Thursday, December 31, 2009

In Search of...a New Year's blog

It's snowing in New York this morning on the last day of 2009. It seems a fitting tribute to the kind of year it's been. I was hoping to make it to Costco (my favorite store) and the grocery store before the precipitation began, but alas I am warm and safely tucked inside my father's house, reveling in this brief and unexpected period of time for reflection.

I was going to talk about the highlights of this past year, but it seems so overwhelmingly marked by loss that I'm willing to forgo the recap. Instead I'd like to focus on my hopes, beliefs, and intentions for 2010. So here they are -

I intend to live up to the potential I've been granted in all areas of my life.

I hope each day of the new year will be better and more filled with promise than the one before it.

I believe that I am capable of expanding my vision of what I know is possible.

I intend to be the change I wish to see in this world of love, peace, integrity, and forgiveness.

I believe that a little courage will take me places I have never even allowed myself to dream of going.

I hope for new dreams, new ideas, and a bigger palette on which to paint my life.

I intend to lead by example in the ways that matter to me regardless of both the naysayers and the well-wishers.

I believe that we can all grasp the concept of "enough," and lose the moronic notion that "greed is good."

I hope for more laughter and less worry, more joy and less fear, more life and less "busyness."

I intend to be present in my own life and savor the things that matter most to me - the time spent with my family and friends, the chance to do what I love to do, and yes I must go there - the taste of a delicious bite of food.

I believe it is wise to be grateful for both the things and people we have as well as the things and people we don't have. I believe that recognizing the value in both is what helps us grow into who we want to be.

So on that note, I wish you all the things on your own lists. I am exceedingly grateful that you have stopped by and shared some time with me. And I wish you good health, happiness, peace, and prosperity in 2010.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

In Search of...a Christmas blog

The baking is done, the presents are wrapped, and now I've finally got a spare second to reflect upon the meaning of the season.

I know it's a little bit of a mystery to different factions reading this just how it is I plan on expounding upon the meaning of the birth of Christ when a) Technically I'm Jewish and b) I started my own religion in this blog somewhere back in July or August. (So far it is predicated on personal responsibility has only two commandments - 1. Clean up your own mess. and 2. Love yourself.)

The story of the birth of Christ is symbolic of several things for me. It is a reminder that we are all born with a clean slate, in a state of perfection that will be altered from that day forward only by the choices we ourselves make. It reminds us that we are all born holy, a miracle from the Creator and that that is our natural and original state of being. For me the story of Jesus' life is one of teaching by example, of being the change he wished to see. Most Christians think that his choices were predetermined and predestined, but I think his life serves as a stunning example of what we're capable of at our best. To choose forgiveness in the face of betrayal, to go against popular opinion and march to the beat of the authentic drummer within - that's not only what we are all capable of, but what we are all called to do. So to me, Jesus' life is not only an example of choosing love over fear, right over wrong, and forgiveness over hatred, it is about having the courage to listen to that still small voice within and doing what it inclines you to do.

So in this only time of year where it seems normal to be a little nicer and a little more cheerful, I hope we all take a moment to get quiet and listen, a moment to be thankful for the perfection we were born as, and a moment to view as holy everyone we meet.

Merry Christmas, and thanks for stopping by.

Monday, December 21, 2009

In Search of...a blizzard blog

Okay, okay, so I may be the only person on the eastern seaboard who had no knowledge of the impending blizzard before Friday morning when Sam Champion informed me of its doomful trajectory on Good Morning America.

I was scurrying about my apartment and loading my car for my trip to New York. It seemed like I would be able to get just ahead of the storm - at least that's what I thought as I tossed the bag of Christmas gifts and my assorted belongings in my all-wheel-drive Subaru.

In Nashville it was only raining, and rain really doesn't seem that threatening. I remained calm in my travels until in one swift moment the rain turned into snow somewhere in eastern Tennessee, a situation that I can confidently tell you the state of Tennessee has no ability whatsoever to deal with. In one terrifying moment, I had the realization that I would see no plows or salt trucks. I was on my own on I40, and then I81.

"Don't worry," I told myself, "You'll be in Virginia soon and they're bound to deal with snow better than Tennessee." The only problem was they didn't. As the snow accumulated and what minimal daylight there was in the white out conditions evaporated, there were no plows, no salters, no lane lines, and eventually no guard rails visible to the naked eye. Cars were spinning out, going over embankments, facing the wrong direction and there were only sporadic streetlights along the interstate. Eventually it became like driving blindfolded. You couldn't tell if you were on the road or going to fly off it into a ditch. You couldn't pull off onto the shoulder of the road because there was no way of telling where the shoulder was. Nor was there a way of seeing exit off ramps.

I prayed, I skidded, I flew clear across all the lanes, and at one point as my car was nearly perpendicular to the highway I am quite certain that it was no longer me steering and straightening my car to face the proper direction.

That Friday, if you had been on the road in Virginia and come out unscathed, you too would know with absolute certainty that there is a God.

When I finally saw an exit I could make the off ramp of, I had no idea where I was. All I knew was that I was in Virginia and I was not near the halfway point in Roanoke where I had made a hotel reservation for that night.

I had been traveling for eleven hours. The first hotel I tried had no vacancies. Then I got back in my car on a dark snowy road and it occurred to me that I might be sleeping in my car. That's when I nearly became hysterical. I say "nearly" because hysteria really wasn't a luxury I had time for at that moment. I had to find a place. So I went to a Motel 8 or Super 8 Motel or whatever it's called. I walked in the tiny lobby and it smelled like Indian food. The guy behind the desk whom I'll call "Sanjaya" for lack of being P.C. at the moment, said they just had a cancellation from someone who couldn't get there, so I had a room. "Hallelujah!" I said either to myself or out loud, I'm not really certain. And I proceeded to drive to the one parking spot that was left.

As I trudged to my room through the snow, it occurred to me that I didn't know how I would get back out. There was nearly a foot of snow already and it was still coming down pretty heavily. I had no shovel, no snow brush, and no idea where I was, other than at a motel somewhere off of I81 in Virginia. I didn't care though. I got inside where it was warm and dry and I could stop driving. I also had no food. What were the chances that this place served some kind of breakfast? I called. "Oh yes, we serve breakfast from six until ten," Sanjaya told me.

When 7am rolled around I headed for the tiny lobby. Stale Raisin Bran and a bagel that looked like it had been purchased in 1987 were what passed for breakfast. I ate the cereal and took the bagel with me for later. After all, it might end up being lunch and dinner too, so no time to be finicky.

Sanjaya, who was still there from the night before, informed me that the interstate was closed. "Oh my God," I thought, "I'm going to end up staying here two nights." He gave me the phone # for Virginia's traffic info and I went back to my room. I called it and called it, hoping for a different outcome than that the interstate was closed. When has an interstate ever been closed? Does that even happen?

I decided to watch TV and take a shower. I kept looking at my car, buried in snow. I decided that I should clear it off just in case I could get out. Minus a shovel and snow brush, my gloved hands cleared off the car itself, and my trusty feet literally kicked away two tire paths to try to back out.

I called again to check the traffic. I81 was re-opened, with the warning to expect massive delays and if possible not to drive it. After considering the options, I decided to leave and so I bid a fond farewell to Sanjaya, who did not lend me his shovel, and I headed out.

In seven hours I drove sixty miles. (I know, you're pondering the reality of that right now.) I ended up going to the hotel I was supposed to have been at the night before in Roanoke. So in a total of 19 car bound hours in two days, I had only gone 450 miles, a distance I normally travel in eight hours.

Upon my arrival, Quality Inn honored my original on line price that I was supposed to have from the night before. I thought that was a classy thing to do. The bad part was, aside from the stale bagel I ate in my car, I hadn't had a meal. There was a Burger King in the gas station that I passed, but I overheard Randy, the Quality Inn guy at the desk say that they had just closed and that no restaurants in the area were opened. The only place left was a Papa John's Pizza that would still be open and deliver for the next hour. Hotel guests seemed to appear out of nowhere and we all placed a big order which the hotel paid the delivery fees for. Again, Quality Inn is totally scoring the points with me. I ordered with 3 other ladies, and when the pizza arrived more than an hour later, instead of taking our individual pieces and going to our rooms, we all congregated in the room that they served breakfast in in the mornings.

