Elizabeth Willis Barrett………..January 21, 2015

The first time I saw the movie Napoleon Dynamite was in Rexburg, Idaho, with my husband Brad, and my two youngest—Kyle and Allison—who were in Rexburg going to school.  We had traveled all the way from Arizona for a short visit and had some hours to kill.  And they were definitely killed in my opinion.  Shot through.  Kyle and Alli had seen the movie already and couldn’t wait to watch it with us.  There had been so much hype about it that I was ready to have a great experience with half my family.

It turned out to be a very slow day at the movie theater.  We got in our seats after the film had started and since we were the only ones in that particular theater, they started it all over again just for us.  Kind.  If they had started from the ending and played the whole thing backwards, it would have had the same effect on me.  I was completely unimpressed and once again my lack of humor sense was made manifest.  That was truly the dumbest movie I had ever seen—up to that point.  I think Nacho Libre would create a very close race if the two should run a 1/2 marathon together.

Kyle and Allison kept looking at us to see our reaction to this very unorthodox film.  Most of the time they could hear Brad’s reaction because he was laughing uncontrollably.  If there had been anyone else in the theater they might have asked him to keep it down.   But I must have seemed like a matronly Queen of Hearts at a quilting bee.  Not a guffaw, not a snicker, not a smile escaped my pierced lips.  I think my left eye brow was raised during the whole pitiful showing.  The movie wasn’t funny.

Again, as I have been made very aware of on many occasions, I was most likely in the minority.  I think I am in a perpetual minority.  I would be standing practically alone in a group of 1000 people if we were to choose sides of a room according to our likes and personalities in a variety of categories.

“All those who like chocolate go to the right side of the room.”  I’d be left alone on the left.

“All those who prefer Barbra Streisand to blue grass music go to the right side of the room.”  I’d be left alone on the left.

“All those who love to stand outside and chat rather than clean out a closet, go to the right side of the room.”  Again, I’d be left on the left.

This would not be a good thing to do on a boat.  The weight wouldn’t be balanced.

As we came out of the theater at the end of N.D., the sweet girl at the candy counter asked how we’d liked the movie.  In answer, I turned around and waved a bemused hand at Brad.  He could barely walk because he was bent over in hysterics with Kyle and Allison laughing, too, mostly at him.  He loved Napoleon Dynamite.

When attributes were being handed out in the pre-earth life, I believe Brad was first in line at the Sense of Humor counter.  He can roll into a belly laugh quicker than anyone I know and at the slightest provocation.  I was probably queuing up for other qualities (I’m not sure which, at the moment) and totally missed out on the Humor distribution.  My Dad and sister are wonderful at seeing the funny side of things.  They must have been in that humor line.  You’d think they would have let me have cuts or something since I probably wasn’t patient enough to wait behind 4,376,000 other humor wanna-haves.

I wish now I had put in more effort to obtain a sense of humor because laughter can imbue the soul.  Maybe a little humor blew off the counter in my direction, though, because I do love to laugh with friends and family.  And even though Napoleon Dynamite did nothing for me, I once laughed right out loud in Three Amigos.



Elizabeth Willis Barrett………….January 13, 2015

I love mornings.  Not that I have gotten up early enough lately to claim their full benefits.  When I’ve had to catch a very early flight to Seattle or Salt Lake or take someone to a 5:00 am job appointment, I realize how much I am missing by not getting up at 5:00 every morning.  Getting to bed in a timely manner to allow a 5:00 am reveille hasn’t happened for a while.  But it really is a shame to miss those early hours when the sun is beginning to stretch and blaze its promise across the sky.  It is so beautiful and renewing.  To me, morning is when the vital doings of the day must be done. As the day moves along toward sunset, it seems to collapse and press down on all the remaining minutes leaving them rather unproductive.

