A budget is a moral document.

A budget is a moral document.

I guess it’s been said before but it landed in me for the first time when I heard it spoken last month at the Rally for Trans Justice | Brattleboro.

I jotted those words down in a tiny notebook that I keep in my purse:

A budget is a moral document.

Over the weekend, my husband and I revisited our budget which has long been neglected. Years ago, as my hormones began to change, I turned it all over to him; and as our kids came of age, I looked at it less and less.

We began budgeting when we became parents. I didn’t want to do it, but it was 1995, and it was the first time that I didn’t earn a substantial income. I was home with a child, which is where I discovered I had to remain, but I couldn’t figure out how to avoid credit card debt with my husband’s salary as a new teacher at $20,000 which didn’t include health coverage for the new baby or me.

A budget is a moral document.

I felt so ashamed when I reported to the State Office to arrange for supplemental food and medical care for our son. “I’m not taking this from others am I?” I asked. “I’m a teacher. This is a choice for me. I know it’s not for others.”

A budget is a moral document.

I learned to track every penny then so that we might afford to provide our children with a parent at home, and unpoisoned food, and health care and education that was integrative and whole.

Fuel assistance and the Reformer Christmas Stocking (providing winter wear for the kids each year) helped us get by.

A budget is a moral document.

It was a long haul. There were no true vacations. No dinners out. Not so much as a coffee at a cafe. Our clothes were second-hand. Our gifts were re-gifted. Even the presents under the tree were recycled from the previous year as long as our kids were too young to notice.

“Why don’t you ski?” my father asked, when he came with his doctor friends to ski in Vermont. “You live here. Why don’t you have skis?”

Years later, after my husband’s income climbed, we built our first home, and then he went two years without a teaching salary.

A budget can shrink and expand. We didn’t accrue any debt. I’m so proud of that time. We pulled together as a couple and as a family. The kids gave up their allowances.  The community supported my husband with side jobs. We got by with the unemployment provided by the state.

A budget is a moral document.

Last week I read that the United States is second among developed nations with credit card debt. Close to half of us carry that weight, while in say France or Germany or Australia, less than ten percent do.

With more and more education, and more and more experience, and with the opportunity that comes from that, my husband’s income grew exponentially and we neglected our budget more and more; while simultaneously my opportunities exponentially shrunk, as did my willingness to do just about anything for a buck so that my life could remain shaped around the home.

Instead I’ve began shaping my life around writing.

Is a budget immoral if it provides for an aging woman?
No one wants to sell the house.

Not only did our first-born put himself through college, but he makes more in a summer than I can scrape by in a year.

He called last night from a rally in Burlington–Bernie, Christine, Zuckerman. He was coordinating volunteers. I put him on speaker phone.

“Dad and I are working on the budget,” I said, a phrase which no doubt is a trigger for him given the financial struggles of our family’s early years.

He told us about the inspirational speeches and the enthusiasm, and then he had to go to the next event.

Turning back toward the budget, my husband and I were reminded about what’s at stake. How we provide. What we prioritize. And how spending time with the budget allows us to question this.

A budget is a moral document.

I’ll never forget the cartoon I saw when I was a young teacher. It made me question what was always taken for granted–that money was meant for “things” while “lives” went wasted.

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Understanding TRANS

Understanding TRANS


I was alarmingly reluctant to find out more about VT’s Democratic candidate for Governor Christine Hallquist, simply because I was uncomfortable with her appearance.

After she won the primary, I made a mental note to lean in, but my discomfort persisted. When I heard that she would be in town, I put the event on my calendar. I’ve learned that seeing a candidate in person is the best gauge of whether I would trust them with my vote (which held true for Bernie and Obama.)

When I heard that the Trump administration wanted to remove ‘gender’ from United Nations Human Rights documents, my attention sharpened.

Simultaneously someone who I cared about shared their unfolding transgender journey.

This was the last push I needed to realize my response-ability to be engaged more fully; because I know first-hand what it is to be marginalized, degraded and physically threatened.

