Tuesday, July 22, 2014

a follow up blog to yesterday's conundrum...

I have learned from watching many Law & Order reruns, that you never ask a question you don’t already know the answer to. (Thank you, fake cops and lawyers.)

When I posed the question yesterday about the Kickstarter conundrum, I already knew the answer. I just wasn't convinced that I already knew the answer. And so I asked you, my fine readers.

After receiving a maelstrom of private messages, emails, and phone calls from people weighing in on the subject, I decided to let you know my conclusion…

I bless everyone. I wish everyone well. I root for every person’s success. I know that we are all interconnected and of equal value, as are our dreams. And that is the message I wish to embody. Nothing and no one outside ourselves can stop our good from coming to us. We can choose to use our life experiences, particularly the more challenging ones, as lessons in being more compassionate...or not. It's up to us. But compassion seems like a pretty good idea to me, both towards ourselves as well as others.

So that’s it in a nutshell for me. Love and compassion...even if...no matter what. 

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends. Oh, and my next blog is gonna be much lighter fare, though it is going to have the word “algorithms” in it, so you’re not gonna want to miss that!

Peace and blessings to you all…

Monday, July 21, 2014

Equal Value and My Kickstarter Conundrum

My friend Alisa introduced me to a concept that changed my outlook on life. It’s called equal value. It goes something like this: Me and you…equal value. The pebble and the boulder…equal value. The billionaire and the pauper…equal value. So therefore, my dreams and your dreams…equal value.

This brings me to my Kickstarter conundrum, because I’ve really been making a concerted effort to adopt this state of consciousness. I think that the first step in changing the ever-widening disparities in our world is to realize this truth – that we are all of equal value. Rich or poor, successful or down-on-your-luck. Doesn’t matter. Equal value.

…Which brings me to…three people I know have a Kickstarter campaign going right now. (For anyone unfamiliar with what that is, it is also called crowd funding, where a whole bunch of people put in whatever amount of money they can to fund a project of some sort, usually an artistic endeavor.)

This campaign of theirs will most likely succeed whether I participate or not. So the money isn’t really the issue here. So what is? Well, about a year ago, I had my own crowd funding campaign and not one of them contributed to it.

I am sure most of you are thinking there is no big dilemma here. If they didn’t contribute, I don’t need to. End of story. No guilt necessary.

But there are so many bigger questions here involved for me – like do you treat people the way they've treated you (an eye for an eye), or do you show up as the example of what you want to see in the world?

What does it say to the universe if you treat people better than they treated you? Are you a doormat or the living embodiment of unconditional love? And what is it saying to those three people? Is it sending a message that their dreams or their project are more valuable than mine? Or is it making a stand for the equal value of all of our dreams by supporting anyone’s dream, even those that didn’t find it in their hearts to support mine?

I believe that how we show up in the world matters. But I am human, and my feelings get hurt no matter how much I would always like to take the high road. So I am at a loss to know what to do that would send the message that I honor both my own dreams as well as those of these three other people as being of equal value.

What would you do? What are your thoughts? I’m listening…

Thursday, July 17, 2014

what are you chasing?

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, and I write this now on the last day of my stint in California, where I’ve had a surprising number of glorious opportunities to perform some of my new songs for people.

I’ve undergone a shift in my life over the past few years, and it’s not one everyone has fully understood. I got tired of chasing, and I decided to embrace instead.

When you are chasing something, you are in a perpetual state of wanting what you do not have, of coming from a place of desperation and fear and not enough. For me, “chasing the cut” (trying to get well known singers to record my songs) left me feeling like I was always falling short. But there was this strange dichotomy taking place, because when I would perform the songs I loved the most and that most expressed who I am, heart and soul, the response would be phenomenal. And I kept thinking, if people are responding this much and this often, surely there must be a place for what I do.

For years, I lived with this internal contradiction, until I woke up one day and realized that I had sold myself incredibly short. And so began a journey that started with the question, “What is standing in the way of me living the life I was put here to live?” And in that asking, was the beginning of transition and transformation that is not, by any means, for the faint of heart.

Most of us don’t afford ourselves the luxury of asking the question, “What is it I truly want?” We get tangled up in expectations, our own or those of the people around us, until we couldn’t even answer that question if we wanted to. But once you start getting quiet and allowing yourself to sit with the question, then the answer eventually bubbles up to the surface.

Let’s face it, before life happened, we all had dreams, things we aspired to. There was a moment when we knew who we were, and there is no road to peace and/or happiness without reclaiming that in whatever fashion we can.

