Jill "xtingu" Knapp

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

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Ahoy!

As usual, only time for a listo. I stink.

[] Delaware has opened up vaccines for people age 50, which means Matt is eligible, and I will be eligible in 3 weeks.  The second we heard DE was booking appointments for 50 year olds, Matt jumped online and scored an appointment waaaaaay down in Laurel, Delaware, which is a 2-hour drive from here... and worth every second.  Shot #1 is in Matt's (now sore) arm.

[] I turn 50 in 3-4 weeks, so hopefully my first shot won't be too far away.

[] On 3/31/21, Hot Breakfast! will be celebrating one year of Coffee Break Concerts.... we started this ridiculousness on 3/30/20.  These one-year anniversaries are very strange. Like, "Congratulations? I guess?"  Like, obviously I wish we didn't have this event to celebrate. But since this happened, I'm very grateful to have this event to celebrate.

[] We're headed back to NJ today (Sunday) so my dad can get his 2nd shot.  We wanted to be up there just in case he has a few days of side-effects and needs to chill, we can take care of Mom.

[] Driving in LSD (lower slower Delaware) on Thursday, I saw teeeeeeeny red tips on the tree branches, which tells me that SPRING IS HERE!!  Yippeeee!! I can't wait to feel the sunlight on my face.  It's supposed to be 63 degrees all week.

[] We were supposed to have our kitchen re-done last year, but Covid put a big stop to that... but now we've restarted the process.  Our friend is doing the work (don't worry, it's his full-time job, and it's not a favor or anything), and we'll be meeting with the cabinet lady after we get back to DE next week.  She'll take measurements and do the layout, and then it'll be up to our pal to do all the work.

[] Lume deodorant the greatest stuff in the world. It is WITCHCRAFT. You can put it on any body part, and it is impossible to stink... even during these COVID times can that sometimes feature a... more... relaxed(?) shower schedule... (*whistles quietly, looks around*)

[] Jon Batiste was interviewed by Terry Gross, and it was GLORIOUS. If you have 42 minutes and need your soul jumpstarted, I highly recommend it.  It's even better if you can listen to it without doing other things, but I know that's a huge ask.  But here's the link.  

OK, I need to get on the road. 

Love you all... hope you're all safe and seeing some of the spring's new light.

xoxo!


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If you say Lume is good, I'll try it. I was thinking about it.
Me too!
me three! i've been seeing their ads for a year now and thinking, "really???"
Jenn A 3/22
Yeaaaah for vaccines! Hoping you can get yours...they’re hard to get ahold of in PA.

Happy COVIDaversary for Coffee Breaks!

Perhaps the least talked about side effect of the plague...armpits across the world got just a little bit stinkier. 😁

Yasssss to Spring buds...saw some on the rhododendron today and mighta squealed a lil bit...like a lot a bit.

Safe travels💕
Shannie 3/21
 

((waves hi!))

I'm here, been lurking, though not as much as I would have liked.  I am all caught up on everyone's entries, but I admit I didn't read every comment. I'll peruse them as I can.

All is good... well, as good as can be expected as we're coming up on a year of a pandemic. 

Instead of something well-written, here's a trusty listo:

  • We played our 100th Coffee Break Concert on Wednesday, Feb 24th. A milestone!
  • Also, Matt and I marked 10 years together a week or two ago.
  • We got an estimate to get our ugly kitchen redone, and I'm excited about that.
  • I'm still not teaching, but I'm selling some courseware which is nice.  Would like to be selling more, but baby steps.
  • I have a bunch of dental work that needs to be done. I just got a form letter that says my dentist no longer participates in my dental insurance. She couldn't have made that choice 6 weeks ago when I chose my dental plan for 2021?
  • I have had pre-menpausal osteoporosis (osteopenia) since 2010 or so. My doctor told me to get another bone density scan to see how it's progressing, since it had been a while since I got one.  Insurance denied it. Why on earth would insurance deny a bone density scan? Isn't the only reason for a bone density scan is to check to see how far your osteoporosis is progressing?
  • Going to see the parents tomorrow.  Mom's mental state is getting worse due to a total lack of stimulation. The home health care workers we hired to come in 3x/week  are fine, but they aren't interesting to my mom, so they basically just do light housekeeping and that's it. They aren't able to engage with my mom... she just doesn't care.  This pandemic couldn't have happened at a worse time dementia-wise. Right before Covid hit, she was interested in hanging out at the senior center a few days per week just to make some friends, play some bingo, and use a few brain cells. So much for that.  By the time the senior center reopens, I worry she'll be too far gone. 
  • My dad got his first covid shot (didn't even feel it); his second one is in 3 weeks. Mom has not gotten hers yet.  My brother's whole family has gotten fully vaccinated, and I am absolutely delighted they're immunized; but there is a 10% "huh?" in my brain wondering why his 17 year old daughter already received her two shots yet my 78 year old mother with many comorbidities hasn't gotten her first yet.  I try not to think about this too much. We'll all get them in due time; vaccinating 350 million people ain't easy. 
  • I have a crush on Dr. Fauci. 
  • SNL has been killin' it in 2021.  I like that they're not afraid to just be surreal.  They do always have to have to the one character who has to explain the joke a bit, but it's a small price to pay.
  • Our Saturday night ritual is watching SNL on nbc/hulu, and then watching "Big Questions with The Dead Milkmen" on YouTube.  ("Big Questions" started pre-pandemic when the guys were in the studio recording their latest album. They decided they needed more content for their YouTube channel, so at each week's recording session, one of the guys would come up with a question, and each guy would answer it... and they'd follow it up with Recommendations, where they recommended something they think people would dig (a movie, book, food, cat toy, going for a walk, etc.).  It's absolutely delightful.  Once lockdown started, it became (like all things) a Zoom call.  It's really great. Some of their recommendations have been really wonderful during lockdown.

