Friday, December 14, 2018

Lucid Dreaming with my Mother

Mommy and me, 1979.
I can lucid dream. For most of my life it's been a way to travel -- generally via magic carpet, though occasionally I'll travel via pod like on Singapore Airlines or whatever -- and also to eat whatever I want without fear of hurting my belly or my cholesterol. I can use this power to extract myself from nightmares and turn them into magic, sort of like turning a boggart into something comical.

For the past three months, however, I have been using it to hang out with my mom. Last night I had a really fun time with her. We all went to Scotland, and after arriving via magic carpet, we traveled to the Isle of Mull in a rented Microlini (my newest strange vehicle obsession, see video below).

Sometimes I ask her questions to things I forgot to ask her in real life -- like, "What was your mom's favorite color?" or I'll tell her all about the hilarious things her grandkids are doing.

I'm coping surprisingly well with the grief, but I'm wondering if it's because I still get to see her. I can't command her presence in my dreams, but when she shows up, I'm totally aware that it's a limited-time experience, but it still always involves a hug, a smile, and appreciation of the moment, even though the moment is in a trance. Hoping I can hold onto this part of grief for a little while longer -- pretending she's away on a long trip, or has left the family to go find herself in Paris. It's making life a little easier for now.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Free Sheet Music - Hanukkah song

Did everyone have a delightful Hanukkah?! 

I didn't force this dandy Hanukkah tune in anyone's face this year, but here it is to spread joy if you need a giggle. Also, I made use of my classical training and created a PDF of a lead sheet for the song, which is available free on my website (along with the mp3s of the songs).

It's free, though of course I won't stop you from donating to the cause of art:

Louisville! Come to hear me and Steve Cooley pick some tunes on Thursday, December 13, from 8-10 at Goodwood Brewing. Goodwood is one of the only small venues in this town with a really good sound system, and that makes playing music and listening to music a DELIGHT.

I'm not going to try to sell you anything this shopping/holiday season, but I would ask that you consider supporting ANY indie artist you know and love. Here are some things you can do that actually help, aside from buying merch:

Follow us on Spotify -- add a song to a playlist if you really want to spread the love!
Like us on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter
Follow us on Instagram

I'm also @BrigidKaelin on Venmo or $BrigidKaelin on Cashme :)

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Hosting an Au Pair: how to & why & benefits

Our amazing au pair has started venturing out into the world a lot more lately, now that she's a lot more confident in her English and navigation skills. She's also encountered something fun out in the wild: other au pairs!

When we first decided to go the au pair route, the local agency coordinator (LCC for local childcare coordinator) told me that there were eleven au pairs in the Kentuckiana area, all but 2 of whom were out in Oldham County/extreme East End (read: far from us) areas. There was one in Southern Indiana and one in Old Louisville, but none in The Highlands. This surprised me, considering The Highlands is the neighborhood with the independent coffeeshops and pedestrians and diners and exchange students. But au pairs weren't a thing here ... but apparently there are at least three who have moved into the neighborhood since spring, and I can't help but hope/wonder that you sneaky au pair family are reading my blog:) Let's meet up!

I've also received no fewer than twenty private messages asking about how the au pair program works, so I thought I'd enlighten you in as succinct a way as possible. Apologies for being verbose, thus far. 

Bonus: sometimes I'm in the photos now because we have
another photographer!
Why hire an au pair?


People have many reasons, but I think the most compelling reason for us is the flexibility it offers. Standard daycare/preschool hours do not work for my family because 1) David travels a lot and 2) my job is usually split shift -- I do admin/writing in the mornings, and then I gig in the evenings. I generally work a lot on weekends, and my schedule changes week to week. Because I've been caregiving for cancerous parents as well, I need the stability that an au pair provides in case I have to rush out last minute to a doctor appointment. (My mom died two months ago, and the chaos that was that week would only have been manageable with another adult in the house!) It's like having a third parent for the children.


