Monday, December 24, 2012


Well, the Mayans were wrong and we're all still here, which brings me to the idea of rebirth. If the end of the world did not come last Friday, then I can only hope that the end of the world as we knew it, did.

I would like to think that we've marked an end to our separation from one another and are entering a time of unity. I would like to think that we are leaving stagnation and inertia behind and are embracing an age of transformation and manifestation of the lives we are were born to live. I would like to think that we have learned firsthand that war never keeps the peace, that ignorance and hatred cannot be effectively cloaked in a disguise of religious piety, and that there is no destruction that some biblical angry God can heap upon us that is worse than the destruction which we perpetrate against ourselves and each other every day. I would like to think these things, especially today. So I will.

Today I envision the rebirth of our connection to Source, that internal knowing that says I am a part of God and God is a part of me. I envision myself as well equipped to be the voice and the embodiment of those qualities I cherish most - peace and love. Today I reclaim the parts of me that know that I know, the heart-led, the joy-filled, the voice for those unable or too scared to utter these things out loud.

It is easy to be tempted to cave in when we are shouted down by the relentless cynicism of darkness and of fear and of dread. But these things are gasping for their last breath, because they cannot survive where the light of truth shines, and those of us who know that have to step up.

It isn't easy to be the embodiment of love, or of forgiveness, or of peace. If you think it is, try it out for a day. Let me know how you fare in rush hour traffic, or with relatives you don't particularly like, or during the next school shooting or terrorist attack. Not so easy. So it's not some hippy-dippy or child-like notion to try and be the embodiment of the qualities the world so desperately needs. It takes courage to be peace in the midst of antagonism, to be love in the face of hate, and to speak truth when people would rather cater to fear. It's not so easy to forgive when we feel justified.

So if the end of days is upon us and we have a chance at rebirth, then let's reclaim that best part of ourselves that knows why we came here. Let's reclaim the idea that one person makes all the difference, that our hearts are better navigators than our minds, that what's possible is what we say is possible, and that we were all sent to save the world.

Peace and Blessings to you. Thanks for stopping by. And Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Guilty Pleasures & Mixtapes: The Christmas Edition

Okay, so I’m a little behind on my Christmas movie watching. (Translation: I’ve watched no Christmas movies yet.) But I’ve got high hopes for this weekend somewhere in between baking, writing, and delivering Christmas cheer to our next door neighbors. The thing about our neighbors is they usually return the favor by insisting we visit a while and sample some of their homemade Strufellas and Limoncello.

Let me just say this about that, because if you’re not Italian or from New York, you will likely have no idea what either one of those things are. Strufella (or to be correct by saying the plural Struffoli in Italian) are fried pieces of dough, shaped like balls and dipped in honey with sprinkles drizzled on them. They are traditionally served at Christmastime. Limoncello is a lemon flavored liqueur that involves 100 proof vodka – or at least my neighbor’s does. Need I say more?

So assuming I’m not plastered before noon, I’ll be starting my (albeit very limited) Christmas movie watching bonanza, which brings me to – guilty pleasures.

While most people go with the traditional It’s a Wonderful Life, or A Christmas Story, or even Christmas Vacation, oh no, not I. I have to go with at least a couple of choices to make you snicker and/or roll your eyes. But hey, I’m a secure kind of gal (ha!), so here’s what I’ll be watching:

Mixed Nuts - a veritable who’s who of every comedic star on the planet tossed together in a plot that involves a suicide prevention hotline and a serial killer on the loose at Christmas. And if you don’t blink, you’ll even see Jon Stewart on roller-skates. Seriously, you’ve gotta watch this one if you haven’t seen it.

The next one is a real eye-roller – Ebbie. Susan Lucci stars in this female twist on Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. It is truly awful – and I enjoy every minute of it. Have never figured out why.

And my #1 guilty pleasure is: Love Actually. Well written, beautifully acted, stellar cast, great music. I laugh, I cry. I love it.

Now for the mixtape part.

For starters, do I even need to explain what a “mixtape” is for anyone too young to know?

Picture this, boys and girls: Back in the day when dinosaurs ruled the earth, before global warming, when we trudged 3 miles uphill in a foot and a half of snow to go to school, we had these things called cassette tapes and record albums. Oddly enough, you couldn’t buy just one song you liked on an album. You had to buy the whole darn thing! And so, in that totally uncivilized, pre-iTunes world, we recorded the songs we liked either off our records, complete with crackles and tape hiss, or from the radio, frequently with our favorite DJ’s intro, just for good measure. But the beauty of it was that we customized these little puppies for all occasions, even gave them as gifts, especially and particularly when we were in love.

So in the spirit of those bygone days, I thought it might be fun to list some of my favorite tracks from different CD’s just to create my own little Christmas “mixtape,” if you will. Sure, I could call it an iTunes Playlist, but mixtape gives me the warm fuzzies, and it is Christmas, after all. So here are a handful of my favorites…

“Merry Christmas Darling” – The Carpenters Christmas Portrait
“Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” – Amy Grant A Christmas Album
“O Come, O Come Emmanuel” – Makky Kaylor Glad Tidings
“Mary, Did You Know?” – Kathy Mattea Good News
“Take a Walk through Bethlehem” – Trisha Yearwood Sweetest Gift
“O Holy Night” – Blue Sky Riders (single)
“My Grown Up Christmas List” – BethAnne Clayton Remember
“River” – James Taylor At Christmas
“Same Old Lang Syne” – Dan Fogelberg Greatest Hits
“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve” – Harry Connick, Jr. When My Heart Finds Christmas

And if you still want to buy a whole album, I highly recommend Unforgotten Christmas, a stunning instrumental (piano) album by Christopher Finkelmeyer that is both soul-soothing and truly moving at the same time.

So there you have it. What are your favorite Christmas movies and recordings?

Enjoy these and thanks for stopping by!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Before this Moment Passes

While the families in Newtown are grieving and burying their loved ones, the rest of us have an opportunity to channel our emotions into action for the sake of our collective future, the good of our people, and the memory of those lost to the horrors of gun violence.

So before this moment passes, please contact all of your representatives and demand their action in the form of significant gun legislation and restriction. In my opinion, the logical place to start is by banning assault weapons. I have made this as easy as possible by providing all the necessary links below.

To find your Representative in the House, click here:

To find your Senators, click here:

To contact your state Governor, click here:

To contact the President:

If you would like to give the NRA a piece of your mind:
Or write them:
National Rifle Association of America.
Institute for Legislative Action
11250 Waples Mill Rd.

Fairfax, VA 22030

Thank you, please share this information, and I wish you heartfelt peace and blessings,

Friday, December 14, 2012

In the Silence between our Tears

(This was just published in The Huffington Post as well.)

