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Above all, you and I and the whole world are lucky to be alive and together, and I am so lucky to have your presence here. Thank you for your gift of any size, your consideration, and your love. I manually updated this page on Feb 12, 2016
My back surgery was a doozie, both physically and financially, and left me without a piano. I'm using this NU-1 electric, a very cool instrument from Yamaha, but certainly not a 'real piano' made with metal strings and living wood and heavy iron and and its own spirit.
I made most of my CDs at home on my own recording equipment. I still would. But electric piano? No sustain? No presence, no ringing overtones, no ability to go from ppp to FFF in a heartbeat? It doesn't work, sorry, Yamaha. Great machine, though.
Consequently, I find myself asking you this: can you make a donation of any size to my piano fund? I'm saving every penny to put towards a grand piano. It is rough for me to have no piano, and I can't make more new music until I get one.
I've learned a LOT these past few years in Washington State. I learned that bad things that you think will stop you can actually make you stronger. I learned that sometimes, bad things can turn you 180 degrees and be the best things that ever happened to you — just what you needed to stop you and make you think and get with your true feelings inside. It hurts when you face your fear. But it really does make life clearer and much more meaningful. It opens your mind and heart. You change. Lots of you know this.
So I'm doing well. I am walking, playing, eating, sleeping, writing music, and loving my life. I listen to my favorite pianist, Valentina Lisitsa a lot. And I listen to Paul Simon's Graceland album just as much. Beethoven and Liszt I love. Good music, all of it.
Jazz? My music will always have me in it, and jazz is part of me. You don't ever get over 'Trane or Miles. That's in your blood. But we have to let ourselves change and grow to become closer to who we are, not who everyone tells us we are.
I saw Gattaca and it just blew my mind. I think it was about being ourselves, not being defined by the world you are born into, but defining ourselves on our own terms and according to our own native abilities. I don't believe in ism's. I don't believe that Stephen Hawking believes in them either. They told him he'd be dead at 22 of ALS. He's now 74. That link is to his own web site. He is a hero. So is Valentina. So is anyone that follows the Yellow Brick Road (The Golden Path) to a dream and a vision that only they have.
It's called individuality and I heartily endorse it. It also takes courage, which I likewise endorse.
I'll be writing more in a few days when I get time.
Meanwhile, stay frosty, boots on the ground, be a lover, stay clean in mind and spirit, and remember, don't give up on the dream. It's yours, it's you, and nobody should ever be able to take it away. If they try, leave or look out the window and see the sky. Walk your dog. Walk someone else's dog. Watch the sun set. Get up before it rises and see what you've been missing. Taste your food and thank God or whatever it is you believe in that it's on your table.
I believe in something bigger than myself. I'm no atheist. Not anymore. It might not be what you believe in, but we each have a way to worship or show our thanks.
I thank my God and each of you every day for your help.
Jessica, February 11, 2016
- L5-S1 posterior interbody fusion and posterior fusion
- L4-5 lateral extracavitary arthrodesis
- L4-L5-S1 pedicle screws
- Posterior posterolateral fusion, L4-5
- Smith-Peterson osteotomy, L4-5 and L5-S1 (additional surgery needed to preserve nerve pathways after the removal of pounds of scar tissue and nerve root adhesions)
- Neuroplasty, adhered nerve root, L5-S1
- lnterbody cage, L4-5 and L5-S1
- Bipedicled paraspinal trunk flap (not enough muscle and tissue to close)
- 3 Laminectomies plus foraminotomies and medial facetectomy L4-5
- See below for my progress reports
Personal Progress Reports:
Report: updated Feb 2 2016:
During and after my back surgery, I had to "jettison" some of my personal possessions for financial reasons. Among them was my Yamaha 7' Grand piano. So now I am using an NU-1 Yamaha electric, which is nice, but certainly not a 'real piano'. I am humbly asking for donations to my piano fund. I am saving every penny to put towards a piano. If ever there was a woman in need of a piano, it is I.
Thank you, from my heart. Please donate here
Read more about the piano situation here
Report: updated Dec 15th, 2015:
Besides not having a piano and having some bad cramps at night as I try to sleep, life is okay. I always remain optimistic. It's not about whether we reach the highest pinnacle, but how high we can go with what we have to work with. I do my best. That's all I can do.
Not much to report. It helps to receive donations. I dislike money and hate asking for it. Everybody these days wants something, and it's usually money. I get weary of the corporate mind-set that seems to have swept our country and perhaps our whole planet. What the heck good is money if you aren't happy?
