Thursday, January 22, 2015

Week 2

When I worked at summer camp years ago, every week of the summer was numbered. We'd talk about Week 1, Week 2, etc. and wrap up the summer after Week 11, when the weekly kids programs would end, and the guy I was dating in 1996 would break things off with me at the base of teepee village, near canoe beach, with a kiss on my cheek, and the words, "You're going to meet a lot of studs at U of M."

I never did (i.e. meet any studs at U of M), and he apparently didn't meet any wonder women at his college. Because mid-year, shortly after Valentine's Day, he came knocking with an apology, and the plea to give him a second chance. He won me back in a heart beat; however, he dropped me again do to "irreconcilable" career pursuits, and perhaps the freshmen 15 I had gained while feasting on bagels in my dorm's cafeteria. How cruel a world it was back then, when everyone was into low-fat, keeping women like me ignorant of the fact that a diet filled with carbs is certain to pack pounds on to anyone.

But that's a different story, for a different time. I just wanted to mention counting by weeks and my decision to do the same to track my So Cal experience this winter season. Week 1 started when I arrived, Sunday, January 11.

For most of the week 1, I simply got acquainted with the town I'm living in. One day I discovered a nearby park that offers free QiGong classes. Last time I was in So Cal for a short stint, I took up free improv classes, and had been hoping to try something new this time too. Since QiGong class was free, I decided to give it a go at the end of my first week. Since then I've decided to integrate this class as a regular part of my week.
Initially I had hoped to take scuba diving classes, but with my health still being weird, and scuba diving classes being costly, I figured this was a better option for the time being. Although, someday, I still hope to get certified and then go diving in Indonesia, where my friend Jacinda lives, and some other guy who I hardly know insisted I come to visit.

My QiGong instructor is from Calcutta, India and has a delightful accent and tells stories from time to time about Tibet (which, for the first half of my life, I thought was a make believe place, that my camp friend Al had made up). One day she explained how the old people there will wear a special belt, with a large circular pad that covers their lower back to help keep their kidneys warm amidst the cooler temperatures, and unheated living spaces. She explained that it's good to keep our kidneys warm, and beneficial to our bodies to drink warmer liquids rather than to shock our systems with cold beverages, especially in the winter season.

Funny, how my dad has been drinking hot water for years, not knowing the benefit he has been bringing to his body by doing so.

Of course, all this stuff about keeping your kidneys warm could be crap, and simply a tradition passed down by the people of Tibet from one generation to the next. But I like to think there are many "best practices" and beneficial practices out there pertaining to our health, and they don't necessarily all stem from Western medicine.

Which is why I'm taking this Chinese-based QiGong class. The simple exercises are supposedly beneficial for your immune system and energy levels. We even do a slew of exercises that are intended to help your internal organs, like your liver.

And my blood work continues to indicate I have compromised liver function, which isn't a huge surprise since that's where the malaria parasite hangs out, and where it probably did some damage having been left untreated in my body for so long. Who knows if these exercises will help at all, but certainly they can't hurt.

Along with QiGong, at the end of "Week 1" I had the opportunity to do some climbing. As I posted on facebook...

last night i returned "home" with scraped up knees, calloused hands, and chipped fingernails... super grateful for the opportunity to rock it out yesterday ‪#‎NewJackCity‬ ‪#‎RockClimbing‬ (even with my energy levels at one/fifth the normal person, i choose to live... please pray that i can find a unique job opportunity that requires only 20% the energy of a normal one... and/or that God would hurry up and heal my body from ‪#‎CFS‬ already!)
Pictured below is my friend Joyce, sprawled out like Spiderman at the top of the climb. Jen in red, is at the bottom, assuring her safety as her belayer. I also climbed this nearly 70 foot route, getting two-thirds the way up thinking, "What in the world am I doing?"
I thought the same thing as I was driving through Iowa on my way out West. "What am I thinking? I can't do this. My body isn't strong enough to make the trek." But I kept climbing to the top, just as I stayed on the road to California. When I arrived in Lincoln, Nebraska, I considered the conditions I drove through my first day out and thought, There are 99 ditched cars between Michigan and Colorado, and mine ain't one of them.

