Friday, December 31, 2010

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

Today is the last day of 2010, and like many people, I suppose I will be spending it keeping busy in order to avoid those gnawing feelings of melancholy that accompany the passage of another year gone by. It seems that the older I get, the more quickly time is going by. I’m reminded of this because I’m watching a celebrity make up artist who has probably become a multi-millionaire by designing concealer that will mask any flaw or sign of aging that you might have and will not budge for five days. I believe in other circles they call this spackling or repaving, but for beauty purposes we call it concealing.

But for now I wish not to conceal anything. I wish to view myself, if only for a brief moment, with no cover up, no mask, cosmetic or otherwise, and no holds barred.

Yes, for a brief moment on this last day of 2010, I choose to take stock and give thanks, to inhale one final deep breath in and to exhale a past that I can do nothing to change in order so that I may let in a future of bright possibility.

This year has been one of massive transition. It has seen a move across the country, a chance to regroup and rethink my life’s direction. It has seen some “almosts,” some celebrations, and some loss. I have published a book, created a website, and had the opportunity to inspire people in ways I both know and don’t know about because I had the courage to move forward with no promise of success or reward, with just the inner prodding of that voice that knows more than I frequently listen to.

I have seen flood waters ravage the city I lived in, but not the spirit of the people who inhabit it. I shared both moments of triumph and despair with dear friends. And I have lost a dear friend, too.

As 2011 approaches, I am grateful for the chance to start fresh, to take stock of what is valuable to me, and to think about what is worthy of a resolution. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

I resolve…
To live more by faith than by circumstance
To begin each day in a state of gratitude for the gift that it is
And surrender to a more loving spirit that seeks my greatest good

I resolve…
To allow myself to take in my own worthiness
To choose love over fear
Belief over doubt
Joy over worry

I resolve…
To let go of the past without losing its valuable lessons
To step into my own power
To shower the world with the best that I have to offer

I resolve…
To make peace with the body I was given

I resolve…
To maintain the values of integrity and trust

I resolve…
To rejoice in the present moment
To empower everyone I can
To see a world more at peace, more filled with love, and more full of promise…because I am.

Whatever it is you wish for yourself in 2011, I hope you receive it. Thank you for stopping by, and for allowing me to share who I am with you. I am so grateful. Happy New Year!!!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

In Search favorite 80's movies

First a bit of business: I've been trying to add this blog to my Facebook page with something called Networked Blogs, and I fear that I've either done it about twenty times, which might conceivably annoy my followers, or not at all, which is not going to increase my readership any. Technical genius that I am (not), I suppose I will find out when one or more of you tells me if this indeed pops up on your news feed.

Lately some of the channels have been running 80's movies, and it's been a while since I've watched such cinematic gems as The Breakfast Club, St. Elmo's Fire and basically any Brat Pack movie containing Ally Sheedy or Judd Nelson. Of course, me being me, I have a special fondness in my heart for Emilio Estevez since he wrote and directed the movie Bobby. But that was decades later, and I digress. Back then he was "the jock" or the guy hopelessly in love with Andi MacDowell.

So in between incessant sneezing from a cold that came and went and then came back again, I have been watching many, many 80's movies, and ones I'd forgotten were 80's movies. If for some reason you've missed any of these, or forgotten about them, or just needed a little prodding to take a stroll down memory lane, here's my list of favorites.

I warn you in advance that I am prone to the cheesy, the sappy, the low brow, on occasion, and it seems the 80's were a decade rife with those kinds of movies. Get your Netflix queue ready, boys and girls. Here we go!

Dirty Dancing
When Harry Met Sally
Working Girl
Beverly Hills Cop
White Nights
Legal Eagles
About Last Night
Breakfast Club
Mystic Pizza
Top Gun
Jumpin' Jack Flash
Little Darlings
Absence of Malice
Crossing Delancey
Next of Kin
Steel Magnolias
The Karate Kid

So if you're not doing anything this New Year's weekend, make some popcorn and watch an old friend. Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, December 24, 2010

In Search of...a Christmas Eve blog

Yes, the tree is trimmed, the lights are lit, and the stockings are hung - oh, not in my house. Here we've got a menorah that needs to be put away, but in most other homes around here, that is the case.

It is no secret that I love Christmas - well, all the pagan rituals like the trees and lights, that is. I am a huge fan of carols as well as peace on earth, good will toward men (and women). But mostly I am grateful to have made it through another year and still be surrounded by people I love. Yes, I get all sappy and sentimental this time of year, taking stock as the new year fast approaches, of the things that transpired, both that which I accomplished and that which I did not. I think it's good for everyone to take stock every once in a while, because we often do far more than we stop and give ourselves credit for.

For instance, I published a book this year. Now, normally one might say, "Well, what's the big whoop about that?" But since I did not publish said book the ten previous years, I guess it is something to be acknowledged and celebrated...even if George Stephanopoulos is not having me over for Christmas dinner. He does have my book.

So this Christmas Eve, as I leave to spend it with friends as close to me as family, I am relishing the moment, knowing that in the blink of an eye, it will be next Christmas Eve and I will be in a different place in my life.

To all of you who are celebrating the birth of Jesus, I wish you a blessed Christmas. To those of us who are jealous, I say partake of all the festivities anyway. Jesus walked this earth loving unconditionally, and that's something we could all stand to learn how to do. May the meaning of peace, joy, and love be known to us all that we may embody it so the world can be as it was meant to be.

Merry Christmas to you all.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

In Search of...some political Christmas miracles

Well, it turns out the lame duck session of Congress wasn’t lame at all. 9/11 first responders will have funding for healthcare (thank you, Jon Stewart), unemployment will continue for those many unfortunate souls still in need of a job, and at long last “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has been repealed. Oh boys and girls, and children of all ages, it’s a Christmas miracle!

And to boot, the President said he’s persistent and will not give up on the Dream Act, and perhaps he meant it. He did have conviction in his voice, after all. Now it’s off to Hawaii for a little R&R for the man who’s got John Boehner to deal with as Speaker of the House when the new Congress resumes. May God be with President Obama on that one. If I were him, I’d start the first sit down by offering him a Kleenex. But that’s just me.

So it’s Christmas, and along with the political miracles in Washington, D.C., George Stephanopoulos has wished me a happy holiday in response to my email wishing him the same. See, there is a Santa Claus.

Well, it’s time for some holiday baking, gift wrapping, and Christmas movie watching. Here’s hoping the new Congress is as productive as the lame duck one was.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

In Search of...the Christmas spirit

I have been driving around listening to my Christmas CD's and getting things ready for the holiday season. I love wishing people a merry Christmas or happy holiday, and yes, I am sickeningly into the festivities. It's my favorite time of year. But this is not so for everyone.

Some people are depressed and unhappy during the holiday season. To them it represents some tragedy that occurred, or the absence of a loved one, or the things that are missing in their lives. I heard one lady say with great intensity at the dry cleaners, "Bad things always happen during the holidays."

I got to thinking about what this could mean for this stranger. Clearly, it must have been something traumatic, and my mind went wild with the possibilities. I silently wished her relief from whatever it was that terrorized her during the season. And so I'm encouraging you, my dear readers, to take a moment during your frenzy to send loving thoughts to those who are hurting this holiday season. To those who have been out of work and don't have money for gifts for their children, to those who are homeless, hungry, and alone. To those who may not know how to appreciate what they do have, even when it is a lot by most of the world's standards.

Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, an innocent baby who would grow up to be an example of what unconditional love looks like, even in the face of betrayal and death. We all start out with that same innocence, and not one of us is immune to betrayal and death. But what we do with the time in between our birth and that death is what determines the measure of our lives. Will it be to make something better? Will it be to forgive someone, even at the moment of our death? Whatever your belief is, this is a good time to reflect on the innocence that is our birthright. I know many religions believe we are born in sin. I personally do not believe that. I believe we are born with a clean slate, as clean as that of Jesus. And as we honor that innocence in ourselves, we can honor it in others.

Gift giving has become an obligatory and therefore, dreaded thing, when really it should be a way to say, "I honor you. I appreciate you." It would be nice and more meaningful if we said those words to one another. But we are not that courageous or direct when it comes to saying nice things. Mean things we seem to have no problem with, but nice things are interpreted as some sign of weakness or vulnerability. So I'm hoping to start a new trend. I am saying to the people in my life, including whoever is reading this, "I love and value you." I wish you a Christmas filled with love, and the ability to enjoy every minute of it.

