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!!!.