Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Faux-pair dreams

I spent a glorious week in Telluride, playing music for smart people, soaking in new ideas, brainstorming, laughing and meeting so many smart new friends. It was peak week in that part of the mountains, so the aspens were golden sparkles everywhere. Riding above them in a private gondola was pure magic.

I first visited Telluride three weeks after my mom died. This visit was three months after my dad died. More than just escape that drew me to the mountains both times, the trip was family-seeking. Technically there's no family in Telluride, but some of my absolutely favorite people in the world live there: the family I used to nanny for.

"Nanny" is the wrong word because it was less an employee/employer situation (and also, I worked a full-time job at CBS News while I lived there, so I wasn't babysitting 40 hours a week or anything) and more of an au pair -- or faux pair! -- situation.

Twenty years later, I fell right back into my role, not in Brooklyn, but at their mountain home. I walked dogs, lent a hand, hung out with the kids (who are all grown up now and so smart and delightful and fabulous that I want to boast on them as if they were my own sweet ones!) and had coffee and got book recommendations from my ... host mom? Friend? Chosen family?!
Morning walk with sweet pups.
It was really nice. It was nice to remember that there are people in the world you can go years with out seeing, but you can fall back into place as friends or family as if not a day had passed. You can have real talks and share real feelings with people who are just, well, real.

Seeing my fauxpair family made me realize what a special connection I had and how much I wish for my kids to have someone they can visit with as they grow.

I'll be looking for new childcare come March (our wonderful au pair's visa will be up, and she'll be off to new adventures), and I wish I could have a clone of what I was to my Telluride family. Someone to live with us, to co-parent and to love on the kids, but who also has a life of their own. Someone who wants to be part of our family and who will pick pumpkins with us and hang out just because.

I keep thinking that surely there is some Bellarmine student who wants to live close to the university, but can't afford a room. A Lakeside staffer who wants to move our of their parents' home, but can't afford an apartment yet?

The barter system is a beautiful thing! I had a free room in NYC in exchange for babysitting. It was win-win-win: for me, the parents and the kids, too! I'm back to daydreaming of that kind of magic.

Louisville: SHOW ON SUNDAY, October 20. Early show, with Luke Powers. at OdeonDoors at 5pm
Music 6 to 8pm
Tickets $10 at the Door Food truck will be outside, and you can bring your food in and SIT DOWN in the listening room and eat and enjoy the show.

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Aaron Burr, SIR! I cheesed a little asking for
a selfie with Brandon Victor Dixon. #hamilton

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Cast iron and home cookin'

I have gone a little crazy and am throwing away anything resembling non-stick or Teflon or waterproof or basic disgusting carcinogenic chemicals in our house. I know, I know -- we've all known about it for years, but it apparently takes seeing your dad's eye turn inside out and spontaneously bleed before you decide maybe teflon isn't the best idea.

I'm slowly replacing everything with Le Creuset and Staub, but here's my exception:

I can't find the exact online like, but it's similar to this one. Just cook it on LOW HEAT AND IT WON'T STICK!

Have y'all seen the trailer for this movie? Because I suspect it's gonna make ALL of y'all throw out your Teflon:

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Wherein I accidentally read 3 pornos this week

Thing I just googled: porn vs erotica vs romance.

My kindle suggested this free novel to me a couple of weeks ago, and I thought, "Sure, that looks cool. I need a nice escapist book. This one is called The Scotch King, and the cover has a crown on it. Must be some historical fiction about whisky and royalty."

I opened it and wow did I get a surprise because the book is total, like, Fifty Shades fan fiction (maybe? I don't really know my fan fiction terminology) and is just a lot of sex scenes with a story woven through. I have nothing against sex scenes, but these were definitely the most saucy and graphic ones I've ever read. I was a little embarrassed, so of course rather than stopping reading it (I mean, I really need fast-reads so I can beat my dad in our GoodReads Challenge this year, and I have a leg up on him now that he's dead), I just decided to tweet to the universe that I was reading porn.

Then I felt kind of guilty because porn has a negative connotation (though I don't think it should -- but I'm also not up on the ideology and academic arguments that support it), so I wondered if it was erotica instead. I'm still really confused, but trying not to think about it.

