Still here…

I began the year with a trip to Charlotte for the annual reunion of my college roommates…It just so happened that two of our daughters were there for different sports competitions. I was so grateful to my friend, who drove me to my daughter’s four games and even stood out in the freezing cold rain with me to watch a little. Now that‘s truly a good friend!

A few weeks later, our oldest headed back to school in NYC.

I went to New Jersey to visit my sister and her faithful dog Daisy.


Maybe she’s born with it? Maybe it’s Maybelline.

My friend Katherine and I woke up at an ungodly hour to board a 6 am flight to NYC to check in on our kids, who are both studying there…

We stayed in a hotel at Hudson Yards, right next to The Vessel.


The Vessel

Our hotel bathroom must have been three times as large as the one in my son’s apartment…


Teeny tiny sink in my son’s Lilliputian (shared) bathroom.


Brobdingnagian Friday afternoon tea at Alice’s Teacup

On Saturday we went to Chinatown for dim sum and found ourselves wading through huge crowds that had come out for the Chinese New Year parade:



This last Sunday my second son gave a sermon during the youth-led service at our church…



IMG_0464So proud of him. So not ready for him to leave for college next Fall.

Meanwhile, Gingersnap continues her ruthless and devastatingly efficient campaign to conquer the universe with expressions like these…


Why am I down here on the floor when I’m supposed to be enthroned upon your lap?


That’s more like it.


Even Chloe is coming around…

At the dog park today…





Fall Memories

It’s been a gorgeous fall…



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.


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:


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


Will he cave?


“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…


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:


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

The Necklace

Many years ago, my mother returned from a trip to Korea bearing gifts for my sisters and me. We grew up getting socks, underwear, and school supplies for Christmas and our birthdays, so when my mother gave us necklaces that she had had made at a jeweler, it was completely unexpected. They were simple necklaces made out of polished stones in plain silver settings fashioned from silverware that she had melted down. I’m ashamed to say that my sisters and I regarded our necklaces with vague curiosity that quickly gave way to disinterest. The three of us stashed them away, and it pains me to admit that I’m not sure if any of us ever wore our necklaces a single time. It was only much later that I appreciated how precious they were.

My grandfather came to the U.S. as a young man in the 1950s. One of the places he visited on that trip was Cape May, New Jersey. He was far from his home: another seaside town on the other side of the globe. He had grown up on Jeju Island, where he was raised by a distant cousin. He was orphaned as a very young child, when three generations of his family were massacred in a single day in one of the multiple bloody purges of converts to Catholicism that occurred in Korea. His cousin, an innkeeper who had no children of her own, hid him during the massacre, and raised him into adulthood.

I’m not sure where or how my grandfather met my grandmother. Although they were both from Jeju Island, they came from different worlds. My grandmother came from a family of prosperous merchants, who owned a factory that produced and exported canned sea food and buttons made out of shells. Religion brought the downfall of my grandfather’s family; wealth brought disaster to my grandmother’s. Communists captured her father, beat him, and burned down the factory. The family escaped from Jeju Island and made their way to Seoul.

In Seoul, the family was able to rebuild their wealth by opening up a leather goods factory and store on Myeongdong Street. Besides the factory and store, my grandmother’s family owned an orchard on a huge swathe of land that was next to what is now the Blue House, (the Korean White House). Their own traditional hanok was right across from City Hall and Deoksugung Palace. It was unusual for women of that generation to get a higher education, but my grandmother was sent to Japan to earn her graduate degree in Psychology. She was a cultured, worldly woman who grew up in comfort. When she met my grandfather, he was a poor man with big dreams.

Scan 5

Six of their children survived to adulthood. Their eldest child is my mother.

Scan 6

My grandfather was in the U.S., trying to raise money for the university he was trying to build in Seoul. One day in Cape May, he looked for a suitable gift to bring back to his wife, who by that time had poured every penny of her wealth into the school. He brought her back a bag of polished beach pebbles. I imagine the smooth, colorful stones looked beautiful to him compared to the black, pitted volcanic rocks that cover the beaches of Jeju Island. My grandmother took one look at my grandfather’s humble offering and tossed the pebbles into the trash. My mother, that soulful little girl standing in the forefront in the photo above, felt sorry for her father, whose gift had been so callously discarded. She secretly rescued the rocks from the trash and kept them hidden away for decades.