As for me, I've got some carolling to do. Thanks for stopping by.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

In Search of...the answer to my prayers

I got an email from one of my cousins. You know the kind to which I'm referring, the ones that make their way around containing a moving story of someone in dire circumstances who is miraculously helped by unseen forces. Yes, these usually move me to tears, but after reading so many of them over the years, the originality has sort of worn off, and I find myself thinking, blah, blah, blah, I've heard it all before. But this one, along with the moving story of an impoverished lady and her children at Christmas, contained a tidbit about prayers and how they are answered, and that morsel, if you will, changed my way of thinking and released me.

We've all heard that when we pray, sometimes the answer is "no." But that is not the case. According to the wise originator of the email I received, the answer is always one of three things:

1) Yes!
2) Not yet.
3) I have something better in mind.

Someone close to me recently told me she was unhappy in the new job she took, but she felt that in these tough economic times, she had no business either feeling unhappy or quitting any job. So she prayed. She asked God for a sign. The next day, she went in to work and was told the company suffered some setbacks and she was being laid off at the end of the week. She was thrilled. Asked and answered. I, on the other hand, have been in limbo for months, afraid that asking for what I really want would just not yield that kind of immediate and happy result.

But what if those three answers above are true? What if the only answers are yes, not yet, or I have something better in mind? What if God, or the Universe, or whatever you want to call that entity is itching to bless me with either what I want or things better than I could even imagine? Wouldn't that be great?!!

So I'm going to conduct a little experiment. Instead of praying I don't get struck by an oncoming truck or washed away in a tsunami or any other catastrophe I can think of, I'm going to ask for a life that's better than I have the capacity to imagine right now. This may take a little practice, because, after all, I've had a lifetime of believing that pending doom is just around the corner. But I'm willing to make a go of it. I'm willing to try thinking about things another way. At the least, I'll feel better believing in a God that only wants to give me good things. This would be in direct contradiction to the God that is smiting everyone in the Old Testament and making his chosen people wander around in a desert for 40 years. No wonder I'm always waiting for doom. That's what He did to the people he liked.

Anyway, I wish you all the answer to your own prayers. I'll let you know how mine turn out. May all of us know the joy of saying, "This is so much better than I imagined!"

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

In Search first stump speech

It's been forever since I've blogged about politics. I've been busy with holidays, and unpacking, the loss of a friend, and the conclusion of Dancing with the Stars. Yes, it's been a busy time, which normally wouldn't stop me from waxing political, but I've been so disheartened lately that I haven't wanted to talk about politics much.

On Thanksgiving weekend there was a beautiful interview from the White House with the President and First Lady. I loved seeing the grandure of the location, and I wanted to feel that old familiar awe and admiration for this man who took so many of our hopes and dreams with him into that beautiful place. I wanted to convince myself that he was doing a good job, the best one he could do under the worst set of circumstances imaginable. I longed to feel reinvigorated as I searched for proof of a backbone I haven't seen exercised very much, and I tried my hardest to convince myself that President Obama was representing me the best he could and knew how. The only problem was I didn't believe it.

I think there is a difference between compromising and conceding, and thus far I've seen the latter. The banks are doing better and the public is doing worse. We've got healthcare reform with no public option and no structured oversight or serious regulations or ramifications for the insurance companies. Gays still can't serve openly in the military. Now we're arguing about taxes. The President wants to grant an extension of the Bush tax cuts to everyone including the wealthiest in exchange for extending unemployment for another 13 months. Why are those two things in the same sentence? They shouldn't be. Let the Republicans have to come out and stand in front of declining unemployment benefits while people don't have food to eat. Call them on their bluff. But that would take backbone.

As for the tax cuts for the wealthy, here's what I have to say about that. When you watch children playing in the sandbox, some willingly want to share their toys and others will not unless it is plucked from their greedy little hands by a grownup. Some wealthy people will gladly pay their share of taxes because they know that that is the price they pay for living the American dream. Others will not willingly give unless they are forced to. Unfortunately, those are the ones who scream loudest and they get the ear of politicians who rely on their donations for future political campaigns.

"Oh Ilene, you're being so cynical!" you say. No, I'm being honest. And just when I was about to lose hope in my party altogether, I'm reminded that 54 Democrats are opposing the President's "compromise." It's about time.

And just when I'm weeping with disappointment about President Obama, there's Anthony Weiner on TV being, well, Anthony Weiner. And I'm reminded that there are still a handful of people who share my beliefs and political ideals, and at least one of them is in Congress.

This brings me to my stump speech. I really think it's time I run for Congress myself. Oh, it's not because I love the press, the cameras, the handshaking, and fundraising. It's because I have realized that for as shy as I am, I will not back down when the going gets tough. Hell, I've been in the music business for nearly twenty-five years. How much worse can politics be?! And also, in the interest of full disclosure, let me be completely honest - I need health insurance and I hear Congress does pretty well in that regard. So there you go. I could live longer and fight the good fight. I would ask one question before deciding how I cast my votes on the floor: Will this be good for the poor, the working poor, and the middle class? That's my question. Period. I know, I know, you billionaires out there who are reading my blog are really pissed. I'm sorry I can't help you. Even if I was one of you, I couldn't help you. I see it as my moral responsibility to speak for people who do not have a voice. Okay, so maybe I'm currently one of those people, and I wish there was someone doing that for me, but Ted Kennedy is dead. So here we are, and here I am, and I may weep from time to time, but here's hoping that my voice and fortitude can count for something of value in this country. And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen - my first stump speech.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

In Search of...a special occasion

I’ve been cleaning out closets for what seems like forever. In a house that once was home to five people and is now down to two, it is a Herculean feat to decide what to keep when looking at things that once might have been considered precious, or cherished, or even necessary for daily life. But in this challenge lies the opportunity to determine what is precious, cherished and necessary to me, and that is a gift.

I started trying to clean out the house when my mother was still alive, and I continued intermittently after her death. But she was the one who knew and remembered everything, and so the sentimental value of many things is lost on me if I cannot determine from whence they came. Even relatives from “the old country” in photos taken in previous centuries are forever unidentifiable to me now.

Some I choose to hold onto for no other reason than the fact that I know they are part of my lineage, and I find some meaning in the fact that the shape of my fingers or tilt of my head resembles these unknown people. Some I choose to discard because nothing resonates with me.

I decided to clean out a cabinet containing predominantly glassware. I could tell which things my mother picked out and which things she cherished by their location. I could tell what was valued most by how infrequently it was used. And that made me sad. I asked my father about some of the glasses, and he echoed what I’m certain was also my mother’s sentiment – “Those are the good glasses. Put them back for a special occasion.”

Special occasion?! Was he joking? No, he wasn’t. He was absolutely earnest and uncensored when he said that. And that’s when I decided that change was going to come immediately to our lives.

I have lost enough people I love and I have seen the flood waters of Nashville make their way to my doorstep, and I can tell you with great certainty that every day is a “special occasion.” If you wake up in the morning, it’s a special occasion. Use the good china. That’s what I’m saying to you. This is the only moment there is. Savor and enjoy something beautiful that delights your heart. Why not relish the fact that there is something beautiful in this world, even if it’s a drinking glass.

So I’ve decided to let go of what doesn’t mean anything to me so that I can make room for what does. I will spend my days knowing that the good china isn’t going with me when I leave this world. In fact, in the blink of an eye all that I’ve possessed can be swept away. So I’m drinking from the good glasses and I plan on sharing that experience with anyone who visits. I want to live each day knowing that it is a special occasion, meant to be shared, enjoyed, appreciated and fully used up. So I’m going to wear the gaudy ring I bought at a garage sale, spray the good perfume, and pull out what I’ve been saving. The special occasion is here. Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Thanksgiving Blog

Today is Thanksgiving, a holiday I love. Oh, not because turkey is my favorite meal in the world, or because there's lots and lots of football on TV, especially not because there's lots of football on TV. Not because I can't wait to go shopping on black Friday (although I did do that last year just so I could say I've done it once), and not because this is the holiday that officially ushers in the Christmas season with its lights and carols and sickeningly cheerful people filled with good cheer (of which I must admit I'm one), but because it is a moment to reflect with gratitude on all the gifts I've been given, both big and small. It is a chance not to take anything for granted. And so on this day of gratitude, with the greatest prayer of all being "thank you," I give thanks.

With every inhale and exhale I am aware that life is nothing short of miraculous. That I can think these thoughts and type these words, that I can see and hear and walk and do the daily chores that make up a life is something extraordinary, for so many people cannot do these basic things.

I am grateful for each and every person whose path has crossed mine, be they family, friends, perceived foes, colleagues, or complete strangers, because each one of them has contributed a color to the canvas that comprises my life's portrait.

