Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Happy New 'You'!

Have you ever thought of "The New Year" like tax season?
-It is proceeded by a couple of months of stress and craziness-
-You must pinch your pennies and find ways to make ends meet before its over-
-All of your hard work from the months before pays off on a single day-
-Things will be "NEW" with the final pay off before the hard work begins again-
The new year's eve party is like the day you receive your tax return. It's full of hope for the future, plans for change and excitement over how filling your life with something "New" will change everything.
Granted, if your doing it correctly, the party is more public and the aftermath less devastating, but the anticipation and reward are often very similar.
On Sept. 11, 2009, my pay off arrived. It was the culmination of years of sickness, exhaustion, pain, and the deterioration of my body all wiped away in a single morning. My older brother gave me his kidney. I awoke from the surgery on that day feeling more alive and vibrant than I's felt in 15 years.
This wasn't New Years Day though. So...Why tell this story?
The New Year's eve of 2008I went to my mother's house, ate junk food, played cards with my family and celebrated the coming of 2009. New Year's Day...I didn't wake up.
During the night after my husband and I drove home and put the kids to bed, my blood sugar crashed. This meant that I had so little sugar in my blood, my body wasn't capable of its normal processes. Erik found me that morning, turning blue, stiff and cold. He thought I'd died until he felt a whisper of breath beneath my nostrils and found a faint pulse. He called an ambulance and took me to the ER where for the next twelve hours they pumped fluids, sugar and medication into my veins. I did not however, wake up.
Occasionally I'd open my eyes and ask what happened or where was I, but I was unconscious again before he could answer. My brain had shut down. Much like an overworked computer, it refused to reboot. He finally went home to check on our kids around midnight, never knowing whether or not I'd awaken ever again.
Well...I did and over the next 8 months I had to be taken by ambulance to the hospital another half dozen times. The final time before the kidney transplant, my doctors discovered a medication I was taking was stopping my heart.
Three weeks later I had the transplant.
The four months following the surgery started off with my family happily clutching our "tax return" and planning a better future. However...
Due to the high levels of anti-rejection drugs in my body I was too weak to function. My normal weight of 110 pounds dropped to 91. There were days when I couldn't get out of bed. The days when I could, I'd prop my body against a wall, the kitchen counter or the furniture until I could get my kids off to school and then I'd collapse. By the time New Years Eve rolled around again, we wondered if we'd made a terrible mistake.
Recovery was a daily battle for over nine months. Eventually though, the long hard year paid off.
Like all of our most important moments in life, the one's that truly change us aren't calendered. The beginning of the new year is a great time to plan and resolve to do better, to make this year the best ever, but the truth is far different.
Different being the key word. 2009 was the year when my life changed for the better. In a large portion due to the four hour surgery and gift of my brother's kidney. The rest of the year was not so glorious if I look at it one day at a time though. Sept. 11 was "the day" when the world, the future and life seemed on the brink of glorious things. The days before and after though were the 'difference' in my resolution to be a good wife, mother, and person coming true. It wasn't the celebration day that changed me as much as the journey there and back again.
When you blow your horns, light fireworks and yell Happy New Year bask in the moment when the year is brand new and full of promise.
Then lower your head, hold on to those you love and brace yourself. The celebration is over...but the New you is about to begin.
Happy New You!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

I Still Believe

The wonder of Christmas brings the holiday alive for me in the sparkling eyes and perpetual smiles of the children. Their anticipation, happiness and wonder as they await a visit from Santa Clause makes the shopping, crowds, and clean up worth while. Controversy rages over the idea that we lie to our children when we tell them about Santa Clause and his reindeer only to break it to them years later that Santa isn't real.
Well...there's the problem. Santa is real. When the sensible, realistic, mature members of society ask you to be rational and honest with your children about Santa Clause...Do it.
#1-Offer Proof. A few years ago, I was recovering from a transplant that nearly killed me. The organ only lasted 30 hours, I bled into my digestive tract and I was hospitalized for two weeks. Erik missed work, drove back and forth between Salt Lake City a number of times and pickens were slim. My oldest was in and out of Juvenile detention and between the court costs, the missed work for arraignment and the fees and fines, my other kids didn't have much of a Christmas to look forward to.
Christmas Eve arrived with the sound of the doorbell just as we were putting the kids in bed. When we opened the door we were met with stacks of wrapped presents and a red bag full of treats, toys, and a jar full of cash and change. I swear I heard reindeer hooves on the front lawn!
-#2. Take proof of the opposite opinion. A lady I know is spending Christmas alone as her son, daughter-in-law, and grandson are stationed in Okinawa, Japan. "Santa was a fun idea," she told me. "When my son was little. This time of year is just lonely and empty because all of the hope and joy surrounding Santa Clause is missing without kids in your life." I watched this dear lady receive secret treats and gifts every day for two weeks before Christmas with no person delivering them. I watched members of her family, her friends and her neighbors deliver visits, hugs, and service to her, all followed by "Merry Christmas". If you don't believe because the holidays are  hard and no one is showing up with secret gifts or unconditional love, its not Santa who is missing. It's the people who work for him. The individuals who don't believe and forget that Santa is all about sharing, loving, and spreading anonymous Joy. Prove to me there is no Santa.
-#3. Santa is a myth, magic, Superstition...True. True. And True. The powerful magic Santa has is a gift God gave to the world in the birth of His son Jesus Christ. Santa spreads this magical power and shares his reputation the same way The Savior does. He is known all over the world by both believers and non-believers. To some he is as real as the jolly man in red who visits the mall. To some he is just an idea promoting love, generosity, and unselfishness. The bottom line is...He works for God. He finds the hearts and homes who need him. He fills the rafters and rooftops with hope and faith. He is a tool in the hand of God. Even if you don't believe...you can't deny He is in your life. Like it or not.
So if you'd like to criticize people who tell their children about Santa, ask yourself why? If Santa Clause works for God and we work to help Santa take care of those he can't reach...then All the world is touched by the love of God through Santa Clause and those of us who still believe. Those who believe in his mission, in his purpose and in his magic. I don't "break" it to my kids that there is no Santa. I believe there is. I've experienced his gifts of magic, love, unselfishness and hope throughout my life. Sometimes from his master and mine, Jesus Christ. Sometimes through his clandestine, visits and sometimes through the hearts and hands of the people who work for him. I tell my children that he is real because you can't prove to me he isn't. So whether you believe in the gifts of God, The jolly man in the red suit, or the boundless goodness of your fellowmen. It doesn't matter. You, too, Believe in Santa Clause!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Cut Your own Tree

"It's the day after Thanksgiving. Time to get our Christmas tree."
A chorus of groans erupts around the room. Okay...its not a chorus, it's just my mom. My brothers and sisters and I are excited. It was a tradition in my family every year and we loved it. After my Dad died when I was seventeen, it was too much for my mom to drag all the kids out to cut our own tree and the tradition died. My sister and I cut one some years ago when we were both in college. We had a great time and I didn't really understand why my mother dreaded the excursion.
Well mom...now I get it!
With the exception of a couple of years, my family cuts our own tree as well. When my husband learned of my dead family tradition, he reinstated it with our kids. I don't know if there is a  curse from Christmas tree farms everywhere, damning us to disaster or if its just my life, but every year something goes wrong.
If we're not fighting over who picked the best tree, or gets the last doughnut. We're driving through a snowstorm  in Tooele, Utah after sitting all day long in the INS offices. That year we pulled over in the blizzard, cut the first thing that looked like a pine tree and shoved it in the back of our car. We pulled pine needles out of the back of the car for years afterward.
The most memorable year though was a few years ago.
It was about 16 degrees and snowing, a magical feat when you live on the edge of the Mojave desert, but this Christmas it happened. We were headed for Dixie National forest with our permit, hoping we'd make it on the rutted muddy roads. After bouncing along for what seemed like days, we pulled over and Dad announced we'd be hiking over the next knoll to find our tree. The kids all jumped from the truck, making snowballs, throwing icicles at each other and falling in the mud. I hate the cold. I lack the ability to maintain my own body temperature even in the summer so I'm always cold. This day I was in 250 layers and still a Popsicle. When my husband said "uh-oh", I knew it would be a long day. "I forgot to bring a saw," he told us.
A Chorus of moans and groans later, Dad had a plan. Using a cement stake he found in the bed of the truck, and a hammer from his tool box, we'd break the tree off and then take it home and clean it up. With his confidence and my reluctance to start all over hours later, we trudged up the 'knoll'. A mud slide and a snowball fight later. we'd narrowed our choices down to three trees. My job was to sit by Dad's tree while he took the kids the forty miles between trees to look at each one. By the time they returned to my tree, I didn't care if we hung lights from my plastic potted tree in the living room at home. I was done.
A "winner" was finally chosen and Dad went to work with the cement stake.
Well, evidently, this tree was father by one from the petrified forest, because after we'd scarred the bark and battered the trunk for another hour, Mr. Tree wasn't budging.
Defeated, cold, wet and covered in mud, we agreed we'd have to come back...with a saw...the next day.
A heater in an old truck never felt so good. Sore but content to try again, we drove back to town, stopping to get gas for the return trip before going home. Now only six blocks from my fireplace and fuzzy socks, my husband groaned again. "The back tire is flat."
Even the kids complained this time. "Worse," he said, "I don't have a spare or a jack."
There's a lot more to this story, like our neighbor driving to our house and bringing us the tools and spare we needed, but the moral of the story is this...
We eventually got a tree and we eventually had to clean up the sap all over the floor, the dead needles in the rug and the fire hazard it became by Christmas day. More than all the trouble though is the memory.
We still laugh, grumble, and reminisce about the year we tried to cut our own tree with a cement stake. Our 'Charlie Brown' Christmas trees aren't majestic, gorgeous, or even shapely. They are...symbols of all the love, fun, forgiveness and laughter that cutting our own tree provides. I've heard a lot of people say-"I love your little tree. We don't cut our own because...its too much trouble, its too messy, we bought one a few years back that comes out of a box."
You're right about all of that. Those trees are probably prettier, cleaner, and less work. That's how we prefer our lives, right?
Our trees are often pathetic, ugly, or down right, painful to bring home. However, through it all, the time we spend with our kids and each other is worth the trial of the tree.
When life offers you the opportunity to ease your experiences from a box, or have them delivered neat and clean. Take a deep breath, strap on your hiking boots and say, "No thanks. I'll cut my own tree."

