Gilbert police


Elizabeth Willis Barett…………..January 2016

I’ve always liked the Gilbert police.  Not that I’ve had lots of run-ins with policemen, but when you’re working with a drug addict or have a minor traffic infraction, you have to speak to them once in a while.   On the whole, I have found them to be incredibly sensitive, friendly and helpful.  Until yesterday.  I now have something to recount to a judge and maybe he will require some changes in the force.

I was on my way to pick up my little three year old grandson from his pre-school class at Gilbert Elementary School.  He is a little doll baby and I love to see his face light up when he sees that it is me picking him up.  I don’t get to do it very often.  I was looking forward to the experience, but because of one very callous police officer, I don’t think I’ll have enough courage to pick him up from school ever again as long as I live—which might not be long.

I was almost to the school when I saw a police car on the other side of Elliot road just waiting for me.  And of course I was rushing a bit since I didn’t want to be late and have poor Maddix just stand there wondering who would be picking him up.  Sure enough, the policeman—whose name I should really say here just to keep you from thinking badly of any other well mannered and helpful Gilbert Policeman, but I won’t since he already is mad at me—was totally aware of my infraction.  And he was not going to let me get away with it.

He whipped his car down and around and behind me in seconds.  Those lights went whirring around and I pulled over immediately like you’re supposed to do.  Looking through the rear view mirror, I saw that the man was pointing for me to go forward and pull into the school.  So I did.  If you’ve ever been to Greenfield Elementary, you know that it is pretty crowded in there.  It didn’t occur to me to pull forward in front of the school which has never had any space when I’ve been there before, so I turned to the right and drove up and around the round-a-bout so Maddix’s teacher would see me and bring me the child before he felt abandoned.  The whirring red lights followed me around the round-a-about.  He didn’t feel the need to turn them off to keep my embarrassment from bursting from every one of my sorry pores.

Mr. Policeman came up to my window just as I was going to get out so Maddix could see that I was there.

“Stay in your car!” he demanded.  He must have thought I was trying for a quick get-a-way.

“I’ve got to get my grandson,” I countered.

It was raining, by the way.   This melancholy happening matched the weather.

“You don’t get to do what you want.” My public service officer threw that at me like I was always used to getting my way.

“I was just going to get my boy so he wouldn’t be afraid.”

“You are being stopped by a policeman and you don’t get to do what you want. You shouldn’t have driven in here.  You should have stopped in front of the school.”

I didn’t holler back that there was no room in front of the school and I needed to pick up my grandson.  I was very calm and even though tears were very close to slipping, I kept them in check and kept calm.

“You can’t just do things so that you aren’t inconvenienced,” he continued.  I think if he had had a paddle, he would have used it on me.

“I was just trying to get my grandson.”

“He could wait.  You can’t just do what you want when you’re being stopped by a policeman.”

Whew.  He said that about three times.  I like to think of myself as a very intelligent person.  I usually get things on the first go round.  Maybe he felt humiliated that I made him go in the parent pick-up circle.  Maybe he thought that I thought it would be funny to be followed around by a police car flashing its spectacular red light.  He didn’t know that this woman was lacking in humor at the moment.  And there was no where else to go.  He’s the one who told me to turn into the school.  Where did he want me to stop?  There wasn’t room anywhere.  And besides, I repeat, I needed to pick up Maddix.

“Give me your registration and insurance card.”

I’m not a swearer.  I’ve never sworn out loud unless it was by mere accident due to a mouth mal-function.  My older grandkids can hold that one over me.  But I will admit that as I leaned across to reach the glove compartment in an attempt to retrieve the latest registration and insurance info, an unattractive word came out in a whisper.  I think the situation called for it.

I grabbed all the papers that looked promising as the right ones and handed them to him.

“These have expired,”  he said.  Then he told me to sit still while he checked on something.  Probably to see if I was on the wanted list.

While he went back to his car, I was able to wave down Maddix’s teacher whose one hand held Maddix and the other held an umbrella. She looked as disgusted as the police officer.  Maddix wasn’t looking too happy either.

“Maddix’s mom didn’t say you were coming today.”  Her voice was as deadpan as her face.  I was needing a sympathetic smile from her.  Some commiseration.  An “I’ve been in your shoes before” kind of look.  But no.  She said nothing more as she put Maddix in the back seat.  Finally realizing that I wasn’t allowed to get out of the car and therefore couldn’t buckle him in, she reluctantly did the job for me.  No “goodbye.”  No “good luck.” No “I’m so sorry for your plight.”

