Weekend Snapshots 46

Friday

The primula my mother-in-law brought from Scotland to England to America is blooming again. This humble little flower made its way to me from across the ocean wrapped in a napkin stashed in my mother-in-law’s handbag. It’s held a spot of honor in every garden of each of the three houses we’ve lived in here in Charlottesville. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve divided this sentimental favorite to share with friends…

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In the evening I picked up my daughter and three of her friends after their second ever quartet practice. I laughed during the entire car ride home as the young musicians discussed their plans to get rich busking on the Downtown Mall.

“Whose case should we use to collect money?”

“Definitely mine,” said the cellist, “It’s the biggest.”

“Yeah, mine is way too small,” agreed the flautist, “It would fill up with money way too fast and we’d have to keep emptying it all the time, which would be a pain.”

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Dream big, girls. Dream big!

Later that evening we had family movie night.

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Little Mr. Muffet sitting on his tuffet, watching The Lord of the Rings.

We’ve been watching The Lord of the Rings trilogy over the course of several weeks. Though Tolkien wrote his great epic in the 30s and 40s about hobbits, elves, dwarves and wizards, it’s uncanny how many parallels can be drawn between the trilogy’s war between the forces of good and evil and current events. Trump, Daesh, the refugee crisis, the environmental crisis…they’re all in there. I found this gorgeous edition for my daughter who has only read The Hobbit, and still has the pleasure of reading the trilogy ahead of her. The rest of us are lined up to re-read them when she’s done!

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Saturday

MarieBette Café & Bakery and their brioches feuilletées are one of the many reasons I love living in Charlottesville:

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Breakfast!

There are only about two and a half days in any given year when I want to be outside, and Saturday was one of them!

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My husband took the kids to play frisbee golf:

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…while I had fun getting my hands dirty in the garden! I transplanted a few things, planted some seeds…

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and finally finished the oyster shell path I began last year! It only took three more 50 lb bags of crushed oyster shells and the last dregs of my will to carry on. If you see me hobbling around clutching my back like an old woman, you’ll know why.

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Winter Jewels Hellebores are one of the very first plants I put in my new garden. These flowers are so great! They bloom crazy early and then continue on for months, untouched by deer, insects, late snows and other gardening catastrophes. They self seed and are easy to divide too. img_2969

In the evening we all met up again for dinner at Smoked, a bustling barbecue restaurant in the newly opened Piedmont Place in Crozet. There was a rather long wait for a table, so we spent a lovely hour at Over the Moon Bookstore.

I’ve been trapped in a loveless marriage with Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall for what seems like an eternity, but has really probably been less than a year. I thought I’d step out on Wolf Hall to have a meaningless fling with Carl Hiaasen’s Razor Girl, but I’m not enjoying that book nearly as much as I thought I would. So now I’m condemned to slog through TWO books before starting some of the books I bought at Over the Moon. I was discussing this with the bookseller and she told me she didn’t understand this at all:

“Life is too short. I give a book ten pages at the most, and if I’m not hooked, I just stop reading it.”

Do you feel obliged to finish a book once you’ve started? Even if you hate it?

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Sunday

Spotted on my way to book group brunch…

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Did I mention how much I love living in Charlottesville?img_2981

This month my book group read my sister’s novel Tiger Pelt! I artfully posed some copies on the table only to realize with bitter disappointment once I got home – you can’t see the books!!!img_2984-2

You may not be able to spot the books in the photo, but you can find your own copy of Annabelle Kim’s Tiger Pelt online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound. It’s a great pick for book clubs! No loveless marriages here…I promise it will move and inspire you. Readers of this blog may recognize some of the events in Tiger Pelt, because the boy’s story is inspired by my father’s life story. If you read it, I would love to hear what you think.

After I got back home, I began to redecorate for spring:

img_2987My daughter and I gave her guinea pigs’ pad a new look for spring too:

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I feel that it’s still missing a certain je ne sais quoi…A seagrass wallpaper to pull in a little more texture? Some ambient lighting perhaps? Some cushions for a pop of color? A chaise longue in the corner? Nothing but the finest for these round-the-clock industrial poop factories:

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Weekend Snapshots 20

Last weekend was perfect, because of all the things that didn’t happen. The snow wiped clean a full slate of activities, and we got to stay home in our pjs all weekend long, reading and napping and drinking hot cocoa. This weekend was perfect, because of all the things that did happen…

Friday

My beloved book group met this Friday. My friend, who has been hosting us for years, always puts out a lavish spread, which includes a decadent dessert she’s made and tea served in beautiful heirloom tea cups. Last month Calamity Jane here broke the handle of the one in the front. My friend let me back into her house anyway, and she even managed to repair the handle with some super glue. Our book group nights are always such a special occasion, and so I like to get dressed up appropriately:

What could be better than kicking off the weekend hanging out with dear friends who love you even when you break their precious things, and to do it in my pjs?! (Pajamas seem to be the common denominator for all perfect weekends).

