Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Mourning in Slow Motion

One month.

A big part of me wants to stop writing right there.

My heart hurts.

Since she died (ugh), some crazy things have happened. Words I wrote got shared more than I could have imagined possible.  I took some fantastic photos. I met incredible people. I read great books. I played in the snow with some very happy children who (more than slightly) resembled marshmallows.

And I can't tell her about any of it outside of a prayer.

Today, alone I have wanted to talk to my mom approximately 142 times, probably more.

When?

Oh. 

When my daughter refused to put on her pants this morning and ran around the house naked for a bit.

When my son told me that he had a great day because he got no timeouts.

When the dog possibly stole the cheese, and we found a clue, and I thought, "But you're telling me there's a chance." We had a bazillion inside jokes, and I clearly heard her voice and saw the gestures that go with that particular one.

When I wanted to say, "I love you."

All of it. All of the little things. Because that's who we were.

Each time, I got punched in the gut.

Gah.

I miss her with my whole body.

I miss her voice. I miss her laugh. God, how I miss her laugh.  I miss her hugs. I miss the way she held my hand. I miss her. 

I thought I missed her while she was busy dying. But I had no idea.

No.

Idea.

"We are going to Mimi and Boppy's house, but now it's just Boppy's house. Because Mimi died." I (insert expletive here) hate that my son has to say words like that.

When my son crawls into my bed at some point in the night (I refuse to look at the clock), I wrap my arms around him. I kiss his head. I hold him tight.

I pour all the love I felt from my mama into my own children.

They tell me it's the first year that's the hardest.

I can count the milestones already.

My daughter says, "Bottle," now, instead of "Bawwwwwl."  She loves to say, "No no no no no." She pushes her hair out of her eyes and rules the room.

My son will finish preschool this year. I started worrying a few months ago about if my mom would make it to the graduation.  Now, I know.  

Now, I know.

And we keep on moving. We keep on loving. We keep on getting punched in the gut. Because that's how it feels to be human.

I'm still a raw, open wound.  I can (mostly) hold it together in my "regular" life (because what else do you do? I have a life that needs living, kids that need loving, students that need teaching, air that needs breathing).

But when I sit down to write, well, gut punch.

One month.

And counting.










Thursday, February 2, 2017

On Gratitude: Let Them Help You

Let people help you.

Make sure you ask for help.

Let me know if there's anything I can do.

In the minutes, hours, and days since my mother's death, I've had these words rolling around in my mind.

We're okay.

People are doing too much.

My husband feels ready to move back into our normal flow, into making our own dinners.  I'm not quite there yet, and so, I am grateful for the meal train that keeps moving, for the texts, messages, posts, cards, that keep coming my way.

My mom drilled into me that thank you cards make society function.

As of the day of her death, as far as I'd gotten with thank you cards for CHRISTMAS was...to buy the cards.

I had decided to give myself grace this year, to not write them. My life has begun, again, to overwhelm me, and I have to let some things go, bit by bit, if I'm to survive this with any bit of my sanity intact.

Part of me wonders if my mom is shaking her head at me, because thank you cards matter. The rest of me knows that she understands. 

Do what you have to.

Don't let the little stuff get to you.

And other choice language.

I need grace right now, and I have to give it to myself, too.

While I might find the process of writing post-funeral thank you cards cathartic, I have decided to write out my gratitude here, instead.

You wanted to help. Thank you for that.

You made me let you help. Thank you for that.

You helped in 1,000 different ways.

You texted me.

You called me.

You messaged me.

You posted on Facebook or Instagram.

You shared stories, condolences, good wishes, connections to your own life.

You reached out once, twice, thirty times to make sure that I am managing through this all okay.

You understand my relationship with my mom and know that the feelings of loss will come in waves.

You sent flowers, well-thought out and important flowers.

You shopped to help fund her memorial scholarship fund.

You prepared our home.

You flew across the country to remember her and support us.

You came to her viewing.

