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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coming out of our deep freeze

Friday, January 31:  Here in northern Virginia, we are finally emerging from our deep freeze of the last couple of weeks.  Between a couple of snowfalls and temperatures hovering around 8-10 degrees (F), we’ve had only a few days of respite.  I for one am happy to have a break and to get outdoors for my walks again.

Walking in Tamarack Park near the W&OD Bike Path
Walking in Tamarack Park near the W&OD Bike Path

I’ve never been a gym person, preferring to walk outdoors instead, but because of the icy roads, the several-inch-deep snowfalls and the frigid air, I’ve been going to the gym to walk on the treadmill and ride the seated elliptical, a machine I’ve never encountered before now.  My regular nearby gym, Oak Marr Rec Center, has been closed for renovation since I returned to the States, so I’ve had to drive to Falls Church to use Providence Rec Center, a half hour each way.

The partly frozen Difficult Run
The partly frozen Difficult Run

At least I am meeting my goals to walk at least five times a week, despite the long drive to the gym.  Today, I even take two walks, the second through the woods at Tamarack Park, near the W&OD Bike Path and along Difficult Run, which eventually makes its way to the Potomac River.

The deep freeze is finally thawing.
The deep freeze is finally thawing.

It may not be the most beautiful of walks, but I do enjoy the way the stream meanders through the muddy banks in the shadows of brown spindly trees.  Some parts of the stream remain frozen, but some of the water has burst free and rushes past the patches of ice.  Bailey gingerly walks out on the ice, or alternately, runs after sticks. I crunch along on brittle leaves under the shadows of the trees, enjoying fresh air for the first time in weeks.

Click on any of the images below for a full-sized slide show.

As far as my other New Year’s goals, here’s what I’ve done over the last two weeks, since I returned home from California.  I’ve applied for 6 jobs, but, as expected, it feels as if my cover letters and CVs go into some deep black hole, never to be acknowledged.  I’ve revised 7 chapters of my novel, but while reading it, I’ve decided yet another revision will be in order, mainly because my dialog needs work!  And as far as pitching to travel publications, so far I’m 0 for 0.  I have an idea and a publication in mind, but this publication requires a complete manuscript, which means I need to write the entire article rather than just pitching the idea.  A lot of work, but I hope it will pay off in some way.

Trying to keep focused, and to keep moving forward. 🙂  I hope your 2014 is bringing all the things you wished for. 🙂

a glass-covered (& treacherous) world

Monday, December 9:  What started as a smattering of snow on Sunday morning turned to freezing rain by late afternoon. This hodge-podge of liquids crystallized surreptitiously overnight. This morning brought a wonderland of glassy trees, creaking and groaning under the weight of all that ice.

While I was taking a long hot bath in my house, I heard a crash outside the window. When I went outside, I saw two large branches had broken off one of our two large pine trees.

crash!
crash!
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ice bushes

In my front garden, I found ice-encrusted trees, bushes and berries, offered up like an exhibit of Dale Chihuly glass sculptures.

glass sculptures
glass sculptures
ice bushes
ice bushes
ice art
ice art
colored ice
colored ice
ice chandeliers
ice chandeliers
beautiful ice
beautiful ice
ice bushes
ice bushes
an icy tree
an icy tree
tree chandeliers
tree chandeliers
ice berries
ice berries
ice berries
ice berries
ice berries
ice berries
icicle heaven
icicle heaven

After warming up my car and scraping off the crusty layer of snow on the windshield, I drove to the college for my 11:00 class.  I found the traffic on Little River Turnpike was stopped, but I didn’t know why.  The traffic was moving at a crawl, so I figured whatever happened, at least people were moving through.  When I got closer, I saw a tree had fallen across both lanes of the road.  The only reason cars were moving was because they were doing U-turns or pulling off on side streets.  By this time it was 10:55.  I followed everyone else doing U-turns and went an alternate, and very roundabout, way to work.  Almost to the college, on Hummer Road, I came upon a police blockade.  The officer told me a car had driven into a sinkhole!  He gave me another alternate route, and I finally arrived at class 15 minutes late.  Only a smattering of students were in attendance, but they all came dribbling in over the next 15 minutes.

Northern Virginia Community College - Annandale Campus
Northern Virginia Community College – Annandale Campus
Northern Virginia Community College - Annandale Campus
Northern Virginia Community College – Annandale Campus
Northern Virginia Community College - Annandale Campus
Northern Virginia Community College – Annandale Campus
Northern Virginia Community College - Annandale Campus
Northern Virginia Community College – Annandale Campus
Northern Virginia Community College - Annandale Campus
Northern Virginia Community College – Annandale Campus
Northern Virginia Community College - Annandale Campus
Northern Virginia Community College – Annandale Campus

Snow is forecast again for tomorrow morning.  Although I have a ton of things I need to get done with my students on this last week of class, I still hope they close the school if we’re going to have to contend with the same challenging, and treacherous, driving conditions!

Oh, how I love the change of seasons in Virginia! 🙂

walking through woods on a snowy morning

Sunday, December 8:  This morning, snowflakes began their slow drift from the Virginia skies, and I decided I had to go out for a stroll through the trees, sprinkled with powder.   The forecast called for the snow to turn to freezing rain by the afternoon, so I went out into the gray morning.  The last time I experienced snow was in Daegu, South Korea on January 4, 2011, so it was lovely to feel the wet cool drops on my skin and to see the speckled white trail before me.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Of course, while I was walking, even though it wasn’t evening, and even though I don’t have a horse, I couldn’t help but think of Robert Frost’s famous poem.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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