Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Brain Dump that Facebook Missed

I'm taking a break from Facebook right now for several reasons: The noise of all those voices and notifications. (As of now, I've got 71 waiting for me when I get back next Monday.) The politics and fractious sharing of religious opinions. The pull to look again and again to see if anyone has written anything new. And oh yeah, the life envy. I admit to shoving down a bit of life envy from time to time. (The week before my birthday a friend posted about how sweet her littles were being whispering and planning surprises to delight her for her birthday. I got bubkis. A little twinge of covetousness.)

But more than that I found myself turning again and again to my online community of friends whenever I needed support, not to my family, not to God,  but to Facebook. It was all well and good in moderation, but I'm not that great at moderation. I realized the face I wanted to see was God's face, metaphorically, of course. So I decided to stop immersing myself in my virtual community, seek out real-life interaction with people I love, and try out some of those "Sunday school answers" in real life. (Q: How do you feel the Spirit? SSA: By fasting, praying, attending your meetings and the temple, service, etc.) So here are a few of my insights a week in.

1. I miss it. I miss the noise and the arguments and the announcements. My nephew and his wife just announced a pregnancy, and my SIL had a huge proud mommy moment. My husband says it's "weird" when I tell him to tell them I said congratulations. My daughters agree with him, so I'm tapping my foot, trying to keep my weirdo commitment to not facebook for two weeks. 

2, I have a backlog of thoughts I want to share with the wide, wide world. I want to write, Hence the blog post.

3. I have logged way more hours on my spiritual and intellectual pursuits than I normally do. I've been cleaning up other people's messes in Family Search. (Honestly, doesn't anyone else notice the thirty kids, and six Janes and six Joes and six of everything? Then I have to go research and see which Jane, Joe et al are the real ones and merge a bunch of people which messes with their kids . . . but I digress.) I've also done a lot more reading out loud to Caroline.

4. I am no more physically able to do other kinds of things, like cleaning, exercising, moving things, gardening than I was prior to this fb-fast. So I have a fair amount of sitting around thinking, "Hm, I can't really move: what should I do now?" Luckily, I live in my very own library, filled with my very favorite kind of books. Also, I have six million Kindle books. (OK, maybe I'm exaggerating a bit on the Kindle.) And a laptop. (Did I mention how hard it's been to NOT go to Facebook?)

5. I kind of hate Facebook, because Facebook destroyed casual blogging. Our easy likes, and short quips and one-stop shopping (all of our friends in one spot) was easy enough, but our status updates have been ridiculously easy. A sentence here, a paragraph there. I wrote when I blogged, and I made new friends through blogging. I miss it. But I love Facebook for all the reasons I hate it. I'm fickle like that. 

6, There have been new Doctor Who episodes and I've been staying away from Twitter and Facebook, so after I watch the new episode, my husband asks, "How was it?" And I respond, "SO GOOD!" and that's the end of it. No speculation about Missy's clever idea or chuckling over the clever lines or fist-shaking over Davros' evil plans or cheering over the Doctor choosing mercy and still winning the day. Nope. Nada. Silencio. However, point 3 sort of makes it worth it. I can squee with my online friends later. 

7. People know that I've written on my blog primarily though me posting a link on Facebook, so very few people will see this. Which is fine, I guess. It's the point, I guess. To talk to real people, not virtual ones. The problem is that some of my very favorite people in the world are ones I only have on-line contact with. I won't name names, but I'm fairly certain, they know who they are. 

So, given that maybe seven or eight people will read this, I'm not feeling all that motivated to put a big ribbon of a concluding paragraph onto this mess of thoughts, but please know I DO appreciate you reading it. 

The end. (Of this post. Sheesh. Don't get all dramatic on me.)

Thursday, September 10, 2015

TMI, in Honor of World Suicide Prevention Day

While I was pregnant with my fifth, the whole world fell apart. Some nut jobs flew planes into the twin towers and the Pentagon. People started getting envelopes with anthrax. My girl scout co-leader staged a coup. ("Good news! We have enough girls from our school to start our very own troop!") The city came into my home under the guise of a rehab loan to insulate our ceiling and get a safe water heater, and decided that a third of my home had been built illegally and needed to come down. I already was experiencing my usual pregnancy depression, and things went south from there. I couldn't take it. I didn't want to take it. Thoughts of death filled my every spare thought. I wanted to die with every iota of myself.

