Posted in College, Mother to Crone, Twenty-something, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

a mother’s resolution

Saying goodbye again, K. Salasin, 2018

I’m not sure if it’s the hormones or the daily meditation practice or the surrender that comes with radical aging, but apparently, I’ve been assigned this New Year’s Resolution:

“Weep without restraint.”

I once went 4 years without a single tear–all the way through adolescence; and as a mother, my boys could count the times they saw me cry.

On this wintry day, I wake as I often do–migraine-y; only at 14 below, the pain doesn’t ease with rising & hydrating & showering.

Additionally, the departure of my first born is imminent. He only lives a few hours away this year (unlike the semester in Central America or the one across Europe or the season at the shore), but he is returning to school via Istanbul–to meet her family.

And more than that, and we shouldn’t have done it, but we’ve grown attached to him again, which is to say he arrived the week before Solstice and has been here ever since, all the way through to the Epiphany, so unlike previous years, when he was barely home at all for the holidays, let alone for more than a weekend in any season.

While he scurried around the house packing up, I felt my resistance shape like a barge inside me, and so I threw myself into cooking, just in case he was still around for lunch (and just so I wouldn’t flutter around him or re-arrange his room or decide we needed to relocate.)

Not only homemade spaghetti sauce (with Italian opera playing in the background) but a deep dish turkey pot pie, all served in my grandmother’s china.

He looks like his grandmother. He is dark-skinned like her. Wise. (Once at the height of summer, I cooked my mother’s Turkey soup to bear the ache of missing her.)

I dropped three different lids today while I prepared the feast that no one planned to eat, and he tripped up two sets of stairs while packing, and his younger brother dropped an entire tray of silverware on the dishwasher rack, (cracking a piece of my grandmother’s china) while their father had to be sent to his room to meditate for fear he would implode with his silent suffering.

They just left for the airport. All three of my men. Well, sort of. There are a few last minute stops and an overnight at a friend’s place outside of Boston for the one who is flying.

Tomorrow, my husband and our 17-year-old–will return to the high school; and then this house on this hill in the middle of the woods will be all mine again.

No doubt, I will do what I did when our son first went off to college: step into his room and steep in the absence of him, confounded by the depth and breadth of motherhood within the constant tugging of selfhood (or is self now occupied within mother?)

“Your life has blessed mine,” I told him as we embraced in the kitchen after he washed the lunch pots.

I kissed this bristly man, my baby, on both cheeks, and even on his forehead, suddenly communing with the 4 year-old boy whose self was so intertwined with mine, instead of this 22 year-old man whose life continues to twine elsewhere, across oceans and continents, as if we hadn’t shared the same body and breath.

I am learning what it is to love. It is a wave. A tide. A flood. A desert.An oasis. A fresh, pulsing spring.

At best, I am reed like. Moving toward and away. Loving myself and this vacancy even as I weep, especially as I weep, keeping my soul moist, my heart resilient, and my life ready to expand or contract at any moment.

Posted in Fragile Life, Mid-Life Mama, Mother to Crone, Round Two, Teens, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

school bus

although only “minutes” have passed since i immersed myself in the work of the day… i hear the school bus go by, again. and though no child of mine is upon it, i still find myself marking time as it comes and goes, as my youngest prepares to fly the nest, and the beginning and ending of day are almost touching.

Posted in College, Mid-Life Mama, Milestone Moments, Round Two, Teens, Twenty-something, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

11 Things We Learned~in a week without the kids

empty nest
One summer a few years back, I stumbled upon a brilliant act of self-love. I arranged for both of our boys to be away from home at the same time.

Our oldest departed early Sunday morning on a road trip with his girlfriend, while our youngest was scheduled to be dropped off at camp that very afternoon.

On the drive over to Waubanog, my husband turned to me with a giddy whisper, asking What do you want to do AFTER…!

I could barely contain my delight and hoped my son wouldn’t see or sense it from the backseat.

Mostly we slept, and went out to eat, and enjoyed lots of summer cocktails.

