Posted in (Actual) Empty Nest, New Mother

Women’s Work

I never liked showers, never enjoyed dressing up and sitting among dozens of women, eating white cake with white-icing and crudite with ranch dressing, while the bride or the expectant mother unwrapped box after box of ribboned boxes.

I never understood why onesies and kitchen gadgets were the domain of women, and I resented the absence of men among the suffering.

When I think back I can’t recall my own bridal shower, but I do remember the engagement party that we hosted together because it was multi-aged and co-ed, and held outside at the park.

Oh wait, here’s a memory…

I see my dear friend and her mother at a table in a restaurant above the bay.

I had thought that was someone else’s shower, but there is also a box of two elegant champagne glasses on my lap with these simple words on the card:

You bring my son joy.

After her son and I relocated to Vermont, and became parents to our first born–for whom there were several showers–one back at the shore (just women), one at his work (co-ed), one at our neighbor’s (co-ed) and one among our Al-Anon friends after the birth (also co-ed)–I discovered another tradition among women that I had never experienced before, one which was much more practical and soulful.

A BLESSINGWAY.

When I was pregnant with my second child, I was desperate to have one myself–this circle of women gathering to prepare a mother for the journey that lie ahead– labor, delivery, nursing and nurturing.

I set mine a month ahead of my due date, not so that I would look better in the photos (like many do with baby showers) but because I was afraid that I might miss the opportunity if this baby came early. (Both sons did.)

I have a scrapbook of my first and only Blessingway. It is still a touchstone for courage and vulnerability, soul and manifestation. In it, are the words that women wrote to me about the journey, some I know by heart.

My boys are now men, the youngest about to graduate highschool (we hope), and it is the impact of his academic and personal struggles, like those of his older brother’s when he was a teen, which have offered opportunities for our marriage to grow (or sour), ie. putting us through the ringer, forcing us to revisit unfinished pasts, and to determine how we wanted to move forward, which bring to mind this morning the words on the card which I glued onto one of the very last pages of the Blessingway scrapbook long before I knew what they could mean:

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Posted in Adult Offspring, College, Fragile Life, Insight, Milestone Moments, Mother to Crone, Nuts & Bolts, Takes a Village, Twenty-something, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

No Guarantees


There’s something about a college graduation.

I can’t put my finger on it.

Last weekend, at the farmers market, I came across another college graduate and she told me about her plans to return west to start her career, and I walked away weeping.

I’m grateful for sunny days. For sunglasses.

I think it’s time. Maybe it’s time. Time passing.

Teens becoming grownups. Everything changing, reshaping.

I had come to the Farmer’s Market from yoga so maybe I was especially tender. I feel awfully proud of my son’s graduation, but I’m not sure why. What did I have to do with it?

I actually felt called out when the commencement speaker said: “Thank your parents,” especially as I looked around at all the richer parents or harder working ones or more sacrificing ones–those who put their kids through school while ours did it on his own.

And then I remembered all the trips I made to be close by when he was going through something that I couldn’t quite figure and then all the times I helped him navigate through alternate routes and detours and segues. I remembered all the encouragement and returns and goodbyes and trips to the airport. The fights. The pillow talk. The persistence. So much persistence.

Maybe I feel used up.

Maybe that’s just right.

I gave it my all, I did.

He seemed so happy on his graduation day and that made me happy. It still does. He was so full of himself in the way that every one of us should be at such a moment. Inflated. Buoyant. Light. The whole point of me was to be ballast. Weight. Homecoming. Backboard. Less and less relevant.

I always feel better when I write into something that I don’t quite understand even if I don’t understand it much better afterward.

Just showing up for myself is something.

Like I showed up for him.

Like we’ve been showing up for this nation.
For women.
For immigrants.
For Muslims and Jews and POC.
For the underpaid. The uninsured.

No guarantees.

Posted in Insight, Mother to Crone

Mothers, SIT Down!

Me & my boys many moons ago

Now that I’m no longer doing it with little kids or teenagers (or even with my husband), I have come to the realization that this every-day, taken-for-granted necessity is as complex and demanding as many top-dollar responsibilities.

Mood, energy level and hunger aside, the thought processes required to fulfill this obligation are exceedingly complex.

Preference, season, local, organic, sustainability, dietary, budgetary, bulk, sale, recipe, occasion, guests… What have I forgotten?

