Saturday, December 31, 2011

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

I've been thinking a lot lately about what is worthy of a resolution. Sure I could stand to lose weight and exercise more regularly. I could stand to curse less and laugh more. I could use less excuses and more results. But truthfully, who couldn't? And are all those things entities in and of themselves, or aren't they just symptoms of a bigger picture? And if so, what is that picture supposed to look like?

Last night, or this morning...however you choose to look at it...I went to an intimate party, a before New Year's New Year's gathering, if you will. While there, we bypassed most of the small talk and went straight for the subjects that are known to be not only taboo for party conversation, but rarely broached, even among friends - religion, politics, death, and the meaning of life.

This was not lighthearted fodder, but rather open-hearted conversation and communion with kindred souls along the journey we call life. As the evening progressed and we laughed until we cried, the subject of living authentically was linked to divinity. And that's when the light bulb in my little brain went bing! That, I believe, is our purpose, the reason we are here - to live as we were authentically created to be. That's the bigger picture. That is what is worthy of a resolution.

So on this last day of 2011, I resolve to let my choices and actions be guided by this question: Is this who I was created to be? Is this what I was created to do? Is this what Ilene would do if she were being one hundred percent Ilene?

Being authentic is such an overused phrase that it sounds cliche, when really it takes courage and bravery to do that. And the reason I know it takes courage and bravery to do that is because so few people do it.  But the ones who do stand out.

So here's to a new year of listening to our better angels, of stepping out in our own truth instead of what is commonly accepted by the masses, of doing that which we've never done before, but that which we know we are called to do. Here's to unexpected new directions, living with an open heart, taking a leap of faith. Here's to recognizing the fragility of life, the inherent beauty and greater compassion gained by loss. Here's to wisdom that comes only with age and youth's joyous exuberance. Here's to old friends and new beginnings. To family, friends, and being loved and known for who you truly are. Here's to radical kindness and limitless opportunities.

May 2012 be a year of discovering who we are and walking proudly in that knowledge so that we may inspire others to do so, too.

Peace, Blessings, and Happy New Year!!!!!

Friday, December 30, 2011

In Search of...a toast as one year ends and another begins

As another year draws to a close, I find myself assessing not only the 365 days gone by, but all the years that preceded them as well. Sure, I try to celebrate a future yet to come, but truthfully I am more reflective and somber than giddy with anticipation. I know I am not the only one, either. That's why we make resolutions - in the hopes that we will right the course of our lives. We long for that clean slate, that second chance, or maybe just some distance from the aching grief of loss. Whatever it is that you wish for, I hope it is granted.

I wanted to share with you some lines I wrote as well as those I found both moving and fitting as we raise our glasses to the end of 2011 and the start of 2012:

"Of all the money that e'er I spent
I've spent it in good company
and all the harm that ever I did
Alas, it was to none but me
And all I've done for want of wit
To memory now I can't recall
So fill to me the parting glass
Good night and joy be with you all." - Irish folk song

"Pass the tea & sympathy for the good old days are dead
Let's drink a toast to those who best survived the life they've led." 
- Janis Ian

"We drank a toast to innocence
We drank a toast to now
And tried to reach beyond the emptiness
But neither one knew how." - Dan Fogelberg

"Here's to love and all that breaks
Here's to us and our mistakes
Here's to scars that make us human." - Tanya Leah

"Here's to us, the dreamers
The last romantic souls
The true believers that never give up hope." - Ilene Angel

And to paraphrase Mike Dooley -

I wish that your every dream come true. That you find yourself surrounded by friends, laughter, and good times. I wish that your every cup runneth over financially, romantically, spiritually, and creatively. That good health be your faithful companion, peace your guarded ally, and love your perpetual guide.

Thanks for stopping by.
Peace & Blessings to you all in 2012,

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

In Search of...Christmas envy

So there I was, driving around listening to some of my favorite Christmas CD's - Bette Midler, Barbra Streisand, Barry Manilow, heck, even Harry Connick, Jr. and I had to chuckle as they sang songs penned by Irving Berlin and Frank Loesser. Yes, we people of the tribe love nothing more than to write about, sing about, and by golly, partake of the holiday known as Christmas, a day celebrating yet another member of the tribe's birth.

As a child, I desperately wanted to share in the Christmas festivities, but I was hesitant to sing carols that hailed Jesus as my Lord and Savior, so sure was I that the God of the Old Testament would smite me with a bolt of lightning the first chance He got. Yes, there was more than enough guilt and shame to go around as I dutifully ate my latkes and lit the menorah. But the Christmas allure did not diminish with time, nor was I smited, or smitten, or whatever the correct tense of that word is.

I didn't care about the reason, I just wanted some colored lights festively hung anywhere and everywhere. So when I moved into my own apartment, I bought some. I could have gotten a tree, because (for all you misinformed Fox News reporters) the tree is a PAGAN tradition, not Christian. But I just stuck with the lights.

Of course, never having hung Christmas lights in my life, I had no idea how exactly to string them up all over my apartment. For several years, clear packing tape and precarious balancing along bookcase and door frame moldings were my method of choice. I also draped them over my keyboard, atop my TV and really, wherever I could. It took years for someone to finally tell me that they made clear hooks that adhere to your walls but leave no marks afterward that make light hanging not only infinitely easier, but far more attractive. Hey, I came late to the game, remember?

I would turn off all the lights except the Christmas ones, and sit reveling in the glow. One year I bought pink lights, which were, sadly, a much better thought in my mind than in tacky actuality. I also find eggnog to be a much better thought than in actuality, but I suppose that's just a taste thing.

As I contemplated the actual deeper meaning of Christmas -  the birth of the Messiah, and the conditions under which that birth took place, it occurred to me that the common theme between that and the Festival of Lights is the possibility of miracles. And that exists for all faiths. The mystery and awe of seeing that which is seemingly impossible come to pass is universal, and should draw us together, because none of us are the authors of miracles, but all of us, at one time or another, bear witness to them.

Einstein said, "There are two ways to live your life: one is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." I am inclined toward the latter.

So as I light my menorah this evening...before watching the SNL primetime Christmas special, I will be celebrating a Season of Miracles, both large and small. I will be on the lookout for the good in people, the unexpected beauty available in any given moment, and most of all, I will stay present to the miracle that is Love in a world that desperately needs it.

So Happy Chanukah and Merry Christmas. Peace and Blessings to everyone.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

In Search of...little things that make us happy

Well, it's one week until Christmas (and a few days until Chanukah), and I've officially joined Twitter. I won't lie to you, I have no idea what I'm supposed to do with that, and I really don't have time for one more distraction, but in my moments of procrastination, I find myself going on there and poking around, usually looking for people I know or something funny. But more on Twitter another time.

So today I've been thinking about this time of year, and how, for some, it is the most difficult time of year, a painful reminder of loved ones gone and memories cherished. For some, it's a chore to be gotten through, and a relief when it's over. For others, it's a happy beautiful time where people are a little nicer to one another, and hope is renewed in the human race.

This has been a tough year for many whom I love and hold dear, and so it is my fervent hope that this year in particular, we all take nothing for granted and we savor each moment of joy, regardless of how big or how small.

