New Year’s is always an emotional and, truthfully, melancholy time of year for me.

It’s a time of taking stock and looking back, of gathering new resolve and of contemplating the future and what I want for it.

But this year feels different to me. This year feels like it’s more about what I am willing to release and what I am willing to embrace.

I’ve been obsessed lately with getting rid of things. And as clutter experts will tell you, doing that is a means by which we process our lives and our pasts and make peace with it. What I’ve discovered is it is also a great way to see what stops us.

Because I’ve been a writer my whole life, I have papers – lots and lots of papers. Papers I’ve saved, but haven’t looked at, let alone read, in years. So I decided that this is the time, as the New Year approaches.

Funny thing about that – I saw a pretty consistent picture of what I’ve struggled with…and still do. I’ve also seen what I’ve brought to fruition and how I’ve transformed, but mostly what I’ve struggled with.

Transformation is not an easy thing or everyone would be doing it. I mean who doesn’t want to be the best version of themselves? No one, that’s who.

So as 2017 is winding down and 2018 fast approaches, I thought I’d take a moment to be honest about what I am ready to let go of and what I am ready to embrace…

I release what weighs me down and keeps me living small.
I release all false beliefs that would say I am less than, or not enough, or not the stuff of greatness.
I release old patterns of fear and anxiety and worry.
I release anything, real or imagined, that would limit my life and potential.
I release “I can’t,” “I don’t know how,” and “I can’t afford.”
I release scarcity and lack in favor of abundance and more than enough.
I embrace the idea that I already embody what it is I think I seek outside myself.
I embrace the moment and those who are in it with me now.
I release the idea of struggle and I embrace the idea of ease.
I release the old patterns of separation and embrace unity.
I lean into the not knowing and trust that I will be guided to the next right step and next right action.
I embrace the idea that I am, at all times, surrounded by a benevolent universe, a loving God, and a host of angels, both celestial and human.
I embrace the idea that every kind word, loving deed, and morsel of positivity change the course of the world and the trajectory that we are on for the better.
I release old hurts in favor of new possibilities.
I resolve to do the best I can from where I am in this moment to be a beneficial presence to myself, to others, and to the world.
I embrace the notion of leading and of leading by example, because if not me, then who?
And while I’m on the subject, I release my reluctance to lead, to speak up, to speak out, and to teach whatever it is I have to offer from my time here.
I embrace trust, knowing that I know, knowing that I’m safe, knowing that there really is no other way and that the idea of control is an illusion I’d be better served without.
I embrace love.
I embrace peace.
I embrace generosity of spirit.
I embrace compassion, kindness, and self-love.
I release limits and embrace possibility.
I release closed doors and unanswered prayers as I embrace the good that newly comes into my life unexpectedly.
I embrace “there is always a way.”

I could go on and on, because the promise of a new day and a new year carry with them the blank slate of possibility and opportunity.

I hope you will take some time these next couple of days to give yourself the gift of reflection and decision about what you are willing to commit to for the coming year.

Please know that whether you are a regular reader or this is your first visit here, you are welcomed and most appreciated.

I wish you greater blessings than you can imagine in 2018.

A happy and blessed New Year to you all!

xo
Ilene

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to miracles lately, because this is, after all, supposed to be a season of them. And funny thing about that – you usually find what you look for, so depending on what constitutes a miracle to you, you can be perpetually steeped in wonder or dying of thirst in a vast desert devoid of such things.

Me, I like to look on the bright side, especially in these dark times we appear to be living in, so what constitutes a miracle to me is as simple and as difficult as any act of love in an unloving world, a change of heart, compassion, or genuine forgiveness.

And that brings me to last night…

Our band, The Inspire Project, which is comprised of me, Tanya Leah, and Lorraine Ferro, had a gig at Rockwood Music Hall in Manhattan – our first actual gig in New York City, despite the fact that the three of us are New Yorkers.

Christmastime in Manhattan is filled with lights and festivity…and so many people that it is nearly impossible to traverse on foot, let alone in a car.

But my mother, God rest her soul, did not want me to be afraid to drive anywhere – which is a neat trick, considering my fears are many and vast. So she took me to practice driving in Manhattan, when I first started learning to drive.

In retrospect, that was not only a little insane, but also, a precious gift she gave me, because I’ve driven practically everywhere in these United States.

So there we were – me, Tanya, Tanya’s husband, Arnie, keyboards, guitars, and assorted other band paraphernalia, packed snugly into my Prius, trying to get to our gig downtown, four days before Christmas. We were doing okay, until we got to the corner of Clarkson and 7th Avenue South, which was complete gridlock across at least six or seven lanes of traffic on 7th Avenue.

We would be there forever. In fact, I think I’d still be sitting on the corner of Clarkson and 7th Ave. South right now if it wasn’t for Tanya, who hopped out of the car and into the middle of oncoming traffic on 7th Ave. to make a clearing for me.

