Sunday, August 23, 2015

where the rubber meets the road

Everyone has a set of principles and core values that they try to live by, and a set of beliefs, consciously or unconsciously, about the world, and how it works, and what is possible.

On our best days, we’d like to think we are steadfast in our faith, and secure in the knowledge that all really is well and that we are looked out for by a benevolent and loving God.

But our best days are not what test our faith or our beliefs. It is when we are met with moments of challenge that we really determine what it is we believe, in earnest.

Will we listen to that still, small voice, that part of us that knows that we know, even when it’s saying something we don’t necessarily want to hear, or something that is contrary to popular opinion?

Can we be of service to others and trust implicitly that what helps someone else cannot help but bless us tenfold? Can we believe in our own inner guidance when what it’s telling us is at odds with the material world?

We can say yes to everything when it is theoretical, but what happens when it is real? Who are we when it matters most that we show up as the love we say we want to embody? What do we choose when Spirit says to do one thing, and reason another? Who do we listen to?

I made a decision a couple of days ago to take down my newly released single – the duet with Kenny Loggins called “Friends Like Me & You.”

I know that on the surface, this is a decision that will baffle many people, because from a business perspective, it seems just plain crazy. But here’s the thing: when Kenny first came onboard this project and graciously offered and gave of his time, heart, and talent, I told him that all of us had to be happy. That was the rule. The creation of this album has been a celebration and a joyous love-fest, and that is the way in which I want it to go out into the world.

Kenny reached out to me after the single was already in the process of being released, because he had concerns about the timing of the single and the release of my album coinciding with his other project, the band Blue Sky Riders, who are releasing their own new CD in mid-September.

The ball was already rolling. Press releases had gone out. The song had been sent to 750 online retailers. I couldn’t stop it. So it came out last week, and I did not post the links to buy it on social media, nor did I give the go ahead for stories that had been set to run in the press nationally.

Instead, I decided to take the song down altogether, because, as it turns out, what I really believe is that this is a world of plenty, and plenty is not contingent on the timing of this release.

I also believe that honoring my word and respecting Kenny’s wishes is simply the right thing to do. 

I believe that the same people who were going to buy this song last week will still buy it when it comes out on my album a little bit later this fall. Yes, it is still coming out. Yes, you can still buy it. Heck, you can pre-order the entire In Color CD right now! (Pre-order Ilene's CD!)

I’ve learned that how things may look to others on the outside is nothing compared to how I feel about myself when I look in the mirror. I believe that possibility is infinite, that trust is necessary, and that all really is well.

I thank you for spending some time with me today. If you’ve enjoyed it, please tell your friends.

I wish you peace and richest blessings.

Ilene

Monday, August 17, 2015

saying goodbye and saying hello...

It’s my birthday and even on a not-so-milestone year, that’s usually cause for some reflection on my part.

This seems like a period of major transition for most people I know, and I’m not sure if it is because of the times in which we are living, or the pace at which change is taking place, but it seems as if we are all on a runaway rollercoaster, being tossed about, with highs and lows we never imagined, torn between throwing our hands up in the air and seeing where this ride takes us, and holding on for dear life and some sign that we are going to be okay in the end.

Either choice brings with it its own pros and cons. And I think that the issue is not so much whether we hold on or let go, but that this ride is happening, regardless of which choice we make. So really, the only thing we are altering is our experience of the ride.

Life is perpetual forward motion, ever-changing and constantly new. But as with any change, we are leaving behind something known for something unknown, and that is a little scary, even on its best day.

As I leave my last decade behind, I am struck by a sense of peace that I in no way remotely possessed at the beginning of the previous decade of my life. It is not because I have become a Zen master, or have crossed off everything on my bucket list, but because as we get older, we hopefully get wiser. And that wisdom is hard earned with the passage of time. We lose people we love, and of the rest who remain, we become keenly aware that time shared is what is of most value, because no one is promised tomorrow.

So what is it, on this particular birthday, that I want to say goodbye to, and what hello?

I happily say goodbye to the version of myself that ever doubted or denied or simply didn’t know my value. 

I say goodbye to struggle and resistance, to taking on what doesn’t belong to me. And I say hello to allowing, releasing, and embracing all the miraculous good that is being sent my way constantly. 

I say goodbye to limiting thoughts and hello to the infinite possibility that exists at all times. 

I say goodbye to those whose contribution to my life has been completed, and hello to those with whom I am meant to grow and expand. 

I lovingly release and say goodbye to all that is not meant for me, and I say hello to what is meant for me.

I take a breath, and a step forward, and I open my arms – to life, to love, to an abundance of richest blessings. And as I do that for me, I invite you to do the same for you, because this is not a world of lack. This is a world of plenty. And as we see it, and say it, and feel it, and claim it, so shall it be.

