Please visit Jen's site to read more about her book as well as to see the link to Amazon to buy it:
Thursday, September 29, 2011
In sports, announcers, talk show hosts, and fans will often discuss a trade in terms of which team won the trade. Of course, the best trades are the ones where all the teams involved benefit so that it can be called a "win win" situation. In life, we are often presented with similar situations where our decisions will benefit our own interest while helping others. A great way to do just that is to purchase the book, Musical Chairs by Jen Knox. You will enjoy the mastery with which Jen discusses her life experiences. You will be intrigued by such a talented author. Purchasing the book prior to the end of September will also help out the National Runaway Switchboard, an organization which works with runaways and their families during difficult times in life. Jen Knox is donating 100% of her royalties from September sales of Musical Chairs to the National Runaway Switchboard. So please buy the book and consider passing along the information and link to others to also make a purchase.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
On October 9, I will be running my second marathon. For the second straight year, I will take on the challenge of the Chicago Marathon. I am excited and nervous about what is in front of me. 26.2 miles through the streets of Chicago. I am prepared to take on the miles. I know I can conquer. Mainly, I want to be able to call my experience a success. Away from the running, I want to call my involvement with the non profit of my choice a success. Similar to last year, I am running the marathon for a charity which does tremendous work. If you have read my past posts, you have read my thoughts on Imerman angels. I also plan to discuss my thoughts on the race and non profit next week as the race nears. For now, I wish to direct you to the following link which is a three minute video on Imerman Angels. In a future post, I will provide my fundraising page link so people can donate and help me reach my goal of $1,000. I am very close to achieving said goal and hope that this video will allow you to see for whom I am raising and racing so that you may consider contributing to my cause. Thank you very much.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
One of the most exciting times was also filled with plenty of anxiety. It was writing my life story as an autobiographical theater piece. I had no idea where it would lead me or whether any theater group would even be interested in my story, but I wrote it because screenwriters and directors who were much more accomplished and whom I respected, insisted the play would open doors for me. Sure enough, months after writing my initial draft, a theater group in Chicago named the piece a New Play Fest winner. A year later, I was starring a production of the play. So many individuals from the theater and film world have been praising the theater piece and now the screenplay which I have also written. One of the people whose words I take with me always is writer, actor, director, monologist, author, and teacher, Robyn Okrant, who read a draft and said that she loved that I did not fall into the trap so many new young writers do when writing their life story especially when it is one of their early works. That is, painting themselves as a victim and heroic figure while not showing their many other sides. Robyn said there were times in my play where she felt I was heading down the road of an After School Special, but just as characters tossed praise my way and I painted myself as a victim, I'd pull the rug from under the reader and other characters and show a dark, mean, angry side to myself. It was quite a ride of emotions as just when people would fall in love with me, I would give them reasons to hate me. Another person who shared similar feelings was media personality and author, Jenniffer Weigel who attended one of my performances and talked about my ability to blind people from tears due to a heart wrenching moment while having them hold their sides which are hurting from laughing so hard all within the same scene. I find it a fun challenge to tell my story through play and film because while I am attempting to be true to the story, I am also allowing for the possibility that like in any other story, I can take some liberties to heighten tension and give actors plenty of material with which to play. I do the same thing with another of my theater pieces and films called Touch Of Rain. It too is based on my life. In fact, I like to call it, a fictional account of factual events. I do my best to tell this story of love, appreciation, and awakening brought into my life when a pulchritudinous princess walked in and brought me back to life! I respect the real life woman who inspired this story while realizing I have an opportunity to shape the story in a way to make it a wonderful experience for an audience. Since I rely heavily on my life experience, I am often amazed and impressed by those who also embrace their story and are willing to share it with the world. One such woman is Jen Knox. If Aaron Sorkin can work on rewrites for A Few Good Men twenty years after the play premiered on Broadway, then surely, I can continue to refine my story six years after it first made a splash in Chicago. Keeping this in mind, I am always fascinated at what I learn from Jen telling her story and her truth. I learned so much from reading this article in Independent Ink Magazine. I hope you will read it too. I hope you will take the time to also check out her blog.
