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Chandra's Blog

 

Entries in hockey (3)

Thursday
Jan012015

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.

 

Friday
Jul112014

World's Most Famous Bubble-Wrapped Harmonica Player

planning his futureWhen our oldest son was born, almost thirteen years ago, he weathered a long stint in the NICU in the Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia. Sitting over his isolette, my husband told Hayden's nurses, "Remember this kid's name. You are looking at the future, world-famous bubble wrapped harmonica player." They laughed while he explained that after everything we had watched our son go through, all traditional sports were off the table. For our son, there would be no football, baseball, lacrosse, hockey, soccer... The list went on. "And none of those big string instruments either," J joked. "Do you know how heavy a cello is, what could happen if that fell on him? He'll play the harmonica. In bubble wrap. Nothing dangerous about that."

 

 

 Fast-forward five years later, to November 2006, when we realized that winter in the Northeast with two little housebound boys might cause us to do bad things to one another. Against all our earlier proclamations, we signed the whole family up for ice hockey. Hayden became a goalie--safest position on the ice--and his little brother followed in his footsteps a few years later. 

My Dad would watch me heft their giant gear bags into the car, bigger than they are, and sigh, "Boo, really, have you given any thought to the harmonica plan?"

I remember Max's second Triple A goalie game last year, when his team had no skating subs. They were grossly outmatched, getting killed, 2-16. I watched from the stands as the shots kept coming--rattling off his face cage, right in his gut, a hack to his exposed wrist as he covered the puck. 

"At this level, just so you know," one of the dads told me, "they don't stop shooting when there's a blowout." I could see Max's shoulders shaking with sobs as they scored on their seventeenth breakaway, and then they fucking celebrated, and it took every scrap of restraint I had not to storm out on the ice like Susan Sarandon in Safe Passage, yelling, "Alright! Enough already!" pick my kid up under my arm and carry him home. The physical shelling was horrible, but I also feared was what was happening inside. 

Hayden up a tree, 2012

 

 Fastforward another few years to Isla de Utila, where we lived for six months on a remote Caribbean island. Here, our children swam with whale sharks, broke a world record SCUBA diving, monkey-climbed limbless palm trees, and jumped off the roofs of rickety waterfront bars into the water. They ran barefoot and snorkeled through caves. The closest medical care was on the mainland, a flight away.

 

On the whole, we have done a lousy job of bubble-wrapping our children. They play ice and roller hockey, lacrosse and soccer. They swim in questionable water, bounce on trampolines, and have turned our driveway into a longboarding body luge. They rollerblade and skateboard, leap off boathouses and rope swings, ride bikes and horses. 

 

 

 

Fastforward to last week, when Piper (7) and I headed out on the trails behind the barn where she has been riding for the past 9 months. It was a dreamy, much anticipated mom and Pip moment. Though we ride in the arena together often, and I have loved returning to my childhood love of horses with my daughter, this was our first trail ride. 

It was going beautifully--a little paddling down in the creek, our horses quietly walking over branches the recent summer thunderstorms had downed, and then a little trot down a country lane. Piper called to me she was losing her stirrup, and I turned to tell her to stop, when I saw it happen. She was falling perfectly, over the horse's left front shoulder, poised to land with a tuck and roll that would protect her helmeted head, and put the majority of the landing on her impact vest. It was looking like the kind of fall that would shake her up, but she would ride home from. Except on the way down, the horse's hoof caught her in the neck, and then despite his best efforts not to, when she hit the ground, he stepped on her chest and shoulder, breaking her collarbone and ribs, but worse, puncturing her lung. 

Back in the ICU at CHOP, with Piper on a rebreather, as I curled at the foot of her bed like a pet mommy and watched the numbers on her machines, as the adrenaline of the day ebbed and I replayed and wallowed in gut-souring what-ifs, I remembered almost thirteen years ago, and our vow to raise the world's most amazing bubble-wrapped harmonica players. I was physically sick over the fact that I had broken our little girl, that I had lead her to this sport I love, and she was here because of it.

 

"Pip," I told her, while the machines beeped and her oxygen hissed, "there's a saying about how you 'have to get back on the horse.' Most people use it as a metaphor, meaning don't let hard things that have happened scare you, or face your fears. Horsepeople use it to mean don't end a ride on a fall or you'll lose your nerve. But honey," I took a deep breath, "this was a big fall. And you do not have to get back on the horse. Ever, if you don't want. We can stop riding now."

Let me say again that I love riding. I grew up riding throughout my childhood. When I was sixteen, I managed a three-horse barn. I took my naughty off-the-track Thoroughbred to college with me, trained beach-ride horses in Grand Cayman and rode as a jockey in a Caribbean race season.

 

 

When our daughters were 5 and 6, my sister and I bought a 3-lesson Groupon to a local stable. "Let's see if it takes..." we said, remembering our years with horses. It took.

Piper and Callie, 2013I have loved watching Piper evolve as a strong, independent, confident little equestrian, because I know from my own childhood that all those elements carry over into life. We both had plans to start competing this summer, and she talks of the mother-daughter barn we will open, after we visit the ponies of Chincoteague, when she has her golden birthday, age 19. 

"What?" Piper said, stricken, her voice garbled by the mask. "I'm not going to quit riding!" 

