Thursday, January 12, 2017

Kimberly's The Selfless Mile

In 2010, I ran my first ever marathon. The Chicago Marathon. Not knowing what to expect and not having proper training, I gutted out 26.2 miles in five and a half hours. I ran the final twenty-two miles with a severely sprained ankle. In 2011, I registered for Chicago again. Surely, I could run faster. It had special significance as I dedicated my race to dear friend, Michelle. I met her while in college. At such a young age, she lost her life to cancer. Through the power of Twitter, several women who worked for Imerman Angels One-On-One Cancer Support introduced themselves and encouraged me to run on Team Imerman. As a result of being a runner and fundraiser for IA, I had access to training with NJOY Racing. Owner, pro Ironman triathlete, Kimberly Shah, welcomed me with open arms. After only twenty minutes of knowing me, she offered to guide me for the marathon.

This is Kimberly's story of that experience. Thank you, Kimberly!

The Selfless Mile

Monday, January 9, 2017

Laura Sturm Movement

After writing several short films and a full length screenplay, I felt it was best to register for acting classes. I researched various schools reading about courses, instructors, and techniques. I researched experiences and biographies of instructors, administrators, and board of directors. Eventually, I came across Laura Sturm. Almost instantly, I knew I had to meet her. I made an appointment to meet with the school’s Artistic Director. A few days later, I attended a party where one of the co-CEOs of the acting school introduced himself to me. After we spoke for a bit, he suggested I meet with Laura Sturm. He felt Laura and I would connect. Sure enough, within minutes of meeting her, I knew I needed to study with her. She felt similarly.

I struggled mightily. Laura could not get through to me. Years later, I learned she contacted mentors, teachers, and colleagues for guidance in how to best help me. All agreed that Laura had to realize there was a reason blind people did not study the Sanford Meisner Technique nor Lloyd Williamson Movement. There was not a way to accommodate the requirements to fit a blind person. Laura insisted on creating a way. Eventually, she realized that life caused me to build walls to protect myself from pain, injury, and heartbreak. To successfully connect with me, she would have to remove my wall one brick at a time. We were in this together and we would succeed together. one week, I would take one giant leap forward. The next week, I would regress. I was frustrated and angry. If she was, she never displayed it. Laura was always positive. She encouraged me placing her arm around me knowing I was emotionally fragile. She believed that one day it would fall into place and I would make my much anticipated break-through. It took much longer than I expected, but Laura did it! She broke down my walls, reached inside of me, and pulled out the artist. Artistic Director, Ted Hoerl noticed that Laura’s efforts took me from nothing and going nowhere fast to placing me on the edge of being an artist. Ted said, “Laura brought you to the edge. Now it’s up to you to believe in yourself and leap!”

I always feel so touched when Laura Sturm attends a performance of any show I do. I continue to be grateful for all her effort and belief. To this day, I live to make her proud each time I am on stage. To learn about the type of work Laura did with me, I point you to an article PerformInk published. Laura Sturm wrote the piece. This is the movement class I took with Laura.

Laura Sturm PerformInk

Friday, January 6, 2017

After The Gazebo

As a prepubescent, I wrote stories. I wrote and wrote. Page after page. I never knew the ending, but I loved watching my fingers form the letters. I kept going till my fingers and wrist hurt. I rarely shared my stories with anyone. I sat in class hoping the teacher’s next assignment would be to write a short story so I could submit, but the teacher never did, so I never did. By high school, I had a computer. I missed and still miss the tactile feel of forming the letters with my hand. I wrote poems. I printed out seven of them and gave them to one of my English teachers for feedback. She told me they were all bad, but had potential because I had talent which needed some nurturing. She felt I would eventually be published. In my senior year, two of those poems were.

While in college, I wrote my first screenplay. A thirty minute short film. After a couple screenplays, I tackled plays. Friends asked why I did not write plays sooner given my love for dialogue. I missed writing short stories. I returned to them, but quickly discovered I could not write them. I started a novel. Two pages into it, I deleted it. I immediately opened another blank file and began writing it as a screenplay. I had become more comfortable with slug line, action, dialogue. Eventually, that idea for the novel became a screenplay and stage play. The theater piece was in development, but something went sideways with the theater group. Along came the talented Jen Knox. She and I became friends. I read her blog and stories. She was amazing. She wrote an entry on her blog about flash fiction. I wanted to write those. Jen encouraged me. She offered to help where she could. I asked if she would read my work and offer feedback. She told me I was great at sensory description. I had a way of painting a picture and evoking a response. I was moved that a talented writer whom I respected thought so highly of my work. Jen breathed life back into my love for short stories. She inspired me to tackle writing a novel.

