Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Books to help you overcome or embrace general malaise.


Books. I spent last Monday clearing out about 30% of my parents’ attic. About 90% of what I got rid of was (or is it were?): books. SO many books. 

The beautiful thing about these books is that they were all read. My parents' favorite pastime was reading. They read at dive bars, swimming pools, airplanes, road trips, during my gymnastics classes, piano lessons, play practice. They read everywhere. They couldn’t change a light bulb or hang a frame, but they’d read Ulysses — and discussed it on their first date. 

Hoarding books was something I learned from infancy. Re-homing books is something I’ve embraced as an adult. 


The musty smell of my attic (identical to the Strand Book Store in NYC) brought loads of feelings, but my! was it freeing to load up my friend’s car and pay her to take the books away.

When I go into a depression (and I have been deeply depressed lately — a tear-filled, joyless blob who posts selfies so people will tell me I’m pretty and maybe that will release some dopamine ::shrug emoji::), I lose myself in books. It’s February and I’ve read ten books so far this year.

They have not been particularly cerebral books. I’m drawn to books that don’t make me think, but do make me feel things that are different than oh-my-god-my-dad-has-cancer-TOO-what-the-actual-hell.

What am I reading right now?
This feels like a cheat because it’s a re-read. I chose it for Neighbor Book Club this month. I’ve never had to choose the book, so it was very stressful for me. I wanted a book that others probably hadn't read, but that I thought had staying power. I’ve read something like thirteen of the Maisie Dobbs books, but not in a long time. I’ve actually forgotten the plot of the first one, so I’m enjoying re-reading it. It’s written by a woman and has a brilliant woman as a main character (honestly, I've kinda of sworn off books written by men unless I have good reason to read them. We were assigned books by men 99% of our academic lives, so I feel like I have a lot of catching up to do in the world of women and minorities). It’s set in the 1920s-1930s London, and is a light mystery that’s well-written and charming. 

Quick review of some others I’ve read this year:

The Year of Less: I listened to this on audiobook while i was cleaning out crap. It was fine, but it made me a little annoyed. A woman tries not to buy things for a year. I don’t think I can read Nouveau-Thoreavian books written by twenty-somethings who haven’t suffered real hardships. It just makes me angry in general at the world that the stories being published and told are those of middle-class white people, which then makes me wonder what the hell business I have writing a book when i should be out looking to help other people tell their stories. But I digress...

Dirty Like Me: This was a super dirty book. I’m trying to read more of these because I feel like I’d be very good at writing romance novels, but I am still having trouble figuring out when it's a sweet story versus when it's just pure erotica -- or some combination. I need to come up with a pen name though, so y’all don’t disown me.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January: I really enjoyed this book. It was a book-club pick, and I was so proud of myself for reading it. Of course i didn’t attend the book club, so oops. I have a really good habit of “joining” book clubs and then never going.


The Princess Diarist
: Oh my god, this book made me so embarrassed for Carrie Fisher because she totally printed actual diaries she kept from when she was 19 and aaaaaack, even though she was a perfectly good writer — better than most! — it was still super embarrassing. I’ve got some of my old journals, but I shall reserve any old-publishing for my Patreon community. (Hint hint PRETTY PLEASE sign up over there? Because you know I won’t ever be releasing another album again because no one does that anymore because the music business has changed and it’s just a total money-pit to put out an actual album so PLEASE subscribe to musicians’ patreons instead?)

Murder in an Irish Village: I like Ireland. I love little mysteries like this. It was no Agatha Raisin because the main character isn’t quite as memorable, but it got me out of my own head and into a small Irish Village for a few days. That was nice.

Christmas Shopaholic: Is this the moment when you realize that Brigid Kaelin likes Sophie Kinsella? Can we still be friends? Mindless. Pleasant. Not my favorite of the series, but I read the whole thing terribly quickly.

