Sunday, February 23, 2014

a record, an album, a CD, and a project...

It occurred to me that I chronicled the crowd funding element of The Gratitude Project quite a bit – the issues that came up for me, the lessons learned, the gratitude I felt, the sense of humility born out of a bunch of people putting their faith in me, the feeling of connectedness to those who said “yes!” to putting heart-ful, hopeful music out into the world.

There were a good number of you who said, in no uncertain terms, “I want to be part of this,” and every day that I am working on it, I am keenly aware that you are and that this is a group effort.

So I thought I’d take a moment today to fill in the blanks and take stock of this part of the journey so far.

First of all, I always volley back and forth between the various names to call it. I’m from the era of “records” and “albums,” and so I like to think of it that way and refer to it that way. I like the idea of a vision, a whole comprised of all the parts – even if people do end up downloading individual songs. I like artwork and liner notes. To me, it’s part of the overall energy, meaning, and content of the project. And I think of the “project” as the entirety of all the elements, including things like this blog and updates.

If I can sum up the overall theme of what I’m learning throughout this process, it is about what I am willing to embrace and what I am willing to let go of. And the more I think about it, I believe that applies to all of life as well. Isn’t that what it comes down to?

I am a stickler for wanting to map out, with certainty, the path that I will take down to its tiniest of details. The idea that it takes as long as it takes or goes in the direction it goes has just not ever been in my operating manual.

But life has a funny way of letting us know what we need to learn, and we can either go kicking and screaming or with the flow. So here’s a little nugget of hard earned wisdom from me to you – it is much easier and more fun to go with the flow than kicking and screaming. I’ve tried both.

Much as I wanted to believe otherwise, we don’t make something the best it can be by using brute force. We allow it by trusting the deeper part of ourselves that knows what we know, by trusting that. Not the easiest thing for a control freak to learn, but hey, we come to it when we come to it.

If the making of this were a reality TV show, I suppose I would reveal kernels of information bit by bit, in the most dramatic way possible. Of course, if this were a reality TV show, I’d also need to throw a tantrum or two and have some kind of serious meltdown or altercation with someone just to keep the drama going.

Instead, I happily show up to studio sans makeup and in a sweatshirt most of the time, ready to work. This is why you’ve seen no video or pictorial footage of me recording so far – not my best look. But fear not, you will see me in action before this thing is over.

So a word about the making of this record: it is a total joy. I read some pithy quote about how you can’t have a negative mind and live a positive life. And I think that goes for the making of this record. I don’t see how you can make an uplifting album without joy and love and heart, as well as talent, being present during the creation of it.

As for the incremental “reveal” of some juicy tidbits, I’ll tell you, for those of you who don’t already know, that this record is being produced by Tanya Leah. And every day that we move forward, I consider myself luckier and luckier for that. (After Friday’s session, I was going to do actual cartwheels. However, I realized that I’d never successfully done an actual cartwheel in my life, so I thought better of the whole idea. Tanya is, no doubt, thankful for that.)

Well, I’m off to work now, but before I go, I want to impart my profoundest of thanks to you – for standing with me in being the change we wish to see in the world, at least musically – and for stopping by today.

Peace and blessings to you…

Monday, February 17, 2014

the one about the bear, two guys with guns, Tony Danza, and me

It was bound to happen sooner or later. I’ve been doing this blog for five years now and can’t remember if I ever told this story. Sure, I could go looking back through five years’ worth of archives….or I could just assume that if I can’t remember, neither can you. Yeah, that’s the one I’m going with. And I tell this story in honor of my good friend Loralee’s birthday today. So happy birthday, Lor. This one’s for you.

When I first moved to Nashville from New York, one of the many jobs I had was working nights at the performing arts center downtown, which had me driving home on dark country roads well after midnight.

On one such night, as I was making my way back to my apartment, I saw something on the side of the road moving. Based on size and obvious appearance when it stood up, I shrieked in, well, utter terror as I realized it was a bear. Not Yogi. No, this was the real thing. I kept driving down the dark road to my apartment, envisioning the bear trotting behind me, licking his lips in anticipation of a late night snack named Ilene.

When I was safely inside my apartment, I nervously paced around, wondering if I should call someone to report it. The police? Animal control? Who does one call at 1am to report a bear sighting? And really, if some lady called the police saying she just saw a bear, would their first reaction be “I’ll get right on that,” or “maybe you should cut down on the crack, lady?”

