Saturday, May 12, 2018

A Mother's Day Blog

I’ll be honest with you - since my mother passed fifteen years ago, Mother’s Day has felt like a party everyone else has been invited to, while I sit home, counting the hours until it’s over.

I know, I know – it’s a Hallmark creation, no doubt encouraged by florists and candy manufacturers, or maybe the restaurant and perfume industries. But still, I would gladly exhaust all my funds frivolously, if I could but spend one more day, Mother’s or otherwise, with my mom.

I know I am far from alone in these feelings, so this blog is dedicated to those of us who find ourselves without moms here to shower with affection.

Fortunately for me, I have a Sunday morning gig at a spiritual center. So I will be celebrating that I get to do what I most love. And I know that my mother, were she still here, would no doubt be kvelling (Yiddish word, loosely translated as “beaming with pride.”)

The theme of the day is gratitude, and there is an endless list of stuff for which I’m grateful.

My mother was nothing if not straightforward.

One time, when called for jury duty, the defendant had twenty-six counts against him. When asked if she could be impartial, my mother answered, “With that many accusations, he has to be guilty of at least some of them.”

Then there was the time I was in college, when I was convinced I had been Chopin in a previous life, because I already knew his music and I’d never studied it before.

It turns out my mother played Chopin on the piano when I was in utero or a newborn, or both. (Imagine my disappointment that I wasn’t reincarnated.)

My mother was the one who stayed up until she heard me arrive safely home, the one who reveled in girl time shopping with me, the one with the inexplicable enjoyment of seemingly violent movies where the underdog eventually kicks ass and the good guy wins.

She was my partner in relishing figure skating and ballroom dancing, the one who cheered my victories in life and who dried my tears.

I know, from wherever she’s perched right now, my mother would want the day to be a joy-filled one and the memories to be sweet ones. And so that is what I will make it.

To all of you who might be feeling a little lost on this particular day, I hope you find a quiet moment, a happy memory, and do something kind and loving for yourself.

Happy Mother’s Day. And thanks for stopping by and spending a little time with me.  

Saturday, March 24, 2018

The Kids are Alright

This has been an emotional day. For many of us. For most of us.

My heroes today are children, thrust into a spotlight they were never meant to occupy. Or maybe they were. I find it hard to reconcile the movement with the deaths that finally jarred it into existence.

For years, I wrote anti-gun pieces for HuffPost and in this blog, and anywhere anyone would listen, as shooting after shooting took place. Maybe it assuaged my feeling of helplessness. Or maybe it gave voice to a grieving parent. I don’t know, because those weren’t the people I heard from.

As anyone who has been vocal about gun legislation can tell you, there are threats, and whether or not those threats are viable is the question we get to live with as the cost of taking a stand.

It’s easier not to say anything. Not to be vocal. Not to write a letter or call a Congressman. It’s easier to be silent. But to be silent is to be complicit, and sooner or later we all must decide what it is we are willing to be complicit in, exactly.

I’ll be honest with you, the past year and five months, roughly, have exhausted the hell out of me. I’ve looked at the world and thought it was beyond redemption, beyond my ability to impact any healing of it, and not really a place I particularly wanted to be, anymore. The only problem is I’m here. And so are you. And so are all of us who are tired of fighting fights that seems futile.

Enter the children from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Leaders born of necessity. Courageous in ways they never should have had to be. And these kids are fearlessly showing an entire population that miserably failed them, how it’s done. How to behave like grownups in a world where the actual grownups act like petulant children. How to have a singular vision and purpose and relentlessly pursue it.

For the first time in a long time, I am looking at these grieving children and feeling a sense of hope and promise. And I cry because their loss has been our nation’s gain. And it’s not fair.

They should be contemplating prom dates and colleges, not how to get corrupt politicians to stop taking bribes from the NRA. But we didn’t get that done for them, so they will – with or without us.

As Emma Gonzalez stood silently in front of the massive crowd, for the time it took the gunman to ravage her school and take out her classmates, history was made. In the long uncomfortable silence. In the tears. In a sobering moment where a teenager had to remind us to do our freakin’ jobs as human beings.

