rods are encrusted with 23,000 LED lights that shimmer and sparkle in endless non-repeating sequences.

Leo Villareal - Volume
Leo Villareal – Volume
Leo Villareal - Volume
Leo Villareal – Volume

One of my favorite installations is Janet Echelman’s 1.8.  She explores volume without mass in a suspended net lit by colored lights; it surges across the Grand Salon in waves evoking a tsunami.

Janet Echelman - 1.8
Janet Echelman – 1.8

This exhibit is huge, covering the entire ceiling.  Visitors line up around the periphery before moving into the next gallery.

Janet Echelman - 1.8
Janet Echelman – 1.8
Janet Echelman - 1.8
Janet Echelman – 1.8
Janet Echelman - 1.8
Janet Echelman – 1.8

Some people lie on the carpet and take pictures from the floor.  I have a lie down as well. 🙂

people on the carpet observing Janet Echelman's 1.8
people on the carpet observing Janet Echelman’s 1.8
people on the carpet observing Janet Echelman's 1.8
people on the carpet observing Janet Echelman’s 1.8

In the next gallery, John Grade found a 150-year-old hemlock in the Cascade Mountains, made a plaster cast of it (without harming it), and then invited hundreds of volunteers to re-create the tree in recycled cedar strips – a tribute to the 150-year-old Renwick building.  He titles his work Middle Fork (Cascades).

John Grade - Middle Fork (Cascades)
John Grade – Middle Fork (Cascades)
John Grade - Middle Fork (Cascades)
John Grade – Middle Fork (Cascades)
John Grade - Middle Fork (Cascades)
John Grade – Middle Fork (Cascades)

After the exhibition closes, Middle Fork (Cascades) will be carried back to the hemlock’s location and left on the forest floor, where it will gradually return to the earth.

John Grade - Middle Fork (Cascades)
John Grade – Middle Fork (Cascades)

In Folding the Chesapeake, Maya Lin’s deluge of glass marbles flows across walls and floor, creating a map of the Chesapeake Bay.

Maya Lin - Folding the Chesapeake
Maya Lin – Folding the Chesapeake
Maya Lin - Folding the Chesapeake
Maya Lin – Folding the Chesapeake
Maya Lin - Folding the Chesapeake
Maya Lin – Folding the Chesapeake
Maya Lin - Folding the Chesapeake
Maya Lin – Folding the Chesapeake

Not part of the WONDER exhibit, Dale Chihuly’s Seafoam and Amber Tipped Chandelier was commissioned in 1994 for an oceanfront residence on Long Island, with shimmering seafoam colors and fanciful shell shapes echoing the seascape outside.  It is one of the first of a series of the artist’s “chandeliers” inspired in 1992 by a light fixture in a Spanish restaurant.  This series consists of large-scale nonfunctional sculptures with a dramatic presence in the space surrounding them, each made of hundreds or thousands of repeated elements.

Dale Chihuly
Dale Chihuly

Chakaia Booker transforms hundreds of recycled rubber tires, splicing and weaving them into a mysterious labyrinth.

Chakaia Booker - ANONYMOUS DONOR
Chakaia Booker – ANONYMOUS DONOR

“Booker was inspired to explore tires as a material while walking the streets of New York in the 1980s, when retreads and melted pools of rubber from car fires littered the urban landscape.  By massing, slashing, and reworking the material we see daily yet never fully consider, she jolts us out of complacency to grasp these materials for what they are: a natural resource marshaled through astonishingly complex channels into a product of great convenience and superabundance” (from a plaque at the gallery).

Chakaia Booker - ANONYMOUS DONOR
Chakaia Booker – ANONYMOUS DONOR
Chakaia Booker - ANONYMOUS DONOR
Chakaia Booker – ANONYMOUS DONOR
the Yeti at Chakaia Booker - ANONYMOUS DONOR
the Yeti at Chakaia Booker – ANONYMOUS DONOR

My other favorite in the gallery is Jennifer Angus’s In the Midnight Garden.  This artist creates spiraling designs across the gallery walls from shimmering, brilliantly colored insects, a novel “wallpaper” that displays nature’s spectacular range of colors and shapes in small-life forms.

