Mad, Mere, and Papa, Christmas 2012

I've had a lump in my throat for over a week and it's showing no sign of abating.

It started last Friday night, the 20th, with a text from Mad: “Daddy's been in a really bad car accident with Mere and Papa, please call this (random) number.”

And she's just a kid; she doesn't understand about FIRST saying, “Daddy's ok, I talked to him.” I would have done the same thing at her age. But for a couple of hours there, I thought her Daddy and her grandparents were all dead. And I did the Alias-pilot-Sydney-Bristow-silent-open-mouthed ugly cry in a restaurant parking lot for a while before springing into action and calling that paramedic's number, during which conversation I screamed such gems as, “JUST TELL ME IF HE IS DEAD! WHO IS DEAD? I WANT TO KNOW THE AMOUNT OF DEADNESS THAT THERE IS OMIGOD MAN JUST TELL ME WHAT THE SOUTHERN-FRIED HELL IS GOING ON!” And so forth, until he needed to hang up and call a mental institution.

I am clearly great in a crisis.

Vince called me an hour or so later and told me about the accident: they were on a highway, stopped in traffic, their car was rear-ended at great speed, Vince was driving, etc, etc, oh God do the details even matter right now? We determined together that he was, in fact, all right. We joked about how well people could gauge his hotness even all bandaged up, in a hospital gown. His mom, he reported, was all right, too. And then: “My dad didn't make it.”

Insert tandem ugly cry here. Insert panic, helplessness, and immediate booking of a flight.

So that's where I was last week. First in Texas, where the accident happened, then in Monroe, tending to my Chaos, who are all still and will always be my family. Vince's and his mom's injuries were relatively minor, and they are physically on the mend, but the family's grief is profound and colossal.

This story isn't really about me, of course: I lost a father-in-law, a man I adored, who was funny and generous and who never failed to make me and everyone around him feel loved. But the Chaos lost a husband and a dad, and my little girl lost her grandfather. I know what that feels like, to lose someone so suddenly and violently, and I know how it takes you right out of your body and into some surreal state of shock, interspersed with great crashing waves of grief. I am so grateful that I was able to be there to help however I could when that family, who have done so many things for my own family over the years, needed it. That we were all able to be together, to laugh, cry, tell inside jokes, change bandages, clean up all of the things, eat ham, worry about logistics, and regale each other with stories about Joe Chao's always-hilarious antics (the one about his 71-year-old self high on a ladder with a chainsaw and a Heineken – at 10:30 a.m. – is one of our favorites).

Meanwhile, back in DC, my partner was admitted to the hospital on that Monday and spent the entire week there, alone. Just some fun insult piled onto injury. She is ok, too, and following the services on Thursday, I returned to her and to DC to teach a Saturday design camp to some of the sweetest, most gracious people who ever gathered in a room. They endured my scattered, sometimes teary-eyed lessons about paint and lighting and choosing furniture, even acting like they'd learned something, and it was so helpful to return to some normalcy, if even for a day. DC campers, you are the best, and thank you so much. Lastly, a huge thank you to the friends and family who buoyed us all this week: Al, Chris, George, Cher, Eliza, Matt, Nixie, Erik, Jesse, Bef, my parents, and so many others who reached out with support. You showed us this week what real love looks like, and you will never know how much it meant to us.

It doesn't feel right just yet to start talking about my favorite Etsy shops or the boots I want for fall, or anything else for that matter. But I feel like it might be just the thing to start the healing process, so please don't think I'm insensitive should you see a roundup this week about fabulous products. I would also like to ask that you gather up whatever good thoughts, vibes, prayers, etc. you can muster, and send them the Chaos' way.

Here is Joe's obituary, which I wrote with help from all the Chao boys, along with the laughter and mayhem that goes with the territory of hanging with those three nutty brothers. If you read it you will be able to see what a remarkable, accomplished, interesting man Joe was, and how many funny stories there are to tell about his crazy habits. He will be missed like no other, and although I know that time will ease this lump in my throat, and the Chao family's grief, it can't come soon enough.

AuthorAB Chao
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I am suffering from a major case of the bittersweets right now. We moved our girl into her new college digs earlier in the week -- and it was SO MUCH FUN to start fresh with an empty room to help decorate. Two days of cleaning and scrubbing and re-assembling furniture and styling and running out to the store for more Sonic drinks and molly bolts? SIGN ME UP. But before that happened, I found myself standing alone in that empty bedroom in our house, weeping as if my heart had been broken. By "weeping," I mean "ugly crying." On the floor. Like some sort of scenery-chewing soap actress who's just been told that her husband was actually her grandmother. (WHAT A TWIST!!!)

