Author Archives: owonderful

Universal Snow Day


The kids knew since Tuesday afternoon that they would have a snow day on Wednesday. For me it wasn’t so clear. I checked the university website early yesterday morning to see that they had announced that “non-designated ” employees did not have to report to work.

The announcement raised some burning existential questions in those early morning hours…Who am I? What am I? Oh, dear God, please let me be “non-designated”!


PJs on a Snow Day for this Non-designated employee!

My prayers were answered!

The two younger kids got bundled up to play in the snow. Their older brother remained seated in the living room, tapping away at his laptop with an air of serious concentration.

He had always been the first kid to rush outdoors in any kind of weather. IMG_6133snowdayNow, he’s at the tail end of his senior year and is weighing his college options… IMG_5885Lately he’s been enlightening us with impromptu dinner time lectures on everything from the immortal science of Marx to intersectionality…

Aren’t you going to go out to play with your siblings in the snow?!

It’s too cold out there!!!

Believe me, I can totally relate…but are you sure?

Yeah! I don’t want to freeze!

Hmmm…I replied sadly…I feel like you’ve crossed some kind of Rubicon. It’s kind of bumming me out a little to be honest.

I’m still doing childish things! He said as he continued to type away at this laptop. I’m playing a video game! Just indoors!

OK, kid.


Weekend Snapshots 56



My daughter’s soccer team was playing in a pre-season tournament in Arlington this weekend. Serendipitously, The Wolves, a Pulitzer-nominated play about a girls’ high school travel soccer team, was having its final run this weekend at the Studio Theatre in DC. My sister got tickets for the three of us and we decided to tell my daughter only that she had a surprise in store.

I picked her up early from school on Friday to make sure we would beat the traffic and make it to DC on time. As we walked to the car, she asked, “So are you going to tell me now what the surprise is, or are you going to make me wait until we get there to find out?”

“You’re just going to have to wait till we get there,” I said, “But remind me…you’ve never had an allergic reaction to any anesthetics, right?”

She merely smirked and rolled her eyes at my clumsy attempt to throw her off the scent.


It took me to Ruckersville to come up with a second gambit: “Hey! You really like organ meat, don’t you?”

“What’s organ meat?” she asked me, not even looking up as she tap tap tapped away on her phone.

“You know…like, intestines, brain, heart, liver, kidney…,” I said, forcing down the wicked laughter that was bubbling up inside me.

“I’d gladly try organ meat,” the little saucepot replied serenely, not even glancing up from her phone, “but I haven’t yet had the opportunity to eat it.”

DAMMIT!” I cursed inwardly, frustrated by the girl’s infernal insouciance.

I brooded over the problem all the way up Route 29 until we reached Culpeper, when a devious idea began to form in my brain.

“You did remember to bring a fancy dress and your nice shoes, right?” I casually asked.

My girl whose standard uniform consists of sweatpants and a t-shirt dropped her phone and whipped her head around to look at me with a horrified expression: “Wait, WHAT?!


Ah, sweet victory!

“OK, you really got me that time,” she said. We collapsed in a paroxysm of laughter, and I could finally relax for the rest of the trip!

Our first stop was the W Hotel and the POV rooftop lounge:



Virgin Mojito!

Everything was delicious, but I’m going to dream about the Buñuelo Fritters for the rest of my life. They tasted like impossibly scrumptious, warm air.



The pop up “Museum of Contemporary American Teenagers” at the Studio Theatre


The play was amazing!


The tournament didn’t begin until the late afternoon, so we had all morning to relax…

Grandpa & Grandma tested out the new leg massage contraption their favorite son sent them…


Lunch at Rice Paper, Grandma’s favorite Vietnamese restaurant in the Eden Center in Falls Church:


My girl’s own cheering squad, including her grandparents, my sister, and my BFF, turned out in the bitter cold to root for her team…



The girls advanced to the finals with two wins under their belts.



Because of Daylight Savings, we woke up ten minutes before we had to leave for the first game of the day.

We raced out the door with my dad, who decided to play hooky from church to join us on the field. I can’t emphasize enough how exceedingly rare and hardly-to-be-believed-bordering-on-miraculous this was.


This man skipped church, sat in the freezing cold, and used a porta potty. Now that‘s true love.


