decluttering & demolition… & opening up to possibilities

I have apparently designated this as my year to declutter, clear out, demolish. This has happened without my full realization, but as each month progresses, I’m sure that the year is meant to unfold this way.

In the process of cleaning out and demolishing, I hope to create space for new possibilities.  I am spending this year in a process of self-discovery, and my quest is multi-faceted and I hope, life-changing.

This process started in January after I read the book: the life-changing magic of tidying up by Marie Kondo.  She dubs her method The KonMari method, advising her clients to work by category, not by where clutter is located in their houses. She outlines a specific order to the categories, beginning with clothing, followed by “books, papers, komono (miscellany), and finally things with sentimental value.”

Marie Kondo says in her book: “A dramatic reorganization of the home causes correspondingly dramatic changes in lifestyle and perspective” (p. 3).  Why?  Because “when you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order, too” (p.4).  She says, “When we really delve into the reasons for why we can’t let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future” (p. 181).  She suggests that when you get rid of clutter, you should touch each item and let it go with thankfulness for the part it played in your life.  I have found her method freeing, and so far, though I’ve only gone through clothing and books, I’ve been able to let go of things I’ve been holding on to for sentimental reasons while giving thanks for the part those things played in my life.  I feel unburdened every time I let something go.

Marie Kondo claims by decluttering and tidying, you will experience a dramatic change in your life.  You’ll clear up space where you can fill it with only the things you love.  Choosing to keep only those things that “spark joy,” you can focus on only the things you love without distractions.

At the same time I began my decluttering project, I started taking a real estate course through Moseley Real Estate Schools that lasted from early January into mid-February.  I took the course like the perfect student I always am, passed the class test on the first round, and then passed the state and national exam, again on the first round.  I cleared all hurdles to get my real estate license and to sell real estate, but after talking with numerous firms, all of whom want me to come on board (at no cost to them, I might add, as selling real estate is totally commission-based and you have to pay a couple thousand dollars just to begin), I just cannot take that final step. No matter how much I try to tell myself I could do it, my heart just isn’t in it.  So I’m back to my perplexing dilemma: what to do with my life?  This has been a quandary for me since I was in college, and at age 60, I still haven’t figured it out.  I’m not ready to throw in the towel yet, and I want desperately to figure out what I can do that gives me pleasure and some sense of accomplishment while I’m still “young at heart!”

In the early part of this year, I was seeing a Sikh therapist who I’ve seen from time to time over the last couple of years.  She recommended that I read The Dynamic Laws of Prosperity by Catherine Ponder.  Though the book is Christian in principal, my Sikh therapist thought it was applicable for people of all faiths in teaching the power of affirmations. In a chapter titled “The Vacuum Law of Prosperity,” Ponder says: “Basically, the vacuum law of prosperity is this: if you want greater good, greater prosperity in your life, start forming a vacuum to receive it!  In other words, get rid of what you don’t want to make room for what you do want.” She poses that nature abhors a vacuum, and by getting rid of what you don’t want, you’re automatically making room for what you do want.  She says that you should talk about prosperity, not lack, and envision that your prosperity is already visible in great abundance (p. 41-51).

At the book’s suggestion, I’ve made a vision board and a list of affirmations, but I have to say I haven’t been totally devoted to using them because I’m still unsure what vision I have!

In the midst of my personal self-discovery project, a major remodel of our kitchen, laundry room, and screened-in porch/deck has gotten underway. We’ve been planning this since the fall; during that time, we talked to several contractors and ended up choosing Northwood Construction.  It took us a long while to go through the planning and the many choices of cabinets, countertops, deck material, floor plan, appliances, sink/faucet, lighting, etc.  Following are pictures I took in early February of our kitchen, family room and deck BEFORE the project began.

Friday, February 5: Our kitchen is original to our house, which was built in 1981.  When we moved here in 1994, we replaced the floors throughout the first level with hardwood, painted the kitchen cabinets white, replaced the countertop with formica, got new appliances, removed wallpaper throughout the house and put new wallpaper in some rooms and painted other rooms.  Twenty-two years later, after many years of neglect, things were looking pretty ratty, especially our deck, which was literally about to collapse.  The steps off the deck had broken in several spots, leading to a dangerous situation.

The previous owners had moved the laundry room from the basement, which they’d refinished nicely, to the garage — into a kind of small makeshift room that wasn’t heated or cooled.  We decided when we moved in that the laundry room was the first thing that needed fixing.  Despite our declaration to fix it immediately, we’ve lived with it for 22 years, despite it being uncomfortably hot in summer or icy cold in winter and in such ramshackle condition.

