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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