I am aware and give thanks for shelter and sustenance, for safe drinking water and indoor plumbing, for heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer. A great deal of the world is not affluent enough to have these things.

I give thanks for the challenges I face, because without them transformation and growth is not possible. And I give thanks, too, for the things that come easily for me that I have the good sense to appreciate.

I give thanks for all those in my life who have passed on to other dimensions of being, leaving me a little more lonely but a lot more grateful for the time I got to share with them. And for those still in this earthly realm, I take this moment to send you love and appreciation. I say to all of you who know me, "I value you. My life is richer because of you."

I'm thankful for the bounty of mother earth and the beauty of the mountains, the desert and the oceans, which represent the course of our lives - the heights we climb and the magnificence of the view we see when we accomplished what we did not think was possible, the deserts we cross, parched and thirsting for relief, and the oceans of abundance that sweep us to places we never dreamed existed. Yes, I am thankful for all these things.

Lastly on this Thanksgiving blog, I am monumentally grateful for you, my readers. Whether you've been with me for a while, or are just joining the party that fluctuates from tear jerking to, well, just plain fluff, I am thankful that you've chosen to stop by for any length of time and let me share part of who I am with you. I hope you have found something to be of value, even if that is merely entertainment.

I wish you and your loved ones peace and abundant blessings this Thanksgiving. Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

In Search of...the ladies who lunch

Every so often I have lunch with some ladies. At one time we all worked together. It was a fun and happy time in my life. But as with everything, times changed, jobs ended, and we no longer spend hours of each day with one another. So every so often, we meet and have lunch.

I’m the youngest of our tiny trio, and Dixie is the oldest. When I first met her, I thought I might need a translator, so foreign was her southern accent to me, the northerner. It was not immediately obvious to me that Dixie would come to hold a dear place in my heart.

Dixie likes to know everything about everyone, and I mean that in the best sense possible. Before long, she knew about my family, my career aspirations, you name it. And I knew, well, I knew she had been married, I knew she liked to laugh, and I found out that it would be best not to operate heavy machinery such as a car after eating her rum cake.

When she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, it seemed unfathomable to me that she couldn’t beat it. And beat it, she did. I have told many people facing grim prognoses that I know someone who has beaten the odds and is still around in all her glory today.

One time, when I was going to New York to visit my parents, Dixie asked me, “Well why would you want to go up there with all them Yankees?” I replied, “Those Yankees are my parents,” to which she responded, “Not them Yankees, them other Yankees!” Oh yes, Miss Dixie makes me laugh, and indeed lives up to her name.

When she doesn’t hear from me for a while, Dixie finds me. I swear she would find me in Timbuktu if necessary, just to make sure I’m alright. She likes getting updates and seeing pictures of my adorable niece, and when left up to her, our culinary choices usually involve a Meat & Three. If you are not from the South, let me explain what that is. A meat is usually an overcooked, unrecognizable piece of meat steeped in sauce for several hours or possibly days. And three refers to the number of side dishes you get. These can be equally unrecognizable overcooked vegetables (cooked in bacon grease, of course), macaroni and cheese, which is also considered a vegetable, and any number of other distincly southern things like turnip greens. It is always served cafeteria style and is reasonably priced. While I have been known to roll my eyes on occasion at the suggestion of such a place, damn if it doesn’t taste great. Nobody but a vegetarian doesn’t love a meat & three.

The last time I lunched with the ladies we went a different culinary route. We went to a new French restaurant owned by the son of another former employee. It was quite a distance away, but we had such a good time that we planned on coming back.

There was nothing unusual about this most recent lunch. We chatted for a long time, and indulged in a chocolate dessert that I’m still having dreams about. After talking for hours, as one of us usually did, I drove Dixie home. We hugged, said we loved each other, and talked about the next time we would do this. I drove away from Dixie’s house and back to my own. I did not know that this would be the last time I would see her.

Dixie died this morning, and I miss her already. I miss knowing that there will be another lunch, another chance to talk, and laugh, and share a little piece of our lives. I feel more alone in the world, though I know Dixie is in a place worthy of the light she was when she was here.

If I’ve learned anything from the time I spent with Dixie, it is to embrace the people whose paths cross ours, and to love and cherish the moments we get with them. I’m reminded to laugh heartily, and in the face of adversity, to defy the odds and live. I am glad there is one more angel on my shoulder, but sad for the shared times that can never be again. Mostly, I feel eternally grateful to have met and known Dixie. Rest in peace, my friend.

Thanks for stopping by. Blessings to you and those you love.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

In Search of...a really long Oprah blog

What a week it was…on Oprah. Yes, part of my weekends are reserved for catching up on my DVR’d programs, and no week would be complete without seeing what’s on this, the farewell season of Oprah.

She’s really delivered in ways both profound and enjoyable. Whether it’s been catching up with my teen idols or contemplating plastic surgery and thinking better of it after seeing the celebrity results, I have been totally reeled in.

This week saw the Jackson family, a former President, former talk show hosts, Marie Osmond, and a whole lotta sexual abuse victims. Yes, my friends, Oprah has taken us on an emotional roller coaster ride to be sure.

The interview with the Jackson parents was more than slightly disturbing to me. The mom, clearly a victim herself, was grieving the loss of a son that the world mourns as well. But she neither protected that son from his father or from a parasitic world. And yes, she seemed sweet, and sad, and vulnerable. But she is alive, and her son is not, and no matter how I want to wrap my brain around the fact that Michael was an adult who made his own choices and was responsible for his own demise, I can’t help but believe that the childhood that preceded that chronological adulthood left him scarred and damaged in a way that was irreparable.

This brings me to the father, Joe Jackson, a man who radiates meanness even through a television screen. I’ve got to hand it to Oprah for going for the jugular and saying what we’ve all been thinking. And what was Joe Jackson’s response when asked if he felt remorse for beating the crap out of his kids? They didn’t end up in jail, and they’re good people, so he was justified. I’d argue that one of them ended up on drugs and is dead because he was in so much pain. But I guess by Joe’s standards dead is better than in jail. What a sick, sick man. And by the way, who is to say that his children wouldn’t have turned out just as good, if not better, without being beaten to a pulp. So I’m praying for the sake of all the children who are currently living in that Jackson house, that Joe is kept far, far away from them.

This brings me to Michael’s children. Okay, I think if you want to know who the real Michael Jackson was, then take a good look at his kids. They seem well adjusted, loving, well spoken, self aware, kind, compassionate, and most surprising of all – normal. I think for all the crazy we witnessed with Michael Jackson, the veils, the monkeys, the merry-go-rounds, the pajamas to court – who his kids are speaks volumes beyond the images we each hold in our heads of the oddities. Behind a persona that we could never quite get a grasp of, was a man with qualities that weren’t apparent to the public. I hope that wherever his spirit is residing, he is taking some measure of pride in the results of the work he did that we didn’t see, the important work of raising good human beings, because that, my friends, is the only way that we are truly going to “heal the world.”

As for the show with the former talk show hosts, it was like sitting down for tea with some long lost friends that you haven’t seen in years. It was a chance to say, “So what have you been up to?” And none of them really disappointed. I found it affirming to see visible growth and transformation in people. It reignited my faith that we all can change, and grow, and transform for the better. And that was very uplifting. I mean, if Geraldo can be faithful to his fourth wife, isn’t there hope for humanity?

Marie Osmond – how many Kleenex did we all use for this show? I was crying right along with her, and Oprah, and the audience. Let me start off by saying that I’m biased. I’ve always loved Marie since I was a child. Like millions of other people, I grew up with the Osmonds, and that kind of affection doesn’t just go away. So to see and feel her very grown up, unfathomable pain, well let’s just say that it is shared by everyone who grew up loving the Osmonds. And for those of you who are reading this blog that do not know what happened, Marie's eighteen year old son committed suicide.

I think her appearance was brave. I think she is a woman who is so completely authentic, and open, and available to both the beauty and horror of life, that she inspires me to be the same. And that is a gift. It is said that the only way we teach is by example, and if that be the case, then Marie Osmond is a great teacher of how to live, and learn, and evolve in all the ways that truly matter.

When asked about the tabloid rumors that her ex-husband was abusive, she thought for what seemed like a long time before answering. That pause alone made me like her. It didn’t feel like she was being calculating about how she would answer. It felt like she had the feelings of others like her children to consider, which outweighed what may or may not have been the awful truth. And the truth is that people come into our lives at the level of our own self esteem, according to Marie. I have pondered that fact on more than one occasion in my own life, and I can tell you that it’s absolutely true, and profound, and better learned sooner than later. To the degree that we value ourselves is the degree to which we will pick someone who values us. This is a hard lesson to be learned by women, but it is at the core of how our lives turn out in every respect. So kudos to Marie Osmond. I wish her comfort for her grief and peace in her heart.