I sat with 3 lovely ladies. Rachel, a college student who was forced to abandon her car on the side of the road, Kathy, a church-going lady whose reason for being there I never quite ascertained, and Melanie, a divorced court house worker who got stuck trying to get back home after dropping her son with his father with whom she shared custody.

We each told our respective blizzard tales and laughed, fully appreciating the moment, our safety, and the opportunity to have met and enjoy each other if even for this brief moment in time.

Then I went back to my room and passed out, appreciating that my car didn't have to be dug out and I was some place familiar that I could actually name. Tomorrow would be another day and another opportunity to try to get home to NY.

I awoke at seven and scrambled to eat breakfast and grab as many items from the breakfast bar as were portable. I knew enough to know that I might be stuck for hours on end and not get home for yet another day.

A half hour into my drive on day three of my travels, I found myself yet again stopped dead on I81. Parked. For an hour and a half. I called my father to tell him not to expect me today either. It was only 8:45am and I wasn't going anywhere. What were the odds I'd even get out of Virginia? Not good, I tell you.

Eventually we began to move. Then we stopped. Then we moved. Then we totally stopped. Hours and hours passed. I pressed on. "If only I could make it to Pennsylvania," I thought. Eventually, we really began moving and the road conditions improved. I drove and I drove and I drove, and at 3:30p.m. after a brief pass through of West Virginia and Maryland, I entered the great state of Pennsylvania. Road conditions had improved as I got further north into states that actually owned snow plows and knew how to use them.

I tried to assess whether I really had the stamina to make it an estimated five more hours, the least amount of time it would take me if I kept moving steadily with no unforeseen snafus. I wanted to get to New York so badly that I called my father and told him I was going for it.

I stopped once for gas and to finally get something to eat before immediately heading back on the road. And in five more hours, as projected, I pulled into my father's driveway. I no longer had feeling in my legs. I had been in the car for twelve and a half hours that day.

So to recap - I was in my car driving a total of thirty-one hours over three days to go 950 miles. But I am here, I am safe, and I have no desire to drive anywhere for a while.

Thanks for stopping by and listening to my tale of the Blizzard of '09. Stay safe wherever your own travels take you, and...always have a stash of food in your car.

Monday, December 7, 2009

In Search of...3 parties, 2 friends, 1 decent picture and a partridge in a pear tree

Okay, so obviously my blogging consistency needs to be worked on! But here I am nevertheless, with a week's worth of adventures to tell you about.

Normally I would catch up on politics for the week, but we're still at war, healthcare's a mess, and Tiger Woods' sex life is none of my business, so there you have it. And by the way, anyone who is thinking that Tiger Woods' sex life is their business, seriously needs to get a life. And ditto for all the broadcast "journalists" covering him day and night. It's none of our business. Neither was John Edwards, Bill Clinton, or any of the other men who have cheated. Well, except for Eliot Spitzer because he actually broke a few laws, but even him - not really my concern and very cruel to the families of these men. So I've been boycotting news this week.

Anyway, a week ago Sunday found me getting pictures taken for a new song I wrote that will be available soon on iTunes and Amazon. As with most people who aren't Victoria's Secret models, it can be a little stressful trying to get that perfect shot - you know, the one where you look ten years younger and twenty pounds thinner. So there we were, my buddy Ronny and me, shooting pictures in a couple of locations that Ronny, a serious photographer, had scouted out ahead of time.

Here are the top 2 things you don't want to hear your photographer say to you on the way to your photo shoot -

1. "We gotta shoot this fast because I don't know how long we have before the military sees us and chases us out of here."
2. "Don't worry about the snakes - it's too cold for them to be out here this time of year."

That kind of sums up my Sunday morning of a week ago. We were trying to shoot somewhere that would capture the essence of the title of the song Stronger in the Broken Places. So if you notice when looking at the picture a slight air of concern on my face - it's probably the snakes, which Ronny also very helpfully pointed out were poisonous.

That brings me to the next part of my day - resinging my vocal.

Twas the night before Thanksgiving
And that's when I heard
Distortion on the vocal
In many a word.
So I sang and re-sang it
'Til I was tired and spent
And soon you can buy it
For 99 cents!

Amazon actually has it up already, but iTunes takes a little longer, so I will send out a mass email when it's available on iTunes.

By the end of the week, I was attending Christmas parties on Music Row here in Nashville. The proper term might be "crashing" Christmas parties, but why split hairs? What I learned by going to these parties is that in tough economic times people serve ham.

Two parties and one Christmas breakfast later - and yes, there was sausage at the breakfast in keeping with the whole swine theme - I was one open house away from done with my outside holiday festivities. That's when I got the news that my friend Amy's mother died.

And so yesterday I found myself on a plane bound for Chicago, being greeted by my friend Alisa and spending time with her before going to Amy's mom's funeral. It was a long and exhausting, but a beautiful day filled with love and memories and gratitude for the people in my life.

Days like yesterday are a roller coaster of emotions. One minute you're crying and the next you're laughing, if only to remind yourself that life goes on. If it were a joke, it would start off something like this - "Two Jews walk into a Lutheran funeral..."

As Alisa and I moved out of the way for the rest of the people in our aisle to go take communion, I noticed a note in the written program that said they offered a gluten-free communion wafer upon request. I thought gluten would be the least of everyone's worries since they were all drinking out of the same chalice during flu season, but maybe that's just me. Plus, God being God and all, maybe those taking communion would be spared the flu anyway. I don't know, but these were my musings during communion, and they kept me from crying for a few minutes longer.

As I returned to Nashville late last night, I thought about what the bible says about faith, hope, and love being the only things abiding for eternity, how the rest of it is gone but for those three things. And so in this festive and holy time of year, I wish you all those three things - faith that abides during both the good and the bad times, hope that sustains you through any circumstance, and love that carries you through this life and into the next.

Peace and blessings to you all, and thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Friday, November 27, 2009

In Search favorite Christmas music

I debated before starting this blog whether I should say "holiday" music or "Christmas" music, but since there is only one Chanukah song worth mentioning at this time of year (Adam Sandler's Chanukah song), I thought I was okay going with Christmas.

I have been enthralled since early childhood with all things Christmas. I love the lights and the music and mostly the idea of everyone being nicer to each other. I also enjoy the baking and the presents. So if you resemble Scrooge in any way, this may not be the blog for you today. (And also, to my Jewish family and friends, I'm betting there are many of you who feel this way too. Forbidden fruit and all that.)

I started off this festive season by loading some Christmas CD's in my car and heading for the mall on black Friday. Many hours later, after sitting in traffic and standing in lines most of the day, it occurred to me that this was probably not the wisest idea I ever had...even if I did want to soak up the full flavor of the season. I did, however, enjoy listening to my music while stuck in the car, and it got me thinking about my favorite Christmas CD's of all time.

I will tell you that the best perk of being in the music business is that I am surrounded by the most talented people on earth. Most people think of this business as strictly being comprised of huge stars like Madonna, Mariah, Rihanna, and all those other one name entities. But there are thousands of people making music, and I dare say that the best ones are the ones you may not know. So while it would be easy to make mention of the ones we all listen to this time of year - the Amy Grants and the Nat King Coles, I thought I would give you all a treat and lead you to some true gems.

The first is brand spanking new this year and it is by far my new all time favorite. It is BethAnne Clayton's Remember. It is a combination of original songs and old favorites and it spans the gamut of most musical styles. I would tell you which song is my favorite, but it keeps changing each time I listen. It also moves me in a different way each time I listen. Hats off to BethAnne for a stunningly produced and amazingly sung CD. It is sprinkled with magic.

