Giving Thanks for Crazy, Part III

I was in my first year at college and things weren’t going so well. I felt like an alien in a land where everyone already seemed to know each other from their days at Groton, Exeter or Andover. This blandly good-looking tribe wore the same uniform with only subtle variations.They would languidly call out to each other by their last names as they regrouped every Wednesday and every weekend to drink themselves blind at the frats.

I was a long way from home: a ten hour drive from Arlington to Hanover, New Hampshire, to be exact. We couldn’t afford a ticket to get me back home for the short Thanksgiving break, especially with the longer Winter break just around the corner. The campus was completely deserted. I was all alone in my big empty dorm, and all alone for my first Thanksgiving away from home.

I thought about that first Thanksgiving as I drove up to Arlington to be with my parents this Tuesday evening. The memory of it made me shake my head as I inched my way up 29 North, which was clogged with all the other weary travelers trying to outrun the 5-8 inch snowfall that was predicted for the next morning. On that Thanksgiving evening many years ago, my parents showed up at my dorm room after hours and hours of driving with my younger brother in tow. If you’ve ever driven along the Northeast corridor around Thanksgiving, you’ll know that a ten hour drive can easily become a twenty hour drive. I was appalled and aghast that they had done this for me, and also – so, so glad. We ordered pizza for our Thanksgiving dinner and ate it off paper plates in my room. It was a feast fit for a king and queen.

As you might expect, no amount of coaxing or pleading could convince them to stay the night. We ate our dinner and they headed off into the snowy night to drive all the way back to Arlington. I know my parents are crazy like I know the earth is round, but I also know that I have been incredibly lucky in my life to have experienced their love. I’m thankful for it every single day. May each and every one of us know that crazy, unreasonable, outrageous love, and may we put it right back out there into the universe.

Happy Thanksgiving to you!

Giving Thanks for Crazy, Part II

For the first year of our marriage, my husband and I lived in my parents’ house in Arlington, Virginia. They were living in Korea at the time, and during that year, they made a couple of trips back home. On one of their return visits, we went to the airport to pick them up. Their flight was arriving late at night and we imagined they would be exhausted after their brutally long trans-Pacific flight. We figured we would bring them back home and that they would spend the next 24 hours in a deep, coma-like sleep.

They came through the gates with a man we did not recognize. This in and of itself was not particularly surprising. My parents were always springing this sort of thing on us. Throughout my childhood, strangers drifted in and out of our lives all the time. Some people collect tchotchkes, my parents collect people. Our family was large, and we lived in a cramped house. As the smallest daughter, I would always be the one who would have to share my twin bed with the visitors when they happened to be women. It wasn’t particularly comfortable to sleep in bed with a stranger, especially since I could speak no Korean, and they usually spoke no English, but it was all part of the landscape of my childhood.

It was around 11 pm once we got everyone’s luggage and were finally on the road. As we drove back to the house, I brought up the question of sleeping arrangements with my mother.

“Oh, we’re not staying!” she said, as if this should have been the most obvious thing in the world,  “We’re driving to Tennessee as soon as we get back to the house. We have some business there.”

I looked at her with blank incomprehension. “Hunh?” was all I could stupidly muster.

I knew they were crazy, but this? This was beyond the pale. Surely, she was so tired, so delirious, that she was simply talking nonsense.

As soon as we arrived, they hopped out of the car and transferred the luggage to the back of their own car. At their behest, we’d driven it around the block periodically while they were away to keep it running. It was then that I realized they really and truly did mean to drive for ten hours after just stepping off a nineteen hour flight. I pleaded with them to see reason.

“But that’s crazy! You can’t be serious! It’s dangerous to drive when you’re so tired! Why can’t you sleep for just one night and then go? I’m sure your friend doesn’t want to sit in a car for another ten hours after flying for an entire day either.”

“He can sleep in the car!” my mom said.

“Well, what about poor DAD?! How’s HE going to manage all of that driving all by himself?! I’m sure he’s exhausted!”

