Sunday, June 19: Happy Father’s Day and welcome to the first cocktail hour on our finished screened-in porch. I’m so glad to see you again! It’s a warm but beautiful day today, so please come in and have a seat on our new porch furniture. You can help me break it in. What can I get you to drink? I have some chilled white wines, a Spanish Rioja, some Shock Top Belgian White, and the makings for dirty martinis. I also have a bottle of Chambourcin from Hiddencroft Vineyards, one of our many Virginia wineries. I’ll tell you more about our visit to this winery later.
I do have to warn you that Mike is a little confused tonight. He made our dirty martinis with olive OIL instead of olive JUICE. You know how olive oil floats to the top of the glass, in a thin band of gold? That’s what you’ll see if you order a dirty martini. 🙂 I wish I had some martini glasses, as they’d look a lot more elegant than these squat drink glasses.
Have you been enjoying the early summer? Have you gone on any fun excursions? Have you started planning your summer travels to exotic lands or will you be having a staycation? Have you gone to any outdoor concerts or wine tours? Have you seen your children off to conquer new challenges? Have you reconnected with old friends? Have you accomplished any goals? Have you been on any retreats? Have you seen any good movies or read any page-turners? Have you eaten at any good restaurants or cooked anything wonderful at home? Have you planted flowers and vegetables? Have you been exercising and eating healthy? Have you been on any shopping sprees?
I may have told you I got a Canon EOS Rebel SL-1 for Christmas. It took me a while to even open up the packaging and take the camera out, but finally, on May 19, I took it out to Meadowlark Botanical Gardens to test it out. I’d already taken a few pictures here and there, and I felt that the pictures were not as sharply focused as the pictures from my Olympus PEN. I wasn’t sure if my eyesight was getting worse or the camera just wasn’t focusing properly, so I was dragging my feet about doing something to correct the problem. I finally talked with the help desk at Canon, and the person there told me to test it out using two different lenses. I have a telephoto lens and a regular lens, and I tested them both. The pictures below are my first extended test with the camera. I still have to say I’m not very happy with the sharpness of the photos, especially compared to my Olympus. I think I’m going to send it back to Canon to see what can be done. It wasn’t a cheap camera, and now it makes me depressed every time I use it because I know the pictures will be inferior.
The reason I even got a new camera was because my Olympus lens kept self-adjusting and readjusting, and I thought it was hopelessly broken. But I also went online with Olympus and sent my lens to them, and now it works better. The whole camera is quite worn out from my years of travel and photography since 2010, when I bought it in Korea. But it still takes the best pictures. I wish now I’d bought a new Olympus rather than the Canon.
I find it so annoying these days that all our local camera shops have gone out of business. Much the same as local bookstores. This is the result of all of us buying everything from Amazon.com or online through different websites. Even when we started looking for furniture for our house, it was hard to find showrooms where you could actually go sit on the furniture, or see it in person. I don’t want to order furniture online without trying it out or without seeing the quality of the product in person.
It used to be you could take your camera to the local camera shop and explain to the person what was wrong with it, and even demonstrate the problem. Now we have to wrap the camera in bubble wrap and send it via UPS to the camera company. Everything has become less personal. I really hate the way commerce is becoming these days.
We had rain nearly every day from the end of April until late May. It was cold and grey, a long depressing spell. Finally, the rainy season stopped and we went right into the heat and humidity of summer. Since then, the weather has moderated, and we’ve had some gorgeous days, in the mid- to low-70s (F), with nice breezes and low humidity. I’ve tried to get out as often as possible.
On top of the relentless period of rain, we have been feeling quite depressed about our youngest son, Adam (23). We thought we were helping him to get on his feet by getting an apartment for him in Richmond. He was supposed to get a job and start taking over the rent payments, with us contributing less and less over time. Since we co-signed his lease, and he made no effort to get or keep a job, we were stuck making the payments. He has decided he doesn’t want to work in life, he wants to “trust in the universe” to provide for him. His vision of living in a society without a need for money works only if you live in a commune, but even then, he would have to do some kind of work to contribute to the commune. I believe he would consider most work as “not the kind of work he wants to do.” Apparently he wants to do no work at all!