If I had my way, I would wake up to an empty house with all other occupants hard at work somewhere else.  I wouldn’t need to help anyone find a missing phone or satchel or point out that the peanut butter is right where it has been for at least the last 10 years.  I wouldn’t hear the radio blaring out heart deflating accounts of kidnappings and murders and political sniveling.  My psyche is so fragile that an overheard bit of bad news acts like a stiff scrubbing brush to my good humor and sense of well being.  And although I really love to hear new insights on religion and the way of the country gained by deep spousal study, morning is not the time to pour any new found truths into my brain.  In the morning, the mixer of my cerebrum is whirring with other ingredients and extra bits and pieces are likely to get flung aside, my congeniality with them.

In the morning, I’m trying to concentrate on my weekly list.  It is a very long to-do list that I usually write out during Church on Sunday. I want to get on with the day and that list without any interruptions.  That is probably a very selfish desire.  But I’m just trying to put on my own breathing mask first so I can help others put on their breathing masks, so to speak.  And to me, that means getting certain things done in the morning.

For instance, if I don’t “stretch with Jane” before 8:00 am, the opportunity for that particular get-it-done item will be gone for the day. Without this stretching (which I have tried to do every morning for about 30 years since I discovered the wonderful DVD of Jane Fonda called “Start Up”) my aging body will just quit moving all together, and what help would I be to anyone then?

Next, I need to be totally ready for the day—showered, dressed, blown, curled, contacted, made up.  It is very deflating to look in the mirror at mid-day and realize that several of these points didn’t get addressed.  Of course, by then even the addressed items must be re-addressed.  If someone wants me to do something—after my morning, of course—I want to be ready.

There are about ten things I really want to get done each day and morning is the best time to do them.  Without distractions, I could easily get them all done by ten or eleven and then I would be eager to get on with the interaction and saving of others.  Not that anyone will need saving by then or want to interact either.

Again I find that I am not only thinking outside the box but outside the universe of my family and friends who are ready to engage way before I am.  Maybe they’ve already secured their own breathing masks and they are trying to help me with mine.  As usual, I could use some help. That universe has tried for years to teach me that warm, wonderful people are far more important than crossing items off my lists. So, come back into my mornings and my days and my nights and I will try to be more discreet as I’m making a list and checking it twice.




Elizabeth Willis Barrett………October 19, 2014

When I was little, I went to Primary—faithfully.  I usually walked.  Once I called my Aunt Mona and asked her to take me but she said no.  It wasn’t that far and she knew I could easily walk it in about seven minutes.  Mom was at work or I certainly wouldn’t have asked Aunt Mona.  She would have felt really badly if I had been kidnapped on the way.  I think.  I never tried the Aunt Mona avenue of travel again.  I loved Primary.  We’d have opening exercises and then go into classes.

Do you think that in the hereafter we will get our full memories back?  Because right now I can’t remember sitting in class.  I easily remember that one of my Primary teachers was killed in a terrible car accident.  I can still feel a deep sorrow with that memory.  That was the first time I learned that someone in MY church could die unexpectedly.  I was pretty sheltered.  Anyway it was a terrible blow to her family and to all of us who knew her.  It shook my faith.  So God doesn’t always protect you even when you pray every day, “…….and let no harm or accident befall us”?

I just read on the Internet (and how could that ever be wrong?) that nine, ten and eleven year old Primary girls became LiHoMas.  And all this long while, I thought we were called Liahonas, named after the golden instrument of direction found by Lehi in the desert in the Book of Mormon.  But nope!  I guess we were LiHoMas which stood for Little Home Makers.  Whew!  I like Liahonas much better!

To be more specific, the nine year old girls were named Larks, the ten year old girls were named Bluebirds and the eleven year old girls were named Seagulls.  The most significant thing from Primary that I remember is making a sampler.  I really need to find mine so I can scan it and let you see it.  It is a real work of art.  I still remember what was so carefully stitched onto that sampler in cross stitch of various colors:

Greet the Day With a Song

Make Others Happy

Serve Gladly

My friend Louise and I used to work on our samplers together once in awhile.  I was a very tall LiHoMa and she was a small one.  Once she wanted to work on our samplers in a top cupboard in their guest room.  Why?  I don’t know!  But my body didn’t quite fold as well as hers did and that experience might have added to my extreme claustrophobia.