I hope we remember that to someone, we may be the only example of kindness and compassion they encounter. So that smile, that door held for someone, that driver who's trying to get in your lane - let him in. Even if it's just for a season, and I hope it's not, but even if it is - be the bigger person, the one who forgives. Be the friend that lends a hand or listens without judgement or agenda. Your kindness may be the only true example of a miracle that someone experiences.

So sing a carol, build a snowman, bake cookies with your kids. They'll remember not only the recipe, but the love they felt doing that with you, long after you're gone. (I say this as I'm baking my mother's cookie recipe and missing her.)

It is easy to get caught up in the endless frenzy of our daily lives, but this time is precious and sacred. Every moment and every encounter is a chance to step into our best version of ourselves. So to my family and friends, colleagues, strangers, and nemeses (I'm not really sure I have nemeses, but I do enjoy the way the word sounds!), I appreciate you, I love you, and I hope your holidays are filled with beauty and fun!

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

In Search of...a great line, some regular folk, and the tell

Everyone has their "tell." In poker, that refers to the thing you do that gives away your hand. It could be as minor as a finger tap or throat clearing, but it reveals what you are trying to keep hidden. I'd suggest that in the large scale poker game we all witnessed tonight known as the Republican debate, there was a tell as blatant as a flashing neon sign.

Sure, there was the opportunity for a drinking game in which we all could down a shot every time they mentioned "Obamacare." I stopped counting, but I was only drinking Chardonnay. Note to self: purchase Tequila before next Republican debate.

The best soundbite of the night award goes to Newt Gingrich for his smackdown of Mitt Romney: "The only reason you didn't become a career politician is you lost to Teddy Kennedy in 1994." We could have all packed our bags and gone home after that one. Nicely played, Newt.

Then there were the camera shots of the loving and supportive spouses in the audience, particularly and repeatedly Michele Bachmann's husband...and the man sitting next to him. (A friend???)

There was the offer of the $10,000 bet by Mitt Romney to Rick Perry, winner of the most awkward moment of the evening award, only to be outdone by the frenetic scrambling for tales of personal poverty necessitated by a write-in question. Kudos to the questioner. But let's face it, these candidates are not starving, nor are they choosing between medication and a place to live in the frigid winter months ahead. No, this crowd of wealthy presidential hopefuls could not be more removed from your plight or mine.

But here's the kicker, the tell, if you will: the rules of this debate were discussed and agreed upon by all the candidates prior to the start of the debate this evening. Yet, no matter how much reminding, cajoling, gentle nudging, or outright admonishing my beloved moderators Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos did, this group would not and did not abide by what they had previously agreed to. They broke the rules. And that, my friends, says more about each and every one of them than the content of their words or how many years most of them have been married. We now know that their word is not their bond. Yes, even you, Texas handshaker, Rick Perry. If they can't do what they said they would do in a setting as benign as a debate, then rest assured, they will not keep their word in office.

Oh, I could go on and on about the revelation that I may be the only one who does not refer to the Prime Minister of Israel as "BB," or how I firmly believe that the crazy numbers all the candidates bandy about as if they actually would know them are made up. Seriously. It's kind of like that "fake it 'til you make it" concept. If you say it with certainty, they will believe you. The only thing is I don't.

So here's my take away when all is said and done: Newt won. Mitt "Sears Roebuck model" Romney lacked the authenticity to stop his downward spiral. Ron Paul still manages to both entertain and horrify me at the same time, while Rick Perry and Michele "I miss Herman Cain" Bachmann just flat out horrify me. And who's left? Oh yes, Rick Santorum, still fighting, unsuccessfully, to be taken seriously as a legitimate candidate in the race.

Yes, we're in full political swing now, boys and girls. Here's hoping for peace on earth, good will toward men - at least until Christmas.

Monday, November 14, 2011

In Search of...what to say when there are no words

I've been at a loss lately to find words, which is really not a good thing when you're a writer of any kind. It started with phrases that seemed perfunctory, like "I'm so sorry about the loss of your father," or "my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family." But by the time I heard today that someone lost their teenage son, even those phrases seemed shallow and meaningless, and I began to think about exactly what thoughts and prayers I wanted to be with people going through such unimaginable pain and loss.

So for those of you keeping vigil at hospital bedsides, for those who have lost what no amount of time will ever truly heal, for those grieving and trying to go on with their lives day by day one breath at a time, I offer to hold you consciously in a sacred place where all is love, where all is peace, and where all is well and solace resides.

I ask that we all honor the memories of those who have left their earthly bodies by celebrating the sanctity of our brief and wondrous time here. I pray that each and every one of our losses serves to make us more compassionate to others, more appreciative of life's brevity and inherent beauty, and more noble in our pursuit of what truly matters to us in the scheme of eternity.

Those are the thoughts and prayers I offer up today with the belief that a loving God can comfort in ways my own words cannot.

Thanks for stopping by. Peace and Blessings to all.

Monday, November 7, 2011

In Search of...false eyelashes, red carpets, and great expectations

Okay, so it took me a while to figure out that any woman who looks beautiful in a photograph is wearing false eyelashes. I know, I'm late coming to that observation, but the thought of gluing anything that close to my eyeballs just plain grosses me out. That's why I had someone else do it - a professional makeup artist.

But it doesn't end there, my friends. You are never going to achieve anything close to what one would call glamour in flats. And so must begin the suffering known as high heels. Every woman looks better in heels. Truly. And in a troubled economy, the least we could all do is keep the orthopedists and chiropractors in business.

Add to the equation the multitude of things designed to suck you in and hoist you up, and you've got your red carpet-ready appearance. Sure it's agony, but who said beauty didn't equal pain?

All this suffering had to be endured because my frequent co-writer, Sue Fabisch, and I wrote a song that won a big contest! I'd like to point out that we wrote the winning song in our sweats...on a couch in my apartment...with snacks...that we would later come to regret as we purchased Spanx. Ah, the irony.

Was it worth it? Sure. My back has only hurt for a week now, and the ibuprofen ruins your liver only after far more extended use than that. So I think I'm good.

Was the red carpet everything that I'd hoped it would be? Well, I'll ignore the fact that not a single soul really cares what color carpet I stroll down, and say that, for a moment, I had to be satisfied knowing I was standing in the exact spot that Fergie stood moments earlier. Plus the videographer told me I looked beautiful. So take that, Natasha Bedingfield!

Below is the pictorial proof that my suffering was not in vain. I know, you're welcome for these free beauty tips. Please tell your friends.

    Ilene Angel & Sue Fabisch on the red carpet

Friday, October 7, 2011

In Search of...words to live by from a dying man

Much has been said and written about Steve Jobs since he lost his battle with pancreatic cancer a couple of days ago. Not one word of it was bad, which I think says something greater about the man than even his accomplishments. Yes, he was the poster boy for the American dream at its finest, but he'd be the first to tell you that his setbacks were what led to his success.

In a commencement speech he gave at Stanford University, this college drop-out had enough clarity to reflect on some of the wisdom he gained from his journey until that point:

"You can't connect the dots looking forward," he said. "You can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life."

