On this day of my birth, February 28th, I look back at my life — a life that’s been woven with incredible lessons, triumphs, heart-breaking loss, soul-splitting joy, frustration, elation, and more love than I could ever know how to gather in one place – and I experience a profound sense of gratitude that I am scarcely able to competently put into words. Not simply for everything that has gone right, which is a disproportionately long list by today’s standards, but for the things that have not gone right, painful and disappointing as they may have been, that have inadvertently sent me down paths that I would have otherwise never even taken.
I’d like to do something different today, something I normally never do. I’d like to take a little longer than usual, if you‘ll indulge me, to tell you something very personal about one of those paths. Because it has to do with you.
As a tiny child, I grew up staring at the moon, and wondered why it started back at me. I wanted to be an astronaut, above all things, for as long as I could recall. I loved science and the unknown, creating strange experiments with tin foil, wires and batteries, and my dad’s old wrist watches, although I had no idea what these experiments were supposed to do. I just knew that that was how “it” was supposed to look, whatever “it” was. I would struggle with such frustration that these contraptions would never function, because I knew, if I could just “turn it on” – it could get me to space. This is very solid logic, if you’re five years old.
The first time I saw historical photos of the inside of the Apollo capsules, as a teenager, my jaw dropped and I burst into goose bumps – because they were all tin foil, wires and batteries, and gauges. Though as a small child I had not seen these photos before, keeping in mind that the pre-internet world was much smaller back then, I wasn’t that far off in my five year old mock-up, apparently, save the thousands of tons of jet fuel.
As that little toe-headed girl creating cockpits out of the living room couch, I would dress the part, wearing polyester jumpsuits (God bless the 70’s for easy access to all things jumpsuit) along with high-topped red rubber rain boots. This was everyday-wear, even to accompany my mom at the grocery store. None of the clothes matched, but they didn’t need to. They were my uniform, a jumpsuit and rubber boots, just like the men at NASA wore, and theirs never matched, either. I was ready to hop on the teetering tip of a rocket at any moment, much to my parent’s chagrin.
Then came the film Star Wars, and I could not contain myself. There was the outer world that I knew existed, on the big screen, and to access it, I didn’t need tinfoil, or wires – just $2.50 and a parental escort! I begged my parents, I attached myself to other friends’ outings, I made the kid from a Christmas Story look like a quitter, until I was taken to Star Wars nine times. I had the magnificent John Williams Star Wars soundtrack on vinyl, and to play it, I had to crawl up on the family foot rest, covered in long orange shag fake fur, to reach the turn table. I would re-live the vastness of space as Darth Vader rasped his way through the galaxy. Space was for me, and I was for space.
I grew older, started grade school, and left the red rubber rain boots at home under near-military instance on the part of my mother, who probably just wanted me to have friends. (I still worked the jumpsuits, because you never really knew when that call to action was going to come.) I hit third grade and had a lengthy conversation with my uncle, who did some sort of engineering for Hughes, working with missiles, I think. No one really knows what he did, still, to this day. Anyway, I came to find out that to be an astronaut, one first needed to first become a military pilot, and to do that, one needed to have 20/20 vision, uncorrected. Secondly, one needed to have outstanding math skills.
The math part had me a little worried, because I struggled terribly to recall basic multiplication and division drills. I wouldn’t even be half done by the time my other classmates had smoked through their timed math tests and turned them over. I’d be counting on my fingers under the desk, which took time, but every new number combination was a mystery, like I had never seen it before. I’d only be half done when the time was called. But I worked hard at it, and though the speed to which my classmates could whip out that math nearly astounded me, I figured I would get better, once I was a fourth grader. This is very solid logic, if you’re eight years old.
It wasn’t until I was in college that I was flagged as having numeric dyslexia.
When I was in fourth grade, genetics reared their ugly head in my direction, and any hopes of becoming an astronaut, by 1970’s NASA standards, were completely run aground. My vision took a turn for the worst, as is common on my dad’s side of the family. I became part of the near-sighted ranks that was doomed to stare at the moon not from space through the porthole of a capsule, but from the earth, though the porthole of my own corrective lenses.
