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