Later, while she slept, I texted one of my oldest friends. We grew up riding together, harmonizing 'You Are My Sunshine' and belting out Reba McEntire as we cantered on mountain trails, galloping around cornfield perimeters and vetting boyfriends by how they acted around horses. She lives across the country, and her daughter rides, a gutsy, fourteen-year-old pole-bending barrel racer. 

--I feel horrible for bringing pip to this. Worried she only does it for me, but she says she still wants to ride. Tell me about Lu's worst fall... I wrote, hoping she would tell me about something I hadn't remembered, something that stopped her motherly heart, that she had replayed in her head as often as I was replaying Piper's--the horrible sound of his hoof connecting with her jaw, the sight of the jagged collarbone tenting her skin. Tell me we'll get over this, is what I meant.

--Lu's worst fall was out of a tree! She wrote, and I remembered her phone call from across the country several years ago, Lauryl's two broken arms, the beautiful but banged up face from the branches on the way down. And I have a darn hard time getting her to wear a helmet and impact vest while playing in the yard! 

Here's the thing she was telling me: this was an accident. It was not the fault of the horse or rider, or maybe even the mom. She was as protected as she could be, short of bubble wrap, in a helmet and impact vest. (Stay tuned for me to write more about the importance of those later. This could have been far, far worse.)

And I still think, how did we fall so far, from the parents who promised, a few floors in CHOP and thirteen years ago, to keep our children safe?

Because life is dangerous. Because there are accidents. 

But there are rope swings to leap from, and trees to be climbed and ponies to be ridden. There is creating a partnership with a person or an animal that stretches our expectations and enriches our lives. There is the feel of the cold winter air in your lungs when you skate across the silver ice at night. There are moments when your team carries you on your shoulders and celebrates your season win, when you conquer a fear or stomach a shelling you didn't think you could do.

Max (in red) and his team take the championship, 2014

 

There are summer mornings when you grin at each other and jump out of bed, pull on your breeches and boots to beat the heat to the barn, and you ride, side by side on your matching ponies while their tails swish and you beam at each other. Piper is home now, expected to make a full recovery, and in a few months, we will both don our impact vests, get back on the horse, and put what has happened behind us.

Summer ride

Because though we have never tried it, I think the view from the podium of the Bubble Wrapped Harmonica Finals might be a little colorless and flat.

* *** *

Saturday
Jul022011

Weekly Dog Blog -- Sampson, 11(+) weeks

11 weeks

32.6 lbs

 

This week, Sampson officially doubled in size since he has come home to us.  He continues to try to chew on Piper, and many moments that we find them together look like this: where Piper eats her breakfast

She has learned to grab his neck scruff from either side when he comes at her feeling chewy, and can hold him at an arm's length while they waltz somewhat awkwardly around the kitchen. This goes on until someone rescues her, usually with a distraction tactic. 

I'll be honest; it was a challenging week for the house as J was in Central America and Max had a miserable lingering fever and stomach virus that he said "Felt like a sensei match where he kept getting kicked in the stomach and couldn't fight back." Hayden had his ice hockey championship tournament--every time they won a game (and there were some serious nail-biters) I would find myself jumping out of my seat and cheering, immediately followed by the sobering realization that this meant another game, at another rink. Six games in two days, with a final result of: Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

It was also the beginning of our swim season night meets, which Max was devastated to miss. Luckily, my mom is a devoted fan of the Barracudas and took Hayden and Piper, while Max, Sampson and I had some quiet evenings of Qwirkle at home. 

And all this time, I was baking--4 dozen eggs in a week. A carrot cake shaped like a carrot for my sister's golden birthday and her baby on the inside, who we call "Carrot". A gluten-free cake for my boys to take to a birthday party. A 3-D cake in the shape of my sister's house for her housewarming party, and a double batch of Namaste brand gluten free brownies for the swim team picnic and 4th of July. 

Then there was Sampson, who had been accident free for four days straight peed four times in the house before breakfast one morning and the pace of our lives felt like we still had not found our summer stride. And writing? Fuhdeddaboutit. I was lucky to shower. 

Finally, on Friday, after nine days abroad, we had the return of the alpha male and everything fell back into balance. Sampson's nipping of Piper could be corrected with one deep voiced 'Uh-uh" from J. Max woke up Friday morning, took a shower, proclaimed himself better and went to swim practice and swam 55 laps. Piper got over her shyness about the male lifeguards who assist the swimmers in her tadpole group with her daddy there and swam the length of the pool without stopping. 

We christened my sister's family's new house with a fantastic party. (Sampson had to go home early after grazing too many unattended plates.) I should have gone with him--the sangria (recipe below) went down way too easily.

 

I was also excited to receive emails from the first guests on the dog blog. This week, you can look forward to hearing from Ivan and his rescue lab-mix Forrest and Lisa and Zulu, her mutt from the other side of the world. Yes, people are reading this in Australia!  I will be posting these in the next few days. In the meantime, Sampson continues to woo me with his baby browns and charm us with his antics. 

 

The Return of the Alpha Male

SANGRIA RECIPE:

3 bottles cabernet (or other red wine)

1 2 liter bottle ginger ale

1 2 liter bottle orange Fanta

large bags of sliced frozen peaches, strawberries and raspberries

optional: fresh orange slices and Cointreau to taste 

Mix all ingredients in large container at least 24 hours ahead of time. Serve chilled.