Saturday

On Saturday morning I got an impromptu private concert with two of my favorite musicians:

Later that day another group of old friends and I got together over lunch. It was especially lovely, because it was a mini-reunion with our friend, who has moved away from Charlottesville. Drat! Forgot to take a photo! Next time, friends, next time!

As I drove away to the next appointment on my schedule, I got the news that the house we’ve been trying to sell is UNDER CONTRACT! Yahoooooooo!!!

Saturday was the first night of the two weeks that our church will be hosting PACEM, a roving homeless shelter that operates during the cold winter months in various churches around Charlottesville.

It was my first time ever being the nightly meal coordinator. My husband volunteered to make his famous lasagna:

and I had a willing crew of helpers, which included these three hooligans:

Sunday

I wrote about Rite 13 here and here. The last time I went through this brutal and sadistic ritual, I had some warning and time to prepare myself for the ordeal. This time I was completely caught off guard and the consequences were absolutely devastating.

After the service, I recovered enough to insist on taking a photo to commemorate the momentous occasion of my son’s Rite 13 and my public breakdown. Predictably, he began to complain about having to stop and take a photo. What I could never have expected were the shocking words that came out of his older brother’s mouth:  “She gave birth to you. Take the picture!”

Holy smokes! There is a God. And He and now I’m thinking more likely – She is good. Really, really good. 

The kids all insisted on closed-mouth smiles, because they were afraid goldfish crackers would be stuck in their teeth…

And I even got to get a photo with my son, because I did give birth to him after all!

Saturday Morning

Saturday morning. I’m trying not to squander the precious little time I have to get things done. Friends are coming over for dinner tonight and I’ve got to get the house in order. Outside, I’ve swept the walkway leading to the front door. I’ve raked and bagged up piles of endlessly proliferating leaves. Inside, I’ve wiped countertops and cleared off the dining room table. As I vacuum the rug in the foyer, I glance into the dining room and see that the kids have undone my work by piling mugs of hot cocoa, sticky candy canes, dirty napkins, and scattered books all over the table.

“NO!” I bray over the roar of the vacuum cleaner. A casual observer might look at the expression on my face and reasonably conclude that I’ve just witnessed the clubbing of a baby seal. “I JUST cleaned that table off. Clean up that mess!”

“We WILL, I promise! Just let us finish,” my daughter pleads.

I’m about to insist, when I pause for a minute and see. I turn off the vacuum cleaner and get my camera to record this moment. Because this, not the bags of leaves, not the once-spotless dining room table, not the dinner that we’ll have later, this is the most important thing that will happen today, and I want to remember it.

Kindle

One wintry day many years ago when I was a poor graduate student subsisting on a daily diet of one can of Campbell’s tomato and rice soup for lunch and dinner, I was wandering down Broadway when I stopped at a vendor’s cart piled high with CDs. Was it the intoxicating aroma of roasting chestnuts and honey roasted nuts from the neighboring carts that was my undoing? The unmistakable smell of snow in the air? Whatever the reason, I found myself handing over money from my meager student stipend to buy the Boyz II Men Christmas album.

“Ya wanna plain brown paper bag fuh dat?” the vendor asked.

“Hunh?” I looked at him blankly.

“Ya don’t wanna be seen walking around in public widdat, do yas?”

Damn. Openly scorned and mocked by a street vendor to whom I had just forked over my last dollar bills.

I guess my taste in music has always been embarrassingly haphazard at worst, “eclectic” at best. Nevertheless, my playlist is a reflection of who I am and where I’ve been. Similarly, my bookshelves full of Russian literature, poetry, and children’s picture books are also an accurate record of my life and interests.

I recently borrowed my son’s Kindle to read a book I didn’t want to add to my already overflowing bookshelves. In reading through his “Archived items,” I unearthed a treasure trove of information about him. There were things you might expect to see on any eleven year old boy’s reading and app list, like soccer books and games, “fart-themed” apps, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, The Legends of King ArthurThe Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and Treasure Island. There were some surprises as well. For example, I hadn’t realized how deep my son’s interest in  Civil War history was until I read through the extensive list of memoirs, histories, and documents on his Kindle including that classic: A Refutation of the charges Made against the Confederate States of America of Having authorized the Use of Exploive and Poisoned Musket and Rifle Balls during the Late Civil War of 1861-65. I’ve always known that my son’s the kind of kid who likes to figure out how things work. Even so, his list of “How-to” guides still managed to surprise and entertain me: Clutter-Free Home Living, How to Get Cash in 24 Hours, Hotel Room Workout, Make Perfect Coffee, How to Read Maya Hieroglyphs, Evening Yoga for Women. And then there were the cookbooks. To understand my puzzlement over these, it would probably help to know that we often refer to our son as “White Boy.” This has nothing to do with the color of his skin, and everything to do with his preference for white food…the blander, the better. Imagine my surprise to discover such exotic cookbooks in his archives such as The Kerala Kitchen: Recipes and Recollections from the Syrian Christians of South India and Taste of Romania: Its Cookery and Glimpses of Its History, Folklore, Art, Literature, and Poetry.