I don’t much care how it happened. It happened. I don’t care that gun legislation of any significance is tantamount to the third rail of either party’s politics. That doesn’t matter now.

It is not naïve or Pollyanna to say that we are better off not possessing guns. We are. And before some idiot gives his “guns don’t kill people” speech again, I would point out that, absent those terrible tools of death, 20 children would still be alive tonight.

No, I am not interested in arguments about individual liberties, 2nd Amendment rights, or the pros and cons of the NRA. Children are dead. They went to school this morning and went to the morgue in a body bag before day’s end. That is the reality of who we are as a nation today.

We always talk about how Americans come together in times of crisis, how we are unified when it counts. But it counted today, only we thought it was okay to put off the conversation for one more day. Then our luck ran out - again. This is what I know.

A few months ago, after the shooting in New York City, I suggested that we should at least demand as much regulation as we have for driving a car. I pointed out that parallel parking could not possibly be a more necessary skill than knowing how to safely operate a killing machine you’ve purchased.

Yes, we cannot make sense of a madman’s actions. But the crawl on my TV screen has informed me that this gun was purchased legally, so the argument that criminals (or madmen) will obtain guns illegally no matter what the circumstance doesn’t really hold water.

Many have said this is a complex issue. It’s not. No guns, no gunshot victims. Simple. Cause and affect. And maybe it’s time that when we come together at our vigils, lighting our candles, saying our prayers, maybe we could contemplate the bigger picture. Maybe we can make a choice for our collective good instead of our individual need for the false feeling of security that gun ownership provides.

The 2nd Amendment was crafted for the sake of national security, so that our citizens could defend themselves against invading foreign armies. It reads as follows:

"A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

There was neither the weaponry invented, nor any conceivable notion that our “national security” would one day translate to meaning the need to defend school children from a lone gunman. But these are the times we are living in and all of these recent shootings pose the very gravest threat to our national security, clothed in unexpected garb, maybe, but a threat nonetheless that needs to be addressed.

We saw the President cry today. And as he wiped tear after tear from his eyes, many of us cried with him. And we cry for those children and adults who were lost and for the families and friends for whom the grief will never go away.

So no, today I don’t care if Bubba has the right to go hunt Bambi; I care that little Johnny and Suzie didn’t live to come home from kindergarten. We can say that this is horrific, but we cannot say that it is unimaginable anymore. It is becoming all too common an occurrence.

So don’t just sit around feeling hopeless, and helpless, and frustrated. Tell your representatives, all of them, that we need significant gun legislation and regulation, that it is a matter of vital national security.

And if you own a gun, ask yourself how you’d feel if someone like this young man today got a hold of it and went on a killing spree. What are you willing to sacrifice for the sake of your fellow countrymen? Are you brave enough not to own a gun?

Our soldiers and first responders may have signed up to put themselves in harm’s way, but our children did not. And we are the only ones who can protect them. So it is my fervent hope that, in the silence between our tears, we can find our way to redemption by standing for the fallen and being stewards for those who did not have a voice today.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Spirit of the Season

The cookie dough is made, most of the presents have been purchased, the tree is – wait, I’m Jewish, there is no tree. And that brings me to the logical discussion of…the spirit of the season.

For the Jewish tradition, this season is about celebrating the miracle of something that was only supposed to last for one day, lasting for eight days instead. In this particular instance – oil. So what do we do to commemorate that? Fry potato pancakes in oil. White potatoes fried in oil – if you ask me, the real miracle is that heart disease didn’t annihilate us faster than any oppressors. So I’m forgoing that particular tradition and just going with the lighting of the menorah, because I can get behind candle lighting of any kind, really.

But back to the season. To be honest with you, most of my friends and family have Christmas trees. I mean, who doesn’t love tinsel and lights and trinkets dangling precariously from branches, real or artificial? I personally have never owned a tree, but I have been known to string colorful lights over anything and everything in my path. Sure, I may not have known that there were fabulous accessories like those clear hooks to assist in this endeavor until about year three into it, but better late than never, that’s what I say.

This year, driving through my neighborhood, I am struck by the lack of homes festively decorated – a stark reminder that hurricane Sandy has taken its toll not only on the physical landscape, but on our spirits as well.

So what about Christmas spirit? It’s no secret to anyone who has known me for more than five minutes that I love all things Christmas – from the idea that our hope for the future rests in the innocence of new life, to the idea of believing in peace on earth and good will toward man. Plus, I really love the music – all of it. But more on music in a later blog.

Lately I’ve been contemplating the bigger picture of Christmas, the broader idea of what Jesus’ life was about, and how one person could be the example of what we are capable of at both our best and our worst.

If the life of Jesus was about anything, it was about the human embodiment of unconditional love. His life was the example of our capacity to heal the sick, care for the poor, welcome the outcast, and forgive no matter how grave or unwarranted the circumstances in which we find ourselves. In short, Jesus was human potential fully realized.

But if that was what his life embodied, then his death was the equal example of our capacity to hate, to betray, and to stand silently by when we most should not. And those are not pleasant things to look at, let alone acknowledge about ourselves. But changing those things would solve most, if not all of what currently ails our world. So isn’t it time we stop crucifying ourselves and each other and get on with the matter of loving each other? I think yes.

So this season, while I am enjoying the festivities and counting my blessings, I am also taking time to remember that there are those for whom this season is fraught with pain, those fighting life-threatening illness, whose loved ones are feeling anything but lighthearted. There are those whose homes have been obliterated, or who have no way to clothe or feed, let alone purchase a toy for their children.

The spirit of the season is about giving more than just the spare change in our pockets; it’s about giving that best piece of ourselves in service to others, regardless of what it looks like.

So maybe I cling to the hope of man’s inherent goodness because there is so much need for it. Or maybe it’s because I know that we are capable of so much more than we’ve historically exhibited. Whatever the reason, I believe that within every act of human kindness lies the proof of God’s existence, whatever your particular religious or spiritual leanings.

So this is the time of year I get to make my case for love being the only choice that makes any sense for our world. It’s the time people are more receptive to the notion that miracles are not some ancient biblical thing never to be seen in our lifetimes, but rather a common, everyday occurrence if we would just look for them, but more importantly, if we would look to be that miracle for someone else.

So deck the halls, fa la la, have yourself a merry little Christmas, but mostly – let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me…and you.

Peace and blessings this holiday season,

Monday, December 3, 2012

Hey, whose voice is that, anyway?!!

I should know by now that whenever I ask God for a sign, short of flashing neon, I get one. Most of the time, several. And frankly, I don’t rule out the possibility of flashing neon, either. (And I should probably note here that I use “God” and “the universe” interchangeably most of the time.)