He insisted he wanted to take an entrepreneurship course online, which we decided to help him with, in the interest of furthering his education and helping him to start his own business. After attending only one session, he dropped the course; thus we lost around $3,000. When he came up to northern Virginia to inform us of this, I was furious. I said, “We’re done!” I am so tired of him taking advantage of us, and now Mike and I have informed him we are no longer contributing to him financially. So far he doesn’t seem to mind this, as banks are sending him credit card offers right and left. He doesn’t even live in our house any more, but I get credit card offers from major banks addressed to him at least three times a week. I promptly tear them up and toss them in the trash, but of course I’m sure he’s getting the same offers at his apartment in Richmond. Whereas he once told us he had maxed out all of his credit cards, he now suddenly has available credit again. We have warned him continually about getting himself in over his head with debt, but he never listens to anything we have to say. Of course, I’m having a little trouble feeling sorry for these credit card companies who have about as much chance getting paid back as getting nectar from a stone. How on earth do they justify sending so many credit card offers to someone with no verifiable source of income?
Adam has possession but not ownership of a 2004 Toyota Sienna van. We have already told him when his lease expires, he cannot live with us. If we let him live with us, then he gets exactly what he wants, a free ride! So, we figured he could live with the homeless people in Richmond (he says he’s befriended many of them!) and sleep in the van. Well, voila, just last week, the van broke down and now needs a whole new engine, at the cost of about $3,500. We thought we might be able to sell the van and help him pay down some of his debts, but now we can’t even do that.
Apparently, when Adam’s lease expires on July 8, he’s considering flying to Vancouver (I assume paying for this flight and expenses with his credit card), where he will meet up with “like-minded people” at some retreat and try to “make a go of it.” We reiterated that we are not contributing to him financially, and he seems to not care at all. We have now finally realized that all our good intentions regarding our son, who we love dearly, have only hurt him and made him feel entitled and unappreciative. He has made one bad decision after another, in an unending chain. We have now decided that we need to let go. He’s an adult now and though we’ve tried to give him advice and provide him with every opportunity, he is not of a mind to appreciate any of it.
Since making this decision, I feel a burden has lifted. Though it horrifies me to think of him starving or being homeless, there is really nothing we can do, and we just have to let him suffer the consequences of his bad choices. If he does go to Vancouver, at least he won’t be right under our noses, and maybe we can put him on the sidelines of our minds. We’re both trying to create the possibility that this is a phase, that he will grow out of it, that he will eventually get his life together. We at least hope for this outcome. Ultimately, we have no control. And I’m tired of having his situation ruin my emotions.
But wait. The Adam situation changes by the moment. Just tonight, he called to wish his dad a happy Father’s Day and said he’s now considering renting a cheap room from a friend he knows in Richmond because he enjoys some of the camaraderie with his brother in Richmond and lately has been participating in a hand-balancing class there. What?? He says he doesn’t want any money from us and is thinking of working a couple of days a week at the place where Alex works. Oh my gosh! He is all over the place. Mike says he’s decided: Expect anything and everything, and expect the unexpected!
Why on earth are we worrying about him and torturing ourselves when he seems not to have a care in the world about himself??
In letting go of Adam, we’re trying to focus on ourselves and our lives. We’ve spent the last couple of weeks planning our trip to Iceland (August 13-25), booking our flights, a rental car, and all of our accommodation around the Ring Road. We’ve gone to a number of outdoor concerts. We’ve gotten together with friends.
On one sunny Wednesday at the end of May, we went to Kalypso’s Sports Tavern, a nice outdoor restaurant on Lake Anne. It was packed with people who had been cooped up inside for well over a month, but we enjoyed our dinner and wine, despite having the worst waitress on the planet.