It amazes me to think about how long my mother held onto that bag of rocks. I couldn’t tell you the number of times she’s moved in her lifetime. There have been multiple international moves, and perhaps as many as a dozen moves within the U.S. My parents tended to regard every move as an opportunity to purge and start all over again. My father remembers giving away a television and a car to my mother’s brother, before boarding a Greyhound bus with his wife, two little girls, and a couple of suitcases to begin his studies at yet another school, in yet another city. In another of our moves, we lost almost all of our clothes, because they had been packed in garbage bags that were mistakenly tossed out as trash. My mother is a minimalist at heart. She has always relished giving things away or throwing things out. The fact that her father’s rocks made it through every single move is almost as miraculous and unlikely as his own survival on that terrible day when the rest of his family was slain.

When we were deciding where to spend our annual family summer vacation, my sisters canvassed several possibilities. We could go to Fenwick Island, where we’d already spent two happy summer breaks. We could try another beach in Delaware, or we could go to Cape May. Without hesitation, my mother declared that she wanted to go to Cape May, where her own father had gone more than half a century ago.

“Remember?” she reminded us, “That’s where my father bought those stones that my mother threw out. The ones I saved and made into necklaces for you girls?”

In the weeks leading up to our trip to the beach, my sisters and I went on a desperate search for our necklaces. I would lie awake in the middle of the night, brooding over that lost necklace and trying to remember where I’d put it. To my husband’s dismay, I’d leap out of bed several times a night to rummage around in a new spot that I hadn’t already tried before. I kept returning to the same spots too, indulging in magical thinking that the necklace would somehow reappear where it hadn’t been the last time I’d checked. Alas, I never did find my necklace. My sisters weren’t able to find theirs either.

A couple nights before we were to leave for Cape May, I was having my usual late night self-flagellation session as I racked my brains trying to think where the necklace could have gone. A sudden thought crossed my mind. I got out of bed again and rummaged around in my sock drawer. I pulled out a small pouch that my mother had pressed into my hands some years ago. As is her wont, she had gone on a binge of paring her possessions down to the essentials. She had gathered up all her most precious jewelry in a small pouch and had told me to give them to my daughter.

My daughter and I were both horrified to see that she was giving us her wedding ring, and the jewelry that was most precious to her. It seemed to us a portent of something we did not want to face. My daughter cried and tried to hand the pouch back to her grandmother. The poor girl hadn’t lived long enough on this earth to realize that her grandmother’s will is as inexorable as the passage of time.


My mother’s most precious jewelry isn’t worth much money. The fake pearl necklace is chipping. My father was a poor graduate student when he bought her wedding ring. The watch was another modest gift from him. Their immeasurable value lies in the fact that she wore and treasured them all of her adult life.

As I suspected, the necklace she had made and kept for herself from one of my grandfather’s pebbles was in the pouch.

IMG_4684I polished the silver and wore the necklace to Cape May, where it all began.


Communing at Twin Oaks

The house where we spent a week at Lake Anna happens to be fairly close to Twin Oaks, one of the longest-running communes in the U.S. (Last summer the community celebrated its 50th anniversary). I’ve been intrigued by this ongoing experiment in communal living since high school, when I read founder Kat Kinkade’s book about Twin Oaks. There is a three-hour guided tour every Saturday during the warmer months of the year, and I was glad to finally have the opportunity to visit the 450-acre compound in person.IMG_6047 2


Entrance to Twin Oaks Community

Established in 1967, Twin Oaks was originally inspired by and modeled after B.F. Skinner’s Walden Two. Its behaviorist roots can still be seen in its polity and system of labor. Every effort is made to disperse power, so that no one person gains too much control. Planners and Managers are voted into office to make decisions for the collective. Three planners take staggered rotating shifts of 18 months. They make larger decisions for the community with input from members. In the main dining hall, we saw a wall of clipboards outlining various proposals. Members are encouraged to write down their thoughts and opinions on the issues they care about. Dozens of managers for different areas make the more granular day to day decisions. Over the years the community has largely moved away from its original behaviorist foundation. Initially, for example, children were raised not by their own parents, but by the community in a special house for children. Today, parents mostly raise their own children with the help of special mentors or “primaries,” who sometimes share in the task.