I did what any nine year old girl would do — I slowly shifted my focus to track and field, and being a veterinarian. The hope of going to space was replaced with shelves of Star Wars collectibles and an obsession with the original Star Trek re-runs. The Veterinarian Tracker phase lasted until I entered junior high. Being from a small town in Montana, the track coach had heard that I was a very fast sprinter, and wanted me to try out for the junior high track team. I was very interested until I found out that a physical was mandatory. This wasn’t just any physical. Back in the day, it was a full physical, gynecological and all. I inquired what a gynecological examination consisted of, as I’d never heard of such a thing. The explanation struck deep horror in my 13-year-old consciousness, considering I didn’t even know what most of my plumbing was, or did, back then. As such, I was surely not prepared to crawl up onto a table in a paper dress with my Hoo-Hoo hanging out to have the Jaws of Life ratchet me open.
Instead, I chose a pursuit that would leave me clothed: I auditioned for choir and drama.
Coming from a big musical family on both sides, I grew up singing. I never thought of singing as a career. I just loved to do it. It turned out that other people loved when I did it, too. I also loved to act, and I’d had a lot of experience, talking from my couch space capsule to any number of Alien races that bore a striking resemblance to teddy bears and couch cushions. In junior high, I landed leads in musicals and plays, and joined a youth acting conservatory. Freshmen still attended junior high back then, and as a sophomore I went on to high school and landed leads in musicals and plays, also joining the Competitive Drama Team, where we’d learn serious or humorous monologues, or even pantomime, and compete with other schools.
I finally found something I loved as much as the exploration of space: Competitive Drama. Or rather, the exploration of energy that one experienced during a Competitive Drama meet.
It worked like this: You had up to 12 minutes of time to act your piece for a judge. You’d be ranked with the other eight contestants in your round. You’d have three rounds and then eliminations would happen, based on your ranking from the earlier rounds. Thus it would go, to quarter finals, semi finals, and finals. Some meets lasted two days. It was a grind, and demanded pristine focus every round. It was a thrilling energy and endurance experiment. You had to be “on” every round, mustering from deep within you subtle capacities to emotionally “move” a new judge every time. In order to do that, you had to be able to fine tune your performance on the fly, depending on which competitive actors you were grouped with. You had to find different ways to shine, to set your performance apart. To do this, I would write my own dramatic pieces that would best frame-up a startling range of emotions in less than twelve minutes. You had to be hyper-aware, and feel the judge as the judge experienced your performance, feel the audience to bring them along with you, feel the timing and the crest of the energy in the room to build it to a peak, and then set it down again at just the right moment, leaving a sense of awe with the judge and the other contestants that would seem nearly impenetrable by any other performance. It was a living, breathing, morphing energy interpretation, and you had to be able to feel it all to put it to work.
Strangely, I found out that I could.
I was the first sophomore to ever letter in Drama at Billings West High School. I took second place only once – my very first meet. It only took one time for me to map the energy of how this event should be handled, and for the following three years, I won the gold, every meet, eight to ten meets a year. I graduated Billings West High School as the only three-time State Competitive Drama Champion in the history of the Montana Competitive Drama Program: Serious Solo, Humorous Solo, and Serious Duo.
For once, I was made aware that I loved energy. I loved the energy exchange of acting, of singing. I wanted to be an actress. I was offered a full-ride four year scholarship to The University of Arizona for Musical Theater. It combined my love of music and acting, and it was a PAC 10 school, so whatever, my parents were happy. It was also renowned for its Musical Theater Department. I attended two years of college, had a chance to play some fantastic leads in plays and musicals, as well as join a renowned sketch comedy group that is still in existence today, Comedy Corner. However, college was not for me. I left at 20, returned to Montana, where I tried college one last time because my parents seemed particularly heart-broken about my decision. I landed another full-ride scholarship for Theater – but again, it wasn’t for me. I wanted to be auditioning and performing in the world, not taking advanced English Lit.
I left college for good at 21 and moved out to Seattle, as my dad lived there. It seemed like a nice change of pace, and a better environment for some personal issues I was going through. Little did I know that I arrived right as the Grunge Boom was erupting.