On the last Friday in May, Mike and I went to the Herndon Town Center for Friday Night Live! The band, The Reagan Years, recreated the sounds of the 1980s. We enjoyed the music with beers and Lime-a-ritas. It was Memorial Day weekend and one of the first sunny weekends in ages, so it was totally packed with people!
Saturday turned out to be a stunning day, so Mike suggested we go visit a couple of wineries in the western part of the state. We first stopped at Hiddencroft Vineyards. The tasting room is in a circa 1830s farmhouse with two tasting counters; it has a view of the backyard, Dutchman’s Creek and a period kitchen building. A large deck seats 44 guests under colorful umbrellas, and has an open view of the vineyard. Behind the deck, a large patio and massive fire pit provide additional seating and warm ambiance in cool weather.
Of course, having wine in the middle of the day made me pretty sleepy, but that didn’t stop us from going to another winery, Creek’s Edge Winery. This is a larger winery than Hiddencroft, situated on 11 acres of rolling hills. The building is an Amish structure, in the tradition of raised barns.
At this winery we sit at a table with two young people wearing shirts that say: DiVine Wine Tours of Virginia. We ask them about their company, and they tell us they drive groups of about 10 people to wineries for the day, so the participants can enjoy drinking wine without driving. The company focuses on the educational aspects of wine. According to their website, they “offer unique experiences and insight into the business, the grapes, the process, and other interesting facts that the wineries love to share with new as well as experienced wine enthusiasts. Some stops will include behind the scenes tours, some include food pairings, some will have historical stories that will really grab your attention and still some simply have stunning views.” I ask them a bunch of questions about the job, and they said they are hiring and take down my name. I was contacted by the hiring person, but we still haven’t actually met. I thought it might be a fun “occasional” job, but we’ll see if it ever comes to fruition.
On Tuesday, June 7, I met an old friend Layne, in Winchester, Virginia to see the Alphonse Mucha: Master of Art Nouveau exhibit at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley. I’ll write more about our meeting later. Layne is interested in social entrepreneurship and has lived a number of years in Chang Mai, Thailand, and is now living in western Australia. As an expat, she understands me and my expat experience. It’s great to meet up with someone from my “tribe,” someone who shares an affinity for the expat life and travel.
I’ve been trying my best to be healthy, but it’s been awfully hard without having a normal kitchen in my house. The month of rain also put a damper on my 3-mile daily walks. My current addiction to Creamy Dill Lentil Chips dipped in Whole Foods Jarlsberg Cheese Dip doesn’t help my plight. It’s no surprise that I have now gained back almost all the weight I lost since I returned home from China last July. 😦 I can’t wait until my kitchen is back together and I can start drinking smoothies again and eating more healthy foods.
Below are some views along one of my walks around Lake Newport in Reston.
Since Mike works Monday through Friday, often until 6:30 at night, I don’t see much of him. As I don’t have a job, I find myself getting lonely. I have applied for a number of jobs here in the U.S. all to no avail. Though I’m fully qualified for the jobs, or even overqualified, I never even get a call to come in for an interview. Because of this, I’ve started applying to teach abroad again, mostly in Morocco, but though I’m way overqualified, I never get any response. I can’t help but think it’s because of my age, which they can tell by looking at the year I graduated from college. In many cases I have to send my birth date! I’ve even talked to some friends in Oman about returning there, but I haven’t applied because I was hoping to go somewhere different. Of course, Oman, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar offer the highest pay. The jobs in Morocco, Poland and Turkey, where I would actually love to live, have the lowest pay. I was contacted by a Polish school but the pay was only $500 a month + free accommodation. I didn’t even want to pursue it because if I lived in Europe, I’d certainly want to travel and I’d never be able to afford it on that salary!