I never made it through Fifty Shades (i read the first, but not the others), but I did manage to finish all three of the Scotch Series, actually not even realizing it was a trilogy until I got to the third book. My Kindle had sent me the whole series as a group.

Anyway, that was my first experience reading really graphic, um, romance novels? And I had some observations.

1. I am a total sucker for plot. I really somehow needed to know what happened to these characters.
2. I didn't actually enjoy the sex scenes and kinda skimmed them for a while.
3. I went back and re-read them because I wondered if, now that both my parents are dead, maybe I could have a future writing really dirty romance novels? It seems like they are pretty thin on plot and maybe don't take a lot of time to write.
4. I will, in fact, read anything that is set in Scotland. Anything.
5. I have now, for sure, screwed up my targeted Kindle advertising, but ...
6. I am going to DESTROY my GoodReads Challenge this year, even though I started very far behind.

What are you reading this week?

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

My favorite tip for traveling with kids in Europe
Angus napping in our Toddler Tula.
Click photo for amazon affiliate link.
We all know "Are we there yet?" as the classic road-trip backseat question, but you're just as likely to hear it when your vacation plans are more urban. I'm not a beach vacation kind of person. I love cities, and in particular I love European cities. I love how walkable they are and how much more you can discover while on foot.

But what about when your city walks involve tiny feet?

I spent the summer traveling around Europe with my 6-year-old and 3-year-old. We did not bring a stroller because we traveled light. The 3-year-old still napped, so a stroller could have been useful. Instead we brought a toddler tula, easy enough to wear like a belt until needed. As you can see from the dreamy photo to the right, Angus just loved smuggling up and snoozing on Daddy while we strolled through Bordeaux. Le sigh!

Our favorite purchase was the kids' pedometer we bought for our 6-year-old. He's competitive and responds well to rewards, so the minute he asked to be carried or to stop walking, we'd ask him how many steps he had. Then we'd tell him we were gonna win if we carried him, and the complaints ceased.

We (and by we I mean David) did a lot of research about what device to buy, and we settled on the VivoFit Jr. 2. It's a Garmin device, and it links to an app on my phone. It's waterproof, and it's also a sleep tracker ... so I can check how he's sleeping and what time he generally wakes up (early. very early).

My favorite part is the rewards and chores you can create.

In Europe we had a scavenger hunt and he could earn "coins" if he, for example, saw a Swiss flag or a street musician, or whatever else I decided to add to the list.

Now that we are home, I keep a list of chores. Some are daily (brush teeth, practice piano) and he gets little alerts on the watch to go do them. Others are just on his own. If he wants to save 100 gold coins, he can do things like ... dust the baseboards, read for an hour, rake leaves, scratch David's back for 5 minutes, or basically anything you want to invent as a parent. Graham is very rewards-based, so he'll save up his gold coins for the various rewards we've listed: buy a new game/app, trip to the ice cream store, go to the movies, solo dinner date with Mom, etc.

I have to say, I thought the newness would wear off after our trip, but it's been 4 months of the device and he's still really into it. The best part for me is that he's become a surprisingly good piano player -- purely because at 6:37 every night, his watch buzzes and reminds him to practice piano.

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Monday, September 23, 2019

What I Read on my European Vacation

This summer I spent a month in Europe with my family. We moved around too much for me to officially use summer as a verb, but it still felt luxurious and escapist to the nth degree. The trip originally began as a music tour, the first and last dates booked almost a year in advance (that's how you have to do it when you tour abroad). I knew I had a month of shows to fill between a starting festival in Scotland and an ending festival in Switzerland ... and I started working (I do all this myself!) to fill in the dates.

That's when it became clear that my dad would not survive the year.

I stopped booking shows. I left the two bookend dates both because I had contracts and because I had hope, but I didn't fill in the rest of the dates. When Dad died in June, I still had these shows on the calendar, but I didn't have much of a good reason to leave the family for a month and go to Europe alone for only two shows.

So we cashed in five years of Delta and Amex points and brought the entire family along for the adventure. We even paid-it-forward a bit by buying a plane ticket for my cousin, who had posted about her longing to see Europe. I figured my dad would have wanted an adventure for his niece as well, and I really needed to feel some connection to the rest of my family at a time when this only child had just lost both her parents.