Now, the two basic guiding principles of the Twin Oaks “eco-village” or “intentional community” are equality and personal freedom. The labor system is a good illustration of how these abstract concepts play out in real life. All members are required to work 42 hours a week. Each week, members fill out a labor sheet with their work preferences. The labor manager reviews the sheets and makes adjustments if needed to make sure all shifts are filled. Members can mostly do whatever suits them – and rather than doing just one thing – most choose to do multiple jobs. The one thing that everyone must do is a two hour kitchen cleaning shift. Lots of things that wouldn’t typically be considered work on the outside, earn labor credits at Twin Oaks. Doing laundry or childcare for example, earns just as many credits as milking cows or working in the tofu factory. Being sick can count as work hours. The time it takes to visit a doctor or dentist can count as work hours. The elderly might fulfill their work obligation in the comfort of one of the few air-conditioned spaces at Twin Oaks, sorting seeds for one of the community’s cottage industries.

What doesn’t count as labor? From the Twin Oaks Policy manual:

Anyone may take credit for teaching anything to anyone, as long as the learner wants to learn it. Normal uses for teaching credits include teaching a language, a musical instrument, a recreational skill or academic subject. The situation becomes borderline when one person teaches cos* favorite friend to recognize forest flora, and they end up making love among the wild violets. Use your judgment and your conscience about how much of that to take credit for.

*”co” is a pronoun that replaces s/he at Twin Oaks

IMG_6039The only people who are not required to work at all are children below the age of 7, those who have applied to retire because of infirmity, or those who have aged out of the requirement. At the age of 50, the number of work hours required begins to go down by an hour for every year. (41 hours at the age of 50, 40 hours at the age of 49, etc.). Vacation credits are earned for every hour of labor, and typically add up to about 2 – 3 weeks for each member. It’s possible to earn even more vacation by working more than the 42 hours a week. Our guide told us that the typical Twin Oaks vacation lasts 2 1/2 months. Not bad!

IMG_6043In exchange for 42 hours of labor, every member is provided with all basic necessities including a room in one of the residences buildings, each of which house 10-12 people, food, clothing (from the “Commie Clothes”-I-don’t-think-I’ve-ever-seen-as-much-tie-dye-in-one-location-closet )!, and perhaps most significantly: health care. Upon joining, members are not required to bring in any assets. In fact, those who have any are strongly encouraged to give them away or park them elsewhere so that they are available for them when and if they decide to leave. (According to our guide, the typical length of stay is about ten years, though at times there have been as many as three generations of Twin Oakers in residence at once). The community shares a fleet of vehicles, including cars and racks of bicycles. For my mother’s sake, I was very relieved to discover that Twin Oaks also had a couple of golf carts. My parents must have been extremely bored in Bumpass, because they insisted on coming on the tour, despite my repeated warnings that it would involve three hours of walking:


Our lovely and gracious host gave my mom a lift while guiding us around Twin Oaks.

For things beyond the necessities, each member from the age of 10 years on, receives an allowance of $100/month. Children under 10 receive half that amount.


Washcloths outside the bathroom in the communal dining hall.

There are no TVs allowed at Twin Oaks, but there are communal computers, and members are allowed to have personal laptops. There is wifi all over the community, though – as for many of us on the outside – it’s not always 100% reliable!

According to our guide, there are “two big stories” at Twin Oaks these days. Hammocks used to account for 75% of the community’s revenue.


Testing out the hammocks…

Around seven years ago, their most important customer Pier 1 Imports called to say they would no longer be selling hammocks in their stores. The community plunged into a serious economic crisis. Twin Oaks had always had multiple small-scale cottage industries, from book indexing to making tofu, but hammocks had been keeping the commune in the green. The  community decided to concentrate their efforts (and more than a million dollars of their resources) into the tofu business. Although they still seem to be in the process of recovering their economic equilibrium, Twin Oaks tofu is now being sold at Whole Foods and other stores, and gets rave reviews.


The “state-of-the-art” Tofu Factory

The other big story is the way in which the community has been expanding. Multiple smaller sister communities have sprung up around Twin Oaks. Members of these groups socialize with each other and exchange labor and other resources. Ex-Twin Oaks members often settle in Mineral, Virginia and stay involved in the life of the community.