A week later, we’d also learned some things about ourselves; things we could no longer blame on the kids:

1. We make lots of messes.

2. We use lots of glasses.

3. We depend on their noise, demands, connection & love to direct our days, our emotions, our very thoughts.

4. We’d do well to focus more on our own shit. Inside and out. There’s plenty there.

5. They apparently keep animals away from our gardens.
(Either that or they arranged for the groundhog to eat all the greens so that they wouldn’t have to.)

6. Casey & I still enjoy each others company more than we do anyone else. (Following some initial turbulence.)

7. We can’t wait for them to leave, and when they’re finally gone, we miss them.  (Duh.)

8. We have softer edges without them, but much less dimension.

9. There will always be an Aidan and a Lloyd shaped empty space in our hearts once they’ve grown.
(Sappy, but true. OUCH.)

10. Even without the distraction, disturbance & delight of children, we don’t “get done” what we imagined.

11. Our lives without them will easily out distance the day-to-day we’ve shared as a family.

At the end of that summer, our oldest and his beloved set to repainting his walls. Their youthful abandon spilled out of his room and down the stairs and into the kitchen; as did the palpable presence of endings–he would leave for college that week and they would break up rather than endure a long distance relationship (and I was not to ask about how or if we would see her once he was gone.)

Add to this the juxtaposition of my baby sister’s first born who had just celebrated his first birthday. His milestones seemed to be engaged in some kind of parallel dance with those taking place in my home.

I hold no regrets. I have lived well and loved our years with children; and I am proud to see them spread their wings; though what is also true is that I can barely breathe at the thought of a completely empty house, or imagine one that doesn’t begin and end with camps and semesters and vacations.

When the boys were babies, Casey & I would race up the stairs to be the first to arrive after naptime–to be that holy recipient of their precious waking gaze of delight & devotion.

At the end of that week apart, instead of a set of stairs, it was a steep hill, and the baby was 13 and he was smelly, carrying all of his gear from a week in a tent. Casey wore flip flops. I chose sneakers. I may have pushed him off the path. More than once.

What I’ve learned most from my time with and apart from my children is something I feel a bit embarrassed to share…

A deep & abiding love for myself, and the pleasure of my own company.

Which alas, grew out of my fierce love for them–both in their comings and their goings.

This past week, in another brilliant act of self-love, I sent my husband off on a trip to retrieve our youngest from his time at the shore with his young cousin–who is now 4 years old.

It was a hard decision not to go along. I missed his little sister’s second birthday. I missed spending time with my entire extended family. I missed a beach trip I’ve taken every summer since we moved to the mountains 23 years ago.

But I also felt conflicted about leaving because it was my oldest son’s birthday, and even though he lived three hours away and planned to spend his 21st with his friends instead of coming home, I wanted to be here. Just to the hold the place of home if nothing else.

I also wanted to write. And to find myself. And to hear my own thoughts. Especially as my first born came of age.

After the initial pangs of emptiness, I settled into a delicious morning of word and bird song and green tea.

Cue the phone.

Guess who’s coming home.

Posted in College, Mid-Life Mama, Nuts & Bolts, Twenty-something, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

home again, gone again

photo: Julie Fender-Zobel

the food lasts longer.
so does the cleaning.
routines are simpler.
decisions too.
but less than 48 hours later,
our hearts ache in his absence.
so we tell them:
don’t be silly,
he’ll be back soon.
but hearts are funny that way.
families too.

Posted in *Workshops, Fragile Life, Mid-Life Mama, Nuts & Bolts, Teens, Tweens, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

CHORES–Why they’re WORTH the FIGHT

I’ve written about the importance of chores before, including these posts:

The Necessity of Chores


How Full is Your Plate? an online workshop for moms

But what I’ve failed to fully admit is how much easier it would be to  do everything myself.
(And it would be done a lot better.)

Why do I bother?

I’d like to say that I do it all for them–to make them better citizens, humans, energetic beings (and that is true); but another truth is that I don’t want to do everything so it’s worth it to have some jobs done less than perfectly.

BUT the angst. THE ANGST!
The reminding. The redirecting. The reprimands.

Sometimes I find myself questioning if it’s worth it, and questioning whether I should be encouraging other people to suffer like this by leading workshops on chore sharing in the home.