That's the random news. 

I hope everyone is doing well... I miss you all, and I really hope to get back on the OPW wagon.... which is what I said last time... but... yeah.

xoxo


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Waves hi back while coffee kicks in...
Rog and I both got approved for vaccines in the same letter that said they are shutting down appointments temporarily due to lack of vaccines. I'm glad we both got approved, but it does suck when an out-of-work friend who happens to have a medical license got both hers a month ago. I'm glad for her, but.... BLEGH. Let's get this going already so we can move past this glaringly uneven distribution. The whole thing stinks.

(I also am crushing on Fauci.)

Oh, and congrats on 10 years, you guys. <3
That's a heck of a listo. DENSE, even.

Happy 100th CBC! Happy Mattiversary! Happy kitchen estimate! You should have a not-ugly space in which to eat popcorn dipped in Fluff.

Boo for dental insurance badness. I might be switching dentists soon; the one I'm seeing for a consult soon doesn't accept most insurance, including mine, so... I'll go see 'em, but I don't see having to pay up front and then wait for my insurance to reimburse me as a long-term good idea. Maybe if they completely blow my mind with their competence.

I'm sorry about your mom's state of mind. Dementia is tough and sometimes the declines can happen quickly. This past year has stolen so much from so many.

Fauci and Psaki. My heart beats wild.
That hole's supposed to be there, right? Okay, it could be more appropriately folded.
 

Hi, all!

Holy shit, could this possibly be a positive post from me?! SWEET JESUS.

Things are... oddly stable. It feels weird.  My parents are pretty good, all things considered.  Dad's new heart valve + pacemaker combo is working great and he feels so much better, so that's freakin' amazing!  Mom got her knee injection (thank you Lindsay!) so that's been one less thing for her to worry/complain about (though all things considered she really doesn't complain very much).  Mom's dementia will never improve (especially during Covid-times when dementia resources like the senior center and adult daycare programs are still closed), but it thankfully doesn't really seem to be getting noticeably worse. My dad takes very kind care of my mom, and sees this as a part of life and his duty.  We are lucky that now he's healthy enough where he's managing OK now.

I hired home health aides to be at the house on weekdays to give my dad a break from keeping an eye on Mom, so he can go for a motorcycle ride or go putter in the garage for a few hours without worrying about Mom setting the house on fire or not taking her meds.  The aides also make Mom lunch, get dinner figured out, keep her company, and they also do housework, go to the store, etc.   My dad really appreciates the mental health break each day.

Sadly, Mom doesn't understand that she needs to be babysat. Mom thinks the aides are housecleaners (because they'll  do some light housekeeping while they're there)... and she doesn't understand why they need housecleaners 5x a week when their former housecleaner would come every other week.  Mom also doesn't understand why these "housecleaners" are playing cards with her and just chatting-- she feels like she's getting ripped off because if they're there to clean the house, they should be cleaning the house.  (We have explained they are there to give Dad a break and to do whatever needs doing-- whether that's light housekeeping, changing the bedsheets, taking the folks to doctor appointments, going to the store, cleaning Mom's commode, scheduling doctor appointments, yadda yadda, but Mom doesn't remember that.  When we re-explain it to her, she totally gets it and appreciates it in the moment... but then she forgets that we had that conversation, and then she gets annoyed that 'the housekeepers' aren't doing anything, and why are these people here.)  Mom also feels like she has to be a good hostess to the aides, and at first she liked the company, but now she's just kind of annoyed having guests over all the time who aren't really her friends. 

Mom managed to convince my dad to reduce them to 3x/week (which I am not really happy about), but I also understand that my parents are adults and they can make their own decisions. My mom may be dementia'd, but she also is quite in charge of her emotions, wants, needs, opinions, and longer-term memories and routines... so if Dad is OK only getting a break 3x/week, then have at it. 

I think I mentioned that Matt's cousin Evan passed away on the day my Dad got discharged from the hospital (Saturday, July 25th), so we left NJ that day and returned immediately to Delaware to do the urgent family stuff on Matt's side, and we haven't been back to NJ since.  Now that Evan's memorial service and funeral has been done, and his house has been mostly cleaned out, there's not really much left to do there, either, except to mourn on our own.

So now Matt and I are back in Delaware, without any crises to manage. It feels very weird.  I've been in some kind of panic panic panic panic emergency aaaaaaaaaagh mode since January, and now things are stable and I don't really know what to do with myself.  

I've been sleeping a lot, but part of that is me catching up on months of no sleep, and the other part of it is exhaustion from needing an iron infusion. 

Because I was caring for my folks for so long, I had to postpone my own healthcare for months, so I've been trying to get my own stuff scheduled now. I need a tooth pulled plus I need a ton of other dental work done; I need a mammogram, I need a bone density scan, and I reeeeeeeeaally need an iron infusion.  I'm working on 'em all.  It'll be nice to have that stuff behind me. 

