This week marks the end of Sarina's first semester at Santa Rosa Junior College! She is in her finals. Today is the last day of tests. She will do a verbal presentation of her portfolio. She spent hours and hours polishing it to make it shine. And sleepless nights worrying it might still not be good enough.
Last night she presented it to us. No, not on the fly. That's not a quality Sarina owns. Everything takes a tremendous amount of time.
I am with her on every leg of this ride. My husband and I are both, of course, rooting for her.
She did a fantastic job! She managed college life to the dot. It's her world. It's genuinely her dream come true.
Having Sarina move back home was the only way she could do what she loves: to learn about the world and to use her knowledge to advocate for others.
We had to face incredible hard circumstances as a family. I had to give up my empty nest. I had to put my dream on hold. Our family of three turned my married life upside down. Sarina is exhausting.
She is not your typical young adult. She needs support in all corners of life. I often feel like I am supporting ten people at once. All ten in the body of one person.
⭐️ a young child I need to hold space for so she is safe.
⭐️ a teenager that pushes boundaries and fights her limitations
⭐️ a bright young adult living up to her dream by going to college, deserving every inch of support I can master.
Add a good dose of:
Auditory and Visual Processing delays
Executive Function issues
and the conviction that she can do it all alone
and you might get a glimpse into the struggles we have.
Not to forget the incredibly charismatic and soul aligned young women she is. She moves hearts. She offers to help every step she takes. She adds love to the world.
Almost all human emotions are showing up on a daily basis. The harder ones are when Sarina is not living up to a skill she already owns. When she has mastered her schedule for three days, but it might fall apart on the fourth. When I have started to trust, but things fall apart again. That's when I get undone. That's when my humanness becomes real. I have been into this for 27 years.
I bite the hook when this happens. I lose it. I crush.
And then I stand up again and remember what I know is the only way to be and survive. I practice:
To breathe! To not bite the hook which takes a tremendous amount of learning and self-reflection. But it is possible. My work brings this skill to my life and the world. And then, I forgive myself. I move on and fail better next time.
On a daily basis.
It's a full life.
But, it wouldn't be full if I forget one more important thing to add. It's a skill that stands for healthy parenting besides all the support and unconditional love we share.
Mothers of special needs children more so then others need to look deeply within themselves to discover what they are burning for. "Who are you besides being the mother of this child?" is a question we must ask.
I am on that journey with you. I know how difficult it is. I see the sacrifices. Over the 27 years, I have supported my daughter I have learned to ask again and again: "What is my mission besides raising this extraordinary child? What do I want to bring into the world?"
I show Sarina what it means to be a mother. The bright side as well as the dark moments. And at the same time, I let her witness how I built my dream.
By doing so, she learns to understand where she ends and I begin. I show her the passion I have for my work. She knows me on the yoga mat as much as she knows me in the kitchen. I let her be part of the calling I feel to share the tools I gather from my life with other parents who are in a similar boat.
And most of all she witnesses me get ready, not giving up while still being the wholehearted parent I am. We just need a little more time. We will master that next step. She will have her nest while I will be the proud owner of:
MY EMPTY NEST.
We are both waiting for the very moment Sarina gets a chance to move on. We as a family deserve this. And if you are in our boat, you do too!
A note about us:
If you don't know us personally or have not met Sarina but you live with circumstances like ours, this is my way of telling you how I choose to be. This journey of raising a child with particular challenges might take longer, is harder, is heartbreakingly challenging and often soul-crushing sad. And yet it is profoundly gratifying and 100% worth it if you celebrate the little steps and keep holding your dream in front of your eyes. You must realize your own worth apart from your child.
All things I have put on hold are still there. I am grooming and cherishing them. Also, for now, my daughter comes first.
Don't let anyone tell you different. Don't let anyone compare your very special job with theirs unless they are doing what you do.
I struggle. I leap. I fail. I succeed.
I can help you do the same.
Drop me a note below or send me an email or sign up for my newsletter. I'd love to be in touch with you!
DEAR FRIENDS OF SARINA, I WROTE THIS LETTER TODAY BECAUSE MY HOPES NEEDED A VOICE.
I know you know this young woman. She is your daughter as much as she is mine.
I have some questions for you.
"Can you hear me? This week I feel I am using the wrong frequency to get in touch with you."
"Of course I hear you. I see you right now looking out of the window marveling at the beauty of the land."
"Oh, great. You know I see everything. I hug my trees. I, not for ones have I driven by Adam without saluting to him. I am on my mat most mornings. And if I'm not it's because I am journaling. I seek support from my angel deck. I honor my crystals, carrying one in my bra right now. Nature is my sanctuary. But, don't distract me with that now."
"Oh, wow... slow down. What's burning?"
"See, that's precisely it. I have asked you as nicely as I could to empty my nest. What did I overlook to make this happen?"
"Everything takes time."
"You hit the spot. Listen, I am fed up. I am suffocating. And so is my daughter. I bargained for six months to have her move back home. Knowing darn well what sacrifices that will bring. I did it wholeheartedly. You know that. I put my dream on hold. So I can help her create hers. That's my job. No regrets. She is living up it. Even in the mids of our city being on fire, she studied her books. Thank you. But... just to update you - it has been 9 months and 7 days today."
"Breathe. Mschen breathe."
"Ha, you're doing it again. You are giving me advice like the rest of the world. I hate you."
"ups, no I don't hate you, sorry. But from my point of view, you're not stepping up to the plate. You are leaving me hanging. Mulberry did not get licensed. In case you were too busy to pay attention. I moved Sarina's belongings yesterday. Said goodbye to the beautiful place she should be living in by now. I did let it go."
