Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Taking the Time to Cherish the Moment

We always hear about “living in the moment,” because that’s all there is. But seldom do we make a practice of it. Today, because it is my father’s 85th birthday, I’ve made no other plans than to celebrate in whatever way he chooses and to stay fully present and grateful for this cherished time we get to spend together.

My father, Marvin, was born in 1928. It was a different era and a different world, to be sure. He grew up during the depression, which meant that my brother Steven and I were raised not only with the tales of how little they had growing up, but we were taught never to waste anything from food to opportunity, and with a code of behavior that said you stick by and stick up for your family and friends, and above all, that your word is your bond. (Yeah, it’s no wonder I can’t quite figure out how to traverse today’s landscape that is largely devoid of these attributes.)

My father came from an era where men served in the military, so he was in the army during the Korean War. If you know my dad at all, you know that he is the furthest thing from a fighter, so looking at old army pictures of him seems completely contradictory to the man I know. But serve, he did, as did his brothers.

My father is the one on the far right.

At a servicemen’s canteen one night, he met my mother, and that, as they say, was that. They were married for nearly fifty years when she passed away a decade ago.

My father is the only one remaining of his family, outliving his three brothers, the last of whom died this past year. I know it weighs heavily on him in ways I can’t begin to fathom seeing everyone he loved go first. So today, I’m determined to linger longer in conversation, to appreciate the little details that make up our lives, because I know they will change and vanish altogether over time. Today I am not looking at the clock, not thinking about work that needs to be done, or anything other than this moment, with the man whose hazel eyes I inherited. Today I am celebrating the gift that his life is to me, both as my father and as a gentle presence on this planet. And whatever it is that will bring him joy, is what we’ll do. (I imagine this will be hanging with his diner cronies and possibly seeing a movie, but I’ll get back to you on that.)

Before I close out, and because I don’t believe in coincidences, this is also someone else’s birthday who is dear to me – my cousin, Matthew. (He’s always gonna be Mattie to me, though. Sorry, Mattie.) It’s the 23rd and it’s his 23rd birthday. I’m sure that means something in numerology, but unfortunately, I know nothing about numerology. So Mattie, you’re on your own as far as the meaning goes.

Like my father, Matthew is one of those beautiful spirits on the planet to whom a mean thought would just not occur. (I love it that I’m related to two people like that, because, frankly, it gives me hope for the future of humanity. But I digress.)

Some of my favorite times ever were when Matt stayed with me and recorded some of my songs in Nashville. I had Christmas lights draped all over my apartment – hideously, because growing up with a menorah, how would I know how to properly hang Christmas lights? Be that as it may, there was late night Frosted Flakes snacking, the glow of the lights, and a heck of a lot of laughter that went on between the music making. And I hold those times as some of the most cherished memories in my life. So Mattie, even as your life is unfolding magnificently in front of you, I hope to God you never forget to appreciate the little moments that make for the best lasting memories.

Me and Matt Angel in Laguna Beach

To the two birthday boys, I wish you a day filled with more love and joy than you can imagine, and for you both to know how truly appreciated you are.

To those of you kind enough to stop by, thank you. And please tell your friends. Peace and blessings to you – Ilene.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

a blog for my new Twitter followers!

I’ve been making a concerted effort lately on the social media front, which has been paying off by the 350 new Twitter followers I’ve gotten over the past two weeks.

Of course, that got me thinking about what I’d want these new followers to know about me, should they visit, say, this blog, for instance…which according to my statcounter widget thingy, they’ve been visiting. So this one’s for you, new Twitter followers…

Who the heck is Ilene Angel, really???

Life has a funny way, if we’re open to it, of taking us on some unexpected adventures. And those are the best kind, really, which is how I ended up here…with you…at this blog.

If you were to ask me what I do, without a second thought, my knee jerk response would be to tell you I’m a songwriter. Family legend has it that I sang before I spoke, and I know for certain that I read music before words, which had to appear a little freakish, frankly, for a four-and-a half-year-old at the piano.

But music and me arrived here as a package deal, and no matter how many other forms of writing my life has taken on, I never stray too far or for too long from it. But I’ll get back to music in a minute.

I never entertained the possibility of doing other forms of writing until, after a series of bad blind dates, I got to thinking that I had more in common with the then, very single George Stephanopoulos, than I did with the guys I was being fixed up with. So I decided to try a little experiment. I decided to put the six degrees of Kevin Bacon game to the test…but for George Stephanopoulos.

It was absurd. Outlandish. Preposterous. Well, funny thing about putting stuff “out there.” The universe responds in kind. So all of a sudden scenarios appeared in which the very real chance of meeting George Stephanopoulos existed. I use the word “chance” because what ensued was a series of unlikely events in which I almost, but then didn’t meet George Stephanopoulos.

It was hilarious. Fast forward to all of a sudden, I’m writing a book about it. (Here’s the link to it: In Search of George Stephanopoulos

If you thought I had no idea how to meet George Stephanopoulos, you should see how much less I knew about how to write a book and get it published. During this time that I was trying to get a book deal, an editor friend of mine told me I needed to start a blog to gain a following. I laughed. What exactly was a blog? And what would I be writing about?

As I began this blog in 2009, though I didn’t know what it was, what it would become, what it would lead to, or what I would write about, I had an unbelievably strong gut feeling that I was supposed to do this and it was going to take me somewhere extraordinary.