When Officer He Who Cannot Be Named came back with my license and my expired insurance paper, he told me he was giving me a ticket.  (No, duh!) And that I had three choices:  pay it, go to traffic school (yet again??), or meet with the judge.  I think this time I will meet with the judge.  I just want to tell him that this man was very inconsiderate of a little boy that needed me and was extremely condescending to a grandmother who was trying her best to be compliant.

I really think that if I had opened my door once more or gotten a tiny bit irate as some would have done, the officer would have whipped out his gun and ordered me face down on the wet sidewalk.  I don’t think I would have ever recovered from that.  Neither would he.

Just so he knows what he could do better the next time he finds himself in a like circumstance, here are some suggestions:


1.  Smile

2.  Laughingly say, “Wow, I didn’t know I’d have to follow you into the parent pickup circle!  You’re a hard one to catch.”

3.  Allow the person to retrieve her grandson before the child gets scared that he will be left there all night with a teacher who is obviously in a bad mood.  (who wouldn’t be after a few hours with a class of preschoolers on a rainy day.)

4.  Then, with some regret, issue the ticket, making sure the person knows that you would rather not give the ticket, but after all, they were speeding in a school zone which you are sure they feel very badly about.

5.  Leave the criminal with some dignity.

All the way home, Maddix was silent, except to answer my questions with “Don’t talk to me!”  He didn’t want to be friendly with a criminal either.  No telling where that would get him.

Thank goodness for another grandchild.  When my ten year old granddaughter texted me about my day, I told her it was a sad day because I had gotten pulled over by a policeman.

“Well, at least you didn’t go to jail,” was her optimistic reply.  She finished with, “I wish I could come over and give you a big hug!”

Thank you, Claire.  That is exactly what I needed!






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.



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.


A Basket Case
Elizabeth Willis Barrett 7-24-10

I always seem to be losing baskets—the kind with wheels at grocery stores. It is my habit to set my cart aside for a minute as I go down the soup aisle to grab a couple of cans of cream of chicken soup or something else as essential and at times I have to look for a minute before I can locate my shopping cart again. Once with great effort I filled a basket at Wal-Mart with a myriad of necessities, taking a long time to choose the exact sunscreen, B vitamins and office supplies. I was almost ready to check out when I decided to look over in the magazine section for a new Sudoku book. Not wanting to drag the cart into the cramped area, I left it against some display, looked at the puzzle magazines and then went to retrieve my basket—but it wasn’t there. Some days I can handle that kind of frustration fairly well but not that day. I was tired and had lots to get home for, so re-choosing and filling up the basket again was too daunting. Some over-achieving Wal-Mart Associate must have thought my cart was permanently abandoned and restocked the shelves with it. I went home without buying anything and left that particular shopping list for another outing.

The other day I had a similar experience but this time at Superstition Ranch Market. I was filling my basket with grapes and kiwi and strawberries and then a big seedless watermelon which I thought had a particularly nice sounding thump. Then I headed for the apples. I wanted to try some Braeburns since the Fujis seemed a little overpriced and found only three that looked acceptable. I put these in my cart along with four garlic bulbs. I parked my basket against the chilies so I could go down the onion and potato section unencumbered. Seeing a friend, I made a little small talk which really isn’t my specialty, but it was nice to catch up on her family. And after depositing four onions in a plastic bag, I went to my waiting cart. Much to my surprise, the cart that was waiting at the chilies was not my cart at all. Although the owner of the cart appeared to have part of my same shopping list—she too had chosen strawberries, garlic and apples—there were bananas and corn in this cart and there wasn’t a watermelon in it. I hadn’t even gotten to the bananas and corn in my shopping yet. It was odd that another shopper had chosen to park her basket by the chilies. Clearly this person had thought that my parked cart was hers and she had taken mine by mistake.

Not wanting to start shopping all over again, I walked through the store looking for someone who might look a little dazed and who was pushing a watermelon with the rest of her produce. No one fit that description. I was stymied. How had my cart disappeared so fast?

So I had a decision to make. Should I go home empty handed or should I start over? I didn’t come out to this market very often and nothing was too pressing at home at the moment so I made the sacrificial decision to start over.

Grabbing another basket with some indignation, I started again at the strawberries and grapes, chose another thump-worthy watermelon, ran into my friend for a second time and told her the exasperating story of how someone had stolen my cart. Then I headed toward the corn and peppers. Oddly, I saw the same cart parked by the chilies. That person must have had an emergency and had to leave the store without purchasing. Funny that the cart was in the same place I had left mine.

