We all need more kindness in this world


Watching all the solidarity after the London apartment building fire and all the terrorist events that seem to be occurring almost daily, it makes me wonder about what unites us.

We hear statements from leaders about how the adversity makes communities stronger, but it makes me wonder about what we can do to avoid these situations.

Can we make a difference simply by moving some muscles on our face and smiling or greeting strangers as we walk past them?

There seem to be a lot of people who become radicalized possibly because of their general state of mind. We are now hearing about so many people suffering from depression and anxiety, it is even now a significant problem for children in first world schools.

I note how it makes me feel when I make positive contact with strangers on the street, it feels good. A simple act of kindness could make the difference for someone who is feeling stressed, depressed or bitter and could stop them from doing something that could have horrific  consequences for themselves and others.

Smile and say hi to a stranger today.

Meresha – A Rising Star Enters the Dreamland


Meresha1Have you heard of Meresha yet? Let me introduce you. It seems like many years since I first heard Meresha sing, but given her age it can’t be that long ago. I feel like I’ve watched her grow up from a young bubbly teenager (with a mature musical spirit) to a powerful multifaceted musician, singer/songwriting woman, and that we are friends even though we’ve never met in person.

Meresha BillboardI knew instantly, seeing her perform (online) that she was going to be a superstar. She has a voice to die for, passion and personality that you can’t help but get swept up in, energy to burn that seems endless, a vision for what she wants and humility that keeps her grounded despite amazing successes on Billboard, MTV and many other platforms.

Meresha

On June 12th she is launching her latest EP called ‘Enter The Dreamland’ and I’ve had the privilege of listening to it pre-release. The title song opens the door to the rest of the EP with a wonderful hook and reminds me of Alice in Wonderland, except that she takes us with her. Listening without the great video it is the sort of song where you can put your own journey or story into it and think “this is about me” and then with the video, you have another adventure to enjoy.

I’ve been saying for a while that it’s time for the comeback of concept albums. When I saw Carlos Santana perform again a few weeks ago and he went from Black Magic Woman to Oye Como Va as people remembered off the Abraxas album, the crowd roared with approval. They collectively remembered and appreciated the sequence of songs, where today so often we listen to one artist, one track, and move on to the next artist, especially with services like Spotify, where a search will find some of Meresha’s songs. I’m personally completing the third song of a concept  album I am writing about my cancer journey, with my target audience being people with cancer and those close to them, but I digress other than welcoming the approach Meresha has taken with this EP.

Enter The Dreamland really feels like a concept album and that we are being taken on a journey. My favorite song at the moment is Jungle Potion. It shows off her range and has a rich fusion of Soul and Pop. I really like the brass, the bass and other instrumentals that support her vocals.

Violet Night starts and ends of with that vinyl sound many of us grew up with or are discovering with its re-emergence and is a track that has great rhythm and joy as a dance track superbly presented as a climax but isn’t the end of the album, which comes with Lights Out, a great way way to close, telling you to step outside your mind. The album may be over, but it still resonates.

I’m confident there are hit singles in this album and what is really cool is that it will have wide appeal to different audiences. I can’t wait to see the final cut of the video and perhaps more videos which really illustrates how much Meresha loves what she does.

So watch this space and sign up for updates and get a free download of Lemonade City and get ready for the latest EP from this great performer and recording artiste. I don’t normally right reviews of music, but I am really excited about this talent. I love to see the sort of commitment that she puts into her craft. Music is hard work and making it in this industry to a point where you don’t have to wait tables or do something else so that you can do what you love is not something many people get to enjoy.

Just as a footnote, while you are on her website, check out her videos and you will see what I saw, joy, passion and youth, combined with vocal control and skill. If you like what you see, please support her and buy the album.

Fighting Cancer with my Family and Friends at Relay For Life 17


2017 shirtGreetings friends. This is a special weekend where we remember those people we have lost to cancer over the years and encourage and embrace those of us who are still fighting this horrible disease.

As you can see on the photo, the team that my daughters created is called Early Birds. That’s because those who get tested and find out early that they have cancer are much more likely to survive and have a good outcome than those who don’t. I am so proud to say that due to my pushing over the last year and a bit, 17 people have had PSA tests and as well as knowing they do not have prostate cancer and in one case no breast cancer, they now have a baseline to allow them to catch it early if they do get prostate cancer like me and their survival rate will go up dramatically if they get a little blood test every year.

You will see the number 17 on the back and my daughter’s name on the bottom of the shirt, which was designed and made by her company Empire Promo. The 17 is made up of the names of the people I mentioned above, family and friends that our team is going to spend today honouring, all night and into the morning walking around a track at Millennium Institute on Auckland’s North Shore. You can see there are a lot of names and with a few late additions to the team there would be more if there had been time.

iPhone 280So today and tomorrow we will be walking to honour our people, to help fund research for accessible cures that save lives and don’t require that people sell their homes to pay for treatment, have somewhere to stay if they are coming to Auckland from out of town, like some of the great people I met when I was having radiation treatment at Mercy Hospital, and to thank those of you who donated to our cause, for your generosity. Whilst we do enjoy the event, the camaraderie and activities, we are here for only one reason, which is to save lives.