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Between Gethsemane and Golgotha

One of my favorite things about this time of year is the tendency we have as humans to become a little more divine. Our hearts, hands and even our wallets open for our brothers and sisters who aren't as fortunate as we are. The down side is that we also see those unfortunate fellow men and experience a bit of their pain as we reach out to them.
Over the past few months and especially these last few weeks I've heard the stories of family, friends and neighbors who find their health, their happiness and their hearts a bit heavy. Many of them have experienced long painful journeys that don't seem to end. Some are experiencing miracles but some are just beginning the climb. No matter where each finds themselves at this time of year. The example of our Savior still prevails.
My youngest son told me his shorthand version of 'The atonement' of The Savior. In his words..."The worst part was in Gethsemane, but it was all bad Mom. Even after the worst was past."
His simple, honest appraisal of The Savior's suffering weighed on me as I followed up with some of my suffering friends and family. "The Son Of Man hath descended below them all..." and yet we can't relate our own pain to his in any way. Why?
Imagine, if you will, such excruciating pain that you sweat blood. Take the worst physical, mental or emotional pain you've known. Even in memory, our minds and bodies shy away. I'll bet you never sweat great drops of blood though?
Between Christ's road from Gethsemane to Golgotha he  remained perfect. His journey lasted forty hours. In  the beginning  his physical agony robbed him of blood, tears and strength. In the garden, an angel stood by his side to help him. When this most horrific pain was past, he'd been suffering all night. His most beloved friends failed him. His chosen disciple betrayed him. The Sanhedrin mocked, scorned, spit up on him and then took him to be judged by the Romans. He had no food, water, sleep or defender. A mob of his brothers and sisters demanded his death. Jagged thorns from a cruel crown pierced his brow. Bits of bone and metal dug into his back as he was flogged and stripped almost naked. All of this before he was condemned.
This wasn't the half of it...
Weak from blood loss, hunger and thirst, he carried his cross, a beam speculated to be a few hundred pounds for 3 miles, up hill. He collapsed from the strain. This wasn't even the worst part.
With Heavy mallets they drove spikes through his palms, his wrists, and both beet,until  his own weight drug his body downward, tearing at the bones, tendons and flesh. He watched his mother weep at his feet but couldn't comfort her. He took abuse from soldiers and grief from friends. He was left to die alone.
And this wasn't the worst part.He was weak, tired, and drained from The atonement. The crucifixion, though less painful, came when his strength was spent, his patience was tested and his support system was gone. 
In the midst of our struggles, we also cry out "My God, My God Why hast thou forsaken me?" because the pain, the suffering and the fear are more than we can bear. What ever it is you go through. Whatever pain assaults your mind and body. Whatever dark abyss of the soul you must travel remember to hang on. "Its all bad, but it's not the worst."
An often forgotten gift of the atonement of Jesus Christ is that in his crowning achievement...resurrection. He claimed the power to offer you the balm of Gilead. The real miracles in life are His power to cleanse you of sin. To comfort, cradle, and control your pain is amongst His minor abilities.
During this Holiday season, if you can be the hands that comfort, the arms that cradle, and the strength from which others draw...God bless you! If you're in need of those arms, hands and strengths...reach for The Savior. You'll find Him somewhere between Gethsemane and Golgotha.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

If I'd Only Known...

"There is a fifty percent chance your baby will be born blind, with mental and physical handicaps, if he survives at all."
The doctor's voice was somber and serious, but my husband and I just smiled and nodded. "If this pregnancy doesn't kill the baby, it will most likely kill you." I grinned at the well-meaning OB/GYN.
"I know."
I didn't really "know". I didn't have the quiet assurance that I was going to die if I had this baby. I "knew" all the statistics, facts, and projections for  diabetic, kidney failing patients who became pregnant. This baby however, would not end up one of their numbers. I "knew" that, as well.
It didn't matter if he weren't perfect. It didn't matter how hard it would be. I'd been through a premature birth, 12 weeks of bed rest, and a traumatic 96 hour labor with my oldest. I "knew" what to expect.
I didn't expect my Kaison.
He was born,ten years ago  today Dec. 3. He came  eight weeks premature, after a C-section in which I had seizures and ended up nearly paralyzed from an overdose of Magnesium, but he was perfect.
Even at four pounds and 15 ounces he was a fighter. The doctor tried to pull him out and he scrambled to the top of my womb to get away. His little underdeveloped lungs struggled to take in breath, but he screamed his head off anyway. 12 hours after his birth he popped his right lung and had to be put on a ventilator for another 2 weeks, but he never stopped trying to survive.He wouldn't eat as fast or as much as the doctors wanted him to, he was never in a hurry. He laughed, smiled, cuddled and played more than any of my other kids. I worked non-stop with my first baby to make sure he hit all his developmental stages. Mostly I worried non-stop. Not with Kaison. He was a light, a warm flame that seemed to chase away fear, worry, and my over-active, over-analytical brain. When he was with me, all the world stopped and waited for the two of us to just be. It was a peace like nothing else I'd ever known with another child.
Don't get me wrong. There are times when he refuses to eat anything but hot dogs and Cheetos. He cries and fights when he is sick and won't let me help him. He falls apart when he thinks he's failing because he's not as good as his brothers, but his flame never falters. 
Now its his tenth birthday and my little, angel baby is too big for me to carry around anymore. He's brilliant, funny, handsome, kind, sweet and a light like no other. All those years ago when all the doctors could see were statistics, probabilities and percentages, I "knew" he was so much more. Even though I didn't "know" what a treasure he truly was at the time.
The world wants you to believe what it "knows", what it can prove with numbers and calculations. The problem is...
There's no way to calculate how much one smile, laugh, kind word, or gleaming eye will spread joy, or  to whom. There's no way to guess or fathom the love, faith, hope, and peace your worst struggles will leave you with when you look back.
I wonder if I'd "known" really understood the long hours, hopeless terror, pained body parts and helpless tears which would go into the births of my children, whether or not I would have done it.
Then I have my baby curl up in my lap in front of the fire on a rainy morning. I smell the soap on his skin. I feel the smooth lines of his cute little face and I "know", I would. I'd do it all and more
Happy Birthday Kaison. I love you bud!.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Be Ye Therefore Fake-thankers?

I remember when I was a kid, well meaning adults would often remind me of the starving children in Africa when I didn't clean my plate."You should be grateful you even have food."
I think this was one of my earliest introductions to fake-thanking. The obligatory 'thank you'  was taught because our natural instinct is to forget we only have what we do by the Grace of God.
If you think about it we were all trained early on. The last thing my mom would say to me before I went to a party was "remember to say Thank you."Thank You" cards are the second thing you learn to write, proceeded only by your name. Thanksgiving, though became the biggest obligatory 'thanks' in our lives. We gave little speeches about what we were thankful for, my mom even teared-up a couple of times. I understood the meaning and purpose of Thanksgiving, but I never really understood what I was missing by being a 'fake-thanker'.
Ten years ago, on Thanksgiving Day, I awoke in a hospital bed...alone. I was not thankful. I was six and a half months pregnant,miserable after almost six weeks of bed rest, and covered in a rash from head to toe. My family was having Thanksgiving at the grandparents, playing with cousins and eating too much. I was having rubber turkey, and white rice because my kidneys weren't working and potatoes aren't on the diet. I couldn't have pie, rolls, stuffing, or any other treats because of the diabetes and to top it all off...No one else in the hospital was any happier than I was. It loomed like a black cloud over the whole place.
One of my favorite nurses, Vicki, brought me my meager lunch, patted my hand and said, "Happy Thanksgiving, honey."
"You, too," I replied automatically. "I hope your Thanksgiving is a good one."
With a smile on her face she told me how she'd get off of a 12 hour shift, go home and heat up a Turkey frozen dinner and wait for her son to call. Her eyes lit up when she talked about how he was stationed in Afghanistan. Because of the distance, the military, the satellites and a myriad of other things, she didn't know what time he'd get through. She said it didn't matter. She'd stay up all night if that's what it took. She'd volunteered to work Thanksgiving day to give the other nurses time with their families, because she just needed to be home before 8 p.m. to hear from her son.
"I'm so thankful," she said with tears in her eyes, "for the invention of satellite phones. I couldn't survive this time of year without the chance to hear his voice...even from thousands of miles away."
Perhaps for the first time in my life, I understood what Thanksgiving really meant. It's not a chance for us to bask in our riches, gluttony, and self absorbed accomplishments, with a nod of 'fake-thanks' to God for allowing us such privileges. It's not about the food, the company, or the fun. We can be thankful for all of that and more, but do we feel it? Does it fill our empty hearts as well as our empty stomachs?
After Vicki left my room that day I sat and cried. I thanked my Heavenly Father for children I was never supposed to have, for a husband with enough courage and perspective to see beyond today, for a baby, alive, happy, and kicking  my bladder, even though his life wasn't supposed to be possible.
We take so much for granted in our fast-paced, self indulgent world. If the turkey is too dry, or the pie was burned we whisper under our breath that Thanksgiving was just Okay this year. When we go around the table and say we're thankful for our I-phone, or the new big screen, or even for good food, are we 'fake-thankers'? Is it just our obligatory training kicking in?
If its not, if you're one of those people who 'feel' gratitude fill your heart and soul at Thanksgiving, you are the lucky ones. If you've forgotten what lonely, depressed, scared, hungry, or abandoned feel like...then you're even luckier. Gratitude is a gift from someone who loves you. It's an expression of your worth in their lives. When you feel the thanks and love of those around you this holiday season let God's infinite power and love fill your heart as well...and remember to say Thank You!
Have A Truly Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Making Someone RAD