Laundry room - BEFORE
Laundry room – BEFORE

Our family room is adjacent to the kitchen and is a very narrow rectangular room. Its strong point is that it has four long floor-to-ceiling windows that let in beautiful natural light.  We decided we’d like to have the more open plan seen in modern houses, where the kitchen and family room are one big room.  However, because of the narrow dimensions and the four nice windows on the opposite wall, there is only one place to put a couch, on the wall between the family room and kitchen. In three-dimensional drawings made by the contractor, I didn’t like seeing the back of the couch from the open kitchen.  Since there’s no space behind to put a sofa table, we decided on a knee wall behind the couch.  This change requires major structural changes, as the wall we’re partially removing to give a more open feeling is a load-bearing wall and needs a steel beam and major structural changes to make it work.

Our deck was a hazard.  Not only was it dilapidated, but it also got the sun full-on in summer, making it virtually unusable.  Also, mosquitos are a big problem in Virginia.  Thus we opted to demolish the deck and build a screened-in porch, with an open deck behind the garage for outdoor grilling.  Our backyard is a very narrow sloping yard, perfectly useless in my opinion.  Hopefully this will give us a more inviting outdoor space.


Friday-Sunday, April 8, 9, 10:  Before the project began, I attended an intensive 3-day “transformation course”: The Landmark Forum.  The reason I signed up for this was because my son had done the Forum in March, as well as the Advanced Course in April, and I was seeing a positive change in his behavior, his confidence and his willingness and ability to communicate.  The change in him so far has been dramatic.

At my forum, about 140 people gathered every day, Friday through Sunday, from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Three thirteen-hour days! All the description in the world can’t equal experiencing the Forum.  However, I can say I discovered some realizations about myself that have dictated my life since I was a child and a teenager. Some of the discoveries I made are things I knew at a superficial level before, but after participating in the Forum, listening to other people share, sharing myself, and engaging with the speaker in a kind of Socratic method of dialogue, I felt  a deeper understanding of the limiting beliefs I’ve been governed by, “stories” I made up about actual events that happened in my life that have been determining my behavior for my WHOLE LIFE.  The speaker guided us to understand how ludicrous it is that our behavior is totally governed by “stories” and fears based on something that happened to us when we were 3 or 5 or 10 or 15 years old!  Again, a kind of decluttering, a demolishing of old beliefs and an opening up of possibilities for a transformed existence.

At the end of my forum, I signed up for a series of 10 “Commitment” seminars, weekly or bi-weekly, to keep me on track applying what I learned.  I also signed up for the Landmark Advanced Course, which should enable me, now that I’ve been stripped down to “nothing,” to create a life of new possibilities.

You can find allegations online and elsewhere that Landmark is a “cult,” but I don’t believe it to be so; they actually address that allegation by emphasizing that the Forum is about YOUR life.  It’s not about a group mentality, but about transforming your relationships and reaching your dreams and goals.  I guess you could say that many things in life are cults, including addictions and religious affiliations.  I have to say I don’t care for the marketing aspect of Landmark, as they encourage you to bring more people to sign up, but I do see the value in the Forum itself, especially when I can witness the transformation in my son, as well as my own self-realizations.

Monday, April 11: On Monday morning after I completed my forum, our contractor showed up and in one day demolished our deck.  All the debris was carried out to the street awaiting delivery of the dumpster.

Thursday, April 14:  By Thursday, our laundry room was demolished, materials were delivered, a dumpster was set up for construction debris and a porta-potty was installed on our property.  The contractors will be working on our house through the end of June, apparently.  At this point, they were waiting for us to move everything out of our kitchen and family room, so they could begin the inside demolition on Monday morning.

Friday, April 15:  On Friday, the concrete was delivered for the porch footings.  The holes were already dug in preparation for this and the concrete was poured and leveled and left to dry over the weekend.

Concrete arrives for porch footings
Concrete arrives for porch footings

Saturday & Sunday, April 16&17:  We spent all weekend going through every item in our kitchen and dining room.  We boxed a lot of stuff which we took to Goodwill.  We packed unessential items into boxes and put them in the basement.  We set up a makeshift kitchen in the dining room with essentials: refrigerator, coffee pot, wok, rice cooker/food steamer/slow cooker, hot water heater, toaster, toaster oven, plastic dishes and utensils and cabinets of food.

Makeshift kitchen in dining room
Makeshift kitchen in dining room
Makeshift kitchen in dining room
Makeshift kitchen in dining room

Monday, April 18: Our contractors are here every weekday by 7:30 and they leave promptly at 3:30.  They work non-stop while they’re here.  So far, I’m impressed by their professionalism and capabilities.

On Monday, the foreman let me do some of the first strikes to begin the kitchen demolition.

I pose for demolition
I pose for demolition

Don’t laugh too hard.  I know, I look like a wild woman!