I celebrate the start of a new decade of my life with gratitude and humility, with love and acceptance, with joy and so much appreciation for you who are reading this, for all who have ever stopped by here, for those who will visit in the days, months, and years to come, and for all who have ever touched my life in any way. I am richly, richly blessed.

Peace and love to you always,

Ilene

Saturday, August 15, 2015

the Release of a Single!!

Project Update – the Launch of the Single!!!!!

It’s been…gulp…two years since we began this journey together, and I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to see this out in the world!

So the first thing we decided to do was to release a single, and the song we decided to go with was “Friends Like Me & You,” the Kenny Loggins duet.

So this Monday, August 17th, (which is also my birthday), the song will be available worldwide, everywhere digital music is sold. (iTunes, Amazon, you name it, it’s sold there).

Here is a small snippet of the song, a tasty morsel, if you will, to get everyone excited about it. Friends Like Me & You snippet

My cherished USA Projects (Hatchfund) supporters, of course, will have this song when you receive your copies of the CD and/or download in the days ahead, but if you just can’t wait a moment longer…and who can, really…you, too, can buy it on Monday for less than your Starbucks run will cost you.

So here’s the really important part – I need your help spreading the word. Have you “liked” my Facebook musician page yet? If not, here’s the link to that: Ilene's Facebook Page

Are you on Twitter or Instagram? If so, please follow me at: @ilene_angel

And lastly, as soon as the song is out and there will also be some press about it, I will share those links with you, here and on Facebook, etc. Please, please, please share it with your friends, family, followers, email contacts, anyone you meet on the street…you get the idea. If you love what you hear, then tell people. If you have a friend, purchase it and gift it to them. They’ll love you forever…and so will I. J

I cannot thank you enough for being part of this ongoing experience with me. I appreciate you more than I’ll ever be able to adequately express.

Big hugs and kisses to you all,

Ilene

Friday, May 15, 2015

Project Update - Meet the Players, the Final Edition!!!!

Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later – the final edition of “Meet the Players!”

In this installment, we feature Lorraine Ferro on background vocals, violist Kris Wilkinson, and artist Marina Drasnin.

One of the most beautiful aspects of making this record has been the cross section of people who are gracing it. It is an amalgam of those I adore and have worked with for years, people I adore and have never worked with before, and complete strangers whom I now, come on, sing it with me – adore.

And so it is fitting in this, my final installment of “Meet the Players,” that it encompasses just that cross section of all three.

Lorraine Ferro has been one of my favorite voices on the planet since I met her and we became friends in our twenties. For years, she was the voice on every demo I recorded, and the one I heard in my head whenever I wrote a new song. So to have her singing with me as I embrace my own voice is a gift beyond that which I can express.

You might best know her as the writer of the #1 song “Stand,” or from the TV show The Voice, or myriad live shows and TV jingles. In the past few years, we’ve finally had the chance to share the stage on many occasions, and all I can say is it is a heck of a lot of fun and I am still in awe. So thank you, Lorraine for adding your voice, your magic, and your soul to this project!

Kris Wilkinson is one of the people I’ve never met, but someone who was definitely meant to be a part of this. She has recorded and performed with too long a list to write in its entirety, but here are just a few of them – Jason Mraz, Elton John, Train, Carrie Underwood, Michael Buble, and the list goes on and on with just about anyone you could name in the music business that’s huge.

When I started this project, it was my intention that everyone who was on it would bring their heart and not just their talent. When you are asking a complete stranger, there’s no way to actually know that until they’ve played. But that has been the beauty of trusting this process and going with what felt right. I am so grateful to have crossed paths with Kris and that she gave the same artistry, energy, and beauty to this project as she has for all those people I listed above. What a validating gift! Thank you so much, Kris!

Last, but not least, is another kind of crazy story. I am Facebook friends with a multi-talented figure skating champion named Tai Babilonia. Truth be told, I did not hang pictures of musicians on my walls as a kid. But I did have a bevy of athletes I admired, and among them were my favorite pairs skaters of all time – Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner.

Social media is a funny thing. For all of its deficits, it also allows for connection between people whose paths would not have crossed otherwise. And such was the case for me in this instance.

So I am Facebook friends with Tai, and somewhere in my FB feed was a piece of art that one of her friends posted on her wall. Well, I fell in love with it, in fact, so much so that I wanted it on my album artwork.

So I, being the “nothing ventured, nothing gained” type of person, reached out and asked this completed stranger, who is an honest-to-goodness artist, if I could please use her artwork on my album. Well, needless to say, Marina Drasnin and her beautiful work are now a part of this project as well. And I have met another beautiful soul…thanks to Tai Babilonia, a world champion figure skater.

How’s that for the intricate tapestry of life?!!!! So many thanks and hugs to Marina and to Tai!

