Sunday, September 6: Welcome back to my patio for our last official cocktail hour of the summer. I’m so happy to see you! Tomorrow is Labor Day, which always marks the end of summer in the USA. This year it’s the latest it can be because Labor Day is on the first Monday in September, which often falls before the 7th.
I don’t know about you, but I for one am happy to see summer come to an end. Virginia summers are so humid and miserable, that I am anticipating having fall arrive with its cool and dry breezes and its glorious fall colors.
Would you care for a glass of chilled white wine, or would you prefer some red wine or a cold beer? I still have some Bud Light Lime, which Mike, and many of you, think of as a sissy beer, but Mike has several types of craft beer: New Belgium Fat Tire and Starr Hill Brewery Jomo Vienna-Style Lager. I’m not a fan of the heavier beers, but if you are, I have some to offer. I hope you’ll make yourself comfortable and stay awhile.
Please, do tell me all about your week. Have you been enjoying your holidays? Have you done any interesting garden or house projects? Have you seen any good movies or read any good books? Have you been swimming or bicycling or hiking in the woods? Are you teachers out there gearing up for a new school year? Have you had any fun gatherings with friends?
As you can see from the pictures in this post, Mike and I took a long walk one late afternoon at Meadowlark Gardens. I always like to go through the gardens at least once during every season. You’ll see Mike in some of his silly poses, but you won’t see much of me because I rarely like pictures of myself these days.
I’ve been busy this week preparing for my CELTA course, which is now only two weeks away. I’ve had a lot of work to do in preparation for that, so I’ll be happy when it’s all over on October 16, just in time for my birthday. We’ve arranged to go to Chincoteague, Virginia on my birthday weekend, so I’m really looking forward to celebrating my big milestone and the end of that course.
I’ve been having a lot of problems with my MacBook Pro lately. It’s been running very slowly, most likely due to the over 75,000 pictures I have on it. Mike knew of a friend of my son Adam’s who is good at cleaning up computers, so this friend, Zak, came on Monday. He took my computer and when he brought it back on Wednesday, he had removed my 1TB hard drive, installed a Kingston 240GB Solid State Drive and transferred all my pictures to my Seagate external drive. I wanted him to show me how to access the photos on the external drive and when he opened it, he proudly showed me 7,500 pictures. I said, in horror, “I shouldn’t have 7,500 pictures. I have 75 THOUSAND pictures! I took over 6,000 pictures just in Myanmar alone!” After much assurance that the pictures were not lost, he took the computer back to his house to find them, along with all the albums I’d created on my Photos Library.
That evening, he brought the computer back and all seemed to be restored properly. However, while I was using the pictures, I was suddenly unable to edit them and then the whole Library reverted back to the 7,500 pictures. It took me a while to get Zak to respond, but when he did, he was able to link the 75,000 pictures to my library remotely.
The next day, as I tried to post pictures to my blog, again my Photos Library didn’t have any of my albums, and it only had the 7,500 pictures! This time, Zak was very unresponsive. Heck, if you’re going to have a business where you’re working with customers transferring data and changing hard drives, etc. you need to be responsive!!! Immediately!! This concerns a person’s beloved DATA, things they hold valuable for whatever reasons.
Needless to say, I lost a lot of sleep over this whole process, thinking my photos were gone forever!! Can you imagine how I felt? It was horrible.
On Friday, I went to the Apple Store and looked into buying a new desktop. It would be nicer to be able to work with my photos on a desktop rather than a laptop, and I wanted to have another place to have my photos. I guess I need to look into iCloud storage or Google storage or something as well. I ended up buying a desktop at MicroCenter and having them do the data transfer from my old 1TB hard drive. I will pick up the new computer on Wednesday or Thursday of this coming week.