For months I asked to be shown what was standing in the way of me living the life I know I was born to, and I didn’t just ask for some little inkling, which may or may not be left open to interpretation. No, I asked to be shown in no uncertain terms.

And the universe, being nothing if not an obliging one, let me know in rapid, profound, and unmistakable succession, so clearly in fact, that I felt pummeled by it – in a good way, of course, but pummeled nonetheless.

Funny thing. Turns out that what’s been standing in my way has been, um, me. Little piece of advice for you all: don’t ask a question you do not want to know the answer to. And yes, I believe I just broke every rule of correct English grammar in that sentence…which reminds me of a joke that my friend, a school teacher, told me: Past, Present, and Future walk into a bar. It was tense. (Okay, so maybe that one just tickles me.)

Where was I? Oh yeah, standing in my own way, blah, blah, blah. So anyway, while it’s great (and completely unpleasant) to know that tidbit of information, the more pertinent question is: Now what am I supposed to do?

So again, I, being just a tad too inquisitive, asked a more than obliging universe once again to “reveal what I need to know.”

Maybe it’s because the more you make a practice of something, the quicker and easier and more obvious it becomes, but whatever the reason, a multitude of different people, all saying exactly the same thing, showed up in rapid succession. And so I guess I was supposed to hear this – in as many different ways as necessary until I get it. Below is a quote that I saw in my Facebook feed. It’s by Michael Bernard Beckwith.

“There is an impulse within us all - a creative urge, a quest - that is compelled to manifest. We can absolutely trust it and yield to it, and as we do so, we will receive feedback from the universe in the form of guidance & inspiration about the purpose for which we were born.”

So there you have it: trusting that “creative urge,” that “quest.”

Trust. TRUST. Trust, trust, trust, trust, trust, trust, trust. TRUST!!!

The all or nothing thing that we do or we don’t. No halfway with it, no sort of kind of. Nope. You’re in or you’re out. You do or you don’t.

And that brings me to the million dollar question: How do you know if the voice you’re hearing is the voice to trust? How do you decipher if it’s the voice of your ego or your heart? The voice of your inner critic or the voice of God? How do you know if it’s the voice of who you once were at your core before the world got a hold of you, or the voice of what you’ve already manifested that will lead you to what you don’t want anymore?

The word “trust,” by definition, includes that element of not knowing. It’s the willingness not to know and to move forward into the not-knowing anyway. I’ll be honest with you. Historically, that has scared the ever-loving crap out of me. I can tell you that the times I’ve done it without hesitation, I’ve been richly rewarded in fabulous and surprising ways. That begs the question – then why not do it all the time? Yeah, that’s a good question, isn’t it? And maybe the answer is, because for some of us, trusting has to become a conscious decision we make.

I think we’re all born trusting intrinsically. But for those of us whose messages might have gotten tangled, or who veered away from our natural state of alignment with God, something has to get us back on-course. And that something is usually when the pain of being off-kilter becomes too great to stay that way any longer. (And let’s be honest, looking at people who are living in the flow just pisses us off after awhile and we start thinking, I gotta get me some of that joy stuff. Yes, I believe "joy stuff" is the technical term.)

So here we are. Or here I am, I should say. Been getting message after message of “follow your heart,” “trust that inner urging,” “get the hell out of God’s way.” Okay, I might be paraphrasing on that last one, but still, you get the point.

A more spiritually enlightened friend of mine called me a couple of weeks ago, and I asked her, “How do you know if what you want to do is the thing you should do?”

She asked me, “Does it make you feel excited and eager with anticipation?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Does it seem rational, does it make sense?”

“Nope,” I replied, “makes no sense whatsoever.”

And here comes my favorite question of all: “Does it make you feel completely uncomfortable?”

“Oh God, yes,” I answered.

“Great!" she said, "Then that’s what you should do!”

That was it. Simple litmus test. But here’s the thing. Anyone can hold a door open for you, create an opening through which you are welcome to step forward. You can take a peek, look and see what might be on the other side. But no one can walk through that door for you. They can hold it open and say, “See what great things are waiting for you?” But no one can do it for you. On this side, what you’ve already experienced. On that side, what’s possible if you dare to trust your heart.

And there seems to be a million reasons not to. In fact, the more I go in the direction of trusting, the louder the dissenting voices become. The critics. My own inner one shouting loudest of all, screaming to be heeded just one more time, maybe because it knows that once I walk through that door, it will become known for what it truly is and has been all along – a false belief that I took on as the truth, my own personal truth, about how life works or about myself, or both.

And whether you want to word it biblically as in “He who puts his trust in Me will not be forsaken,” or in the new thought version of “The universe is conspiring for my good,” the message is the same. This is a loving universe and we are given everything we need to fulfill the desires of our heart.

The heart is not only the central, essential organ of the physical body, it is that place that bridges the gap between the human and the divine, the place we experience love, the testament to what is worthy of our efforts, ephemeral and yet eternal.

And so, my friends, it is time for me to walk through that door. And I put it in writing if only to hold myself accountable for keeping my word, because that matters to me.

So thanks for stopping by. And wherever you are on your own journey, I hope it is filled with open doors, your heart's desires, and oodles, yes, oodles of joy.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

a Thanksgiving blog

Everyday is filled with myriad things to be thankful for, and I think those of us who believe in the consistent practice of gratitude would tell you that the more you look for to appreciate, the more you find. And I’m not talking about just the big stuff. I’m talking about any and every little thing that delights us in big and small ways.

So in keeping with that idea, here are some things, completely random, that I am thankful for (and for some reason “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music is running through my head, even though I neither own a copper kettle nor woolen mittens):

I am thankful….

...that I don’t work retail! (This thing with stores being open on Thanksgiving is just wrong on every level.)
...for my family, near, far, immediate and extended
...for high end makeup (ladies, come on, who’s with me on this one??!!)
...for my friends, who are family to me
...that I’m not a turkey (because this holiday is just a mass murder-fest for the poor creatures)
...for electricity!!! (which allows me light, and heat, and hot water, and refrigeration)
...for scented candles
...for good health
...for all Aaron Sorkin TV shows (or pretty much anything he writes)
...for the endless capacity of love which both permeates us and surrounds us at all times
...for Maui
...for shiny things (this especially includes jewelry, sparkly lip gloss and all things Christmas)
...for the awe-inspiring beauty of nature
...for musical theatre (any reason to break into song and dance tickles me)
...for songwriters, singers, musicians, poets, dancers, authors, actors and all artists who use their gifts to make this world a more beautiful place
...for any leaders who have the courage to speak peace amidst violence, love in a world of hate, and hope in cynical times
...for anyone who has ever shared a kind word, a gentle touch, or a moment’s grace with me
...for everyone who is reading this

May your day of Thanksgiving be filled with all that you love, and may your heart be glad for it.
Peace and blessings,

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Nashville Blog

In my last blog about what lessons I came away with after the hurricane , I said that if you are going to invest time and energy in anything, it should be in the depth of your relationships, because they are what sustain us in both the best and worst times.
It's an odd thing, uprooting your life every so often. You spend years cultivating friendships and working relationships, only to wonder if they are made of the stuff that will survive the threat of long distance and changing circumstances and the inevitability of the new people we morph into with each passing day.

