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Chandra's Blog


Entries in marriage (3)


12 Days of Christmas (Cards) Day 1

As my favorite holiday, I take Christmas very seriously. I have written odes to my favorite books of the season as well as my favorite songs.

And every year I try to tone it down a little more, so that I don't miss the magic in the moment. The first and most obvious cut to go should be cards. It's not like the old days--we have social media to keep us connected, for better and for worse, throughout the year. So why do I keep creating, sending and cherishing the dying artifact of the annual holiday card, preferably with photo, with or without letter? I wrote this post about Christmas cards a few years ago. But I find I cannot let them go, and I keep circling back to the idea that the series of cards tells the story of a family in flip-book time lapse style.

My mom saved every Christmas card our family ever received--she actually made whole albums each year of our received cards, and sent out over 500 of our own every year. (In fact, if your family was tight with ours in the 70s-90s, and you want a good archive of cards, come see what didn't get destroyed in the great fire of '91.) I can still picture my mom dutifully inscribing and hand-addressing and calling out commentary to my dad--"Did we get one from the Fraziers last year? What about so-and-so at the office?"--over the second half of every Thanksgiving weekend. 

Whenever I try to scale back Christmas prep and stop myself from making a card, I imagine our growing collection of annual cards that tell the story of our own little family over the years. I'm scared to miss one year in part because what might that gap say about our family narrative? For example, though 2011 was pretty shitty and I almost didn't care to capture it , still we did a card, if only to say, we're still here. Still standing. I don't want my kids to look at the display of our own cards and see the space, and notice what's missing. Maybe that is how all traditions become entrenched?  

Regardless, I thought as we head into the 12 days of Christmas countdown for this year, it would be fun to go through our cards over the last 12 (13) years.

Christmas 2000


Our first Christmas card was handmade. Not coincidentally, this was also our first and last holiday without kids underfoot. We had recently moved from Breckenridge to the town where we live now, and in a vain attempt to save my parents' marriage, had just started renting the house my father had bought for himself in anticipation of moving out. I was starting my own event planning company, and J was working for a venture capital firm, and we rattled around in too many rooms, in a house with historically bad ju-ju, with one dog and one cat, and tried to find our stride in this new chapter.

Back then, I had endless hours to handtie raffia knots on vellum overlays, and I wanted our first cards to be special, reminiscent of our wedding program, which also involved a lot of raffia, vellum, handmade paper and muslin. I was really into raffia and vellum. 


I love this photo, even though you can't see it very well under the vellum here, it had a little lift-the-flap feature. Our expressions, that rise in J's chest, as we exit the church on our wedding day earlier that year, look very much like we've sucked in a quick breath before diving into the unknown. In fact, seconds before this was snapped, I remember J leaned down and whispered in my ear, "Here we go!" 

The youth in this picture strikes me, of course. J looks like he is about 12--the kids can't believe the CURLS he had. But I also think with the gift of hindsight about all the things we didn't know were coming. Good and bad. When I see this picture, all I can see is radiating optimism, everything unfurling in front of us. I love this young couple, in all their breathless hopefulness. 

2000, the new millenium--the first and only year when we would simply be Mr and Mrs. Hoffman. 


The Ides of March

Sixteen years ago today, my oldest niece Freya was born on the Ides of March, which means soon she will getting her learner's permit and taking to the roads. Happy Birthday Freya--we love you!

Freya at the wheel, 1998

The phone call I got announcing her arrival sixteen years ago makes it easy for me to remember that the same night, J and I had our first date, by which I mean to say, engaged in some drunken dance floor moves at Rumheads Nightclub. I remember Coolio's "1-2-3-4" was played more than once.

Way back when

I'm not sure which is scarier--to think of my niece all grown up at the wheel, or that J and I made a connection that set the course of our future in the bar underneath the World Gym on the Caribbean island of Grand Cayman when we both barely old enough to drink in the United States. Sixteen years ago!


What a long strange trip it has been. In my essay, A Wedding Planner Hangs Up Her Headset, I wrote about the practical applications of our relationship, what love has come to mean to me as an adult and what I wish new brides could know from a vantage point a little farther down the road.