At Twin Oaks itself, there are 105 beds for approximately 90 adults and 15 children, and there is almost always a waiting list to become a member. For those interested in joining, there is a mandatory three-week visitor program. After taking part in the life of Twin Oaks, potential members are required to spend a month away to reflect on the decision, and to give the community a chance to decide whether to accept them. If accepted, (and most are), after an initial 6-month trial period, applicants become full-fledged members with all accorded benefits. Members are free to leave whenever they’d like. It’s possible for those who need to be away to care for aging parents, etc. to freeze their membership for the time they are away and to take a sort of sabbatical.

Our guide told us that a common reason people leave the community is because of interpersonal conflicts. A “Process Team” is sometimes called upon to help parties try to work through these issues. Members of this team are simply people who are interested in performing this role. This also holds true for people who wish to be healers. No special training is required, though some may choose to study for their roles by reading or watching videos. It is important to note, however, that members who wish to receive traditional medical or dental treatment can go to UVA Hospital or other designated outside providers and have the cost of non-elective treatment fully covered by Twin Oaks.

One of the last places we visited on our tour was the care facility, designed for the sick and the elderly. It is one of the only air-conditioned spaces at Twin Oaks and has remote controls and handrails everywhere. Like everything at Twin Oaks, it was designed thoughtfully and with a spirit of generosity. Members of the community make sure to stock the refrigerator in the kitchen with food so that residents of the care facility can feel like they are hosting the visitors who come to see them. I read that Kat Kinkade, after leaving Twin Oaks, returned to the community and was taken care of by its members until her death – even though this went against the policy she herself had helped to write. The day we visited, the one resident of the care facility was also an ex-Twin Oaks member. He was taken in by the community even though he had left years ago, because he had no family and nowhere else to turn for help. The community is taking care of him in his final days.

This act of charity, or grace reflects the ethos of radical acceptance at Twin Oaks. The community does not espouse any one religion or religion period. Neither does it make it its business to define what constitutes a family unit. Instead, what unites the members are their values of “cooperation, sharing, nonviolence, equality, and ecology.”

Visiting Twin Oaks inspired all sorts of discussions and interesting conversations within our family. Although none of us could see ourselves living at Twin Oaks, we could all see its appeal for the right type of person. It also gave us the opportunity to share our lives with one young Twin Oaks member in particular. It just so happens that our host’s son is going to start studying at UVA this fall. When our guide learned that my husband is a professor there, he asked if his son could contact him. The very next week, they got together at a coffeehouse to discuss life at UVA.


Outside the dining hall.

Communing with Nature

There’s bupkis in Bumpass, if you don’t count the North Anna Nuclear Generating Station and Lake Anna – the disturbingly warm manmade reservoir created to cool the plant. We marinated all week in the hot tub that is Lake Anna. The weather ended up being not as terrible as we expected. Even when it rained, we would paddleboard or kayak or canoe back and forth across the lake all day long.

IMG_6050IMG_5920IMG_5884IMG_5954IMG_6082IMG_6010Once I fell off my paddle board into the lake, which had recently been found to have “dangerously high levels of E.coli.” I managed to keep my eyes and mouth tightly shut until I resurfaced, with alarm bells screaming bloody murder in my head. IMG_6076

Good thing my phone was safely tucked away in my handy dandy waterproof case when it happened:


My sister was so jealous of my jaunty little case, I fashioned one for her out of a sandwich bag, a pencil case, and a lanyard we found at the local Dollar General.


She’s virtually guaranteed to up her cool factor with this bad boy slung around her neck. 

If I’ve shortened my lifespan in the radioactive, bacteria-laden waters of Lake Anna…well, at least I got to see bald eagles and herons up close and personal as they criss-crossed the lake. My daughter didn’t believe me when I said I saw an eagle. (Ummm, I don’t mean to hurt your feelings, but I think you just saw a regular bird, Mom). I was so anxious to prove to her that I really had seen an eagle, I made my sister stalk this one to a tree. We sat in our canoe with our necks craned into position for three quarters of an hour until it finally took flight…

Sometimes we stalked birds; sometimes the birds stalked us. This is the exact moment I learned how much my sister loves me:

We could see schools of fish swimming around in the remarkably clear waters. Once, a sweet baby turtle bobbled up and down alongside us as my sister and I floated on our boards and chatted and stared up at the clouds in the cove by our house.