On Thursday night, my husband Casey Deane and I participated in the Rally for Trans Justice | Brattleboro (for which I shyly made my very first rally signs, imagining what I might want to feel/see if I was trans: SAFETY. BELONGING. DIGNITY. ALLY.)

Students from Brattleboro Union High School appreciated seeing my husband there, as did the manager of the Latchis Hotel; while I delighted in seeing one of our favorite grocery store clerks from the Brattleboro Food Co-op with her family.

Trans people and allies from all walks joined together, including a 5th grader who identified as non-binary and a grandmother who came with her family to support her grandchild.

Where had all these people been hiding, I wondered. Why hadn’t I seen them before? Why hadn’t I wondered more about the fullness of their humanity?

This morning, my husband and I did something we rarely do. We skipped our Saturday morning yoga date with Scott Willis at Hits The Spot Yoga so that we could attend Coffee with Christine and Danica Roem along with our son who was home for the weekend from Vermont Tech.

When our son would typically be sleeping in, we headed out the door in the icy snow, just ahead of an accident, and we arrived at The Works Bakery & Cafe to 3 seats open in a row at the reserved table.

But then I realized that these seats were right beside Christine D Hallquist, which seemed inappropriate for me to claim, given everything, but also inappropriate not to claim, given everything, so I sat right down next to her and she took a pause from her bagel to introduce herself, and I, in turn, introduced her to my son and husband when they sat down with their bagels.

What brought me to this particular event (instead of the others around town where Hallquist was speaking) was the presence of Danica Roem – Virginia Delegate who I heard speak on a YouTube clip after her victory. If she could come from Virginia, I thought, I could come down from the mountain.

She was just as compelling this morning. Clear thinking. Enthusiastic. Matter of fact.

Hallquist was equally so. I began to write down some of what she said:

I AM BULLISH ABOUT VERMONT.

CLOSING RURAL SCHOOLS IS THE WORST THING TO DO.

GROWING VT’S RURAL COMMUNITIES WILL PUT PEOPLE BACK IN THOSE SCHOOLS.

WE’RE GONNA SOLVE CLIMATE CHANGE BECAUSE WE CAN.

~

I don’t need to “like” a candidate, but I do want to respect them.

Right away I liked Hallquist. Her can-do attitude. Her forward thinking. Her humor. Her authenticity. Her clear sense of being a learner. Of visiting the prison and the Brattleboro Retreat. The Canadian delegation on climate change. The former Governor of Colorado–who has joined 19 states together–around climate. Hallquist’s vision to do the same with health care. She also shared her focus on broadband internet across the state.

“I don’t accept NO as an answer,” she said. “I don’t make excuses. We CAN solve problems BECAUSE we are small.”

This she offered in defense of Vermont, after sharing how she transformed Vermont Electric Coop by bringing people together.

Before we left this morning’s gathering, we made new acquaintances and another modest second donation to the campaign (the first after the news about the UN documents.)

We left with a bumper sticker and a lawn sign and a commitment to do more to get the word out: This candidate is worthy of your vote.

“She’s been on a marathon,” Senator Becca Balint, Vermont Senate Majority leader said of Hallquist’s campaign, “And now’s she’s in a sprint,” encouraging us to encourage others to make donations to help bolster the campaign in these last weeks.

“Here’s what I’d like to say to my grandchildren one day,” said Hallquist in her closing:

2018 WAS THE YEAR WE MADE HISTORY.

ps. i love her logo.

pps. Both my husband and I–to our son’s constant dismay–mistakenly referred to Christine as “he” even as I wrote this piece.

“I don’t understand,” my son said, “Why do you keep doing it?!

“Our brains aren’t as flexible as yours,” I explained. “We’ll need more practice.”

Women’s Gathering: 1st Chakra, November 1

Women’s Gathering: 1st Chakra, November 1

Dear Winter Women’s Circle,

I look forward to gathering with you on Thursday November 1st.