I am proud of myself for getting my sampler completed at all since many craft projects like that never make it to finé. Maybe the finishing of it gave me an extra doodad on my bandlo which I thought was called a bandalo—a felt thing you wore around your neck like a long collar.   Neither of those words is in the dictionary, by the way.  Interesting what you can learn on the internet.  My whole childhood could be changed if I’m not careful of what I look up.

Anyway, aren’t those wonderful words?  The words on my sampler, I mean.

Tomorrow I’m going to try to put them into practice and see what happens.



Elizabeth Willis Barrett

I heard the other day that a very determined woman pointed her shaking finger at a school group demanding that prayer be allowed in the schools.  I used to feel that it was a huge mistake when prayer was deleted from public forums but I have a different feeling now.

I‘m for prayer, but I’d want the prayer to be my kind of prayer.  I wouldn’t like it very much if I were required to kneel to the east several times a day because the one in charge worshiped in that way.  And I don’t suppose those of the Jewish faith would like to be prayed for in the name of Jesus Christ at every secular meeting they go to.  I love the Savior.  I wish every religion accepted, loved and worshipped Him.  But they don’t and we can’t assume that He is in everyone’s life.

Once our family made some people very uncomfortable by insisting that they pray like we pray.  We had associated with a born again Christian group for some time because they were trying to help one of our children, for which we were very grateful.  In the process, we had been preached to and prayed for and blessed over and over by them as they waved their hands in the air and quoted scripture and treated us as lost souls who needed much spiritual guidance.  Since we feel that we have quite a good grasp of scripture and spiritual things ourselves, we were a little resentful.

So, when we had them in our home, Brad thought he would return the favor by having them pray like we do for a change.  We all knelt in a circle and Brad offered a prayer.  That is how we have family prayer in our home.   I feel that it made them uneasy and I’m sorry we were so adamant about them joining us.  Brad just wanted them to know that prayer was not foreign to us and that we definitely loved and worshipped Heavenly Father, too.

Prayer is a very personal thing.  Those people in our home loved God.  They had dedicated their lives to His service.  We didn’t have the right to make them worship in our way.  And we don’t have that right in the schools either.  There is so much diversity, so many ways to talk to God.  Maybe a moment of silence would be more appropriate where each could reflect or pray in his or her own way.  Our kids certainly could use some spiritual help.  We all could.

I rejoice when friends of other faiths say they’ll pray for me or for one of our kids.  Those prayers are so welcomed, heard and felt even if they have a different way of reaching Heaven.

As I went to a Mormon Temple dedication with a wonderful Catholic friend, she said in reference to the numerous religions, “We’re all trying to go to the same place; we’re just driving different cars.”

If we want someone to ride in our car, we’d do better with kind invitations.   We ought to make sure that our car is driven by and filled with happy, loving and accepting people.  Or who would want to join us?  Those with angry pointing fingers will have no passengers no matter how much they promote prayer.


tiny house 1

Elizabeth Willis Barrett………………..December 2013

The other day I was lingering again too long on Facebook and read about a couple who built a tiny house because they wanted to reduce the imprint they made upon the earth.  I’m not sure what that means, exactly, but I am guessing that it means they didn’t want to buy into materialism and the stuff-ness that we all get into.  As I walked through my five bedroom “castle” overloaded with this and that, thinking about that tiny house made me feel over indulged and rather selfish.  Then I started thinking, which is a very good thing to do.  Here are some things I thought about:

If you live in a house that small, where do you put a washing machine?  Of course, you could always take your laundry to a Laundromat which they must do if they don’t infringe upon one of their parents.  But since they live on 5 acres out in the country, it must be rather far to drive to a Laundromat which would use up the precious commodities of gas and rubber and whatever else a car needs to function.  That could somewhat increase one’s imprint on the planet.

