Wednesday, December 30, 2015

the last blog of 2015!

I always get a little melancholy at the close of a year. I find myself contemplating what I’ve done, if I’ve accomplished what I set out to, and where I am in the trajectory of my life.

It’s easy to overlook the largest victory of all – that I’m still here. The older I get, the less I take that for granted and the more I remember to say, “Thank you, God.”

I just saw this very simple, but profound meme on Facebook that said, “If it doesn’t open, it’s not your door.”

That made me stop and think for a moment. I wish I could say I lived that way, that when something didn’t work out, I let it go and moved on, sure in the knowing that it wasn’t for me. But unfortunately, I’ve been known to do just the opposite. To jiggle the handle, to use all my might to pry the damn thing open, even knowing it shouldn’t be that hard.

So after contemplating and contemplating what it is I want to relinquish in the coming year, I have come to the conclusion that the thing most worth giving up is struggle.

How many times do we fight with ourselves or with others in an attempt to have things look or come out a particular way? And to what avail?

What would it look like if we accepted the notion that if we try the door and it doesn’t open, we move on to the next? What surprises would we find behind the doors that do open? What peace would we experience if we headed for our goals, but relinquished the control of their appearance?

So I think my mantra for the new year that lies ahead is that meme: if it doesn’t open, it’s not your door.

In other words, go where you’re wanted. Be with those who would have you. Quit trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Know who you are and be that.

I believe we are all called to greatness. We all have something to contribute that is very much needed. We are not put here to languish and then die. We are here as the human expression of divinity. We are here to love and be loved. All of us.

So as the New Year inches toward us, let us decide what we will take forward with us and what we will leave behind. And let’s leave behind anything that would limit us or our possibility for magnificence.

I am grateful for all of you who visit this blog, and who find meaning in what I create.

I stand with you now in love and gratitude and with a heart bursting with anticipation for all the good things this new year will bring.

I wish you all life’s richest blessings and I wish us all a world of peace.

Happy, happy New Year!!


Saturday, December 26, 2015

...what tree we are planting

I heard this quote yesterday while watching a Barbra Streisand special on PBS…

“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”

It is a Greek proverb. I know, it’s a little unlikely that my source for Greek proverbs would be Barbra Streisand, but I take my inspiration from where it comes, and this one really blew my mind and got me thinking.

What is it that we are willing to plant? What are we willing to put our efforts towards, even knowing that we will not live to see the fruits of our labor?

I think this may be the ultimate question in life. What are we willing to do, even knowing we won’t see the result?

For instance, I’m sure the writer of that proverb did not know that I would hear it and it would impact me. How could he?

But the truth is we impact each other and the world in ways we will never know, both in the here and now and in the future. A word, a smile, a door held, a thought shared, one act of kindness – it all changes the world forever.

We don’t like to think of ourselves as having that kind of power, because to know that would mean that we are responsible for a lot more than we would like to be. Once you know that you can and do, in fact, change the world with every choice you make, you can’t un-know that. Once you know that what you do and say really matters, then your choices cannot remain unconscious.

Many people look at the world such as it is at the moment and wring their hands in despair. I know. I’ve been one of them. The darkness seems daunting and insurmountable. But I assure you it is not.

So I repeat – what are we willing to put our efforts towards, even knowing we will not live to see the fruits of our labor?

I can tell you the one thing we must be willing to let go of – immediate gratification. We must stop having the childish expectation of cutting to the front of the line, of getting all of the benefits with none of the work involved.

We don’t build genuine self-esteem without overcoming something. Challenges are not put in our path so that we can get discouraged and give up. We are meant to triumph, but that triumph comes at the cost of our own transformation. Our personal evolution isn’t about becoming someone else or conforming to the false god of societal expectations. We are here to become more and more ourselves.

What is unique about each one of us is exactly what is needed in this world right now. The light that is contained within each of our souls is what will illuminate the darkness in the world.