Lane by lane, she singlehandedly stopped traffic, with nothing but her hand and determination, as she waved me on excitedly to cross 7th, which I did.

Now, one could just chalk this up to the lengths a band will go to, to get to a gig on time, which are many, by the by. However, I choose to look at it as the great lengths a friend will go to in order to help another friend out.

And that brings me back to miracles.

We all possess within us the ability to be someone’s miracle.

In these times, it is a radical idea to love one another. It is hard to conceive of peace amid the deafening sounds of intolerance. It is an act of faith to get out of bed in the morning to face the ugliness of hate-filled rhetoric and the barrage of lies that would convince us that we are perpetually threatened by our fellow man or that we are separate from him or her at all.

It is easier to blame, to cast out, to berate and belittle. It is much harder to love in the face of those things. But that is what we are called to do. It is what we were made for and it is why we are here.

I usually shy away from such preaching. After all, who am I to tell you what to do? But desperate times call for desperate measures, and I believe we’re there. So I’m telling you – our job is to love one another, to lift each other up, to be the walking embodiment of peace and goodness, and to stop waiting for anyone else to lead the way to that. It’s you. It’s me. It’s time.

So in this season of miracles, I’m asking that your gift to this world be you – in all your glorious imperfection and vulnerability, and in your greatness and magnificence.

Tell people what they mean to you. Be the one who offers the kind word, or the olive branch, or the helping hand. And be the one who remembers to be grateful for every kindness people show you.

Our world will be redeemed by love alone. It is quiet, but mighty.

So in this season of miracles, I wish you eyes that see through the lens of joy and gratitude, peace that fills your heart and home, and love that transcends everything. Oh, and I also wish you someone in your life who’d stop traffic for you.

Peace and blessings, and the merriest of Christmases to you,

Ilene

There is nothing that will stop you in your tracks like someone sincerely asking you what you want. And I am not referring to your Starbucks order.

I don’t think most of us dare ask ourselves what we want, for myriad reasons, the biggest of which is we have been conditioned, well, many of us, anyway, to believe that we can’t have it – whatever “it” is.

It is no mystery to me why these times appear to be so bleak:

People cannot stay disconnected from themselves and humanity survive, let alone thrive. It’s not sustainable.

I’ll pause a moment while you let that sink in.

We cannot ignore the desires of our heart, the talents we’ve been given, whatever they are, and the responsibility to live up to the potential of those desires and gifts and think that the world won’t be the lesser for it. Look around. The world is the lesser for it.

Is there someone you forgot you wanted to be?

Who were you before the world told you who you ought to be?

And the real kicker – what are you pretending not to know?

I’ve been asking myself these and questions like these for some time now, because we humans futz around like we’ve got forever, when, in fact, the sobering reality is time is running out.

So I think we owe ourselves the self-respect of asking and answering, “What is it I want? What is it I really, really want?”

Never mind circumstances.
Never mind your past.
Never mind what you think is even possible.

What do you want? In your quiet moments of introspection. In the deepest part of your soul.

What if it wasn’t too late?

Would you forfeit the life you now have for the one you’d say you want?
What would you be giving up in order to have that?

In my bolder moments, I would tell you that I’d like to heal the world one song at a time. That if I can make one person feel less alone and understood, then I’ve forever changed something for the better.

In instances of supreme audacity, I would tell you that a willingness to be vulnerable is the only thing that deepens relationships and can transform lives. And when I aim to uplift, and inspire, and empower, and to motivate, it is not coming from naïve idealism. It is coming from a place of utter heartbreak and yet, simultaneously, a deep-seeded determination and belief that tomorrow can and will and must be better, and it is worth getting back up one more time to make that so.

The bigger part of me knows that we all stand responsible for each other and our planet, and for everything that goes on anywhere. The core of my being understands that when one suffers, we all do, so it is not okay to sit silently by and let it take place.

The famous prophet Bon Jovi said, “We weren’t born to follow,” and I think he’s right. It’s time to step up and stop pretending that we all don’t have a personal stake in how things play out.

I can’t say what lights you up. I can only tell you the world could sure use more light right now, so it’s a good time to do it, whatever it is.

Life meets us at the level of our intentions and our expectations. So it matters that we choose them consciously, even without the certainty of any particular outcome.

What if we took a chance and the outcome was different but better than we imagined?

What if we took the limits off ourselves just to see what would happen?

Opportunity doesn’t come when we’re ready; it comes when we say “yes.”

So tell me what you want, what you really, really want…and I’ll do the same. And maybe, together, we’ll create something resembling what we most wanted in the first place. I think we are worth it.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

I had this blog all planned out – a heartwarming discussion of things to be thankful for in trying times such as these…and then David Cassidy died.