Cosy: The British Art of Comfort  A perfectly charming read that also makes me wonder why the hell I haven’t written a full-on book yet because I am pretty sure this book is just a really long blog entry. It would be a nice book for the back of the toilet, if you are one of those people who doesn’t scroll through Twitter while you’re pooping. 


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Saturday, February 1, 2020

A world of beautiful unnecessaries.

“Beware of artists. They mix with all classes of society and are therefore most dangerous."— Queen Victoria

HOUSECOAT, people. It's amazing.
It makes me feel SO luxurious.
THANK YOU, friend who gifted it to me.
This is one of those quotes I've heard my whole life, but never understood until years after Brigid Kaelin LLC -- aka Brigid Kaelin the artist -- started paying the bills. Also, being a blogger, not a journalist, I only googled the quote and fact-checked it on GoodReads rather than an extensive and proper resource because my blog doesn't earn money. So I think it's Queen Victoria, but it might not be, but I'm not being paid to write this so I'm not fact-checking on a Saturday morning while I write.

ANYWAY: I understand the quote.

I'm an artist. I grew up upper-lower class (posing as lower-middle class). I know a lot of other artists who don't/didn't have a lot, but I meet all kinds of people out at gigs. I often get hired to play very fancy parties. On set breaks I've spoken with Lords and Ladies and United Nations Ambassadors and royalty and literal billionaires -- with a B.

Having spent the last 20 years as CEO of, ahem, Brigid Kaelin LLC, I have learned some things about the world that I initially found ridiculous, but apparently common:

Y'all, there is a whole world of unnecessaries out there. Here are a few that I've learned about in the past ten years:
  • chargers: essentially, these are plates that you can't eat off of
  • housecoat: functions the same as a sweater, but operates like a robe that you wear over your clothes. ideally, it has pockets. (I recently received one, and it's the most luxurious thing I've ever owned and I'm never taking it off!)
  • tablecloths: people actually use these, not just at weddings apparently, but it's not good to get them dirty which is confusing. some people own more than one. It's like a housecoat for your table, I guess?
  • white t-shirts that men wear underneath their shirts: they need to remain so very brightly white, despite the fact that no one ever sees them
  • decorative candles: many people in this world own candles that are not merely for when the electricity gets cut off

Help me add to this list! What crazy/dangerous/amazing/life-changing things have you seen or learned about since you started mingling with other classes?

Monday, January 27, 2020

Meal planning woes in the existential search for structure

Hyrdation. Markers. Bullet Journal. #smug
I've been grasping at planners -- planners because I've always enjoyed filling out forms and grasping because I feel like implementing some structure will make everything okay.

David and I laughed about us doing all the major life-stressors just back to back to back. We got married in Kentucky one July, moved to Scotland the very next month, had a baby twelve months later, did another international move when said baby was seven weeks old, were unemployed for a year, got back on track, then decided to have another baby, who is a total delight, but I'm only learning about him now because shortly after he was born, both my parents got cancer and I nursed them to their home deaths, and then we moved again, but have been living out of suitcases since May 24, and basically, everything is really weird.

I recap all of this for you, mostly for me, to type out that, yes, I've been through a LOT recently, and it is okay to feel like I'm slowly emerging from a decade of stress and chaos. Anxiety tells me not to get complacent because control is an illusion, etc. 

Anyway.

I'm trying to focus on things I can control. Which I guess is my actions, and only my actions? Did I get that right? (Still hunting for a therapist who can prescribe and who takes my insurance, but I read a lot of novels, so I feel like I'm pretty good at extracting life lessons.)

For some reason, meal planning feels like it would solve all of my problems.

I used Fresh20 for three years, and I really liked it. Eighty percent of the meals were yummy (all of them needed salt), and it was nice knowing I always had the ingredients for supper in the kitchen on any given day.

When our au pair moved in, we stopped doing Fresh 20 because she loved to cook and her diet was drastically different. I really enjoyed having family dinners, but then life got too complex. Now our au pair keeps to herself, and I'm trying to figure out what home life will look like when she departs. (We will miss her terribly!)