Love – that invisible, intangible, yet, the only thing that is eternal – that love that created us, that love that sustains us, that love that goes on, even when we leave our physical bodies – that is our ultimate essence and the infinite thread that binds us all to one another.

When I think about what is worthy of my efforts, what immediately comes to mind is not any physical accomplishment. I think kindness is worth my time. I think giving voice to people who need one is worth my effort. I think speaking on behalf of compassion and inclusion is worth my energy. I think opening the door to the discussion of what loving ourselves truly looks like is not only worth my effort, but it’s the only way the world is going to change for the better.

What is most disturbing as we look at the violence, hatred, and intolerance of the world we live in today is that it is an outward reflection of our internal make up. And there is not one of us who is exempt from culpability, much as we like to console ourselves with the notion that we are above that. The truth is we are not above that, because it still exists. We will know we play no part in it when “peace on earth, good will to men” actually arrives.

What are you willing to do? What would you do, even knowing that you will not see the fruits of your labor? What matters to you that much?

“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”

What tree are we planting?

Let’s do it today.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The List 2015!

Every year for a while now, I’ve been telling you, my dear readers, my picks for what I’ve been listening to, watching, reading, and buying during the Christmas season, in case you need some fresh ideas about what to get that special someone, including yourself.

This year, the playing field is chock full o’ fabulous ideas, because they include the opportunity to do good for others, support independent artists, and enrich your lives in several different ways.

At the top of my list is a way to truly do some good. Most of us give a little something extra during this time of year, whether it be to those collecting toys for needy tots or cash for the bell ringers outside of stores.

I’m proposing a way to help someone one on one. No middle man, no wondering how much will really go to help. My friend Carolyn is battling cancer and there is a campaign set up to help with her medical bills. Here is the link to it: Help Carolyn Kick Cancer 

A very heartfelt thank you to those of you who decide to jump in and help. There is also a benefit concert that I will be participating in on January 23rd. You can check out the details of that here: Benefit Concert 

Are you looking for some new renditions of Christmas favorites AND a way to support independent artists? (I’ll assume you are nodding yes to this.) Well, my friend Kira Small has a new CD coming out, and one of the rewards for supporting the project is a digital download of some Christmas songs. You can’t get them anywhere else, plus you get the download of the new CD to boot! Check her out here: Kira's Music 

Do you enjoy sappy Christmas movies on the Hallmark channel this time of year? (I know everyone does. Come on, admit it, you’re glued to the TV at all hours watching them just like I am.) Well, this year, there are two new ones in the smorgasbord that are particularly special to me.

The Christmas Note, written by my cousin Erik Patterson will air again December 17th, 19th, 21st, and 25th. And The Bridge, produced by my cousin Dan Angel will air again December 13th, 15th, 18th, and 24th. Please check them out!

Do you love to read? (Clearly, you do, because you’re on my blog page reading it.) This year’s pick for book I loved was Don’t Jump by Vicki Abelson. Aside from being a wonderful writer herself, Vicki is all about being a supporter and encourager of other writers by creating the group known as Women Who Write. She is one awesome lady! 

And while we are on the topic of awesome ladies, you will love these books by Jeryl Brunner: 

My City, My New York

My City, My Los Angeles

Do you have a young child on your list? There is a heartwarming book by J. Frederic Rowles called Amil, the Lonely Stone. Buy it and read it with the little ones. It's soooo sweet!

A Christmas list would not be complete without mention of my favorite Christmas CD’s from year to year. You would think they would change constantly, but interestingly enough, no one else's has knocked them off their well deserved perch of my top three favorite holiday CD’s. 

So here once again are:

BethAnne Clayton’s Remember: 

Mak Kaylor’s Glad Tidings: 

Christopher Finkelmeyer’s Unforgotten Christmas: 

What have I left out? Oh yeah, my new CD, which is available for pre-order now! Here’s the link to pre-order: "In Color" Pre-Order  

I hope you all have a beautiful and joy-filled holiday season!