We did a lot of loafing that week in Bumpass…IMG_6014IMG_6049IMG_5922IMG_6077IMG_5978IMG_5979

My husband finds it harder than I do to relax. He kept rounding up the kids to do what few local activities he could find. They played miniature golf and disc golf a few times. One afternoon, he took the family to the North Anna Nuclear Information Center – a one-room exhibit about the plant. Toward the end of our trip, he realized that we were very close to Twin Oaks, a 450 acre commune, and that they gave tours on Saturdays. More on that next time!



Bumpass 5-0

It finally stopped raining in Bumpass!

My sister filmed a couple more entries for Sundance.

Watch this one to the end. A star is born. Agents can contact me to book my husband.

Might as well just cut to the chase and hand over those Oscars now! : )


It was going to be hard to top a glorious week in Cape May, but by God we would try.

In Bumpass.

We are now in Bumpass, vacationing at Lake Anna…a manmade reservoir built to cool the reactors at the North Anna Nuclear Generating Station.

During the weekend we had at home between Cape May and Bumpass, we compulsively checked the weather forecast every half hour, hoping it would magically improve:

It hasn’t.

Never mind. We come from hardy stock. We would not be deterred by lousy weather.

On our first day in Bumpass, my sister and I decided to take a canoe out on the lake.

As we paddled along, we suddenly caught sight of our parents barrelling down the grassy slope.img_58932

Once, many years ago, my father rescued a drowning woman from raging waters. The incident is memorialized in the opening scenes of Tiger Pelt, my sister Annabelle Kim’s novel. My dad sprung into action again…

Stay tuned for more action and adventure in…Bumpass.

Postcards from Cape May, Part 3

Beloved family.IMG_5004


Trolley tour of Cape May


The Four Musketeers


We weren’t sure why the little ones were laughing so hard…



Whale watching tour. Lots of dolphins spotted, but no whales. : (


Goodbye, Cape May! Goodbye, cute little Watermelon House, where my brother and his crew stayed, just down the street from our own beach house.


IMG_5854 3


Matching shirts!



Happy 83rd birthday, Dad!

The Greatest City in the World

On Saturday morning we set out to conquer another day on our packed itinerary. En route to Central Park, we sidled over to the Richard Rodgers Theater to gaze longingly at the Hamilton marquee and to fantasize about actually getting to see the show…


By this time we had more or less decided that we would probably try to get in the cancellation line on Sunday. We were still waffling, because the thought of the long drive home afterwards, in the unlikely event that we would actually get in to see the musical, was daunting.

We pressed on to our destination, slowed only by my daughter’s insistence on stopping every five seconds to peek into restaurant windows to check on the progress of World Cup games:

IMG_4486We made a stop at Rockefeller Center to visit Magnolia Bakery and La Maison du Chocolat.

IMG_4492We finally made it to the Central Park Zoo. We didn’t get to see the polar bears I had remembered from my last trip to the zoo, but we did get to see the sea lions working hard for their lunch:



Work, work!

IMG_4532IMG_4533IMG_4538IMG_4540By this time our feet were throbbing with each step, but we were determined to make it to Zabar’s, the next destination on our itinerary. Like those sea lions, we had to work for our food.

Why Zabar’s? you may be wondering…A few years ago, we were driving to my parents’ house to spend the weekend. It was around Christmas time and in the car ride up, I had been pestering the kids to come up with their wish lists. At my parents’ house, my daughter happened upon a Zabar’s catalogue that was lying around the house. She spent the whole weekend poring over the pages with rapturous wonder.

Could I put stuff from this catalogue on my list? she asked.

When we were leaving Arlington she couldn’t bear to be parted from the catalogue and asked my parents if she could keep it. It’s been enshrined on her bedside table ever since and has been thumbed through countless times.

Needless to say, a trip to Zabar’s was at the top of her list of things to do in New York.