My husband and I are raising two little white boys in a privileged part of the world. It's important to me that they understand the world is bigger than they are. We can't travel with them the way I'd like (I haven't hit Powerball yet), so we love the idea of them learning about exchange students, immigrants, other cultures and other languages in a very hands-on way. Our au pair is not an employee to us. There are definitely some families out there who have more of an employee/boss relationship with their au pairs, but that is not what we entered the program wanting or expecting. She is not a nanny; she is a family member. (Some au pairs take great offense at being called a nanny, much like nannies are not au pairs.) In fact, "au pair," is French for "on par," meaning she is equal. We have her beans and rice at least once a week, and we eat them the way she suggests ... beans on the bottom! (Though this is apparently as contentious as where the clotted cream should go on a Devon scone)


I love having live-in care, not just because of the additional family member aspect, but because she really understands the kids' routines. Last night I scheduled her to work 7:30-10:30, so I could go out to a live music event. I didn't have to explain that Angus had had a crappy nap or that Graham was going to read Harry Potter with a nightlight. I never have to explain bedtime routine, and the kids are incredibly comfortable with her. I love having another adult around for when I've been solo parenting all week. She's amazing and when I lost my patience with wee Angus earlier this week, she swooped in, got him in his pajamas, and let me walk away to take a deep breath. This is above and beyond any sort of contract we have -- it's the mark of a good person who genuinely wants to be part of the family and help out. 

How does this work???

Au pair and baby snuggles.
  1. You must use an agency to find an au pair. They are the only people who are able to sponsor the J1 visa required by the Secretary of State. There is a large agency fee, but we pay it on a credit card in installments.
  2. You scroll through a zillion profiles, find au pairs who intrigue you, do Skype interviews and eventually match with an au pair. It felt weird at first -- sort of like looking for a mail-order bride. We got over that and found several delightful women (we limited it to women, though there are male au pairs. I think next time we will not limit our search, but at the time we felt weird about having another man living in the house. Too many boys already!!!)
  3. The agency will come to your home to make sure you aren't crazy and that you have a proper room for the au pair. They just need a private bedroom, but nothing fancy. We have three small bedrooms on the 2nd floor of our house. Our au pair is in one; my husband and I in another; the boys in the third. We share a bathroom. It's fine!
  4. Au pair arrives and the magic begins!
Family movie date!

What are the rules/limitations/hours, etc?

The most asked question! I love these rules because they are established by the government, and they provide a good template for scheduling. 
  • They can work up to 45 hours a week
  • No more than 10 total hours a day
  • They must have 1.5 consecutive days off each week
  • One full weekend off per month
I try not to schedule the entire 45 hours, though plenty of families do. Our au pair is lovely and pitches in when she can even if she's not technically on-the-clock, so I try to schedule her around 40 to make up for that. 
  • They are not a housekeeper. They are a family member! Ours is lovely and always pitches in to clean up after a meal, or cook dinner for all sometimes -- though that is not at all required. 
  • You can't ask them to clean common areas as part of her job
  • You can ask them to clean anything related to the children
  • Yep, ours does the kids' laundry! It's totally amazing and has been a massive load off my back.
  • You can ask them to cook meals for the kids (but not for you!). Again, our au pair is a delightful human being who loves to cook (and she prefers her own cooking to ours ha ha!), so she'll absolutely whip up rice and beans for the family, just as I'll make dinner for everyone. Again: au pair = on par. 
  • We do not require a driver, but most au pairs have licenses in their own countries. You can have them get a license here, but you have to add them to your insurance, etc. I make sure all our kids' activities are either walkable or on the bus route, so there is no need for a driver. 
She gets free housing and host families buy food. You aren't required to buy special foods, just make sure there is food to eat. We love our au pair so much that we provided her with a credit card (with a limit), so if I haven't been to the grocery that week, she can buy what she likes. 

She also gets $195.75/week stipend (which, yes, she must pay taxes on later). We round up to $200 because I feel like a jerk typing $195.75 in Venmo, and also because she is incredible and worth the rounding-up. Note that this is in addition to the agency fee (which varies from $6000-9000ish), and though that is some sticker shock, it is still less than the cost of daycare for two children. 