Peace and Blessings to you,

Sunday, December 6, 2015

...what sustains us

I’ve been overwhelmed lately, as I think many of us have, with thoughts about life and death, guns and terrorism, rights versus responsibilities, politics and the media.

The noise is so deafening, I can’t hear myself think. The violence is real. The chaos is maddening. And any sane, rational person is teetering toward the brink of despair, if not already having arrived there fully.

We’re grasping, gasping, trying to catch our breath and find our footing, but the foundation is shaky and the path seems perilous. What once brought us comfort doesn’t seem to be working anymore. And what we fear, we can barely give a name to, though we try daily, and the internet is filled with people, parties, religions, and organizations to blame for our every woe.

We are at a tipping point of sorts, and the energy is palpable. Those of us who like to pause to actually think before we say or do something are seemingly crippled with inertia, a stark contrast to the mob mentality inundating us.

A few days ago, I was having a conversation with someone at three in the morning…when all deep conversations must take place, because the world quiets down momentarily. And it got me thinking – not about the madness in the world of which we were speaking, but about what sustains us through it.

What sustains us?

What beliefs do we hold onto when the waters are rising, threatening to envelop us?

What is the thought that brings tranquility in the midst of any storm?

What idea gives the assurance that we can survive whatever it is we are going through?

What sees us through?

What is our purpose in this craziness? What are we to do with our time here? And why were we created and given this life to begin with?

In other words, “What’s it all about, Alfie?”

Each of us must answer these questions for ourselves. And I believe that in doing so, we re-engage with a core piece of our essence and navigate our lives and this world in a more fulfilling way.

Me personally, I think my purpose is to use whatever I’ve been given to make something or someone better for my having passed this way.

I believe I have a spiritual, moral, ethical, intellectual, emotional, professional, and physical obligation to do so and to embody and magnify love’s presence on this planet.

Radical idea, I know. Didn’t work out so well for Jesus or Gandhi, not that I’m anywhere near their league, but ya gotta aim for the stars, right?

Gun violence and terrorism in the United States are the topics du jour, every jour, it seems. And I don’t kid myself. I am not going to talk you into my belief that no one needs a gun unless you are going to eat whatever it is you shoot.

Is it the guns that kill people or the people holding them? It doesn’t matter. People are dying, and the beginning and end of it is that we no longer consider life sacrosanct.

Don’t get me wrong. We each consider our own lives to be sacred…just not everyone else’s. And not humanity’s as a whole. We separate, and segregate, and make exceptions. We do not consider that what is done to one of us is done to all of us.

It is not a matter of religion. It is a matter of practicality and civility. If we are not our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, then we are doomed to perish, because, friends, what does happen to one, does happen to all…eventually.

No matter how much you think guns protect you, they merely change who gets killed…today. The underlying acceptance of killing each other, just as long as it’s the “bad guys,” will neither gain us the moral high ground or any kind of lasting peace and security.

Instead of inciting fear to the point of mass hysteria, we should arm ourselves by vigilantly participating in our own lives fully.

Do you know your neighbors? Your kids’ school teachers? Their friends?

Do you have your own friends? Do you participate in your community? Are your eyes open and are you informed and aware of your world?

Who knows that you care about them outside of your own four walls?

Or are you hunkered down in your cave with your mobile device and large flat screen, deluding yourself into thinking that Facebook posts are a form of active participation in life or that love of a particular sports team actually matters.  

What sustains you, truly?

If we can each answer that and follow that, then maybe we can find our way to sustaining not only ourselves, but our country and our planet.

Peace and blessings to you, and thanks for stopping by and sharing a few minutes of your day with me. 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

a blog of Thanksgiving...

On any given day, most of us can rattle off a long list of what we’re thankful for. This year, in particular, I think we are all keenly aware and thankful for our safety, our freedom, and the opportunities afforded us because we live in the United States of America.