After the crazy weekend my family has had, perhaps its time to take a few steps out of the darkness...
I have three great children. Intelligent, charming, helpful, hardworking and special kids. One of them is RAD. When people compliment me on my wonderful kids I always say, "Its not me. They came here this way. I'm trying not to get in the way of their awesomeness."
The truth is...They didn't come to earth like this: passionate, powerful, determined and brilliant. Their lives have taught them some of those things. They came here: dependent, vulnerable, desperate, and fighting. No one so much so as my RAD son.Here's the difference.
Two of my boys went through difficult gestations, traumatic births and long periods of time in Newborn ICU. My youngest especially.
He was born 8 weeks premature. After popping his lung 12 hours after his birth, he was sedated, put on a ventilator and given chemicals to strengthen his lungs. His heart pounded with the effort it took him to breathe. His respitory rate was too high almost constantly. There were a few exceptions, however.
Even hours after he was born, he lay in a tiny heap in his incubator. His less than 5 pound body laboring, his eyes closed, and  barely making a sound. The nurses told me, from the moment I walked into the room and he could here my voice, his heart rate would return to normal. His respitory rate would slow and he would rest. Just from the slight indication that his mom, whom he didn't know, had never seen, and didn't have enough cognitive power to process what a 'mom' is, he knew he was alright. We had a bond. We spent, in his case, seven months together. Some of it while he was just a clump of dividing and reproducing cells. Some of it singing to him, talking to him, asking him what his name was and sleeping curled up together. It is an unknowable but iron bond which forms between two people who are literally a part of one another.
Now, my RAD son...
RAD stands for Reactive Attachment Disorder. When a baby is in this dark, cold, and scary world they cling to their mom to care for them out of the womb as she did while in the womb. When their hunger, fear, discomfort, hydration and well being are not just neglected but ignored, the world is no longer a dark place from which they need refuge. The world is a monster, full of monsters who won't do anything except make you miserable.
My youngest son and my middle boy as well were both born into cold, medicinal, sterile enviroments. Because my husband and I talked, held, touched, fed and nurtured these little beings, they knew to trust and thrive because we were teaching them how. My oldest son recieved some care from his birth mother for a brief time in his infant life. We don't know how much. Because she helped him learn to attach to her, her decision to put him in an orphanage before he was two months old, shattered their bond like a fragile icicle. He still retains the remnants of the icicle, because she began building it. However, the impact of the shattering left him so deeply wounded, he is afraid to heal. If he closes his wounds and then someone, someone like me, tears them open again...he's sure he will die.
Instead he picks at the scabs to keep them open because the pain reminds him not to let anyone hurt him again. (By the way, this is an actual physical part of the disorder. Picking at sores, cutting themselves, digging at their skin, etc. etc.)
Some people dismiss this phenomenom stating that there is no way for a child to harbor these types of deep feelings about someone they can't remember. They dismiss the behavior as normal rebellion, kids who make mistakes and 'boys will be boys'. Those people are wrong. Why can a smell bring a memory to your mind. Why can a name, not a person, just the name gring emotions to your heart? Why do humans search for a loving Heavenly Power that they've never seen and can't remember? Because our cells have memory not connected with our brain. Those memories trigger: adrenaline, increased heart rate and respiration, hormones, chemicals and RAD behaviors
So...they're just victims of bad parents, chemicals, and hormones right? Ask yourself...Do you want your son or daughter growing up to believe they are broken, wounded, and victimized and there's nothing anyone, including themselves, can do about it? Its not the child's fault, but their dangerous behavior won't stop without accountability. They don't understand mercy, to them it is weakness and like a predatory animal they will attack.
RAD parents are taught to fight fire with water. A simple concept, but it means shutting down your outward expressions and meeting the attacks without emotion. It means listening to my son tell me how he's going to kill me, where he's  going to hide the weapon, and how he's going to get away with it. The only thing I can do... nothing. Instead I walked him calmly and reasonably through the consequences and the outcome. He might not have meant it. It may have been his way of trying to scare me. It doesn't matter. The harm he will do himself doesn't register on his motivations scale, because revenge for the broken bond is all he feels.
When my RAD kid was 5 yrs. old, he started coming in the house with his hands covered in bee stings. Every day for weeks he'd cry and complain about the sores. "Honey, where are you finding all these bees? can you stay away from them?"
"I'm catching them in my hands," he said.
Stinging me hurts my hands, but it kills them."
After about 4 months of this he stopped. When I asked him why, he said, "I thought they'd stop stinging me because they'd die, but they didn't."
"There are too many for you to kill them all, bud."
He nodded. "That's why I stopped. It hurt too much and I couldn't win."
This is the memory I refer back to when I'm trying to figure out how to help him past his self-destructive behavior. He won't stop until it hurts him too much and he knows he can't win.
I can never give up, take a break, let someone else try, or 'send him back' as my nephew recommended. What ever pieces of his broken heart are starting to heal will be ruined if I can't have the strength to refuse to stop loving him.
When I first learned about RAD kids, the woman teaching the class told the parents..."You are in an abusive relationship. Your child is the abuser and you are the abusee."
I broke down and sobbed. On one hand It was a relief to have someone say I'm not the worst mother ever because my child hates me, but on the other hand I was defeated.
I always thought if I were to become involved with an abusive relationship I could walk away. Boyfriend, husband, parent, friend, roommate., it didn't matter I had the power to choose. On this day I knew I was naking a conscious decision to love, accept, and spend my life willingly accepting abuse.
My husband helps to sooth the scars. I'm lucky that way. Eight out of ten marriages with one or more reactive individuals end in divorce. The RAD kids divide and conquer to create disharmony in the family and keep the consequences off themselves. If they only understood they are creating the bee-stings while killing the bees. And it hurts them too much.
RAD kids are charming, adorable, happy, and sweet with distant acquaintances. Individuals like, neighbors, teachers, aunts, uncles, and even grandparents. These people don't have the power to tear open their deep wounds. Closer individuals will see it because they have to live with the behind closed doors behavior. Parents, siblings, therapists sometimes and anyone who lives with or knows someone who lives with a RAD kid. Parents get judged for being mean, cruel, and unloving because real love is doing what's best for the person you love, not watching your own back. My RAD son taught me this. As far as he's concerned teachers aren't looking out for him, they're keeping peace for their other students, their families, and their jobs. Friends, neighbors and well-meaning family members aren't doing what's best for him, they're more worried about their own feelings, families and lives. Public humiliation and looking like an abused child in public is another of their weapons. You will create different consequences in front of people whom you care what they think of you and your parenting. Consequence gone, or parent becomes monster...either way they win. Being right is always more important than being happy and "their way" is the only way. The more mature section of their mind thinks they wouldn't hurt so much if things had been done their way in the first place, admitting you're wrong means someone hurt you and you let it happen. RAD kids won't even approach that mind set.
I've read and studied everything I can find on RAD kids to try to understand and do what's best for him. The truth is there is no cure. Parents can make progress and pray for a day in the future when it finally sinks in, but many RAD kids never get it. Some do, though. Not giving up is the answer.When their choices have consequences that take them out of your home, its their choice. Let them know with soft conversations, clear and concise dialogue and "the water" we talked about earlier that you love them, want them and always will. It is their choice to behave in such a way that they  can't remain in your home. Don't send them away because you're frustrated though. You must choose to take the abuse. I know its sounds wrong, but everything you do with a RAD kid is backwards from your loving tendancies.Those of us who have RAD kids say this to each other all the time. "I totally get it. You're a good parent, hang in there and call me if you need to talk."
Most of us don't do it. We keep our dirty secrets locked behind closed doors so No one can judge our bad parenting.No one can label our kids and No one can make it worse by being well-meaning but clueless. If you had the solutions to raising my RAD son, God would've given him to you. My Father-in-Heaven believes I can do this. If God is on my side, does it matter who isn't?
So I'll say it again to any of you who have a RAD kid. "You are a good, loving, tough parent. Keep it up. I know its lonely and I pray and cry for you. If you ever want to talk to someone who gets it, e-mail me. Mostly Hang on, you're not alone!"

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

This Is Not A Memorial Post For Veterans Day

Today is probably the third or fourth most popular Day of the year for people to post on their blog. Especially people who are patriotic, proud americans, and staunch supporters of the military. I, myself have read quite a few touching stories of heroic service, tragic death, and memorial devotions to those who dies serving our country. Veterans Day is a great time to honor and memorialize all those who have given their lives for the defense of regular people like you and me.What about the regular people, though?
I read somewhere once that Americans prefer their heroes dead. We want to talk, cry, and honor those who fought the good fight and sacrificed all to defend and protect. What about the heroes who came home?
What about the men and women who slogged through the heat and sand to fix some platoons jeep, missed their kids, were homesick, and came back to find that without wounds or scars nobody knows their name.
What about the family where both the Mom and the Dad served: him in counter intelligence and her in a support division. Their two sons were taken care of for over two years by uncles, aunts and grandparents so their parents could make the little things happen for the Military Machine.
Veterans day is meant for the support of our troops, but not just to call attention to the fighter pilots, medal of honor recipients and soldiers who came home covered in American Flags.
My 17 year old niece has yet to serve over seas, but she spent four  months of her life, her teenage girl life, sweating and crying through boot camp. Another niece of mine is married to a Marine. He misses family vacations, cruises, celebrations and special occasions so he can be ready when the Military calls. My brother-in-law, who served in Iraq and came home with a family and a life that missed him terribly, came home without any flashy scars.
There are  a million soldiers who stand at our defense and never get noticed, because they're just doing their job. One of my favorite lines from The Star Spangled Banner is from the third verse where it says:
O thus be it ever when free men shall stand between their loved homes and the war's desolation.
That is what we honor, cheer and memorialize today and every other day we can. Not the fallen, though we shed our tears for them. The greatest power our military possess though, isn't in the weapons, the tanks, the planes, or the Hum-v's. Our great power is that line of men and women who stand. In their homes, In their jobs, in their service and in their hearts. They stand for us, for those who can't, and for our children as the last line between our loved homes and war's desolation.
Don't spend today, crying, remembering old battles and cemeteries full of those who sacrificed. Today is about the brave men and women who stand, even when no one is paying attention.
So give the nearest service man or woman your love, your admiration and your determination to make this country worth protecting.
You'll never know what the living breathing wall of service men and women mean to regular people like me. Know, however, that the living, breathing heroes hold a deep, tender place in my heart. Happy Veterans Day!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Blessed Art The Eyebrows!

