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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Vermont & Technology

Vermont & Technology

We relocated to Vermont just as home computers (and chat rooms) arrived on the scene of daily life.

Looking back:

Today is Friday, June 3rd, and it is our first time on the computer!

We just bought a Mac Performa. We ordered it Tuesday night and had it set up in our livingroom here by Thursday night … crazy!! Now we’re trying to figure out how to work everything.

Boy, I sure wish I didn’t cheat in my highschool typing class…hunt and peck is tough these days, now that everyone has computers. I thought I’d only need typing for college term papers, and I always had other people do those for me…or at least I had the time to spare to stay up all night typing.

We can’t get this document to print so I keep babbling on here … let’s try again!

Still not working…thingsaregettingtense!!!

Now we’re on the phone with the hotline people…things are never how you expect 😦

😦 😦 😦 these are computer sad faces

so it sounds like we have a defective something…Case is giving our address for a federal express… 😦 😦
this sucks!!!!

now Case is asking, “Where in New Hampshire?” …can you believe this!!!

Well, I’m getting off this program since we obviously can’t print anything…I guess I’ll try something else now, maybe monopoly … sure!

~


Fast-forward 24 years and Vermont has created an attractive package for remote workers who relocate to Vermont in 2019. Stay to Stay programs too.

Click here to find out more!

a love letter to a town

a love letter to a town

In 1993, my new husband and I relocated from the Jersey shore to Vermont after I was hired to teach third & fourth grade in Wilmington. We lived in a little cape beside Green Mountain National Forest for 7 years–the longest I’d ever lived in any one place. That property just went on the market, and although we left it seventeen years ago for a home we built for ourselves, the little house and it’s neighbors still hold a tender space in our hearts.

Tonight, I came across this letter that I wrote to the newspaper just after we left the Deerfield Valley for a mountaintop town, 12 miles east. It’s nice to be reminded of how welcomed we were once upon a time.

To the Editor

Although our family has simply relocated to neighboring Marlboro, I wanted to take this opportunity to publicly thank some of the day to day people who touched our lives in Wilmington:

to Fire Chief Brian Johnson, who was not only our first neighbor for a short while, but also responded with his crew to more than one call to our home over the years;

to retired Police Chief Tom Donnelly whose involvement in the community, especially in the schools, was beautiful;

to Deerfield Valley Elementary School (where I taught for a year), its staff, students and parents who served as my first community in the Valley;

to Harriet and Vivian at Pettee Memorial, who always made coming to the library a joyful experience for myself and my son Lloyd (we are forever grateful!);

to the checkers at Grand Union who never failed to marvel at my children (special mention to Joanne for the video tips);

to Michel (from Berkely and Veller) and Lynne Matthews who were much more than realtors to us when we arrived as strangers to this area;

to Mr. Gerdes, who I have never actually met or even seen from out behind the steering wheel of the school bus he drives–thank you so much for the daily waves, it’s hard to convey the significance they hold for me;

to Deborah and Wendy at the post office, simply for being there every day;

to the guys (and gals?) who do such a good job on the snowy roads;

to the Valley News for letting us know what was “happening” each week;

to the people who create and organize the annual events which help define and enrich the seasons of our lives;

to Len Chapman, aka “Uncle Lenny”, our landlord, and Diane Classon, and to their families (and to all our neighbors in Medburyville), who became our “family” in Vermont and provided a beautiful place for us to grow;

and lastly, to the many others who I have not mentioned- on behalf of myself, my husband Casey Deane, and our sons Lloyd and Aidan–thank you for being such an important part of our lives in the Valley.

Sincerely,
Kelly Salasin
Marlboro, VT
2000

For Sale

For Sale

Our first home in Vermont.

The sweet little cape in the back of this photo–at the edge of the Green Mountain National Forest–with a brook & a tire swing & a treehouse in the backyard.

Chickens & horses & mice & bears.

Antiquing, weddings, cookouts, cocktails & neighborhood town meetings in the barn.

Landlords, like family.

Communal gardens & holidays & heartache.

The longest place I’d ever lived (1993-2000.)

Taught 3rd & 4th grade.
Left teaching.
Ran a few non-profits.
Worked at a pizza parlor & a video store.
Became a mother.
Lost my mother.

Babies conceived, miscarried, delivered & breastfed.

Lloyd turned one, two, three, four, five.

Aidan born upstairs.

Casey became a teacher.
Both of us turned 30.

Published my first piece of writing.

Found yoga.

Claimed home.

Listing: https://hermitagedvre.com/listing/4639628/38-new-england-power-company-road-wilmington-vt-05363/

The World Comes to Me

The World Comes to Me

vermont, world, UN Women

Twenty-three years ago, I took a big pay cut and moved to Vermont. Another year later, I surrendered that income to invest myself in motherhood–because unlike work and success and travel, motherhood hadn’t come easy to me.

As a stay at home mom, I couldn’t afford to go out for coffee. I’m not exaggerating. My husband was a new teacher, and we had to pay for insurance out of pocket, and the cost of living in Vermont was surprisingly higher than New Jersey. I had a college degree and 8 years in the classroom; prefaced by a handful of years managing a restaurant; but I felt compelled to give my all to motherhood just as I had to the endeavors that came before it.

More than a decade passed before I let some other interests back in. My sons no longer needed me in the hour to the hour, but I was terrified of awakening passion for something other than them. I played it safe, in part-time roles, and little by little my sense of a separate self began to re-emerge.