“Oh, don’t worry about me, Adrienne. I’ll be fine!” my dad said with exasperating nonchalance.

“Well…when are you coming back?!” I asked, completely frustrated by these two utterly irresponsible, unreasonable parents of mine.

“In a couple of days,” they said. “We’ll see you some time on Friday!”

I watched them drive away, wishing I could spank them.

The next night, around 2 am, I woke up to violent pounding on our front door and the doorbell being rung over and over again. Terrified and trembling, I shook my husband awake.

“Someone’s at the door!” I whispered, “You have to go see what’s happening!”

I cowered in bed, my heart thumping, ready to dial 911. My husband shambled out of bed, still half-asleep and clad only in a pair of boxers. He swung open the door to discover my parents grinning like a couple of Cheshire cats on the doorstep, waiting to be let into the house. (Have I mentioned that they don’t believe in carrying keys)?

“We decided to come back early!” they announced cheerfully, politely pretending that they didn’t notice the fact that my husband was standing before them, nearly naked. This, by the way, is just one of the many reasons that man and I are bonded for life…We’ve both experienced the trauma of having been seen by each other’s parents naked! To be honest, I think it was actually more painful for me than it was for him that my parents saw him naked. But I digress

Come back tomorrow for the conclusion of Giving Thanks for Crazy!

Giving Thanks for Crazy, Part I

I love my parents deeply, but I’ll be the first to admit, they can be crazy, and I mean CRAZY. Their maddening eccentricities often revolve around travel. My theory is that distance becomes less of an issue for people who leave behind their life in one country for another one that is literally on the other side of the world. My parents’ cavalier attitude towards long distances is legendary.

I would estimate that at least two thirds of my childhood was spent rolling around in the cargo area of my dad’s beloved Malibu station wagon. Every Sunday at the crack of dawn, we’d drive a couple hours from our little town in Pennsylvania to New York City for my dad’s preaching gig. Besides being the minister of a church, he also had a full-time professorship in Pennsylvania. He would nevertheless drive back into New York City several nights a week to work on another doctorate at the New School for Social Research. In all the free time he must have had at his disposal, he would cart us all across the country to visit far-flung friends and relatives. It was only when I got a little older that I realized this was not normal, but in fact, totally, completely, utterly: nuts.

Many years later, when I was grown and married and living in Charlottesville, I got a call from my mother announcing that my parents were going to drive down from Arlington to visit us. This rarely ever happens, so I was delighted to hear the news.

“We’re coming this afternoon! We’ll have dinner with you and head back home,” my mother announced to me over the phone.

“Really?! You’re going to drive five hours in one day just for dinner? Couldn’t you at least spend the night? Please?”

“Oh NO! We’ll be fine! We’ll just have dinner and go back!”

Besides being crazy, they are immune to reason, not to mention – stubborn as mules. There was no point in arguing any further. I would have to take what I could get.

They arrived and settled themselves on the couch. We bustled around getting dinner ready. Fifteen minutes after their arrival my mother stood up and said, “Well! It was so good to see you! We’ll be going now!”

There was nothing I could say or do to stop them from leaving. Believe me, I tried. No dinner. Fifteen minutes on the couch. And then those rolling stones rolled the two and a half hours right back to Arlington. See what I’m saying? CRAZY.

Come back tomorrow, because it gets even crazier…

Weekend Snapshots 16

We drove up to Arlington on Saturday. My husband is taking two of the children to England to see their grandparents. Because the flights are so expensive, we decided our twelve year old, who got to spend an extra week in England the last time around, would stay home with me.

I had made all kinds of rash promises to The-Son-Who-Got-Left-Behind to spoil him rotten, but as soon as I got back from dropping off the traveling trio at Dulles Airport, I was taken down by a nasty bug I’d been trying to fight all day. I collapsed in a feverish, headache-y heap at 6:30 pm and didn’t wake up until the next morning.