I’ve had a hard time with Thanksgiving being largely glossed over this year, as the commercial Christmas season inches its way earlier and earlier. I have every confidence that it will begin in July pretty soon, bypassing Labor Day, Halloween, and Thanksgiving altogether.

Be that as it may, I am setting aside this day to focus on the gratitude it warrants, thankful for more blessings than I could possibly ever list in a blog…which doesn’t mean I won’t try to articulate at least some of them.

I’d like to start by offering up a prayer for those who have suffered recent losses. There are many this year, and I know the holidays are the hardest days when people are absent.

And for those battling illnesses of all kinds, you, too, are held in my thoughts and prayers with love on this day, in particular.

When contemplating what I’m thankful for, I like to let myself be random and go with whatever pops into my head as I’m typing this. So here goes…

I am thankful for making it to Thanksgiving 2015!
I am thankful for good health and for my wonderful family.
I am thankful for my crazy dreams and the ridiculous amount of perseverance I still possess to make them a reality.
I’m thankful for laughter.
I’m thankful for the precious time I get to spend with my father.
I’m thankful for the colors of autumn.
I’m thankful for football. (Totally kidding. Replace that with figure skating.)
I’m thankful for the people I’ve met this year.
I’m thankful for the friendships that sustain me and make my life rich.
I’m thankful for all the work and income I’ve received.
I’m thankful for chocolate. (We can all come together on this one, can’t we?!)
I’m thankful for any way in which I’ve made any life better.
I’m thankful that Aaron Sorkin is still writing.
I’m thankful for lessons learned and who I’ve become because of them.
I’m thankful for old friends reunited.
I’m thankful for things that sparkle.
I’m thankful I finally found a great hair colorist in New York! (The importance of this cannot be overstated.)
I’m thankful for art that moves me.
I’m thankful for my faith in the inherent goodness of life.
I’m thankful for anyone who has ever stopped by and read this blog.
I’m thankful for the journey that lies ahead, whatever it may be and wherever it may take me.

Life is a gift. Today was not given to everyone, so no matter how heavy the burden we carry, we owe it to ourselves to say “thank you” and to wring every bit of joy out of it that we can.

Happy Thanksgiving…

Saturday, November 21, 2015

who we become...

For many people, maybe most, in fact, high school is a high point in their lives. It is the first glimpse into impending adulthood, complete with the requisite taste of first love, unchaperoned parties, stereotypes, peer pressure, and acne.

As with elementary and middle school, if you attended public schools, as I did, your classmates were decided largely, if not entirely, by geographical proximity to the school. And your class choices were mostly predetermined.

It took me a while to realize that this whole luck of the draw thing might be why I harbor no affection and little recollection of that time in my life, outside of shows and choir performances, that is.

The only friends I maintain from that period of my life, (minus recent reconnection due to the advent of social media), did not go my high school. We met in performing arts camp and Yonkers All City Choir.

I say this not because high school was traumatic or particularly awful, but because, when I think about my life, I consider it to have begun the day I stepped foot onto the campus of Northwestern University. (Go Wildcats!)

I chose Northwestern because it produced (and still produces) an astounding number of successful people in the performing arts. You cannot go to a Broadway show, concert hall, opera house, movie, or watch a TV show that does not contain Northwestern Alumni. And that was a good enough reason for me to choose it.

My freshman year found me living in a short wing on the 4th floor of a dorm called Allison, which, at that time, was all girls. Five of us from that little wing would go on to become roommates in the subsequent years, adding two more to our mix.

We represented diverse interests, majors, religions, and parts of the country, but we were all drawn to each other. Ultimately, our group would become doctors, lawyers, musicians, journalists, academic scholars and writers. That sounds dizzying to me now, but when we met, we were all just trying to find ourselves and our way in the world.

Life has a way of scattering us, of keeping us busy, and focused on what is immediately in front of us, not what has passed.

We live new places, take new jobs, make new friends, marry, divorce, have children. It is the natural order of things, I suppose. And usually, those things leave little time and energy for staying in touch, no matter how deep the affection.