Jennifer Angus - In the Midnight Garden
Jennifer Angus – In the Midnight Garden

From a plaque at the gallery: “Angus’s genius is the embrace of what is wholly natural, if unexpected.  Yes, the insects are real, and no, she has not altered them except to position their wings and legs. The species in this gallery are not endangered, but in fact are quite abundant, primarily in Malaysia, Thailand, and Papua New Guinea, a corner of the world where Nature seems to play with greater freedom.  The pink wash is derived from the cochineal insect living on cacti in Mexico, where it has long been prized as the best source of the color red.  By altering the context in which we encounter such species, Angus startles us into recognition of what has always been a part of our world.”

Jennifer Angus - In the Midnight Garden
Jennifer Angus – In the Midnight Garden
Jennifer Angus - In the Midnight Garden
Jennifer Angus – In the Midnight Garden

I’m amazed at this exhibit. First, I’m surprised and delighted that the insects are real.  And the way they are displayed is amazing.

Jennifer Angus - In the Midnight Garden
Jennifer Angus – In the Midnight Garden

After exploring WONDER at the Renwick Gallery, we take a walk down to the White House, passing some interesting buildings along the way.

The Renwick Gallery
The Renwick Gallery
Renwick Gallery
Renwick Gallery

We stop to admire the White House, where I’m hoping a certain candidate will NOT be living come January of 2017.

The White House
The White House

We walk past the stately Executive Office Building.

Washington building
Washington building
Washington row houses
Washington row houses

We’re hungry for lunch by now, so we go to Cosi to grab some lunch.

We feel slightly more relaxed today than we’ve been over the last several months, having had to deal with the emotional upheaval and crash of our youngest son, Adam (23).  Last week, on January 8, we moved him out of our house to a loft apartment in Richmond, VA.  As of today, it doesn’t seem he has been looking for a job and we’re worried that he is just sleeping all day every day.  He hasn’t really communicated much with us, so we don’t know anything for sure.

Two days after today’s outing, late on the night of Tuesday the 19th, Adam comes up from Richmond to visit, telling us he is giving a permaculture presentation to some people in Maryland on Wednesday.  He spends all day sleeping in the basement on Wednesday.  While I’m out running errands, he goes out and we don’t see him the rest of the night.  I assume he has gone to give the presentation.

However, on Thursday morning the 21st, while I am still in bed, Mike comes up and turns on the light.  Grumpy, I ask why he is turning on the light.  He says, “You’re going to go crazy.”  Then he proceeds to read me the following note, written by Adam:

What we woke up to on January 21
What we woke up to on January 21

We are both aghast.  If he had already bought the ticket to go to Hawaii in December, as he claimed, why the heck didn’t he tell us BEFORE we got him an apartment in Richmond and committed to a 6-month lease?  We feel duped, furious and hopeless.  Not to mention totally baffled as to what to do.

The next 10 days are torture for us as we don’t know whether or not he’ll come back home at all (we half wish he’ll just stay in Hawaii as he’s been wanting to go there for some time and frankly, we’re sick of being stressed out about him); neither do we know how he plans to live or eat while there as we know he has no money; in addition, his credit cards, which several stupid banks gave him, are maxed out.

We never hear a word from him in the 10 days he was there.  In some ways, I have to say it’s a welcome break, although I try hard to send positive thoughts his way.

Argh!! Life.

 

new year’s night at meadowlark garden’s winter walk of lights – seeking pinpoints of light in the darkness

January 1:  Usually at the first of every year, I’m full of ambitions for the coming year.  I make long lists of resolutions and dream of all the places I’d like to travel, the books I’d like to read, the things I’d like to accomplish.  I do make resolutions this year, but I’m not sharing them on my blog, which I have done the last 4-5 years.   I don’t do a yearly recap for 2015, which I have also done these past few years.  This year, I just don’t have the energy.