I opted not to make the call. However, I did tell all my friends, who were slightly skeptical – that is until the news report a few days later about an unprecedented number of bear sightings in the area.

Talk of the bear was especially of interest to my New York friends, because, hey, how often does that happen?

Fast forward a few months to a visit home to New York. My friends, Loralee, Michele and I got tickets to a late night performance of Tony Danza at Rainbow and Stars, a cabaret venue located at the top of Rockefeller Center.

Now before you get all “Why Tony Danza?” on me, let me just say this about that – he taps dances and does a Louis Prima medley in his show. Need I say more? So unless you’re ready to do your rendition of “Zooma, Zooma” for me, quit your snickering.

Loralee and I drove into the city and met up with Michele for the show. After it was over, I drove Michele home to her apartment, which was located downtown, on a one-way street, lined with cars on both sides.

Michele got safely into her apartment, and Loralee and I were behind a taxicab waiting at a red light.

That’s when two guys with guns drawn walked up on either side of the taxi. But they didn’t go to the driver of the cab. They went for the passenger in the back seat.

These are the kinds of moments in life when time seems suspended. The obvious thought was that it was a robbery. But then, why didn’t they go for the driver who’d have the cash?

The next obvious thought was that, if this was a robbery, then we’d be next. So first reaction was Loralee saying, “Back up! Back up!” I turned to look behind me, and there was a long line of cars, single file. There was nowhere to go.

Do we duck? Would they shoot? Do you slither out of your car and make a run for it? These are decisions that must be contemplated and made in a matter of seconds.

The two guys with guns yanked the man out of the back seat of the cab and onto the street.

Were they undercover police? They flashed no badges and didn’t announce themselves as such. And I'd seen enough Law & Order episodes to know that that kind of stuff will get thrown out of court immediately.

Nope, they just yanked the guy out of the back seat of the cab. Then they hauled him across the street and tossed him into the back of an unmarked white van. Police? I'm thinking no.

The light finally turned green. It felt like an eternity. The cab pulled over to the side of the road. I think the poor driver might have been having a heart attack at this point.

I turned the corner and headed over toward the West Side Highway. I did not slow down. I did not stop. There was absolute silence in the car. Neither Loralee nor I said a word. My body started shaking involuntarily as I drove – a delayed reaction, no doubt, from the trauma.

We were safely zipping home on the highway when Loralee looked at me and said, “Beats the hell out of the bear, doesn’t it?!!”

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends. And happy, happy birthday, Lor!!!



Thursday, February 6, 2014

the benefits of "Throwback Thursday"

The good news is the snow plow finally came through our street. The bad news is it plowed on our side, which, for those of you blog readers who don’t live in wintry states and might need a translation, means the plow dumped all the snow it was scooping up from the street onto the foot of my driveway, creating a solid frozen mini mountain of white stuff that would have to be chiseled, hoisted and tossed atop all the rest of the snow on the sides if I were to, say, ever want to leave my house again.

I decided to call this new exercise regimen “a temporary, welcomed choice that my newly fit body will thank me for.” I can almost say it with a straight face and no eye rolling. Almost.

As it turns out, all but one body part are really thanking me for it. That one contrary part being my back – which, in a strange twist, it turns out I actually need in order to do such things as sit, and stand, and walk. And I don’t mind telling you, my back is plenty pissed at me about this new activity. It’s been wondering what happened to the kinder, gentler yoga DVD I was supposed to be doing. I’ve kind of been wondering that myself, come to think of it.

So getting to the topic of this blog, today I posted a twenty year old picture on Facebook and Twitter. There’s this thing called Throwback Thursday. I don’t know what genius started it, but it’s got everyone rifling through old photographs and posting them for all to see…on Thursdays. I started trying to do it regularly, lest the Facebook and Twitter police come a-knockin’ on my door.

At first, I was delighted by all the “likes” and comments about the pictures. I was in my twenties in them. Didn’t everyone look great in their twenties? Of course, it didn’t take long for the downward spiral to begin. How did I end up like this, I wondered?

