the july cocktail hour: the renovation wrap-up edition

Sunday, July 17:  Here it is, time for our “dog days of July” cocktail hour. Welcome! I’m so happy to see you again.  Please come in and I’ll mix you up a drink.  We can sit on the screened-in porch, but in today’s 91 degree (F) heat, even with the ceiling fan stirring the air, we might prefer to move inside.  Our kitchen and family room renovation is done, but I must apologize that our counter stools for the kitchen island haven’t arrived.  We’ll just have to sit on couches or chairs or, better yet, just mingle.

You’ll be happy to know that my repertoire of drinks is improving daily.  Mike told our contractors, who have given us a two-year warranty on our home improvements, that he would like a warranty on his wife.  He fears he will have an alcoholic on his hands in two years’ time as I’m always trying new drink concoctions to enjoy on our screened-in porch.  My inspiration comes from my friend Beatrice, who swears by mixed drinks on ice during the hot summer months.  You know I’ve always been a wine and beer drinker, but I’m learning to enjoy a good cocktail.  Besides my recent foray into dirty martinis, Beatrice has introduced me to the Moscow Mule (vodka, lime juice and ginger beer), which is usually served in a copper mug.  I don’t have any copper mugs, but I did get some colorful cocktail glasses.  I’ve also tried Beatrice’s favorite, the Cosmopolitan, or Cosmo, although she never told me about the Triple Sec. My daughter Sarah, who has worked for a long time as a bartender/waitress, would be proud!

I’m dying to know what you’ve been up to in the last month. Have you been enjoying your summer? Have you been on vacation or explored new areas close to home? Have you seen your children off to conquer new challenges? Have you reconnected with old friends or made any new ones? Have you indulged yourself with daydreams? Have you changed jobs?  Have you seen any good movies or read any page-turners?  Have you eaten at any good restaurants or cooked anything wonderful at home?  How’s your garden?

It seems I haven’t done much but to make endless decisions on our renovation.  We had a couple of mishaps and two of my children have gone on some adventures, although I haven’t been anywhere myself. Our trip to Iceland is coming up on August 13; we’ve booked our flight, rental car and accommodation, and I’m slowly working my way through the guidebook.

My daughter Sarah went on a trip to Puerto Rico for a week with some girlfriends at the end of June.  I’ve talked with her by phone, but I haven’t made it down to Richmond to catch up with her about her trip or to see her new house. Hopefully, I’ll be visiting her within the next two weeks.

As of June 21, this is what our renovation looked like.

The bulk of our renovation was finished up on Friday, June 24, so we were able to move back into our kitchen.  Some of the electrical work needed to be finished up after the electrician returned from vacation on July 4, but at least we were now able to cook!

I completed the Landmark Advanced Course on three long days 10:00 a.m. to midnight on June 24, 25, 26, and then a Tuesday night.  It was tough going, but many parts of it were very eye-opening and inspirational.  One of the things we had to do was to write in stream-of-consciousness style for about 10 minutes straight about some problem we have in our life.  Then we sat knee-to-knee with another participant and read aloud what we had written, over and over, until we were told to stop.  The story I wrote was about my inability to find a decent job, and my story is quite extensive.  As a matter of fact, most of you have probably read about it many times on my blog!  After reading it multiple times, it became embarrassing, and ludicrous!  What a story I’ve been telling myself for all these years. I hope I can create a new story and put an end to that old story, although I imagine I will still pull that old story out when it suits me.

During the Saturday session of the Landmark Forum, I got a text from Mike asking me to call him when I could.  I ducked out and called to find out he’d been in a bad bicycle crash right in our neighborhood and had just spent three hours in the emergency room.  He admits he was being quite cocky in taking a sharp turn, and when he had to alter the turn because a car pulled up, he went sliding out on a patch of gravel.  He shredded his whole left side, leg and arm, with a huge gouge scooped out of his left forearm.  He also suffered a mild concussion.  I’ve had to help him change his bandages twice a day for the last two and a half weeks.  Finally the wounds have started to heal, but it’s been tough on him because he hasn’t been able to swim or bike, his two favorite activities.

After the Landmark Advanced Course, I was feeling inspired and decided to host my whole family here at my house for my dad’s 86th birthday on the weekend of September 17.  I’ve told my sister in California, who hates to fly, that come hell or high water, I would get her here, even if it means I have to fly out there and then drive across the country with her.  Most everyone in my family has committed to this event, except for Adam.  This event will now preclude me getting any kind of teaching job abroad as most semesters begin in early September.

Our contractors had painted a pale yellow base coat on the kitchen and family room walls; this base coat was in preparation for a decorative art painter, Sarah Zehala, we hired to stipple a rich yellow color on the walls. She was here two days, on June 29-30.  I was highly pleased with the results!  We’ve had a lot of compliments from friends, family and the contractors, who came back on July 5 to finish all the electrical work.  I’m hiring Sarah to come back to do our dining room (which I’m changing from a formal dining room to a farmhouse dining area – since our kitchen has no table) and our foyer.