Matt and I continue to quarantine by choice, because there's still a back-of-mind sense that something could go wrong with my folks at any moment, and since they are in a high risk group, we need to be confident that we could run up there without infecting them.   (Also, we're introverts and it's nice to have this excuse.) 

We continue to do our Coffee Break Concerts (now only 2x per week, down from 3x/week) on Wednesdays and Fridays from 3:00 - 3:15 EDT on our FB page (fb.com/HotBreakfastRocks). It's been fun learning a bunch of songs for these, and I'm so grateful we've been able to keep these shows going with only maybe 3 missed dates because of parental doctor appointments.  The shows are usually playful and silly, and we always give it our all. Sometimes we don't get every note right (and we flog ourselves for days afterward), but what we lack in perfection we try to make up for with heart and good vibes. We still can't believe people tune into these, but I love love love love the little community that has grown in the chat window of our concerts. People who don't know each other in real life seem to have really nice connections in there, which is delightful.  This Wednesday will be our 50th show! Wheeeee!

Happy Anniversary!

On July 30th, Matt and I celebrated our 10-year Bandiversary as Hot Breakfast. We had played a few shows prior, but sans the name. 

Also under the anniversary heading, two weeks ago Matt and I were hired to be the private backyard entertainment for a surprise anniversary party for a sweet couple downstate. I cannot describe how surreal and amazing a feeling it is when people want to hear our music... and not our cover songs, but our songs. Plus, these people aren't friends of ours-- they discovered us organically and have followed us since 2011. And they know the words to our songs! How is that possible?! It is the best feeling in the world. We felt very very lucky.  It was also really nice to play for other people, in person, safely, etc. 

​​​​​

In other news: A quandary... a poll!

Our local, privately-owned massage & facial place called their loyal customers to tell us all that they've reopened, and they wanted to answer all of our questions around safety, and how we can be (reasonably) confident that we're not gonna get the Covid by getting a massage and/or a facial. I'm on the fence about this. 

I'm definitely not comfy getting a facial--  facials require constant face-to-face time and I wouldn't be masked (I assume). I wouldn't be comfortable in that situation.  But a massage? Hmmmm.

My muscles are aching from all the tension I've been holding for so long, and from sleeping on a bed from the Truman Administration at my folks' place for all that time, and OH MY GOD what I would give for a 90 minute massage. But I just don't know.

What do you all think?  Would you get a massage?  What if they said their therapists (whom I know and trust) get tested often (testing is abundant and free here), and they also get 2x/daily temperature checks, plus the spa's cleaning tactics (which have always been stellar in my view) have been re-evaluated, increased, and improved and yadda yadda, and their therapists always work with masks on, and I would also get a temperature check before entering and I'd also have a mask on while getting massaged...  I feel like the risk is pretty low.  But I also might be a dummy.

What do you think?

(A) I'd probably get a massage under those conditions.

(B) I'd have to go there and see what my Spidey Sense told me.

(C) NO FREAKIN' WAY. NO NO NO NO.

(D) Other___________


Anyway, it's nice to not have a crisis to report. 

Love you all very much.

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8/23 '20 10 Comments
Glad things are looking up!

It’s funny: playing cards with your mom is one of the best things the caregivers can do, because it makes her do some novel mental activity for fun, as opposed to just falling into a tv routine. It sucks that she can’t see the activity as productive, but of course she’s going to forget.

I’d have a really hard time going for a massage with COVID-19 stuff going on. It seems like there’s too much breathing involved. I was okay with getting my hair done, but I haven’t had my eyebrows done, and my nails are back to chompy stubs.
So nice to hear from you, and to have it be good news.

I totally get your mom's need not to have other people in the house alla time. I'm thrilled that the relief is there for your dad and the safety is there for your mom, and yeah, it sounds like they're working it out. SUCH good news about your dad's heart.

Massage-type thoughts:

"It depends." It always does, right? The protocols of the business or practice, the local infection rate, your personal risk budget... Up here in Vermontland, yes, I've gone to get some theraputic body work at the place I go to for physical therapy (and I've gone for PT as well; have another appt this coming Friday). They have great protocols (cleaning, masking, handwasing, etc.), a really big space, excellent ventilation and air filtration, and it's not crowded. For massage work, of course we both masked up. Interestingly, when I was face up, I wore my mask; for face down, there was the normal cover on the face rest plus a cloth pillowcase sack hanging down underneath, so that when I unmasked to place my face in the cradle, I was still "masked" by the cloth bag. Felt kind of like a horse being fed, but it worked.

As for whether or not the massage shop near you should be open for business at all... again, it depends, but it makes me raise an eyebrow. Not so much for *your* safety, but for their liability protection. A common post-covid syndrome, even after someone has supposedly "recovered," is excessive blood clotting. What if they have a client who either didn't know they contracted the virus, or even knows and tells them the truth. Massage on someone who may have unknown blood clots can be deadly! So I have to wonder what makes them feel safe enough to work on people.

