Alright Here

Despite the news of Hurricane Sandy and the NYC Marathon cancelation, I’ve kept a relatively low profile as I recover from a couple of unexpected blows. First, the marathon, and its cancelation that oddly leveled a sizable blow to my ego even to the point of feeling like heartbreak. Second, my knee, the same one I had worked so hard to heal after my training fall on the Queensboro Bridge, which I then re-injured by falling while dismounting my bicycle on the way to my church job last Sunday – ironically, the day I had planned to run in the marathon. In one week, I went from running eleven-minute-miles to walking eleven-minute-blocks along with the elderly with their walkers on Tuesday. I did vote.

As I sat at home for the rest of the week, nursing my physical and emotional wounds, I searched for answers and lessons to be learned; meanwhile, the universe threw funny moments and great visitors in my direction to remind me that I wasn’t and am never alone. Several friends came to visit, along with a photographer I had met while singing in the subway. She needed a place to stay when her plane was canceled due to the Nor’easter last week and gave me an opportunity to help someone displaced from the storm, from the comfort of my home. The strangest surprise came when a census bureau representative who had tried unsuccessfully to ask me questions for a financial survey when I was sick months ago returned at this uncanny time, with organic orange juice and flowers.

My loved ones and well-wishers have helped to soothe my soul and teach me some valuable lessons about striving, resting, and communing with life and the living. Here are five things I learned this week:

  1. The elderly aren’t just wise because they’ve accumulated a lot of experience. Having to move at such a slow pace makes you choose between living in the moment and going insane.
  2. When it takes you 2 minutes to walk past someone, you’re more likely to be friendly. Otherwise, every person you pass is an instant awkward moment.
  3. Although I value peak experiences, I placed too much stock in one day’s easily canceled event. I talked a bit too little about anything else but the marathon, and in it I laid my worth as a woman who could do anything. I can still do anything, and I will likely run another marathon, but each day has no more potential than the next to change my life or the world.
  4. Heartbreak is sometimes a gift to make you a stronger person.
  5. Regardless of fame, success, dreams, and all our striving, our best lives still end with those we love at home

Thank you to everyone who cheered me on, and especially to those who donated to Team for Kids on my behalf. It’s an amazing charity, and I’m so grateful to have still helped so many children with your gifts. Finally, a song from my dear and talented friend Trina Bass Coleman, called Alright Here. It reminds me of the most important lesson of all: regardless of fame, dreams, and all our striving, our best lives still end with those we love at home.

From a Marathoner with Love

Closed Central Park

Dear Friends, Fans, and Family,

To those of you who’ve supported me by donating funds to Team for Kids, running with me, or cheering me along my training, thank you. I couldn’t have come this far without you.

As you know, this part of the world has been ravaged by Hurricane Sandy, and I have no words to express my sadness and heartbreak for the victims of this storm. That it has begun to polarize our community about such a life-affirming event as a marathon further breaks my heart. So many of us have spent months training for a challenge designed to makes us stronger and raised donations for very worthy causes, and I believe in this marathon and that it should continue on Sunday. I believe we each should run with our heads held high, celebrating 26.2 miles of this amazing city and the inhabitants who now fight daily to keep it running in every way.

Although I think it practical and important to keep the marathon’s spirit, income and revenue rolling despite this difficult time, my heart does truly goes out to my friends especially in Staten Island, Long Island, lower Manhattan, and NJ, as well as those affected in other localities. Throughout the days leading up to the race and on Sunday, volunteers are encouraging runners to donate to help victims of the disaster. As participants, may we use this moment as a call to volunteer our time or donate as we can and not turn away from those who need our help. As spectators, please meet us with a cheer rather than a protest for our months of hard work.

Let’s not turn our backs on each other in this time of need. If you need disaster relief or volunteers elsewhere, please post where we can help in the comments. If you have a donation to give, please begin with the Red Cross Hurricane Sandy Relief here: http://www.redcross.org/hurricane-sandy. If you’d rather give to another similar organization, this Huffington Post article provides some good tips for giving well to the disaster relief efforts.

If you’re interested in giving also to Team for Kids, please send your donations in the way of my friend Kristen Kasarjian’s page. She’s running for the same charity I am and still needs to reach her goal. We all have goals, after all… Some of us want to finish a race, some want to replenish our incomes so we can pay our bills, some of us want heat, water and electricity, some of us need a new home. It’s the energy and beautiful stubbornness behind people like marathoners that make this city great. Please don’t hide behind the glow of your television, computer, and smartphone while criticizing people bringing revenues and hope to a city we love. If you want to help, unplug along with those who have no choice and look for an opportunity. I promise you, there are plenty… and if I can help, please tell me how.

Gratefully Yours

Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” To those of you who have helped me raise over $3000 for Team for Kids for this year’s ING New York City Marathon, you have made possible one of the major experiences of my life and the motivation and encouragement of countless children who will benefit from your donation. Thank you! One of the many beneficiaries of your kindness left me a voicemail the other day… this is who you have helped.