In our 12-page itinerary, the plan was to stop at Zabar’s to buy a picnic lunch, then head back to Central Park to watch the Shakespeare in the Park performance of Twelfth Night.

The church next to Zabar’s, by the way, just happens to be where my dad was the minister for a Korean congregation in the 70s. Every Sunday for four years we would get up at the crack of dawn to drive two and a half hours from Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania to New York City, and two and a half hours back again after church. That was back in the days of no air conditioning in cars. My brother and I were consigned to the cargo area of our station wagon, where we would alternate kicking each other, singing songs at the top of our lungs, and puking from carsickness into an empty coffee can we kept in the car for just that purpose. Ah, the good old days…


IMG_4552By the time we reached Zabar’s, we were completely out of steam. Our friends decided to head back to the hotel for a rest, and my daughter and I decided to skip Shakespeare and just hunker down at the counter to have lunch.


I’m just like my country – I’m young, scrappy, and hungry.

We met back up with our friends at the hotel and collapsed onto a bed as we contemplated our next move…

My daughter took one look at my swollen feet and howled with laughter. They looked like puffy baby feet with pads of fat on the tops!

According to our itinerary, we were supposed to take a ferry to Brooklyn, get dinner at the Brooklyn Market, then hoof it back to Manhattan over the Brooklyn Bridge in time to catch the sunset.

Instead…we decided to “plan for spontaneity.” We did a little shopping at Muji:


Muji 2018

…which for some reason uncannily reminded me of the last birthday trip to New York City and a visit to Muji:

Muji Coma

Muji 2013

And then we hit the Hamilton cancellation line around 4 pm, four hours before the show was to start. There were already seven people in line ahead of us. Could we face it?


When you got skin in the game, you stay in the game. But you don’t get a win unless you play in the game…I want to be in the room where it happens.

Our friends came prepared with the blankets we had been planning to use for the Central Park picnic that never happened, games to while away the time, and newly-purchased art supplies from Muji:


Wait for it, wait for it, wait for it.

Having been the crazy person to have suggested that we try the cancellation line, I was anxious to try to manage the girls’ expectations. I kept trying to mentally prepare them for the distinct possibility of waiting four hours for nothing.

“Girls, don’t be disappointed if we don’t get tickets.”

“If we only manage to get two tickets, you guys will go and we’ll pick you up right here after the show.”

“Even if we don’t get in, standing in line is part of the whole New York experience!” my friend blustered with cheerful, if unconvincing bravado.

By the second hour, I began saying, “Girls, remember: don’t be disappointed when we don’t get tickets, because we probably won’t.”

“OK,” they would dutifully reply every time, both of them looking inscrutable, yet ripe for complete and utter devastation.

By hour three of our four hour wait in the line, my daughter was getting antsy. She leaned over to me and whispered, “Honestly, I’d rather just go to Brooklyn. We’re wasting four whole hours of our last day in New York just sitting here for tickets that we won’t even get.”

When someone from the box office came over to the line about an hour before the show and let just the first two people into the theater to buy tickets, we really began to lose hope.

“Let’s plan all the fun things we’re going to do this evening in case we don’t get tickets…Let’s spoil ourselves with a really yummy dinner in Brooklyn…and ice cream! And won’t it be fun to walk across the bridge? I’ve never done that before!”

“Uh-huh, yeah,” the girls replied as they stared off into the distance with glazed eyes, some unseen inner melodrama playing out in their little souls.

About a half hour before the show, all the happy ticket holders filed past us as they walked into the theater, stopping under the marquee for their obligatory social-media-worthy Hamilton photo.

Five minutes before the show we were still waiting.

Suddenly, a man ran over from the box office and pulled the first two people in line to enter the theater and buy tickets. After a minute, the man came back and got the next person in line. Another minute later, he brought over the mother and daughter who were directly in front of us. By this point, my heart was pounding, and I studiously avoided catching the girls’ eyes.

And then – glory, glory, hallelujah! – it was our turn! When we got to the box office, the woman at the counter said she had standing room only tickets left for $40 each.

We rushed up the stairs just in time for the opening number. The last person to get in was the man standing right behind us in line.