This kind of talk leads me to believe that life is a lot more of an adventure than I've considered it to be. Maybe we walk forward in complete darkness, with only our gut and our wits to guide us, not knowing how anything makes sense until we complete all, if not part, of the journey. Maybe instinct and heart are the better treasure trove to draw wisdom from than commonly accepted ideas and practices which are prone to change from day to day. Perhaps staying connected to that which is larger than ourselves is the only consistent thing we need. But back to Steve's speech and him getting fired from the company he created...

"I was a very public failure and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me - I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

...Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matter of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle."

The thing that strikes me about this is not that I haven't heard these variations on a theme of "do what you love" for many years, but rather that his love of what he was doing superseded any idea that his failures were about him. Maybe women just take public rejection more personally than men. I don't know, but I do know that the reason he could move on so effectively was that he didn't take it personally. I could be wrong about that, but I don't think his inner dialogue included phrases like "I'm such a loser" or "I don't deserve to be successful." And so I find his outlook to be the greatest aspect of what he had to teach us.

"...for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today? And whenever the answer has been "no" for too many days in row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything - all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

(on being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer)...This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope it's the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful, but purely intellectual concept.

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It is life's change agent...

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary...

...Stay hungry. Stay foolish...I have always wished that for myself. And now...I wish that for you."

Whatever your day brings you today, whatever path you choose in this moment, I wish you the profound knowing that life is finite and time is precious. I know when I'm writing that I am loving what I do. So thank you for reading and for sharing in this time with me.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

In Search of...a new season

Yes, the fall television season is in full swing and I am deliberating whether I love it or hate it. If this line up is indicative of our national psyche, then we are seriously longing for a past that we have romanticized beyond what it actually was, and we think superheroes are the only means for accomplishing justice in today's world.

Sure Pan Am Airlines and Playboy bunnies look glamorous, but do we really want to hearken back to a time when women could be fired for being pregnant and their salaries were not considered when applying for a mortgage? Oh, don't misunderstand me, I dig the big band music and bright red lipstick, not to mention men actually wearing suits and ties, but minorities were oppressed and the only people this period was actually good for were white males, so I'm not longing for anything but the fashion and music, frankly.

Now for our superheroes: Unforgettable, Person of Interest, and Prime Suspect. Yes, sign me up for the woman who never forgets anything. Clearly she has no inkling that once menopause hits, she'll remember nothing.

And Person of Interest, let's face it, we would like to believe that some hot guy out there who's supposed to be dead, has got our backs. Plus, he can kill bad guys willy nilly with no reliance on our criminal justice system, which is a nice bonus. And the guy who created the spying system that tramples our constitutional rights - well, good thing he's got a conscience and is using his power for good and not evil.

And what of our hat-wearing, liquor-drinking, almost-former-smoker who is up against not only the bad guys, but her male co-workers as well in Prime Suspect? Love her. She's painfully flawed, up against impossible odds and circumstances, and yet still manages to pursue what's right in an unfair world. You gotta love that.

Simon Cowell's X Factor. I know it has disappointed in the ratings, but I love it. First of all, seeing Simon and Paula together again smacking each other around is entertainment enough. But who doesn't want to see ageism eradicated? No one, that's who. The lady practicing to Aretha in her bathroom at night, the man living out of his car, the guy slinging burritos, come on. It's time that talent got a shot at success. And I, for one, applaud Simon for taking the age cap off and recognizing that heartbreak and struggle puts something in a voice that youth will never have, no matter how talented a twelve to fourteen year old may be.

And just when I was about to give up on anything I loved staying on the air past one season, at least I've got The Good Wife, Harry's Law, Castle, and the final season of Desperate Housewives to keep me warm. So how am I managing to watch all of this and get anything done? Three little letters - DVR! Yes, minus the commercials, you can trim at least twenty minutes off every hour of television. So no frivolous TV watching here anymore. Just previously recorded shows that shave hours off in wasted ad time. (Sorry advertisers - no sale.)

Yup, it's time to make some tough choices about time spent. Bunnies or stewardesses, cops or cops with super powers, lawyers or, well, lawyers - they don't really change. We'll see what survives the ratings battle and the network executives' hit list.

Whatever you're choosing to watch, I hope it brings you joy, entertainment, and the right shade of lipstick. Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, September 19, 2011

In Search of...the best line of the night

I had my acceptance speech all ready. I've had a lifetime to tweak it, after all. This year I wasn't even eating junk food while watching. At least that was an improvement. But alas, the Emmys came and went without so much as a nod in my direction at home. Not that my category is televised, anyway (Best Original Song).

This year's Emmy Awards were hosted by Jane Lynch, a woman who radiates joy at all times, a feat I do not myself possess the means to carry out. Sure there were the awkward moments, the Ricky Gervais, the Charlie Sheen, the Ashton Kutcher looking more like an ax murderer than a TV star moments. But all in all, this year's Emmys were uneventful.

You'll be happy to know that, minus the scandalous events, I have found the one line that got me, grabbed me, made me wish I'd thought of it myself, and made me swear I'll use it when my time comes in the land of stars. Yes, it was Margo Martindale, a woman whose name I don't know and whom I've never seen before. She wasn't the youngest or the skinniest, but she was the most beautiful when she semi-crawled her way up on the stage to get her Emmy and said: "Sometimes things just take time. But with time comes great appreciation."

And that, dear friends, was the moment of moments for me. How many conversations do we have with ourselves about our shortcomings, about why we will never accomplish our impossible dreams? How do you reach for the stars when common sense would tell you you're a fool for even trying?

In the space between the falling down and the rising up, I suggest to you is where true triumph lives. So forget the airbrushed makeup ads with celebrity spokespeople. Forget all the reasons that quitting would make more sense than struggling does. Forget all the reasons you can't and just get up one more time than you think you can. Use all the cliches: keep the faith, fight the good fight, when the going gets get the idea. Whatever it takes, do it. And let me tell you why: not because Margo Martindale or you need the Emmy for your mantle, though I'm sure you both do, but because somewhere, sitting at home watching, is a little girl or boy who needs to know that anything is possible, that talent and hard work stand some chance of being rewarded, and that there are unimaginable good things in everyone's future. The things is - sometimes things just take time.

So whatever it is you dream for yourself, be it big or small, probable or probably impossible, I hope you take a small step toward it today so that when it comes to pass you can appreciate your journey fully.

Peace and blessings to you. Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

In Search idealist without illusions...revisited

Tomorrow marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and because I've noticed this blog I wrote in 2011 getting quite a few hits recently, I am re-posting it today in both his honor and his memory.

Caroline Kennedy has allowed the release of hours of interviews done with her mother four months after the assassination of her father, the President, John F. Kennedy. And for those of us who are old enough to know what the reference to Camelot even is, it is a gift both bitter and sweet to hear the wispy voice of the late Jacqueline Kennedy once again.

So much has been tainted in the years since, stemming from our need to know everything, including all the dirty little secrets once kept hidden from the public's common knowledge. But the most important things I took away from these interviews weren't my shock and awe at Jacqueline's views on women and their place in society, though that did make me gasp out loud, but rather the President's thoughts on both how he saw himself and how he operated in the landscape of the politics of his time.

When Jackie told him she despised a particular political figure, he told her she mustn't think that way, because then she would eventually act that way. He viewed politics much like a chess game, and even though I'm partial to poker references myself, the point was that disdain is always your "tell." And you can't afford to have a tell like that in politics. Oh Barack, dear chap, are you listening? Please stop letting 'em know what you're thinking. We can all see it on your face. And for goodness sake, twist an arm or two, why don't you! We won't mind, I promise. As a matter of fact, we don't even need to know.