In some ways, we were musing in the shower this morning, it seems like we have always been together, and in others, like sixteen years have flown by. How did we get this far? I made a list of a few things that have made this relationship, which is also a deep friendship, feel easy.


1) we both consider ourselves equally lucky to have each other--by this I mean to say, there is no quiet one-upmanship. Which is not to say that I don't think how damn lucky he is when I tote the garbage and recycling cans back and forth to the curb twice a week, a stereotypically male job. But I also acknowledge how fortunate I am to have a guy who can fix almost anything, who gets up in the frozen pre-dawn stillness on Saturday mornings all winter long to coach the boys' hockey teams, who never lets a day go by without telling me I am loved and desired. 

27 May 2000


2) we take turns holding each other up. And we take turns falling apart. You can let life's knocks break you, or shape you. 

(You can read more about this in the essay about the birth of our son Hayden and our baptism by fire into parenthood)



3) we adopt a teamwork approach. This applies to everything from parenting to yard maintenance to hockey weekends to shaving the dog, which you may see more of in a photo essay called "Shearing Season" in an upcoming dog blog. 


2005 4) he makes me laugh Usually by saying all those things I think but might not say. He tries to whisper them, but he's not a very good whisperer. It runs in the family. Did I mention he also makes both the best coffee and mojitos I have ever tasted?


5) we try to shower and/or have coffee together daily to catch-up. This has been important in keeping us connected during the busier stages of our lives. Sometimes I drive him nuts by bringing notebooks and day planners and agendas to these get togethers. Well, not in the shower. 




 6) we have a commitment to being each other's port in the storm. We make our home a place where people build each other up and expect this of the kids as well. 


7) we travel separately. This doesn't mean I am turning down opportunities for us to go away as a couple in favor of spa weekends with the girls. (Although, wait, that sounds really great right now.) But with three little kids and an enormous, slobbery dog, there are few people willing to take on our brood for extended periods of time. This means that when we need to recharge, we drop each other off at the airport and look forward to hearing via Skype about how it was kiteboarding in the Bahamas or visiting with friends and family in the Caribbean or the Rockies, and checking in on the chaos that ensues when one of us is single parenting at the Hoffstead.

8) he is willing to be married to a writer. This comes up all the time when I am a guest author at book clubs--how does your husband handle your writing? Or let's be honest, people want to know: how does he feel about the character of Dan in CHOSEN? Truth of fiction: Is J the inspiration for the character Dan?

The writer and blogger extraordinaire Julianna Baggott has a standard question in her writerly half-dozen interview about advice for those seeking a long-term relationship with a writer. The answers are painfully, honestly hilarious. Actually, pretty much all of her stuff is great. You should check it out.

For the long answer, you have to invite me to your book club. But the short answer is that J handles it beautifully and he lets me post sappy blogs about how much I adore him (sixteen years later!) on the internet. I also include photos of him doing awesome, sporty things, where he looks really hot. 



9) we have similar passions. Wanderlust, the ocean, family, sports, reading, words and nameplay, and most importantly, a dedication to the nurturing of all things Hoffspring--be they pink or furry or scaled or feathered. See, I said feathered. Don't get me wrong. Things aren't perfect. I'm still working on him about the chickens. 

J and the kids at Barkers Beach, 2012











So there you have them, my off-the-cuff Nine Commandments for 16 Years of Happiness. But I am sure there are more and from those far more seasoned in the game than I am. So I'd love to know: What do you and your partner do to ensure a happy relationship? 




Blog vs. Essay

I have just completed an essay about my marriage that is close to my heart. (We use that phrase a lot around here, from years ago when Hayden's most-precious and still-AWOL possession was a scratched up die cast police car he'd named "Special-Po-Po-Close-To-My-Heart", since that is exactly where he clutched it.)


But I can't tell if this is a blog entry or an essay. My publicist is submitting it for article publication, so that smells like Essay. (Each time an essay sells, it will disappear from this site here and I'll post a link to its new, syndicated home.) But the topic is so personal, so... close to my heart. Feels bloggish.


It's about why I closed my event-planning doors, hung up my wedding planner headset, (okay, I never had one; we used cell phones) and devoted myself to motherhood, writing and my marriage full time. 


Anyway, you can read about this here.