Sunday, June 28, 2009

In Search of...a healing spirit

So it's Sunday and I'm sitting in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania with my friends, Anthony and Renato, sipping coffee, looking at baby deer a few feet away, and watching This Week with George Stephanopoulos - not exactly a bad way to start the day.

I'm trying to pay attention to what George's guests have to say today, but the mountain air makes me feel something I seldom do - blissfully calm and serene, and besides I have the distinct feeling that they're saying nothing anyway, at least nothing I haven't already heard many times before. So I pretend to pay attention to David Axelrod and Senator Charles Grassley while really just studying their faces, which I notice are completely devoid of joy let alone humor, and I think that's a shame. And though the crises of the day seem insurmountable, I am sure they can't be solved by joyless people...which got me thinking about the spirit with which we approach our lives.

Then This Week moved on to the roundtable, which I paid little more attention to than I did the earlier body of the show...until they got to the celebrity passings of the week. Something about the incongruity of listening to people like Peggy Noonan talk about Michael Jackson with such reverence and nostalgia made me laugh, but it also reminded me that not only is music still the great unifier, but the healing nature and universality of it, as well as the spirit of those who create it, continue to move the mountains of our cynicism, intolerance, and inaction, because in truth "we are the world," and "there is a choice we're making," to save our own lives, and music remains the one acceptable place to have big dreams and broad visions for humanity, and to bring people together in reality, not just in theory.

So maybe it would be a good thing for Congress to take out their Bic lighters and sing a rousing chorus of We Are the World before deciding on healthcare or any other big issues. Maybe the spirit with which we approach things big and small determines the outcome as much as anything else does.

And so today, as I am caught up in revisiting the music of my generation, I am taking a deep breath and choosing to be a voice for healing, love, compassion, and peace. I hope you will do the same.

Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, June 26, 2009

In Search of...some celebrity farewells

It's been an odd week, and one rife with enough drama and tragedy to trump any made for TV movie anyone could possibly fabricate.

Amid a bad economy and discussions of healthcare reform, we've seen horrifying images of an Iranian government massacring their own citizens in the streets for dissenting from those in power. We've seen the rare cancellation and happy ending of an amber alert for two children who were found a day later unharmed and in good condition somewhere on the Appalachian trail where we'd still be looking for Mark Sanford had he not come clean about being in Argentina with his mistress. We're still treading uncertainly with an unstable leader in North Korea who would rather figure out how to deliver bombs than feed his own people. And lastly, we've lost three very familiar faces whose departure marked in some ways the end of something in each of our lives that we would rather not have said goodbye to.

I spend a lot of time pondering the meaning and lessons that can be gleaned from personal loss, and for those not interested in pop culture I'm sure it is baffling why the loss of Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, and Michael Jackson would be personal at all, or mean anything of importance to any of us, but they do, and here's why: we relate these people to a time in our lives. And in Michael Jackson's case, he was a very real part of the soundtrack of many of our lives. The clothes and hairstyles we were wearing, the people we were in love with, and the dreams we had for our own futures are inextricably intertwined with these public figures and their work, and so their deaths feel personal.

Though Ed McMahon lived a pretty long time and a seemingly good life, his passing marks the end of an era that somehow was still within reach as long as he was alive - it was the era of Johnny Carson. Truthfully, I've thought Ed was the luckiest guy on the planet to have a career based on no discernable talent whatsoever other than being able to say, "Here's Johnny." But Johnny Carson was as much a part of my life as coffee...something I have every day, and somehow Ed McMahon's passing put a final end to that staple I grew up with. It is now solely a thing of the past that can only be revisited on reissued DVD collections, but will always be viewed with a tinge of melancholy.

Then there was Farrah Fawcett, someone who surprised us all more at the end of her life then at the height of her superstardom. I could talk about how she had the biggest selling poster ever or how she symbolized the all American girl next door, or how her enviable hair and bright perfect smile became the thing a generation of girls, myself included, aspired to, but all those things are trumped by her courage, zest for life, and willingness to be publically vulnerable and put a very real face on cancer. And seeing Ryan O'Neal by her side through it all makes their thirty year love affair one of the great romances of all time, in my opinion. Her documentary showed a bravery that I don't think I remotely possess, and for all her commercial sex appeal, I think that her bravery was and will remain the most attractive thing about her.

