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…


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,


Thursday, March 5, 2015

a project update: Meet the Players (#5)!!!

I know, I know. After the update with the Kenny Loggins duet announcement, you’re wondering, can she keep this going? Can this level of excitement be sustained?

Well, I’m here to tell you – heck yes!!!

We’re up to the “icing on the cake” stuff, as far as I’m concerned, the miscellaneous additional instruments that make the sweet sweeter. And the background vocals that take the record to the area of spectacular. (Can you tell I’m really, really excited about this?!!)

So in today’s (snowy) installment of “Meet the Players,” I’m introducing you to Everett Bradley on background (and some featured) vocals.

Have you ever met anyone who just oozes talent out of every pore of their being?

Have you ever met anyone who simply radiates love and joy and light?

And have you ever met anyone around whom you feel good just being in their presence?

That’s Everett.

So getting to work with Everett Bradley has been one of the most fun and truly fantastic parts of making this record.

Where would you know him from? Well, he’s on TV five days a week as the bandleader/musical director on The Meredith Vieira Show. But when he’s not on TV, you might have seen him touring with this rock guy named Bruce something-or-other. Springsteen – that’s it!!! Bruce Springsteen. Or maybe you saw him on Broadway in After Midnight. Or maybe it was back when he toured with Bon Jovi or Hall & Oates.

The point is he has contributed his awesomeness to this project and I cannot wait for you to hear it!

As always, I am reminded that I would not have this opportunity without all of you who said “Yes!” So thank you, again. And a huge thank you to you, Everett. You are such a gift. 
Everett Bradley & Me 

Me, Tanya Leah, & Everett Bradley

Thursday, February 26, 2015

a surprise birthday blog!

As is becoming more and more my practice, I love surprising unsuspecting friends with a blog on their birthday.

We cross paths with a lot of people during the course of our lives. Some stay. Some go. So weave in and out of our lives for different periods of time.

When you’re in the music business, you see the ebb and flow, the rise and fall, the journeys that are unlike any other. And as with everything in life, we carry with us the moments and memories.

We remember sipping wine in a friend’s backyard late at night, talking about dreams and heartaches privy to very few. We see the progression and the maturation, the breathtaking beauty carved out of lessons learned, loves lost, hope found.

If you’re lucky, as I am, you get to cross paths with more than enormous talents. You get to cross paths with enormous people. (I’m not referring to girth, by the way.)

You become each other’s cheering sections and revel in the moments of giddy excitement, just as you share in the more trying times. And if you’re really lucky, you get to make music together – music that will go forth into the world and do what it’s meant to do, music that's made with people you love and admire.

I’ve written a lot about my project. I’ve been steadily introducing you to the players and singers. And today, since it’s Caitlin’s birthday, I think it is an excellent time to say how unbelievably ridiculously awesome she is.

You may know Caitlin Evanson from the people she’s played with – namely Taylor Swift, Ringo Starr, and a long list of notable others. She’s a violinist, singer, songwriter, guitarist, and I’m guessing there are probably many more talents than I know about.

I am unbelievably excited for her to be playing violin on my record. Some people are true artists, and Caitlin is one of those who brings the beauty of who she is at her core to her playing.

So whatever you are doing today on your special day today Caitlin, I hope you know the gift you are and are celebrating it with all the things that bring you joy. Happy Birthday!!!

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends. And since it’s Caitlin’s birthday, I say we all have a piece of cake! 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

a sneak peek at the title song!!!

Well, as promised in my last blog, I have finally gotten a video up from the Valentine Love Fest concert I played with Garry Novikoff, Lorraine Ferro, Tanya Leah, and Peter Morris Dixon!

Those who know me know that there’s nothing I love doing more than making music with my friends. Of course, if you had my friends, you’d enjoy making music with them, too, because they’re insanely talented.

So in what might possibly be the shortest blog I’ve ever posted to date, I give you an informal love fest among friends joining me on what will be the title track of my new CD, “In Color.”

Enjoy and thanks for stopping by! Please tell your friends…

Saturday, February 14, 2015

a Valentine's Blog...with water, water everywhere!

Happy Valentine’s Day! You’ll be glad to know that I am wearing my dangly heart earrings made for me by my multi-talented, Emmy-winning friend, Debi Cochran. As a matter of fact, I’m in such high spirits that I am foregoing my traditional all black attire today in favor of, well, possibly incorporating some other color like purple or red with the black. (Baby steps, you know.)

It’s been a heck of a week, boys and girls. It began last Sunday with a Valentine’s Love Fest concert that my buddy Garry Novikoff put together. I’m still figuring out how to post a video clip of it, so stay tuned in the next few days for that, because it will be your sneak peek at the title track of my upcoming CD In Color, and who doesn’t love sneak peeks? No one, that’s who!