But here's the thing that struck me the most and made me stop dead in my tracks while listening to Jackie's voice. When asked how he thought of himself, JFK's answer was as "an idealist without illusions." And that, my friends, is what we need today. That is the perfect combination we've been looking for - the one with the beautiful, inspiring rhetoric coupled with the brute force masked behind a winning smile needed to actually accomplish the content of the pretty words.

The times we live in are devoid of civility. And though one might argue that that is the price you pay for honesty, I don't see politicians being any more truthful, and now they're just mean on top of being liars, so what was the sacrifice of courtesy for in the end, anyway?

Today I've been thinking about what it means to be "an idealist without illusions," and I've decided that should be everyone's goal, but it is now definitely mine. I've decided that whether it's the 1960's or 2011, it would behoove us to dream big and aspire to greatness, while doing the very real and unglamorous work it takes to live minus the illusion that your dreams will fall from the sky onto your life. In this day where we want success without dues paying, it's time to roll up our sleeves and get to work, while still daring to dream. Had President Kennedy not aspired to passing a healthcare bill (which he failed at, by the way), President Obama would not have been able to sign one.

So while I get wistful looking at pictures of the handsome young president and his lovely wife, I know that their lives were far from perfect, but that didn't stop them from trying. There is no air-brushing of real life. We come here flawed, and frail, and hopelessly longing for that which we likely will never attain. And still it is within our ability to be "idealists without illusions."

So here's to the memory of those who came before us and strove on our behalf, and to those who strive now, idealists without illusions, who work each and every day so that we might once again know Camelot.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

In Search of...what endures: a 9/11 blog

Much has been written about 9/11. Much has been said. Much has been invoked in the name of it. And none of us who were alive then will ever forget where we were, how we felt, and what we did that day and the heartbreakingly uncertain days that followed immediately thereafter. These things are indelibly etched in our hearts, minds, and psyche as a nation.

As the names of those lost are painstakingly read aloud, I have wondered in years past if we've done justice as a nation to the essence of their souls. These were people who did not volunteer to serve our country the way the military does - with the forewarning that they might never come home again. These were ordinary people leading ordinary lives, who were called in an instant to be martyrs for that way of life which is uniquely American. The first responders that saw danger and rushed towards it at their peril, these are the heroes we remember, too, on this day.

As the enormity of this loss weighs upon us, even still ten years later, I got to thinking about what words, and songs, and people were chosen to represent the solemnity of this anniversary and comfort us in some way. It was the hauntingly moving version of "Amazing Grace" played on the flute, the words of our own poet laureate, and songs that take on a startlingly poignant meaning sung some forty plus years later by James Taylor and Paul Simon. Seeing these two men, dressed in suits and ties, with what was is left of their hair completely gray now, was a stark contrast to the images I hold in my head of the long-haired artists who held in their hearts a vision for a world much different than this one turned out to be.

Listening to the words of "The Sound of Silence" now, at ground zero, on this day by Paul Simon, so visibly moved, it was as though it was written for a future he could not yet know when he wrote it. And maybe it was, because the words "Hello darkness, my old friend..." seem to have profound meaning now and express a weighty magnitude in their simplicity that we could not have fully understood at any point earlier in time.

As we think about what endures when the future isn't promised to us, the one thing reiterated over and over again as the names are being read aloud, is "I love you." Even as the times have changed, what is meaningful in the end is the love felt, the times shared, the memories held in that place in our hearts that belongs to eternity.

And so on this solemn day, I hope we all use this opportunity to pray for the souls who have left us, to appreciate what we have in this very moment, and to recognize the abiding goodness that manifests even in the darkest of moments.

Peace, comfort, and blessing to you all today. Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing a few moments with me.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

In Search of...too many applicants for the job

I did it. I survived watching what sounds like it could be the lead in for a joke - eight Republicans walk into a presidential library...

I could have used some Valium, or alcohol...or Valium and alcohol, but alas I had neither, and so I was forced to listen to eight Republican contenders for their party's nomination for president mix it up for just shy of two hours whilst being stone cold sober. It wasn't pretty. If one was looking for levity, there was none to be found, not that there weren't a couple of attempts at it. But let's face it, there is nothing funny about Republicans, at least not this crop of them.

No, instead we heard words like failure, and crisis with unadulterated disdain for our current president, the likes of which were simultaneously dismissive and disturbing. We heard words of doom, gloom, and defeat, but what we did not hear was a plan on how to fix anything - except from the pizza guy (Herman Cain) who gave us his 9/9/9 plan, which I'm sure was derivative of an offer that previously included mushrooms and anchovies instead of taxes.

Mitt Romney proudly offered proof that he was qualified to fix things because he came up with 59 ways in which to do it. What he didn't offer was an explanation of any one of those 59 steps toward economic recovery. But Mitt looked splendid to me compared to the craziest of the crazy, a distinction previously held by Michele Bachmann. But last night, the award went to Rick Perry, a man who prefers we be uneducated, uninsured, and minus Social Security. Yes, Social Security, according to the man who has had 234 people executed in his state, is a Ponzi scheme. And though their words were not nearly as extreme as Perry's, rest assured the rest of the lot would dismantle Social Security and Medicare just as soon as they could get their rich little hands on it to do so.

I would love to go into great detail about the subtle differences between candidates, but my eyes glazed over when Michele Bachmann spoke, and I might have actually dozed through the few seconds allotted Rick Santorum. Ron Paul, bless his heart, is so anti-government that I'm not quite sure why he thinks there should even be a president, let alone why it should be him. Jon Huntsman, for my money, not only had a tan that rivals John Boehner's, but he actually seemed the most qualified, having been an ambassador to China and a governor. He also scored the biggest points of the night for me by actually citing where he got his statistics from. I'm convinced that the others just made up numbers to try to persuade us that they knew things that, minus the source of their numbers, we could never confirm.

It was clear from the moderators that the media considers the two front runners to be Romney and Perry. Romney came across the most self assured and (gulp) presidential, if I could use that term loosely. Perry...well, I'm fairly certain that he was armed and more than certain that he is dangerous. We should all be very afraid of him. He makes Newt Gingrich look centrist.

Yes, the games have begun, and those of us who have been disillusioned must cast that aside, suck it up, and go with our guy. There is no youthful enthusiasm this go around for us, but it's time we act like the responsible adults we are and "dance with the one who brung us."

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Monday, September 5, 2011

In Search of...pieces of dreams

One of my birthday gifts this year was a new CD titled "What Matters Most - Barbra Streisand Sings the Lyrics of Alan and Marilyn Bergman." I have to admit, driving around in my car with Streisand blasting is a pleasure I have not allowed myself in a very long time, even years, perhaps. You see, I listen to the market I'm supposed to be writing for, and it's not that I don't like it, but hearing a real live orchestra with soaring strings and a magnificent voice sent from heaven itself touches something deep within me that reminds me why I wanted to write songs in the first place. And those lyrics - expressive and poetic and intelligent - well, that's just not allowed anymore. But current market aside, the words speak to me, they soothe me, they move me, and inspire me. And so I've been thinking about "pieces of dreams." No, not the song with that title, but my own pieces of dreams.