Lastly, and most shockingly, I’d like to talk about the interview with George W. Bush, a President whom I have both loathed and mocked, a man whom I have blamed for things that have both been and not been his fault, but for which he bore the responsibility because he took the oath of office.

This interview shocked me, and I’ll tell you why. For the first time ever, I found him to be both likeable and a feeling person. I know, they must make a pill for that, and don’t get me wrong, he still ruined the country in ways both big and small, but there are things he said philosophically that I agreed with. Of course, had he directed those philosophies in a constructive way, we most likely would not be in two wars, despised by much of the world, in the crapper economically, and with catastrophic environmental results that have increased exponentially. So there you go.

Still and yet, Mr. Bush was not immune to what’s been said and thought of him, and he showed remarkable good humor about it. For instance, he talked about being recognized on the street.

Man on street: Did anyone ever tell you you look like George W. Bush?

GWB: Yeah, it happens all the time.

Man on street: Sho’ must make you mad.

And so he knows that not everyone likes him. He also knows that some of us have openly questioned whether he could read a book, let alone write one. I have to admit that I, being one of those people, felt a little sheepish when he said that…although, if he truly wanted to put that concern to rest, he could pull out a copy of, say, the Constitution and read a little of it for the class. Then those nasty rumors would be gone once and for all, and he might have a reminder of what parts of it he ignored and/or destroyed during his tenure. But I digress.

Here’s what I liked that he said. He said he has zero desire to criticize his successor. Well, God Bless. He also said he believes you ought to treat people the way you’d like to be treated yourself. The Golden Rule. I’m on board with that. So my question to him is this: Which country does he think should come in here, pillage our resources and overthrow our government? Because that’s what we did to other countries. And we’re continuing to do so. I’ve got a great idea to recoup that deficit money. Pull the troops out of the damn wars. Bring ‘em home. Save lives. Save money. Cut military spending. If you want to invest in military, train special ops people to infiltrate the training camps and sleeper cells. Come on, you know I’m right. Spend less money more wisely.

Mr. Bush said he wants our president to succeed. He loves our country. And since he is the only Republican to go out there and say that, I retract everything mean but true that I just said about him. That’s right, folks. You heard me. Our Republican former President just said he wants Barack Obama to succeed. That didn’t come from Dick Cheney, or Karl Rove, or Sarah Palin, or John Boehner, or Rush Limbaugh, or Glenn Beck. It came from George W. Bush. And for that, he just showed a redeeming quality that no one else on either side has shown. Good for him. He’s making it harder and harder for me to hang on to my outrage (although not impossible).

Last but not least, he talked about living by a set of principles that is inviolate. Now here’s the sad part of that. I agree that it is the noble and right thing to do to have a set of principles that you live by despite the changing tides of public opinion, politics, and popularity. I agree with that. But what set of principles did he have that allowed him to let his corporate friends profit at the expense of the welfare of the American people? What set of principles was it that allowed him to ignore intelligence warnings prior to September 11th, and what principles allowed him to let the people of New Orleans suffer like they did without sending help and restoring order for its citizens immediately? I just don’t understand what those principles were. And so, though I really want to let bygones be bygones, and forgive the man who thinks he’s done nothing wrong and apologizes to us for nothing, I find the arrogance that makes him unapologetic reprehensible. Each and every day we live with the fallout of eight years that began peacefully, prosperously, and maybe a little too innocently. Those days are gone. We are living in a world devoid of innocence and prosperity and peace. And maybe some of it can be reclaimed. And maybe some of it shouldn’t be. All we can do is move forward now. And maybe that was the lesson in all of this week’s Oprah shows. Move forward, evolve, transform, and share that gift with a world that needs it.

Thanks for stopping by and indulging me. Please tell your friends.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

In Search of...a spiritual cleanse

I once saw a title of a book called What You Think of Me is None of my Business, and I laughed out loud. Oh, don't misunderstand me, I knew the veracity of that statement, but I also understood myself well enough to know how difficult that would be for me to live by. And lo, these many years later, it turns out that I was right about myself.

In my perpetual effort to be liked, I have forgotten that some people won't like me no matter what I do, and some people will love me no matter what I do. I forgot that there will be days during which I will royally screw up, maybe even inadvertently ruffle someone's feathers in the process. I suppose it shouldn't matter to me, as long as I've done the best I can, and as long as my heart is true. But it does matter to me. And so, in my longing for inner peace, and my understanding that I must be the peace I wish to see both in the world and in myself, I am on a mission of spiritual cleansing today.

It is easy to blame, and hard to forgive those who have truly wronged us. It is easy to dwell on the petty and the minute in others, and hard to look ourselves in the eye and acknowledge where we fall short. It is easy to want to control, and hard to surrender to a universe that we aren't entirely sure is friendly. And it is oh so easy to care what others think, and hard to listen to our own souls and take the road less traveled.

But I'm learning that there is a difference between understanding someone and agreeing with them. And that collateral damage can happen in relationships as well as wars. I am learning that there is little in life that we can autonomously control and even less that has any control over us. I've learned that I can fight the good fight, pray to a merciful loving God, and hold fast to my dreams, and still in the end, I must surrender to what is.

So despite my recent crankiness and incessant railing against just about everyone, today I am choosing to embrace the beauty within the pain, to celebrate the strength to rise up one more time from a fall. I am focusing on the joy in spite of temporary suffering. I am deciding that half full or half empty is still half more than nothing. I am pausing for a moment to take a deep breath and remind myself to appreciate in this moment those whom I've loved and lost, those whom I love and still have, and those whom I will come to know and love one day. I surrender to the certainty of change, the inherent beauty of each moment, and a greater source of knowledge, wisdom, love and compassion than I myself have.

I wish you the same today on your journey. I am monumentally grateful that you stopped by and read my blog. Peace and blessings to you all.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

In Search of...things that make me wonder

I've been suffering from both insomnia and migraines for the better part of a week, and this has left me both cranky and devoid of that part of the brain that censors. At my worst I had to restrain myself from throttling a little old man today who felt it his duty to spew forth whatever he's most recently heard on Fox News, so convinced was he that it was the gospel truth.

As I had a silent conversation with my rising blood pressure, I wondered why it is that we are all so easily offended these days. At the deli counter in the supermarket, I also wondered how it is that deli meats get their solid but somehow simultaneously gelatinous appearance, as well as which exactly turkey pastrami is. So there you go.

I know that my musings are escalated by my lack of sleep. For instance, I took it as a personal affront from Bromley when I bought the wrong tea for my father the other day. It seems that Bromley, in its infinite wisdom, has changed their labeling. Now the green tea has an orange label and the orange pekoe has the green label. Why?

Keith Olbermann was suspended for donating money to Democratic candidates without NBC's prior approval. I wonder what else it is that NBC needs to give prior approval for. When you take home your paycheck, isn't it yours to decide what to do with? And didn't the Supreme Court just make campaign contributions a frenzied free for all? Keith returns to his show tonight. I think we should all tune in for some light comedy. Speaking of which, Conan is back on TV, looking decidedly older and more than slightly worse for wear. I wish him well, but I never liked him. See, right there, no censor. Of course, if he wishes to have me on his show, then he'll be my most favorite talk show host in the history of all talk show hosts.

Jon Stewart, who is possibly my truest love next to George Stephanopoulos, made light of the pummeling he's taken by his fellow liberals in the comedic community, and I say to his compatriots: What the @#$&?!!!! What, you don't have enough material with the newly elected folks or the new Speaker of the House? Come on. Quit picking on Jon!

So Dancing with the Stars, which, as you know, I'm a little obsessed with, was great last night. I am still baffled by the presence of Bristol Palin and the football player, Kurt Warner, and actually, I'm more baffled by the football player. He's awful. And Brandy and Maks, bless their hearts, can you think of two more unlikeable people? I didn't think so. I say they should deduct points for Maks mouthing off to the judges. Poor Brandy just wants to win, but she doesn't get my votes. You know who gets my votes? Jennifer Grey, that's who. Yes, she's whiny, and weepy, and constantly on the brink of dropping out with injuries, but at the end of the day, who isn't? I think she's the first person we've seen in all the seasons who is so completely open, authentic, and transparent that I see myself in her. I've said it before - ballroom dancing is a metaphor for life. How you show up on the dance floor is how you show up in life. I get that Bristol Palin is uncomfortable in her own skin and tentative. I get that Kyle, the Disney boy, is filled with joy and exuberance. I get that Brandy's determination to succeed supersedes everything else in her life. And I get that Jennifer is both fragile and a survivor, whose biggest struggle is her internal dialogue, and I see myself in that.

