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Coming home from New Years visiting of friends and feeling the contentment of both journey and home.  Needing a few quiet day to settle and catch up. Needing to make and put into practice some of the new year’s resolutions. Needing to organize to send out holiday cards-more on that later. Needing to figure out just how to plunge into the new year.  Then again, the plunge has happened.  Umm, am I already behind?

I dragged some baggage out of November and I did not effortlessly fall into the holiday spirit. I stopped writing.  Not altogether, but tapping a line or two or a paragraph and then . . . . What?  Busy, bored, not willing to be patient with the process, anxious?  Just a little.  Self-pity?  A more than healthy dollop.  Sad in my soul.  It seemed especially daunting with public and private sadnesses colliding.

The political landscape served as dismal backdrop. Privately, I came into full recognition of a long time relationship crumbling.  Recognition demands action and action is painful.  And I’ve concluded that I cannot continue planning for a year abroad with Julia.  I haven’t quite scrapped the idea, but I was making plans, sure that we could return to Madison whenever I wanted to with special ed services in tact. With the state and federal political agendas reformatting, I cannot be sure of the quality of education in another two or three years.  I cannot leave if these are the last few “good years.”

But.  But.  But through the muck and mire, there is (and I hated to admit this even to myself when part of me wanted to indulge further in the swamp of self-pity) a thin cord of hope, a thread of joy that is undeniable.  And so, my task was to make it to the other side.  To survive until.  There were tasks and helpers along the way.  Many.  And now, revisiting the time, I did so much more than survive.

I attacked Christmas, well armed and purposefully.  There was baking for teachers and a few friends—ten kinds of sweetness and I working for full days for days into exhaustion.  There was cleaning for Cheshire’s homecoming and gift buying and house decorating and shopping.

And there were foibles.

The tree!  The absolute worst in years.  (And I am laughing.)  Julia and I didn’t get out to shop for a tree until the Thursday before the Sunday of Christmas.  The usual places I hunt for/buy trees were already closed, the tree lot I found, had only a few stragglers, only one that fit my needs.  The seller convinced me that if I didn’t take it, I would find nothing. In addition, my old tree stand would not go together and it seemed buying a new one from the tree seller was the path of least resistance.  Actually, the entire interaction seemed like the path of least resistance—I didn’t really want to shop, I didn’t want to figure out options.  I just wanted to get the tree buying over with.

And so, I bought the path of least resistance and that tree was a very good teacher!

The tree shed more needles getting into the house than most trees leaving, the stand too light to support the tree made standing upright precarious at best. And I never really got the tree to stand up straight.  I could not get the plastic pegs to balance the trunk without a slight tilt to the right.  The tilted, shedding tree was up and decorated from Thursday to Tuesday.  Cheshire helped to take it down so that the girls feeding Muta while we were away would not accidentally knock it over, and by that I mean, look at it the wrong way.  For the few days it was decorated and leaning to the right, we could tilt a head and gaze fondly at the lovely imperfection.

Composing a holiday card was more challenging than usual. I could not ignore the fall’s political disasters and at the same time, who wants to send depressing or angry holiday cards?  I did not iron out a family message until the 23rd when I hit the buy button.  The upside here was that the cards were home when we arrived home on New Year’s day and this morning all but a dozen are winging they way away.

Other than tasks and processes, I met with angels who moved me gracefully into this new year.

I commented on a Facebook post of a friend who is one of the Madison Hat Ladies.  She in turn asked if Julia wanted a hat.  Swatches of fleece were posted and picked and when the hat was finished, I picked it up.  She had, however, made two hats.  One for Julia and a complementary one for Julia to give away.  Julia immediately wanted to give the second hat to M, a classmate with whom she eats lunch most days.  M was thrilled to get the hat.  M also struggles with social skills and if she is like Julia, gifts from other kids are few and far between.  And so, the offer of a hat turned into a blessing for two girls and at least one mom who worries about Julia’s generous heart.

Another friend is teaching Julia and I Chinese Brush Stroke Painting.  The learning is slow and the ideas behind it butts up against Julia’s ideas of drawing.  Still, she is interested and can concentrate on learning to put the brush down, make the stroke and pick up the brush.  No sketching, no correction.  It is art, however, and Julia can rather quickly do what I need practice in.  And I do like it.  We are practicing the enso right now.  A circle in one stroke.  Wikipedia says that the enso expresses a moment when the mind is free to let the body create.  The possible connection to writing is not lost on me.

Cheshire was home for Christmas.  For just a few days starting on Christmas eve evening.  We wrapped, cooked, ate, saw a movie and talked a lot.  I was more anxious than usual, attributing those feelings to wanting to find and make the perfect celebration.  After much discussion and pondering, I have the strong desire to release those expectations which are held by no one except myself.  I cannot make a perfect Christmas, nor can I ruin a perfectly good Christmas.  I can breathe into it and enjoy what is.

A very few days post-Christmas, we drove to Chicago, dropped Cheshire at the airport and went to visit friends.  Julia and I stayed with old law school friends and enjoyed the Field Museum and the Art Institute during the day.  In the evening, we ate excessively, Chinese and Malaysian, sharing meals with the same Chicago friends (and sons) and the British friends we stayed with when we were in London.  Then, on the 30th, we drove to Indianapolis and spent two days with more old friends, celebrating the new year, long held friendships and the recovery to health of one younger friend.  On New Year’s Day, we drove back home, arriving in time for an evening meal (yes, more food) and a fire in our fireplace.  We had two more school-less days to get our house in order and get Julia back in the swing of school.

And so, although the holiday time began with an unhappy, anxious heart I am beginning the new year with calm and peace and such gratitude.  Quiet, noisy, happy, easy, drama-free time which I am so grateful for.  And today, the air is cold again and the sky a watery blue that so describes a Wisconsin winter. And I am here.  Now.

Auguri per un felice 2017!