Monday, December 30, 2013

Flood Lights Part II

Continued from Flood Lights...

As I internalized the brightness of the rink despite the lateness of the night, I snapped out of my Zamboni trance.  My eyes shifted from the surface of the ice to the lights overhead, drifting slowly from the floodlights in the park to those shining down from the skyscraper heavens of New York.

A set of floodlights shone down from on top of a nearby skyscraper, illuminating the heart of Bryant Park.  I remembered those floodlights well, because I remembered staring up at them in July, wishing they could somehow heal my body. 

It was a hot, summer night and after parting ways with my friend Matt in Central Park, I made my way down to Bryant Park.  A film that I didn't see had just finished playing on the big screen on the big lawn - the same spot where the ice skating rink resides in the winter time.  While people started clearing the green, I laid out the blanket from my picnic dinner, and sat down in the middle of it. 

I stretched my legs out in front of me and pressed my palms into ground behind me to lean back upon.  I stared up at those floodlights, wondering if I was ever going to get better, and fearful that my time might be running short.  I pleaded with God right there and then, with the intense light shining down on me,  "Please God, please, just heal my body."  I couldn't understand why he would let Satan win by physically destroying me. 

By then it had been well over two years that my health had been poor and by June my health had declined so much that I really did begin to think I might die. To make matters worse, the process of securing health insurance delayed me from seeing a doctor again until the end of July. With the pre-existing condition rules in effect, I knew I couldn't be diagnosed with anything until I had some sort of catastrophic medical coverage to financially protect me and my family. 

What I didn't know then is that I had been unknowingly starving my body of oxygen.  I didn't realize that in 20 years of being a runner and being a woman, I had depleted nearly all my iron stores, and that my body was no longer functioning properly because of it.   I just needed more oxygen; I just needed more iron in my system.   Once my *ferritin level increased from 4 to 40, THEN I would be back to feeling me.

My eyes circled down from the floodlights on top of the skyscraper to lights on the Christmas tree behind me.  I smiled, recalling a night out with my friend Melissa a few years prior, and stopping at the park's Christmas tree for a photograph.  I smiled also, knowing that my body is finally getting better.  This time as I stood in the nightlights of Bryant Park, I felt alive, and hopeful for the future God has for me - whether that be back in New York or elsewhere, I'm confident my 3 years of sub-par health is coming to a close as I step into 2014.

* Please note, most doctors tend to only be concerned with your hemoglobin level, but your ferritin level (i.e. your iron stores) also matters immensely.  Women should aim for a ferritin level around 50, even though "normal" is considered by some labs to be anywhere from 10 to 150.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Flood Lights

I stood at the east end of the rink, watching the Zamboni man smooth over the ice, while I said my good byes to the city. 

I knew I should already be on my way back to Harlem to finish packing, but Bryant Park insisted I stick around for a bit to experience the magic of New York at its holiday best.

So rather than heading straight to the subway, I lingered for some time, weaving in and out of the pop up shops, without any other agenda than just to soak it all in.  I paused in front of the fountain, recalling the time I met my favorite author in that same spot.  I remember thinking then - how appropriate to meet a man of literature near the New York Public Library, while he thought ice skating rink... The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield, and some girl named Sally.

But on my final evening in NYC, rather than a New York Times best-selling author, a dozen carolers greeted me at the fountain with yuletide cheer.  As I listened some to their singing, I purchased a cup of hot apple cider - complete with cinnamon stick - to accompany me in my wandering.

Bryant Park Fountain * Pic from November 2012

Just beyond the fountain, I passed by a pub called The Southwest Porch.  Although outdoors, the place was full - half the pub alive in conversation while the other half engaged in a holiday film.  No one seemed to mind the chill in the air.  And actually, I didn't either.

In peeking inside the various shops, I stumbled across a glorious art display.  The pieces were for sale, of course, but I didn't bother to look at the price tag.  I knew my unemployment check wouldn't be able to afford such beauty.  Still, I picked up a business card and told the artist (Yvoni) that I thought her work was absolutely stunning.  (You can view her online gallery by clicking on her name.)

Eventually I found myself standing beside the Christmas tree, glaring out at the rink in some sort of trance as my eyes followed the Zamboni, back and forth across the ice, as my heart questioned, "God, is this my final farewell, or will I eventually be back - for more than a visit? Will this city ever be my home again?" 

Continue reading at the following link: Flood Lights Part II

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The A Train

Last night...

After meeting up with a 40 something year old professional at The Odeon in Tribeca, a 25 year old ex-con attempted to pick me up on the subway.  "You know, you're hot as f***."  He said to me as we entered the subway car.  I smiled, amused by his cussword compliment.  "Ah, and you have a beautiful, bad-ass smile too."  I regretted my smile reply as he proceeded to sit RIGHT beside me even though the subway car was only a third full.

Of course, at that point I didn't know he was an ex-con.  And since I was in a particularly good mood from a particularly good evening, I played along with his conversation.  I suspect he was either drunk or high - but either way, he didn't seem threatening.  However, on the ride uptown to Harlem, he explained to me that he was incarcerated from the time he was 18 until he was 21.  I began to reconsider, perhaps I shouldn't be so friendly to subway strangers.

But then he went on to share with me that his life is much better now than it was a few years ago; he's going to college and has a business plan he is working on.  He then asked me questions about my life, and I shared some of my non ex-con experiences - like winning tickets to the Super Bowl one year and then losing everything in Hurricane Sandy a couple of years later.

He then told me he is going to be a dad in March.  I asked if he was on good terms with the mom, and he said yes, but that he was freakin' out about being a father.  He asked me if I had any advice on parenting.  I was a bit stumped in knowing how to reply.  And he was bit surprised in learning I didn't have any kids of my own.

But the question he was asking me was a big one, and we didn't have much time before the subway would stop and I would need to get off.  And so I suggested he pick up and read the only book on parenting I know - God's True Law: A parent's guide to raising successful children, written by the captain of my high school football team.  Which actually is more a book on being a better you, so that you can a better role model for your kids. 

I really did think the book would be a beneficial read for this 25 year old - if he'd actually commit to reading it.  But that seemed highly unlikely.  Still, he wrote the name of the title and author down in his phone, and then asked for my information as well.  But rather than giving it to him, I told him, "Once you finish reading the book, get a hold of the author, and he'll give you my information.  I'll give him a heads up that you might be contacting him."  He agreed.  And so we'll see if this ex-con will actually read my friend Garrett's book.  If he does, it could have a tremendous impact on his life, and on his child's as well.  Sayin' a prayer that he does, and although it's less than ideal to sit beside an ex-convict on a long subway ride home, I'm glad that I did on this particular evening.    

Monday, December 16, 2013

Malawi Dates Part II

Two years ago I never wrote the entry for a blog post I titled, "Malawi Dates."  Tonight as I rode the taxi ferry across the East River to Charity:Water's annual ball, I thought about that fall day, and determined today couldn't be a more perfect day to write the tale.