I'm happy in that I have my love for my guy, my ability to still have great meals with him as we cook together and manage to not bump into each other in the tiny kitchen here . . . I'm happy I have this NU-1 Yamaha Electric. It's not a real piano but it's better than NOT having it. And I'm thankful for my health. The back is a complicated part of us. Some days it hurts, sometimes I twist too far, sometimes I do the stupidest things like try to reach for something I know I shouldn't reach for . . . and for days afterwards I feel it. But all in all, tomorrow comes, the sun rises.
If you can spare a few, please help out. I can only repay you by continually posting my new music and selling my new CDs. The piano will help make the new music recordable. Getting a piano is the focus in my life right now.
Please donate here
Report: updated Nov 12th, 2015:
I have moved to a different part of the country where the air is cleaner, the food is better, living is not nearly as expensive, and there are opportunities for growth and change strangely absent in most larger cities. I've always believed it was myth to think that artists and musicians were more creative if they lived in a metropolis and were subject to grinding poverty.
Now I'm still in poverty but it's not so grinding.
I have moved to the pleasant, lovely city of Yakima. Since there are boxes everywhere in my new "digs" and an enormous amount of physical work to do (yes, I have ample help, thank you) my entry today will be necessarily short.
I broke two toes yesterday as my foot met with an errant piece of architecture, but that's par for my style. I am so glad I did not fall.
Report: updated Sept 30th, 2015:
During and after my back surgery, I had to "jettison" some of my personal possessions for financial reasons. Among them was my piano. So now I am using an NU-1 Yamaha electric, which is nice, but certainly not a real piano by any stretch.
I have received numerous donations so far for my piano fund. I am saving every penny to put towards it. If ever there was a woman in need of a piano, it is I. "Imperative" is too small a word.
Thank you, from my heart. Please donate here
Also, a special thank you to Donald D., Andrea P., Ronald J., Jim H., Marian H., Richard R., Mark Adams, and Malcolm S., who are all great people and fine friends. And thank you ALL for your love and assistance.
Report: updated August 26th, 2015:
I had a dream last night. I was lost in a forest. The trees and plants and flowers were all so very beautiful that I wanted to sing. I heard the song in my head. So I opened my mouth to sing but no sound would come out. I tried and tried, but finally a squeak emerged, a strangled, gurgling squeak. I was horrified and then woke up crying.
In reality, I have had laryngitis for over three weeks. And then last night I have this dream, and I thought it was just about having laryngitis. But when I told my husband of my dream, my voice was clear and unconstrained for the first time in weeks! After he thought about my dream for awhile, he said, "Jessica, it was a dream about you needing a piano. You feel as if your voice has been silenced, and it has. Your true voice was always the piano. You've had one piano or another at least available to you for the past 60-plus years. Your voice is silenced without a piano."
My husband, as usual, is correct. I have not told anyone as I was rather ashamed of the fact. But I didn't cause my back problems, living did. I didn't cause our own financial ruin—between the crumbling financial system here, the exorbitant prices for rent and food, and the hideous cost of hospitals and drugs and doctors and the entire menagerie of what is cunningly (and wrongly) described as "health care" in America, I am penniless.
Perhaps more importantly, I am also piano-less.
If I had a piano I could begin to play and work again. If you could, please donate. I feel as if there is a hole where my heart should be. I humbly ask: If you can, please donate for my piano fund, which is also a way of helping me get healthy again and climb back out of this very precarious and dangerous hole I have fallen into. You can donate here with PayPal or your credit card. Or send checks or money orders to: Jessica Williams, PO Box 2391, Olympia, WA 98507. Thank you.
Report: updated August 1st, 2015:
Still looking for work, my husband and I. A very tenuous, stressful time. I'm so lucky to have so many friends and, of course, my man. 27 years together! To say we're in love is an understatement. I'm hanging on to him all the time. He's my rock.
Report: updated July 1st, 2015:
I'm ready. Ready as I'll ever be. I can play. My foot falls off the pedal, let it. I can't get a gig to save my life! Let me know if you would like to put on a concert.
Report: updated June 1st, 2015:
I was walking through Safeway, carefully, with my husband. I was holding his right arm. He has big muscles and it makes me feel secure. My right foot somehow hit the back wheel of our shopping cart and I did a little mazurka in mid-air to stay aloft. Came down on left foot, bang, then right, then hobbled out. This was four days ago. I still am getting bed rest. Did I need this? Now? C'mon, Universe. Stop playing me!
I'm pretty sure I pulled a muscle or strained a disk, very probably L-3. The metal pins and screws and rods in my back were put there by Dr Rooney who was a very strong guy so I'm sure he tightened all the nuts and bolts properly. He told me later that unless I get hit by a truck it should last for the rest of my life. This I hope: no trucks. Meanwhile I get to hear the lunacy that passes as music these days on the radio, and watch some more old movies. We saw "The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer" last night—it starred Cary Grant, Shirley Temple, and Myrna Loy. We loved it.