For an artist, the unbridled creative energy was unreal. You could feel the upheaval of the music industry crackle in the air. We were riding the heartbeat of a musical revolution, and we barely knew it. I loved that city, and it loved me. I could be who I truly was, as an artist, and as a person. I bartended at a lesbian bar called The Wildrose on Capital Hill. I danced on a cube in hot pants at another Gay Bar called Neighbors. I worked as a political canvasser and activist for a year, putting into campaigns all of that energy knowledge I had accrued from Competitive Drama. I met my first Psychic, who scared me to death. I had my first healing and reading. I saw, with my own eyes, my first OffWorlder – Aliens, there are a lot of them in the Northwest, but that’s another blog – my world was rockin’, and I was loving it!
Being as that Seattle in the early 90’s was oozing music, I was then introduced to a young music manager, who helped produce my first “rock music demo”. I co-wrote songs and played guitar, as well as keyboard. We put together a great six-piece band that rehearsed five times a week. The band was called Danielle Marae. (Coming from the theater background, I felt I needed a stage name, you know.) Our manager landed a deal with a small Seattle record label, Whatever Wreckards. We recorded our album, and I watched and began to learn about audio engineering and producing. We had three vinyl singles pressed and released, a music video made (back when they weren’t a dime a dozen), and played the top clubs in Seattle back in that city’s golden era: the grunge-hatching RKCNDY (Rock Candy), the 5,000 crowd capacity Under The Rail, and the infamous Crocodile Café. We even started a music newspaper called The Buzz to rival the then-in-print music titan, The Rocket.
I had launched. Not to the moon, but into the real world of performance. We were on the map.
Um…except my music wasn’t Grunge. It was huge, big performance oriented stuff, like a pop musical. The musicianship was outstanding. That was the problem. With few exceptions, we went over in the Seattle Music Scene like a lead balloon. Tattooed masses impatiently counted the moments as we played, until Nirvana crawled onto the stage. I was too polished, too perfect, too presentational for this chaotic and wild scene. One very SDD (sweaty, deadlocked and drugged) audience member wandered up to me at one point while I was performing at RKCNDY, and just stared. At the end of the song, he uttered to me a phrase that summed up the Seattle scene’s acceptance of my music:
“What’s wrong with you, man?”
I had to un-learn all the polish of working the theatrical boards over the past ten years and use my new-found ability to read energies to surf raw and unpredictable territory. I had to turn myself inside out, and throw energy at the audience, in a way that demanded I uncork myself entirely. In a way that demanded I had to BE myself, entirely. It was scary as hell, because when they didn’t like you, it wasn’t the play, or the sets, or the story, or the character they didn’t like. When they didn’t like you, they didn’t like YOU.
Heroin was big in the scene, and so was the three-week-old-body-odor on the musicians shooting the heroin. Sharing clubs with some of these bands was a stomach churning experience, yet their followings were phenomenal. The filthier and more drugged-out the band, the better and bigger the mosh pit. No one in my band did drugs. I didn’t allow it. We were the nerdy minority, and it was painfully apparent when we’d take the stage, clean and costumed, and the room would clear out except for the two or three musicians who actually saw the musical merit in what we were doing.
One night said it all. It was the night before we were to appear at Under The Rail. An artist defecated on the stage, and lit his poo on fire. The next night, I had to stand in the burned-out poo spot. That smell was appalling and I was furious. My guitarist found some Lysol and sprayed the spot onstage down, and borrowed a rubber floor matt and tossed it over the carnage. I couldn’t believe it. I’d come from a world where the stage was a temple, where best performance was honored – where the most talent won. I’d entered a world where “best” was no longer equivalent with “good”.
Welcome to professional entertainment.
In 1993, Danielle Marae fulfilled its contract obligations, and we were done. I had a trunk of vinyl singles to show for my time there, as well as a nice guitar, but that was it. Our little rogue music newspaper, The Buzz, eventually lost its advertisers and shut down. The Seattle scene launched out Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Candlebox, L7, and a host of others – but not Danielle Marae. “Best” did not prevail. I was broke, driving a $300.00 car whose breaks had to be pumped to build up enough pressure to stop, and I had nowhere to live.
As such, I played briefly with an all-female metal band for about six months that had migrated from the dead 90’s Los Angeles music scene to Seattle, but the LA hair band rock style went over worse than my Pop Musical. I was dismayed. I was living with the guitarist and her husband, in a small section of the basement of their home. It had gotten pathetic. I was forced to announce that due to the fact I had nothing left, I had to move back to Montana. The guitarist was furious, as it was her band that would be losing a singer. Moments later that night, she threw the very last of my belongings onto her lawn, in the rain, and locked me out behind them.
