Jill "xtingu" Knapp

Traveling musician. Singer. Road warrior in bursts. Dork. Easy to spot. Gauche eyeshadow fan. Unreasonably happy.

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I last had a professional hair cut on January 3rd.  The last time I bleached my hair was on February 26th when I was up at my folks' place.

We snapped the following photo on March 27th, as a promo photo for our Coffee Break Concerts which launched on March 30th, 2020.

This next photo was snapped today, June 17th, after Coffee Break Concert #34. 

And here's a close-up comparison of my roots.  I have buzzed the sides and back several times with the #4 attachment on my clippers, and just two nights ago I finally broke down and purchased thinning shears because my faux-hawk was no longer staying up.  I'm wishing I had thought to snap the "after" photo before I had given the top part of my hair a little trim.

Seeing my natural hair color has been somewhat sobering. While I don't have much gray (surprisingly), my hair is pretty thin in the "yarmulke" part of my head. Having dark hair at the root makes my white scalp really show; where I feel like bleaching my hair makes it look less scalpy.

I do kinda like the way these dark roots look, though... but then I worry I'm treading dangerously close to Flavortown; I do not want to look like Guy Fieri.

Anyhoo, all is well here, considering.  I haven't worked at all this year, which is stressful... but it looks like training companies are starting to book more classes (99% of them are virtual at this point), which is good. Even if I'm not the one teaching them, I can still make a few bucks selling courseware for other people's classes, so that's good. 

Mentally I was struggling a bit right at the start of the lockdown, but these coffee break concerts really have been a saving grace. It's been good for me to have something to plan for, work towards, and look forward to... plus I get to be silly, and I get to "see" people I love in the chat window. 

We've scaled the concerts back to only Wednesdays and Fridays now that Delaware is into Phase 2 of reopening (back in the earlier phases we ran concerts on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays).  This was the first week where we only did two shows instead of our typical 3 shows, and it felt like it's the right move (I think).  It's good to have a long weekend so we can go visit my parents without having to schlep an entire sound system.

Physically, my health has been OK. I feel like I'm fighting a little ear infection or something-- when I swallow my left gland where my left ear drains into my throat is all ouchie, though it doesn't hurt as much today as it did earlier in the week-- so maybe I'm over it.

We've been taking the quarantine very seriously, because my dad needs heart surgery (routine, no biggie, just a valve replacement) soon, and when that happens we'll be staying up there while he recovers.  We've been up there to visit twice during the lockdown, but our first visit was after Matt and I got tested for Covid-19.  I know tests are kinda silly because we could have gotten infected 3 minutes after leaving the testing site, but yeah. 

We haven't eaten anything we haven't cooked ourselves since March 14th. No takeout food, no delivery, no door dash, nada.  It's actually been pretty fun cooking stuff, making creative use of the leftovers, making sure things don't go to waste, etc.

Matt's lost about 12 pounds (he's happy about that), and I'm down about 2-3 pounds, which I am not happy about.  I just don't have much of an appetite. Oh well.

It's getting to be iron infusion time, so hopefully I'll get that in the next month or two. I got my iron bloodwork done about 4 weeks ago but I wasn't quiiiiiiite dead enough, so I'll get another round of bloodwork in two weeks and by then my iron levels should have sufficiently crashed. Wheee!

Right before the lockdown I was scheduled to have a ton of dental work done, but then that all got canceled. I just got a note from my dentist office now saying that they're now accepting patients again for everything from cleanings and routine services to bigger mouf projects, so I guess I should get rescheduling that... but maybe I should wait until my dad's heart stuff is done.  Like I said, I've been soooo diligent in my covid-fighting, but if I go for Dental Derp, I don't have any way to be sure I'm being as neurotic as I should be... and I also won't have a way to keep an extra eye on the dentist staff, too (though I hope I should be able to trust them).


What else... 

We have so much music-work to do, in addition to our own music. We figured we'd be getting a break with The Rock Orchestra being on hiatus, but nope!

Matt's been hired by a modern-day vaudeville/performing arts group in Maryland to create a shit-ton music for their next big production, so he's been heads-down creating bespoke arrangements of Queen tunes and Meatloaf songs that can fit the size ensemble this group has.  But he's not just writing the parts out and calling it good; they want him to change the feel of some of these tunes to give it more of a steampunky feel, if that makes any sense. They're an interesting group.

I've been hired by two bands to help them out with their respective "covid collaborations" -- you know, those videos where bands record themselves playing their parts of a song at home, and then someone assembles the audio and video into a Zoom-like view so you can watch the individual band members singing/playing the song.  We did a few of these for The Rock Orchestra (here and here), but then two bands I've never heard of contacted me hoping I could handle some insane backing vocals and percussion-- I guess they wanted to go bigger than what their band can usually cover.  They're paying hansomely, which is very nice, because it's fuck-ton of work. 

One of the songs one band wants me to do is a tune by Boston-- so I'm covering all of those stacked vocals that go waaaaay up into the stratosphere. I can do it, but first I have to write all the parts out and then I'll record them.  The other song for the other band is an original, so I'm creating the arrangements from scratch and singing them, and playing a bunch of percussion, too.  It's fun, but it's a lot of work.


In other news, I'm officially 762876 years old because I bought a few bird feeders and I love watching the birds go nuts for them. We have pair of cardinals, two pairs of sparrows, two borbs (mourning doves), four crows... and now most mornings three squirrels have been taking up residence in the feeders and pissing off the birds. (I can't believe four crows are afraid of 3 squirrels... where the sparrows could not care less about the squirrels. Go figure.) 

Around 3:30am a family of five raccoons pops by and eats whatever's been kicked over the sides of the feeders to the ground, though tonight they decided to sit right in the feeder-- five racoons on a pie plate eating seeds and nuts. It was pretty damn adorable. 

OK, this is way too long.  I know there are more important things I should be talking about, but my brain is squishy.

love you all.