Monday, September 19, 2011
On Saturday night, I set my alarm for 4:45a.m. for the following morning. I pinned my bib number to my Imerman Angels top, put out my tether, laid out my Denver Triathlon jacket, and made sure my shorts and socks were set too. At 9:51p.m. I hopped into bed. I could not sleep. I tossed and turned until about thirty minutes to midnight. I woke up suddenly to discover I had another hour of sleep to go. Finally, at a quarter to five, I dragged myself out of bed and dressed for the day ahead.
Dressed and with breakfast in my belly, I headed to the Newton 20 Miler along the Chicago lakefront. I arrived at about 6:20a.m., walked to gear check, and loaded my bag into the bus which would take the gear twenty miles south to the finish line. I waited as I heard the first few waves go off. Before I knew it, wave twenty-three had gone off and I was still waiting by the bus for my guide. I heard a voice call out my name. She walked up to me. It was the lovely, Liz Bilitz. She volunteered to take me the first ten miles of this event. We walked over to the start. Within a few minutes, we were crossing the starting line on route to heading twenty miles. It was a slow pace to start out. We were going at a twelve minute per mile pace. I was nervous. I am sure so was Liz. Being that it was her first time meeting me and guiding a person who does not have sight, I am sure she had butterflies in her stomach. Soon enough, I found myself feeling comfortable with her instructions. We crossed the first mile. She was getting the hang of it. I was much more relaxed. The footing was a bit tough, but we continued. Pretty soon, Liz told me me were under a ten minute pace. We made it to the second mile marker. Now we were starting to find a groove. There were times we were pushing closer to nine minute pace, but for the most part we stayed at about 9:30. Liz was sharing her observations describing our surroundings. Time was passing quickly. We were moving.
The miles rolled by on this Sunday morning. It was suppose to be in the low seventies, but it was much colder. Plus, it was raining. Other runners remarked that they had heard it would not rain until early to late afternoon yet other than the rainbow Liz mentioned she saw just as we had started to run, there was not a bright sun in the sky as I had hoped. The wind picked up in some spots. At about mile seven, I took a step and landed funny, but luckily, I righted my step and did not sprain my ankle. Memories of the Chicago Marathon of 2010 entered my mind. Liz kept guiding. Shortly after, I stepped funny again. My right ankle shook a bit, but once more, I righted my step avoiding a twisted ankle yet again. Before long, Liz was telling me we were within sight of the aid station of mile ten were she would hand off the tether to her friend and mine, Jennifer Pfaff. I heard Jen's voice. We had reached the aid station. After a quick break, Jen took over the guiding.
The first mile with Jen was an adjustment for me. Although I had run this same event with Jen last year, I needed to rediscover a comfort level with her calling out information. It was taking her a while to adjust to guiding again too. It was nice because it allowed me to take a break at pushing my speed by slowing down and reaching a good zone. Soon enough, we were feeling it and picked up the pace. The rain kept coming. In some spots, the wind was howling. We reached the aid station at mile twelve when I heard the voice of a beautiful woman call out for Sexy Isra. It was Jemma who I met through my association with Imerman Angels. She is a professional Board Member. As the miles piled up, many more people would yell out "Go Sexy Isra!" At one point, a young woman runs up to us and asks, "Are you Sexy Isra from Twitter?" Yes, I am. It was Adriana. A young woman who I follow and who follows me. It was so great to finally meet her. Others expressed encouragement as they passed or as we passed them. Jen kept sharing her excitement for how well we were doing. With every step and every mile marker, we were nearing the end. At one point, I was shocked to find out that midway through mile seventeen, we were moving at a 8:48 pace for a stretch. I felt good, but I found myself needing to walk in short stretches. Finally, Jen insisted no more walking until we get to an aid station. I wanted to walk. She insisted I had it in me not to resort to that. Sure enough, she was right. I kept running until the aid station which was half a mile away. We arrived at mile nineteen. One more left! I walked for a short distance then Jen made me start running again. At that point she said no more walking. Run through to the finish. I said to myself, "No more." We rolled and kept going all the way across the finish line. Twenty miles after I had begun running with Liz, I had crossed the end with Jen.
We walked around finding my bag and taking free samples of various products. We made our way to the buses which would eventually take us back to the start line way back on the north side. From there I headed home. The last big run prior to the marathon complete. I hope to get in a few more double digit runs outside with friends, but it is time to begin to focus on the Chicago Marathon in three weeks. Thank you to Jen and Liz for guiding me for the twenty miler and I look forward to the opportunity to run with them again.
