Monday, August 30, 2010

Ready To Run CARA 20 Miler

I have previously mentioned how as late as seven years ago I was watching the TV coverage of the Chicago Marathon as well as listening to some interviews both leading up to the race and after it and the more I heard about some of the physical issues people had during training and after the race the more I became convinced they were crazy for putting their bodies through that. I decided at that point I would never do that to my body. Life is an interesting ride. Around this time, I was working on a scene for acting class with my partner, Rani, and during an exchange where I was telling her that I was so tired from working out, she replied with, "You work out?" "Doesn't it show" I asked. She played it off and said of course it did, but the damage was done. It was also around this time when my long time friend, Sunshine, told me that my hulking body building physique was a turn off. She insisted it was disgusting. If I wanted a sexy physique, I should aim for one similar to Bruce Lee. Another friend, Lisa, agreed. Well, of course. What a fool I was! I remember watching Bruce Lee movies with my dad. I loved Bruce growing up. My fascination and ultimate motivation to study martial arts was because of him. Thus began my transformation.

Every time I worked out I had to fight the urge to increase the weight I was lifting. I was aiming for lean and sexy. Then it hit me. Since I write plays and films, I should always make sure to write myself into the pieces even if just a quick cameo and I should make sure my character is shirtless or wearing some tight shirts to show off that physique. Of course, I would have to dedicate myself to working out and getting lean so I could feel confident and comfortable in those scenes. Before long, I was watching Fit Nation hosted by Gina Lombardi as well as Insider Training hosted by Gabrielle Reese and I was even more motivated to continue to pursuit. I saw an interview with Lokelani McMichael who at eighteen years old was the youngest woman to ever complete and Ironman Triathlon(2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run). I wanted to try this.

I had my conversations with Rani, Sunshine, Lisa serving as inspirations. I also had Bruce Lee, Gina, Gabrielle, Lokelani, and Ironman. Of course, I could not forget potential appearances in plays and films where women and men would possibly swoon over my physique. I hooked up with Matt Miller and the C Different Foundation and I began to race. I was swimming, biking, and running on the streets of Fort Lauderdale and New York. I was getting leaner and sexier. Then in November 2009, Keri Shindler of Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association inquired if I would be interested in running the Chicago Marathon in 2010 as a member of Team GLASA. Yes! Seven years after thinking those individuals must be crazy I am about forty days away from making my marathon debut in my home town race. As a member of Team GLASA I also get an opportunity to run in GLASA's Twilight 5K on September 11. More recently, I was offered a chance to take part in Chicago Area Runners' Association's Ready To Run 20 Miler on September 19. Then the big race on October 10. Finding guides proved to be a bit challenging, but this world is filled with great people who are ready to help at the drop of a hat. For the 20 Miler, two individuals have stepped up to guide me. They are two wonderful individuals who are willing to help even though I have never met either of them. Rich Karnia and Jennifer Pfaff. Each will guide me ten miles during the race. Neither has any previous guiding experience, but both clearly have hearts of champions. It is the last big training run prior to the marathon. I hope to dig down deep and make Rich and Jennifer proud. They will be the reasons I will be able to get out there. I hope to be the reason they have a memorable fun experience.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Breaking A Personal Tech Barrier

Since I lost my eyesight in 1991 I have found myself lost more often than not when it comes to technology. It has been partly due to a lack of resources and partly that I am overwhelmed with the subject matter. When I was a high school then college student, I was fortunate enough to have an organization helping me purchase technological products such as computers with third party screen readers which would make my computers speak what appeared on the screen. However, the organization would only pay an adaptive tech expert for a couple hours of service to help me learn the new system I just received. These hours included setting up the equipment so when it came time to learn how the machine works, I would only learn the basics and the expert would be on his/her way leaving me to attempt to commit to memory what I had just been taught. I rarely ever had the opportunity or initiative to educate myself beyond the basics. If need be, I would ask a friend. Quite frequently, I was informed that whatever task I wanted to perform was not possible or accessible via the screen reader so I had to rely on sighted family members and friends. I have used PCs since 1993 and had begun to push myself to learn about more features and aspects of the machine in recent years. I also began asking questions as well as researching what was available on the Mac operating system. I was most intrigued that Apple incorporated was including universal access in all their computers, phones, MP3 players. With Apple, the screen reader software came standard on every single product. On the PC side, I would have to buy the products the way everyone else does, but then in addition to the cost of those products, I would have to buy third party software which could cost as much as $2,000. Plus an annual relicensing fee of at least $1,000 if not more. I began to use a Mac and suddenly found that I was advancing through the tech world with much more ease. I set up this account on a PC, but struggled to compose my posts online. My best option was sending my posts as emails, but I would not be able to label them to make it easier on my readers. I was unable to post for months. Once I started using the Mac, I attempted to navigate the site to compose my posts. To my surprise, I was able to post entries with ease. Me! The person who has never been tech savvy. I also found that I could finally join my friends at the various social networking sites such as; Facebook, Twitter, and others. I found myself visiting more sites, exploring more tech resources, and becoming more comfortable with applications on my system in a way I had never been before!!

One aspect of the internet with which I still struggle is registering for races on my own. To sign up for road races and triathlons I always must rely on my brother, a friend, or a representative from the offices of the race organizers. I tried registering, but I always struggle. Then, I decided today that I would try yet again to sign up on my own for the GLASA Twilight 5K. I am running for GLASA as part of their charity marathon team so I am able to run in their 5K with the benefit of a complimentary entry where they wave the fee so long as I type in a coupon code. I had previously set up an account as part of the marathon team so I simply logged into it and began the process. It went so smoothly. Before I knew it, I had reached a window informing me that I had successfully signed up for the race. I quickly checked my email in box and there was my confirmation email! I had done it. With some more practice, I will be signing up for many more races on my own. Maybe this seems like a minor achievement for most individuals, but fore me, it is a major deal considering how far I have come even within just the last fourteen months when it comes to adaptive accessible tech.

The Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association hosts its third annual Twilight 5K to benefit GLASA programs. The race is capped at 500 runners so it is an easy and fast course with plenty of wide open room to run. It is a walk/run event and there will be plenty of food, beer, and prizes for all runners and spectators. Anyone can join in on the fun so feel free to log on to the following site for more info and to sign up too.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Dating Walter Dante

From the first day I walked into my first ever acting class and met my scene partner and new friend, Rani, I found myself speechless and amazed at the various talented artists I would meet. Each time I attended a class, I would find myself in awe of so many individuals. Some times, I was observing the person for the first time and other times, I was being dazzled by someone I had already befriended who was experiencing a breakthrough at that very moment. He or she was making a self discovery on stage and I was being moved by it. Many of these classmates have remain my friends whom I have seen dazzle on stage in and around Chicago. One such good friend is Rob Lynch. He was always kind and patient with me as I struggled to find my artistic voice and he has remained supportive over the years as he has built his wonderful career. One of my favorite moments occurred many years ago when my autobiographical piece, In The Dark, was named a New Play Fest winner by Prop THTR. As part of the fest, itreceived a couple staged readings for the public prior to going into production for its world premiere performances. Rob attended one of those readings. Afterwards he said, "Is, what can I say? This is simply a masterpiece. I knew you were good, but I never knew you were great." Coming from someone whose friendship I treasure and whose talent I respect, that meant plenty.

Rob's talent has been on display this week on Monday and Tuesday. If you missed it, then you will have a chance to see him on Wednesday as part of the cast of Dating Walter Dante at Raven Theatre Company 6157 N. Clark St. 8p.m. in Chicago.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Lady Laura Is Lady Macbeth