You can listen to samples and purchase BethAnne Clayton's CD at her website: ( ) or at CD Baby(

The next album that tops my list of all time favorites is an instrumental CD. And since it is purely piano, it too gets its own #1 slot. It is Christopher Finkelmeyer's Unforgotten Christmas. I can not say enough good things about it. It is moving. It is soothing. It is soul-stirring and magnificent. Normally I would worry about building this up too much, but I know you will not be disappointed.

You can hear samples of the CD on Chris's website ( ) and you can purchase it on

Mak Kaylor's Glad Tidings has consistently been one CD that I love listening to each year. His voice is touched by God, and unlike many recordings that artists do, his vocals are imbued with the faith and passion of a true believer in what he is singing. You can listen to samples and purchase Mak's CD on his website (

If you like big band Sinatra style music, you might want to give a listen to Perry Danos's This Christmas. In the interest of full disclosure I must tell you that this CD is also brand new and I haven't heard it in its entirety yet, however Perry (who sings a duet on BethAnne's CD as well) is one of my favorite singers and one of the nicest people I know. So you can check out his CD on his website ( ) and purchase it on

This about rounds out my list of top Christmas CD's. I hope you go check them out and purchase them. I know you'll enjoy them.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends, and don't forget to enjoy the season!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

In Search of...a Thanksgiving blog

So it's turkey day and I'm relishing the quiet that comes with a holiday such as Thanksgiving where it feels like everyone is taking a breather from the normal chaos of their everyday lives. I myself found time to catch up on some shows I DVR'd and even worked out in preparation for eating...before I realized that I neglected to buy junk food in the first place.

I'm thankful for so many things that it is hard to know where to begin or end.

First of all, I'm thankful for life - for the journey it has been thus far and for the journey it will be from this moment on.

I'm thankful for my family and friends who sustain me in every way imaginable.

I'm thankful for pizza. There, I said it. Both the kinds found in New York and Chicago.

I'm thankful for sunsets, and children's laughter, and all things purple. I'm thankful for the Yankees winning the World Series, for Christmas lights, and even the mere concept of Peace on Earth. I'm thankful for hope that springs eternal, for a Supreme Being (I call God) who shaped it all into existence, and for the tiny part I get to play in the tapestry of humanity.

I'm thankful for being a writer in every format that I've tried, and I'm thankful to you for taking time out of your lives to share a part of mine.

I'm thankful for thunderstorms and snowy days, for ocean waves and forests. I'm thankful for artists, inventors, poets, and dreamers who dare to imagine a world that's different than the one we currently live in.

I'm thankful that I have enough food to eat and clothes to wear and water to drink and bathe.

I'm thankful even for all the things that I forget to be thankful for.

To all of you on Thanksgiving, I wish you your own endless lists of things to be thankful for. And yes, thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

In Search of...proof that the world is ending

As the holiday season fast approaches and I resume blogging more consistently (hopefully), it occurs to me that I ought to catch up on all the politics that I've missed talking about so I can be free from all the bottled up vitriol and enjoy this festive time of year.

I think what transpired politically over the weeks I wasn't blogging can best be summed up as this - nothing. Oh yes, Congress is still doing the healthcare reform polka, this time officially in both the House and the tune of about four thousand pages collectively. What is in these four thousand pages? God only knows. I do know, however, that I could sum up what we should have in a page and a half at most, depending on the font size.

Here, I'll give you an example:

Hereafter the date of this bill it will be illegal for any insurance company to deny claims or coverage to any already existing customer or to drop them altogether. In addition, no applicant can be denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions, and premiums increases must be capped at no more than 10% of the initial policy rate every two years. (These numbers are completely arbitrary, but you get the idea.)

In addition, every American will be entitled to Medicare for All, both the currently uninsured as well as anyone who is not happy with their existing insurance policy.

Prescription drugs will be covered for everyone with the same co-pay across the board for all citizens of $10, regardless of whether it is considered generic or a brand name drug. (And again, there will be penalties for those who do not comply.)

All of this will be paid for by ending at least one war in the middle east.

Lookey there, I did it in less than a page in a normal font size!!!

So I bet by now you're wondering what new proof I found that the world was ending. If melting ice caps, tsunamis and wildfires weren't enough to suffice, try this. I agree with Elisabeth Hasselbeck on something.

I know, I know, I was shocked too. It was right after the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (whoever they might be) recommended that women under 50 do not get yearly mammograms. In fact they recommend that they get no mammograms before the age of 50 and even then only every two years.

If it is possible for me to have steam coming out of my ears, then suffice it to say that I did...along with some healthy screaming at the top of my lungs. But I was not the only one. I happened to turn on The View one day and there was sweet little republican Elisabeth Hasselbeck with her own steam spewing forth. That's when I knew for sure that the world was coming to an end.

Both Elisabeth and I share something in common. We have mothers who had breast cancer in their forties. So there it was - cancer- the great equalizer. Now I could go on and on (and believe me, I have) about how this is a sure fire death sentence for women and a step backward in healthcare and human rights. I could tell you that it is reckless and cruel and ultimately about nothing more than saving money, but you, dear readers, undoubtedly know all that already. And I'm sure you also know that we would never be having this discussion about male prostate exams and PSA screenings.

So kudos to Elisabeth for being vocal and outraged. I am too. It's not okay to sacrifice women's lives when we know and have already done better than that.

If the Mayans are right and the world is ending in 2012, then this will all be over soon enough and Elisabeth Hasselbeck and I will sip tea in heaven...where there are no political parties. As for the people on this task force, I'm pretty sure they're going to that other place.

Okay, I'm done now. I can go be festive. Thanks for stopping by and please tell your friends.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

In Search of...the end of life as we knew it

It sounds like it would be a bad thing - the end of life as we knew it. And maybe in fact, most of the time it is. It certainly seems that way when talking about the economy or a post 9/11 world, or the death of a loved one. But I've been thinking a lot lately about how to reframe things in a more positive light, and it occurred to me that "the end of life as we knew it" may not be such a bad thing.

Maybe it could refer to the moment that delineates a past of believing we weren't worthy of our heart's desire with a present and future where we know we're deserving. Maybe it separates hoping and wishing from doing. Maybe it signifies a letting go of everything that isn't worthy of us. Maybe like in the movie P.S. I Love You it signifies finding your soulmate and knowing that in the best sense possible life will never be the same.

Defining moments often creep up on us disguised as ordinary ones. There's seldom a timpani cue to signal that things are about to change. Rather things change in the blink of an eye and catch you unaware until after the fact.

Maybe in this new era of change we should all embrace the idea of letting go of life as we knew it and opening ourselves up to new ideas and ways of seeing ourselves. While this is a time of unprecedented challenges, it is also a time of unprecedented possibilities and it is in that very idea that promise lies.

So, adios life as I knew it. It's a new day. Thanks for stopping by and please tell your friends.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

In Search of...some optimism in trying times

It's Sunday, and if it's Sunday it's usually politics day on my blog. But I've been too depressed lately about the healthcare bill to write about politics, and so I thought I'd write about something else - optimism. President Obama got elected on the wings of it - hope, change, and the audacity to talk about it, expect it, and make it happen.

Before you think I'm having a pep rally for the president, let me just say this. It's easier to be pessimistic, cynical, and hopeless. Look at the world around us. It's easy to see the darkness, the evil, the greed, and what's gone wrong. It is much more challenging to see light amidst the darkness, and order within the chaos. It is easy to see the futility. It is hard to see the point.

Maybe you're in a situation that you don't know how you'll find your way out of. Or maybe life as you knew it is simply over. I think most of us have felt that way for the better part of this past year. Maybe you've suffered the loss of a job or a career or a marriage and you can't for the life of you see how things will possibly get better. Maybe they won't.

So what's the value of optimism, and what is it exactly? Is it seeing the glass half full even when half the liquid in it is clearly gone? Is it losing sight of reality just long enough to be able to hang on for another day? Is it holding out false hopes and pipe dreams that will never come to pass? Is it pasting on a smile while you feel like you're crumbling on the inside?

