Writer turned Songwriter Shares Story
On the morning of 9-11, yes that 9-11, I stood mesmerized at my TV as the Twin Towers fell in Manhattan, a city where I'd spent two memorable years in grad school studying Latin America and journalism.
In less than an hour my brother was to arrive to take me to Kaiser for surgery for colon cancer.
At the sight of towers falling in New York, though, I realized how little my own health, and life, really mattered in the universe. Six months later, after healing from surgery and chemo, I realized another thing. I couldn't go back to my life of writing marketing materials for corporations. I had no idea how much longer I would live … and I wanted to go out playing music.
I'd also heard on NPR that playing music and getting plenty of exercise strengthens the body's immune system, which could help keep me alive longer. Playing music daily and bike riding at least every other day, became my life.
Of course I'd been noodling around with guitars since my teen years, but I now took up the instrument with new interest. Looking for other musicians to jam with, I met a music critic who writes for a lot of newspapers and magazines, and was also a songwriter who needed someone to accompany him on guitar.
So I did, and didn't realize it at the time, but my talented friend was also teaching me the basics of songwriting, something I'd tried in the past but failed at.
Next I landed a paid job as guitarist for an Oakland church, and played there regularly for nearly two years, during which I learned some intricate chord structures used in the pop-like "contemporary praise" music the church band played.
During the work week, I would write my own songs, the act of which gave me a thrill I'd never felt before, even after decades of making my living as a writer, first as a newspaper reporter, then as a writer of corporate brochures.
Usually a song would start as a phrase that stuck in my mind. (For example, "60% Chance of Flowers" is a song about a TV weathercaster whose man does her wrong.) Then, alone in my living room, I'd strum guitar to get a feel for the mood of the song and a chord progression that would best express it. Often the only other sounds were birds in the green explosion of trees just outside my windows.
When I had the song's basics worked out, I'd move to my den and sit in front of my computer, guitar in my lap, and type out the lyrics, adding the chords on the lines above the words. In the following days, I'd play the song over and over, getting to know it, much like one gets to know a new friend.
My first songs weren't much to brag about. One I called "Cancer Blues" was predictable and uninspired. But I got better at it. A lot of my songs were, and still are, about issues. Or, as a radio DJ told me recently, "You write songs about things that are important!"
Sticking to the issues, I soon wrote a song about the attack on Iraq under George W. Bush, called "Skies on Fire." In the lyric, I tried to put myself in the place of an innocent bystander who is on the ground during an air raid, and wondering where his loved ones are.
I made a basic home recording of that song and sent it to KECG, a public radio station in El Cerrito. The host of a show called WorldOneRadio played it! Several times! I was shocked and awed, and made plans for fame and fortune in the music business. Like most singer-songwriters, I'm still waiting.
Music has given me a lot, though. Often a shy person, I'm now more comfortable in front of a crowd. Writing songs still gives me a unique thrill (a bit like writing a muckraking news story did during my reporting days). And, yes, after nine years, cancer hasn't killed me. Four years ago, my oncologist called me "cured."
I still love to perform in public and will take the stage at 11:45 pm Saturday, July 10, at Berkeley’s Starry Plough Pub (http://www.starryploughpub.com). Opening the show will be Sparky Grinstead & The Backorders (mellow pop) and Tiny Television (folk-Americana).
For samples of my music, and to read more, please visit
Group donates 20,000 Pound of Baby Clothes
Lisa Klein, an Oakland mother of two and the founder and executive director of Loved Twice, will be featured on the Today Show at 9 a.m. today, July 8 for collecting more than 20,000 pounds of baby clothing for mothers in need. She was honored by Major League Baseball earlier this week when she tossed out the first pitch at an Oakland A’s game. She will also be honored by People Magazine and MLB at the 2010 MLB All-Star Game in Anaheim at 8 p.m. on July 13. The game will be live on FOX at 2 p.m. In addition, one of the 30 community leaders honored by MLB, will be featured in the July 19 issue of People, which will be on newsstands next week. Allnewsnoblues.com sat down with Klein to find out how she does this amazing work.
ANNB: How did you come up with the idea for Loved Twice?
LK: After receiving more than 5,000 pounds of baby clothes in the first year, I decided to officially turn my clothing drive into a nonprofit. When I did this I was overwhelmed with the generosity of help that people offered. People from many backgrounds: web designers, lawyers, drivers, copywriters helped out and a contact at a naming company came up with the name Loved Twice and made sure it was legally available.
ANNB: Explain the process you go through for collecting clothes?
LK: The baby clothing is donated by members of the community, who leave items in Loved Twice collection bins located throughout the Bay Area. Check www.lovedtwice.org for exact locations. Loved Twice collects, sorts, and distributes free baby clothing to underprivileged mothers and their babies. We partner with case managers at local hospitals, shelters, prenatal clinics, safe homes, and other nonprofit organizations serving at-risk, low-income, and underserved mothers. Each mother receives a box with approximately 75 items, including clothing for sizes 0-12 months, coats, blankets, socks, shoes, a book and a small, safe toy.
ANNB: How many pounds of clothes have you donated and how do you know this number is correct?
