"Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to let you in."

-- Robert Frost

Friday, January 27, 2017

daily miracles (part one)

We're well into a new year.

A lot happened at the conclusion of last. I'll back up with a wrap up on the casual things but today is about my path to the present.

During the first week of October, I underwent a reconstructive surgery of my spine. In more technical terms, a fusion from T9 to the sacrum held together with titanium steel and pedicle screws with a little donor bone mixed in.

I've had to relearn how to walk. I've had to relearn how to eat. I've had to relearn how to be.

And I've had plenty of time to reflect on the vision of daily miracles.

I've never written my story but here is as good a place as any. Born the child of a father pecking out a wonderful childhood for his children in backwoods of North Carolina as a small town chiropractor, I stood in line in an elementary school gym awaiting my turn for the yearly scoliosis check. A pink slip went home alerting my parents to the growing problem of a crooked spine and my father's skill set was put to the task. He did his best but an ever growing curve had a mind of it's own and one day he and I made a long trip to see an orthopedic surgeon in the big city.

"It's in the cards."

That's what they said and options were archaic at best. Harrington rods with zero bend. Plastic braces known to lead to muscle atrophy. Methodologies to make a head swim.

I can imagine my parents discussion in the dark that night as they saw a future for a daughter who with no treatment would eventually curve into oblivion and suffer osteoporosis, bowel and kidney failures, lung collapse or worse than death ... life in a bent form to be cared for indefinitely.

Shortly thereafter, I found myself enrolled in ballet lessons, the existence thereof quite unclear as a country chiropractic salary paid often times in bags of garden fresh beans and other traded goods, does not lend to such frivolities.

Somehow, the gleaning of that grocery budget, bought time and built the strength of ten million titanium rods and the future was held at bay. "Eventually she'll have trouble walking," they had said, but walk I did and more.

I danced in that ballet studio perfecting posture and building muscle memory multiple days after school and later left for university years to study ballet as an art, receive a degree in the field, and dance with a ballet company. Married and moving on from college life, I began my family all the while teaching other young bodies to do the same.

Fast forward twenty years with seven beautiful children where this ole body cried uncle.

Over the last four years, preceding the birth of our final child, a flood gate opened. What had been a well tended 45 degree curve to my spine, progressed to a rather painful 78 degrees. Four inches shorter and child bearing years behind me, I began to take a hard look at this next phase of life ... and it didn't look super appealing from any direction.

I counseled with my father and his conservative advice was jarring. Jarring, but necessary and I spent a year consumed with maintenance techniques to no avail. Having little choice but to face Time, my old enemy, I moved into preparation for the hardest decision of my life.

We found the best doctor ...  a million miles away in New York City serving as head of NYU's Scoliosis research department. Upon walking into his office in the center of Manhattan, I wondered if I could possible stand a post operative trip back to Colorado, internally wincing at the time it would take to even be able to make such a journey. Within minutes in his office, he revealed his plans to relocate to Colorado in August.

We walked out of the Manhattan high rise clutching hands in silence at this marvel of fortune ... or answer to prayer?

Our move into Steamboat Springs brought us face to face with a world class physical therapy team dealing in rehabilitation of Olympic athletes. Right away we began a pre-operative program to get ready for the big day.

And yet I wavered.

There were nights laying awake reminding myself that I'd been sent to be the daughter of a chiropractor for a reason. There were tearful moments remembering the observation of an elderly woman bent in two being fed in a restaurant by her patiently faithful adult children. There were painful times stuck waiting for control over my own limbs to return from lightening stings of spasm. There were parental cautions and self doubts bouncing off of every corner of my brain in the quiet minutes of my day.

I reached for an answer. I stretched for an answer. I strained for an answer.

Silence resounded.

One night, I took some private spiritual time and flipped open to scripture reading a rebuke to "those of little faith". Did I not believe in a God of miracles? One who had made the blind to see and the lame to walk?

I did.

But that wasn't an answer.

I took myself deeper into reflection feeling like a girl in the dark, gingerly patting her fingers along the wall in the blackness hoping to find a doorknob while protectively avoiding obstacles.

One such time, the possibility occurred that I might never again have a dream team in place on my behalf. Miracles happen and I would be looked after no matter my direction. However, it would be up to me to see those miracles in whichever direction I chose.

I moved forward toward that surgical date.

Preoperative paperwork in hand, I sat in a picture window waiting for a blood work draw and I gazed out at a perfectly blue sky rebuking myself for seeking some sort of "sign" but silently pleading to be told if this was the wrong path. In that moment, a car pulled up to the curve within my view and an elderly gentleman was helped from the back seat. He straightened himself as far as possible and then limped shoulder bent to hip, across the crosswalk.

Okay, I said. Okay.

Let's do this.

And I moved forward feeling a little less alone.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

home by way of venice

Returning cars out of the original country of rental can be a headache and pricey. 

Our plan had been to rent when we first landed in Florence and travel up the coast toward Switzerland, beeline to Austria, curve around to Slovenia and then head back to Florence to return our rental cars before flying home.

We had an extra day and I begged and begged that we get out early enough to get to see Venice by way of our return to Florence.

I mean, we may never be here again so why not?

Everyone was eager at the prospect and did their part to get us on our way.

We just knew that we would love Venice when we found wild blackberries growing on the roadside as we walked to the ferry.

Venice is built on water and I've heard it's touristy, crowded and maybe even a little dirty. So, we didn't know what to expect.

It may have ended up being our favorite city by far. It's definitely one that we all said we would come back to see again one day.

Those little walking paths leading into secret alleys were so quaint and romantic.

The streets were lined with beautiful carts. The kids were begging to pick their own purchase of fruit.

Who wouldn't want one of everything?

Look how these bundles of peppers are arranged so beautifully.

We were even drawn to the never before seen.

These garages sure were interesting.

And these two again.

Being waved at by a classroom of preschoolers across the canal.

Newel and I decided it would be a pretty great place to return, just the two of us.

And if we do, I'm gonna have to try one of these fish pedicures. The girls were dying that we just didn't have enough time to squeeze that in.

And I think we left having soaked in a very quick but full day, falling in love with Venice.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

on the lake

In the midst of rainy days, we spent some time exploring the lake. A gorgeous walking trail circled the perimeter. We didn't even mind the rain because it produced some beautiful low hanging clouds and rainbow sunsets.

We decided to grab some lunch then take a couple of boats out to the island monastery.

These two had been striking up a heartwarming connection.

We walked the perimeter of the lake.

Charlotte begged to be carried and Christian didn't mind a bit.

That water was so clear.

We couldn't all fit in one boat so divided into two. Those faces were concerned over Christian's ability to keep the boat upright .... especially with the fish in the clear water. I'm not sure there was much confidence.

But he did a great job.

We docked and walked the monastery island.

Those steps were so old, they were being held together by iron staples.

The church itself was packed and we didn't want to chance another downpour so we unhitched our boats and rowed to the other side of the lake for some famous Slovenian cream cake.

Had to have a little race back to the docks.

We took a rest back at our house during an afternoon downpour but headed back out into the clear evening to walk the lake.

Again, little legs gave out and I loved this boy's patience.

And moments like these two chatting away.

The lake is used for regatta practice producing so many Olympians. We didn't see too many teams practicing as all of them had already headed off to Rio, Brazil for the summer Olympics.

It sure gave us a thrill to root for their team since we felt a connection having been on the lake of blood, sweat and tears to compete at such a high level.

These guys finally got brave enough to jump in that cold water with those fish.

The sun set and a light drizzle began and I wish I could have captured the magic of the evening better.

And then it was time to finally turn our direction toward home.