Thursday, November 25, 2021

Good Stewards, a Thanksgiving Blog for 2021

May we be good stewards of the gifts we’ve been given.


That’s the sentence that popped into my head just now. It stopped me in my tracks and grabbed my attention, like someone tapping me on the shoulder; only in this case, I think it was the Great Someone tapping me on the shoulder.


I’m mulling over what it means to be a good steward, and what constitutes a gift, and why that specific verbiage. So this blog is being written in real time, after a long absence and frankly, more than a modicum of avoidance. 


The truth is I have two responses to the question, “How are you?” 


One is a slight hesitation while I imperceptibly contemplate a) if you are just being polite in asking, b) if you warrant the length of the real answer to that question, and c) what I want to speak into the Universe, because words have the power to create and recreate what we say.


The other response is to burst into tears. 


In a world that frequents the expressions “man up,” “put on your big girl pants,” and “get over it,” my admission might be frowned upon. And when I consider all that I have and am grateful for, and how good I have it compared to most in the world, my troubles are few, indeed. 


But few isn’t none. And pain is pain, no matter the person or their station in life or how they look to the world on the outside. 


So I want to talk about what I’m thankful for differently this year, with greater depth, and maybe some of it will resonate with you, too…


I’m thankful to be alive. I am aware that it is a gift to open my eyes each morning, and every moment is a choice point of what I am going to create with the day I’ve been granted.


I am thankful for my father still being here. It is an excruciating honor to be with someone I love at the end of his time here, but oh, what a gift it is, too. I never forget to revel in the joy of our lighter moments, and try to breathe through the harder ones that remind me that the clock is ticking.


I am thankful for my family, near, far, here, and gone. Since last November, I have lost an aunt, uncle, and four cousins. That’s a lot to take in. And Covid made funeral attendance and the proper grieving process impossible. I know I speak for an entire world that suffered unfathomable loss in isolation when I say that it prolongs the loss in ways we cannot measure. 


I am thankful for community and relationships that were forged in the unlikeliest of ways – virtually. I have made new friends, deepened relationships with old ones, and stayed connected during this period of disconnection. So huge kudos to the book of faces, the zoom, and the StageIt, my concert platform of choice.


Speaking of StageIt, I am thankful for the gift of music – both the music I get to make for and with others, as well as the music I get to be the benefactor of. 


Nothing has made me a bigger fan than people whose work has given me solace and whose energy, even virtually, was that of kindness. I’m talking about you, Gary, Georgia, and MBNation.


Being a caregiver to someone you love isn’t easy. It takes effort to carve out time that’s your own and ways to nourish your soul and rest your body. Though it might not have started out that way initially, the Wednesday night Pajama Party with Georgia Middleman and Gary Burr fast became the “me time” I cherished and looked forward to all week.


For 50 blissful minutes, there was beautiful music, laughter, and a community that began to build. Birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, and yes, losses were shared. Stranger cared about stranger, and little by little, we weren’t strangers, we were just friends who had never met. 


These concerts paralleled my own monthly ones. And soon, there was overlap in audience. I can only hope that people who need it get the same support from my shows as I get from Gary and Georgia’s.


I am thankful for my niece, Samantha, who grows into a more amazing person with every passing day. This kid makes me have hope for the future of the world, that it will be a more loving and inclusive place for everyone. 

I am grateful for LA traffic. That's right, you heard me. My brother always calls on his way to work, and thanks to LA traffic, we have had some wonderful and lengthy conversation about all the taboo subjects, mainly politics, religion and where the best deli sandwich can be found. It's been a gift, truly.

I am grateful for my Inspire Project bandmates, Tanya and Lorraine. One of the happier highlights this past year was our unexpected sleepover because tornados descended upon our area after practice ended. For all our rehearsals that became lengthy discussions about life and art and what we want to do with ours, I am profoundly grateful.


I am grateful that I look for and find the gift in every situation and relationship. It’s easy to see the gift in someone’s presence, but not always so easy to find it in their absence. Lately, I’ve been realizing that there is a gift in both. Not everyone is meant to stay.