We stood there in shock, joy, and disbelief. It’s just possible that some of us may have even teared up a bit…

The opening number was spectacular, but my eyes kept drifting away from the stage and over to the girls. I can honestly say, it was just as fun for me to watch their rapt expressions as it was to watch that first number. As it came to an end, I leaned over to whisper in my daughter’s ear: “This is so boring. Let’s just leave and go to Brooklyn instead.” She barely deigned to acknowledge my frivolous comment, not even peeling her eyes from the stage for a second. (Cue the song: I am not throwing away my shot!)

It was literally painful to stand on our aching feet for the almost three hour show, but we loved every minute of it.


Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now!


When our children tell our story, they’ll tell the story of tonight.

And now? My job as a mother to this child is done. I might as well retire now. What more could I possibly do for her in life to top this?

We returned the next day before we left New York for our obligatory marquee photos…


You’ll be back like before!


Rise up!

The High Line and the Tenement Museum

It seemed like everyone we knew was in New York City this past weekend. The girls discovered that one of their good friends and her mom happened to be in the hotel right next to ours. We met up for breakfast at one of their favorite spots – Daniela Trattoria:


We joked about how this breakfast had not been factored into the 12 page master plan and that a certain amount of processing had to be done to mentally adjust to this unexpected twist. We laughed about how the Careening Pinball and the Master Planner were negotiating our different styles, especially when it came to the question of whether or not we should try to wait in the Hamilton cancellation line.

“I’m a planner too,” our friend said, “But I’ve learned to plan for spontaneity. I always like to leave space in my schedule for things that come up unexpectedly.”

“Plan for spontaneity” may be my new motto in life…although I suppose it would only work if I ever had a plan to begin with.


We headed off to the glorious High Line, the urban park built around a defunct elevated railway line:



The last time I was there a few years ago, the plantings looked new and a bit sparse…Now it’s a lush oasis complete with full-grown trees.


There’s a lot of new construction going up around the High Line…IMG_4387

My daughter picked out the apartment building where she wants to live when she grows up:

IMG_4366 The building at 520 West 28th Street was Zaha Hadid’s last New York project. Later we did a little internet research and discovered that there are currently five condo units for sale ranging from $5,095,000 for a 1,691 sq. foot unit to $13,500,000 for a 4,220 sq. foot unit. There are two $50,000,000 penthouses. Steep? Yes! But the building has its own 12 seat IMAX theater, spa, pool, etc. etc. Still too much? Maybe my daughter could just rent instead…the cheapest rental goes for a mere snip at $15,000 a month; the more expensive ones for $22,500. Dream big, kid.


The wrong side of the tracks?


We got off the High Line to go shopping in Chelsea Market. We had so much fun, we lost track of time and realized we didn’t even have time for lunch.

We had to hustle to get to the Tenement Museum at 103 Orchard Street, where we were fortunately booked for a Food Tour that took us to lots of different locations around the Lower East Side. img_4616Some of the many stops included Vanessa’s Dumplings, where we tried a Beijing style dumpling, Russ & Daughters Café, where we tried a bagel and schmeer, and El Castillo de Jagua, where we tried some fried plantain. My daughter’s favorite just may have been the pickled pineapple we had here:


We had a short break before the next “Under One Roof” tour we were scheduled for, where we walked around apartments recreated to the specifications of tenants who had lived there, and heard their stories.

If I had to do it over again, I would probably only schedule one tour – two back to back tours were pretty exhausting.

We made our way to David Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar in the East Village for dinner. My daughter has been pining to try any of David Chang’s restaurants, and was thrilled to finally go to his original Momofuku restaurant.


She loved her Braised Oxtail with chili, buttered rice, and a poached egg…IMG_4434

We took a subway to our next destination…


This is why I love New York…IMG_4437

No matter how weird you are, there’s always someone or something weirder, just around the corner.

No trip to New York with the younger set is complete without a stop at Dylan’s Candy Bar:


We decided to forgo the tasty selection at Dylan’s, because we were saving ourselves for…


Well…maybe when we’re living in one of those $50,000,000 penthouse apartments we’ll come back and try one of those items on Serendipity’s menu. This time, we settled for something slightly more modest:


The girls sampled their mamas’ classic frozen hot chocolates before their own dessert arrived…


We staggered back to our hotel, exhausted, happy, and stuffed.

Tomorrow: Hamilton…to be or not to be?