I'm wondering who will get booted off later, and if sleep will bless me tonight, and if my own worries will get the best of me, or if I will prevail, emerging victorious from the voices of doubt. Yes, these are some of the things that make me wonder. Thanks for stopping by and sharing them and your time with me. If anyone knows the answer to the deli meat question, please, leave me a comment.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

In Search of...the morning after

It's the morning after...Dancing with the Stars, and Bristol Palin is still somehow miraculously in the competition. She can't believe it. Her partner can't believe it. I can't believe it, and I'm sure you can't believe it. I find it far more shocking than the Republicans taking over the House, which came as no particular surprise to anyone.

This bring me to...the Republicans taking over the House. The spin on this is making me crazier than the pre-election campaign ads, and those made me pretty crazy. Republicans didn't win the Senate, and the last time I checked Obama was still in the White House, so knock it off the whole change sweeping the nation thing. The only thing sweeping the nation is discontent, and that, my friends, is not just reserved for Democrats. I only heard a snippet of the President's address today, and he's still talking about civility and working together with Republicans. Has he learned nothing in his two years in office?

Believe me, I am all for civility, compromise, courtesy, statesmanship, camaraderie, peace, love, and understanding. However (long pause and sigh), in the grander scheme of things, it seems to me the magnitude of the problems we are facing today warrants solutions that do not require that we take the high road to an unachievable destination for the sake of taking the high road. Simply put - the end justifies the means. Just get the job done. None of us care how pretty it looks, or if two sides can sit nicely in a room and have tea and cookies. And if this election taught anyone anything, it should be that we don't care who gets reelected or not. If you've gotten elected to Congress these days, you've got money. We are not going to cry if you need to return to the private sector and begin writing your memoir now. You've got healthcare for life, so what do you care? I don't have healthcare for life.

In the past, I have not been prone to this kind of selfish thinking. In fact, just the opposite. But these are unprecedented times we're living in, and I think we can all safely say that when we have jobs, healthcare, a roof over our heads, and nothing blowing up in the sky, we will all feel more generous. But until then, 2010 winners, whoever you are, whether you just got elected last night or have been in politics forever, I suggest you go to Washington ready to create jobs and bolster the economy. I suggest everyone in Washington stop worrying about which position they're playing on the football field known as the United States Congress. It's time to bring the A game. You are the teams we chose, for better or worse. Leave the field bloody and soiled and fully spent when you do, knowing that you are not embroiled in mere sport, but in the life or death of a nation. Shake hands when you depart, and for the sake of us all, leave something better when you go than it was when you arrived.

Thanks for stopping by. Here's to a new day.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

In Search election day blog

Well, it's finally here, so first of all, go VOTE!!! I'm going to go in a few minutes. Yay, it's the day where we actually do something for our country, and actively engage in the political process. Isn't it fun?!! (I get really excited about this. Can you tell?) As a judge pointed out to me the first time I ever had jury duty...oh, wait, he was talking about jury duty being the only way most of us are ever called upon to serve our country. Well, that's a whole other topic for another day. Today we vote.

I am more than slightly horrified by our choices, largely because they should never be our only choices, but somehow our system has come down to a big game of Celebrity Apprentice with the voting populace itching to say, "You're fired," more than we are selectively choosing candidates with the ability to represent our best interests. Yes, we, the super-size nation, want everything big - big personalities, big scandals, big ideas. It's like we're an entire nation on steroids. But I suggest that bravado without ideology and ethics is a recipe for disaster. And we are living in that now.

So whomever you're considering today, I beseech you to consider whether they are concerned for our well being, smart enough to discern the complexities that will undoubtedly be placed before them should they win, and if they will have backbone but flexibility. Will they be more concerned with towing the party line or with the lives of their constituents? Do they care more about politics than people? Will they sacrifice reelection for what is best for the country? These are the things to consider before casting your vote.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends - and vote.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

In Search of...a day after the rally blog

If it wasn't enough of a slap in the face to mainstream media that a comedian was named "the most trusted name in news," then it really must say something that the same guy could get hundreds of thousands of people to show up in Washington, D.C. to take a stand for sanity and civility.

Yes, it was a love fest, complete with Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam), Sheryl Crow, Kid Rock, and Tony Bennett. There were comedy skits, sing alongs, and a soul-stirring speech at the end by Jon Stewart in praise of compromise and working together. Also, because it shouldn't be a total loss, there was a wee bit of deserved bitch-slapping of the media's incessant need to create animosity even when there can just be honest disagreement without it.

I have to say, speaking as Suzie Citizen, if I were both politicians and the media, I'd be afraid, I'd be very afraid. Oh, not because Jon Stewart wields some special power, but because he is speaking for the vast majority of Americans when he says that it's time for sanity to be restored, and that most people with polar opposite beliefs manage to peacefully co-exist and get on with their lives while living next door to each other each and every day. It seems so obvious when he points it out, but the 24 hour news cycle would have us believe it isn't so.

So I was curious to see how the media was going to cover this event, and what would be said. Since today is Sunday, I made it a point to watch This Week just to see how it would be presented. The usual array of round table participants tried to make light of it and downplay it, except for Arianna Huffington, of course. But amid their snickers and their squirming seemed an unsettling fear, from my perspective, that maybe their emphasis on leveraging the extremes had been exposed for the overt manipulation that it really is. And maybe, just maybe people have had enough of it. So I, for one, enjoyed watching Cokie Roberts squirm as much as George Will, who remained rather quiet about the whole thing. I think it is a sad day we've come to when the agenda of the media trumps the reporting of actual news. And good for Jon Stewart for shining a light on it.

I could go on and on, but tomorrow is a new day, which will undoubtedly bring with it new challenges and chances to forge a different path to holding both our representatives as well as those that report on them accountable. So please vote on Tuesday, and think twice before believing what you hear on TV. Ask yourself if the choice of news story isn't just to be sensational enough to get you to tune in. And if it is, change the channel. Personally, I'd rather watch a Seinfeld rerun.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends. And have a Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

In Search of...the rally to restore sanity

Today was the Rally to Restore Sanity. While I was not there in person, I did watch it, and I felt that Jon Stewart's closing speech was on a par with the best ones ever given. Therefore, I relinquish my blog space to him, so that if you missed it, you can take a moment to relish it now.

"And now I thought we might have a moment for some sincerity, if that's okay. I know there are boundaries for a comedian/pundit/talker guy, and I'm sure I'll find out tomorrow how I have violated them. I'm really happy you guys are here, even if none of us are really quite sure why we are here. Some of you may have seen today as a clarion call for action, or some of the hipper more ironic cats as a "clarion call for action." Clearly, some of you just wanted to see the Air and Space Museum and got royally screwed. And I'm sure a lot of you are just here to have a nice time, and I hope you did.

I know that many of you made a great effort to be here today, and I want you to know that everyone involved with this project worked incredibly hard to make sure that we honored the effort that you put in, and gave you the best show that we could possibly do. We know your time is valuable, and we didn't want to waste it. And we're all extremely honored to have had a chance to perform for you on this beautiful space, on the Mall in Washington, D.C.

So what exactly was this? I can’t control what people think this was. I can only tell you my intentions. This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith or people of activism or to look down our noses at the heartland or passionate argument or to suggest that times are not difficult and that we have nothing to fear. They are and we do. But we live now in hard times, not end times. And we can have animus and not be enemies.

But unfortunately one of our main tools in delineating the two broke. The country’s 24 hour politico pundit perpetual panic conflictinator did not cause our problems but its existence makes solving them that much harder. The press can hold its magnifying glass up to our problems bringing them into focus, illuminating issues heretofore unseen or they can use that magnifying glass to light ants on fire and then perhaps host a week of shows on the sudden, unexpected dangerous flaming ant epidemic.

If we amplify everything we hear nothing. There are terrorists and racists and Stalinists and theocrats but those are titles that must be earned. You must have the resume. Not being able to distinguish between real racists and Tea Partiers or real bigots and Juan Williams and Rick Sanchez is an insult, not only to those people but to the racists themselves who have put in the exhausting effort it takes to hate--just as the inability to distinguish terrorists from Muslims makes us less safe not more. The press is our immune system. If we overreact to everything we actually get sicker--and perhaps eczema.