If you've seen me in the last few days, you'd have noticed I've got purple eyeshadow on my right eyelid. Okay...so not really. What I've got is a black eye. I'd like to tell you I got it fighting off bad guys with my cane, or throwing myself in front of an attack to protect my kids, or even blocking flying debris from hurting someone else. Unfortunately, it was not so heroic or exciting. It was simply the failure of my eyebrows.
I spent the last four days in Salt Lake City, Utah seeing my transplant team,hanging out with my guys, touring temple square and avoiding Halloween. A number of times, the unfamiliar territory and strange surroundings messed with my sense of direction and mobility. We were walking through City Creek Mall and I got disoriented by a rather overpoweringly pungent perfume shop. I almost ran into the lady in front of me, I was so distracted by the strange scent.
I was saved by my eyebrows brushing her coat. I exited the Traxx train to attend a soccer game with my kids and kept from smacking into the slowly opening doors, thanks to my eyebrows. There have been a few times when I have impacted something or someone, scarring my eyebrows but not hitting my face. Eyebrows are actually awesome protectors. You've probably never even noticed because its a subtle sensation and your eyes will "see" what you're about to hit before your eyebrows even have the chance. However, when you're in the dark, when you aren't using your sight, or when something gets in your way too quickly for your eyes to warn you...You've still got your eyebrows.
Then Why, you ask, did I come home this weekend with a black eye?
Simple...Somethings you go through. There's not supposed to be a warning.
This particular morning, I was getting in the shower. The glass door was open beside the bench where I was undressing. I lost my balance for a second when my feet got tangled in my pajama pants and I tipped to the side. The sharp pain to the side of my head was the only warning I got. If I could see stars I'm sure I would have. We iced the injury and it was swollen for a couple of days but other than the black eye, its hardly noticeable.
You must be wondering at this point, why the long diatribe about eyebrows when mine failed me on this occasion?
Most things in life have warnings if we pay attention. That greasy feeling in the pit of your stomach when you know you're in the wrong place. The feeling you pass of as nerves.
The twitter in your pulse when a certain person's face or voice comes to mind and you suddenly want to talk to them, but dismiss it as nothing.
The chill going down your spine when you're with the wrong people doing the wrong thing, but you don't want to look stupid.
Those are your spiritual eyebrows. The sensitive parts of your soul warning you you're about to smack your face against all kinds of ugly badness, or you need to be there for someone who already smacked into something and they need to know their not alone.
What, if anything, does this have to do with the black eye? My eyebrows couldn't help me when the threat came from off-sides.
Life happens. Our 'eyebrows' can only do so much good. Being protected from harm and danger can cripple a person who works to be stronger. A wise man once said: "Comfort retards growth. A seed would never become a tree if it lay comfortable beneath the soil and didn't reach for the sun."
Your spiritual eyebrows are there for a reason. To let you know God is watching over you and warning you whenever he can. God is also watching over you when your eyebrows can't help you and knowing he loves you through life's black eyes is the best kind of love.
I thank God my eyebrows have saved me from disaster and bloody injuries, but the truth is...
I still wind up hurt, scarred, and a whole lot stronger when the eyebrows didn't work. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What's In A Soul?

I've been taught all of my life that the body and spirit are two separate parts of what makes up our soul. This is a common philosophy, that in certain moments, is difficult to grasp. Yet, in others it becomes very clear.
When my heart was broken, it was most certainly a physical sensation, although my physical heart was doing its job. When I shattered my kneecap it was most definitely my body screaming at me to find relief, although my spirit cried out for it to just be a bruise or something because I hate costing my family money. These are clear, defined instances, but never more so than when I had stints put into my heart.
In March of 2013, I went in for a routine angiogram to clear me for transplant surgery. I'd had the procedure done before, its not too bad. they slip a wire through your wrist or thigh to send a camera to your heart to check for blockage and valve issues. My wrists are never used because I only have my right arm for blood draws and I.V. lines. This is due to what's called  a fistula. In my left arm an artery is surgically joined with a vein, making a thick, rope-like vein that can't be used for anything except access during dialysis.
So, there I was, lying on a table, a long thin wire running from the inside of my thigh, up   into my heart, when the doctor says,
"she's got 90 percent blockage here," the computer makes a whirring noise. "And almost 90 percent here, as well."
Not information you look forward to. For one thing, I was supposed to be headed home after the angiogram to pick up my youngest from school. Do homework with my teenagers and make dinner before scouts.
"You're going to have to have stints put in."
They aren't going to ask me?
As I was being prepped for the procedure, the nurses called my husband and told him what was going on and that I'd have to be in the hospital overnight. I'm still reeling from the news and worried about my kids. The anesthesiologist tells me he's going to put some "happy juice" in my I.V. so I'll relax and then some blood thinner to keep clots from forming on the stints.
I listen and nod, but something is wrong. My heart begins pounding against my ribcage so hard I feel like my chest will burst open. I can't catch my breath, and suck in enough oxygen. The doctor, who has been talking to his team turns to me. "Traci, are you feeling all right?'
"I don't think so," I pant.
I'm not scared though. I feel like my body is struggling but my mind and spirit are very calm.
"Her heart rate is 166 beats per minute," someone says. Another order is given and a cold flood of something races into my arm.
"How do you feel, Traci"
my heart rate slows down and I can breathe again, but now my chest hurts and someone has pushed my body down into the mattress I'm lying on. As if they are weighing me down so I won't float away. When I mention this to the doctor, reassuring them they can let me go, he tells me no one is holding me down. No one touched me the entire time except to administer the drug.
 After a lot of rushing around and finishing with the stints, they send me up to the cardiac floor to be monitored for the night. I didn't think a whole lot about it, until I was talking to the doctor later and he asked me to describe to him what happened.
I told him, physically I didn't feel much. the pounding of my heart, the inability to get enough air and the sensation of being pressed down into the bed.
"You are one tough lady," he told me. "Your heart rate got so high and your blood pressure so low, we thought you were going to leave us."
His words struck me then. My body was staying on that bed, but my spirit was trying to break free. When they reversed the effects of the medication and I felt pressed down against the bed, I hadn't been touched or moved because...
My soul re-joined its separate parts and I felt the weight of it.
I still remember the light, pain-free sensation that occurred before I became whole again. There are times I wish for the same sense of liberty, but I also know that being free from my body like that is like my blindness.
There are some things I am thrilled not to experience: littered streets, starving children, angry terrorists killing innocents.
I also miss the parts that are beautiful: my kids faces, sunsets in the desert, the green of trees against the red rock.
God gave us souls to give us both the beauty of a spiritual experience and the opposition of a human body. Without a heart that can love we'd never have a heart to be broken. Without the pain of not being able to walk while we heal, we'd never feel the wind in our hair when we run. Without the burden of sickness, we'd never know the joy of a body working to fill life with happiness and excitement. I will always feel the burden of my broken body, but I will also bask in the moments when my spirit fills with peace, love and the beauty of my spirit being a creation of God. I will take the burden and the beauty because it completes my soul. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Taken Down!

One of the most terrifying things about being blind, is the sizes and number of obstacles lurking out there just waiting for the chance to take you out. Pillars in hallways, street signs, holes in the road and let's not forget the kid who parked his bike right in front of your door. These are all things I've tripped over or banged into while trying to maneuver in my world.
The best one though, was just a few weeks ago...
My youngest son is in the 4 th grade. His class was going on a field trip to Snow Canyon State Park. This park is just a few miles from our home and is a beautiful conglomeration of lava cliffs, sand drifts, caves, and wildlife, all connected by narrow trails through the canyon. When my baby wanted me to go on the field trip with him, I of course, told him I'd be there. His teacher, was a little worried. She sent me an e-maial, letting me know about the rough terrain, the length of the hike we would be taking, and a narrow section with a sheer drop off. My husband, became worried as well.
"There are places in the park that if you take one wrong step, you'll go over a drop-off of about 50 feet."
By this time my 9 year old is worried.
"I'll hold your hand, Mom. I won't leave you."
I, of course, was even more determined to go. Don't tell me I can't do something, because I'll go do it just to prove you wrong.
So, on a lovely Thursday Morning, I walked to School with my son, boarded the bus with a couple of my friends, and made it to the park. After a learning portion, where the park rangers taught the kids about how to use the local plant life the way the Anazazi Indians did, we set out on our hike.
My son is just a kid and he soon forgot his promises to stay with me. Using my cane I made it a good way up the trail enjoying the smells, the descriptions, and chatting with my girlfriends. As the trail got rockier, my friend Laura, took my arm and began helping me over the worst parts. Another friend of mine, Kourtnee, carrying her two year old in a backpack, made sure I had enough water and food. We did pretty good until we reached a section of the hike that was down hill, had a steep drop-off on one side, and was slick under foot. At this point, one of the dads who'd come on the hike, took one arm while Laura took the other and we made it, very slowly down the slope.
It was a lot of fun. We walked through a cave, smelled sage, Old Man Lace, and lemonade bushes; without a single obstacle taking any of us down.
We were all hot and tired as we returned to the school but it was a fun experience. As we all stood around, the kids going back to class, the parents heading for their cars, I began to cross the play ground to the fence where i would return home. My cane caught on a metal bench, tripping me, and I fell.
Both my shins were banged on the bench, one of them bloodied. I scraped the back of my knuckles on the concrete, and I had two gigantic lumps which turned to bruises on my legs.
I've told this story a few times, because I think its so funny that I managed to traverse a dangerous hike through Snow Canyon, but I couldn't walk across the playground.
Its the cold hard truth, though. When our lives become treacherous, full of rocks, dark caves, and sheer drop-offs, its then we slow down, get help and support and we use all our friends, family and even strangers to get us through.
When we are cruising along, not a worry in the world, and our focus is on a million different, unimportant things; we fall.
Our lives are so busy. Chasing more money, more power, a better body, more attention, or just more. We don't focus on our simple steps. We don't find Christ in the beauty we have all around us. We don't hear the laughter of children who only need a puddle of water to make them happy. We don't savor a fresh peach, or a juicy apple because there isn't enough time for things like that.
My Dad told me when I was a teenager something I've never forgotten. I haven't always done it, because I'm one of those people who is always chasing my next dream. My Dad said-"If you focus on what's important, and right in front of your face, you won't be taken down  by  the herd of elephants on the horizon."
I laughed at the picture that painted but the simple truth of those words have never left me. Some of our dreams and responsabilities are important. Some of them are just band-aids to cover our wounds from falling down. Focusing on the things that really matter takes discipline, and it means taking your eyes off other prizes. However, when one of your 'little things' grows up, leaves home, or is gone from your busy life. It just might take you down.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Go For A Ride In My Big Green Wagon

