Posted in Insight, Sexuality, Teens

Organic Sex


I hear lots of talk about boys and pornography and the “naturalness” of curiosity. I like “natural” things.  But I’m not sure that sex on the internet or in a magazine constitutes “natural.”

It’s a funny thing for a “mother” to say, but I want my son to enjoy sex. I really do.  How could I not want him to embrace the pure pleasure of love making?

But I think the use of pornography interrupts the “organic” process of his sexuality.  It installs “ideas” of sex before the “real” thing can naturally unfold–forever corrupting his experience.

Forever is a strong word. But I have proof.  I myself followed my “natural” teen curiosity to places like Penthouse and Playboy.  (Thanks to uncles and fathers and bathroom reading and piles under beds.)

I didn’t understand the attraction to photo spreads of a woman’s spread, but I did like the stories. No, not the “articles,” but the erotic letter column.   And they drove me to place “story” above “presence” when it came to my own unfolding sexuality.

It took years, 20 to be exact, before that artificial fertilizer was chelated from the garden of my lovemaking.

I can’t imagine what it takes to chelate what is available now on the Internet.  And I can only imagine how far the toxins spread–deep into the well waters of our birthright.

I give my sister credit for describing sexuality as “organic.” We were talking about teens and porn, and she said that it was important for young people to find their own way to sexual expression rather than have it defined on the outside–a cart before the horse kind of thing.

“Later, it can be used it to spice things up,” she suggested.

But I don’t agree. I think “artifical” is always “artificial.” It doesn’t stem from the clear waters of presence or love, or the witness to beauty and the creativity that swells from pure desire.

I know more than one grown man who was forced to yank himself away from the addiction of pornography.  (Wives whisper these secrets to each other.)

“Like any delight, it’s a slippery slope,” I say to my son, referring to life’s pleasures: sex, alcohol, food, drugs, money. Just a blink of an eye and what you were using for delight begins to use you.  “Everyone is tempted by what’s available on the Internet,” I tell him. “Even moms.”

I’ve been talking to my son about porn since he was eleven–when access to the Web trickled into his life.  But recently, as he approaches 15 and we rise from dial-up to DSL,  I took the conversation a step further.

I’d rather you have

real sex

with a real girl

than use pornography.

This statement was a shock to both of us–as I have long claimed (somewhat seriously) that my son couldn’t date until he’s 18.

But that’s how important the gift of his sexuality is–that I’d rather he express it prematurely, then feed it artificially  (though I still hope he waits as long as possible to insure the fullest expression of his desire.)


So join me, will you, in keeping sex organic–not just for our teen sons and daughters, but for ourselves and our spirits and the “natural” gift of making love.

(Link to my marriage blog and its sister post: Organic Love.)

Posted in Books 2 Read

Simplicity Parenting

Kelly Salasin, Fall 2009

Here’s another shout out for a welcome read for parents and educators. Author Kim John Payne knows his stuff and shares it in ways that are both humorous and illuminating. More than that, his trademark compassion shows up on every page. Simplicity Parenting has been released at just the right time–before another holiday season is upon us.

Interestingly enough, Katrina Kenison, whose book I reviewed just last week, is the lead reviewer of Simplicity Parenting.  Katrina’s book, the gift of an ordinary day, is an excellent companion to Kim’s book.

ps. If you live in New England, you’ll be pleased to know that Kim John Payne will be speaking in Southern VT on November 12, 2009 at the Marlboro Elementary School.  For more info, contact Kelly.

Posted in Holidays, Milestone Moments, School, Takes a Village, Wisdom of Youth

in Paul Skye’s Eyes

~ Halloween, 2008

Halloween Onlookers, photo: Pam Burke, all rights reserved

This morning our school hosted its annual Halloween “All School Sing.” Teachers, parents and students arrived in costume, and groups of each were invited front and center to be celebrated with song.

The Sports Figures came up for “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” The Super Heroes included my youngest as a stellar Batman, and The Scary Ones included my niece as a truly frightening vampiress.

A masked Candidate “McCain;” photo: Pam Burke, all rights reserved

There were many more categories and songs, but this year featured a brand new group: The Politicians. It was a tiny group, but well covered, including a stupendous Sarah Palin (the Junior High teacher), a masked McCain, and a very authentic–though very young–Obama.