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he chomps in the air with the greatest of ease,
he's the raccoon on the feeder trapeze...
Ooooh, I do not like looking at the yarmulke part of my head right now. The longer my hair gets the thinner that part of my head looks. Weirdly, when I buzzed it way down, it looked fuller. Hair is weird. If I'd known how brief my long flowing curly locks period would be I would have leaned into it more; every haircut I got in my 20s was a mistake.
love you too.
love you! i'm happy you guys have so many creative outlets (especially the self-created ones, because we get to benefit from your awesomeness). i hope you feel better soon!!!
Jenn A 6/21
 

Last got a haircut on January 3rd. Yowza. 

Because I bleach the everloving crap out of my hair, sometimes the unavoidable small amount of sacrificial breakage serves as a cut... "a chemical cut," as we jokingly call it. This means that if I bleach my hair at home during long stretches, I can sometimes put off a haircut a bit. (I'm not saying this is optimal, but it has bought me time in the lean times and the busy times.)

But with the lockdown in place, and my hair rapidly approaching "meth-using love-child of Guy Fieri and 1985 Richard Marx" status, I decided to whip out Ye Olde Clippers and take matters into my own hands.  (I have done this before, but never after 3 months of growth.)

Holy moley, I am a new woman. I kept the top Fieri/Marxy, but the sides are clipped to a nice 1/2" and YAY.


Easter Zoom Calls / Parent Update

In other news: Today is Easter and we did a Zoom visit with Matt's family and then my family.  Guiding Matt's family through using Zoom was similar to this, but once everyone finally got on it was fun.  We yapped for about 45 mins before we said goodbye and then chatted with my family.  We had my parents in one window Zooming in fron their home in north Jersey, and my brother's family of five in their window, from their dining room about 25 minutes away from my folks, also in north Jersey. My mom didn't understand why we weren't all able to be physically together, and kept asking where we all were. She kept saying, "Well I know you're all so busy," as if she thought we couldn't get together because we just didn't feel like freeing up our schedules. At one point she also didn't recognize the grandkids... but that's kind of understandable-ish because she only sees them maybe twice a year, and the two girls (ages 16 and 23) look different every time we see them (hair color/length changes, typical weight fluctuations, new glasses, etc.).  Mom also kept asking where Matt and I were, because she had assumed we were having a big Easter dinner with Matt's family. I assured her we were in my kitchen alone. But again, her not recognizing my kitchen is also sort of understandable: Mom has been to my house maybe twice since I bought my house in '07... so how could she realistically recognize my kitchen?  I can't let myself stress about it.

What's ultimately important is that she and my dad are safe up in NJ at their home in the sticks, and they have neighbors and folks offering to go to the store for them (which my dad rejects because wants to get out of the house). As much as I bitch that they live on the moon, it has given them some insulation which is comforting. 

Their isolation, and now the lack of the home health-care companion I had coming a few days a week to keep Mom engaged and stuff, means Mom's just pretty much sleeping much of the day because she's bored and understimulated. I asked my dad if hecould suggest maybe they watch a movie together, and he said, "Well, our tastes don't line up."  I jokingly/not-jokingly said, "I suppose being flexible for 100 minutes and watching something maybe Mom might like... that's probably asking too much, I guess...?"  He just shrugged. 

It's so weird. Maybe it's because gender dynamics have changed between our generations, and maybe my mom believes that it's her job and duty just to go along with whatever my dad wants... and instead of asking to watch a movie or the news together, it's better for her just to go sit in her room alone with her TV blaring, and for my dad to sit in the TV room with his TV blaring.  *shrug*


But when all you have is each other, and understimulation is only going to make her decline WAY faster, wouldn't you wanna watch a stupid movie or even friggin' Tiger King and just BS about it? Dementia or not, she can watch a movie. 

I also get that Dad is her sole care provider right now, and watching his wife decline decline decline and then ask the same questions 27 times in a row has got to be exhausting... so maybe he welcomes the time off and the peace. But since she's honestly out of her room maybe 2 hours a day total (that's to eat and grab a smoke), it seems like it shouldn't be too much of an ask. 

I know I'm making a lot of assumptions on his part, which isn't fair. So I should probably knock that off and change the subject. 

In slightly other news, for the last few years he's been getting REALLY wound up over little stupid things. Part of it is our Jersey snark of always having to have some snitty comeback to small stuff, but it started becoming his default behavior, and we've been really worried.  His anxiety has been through the roof, and made waaaaaaay worse since his various hospitalizations this year since my Mom's been so bad since October or so. We all kinda think his first two hospitalizations have been physical manifestations of his anxiety.  So the hospital doctors increased his xanax frequency from "as needed" to 3x daily (a low dose each time, but still). Sometimes it'd make him groggy, but it definitely did take his anxious edge off. But I didn't like the grog-- you could see it in his eyes.


His regular doctor (who is awesome) did a regular med-check at the end of March via a telemedicine visit and said he was concerned about my almost 80-year-old dad taking so much xanax, and would prefer he not build a tolerance, and would prefer dad use it as a rescue medication for legit panic attacks, and not as the way he copes with his wife.  Instead, he put him on Zoloft (sertraline). At first I was concerned... but after a week, HOLY MARY MOTHER OF GOD he's a new fucking guy. He's handling lockdown great, he's chipper, he feels good, he's got more energy, he's got more patience, he doesn't get overwhelmed, he doesn't get out of breath, and he doesn't feel 'medicated' like he was feeling with the daytime xanax... so it's a definite home run. It's like I have my old dad back from 25 years ago. Yaaaaaay! 


Fancy Easter Dinner

The food we have eaten today: Buttered toast made from some bread I made last week that is still delicious (ate that at 1:30pm), a few strips of bacon (ate that at 2:30), and then some home-made french fries at 8:30pm as a snack. Only the finest Easter meal. 

We have not ordered any takeout whatsoever during this lockdown. I know I should support my local businesses, but I just can't trust that these small businesses have kitchens designed for social distancing, and enough PPE to last long shifts. I'd rather just buy gift cards from them online and this way nobody has to be in danger on my account. (I am not judging anyone who orders takeout. Please don't @ me.)

With that, it's been fun getting back to our "home economics" roots and planning meals, going to the store once every 10 days or so, buying only what we planned, and making everything here, and then making good things from the leftovers.  We will probably have to go to the store this week since we are low on some staples, but if it needs to wait, we will not starve. We haven't dug into the soups in the pantry or anything.  (Now that I've written that, maybe I will stay home.)