The story is, a friend of mine texted me requesting I pick up some Malawi dates, and bring them with me to Scott and Vik Harrison's for a Sunday night dinner party.  My friend explains over her text message that the Malawi dates are for a salad she is making.  Immediately, I'm intimidated by her request.  I'm a bit uncertain what a regular date looks like and I live no where near a grocery store.

Having zero idea what Malawi dates are, I figured I best google first to get an idea, and then call Trader Joes and Whole Foods to see if they carry them.  But when I google Malawi dates, all I get are sites for finding a date (as in a romantic partner) in the country of Malawi.   

Not having a whole lot of time to further research these specialty dates (that apparently are imported from Africa), I decide to just go to Whole Foods at Union Square and hope for the best.  But when I arrive, the nice grocery workers have no clue what I'm talking about.  And since we can't seem to find them on the store shelves and my friend isn't answering her phone, instead of picking up Malawi dates, I pick up a few other date options, and hope one of the three kinds will work for this salad.

Once at Scott and Vik's, I explain to my friend that I did my best, but I simply couldn't find any Malawi dates to bring along with me to the dinner party.  To which she laughs and replies, "That's so funny.  I must have mistexted.  I needed Halawi dates for the salad."  Thankfully, the dates I picked up worked out plenty fine and we had an enjoyable night at Scott and Vik Harrison's.

But the reason I mention the Malawi dates is because tonight - December 16, 2013 - is a notable date for the country of Malawi.  Thanks to Scott and Vik Harrison and the work of Charity:Water, over 3.5 million dollars was raised this evening to bring clean and safe drinking water to the people of Malawi.


For the second year in a row I had the opportunity to volunteer to help work Charity:Water's Charity:Ball, and yet again, it was incredible.  I'm grateful my health seems to be on the up and up and that I was able to be a part of the event.  If you missed the ball, it's not too late to get in on the action of helping bring clean drinking water to those who don't have it.  Drop by http://www.charitywater.org/ for more information on how you can make a difference in the lives of others on our planet.

 
 *By the end of night, over 4 million dollars had been raised for water projects in Malawi!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Jesus Love Donuts

Some time ago at summer camp, I had this friend who would wear this shirt that said on it, "Jesus Loves Donuts."  During staff training, we sat down together at lunch and I told him, "You know, I think your shirt is right.  I think Jesus really does love donuts."  I then continued on to share with him my Jesus-donut testimony.

About a dozen years ago, as I was trying to start up Young Life in my hometown, I began to dream of ways I might be able to connect with the students in the high school.  During a YL leaders' meeting, I inquired with my supervisor, "Do you think we could show up with donuts before school?"

"Sure," he said.  "As long as you get the principal's permission." 

I momentarily thought I was awesome in thinking up such a brilliant idea (that I'm sure has been done by plenty of other Young Life leaders before me).  However, my idea turned sour on my drive home as I acknowledged, I didn't really have the funding to just go out and buy a bunch of donuts for the students.

Less than a week later, as I entered my parents' home, my mom asks, "Katrina, would you happen to have any use for donuts?  We just hosted this event for senior citizens, and the couple who owns the fruit farm brought along way more donuts than what we needed.  We have nearly 100 donuts left over."

Enthusiastically I agreed to take those donuts off my mother's hands.  I drove to the high school the next morning - with those donuts - thinking how awesome is God, that he would hear my desire for donuts, and come through without me even asking.  Yes, Jesus loves donuts, very much indeed.

But more than donuts, he loves us.  And although I acknowledge we don't earn "things"from God by doing good works, there is something to be said about him wanting good for us.  (By "things" I mean things like money, spouses, jobs, kids, good health, good health insurance, a home - pretty much everything I don't have in my life right now.)  And I love it when He seems to step in, like he did with the donuts.

The group I've been leading this fall met in Soho for the last time this past week.  For a snack, one of the gals brought along donuts, and I thought - how perfect!  Jesus loves donuts, and, for me, donuts are a reminder of God's faithfulness.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Top 10 Best OnLine Dating Lines

I recently returned to world of online dating.  And here are some of the more entertaining lines that have popped up in my inbox.

10.  i knew u were an aries the moment i saw your profile picture

9.  Michigan football and In-and-Out Burger?  I am in love already!

8.  Nice longboard.

7.  I'm willing to bet you a donut that you're getting about 500 emails a day from 55 year old married men offering to be your sugar daddy... 

6.  I wish I was older...  (24 year old male from Brooklyn, NY)

5.  You look sooo cool  (37 year old male with a Masters degree)

4.  I've had a crush on you for like 3.5 hours now!

3.  Will you marry me?

2.  We could have beautiful mixed babies together.

1.   Am sorry but your bone structure is just simply amazing to me
 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Longing for HOME

This morning I woke up with my bottom on the ground.

The air mattress I've been sleeping on for the past 3 months gave way last night, and it doesn't appear to be repairable.  "Funny" that someone voted most likely to succeed by her graduating class would find herself at the age of 35 unemployed and sleeping on an air mattress next door to drug dealers.

I intended to buy a for real bed once I found a for real job, but securing employment hasn't happened for me yet, and I'm not sure it is going to happen for me any time soon.

After receiving the news of not getting the job with the prestigious university in my neighborhood, I started to think, maybe my time in New York is done.  Maybe I don't love New York enough to keep fighting to stay here.  Do I really want to work retail or babysit (with my Masters degree) just to be in this city?

It's getting colder, I considered.  I miss Southern California and the warmer temperatures.  And the walking and subway commute from Harlem to the rest of Manhattan is kicking my butt - far more than I thought it would.  At least in California, if I had a less than ideal job, I could still go surfing when I wasn't working.

That Sunday, during church, our pastor asked us to pick a word and to focus on it for a few moments.   My ADD delayed me in participating in the activity, but I eventually settled on the word "home."  Over dinner with a few friends, we discussed the words we had selected.  When it was my turn, I shared some on the word home and my lack of having one for nearly two years.  Then, I finally admitted to myself, and to these friends, I was ready to leave New York.  I didn't wanted to be here anymore and I wanted to go back "home" to Mosaic in LA.

A few hours later, while watching the livestream of Mosaic's Sunday evening service, I learned Mosaic would be starting a new series in a couple of weeks called "Home."

Last night, as I listed to the podcast, Erwin reminded me, ultimately my home is in God - not in a geographic location.  But he did also mention having home in a church family - and that I know I'd have on either coast.

So New York or LA? 

To be continued...

Thank you Jesus, for the good news today, that my unemployment benefits have been extended until the end of December.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Keep Swimming

Sometime in September I had this dream that I'm rather certain was inspired by the Hudson River plane landing of January 2009 and by my German relatives.


US Airways - January 15, 2009

In this dream I was heading out of New York and heading to Europe for an extended stay with my German relatives.  Except, rather than flying across the Atlantic, my plane crashed into the Hudson.  And, unlike the plane that landed on the water a few years ago, the nose of my plane dove into the river, well beneath the surface.