Here's my answer to all the above questions - no. For my money, optimism is allowing for a different possibility than you can currently see. It is knowing that no situation, no matter how great or how awful, lasts forever and so "this too shall pass" - whatever it is. Optimism is not negating what is. It is finding the value in it. Sometimes that value is in the form of character traits that we develop out of necessity when we would give anything not to have had to develop those traits in the first place. Sometimes the value is in the different trajectory our lives take from our plans. Sometimes the value is in who we become, because what happens to us is not always within our control, but who we become because of it is.

It is easy to place blame and easy to be angry. Sometimes both those things are warranted, but warranted or not, they don't forge a path to anything but destruction, and haven't we had enough of that already?

So call me what you will, I am choosing right now in this time of seemingly insurmountable challenges to believe in the possibility that those challenges might be met and conquered in ways I cannot yet conceive of. I am choosing to believe that while my own thinking may at times be limited, there are no limits to what can happen for the better with a willing and receptive spirit and mind. It is not naive to believe such things. It is rather the only way I know to create fertile soil in which something new, wonderful, and unexpected can grow.

Life is a gift that's on loan to us, so if we're still here then we've got something to give and something to receive. We've got times of both sorrow and joy ahead and the strength to make it through whatever road happens to be ours to walk.

Whatever road you are walking, I wish you safe travels filled with good times and much love along the way. Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, October 30, 2009

In Search answer to the vaccination dilemma

So it's been weeks since I've blogged, and here I sit, where I've sat for days - on the couch and sick, pondering the topics of the day. Oh heck, let's talk about healthcare - a great topic to broach when you've been laid up for a week feeling like death.

My bout with whatever it is I have was preceded by both a flu and pneumonia vaccine , and while I can't say definitively if they played any role in my current state of unwellness, or if it was the fact that I flew a couple of days after receiving them and just happened to pick something up, I am inclined not to believe in coincidences - especially ones timed so judiciously. Plus, since I can't remember being this sick for this length of time ever before in my life, I can't help but think that I was aided in this accomplishment - perhaps by injecting questionable supposedly dead viruses directly into my arms .

So if you're out there being tempted to succumb to the media and government instilled hype about the potential deadly ramifications of not getting vaccinated, I'd suggest you think again. Ask yourself who profits. I'll tell you who - the drug companies. And you know what else? They lobby politicians with large sums of money. And the media? They want ratings and nothing gets ratings like a pandemic.

So I say to anyone reading this - eat extra fruits and veggies, get plenty of rest, exercise regularly and then take your chances. That's solely my opinion. Me, a regular gal who's not a medical professional, but has made the mistake of seeing one.

Now back to our regularly scheduled discussion of healthcare reform. It always makes me nervous when congress seems pleased with itself. While I don't doubt that they are working feverishly to pass some sort of healthcare reform, I do doubt that our best interests are their first priority. I doubt that they will be able to control let alone enforce legislation forcing insurance companies to cut or cap premiums. or denying coverage for pre-existing conditions. It sounds nice, but if they raise premiums, then I join the uninsured. Good thing they'll see to it that there's a viable public option. Oh wait, we still don't know that for certain, do we?

I would like to believe that creating a system that sees to the welfare of all its citizens equally would be the top concern of the representatives we elected to safeguard the constitution of our great country. However, I would also like to believe that Santa comes down my chimney and that some day I will be a size six again. So to ensure a greater likelihood of the former, I'd say we should continue making it clear to our representatives, particularly the democrats, that they will not get re-elected by us if they do not pass something that legitimately reigns in the insurance companies and gives all of us coverage. Call it socialism, call it democracy, call it whatever you want, just get it done.

Time for more tea and Oprah.

Thanks for stopping by...and stay well.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

In Search of...a place to stay when the band is too drunk to drive home

So those of you who know me know that me saying, "I have a band camping at my apartment," is an unlikely statement to be coming from my lips. I like my privacy. I like cleanliness. And I like quiet. Having a band staying with you will get you none of these. In fact, it will get you quite the opposite.

Like the movie Almost Famous, you might also imagine that a) it's only rock stars who get wasted and have women throwing themselves at the band members, b) all bands have buses and can afford hotels, and c) that this stuff only happens in the movies or is limited to the Rolling Stones. You would be wrong about all three. And that's how I wound up with a band staying at my apartment last night.

It started off simply enough. They were broke and would sleep in their car if they had to in order to get to a gig or a writing session in Nashville. I had a perfectly good floor and couch and found the idea of them sleeping in a car and not showering rather distasteful. They seemed like sweet considerate boys, so why not?

The plan was for them to drive home after their big gig and for the four of them to share a hotel room on the way. The way it turned out was that two of them left and headed back, the third was too drunk to drive and the fourth was ready to go home with a girl he'd just met at the bar that night. It was also raining. What to do, what to do?

For starters, we couldn't let the drunk one drive. That had catastrophe written all over it. As for the going home with stray girls, while it isn't any of my business, are we really sure that it's any safer for guys to do that than girls? Couldn't a girl just as easily be a psycho serial killer as a guy? So in the interest of preventing STD's, DUI's, and possible death, the guys headed back to my place where they could be assured a warm dry place to sleep and a toilet for the drunk one to throw up in...which by all accounts he did.

As I offered them Ibuprofen and Frosted Flakes to start their day off right this morning, they only accepted the former and sheepishly scurried off as fast as their bleary eyes would allow them to get in their car and go. For some reason this amused me.

Now my apartment is blissfully quiet and in need of a good cleaning which is what I will be doing today as I ponder this odd culture that is part of the lifestyle of every band, both known and unknown.

When they get very famous, I might tell you their name. Maybe I'll even be a footnote in their journey. For now I'm happy to have saved them from themselves for a night. My work is done.

Thanks for stopping by...and don't drink and drive.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

In Search of...a way to go home again

Thanks to Facebook, there I was, going to another reunion of sorts, this time of six women I hadn't seen in more than twenty-five years. I was apprehensive about going, but I still couldn't put my finger on why. These were all nice people about whom I felt no ill will or unfinished business.

Maybe it was curiosity. Maybe it was coercion. But I found myself driving to a kosher deli in New York to meet up with complete strangers with whom I shared a history of long forgotten birthday parties, neighborhood stores that have gone out of business, and high school teachers whose names have largely been relegated to the annals of old yearbooks.

There was only one person in this group with whom I'd had any contact - Lisa. And that was only in the past six months or so, also thanks to Facebook. So I picked Lisa up at the train station and we nervously headed over together.

A few deep breaths and off we went, cheerfully smiling and greeting the rest who had gathered so far. We did the perfunctory "you haven't changed a bit" chatter, awkwardly hugged, and then went inside - minus one for whom a kosher deli wasn't kosher enough. (She would meet us later on at what, unbeknownst to me, must be an ultra kosher place - Starbucks. Truly, I had no idea.)

Over pastrami, knishes, and old photographs we went around the table and tried to catch each other up on the high points of the past twenty-five years of our lives. Among the six gathered, three were married and three were single. The married women had a total of eight children - six girls and two boys. This would later be topped by the woman who joined us who had seven children, bringing the total number of children of these four women to a staggering fifteen.

All but yours truly had remained in the tri-state area and had never lived anywhere else. We caught up on our siblings, on their families, and on whose parents had passed away. Then we switched to the topic of old classmates and who'd been in touch with whom on Facebook or anywhere else. I found myself searching the recesses of my mind to put faces with the names they were mentioning, but I came up empty time and time again. I had no faces with the names and no memories with the faces I could come up with. Had I blocked it out? Had I simply forgotten?

I wanted to find some shred of longing for the time in my life these people occupied, but I could find none. I wanted to feel a sense of belonging, a sense of being known, understood and valued for who I am, but all the wishing could not make it so. It was pleasant, it was fun, but it was superficial.

I wanted to know if these were the kind of people on whom I could rely if I needed them in crisis. That is the yardstick by which I measure my real friends. I wanted to know what dreams they had realized and what still left them yearning for more. I wanted to know their greatest successes and biggest disappointments. I wanted some meat on the table other than the pastrami.