Nevertheless, regarding your personal safety, depending on all of the variables, it could be very safe. And it could be very beneficial; a less stressed body will have a better functioning immune system, among all the other obvious benefits. But only you can know what's appropriate for your particular coordinates in the space-time continuum.
Anne Mollo 8/23 '20
The place is small, and they've made it clear that they'd only have one client in a treatment room on any given day... so it's definitely a "soft open" with a bazillion protocols in place.

I tend to agree with you-- a less janky body will fight things better, for sure. Here in north Wilmington the infection rate is low. I still always act as if everyone's infected (including myself). I'm trying to examine if my desire for a massage is me giving into "vigilance fatigue" because we've been sooooooo overly (almost comically) cautious up until now. But maybe I'm assuming other people have been as cautious as we have, which is a dangerous assumption.

It makes me happy to hear you've had some bodywork done, though. Good good!

Oh poo, I don't know.
Haven't sat in for a while because work schedules, but glad to know you're still doing the fun mini concerts. Working on repertoire without a concrete goal like a concert or actually being in the same room with others from my choir is a huge challenge.

Living with someone who has good knowledge of anatomy and massage, who has strong skilled hands, I haven't been in the position to wonder about paying for professional massage for years. I know it's going to be over a year before a tattoo is a possibility because, even though they're allowed to open with protocols including masks and sanitation and temperature checks, the good artists have even longer waiting lists now. Plus there's still a pandemic on.

On the other paw, I am very much looking forward to going to the dentist in September. It's my regularly scheduled cleaning but back in March I had an appointment to fill a small cavity cancelled.
Dawn Keenan 8/24 '20
We're in a similar boat dentist-wise. My cleaning + filling is also in September, and I'm really looking forward to it.

Also in a similar boat re: tattoos. I have pieces I'd love to get crackin' on, and no matter how much I trust my artist, I feel like now is not the time to be frivolous.

Jealous of your in-home massage therapist! :-)
So very happy to hear that things are chilling out a bit for you.

It does good things for my soul to know your Dad is getting rides in (more or less) when he wants them.

Still loving the shows. SO glad to see the community that's formed. I don't think I've seen less that 30 people at a show. Which, when you think about the fact that you've done nearly 50 of them... seems amazing and wonderful.

As to the massage place... I'm not sure. On the one hand, I _have_ eaten at a restaurant or two. Even inside. I wear my mask until I'm actively eating and then put it back on after. It seems like almost no one else does (aside from wait staff). Then I GTFO when I'm done. It's this experience that makes me think maybe it's not a good idea. If the general populace was sticking to the rules and only removing masks when necessary, I would feel more comfortable with the idea of laying there breathing the communal air for 90 minutes.

It's as if John Q. Public thinks: Oh, someone, somewhere said that now it's okay to eat/get a massage so the virus can't affect me anymore.

Possible solution: is there a masseuse that you know and trust who could come to the house? Then, you reduce risk and you could even disinfect before / after to be at least marginally more sure you're protected.

Matt Lichtenwalner 8/24 '20edited
Ooooh! I hadn't thought about an in-home visit! U R SMRT!

And thanks for the kind words about the concerts. Makes me happy when you pop in! You're an important part of that community. :)
> I hadn't thought about an in-home visit!
I cheated. Jeanine's brother was (is?) a masseuse and when he started out, home visits were all that he did.
Our household is currently saying YES to doctors, dentists, acupuncture and the like where they are clearly doing it right COVID-wise.

On the other hand, we got rid of my weekly in-person shopping trip by getting a lot better at online ordering, including curbside pickup from the wonderful local produce joint. It's weird, getting so much packaging and having to remind myself that it's the lesser of two evils for once.
Thomas Boutell 8/24 '20
Good to know! We have yet to do any kind of curbside pickup or take-out food... for no real reason. I remember in the beginning of the pandemic, online grocery ordering was terribly overburdened, so I figured I wouldn't tax the system with yet another order. I'm sure they've got the demand/capacity worked out by now, but the habit has been ingrained over here.
 

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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6/18 '20 5 Comments
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.
Paul Lord 6/18 '20
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 '20
 

I sometimes make music with The Rock Orchestra.  It's a tribute band. They're good.

On Wednesdays at 7:30pm, they've been hosting watch-parties of professionally-shot, multi-camera videos of some of our live performances... Peter Gabriel... The Who... and tonight was when we performed Bruce Springsteen's first three albums

I was never a huge Springsteen fan, for no particular reason.  But playing that Born to Run album (as I overlook the occasional problematic misogynistic juvenile lyrics) with people I freakin' LOVE, with bravado and swagger, with a horn section, a friggin' old-skool Hammond Organ trucked in... just... wow. We killed it.  I had forgotten how much fun it was. (Here's a link to Rosalita. Here's a link to the song Born to Run with my badass glockenspiel.)

But this post isn't about that.  

The audience was packed-- it was a sold out show of 700+ people we didn't know. And they were happily buzzed and singing along. Some of the camera angles were shot from the back of the house, over the heads of the revelers standing shoulder to shoulder to strangers, having a blast, connected in that moment of live music.  And at one point there were 15 of us on stage once the horn section came on stage... and at times some of us were sharing mics and doing that jubilantly goofy standing-back-to-back "rock move" that sometimes organically happens when musicians are musicking. 

And then it hit me. 

We can't do that anymore.  That was another life. Another world. We may never get back to that until we have a vaccine... and today I read an article in Wired about how this Covid fucker is mutating into something potentially more sinister. Great.