Everything went black.  And the plane started to fill with water.

This is it.  I'm a goner. 
Or am I?  I reconsidered.
Would it be possible to find my way out of the plane? 
I knew I had to at least try.

As I unbuckled my seat belt I considered my laptop under the seat in front of me.  Even if I escaped, there was no way my computer would make it.  "My book!  My book!" I panicked, fearing the lost of all the chapters I had written.  But  then I recalled I had e-mailed my book out to several individuals.  Somehow I was relieved, knowing that even if I didn't survive, my book would.

I found my way to an opened emergency exit.  By then the plane was nearly full of the Hudson.  I took one last gasp of air, and then went under and out the door, determined to fight for the surface.

I didn't I know how deep our plane had plunged, or if I even stood a chance.  But I kept swimming.
I couldn't see a thing.  I could only feel the flailing of my arms.  But I kept swimming.
I sensed I was swimming toward the surfaced, but I didn't know for certain.  But I kept swimming.

Just keep swimming.  I told myself. 
Keep swimming.
Or maybe it was God telling me. 
Keep swimming.
Or maybe it was the spirit of Nemo.
Keep swimming.
I was getting tired - really tired.
Keep swimming.
I need oxygen.
I feared I wouldn't make it.
But then I could see light. 
And I knew I was close.
Keep swimming.
Keep swimming.
Keep swimming.


I pushed through, and arrived at the surface.  Finally, I could breathe once more. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Keep Dancing

This evening I posted the following on facebook:

dear life, thanks for the dance floor last night. yet another almost falls by the wayside, but i'll keep dancing through the chaos in FAITH that God will eventually pull me out...

Chaos turns two years old this month.  The gay couple I met while trying to salvage some of my possessions following hurricane Sandy promised me that 2013 would be my year.  While waiting in line to speak with a representative at the storage rental company, we exchanged stories of our losses.  After sharing what we had lost in our submerged storage units, I continued on to share with the men some of the other losses I had incurred that year.

After hearing my woes of my 2012, one of the guys exclaimed, "Wow, you really have had it bad this year.  It has to get better.  2013 is going to be your year.  I just know it.  Bad karma can only last for so long and you seem far too positive of a person for you to not have a turn around."

His partner enthusiastically agreed, "Yeah 2013 will be your year!"  I appreciated the couples' encouragement and belief that the yin and yang of life will even out after the new year. 

To be honest, I was confident the chaos would come to a close by the end of the first quarter of the year.  But I'm now in the final quarter of 2013, and although I have had glimpses of hope along the way - they came in the form of almost possibilities that turned into nothing even though it appeared God was orchestrating.

My heart is tired, and although I'm still hopeful for better days ahead, my question, as posed in the book of Psalms is, "How long God?"  And I only wish I could know how much time passed before God "resurrected"Job's life from the grave.

More on How Long (click on How Long) for those of you who are questioning.  I don't know the author or the website's theological framework, but I stumbled across this piece while writing this post and I thought it was helpful.

To Be Continued... Keep Swimming

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Kryptonite Part III

This is a place holder until I write this entry...
But yea - with the right iron pills, my health (and energy levels) are back to normal and I'm a finalist for a position with Columbia University.

:)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Kryptonite Part II

That morning as I walked east down 32nd street, I considered, once again, I'm going to an important appointment alone.  I'm use to doing life alone - not that it gets any better or easier with time, but by 35, you accept aloneness as a way of life.

A block away from my destination I see a guy I know from church walking toward me.  We're both surprised and delighted to see each other, and stop to exchange hugs and hellos.

He explains to me he lives in the neighborhood and is on his way to work, and I explain to him I'm on my way to a doctor's appointment.

"Are you okay?"  He inquired, expressing sincere concern. 

"That's what I'm going to find out.  I'm just making sure I'm good.  But hey, I have to get going so I'm not late, but good running into you." 

"You too.  Hope everything is okay.  I'll be praying." 

"Thanks." 

I didn't know the guy well enough to say, "Hi.  I'm on my way to the gynecologist.  I'm terrified.  I have a lump in my left breast, and it could be cancerous."  Regardless, it was comforting to run into a familiar face, and I was reminded that even when I stand alone as a single woman, my church family stands with me.
----------------------------

* The good news is, I don't have cancer AND with the right iron pills my body will thank me by easing up on the headaches and fatigue.  I simply wasn't getting the oxygen I needed when I switched the brand of iron pills I was taking.

I'm hopeful once more that I'm back in the city to stay!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Kryptonite Part I

Two Wednesdays ago...

I collapsed to the floor, having no strength to stand.  Earlier in the week I started pleading with God to provide open subway seats as I waited at each station for my subway train.  But this train had no open seats, and as I leaned back on a pole, I bumped into a man who snapped at me.

I mumbled, “Sorry sir.  I don't feel well.”  I tried again, hoping to find something to lean against in my packed subway car.  I needed some sort of support for the journey.  Holding on to the metal bar overhead wouldn’t be enough.  But I had no luck, and no strength to stand, so instead of fighting gravity, I slid to the floor.  As I did, a few tears slid down my face.


Recently my progress forward seemed thwarted by the return of frequent fatigue and an increase in headaches.  Granted, I no longer feel near death, like I did in June and July.  Still, my body, on many days, feels so weak that I wonder if maybe I should have taken my doctor’s advice to choose a different city to live – an easier city – where I could hop in my car to get somewhere rather than struggle to walk up and down the subway steps, depleting the small reserve of energy in my system to get to where ever it is I need to go next. 

And who knew laundry could be so exhausting – carrying my clothes several blocks away is too heavy for me even though the muscles in my arms are decently defined.  I recently picked up a smaller bottle of detergent.  Hopefully down-sizing my laundry soap will help some.  

The light went out in my bedroom the other day, and as it did, I think my spirit did too.  There’s still a dim light remaining (1 of 2), but the ceilings are high, and even if I a track down a ladder from somewhere, anywhere, I know I wouldn’t have enough strength to carry it back to our place – on the third floor.  Ah, more stairs.  I’ve never hated stairs in my life as much as I do now.

“Ma’am, would you like to sit here?”  A man, not too far away from me offered me his subway seat.

Still looking down, I shook my head no and mumbled, “That’s okay.”   By then I didn’t really care how dirty and disgusting the floor was beneath me.  Nor did I care that I was creating a scene. 

In New York, emotion is on display – all the time – all around you.  Passing by arguments, tears, and screaming is not uncommon in this city.  I didn’t think I’d become one of those individuals who is less than poised in public, but I also didn’t think I’d be one of those women who would find herself worrying about breast cancer - with less than sufficient health insurance.

It was the phone call I received just before I got on the train that broke me.  The secretary lady informed me it would be 1 to 2 weeks before I would receive the results as to whether or not the lump in my left breast is cancerous and whether or not I'd have to return to Michigan for treatment.
 