It was obvious that I needed to get back on anti-depressants. I'd gone off mine because I didn't want the extra risks for the pregnancy, but the truth was that suicide was 100% deadly to a fetus. The benefits clearly outweighed the risks. I happened to have insurance at that point so I called Kaiser to get an appointment with a therapist and/or psychiatrist. They asked basic questions to ascertain whether I was planning on killing myself. I knew that a yes to any of those questions would result in a "5150," an involuntary stay at a psych hospital. My kids were 10, 8, 5, and 3 at the time. Where would they go?  The only possible answer: "No, I am not going to kill myself." The Kaiser employee, having determined that she didn't need to send the police to save me, scheduled me for the next available appointment, four months from then. Four months. Luckily, I got into my primary care physician after only a month for an SSRI. I just "talked back to the crazy" while I waited.

My crazy brain thought of caulking myself and the kids into the kitchen and having a "movie, ice cream and pizza party" while the gas was on, and I told the crazy brain to SHUTUPSHUTUPSHUTUP, I'd ponder snow camping and freezing to death, and I told myself that it wouldn't work and to SHUTUPSHUTUPSHUTUP. Envying people with cancer, wishing for a meteorite to take me and my house out, hoping for a deadly car accident, all were greeted with my standard SHUTUPSHUTUPSHUTUP. Never underestimate the power of telling the horrid thoughts no. It got me through while I waited for help.

Eventually, I got my SSRI and I started meeting with the Kaiser therapist, a kind of crappy therapist actually. It was enough to keep my domino up. Kaiser eventually got me in to see a psychiatrist and she was a delight. I later found a private therapist who was willing to do phone therapy with me and I worked hard to find my joi de vivre again. The meds stopped the death thoughts. The therapy gave me tools to deal with the emotions that come with life's trials. I was out of my house for fifteen months with a young family. It sucked in the biggest possible way, but I stayed alive. And I got better.

My husband later told me that while crazy me and sane me were fighting it out in my brain, I was calmer than usual and easier to get along with. He couldn't tell that I was on the edge of the abyss. I was running girl scout meetings and interviewing contractors and meeting with midwives and homeschooling and wanting to die with every iota of my being. I talked to some of my closest friends about it. I talked to my husband about it. They all knew I was stressed, but they didn't know how tempted I was. How close I was. Even though I was saying it, they weren't seeing it.

One of my closest friends saw it. She was similarly tempted. She and I made a living pact, similar to a suicide pact, with a happier outcome. The image of the line of dominoes falling and standing strong to hold up the dominoes that depended on me came from this pact of ours.  If I were to kill myself, people would be affected. Period. A lot of people.

I don't say this because I am immensely popular. I say it because when Carla jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge, it affected me. We weren't close, but she was my friend. She bought cookies from my girl scouts. She was a Pampered Chef host for me. We'd talked about life, parenting. I say it because when the daughter of one of my best friends from college took her life a few weeks ago, when the sweet girl from my first married ward and sister of my good friend killed herself last week, those deaths affected me. When they died, my domino took a hit, a big hit. Every domino that falls hits so many others. Some we would never suspect. I do not want to knock other people's dominoes over.

I'm not blaming people who kill themselves. Depression is a real illness.When people kill themselves they are not being selfish. They are being sick. Their brain chemicals and their hormones are out of whack. When I started taking the SSRI, my death thoughts stopped. I didn't have to shut them up. They went away because my chemical imbalance was being corrected. It wasn't magic. I had to try several different kinds of SSRIs and fiddle with the dosages with my doctor, but it worked. I'm healthier.

I'm not sharing all this for a big pity party or a love-on-Jami-fest.  I'm sharing it because I know right now there's someone doing all the stuff they are supposed to be doing while envisioning their own death, while googling painless suicide methods, while trying to figure out how to do it with the least amount of harm to those left behind. I'm begging those people to stay, to please get help, even though it all seems insurmountable.

There are happy days ahead even if you can't imagine them now. Believe me. Believe all of the survivors before you. Please seek help. For every time I've thought that life was hopeless and there was no point in going on, I've had a dozen where I experienced peace and joy that I would not have happened if I'd given up. It's not all fields of daisies, but it's do-able with moments of delight.

Those of you who are supporting someone who is tempted by suicide, I need to tell you that if they decide they are going to kill themselves no amount of following them around and trying to fix it will stop them. This is their battle. BUT you can help. You can be there. You can not judge. You can not make it worse by making it about you. You can not give up on them. There are many resources (some conflicting) that you can explore, including seeking therapy on your own. Here's a nice starting point.