The truth is some are and some aren't. Some relationships will wither because they were only meant to last for a period of time. And some will continue to grow and flourish in spite of any obstacles tossed in their path. And then there will be new ones.

When I first moved from New York to Nashville, I didn't know anyone but a woman whom I'd met standing in line at a songwriting event. I couldn't fathom how I would build a life. But bit by bit, and day by day, I did. And the reason I know I did is because now, sixteen years later, I am visiting Nashville after having moved back to New York, and my days and nights have been jam-packed with seeing people I cherish.

Yes, I have both written songs and gone and listened to music while I'm here, but the gift of this trip has been the time spent with friends, old and new.

It is rare that we take time out of our perpetual busyness to sit across from someone and look them squarely in the eye, to share whatever may be going on in our lives at the moment. I both laughed til I cried and I cried til I laughed. And just like when I returned to New York and reconnected with people there, I was left knowing that I had made a life here.

One of my friends always says, "You bloom where you're planted." I actually think that's a choice we make, and it isn't always an easy one. It is not always so easy to start over, but it does offer the freedom of reinventing yourself. There is nothing but who you choose to show up as today. And I hope I show up as more and more of who I really am, especially with those I am just beginning to get to know. (And when I say "more and more," I am obviously not talking in the physical sense. I truly do not need to be any larger.)

So now I'm sitting at my airport gate, waiting to go from Nashville to New York, knowing there are people I love in both places, and knowing there can never be too many moments of connection, too much time lapsed to pick back up, or too many hugs to say what words cannot.

As Thanksgiving approaches, know that I count all of you among my richest blessings.
Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, November 5, 2012

In Search of...the hurricane blog

Today no words seem adequate. A week ago, they were the tools of my trade. And I was sure that when I finally sat down to write this, they would flow easily and naturally as they always have for me. But frankly, I’m having a hard time, because the person I was a week ago is not the person I am now, and there is some more knowing and wiser part of me that is saying, “Hallelujah!” to that.

We East Coasters could all tell you anecdotal tales of trying to prepare for the unthinkable wrath of an earth we’ve mistreated, but in truth, there was no way to prepare, only small things we could do to feel like we had some control over that which would render us at its mercy in the end.

I could try to describe the stark contrast between the silence of the chilly post-storm nights and the perpetual sirens that seemed even more ominous without the bustle of other activity to distract from knowing that neighbors somewhere were in real trouble.

We could all entertain you with stories about just how useful that jar of peanut butter was by day four without power. And damned if any one of us wouldn’t trade just about anything we ever owned for one hot shower. (Camping seems like a great idea only when it’s voluntary.)

But we could also tell you of the many kindnesses we’ve experienced firsthand from friends, family, and strangers alike, an outpouring unlike any other – genuine, authentic, heartfelt, yet still unable to touch the massive pain and loss every one of us feels for as many different reasons as there are people here.

For some, it is the loss of everything they spent a lifetime working for – a modest house, food, clothing, and a car to get to and from work. I believe we call it the American Dream. And for those who are older, it will not realistically return. For that, there is no consolation.

But for the rest of us, we are faced with a different view of our world, a sense of uncertainty we never acknowledged as real, even though we knew intellectually it existed. We know that our physical landscape can change in the blink of an eye, and that our safe return home is not guaranteed, indeed that home itself is not guaranteed, and that life, ours and the lives of those we love, is very, very fragile. These things seem obvious, maybe even trite when not threatened, but to know this at our core changes the way in which we walk through this life.

There’s that saying (and song), “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” I think that’s not quite true. I think being put to the test makes us recognize and use the strength that was within us all along. For most of us, that strength lies dormant until or unless we have no other choice but to call it forth and claim it as our own.

I’d like to think I now know that, after facing the possibility of actual obliteration, there isn’t really much else to fear. Really. Of course, I’d also like to believe I’ve made peace with my curly hair and cast aside my flat iron forever, but personal growth can only go so far.

We have all seen images of people sifting through rubble, searching for photographs or mementos of personal significance. But the truth is the only things we can be assured we take with us are those we carry in our hearts. If we want to honor the memory of the people in the pictures we cherish most, we should embody the best of their qualities and keep their image in our mind’s eye. That’s where those images reside now, anyway.

Here are some other things I’ve taken away from this past week:

If you’re going to invest your time and energy in anything, do it in the depth of your relationships. They are what sustain us in both the best and worst times in our lives.

Take any and all opportunities to laugh.

Be a compassionate listener. It may be the biggest gift you give someone.


This storm was not an act of God. It was the result of man’s blatant and continuous disregard for the environment. (If I had my own religion, which, if L. Ron Hubbard can do it, then seriously, why can’t I? – I would have my one and possibly only tenet be “Clean up your own mess.”)

Gratitude breeds more to be grateful for.

There is a very strong possibility that I will abandon my one handshake rule altogether. (I shake hands the first time I meet someone, but after that, it’s a hug.) Everyone could use a hug. So yeah, I’m gonna go with that. Hugs all around.

And lastly, love. That’s it. That’s the only thing eternal. Love is the force that propels us, keeps us grounded, compels us to act courageously, and breathes life into us. How well we love defines our existence, not just individually, but collectively. And that is perhaps my biggest take away from this week.

Thank you so much for stopping by. I wish you peace, blessings, and love.
- Ilene

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Kenny Loggins Blog

I recently paid a psychic sixty dollars to tell me in a phone session that (wait for it)…I’m a writer! While that should come as no big surprise to, say, you, or the people who read The Huffington Post, or anyone who came to my book signing, why quibble about it? The guy was good. And I must have needed the validation because we writers are fraught with self-doubt.

My freshman year in college, my English Comp. professor called me into her office for a meeting. I was a music major and I wanted to perform on large stages for huge audiences. (I’m a Leo – self explanatory.) My professor valiantly tried to persuade me that I should switch majors to writing, but I wanted no part of it. It didn’t even dawn on me that while I was busy crafting pop songs in the practice rooms at Northwestern, instead of actually, say, practicing, I was already writing. When you’re 18, no one can tell you anything. So here I sit, years later, certain of very little in life other than the fact that, regardless of what form it takes, evidently, I’m a writer.

