Elizabeth Willis Barrett………………December 2015

I love words.  Perhaps they, more than love, make the world go round.  People who speak my same language, including those in my own family, say some words differently.  It makes me cautious because I don’t want to say a word that someone else might think I have pronounced or used incorrectly.  The fear of being wrong is right up there with my fear of turning left. No….it isn’t that I fear being wrong.  What I fear is being wrong with an overbearing attitude of being right.  I would rather give myself some wiggle room to be wrong in and let others know that I know that I could possibly be wrong in the given situation.  I don’t like know-it-alls and have probably taken my turn at that role a few times.  Rather than play that part again, I’d rather get off the stage.  I will leave the role of Know-It-All to the narcissists of the world of which I think I know three.

My mom used to call a camera a “Kodak.”  I cringed every time she said it because it sounded way too close to “Kotex” for me.  That word conjures up some negative vibes that I’d rather not rile.

That’s probably how my kids feel when I negligently call flip flops “thongs.”  Or when Brad sings his elementary school alma mater song:  “Noble School will always mean to me…. lots of joy and pleasant memories.  All the boys and girls they say…. down at Noble School are gay………..”

The other day I asked one of my grandkids if she had seen a certain movie at the show house.  “What’s a show house?” she asked.  “You know,” I said, “a show house.  You don’t know what a show house is?  A theater.”   “Oh,” she said.  I realized that again my age was pushing past my great desire for youth and waving its purple handkerchief.  (I also put my shirt on backwards this morning which was quite disconcerting.)

Theater is a word that can be pronounced differently.  Sometimes I say “thee-A-ter” and sometimes I say “THEE-a-ter.”  Sometimes I say “en-velope” with a short e at the beginning and sometimes I say “on-velope” with a short o.  I say “creek”.  Some say “crick.”  I say “wash.”  Some say “warsh.”  I say “carmel.”  Some say “car-a-mel.”  I certainly don’t say “kinnygarten” for “kindergarten” as some do.  Nor do I say “patriartical” for “patriarchal.”  Or “pray-ers” for “prayers.”  Neither do I say “alunamun” for “aluminum” or “nucular” for “nuclear” as one of our leaders tends to do.

Some say “boo-tique” while I say “bo-tique” with a long o.  “Data” always trips me up.  Is it a long a or a short a? It makes me avoid that word.  “Route” is tricky, too.  I say “root” 66 but paper “rowt.”  I say “gala” with a long a but the gala aficionados seem to say “gala” with a short a.  Some might even say “gawla.”  I don’t hang with gala people much so I’m not too worried about my gala pronunciation.

It seems acceptable to say either (ī-ther or ee-ther) “nee-ther” or “nī-ther.”  I’m an “ee-ther”/“nee-ther” sayer.  I say “Q-pon” not “coo-pon” for “coupon.”  And “ca-fé” not “cá-fe.”  I say “en-chiladas” with a short e not “onchiladas” with a short o.  I say “a-pricot” with a long a not “a-pricot” with a short a.

There is a song by George Gershwin called “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off.”  A couple of lines say:  “you like tomatoes, I like tomatoes.” “you like potatoes, I like potatoes.” Which would be a pretty stupid song if you didn’t know that the first “tomatoes” was pronounced  “tō-may-toes” and the second was pronounced “tō-mah-toes.”  Same with “potatoes.”  One of my daughter’s roommates sang the whole song pronouncing the words the same.  Which, of course, made it a pretty stupid song.

When I was in grade school and the teacher called roll, which is probably a very out-dated procedure, some of the kids would say “president” instead of “present.”  I would just say “here” and marvel that kids would actually be dumb enough to think the other word was “president” instead of “present.”  Those were some of my Know-it-All days.  I was pretty smart then.  My knowledge base has shrunk a bit and what’s left to know has ballooned immensely.  I don’t feel quite as smart as I did as a Third Grader.

“Crayon” is a tricky word.  I’ve said “cren” most of my life.  One of my grandsons says “cran” so I don’t feel too backward.  I’m trying to switch over to “cray-on” which is the obvious way to pronounce it.

Some of my kids have turned their backs on their upbringing and now say “man-aise” instead of “may-naise.”  I don’t get that one.  Nor can I understand how they could possibly prefer Miracle Whip.