Masks

Because of Burning Man prep over the years, I had a few boxes of N-95 masks. I donated the sealed boxes and the healthcare workers were VERY grateful. I had an opened box with only a few masks in it, so I kept that and sent my parents two masks, and kept two for me and Matt, and gave two to my mailman (along with some PVC gloves and a small thing of hand sanitizer I had) after I heard our post office didn't have PPE. 

But even with that, my dear BFF Patty is making gorgeous masks that follow one of the CDC designs, and even comes with replaceable filters and a moldable nose-piece and adjustable ear-loops. They're wonderful. So if anyone needs masks, she charges $10/mask (that comes with a bunch of filters and great instructions and are beautifully made in fun-printed fabrics) plus shipping. They are worth every dime. I've been buying them for friends and family when I hear they are mask-less. She has adult and child sizes.  So if you need masks, lemme know and I'd be happy to ship you some as a gift. 


In the last bit of thing:

Is there a way to back-date entries, kinda like how LJ used to do?  I get that this might be anti-OPW ethos, but I feel bad for dumping 73 years' worth of bloggy thoughts into one long entry, when maybe I could spread them out with a carefully-used backdate option.  (Or maybe I could just plan my writing better.)

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Thank you for the link to your friend who makes masks. <3 We are maskless over here and I was looking at the awesome pattern Anne linked in her post, but honestly I am struggling with even just the basics of living right now, so mask-making has not happened for me yet.
I would just like to second the fact that Pat-man is a pretty fantastic human and has more style in her little finger than I do in my whole body. I realize that’s not really saying much, but she’s awesome and stylish, and her masks are too! :)
I cut my hair back when I was still in town. It had gone waaaaayyy too long without a cut before the pandemic started, so I’d figured “What the hell?! I’m not going to be seeing anyone anyway, I have a simple hair style, and why not?” Guess it turned out okay since no one on the Zoom calls stopped, pointed, and laughed. I suspect yours looks infinitely better though.

Glad to hear that things are... well... at least ‘stable-ish’ with your folks. And the Dad v. Meds scenario is awesome! Glad to hear he’s feeling more himself and has a bit more zest.

If it helps, I had a similar sort of Easter dinner. A whole hell of a lot more of it, but similar in it’s... traditional fare.

I don’t believe that there is a way to back date entries. Might be an interesting future addition?
Teaching my mom how to use Zoom was so insane that I recorded it. I hit the record button about two minutes into the call, thinking, “Ted and I can make comedy gold out of this.” I can’t bring myself to watch the recording, and I’m just going to delete it, because it feels cruel now.

Is it better if your mom thinks that you all having separate Easter dinners is by choice, rather than because there’s an invisible threat? I don’t know the answer, or if there is one.

Patty’s designs are gorgeous. Half the reason I’m obsessed with mask making is because I feel like it’s a problem I can solve. It’s an intersection of art, fashion, ingenuity, necessity, altruism, repurposing, and thrift, if you’re using up a fabric stash or old clothes that didn’t work out.

Your dad’s Zoloft process sounds so similar to what I went through when I first started taking it. I resisted it really hard, because I was afraid I’d turn into a compliant little zombie. The thought that comes to mind to describe how I felt is, “the giant pile of bricks is still there, but I can deal with it and it doesn’t own me.”
I have been in since March 17th due to an early possible exposure (false alarm) and was due for a clip then. I had a sleep study on the 24th and knowing they were going to put electrodes on my head, I broke out the clippers and gave myself a 0 guide clip. Not enough hair to look cool, too much hair to look mean. But Lord, did the sleep lab technician like me.

I needed to acquire the inner layer filter fabric for my friend's little mask production line. This required a trip to Norristown to pick up from Joann Fabrics, the closest store with the fabric in stock. Fortunately they were open for pickup.

No takeout orders here either. Although I've had to be in and out for various errands. Food and medicine. Being single means there's only one person around to do the dirty work. I masked up and went to Lowe's today to get some new blinds. Being that the old ones in my office were old enough to vote and broken due to my former cats... they were ripe for replacement.
My pal who makes masks said that shop towels (those thicker paper towels) doubled up make damn good filters in a pinch. I only have a few of these filter-towels, but I also don't leave often enough to be worried about running out.

Is the filter-fabric you got at Jo-Ann designed to be a filter, or does it just coincidentally work as a filter?

How'd the sleep study go? (If you wrote about it, I'll find out in a second... I'm pretty far behind on reading OPW.)

Man, I miss hanging out with you. I really, really look forward to the day we can have lunch together again.
Seconded on shop towels.
The filter fabric (Pellon 911FF) is recommended. It's a non-woven fabric. Not sure I want to be wearing a mask come summertime. It's not the easiest stuff to breath through.

Sleep study went well, I advocated for surgery as a remedy, since it showed mild sleep apnea. But since all elective surgeries have been cancelled, (I guess this is elective, since it only MIGHT kill me) I have been prescribed a CPAP. But hey, since all of the companies that make CPAPs also make ventilators, guess what else isn't available right now?

Even in introvert wonderland, this introvert is getting a little rammy to be out and about.
Sorry to hear about the CPAP. Here’s hoping that things wrap up sooner than expected and you get one faster than you thought possible. (And that the surgery options get back on the table shortly after that!)
Good to hear your dad is better. I just learned that my elder aunt is now in a similar place to your mom. I'm more concerned for my mother's feelings than my own; I haven't spent a ton of time with my aunt, but my mother is clearly grappling with the existential implications of her sister not being all there anymore.

As to OnePo, there's no backdating hack, alas. But there *is* the queue feature, for spewing forwards in time. You can post as many posts as you want into the queue, and they will come out one per day, on days when you don't post something else.
I meant to reply to this sooner, but all my time is taken up by Hot Breakfast Coffee Break Concerts. :-P I just sent you a text with my t-shirt size and shipping address, for context. :-D

Thank you for the update on your parents. I have been concerned about all of you and you are never far from my thoughts. I wrote on FB during my mother's decline mostly to share what happens during dementia. And the stories are completely hilarious, if you allow them to be. I am glad to read your father is coping better.