If you are one of the many people who donated to my account I want to thank you sincerely for your contribution. This is my 4th Relay and my second as a cancer patient. I am 25% short on my target of $1,000. If you would still like to donate, it isn’t too late and you can do so on my Relay For Life page here. I suspect most of you donated either for me (which is very humbling) and/or because of challenges you and people you care about have faced with cancer. I will dedicate laps to each of you and yours and especially to some very good friends who are still fighting the fight and aren’t in a condition to make it today. You know who you are.

I am planning to post a Facebook Live video at some stage so those of you who are friends with me on Facebook will be able to see a little of the event. For the rest, I will put something on YouTube after the event so you can see it too.

I won’t go on. You can follow me on Twitter under the handle of BluesBro, there will be some photos and tweets there as the weekend goes on. If you see them, please let me know. It would be great to share the event with you.

I do also want to send out a special thanks to my friends and colleagues at the New Zealand Transport Agency and Auckland Transport who have supported me in so many ways to date including donations, but much more than that. It hasn’t been the easiest of years and with awesome people giving me encouragement and helping me out during the tougher times, it has given me strength and Hope. iPhone 141

Give me Strength on my Cancer Journey


20160319_205646One of my friends kindly donated to my Relay For Life  event this morning which runs on the 25th and 26th of March and he made a comment to me which was “Stay Strong”.
 
I wanted to share my reply to him with you. My beautiful granddaughter gave me this rock to put a smile on my face.
 
I literally carry it in my pocket every day to represent strength and when I’m tired or having a tough day (which is pretty much when I’m tired which is most days) I give it a squeeze and feel the strength and solidity of this empathetic gift.

 
It is like a taonga to me. Maybe a little of her tiny bit of her Maori ancestry will rub off it into me; as she can trace her lineage to the canoe Mataatua. It’s not a magic bullet, but I feel love, hope and strength in this little rock, just as I feel it from my friends and family who have donated to my Relay For Life campaign and in many other ways.
 
iPhone 274

My granddaughter at one of our first Relay’s. The bag which she decorated contains an LED candle representing hope and remembering loved ones who had or have cancer.

Over the last couple of years I have learned about the strength that comes from having a network of people who care for each other, like those who still send me text messages encouraging me to play guitar. They have been so successful that I have written my second cancer related song and have been playing every day, but because I haven’t had the energy to play for the last year, even an average of 10 minutes every day has given me a bit of tendonitis and with a jam session coming up in a few weeks that I am really looking forward to, I am having to give it a rest for a few days.

I get messages like this every day.

I don’t want to name names, but you know who you are, there are a number of very close friends and a colleague who are way worse off than I am with their battles with cancer and ironically they are right there supporting me. I hope that I have been able to help them a little as well.
I’d like to finish with a little story and I know I get long winded, sorry:) I had two days this week when I really shouldn’t have gone to work, but I had really important meetings. Anyway on Friday I decided to do a little meditation on HeadSpace. I’m not good at meditation and I’m on day 3 of a 10 day program I started a couple of months ago.
So anyway, I go down to the carpark at 2PM for a quick 10 minutes of meditation. About 25 minutes later I get woken up by a very concerned colleague tapping on my window who saw me sitting in my car with my eyes closed and wanted to check if I was OK. Again, that’s another example of the support that is so important and I really appreciate it. As to HeadSpace, the first 10 days are free and you don’t have to use it every day. I like it and understand why so many famous people recommend it. If it works for me, it will work for just about anyone.
So thanks to those of you who are giving me strength with donations to Relay, sending me positive messages or simply asking how I’m doing. For others who are at various stages of your fight with cancer, I am thinking of you, ready to help in any way I can and as I walk around and around the track at the Millennium Centre, your names will be on my lips, in my mind and in some cases on my back on the awesome singlets Empire Promotions have had made for Team Early Birds. Note the number 17 is made up of the names of all the people we are walking for. 2017-shirt

Humor is the Best Medicine


Check out the great guitar playing on this video. As to the song, it reminds me of the week when I read the definitive book on prostate cancer. I had to but wish I hadn’t. Great lyrics though.

Remember Reader’s Digest’s Humor is the Best Medicine? Yesterday at work a guy came up to me and said, I can’t help you with your cancer, but I can make you laugh, would you like that. I said I would and he proceeded to tell me some corny jokes and I felt better for it.

I’ve written a couple of songs about my cancer journey so far. I haven’t got the energy to record them yet, but watch this space. Music is very much a way of dealing with issues, whether you are a listener, a songwriter or composer. It is cathartic.