I will always believe that the value of our lives is in how well we love. It is in how kind we can be to one another, how much compassion we have, how well we care for the least among us.

The children redeemed us today. And if we have any desire to love well, then we will return the favor.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

In Color - the anniversary edition

Something happens as we get older – we start to give serious thought to our legacy, to what we’ve done that could be enduring and of value beyond our time here.

I’ll admit, the older I get, the more frequently those ruminations consume me, but I do not think that it is altogether a bad thing. I think that it can sharply change and has sharply changed the quality of life lived now, here, in the present moment.

It is more than likely every artist’s dream to profoundly impact on a grand scale, and I would be lying if I told you I didn’t want that, too for my work. I would love to know that what I wrote and sang not only held meaning and gave enjoyment, but changed lives for the better somehow for more than a handful of people.

So because every moment is a blank page and a fresh start, I think today, on this second anniversary of the release of In Color, it would be a good time to not only reflect, but to set new intentions and make new declarations for the future of the CD.

Before I had any inkling of how the record was going to materialize, or who’d be playing and singing on it, or how it would look, I sat down and wrote my intentions for it. I may not have known the specifics, but I knew the spirit I wanted it to embody and I knew I wanted like-hearted people participating on it.

Now, this may sound a little (or a lot) woo-woo to you, but the freaky and amazing thing is those intentions all came to pass. Every. Single. One. Of. Them.

So when I look back on it today, I am overwhelmed with gratitude both for those beautiful souls whose artistry is on the record, and for those whose support made it possible.

It is my intention that this record will continue to reach new listeners, that it will inspire and encourage, leave people feeling less alone, understood, and reconnected to themselves and their heart’s desire in some way.

I am open to exciting new and unexpected opportunities that allow that to happen.

If you’ve listened to it, I would love to know what song or songs resonated with you most and why. And if you would share it, by word of mouth, social media, or in any other way, I would be profoundly grateful.

Before I sign off, I would like to give a big shout out to all those whose incredible talents are captured in both small and big ways on this record – Tanya Leah, Anthony Barone, Fred Rowles, Mark Prentice, Matthew Bubel, Everett Bradley, Kenny Loggins, Brian Mann, Caitlin Evanson, Kris Wilkinson, Lorraine Ferro, BethAnne Clayton, Arnie Roman, Jeryl Brunner, Garry Novikoff, Sue Fabisch, Alisa Swerdlove, Marvin Levy, Brian Montgomery, Alan Silverman, Stan Tomczak, and Marina Drasnin.

Below are the places you can listen to and buy In Color.

Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing part of your day with me. Please tell your friends. And here's to a project born of love. 



#incolor #ileneangel #singersongwriter #inspire #cominghometomyself #friendslikemeandyou #duet #kennyloggins #noendtolove #hallelujahsong #everettbradley #tanyaleah #lorraineferro #bethanneclayton #fortunecookie #fortunecookiesong #inspired #grateful #highroad #greaterfool #wearetheones #sweetremembering #theblessing #secondchances #theinspireproject 

Friday, February 16, 2018

...the person we see in the mirror

These are some dark and difficult days to be a human in these United States. We can fill in the blank on any given day with the victims of the most recent mass shooting. We can argue politics and mental health, the causes and the hollow repetitive sentiments. And none of it brings us any closer to curing what ails us.

Our separation and our simultaneous sense of entitlement and powerlessness keep us from the world that could exist if we but understood and participated in our shared humanity.

A friend of mine who is a school teacher in Florida texted me yesterday – “we have forgotten who we are and why we are here.”

And I think that, in a nutshell, is what ails us.

Who are we? In the deepest recesses of our soul, in that answer, rests the future of the world.

Why are we here? In that answer, lies the portrait of our lives.

Our interconnectedness seems so obvious to me, and yet, it’s not to most people or we would not be okay with human suffering anywhere that it exists.

Who do we see when we look in the mirror? Do we respect that person? Do we love that person? Do we see the mighty and powerful when we gaze at ourselves? Do we see the capable and compassionate? Because to see anything less robs the world of what we have to offer.