I watched the livestream and cried.  I cried with happiness, remembering the joy we experienced on stage. 

And then I cried for how much I miss connecting with other people.  I cried seeing the audience, and hearing them sing along. I cry at the drop of a hat lately.

Maybe it's PMS. Maybe it's 8 weeks of not leaving my house except for three turbo-fast trips to the grocery store.  Maybe it's missing my parents (who are doing fine, by the way).  I dunno.  Last night was really bad-- I was inconsolably crying and feeling really fucking hopeless for a few hours.  I've never felt suicidal in my life, but last night was the first time I could sorta see how someone could maybe feel that way-- it seemed at least.... plausible?  Like, fuck it, why bother?  (Pleeeeeeease don't read anything into that. I mean it. Do not worry. I am not suicidal, like, at all. I'm totally OK, and was just feeling blue from these shit-ass circumstances.)  And honestly, taking a 1/2 xanax and talking to my dad via Duo helped a huge deal.  But I'm just saying I could finally see for the first time the darkness that brains have the potential to experience. Jesus.


ANYWAY, now that I've totally ruined the mood... let's forget all that and talk about happier stuff.

1) I have bird feeders outside my kitchen window and I love how we have a cast of regulars who visit every day.  We have a pair of sparrows, four mourning doves, a pair of cardinals (though the male visits more often), a fat squirrel, and we had our first crow the other day, but I haven't seen him back. (As an aside: My dream is to have a crow or raven decide to be my friend. I subscribe to waaaay too many raven/crow channels on YouTube.)

2) We are still doing our thrice-weekly 15-minute Hot Breakfast CoffeeBreak Concerts at 3pm EDT on our Facebook page.  Our production values have gone up a smidge... we have "hold music" as we wait for people to arrive, and Matt labors over the signs we put up as a placeholder before each show.  I love his silly design aesthetic.

Today was concert #17, which I kinda can't believe. We haven't repeated a song yet, which is kind of a fun challenge.  Today we did only covers... we did one somber tune to acknowledge the sadness in the air that seems to be weighing everyone down ("Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd, of course)... and then we played "Squeezebox" by The Who because it's our friend Kevin's favorite song and he was having a rough go of it and we wanted to cheer him up.  Then we went full-on dork with Pac Man Fever, and we finished chipper with a Daydream Believer singalong.  Original songs are great and all, but sometimes you just wanna hear songs you recognize, y'know?

When we originally decided to do these concerts, we said we'd do them until May 15th, which was the arbitrary end-of-the-lockdown date the Governor of Delaware picked way back in March.  It doesn't look like things will reopen by then, or maybe a few things will soft-open, I dunno... so I'm not sure if we should bother still doing them after May 15th.  Lots of people write to us and thank us sincerely for doing them, saying it really helps to have things on their calendar a few days a week. The comraderie that has built up among the regular attendees in the chat windows is so, so glorious to see.  It's really fun seeing new friendships being formed among the viewers.  

In the beginning these livestreams were easy because we had our standard material that we've played a billion times and didn't really have to think about.  But now we are deeeeeeep in the super-deep-cuts of our original songs... stuff we've only played live once or twice, and/or learning new cover songs the night before the livestream.  We try to have some kind of theme, and we try to put little easter eggs around our performance space, though we're not sure if the camera can always pick 'em up.  These are definitely good for us to do.  I'm grateful to have deadlines since I have no other work.

(Though I did teach my first vocal coaching session via Zoom yesterday, which was cool... but it was a favor for a friend's kid who has an audition coming up.)


3) In other news: Every Saturday the PhilaDels have been having Zoom hangouts; sometimes we play Cards Against Humanity or Pictionary, and other times we just shoot the shit.  I've "seen" my PhilaDels more in the last 8 weeks than I have in the last 2-3 years combined. So I guess there is a silver lining in this.


4) In other, other news: Since the general rule is that you can't gather in groups of 10 or more... what's preventing anyone from having a small group of masked people over to our backyard on a nice weekend day, standing a reasonable distance apart, just to shoot the shit and eat a burger (carefully, being mindful of the mask and drool)?  Do we have to be THIS isolated?  


5) Matt and I have only left the house thrice for quick shopping trips, like I mentioned... and when we do, we have ridiculously complex and hella overkill decontamination processes as we bring ourselves and our purchases into the house.  I am confident we are virus-free.  With that, we are thiiiiiiiinking about visiting my parents this weekend. They also have not left the house except for a few quick shopping trips. Mom is clearly getting worse, surely due to understimulation... but Dad actually seems to be doing a lot better now that the weather is warming up and he's healthy again, and now on a low-dose antidepressant which has made him a new guy.  They are more than comfy with us coming up... the room we sleep in up there hasn't been opened/entered since we were last in it in February.  I'm still a teeny bit nervous about going up-- god forbid I somehow am an asymptomatic transmitter... but I don't know how I could have contracted it since I'm so friggin' neurotic about washing, desanitizing, distancing, masking, even wearing goggles in the store, etc.  I have a few more days to decide if we're gonna go.  It'd be nice to see Mom for Mother's Day.  I don't know how many more Mothers Days she'll have where she understands what day it is.  The last time Matt and I left the house was April 28th, so we're 8 days isolated. I suppose I could wait an extra week and go up next weekend when we are more than 14 days clear, just to be super-safe.  Hmmmm.  Thoughts?