I was in midtown Manhattan last night when I heard the news of Michael Jackson's death. For some reason it didn't surprise me like it seemed to everyone else. I always knew he would die young, and the circumstances, though at this time still a little sketchy, are pretty irrelevant. He's gone.

At first I thought I must be in shock because I didn't feel anything in particular, but then I realized that I've always considered him a tortured soul in an unhappy life, and his death might be the first chance he's had to know any kind of peace. Maybe heaven for Michael Jackson is total anonymity. Maybe he's in a place now where no one needs him to sing and dance for his supper. Maybe he can walk down a street somewhere in solitude. God knows he never had that in his life here on earth.

For all the criticism and speculation in Michael's adult years, I've often wondered how he could have turned out any differently. He never had a childhood. His own massive talent was rewarded by all accounts by an abusive father cracking the whip so to speak...or maybe literally, who knows. So while we were all blissfully dancing around our little bedrooms to the Jackson 5, they were working their butts off, giving up the opportunity to be kids, let alone normal ones. And maybe fame and fortune is reward enough for some people, but a child as young as Michael Jackson was when he started has no ability to make that determination, and by the time he reached adulthood, what else did he know?

And as for all the allegations of child molesting, we'll never know for sure. The only ones who know for sure are the ones who were there, and I've always had my doubts about the veracity of the allegations, not because he was a celebrity, but because of a parent who would leave their child with a stranger to begin with, famous or not, and one who would take a cash settlement and walk away. If I had a child and someone abused them, no amount of money would silence me or make me stop until that person was behind bars. And because that didn't happen, I've always wondered about it. But that's just me.

As we say goodbye to the emcee, the actress/sex symbol, and the pop icon, I think it would be a fitting tribute if we took a cue from one of Michael Jackson's songs - "If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change." - (Man in the Mirror)

I don't know the religious or spiritual beliefs of any of these three celebrities who died this week. However, my own beliefs are that they are in a better place, free of the physical, psychological, and often very public emotional pain that they knew in this lifetime. So to all of them I say, "Rest in peace."

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

In Search of...a good comeback

So it's been weeks since I've blogged, and we have so much to catch up on! First of all, my April 14th blog about the diner has made me somewhat of a local least at one New York diner...where the owners put a copy of the blog in every menu. I don't know why that tickles me so much, but it truly does.

And keeping with the theme of food as well as shameless self-promotion, the video for "Costco Queen" is now available on iTunes and word has it that it will be advertised in future Costco store catalogs! The song, written by me and Sue Fabisch, is in the hit show Motherhood the Musical, which will have another limited run in the fall of this year and make its worldwide debut in 2010.

So where have I been and what have I been doing absent blogging? I've been recording with a very talented fifteen year old in Nashville. And while she was in town recording, she was nice enough to help me set up a MySpace page, so if you'd like to hear some of my music, please check it out at and if you'd like to hear different songs, you can also go to which I started setting up myself last night - which is why there's nothing on it but songs yet. Hey, gotta start somewhere.

So in summation (and shockingly) - I can now be found here (at the trusty blog), Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and Reverb Nation...not to mention my yet to be updated website! Not bad for someone who just started texting on her cell phone a couple of weeks ago! I'm sure that these sites will be expanded and updated as I get new pictures in July and August and finish more recordings. But for now, at least I can be found!

Okay, I'm done talking about me, me, me! It's time to get back to something that sort of matters - healthcare and politics. Oh yes, I've missed a couple of weeks of ranting and raving and waxing poetic about the human condition, and what an opportune time to return to it as our President tries to accomplish what no one before him has been able to. (God love him.)