So to find ourselves together again – all of us – nearly 30 years later, was an unbelievable feat…and treat.

Who are we now? Would we still recognize each other? Was what drew us together in the first place still there? And what was that, anyway?

Would the conversation be polite and superficial, or deep and meaningful? Would we get on each other’s nerves? Would we still like each other? Would the air be pregnant with awkward silences or filled with laughter and love? Would we have anything to say once we got past the initial details of catching up? Would it be all about memories, or would we be creating something new?

Most of us already turned 50. What wisdom had we acquired in a half century, and what would that look like? Who are we now? What had we figured out – about ourselves and about life? What brought us together now, at this particular moment, and why?

I can only speak for myself, of course, but I would say that each of us is at a crossroads in our lives, seeking something we didn’t know we should or would be looking for.

Yes, there were moments for reminiscing. And there was laughter – lots and lots of laughter. It turns out that Stephen Colbert had been to a party at our apartment. Of course, I wouldn't remember that, because I was too busy running around screaming, "We're gonna get evicted! We're gonna get evicted!" In my defense, that was right before the police showed up at our door. It does make for great storytelling years later, though. And we did not, in fact, get evicted.

In addition to the laughter, though, there was also depth and courage, compassion, acceptance, admiration and genuine love all around.

There was a feeling of gratitude that permeated every moment of the weekend. We were all wise enough to know that this kind of friendship is rare and precious and should be recognized and appreciated as such.

Relationships take effort. All relationships. They deserve the kind of care we’d give to something we treasure. They deserve the time for a text, an email, a phone call, and a visit. Friendships deserve our time and energy, because they sustain us throughout our lives.

I may have forgotten what I learned in Oceans of the World, (and it’s quite possible I could not have told you, even when I was taking Oceans of the World), but what I learned and took away from Northwestern was far more important – be grateful for, nurture, support and cherish those whom you hold dear. They will sustain you for a lifetime.

If you’re reading this now, go phone a friend, reconnect, reach out, make the time. You’ll be glad you did. 

To my roommates and all my friends, old and new, I count your friendship among the richest blessings of my life. 

Thanks for stopping by...
Diane, Tanya, Julie, Nancy, Paula, Christine, me, & Alisa

a Project Update - November 2015

It is inevitable that whatever we choose to pursue in life will teach us lessons. Valuable lessons, if we let it. And this project is no different.

There are a multitude of things I have learned and continue to learn as I go along.

One of them is that things happen in their own time, not in mine.

When I look back on the list of intentions I set and wrote down (and I really did write them down) when I began to formulate this project, not one of the things was for it to be done fast.

In hindsight, that may or may not have been something I should have contemplated, but I was more concerned with the content, the spirit, and the hearts of those who would be co-creating it with me, as well as what it would be putting out into the world.

And so here we are. A verrrry loooong time after we began, and having blown past every release date I’ve projected along the way. And there are many reasons I could give you for it that are, in fact, all true. But it occurs to me as I look at what’s going on in the world that the reason may be one I don’t yet know or understand.

On a nuts and bolts level, I will tell you that I am working with the best and most talented people in the business, who, because of the shoestring budget of this record, are working for little to no money because they love and believe in this project.

I am humbled and unbelievably grateful for that, but it also means that they have to fit it in around their other, higher paying work, and I understand that, too. If I were working with lesser talent, we’d probably be done, but it would not be nearly as magnificent as it is turning out to be. So I am willing to trust that you will find it worth the wait.

On a deeper level, I hope the end result is that this album touches lives in exactly the way that it is meant to, that it uplifts, inspires, motivates, comforts, and empowers people. I know that’s a tall order, but at its best, don’t you think songs do that?

Every day that I work on this, I am both aware and grateful that you chose to go on this journey with me. You are as present in this record as those who joined me playing and singing on it.

You are the people who, for whatever reasons you had at the time, backed, supported and made possible the dream and decision I made to say something that matters and put something wholly positive out into the world musically.