I do not consider myself a superficial or frivolous person, and I consider life to be too short to waste even this one precious evening that was twenty-five years in the making on minutia. But that's exactly what we did. Maybe my expectations were too high. Maybe it was more realistic to ease into this new phase of our lives with pleasantries.

I noticed that as we parted outside in the rain that no one exchanged phone numbers or emails. There was some talk that we should do this again, but no one said it with particular conviction. We hugged, still awkwardly and went our separate ways.

I drove Lisa to the city and we too hugged goodbye. The reunion was over.

I drove home in the rain trying to make sense of what I was feeling. It was gratitude. I found myself thanking my lucky stars for the people in my life - the ones who share a past and a present that we created by choice and not just geographic proximity. I found myself grateful for the decisions I had made over the years, even the bad ones for those too shaped who I am. I felt humbled and grateful that this evening had taken place because regardless of whether or not I ever see these people again, they each contributed to my life in some way.

We don't often get to go home again, so to those who met me there I wish you lives of fulfillment and joy. Until we meet again...

Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

In Search of...dancing stars

I've spent the last three evenings watching the excruciating premiere of Dancing with the Stars. Though I've loved the show since its inception, it has morphed into a caricature of itself. As with American Idol, the judges seem as thirsty for attention as the contestants and they add little toward improving the actual dancing of the amateurs they are supposed to be helping.

The exception to this, at least partially, is Len Goodman, the only judge actually qualified in ballroom dancing. The other two, though frequently louder, offer no expertise in ballroom dancing whatsoever and limited claim to fame as actual dancers. (Carrie Ann was a Fly Girl and Bruno did music videos.)

Now to this season's contestants. There are more than ever before, but I challenge you to name even five of the sixteen off the top of your head. The reason? They're not "stars!" Here are the four I can name - Macy Gray (1st to go), Donny Osmond, Debi Mazar, and Tom DeLay.

Macy Gray and Ashley Hamilton were the first to go last night. Can't say that I'm heartbroken. Macy came off even from the opening footage of her "journey" as someone who could care less about being there...or dancing...or anything at all really. So why was she selected? There is nothing I hate more than seeing an ungrateful person take up a coveted spot at anything.

Ashley Hamilton at least had a compelling story about being in a wheel chair for a year and a half. He's also got famous parents, but parents and story aside, that doesn't make him a star either. Just to make sure I am not being too harsh on poor Ashley's star status, I looked him up on IMDB. Tell me if you've ever heard of these gems in his illustrious body of work -
Voodoo Lagoon and Sluts & Losers.

Add to the mix a snow boarder who's admittedly never even watched the show, a clumsy football player whose sole purpose for being there is to beat Jerry Rice at anything, and the former House Speaker who was indicted and booted out of Congress and you have a good cross section of this season's esteemed celebrities.

What is the criteria for being selected for this show? Is this really the best they can come up with? Can't they at least go for people without criminal wrongdoing? On second thought, maybe that last one is hard to come by in Hollywood.

So I'm voting for the person I've known longest and like best - Donny Osmond. Oh, laugh if you will, but he fits my criteria - he's famous in his own right, has seen and likes the show, and hasn't been indicted for anything.

If anyone knows of how I can get on the show, please let me know.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

In Search of...the end of an era

One really doesn't have to look far these days to find the end of an era. It seems like every day another celebrity or public figure passes, leaving this world a little more void not only of their art but of their spirit as well. The media loves the big headliners like Michael Jackson, but to those of us who have different frames of reference what constitutes a headliner varies. I say this because Mary Travers of Peter Paul & Mary died and her death barely garnered the crawl on the bottom of the CNN news screen.

We've all joked about folk songs, but the truth is that there is hardly an American who has not sung This Land is Your Land or If I Had a Hammer at least once in their lives. And for those of us who learned to strum a guitar to the three chord Leaving on a Jet Plane or Blowin' in the Wind, Peter Paul & Mary are indelibly etched in our psyches.

While I believe that Peter, Paul & Mary are best known as the voice of a specific older generation, it is important to note that they never stopped letting their songs speak to all generations spanning fifty years. If folk music was the anthem for a particular political movement, then that movement never ceased, nor did their personal activism on behalf of causes both popular and unpopular.

Mary Travers death is not just a musical loss, it is a loss for those oppressed worldwide for whom she fought so vocally. Whether it was playing an active role in Washington's Center for the Development of International Policy, going on missions to El Salvador and Nicaragua, fighting for a woman's right to choose, or demonstrating in support of the Anti-Apartheid Movement, Mary Travers never stopped being an outspoken advocate for people who had none. So it is in that capacity that I feel the world has truly suffered a great loss.

To those of us who will miss both the voice and the activist , I leave you with the haunting Laura Nyro lyric that Peter Paul & Mary recorded in 1966 -

"And when I die, and when I'm gone
There'll be one child born, and a world to carry on."

Thanks for stopping by, and rest in peace, Mary Travers.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

In Search of...a new season

I'm in New York, and today's the day the temperature is finally supposed to start matching the time of year it is. I love autumn. Well, let me rephrase that - I love autumn on the east coast. I like a chill in the air that promises changing leaves, cool breezes and sweatshirt weather. I love the richer colors and inexplicable desire to buy school supplies.

Every year at this time I find myself reassessing my life, taking more resolute steps in the direction of my dreams. This year is no exception. After spending the entirety of the summer rallying the troops for legitimate health care reform, I am exhausted, weary of the struggle and skeptical that my efforts mattered at all. Oh, on a better day, I would tell you that everyone's efforts matter, but today I am ready to let go of the vitriol in favor of a little peace.

This brings me to what many of my trusty readers have been waiting for...the fall TV lineup. Oh, rest assured as my old favorites return and the new ones emerge I will be writing about it. In an effort start things off on the right note, I am eagerly awaiting Tom DeLay's early expulsion from Dancing with the Stars. Call me crazy, but I don't think we should reward convicted criminals even if it does turn out that he can dance - which I doubt, but you never know.

I am off to the gym now, eagerly anticipating the joys of my iPod Nano. (I don't eagerly anticipate the actual exercise.)

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Monday, September 14, 2009

In Search of...the time of my life

As I received the news of Patrick Swayze's passing, I felt numb. Like Ted Kennedy's death, it was an expected passing, and yet the realization somehow caught me off-guard. For a man who never won an Oscar, an Emmy, or a Tony, he sure made a lasting impact on our popular culture. More than that, he was a great teacher to us all in how to live and die with dignity and how to fight past pain and prognosis.

For a man who made the largest portion of his fame as a sexy leading man, he led a pretty quiet life away from the tabloids and with one woman. What many may not know is that he tried to own as much land as he could in order to fix mismanaged forests and create wildlife preserves. Perhaps that is his greater, though less spoken about lasting legacy.

I've been thinking lately about that song from Dirty Dancing - The Time of My Life, and the implications of a life lived in celebration. In this era of pettiness and greed, and in this year of such great loss, wouldn't it be beneficial to stop and look at the bigger picture? Wouldn't it be a better idea to stop and give thanks for those moments and people that have made our lives joyous and given them meaning?

There is enough to fret over and be unhappy about without even trying. What if we tried just for a moment to recall something that made us smile? What if we took a moment to look up at the sky, or into the eyes of a child, or into the mirror. Wouldn't we say that even with all of our trials and tribulations we've had the time of our lives?

Thanks for stopping by, and rest in peace, Patrick Swayze. Dance on, dance on.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

In Search of...walking the talk

It's Sunday, and you know what that means. Politics. But I'm getting ready to go to an anniversary party, and so I am trying to reconcile party and politics mode.

As was expected, the president spoke last Wednesday night about health care reform to a joint session of congress. I held my breath as he began. As speeches go, it was a good one with a passionate delivery. Unfortunately, I've grown weary of the rhetoric, especially since what President Obama will settle for seems to change with the tides of political fortune. Oh, don't get me wrong, the democrats will pass
something, but I doubt it will be something that will benefit those who need it most, nor will it slap the wrists of those who are gouging the system.

