I recently went on vacation to Hawaii and came back sicker than I’ve been in years – fever, laryngitis, and cough that sounds alarmingly like a death rattle.

I blame the three sick tourists I was on an enclosed bus with for twelve hours as we covered the entirety of the Big Island nearly two weeks ago. But that would not explain why none of the other people I traveled with got sick, only me.

I’m on day 2 of the modern miracle known as antibiotics and I’ve still yet to entirely unpack my suitcase, let alone stop coughing for five minutes. Believe me when I tell you that I have tried every remedy people have given me for this cough and this sucker will not play along. I think my cough is mocking me.

I had great plans to hit the ground running after this vacation, but I think we all know that God laughs at our plans, joker that He/She is.

So I’ve been forced to do nothing, basically, until this thing I’ve got decides to vacate the premises. And the fact that I can sit here and write while coughing my head off makes me think of the late great Garry Marshall, who, in his first book, called Wake Me When It’s Funny, said he became a writer because he was a sickly child and needed a job that he could do from his bed, if he had to.

That resonated deeply with me and here we are, fever, cough and all. (What I wouldn’t give for one more conversation with Garry…)

So the thing about being up at all hours is you get to partake of the phenomenon known as the infomercial on TV during the wee hours.

I believe that Cher may have started this phenomenon with hair products in the early 90’s, but don’t quote me on that. It could have been Tony Robbins, Peter Lemongello, or the Thigh Master. I really have no idea.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that in addition to being utterly fascinated by the concept of the infomercial, I myself have partaken on at least two previous occasions – the aforementioned Tony Robbins (on cassette tapes, no less) and Windsor Pilates (on VHS tapes). And I will tell you that, regardless of how many years ago these two purchases were, I did actually use them and benefit from them, so I lean in favor of the concept of the infomercial, if the products are good.

Of course, some of the stuff they sell late at night is just ridiculous, even to the untrained eye. That curved piece of plastic you are supposed to ride and twist on like a surfboard will not give you washboard abs. It is more likely to give you a trip to the ER when you fall off the damn thing.

I still would very much like to own some of those TimeLife music collections, particularly the 70’s singer/songwriter ones. Oooh, and the complete collection of Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts. That looks like a good one, too! Or I could just be saying that, because I am hopped up on ineffective cough syrup. Hard to tell, at this point.

Anyway, the past few nights, I’ve been watching a couple of infomercials that have me intrigued enough to consider buying them. With no shortage of irony, I will tell you that one is a workout regimen, and the other is that Copper Chef cooking pan (in the new extra-large edition) with a host of accoutrements.

I would like to point out that the necessity for a pan that can hold six chickens or 200 meatballs (yes, they said 200 meatballs) is rare, and I know that, but they do such a good job of cooking mouth-watering and artery-blocking food that I am still tempted.

And as for the workout videos, those are a combination of Pilates and Yoga called PiYo, and the attraction for me is that there are no other gizmos or gadgets required – just you and your body on a mat for 30 minutes a day doing this stuff. And of course, the testimonials were over the moon.

I tell ya, whoever put that infomercial together did a great job, because the testimonials were from people far heavier and in worse shape than I am, which kind of makes you feel like you would actually do this and get good results.

Of course, this is all theoretical, and I am waiting to see if I still feel the same way about these things when it’s not three in the morning and when I know I am cognitively sound, again. But it’s entirely possible that sixty days from now, I will have a new, lean and toned body…or a bunch of stories about some great food I cooked in bulk quantities. I’ll keep you posted on what I decide.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

It’s my last day in Maui, and I’ve been meaning to write about my experience with the great Pacific Ocean since I’ve been out here in Hawaii.

I can’t think of a better metaphor for life than my experiences with the ocean over the past two weeks.

I’ll be honest with you, I’m not the type to dive right in, head first, whether it’s the ocean of a new career path, and I don’t think my trepidation has served me.