Small accidents are bound to happen. I just have to be very careful. And hope that it's just muscular.
Report: updated April 2nd, thru April 25th, 2015:
Went to the surgeon for a check-up and x-rays. My husband drove me 75 miles to get me there.
Alas, no x-rays to post. No check-up. I received a sales pitch and a few homilies, some slogans, an admonishment, and about eight minutes with the doctor. He seemed vexed, but not at me—just very distracted and unfocused. But eight (8) minutes!? Then I was shuffled off to make way for the next patient. My unsolicited advice to some (but not all) back pain sufferers: at some point, you may want to cut your surgeons loose. Too many of them want you back where you were so they can get you back on the table or enrolled in a "fitness program". More than a few of them have very high opinions of their own opinions, and enjoy extravagant lifestyles that we make possible with our "illness".
If you're walking, playing, loving, and functioning, even if you're not back to "where you were", think of this: where you were is now the dead past. Where you are is where you begin to get where you want to go.
If you hear anyone tell you that you have DDD, and therefore you need to jump up and down and run around in circles and lift weights and climb mountains, walk away. They often have some ridiculous program with a name like Get your Back Back or something similarly commercial. They may write books about their "plan" and go on talk shows or Dr OZ. And all of this will be really expensive and it will hurt you and whatever is left of your bank account. I may not be the brightest bulb on the tree but I know when I'm being set-up for fleecing. I'm taking my life back because it belongs to me. And I intend to do what I want to do when I want to do it. I'm not here to please. I'm here to do my job, be myself, touch a few lives, be a good wife, a good person . . . and then sign off. No games.
Beyond that, I'm doing better. My personal healing is based on three things. #1 is having love all around me. No bad music, bad movies, bad food, or bad ideas. #2 is feeling good and controlling pain. RSO and CBD Oil are now legal in over 20 states plus 40 countries, and these oils make me feel good, and when I feel good, there's music and love and joy and awareness. And #3 is to only let in what and who I choose to let into my life. There's some super-good people in this world. And there are some of the other kind, too. Chop off the dead wood.
Every life has bad days, and some bad days are legendary bad days. But there are too many good ones to jump ship yet. Life can turn from bad to good like night turns to day. And it helps to laugh and stay as positive as possible.
None of this pays the rent but it helps to "climb out of the pit". I like the sun. You wonderful people have helped me all this time by providing a ladder up the walls. I'm getting there, with a little help from my friends.
Also, a special thank you to Donald D., Andrea P., Ronald J., Jim H., and Malcolm S., who are all great people and fine friends. And thank you ALL for your love and assistance.
- Music, love, peace, and sanity, Jessica - Apr 25th, 2015
Report: updated March 24th, 2015:
Going to neurosurgeon today for exam, including x-rays. I hurt my back when I fell a few weeks ago and my nerves are sensitive around adjacent spine segments. I'll report here on the outcome and films next week as it takes the lab time to do their thing and send me the results, including the x-rays. I use Osirix on my Mac to read the med-files and pictures like x-rays and CT scans. See above for follow-up results.
Report: updated March 7th, 2015:
A certain amount of pain remains. It will hopefully improve over time. Meanwhile I deal with one day at a time. I will always do my best, and always aspire to be better. That is just me, who I am.
I am still dependent on donations (I get Social Security and "special help" from my state government, which amounts to under $700 a month), but, as I said, things change. Because of your help, I've eaten well and kept a roof over my head. Many people believe I must be very rich (I am not, I assure you).
MUSIC and ART and LITERATURE, all of the "humanities" . . . they make a civilization whole. They bring people together and expand their hearts and minds. They are the life-blood of our world. They are the stories and songs and pictures of our species. They help to make us ONE people, ONE race. I figure I'm needed (although many would disagree) and it is time to make a contribution. So all I can do is say thank you, and remind you that rain and storm clouds often go right along with sunshine and joy. Thank you so much for your continued help!
Report: updated Feb 21st, 2015:
As for the object of this log, my back, there is little to say. It hurts, but I am used to a bit of pain. A triple level lumbar fusion with imbedded instrumentation is no picnic, ever. It's hard to keep my spirits up sometimes because my business is crashing, my rent was just raised, and my career feels like it's over. On good days, I feel optimistic and hopeful. I choose hope—there's life there. I always try to go in that direction. Towards hopes and dreams. And I try not to worry, and show patience, and stillness of mind.
Report: updated Feb 3, 2015:
Today I have a bit of depression which is probably normal—because I have had the flu pretty bad, and because I am quitting a drug called zolpidem, a sleep aid. My back is doing better but still I hurt myself sometimes by moving in the wrong ways. It's something I live with.