I miss that time in Europe.

It's a weird and wonderful thing -- when you have everyone you love within inches of you. You can turn off your phone. You can completely disconnect. My previous three years of panic attacks whenever the phone rang were over. I'd already received the two awful calls. The diagnoses, the long illnesses, the nasty ends and the exhalation of relief when it was over. Any phone call or email I missed this time merely meant that I'd missed a job or audition (I did -- I missed many, but oh well), and not a family emergency.

There was so much quiet. There were so many castles. I read nine novels and multiple travel books. Because we traveled with the kids, and because we walked all day, we were home early and tired. Rather than scrolling the ol' social media, I opted to get out my Kindle (Kindle paperwhite for travel is everything -- any book you want in an instant) and I read. I didn't read anything deep. My favorite genre is anything with the Eiffel Tower on the cover, no matter how dumb or difficult it looks. I will read it.

Wee Graham also read a ton. We subscribed to Epic! while we were there (and still do because I haven't canceled my free trial)so he had loads of books downloaded to his tablet as well. He read books ranging from Raucous Royals to Loch Ness Mysteries and shared all his acquired tidbits of trivia on our tourist travels. 

So here's the list of books I read while on my escapist trip abroad, not counting the typical Rick Steves Paris, etc. I'm in a 2019 kind of mood where basically all I want to read are books written by women, but I do make occasional exceptions as you can see.

P.S. from Paris by Marc Levy
Ghosted by Rosie Walsh
Matchmaking for Beginners by Maddie Dawson
Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Reid Jenkins
I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella
Bizarre London by David Long
One Day in December by Josie Silver
Rosie's Traveling Tea Shop by Rebecca Raisin
The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms

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If you're more interested in Graham's life: ...

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Graham's career, which is quickly outpacing my own.

Summer is almost over, and as we settle into pumpkin spice season, I have far too many emotions to control. I used to love the smell of fresh notebooks and sharpened pencils, but now it just reminds me that my mother is not here to complain that notebooks are made for the right-handed. And my dad is not here to say, "Y'all stop fighting," whenever I complained of having to pay my quarterly taxes.

I do have some good news to share soon -- and that mostly revolves around Graham. Graham has grown into the most magical child I could have imagined, and I'm bursting with excitement to share his announcements. I'm also imploding that my parents aren't here to cheer him on in all the magic that he's created.

I'm doing some writing on my own and some recording, but I'm also taking some private time to focus on my kids. Graham has his own career blowing up, and Angus is a charming 3-year-old whose life has thus-far been completely overshadowed by cancerous grandparents. I'm looking forward to getting to know him.

Check back here often for a big announcement from Graham.

And if you'd like to jump on the I knew Graham before he was famous train, then you can follow him here. I'm learning how to be a good stage mom, but let me defensively assure you that his Instagram account and book reviews are all him. I monitor it because I'm not a novice when it comes to scary-internet-worlds, but he writes posts by himself (i always announce myself when it's me who's posting). The other social media i'm still trying to figure out how to manage -- but most things are going to be auto-imported from Instagram, his platform of choice.

other media platforms that i have not yet announced, but whose handle i've grabbed:    ...

Friday, September 13, 2019

My house is for sale! And I'm becoming a recluse.

 I played my last public show of the year last night. It was good fun, and it was so nice to see so many smiling faces. Thanks to those of you who ventured out on a 100-degree weeknight. It was particularly cool to play Headliners with a super-quiet and listening-room type of audience. I love that stage, but it’s historically not the room for stage banter. Steve Cooley played his original banjo compositions to a room full of people hanging on to every note. That was a delight.

Honestly I’m kind of tired of playing public shows where I invest all my time and energy into marketing and begging people on Facebook to leave their houses and come out. It’s exhausting. House concerts have long been a favorite of mine because the crowd, while much smaller than a club venue, is typically 50x more appreciative and has 50x more fun. I make friends. I tell stories. I hear stories. I play music the way I believe music was meant to be shared: troubadour-style.

All that to say, that I’d love to plan a tour entirely of house concerts. But I’m also hesitant to make any plans at all right now. For the first time since before I had children, I am somewhat free. 