Here’s the thing about that, though – I had no idea that my life would become the fodder from which I would cull entertaining tales. And I definitely could not have foreseen that those tales would almost always stem from my most embarrassing exploits, complete with the requisite blow by blow of what was running through my mind the entire time.

I’m not talking about spinach in your teeth embarrassing, either. No, I mean the stuff which, in solitary moments, might and possibly has made me feel incredibly foolish or even made me cry – and on many occasions, both. That kind of sharing requires a particular brand of insanity…or genius, as the case may be, though the psychic on the phone said nothing to me about being a genius.

And that brings us to Kenny Loggins…almost.

If you’re new to this blog, well, first, thanks for stopping by and please tell your friends. And second, you should know that the blog began as a means of gaining a following for my book: In Search of George Stephanopoulos – a True Story of Life, Love, and the Pursuit of a Short Greek Guy.

The genesis for the book was a series of bad blind dates I was going on that coincided with (the then single) George Stephanopoulos being on every “most eligible bachelor” list.

On paper, I had more in common with George Stephanopoulos than any of the men I was dating…which begged the question, if only in my mind, why not George? (I promise this will all tie in later to Kenny Loggins, so keep reading.)

And thus began the tale of how a struggling songwriter living in Nashville, Tennessee set out to meet the former White House aide turned anchor of Good Morning America, while still managing to simultaneously pursue a music career.

If there is a theme to take away from the book, I hope it is that boldly following your heart and your dreams will reward you in unimaginable ways…and also that the six degrees of Kevin Bacon game is no joke. I put it to the test and it worked. (Not with Kevin Bacon, obviously, but with George Stephanopoulos.)

And now we’re finally up to the part about Kenny Loggins…

It all started a few months ago, when, after having moved back to New York to look after my father, I was missing Nashville and the unique songwriting community that exists there and only there.

I’m not exactly sure where online it was brought to my attention, but I read that two of my favorite Nashville singer/songwriters, Georgia Middleman and Gary Burr, had formed a new band – with Kenny Loggins. And as a way of introducing the new band to an audience they might appeal to, they would be opening for Kenny’s solo shows. Splendid. I looked up the tour dates and sure enough, they were heading to New York in July. Now I just needed to decide if I was able and willing to shell out the price of admission to a Kenny Loggins concert. (I type this now from my really nice couch that my own #1 song got me, but as for oodles of disposable income for things like concert tickets, not so much, I’m afraid.)

So I did the next logical thing, which was refer to my CD collection. Did I even own any Kenny Loggins music? Of course, I did. How could any self-respecting songwriter not own something of his? So I gave the greatest hits CD a listen. Jesus, he’s good looking, I thought, glancing at the cover of the Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow CD.

I listened. I had forgotten how much I loved these songs. I had forgotten that there was a time when songs as meaningful as “Conviction of the Heart” and “The Real Thing” could top the pop charts. I began to remember why I wanted to be a songwriter in the first place. Screw it, I bought the concert ticket.

On the designated evening, I got in my trusty Subaru and headed for Peekskill. The opening act was just what I’d hoped it would be – that marriage of great songwriting craft and emotional oomph. (Is “oomph” even a real word?)

Anyway, I said hi to my Nashville acquaintances in the lobby during intermission and then went back to my seat for the Kenny Loggins solo portion of the show. I looked around at the audience, which was mostly older than me. But what they may have lacked in youth, they did not lack in enthusiasm.

Grown men, some in jackets and ties were hootin’ and hollerin’ like they were seventeen, while their wives, some of whom were gray-haired and some of whom had the good sense to color, left them behind at their seats to rush to the foot of the stage and get closer to Kenny. I kid you not. It was a beautiful, if not slightly bizarre, spectacle to behold.

For my part, I didn’t rush any stages with the other women, though I did love the concert and if I’m to be completely honest, the “Jesus, he’s good looking” refrain did run through my head a couple more times.

When the show ended, I drove home, thinking about what a great night’s music it was. And I thought about the new band, Blue Sky Riders, and what the prospects were for their success and the ramifications on the music industry if they could manage to pull it off.

Like I mentioned earlier, I write pieces in The Huffington Post, and though I started out as strictly a political blogger, I branched out to other things – like music and pop culture. So one afternoon, about a week after I saw Blue Sky Riders, I wrote a piece about them and submitted it. I didn’t give it a second thought. (Click here to read it:

When they published it, I did what I always do, posted it on Facebook, Twitter, and sent it to anyone who might be mentioned in it or an interested party. So I posted it on the band’s Facebook page and then on Kenny Loggins’ Facebook page. There, done.

A short time later, I saw that the band reposted it on their page, but Kenny not only “liked” it and reposted it on his page, but also said, “Thanks, Ilene,” complete with an accompanying smiley face after my name. (Insert audible, gushing sigh here.)

Now here was my assumption: I figured it was actually Kenny Loggins himself doing this. It very well may not have been…or it might have been. I’ll likely never know for certain, but at the time, I had every belief that I had somehow miraculously and sort of unconsciously made my way onto Kenny Loggins’ radar.

With my sudden good fortune of now possibly, maybe, conceivably, perhaps being on Kenny Loggins’ radar, I took the opportunity to consult my good friend Google, because frankly, I knew nothing about the man other than what his song lyrics imparted to me, which was plenty, actually – that he had kids, had been through divorce, is a reflective, articulate, and sensitive dreamer, and both believes in and longs for the kind of love and passion that truly lasts forever. See, I pay attention when I listen to songs. And for those qualities alone, who wouldn’t find him appealing? But it turns out there was an added bonus – he was single.

Oh no. Hadn’t I been down this road before? The melody was a familiar one. Yes, this time there actually were far more things I had in common in earnest with Kenny Loggins than with George Stephanopoulos, and I was starting out (I think) already being on his radar. So that alone was different. But the notion of trying to meet, let alone possibly date an actual rock star was more preposterous than anything I had heretofore ever conceived of or concocted in my little imaginative head. Nope. Absolutely not.

So off I went, back to work writing songs, playing them out, riffing about guns and politics in HuffPo, and doing my darndest to eliminate any lingering thoughts of the slightest possibility that I might one day meet Kenny Loggins.

It was a noble, if not futile effort, because the new band was beginning to headline shows in the fall, and coming right to New York City for five nights, Kenny Loggins and all. Short of actually knocking on my door, the proximity was irresistible.