Hosting an au pair is still definitely not for everyone. 

We are a family who loved to host Couchsurfers, who AirBnBs, and who hopes to host exchange students when the kids are older. We love having an additional family member, and it so happens that the flexible childcare benefits align with our needs as well. But I totally get that it it's not for everyone! I was a live-in nanny at one point in my life, and I have a wonderful relationship today with the kids I helped raise. I love them like my own, and I'm so thankful that my children will have a similar relationship.

I hope that answers all the questions I've received. I'll respond to comments if you have more questions! Here is a link to the agency we used, which has the largest pool of au pairs to choose from. Ours is from Brazil, but they have au pairs from all the world.  (If you've already signed up, then you can go back and list The Caldwell Family in Louisville as your referral if you want, but no pressure, I swear!)

***Our family does get a credit if you host an au pair and sign up through this link, so just full disclosure. We totally love having an au pair, and I suspect we'll host one for as long as we need the childcare. But if you don't relish the idea of having another housemate, then it's probably not for you. We love having a friend for life though!

Educational component

I forgot to include this in the original post, so thanks to those who reminded me! As part of their visa requirements, an au pair must complete 6 university credits (not online). The family pays $500 towards this, and the au pair pays for more if it costs more. I think many au pairs take weekly courses, but this doesn't work for our family -- both because we do not have a car for her, but mostly because it's expensive and because our schedule would interfere. There are tons of universities that offer 2 or 3-day weekend courses. Louisville doesn't have any, but ours recently went to Nashville for a long weekend. It's also a nice way for au pairs to travel and see more of the country. Honestly, the educational component is negligible for our family as I am happy to give her a weekend off when I can. For her next course, the entire family is going with her and making a mini-vacation of it!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

New Christmas EP!! Musical Saw Singing Saw Novelty album just for you

In all the craziness, I managed to throw together a little something for the holiday season. It has been TEN years since I released Here Comes Santa Saws, one of the world's worst puns, but a fun little album. I thought it time to record a few more Christmas songs on the musical saw, this time pairing them with some delightful banjo styling from Santa Claus himself ... I mean, from Steve Cooley. (But have you ever seen the two in the same room together? And they have the same initials? I mean ... who's to say?)

In punny news, I have titled this EP I Saw Three Ships, which isn't quite the same level of wit as Here Comes Santa Saws, but it also features a title track. I had two album cover choices, which I will share here. Drew Zipp reprised his role as cover art master for this album as well, though I wasn't able to use the Boston-inspired spaceship design because I didn't want to jump through the legal hoops that my digital distributor was requiring. I'm still going to post it here because it's HILARIOUS!

I think this is hilarious and that Drew is super duper talented. But the cover art that won out is version 2 ... below!

The cover art we went with in the end is just a beautiful ... and with this fun widget, you can hear the tunes! They are available for free download (or donation if you like) at

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Home renovation - builders, plans, stairs, Elton John

Me, age 12, in the same living room -- same piano.
My mother as a teenager in the living room.

Having never done anything like this before, I feel a little out of my element, wanting to soak up the new knowledge, but also not wanting to be taken advantage of. We have an architect friend who has been helping us with designs and drawings, but we are at the time in the process where we are speaking with builders (or contractors? what's the proper nomenclature?!). It's been interesting to see what comments they have, as each of them has totally different concerns. 

One builder is really bothered by the current stairs (which are 100 years old, so only 32" wide or something) and wants to build a new bigger staircase in the addition,  one thinks they are just fine the way they are and will be fine for our purposes, and another thinks they should be widened, but that it's no big deal to do that. I'm not sure what to think, as I have never lived in a place built after the 1920s. My homes in Louisville, Scotland, and New York, were all antiques, and I actually trip on the stairs in new constructions. I understand "code," or whatever, but I'm not bothered by a 100-year-old staircase.