You snuck in the back of the funeral with your baby.

You cared for my children and entertained them while I dealt with the sorrow, the pain, the organizing.

You held my hand.

You walked beside me.

You made us food.

In each gesture, no matter the size, you loved me.

I will always remember your kindness and support.

Thank you. 






Friday, January 27, 2017

What You Say at Your Mother's Funeral

My mama did not believe she was worthy of love.  A few bits of her history confirmed that, in her mind, over and again. I tried to teach her otherwise. So did my dad.  We loved her through it.

If she couldn't believe in her own worth, she made sure no one else ever felt that way.

She let me know, all the time, how much she loved me.  Sometimes that kind of love is too much to carry, but it makes me who I am. And I am grateful.

I know I can do anything. She told me so.

And she's always right.

There are people here she fought to save.

People she fought with.

People who fought for her.

She fought.

All the time.

With everyone and everything.

She operated at angry.

Calm down, Sabine.

Mommy, it's okay.

But she wanted what was, what is, right.

What is popular is not always right. What is right is not always popular.

Her students should - her students better - remember that.

She did not live for popularity.

And look at all of you here, loving on her.

My mama lived and died on her own terms.

She stood and fought at every turn.

And when she couldn't stand, she made certain we were all ready to do it for her.

Calm down, Sabine.

Mommy, it's okay.

We've got this.




Tuesday, January 24, 2017

To My Mother's Students

Ladies and gentlemen, and I use the term loosely. 

You know who you are.

Anna Rock.  Jennifer Yoon. Willie Baker.

There are more of you, many more, but yours were the three names I heard the most.

You're the ones she cried about at night.

You're the ones she wondered about for years.

Thank God for social media.

You found each other again, well, at least Jenny and Anna. What happened to Willie? 

It was a complicated story to be the only child of the teacher.

I had an endless supply of older siblings.

Christina Segunda (not sure how to spell that name anymore) invited me to her birthday parties, and I felt so special that I wasn't there as someone's little sister. I attended because I was me (well, sort of).

You also tattled on me.  You'd come around and collect the roll sheets and tell my mom you caught me talking to someone with my desk up.

So, totally like actual siblings. Thank you for bringing that hint of "normalcy" to my somewhat lonely childhood.

Anna Rock let me ride her horse with her. I won't forget that. Ever.

And she sent me home with a box full of My Little Ponies she didn't want anymore.

Now Anna will help carry my mom's casket.

Jennifer hugged my mom so ferociously whenever she happened to run into her that I could feel the love from across the room.

Jennifer has something special going along with my mom for her journey.

I wrote on the chalkboard after school, perfecting the S that's shaped like a swan, while she tidied up, graded papers, worried about you.

Did you know I helped grade your tests?

Did you know she showed me all of the presents she ever gave you?

Did you know that she decided to leave your school when someone felt threatened by her?

Because she asked someone to speak about what it means to be pro-life.

Because she asked someone to speak about what it means to be pro-life when she taught at a Catholic School. Did anyone tell you that? Did anyone tell you that she left you all because she had to stand up for her beliefs? I'm sure, if you didn't know already, that it comes as no surprise.

I know she loved you.

Sometimes I hated that she loved you.

She holed herself up in the spare room, grading, planning, thinking about you, when I wanted her to  be thinking about me.

Later, deep into her cancer struggle, she talked to you about her pain, her fear.

She didn't talk to me that way. She protected me.

I pushed her on that once. Then let it go.  She needed what she needed. End of story.

I am so grateful that you got to know her beyond the classroom, that she had the chance to keep right on loving you.

When we filled out her death certificate, we had to put her occupation.  She had a few careers - did you know that?  Eligibility Worker, Dispatcher, Probation Officer.  But we told the funeral director (incidentally our former dentist - how does that happen?) to put down TEACHER.

Because that's what she was. A teacher. Through and through.

How many years? They needed to know. We said seven. Really, it's decades.