Jen Knox’ latest book, After The Gazebo is available for download for the low price of $6.95. If you have not heard of the award winning wonderful, Jen Knox, please visit the link below to familiarize yourself with her work.


Saturday, December 31, 2016

Look Back At Sweet '16

At the start of 2016, strangers continued recognizing me from the Chicago Athlete Magazine cover featuring Wendy and me. Attention and praise make me uncomfortable. This year, I received plenty of both. Instead of discomfort, I found joy.

In February, I joined Keri Serota, Melissa Stockwell, and Levi Kane presenting at a Francis Parker school assembly. 1,000 students and administrators watched in awe as we shared stories of personal triumphs through national and international elite level Paratriathlon and the Dare2Tri Paratriathlon Club. Principal, teachers, and administrators told me how inspiring I was. Keri, whom I have known for seven years, said, “Wow! I had no idea you were such an amazing storyteller.”

In April, Ryan Nord guided me through the BOA Shamrock Shuffle 8K. In June Lindsey Cook was my eyes all weekend at the Dare2Tri triathlon camp. The camp ended with a triathlon where I front crawled the swim finishing in minutes. We hit 26MPH on the bike. A photo of Lindsey and me racing to the finish line appeared in a local newspaper. In August Dan Tun guided me for the Chicago Triathlon super sprint. It was our first race together since Dan guided me to my second straight regional title in 2014. Thanks to Cynthia Shur Petts and Kyna Lenhov for offering me a slot at the August This One Woman variety show. I brought down the house. Having the audience roaring throughout gave me confidence I could do stand up.

September was life changing. Director, Nich Radcliffe, asked me to audition for the role of Greg, a blind character, in a production of the hit classic, Bleacher Bums. Fifteen hours after receiving the sides, I did. I had the great privilege to audition alongside beautiful and talented, Katherine Bellantone, who was part of the cast. I was anxious, but she insisted I did well. Nich offered me the role on the spot. I accepted. The experience was more than I ever dreamed. I was in awe of each actor and crew member on a daily basis. From day one, I felt overwhelmed and out of place. Opening night. Katherine initiated the most significant conversation I have had since Jenna Parker encouraged me to qualify for Paratriathlon Nationals. Katherine inspired me to embrace my greatness and magnificence. She looked into my eyes down into my core and brought me to life. I will forever love and respect Katherine for all she has said and done to change my life in ways she may never realize!

Because of Bleacher Bums, I was interviewed by Janet Davies of ABC7 and Chris DeRosa of WCIU. Doors have been opened for me at Victory Gardens, Prop THTR, Telling Tales Theatre, and 16th Street Theatre to write and perform.

I made my Serving The Sentence debut in September then brought down the house at Is This A Thing Chicago in October. Erica Alansari and Mike Casey guided me for my seventh Chicago Marathon and seventh Boston Marathon qualifier. I inspired grade school children at a assembly and company managers at a corporate gig.

Thanks to Pinnacle Performance Company for sponsoring my marathon and triathlon dreams. Thank you to triathlete, surfer, writer, actress, model, director, Jenna Parker, for being my coach and friend. Thank you for reading this post. Whatever comes my way, in 2017, I hope you will come along for the ride.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Badass Mother Runners

Cynthia Shur Petts and Kyna lenhov created This One Woman, a monthly variety showcase in Chicago. Artists write and perform a piece inspired by a woman which Cynthia and Kyna assigned based on audience suggestions. I performed in August. I tend to evoke, inspire, and connect when I write and perform dramatic pieces. I prepared a dramatic spoken word piece. I had second thoughts. Five hours before call time, I scrapped it. I mentally outlined a stand up comedy routine.

I was nervous that this would be my stand up debut. As Cynthia introduced me. I walked towards the stage. Audience members roared! Standing ovation. I could not start because the crowd kept roaring. Finally, I began. Within five seconds, they laughed. They laughed throughout. I brought down the house. Several including Cynthia and Kyna, are experienced and accomplished stand up comics. They praised my timing, delivery, and originality. I became Facebook friends with Kyna. I posted how several friends have completed Ragnar Relay, the 200 mile overnight relay race. I have raced Warrior Dash, qualified for Boston Marathon seven times, won the USA National Championship in Paratriathlon, and raced for a World Championship. I wish to add Ragnar to that list.