Sometimes in order to move forward, we have to take a moment to stop in our tracks and glance back at who we were and where we came from. Sometimes we need to be reminded of how far we've come, or of why we set out on a particular journey. It's so easy to get sidetracked and veer off-course. It's easy to tell ourselves that the dreams we once had in their purest form were pure folly. But it just isn't true. Those dreams, whatever they were, fueled us for a journey, impossible to embark on without immense passion. Passion propels us forward in the moments when we would ordinarily give up. And even those dreams on which we did ultimately give up, well, even those had their place. Nothing great was ever accomplished without the seemingly impossible dream. No distant land discovered, or disease cured, or technology invented, or social justice come to pass without first the dream.

So yes, if Barbra Streisand ever records a song of mine, I will be able to walk away from the music business altogether without so much as a glance back. But maybe, just maybe, there are people listening to songs of mine, feeling the same way I feel about these songs and Barbra's voice. Maybe the beauty and the value to be found in what each of us does along the way isn't ours to know.

What I do know is that I still have pieces of the dreams I held in my heart when I first started out and truly - "It's not how many summertimes we had to give to fall. What matters most is that we loved at all."

And so it is. Thanks for stopping by. Here's hoping all your dreams come true.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

In Search of...a prayer for the day

I've been praying, meditating, and visualizing every day lately. I could tell you it's for my next book, or as a scientific experiment, but the truth is it is to change my life from the inside out. I don't think real change is possible without that, nor do I think you can accomplish much of anything on a grand scale if you're missing one of these three elements - the asking, the receiving, the seeing.

I am not picky about where I draw my inspiration. It can be a psalm, a song, a preacher, or a rock star. It doesn't really matter to me because every encounter is a divine one. So for today I'm going to paraphrase a blessing I read yesterday from Joel Osteen and send it out into the world.

Today you are strong and courageous.
Today you are full of talent, creativity and wisdom.
Today you can accomplish your God-given dreams.
Today you walk in divine health.
Today you have favor with every person you meet.
Today everything you touch is going to prosper and succeed.
Today the seeds of greatness that are on the inside of you will grow stronger and stronger.
Today hidden treasure is about to burst forth and bring you to new seasons of increase, new seasons of favor, and new seasons of God's blessings.
Today you renounce every negative word ever spoken over you and break its power.
Today you and I receive this truth and boldly walk forward in victory.

Thanks for stopping by. Peace and blessings to you.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

In Search pre-hurricane blog

I've driven through a blizzard, survived the floods of Nashville a little over a year ago, and now am awaiting a hurricane's arrival in New York. At some point you really do have to start believing that whatever doesn't kill you, makes you stronger. Well, that and life's too short to give up potato chips entirely. (A friend of mine had the good sense to buy the double-stuffed Oreos in case we're doomed to the hereafter. I had no such foresight.)

The candles are ready, the flashlights have batteries, the cupboards are stocked and now we wait. While waiting, I thought it a good time to mention how much I appreciate my relatives and friends in other parts of the country checking in. There is some kind of comfort in knowing you have the prayers of others on your side. I don't take that lightly. Nor do I take for granted the many people my life is so blessed to have in it. All this waiting seems a good time to give thanks for the vast amount of goodness I have known.

I was thinking I should probably use this down time to be productive and clean out a closet or something. Then I thought, if this is the big one, do I really want my last time on earth to be spent cleaning a closet? These are the things that run through your mind, at least mine, anyway. So I'm going to read for a while, I think. I've got stacks of books and Oprah magazines just begging to be read so my life can improve. Ah yes, that seems optimistic - I'll throw myself into self improvement. Oh, how I wish I had those Oreos instead.

To all my fellow east coasters - Godspeed and stay safe. To the rest of you out there - many thanks  for your good thoughts. I'm feeling the love.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Monday, August 22, 2011

In Search love affair with Steven Tyler

I'm having a love affair with Steven Tyler. No, not a real one. I'm reading his memoir Does the Noise in my Head Bother You? And the answer is - no, Steven, it doesn't.

Reading his book is a bit like watching a train wreck - you want to look away, but you just can't. It was at the same time (which is quite a feat) riveting, fascinating, horrifying, appalling, inspiring, captivating, and nothing short of completely entertaining.

If genius is its own form of insanity, then Steven Tyler delivers both the profound and the crazy in equal measure. And his passion is contagious. He's a walking encyclopedia of songs, and his knowledge isn't limited to the genre that made him famous. His tastes are eclectic and his influences meld into what makes him a force to be reckoned with in entertainment.

Lest you think I started out as a huge Aerosmith fan, I must dispel that myth from the getgo. I can't name five songs of theirs. So how did I get to be a Steven Tyler fan in my forties? And why did I choose to read nearly four hundred pages about a guy whose drug use has conceivably destroyed more brain cells than I will ever have? Well, the answer is kind of simple - he's from my hometown of Yonkers, New York, and we went to the same high school (which he got kicked out of). I wanted to know what the trajectory was that got him from Yonkers, New York to rock 'n' roll super stardom, because, believe me, it's not an obvious transition.

Not to over analyze here, but the take away from his book in answer to that question is - have a very clear vision of what you want for yourself, learn everything you can about it, and then don't stop until you get there.

It sounds simple, and it may be simple, but the one thing it isn't is easy. Unlike the kids he judges on American Idol, Steven Tyler has something our current crop of young performers don't anymore - seasoning. It is not easy to play every dive bar, restaurant, barn, hoedown, whatever for years and years. Long before you have your own roadies, there is schlepping involved, and a lot of driving, sleeping in cars, going hungry, and assorted other glamorous things that earn you the right to have the four decade career that Steven Tyler has had. And though the perks be many once you get there, celebrity doesn't come without a heavy price it exacts for the privilege. So while most of us cannot relate to the degree of excess that much of this book describes in great detail, given the underlying current of reality pulsing through it, most of us wouldn't choose this life even if we could have it. It might be fun for five minutes, but it's a roller coaster ride anyone who is faint of heart would be screaming to get off of.

If there is something enviable that I took away from this read, it is the bravery, reckless abandon, and fearlessness with which Steven Tyler seems to have lived his life. While it's true that he is not the poster child for clean living, he is the poster child for being completely authentic, and for as wild as that may come across at times, it is an admirable quality to be sure. To be true to yourself as you walk through life takes a kind of courage we don't often see today. And it is a beautiful thing. So if the eccentric clothes and long hair put you off, then so be it. We express ourselves in ways both big and small. I view it as another layer of creativity in the many layers of a complex and artistic soul. We could all stand to be a little less like sheep, even in how we dress.

While I can't say that his memoir will win him any literary awards, I can and will say that, like Mozart and Beethoven, Steven Tyler's music will live on well beyond his time on earth. And that, my friends, speaks volumes. So in the immortal words of the man himself, come on and sing it with me - "dream on - dream until your dreams come true."

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

In Search birthday blog!

Yes, it is true, I'm a year older. My Facebook page is filled with well wishing, and it feels kind of overwhelming to know that, even for a few seconds each, people have thought of me and sent good wishes my way! I am inhaling deeply and taking it all in. And it feels gooooood!!!!!

