Is our Flame Burning Brightly?

– from Bev

Two CandlesTwo candles burn side-by-side, one noticeably shorter than the other. We know that one will burn out before the other, but until that time – right up until that time – both burn brightly.

This has been a week of emotional extremes for me. We greeted a beautiful, healthy baby grand daughter on Tuesday August 12 – the same day as her aunt Christine’s 23rd birthday. It was a day of celebration – Aubrey Grace brings the joy and perfection of new life to our family once again and we are so grateful.

This morning I was dressed in black, for the funeral of John Foster McKenna who passed away last Friday after a 20-month battle with brain cancer. He would have been 24 later this year.

Christine had let me know about John last Friday morning. Later that day my mom called to tell me that my Aunt Ann had passed away, also that morning. She was in her 80s.

Birth and death. Death at opposite ends of life expectancy.

mama papa aubrey blogThe priest at John’s funeral said he didn’t have the answer to the inevitable question, why? But he offered this illustration – of the two candles. And he voiced what the 500 people in attendance already knew about John: He had burned brightly, even though the flame had not lasted as long as ours.

Love is the source of that flame. It is the fuel that knows no limit and it is equally available to all of us. It can change the world of a young family with a brand new baby, a widower in his 80s, parents mourning an unfathomable loss and yes – the family, friends and fans of Robin Williams who also passed this week and made the whole world stop and think.

Let’s all burn brightly.

Sanctuary for Daniel Neyoy Ruiz at Southside Presbyterian in Tucson

Alison HarringtonRev. Alison Harrington is a young minister at Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson, Arizona. She is also the daughter of Revs. Steve and Nancy Harrington – Nancy married us in 2002. While in seminary, she coached a men’s softball team at San Quentin Prison.

Don’t mess with Alison.

As you might imagine, a California girl with a family and upbringing steeped in social justice has a lot on her mind and a lot on her hands, serving a community in Tucson Arizona. She does it with grace, strength, and most of all, love.

On Tuesday May 13, Alison and the congregation at Southside Presbyterian opened their doors to provide public sanctuary to Daniel Neyoy Ruiz, who faces deportation and separation from his wife Karla, and their son Carlos.

On Alison’s Groundswell page, she explains “what we are asking ICE (US Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to do, is something they do every day. The Obama administration has said that people like Daniel – individuals with no criminal history, with strong ties to the community, and with US Citizen children are a low priority for deportations and he has said recently that we should not be in the business of tearing apart families.”


Daniel Ruiz FamilyIn an editorial published in the Arizona Daily Star, Alison says “throughout scriptures, people of faith are called to care for the orphan and the widow, but when it is a broken immigration system that is creating orphans and widows, we need to start intervening sooner.”

This is not the first time Southside Presbyterian has offered public sanctuary.

Alison continues… “Offering sanctuary to Neyoy Ruiz was something we prayerfully and carefully considered because we do not take this action lightly. As one of the founding churches of the Sanctuary Movement of the 1980s, we know there are risks involved and we know there is a great deal of work ahead as we reorient the life of our church around caring for this family.”

This is truly a case where a small act of love by many individuals and change the world. Will you help?

What is Love?

What a privilege to be a part of someone’s love story.

On their first date, George and Gloria Gates walked into Mission City Coffee in Fremont, Calif., just as we were singing The Miracle. When you create from your heart, you just never know how far your creation will reach to affect peoples lives!

This video interview is part of a new series of stories created by SAVE – Safe Alternatives to Violent Environments, a nonprofit organization in Fremont, Calif, to highlight positive, inspiring relationships.

We love you George and Gloria!


Loving Colorado and Dreaming of Rain, a gift from Jan Garrett & JD Martin

Its all over the news, Colorado is being hit by heat, extreme low humidity and the worst wildfire season in its history.

Colorado is near and dear to our hearts for many reasons. Greg lived and played music in the Aspen area during the late 1970s, and that experience had a big influence on hint of country rock that seeps into the songs we write today.

We also have a lot of friends in Colorado. We were just there this past weekend for a music conference, and witnessed first hand what it’s like to be anywhere close to a raging wildfire. When we drove north from the Denver area last Monday, we didn’t get clear of the eye-stinging, throat parching smoke until we were half way through Wyoming.