For those of you who are on the edge, have been on the edge or might be on the edge in the future,  I give you one of the best self care lists I've ever run into.  Seriously, click on it and try a few of the things. I also give you the number to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255. Also I remind you that no one can be you. Not to your kids or your friends. Not to your mom or dad. Not to your mail carrier. You are the only you that is ever going to be and you are precious. Please stay with us. Stay to experience those bright moments of joy that will surely come. Stay to someday hold the hand of someone else who wants to die. Don't buy the lie that it won't get better. It will. Don't buy the lie that we'd be better off without you. We won't be. Stay. Please.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

One Girl's Trash

The day Violet came back from Girls Camp I had a migraine, so my husband picked her up from the church. Upon return, Sam told me that Vi had lost a bag of dirty laundry. Vi told me she lost "everything that was most important to her." I instinctively knew we'd have to go back to camp, if we wanted to retrieve it, but given the migraine and Sam's comment, I was willing to toss the dirty camp clothes. I felt bad, but not too bad. Migraines suck.

The next day at church, I asked around to see if anyone had seen a white trash bag of dirty laundry. No dice. Then Violet began to tell me what was in the bag. Her camp T-shirts from last year and this, both the stake and ward ones. Her camera with all the pictures from camp. The "fish hook necklace" that the girls add charms to each year for the activities they complete, a tomahawk charm, a polar bear swim charm, etc. Saturday I had written off the "everything that was most important" comment because Vi can be a bit of a drama queen at home. But this time she was right. The things couldn't be replaced. 

Monday, I began making calls. Four people brought home girls and stuff; I could call three. I drove over to the fourth family. They hadn't seen it. I left messages with two families, but got ahold of the Bishop's wife. She hadn't seen it and told me that the stake and ward people took every scrap home from camp. There would be no point in going up. Violet slouched on the couch, making despondent noises. I waited for the two remaining drivers to get back to me. About three in the afternnon they did, no sign of the trash bag of treasures. 

Then the bishop emailed me. His wife had contacted him and asked if he might have mistaken the bag for trash and tossed it when they were packing and cleaning up camp. He remembered hefting something that might have contained clothes, but it was inside another bigger black garbage bag. It seemed too heavy for clothes and so he tossed it. He begged forgiveness and promised to replace whatever was missing. I told Vi of the emails. She moaned in misery. 

At that point, I had a decision. I was certain it was tossed. I could give her a hug  and tell her to deal with it or I could drive up there and dumpster dive, assuming the garbage had not yet been picked up, a big assumption. I closed my eyes and prayed. The very clear answer was that we should go up. 

So we did. We drove two hours and discussed the fact that even though in the eternal scheme of things trinkets like these were not important God knew they were important to her now. I knew they were important to her. I told her that God answered prayers. Sometimes the answer was what we hope for and sometimes the answer was "be more careful with your stuff next time." I might possibly have said the old truism, "Pray like everything depends on the Lord, but work like everything depends on you."

When we arrived at the camp, the gates were locked. We stepped over the chains and sought out the groundskeeper with whom I was slightly acquainted. He was not there. We continued onward to the five tightly-packed dumpsters. 

We began pulling out the bags, cardboard, signs and streamers from the first dumpster. Opening each of the bags we found nothing but trash. Violet's sweatshirt and towel were just loose in there though so we felt hopeful. When we got to the bottom ookie drippy layer, we had a choice, jump in or tear them open. We didn't hesitate. Using a broom someone had thrown away, we tore the bags open and found . . . MORE TRASH.  We carefully repacked the dumpster and moved on to dumpster #2. 

At this point, we began to realize that this was going to be exhausting. We decided to do the top halves of each of the four remaining dumpsters before moving on to the harder gooey layer. And so we did, each bag revealing another layer of Girls Camp waste. When we got the fifth one we did the whole thing and then went back to dumpster #2. Goo, glob, schlop, blech. Remove. Repack. Goo, glob, schlop, blech. Repeat. This was turning out to be a gross crazy Jami story, not a led by the Holy Ghost story. 

Finally, we got to the final layer on the final dumpster. The sun was beginning to set, but we needed a rest. Vi was very discouraged. I asked her if she'd prayed and she said that she had. We sat down and Vi said another prayer while I silently prayed something like "Please. Please. Please. This is her faith forming. Please. Please. Please." Then we returned to the final half of the final dumpster. 