The death of both of my parents in less than a year was awful, but it has yielded a new freedom. I’m no longer bound to Louisville, and I’m not driving to doctors and hospitals five times a week. I’ve cut back on my teaching time significantly, meaning I can focus more on session work that can be done remotely. I mean, I still have to earn a living, but it doesn’t have to be in one place. 

That said, this fall will bring me to several new places — for work, but also for smiles. I’ll be in Telluride, the Dominican Republic, and Texas, and I’m writing you today from Nashville, where I had a last-minute job pop up. It’s good to be able to run down to Nashville without worrying you’ll miss too much (though childcare is always a challenge, I’ve got an amazing flexible babysitter). 

Through all that threatening to sell my house off-market, we went and made such an ugly mess of moving boxes that we just decided to move out completely and go ahead and list the house officially. So if you’d like to buy the childhood home of one Graham Caldwell, whose career I can tell you with full confidence will be more epic than mine, then that might prove a good investment. I’m ready to divest of “things” and concentrate on as many experiences as I can collect and give.


Here's my house listing! That would be a good way to support a local artist -- the house is valued higher than listed price, so it's kind of a deal. It appraised at $255k three years ago, before we put on a new roof and some other upgrades. Plus, it's in the Highlands and you don't really need a car there.

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Monday, August 26, 2019

How to make your bedroom feel like a hotel suite ... the journey, part one

My childhood bed was vintage. Antique. Actually, just “old.” My uncle slept in it when he was a kid because my parents bought my grandparents’ house: furnished. When I came around, the old twin bed became mine, complete with the mattress from 1949. I slept on that until I went to college when I was delivered to a den of luxury: the 4” college dorm bed that, to me, was the most comfortable place I’d ever slept. There was no dip in the center — no indentations at all. When I came home to visit my parents and had turned NYC-snobby, I convinced them I needed a mattress that was not fifty years old. 

Fifty years old. It weighed a ton. I know now it was probably fifty pounds worth of dust mites and other microscopic terrors, but at the time, having grown up in a house where everything was hand-me-down and forty-year-old pillows were the norm, I didn’t realize quite how disgusting it was.

At age 37, I bought my first actual bed — not vintage, not even pre-owned (but definitely IKEA). At age 41, I bought my first headboard. This afternoon I shall put that headboard together (also IKEA), and I shall sleep on a bed that is my own. 

Despite perpetual wanderlust, I’m yearning for a retreat. I have never cared about the state of my bedroom because, well, my bedroom was always a creaky bed, a dusty old mattress and my grandmothers sewing desk. Today I am desperate for a bedroom that looks straight out of an Anthropologie home catalog. 

Is this my rebellion? My mother bought her mother’s house, took the plastic off the furniture and plastered the walls with an Old Fitzgerald billboard. I bought my mother’s house and painted over her 5-colored-dining room walls with the most rebellious color I could think of: greige. 

Does hoarding skip a generation? My mother’s retreat was a couch full of dog hair and piles of newspapers. I’m longing for a white bed and floor you can eat off.

Before and after photos to follow, eventually. For now — show me photos of your bedroom? Tips on how to make your bedroom feel like a suite at the Westin? 

In the mean time, here’s my before and the first hint of where I'm going:
My parents' bedroom after I ripped out the carpet.

Mostly empty!
Floors couldn't be saved, so they were painted with Killz
to seal in the dog pee of yore.

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Thursday, August 22, 2019

Just adding another stressful life event to my 2019, no biggie...

Ciao to the house we grew a family in!
Because life hasn't been stressful enough the past year, we've also decided we have to sell our house. We've slowly been painting everything Realtor Grey (not a real color, but should be) -- it's actually "Repose Gray" by Sherwin Williams SW7015 -- so the house is fresh and neutral for happy, new owners.

I don't have interest in staging the house or dealing with the random-hour phone calls with the nonsense that goes along with selling a house, so it's what we call "quietly on the market." It's not for sale for owner (I'm not that crazy), but I'm not ready to stick a sign in the yard. (Ann James with Kentucky Select Properties has the exclusive listing whenever/if-ever I decide to formally list it.)