I tried The Fresh20 again last week. It didn't work out for me because of schedule changes (maybe it's my weird last-minute gig schedule that makes structure difficult to apply?). I tried two of the mail-order meal kit things, and was just too freaked out by the amount of packaging to continue them (though it's a cool idea).

What do you families out there do? Do you just have Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, Watermelon Wednesday, or whatever? And repeat the same dishes every week?

Who's got it all organized?

Of all the meal kits I tried, I liked the Purple Carrot recipes best (I need meals that are healthy), but I really really can't stand the plastic and the oil miles. I'd love to be able to create the perfect week of meals without any food waste AND without any plastic. I think I'm going to have to sit down some time, get all the recipes I liked and figure out how to buy a Purple Carrot-style meal-plan, but order it from Kroger. It may involved having a neighbor share with me because what if I only need one stalk of celery??? I'll report back with a grocery list and recipe cards if I ever get that organized.

Ugh. This just leads me to wondering why I didn't take HomeEc instead of IB Calculus? Harumph.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

What does the life of a self-employed musician look like?

I like my Planner Pad. Not perfect for me, but
the best I've found for balancing jobs.

Many of you have asked me what I do all day, so this little blog is to give you a li'l' insight into the life of a self-employed artist who also solo parents 4-5 days a week with ADHD and who lies somewhere on the sphere (i say sphere, not spectrum):


Today, between 7a-12p: 

7:00  Wake up! This is not typical. I'm usually up much earlier because my kids hate to sleep, but my kiddos were shockingly good this morning. It’s a crapshoot, which makes this whole thing called “morning routine,” very challenging. I’ve been sleep deprived for, like, eight years. But even when I wake up at 5 am, it’s not like I get anything business-related done. That’s usually the time of day when I’m grumpy, underslept and I manic tweet from the toilet, which I suppose counts as doing my on-brand social media posting.

7:01-8:30 Get my kids dressed, fed, cleansed. Read books to them. Mitigate arguments. Have coffee. Try not to be angry at the little ones. Get Graham to bus stop and Angus to preschool.

8:45 Home. Make a cup of decaf. I’d like to switch over to tea, but locating my electric kettle and my good tea is difficult, as we are still living out of boxes. It’s been eight months of this. Yes, it’s making me feel crazy.

8:50  Pay two medical bills with my Amex so I’ll get Delta points. Tweet about paying medical bills with my Amex.

8:55-9:30  Go through accounting for 2019. File and pay my 2019 Sales and Use tax forms online. I owed $33 because that’s how much sales taxable stuff I sold, and 95% of those sales were tickets. The other owed was for a t-shirt. The other tax was on free CDs I gave away, but which I’m still supposed to pay use tax for.  Today I also had to pay $20 extra to file official change of address forms. SO INTERESTING! Good thing I took IB Calculus,

9:30 Frantically text Steve Cooley asking about 1099s.

10:00 Email accountant to see if she wants to do my 1099s. Realize that by the time I got all the information to her, I could have just filed them all myself. She knows I have all my ducks in a row and would probably prefer me just do it rather than bother her with an email. I probably should Venmo her $5 for a latter because I just wasted her time with an email.

10:05 Do more maths, adding up my contract labor (basically, people in my band whom I paid to play with me in 2019 and try to remember which box their W9s are in).

10:30 Cry because I miss my mom during tax season.


10:45   Post video and write a little paragraph microblog about that song and my mom and taxes and then cry again. 

10:50  Go back and add PATREON link because, having just paid my taxes, I realize that I really need to work on the subcriber/patron business template if I want to continue making art for the world.

10:55  Feel guilty about self-promoting my Patreon page. Check my blog stats and notice that my blog has had 5764 page views in the last 3 weeks, so clearly some of you out there actually enjoy my art/content/writing? But only 54 of you subscribe to my Patreon, so how can I work on converting readers to supporters?