I’m surprised by how quickly our construction foreman demolished the entire kitchen and the drywall between the kitchen and family room all by himself.  The porch is also being framed simultaneously with the kitchen demolition.

Tuesday, April 19:  Now we can see the backbone of this portion of our house.  When the drywall was pulled off, the contractor found a number of ant colonies and wood destruction.  Two times we’ve had to call our pest control person to treat certain areas under floorboards and on the ceiling.

the contractor in what remains of the kitchen
the contractor in what remains of the kitchen

In addition, we found a lot of water damage in the area where the skylights were.  That means the plywood and several joists on the roof need replacing, adding another $800-$1,000 to our already expensive project. 😦  We knew we would find some degree of water damage, but we didn’t know it would be this extensive.

the water damage and rot around the skylights, adding another $1,000 to our project :-(
the water damage and rot around the skylights, adding another $1,000 to our project 😦

The kitchen is open to the garage now, so we have to be careful of critters getting into the house until the laundry room and wall are rebuilt.

The kitchen opened to the garage
The kitchen opened to the garage

The porch flooring is framed.

framing of the porch
framing of the porch

Wednesday, April 20:  Today, the contractor spent most of his day shoring up the load-bearing wall was so that he could place a steel beam sandwiched between two wood beams.

the steel beam is sandwiched between two beams to replace the load-bearing wall
the steel beam is sandwiched between two beams to replace the load-bearing wall
the open look we've been waiting for
the open look we’ve been waiting for

And the work continues.

So, here I am in the middle of my story, with a demolished house and a stripped down set of “stories,” beliefs, and “rackets”: an unfinished life with possibilities.  I’ve given a lot of thought to both the house and my life possibilities over the last couple of months.

As for the house, at this point most of the decisions have been made.  We’ve picked almost everything except the cabinet hardware, and the ceiling fan and outdoor lights for the porch and deck.  Now we will move forward with our choices, seeing them set in place and watching the evolution.  The possibilities presented by creating new spaces in our house are set in motion and all we have to do is sit back and trust the process.

That’s the thing about decisions.  Once you make them, other possibilities fall by the wayside.  Well.  Maybe that’s not true. If we don’t like the choices we’ve made and decide to make changes, it will cost us in some way, more money or more time.

I think that’s one reason I’m so afraid to make decisions about my life.  Once I make a decision, all other possibilities are off the table, unless I’m willing to pay the cost of lost time or money. I’m not getting any younger or any richer, so I want to make the right decision.  I’m hoping the “Commitment” seminar series, the Landmark Advanced Course, affirmations, my vision board, and being open to the universe will help me to find my way to creating a transformation in my quality of life. 🙂



38 thoughts on “decluttering & demolition… & opening up to possibilities

  1. This certainly looks like a project! Great to record the before – I bet it is going to be gorgeous after. If only changing our lives was quite as easy to arrange… I wish you well Cathy. Personally I’d love to sell houses – I have looked at enough during my house search! But then I’d probably be too honest and not sell anything 😉

    1. Jude, you’re right, this is a big project, but I’m excited about the changes. Changing our physical environment is much easier than changing our lives, at least I find that to be the case. Thanks so much for your good wishes. As for selling houses, I think I could do a good job; it’s the prospecting for clients that puts me off. I hate making cold calls and pushing myself on people; I used to make 20-25 cold calls a day as a stockbroker and I hated it with a passion. If someone handed me clients, I’m certain I’d enjoy it; it’s just the process of getting new clients that I’d hate! Oh well, it’s quite a dilemma and I have one year from the date I passed the exam to sign with a firm or apply for an inactive license. I still can change my mind if I want. Some of the firms gave me an open invitation, so if I want I can still pursue it. I have some other ideas I want to explore first though, so I don’t want to make that commitment until I’ve pursued those other options. 🙂

      1. I quite agree with you not taking on something you hate doing. I went into teaching at secondary and that was one of the worst decisions I have ever made. I was dreadfully unhappy and stressed a lot of the time, but I loved training adults! I’m so relieved that I don’t have to work any more, unless I find something I really want to do.

      2. I taught secondary school English for all of one semester, Jude, right after college, and I hated it so much I swore I would never teach again. So I can understand your “dreadful” unhappiness. Teaching university students abroad is something I can deal with, but I would never in a million years want to teach spoiled American high school kids! I’d rather jump off a cliff. Teaching or training adults would be even more fun than teaching university students.