So there I was, wading out into the sea – a great opportunity before me to literally go with the flow. But instead of jumping as the waves were heading toward me, my knee-jerk reaction was to try to plant my feet to remain upright.

Stop laughing. I can hear you.

Yeah, so I wound up being knocked on my ass again and again, because Mother Nature just laughs in the face of my obstinance.

But it got me thinking about the gigantic force of the ocean and the universe at large, pushing and pulling us and how we navigate that.

It was a much needed but not very subtle reminder that it’s time for massive change, and that change can be a pleasant riding of the tide, or it can toss me right on my butt, but either way, I won’t be standing still any longer.

Change is the one constant in life and I resist it as much as I long for it. How can you enjoy a different vantage point if you are unwilling to leave where you currently are? You can’t.

So the very things we long for in life truly are on the other side of our fears. And it may be worth a little motion sickness to have them.

As funny as my wading into the water was, it was an eye-opener for me. Yes, I laughed at myself, but my bigger question as wave after wave came in was, “How is this working for ya, Ilene?” The enormity of the ocean could carry me, or I could try to handle that enormity myself and I watched myself struggle every time.

I’m leaving Maui tomorrow and I’d like to think I’m doing it with a new perspective and some lessons learned.

The universe wants to help. We say, “Okay, I want this,” and the universe’s first inclination is to say, “Okay,” and start moving the pieces.

We can either go with it or fight it. We can go begrudgingly into our future or with a willing spirit, arms up in the air, gleefully letting go and enjoying the ride.

Personally, I’ve stayed too long with the notion that I know the best way for things to play out. I think it’s time to let go of the wheel, ask for what I want, and go with it. I’m willing to bet I have a far more enjoyable ride that way.

I don’t know when I will get to wade in the waters of the great Pacific again, but I do know that they’ve taught me a valuable lesson this trip.

Until next time, Maui…

Well, boys and girls, we have reached the final song on the CD, In Color, titled “The Blessing.”

It seems only fitting that the back story on this is a simple one – it was a gift.

Sometimes, at our luckiest, we are simply a vessel through which flows pure Spirit, or the Universe, or God, as I am accustomed to calling it.

Sometimes, when we get out of the way, we are divinely used – to say something, or do something, or be something that is calling us.

I was driving around doing errands on a winter night in December, right before Christmas, and somewhere between the grocery store and the liquor store, I heard a voice deep inside say, “May the peace of God be with you.”

It stopped me in my tracks.

“May you know you’re not alone.”

I pulled over and sat in my car. Whatever this was had certainly gotten my attention.

It was something in me, or around me, or dictating to me, and I knew my job was simply to take it in and take it down.

So I sat there in a parking lot, in my car, taking notes from wherever, and I put them in my phone. When a momentary lull hit, I drove home, scrambling to keep whatever this was going.

Several hours later, I had a song from start to finish.

A couple of interesting tidbits about it – the main one being that this is the only song in which I mention God by name, even though I talk about forgiveness, gratitude, worthiness, and seeing God in everyone and everything. I never say the word “God” until the first line of the very last song on the record, and I believe there is a reason for that.

I always preface singing it with saying that this is what I wish everyone in the audience and the world at large, but the truth is that this song was given to me by an entity that wished these things for me and wanted me to know it.

Of all the songs I’ve ever written, I don’t think there is a lyric I love more or am prouder of than this one. I’m just grateful I got out of my own way long enough to write it.

For those of you who have been on this journey with me, thank you.

For those of you who have wandered onto this blog by happenstance or intention, thank you.

For those of you who have listened to the album, In Color, thank you.

For those of you who will listen to it, or any portion of it now or in the days and years to come – thank you.