All the major movers and shakers in life must have some specialty form of transportation. The Beatles had "The Yellow Submarine". Scooby-Doo and friends had "The Mystery Machine".  Cartoon kids have "The Magic School Bus".
Well, I have 'special' transportation, too. I wish it were a car with GPS that I could program in my destination and it would drive me there, but sadly, no. I have been known to be a fixture on the Suntran bus when I have four hours to travel across town, but my favorite form of transportation was a giant green garden wagon.
When one of my boys was two or three, he wanted a wagon. In my head I'm picturing one of those Radio Flyers, red, with a black metal handle and little red and white wheels. Perfect for a toddler.
Instead, my husband and I went to the hardware store and found the coolest wagon ever. Seriously, this was the John Deere of wagons. It had giant inflatable tires, green metal mesh for the bed and sides, a handle that was about three feet long and the sides could be lowered to make it a flat bed. It was awesome!
My boys and I rode this wagon everywhere. We filled it with sand toys, picnic lunches, and blankets and went to the park. We pushed it around the block for hours picking up other kids and giving them rides, going super fast on the down hill like we were riding in a race car. When my oldest started riding the bus to pre-school in the morning, my husband built a wooden frame which stood in the corners of the wagon. It  was painted like a bus an even had a door and red head and tail lights. My son would  ride in his 'bus' up the street to Joy school twice a week.
My favorite activity in the wagon though, was grocery shopping. We lived about 8 blocks from Harmon's Grocer and every week or so we loaded up the wagon and walked up 700 South in St. George to the store. Now if you know anything about this road, you know its super busy, four lanes and a left hand turn lane because it is a major connection between the east and west sides of town. It also has sidewalks all the way, a major benefit for a blind person with a wagon. With my three little kids in the big green wagon I'd pull all of us to Harmons, fill the wagon with groceries and then we'd all push the thing home. It took all three of us at this point because it weighed about 100 pounds by now. Our favorite part of this trip was crossing beneath the I-15 overpass. On 700 South, the side walk slants up to a point where it flattens out and then drops back to ground level once you're under the pass. Getting all the weight up the first side of that stretch of sidewalk feels like pushing a boulder up a cliff, but down the other side...? You can see where I'm going here right?
With just the kids in the wagon going up wasn't two bad, going down I'd climb in with them on the down side, use the handle like a steering wheel and we'd fly down the opposite slope; laughing and screaming the whole time
I think it scared my husband a little when people would tell him they saw his wife and kids riding the big green wagon down 700 south, but we loved it. The heat or the cold didn't matter. The long journey and fierce up-hill effort disappeared. Fights, crying kids, dirty floors and bad eyesight vanished in those moments when we'd hang on to each other, feel the wind and the speed and for a time ride in the big green wagon.
My kids are too big now for the wagon, besides they've got bikes, scooters, and skateboards that are a lot more fun. The wagon sits in our garage, full of all of their helmets, balls, toys and rollerblades. Its tires won't hold air anymore and its a little rusty around the hinges, but I love that wagon.
I think of my life like the wagon. There were lots of practical uses for it. It had a job to do and purpose though it wasn't fancy, glamorous, or popular. It trudged through the loads, the heat, the abuse of little bodies and it wasn't ever easy.
But...When we'd fly, it was spectacular.
I will never be a Ferrari, a duely pick-up, a limousine, or a bullet bike. I will always just be a big green wagon.
Oh man...do I love the ride!!!.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

What Kind Of Crap Are You Carrying?

"You've got poop in your hair," my five year old son said, pointing at me.
"What? Where?"
"All over in the front Mommy."
I of course, ran to the bathroom and tried to see what he was talking about. I'm usually the first person who forgets...I can't see anything when I look in the mirror. So, as I'm squinting at the little bit of color and hazy form that is my hair, my mind is trying to figure out how in the name of all that's sane, did I get crap in my hair.
After about forty five minutes in a hot shower, with twelve different bottles of shampoo. I still hadn't figured it out. That evening I took my two oldest boys to Newborn I.C.U. to visit their newborn baby brother and the truth came out.
Kaison, my youngest, was born 8 weeks premature and popped his lung less than 24 hours after his birth. He spent 5 weeks in post natal intensive care; getting fat and healing his lungs.
Every morning I'd go to the hospital, about five blocks from my house, to feed him, dress him, hold him, and pretty much get my baby fix for the day. I'd been on bed rest with him for 6 weeks prior to his birth, in a room down the hall from where he now lay in an incubator. Tearing myself away from him to care for my other kids and heal from the c-section i had was bad enough. This daily care routine kept me going when I felt like a failure in every other way. When we returned to N.I.C.U. that night, the nurses told me what happened when I'd changed his diaper that afternoon.
Kaison had what was known as a 'code brown". He'd exploded brownish-greenish poop all over his bed, his clothes, and his body. The nurses offered to clean him up for me, but I wanted to do it. Caring for him in these simple ways were the rare opportunities I had to be his mother while he was in N.I.C.U. While the nurses changed his bedding, I proceeded to strip his soiled clothes, diaper, and booties off of him. As I concentrated on keeping him safe, cleaning him up and bathing him, I used my hands to find where he needed washing and what needed to be cleaned. My long hair often drifted into my face as I worked and I tucked it behind my ears while diapering, dressing and putting  him back in his bed. When he was finally back asleep, I went to the bathroom and washed my hands. For another hour or so I held him in the recliner next to his bed. I left the N.I.C.U. waving to the nurses and visiting some of the other Mom's and babies I knew there. I proceeded to walk home, stopping to visit with my neighbors and friends and giving updates on Kaison's progress. All with baby poop in my hair.
It's not a strange thing for me to do embarrassing things. Luckily I can laugh at myself or hide in my room if its too bad. Being literally blind to people's reaction's to my having poop in my hair saves me from making too big of a deal over it. Maybe, I do myself a disservice though. If you think about it, we all, spiritually, have poop  in our hair.
We pretend its fashionable or trendy sometimes. We tell  ourselves its okay because other people with the same poop in their hair say its not there. We even decide we like it there just to be different.
The truth, though, is it doesn't matter what perfume we use to disguise the smell, or what hair clips or floppy hats we cover it with. We all still have crap in our lives. The Savior's atonement is the hot shower and shampoo we all really want to rid ourselves of it. Instead, we talk about how he loves, accepts, and understands the load of crap we embrace and carry around. Don't get me wrong...he does. Just like my friends, neighbors, the nurses, and even my kids still loved me. However, just because He loves and  accepts you, dirty and poopy, doesn't mean He doesn't want to wash away the things that are toxic to your happiness. Sin is like that though, easy to smear throughout your life while working hard and trying to be happy, and a stinking mess no matter how much you're loved while in the middle of it. so, don't carry around the crap you've inadvertently combed through your hair because you're too embarrassed to admit its there. Eventually some one will come to you and point out "You've got Poop in your hair." Hopefully, its someone who loves you. Hopefully you don't look back and wonder why you wasted time carrying crap.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Weaving The Tapestry

