Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015 In Pictures, Part 1

Prairie Homes
First show of the year - Mpls Photo Center Rock N' Roll Exhibit Opening Night

Post-show shenanigans
Recording Reactor
 Puppy Love
 Zoo Animal - The Amsterdam Bar and Hall
 Juliana Hatfield - The Turf Club
 Recording Reactor
 Window Looking
Easter Dog
First Warm Days
 Sex Rays
 Tea Times
 New Album Arrives
 Gramma's Boyfriend
 Fulfilling Kickstarter
Duluth Love
 Block Parties
Press Pics

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

My Favorite Music Of 2015

It's December 29th and I haven't started one round up 2015 post yet. Normally I look forward to theses posts all year long. I've found myself consuming music with the idea that at the end of the year I will rank these things because making lists is fun. But, I'm finding it hard to rank music these day. Maybe it's because, as a musician, being ranked is weird. And not being ranked at all can make me a little sad. Feel forgotten. Maybe it's because I personally know a lot of people who made albums this year that I really enjoyed and it feels weird to not have them on the list because there were 10 others that maybe I listened to a little bit more. Or maybe it's because there were only two albums that I really really fell head over heels for and the rest of the rankings seem kind like kind of a random grouping of things I listened to a little more than others.

But is also too much fun to read these years later and see what has still held up and what might have changed. So all that is my favorite music of 2015.


Girlpool: Before the World Was Big
I kept hearing about this band around SXSW time. Based on the basic descriptions I was catching, I envisioned a very loud, punk, screaming group - but they are so far from that. I have nothing against the previous description. I enjoy a lot of bands with that vibe. But I just found Girlpool so simplisticly refreshing. Only an electric guitar, bass, and two vocals in wonderful harmony singing songs about swimming in Seattle and childhood. They very much remind of The Murmurs, whom I loved back in the day. The plucky, staccato guitar riffs move along with the duo vocals perfectly. Sometimes the guitars are a little out of tune, but for whatever reason, that's okay. It's all the more endearing. This is just an album that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside - and it's great to sing along to. And that's all I ever ask.

Top Three Tracks: "Crowded Stranger", "Chinatown", "Cherry Picking"

Gramma's Boyfriend: PERM
Fronted by the fabulous Haley Bonar, Gramma's Boyfriend is a fun fun fun band. This album is full of danceable, new wave-esque, sometimes silly, sometimes pretty, always excellent numbers. Opener "Down in a Bucket" immediately hooks you with it's Go Team Go sports arena style guitars and synths and the rest of the album continues with hip-moving bass lines and crazy guitars. There's a lot of really great guitar stuff going on throughout. All of this is fronted by Haley's awesomely manic vocals. The band - a side project for nearly all members - claims it's not something they take seriously. Maybe this is a life lesson we should all grab hold of, because this is a great album. You can't not dance to it.

Top Three Tracks: "Little Lightening:, "Forgiven", "I Forgot!"

Erykah Badu: But You Cain't Use My Phone
Why do I always forget the greatness that is Erykah Badu? This album - or mix tape, as it's called - was released unexpectedly late December and it is just She is so cool. She might be the coolest. I've always loved her, but my album buying of hers never went past her debut Baduizm (which I LOVE) for whatever reason. But after getting this, I picked up another album of hers and she is all I want to listen to all the time now. Seriously, cool. The songs on this album all bleed into one another and mix and revolve around the topic of phones and communication and how we relate to each other. The album title comes from her song "Tyrone" which you must hear if you've never heard it. (Find it HERE).

Top Three Tracks: "Hello", "Cel U Lar Device", "Phone Down"

Rank Strangers: Lady President, Ringtones, The Box (Trilogy)
I feel I have been waiting for far too long for new Rank Strangers. I see them play all the time and they've had so many new songs for so long that I knew all the words to just from seeing them played live so often. I would always ask when to expect a new album and I was always told they were working on something...and that something turns out to be a trilogy of albums. It's oodles of Rank Strangers songs that I've loved for so long in three beautiful packages. I'm so happy to finally have these songs available to listen to when I want. And all of these other songs that they don't play live that are newly discovered. Rank Strangers make great rock music. Check'em out.

Top Three Tracks on each album:
Lady President: "The Children of the Czar", "Ivan After 5", "When the Pendulum Swings"
Ringtones: "As the World Turns", "Dust and Glue", "Destroy She Says"
The Box: "The Never Never", "King James", "The Empire of Dresses"

Joanna Newsom: Divers
Beautiful. Classical. Whimsical (though I hate to fall into that trap of describing her sound that way). Wordy. Joanna Newsom tells full epic novels in her songs, along with the occasional heart-wrentching love song, that will leave you breathless. I listen to her and I have no idea how anyone even begins to construct a song the way she does. And then there's the harp - her instrument of choice when she's not behind the piano. I watch her play the harp and listen to the sounds and it blows my mind. She is a truly gifted artist. There is no one else like her. I feel like she really is the only musician who can say that. Oddly, tho, like her previous album Have One On Me, it's her use of percussion that draws me on. It's used like a melodic instrument. Not just something to keep the beat. It feels as much a part of the song as the piano or vocal. It has feeling. It has heart. Her music is not for everyone - and I don't mean that in a snobby way. There's usually not much for hooks and her voice is one of those you either love or hate. And did I mention the harp? But once you sit with her albums and really soak them in, you can't help but fall in love.