To be continued...

* I learned this evening the cause for the return of my fatigue and headaches is due to the change in the type of iron pills I've been taking to treat my iron deficiency.  As it turns out, titanium dioxide - a substance used in cosmetics, sunscreens, and toothpastes - is now being mainstreamed in iron pill production to give them a pretty white look.  Brands such as Nature Made, are adding so much Titanium Dioxide to the mix, that many women - like me - aren't able to absorb the iron in the pill because of it.  For the latter part of September and much of October, Nature Made iron pills prevented me from getting the oxygen I needed for my body to function properly.

Thankfully my mom - in Michigan - found the type of iron pills I use to be on and is mailing them to me this week.  :)

January 15, 2015 Update: In Fall of 2014 I tested positive for malaria, plasmodium vivax. The malaria parasite wreaks havoc on red blood cells, causing anemia (i.e. iron issues) and debilitating fatigue.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Harlem, not the Shake

For 14 months straight I've lived a nomadic existence, laying my head down to sleep in over 50 different locations.  Even at my parents' lake house in Michigan, I never really unpacked.  Instead I stayed as a guest in the guest bedroom and lived out of suitcases, never really knowing how long my stay would be as I continued in my job search and bounced between Michigan, New York, and Los Angeles.

FINALLY, as of October 1, 2013, I have a place I can call my home, with no plans to leave, leave any time soon.  On Tuesday I moved into a three bedroom apartment in Harlem with three other girls from my church.  My room is itty bitty, and I'm sleeping on air mattress until I can find a job, but it is my room, my space, my home, and for that I am grateful.  Maslow would be pleased that one of my most basic needs is finally being filled.

Granted, I returned home to a crime scene my second night in Harlem and it's not quite as glamorous as SoHo (where I stayed last month), but it's not too far from the great outdoors of Central Park and Columbia University, the place I hope to work.  But yes, on Wednesday night a cop knocked on our apartment door to inquire if me or my roommates had witnessed the shooting.  (Shhhh, don't tell my parents; I wouldn't want them to be concerned.)  We hadn't witnessed anything except the aftermath of the incident - cops and detectives swarming the streets, trying to find answers to the murder mystery.

Monday, September 30, 2013

On a Sunday Part II

* Coming Soon - By soon, I mean Thursday

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

22 Days

Today my unplanned and unintended fast from the Internet ended.  For the past 22 days I've been without at-home or on-phone Internet access.  Finally, I can breathe again.  By breathe, I mean search and apply for jobs from home, blog, send important e-mails, schedule appointments, and get directions to places I need to go.  Basically, I can live like a normal, 21st century American human being again.

All, just in time to move from the sweet Soho loft I've been living in this past month to move into my fall residence in Harlem.  Minus the no wifi, I've been spoiled this September, living in an abnormally large New York apartment.  As my friend Chris pointed out, "The kitchen is bigger than my entire place."  It's true, the place I'm in at the moment is mega huge - 2,500 square feet total.  Most one bedroom apartments in the city are 500 to 600 square feet (I think), so this place is four to five times the size of what is normal for a New Yorker.  Thankfully, I received a friends and family rate for my short term stay - otherwise there would be no way I'd stand a chance of living in such a place.

My flat mate pointed out to me that our street was featured on the television show Elementary.  He showed me a screen shot he had taken on his phone and I insisted he e-mail it to me.

Our Soho Street featured on The Elementary
I think he showed me the picture the same day I passed by Ryan Gosling a few blocks from our place.  There I go - name dropping - the guy from down the shore wouldn't be pleased.  But since he's not here to call me out on it, I'll let it be.

Funny though, that I'd find myself in such a place in contrast to an old home of mine that I stayed in for an entire summer thirteen years ago.  I recently stopped by the place to show the new guy where I lived when I worked as an Area Director for Spring Hill Indiana the first summer it opened.

Spring Hill Indiana
At the time, the nearest flushing toilet and shower were over a mile away.  And the only "celebrity" to make an appearance was Sandy Patty, who came to pick up her daughter after a week's stay.

It's the contrast in life that I love - from living in a teepee in Southern Indiana to living in a loft in Soho.  I'm grateful for the variety of experiences in life I've had this far and I'm excited to see what the future holds in the months and years ahead.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Driving Aimlessly

Last Monday afternoon I found myself driving aimlessly around Brooklyn, New York...

no GPS, no iphone, no map - not even a compass to help me navigate my way...

(to be continued)

Sunday, September 8, 2013

On a Sunday Part I

Shortly after moving to the city in 2010 I attended a Jimmy Eat World show for the first time since I started listening to their music in 2001.  A 2nd show in NYC had been added to the band's tour schedule last minute, so I picked up a ticket a few days beforehand, determined to go, even if I couldn't find anyone else to go to the show with me.

Yes, I had texted a few people who I though might be interested in attending, but when show day came, I showed up to the concert alone - knowing no one.

Or so I thought.
Jimmy Eat World * Indianapolis * Summer 2013

Sometime around my favorite song, I glanced back and noticed that about 15 feet behind me stood the guy I liked, and standing beside him stood a girl who reminded me that he isn't an option.  Seeing them together that night confirmed for me he and I would never happen.

http://katrinablank.blogspot.com/2010/10/jimmy-eat-world.html

But things changed a few months later when I happened to pass by the couple on Broadway, mid-argument.  I was later informed that was the break up conversation I had passed by on the streets of New York.  And so wonderment stirred inside of me once more - could there some day be something significant between me and this he?

Last month I attended another Jimmy Eat World show - this time in Indianapolis, this time not alone.  A different he stood beside me - a he who I know would be far better for me than the one who stood at a distance at the show 3 years ago.

After the show in Indy... (stay tune for part 2)

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Last Night

Just before midnight I headed down the shore one last time until who knows when.  Although I've walked the shore late at night plenty of times before, this time it felt different because I knew this was good bye.  So I walked more slowly, taking in the dome of stars over the lake, as if they might not be there again, or I might not return.

In front of the Big Dipper, I turned my back on the lake and on the stars and walked the steps up to the yellow cottage sitting on top of the hill.  The guy from down the shore and I had planned a final hurrah my final night before heading to New York.  He had promised me to take me to the tree bar that he and his closest friends had built in the middle of the woods, somewhere mid-way through their disc golf course.

I arrived as the guy from down the shore was finishing up his fantasy football selections.  I've never been into fantasy football, but I'll admit, I have fantasized about having my wedding at the Big House (i.e. Michigan's football stadium), and walking through the tunnel onto the field, rather than down some church aisle to the front of a church.  But I didn't mention this to the guy from down the shore because guys tend to think it's odd when girls start planning their weddings when they're not even dating anyone. 

The guy from down the shore readied two lanterns, and we made our way through the thick of the woods to enjoy our final night together over a few beers at the Tree Bar.
The Tree Bar * Blue Moon beer selection inspired by the one who is new
My sister suggested the week before, "You've had to have hooked up by now."

