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!
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

Thursday, July 18, 2019

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

Cheerful post today!! Ha ha. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 12, 2019

What I can do now that my parents are gone

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

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

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

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

Suddenly, there is nothing holding me back. 

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

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

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

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

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

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