Finally I can use the words “interment” and “internment” in the right contexts.  That took a while.  Those words are not interchangeable.  I think I understand the correct use of “further” and “farther” and try not too mix them up too often.  But “from” and “than” are still messing with me.  And once I ordered “brawts” instead of “brats” with a short a.  I won’t do that again.

Three words I try hard to pronounce a certain way are “diabetes” and “poem” and “egg.” When I say “dīa-bee-tees” my son gives me a stare and says the word is “dīa-bee-tus.”  Or else he says it the first way and I say it the second way.  I can’t remember.  I have to ask him every time that horrendous disease comes up.  I have almost cured myself of saying “āgg” instead of “egg.”  And I grew up saying “poym.”  Didn’t you?  Now I try very hard to pronounce the word “pō-em” with a quick short e .

Speaking correctly is rather tiring but I don’t want to seem anything but brilliant in front of my children.  It’s getting harder and harder.




Elizabeth Willis Barrett……………….May 2015

On Sunday May 10th, with an expectation of separation anxiety,  I DVRd the final episode of Revenge—the last of eighty-nine episodes played out in four seasons.  That’s eighty-nine hours or almost a solid half week—-half a week of my life muddled in the revengeful Hampton drama of Emily and Victoria and all their cronies.  Half a week that could have been used for practicing the ukulele, taking dinner to a new Mom or going to the gym.  (Not that that would ever happen!) And it was delightful!

Because Sundays are quite busy and probably not the best day for blood and vengeance, I would usually watch that week’s episode on Monday.  Rather, I always watched that episode on Monday.  I couldn’t wait any longer to see what was going to happen.  After Brad left the house for the Welcome Home Ranch or to meet with NAU interns, I’d fix myself something delicious like toast and peanut butter and strawberry freezer jam.  Then I’d shut all the blinds, partly so I could see the TV screen better but mostly so any unanticipated visitor wouldn’t catch me in this guilty pleasure and assume that I watch murder and mayhem in all my free moments.  Then I would watch without taking my eyes off the TV.  I didn’t want to miss one word said by Nolan or one movement made by Margaux or any of the other characters who played their parts to perfection. Living in these times has a lot of perks and re-winding might be close to the top of the list.

I made an exception for the last Revenge episode since I waited till Tuesday to watch it so a group of friends could watch the finale together.  The delay was hard but worth it. Having friends to share interest, insight and emotion just made the last Revenge chapter even better.  Unlike the disappointing final episode of Lost, my last and only other marathon series except for the essential Downton Abbey, the writers of Revenge ended their extravaganza of retribution in a completely satisfying way and even added a touch of schmaltz.  I loved it!

If time and family and other goals had no bearing on my life, I would start at the very beginning and watch the whole thing all over again while eating Flancer’s “It’s About Thyme” sandwiches and Paradise Bakery’s macadamia nut cookies.  Now that would be a mega guilty pleasure!

And as long as I’m confessing to guilty pleasures, I could add that I love to read People magazines where I get my hair cut to see what the stars are wearing and doing.  But I probably should just keep that to myself.


Jack Benny circa 1959 © 1978 Glenn Embree

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 18:  Deepak Chopra attends The Chopra Well Launch Event at Espace on July 18, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by D Dipasupil/WireImage)

Elizabeth Willis Barrett……………..May 2015

When I was in High School I played the violin in the school orchestra.  I don’t think I was ever first chair but perhaps I had that honor for a week or two.  Back then not many were taking private violin lessons so the competition wasn’t so great.  Our foreign exchange student Rafael from Italy played the violin, too.

One day Jack Benny came to town.  For those of you much younger and unknowledgeable about historic stars, Jack Benny was a comedienne and entertainer.  He died in 1974 so you might have missed him.  In some of his acts, he played the violin, albeit badly, for comedic effect.  For some reason Rafael and I were asked to have our picture taken with him because we, too, played the violin.  Perhaps because we didn’t play so well, either.  I don’t know.