I am giving some thought today to what a birthday means. When my mother was alive, I used to tell her that she should be the one getting a gift, because after all, she was the one doing the work on this day. I just showed up. But showing up is doing something - on many levels. It means something to show up in the world, to show up for other people, and especially to show up for yourself. I don't take it for granted when others show up for me, nor do I imagine that others take it for granted either.

So today, when a surprising number of people have wished me well and asked what I am doing to celebrate, I suppose my first answer is to be present in gratitude for the gift of my life and all the beautiful people that have been, are, and continue to be part of that life. I don't take affection for granted. That is the biggest gift I receive today.

My five year old niece begins Kindergarten today, and not long ago, when I was visiting her, she took her Barbie microphone out of its stand, (like an old entertainment pro and not a five year old), and she proudly said into her hand-held mic, "Now I'm going to walk around the room and you can tell me how much you love me." I burst into laughter as I held my arms as wide as they could go and said, "This much." But I envied her joy, her confidence, and her immense, doubtless certainty that she was quite loved. My prayer is that she never loses that, but it's also that we grownups can all remember that, because regardless of our stories, we are all children of a God who surely feels that way about us.

So today I'm starting my birthday with a few minutes of closing my eyes, and allowing myself to take in all the love that has been so generously offered to me. I gratefully accept it and return it tenfold to a world in desperate need of it.

As for the rest of my day, there will be roaming in my favorite bookstore, and having dinner with family and friends. Whatever your day brings for you today, I hope it includes knowing that you are loved.

Thank you for stopping by and for all your good wishes. I deeply appreciate it. - Ilene

Sunday, August 7, 2011

In Search of...a Sunday sermon

It seems like this is a season of tough times for most people I know. Instead of "no news being good news," it feels as if there's bad news, then more bad news, and then some more bad news piled on top of that, higher than we can see a horizon beyond, and engulfing us past the point in which we can stay afloat.

No, I don't mean to bum you out first thing in the morning. It's just that ignoring the obvious has gotten us to this place, and if we are to get past it, we have to at least acknowledge where we are with honesty.

One of the greatest truths ever spoken is Gandhi's "You must be the change you wish to see in the world," and it is that profound idea that I keep coming back to when my heap o' troubles gets to be too much. Yes, people, the changes we want to see in our lives and in our world begin and end solely with us.

This is a tough thing to hear, because we are much more comfortable asking God or someone else to solve our problems or give us a magic pill. Doesn't it seem so much easier to ask God to solve our obesity issue than to eat healthfully and exercise? I mean, who wants to do that?!

And so I've taken to asking myself, "Who would I need to be to have the kind of life I want?" And "What qualities would I need to possess to get there?" If there is something worthy of asking for, I believe it lies in us doing the changing and cultivating of our finer qualities to make something better in the world, even if it's just our own lives.

To that end, yesterday, whilst having what I believed to be a much deserved pity party, I asked myself what I needed to get out of my funk, and it dawned on me that I truly needed someone to ask me how I was doing and mean it. It sounds simple and stupid, but we ask each other how we are as a matter of politeness, and we answer "fine" unconsciously, with just as much politeness, even when that couldn't be further from the truth.

So today I'm proposing that we be the change we wish to see in the world and start by offering those things we could really use ourselves.

Let's stop and take a moment to be present when we ask someone how they are, and truly wait and listen to their answer.

Let's be compassionate listeners, without judgement, advice, or condemnation.

Let's make someone else feel heard, understood, loved. That is the greatest thing we as human beings seek.

Let's try going about our day as if everything we did and said matters...because it does.

Let's take a moment to remember someone we loved who has transitioned into their next dimension and left their earthly bodies. Let's stop, take a breath, and a moment to celebrate the gift they were to our lives. Then let's take a moment to hold someone who is still here in prayer, and lift them up with thoughts of love and appreciation and prayers for blessings to chase them down in ways that will delight and transform them. Is that not what we would want someone to do for us? I know I would.

Let's give someone the gift of our love and release. Let's surrender to the power (I call God) that would only have things turn out for everyone's highest good.

Let's release ourselves from the bondage of fear and control for the benefits of faith and redemption.

Let's agree to call on ourselves, even when it is inconvenient, to be the voice for someone else who doesn't have one.

Let's start a day with a moment of silence, where instead of putting forth frenzy and strife, we breathe in peace and tranquility and solitude for just a moment so that we have some of it for ourselves to bring to the world as we go about our day.

Yes, these are the things I need. And so I recognize that I can't have that which I am unwilling to give to someone else. So it is my prayer today that I can do and be all that I just said. As a declaration of faith that this is so, I say aloud, "And so it is."

Peace and Blessings to you.
With immense gratitude that you stopped by,

Monday, August 1, 2011

In Search of...a mighty man of fearless courage

Gideon in the bible was asked by God to free the people of Israel and condemn their idol worshipping. He was called "a mighty man of fearless courage," and yet, before he'd venture off to battle, he asked God to prove Himself not once, but twice. I guess one miracle was a fluke, but two was a sure sign of God's existence. Anyway, I've been thinking quite a bit today, not about Gideon, but about the description "a mighty man of fearless courage."

In light of the deal reached by the President and leaders of Congress, I am at a loss for ways to express my disappointment. Paul Krugman put it best when he called it "extortion." And so, absent the President of the United States, I am looking for a mighty man of fearless courage, and as far as I can tell, he is nowhere to be found.

When I do that first thing that pops into your mind kind of thing, all I come up with is Abe Lincoln, Martin Luther King, and Seal Team 6. Okay, Gandhi and maybe the guy who was held captive by pirates on that ship a while back. But I'm looking for people today who are mighty, and fearless, and courageous. So I'm wondering what it takes to be that, and if we all couldn't cultivate just enough of it to right this awfully wrong course we're on.

The people in the bible that are used for miraculous things are always flawed. And so I wonder what miraculous things we could do - once we're done griping about the fact that we're called to do anything.

I'm not exactly sure why our representatives do not understand that the health of our country depends on the health of our country!! Healthy bodies, healthy minds, healthy souls. You can't have a future without those. You can't deny education to the people you are counting on to fix the mess we've made. You can't expect a healthy workforce without regulating the food we put in our bodies, the air we breathe, and the water we drink.

And what of those who have had the good fortune to reach old age? I hate the term "entitlement programs," because it makes it sound like the elderly are spoiled children, demanding something that is not rightfully theirs, when in fact, they are citizens, many of whom have served this country, and who rely on the money that they paid into all the years they were working, to sustain their barest of necessities now, if that.

I frequently joke about winning the lottery. I imagine what it would be like to have that unthinkable amount of money, the kind that you couldn't spend in any foreseeable generation's lifetime. And I can assure you that nowhere in my musings do I ever feel slighted because I will have to pay a huge chunk of it - millions perhaps - in taxes. It wouldn't dawn on me to feel anything other than blessed. And it would dawn on me to do something for people who weren't so blessed.

I think the real sense of entitlement lies with the people who wouldn't even feel the pain of higher taxes, but will fight to the death of our country not to pay them. I think the word "entitlement" should be reserved for those who will never have to worry about food on their table, or a doctor's visit, or what kind of education their children will get. Let me be clear. It is not wealth that is the evil here. It is the greedy desire for more of it at the expense of human lives that is the evil. And that is not an overexaggeration of the state we're in at the moment.

