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.