If you haven’t already and you’re willing, please add your name here:
https://www.facebook.com/events/112179716336035/

Expect an email with directions to my home.

Arrive anytime after 4:30 and before 4:45 pm. Feel free to park and walk on the road alongside the brook/pond if you are early.

When you enter through the mudroom, do so in silence. We’ll remain in meditative silence until everyone arrives and we’ve had a chance to settle into ourselves, which is particularly potent for this first gathering in the first chakra.

With your first chakra comfort in mind, you might like to bring slippers or a shawl, a basket with a jar of water and or a favorite travel mug, a light meal for yourself or a snack (or beverage of any kind) to share. Some among us will be vegetarians, some vegans, some omnivores, some who avoid sugar or alcohol or chocolate, some who are allergic to gluten and some like me allergic to garlic  😦  Which is to say: Bring what you need–for you–and we will each have what we need.

When you arrive in the house you’ll find a bathroom at the bottom and top of the stairs. Feel free to fix yourself some tea or eat a light dinner that you’ve packed in, or write in your journal, or close your eyes. You decide. Make yourself cozy at the table, by the fire, on the stairs, on the couch or in a chair.

We will open in silence, and then delve into the first chakra with reading, response, music, meditation and perhaps some simple movement. You need not know anything. A favorite pen and a notebook or journal will come in handy. We’ll close in connection after 7 pm. (If a firm time is needed for your departure, don’t hesitate to let me know ahead of time.)

For this first chakra gathering, you might like to contemplate the color red, ancestors, rock, stone, root, earth, home, new beginnings.

If you’d like, you can wear something red or bring a photo or other token of an ancestor or some thing that represents a new beginning that you’d like to seed in the magic of women gathering at the turning of the year. Bringing something is optional. Contemplating is plenty. Being completely unprepared is entirely welcome. Come as you are. Meet yourself there.

Have I forgotten anything? Don’t hesitate to ask.

For those who’ve read this far but aren’t enrolled, there is at this posting–one spot open for November 1st and one spot open for the full season.

More here: https://thisvtlife.com/2018/10/03/when-women-gather/

Yours in nourishing & uplifting women’s spirits,
Kelly

Recap:

Arrival time: between 4:30 and 4:45 pm on Thursday, November 1st. (Address to be sent via email.)

Pack in: slippers? shawl? water? favorite mug? light supper? snack and or beverage to share?

Bring: Notebook of some kind and favorite pen.

Consider: the color red, ancestors, rock, earth, roots, home, beginnings; bring a long a token of some kind to place on altar?

Closing: around 7 pm.

Note: If you are enrolled for a single gathering or the full season, let me know as much in advance as possible if you can’t make so that I can adjust plans accordingly. Following your missed gathering, I will provide an offering for a home chakra practice for you.

If a gathering has to be cancelled due to weather, I will create an open gathering space online throughout the month with corresponding chakra explorations and practice in lieu of an in-person gathering.

If a gathering has to be cancelled due to something on my end, I will reschedule it on a consecutive Thursday (as available) and also offer online access in the event there are some who can’t make it to the rescheduled date.

Powder light sky

Powder light sky

Our son’s autumn week at home has come to a close, finishing with a trip south for a family wedding in Pennsylvania, completed by the necessary mecca to Wawa–just for gas; but while we’re there–How about a soft pretzel or two?

We skip the hoagies this trip, but what about Tasty Cakes–the communion of Return–the Body of my Childhood (the peanut butter chocolate ones) and of my late mother (Butterscotch Krimpets.)

We arrive home the lesser for it, even while our hearts are full, as the powdery sky above the Green Mountains speaks to the cleansing promise of winter.