And now, she's all moved in. It's exciting -- there's an entire new life beginning, for all of us. But: the house is quiet. Nobody is bemoaning the lack of Pizza Rolls in the freezer, or asking for a few dollars for grapefruit face wash, or leaning against the door of my office in cutoffs and a ponytail to giggle and chat about how ridiculous friends/boys are.

I keep texting: "Are you ok?" "How's it going?" "Do you need anything?" "Can I come spend the night?" And the responses come back: "Yes." "Great." "No." "NOOOOOOO." Y'all think I'm kidding about that last one, don't you? I ain't.

People wiser than me -- who have gone through this many times over -- keep telling me that at some point you have to let them go. They have to learn to be independent and make their own mistakes and learn that one cannot fry bacon in a non-stick pan if one does not own a proper spatula. A few pans have to be ruined, maybe, before that one sinks in. I'm not ready. It's too soon. I want more time. LET ME BUY YOU A SPATULA.

On that note, everyone have a great weekend -- and if you feel like it, hit me with your bittersweet stories. I'll be right over here on the edge of my seat, ready for the next thing.

AuthorAB Chao
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All senior portraits: Rachel Devine (aka Sesame Ellis)

I'm sorry that I've been so sporadic for so long, Internet. It's just that in between traveling for camps and visiting colleges and preparing for MY BABY TO GRADUATE FROM HIGH SCHOOL, I've been kind of distracted. I'll be back soon with new and exciting content. Say, like, after mid-May.

I'm preparing to miss this girl, empty-nest style. How many dogs do y'all think I should get, 5 or 6?

AuthorAB Chao
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Hello! Thank you all for participating in the Rivet & Sway vote + giveaway. First up, the frames y'all selected for Madeleine: PUNCHLINE!

And by quite a wide margin:

So, congratulations, Punchline! You are now the proud owner of Madeleine's face.

And now, the winner of the giveaway...

Katie T., of comment #3! Congratulations, Katie! I will be emailing you soon.

Thanks to Rivet & Sway for their amazing generosity, and thanks again to everyone who participated! This was so much fun.

AuthorAB Chao
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Teenagers. They want everything, and they want it now, and they want you to pay for it. So when my daughter Madeleine -- who has long been opposed to appearing on this website -- found out she could get some new glasses just for having her picture taken, she was suddenly VERY INTERESTED in appearing on this website. And, guess what? I'm giving a pair away to one of y'all, too! Hooray!

I am so pleased to be working with Rivet & Sway for this giveaway -- I love the company and its inspiring story about figuring out who you want to be. And now, we get to help Mad choose the kind of glasses she wants to be (wearing on her face). All you have to do to enter the giveaway is leave a comment with your vote for which frames she should choose. I will pick a comment at random next week, and announce the winner and the winning frames of Madeleine then, too. Fun! Let's do this.

Punchline: Whether it’s Babs singing “Don’t Rain on My Parade!,” Liz Lemmon’s dating disasters or every single second of Madeline Khan in Blazing Saddles, funny girls are the ideal meld of beauty and brains. With bold angels and fearless personality, The Punchline nails home your message with class.

Spitfire: Our homage to the strong women of the world who speak their minds, aren’t afraid to stand up for what’s right, and live large and loud. The Spitfire’s bold and progressive style is a definitive look for the woman who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to go after it.

Poetic License: Dedicated to all the artists, poets and culture-bending creatives who’ve changed the world with their fresh perspectives and vibrant approach. Round frames have come full circle again, and our Poetic License is ready to inspire a new generation of visionaries to speak their truth.

So, what say you, Internet? You have until Friday at midnight EST to cast your vote. Leave your big opinions in the comments!  

PS. A big thank you to Rivet & Sway for being awesome!

AuthorAB Chao
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I brought this teenager with me to Camp Mighty, and she declared the Ace "cool," and the trip "pretty cool." I think that means I'm the best mother ever? Not sure.

I almost did a headless photo, all, "Check out the haircut I chose!" But I decided that would be mean. I went with the Hathaway, and I love it. I mean, it's pretty cool. Photos soon. And other stuff too!

AuthorAB Chao
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If the dress and crazy shoes didn't give it away, the person in this photo is not me. It is my child, and this is one of her gorgeous, gorgeous senior portraits taken by the incredible Rachel Devine. Cross that one off the ol' life list.

If Mad allows it, I'll post more with her actual head on. Until then, ponder how she can even walk in those shoes.

AuthorAB Chao
2 CommentsPost a comment