One contractor says if we want it finished by Memorial Day, they wouldn't need to break ground until February; another says this will be an 8-month renovation minimum. One doesn't want David to do any part of the project himself, while others are totally ok with David jumping in to help with cabinets or flooring. (We have a tight budget, and we want to save money where we can.) We also want to respect the history of the home and respect what my mom would have wanted. More than one builder/architect has told us we'd save big money by knocking down the current structure and starting fresh. (The current house is fine structurally, but needs all new floors, walls, kitchen, electrical, sewer, etc.)

It blows my mind that some people do these home projects for fun! 

Anyway, we are awaiting bids from contractors, and awaiting pulling the trigger on a massive home loan that I'm not super excited about carrying. But we are very excited about being able to live together as a big family. Four adults and two growing boys requires more square footage and some accessibility planning -- not just for my dad, but for when I'm a thousand years old and need a pneumatic elevator to get the groceries inside. 

Back to Pinterest ...

Also, I posted photos of the piano and the living room above partly because this John Lewis commercial has had me WEEPY for days. It's amazing:

*** This 100-year-old home has been in my family for 70 years because my mom bought it from her parents. My mom grew up in it, I grew up in it, and my kids will grow up in it.***

Thursday, November 15, 2018

New project - DIY, totally un-music blog!

Ever since Mom was given a terminal diagnosis in November of 2016, we knew we'd have to move into my parents' home in Louisville. It's only half a mile from our current home, but that half a mile is a chasm when you're talking about caring for a parent.

Dad is probably reading this now and shouting, "I'm not helpless, leave me alone!" I know he's not -- he's perfectly capable, drives, cooks, reads, babysits, etc, and we don't think he's incapable of living alone. But I do know that he raised me to be caring, and somehow I got it in my head that people can do more, be better, be more free, when they live communally. And I don't think it's a good idea to become a widower and have major surgery to remove your own cancer 4 days later, then go home to an empty house at the beginning of winter. Even doctors say that survival rates for single men diagnosed with cancer are lower than those who live with family.

So after much discussion, we are creating the Kaelin Family Commune!

Here comes the fun part. It involves MAJOR renovation, new home design, construction, demolition, and a couple of pianos. Because who doesn't need two pianos?!

This blog, which has been everything from omg it's my first day in Nashville, and I'm on the front page of The Tennessean with my accordion! to omg I just had a baby in Scotland  to omg my mom died and now my dad has cancer too, is now going to morph into a DIY home renovation project.

The cool part is that we are fixing, repairing, revamping the home to accommodate a lot of people, but specifically so that the 4th generation can move into the house. My grandparents bought the house in 1948. My parents bought it from them in 1974. Now the house belongs to my dad, but it's about to house all of us in ONE BIG HAPPY FAMILY!

We're trying to give everyone a choice in something in the re-design. So far Graham has requested: "For there to be a tower, like a castle." Grandude wants a bachelor pad in the basement. I want two pianos and a music room and an AGA stove. David wants a shower that sprays you from, like, five different directions. Angus wants a room to put all his dinosaurs. We are clearly not each going to get our hearts' desires, but we are having fun with this design.

So watch this space for commentary on will the greige trend ever fade? And also, will Brigid get to install a fireman's pole to the basement? It's going to be a fun ride!

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Photos, weekend recap, etc.

I played a thousand gigs last week, and here are some of the settings. From Churchill Downs, to Turtle Run Winery, to the Speed Art Museum, and various other private parties, it was a blast making music with many friends. I also sang too much without enough vocal ramp ups, so I'm hoarse this week. But, oh, what fun!!

Only 3 gigs this week, 3 next week, and then I'm taking some time to focus on lessons and recording so I have new product to TOUR in 2019!!

Are you in Scotland? England? Switzerland? Germany? France? The Netherlands? Could you help me think of cities to play? Even house concerts or pubs if you're connected like that? House concerts are a really easy event to put on, so if you're an ex-pat abroad and want to bring a bit of Kentucky music to your new town, send me an email. Let's talk. Maybe I'll come pick some tunes in your living room. It'll be big fun.

This SATURDAY I'm co-hosting KENTUCKY HOMEFRONT. That's a pretty big deal radio show that's been around almost as long as I have. Details here.

