Thursday, April 2, 2020

The Powers of Negative Thinking

I know - I KNOW. I've been negative. I've tried everything I can to shift my thoughts, to focus on gratitude, to focus on the positive. The problem with that (and yes, I recognize that already I'm pointing out a problem, but this is the point!!) is that for everything I am abundantly grateful -- and there are so many things for which I am grateful -- I am brought back to sadness that I can't call my parents to tell them about this cool new thing for which I am grateful.

Grief is a process. Grief is unending. Grief is a ball in a box.

I've read all the articles. I've read all the books. I've talked to all the people. It doesn't change the fact that my parents are dead ... that they died horrific, slow, painful and unproud deaths. It doesn't change that they didn't see their grandson play the son of Mark Ruffalo and Anne Hathaway in a fucking Todd Haynes film!! These HUGE things ... these celebrations and joys are celebrated and then immediately deflated because I don't have my best friends to share them with.

Stained glass window in my mother's former dining room.
Grief and depression and love and regrets. Oh, to be human is so complex.

I wish I could believe that my parents were sitting on a fluffy clouds in the sky looking down at all their grandchildren are doing. Maybe you believe that. I don't. I can't. I'm sorry.

I sit here in the dining room of my childhood home -- a home I bought from my mother, so Medicaid wouldn't take it if she outlived her prognosis (cancer had already practically bankrupted my parents during my mom's breast cancer treatment in 2001) -- staring at a beautiful stained glass window that my mom chose, and under which she would draw her last breath and then never exhaled again.

Y'all know how she painted this room five different colors and never bothered to move the furniture, but just painted around it. Well, the window that remains contains several jewel-tone colors that remind me of all the colors she once painted this now-greige room.

I love the daily reminders. I hate the daily reminders.

Any positive news is immediately flanked by negative thoughts, no matter how much therapy or reframing or "it's just a thought" or meditation or whatever happens, and I hate how it's making me feel.

All I've got is writing and music, and the outlets for that feel very small at the moment.

Hold your loved ones, my friends.

Here's a John Prine cover that makes me smile and cry. Perhaps that's the point. Tears and smiles go together, and that's okay? Ugh. Thanks for coming to my journal entry.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

I’m so glad my parents are already dead.

Today I woke up on my own, at a reasonable hour, without anyone fussing at me or needing breakfast immediately or a butt-wiping or rushing to the bus stop. It was beautiful!

Yes, Angus sleeps with me still, and the morning was full of sweet snuggles. We were going to move him to his room on his 4th birthday, but that was in the middle of the pneumonia, when I was counting his breaths with a stopwatch pretty much all night. He’s recovered, but I’m unwilling to move him to his own bedroom. The pneumonia scare along with the COVID-19 situation makes me actually want to bring Graham back to our bed too and just revert to: Family SuperBed!

I’m writing here partly because my own quarantine journal has suffered. I’ve been having Graham write a daily entry, and the archivist in me loves the idea of everyone having a journal. I’ve just not quite been mentally available to write my own, however, so this blog must do for now.

We are hanging in there. I’m desperate for community, but also relishing the time with my family. I’m confused about testing, and I’m wondering if we’ve already had the virus. Angus, of course, was not tested, though he had every symptom. I’ve lived on high-anxiety for years, so I’m not taking any more deep breaths or Xanax than usual. But life is getting scary, wouldn’t you agree?

Random thing that helps my income: click on one of the ads that pops up? I don’t control the ads, but I actually get paid per click and I get paid a lot more for an ad click than I do for a Spotify stream, so that’s a free and easy thing you can do to support an indie artist :) 

We’ve had real conversations about who gets the children (it’s in our will, but then I worry about people contesting and such) if worst-case scenario happens. We are on lockdown. I might take the kids on a bike ride and let them play in their backyard, but we haven’t even played with our neighbors since the first week of March (Angus’s fever first appeared the evening of March 8). I’m leading a neighborhood book club for the kids on Zoom, so that’s fun, but mostly I’m trying to enjoy every day. Life can shift on a dime.

Weird thing: I’m so glad my parents are already dead.