My hope is to find a buyer without ever putting it on the MLS, then to turn it over to our realtor for paperwork. It's the best zip code and school district in the city, and I was beyond fortunate to live there for fifteen years. I wrote albums there, had many a fabulous party on the enormous deck, had amazing roommates in my 20s, had a baby in the dining room in my 30s and am ready to say goodbye in my 40s. No one died there (that I know of), and I have never met any ghosts. The neighbors and neighborhood are lovely, and I'm only moving half a mile away.

This little blog is an impetus for finishing up the paint job and moving my furniture over to my new house, where I've just been urban camping for months. I suppose I should sign off and go pack up the kitchen.

If anyone out there enjoys, um, packing up boxes or selling things online for other people, drop me a line :)

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

My next journey ...

This feels like a proper blog entry, and I haven't even written it. Those popular blogs-that-they-turn-into-movies are journeys, right? I'm on a journey today. Technically, I returned home from a month abroad yesterday, but it's today that the journey begins.

I have unfulfilled needs, dreams, passions, desires, recipes, DIY projects and much more trivial things too. For the past several years, my own life has been put on hold.

Maybe that seems surprising to you, dear reader, who have seen jolly photos of me enjoying a dram of whisky or gallivanting in the Alps with my genius 6-year-old. Remember the joy-filter of social media. However honest I attempt to be, I still don't want to be the constant internet whinger in your newsfeed. Posting photos of joy may be the only thing that cheers me up, and in a world where self-care has been low on the Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

I've been in survival mode. Making sure my family is fed and loved and that my parents weren't forced to unnecessarily suffer. I was a death doula, and I am so grateful for that opportunity. I'm thankful to have been with them for their last choices, days, breaths, words, meals, hugs and smiles. It truly was an honor, a privilege, and I'm beyond thankful that I was able to do that for them. Not everyone's career allows such flexibility.

Still, my own needs have been unfulfilled -- purposefully, and sanctioned by a therapist -- and it is now time to begin a new journey of resconstructing my own life.

Yoga? Writing? Music? An organized pantry? What will adulthood look like for me?

Today I am searching for routine. But as someone who hates predictability, I struggle to find a self-care routine that I can actually follow. Does that even make sense? Or does it only make sense to the other ADHD-creatives out there who long for an organized life, but have zero interest in making it so?

Does anyone out there have a life syllabus for the non-independently-wealthy?

And now for random photo from delightful gig I played in Kentucky less than 24 hours after waking up in Switzerland:

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Saturday, August 10, 2019

Europe summer 2019 - travelogue

I’d originally planned for a tour this summer, but when my dad’s cancer returned, I had to stop booking shows. I wasn’t even sure if I’d be able to perform at the amazing Belladrum Tartan Heart festival in Scotland, much less book an entire tour. By the time dad died, it was way too late to fill in the surrounding dates with shows, so it was either cancel the festival (as if — I’ve spent over ten years touring Europe working up the networking and playing shows to prove my worth at at a big festival — thought detour: how is it that some bands are so freaking lucky to find a manager or booking agent or exactly the right person to book them entire UK tours, the exact same venues i’ve Been dying to play for ten years and they magically have someone do all the work for them?? Y’all may be jealous of my adventures, but i’m Jealous of theirs...) or figure out some silver-lining.

In our case, the silver lining was: fuck it, let’s “summer” as a verb. I’ve always wanted to do that. I keep thinking about the narrator of Rebecca, wishing that I’d had the opportunity as a young woman to be someone’s traveling companion. I think I would have found a less-crazy husband in Monaco and avoided murder mysteries and lived a nice life on an English estate. Or at least, I would have made sure that my first husband was rich rather than a bass player, but I digress again ... sorry, the coffee in Europe is really strong.

We are summering in Europe mainly because I know how to budget travel, and also — and here’s my good fortune — we’d racked up a zillion Delta points between my husband’s weekly travel and having charged two funerals in the past year to our Delta Skymiles credit card. Here’s a referral link if you’d like to get your own Delta SkyMiles card and reap the travel rewards every time you buy a cup of coffee or an IKEA kitchen (another blog). 

So we cashed in years of point-hoarding to buy four plane tickets to Edinburgh and here we are!