Still haven’t had a chance to contribute? Meet Kristen Kasarjian, an amazing friend of mine running the race for the same amazing charity. Please help her reach her goal, since I’ve already reached mine! Anyone who donates at least $100 to her campaign can still sponsor a mile in mine (I’ll think of you during the marathon in the mile of your choice)… Just let me know when you do. In the meantime for me, lots of training continues, as I keep running to prepare for the 26.2 mile course I get to complete on November 4. Today, I ran 16 miles, and I get to train in some of the most beautiful areas. Here’s your bird’s eye view into some of my favorite runs so far. Thank you, thank you, thank you for making it all worthwhile. I can’t wait!

An Early Run at Bard
An Early Run near Bard College
Run in Palisades Park
Run in Palisades Park
Sunlight in Palisades
Sunlight in Palisades
Back in the city
Back in the city

Run with Me

On Skydiving for Pearls, you can pretty much count on the fact that I love to seek out peak experiences. Bucket list items, challenges, excursions from the realm of safety and predictability. Why? Because when I push my boundaries now in the relatively secure confines of experimentation, then the real, unavoidable trials will later meet a stronger and more stubborn foe. As a bonus, I’ve discovered priceless joy and peace in activities I once feared or disdained.

That said, some strange part of me wants to suffer through these adventures like the heroine of Hunger Games or some similarly daring and adventurous paragon of courage. In hindsight, I think that same odd spirit in me relished dreading skydiving, as the only one of my group of twelve friends who honestly never wanted to try it. Despite my initial fears, I loved it. Loved it. Loved it. Although it may take some time to gather the motivation (and money) and feel the drive to try it again, if I had to choose one day of my life to keep and loose the memories of all the rest, I would save the day where I plummeted from that very tiny plane. Hands down.

Recently, I’ve chosen a new peak to pursue that I also kind of dreaded: running in the 2012 ING New York City Marathon. In some strange imaginative portion of my brain, I expect to hate it, push through it, and succeed. Running for an extremely worthy charity, I also have the fabulous temptation of fearing not only injury, dehydration, heart and cardio concerns, and nutrition but also raising the required amount of $100 for each of my 26.2 miles.

Somehow despite the obstacles, including some ridiculous runs on which I’ve strayed onto wooded paths and tiny, busy highways, I had fun today on my four mile run. Achieving something new always feels great, but after my five miler on Monday and standing all day at rehearsal yesterday, I did not expect the sense of relief and renewal I experienced at the end of a surprisingly peaceful time. The nourishment of my food afterwards felt real and incredible, and I appreciated the dining commons at my summer gig at Bard Summerscape with no palatable annoyance at the influx of kids at their sports camps or the increasing predictability of food offerings. No. Those black-eyed peas and local baby plums amused me to no end, and my body teems with a consistent life and vigor I haven’t felt in a few years.

Does this make me a runner? We shall see. In the meantime, lucky me who gets to enjoy pursuing what I know will be a hard-won goal this November. As for the charity, I’ve chosen to run for Team for Kids, an organization that provides coaching, motivation, and inspiration for children in New York City, across the United States, and in South Africa. Focusing on inner city (can you imagine running in the city without a coach as a child?) and/or low-income schools, they give kids an opportunity to stay active, prevent childhood obesity, qualify for scholarships, and feel the genuine rush of health and of achieving something real.

So it appears the silly, grinchy side of me who longs to suffer will at least have to wait while I enjoy living as an example for the children I hope to help with Team for Kids. For my friends with me upstate at Bard and in the city later this summer and fall, please join me in a run if you like and can suffer my still slow pace. For everyone else, please consider contributing to Team for Kids in support of my run. I have a birthday upcoming on August 3… Feel free to think of it as a gift. I know I do.

Donate to Team for Kids

A New Invitation to Last April’s Event

Rehearsal for April in Paris
Rehearsal with Benjamin C.S. Boyle and Eugene Sirotkine

I love social media. You probably know that. I also look forward to Social Media Week twice a year, when this amazingly free conference graces major cities worldwide with their advice and musings about the history, direction, and uses of social media. Why? As Gary Vaynerchuk points out in his book The Thank You Economy, “Social media has transformed our world into one great big small town, dominated, as all vibrant towns used to be, by the strength of relationships, the currency of caring, and the power of word of mouth.” As someone who relishes bumping into friends from Israel on the subway in Manhattan, I can’t resist having another tool to turn my big city life into more of the small town environment in which I once lived as a child.

Since you’re reading Skydiving for Pearls, I imagine you also value the ability to “pop in” on friends, checking out their statuses and “liking” their newest smart purchase, recent personal triumph, or webisode (like the next installment of the Kara Morgan Show). Perhaps you don’t anticipate streaming events on Livestream with conferences from Social Media Week, or you’ve never actually seen a TED Talk. Either way, we’ve all seen video online and more of it as time moves forward, live or pre-recorded. Watching performances of friends, episodes of our favorite shows, that adorable cat who likes to shower.