And yet, with that being said, I feel good—strangely, calmly good. Because the image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false. It is us through a fun house mirror, and not the good kind that makes you look slim in the waist and maybe taller, but the kind where you have a giant forehead and an ass shaped like a month old pumpkin and one eyeball.

So, why would we work together? Why would you reach across the aisle to a pumpkin-assed forehead eyeball monster? If the picture of us were true, of course, our inability to solve problems would actually be quite sane and reasonable. Why would you work with Marxists actively subverting our Constitution or racists and homophobes who see no one’s humanity but their own? We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is—on the brink of catastrophe—torn by polarizing hate and how it’s a shame that we can’t work together to get things done, but the truth is we do. We work together to get things done every damn day.

The only place we don’t is here or on cable TV. But Americans don’t live here or on cable TV. Where we live our values and principles form the foundations that sustains us while we get things done, not the barriers that prevent us from getting things done. Most Americans don’t live their lives solely as Democrats, Republicans, liberals or conservatives. Americans live their lives more as people that are just a little bit late for something they have to do—often something that they do not want to do—but they do it--impossible things every day that are only made possible through the little reasonable compromises we all make.

Look on the screen. This is where we are. This is who we are. (points to the Jumbotron screen which show traffic merging into a tunnel). These cars—that’s a schoolteacher who probably thinks his taxes are too high. He’s going to work. There’s another car-a woman with two small kids who can’t really think about anything else right now. There’s another car, swinging, I don’t even know if you can see it—the lady’s in the NRA and loves Oprah. There’s another car—an investment banker, gay, also likes Oprah. Another car’s a Latino carpenter. Another car a fundamentalist vacuum salesman. Atheist obstetrician. Mormon Jay-Z fan. But this is us. Every one of the cars that you see is filled with individuals of strong belief and principles they hold dear—often principles and beliefs in direct opposition to their fellow travelers.

And yet these millions of cars must somehow find a way to squeeze one by one into a mile long 30 foot wide tunnel carved underneath a mighty river. Carved, by people, by the way, who I’m sure had their differences. And they do it. Concession by concession. You go. Then I’ll go. You go. Then I’ll go. You go then I’ll go. Oh my God, is that an NRA sticker on your car? Is that an Obama sticker on your car? Well, that’s okay—you go and then I’ll go.

And sure, at some point there will be a selfish jerk who zips up the shoulder and cuts in at the last minute, but that individual is rare and he is scorned and not hired as an analyst.

Because we know instinctively as a people that if we are to get through the darkness and back into the light we have to work together. And the truth is, there will always be darkness. And sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t the promised land. Sometimes it’s just New Jersey. But we do it anyway, together.

If you want to know why I’m here and what I want from you, I can only assure you this: you have already given it to me. Your presence was what I wanted.

Sanity will always be and has always been in the eye of the beholder. To see you here today and the kind of people that you are has restored mine. Thank you."

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

In Search of...please, baby, one more chance

Unprecedented is a word we like to bandy about these days, whether referring to weather extremes or the President of the United States appearing on The Daily Show, and it seems to be applicable.

Now, I think we can all safely say that our hopes of President Obama being, well, the second coming of Jesus, have waned substantially since 2008. However, if you’re me, at least, there is always a sense of longing when the President speaks, for his beautiful, inspiring rhetoric to be true. Call me a cockeyed optimist or a crazy dreamer, but I still cling to that hope. And so it was in that spirit that I sat down to watch my beloved nightly fare.

What I found was something totally different, and it wasn’t, for the most part, about the actual substance of what was said. This wasn’t a candidate on the campaign trail, make no mistake about it. This was The President of the United States, and his demeanor was commanding, if not slightly adversarial.

Jon Stewart, fortunately, was Jon Stewart, a whip smart man who manages to temper tense situations with humor, and yet never backs down from asking and saying what, most of the time, I am thinking. And so it was that he asked what I wanted to know – where is the audacity? Why wasn’t the reform as sweeping and bold as the campaign rhetoric?

I suppose that’s where the tone changed to one of defensiveness on the President’s part, and where, for a brief moment, I caught a glimpse of the frustration of this man to whom we not only entrusted our nation, but on whose shoulders we placed the burden of our unprecedented troubles, without taking much responsibility for them ourselves. We are, after all, Americans. Why can’t we have instant gratification without sacrifice?

President Obama ably listed the litany of legislation his administration accomplished in his short time in office, and how it stabilized the economy and spared us another Great Depression. He told us of the expanded national service, the historic healthcare reform, the regulation on the credit card companies, and the timbre of his voice seemed to be saying, “I’ve done more than any other guy who’s had this job, let alone in eighteen months. What more do you want from me? What will it take to please you?”

Granted, that’s my interpretation, but still the answer is simple: We want jobs. We want decent, affordable healthcare. We want to stay in our homes and not lose what we’ve paid for them. We want the retirement we paid into for all our working lives to be there when it’s time to actually retire. Heck, we want to be able to actually retire. And from our perspective, many Americans have none of these things. While we are hurting, there is nothing that can be said that will drown out the deafening enormity of our own pain. And that, unfortunately, is the truth that puts our President in the current position he’s in.

If his base (me), who called Senators, and carried signs, and rallied the troops for healthcare reform, if I don’t have health insurance after the reform passed because my premiums went sky high and are simply unaffordable for me now, then he’s got a real problem. And it’s not the upcoming midterms and the potential Democratic seats lost that is at stake. It’s his presidency. We are not a nation who particularly cares how hard one tries. We care only about one’s success. And fair or not fair, we are unforgiving when it comes to that.

I disagree with Jon Stewart on one thing he said. I don’t think it’s the campaigning congressional Democrats that are saying, “Please, baby, one more chance.” I think it is the President. The amazing thing is that, even battle-weary, frustrated, and defensive, President Obama still exudes some internal quality that makes me want to give him that chance.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

In Search end to this election cycle

Election Day is one week from today, and all I can say is, "For the love of all things holy, can we please be done with this!!" I'm inundated with fliers, phone calls, and placards. I'm so tired of vitriolic TV ads, I could scream. If I see Linda McMahon one more time, I'll wrestle the damn broad to the ground myself. Enough already.

I've listened to pundits and pollsters, publicists and pragmatists, and here's what I've learned: they know not one iota more than you or I do. The Republicans (Tea Partiers) are gonna sweep...or maybe the Democrats will pull it out in the end. Well, obviously it's going to be one or the other. And frankly, don't be shocked by this next statement, but I'm kind of hoping that the Republicans take at least the House if not the House and Senate and here's why. Then when a Republican congress can't fix the economy with the snap of their fingers, then we can all share in the blame equally and Obama can get reelected. End of story. So that's my Ask me again tomorrow.

Okay, one last bit of news that has no connection to politics whatsoever. Charlie Sheen. NY hotel. High on coke, drunk, violent (not to mention naked). Oh my God. Will it never end? I can't even begin to imagine the pain his family is feeling at this point. And why on earth won't the network just fire him from his TV show? What other job do you know of that allows you to be high as a kite and still get paid? Everyone is just enabling him, and sooner or later this will no longer be simply embarrassing, it will end tragically. And he's got small children. I am going to hold out hope that he will find his way like Robert Downey Jr. did. For the sake of the people who need him. So send a good thought Charlie's way, will you?

Thanks for stopping by. Play nicer than the politicians are playing. And please tell your friends.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

In Search of...clean closets

I've been cleaning out my closets today, a job I've successfully put off in one way or another for years. I know this because I found skirts the waist size of which would now fit my arm. And as I mourned my twenty-five year old figure, I also took a moment amid sequin dresses I'd worn to black tie events to fondly remember some good times and days in which anything I dreamed seemed and indeed was possible. I forged ahead, making a pile to give away, but safely tucking a few dresses that I just couldn't part with back in the closet, maybe because I needed to hang on to some kind of tangible proof that these days in my life did in fact exist.

As I hauled away my past, a little misty-eyed, I found something I hadn't seen before, at least in my closets - space. Space for a future, for new things, new possibilities that would fit me now. It was a little unsettling, this void where once was crammed years of stuff. But now I've got breathing room. And that's not a bad thing.

Along with my clean closets, this weekend was about celebrating my father's birthday. He turned 82. So as a surprise I took him to see Craig Ferguson at Carnegie Hall. Now, my father (and I) love Craig Ferguson, and even though I've got my DVR set to record him every night, my father still finds it imperative to stay awake until 1:30 in the morning watching him.