11:00  Decide that little Carole King video wasn’t enough actual practice, so I play 10 minutes of Beethoven with a metronome.

11:15  Create meal plan for the week (i just pulled up an old one) and make a Kroger Clicklist to pick up later today.

11:30  Go to the post office to mail 5 photographs to Patreons who joined during my special offer. (Full disclosure: i was panicking about going to the post office, and David is home this week so he went for me!!!)

11:45 Email venue and production staff about Saturday’s Burns Night Show, choosing the appetizer menu and writing out the budget. Guess what? We’re probably gonna each earn about $100 before taxes. Which makes me realize, thought I LOVE playing these kinds of original music, fun variety shows, I need to … 1) work more on my Patreon content and 2) follow up with my event planner friends to book private events.

12:00 Write this blog.

12:45 time to pick Angus up from school!

I’m going to try to step away from work for a while, on orders of my therapist. I’m also desperate to write, both prose and music, but apparently I'm supposed to try to exercise because it, like, releases endorphins and makes me happier and stuff. Harumph.


Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Alternate universe dreams and a dream job i was once offered

Singing at the Laphroaig Distillery in Scotland.
Remember 2009, when I blogged every day of the year? (mostly)? Yowza, was life simple then. I think about the fires in Australia and the Trump insanity and Brexit and #MeToo and I just want to scream with passion and then I wonder what it's all for. In 2009 I blogged about wishing our local weekly paper hadn't stopped publishing music listings. I took a lot of shit from that little blog, including some threats, and I lost sleep and friends.

Now that trivial blog post is dust in the wind because we have destroyed the planet and probably the dinosaurs all actually died because they drove too many gasoline cars everywhere and gave their children too many plastic toys and then the earth caught fire and it took 65 million years for palm trees to grow again.

What's new with me? I cannot stop wanting to create. I think about this insane drive to tell stories every time someone asks my boys what they want to be when they grow up. I think about it whenever someone tells me they want to be a musician.

I want to tell them: Please. If you can do anything else and still be happy, do that

It's devastating advice, but I stand by it. For whatever reason, whatever wiring is in my brain, I cannot be happy unless I am writing. It can be music or it can be essays, but it is the only thing that gets the jumble out of my brain and onto the page or the crowd and makes me feel sane.

Recently, in the continuing quest to clear out my parents' house, I found an email exchange between me and my mom from 1999. I had been 21 for less than a week when I was offered two jobs: one with CBS News as an assistant producer in their documentary department.

The other job offer was a company I'd never heard of, but which gave me three interviews and an impressive benefits package. My email exchange with my mom was about me trying to decide which job to take. CBS paid almost half of what the other offer paid. The other company was going to pay for me to get an MBA and to join a gym (Mom and I both thought that was the funniest "benefit" in the package). The other company was something called "consulting," and neither me nor my mom nor my AltaVista web searches could explain. The other job offer was from a little business called McKinsey & Co. I turned it down. (I KNOW, RIGHT?!?!?!?!)

Now in my head, there's an alternate universe where I took that job at McKinsey. I am a retired partner, and I own several islands in the Hebrides, plus a small unmapped island only known to rich people.

Hang on, now I'm doing that fantasy thing that happens when you buy a Powerball ticket, that suddenly you're living in your dreams.

My life is pretty good, and I could write a whole book about how growing up in a different economic class means that even when you do everything "right"  -- you go to the Ivy League, you get the 4.0, you meet the right people, you get the job offer, and you still don't know enough to understand what the freaking business is. And neither does your mom.

And also: art. You, in particular, cannot function without writing and without telling stories.

So you take the job as the television producer and life still turns out pretty good. Though in retrospect, I think I would have also kicked ass at that McKinsey job, so maybe I should see if the offer still stands?

(Still, I would suggest to my children to take the effin' McKinsey job. And then become patrons of artists whose brains are wired in less-profitable but unavoidable ways...)