Then I made the terrible mistake of averaging how much weight I’d gained over the past twenty years. (Do NOT try this at home, boys and girls…at least not without a glass of wine and box of Kleenex.) That’s when I realized that if I continued to gain at the rate I had over the next twenty years, well, first of all, I might not make it to twenty years. (Sobering thought.) And second, I might eventually end up as one of those people who need to be lifted out of bed by a crane. (Mild over exaggeration. Mild.)

So, not being one to want to dwell on the negative, I gave myself the pep talk. You know the one I’m talking about. It involves the “I can do this if I just set my mind to it” dialogue. It also involves a long and weepy goodbye to pasta and heaping portions of anything but vegetables.

I congratulated myself for already having shoveled AND eaten a salad for lunch today. I looked at that picture I posted on Facebook of me in my black sequined dress, with my skinny waste and skinny arms, and said to my younger self, “I’ll return to you yet.”

But there are things that these years of living have brought that the younger, skinnier Ilene did not have, and I’ve been thinking about the trade off.

First of all, I had no idea I looked like that, so I didn’t enjoy it. Hindsight is 20/20, and if I could time travel, I would take that body out for a spin and strut down the street like a runway model. But then? Not a clue.

Second, I think life is a journey of becoming more and more ourselves. So twenty years later, I know who I am, what I stand for, who my friends are, what matters to me and what I can live without.

But that hot chick in the picture was so worried about what she wasn’t, that she ignored the magnificence she was.

I do not think I am alone in this, which is why I’m so brutally honest about it. I think the world would be better served by us recognizing our greatness, instead of perpetually beating ourselves up for our perceived shortcomings.

So yeah, I’m grateful for having looked back, if for no other reason than to see how far I’ve come. Weight can go up or down. But who we are only increases in value over time.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

my 2014 Super Bowl blog!!!

Yes, boys and girls, it’s time for my yearly Super Bowl blog. It’s time, once again, for me to gush about an event I like to describe as a bunch of men jumping on each other and causing traumatic brain injury in exchange for large sums of money while we all snack on Doritos and watch.

I know, who am I to criticize how a man earns his living? I say live and let live…although, if I were going to condone a bunch of men beating on each other, I’d vote for them aiming that roughhousing where it belongs – at Congress. Or child molesters. (Note: I did not say child molesters in Congress.)

The teams that are playing this year are Denver and Seattle. Thank God one of them has a Manning brother on it. I don’t know anyone else’s name. And don’t ask me which team or which Manning. I’m in no mood to Google that kind of stuff, especially after I just had to find out who was actually playing in the Super Bowl.

And let’s not pretend that we all won’t be checking out the Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet during Sunday’s festivities. Who doesn’t gush over our adorable, furry friends? Serial killers, that’s who.

For me, this year’s Super Bowl is the precursor to the sporting event I’m really looking forward to – the Winter Olympics. Bring on the figure skating, baby!

And frankly, I love most of the sports in the winter games. For those of you who have been with this blog a while, you might recall my fascination with the Luge a while back and my research about where one could go to do it in these United States. I am only slightly embarrassed to report that I have not actually done any luging since my initial research. But hey, you never know what this year will bring. It’s still early.

Shaun White – I am mesmerized. The man defies gravity and I don’t think there’s anything more thrilling as a spectator than watching him snowboard. (For those of you who would cast your “most thrilling spectator sport” vote for the flaming baton twirlers of the Miss America Pageant, I think you’re not really interested in the batons or the flames. Of course, that’s just conjecture on my part. I could be wrong.)

Wait, I’ve digressed. Where was I? Oh yeah, Super Bowl, that’s right. So it’s a tossup for me – watch the game or put on a movie. My new Netflix came today. Perfect timing.

Other years, I watched the game, mostly to feel like I didn’t miss out on the big party everyone else was going to. And also, so I’d be able to have an honest to goodness conversation the next day. Of course, I could always do what I do on all other occasions when people start talking about sports – nod in agreement with whatever is being said while I try to keep my eyes from glazing over and fight the urge to lose consciousness.

I’ve got no bets on this game, so incentive is lacking for me to watch it through its entirety. I think Netflix might win out.

Whatever it is you might be doing on Super Bowl Sunday, I hope your team wins, your snacks are delicious, and your hopes are high.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends. And now…bring on the figure skating! Oops, I meant football. Yeah, that’s what I meant.