So there we sat in arguably the most prestigious concert hall in the world, and out of the mouth of my favorite Scottish comedian came pearls to live by. As Craig imparted his hard earned wisdom from three marriages (with no aid from hand puppets), I realized that this would be a different world if people actually stopped and asked themselves these three questions:

Does this need to be said?
Does this need to be said by me?
Does this need to be said by me now?

Yes, thanks to Craigy Ferg (his twitter name, I think) there could be a different landscape - politically, socially, morally, you name it, if we were just to ask ourselves these three questions. And you can bet I'll be doing that before spewing forth any dribble in future blogs, too.

So that brings me to Bill Maher's show on Friday night. Bill had George Clooney, Rob Reiner, Jake Tapper, and Nicolle Wallace on. And yes, boys and girls, Ilene did her happy dance. First of all, I just want to put it out there in case Rob Reiner happens to read this. Rob, I really want to attend one of your soirees. I long for stimulating political repartee and I promise I won't steal the silverware, so please, will you invite me?

Now that groveling is out of the way, let's get to The Clooney, as I affectionately like to call him. I love that all his energies are used for doing something good with his celebrity. I love that it's always about something bigger than him, and people who would never garner the attention they need were it not for him bringing a camera crew into hellish parts of the world. I love that he's a star in the sense that truly matters.

And Jake Tapper, who, in my opinion, was robbed of the job of hosting This Week. Love him. Smart, funny, and likable are very appealing to me.

Levi Johnston was also a guest, but I really think he is in so far over his head that I have to take pity on the poor boy and save my barbs for someone with the intellectual capacity to defend himself.

So I'm off to clean out some other closets. It's time to make room for a new day.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

In Search of...blasts from the past

I've been meaning to blog for the past few days because it seems that each new day this week has brought with it some sort of news that made me just shake my head in disbelief.

Let's start with Justice Clarence Thomas's wife ringing up Anita Hill and asking her for an apology...and then telling the press it was her way of extending an olive branch. That's an olive branch? Why couldn't she just leave well enough alone? To this day I still believe Anita Hill and am appalled that they confirmed Clarence Thomas. But nevertheless, I thought we all moved on twenty years ago.

Then Tom Bosley, who played Mr. C. on Happy Days died. While I know nothing about the man personally, professionally he was a presence for most of my growing up years. Like my own father, Mr. C. was attentive and loving and a hard working man who tried to instill the finer qualities in his children. So whomever Tom Bosley was in real life, I hope he knew how much he contributed to an entire generation's perception of the ideal father. And I hope he relished the role.

Then, for reasons I don't really understand, Good Morning America did a sort of a "where are they now?" piece about Leif Garrett. Anyone my age or in the vicinity of it will never forget his mane of blond hair and the spandex...and if prodded, I think we can all easily break into "I Was Made for Dancing." Leif covered all the Tiger Beat magazines, along with my personal 70's heartthrob - Vince Van Patten, but what we all didn't know was that Leif's ensuing years would be spent battling booze, heroin, and the most gut wrenching thing of all - living with the knowledge that he paralyzed his closest friend in an automobile accident. Leif looked unrecognizable from the boy whose music I bopped around to as an adolescent, and not just because he was balding and wore glasses, but because he seems like he's in a permanent state of self-destruction and it was heartbreaking to watch. Like seeing Eve Plumb last week in the basement of a restaurant doing off-Broadway, it was a bubble bursting moment in which I realized that everything I enjoyed in my youth came with a high price that someone had to pay in order to bring it to me. It's been a sobering realization that everyone suffers, and everyone struggles, and no one escapes unscathed from life's journey. But Leif, seeing him unsuccessfully fighting demons too big for most of us to imagine, and still trying to make music and find some sense of identity, well, it broke my heart. Thanks GMA for perking me right up there first thing in the morning.

I'm glad the week is almost over. I'm not sure I could take another breaking news bulletin. So here's hoping for some good news - an end to this election cycle, some beautiful fall days, and untarnished memories of TV icons and teen idols. Rest in peace, Mr. C. And here's saying a prayer for you, Leif Garrett.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

In Search of...surefire ways to know you're old

Oh, I know what you're thinking - must you bum me out, Ilene, when I came here for a little relief from my daily grind? Well, maybe. But rest assured, I won't be giving you one of those atrocious lists that goes something like "You know you're old when..."

So there I was, in the basement of Sofia's Restaurant in the theatre district, the former home to Tony n' Tina's Wedding for many years, watchng Jan Brady (Eve Plumb) in a two person show. She looked good, by my standards if not Hollywood's, seemingly untouched by plastic surgery, and happy to be there. Never mind that it was off-Broadway, or that she forgot her lines several noticable times. Never mind that we were sitting in the basement of a restaurant, for goodness sake! It was depressing, and the fact that I couldn't read the Playbill because we were too cramped for me to reach my reading glasses didn't make matters any better.

And then there's Rick Springfield. He's been on all the talk shows promoting his new memoir which chronicles his attempted suicide, ongoing battle with depression, marital infidelities and God knows what else. (I haven't read the book yet.) And he's in his sixties. Rick Springfield. Dr. Noah Drake. In his sixties. I think I may need a Prozac myself.

And has anyone seen any of those Waltons kids? How about Eight is Enough? I'm a little scared. It's bad enough Mick Jagger is still bopping around. Frankly, I'm surprised he hasn't needed a hip replacement. Although, what do I know? Maybe he did.

And last night, while watching Golden Girls reruns, because, yes, that's what I do when nothing else is on, I realized that three out of four of the golden girls are dead. Dead definitely trumps old.

So before I go off to take stock of my joint pain and where I left my bifocals, I thought I'd take stock of what I'm thankful for. In this era of tell-all memoirs and knowing a little too much about people, I'm thankful for the blissful ignorance I had until now that allowed me to enjoy innocent fare like The Brady Bunch when I was a kid. I'm thankful for all those actors and musicians who were slightly older than me that sacrificed their own childhood and in doing so made mine joyful and happy. I wish those who have been troubled, but who have still managed to remain alive (Danny Bonaduce), remaining years of peace, stability, and sobriety. Actually, come to think of it, I wish us all peace, stability, and sobriety, whether you need the 12 steps or not.

I wish you all good memories and great days ahead. Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, October 15, 2010

In Search of...a halt to my countdown

So it's 15 days until Jon Stewart's rally, and I've been counting down.

I had signed up to go on a bus provided by Arianna Huffington. It was supposed to leave from Manhattan, but now it's leaving from Flushing and dropping us off at a stadium which will require taking a train to and from the mall. Hmm... I would have to leave my house at approximately 3:30am to make sure I could get to the departure location and park somewhere. This is seeming less and less like what I had originally signed up for. First of all, I like Manhattan and am sort of unfamiliar with Queens. So the thought of navigating it in the middle of the night is not making me too happy. Neither are the ominous warnings about getting back to the buses by 4pm in D.C. or they will be gone. So I'm looking into other options.

Amtrak is over $300 round trip for the day, so forget that. Car? Where would I park it? Suggestions anyone? It looks like I may be sitting this one out, but I want to exhaust all my options first. Oh, Oprah, where are you now? I really need you and your magic wand.

So boys and girls and children of all ages, it is beginning to look like attending this rally to restore sanity would be insane to try to get to. I'll keep you posted. And if you live in the D.C area and would like a guest for one night, let me know.

Thanks for stopping by, and give peace a chance, restore sanity, and all that good stuff.

Monday, October 11, 2010

In Search of...a Columbus Day blog

On this oh-so-celebratory of days (unless you happen to be a Native American), I am celebrating the Rally to Restore Sanity, which is a mere 19 days away. I am celebrating a potential restoration of sanity this day in particular because this pre-election season seems to be spiraling out of control. There seems to be an extra dose of crazy in the air, and I, for one, am growing weary of it.

On Columbus day we have parades, celebrating those courageous men who landed on our shores in 1492 and declared that they "discovered" it. America is named for one of them -Amerigo Vespucci. (The fact that the land was already inhabited by other people we'll just forget about for now.) Anyway, I'm all for the Europeans making their way safely over here, because otherwise none of us would be here today.

So while we're celebrating some great Italian Americans, I'm thinking that it would be a good segue into the New York gubernatorial race between Andrew Cuomo and Carl Paladino. Now, I've had a bias in favor of the Cuomo family for many years. I like them. And maybe it doesn't come down to anything more than that. I thought Mario was a good governor, I think Chris is a good investigative journalist, and I think Andrew has done a good job as New York's Attorney General. Carl Paladino, on the other hand, can best be described as, well, oh how to put this nicely - a despicable, hateful man trying to pass himself off as a human being. Forget the love child and the tasteless racist email "jokes," bashing in an orthodox synagogue??? And then going on Good Morning American and defending his position??? Well, I've got to hand it to him. He knows how to keep the cameras rolling in his direction. He also knows how to get me to contribute to Cuomo's campaign. Keep talking, Carl.