In the weeks and months to come, I am going to be asking you again to join in with me in getting this up and flying. You can do that by spreading the word and the excitement now!

The album is available for pre-order on my website:

And you can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram:

I know I will say it a gazillion more times – thank you!

Peace, love, and blessings to you,


Sunday, October 18, 2015

...a legacy

If we live long enough, we are bound to endure that which we once thought unimaginable.

Most of us, despite our noblest efforts, go through our day to day lives unconsciously, assuming an amount of mundaneness that we take blissfully for granted.

And then something happens, and we are shaken to our core. And suddenly, nothing looks the same or is the same, and life becomes a stark contrast that we mark forever in our minds by “before” and “after.”

We know the only dependable constant is change, and yet, we pretend to be oblivious to that, because to really live in the knowing of that uncertainty would mean to acknowledge our fragility. And we cannot bear to do that, let alone embrace it.

We are fragile. And the truth of it is we do not know each other’s pain or the burdens we bear. If we did, we would treat each other with kid gloves, and caress each other with our words, and comfort each other with our deeds. We would know to tread lightly, for each of us is harboring a broken heart of some sort that another cannot fathom.

When I first decided to record an album of heart-centered, uplifting songs, I needed an image to use that would somehow visually embody the feeling I wanted people to have about it. I had one in my mind of someone on the beach, arms outstretched, the vastness of the ocean before them, triumphant, victorious, empowered and love filled. I didn’t have any such pictures of myself like this at the ready, oddly enough, so I scoured stock photos online, as well as those of anyone I knew that popped into my head.

I don’t know why I thought of her, but when we went to Michelle’s Facebook page, there was the exact picture I had imagined. I asked her if it was okay to use it and she was thrilled. She was the image of The Gratitude Project, as it was called initialy. Gratitude was what we shared (as well as an unabashed love of Barbra Streisand), and Michelle would go on to be a staunch supporter and champion of both this project and of me, with “Grateful” being her favorite of my songs on it.

When someone chooses to take their own life, their pain outweighs everything else. I know that. It is not a choice made from lack of love. It is one made from seemingly inescapable pain.

For those left behind, the devastation is unrivaled. And I, who would try to find the ray of sunshine in the middle of Armageddon, am hard pressed to find anything even remotely resembling something positive to take away and carry forward as each new day dawns since Michelle’s passing.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the idea of a legacy. What is our imprint on the world? Who are we to others? What ripples do we cause in the sea of humanity?

It is easy in our grief to focus on how Michelle died. But couldn’t we, even for a moment, shift our focus to how she lived?

It is natural to see a future forever left unfinished. But we must also see the valuable time spent here as both a seeker and a teacher. She impacted the lives of the many she touched with her spirit, her love, her sensitivity, her beauty and her light. And if her legacy is to be anything, I think the world would better benefit from those qualities than the means by which her life ended.

I sent Michelle an email a few days ago, and she answered back immediately and cheerfully, signing off with “Love & Light! – Michelle”

She was gone the next day. But I will do my best to carry with me the love and light that was Michelle Angel at her truest self, and pay it forward in whatever way I can. I believe we honor those who have left us not only by remembering them, but by recognizing and appreciating how we have been changed forever by their presence in our lives and by being that love and light to others as we live out our days from here on out.

Rest in peace, Michelle.

And to Jill and all my family, as well as anyone hurting right now for any reason anywhere – may God hold you in the palm of His hand and grant you peace.

May we all be ambassadors of love and light. 

Michelle Renee Angel

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

the Book of Life

In the Jewish religion, as the sun set last night, the Day of Atonement began. It is a solemn day, a quiet day, a day to reflect and to pray for the coming year ahead.

When I was a child, I used to think that the Book of Life that was spoken about was a real book, and that we would either fail to measure up and not be written into it, or we would miraculously make the grade and find our names there.

