Dearest Yang,

 

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I’ve been trying to remember when we first met…Was it nine or ten years ago when you first moved to Charlottesville from Germany and our boys became friends at school? This is the earliest photo I can find of our two boys together.

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They look like they could be brothers…

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At elementary school graduation

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2012

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2012

I think our boys were glad to have each other through their last years at elementary school. Being a non-white student in a rural community with little diversity can be hard. I can’t even imagine how difficult it must have been for your son to go from a German school to an American one. Remember when you told me he never uttered a single word at school and I was shocked, because he never ceased talking at our house? I loved hearing his perfectly unique, lilting Chinese-German accent. Our boys are both sensitive dreamers, who have always marched to the beat of their own drums. Remember how we used to laugh and sigh about their shockingly messy backpacks? And to discover they both never knew what their homework assignments were, and that when they miraculously did manage to complete their homework assignments, they both scrupulously forgot to turn them in? Remember when my boy started to learn Chinese, and we talked about him going with your family to visit China one day? Remember how we discovered they both had a passion for music? We tried (as meddlesome parents are wont to do) to get them to play the piano together. We failed, of course.

I’ve been so glad for your friendship over the years. Like our boys, we have a lot of similarities…Maybe we look like we could be sisters? We both married academics from other countries, and followed them to Charlottesville. But you have always been braver and more resilient than I am. I don’t think I could have made the move from China to the U.S. to Germany and back to the U.S. again with three young children in tow. I have always appreciated and admired your open-hearted spirit. I have always loved hearing your generous laugh. Your friendship has been a treasure to me, especially during these last couple of years, which have been difficult for both us. Many of the things that used to bring me joy (like writing) have fallen by the wayside. I wanted to come visit you this week, but I worried about your health. You told me to stay at home, because you worried about mine. You said, “I have to keep you healthy. I like to read what you write to me.” And so this week I will write for you, my dear friend. More tomorrow…

Love,
Adrienne

 

 

Being Well

The other day I had my final phone session with my “Be Well” health coach. This is a well-intentioned employer-sponsored program, which encourages you to scamper on a hamster wheel for a tiny handful of (taxable) hamster pellets. You are supposed to set two goals for the year – a health goal such as: “I will exercise for 30 minutes three times a week,” and a more holistic “fun” goal such as: “I will read three books a month.” My coach and I had been in touch throughout the year. He always seemed to call when I was in the midst of a catastrophic crisis. I suppose this isn’t so surprising, considering the fact that there seemed to be a fresh disaster every other day this year…In any case, he was well aware that I was far from meeting any of the goals we had made together.

“So, obviously I didn’t meet any of the goals I set back when I thought ‘working on music’ was something I was going to have the luxury to do this year. But I helped my sister weather a serious health crisis; I lost my beloved dog; I got diagnosed with cancer; I had two major surgeries; my kids got in a scary car accident on their second day of school, which totaled the car; and my dad is now facing his own serious health issues.”

There was a triumphant quaver in my voice as I concluded my speech: “But I still managed to be productive at work, to take care of my family, and I didn’t fall apart. Given the circumstances, I think that’s far more impressive than expanding my musical repertoire.”

I still didn’t get my handful of hamster pellets.

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After a month in the ICU, my sister was finally able to move to rehab. It happened to be on the same weekend I had been planning to be in NYC with my daughter, her quartet buddies, and their moms.

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It was a happy reunion with my daughter, whom I hadn’t seen in a month. My son spent the weekend with us too, and helped us navigate the city and transportation.

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Evening stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge

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At Dear Evan Hansen

By March I was back home…

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In like a lion, out like a lamb.

Our sweet dog Tallis had been sick for quite some time. We finally had to say goodbye.

IMG_6985.jpegOver spring break, we took a sleeper train to Chicago with our son. IMG_7765.jpeg

 

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Cloud Gate, “The Bean”

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In my parents’ garden

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Pre-Easter Hunt Warm-up

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Easter Egg Hunt

IMG_8053.jpegIMG_8060.jpegIn May I was diagnosed with breast cancer.IMG_8122.jpegIMG_8289.jpeg

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Upping her game with Pre-Formal warm-up in high heels.

 

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Middle School graduate

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My dear old Dad

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Chiles Peach Orchard in Crozet, Virginia

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The cat was rechristened Paloma, although she is still mostly called “The Cat.” She still rules the roost with a velvet fist.

In July I had a double mastectomy with immediate reconstruction.

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My parents came to visit after my first surgery.

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Look, Ma, no braces!