They would not have been so good at obeying the lockdown orders. Also, I don’t know how we could have managed chemo, Hospice, appointments, etc. They would have had to just suffer at home to an early end anyway. So right now, my thoughts are with everyone out there who is caregiving for ill parents — illnesses that have nothing to do with COVID-19, but which nonetheless make life difficult. I imagine your days and nights are even more anxiety-ridden and stressful than mine ever were. And remember my dad was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer the same week he admitted my mom to Hospice care. I’ve been through some crap.

So today’s ramblings are just about love, and loving each other, and caregiving, and heroes (Hospice workers; all medical workers; all firefighters; oh, just so many people!!), and family and the love.

Also, I made a fun video for my Patreon community a few days ago, and now I bring it to you. Thanks again to my beautiful Patreon community — that is a LOT of you reading now, and please know that you are my lifeline, my income, and my inspiration.


Monday, March 23, 2020

Shelter-in-Place updates

Here's a photo of my kitchen for now!
Checking in, my beauties... how are you doing? I have now been pretty much self-isolated for over two weeks. I've been focused on keeping my littlest guy breathing for the past two weeks, so apologies for being absent on the blog. Believe me, I have things to write. Things seem okay now though, and I'm starting to feel good because: I have a functional kitchen!!

David spent the entire weekend shifting cabinets over by inches so the refrigerator would open, designing a temporary countertop so we could install the sink, searching for p-traps and various other PVC pieces from neighbors so we wouldn't have to go to the hardware store, moving the contractor's tools into the basement so we could have our dining room back, and so I would stop crying at having to take a bath with a casserole dish. Our contractor wanted to stay away because Angus had been sick, and I wanted our contractor to stay away because he also works for the Archdiocese, who continued to hold mass despite public health warnings. Win-win/Lose-lose, for all (shrug emoji). The kitchen is not finished, but I made coffee and toast this morning and did dishes in an actual sink.

I've lost all of my income for the next three months (except my Patreon! and random thing but if you click on whatever ad links are surrounding my blog, I actually get paid like ten times more than I do for a Spotify stream, how weird is that?), but I am grateful to have a husband with a job and health care and my four-year-old (he turned FOUR last week!) is breathing normally again. We will manage.

Angus spiked a fever on March 8, so I've been basically holding his sick li'l' coughing body. He spent his 4th birthday alternating antibiotics and nebulizers and cough meds and acetaminophen. The poor kid is asthmatic and could not break the fever from the adenovirus he tested positive for. Chest x-rays showed bacterial pneumonia. No, he was not tested for COVID-19, and his doctors were doubtful that he had it (because he was positive for two other respiratory viruses). Nonetheless, I have been behaving as if he does have it because this is a public health issue and when we went in for swabbing on March 11, there were no tests in Kentucky yet. He was negative for flu and strep, but positive for two respiratory viruses and an ear infection which they believed led to the pneumonia. His asthmatic tendencies made it worse. It was an awful week of tears, stress, adrenaline, no sleep, and holding my sweet baby, who is currently dressed in a dinosaur costume and on Zoom with his preschool teacher for a singalong.

Other updates: Our sweet au pair left us in February. While we are grateful to have had her when my parents were dying, we are equally grateful that she is gone now -- and not trapped in our house during The Plague. Times are strange enough, and I'm so glad she gets to be back in Brazil with her family.

I wish Graham's school had closed a week earlier, but I'm grateful that Kentucky shut down schools on March 16. On a positive note, Graham has been begging to homeschool all year long because he's grown bored with the schoolwork. I'm a big believe in public schools, and I'm welcoming this opportunity to try out homeschooling without losing his place in the wonderful public school he attends.

Now that Angus is better, I'm looking forward to making music for you, recording, writing, posting, sharing on my Patreon. I've been wanting to do more Facebook Live concerts, but haven't been able to plan any since Angus had been sick.

I'm washing my hands and settling down to write a few postcards to my Patreons and edit up some travel photos I took in Ireland last month (long story!). I had a writing retreat I've yet to tell you about, where I got back in the zone and was ready to write write write the book and the album, and then I went straight into hardcore parenting and am once again out of practice with writing. But I'll get there. Take care of yourselves and wash your hands and STAY HOME (unless of course you're an essential worker in which case bless you times a million).