"love",  when spoken of by poets, romantics, or even twitterpated teenagers is never described in the same way. Perhaps because no two 'love' s are alike. The greatest love brings the highest kinds of emotion, as well as the deepest of despairs. Its the way we learn what love really is.
The first man I "fell-in-love- with was my father. I adored him, wanted to always be with him, hated disappointing him and believed in him. I suppose I share that with a lot of women who were close to their dads. The difference...
I didn't learn to love, trust, and give my heart to a man I could spend my life with while learning to let go of my Dad. I had my first and most devastating heartbreak of my entire life when I was 17 years old and I found my father dead.
My Dad was diagnosed with Diabetes when he was 14 years old. Back in the early 1950's treating and fighting the disease consisted of guessing at how much insulin you needed and trying not to eat sugar. My Dad didn't know that all food contains carbohydrates that convert to sugar in your blood stream. He couldn't take his blood to see how much insulin he needed, there was no technology for that. When he was in his early 30's his heart began to give out. over the next 15 years he had a series of heart attacks, coupled with stomach problems, bronchitis, liver problems, and eventually kidney problems too. On the morning of May 2, 1989, he awoke throwing up, weak and very sick. Three days earlier I'd been so worried about him, I'd gone to the principal of the High School where I attended and he worked, to beg his boss to make him go home.
By Tuesday, no one had to tell him to go home. My mom went to work and the rest of us went to school while Dad wrote up some lesson plans and made a doctor's appointment. I'd been going to and from School with my Dad for most of my High School Career. I walked back and forth to lunch with him every day, did my homework in his classroom after school, and I traveled with the wrestling team for which he was the assistant coach. He was my world. On this day, I didn't go home at lunch to check on him. Instead, I went to lunch with my friends and went to work after school to pick up my paycheck. When I arrived home that afternoon, I walked through the back door of my house and asked my 9 year old brother where Dad was.
"He's cleaning out the van," my brother said. "He wanted me to help him, but I'm sick."
A comment which has haunted my brother his entire life.
I held my pay check in one hand and headed for the door. "I need to borrow the car to cash my check. I'll be right back," i told him.
Rushing out the door and down the steps I headed for our 16 passenger van, parked in the driveway and my Dad  who was lying on the grass looking up at the clouds.
"hey Dad? Can I borrow the car for a second?"
He didn't answer. I could see that he wasn't asleep, his eyes were open. His fingers were laced behind his head, in the way they always were when he laid down to bask in his favorite activity...nature.
"Dad?" He didn't even turn his head to look at me.
Instincts kicked in. When my Dad's blood sugar was too low he'd become nearly paralyzed, only able to move his eyes. It must have gotten too low while he worked on the car and now he needed sugar. I started down the dirt path that connected my house to my paternal grandparents. Grandma would have a bottle of honey I could squirt into his mouth and bring him out of it. I explained it to my grandma, she gave me the bottle and I hurtled back up the path to his side.
Kneeling on the grass beside him, I took the bottle in one hand and grasped his chin in my other hand.
Before I could squeeze his cheeks and open his mouth, everything in the universe stopped. His skin was cold, waxen, an empty mass of flesh beneath my fingers. He wasn't there. His body lay before me, his hazel eyes an eerie shade of grey/brown, but he was gone.
I don't remember the details after that. My older brother came out of the basement and began CPR. My younger brother who was 14 ended up outside as well, but I don't recall how he got there. I do remember he started crying and screaming and my grandmother who was there now, took him to the clinic for tranquilizers. My two younger sisters were in the yard but I was oblivious to who was taking care of them or how they were doing. An empty blankness had opened up inside of me. It started as a quiet numbness that sucked in time, movement, colors and light. It didn't hurt, I didn't cry. I just stopped existing in this plane.
I went inside the house after my cousin Chris stopped and helped my brother do CPR and an ambulance showed up. I don't know who called them. My older brother disappeared at that point. I found out later he'd run 4 miles to the next town to sit on his friends grave.
When I went inside the house I called the school where my Mom worked and asked for her. In my memory I was very calm, but something in my voice must have told the secretary to be alarmed because my mom was frantic when she got on the phone.
"Traci, What's wrong?"
"Dad's dead. They just took him to the hospital in an ambulance."
By now our yard and house were filled with neighbors, kids from the high school, the wrestling team, and three quarters of town. That's the kind of wonderful place I grew up. They were all telling me to breathe and pray. That they'd taken him to the hospital and he'd be okay.
I remember looking at all of their tear stained features and being confused. He wasn't going to be Okay. He was dead. I touched him, I held his body in my hands. No one could bring him back. Why did they keep saying that?
When I called my best friend, her mom told me she was asleep, she had a migraine.
"Okay," i said in a flat tone. "Could you ask her to come over here when she wakes up. My Dad just died." I hung up without waiting for a response. Five minutes later she was beside me, holding me together, the way she always did and always has.

The next few days were a blur of pain, numbness, robotic movements and complete confusion. I'd wake up and for a moment everything felt normal. Then the crushing darkness, emptiness and black hole of despair would take over. I was angry with God for needing him more than I did. I hurt so much I couldn't remember what anything else felt like. The first time I had to go back into his classroom, I fell apart. It wasn't his room anymore. Another teacher had taken over, new bulletin voards were up, a new seating arrangement, and my Dad's old worn desk was gone. A brutal reminder that he was gone too.
When I thought of broken hearts before this I imagined them being made of glass, and shattering into tiny irreparable shards. This wasn't like that though. My heart was a tapestry. a thousand loose threads that with the slice of the largest one, the unraveling began.
I didn't think about what was best for him or anyone else, All I knew was I was falling apart. He'd found out at the doctor on his last day that his liver and kidneys would both be gone in six months. If the heart attack hadn't killed him, being bedridden and helpless would have taken him, anyway. After 25 years this information is comforting, but at the time no one cared. All of us, my mom, my brothers, my sisters, my grandparents, friends, neighbors, students, fellow teachers, and every person whose life he touched was left with a piece of themselves tattered and torn
I felt like a tangled skein of yarn. Twisted, ugly, unmanageable and a lost cause.  Unwinding that mess to find the beautiful picture again has been like learning to weave with wet tissue paper. More mess than artistery. .
Most of us, though a bit ragged, have rewoven our lives and made beautiful works of art. I thank my father for that.He is the true love who gave me the silken threads of faith and hope. The heavy strings of determination, stubbornness and passion for life. And the golden flax of beauty, gratitude and love. I couldn't have relied on my Savior, My Heavenly Father and my loved ones if he hadn't spent the first seventeen years of my life carding the wool, spinning the fibers and creating the tapestry of my heart.
Thank you Daddy! I miss you!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

My Best Idea Yet!

"Sounds crazy, but I think we can do it." I told my 7 year old.
"I don't know Mon?" he sounded a bit hesitant. "Maybe we should ask Dad?"
That's the wrong thing to tell me. ASK DAD? I need HIS permission? "No way," I assured my son. we can do this."
So while he went outside to play, I sat down on my talking computer and started researching what size of a motor I'd need to power a two wheeled scooter across town and back.
Transportation is one of my primary concerns when it comes to my kids activities. Luckily, I'm not a person who believes my kids need to be signed up for, enrolled in, or running to and from every trendy, educational, artistic, or time consuming activity available to them. I, however, do want them to have the opportunity to play the sports they like, be a part of educational programs, and stretch their artistic, musical and/or physical talents. Living where we do, we're a few miles from a lot of these activities and I needed a way to transport my son to and from his gymnastics practice. Each of my boys have a two wheeled Razor scooter and while an eight mile round trip every day on a scooter might be doable for me and my older boys, I also had a 2 year old I needed to bring with me. I thought the motorized scooter idea was a great one. We'd wire a weed eater, or leaf blower motor to the rear wheel, my kids would steer, and I would make sure all of us were together, safe, and getting where we needed to go. I even imagined putting a flashing light on the handlebars so cars would see us coming and a really loud horn on each one so the boys could blow it whenever they got too far away and I couldn't hear their wheels. Brilliant, Right?
Well, as you can probably imagine, my son did talk to his Dad. My husband, at once, put a kibosh on the idea.
"What if you crash, or run someone down, or hit cars, or children, or get lost, or one of the kids falls off? What if someone runs y'all over or doesn't know the line of scooters coming down the road has 3 kids, a blind woman, and gas powered engines  in the brew?
Its sort of funny now, trying to picture me and my boys tootling down the road with flashing lights, blaring horns, helmets on our heads and nothing but pure faith to protect us. Yes, its true, my husband should be sainted for the crap he has to put up with.
Here's the thing though...How many times do we look over "our plans" and they make perfect sense to us? How often do we do the research, plan for contingencies, put the proper safeties in place, and still end up with pure crazy coming out of the box. Like me, in my dark and narrow world, I couldn't imagine all of the dangers, obstacles, and problems lurking behind every corner. I just pictured me and my kids rolling down a clear, clean, unoccupied asphalt road to our destination. Any normal person would know there would be potholes, traffic, rude drivers, hazards to the people around us, and any other number of issues. I couldn't see them, though. My determination to do what ever is necessary sometimes clouds my logical senses. It will all work out because I want it to. One of my favorite sayings is: "It will all work out in the end. If it hasn't worked out yet, then its not the end."
In this case it did all work out. I had great friends, neighbors, and family members who stepped up and provided safe, normal, sensible transportation. Not being able to do what I wanted wasn't the most important part. Getting it done with everyone in tact was the bigger picture.
Even though this darkness I live in makes my world a very small space, God always knows the bigger picture. When he wants something in our lives done a certain way, its because he sees so much more than we do. Maybe you don't understand why your way won't work. Maybe you can't see down the road, or around the next bend, but He can. It's never about fighting for control of whose way is better. It's always about the bigger picture The Being who loves you, and His best idea yet.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

In The Heart Of The Flame

Too often I find myself taking past experiences and using hindsight to learn great lessons. Hindsight is great for just that. Looking backward, wiping away the dust and the soot, and seeing what remarkable things rise from the ashes. What if you don't have any hindsight yet? What if right now, you are submerged in the most difficult trials of your life? My aunt was diagnosed with a rare form of Leukemia about 5 years ago. It may not have been that long ago. At the time her diagnosis was devastating to those of us in her family and friends who couldn't imagine the pain and trial she'd go through. A few weeks ago, her doctors told her there was nothing left to do but go home and ready herself to die.  She wants to hold on until some other family members return from an LDS mission overseas, but the disease causes great pain, horrific bruising, and total weakness.  Holding on will be a trial for her and those around her.
However, After she's gone, the trial of fire will only begin for her husband, children, and grandchildren. When does the hindsight come. At what point during this process will they look back and see the end of the refiner's fire? I wish I knew the answer to that.
Each day in our life, to some extent is a refiner's fire. Some days a glowing tinder that warms a lonely heart. Some days the sting of a too hot coal scorching bare flesh in chastisement. And Some days a consuming conflagration from which there doesn't seem to be an escape. When we find ourselves thrust into the furnace of purification try to imagine:
In Malachi 3:3 the prophet speaks of Christ as "The silver refiner." Now, let me share with you what a silver refiner's job is...
The silver smith takes a lump of mixed metals, rock, and impurities and sends it on the end of a long handled spoon type instrument, into the hottest part of the fire. As the flax, impurities, and other metals burn away, the silver congeals, draws itself into a large puddle and begins to turn to pure liquid. The silver smith must hold the instrument in the center of the furnace, his own face burning with the heat, his arms holding the silver out of the flames. No matter how tired, uncomfortable, or impatient he gets, the silver will be ruined if he doesn't hold it, out of the fire for exactly the right amount of time.
How much time? You ask. Its actually very specific. When The Silver Refiner sees his reflection in the silver, It is pure!
If he withdraws it from the furnace one moment too early or one moment too late...Its ruined.
Sometimes it seems the fire will always burn. That the furnace is your permanent home. Just remember, he is only holding you above the flame, not thrusting you deep into it's eternal depths. It will only last as long as it takes for your impurities too burn away and then you will reflect His countenance. If you're deep in the flames, hold on. He is propping you up, absorbing some of the heat and keeping his eyes on you at all times. He doesn't mind your tears, your doubt, or your fear that He has forgotten you in the flame. He can take it. He is only an arm's length away. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

What's It Gonna' Take?

