All Soul’s Day

I have been drowning in ghosts for a year. Ghosts of beloved friends, ghosts of my own. Even ghosts to come (God, Dickens was a weirdo, but so smart.) My in-laws visited recently and I blurted out a gruesome ghost story over the sounds of “Purple Rain.” When you’re being actively haunted, clearly it’s hard to avoid mentioning the 20-year gone sudden death of an acquaintance’s father, and the sobbing of a socialist named Jackson. Especially if Prince is conjuring the memory. Gosh, that would be an amazing ghost in this house.

The real Ghost of our house has left. I’m not sure why she went away, even though I asked her to. I can see why she clung here, and I hope she liked the chocolate I set out as an offering. I am certain we would have been friendly, that I would have enjoyed her egg rolls, and that our names overlap for a reason.

Today is Hallotak napja—All Soul’s Day. A national holiday in Hungary, and many other places. You visit graves or loved ones, light candles. Cemeteries are just gorgeous on this day. I never asked my grandparents if they had these traditions in their family. And my ghost grandmother only visited that one time, in search of my grandfather (“He’s in California,” I shouted in the middle of the night, shaken out of a dead sleep.) My grandmother was once told by a psychic to leave a room, because she was not a believer. I don’t think she’ll be coming back for a consultation about Austro-Hungarian family traditions of yore. If only because she couldn’t let the psychic be right.

Today my dad is also having a procedure done on his heart. And because I’m not just a little sticious, but I’m superstitious, I didn’t travel to be with him. I didn’t want to bring my ghosts with me. And if I went, it would be A Thing, and we know it’s just a thing, and everything will be fine, as it always is.

Today I light a candle for those who have passed. And another for my dad, and my mom, and the surgical team. I haven’t yet chosen a sound track for the morning, but someone in my ghost posse texted me an album recommendation yesterday; he hasn’t steered me wrong once since our mixtape days. I am sure it will lift me up. Sending you that lift as well, my pretties.

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Goin’ Up Yonder

Several years ago my husband observed that—for an only child—I still always have a brother. That guy I can trash talk with/at, who lends me tools or music, and who probably feeds me pancakes. Last week two different old friends called me “sis” in their texts. Neither of them called me that before, but the appellation was love received.

It defines me, being sister to these men.

The brother I lost this week was love. A word cloud of tributes to him would rain largest: joy, laughter, light, talent. Over twenty-some years he became a light people followed. Literally. Folks followed his band. And probably the band he formed after that one.

I heard him before I first saw him. Steadily picking a mandolin on his front porch. I yelled a sweaty moving-day-something across the street about Hatfields and McCoys. His door was open from that day on.

These open door people, these beams of light.

We’d lost touch a little before I became a parent. I imagined bringing my own kiddo to one of his shows to reconnect. I imagined sharing another good meal. I saw the gleeful hugs, the how’s-your-moms, the HOW-many-kids, the homecoming dance. I also imagined learning of his death in a headline. Only one of those things happened.

I turn 42 today, and I’m mad he can’t chat with me, call me by my full name. Not that he had my number. But if he had called (there is magic, after all), it would be the familiar, electric joy we had for more than half my life. Or maybe it would have been sad, but that would have been okay, too.

It will take me a while to listen to any of his music. I’ll probably have to avoid bluegrass altogether, for a spell. I have listened to a gospel song a few too many times — Goin Up Yonder.

If anybody ask you

Where I’m going

Where I’m going soon

I’m goin’ up yonder

I’m goin’ up yonder

I’m goin up yonder

To Be with my Lord

I don’t think he was into God in this way, but he sure did bring us all closer to the Devine while we were all down here, together.

Thanks for the love, brother. May you be able to feel that love now.

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Snippets From Day One

Captain’s log, Day One of Summer 2019

“You should have told me to bring a snack.”

“Let’s have a spa day.”

“I’m really hungry!”

“When our dad died we lived at a different address.” (This from another child, from the back seat, where all great communication happens.)

I anticipate every other day this summer will be a similar mix of mundane, with sometimes really hard things.

We have a child who does well with structure. My deepest belief is that parenting is in large part marketing, so this is the general structure of our week. I dusted off this scrap of paper from kindergarten summer to help:

A friend pointed out that under Friday “smiling during chores” is laughable — a good edit. Now that The Child is 8, “finished” rather than “happy about it” is our chore goal.

Looking forward to sneaking in a few more snippets this summer. I hope to be happy about most of them.

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I Gnome Me

The theme of this week is avoid work by creating more mess. Yesterday it was baking for the first time this year to avoid finding our office desk. Today it’s avoiding porch clean up with felt, in seven easy steps.

Spring brought a little chaos.

So of course I decided this guy needed a little felt grassland. Today. Right now.