To her surprise I answered, "No.  Actually, we haven't." 

When I mentioned to him what my sister had said, he replied, "Yeah, everyone thinks that."  The funny thing is, I would have thought it too.  In fact, I would have bet $20 on it back in January that at some point this year we would have kissed.  But we didn't, and I'm now thankful that it didn't happen, because our friendship remains intact without complication or potential weirdness.

Although one of his best friends often referred to him as my lake boyfriend, in actuality, the guy from down the shore was one of the best non-romances I've ever had.  His consistent presence in my life, amidst the chaos of mine, was a gift in helping me get through one of the hardest years I've experienced thus far. 

Dear Guy from Down the Shore, If you happen to be reading, THANK YOU!!!  for being there for me this past year.  Best of luck on your return to Italy and in life!  Hope to see you at least once a summer from here on out.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Two Thursdays Ago

Two Thursdays ago I went on a mission to recover my identity.  It was stolen in Chicago three years ago and this was my first trip back to the Windy City.

I had a physical address on the south side of Chicago - to an apartment that opened up a Comcast account under my name, and ran up a $1200 tab that eventually sent a collections agency after me.

I had to prove I've never lived in Chicago, which was actually more tricky than you'd think.  They requested utility bills from my homes in NYC and California.  But since I lived in student housing in both locations, I had zero utility bills to show proof of my Illinois-free existence.  Thankfully they cleared my record with a couple of paychecks and my moving company bill.

Still, even after setting things straight with Comcast and the collections agency, it's on my permanent record that I once lived at 4330 S. Forrestville Ave. Apt. 2, Chicago, IL 60653 even though I didn't.

Far Left, 4330 S. Forrestville Ave. Chicago, IL 60653
Since I had never lived there, I wanted to find out who had - preferably, without getting shot.  The home is between East 43rd and 44th streets.  Although the street looks nice, my friend Will later told me that even as a big, brown, Mexican dude, he won't go near the area.

But since he post warned me, rather than fore warned me, Friday, around 3, I dropped by the street to see if I might find answers to who had lived in the apartment when the Comcast account had opened.

After identifying the house, I circled the blocked and parked further down the street.  I snapped a few photos, and deliberated what to do.  With the mail lady walking door to door, the street seemed safe enough for me to exit my vehicle, so I did.

I went up to the mail lady, hoping she might somehow be able to help me out.  But legally, she couldn't.  But since she was walking up and down the street, I decided to knock on the door, thinking I'd be greeted by someone who was from apartment 1 - not the apt 2, listed on my Comcast bill. 

(* I hoped to obtain the name and phone number of the landlord from one of the other apartments, and then later on follow up the landlord to find out who was on the lease at the time the Comcast account opened up.)

I didn’t have much of a conversation game plan when I knocked.  But I did think to not say I was Katrina.  Instead, I introduced myself to the twenty-something girl who answered, by saying, “Hi. I’m Kate.” (I trusted that with my glasses on, I wouldn’t be recognized as the same girl from my California License that I’d imagined was clipped to the refrigerator in apt 2.)
I explained that I was trying to get ahold of someone who lived in the building a few years ago.  “Is this apartment 2?”  The girl informed me it wasn't an apartment building and that the entire place was one unit.  I stumbled through the remainder of our conversation. When I asked how long she had live in the home, the girl claimed it was her sister's place, and she didn't really know.

I left a note with my name - Kate - and cell phone number.  And ask the girl to have her sister give me a call. 

The mail lady was still going up and down the street.  I noticed another lady, probably in her mid-forties, was helping an old man move a few boxes into his vehicle.  From a distance, I could hear them laughing.  They seemed friendly enough to drop by for a chat, so I walked their direction and asked, "By chance, have you lived on this street for a while?"
The woman answered, "Yep. 6 years."
"Do you happen to know who lives in that home on the far end?"  I pointed. 

I explained I was trying to get in touch with someone who lived their a few years ago, and was wondering if the same person still resides there.

"Nawh, I just know the guy who lives next door to that place."

"Oh, would happen to have his number?"

"Sorry.  No, I don't."  She shook her head.

"Oh, well, would you mind passing on my name (Kate) and number on to him?"

"Sure.  I could do that."  She agreed.

Awesome, I thought, as I scribbled out my undercover name and cell phone number on a piece of paper and handed it to the nice lady.  I thought for sure, with 2 leads, I'd have the name of the man who thefted my identity by the end of the weekend.

But no such luck.  Neither party called, and I still don't know who opened a Comcast account under my name in Chicago.

But I do believe real estate records are public - somewhere - so someday, I will find the name of this individual who not only likes to watch cable, but also messed with my paypal account, and tried to change my last name with my cell phone company.
 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Young Me Is Still Me

They say your temperament and who you are surfaces in your early years. 

I think my pre school and kindergarten teachers could still be used as references.

Yes, I may have struggled a bit with tying my shoes at the age of four, but my preschool teacher also noted the following about me:

"Katrina is a very mature little girl.  Her skills and intelligence are very fine.  She is cheerful and cooperative.  I am glad she is in my class." 

Less than a year later my kindergarten teacher wrote another rave review.

"Katrina gets along well with others.  She is quite serious about her work, and follows directions and works nicely independently."

But the best performance evaluation ever, is the one my preschool teacher sent home to my parents' on a heart cut out of construction paper.

"Katrina was a joy today.  She smiled, talked, made a valentine, and jumped on the trampoline.  She did not cry." ~Mrs. J.

Funny, I still love trampolines, and strongly believe trampolines coupled with karaoke could lead to world peace.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Ferritin Secret Part V

Right as I was laying down to go to sleep, my cell phone rang.  It was sometime after 1 AM, and I didn't recognize the number.  I answered anyway, and I'm glad I did.

It was my acquaintance friend - a professional athlete (long jumper) and trainer - calling from Southern California.  My rock climbing friend Carlos introduced me to her this past spring, and not only is she an amazing athlete, she's also one smart chic. 

We chatted for nearly an hour as she filled me in on all that she knows about iron deficiency and ferritin levels from working in the athletic world.  She explained, what science knows about ferritin, a person's ferritin levels shouldn't matter all that much.  But, she continued, athletes in her training circles KNOW that they do, and a ferritin level below 25 will begin to negatively impact an athlete's training and performance.

Again, I was at 4.  Now at a 12.  I've done much reading that recommends women aim for a ferritin level above 50 to avoid fatigue and exhaustion.  I'd imagine at least a third of the women in the US have at one time or another experienced the negative impacts of iron deficiency.  Primarily, I think, because women in the US have been swayed to believe "milk does a body good."  But when it comes to iron absorption, an abundance of calcium in a women's diet isn't all that helpful.