“Obama’s” proud mother Laura was seated beside me in the audience.  Her son Paul Skye beamed in his navy suit and well-combed hair as he approached the front of the room to cheers from the audience of children, “O-ba-ma, O-ba-ma, O-ba-ma!”

Laura leaned in to tell me what Paul Skye said to her on the day he chose his costume, “Not too many other kids at my school can be Obama.” My eyes stung with tears as I realized just how much it means to Paul Skye–to all children of color–and to each of us–that Barack Obama is our candidate for President.

Paul Skye as Candidate “Obama”; photo: Pam Burke, all rights reserved

In his shining eyes, I felt the promise of a new day.

~Kelly Salasin

Posted in Fragile Life

Sea of Miracles

for Jesse and Susannah

“And as to me, I know nothing else but miracles.”

Walt Whitman

I want to write about miracles, but I don’t know how. There must be some outstanding event from my blessed life to retell, but no single moment splashes up for attention. Has my life been without the miraculous? Indeed, no. It has been so flooded with miracles that I cannot distinguish a single one… until I take what comes.

This past winter, a young friend of ours died of Leukemia. His name was Jesse and he was 19 years old. My family and I rode out the month of December with him in prayers and rituals and tears.

Tucked under our Christmas tree was a book entitled, The Way WE Work. Driven to comprehend blood and bone marrow as Jesse’s deteriorated, our bedtime reading ritual was heightened. We delved into a greater understanding of this amazing human body, and I was struck- STRUCK- by how absolutely miraculous our bodies are. In comparison, the miracle of Jesse’s recovery seemed a simple request.

When we got word, just after the holiday, that “Jesse wasn’t going to make it,” I wondered about prayers. So many had been sent from so far that I didn’t understand how they could be left unanswered. Were they gathered there outside the hospital doors, unable to get in? Did the Critical Care Unit refuse them? Did God or Jesse have some other unimaginable plans?

My son Aidan, age 8, couldn’t bear the news and ran up to his room sobbing. We all joined him on his bed in silence until he lifted his head from his pillow and demanded, “HOW can they be sure Jesse is going to die?!”

In the face of all of our bright hopes, it was a heartbreaking thing to answer. “Death is like a birth,” I began, tentatively. “There are signs that a baby is coming and there are signs that a body is ending. No one is certain of the exact time, but they know when it is imminent.”

Through all of our tears, I whispered again that death and birth were–both–truly miraculous; and though unfathomably painful, it was also quite beautiful that Jesse’s mother and father would be with him when he left this world as they were when they welcomed him into it.

As is the Jewish custom, friends and family sit with the body after death until the time of burial. At an hour when we would typically be heading up to bed, my family walked outside into the hushed snow and drove twenty minutes to town. We arrived at the funeral home just before 9:00 pm under a bright full moon and took our place beside the pine box that held Jesse’s body. We brought Rumi and lullabies and sat in sacred silence before turning over Jesse’s care to his grandmother and aunts–and finally to Lisa, his mother.

It was a magical night, holy, like Christmas Eve–perched as it was on the threshold of life and death. The next bitterly cold afternoon, we stood atop a mountain and buried the beautiful box with Jesse under the earth. Shovel upon shovel, upon fistful and tears. Aidan snuck a clump of dirt from the pile and brought it home with him through the deep snow. We lit the yellow candles we had burned for Jesse each night since the New Year; and this time, we let them burn out.

Emptied in our grief, we did not find the one shining miracle we had wanted; that one defining moment that could shape a story so spectacularly such as this for you. It’s the story I had imagined retelling… the one where Jesse recovers and goes off to college like he dreamed. Because of prayers. Because of a miracle.

Who knows how miracles work… when they come and when they don’t! Isn’t it the job of a miracle to fit our expectations?! Aren’t miracles measured by specific outcomes, or is it by something else… by their effect, maybe?

If the latter is the truest account, than Jesse’s life and Jesse’s death were one and the same–miraculous.

As I type these words this morning, snow falls and falls and falls upon soft spring roads. Pondering life through my tears, I don’t know where to end this unlikely tale of miracles. Until the phone rings…

It is my sister, three thousand miles away, announcing the birth of her daughter, Susannah.

Another miracle splashes into my life…

Kelly Salasin, 2009

(To read the amazing letter that Jesse’s mother wrote and read at the unveiling of his headstone, click here.)