Once again we say goodbye.

when women gather!

when women gather!

still. nourish. rest. retreat. connect. slow.

an evening gathering in southern vermont
on the first thursday of each month from autumn to spring

with chakra-based music, meditation, writing & sharing prompts
along with extensions that vary each month according to chakra
with one gathering for each of the 7 chakras, beginning november 1st, 2018


opening in silence (4:30 ish)
(fix yourself some tea, journal, close your eyes, rest)
closing in connection (7:00 ish)
(self, spirit, other)

tea-kettle & potluck snacks/drinks available throughout the evening
(potluck supper at last gathering)

absolutely no skill of any kind required
(simply come as you are and be met without needing to change a thing)

enrollment:

full journey, autumn through spring: $175

(contact Kelly about the wait list, kel(at)sover.net)

opening with all souls day in november and continuing once a month through winter into spring (on the first thursday of every month) and culminating with beltane in early may.

together, we’ll shape a sangha (a community) of voices, deepening presence through the chakras (the body’s energy centers), for a journey that is both gentle and transformative.

note: participants will receive online access for a chakra-home inquiry for any missed gatherings.

~

single gathering: $49

(contact Kelly about the wait list, kel(at)sover.net)

this rate allows you to claim a spot in the first chakra gathering on thursday, november 1st. and to upgrade to the full journey if space allows

these women circles take place in a private residence on macarthur road just off route 9 in marlboro, VT (between wilmington & brattleboro.)

(note: women participating in the snail mail 3-season writing journey can reserve participation in the monthly women’s circle at an reduced rate; please inquire.)

Facilitator Kelly Salasin has been participating in transformational women’s circles since her early thirties (in the late 1900’s 🙂 In 2000, she began leading women’s workshops, circles and groups, including designing her online curriculum, Writing through the Chakras, which she leads with women from Crete to the Carolinas. Kelly is a certified yoga and yogadance instructor.

She regularly assists leading presenters at the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Lenox, Massachusetts, including Jean Shinoda Bolen (author of The Millionth Circle), Julia Cameron (the Artist’s Way), Joan Borysenko (A Women’s Book of Life),Tara Brach (True Refuge), Tama Kieves (This Time I Dance) and Dani Shapiro (Still Writing.) Kelly studied with renown chakra teacher Anodea Judith (Wheels of Life) and has assisted teaching trainings with Megha Nancy Buttenheim, founder of Let Your Yoga Dance (a chakra-based movement practice.)

Each March, Kelly serves as an NGO representative at the annual Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations in New York City, gathering with women & men from around the globe to amplify women’s voices.

Contact Kelly with questions.

 

“Listening, witnessing, role modeling, reacting, deepening, mirroring, laughing, crying, grieving, drawing upon experience, and sharing the wisdom of experience, women in circles support each other and discover themselves…”
Jean Shinoda Bolen

Cleo & Ollie, Raspberries for Breakfast

Cleo & Ollie, Raspberries for Breakfast

Late July~

They were barely toddlers when we heard them on the rock outcropping off the back door.

That early June dawn offered a rare sighting of an entire family–both parents and their pups—6 in all!

Later, like last summer, it was just the pups who would come out all hours of the day, and they would let us join them outside, while lounging or nestling or playing, and we’d speak softly as we approached, and sometimes take a series of photos, like parents of little ones do, noticing, over time, how their fur thickened and their coloration and markings deepened.

Eventually, only Ollie and occasionally Cleo would stay when we came near, but soon, even Ollie dashed back into the den upon our arrival. (The other two never stayed long enough for us to get to know them.)

And then that July day came, and the day after that, and then a week, and then another, where we had to resign ourselves that they had grown too old for humans or had perished in the woods while learning to hunt with their parents.

And even still, I look and listen, every day, just in case, jumping up at any sound to see… Nothing.

This is how it goes. The wondrous gift of life and then the absence of the gift. The vacancy. The ache.

Our Aidan will do the same disappearing act this summer, has already done so, is always doing so, transforming from that chubby-cheeked, toasted-marshmallow fleshed, apple-berry-loving baby into an adult—all of an unfathomable 18 years this August.

One afternoon in the heat of early July, he and I were embroiled in a dispute of some kind, hollering at each other across the kitchen, and then simmering with hostility in our respective corners of the house.