I buy masks for cleaning purposes, so bizarrely, I had a supply of masks before all of this started. I also bought toilet paper on sale in DECEMBER and am just running out of it now. I happened to pick up a 12-pack at the supermarket today. Totally weird how that worked out. I may ask for a mask from P. Lin ("Plin") eventually, just to be more stylish. I have also turned into that old guy who yells at teenagers about not wearing their masks properly, so there's that.

I was just thinking of you and Matt and wanted to reach out. Thank you for the concerts - they have really been helping me get through all of this, and I am certain I am not the only one. Much love to you both.
SFM 5/2
 

I wrote this maybe 10 days ago.

I forget where I left off, but I was living full-time in NJ at my folks' place from 2/8 to 2/28*.  Most of that time I was away from Matt because he was working in Maryland, music directing a show.  It was a really hard three weeks.

(*which does not include the 5 then 6 days in January we were up there, too.)


One of those February weeks my dad was in the hospital, so with my Mom's routine disrupted she was extra spacey. Once Dad came home, things slowly returned to normal, but Dad was really struggling with the fact that for the first time he wasn't just *bing!* back to normal. He is not used to feeling weak and needing help.

Anyway, Dad had a bowel obstruction, and thankfully the surgical fix didn't require a bowel resection-- instead there was just a weird piece of string (made out of a strand of scar tissue) that strangulated his guts.

Didja ever cut a raw, boneless chicken breast and there's that weird white tendony-gristly thing that kinda goes through a 3rd of it?  It looked like that.  So the doc snipped it, and in one second my dad went from Guy In Agony Who Could Not Breathe And Wanted To Die to WHEW SWEET RELIEF.  They waited six days before they operated, hoping the obstruction would just kinda clear itself, but after Day 6 they realized they needed to get in there. Three teeny laparascopic incisions and a snip later, and he was fixed up. They watched him for 2 more days and then released him.  

(Side note to Jeremy Moskowitz  and Matt Lichtenwalner : Remember that time in either 2006 or 2009 (I can't remember) when we went for Indian food someplace on Kirkwood Highway and I had to go sit in the car in the middle of the meal, and when you came out I was inconsolably wailing and screaming bloody murder in the back of the car, and you guys took me to the hospital? That was a bowel obstruction. Dad had the same thing. We're built weird, I guess.)

Problem is that while Dad was in the hospital, they stuck a naso-gastric tube down into his gut and pumped his stomach for 6 solid days, to relieve the pressure building behind the obstruction in hopes it would clear itself. During this time he wasn't even allowed to have ice chips, let alone any food, broth, water,  nada.  After the surgery they continued to pump his stomach so he could heal up, so for a grand total of 8 days he didn't move, eat, or drink anything.  He was a withered shell of a guy.  We were afraid he'd never regain his strength or confidence after that.  Once they sent him home, it took him about two weeks of constant care by yours truly, but by February 28th he was back to about 87% strength, which was enough for him to tell me I could go home, so I could do a gig on the 29th.  (Gig was great. More on that later.)

Mom continues to be on Planet Mom. Her dementia is fascinating, honestly. If you talk to her, you would have no idea anything is wrong. She is funny, normal, on-task, quick-witted, well-spoken, patient, friendly, sweet, knows all of her stories and recipes, all that.  It's just that 5 minutes later she won't remember that you had that conversation.  So she'll go to a doctor and will sign in perfectly, will be friendly, will make eye contact, and will tell people things that sound totally reasonable... and 50% of the time she's right.  But while my dad was in the hospital I had to take her to a GI appointment, and she told her GI doctor that she was the one who was in the hospital for a week... and the GI doctor dutifully wrote it down in her chart, because it sounded totally convincing. I had to gently say, "Mom, you weren't in the hospital; Dad was."

"What now?"

"Dad was the one in the hospital, not you. He's still in there now with a bowel obstruction."

"What? Did I say I was in the hospital?

"Yep, just now."

"Was I in the hospital?"

"Nope. I mean, you visited Dad, but you weren't the one being treated."

"Oh. Hmm. ((chuckle)) Well, that's old age I guess."

The GI doc was puzzled listening to us have this exchange. On the way out I popped my head into his office and asked him to please make a note in her chart that she's got early-stage dementia, and to please make sure someone else is in the examination room with her, because otherwise we can't be sure if she'll be giving accurate information. And also, she won't remember any instructions you give her.

Fast forward three weeks later, where we had a follow-up appointment with the same GI doctor. He now sees in her chart the note he wrote-- "patient has early stage dementia."  I am in the examination room with her again.  As he prescribes her antibiotics for something, he looks at her and says loudly, "Now don't forget that you have to take these for 10 days. Don't forget, now!"

Right. Because those are the magic words that make dementia patients miraculously remember shit.  Fucking idiot.

(And no, that wasn't his way of making sure I was paying attention. Trust me on this one. He just doesn't get it.)

She's like a computer with a bad hard drive. If something was written to hard drive before 2017, she remembers it perfectly. Post 2017, it gets glitchy. Starting around Thanksgiving 2019, it's RAM only.  


Anyway. While I was up there, I did not think I would ever be able to come back to DE.  I had several private, epic, Oscar-worthy meltdowns... and in the twitchy aftermath of one of them, my brother picked up on the fact that I wasn't doing so well and he suggested that I go home to DE for one night, sleep in my own bed, attend a Sunday rehearsal that I didn't think I'd be able to attend, and then head back up to NJ afterwards, and he'd watch my folks for that time.  Those were a sweeeeeet 20 hours, I'm not gonna lie. It's amazing how much one can recharge in a short amount of time. Everyone at rehearsal was so, so, SO lovely and supportive, and genuinely asking not only how my folks were doing, but how I was doing. This was weird for me... I've never really been the one who needed a supportive hug; I'm the one who gives them. I didn't even know that many people even knew about my parental situation. I felt really loved and cared for, by people I didn't really think ever gave me much thought. 