Dismissing any more thoughts about a wayward basket, I chose some peaches and mushrooms to put in my cart and turned the corner to the peppers and lettuce. Just as I chose a healthy head of iceberg, I looked up. There in front of the apples was a cart that held a watermelon, some grapes, some strawberries and some kiwis. It also appeared to be ownerless. Hmmmm. I walked down the aisle to the zucchini. Looking to the left I could still see the other unclaimed basket next to the chilies.

A not too pleasant realization was seeping into my previously offended brain. Could it be that it was my first basket there by the apples? Could it be that I had placed my apples into someone else’s rather full cart—full of bananas and corn and strawberries? Could it be that I had then taken that cart down an aisle or two adding tomatoes and garlic? And then could I have left that person’s cart with a few of my offerings on top in front of the chilies?

Could it be that when I grabbed the onions and went to put them in the basket that I finally noticed that the cart by the chilies didn’t have my watermelon in it but it did have the first owner’s corn and bananas?

Could it possibly be that before I was done shopping that day I had actually used three baskets? And that, in fact, I had taken some other very disgruntled shopper’s cart and used it for a few deposits of my own before parking it by the chilies?

At the check out line both stray baskets were in my line of vision. They were both definitely unspoken for. Somewhere that night would be an irritated produce customer telling her family about a crazy lady who had walked off with her cart.

What was I going to have to do from now on— carry a long piece of red yarn with me wherever I go to tie onto baskets that I might need to leave unattended for a while? Perhaps I could add a sign, too: “I’ll be right back, please don’t dis-assemble.” Besides saving me from future grief, maybe my own personal basket identification would save unsuspecting shoppers from having their well-stocked baskets taken away from them—by me, anyway.

I humbly placed my groceries on the checkout belt and paid without telling the clerk why at the end of the day Superstition Ranch Market would have two half-full grocery carts sitting there with no takers. I just didn’t feel emotionally strong enough to let her know that I was the basket case.




Elizabeth Willis Barrett

I was ready to make stew this morning and got everything out: the stew meat, the potatoes, the onions, the celery…………… .  Nope, not the celery.  Where was the celery?  I looked in the big fridge.  I looked in the little fridge.  Then I looked again–behind the apples, behind the tomatoes, even behind the eggs.  The celery had gone AWOL.  I was sure I had picked up celery at the Superstition Ranch Market.  I remember looking over each bunch and observing that they looked a bit puny.  But I had put one in my basket anyway.

Wait a minute–MY basket.  Hmmmm. That was sounding familiar.  I had been here before and that could be where the absence began.  There was another item that didn’t make it home with me.  Zucchini.   I had needed it for the Tortellini Soup I made the other day.  I know why I didn’t get home with the zucchini.  While at the produce store, I got detracted from that vegetable when I put four cucumbers in what I thought was my basket.    If I could play the haunting music to “Jaws,” right now it would be very appropriate.  I wouldn’t have known it wasn’t my basket if the rightful owner hadn’t said just as I was lowering the cukes, “Hey, doesn’t that basket look a little strange to you?”  I hadn’t even looked.  Just like I hadn’t looked on another occasion that you might want to re-read about.  I will re-post it tomorrow, or the next day or the next.  When I get around to it.  It makes this story a lot more pathetic.

Since the last basket fiasco, I have tried to identify my own shopping cart with a signature bag of grapes or potatoes.  It is harder to personalize your basket at a produce store, however, because everyone is getting produce and most likely the very same produce you are getting yourself.  I must have lost my concentration for a moment because–voilà–I was again messing with someone else’s basket.  I probably dropped the celery into this unsuspecting man’s basket before he caught me with the cucumbers.  I am a very bad risk at the Superstition Ranch Market.

Most likely, “Mr. Persecuted” got home, started putting away his groceries and held a bunch of celery in each hand, with the question and exclamation, “What am I doing with two bunches of celery?  I didn’t want two bunches of celery!”  And then he’ll remember: “Oh yeah, the Nut.”

Not quite what I envisioned when I dreamed of making a name for myself.






737-700 K62601

Elizabeth Willis Barrett

I think that for every flight taken throughout the whole world there is someone who makes a solemn commitment to never fly again.  This last trip did it for me.  The going and coming were both filled with frustration.  I possibly walk through the door marked “Frustration” more than is needed due to my easily frustrate-ability, but this trip made me walk in and out of it like it was a swinging restaurant door.