As of June 29, her paint job was about halfway done:

Kitchen almost faux painted
Kitchen almost faux painted

As of June 30, the painting was finished and we moved some of our furniture back in:

Family with some furniture in after painting
Family with some furniture in after painting
Famil room looking into the kitchen
Family room looking into the kitchen
Family room faux-painted
Family room faux-painted

Mike was supposed to go to Detroit for a wedding on Friday, July 1, but his flight was cancelled.  I was glad he didn’t go because he was able to accompany me to my friend Beatrice’s cocktail party that night.  It was fun to catch up with people I hadn’t seen in years, and although I swore I wasn’t going to talk about Adam, of course I did, because, as is the case at every gathering in northern Virginia, people always ask about the children.

On Saturday night, I was making some nachos in our new oven.  This was the first time we used the oven.  I had the broiler on and though most ovens have a high and low broil, we couldn’t figure out how to put it on low.  I had the rack at the topmost setting.  I put the wedge-cut corn tortillas in a pan on the top rack for two minutes and then took them out and turned them over.  When I put them back in for two more minutes, I suddenly noticed that they were on fire!  We should have just turned off the oven and kept the door closed, but Mike picked up the pan with a pot holder and carried it out to the screened porch and through the screen door, with the flames leaping viciously.  He then tossed it face down on the ground beneath the deck and ran around trying to put out the fire on the grass!

Oh my gosh!  How horrible it would have been to have just done this whole renovation and then caught our house on fire!

On Sunday night, we figured we were safer NOT cooking at home, so we went out for Mexican food at Chevys Fresh Mex and to see the movie about Thomas Wolfe, Genius.  Lately, I get so impatient with movies.  I enjoyed the movie but it just went on too long.  I remember a time when I’d be so engrossed in a movie,  I wished it would never end.  I haven’t felt that way about any movie I’ve seen recently.

We never do much on July 4 as it’s my least favorite holiday.  I don’t enjoy fireworks and I hate the heat, so we usually keep it low-key and cook something on the grill.  Mike’s sister Barbara came over and we cooked hamburgers and potato salad and sat on the screened porch as it rained all around us.  I loved the cool air and the sound of the rain, so unusual for an Independence Day holiday.

I had lunch one day with an old friend of mine, Sarah, at Sakoon Thai.  It was great to catch up with her after not seeing her for a couple of years.  I went another day to see The Music of Strangers with Yo-Yo Ma and other musicians with whom he collaborated on the Silk Road Project.  It’s funny, but as I listened to Yo-Yo Ma talk in the movie, I realized he was using some of the Landmark Forum language and I remembered that Landmark has Yo-Yo Ma in some of its advertising films. I wonder if he was inspired to do the Silk Road Project after attending the Landmark Forum?

As of July 6, most of our lights and electrical were finished.

As of July 6
As of July 6
As of July 6
As of July 6
Pendant lights as of July 6
Pendant lights as of July 6

For several months, we had a big date looming ahead of us, July 7.  Adam’s lease on his apartment in Richmond expired on this date.  We co-signed the 6-month lease with the understanding that he would get a job and start contributing to his own support.  He never stepped up to the plate to get a job; in fact, he has insisted continuously that he’s never going to work full-time. He doesn’t want to work for anyone else and he can’t seem to get it together to start his own business, despite our attempts to help him. We were forced to give notice that we would not renew the lease. We’ve also told him he cannot live with us.  He always talks about being homeless as if it’s some kind of romantic thing and has often talked about wanting to give up all his possessions and live “off the grid.” We figured this would be as good a time as any to let him feel the consequences of his irresponsible decisions and his fantasy-land beliefs.

To top off this bad situation, the mini-van he’s been driving broke down a couple of weeks before his apartment lease was up.  Since he thinks it’s so romantic to be homeless, we figured he could just live in the van, much like in the movie, The Lady in the Van.  We decided to go ahead and replace the engine in the van, because we can still get some use out of it and can sell it eventually for a slight profit. However, Adam informed us he didn’t want the van.  A few days before his lease expired, he informed us he was buying a one-way ticket to Vancouver to attend a retreat, International Tribe Design.  Between the airplane ticket and the retreat cost of $1,900, he must be getting himself deeper into debt. He’s been living off of credit cards that the banks foolishly gave him; we have no idea how much debt he’s gotten himself into. The van still wasn’t fixed, so he counted on his brother to help him move out of his apartment.  Then he loaded some boxes into Alex’s car and said he would drive up to our house, drop the boxes and then go to the airport.  We got a message that he hadn’t had time to stop by our house, so he just left Alex’s car at the airport.  Luckily he texted us which garage and spot the car was in, and Alex had to come up later with his girlfriend and the key to retrieve the car from the airport.