While I was in NJ, I contacted 41 home health agencies to lend my folks a hand... and only TWO serve Warren County (the ass-end of cow-town NJ where they live). One agency had caregivers that live in Newark, which is about an hour away from my parents. Generally speaking, Newark folks don't understand country life, they don't understand deer and bears and how your nearest neighbor is a cow a few acres away. They also don't drive generally, so when we tried one caregiver we had to pay a $68 Uber ride each way for them. How would they be able to give my parents a hand if they can't even drive?  So they weren't a good fit.  But the other agency, Home Instead Senior Care, is based about 8 miles from my folks, and their caregivers live in the area. They understand the ways of the cows. After some shuffling and scheduling, we now officially have Wendy the caregiver spending 3 days a week with my mom for 4 hours at a clip. This basically frees up my Dad to turn his brain off so he can putter in the garage, go have lunch with the guys, snooze, pay bills, whatever. Wendy makes sure my mom is entertained, fed, takes her meds, helps with meal prep, can take her to get her nails/hair done, take her to doctor appointments, etc.  It's a huge relief.  Of course now with all of the COVID-19 lockdowns, I'm not sure how long this will last... but I'm comforted that at least for now there's an extra set of competent eyes making sure she (and Dad) aren't experiencing any symptoms. 


Now we're home. I'm writing this part on 3/15/20 now.

So anyway, I've been home since March, and I've mostly been hermiting. Like, pretty much staying in my PJs, leaving the house only when absolutely necessary. I've been doing a decent amount of voiceover work, and 

On Friday March 13th, Matt's Ramones band had (53rd & 3rd) a gig at Oddity Bar, which was comfortingly bleachy, and not very well-attended due in part to collective nerves, and the Delaware State of Emergency which didn't make ir clear if folks should stay home. We were all OK with the attendance, honestly. The 25-ish folks who did attend really wanted to be there, and we all amused ourselves coming up with silly, inventive ways to greet each other without shaking hands or elbow bumping. Everyone tipped the bar-staff very well, knowing they had it rough. Some of us even ate at the Chinese place next door and overtipped there, too. 

In other news, the stores have been busy but not nuts, and fairly well-stocked. They were out of bleach, hand sanitizer,  and rubbing alcohol, and low on bread, but nothing we couldn't work around. (Besides, we already had bleach and rubbing alcohol on hand Because Adult, and also Because Burning Man.)  We feel prepared for a week or two (or  of isolation if it comes to that.

I bleach-washed the bejeezus out of the kitchen floor and the entire master bathroom, so I feel like I've accomplished something. I'm hoping my burning lungs are from the bleach and not a symptom of COVID-19. 

Anyhoo, there's more to tell, but this is already hella long. 

As a reward for reading this long, blathery post, please enjoy this delightful thing by making with the clicky (fixed link!):

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Everything is beautiful, isn’t it?
I can’t imagine your stress. I’m glad you’re back at your home.
Thanks, m'dear. Very glad to be back home... though the guilt is pretty overwhelming at times. Trying to just stay present and breathe, y'know? 💗

Love to you guys.
I can see Derren Brown, but was there a particular tweet you wanted to share?
Weird-- not sure why the link isn't working. When I edit the post it's fine, but once I post the post, it just takes you to Derren's profile and not the tweet.

Anyway, I think I was just able to fix it now.
BRILLIANT!
RIGHT?!
Super glad Dad's back on track and that Mom's got additional help so he can get some peaceful Dad time. Also, that Wendy knows the ways of the cows, because yeah.

Most importantly, I'm glad you've got your life back. When this pandemic is over, I'm very much looking forward to catching up.

Love you and love to the folks.
Glad your back and rebuilding your spoon inventory. Offer still stands, if needed. Don't be a martyr.
 

Here are some random links I have saved for things I found cool or interesting:

1) Sean Ono Lennon's band, GOASTT, and their song "Animals." The video is also mesmerizing. It is clear that he is the son of two brilliant artists. If anyone's gonna have an unlimited bankroll to create art, I'm happy it's him. (GOASTT stands for "Ghost of the Saber-toothed tiger.) NSFW (bewbs).

2) Lizzo's Tiny Desk Concert. She has an impressively filthy mouth, but she makes it so endearing. And holy craaaaap does she have chops! She is unfathomably cute and quick-witted, and so comfy being in the spotlight. NSFW (language).

3) If you don't have time for the Tiny Desk Concert above, enjoy Lizzo's hilarious 3-minute parody of Anchorman. She's such a star, and her comic timing is perfecto. (I love the idiots in the comments saying "Um, she's not playing the flute here." No, really? She's not actually playing the flute when it has flames shooting out of it? You think that might be lipsynced? Thanks, Mozart.)  NSFW (language).

4) The "Satisficing" subreddit, containing gifs and videos of cake and cookie icing and piping... so soothing, so magical. It's visual xanax. 

5) The New Voice Studio run by Lisa Paglin and Marianna Brilla. I would give a kidney to study there with them... good GAWD. They say everything I have felt over the years, and I wanna go there and learn every single thing in their heads. Oh lordy lordy lordy lordy. After I win the lottery or something. The YouTube video on their home page (ya gotta scroll a bit) speaks right to my soul.  (A zillion thanks to Michele Grant for indirectly turning me onto them via this article about Adele and other singers blowing their voices out only to have miraculous vocal surgery performed on them, only to have them blow it out again, because they never fixed their shitty technique.)


Parent Update

In other news, we just visited my folks and had a really great visit. Everyone was chipper, we genuinely all enjoyed the visit, we went out to eat, etc.

It's pretty clear that my mom is mentally slipping... her short-term memory is really going bye-bye. She forgets to play the bills, and gets lost driving pretty consistently now, so my dad now handles the finances and drives her everywhere now, which I guess is not the end of the world.  But other than occasional short-term forgetfulness (she watched me and Matt eat english muffins; about 20 seconds later she asked if we ate breakfast even though she was looking at our plates, and she even took a bite of one of our muffins), she is pleasant, fun, on-task, engaged in conversations, and overall pretty OK. My dad is terrified, OTOH, and exahusted, of course, because he has to stay on top of everything... so it was nice to give him a little break.  Her blood-sugar is also considerably more under control, which is awesome. She looks and feels better, and she says she has more energy.  Her diabetes doc (the one who was delaying approving her  much-needed knee surgery because her blood-sugar numbers were too high) now says he'll approve the surgery in 3 months if she keeps up the good numbers.  The sad irony is that in 3 months she'll be that much farther gone mentally, she won't be able to enjoy her new knee and the freedom it affords her due to her cognitive decline. Dad worries with a fixed knee she may even wander on foot. We'll cross that bridge when we get there.