I kid you not: It was in the very first bag we opened. My silent prayer became much more like, "Thankyouthankyouthankyou! Really? Thankyouthankyouthankyou!"

At that moment the groundskeeper pulled up. Vi told him what was going on so fast, I wonder if he could even tell what she said. I was crying. Vi was laughing. I asked him if he remembered who I was. "Jami, right?" Whew! I wasn't going to jail for trespassing. I asked him if anyone had left soap anywhere. They had. 

We packed up the final dumpster and ran over to the sink to soap, scrub and alcohol hand gelled ourselves thoroughly. The groundskeeper gave us some popsicles and walked us out. As he did, he mentioned that we were lucky. The trash people were supposed to pick up the trash earlier that day, but hadn't come. 

We felt lucky. We felt blessed. We felt really oogie, slimy and gross.  

Faith is a weird thing. Was this God teaching me and my daughter that he cares about her and her concerns enough to save her clearly lost things, or was this just an instance of a mother being tenacious and very lucky? I can see arguments for both, but I believe in God, so my heart chooses the former. This was not the capstone of my belief. He's proven himself in far more important things for me, but because I've known him then, I recognize him now.  Any way you slice it, it's a happy story. Here's my happy tired girl. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Seems Like the Day to Do This

My Beautiful Daughter. Photo credit: Leah Mills

The Supreme Court has legalized gay marriage in all of the United States. There has been rejoicing and mourning, and all manner of commotion, so it seems that since the hornets' nest has been well and truly kicked, I might as well make an announcement: my oldest daughter is bisexual. I found out not too long ago, though I had suspected for about a year. (She was very careful about her pronouns when discussing her dates.)

As anyone who knows me or has been reading my blog for a while knows, I have long held the belief that it's none of my business what people's sexual orientations are. My business is to work on my own sins and to love people. It's a hard job and I'm glad I have a Savior to help me with it.

My daughter's bisexuality is simply one part of her. She is smart, kind, quiet, funny, insightful and good to the core. She is one of the most delightful people in the universe. I thank God every day that she is a part of my family. And I want to be very clear. I will not choose between my God and my daughter. I choose both. I choose to love God and to love my daughter. When it comes to people, I will choose my children over anyone. Period. And the fact that my children are such awesome people makes that choice an easy one.

And though it isn't perfectly in tune with either the marriage equality movement or the marriage-equals-one-man-and-one-woman movement, I am happy that she will be able to marry the person she falls in love with, but I'm worried too. Life is going to be harder for her. People who have never met her will hate her, wish her harm. It's frightening.

There's a whole portion of me that hopes she will fall in love with a man, because her life will be so much easier if she does. She won't have to worry about extended family disowning her or friends deciding to cut her off. She could move anywhere in the world without fear instead of only Western Europe or the West Coast or NYC. I have always been appalled at the violence and prejudice that LGBT people have had to endure, but now I have a face, my beautiful daughter's face, to picture those hate crimes being performed against. And I am more than a little afraid for her.

If I had a magic wand, I would make all the hatred, violence, and fear in the world disappear. Alas, I have no magic wand. All I've got is my love. And I give it fully and freely. I hope you will give yours as well.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Being Wrong

When I was twenty-one, I served a mission in Chicago. I arrived in November and it was getting pretty chilly, but wasn't quite the frozen wasteland that it would become by December. My companions and I were near a little pond with ducks. I suddenly wondered aloud what happened when the water froze. Did the ducks just hole up somewhere until spring? My companions looked at me oddly and informed me that ducks fly south for the winter. No way, I argued, ducks don't fly. They waddle and they can kind of lift off a bit like chickens. 

I had YEARS of experiences backing up this assertion. I'd seen ducks chased by kids and sort of run/fly away, but no real flying. My companions began laughing. Ducks fly. Hadn't I ever heard of flying south for the winter? Sure, I had. Geese flew south. Some unknown black birds flew south. I'd seen them all in their ingenious V-shapes. But DUCKS DON'T FLY! We went back and forth a few times and the more they insisted, the more I dug my heals in. Suddenly, all of the ducks in the pond took off, all together, all at once. And I backed down. Clearly, ducks fly. 