Even after she left one school, founded another, and then changed careers entirely, she never stopped teaching, did she?  

Which brings me to my next point.

In lieu of flowers, we have established the Sabine Krygier Memorial Scholarship at Brandman University.  We will award the scholarship to moms who are returning to school to get their teaching credentials. I (and maybe my dad) will help select the best candidates. Maybe we'll bring one of you along to be on the interview panel (and hopefully panels for years to come). Because you knew what it meant to be her kind of teacher. I can privately share details about how to donate (and will post the link here once it's live).

Updated 1.25.17:

For all who are interested, the link to donate to the Sabine Krygier Memorial Scholarship is now live: http://brandman.edu/donate. We are seeking to support moms returning to school for their teaching credentials, just as my mama did nearly 30 years ago. Education is the most powerful tool. My mama taught me this, and I lived it and honored her by getting all those grades and extras I needed to attend Cal. I earned scholarships. I worked 20+ hours a week. I did it in honor of both of my parents who showed me that no matter what, education MATTERS. In light of everything happening in our country right now, we MUST support education and future educators.








Sunday, January 22, 2017

A Motherless Adult: My Mom Died Today

My mom died today.

If I write this post in thirty minutes, I will have to say, "My mom died yesterday."

So, I'm writing it today.

We knew this coming.

We didn't know it was coming quite so soon.

Cancer can suck it.

She died while I was driving to see her, just a bit after my husband got home from playing in our church band, after I had read books, sung songs, and *almost* convinced my son to nap.

My son knew his Mimi was sick and that I was going to see her. He said he wanted to go with me. He couldn't. I didn't know what he would see.

He's four.

I have to protect him.

Because I need to protect him, I wasn't there when my mom died.

I'm stuck between being a parent and being a child.

Being a mom took priority as my own mom lay dying.

My dad assures me she went peacefully.

Oh, life, and your circle of joy and pain.  To be a mother. To be a child. How can I mother my children without my mother?

My mom died today.

And I can only say that today.

She was (was? how can that be was and not is?) fire. She was venom. She was vibrant. She was just.  Always just.  Not fair. Just.

She taught, not just me, but a hundred or so incredibly lucky students who, 25 + years after she taught them, still spoke to her, called her, messaged her, loved her.

She loved with such ferocity.  Ferocity that sometimes broke us but always brought us back together.

She loved my children with that same intensity.

She was spark.

She was flame.

She held me when I wept through all of my trivial pain.

She held me through heartache and breakups.

She held me through tough moments with my son.

She held me.

We dressed her body, my dad and I, as gently as I know she tended me, her miracle child.  We sent her off, with the rain on her face. My dad insisted that she feel the rain one last time.

Now, I hold her in my heart.

Forever.

My mom died today.







Saturday, January 21, 2017

Human Rights: What I Mean When I Say I'm Pro-Life

Today, I attended a Women's March.

For the first time.

Surrounded by over 4,000 people in the city where I choose to live, I got chills.

Growing up, the word "pro-choice" was a bad word in my house.

In my adult life, with the friends I have chosen, it's "pro-life" that has become the dirty word.

So, how do I reconcile the two seemingly divergent roads of thinking?

During my homeschooling days, we prayed the rosary in front of Planned Parenthood.  We packed up supplies every Christmas to donate to the local pro-life center.

We would go back to school, and several of the boys, one in particular, would harass and tease me.  "Boys will be boys," I was told.  And I was left powerless. These same women who are shocked and appalled that I march for women's rights did not care at all for my rights.

I refuse to frame being pro-life as only about the unborn.

When I say I'm pro-life, I mean from conception to death.  I mean that we protect the unborn by supporting their mothers. I mean that we protect children from abuse and bullying. I mean that I am against the death penalty.

Beyond that, I believe in action, in changing the way we view choosing life.

A family friend commented on this photo of my son. She expressed her dismay, her disappointment, her heartbreak.  She said I should know better.