As to my journey, in short, I had to stop taking my drugs because I stopped producing enough cortisol which along with the cancer drugs caused fatigue which has had me sleeping very long hours and having to take time off work. I am now also anaemic and they can’t tell me why. It’s not iron, it’s to do with my red blood cells. I also became intolerant of fructose and lactose, which doesn’t give you a great number of tasty diet options.

Anyway, my oncologist told me around Christmas to stop taking the cancer drugs until we figure out what else is going on and referred me to an endocrinologist. When they didn’t ring me, I rang them and they said “The soonest we can see you is 10th of March!”. So I’m thinking, no cancer drugs, all I am really good at right now is sleeping and I feel even more tired when I wake up than when I lay down and I have to wait nearly 3 months to see someone while those tumors could start growing again. So I rang the clinic every day or two and yesterday managed to get a cancellation.

So on Monday I will go and fill another bunch of bottles with blood and wait for Greenlane Hospital to ring me to arrange a test that sounds a bit like hooking me up to a line and shooting adrenaline down it to see what happens, because my fight or flight has become sleep or creep.

I’m very grateful that something is happening and hoping for some answers and feeling embarrassed and humbled when people far worse off than I am give me words of encouragement .

Meanwhile I am also looking forward to Relay For Life in March. I don’t know how much energy I will have, but I’ll be doing as much of the 18 hour walk with team Early Birds as I can at the Millennium Centre on the North Shore on 25th and 26th of March. I am so grateful to my family and friends for organising the team, tents, clothing and everything because I don’t have the energy for it. Of course they aren’t just doing it for me, we all have friends and family that are fighting or lost the battle with cancer and each person in the team is there for a bunch of people. We wear their names on our clothing.

This is raising funds for cancer research (and NZ is a world leader) where every single cent goes to the research, nothing goes to administration and everyone involved volunteers or pays for the privilege of being there. Buddy, if you can spare a dime, maybe $5, please go to this page. If you live in New Zealand, even your $5 is tax deductible, so the charity gets the lot and you get some back. That’s pretty cool right?

EarlySo here’s the thing. One in three people in New Zealand will get cancer in their lives.

Let’s try a little game:

Take everyone in your office or flat or home and line them up. Get each person to call out a number, 1, 2 and 3. Then get all the 3’s to stand on one side of the room and the others to face them.

Stand there for 3 minutes and look at each other and think about what it would be like if those 3 people had to battle cancer and how that would make you feel. Then put yourselves on their side of the room and think about how it felt when the doctor said “You have cancer”.

iphone-140Then think about what if you could help reduce that number. Relay For Life is helping fund some leading edge research such as treating cancer like a virus. Imagine being able to take something like an antibiotic and the tumors just magically get flushed out of your system. Those people are being financially supported by you encouraging us to walk in circles throughout the night.

 

Musicians with Cancer and Other Maladies is NOT about money or donations, or benefits, it’s about Friends reaching out for each other.


Yesterday we had the opportunity to catch up with some old friends we haven’t seen for a while, you know the kind, where the years melt away and it as if the last time you saw them was yesterday. Of course one of them also had cancer, you can’t escape it, so that made two of us.
There was classic discussion about how do you talk to people with cancer and there’s no easy answer to that. Don’t ask “How are you?” We get asked that all the time and you probably don’t want to hear the answer. Also, when we are getting treatment the doctors and nurses ask how we are doing and need to train us to share all the gory details, so you could find that asking that question leads to even more awkwardness. By all means do ask if there is anything you can do to help. I’ve had lots of kind offers, most of which I haven’t taken up, mostly because of fatigue, but the offers mean the world to me, truly.
One of our friends asked about my new Facebook group Musicians with Cancer and other Maladies and asked if it was about getting donations. The simple answer is a resounding NO. I’m not looking for money, I’m not after benefit concerts; and having trolled YouTube looking for something similar to what I’m trying to establish for other musicians, I can’t find anything. They all seem to be about donating to research or people who need help. So I understand why people might think that.
That’s great because it shows there is a need for something different. This is just about helping a friend. A lot of the videos I am posting are asking for money at the end of a heartbreaking story. There are groups who need that and we support many cancer charities and our Team, the Early Birds will be doing our 4th Relay For Life in March, but that is nothing to do with  this page.
s1560019-2What people need most is the encouragement of friends. For example when people shave their heads in support of cancer, what matters to the cancer sufferer isn’t the money, it’s the gesture of solidarity. When my beautiful empathetic granddaughter had her hair cut (which was her idea), it was so that it could be made into a wig for someone with cancer who had no hair.
So please, no money, I’m just looking to create an environment where people who have friends with a condition that makes it hard for them to motivate themselves get some support.
I’ve opted for musicians for a number of reasons, probably the most important is that playing music is cathartic, it generates good feelings for both the musician and the audience. But what I’ve found is that sometimes due to chronic fatigue in my case, or perhaps depression in other cases, you just can’t bring yourself to pick up your instrument, or if you pick it up, you don’t have the energy to play it.
motivational-txtHere’s an example of what I mean. I received this from a good friend who sends me a message every day. I also get similar messages from friends who are much worse of than I am.
I can tell you that even when I really feel too tired for anything and fatigue is a bitch, nothing like just being tired or sleepy, but I get the message and off I go to the music room and play. It helps my soul and spirit even if I don’t feel like it.
But this isn’t about me, it’s about creating a movement of people helping people. It looks like it’s going to be a hard slog to make this work but joining the Facebook Group even if you don’t know anyone with cancer right now, you will. Just knowing you have friends who care makes a big difference. If they see you post a comment or share a photo, video or story, you will make a connection.
This is an example of what I’m talking about. Not the advertisement at the end, just the concept of friends being there for each other.
Anyway, as usual this is turning into a book. My request for you is as a friend or associate of mine or of anyone that has cancer or depression or PTSD or whatever, join the Facebook group and tell a friend you are there for them. A lot of you are serial networkers and you can help by spreading the word through your network. You will be doing a good thing.
So send no money, just help pay it forward if you would be so kind. If music means something to you, if it has ever helped you, if your friends matter to you, this is a really small thing that could mean the world, even if just to a couple of people.
Thankyou so much. Feel free to leave a comment.