So we’ve been having an interesting winter here on the East coast. Snow and ice, and snow and ice, and then some snow and ice. And as the temperatures turned frigid this week, our tree roots decided it was the perfect time to block drainage and send everything back into our house and all over the place, flooding it.

Well, you know me – Suzie Sunshine, trying to look on the bright side, even of dirty flood water. “What’s the lesson in this?” is always my question. Or “What’s the blessing in this?”

I’ll tell you right off the bat, two practical things – get rid of everything you can while it’s your own choice, and don’t leave anything you value greatly on low ground. Obvious things, I know, but still, they needed to be said.

We amass stuff in this country, and it seems like the smaller our dwelling, the more stuff we like to pack into it. But the truth is what we are attached to is a feeling, a memory, a moment in time. And those things we carry with us wherever we go. I’m not saying we don’t want to or shouldn’t keep physical mementos, but we don’t really need to save the piece of lint that was on the sweater that was under the jacket we wore when he kissed us. The kiss is still with us.

So as I watched a lot of waterlogged carpeting, furniture and assorted items going out the door, I began to think that the universe had a funny way of moving my life forward. But I asked for that, truthfully. I want to let go of anything that no longer serves me. I just didn’t realize it would a) be a lot all at once, and b) include chairs.

This is a strange time in my life and the lives of many that I know. It is one of transition, of growth, of moving forward into the unknown in ways we never have before. It requires both courage and faith, and it demands our trust in our own inner knowing and well being.

Valentine’s Day is a day where we can celebrate love – in all its various forms. It is a chance to acknowledge that no matter where our lives take us, or fate, or circumstance, or relationship, what is of value and eternal is love. It cannot be destroyed by floods, or distance, or changing times.

So as you partake of your chocolates, I wish you the sweetness of a happy heart filled with love, precious memories, and the promise of even greater joy ahead than you’ve known in the past.

A special note as I close out this very bizarre Valentine’s blog: Today is my friend and producer Tanya Leah’s birthday. I have written about her many times and at great length, but I cannot pass up another opportunity to say what a gift she is. Aside from being an insanely talented genius, she is a generous, loving, light-filled soul who makes this world a whole lot brighter because she’s here. Happy Birthday, my friend!!

And Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you! Thanks for stopping by. And please tell your friends.



Sunday, February 1, 2015

Super Bowl Blog 2015!!!!

It’s Super Bowl Sunday, boys and girls, and being the avid football fan that I am, I have no idea who’s playing. It’s possible I won’t find out, either, since I’ll be done watching after Idina Menzel sings the national anthem.

I jest about not knowing who is playing. I’ve got Google and I know how to use it. And what’s more, all this pre-game discussion about deflated balls has got me wondering about things I’ve never contemplated before. So yay, football for expanding my horizons.

As I’ve stated in previous Super Bowl blogs, my knowledge of players is confined largely to those who’ve made their way onto Dancing with the Stars, or have found themselves in the middle of a salacious scandal…and also, Joe Namath. Ah, Broadway Joe – sigh.

I’d like to talk to you about a more important topic, though, than the men who will be jumping on each other as “sport,” tonight, and that is – food.

I just came from the frenzied free-for-all known as a supermarket on Super Bowl Sunday. And there, I witnessed delicacies I didn’t know I had been missing. “Pigs in footballs,” which I could not distinguish from the “pigs in blankets,” because they looked exactly the same to me.

Chili con Queso, in a tray the shape of a football. Chicken wings, ribs, 7 layer dip that had 4 layers, because, call me crazy, I counted them when it looked shy a few layers. And tortilla chips – who knew there was such an unlimited number of varieties? Corn, white corn, with a twist of lime, scoop shaped, strips, restaurant style, and those are just off the top of my head. Blue corn! How could I forget the blue corn!!! Wait, there’s actually blue corn??? What was God thinking…or is this courtesy of a couple of guys with a chemistry set? I’ll have to investigate…which I’ll have plenty of time to do…during the Super Bowl, no doubt.

Me, my purchases were not as highly caloric, because I was shopping in preparation of the next snow storm, set to begin tonight. I suggest my fellow east-coasters utilize their prayer time for something more practical than which team will win tonight. I myself am going for “Please, God, let it drift out to sea and miss us completely.”

I feel like I should actually talk about football now – the sport, the strategies, the players, their strengths and weaknesses, the teamwork necessary to be crowned champion.

Wow, I just realized I know none of that. So I think my work here is done. Enjoy the game! And may the best team win…whoever they are.