I am grateful for inspiration. I can turn just about anything into a song – maybe not a great song, but a catchy confection nonetheless. I have started having fun with that. I know, took me a minute, but I’m onboard now.


I am grateful for friends who walk this life with me, who keep me sane, grounded, and laughing most of the time. 


Lastly, for this Thanksgiving blog, I am thankful for the courage to be vulnerable. I believe it is a gift that grants the recipient of our vulnerability permission to be the same.


Thank you for stopping by and spending some time with me. 


May we all be good stewards of the gifts we’ve been given.


Happy Thanksgiving

Monday, August 16, 2021

A Birthday Blog for 2021!

Every year, for the past decade or so, I have written a blog on my birthday, pausing to reflect on the past year of my life and contemplating the year ahead and what I intend for it. 


This year, I feel like I’m in limbo, not because I don’t have that on which to reflect, but because I feel incapable of planning a future in a world that is so uncertain and unfamiliar. 


So I’m doing the most logical thing one can do in such a situation – I’m writing a musical. Nothing says irreversible demise of the planet like bursting into song and dance…or flames, as the case may be. 


Climate Change – The Musical.


I jest. My show has nothing to do with climate change, although, now that I think about it, it could totally work.


I did not start lockdown thinking I would be writing a show. I think, like most of us, I began lockdown merely hoping not to die from Covid. So far, so good on that front.


So here I am, one year older, and closer to the end of my first draft than the beginning, fully embracing the fact that nothing has come as naturally or as easily to me as writing show tunes. And for that, I have my parents to thank. 


I think my mother was playing the cast recording of Funny Girl while I was in utero and for sure, my father’s love of Man of La Mancha set me on a life path of tilting at windmills long before I even knew what that meant. 


This past year has been one of redefining myself, of exploring and learning new things and being willing to let go of previously held images and versions of myself.


While hibernating, I’ve remained woefully ignorant about shows to binge-watch, but I have finished crafting a course on self-publishing, started writing my next book, done monthly concerts on StageIt, begun to learn guitar, and immersed myself in a new software to sell all manner of my work online. 


For those of you who don’t know me well, I am also the 24/7 caregiver for my 92 year old father. That is my primary job and focus now. Up until a little over a year ago, he was doing incredibly well, but then things took a turn for the worse, from which they have not and will not likely fully recover. 


While it is an immense privilege to be with my father during this time in his life, it is also an excruciating journey, rich in moments of beauty and gratitude and heartbreaking in the certainty of future solitude. One day, I will have all the time in the world and that freedom will be agonizing. 


So in an effort to find balance, those other projects keep me sane, productive and moving forward, while still in my house. 


The year ahead is uncertain for all of us. No one knows the path this virus will take and how it will impact us. So I revel in what beauty there is in any given moment, on any give day. I savor the time spent with my father and with close friends.


Our time here is valuable, priceless, and brief. And I am so grateful that you chose to spend some of yours with me. 


In the spirit of a true birthday celebration, please feel free to eat some cake, celebrate the moment, and occasionally burst into song and dance.


Peace and blessings to you always,


Sunday, March 28, 2021

Redemption and Resurrection in 2021

Every year, I write a blog during the Passover/Easter week about redemption and resurrection. This year, in particular, I feel like I myself need to reflect on it more than ever. 


On Passover, we celebrate going from slavery to redemption as a people, but in order to do that, at least biblically speaking, we had to accept God in such a way that we would agree to be obedient to His set of rules.


Frankly, if the Ten Commandments were all there was, I’d be fine with it. I think the world would be pretty good if people just adhered to even two of the ten – don’t kill anyone and quit taking what isn’t yours. (I’m paraphrasing a little.) 


But the world doesn’t really adhere to any of the commandments, as I see it, and so we seem to be in a bit of a pickle, and I haven’t even gotten to Christianity yet. 


We’ve become enslaved to so many things – to our fear, to our needs, to our politics, to money, to the idea of what we consider the true God or religion to be, to seeking vengeance and retribution, to wanting more, to settling for less. We are slaves to the constant barrage of headlines and sound bites, to MSNBC and Fox. We are slaves to our negative thoughts and stunning lack of faith in the one thing, the embodiment of which would solve all our troubles – love. 


