Dear Tina

One of my closest friends is moving far away in just a few weeks. This is a bitter pill to swallow. Tina was one of my first friends in Charlottesville. Our children have grown up together. We‘ve grown up together. I had always assumed that eventually – we would grow old together.

One of the many things we did together over the years was to build a network of friends through a book group made up of kind, generous, brilliant, creative, and hilarious women. One of them rightly stated that it’s been Tina, who has been the glue that has bound us all together. She has hosted our get togethers every month for years and has plied us with dishes so decadent as to banish the thought of any foolish resolution made in a moment of self-delusion. On a diet? Forget about it! Gluten free? How adorable! No sugar diet? Pssssht! Lactose intolerant? Too bad! You might have to pay for it later, but in the moment? Oh, but in the moment you could not help but indulge in the sinful concoctions she would whip up for us. We would come dressed in our pjs, adjust the recliners just so, and settle in for a night of food, conversation and so much laughter. Tina would buzz about refilling glasses, cutting outrageously large slices of cake to put on our plates, draping comfy throws over our legs…

On Sunday it was our turn to host Tina. Our book group got together to take her out for dinner and to send her off in style. It was graduation weekend here in Charlottesville, which made it impossible to book a table for nine locally. We decided to take our party over the mountain to go to the award-winning farm to table restaurant Zynodoa in Staunton. I told Tina I would pick her up in my Chariot of Fire, aka my 14 year old beater minivan with 250,000 miles on it, but as a special surprise – one of our friends booked a limo.


PTO President by day, Party Queen by night!

We rolled up to Tina’s house and I was dispatched to knock on her door. That’s when things got interesting. The evening started off with a no-holds barred wrestling match. There was blood! There was mud! And it was all captured on film! The next part of this post is in the form of a letter addressed to the woman who took me down like a cheap folding chair…


Dear Tina,

We’ve been through so much together over the many years that we’ve been friends…


“You don’t mind riding in my rattletrap minivan, do you? I did vacuum it just for you…”

We’ve had lots of adventures…


(I love that there’s some kind of tractor parked right next to the limo)!



We’ve had our ups…IMG_9509

And our downs…


But through it all, we’ve always been there for each other. We’ve dropped everything to help each other get back onto our feet when life (or say, a dear friend) has knocked us down on our asses…

We’ve laughed until we’ve cried. (And sometimes we’ve cried until we’ve laughed).


We’ve shared amazingly wonderful times with amazingly wonderful friends…




“Wait, why is my head three times bigger than yours? Are we even the same species?”


“You need to go waaaaay in front so that our head sizes can be even.”

Wherever you go…however far away you may be…

IMG_5673We will always adore wonderful, o wonderful you!

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Weekend Snapshots 37

This was the weekend I became my mother.


I made the classic rookie mistake. I didn’t check for toilet paper before choosing a bathroom stall and doing my business. Where there should have been two industrial-sized rolls of toilet paper – there was jack squat. I sat there for a few long moments contemplating the unsavory options before me. I was saved when I suddenly remembered the extra, unused napkins I had stashed in my capacious bag when I took the kids out for lunch last weekend. They had snickered when they saw me doing it, just as I used to snicker whenever my mom would put extra napkins, ketchup packets, etc. into her bag.

“Just like Grandma,” they said shaking their heads.

Later that day I was driving my daughter home from a playdate when I spotted some adorable daisies – weeds, really – growing along the side of the road. Daisies always remind me of my mother. They are one of her favorite flowers.  She carried them in her wedding bouquet and they had a special place in her flower garden.

I stopped the car and yanked a bunch out to plant in my own garden:

My daughter was shrieking with laughter when I got back into the minivan clutching my daisies with clods of dirt falling from their roots: “You’re becoming just like Grandma!”

The first time my mother visited us when we moved to Charlottesville, we took her for a tour of the campus, (“Grounds”).  We stopped to admire a hedge of wild roses that had been planted by the building where my husband’s office was located. My mother methodically picked rose hips off the bushes.


I looked uneasily about to see if anyone was witnessing the plundering of the rosebushes.

“Here!” she said, handing them to me, “Try planting these in your garden. If any come up, give me some!”

Later we walked along the Downtown Mall. At each of the large black planters placed at intervals along the pedestrian walkway she would stop to admire the lush flowers. Whenever she spotted flowers that had gone to seed, she would casually pull them off.

I shrank with embarrassment, but she handed them to me saying, “These will look beautiful in your garden!”

It’s been raining for weeks now. Every morning as I drive to work I think about all the things I’m going to do in my garden the minute I get home. Some days I don’t even bother changing out of my work clothes. I just throw on a pair of garden gloves and rush outside to the garden. I’ve found myself outside in the rain almost every day, sometimes in the pitch black, sometimes dodging lightning bolts…I remember watching my mother do this when I was a child.

“MOM! You’re getting soaked! Come in!” I’d say.

“It’s the best time to plant,” she’d reply, waving me away with her gloved hand.


All the kids’ soccer games were rained out, so we spent the day running errands. We had left a bunch of paint cans for the people who are buying our house, thinking they might like to have them for future touch ups. After the home inspection they asked us to remove them, so I dropped by our old house with my daughter and her friend to gather them up. My heart sank when I heard a crash.

“Uh-oh!” I heard my daughter say, “Mommy?”

I ran upstairs to discover that she had dropped one of the paint cans on the kitchen floor. The paint was oozing all over the tile. After a major freak out, I remembered there was a roll of paper towels in the garage. My elation turned to despair when I realized there were only two sheets left on the roll.