Sunday's This Week with George Stephanopoulos saw lively discussion about healthcare reform - by Senators, the roundtable, etc. The only problem with that is that everyone talking about it has good healthcare coverage, especially Congress...which is why it infuriates me when they say the cost of covering every citizen is too high. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq aren't too expensive? Somehow we find the money for that...and for AIG, the auto industry, and banks. But for the American people who have footed the bill for all of those things, we can't get decent healthcare? Every member of Congress should be ashamed of themselves. I have stood at the pharmacy and watched elderly people leave the medications they needed behind because they couldn't pay for them. I myself have borrowed money to pay for prescriptions that were in the hundreds of dollars that I didn't have. Drug companies profit on illness and insurance companies profit on premiums that they take in before denying coverage to those that pay in. I can say that because I fall into that category. I've had to say to a neurologist, "I can't see you because Blue Cross won't cover my visit to you or the migraine medication you prescribe." I'm not someone who actually believes in hell, but if I did, there'd be a special place in it for health insurance companies...and a Congress who chooses not to represent the people who put them there to look out for their interests. It is a sin and an awful truth that in a country that boasts of "the American dream" and "good values" we let people live or die based on how much money they have.

How to rectify this. Well, first of all, for any real change to occur, there has to be a shift in our basic philosophy about healthcare to begin with. Since politicians are so fond of catchphrases and terms, they need to take the word "industry" far far away from the word "healthcare," because as long as it remains a for profit business, there is no way anything will significantly change in our capitalist society. Keeping people alive and healthy should not be something that is done for monetary gain. And drugs that cost pennies to produce should not be costing the average person hundreds of dollars while we are being prohibited from getting our drugs from other countries that don't do the name of our best interests, of course.

So tonight our President will be talking about healthcare in prime time on ABC - a smart move to garner support and action from the American people as much as it is to inform and educate us. I have my own ideas about accomplishing this. It generally involves Rahm Emanuel having closed door meetings with each individual member of Congress in which he vigorously beats them about the head until they beg to go pass a sweeping and just universal healthcare program. The President could be out on one of his spur of the moment burger runs while Rahm's "persuading" Congress to come to their senses. That's my idea. Rahm. He's my guy for this.

And when it's all done and fabulous - we can all resurrect our "Yes, we did!" tee shirts and bumper stickers. And Secretary of State Hillary can shed a tear of joy with the rest of us and say, "Finally!"

Thanks for stopping by. It's good to be back. Please tell your friends.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

In Search of...a simple solution

It's Sunday, and if it's Sunday (come on, sing it with me), it must be politics day!

So George Stephanopoulos had an exclusive interview with our Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton this morning, and those of you who know me personally know that little could make me happier than seeing a Clinton and Stephanopoulos on the same screen.

On the agenda was our relationship with the Muslim world, nuclear arms and Iran, North Korea - the sale of weapons, and the journalists on trial there, Israel's security, and being asked by President Obama, her former rival, to serve as Secretary of State in the first place. Whew! That's a mouthful, to be sure.

Let's start with the Muslim world and Obama's speech to them this week in Egypt. I just want to say, "Bravo!!" to our President. What a brave and much needed thing to do. Here's an excerpt:

"I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles – principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.

I do so recognizing that change cannot happen overnight. No single speech can eradicate years of mistrust, nor can I answer in the time that I have all the complex questions that brought us to this point. But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly the things we hold in our hearts, and that too often are said only behind closed doors. There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground."

Needless to say, the Republicans hated it, and the President drew fire from everyone across the board who would rather sustain hatred, intolerance, and isolationism than sit at a table and look those we disagree with in the eye, even if it means agreeing to disagree.

I want to bring in the other topics I mentioned at the top, if for no other reason than to point out that it is impossible to please everyone or possibly anyone if you happen to be the President of the United States now. It was clear from the Secretary of State's demeanor that every effort is being made to get the two female journalists out of North Korea. It was also clear that the United States is assessing every possible contingency for who might be leading North Korea, and yet all this clarity was transmitted without laying out our specific strategies or making antagonizing statements. How refreshing!

As for accepting the job of Secretary of State, it was clear to me that Hillary would have had a much easier life had she just returned to the Senate and her life, but as she put it, when the President calls and asks you to serve your country, you'd have to have a really good reason to say, "No." And so there she was, looking tired but fully composed.

