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Chandra's Blog


Entries in New Year (2)


1 January 2015 -- unfinished business

basement stairs, work in progress

A little less than a year ago, I started a beat-the-winter-blues project of painting our plain wooden basement stairs. I picked tangerine, colbalt, turquoise and cream, colors you might find on Scandinavian folk art ponies. Cheerful colors. I did a combination of freehand and stencil, with my phone on speaker, passing the time chatting with my dad as I went. Somewhere between the third and fourth step was March 28, the day my dad did not call for the Morning Report.


After that, I stopped painting the stairs.

Every time I go down to shake my sleepy new teenager awake, fetch a roll of paper towel or some spare hockey equipment, I see this half-finished project, and it drives me bonkers. So I doggedly move -finish basement stairs- from 'To Do' list to 'To Do' list each week, but the prospect of sitting there painting without my dad's virtual company is too much.


When I look around, I see dozens of half-completed projects from this year. Most recently, the Christmas eve pajamas I was sewing for the guys in my life sit in a flannel jumble, waiting for hems and elastic, right next to the school pants that need a button and the jeans that need hemming. There are my dad's old clothes that I mean to sew into something memorable for my siblings and half-siblings. Come to think of it, I meant to do the same with textiles of my grandmother's, and Cherry's too.

My studio looks like the fallout from a paper airplane dogfight. My laptop and phone both teeter on the precipice of electronic disaster, waiting for me to back things up. And don't get me started on what's going on in my iPhoto, my dropbox, and the junk drawers in my kitchen.


On this blog alone, I have seventeen unfinished posts from the last year. There are those celebrating my boys' transitions to teendom and double digits. Ones about my full-circle return to horses (after a fifteen-year-hiatus, they are back in my daily life), and literature, (via my teaching position at Bryn Athyn College). I wrote one celebrating Piper overcoming her accident last summer and continuing to ride horses, compete, and win. I have several love song posts--poetic tributes to my husband, our beloved Hoffmans Happy Hens, and El Presidente, the feral fat cat we acquired from my dad in April. And of course, I have my attempts at probing into the pain of losing my father--a blog post called Mixed Nuts, with his famous holiday nut recipe, and photos of me unintentionally doing my best grumpy cat, sulking in the back of family gatherings, aching with the gaping lack of his presence.

And then there's one addressing the mentally-unstable woman who mined my old blog posts, and used information gathered there to attack the foundation of our family. (For the record, she didn't even chink our outer walls.) But the experience definitely made me pause before hitting Submit, time and time again, questioning how much of myself I was willing to put out there.

On my laptop's writing files, I have the unfinished manuscript of Wellspring, which went out as a partial this past summer to a very short list of editors. Most of them asked to see it finished, and instead I walked away from it.

And I have the outline of the new story I dreamed that is so close to my heart, so tender and important I'm not even going to share the gist of it or working title. It feels so critical and lovely I remain a little paralyzed at the start gate, hoping my skill is up to the task of its telling.

But 2015 is a blank page, waiting for that story to be written, for my loose ends to find their loopy mates and be coaxed into sloppy, finished bows.

So this year, I resolve to finish the things I have started. No more excuses--oh my Dad died, my husband travels more than he is home, I started a teaching job, I'm riding/working at the barn, my kids play on all these hockey teams and we have practice in New Jersey three nights a week and league games in Long Island, and I have to be home in time to let the chickens in,  and, and, and --BASTA. No more. If I truly want to honor the memory of the man we all miss so keenly, then I resolve to live his motto, and carp them diems.

 * *** *

 How about you? What are your resolutions for the new year?

Christmas Eve, wearing the bracelet, holding on to my figurative daggerboard, and looking ahead to smoother sailing.



Ringing in the New Year with a hammer and nail

basement project

Last night I succumbed to the plague that has been circling our family and crawled into bed at eight pm.

Before that, I had made this amazing soup from my dear friend Amanda Gibson in Utila, and there was silliness and a handful of profound thoughts around the table as we attempted resolutions. 

(Max, age 8: I will not burp in my brother's face at the table, like THIIIIIIIISSSSSSSRAWWWPPP.)

(Piper, age 5: I will learn to read meaningful things.)

(Hayden, age 11: I will live a more eco-friendly life wherever I am.)



I fell asleep to the sounds of the new year ringing in with hammer and nail as J and the boys continued the basement framing of Hayden's future bedroom. It feels appropriate, like a continuation of our Utila commitment to circle the wagons, to shift the focus to home and family. That we end this year with a beginning. 

"What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from."

-T.S. Eliot

I dreamed up two jars in my sleep--one where we could put ideas for fun things to do, and a (consequence) job jar. As much as I love alliteration, I renamed the second one the Teamwork jar, since we have been talking a lot as we traveled about our family as a team, and how we all need to work together for things to happen.


We'll see how excited the kids get about this. I can already detect some scoffing. Today, some of Hayden's pals dropped by while I was mopping where I had slopped some water moving the Christmas tree out and the orange tree back into a sunnier spot of distinction. I was mopping away, jamming out to some Usher and Hayden sort of cornered me and whispered fiercely, "Mom, why do you have to be so, so CLEAN all the time?"

In my defense, I haven't mopped in a month.

While I booting out Christmas and other vestiges of 2012, cleaning and scheming, I did some reflecting.

2012 has been a good year. Not the best. Not the worst. Good. If I were writing its report card, I'd give it a B. On the right track! Solid effort; room for improvement...

I also made a handful of resolutions, but the one I feel is most important is my commitment to write words every day. I first made this the year I turned seventeen. I was headed off to college, and it was the only year I fully kept this resolution. Freshman year was not an easy transition for me. I wasn't equipt to live away from home but I was more than ready to leave. I've never re-read the journal I kept that year; it would probably make me pretty sad. But I did it. I wrote every night and most nights in the following year. I even looked forward to it. Some nights it was the only the words, "sad. lonely. tired now, more later." 

In the years since then, things have gotten much, much better. I have needed that nightly paper and ink friend less, especially as writing also became my day job. I have continued to keep journals throughout my adult life, relying on it more at some times than others. J says he worries when he notices I am scribbling a lot.

But this year, it will be more of an experiment. A snapshot in stuttershot frames; a 365 project. Words that simply capture this time. As I lounged on the couch with my eleven-year-old this afternoon we were talking about how time in Utila had a different quality, and I realized I could not remember exactly what I had done on my birthday, only three months ago. I panicked. I don't want to forget this, these days, this lucky life. 

Journal writing is about recording moments in the moment, in their vivid reality, capturing them before hindsight has had a chance to tinge memory with color or sepia. It is about the raw format. The bare bones. I want to be able to remember the structure of this year, the frame, when it is exposed. So that I can look back and remember when it is done. 

Because here is the truth: I have high hopes for 2013. It will answer a lot of questions for me. Just like the basement, I have plans to lay flooring and hang figurative drywall, to dress it up with paint and decorate this year. Unlucky number be damned, I want to record it all. Highs and lows, brief memories and witticisms. Snapshots and watercolors. I promise only to subject readers to the highlights.


I'd love to hear what things you are committing to this year. Let's make it memorable!