So here’s the wrap-up of musicians on the project:

Me – Ilene Angel J
Tanya Leah
Mark Prentice
Matthew Bubel
Caitlin Evanson
Kris Wilkinson
Everett Bradley
Lorraine Ferro
BethAnne Clayton
…and special guest Kenny Loggins!!!!

We are up to mixing and mastering next!!!

Thank you for hanging in there with me and for believing in this work and making it possible. I love and appreciate you all beyond words!


Ilene

Sunday, May 10, 2015

a Mother's Day Blog...

Mother’s Day has been one of those holidays I’ve tiptoed precariously around since my mother’s passing twelve years ago. It’s a mixed bag of memories and melancholy, and I know I am by no means alone in this. Anyone whose mother is gone dances that dance as well.

I remember thinking once, when visiting my niece, and realizing my utter delight in her mere existence, that we all seem to be perpetually searching and longing for that – someone to delight in us. And though it seems like something reserved for only our direct bloodline, wouldn’t it be nice if we could practice more of that kind of love with everyone in our lives?

Whom do we cheer on? Whose champion are we? Whose safe harbor are we in stormy seas? Can we love people as much in their failures as in their triumphs? Can we keep our arms open even when we ourselves are hurting? Can we delight in each other’s adult selves as much as we do in toddlers and puppies?

Maybe it’s a byproduct of time that we stop and think about how we show up in life. Maybe that’s because how we show up is our link to immortality. More than any accomplishment we will ever achieve, love is the abiding thing that exists beyond our time here. So we shouldn’t be stingy with either feeling it or expressing it.

And that brings me to…my sister-in-law, Narci, mother of my cherished and adorable niece, Samantha.

It is hard living 3,000 miles away from people you love, but the time I do get to spend is both more precious and gives me a different vantage point than I otherwise would have had.

My niece, Sammy, is effervescent. And what is most precious to her, she shares openly, whether it’s her excitement about a book she’s reading, something she learned in dance class, or a treasure kept in a special place in her room. She is considerate and polite, caring and affectionate, and I can’t help but think that her mother should be given a medal for raising a child with those qualities in today’s world. (And my brother, too, but it’s not Father’s Day yet, so hold your horses, will ya!)

So Narci, please know that you are appreciated and valued and respected so much for making this world a better place by who you are raising Samantha to be and by who you are, because you could not impart qualities you did not yourself possess.

Wishing everyone a safe harbor of unconditional love – to have it and to be it for others.


Happy Mother’s Day!
Mom & Me
Me, Narci, & Sammy 2014

Friday, April 3, 2015

life, love, and forgiveness...a Passover and Easter blog

This holy season is one of my favorite times of year, not just because it is finally spring, but because of what both the Jewish holiday of Passover and the Christian one of Easter represent.

Passover is about freedom – from slavery, from immobility, from all that life had been up until that point. It is about seeking a promised land.

I don’t think most of us equate this story with the lives we live today, but I think it is exactly about life today. We make ourselves slaves to our jobs, to money, to a lifestyle, to others’ expectations of us. We are held captive by limited beliefs about what is possible, and we do not equate a promised land with a place we can actually reside within our lifetime, so most of us never seek it out.

We want to feel better about ourselves, so we belittle others. We think the new Mercedes will somehow make us feel worthy or accomplished. We think that giving someone a helping hand is tantamount to enabling the alcoholic to drink, when in fact, a helping hand helps far more than the receiver. It gives to the giver as well.

Who would you be if no one was looking? What dreams would you pursue? What life would you lead? And don’t you think it’s time? We are all slaves to the choices we’ve made, so what would you choose differently right now? What choice will you make today that you will thank yourself for later on? What bondage would you like to break free from? What picture of pure joy would you paint for your life if you could? And isn’t it time we all did?

…which brings me to Easter, the one about resurrection. I love the whole idea of resurrection- bringing the once thought dead back to life. But Easter is not merely about resurrection. It is also about the persecution that preceded it. We persecute ourselves and each other in countless ways every day. We deny ourselves the very forgiveness that we seek. And if we want this world to look different and be a kinder one, then it must start with how we treat ourselves.

Resurrection begins with us forgiving ourselves. It begins with us affording ourselves the love and compassion we would want from others and from God. We must care for the child who has fallen short, because we are that child. We must believe we are worth the new start, the second chance, the resurrected dream of our life.

Right before Jesus died on the cross, he said, “It is finished.”

What do we want our lives to be before it is our turn to say, “It is finished?” What do you want your life to stand for? What’s that thing you must do before you are finished? And why? Because if we can each answer that question and be on our way toward doing it, then life becomes a whole lot sweeter and the world a whole lot more magical.