My partner at the time and I spent all night driving these belongings to a family member’s house. We made two 100 mile round trips that night. One week later we moved back to Montana. It was the second time in seven years I’d returned home.
In 1994, in Billings, Montana, I dusted myself off, took everything I’d learned in the professional music scene in Seattle, and co-founded a band whose name may ring a bell –Pope Jane. For those who were not up on the Lilith Fair scene of the mid 1990’s, we were the all-female alt rock three-piece. We were the right combination of people, music, determination, and hard work, in the right place at the right time, to make quite a splash. That splash, much like rings in a pond, continued outward, over the prairies of Montana, over state lines, over time zones, into magazines, and onto the airwaves in the lower 48, to ripple across the world. Pope Jane reached international acclaim, all from the wheat fields of one of the most rural states. Against all odds, it was the “little band that could”. And boy, DID we.
As any band, we were in it to win it, thrilled to have the fans that supported us. I, along with the drummer, who had gone to school in Seattle for audio engineering, put my Danielle Marae recording education to use, and we were thrilled to put out CD after CD. Our third album was called “hide me from the moon”, after my childhood fixation on the moon’s ability to stare me down. We were our own label. We kept all our own money. We had an independent business model that landed me as a guest columnist in music periodicals, and interviews in books on Billboard Publishing. We toured and played with fantastic acts like Joan Jett, as she made her resurgence, and made a triumphant return to Seattle in 1996 to play with Heart’s Ann and Nancy Wilson on the main stage at the beautiful Showbox Theater. We worked hard, and success followed. This was a recipe I was familiar with. We hoped that one day, if we kept working hard, a major record label would appreciate what we had built, and invite us onto their roster, with a fair and equitable deal.
Through some grueling interpersonal band issues, struggling to balance the identity of “Rock Star” by night, yet still barely holding down a day job in a floral shop until the Rock Star money started flowing in on a regular basis, and through seven years of personal growth for all three of us in the band, my personal identity became sewn at the hip to Pope Jane. I loved this band, and the women that I shared it with, and I simply tried to look away from the writing on the wall. As the band creaked, and groaned, and grew, it finally outgrew its safe and beautiful planter box in Montana, and it was overdue to move to a major music market.
Things were changing. In 2002, the bassist made a commitment to her family, and after eight years, stepped back into the role of mom. It was a very hard pill to swallow at the time, but everything has a season, and it was her turn to dedicate time to her kids and husband. In 2002, I moved to Los Angeles, without the drummer, who had to sell her house in Montana to come later. It was scary and very lonely. Had I not had a new relationship at the time that was based in LA, I don’t know that I would have made it. I desperately tried to keep the Pope Jane brand rolling – I added a lead guitarist, and tried to replace the bassist, and played with a replacement drummer until ours could get there from Montana. We played amazing clubs like The Whiskey, but it wasn’t Pope Jane. I tried to keep the franchise together, as major labels were now circling. This was what we had worked for, the past eight years – yet it was the wrong band, with the right name.
Almost a year later, the drummer sold her home and relocated both she and her partner to LA. She reclaimed her position in the band, which I was thrilled about, but to my utter shock, it didn’t go over well with the other replacement band members, who forgot that they were replacements, and had begun to feel like their sound was the correct sound. They didn’t like what me and the drummer – the two founders of Pope Jane – were laying down, musically. Two different bands were now fighting for the Pope Jane band position. It was a nightmare. The whole thing was a train wreck, and I felt sick about it.
Finally, there were three major labels interested in Pope Jane – Dreamworks, MCA and Maverick. We had something to show for our hard work, in the midst of this chaos. The drummer, and I, hadn’t moved our lives for nothing. Then suddenly, systematically, we stopped hearing from one label, then the next, then the next, all in the space of a month. Our music attorney didn’t know what happened. We thought it was us – that the labels had lost interest. But they hadn’t.
In 2003, thanks to the mp3 boom, the music industry collapsed, and took with it all three A & R teams at all three labels, along with two of the labels altogether, that were dealing with us. Poof — in three weeks, the result of eight years of hard work just…disappeared.
Within six months of the Montana drummer uprooting her life, and being here in Los Angeles –it was finally over. In 2004 she and her partner rented another truck, loaded up her stuff and her pets, and headed off back to the Pacific Northwest where she was from, to start a new life. I had known the drummer since I had lived in Seattle. I had had her by my side for the past 12 years, as a friend, a confidant, and a fellow musician. I stood on Burbank Boulevard and watched my best friend drive off for good, with a sickening pit in my stomach.
Now was just me – and Los Angeles. Pope Jane was done. Who I was, was done.
I had no idea what to do with myself. I had nothing going on in my life. Everything was dead-stopped. No roads, no opportunities, just – nothing. The Universe had created a vacuum around me, and I was the epicenter. The silence was maddening.
…Now. This is the part where you come in.
In 2004, amidst of the silence, I began to hear a tiny little voice inside of me, calling out. It was so quiet, and meager, that I could barely make out what it was saying inside of me. As I focused in on it, I realized that hoarse, teeny, shaky little voice was so tired because it had been shouting at me my whole life, yet I had never acknowledged it. The poor thing had been screaming into the dark to get my attention, all by itself, for as long as I’d been alive. My heart broke for this tiny little voice.
Especially when I realized it was mine.
It was on the encouragement of my partner’s mother that I faced this voice, a part of myself that I had left ignored, under dreams of being an astronaut, under hopes of being an actress, under record deals and national tours and radio airplay, ignored because I treated it like the red headed step child that I didn’t want anyone, especially me, to know was there. Amidst this silent dead-ended vacuum of my life, this was the only voice that remained. It was time to embrace that poor, weary little thing, who never gave up on me, though I worked hard to never acknowledge it.
I faced the fact that I was Clairvoyant. And a Medium. And an Empath. And a string of other aptitudes that I later learned about.
I embraced this part of me, though tentatively, and the little voice finally went quiet. It smiled and laid down to take a very long nap earned by 35 years of persistent beckoning. I bit the bullet and went to work as a Clairvoyant. For two years I worked at a Psychic shop, doing readings for clients, in Burbank. The work called to me in a way that was so passive, and so beautiful — very unlike entertainment. It wasn’t about me, but the highest good of my client. Angels that worked with my clients would talk my ear off, all day. I learned enormous amounts of information from these entities.
While I was at this shop, I made amazing friends, who taught me all about alternative spiritualities, modalities, and customs. I read like crazy and studied everything I could get my hands on. In order for me to be experiencing this, The Universe had to wait on me, until I had exhausted every option so that I would quiet myself long enough to connect me with this very important part of myself. It used this dead-stopped time in my life to put me in “metaphysical school”, eight hours a day, five days a week. I instantly related with this world. Through my struggles, I felt like I had been reunited with a piece of myself that I didn’t know was missing. I worked on a team of Psychics that helped solve some cold cases with law enforcement. I was learning more everyday than I had in years. I was learning that I knew more than I thought I did. I was learning that I may, indeed, be something more than “Pope Jane’s singer”, and it was fascinating.
Everything began to be made whole, because I allowed myself to be made whole. I allowed myself to operate on my entire design, not just on part of it. And because I made that choice –
— you and I are sharing this story, right now.
If I had not been relegated to corrective lenses in fourth grade, this would be a NASA dissertation on Dark Matter. If I had gotten the physical in junior high, this would be my life story as an Olympic Athlete. If I had let my hair dread-lock in Seattle and changed my music style, this would be a memoir with Eddie Vedder. If the Music Industry would not have collapsed, this would be a New York Time’s tell-all best-selling book about Pope Jane.
But none of that happened. Because I had to be right here, right now, with you, on this blog, telling this story, which has an ending that you may find holds great value for you.
All of a sudden, after being in the middle of this stasis and immersed in spiritual teachings, everything began to be set right, because I began to be set right. In 2005, I had a client that optioned a screenplay of mine. I learned all about screenwriting. I was reunited with my love of writing dramatic pieces. I appeared on NBC’s “The Weakest Link” on their Psychic’s Edition – I was reunited with my love of media performance. I then moved to a healing center in Woodland Hills. After several months, my practice was booming, so I started my own Spiritual Practice, taking on an office assistant to help me organize appointments. During that time, in 2006, I was cast as a lead in an independent film that licensed many of my Pope Jane music for the film. I was also the film’s composer. Later that year, I was placed into the 2006 New York Celebrity Charity Cast Performance of “The Vagina Monologues” by a wonderful client of mine at the time, in Manhattan. They put us up in a five star hotel.
I was reunited with my deep love for acting, and with purpose for Pope Jane’s music.
I continued working in my spiritual practice. In 2007, I was cast in on “America’s Psychic Challenge”, but was unable to do the series due to conflicts. I then was placed in the WestLA Celebrity Charity Cast of “Vagina Monologues”. I was once again reunited with my love of acting.
In 2008, I was signed to Maurice The Fish Records – a label that is based in Tacoma, right outside Seattle, where I had first moved from Montana. Not only was I signed, but they signed the Pope Jane catalogue. I had finally gotten my band a deal, and I was reunited with my love of musical performance. I put out my first solo album “Red Lodge”, which was nominated at the 2008 NAMMY Awards as “Best Folk Album”. I was reunited with my love of awards.
Also, in 2008, my beloved Pope Jane – the original Pope Jane, with myself, Kristen, and Holly – played a reunion show at Montana Pride, back on out home turf, where the band was born and nurtured to great success. It was magical. We had not played together as a band for six years. We made the front page of the Billings Gazette, the largest daily paper in two states, under the headline “Jane, Again”. It was a dream. We hadn’t missed a beat, and we sounded better than we did years before. We released our “Pope Jane-Slightly Used: The Best Of Album” containing five albums’ worth of material at that show, plus some brand new material — on Maurice The Fish Records.
In 2008, I directed, produced, scored and starred in my first feature film documentary, a paranormal piece called Montgomery House: The Perfect Haunting. In 2009, I edited the piece, and in 2010, it came out to tremendous reviews on CNN and Hollywood Today. I was reunited with everything through that project – my love of performance, of music, of film, of science, of all things unknown, and of the Psychic and Spiritual Universe.
In 2010, I produced and released two albums. One was an acoustic duo that I started with Pope Jane drummer Kristen Coyner, called “Backseat Bordello”. Our album is called “End Times Diner”, on Maurice The Fish Records, and was nominated for two OUTMusic Awards. The second album was a solo album I produced for Pope Jane’s Holly Shawver (I also did some backing vocals and rhythm guitar work on her album), and that record is called “Wayne’s Waitress”. I was reunited with the creative process with my girls, who both put out incredible works last year! Okay, well, I did, too, but I was really proud my girls!
I continued in my spiritual practice. In 2011, I was cast in an episode of the web / TV series “Missing Peace”, and I start a four day filming schedule tomorrow morning (March 1st). Through this shoot, I am reunited with my love of helping people find closure, spiritually.
The moral of the story is: It is not what we are handed in this life that defines us, but how we handle ourselves in between what is not handed to us.
We are redeemed in our darkest hour by quieting ourselves to hear that tiny, tired little voice within us, buried and drowned out beneath our frenetic pursuits and worries. That is our true voice, the voice containing that little piece of God inside each of us, of The Universe trying to whisper to us our most edifying direction. That voice contains instructions on how to connect with our highest purpose, our Higher Power, our right resonation that sets everything else correct in our heart, mind, body, spirit, and path.
I have so much gratitude for the dead-stops and pitfalls in my journey. I have so much gratitude that my exploration of space has started while my feet are planted on this earth, as I am able to stand in the gap when communicating with our OffWorld friends, to serve an entirely different role that I could never have imagined in the exploration of the stars: interpreter. I have so much gratitude that I could share this journey with you today, because no matter what negative action is happening in your life, you can see by example that you can set the course of your life right by quieting yourself, and giving that little tiny voice inside of you a chance to lead.
Don’t be me – don’t force the Universe to shut down your entire life, including every avenue that you consider a passion, so you’ll be able to recognize and hear the little inner voice calling you to step up to do the job that leaves you the most fulfilled – your “purpose”, behind which, all things fall into place.
Thank you for sharing this time with me on my birthday. You’re the best. I have gratitude for you.