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 
Support my writing and music by buying me a cuppa tea!
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Follow my brilliant son Graham on Instagram
Or randomly Venmo me a dollar for a coffee refill $brigidkaelin

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!
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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

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

On being an adult orphan.

Hello, blog. A great number of you have reached out to see if I'm okay. Thank you for that. If you're just catching up to the ol' Red Accordion Diaries, here's what you've missed: I'm an adult orphan! In the past year, I turned forty and then promptly nursed both my parents to their cancerous deaths. Dramatic, eh? But this blog...

Writing is my sanity. I can't not do it. When I am not writing regularly, I am difficult to live with. I am irritable. I am impatient. I make poor choices. 

My beautiful parents.
I'm known for oversharing, but you'd be surprised how much I've edited myself over the past many years. One time, while living in Scotland, I unintentionally upset a relative with a passing adverb, and since then I've overthought and deleted and rewritten and edited just about every word on this blog. I've even got hundreds of blogs in draft, unpublished because I worried that someone out there would be upset. I wondered how in the world stand-up comedians can get on stage and talk about their families without causing people to be written out of wills or at least not invited to Thanksgiving.

I sort of don't care anymore.

Adult orphan: it is, in a really bizarre way, the act of officially becoming a grownup. I am the eldest generation. I am the matriarch. I am well-read, well-educated, well-traveled and should be confident in my decisions -- because there is no one to run options by anymore. And guess what? That's okay. 

In all this grief -- and I know I'll be up and down and such -- I've discovered that my parents raised me really well. In their ends, nothing was left unsaid, unthanked, unacknowledged. My parents often said that I was "born thirty" and that "she raised herself." Jokes about control freaks and independence were rampant, but both adjectives have served me well. My parents raised me to be able to take care of myself. I'm confident now that I can do that, and I don't need to ask the advice of a ghost. Thanks for that, parents. You all were amazing.

UPCOMING public shows:
July 19 at Prohibition Distillery in Louisville, Kentucky.
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, June 14, 2019

Kenneth Kaelin 1944-2019

Thank you all so much for your love and support during the past few years of this cancer nightmare. Dad died peacefully and not unexpectedly just after midnight on Monday. 

I had known he was in early active dying since April when he came along on my Scotland tour, but he was hopeful and game for an attempt at cure. The doctors  -- until May 31 -- said they did believe they could resect the entire tumor. After viewing a mid-May MRI on May 29, the neurosurgeon decided it was too far along for him to comfortable remove so much of the brain. Again, this was not a surprise to me, who spent a lot of time with him and knew my dad very well. He had not been himself for a few months. 

He's been cremated and we are having a simple 4-hour visitation at Highlands Funeral Home Saturday June 15 from 2-6. We may all go to a neighborhood pub after the receiving-line-in-a-funeral-home bit to relax (a few venues have been thrown out there, but it's TBA), but Dad did not want a typical service. I suspect we will do another big street party in September to celebrate both of my parents, who were more popular in this town than my 'celebrity' could ever reach. 

I am doing ok. I'm sure I'll lose it at some point, but I'm looking forward to traveling and getting to know my children, who have not seen the best of me since Mom's diagnosis.

Obituary ran in the Courier Journal on Tuesday:

Thursday, June 6, 2019

As much as I hope no one else in the world needs that domain (and I am hoping I never need it again), I'm also hoping to be rid of it soon. It's an awful feeling, a walking contradiction, knowing that a loved one is on his way out and that sooner would be preferable to later.

Seeing someone in such pain, misery and general discomfort, and knowing that person to have valued independence and strength, well, it makes it hard to not want it to go away for them. We are staying with Dad, snuggling when he'll allow it, holding his hands when he's asleep which is 23.5 hours a day at this point, and making sure he takes his pain medication to allow him sleep. Cancer is a nasty beast. For those of you who had hoped to visit, you are welcome at the house for hugs and a coffee with me, but dad isn't really up for visitors. I don't think he'd want people seeing him in his current state.

Picture of the boys because they make
everyone smile.
I wish I'd written more details about our family's cancer journey -- something I plan on sharing more of after Dad is gone. I've learned that so many other people have been through similar stories. I'm fortunate to have had understanding and access to palliative and hospice care and to have enough science education to understand medical terms. I wouldn't wish this on anyone, but I do want to write some blogs to help others navigate.