        You’re lucky you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. I don’t really have to either, I just WANT to do something to give structure to my days and to interact with other people. I still haven’t found that something, but I sure hope it materializes soon! 🙂

      3. I’ve sent the book out to about 20 agents so far; not one has expressed any interest. I’m going to keep sending it. I’m not sure what the magical number will be when I give up and decide to self-publish it. I’ll need an editor’s advice first. 🙂 It’s not so much grammar or spelling, but big picture stuff like character development, plot, word count, etc. 🙂

      4. Oh well, Jude, I have expected it to be tough. I read somewhere that 1 out of 11,000 writers who send queries to agents gets offered representation. The odds are definitely not good, so I’m trying not to get too depressed about it. I’m not ready yet to give up on the traditional route, but I will eventually. 🙂

      5. Well I wish you luck. You must have thought about travel writing. Surely there must be a book or two in your overseas teaching experiences? I thoroughly enjoyed your Oman blog, not a country I knew anything about until I read it.And I’m sure your experiences would make great reading for people thinking about doing the same thing.

      6. I actually have been thinking about writing a memoir from the time Mike and I separated until the end of my time in Korea, with flashbacks to my childhood as well. I’m hesitant because it would be a little risqué and I’m not sure I’m brave enough to write it! Then another travel memoir would be about my time in Oman. All of these are ideas that are going around in my mind at this point; nothing is on paper. You’re not a writer until you write!!! I’m not sure how to approach it; I need to do some research. As a memoir is considered nonfiction, some people advise that you submit a proposal BEFORE writing the book. I’ll have to ask my ex-husband about it. He’s just published a non-fiction book called Mathews Men; he is going to do quite well with it, I think. We used to live together in Mathews County shortly after we had our daughter and moved back to Virginia from Idaho. He’s on book tour now (Mike and I went to his book talk at Politics and Prose in D.C. last week), but I’ll be seeing him at our daughter’s graduation on May 14. Maybe he can offer me some advice. 🙂

  2. What a fantastic blog!! I loved this!! I am soooo glad you decided to take the before photos!!

    It is no coincidence that your concerted efforts to strip down your inner self to the studs is happening at the same time your home, that bastion of familiar security, is having the same thing done to it. Which one is symbolic of the other? Fascinating to me that you are literally tearing down the walls around you as well as those inside you at the same time. I am amazed and so proud of you for taking such drastic and very courageous steps! You are way too hard on yourself and do not give yourself enough credit.

    How do you like camping in the living room? It certainly makes you realize how little space you need to live your life. I miss living in my tiny cabin on the lake more and more every day, but like all my sanctuaries, it was sold off in the detritus of the last ten years of my life, leaving me frustrated at the decisions and choices I have made which have put me in a place I don’t want to be either mentally or physically.

    I am fascinated also by this course which you took which has helped (Adam I assume) so much. First of all the KonMari of books is still beyond me, as I have 3000 of them which do bring me joy just to look at them. I did my clothes not long after you did, but am finding I am still clinging to that box of clothes I wore 30 pounds ago, because I am determined to lose that weight and have pretty much pared down to a reasonably healthy dinner, no breakfast or lunch and certainly no more snacks. Despite weeks of this I see no difference in my weight at all, and this is so frustrating, as while I still have a beer or some wine it is nothing like it was when I snacked on chips with my booze or some other calorific indulgence, which I no longer do, and I walk home from work most days 4 km.

    But I won’t give up. It is the one thing I have in my power to change, my physical weight, which is a lot easier than dealing with all the heaviness of the baggage I am carrying around in my mind, dead metabolism inclusive. I just have to keep at it because that is the only thing I can change right now about my life. I hate where I live, and while I love my job the pay is barely above minimum wage, and there is a chance my disability pension will be taken away and without that, I will be trapped here in Canada forever.

    I see you as having taking control of your inner and outer worlds, and I applaud you that you are able to do this as yes, these major changes often require a lot of money. But I have to disagree with you re “Once I make a decision, all other possibilities are off the table”. They are only off the table for now. While some decision are indeed permanent and you can never go back and undo them, others are not. You are the youngest 60 year old I know, and if you throw yourself into something, normally you have time limits in place which mean you can make further changes and modifications or abandon them altogether. I do not see you as locking yourself into anything you cannot get yourself out, in other words. And just think you have Mike now to stand by your side and support you as you stand by him.

    Your house will be a dream and very easy to sell if this is what is in the future. Don’t be afraid to do that if you realize it is time to KonMari the family home! Your son is old enough to stand on his own two feet, just as his mother has so bravely done on distant shores, in distant lands.

    My regrets are why do I have six cats? Why am I so attached to my condo (but not to being on the Condo Board, I am already fed up with that) just because my dad did some work in it putting in my kitchen and bath? It makes me question what it is I am also hanging onto for the wrong reasons.