Here is what I wish you and me and the whole world…”The Blessing”

“May the peace of God be with you

May you know you’re not alone

May you find the place within your heart

Where truth calls itself home

 

May you know the promise of a dream

And see it come to pass

May the good times linger gently

And the bad times go by fast

 

Blessed are the ones who hope against hope

And blessed are the ones who just don’t know

 

May forgiveness be your way of life

And blessings chase you down

May you not succumb to compromise

When it’s time to stand your ground

 

When the road divides before you

And you’re choosing which to trust

May you go where fate implores you

And may you always follow love

 

Blessed are the ones who hope against hope

And blessed are the ones who just don’t know, just don’t know

 

May you brave the winds of fortune

With integrity intact

May you never suffer one regret

Or a moment you’d take back

 

May you stand up and be counted

At the time it matters most

And may you hold yourself with dignity

When it’s time to go

 

May your days be long in number

Til your journey’s at its end

And may the angels come to greet you

And say, “Welcome home, my friend.”

I once did a three month leadership workshop that transformed my life.

It did so for many reasons, but one of the main ones was that it forced me to see myself in a different way when one day, someone said to me, “You’re a leader. You may be a reluctant leader, but you’re still a leader, nonetheless.”

I never viewed myself as a leader until that moment, and I think, if you took a sample survey of most people, they would not be inclined to view themselves as leaders either, particularly women.

And maybe, in previous times, there wasn’t as much of a necessity for each of us to be leaders. But the times we are living in now demand all of us to step up or be forever sorry that we didn’t.

So for the past 20 years or so, I have rethought myself as the reluctant leader, and little by little taken steps forward, as frightened or insecure as I may have felt in the moment, because I knew that what was at stake was greater than my fears and insecurities.

In the immortal words of the prophet Bon Jovi, “We weren’t born to follow.”

We’ve got to stop expecting other people to lead us, other people to figure out our solutions, other people to save us, or make us happy, or be the answer.

It’s us. It’s always been us. We just haven’t wanted to face it. “Who, me?” we ask. “Yes, you,” is the resounding answer from the great Unknown.

I wrote “We are the Ones” when Marianne Williamson was running for congress, because she was walking the talk and taking a decided stand for a different kind of bottom line in politics – i.e. one based on love and compassion for each other.

When I wrote the song, I saw it as the rallying cry for all of us, an anthem for this moment. I didn’t think in terms of pitching it or of it being a “single,” as it were.

But life has a funny way of letting us know what it wants from us, as do songs we write. And when I was marching in the women’s march in January, with the new band I’m in called “The Inspire Project,” I instantly saw that day and this song as a video – a love letter to all of us who marched and all of those who couldn’t.

I enlisted the help of everyone I knew who marched and their friends, and their friends, and so on. I asked a brilliant young filmmaker if he’d do the video for me and he obliged.

“We are the Ones” is the penultimate song on the In Color CD, and if there is a way to leave you inspired to change the world, I hope this song gives you that.

We truly ARE the ones that we’ve been waiting for. And I will gladly join you on the path to making this world a kinder, loving, more compassionate and peaceful one for all of us.

I’ll say to you what that person said to me those many years ago – you are a leader. You may be a reluctant one, but you are still a leader.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends. And here are the song and video for “We are the Ones.”

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5QjyChFPy00

Song:

I read a blog in the Huffington Post one day about second chances at love and life and career. It was months before I would meet the writer of that particular blog, but it sparked something in me.

Our lives are made up of moments that become indelible in our minds. These moments are truly our most treasured possessions, and they outlast our photographs and our parents’ china in terms of traveling with us wherever we go throughout the course of our lives.

So it occurred to me that the goal is to collect the most beautiful moments to remember, to make our memories sweet in old age. And that was the thought that sparked “Sweet Remembering.”

Equal to creating memories, though, was also the idea that every day we’re given a second chance, a clean slate to make of life what we will. And it is our choice to be brave and brazen or not, to hold on or to let go, and to figure out in each moment which one of those serves us most.

Life presents us with chances at love and happiness every day. Deciding to seize those opportunities rests in our own hands.

I say we jump in and ride that carnival ride for all it’s worth. We don’t know when it stops or how many more go arounds we get.

In my mind, the entire crux of my album In Color rests in one line from this song…

“What if we were bound to find that it’s not too late to have what we dream of?”