“Now what am I going to do?!” I groaned out loud.

My daughter piped up, “Don’t worry, Mom! You have a million napkins in your bag!” And so I did!


My son’s piano recital.


He was the final performer, so I had a couple hours of high anxiety until it was his turn at last. I’ve listened to him play his two pieces over and over for months. He had never gotten to the point where he was able to play through the pieces flawlessly every single time. I’m glad to report that he played them beautifully.

We went to Crozet Pizza, a Charlottesville landmark, to celebrate:

When we got home at last, my sweet daughter put her arm around me and said, “You should go have a nap now, Mommy, so you can be rested up for your fun night with your friends in Staunton.” (More on that later).

“Now who’s being just like Grandma?” I thought as I gave her a big hug.




My Big Sis


One day my oldest sister and I were discussing our middle sister, Annabelle.

“Annabelle never does things the normal way,” she said.

“When we moved from Texas to Korea and had to go to school and didn’t speak a word of Korean, I threw temper tantrums every day, because I was so miserable and mad at Mom and Dad for dragging us there. Annabelle was immediately voted class president.”

Scan 1

Annabelle is on the right, wearing her special class president’s badge.

“Instead of just going to any old college, she went to MIT, and made straight As, and then while she was at it, she threw in a masters degree to boot!”

“Instead of just becoming an engineer, she designed a revolutionary, industry-changing water filtration method.”

“Instead of just having one baby, she had THREE at a time!”

C'mon boyz

On that note, my very traditional Korean dad once told me, “Well, Adrienne, I used to think you were the lucky one, because you have two boys…but now Annabelle has you beat.” Not only does my sister have a beautiful, brilliant, and accomplished daughter, she has triplet boys. For Koreans, that’s like winning the Mega Millions lottery three times.


Somehow during those sleepless years when she was designing water plants and raising her family, my amazing big sis also wrote a novel.

As you would expect, it’s not just any ordinary book. Tiger Pelt received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews and has been named as one of the Best Books of 2015. Alexander Theroux writes:

A passionate, absorbing novel, Annabelle Kim’s Tiger Pelt with its South Korean backdrop is a seismic tremor of a book. Kim who is a writer with bold insights fixes on two interwoven lives with humane irony, antic imagination, and an unsettling perceptiveness that includes much fascinating lore about that country and her wounded but ultimately triumphant fictional creations. It is a stark, often unsparing book.

One seasoned editor has called it “Pulitzer-worthy.” I’ve read the book from cover to cover at least three times now. Every single time it makes me laugh and weep. The story knocks the wind out of you; the book’s moments of poetry leave you breathless. I promise you that Tiger Pelt is not just any old book. My big sis wrote it after all!

Tiger Pelt is coming out this Monday and is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.



IMG_5633We had to scramble a bit to make sure everyone had something red to wear, as we were instructed to do, for Pentecost Sunday.

“What is Pentecost?” my daughter asked.

“I have no idea,” I replied as I pulled out a red skirt from my closet for her to try on. I’ve grown up going to church all my life and have never once celebrated Pentecost.

A quick internet search set me straight. In case you don’t know what Pentecost is either…Pentecost means “50,” because it’s the 50th day, or seventh Sunday after Easter. On this day a sudden rush of winds filled the house where followers of Christ were gathered together. The Holy Spirit appeared to the apostles in tongues of flame (hence the red), and everyone began speaking in different languages. The apostle Peter preached his first sermon to those who were gathered, and so this day is celebrated as the birthday of the Christian church.


Musical Saturday

My son opened and closed his recital with Bach’s Prelude in C Major and Kern’s All the Things You Are…

IMG_9346IMG_9351IMG_9355IMG_5606A couple hours later we headed to another special concert. It was the 25th Anniversary Concert for a group from Charlottesville…

But unlike the rest of Charlottesville, who were at John Paul Jones Arena for the Dave Matthews Band’s 25th Anniversary Concert, we were at St. Paul’s Memorial to hear my husband sing in Zephyrus‘ 25th Anniversary Concert!



IMG_1898Have you seen the news about the woman who just won her second lottery in three months? The two wins add up to $1,250,000. The odds of something like this happening are staggeringly slim. Incredibly lucky? Yes. But the main reason her story has made the news is that the money is going to help her pay for ongoing breast cancer treatment.

I once went to an art fair with my roommate when I had just started graduate school. As we entered, we were asked to fill out an entry for door prizes. I carelessly filled out my form, knowing without a shadow of a doubt that I would never win. I’ve never once in my life won such a thing.

I was astonished to hear my roommate say, “I’ll probably win this.” At that time I’d only known her a few weeks. I thought she might be delusional. “My family always wins these kinds of things,” she said. She went on to list all the things they had won over the years: money, a car, a television, a refrigerator. Sure enough – hours later the phone rang at our apartment. She had won the grand prize.

I’ve always thought that people have different kinds of luck. My prize-winning roommate is one example. The un/lucky lottery-winning cancer patient is another case in point. As for me, I know I’ll never win a door prize, sweepstakes, or lottery. My luck has always been with my family; and the beating heart and soul of my family is my mother. Her love, strength, and character inspire me. It’s an improbable jackpot I hit every single day.

Posts about my mother:

Lessons from My Mama, Pt. 1

Lessons from My Mama, Pt. 2

My Mama, the Drama Queen

The Sound of Music


How my Mom Got a Patient Sprung from St. Elizabeth’s

63 Bowls of Seaweed Soup

Lost and Found

This is my mother…