So the round table got me thinking about how impossible it is to please people. When the President appoints Republicans as in the most recent case of former Congressman Jim Leach, the right accuses him of pilfering and the left doesn't want him to be that bi-partisan. When it comes to the Supreme Court nominee, the right doesn't want someone who may rule in favor of minorities, and the left doesn't think she's liberal enough. When it comes to healthcare reform, the right thinks everything (not just healthcare) should remain privatized, for profit, and unregulated, and the left (including me) doesn't think he will go far enough to make the sweeping changes to get universal healthcare that we need (and that most other countries have).

All this has gotten me thinking - when no one seems to be pleased with what you're doing, what do you do? There is a simple solution which is easy when you're not the one getting it on all sides - do what you think and feel and believe is the right thing to do. If no one is going to be happy with you, then do what will give you a clear conscience and a good night's sleep. Do the best you can with what you have from where you are.

I would like to draw inspiration and courage from a President who seems to be doing that. I would like to think that I could do that myself, but I know how difficult it is to drown out the voices of negativity and deceit. I would like to propose that those who criticize - on both sides of the aisle - try serving others as much as they enjoy talking and taunting. I think the noise would die down considerably when constructive action replaced hot air.

On a closing note I wanted to mention the two part TV special that aired this week called Inside the Obama White House. It was a good glimpse into a world of hard working, thoughtful, intelligent, and committed people who put their country before themselves (and enjoy the occasional good hamburger). It was a chance to see a place where history and modernity live harmoniously side by side. It made me want to learn more, serve more, and be more...and that's no small accomplishment for a two hour TV special. So kudos to Brian Williams and the good people at NBC...which I hardly ever mention because George Stephanopoulos is on ABC.

Enjoy the rest of your Sunday, everyone. Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

In Search of...answered prayers, part 2

A little over a week ago I wrote about prayer and mentioned the share of it that I had been doing for the two friends with cancer who were both having surgery the same day. Yesterday turned out to be a big news day for both of them - one passed away, and the other found out that her cancer had not spread and was removed entirely. Ironically, both outcomes provided relief and release, though in the case of the children left without a father, there lives will be utterly and irrevocably changed from the lives they would have had had he lived.

This brings me to the thing we all grapple with most about prayer - making sense of things when the answer to a prayer is "No." And it doesn't have to be about life and death things either. There are many people I know whose lives took a different path than their dreams. Heck, mine has too, come to think of it. There's the athlete with Olympic aspirations whose injury sent her on a completely different trajectory, first to coaching and then to law enforcement, where she saved, both directly and indirectly, untold numbers of lives. So maybe a gold medal is nice and gets you some good endorsements and public speaking engagements, but it doesn't impact humanity in the same way. And who's to say that being an athlete, injured or not, didn't help cultivate the inner strength needed to save those lives later on?

What about when the "no" is there to make you try harder, rise to the occasion and get to "yes" all by yourself, without crutches or victimization? What about the growth and expansion of character that come from hard times and hard work? And how do you know how to differentiate between a dead end and a door that takes a little more elbow grease to open?

These are tough questions that I don't have all the answers to. But what I do know is that they're worth asking. Prayer is of value, not because the answer is always "yes," but because the questions are worth asking, and the desires we hope to manifest are worthy ones. So maybe prayer is just a comfort, a way to connect to a universe that is larger than we are. Maybe it's a conscious calling forth of all the power that there is, both within us and outside of us. Whatever it is for you, I hope that your prayers are answered in such a way that you grow in spirit and know the magnificent amount of love, intelligence, abundance, talent, compassion, and power that comprises each and every single human being.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

In Search of...some more Aaron Sorkin

As I anxiously awaited the arrival of my final disc of Sports Night from Netflix yesterday, it occurred to me that most people's idea of the perfect setting they visualize themselves in when they need escape probably involves white sandy beaches and ocean waves lapping at their feet. There might be breathtaking sunsets and cool breezes, and while I truly love all those things, I tend to have a different setting in mind altogether.