At 55, I cannot believe that anyone is expected to make multi-faceted decisions affecting family health, wellbeing & financial stability while simultaneously caring for children. Women must refuse to do so any longer. It is simply too taxing and motherhood is tax enough. (Men, however, should grocery shop with children as much as possible. For the next thousand years.)

I rarely shop on a Sunday and it was disheartening to see the aisles absent of men this morning, and instead populated by frantic mothers tending to the needs of children while carefully filling a cart.

If ever you ever come across a young mother grocery shopping without children in tow, she looks as if she is on vacation, so freed is her mind to focus or daydream; while men shopping alone often look perplexed or entirely ambivalent.

I always thought I loved grocery shopping. I used to cry when my mother left me behind. Once I could drive, I did the shopping for her. With several younger siblings, I may have simply been hungry. 8 gallons of milk is all I can remember. I can still see the white jugs lining the bottom of my cart with a signed check in my pocket.

When I was lucky enough to accompany my mother as a girl, she would coach me and my younger siblings before heading inside. “Previewing,” is what the educators call it now. Though uneducated, my mother was a brilliant developmentalist. As the eldest of 8 and the mother of 8 (with an absentee husband), this may have been a matter of survival. She often apologized, explaining that as her first, I had been her practice child.

When I went into teaching, she expressed alarm. “All those children,” she’d say, “How will you manage?” But I liked the order and routine of the classroom much better than the chaos and ambiguity of the home, as if those were my choices, which were much better than hers.

It turns out, I was anxious in the classroom too, just as I was in the home and in the grocery store, even alone.

What is this internal pressure?

I wasn’t born with it.

I suppose it was inherited through the generations of women asked to do so much at once with so little recognition of what it is they faced and considered and decided every hour of every day.

Mothers, AMAZE me.
WOMEN amaze me.

SIT DOWN, Women!
Put up your feet.
You deserve it.
YOU ARE ENOUGH.
You are MORE than enough.

TAKE A BOW!

Posted in College, Insight, Teens, What's Next? (18 & beyond), Wisdom of Youth

Parenting bites…

With the nest almost empty now, my parenting insights come in shorter bits which I suppose is just about right as I turn more & more toward other things…

And yet, I’m learning that this role is the role of a lifetime…

~

Payback Theater

That rare night when he goes to bed before us. A dramatized rendition of what we endure night after night. Door latches. Stairs. Lights. A sudden desire to share scientific discoveries, insights, intimacies.

~

IN A FAMILY WAY

It’s such a comfort, this being a family. A buffer. An ease. A certainty. Sweet. Exhausting. Consuming. Distracting.

The silence, after, is deafening. Resurrecting. The original. Sin. Of separation. Abandonment. Mortality.

There is this larger family. This shared dwelling. This belonging.

There is this whole.

Past. Present. Future.

One.

~

OUR TURN

My state is proposing a 24-hour waiting period to buy a handgun.

Here’s an idea. Until this country figures out its shit when it comes to guns, men are unable to purchase them, and women are in charge of any firearms in the home. Furthermore, public funds are provided to women for firearm training and to provide the necessary equipment for safekeeping. Additionally, all new hires in positions that require firearms will be women until such time that a 50/50 gender balance is achieved in police departments, security teams, military personnel, etc. Public funding will also post armed women at every school, church, and each of the other venues that the men of our country frequent to kill people begrudgingly and at random.

You’ve had our vote, our money, our bodies. We’ll have your guns.

~

FROM THE MOUTH OF BABES

”It’s like the release of a new iPhone. Is it going to be good, and are we gonna like it, or is it just gonna be the same thing without a headphone jack?”

Our youngest, on the Mueller Report

~

APOCALYPSE

You know how if your kids are plugged in–at home or in the car–you gain some well-deserved solace, but it’s bittersweet because they’re checked out, like that rambunctious kid in your classroom on Ritalin, or the outlying boroughs of NYC, silenced by the seduction of indoor screens, or the neighborhood of my childhood on the base at West Point, the roads in front of the homes now three times as full with oversized SUVs obscurring the view of the Hudson, while the sidewalks and the playgrounds and the woods, once sprinkled with kids, are barren, even on a perfect July day, like the ghost town we visited when we lived in the Rockies, or the Apocalypse we inhabit now–quieted, distracted, consumed.

Posted in *Workshops, Home again, Nuts & Bolts, Teens, Tweens, Twenty-something, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

YOUR Plate is TOO Full!

Gender oppression begins in the home. Come eradicate it with me with this whole-family approach to conscious collaboration & change.