In a house that small, you could never have guests over, which could be good or bad depending on the guests.  If they came, they’d have to bring their own chairs (BYOC) and sit outside since there would be no room inside for extra chairs.  And what if it were raining outside?  You would have to rely on a benevolent Heaven for good weather.  In fact, continual good weather would be a must since you would have no room to store heavy coats or scarves or umbrellas or sweatshirts.

You could delete all hosting responsibilities from your life.  No baby showers here.  You would definitely have to delete any thoughts of children unless you wanted to build another tiny house for each tiny child.  You could also delete any rousing “Honey, I’m home!”s from your vocabulary since that would be an overkill of one’s presence in such a small space.

Animals could be deleted, too, which is a plus in my eyes.  There would be no place to keep dog food and no place for the pet to get out of the occasional inclement weather that is bound to come in spite of Heaven’s benevolence.

If you lived on five acres, wouldn’t there be some outdoor things you’d need: a lawnmower maybe? Some rakes?  If you had that much land, wouldn’t you try to grow some food?  And you’d need to preserve that food.  Seems like you’d need a pressure cooker, Mason jars, large pots, extra shelves, a freezer.  Can’t fit all that in a tiny house.

Doesn’t she ever bring work home from the office?  Doesn’t he ever bring papers home to grade?  Where would they put that stuff?  Or even an ice chest for picnics?

One thing I’d really miss is a piano.  No room for that in their house.  Not even room for a violin.  No room for sheets of music or sheets to rip and crochet into a rug.  No room for the crochet hook, much less a sewing machine or a Cricut to create with.  Creativity would have to be limited to the computer.  Maybe that’s enough for them.

Every important paper would have to be scanned into computers.  But where would they keep a printer to print them out when needed?  And how many outfits could possibly be hung up in such a tiny house for two people.  They’d have to wear the same things day after day after day.  Maybe they never go to company parties or plays like “Wicked.”  And where would they keep extra toilet paper or soap or shampoo or shaving cream?  Do they have to go to the store every day just to keep supplied?

Pretty soon, wouldn’t you go crazy out of your mind just sitting in that teensy weensy space with another person?  It would be a prison of your own making.  I can’t see love and affability continuing indefinitely in these tight quarters.  I go nuts when I have to walk around Brad in our comparatively large kitchen.  What would I do if there was only one place for him to stand and that place was in the center of everything?  There would be only one thing to do–slip into an UN-retractable decline of insanity.

Maybe this tiny house business is only for weekends or perhaps a prelude to a large dream home on their to-be-coveted five acres. If so, this couple shouldn’t give the impression to the world of Facebook believers that living in a tiny house year after year is going to bring peace and serenity as they smugly “make a smaller imprint on the planet.”  I for one don’t believe it is possible.  In fact, I give them three months–tops.

Maybe living in a space no bigger than a rabbit hole without being burdened with life’s overwhelming stuff sounds good in theory.  But theory and reality are so distantly related to each other that they’re not even third cousins twice removed.


Guitar 2

Elizabeth Willis Barrett………September 25, 2013

I have wanted to learn to play the guitar for a long time.  I can easily play my baritone ukulele that I received in trade for my grade school violin about 45 years ago.   But four strings is easy.  I wanted to progress to six strings and have been given every opportunity.  For various reasons, however, the guitar hasn’t become a part of me like the ukulele.

There have been guitars around our house but it seems like something always happened to them.  One was minding its own business leaning on a post in the family room. It was in everyone’s way, but no one thought to give it a more judicious place of repose.  It got bumped and the neck fell off.  Unrepairable.  It was a sad demise.  For Christmas we gave one of our sons a beautiful Seagull guitar that we made him swear he would never sell.  One drug induced mania had that family favorite at a pawn shop in no time, bringing in enough money for probably two hits of heroin.  Anger was only one of my emotions.

Then Brad bought me my own Seagull guitar.  Brad always takes care of me.  This guitar is a very nice one but even after taking a Parks and Rec guitar class taught by a pro, and an advanced Chandler Gilbert Community College guitar class taught by an even greater pro, I couldn’t pick up the guitar and whip out “You Are My Sunshine” without much tedious concentration.