Other than working on my course preparation and dealing with my computer, I didn’t do much of interest on this last week of summer. I did go to see the movie Mistress America one afternoon; I felt the best parts of that movie were in the trailer. I can’t say I enjoyed it that much. I really look forward to seeing Learning to Drive, with Patricia Clarkson.
cabin at the Means-Ware Farm
a decrepit barn
Our walk at Meadowlark was quite a humid one, and we headed back drenched in sweat.
The highlight of my week was going to The 9th Annual Lake Anne Jazz Festival with our friends Karen and Michael on Saturday evening. We got to listen to several good bands while having wine and dinner at Kalypso’s Sports Tavern. It was so much fun, and we even got to dance, something I haven’t done in ages.
Mike at Kalypso’s
folks dancing to the music
fountain at the center of Lake Anne Plaza
I’m so glad you joined me for cocktail hour this Sunday night. Hugs to you all and I hope you’ll come back in a couple of weeks to enjoy some of the cooler breezes of fall. 🙂
Sunday, August 30: I’m sorry it’s been so long since I’ve invited you over for a cocktail hour. I’m so happy to see you! It’s taken me a long while to get settled in back home here in Virginia. Please come in and help yourself to a drink. I have some Bud Light Lime, which Mike calls a fake beer but I find cool and refreshing in the summer heat, and some Montes Cabernet Sauvignon. If you prefer a cool glass of white wine, I have some La Granja verdejo viura, a Spanish wine I picked up at Trader Joe’s. Though the weather’s warm (88 F today), we haven’t had humidity all week, so it’s quite pleasant outside this evening. We’ll have a seat on my patio, covered in moss as it as, as there really is nowhere else to sit outside.
Our house here in Oakton is rather a mess, so I apologize. Our kitchen and deck badly need replacing, and we’ll be embarking on a major construction project soon to redo the kitchen, possibly knocking down the wall between our family room and kitchen. We’ll also tear down the deck and replace it with a screened-in porch, and change our laundry room into a mudroom/pantry/laundry room. Because of this, the only good place I have for us to sit outdoors is on our patio, which is also in a state of disrepair and is covered in that moss. It’s Virginia, after all, a state prone to damp summers and wild foliage growth, so the moss taking over our patio isn’t a total surprise.
Mike suggested I have the cocktail hour on the patio, and he quipped, “Unlike our mossy patio, no moss will grow on this rolling stone” (meaning me). He is endlessly patient with me and my restlessness and my wanderings. I don’t know why he puts up with it; maybe he enjoys having a break from me after going on 27 years of marriage (with a 7 year break ending in 2013). 🙂 Anyway, he’s joining us tonight, so you can ask him yourself!
Please, tell me all about you. Have you been enjoying the last bits of summer? Have you traveled to exotic lands or had a staycation? Have you gone to any outdoor concerts or plays? Have you seen your children off to conquer new challenges? 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 harvested fresh vegetables from your garden? Have you been to the beach, or gone swimming in a lake? Have you been exercising and eating healthy? Have you been on any shopping sprees?
The one thing I have done most religiously since I returned home is to exercise every day. I started out walking every day for 3 miles. I’ve only missed two days since I returned home, so I’m quite proud of myself. I gained 7 pounds when I was in China, and I was already heavier than I would have liked BEFORE I left for China. Thus, I have been keeping track of my calories and exercise on my fitness pal, and so far I’ve lost the 7 pounds I gained in China and am working on losing more. Here’s a chart of my weight loss, which mistakenly states that I started at 150 lbs. My actual weight when I returned from China and California (where I went a little crazy with American food!) was 152.2. As of today, I’m at 144.8. I’m really hoping to stick it out and get down to 135!!
A couple of weeks ago, I started going to Oak Marr RECenter twice a week to work out with weights. Last week, I started going to a Zumba class. I’m so hopelessly uncoordinated, but it’s a great workout and lots of fun! I sweat like crazy for an hour, so it must be doing some good. I don’t feel so bad about being uncoordinated as there are a bunch of Korean and Japanese ladies in the class who seem almost as uncoordinated as I am. I’m not going to let it bother me that I can’t get the steps right; I’m just going to enjoy it and poke fun at myself for my hopeless inability to keep up!