Moments later, we heard the squeals, and then we rushed together toward the back door and stood there in silent adoration, our skin touching, our breaths slowed, our moods completely transformed in the holy presence of new life.

Once last summer, when I was working at my desk, I went to the door, in deep despair over our nation, and there were the babes who in an instant lifted me from rhythms of man.

Just the thought of that day is a teacher, a balm, a homecoming.

I slept poorly last night, even after stripping out of my nightgown and stepping onto the porch and into the rain, too soft for the good soaking I craved.

It may have been the moon. It may have been the strong coffee I had an hour too late in the afternoon. It may have been the news I took in before bed, a personal taboo that I’ve broken again and again since #45; so necessary is attention, so addictive is urgency.

Once asleep, I woke often, even in the wee hours of this morning, but it wasn’t until I heard the sound of squeals, not quite birdlike, just before 6 am, that I came to my feet and stepped quickly to the balcony doors, and saw with a mixture of joy and disappointment, three ten-year-olds scampering up the stone path to the outdoor tub.

“They’re so grown,” said Aidan, when he stepped in beside me, wiping his eyes. “Only three?”

“Do you think that’s Ollie?” I asked, as the other two disappeared in the woods across the lawn.

We watched the young fox alone there on the hill, until he too realized his solitude, and dashed off in search of the others, whimpering into the woods and venturing in just a bit, before reappearing, loping back across the lawn, and up the rock outcropping, to the cry of a parent’s reply from inside the den.

“Not Ollie,” we said, and then Aidan turned and went back to bed.

Once the sun rose a bit more over the hill, I went outside to bathe, and as the sole of my feet felt the heat of the stones beneath me, I thought of their paws there just an hour earlier, of how we shared the same path; and not just the foxes that morning, but the deer, and the chipmunks, the moose, the turkey, the groundhog, the fisher cat, the black bear and all manner of creatures with whom we share this land, seen and unseen, sometimes seasons, sometimes years, between sightings.

Once inside the confines of the tub, I closed my eyes and tilted my head back and floated upon the water listening to the my breath, each inhale and exhale amplified by the porcelin, and hearing even the beating of my heart, echoing like a drum, as the world around me disappeared.

When I opened my eyes again, it was the lush green foliage of the canopy that I saw overhead, and I felt much like a scuba diver, but in the jungle, deep in the center of me.

Early August~

I was returning from my morning walk, and she was just heading out.

We spotted each other as I crested the driveway.

My first thought was:

“Oh, there’s our cat, I mean, our dog.”

I almost called her toward me, but then remembered that I didn’t have a pet, haven’t had one since I was a kid.

This freed up my brain to produce: “Wild animal,”
And then: “Fox,”
And then: “Baby fox,”
And then: “Hi Cleo!” the smaller of the two babes that I got to know when the four of them frequented the rock outcropping off my studio.

Surprised to see each other head-on, we stared for some time, and then to fill in the space between us and to keep her from dashing and to lessen any anxiety I may have felt about her further approach toward me, I sang the lullaby that I had sung when she was just a kit.

Eventually, she decided against continuing down the driveway, and turned toward the path into the woods, so that I could continue up, moving from the shade to the sun.

With two cars between us, we stared some more. Yet it wasn’t so much staring we were doing, but “stilling,” taking in the presence of each other, acknowledging our shared and distinct lives, as if to say: “Hello, there, nice to see you again.”

Then she turned to trot down the grassy path, and I stepped up onto the porch; two neighbors getting on with our day.

Ollie on the Rocks

Mid-August

It occurs to me now that as the fox kits have aged, they like to see me a couple times a month, in quick bursts, while I like to see them at least every few days, in leisurely companionship.

The same seems to be true of my sons.

Get thee to the museum!

Get thee to the museum!

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I’ve always loved The Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts so when I saw that they had a new exhibit called: Women Artists in Paris 1850-1900, it was a no-brainer; though honestly, I was more excited about “women” and “Paris” than I was enthused about women’s art.