We have put ourselves in shackles and said, “That’s just the way the world is.” We are holding ourselves captive, and I don’t mean by quarantining during the pandemic. 


Speaking of which, I don’t want to burst your bubble, but it’s not over. And for those of you who want it to go back to the way things were before the pandemic, I’m sorry to break it to you, but it can’t and we won’t.


Loss changes us. I will never be who I was a year ago, nor would I want to be. Stunning and staggering pain doesn’t just impact us negatively. If we let it, it can be the bridge to our transformation into something better. It can be the road to our redemption. 


I know so many people who have felt like caged animals for a year, pacing, gnawing, seething, trying to break free. But freedom, much like happiness, is an inside job. We will never be freer than we are in our minds, souls, and hearts. Until we master the thoughts we are slaves to, no amount of running around will suffice to satisfy that longing deep within. 


What we’re longing for is resurrection, which is the perfect segue to talking about Jesus. I know, my family gets a little nervous when I start talking about Jesus and resurrection, but I have known since early childhood that He was sent to be the human embodiment of what love is supposed to look like. Shocking that we couldn’t figure it out for ourselves, but no, evidently we couldn’t. 


I remember asking an orthodox rabbi in Hebrew school when I was young, if Jews believed in resurrection. For those keeping score, we do. We just can’t seem to agree on who the Messiah is and when we’ll all be resurrected. 


Anyway, my point is that it is time to resurrect our lives and this world, in such a way that there is no doubt what love looks like and in whose hands the responsibility for it lies. 


As I envision a post-pandemic life, I try to see my future self simply as happy. Ecstatic, in fact. It occurred to this goal-driven writer, that historically speaking, I have always thought my happiness would be found in achieving certain goals. And if there is one enslaved way of thinking I choose to release right now, it’s that. And if there’s one thing I’d like to resurrect, it’s the idea that happiness is, in and of itself, the goal, the journey, and the place I choose to reside. 


Are there things I want to do? Yes. But if I can’t find happiness every step along the way, then I won’t find it when I get there, either. 


I want to release my enslavement to things having to look a certain way, and resurrect the idea of flow and ease. Wow, that seems foreign to me, even as I say it. 


I think we have lost our way. I think we have forgotten our own divinity, not to mention God’s. I think we need to think bigger, be bolder in our declaration of what we want, and take a leap of faith in the direction of a world that works for everyone, where nothing happens to us, but it all happens for us. 

I think we need to resurrect the vision of peace, of people loving one another, of no one life being worth more than another. I think we need to revisit and embrace forgiveness. I think we need to resurrect seeing the God in everyone. 


The stories of Easter and Passover are not about slavery and crucifixion. They are about redemption and resurrection. In the worst moments are found the greatest potential for miracles. I think that is the takeaway. 


So wherever you find yourself this moment, I hope you can pause long enough to see God in yourself, to practice being love, and to know that at any given moment, we are poised for the miraculous to take place, if we would but trust it. 


Peace and blessings to you all…



Thursday, March 11, 2021

Happy Anniversary...

There are some events that are indelibly etched in my mind – blizzards, blackouts, 9/11, the insurrection…and March 12th of last year. 


I remember details of such events, like which day of the week they were on, what I was doing, how I felt, if it was hot or cold, if I was scared. 


I wasn’t scared.


March 12th, 2020 was a Thursday and I was going to see the new Broadway musical about Princess Diana that night. 


I took my father to his cardiologist appointment that morning. It was the last time we would go anywhere without a mask, but I didn’t know that then.


We ate lunch at our local diner on our way home, like we typically did. It was the last time we would do that, too.


We saw our friends and fellow diner regulars. We hugged, kissed, and shook hands, without hesitation or forethought. Maybe if I had known it would be the last time, I would have lingered longer. 


By the time we got home and settled in, I was getting ready to go back into the city for the Princess Di show that evening. Before 5 p.m., my friend Anthony called to say Broadway had shut down. 


Life as I knew it ended that day. Silently. Stealthily. Abruptly. 


The next morning, I got up early and bought enough groceries for a month. 


And then I waited. Hunkered down. Watching the news. Eyeing the ever-increasing number of human casualties from a strange new virus we had no way to treat, or to stop, or to prevent. 