Top Three Tracks: "Time As A Symptom", "Goose Eggs", "The Things I Say"

Wilco: Star Wars
 Another album that just sort of dropped out of the sky. Wilco released this album unexpectedly and for free. I enjoy Wilco quite a bit, but I'm not someone who runs out the second they release something to buy it. But this was free, so I got it right away. The title has nothing to do with the movie, btw. The songs all have a general sound and vibe to them. It's a rock record. but a laid-back, dad-rock kinda rock record. The fuzzed-out electric guitar that appears on nearly every track brings a cohesive-ness and coolness to the album. It's an album that I can't quite pin-point exactly why I like it so much, I just do. I guess, it's just a collection of good songs.

Top Three Tracks: "Where Do I Begin?", "The Joke Explained", "Taste the Ceiling"

Beach House: Depression Cherry
Depression Cherry was released in August and then, as was the trend this year, they released another album, Thank Your Lucky Stars, unexpectedly in October. Both are very similar albums. Beach House don't tend to stray too far from their signature sound. And that's fine. Because they are really good at it. Dreamy, ethereal, pop. This album was a constant for me when I was recovering from my surgery. It will always be tied to that time of my life. I find their music to be very soothing. You drift off in it. Grab a glass of wine and put it on.

Top Three Tracks: "Space Song", "PPP", "Wildflower"

Erica Russo: In Between Dreams
Erica Russo is such a weird artist for me. Not because of anything to do with her. Just because I never would know who she was if she didn't contact me out of nowhere and asked me to play a show with her as she traveled through Minneapolis on her tour. She's out of New York and doing well for herself, but the randomness of my connection to her is something I find interesting. I think she's fantastic. Her way with lyrics is special. I'd liken her to another favorite lyricist of mine, Anais Mitchell. She made this album completely on her own. Playing all the instruments, handling the recording. It feels very drawn from within. It's a bit eerie. It's another one that was with me a lot while I was recovering from surgery.

Top Three Tracks: "Dreamcatcher", "Barnacle", "So Tired"

Murder Shoes: Daydreaming
I hate to use the term 'local band" as that implies that they are trapped within the city they are from. And I don't think that's the case with Murder Shoes. I first heard them when our songs from our new albums were debuted on The Current's Local Show the same night. I really liked them and asked them to join me for a show some time. They ended up playing my residency at the 331 Club. If you remember that song "Sometime, Always" from the 90s - a duet between Hope Scandoval of Mazzy Star and The Jesus and Mary Chain, then you know what Murder Shoes sounds like. Fuzzed out dream pop. They also have a lot of humor in their songs, like in "Reefer and Pizza" and "Girls Named Benji". I was listening to this the other night again and wondered how this could not make my Top 10. So here it is.

Top Three Tracks: "Girls Named Benji", "So What May", "Can You Sea Me?"

Matt Latterell: Phase & Field
Beautiful album driven by complex songwriting that speaks to your soul. Matt puts it all out there when he sings and with his words, leaving nothing behind. The songs surprise you. What may at first seem to be a nice little acoustic ditty can suddenly take a turn into completely unexpected territory.

Top Three Tracks: "And I'll Never Let You Go", "Two Tornados", "Surprise Inspection"

Beirut: No No No
Another modern-day classical album. Beirut's lead singer/songwriter's main instruments are the trumpet and ukulele. So already how can I not love it? It's a bit orchestral. A bit baroque. I imagine puffy sleeves and rosy red checks and powdered wigs tip-toe dancing through a ballroom when I listen to this album. It's elegant. Another one to go with that glass of wine (or bottle).

Top Three Tracks: "So Allowed", "At Once", "August Holland"

EL VY: Return to the Moon, Strange Relations: Centrism, Blur: The Magic Whip, Mary Bue: Holy Bones, Fury Things: VHS, Katy Vernon: Present, The Juliana Hatfield Three: Whatever My Love

(not featured on the favorite albums listed above)

Belle and Sebastian: "Nobody's Empire"

Catbath: "Ta Da"

Lizzo: "BGSW"

Noel Gallagher: "Do the Damage"

EL VY: "Paul Is Alive"

Zoo Animal: "Delicate"

SOAK: "Sea Creatures"

My Morning Jacket: "Get the Point"

Beach House: "Somewhere Tonight"

Oh, yeah...also, I released an album in 2015. Reactor. Listen below.

And then I released an EP just for the fun of it. You can listen to that below, too.

Looking forward to all of the music that is coming out in 2016 - including maybe new stuff from me, too? Maybe? Hmmmm....

Saturday, December 26, 2015

331 Club 12-19-15

It was a week ago today since we played our show at the 331 Club as part of Battlerat's EP release show. Since then it's been Christmas and I cleaned the house. Christmas was lovely as usual. Matt and I spent it at his mother's house with his family. Good food. Gifts exchanged. We played a game. Robbie Dog got some fun treats. Of course, Christmas Eve was spent with the annual eating of the tacos and viewing of National Lampoon's A Christmas Vacation.

Our show at 331 Club was the first show back as a band. It wasn't quite the full band as Laura was unable to join us, but Colleen rocked it and covered all the background vocal ground on her own. It was wonderful to play with the band again. Whenever I'm feeling down about music, it just takes a practice session with these folks to bring me back up. And playing a show with them is truly fantastic.