ENJOY my writing? PLEASE join my PATREON. 

Friday, March 13, 2020

Manic posting in manic times. #braindump

I walked a labyrinth last month. Anyone recognize where?
I've been manic posting today, and I need to lay off the social media. It's weird when your two oldest friends die. My parents were the recipients of random texts and thoughts and occasionally of packages I needed signatures for (Mom even reminded me in her farewell letter of the time she opened the front door to a giant box labeled "ACCORDION" when I was a teenager). David now gets all of my texts and when I know he's busy, I turn to Twitter. This leads to just manic tweeting and people flooding my DMs with "Hey, just checking on your mental health," which reminds me that I look like a danger to myself and others and I should just lay off the internets and go for a walk.

Thanks today to the friend to texted me to go for a walk without straight-up saying, "DUDE, YOU'RE MANIC AND YOU NEED TO STOP."

Where I should be turning, I suppose, is this blog. It's a kinder community and my wonderful readers are peaceful and loving and thoughtful, even when they are quiet non-commenters. This blog doesn't get a lot of comments, but it gets a whole lot of page views. It leads to emails and wonderful private conversations.

What I'm wondering now is, can we turn those conversations outward? Facebook allows too much verbal violence, and Twitter the same (though I prefer Twitter). Instagram is full of beauty, but also of the sense that I should be using it for business.

I'm trying to come to terms with the pure 100% fact that my business is failing. I've been a shocking musical success -- shocking to myself and to the basic idea that someone can make a living at being a musician. 2008 started the decline and 2020 is perhaps the harshest of all. My business creative brain has a zillion ideas that I just don't have the energy to implement.

I just want to spread joy, to connect, to create, to homeschool my children, to bake cookies, to house a homeless family, to speak for those who have no platform, to eradicate covid19, cancer and headlice, and to maybe make someone smile when they've had a shitty day.

None of this would fit in a tweet, so I turn to the blog: where likeminded people may lurk without announcing their presence. And that's ok. I love you still. But if you wanna holler out and find community: there are others like you, like me. There are kind ones out there. There are lovers, dreamers, songs about rainbows, and oh ... i'm going to just hit publish on this one before i go back and regret sharing my words. Words are all i've got right now, as sharing my music has become impossible.

Time to write that book. I'm feeling it.

So much love!

ENJOY my writing? PLEASE join PATREON. You'll feel SO good about yourself directly supporting the arts, creating jobs (i hire other artists!), and validating art as important in society.

Also: here is some art I created this week. I shared it with my PATREON folks a few days early because it's all I've got.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

I took a little breather.

Sun and wind and curls.
I took a break from parenting last week. And from partnering. And from daughtering. I did not take a break from work because I find that impossible to do, as an ADHD-creative that is impossible for me, no matter how hard I try.

What I did do was try very, very hard to to be gentle on myself, no matter the outcome.

The trip was work, the trip was break, the trip was joy, and the trip involved mountains and horse country. There was sunshine, and there was snow. There were tears, and there were deep breaths. There was a dead horse across the river, a bizarre view from the picture windows of my Airbnb.

I mean, I travel many hours to escape death because it just keeps hammering me over the head and there it is, bloated and hooves in the air, a very unsubtle reminder -- like, were this in a book, a workshop group would call it too contrived -- that there is no escaping death.

How are y'all today? ::insert crying laughing emoji::

Anyway, I'm trying hard to figure out just how to come out of the other side of this grief, all while holding space for my family and friends and internet BFFs and knowing of course that the world doesn't revolve around me. I'm actively seeking connection with people, which is hard for me to do. It's much easier in song or behind a microphone. I'm working on a book, and it's a lot more raw than anything I've ever sung.

Since I returned home I played four gigs or sessions in five days, and I really need some space for myself to figure out what the next chapter will look like, both in my book and in my life.

Cheers to you and thanks for sticking with me ... and for checking in on me. I know I apparently scared some of you, and I appreciate your checking in on my mental health. Nothing but love.

Be gentle on yourselves.

ENJOY my writing? PLEASE please PLEASE join PATREON to support my music & the book I'm writing.

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. 