This all sounds grim, but I'm still strangely optimistic.


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8/19 '19 6 Comments
I'm glad your mom is cheerful and pleasant. Lizzo makes me so stinking happy.
OMG I love this! Hahaha!
Thank you for the r/SatisfIcing link. I use videos of relaxing things like icing cakes and other soothing activities to fall asleep to and it is very much visual xanax for me! Here's a link in return: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xrlaJ8egzs&t=329s (SFW) I kill the sound, personally.

Glad your time with family was wholesome and less draining! Sometimes things just click with everyone, and it's a good day. XOXO
Karen Kuhl 8/21 '19
Haven’t checked out the links yet because I’m at one of my coffee shop stops, and I don’t want to be ‘that guy’. Will later.

Over the moon to hear that things are (at least generally) better with your Mom. Of course, I’m sorry that the mental state puts more on your Dad. Though, if someone there can handle it...

I’m also super hopeful for something that you didn’t mention, so perhaps I’m missing a detail. With increased physicality, her mental acuity may improve. Exercise is great for the mind, as my stagnant and lethargic lifestyle proves. (I no can brain these days.) So... hopeful(ish?)
I have been thinking about your mom a lot. I am glad she is doing so well, all things considered. My mom had wanted to visit her if we ever got back to NJ. I agree with Matt L. - if she can get a little more movement in, it could make a lot of difference. You may also want to play cards with her or do other activities that exercise the mind. Every little bit can help.
SFM 9/11 '19
 

We've been at my folks' place since Sunday. Dad had carpal-tunnel surgery on his wrench-turnin' hand on Monday, and he was very worried about how it was gonna go. If he can't use his right hand, he might as well check himself into the rest home, since fixing cars and building stuff (and caring for my mom) is what keeps him alive. 

The good news is that the surgery went smooove like buttah, and 10 minutes after he got home he made himself an omelet with his bionic hand... so he's fine. Now that he's a few days out his fingers are a little black and blue, but it's really all good.  Today at 2:45 we take him for his post-op follow-up, and then we'll head back home. 

We have this rhythm here at my folks' place where my parents get up early (around 7) and fix themselves some coffee and a small bite. It wakes me up, but I stay in bed snoozing. I They are so sweet and kind to each other in the mornings, and it makes me happy.  Then my mom goes back to bed, and my dad goes out to get coffee and bullshit with the guys at Steve's Transmissions for a few hours, and he gets home around 11. By then Matt gets up and brings me a cup of coffee in bed because he is the best, and then he hangs with my folks a bit while I build up the courage/strength to put on pants and go out to the kitchen with everyone. By this time my folks' morning sweetness has worn off and they're both back to interrupting and my dad answering for my mom and then my mom getting defensive and my dad not understanding why she's suddenly pissy and then I explain Communication 101 and then a lightbulb goes off for a moment until they both find it easier to deem me too preachy than it is to try changing how they talk to each other.  

So I'm still in bed at 11:58am. I need to get out there and I don't wanna. 

Anyhoo.

I have been go-go-go since the end of October, as companies are rushing to spend their training budgets so they don't lose them for next year. I've had classes in TX, Denver, Philly, and then I took a class in DC, then we went to CT for Thanksgiving, then we had a gig in West Chester on Saturday, and then we left for NJ (here) the next day.  I haven't had a day off in a while, and I need one.  The emails are piling up (work emails and friendly emails) and I haven't had much time to even read them let alone reply. If I owe you an email, I promise I'm working on it. 

Next week (Dec 3-6) I teach a class at UPenn again, and the following week (Dec 10-13) is another class that I just don't feel like teaching since it's the week before our big Christmas Show (which is on the 15th), so I'm having my pal Joyce teach it. We're gonna be building sets and rehearsing and panicking that week, so there was no way I could be away for the week. With Joyce teaching the class, I'm not making as much on the class as I normally would since I have to pay for her airfare, hotel, and instructor fee, but I'll still make something, and something is better than if I had just turned the work away and gotten nothing.

I have a ton of other work to do and no desire to do it... I'm not sure if this is some low-level depression, the start of the winter blues, or just general laziness. Probably some combo thereof.

In other news entirely, a few weeks ago I was taking a class in Washington DC and I took the train down. DC's Union Station has a bunch of mall-esque stores in it, and I was worried I was gonna be cold as I walked to/from class, so I popped in a store I'd never heard of and bought a warm undershirt for $19.00. And now, I have a new fucking addiction... these HeatTech bra-top undershirts by Uniqlo. Most bra-top undershirts have a totally useless shelf-bra, but these things have this kinda combo shelf-cup configuration that HOLY BALLS actually handles my mutant titties better than any other actual bra I have ever worn.  Going from a 40DD to a 32-Pfffft is impossible to fit, and these things work (they actually work!!), praise jeeeesus!  I bought a bunch more, so I pretty much haven't taken one off since November 13th... and ta-daaa. I am comfortable and warm (and perky!) for the first time in well over a decade. 

Perhaps that is TMI. Perhaps I don't care.

It's my blog, and I'll TMI if I want to. :)

Ok, time to get motivated. Bleh.

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11/29 '18 8 Comments
Winter blahs, I prescribe a full spectrum light in your work space. At the minimum a daylight spectrum light. It makes a huge difference in my mid-winter demeanor.

I was up in central Massachusetts for the holiday and holy balls, a couple hundred miles northeast and you notice how much earlier the sun goes down up there as opposed to in Philadel.