Sometime last year at a Social Media Week conference, I discovered the value in video. Livestream still has me hooked, and I can learn from online clips how to do everything from folding a shirt to making my next iMovie. At this discovery, I had a million ideas and no real clue of how to execute them. My April in Paris recital with Eugene Sirotkine seemed the perfect opportunity to attempt a live video stream, had I only the money and tools, which I didn’t. Instead, I gratefully accepted the offer of a professional audio recording from my friend Rich Salz, an accomplished audio engineer and the brains behind On-Site Acoustic Testing.

Now what? Well, I had a (supposedly) high-quality webcam. Perhaps I could bring my laptop, record in HD, and mix the professional audio together with the video. Not a brilliant plan, apparently. Logitech‘s webcams have a surprisingly notorious issue of recording in too few frames per second and crashing certain professional video editing softwares, such as the one installed on my old PC and Adobe Premiere Pro, used by a professional video editing friend I had hoped to employ. Whoops.

No more tech talk, but I did have to return to the drawing board. Many months later, I have a new Apple laptop and a plethora of YouTube videos to teach me how to use iMovie 11. Thank you social media. Uploading my first song of many to come, today I finally joined the digitally functional community of video. Although April in Paris: A Recital with Abigail Wright and Eugene Sirotkine definitely sounds clearer than it looks overall, I present to you a new song by a brilliant, living composer and a fresh beginning for my online community. Expect much more to follow.

Tritle’s Recital

Update coming soon. Well, let’s just say I’ve busied myself lately, surrounded by geniuses and working harder to walk among them. In the meantime, I wanted to alert my New York City fans to a great last minute opportunity.

Kent Tritle’s Organ Recital. Tonight. 8pm. You have 2 hours to get there. Go.

Seriously, aside from the fact that the title of the event rhymes brilliantly, Kent Tritle is an incredible organist. According to an extremely talented friend of mine who has played upon this recently refurbished Schantz organ, it remains one of the best early music organs on the East side. If that doesn’t mean much to you but you love the organ, believe me, you’ll understand by the end of the concert.

Tonight, Kent will feature works by George Crumb, Larry King, Ned Rorem, and Julius Reubke, and I can pretty much guarantee you won’t regret attending.

A Night at the Museum

Times in my life quite like the present don’t present themselves terribly often. Never before have I had so many varied jobs and gigs at once. Within the coming month, I rehearse and perform an intensely musical puppet play, prepare and perform April in Paris (my French-themed recital featuring Eugene Sirotkine and Benjamin C.S. Boyle), rehearse new music written by Sarah Small for our Tableau Vivant and a music video, and begin rehearsals at the Metropolitan Opera to revive our production of Orfeo ed Euridice with Mark Morris.

Meanwhile, because many of these gigs still leave me mostly unemployed, I’ve taken a side job or two in art modeling, in focus groups, and with the charity auction ibidmobile team mentioned in last week’s post. With little money and only two fully open spaces on my calendar between now and April 25, every second, penny, and friendly face feels almost painfully precious. Given the recent news of earthquakes, tsunamis, radiation leaks, and explosions, all from one unexpected event, perhaps I ought to continue this attitude throughout and beyond each of my busy days.

Last evening, I had the chance to earn a little money again with ibidmobile, a somewhat tiring but important job helping to facilitate silent auctions for charities. Five hours on my feet with an ipad, talking over music and hundreds of guests? Not a situation I generally would seek out as a singer who needs to rehearse in the morning. I could have grumbled about at least a handful or two of things, as any work provides such an obviously tempting atmosphere for complaints. I may have even heard one or two from other employees in passing.

Instead of joining in, something came over me tonight in a very exciting way that required no alcohol whatsoever, and I hope to take it from last night into each of my every endeavors this month. No, at last evening’s Nightingale-Bamford School charity event, I chatted with friends about fun auction items near NCG 1350 and the Andromeda Galaxy at the American Museum of Natural History while waiting for the guests to arrive. I helped at least a few people win their coveted experiences, wines, and lunches, ran into a friend who works at the school, and met a drummer interested in hearing me sing for his world music group. When for a brief moment signal interference paused the auction, we danced with incredibly fun and generous guests under the blue whale. At the end of definitely my favorite of these events thus far, a great girls’ school had raised a very significant amount of money for tuition and scholarships.

Tomorrow brings more recital rehearsal and an evening of running from a puppet with a club. I hope you’ll join me here and in person for the rest!

Soon = Wolfy’s Journey DVD Release
March 31 – April 10 = Don Cristóbal
April 16 = April in Paris, A Recital with Abigail Wright and Eugene Sirotkine/
(April 17 = Private Music Video Filming with Sarah Small)
(April 23 = High Fall Stunt Class)
April 29-May 14 = Orfeo ed Euridice
May 23, 24 TBA = Tableau Vivant at Skylight One Hanson
(June TBA = Skydiving trip #2 – join us!)
July 29-August 7 = Das Liebe der Danae