Yes, I could go on complaining about our sorry state, or we could all take baby steps outside of our comfort zone to do one thing, our small part, if you will, to both help someone along the way and demand of our representatives that they represent us. For all the lobbyists, and big business campaign contributors, on Election Day it comes down to you and me in a voting booth. But our job is not done as citizens on only one day a year. If nothing else, our current situation should teach us that. We are called upon as citizens of this great country to discuss, debate, respectfully disagree, and make known our wishes and make heard our voices. These are times where each of us is sacrificing personally, but what we are willing to do now is solely dependent upon what we do not want to lose later. This is no joke, though I could use one about now.

So I wish for each of us to write, to call, to run for, to elect, to attend a Town Hall meeting we never have before, to volunteer at a school for whatever they need, to be emboldened, empowered, energized, and relentless in our determination to make something better. In short, I hope and declare by faith for us all to be mighty people of fearless courage.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

In Search third summer read

I'm not sure if I should have taken it as a sign, but today, for the second time, I found myself scrambling to finish one of the shortest books I've ever read. Yes, twice now, I've taken out Nora Ephron's I Remember Nothing from the library and neglected to actually read it until it was past due with no renewals.

I can tell you that I came away feeling as if I remember more than Nora, but then again, I should. I'm younger than she is. I can tell you that she and I differ in our opinions of red coats, email, and Christmas dinners, but that it comforted me in some weird way to learn that she wrote When Harry Met Sally for the money, that it was not an easy task, and that some of what she considers to be her best work flopped. Somehow that knowledge, coming from someone as acclaimed as she, gave me the distinct impression that this is how it goes for us all. We feel the sting of the flops long after we feel the sweetness of success. Bummer, really.

Equal parts underlying heartbreak and humor, I Remember Nothing was a nice distraction on a hot July day.

Now I'm on to a book I've been dying to read - Steven Tyler's memoir, Does the Noise in my Head Bother You?  Oh yes, boys and girls, I'm buckling in for one crazy ride. Rock on.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Friday, July 22, 2011

In Search of...ACTION!!!!

If you're like me, you are shaking your head every time you hear the words "debt ceiling," and your blood begins to boil ever so slightly at the mention of social security and medicare being on the auction block by our President in order to appease Republicans who want nothing more than to oust him in 2012.

This discussion is not one we can afford to look the other way about for one more second. This is something we must make our voices heard about NOW. Did I mention I mean RIGHT NOW?!!!!

Word has it that President Obama and John (cry me a river) Boehner are making a back room deal as I type this. This deal, if my liberal sources are accurate, includes deep cuts to what the right likes to call "entitlement programs," but what the rest of us call necessary to be able to live. I'm referring to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

I don't pretend that we live in a world where fair is fair, and the wealthy have enough decency to pay a proportionate amount of taxes for the privilege of living in a land where they could get rich. But I do still hold out a modicum of hope that our democracy is predicated on our representatives getting reelected sometime soon and knowing that they can't screw us over and then have our votes.

So I'm imploring you all to call and email your representatives, including the President, and let them know that you oppose any debt ceiling deal that would include cutting benefits to social security, medicare, and medicaid. This is the right thing to do, and our elected officials need to know that we will not stand for them representing interests other than those they were put there to represent. This is of monumental importance. Below are some links and information to make it easier for you.

Thank you so much for reading this and taking action now. Please tell your friends.

White House:


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

In Search of...a book review

While I'm still searching for the summer of my youth, I continued my book fest with Craig Ferguson's memoir American on Purpose. I know, only those privy to the Scottish comedian's late night antics can fully appreciate the need for knowing the life that led up to being host of the Late, Late Show. And truthfully, I don't recall what bit of insomnia led me to discovering him in the first place, but suffice it to say that he is the only talk show host in the history of that format whom I have ever made it a point to watch purely because of the host himself. It matters not to me what guest he has on any particular night, just as long as he declares it "a great day for America, everybody" and as long as there's a hand puppet or mini disco ball in sight.

Yes, I'm a sucker for Craig Ferguson's brand of silliness, and the self deprecating humor that clearly masks a past far darker than any I could have imagined for him. In American on Purpose, he spared himself no embarrassment and was so refreshingly honest about his lesser choices in life that I'd recommend it as a handbook for scandal-ridden politicians as well as anyone in recovery of any sort. They might learn a thing or two about the depth of forgiveness and human resiliency by reading this book.

If there's a lesson to be learned, it is embodied in the saying, "It's not how you start, but how you finish." Craig Ferguson is someone who begs not to be taken seriously, and yet, this high school dropout has a work ethic that is nothing short of admirable.

We who are born in this country seldom appreciate the uniquely American notion that with hard work and a little luck, you can achieve anything. But Craig Ferguson knows that from the vantage point of someone on the outside with his nose pressed against the window pane of America, gazing longingly at vast opportunities which we who are born here mostly take for granted.

It says something about the man that despite his behavior as an alcoholic and more than occasional drug user, he has managed to sustain relationships with family and friends that were solid enough to survive the damage his substance abuse caused, and work with many of them again.

If you are a fan of Craig Ferguson, or if you just want an entertaining read that will leave you more appreciative of your own life and of our country, read American on Purpose. It was a well written, great read.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Friday, July 15, 2011

In Search of...what else could possibly go wrong?

Back in May I went to the wedding of a friend of mine. I had been looking forward to it for some time, and when the day finally arrived, I joyfully began getting dressed for the occasion.

As I noticed the small hole in my Spanx, perhaps I should have taken it as an omen - oh, not for the bride and groom, but for how the rest of my evening was going to go.

After deciding that the hole was noticeable, I opted to change to regular pantyhose. I figured it was safer to forgo the five pounds thinner that the Spanx was going to make me look in favor of not having to worry about the hole manifesting into a bigger hole and eventually a run that I would have to deal with while at the wedding. Simple enough, right? So I dug out a plain old pair, and put them on - the operative word being "old." You see, if you let things with elastic in them hang out in your dresser drawer for a few too many years, then the elastic doesn't work anymore. "No time to worry about that," I said to myself. It'll be fine.

I finished dressing with no more incidences and left for the wedding. I was in my typical New York dress attire - black cocktail dress, black hose, and my favorite DSW black dress shoes with a rhinestone t-strap. I arrived at the wedding and headed to the chairs surrounding the gazebo where the ceremony was to take place. A few steps into my destination, I felt something go terribly wrong in the direction of my feet. The sole of my left shoe completely separated from the rest of the shoe, making it impossible for me to walk at all. Immediately my mind began racing with ways to remedy this calamity. Could I go home and get back in time for the wedding? No. Take off my shoes altogether? No. Could I hop on the one good shoe, limp, drag, or otherwise saunter? Nope, not an option. Oh, what to do. So the friend I drove with ran to find the bridal family and see if anyone had any ideas or possibly a shoe in a 9 Narrow. Not exactly an average size, to be sure. That's when my friend Anthony had the idea for a solution - the band.