I have had the opportunity to work with some of the best singers on the planet – no joke. And I have pitched my songs to some great artists. But little Ilene, who was nine when she started writing songs, wanted to play and sing them herself (the one exception being if Barbra Streisand wanted to sing them). So what did Ilene do instead? Had everyone else record them, try to get everyone else deals, pitch to anyone she could, big and small. This is not the behavior of someone who embraces who they are and knows what they have to offer.

Life, however, has a funny way of getting us where we need to be in spite of ourselves. So I wound up here, unable to take one more step forward that did not honor both my original dream and what I genuinely bring to the table. I realized that songwriting was a spiritual mission for me, and while I’ve gotten good enough at the craft to whittle frivolous ditties and pop confections, too, those things will never be the bulk of my work or the intent of my time spent on earth. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy them or respect those whose main gifts those types of songs are, or that I wouldn’t cash the check if one became a hit. Believe me, I would.

But like the movie Field of Dreams, I’ve decided that if I build it, you will come. So I’m building an album that exemplifies not only who I am, but the message I’d like to put out in the world – that each of us matters, that gratitude begets more to be grateful for, that not only are we each enough, but we are magnificent and worthy and so very much needed in this time and place.

Every time I sing one of the new songs that will be part of the new record, I am keenly aware of all of you who said “Yes!” to this message and to me bringing it to the world in this way. I know that I carry your hopes and dreams for your lives along with my own. It is my hope that we will all embrace our own greatness and stop chasing after what we never really wanted in the first place.

Thank you so much for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Peace and Blessings to you,


Thursday, June 19, 2014

...a mission statement

First things first – the blog moved!!! …and then it moved back!!!! If you missed the whole moving saga and teary farewell in my last post, feel free to catch up on your reading, but suffice it to say that there was one technical issue in moving my blog to be part of the new website that could not be resolved so that I didn’t lose readers. And I love you, my readers, so very much, that I decided to keep the blog where it is so you will always be able to find me. (I know, I’m unbelievably thoughtful like that.)

As for the new website, please stop by for a visit, and keep coming by from time to time. Things are just starting to get exciting and as time progresses, there will be more music, pictures, and tour dates! www.ileneangel.com

Now to the matter at hand – today’s blog offering…

I suppose it’s a sign of the times we live in that companies and industries all have mission statements. I’ve even seen them at the top of resumes, a summation, if you will, of what the desired end result is. I don’t think this is bad idea. In fact, I think it would be a good idea for every person to have one for their lives as well as their careers and to revisit it from time to time. Maybe then we’d have a focus, a direction, a road not to veer too far off of in life.

I’ve had a mental mission statement for my songwriting for at least the past eighteen years that I can recall – “to uplift, comfort, motivate and inspire.” It’s funny to me now that “to entertain” never really entered into the equation. But truthfully, nice as entertaining is, I always felt like humanity had too much at stake for me to be screwing around writing trite ditties. And because I was adamant about that, God, who by the way, clearly revels in both irony and humor, made my biggest commercial hits to date catchy ditties. I know - that God is such a kidder.

Only recently have I started thinking about my life’s mission statement and not just my music’s. I didn’t really think about it, actually. It just came to me one day and I typed it in my iPhone, where all profound ideas must be kept.

My mission? To be an expansion of love’s presence on the planet. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? But you try it when someone cuts you off on the road, or when you feel slighted, hurt, angry, or brokenhearted. Often, the simplest ideas are the hardest to achieve. But I like clear-cut goals. I like being able to ask myself at any given moment, “Does this support my ultimate desire? Is this what being an expansion of love really looks like?”

What’s your mission? Why do you think you are here? What does the world at large need right now that only you have to offer? If someone were to write a history book in the future about this time period, and you were to be a chapter in it, what would they say your contribution was? What are you an example of? What is your life an example of?

I think we only teach or lead by example. There’s nothing you can tell someone else to do or be effectively, without first embodying that quality yourself. And no great thing accomplished is ever truly accomplished alone. There may be many solitary endeavors, but our interconnectedness is ever-present and eternal.

So today I invite you to come up with your own mission statement. Write it down. Say it aloud. Let it sink into your bones. Words have power. Once uttered, we are held accountable for them, whether by our own conscience or by others. What we say and do matters. We may not like to acknowledge that, but it’s true nonetheless. So I say we make our “mission” clear, our dreams bold, and our time spent here one for the books.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

One Last Look Around

Everything changes. I don’t mind telling you I have been both grateful for and terrified of that fact. And so it must be with this blog. It is changing addresses, moving, if you will, to a new location, where it will be part of my swanky, new website that will be up and running very soon.

