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.

Lifetime Investments

Child's Play

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how life has changed since childhood. We spend many of our days indoors, and most of us wouldn’t dream of recessing ourselves outside for any length of time in the winter, unless skiing or absolutely necessary. Most of us have our times at the gym or elsewhere to keep in shape, but the days of monkey bars and dangling by our knees feel like a lifetime ago (unless of course, you perform in Cirque du Soleil or hang out with the folks at the Circus Warehouse). Why?

Yesterday, I remeber waxing poetic about my fitness and flexibility as a child, receiving physical education and recess every single day, in addition to the time spent on the playground alone or with friends. Then, I decided to run over the Queensboro Bridge. I would, after all, have to run there during the marathon one month from now. As I ascended, I felt a sense of accomplishment and enjoyed the day, despite the overcast and drizzly weather and the somewhat inconvenient construction which had stripped away all of the pavement on the pedestrian/bicycle path.

Bam! As I flew through the air and promptly landed on my hands and knees, I tore the new capris intended for the marathon, bruised and cut my legs, and ripped open my right hand in a rather unattractive way. Looking up, I saw a concerned cyclist and the raised patch of metal that had caused my tumble and felt childishly offended, as though the universe had cruelly inured poor little me. Somehow, this felt oddly familiar.

Ah yes, it felt like childhood! Running another three miles after briefly cleaning up and begging for bandages at the nearest Starbucks, I pondered my silly though painful fall from grace. My ego cried a little about my mean and unfair boo-boos, and upon arrival at home, I had to take myself to the pharmacy for supplies, clean out my own wounds, dry my own tears, and wash the dirt and blood out of my own tattered clothes. After a few hours, I learned the lesson a teacher or parent no longer needed to instruct.

Kids run and play. They also bring home grass stains and broken limbs. With increased activity comes increased risk and investment. Take, for example, the ridiculous disclaimer I had to sign before skydiving. That said, while wounds may take longer to heal as adults, the lessons sink in faster, and the rewards are honestly priceless. As I sit today outside Lincoln Center, I know I will have many trials in life, more skinned knees, and likely bruised egos. Some years bring more challenges than others, and all of them bring opportunities for growth, investments, and action.

Here’s to the eight-year-olds on the playground and the octogenarian skydivers and triathletes – those who live all of their lives fully without excuses or fear of falling, or in spite of any such fear. Yes, I ran twenty miles in one day this week but a year ago, I wouldn’t have dreamt of it. I’m so glad I took the risk to run this amazing race of life. Yesterday, I fell flat on my face. Today, I took my bruised knees and bandaged hands to the Metropolitan Opera, put on a wig and a dress, and performed on one of the greatest stages on earth. Sometimes the greatest investment we can make in life is to get up, try again, and hang from the jungle gym.

Otello at the Metropolitan Opera

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.

Surprising Firsts

Silent Night at Grove City College
Photo by Andy Drabic

In a life filled with rehearsals, performances, excellent music and art, and wickedly talented and brilliant colleagues, I admittedly forget my surroundings on a fairly regular basis. Yes, I know how to get to Carnegie Hall and while it remains one of my favorite halls in which to sing, walking onstage now feels normal, as does sitting behind a world-class orchestra, conducted by a beloved and famous conductor.

Despite my comfort with this rather unusual life, this month has surprised me in the simplest ways, stirring again my sometimes spoiled heart, mind, and spirit. Earlier this fall, I transitioned to working with a new church choir at the beautiful St. Jean Baptiste on the Upper East Side. Kyler Brown leads a lovely and talented but down-to-earth group, and we traveled together to the small town of Hawley, PA this weekend for what I assumed would be a sweet but run-of-the-mill gig.