This was a lineup I was super excited to play with. All of these bands are stellar. We opened the show and Tungsten played second. I hadn't seen them before, but I'm familiar with the folks in the band. I really enjoyed their set and hope to play with them again someday.


Next up was Battlerat. It was their EP release show. This is another band that I've definitely fallen for over the past couple of month. You should check out their new EP, Spoils, here:


Rupert Angeleyes closed out the night. They are a super fun glam rock pop band. I've seen them a couple of times before and was thrilled to share a bill with them.

Rupert Angeleyes

The place was packed nearly the entire evening. The sound was great. We debuted a new song! People seemed to be in good spirits.  It was a really fun night.

And Colleen brought homemade Oreos for the band and they were delicious!

 Set list for 331 Club 12-19-15
  • Lens
  • Running
  • The Reminder
  • Float
  • Daughter
  • Safety Mode
  • Blink (first time played with the band)
  • Beg, Borrow, or Steal
  • Adore 
 Next up: Last show of the year. Colleen, Laura, and I will be opening for Katy Vernon on the last night of her December residency at The Aster Cafe in Minneapolis on December 30th. Details here:



Monday, December 14, 2015

The Dubliner Pub 11-29-15

As the end of the year approaches, I have a ton to post about so I really need to keep up with things, don't I. I mean, I've got best of lists to compile, you know?

Way back - like nearly 3 weeks ago now? - I played a show at The Dubliner Pub in St. Paul. It was a solo set and my first show back since I took my surgical leave. I was excited to get back at it and nervous.
The stage is set!

I also tried out my new amp on stage for the first time! Such a difference. Loved using it. I also got to test out a bunch of new songs.

This show was a part of the Womenfolk Radio Live series that the KFAI show of the same name hosted every Sunday in November. Originally I was offered the 3 hour set for myself, but that is a long time to stand up there alone and Sarah Morris thought the same when she was offered a set and so we split the bill.

 Sarah Morris

I first met Sarah back when I was doing open mics still. I was at one at The Aster and she was there performing and I had one of my first "real" shows coming up and needed someone to play with. I saw her and thought she was great so I asked her to join me and she did. So it was fun playing with her again after all this time.

We decided to start the 3 hour show with a shared set. We each sang one song of our own and then did two covers and sang back up for each other.

I did "A Story" as my own song and then did "Johnny B Goode" as my cover. I sang "Be My Baby" with Sarah. Then Sarah took the stage and played a 30 minute set and then I did the same. We rotated once more and then that was that. My first show back was in the books. Cobwebs: shaken off.

Set list for The Dubliner Pub 11-29-15

Set One
  • Leave
  • Reactor (slowed down version)
  • Moth (first time played!)
  • The Party 
  • Blink (first time played!)
  • Lord, I Have Made You a Place in My Heart (Greg Brown cover)
  • Daughter
  • Letting Go
  • On Fridays

Set Two
  • Every Time We Meet (first time played!)
  • The Reminder
  • Minnesota
  •  Introvert
  • Old Fashioned Hat (Anais Mitchell cover)
  • Flavor
  • Safety Mode
  • Cohabitate
  • For the Time Being

I'm stepping out with the full band this Saturday, December 19th at the 331 Club for Battlerat's EP release show. We play first. Very excited. Love playing with the band. Love playing 331 Club. Love playing on the weekends. Battlerat is awesome. As other the other two bands playing: Tungsten and Rupert Angeleyes. It's gonna be a big show. Hope to see you!

Event Details:

Friday, November 6, 2015

Time, As A Sympton

The title of this blog post sounds much deeper than what lies below. It's a song title from Joanna Newsom's new album, Divers. It's a beautiful album. Go get it.

I'm really trying not to live my life in a pre and post surgery mindset, but, well, it's been just over 6 weeks since my hysterectomy and things are really really really close to being back to normal. I went in for my final post-op check-in with my doctor and she gave me the all clear. So that's awesome. I still have to ease into somethings, like lifting heave things, but overall, I am good to go.

I've been back to work for 3 and a half weeks and it's like I was never gone. But work feels better somehow. Not that work was ever bad. I do really like my job. I mean, if I can't make a living off music, this is a fabulous job to have. But it feels even better. I feel more social. We're in a new building. We have a lot going on. It's really quite nice.

People told me that I would feel so much better after the surgery. I never knew how to think about that because I never thought I felt bad - except for that one week out of every month. But, now that I'm healed, it's amazing how much better I do feel overall. I feel lighter (which makes sense since I've lost 18 pounds!). Happier. More confident. And, like I said, more social.

I'm back to practicing with the band and we even started a new song last night and I love it. I'm so happy to be working on new songs again. I have so many just waiting to go. It amazes me how arranging a song just falls into place. I just started playing it, everyone fell into it, we tweaked some things a bit, and there it is. A song. It's called "Blink". And that's all I'll say about the new song for now : )

I also randomly decided to cover and record The Jesus and Mary Chain's "Just Like Honey". I actually recorded it earlier this summer and then forgot I did it when life got all crazy. I stumbled on it while looking for something else and liked it, did some tweaks and then put up on Soundcloud as a free download:

I've also been inundated with a lot of wonderful new music lately. The Joanna Newsom I mentioned above is so beautiful. She's hard to recommend to people because she has one of those voices you either love or hate, a lot of her songs are over 6 minutes long, they rarely have a hook, and her main instrument is the harp - but yet they're amazing. Beautiful. And, oddly, the sparse percussion she uses is usually my favorite part.