Here is the update e-mail I wrote my doctor a couple of weeks ago:

Dear Dr. _______ ,
GREAT NEWS!  I started taking iron pills regularly again – 2 a day with orange juice following my work outs.  Already, I feel like a brand new person.
I didn’t realize how iron deficient I still was – as a runner - until after we spoke a couple of weeks ago.
I was struggling, wondering how I could feel like I was dying the past couple of months when my blood work registered normal.  My increasing heart palpitations and breathing issues concerned me most.  After you confirmed I wasn’t dying, I wondered if I might have an anxiety disorder, or that I might need anti-depressants to help me function better.
As it turns out, I just needed more oxygen.
After our phone conversation I sought to understand this thing called ferritin that you mentioned was in the normal range as a 12, but still on the low end of the spectrum.  My search led me to articles about running and low ferritin.  And, how really, as a runner, my ferritin levels ought to be above 20 (ideally, above 30), in order for my body and brain to function properly.  (* I found a correlation this past year that my body would also crash after participating in all day training seminars, where I was thinking A LOT.  I didn’t realize how much oxygen the brain needs for thinking, and how much I had been depriving mine.)
I had no idea ferritin levels are important as they are, and that ferritin levels drop when working out even when an athlete’s hemoglobin levels are normal.  No wonder I felt miserable.  And, especially so, last summer, and again this summer as I ran in hot, humid weather (foot strike hemolysis certainly didn’t help).  I wasn’t taking in enough iron to keep up with what I was losing.  (My mistake biggest mistake was lightening up on iron pills last summer - from 2 pills to 1- when my hemoglobin levels returned to normal.  When they registered normal again in September, I could only assume my body must be taking a hit for the hard stuff I’ve been through, rather than a lack of oxygen.  I let up on iron pills even more and started counseling.)
I also found it fascinating to learn that calcium - along with coffee, tea, caffeinated soda, and alcohol - inhibits the absorption of iron into your system.  I didn’t realize the iron in my cereal was being compromised by the milk I poured on top of it.  Or, drinking soda with my Shake Shack burger would minimize the amount of iron my body would receive.  Although vitamin C helps, I’m now careful to find orange juice that isn’t fortified with calcium to take with my iron pills right after my work outs.
I suspect and am concerned that many women are unknowingly starving their bodies of oxygen and facing headaches, fatigue, depression, and miscarriages all because the normal ferritin level for women has been set too low by the medical community.
I’m confused why the University of Michigan sets the minimum for ferritin at 6, the lab in New York at 10, and Health Wise/Web MD sets the level at 18.  Unfortunately the impact of low ferritin in women appears to be under researched.  I’m now on a mission to find scholarly support to write an article that I hope will help other women be more aware of the importance of their ferritin level.
One thing is for sure, LIFE is soooooo much better with OXYGEN!  J 

Thanks again for helping me in my journey to find answers to what has been going on with my body.  I know you recognized all my symptoms to be reflective of iron deficiency, I was just confused how I could still feel so miserable when I was no longer anemic.  Thanks for being patient with me on my last visit to see you.  Seriously, I’m super thankful to have a doctor who takes time with his patients.

Sincerely,

Katrina Blank

 A few of the more notable articles I found:

Article on by Dr. Melanie Schorr, MD
Medical School at John Hopkins
Residency at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston
Division 1 all American runner at Dartmouth College


Research Study
Effect of iron supplementation of fatigue in nonanemic menstruating women with low ferritin


More on running and low ferritin

What is ‘normal’?

For the average person, normal ferritin levels are quantified as 12-300 nanograms per milliter (ng/ml) for men and 12-150 ng/ml for women. To put it bluntly, an athlete running with a 12 ng/ml ferritin level will be feeling the effects of anemia and their training will be suffering. Runners need to be much higher on that scale.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Ferritin Secret Part IV

Towards the beginning of my book I write:

It’s funny, sad, and scary to me what we readily accept as truth.  I didn’t own a pair of flip flops until I was twenty-one because my mom convinced me early on in life that flip flops are dangerous.  She told me I would stub my toe if I wore them; I believed her and didn’t pester her for a pair, but I’ll admit, I was a bit jealous of my friends who owned several pairs.  I especially liked the neat-o flopping noise the shoes made.  All I had was a lousy pair of jelly shoes - which produced no noise - only sweat - and left strange imprints on my feet when I took them off at night.
My senior year of college I got a little wild on Spring Break and picked up a pair of flip flops at an Old Navy in Fort Lauderdale.  I think my mom was more disturbed by the flip flops than she was by the nose ring I also acquired while vacationing in Florida.  But I’ve learned that my mom is wrong about flip flops; I’ve been flopping for over ten years now and I have never stubbed a toe while wearing a pair.  To think, all those years I missed out on as a kid - I might need counseling.  And as I talk to my therapist I’ll tell her not only do I feel cheated by my mom, but by our educational system as well.
You see, when I was in fourth grade I made a model of the solar system for the school science fair.  I included the nine planets I had been learning about in class – Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus (the planet the boys always laugh about), Neptune, and Pluto.  For over 75 years teachers and science books insisted Pluto is the ninth planet in the Solar System.  But suddenly, in 2006, astronomers declared it was no longer a planet, and I was a bit perturbed.  As it turns out, Pluto is nothing more than a “dwarf planet” – whatever that means.  All I know is that the science community has been lying to little kids for years, and I can’t help but wonder how Walt Disney would feel knowing Mickey’s dog – named in honor of the planet’s discovery - is a phony.
The lies I have believed about flips flops and Pluto make me wonder: if my well-intentioned parents sometimes say things that are not true, if science sometimes teaches what is not true, then maybe, just maybe, people who appear to know a bit about Jesus sometimes fall short in presenting what is true. 

* Excerpt from I Hate Books on Christian Dating - A Memoir Journey Towards a Mysterious God

What's fascinating is that as I've wrestled with what I've been told and taught about the Christian faith, I've also been wrestling with what the medical world has been teaching women about their bodies.

The claim by science is that a woman's iron stores (i.e. her ferritin level) isn't all that important.  Yet, iron is needed for transmitting oxygen throughout the body, and women lose iron each month as they menstruate.  Unless a woman's hemoglobin levels drop, she won't be told she is iron deficient.  But I know from personal experience, a woman's hemoglobin levels can read normal and she can still be iron deficient.

The most prominent signs of iron deficiency:

headaches
fatigue
weakness
signs of depression

When it gets really bad, like it did with me, iron deficiency also leads to heart palpitations and breathing issues.

As I wrote a friend, "Perhaps all these women going gluten free to feel healthy just need iron pills, rather than a radical change in diet (with the exception of those with celiac disease, of course).  Iron deficiency causes headaches, fatigue, weakness, and signs of depression.  Hmmm... perhaps some women could use more oxygen rather than migraine medicine and anti depressants."

I promised I'd let up on Ferritin posts, but I have one left - the note I shared with my doctor.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Ferritin Secret Part III

The Ferritin THEORY

Early on in life I learned never to put a plastic bag over my head.  I'm not sure who taught me - probably my parents - but I grew up knowing it is dangerous to put a plastic bag over your face.  Again, I'm not sure who told me what, but I was well aware a plastic bag can prevent me from getting the oxygen my body needs.

