West Coast.

#11 Giving Season

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Patrícia Mota
Patrícia Mota

At this time of year maybe we'll all be a bit Merry and Bright, or at least there'll be a global attempt to integrate the spirit and be more generous.

I remember thinking that I should be more patient in traffic, for example, and forgetting about this commitment shortly after Christmas. But even though it's short-lived, I think it's beautiful.

I read "The Giving Season" somewhere recently and decided to adopt it straight away and use it indiscriminately. Focus on giving, on all fronts.

For the first time since we arrived in California, I'm lying in the dark listening to the rain fall outside. In December it's easy to get used to walking on the beach in a T-shirt.

Rain at night in the comfort of your own bed is one of the simple pleasures I'm a fan of. And of course, as I went to bed with the kids before 9pm, it's just after midnight and sleep has fled.

In this Merry and Bright spirit, I started trying to relax parts of my body to synchronize my breathing and try to fall asleep, but my thoughts only ran to the Giving Season and the readers of this news, and to the people who, even if they aren't readers of this news, have had a wonderful impact on our lives in general, and on this experience in particular.

Although the intention of this site is to share our experience, I'd like to remind you how important you are, and that in this "Season of Generosity" we could reach out to our people, in the same way that we feel our people reach out to us. And through these little words, send the best energies and the best wishes to all these people.

The way they reach us is very varied.

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From messages and phone calls, video calls, podcast-type audios, postcards, recipes, information about places to go when we get back, photographs and digital memories, travel and meeting plans, lentils and cookie tins, ceramic pendants, detailed accounts of everyday life, projects and plans together, well-tended plants, chickens in seaside resorts, care for everything we've been building, car care, questions and selfless actions... there are so many beautiful ways in which we are accompanied by you.... there are so many and so beautiful ways that you reach us that I really feel that we are much happier and accompanied by having you in our lives.

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And in addition to all this, for all of us where contact is more sporadic, even in the silences and distances of the routines that swallow us all, there is the absolute certainty that, not only are they not absent, but if I called them they wouldn't hesitate (it's reciprocal).... if we saw each other now, it would be as if we'd just seen each other a little while ago, and just remembering your smell, your hug, and everything we still have to share moves me in such a way that I blur the text and have to sniffle.

These little words I'm writing today will hopefully act as a hug. It's me who's writing, late at night, to you. But what comes from this side, from so many places in the world, even in the silence of the rain at night, is wonderful, warm and cozy. Giving is confused with Receiving. Thank you.

These days we've been sharing routines, outings and challenges with my parents.

I know you'll want to bite me when you see this picture.

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They put 23 defects. I stole their photo. It's perfect.

My mother has wrinkles and a manicure to put in order, according to her.

I've seen a number of brands with the privilege of being able to wear a smile without complexes over the years. And the manicure you want, just because. Knowing how to appreciate these marks of the good life is a virtue, I think!

My father refused to give me the photo, because if the world ended in a bite, he'd have the upper hand. I see his spontaneous laugh and his unashamed joviality. And I love it.

They've come to give us hugs, and their grandchildren, but they're still enjoying the home that makes sense to them! And they have fun like this. I hope you'll forgive me for stealing the photo, and that you'll see what I see. What good luck!

Here, the Giving Season is in full swing. From the compliments I've made an effort to accept and thank, to the kind words from strangers and not-so-strangers, to the details of the careful decoration, and the maxim I'm getting used to: "Let me know how I can help."

We were directed to visit an area next door that is known for its canals and houses decorated for Christmas. Inside and out.

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As it doesn't snow or rain, apart from the streets, the decoration of the houses in Naples is a mixture of good taste and extravagant light. We liked this Venice so much, literally a stone's throw from home, that in my innocence I went to see how much it would cost to rent there.

At the end of the day, we'll stay as we are.

When I grow up I'd like to own it in Naples, invite you to join us, replicate this atmosphere, and celebrate Christmas with light extravaganza, live music, outdoor fireplaces, and hot chocolate. I'll let you know when it comes to fruition, so we can make plans.