Anyway. That's enough outta me for now.

I love you all very much. 

Sorry I've been so quiet over here. I am reading what you're all writing. Thank you for writing.

xoxo-- good night!


PS: Hey, anyone hear from Robert Bryan anytime recently, by the way?


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I'm here, thankful to hear your voice in my head as I read your amazeballs writing.
Robert Bryan 5/7 '20
Yaaaaaay! Thanks for surfacing, my friend. Just wanted to know y'all are OK.
Sounds like those concerts might be doing good things for you guys as well as your audience. I would think about keeping those up. maybe change the schedule to be a little less intense if you like. Just a thought, of course you should do what's right for you. But rhythm is everything.

Everyone is working out their own quarantine buddy situation. I see how there are big trade-offs in your mind about visiting your parents. It does sound like you've been impressively isolated. We are taking advantage of the fact that we're allowed to go for walks, and so is the entire neighborhood, with increasingly poor mask participation, so I would hesitate to say that we are grandparent ready.

Take care.
For what it is worth, I know you will be out there again as soon as the stage is available. You will be one of the people reminding us about what it means to be together, and be encouraging us to return to whatever level of social normalcy is possible.

Also, for what it's worth - this isolation has given me the opportunity to examine my own mental health from a different perspective. For me, life does not change dramatically from one day to the next, and yet my mood(s) can swing wildly. It's helped me recognize what a chemical pea soup I have going on in my brain, and further, to recognize real versus imagined crises. Yes, I can cause my own downward spiral if I focus on anything negative for too long, but I can also simply experience something without even trying - and it can come and go in the space of a few hours.

And I don't have the stressors you do. I mean, you don't actually know what mine are right now, but I know they are very different from yours.

And your concerts do help. For me, they give me something to look forward to that is regular and predictable. I know you can't see me, but I imagine you can, so I make myself presentable before I sit down in front of the computer to tune in. It jump starts me to handle errands or interact with others. So for me, you're helping a lot.

I miss you. Take care of yourself and Matt, and let me know if you need anything I can provide.
SFM 5/7 '20
Wow, Thank you. This was extreeeeeemely helpful for me to read. Recognizing the difference between a "mood" and overall mental health. Thank you. It's OK to be in a poopy mood, and remembering that this is not the "forever setting." Thank you. It's so obvious, but reading it really helped. Thank you. Really.

And dooood, I'm so happy to hear the concerts help. I love the idea of you making yourself presentable before them. :) It means the world to be that you tune in to our bojangley-ness. :-D

Douldah.
This resonated strongly for me. I'm afraid to contact you too much because I'm afraid you'll think I'm stalking you. if you guys had to stop doing the HBCBCs, I would be blue, but I'd survive. I also imagine that prepping for these must be exhausting.
More later. I have some stuff on my desk that I have to deal with.
A couple of thoughts:

Does your mom still have respiratory issues?
Would she understand or be okay with you wearing a mask and/or remaining 6' away?
Could you say, "Mom, I have a cold, and I don't want you to catch it?" If so, would she be okay with that?

In reference to gathering in groups of 9 or less: Our downhill neighbors do this every time the weather is nice. It used to make me furious. Now I just figure if they get sick, I don't have to feel sad. They play corn hole (huh huh, huh huh, hey, Beavis) and wiffle ball, which is distanced, but they also hold their kids on their laps and sit around the same table. it seems like it's the same cast of characters routinely. I know that some people agree to co-quarantine or whatever they're calling it.

I don't know the answers, but I wholly empathize.
Thanks for the concerts! Mos def highlights of my weeks. I hope you and Matt can find it in yourselves to keep them up.
Thank you! This is really helpful feedback, and I love when you pop in and say "Yo!"

I think we'll commit to 3x/week through May 30th and then re-assess what life is starting to look like for people.

What are they saying in your neck of the woods? Any target dates of a soft reopening or anything? Here in DE, they allowed certain business to "soft-reopen" as long as they keep a teeeny number of customers in the building at one time, and everyone masks up. Stuff like hair salons and nail places... but nobody's sitting down in a restaurant yet.

Love y'allz.
As of Saturday (today's report won't be for another few hours), we've had 261 total cases, 244 recovered, 3 deaths, 14 active cases, of which 4 are in hospital, of which 2 are in ICU. Hospital capacity is at about 60%. Some two-thirds of the total cases in the province are related to one weekend's services in March at a funeral home three streets away from our house. This outbreak made a lot of the general public sit up and take it, or at least its stupid contagiousness, very seriously early on. Between that and the early move to ban healthcare workers from working in more than one long-term care home, we haven't seen nearly as much trouble here as some other provinces with their elderly populations.

The provincial government has implemented a 5-level scheme of alerts: https://www.gov.nl.ca/covid-19/alert-system/ . Today (Monday) we've been moved from level 5 to level 4. Under level 5, it was very much a complete stay-at-home order unless you were an essential employee, you needed hospitalization, or you were out for essential groceries. Parks were closed, but you could go out for exercise. Self-isolation for 2 weeks if you travel into the province, and recently they put in some rules that make it very difficult to travel here without a good reason (and "I have a vacation home in NL" wasn't actually a good enough reason). Under level 4, the parks are open, but not for picnics or playgrounds or team sports. Some businesses, daycares, and non-emergency medical visits can resume. Restrictions will continue to ease as the levels go down, but I don't think any public health official can say with certainty what level 2 or 1 will really look like. And of course we may have to go back to 5 if there's another outbreak.

