Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Top Blogs

Greetings, blog readers! In commemoration of the 10th anniversary of this blog, I am re-sharing the top 5 blog posts of the past 10 years and having you vote on your all-time favorite for a prize. 

For those of you keeping score, this is the second of the top 5. Here's the link for the first one I posted, if you'd like to catch up! Redemption and Resurrection

Originally published...


Friday, February 17, 2014
 
In Search of...a bear, two guys with guns, Tony Danza, and me

It was bound to happen sooner or later. I’ve been doing this blog for five years now and can’t remember if I ever told this story. Sure, I could go looking back through five years’ worth of archives….or I could just assume that if I can’t remember, neither can you. Yeah, that’s the one I’m going with. And I tell this story in honor of my good friend Loralee’s birthday today. So happy birthday, Lor. This one’s for you.

When I first moved to Nashville from New York, one of the many jobs I had was working nights at the performing arts center downtown, which had me driving home on dark country roads well after midnight.

On one such night, as I was making my way back to my apartment, I saw something on the side of the road moving. Based on size and obvious appearance when it stood up, I shrieked in, well, utter terror as I realized it was a bear. Not Yogi. No, this was the real thing. I kept driving down the dark road to my apartment, envisioning the bear trotting behind me, licking his lips in anticipation of a late night snack named Ilene.

When I was safely inside my apartment, I nervously paced around, wondering if I should call someone to report it. The police? Animal control? Who does one call at 1am to report a bear sighting? And really, if some lady called the police saying she just saw a bear, would their first reaction be “I’ll get right on that,” or “maybe you should cut down on the crack, lady?”

I opted not to make the call. However, I did tell all my friends, who were slightly skeptical – that is until the news report a few days later about an unprecedented number of bear sightings in the area.

Talk of the bear was especially of interest to my New York friends, because, hey, how often does that happen?

Fast forward a few months to a visit home to New York. My friends, Loralee, Michele and I got tickets to a late night performance of Tony Danza at Rainbow and Stars, a cabaret venue located at the top of Rockefeller Center.

Now before you get all “Why Tony Danza?” on me, let me just say this about that – he taps dances and does a Louis Prima medley in his show. Need I say more? So unless you’re ready to do your rendition of “Zooma, Zooma” for me, quit your snickering.

Loralee and I drove into the city and met up with Michele for the show. After it was over, I drove Michele home to her apartment, which was located downtown, on a one-way street, lined with cars on both sides.

Michele got safely into her apartment, and Loralee and I were behind a taxicab waiting at a red light.

That’s when two guys with guns drawn walked up on either side of the taxi. But they didn’t go to the driver of the cab. They went for the passenger in the back seat.

These are the kinds of moments in life when time seems suspended. The obvious thought was that it was a robbery. But then, why didn’t they go for the driver who’d have the cash?

The next obvious thought was that, if this was a robbery, then we’d be next. So first reaction was Loralee saying, “Back up! Back up!” I turned to look behind me, and there was a long line of cars, single file. There was nowhere to go.

Do we duck? Would they shoot? Do you slither out of your car and make a run for it? These are decisions that must be contemplated and made in a matter of seconds.

The two guys with guns yanked the man out of the back seat of the cab and onto the street.

Were they undercover police? They flashed no badges and didn’t announce themselves as such. And I'd seen enough Law & Order episodes to know that that kind of stuff will get thrown out of court immediately.

Nope, they just yanked the guy out of the back seat of the cab. Then they hauled him across the street and tossed him into the back of an unmarked white van. Police? I'm thinking no.

The light finally turned green. It felt like an eternity. The cab pulled over to the side of the road. I think the poor driver might have been having a heart attack at this point.

I turned the corner and headed over toward the West Side Highway. I did not slow down. I did not stop. There was absolute silence in the car. Neither Loralee nor I said a word. My body started shaking involuntarily as I drove – a delayed reaction, no doubt, from the trauma.

We were safely zipping home on the highway when Loralee looked at me and said, “Beats the hell out of the bear, doesn’t it?!!”

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends. And happy, happy birthday, Lor!!!

Love,

I

Thursday, May 16, 2019

...How to Change the World



Everywhere I look on social media, people are doing “challenges.” Hot yoga for 30 days, go gluten-free, detox a miscellaneous organ, master the universe. The choices are endless.