The frustration began when we tramped up to the Southwest Airline ticket counter last Thursday morning. We needed to get our boarding passes and check our burgeoning luggage–always with an eye on that fifty-pound-limit scale.  As Brad remembered to retrieve his boarding pass, which he doesn’t always do, he held it up and with dismay in his voice groaned, “C45?!”  I had forgotten to enter the frantic online race to get an “A” position. I groaned, too.  I hate to be one of the last ones on the plane, scrambling for a seat and having to crawl over legs to sit between two unsmiling humans who are obviously upset that their space has been invaded.

Then as we wound and wound and wound our way through the banded barriers and up to the dreaded conveyor belt, I dared to walk past two men who were kneeling, getting stuff out of their carryons.  One of the guys said in a very stern, overweight voice, “Lady, we’re all waiting in line!”  I mewed a pitiful “Sorry,” as I got back behind them.  That reprimand from an unpleasant ugly stranger stayed with me for hours.  No, for days.  I still feel it.

We had the perfect trip once we got in our rental car.  We visited the Seattle Welcome Home facility, watched them throw fish at the Pike’s Place Fish Market, rode the ferry to Vancouver Island, and delighted in the Butchart Gardens.  Half of us delighted in the Butchart Gardens.  The most important part of the trip was spending a whole day with our son at the Welcome Home facility in Vancouver.  Thorough transformation happens there! If you know of a drug addict that needs some changing, we are always eager to talk about Welcome Home.

Back at the airport, the swinging door labeled “Frustration” got back into action.  The lines were abominable.  They wove in and out without sense.  When I finally got close to the human X-ray machine, the lady ahead of me stalled and I was redirected to a pat down employee–female, thank goodness.  Did you know that you have to be patted down if you’re wearing a long dress?  What is that all about?  I had to put one foot forward while said employee annoyingly patted, then the other foot forward while she did the same.  I was then told to pivot.  Pivot?  I obviously pivoted wrong because I had to reposition my feet until she was totally finished with my complete humiliation which was done in front of the world. The world was well represented anyway.

“I’m never flying again,” I said to Brad who waited patiently while I put on my shoes, my necklace, my watch and my sweatshirt and put my “liquid” pouch back in my bag along with my iPad and boarding pass.

We were a little late getting to the gate, but nature was calling.  Unfortunately, Seattle has sorely underestimated the number of women who might need to use the bathroom while in its airport and those lines were backed up, too.  I waited and hurried and got to the gate to find that the hurry wasn’t necessary.  The flight was delayed.  Then it was delayed a little longer.

An hour past departure time we were finally on our way to Phoenix.  Ah.  I even got an aisle seat even though our boarding passes were way into the “B”s.  That was thanks to Brad who ended up sitting in the middle of two very kind women.  They chatted together the whole time.  Brad is an excellent conversationalist.  I’m sure the women were much happier with him in their midst than they would have been with me.

I was so glad I had determined to use the bathroom in the airport and was very sorry I didn’t also take the opportunity to use the bathroom in the plane because just before we were to arrive in Phoenix, the pilot made a depressing announcement.  A storm was blowing hard in Phoenix and we were being rerouted to Las Vegas.  I heard “Las Vegas” past my headset that was playing Katie Couric’s The Best Advice I Ever Got. I thought I had heard wrong or that the pilot was having a little fun with his already anxious passengers.  But nope.  It was Las Vegas.  My eyes glazed over as I saw everyone rush to line up for the plane’s two tiny bathrooms.  I didn’t join them but should have.

We were supposed to land in Phoenix at 6:00 p.m.  Friends were going to pick us up and take us to an important dinner that started at 7:00.  We missed it.  Thankfully our friends were made aware of the plane’s delay and they were able to attend the dinner.  I was happy for that.

We didn’t get home till 10:45, tired and ruffled.  But we did get home.  That is always a blessing.  I’m glad the pilot didn’t attempt to land the plane in bad weather.  I’m glad that the crew was cheerful and helpful.  I’m glad that when I finally made it to the plane’s bathroom that it was surprisingly clean and equipped with necessities.  I’m glad that our luggage made the flight with us even though we had to wait a very long time for it to appear on the carousel. I’m glad it only took us about eight hours to get from Seattle to Phoenix instead of a driver’s twenty-two hours.

OK, maybe I’ll fly again.













Tortoise 055

Elizabeth Willis Barrett

I am a fidgeter.  Sitting still isn’t imbedded in my makeup.  When the family is gathered in the chaotic family room to visit after dinner, I have to hold on to myself to keep from jumping up and grabbing a broom or a dishcloth or the bin for the child-scattered blocks.  I breathe in deeply, hoping that the air will moor me to the recliner and keep me from my manic disorder of constant busyness.