Step 1: Take photos

Step 2: Post to Facebook

Step 3: Collect materials

Step 4: Make enormous mess in kitchen

Step 5: Realize a blog post is in order

Step 6: Wonder for 20 minutes if I should pretend to be a professional blogger and iron the felt before posting a final photo.

Step 7:

I may not have a tidied porch, but at least I gnome myself.

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Can You Hear Me?

Last weekend I finished day 87,000 (okay, 15) of antibiotics. Everyone in the house got a head cold, but my body got funky. So creative and dramatic it required a second round of antibiotics.

Some time at the beginning of the month I lost my voice completely. It’s a thing that happens to me. I took the silence as an opportunity to internally chastise myself for not speaking up on my blog for years. I took the rest of the month to think about it some more. And now I’m asking:

Can ya hear me?

School is out next week. I have my voice back and I mostly use it to shriek into the void of unpreparedness. Buckle up, cuz I’m back and yelling.

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How’s School?

Good?

As we’ve hoped and predicted?

It’s left me untethered, which is a word my blog software doesn’t recognize, so that makes two of us.

The people in my life, near and far have been amazing. Checking in. Treating me to a first-day-of-school pedicure. Checking in more. Sharing stories. Laughing. The Swedelock is making our extreme new schedule work, even though it sometimes means bed time starts right when Daddy gets home.

The first two weeks, I spent six hours each day in constant, panicked motion. I got a million things done, none of which are apparent. And I can’t tell you what any of them are. There is a giant pile of clothes in the office which do not bring me joy. You wanna come look at them?

Saturday I went to a yoga class for the first time since moving here, and it drained off so much of the anxiety that it was horrible. I went back to a yoga class today, wrestling with the luxury of that act, the appropriative nature of it all, and set my intention as: don’t let the anger run you out the door.

My blog software also doesn’t recognize appropriative. Which is how I feel: unrecognized.

I had few problems adjusting my ego to being a stay-at-home parent and homemaker. This new thing, however, is hard. And the first one of you who tries to tell me to calm down or to take a drink is going on The List. Careful. You might already be there. I’m sober, and I’m refocusing. You might not want my attention.

My anxiety is 10% usual “child growing up” stuff. Maybe 5%. Because 95% of it is OH MY LORD FOOD ALLERGIES!

One day last week, for drop-off, I gave a kiss and said, “There’s your line, see you later!” Then I got home and slapped my forehead. Oh, right. No designated medically-aware adult has sight of him until the bell rings; I need to stick around in case of emergency. Will there be an emergency? Probably not. But the next day in line I got to ask a kid to wipe, then wash his hands after he was done eating a peanut butter granola bar. So maybe.

To sum up, my starting school experience is: “LATER, GATEROHSHITNO WAIT I FORGOT I HAVE TO LITERALLY KEEP YOU SAFE AND ALIVE OHSHITNO I HAVE TO HELP OTHER PEOPLE TO DO THAT.”

Also, The Child is writing numbers, and sings a song that involves the phrase “boogie on down.” He drew a lion and neither of his parents could believe he did it himself. He is excited and exhausted. That makes two of us.

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Favorites 

The past week The Child hit up whatever he wanted to do with his friends. Last week of summer! Children’s museum. Trampoline park and shakes. Catch Air (and indoor play area), twice. We had around 15 families from play group over to scream and play. We got passes from a friend to visit a premium sports complex, and had a spectacular indoor & outdoor pools-splash pad-water slide-sandy play ground. For some reason, we were the only children there for hours.

These are many of The Child’s favorite things. On the day before of his first day of school, I wanted to write a list of some of my favorite things about my kindergartener.

  1. He points to things with his middle finger. Especially when counting.
  2. He skips “thirteen” when counting.
  3. He has a sense of time, days of the week, how long a month is. But his time-related phrases often sound like the poetry of an EFL speaker. “We have never eaten bacon for a long time.” “Remember some days from now when you said we could play with trains?” 
  4. His literal mind is learning to be silly.
  5. He likes shutting himself up in tiny boxes.
  6. When he wants to do something, often he will pitch it to us: “Oh, I have an idea! What do you thiiiink abouuuut mayyyybe having TWO COOKIES FOR DESSERT?!”
  7. This summer he could not get enough of our one box garden and herb pots. The Swedelock and he planted sunflowers that grew to be so large not even Dr. Suess could have imagined them.
  8. Crafts or writing endeavors take him eleventy hours.
  9. His favorite colors are, in order they appeared in his life: orange, pink, purple, and his “favorite color [shade] of blue.”
  10. He is a kind and gentle person.


All these favorite things pile up in my heart. There are tons more, and tons more to come. Now let’s go for a bike ride, then get ready to go to the gardens, and rock.