In the mean time, I'm still teaching and gigging and trying to keep the boys fed. David is an incredible support, and I'm grateful to my friends out there for the food deliveries, sweet messages and good thoughts.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Some not so wonderful news

"It was the third of June, another sleepy, dusty Delta day ..."

I had a gig yesterday, and it turns out I do know all the words to "Ode to Billy Joe." Today, however, is neither sleepy nor dusty and certainly not Delta-like. It's a crisp fall morning in June, and I'm siting on the front stoop of my childhood home where I'm caring for my cancerous dad. He's had a crap few years, and I'm finding it really hard to keep calm for him.

In good news, people I rarely see in real life (which is everyone, since the last 3 years have been spent taking care of my parents and my babies) have shared their hearts and their cooking. That has been so amazingly helpful. Meal delivery is everything, so my kids are getting vegetables again. Other helpful things have been people picking up extra fruit while they are at the grocery and just dropping it off on our porch. I haven't been to the grocery for anything besides laxatives and Coke (my dad's current diet, apparently) in ... well, I can't remember. It's been takeout, pizza and the random can of corn that lives in the back of everyone's cabinet for emergencies like this.

Lakeside has opened. My dad is unable to go, and that breaks my heart. Last weekend he didn't want to go because he didn't want to talk to people. I understand. The day I went, no fewer than five people asked me how my mom was doing, and that was fun news to break to people I barely knew. Now the pool is less-crowded, but my dad is feeling a lot worse.

Long story short: his tumor is not resectable, and he is in Hospice care. Hosparus of Louisville is absolutely amazing, and the care and attention we've already received is beyond that of any doctor's office I've experienced in this country. No more specifics here (that's what is for), but if my blogs get dreary or sparse, that's why. I'm back in caregiver mode, not leaving dad's side and loving him fiercely.

Friday, May 31, 2019

When should you take medication before public speaking?

Southern Sirens! I stole this image from their FB page.
They are playing at Highview Park tonight with The Honky
Tonk Band, and I'm emceeing ... it'll be a big time. FREE.
Mental health check: how is everyone doing?

It's a rough week over here, and today I'm trying to figure out how to go out in public and be a cheerful emcee at a delightful neighborhood event tonight. Some of my favorite people and musicians are playing at Highview Park, and it's being recorded for a Kentucky Homefront broadcast. John Gage is out of town, so I'm filling in on hosting duties. I'm hoping it doesn't turn into that scene of Sixteen Candles where the bride takes xanax (or whatever it was) and then trips down the aisle. Because I'm not sure I can handle going out in public and talking to people without medication, but I also should probably be able to think and speak clearly while on-stage.

My dad is hurting a lot. I went straight into caregiving for him four days after my mom's funeral. We have to move in with him ASAP, but don't have any moving crews or boxes or a kitchen at Dad's house because it's all I can do to get Graham to school and make sure Angus has dinner these days.

This too shall pass, etc, though I'm not ready for anything to pass just yet.

Anyway, Louisville, tonight's show in Highview Park features Southern Sirens and The Honky Tonk Band (that's Shannon Lawson!), and I absolutely love both of those bands. It'll be a good time. Now I just have to figure out how to get to Highview.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

First world whinges and venting tweets sometimes have a reasonable backstory

Fun with DIY projects
However public it truly is, this blog feels safe. Things I would never post in a Facebook status or tweet feel more discreet in a blog. Facebook tends to devolve into a discussion that has little to do with the original intent of the post (generally to the point where I want to just delete the post and maybe even delete my entire account because YES, OF COURSE I HAVE GOOGLED IT ALREADY or whatever the obvious answer/suggestion/recommendation/solution is). Twitter can be so easily misinterpreted because it’s so out of context. Like when someone last week retweeted me with a “thoughts and prayers to you in your first world problem” kind of situation, when this person had no idea that I own the domain Out of context, my tweet looked like a vapid whinge, and while, my life is definitely significantly better than a majority of the world, things aren’t roses right now.