I’ve learned a lot about my son’s wide-ranging interests by going through his Kindle archives. My budding renaissance man is interested in cookery, wildlife, the ancient ballads, poetry, and songs of the English peasantry…And also? The boy’s a sucker for free downloads.

Rick Riordan, you’ve created a monster!

My daughter got into the Rick Riordan Percy Jackson series in a big way. She has blazed her way through every hefty volume in record time. She drags them everywhere she goes, reading and re-reading them over and over again until they are literally falling apart at the seams.

After a hard-fought campaign of constant hectoring and pestering on her part, I got Mark of Athena for her last year. At the back of the book she saw that House of Hades, the next book in the series, would be coming out on October 8, 2013. As you can imagine, she’s been pining for that book all year long. She started the countdown back in August. In September she slung me over her shoulder and hauled me to the bookstore so that I could pre-order the book for her. At the customer service desk I asked if it would arrive on the 8th, or be mailed out on the 8th. The saleswoman assured us that the book would be mailed out so that it would arrive at our house on Tuesday, the 8th. She tortured me every single day that she waited for that book to arrive. Only twenty-seven more days until the 8th! Only sixteen more days until the 8th! I wish Tuesday would get here already! Only 53.273 hours until it comes!

I don’t know how the girl made it through the day at school. She ran to check the mailbox as soon as she got off the bus. NO BOOK! She concluded that it would be mailed out by UPS and would therefore be delivered to our doorstep later that afternoon. For the rest of the day she kept opening the front door to see if the mail carrier had left a package on our doorstep. As the evening wore on, I seriously thought about driving to the store to buy another copy just to put the poor girl out of her misery. Sure enough, when she had at last resigned herself to the fact that the book would not be arriving, I received an email notification that it had only just shipped.

The long-awaited book finally arrived on Friday. We all said our good-byes to her knowing full well that she would not be entertaining any further meaningless chitchat from us for as long as it took to read her book, and she disappeared into the bowels of Hades.

When she finally resurfaced on Tuesday, having finished the 583 page book, we all exhaled a collective sigh of relief…

And then she showed us this:

Thanks. Thanks a lot, Rick Riordan. You’re killing us here.

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Dad’s Books

I’ve written about my dad too…

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My dad has been losing his vision to diabetic retinopathy. He can no longer drive. He misjudges distances and he sometimes stumbles. Worst of all: his ability to read has been seriously compromised. He has consulted with specialists on two different continents. He’s had laser treatments and injections. He has bought pair after pair of new glasses in the hopes of improving his vision enough to be able to read again with ease. He has tried reading on the Kindle and the iPad without success. Lately, he has decided he will no longer seek available treatments.* Still, every morning he spends a couple hours hunched over his beloved books with a powerful magnifying glass, laboriously trying to make out the letters, which remain stubbornly, traitorously blurry.

My dad has suffered terrible losses in his life. His father died when he was just a child. He lost siblings to the privations imposed by war and invasions. He has always lived modestly, never indulging himself in anything other than the books that are his treasure. He would think nothing of giving away cars, furniture, clothing, before each of our many moves, but his ever growing collection of books always went with us across continents and oceans. Despite my mother’s vociferous objections, he would not be parted with these. When we finally settled down in Virginia, he built his own bookshelves and filled them with his cherished volumes of Heidegger, Machiavelli, and Kant. He lovingly fashioned suede covers to rebind his most cherished books that were literally read to pieces.

My husband, a scholar who appreciates the same kind of literature, was perusing my father’s bookshelf one day when he suddenly burst out laughing. Interspersed between two volumes of philosophy, he had spotted this:

Goats and GoatkeepingOn the bottom shelf was a space devoted to the inevitable porn stash every dad has hidden away somewhere. In my dad’s case, his porn consisted of many, many, well-thumbed issues of Dog World magazine. What can I say? His interests are wide-ranging.

When my parents moved back to Virginia after many years of living in Korea, they took stock of their belongings. Before they had left for Korea, they had a shed built in their backyard just to house my dad’s books. They never expected to be away for as long as they were. By the time they returned, the books had been languishing in the shed for over a dozen years. Some did not fare well. Mice had nibbled the pages of some. Others had suffered from water damage. I’m sure it broke my dad’s heart to discard these books. What he did with the ones that survived broke our hearts. To our shock and horror, he boxed up the vast majority of the books that he had collected over a lifetime and shipped them to the university in Korea where he had been working all those years, as a donation to the library.