Well, being very green to the blogging world when I started, I thought I had to blog every day. Every day. I spent hours and hours, day after day. And though I don’t remember what I wrote about on a daily basis, I was honing a writing voice in a format that suited me perfectly. And because it was my own, I could say whatever I wanted – politically, pop culturally, spiritually, you name it.

Politics was an ongoing blog theme for me. And I could be a liberal as I wanted, which, it turns out, by most accounts, was pretty damn liberal. Well, soon, people were telling me that I needed to write for The Huffington Post. I laughed it off. But they were serious. So I told one of my cherished readers that if they could make that happen for me, I was game. They did.

So suddenly, I was writing about politics in The Huffington Post .(Here’s a link to my archived pieces: Huffington Post - Ilene AngelIn my wildest dreams, I never thought I’d be doing that. But that, too, it turns out, suited me perfectly. Funny thing about that was I couldn’t write about politics, knowing I had a viable voice, without trying to do something to affect real change.

I started out the normal way most people do – letters to Congressmen and Senators, a phone call here and there. But then it became rallies, speaking at events about social justice, meeting with state legislators. Oh yeah, and there was that time with a handful of people, a bullhorn, and a news crew across the street from Congressman Jim Cooper’s office. Some votes for the Affordable Care Act did not come easily, by golly.

As time went on, my Huffington writing veered towards music and popular culture, with spirituality making its way into the political pieces in the hopes of dialing down the nasty and dialing up the common ground.

My blog, too, would undergo some changes, as my life did. 

After finally having some long-awaited musical success with a #1 Disney song called “I Don’t Think About It,” recorded by Hannah Montana’s Emily Osment, (Watch video here: I Don't Think About It), I decided to self publish my book so I could move on. If I didn’t, George Stephanopoulos would be approaching his silver wedding anniversary by the time that sucker got published. 

…which brings me to today and what I’m currently doing.

In the provocatively titled one-day seminar I took on “how to get your book published,” the lecturer told us that if we wrote one book, we would write more than one book. I thought she was nuts. Another book? No way. Nope. Not me. Uh uh. No, sirree. No ma’am. Nuh-uh.

So my next book should be out in a few months. It’s of the self-help variety, because I think if you’re going to keep trying new things, you should pick the ones you’re least qualified for, just to keep it interesting. So I will be your cruise director as we navigate the murky waters of stress relief. That’s all I can tell you for now. You’ll have to keep visiting as we get closer to release time. (I’m trying out this whole idea of the “teaser” here. How am I doing?)

As for the music, I am recording my own songs for a CD (or record, or album, or digital download - what the heck are we calling it now???) called The Gratitude Project – a collection of songs about second chances, dreaming big, and remembering to be grateful for all, and not just some of the journey.

You can still find me blogging both here and at HuffPo.

Lastly, whether you’re new to this blog or a faithful devotee, thanks for stopping by. I truly appreciate it. Now that you know who I am, I hope you’ll visit again. And please tell your friends. Peace and blessings to you.

Sunday, October 6, 2013


I’m on a lot of email lists. Political ones. And this week, I have received more political emails than at any other time, including the past two presidential elections. It was as if someone, somewhere out in the political ether, thought I could stop the government shutdown, or at the very least, wanted to get me riled up about it.

I have to admit, if I pause and think about it, I get more than a wee bit agitated. So job well done, emailers. But amid all this ire and vitriol spewing forth from all directions, I’d like to talk about the bigger issue at hand – creation.

Now, work with me on this for a second. I think if you look at the general climate today, whether it is the casting off of rejects on every single reality television show, or the political rhetoric, it is about tearing down. It is not about building anything. We are in an age of destruction. And some would argue that this is a necessary precursor to whatever is about to be created. But I think it is an infirmity that is eating away at society’s core.

So to me, the real question we should be asking ourselves is, “What are we creating?” because we are, at all times, creating something. And if the answer is intolerance, animosity, rancor, or just plain mean-spiritedness, then I think we should rethink whatever it is we’re about to say or do.

I get it. It’s much easier to know what we’re against. To shut down, to close off, to hold hostage, to scream, and stomp, and criticize. I’m pretty sure we all tried that at some point in our lives – like, say, when we were two, just to see if it worked. Of course, when we saw that it didn’t get us what we wanted, we gave up the behavior. But maybe some people did get the payoff they wanted – attention. And maybe some parents did cave in to the demands of the miniature tantrum thrower. I don’t know. But what I do know is that we’ve gotten ourselves into a situation where the best interests of the many are being sacrificed for the desires of a few, and that is the first step down a slippery slope with no good outcome for anybody.

So I repeat, what are we creating? Is it a world in which poverty is perpetuated or eradicated? Is it a country where everyone is valued equally? What are we creating? Is it a country in which the right of the individual to stock up on military capacity assault weapons outweighs the right of school children not to be massacred in their classrooms? What are we creating? Is it a country where the weakest and most disenfranchised among us are cared for and about, or are they discounted, discarded, and disposed of? What are we creating? Is it okay with us that an entire generation of children has not known a day in their lives when this country was not at war? What are we creating?

It is easier to turn away from what is ugly – in ourselves and in each other. And it is definitely easier to think we bear no responsibility in remedying any situation. But whether by speaking up or staying silent, we are creating something. Whether by taking action, however small, or by remaining in denial, we are creating something.

So as for the government shutdown, I understand what Republicans want to defund and destroy – the Affordable Care Act. My question is what do they want to create?

Whatever you choose to create today, I hope it is something of abiding value, that transcends this moment, and brings you great joy.

Thanks so much for stopping by. Please tell your friends.