Though I can’t afford proper therapy, I’ve learned enough from my friends who can afford it — that my feelings are still my feelings, no matter how much I acknowledge that life could always be worse. Of course if can be worse. It could be worse for all but one person on the planet — for that one person who, at this exact moment, truly does have it the worst. But outside of that, I’m trying to accept that a lot of things suck for me right now. My family, while full of love, has had to deal with a lot of trauma, drama and heartache, with horrible timing and unfair swings of emotion. 

I’m holding my shit together because I have no choice. When David comes home on the weekends, I usually lose it because I can. I hold it together during the week for my kids. I have no time for self-care. Please don’t tell me to make time because right now I’m in survival mode and self-care is NOT at the top of the list. The idea of adding one more thing to my To Do list right now — finding time for a yoga class or a walk around the block — adds exponential stress, particularly when I fail to cross off that one more thing. If you’re itching to comment that I should put on my own oxygen mask before helping others, please refrain. Think it, but understand that right now that’s just not possible. Survival mode.

I’m pretty frustrated with the medical and health care system. My dad’s had an invasive recurrence, and I am not happy with the attention (or lack of attention) and communication that he’s received. I’ve advocated for him deeply. Phone calls aren’t returned. Surgeries aren’t scheduled. Doctors have made incorrect assumptions about my dad’s choices. People are giving us different information. I can’t tell if the surgeon wants to operate because he honestly thinks he can cure my dad or because my dad happens to be an interesting case. 

My dad is as stoic as ever, though he’s trapped in a situation and a location that he has no control over and I just feel awful for him. The poor man lost his wife and best friend of almost fifty years. He spent the last two months of her life in extreme pain from his own radiation and chemotherapy. I want to just hug him tightly 24 hours a day, but he feels like he’s a burden on us. He’s not. This is family, and I love him. He raised me to love and help and be there for family, and it’s a no-brainer that I want to take care of him and spend every minute I can with him. 

But it’s a crap time. I hate that there’s no home health care (yes, we’ve looked into palliative care, which is not hospice, but it’s been a several week process to get that ball rolling, involving financial forms and phone calls, even when it ends up that you qualify for full financial assistance because, well, you lost your job the same week your wife was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer). I just wish home health care was standard. I wish there was a team of people who had eyes on my dad on a regular basis. I wish people would call us back. I wish it felt like the doctors saw my dad as a whole person, for, like, one minute — that he was more than a 74-year-old widower with cancer living in his daughter’s basement. It feels like they’ve given up on him, but that they forgot to tell him that and want to cut his head off to try to save his neck.

It’s infuriating, and my mind is swirling. I want to be kind to everyone, but I see people with full sets of grandparents and I just get angry. And sometimes I just can’t get out of bed even to do something so simple as to turn off the light because even that feels too overwhelming. And I tweet about it because that’s all I can do — throw a whinge into the universe.

I know. Life could be worse, but it really really sucks for my dad right now. And having just watched my mom endure a really awful death, I want my dad to be able to catch a break for once. He spent the past 3 years caregiving or in treatment, and he could really just use a week at the beach. Or, like, to not be in pain. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Painting Hardwood Floors DIY

Today I walked in my mom’s house. We are moving here soon. It is a wreck.

I am staring at piles of dirty clothes, knowing most donation places don’t do laundry, but I don’t want to hire one of those services because I need to see what’s being thrown away. During this process, I’ve found some sentimental things that a stranger would never have known to be emotionally valuable. Still, I need this stuff gone, so I can ... paint the floors.

Now this blog shifts from sentimental-my-mom-died-too-young-of-evil-cancer to DIY MOMMY BLOGGER EXTRAORDINAIRE! There’s no chalkboard paint gender reveal, but I do have to find a solution for the hardwood floors.

Our original plan had been to double the size of the house so four adults with two home offices and two growing boys could live here comfortably. Plans change, and I need to be in this house for the summer for mental health reasons.

Now we are quickly trying to make an accessible suite for my dad, while making the rest of the house inhabitable. I’ve got some bad dust allergies, and this house is a hundred years old. I’m also allergic to dogs, and I’m still finding dog hairs, years after the dogs died.

My task today is: What to do with 100-year-old oak floors that have been peed on by many, many dogs for the last fifty years?

I’ve googled. I’ve talked to hardware and hardwood flooring folks. I’ve examined every plank of wood, to the point where I developed bronchitis from inhaling so much dust.