I was in the first stage of grief – denial. 


I told myself that this would last maybe a few weeks, at most. Surely, this strange illness would pass or we’d figure out a solution. We’re crafty like that. Besides, even after 9/11, Broadway was only dark for 48 hours. The show must go on. 


But it didn’t.


Like anything new, there’s novelty to it. I’m an introvert, working from home and now I had an excuse never to leave. It wouldn’t be hard for me, I told myself. And if I’m being honest, staying home hasn’t been. That was the least of it. 


True to form, I started to ascribe a deeper spiritual meaning to the global time-out. The planet needed to heal from man’s abuse of it. Humanity needed to be sent to its collective room to think about what we’d done. The incessant hurrying needed to stop. We all needed to take a deep breath, to reflect, to regroup, and reset. 


That would have been a life-transforming accomplishment. Unfortunately, most seem to have used their time to binge watch every cockamamie show ever streamed. So not so much on the whole “think about what you’ve done” thing. 


Me, I didn’t binge watch until at least eight months into it. I didn’t watch anything other than news for a long time. 


I thought it would be the perfect quiet time to write and get a lot done. I wrote nothing. I was just glad that my father and I were well. He was in really good shape for a 91 year old when this pandemic started.


I began doing concerts from my living room. It was a way to connect and still make music. The first time was the strangest. Performing to dead silence, but knowing there are people out there listening. After a while, I made it a regular thing – the first Tuesday of every month at 8 o’clock you could find me on StageIt. If it did nothing else, it gave me the only thing I had on a schedule. It was something in a time filled with nothing.


Runs for necessities were all consuming. Lines for hours to get inside the store, and an eerie quiet once there. There was none of the usual frenetic energy of people out and about. Everyone looked like a trauma victim, and what we most feared was each other. To ignore the peril was increasingly difficult. Though the elderly were targeted, this virus was claiming younger people in enough numbers for no one to be safe.


It wasn’t long before I knew someone who died from Covid-19. Then parents of friends and friends battling it, some at home, some in hospitals fighting for their lives. 


The economy was in a free-fall. And I was praying daily for our frontline workers, which now included the people stocking the store shelves and picking up the garbage on my street. 


The president was clearly in over his orange head and lacked not only empathy, compassion, and the ability to tell the truth, but the one thing we desperately needed – a plan to get us out of this mess. I was beyond pissed off.


Anger – the second stage of grief.


By July, my father’s health took a turn for the worse, though it was not Covid-related. That’s when I got to experience, firsthand, the hellish nightmare we were in, in a different way. 


It was summer, and my only saving grace was that the virus spread had slowed down enough for me to at least be allowed into the hospital for 3 hours a day to be with my father. I was there, waiting when visiting was permitted, and I only left when security made their rounds and told me I had to leave. It was excruciating. The staff was sparse and overworked and the care suffered for it.


My cell phone was my only lifeline in July, August, and September, when my father was in and out of hospitals. Relatives and friends could support me by phone, but no one could be there in person, for him or me. 


I prayed for more things than I can articulate – strength, wisdom, protection as I navigated hospitals and my own potential exposure to the virus. I would have traded anything to secure a positive outcome. 


Bargaining, - the third stage of grief.


Autumn saw my father home, finally, but not nearly the same as he had been or will ever be again. What once was designated for old age now became the pervasive thought in my mind – the inevitability of death…and the utter fragility of life. 


Everything was meaningless and meaningful, excruciating and beautiful at the same time. Nothing mattered and everything did. The fact that we even got up in the morning was a fucking miracle. And this has yet to leave me. I still feel that way. 


Depression – the fourth stage of grief.


Birthdays came and went quietly, and holidays approached with no possibility of gathering. I made the best of the masked drop-offs of gifts and the elbow bumps that replaced hugs. I tried to find humor in it somewhere, but nothing about it was funny, except the potential it had for being behind us one day.


The hardest thing, by far, was missing funerals. From the time the pandemic started until now, I lost four friends, an aunt, uncle, and three cousins. Though only two were due to Covid, the enormity of the loss would have been unfathomable even during normal circumstances. And these were not normal circumstances. 


