Tuesday, January 22, 2019

How my mother's grief helped me move forward

I don't remember my grandmother. I was 4 when she died, and all I have is a flash of dark hair, a yellow dress, some paper dolls and the smell of stale cigarettes. Going through my mom's house has given me a little glimpse here and there (my grandmother lived in the house for 25 years), but it also forces me to acknowledge that my kids won't remember my mother.

I remember the morning my grandmother died. It was Easter Sunday, April 3, 1983. I was in the dining room, hiding with my basket of chocolates when the phone rang and my mother answered. "Mom's not breathing," her brother informed her. We'd celebrated Evelyn's 63rd birthday earlier that week, and then she had not woken up that Sunday, the result of a massive heart attack in her sleep.

The funeral came. I caught chicken pox from my cousin Samantha. The sympathy cards rolled in for my mother. Most were stacked in a pile -- a pile I'm sure I'll find soon as I continue to clean out my my mother's house (she never threw out anything) -- but one, only one, my mom framed.

This was major because framing was a luxury we never really had. We had drawers and drawers and cardboard tubes full of thing she intended to frame, you know, someday when there was disposable income for that sort of thing. But she must have grabbed a cheap document frame from Woolworth's because I remember a single sheet of paper with a poem on it, written by their friend Glenn, whom we knew from such classy establishments such as the Zanzibar and Germantown Cafe:
I'm sorry. Sounds trite, doesn't it?If sugar cookies or balloons or a warm summer day could make your smile, I'd give them to you. Remember your daughter -- her laugh, her zest for life. That's your mother's legacy.
There were a few other lines in the middle, and I think I've invented the part about the "warm summer day," but I remember hiding in the dining room eating through the rest of my Easter basket and staring at this new framed artwork on the wall -- words only, and not even a card, just blank stationery and a ballpoint pen. I read that poem daily for many years and didn't understand much except that mom's friend wanted to bake her cookies (why hadn't he?), and I had something called "zest," which proved a really fun word to say but even the dictionary definition was confusing. And "legacy," was even more of a challenge for a four-year-old to comprehend.

I tried.

One day my mom took it down. I don't know why she did, and I don't know in which drawer the poem ended up, or whether it remains in a frame, replaced by a school photo or newspaper article.

Today my mom's ashes are in a beautiful sparkly urn in my dining room, surrounded by her keys (she loved her keys) and a Harry Potter Quidditch LEGO set, which she guards from baby brother fingers. I see the urn daily, and I think, "How weird, that she is there. Her body is burned, contained, but with us."

I'm not ready to let go, I like knowing she's with us for family dinners or when Graham destroys us in Monopoly. I like the boys to smile and wave to her. Every so often I put a framed photo of her next to the urn, and when I do that, I feel a lot worse. For some reason, the urn alone is okay, but the urn with the photo is too much. Then I put away the photo, but leave the urn. I wonder if my mom took away the poem for the same reason I put away Mom's photo.

Everyone has long said Graham is a miniature of David, but when I look at Graham now, I see the wide grin of my mother. Her smile is Graham's smile. I see a look of skepticism on his face, I see twinkle of mischief in his eyes, and I see a longing to be loved.

I don't need the photo. It reminds me of the past, of completion and of things that will never be. But I hear Graham's laugh, and I remember that poem, and I think I understand this zest for life and this legacy. I suddenly want sugar cookies, and I definitely want warm summer days. And I know they will come, and it will be okay.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Systemic burnout and the indie artist

I'm recording! Steve and I have set up shop and are focusing on finishing our duo record, which will be a delightful mix of Steve's originals, some old covers and some of my originals. Will you be able to tell which is which? Who knows?!

There is so much going on, and I'm realizing that I need a manager: someone to rail in my crazy ideas, to whittle down my whiteboard list, to help me focus, to create a deadline for me. I'm not asking you to be a manager, so don't fret, I'm just trying to hold myself accountable. I have a difficult time understanding how some people out there manage to homeschool six children, while simultaneously writing and publishing books, hosting popular podcasts and taking gorgeous instagram photos that receive thousands of likes. I can't even keep track of my kids' socks (and I have given up trying).

Have you read that article about systemic burnout? The thing about millennials not being able to go to the post office? I'm not a millennial, though I hate the phone and the post office and I've got 208 unheard voicemails that I just deleted on January 1 because, quite frankly, anyone who needs me knows to text me. Independent workers (like all artists) operate with that same mentality of the millennial who needs to always be available to work, however, because, well, if we aren't working, then we know someone else is, and that person will get the gig. Sigh. It's a battle to stay relevant, constantly have content, but also keep said content interesting and click-worthy. But also, like, pay the mortgage, which -- hang on -- I'm going to go do right now. Okay, all good on the house...

My little printable from last week is helpful, however, in helping me to focus. I'll just keep referring to that!

In the mean time, who else has a way to be organized, accountable and productive? Point me to your printables or your apps. I'm very curious what actually works for people -- not just what apps you installed.

Some dates of note:


  • Fun show on Friday, January 25 at the Bard's Town in Louisville. It's early (doors at 6:30, show at 7) and it's all-seated. It's also all advance ticket sales and is halfway sold-out in the first 24 hours of tickets, so please grab your tickets now: https://brigidkaelin.com/event/2539394/485479633/burns-night-with-brigid-kaelin-rannygazoo-friends  Please buy tickets, so I can stop fretting about ticket sales and start planning an AMAZING show.
  • Saturday, February 9 at the Holy Trinity Clifton Campus (The Clifton Center) is a taping of Kentucky Homefront, the 30+ year old radio program that began on WFPK with host John Gage. They tape two shows that night, and I'm not one of the musical guests. Instead, I'm HOSTING one of the episodes! Guests to be announced soon, but you'll want to attend.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Free PRINTABLE Weekly Planner

Happy new year! Who is getting organized? I've been doing some version of bullet journaling my whole life -- with the little codes for tasks, events, etc. But then I started seeing bullet journal photos on Instagram, and I realized it's gotten out of hand, and people seem to be spending all their time using protractors and brush pens instead of completing said activities. Part of me desires very much to be a fancy hand lettering yoga Mom with a calm mind and beautiful list, but I'm forty, and I know myself better than that. I do love a nice pen, and I adore a list, however so ...

As part of my initiative to bring more to this blog than my breakups with yoga (which happened AGAIN this morning -- why do I keep going back??), I'm going to give you some fun free stuff that isn't music. Because, I mean, music is free anyway.

Instead, here is a free printable for a weekly planner. 

I'm working on another one -- a daily one that I find useful -- but here is a link to today's FREE PDF PRINTABLE WEEKLY PLANNER. Whoo hoo!

Now I'm going to get off the blog and maybe actually fill out this weekly planner rather than just posting about it.

Happy January to you all!

ALSO: May my fine blog readers be the first to know about a Burns Night show (it's a Scottish thing, you know how I'm obsessed!) I'm putting on in Louisville on Friday January 25, 6:30-8:30pm. Advance tickets only. This show will sell out. Only 50 tickets available. All seated show.