Since we’ve been back we’ve been seeing the heart breaking images of the Waldo Canyon Fire near Colorado Springs, and we’re gratefully getting reports via Facebook that the Flagstaff Fire near Boulder was largely contained and didn’t force friends from their homes. And we’re hoping that our friends near Ft. Collins are safe from the High Park Fire that started just West of there more than a week ago.

The people of Colorado are doing what people do… raising funds to help the displaced families, housing evacuees, praising the firemen. Help Colorado Now is a new Web site sponsored by the Colorado Department of Emergency Management and Colorado Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster. Its a good place to start, to determine how you can best help.

Dreaming of Rain

Here’s something everyone can do. Dream of rain for Colorado. A lush, drenching, cleansing rain.

Several years ago, our friends Jan Garrett and JD Martin recorded a beautiful song called “I Dreamed of Rain.”  It began as a poem that Jan wrote in the midst of the devastating Colorado wildfires ten years ago… “I dreamed of rain, and then it rained for real and even the pictures on the wall looked fresher, the colors washed clean…”

They  have been known the perform this song in drought-ridden areas, to find at the end of the evening that it has indeed begun to rain.Visioning is a powerful thing.

Jan and JD are gifting this song to you, to us, to everyone… to dream, sing and dance for rain. Download it at the link below. You’ll also be able to download the original poem and the story behind the song. Spread it wide, and please dream of rain for Colorado.





Julian Rock Memorial: Spreading love in the wake of tragedy

Julian Thorvund lived just two days, but the love he brought into this world continues through the commitment his parents have made, in his memory, to help families in similar situations. You can read more about Don and Becky’s story on their blog.

After struggling with the pain of losing Julian, Don and Becky Thorvund wanted to do something positive to help other families. From the Julian Rock Memorial Web site:

“In his memory, it is our desire to help other children and families with catastrophic pediatric diseases. If we can help one child live a longer, happier life or prevent one parent from having to choose a casket and flowers for their child, then our Julian’s memory will live on with others as well.”

Don and Becky started the Julian Rock Memorial in 2011 with a benefit concert and silent auction, raising more than $7,000 for St. Jude Children’s Hospital. It has become an annual event, and continues this year. We’re so privileged that we’ve been invited to perform at the concert here in San Jose.

Julian Rock Memorial Benefit          

Join the event

Sunday May 20, 2012 – 11 am  to 5 pm
Guitar Showcase
3090 South Bascom, San Jose


The Dan Goghs – 11:30-12:15
Hang Jones – 12:30-1:15
Dedicated Maniacs 1:30-2:15
Bev Barnett & Greg Newlon – 2:30 – 3:15
Ghost Town Hangmen– 3:30 – 5:00

The silent auction includes instruments, accessories and rock memorabilia from Godin Guitars, USA Custom Gutiars, Steve Vai, Greg Khin, Riverdogs, John Mayer, Fretted Americana, Duran Duran, Dave Navarro and many others.

If you’re in town, come out and hear some great music, and bid on some terrific silent auction items. Even if you’re not able to attend the benefit, you can donate to St. Jude’s through the Julian Rock web site.


Teachers: their love changes the world every day, and Donors Choose helps you help them

Robert Pronovost is a second grade teacher at Belle Haven Elementary, a San Francisco Bay Area high poverty school that sits in the shadow of Facebook, Google and Apple. He’s a strong proponent of effectively using technology in his classroom – he has a classroom set of iPod touches, Macbooks and iPads.  And they weren’t donated by those high powered Silicon Valley Companies – they were donated by caring individuals, through DonorsChoose.org.

So given all that technology, what did Mr. Provonost do over Spring Break last year? Well, it really wasn’t all that technical, but it certainly shows a creativity and love for teaching. As soon as the last student left the classroom, he started sanding. Each desk. He sanded, primed, sanded, primed and sanded again… then painted the desks, work tables and the door with white board paint.

Why? So his students could write on their desks. That’s right. He WANTS them to write on their desks.