You would think after schlepping my own roll of duct tape to enough gigs, I would have thought of that tidbit of brilliance. However, there was no band, but a DJ. So off to the music men I hobbled, where lo and behold, the roll of duct tape appeared in time to save the day for me. After taping my shoe together, I gingerly walked toward the chairs for the ceremony.
I noticed that many of the guests surrounding me looked like extras for the show Jersey Shore, which only served to make me and my taped together shoe feel, well, let's just say not brimming with confidence.

I survived the ceremony intact, and made my way to the cocktail hour, where I basically sat, too afraid to put my duct tape to the test. When it was time to go inside for the reception, I had the strange sensation that something was creeping down my thighs. It was the pantyhose with no elastic falling further and further with each step. I slapped my hands to my thighs, hoping to keep it from falling past the hem line of the dress until I could waddle to the ladies room to assess my options.

Under normal circumstances, this occurrence would have been cause for more than mild hysteria, but I was taking migraine medication, which left me with the unusual ability to go with the flow. After tucking the stretched out stockings as far as they could go into the girdle-like undergarment I had dug out to replace the Spanx, I walked back to the reception, trying to remain as inconspicuous as possible.

The music started and I got up to dance. This was a risky move considering the precariousness of my clothing situation. But I couldn't just sit there all night. This was a celebration, for goodness sake! Besides, what else could possibly go wrong?

Well, I didn't have to look too much further for that when the evening was over and it was time to say our goodbyes. I'm a hugger...which is how my bracelet got caught on the grooms jacket. A slight moment of panic ensued as I tried to remove the bracelet and not tear the jacket in the process. I'm sure the bride had a moment, too, of justifiable bewilderment at the scene.

I got myself untangled and left as quickly as I could. By this time, the dancing had moved the sole of my shoe that the tape was still holding together. I made it home in time to relegate the shoes to history as well as the pantyhose. I made a mental note to never hug anyone while wearing that particular bracelet, and I thanked God that this disastrous evening belonged to me and not the bride and groom. Surely their life together would go more smoothly than my night at their wedding.

I marveled at my continuous, uncharacteristic calmness throughout obstacle after obstacle, and I made a mental note about buying some more duct tape. All in all, these seemed like valuable lessons to take away from a challenging evening.

Long life to the bride and groom. Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Monday, July 4, 2011

In Search of...the summer of my youth

It's summer, the season in which I traditionally turn off the TV and read as many books as I can that strike my fancy. So while Oprah is gone from my afternoons, and the notion of a book club is appealing to me, I thought I'd start my own little book review. Rest assured mine will not be the stuff of great literature, but rather of the triumphs and flaws of human nature found in the very real lives of famous people.

The book market is flooded with my favorite genre - the memoir. It seems that everyone who ever lived has written a book about themselves, and frankly, I don't mind one bit, because I think people are inherently interesting. Everyone from Rick Springfield to Dick Van Dyke to Steven Tyler has books out. And I intend to read them all. I want to know the real stories, the inside scoop, the truth behind the illusion that fame masks so well. Or do I?

This influx of celebrity memoirs comes at a time when I long for what I call "my happy place," an alternate universe where good triumphs, and justice prevails, and all is truly well that ends well. This is a place that seems like a distant memory in our current world. I want to revisit a time where my dreams seemed possible and felt probable. I want to remember a time where what I loved in all forms of entertainment was current, a time before my favorite songs were played on oldies stations and my favorite stars were still recognizable before plastic surgery. Ah yes, I long for the sound of the Good Humor ice cream truck - before the diabetes kicked in. I'm asking for the impossible, I know. But this year, I am longing for the summer of my youth.

I don't want to waste any time about it, either. So my first read of the summer was Brady, Brady, Brady - The Complete Story of The Brady Bunch as Told by the Father/Son Team Who Really Know by Sherwood Schwartz and Lloyd J. Schwartz. Whew! That's already a mouthful, isn't it?!

Yes, I started with the show that was my earliest favorite memory of TV. Perhaps I should have let myself stay blissfully ignorant, untarnished by reality. Did I really need to know that the Brady backyard wasn't a backyard at all? That the grass was plastic and that Bobby was really a blond? That Gene Hackman was the top choice for the part of Mike Brady? Can I ever go back now to a time before conjuring the visual of all the "siblings" lusting for each other in Hawaii? Yes, I wanted the back story of the show, but what I realized as every last childhood illusion was shattered, was that this show was real to me. These people were real. To a four, five, six year old Ilene, Marcia, Jan, and Cindy were who I wanted to emulate. Their hairstyles and clothes were what I wanted mine to be. Alas, my thick, curly, frizzy hair would never look like Marcia's. On the upside, I never had to overcome a cocaine addiction. But still, somehow I wish I didn't know so much.

As a book, Brady, Brady, Brady is a quick, easy read - the book version of episodic television. The chapters are short, but it always kept my attention and gave interesting heretofore unknown tidbits. I would describe it as a good chaser for the darker subject matter to follow.

Well, on to the next book...

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

In Search of...three coins in the fountain

Well, since I last touched base with you, the Huffington Post published my Weinergate blog, the Catholic League took offense to it and quoted me everywhere on line that they possibly could, the Congressman succumbed to the pressure of his party and resigned via another press conference, and I ran out of hope that any elected official whose politics I agree with will not get themselves into some sort of sex scandal. (Bill Clinton, Eliot Spitzer, Anthony get the idea.)

And so I began longing for a time when life did not seem so complex, or at least when all that seemed wrong with the world could easily be righted. In as much as things could be categorized as right or wrong, good or bad, black or white, life seemed doable, manageable, okay. Without gray areas, the world made sense. But these are the viewpoints of a child, or maybe more importantly, of a bygone era.

My five year old niece asked her mother for a coin to toss in the fountain when they were out one day. After tossing the coin, she looked up at her mother and announced her wish: "I want more toys." On the surface, that sounds perfectly normal and age appropriate. The only problem is that we as a species have not gotten past the wish of a five year old. Oh, our definition of toys is different. We want a bigger house, nicer cars, wall-mounted flat screens, iPads, iPhones, iPods and every other kind of gadget and gizmo ever invented.

As countries, we want bigger missiles, more drones, and a free pass to ravage the earth in order to get our way. Maybe it's not exactly the five year old that's being juvenile here. When do our individual desires become that of an adult who would sacrifice convenience for the future of our planet and the survival of our species? In other words, when are we going to grow up?

We have infinite ways to distract ourselves from the very real calamities we face. But face them we must one day. I love pop culture, but I don't delude myself into thinking that who wins American Idol will make any difference to anyone but his or her family. And I don't really care who thinks they can dance. On the other hand, I would tune in to see who's got an idea for saving the planet. People could compete each week to see who has the better idea for reversing global warming, salvaging our water supply, regenerating our own healthy organ tissue to heal our bodies. I'd watch that show, even if they didn't hand out roses or deem the contestants pretty. I'd call them beautiful.

So I've been thinking about my wishes for when I next have the opportunity to toss three coins in a fountain, and these are the three I have for now:

May I fully realize every bit of my potential.
May I live in the moment every moment.
May I enjoy my journey while leaving something better for having been here.

I hope on this Father's Day weekend that you take a minute to contemplate your own wishes. I hope you dare to wish them. And I hope that once said aloud, you and I find the courage within us to make them come true.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.