After about five years of intermittent effort, I finally determined that the guitar was too big for me.   (I’ve always been a little slow at recognizing cause and effect.)   Also, I couldn’t practice very long because the steel strings were cutting rivers into my fingers and pain and I are not very good friends.  I needed a smaller guitar with nylon strings.  Aha!  Just a minor revelation.

With some more hinting around birthdays and Christmases, I finally have in my possession a guitar that will help me cross at least one thing off my bucket list.

Another thing that has been a challenge for me in playing the guitar is the tuning of the silly thing.  Why is it that I cannot remember the names of the strings: EADGBE?  Easy, right?  I tried to memorize some little mnemonic device such as “Even Animals Desire Greatness Before Eating” but I found that I couldn’t hold that sentence in my head any longer than I could hold the letters.  Then when I’d go to tune the guitar at the piano even with the string names written down before me, I had trouble hearing when the string actually hit the right pitch.  So I bought a tuner.  Problem solved! Sort of.

At a friends’ retreat where I was going to wow everyone with my hard-earned guitar prowess, I found that the tuner only works when it is being used by a sensible, levelheaded and educated person.  I also learned that you should never try to tune anything with nine other people waiting and watching you.  I clipped the tuner to the guitar, hit the first string and the tuner said “E sharp.”  I didn’t remember the names of the strings but I knew there wasn’t an E#.  I tried another and another.  None of the strings was cooperating.  And since I couldn’t remember the names or the order, I didn’t know what I was trying for.  The tuner was failing me.  I asked for volunteers to tell me the names of the strings.  They failed me, too.  Every needed answer can be googled, however, so I whipped out my phone and learned for at least the fiftieth time: EADGBE.

It was then that I realized my enormous error.  Just before I had clipped on the tuner, I had clipped on the capo to raise the key a half step.  I was trying to tune an already tuned guitar with the capo on!

Educate About Darned Guitar Before Embarrassment!

Once again it was brought to my attention that I have a lot to learn.  How much more is there?




Elizabeth Willis Barrett

Technology has advanced us greatly, I know, but there are a few things that I miss that technology has taken away.  I would never go back to typewriters instead of computers, or mimeograph machines instead of wonderful personal printers. But I do miss talking on the phone–not the stuck-in-one-place-connected-to-a-cord kind of talking, but the wandering-around-with-earphones-in-your-cell-phone kind.  I can get a lot done when I’m on the phone–fold a batch of clothes, load the dishwasher, make the bed, drive to Bashas.  But now that texting has become the mode of communication, I no longer have free hands to do other things.  I just stand in one place, hold my phone in my left hand and painstakingly tap out a one finger message.  It’s not just free-handed time I miss, I also miss the warm voices of my friends.  When you call a friend to ask a question, it usually doesn’t sound like:

“Are you back in town?”


“Going to Book Club?”


“See you there.”


That’s the texting version.

A phone call sounds more like:


“Hey, Jane, you’re not still out of town are you?”

“Nope, we got home last night.  I’m so glad to be home and not living out of a suitcase.  Anything happen while I was gone.”

“Tons.  Can’t wait to tell you about it and I really want to hear about your trip.  Can you go to Book Club tonight?”

“If I can find anything clean to wear.  What’s the book again?”

Peace Like a River.  You read it already, right?”

“A while ago.  Too bad I can’t remember much about it.  I’ll go if I can pick you up.  I hate to walk in by myself.”

“Sounds good.  I’ll be ready.”

“See you soon.”


A phone call sounds like friendship.  A text sounds like efficiency.

Another thing I miss are commercials.  There are plenty of them still, probably more than ever, but you can DVR a movie and skip over all the commercials.  In the olden days, a commercial was a good time to get up and accomplish something.  You could clear the table, grab a drawer to organize or gather stuff for tomorrow’s meeting in the time it took to coerce you to buy Campbell’s Soup, a new Chevy Ford or make a run to McDonald’s. I know you can now put programs on pause and do those same things, but a commercial used to be a mandatory break.