I corralled a willing friend to join me. She didn’t know the band, but trusted my judgment and enthusiasm. Besides, she was under the odd and misguided impression that my life was always interesting, so how much fun would this be! At the last minute, her boyfriend, whom I had never met before that night, decided to join us. (*I’m going to truly beg their forgiveness right now, though I will always protect their anonymity.)

I wrote to the two band members I knew a week ahead of time and told them I was coming and brining a friend. No response. Oh well, whatever. Then, the day before the concert we were attending, I got a private message on Facebook. It was a lovely note thanking me for talking them up, coming to see them and bringing a friend. It closed with “Looking forward to seeing you,” and it was signed “Kenny, Georgia, and Gary” in that order.

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I write a note or sign a card from more than one person, I always put my name first if I’m the one actually writing it. So after confirming that that is indeed the norm, I made another assumption – that Kenny wrote the note because his name was signed first.

Well, that about put me over the moon, because, to recap for a minute, I was now not only on Kenny Loggins’ radar, but he was “looking forward to seeing me.” And very unlike events with George Stephanopoulos, this came rapidly, with ease, and the only real effort being me writing one article and a note.

The big night arrives. I have given up carbs completely by now, been doing Pilates, running miles on the treadmill every day, fully aware that a rock star can have pretty much any woman he wants, especially one that can garner the “Jesus, he’s good looking” response when he’s sixty-four. My hair has been done. My makeup took me an hour. I’m in heels I’m praying not to topple over in. I’m ready.

I meet my friend and the boyfriend. We have a drink in the bar next door to the club, chatting amicably. I’m careful to just sip the glass of wine, given the heels I’m wearing that I can barely stand in sober and the fact that I’ve been taking prescription migraine medication for three days running.

We walk into the venue and they seat us – at a table that is, I’m not exaggerating, flush against the stage where, in a short while, Kenny Loggins will be standing. My friend is one hundred percent convinced that we were given the best table in the house because I knew the band. No amount of me trying will convince her otherwise. I must be very important. The heck with it, I’ll play along.

We continue chatting before the show. I order a salad. The table next to us orders pizza. I want to kill them, but I stick with my lettuce. The lights go down. The announcer announces, and the band takes the stage. We’re so close I can read their playlist upside down. We’re so close I could touch Kenny’s boots. Really nice boots, by the way.

And that’s when it happens. The boyfriend, who’s sitting in the middle between me and my friend, becomes That Guy. You know the one I’m talking about. There’s one at every concert, and if you’re a performer, at every gig you’ve ever played. He’s the guy that carries on a conversation with the band throughout the entire show. And he’s loud. Doesn’t matter if he’s drunk or sober. He’s yelling out requests, singing along, being part of the show. He’s Kenny’s new best friend.

I think I was unconsciously sliding my chair further and further away. I wanted to crawl underneath the table. And I really don’t mean to hurt any feelings here, but for the love of God, how was I gonna get a date with Kenny Loggins sitting next to this guy?!

Here’s the other thing, hard as it is to imagine reading this, I am shy. Painfully shy. Put me on a stage or with a pen in my hand and I’m outgoing, uninhibited even. But stick me in any kind of social setting with a large room full of people I don’t know and I am not inclined to speak unless spoken to. I’ve tried over a lifetime to change that, with only a small modicum of success. One on one, great. Room full of people, not so much. And yes, this will come into play in a minute.

So the show ends and Kenny and Gary disappear through the kitchen to I don’t know where. Georgia is far enough behind them for me to catch her and say hi. She hugs me and I don’t know why I think to say this, but I ask her, “Who wrote the note?” And that’s when she says, “I did.”

Well, never mind that Kenny has completely vacated the room. Now this calls into question whether he ever knew who I was to being with, ever read the note, or the Huffington piece, ever posted the smiley face on his wall. I could spend all day thinking about what an idiot I’d been, but the truth is, my assumptions were the ones I think anyone would have made under the circumstances, and I couldn’t fathom in my naiveté that Kenny Loggins had a gatekeeper or that I would actually know her.

So we left the room. And you would think the story ends there, but oh no, my friends. It’s just beginning.

There’s a merchandise table outside the doors of the club. I think they sold two items – a t-shirt and an EP with two live versions of songs on it. But if you bought the EP, you got to go backstage to get it signed by them.

And that’s when That Guy became my new favorite person, because before I knew it, he went walking, CD in hand, back into the club, through the kitchen, and straight to the green room, with us trailing right behind.

So next thing I know, I’m in a crowded room full of people I don’t know, including the band members, my friend, and her boyfriend. My optimum situation. There is no time for any kind of internal pep talk. So I find myself back speaking with the only person in the band I know, Georgia. And the more we talk, the more similar we both realize we are. But she’s got a room full of people to meet and greet, so we part ways.

Gary is off against the wall, surrounded by people he’s holding court with, so there’s not much opportunity to say hi, though he played so prominent a role as a songwriter to me in Nashville, that our interaction became two chapters in my book and they are, sorry to say for George, my favorite chapters in the book to this day.

So that left Kenny. And the boyfriend was already way ahead of me, talking to him. I don’t know what he was saying. I don’t know what my friend said either, really. I don’t remember, or didn’t hear, or blocked it out because I was going to have to say something by way of introducing myself to Kenny Loggins, and I had only moments earlier discovered that there was the very real possibility that he would have no idea who I was whatsoever.

I extended my hand and introduced myself. “Hi, I’m Ilene Angel. I wrote a Huffington piece about you guys a few months ago.”

“Oh, I was wondering who that was.”

“It was me,” I think I said.

Then he talked about how challenging it was to keep coming up with new ideas for the posts. (The band has their own column in HuffPo, and they rotate who writes them each week.)

“How do you come up with ideas?” he asks me.

And I say – NOTHING!!!

He continues, telling me he edits himself a lot, or maybe he said, “too much.” I don’t know, because the ability to form thoughts or anything resembling a coherent sentence has completely left me.

I have the best opportunity of my life to talk about WRITING – with Kenny Loggins – who is asking ME how I come up with new ideas and stop editing myself long enough to get published, and I’ve got NOTHING??? Seriously??!!!!!!

I would like to tell you that, at just that moment, a flash of brilliance fought its way through. I was witty, charming even, found my voice, saved the day. But I’m not delusional. It didn’t happen.

What did happen was this picture with him, and to be honest, I’m drawing a total blank on how it manifested, who snapped it – my friend or the boyfriend, and if I even said, “Goodbye,” or, “Nice to meet you,” or, “Thank you,” which would have been the least I could say, but as it turned out, the least I could say was NOTHING!!!!

