Saturday, April 18, 2015

That's What Friends Are For

As most of you know, I have a new book out about how we lost everything in a fire. One of my favorite chapters in the book is called “The Harvest.” It’s about how, when we were broke and homeless, our community of musician friends rallied around us and put together a benefit concert to lift us back on our feet. Hundreds of people showed up. When music and love intersect, it is an unbeatable force. It lifted us up financially, yes, but more importantly, it lifted us spiritually. In what was the ultimate “trust-fall,” we were caught, and held up by hundreds of hands. We swore then that once we were stronger, we would return that kindness, with every opportunity we got.

This is why my husband Troy and I are so happy to be part of the Jammin’ for Jones band, raising money to lift our good friend Jeff back onto his feet. Jeff is an incredible singer/songwriter/musician. His songs have been covered by Stephen Bishop, Art Garfunkel, and the band Alabama, to name a few. Jeff is now suffering terribly with both MS and Parkinson’s. Jeff can no longer sing, which crushes my heart. I melt for his singing voice. Listen here:

Just before our house burned down in 1994, Troy and Jeff were part of Stephen Bishop’s band, and had just toured Japan together. All Jeff and Troy did on the road, aside from making great music, was laugh. At home after the tour, the good times continued. Jeff can tell a story like nobody’s business, and had us laughing in our living room until the wee hours of the morning. Jeff is a good man with a huge heart, and so is Stephen. (Stephen has shown up and donated performances for me on countless occasions- to support my work with foster kids.) Stephen and Jeff have shared a close friendship for over 40 years, and were even roommates for 16 years back in the day. It has deeply touched my heart to watch Stephen work so hard to put this benefit concert together to lift his best friend. He has also helped Jeff to release his first and only CD of his own. This is what true friendship looks like.
Stephen Bishop and Jeff Jones on the Midnight Special. I love the shots of their faces singing together. Jeff looks about 16 years old.

This benefit concert for Jeff is one of the greatest labors of love I’ve ever experienced. I so hope you will buy tickets to witness this special evening, and tribute to Jeff. Bring some Kleenex. If you’re sentimental like me, you’ll cry, in a good way.
Tickets start at $50 and all funds go to help Jeff with his medical expenses. Buy your tickets here fast - its going to sell out:
If you can't attend but would like to contribute to Jeff's medical fund, please click here:

A few of the people who will be there on April 28 to pay tribute to Jeff: Kevin Nealon, Penny Marshall, Piers Morgan, LL Cool J.

Some of our show sponsors: Eric Clapton, Linda Rondstadt, Bette Midler, Art Garfunkel, Penny Marshall and more.

Video Tributes will be shown from: Michael Mc Donald, Jackson Browne, One Direction, and more…

The All-Star Band: 
Troy Dexter - Guitar
Robin DiMaggio - Drums
Debra Dobkin - Percussion
Jon Gilutin - Keyboards
Mark Goldenberg - Lead Guitar
Rob Shirakbari - Keyboards
Lee Sklar - Bass
Jim Wilson - Keyboards

Background Singers:
Leah Kunkel
Robbie Wyckoff
Hollye Dexter
Billy Trudell  


Friday, April 3, 2015

Hollye and Troy and The Seven Plagues

It’s Good Friday today, although I seriously doubt Jesus would have called it that. Talk about a bad day. With Passover and Easter upon us, I thought I’d share my own tale of the seven plagues. Or is it ten? I don’t know. I just know that recently Troy and I seemed to have experienced a few of them.

DEATH: Evan said the other day, “Ever since Anita died, everything has gone horribly wrong in our lives. It’s like she took all the happy with her.” He’s right. I was so shaken by Anita’s death, I got sick on the day she died, really sick. Lost my voice for a week, got bronchitis and couldn’t shake it for over a month. And that was just the kickoff to a string of other disasters. Like bugs…

BUGS: Recently Troy woke up covered head to toe in what looked like bug bites. His arms and legs swelled up and were hot to the touch. He went to urgent care, they gave him some meds but didn’t really know what was wrong with him. Last week, Evan woke up the same way and we knew we had a problem. We hired a company that brought a trained dog out to sniff for bed bugs. We didn’t have bed bugs, but in moving and turning over all our furniture we found out we had carpet beetles. I had no idea, as I had never seen one (still haven’t - they are smaller than a grain of rice and hide in your carpet and furniture). They don’t bite, but it turns out some people are highly allergic to them. So that began days of moving furniture and having all carpets and furniture steam cleaned and washing every thing in the house and bagging up all the pillows, etc. Ugh.