While I was in China, I had set up an appointment with a GI for August 3 because I had been so sick in China all year. However, as soon as I got home, all my stomach problems mysteriously disappeared. Hmm. Since the appointment had already been set up, I went in to see the doctor anyway. He was baffled as to why I had come in, and he told me to keep eating healthy and exercising and I would probably continue to feel fine.
I helped Alex, my oldest son, move to Richmond at the end of July. He’s now attending Virginia Commonwealth University, where he hopes to get a degree in Exercise Science. His sister, Sarah, already lives in Richmond and should finally finish her degree in English at the end of the fall semester. Here is Alex’s new house and him in his room with his sister. Sorry the pictures are a little blurry, but my camera has been acting up. I will need to be looking for a new camera sometime soon, possibly by my birthday on October 25. This will be my 60th. Ouch. 🙂
Other than exercising, I’ve been working on a 5-hour free grammar course (more like 10+ hours!) and a pre-task for the course I’m taking beginning September 21 at Teaching House, which runs the University of Cambridge CELTA (the Certificate in English Language Teaching), the most widely accepted TESOL program in the world. It’s a month-long highly intensive course. I think I won’t have a life during that month, or in the coming weeks, as I prepare for the course.
I was surprised on Thursday, August 6, to get a text message from one of my Chinese students, Christine. She wrote that she was on a train from New York to Washington with her mother and they hoped to take me out to dinner in Washington. It turned out that Mike and I trekked downtown and took Christine and her mother to the Lincoln Restaurant. Christine’s English is not bad, and her mother could understand and speak limited English. When the server tried to explain the complex dishes, such a far stretch from Chinese dishes, Christine said immediately that all she wanted was meat. She ordered the plate of BBQ ribs, and we had to demonstrate how she should eat them! The plate was almost as big as she is. Neither she nor her mother had any interest in the small plates Mike and I ordered: Ricotta gnocchi, Shrimp & Grits, and the Pennsylvania Chicken Pot Pie. When the waitress put the Shishito Pepper Hush Puppies on the table, Christine asked tentatively: “Is that dog meat?” We were taken aback momentarily by her misunderstanding of the word “puppies,” and we all got quite a laugh out of it. 🙂
Our dinner with Christine was on Friday, August 7, and on Sunday, the 9th, Mike and I went downtown to Arena Stage to see the emotionally moving musical, Dear Evan Hansen. The play explores how far we’ll go to fulfill our need for connection. According to the playbill: “In our social media world where ‘friend’ is now a verb, and we only share the highlights of our life, what happens when we reveal our true thoughts and feelings?” The sets were wonderfully done, with columns displaying Tweets and Facebook posts and rotating sets of Evan’s bedroom and the living room of a family whose son committed suicide. The opening number of the play brought tears to my eyes, as I know how isolating our digitally connected society is for young people, and frankly, for all of us. It was a phenomenal performance.
The following weekend, August 14-16, I went to Richmond to have dinner with Sarah and Alex at a Greek restaurant called Stella’s and then drove from there to Monterey in southwestern Virginia, where I attended a women’s mid-life retreat organized by Annette of Beauty Along the Road. I stayed two nights at the Laurel Point Bed & Breakfast, a lovely place overlooking the mountains in Monterey.
We did a lot of interesting activities on the retreat, including making a timeline collage of our lives. Here’s mine:
We also brainstormed as a group the issues women face in mid-life; we wrote a letter to someone who we feel has held us down in our lives and then we burned that letter; we did individual brainstorms in answer to the question: Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? We also visualized what our life what will be like in 5 years and then we created a plan of action for the next year to achieve that goal.
