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 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.