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