"Sorry, that's not good enough. I keep my to-do list in the dust. I will be out hugging Adam as soon as I push send. I breathe. I pray. I ask for help. What else do I need to do?"
"I hear you."
"Why are you not answering? All I need is a phone call from that one place within our reach that has an opening for her. What's so damn hard for you to arrange this for us? Sarina is ready. We are."
"Your promise for my empty nest is three months late. Every day is a challenge. I master it most days, and I blow up on others. I am rooting for you."
"Yes. I'll put my foot down for you now. "
"O.k. I trust. I surrender. Let that phone ring."
"I count on you."
"T O D A Y!"
Brave warrior heart - Chain breaker - Unfuckwithable*
"I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of your heart's longing."
Oriah Mountain Dreamer
* as mentioned by Vishen Lakhiani
December 6th is St. Nikolaus Tag in Germany.
...and a day my husband and I will remember forever.
I have two reasons to celebrate today.
The first reason is the celebrating of this tradition. Traditions give me guidance in how to support Sarina in her quest to connect with her roots.
Like never before, this year and these last few weeks especially I feel an almost urgent drive to go on the treasure hunt of my past. It's an exciting feeling like I am going on a journey that has been sitting on my bucket list forever. A gentle voice is knocking itself into my consciousness every morning saying: "remember this? Go write it down!"
It's the stories we share with each other that help us to get to know ourselves better. We laugh and cry and argue and heal almost all at the same time. All while hearing someones story.
I have the best time ever when I can share my stories with Sarina. Last night she came to my bedroom: "Mschen can you read Oma Aloisias story again to me?" Of course. I shared it on my FB page yesterday because it was Oma's 140 Birthday! Well after I pushed publish my older sister reminded me to do the math again. Mhhh, she would have been 130☺️.
I did read the story to her and ended up with a heated discussion of why Oma did not understand that a woman's right to speak her truth is a human right. "Did she die believing that we women should not raise our voice?" Unfortunately, I had to say: "yes she did. You have to understand her in the context of the time she lived." A too big of a concept for Sarina at midnight.
🎅🏼 TODAY is Nikolaustag in Germany and the German-speaking part of Europe.
It was a big day for me as a child.
Our Santa Claus does not come through the chimney on Christmas Day. His prime time in Germany is today. Christmas is the day for the Christkindl in my tradition. It secretly shows up and drops the gifts under the tree on Christmas Eve.
Nikolaustag was holding the hope for praise and small gifts from St. Nikolaus but also the fear of being called out by his nasty companion Knecht Rupprecht. He is some lousy and fearsome character, intimidating to a small child. Dressed in a dark robe with a hood covering most of his face he scared the shit out of us.
I checked with Wikipedia, and his role supposedly survived the Middle Ages. A period that saw parents employing fear as a means of scaring kids into good behavior. He would secretly arrive at the homes of children and ask parents about their kids performance. Depending on the response he would give switches to the ones that needed it. I am a witness of this; it was very scary to watch.
The opposite character graced St. Nikolaus. He was sweet, looked like a beautiful Santa Claus, kind and forgiving. He handed small gifts to the "good" children.
I mostly lucked out; I remember being mentioned ones. Knecht Rupprecht told me to start listening better to my parents. But - he didn't spank me. I was surprised because they put me in time out most of the time. At least that's how it felt to me. But I remember my brother crying when Knecht Rupprecht called him out. He did get spanked.
As I sit here, I am amazed how my body is holding this memory of not being good enough in his bones. We spend a lifetime to get rid of the punishments we should never have received in the first place.
In later years and up until today we put our freshly polished boots, let's highlight "freshly polished boots" outside the front door. Dirty boots have no chance! When the sky turns dark, it will get quiet in the homes. A loud knock will announce a surprise.
I already run an argument with Sarina today. Her boots are not in a shiny shape, and when I pointed it out, I got to hear: "Mschen, you are so old-fashioned. Nobody is polishing their shoes anymore." But she does look forward to tonight!
If the shoes shine and stand outside, we find nuts and small sweets and treats inside of them.
As I type this, it's starting to get dark outside. I have a few moments left to finish here.
A different memory is 27 years old! December 6, 1990
I remember it like yesterday. A grey and snowy day in Cincinnati, OH. I was driving home from the grocery store at 3:30 pm. I remember what car I drove and which street I was on. Pam called me: "All is well, but come to the hospital fast." Pam was Sarina's primary nurse in the NICU. (Hello Pam, we still love you!)
Sarina was almost four months old when she finally extubated herself and was able to breathe on her own. And that on St. Nikolas Day! I was harboring this tremendous hope that she would be home for Christmas. Getting rid of the respirator was the first necessary step! It did not work out that way. She didn't come home until February of 1991.
She had tried three times before to pull the nasal cannula out but never made it. Her lungs would not support her desperate wish to get rid of that scratching thing in her nose. Right there in these months when she fought for her life she showed that "I can do it and I can do it alone" attitude, which makes her the extraordinary young woman she is.
The "I can do it alone," is killing me on a daily basis while at the same time makes me extremely happy. None of what Sarina has accomplished would ever happen without this strong will to survive. Today it puts her in the position to keep reaching for her dreams. She is a fighter.
I know I need to be her parachute for a little longer so she can fly!
When I look at this picture, I not only see this moment come alive. I feel the same soul touching excitement and tremendous hope I felt that day. "My daughter will survive!"
Let me dry up my happy tears now and help to fill those boots and
Happy Nikolaus Day!
Love always, Manuela