I wish I were a rememberer of details so I could tell a more accurate and spellbinding story.  But I don’t remember where we were for the picture.  I’m sure Jack Benny didn’t come to Westwood High School for this marvelous opportunity.  Unfortunately I don’t remember much about this significant event in my life except that I was having a bad hair day—which is always a thing to remember—and that this picture made it into the Mesa Tribune, the local newspaper.  If I were in total control of my faculties and scrapbooks, I would scan the picture for you.

But most of all—and this is what my point is—I remember how Jack Benny made me feel.  He didn’t smile.  He cared nothing for Raphael or me.  He wasn’t interested in us.  We were the little people and he was the star and he was putting up with this photo shoot because for some reason he had to.  For all the times he had made people laugh and for all of his fame and most likely great wealth—although he always joked about pinching pennies—he didn’t know how to treat the people that didn’t matter to him.

Just last week I had a similar experience.  I was very lucky to be able to attend an event where Deepak Chopra was the keynote speaker.  For those of you who haven’t heard of Deepak Chopra, he is a prolific writer, speaker and New Age guru.  We were also in the pre-luncheon group that met for a question and answer session with him.  His answers were wise and insightful as he stood before us in his loose jeans, red tennis shoes and Indian shirt which may or may not be called a kurta.  Since we were at a ribbon cutting for a wonderful new drug rehab facility, some of the questions were asked by concerned parents of newly reformed drug addicts.  Dr. Chopra knew so much and talked about the importance of ………..of……………  I don’t remember what he said!  And maybe this is why:

That night was a final gathering with wonderful food and company.  I saw Dr. Chopra sitting at a table surrounded by adoring fans.  When some of them left his side and it looked like he might be uncomfortably alone for a moment, I hesitantly approached him to ask my question.

“Dr. Chopra, do one of your books address the problems of addiction?”

He looked at me like I was intruding on his transcendental  meditation.  Without a smile, a greeting, or any gesture of welcome, he simply answered in a very dead pan voice:

Overcoming Addiction.”

There was nothing for me to do but say a meek “thank you” and go stand in the non-alcoholic cocktail line.

Maybe I was asking too much.  Maybe I had looked forward to meeting him for too long and had imagined a much warmer encounter.  Maybe I am just way too sensitive.  But the guy has written approximately eighty-two books with titles that include The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success and The Ultimate Happiness Prescription.  Don’t you think that in all of that research and all of that writing he would have picked up some pointers on how to make others feel accepted and welcomed?  Has he not learned how to treat the little people who have bought his books and attended his seminars and brought him to his great success?

Maybe I caught both Jack and Deepak in the “off” position.  No one can be “on” all the time.  But even the big guys should know that “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

If I’m ever in a “star” position—and it’s looking a little late for that—I hope I’ll remember how I want to make people—all people—feel.  And truly, at one time or another, we are each a “star” to someone.

Carl W. Buehner has been credited with saying, “They may forget what you said — but they will never forget how you made them feel.”

He was right—you never forget.





Elizabeth Willis Barrett…………..March 2014


The other day Brad and I drove separate cars to a detailing shop so Brad could leave his car there to be detailed.  There was a slight problem owing to the fact that  Brad hadn’t brought the shop’s address or phone number and thought he could just find it.  But he couldn’t.  It was sort of my fault that he couldn’t find it because there was heavy traffic on Baseline.  Because Brad knows how much I hate to turn left when there is even a moderate amount of cars whizzing and honking by, he turned right which was very thoughtful since I was following him.  But that put him in unfamiliar territory as far as the detail shop was concerned and he couldn’t remember if it was closer to Broadway or Southern.  The lack of knowing made for several turns and backtracking.

Finally I called him (thank goodness, he remembered to bring his phone which isn’t always a given) and said I would just park somewhere and he could tell me where to find him after he knew exactly where he was going.  Trying to follow him in tight circles behind the wheel of a potential weapon didn’t seem like a very safe thing in my opinion.

“No,”  he said.  “It’s here somewhere.”

Finally he did find the detailer after stopping a couple of times and squinting at the road sign to see if it said Broadway or Southern.  And, by the way, which comes first—Broadway or Southern?  It’s funny how things like that escape your mind at times.  Again, I will take some of the responsibility for getting lost.  No, I will take a whole bunch of the responsibility, since my left turn phobia made him come at the shop from a different angle.  What’s a little more guilt added to the great weight of guilt that I insist on carrying everywhere I go?