Since then, the magical things have happened – all from a decidedly non-technical change to Mr. Pronovosts’ classroom. Read more about it on here on his blog.

It may not have been a technology project, but whiteboard paint isn’t exactly cheap – this was another project that was funded by Donors Choose.

There are thousands of projects, with more being posted daily. Whether you want to support a school in your own backyard or across the country – whether you believe in funding academics or arts – there is something that will pique your interest on the Donors Choose Web site.

So why not start shopping now? Thousands of teachers post projects to donors choose, so there’s no shortage of options for you if you’d like to help a teacher fulfill a dream for his or her classroom.

We’ve just contributed to Mrs. Antilla”s plan to teacher her class music this year at Canterbury Elementary School in Arleta, California. She’s fund raising for recorders and music books for her classroom on Donors Choose and she’s got less than $50 to go.  All donors get thank you notes from the project teacher – the person who completes the project with the last donation required gets a whole slew of thank you knows from the students. C’mon… just think about opening that package with all those wonderful notes of gratitude.

CLICK HERE to complete Mrs. Antilla’s Music Education Project. Put those recorders in those little hands, and let’s just see what happens!


Our most difficult – and most rewarding – performance

For independent musicians, when that phone rings or the email comes in with the gig you’ve been waiting for it’s like Christmas. We got a call like that last month, when Julie Paris of Russ & Julie’s House Concerts called to ask if we’d be available for April 21, 2012. This very high profile, long-standing Southern California house concert series takes years to get into, and we’re thrilled!

But as exciting as it was to get that call, the call that we cherish every time it comes is the invitation to provide music for the HAND Service of Remembrance held each October in Woodside, California.

Its not a big stage, there are no throngs of screaming fans. HAND stands for Helping After Neonatal Death.

HAND is a volunteer group of parents who have experienced the loss of a baby before, during or after birth. This is love that can change the world by making a real difference in the lives of families effected by an unfathomable tragedy.

The HAND volunteers are parents who have lost children themselves, and their experience has established a desire to offer support to other parents, their relatives and friends during the normal mourning following miscarriage, interruption of a wanted pregnancy, stillbirth or newborn death of their babies.

The service is coming up Sunday October 9. The parents read poems or other remembrances of their babies interspersed with the songs that we chose, and the names of all the babies are read aloud. Wildflower seeds are spread in the meadow.

This year we’ll be offering two of our songs (“Now is What We Are” from Any Doorway Will Do and “There’s a Light” from Love Can Change The World) as well as JD Martin and Paul Williams’ magnificent “Invisible Hands” and Julie Miller‘s “I Still Cry.”

We sang “I Still Cry’ at our first HAND Service of Remembrance. This is a beautiful song that has taken on deep meaning for us as a result of this experience.

I Still Cry, Julie Miller

I’m making flowers out of paper
while darkness takes the afternoon
I know that they won’t last forever
but real ones fade away too soon

I still cry sometimes when I remember you
I still cry sometimes when I hear your name
I said goodbye and I know you’re alright now
But when the leaves start falling down I still cry

It’s just that I recall September
it’s just that I still hear your song
It’s just I can’t seem to remember
forever more those days are gone

I still cry sometimes when I remember you
I still cry sometimes when I hear your name
I said goodbye and I know you’re alright now
But when the leaves start falling down I still cry

When the leaves come falling down now, I still cry

A few weeks after that first Service of Remembrance we were talking about it with a licensed therapist friend of ours who works as a counselor at local hospital. She told us that what we had no way of knowing when we chose this song, is that when a woman loses a baby but needs to stay in the maternity ward, a fall leaf is placed on her door to signify her loss to the nurses and volunteers.

It’s the hardest, and most rewarding performance that we do. It has made us aware of a reality of life that we never would have pondered otherwise. It makes us grateful for our own children. It makes us grateful for the parent volunteers who offer their time and their compassion to help others through the experience that has shaped their own lives.

That’s love.

Odetta’s Farm: The Gates Foundation on Fighting Hunger and Poverty

We wrote a while back about what an impact Tom Shadyac’s documentary I AM – The Film has had on us. Not that the fact that we are all connected is new or surprising, but, like so many other people we just get caught up in our daily grind and we forget.

