Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Outside My Window

The longest twelve weeks of my life were spent in a room with two walls made of glass. I was 4 stories in the air and looking out on the hustle and bustle of the city for nearly three months. I was also confined to a bed, 6 months pregnant and on the verge of losing my kidney function and my baby.
I don't know if the nurses felt sorry for me or if they just wanted me to have enough light with my diminished eyesight, but I was put in a room in Utah Valley Regional Medical Center with half of the room a giant window.
When I was first admitted, I was scared and willing to do about anything they asked to save my own life and that of my baby's. After 8 weeks of watching "the world" go past my window seat...literally, I was done.
I was trapped in a bed. bored out of my mind. Often alone for long hours. I was sick, swollen, allergic to my pregnancy and tearing holes in my skin at night because the rash on my legs was so bad. The food was tasteless. The bed was hard and my body was shutting down. We'd moved to Provo for just this contingency and having been hospitalized, my husband couldn't work. Every day they told us...Not today, but maybe tomorrow. Don't go anywhere. Between blood draws, high blood pressure, round the clock insulin injections, whirlpool treatments for my torn skin and melon sized hands and feet from kidney failure. I couldn't take anymore.
My husband who'd been by my side the entire time tried to comfort me, but I couldn't be soothed. The nurses who took care of me around the clock tried to tell me how important every day was to the baby's survival, but it seemed hopeless. My doctors tried to tell me it would only be a few more days, but I knew better.
Until the day I gained perspective because of those giant windows.
My husband had gone to find himself some food and I was sitting by the windows, wishing desperately to join the world passing by. I could see just enough at that time to watch people on the grounds, cars on the road and children playing on the grass outside. Despair at my plight overwhelmed me. The desire to get out of my wheelchair and just walk out the doors was so powerful I clutched the side-rails to keep myself from doing so. The last straw was a couple carrying a wrapped bundle from the hospital, putting it in a stroller and walking down the sidewalk outside my window.
I backed away from the windows and crawled back into my bed to cry. When my husband came back, I was distraught and inconsolable. As he sat beside me, trying to dry my tears and buoy me up again, a commotion broke out from the room next door.
The woman in the room beside mine was only 16 weeks along. She had more than 20 weeks to go and she was pretty miserable as well. When her cries and tears spilled from the room, along with gown clad doctors and nurses, I knew she wasn't miserable over her upcoming long stay. Her cries were of pain, grief and despair. She'd gone in to labor again and the doctors couldn't stop it.
A few hours later, a nurse slipped from her room with another tiny bundle, this one far too small and still. One little foot protruded from beneath the blanket so pale and lifeless I choked on my own breath.
She checked out of the hospital the next day. She went home to her life, her car, her world outside my window. She went home without her baby.
At times in my life when my heart is breaking because I can't have what I think are the deepest desires of my soul, I remember the difference between the worlds in and outside my window. It is not what is happening for others that makes the other side of the glass look so perfect. It is our perception of what is happening on our side.
My husband spent three months, not eating, sleeping on a lumpy mattress and going stir crazy so he didn't leave me alone. dozens of kind, caring, wonderful doctors and nurses took care of my baby when my body refused to do it. I didn't deliver my son until I was 34 weeks into my pregnancy. He was purple, not breathing, and unresponsive, but he lived. My world was never outside that window. It was inside. the blessings, fortune, and love of God kept my world spinning when it would have been so easy for me to join the outside world like my neighbor had to.
If your world seems, small, lonely and empty, maybe its because your focusing outside your window when everything you need  is on your side of the glass.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Take A Blind Lady and A15-Year-Old Driver and What Do You Get?