Now I could spend the rest of my life chastising myself for blowing that particular opportunity, but the truth is it provided me with a teachable moment, which, I’m not gonna lie, sucked royally and hurt badly – not because Kenny Loggins didn’t like me, but because he didn’t even get the chance to meet me. He didn’t catch a glimpse of the person you’ve seen here so far in this blog.

Tomorrow I’ll be playing a gig in a room full of people I don’t know. I will talk to the audience, maybe joke with them, play and sing my songs and meet and greet them afterward. It will be fine, because that’s my job and I’m pretty good at it after all these years.

How I will reconcile that experience with the one from a few nights ago, I don’t know yet. But here’s what I do know – that if Kenny Loggins were to read this, I’d want him to know, in response to the conversation he was trying to have with me, that there are never a shortage of ideas. It’s always about the questions you ask yourself. Hell, I could give him his next twenty column topics without blinking an eye because I’m the inquisitive type, so here are some questions I’d be curious to know the answers to on the off chance you’re reading this, Kenny:

What has being in this new band taught you about yourself that you didn’t know before?
If it ended tomorrow, what new insights would you take away?
If you were writing a book about this new band experience, what would it be titled and why?
Tell me something I couldn’t read about you in Wikipedia, something that impacted you profoundly.
Tell me the funniest thing that’s happened to you guys on the road so far.
Do you have a nickname, and if so, what is it and how did it originate?
Where do you see yourself and the band five years from now?

I really could give you twenty. I just had to stop myself!

And as for too much self-editing, we all do it. We all fret over what we’re putting out there, wonder if it will resonate with people, and worry that maybe we could have said it better somehow.

But at some point, we have to know that we are enough, that our best efforts will impact exactly the people they are supposed to in exactly the right way, and that when we show up fully as ourselves, we empower others to do the same and we are all forever changed for the better because of it.

That’s what I’d tell Kenny Loggins, if I could. That’s what I learned from my time spent as a mute that night. And who knows? Maybe I’ll even get a second chance one day for a first conversation.

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this.
- Ilene

Sunday, September 23, 2012

In Search of...My Advice to the President on How to Win Re-election

For those of you who have been pestering me relentlessly to write about politics in the midst of this campaign season, here you go....enjoy!

I’ve been wondering lately what it will take. Every day of this campaign season seems to bring with it new polling numbers, new data on jobs and the economy, and new opportunities for me to dine with the President and any number of famous people, the most appealing of which (besides the First Lady) has hands down been George Clooney.

Of course, I’m the choir that doesn’t need to be preached to, the one whose vote the President can be assured of, and whose few measly dollars here and there, particularly after listening to Mr. Romney or Mr. Ryan speak, is given willingly, if not abundantly to the re-election effort, because I am, after all, part of the 98%.

I wonder in earnest how people can vote against their own interests. Do Medicare recipients really not understand the ramifications of the proposed voucher system by the Romney/Ryan ticket? They would be out of voucher money after a bout with the common cold, never mind anything more serious or that requires ongoing treatment.

And to all you parents out there, imagine raising your children without Sesame Street or Curious George or any of the other wholesome programming that PBS provides, because the first thing that Mitt Romney wants to do to trim the fat is cut off funding to PBS. Yes, to put it bluntly, Mitt Romney wants to kill Elmo and that’s just heartless no matter what side of the aisle you sit on.

I wonder how anyone who has been denied health insurance coverage or a legitimate medical claim can be against the affectionately titled Obamacare.

I don’t know how anyone in this country who was alive on 9/11 could feel anything but respect and admiration for a leader whose bold and courageous decision as Commander in Chief took down Osama bin Laden.

I won’t even go into avoiding the bread lines of a depression, or turning around a failing American auto industry. Oh, and yes, putting an end to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and publicly coming out in favor of equality for an entire sector of the population that has been denied equal rights thus far in our history.

But if all this can’t convince the American public that President Obama is the one to vote for, what can?

I have been giving this quite a bit of thought and I think I’ve got the answer. So hear me out on this one: Americans like people who can sing. We not only like people who can sing, we vote for them…by the millions. American Idol, America’s Got Talent, The Voice, X Factor, you get the picture. Setting aside, well, responsible citizenry for one thing, I think singing is President Obama’s key to Election Day victory.

So while I’m glad his soulful vocal stylings have been under wraps in recent months, I think he needs to warm up and take ‘em out for a spin again, because “he got game,” as the kids are fond of saying. And side by side, note for note, that just may be the one thing that can get him the votes.

I know, I know, there are very real and dire life and death issues coming into play in this election. And people should take those issues seriously. But the truth is people’s eyes glaze over with discussions of debt ceilings, interest rates, and tax loopholes. We understand things like the image of a dog being tied to the roof of a car. And we flock in droves, clamor even, to watch, vote, and feel a part of singing competitions. We want to be entertained, amused, and I’m not judging here…well, maybe just a little. But I say you gotta go with your strong suit, your ace in the hole. And Mr. Romney, for all his millions and all the voice coaches in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, can’t outsing the President of the United States.

So Mr. President, if you’re reading this…please, sing us a song.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

In Search of...peace. A 9/11 blog.

Every year on the anniversary of 9/11, I listen to a CD comprised of songs written and performed by New York artists, recorded shortly after the attack. It’s not that I want to dwell in grief or wallow in despair, but I do want to remember that nothing is to be taken for granted – that our safe return home on a regular day is never guaranteed and that we should never pass up any opportunity to tell people that we love them.

These are the things I am mindful of today, as I prepare to go into New York City. For those of you who live outside of New York, I don’t know if the somberness of this occasion is palpable anymore. It still is here. And everyone seems a little quieter, a little more fragile, a wee bit more compassionate. In a way, I wish we carried that with us everyday, because the world would be a kinder place if we did.

I could use this time to talk about non-violence, or about freedom, or about a kind of peace that seems very far removed from the nastiness of political campaigns and wars we’re currently engaged in. In my bleaker moments, I think humanity is destined for self-destruction…but then there are those moments, little things, really – the person who holds the door open, the friend that does a favor, the sound of my niece’s laugh – moments that make me think that all hope is not lost, that there is still a chance to chart our course in another direction, and that all each one of us can do is our very best to make a difference.

So on this day of remembrance, I’m taking a moment (and inviting you to join me) to breathe deeply, love profoundly, and to find that place within me where peace resides.

Blessings to you…and peace.

Friday, August 17, 2012

My Birthday Blog - What to Keep, What to Throw Away

It’s my birthday today, and so far, it has been one filled with love and well wishes from both expected and unexpected people. And I can’t really think of a better way to celebrate than to try to be fully present to all the good people would send my way.