Humility does not mean believing in our insignificance. That’s just a cowardly lack of personal responsibility. And that is where we are collectively right now – unable to see that we are both the problem and the solution.

Take the NRA, for example. They will not release exact membership numbers, but let’s say it’s approximately the 4-5 million I found estimated online. Five million people. And the population of the United States is three hundred million people. Let me say that again for you – three hundred million people.

So tell me again how powerless we are against the gun lobby.

And here’s another thing about that – we are looking for national reform when all politics is local.

We all live in towns or cities, within counties, within states. Those are three levels of legislation that can be changed before getting to the federal level. So if congress and the president won’t do it, then each of us must step up where we live and assert our roles as responsible citizens. The county I live in just passed a law banning gun shows here. So something can be done.

The biggest threat to our democracy is our lack of personal involvement in it. It’s time we stop uttering the phrase, “I don’t want to get involved,” whether it is about witnessing a crime, a car accident, a troubled teen, or our government.

We lose what we relinquish, and more often than not, it is the helping hand when it comes our turn to need one.

So who are we – when nobody’s looking?

And why are we here – if not to leave something better off for our time spent here?

The hour is late. The tine is now. And lives hang in the balance, waiting for us to acknowledge the fullness of that person we see looking back at us in the mirror.

Thank you for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Monday, February 12, 2018

...well, we made it through January

In my mind, it should be spring. I know, we’re only partly through February, but I think surviving January merits a reward, like more daylight, warmer temperatures and a glimmer of hope that we won’t go to war with North Korea.

I’ve been in hibernation, for the most part, trying to avoid the flu epidemic and finishing another book. Oh, I don’t mean reading another book. I mean writing one. And these things take time. Lots and lots of time.

A successful author once told me, when I was working on my first book, which took ten years to complete, by the way, and it’s not that long of a book – she told me that if I wrote one book, I’d write more books.

Evidently, books are like potato chips – you can’t stop at just one.

At the time, of course, I laughed right to her face. “Me? Never! I will never write another book.”

Famous last words.

So here I am, working day in and day out on book two – the self-help one, because who better to steer you through the murky waters of worry and anxiety to the pristine ones of peace and happiness than me, right?

Stop laughing.

Here’s the thing I will say about it – you can never dole out advice that the Universe will not quiz you on yourself, just to make sure that you’re walking your talk. So I say write a novel, because that way you can just make stuff up, and that’s got to be easier than honest to goodness transformation.

I decided to take a little breather, and by “breather,” I mean I have spent countless hours listening to webinars on marketing and promotion and sales and other words that make me nauseous, because, by golly, I want this thing out in the world. And I also need a new coat.  

I’ll be honest, part of me thinks I should master the whole hashtag thing before contemplating a grand marketing plan, but I’m a big picture kind of gal, so I’ve got lots of charts and lists and a whole array of bright colored Sharpies at my disposal, because no one said this can’t be fun.

Well, it’s time to get back to book writing now…or watching Olympic snowboarding, it’s a tossup.

Stay tuned for more book and music updates!

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

#newbook #calmthehelldown #singersongwriter #incolor #amidoingthisright
Buy my CD here!   Download my CD here!  

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

...the Right Words

Words have power. They speak worlds into existence. They can stir the soul or break a heart.

We use them too much and say too little. We hold our tongues, when we should say what we need to say. Or we rush to anger and utter what is irretrievable.

Words carry with them the energy of our intentions, and whether it’s a song lyric, a sonnet, or a political speech, they help shape who we are, and they are what we use to define and describe ourselves and each other.

So whether it’s the voice in our heads or what we utter aloud, we ought to stop and think and pay attention to what it is we say, because we will create something with it – good or bad.

This whole thing about words came to mind, because I watched Joe Kennedy’s speech last night after the State of the Union (or Uniom as the case may be). And for the first time in what felt like an eternity, I had my faith in humanity restored, momentarily at least, and felt this long absent thing I would describe as hope.

And it got me thinking about the sheer power of rhetoric, that this could do that in just a few sentences. But it wasn’t just the words. It was that I didn’t have to wonder if the man saying them was genuine. I didn’t feel like I was a pawn in a political game of chess. I felt like I was someone who was cared about and spoken for, and it occurred to me that we ought to start speaking the world we want to live in into existence.