I’m not really certain at this point, what this will mean for my beloved little blog, aside from a different web address. Will its appearance be revamped entirely? Will it feel the same to you? Or to me?

I’ve been assured that people will be able to find me, just as they always have, but seeing is believing when it comes to things requiring codes and redirecting and stuff that generally makes my eyes glaze over. You may as well be waving a wand and saying, “hocus pocus, abracadabra,” because scientific though it may be, it’s magic to me. (It’s much the same for me with automobiles. I’ve got a cell phone and AAA. What else do I really need to know? Oooh, but I do know that if you’ve got white smoke coming out of your car, you’re burning oil. Thanks, Dad.)

So back to the blog. This “little blog that could” started as a way to gain a following for my book, In Search of George Stephanopoulos. I didn’t really know what a blog was supposed to be, or do, or look like, but in time, it has become the place where I have discovered, and shared, and risked boldly being me.

From politics to personal triumphs and losses, this has been the place I’ve chosen to let loose. And you all have not only cheered me on, but embraced me wholeheartedly in doing so.

In Search of… has blessed me with new friendships, new avenues for my writing, and hopefully a way to touch lives for the better that is uniquely my own.

So while this blog will continue, it will do so in the next phase of my life and career, and so promises to be a reflection of that.

For those of you who have stopped by and been a part of this experience, whether once or many times, whether from the get go or just recently, I thank you and will be forever grateful that you’ve shared this part of my life.

Peace and blessings to you, and stay tuned for the next chapter!!!!


Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Top 10 Things You Would Never Hear Me Say (in no particular order)

I thought I'd start off this Sunday blog with a little humor...hopefully. So I give you the top ten things you would NEVER hear me say...

  1. I’ve gotten too skinny; I need to put on a few pounds.
  2. Sure, I’d love to go camping.
  3. Rap music is my favorite.
  4. I enjoy broccoli as much as potato chips.
  5. Bungee jumping is on my bucket list.
  6. I always wanted to play the bagpipes.
  7. I tan without burning.
  8. I don’t mind paying retail.
  9. No coffee for me. I’m a tea drinker.
  10. I’m voting Republican. (The exception to this being, of course, if there was time travel and I was voting for Abe Lincoln...or if I was being ironic, which has been known to happen on occasion.) 

And honorable mention goes to:
Golf and boxing are my favorite spectator sports.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

a Mother's Day Blog

Welcome to the new In Search of… blog! I decided that after five years it was time for a makeover.

Since it’s Mother’s Day, I thought it would be nice to stop and reflect for a moment. For those of us whose mothers have passed, our memories are the sacred trust contained within our hearts while the rest of society is out looking for bouquets of something or other.

After my mother died, I remember going through her pocketbook and finding not only some old pictures of me, but to my amazement, some old flyers from previous shows I had done. She schlepped these things around with her everywhere she went, and it occurred to me that no one would ever love me that much or that way ever again.

As I was cleaning out the house later on, I discovered old letters and an old diary of hers, and in those artifacts, I learned about the person she was before her husband and children, what her hopes and dreams were. I caught a glimpse into her soul, and I wished I could have had a conversation with her knowing these things, but at the same time, I felt her presence as strongly as if she were standing right next to me.

For those of us missing our moms on this particular day, it is an opportunity to be kind to ourselves and to celebrate what we loved best about the person who birthed us. It is a chance to assess those traits passed down and now embodied by us and to decide which ones do and don’t serve us.

I have inherited, for better or worse, my mother’s inherent sense about people, her ire about anything unjust or unfair, and her championing of every underdog succeeding. I share her protective sense of loyalty when it comes to those I love and her far reaching memory when it comes to those to be wary of.

Whatever it is you most love or loved about your mom, I hope you take a moment to stop and give thanks for it today, and to be extra specially kind to everyone around, because you don’t know who is hurting on holidays such as this one.

If my mother had lived to see this era of the blog, I’m sure she would have found a way to carry mine around with her. If you would like to keep reading my blog, one of the new features on the top right next to this post is an email box where you can sign up to be notified whenever I post a new blog.

Another new feature is the “Donate” button right below it, which is completely voluntary and unbelievably appreciated. The technology of the times we live in is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, writers like me have the new found ability to reach worldwide audiences. But on the other hand, our work has become devalued to the point where we cannot sustain ourselves doing the thing we love most and are best at doing. So I ask that if you enjoy what you read here, that you donate any amount you like and encourage others to do so as well.

I hope you have a fantastic day, celebrating the gift of those who brought us all into the world.

Happy Mother’s Day!
Me & Mom in the early 80's