Anyone who knows me for five minutes (or less) knows that I refer to The West Wing, seasons 1-4 as my "happy place." And indeed for the eight years of the Bush administration it was my only happy place, the alternate universe created by Aaron Sorkin to which I retreated where the people in charge of running the country were all highly intelligent...and funny, and fought tirelessly for the same things I believe in. There were no unnecessary wars being waged, and all in all I could rest easy at night knowing that Jed Bartlet, a Nobel Prize winning economist and good hearted soul, was at the helm.

When West Wing ended, it wasn't long before Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip began, and I had another chance to fall in love with a group of talented people - this time making a Saturday Night Live type TV show. It was a short lived romance that lasted only one season because, well, because people were more interested in "reality" shows like The Bachelor, or The Bachelorette - two prime examples that evolution is reversing and heading straight for Neanderthal.

So there I was, with only my DVD collection to grant me any solace. There I could immerse myself in dialogue that sings like a symphony, with exact rhythms and melodies that must be executed perfectly in order to work. There I could always learn something new, like you should never toast with a glass of water, and I could come away inspired to be my best and smartest self. The juxtaposition of the words themselves read like sheer poetry. Those are the worlds I wanted to live in - the fictitious ones created by Aaron Sorkin.

And lest we forget Mr. Sorkin's big screen contributions, there's A Few Good Men, The American President, and Charlie Wilson's War.

But somehow I never saw Sports Night, the Emmy Winning TV series about a nightly ESPN type show that lasted two seasons. I can tell you why I never saw it when it initially aired - it had "sports" in the title. Generally things with "sports" in the title elicit a big "Who cares?" from me...unless there's figure skating or winter sports like lugeing involved, but I digress...and I'm not kidding about lugeing either. So I ordered the show on Netflix, not really knowing what to expect from Aaron Sorkin's first foray into TV. Needless to say, I found another happy place to which I can retreat.

So I'm off to start my day with a dose of "happy." And I'm hoping that wherever he is, Aaron Sorkin's working feverishly on his next project. I can't wait.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Monday, June 1, 2009

In Search of...some positive thinking

I was watching Joel Osteen last night for a few minutes. Yes, it's surprising to many that I watch a TV preacher at all, but it's true nevertheless. Sometimes I just need to have someone remind me that there's an unseen power working for me and not against me if I would allow it. People call that unseen power a variety of things, but for most of us that unseen energy source is simply referred to as God. Sometimes it's refreshing to hear that negativity, pessimism and victimhood are not our natural state and that there's an alternative to it that requires a little effort on our part. Sometimes it's a breath of fresh air to hear that our futures may contain more goodness than we could possibly imagine if we would believe in the possibility of that.

Maybe it's challenging to start off Monday morning with these big yet simple ideas, but I don't want last week to be the same as this week. I want it to be better. And there's a way for that to happen that requires something of me, something different than I did last week. First it will require me allowing for the possibility that this week can be better than last week. Second it will require me thinking differently as I go about my day, and acting differently in terms of what I choose to do. There's that great definition of insanity that goes something like - insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. So I figure if I do something, anything differently, then I'm going to get a different result.

This may all sound like fluff to you, my trusty blog readers, but I challenge you to think, see, and speak only positively and see how tough it is to do in our current world. You cannot turn on the news or read a paper and come away positive. Even TV shows and movies are built on the drama of calamity of one sort or another. We live in a society that's hellbent on reveling in how bad things are. So I think it's holding onto what is good, and hopeful, and positive that presents the real challenge, and it is a challenge that we are thirsting for.

So let's do it. Let's start by focusing on five things we're grateful for and see what the simple shift to gratitude does for us. Then, throughout the day, let's be mindful of what thoughts we're thinking and what we're saying. This may take some doing because our attitudes and choice of words are as much habit as anything else, but I'm determined to do it nevertheless.

We'll see how the week progresses. Let me know how yours does too and if this makes a difference. Maybe we'll start a trend.

Have a positive, great day. Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.