I woke up to this texted photo of our travelers on their long layover in Brussels, where they got to hang out with my husband’s cousin…

I was still feeling weak and wobbly, but it was clearly time to up my game. The spoil-a-thon had obviously not panned out on Saturday, but maybe I could make it up to my son by taking him on a trip of our own to an exotic locale…

We ended up at Tyson’s Corner. We sampled French cuisine at La Madeleine. We elbowed our way past the hordes and multitudes to visit the Apple Store shrine so he could get his laptop ministered to at the genius bar. And then he got pampered with a massage at that Wonderland, otherwise known as Brookstone:

OK, so maybe the spoil-a-thon will officially start tomorrow.


lovely-blogThank you, Nicola Bourne, for nominating me for the One Lovely Blog Award! One of the best aspects of working on this blog has been connecting with people like Nicola, both in person and through their writing.

To accept the award you must 1) thank the person who nominated you, 2) display the One Lovely Blog Award button, 3) say seven things about yourself, and 4) nominate others for the award and let them know you’ve done so by leaving a comment on their blog. (I haven’t been able to figure out how to do this for all of them)!


Seven things about myself

1) When people ask me where I’m from, I never know what to say…Arlington? Charlottesville? Korea? Outer Space?

2) I have a catastrophically poor sense of direction and am constantly getting lost. Fortunately, I’m married to a freaking bloodhound, who could be dropped blindfolded in the middle of the Sahara and still manage to make his way home. I’d be lost without him.

3) I’m a night owl. For as long as I can remember, I have always dreaded the moment when I have to actually go to bed. I love sleeping, but for some reason, the decision to go to bed always fills me with irrational anxiety and makes me feel like I’m giving up. I’m out like a light as soon as my head hits the pillow though.

4) I adore nature in theory, but am most definitely an indoorsy kind of person.

5) Similarly, I love the idea of pets, but it never seems to really work out for me.

6) I veer between complete shiftlessness to obsessive, single-minded fixation on whatever project happens to capture my interest at the moment.

7) I’ve always thought people have certain kinds of luck. For example, I once had a roommate who always won prizes and lotteries. I’ve never once in my life won so much as a gumball. My particular kind of luck in life has been my family.


The ten blogs I nominate for the One Lovely Blog Award are all written by Charlottesvillians, almost all of whom I’m lucky to count as friends…

100% of our brothers have cancer is a blog by a husband and wife team, who write about their lives with raw honesty and humor. I have all kinds of respect for them.

Amomynity is written by a blogger from Charlottesville. I don’t actually know her, but I feel like I do. I think we’d get along!

Cold is written by a friend who has just published her novel, The Bone Church. For years I knew her only as the mother of one of my son’s friends. I was blown away when I discovered that she is an amazing writer.

I went to see DeeDee Stewart’s one woman show, Dirty Barbie and Other Girlhood Tales and was utterly enthralled. The show is based on personal stories from her blog DeeDees Living Will.

For What It’s Worth (FWIW) is an advice column written by a friend and featured in the It’s Obvi blog. Her advice is always, always spot on.

A Gringuinha Grega is written by a friend who has been doing research for her dissertation in Brazil. She describes her struggles and triumphs along the way with vulnerability and infectious enthusiasm.

Jocelyn Johnson is not only the amazing and beloved art teacher at my kids’ elementary school, she is also a wonderful writer.

A Minister’s Musings is a thoughtful and thought-provoking blog written by my former next-door-neighbor, and favorite Unitarian minister, clown, magician, fire-eating philosopher.

Mothermade is “a collection of thoughts on being American, Asian and adopted,” written by my friend, who has been burning up the internet lately with a #flipthescript campaign to give adoptees a voice. Although she’s moved away, I’ll always think of her as a C’ville friend.

Riding the A Train is my friend’s whip smart and deeply moving blog about “a mom, a boy, and autism.”


Bloody Good

I brought my nine year old daughter to the hospital last Friday morning for her quarterly blood draw.