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Six Easy Steps Toward A Perfect Kindergarten Lunch Box

Step 1:

Ask around about lunch containers. Get told by oodles of people to go for the billion dollar solution, because, “Really, it lasts for years.”

Step 2:

Agree with longevity and quality argument, but refuse to buy the container on principle, because you can’t be tricked by clever marketing. Believe there has to be something out there between Dollar Tree parts you’d have to replace monthly, and this bandwagon.

Step 3:

Angst about that on-sale Target lunch bag you posted on Facebook that everyone laughed at. “What the hell, Alana? It’s bigger than your kid! He can’t even carry it!” Know that no one is the boss of you, but wonder if your child really will break an arm trying to carry it.

Step 4:

Just buy the billion dollar brand name lunch solution already. Of course you also buy the water bottle and some replacement parts, because you’re no dummy, and if that one mouthpiece goes missing in October, and you have to order a $1 part online with $8 shipping, you will lose your mind.

Obviously it makes sense to buy the coordinating carrying bag, and the custom-fit ice packs as well. Get purple, because there is no favorite-orange option, and second-favorite is pink. But you’re so sad kids might make fun of a boy with a pink lunch container. So you opt out of pink, and reinforce the gender binary.

Feel like a real failure for every aspect of this step. Except the extra parts foresight.

Step 5:

Do a test run of the new lunch box at home. Learn that the sandwich will only fit if you cut the crusts off. This makes you angry because you’ve trained your child that you’re not a crust-removal service, and they can simply leave what they don’t want to eat.

Step 6:

Have child refuse to eat the billion dollar crustless sandwich, because they don’t like that part of the bread, and it tastes funny.

It’s that easy!

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A Letter I Stopped Writing To My Immigrant Grandmother

I attempted to write a letter to my grandmother, who escaped Serbia after World War I. My post was meant to apologize to her. And to her sister-in-law, who only ever hinted at the raping of her German sisters during World War II. And to a beloved, wholly uneducated great-great aunt who crawled out of the dirt of Russia, and went on to send her daughter to college in Illinois.

I started to say I am sorry for what we are doing to this country they fought to get to.

But I stopped when I realized: They would not see the connection between what was behind them, and what lies ahead in Future President Trump.

It is so very difficult to see outside ourselves. These women were survivors. Immigration. Multiple Wars. The Great Depression. They did not mean to be pioneers. They did not mean to be feminists. They scraped by with nothing, and still managed to pay off their homes. They believed that hard work in this country leads to prosperity. It did. It did for so many in their community, in their generation. But that time is no longer, and wasn’t a time for so many Americans.

In the words of Rev. Dr. William Barber II, speaking at the Democratic National Convention:

Our constitution calls us to commit our government to establish justice, to promote the general welfare, to provide for the common defense and to ensure domestic tranquility.

Now, to be true, we’ve never lived this vision perfectly. But this ought to be the goal at the heart of our democracy.

We’ve never lived this vision perfectly (emphasis above mine).

I stopped saying I’m sorry to my foremothers, because this America is not a new America. It is the same country they walked, trained, and shipped to. Many of us whose families lived the American Dream are just now waking up. We are realizing our successes come from genocide and colonization, that the house in which our President lives was indeed built by slaves, and that Mississippi isn’t the only state still burning.

If I want to honor the women in my family, then I must live in a way they would not understand. I will speak out against our Milosevic-Stalin-Hitler-on-the-rise. He is an embarrassment to my race. I will put aside any notion that politics are icky. I will educate myself. I will understand that Democracy is a system, and a process, and it’s messy and uncomfortable. We are called to commit our government. We are our government.

I will stand with my foremothers by standing with Hillary. Not because I vote against a demagogue rising, but because I wholeheartedly support our Democratic nominee.

Sadly, history shows my family that my vote will likely be a losing one. This letter I’m not writing to my immigrant grandmother can’t cross over to the heaven she believed in anyway.

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My Knife

I like this guy who’s here from the gas company, replacing our gas meter. I appreciate anyone who comes into our home, because it’s always an adventure.

Of course he has to cut into our basement closet wall, so that he can actually reach the shut-off valve. As in: the hole is not big enough to, you know, SHUT OFF GAS…YOU KNOW… IN CASE OF AN EMERGENCY.

Gas Company Man came to inform me of this unsurprising surprise, and to ask if it would be okay to use “my husband’s knife downstairs.”
“The utility knife? First of all, it’s mine. My mother gave it to me. Secondly, of course. If you need it, I also have a saw attachment for my drill.”

Truth? I can’t remember if that particular knife is the one I brought to college, or if it was The Swedelock’s originally. And, sure, sure my husband technically bought our drill after we bought our house. But I’ll be damned if I let patriarchy stand in my kitchen without speaking up.

Also: Because our home is so consistently our home, Gas Company Man called to cancel his final appointment of the day. Because he knows this is going to take a while. 

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