Meanwhile, I’ve been sending my novel out to agents and getting no response whatsoever. I consider myself lucky to get a rejection letter. I also follow a blog about publishing and self-publishing, and in one of the blogger’s posts, she said, “Any time I see a book that opens with a funeral, a death, a hospital scene, I cringe. This is going to sound cruel, but we really just don’t care. If we have not been introduced to the characters who are clinging to life or recently deceased? We have nothing emotionally vested and so sections like these are just tedious.”
Oh dear! I found this so discouraging, as my book starts with a funeral, and, since I read this, I’ve been paralyzed wondering if I need to write the book all over again! I’ve been so disheartened, I haven’t sent it out in weeks. Luckily, I had someone at the Landmark Forum volunteer to read it, a young Russian woman. She read it and liked it a lot, and told me she was hooked by the funeral scene, so she encouraged me not to change it. The main thing she didn’t like was the number of sex scenes! I didn’t think I had that many, but I’ll have to look it over again. 🙂
To break up the work week, Mike and I often go somewhere for dinner; on Wednesday night, June 8, we went back to Lake Anne to eat dinner at another outdoor restaurant, Cafe Montmartre. We had a lovely evening, sharing a half carafe of red wine and a fairly decent but not stellar meal. I love eating outside at Lake Anne Plaza because it’s less crowded than the more trendy Reston Town Center. Despite Lake Anne’s Soviet-era architecture, it is still a lovely spot for an outdoor dining experience. 🙂
On Thursday-Friday, June 9-10, I went by myself to Philadelphia to explore four gardens: Shofuso Japanese Garden, Chanticleer, Longwood Gardens and Winterthur. I’ll write more about that trip later. While I was in Philadelphia, our contractor Morgan sent me a picture of our finished laundry room. Hooray! At least we don’t have to drive back and forth to my sister-in-law’s house in Vienna 20 minutes each way to do laundry. The color of the laundry room is Sherwin-Williams “Coral Reef,” and I was at first a little shocked by the color as the faux painter who’s doing our kitchen/family room suggested I use a satin finish, which is much brighter than the flat finish I used to test the color. Though I was shocked at first, I’ve now come to love it. It makes me smile every time I go in there. 🙂
I finished reading The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker and I really enjoyed it. This was a fairly quick read about an enduring love story set in Burma. Because I spent two weeks in what is now called Myanmar, I wanted to read a story set there. I enjoyed the story of Julia, who goes in search of her father after he mysteriously vanished one day from her life. After finding a love letter to a woman in Burma, Julia goes in search of him. There she meets U Ba, a man who has a story to tell Julia about her father.
I’m reading an engrossing book now, Hummingbird House by Patricia Henley. The main character Kate is a midwife who comes face to face with the horrors of war in Nicaragua and Guatemala. I’m almost finished it and am really enjoying it.
As for movies, I’ve seen a lot of movies since we last met: A Bigger Splash, The Man Who Knew Infinity, Love & Friendship (confusing), The Lobster (bizarre and disturbing), The Idol (about an Arab singer from Gaza on an Arab Idol Show in Cairo), Dark Horse, Me Before You, and finally, Maggie’s Plan. The best of this bunch were The Man Who Knew Infinity, The Idol, and Me Before You. The others I thought were mediocre.
The Lobster took place in some not so distant future and people had to be coupled or they would be turned into animals. What was so disturbing was the truth of it. People in societies all over the world are expected to be part of a couple or they are outliers and often ostracized. I found this during my 7-year separation from Mike. In China, in Oman, all over Asia, in Turkey, and even in the U.S., I’ve found people who actually felt sorry for me because I was alone. I HATED that attitude! I enjoyed traveling alone and often living alone, and I resented that people saw me as less than whole because I was single.
