I remember thinking that I couldn’t wait to flip the calendar from 2011 to 2012. Foolish woman.

As I look back on 2012 I realize that there will always be things I’d rather not relive, instincts that I will forever regret not following, but this isn’t college. I can’t replace my threadbare stuffed lion for a broken heart. The chip on my shoulder won’t teach anyone a lesson. The three sets of blue eyes that I catch watching me as I stare mournfully in to space are potent reminders that savoring heartache isn’t a pastime that I can enjoy without explanation. Yet, even as I try to shield the girls from certain details, I am evermore aware that I have to do less protecting and more preparing. Perfect little insulated bubbles of joy, though wonderful examples of my talent for redirection and crafting opportunities for joy, will not help them as they begin turning pages on their own calendars.

Several times over the last couple of years we’ve gone to an old barn across the county line. The slate roof always looks as if we’ve come upon it mid-undulation, its multi-colored pieces spanning an improbably wide expanse in fluid lines. The slats of wood that make up the outside are weathered and range in color from honey to black. Gaping holes invite closer looks, “Mom, this must have been a window, right?” or “Look, see me? I’m sneaking through the door! Is that moss?” The first visit I was overly cautious, sharply calling out for them not to go this way or that. After a few more visits I heard them saying, “Watch it, easy there. See that one, the grey one, it’s got a nail.” They threaded through the paths of debris, cautioning one another between exclaims over new treasures discovered, while Sean and I worked to unearth new slabs of wood for signs.

The sun wends its way around the hill to the east of the barn, milkweed stalks sway just beyond the doorway, and shadows dance inside. Broken window panes lay alongside oxbows and discarded dressers. The girls scamper along the outside wall just beyond an old rock wall where moss snakes its way this way and that in a shocking, bright green blanket. Sean walks overhead and as I root beneath the layers of hay, the barn begins to whisper a story. It speaks to me of ruin and hope. I am reminded of the things I have survived and the beauty that has sprung from what I thought would be unloveable scars.

As I move gingerly through the barn, skirting the interior wall to keep the girls in earshot, I understand that I cannot keep everything perfect, I cannot predict every trespass or fix every loose thread. We will unravel and we will repair. The scraped knee that will bring the shriek that pierces the air will not emerge as the strongest memory of this day. It will be the freedom to explore that they will remember. It will be the way their voices pinged against the aged wood and the way we all chortled over our collective inability to remember the one spot in the path that makes us trip every time, that I will cherish.

The photograph that commemorates one winter visit also freezes forever in time my inability to schedule a hair appointment to retouch my roots. It also captures the hats atop each girl’s head—one knit with love several generations ago, another picked out “all by myself” and another still, arriving in a package from Hanna Andersson sent by Grandma. Sean wears a Bedlam Farm hat that reminds us of those first months with Finley still in my belly. I see in this photo the challenge of keeping everyone happy for the 20 minute drive, I remember how the wood we loaded was riddled with nails and how much easier things would have been if we had remembered a hammer. Beyond all the nitpicking I see a day that we spent together, each of us finding our own joy right alongside the rest of us.

2013 won’t be perfect. My heart, nor theirs, will go unscathed. Senseless and unspeakable things will fill the headlines, but there will be afternoons spent outside. There will be splinters that will carry more triumph and bravery than they will pain. I am going into this next year forgiving last year—myself, the heart ache, the fundamentally shitty things that passed. 2013 will not be perfect and I won’t miraculously get a handle on how to keep my hair colored, the laundry folded or my sense of right and wrong in check.

I will do this though—I will trust my instinct, I will, as Sean always says, race my own race, and I will continue to believe that I can make a difference by raising these girls with honesty, hope, and a sense of purpose.

I hope in 2013 you find your doorway, that space that allows you to slip through, leaving behind your judgement of yourself and your lingering hurt over things you can’t control. I hope that you find wide swaths of sunlight and you embrace your peace and your future there. Because it really is there for all of us, we just need the right conditions to accept it.