Tonight, while our youngest son, Adam, is crashing in our basement, buried under a mound of blankets and self-pity and depression, we escape the tension in our house to walk through the Meadowlark Gardens Winter Walk of Lights, hoping to find some twinkling of light in the darkness engulfing us.

Winter Walk of Lights
Winter Walk of Lights

My enthusiasm for the coming year has been buried under a burden of worry and grief.  I have watched as Adam, who was, in the school system’s terms, a “gifted” child — a person I’ve always seen as someone who could accomplish anything in his life — has self-destructed and is crashing in our basement.  In the past few months, I’ve watched as he’s alienated everyone he’s known by trying to push his radical ideas down everyone’s throats.  He can’t accept people for who they are and is constantly trying to change everyone.  He believes he needs to save the world from self-annihilation.

Winter Walk of Lights
Winter Walk of Lights

At the beginning of December, his housemates kicked him out of his house in the middle of the night.  He suddenly showed up at our house, loaded up with all his stuff, and dumped it all in our house.  After he tried to start several businesses that didn’t take off as he hoped, I could see his heartbreak, and his shame, over his failure.  He has now given up and crashed in the basement, curtains pulled, curled up in a fetal position, surrounded by darkness.  He has lost all his confidence; he’s lost his way.  His emotions have taken control of him, and I’m watching him suffer more than I’ve ever seen anyone suffer.

We’re at wit’s end, not knowing what to do.  We want him to get help, but he refuses. We know we’re finally at the point where we have to clamp down and initiate what people call “tough love.”

Winter Walk of Lights
Winter Walk of Lights

Tonight as we walk around Meadowlark Gardens, we talk about what our options are.  We decide to give him 6 months to get his act together.  We’ve already told him we want to have a talk with him at 4:30 tomorrow.  We need to formalize this so he’ll be prepared, and awake.  We will tell him we will move him into an apartment in Richmond, where his sister and brother live, a town full of young people, a great food scene, and urban gardens.  After all, he can’t afford to live on his own in northern Virginia, and living in our house is no longer an option.  Besides, as he’s alienated all his friends, there is no longer anything holding him here.  We will support him the first month, then each month our support will be reduced by 1/6 until he is on his own.  We have to co-sign on the apartment and we have to pay a premium so our obligation is no longer than 6 months.  After that, we’re cutting him loose.

carolers
carolers

He lacks a purpose, a work ethic, stick-to-it-iveness, confidence, emotional fortitude.  I think he wants to be a success, but he’s too easily defeated.  He refuses to go to school, believing instead that he can educate himself.  He does a lot of reading on his own, but I believe that lack of a college education will hurt him in the long run.  Skipping the whole college experience, one I think is necessary for a young person to transition to adulthood, has thrust him into adulthood before he’s adequately prepared. But of course, he won’t listen to his parents.  He knows more than everyone.

Winter Walk of Lights
Winter Walk of Lights

I love him so much, and it breaks my heart to see him suffering.  I want him to get psychological help, I want him to get on medication, I want him to go to college, I want him to get a job and keep busy and get control of his emotions.  But he’s an adult, and we can only sit by and watch while he makes his own decisions. He’s closed himself off to all advice we offer.  We can no longer control him, but we can refuse to support him financially.  That is our only option.

Winter Walk of Lights
Winter Walk of Lights
pathway of lights
pathway of lights
Winter Walk of Lights
Winter Walk of Lights

So, tonight, we go walk around Meadowlark Gardens with heavy hearts, a feeling of gloom and hopelessness all around us.  Maybe there is some scant light to be found here.  We can lay down what we will do and what we will not, and then we must hand him over to a higher power.  We simply have to continue to love him and to trust that things will eventually work out well for him.

butterfly magic
butterfly magic
flowers
flowers
Winter Walk of Lights
Winter Walk of Lights
gingerbread house
gingerbread house
blue lights
blue lights

On January 8, one week from today, we will move him to Richmond.  We’re keeping our fingers crossed that he will get his act together, and find some peace of mind and some successes in his life.