The truth of the matter is the ducks in my neck of the woods could fly; they just didn't. I grew up in the Sacramento Valley. It'd get fire hot in the summer, but never too cold in the winter. There's a lovely duck pond near my home that I visited regularly year-round. I fed them bread crusts and I'm pretty sure if they stopped getting their snacks from visitors they would starve in short order. Why fly away from an all you can eat buffet? Ducks in the wild fly in Northern California, but I'd never seen them do it. I was a town girl. I didn't hunt. No one in my family hunted. I'd formed my rock solid belief that ducks were basically water chickens, based on my experiences.

I was recently reminded of this event when V and I got into a conversation about narwhals and fairies. I took the firm stand that neither were real. I think you can see where this is going. One google search later, I admitted I was wrong. I don't know everything and there are some weird common knowledge things that have escaped my notice. Narwhals exist. Ducks fly.

I really am reasonably intelligent, fairly well-read, with a pretty good base education in a lot of subjectsand I'm wrong sometimes. So are you. I can guarantee that I currently hold several false beliefs, some about the earth and people, some about heaven and God. So do you. It's so easy to get locked in to a certain world view and refuse to see new truths and correct old errors, especially now that I am losing brain elasticity and attention span. (Curse you, impending senility!) It's so important though. I could have lived my whole life long without a proper knowledge of ducks and narwhals with no ill effects, but when it comes to people and God, the mistakes I make can be crippling to my soul. 

I want to be the kind of person who constantly learns and incorporates new truths into old truths, making adjustments as needed. In a lot of ways, I think that willingness to learn and change is the basis of humility. I try to remember that even when I thought ducks couldn't fly and narwhals were fables, God knew the truth and if I'd somehow managed to make it through life missing those facts, he would have cleared it up in the next life. I've got eternity to fix the gaps in my knowledge, but if I don't have the disposition to learn and change, all of eternity will not help. 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Aw, Moffat's a Poet!

I am alone.
The world which shook at my feet and the trees, the sky have gone.
And I am alone now.
The wind bites now,
and the world is grey and I am alone here.
Can't see me.
Doesn't see me.
Can't see me.

Doctor Who, Series 8, Episode 1 by Steven Moffat

(I'd have entitled this "The Dino's Lament" if it was mine, as the Doctor was translating for the dinosaur while he was sleeping. Maybe I'd have gone with "Regeneration," though.)

(By the by, that's the new new new new Doctor sleeping up there, played by Peter Capaldi.)

Monday, August 11, 2014

Long Poem, Worth the Read

I've been pondering suicide a lot since my friend Carla jumped of the Golden Gate Bridge last Thanksgiving. Why some of us who experience suicidal tendencies commit suicide and others don't. Carla had therapy and every form of treatment imaginable. She was trying to cling to life. And one day she didn't any more. And there's her whole family and a myriad of friends left behind wishing they'd gotten that "net" up sooner under the bridge. That maybe if someone had been able to catch her and place her in care one more time, she could have made it. We'll never know. Apparently Robin Williams also killed himself today. There's just something about brilliance and despair that attract one another, isn't there? Know someone brilliant and sensitive, chances are they are in the pit of despair from time to time.

I don't normally post long poems, though I enjoy reading them, but this one has spoken to me for years and I wanted to share it. The images in this poem speak to a deep belief in my soul of a loving Heavenly Father welcoming us home, loving us, blessing us to the extent that we let him. The final image keeps me glued here on earth until God calls "Olly olly oxen free!"

The Suicide

Edna St. Vincent Millay

“Curse thee, Life, I will live with thee no more!
Thou hast mocked me, starved me, beat my body sore!
And all for a pledge that was not pledged by me,
I have kissed thy crust and eaten sparingly
That I might eat again, and met thy sneers
With deprecations, and thy blows with tears,—
Aye, from thy glutted lash, glad, crawled away,
As if spent passion were a holiday!
And now I go. Nor threat, nor easy vow
Of tardy kindness can avail thee now
With me, whence fear and faith alike are flown;
Lonely I came, and I depart alone,
And know not where nor unto whom I go;
But that thou canst not follow me I know.”