Reaction to the content of the speech was largely overshadowed by the big hubbub made about Joe Wilson, the Congressman from South Carolina who yelled out "You lie" while President Obama was speaking. Did he think he was in a bar? Or was he just raised by a pack of wolves? Surely there is some congressional book of etiquette that you're given before they let you into the club. Shame on him.

For my part, I had a problem with the president's new definition of "public option." As I understood him, this would only be available to people with no coverage at all. That defeats the purpose of creating competition for the insurance companies. Take someone like me whose premiums have nearly tripled. I would take the public option in a heartbeat, but now this would not be available to me because I already have coverage that I would not be allowed to leave for a more affordable public option. How is that driving down costs? It's not. I would drop my policy now and gamble, but I don't have the stomach to bet on the federal government coming through for me on this. Do you?

And for a final note about the speech I go back to Ted Kennedy. Senator Kennedy sent a letter to the president regarding health care reform shortly before his death. So why didn't the president read the darn letter? Everyone was waiting with baited breath. Even Joe Wilson was quiet. And yet, President Obama never read it, he just quoted a phrase here and there. What a disappointment.

Maybe I'm getting cranky because we are running out of time. Maybe I am losing heart and faith in the man whose poetic words seemed like they could move the mountains of inertia and corporate greed in Washington. Maybe I expected that his passion for the best interests of the American people would give him the qualities necessary to achieve those results. Maybe I thought that the long shot coming from behind to win a history-making election had the gumption to twist a few congressional and senatorial arms when and if necessary.

I've said that I was holding off on my presidential report card, but maybe it's time for a warning that he's about to flunk. Harsh words coming from me? You bet. But he's about to compromise away the life and death of many Americans with a democratic majority in the house and senate. That's just not okay with me.

So Mr. President, please walk your talk - the talk you gave that said we will rise up to meet the needs of this moment in history. Let's actually make good on that.

God Bless America, and thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

In Search "In Memoriam" redux

As the President prepares to address a joint session of Congress, a Congress that will be absent one Ted Kennedy, I thought it appropriate to reprint my original In Memoriam blog that was only up for a few hours. So here it is again -

In Memoriam
(originally printed Wednesday, August 26th, 2009)

I was up watching TV late last night when breaking news interrupted my regularly scheduled programing. Senator Ted Kennedy lost his battle with brain cancer.

I was alone on my couch, sitting silently as tears began to flow down my cheeks. I have handled the losses of the public figures that we have all lost this year with calm sympathy comparatively - from Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Natasha Richardson, and Bea Arthur to Walter Cronkite and Eunice Shriver. But Teddy? I can't even. The loss feels personal.

In many ways he is the United States Senate...or at least what is good and just about it anyway. He has been the Senator from Massachusetts my entire lifetime and the thought of a future without him there seems unthinkable. So does healthcare reform - the cause for which he fought his entire career. I'd like to think that some other senator will pick up the torch, but I'm not that optimistic when it comes to Congress.

The TV channels are flooded with footage of his life and career, most of it repetitive. There's the seemingly carefree child, impish in appearance and often overshadowed by his older brothers in early adulthood. Then there's the young senator, the plane crash survivor, the somber rock of Gibraltar walking each widowed sister-in-law in the funeral processions of his slain brothers. There is the devoted uncle escorting his niece Caroline down the aisle at her wedding in happier times, the last remaining son burying his mother, the uncle scattering his princely nephew's ashes at sea after the plane crash that took his life. There was the scandal at Chappaquiddick, the drinking, the divorce, and the re-marriage that changed him for good. If anything at all can be said of Edward Kennedy, it is that he was profoundly human.

In days to come he will be eulogized and memorialized. He will no doubt be relegated to history as the larger than life lion that he was. Young upstarts like our President will not have the benefit of his wise counsel, nor will the rest of his colleagues have the benefit of his genuine leadership and friendship. The generation that encompassed Camelot will finally be laid to rest - literally, leaving us all a little bit emptier.

Who now will fight the good fight? Who will lead and not follow? What rich white man is going to be the voice for the poor minority? Who has the strength of character to dedicate themselves to a life of real public service? Who can weather the politics and the name calling, and the shifting tides of public opinion? Who has that kind of fortitude?

Since his diagnosis with cancer, I've often thought about the Senator's inevitable passing. As I look at pictures of his huge close-knit Irish family who are all but gone (there's one left of that generation, Jean Kennedy Smith), I imagine that there is great celebrating going on in heaven. I imagine Ted being reunited with his parents and brothers and sisters after a lifetime of earthly tragedy. I imagine some raucous heavenly football game taking place. I believe the only loss that's being suffered now is our own, and it is a monumental one.

Because I am a believer in the unfettered power of those who have left their human shackles behind, I am believing for Ted to have a greater ability to usher the kind of reform in death that he could not accomplish in his time on earth. I am praying for miraculous turnarounds that begin on an individual soul level and end with legislation that benefits all of us equally for generations to come. I believe that it is possible.

So thanks for taking on the needs of a grateful nation, and rest in peace, Teddy. Rest in peace.

Monday, September 7, 2009

In Search alternative to "This LIttle Light of Mine"

Yesterday was Sunday, politics day on my blog. But since practically every day has turned into politics day on my blog, I took the day off...not from watching my Sunday pundits mind you, but from blogging about my frustrations, and outrage, and hope upon hope that substantive healthcare reform will take place in Washington as our representatives return from their healthy vacations.

While consumed with concerns about the character of our nation, I got to thinking about the rally I attended a few days ago and the three choruses of This Little Light of Mine for their song choice, and I decided that for a special Labor Day holiday blog I would impart my personal favorite songs of social conscience to you so you can add them your iPods and/or music libraries if you're so inclined.

The order is based on interesting listening flow as opposed to any order of preference.

"Note to God" - written by Diane Warren, recorded by Charice
"Abraham, Martin & John" - written by Dick Holler and recorded by Dion
"Don't Laugh at Me" - written by Steve Seskin & Allen Shamblin, recorded by Mark Wills
"Stones in the Road" - recorded and written by Mary Chapin Carpenter
"What If Jesus Comes Back Like That" - written by Pat Bunch and Doug Johnson, recorded by Collin Raye
"Praying for Time" - written by George Michael but done impeccably by Carrie Underwood on Idol Gives Back
"Change is Gonna Come" - this song was written by Sam Cooke and recorded by everyone who ever lived pretty much. My favorites versions are the original Sam Cooke version and the more recent Bettye LaVette version.
"Satisfied Mind" - written by Tony Arata and recorded by Hal Ketchum
"The Times They Are A-Changin' " written by Bob Dylan. The recording that absolutely gets me at my core is by Keb' Mo' and you must download it now!
"We Shall Be Free" - written and recorded by Garth Brooks

Thanks for stopping by...and enjoy!

Friday, September 4, 2009

In Search of...a real rally

Yesterday was the big rally for healthcare reform, and I know you are all dying to know how it went.

I spent the time between my phone call from Tennessee Citizen Action and the rally preparing to speak. I filled out the necessary on line form they sent and I got busy formulating my thoughts. Well, heck I've been expressing my thoughts on healthcare reform for months here, so it was really just a matter of whittling it down to bullet points on index cards. Then came the practice of not looking at them. For thirty-six hours I practiced pacing and speaking loudly and slowly and passionately (which wasn't hard). I envisioned myself being Ted Kennedy - well, if Ted Kennedy were a short Jewish woman living in Tennessee.

I was excited and nervous as my friends and I drove downtown together and parked a few blocks away from where the rally was to be held. My friends Tanya and Arnie were excited to hear me speak publicly for the first time, as was the additional unnamed Canadian friend we brought along with us for good measure. This was going to be great. I was ready.

We made our way to the park across the street from Congressman Jim Cooper's office where news vans were already assembled and cameras were rolling. There was a smattering of people gathered and I began to feel like this wasn't going to be what I'd expected.

