13 Things you may not know about me
1. I’m named after my mother. Jr is actually on my birth certificate
2. I grew up without TV with a family full of entertainers
3. I audaciously wrote my first song when I was 9 and sang it in a wedding.
4. 90% of my math skills burned out of my brain with a high fever at age 4.
5. For a time, our family lived in a travel trailer and toured around singing.
6. My all-time favorite phrase (and life moto) is from the movie Dumb and Dumber
7. I spent dark months in a hallway peeling off wallpaper an inch at time
8. Johnny Cash and John Ritter spoiled my moment in the spotlight
9. Bono of U2 kissed my cheek (twice)
10. I’ve never seen The Wizard of Oz
11. I started a community choir called Human Together
12. I’m terrible at teaching kids about “stranger danger”
13. I’m getting a late start and I’m behind the power curve, but I don’t even care
1. I’m named after my mother, and “Jr.” is actually on my birth certificate (although my mom goes by our middle name, Janette). It’s more of a name of family honor than an anti-confusion device to tell us apart. The name has actually EVOKED confusion in the countless people who have never heard of a girl named Jr, and have to stop for a minute to ponder the concept).
2. I’m from a family full of entertainers—actors, singers, songwriters, storytellers, and comedians. Not really. Well, not necessarily professional ones, but nevertheless prolific ones. Ha! Our family had no TV when we were growing up. Our “stage” was the middle of our living room, where we entertained each other by harmonizing, joking, telling (and retelling) stories and dramatically reenacting them while the rest of the family heckled or egged on or chimed in with alternate, funnier versions of the current story in play.
3. I wrote my first song when I was only 9 years old, inspired by the engagement of a young couple in our community. Then I announced to them that I had written a special love song for their upcoming wedding…annnnd that I thought my song would be a lovely addition to their wedding. I chuckle at the innocent audacity I possessed back then and wonder how much I could accomplish as an adult if I had even a speck of that audaciousness. (The second song I wrote was more grim. It was an apocalyptic end-times song about the moon turning to blood. Mom gently nudged me to write something more encouraging and spirit lifting, “…and, I don’t know…maybe with less gore,” she added. I think it was the line about the horses wading in blood so deep it was up to their shoulders that put mom off).
4. 90% of my math skills burned completely out of my brain at age 4 when I had a terribly high fever that caused me to hallucinate writhing wads of snakes and other broiling creatures on the ceiling. As an adult (somehow college educated) who still struggles with long division, I remember back to that sweaty anguished night and I’m certain that is when the math left me.
5. When my brothers and I were really young, our family toured around singing all over the US. For several years we lived in a travel trailer that we pulled behind our van (an orange and white van that had “Foggy River Boys” bumper sticker on it—a band none of us had ever heard of—but it was already on the van when we bought it, and these were the days before Goo-Gone was invented).
6. My favorite phrase is from Dumb and Dumber: “So you’re telling me there’s a chance.” I’m a tender hearted, enthusiastic ENFP, and an optimist. I believe that nothing in life is wasted (even the crappy parts) and that deep compelling life quotes can be found in the shallowest of movies.
7. As an artist, I’ve spent desolate aimless months in a dark hallway peeling jagged strips of vintage wallpaper off the wall, inch by inch, unable to feel any buzz of courage, nor the fire of any purpose, so I am painfully familiar with what it’s like to feel stuck and hopeless. But I’ve come to realize that happiness isn’t as mysterious or illusive as we think it is. I’m an expert at starting over and finding practical, attainable ways to find happiness. I love hearing other people’s stories of hitting bottom and bouncing back. That’s what fuels my music and my stories.
8. In 2003, Good Morning America flew me to NYC to feature my original song, “I Miss You, Daddy” (a tribute to military dads). The morning of the interview, the show called at the crack of dawn to say that BOTH John Ritter and Johnny Cash had died, and since those were the big stories of the day, my song was being bumped. We did the interview with Robin Roberts later that day, but I’ve never seen the interview.
9. Bono of U2 kissed my cheek. Twice! I sang at the national prayer breakfast in Washington the year that he was the keynote speaker. A photographer backstage with us caught our conversation and cheek kisses on camera and if anybody can find these photos, I’d love to have them. I’m not making this up.
10. Remember how I said I grew up without TV? We didn’t go to movies either. We had a movie projector at home and we rented films (yes, the long tapes on a spool) from the local library—Laurel and Hardy, The Little Rascals, Charlie Chaplin. It was a blast! Popcorn, family, laughter. Afterwards, instead of just rewinding the film, we’d watch them in reverse, which made us hyperventilate with laughter. In 5th grade, I showed up to school on “Reading Is Fun” day to find construction paper yellow brick roads winding down the halls to the library, but had no concept what this was all about. I somehow never got around to seeing TWoO, and have never seen the flying monkeys. But I do enjoy singing Eva Cassidy’s lovely version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” I think I’ll be just fine.
11. In the spring of 2017, I stepped into scary unfamiliar territory and started The Human Together Choir. I write many of the songs we sing. It is a non-auditioned community choir celebrating diversity, encouraging inclusion, and cultivating human connection. Anyone can join regardless of their singing experience. It’s a choir for ALL people (regardless of religion, culture, status) to come together and feel the uplifting power of music, the joy of human connection, and the beauty of unity.
12. I used to not be very good at multi-tasking, so while I was raising my two kids, I didn’t feel like I could pursue a music career and also be an attentive mom. Some artists do this well, but even when I was trying my hardest—like in teaching my kids about stranger danger, by role playing with them—I had one kid look me square in the eye and emphatically say to me, “YES. I’ll COME WITH YOU. Just GIVE me the CANDY!” True story. The lesson this child learned from my motherly safety lesson was “There’s candy (and possibly a puppy) to be had in the windowless white van.” Needless to say, it didn’t give me much confidence that I could take off touring.
13. Why, at this stage in my life, am I choosing to put myself out there musically and creatively? Isn’t that foolish? Haha! I know! Inexplicably, somehow the 9-year-old audacity that I once had has suddenly resurged! Pow! My kids are pretty much grown now, and I have struggled out of the depths of “empty nest syndrome.” So it now feels right (and safe) for me to see where my music and writing will take me. Oh I know what you’re thinking…I’m waaaay behind the power curve, right? Too late to get started? I’m well aware of all the reasons why it’s a ridiculous concept for me to seriously pursue big dreams now. But I figure that this time next year, when I’m another year older and NOT pursuing the big scary dreams, I’ll have even GREATER regret. I’m older, wiser, and my kids now know to avoid the white vans. So I look at the odds…and I look at time slipping away…and I say, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance.”