When he finally left his car with the attendant and got into mine he was very frustrated.

“I don’t want to be old,” he said.  “That’s what an old man does: wanders aimlessly and slowly and shuffle-y looking for things.   I don’t want to act like that.”

“Neither do I,”  I said as I pawed through my purse, forgetting what the object of the pawing was.

“See,” he said.  “That’s what your mother used to do.”

“What?” I asked.

“The rummaging.  The rifling through your purse. That’s what your mother used to do.”

He was right.  I felt just like her as I pawed with seemingly no purpose.  A definite sign of aging.  What a pair we are, Brad and me!


The drawbacks of the aging process  hit me once in a while and I just have to vent.  I feel like Diane Keaton’s character in the movie And So It Goes when she splays her arms and says with an emphatic grimace, “I’m sixty-five.  Uuuuuuuuuu!!!”

I do not like growing old.  There must be a better way.  I know, I should be glad to still be here on this fabulous earth and I should enjoy every minute and relish the now.  But aging is a big deterrent to relishing the now.

The other day I found a hair on my chin.  A dark hair!!! What was that doing there?  I have always been blond.  How long had it been growing?  How many people saw it before I finally did?  What would make a hair grow on a chin that has never had a hair before?  Weird things happen as you grow old.

Another sign of my own aging happened when I bent over to pick up something off the carpet.  I couldn’t tell what it was and I turned it over and over until I felt my mother slipping into me again.  She had done that action often in her old age, turning something over and over in slow motion trying to determine what treasure was indicated by a scrap found on the carpet.

Slow motion is becoming more of a companion to me and not an amiable one.  What happened to my drive, my focus, my hitting the deck running?  And weight that used to roll off without much trouble has become attached to my middle and it seems to delight in giving me a backache.  Arthritic thumbs add to my annoyance.

If age was honored and respected and not snickered at, it would help a little.  This might be a good time to move to old-people-loving China.  Hopefully, Brad will go with me.



In breaking my writing hiatus, I should probably think of something positive to write about in order to possibly gain back my following.  This has been a season of distraction wherein I have lost sight of my writing goals and lost sight of my readers.  You can’t retain readers if you don’t give them something to read.

But just to get it out of my head, I have a need to write about something that might be controversial to some.  I hope it won’t be offensive.  It might be.  Sorry.  At least it won’t be as controversial as another subject I have been musing on which is School Boards.  I hope I find enough energy to tackle that topic some day.

For now, I want to talk about stripes.  I hope you are all tough and don’t get offended easily but I have to say it:  Stripes have to match! With all these stripy skirts and shirts walking around, the scene would be so much lovelier if the stripes matched.

I know, I am hardly the one to be talking about a fashion faux pas since I make many myself daily. I am rather fashion un-conscious. But maybe if we each spoke out about one or two things that really bug us, the rest of us could become more aware and make some important changes.

When I was doing my student teaching in Orem, Utah, as a Home Ec Ed student, out of all the things I learned from the very kind Home Ec teacher at Lincoln Junior High, the only thing I remember is this:  “When sewing, make sure you always match your stripes.  And never buy an article of clothing if the stripes don’t match.” (I also learned that I never wanted to teach Home Ec which was a little late since I was in my very last semester of college.)

I was in Kohl’s the other day and should have nonchalantly whipped out my phone and taken a picture to show you what I mean.  There were some potentially cute skirts displayed right at the front door where they couldn’t be missed.  Long.  Knit. White and navy blue.  Wide striped.  You see that style everywhere.  And the stripes didn’t match.  They would have been so much cuter if they had.  They were probably cut from an enormous stack of fabric of all different patterns and then whipped together by seamstresses oblivious to equivalency. Prices have to be kept down, of course.  But I have seen the same shoddiness in skirts sold at boutiques.

Look around you sometime.  Pay attention.  Unmatched stripes down the side of a shirt or skirt look like someone didn’t take extra care in putting the piece together.  And unmatched stripes across a hefty backside looks like someone didn’t own a rear view mirror.

This is my own personal and I know, inconsequential, crusade.  Let’s put some effort into matching stripes.  Maybe if we could match in this minor detail we could work up to matching things that really matter—like minds and hearts.