Gramma's Boyfriend came out with a new album called Perm. It's so fun. They are fronted by singer/songwriter Haley Bonar, who I love, and she completely unleashes when she's in this band. It's new wave post-punk dance crazy awesomeness.

Other recent highlights: EL VY (fronted by The National's Matt Berninger), Beirut, and the two albums Beach House has put out this year.

And Girlpool!!! I almost forgot Girlpool, which is ridiculous because I LOVE This album.

My first show back from this medical hiatus is coming up at the end of the month (November 29th) at The Dubliner as part of the KFAI Womenfolk Radio Live series. I'll be playing a solo set. It will be good for me to get back out there and feel out the songs again. I'll probably break out a bunch of new songs, too. And some oldies. More on that event here:

I also got a new amp to go along with my new electric guitar! Well, it's a new to me amp. My friend Dave moved to London earlier this year and gave me this amp and it is so great. It has all the fun effects. It's gonna change my musical life.

Speaking of London, I'm going back! End of February. We're going to do London and Edinburgh this time and I am so excited. We sort of decided to go to Edinburgh on a whim as it was an easy train ride and then I started looking into the city and I cannot wait. It looks gorgeous. There's a castle!

I also get to go to Seattle for work in December. I've never been. 14 year old grunge-loving me is finally getting to visit the land of Kurt Cobain, Eddie Vedder, Layne Staley...I won't be there long but I'm going to try to squeeze in as much as possible.

I have a couple more shows scheduled for the end of December, too. You can learn about them here on my newly-renovated website!

It's so good to be back in life again.

Oh, and I have a new favorite show! Veep. It's on HBO but you can see it on Amazon Prime.

Oh, and I'm on Snapchat now! You can find me at nikibeckermusic

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Back to Basics

Tomorrow I go back to work. It will be one month since I last was there. One month! So crazy. This time away has flown by. 

I was just rereading my last post. Another two weeks have gone by and a lot of the fears I had in that post have passed. Healing is happening. 

I can do nearly everything on my own now. Get up. Sit down. Lie down. Shower. Grocery shop. Walk the dog. Put on my socks and shoes. I still get sore if I do too much, though. I had to have Matt help me get my clothes out of the dryer today because the constant bending over to get them was too much. And I can't lift anything over 10 pounds. And getting up from lying down is still difficult, but I'm making improvements.

I'm still sleeping on the couch as I still can't sleep how I like to in bed. And because of the whole getting up thing. But I'm going to try the bed again tonight since things start to return to normal tomorrow. I need to start living how I used to.

I'm excited to go back to work. But also nervous. The office was recently remodeled and I only spent a week there before the surgery. It's going to be so different when I get back. And we have so much going on. I'm preparing myself to be exhausted and over stimulated. 

I went out a couple of times this weekend for the first time in over a month. I went to that birthday party I mentioned in my previous post. I lasted a whole two hours before I felt like I was going to fall asleep on my feet.

Then yesterday I went out to dinner with a couple of friends. It was lovely. But towards the end of the meal I started to feel sore and had to head home as they headed out to another event. 

I had a total of two beers over the weekend. First ones since Sept. 18th. That's been a nice break, honestly. It's nice to know that I can go a whole month without needing any alcohol. Just a good check in with myself.

Something else nice that's been discovered is I've lost 15 pounds this past month! Around 7 of that is due to what they took out of me. But the other 8 is just a happy side effect to all of this. I didn't eat much the first week and a half. I thought for sure I would have gained it all back by now. I've spent a lot of time on the couch eating snacks. But I haven't. Hopefully I can keep it off. 

I've got band practice this week! First time we'll have played together since early September. I can't wait. I miss those guys. And I miss playing with them. We've got some shows starting to fill up the calendar. I'm happy to have music back in my life again. I spent some time this last week doing some home recordings that I think I might put out in December for free…but we'll see. I have to give them some more listens and tweaks and make sure I'm comfortable putting them out there.

There's a lot I've missed these past few weeks. Parties. Concerts. Happy Hours. It's been a bummer. But, though I'm eager to get back to work and life as I used to know it, I'm also a little sad my break is over. Being forced to step away from things was definitely something I needed. I was wearing down. It's been wonderful to spend days with my dog, even when it was difficult and I couldn't do things with him. It was just nice being home with him and to be able to pet him and not have to put him in his kennel. He's led a very cushy past 4 weeks. It will be really hard to put him in his kennel when I go back to work tomorrow.

But, I'm very fortunate to work at such a great place. They have been so supportive through all this. And I'll be able to ease back into it. If I need to work from home, I can. 

I'm excited to get dressed for work tomorrow. It was nice to put on "real" clothes this weekend and go out a couple of times and put on some makeup and jewelry and feel like a person again. 

I'm just really excited to get back to normal. To have my job, to play my shows, to write songs with my band, to go out to see shows, to go to happy hours, to hang out with my husband, to walk my dog, to sleep comfortably in my bed, to laugh without pain, to drive my car, to dance around the house, and to go back to London in February!!!!  And we're going to go to Scotland, too!!!! 