I’ve admittedly been on less budget-travel mode than usual because, well, both my parents died recently and that’s fucking crazy, so I’m fully in #carpediem mode. My retail therapy is in the form of tickets to castles and picnics from the Harrod’s Food Hall. I don’t give a crap about name brand purses, but I do love a first class train ticket. We’ve all got our own priorities.

I promise to write a future blog with a detailed list of everything I packed for me and the boys, but for now, here are just some more photos:

Thursday, August 8, 2019

9 reasons I can easily travel Europe with my two small children

I’m traveling, and I have not written a thing. It’s a travesty! Instead I’ve been instagramming and helping wee Graham instagram (or instagraham hahahha!) and soaking up the culture and croissants that abound in this part of the world.

Bonjour from Paris! Someone asked me yesterday how it has been to travel with two little ones. I hadn’t thought about it as a challenge, but i recognize that many people would. A few thoughts on that:

  • Both of my kids are solidly potty-trained, so that cuts down on equipment. (Though I actually think that kids in diapers are just as easy to travel with. It’s that middle-ground where they are in underwear, but can’t hold it very long that’s challenging for travel!)
  • We packed so very very light. I brought one carry-on rolling bag for me and the kids. It’s the kind where all four wheels spin rather than the kind you have to drag — my first time traveling with that kind of suitcase, and I’ll never go back! David brought one backpack for himself. 
  • Wee Graham has a small backpack (like, 8” tall) that doubles as a daybag for us or a travel bag for the boys. 
  • There’s always activity! No one gets bored because everything is new over here. 
  • There are playgrounds everywhere. If we are walking from the Eiffel Tower to the Jardin du Luxembourg, there are about fifty playgrounds to stop along the way.
  • I didn’t bring a stroller. I made that mistake when I brought 18-month old Graham along. I wish I’d brought a carrier and ditched the stroller. This time we brought a toddler Tula for times when Angus is tired of walking or wants a nap. It means we don’t have to plan or change our day around naps. 
  • Wee bought Graham a kids pedometer, so rather than complaining about walking, he is eager to get more steps than us. Yesterday he got over 24,000. (I had a meager 19,000!)
  • I’m going into this with zero expectations and am not obsessing about a schedule. If you are someone whose child must nap between 1:15 and 3:47 then you probably wouldn’t enjoy this kind of travel. If you can roll with it, then you’ll do fine.
  • I’ve spent my whole life traveling on a student or musician budget, so I have learned how to enjoy just being in a new place rather than spending euros at every street corner. I can be happy with a baguette by the river, and I’m teaching my kids the same.
More on how to pack light in another blog. But today is my last day in Paris, so I’m not going to spend it in front of my iPad. Au revoir for now! 

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Friday, July 19, 2019

How to fry an egg in a cast iron pan

I am generally not a retail-therapy kind of person. I hate "things." I hate clutter. I love to purge. I buy my clothes off ebay or get hand-me-downs because I hate to shop.

A few weeks before my dad died, however, when it became strikingly clear to me that he would not last the summer, I ran out to Williams-Sonoma and paid $128 for a Le Creuset omelet pan (it was 40% off!).

You see,  I had thrown out all of my non-stick pans in a rage because my dad had spent years working with hazardous waste. Even his doctors noted the connection between his rare sinus cancer and his work history with pesticides, asbestos and ...TEFLON ... "can not be ignored." I remember in the early 90s when he drove back and forth to a Dupont plant in West Virginia to help them properly dispose of teflon-related waste. I wondered why, in 2019, when we all know about carcinogens, apparently just shrug it off and enjoy the ease of the non-stick.

And so I bought this Le Creuset pan, like a proper yuppie, but silently fumed at my inability to fry an egg with it.

But folks! I have recently discovered the secret to frying gorgeous eggs in my enameled cast-iron pan. It just requires more patience (not more butter/oil).

It turns out that low heat is the secret. I don't love the speed, but I'm starting to treat it like the ceremony of steeping tea. It's a temporal task, not immediately satisfying, but splendid to watch the oil or butter (or both!) heat up slowly, await it prey, and sizzle the eggs/grilled cheese/brussels sprouts just perfectly.

Maybe it's time to slow everything down in my life. And it's definitely time to throw away all the calphalon in the house. There's been enough cancer here.