As for me, the only kind of challenge I’ve actually participated in with any consistency or success at all is Vicki Abelson’s Women Who Write 30 Day Writing Challenge, and frankly, that’s because a) I love to write, and b) I can do it from my couch in my pajamas, which seems to be an ever-increasing prerequisite for things I do in my life. 

To be fair, I don’t just sit on my couch, I ponder, I ruminate, I perseverate. I also look up words like “ruminate” and “perseverate,” just to make sure I’m using them properly.

Last night I re-prioritized the order of my reading list so that How Not to Die now comes before The Success Habits of Millionaires. This seemed like a good strategic move to me.

But before I plow ahead into my reading list and soak up all the self-improvement I can, I want to go back to this whole idea of challenges.

I’ve got nothing against the six-week exercise boot camp, or drinking a gallon of water a day for 75 days. Truly, I don’t. However, it occurred to me that these things are not going to change the world from its current state of, well, utter demise. And I’ve been kind of freaking out about the demise thing, lately.

This got me wanting to start my own challenge. Could I create a challenge that would change the quality of my life for the better while, also, changing the world for the better?

Is this Gandhi stuff about “being the change” true, or is it just something I keep telling myself to ease the soul-crushing feeling I’ve been having for the past couple of years?

Here’s what I’ve decided: screw the soul-crushing. The world can’t afford it. This feeling of powerlessness is just a feeling, albeit one that is reinforced daily by news of diminishing human rights, the crumbling of our democratic infrastructure, catastrophic climate change, and blatant disregard for basic decency. It makes me want to rock back and forth in the fetal position, gently weeping. So I completely understand if you’re feeling that way, too. But it’s time to change it and I’m inviting anyone who is game, to do this with me.

Here’s the challenge, and I’ll use the vernacular that motivational speakers use, even though it makes me roll my eyes and want to gag – I’m gonna “level up” – kindness, compassion, empathy, and love, both for myself and the world, and here’s how:

1)   Every day, I’m going to say something nice to at least one person, could be a person I know, or better yet, a stranger. It could be anything from “I love your nail polish” to “you brighten my life, thank you for being in it.” One person, every day, something nice.

2)   I’m going to engage in at least one meaningful conversation with someone every day in which I listen, really listen to the other person. Again, could be someone I know or someone I don’t, could be on the phone or in person. But I’m going to listen, because listening is a way I show that I give a damn. And I think giving a damn is a valuable gift to give anyone.

3)   Plant a tree, metaphorically speaking…or a real one, if you’re so inclined, though that’s not what I’m actually talking about here.

There’s a Greek proverb that I love and it goes like this: “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”

So every day I’m taking one action for a cause, whether it’s calling senators, working for a charity I’m passionate about, campaigning for someone I believe in - one thing every day that is an action toward the world I’d like to live in. Can you imagine what would happen if we all would take just one action every day for a cause?

4)   Meditate, whether it’s for five minutes or twenty. Surely, I can start my day off with at least five minutes of focused peace. I waste way more time than that on Facebook.

5)   Lastly, I’m going to say “I love you” to at least one person every day. Again, could be anyone.

I once watched a video of different people’s reactions when they were told they were beautiful. They were utterly transformed. And I can’t help but think that this is something I could do – say something nice, listen, take one contributing action, get quiet, and let someone know they are loved.

I invite you to join me in this challenge. I’m not limiting the number of days of it, because I’d like it to become a way of life and grow exponentially, if only to prove Gandhi and me right. And the best part is – and I’m not suggesting you do it this way – but technically, I could do it from my couch. You gotta give me points for transforming the world while still dressed in my pajamas.

I hope you’ll join me, from wherever you are and let me know what you discover as you take the challenge with me.

Thank you so much for stopping by. Please tell your friends. 

#bethechange #Gandhi #changetheworld #challenge

Thursday, April 18, 2019

...the Top Blogs

In honor of the 10 year anniversary of this blog, I am posting my top blogs of the past 10 years. Some of them were the most popular, and some of them, like today's, are personal favorites of mine.

Originally published...