    My parents are planning to move way across town to a seniors home for old Germans who all know each other, and as I can see their condo from where I live now, I do not want to be so far from them when they move if I am to be stuck here. But I don’t earn enough to move to a single family home, a tiny old wartime house, near where they will be on my own. My condo is not worth more than $180,000 Canadian. A small home would be another $50,000 with some repairs in there. This is becoming my new dream as I never expected to ever leave this condo now that I am here with the cats, but I crave a yard, a garden, my own tiny space in a teeny tiny house. But am I brave enough to do this? I will discuss it with my parents next month. Yesterday they had their 59th wedding anniversary. Wow I cannot imagine that.

    I know no one else will see this blog post and I have not checked with where we are in other correspondence. I so would like to call you or have you call me when you get a phone card, and we can discuss all your inner and outer transformations!!

    This blog post from you made my day. I was so glad to finally have a more personal blog as you are so dear to me. I am so miserable being stuck here, but I made decisions which in fact are not the kind you can simply undo, so this I do understand, why I did not think about it more before I decided to take on this burden of so many pets when I have no friends at all here or help with them or anything else, or even anyone to go for a beer or a walk or a movie with. It is rather tragic.

    But it could be worse, at least I have a good steady job, even if the pay is lousy. In August I can ask for a raise to at least what the girls before me made I hope. One of our lawyers is in Geneva, Switzerland now where he goes every few months. It kills me!! He went to visit my old neighbourhood last time he went, and this time I sent him on an errand to find me some chocolates which the Swiss do not export as they of course keep all the best wine, cheese and chocolate for themselves. That decision, to quit the UN, my God it torments me more and more every day it seems, another one of those decisons you can never undo. But just keep paying for and paying for.

    You are so wise to have the insight required before taking your next steps but to me it seems the universe is giving you this year to rid yourself of a lot of baggage mental and physical, so you should not be making any major decisions now anyway. You will change a hundred times over before this year is out.

    Take each day as it comes as you are not having to make any decisions involving how you will feed and clothe and house yourself right now. Enjoy this process of transforming yourself and your home, and see where this leads you before you have to worry about stuff which right now is not that important. I said right now. The future arrives when it arrives and then you will know when it is time to make any big decisions. You no longer have the past informing your choices it seems, which will open up whole new horizons of possibility, I know it.

    Take care, and be kind to yourself. You are a golden soul with a silver halo (i.e., your gorgeous hair!!!) here on earth right now, just take each day as it comes!

    Your friend, ml xxxx

    1. Wow, thanks for your long and thoughtful response, ML. I’d like to address each thing you mention, but first my overall feeling is that your kindness to me is unfailing. I truly appreciate that. However, I feel sad that you feel so trapped and I think, as you do about me, that you seem way too hard on yourself. You have so much to offer the world with your intelligence and passion, and I’m afraid you don’t give yourself enough credit for all the encouragement and kindness you offer to other people.

      I know I owe you a lot of responses to all your other messages on my blog, but I have been so caught up on so many things, I have neglected my blog and have been inconsistent with communicating with people for too long. My blog is one of my ways of connecting with the world, and right now I feel disconnected with everyone outside of my family. So I need to get better with that.

      I couldn’t help but see the connection between decluttering and demolition within my house and within myself. And maybe you’re right; it’s all happening at the same time for some reason, which is not clear at this point. It’s an unfinished and unfolding story.

      I’m sorry you feel like you’ve made a lot of bad decisions regarding your job at the UN, selling your cabin, accumulating cats that tie you to Canada, etc. I hope you can forgive yourself and accept those decisions as a result of that horrendous accident that you survived; maybe in some way you’ve been feeling undeserving for surviving when those around you didn’t. I’m wondering if the Landmark Forum would show you that that “story” you believe, that you didn’t deserve to live, has had far-reaching implications. I can’t imagine having been through such a traumatic event and being functional afterwards. I don’t think I would have done nearly as well as you have.

      As for your attempts at weight loss, believe me, I fully understand and sympathize. It’s like fighting an uphill battle the older you get. I am always struggling with this issue, as you know, and I find it extremely frustrating.

      I do agree that other possibilities are not totally off the table once you make one, but it’s a detour, costly and time-consuming, when you take a wrong turn. Getting into real estate would cost me several thousand dollars when I know my ability to prospect is questionable and it’s not really what I want to do with my life. I want to do something that involves travel, teaching and writing; I’ve been giving thought to holding writing retreats around the world, but of course that involves a cost of going to a place and scouting out places; however, I’d rather spend thousands doing that than spending that same amount on licensing and realtor association memberships and marketing real estate. Of course starting my own business would also involve marketing but at least it is something I’d believe in and could more readily put myself out there. I’m reading some books on entrepreneurship and travel businesses and am doing research on other travel businesses to see if I might be able to develop a niche somehow. I’ve also been considering going abroad to teach again, or even applying to be a UN volunteer, as you suggested. I have looked into it and it seems you need some kind of expertise in healthcare, democracy building or something, so I’m not sure they’d take me, but I think I might apply anyway.