Also, they've gotten us into a "bubble" concept, where your immediate household is your "bubble" that you don't break. Two weeks ago, we were allowed to merge into "double bubbles" -- two households can get together, so long as they are mutually exclusive. We doubled up with a friend who lives on her own and doesn't have any local family. (On our island with a culture of extended Irish Catholic families that gather together frequently, other households are encountering some trouble when they try to figure out which adult sibling's kids get to see Nan and Pop. One feel-good story, though, was that the mayor of St. John's got to hold his new grandbaby for the first time last weekend.) At least one other province, New Brunswick, is working with this "bubble" idea.

Canada's been addressing loss of income a little more ... proactively than the States, but we aren't eligible because of our income situation. Also, we got our U.S. tax refund but we haven't seen our sweet, sweet stimulus checks. I hear that's a common or universal problem among eligible Americans living outside the States. [EDITED to add: the system finally responded to my query this morning, and we should be seeing our moneys this week. Yay!]
Michele Grant 5/11 '20edited
 

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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3/16 '20 9 Comments
Everything is beautiful, isn’t it?
I can’t imagine your stress. I’m glad you’re back at your home.
Michele Grant 3/16 '20
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.
Jill "xtingu" Knapp 3/16 '20edited
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.
Ray Conrad 3/16 '20
 

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
 

The thing I teach is this thing called "ITIL" which is basically a set of books that give you ideas on how to make your IT department suck less.  When I teach what's known as an "ITIL Foundation" class, I'm basically giving a 3-day lecture on the highlights of these books (kinda like a live-action Cliffs Notes), and then I proctor the official Certification Exam that "proves" that people remember the highlights and major plot points of these books. 

When these books first came out in 1989-ish, they were a set of 31 books. They were revised in 1999 and they shrunk down to 8 books (though they added a 9th one later) -- that was called "ITIL v2," and then in 2007 it became 5 books ("ITIL V3"). In 2011, they did a teeny little update to the five ITIL V3 books and there was confusion in the industry as to whether it was still called "ITIL V3" or if it was called "ITIL 2011" or just plain ol' "ITIL." But it stayed five books.

A new version just sorta came out in beta, and only instructors have access to this draft version (called "ITIL 4"). Instructors have to be certified in it before we're allowed to teach it, obviously.  The new version won't be officially released until February-ish, and the new ITIL 4 Foundation exams will go live around then.

I'm heading down to Washington DC today because the ITIL Mothership is holding a  Train the Trainer Class on Thursday and Friday... and then Friday afternoon I'll also take the Foundation Exam.  This new version is soooooooooo fundamentally different than any of its predecessors that I am worried I'm gonna fail this exam on Friday... and boy howdy won't that be embarrassing. 

I know when ITIL V2 moved to ITIL V3 in 2007, I was convinced I'd never ever be comfy or fluent in the V3 material... and hey, look at me, I'm considered a fancy-pants subject matter expert and I haven't had an in-person student flunk the exam on my watch since 2009, and people buy access to my online instructional videos and send me fan-mail thanking me for helping them nail the exam. So maybe I'm not as dumb as I think. 

But this new version... man. I read it, and it means nothing to me... and I channel Matt Lichtenwalner ​​​​​​'s friend Don and kinda giggle because all I see are "worrrrrrrrds..."  O_o


In other news, a few weeks ago I had two root canals and one of them turned to the dark side and got infected (yum) so my face blew up and it hurt... so I jumped on 10 days of antibiotics. Those ended on November 5th.

On Monday of this week they had to do more dental work, and now the *other* root-canaled tooth has turned to the dark side. So I'll be on yet another stupid round of antibiotics starting in an hour or so. Sick of this, you guys.  (I swear I brush and floss! I even have a Sonicare and a WaterPik that I use religiously!)  And my dentist is awesome... so I don't know why my teef rebel like this. It hurts, and I look like an idiot with my face all lopsided yet again.  (Perfect for meeting new people!)

It's supposed to be a wintry mix of blecch from DC to NYC for the next few days, and the hotel I'm staying in is about 1/2 mile from the Sofitel hotel where the training is at. (As much as I wanted to stay at the Sofitel, I couldn't justify $800/night. So it'll be $400/night instead at the Hampton Inn... ouch.) I'm not looking forward to walking 1/2 mile in the icy snow to/from class, but I also know that 1/2 mile is just not far enough to justify calling an Uber/Lyft.  So I will comfort and warm my heart by flipping the bird at The White House as I walk directly past it on the walk to/from class each day. 

I am looking forward to meeting my friend Dan for dinner tonight since he lives in DC. He's been my pal since Kindergarten, and he's fucking awesome. We were in punk band in high school together and he is one of those "touchstone" people in my life. Stoked to see him. 

This will be my first work-trip (or any trip, really) in forever where Matt isn't coming with me. I haz a sad. But honestly, I'm gonna be studying each night, so I wouldn't be that much fun to hang around anyway.