On July 9, I put up the curtains in the family room.

me putting up the curtains in the family room
me putting up the curtains in the family room

Alex and Ariana came up on July 10, picked up his car from the airport, dropped Adam’s boxes in our garage, and shared a Thai dinner with us at Kob Kun Fine Thai Cuisine in Oakton. It’s always so nice to spend time with our oldest son, who has a girlfriend, is going to university, working a job, and saving money.

Adam’s International Tribe Design retreat sounded fascinating but it ended on July 11 and we haven’t heard a word from him since. Of course, we’re worried about him, but he doesn’t seem to want our help now and needs to figure things out on his own.

Mike and I went out for Japanese sushi at Yoko Sushi in Oakton on Saturday after Adam took off, and we enjoyed hot Sake and cold beer with our meal.  It was fun to go out without having a movie obligation after, as we could just enjoy our drinks and conversation without being rushed.  We’re trying hard not to let thoughts of Adam paralyze us; we’re working on letting go.  He’s going to need to go through whatever he needs to in order to either get his life together or fall hard.

I have applied for numerous teaching jobs in Morocco, but I haven’t heard anything back.  I also have applied for several jobs here in the U.S.; I applied for one in April as a front desk receptionist at an Urgent Care; it’s operated through the big hospital system in northern Virginia, INOVA. I applied for this position, only requiring a high school education, because a friend of mine told me about it and encouraged me to apply.  This friend had told me that the hours were flexible and you could work part-time. However, I had been told by the hiring manager that INOVA had frozen hiring for the position.

On the weekend after Adam left, I was considering what I could do in the fall since no jobs were panning out and since I’ve now planned that big family reunion for my dad’s birthday.  I talked to Mike about doing the The Camino de Santiago: The French Way.  I was feeling very gung-ho about it, and Mike was supportive of the idea. I wrote to a Scottish company to see what the cost might be.  The itinerary they gave me was for 53 days at about 5,040 pounds, or $6,650!  Ouch.  I think I either need to consider a shorter version, or plan it myself for a later time.

Alex gave me a plan to start upping my walk distances by a mile each week, so I walked 4 miles/day last week.  Next week, I’m supposed to go 5 miles/day.  Feeling very excited about committing to the Camino, on Monday morning, July 11, I got an email from the woman at INOVA saying they’d like to interview me for the job at the Tyson’s Corner Urgent Care.  The interview was set up for Friday, the 15th.  Of course, if I got the job, I wouldn’t walk the Camino.

On July 13, we had a small bistro table and some chairs delivered for our porch.

bistro table and chairs
bistro table and chairs

On July 14, we had a coffee table delivered for our living room.  It took me two days to assemble it!

coffee table assembled - check!
coffee table assembled – check!

I went to the INOVA interview on Friday and it turns out there was quite a misunderstanding about the hours.  The job is not flexible at all, and is full-time.  It is five nights a week from 3 pm – 8:30 pm (and often later) and then every other weekend, all day.  So basically I would have to work 12 days in a row, have two days off, work 12 days, ad infinitum.  That wasn’t what I was looking for at all!  Now, I might go back to thinking about the Camino. 🙂

Yesterday, the decorative painter Sarah came by to look at our paint projects for the dining room and foyer.  Then Mike and I went to Vienna Floors to look at carpet as we need to paint and re-carpet the basement, which has taken quite a beating over the years.  Mike is in the process of creating his own man-cave down there, with his desk and a TV so he can do his paperwork and watch sports at the same time.

Last night, we went for Mexican at  Cyclone Anaya’s Mexican Kitchen at the Mosaic District, a very upscale area in Fairfax.  We watched the movie Captain Fantastic.  I couldn’t help but think of Adam and his dream to live off the grid; the fictional father in the movie lives in the wilderness in the Pacific Northwest and forces a strict regimen – a rigorous physical and intellectual education – on his six children.  Like the father, Adam is extremely well-read, deep thinking, philosophical, and physically fit.  Sadly, he also has some of the emotional instability that the mother in the fictional family had; she committed suicide.  I am waiting to see what happens down the road to my gifted and idealistic son.

While we were at the Mosaic District, the area was swarming with young people on their phones.  All seemed to be absorbed in the new Pokémon GO app!  It was insane!  I thought if some aliens arrived on our planet, they would wonder what on earth was going on here.

As of today, this is what our house looks like.

family room
family room
family room
family room
family room looking into kitchen
family room looking into kitchen
laundry room
laundry room
kitchen near door to screened porch looking into family room
kitchen near door to screened porch looking into family room
island in kitchen
island in kitchen
looking from the family room to kitchen
looking from the family room to kitchen
kitchen island
kitchen island
screened porch
screened porch
small deck for grilling
small deck for grilling

I’m so happy our renovation is finished, although we’re still doing some cosmetic things in the months ahead (basement, dining room and foyer – carpet and paint).

Once again, enough about me and enough about my struggles with my children and our renovation. I apologize for my chattiness.  Please, do tell me about you!  I’d love to hear what you’re up to.  Please share anything and everything. What do you have in the pipeline for the summer?  Please, do tell all!  🙂

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