But the next steps are daunting: getting back to playing, finding a new place to live (yes, we still rent and it is a bummer but we never did get enough money together all at once to buy a house), hoping my husband Duncan can find work doing just about anything (I'm 66 and he's 64, and there is ageism out there as well as other isms) . . . all these things weigh heavily on me. We live on our combined Social Security which is very difficult.
Many things have transpired since the fusion operation. An operation like this will change your life, in good ways, bad ways, miraculous ways, confusing and challenging ways. "Can I fly in an airplane again? How can I play without tapping my feet? Will people still respond with love and acceptance? Will they like my new music, a music changed by years of pain, growth, and self-examination?"
I remember the first time I saw Herbie Hancock play with Miles Davis. It was the band that included Tony Williams, Wayne Shorter, and "The Professor", Ron Carter. They were playing tempos at quarter-note equals 600. And no one, NO ONE on that stage tapped their feet. So I've got that end covered. My time comes from my soul and my heart, not my feet. No more foot-tapping. It hurts my back and anything that hurts my body doesn't serve me or the world.
As far as flying in airplanes again: if I can, I will. If I can't, I'll make music anyway. I won't stop nor will I let anything or anyone stop me. There is great spiritual and sacred power in music. It is powerful medicine. I always "play to the highest". If someone talks to me that no one else likes, I "play to the highest". If a situation is just plain awful, I still "play to the highest". There are dreams beyond limitation. I will always seek my dreams, no matter the limitations. Will people like my new music? I don't hunch over the keys anymore like Bill Evans did. I don't play with my back muscles or try to use upper-body strength. I don't play "licks" anymore. I play from heart-power, soul-power. And the muscles? My fingers, my wrists, and my INTENTION. I can only create what I hear, and I hear different music now.
I care deeply about the people that made my music such a joy to give to them. I have to do my best and try my hardest. I believe in each second of life. And in that, nothing is impossible.
Report: Dec 5th, 2014:
I played more today than I often do (at home) and realized just how much The Music means to me. It fills me. It is my way of speaking my Truth, in a Universal language. Today my playing was very centered and perhaps spare, but I've come to dislike un-needed flourishes and filler. It's like that old "Hamburger Helper" stuff. Not pertinent.
As I always aspire to turn the negative into the positive, I know that I've grown so much while in recovery from the back operation. We should never stop growing and changing and reaching. I'm very optimistic sometimes. The mornings are the hardest, and the evenings are much easier. I worry about money, paying the rent. Too much worry. When I lived in Copenhagen, I saw how their social system worked. High taxes? Oh, yes. But no homeless folks, no starving poor, and no life-long striving and worry about money. Sometimes I wish I had stayed, but so much would NOT have happened, and America is the land of potential. I still love it, and want to continue to contribute to the arts . . . and I want to continue to make new friends and to help other people. Thank you all for the donations. I am so grateful. And I can do a house concert now and again. I may even try a long-haul. I must test myself to find my limits.
Below: Pre-op (before surgery). Click photo to enlarge
Click to enlarge. Above: Dicom MRI images from First Hill Diagnostic Imaging. L5/L4 compression and degradation (plate1) and my scoliosis, lordosis (plate3) and disc deterioration (plate 1). The middle plate shows the "seepage" of L4 and particularly L5, and the pressure placed on the dura, which is what causes the pain and increasing morbidity. Without intervention, organ damage, incontinence, and full motility loss can occur. See the photos below for the surgery that saved my life. These are my personal images.
Below: Post-op (after surgery). Click photo to enlarge
Click to enlarge. Above, 2 post-operative views, the first showing me from the front, with pedicle screws and PEEK bone cages and other "instrumentation. Slide 2 shows the left side, and the perfect alignment of screws and hardware (instrumentation). Between the screws are steel rods which are radiolucent and thus invisible to xray. Notice increased space between vertebrae. These are my personal images.
Below: later anterior view, CT, Mar 30. 2013
Below: lateral view, CT, Mar 30. 2013
- Click here for Surgical Report recorded during surgery, including findings, problems, solutions, and processes
- Click here for latest CT imaging and movies of Jessica's post-operative spine, progress reports, etc.
- What did the surgeon(s) do? Exact details here
You can use PayPal, or you can send personal checks or money orders, made payable to Jessica Williams, at
- Jessica Williams
- PO Box 891
- Yakima, WA 98907
- Voicemail: 518-364-6398
- email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This site is dedicated to John Coltrane, Glenn Gould, Elvin Jones, Mary Lou Williams, Dexter Gordon, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Philly Joe Jones, Tony Williams, and all who have devoted their lives and their souls to Music. "I want to be a force for good. I know there are bad forces here that bring suffering to others and misery to the world, but I want to be the force which is truly good." - John Coltrane