Now I see the playing out of our lives as more of a team effort, if you will, with more in our own hands than we would like to think. It is daunting to be responsible for our own lives. It is easier to absolve ourselves of the responsibility and say it all rests beyond our reach. And maybe some of it does, but not all of it.

If it is true that we are made in the image and likeness of God, then we’ve been selling ourselves short for far too long. We, too, are creators, able to fashion the world we are given into something of beauty and love and light. Is that what we’ve done? Is that what we are doing? Is that what we will do?

If we are created from the Divine force of good, of love, and of mercy and compassion, is that who we are showing up as now?

This is a day to reflect on that. This is a time to take stock, to decide, to repent, to wipe the slate clean and start anew. But the truth is every day brings with it that opportunity, if we would but avail ourselves of it.

In the Jewish religion, we must first seek forgiveness from those whom we have wronged, before we ask God for it. And we must forgive others before we ask forgiveness of God. In short, we must clean up our own messes. And I believe this would be a different world and we would lead far different lives if we did this every day.

So let me start by saying, if I have hurt or wronged you in any way, I am sorry and I ask your forgiveness.

I’ve been thinking a lot about forgiveness lately, because I lost someone recently who had been in my life and that I genuinely considered a friend. I did not lose them to death. It was much worse than that. I lost them to unadulterated honesty.

I suppose I should be grateful that I’ve never experienced this before in my 50 years. And I am. But I am also wondering what the lesson is, because not to come away in some way better for any experience is a waste of the experience.

So perhaps at least part of the lesson is to be willing to live in the not-knowing, in the ultimate unfoldment of life. Perhaps the lesson is to pray for those we don’t particularly feel inclined to pray for, those we don’t agree with or who have hurt us profoundly. Perhaps the lesson is to come away more loving and compassionate toward a world full of people who have been hurt far worse than me.

Who we are when we are treated unfairly or meanly matters. Who we are at our best moments and our worst moments should not be all that different from each other. It is not our job to help karma along. (I know, karma in a Yom Kippur blog? I’m inclusive of all traditions. Let’s just leave it at that.)

So on this Day of Atonement, I pray to be a loving heart, a forgiving spirit, and compassionate listener, a perseverant peacemaker and a bringer of hope to all whose paths I cross.

I pray to sever the bonds of unwillingness that would keep me playing small and residing in pain, bitterness, and resentment. I have no need for those things, so I lovingly release them now.

I pray for the strength to walk the road that would most benefit this world with the time I have left, however long that may be.

And yes, I pray for both you and me to be inscribed in the Book of Life.

Whatever your beliefs may or may not be, I wish you peace in your heart, joy in your soul, and abiding, eternal love now and always. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

how we remember 9/11

The passage of time tints the lenses through which we view things. Our experiences add up to this day and our current lives, and if we’re lucky, those experiences not only provide wisdom, but they soften us in a way that only the terrible beauty of life can.

I don’t know what 9/11 feels like today in other parts of the country. I don’t know that it carries the palpable solemnity that it does here in New York. Here, the wounds seem fresh, though fourteen years have gone by. And the way the world and we changed forever because of that day seems almost more tragic than the lives lost.

For a brief moment, we came together. For a brief moment, we understood that what happens to one of us happens to all of us. For a moment, we lined up to pitch in, to give blood, to lighten the load of our neighbors, without concern for their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or political affiliation. For a moment we understood what really matters.

It is difficult to look at today’s societal landscape and not think that all of that has been lost, that is was but a fleeting moment in time. And if it didn’t teach us a lasting lesson of compassion for one another, then maybe the lives lost truly were in vain.

History repeats itself when we fail to learn the lessons it would teach us. That’s why the words of Dr. Martin Luther King ring truer today than when he said them:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

The word “love” today is mocked. It is not considered a viable political stance, or spoken of as a way of showing up in the world. And those of us who consider it the only option, and the only way of showing up in the world are thought of as somehow immature or lacking in practicality, when, in fact, we have tried the other way for centuries, and in our current lexicon of “How’s that working for ya?” it is clear that it has not.