      You are also so right that I’m lucky to have Mike by my side supporting me. He is a good man and so patient and kind to have forgiven me for not appreciating his presence in my life for those 7 years of our separation.

      We did have a long discussion with Adam last night and though it wasn’t pleasant, we made clear our intentions to be able to enjoy our retirement and to stop supporting him financially. We also made clear that we don’t want him moving back into our house. His vision of life and ours are so at odds they can never be reconciled, and we just have to let go of our dreams for him. After all, we can’t change him, and I have to let go and put him into God’s hands.

      It gives me a lot of satisfaction when I can inspire and motivate people, so the fact that my post has led to you questioning your own life makes me feel like I can make some difference in people’s lives by sharing my own struggles. What I enjoy realizing myself is that other people are not so different than I am, that we all are struggling with something, and sharing our struggles gives us strong connections, and makes us more complete.

      As for reaching your dream of getting your own small house with a garden, I really hope you will seriously consider it. I think it’s worth it to pursue your dreams, even if you feel trepidation in your heart. I will try to get a phone card today and let’s set up a time to chat on Sunday sometime. I’d love to catch up with you by phone. You really should plan to come visit after our renovation is done.

      As for not having anyone to connect with, or have a beer with, I’m in the same boat. I did recently reconnect with someone who I care for dearly, an old friend who I deserted when I left Oakton and my family behind. I’m glad to have that reconnection, and I hope to nurture it when she and her husband return from a trip to Israel on May 1. I came to realize ESCAPE is a big theme in my life, but in escaping, I also happened to find something I love, which is travel and living and working abroad.

      Thanks once again for your kind words and your consistent encouragement. I think you believe in me more than I believe in myself, and that is heartwarming and confidence building for sure. Hugs to you, dear friend. xxx

      1. HI there!! A very powerful exchange!! I am sorry I did not see if over the weekend to arrange a time to chat! M-F I am online all day as I have so little to do, so on the weekends I tend to avoid it! Yes, I am your biggest fan, and I can see that you have absolutely zero passion for real estate and yes that money would be much better spend scouting locations overseas or just engaging in more writing workshops abroad as part of your research for what works for you and what doesn’t! I would totally attend a writing workshop you led! I have often wanted to take part in them myself, as I have so many short stories started as well as my African memoire. I never thought about my feeling the way I do as a result of surviving that when so many did not. I did have years of anger as to why I did not die with them as it would have been so much easier. I should have died, two fortune tellers and tarot card readers saw my death in that crash before I left, I could tell on their faces though they are not allowed to tell you stuff like that if they see someone’s death, but I knew. and I was not afraid. In fact I expected to die on that trip, as I always felt I will never get to retirement age. Oh well. Something or someone had other ideas and now it is up to me to make my peace with htat. I think writing helps a lot as does this method of exhange with you. I do miss your insight and wisdom and being able to access it in the next room, but like many relationships, this is our reality now, and we are luckier than many ESL teaching colleagues in that we really are not that far away geographically. Thank you for the invitation to visit you, I am very touched and very humbled by that and I hope one day that would be possible!! I wish I could help with the renovations!!!
        I would like to thank you for this post with what your wrote abotu the little house. While I cannot sell up this minute and quite frankly do not have the guts to do that right now, I did take a risk and apply for a job as head of the writing centre at my old university, which has a lot of esl students who need all kinds of support. The requirements were practically a copy of my CV qualifications and what is odder yet is that this vacancy notice came to my mailbox unsolicited which has never happened before as there is no way to sign up for these job notices. I took it as a sign and decided while I love my very easy job the pay is appallaing and I can never take another risk again if I stay here, so I applied and decided to give it to the universe and see what happens. there are two jobs there, one is admin assistant and one is like the director of the place. We will see and I will let you know, but I agree, if you have no passion, you will not fight for yourself or your own success. I miss teaching but not marking, and this is a writing centre where the best of all possible worlds is combined into one position which pays pretty well. Wish me luck.
        You knwo you do not have to respond to every post I write, I do not ever expect you to!!! I am just glad if you read them!!! Do not feel guilty or apologize for this or I will stop responding!! Hahahaha!
        I heard from Warwick he is actually content with his lot in RSA and has a good class he says, but please make sure you never fly with a Saudi airline if his descriptions of his studnets, aka just like the Omanis, is accurate, in terms of their laziness and lack of general knowledge. Oh well.
        As for your real estate, again I forgot to say, what you have invested financially in that seems to be already something that has paid itself back to you in confirming so definatively what you do not want to do. That is as important as finding out what you do what to do. It seems to me your vision for yourself is narrowing in focus (in that it is less generalized by far) which shows you are nearing the path that appears to be unfolding for you. You are not there yet, your family and home life is what needs to take precidence right now which is good. I think you must have really had a difficult time in confronting Adam about his living situation and how you will no longer allow him to sabotage his own future or your happiness by thinking he can keep coming home so that you can pick up the pieces. It must have been very difficult for all of you, and I applaud your courage and sympathize with the emotional hardship that will take a large toll on you and Mike both.
        He may not thank you now, but he will. He knows deep down that you are right in taking the tough love approach. One day.
        Well I will let you go, and check back on Friday to see how your weekend is shaping up if we can manage a call. I am sending you a big hug and tons of energy, what I can spare, haha! as you continue with the home renovations. Thank you so much for all your advise and wisdom and insight as always, I so very much value every letter you write to me. You do make a powerful difference on those who are lucky enough to be in your circle, and don’t you forget it! We rarely have a front row seat to the changes we instill in others, but you have done so much for me you cannot ever imagine how much. And I am so thankful to you for this.
        Don’t forget you still have a novel that needs to be published, that is also still out there for you. You might even consider self-[ublishing onine as many people have gotten rather wealthy selling their books on Kindle and Amazon at the $.99 – $2.99 range. I have 4 words for you: 50 shade of grey. Now if that piece of shit made that lady millions for such bad writing and such a pathetic topic, just imagine what you could do with your quality mytery based on Washington!!! Time to investigate that route if you are not happy with whatever the old fashioned way of submitting manuscripts brings you in terms of success. There are some very good books being sold that way by people who are frustrated with that way of doing things. Please put it on your check list how to sell though self-publishing when you finally put the paint brushes and sledge hammer down and your home is finished.
        Lots of love xxxxx hi to Mike xxxxxx dear dear friend xxxx