So how do we do that?

I think we appeal to our better angels and not the lowest common denominator.

I think we build each other up instead of tearing each other apart.

I think if there is a nice thing to say, we say it, whether it’s, “I like your shoes,” or “I love you.”

I think we start being kinder to ourselves in the ways that truly matter, and stop the internal voice that would say we are anything less than capable, intelligent, worthy and desirable.

Somehow, we’ve got to begin standing up for each other, instead of this whole isolating “my God is better than your God,” or “my race is better than your race,” or any lie we perpetrate against one another because of our differences.

Our differences are our strength, not our weakness. Our inclusivity is what enriches our lives. We all come from the same place, whether you call that place God, the Big Bang, or the Candy Man.

When all is said and done, our time here is brief. So dare to say what you want to build. Dare to be vulnerable and trust that your honesty will deepen your relationships. Dare to be bold about what excites you.

Words have power. And we ought to use that power for great things. For encouragement. For empathy. For kindness. For big ideas and stepping stones to healing. For compassion and striving. For being a voice for the voiceless. For declaring what is possible. We can do that, because words have power.

So take a moment wherever you are right now and say something nice to someone, even if it’s a stranger on a bus. Seriously, try it. Words have power. 

Thanks for stopping by today. Please tell your friends.

Friday, January 19, 2018

...Going Home Again

…Aaaand we’re back. Not a moment too soon. We’re home, where this blog began, and where it will likely remain, although if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past 24 hours, it’s not to get too used to anything. 

Change is the one constant, and you’d think knowing that, I would have managed to be better by now at coping with it and even embracing it. But my knee-jerk reaction is momentary hysteria, followed by oh yeah, it’s all gonna be fine..and maybe even better. 

If you’re new to my blog or to me, and this is your first time here, welcome. I’m so glad you stopped by. 

This blog began in 2009, before blogs were even a “thing” like they are now. 

In fact, I had to call my cousin Erik and ask him what a blog actually was and how to start one. 

I was trying to get a book deal at the time, and a publisher told me I needed to create a blog to gather fans. But the funny thing is, I had a feeling about it as I was starting it. I felt like it was going to take me somewhere unexpected. I felt like it was going to lead me to something big. 

And the truth is it did. 

This blog has taken me on adventure after adventure, while honing my skills. Me and my big blogging mouth became political activists, impacted honest to goodness television news, rallied the troops to get healthcare passed, and eventually began writing for The Huffington Post, which was still Arianna’s baby at the time. (She sold it in 2011 to AOL.)

As of yesterday, however, HuffPost, as it is now called, did away with their contributor’s platform, and thus, another new era begins. 

I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to how we change the world. On the eve of the second Women’s March tomorrow and the anniversary of the first one a year ago, I am pondering the various ways we all contribute. 

A year ago, I was moved to tears as my friends and I approached the massive crowd in New York City, the likes of which no one had ever seen before. 

The love was palpable and so was the peace. It was the living embodiment of “we’re all in this together.” 

Most of us are not inclined to lead. We’ll follow gladly, but not be the one to lead the charge. The thing is we don’t have that luxury anymore. 

Every one of us must face our own discomfort and do what we can. If you’ve never seen yourself this way before, see yourself this way now. 

As my friend Lorraine once said in a completely different context, “If you’re not dead, get up!” 

Seriously. If you’re waiting for someone to come in and save you, forget it. Get up. It’s time we saved ourselves and each other. 

Last year, as we were marching, I could see the music video of this event playing out in my mind. 

As I started to put it together, I found people from around the world eager to contribute and send pictures and video clips of the various marches. 

I enlisted the talents of a young filmmaker named Dustin Scully to help me realize this vision. The result is the following video of my song “We are the Ones.”  

I hope that tomorrow will serve as a reminder of what unites us. I hope that each of us will remember to lend a hand, build each other up, lead the way, and be the voice for the voiceless. 

Thank you for stopping by. Please tell your friends, and visit again.