Good thing they won!


Tournament Champs!



Weekend Snapshots 55



I awoke to the sound of our son (aka Jiminy Cricket) opening our bedroom door. An early riser, he was the first to realize that powerful winds had left us powerless. He was making the rounds of all the bedrooms, leaving flashlights for everyone on their bedside tables.

Schools were closed for the day for the kids, but my husband and I had to get to work. It was a harrowing trip that involved rerouting several times because of road blocks, driving through a roadblock, and twice driving under a tree resting on power lines. Meanwhile, the kids spent the day shivering in a house that was cold, dark, and without water. My daughter’s was delighted to get out of the house that evening to go to her quartet practice…


We went out to dinner and then killed some more time at a bookstore, all the while compulsively checking the Dominion Power website on our phones to see if power had been restored to our neighborhood. When it became clear that we would spend another night without power, we stopped off at two different grocery stores to find enough water to drink and to flush toilets.

My daughter and I camped out in the living room next to a cozy fire…



…but woke up shivering in a house that still had no power.

It’s amazing how quickly we lose the will to be civilized when there is no electricity. Dirty dishes piled up in the sink. Clothing was discarded on the floor. Tissues were used then left on the coffee table rather than thrown into the trash. Worst of all, we became like rats in a cage, snapping and snarling at each other for no good reason.

We tried to restore our humanity at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, where we caught the end of the remarkable Terracotta Warriors exhibit…



Back in Charlottesville, we dropped one son off at a friend’s dad’s office to work on a project and my daughter off at church, where her Sunday School class was serving dinner to the homeless guests who are there for PACEM. After taking the opportunity to fill jugs with water to take back home, my son and I decided to have dinner at the newly-opened J Petal: a Japanese crepe and Thai ice cream restaurant.


We picked my daughter up and as we drove back to the house, I began to whine about the prospect of having to spend another cold night without power. I felt immediately chastened when from the back seat my girl piped up: “Think about the people in Puerto Rico…Some of them haven’t had power for 6 months. And then, of course, I thought about the homeless people who have to worry about keeping warm and having enough food and water to eat on a daily basis. We came back home to lights, heat, water, and a renewed appreciation for the simple things we take for granted. It was hard to fully enjoy it, though, knowing that friends around town were still without power and thinking about those for whom this situation is not just a temporary inconvenience.



It’s hard to know.


On Monday, Lit Hub published this piece by my sister, in which she talks about “Returning to Writing After a Stage Four Cancer Diagnosis.” I shared it the same day on Facebook with mixed emotions that included both trepidation and relief.

When Annabelle first learned that she had Stage Four lung cancer this past spring, she only confided in our oldest sister. This is how our family rolls. We blunder through life trying (and often failing) to navigate the intricate web of secrets and lies we construct to protect each other from the truth. Months later she finally revealed her diagnosis to my younger brother and me in a masterfully worded email that led us ever so gently to the terrible conclusion. After reading her long email, I sat reeling. I was struck by the fact that even in that moment, she was trying to take care of us, just as she has all her life. She somehow managed to reveal the heart stopping news in such a way as to reassure us that this was not the worst thing in the world, but an unfortunate blip on her horizon that she would get through.

When I talked to the sister who had borne Annabelle’s secret by herself for months, she said with a rush of pent-up emotion: “I’m so glad you know now, because it was horrible to be the only one to know. But I’m so sad you know, because now that you do, I know you can never be happy again.”

Until the publication of her essay, Annabelle had been slowly titrating the news of her diagnosis to family and friends. It took her multiple attempts to tell my parents. I think they are in such denial that the fact hasn’t actually sunk in even now. I have had several painfully uncomfortable conversations with my mother in which she’ll casually ask, “Is Annabelle sick or something? Do you know what’s wrong? It’s not cancer, is it?” Each time this happens, I call my sister to ask her if she was perfectly clear in explaining the situation. The last time it happened, she said, “I JUST got off the phone with her and we discussed it. She definitely knows.” I think my mother knows, but doesn’t want to know.

It was a relief to post Annabelle’s essay, because like our oldest sister, it was hard for me to carry on as if nothing was wrong. But now that it’s out there, how do we carry on?