She took her seat and warily waited for the phlebotomist to begin.

“How are you doing?” the woman asked my daughter in a cheery voice as she readied her equipment.

“I’m fine,” my daughter mustered, valiantly trying to hide her misery, “How about you?”

The phlebotomist seemed genuinely surprised. She stopped what she was doing to say, “I’m fine! Thank you so much for asking! You’ve made my day!”

As we were walking back to the car after the blood draw, I launched into the entirely predictable, tedious, teachable moment speech that tiresome parents such as myself simply cannot resist inflicting upon their children:

“I was SO proud of you for being so polite to the lady! And did you hear what she said to you? You made her day! Do you see how easy it is to make people happy, by just…”

She cut me off and said, “Of course I’m going to be nice to someone who’s about to stab me with a sharp object!”

I guess we can all have teachable moments…


WARNING: If you haven’t had dinner yet, DO NOT READ! And, I apologize in advance for this post.

As you might imagine with a husband who teaches philosophy for a living, conversations around our dinner table tend to be rather highbrow. Here, for example, is what the professor had to say when he finally made it back home in a cast after his fall down the mountain our family now routinely uses air quotes to refer to as: “Mount Pleasant.”

“You think the leg cheese under your shin guards is bad after a soccer game,” he said to my daughter, “Imagine how bad it will be when my cast comes off. My leg will probably be completely coated in a slimy layer of ripe brie.”

To put what happened next into context, you need to know that my fourteen year old boy lives to shock us with gross stories he’s heard from his fellow pubescents or gleaned from the bowels of the internet. He is also going through a growth spurt that makes him ravenously hungry. You can’t even imagine the staggering quantities of food he eats. All this to say, it takes some high octane intellectual firepower to both disgust him and cause him to lose his appetite.

He recoiled in a rictus of visceral horror, dropped his fork with a loud clatter, and pushed his plate away.

DAD! We’re eating! And this salad has feta in it. I seriously can’t eat any more.”

Pray for me, friends. It’s going to be a very long few months…

The Great Fall

My husband has been wanting to take our oldest son on a hike for ages. This Saturday they seized the opportunity to go to Mount Pleasant in the George Washington National Forest.

In the morning we bade a fond farewell to our intrepid hikers:

and went about the rest of our day:


That afternoon I received this text from my husband:

I went to pick up my son at the ER to spare him the inevitable, lengthy wait for a verdict and his dad’s eventual discharge. Back at home, I continued to check in with my husband over the next several hours by text:

When he was finally home with a diagnosis of a multiple fracture, he explained what happened…

After reaching the summit, they started to make their way back down toward the trail head. My husband’s boot caught on a rock hidden by fallen leaves, and all six feet three inches of him went crashing down. Unfortunately, they were still quite a distance away from the car.

“It was agonizing. Believe me, you would not want to walk two miles down a mountain on a broken ankle,” he told me that evening.

“Uh, yeah. As we all know, I wouldn’t want to walk two miles down a mountain, period,” I replied…”Why didn’t you call for help?”

“I didn’t want to cause a fuss. I would have been too embarrassed,” he said…”I hobbled along, and whenever anyone passed, I’d straighten up and pretend like nothing was wrong.”

He mimicked how he would give a cheery wave and say to every passer-by, “Beautiful day for a hike!”

I shook my head.

“Remember when your dad fell into a ravine on his hike and he got a gash on his forehead that required stitches?! And you were so upset with him, because instead of getting help, he just made his way back to his car and drove home for hours gushing blood from the gaping wound? Remember?! Remember how you scolded and scolded him for doing that?! You are your father’s son!

“There’s a HUGE difference!” my husband protested, “My dad hid behind rocks whenever he saw anyone on the trail!”

NO DIFFERENCE! You two are EXACTLY the same!”

“Well,” my husband conceded, grinning…”That’s the spirit that built the great British empire!”

It might explain the fall of the great British empire too…