The town also organizes a Christmas boat parade, which has its charm, but I confess that what really captivated me was the atmosphere and the good vibes of these people, who treat each other very well.

In the meantime, our daughters' social agenda grew immensely and there was "Secret Santa" in pajamas. Our Maria put as much effort into the surprise for her friend as she did into the wrapping.

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We repeated to her several times that the focus would be on Giving, not on Receiving, so that she wouldn't be disappointed if her Secret Santa investment wasn't so improved.

But as well as being happy with her surprise, she spent a lovely evening chatting with her new friends, who had hit the nail on the head with a fuzzy blanket for movie days on the sofa, and some fancy pens that should turn any doodle into a work of art!

He came home happy. The giving was top notch, and the receiving made the spirit even better.

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Our Mercedes was wearing headphones evening after evening, trying to keep up with rehearsals for the choir she had signed up for. She really wanted her teacher not to regret accepting her and putting her front and center.

At first, with his headphones on, he rehearsed house to house, sounding like a parrot in agony, with too much imagination to invent new words for the lyrics he had to sing.

Things got better and better and on the day of the performance we were impressed by the professionalism of the group of over 100 young singers on stage.

A show prepared with the utmost care.

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Here in our condominium there was a typical seasonal competition, and off we went to make our debut in what was to be a gingerbread house competition. It sounds much simpler than it actually is... my house in particular imploded several times, I wanted to make it fly a few times, but it was a real team building activity between parents and children that I'll want to repeat.

For the time being, our house is ahead in the neighbors' vote, which, for someone who doesn't like to lose anything, even if it's by a long shot, is an important fact.

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This past week we've come to the conclusion that our children are reaching the equator of this monster school challenge.

It doesn't seem like we landed a few months ago without knowing the school, the teachers, our classmates, the education system.

The results and progress of the three of them is impressive. But it's not because they're at ease.

It's because they've really had enough of working and trying to overcome all the discomforts of continuous adaptation.

They've also had to try to keep up with the pace of each year, to debate controversial issues, construct counter-arguments, make presentations without a digital or human translator to help, give their opinion on anything and everything... all so different from the more passive-expository system they've been exposed to up until this year, that I feel like explaining that this system isn't better, or worse, or easier or more difficult, but it's considerably different from what they knew.

And I don't give in to fear in front of them, but I go to them expectantly about how they felt in their public performance, the challenges they are overcoming on a daily basis.

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Even so, in my most secret wishes, all I asked was that they could find friends who would hold them at a physical distance from the friends they left behind on the peninsula.

So far, I'm over it.

If Darwin said that the world belongs to those who adapt best, I think these three are in a better position to know how to adapt than before.

We felt in all three schools that there was genuine curiosity about where they came from and what they already knew, without judgment, and with the aim of facilitating the integration and learning process.

And the progress couldn't make us prouder.

This Giving Season we started baking cookies to hand out to everyone the girls felt deserved thanks. This included teachers and staff.

And we're going to have to do it all over again and complete the remaining thank-yous.

What a taste to provide the spice biscuits we were used to receiving at this time...

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In addition to having the best American accent, Matias made friends, learned new routines, and separated from his Wei... but after the abrupt separation, he started asking for a red friend to accompany him to sleep.

We didn't have to ask twice. Long live Sesame Street!

One of our friends' mothers invited us to visit another town where Christmas is usually celebrated. Brea is the place where the community displays Christmas wishes in the form of lights and decorations. Some houses have a radio station to synchronize with the lights.

Naples is sophisticated. Brea looks like it was decorated by children.

It's excessive and dazzling in equal parts.

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Today was the last day of school for the first semester.

To calm my sleepless nights, I started by thinking before I came that if the children weren't well, we'd come back at Christmas.

Although it's tempting to think of the warmth of your embrace, we're not going back to the peninsula this Christmas.

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This was yet another test overcome.

Thanks to a series of good fortunes. Among them, having you here with us.

Merry Christmas!

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