Annabelle’s essay begins with a quote from her novel Tiger Pelt, which is partly inspired by our dad’s life: “Fall seven times, get up eight.” That’s what Annabelle’s doing with her usual (unusual)? strength, humor, and grace. That’s what I’m going to try my best to do. But now that we all know, what else can we do?

  • If you buy things on, (is there anybody who doesn’t?), you can go to and choose Lung Cancer Research Foundation as your charity of choice. At no cost to you, Amazon will donate a percentage of your purchase price to the charity. Great strides are being made in research and development, especially in immunotherapy drugs that make it possible to live with cancer as a chronic, but treatable condition. Even if you don’t pick Lung Cancer Research, pick ANY charity, because – why not?!
  • If you’d like to make a direct donation to the Lung Cancer Research Foundation, you can do so here.
  • If you happen to be going to the Virginia Festival of the Book, come say hello! My sister is on a panel to talk about Tiger Pelt in the context of “International Stories, Shared Humanities.”
  • Be inspired by Tiger Pelt, a story of hope and survival against terrible odds. We are a family of survivors!
  • “Be kind for you never know what battle someone is fighting.”…When I posted my sister’s essay, I knew I would hear from family & friends. To be honest, I dreaded this a little, because I knew it would bring me right back to the day I learned the news. What I didn’t expect was the outpouring of love and support from friends who wrote or called or told me in person that they were moved by my sister’s words and that they are holding her and our family in their hearts and prayers. This has meant the world to me and I thank each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart.

Weekend Snapshots 54: The Heaven/Hell Edition



I met up for lunch with a couple of friends at Feast, in Charlottesville’s Main Street Market. Before I headed back to work, I stopped off at a stall to buy a couple of things.

I gasped involuntarily when I saw that my two items added up to 6.66 on the cash register.

“666!” I exclaimed in horror.

“I don’t like that number either,” the kind angel behind the counter said. He voided the transaction and rang it up again so that it would add up to $6.65.

*Incidentally, cast your eyes over to the right…I’ve been at 666 followers of this blog for a couple weeks now and it’s giving me the creeps! Here’s hoping that another kind soul takes pity on me again and changes that number soon!*

In the evening I took the kids to see Black Panther. My son and I discussed the Utopian and Dystopian aspects of Wakanda and the moral ambiguity of Killmonger all the way home. The younger two in the backseat plugged their ears with their fingers and rolled their eyes all the way home.


We helped set up for the PACEM homeless shelter…


“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2


A wicked game of Two Square that left one of these little angels with a throbbing, purple pinky…

We finished watching the first season of Stranger Things…sooo good/sooo creepy!!!


Goats are traditionally associated with Satan, but for a group of five parents and seven girls ranging in age from 12 to 13, spending the afternoon playing with baby goats at A Better Way Farm was heavenly. 

As we were leaving the house to head to the farm, I found my daughter in the garage staring pensively at an old guinea pig cage leaning up against the wall.

“Should we bring the cage…just in case?” she asked.

IMG_2976No. No, we shouldn’t.IMG_2962IMG_3021IMG_3086


Take me home, human!


Ethical Question of the Day: Your beloved little angel is being attacked by a hair-eating goat. Do you: a) save her or do you b) continue snapping photos while cackling like a demon?IMG_3127

Clearly, I’m going straight to hell.IMG_3123


Weekend Snapshots 53



On Friday we went to our friends’ house to celebrate the Lunar New Year. The grand finale was the lighting of sky lanterns, which we tried to send up to the heavens with our wishes.


With each launch I made a fervent wish…





My daughter and I spent the day at a local high school for her Destination Imagination tournament, where I served as an appraiser for a category in which she was not competing. (“Wear a funny hat,” they told me)!

What’s Destination Imagination? my sister asked.

Well…it’s an activity for kids who…aren’t athletic, was my daughter’s coded explanation.


My family and my friend and I went to see Postmodern Jukebox that evening…Those are some crazy talented artists!

IMG_2902 2IMG_2912 2



We made a flash visit to Arlington to meet up with some of my family, including my sister & her crew who were down from Princeton. We went to our nostalgic favorite, Peking Gourmet Inn:


One of these things is not like the other…Spot the giant among pygmies.