My last and final foray into driving motorized vehicles was 18 years ago. Armed with good intentions, chocolate chip cookies and my "blind" faith, I drove for the last time.
This past week, my husband was out of town. He left two days earlier than I planned and forgot to pick up my prescriptions before he went to Las Vegas for the week. Wednesday morning I had a doctor's appointment and one of the prescriptions had to be taken the night before and the morning of my appointment.
What's a blind lady to do?
Fear not. I knew better than to drive myself. After calling and texting a half dozen people, I was desperate to get to the pharmacy. My teenage boys, one 15 and one 16, don't have driver's licenses. My husband has been teaching them to drive and letting them drive between the house and church, a distance of about three blocks.
My oldest was at work, but my 15-yr.-old came home from school, and I needed help. I only had two hours to make a trip that takes about three hours on the bus and about 30 minutes in a car. Hence an idea was hatched.
Using only residential roads, and going no more than 25 miles per hour my teenage son could make the 5 mile drive.
After going over the rules, the important parts of the car and the things he needed to watch for, we prayed and took off.
He was great! Careful, aware, talked to me and told me evrything he could see all around him. I paid attention to his speed, the turn of the car and the passing traffic, things I could feel and hear. We made it to the pharmacy and home again with both our car, our lives and our relationship in tact.
Before we left I had only two stipulations.
1- He couldn't drive on Sunset Boulevard. A busy 4 lane road.
2- He couldn't drive on Snow Canyon Parkway, another 4 lane-too busy-road.
Somehow, during our casual, tension free foray into the next town, my instructions to park at Linn's Grocery store was translated to "Park at Albertson's"
These two buildings are across Sunset Blvd. from each other.Suddenly my instructions to not drive on that road were tossed out because  he HAD to cross Sunset Boulevard. The miraculous part is...he did it, without any problems. He did it so well, in fact I only found out we'd gone on Sunset after he'd parked.
With the pharmacy taken care of, I told him we'd get some dinner while we waited for a refill. This time when I said "We'll go to Albertson's, its just a block away and on the same side of the road." He translated it to."The grocery store on the other side of the road."
Before I knew it, he's pulling out into four lanes of on-coming traffic on the very road I told him not to drive on. A few honks and unhappy driver's later we blocked traffic, butted our way into the opposite lane and we parked on the other side of the road.
Shaken, a little unsettled and knowing we could have been killed, I made him walk back to the pharmacy for the final prescription before we returned home. At this point I understood that we were at Albertson's in the first place, not Linn's and when I said go to Albertsons he thought I was sending him across the busy road. Once we cleared up our miscommunication, I told him to take the side roads back home and STAY OFF SUNSET BLVD.
He promised and once again, we were headed for disaster.
Instead of taking the route I told him, he said he knew a road that would join up with the residential neighborhoods. A few minutes and 45 miles per hour later, we are zooming down the other, busy, four lane road, I specifically told him not to take. After he cut off another driver and the unhappy motorist tailgated, swore at us and flipped us off. I realized we were on the wrong road again.
To no one's surprise, my husband wasn't happy with me, my ability to make good decisions or my willingness to involve our children in my insane antics.
All of this trouble boils down to one thing...I think of myself as 'normal' while knowing I'm not. I've never pretended to be sighted, just capable. Knowing and having limitations are entirely different things.
There is a scripture in Corithians which says-"I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me."
I firmly, and without question believe that. Driving with my teenage son and completely blind doesn't sound like moving mountains to me. It sounds reasonable. A little out-of-the-ordinary, but reasonable.
My husband calls it insanity. I just call it faith.
The problem is...even things done in faith have consequences. Accidents happen. Circumstances collide with well-meaning individuals. Life happens while you're making other plans. The strength to deal with it comes from The Savior. A powerful relationship with Him doesn't protect you from life. It only makes it so you can live through it, heal, and find happiness. Easy words when my son and I returned home safely. Harder when disaster strikes. The lord knows you and loves you. Whatever you think you can't do...he knows that too. He knows what gaps, weaknesses and failings He must fill in. Always remember-
You Can Do This because He can do anything.
After all...If God is on your side, does it matter who isn't?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Black Day