Posted in Fragile Life

Fragile Spring

a child, the age my own, lost her life this spring on the rural highway around the corner from where we just built our first home…
each morning when my son rides the yellow bus to school, he passes the spot where eight-year old Kayla was killed…
they played basketball together in the league this past winter…

the fragility of life is so palpable in the face of tragedy that it surprises me how permanent it can feel most of the time…
each day i think about how our lives would be changed if we lost a child…
each time i get into the car, my mind is on that beautiful field beside which those two cars collided on a perfectly clear Monday afternoon…

i slow down on the highway when i pass there, in reverence for what was lost …
why do people leave flowers?”  my sons ask after we bring a handful of daisies and pussy willows…
i don’t know really, “  i tell them  “it’s kind of an unspoken tradition…  honoring the person who died...”
i answer as much for them as for myself….

perhaps we leave flowers on the road to create beauty out of anguish, to make holy that place where suffering took place…
each day another plant or cross or bouquet appears;  this morning a  pink plastic flamingo…  maybe that little girl loved flamingos…  pink was probably her favorite color

i wish i could pour flowers from my heart onto that hill, creating a shrine to grief…

i think about route 9…  it’s such an every day part of our lives…  we spend so much time driving on it without the awareness that in just one moment, a truck could cross the road and make that trip to town anything but mundane…

a young woman from the college lost her life to it this winter on Hogback; and the year before, a gracious friend lost her life to its curves and beauty near the Adam’s Crossroads;  the driver of the truck that killed young Kayla also lost his life, at the age of 24

perhaps I’m more consumed than others to death by automobile- given that as a child i lost my grandmother in that way…
she was only in her fifties when she and her three best friends were killed on a bridge outside Philadelphia… they were on their way to a golf match…  four gals out for the day…  the truck driver who smashed into them never saw their broken down car that his sixteen wheeler drove the length of a football field across the great expanse of that bridge, finally landing on top for them…

as truck drivers surprisingly can do, he walked away unhurt…   I’ll never forget his name “Steven Nosel, age 32” …  i read it in the newspaper over and over again…
he had gotten lost that day outside the city and hadn’t meant to be on that bridge…  he must be in his sixties now

I’ve always wondered and worried how he survived that afternoon, the bright sun blinding his view…  rocking my world forever…

just recently I’ve begun looking for him… I’m not entirely sure why…
but like the flowers left on the roadside where a loved one has died-  i want to create something of beauty out of our suffering…

Posted in Milestone Moments, School, Takes a Village

Tribute to a School

When you have a brand new baby
and your mom dies during your first-born’s first-week of kindergarten
you never forget the steady presence of
and gratitude swells  your heart forever.

And when that same kindergartener moves to first grade,
you thank HIS lucky stars, it’s
because no matter how distracted he is
she will find a way to love him.

And when the classrooms change and
becomes his teacher for the 4th year in a row
it’s no matter-
for with her, his thirst for learning is unquenchable.

And though, like most parents, you fear the demands of
you watch your son take charge
of himself and his work
with a glad heart
–and yours tugs when it’s time for him to leave this room;
though he, surprisingly, is

Ready and eager to move closer to the doors
that lead out of Marlboro Elementary School…

And there,
like a butterfly
transforms from a child to young man
confidence & VOICE
so that you hardly think on teachers anymore
because with their art & skill, the learning has become his.

Rachel & Tim
could be the names of any of the souls
who have traveled the months or years
or even a lifetime on the path of learning–
like the preschool faces of Timmy & Zoe and Ferne

And you can’t help but flash on all those
named and unnamed–
board members and budget voters and volunteers;
parents & friends; coaches & subs…
ALL those who have caressed his movement
along the learning way
like the tiny cilia moving an egg
toward its fullest

Mr. H, a lifeline, since day one
and Charlene’s music & dancing, from age 2
and Lauren with her smile
and there’s Pedro & Pam
David Tasgal & Ann
Nurses Susan & Whitney
Cindy to Wendy to Trowell to Chris
Wayne to Tim
Connie to Craig to Francie
Johnnie and Kirsten
Joanne to Janie & Christine

and ALL
the precious classroom assistants
who made it possible for a kid who preferred blocks until age 7
to learn to read
in HIS own time
so that now we must rip the books from his hands
to remind him to eat and to do chores and to talk
when once—TALKING– was all he did!