I found the guy with the clipboard to check in. He wasn't the one I had spoken with on the phone. As a matter of fact he had no idea who I was and I wasn't on his list of people slated to speak. He said, "We'll try to squeeze you in," as he scribbled my name on the side of the paper on his clipboard. I knew it wasn't going to happen. Anytime anyone says they're going to "try" to do something, it's a definite no.

Someone brought huge signs for us all to hold, the only sign of organization that I could depict. I chose the one that said "real healthcare reform is a public option." I stood in the front row as the news cameras squarely captured my sign.

I held the index cards in my left hand behind the big orange oak tag sign, and I scanned the crowd as people began to speak. There were less than one hundred people there, mostly minorities and college students. As a whole, the crowd looked bedraggled in the sweltering heat. This was not a group of affluent people, nor was it well organized.

For their part, the groups in charge tried to make it seem like a real rally, chanting responsively, "What do we want? - Healthcare. When do we want it? Now!" Had they done it with more conviction to a larger turn out, it might of been effective, but instead it just seemed pitiful.

And where was our representative, Jim Cooper? Well, he certainly wasn't at our "rally," but then again, with such a poor response to such an important issue I don't think his attendance would have changed his position - a position that has fluctuated like a ping pong ball according to those at the rally, leaving us with no exact knowledge of how he's going to vote.

As I'd assumed would be the case, I never got to speak. I lost out to the uninsured amputee in the wheelchair and the lady who can't afford surgery for her uterine polyps. I guess that's as it should be.

By the time we'd said the Pledge of Allegiance and gotten to the third chorus of "This Little Light of Mine" led by a Baptist college student, my eyes were rolling in the back of my head. It was an embarrassment that at this critical moment in history when literally life and death are riding on the choices our legislators are about to make, the best my progressive counterparts could do was a handful of people singing folk songs. Believe me, no one appreciates a well placed folk song as much as I do, but this was not the time for self-soothing.

This is the time for patriotism, the kind of patriotism that says that healthcare reform is more than an economic issue; it's a human rights issue. The kind of patriotism that says it is unacceptable to make healthcare a privilege for the fortunate few who can afford it while the rest of our society perishes. It is time for the kind of patriotism that favors human life over corporate profit margins.

That's what I would have said if I'd had the opportunity.

As Congress returns to Washington, D.C. next week, please call them. Email them. Write them. Flood their offices in the kind of way that makes it clear that this issue will not go away and that in the final analysis they do answer to the people.

Here once again are the links:

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

In Search of...the courage to lead

I am very brave on paper. Really. I can and will say anything that's on my mind or in my heart, and so I've been forthcoming about health care reform in my blog and in my letters to my representatives including the President and his Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel. I have no trouble being outspoken with friends either, especially those who share my political views. That's easy. However, I have never been the one leading the charge.

Don't misunderstand me, I've wanted to lead the charge, but I've just never had the courage. So there I was, sitting at home minding my own business last night, when the phone rang. It was a nice young man named Tom from an organization called Health Care for America Now. He was calling to garner support for an upcoming rally this Thursday. He called the right house. He couldn't get a more enthusiastic supporter for the cause and so we chatted. Before too long he was asking if I would speak at the rally. I hesitated. My palms began sweating. I found the idea of this both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.

There was an internal dialogue going on inside my head that Tom was oblivious to. It went something like this: "Ilene, this is your chance to make a difference and stand up for something you believe in. This is your opportunity to be heard." Then another voice was saying, "Are you out of your mind? You are shy and way too soft-spoken to do any kind of public speaking, especially at a rally." Then the other voice would say, "It's now or never. You have a chance to lead."

Schizophrenic? Hardly. Did I mention that there's a bull horn involved? I started having visions of Sally Field in Norma Rae. Is this who I am? It is my fantasy vision of myself, but not the one I've ever thought I had the capacity to actually carry out. Yet here I am, with the gifts of passion, articulation, and opportunity at a pivotal moment in history. Isn't it incumbent on me to act?
I believe it is. And so I'm awaiting Tom's email with the details for tomorrow.

In the meantime, I'm going to jot down some thoughts and facts - like how my premiums have nearly tripled in the last seven years...and how they almost equal my rent. Oh, and how I had to agree to a rider in order to get coverage in the first place, and so they won't cover anything to do with headaches (which they cause a lot of, so that's really unfair)...and how if I want to increase my out of pocket and deductible to lower my premiums it would be considered a new policy and therefore the pre-existing conditions clause would be in effect for a year and nothing would be covered. Well, I guess I am ready.

I'll report back to you, my trusty readers in detail about how this goes tomorrow. In the meantime, here's what I need YOU to do - get involved. Call your representatives, including the President. Below is the link to the site.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

In Search of...a lot less talk and a little more action

I promise that one day soon I really will blog about the hidden gems and forgotten treasures in my CD collection. However, today is Sunday and if it's Sunday (come on, it's a weekly sing along now) it must be politics day!

I spent most of yesterday watching Ted Kennedy's funeral, and in the wake of his loss, not to mention our national best interest, I feel a moral obligation to rise to the occasion and not surrender the healthcare issue.

In an earlier blog I said that I had done everything I could think of as a regular citizen, but I have thought of some more. After watching Bill Moyers on Real Time with Bill Maher, I was appalled at the notion that our President could possibly forgo genuine healthcare reform that would benefit millions of Americans for the sake of re-election money that would come from the health insurance and drug companies. Bill Moyers suggested that Rahm Emanuel might be telling congressional Democrats to do just that.

Hearing that makes me feel like I've just been betrayed by my best friend. It's the Godfather equivalent of Fredo taking sides against the family. And you can argue that Rahm has taken it on himself to do that, but in the immortal words of our late President Harry S. Truman, "The buck stops here." So as far as I'm concerned, President Obama is responsible.

I don't know what could possibly be going through this administration's mind, and maybe I'm just politically naive, but even with all the money in the world to campaign, don't you need the citizens to actually vote for you? I have never been so thoroughly disheartened or disappointed in the Democratic party in my life, nor have I ever thought about looking elsewhere to vote when the incumbent was a Democrat, but now I am.

So today I'm going to do something I've never done before - write a letter to the President of the United States and to his Chief of Staff. It will not be filled with vitriol, but rather with open-hearted honesty and the sincere hope that they will have the backbone to risk being in office one term if they can accomplish something that will benefit the nation for generations to come.

It is not easy being a leader, but the time for poetic rhetoric must give way to straight talk. It is time for our President to be a President and not a bystander. It's time for him to show some backbone, and if necessary, some teeth. It's time for this administration to remember that we entrusted them with more than ambiguous issues, we entrusted them with our hopes, and dreams, and our very lives. They volunteered. They asked us to.

So let's hold them accountable for the job they signed up for. Let's remind them that we put them there and we can just as easily put someone else there the next times around. The insurance companies and the drug companies can raise our rates, and they can buy politicians air time, but the one thing they cannot do is walk into the voting booth for us on election day.

I urge you all to write and call the White House and remind them whose interests they are there to look out for. Because I like to make activism a little easier for my readers, here's the contact info:

Phone: 202-456-1111
Mailing address: 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20500

Thanks for stopping by. Have a great day!

Friday, August 28, 2009

In Search of...a personal Kennedy story

I'm realizing I've spent some time talking about the Kennedy's and Ted in particular, but after watching the second twenty-four hours of news coverage it's easy to see why. This time I was struck by how many people's lives the Senator personally touched. There was the lady whose husband died on 9/11 to whom he wrote every year, the little girl with a rare disease who lived in Russia and would die without surgery the United States could provide whose grandmother lived in Massechusetts and begged the senator to help get her out. He personally went over there and did. There was the little girl with diabetes whom he called frequently and had testify before Congress. There was our vice president who lost his wife and child and whom he called every single day to comfort and console. There is seemingly no end to the list of ordinary people who reached out for Ted's help and to whom he took it on himself to assist.