Other news? I'm making big plans to renovate my house. This is terrifying, but look for this blog to become DIY and before & after photos for a while. YIKES.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Reflection and a thousand gigs

This is the week of THIRTEEN GIGS! Fall is a gloriously busy season for musicians like me in this area -- events galore and musicians like me just looooooove to sit in a corner and entertain (or sometimes even be the main attraction if that's your thing).

I've been a little distracted in my head lately, as you perhaps can imagine. Losing my mother is still pretty unreal, and I'm sure I'm in the denial phase of things. Last night I saw an adorable photo of my boys in Halloween costumes, and my first instinct was to text it to my mom. Things like that make me sad. My dad was over at our house to watch the boys get dressed, though, so that was sweet.

This weekend I'll be playing 5 private events and 3 public ones. The ones you could attend are:

  • Friday morning at Churchill Downs from 10a-11
  • Saturday morning at Churchill Downs from 9a-10a
  • Saturday afternoon at Turtle Run Winery from 12p-4p

It's highly possible that I'll be in the band at one of the swanky events you're attending this weekend, however, so pay attention to the musical entertainment. If you see me, say hello. If you don't see me, then smile at the band anyway because know that they loaded in a LOT of gear and arrived hours before the event and will be loading out hours after you leave. They work hard, those crazy musicians!

My goal for this blog over the coming weeks is to regale you with amazing photos from my Switzerland and Austria trip this summer. That trip was kind of overshadowed by my mother's death, so I haven't uploaded photos or told you the incredible story of visiting the home where my great-great-grandparents lived in rural Switzerland.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Deep thoughts on Telluride conference

This blog has suffered because I've had life going on -- something I understand never goes away (well, until it goes away permanently). Living in the present hasn't been the best advice, somehow, because the present wasn't wonderful. Also, there's something odd about purposefully trying to savor the moment or make a memory because it then leaves that memory always slightly tainted, akin to the old psychology Hawthorne Effect, but about memories instead. Still, I have tried to embrace the positive. It just doesn't really change feelings in the way I was promised. I'm glad I snuggled my mommy until her last breath, but those moments were still absolutely awful.

Telluride was a nice escape, a chance to delve into a different part of my brain -- less emotional, and more intellectual. It was a chance to sit around with brilliant creatives, and each either had a fascinating story to tell or had such confidence that they believed their story to be important, thus making it so. That sounded wrong -- each story was important, but I suffer from Imposter Syndrome, thus often keeping quiet because I assume everyone already knows whatever it is I've discovered.

Anyway, I do wish I had the confidence of a white man, but so does every woman I know.

The Original Thinkers festival/conference/magic was a beautiful weekend, not just in setting but in camaraderie. There were films, performances, talks, lunch meetings, cocktail hours, ping-pong parties, gondola rides, brunches, random conversations on 8-seater plans that made me swoon with the possibilities. It was the most diverse lineup I've ever attended, and it's obvious that the curators worked intentionally to not have white male panels. The women made the conference, taking the stage with power and PowerPoint to share stories of not just the underprivileged, but the completely disempowered -- people living in wartorn countries, campsites in Africa, downtrodden but not downhearted.

I particularly enjoyed meeting Jane FergusonYael Lavie, and Roopa Gogineni (whose new film is playing in LA today if you are around the area), who are brilliant minds going into dangerous places to tell the stories of real people.

Also, HUGE kudos to the festival organizers, who absolutely nailed it. I've been to many a conference/festival, and this one was incredibly well-planned and executed -- from everything to swag bags to event times and, of course, event quality. Thank you for including me. It was a huge honor!

And now some random photos of the weekend:

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The Wee Boy's Commercial

I don't normally advertise for other companies, but the folks at Republic Bank have always been kind and easy to work with and I love a local business. Also, look how adorable my wee boy is!



