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.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Giving Thanks--13

I'm thankful that I constantly have people to talk to and riddles to listen to and singers to listen to. Yeah, all of those reasons are why I can't write right now. "Talkity-talk-talk. Mom-mom-MOM-MOM." But hey, I'm never lonely.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Giving Thanks--12

I am thankful for N, my 16-year-old daughter. I've had some difficulty writing about her, because there are some sacred events surrounding our decision to have a third child and my pregnancy and also because you are going to think I'm exaggerating when I tell you about her. The gist of the matter is that N is a gift from God to our family. She's beautiful, inside and out. She's not perfect, but she is a joy to parent, a joy to have as a friend. She's not like me much at all. She's happier and kinder and much blonder. She loves clothes. She loves people. If she could be surrounded by friends every minute of every day, she would still crave more people to love. It's like the kid has been filled to the brim with love and she just has to give it to as many people as possible. She's strong and graceful and smart and creative. Dang, this chick is creative. If there are two ways to look at something, she comes up with a third, fourth and fifth, and the fourth and fifth will have you doubled over laughing. She is a defender of the defenseless. Just when you think you've got a cute little funny kitten that you can ignore, she will turn to a roaring tiger, ready to tear you apart, because she thinks you are picking on someone. She will take you down and then turn right back into the fuzzy ball of love, ready to make amends, provided you don't try that bullying thing again. Anyhow, she's an awesome person and I'm lucky to have her in my life.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Giving Thanks--11

Vetrans. I'm thankful for them.

My grandfather, my brother, my sister, my cousin, my father-in-law, brother-in-law, they each did different things, served in different branches, but they all signed up and showed up. Some of them served in wars, some didn't, but they all dedicated a portion of their lives to being in the USA military to protect our country. I'm thankful for the families that send their sons and daughters, husbands and wives out into the world to be bored, to be uncomfortable, to be shot at, while the families try to make ends meet, try to maintain their relationships, try to do the work of two parents by themselves. It's a hard thing we ask of the military and their families and I'm very grateful they give it, to protect and serve us all.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Giving Thanks--8, 9 & 10

8. So grateful for music.

9. And theatre.

10. And Doctor Who.

All brighten and bring happiness to my life.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Giving Thanks--7

I'm thankful for living in a beautiful state where fresh produce is available year round at a reasonable price. It is a luxury much of the world is denied.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Giving Thanks--6

I started this on the 6th, but I had a nasty headache all day. Everything came out "Bad noun passive verb typo typo no ending punctuation," and I decided I'd be better off writing later. So ANYHOW, on with the thanking.

I am thankful for medicine. I am thankful for migraine medicine and antibiotics and cold medicines, but most of all I am thankful for psychiatric medications. SSRIs and all of their cousins have saved the lives of countless people. They have kept people off of drugs and out of drunk tanks. For generations, my family has dealt with broken relationships, broken spirits, and addiction issues. One of my direct line ancestors died of "wood alcohol poisoning and exposure." Seriously.

My chemical imbalance began when I was very young. When I was ten I wanted to die with every part of myself. I tried to kill myself by sitting with a wet towel on my chest in front of an open window in winter. A character in a book I'd read had been successful in contracting pneumonia and dying through this method. I failed to grasp the futility of attempting it in a Northern Californian winter. My family laughed at me and called me Sarah Bernhardt, queen of melodrama. Except I was serious. Deadly serious.

The darkness lightened eventually, but it came back, again and again. At thirteen, at seventeen, at nineteen, at twenty-four, and at twenty-seven. Between ten and thirteen I gained an irrefutable testimony of the existence of God (see Giving Thanks--1), a God who did not want me to kill myself, and a firm belief that I would continue to exist past death. So I never tried to kill myself again. But I wanted to. Oh, how I wanted to stop. Just stop existing. Never to feel the pain and hopelessness and sorrow again. At those moments a sure knowledge of God's love was less than joyous.

One day, in the middle of my major depressive disorder, something changed. I realized that my misery wasn't just affecting me. My beautiful two year old son had lost his "expensive" belt (twenty bucks) that I'd purchased for church. I found myself ranting some crazy thing about the belt and my son was crying and my daughter was searching frantically for the belt and I saw clearly. I saw how my mother and father had destroyed portions of me with their craziness and how their parents had destroyed portions of them and how I would destroy my children if I kept it up. I saw how my hours of silent crying and envy of people who contracted deadly diseases and died in car crashes, all of that crazy was bending my children toward the dark that enveloped me. I realized that my children would only get the one childhood.

And I saw a doctor. I'd seen a psychologist when I was ten and then again when I was seventeen and again when I was twenty-two and I'd learned a lot of useful skills. Skills which frankly were keeping me alive. I'd learned how to write through my feelings and recognize cognitive distortions. I'd learned how to talk back to the crazy. Useful. But still the darkness remained and that longing for death.

The doctor prescribed an SSRI. And I was healed. It wasn't simple. I had to try different kinds of SSRI and I had to work through the side effects. But it went away and stayed away. I quit taking them twice to have two more babies, during the non-medicated second pregnancy a combination of hormones and situational issues plummeted me to a level I'd never been before. I got to the point where I was sure everyone would be better off without me and a deadly suicide plan formed in spite of my best cognitive efforts. I began taking an SSRI again, because regardless of the risk to my baby, she would be 100% dead if I killed myself. Again it was like magic. I took my pill every day and the thoughts stopped. I could write. I could think. I could laugh, play games. Feel the Spirit. Love God. Love my family.

So, yes, as odd as it sounds, I am thankful for meds. I'm thankful that my now 20-year-old daughter and my 19-year-old son love me and don't fear me. If I was diabetic and took insulin because my pancreas couldn't meet my needs, I would take it and feel perfectly reasonable mentioning it in any setting, but because it's my brain, I feel a little cautious in mentioning it. Will telling come back to bite me in the butt? Given the stigma of mental illness, it might. Yeah, my brain has some sort of genetic brain chemical imbalance, but if I take my medicine, I am fine. It's really a modern miracle. I imagine how differently my family history would read if my mother and father and their mothers and fathers had taken an SSRI. The past doesn't get to be rewritten, but I sure as heck can write the future. I can tell my children and my children's children that it isn't necessary to drink away or smoke away or scream away the dark.

If you currently are experiencing depression and suicidal feelings, I encourage you to seek help. Medications and counseling can save your life, can save the quality of your life and the life of those you love. Please reach out. 

 Here is a link that can start you on a path to healing: http://www.helpguide.org/mental/suicide_help.htm

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Giving Thanks--5

I am thankful for my yvil sister. I'm thankful for her sense of humor and her intelligence. I'm proud of her academic accomplishments. My kids adore her. I adore her. I'm thankful that she has worked hard to stay on earth with us.

If you want to read more about the yvil one: I wrote about her years ago.