At this very moment I am sitting on a couch in our cabin with five wonderful Young Adults.  It is silent.  Each one of us is occupied with a computer, an IPhone or an IPad.  We don’t need each other.  We are very content to play solo games, write essays, catch up on Facebook or Emails or text those who didn’t happen to make it up here.

Technology has created a new way of being.  It is connecting in some ways and very dis-connecting in others.  It saves minutes but gobbles up hours.  What did I do before I felt compelled to see if anyone read my blog, or if someone made an amazing announcement on Facebook, or if there are any great deals offered by Groupon?  The computer sucks me into its knowledge, its community, its offers.  If I don’t look at the clock and pay attention to its fast forward march, I can fritter away a morning and have nothing redeeming to replace it.

Brad and I can often be found at each end of our kitchen table, not passing delicious dishes back and forth, but anchored to our individually prized laptops, feasting at a smorgasbord of information–none of which really matters.  Maybe our quiet togetherness makes up for the lack of deep importance in our computer searches.

I repeat–I wouldn’t want to go back to the old ways.  I just sometimes feel a bit of nostalgia for them.


I’m Sorry, Neil Diamond!

Neil Diamond


Elizabeth Willis Barrett

I should never be taken to a concert again because I don’t deserve it.  I’m not a reveler, a participator or a throw-your-body-and-soul-into-the-experience kind of person.  Concerts should be saved for those who are.

To illustrate: One of the items on my elusive bucket list was to see Neil Diamond in concert before he or I died–the likelihood of either not being out of the question. Because my husband, Brad, will do anything for me (except put the regular waste basket and recycle waste basket in their exact proper places so I don’t have to think before I throw), he bought me an incredible gift for my birthday last year–tickets to a Neil Diamond concert.  Wow!  And these were not the nosebleed tickets.  Brad spent over $400 to please me and to let me hear “September Morn” up close and personal.

I had months to anticipate the great event since my birthday is in February and the concert wasn’t until August 29.  When the night finally came–after St. Patrick’s Day, a trip to Canada, Easter, some trips to Flagstaff, the birth of a very welcomed new grand son, the Fourth of July, two family reunions, and other sundry happenings–we finally found our seats in the US Airways Center.  We discovered that even with our outstanding tickets, we still needed to watch Neil on the enormous screens if we wanted to see what he really looked like at 71.

He was an outstanding performer, singing with tremendous vitality, which shows what’s possible with continued practice even into one’s seventh decade.  That’s promising.  I loved his singing, I loved his songs, although he left out two I had hoped to hear: the “September Morn” and “Song Sung Blue.”

He was great.  I wasn’t!  I learned something about myself that night which I should have already known: my inhibitions get in the way of true enjoyment and abandon that are needed at a concert–especially a Neil Diamond Concert.

This fact smacked me in the face when he sang “Sweet Caroline.”  The sold out crowd of 17,000 really got into that song–waving their arms and “bah, bah, bahing.”  I couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t wave my arms.  I couldn’t “bah.”  I was disgusting!  Brad didn’t wave or “bah” either, but he didn’t care.  We sat there and watched 34,000–minus four–arms waving to the slow, rocking rhythm of “Sweet Caroline.”  Those people were into it.  They were reveling, they were participating, they were throwing their bodies and souls into the experience.  I envied them!  They were so captivated by the music that Mr. Diamond just kept singing, “Sweet Caroline..Bah, Bah, Bah…………”  over and over again.

Sweet Caroline

Good times never seemed so good

Sweet Caroline,

I believe they never could

Sweet Caroline…

When they were positive that “Sweet Caroline” was not going to be revived for the twentieth time, the crowd just melted to their seats, having experienced nirvana.  Look what I missed!  Because I am so inhibited, because I am so stilted, because I didn’t want to totally release myself to the music, I missed out.  I wonder if I’d have been willing to wave my arms if Brad wasn’t there.  Does he inhibit me?  Yikes!