On the Saturday evening after I returned home from my solo trip to Philadelphia, Mike and I checked out an Indian restaurant at a nondescript little strip mall along the way to our favorite movie theatre, Cinema Arts Theatre. We were surprised when we went inside Curry Mantra to find the most colorfully decorated restaurant. The outside was nothing special, believe me! In the hallway from the bathroom to the restaurant, I found the color of my laundry room! I was so excited. After dinner, we went to see the documentary Dark Horse, which was interesting, although I was expecting it to be a regular movie, not a documentary. 🙂
The following Sunday morning, Mike and I took a 5-mile walk around Burke Lake. I always complain because though it’s a nice walk, it isn’t very photogenic. 🙂
This past Friday night, June 17, we met our friends Karen and Michael, along with Carlos who works with Mike, at Friday Night Live! to listen to Burnt Sienna. The five-piece band hails from Philadelphia; they’re young and full of energy. They have a great stage presence and play music from every era. Also unusual for a band, they have three excellent singers who take turns performing. All are equally talented. We’ve already put on our calendar to see this band in Arlington on August 5.
While at this concert, I went with Karen to the food kiosks where I ran into the Principal Broker at Keller-Williams Realty, the one who taught the real estate class I took in January. I passed both the class test and the state and national exam on the first attempt, something that is apparently rare. However, I still haven’t decided whether I want to sell real estate or not. My first inclination is NOT to do it. When I ran into this broker, he said, “Why haven’t you gotten your license yet? I admit, I’ve been stalking you because I knew you passed the test! I keep looking at the list of new licensees and your name isn’t there. Why haven’t you gotten it?” I said, “I’m just not sure I want to do it!” He told me if I decide to do it, to please contact him, no matter how long it takes. Well, of course, I must make some decision within a year of passing the test — by mid-February of 2017. I’ve kind of decided that if I can’t get a job here or abroad by the fall, maybe I’ll try it out after all!
Our renovation is proceeding nicely. The cabinets are in, and as of this week, the counter tops have been installed. I was in Richmond, helping my older son Alex find a new apartment, as his lease expires on July 31. While I was there, the contractor sent me pictures of the new counter tops. Because of the way the light was shining on the white island counter top, I thought, Oh my god, it’s so bright! It’s actually a white marble-looking quartz counter top. The perimeter of the kitchen has black counter tops with beige veins in it. Since I returned home from Richmond, the island counter top has been covered in cardboard because the floors are being sanded and finished. So I actually haven’t yet seen it in person.
The screened-in porch was finished this week, and our furniture was delivered, so we can now sit out there for cocktails! The electrical work hasn’t been finished out there yet, so we don’t have the fan or lights, but those should come this week or next week. Our contractor tells us we should be in the kitchen by the end of this coming week. However, we won’t be able to move our family room furniture back in because the faux painter is coming on June 29-30.
Last night, we went to Eastwind Restaurant, our favorite Vietnamese restaurant in Fairfax. I love this restaurant and the Vietnamese owner, Dong. He always greets us warmly when we come in and I can’t help but think it’s because I’ve been to his home country and we can talk easily about his home and Asia. Tonight he gave me this hat as a gift; his son recently visited Vietnam and brought it back. Dong has been in the USA since he was 17 (1979) and has only been home once. He is the nicest man imaginable and seeing him again made me miss Asia. (My legs look especially short here because Mike is tall and looking down on us short people!)
Dong said he’s been here 37 years so he considers this his home now. His parents are dead and he has a big Vietnamese community here, so he doesn’t really miss his home country. He was one of the boat people who escaped Vietnam during the war, from home to Hong Kong to LA to Washington with the the help of Catholic Charities.
Ok, enough about me. I know I’ve been very chatty this evening. Now, please tell me all about you! I love to hear what you’re up to. Please share if you’ve read any good books or seen any good movies or concerts or have experienced any exotic travel destinations. What do you have in the pipeline for the summer? Please, do tell all! And please, please, I beg you, share with me if you have any problems with your adult children. I feel like I’m the only one in the world with challenging children!! 🙂