These floors cannot be saved. Sanding is not effective, as the stains are all the way through the wood. Even the slightest sanding releases the odor of urines-gone-by (not nearly as bad as cat pee — so at least there’s that). The wood itself is solid, but there’s no subfloor. In an effort to re-use what’s already there, save some resources and time (and money — that is better spent on making accessible rooms for my dad... yes, someday we will lay new hardwood flooring on top of this), we are going to paint the floors and seal them completely.

At first I assumed we’d go dark — brown or black or grey or something, so people wouldn’t necessarily notice at first that we had dared to paint original hardwood flooring. But in my grief, in incorporating the idea that my mom would FLIP OUT if she knew we were painting original hardwood, I’m trying to imagine what she might like. I think if she walked into anyone’s living room and saw something like this, she would love it:

So now my task becomes, not should we paint the floors?, but how crazy should I go? It’s not quite a “what would my mom have done,” because David, after all, is a bit more conservative in his design taste than mom was. Remember the dining room?

This morning a friend is coming over to help me stay focused, to help me put things in large ziploc bags, to help me clear out the room and see the disgustingness that is the beagle pee. What kind of floor will I end up with? Stay tuned! I am back to the blog, folks. For realsies!

Monday, May 13, 2019

How behavioral oncologists are the unknown saviors of cancer patients

Cancer. Let's talk about cancer, and how much it sucks, however everyone we know and love seems to have far too firsthand of a story about it.

I feel like I'm just scratching the surface of maneuvering the hospital system, and I have a surprising number of friends in the medical community. I understand liability, protocol and how different doctors are trained to approach things in a different way, specific to their specialties.

Surgeons want to operate. Oncologists focus on cancer cells, often ignoring other health issues that also threaten to cut life short. There is so much protocol -- and, let's face it, there are SO many people with cancer! -- that doctors tend to forget that there is a person underneath all those bad cells.

In dealing with both my mom AND my dad (in two separate hospital systems), not one doctor or staff member ever mentioned an amazing resource that exists: the Behavioral Oncologist.

It was only in talking with a friend, a friend I ran into at a coffeeshop, whose daughter happens to be a behavioral oncologist (at the same hospital where my mom was) that I even began to understand what that job is.

I had to bring it up myself (children: the advocates!) to my mom's main oncologist, and he agreed that it would be a good idea to see such a doctor. He said he'd arrange for an appointment. His staff didn't follow through. A month later, I asked about it again, and they made an appointment for her four months later. This was for a woman with metastatic pancreatic cancer.

No one brought it up with my dad until I pointed out to a staff member that, well, no one had yet brought it up.

Now that I've ranted about how it's not a service that is readily offered, but seems to be a service that every hospital has, let me explain what they actually do, at least in my own experience.

They listen to you. They understand cancer, but not just how it affects your body. Their focus is how it affects your mind, your relationships, your life, your feelings, your quality of life, and they can help you sort through your feelings about treatments, which then can help you make major decisions -- such as to continue treatment or reach out to hospice to help you enjoy your last years without pain. 

My mother was never one to talk about her feelings, so her visits to the behavioral oncologist were quiet. She also was pretty passionate about choosing quantity of days rather than quality of life, but it was really nice to have a doctor who listened to her, who knew the other doctors, and who could help her figure out what questions to ask and how to prioritize her time. There was someone to help her understand timelines and to help her manage her anxiety and depression, not just the symptoms of the cancer itself.  

As a family member/caregiver, I qualified to see the Behavioral Oncologist myself as a patient. I still see her, though my mom died months ago. She's been a wonderful resource in navigating this insane health care system and this crazy cancer ride. 

Not much more to say here, but I'm trying to write more without violating anyone's privacy. Someone out there -- someone who doesn't have close friends who work behind the scenes and can pull strings -- needs to read about Behavioral Oncologists. 

If that's you, then ask your doctor. Ask them straight up if they can put you in touch with the Behavioral team. It's yet another doctor, but it's the doctor/APRN who will listen to you as a whole being, not just as an interesting case. 

Friday, April 26, 2019

Scotland adventures, Macbeth, Kentucky Homefront, TRAVEL!!