What I didn't know, and what the medical world doesn't seem to understand, is low ferritin levels - especially in women - can have a similar effect as placing a plastic bag over your head.  An obstruction is present, blocking the way for you to receive the oxygen you need into your system.

What's tragic is many women are unknowingly starving their bodies of oxygen because the medical community decided some time ago ferritin levels aren't all that important (as long as your hemoglobin level is good) AND that women don't need blood work done as a part of their annual physical.  As a result many child bearing age women have unexplained fatigue, headaches, misdiagnosed depression and anxiety disorders, and miscarriages - all because their ferritin levels (iron stores) are far too low for what their bodies need to function properly.  Women are literally suffocating, but since the medical world insists they are okay, women can only assume the negative effects they are experiencing are simply a part of life.

Men, please keep reading.  If your wife isn't getting the oxygen she needs, she will also be too exhausted to have sex with you.  Really, this is important information for everyone.  Low ferritin levels also impact men as well as children and unborn babies.  But female athletes are most at risk.

Again, this is THEORY - one that I'm still researching.  But my hypothesis is, the medical world is setting the normal range for ferritin levels far too low for women, and especially for athletes.  Granted, I think HealthWise (quoted by web MD and Wikipedia), is on the right track with a base level of 18.  But the medical world varies in their claim of what is healthy.  For instance, my lab in New York says 10, while the University of Michigan sets the minimum at 6.

So why did I feel like I was dying when my ferritin level - a 12 - fell within my lab's normal range?

(Part IV: My Ferritin Story - then back to "normal" posts, I promise.)
     

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Ferritin Secret Part II

"Katrina, you’re getting too old not to be plucking your eyebrows.  You really need to start shaping them.” 

Thanks mom.  I’m also getting too old not to be having sex.  What’s wrong with my eyebrows?  It’s not like I have a una-brow or anything like that.  And I’ve seen the horrendous effects of excessive plucking and accidental waxing.  Eyebrows are already weird enough, but then women go and make them look even weirder.  I just don’t get it. 

My mom expressed her concern about my eyebrows the same year my dad sat me down and told me that he and my mother would really like for me to see a gynecologist.  I told them I would, but only if they paid for it.  I didn’t have health insurance at the time and I wasn’t about to fork over money to be molested in the name of medicine.

My parents agreed to pay and so for my 24th birthday they gave a trip to the gynecologist.  To date, it’s the most unique and worst birthday present I’ve ever received.

At the age of 29 I finally conceded to getting my eyebrows waxed, and even signed up for another gynecologist appointment on my own.  (Gosh, I must be making my parents proud.)

But when I went in to see the doctor (a female doctor this time), she told me a pap smear wasn’t really necessary.  She informed me it’s nearly impossible to get cervical cancer or an STD when you aren’t and never have been sexually active.  That’s right.  I’m a 30 year old virgin.

She performed the test anyway and a week later I received the results in the mail.  Sure enough - I passed!  I proudly showed my test results to several of my coworkers, successfully making my friend Rick feel horribly uncomfortable. 
 
* Out take excerpt from the original version of I Hate Books On Christian Dating (when it was actually a book on dating rather than the book it has evolved into today.)  I wrote that 5 years ago, and tonight I write this:
 
What I really could have used at age 24, and at 29 is a blood test, rather than a pap smear.  But for some reason, the medical world decided some time ago, blood work isn't all that important for young women who are losing blood from their bodies on a regular basis. 
 
I noticed in my early twenties I'd often get some sort of sickness each month on top of my normal period symptoms.  As the frequency of illness with my periods increased, I looked online to see if there was a solution to prevent my above and beyond PMS ailments.  But all I could find were discussion boards with other girls having similar sickness issues coupled with their periods.
 
Instead of finding a way to get healthy, I simply accepted my weakened immune system as part of being female.  It made sense to me my body would have a difficult time fighting sickness after preparing an egg each month.  This is "normal" and what women should expect - right?

Or is it?

 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Ferritin Secret Part I

April 2013... on a Monday...

"Now don't go and have some sort of existential crisis."  She picked up on my hesitancy, and continued to try and sell me on a job I wasn't so certain about.  She was a job recruiter in New York, and she had me in mind to work as an administrative assistant at a hedge fund company.  I thought we'd be discussing at least 12 potential job possibilities and she only had 1 - 1 that I wasn't all that interested in. The pay was decent, but $20,000 less than I had anticipated, and although I knew I could do the job well, if I was going to take a job I wasn't excited about, I wanted to at least be paid enough to pay off my grad school loans within a year or two.  (I'm at $30,000 plus 6.8% interest rate.)

As she tried to entice me with the $20 a day lunch money the company offers its employees (which sounded like a weight gaining plan), I tried to recall the meaning of existential crisis.  I knew it had something to do with freaking out with where you are at in life, but I was uncertain of the specifics.  As the woman (a Reed College graduate) continued on to tell me how this job would be a great way for me to get settled back in the city, I noted I should look up existential crisis later on to make sure I fully understood what she was telling me not to go and do.

Dictionary.com says, "An existential crisis is a moment at which an individual questions the very foundations of his or her life: whether his or her life has any meaning, purpose or value.[1] This issue of the meaning and purpose of existence is the topic of the philosophical school of existentialism."

I think her warning was 20 minutes too late, because before our meeting, as I waited in the corner office on the 23rd floor, I took a moment to look out the window and stare at the city streets below.  As I took in the tiny taxis and miniature people on ground level, I noted, I was staring the same distance the girl fell out the window and to her death in the building where I had lived and worked with college students.

As I took my seat behind the table, and pulled out my planner and pen, I considered, really, I'd like to help save lives with whatever it is that I do next.  If only I didn't have grad school debt from Fuller Seminary, I wouldn't even be considering such a position working as an administrative assistant.  I knew my gifts were as such that I could be starting up my own non-profit.  BUT I feel paying off my student loan debt takes priority to my dreams and ambitions.  Then again, so does my health.  I seemed to be getting somewhat better over the course of the winter months, but since the end of March, I seemed to be relapsing.  Was I even healthy enough to get a full time job and be back in New York City?  And why was my health still poor - what was wrong with me?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Bleecker

Meet Bleecker the Pomeranian. 


Bleecker is one of the reasons I returned to New York last week.  His owner had to do important law work in Zambia (Africa), so Bleecker and I got to hang out and play together in the financial district.


We'd go for walks, brightening people's days by his cuteness and friendly disposition.  Literally, everywhere we went people would turn, stare, and make some sort of comment.  Many requested to pet Bleecker, and some even wanted a photo with him, because really, he's that freaking adorable. 