In other news, this Saturday night we are playing in a big-ol' tribute to The Who, and I am pretty excited about it.  Good lordy, the song "Slip Kid" is so much fun to play. Plus I'm getting to play trumpet on "5:15," "Drowned," and "The Real Me," and it's a blast.  I can't remember if I've ever performed on The Grand Opera House stage before... it's a 1200-seat theater. I feel like I would have remembered that. *shrug*

Ok, time to get out of bed. (I've been up since 8, but I just like being in bed.)

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11/14 '18 6 Comments
I can't imagine that it's possible that you haven't performed at the Grande. Maybe at the Baby Grande? Dunno.

Anywho - sounds like you're pretty slammed over the next couple of days, but I will be working in DC (or nearby) both days (weather permitting) so ping me if you want to grab coffee.
I gather you’ll have little time, but if you do, pop into the Renwick? (right around the corner from the White House) Also, Air Canada has a pop up Poutine restaurant in DC this season. Also also, Thursday evening Local 16 DC bar has a Broadway singalong. Pop pop pop.
Ursula Sadiq 11/14 '18edited
I’m stressed out for you, just reading this. I have a feeling that once you figure out the pattern, you’ll triumph.
I never have figured out what ITIL is except that "we don't have it" and "we need it."

And you've already taught me something, as now I know it is "ideas on how to make your IT department suck less."
Chris Herdt 11/20 '18
Take a whole bunch of really smart IT managers and come up with a very long list of their best practices for running IT organizations (big and small). Put it through the 'common language' filter so that everyone understands everyone else.

Now distill all that stuff down into something that doesn't take a lifetime to learn.

Voila! ITIL
Matt Lichtenwalner 11/21 '18edited
ETA: ITIL CAN take a lifetime to master, of course - like anything. Ms. Knapp seems to have an uncanny ability in that department. Smart one, she.
 

We were all set to leave for NJ yesterday so we could accompany my folks for mom's 4th attempt at knee-meniscus-repair surgery which was scheduled for this morning. 

She called me yesterday before we got on the road to say that they canceled it yet again... this time because her pre-op testing showed her blood-sugar has been too high, so her endocrinologist wouldn't clear her. 

She is really really bummed. 

I asked what the next steps forward towards rescheduling are, and she said, "I've gotta get my blood sugar under better control, I guess."  I asked her how she should do this-- is it as "simple" as an insulin adjustment?  She said in a defeated tone, "I guess I need to eat better." 

Strange that a diabetic shouldn't be subsisting on dollar-store frozen pizzas, Ritz crackers, pasta, and insulin.  *facepalm*

Anyway, I was happy (?) to hear that her endocrinologist said "Come down today from 3-4pm and meet with our nutritionist, and we'll work with you to get your blood-sugar down. We want you to have this surgery." So she's going there today.  I asked her to ask the nutritionist for meal ideas that are easy and quick because she can't stand up long enough to cook a healthy meal, which is why she eats what's easy. Is there a mail-order meal service that they recommend? I know there are meal services like Blue Apron and Sun Basket, but those require you to prepare the meal yourself, which probably requires some amount of standing.  I also don't think she'd spend that kind of money on herself, but that's a different story... and one Matt and I might be able to solve since her birthday is coming up. Maybe a few months of a meal service would be a nice gift. Or maybe that would be awful and would make her feel judged somehow... I don't know. 

I just wanna help. 

Anyway, we're heading up in an hour or so, and we'll be there until Friday. We've got a real busy weekend coming up with 2 gigs on Friday night and Saturday afternoon, and family stuff on Sunday.



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10/17 '18 9 Comments
There are definitely meal delivery services where you don't have to prep stuff, just heat it! That's a great idea. I forget, where do your folks live?

You could check out:

https://www.cleaneatsmealprep.com/

They seem to cover a wide area. If you wield your favorite search engine and ask for "meal delivery service [state or city or general location]", you should find more stuff. When we lived in California and I was having babies, the local meal delivery services were lifesavers!!

They're NOT generally cheap, but you'll find a range of prices both between providers and within various meals/meal plans.
Anne Mollo 10/17 '18
How did I miss these replies? Annie, thank you so, so much! We're OK with not cheap, as long as she eats it!
In addition to delivery services, I have an idea. I'll text you.
That was super-helpful, beb-- thank you!
Any time!
Healthy Root didn't work for me, because the price per calorie ratio was not what I needed. But, it doesn't require much cooking. You pretty much just dump everything in a pan and heat it up. It's vegan, so I don't know how that works with a diet where you're trying to lower your blood sugar.

Blue Apron was a lot of chopping. Hate to shop, but love to chop? Blue Apron!

My guess is that the nutritionist has met plenty of people who need help controlling their diabetes who have trouble standing up for long periods of time.
We ultimately decided to go with NutriSystem. Her endocrinologist told us it's approved by the American Diabetes Hernka-fernka BlahBlah, and it's basically like Lean Cuisine TV dinners. That's the level of effort she's willing to make, so we helped her pick out the meals that're gonna be delivered to her house. Let's hope she eats them...
Interesting. You hyphenated Hernka-fernka. I think I prefer that.
I hope they taste good. Wonder if I can get my parents on those. Maybe I can print out a good description from americandiabeteshernka-fernka.edu.