Friday, March 29, 2013

A lady recently asked me in passing if I was religious. And I knew exactly what she meant when she asked, so I answered, “No.” But to tell you the truth, it’s kind of been bugging me ever since.

What she meant was do I regularly go to services and partake in the rituals and traditions of the faith in which I was raised. She wanted to know if I was a “believer” in the way people use that word to align themselves with a particular sect, or as “a person of faith.”

The truth is I am both a person of faith as well as a believer in God, neither of which has anything to do with religion. And my desire to sift through the real answer to the nice lady’s question is not so much a need to justify as it is a desire to give voice to those of us whose journey has brought us to this place and time, appreciating where we came from, respecting those still choosing to remain there, while acknowledging where we are now.

There is, at our core, the place where we know. We know what is true. We know what aligns with our very being, what our soul recognizes as being a reflection of our Creator, our Source, God. We know. We may try to suppress, pretend, deny, ignore, or change it, but at the core of our being, we know what we know.

We are ever-evolving expressions of divinity. And to that end, I believe that life is a journey of becoming more and more ourselves, of who we are uniquely created to be, every day until our last in this form.

My belief system (for the nice lady who asked about my religiosity) can best be summed up in one word: love.

Use it as a noun. Use it as a verb. Use it as a dangling something or other. Take it as a suggestion, a directive, a commandment, whatever. It is not for the faint of heart. It requires bringing the best of ourselves to the playing field of our lives. It is both simple and complex simultaneously. It demands forgiveness. It requires courage. It exists in truth. It is bigger than our pettiness, accepts us just as we are. It cannot be won or lost. It is the eternal “enough.”

This is what I both know and believe. And so how do we go from that to redemption and resurrection?

This is a holy week, both for Christians and Jews the world over.

Jews are celebrating Passover, retelling the story of going from slavery to redemption. But what does that mean and how does it apply today?

To avoid grappling with those questions is to make the retelling just a nice story of days gone by. Never mind that the literal definition of slavery exists today in every corner of the globe, including our own, largely in the form of human trafficking. So let’s not pretend that slavery is a thing of the distant past just because it doesn’t happen to appear like it did in the movie The Ten Commandments.

Slavery is not just about people as chattel, though. I once heard a TV preacher say, “That which we make a God other than God, we become a slave to.” And we do that all the time with our careers and with every type of technology.

Short of a tornado touching down on your rooftop, what do you really need to know from a 24 hour news channel at 3am? What job outside of doctor, paramedic, fire, or police really requires the immediacy of our attention? What TV show or Facebook post trumps an actual conversation? (I mean, of course, with the exception of those posts with babies or puppies, because who doesn’t love a baby or a puppy? Sociopaths, that’s who. And I say that with all the love in my heart for sociopaths.)

We’re looking for validation as our form of redemption, but it will never be found in getting enough votes to survive the week on American Idol. Our redemption will never come from the criticism we exact upon each other. It will only come from how willing we are to liberate each other from the bonds of judgment in favor of tolerance and acceptance.

Wow, all of a sudden I feel like I’m giving a speech in D.C. instead of brushing off matzoh crumbs in New York.

So on to Easter, that holiday which celebrates the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

It is no secret that I’m a big fan of Jesus, much as my Jewish family and friends are squirming right now, and making hissing sounds…or possibly waiting for that bolt of lightning to strike me dead. Hard to say which of these, really.

Jesus walked the earth as the embodiment of unconditional love. He was a Jew, yes, but he was an outcast among them, too. He knew his truth, he spoke his truth, and he lived his truth until the very end. He loved those who hated him, forgave those who betrayed him. What is there not to love about that?

That he was crucified and rose from the dead is more than just a telling of the story. The power and relevancy in that story for us today is what it symbolizes.

We crucify ourselves and each other in ways big and small every day. What is it we need to forgive ourselves for, and how would our lives be different if we did? What dreams do we need to resurrect? What parts of ourselves do we need to bring back from the dead? This is the season of rebirth. We must know that what is of real value is never lost, even to death. I think that is the point of the story.

So whatever your religion or your faith, I hope you celebrate it in the fullness of its beauty. I hope this season finds you surrounded by love, in the company of family and friends, and in gratitude for both that which you seek and that which you already know.

Thanks for stopping by. Peace and blessings to you always.
Ilene