And was it poor Judy? or Jodi?
who gave the month of March over
to reading and no other pursuit (including homework!)
so that the words he once put OUT
FINALLY began to POUR in

And soon his classroom became
Cape Cod & New York
Costa Rica & DC
and marches on Capitols
lining up for rallies
door to door for a President

Leading to this moment where we find him
through the
EXIT of “old” MES
under the careFULL gaze of Gail

And home he’ll come
one last time
through yellow doors
delivered safely
once by Laura, forever by Gail
and seamlessly on toward Jackie.

I know now that it takes
to raise a child.

I’m so glad
that I chose

In gratitude for Lloyd’s 12 years of education in Marlboro, Vermont with special mention to Paul Redmond at Meetinghouse School where it all began!

Posted in Milestone Moments

A Love Story Stretched Thin by Time

Kelly Salasin

It felt like I waited a lifetime for my son, though it was truly only a handful of years. Once my clock began ticking though, each minute without this child was achingly painful, and each month without conception was another grave disappointment. Then, two promising pregnancies were followed by the devastation of miscarriage.

When a child did take root in my belly, past the six-week mark, and then over the steep hurdle of the first trimester, I broke down in tears- finally allowing myself to believe, just a little bit, that I might get to be a mother.

I loved those months with a baby inside me, feet tucked up under my ribs- both of us competing for space. I remember lazy summer afternoons lying in bed waiting for him to “appear” on the stage of my belly, and my delight with each passing of an elbow or foot.

My labor came on fast and early one rainy August morning. The baby was breech- also a surprise- as we had planned to birth at home. I dilated the last couple of centimeters in the back of an ambulance as it climbed over the mountain to the nearest hospital. Once again I felt the fear that I might not get to be a mother after all.

By the time I was wheeled into the operating room, the baby was fully engaged, and they literally had to tug him out of me. I only saw him for a moment before they whisked him away to the examining table. Two hours passed before they would release me from recovery so that I might hold this long-awaited child who looked so familiar.

Later when the nurses offered to take him “so that I could get some rest”, I refused. I didn’t want to spend another moment apart from him, ever again. I held him in my arms as much as I could, and I was agonized to find that hospital protocol prevented him from spending the night in my bed because of the anesthesia I had received. I lay awake most of night gazing at him in the glass bassinet beside me.

On the third day, I resigned myself to letting the nurses take him for a bath so that I might have a shower myself. As the water poured over my empty belly, I began to cry. I felt like I had lost the sweet friend inside. I began to panic and had to very firmly remind myself that the baby that I had been waiting for was just down the hall.

My legs were still wobbly from the surgery, but I hurried back as fast as I could to be certain he was real. Only he wasn’t there. I waited a few moments and then called the nurses who told me that he was under the warming lights and would be back soon. The seconds without him passed like hours, and I rang the station again. “I need him now,” I said with a desperation that surprised me. “I’ve waited years for this baby, and I don’t want to wait anymore.”

The next afternoon, I left the cocoon of the hospital to bring this tiny being home. I spent those early weeks holding him almost every moment of every day. “Sleep when the baby sleeps,” my friends told me, but I couldn’t close my eyes. I couldn’t stop gazing at this miracle.

Almost a decade has passed since that time, and the depth of that love affair has been spread thin by soccer games, and lost teeth, violin lessons, playdates, and a myriad of laundry and dishes and carpooling.

It’s extraordinary to look back at my journal from those early days and be reminded of how intensely I felt. And to remember how painful it was when I first realized that the gift of motherhood came with the price of countless goodbyes- beginning with the separation at birth and stretched out over a lifetime. If I love this child this too much, how will I ever be able to do it, I anguished.

That awareness is no longer a part of my day to day life, but every now and then it creeps back up on me and I’ll feel that old familiar tug on my heart. Last week was a big one. It had started out as just another school day: rushing out the door, trying my best not to holler at him for taking too long to tie his shoes or for forgetting all his things.

On the drive to school, I drilled him on his spelling words, and then spent our last moments together in the parking lot having him write out those words that had stumped him. Just then, two young girls stopped their play to stare into our car.

What are they looking at, I wondered? And then I knew. They stood there eyes unblinking as my son and I kissed goodbye, and they followed him with those eyes onto the playground and down the hill where he met his friends at the tether ball court. He never even noticed. But I did.

There it was, another tearing, another good-bye that I would have to face someday–another woman. There would be years perhaps before this one came upon us, but the tugging had begun, and it felt like a needle had pierced my heart.