      2. Thanks again for your long and in-depth reply, ML. 🙂 You should definitely work on your short stories and your African memoir. I would love to read them! I’m considering writing one myself encompassing when Mike and I separated until the end of my year in Korea. The years after would be a separate story. I have so many ideas about workshops or retreats to offer abroad, but I just need to get organized and disciplined and put one together and see if anyone is interested. I really do hope you’ll consider visiting me sometime, sooner rather than later!

        Good luck with the new job you applied for! I really hope you get it. I know you like your job, but as you said the pay is low and it probably isn’t very challenging to you. I just applied for several jobs myself, all here in Virginia or D.C., but of course I feel certain I won’t get any of them because of my age. It’s so frustrating. At this point, I’d take anything as I just want something to keep me busy and to give structure to my days. Most people would love to have my life, with no real obligations, but I’m not one of them; I like to have an office to go to where I can interact with people.

        The Adam story is still ongoing and we’re certainly far from being out of the water with him. Today someone at the Landmark Forum said, “Oh, you’re the mother of that wonderful young man, aren’t you?” I replied that yes, I am. She said, all the parents at Landmark said they would love to have them as their son. I said, “They can have him! He’s great to everyone else, but not to his parents!” She and I had a good laugh about that, because every parent struggles with their children in some way or another and she understood perfectly what I meant.

        I’m so glad Warwick is happy in Saudi Arabia. I’m sure you’re glad to hear that too. Tell him I wish him the best!

        As for my novel, I have sent it out so far to about 20 agents and have gotten no interest whatsoever. I’ll keep sending it out, but I’ve taken a break now as things are in such disarray here. I do plan to self-publish if I have to, but only after someone edits it. I think all the grammar and spelling, etc. are mostly fine; I need an editor for the bigger things like plot, character, cutting down on word count, etc.

        This Thursday and Friday, I’m going to Yorktown and Richmond to visit my Dad, then Sarah. It is her 32nd birthday, so I’m going to celebrate with her. She will finally graduate from college after paying her way through for years, although she has no idea what she wants to do.

        You are so kind to say I inspire you; that really means to world to me. It seems to me that all I’d inspire is confusion, since I feel so confused and indecisive myself. 🙂

        By the way, if you’d like to try to talk this Sunday, let me know a time. I bought a phone card, so I’m ready to call you! I’m going to be in Richmond through Saturday morning and Saturday afternoon, Mike and I may go to D.C. to meet Alex and his girlfriend Ariana for dinner. I don’t think I have any plan for Sunday.

        I’ll look forward to talking to you soon! Hugs to you. xxx

      3. Then Sunday it is!!!!! I always watch CBS Sunday Morning and then I am free the rest of the day!! Will save any further chatter for the phone!! So looking forward to it!!!! My number is 1-519-888-7105 – send me a text first as sometimes my phone does not register calls though I hope to sort that out tomorrow at the mall. xxxxxxx

  3. We all have our own way of dealing with life Cathy and it’s wonderful that you still have the enthusiasm to look for a better way. It must be out there! Sending hugs xx

    1. I’m a seeker, Jo, always trying to improve my situation and my state of mind, although it’s a challenge more often than not! I’ll probably go to my grave still looking for true happiness, peace of mind and contentment. Hugs to you too. xxx

  4. How exciting to remodel. While I doubt it’s fun to live through, the reward will come. Decluttering, mind and belongings, is not easy. What do I want to be when I grow up? Do I really need to decide NOW?