Things to look forward to. Things to work towards. That's important.

For now, though, it's Sunday. 3pm. I did laundry. I played a little guitar. Matt made cornbread, which I get to enjoy later. Abdominal pain is minimal. I have an outfit picked out for my first day back to work tomorrow. 

I kinda feel normal. 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

A Hysterectomy And Some History

It's been 12 days since I last had a uterus.

Last Tuesday I had a hysterectomy. It's been a challenging, emotional, and painful experience. I had it because I had to. Well, partially had to. It turns out I've been carrying around a 5 pound fibroid for who knows how long and my uterus had swelled to the size of a 7 month pregnant uterus. My doctor told me that as soon as they removed it, they noticed how the shape of my belly changed. And when I was finally able to stand up again and see myself in the mirror. I noticed it, too. I had been walking around looking like I was 7 months pregnant. Sure, I still have my belly, but things have definitely smoothed out. So weird.

I say I only partially had to get the hysterectomy as my doctor thought maybe they could get the fibroid out and save the uterus. It would be more difficult and bring other challenges, but it was a possibility. But since I've never wanted kids and despise my period, I told her just to take it. So they did. I'm left with my ovaries and cervix (they too the fallopian tubes, too, as they are the highest cause of cancer so might as well get rid of them, too).

The weeks leading up to the surgery were terrifying. I made sure to keep myself busy. I played a lot of shows, went to a lot of events - just to try to keep my mind off of it. But every night I couldn't help but think about the fact that I had to get surgery. Not fearful of losing the uterus, but of getting surgery itself. I'd never been under anesthesia. I didn't know what to expect. I just wanted the date to hurry up and get here so it could be at the point where I was waking up from surgery and I had, in fact, woken up from surgery and that I didn't have some horrible experience where I woke up mid-surgery. I just wanted to be done with it.

Because I didn't like my uterus and all it brought to me. I never had. From my very first period to my last (which reared its ugly head two days before surgery to take that last bit of dignity from me and force me to have to wear hospital provided mesh panties and a pad going into surgery knowing the nurses would have to deal with the outcome.)

My first period came the day after 5th grade ended. My dad and I were living with his girlfriend (my mother died when I was 6 years old). I hated my dad's girlfriend. She was a such a bitch. Truly, truly a bitch (she once burned my clothes in the fireplace because I left some on the floor of my room - which was in the basement. She was a bitch). I went to the bathroom and there it was. I started bawling and ran to my dad, who was perched on top of the garage painting window trim on the house. I couldn't get the words out, but I didn't have to. He guessed right away. I have no idea how we knew. He told me to go tell Vicki. So I did. She threw some maxi pads my way and that was that. No explanation. No talk. Just a "here - take these." And so begun my menstruation.

It was always terrible, my period. Constantly heavy and clotting. I had accidents all the time. I lost so many pairs of pants to the terrible red stain. I could not fathom how girls could actually go swimming with their periods. Friends would say, you'll be fine! I do it all the time! But not me. It was not possible.  And there was no way I was going to risk that huge of possibility of public humiliation. Cramps were terrible and would leave me in bed curled up for hours. My uterus had it against me from the start. I couldn't wear tampons. For one, I had no idea how to wear them at first. No one told me and the box was confusing. But two, my period was just too heavy. They just didn't last long enough. All my friends wore tampons and I always felt out of place. Different. Dirty. All my life I've heard women make fun of pads and it's been hard. I've felt ashamed. Like I'm some sort of ogre. You'd think women would be more sensitive to other women's menstrual needs. But they're not. So I would play along like tampons were my feminine hygiene product of choice. But they never were.

When I reached my early twenties, my period calmed down a bit. Most likely due to the fact I had just moved out of the house and was broke and never ate and was a vegetarian and smoked a ton of cigarettes and lost a ton of weight and it all screwed with my cycle. I was able to use tampons for a while, but they were never comfortable for me. They didn't seem to fit. So I returned to my trusty pads. And as stability returned to my life and I got a job and ate regular meals, my period returned in all its glory. It took a few years, but it came back full force.

Over the last 5-6 years, it'd become unbearable. Planning vacations became increasingly difficult as the fear I would have it would worry me as it could easily ruin a vacation. I can't even walk the dog the first few days of my period, much less wander the streets of Montreal with any ease. This spring, as my friends were all planning a trip to the Eaux Claires Music Festival, I had to wait and hope they didn't sell out until about two weeks before the date because the last thing I wanted was to be stuck with my horrible period at an outdoor music festival with only a sea of port-a-potties to save me. My period has always been on time (minus a few occasions) but it always seems like my calculations would be off as soon as an event rolled around. It always seemed to appear.

There was a 3 month period a few years ago when it lasted 2 weeks at a time. It was hell. I went to the doctor and they put me on birth control, which cut it back down to 7 days, but didn't make it any lighter. Eventually, I stopped taking it.

I had an abortion when I was 20. Not my uterus's fault, technically. But a few days before the procedure, I was sitting at home and went to the bathroom and there was a ton of blood. I thought for sure I had a miscarriage. But, nope. Just my lovely lovely uterus doing what it does. Being a fucking nightmare.

So, flash forward to July 2015 and I'm told I'll need to get a hysterectomy. I took it calmly at the clinic and listened - and nearly passed out - as the doctor explained what was going to happen. When I went to my car, I sobbed. Just completely broke down. Partially out of fear of having to get surgery, but mostly about the idea of losing my uterus.

Like I said above, I've never wanted kids. Kids and me just don't mix. I don't know what to do with them, how to talk to them. They bring out the worst of my germaphobia. The screaming and crying. The constant need for attention. I have a dog and a dog is all I can handle in that department.

But it's something different when the narrative changes from "I don't WANT kids" to "I CAN'T HAVE kids". I'm now someone who cannot conceive a child. I'm that person in those conversations. If I tell someone, they will pity me. "Oh, I'm so sorry." Growing up having to hear that every time someone asks me about my mother - it gets old so fast. Now here is another thing.

And I couldn't help but almost laugh at the onslaught of child related things that went on in my life leading up to the hysterectomy. My friend had triplets. Just two weeks after learning I had to get a hysterectomy, she gave birth to surprise triplets. Baby news everywhere!

In the two weeks leading up to my hysterectomy, I brought food to my triplet having friend, attended another friend's baby shower (which meant I had to shop for baby stuff), had a coworker announce her pregnancy, and watched my Facebook feed fill up with picture after picture after picture of first days of schools of countless children of family and friends. And I'm so happy for them all. I truly am. But, I felt like the universe was making me question everything. I tend to not get to involved in the lives of the children in my life, but suddenly I felt like it was all babies all the time. It was hard to deal. As much as I was trying to avoid thinking about they upcoming hysterectomy, events in my life wouldn't let that happen.

And now, here I am. Twelve days since I last had a uterus. It's been incredibly taxing in ways I did not expect.

My surgery went well. Leading up to it, my doctors kept telling me everything should go swimmingly as I am completely healthy. How that is possible, I have no idea. I eat terribly. I'm overweight. I drink a lot of beer. But, I guess I'm healthy. Goes to show weight isn't an indicator of health.

I cried the whole time before surgery. Because that's what I do. I cry. My husband waited with me in the pre-op room while I changed into my hospital robe and my mesh underwear and everyone from nurses to my doctor to the anesthesiologist - everyone on the surgical team - came in and hooked me up to things, checked things, brought me forms to sign, asked me questions, made me recite my name and birthdate over and over - and then they wheeled me away. I said goodbye to Matt and they wheeled me away.

I was so pleased to see that the entire staff working on me were women. For some reason, it feels like they know the parts best and so they will know how to take care of this best. Not fair to male doctors, I know. But whatever. In fact, the last thing I remember saying before going under was telling them all how awesome it was they were all women and how I work for a show that aims to get girls excited about careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Literally, I said those words, as I was looking up at the stark white walls and ceilings and the very bright lights, and I saw the gas mask thing over me as she was about to place it over my mouth and then I remember nothing else.

The anesthesiologist told me that they would turn the anesthesia off 15 minutes post-surgery and everyone would start to talk to me and say my name and that I should try to respond the best I can so they know I'm awake.  Even if I can't open my eyes, I should give them a thumbs up - whatever I can.

I have no recollection of this. But I must of done something because I woke up in the post-op recovery area with a nurse by my side and all my stuff. She gave me glasses so I could see. And the first thing I noticed was that my right hand was completely numb. It felt like it had fallen asleep - hard. So the first thing I remember saying when I woke up is that I couldn't feel my right hand. Then I fell back asleep.

I woke up to them transferring me from the recovery bed into the bed in my hospital room (my private room - thank goodness). Matt came in shortly after. All I cared about was that I couldn't feel my hand. It was my right hand. I'm right handed. I play guitar. I NEED my hand. I was told it was probably placed funny or something got pinched from the blood pressure arm band and that it should come back eventually (it did - finally - after about 5 days). It was the first thing about post-surgery that I was not expecting that has caused me much anxiety and frustration.

Besides my hand, I felt pretty good. My head felt clear. Abdominal pain was minimal. I was in fairly good spirits. The staff at the hospital were great. Really top-notch, kind people.

They made me try to sit up that first night. They told me I would have to get up and use the bathroom the next day so I had to get moving. I was currently hooked up to a catheter. That was my first realization of the kind of pain and difficulty I was in for. Getting up from a laying down position was the worst - and still is. It is so hard. You use every muscle in your abdomen doing that. So I managed to sit up. They wanted me to stand, but I couldn't. I was too lightheaded. I had lost a little more blood than I should have during surgery. The mass was so big and my uterus so swollen, my doctor told me she thought she would have to do an up down incision over the top of the belly button to get it out. But, I guess when they actually got into the OR, she decided she could get it out with the standard "bikini cut". It's a much more pleasant looking incision that way and is easier to hide. So she went for it and it went fine, except I lost a little more blood than planned. So I was dizzy sitting up.

The first night at the hospital I slept in 20 minute intervals as I was on an hourly check up schedule. I was even hooked up to a blood pressure arm band that would automatically squeeze my arm every hour. Temperature takings. Pill taking.

The one nice thing was they had these massager things around each of my calves so the blood in my legs didn't clot from non movement. Those things were awesome.

The next day they had to take the catheter out. I had been wondering how that would work out. They wouldn't just pull it out, would they? There must be some way to get it out....nope. They just pull it out. I can't even think about it now without cringing and wanting to cry. That was terrible. But, it was the one thing that forced me to start working on sitting up because if I didn't go to the bathroom naturally, they were going to have to insert it again and, yeah..nope. That wasn't going to happen.