I couldn't believe my ears. There he was, justifying his statements that children should not be "brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option. It isn't." Who else's rights would he like to eradicate? Women's? Racial minorities? I can't think of a statement that could be less American than that. And to dress it up in the cloak of his religious beliefs when the job is to uphold the laws of the land, which, the last time I checked, involved a separation of church and state, is just plain wrong. I won't go into the fact that when I look in his eyes in pictures I see pure evil. I'm not basing that on anything other than when I look in his eyes in pictures, I see pure evil.

So New Yorkers, if you're listening, let's stop giving this guy his fifteen minutes of fame. Let's just let him be the example of who not to be in life, and certainly who not to vote for. Vote Cuomo 2010.

Now that I've done my stumping and my celebrating, I'm off to the sales.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

In Search of...10/10/10

Okay, so I'm fascinated by today's date. Aside from being my friend Amy's birthday (Happy Birthday Amy!), there's something fulfilling about the sound and feel of 10/10/10. I'm sure there's some astrological meaning, too, though I have no idea what that would be.

Twenty more days until the Rally to Restore Sanity. That's what it is to me. And since I use Sundays to catch up on the shows I DVR Monday through Saturday, I saw that Rick Sanchez on Good Morning America made a public apology as well as let us all know that he called Jon Stewart and personally apologized. He seemed humble and sincere and not half as crazy as I heretofore thought he was. I have a feeling he'll resurface somewhere, and since Jon Stewart still has a pretty good job, I think we can all afford to be generous and wish Rick well. Maybe he should serve as a sobering reminder to us all that we should think before we speak (on radio, at least).

I've decided that 10/10/10 also means it's an exceptionally short blog day. So here's wishing you ten reasons to be grateful today, ten things that make your heart happy, and ten new goals to aspire to. Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, October 8, 2010

In Search of...a hit show and a little shameless promotion

I have largely stayed away from shameless acts of self promotion on my blog...although, I suppose it could be argued that having a blog in and of itself is a shameless act of self promotion. Nevertheless, today I am just a tad gleeful because my good friend, Sue Fabisch, has a hit show, and I have a song in it.

It is no secret that I have been known to enjoy Costco. Oh yes, my endorphins get going just as soon as I wheel my oversize shopping cart in the door and flash my beloved membership card. I marvel at the vastness of it, the new seasonal items, the free samples of whatever they're serving. I could go on and on, and alas, I did one day with my good friend Sue. So there we were, set to write another tween song, when instead we began our laundry list of things we both loved about Costco. What ended up being penned that day was "Costco Queen," an homage, if you will.

So Sue's show Motherhood the Musical has finally opened in Florida, and the reviews are in. It's a smash. This is not surprising. The show is genius. The nice part for me is that I get to cheer on one of the kindest and most talented people I know AND I get to see and hear our song come to life. So here's the link to a review that suitably gushes over the show and the song.

And here is the link to my website where you can download the song and video for "Costco Queen:"

So on this day, with 22 more to go until Jon Stewart's rally, I congratulate my friend Sue, I encourage you all to go see Motherhood the Musical when it comes to your city, and I thank you, as always, from the bottom of my heart for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

In Search of...things that make me do my happy dance

Christine O'Donnell has declared in an ad on TV that she is not a witch. I'm sure I speak for us all when I say, "Whew, what a relief!" I find it odd that we live in such a time where one would need to make that sort of proclamation, but I say, "Good for you, Christine! That'll convince 'em!"

I've been thinking a lot lately about what would make me do my happy dance. You know the one I'm talking about - where you bop around gleefully and giddily in the solitude of your own home...or possibly in the presence of others in public at the awarding of good news and with the aid of some adult beverages.

Lest you think that the news that Christine O'Donnell is not a witch, or that Rick Sanchez getting canned from CNN made me do my beloved dance, let me stop you right there. Neither one of those things could budge me from my seat. Clinton being president again, however, or the return of my twenty-five year old figure could. That aside, on this, the second day of my countdown to Jon Stewart's rally, I am pondering my own joy.

I went to see The Social Network this weekend. It was written by Aaron Sorkin, who, as we know from blogs in the past, has been the sole creator of the alternate universe to which I retreated during the long dark days of the Bush presidency. Yes, Mr. Sorkin, if you're reading this, (and I'm not exactly certain how you would be, but here's hopin'), I am not only in awe of your verbal prowess, your mastery of rhythm and phrasing, your ability to create a world where integrity matters and some people still have enough backbone to honor it, but you Mr. Sorkin, yes you have on many an occasion made me do my happy dance.

While I'm busy dancing and quite possibly prancing, why not talk about some other dancing...with the stars. Yes, I watch and I watch, and I fantasize about wearing the dresses, the glittery eyeliner, and oh, that can of spray tan. I long to look that done up and whirl around the room, where every dance would be my happy dance.

So here's what I'm thinking. And it could just be sleep deprivation talking now, but I'm thinking along with everyone buying my book (In Search of George Stephanopoulos - A True Story of Life, Love, and the Pursuit of a Short Greek Guy) and electing me to Congress so I can have health insurance, I should be on DWTS. I mean, really. If Bristol Palin can do it, so can I. And by the way, can I just say that I think it's absurd that they are considering her a star because she got pregnant as a teenager and is now telling others not to?!!! Seriously??!!! Come on. At least I wrote a book!

Well, I'm done ranting, oops, I mean blogging for now. Off to the dance studio. Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Monday, October 4, 2010

In Search of...countdown to Jon Stewart and my top five reasons to live in Minnesota

I am starting a countdown. I'm counting down to Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity on October 30th. I just signed up to ride on one of Arriana Huffington's buses from New York to D.C. I can hardly believe I'm becoming such a "joiner."

It's not that it's unlike me to rally for something. After all, didn't I stand in front of my Tennessee Congressman's office with my bright oaktag sign that declared there's no healthcare reform without a public option? (Yes, I did.) Fat lot of good that one did me. I'm currently uninsured. Okay, so here's hoping this one turns out a little better than that one did.

I'm kind of excited. I've never participated in anything this large, at least I think it's going to be massive. I mean, Oprah gave it a tweet, for God's sake! Hey, maybe she'll be there! I can hardly wait! Anyway, I'm counting down. 26 days left. Besides, if there's anything I need, isn't it really to restore my sanity?

That brings me to my next topic. Oh yes, I could and possibly should be talking about the midterm elections, but no. Not me. Not now. I've been on a thing about Minnesota lately. Quite frankly, it's hard to remember exactly how it started, but I'm going to guess is was reading Garrison Keillor's book Homegrown Democrat that first got me thinking about the state. If basic common sense and neighborly-ness weren't enough of a draw to live in that great state, I realized that the Mall of America is located there. My eyes glaze over and my endorphins kick in just thinking about shopping in the QVC store, and so #2 on my list, after Garrison Keillor is Mall of America. #3, and these are really not in the order of importance, is Senator Al Franken. I would like to both be able to vote for him, and to say he's my senator. That might make me burst into that Lee Greenwood song, "I'm proud to be an American..." where Al Franken can both have a best selling book that blasts Fox News as well as be a senator.

Speaking of which, and this is just an aside, but I'm thinking of running for Congress. Yes, you heard me. Get your checkbooks ready, boys and girls. Ilene needs health insurance and congress people get it forever. How's that for a platform? Also, I would actually do what I think is right. Screw re-election. I just want to do a little good and get my darn health coverage. So vote Ilene - as soon as I pick a state to live in.

Okay, so back to Minnesota. The Mayo Clinic. Really, that should be first on my list of reasons.

Lastly, I have spent the last year transcribing people from all over the country. I am not at liberty to say what I've been transcribing, but let's just say that the most intelligent and well spoken people I came across were in the state of Minnesota. At first I thought it was a fluke, but there were too many of them for it to be a fluke. Now don't get all mad at me if you live in states other than Minnesota. Heck, I live in a state other than Minnesota (for now). But in my sample study I am ranking them first. Texas and Kentucky, sorry. You both tie for last. Study hard and maybe you will speak English in complete sentences one day.

So in summation, my top five reasons to move to Minnesota are:

The Mayo Clinic
Senator Franken
Mall of America
Garrison Keillor
smart people

Before you all tell me that it's cold there, I already know. I'll back a coat and boots.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends. I'll see you on my next countdown.