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The “How Full is YOUR Plate?” project was created back when my soon to be college graduate was in the 5th grade–complaining about his chores. “It’s not fair,” he’d say, claiming he had an unfair burden of responsibility.

This resulted in a dynamic investigation of what it takes to run a household–who does what, and how often it needs to be done–and this provided for just the right “AHA” (for each of us) to organically drive awareness, appreciation & change. (This, along with pizza, followed by a movie.)

Instead of an updated chore chart, the outcome in our household was a list of daily & weekly contribution “options”–a much better fit for our then 10-year old’s developmental stage and temperament–and one that created a routinized system for household management–for the entire family–little brother and parents included–one that we rely upon to this day.

My answer to just about any question–media, a friend, the car–is a consistent: “Have you contributed?” (Ie. Have you made contributions to our shared household?)

This approach was able to flex through the shifting landscape of seasonal, school, work & extracurricular activities as well as adapt through the elementary & middle school years, into the highschool & college years.

Even now, as our household begins to rock toward an empty nest with the accompanying pleasures & demands of short and long-term returns, it continues to serve (while also simplifying & sweetening the day to day during those times when my husband and I tend home by ourselves.)

~

Since those early years, this process has been shared with dozens of women (and their families) in workshops and retreats, locally and online.

What I hear echoed, again and again, is that the process serves as a wake-up call–for all.

For some, this process serves in subtle shifts, for others, it gives rise to moderate or radical changes.

With martyrdom aside, along with guilt and uncertainty, conscious collaboration unfolds more naturally in your home seeding the way forward to a more gender-just world.

~

How FULL is YOUR plate online workshop:

Each week over the course of a month, you will receive a new DIY lesson to review, prepare and implement in your household, with my encouragement, insight and support along the way.

Our focus will be in the kitchen–the center of the home–where meals are prepared and shared and where many hands make light work.

Each activity will build upon the previous one, shaping the way forward with growing awareness and appreciation.

Should you want to expand the practice, you’ll be empowered to apply it beyond the kitchen, as well as return to it whenever household management requires renewed attention & invigoration.

This straightforward DIY journey is delivered on a private site dedicated to individual subscribers.

Journeys begin on the 1st day of the month following enrollment.

Questions, connections & insights are welcome along the way, but there is no expectation or any particular requirement of participation. You decide how and when you do it in your home as you see fit.

~

Facilitator, Kelly Salasin, is passionate about seeding gender equity and voice in the home. She is a lifelong educator & learner, author & workshop/retreat leader who frequently assists leading presenters at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Lenox, Massachusetts.

Each March, Kelly serves an international NGO at the United Nations where she gathers with women and men from around the world (including her husband and their two sons) at the annual Commission on the Status of Women–promoting gender equity and stewardship of the earth, all of which begins at home.

~

Claim a spot in the next month-long journey: “How FULL is YOUR Plate?”

Offered this SpRiNg on a sliding scale. Claim the rate that fits your budget & priorities, no questions asked. All contributions appreciated as I continue to cultivate creative offerings in service of the greater good.

Range of possibilities: $33.33, $44.44, $55.55, $66.66, $77.77

https://www.paypal.me/KellySalasin/

This friendly & investigative journey will help shape the awareness & appreciation necessary to cultivate greater collaboration in the home and greater equality in the world.

Let’s get started!

Posted in (Actual) Empty Nest, Adult Offspring, College, Fragile Life, Holidays, Home again, Insight, Mid-Life Mama, Milestone Moments, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

Cutting Teeth

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Kelly Salasin, May 2018

I suppose every mother has her sweet spot.

There are those who get pregnant in an instant,

and those who feel better than ever when expecting,

and those who deliver with ease.

There are those for whom wearing a baby night and day is just right,

and those who delight in the ever-shifting expressions of a toddler,

and those who are made whole by the emerging consciousness of the preschooler.

There are those who can manage the ins and outs of homework and lessons and birthday parties and playdates,

and those who know whether to lean in or pull back as hormones shift and stakes heighten,

and those who can pivot from manager to consultant providing just enough space and just enough support for young adults to emerge.

There are even those who go on to develop healthy, reciprocal friendships with grown offspring.

~

From Thanksgiving to the New Year, this Empty Nest of mine has been awakened in new and mysterious ways leaving me unable to place my own sweet spot (though I was once particularly fond of the preschool mind.)

And then they all departed, again–my oldest and his partner (until the next holiday perhaps), and my youngest on the 1:00 train for a few days in the city ahead of returning to school full time.