My father taught me years ago that time is a flexible entity without beginning or end. As humans we label this flexible non-congruent factor so our finite minds can understand an infinite concept.
I wrapped my mind around that in differing degrees and at different times but no more so than this past few weeks.
On September 11, 2001, the world stopped turning and life as we know it changed forever. That date will forever be seared in many of our minds. On September 11, 2009, I received a kidney from my older brother. My world that was starting to turn more slowly than ever before catapulted me into a place I never thought I'd be. A place where I had a future. On September 11, three years later, I received and then lost a pancreas transplant when I bled into my stomach and the transplanted organ died. The lowest I've ever been in my life since my father's death, was on that day.
Black Day, for my family for the past 26 years has been May 2, 1989, the day I found my father's dead body on the front lawn after school. Some years were dark and painful. Black being the most accurate description I had. Some years we cried, remembered, held on to one another and survived. Some we laughed, missed him, and kept holding on. This past year, May 2, 2014, I was in the hospital with a tube in my stomach, recovering from another pancreas transplant. Once again being offered a future I was never supposed to have.
This year I spent "Black Day" with my donor's family. I laughed with his sister. Adored his funny, strong, caring younger brother. worried about his unborn niece or nephew. Shopped with his fiance and hugged his mom and dad until they probably wondered how they'd get rid of me. It was a "black day" in many ways, marking my father, as well as Colby's deaths. Perhaps in the future this day will be labeled by something besides the loss of loved ones. Perhaps, someday, this day will be the beginning of new families, friends and memories for all of us.
For now, if the day is a bit black, it is merely the void of our own lives we remember those we love sharing with us and look forward to the time when they, themselves will fill it once more. A little blackness makes the light much brighter, gives us the dawn to look forward to and reminds us that even in the darkest of nights, God leaves the stars on so we are never alone in the dark.
This black day a few more lights came on in my darkness. A few more lights and lives touched mine and left their flames burning in my soul. I still miss my dad fiercely, the ache that accompanies his absence has never gone away. The lights of others soften the darkness, bring light love and laughter and make each day a little less black.
My light still burns because of the tapestry of love and labels woven through time. Each flame lights the world every time I share it, and by those who light up my life, and fill the darkness until the day will no longer be black.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Sweet Sixteen

Tomorrow, is my oldest son's sixteenth birthday.  His road so far has been a long and difficult one, especially considering he is so young. Between his start in Western Africa, knee deep in war, starvation, and violence, and his thrust into the United States where survival means learning to do more than find food, shelter and safety, the last decade and a half have tried all our faith.
Now, at sixteen, he looks forward to what most kids do...Dating, Driving, part time jobs, High School and an independent future. The world we live in is not as hard as the one he came from. It is far more complex, confusing and convoluted. Simple survival was easier and his struggle over the last 16 years has thrown him into a world of relationships, behaviors and thinking that is more foreign to him than the little desert town in which we live. Its been a battle for the whole family, but so entrenched was he in his old thinking, it was a disaster for him.
Love, patience and long suffering was necessary on all our parts, but no more so for us than for him.
The fight isn't over, its just beginning. However, after all the battles, the successes and failings and the broken minds and hearts along the way. This, his sixteenth birthday, is sweet.
He is working, keeping up in school, functioning and thriving socially and behaviorally and bonding with the family. It isn't perfect, what part of life is? What teenager doesn't struggle to find their way in the world?
A mere year and a half ago, I was searching the streets after he'd runaway. Two years ago he was in jail. Six months ago he was missing again. Today, he is on his way to work, on public transportation, unaccompanied and capable. These may not be hurdles for anyone else. For Him, they are monumental. A kid who dug for food in garbage cans, protected himself with sharpened pieces of metal and mistrusted anyone who came near, now has friends, co-workers, teachers and brothers who love and adore him. He is climbing the mountain and reaching for dreams for the first time.

As bitter sweet as your life has been, Joshua, you are a brilliant, beautiful, fantastic kid. Never forget how sweet success can be. I love you, bud. Happy Birthday!