My siblings and I had grown up with these books as the only constant part of our landscape. Many of them predated our own existence. To us, it was as if my dad was sending bits of himself away. It seemed like a surrender to old age and to his loss of vision, it seemed like a farewell to his life of scholarship. We said nothing to my father, but amongst ourselves, we mourned for all of these losses.

Now I realize that we needn’t have worried. Lately, every time I go to Arlington to visit my parents, my dad presses a piece of paper into my hands upon which he has scrawled in his illegible handwriting a list of the books he wants me to hunt down for him. The latest book list included Summa Contra Gentiles by Saint Thomas Aquinas and Will Durant’s The Story of Philosophy. Little by little he is replacing the books he regrets having shipped to Korea, the books that had to be discarded, and the books that are falling apart from overuse.

“And please try to find them in hardback so they’ll last longer,” my 78 year old father says in his quiet, gentle voice.

“Sure, Dad,” I say. There’s nothing I’d rather do.

*At the University of Virginia, researchers are investigating the use of stem cells to treat and perhaps even reverse the effects of diabetic retinopathy. They are getting close to the clinical trial phase of their study.

More about my dad here:

Take me back to San Francisco

O wonderful 

Dad’s Books

My dad has been losing his vision to diabetic retinopathy. He can no longer drive. He misjudges distances and he sometimes stumbles. Worst of all: his ability to read has been seriously compromised. He has consulted with specialists on two different continents. He’s had laser treatments and injections. He has bought pair after pair of new glasses in the hopes of improving his vision enough to be able to read again with ease. He has tried reading on the Kindle and the iPad without success. Lately, he has decided he will no longer seek available treatments.* Still, every morning he spends a couple hours hunched over his beloved books with a powerful magnifying glass, laboriously trying to make out the letters, which stubbornly, traitorously remain blurry.

My dad has suffered terrible losses in his life. His father died when he was just a child. He lost siblings to the privations imposed by war and invasions. He has always lived modestly, never indulging himself in anything other than the books that are his treasure. He would think nothing of giving away cars, furniture, clothing, before each of our many moves, but his ever growing collection of books always went with us across continents and oceans. Despite my mother’s vociferous objections, he would not be parted with these. When we finally settled down in Virginia, he built his own bookshelves and filled them with his cherished volumes of Heidegger, Machiavelli, and Kant. He lovingly fashioned suede covers to rebind his most cherished books that were literally read to pieces.

My husband, a scholar who appreciates the same kind of literature, was perusing my father’s bookshelf one day when he suddenly burst out laughing. He had spotted my dad’s copy of Goats and Goatkeeping interspersed between two volumes of philosophy. On the bottom shelf was a space devoted to the inevitable porn stash every dad has hidden away somewhere. In my dad’s case, his porn consisted of many, many, well-thumbed issues of Dog World magazine. What can I say? His interests are wide-ranging.

When my parents moved back to Virginia after many years of living in Korea, they took stock of their belongings. Before they had left for Korea, they had a shed built in their backyard just to house my dad’s books. They never expected to be away for as long as they were. By the time they returned, the books had been languishing in the shed for over a dozen years. Some did not fare well. Mice had nibbled the pages of some. Others had suffered from water damage. I’m sure it broke my dad’s heart to discard these books. What he did with the ones that survived broke our hearts. To our shock and horror, he boxed up the vast majority of the books that he had collected over a lifetime and shipped them to the university in Korea where he had been working all those years, as a donation to the library.

My siblings and I had grown up with these books as the only constant part of our landscape. Many of them predated our own existence. To us, it was as if my dad was sending bits of himself away. It seemed like a surrender to old age and to his loss of vision, it seemed like a farewell to his life of scholarship. We said nothing to my father, but amongst ourselves, we mourned for all of these losses.

Now I realize that we needn’t have worried. Lately, every time I go to Arlington to visit my parents, my dad presses a piece of paper into my hands upon which he has scrawled in his illegible handwriting a list of the books he wants me to hunt down for him. Little by little he is replacing the books he regrets having shipped to Korea, the books that had to be discarded, and the books that are falling apart from overuse.

“And please try to find them in hardback so they’ll last longer,” my 78 year old father says in his quiet, gentle voice.

“Sure, Dad,” I say. As I hunt online for Summa Contra Gentiles by Saint Thomas Aquinas or Will Durant’s The Story of Philosophy, I am filled with peace and joy.

*Just this month I was excited to read about a study that’s been going on at the University of Virginia. Researchers are investigating the promising use of stem cells to treat and perhaps even reverse the effects of diabetic retinopathy and are getting close to the clinical trial phase of their study.

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