I’ll be honest with you – he was not my childhood crush. His picture did not adorn my adolescent walls, but The Partridge Family records did, most certainly, play incessantly within the confines of my bedroom, as I sang into my hairbrush and bopped around as if I was an honest to goodness Partridge myself.

It’s a sign of maturity…or old age, perhaps, when the soundtrack of your life becomes relegated to a Time Life music collection more than what is currently on the radio. Wait, does radio even still exist???

So I was compelled, as I’m sure many are today, to pull out my old Partridge Family records and give a listen, a bittersweet listen, to those old friends, the songs, that gave my youth a voice, just as surely as it robbed the actors that played our beloved Partridges, of the normal youth they might’ve had.

I didn’t really give much thought to what my childhood idols gave up to be that until years later, when nearly every one of them wrote their own memoirs, including David Cassidy.

It was then that I realized the price my lunchbox came at, even as I myself embarked on a music career.

Thanksgiving is a day away, and I think it is the perfect time to reflect, David Cassidy’s death notwithstanding, on where we’ve been and what we have.

We take a lot for granted, even in the midst of our struggles.

If we’re breathing, and walking, and talking, we’ve got a world of blessings to be thankful for.

I subscribe to the notion that we get more of what we focus our attention and energy on. And I can think of no better use of that premise than gratitude. So I say we take a minute to allow ourselves the fullness of what there is to be thankful for.

Traditionally, I do a free-flowing list of whatever pops into my head, as I’m typing this, to be grateful for.

So here goes the random list for 2017…

I am thankful for…
…This life I’ve been given to make of it what I will.
…Family near and far, whom I love beyond measure.
…Being part of a band, a tribe, and a sisterhood of beautiful kindred souls.
…Having faith, in spite of circumstances.
…Taking time to enjoy the gift of the present moment.
…Writing, even when it’s hard and speaking, even when I’m scared.
…Songs that inspire me.
…Hope in the face of adversity.
…Romantic comedies.
…Human kindness anywhere it shows up.
…My beautiful niece, Samantha, who makes me want to leave this world better for her in any way I can.
…A roof over my head, food on the table, and running water.
…The grace I’ve been shown by others and by God.
…Laughter, anywhere and anytime I’ve partaken.
…Time spent with my father.
…The ones who came into my life and ones who left it.
…Teen heartthrobs and bubblegum music.
…The chance to create and share music.
…Intimate moments of unbridled vulnerability.
…New dreams and old memories.
…One more day.

Whatever this Thanksgiving finds you thankful for, I hope you relish it. I am incredibly thankful that you chose to stop by today and share a few moments with me.

Peace, blessings, joy and love to you all –
Ilene

 

I think one of the more interesting and fulfilling parts of being a songwriter is seeing how a song lyric you’ve written does or does not deepen or change in meaning as time goes by.

That’s the measure, in large part, of how we determine a “standard” or a “classic” – if it can weather the test of time and still resonate with people.

The thing is you don’t know when you’re writing a song, what the trajectory of its life or your life will be. And that’s why I’m waxing nostalgic now, as I watch Red Marlow moving forward on The Voice.

I met Red when I lived in Nashville. And from the moment I heard him, I was hooked and had him record just about every male song I demoed.

One of the first songs Red recorded of mine was a song called “Here’s to Us.” When I wrote it in 2000, I envisioned Garth Brooks singing it. (I don’t noodle around. I aim high.)

But what you hear in your head and what comes out on the demo are often two very different things. And so I recorded it again. And again. And again – three different times, with three different people singing it before I met Red.

Fourth time’s a charm, that’s what I always say! And so that pure, heartfelt guitar/vocal that I’d always heard in my mind came to life. And “Here’s to Us” finally got its rightful representation.

Did Garth cut the song? Not yet.

But that’s not the end of the story.

The truth is life happened, and I moved back to New York to take care of my dad, and my music career shifted from pitching songs to other artists to being the singer/songwriter and member of the trio The Inspire Project.

I kept in touch with Red only through Facebook, but his voice remains ever present in my catalog, because he sang so many of my songs.

Red, too, had a family to take care of, but I can tell you that none of us who write or sing or play can easily walk away from the gift we’ve been given while there’s life still in us.

So imagine my delight in seeing Red Marlow on this season of The Voice! Imagine this beautiful, pure country voice, authentic artist, seasoned pro, and salt of the earth good guy finally getting his shot.

It thrills me beyond what I can describe, because hope is resurrected in the glimmer of possibility that we all want to believe exists at all times. So to see it, to witness it, makes possibility undeniable.

I pulled up some of those demos Red did for me, including “Here’s to Us.” and I shed a few bittersweet tears. There was no denying that the lyric felt different to me now, more poignant with more miles traveled.

You can click below to listen. And Red, I am rooting for you, not only on The Voice, but in life.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Here is “Here’s to Us”…

#RedMarlow #RedHeads #TeamBlake