So I've made it to California, and am settling in. Yet the question remains: now what?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Keep the Light On

Yesterday I woke up on an air mattress.

I did the same today and I'll do the same tomorrow. And the day after that, and the day after that, and the day after that. For at least the next two months, my air mattress will be my portable bed for wherever I end up staying the night. (Primarily, I'll be staying with my friend, Jen, in Redlands, but it's likely that I'll be bouncing a bit too, as I hope to spend my weekends closer to the ocean and my church in Hollywood.)

It's not that I'm opposed to sleeping on an air mattress. But in sleeping on one I'm reminded I'm still unsettled, still a vagabond, and I've been living this way for two and a half years, ever since I lost my health to an African illness and my possessions to a hurricane.

I panicked for a day, wondering if I had made a mistake in returning to California for the winter season. What am I doing here? I questioned, as I turned to my air mattress for an answer.

On my first night back I journaled, "And I made it... and I'm so overwhelmed, having no clue why I am here back in Cali, yet knowing it's the very place I needed to come to keep my spirit alive."

Michigan winters are brutal. I knew it wasn't the location to process my reality that there's a good possibility I may never be well enough to work a full time job again. A part of me hopes that someday I might be able to support myself with my writing. I've been receiving enthusiastic response to my first book, and comments encouraging me to keep at my next one.

One friend wrote to me on my facebook: LOVED your book!!!!! Please hurry up and finish the next one! Lol

Another stated: The worst part of reading your book was knowing that I would have to wait awhile until the second one! I really enjoyed it.

On Tuesday, I sat down at a coffee shop to start on my 2nd book.

And I resisted. Even though I already have an outline for my 2nd book, the last thing I want to do is write another one. Writing a book is a lot of work. It's exhausting.

But then today I remembered, yes, it isn't easy, but writing is a gift that God has given me, and it's a gift that may someday be able to help me get off my air mattress, and into a for real bed.

So I wrote some this afternoon, not much, but I did write. And I'll keep writing these next two months. And, as the Sunday night sermon encouraged (see for podcasts), I'll be seeking to keep my light on.
Hank, who spoke, informed us, that even Oprah, a woman who has the world, keeps a gratitude journal. I may be sleeping on an air mattress, but I couldn't be more grateful for sunshine, palm trees, and mountain views.

Last night I climbed Mount Rubidoux, praying the prayer, over and over, "Jesus, heal my body... Jesus, heal my body." I'm not sure He ever will, but I'm going to keep asking Him to restore my body to full health. And as I learn to accept my present, I will seek to embrace the gift of now that He has given me.

Monday, January 12, 2015

I've Arrived!

A trunk full of books, surfboard up top, guitar & clothes in back, and my snowboard riding shot gun... from Michigan to Nebraska to Denver to Vegas to Hollywood...

A week ago I packed up my car and started my drive out West.

It wasn't easy.

And I hope to never ever make that trek alone again.

(* Although, it was beneficial that I could put Spice Girls on repeat and sing over and over "So tell me what you want, what you really, really want..." as a means to help me stay alert, without annoying anyone else.)

But I'm glad I pushed myself to make the drive.

And as I stepped foot into my church in Hollywood last night, I knew I had made the right decision to return to the West Coast for this winter season.

Thankfully, while en route, I was able to pause for a couple of nights in Denver and to reconnect with a half dozen friends. I stayed with an old college housemate (who made me a steak dinner & tiramisu dessert), grabbed coffee with an old California housemate, and had a fun evening at the Yardhouse downtown, with some Spring Hill camp friends.

I had maybe wanted to reconnect with my ex-boyfriend too, to say the good bye that we never got to say in person, but instead we simply exchanged a few texts. Nice texts. Texts that communicated that we're still rooting for each other in life, even though things didn't pan out romantically between us.