Thus I to Life, and ceased; but through my brain
My thought ran still, until I spake again:

“Ah, but I go not as I came,—no trace
Is mine to bear away of that old grace
I brought! I have been heated in thy fires,
Bent by thy hands, fashioned to thy desires,
Thy mark is on me! I am not the same
Nor ever more shall be, as when I came.
Ashes am I of all that once I seemed.
In me all’s sunk that leapt, and all that dreamed
Is wakeful for alarm,—oh, shame to thee,
For the ill change that thou hast wrought in me,
Who laugh no more nor lift my throat to sing
Ah, Life, I would have been a pleasant thing
To have about the house when I was grown
If thou hadst left my little joys alone!
I asked of thee no favor save this one:
That thou wouldst leave me playing in the sun!
And this thou didst deny, calling my name
Insistently, until I rose and came.
I saw the sun no more.—It were not well
So long on these unpleasant thoughts to dwell,
Need I arise to-morrow and renew
Again my hated tasks, but I am through
With all things save my thoughts and this one night,
So that in truth I seem already quite
Free,and remote from thee,—I feel no haste
And no reluctance to depart; I taste
Merely, with thoughtful mien, an unknown draught,
That in a little while I shall have quaffed.”

Thus I to Life, and ceased, and slightly smiled,
Looking at nothing; and my thin dreams filed
Before me one by one till once again
I set new words unto an old refrain:

“Treasures thou hast that never have been mine!
Warm lights in many a secret chamber shine
Of thy gaunt house, and gusts of song have blown
Like blossoms out to me that sat alone!
And I have waited well for thee to show
If any share were mine,—and now I go
Nothing I leave, and if I naught attain
I shall but come into mine own again!”

Thus I to Life, and ceased, and spake no more,
But turning, straightway, sought a certain door
In the rear wall. Heavy it was, and low
And dark,—a way by which none e’er would go
That other exit had, and never knock
Was heard thereat,—bearing a curious lock
Some chance had shown me fashioned faultily,
Whereof Life held content the useless key,
And great coarse hinges, thick and rough with rust,
Whose sudden voice across a silence must,
I knew, be harsh and horrible to hear,—
A strange door, ugly like a dwarf.—So near
I came I felt upon my feet the chill
Of acid wind creeping across the sill.
So stood longtime, till over me at last
Came weariness, and all things other passed
To make it room; the still night drifted deep
Like snow about me, and I longed for sleep.

But, suddenly, marking the morning hour,
Bayed the deep-throated bell within the tower!
Startled, I raised my head,—and with a shout
Laid hold upon the latch,—and was without.

* * * *

Ah, long-forgotten, well-remembered road, 
Leading me back unto my old abode, 
My father’s house! There in the night I came, 
And found them feasting, and all things the same 
As they had been before. A splendour hung 
Upon the walls, and such sweet songs were sung 
As, echoing out of very long ago, 
Had called me from the house of Life, I know.
So fair their raiment shone I looked in shame
On the unlovely garb in which I came;
Then straightway at my hesitancy mocked:
“It is my father’s house!” I said and knocked;
And the door opened. To the shining crowd
Tattered and dark I entered, like a cloud,
Seeing no face but his; to him I crept,
And “Father!” I cried, and clasped his knees, and wept.

* * * *

Ah, days of joy that followed! All alone
I wandered through the house. My own, my own,
My own to touch, my own to taste and smell,
All I had lacked so long and loved so well!
None shook me out of sleep, nor hushed my song,
Nor called me in from the sunlight all day long.

I know not when the wonder came to me
Of what my father’s business might be,
And whither fared and on what errands bent
The tall and gracious messengers he sent.
Yet one day with no song from dawn till night
Wondering, I sat, and watched them out of sight.
And the next day I called; and on the third
Asked them if I might go,—but no one heard.
Then, sick with longing, I arose at last
And went unto my father,—in that vast
Chamber wherein he for so many years
Has sat, surrounded by his charts and spheres.
“Father," I said, “Father, I cannot play
The harp that thou didst give me, and all day
I sit in idleness, while to and fro
About me thy serene, grave servants go;
And I am weary of my lonely ease.
Better a perilous journey overseas
Away from thee, than this, the life I lead,
To sit all day in the sunshine like a weed
That grows to naught,—I love thee more than they
Who serve thee most; yet serve thee in no way.
Father, I beg of thee a little task
To dignify my days,—‘tis all I ask
Forever, but forever, this denied,
I perish.”
        “Child," my father’s voice replied,
“All things thy fancy hath desired of me
Thou hast received. I have prepared for thee
Within my house a spacious chamber, where
Are delicate things to handle and to wear,
And all these things are thine. Dost thou love song?
My minstrels shall attend thee all day long.
Or sigh for flowers? My fairest gardens stand
Open as fields to thee on every hand.
And all thy days this word shall hold the same:
No pleasure shalt thou lack that thou shalt name.
But as for tasks—" he smiled, and shook his head;
“Thou hadst thy task, and laidst it by," he said.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Too Many Books?