I remember hearing about how angry Al Pacino was during the filming of a specific scene of Carlito's Way because the actor in the scene with him was simply reciting his memorized lines and waiting for Al to give his lines, so he could deliver his next line. Pacino was upset the other actor was not giving him anything off of which to play. As actors, it is important to bring something to the table. It is equally important that the actor or actors in the scene bring something too so that all can work off each other. It is like instruments in a musical composition working together to make the piece sound beautiful. I am sure there were times that my acting class partners were as upset at me as Al was while filming Carlito's Way. I had spent my entire life building up emotional defense walls to protect myself from being hurt that I struggled to tap into those feelings of sad, mad, glad to fully express them to my partners as well as to an audience. I give credit to all my acting partners who hung in there and kept trying to play off of the little I provided them while remaining positive that it would eventually come for me. It did! There are so many people to thank and so many little moments which lead to the big moment which I experienced one day while performing an exercise with Laura Shatkus. The way the exercise was unfolding I began to feel sad and a desire to cry. The mood quickly changed and instead of crying I was mad. I began to shout and scream at her at the top of my lungs. Part of me was scared of the feelings coming to the surface and how Laura would react, but part of me said this was part of the process of discovering my artistic voice and talent so I kept it going. Laura played off of it so beautifully. She received what I was offering and expressed to me her feelings for me to embrace and return the expression of feelings. At the end, the instructor, Ted, said it was one of the most beautiful things he had ever seen from me. It was so powerful and true. Laura told me how proud she was as this was the first time she had seen this kind of expression of feelings in the moment from me. I thanked her for being the one who was able to tap into my being and assist me in bringing it out. Her willingness to take it in allowed me to have the confidence to continue displaying what I felt in the moment.

Laura Shatkus is one of the best artists and individuals I have ever known. She is so lovely and talented. Every show I have ever seen of her performances has dazzled me! I feel privilege to call her a friend and know the acting world is a much greater place when she is shining for audiences. She is currently performing in Muse Of Fire Theater Company's production of Macbeth as Lady Macbeth. Performances of this great classic from William Shakespeare are being done outdoors in Ingraham Park behind the Morton Civic Center in Evanston, Il through August 29, 2010. Saturdays and Sundays at 3p.m. For more information about the show and how to see the lovely and talented Laura Shatkus, please log on to:

Friday, August 13, 2010

I Wil Run 26.2 Miles For Elizabeth And Emily Fideler

For many years, I have been wanting to become a regular member of a local running club. Unlike most individuals, I can not simply pick one and show up on the days of the club's fun run, introduce myself, and start running. I must reach out to the person in charge, introduce myself, explain that I lost my sight, run with the use of a sighted guide, tell how I use a rope/tether, ask if there will be any potential risks, and whether the person could make an announcement on my behalf to get club members to volunteer to guide me. For the most part, I receive warm receptions from the club representatives. They tell me immediately that this is a new issue for which they have no experience, but they are willing to work with me as best they can to ensure my needs are met in the hope that my experience is a positive one. The two organizations with which I have run over the last few years, Lincoln Park Pacers and Fleet Feet Running Club, have truly gone above and beyond to welcome me with open arms. At first, members are curious, but seem to be nervous about asking me questions first about my not having sight then about guiding, but once they get comfortable, members are always wanting to know how they can help out. A third organization, Universal Sole, had their employees put out the word to the Chicago Area Runners Association and elsewhere to see if someone could help out if I joined their club. Eventually, I was contacted by a CARA member who also worked at a non profit called Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association who asked if I wish to join GLASA at a couple events. I was unable to make the first couple events to which I was invited, but I ran in GLASA's Twilight 5K and was guided by the very person who had first reached out to me. Keri Schindler. She was and is a wonderful person who is passionate about the work she does bringing to life various athletic events and social gatherings for individuals with physical and visual impairments. It was a privilege to be guided by her for the 5K. We remained in contact and when she asked if I would be interested in running the Chicago Marathon in 2010 as part of Team GLASA, I immediately responded with a resounding YES!

It is a thrill to know that on October 10, 2010 I will be making my marathon debut in my home town race. I grew up watching the TV coverage on a yearly basis. I still watch or listen to the coverage on radio each year. I use to think anyone who trains all those months then runs 26.2 miles in one day must be crazy. Now I will become one too. Adding to my excitement is that as a member of Team GLASA I get to raise funds and awareness for Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association while running for two of GLASA's rock star athletes. Sixteen year old twins, Elizabeth and Emily Fideler credit the staff at GLASA with helping them find their self confidence through the various sports they play and through the continued support the staff members offer. Both young women are special people who will continue to shine as part of GLASA so long as there are individuals like me and you willing to donate our time, effort, and money to ensure GLASA can continue to provide Elizabeth and Emily opportunities to build on their accomplishments in sports and especially in life. So I ask that all take the time to log on to the link I provide at the conclusion of this post to read more about my efforts to raise awareness and funds for GLASA and run the Chicago Marathon on behalf of the Fideler twins!

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