And then there are those other times, when in the distance, I hear the sweet and soothing sound of a boy swishing a toilet, or vacuuming a room, or emptying waste baskets; and I think: I AM BRILLIANT.

But what if you like doing your own chores and want them done perfectly?

I still recommend sharing the load. Here’s why:

The Necessity of Chores

But what if your teen’s resistance is so strong that it takes way more energy than you can manage to keep them in the game?

It’s still vital. For them.
Try a dose of creativity, like this:


And now for a new chunk of highly salient information expanding on why it’s worth the EFFORT:

Kids need conflict to grow up. Particularly teenagers. It’s part of the individuation process. It’s how they begin to separate from our cozy nest and shape their own flight.

When I accept that conflict is necessary, I surrender to it, and not just that, I RESPECT it.

This is quite revolutionary.

Conflict isn’t in the way,
it IS The Way.

I’d like to take credit for this awareness, but my therapist gets a lot of that.

See this post for how I put it into action:

Episiotomy (of love)

And here’s something even more radical for your consideration:

Since conflict is a necessary part of the developmental process, particularly with teens, then how cool is it that they get their daily/weekly dose of parental conflict in a way that makes such a foundational difference in family life–working together to honor and contribute to the space we share–rather than investing it in other areas with much higher stakes.  (Think sex, drugs, alcohol.)

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

Episiotomy (of love)

broken_heart1Last night I felt the “Lloyd void.”

Lloyd is my first born, and after a month at home (following a season abroad), we deposited him back at the university.

This. This is my first morning of my first week alone in the home since before Thanksgiving.

I work at home. I require clear space to do my work. Emotionally. Physically. Mentally.

After a month of sweet chaos together, Lloyd’s final week home was so turbulent as to render the separation less severe. (Think episiotomy.)

The tension reached its physical climax, however, on our final morning together, as we stood face to face, above the last box, in a tug of war–with a kettle.

I knew that the unpacking of this last box wasn’t entirely rational, especially since it was already loaded into the car.

But it wasn’t organized. It had a jumble of food and pharmacy and odds and ends that had no business together; and more importantly, I couldn’t tell if he had everything he needed. Without me.

So before he got up, I unpacked it and resorted it–into like items–each with their own smaller box; and then I dashed around the house, adding things–like tea, and bandaids and peanutbutter.

When he came down the stairs to the sight of this intrusion, he was appalled. He started throwing everything back into the larger box; while I tried to stop him. Like the tide. Of time. And life. And love.

The kettle was large enough that we could both have our hands on it at the same time. We each pulled in our own direction.

“Let me have this,” I said, and I didn’t mean the kettle.

Please, let me have this irrational, let-me-do-this-last-thing-for-you, mother-panicked, moment.

And he did.

Posted in College, Fragile Life, Mid-Life Mama, Milestone Moments

Passion. Purpose. Partying.

There are two freedoms – the false, where a man is free to do what he likes;
the true, where he is free to do what he ought.
~Charles Kingsley

Is it me or is there something inherently wrong with dropping your child off at college? And not just because you’re leaving him at an institution. But because that institution is filled with throngs of the people who are of the same age and predilection.

Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP/Corbis

Is this kind of homogeneous grouping  ever a good idea? Think of nursing homes. Prisons. The military. North Korea. British cooking. Congress.

As we arrive at my son’s new, sophomore year suite, we find his roommates steeped in the activity of the only Sunday night of the semester without homework.

I fight the urge to say,”You don’t have to stay.” Instead I whisper, “Everything is a choice.”

He whispers back, teasing me: “Like heroin?”

“Yes, like heroin,” I say, “And staying in this dorm.”

As we hug goodbye in the hallway, I suggest that he reconsider the academic dorm, but he lets me know that those students are even more serious about drugs.

I don’t want him to be too serious.  I think fun is important. In fact, when we arrived at the top of the stairs with his luggage and I heard the music blaring through the door of his suite, I had a moment of remembering.

The abandon.

The freedom.

I like freedom.

Partying is one way to explore it.

But it can quickly become a destination instead of an avenue.

(Plus, college is an expensive party.)