I have a lot of books. My sister has been teasing me about the fact that I am never going to read them and that I should get rid of them. I hate getting rid of books. Hate it. I got rid of a few dozen boxes in 2008 and I still miss some of them. Would I have read them again? I don't know, but I just loved having them around. ANYHOW, I've decided to read or re-read all of my books and make the decision book by book. I'm not sure this is even a possibility. Can I read them in what remains of my lifetime? I'm going to give it a shot. I won't read all of my husband's Birchy books or the reference books, but everything else I'm going to tackle. As I finish each one I'll decide whether I'll keep it or toss it. I started the other day on Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I'll be tossing it because its binding is broken and I have a couple of other copies. There you go. Besides homeschooling, church, and caring for my friend June, that's what I'm up to. 

(Wish I had time to edit, but I don't so you get what you get. Also those aren't my books, just a pic from Google.)

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Loving Is Worth Having My Heart Broken

A while back, I wrote about June. She's our adopted grandmother and my dear friend, and she's deathly ill right now. June has a son who has disowned her, so she asked several years back if I'd be willing to make her medical decisions if she became incapacitated. I agreed. I'm finding the process so much less complicated with June than with my mother, because she's never been anything but a unmitigated blessing in my life; whereas my mom was always at odds with me, even in her final days. June trusts me. My mother didn't. People keep telling me I have a big heart, that she is lucky to have me, but she had a big heart first. She loves my children. She loves me. Unconditionally. I am lucky beyond lucky to have her in my life; blessed would be a better word.

Now, she is frightened. Her mind has suddenly begun creating terrifying scenarios, fires and guns, devils and drug lords, and thieves, so many thieves. She's still lucid and knows and loves us, but she's trembling and confused. It's heartbreaking, because it can't be fought. If a real danger existed, I could move her. If someone was truly calling her names, I could stop them. But I can't stop her mind from laying this fabric of horror over her life. June is well-educated, smart, rarely confused. I didn't anticipate dementia. But that's just life, isn't it? Full of surprises. And a wicked kind of humor.

Would I take away my years of friendship with June, so that I didn't have to see her suffer? Would I turn into the kind of person who can drop someone at a convalescent home and walk away, so that I didn't have to watch this pain? No and no. Loving has its costs. Loving is what makes life worth living. It's the source of all of my joy and most of my pain. Someone with a whole heart might disagree with me, but my mantra has been "It's worth it. Loving is worth having my heart broken." Forgive me if I have to remind myself during the hard part. 

It is. It's worth it.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Sometimes Poetry Says It Best

Dirge Without Music

 By Edna St. Vincent Millay

 I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely.
Crowned With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains,—but the best is lost.

The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,—
They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

Happy birthday, Mom. See ya on the other side.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Still Thankful, Just Late

I'm a Kerr. Sure you have to go three generations back to get there, but I am still a Kerr. The family motto: Sero sed serio. Translation: late but in earnest. No really. It's right on the family crest.

So like my Kerr ancestors before me, I am late, but in earnest. Without further ado I give you the rest of my November thankfuls.

19. My husband. His order in this list in no way indicates his importance in my life. I am thankful that he heads off to a dull job every day to support our family. He's the most faithful man on the planet and he loves me, grumpy, frumpy me. I had planned to write a whole post on my gratitude for my husband, but procrastination killed that idea, for the moment anyhow.

20. I'm thankful for my cats. I love them. I love how they are not pushovers and I can't just waltz into their lives after ignoring them for ages and have a relationship with them. They are like real people. You nurture the relationship and it's healthy; neglect it and it's not. Plus they are cute and furry, and they purr.

21. Running water, flush toilets and a water heater. I try to camp at least once every year so that I remain grateful for this most basic and awesome gift of modern life.

22. Books. Oh my heavens! My sanity. Right between two covers. Or on my kindle. Or on my computer screen. I love the knowledge, the characters, the worlds. And they are mine all mine. I love books. More than most people, to be frank. I could also write a whole blog post on the joys of reading. Alas, gratefuls twenty-three through thirty await.

23. Amazon Prime. (Kinda-sorta related to books.) All my stuff comes to me with free two-day shipping. When I keep forgetting to pick something up at the store, I buy it at amazon and it just shows up. I love the unlimited movie streaming. I love the whole darn thing. I don't even care that they know every iota of my life; I'm just so grateful for the incredible convenience and value of the membership.