Friday, October 5, 2018

First visit to Telluride - Original Thinkers

Greetings from Telluride, Colorado! Though I’ve been to many other mountain towns in this beautiful state, I’ve never been here before, though I’ve never visited Telluride. I’m here this weekend to be a part of and perform at the Original Thinkers Festival, the brainchild of David Holbrooke (formerly of MountainFilm). I’m beyond thrilled to be here, but the timing is particularly poignant for me, being less than a month after my mother died.

I haven’t grieved properly. I type that, and yet I know it’s wrong to say. There is no "normal" way to grieve, or rather, everything is normal, right? It comes in waves, it comes not at all, then it comes in a tidal wave of guilt because I hadn’t thought about it for a bit. I’ve got the rest of my life to grieve, however, so I’m trying to throw myself into my passions for the time being.

Travel is passion, and obviously so is music. So is meeting new people, talking big ideas, and trying to generally be a better person. Colorado seems to hold all of those things. No one looks at you strangely when you bring your own straw or bamboo cutlery set. The expectation is to walk rather than drive. Rather than get a plastic takeaway bag, you ask for a basket and promise you’ll bring it back. And you do. People use cloth napkins and they recycle -- as a norm, not as the weirdo on the block. Electric bikes, scooters, and, yes, a Tesla or two because it is a fancy part of Colorado after all, are not there for bragging rights, but because it’s a way to do our part.

I like it here.

Last night I flew into the wee Telluride airport on an 8-seater prop plane. I used the barf bag. I felt like hell. Then I walked out and was picked up and chauffeured to my housing in a brand new Tesla Model X (the kind with the Delorean doors!). I chugged a few glasses of water and continued to feel like death until my hosts force fed me a bowl of rice after which I perked up enough to get excited about punctuation.

I then followed orders to drink a few glasses of water and go to bed -- and despite waking up thrice in the night to pee, I felt great when I woke up. Refreshed and ready to walk three dogs in the mountains.

I’m finishing up this blog after an evening at a hideaway fancy restaurant somewhere you can only access by either skis or the Knight Bus (I took the Knight Bus). There was a bluegrass band playing when I got off the shuttle, and several servers holding trays of wine. I immediately felt guilty that I wasn’t in the band -- that I was instead part of the mysterious Beautiful People Whose Event Required Live Music. I clapped at awkward moments for the band, while over sharing to a new friend about my parents’ cancers. I met new people. I enjoyed the mountain sunset, and I talked to so many interesting people.

As a matter of endorsement, might I also recommend a Woodford Reserve Manhattan at 10,400 ft? It’s more potent than you would imagine. On that note and on a delicious dinner (where vegetarians were not ignored), I sign off. I rode the gondola back to Telluride alone, soaking up the darkness, and walked from the gondola to my crash pad off the Main Street in Telluride. At the last moment, I thought maybe I should turn my phone light off to scare away the bears (there had been a bear sighting this morning). Just as I turned it on, the motion-detector light of the garage came on anyway.

Goodnight, friends. I see why you like the mountains now.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Death parties and stuff

My mother died last week. That is maybe craziest sentence I've ever had to write, and I am still in that numb, weird part of grief. It's extra weird because the initial gut punch came with her diagnosis in November 2016. We knew it was a terminal sentence from day one, so I went through all the phases many times over. Now, along with the obvious relief that I have learned is common with these long, painful, drawn-out deaths, I am also wondering when I will re-live the grief. It comes in waves of sadness, but I'm also purposefully postponing the weeping when I can because there is so much else going on.

I'm writing this from University Hospital, where my dad is having surgery to remove his own cancer. He's been back about an hour, and I'm using this time to reflect and also catch up on business (hello, blog, how have you been?!).

To catch you all up on the beauty that was my mom's memorial celebration, have a look at these glorious photos. We had a block party, a stage, wonderful musician friends, and great food. It was so much fun that we're going to just have to make PatsyFest an annual event.

My mother's obituary is here:

Now to throw myself into my career and my music and my writing and my touring and my music and everything my mother wanted me to be.

Big love to all who've taken care of us along this icky road of pancreatic cancer.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Painting your own house.

