Posted in Uncategorized

Cat Scan 3:00 a.m.

Looking back at power outages and kids and ice storms and ER visits…

Kelly Salasin

Upon rising after three hours of sleep to sun streaming through crystallized trees in a tinsel-like forest, the late night trip to the Emergency Room seemed like a dream.

Morning After, Kelly Salasin, Vermont

When our eight-year old woke just after midnight with a throbbing headache followed by vomiting, we were scared. He had fallen at the ice skating rink that afternoon and whacked his head hard. I checked his pupils, tracked his eyes and asked him questions.  It was probably just the stomach flu–which didn’t seem fair either.

Handing him over to his father, I grabbed a flashlight in search of the computer to see what the Internet could tell us. As a last resort, I would wake our family doctor.  The phone line was dead… again.

If it hadn’t already, this three-day weekend now seemed solidly stacked against us.  We’d been without power since Thursday and our water supplies for…

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Posted in College, Holidays, Insight, Nuts & Bolts, Teens, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

Puzzles & Families, A-Z

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A 1000 piece puzzle may be the most revealing of family activities, exposing individual traits that shape the function (& dysfunction) of the dynamic of shared lives…

a. A few years back I bought a Will Moses “Thanksgiving Snows” puzzle as a charming kick off to the thanksgiving break

b. (even though we have never finished a puzzle in a decade)

c. my youngest and i started the puzzle; while my husband repeatedly asked if we were ready to pack it up.

d. i finally gave in (gave up) and sorted the edges and the finished bits into ziplocks to give us a better start in the following year

e. a year later i put the puzzle out again

f. my husband taped cardboard together so that the puzzle could be easily relocated

g. our oldest, home from college, never approached the puzzle. (in 2015 or 2016)

h. our youngest and i began the outer edges

i. he complained that no one was returning to the puzzle

j. he then devised a flow chart to assemble the ample sky pieces which he sorted–by cut

k. i showed our oldest his brother’s flow chart of sky pieces as a point of amusement; he was only slightly interested. maybe.

l. i ignored the flow chart and sky pieces and began with the recognizable barns, houses & people

m. i insisted that my husband join me

n. he claimed that he was too overwhelmed to participate so I suggested he begin with the large yellow house, and I set him up with a pile of yellow pieces

o. He insisted he needed all the pieces to the yellow house in order to continue and proceeded to handle every piece in the box in search of more yellow house pieces.

p. From time to time I looked over at his work, and annoyed, ran my hand randomly through the box, and found more yellow house pieces instantaneously than he did with his methodical sorting

q. looking up, he accused me of “taking all the glory,” because I put together the pieces of a man he had apparently found. (He told me to stick to the barn i was building.)

r. i told him that i didn’t realize that the man was his and also that i was working on three barns, two wagons, a few turkeys, a bunch of people, and other unidentifiable items

s. he continued sorting pieces one by one, while i suggested he return to the house with what he already had;

t. i left the puzzle. puzzles are fun for me for a moment, and then maddening.

u. an hour later, i insisted my husband step away from the puzzle

v. we are both afraid of what our youngest will say when he comes down and finds his system ignored

xyz… (to be continued)

post script: in 2017 we finished the puzzle! (in 2018, my husband claimed that he couldn’t find the puzzle in the attic.)

Posted in (Actual) Empty Nest, Home again, Mid-Life Mama, Mother to Crone, Nuts & Bolts, Twenty-something, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

Mother as Nourisher

 

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!

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

As a mother of two, and as a lifelong early & elementary educator, and as the oldest of 8, not to mention being born 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 any kids of my own.

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

At the table closest to us, the mother had a fruit cup and her child had waffles or pancakes or french toast (I can’t remember which). 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 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 about 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.

“Maybe that mother and child had a really good connection before breakfast,” I said. “Maybe they’re going out for a hike afterward. Maybe this was her only quiet moment of the day.”

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

That said, I have two lasting memories of eating out with my youngest son when he was a boy: There was the morning I had tea and he had waffles at the restaurant attached to the Butterfly Museum (because we had mistakenly arrived before it opened), and there was the first time he tried sushi and to my surprise 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, 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 my husband 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 them both and was grateful to be eating with grownups.

Posted in (Actual) Empty Nest, College, Home again, Insight, Mid-Life Mama, Mother to Crone, Twenty-something, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

Blink!

Though it doesn’t make it hurt any less to look into their dark and vacant rooms, It turns out that they leave home at just the right time.

You’re getting older.
Noises bother you.
Lights. Chaos. Commotion.

You realize you’ve run a marathon and you’re not sure how you did it.

You’re more and more attracted to simplicity, ease, slow.

Exhale.
Inhale.
Exhale.

They’re home!

Posted in College, Insight, Round Two, Takes a Village, Teens, What's Next? (18 & beyond), Wisdom of Youth

Children as teachers


Turns out that we no longer have paints at home, yet another casualty of grown children. And so I’ve made my very first rally signs with marker and crayon. Seems like I’ve been to lots of rallies in the past few years after barely any before and I’ve always been too shy to bring my own sign.

While I’m not on the frontline when it comes to the plight of LGBTQ folks, I do know what it is to be marginalized, dehumanized and physically threatened so I’m showing up to listen and learn in the hope that others feel less alone.

~

It was 2013 when I noticed a non-gendered bathroom at my first born’s college. I ducked into it because I was intrigued and because it was closer than the women’s bathroom and mostly because it was private and I’m an introvert and bathrooms are sometimes the quickest place to regroup.

At some point, around the age of 50, or was it 40, the world started moving too fast, and I couldn’t keep up, and didn’t want to try. (My youngest talks a lot about Mars.)

When it comes to human rights, however, I have to try. My best. I know what it is to be invisible. To be marginalized. To be targeted. To be excluded.

Today I looked up the term: Gender Queer.

My youngest has long accused me of binary thinking when it comes to my use of feminine and masculine to describe what I insist are non-gendered qualities. I remind him that he’s ahead of me and that I’m still learning.

This summer when asked by older friend what I thought of parents allowing their children to be trans (she was furious), I answered that I was doing a lot of listening these days, instead of judging.

On the contrary, I do my best to ignore #45’s antics when I can. This is a survival strategy that I developed as a young woman when faced with the outrageous behavior of men addicted to substances, rage, power and privilege.

But sometimes attention is due, particularly when what He says further marginalizes those who are vulnerable, even if he’s saying it to galvanize fear in order to bend the arc of history further away from justice.

So to those who are marginalized by gender expression or identification, I may not understand everything and I may say some things wrong, but I’m with you. I want to be with you. I’m willing to be with you.

Keep speaking.

I’ll keep listening.

You matter. Just as you are.

#Transrightsarehumanrights #VOTE

 

Posted in (Actual) Empty Nest, College, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

Half-Life

After 6 weeks apart, a week-long school break has served as the turning point for this half-life we’ve been living since we deposited our youngest (and his most cherished belongings) into a dormitory room on a campus 100 miles away.

Before this half-life becomes any more normalized, I want to attempt to capture what it is to be without children in the home after revolving around their presence for a quarter of a century.

I did not fill the vacancy so that I might truly know the absence and grieve it, and as such, create space for something new to grow.

I did, however, just ahead of his departure and in the weeks in between his visits home (weekend whirlwinds) rearrange some things, including the bathroom, the livingroom, the kitchen, and the mudroom.

It’s only now that I notice that I’ve turned the linen stand and the bookshelf and the kitchen island on the diagonal. (I suppose I would have turned everything upside down if I could.)

In the absence of a primal scream in the middle of a college campus, it helps to have one’s private world reflect how life’s tilt.

The simplicity. The silence. The ease. The futility. The vacancy. The despair

Who am I now?
Where is my grand retirement party?
Is my best work behind me?