On our final walk, as Bleecker stopped to say hello to a BIG dog, the big dog owner observed, "He's seems to be a happy dog.  And he certainly doesn't fear anything."  I'm not a dog expert, but I think the man's dog was a large pit bull.  I agreed.  Bleecker is a happy dog and isn't afraid of anything.  (With the exception of going down steps too steep - then he'd halt at the top of the stairs and wait for me to pick him up and carry him down.)

I pondered the man's comment as we made our way back to Teresa's place.  Happy and not afraid of anything.  I wished for a moment I was more like Bleecker, because last week (and for several weeks prior) I was terrified there was something significantly wrong with my body.  I haven't felt well for over 2 years, and my health was rapidly getting worse.  A visit to my doctor in NYC is another reason why I returned to the city last week. 

Yesterday I spoke with my doctor on the phone and learned my illness isn't terminal.  It will take some time before I'm back to me, but I'm thrilled to know that what I have is treatable.  Today was the first day in the past couple of months I woke up confident I'm not dying, rather than wondering how much time I might have left.  #Relieved  Will write more on the journey soon...

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Towers Part I

Over a week ago I awoke to my brother’s request that I venture across the lake and take a photo for his radio station.  He mentioned something about a news story, and I mentioned something about hardly being conscious at such an early hour in the day (it wasn't even noon). 

My brother Mike works for a public radio station out of Detroit and in waking up I was confused why his station might want a photo for the airwaves.  Mike continued on to say something about their station’s website and that if I took this photo, I’d receive credit for my photo journalism efforts.  I told him I wasn’t feeling all that well at the moment (true story), but perhaps later in the day I could get a few photos to him.

Across the lake from my parents' place are two towers people use to climb to gain a better view and perspective of the area.  First opened in 1924, for decades tourists and travelers would stop at the towers en route from Detroit to Chicago.  Long before the 94 freeway was built, horse drawn carriages and model-Ts would pass through the Irish Hills area on US-12.  But at the end of the millennium, the towers were deemed unsafe, and this summer, after failed attempts to raise funds to restore the towers, these twin towers are in the process of being demolished.

Towers in the back behind my former student Zach

These towers have been my half way point when I go for my longer, 10 K runs around the lake.  Before I flew out to New York the tops of the Towers had been removed, and I suspect by the time I return, they’ll be gone.  To be honest, it’s odd to me that something that has been a landmark for years could so quickly disappear from the skyline. 

 
This past week I’ve been staying near where the twin towers of Manhattan, New York once stood.  I’m reminded that in this world, no structure or empire stands forever.  I’m convinced the US will continue to crumble in the century ahead.  On a micro level, student loan debt acquired by graduates (at a corrupt 6.8% interest rate) WILL forfeit the disposable income the economy needs to keep businesses up and running.  Meanwhile, cities like Detroit are paying $1,000 an hour to lawyers to declare bankruptcy.  (This is even more than what Teresa’s law firm bills an hour in NYC, and double the amount Cher’s dad in the movie Clueless charges.)  In the US, balancing budgets seems to be more like to be an idealistic idea, rather than a necessary goal we MUST achieve.  Those in DC are our nation’s worst example - those in office appear to have few qualms in increasing the national debt each year.  As long as they retain their positions in office, and maintain their upper middle class status, why fret?

I shouldn’t be writing on politics. 

But as I learned from one of my Prof’s in grad school, whether we want to acknowledge it or not, everything is political.  From clean drinking water to electricity to education to health care – everything comes with political strings attached.  And just like everything is political, everything is also spiritual and I believe there are forces in our universe actively seeking to destroy what is good.
 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Nun Life 101

"You know how to surf?!"  I nodded yes.  "Holy Jealousy!"  My friend Kate, now Sister Fiat Marie, exclaimed.  She went on to tell me how surfing is one of the first things she wants to do once she's in heaven.  I think even before she meets Peter, Paul, and Mary.

I ran into Sister Kate while I was out for a run in Michigan a few weeks ago.  Her family has a place on the west shore of our lake, but Kate has been in New York City, living as a nun for nearly a decade.  She "enlisted" at age 26, and has been wearing her nun garb ever since - even when she plays tennis and basketball. She explained to me she simply pins up her outfit so she can get around better while she is out on the courts.  (I didn't ask if nuns get a choice in their bra wear - like, if she's allowed to wear a sports bra.  You'd hope the Pope would at least grant the nuns some leeway in their undergarments and perhaps even allow them to own a piece or two from Victoria Secret.)

For a number of years Kate's order (i.e. nun group), was located in Harlem.  There, they were known for being the nuns on roller blades who would block off their street and play field hockey.  Their order is also known for taking in young women who are in a crisis pregnancy situations and simply loving on them through the pregnancy and for the first few months after they give birth.

Now, I'm not pregnant, but still, Kate invited me to visit her convent upon my return to New York.  So this past Sunday my friend Ariel and I visited Kate's convent home on 51st Street.  I explained to my friends at church that night, "You know, I'm just exploring various career possibilities."

To be perfectly honest, I'm shocked Kate became a nun - not because she isn't a good Catholic, but rather because in high school, Kate liked to laugh a lot and play pranks on people.  She's far from a serious person, so I'm kind of surprised they let her in.  In seeing her, I asked, "So do you all play pranks on each other at the convent."  A sheepish look came over her face, and she started in, "Well, actually..."  She filled me in on this statue of Mary at their convent that isn't the most pleasant looking.  The nuns nicknamed the statue Scary Mary and one of their favorite pranks is to sneak Scary Mary into random places throughout the convent.  You know, someone goes to take a shower, or opens a closet, and there's Scary Mary, out of nowhere.

Ariel and I intend to return to the convent when I return to the city this fall, so here is first blog entry of my ongoing nun series.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Filinda

It has been a long, long while since I've shared this with anyone.  As a reader of my blog, I think it's something you should know.  I came across this story as I was digging up old writing files and since it's too hot to write new material in NYC this week (ha! excuses!), here's a brief bit from my writing archives.

I suppose you should know that my name hasn’t always been Katrina.  When I was born my parents named me Filinda – Filinda Blank.  They didn’t think anything of it at the time; they simply thought Filinda was a pretty name for their daughter.  But that changed once I got into grade school.  In first and second grade teachers started handing out those worksheets you would slowly fill out with the entire class one blank at a time.  As we came to each blank space, and a correct answer was given, the teacher would instruct us to, “Fill in the blank.”  The kids in my class eventually noticed the similarity between my name and the teacher’s request to “Fill in the blank.”  And so they began to tease me all the time.  “Fill in the blank.  Filinda Blank.  Ha Ha Ha That’s your name.”  By the end of 2nd grade I was so completely traumatized by their frequent teasing that my parents decided to have my name legally changed to Katrina. 

Now, I have to confess, the Filinda story is not a true story, but I sure like to tell it.  Ironically, since the hurricane destroyed New Orleans and my birth-given name, I have contemplated having my name legally changed to Filinda.  After all, one can only handle so many comments and teasing about their name.