I managed to get up that day and stand and use the bathroom. Peeing was so weird. They told me it would move slowly and it really did. Not to get into too much detail, but yeah, it was weird. It didn't get normal until a couple of days later. Something else I wasn't prepared for. Also, on that same note, I couldn't really take care of the after business. It's amazing how much your pride just goes away when you can't properly use toilet paper by yourself. I had to have a nurse help me. And, bless her, she did and, yep, that is something that happened.

She also showered me on morning #3 at the hospital. I hadn't showered since surgery morning and I was feeling pretty blech. But I couldn't do it alone. So I stood there. Naked. While she washed me down. And, though my pride was on the floor, like with the bathroom thing, it was not as bad as I thought. My dad is currently in a nursing home and used to say to me as he aged that if he ever got to the point where people had to help him use the bathroom to just shoot him. But, he's there now and he's fine with it. Life is funny that way, I guess. It's good to know that when/if I get to that point, I'll probably be okay with it.

I hadn't really eaten anything since the night before surgery either. I had some cantaloupe and grapes on  Night #1 at the hospital, but that was it. My appetite was nil. Another thing you don't think about before  surgery is that the narcotics completely fuck with your intestinal system. I couldn't do what I needed to do for 6 days. It was not good. And it was not good for 4 days after that. And it's kind of not good again. And that's all I'll get into with that.

I went home night #3. They told me I had to go for 4 walks around the hospital floor and eat 3 meals before I could leave. So I did that. I was still terrified to leave. I'm such a hypochondriac worrier panic attacker anxiety haver that I knew any little thing that felt weird on me when I got home would send me into a fit. There was safety at the hospital. I was surrounded by people who were medically trained and could save me if need be. But I went home.

Matt, my husband, has been absolutely wonderful. I am a very lucky woman. Getting into the car that night, and the ride in the car and going over potholes and getting out of the car and up the front steps and onto the couch and dealing with my incredibly sweet dog who was very excited to see his mom again but was not allowed to give me a hug like he normally would - it was a lot. I was very scared.

Everything is uncomfortable. Sleeping is the worst. It makes me so sad because I love sleeping. I can only sleep on my back, which is not natural to me. I like to curl up in the fetal position and wrap the pillow over my ears. But I can't. So instead I lie on my back and stare at the ceiling and listen to every sound happening every where. I've taken to sleeping with my headphone on and listening to music just to try to distract myself. It seems to work.

But, I still can't get up from a lying down position without much pain and difficulty. Matt helps me, but at times I have to do it by myself and it is excruciating. And I wake up all night long with horrible pain in my shoulders. I don't know why this is. But they really hurt. And my arms go numb. Just from lying on my back. It's weird. And my stomach, when lying down, feels completely detached from me. I wake up and it feels like I'm wearing a fanny pack or like a cat is sprawled across sleeping on top of me. My whole belly area near the incision feels numb. Like it doesn't belong to me.

I've tried sleeping in my bed a few times, but I cannot get out of it without help and sometimes, even though Matt will gladly help me, I want the independence of being able (even though it's still difficult from the couch) of getting up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom if I have to. Or to take some pain meds. So it's the couch until I'm healed.

I just started taking showers by myself again. When I first got home, Matt had to help me undress, help me get in the shower, and then stand outside and hand me shampoo, soap, etc since I couldn't reach down to get them. Then he had to help me out of the shower, help me dry off, and help me get dressed. This is probably the best argument for marriage I could possibly give. We have been together for 15 years. This is not something I thought he'd ever have to help me with. But here we are. And even though the helplessness and embarrassment of the situation brought me to tears every time, he was there holding my hand and trying to make me laugh. I love him so much.

But I'm able to shower on my own now and I can mostly undress and dress myself again - except for socks and shoes. I can't quite bend over that far yet.

I spent my first week home alone. Matt had to go back to work and it was just me and Robbie Dog. That poor dog. He totally knows something is wrong with me. He's been very gentle and sweet. But he's still a dog. And usually when I'm home during the day, we go for a walk around lunch time or he at least gets to go outside for a bit. But I can't do those things. So every time I get up to go make lunch, he runs to the back door and paws at it and stares at me and I feel terrible. But I couldn't bend down low enough to hook him up to his tie-out. Let alone reach his tie-out which is usually laying on the back patio floor. But this weekend, my bendability has increased a bit and Matt came up with a contraption to hook the tie-out onto which means tomorrow I can let him out during the day. Thank goodness.

Yesterday was a big day for me. I left the house for the first time since the hospital and went with Matt to the grocery store. Then later, we took Robbie Dog up the block and back for a short little walk. It's crazy how tired that all made me. My legs were tired. But it felt good to get out and move. I felt like I might actually get through this.

But then I had a terrible night's sleep. Through all of this recovery time, I've had a bad pain on one side of my abdomen. A pinching. It's not constant. But it hurts the most when I do things. The other side has felt fine, for the most part. But this pinching. It keeps me from being able to bend and move better. I've felt like if it wasn't for that, I'd be much further along.