Our time is finite. That thing you’re longing for can’t wait another day. That person you love – risk it and tell them. That dream that’s in your heart – it can’t linger there in solitude for one more minute.

Freedom and resurrection are not just what holidays are about. They are what our choices in this instant are about. So is what you’re doing right now setting you free or keeping you captive? Are you resurrecting hope, love, excitement and possibilities or something else?

Faith is a living, breathing, every-expanding thing…or it is not faith at all. So however you choose to celebrate, whatever you believe to be true for you, take a breath, take a step, go beyond something you did yesterday.

It’s tine.

Peace & Blessings to all of you in this holy season of life, love, and forgiveness…

Ilene

Sunday, March 8, 2015

the courage to trust, surrender, and embrace

Way, way back, at the beginning of 2015, (okay, so maybe it’s not that far back, but it feels like it is), I picked my three words for the year. They were to be my mantra, if you will, to set me back on course if, God forbid, I should veer off and find myself heading toward, oh, say, a ditch of some sort.

These words were the words that flooded in immediately, without thinking and obsessing and worrying, as had been my customary practice for a long time. So me being of very evolved consciousness, took one look at those three words that tumbled out and thought, Oh shit! Not that! Anything but that!

And interestingly enough, every time since, when I have found myself frustrated or upset or tied in knots, it would dawn on me – what was missing was trust, surrender, and embrace – my three words. And they would get me back on track. 

Fast forward to this morning. I was playing at a particular spiritual center for the first time. I was only supposed to play one of my original songs during the service, right before the reverend’s talk, which I did. Done.

I find it fascinating that when you are on a path of transformation, opportunities for that transformation arrive all the time. They do not schedule an appointment time or place with you. If you say, “God, I want to break free of my limiting thoughts and beliefs and stand in the fullness of who I am and what I was created to be,” then watch out! The Universe will provide you with many “here’s your chance” moments to do just that.

It sounds really good on paper. I can be all kinds of courageous in theory. I’m a whirlwind of bravery at my computer keyboard, but what do you do in the moment when you feel compelled to act on what you said you wanted?

So there I was, at the piano, sitting quietly, while the reverend was delivering her message. And her message was everything I’d been working on and dealing with over the past few years. It was about believing the truth and not every little thought that pops into our imaginative little brains. The truth. And not that negative thing someone said to you as a child, or a few years ago, or last week, or yesterday, for that matter. The truth. And not the lies we tell ourselves to rationalize why we can’t have the lives we truly want. The truth. The truth of who we are and whose we are and what is possible if we would but let go of the beliefs that do not serve us.

I was overcome with more than just emotion. I felt a buzzing energy around me and inside me. A palpable buzzing energy.

Wasn’t this the genesis for the CD I’m finishing? Wasn’t this the title song? Wasn’t this what I wanted to put out into the world? But you can’t have what you are not willing to be. So if I want to encourage people to follow their hearts, to allow themselves to dream bigger than what the world might deem sensible, to step boldly forward into their greatest desire and highest calling, then I had to be willing to do that in this very moment. Not in theory. Not on paper. In real life. Now.

I began having an internal dialogue while the good reverend was finishing her talk. “Don’t do this, Ilene. It’s your first Sunday here. It could be your last. You’ll be pushing the envelope and you are not an envelope pusher.” (This is fear talking, by the way.) “You did just fine with the one song. Everybody liked it. People will think you’re full of yourself if you just sing another song right now, because you feel compelled. Stick with what you are supposed to do.” (Still fear talking.)

But there was another voice. “This is what you were put here for. Someone needs to hear this today, and you may not know who, but you know this is why you’re here today.” (Let’s call this voice “the one that knows.”) “This is your chance to claim that fullness of you, step into it, own it. Never mind the fear. Never mind if they will have you back or not. Never mind whether or not you are a reputed envelope pusher or not. It is now, it is you, and you are ready.”

I took the leap and sang the song. I decided today was not the day to shrink back into oblivion. I’ve spent too long there. It’s not fun. And this may not have been tackling Mount Everest, but we each have our own Mount Everest to scale. I’ll never know who that song was supposed to reach today, but I do know that I was the recipient of the opportunity to be and not just have the life I wanted. And that was a gift to me.

Acts of faith seem terrifying – the not knowing, the taking a step when we’re not sure if there’s a cliff we’re about to step off or solid ground beneath us. But we’ve gotta dare to take the step. We get to grow each time we do. Our lives don’t transform until we transform. And it’s not always the Red Sea parting. It’s the small steps, it’s the learning to listen to that part of us that knows that we know, and daring to trust it.

Whatever it is you want for your life, I hope you dare to trust that part of you that knows, surrender the attempts to control it, and embrace the magic and the mystery and the love that surrounds us all.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Peace and Blessings to you always,

Ilene