For as hard as a funeral is, it is the start of the healing process. Absent that, there is a piece missing, a step skipped. And you can’t skip crucial steps when it comes to processing grief. 


The New Year carried with it the promise of a new president, a vaccination, and the chance to at least hope for a better future. Me, I was skeptical by now, and January 6th didn’t help matters.


Not only is life too damn fragile, but also, it turns out our democracy is only one successful insurrection away from toppling like a house of cards. 


That was it for me. I started learning the Canadian national anthem, brushing up on my French, and googling the path to citizenry. 


Fortunately, Biden took office and got busy trying to help us out of this mess. And I started to look at life with an ever-so-slight glimmer of hope. If the pandemic continued, I would survive lockdown. If it vanished, I would face the new world with everyone else. 


Acceptance – the last stage of grief.


Friends started talking about post-pandemic life. One said not to underestimate people’s capacity to forget. 


I don’t think we can go back. At least, I hope we can’t. I am not the same person I was at the start of this a year ago. I could never be that person again. The only value there is in any experience is who and what we become because of it. 


What would you tell your year-younger self? 


I’ve been giving this some thought, as this anniversary approached. I think I would tell her that, no matter what happened, she was enough to handle it, that no matter how isolated she ever felt, she was never truly alone, and that Schitt’s Creak is really worth the binge watch.


Wherever this anniversary finds you, I hope it’s on a path to healing. I hope that as we re-enter the world, we do so a little bit kinder to ourselves, the planet, and each other. 


Happy Anniversary, dear readers. 




Sunday, February 7, 2021

My Annual Super Bowl Blog!!

It’s time for my annual Super Bowl blog, the day when I traditionally run through the roster of football players’ names I actually know, which used to be limited to those contestants on Dancing with the Stars, a miscellaneous Manning brother, the guy who crosses himself, and Joe Namath. 


Unfortunately, I stopped watching Dancing with the Stars when they started dancing around barefoot. WTF with that?! It’s not ballroom. Put on a sparkly dress, a spray tan, some heels, and tango, dammit. 


Anyway, all that to say, I don’t know too many football players these days. Oooh, wait - Tom Brady. But I think he’s a Trump supporter, so clearly traumatic brain injury has already set in. Bless his heart.


As if the pandemic wasn’t enough to make it clear that the world is irreparably different, there will be poetry at the opening of the Super Bowl. 


Poetry. At. The. Super. Bowl. 


Complex rhyme schemes spoken live in front of a bunch of millionaire-oversized men, paid to jump on each other. Did I mention the traumatic brain injury thing? 


You can bet I’ll be tuning in for Amanda Gorman’s riveting words, and I really appreciate the heads up about it being at the beginning, so I don’t have to, you know, watch the game. Me, I actually AM a poetry lover. 


And if someone would be kind enough to let me know when it ends, so I can tune in for The Equalizer with Queen Latifah, that would be awesome. 


Before we go any further, let’s talk about snacks. Just because I don’t like football doesn’t mean I can’t get onboard with snacks. Chips, wings, and Lipitor for everyone, that’s what I say. 


I was supposed to be doing a virtual chili cook-off on zoom today, but I’ve had a migraine for close to a week, so I decided my time would be better spent on the couch here with you…and binge-watching the last few episodes of Schitt’s Creek. 


Oh, don’t get me started on how much I love Schitt’s Creek. I’ve been sipping the seasons like a fine wine, savoring each delicious moment with the Roses. I do not want it to end. But alas, I know it will…tonight…while everyone else is watching the Super Bowl. 


Now is the time I would normally impress you with my knowledge of the competing teams, but frankly, who cares.?!! I got no skin in the game. And seriously, you should be impressed with my usage of that phrase right there. I believe I bandied it about correctly in this instance. 


Well, it’s time for me to go do physical therapy with my father. If you really want to see something impressive, it’s not a touchdown by professional athletes. It’s watching a 92 year-old man summon the strength he really doesn’t have, so he can stay mobile and living at home. 


I hope that whatever your Super Bowl plans are, you stay safe and well and have a good time. 


Go Titans!! …or whoever’s playing.