In particular, the concept of “enough’ has stuck with us. What is enough? How much do we really need? At what point does the constant race for more and better and finer and richer become sheer madness at the expense of other human beings?

We’re just finishing up recording our new CD but these words just kept hitting us, so we’ve added a brand new song that echoes this chant over and over… what is enough, and what is madness? We can’t wait to share it with you.

Odetta’s Farm

In this video from the Gates Foundation, Bill narrates the story about Odetta’s farm in Rwanda. By working in partnership with the World Food Programme Odetta has expanded her crop, which means she is providing much needed food for her community in addition to meeting her own needs. She has quadrupled her income in the last year and now lives in a four room home rather than a two room hut – which means she can care for and feed the children of her poorer relatives in addition to her own two children.

Odetta’s story is touching – but more than that, it’s an important lesson about what is enough. And about how what we do with our abundance matters a great deal in this very connected world we share.

Ronny Cox, Hopeless Romantic

Ronny Cox’s first love, his soul mate, was Mary Griffith. He was 14 and she was 11, and she had a paper route. He was aware of her when she was 11, he says, because “there weren’t too many girls who had paper routes in those days.”

We met Ronny and Mary at the 2006 Folk Alliance Conference in Austin, and later Ronny performed in our house concert series. We see him at music events and we keep threatening to take him up on his offer to stay with him when we visit Bev’s daughter at UCLA.

He says he doesn’t like just being Ronny the actor, or Ronny the musician … he just likes to be Ronny.  And he does a pretty darn good job at that. He’s a great story teller, a wonderful performer, and a fabulous human being who took the time to visit the Rolling Hills Middle School cast of Hello Dolly the afternoon before our house concert.

Ronny Cox co-stars in an ABC Family Movie Truth Be Told tonight, Saturday April 16, at 8/7 central. This is a short interview about his life with Mary as inspiration for his role in the movie. His voice – his whole face – lights up when he talks about her. It always has.

What’s funny, to me anyway, is that we saw Mary and Ronny at the next table in the hotel restaurant in Austin before we actually met them… and they were arguing. But we know all about that. That’s passion for you. Deep love and respect create a truthful relationship where it’s safe to speak your mind – and safe to shut up and listen.

Thank you Ronny and Mary, for that deep love. We can still see it in Ronny’s face, and it does change the world.

– Bev

We’re reminded today, after the shooting Congresswoman Gabriella Gifford and the deaths of innocent bystanders, that our society continues to ignore, or make excuses for the violence that surrounds us.

Our friend Roy Donkin calls for action from those who have incited violence against members of congress who disagree with them.

More than 40 years ago, Robert Kennedy spoke out against the mindless violence that plagues our lives, saying “only a cleansing of our whole society can remove this sickness from our souls.”

What will it take? Will we remain silent, or will we speak out against fear-mongering and hatred?


Everyday heroes in San Bruno

We were in Central Oregon for the Sister’s Folk Festival last week when we heard the news about the gas explosion and devastating fire in San Bruno California, just up the freeway from our home in Campbell. It felt surreal to watch the news from far away, knowing that when we returned to the Bay area it would feel a bit different.

In times of crisis, the human spirit always shines through.  Stories of every day heroes come out… the off duty fire fighters, EMTs, doctors and others who head toward the disaster instead of just heading home… the friends and neighbors who act out of compassion. Its inspiring.

SF Gate reports that several of the first responders on the scene of the San Bruno tragedy gathered together near the blast site today and told their stories.

The first responders made a point of saying they were awed by the response of ordinary people who helped. Some offered to give over their vehicles – or their garden hoses – if needed.

In one instance, San Bruno Police Sgt. Mike Guldner said he was able to leave a burned man in the care of an off-duty doctor and paramedic who appeared before him.

“We had everyday people running into houses helping us,” said San Bruno Officer Scott Rogge. “Those are the true heroes. We chose to do this. We do it every day. But those people really stepped up.”

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/09/14/BAFI1FE02Q.DTL#ixzz0zZPzHwH2