As I watched news anchors, fellow senators and regular folks tell tales of their personal encounters with Teddy, I thought to myself, "I got nothing." I never met him, wrote him, or even saw him in person. I did see John Kennedy, Jr. once on the street in Manhattan. It was on the corner of 51st and Broadway. First I glanced like you do at everyone you pass on the street, but then I stopped dead in my tracks, thinking, "Is that...?" Of course in a split second I realized it was, at which point I believe (still momentarily paralyzed) that I drooled. He was stunning. I'm not sure that this counts as an encounter as much as ogling.

I did, however, have one honest to goodness Kennedy encounter which I wrote about in my as yet unpublished book: In Search of George Stephanopoulos - A True Story of Life, Love, and the Pursuit of a Short Greek Guy. And since I'm hoping that when it's out you'll buy it, here's a sample - about my Kennedy encounter.

Seeing Ghosts

Sometime in the early 90’s

Because I was born in 1965, I feel robbed of the right to claim the sixties as my own decade. I missed Camelot and the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, and I was only three when Bobby Kennedy was shot.

Though I have no personal recollection of these events, they shaped my life and values in an undeniable way. When I was in grade school I did book reports on them, when I was in college, term papers. The ideals the Kennedy’s set forth in their speeches are my ideals to this day, and I’m not the only one.

Even forty plus years later, we are still a nation obsessed, perhaps wrongly so, perhaps not, with a legacy that looms larger in death than in life. The highest compliment you can pay a politician even today is to liken them to a Bobby or Jack Kennedy.

I don’t know why people are so shocked and dismayed when celebrities become political activists. They’re citizens first, and it seems only natural to me that people who are passionate about their work would also be passionate about their country, their planet, and their species.

And that’s how I wound up at Sting’s cocktail party.

While I was busy handing out tapes of my songs to practically anyone who would listen (hard to believe that didn’t get me noticed right away), my friend whom I’ll call Roberta had the good sense to get a job working for Sting’s publicist.

Sting had a cause he was passionate about, and that cause was saving the rain forests. And so, thanks to Roberta, I found myself invited to this party at a private club on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. It was a swanky place, one of those clubs that’s usually preceded by the name “Harvard,” “Yale,” or “Princeton,” and oozes quiet conservatism and old money. In other words, it was the perfect place for a bunch of tree-hugging liberals like me to gather and raise money to save the rain forests!

So there I was, roaming around with my friend Roberta, both of us dressed in quintessential cocktail attire – little black dress and terribly uncomfortable shoes with stiletto heels that could double as lethal weapons if necessary.

We sipped wine and ate hors d’oeuvres while inconspicuously milling about nodding at rock stars, talk show personalities, and politicians who looked like they felt equally uncomfortable waiting for Sting to arrive.

Roberta and I walked into the room where Sting would be making his appeal. There were round tables set up with white linen tablecloths and as everyone else began drifting into the room, Roberta and I picked a table and stood near it. I don’t know why people never sit down at these things.

When the speeches began we were all still standing and I was happy to have a place other than my aching feet to direct my attention. I was oblivious to everything and everyone around me except Sting, who had finally arrived and was speaking at the front of the room. He spoke so softly that he was barely audible, and my gaze was so transfixed on him that I hadn’t noticed anyone who had gathered at our table until the speeches were over and I turned around to find Roberta.

I know I’ve talked a lot about celebrities – seeing them, writing to them, meeting them, even wanting to date one of them. And I know I have downplayed their celebrityness. But there’s famous and then there’s FAMOUS. There’s “I think you look kind of familiar,” and then there’s “Oh my God, you are the spitting image of a man who ran for President,” someone I read about in history books who believed that we could be “a nation that spends more on books than on bombs, more on hospitals than the terrible tools of war, more on decent houses than military aircraft.” There’s famous…and then there’s Kennedy.

When I turned around to talk to Roberta I saw him next to me and gasped. Audibly. I thought I was seeing the ghost of Bobby Kennedy, but instead I was standing next to Robert Kennedy, Jr. and his wife.

There are some moments in life for which we are just splendidly unprepared, and meeting Robert Kennedy, Jr. was definitely one of them. I was more than just a wee bit embarrassed by my completely uninhibited reaction to him, particularly the loud gasping part, but I’m sure this wasn’t the first time that happened…or the last. The resemblance was astounding.

I tried to regain some composure so as not to look like the total dork that I am, but I really didn’t have to worry about that because Robert Kennedy, Jr. and his wife were among the nicest, most soft-spoken and down to earth people I have ever met and it was a non-issue immediately.

What was an issue in that evening’s discussion with them was the rain forests, children and clean air and water, and how late the hour was getting and how nice it was to meet everyone. Then we all dispersed and worked our way over toward the line of people waiting to have their individual two second audience with the Pope, I mean Sting.
So that was my personal Kennedy story. Thanks for stopping by and please tell your friends.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

In Search of...a different tribute blog

So it turns out that you can't submit pieces to a newspaper if they're on your blog. Who knew?...which is why you are not reading what I've written about Teddy Kennedy yesterday. It's my hope that you'll actually be reading it in print. Print - you remember that antiquated idea of an actual newspaper...where you fold it just right so you can read it while standing up on the subway and getting your hands covered in ink by the time you get to work? Ah yes, it's a glorious thing!

Anyway, I've been spending the last twenty-four hours like most of you probably have, immersed in non-stop coverage of the life and times of Senator Edward M. Kennedy. It's not usual for me to refer to our elected officials without their hard won titles, if for no reason than out of respect for the offices they hold. However, it is difficult not to refer to Senator Kennedy as "Teddy" even though I am not a colleague, a relative, or a close personal friend. Maybe it's hard to look at any Kennedy as formally as we should, so embedded in our psyches are they. The photos of them that we've seen for decades could just as easily be our own family photos, and in some cases I have an easier time naming all of the Kennedy's than I do my own relatives, but that's besides the point. We have come to know Joe and Rose and their children as if we are talking about people we hold near and dear to our hearts. And maybe that's fitting.

How many of us have lost three sons in service to our country? Who could imagine the horror and the grief of such public atrocities as the way in which Jack and Bobby died? And then it all came down to the youngest son, Teddy - both the burden and the privilege of being the patriarch, the one to whom all could turn and the one on whom all relied. I've often wondered how Teddy got up in the morning. Did he fear for his own life? Does the next generation?

In recent years the word "liberal" has become one that most democrats have shied away from in favor of "centrist," mostly because republicans say it with such disgust and disdain that being coined a "liberal" is akin to having leprosy. But not to Teddy, the liberal lion. He wore the label of "liberal" proudly, and because I grew up with those "liberal" values of equality for all (as opposed to equality for all who can afford it, or equality for all white men) ingrained in my psyche, I too wear the label of "liberal" proudly. But now it's time to do something with those liberal Ted Kennedy values - like pass substantive healthcare reform.

In watching all the footage of Teddy, while I am struck by his booming voice, his smile, and his charisma, I am struck more by his unrelenting sense of purpose. I am struck by his ability to look people squarely in the eye and disagree. I am amazed at his ability to take people to task for their actions and their positions. I am in awe of his ability not to waver, not to falter, and not stray from who he is and what he believes at his core. And though his flaws as a human being have at times far overshadowed his gifts, I am inspired by the courage he showed to take responsibility for them and to spend the remainder of his days trying to exemplify what redemption looks like.

So I aspire to be like Teddy in ways as seemingly small as speaking up with confidence and conviction, and ways as big as using my life to make something better and being that person who can be counted on by those I love.

Life is a ripple effect. What we do matters. It reverberates out into the world in ways that we can't begin to imagine from our current vantage point. Maybe Teddy knew this. Maybe he didn't and he just did the best he could with what he had from where he was.

While we can take comfort in the fact that at least one Kennedy boy of that generation lived to see old age and die of natural causes, he left so much undone. Really the only fitting tribute we can pay him is to be the voice for whom he was the voice, and to finish the work he started.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.