To make ourselves accountable, we were asked to declare our intention. My intention is to have my novel published in one year, by August 16, 2016. Here are the steps with a timeline to reach that goal:
Research agents at the library and online and from books I like.
Find at least 10 agents by August 31 and note what each agent requires: query letter, synopsis, number of pages/word count, format of 1st 50 pages or first 3 chapters.
Finalize my query letter by September 20.
Write my synopsis by October 31.
Send out whatever is required to 10 agents by November 30.
Repeat the process and find 10 more agents. Sent next 10 queries to agents by January 31, 2016.
Continue to repeat this process.
If I can’t get anywhere, look into self-publishing.
Next we had to list the obstacles we might encounter. Mine are:
My word count is 107,000 and most agents won’t look at a novel over 100,000 words.
My query letter needs work.
I haven’t written a synopsis.
I may need to edit the novel again.
Lack of knowledge of the proper steps to take.
We also had to list some allies who might be able to help us achieve our goals.
At the end of the retreat, we each took a seat in a special chair while everyone said words about us that were recorded by a group member. Here are the kind words that people said about me. I was humbled and flattered by the whole process and will keep these words with me to look at whenever I get discouraged.
The retreat was a wonderful experience. I learned a lot about myself and the issues other women are struggling with. I hope I can stay on track with my big goal despite the time commitment of my upcoming CELTA course. I’ll be reflecting often on what I learned at that retreat. I highly recommend it for other women in the area.
Other than my constant exercising, household chores, de-cluttering, moving my kids out and onward, and attending the retreat, I’ve also seen some interesting movies in theaters, including A Borrowed Identity, Trainwreck, Samba, The End of the Tour, Phoenix, Ricki and the Flash, and Mr. Holmes. You can see I’ve been busy making up for the time I lost in China! I’ve also watched the last season of Last Tango in Halifax and have gotten involved in the Danish political series, Borgen. I’ve also been watching some of the series Rectify.
As for books, I’ve read I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You by Courtney Maum and Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen, both of which I loved! I’m now reading A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, which I’m also enjoying immensely. 🙂
I’ve eaten at Lebanese Taverna, Cafesano (Italian), Saba’ Yemeni Restaurant and Guapo’s (Mexican). I’ve been shopping for healthy foods at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods and trying to eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and watching my portion sizes. Other than an occasional treat of cheese and chili rellenos, I’ve been pretty self-disciplined!
Most of my friends know how I love to shop. I’ve been on a few shopping sprees mostly to buy various types of jeans and some cute tops, and even a kimono wrap thingy. I hardly wore jeans at all in Oman or China because it was just too hot, and I realized I didn’t have any that fit me. So, yes, I’ve done a little shopping and I’ve probably gone a bit overboard. Here’s me at some of my recent weights and wearing some of my cute purchases. I do love fashion, but it sure helps if you’re tall and thin, neither of which I am!
me at 147.4 with my kimono thingy on the way to Arena Stage
me at 144.2 – BEFORE I ate chili rellenos for dinner!
As for reverse culture shock, I haven’t experienced it as much this time as the first two times I returned home from abroad. The main reason is that I’ve let go of all expectations. I don’t expect any friends to contact me, and slowly but surely, I’ll make an effort to contact those people I’d like to see. I find myself weaning out my list of friends each time I return as I don’t feel like bothering to contact people who never make any effort with me. After all, what’s the point? There are people I love and care for: people who don’t judge me and people who make me laugh and people with whom I have a shared history; those people will continue to be part of my life. As for anyone new I meet, I’ll be happy to share my life with them if they’re interested in doing so!
I’m so happy that you joined me tonight for cocktail hour on the mossy patio. I hope you feel relaxed, even though you had to listen to a lot from me! I can’t wait to hear about what you’ve been up to; hopefully it’s something that has brought you laughter, peace, tranquility, and even adventure. I’ll try to have a cocktail hour more frequently, so we don’t have quite so much to catch up on. Please, do come back and join me again!