I know that I can’t totally blame Brad for my inhibitions because I have been aware of them on other occasions.  While working the cash register at a very successful fall boutique, I was asked to wear a witch’s hat to help the customers feel the holiday spirit.  No! No! No!  I almost ran.  I could not and would not wear that hat.  I marvel at those that can wear Santa hats or reindeer antlers or other head adornments while walking through the mall or checking people out at Fry’s.  I even balked when my daughter thoughtfully changed my ring tone to “Jingle Bells” to get me in the Christmas mood.  I made her change it back immediately to a congruently safe “Strum.”

I’ll never be comfortable wearing weird hats or having my phone blast out a celebration tune, but I do wish I could let myself go and at least wave my arms occasionally.

Friends took us to a Fab 4 concert–another concert I didn’t deserve to go to.  Watching the Fab 4 is like watching the Beatles in all their glory.  They were Fabulous times 4 and deserved some waving.  But no, I held onto my feelings like a cowboy reining in some wild horses.  I still regret not standing up and waving my arms or even screaming as I kind of remember doing at a Beatles movie in the 60’s!

Maybe I have an excess of enzyme inhibitors.  Could that be possible?  At any rate, I need to practice letting go and letting a little playfulness reign in my life.

I have a perfect practicing opportunity in Voice Class where I found out today that I have to sing a tiny portion of the Temptations’ “Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch” like they sang it–uninhibited!  Whoa–my comfort zone totally got discomforted!  Its pillow, blanket and cozy sweatsuit were just whisked away.

But I can do this.  I’ve been listening to Wayne Dyer’s Your Erroneous Zones again and he reminded me that I can be anything.  All right.  I can be uninhibited for a few lines of “Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch.” And just now, only because I am home alone and I even looked behind me to make sure no one was watching, I practiced waving my arms to “Sweet Caroline.”  Yes, truly, I did.  And you know what?  “Good times never seemed so good!”


Pride Goeth Before a Rise

balloon 2

Elizabeth Willis Barrett

When my kids were little, I would often trade days with a friend.  I would leave my kids with her so I could go somewhere childless and on another day I would take her kids so she could have some freedom.  Since my two and her two were in the same preschool, our responsibilities included letting them play, then getting them fed and ready and taken to preschool.

Any mother knows that when children and deadlines coincide, there is a potential for volatility.  Since most days did bring these two in proximity, I allowed tension to get the better of me.  “Hurry!” was my mantra.  “Get in the car, NOW!” was my war cry.  On my “on days” with two extra children, my edginess sharpened and those words were raised an octave.  Preschool waited and dawdling children meant we would be late and the teacher would be upset and her upset-ness would affect her classroom and that would make me feel guilty and my guilt basket was already filled to capacity.  (On second thought, guilt is much like Jello–there’s always room for more.)

One day, one of the girls, Carly, came to my house with a helium balloon that she wanted to take to school.  That was fine.  However, in my impatience to get the kids in the car for school after many flustering minutes of un-cooperation, the balloon came off her wrist and floated into the great beyond.  It’s graceful beauty was lost on Carly and she howled all the way to school.  A kind benevolent caregiver would have taken her straight to Walmart to get her another balloon so she wouldn’t be disappointed.  But not this one.  I wanted to get those kids to school quickly.  I was done.

About thirty years later, that particular lack of compassion came back to teach me a lesson in empathy.  Several of us were giving a gift card to a friend and I was put in charge of its presentation.  I thought it would be nice to give the card with a helium balloon that said, “Thank You.”  Sadly, helium balloons that say, “Thank You” are very difficult to find.  But I was earnest in my quest and after four non-compliant stores, I finally found the perfect balloon.  It was blown up for me and I made the somewhat pricey purchase.

Transporting helium balloons can be tricky since they tend to bounce around and ruin one’s driving view, but the balloon and I made it home and I tied the card to it.  I was feeling quite pleased with myself for going the extra mile to make our gift distinctive.  That is not my usual M. O.

I drove to the recipient’s home where the other “givers” were meeting.  They would be glad they had given the gift-giving responsibility to me because I had prepared so well.