Saturday, September 17, 2011
By this time tomorrow, the question will be answered. Tomorrow will be the second straight year I will participate in the Ready To Run 20 Miler, the last long distance training run prior to the Chicago Marathon on October 9, 2011. This year, I am running the 26.2 distance as a member of Imerman Active of Imerman Angels One-On-One Cancer Support so that no one faces cancer alone. After tomorrow, it will be time to work down the mileage to remain fresh come marathon day. I hope to be able to maintain a 9:30 pace the entire twenty miles. Last year, I started slow picked up the pace, and found a second wind at the twelve mile mark which carried me through the seventeenth mile where I finally began to truly struggle. Of course, my guide, Jennifer Pfaff was not about to let me fade as she pushed me through beyond the finish line. I am excited that Jen has returned to guide me once again at this 20 Miler. She will guide me the final ten miles while her friend, a woman whom I am anxious and excited to meet, Liz Bilitz, will guide me for the first ten miles. I am nervous about running twenty miles, but I am also thrilled to spend time with Jen while getting to know Liz. I have been training putting in the running and hope it will help me through the distance tomorrow and the miles will not take much out of me so I can resume my running within a few days and continue until the date with 26.2.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
She may be the hardest working woman in showbiz. She truly is one of the most talented, amazing, and beautiful women whom I am privileged to call a friend. You can see the reasons when you see her in her next role. The lovely Amanda Grace will be seen in My Fair Lady at the Paramount Theater in Aurora, Il. This is a big time production featuring a big ensemble and orchestra. You will be entertained and get your money's worth. My Fair Lady runs from September 16 at 8:00p.m. with a media opening through October 2, 2011. Do not miss this great production and especially, the amazing, lovely, and beautiful Amanda Grace!!
For more information and to reserve your tickets, please visit the following site:
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
It is less than one month before I take on the challenge of the Chicago Marathon for the second consecutive year. Also for the second straight year, I will gage my fitness level and readiness by participating in the CARA Ready To Run 20 Miler three weeks before the marathon. This year it will be on Sunday September 18. In order for me to complete this task, I will need to find someone willing to run twenty miles with me. If I can not, I must find a couple individuals who want to each guide me for half of the miles. That is where the amazing Jennifer Pfaff comes in to help me. Jen, who received her first taste of the guiding thing last year at this very event, offered to once again be my guide for at least ten of the miles. I then needed to find another person to volunteer for the other ten miles. As the event neared I began to wonder where I would find someone, but once again, Jen provided a solution by offering to ask her friends. A day or so later, Liz Bilitz reached out to me and offered to guide me for the first half of the run then hand me off to Jen to take me the rest of the way. I am looking forward to meeting Liz for the first time on Sunday morning. I will meet her in the same way I first met Jen in person. I truly love participating in these events and the way in which so many wonderful people come into my life as a result of me needing guides to be my eyes for training runs, marathons, and triathlons. Some of the individuals who have gone on to be very important influential friends in my life were men and women I first met because they volunteered to guide me. In some of those cases, they would introduce themselves via phone or email, but I would not meet them until they picked me up at the airport when I would travel to their city or I would first meet them when I would pull up to their front door after flying halfway across the country to race in an event. I look forward to meeting Liz. I already know she is a spectacular woman. I hope she and I get along because I have a very good feeling she is also a spectacular athlete from whom I could learn so much. The only question which now remains is am I ready to run?
Sunday, September 11, 2011
I was excited to return to the GLASA Twilight 5K on Saturday evening. Last year, I was able to finish second in my division while completing the 3.1 mile run in 27:30. This year, I hoped to break 25:00. Sharon Bielski, a young woman who had never guided a runner who is blind, was my guide for the event in Lake Forest. I met Sharon for the first time an hour before the event. One of my favorite parts about this race is that it is the only one which my parents have attended each time I have run it. So on a yearly basis, it is the only race in which they see me run. This year, my dad decided to run in it too. He does not train. He is not use to running, but he insisted he could complete it along the way, he could beat me. Although my dad does not train, he use to be a running, cyclying, and basketball star in his home town when he was a teen. When I was too young to remember or participate, he would take the kids to the park each Saturday morning to engage in various athletic activities. Mostly, my siblings ran. Over the years, my siblings competed in various sports and more recently, each one of them has done at least one 5K race. A couple of them have done many more. In addition, my nieces and nephews have started gaining interest in running with a couple of the younger kids wanting to follow in uncle Israel's footsteps and race triathlons.