I wandered the empty house, and then lay down on the couch, absorbing the silence, until I found myself, like a teething baby, drooling.

I often wonder if I made the “right” choice. Perhaps if I had remained in a demanding career or at least made more money (both of these fit together nicely), I would be riddled with less self-doubt or at least less space to consider it.

While they were home, I left them all, in an ice storm no less, to meet up with a young friend who since we last met became a mother, and I found her in a kitchen soothing an 8-month-old baby girl who was cutting her first teeth.

“Teething,” I said, “That was my hardest time.”

I watched as my friend juggled cooking and setting the table and conversation while tending to her child—diapers, feeding, play, comfort—revealing a depth of connection between these two beings, as if it was always so.

It’s the absence of control, matched with the emotional impact, coupled with the unpredictability and absurd variability, that slays me, particularly now, when I have such little reference for my role and so little clarity of how to do and not overdo.

Is this the little girl I carried?
Is this the little boy at play?

As the sun sets on another day, on another month-long school vacation, and on the first half of my 50’s, I have forgotten who I am.

Sunrise, sunset, Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears.

One night, after everyone went up to bed, I took to the stairs, tucking my head under the railing while playing the soundtrack from Fiddler on the Roof to an empty room.

What words of wisdom can I give them?
How can I help to ease their way?

I looked out across the kitchen table to the French doors and recognized that new paths were emerging while the sweetness and burden of the path once shared necessarily fades…

Now they must learn from one another
Day by day.

Posted in Adult Offspring, Nuts & Bolts

Watching my kids eat…


They’re 18 and 23, and they don’t live with me anymore, but if we’re eating together, or worse yet if I’m simply watching them eat, I’m compelled to get involved.

Aren’t you going to finish that?
Do you want more butter?
Does that need to be heated up?
Don’t you like the soup?

WTF!

(I need much larger FONT.)

And it’s not just loving, motherly attention I’m expressing, but anxiety, compulsion, PTSD even.

As a mother of two, and as a lifelong early & elementary educator, and as the oldest of 8, not to mention as FEMALE, I’ve attended to children at mealtimes since I was old enough to talk—from bottle-feeding to spoon-feeding to fixing meals and to taking my youngest siblings (and later nephews & nieces) out to Pizza Hut long before I had kids of my own.

Over the weekend my husband and I went out for brunch–with our grown kids–where we were seated near two different tables, each holding a mother and a young son and no one else. Adorable.

At the table closest to us, the mother had a fruit cup and her child had waffles or pancakes or french toast (one of those). At the other table, it was the child who had the fruit cup while the mother had yogurt with granola. I noticed this and something else when I passed their tables on my way to the bathroom.

The child with fruit was on a device.

“Did you see those two tables?” my husband later said as we were walking to our car. “I felt so sad about the mother who missed out on talking to her kid.”

I paused before I replied, and then I suggested that perhaps my husband had a gender bias/blindness, unaware of how demanding it is on mothers to eat out with their children.

My favorite scene illustrating this parental gender differential is one that takes place at the dinner table with the Incredibles. For years, I dropped this phrase on my husband:

BOB, it’s time to ENGAGE.

Screen-Shot-2018-04-16-at-12.17.48-PM.png

“Maybe that mother and child had a really good connection before breakfast,” I said to my husband, as we crossed the street. “Maybe they’re going out for a hike afterward. Maybe this was the mom’s only quiet moment of the day.”

Our own kids were device free in the world and maybe that had been a mistake. Maybe I would have been more relaxed if they were more fully occupied without my attention.

That said, I have two lasting memories of eating out with my youngest when he was a boy…

The first was the morning that we arrived to the Butterfly Museum before it opened. I had tea and he had waffles.

The second was the first time that he tried sushi and loved it.

I remember being in Japan for work and dining at a traditional restaurant where no one spoke any English and I was served a breakfast on a tray with a dozen ceramic dishes of mostly unrecognizable foods without any directions on how to use or not use the accompanying condiments.

I took cues from the small children at the table across from mine, toddlers really, thinking it more acceptable to stare at them then at a table with only adults.

They ate, like everyone else in the restaurant, almost silently, without a fuss, tasting everything on the tray, for a meal that lasted as long as a fancy dinner might.

Maybe Casey was right. Maybe that other mom was missing out. Maybe she was on the road and needed a break. Both mothers and sons seemed to enjoy a relaxing meal. I admired each of them and was grateful to be eating with grownups.