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.