I was excited for my dad, but also a bit nervous. I was worried whether his body could handle 3.1 miles. I was worried that he could indeed beat me. After all, on any given day with the right conditions or chain of events, the best "team" may lose. What if the conditions, footing, or destiny smiled on him and he did stun me by crossing the finish first? The Twilight 5K had what felt like its largest field. In fact, the race was delayed by ten minutes as there was a huge race day registeration walk-up crowd. After the military tribute and the moment of silence to remember those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001 in NYC, DC, and outside of Pittsburgh, it was time to go. The horn sounded. Sharon and I made our way through a field which included World War II vets, high school track teams, and five year old boys and girls. As I remember the course, it is a fast flat course. Only, this year it was not. It was filled with uphills and long inclines. Still, we moved. By the first mile, we were rolling at a 8:30 pace. My dad who planted himself behind us prepared to have me set the pace all the way through until bolting out ahead in the final sprint, was not around. Fairly early in this race, we had been moving at a pace which he found comfortable and he stayed with us a short distance behind, but by the time we reached the first mile, Sharon and I had stepped on the gas and opened up a gap which he could never close. We coasted by the second mile marker at 17:10 and we were on our way to the final mile. At this pace, we would not break twenty-five minutes. Sharon asked if I wanted to push it a bit, but we maintained our speed. At times, we would, but for the most part, we reamined very calculated throughout the race. In fact, we only truly picked it up for a longer than normal stretch as we entered the final shoot sprinting and high stepping across the finish line. As of this, I do not know our official time, but although we probably did not break twenty-five minutes, I was very happy with our run. I truly enjoyed running with Sharon. Thank you Sharon for the opportunity and experience to run with you at this race. I hope we will get a chance to run more races together. She is a ture guiding pro!
Congratulations to my dad who pushed his body and completed the 5K with a nice sprint to the finish. He probably finished in about thirty minutes. He was spectacular. Now, he has stated that he plans to train some in the future so that he will run the GLASA 5K next year and that time he promises to go all out and beat me and any other family member who wishes to register and challenge him.
Thursday, September 8, 2011
In grade school and high school, I was in several plays. I experienced the excitement and anxiety of Opening Night. Five years ago on September 8, I experienced an Opening Night unlike any other. That is because it was "real." All the other times I was in a school play or musical. I was simply another cast member. Even in the shows where I was the star, they were one time performances for family and friends. I was merely memorizing classic pieces previously performed by many others written by established amazing writers. In this case, I was the star expected to carry a show and production for two months for a theater piece written by previously unproduced playwright, Israel Antonio. I was performing at the famed Prop THTR in Chicago in a show directed by one of Prop's co-founders and artistic Directors, Scott Vehill. Not only would friends and family see me, but so would complete strangers. Well respected individuals from all levels of the theater world. From small storefront theater group representatives to influential people at the world famous Steppenwolf Theatre Company would all see me perform words and scenes written by me. On top of that, media members, theater critics, and reporters would check out this show which unbeknownst to me was receiving plenty of attention within the theater world. Word had been spreading since the show's successful appearance in Prop THTR'S New Play Fest a year prior.
I arrived at Prop about an hour before show time. As my luck would have it, I had started to come down with a cold. Clearly, the pressure of expectations and a desire to fully shine had begun to break my body down. A young woman came up to me. It was my dear friend, Lisa, who I knew from college, but whom I had not seen in a very long time. The next person to walk up to me was the lovely, Sunshine. A former college classmate who had finished her work day and immediately jumped in her car and stepped on the gas to make the four hour drive to Chicago to watch me. I was then introduced to Nina Metz who was there to review my play for the Chicago Tribune. At this time, HizZoner, a play about Richard J. Daley written by and starring Neil Giuntoli was the smash hit of Prop and Chicago. As the talented cast finished another awe inspiring performance, I waited for people to strike the set and prepare the stage for my show. A long line had formed in the lobby and there was a buzz in there air. Ivan Ortega and the lovely, Madelon Guinazzo were along side ready to begin this two month journey of performances with me. I was scared. I tried remembering all my lines. Of course, ever the writer, I had been rewriting and trying out new lines as late as that afternoon's run-through. At one point, Madelon had to tell me, "You need to stop being the playwright and start focusing on being the actor." The great Neil Giuntoli, a man whose television and film work I had enjoyed and respected for years, approached me and gave me a wonderfully big embrace. He could see how scared I was and he assured me all would be fine. He offered some words of encouragement and a prayer. He told me how much he believed in me and how I too could go as far as he had in his Hollywood career. It was a great thrill to not only receive these kind words from him, but then, he decided to stick around and watch the show!