Helping Soldiers with PTSD through Music


As you know, a few days ago I set up a new Facebook page called Musicians with Cancer and other Maladies. It is about people helping other people. Today I came across a group that help soldiers with PTSD by using songwriting to express themselves and tell their stories in a trust environment, which is helping a lot of people, even those who are not musical themselves, or don’t realise they are.

Several years ago I wrote a song called Another Stretch in Iraq. You can hear a demo on my Reverbnation page. It was motivated by a newspaper story of a service woman who came home looking for some love and normality only to find that her man had left her for another woman. A common story sadly.

I joined a military blogging (milblogging) site and spent a good year or so talking to military personnel, mostly serving overseas at the time to get a feel (as much as that is possible, given that family members who served almost never spoke about their experiences when a civilian was present).

They trusted me and I learned a lot about their lives, their hopes, their agonies in losing brothers and sisters, general life and the isolation from their families where their fellow soldiers in fact became their families such that many could not and still can not adjust to civilian life without their brothers and sisters from he service.

When I was in Orlando some years ago, I played a couple of sets at a biker-friendly bar in Longwood and my song Another Stretch in Iraq was one of the songs I played with some great backing from the house band. I wish I had taken some photos because it was the classic bar with 30 Harley’s in a neat row out front, sawdust on the floor, the sort of place that Kiwis only see on movies and TV shows and that the cab driver thought I had no place being until he saw the friendly bear hug greeting I got from the woman who ran it.

After finishing the song a group of 6-foot something burly men came up to the stage. The biggest of them all came up to me with tears in his eyes and I thought I was about to become roadkill. He and his friends looked me in the eye and then he shook my hand and said I took him right back to the theatre at Desert Storm. He re enlisted twice and his son had just left for Iraq a week ago.

It was so rewarding to me that I had captured the emotions and environment with integrity and that the song gave them some comfort. I haven’t worked harder on a song and would love to record it professionally. It is on Reverbnation as a free download and is also on a couple of sites of free MP3 downloads that is made available to all serving US military.

Back to the Facebook page. There are thousands of returned servicemen in dozens of countries who suffer from PTSD. They come from all walks of life and many of them play musical instruments, or used to. Many of them can no longer motivate themselves and need a hand. Some of them join groups like the one in the video above. Many will not join groups, either because they can’t or won’t ask for help, because they don’t want to appear weak, or because they are still in service and don’t want to jeopardise their careers by showing weakness.

The concepts in this Facebook page mean that all they have to do is talk to a few friends and family that they are close to and trust. Then all they need to do is ask for a little encouragement, it’s as simple as that. For those who wish to or are able to contribute stories, I am hoping they will join the Facebook Group because it can only grow and flourish if they know about it.

I’m hoping that if you know people like that, you will share this post or the link with them so that they can be made aware that help is available and whilst it is not easy as it sounds, with a little help from their friends it can happen.

As John Lee Hooker and my idol Carlos Santana sang, Blues is a Healer. It heals those who play it as much as those who listen to it. If you can help someone pick up their instrument, or raise their voice and break the silence, you can have a profound influence on people’s lives and it can be as simple as my mate Rob sending me a TXT message saying “pick that gat up and play for 10 minutes man.”

If you know of anyone that could benefit, please share the Facebook group with them and perhaps join us yourself. My thanks on their behalf.