UPCOMING public shows: 
July 19 (TONIGHT) at Prohibition Distillery in Louisville, Kentucky - opener at 8:30p, then my band around 9:30! $5 cover and  NEW VENUE in town! wowie zowie. (click that you're "interested" on Facebook and magically that'll help other people know about it!
August 1 at Belladrum Festival in Inverness-shire Scotland, United Kingdom 
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Thursday, July 18, 2019

How to get your affairs in order to make life easier for your next of kin

Cheerful post today!! Ha ha. 

Can I take a minute to stop and suggest that you talk to your parents about getting their affairs in order, so to speak? It’s not a pleasant conversation, but it’s a lot easier if there’s no terrible diagnosis. You’ll just feel like someone who is doing their homework before it’s due, and, let me tell you, that is a good feeling.

I like to have my life organized (I still also like to jet off to Paris at the last-minute though, which is a lot easier to do if your life is organized), so my parents and I visited with an elder law attorney back in the summer of 2016 to set up new wills and create a trust so the family house would not be lost. Mom was convinced she was going to die before my dad (she was right), and that he would live another 20 years, “marry some floozy who would get the house” (she was wrong). 

We did not end up setting up a trust for my dad because two stage 4 cancer diagnoses soon followed our initial meeting. Still, that meeting forced my parents to write down everything I needed to know about all in one spot — the mortgage, the auto titles, the insurance information, social security, etc. We were able to ensure that there were beneficiaries listed on bank accounts and Power of Attorney was solidly in place when my parents were unable to leave the house. 

Anyway, might I recommend the kind folks at Kentucky ElderLaw if you have elderlaw needs (if you’re in Kentucky, that is). Also in Louisville is the fabulous Nicole Willet-Jones who specializes in estate planning. 

In the mean time, here’s a quick list of things you could do to make end-of-life a lot easier on your next-of-kin:

  • Make a will (duh) ... with an attorney 
  • Appoint/create official Power of Attorney to your partner or adult child you trust, and file these forms with the banks you use, insurance agents, even utility companies.
  • Power of Attorney expires with death, so I found it useful for my dad to list me as beneficiary on his bank accounts (some refer to this as “payable on death” or “transfer on death”). He didn’t have a lot of money leftover, but if he had this would have been a really useful thing to avoid probate (my situation was also WAY easier because I’m an only child)
  • Ask about various options to protect any property you own (the laws get tricky here and vary state to state) 
  • Make a list of all your bank accounts, stocks, or any other property, so people know how to pay for your funeral or your water bill
  • Have a conversation about health wishes and funerals (sounds tragic, but my parents and I had a delightful lunch at Chuy’s where we planned their funerals while munching on chips and dip). Neither of my parents wanted a service, and, while I would have guessed that they wouldn’t have wanted one, it was nice to hear it from their own mouths.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Motivational speaker TED-talk one-woman show available for hire

Last night I was a convocation speaker at the Kentucky Governor's Scholars Program. I've performed/spoken at GSP many years running (I'm an alum ... NKU '95), and it's consistently one of my favorite gigs, making me think I should reform my typical gig into a motivational speaker career or a TED talk at the very least (I mean, I've unintentionally gathered a pretty good story). I love a theatre. I love an engaged audience. I love a grand piano. And I love telling stories.

It mystifies me what gives some people the confidence to believe their story is memoir-worthy or TED-talk-worthy. Or even speaker-at-a-conference-worthy. I've seen trust-fund kids stand on a stage in front of photos of them taken in Peru while they were out searching for themselves for a year. I've seen them share the NPR-moment of what I learned is that we aren't that different after all, my father and I ... or whatever the message or resolution is. I've wondered what makes them think that it's a compelling enough story to deserve a stage, an audience, a platform, a book deal, an honorarium.

I've decided it's a confidence. Specifically, I've taken to calling it White Male Confidence or WMC for sure, which my poor husband has taken the brunt of my annoyance. It's the weird trait that makes people confident enough not to ask directions, or to just assume they are making the right decision in life, or to ask for a raise, or to negotiate a salary, to stir the pot when others wouldn't dare, to believe in their core that their message is innovative and important to share.