    1. It is very exciting, as well as disruptive, Carol; I’m looking forward to the way we might be able to live differently after the remodel (I’m envisioning nightly cocktails on the porch or sitting at my new island with computer and coffee, or entertaining in our new open space!). I thrive on change, so at this early stage I don’t mind the chaos too much. Ask me how I feel in another month and I might not be so laid back about it.

      As for what to be when I grow up, it’s sadly been a lifelong dilemma. I can’t imagine ever wanting to sit around doing nothing even when I’m 80-90 years old! I just want some interaction with people, doing something to help and inspire people, and having a schedule. Sales is not my thing, so working in an office at this point would be fine. Starting my own business is something I’ve been giving thought to. I’ve never been an entrepreneur, so it would be a huge learning curve. 🙂

      1. Carol, I’m full of ideas, especially in the middle of night and early morning when I’m lying in bed. Bringing them to fruition once I get up and going is more of a challenge. I’m trying to think of ways I could offer different kinds of travel experiences. Ideas are plenty, but whether any of them would work is a mystery! I just need to commit to something and try to make it work. 🙂

  5. Kat, that was so funny seeing you trying to demolish that wall. It reminded me of a renovation programme on TV here (possibly A&E Channel). Your kitchen BEFORE looked like a dream kitchen for me. You would die if you saw what we have to live with here. Wonderful blog, Kat, but I’d hate to have all that disruptioning going on at home. Maybe you should start real estating here in Portugal now that banks are lending again.

    1. Haha, Dai. I’m glad you got a hoot out of my ridiculous video. I am obviously such a weakling, although admittedly I was pounding on a joist at the first spot! I’m not sure I would be shocked seeing what you have to live with in Portugal. After all, I lived with the simplest of arrangements in Korea and China, and even Oman. Actually, the simpler the better for me.

      The reason we have to redo everything is to bring the house up to the level of our neighborhood so we won’t take a beating when we sell it in about 5 years, when Mike hopefully retires. We knew we had to upgrade but we figured we’d rather do it now so we can enjoy the upgrades for several years before we sell the house.

      Selling real estate in Portugal would be much more palatable than here; there, I think, houses are charming and full of character; here, it’s extremely competitive (real estate agents are a dime a dozen) and the houses range from McMansions to houses from the 50s and 60s, none with much character or charm. Of course, the language barrier would be a big problem for me!

      Have a great weekend, Dai. xxx

  6. It’s great to see the before, and during shots. I’m always fascinated by the process of changing/adapting things, so to see the bare bones on the space is very interesting. It’s going to be hard having all the construction work going on for months, but just think how wonderful it is going to be when it is finished. 🙂
    I really must get on with some decluttering too…

    1. Thanks, Elaine. I’m fascinated by this process too, and I love popping my head in and seeing what they’re doing every couple of hours. I hope it is going to be wonderful when it’s all done!

      Because we moved two entire rooms into our other space, it doesn’t feel as decluttered as it had been feeling, but eventually, I think we’ll end up with a much cleaner version of our home! Good luck with your decluttering! 🙂

  7. Loved seeing your demolition pics, Cathy. How big is your team? I just have a one-man-band who insist on doing everything himself, so You’ll probably be finished long before me. 🙂 I’m sure I’m going to have to do some decluttering when i start opening all the boxes in storage. Roll on the day. 🙂

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed my demolition pictures, Sylvia. Our day-to-day team has been two people so far, but as of today the trades are coming in, an electrician and one project manager. Soon we’ll have the flooring and plumbing guys in as well. 🙂 If your one-man-band is diligent, maybe he’ll move along quickly too! We tried to do a lot of decluttering BEFORE the project started but we ran out of time and we have a lot more to do still. 🙂

  8. It’s interesting that you mention the decluttering book here. I had a very similar conversation with my sister last weekend, and she said that she has been following the book and so far has filled eight bags with discarded clothing. She is feeling very liberated and is going to continue with the program.

    Your home is going to be wonderful when the construction is complete. I hope we get to see some “after” photos.

    1. That’s great news to hear your sister has discovered the KonMari method, Carol. Good for her. I’m sure she does feel liberated. I know I do, but I still have a long way to go! I’m very excited about our remodel; I think it will feel partly like a new home, especially once we finish dealing with our clutter. I’ll definitely show some “after” photos, but sadly, it will be a while. 🙂

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