More than anything, I longed to travel–to know myself in some foreign place again–but another decade passed before I left the country; unless you count crossing the border of Vermont into Canada; which admittedly was a huge thrill–all three times.

I was approaching 50 when I was offered another safe, part-time position, in a tiny rural office. I almost fell out of the interview chair, however, when I was asked if I had a valid passport. 5 months later, I was in Chile. The following year, Japan.

Surprisingly, it was my stay-at-home grandmothers who planted the seed of travel in me. As a girl, I sat at my great-grandmother Mildred’s knee, and watched as she brushed her hand across the cover of her huge atlas, turning page after page, as she pointed–to all the places she had traveled with her husband after his retirement as a Merchant Marine.

Her daughter, my grandmother Lila, dreamed of leaving home and working internationally. She confided this while helping me with my French, after I told her about the thrill of a school field trip to the United Nations.

“I wanted to be a translator,” she said.

Work. Motherhood. Travel.
Passion. Devotion. Choices.
Losses. Realizations.

I’m 52 now, and I’ve given up that traveling job for something else.

During my years at home, I discovered what a wise woman once said:

Our true passion brings us balance.

Even though I did it so well, and gave it my all–managing a restaurant and a classroom and a home and a non-profit, none of these were my passion.

I was the last to realize my own.

Others called me a writer first.

For the past few years, I’ve dedicated myself to the page. I can afford a cup of coffee now, even lattes, lots of them, but not much else. My husband is still a teacher and we still have one son at home. The other is abroad, living the life I once knew.

I’ve begun to miss the world.

Once a year it comes to me.

(The 60th Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations; click here)

Everything I Aspire Toward…

Everything I Aspire Toward…

When I first moved to Vermont in 1993, I saw this “poem” posted on the board at Klara Simpla–Wilmington’s health food store (aka. Southern Vermont’s well-being Mecca.)

I took my first yoga class at Klara Simpla, bought my first herbs, tinctures and supplements there; and found some books that spoke to my soul.

Of the many ways I was inspired at Klara Simpla, this poem planted a seed that has been watered and nurtured by my life in Vermont.  It’s as true of what I want today as it was when I first set foot into this state.

Beware Signs of Inner Peace

A tendency to think and act  spontaneously rather than on fears based on past experiences

An unmistakable ability to enjoy each moment

A loss of interest in judging other people

A loss of interest in judging self

A loss of interest in interpreting the actions of   others

A loss of interest in conflict

A loss of  ability to worry

Frequent, overwhelming episodes of appreciation

Contented feelings of connectedness with others  & nature

Frequent attacks of smiling

An increasing tendency to let things happen rather  than  make them happen

An increased susceptibility to love extended  by others  and  the uncontrollable urge to  extend it

(by Saskia Davis, RN)

Rolling Stone No More

Rolling Stone No More

While snuggling in bed beside my husband, I spring up with a realization.

“I think this is our 7th Christmas.”

“Not yet,” my husband says, counting on his fingers.  It’s easy for him to know from when to begin: 2004, and the 48 hour Christmas.

“You’re right,” he says, “It is 7.”

“You know how significant this is,” I say.

“Yes–And it’s the house ‘I’ built.”

7 years ago this December, Casey and I lived apart for the first time in 20 years. That November the boys and I moved to my sister’s in Florida so that he could devote every waking (and barely-waking) hour to finishing this house in time for Christmas (since he already missed Labor Day, Halloween and Thanksgiving.)

At midnight on December 22, he picked us up at the airport and we moved into our home–the first home that we have ever owned.

“This will be the house that I’ve lived in the longest,” I say, as I roll over to turn off the lamp at my bedside.

“And it’s the house ‘I’ built,” he says again, rolling to turn off his own lap.

We almost didn’t make it to 7 years. Back in 2008 when Casey was unemployed, he looked at some international teaching jobs–a prospect which was thrilling to me–but meant that I’d  have to start over from scratch on the 7 year thing.

“I haven’t made it yet,” I say, settling back down into Casey’s arms. “It’s not Christmas yet, and I could die or the house could burn down or something.”

“Don’t say that kind of stuff,” Casey says, pushing me away.

The truth is that this is such an important milestone to me that I’m anxious about it. I felt this same fearful uncertainty before I left for England in my junior year, and then again before our first baby was born.

Sometimes the things we really want seem that impossible, especially when they’re so close to coming true.

I remember when Casey reached the 7 year mark with me. It was an important finish line for him–it meant he surpassed my first love. Though he’s now more than tripled that number, he still reminds me of his longevity–“Almost 4 times as long,” he says.

First love, first son, first house. They’re all so significant.

I don’t know what number home this is for me. I’d rather not count. As an Army brat who was born while her dad was still in college, I’ve had my share of moves and homes and schools

My own boys were born and raised in this same small town, attended the same small school, and grew up with the same kids that they played with at preschool. I was 14 when my parents finally settled down in one place.

That home had been the one that belonged to my grandparents, my beloved “6012.” But our time there was short. My parents divorced, and not only did we lose our family, but our home.

After that, I went to Europe three times, lived out West, moved back home, and then took off for these Green Mountains.

Our first place in Vermont was a tiny farm-house nestled beside a “babbling” brook, and seated at the foot of a mountain beside the National Forest. Both my boys were conceived there, and for seven years, it was our “home sweet home.”

When we left that rental, it was heartbreaking, but the time had come for us to set out on our own, and a few moves later, we were here–in the house that Casey built–with the help of his boys and all of our friends.

7 years ago this Christmas.

(Did I count right?)

Kelly Salasin, December 2011