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The photo above is of my parents' dining room, and it encompasses everything I adore about my mother. This was my normal. I never heard the concept "everything has a place," until spending time with David's family, who keeps a beautiful home, complete with a closet entirely for tablecloths, pressed and perfectly hung. As you can see, my mother's preference is, um, scattered, but she's always had the ability to tell you exactly where anything is. "Mom, where are the scissors?" "Bedside table, next to the purple earrings and underneath the stack of bracelets."

There were times in my life when I was embarrassed to have friends over, but that wasn't until sometime in middle school, when I realized my friends had a lot more money than I did. For a while, I didn't think that mattered. All the books and movies had taught me that money wasn't important. But one time a friend told me she was no longer allowed at my house because she'd told her mom there was a roach, and suddenly I was embarrassed about every little thing -- that my parents worked multiple jobs, that I never got Tretorns, that I had to color a little blue rectangle on the back of my generic white shoes to make it look like they were Keds, that I'd never been out of the country, that our house wasn't spotless. My head knew that was ridiculous, that love was more important than vacuuming, and that I had more love than any household I knew.

Teenage Patsy in her perfect 1960s living room.
Note the furniture coverings.
My parents have never kept a perfect home. My grandparents, I am told, did. When my mother purchased the Speevack family home in 1974 from her parents, who had lived there for 25 years, she made the home hers. The furniture from her parents remained, but the walls would take on new lives for the next 44 years. An obvious act of rebellion (she was only 22, after all),  she literally wallpapered the living room with an Old Fitzgerald billboard. As the years rolled on, she stripped other wallpaper and painted the walls outrageous colors. My wonderful dad never commented, at least not out loud.

Same living room in the 1970s, owned by my parents.
My adorable daddy + Old Fitz billboard wallpaper.

The past couple of weeks I've slept in the dining room of my family home -- a home that was last on the market in 1948. That stone elephant I'm staring at? It's been in this room for 70 years.

We moved some furniture out to make room for a hospital bed, only to discover that when Mom painted the dining room about 3 years ago, she painted around the furniture. She also purposefully chose a 2-color theme for the dining room: a mint green and light sky blue. Rather than having different colors for below and above the chair-rail, Mom instead divided the room vertically -- and freehand with a paintbrush (i.e. crooked) at that.
Patsy, Graham, Angus, Kenny, Brigid. Last week.

She was so proud of this brazen design choice, and I love her for it. Because, while I know nothing about interior design, I do know that your home should make you happy. A wall that is half mint green and half light blue has made my mother happy, and I love that she now opens her eyes to this design every day -- a reminder that she always did exactly what she wanted.

She wears socks with her Birkenstocks, and floral skirts with paisley shirts, and dangly earrings like a Spanish teacher, and her living room is purple, and her kitchen is turquoise, and the living room is half-blue, half-mint green, partially hunter green, partially beige, and her bedroom was coral and teal for 20 years, but recently went bright lavender, and the sunroom is bright red, there's a half-finished mural of flowers in the kitchen, which Mom won't paint over even though the plaster is falling down because I painted it when I was a teenager. The house is a realtor's nightmare, and I know my grandmother would be mortified, but it sure does make my mother happy.

My mother never turned down an invitation, was always the first to arrive at every party, knew every word to every song she heard (though she could never clap along on the beat), loved her family and friends fiercely, and didn't give a crap about dust on the fireplace or that her daughter was using her fancy NYU degree to sing pub songs. It is priorities well-placed, I believe.

Last week.
I'm sitting in this blue, green, and beige dining room right now typing by my mom and noticing I'm using past tense, which makes me sad. She's still breathing. I'm one foot away from her right now, while she sleeps peacefully, out of the awful pain she's been in. I'm not so able to sit still because I look around and see so much to do. I've been throwing away a lot of things (old pens, not old photographs), and dusting and scrubbing and trying to distract myself from what is happening. I know, however, that I should stop cleaning and planning and just hold my mother's hand. I mean, if she taught me anything, it's that it you should slow down, hold hands, and paint your house whatever color you want.

