How affronting my hubris. How careless. How dangerous even. To dismiss another simply because he/she doesn’t look the way I expect she/he to look.
Acceptance is protection, declared one of the rally signs. I nodded my head in sobriety.
I have a responsibility here.
Hate is a choice. Trans is not, expressed another.
I felt that inside.
“Do better,” the speaker offered to those of us who identified as the sex to which we were born. “Talk to each other. Educate yourselves.”
I am and was so grateful to all those who were courageous enough and vulnerable enough to gather with people like me who want to be allies, but who have so much to learn.
I hope there are more and more spaces where people who identify as Trans feel safe and accepted and most of all feel that they—belong.
At one time I felt awkward around “them,” and then confused, and over time curious, and finally accepting, but now my heart is made glad when I see the woman at the register who kinda looks like a man but who is clearly a woman inside.
She’s always been warm and funny with me even when I accidently use the pronoun, He.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
august 1st~birthdays are holy days, the sacred aperture of the soul’s entry on the earthly plane. which brings to mind my friend Paul, born today, on the pagan celebration of the turning point of summer, the beginning of the harvest season–a time of year which deserves high praise from me for all that’s been received…
my son Aidan, my first kiss with my husband, our move to Vermont, the last day of our summer backpacking honeymoon adventure across Europe, our firstborn…
And before the wheel turns to Autumn, the birthday of my beloved & the return to spirit of my mother on the same date
and in between and before the season’s turning–the holy apertures of nieces & nephews, in-laws, & grandmothers, uncles & friends, my baby sister, my father, and the honorable 44th President of the United States of America.
And then there’s the fruit, the tomato, the cornflower, the pumpkin, the blueberry.
All these outrageous acts we gather in abundance for the leaner seasons.
I love Mondays. The chance to start again. To get it right.
I hate August. “A month of Sundays.”
As a result, I’m often angry.
A reminder that I need to grieve.
While at first unnerving, harvesting lavender among honey bees is a soothing communion of attention and appreciation; but not so with bumble bees; theirs is a more frenetic energy; mirroring my own fretting–whether to cut or to leave–to preserve or to bask, to prepare for winter, or to be here now, in summer, so fleeting, like the irises and wild roses and strawberries, already passed.