24. My pomegranate tree. It gives me pomegranates. Need I say more?

25. Friends. Old friends. New friends. They've made me laugh, made me cry, made me dance. I like to think that in the eternities all friendships are renewed and receive their paradisiacal glory. 

26. Gardens. I'd like them even better if they watered and weeded themselves. Even as they are they give me a lovely connection to the earth and teach me lots of object lessons.

27.  I'm thankful for my mom, for the emphasis she placed on education, for her example of perseverance. I'm thankful for the opportunity I had to care for her at the end of her life.

28. I'm thankful for the internet, for the wealth of information it contains, for the friends I've met online, for the massive recipe index that it is, for the genealogical tools it houses, for being able to shop without having to leave the house, for movies on demand, for educational games. OK, I'll stop now. I think you get the picture. 

29.  Comfy shoes. Since I have cruddy rheumatoid arthritis feet, comfy shoes pretty much make the difference between being able to walk and not being able to walk. I wear pretty much the same shoes all the time and they aren't cute, but they are comfy. Yay!

30. Christmas. I love Christmas, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to come and adore the Savior. I love the music, the food, the decorations, the kindness the season can bring out in people.

Being thankful has been a habit for November even if I did flop over into December a bit. Perhaps I can carry the habit a bit more consistently all year long. I think that might be a very good thing.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Giving Thanks--18

C-baby is a big girl these days, seven years old. She still encourages us to dress her and help her with everything; being the baby sister has its privileges. She is warm and snuggley. She still adores me with all of her cute little self. She still thinks I can fix it all, and because we are blessed to have healthy happy lives, I mostly can fix all the things that torment her little world.

She is a blessing I didn't ask for, and in many ways, didn't deserve. She was my one unexpected pregnancy and I have my very own little miracle story regarding her conception and birth. Even so, I was very, very angry about being unexpectedly pregnant. (I knew, in theory, what the .8% stood for in birth control, but those were other people. Not me.) Sometimes God blesses us with people in our lives we didn't know we needed. C is one of those people in my life. I adore her. She brightens my world. 

Giving Thanks--17

V, ah my lovely, V girl! How I love her. At one point I was fairly certain that if I died they would have to send me to a taxidermist and turn me into a stuffy or she'd never sleep again, but now that she is almost twelve, she's doing the separation thing quite well. She still wants to be with people constantly, but she's branching out. This child is the world's boldest missionary. She wants nothing more than more friends with her at church. She loves people so very much. I am grateful for the example she's setting for me of never assuming people will say no and loving people just the same whether they say yes or no.

Giving Thanks--16

Taking a break from cooking Thanksgiving stuff. I'm zonked and I have half a month of thankfuls to catch up on, so I'm guessing this is going to be rather stream-of-conscience-y. It happens.

OK, so next up on my thankful list is my second son, L. He is currently fourteen and on the verge of the attack of the hormones. I believe it was Sammy Keyes who said, "It's like having a mad scientist in my head. 'I wonder what will happen if I mix these together?'"* Honestly, I'm pretty sure he's out to kill me or check me into a madhouse. So a thankful about my beloved L? A little hard to come by this month.

I can honestly say I adore him. His horns have always held up his halo. He has a devilish sense of humor and I'm just the kind of person who appreciates a devilish sense of humor. I am grateful beyond belief that he didn't die when his appendix went out, or the time he took his life jacket off while rafting as a non-swimmer with his great uncle and fell in, or any of the other times he's done wild, crazy, dangerous stuff he never tells me about. I'm grateful that he has time to make it through the mad-scientist-hormone-hell and become the great man I know he will.

*Yeah, I looked online and couldn't find the exact quote and I don't own the book and the library's closed so this as good as it gets today.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Giving Thanks--14 & 15

14. I'm very grateful to have working cars. One for me and the kids to do our thing and one for my husband. Until you've lived with an unreliable car or without one entirely, it's impossible to realize just how much having one means. It means being able to get people to activities. It means being able to get to work, to the grocery store. It means being able to help people with rides, not having to beg for rides of my own. I am truly deeply thankful for our cars.

15. I am grateful for my Vitamix. I know it's shallow, but I love that thing. We use it several times a day and my green smoothies are smooth, so I can eat all those veggies without having to chew them all (so much WORK). I am grateful for the book Eat to Live by Joel Fhurman which has been helping me become healthier and healthier and has been helping give my Vitamix a workout.