What if that was our inevitability? What would we do differently each day?

I think most of us see our current lives as the only way things can be. We get caught up in our circumstances and we live by default, when, in fact, that default is a choice, too.

It’s hard to see life as something other than what it is in this moment, but our futures ride on seeing ourselves and our lives as we want them to be, even if we’re not there yet.

So I want to be grateful for where I am, knowing that it is not where I will stay, unless I choose to. I want to relish this moment, because the next one will be different.

I want to bless all of my experiences, because they have made me who I am today, and they allow me to move forward to some better version of myself.

Mostly, when it comes to this album, In Color, I want to cherish every moment of its journey from inception to completion and beyond. It has been a journey of great joy and growth and transformation. And I hope that the songs are that for the listeners’, too.

Thanks for stopping by today. May your lives be filled with moments that bring you “Sweet Remembering”…

I had an epiphany one day, not terribly long ago, while driving along, listening to a Linda Eder CD. I realized that my entire belief system and possibly my entire life’s trajectory could be traced back to a single song I listened to from early childhood from the Broadway musical, Man of La Mancha – “The Impossible Dream.”

There, driving along the Saw Mill River Parkway, I finally understood myself and my relentless perseverance and dogged determination that, to the rational, made no sense.

In short, I’m Don Quixote. And I have been tilting at windmills my whole life.

I should probably say, “Thanks, Dad,” for that. My father loved the music from Man of La Mancha, so along with my mother’s love of Barbra Streisand, my earliest musical recollections of are Broadway cast recordings with La Mancha topping the list.

Along with the influences that were handed down to me unconsciously, however, are my own tastes and experiences that have been cultivated over time. And as I’ve said on many an occasion, my favorite writer in any medium is Aaron Sorkin.

In the final episode of season 1 of The Newsroom, titled “The Greater Fool,” Sorkin wrote about this economic term, which is a real thing, but he did it more in terms of it being a character trait.

A greater fool is someone who is willing to pay a higher price than the majority of people deem something’s intrinsic value to be. And the reference in the TV show was that this country was founded by greater fools who were willing to pay the price and believed they could succeed where no one else had done so previously.

Truth be told, I had the title “The Bigger Fool” in my notebook for a long time prior to that TV episode airing. And initially, I thought it would be about a romantic relationship. But once I heard the economic term and learned that it was an actual thing, I knew what it was for me:

It was my Don Quixote song.

I really believe that great things are only accomplished by those daring to “dream the impossible dream.” And honestly, at my center, I don’t believe any dream is really impossible.

Whether we are talking about civil rights, curing cancer, world peace, or our own personal individual dreams, no leaps were ever made by remaining in the status quo.

On a personal level, “The Greater Fool,” as well as this whole album, is about claiming who I am at my core, making peace with it, embracing it and fully standing in it.

Who are you at your core? What dreams have you cast aside for too long because you didn’t believe you could truly have what you wanted? Who were you before life got in the way?

When everyone else is folding their hands on their dreams and stepping away from the table, would you go all in…on yourself?

That’s what this record is for me – the physical manifestation of deciding to live my heart’s desire. All in. Come what may.

“The Greater Fool” is my coming to terms with myself about that part of me that “sees things as they could be, in spite of how they are,” and boldly being willing to say, “I know that I am the one that people counted out, but I’m back one more time.” And not only that, but “I double down and keep the faith, when the best advice has been to cut my loss and walk away.”

So maybe it’s foolish, but I know I must press on, because the majority of my days are behind me now, and knowing that, how do you not seize this moment and step into your own greatness – foolish or not?

I’m willing to lead the parade of windmill tilters and dreamers, because I think it’s time for all of us to stop standing in the shadows, cowering in our discontent.

I think it’s time to reclaim ourselves and remember that we each came here with a set of gifts that the world needs desperately at this very moment, so it’s time to step up, step out, and move forward.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends. And I give you “The Greater Fool”…