Aside from the touching hospitality of our hosts, Kyler and Bill, and the warm, full audience, my ego fully melted away for a moment in the striking company of so many open and welcoming souls. A local writer composed a poem, set to music by Kyler Brown as a lovely hymn dedicated to the town of Hawley. As she read her poetry with the skill of a Shakespearean actor, I found myself transformed into a child, listening to the most fascinating story ever told.

As the final blow to my pampered poise, “Silent Night” made me cry. Seriously. We sang a piece called “Night of Silence” that fits perfectly into the chord structure of “Silent Night,” although it sounds completely different. After the first verse, one of our basses led the audience in “Silent Night,” above the framework of okour song. As waves of honest and simple sound poured over us, tears came to my eyes, and I realized the precious beauty of such a rare moment in time.

Although I too love my television, iPod, computer and subways, I also appreciate how much we lose when we forget that we can sing together, share moments of honest beauty together, and shield ourselves together from the cold in real, present, and alive ways this season. Last night, I had the extreme joy of hearing my dear friend Jen Elliot play solo guitar and sing alone for the first time, on her birthday. Tonight, in the Greek Cathedral concert in which I sang, I enjoyed the bassoon solo for the first time, ever. I couldn’t be happier to have gone out in the cold pre-winter air, when the rewards come so readily and so beautifully.

Wishing you a very happy holiday season, real, present, and full of surprising firsts.

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.

Stability by the Second

Standing in the subway at Columbus Circle waiting for the A train, I can hear a blues singer, wailing away about love lost. Upstairs, on the 1 train platform, another soulful songbird entones her version of “Hallelujah.” When exiting above ground, a woman in her red Daily News cap hands me an ad for the new Century 21, opening today in the location of my once favorite bookstore, the Barnes and Noble in Lincoln Square. Completing this accidental tour of loss, change, and instability of this last day of Summer, I pass by the now ad-obscured and hidden storefront where once operated the Borders Books and Music at the Time Warner Center.

As New Yorkers, we talk about the changes at our rehearsal for the next round of concerts with the New York Philharmonic. Yet somehow, despite our admitted disdain for the loss of value in physical bookstores, we venture into Century 21 anyway. My friend shops there now as I type. I ride the subway with the free Century 21 canvas bag handed to me upon exiting the store, not filled with any purchases from them but advertising the change nonetheless. Tomorrow arrives, and we move on. That’s what New Yorkers do, right?

All of these changes remind me of a moment in time shared by Eckhart Tolle in his book, “A New Earth.” When he and a friend journeyed into an historic site, complete with crumbling echoes of a past era, they stumbled upon a sign that read, “Caution. All structures are unstable.” Together they paused, contemplating the truth of that statement in all aspects of life.

Two hundred posts ago, I created Skydiving for Pearls to both reach out to my community and help myself recognize and embrace the stability of instability. For several months, those of you who followed watched me do something scary, unusual, or uncomfortable every day. Although I don’t literally take this daily challenge anymore, I do take it very seriously as a way to live each moment. This year, when I decided to embark upon the journeys of singing nude in Sarah Small’s Tableau Vivant, going skydiving, and donating my eggs for example, I didn’t try to do things that would shock people. Rather, I opened my mind up to new possibilities that have changed my perspective on life in the most beautiful way I can imagine.

Starting a new leaf in my career towards acting in film and commercials scares me enough to have avoided actually taking the “quantum leap” (as Dallas Travers recommends) for thirty-three years and no longer counting. Living with fear of change only paralyzed me and prevented me from evolving. As I complete this post on now the first day of Autumn, I invite you to join me, breathe, and find the stability found only in each unstable second. Enjoy this moment. As seasons pass, we all have our time to protest the closing of stores we love, the opening of new institutions that frighten us; once the pages have turned, let us embrace life as it is and not as we would have pictured it once upon a time. My recommendation? Celebrate by sitting in your local bookstore still surviving or by catching the photo exhibit at the Park51 Islamic Center – you know, the “Ground Zero Mosque” we thought might never make it.

Happy Autumn, my friends.