Kyna Lenhov invited me to join her Ragnar team. I asked beautiful, intelligent, inspiring, Samantha McBirney to be my eyes. In June 2017, Sam will guide me as a member of the Badass Mother Runners from Madison to Chicago.

I can not wait to run Ragnar. I can not wait to run alongside Sam. I can not wait to be a Badass Mother Runners. Since losing my sight, I feel most alive when I run. I feel most like my sighted self when I run fast. I will feel alive and run fast at Ragnar.

Monday, December 19, 2016

I Perform At Fillet Of Solo 2017

At the start of 2016, my friend, Cynthia told me she and fellow funny woman, Kyna, would begin a new live lit show in Chicago called This One Woman. Cynthia asked if I wished to perform at one of the events. Each month, performers get to share a piece inspired by or having to do with a famous woman. I said yes. In August of this year, I made my This One Woman debut. I wanted to share a heartwarming dramatic spoken word piece, but several hours before showtime, I scrapped my piece and crafted a stand up comedy routine on the fly. I brought the house down. Two months later, I performed at Is This A Thing Chicago. I chose to share a funny story about the first time I broke four hours in a marathon. I had the mostly female crowd roaring! Having also written and performed a story at Serving The Sentence, the good folks at STS offered me a chance to perform at Fillet Of Solo. I am excited to perform next month as part of this wonderful well known festival.

As the date nears, I will provide updates on my day and time should you wish to buy and ticket and see my performance. I may also do a comedy set that week at an event hosted by the beautiful and talented author, TV personality, radio host, newspaper writer, actress, comedy host, Jenniffer Weigel. More news to come on that front soon.

Here is a link to Fillet Of Solo Festival.

Fillet Of Solo Festival

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Chicago Marathon 2016: Mike, Erica, BQ

I am always anxious on race morning. For triathlons, I fear the swim. For marathons, I fear my greatness. Entering Chicago Marathon, I was scared. After being cast in Open Space Theatre Bleacher Bums the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, my training fell apart. It was difficult to coordinate regular track sessions or long runs. My friends understood my top priority was to Bleacher Bums cast and crew. I did not have the proper training. I had the experience of seven marathons and six Boston Marathon qualifiers. I had all I have learned from triathlete, model, actress, writer, Jenna parker.

3:45a.m. I wished I had been fresh off a Bleacher Bums performance preparing for a Sunday show instead of 26.2 miles. 5:15a.m. I met up with Mike Casey, my guide for the first half. We walked to Athletes with Disability tent where we waited to file into the start coral. I spoke to Amanda McCracken who remembered me from ITU Paratriathlon World Championships in London. I look forward to racing with her in the future.

I stripped to my Pinnacle Performance Company hat, top, and shorts. Mike and I filed in ahead of the pros. Gun sounded. Race on! 26.2 miles to go. Spectators roared. No pressure. No expectations. Mike, “It’s a nice Sunday stroll with your friends.” I did not want the frustration of not being fit or fast ruin my race. There would be time for self doubt during the Come To Jesus moments late in the race. Pro men and women flew by some yelling out, “Go Sexy Isra.” Rest of the elites ran up and by us many yelling out my name. I did not want to know distance or pace. I was sad heading into this race. Getting that information would make me feel worse. More runners ran by. Mike greeted his pals. Women encouraged me. At mile four, Mike asked, “What’s the deal with all these women calling you sexy and screaming your name? There’s no way you know all these women on a first name basis.” I replied, “You’re running with a rock star. Get use to it!” As more female runners called out my name, Mike wondered how they knew me and from where.

Mike did a masterful job the first half. Erica Alansari took over the tether for the second half. In a couple previous marathons, mile nineteen is where I doubted everything. I can not run. I can not pleasure a woman. I would fall apart. Mile nineteen. Erica asked about women in my personal life? By responding, I forgot the misery. “Holy shit! You just ran your fastest mile today.” I felt strong through next several miles. Almost to Michigan Avenue. From there, a three mile sprint to the finish. I come alive. I feel the same joy as when I had sight. Erica, “We’re making the turn on to Michigan.”

I flipped my Pinnacle Performance hat backwards. Time to display my strong sexy legs. Erica encouraged me. Final mile. My quads and hamstrings burned. Final 400 meters. I coasted across the finish with my seventh straight BQ.

Afterwards, Mike and Erica reviewed my splits. Turns out, I ran the first half faster than I thought and second half slower than I thought. Thank you Mike Casey and Erica Alansari for being my eyes for 26.2. Thank you to my sponsor, Pinnacle Performance Company! Thank you lovely Jenna Parker for your friendship, coaching, and support.