From Denver I ventured to Vegas, where I stayed with a friend who I had roomed with at Forest Home summer camp a dozen years ago. There's a story I'd eventually like to share involving her, a napkin, and my life in New York, but for now, know that I know too many people, and I may have landed a good story for a future book.

After a Friday night in, and Saturday night out in Vegas, Sunday I finally arrived to Southern California, where I'll be until, well... I don't exactly know when. If God opens the doors for me to stay, I'll stay. But it was so good to walk the stars in Hollywood last night, and to see snow covered mountains, while walking through the shadows of Palm Trees, in 60 degrees temperatures as I was out and about today.

My friend Bryan told me years ago, "Katrina, you have a California heart. You just seem to belong here."

I think perhaps I do. But we'll see.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

From the Third Floor

"Life is like riding a bicycle," explains Albert Einstein. "To keep your balance, you must keep moving." And moving is what I'll be doing this week, as I drive cross country to California, with a trunk full of books, and surfboard strapped on top of my car, not knowing exactly when I'll be returning.

This Einstein quote started the sermon I heard this morning, where at the end of the service, I went to the prayer area and rounded up a few people to pray for me, for complete healing of my body. I had wanted to do this last Sunday, the day I took my final malaria pill, but I didn't get the memo that the service time had been changed. I arrived just in time for the closing songs which I naively thought to be the opening songs, until the closing benediction was prayed over us.

Still, after making the 45 minute drive to Ann Arbor, I wanted to attend a church service, so I quickly departed that church, and ventured a couple of miles down the road to the Lutheran church I attended my first semester of college. The parking was a bit tricky. I ended up parking a few lots away and hopping over a fence to get to church. Thankfully, I wasn't wearing a dress, so I could easily navigate the short cut. (I later realized, it's not so adult-like, let alone lady-like, to be hopping fences when you're in your mid-thirties. Oh well. At least no one was looking.)

I arrived mid-sermon, as the pastor was sharing the story of how he experienced God at work in finding the perfect home for his dog that he could no longer house. His story reminded me of our dog Doobie, who was named after a joint, that my family took on when a woman from our church showed up at our home distressed, crying to my mom about how the man she was going to marry in a few days didn't want Doobie. (He was a widower, and felt his 5 kids were already a lot to handle.) Her tears convinced my mom to take on Doobie, which we naively didn't know was named after marijuana until a decade later. Well after, my Dad stood on the front porch of our home in Down River Detroit, and frequently called after him. "Doobie. Doobie. Doobie, where are you? DOOOOOOOOBIIIE"

My Dad was a pastor at the time.

But the pastor at the Lutheran church last Sunday morning was trying to make the point that sometimes it's in the little things that we can see God at work. It's not always just about the stories, where for instance, someone falls out a thir... story window and lands safely on the ground.

I didn't catch if he said third or thirty, so I asked him on my way out of the church, but he couldn't recall what he had said. But his example, of what he framed to be a unlikely way God might work stuck with me, because I knew someone who had "fallen" out of a third floor window.

I met the man in Times Square a few summers ago and we ended up grabbing drinks. Over conversation I learned he was in Haiti when the major earthquake struck in 2010 and he felt a strong pull to jump out the third story window where he was at the time. If he hadn't stepped out the window, the floors above him would have crumbled on top of him to his death. But he felt this force to jump, and he landed bruised up a bit, but he lived.

He explained to me that it felt like some sort of God thing, yet he didn't exactly believe in God, so he felt like it was this force that spared him his life.

Kind of like how we had met in Times Square, he explained. A similar force brought us together, he tried to convince me.


Anyway, the man was in the town for meetings at the UN, happens to own a gold mine, and has played basketball with the President a few times.

The past several weeks, he has been on my mind (not for dating reasons), but I have experienced a prompting that I should get back in touch with him. After that Sunday morning example, I'm all the more convinced I should shoot him an e-mail this week. Again, I don't know exactly why, but sometimes in life things stir in you and perhaps it's the Holy Spirit, and perhaps it's not. But you mind as well move forward and see... and see what God does with it.