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.

Join Me for My Birthday!

Rarely do I invite the world to an event, but in this case, I believe it’s a just cause.

Join me today, August 3 (my birthday!), in celebrating youth and fitness. This year, I’m running the ING New York City Marathon on November 4. It’s my first race ever, and each Saturday, I run more than I’ve run in my life at one time. This week, it’ll be 8 miles! I’m learning so much about nutrition, motivation, and my own limits and can only imagine what it might benefits I might have reaped if I had learned these things at a young age, like these kids in Team for Kids’ running programs. It would mean so much to me if you could take a moment to check out my website at Team for Kids and consider joining me by making a donation. Reaching my fundraising goal would be the best birthday present ever.

http://www.runwithtfk.org/Profile/PublicPage/7834

Singing for Hope

Living in New York City enlivens, pushes, and challenges me. In a subway car, you might find me working on my attitude toward life, reading a book like The Fifth Agreement by Don Miguel Ruiz and Don Jose Ruiz. The other day, I stumbled onto a concept that confused me at best. In the book, the Ruizes combat an often heard saying, “Nobody’s Perfect.”

In their Toltec beliefs, “the truth is that everything in creation is perfect, including the humans.” Continuing to explain the concept, they further insist:

“Everything about us is perfect, including any disability or disease that we may have. Someone with a learning difficulty is perfect; someone born without a finger or an arm or an ear is perfect; someone with a disease is perfect. Only perfection exists, and that awareness is another important step in our evolution.”

Perhaps I present these inspired authors unfairly by dropping you in the middle of a probably unfamiliar and weighty concept; however, after my morning volunteering at The Cerebral Palsy Center of New York, I can honestly say I met some amazing people, perfect in their current state. About a month ago, my work as a soloist began with a concert at Mt. Sinai Hospital for some incredibly grateful patients and staff. On that day, my definition of an audience changed forever.

Audience at Mt. Sinai

Today, singing with Jacqueline Ballarin, I caught a glimpse of happiness in handshakes, stories, and wheelchairs. George and Karik came in early and talked with us about puppies and trips and asked what we would sing. The pure joy oozing from Karik’s face when we shook his hand melted my heart.

When looking for a quiet concert venue, do not choose The Cerebral Palsy Center of New York, where the inhabitants laugh, sing along, and joke uncontrollablly as they experience the emotions we usually temper and control with a beautiful abandon. Jacquie boldly navigated the crowd as she sang, making them feel wanted and entertained, and they responded with exclamations of “Wow” and “I wish I could sing like that.”

After our songs had ended, Timothy showed us to the front door, pulling his wheelchair along with the wooden railings installed on every wall. Smiling as brightly as the applause that had rung through the corridors, Timothy thanked us, laughed, and corrected the staff member we passed who insisted that he raps. Apparently, he writes poetry and sings R&B. After seeing the paintings along the walls done by artists in their community, I don’t doubt it one bit.

Perfect? I suppose that depends on how you define the word. Despite their illness, these stunning people find and share joy by the mile – a talent we could all stand to develop further. Personally, I cannot imagine a better way to have spent my day. I don’t know for whose hope I just sang – theirs, or my own.

I Love Puppets… Occupy What?

Yes, the illustrious Kara Morgan from The Kara Morgan Show graced my home with her presence this fall. Little did we know a puppet show could be so treacherous!

I heart you, Kara Morgan. Thanks for the laughs.

An Autumn Awakening

This last day of Autumn, I find myself surrounded by the common theme of new dreams, uncharted challenges, and new adventures to discover. Last week, blessed by four completely different performances for which to prepare and perform, I had the opportunity to check in with my incredibly talented and diverse friends and colleagues. One friend had just produced her second one-woman show. Another contemplated her next steps to her rise to hopeful fame, while a third shared her desire to sing jazz despite not knowing quite where to start. Bold steps by brave people.

Taking me to a black belt Aikido test, another adventurous man opened my eyes to the calm intensity of a challenging practice that intrigues me, and I had the chance to watch even a handful of elderly participants test for their black belt after years of training and discipline. Finally, at a party hosted by some invaluable friends, a photographer friend Michael Chadwick convinced me to run a marathon with him. So, for next Autumn, I’ve decided to run the ING NYC Marathon to support Team for Kids, a non-profit organization working to keep children active and combat childhood obesity. I’ll have more information in future posts, hopefully including details about a team to join if you’d like to take up the challenge with me! In the meantime, please consider helping me get off to a running start with a donation of any amount.

In the similar rush of these changing seasons as Autumn comes to a close, New Year’s seems already upon us, and my friends and I contemplate actions of almost spring-like renewal. In celebration of the rebirth we each have when we wake to a new day and open ourselves to new possibilities, I leave you once again with my dear friend and hero, Kara Morgan. Her ability to create her dreams literally and figuratively, always with a dash of humor, inspires me regularly to take the leaps that scare me most. May we all have such courage to wake up to our dreams this holiday season.

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.

Investidating?

Gone are the days when I hear the phrase, “Oh, it must be so easy for you,” in reference to myself or anyone else dating or finding a good match. Still, people often look surprised upon hearing that New York has a reputation for stacking the numbers in favor of the single man, and even those who defend the dating scene here admit (and, in true New York fashion, like the fact) that it isn’t easy. Although I have learned so many beautiful lessons, found priceless and lasting friendships, and truly value those I’ve met while dating in the city, I admit I have suffered occasional defeat.

I once wrote a post (or two or three) about dating; however, I admittedly shy away from discussing such a topic online, especially when it involves other people I respect. Even omitting any mention of the couple of mixers and speed dating events I’ve attended during and because of my efforts writing  Skydiving for Pearls, I seem to have decided to remain a bit of a mystery in this area of my life. Don’t expect that to change anytime soon.

On the other hand, when I stumble upon something of interest to myself and potentially other women (or men) who, like me, navigate the sometimes muddy waters of the single life in Manhattan, I feel obliged to share. At a group exercise/dance class downtown last night, I met Maria Coder, founder of InvestiDate. As a former journalist and certified investigative reporter, Maria has steered her life toward helping people learn the skills necessary to date smartly.

With a surprisingly optimistic outlook, this dating sleuth told me that she doesn’t judge the way someone chooses to try to find a mate. Craigslist, for example, could theoretically work with the right investigative mindset before making potentially dangerous mistakes on a date with a stranger. When she invited me to her class this Thursday with a discount, I decided to give it a try. Hopefully I have already learned the street smarts not to put myself in situations that might harm me, but I don’t doubt I might learn something new.

For those of you wondering, “Is this what we’ve come to – not trusting anyone and doing background checks on my husband?” I suspect the lovely Maria has a more balanced approach. Based on our brief conversation, I believe she wants to help women succeed in their efforts to find whatever they seek by dating in the city, without putting themselves in physical or financial danger. Sometimes we can’t avoid emotional pain, but I look forward to this class on Thursday where I may just learn to try my best. Either way, I doubt my heart can ever doubt too much to once again fall in love.

For anyone wishing to join me, Maria has kindly offered my readers the same $5 discount she offered me for Thursday night’s class, Investidate: How to Investigate Your Date – Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing 101! Just enter the code PEARLS at checkout. Hope to see you there! Don’t worry guys, you know I still love you.