I WENT TO SCOTLAND! And ENGLAND TOO! It was a great tour -- totally slammed, and I took a thousand pictures (probably not an exaggeration). I've been instagramming with microblogs attached, so check out over there if you can't wait for me to post stuff over here:

MY NEW VIDEO IS OUT! Thanks to WFPK for playing the single so often. This link is a post by WFPK with link to the video.


One: Wee Graham was cast in a real, live play -- like with a professional company and stuff, and it's Shakespeare, at that! He's in MacBeth (and he has lines and everything!), and you can buy tickets here.

Two: I'm hosting a Kentucky Homefront again on Sunday, April 28! Yes, they're giving me a microphone again for a live-to-tape radio show :) My radio hour includes a Scottish singer who plays Americana music, and a Kentucky group that plays celtic songs. How's that for a theme? Buy tickets to that in advance to save $3: here.

I've had a lot of personal drama with family medical crap over the past year, but I'm trying to pull it together to get the travel blog and whisky adventures back together. Love to all of you for all the support.

Support an indie artist: buy me a cuppa tea? 

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Traveling again!

I am desperate for travel, and also keenly aware that this is a terrible time to be traveling. My kiddo had a tonsillectomy last week. He should be fine by the time I leave -- 14-days post-surgery -- but I'm still nervous to leave if he isn't 100%. My dad is feeling the effects of his most recent immunotherapy, and I'm nervous to leave him.

LUCKILY, he's decided to join us on this tour -- be customer #1 for Brigid's COACH BUS TOURS OF SCOTLAND where all my friends join me on a pub-tour. (Someone out there, please organize this because I have organized ENOUGH things for enough people this past month to last a lifetime.) I'm hoping he'll be able to take some photos too, so that we'll have more than just weird selfies and a bunch of pictures of a banjo.

In other fun news, my little guy's commercial from last year has been airing primetime basketball tournament slots:

My little guy has fallen deeply in love with acting despite my best efforts to encourage the MBA instead.

Are you in the UK? Will I see you on this tour? Message me if I won't. Just say hello. I have been a bad blogger because I've been spending 25+ hours a week on a volunteer job instead of my, like, career. Turns out that's bad business all 'round, both for the bills and the spotlight. Look for me to be back here more often.

ALSO -- I HAVE A NEW SINGLE COMING OUT ON FRIDAY!!! WFPK is premiering the video on their website on Thursday, April 5, so you can be the first to check out the new song.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Scotland, England, I am coming for you!

It's not been a fabulous past year, which has clearly affected my mental health ... and therefore my writing frequency, which then circles back around and affects my mental health negatively. Losing your mom isn't something I would recommend, though it's been living with my dad. I don't post a lot of super-personal stuff (hard to believe, I know) on the internets, but my dad's got cancer too. His is a rare form of sinus cancer, and despite surgery, chemo and radiation, it's popped back above his eye. In true Kaelin spirit, however, he's decided to not let that stop him from doing, well, anything. In fact, he's bought himself a plane ticket and will be official videographer and merch person on my UK tour in four weeks!

I typically don't allow my family to come on business trips with me, but this is a very different situation. Plus, my dad is a silent, stoic type, so I can't imagine him being anything but fun on this trip. It will also be fun to point the audience to a merch person with an eyepatch!

Those of you who are reading this in the UK, please come say hello!! The shows in Strathpeffer, Southern Skye and Beverley are house concerts, so email me if you want details about that. The other shows are listed in more detail on our Facebook event tour. It would be FANTABULOUSLY helpful if you shared the Facebook events/graphics with your feed or tagged your friends who live in the UK. We all know that music is essentially free these days, so the best way you can support a musician is to TELL YOUR FRIENDS! Please help spread the word?

I even made Steve sit down for a silly video to promote our new tour. It shows that our cinematography is very weak, but that we are generally fun people to be around. Come say hello, UK friends!!

Here's a big link to our Tour Dates:

Other ways to support us if sharing on your newsfeed is too challenging:)
Buy us a drink or a meal or a tank of petrol, and we'll be sure to shout out to you on our tour vlog ... and review a particular whisky if you like, or dedicate a castle to you.
 Venmo is @brigidkaelin
  CashMe is $brigidkaelin
 Paypal is