Love is the difficult choice, the mature choice, the evolved choice, and the choice that demands the most from each of us. How many of us consider ourselves followers of a Judeo-Christian faith, where we are explicitly commanded, yes commanded to love one another? I often think that if God were in human form right now, he’d be gently weeping with his head in his hands and consider this whole creation of man and free will thing to be a colossal failure.

I know I sound like Debbie Downer here, and maybe it is the weight of hearing each name read aloud, one by one, but I can’t help but think we can do better, and that not to do so is tantamount to spitting on the graves of the lives lost to the kind of hatred that fills our worst nightmares.

If 9/11 taught us anything, it is that what we take for granted can be gone in the blink of an eye – the ones we love, our sense of security, our way of life. There is no way around the fragility. There is no certainty.

If right now was your last moment before the skyscraper of your life came down, what would your last words be to those you care about most?

What would you most regret leaving undone or unsaid?

What would you want those left behind to remember about you?

What would you want the summation of your life to be?

This is what we are called to contemplate today. This is the gift of this moment of remembering.

So whatever words you would say, be they “I love you,” or “I’m sorry,” – say them now. Whatever thing you’ve been putting off, whatever longing in your heart, whatever dream you once had for your life – do it now.

Let’s say a prayer for those who died and those who lived. And if we are to bear witness to anything, let it be to the eternal power and triumph of love.

Thanks for stopping by, and please know that whether you are stranger or friend reading this, you are cherished. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Colbert Report...Card

There’s a simple rule in entertainment as in any successful business – know what the people want and give it to them.

In the days and weeks leading up to the premiere of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, there was much speculation about who Stephen Colbert actually was, how much of what we’d seen up until now was a made up persona, and which version of whom would be hosting The Late Show.

I don’t mind telling you that it’s been a tough year for a talk show junkie like me. I come by my talk show addiction honestly, having grown up with the yardstick of Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin, Mike Douglas, and Dick Cavett to measure future talk show hosts by.

I should also say, in the interest of full disclosure, that it’s entirely possible I was in some required college science class with Stephen Colbert, since we were both at Northwestern the same years. I wouldn’t know if this was, in fact, true, of course, because I was asleep through much of my required science classes, and therefore have no recollection of classmates or anything else from it. You, Stephen?

I, like Colbert himself, watched David Letterman from his inception in late night, and also reveled in Jon Stewart’s entire tenure at The Daily Show from first show to last.

So saying farewell to Craig Ferguson, David Letterman, and Jon Stewart in less than a year, left me not only bereft, but relegated to watching what was left of late night television.

I mean no disrespect to the two Jimmy’s, James, and Seth. They all seem like lovely people. I just don’t find celebrity drinking games and reenactments of Paula Abdul videos to be my particular cup of tea when I tune in to watch a talk show. (And I also mean no disrespect to alcoholic beverages or Paula Abdul. Both have provided wonderful entertainment at the appropriate times.)

I was a bit worried that all the hype leading up to Colbert’s debut would only leave us disappointed if, in any way, he didn’t live up to expectations.

My worries were for naught, however, because Colbert delivered big time. Opening singing the national anthem – check. Cameo by Jon Stewart – check. Funny, intelligent, accessible – check. Donald Trump jokes – check. George Clooney – sigh – and check. Kick-ass band – check. Political interview – check.

Short of giving everyone a car like Oprah, I’m not sure what he could have done better. I bought in. I was immediately hooked…and reassured that I would have something to watch every night from now on. Order has been restored to my world. Thank you, CBS.

I know that we as a society love to build people up just so we can tear them down. We dub people kings and queens of things – the King of Pop, the Queen of Soul. Okay, so maybe it’s just musicians that do that. But the point is I am predicting that The Late Show will reign triumphant for years to come, because, as it turns out, what we wanted and they gave us…was Stephen Colbert.

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