I’ve been thinking a lot about dreams lately – which ones to dust off and go for with zeal, and which to let go of and consider a thing of the past. And maybe this birthday is finding me more reflective and melancholy because as we get older, we become more keenly aware of how fast time goes and how quickly life changes and how, in the blink of an eye, those we love can be taken from us. So I want to be sure to appreciate every morsel of beauty and joy that I can in any given moment.

Today, I am contemplating what to keep and what to throw away. And though I usually sift through these things around the New Year, I feel like it’s somehow more fitting today to boldly lay claim to my intentions. So on that note…

I want to keep those relationships that nurture my soul and serve as a reminder of who I am at my very best.

I want to throw away any erroneous thoughts of lack and not enough, because this is a world of abundance and possibility.

I want to keep an outlook of hope, faith and love no matter what the circumstances that surround me.

I want to throw away old ideas and beliefs that no longer reflect what I know to be true. And what I know to be true is – love trumps fear, faith trumps doubt, and miracles happen in big and small ways every minute of every day.

I want to keep the passion for creating something new out of a blank page, because, really, isn’t that the gift we’re handed every day we get up in the morning – a blank page and a clean slate to start over again?

I want to throw away pain and keep the compassion gained by it.

I want to throw away the notion that we are limited by our past or our present and hold fast to the knowledge that I am creating my future by the words and deeds I choose right now.

I want to throw away the remnants of self-loathing and keep the ones that taught me self-love.

I want to keep an open heart, a willing spirit, and an air of expectancy that good begets good, that love is the bold and best choice always, and that unimaginable blessings will chase us down if we are but willing to receive them.

These are the things I am envisioning for myself on this birthday. I wish for you, dear reader, not only all the things you wish for yourself, but a keen awareness of my gratitude for you, both friend and stranger alike.

Thanks for stopping by. Peace and Blessings to you.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

In Search of...nervous anticipation

Lately I've been feeling a nervous anticipation, like something big is about to happen. No, it's not Mitt Romney announcing his running mate, although I would like to point out that I see a striking resemblance between Paul Ryan and the TV character Eddie Munster, but that's just me. Anyway, back to the story, which is this feeling of butterflies I've been having lately.

I remember when I first felt like this. I was starting out in the music business in New York, 1980-something. I was playing clubs, most of which have since closed. I was working an office job during the day, recording all night and weekends, slinging cassette tapes at anyone and everyone I thought might be able to help get my songs heard. I had a belief in the inevitability of success. I was young and hopeful and naive. But I look longingly now at the bravery I possessed for as insecure as I was back then. That's the beauty of aging - wisdom acquired after gravity begins making a mockery of various body parts. But possible nips and tucks are a conversation for another day.

With this persistent nervousness has come a visual resurgence in my mind's eye of things I haven't let myself think about in many years - like the dreams I held for my life before ever contemplating what wasn't possible. And I wish that the person I am now could have had a conversation with the younger me and told me to listen to others less and bet on myself more, because in the end, we are left with the results of the choices we've made, and seldom do we regret what we've done nearly as much as what we didn't do. (That's how I wound up parasailing in Maui recently.) So now I allow myself to see my life as I dreamed it once in all its splendor and with unbridled passion and excitement.

We live in the realm of the physical, though, where circumstances and appearances run contradictory to optimism. And most would consider it folly to take a few minutes a day and boldly dream the dreams they once considered their birthright. But me, I'm seeing things differently now. I'm working as though any minute those things are showing up, because the truth is we just don't know. And it's just as possible that they will as that they won't. So why not go for what feels happier? This is my new thinking.

So while I'm off writing songs and polishing banter I might otherwise have no use for, I invite you to revisit the longings of your own heart and pull out a dream or two that makes you smile.

As for that feeling of nervous anticipation, I still don't know what it is. But I'm certain it's something big. I'll keep you posted on it.

Thanks for stopping by and spending a few minutes with me. Please tell your friends.

Peace & Blessings,

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

In Search of...the American Dream...

This weekend my family is converging on New York City for the 75th anniversary of the Mary Angel Family Circle. Or maybe it’s the 74th anniversary. The exact date has been the topic of some discussion, and as with all things family, there has been some debate about it. Whichever it is, there will be four generations in attendance representative of no fewer than ten different states in the union.

That we still call ourselves a family “circle” is a byproduct of the era in which it all began – the 1930’s. And like the story of many other Americans who immigrated to the United States, my family came to these shores to flee the religious persecution of Eastern Europe and to seek a better life for their children.

My great grandparents, Mary and Morris Angel (anglicized names to be sure), raised their seven sons and daughters with a belief in shared sacrifice as well as shared celebration. Nothing was more important than “the family,” and when my great grandmother, Mary, died, Morris gathered those seven children and began this official “family circle” in Mary’s memory for the sake of maintaining a close-knit group and fostering continuity that he never could have foreseen at the time of its inception.

We who gather this weekend are the descendants of those seven brothers and sisters, and we will number more than seventy. Of the original seven, not all of them went to or graduated from college, but I dare say there are few, if any, of my generation and beyond who haven’t gone to or graduated college. This dream of Morris Angel’s has produced doctors and lawyers, actors and architects, police officers and teachers. We are writers, musicians, engineers, and photographers. We’ve served in the armed forces and work at the United Nations. And yet, that is not the thing that sets us apart from any other family.

What sets us apart, at least in my opinion, is the fact that we still find value in continuing our now once a year family circle meetings. What is distinctly American is that we are defined not only by what we make of ourselves in the modern world, but by where we came from. Most of our lives would never intersect were it not for these yearly reunions.

When the family circle started, everyone lived in New York, so the meetings were frequent and a mere subway or bus ride away. And when I say “meetings,” I mean there were actual meetings with minutes taken and decisions made by a majority vote. Of course, the only piece of real business ever discussed to my recollection was the family cemetery plot. But then there was “old business” and “new business,” during which time both the concerns and accomplishments of individual family members were shared. This was usually the cue for the children who had spent most of their time concocting some form of entertainment, to get ready. Show time was approaching.

By the time of everyone’s departure, we knew the whereabouts and date of the next meeting. And if there’s one thing that I attribute our current continuity to, it is that attendance was never optional. There was no choice involved when it came to showing up.

So here we are, bringing it back to its point of origin where there’s a clear view of Lady Liberty and the boundless opportunities she has bestowed upon my family. We will no doubt discuss what’s new and reminisce about bygone days and people. We will leave knowing where and approximately when we will meet next.

As for our big 75th anniversary, it turns out, after doing a little research, (a.k.a. calling my cousin Lynn), that the first meeting actually took place in 1938…making this our 74th anniversary, not our 75th. Oh well. I won’t tell if you won’t.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.