I do know better. I know that women's rights means so much more than abortion, and I am proud that my son stood with me during our first women's march.  We stood for HUMAN RIGHTS.

A few months ago, on Facebook, of  course, I got into a long debate with someone about Planned Parenthood vs. Pro-Life Centers.  While we could not ultimately agree on larger issues (which I never expected us to), we could agree that Planned Parenthood did not, in our shared knowledge, offer support for pre-natal care and other resources that actually support the choice of life.

We need to do more.

I come from a place of privilege

I am privileged. I married a man I love, and we decided when and how to have children.

Another privilege? My mom told me early and often that she would support me, no matter what.

While it's laughable, looking back at my high school photos, to even imagine that I would have had sex and gotten pregnant. I always know that my parents would support me, would help me raise a child.  I felt safe in that knowledge.

When women face an unplanned pregnancy, whatever the circumstances, they are afraid. Pure and simple. What will it mean for their lives? Their dreams?

For me, having children was the dream. That is not true for everyone.

Without naming names and pointing fingers, I can say that the pro-life organizations I worked with for over a decade, while well-intentioned, did not have the funding or the mindset to provide resources beyond clothing and food. That is something, and it is more than what abortion clinics provide when a woman chooses life. But it is not enough.

I would not vote to repeal abortion rights laws.

That's not what I mean when I say I'm pro-life.

Instead, I want to work to make life a real choice.

To truly empower women to choose life, we must offer childcare so that they can work or continue their education. We must provide assistance so that teen moms can complete their high school education and find a way to move on to careers and college.

In grad school, I worked on a project to build the college and career library at one of these centers. Though they had never considered this idea before, they welcomed the change. Collaborating with the public library where I worked at the time, we found free and low-cost ways to populate these libraries.  Ten years out from the project, I have no idea if it continued, or if the volunteer counselors even used those books when meeting with their clients.

As a librarian, I created an outreach program with a program for teen mothers at our local continuation high school. We designed a story time program to help the moms work with their children on literacy skills, because helping women facing unplanned pregnancies means more than handing them diapers and formula.

Choosing life in an unplanned pregnancy should not effectively cut women off from their dreams. What comes after they choose life?

What do I believe?

I believe in supporting women to achieve their dreams, regardless of their reproductive plans.

I believe in keeping children safe for all of their lives.

I believe in bully prevention programs and in talking about bullying at schools and at home, rather than dusting it away and giving bullies permission to ruin lives.

I believe in sex ed.

I believe in state funded daycare and preschool.

I believe in public school.

I believe in grants and scholarships that go beyond athletics.

I believe in funding social programming to at least attempt to get everyone on an equal playing field.

I believe in supporting life at all levels.

That's what I mean when I say I'm pro-life.

And that's why I marched.











Thursday, January 12, 2017

31-Day Self-Love Diet Writing Challenge: Day 3, Connecting with Your Authentic Self


Today, I am supposed to stand in front of a mirror and say good things to myself.

Someone - my mom, maybe? Perhaps my grandmother? - told me that if I stared too long in the mirror, I would get sucked in.

That’s okay. I didn’t much like looking in the mirror anyway.

I can’t promise that I’ll look in the mirror and say good things to myself.

We returned to work this week after a three week break.  Fabulous. I get to return my regular schedule of feeling inadequate as a daughter, mother, wife, friend, AND teacher. Awesome.

Maybe today isn’t the day to say nice things to myself about myself.

I’m struggling.

I am stressed about getting out the door on time (I have a funny post about the reasons I’m never on time rolling around in my head - spoiler: it has nothing to do with not respecting you). I am stressed about giving my children what they need, about being patient with my husband, about maintaining relationships with family and friends while daintily navigating each relationship’s special politics and rules, and about doing my job well.

Maybe today, it is enough to tell myself that I am trying.

Today, it is enough to say that I am trying.

It is enough to say that I am trying.

It is enough.

I am trying.