FLOOD – Two days after the bugs, the house still torn apart, I come home from yoga and Evan says, “Mom, don’t be upset. The whole house flooded.” Upset? Why would I be upset? Second floor bathroom flooded into first floor bathroom flooded into Troy’s recording studio and our basement. Spent DAYS dealing with that. Days of sweat and filth and throwing away photos and ruined Christmas decorations and trying to dry out an entire trunk full of my soaked journals. Cleaning carpets. AGAIN.
We realized that in the 15 years we’ve owned this house we have had six floods. Two caused by nature, three caused by toilets, and one by a burst pipe in the ceiling. We have purchased three new toilets, including one high-pressure flush toilet that was supposed to ensure that we never had another toilet flood, but THAT toilet spontaneously exploded, porcelain shards flying everywhere, and then flooded the bathroom. Yes, we had an exploding toilet (and are now part of a class action lawsuit against the manufacturer).

BLOOD: Two days after the flood, Troy was on the phone dealing with the IRS (who, on the day Evan was covered in hives, sent us certified letters telling us they decided we owe them more money for 2012) when Troy tripped over something and cut his leg wide open on a piece of broken glass. Blood everywhere. We were in the ER for four hours, three of those waiting to be seen, and one of them stitching his leg back together. 16 stitches. And while we were in the ER, the building inspector emailed us, wanting to know what we plan to do about our building code violations on our deck. SERIOUSLY?
Hail covering California beaches- cause that's "normal."
HAIL: Yep, we had that this month too. Hello, global warming. No one got hurt though.
And here’s a plague we hope we’re done with:
FIRE: Yep. We had that one big time. We thought we’d “burned through that karma.” Since then, we’ve been evacuated from this house twice during fire season, wildfires burning to the edge of our property. Twice. So I wrote this book Fire Season, which will start shipping in a matter of days, and I am praying this exorcises that chapter of our life. And I’m a nervous wreck.

...AND THE REST: I don’t really know what the rest of the plagues are but we’ve decided we’re giving them up for Lent.

So what is the moral of the story here? Are we unlucky? Cursed? Plagued?
I think it’s this. When awful things happen to us, we can choose to shut down and become bitter, or we can rise up again (like Jesus, or Obi Wan Kenobi, whichever works for you). Every one of us has lessons to learn, a cross to bear (sorry, Jesus) so to speak. Faith, courage, compassion…those are muscles that must be worked, or else we become, I don’t know… spiritually flabby. Those painful lessons are what grow our courage, empathy and compassion. Working as a gun violence prevention advocate, I have met and become good friends with many wonderful people who are survivors of gun violence or have lost children to gun violence. They have greater compassion and strength than anyone I know. In the midst of unimaginable loss, they rose up, and became stronger and kinder and more resilient than they ever knew they could. They give hope and encouragement to people like me who are dealing with silly little things like floods and bugs. They give me strength.

In turn, I share with you our crazy little tale of plagues, and I share in my book how we lost everything, including hope, and how there is always a way to turn ruin into redemption, and I think that’s the point of this thing called life.

Recently Evan asked me about that. “What’s the point of life, Mom?”  I told him it was to learn and grow. Distressed, he said, “That’s the WHOLE POINT of life?! That sucks!”

Yeah, I told him, sometimes it sucks, and sometimes it’s a grind and sometimes its so gorgeous it could break your heart wide open. But we’re lucky to have it. All of it.

Today I’m focusing on gratitude and looking forward to Easter Sunday, when I will gather with my family and be happy, count my blessings, my thoughts far away from any plagues.

Wishing you all a happy Easter, Passover, spring …and on Star Wars day, May the  4th be with you. 
Is it just me, or does anyone else think a solid chocolate "instrument of torture" is a little weird?