"I'm fine," I mumbled through swollen lips. "I just hit my chin on the wall."
"Uhm...honey, you're not. Your bottom lip is no longer attached to your jaw."

I reached up and touched my tender lip, but it didn't seem like a big deal. "What happened?" I asked.
Well, it turns out I hadn't just bumped my face against the wall. A mistake I commonly make. Sometimes I go around corners too sharply, or I bend over to pick something up and smack my face into a counter top or piece of furniture. Unfortunately, this time was much worse.
After my son Zackery was born, I had a number of issues. I'd been on bed rest for 12 weeks in Utah Valley Regional Medical Center with blood pressure of 220/113. My labor with Zack took three days because he was face up, my hips didn't spread, and I had to be induced at 34 weeks to save whatever kidney function I had left. Zack was in the Newborn I.C.U. for two weeks because he wasn't breathing when he was born, he only weighed five pounds, and he didn't have a suck reflex so he couldn't eat.
About a month after he was born, he'd developed a suck reflex like no other and he was breast feeding every hour and a half...'round the clock.
Like all brand new moms, I was exhausted. I never slept with his meal times, my body had gone from 150 pounds after his birth to 100 pounds three weeks later. Because of my kidney problems all of the fluid they pumped into me during labor couldn't process out.  I'm an inch or so over five feet and my normal weight is around 110 pounds, so this drastic loss of 50 pounds of fluid sent my blood pressure crashing.
The other problem was, I'm a diabetic. All of the sugar I had in my blood stream went directly to my milk to feed the baby.
On this particular day, I finished feeding Zack and handed him over to Erik so I could lay down and try to sleep before he wanted to eat again. I made it about half way down the hallway before my blood pressure along with my blood sugar bottomed out and I lost consciousness. As my balance faltered, I turned to tell Erik something was wrong. Before I got a word out I hit face first into the wall, sliding down to the floor and tearing my lower lip away from my jaw.
If you've been keeping up with this blog, then you know, I have lots of weird things happen to me. If I panic and run to the hospital every time I fall down...Well let's just say I'd never leave.This day, I let Erik take me to the E.R.,  though. I recieved three layers of stitches to reattach my jaw to my bottom lip. I needed to stay on a liquid diet until the stitches dissolved a few weeks later and I had to gargle with mouth wash after anything, including my toothbrush or my baby's fingers went into my mouth.
 I tried to convince myself this was a minor incident in comparison to what I'd been through with the pregnancy and birth. The more follow up I had to get, the more I understood...It was actually a major turning point for us. My nephrologist  (kidney specialist) discovered I only had another year before my kidney's would fail. My blood pressure was fluctuating between highs and lows and taxing my heart, and I could no longer breast feed my baby. It was detrimental for both of us. Zack wasn't getting enough to eat and I was being drained of all my resources.
I'm not sure why this experience is what it took for me to understand, but I do remember the diagnosis sinking in. I had a brand new baby. If I could figure out how to take care of him being blind, and I didn't starve him to death with my breast milk, and I didn't drown him while trying to give him a bath, or lose him in the mall because I couldn't see him, or a million other things, I was dying. I'd had a thousand doctors warn me a million times that I wasn't long for this world, but it was the torn lip that made it all too terrifying.
In the middle of the night a few days later, i was up feeding zack his formula and crying over my failure as a mother when I felt someone sit beside me on the couch. I thought Erik had come to help with the baby, but this presence whispered to me in a different voice. "Don't worry so much," the man said. "I'm watching, I've been watching all of Erik's life."
As I wiped my tears away and felt the quiet message sink into my mind, I recognized the voice. It was Erik's father. Only it wasn't. I knew even as I thought it, it was his Grandfather. His Grandfather he'd never met. The Grandfather who died when Erik's dad was 12 years old.It was a powerful lesson for me to learn. Perhaps my lack of eyesight meant I didn't look for the man seated beside me. Without my sight I couldn't have seen him anyway. Perhaps that's why I didn't need any thing to confirm to me that he was with us. In that moment and ever since, I've known that those who watch over us, protect us, and look out for our well being are not just here on earth.It took my broken heart and an overwhelming fear for my son for me to understand. I wasn't alone. My children weren't alone. My life was not drifting through the darkness.
The most important thing I learned is: When life is too big for we mere mortals to shoulder it, its Okay. We don't have to. "...for they that are with us are greater than they that are with them." 2 kings6:16

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Best Revenge

I felt the brush of something past my forehead. By the time I stopped in my blind dash for second base, the field around me erupted in shouting. My husband, who'd been running beside me to ensure I landed on the bag and stopped before ending up in left field, was screaming at someone. Other players were shouting, their voices gathering around. "What happened?" i asked my husband, who stood quivering beside me.
"Are you Okay?" he growled from between his teeth. "Did the ball hit you?"
As the clamour began to die down, I picked up bits and pieces of the conversations around me. "The short stop threw the ball at your head." someone said.
"If he'd hit her she wouldn't be conscious," said another. "That ball was probably 90 miles an hour.
"What's your problem, man?" I hear my husband shout over my head.
I know what his problem was. We were playing in a co-ed softball league and it bothered this guy that they'd let the blind lady play. I'd heard nasty comments slip from this dude's mouth a couple of times. "What is this the special Olympics?"
"Why don't we all just sit down and let her run around the bases until the other team wins."
"I didn't come to hold hands, I came to compete.
At the time his attitude bothered me. I hit the ball on my own. Erik told me to swing or not, but I had to listen, ignore him, and actually make contact by myself. The pitcher was awesome. He'd give me a verbal cue when he threw the ball like "Here it comes.", but I still had to find the pitch. I ran myself, Erik just told me where to stop...
Its actually sort of funny as I picture it now. Blind baseball. Once I even ran toward the pitcher's mound instead of second base. I got out of course. I told you the story about the ball dropping behind me while I stood oblivious.No one decided we'd pretend I caught the ball because I was in the general area.  All of it was a ton of fun and the attitude's of the people I played with went a long way to make softball some of my best times.
I can, however, understand this short stop's frustration. He wanted to win through competition and dominance. The other team was winning, but with me on the field this poor guy felt like he might as well have been playing T-ball with his kids.
My husband Erik later told me if the guy had hit me he'd have beat the pulp out of him. He was lucky he'd missed. I'm glad it was only a close call, for my benefit, but also for Erik's. This guy wouldn't have enjoyed the experience either, but I really don't care about  him. I mean, I don't want him to get hit by a truck or anything, but getting revenge for me, or even because this guy deserved a good beat down would only have scarred my husband.
Perhaps not physically, but definitely emotionally and spiritually. He says it wouldn't but I know him. Revenge would've left him angry and empty. He hates conflict and he loves sports. It would have left a bitter taste in his soul.
Often we want an apology, or at least an acknowledgement of wrong doing before we forgive.
"You were wrong and I was hurt I don't owe you anything, certainly not forgiveness.
However if you're sorry, or at least chagrined, I'll consider giving forgiveness to you. You might deserve it then."
Isn't that our attitude sometimes?None of us deserve forgiveness. The  Savior was perfect and he forgives everyone. We are all less than he is. None of us deserve his condescension to our level.
Here's the thing though. Forgiveness isn't a gift we give others. Its the gift we give ourselves. Without forgiveness, we're left with anger, betrayal, hurt and revenge. Filling your heart and mind with those emotions is like drinking poison and expecting your enemy to die.
You don't forgive someone to make their life better and their conscious easier. You do it so you can prosper, be full of happiness, and live well.
After all, isn't that the best revenge?"

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Today In History

Today is my mother's birthday. As I was looking for her street address to mail a birthday card to her, I thought about everything I have learned from her over they years. My mother and I are quite a bit alike. We are both strong, opinionated, outspoken and stubborn women. There have been times when are similarities have made it difficult for us to get along. We like to argue in which we say the same things but come at each other from opposite points of view. When I was a much younger, more obnoxious, know-it-all, I drove her crazy, and vice-avers. We still have times when I'm sure she rolls her eyes at the stupid things I do., I still grit my teeth and wonder if she remembers what life was like when she was my age.
Those are the moments when I'm especially grateful to her for the beautiful lady she is.
When my mother was 'my age' she'd been a widow with six children below the age of 20. The love of her life, her best friend, and the light at the end of her tunnel was gone. Her parents were both gone as well, and she was alone.
For my brothers and sisters and I, the years following my father's death were dark and difficult. For my mother they were crippling. Yet, she didn't let the worst decade of her life strip her of her faith. No matter what happened to us, debt, disaster, disease, or doubt; My mother never faltered in her faith.
When most of us are asked to step forward one day at a time when life is too harsh,, she was asked to walk off a cliff. When most of us must stiffen our spine, straighten our shoulders and stand up to trials, she had to tie herself to the burning pyre and stand amidst the flames to protect us. She didn't always do it perfectly, but she always did it. She never left her God when at times it seemed he abandoned her. She never thought she was perfect, but she always knew the perfect love of her Savior. My Dad was her life line in a lot of things, but her love of her God, her family, and her faith in forever bound her together when everything else fell apart.
My mother was the person who taught me there isn't anything I can't do if The Lord is on my side. It is my favorite thing She and I have in common..
Someday the 19 th day of August will be a day my grandchildren or great grandchildren will not remember even though it's my mother's birthday. However, the generations of my family will always carry my mother with them. Her courage. Her strength, and her great faith. It has made me the woman I am, the wife, the mother, and the disciple of Christ that I strive to be everyday.
Thanks Mom, for the greatest gift of all, for your life, your sacrifices, and your desire to be a righteous woman of God.
I love you. Happy Birthday!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

What Were You Expecting?