LK: Loved Twice has donated more than 20,000 pounds of baby clothes to newborns in need. We know this is an exact number because we weigh each and every box before it was delivered.
ANNB: Who are the mothers you are serving?
LK: I know that most of the women are uninsured, unemployed, have no father figure involved in the babies lives. Some even go straight from the hospital with their baby to a shelter.
ANNB: How many hours a wee do you put into the nonprofit?
LK: I work between 25 and 40 hours per week, depending on the amount of donations that are collected.
ANNB: How did MLB/People magazine find out about you?
LK: I received a grant from the Oakland A’s earlier this year. Shortly after, they asked if they could they could nominate me for the People All-Stars Among Us award. This was a national voting contest with more than 1.7 million votes among the 30 contestants. I was the winner on behalf of the Oakland A’s. One of the 30 will have a chance to be in People Magazine. My fingers are crossed that this will be me.
ANNB: How did you promote the vote drive?
LK: I took the opportunity to tell everyone I knew about the contest. Friends, neighbors, Loved Twice volunteers, national moms’ groups and pregnancy blogs. Facebook was a wonderful social media tool as friends could share the voting link with others.
ANNB: How do you feel about winning?
LK: I am on cloud 9. It is such a wonderful opportunity to showcase our nonprofit.
ANNB: What do you think the future holds for Loved Twice?
LK: I would like to see Loved Twice getting bigger locally. With funding, we would be able to expand to counties surrounding Oakland. Our website gives step by step instructions how others can start their own clothing drive in their own community. I am eager to see how far our concept can expand nationally.
ANNB: How can people help:
LK: Visit our website, www.lovedtwice.org to find out where to donate baby clothes. Monatary donations can be made via our secure website or mailed to: Loved Twice, 4123 Broadway, Suite 815 Oakland, CA 94611. Even a $10 donation can help with the smallest of our current needs: packing tape.---KB
Losing Weight, Finding Jeans That Work
Last week my weight stayed the same and I'm fine with that. I'm holding steady at 45.9 pounds lost. I worried for a moment about the flat week bringing my weekly average down, but I can't beat myself up over it.
A rare occurrence happened last week at the law firm where I work – jeans day! I know jeans are very common in offices these days, but at my firm jeans are forbidden except for the rare occasion, such as the Friday before a long holiday.
I started obsessing about what jeans to wear early in the week even though I knew I didn't have to buy new jeans. I just wasn't sure which of my jeans would fit and look flattering.
I also worried that some of my jeans may be out of style since I haven't fit into them in three years. I woke up extra early last Friday morning to dig out the jeans and try them all on. I tried about 15 different pairs in different sizes, different cuts and different washes.
The two remaining were:
1) "Boot Cut" jeans from the GAP with a slightly distressed finish
2) Dark, "Straight Cut" from Ann Taylor Loft.
Although my partner, Jeff, voted for the GAP jeans, I chose the Ann Taylor Loft pair instead. They are a little dressier and more appropriate for the office. (See for yourself in the pics above) I chose a high wedge shoe to give me that long lean look.
I love jeans and I'm happy to be able to wear them comfortably.
Meanwhile, as I approach the 50-pound mark, I made a plan to celebrate the milestone as it falls on my mom's birthday in mid-July. I have about two weeks and 4.1 pounds to lose. Do you think I can do it? Tune in to see if I reach my goal. –AV
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Andrea Closing in on the 50-Pound Mark
This week I lost .5 pounds for a total of 45.9 pounds lost. Although .5 is not a huge amount to lose, I'm satisfied with it because I was on vacation all last week. During my last vacation, I gained some pounds that stayed with me for two months.
Meanwhile, I checked out the WW newsletter we received at this week's meeting. There are always inspirational articles and recipes in the publication so I make sure to read it from cover to cover. I eyed the "Grilled Veggie Pocket with Fresh Herb Pesto" recipe with interest and because of the huge amount of fresh basil that is growing on my back porch. I decided to give it a shot and it was delicious and filling. I tallied points for all the ingredients (despite my using only half the pesto and half the veggies) and this sandwich is only 3 points.
Here's the recipe:
Grilled Veggie Pocket with Fresh Herb Pesto
1 c. thinly sliced red onion
1 small zucchini, cut into thin strips
1/4 c. packed fresh basil leaves
1/2 garlic clove
1 T. reduced-fat grated Parmesan cheese
2 T Weight Watchers Plain Yogurt (can substitute Dannon fat free)
1/4 t. lemon juice
2 t pine nuts
1 Weight Watchers 100% Whole Wheat Pita Pocket, toasted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. Arrange red onion and zucchini in a single layer across baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Roast until vegetables soften, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat promptly and set aside to cool slightly.
Meanwhile, to make the pesto, combine basil leaves, garlic, cheese, and yogurt in a food processor and pulse on medium-high speed until smooth and well blended. Transfer mixture to medium bowl and stir in lemon juice and pine nuts. Add vegetables and toss to coat. Spoon vegetable-pesto mixture into a pita pocket, wrap securely in foil, and take it with you. Yields one sandwich with 1 T pesto. Enjoy. See you next week. -AV