 

 

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1st day of school

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2nd day of school. The car hydroplaned off the road on the way home from school.

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We took a pic a day to document her recovery.

 

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Thank goodness for young skin!

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My boys

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My #1 Goalie

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Back to work after a couple months off to recuperate after surgery.

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Chloe

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I made it to half a century!

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Checking in on my New Yorker…

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We take Halloween very seriously at work.

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Apple picking at Carter Mountain Orchard

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Beautiful fall sunrise from my bedroom window

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Working on the FAFSA…

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After trying and failing to convince my husband to get me a puppy, I finally had to take matters into my own hands.

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My husband’s annual Christmas concert with his early music ensemble.

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The wolf shall lie down with the lamb…one day?!  To date, Chloe continues to ignore Gingersnap’s bouncy puppy overtures with icy disdain.

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They say people and their pups often resemble each other…

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Christmas with all the cousins in Princeton, NJ

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This may have been the best ten minutes of 2019 for me…

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On our way home from NJ, we stopped in Philly to check out Drexel.

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Happy New Year, Everyone! Be well!

Fall Memories

It’s been a gorgeous fall…

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It’s been a busy Fall…

I made a quick visit to Arlington to see my parents and brother…

My friend and I took a weekend trip to New York to see our kids…IMG_9191

I’m always amazed at how much Morningside Heights has changed since I was a graduate student. It’s a little disconcerting, (but awesome)! that there’s a farmer’s market right on Broadway.

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The Guggenheim has always been my favorite New York museum. The scale of it is just right for an afternoon visit…But first we had to wait in a line that literally went around the block for Pay What You Wish admission.

We caught a two-day art installation projected onto the side of Rockefeller Center by neo-conceptual artist Jenny Holzer.IMG_9234

Kehinde Wiley’s “Rumors of War” statue has just moved to its permanent home in Richmond, Virginia at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, but we got a sneak peak while it was still in the middle of Times Square:

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Back home…OKAX4117

I tried (and tried and tried) to convince my husband that the perfect I-survived-cancer, 50th birthday gift would be a puppy…IMG_9263

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Will he cave?

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“Heart of stone”

For now I’ll have to settle for visiting my friend’s adorable new pup.

I took the kids to see Adam Silver talk about The Business of Sports…

My book group buddies and I went to Pennsylvania for the weekend. We sat by a campfire, made terrariums, and befriended the local fauna.

A weekend visit from a dear friend and a trip to Carter Mountain apple orchard inspired two more trips to pick the most delicious Fuji apples!IMG_9351

We went through shocking quantities of Fujis this Fall..

IMG_9501IMG_9500IMG_9497IMG_9533Working on college applications and the dreaded FAFSA…

Halloween!IMG_9464

We’re always running a little behind…hence my daughter’s Halloween party in November:

A too-short but sweet visit from my California girls:

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Signing off for now. Hope to be back in this space a little more regularly.

Hope

It was pouring rain this morning when I asked my trusty sidekick to get dressed and go vote with me, even though she hasn’t been feeling well. Just a couple weeks ago, she had played the role of Leslie Cockburn in a debate for Civics class and had won the mock election. I wanted her to be there when I cast my vote.

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Go, Leslie, go!

Despite the wide grins…IMG_6810

…we’ve actually been feeling like this all day:

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But the future is NOW…and we are going to live in hope. Even on a cold and wet day, there is beauty to be found…

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We live in hope.

 

Goodbye, Summer!

In honor of the first day of Fall: a farewell to a summer of transitions.

The first frame shows my oldest with his siblings, celebrating his high school graduation. After trips to New York City, Cape May, and let’s not forget: Bumpass, we dropped our son off for his first semester of college in Manhattan, a city dear to our hearts because it’s where his dad and I met as graduate students. A short while after, my college friends and I got together for our annual reunion. I like to imagine my son someday in the future getting together with the friends he’ll be making in the next few years. A week after my college mini-reunion, I flew to California to attend the wedding of a childhood friend. I stayed with another mutual dear friend, and together we celebrated a beautiful wedding and a lifelong friendship that has weathered all kinds of life changes – big and small, sad and joyous. The last frame of the video is from this morning. After my second son passed his driver’s test and officially got his driver’s license, he drove me home, and then banged out this song with me. It’s one I used sing to each of my babies as a lullaby…

Weekend Snapshots 54: The Heaven/Hell Edition

Friday

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.

Saturday

We helped set up for the PACEM homeless shelter…

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“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

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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!!!

Sunday

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

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Take me home, human!

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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