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****more boring cancer stuff at (i'm trying not to be too dreary on the ol' Red Accordion Diaries)

A little preoccupied

I've tried to keep this blog from becoming a both-my-parents-have-cancer sobfest. I have jolly good vlogs and blogs from Bavaria to share! But my mind has been focused on my mother lately, so if you need updates and musings or know my Mom and want to know what's going on, head over to where I overshare deeply personal HIPAA information (with permission).

Thursday, August 23, 2018

40th Birthday & Surprise France-in-Kentucky Trip!

Oooooh, I'm BURSTING with blog posts to share now that I unclogged the writing pipe a little. First let's focus on a BIG CHANGE in my life that was overshadowed by significantly more important things: I turned 40!

Most of my friends have been 40 for a while, so this isn't, like, a huge surprise or feeling. I think I've been accidentally telling people I'm 40 for years now. But it's official, and the day went by without much excitement. My husband flew into town at 5:30pm on my actual birthday, and our family went to Sapporo for hibachi dinner. That felt festive, even though wee Angus was terrified of the onion volcano and clung to me for dear life when the flames shot to the range hood.

The fun-for-the-blog part!

Because I wasn't having a party or anything, my husband conspired with my dear friend Tyra to give me some sort of extravagant birthday day -- a time out from stress and a day of relaxation. He arranged 24 hours of childcare, and Tyra kidnapped me at 10am the day before my birthday. I knew to pack an overnight bag, but that my passport was not required (I had to ask because you never know with Tyra!). I said goodbye to the kids and ran to Tyra's car, not really caring if my 24-hour escape meant a sleeping bag at her house. She gave me this beautiful card, which hinted at Paris, but I had definitely not brought my passport. Minor panic, but then the inside said, "I wish I could fly you to Paris,"  etc etc etc.

Again, I didn't care, but we did hit I-64 east and got out somewhere in Lexington where we had brunch reservations at Shakespeare & Co, a Dubai-based chain that was like a Parisian cafe, but with much more space (no sharing tables with your neighbors!) and less dust. The menu was expansive and delightful, offering crepes, breakfast and lunches too. We had Bellinis and relaxed.

Then we headed for a fantastic MASSAGE!! No photos because I was naked.

But the biggest surprise of all ... which I sort of suspected once I was in on the Parisian theme was when we drove off to Versailles (that's pronounced Ver-SAYLES in Kentucky, y'all -- seriously. I mean it's not surprising considering we pronounce the "S" in Paris even though it's supposed to be Par-EE, but I digress) and pulled into THE KENTUCKY CASTLE!!

If you're not from around these parts, you likely don't know what I'm talking about. During child road trips to Lexington, my family would drive on Versailles Road and on top of a small hill sat this strange and abandoned castle. It was the first castle I ever saw, and you know how I love castles. The story was that a husband built it for his wife after a trip to Germany, but before it was finished, the couple divorced. This was sometime in the 1970s, and I guess it sat empty for years. More on the Wiki page here.

Well, it turns out that the castle has been renovated and is now an operating 5-star-hotel called The Kentucky Castle, and Tyra had booked a room for us for the night, along with a reservation at the Murder Mystery dinner show that was happening at the Castle. She also hadn't booked just any room -- but literally the best room in the hotel, one of the corner turrets that is its own little villa.

The room was great. It had two stories and two Juliet balconies, a little kitchenette and great views. The garden was delightful, and there was a small pool. We tried to sit in the garden and drink wine, but the bar and kitchen and restaurant were closed because of some power outage issues they'd had the weekend before.

I'm not sure why no one had been to the grocery since the power returned, but they seemed mystified when we asked if we could have a glass of wine. "Yeah, there's a Kroger about 3 miles down the road. Annoyed, but not to be deterred, we drove to Kroger, bought cheese, crackers, wine, and margarita fixins for the Murder Mystery (we were warned the bar would be closed), returned to our villa and relaxed and relaxed and talked about everything from taxes to baby toes. It was a delightful distraction, I slept great, and only the sun woke me.