At the end of April, 2003, my husband Erik stepped off an airplane in Dakar, Senegal. The farthest from home he'd ever gone before? A distant corner of Florida. Now he stood in a foreign country a white guy who stood literally head and shoulders taller than the locals. A sea of ebony-skinned men and women in colorful tunics, camouflage uniforms, and tattered jeans. The armed guards at the arrival gate asked him, "Where are you staying?"
He didn't know. "Who are you meeting?"
A man from Sierra Leone named Samuel. He would have our four year old son with him so we could finalize his adoption.
"What is Samuel's last name? What does he look like? Where is he meeting you?"
Erik didn't know the answers to any of these questions either.We had spent the last year and a half focused on filling out adoption papers-in triplicate-to finalize the U.S. side of our international adoption. We spent days standing in line at immigration offices. Hours in Doctors offices getting physicals and letters attesting to my abilities as a blind person to also be a parent. Months gathering together back ground checks, references, fingerprints, passports, and letters of recommendation from three non-related people. All in Triplicate. Our home had to be visited for safety measures. We were interviewed by social workers, Child and Family Services, and U.S. Immigration to assure we were mentally, physically, and financially capable of adopting.
We then had to take 60 hours of Foster parent training, mortgage our home for the cash, and  buy plane tickets to bring our son home.
Interestingly enough, this wasn't the hardest part. As the armed guard led Erik toward the baggage claim , there was a short, black man holding a cardboard sign that said McDonald in one hand, and a little black eyed boy in the other. Up on leaving the airport, Erik discovered the best Hotels were the safest and cost 170$ a night for what we in the U.S. would pay your average 29.99$ 'we'll leave the lights on for you' kind of place. The water wasn't drinkable so they stocked up on Coke. The food smelled like fish and garbage. All of it. The meat, the fruit, the bread, everything. The country smelled like fish and garbage. Samuel, the man facilitating the adoption, left Sieirra Leone three days earlier with a baby wipes box holding a chunk of bread and some raw fish. They still had some left when Erik checked them all into the Hotel. He exchanged his american dollars for Cephas, the currency in Senegal. He did this by meeting a man in a dark alley. Yes, a real dark alley, and following him through a shanty town of shacks to trade his cash.
If all that wasn't scary enough...My son's birth certificate had been filled out wrong. His passport said he was born on May 6 but his Visa said he was born on June 5. Evidently 5/6 in some countries means May 6 and in others it means June 5. The U.S. Consulate told us we couldn't get him out of Senegal in the three days before the return flight unless we went to Gambia, a country north of Senegal, to the Sierra Leoneon Consulate. At this point Samuel, and the man he traveled with were gone. We had no one in Africa who could help us. Erik made a lot of international phone calls, taxi rides all over Dakar, and said a ton of prayers. He ran into Samuel's traveling companion on the street that day. Paying for this man to fly to Gambia, Erik waited and hoped for a miracle. The Gambian consulate was closed and the consular out of town. I called the airlines and changed Erik's return tickets to the next departing flight. Back in 2003, there were four flights from Dakar. One Monday morning flying out, one Monday night flying in, one Wednesday morning flying out and one Wednesday afternoon flying in. We were booked on the Monday morning out flight. I changed it to the Wednesday morning out flight. If he couldn't catch that one he'd have to spend another week in Africa.
Tuesday, Erik went to the U.S. Consulate and asked what we could do. The consular, Andy, said there was nothing. They could issue the boy's Visa with the wrong date, but when the immigration officials in the airport saw it they'd send Erik and the child back. Erik could go on to the U.S., but the boy couldn't leave. If they made it through security in Dakar, the U.S. officials would see the same problem and send the boy back to Africa, alone. We had 4 hours to decide what to do. After teary phone calls, numerous prayers, and a divine message to come home, Erik called his Dad. When he explained the situation, his dad only asked one question, "Is it just a paperwork problem?"
When Erik assured him it was, his dad told him to get on the plane.
Those last few hours waiting for a phone call after their departure time to tell me they hadn't gotten through were excruciating. Notice...I was expecting to hear more problems. Erik called me at 7 a.m. the next morning. They were in immigration in New York. The officials took the little boy's papers, which no  one in the African airport, uniforms, or on the plane noticed was wrong,and disappeared into their offices. A half hour later, they came back with the forms, shook my son's hand and said, "Welcome to The United States."
That was 11 years ago. The trials, joys, heartache and love we enjoy in our family have grown from this experience. Looking back, I think we were too young, or stupid, or insane to realize what danger Erik, our son, and our family were in if God hadn't known the answers. We expected to go to Africa, pick up our son and come home again. That's exactly what we got.
How often do we complain that life, or our health, or our happiness haven't turned out the way we were expecting? Really?
Break down your true expectations to their core and see if God hasn't given you what you wanted.
Children, a family? Look around do you have people who love you? The chance to be in the presence of children? The love of those who know you?
Fame, Riches, power? You have no idea how many people will remember your kindness, your smile, or your attitude. When all things disappear because of global warming or an apocalyptic event, will you be rich in love, memory, experiences? The greatest power there is is love, are you working on gaining it?
Maybe your expectations are for pain, doubt, and misery? You'll find that too. Don't focus on what is going wrong because you're not getting what you want. Focus on what you're expecting and see if you really want it. Your Father in Heaven will answer your prayers and fill your expectations. The question is: What are you expecting?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Stroke Of Bad Luck?

"you see all these white dots on your brain scan? Those are mini-strokes. Over your lifetime you've had dozens."
I couldn't see any details of the MRI. To me it was a gray blur with white dots scattered in no distinct pattern. My neurologist explained to me that the gray blur was a shot from above looking down at a thin slice of my brain. The dots were actually just one spot which represented an area that went through about a thousand layers where a small section of my brain matter died. "I've had more than a dozen strokes? Why hasn't it killed me?"
Interestingly enough, these small episodes Known as TIA's orTranscient Ischemic Attacks can be quite serious. When a blood vessel in your brain bursts from too much pressure or blocked passages, they can cause paralyzation, speech impediments, loss of function and even death. A history of these attacks can indicate an upcoming larger episode. So they are little warning flags. Mine were due to low blood sugars and had been happening most of my life. Seeing the mottled landscape of my brain with these tiny warning flags all over was a little sobering, too say the least. The more I talked to the doctor and the more I asked God what it all meant though, the more I saw the beauty in the pictures. I wasn't alone. My body was screaming for relief from a condition I was trying to control and My Father in Heaven was answering the call.Despite losing a significant number of these little sections of my brain, God had not allowed them to cripple my mind or body. I could still function, love, speak, and hold my children. There was so much more I could have lost.  Sometimes we look at a narrow slice of our lives and shake our fists at the sky for bad luck, crappy family, or the mistakes others have cursed us with. Do we ever step back and look at the whole. Yes, there are hindrances to my life, even now with my transplants. Does that mean the ability to laugh, to wrestle with my sons, to walk up the street, or to write using my talking computer are less valuable? If I focus in on the scars and marks that cover my body I look like a road map of tragedy. If I look at my family, friends, blessings, and beauty which God gives me every moment of each day, then I am the luckiest woman alive.
It's up to us to decide who and what we're going to be. Tiny sections of disaster warning of worse things to come, or children of God standing as a tribute to his immense power and love?I realize my story of mini-strokes is nothing in comparison to the stories of people who suffer much more devastating results. My father-in-Law had brain surgery, a  near death experience and months if not years of trying to recover his body. My mother-in-law lost her life because of what started as TIA's. There is nothing we can change about what was or what is life after.
What ever your TIA's are or have left you with is in the past. Don't waste your energy wishing you could change it. You are so much more than your scars. Figure out what they left you with for a bright future.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Thicker Skin

I have a series of scars that dent my forehead and are mostly hidden by my eyebrows. For some reason the first thing I hit when I bump into something is my eyebrows or head. When I began losing my sight, it was because I was trying to get around using my flawed eyesight. Of course I didn't see things like a branch sticking out from a tree. My lack of depth perception meant I hit the edge of more tables than I cleared.However, once I was trained and learned to use my cane to travel I crashed and burned less often. I did still hit into things, now its just my own stupidity to blame.
A good friend of mine and I were taking a class together. We were late the first day of class and so I was rushing down the hall.  Relying on my cane to guide me, I looked for the stone pillar that would mark the correct spot in the wide hall that would show me the way. Just as I located it with my cane, I turned for the class room.  My rush to get into the class before I made a scene entering interfered with my caution. I turned the corner a half second too late, crashing into  the grouted edge of the gigantic pillar. I creased my face from my forehead, across the bridge of my nose and split my upper lip. Now I was really late, disoriented and had blood running down my face. Talk about making a scene. My friend ran to the restroom to get me a clutch of paper towels. I tried to find my way across the classroom, into my seat and appear unaffected.
You can imagine how that went.
A guy in the back of the room said he was a doctor and would examine it to see if I needed stitches. The teacher tried not to let it interrupt her lesson but she kept asking if I was Okay.
With the wad of paper towels I was able to stem the tide of blood and even found a band-aid in my bag to close the wound. By the time class was over, my lower lip was twice the size it started out and my eyebrow was beginning to droop a little. I'm sure I looked like I'd been hit by a truck.
My girlfriend and I just laughed.
"New scars," she told me.
"A thicker skin," I agreed.
If I were ever to show you my scars you'd probably have to brace your self not to wince openly. I have a lot. Scars from surgeries, Kidney dialysis, stupid things I do and just plain life in general. They start on my left foot back when I was in the eight grade and my latest was 3 months ago when they cut me open from rib cage to pelvis for my transplant. I'm not proud of them and I don't show them everywhere I go, but I also recognize the story of my life in them.
I am the woman I am today because of what I learned from those scars. God teaches us to be stronger, smarter, and have a thicker skin when he allows us to earn our scars. A perfect unmarred body, life, or heart is one that has no stories to tell or lessons to learn. They seem tragic or cruel and sometimes we question how a loving God lets bad things happen to the children he loves. He wants us to grow closer to letting him guide our lives and the scars can either remind us of his love or become bitter wounds that drive us away. Its not Him that decides though. Its us.
I will never walk too fast into the classroom again. The crease in my eyebrow will always remind me why I don't want to. It doesn't mean God doesn't love, watch over, or protect his children. It just means he trusts us to thicken our skin so we'll learn to trust him. I will acquire more scars. I will make more mistakes. I will live, love and learn while I'm doing it though. Hopefully my thicker skin will make the lessons a bit more fun.