People filed in. A final announcement was made to the crowd. The opening music began. As this was my debut as a produced playwright and professional actor, I wanted the opening song to be one which captured my feelings about life. After all, the piece people had paid to watch was my autobiographical theater piece so I wanted to set the mood immediately. I selected a song written by Amy Lee in memory of her little sister who died at a very young age. Amy's lyrics, the piano, and the overall tone of the song spoke to me. I hoped it would speak too the audience. Based on the feedback I would receive, the song accomplished what I had wanted as there was not a dry eye in the house by the time it ends and I walk out to deliver the opening lines of my play and career.
The play and now screenplay have changed over the years. I have changed both as an actor and a playwright. I wanted to ensure that this five year anniversary did not pass by without me thanking all the wonderful people who made the show and experience a spectacular one for me.
For anyone interested, I am including a link to the song entitled HELLO by Evanescence so you may listen to the song which played at the start of my career:
Monday, September 5, 2011
Jen Knox did it to me again! She drew me in and kept my interest in her piece. Her second installment of her serial was so fascinating. The only drawback was that it ended and I have to wait until next week for the third part. I can not wait. I want to see how the story turns out and how the main characters do. While I wait for the next part, I invite all of you to purchase Jen's book, Musical Chairs. In fact, Jen Knox has announced that she will donate 100% of the royalties she will receive from book sales during the month of September to Network For Good, an organization which helps runaway teens and their parents. So buying the book will bring about a win win for everyone. You will enjoy a great book while helping out a great cause.
Here is a book trailer for Musical Chairs by Jen Knox:
Sunday, September 4, 2011
It is always fun and exciting to come across stories and people I find inspiring. In fact, one of the reasons I shy away from receiving the praise when people call me inspiring is that I do not make that my goal or life's mission. People hear about how I lost my sight as a teenager and about the ups and downs over the years then they call me inspiring. I certainly appreciate those kind words. Others may even ask me if I set out to inspire the world. After all, there are plenty of people who have an experience in their lives, but instead of allowing said experience to weigh them down or defeat them, they stand up to it and face it in the eye. They even state that their mission is to inspire others in the same boat. I believe that I can not make that call. I can not approach life with a desire of wanting to inspire. I can only live my life to the fullest. If others choose to call me inspirational, then it is their right to do so. My expectation can not be to inspire people to do anything. I may want to inspire a certain group or segment, but instead, a different group of individuals get inspired. Does that make me a failure? Does it make my inspiring quest less significant? I say no! Therefore, I live my life and allow the chips to fall where they will. I would have never guessed that a woman I only knew about through social media would ever serve as an inspiration. I never knew that a suggestion of who to follow on Twitter would result in my taking an interest in a trainer and triathlete who completed her first triathlon just over a year ago. Yet, because some friends and people I follow on Twitter also know or follow Katie Morse, I started to and discovered that Katie is a fascinating person! I have been privileged to get to know her through Twitter, Facebook, and her blog. I follow her training progress, her journey to becoming a successful professional triathlete, and her dedication to fitness and health. Katie is such a spectacular person, athlete, and inspiration. I have learned so much in such a short amount of time. One week from today, she will be pushing her body to the ultimate limit when she races and completes her first ever Ironman Triathlon. This achievement will add to her greatness. I hope you will take the time to log on to her blog and read her entry about standing on the edge of greatness one week away from swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles, and running 26.2 miles. Thank you Katie for being such an inspiration. Best of luck as you conquer the course at the Ironman distance. If any of you have ever considered a race, reading Katie's words will surely give you that bit of motivation to go ahead and register for an event.
Please check out Katie's site at: