PRE-ALZ

alzheimers-April-2011

Elizabeth Willis Barrett

 My daughter Kelli is reading the book The House at Tyneford.  That title sounded familiar to me and I assumed that I had started to listen to it and then didn’t like it well enough to finish it.  Thinking I would give it another try, I downloaded it onto my phone from Overdrive.  I was pleased with the skill of the writer and wondered why I had discarded it the first time.  When I had listened to the book for a while without any recognition whatsoever of the plot, the characters or the location, one incident was described: a manuscript in a viola.  Aha!  That sounded very familiar.  Since I list all the books I’ve listened to on my blog, I checked my old blog on Blogspot and saw that I had listed The House at Tyneford.  That meant I had already listened to it!  The whole of it!

So where was the story that had at one time been put into my brain?  It must have been buried so deeply in a brain fold that I couldn’t drag out any of it except for a few incidental points.  I had to re-listen to the whole book just to re-find out what happened to that viola manuscript.  It was very frustrating.  Partly because I should have been putting my time into a book I hadn’t already listened to.  But mostly because I couldn’t remember.  Really, where does stuff go when it enters your brain? And why are some people, like Brad for instance, able to pull out deeply filed information so easily?  And others, like me for instance, can’t even remember that we had filed the info at all? 

 As a child of parents whose minds couldn’t pull up much of anything in their old age, it causes great concern to me.  Have my synapses already started to deteriorate?  Is my brain lacking in healthy blood flow?    Are there tangles in my brain that need to be dissolved?  I’m considering taking part in a clinical research study that is investigating a medication that may be able to slow or halt the progression of Alzheimer’s.  I think I would be a good candidate. 

 Although, now that I have checked it out further, I see that if I became a participant of the study, I would need a care giver to accompany me throughout the process which lasts 14 to 22 months.  

 I think I’ll skip the study because I don’t think Brad would enjoy being my care giver yet.  Better save him for the final stages.

 

CHANCES ARE

 Open-Book

Elizabeth Willis Barrett

I just finished listening to Dick Cavett’s book: Talk Show which consists of clever essays that he wrote for some magazine.  I should know which magazine, but I must have been multitasking through a stack of papers while I was listening to this captivating book because I don’t recall where the essays came from.

Dick Cavett is an excellent writer.  If I could write like he does, I would have thousands of hits on my blog each day.  I’d ask him for pointers but I think he’s a little too busy to bother with me right now.  If any of you know how to pass this compliment on to him, I wish you would.

In one of the essays Mr. Cavett writes about coincidences.  For instance, once he randomly picked up a book at a book sale, let the book fall open to a very arbitrary spot and started reading.  The page referred to the house he was going to rent for a while and to people connected with that house.  Since he hadn’t looked at the title of the book and the rest of the book didn’t refer to the house or those people, it did seem rather coincidental that he would turn directly to that particular page in that particular book.

I sometimes think that angels are busy making sure we have unique experiences like his, don’t you?  Maybe there are angels that don’t have a lot going on in their realm at times and it makes them happy to make us happy over unusual happenings.

I don’t know if Mr. Cavett’s random reading meant more to him than just an interesting happenstance, but I had a similar experience that had a great effect on me.

I was in an LDS bookstore in Flagstaff, AZ, while Brad was attending meetings at NAU.  I had an idea for a small gift book I wanted to write so I flipped through a couple of gift books to find a style that I could possibly imitate.   As I flipped through the second book, my own name caught my eye.  One’s own name usually does catch one’s eye.  In this book, the author was giving quotes from various people and there was a tiny article I had written for the Ensign Magazine that she was quoting from.  I’ve never seen that book anywhere else.  I’m sure it never made it to a best seller list.  My purchase of it was probably one of only a few.

As they say: “What were the chances?” First, that I’d go to that bookstore.  It is two hours away from Gilbert.  Second, that I’d want to even look at gift books.  And third, that I would flip to the very page that my name was on.  Now when I want to show someone the book and flip to that page, it takes me a while to find it.

It was a great coincidence.  Since I think most things happen to teach us something or help us with something, I squeezed every bit of meaning out of this occurrence that I could.   It was a nice reminder that the Heavens are aware of me and that I should keep on writing.  May you also have sweet coincidences in your life that remind you of those things you need to know.

 

My Aunt Mona

Aunt Mona with her friend

Elizabeth Willis Barrett

I saw a basket the other day–rustic, grayish, large with a small handle on each end.  It reminded me of my Aunt Mona Campbell–Dad’s oldest sister.  Aunt Mona lived behind us in Mesa, Arizona, on a large piece of land in a rambling two-story that was as interesting as she was.  She would walk across the little bridge over the very narrow and shallow irrigation ditch, come to our back door and call out “Yoo Hoo!” as she opened it.

I don’t think I was very aware then of how much I admired her, but looking back I can see that she made an impression.  She had deep red hair that was caught into a low bun and she was always dressed up to go somewhere with her Country Club group, gloves in hand.  When I was still in possession of childlike believing, she would take me to the Country Club to meet Santa.  I think he always came there first.  I should have kept my belief at least as a cover so I could continue this exciting tradition.  But as soon as Aunt Mona knew that I was privy to the Santa myth, I was no longer invited.

When I was in grade school we had a glorious day of playing with clay. Sadly, I think it only happened once.  It was a salt clay that would harden and we could make anything we wanted.  I was ecstatic.  I chose to make a little bowl with a chicken for a lid.  Very enterprising for a Third Grader who had all the desire for art but not much inner skill.  Aunt Mona had a bowl like that and I wanted one too.

Aunt Mona grew nasturtiums around her house and her house had a musty smell that, if I concentrate, I can smell now.  She was an antique and garage sale shopper and her house was filled with old things.  I’ve never been into decorating styles much but I wish I could go back to that house and look around again to get a sense of her style.  I would like to copy pieces of it.  She had an extremely old piano that filled one complete side of the living room.  It looked like Mozart might have played on it.  I could never play it, though, even when I started taking lessons from Sister Alta Standage.  It was never tuned, was just for show and was definitely not put there for children.

Coming from a very old Mormon Pioneer family that settled Snowflake Arizona, you’d think her faith would run deep.  But Aunt Mona was the only one of twelve children that didn’t cling to the Church, not counting two siblings who died in childhood and another sister who didn’t attend Church very often. Her other siblings served well in various Church callings as teachers and Bishops and Presidents of this and that, but Aunt Mona had her own set of friends and priorities.

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Her lack of faith isn’t what I admired in her because I am a devout Latter-day Saint and feel that the Church could have used Aunt Mona’s special gifts.  But I applauded her for her ambition and her get-it-done abilities and the way she made things happen in her life.  She went to college in her forties, receiving her Bachelors and Masters.  Then at fifty-seven she received a doctorate from ASU and became a professor.

She built her own cabin near a lake in Arizona’s beautiful White Mountains with some help from Grandpa Willis.  When something went awry, she’d fix it herself whether it be the roof or the plumbing.  And she thought nothing of cutting off the legs of frogs for a tasty morsel which makes me shiver even now.  Her son, Gordon, caught the frogs and she did the rest.  Gordon, by the way, became a very successful lawyer and wrote a book that made it to the New York’s bestsellers list.  It’s called Missing Witness.  Check it out.

When her husband, Uncle Bill, died, she didn’t fall apart.  She took charge as she always had and bought a place on Coronado Island and made a new life for herself.

Then, in her 90‘s–not allowing age to get the better of her–she followed her son’s example and wrote a great book called Up From Backstreet.  It never made it to a bestsellers’ list but it was the crowning glory of a full life, describing Snowflake and her time there.

I don’t have a need to be like Aunt Mona in every respect, but I hope to have her drive and her desire for accomplishment and her clear thinking mind well into my nineties.

A Letter to Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

 

Dear Steve,

How are you doing?  Are you liking it up there?  Hope it’s up there.  You’ve probably already rattled the big brass and let them know that you’re not going to put up with any imperfection–which, I think, is the general admonition of heaven anyway.

I’m reading your book–listening to your book.  Listening is such a better use of time. Walter Isaacson did an excellent job of writing it.  I wish he’d left out a lot of the words that sizzle my ears, but it is definitely worth the read–the listen.

As I sit here at my MacBook Pro to write this, I marvel at the insight and foresight you had to meet my particular needs.  I can carry this computer with me everywhere.  Right now I’m sitting in my bedroom in my favorite chair with it on my lap.  As I write, I get notices of any e-mails coming in–my connection to many people who, in the past, would have had to walk to a phone, stand there as they dialed my number, perhaps grimaced at a busy signal and then gone back to their work only to try again, perhaps with the same result.  Now they can e-mail me a message that can be sent to numerous people at the same time and each of us can read it at our own leisure. Not that anyone really has much leisure.  Also, without getting up, I can look up words on the thesaurus, check the weather, review my calendar, keep track of my finances and Skype my daughter in China.

Besides my laptop, what I really, really, want to thank you for is my IPhone which has become my constant companion.  I can be listening to a book on my IPhone with my Apple headset and when a phone call beeps in, I just touch the switch on the headset and I can talk to the caller.   Then I touch the headset’s button to end the call and my book starts playing again.  What a gift to someone like me!

In the past I would have been listening to a book through a headset hooked to a bulky CD player worn around my waist in a special holder.  My portable home phone would have been hooked to my waistband with a different headset attached. When the phone rang, I would have to turn off the CD player, take the headset out of my ears, put the phone headset in my ear and answer the phone.  I felt like a quick draw artist.

And the Apple Store–I love the Apple Store!  I know it took some doing to bring that vision to frution.  When I get frazzled and the finer points of needed technology zoom over my head like a B-22, I can sign up for a class or a One to One Session and get my questions answered while working on my particular project.  My project–not someone else’s that means nothing to me.  And I can sign up on my own phone in moments.  I don’t have to look up a number or talk to anyone or wait while someone can look up the availability of the class.  The organization of the whole place is astounding.

Your book didn’t portray you as a kind, gentle person, but geniuses can’t be all things to all people.  I don’t suppose Mozart had a serene and compassionate personality either.  I wouldn’t have lasted even two seconds in your presence.  You would have said I was “________” and I would have withered like my garden did in the last freeze.  We have all benefited by those who could stand up to you, though.  You needed them and they probably haven’t been given nearly enough credit for all the marvelous products created by Apple.

Your life wasn’t quite as long as you would have hoped but you accomplished so much.  Not only did your perseverance, hard work and innovation make a dent in the Universe as was your goal, I believe, but you changed my world–my own personal world and for that I thank you!

With gratitude,

Elizabeth W. Barrett

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sleighed

Sleighed 2

Elizabeth Willis Barrett

Yesterday was a wonderful Sunday and Brad and I went to dinner at our son Aaron’s home.  Besides a delicious meal made and served by his wife, Liz, we received some delicious news.  Aaron has written a book!  Written and published!  Aaron has never been vocal about his own accomplishments and we probably wouldn’t have known about this great achievement until the newspapers and TV pundits got hold of it and promoted him to a mingling position with J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer.  I’m glad Liz wasn’t shy in pulling it up on the computer and letting us revel in Aaron’s successful entry into the world of e-publishing.

I was quick to buy my own copy at a paltry fee of $4.95 and download it onto my Ipad.  Since I am quite adamant about listening to books instead of reading them, finding a minute to sit down and read a chapter has been a bit challenging but the read is great.  Aaron is a very good writer!  Brad bought a copy, too, and is well into it and likes it very much.  Since he is as hard to please as I am, that is saying a lot.  I hope you will take a minute and a tiny portion of your credit card’s vast capabilities and purchase and download a copy for yourself.  You will not be sorry.  It will definitely entertain you and you will give a budding new author the impetus to continue his talent.

The irony of Aaron’s venture is that his wife, Liz and I, along with two other friends, have been meeting in a writing group for three years hoping to write something worthy of publication.  None of us has made it so far although our hopes are floating high.  Here Aaron has succeeded without availing himself of our vast knowledge and without ever sitting for even a second in a group such as ours!  He did it totally on his own in precious moments snatched from lunch breaks and his family man role which includes the parenting of three awesome sons.

The title of his book is Sleighed (The North Pole Chronicles) which is a great play on words.  His pen name is James Dragon.  I don’t know why he didn’t want to use his very notable given name of Aaron Nikolai Barrett since I was half of the party who gave it to him, but authors have their own way of doing things.

You can even download a chapter or two of Sleighed for free just to see if you like it.  Go to smashwords.com and search for Sleighed (The North Pole Chronicles). Youcan then read all about it.  It is a fantasy for Christmas written with Young Adults in mind.  And in our minds we are all young adults, right?  You can even go to amazon.com and purchase it there.  Oh, the wonders of the Internet!

Happy reading!

Audio-Sleighed: read by the author