ENJOY my writing? PLEASE join PATREON. You'll feel SO good about yourself directly supporting the arts, creating jobs (i hire other artists!), and validating art as important in society.

*(these are amazon affiliate links - i'm not quite sure what it does, but i think i'm supposed to tell you upfront!)

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. 


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...)

Monday, January 13, 2020

Weekly routine implementation

I talk about routine ideals a lot, but it’s time to talk IMPLEMENTATION. I have a lot of things I really want to accomplish before I die, and my genes don’t appear to be as particularly wonderful as they seemed for the first forty years. So if I’m gonna write six books and a musical, then I need to find some serious ways to organize my life. I need to have intention behind every little thing, or at least organized chaos, or scheduled time-off.

Remember overhead projectors? From third grade division to IB calculus, those transparencies are the only way I ever remember being taught math. Right now I’m longing for some sort of overheard transparency to just lie on top of all the bazillion tasks I am responsible for. It would be something that makes my chaotic and unending To Do list look like a YouTuber Bullet Journal.

Since I don’t think that’s going to happen, I’m going to focus on smaller goals. I’m focusing on little changes that actually seem to help my ADHD/Spectrum/Neurodiverse self.

There must be other things out there that would help, but here’s an example of a small thing that changed my life:

A few years ago I started doing laundry on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Religiously. Only those days. Both those days. Every week. After a few weeks of this, life felt more conquerable. Also, it turned out that 1) i only need 7 pairs of underwear and 2) i didn’t really wear most of my clothes when my favorites were always clean and 3) big piles of clothes didn’t accumulate on my bedroom floor which led to 4) a more peaceful bedroom and 5) a sense of order and accomplishment.

It was a totally small change, brought about because of three adults sharing a house with two children and needing to sort out times when the washing machine would be available.

I have been lazy with this rule since moving, and I need to get back to it. It was a small thing, but it made a world of difference to my daily life and mental health.

What I’m looking for now are NEW hacks. What is something small you do that helps you either feel organized or be organized???

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Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Mom fails and fun shows!! A week of chaos.

Ben Sollee & Mark Charles in my Dino-kitchen
Rehearsing last night for KENTUCKY USA.
This morning was a big Mom Fail! It was my first morning to get both kids to school. I am flying solo because David travels for work. I got the boys dressed (slight delay because the AquaMan underwear were dirty, and Batman or Frozen just wouldn’t do today), fed, and teeth brushed and hands washed just in time ... to see the school bus pass by.

I then immediately declared myself an awful domestic manager and couldn’t believe that with only two children I couldn’t even get the one to the bus.

Thankfully we bought a car in November (an EV! Because Graham is a hardcore environmentalist activist and a gas car was ”unacceptable,” which is why we were car-free for 8-years. It’s amazing. I’ll tell you about our car another time), and that saved me this morning. But because LAKESIDE, the car was parked a block away, and Angus thought the car had been stolen. He cried.

We had to — omg — WALK about fifty meters to the car. I got both boys to school on time and all was well, but my nerves were so shot that I spent the entire car ride apologizing to the boys for panicking and being immature. I asked for their help in creating a good morning routine that would keep everything pleasant. They are 3 and 7. I am 41.

I know perfectly well that plenty of parents do this while single parenting (I solo parent and that’s different), and with a lot more children, going a lot more places. So WTF is wrong with me that I couldn’t manage two at school?

My quest for routine is so challenging that I want to homeschool, purely so no one would have to get out of PJs until noon. (Actually for other reasons too: because Graham is bored to death in school and I want to go to Shakertown or Dublin on a weekday. But that’s a whole other blog too.)

ANYWAY. This week is a heavy work week for me, with regular lessons and emails and accounting and I should be hustling corporate gigs for, like, INCOME and stuff. But I’m working on Kentucky USA, which is like Kentucky Homefront, but instead Ben Sollee is hosting it and the Kentucky Center for the Arts is helping. DETAILS HERE;

I’m going to be behind the piano, and singing a song, and providing cool music cues, but I did not executive produce which was a nice load-off my brain. (Kentucky Homefront isn’t over at all, but I love that Ben and I can collaborate for a common goal. This town is too small for competition, and I’m thrilled that he asked me to be part of his show!)