And yes, TMI. But you be you. I now know more about the state of your chest than I ever did before, or am comfortable knowing. #nerdworldproblems

And if you haven't taken off a shirt since November 13th, perhaps it's time to give it a rest and maybe launder it.
Ray Conrad 11/29 '18
I've been meaning to get a full-spectrum light for a looong time, but just... haven't. Perhaps I shall Amazon One-click one into existence. :)

And dooood, I shower with this undershirt/bra on, so IT'S CLEAN, OKAY? (I kid.)
(googles "heat tech bra top undershirt uniqlo")
AAAAA-LEE-LUU-YAH!!!
I have the opposite of your boobs. My bra size is 40 A.72 or something. I buy 40 Bs with push-up padding, so there's extra mass inside the cup, so the bra will fit. I would buy 40 As. They don't exist. I will buy damn near anything that has padded cups. Did you get the one with camisole straps or wider straps?

So this one time I was at a Barenaked Ladies concert at the Spectrum (RIP), and people were throwing their bras onstage. It was New Year's, so Steve and Ed would take the bras and put them on the Christmas tree upstage. It was a very polite crowd, so bras were being passed via the crowd to the stage. Every time a bra made it to the front, Steve or Ed would bow in thanks, and add it to the tree. I happened to be wearing a leopard print bra that I didn't hate, but wouldn't have shed tears if I never saw it again, and I was considering trying to get it passed up to the stage. Then a huge burly bearded guy in the front row passed a bra to the stage, and Steve did a double take and asked, "is this yours, sir?" Then Ed said, "What size is it, a 40 A?"

I decided not to participate.

Digression is the better part of valor.

Glad you're taking good care of your folks. Fist bump of solidarity.
Ahhhhh yes, boob-shame. I know it well.

Remind me to tell you about The Summer I Went Crazy and had a one-night stand with a guy in Philly and the boobs of shame. Let's just say my Victoria's Secret push-up bra did a wholllllllle lotta false advertising, and the let-down was SO AWKWARD and AWFUL. (Oh. Looks like I just told you.)
OMG I now have to email you. I remember ALL boob conversations we have ever had.
I'll have to check out the bra-top undershirts. My man boobs are getting out of control with your run of the mill bra.

(Thrilled beyond words to hear that Dad's bionic wrench turnin' hand is fully function.)
Hahaha! It's a "Bro" or a "Manssiere." (Thanks, Seinfeld!)
Great news about your Dad!
Also I love that you get the chance to hear your parents being lovely to each other.

Xoxo
 

There's a difference between being a proud small business where you're not tied to big dumb corporate rules so you can be flexible and agile, and being so small that you still have a single AOL email address on your website.

I want to support the small guy, but if they still use AOL, how can I be confident that my credit card info is secure in their office?

This one local place sells kitchen appliances. They have cutesy commercials featuring the owner's two small boys. "I'm Cameron!" "And I'm Gavin!" "And if you have trouble, call us and we'll make sure it gets handled RIGHT!"  I wonder how creepy it would be if I called up the store asking to speak to Cameron or Gavin to complain about a bill or a customer service issue. They would call Child Protective Services in 5 minutes. And what the fuck does that say about their family dynamic (or Dad's business acumen) that a 7 year old is their accountable executive in charge of customer satisfaction?!

Anyway.

We need a new washer/dryer. The one I have currently is the set that came with the house. I would love to get a set of stackables, and then put a shelf where the dryer currently is.  The washer/dryer used to be in the basement, but my house's previous owners brought them to the main floor of the house, taking up the hall linen closet with the washer/dryer. So I'd love to reclaim some of that closet space since I currently have none whatsoever, unless you count bedroom closets.

I heard a thing on the radio this morning about how small businesses should consider buying "CyberInsurance" in addition to general liability insurance and worker's comp, because small businesses are more vulnerable to cyberattacks.  Really? I know of a zillion huge corporations that were brought down by the ransomware viruses and no small businesses that I use were hit. But maybe that's because large businesses have a higher percentage of dumb people who surf the web at work, clicking on shit they oughtn't... and granted, I'm a small (vaguely tech-related) company, so maybe the percentage of employees who work for my company who click on dumb shit is 0%. 

But I figure Cameron and Gavin (or their mom) click on dumb shit pretty often, so they probably need CyberInsurance. 

The only people who use the term "cyber" are people who shouldn't.

In other news, we spent this past weekend (Saturday through Tuesday) at my folks' place. We hadn't seen them since Christmas, which is waaaaay too long. My mom tore a muscle in her right shoulder, so in addition to her back and her legs being in constant pain, let's add her right shoulder to the laundry list.  My dad has days where he's very weak for no discernible reason, so we needed to go up there and just help them out a bit. They felt so awful that they decided to cancel Easter dinner because my mom couldn't cook and my dad couldn't clean the house, and they both felt that having a house full of people would be too much.

So we offered to come up and do all of the cooking/cleaning, so now Easter is back on. 

We're in the car now heading back up there. We'll be there for a few days. I'm so excited it's finally starting to get warm... this fucking winter might FINALLY be behind us.

I hope everyone has a fabulous Easter, Passover, or April Fool's. :-)

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3/31 '18 7 Comments
"So we offered to come up and do all of the cooking/cleaning, so now Easter is back on."

Yer gud.
I'm torn between "har-har, you still use AOL," and "oooh, you were a savvy early-adopter." I say that because among lawyers, it's often an early-adopter thing. As in, a lot of lawyers were quick to get word processor machines and Palm Pilots and Compuserve numbers -- but then they didn't upgrade, whether because it was a pain to migrate the files or it got too expensive (because they needed to hire IT staff/consultants) or time-consuming. And if you're not at a firm where they give you a LawyerName@ThousandDollarSuitBigLawLLP.com address, then why not keep using the same AOL address ("number") that your clients and their world-of-mouth referrals have been using for 20 (!) years now.

Also you can take my WordPerfect when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers.

Hope yer Easter trip goes well!
Michele Grant 3/31 '18edited
I think I saw WP on the shelves in a store recently, and it made me happy. I don't have much preference in word processor programs (I tend to use Wordpad in windows or Google Docs) but I did use WP in college and remember it fondly.

I also happen to know a big tech company that still uses Lotus instead of Office, so there's that.
WordPerfect (actually an entire suite by Corel) is regularly upgraded. I had a learning curve from Quattro, which is what Lotus 1-2-3 became, to Excel; I still think Quattro is better in a lot of ways but I'm more likely to start something new in Excel now. The Corel version of PowerPoint leaves a LOT to be desired, though.