And have I become irrelevant to it, like the founder of a fabulous company who is suddenly dismissed by the very board that she created to help it grow?

(Where is my severance package!!)

I know this half-life has reached a turning point because when he was home for the long stay, I felt myself e-x-h-ale as if I’d been holding my breath underwater for weeks.

There was some talk of my oldest returning home in the New Year, but those plans have since altered, as I, through the trial and error of attachment (favorably or unfavorably), continue to learn that the pronouncements of young adults
are always in flux, like the pronouncement my youngest made on his first weekend home:

“I don’t think of our house as home anymore. I feel sad here actually. I miss my dorm room and my friends. That’s my home now.”

Separation is hard work. For each one of us. Made more challenging by strong, healthy relationships. (If only we were happy to be rid of each other!)

None of this comes as a surprise. I’ve been preparing for it since I held my first born son at my breast, and realized in the depth of unfathomable love, with chilling sleepless clarity:

Heartbreak is my destiny.

No wonder men like Trump say they won’t have anything to do with their children. Loving is a fiercely courageous act.

It is only now that I realize how the radical separation between mother and child is also in store for my husband and me.

If not divorce, then death.

No wonder Trump cheats and trades in his wives so that in their youthful reflection he can hide from his own demise.

For the first time in 30+ years, my husband and I began sleeping apart. (There are so many beds!)

Recently, however, we’ve come together again which was the most notable sign that something had shifted in our half-life.

But first, our unusual separation was punctuated by the night that I brought my old blankies and ragged puppy to bed after a banishment that took place out of necessity when I placed a baby beside me in bed.

It appears that before I turn toward my husband again, I am turning toward myself.

Just yesterday in the midst of one mistake after another, I overheard myself say, “You’re so adorable, Kelly. I love you.”

And although Casey was the more reluctant one to sleep apart (to do anything apart really), to my dismay (and deep appreciation), he found in the space between us greater self-love, taking time to tend to his needs in ways he never much heeded before.

As we turn the corner on this half-life, I find myself thinking back to the great disruption that parenting first presented, of how quickly it swept away the sweet sense of ourselves as two, so that when our second child was born, there was the bittersweetness of nothing to lose.

I’ve been catching glimpses of that two-ness lately, we both have, and it’s a quickening that is hard to bear now that the end of life is coming into focus.

And yet, aren’t both our names Celtic for “Warrior,” and haven’t we been courageous in loving, each in our own way, for 30+ years.

There are times when I suspect that we will age to the end, and there are times when I feel the pull of an earlier desire–to be without the weight of home and belongings.

I think that Moms should go too. At least for a time. To rediscover who we were before we gave our lives to others.

“I can’t live in a museum of our family!” I’ve said again and again, to each of them, but if I’m honest, I am speaking to myself.

What I do appreciate in remaining present to this vacancy, is the slowing down, which brings to mind what the poet May Sarton said:

“Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is… an instrument of grace.”

And wasn’t it my child, who brought me to my knees, to see what he was seeing, and aren’t I forever the better for it.

Posted in Fragile Life, Insight, Mother to Crone, Nuts & Bolts

Voting: HOW TO

There are so many things important to me when choosing a candidate.

Character is key as are issues related to those most marginalized in society.

Years ago I remember overhearing my son explain to house guests why I couldn’t accompany them on a day trip.

I was on a grassroots organizing call around health care with President Obama. My youngest thought it was just the two of us on the call: Mom and the President of the United States of America. My older son had a better understanding.

“You don’t have health care!” our guests said, concerned.

“We have it,” my older son said, “But Mom wants everyone to have it.”

Gun Sense is another one of those issues that deeply affects the marginalized in society, whether it’s people of color, women (50 a month killed by intimate partners) or most painfully–children–killed–at schools and in homes–by their peers–when guns aren’t properly stored.

As an adult I feel morally responsible to take action with regard to these deaths. Voting is one way I do that.

Vote on November 6. (Or vote early.)