So last night, I tried to sleep in bed. I was lying there on my back, staring at the ceiling, trying to ignore the pain in my shoulders, and my stomach was making all sorts of noises. And then I felt this throbbing that wasn't like a gas pain or anything. Just this sort of pinging throbbing in my upper right abdomen. I got up (with Matt's help) around 3am to use the bathroom and take some meds, and when I walked back into the bedroom, out of nowhere, I felt this ripping like sensation on the left side of my abdomen right along the incision line. It felt like taking out hair with a tweezer, or ripping off a bandaid. Except it kept happening in the same spot. I hadn't done anything strenuous. Just walked. I managed to get back into bed and the weird feeling kept happening. And in my crazy brain, I imagined my incision was ripping open. Even as I sit here now, I've felt it a couple of times. These random pains keep happening and it's frustrating because I don't know if they are okay or not. I could call my doctor, but if I called for every little thing that I've worried about over the past 12 days, I'd never get off the phone.

Matt got up at 6am and I moved back to the couch, where I'll probably continue to sleep until I'm healed, unfortunately.

Through all of this, I keep thinking about how I just wanted to get the surgery over with. I had no idea recovery would be this taxing. I knew it would be hard. But it's just the little things. Not being able to reach something on the bottom of shelf of the refrigerator. Or put on socks by myself. Or lie down by myself.

I haven't played guitar in so long. I realized on Friday that I haven't even sung in over a week. Not even to myself. Matt had taken Robbie for a walk and I decided I would pace the hallway the whole time they were gone just to see if I could handle moving that much for that long. A song came on the radio and I started to sing along and it hit me I hadn't sung at all since before surgery. It made me sad. I feel so far removed from my regular life and I'm currently at the point in the recovery process that I can't imagine getting back to it.

My dear friends have a co-birthday party coming up on the 16th. I'll be 3.5 weeks past surgery at that point. I should be back to work by then. Will I be able to go celebrate with them? Will I be able to laugh heartily and drink some beers and enjoy life? Right now it's really hard to imagine that will be possible.

And work. I'm honestly excited to go back. I've been so bored. One can only watch Netflix for so long, I've discovered. But it is a trial getting to my desk. It's really far away from the main entrance. I'm envisioning myself shuffling down the long hallways past all of my coworkers while I wince in pain but try to smile. I'll have to bring my lunch - and one that needs no refrigeration or heating up as there is no way I'll be able to either get to a kitchen or a restaurant.

It's just hard to imagine being normal again. I put on a bra for the first time in 12 days yesterday. It felt wonderful. I can't even imagine getting up and getting ready for work and putting on an outfit and my contacts and make up. I have all these new clothes that I've barely worn. And now I have a new belly and I'm excited to see how they look now. But I can't imagine actually being able to wear them with confidence.

When will I be normal again?

It still hurt to go over pot holes and speed bumps in the car ride to the grocery store yesterday. How will I drive to work?

This is all still, at least, 9 days away. But I feel like I haven't come very far in 12 days. So I'm nervous and, as always, scared. I guess I'm showering and dressing myself (for the most part). And I can sit down and stand up with relative ease. And I can start letting the dog out again. All of these things are improvements. But overall, I still feel so unable.

I have my first band practice scheduled for October 22nd. I am so excited. But, will I be able to lift my guitar? It's pretty heavy. I just want to play it again.

We have our first show back scheduled for December 19th. That is so far away from now, but still I wonder how I will ever be able to perform again. Right now, these things seem impossible.

I just want my regular life back.

The doctor told me, since they left my ovaries and my cervix, that I will still technically have my menstrual cycle. I will get PMS and hormonal. I could bloat. And there might even be spotting from vessels in my cervix. We have a vacation planned at the end of February. We're going back to London and also taking a train up to Scotland. I wonder if the ghost of my uterus will strike with horrible bloating and PMS at this time. It will, obviously, never be as bad as it was. It was the bleeding that was the worst. But even after all of this, all of that stuff will still happen. But hey, no bleeding and no risk of pregnancy.

Well, I've been sitting for a while. I should probably get up and move. Pace the hallway. See how that goes. Maybe take the dog out. I have to do these things to get my life back.

I just want my life back.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Lake Harriet Bandshell 9-5-15

Still buzzing after a super fun show at the Lake Harriet Bandshell in Minneapolis. It was a perfect end to our summer of shows.

All week long the weather report said it was going to storm. Then it was no storms, but 90+ degrees and incredibly humid...which it was. But the breeze from the lake turned it into a very pleasant evening for an outdoor show. I was certain I would sweat buckets and I remained fairly dry, so that was just the icing on the cake. : )

There was a really great crowd. Highly exceeded my expectations for a Labor Day Weekend/State Fair time outdoor show. It might have been the most people we ever played for.

I seriously had so much fun.

 Laura played a solo song!

And with that, our summer of shows is over. Now, we take a break while I go get my scary surgery and then recover from that and then we can start planning for the future.

Lake Harriet Bandshell Set List 9-5-15

  • For the Time Being
  • Lens
  • Car
  • Good to Know
  • The Reminder
  • Reactor
  • I Wanna Know
  • Float
  • Blind
  • Record (Laura solo song)
  • On Fridays (Niki solo song)
  • A Story
  • Running
  • The Party
  • Beg, Borrow, or Steal
  • Daughter
  • Introvert
  • Adore
  • Here
  • When You Were Mine (Prince cover)
  • Safety Mode
  • Yesterday