I'm not saying that their messages are not important. I'm saying that we all have stories to share, and imparting them on others is a gateway to understanding each other. And we need to take breaths and command a microphone and offer up pieces of our lives to new crowds.

Last night I wasn't sure I was engaging at all with these teenagers. They were so respectful and well-behaved that it was a difficult room to read. I talked through a lot of my story, skipping over parts that I used to dwell on because I have had so much more happen to me in the past year than I could have expected. But the Q&A part of the evening was incredible and the hour-long receiving line of scholars eager to talk to me after the show was a reminder that connection is possible if you're willing and confident (not brave, but confident) enough to stand on a stage and tell people what you're thinking. It may not be the deepest thoughts, but it's real. People appreciate real, and we learn more from each other when we are open and honest.

I'd like to do more of these speaking/performing type gigs, and I think ... no, I know, I've got a compelling story. Without looking any further than my own backyard, I've got a beautifully bookended narrative that gives me the illusion of control, or at least of a script.

Who needs me to come speak at your festival/event/work/conference? Here I am throwing myself out there with WMC saying that I have wisdom to impart, and I can do it in a compelling way

And yes, it involves the musical saw too, so there's that if nothing else. 

UPCOMING public shows: 
July 19 at Prohibition Distillery in Louisville, Kentucky - opener at 8p, then my band! $5 cover and  NEW VENUE in town! wowie zowie. (click that you're "interested" on Facebook and magically that'll help other people know about it!
August 1 at Belladrum Festival in Inverness-shire Scotland, United Kingdom 
Support my writing and music by buying me a cuppa tea!
Follow me on Spotify &  Instagram  & Facebook  & Twitter  
Follow my brilliant son Graham on Instagram
Or randomly Venmo me a dollar for a coffee refill $brigidkaelin

Friday, July 12, 2019

What I can do now that my parents are gone

I'm trying to exhale fully, but I'm still not quite able to do that. For those who are concerned, I'm off the benzos, and mostly feeling ok. I'm still irritable and impatient and will likely always struggle with depression, but an odd sense of freedom is settling in.

I'm trying hard to let go of any feelings of guilt because I'm pretty sure I've seen enough tweets about therapy to know that everything you feel is normal; there is no right or wrong way to grieve; etc etc. Sadness is a given, but what I did not expect to feel was liberation.

I knew I'd feel relief when they died; their particular cancers were extraordinarily painful and difficult to watch. It had been a long few years of never wanting to leave their sides, but also of not being able to plan anything.

I turned down a Broadway role in a national touring company because that six-month tour was during my mom's "six months to live" prognosis. I guess it turns out I could have taken the role and Mom would have lived another year (though would she have? Maybe it was me being here and advocating for her so fiercely that helped her live longer). Anyway, there were lots of postponements and fly-by-the-seat "plans" that we just had to deal with because nothing was predictable. We had to stay close.

Suddenly, there is nothing holding me back. 

Not long after my dad's funeral, the boys and I piled in a rented minivan and took a last-minute trip to Harry Potter World. I turned off my phone for a week because all of my family was with me. For the first time ever, I was not dreading a phone call. 

Now for the even bigger sense of freedom, and writers out there, this might be particular to you (or maybe not?), but imagine what you could write if you knew your parents would never read it. 

It's funny how the knowledge that my parents read my tweets would censor my language. (I know, you're probably thinking, "She's been holding back?!?" but yes, I have.) It never affected my songwriting, which I think is funny, but my prose, essays, blogs, etc ... I just never wanted them to worry or take on any more than they needed to. I don't have anything particular to shout from the rooftops now that they are gone, but I am looking forward to writing without consequence. 

Though I suppose I should think about my children reading this someday ... maybe I'm not as free as I thought :) 

UPCOMING public shows: 
July 19 at Prohibition Distillery in Louisville, Kentucky - opener at 8p, then my band! $5 cover and  NEW VENUE in town! wowie zowie.
August 1 at Belladrum Festival in Inverness-shire Scotland, United Kingdom
Support my writing and music by buying me a cuppa tea!
Follow me on Spotify &  Instagram  & Facebook  & Twitter  
Follow my brilliant son Graham on Instagram
Or randomly Venmo me a dollar for a coffee refill $brigidkaelin