However, as soon as I got out of my car, the quote, “Pride goeth before a fall” quickly ran through my mind with a variation: “Pride goeth before a rise.”  As I opened my car door, the balloon that should have been very stable, came off its ribbon and rose, rose, rose into the same great beyond that Carly’s had risen to so long ago.  I felt the same way she must have felt when she lost her balloon.  I was sad and I wanted to howl. No one even got to see its beauty or my hard work before it disappeared. I wanted a kind benevolent caregiver to go get me another balloon before I walked into our friend’s home.  But there wasn’t one available.

I gave our friend the card and told her about the balloon which, of course, didn’t do it justice.

It’s been a while, but I still feel the disappointment in losing my balloon.  I wonder if Carley remembers and still feels the disappointment in losing hers.


A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Eternity

Mesa Temple 2


Elizabeth Willis Barrett

Just when I thought there was no more to write about, I did something stupendous–stupendously stupid.  I feel the capillaries in my face enlarge and a pink glow begins in my neck and travels up to my hairline when I think about it.  I’m hoping the writing of the incident will help me let it go and march forward into sanity, although that may be impossible.

Since my Dad had Alzheimer’s for seven years before it finally took him, and my mother had dementia that made her life and those who loved her miserable for a couple of rough years, keeping my mind throughout a long life doesn’t seem too probable.  However, each of my parents had siblings who lived well into their 90’s with tarp as a shack–whoops! I mean sharp as a tack–minds.  I have been counting on following those with the healthy minds since some of their DNA belongs to me.  But what I did was so crazy that the insanity road seems more likely.

Here goes:

We attended a beautiful wedding ceremony in the Mesa, Arizona, LDS Temple on Saturday.  While there we saw many friends who belong to one huge wonderful family who were attending a different wedding.  Because of the sacredness of the Temple, we are asked to take off our shoes and put on little white socks to go into the sealing rooms.  It was a crowded day and the cubbyholes that hold the set-aside shoes were quite full, but I found a place for my long black boots and a cubbyhole for my black coat.  I even put my name by each which I usually don’t take time to do.  I put on the provided socks and felt a great spirit of love and peace as I witnessed the Temple Wedding.  Had I known what I was about to do, I would have stayed in the sealing room for a long time.

After the ceremony, I needed to go to the bathroom before the ride home, so quickly went to where my boots and coat should have been.  I couldn’t see them.  Hmmmm.  I did see a black short coat in one of the cubbies and thought someone had selfishly moved my coat to make room for her things.  I grabbed it and put it on and in a bottom cubby were some black boots.

“Wow, people were being insensitive,” I thought, “moving my things around like that.”  On went the boots and into the bathroom went I.

While in the bathroom I felt a phone in a pocket of the coat and realized it was in an inside pocket.  I didn’t even know my coat had an inside pocket.  I pulled out the phone and saw that it wasn’t mine.  I had someone else’s coat!  I was mortified.

Just as I told a friend that I had taken the wrong coat, the coat’s owner–another young and beautiful friend–came toward me with my coat.  Thankfully, she was very understanding as I told her that I thought I was the only one who had worn a coat in 60 degree weather!  She showed me my name that I had placed with my coat.  That made me ponder.  If my name was with my coat, was my name also with my boots?  There in a bottom cubby were a pair of long black boots and alongside them was my name.  I was wearing someone else’s boots, too!

By this time I was surrounded by a group of laughing friends so I couldn’t nonchalantly take off the boots and replace them with my own.  They all knew that I had taken not only someone else’s coat, but someone else’s boots as well.

“Your boots are round toed and the others are square toed,” someone gently pointed out.  I have never been a stickler for detail, obviously.

The laughter continued–in a Temple-like way–but my own laughter was a bit hysterical.  Dementia?  Had it started already?

I can hardly breathe as I relate this story because that mishap took a walloping chunk of promise out of my future.  What other imbecilic things am I going to do before the last fragments of my life are over?

In one of my next essays, I am going to instruct my children on how to take care of their aging, demented mother.  They’d better read it!