That is until I walked into the exhibit and felt wave after wave of emotion.

GRIEF. ANGER. DISBELIEF. SURPRISE. AWE.

I wanted to weep. I wanted to fall to my knees. I wanted to throw things.

Why had I thought that men were the artists of the time?
And the authors and the scientists and engineers and the mathematicians and the leaders and the pilots and the firefighters and the warriors…

Why were the accomplishments of my gender so hidden, so maligned, so discarded by history?

(The 2016 film “Three Figures” comes to mind.)

I’d never done a gallery tour, not since my public school days, and I never wanted to until now. I wanted to know what I missed. And why.

I am heartbroken. I am appreciative. I am furious.

I am sorry that I did not know, did not celebrate, did not focus on the accomplishments of women.

“The first measure of success for a woman artist,” said the interpreter, “was to paint like a man.”

Isn’t this true everywhere? Men’s work/view/attitude serves as the benchmark for… Everything.

(Even my tea bags come with the quotes of men. Even my yoga teacher references the teachings of men almost exclusively.)

Confession: I have never taken an Art History class, and the subject of Women’s Studies didn’t exist at my Jesuit University (talk about achievement shaped around men!) so some of what I write here may be obvious to others, and even well worn, like the way “La Toilette paintings” of women in their dressing rooms, partially clad, were painted by men of women—as objects.

(#45 comes to mind.)

Not so a toilette painting by a woman where the sitter is subject, looking right back at the painter, and forcing the viewer to recognize her full humanity.

Women were turned away from the leading art schools, although one entered by pretending to be man, and women were further regulated to what was considered the bottom rung of art–the simplest to paint–still lifes–with the understanding that women could not manage the complexity of painting movement or the physicality of painting on larger canvasses or the indelicacy of painting nude. (In fact, they were prohibited from studying the male form altogether.)

To the women who pushed past, are pushing past, have always pushed past the artificial boundaries of a society shaped around men, THANK YOU.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, thank you.

Women Artists in Paris who painted into obscurity, thank you.

Clark Art Institute, thank you.

Gallery interpreters, thank you.

American Federation of Arts, thank you.

Laurence Madeline, curator of the tour, thank you.

Art historians and researchers, THANK YOU.

It is no surprise to learn, even while it is equally heartbreaking, that many women artists married male artists, and once married, gave up painting while he continued, and even more heartbreaking, resumed painting again after his death.

(“Your life must revolve around mine,” my father hollered at the kitchen table when my mother began to express needs beyond serving him.)

It is no surprise to learn that Nordic women were able to devote more energy to the arts, free to travel to Paris, because feminism had reached their part of the world first.

(Thank you, Nordic women, for leading still!)

During the tour, I watched as one older husband snapped his fingers at his wife when she paused too long in front of a canvass; and as another, changing his mind about the tour, came up to his wife, who was rapt in attention to the talk, forcing his headset into her hands and dashing off; while yet another oldler man whistled and scowled at the other tour group where three women were talking too loud (one of those women was the silver-haired interpreter.)

It was my husband who reminded me of this series of incidents which I took as a matter of course, but which for him, slowly awakening to the gender differential, shouted loud and clear, of a lifetime, lifetimes, of male entitlement.

What I did notice, uncomfortably, was that the exhibit guards for Women Artists in Paris were all men. It was an older man who came up to me as I scribbled into my notebook, telling me that I could not use a pen. It was a young woman, working the desk, who gave me a tiny pencil to use instead.

Gender discrimination isn’t a thing of the past. Feminism isn’t new or old. Women’s lives, like Black Lives, have always been full with humanity, even while that humanity wasn’t/isn’t recognized by the perpetrators of discrimination, degradation and assault and even while the absence of that full humanity is overlooked and often unseen by those who have been demeaned and those who love us.

The older I get, the more I weep in recognition of what was kept out of reach for so long.

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(Women Artists in Paris, 1850-1900 features more than 80 paintings by 37 women artists from across Europe and America–at The Clark until 9/3)