I avoid Google Docs for functionality, privacy, security, and subpoena reasons, and also because of the risk that anything Google could just disappear at any time for no reason, and there's no recourse. The risk is small, but I'm unwilling to take it.
Entirely reasonable. I suspect if I was doing anything that, you know - mattered - I would have the same mindset.
🤘 Scripsit forever 🤘

Love it.
 

Hi all!

We've been up at my folks' place since Sunday. We were eating dinner and I got a text from my dad that he had to call an ambulance to bring him to the hospital because he blew out his knee and couldn't put even a toe's worth of weight on his right leg.  I called him and he was TERRIFIED, and absolutely convinced this was "the fall," meaning the injury an old person has in their late 70s that begins the rapid decline to death.  I kept trying to tell him not to order the headstone quite yet, but he was really, really upset. By the time he got out of the ER and back home it was 11:30PM, so we all agreed Matt and I would get up to NJ on Monday (the 13th).

So, apart from snowcamming (which is now over), I have been almost entirely offline since we've been up here. I haven't read OPW or LJ; I've done maybe 10 mins max on Instagram and Twitter.  I'm sorry I haven't been more responsive.

So yep, we're still up at my folks' place taking care of them since my dad blew his knee out on Sunday.  Strangely, Mom seems to be doing MUCH better. I'm thinking with my Dad down for the count, Mom realizes she needs to step it up a bit, and she has! She isn't nearly as forgetful.  Maybe the extra responsibility is good for her.

Since we've been here, we let my folks handle their own breakfast as a test to see how their mobility is for the day... but then we wind up handling lunch and dinner plus all chores (laundry, cleaning Mom's bedroom commode, cleaning/prepping her CPAP, meal prep and serving/cleanup, shopping, snow removal, med checks, laundry, washing the kitchen floor, cleaning the kitchen and bathrooms, etc.)

Yesterday (Thursday) I took my dad to the orthopedist to figure out what's broken on him and what the prognosis/path forward is.  Diagnosis: Torn meniscus, but luckily it's not an entirely fucked meniscus. It should heal with some PT and TLC in a few weeks... he's already markedly better yesterday than he was on Monday when we arrived, but he absolutely still needs a walker, which means he can't carry anything.  My mom can't carry anything either... so the small "care-related tasks" like dumping and cleaning my mom's bedside commode is impossible for either of them to do... let alone carrying food to the table. So as much as we want to get home and get our lives back, we need some kind of plan to have these small tasks handled. I cannot rely on my brother or sister-in-law, which is sometimes frustrating but understandable. My parents' neighbors have offered to help out, but cleaning a chunky pee-filled commode isn't something you ask a neighbor to do... that's a family job. (Sorry for that visual.)

Matt has been so good anxiety-wise lately... the CBD + Xanax combo has been working miracles. However, yesterday was a Very Bad Day and a reminder that he is not "cured," and a reminder he mustn't get cocky and not take his meds.  Caring for my mom, caring for my dad, and caring for plus worrying about Matt yesterday made me wonder how people with kids care for several people every day of their lives with no break whatsoever. I was wiped out. 

My parents have been very kind and appreciative this visit, and they keep telling me how truly grateful they are that we're up here and able/willing to help.  I'm very happy to have been up here, too.  In the evenings once we're done with dinner and all of our tasks are done, my dad and I (and sometimes Matt)  wind down by binge-watching Nurse Jackie.  I've been enjoying it. When I asked him why he chose that show as opposed to the other million things on Netflix, cable, Amazon, etc., he said, "I like Edie Falco, and I wanted to watch something without explosions for a change."  My dad? Watching something without fast cars or explosions? WEIRD. :-D

Selfishly, I'm also happy to have ridden out the storm up here with my folks because Delaware got a ton of ice and apparently Arden and north Wilmington lost power for a good long while... parts of which didn't get power back until yesterday (Thursday) with crews from North Carolina helping out the local power company workers. I know our house lost power at some point (even if just for a moment) because I tried remoting into my home computer yesterday and couldn't, which tells me it turned off unceremoniously. (My computer stays off if the power gets cut.)  So I have no way to know if we'll come home to a freezer full of warm, stinky food or what. (Though Joe Trainor just stopped by our house a few minutes ago to return a soprano sax we rented for the sold-out Billy Joel show we did on Saturday night down at the beach, and he was able to use the garage door OK, so the power's onbviously on now.)

Today is Friday, and I'm not sure when we're going back to DE. We really wanted to go to a concert on Saturday (tomorrow) night, and Matt has a final rehearsal on Sunday afternoon for an Able Arts skit they've asked him to be a part of for their show next week.  We may just go home for the weekend and come right back up here.

It's actually been pretty OK being up here. I feel very appreciated and useful. 

Anyway, I promise to be more present online when I can. I'm sorry that I can't be a better or more responsive friend now... right now I need to keep focusing on being a good daughter and a good partner. 

Love you all.

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3/17 '17 3 Comments
Don't worry about being a responsive friend right now. Charge your emotional batteries.
Holy smokes gurrrl. If you want to feel bad about something... No, I can't even kid about it. Just don't.
Thomas Boutell 3/17 '17
Like they said - don't worry about being online / responsive / whatever. If anyone asks you to be otherwise, feel free to have them discuss it with me. I'll explain it (more or less) nicely. *smirk*

On to the folks:
1. It's not 'the fall'. I'm with you on that one. You're Dad is WAY too much of a badass for that. Uncomfortable? Sure. Annoying? I bet.
2. Feeling useful - I'm happy to hear this. Family emergencies can be... draining. Feeling appreciated for what your doing can go a long way towards countering that.
3. Mom: It doesn't shock me that 'needing to step up' is helping her in some way. If it's not her that needs looking after, she's always been first up to bat.
4. Staying for a while in NJ? I'm coming back during the first week of April. I would like to humbly ask that you consider having me come lend a hand if you're still in NJ at that point. Like I said before - this stuff takes a toll. I would like to help cover that if I can. Before you dismiss this (I can just imagine you reading this) - please - seriously think about it. I'm HAPPY to help, and your folks have always been nothing shy of awesome to me. They've MORE than earned it. :)

Sending lerv. Lots of it.