Monday, January 6, 2020

Rising early and writing crazy things. Mindfulness is a trick.

me, being stressed out.
Is this how writers do it? They rise at 3:30am? Mindful and determined? I rose at 3:30am covered in pee (not mine) and annoyed. At age 42, oops I'm actually only 41 but I'm gonna leave that in there instead of editing, I now know it is fruitless to attempt sleep. I could read for two hours and then perhaps fall asleep, but then I'd only get an hour in before it's time to wake. It's ok. Australia's on fire and kids in Michigan still don't have drinking water, so my lack of sleep is not that problematic.

And we wonder how the dinosaurs all died.

I've spent a couple of weeks trying to turn 1%-5% of you readers into patrons on my awesome Patreon community. Wouldn't you just feel so good about yourself if you pledged $1/month? It's kind of like when you buy a Powerball ticket: the joy you get out of wondering what you'll do with the money is totally worth the dollar. (Although I have a $100/month tier where I'll give you an online piano lesson!)

It's probably self-centered altruism, but I love to buy people drinks, coffees, subscriptions, whatever. After fifteen years of giving away my blog content and my music for free, I figured now it's okay to tell y'all that I make my living with writing and song, and it would be super cool if you joined me on PATREON to access exclusive content. It's very easy to sign up and you can stop at anytime (but please don't). And that's my pitch: now I'm done. (This week I posted a special episode of Brigids90ProofKitchen where I tasted a super-rare single malt!)

Someone reminded me yesterday that art might actually be valuable in the apocalypse. I've always told David just to shoot me if it comes to Zombie Wars or Climate Nightmare because I feel like I'll be dead weight to him. I can't start a fire, and I definitely can't run.

But I think what I could do, should it come to Dark Ages, is bring a little joy to the struggling families who are just trying to make it through the day. Maybe it's my anxiety talking here, but if we destroy our world and only the Eagle Scouts survive, it might be useful to the souls of the Eagle Scouts to have a troubadour come through and tell tales of yore and write new folk songs "The Day The Koalas Died" -- OMG AUSTRALIA, Y'ALL I AM FREAKING OUT THIS IS WHY I CAN'T SLEEP.

It sounds like I'm joking, but I'm totally not.

I don't know ... I kinda still feel like I'd be deadweight to my family. But if they choose to keep me alive, then I'd pack up my travel guitar and ride my bike around the region putting on shows, trying to make people smile just enough to remember that they have to plant their own food and learn archery and defend their fortresses from zombies.

Enough morning ramblings. Everyone. Be mindful of your oil miles this week. That's my focus. Walk if you can. Knit mittens for koalas. Hide under your weighted blankets and take a xanax. No, don't do that. Ok, maybe do that. Read a book. Take in an Australian refugee (are we to that point yet?). I welcome Australian families to come live with me, but then you'd have to live with me, and I can be a little much.

But like I said ... enough ramblings. FULL STOP.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Essay: Our family's "Dark Waters" story...

2020! We made it. I hope everyone had a safe and happy New Year. I flew back from 12 days Texas on the 31st. My sweet boys were amazing travelers (screen-time help; no mommy-smugness there), and David's Platinum status meant we got upgraded on the last leg of the flight to ... Delta Comfort whoo-hoo!

Today I want to share an essay I wrote. published it last week, so the "Read More" link goes to them ... grab a tissue and happy reading. If you enjoy my blog, join me on my Patreon community, where I create and share exclusive content :)

Our family's "Dark Waters" story: How my son's first film role and my father's cancer are connected

While my son, 6, worked on his first feature film, I learned a surprising fact about my dad, who had sinus cancer

I know we got the news on a Wednesday because my phone rang during Lilly’s guitar lesson. I never answer the phone while I teach, but this was an unknown number from Cincinnati. I thought maybe it was about a clinical trial for my father’s rare sinus cancer.
Instead it was my six-year-old’s agent, calling to tell me that Graham had been cast in a film he’d auditioned for two months earlier. Anne Hathaway had just signed on to star, opposite Mark Ruffalo, with Todd Haynes directing.  My mind just about exploded.


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