I heard once that fidgeters aren’t overweight because they burn calories in unnecessary movements.  That’s a comfort.  But I don’t know if it quite makes up for the offenses I incur by organizing all the medicine cupboard’s contents while talking to a brother-in-law or scrubbing the couch while having a heart to heart conversation with a daughter.

Besides alienating people, fidgeting makes everything take longer.  Take eating for example. I put the food on my plate. Arrange it.  Get up to grab a napkin.  Get up to get some water.  By the time I actually put the first bite in my mouth, some of the family have finished eating and are out jumping on the trampoline.

I fidget before I write.  I take the computer from its long-standing spot on the kitchen table, situate it on my lap, check Facebook, look up tidbits about Julia Child, look around my room where I am sitting in the most comfortable chair ever and decide to put a few papers away that have held a spot on my Dad’s old trunk for three weeks too long.

Then I have to fidget around my subject for a while, fingering the words in an uneven typing until the piece takes shape and I can run with it.

I often find myself–or more accurately, lose myself–rifling through my purse.  It reminds me of my mom who used to do a lot of rifling in her dementia.  Sometimes I forget what I’m searching for and am afraid I’m just doing it for movement.  Scary!

One of my cousins mentioned that he was concerned about another cousin.  She fidgets so much, he said, that sometimes she misses airline flights and important meetings.  Really? He almost made fidgeting sound like a precursor to Alzheimer’s and I definitely don’t need any more precursors to that disease.

A friend of mine can get right down to things without the incessant fidget.  She prides herself on her three-minute showers, for instance.  My showers take an un-record-breaking twenty minutes.  My mind has lots of fidgeting to do and the shower is a great place to think things over.  I would feel very cheated if I only had three minutes for a shower.

Many years ago, this same friend’s daughter was invited to my daughter’s swimming party.  On the morning of the party my friend made her daughter a new swimsuit–from scratch!  It took her a mere two hours.

If the thought of making my daughter a swimsuit ever got past the filters in my brain, it would have taken me a month to make most likely.  I would have had to check out all the fabric stores, making sure I chose the best fabric and pattern.  It wouldn’t have ended up actually being the best fabric and pattern, but I would have tried my hardest. Then I would have had to drag out the sewing machine and find a place to set it up.  I would have anguished over the layout of the fabric and read the instructions over and over. I’d have had to look for scissors sharp enough to cut the fabric and gather enough pins to attach the pattern.  Then I would have tried to figure out the right pieces to sew together.  Eventually, I could have sewn the swimsuit perfectly according to instructions only to have my daughter refuse to wear it.  What a waste of wasted actions!

I wish I could do some things faster.  There are many waiting projects that could use a few minutes of salvaged time.   I think my fidgeting comes from having so many plans, for wanting to do so many things in this short life.  While I’m watering the plants outside, I think of something I want to write about.  I have to drop the hose, run in the house, grab some paper, find a pen and write down the thought that is sure to escape if I don’t anchor it down with ink. I can be doing my daily stretches with Jane Fonda from an ancient VHS tape and pause it several times to text a friend or find a photo or refill the hummingbird feeder so the little birds won’t get discouraged and go elsewhere.

Some might say I have ADHD or something like it but I don’t think so.  I just have a myriad of things I want to do and fidgeting is my way of coping.  To each her own!

















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.


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.


Ready for Christmas? Humph!


Elizabeth Willis Barrett

Christmas has been looming over the horizon for some time now striking a bit of fear in my pusillanimous (just thought I’d try that word since this computer’s thesaurus gave it as an option) heart.   I am trying to be prepared but it is doubtful that I can be totally ready although I’ve had a year to do so. Christmas and I have had a rather tenuous relationship through the years.  It always comes interrupting my attempts at just getting on with regular life.  I feel that in the midst of complete chaos and striving, the Christmas celebrating world expects us to now cram even more into already full lives as though we have just been sitting around all year waiting for something to do.

Although I am way behind on birthday wishes and thank you notes, I now need to write out and mail at least fifty Christmas cards.  Although I have scores of things waiting to be written up for my blog, I need to take precious time to write a family Christmas letter to go inside those Christmas cards along with a family picture which takes some doing since it now involves 28 individuals.  I seldom take the time to make dinner, much to Brad’s vexation, but in this Season of Insanity, I feel a great need to stay in the kitchen long enough to stir up some treats for neighbors and friends.  I have some picture-hanging hang-ups since we painted some of the rooms and few pictures have made it back to the walls. But instead of spending time on that project, I need to find a place to hang the stockings which is a real puzzler since in a remodeling frenzy we deleted our fireplace.

I have bulging drawers, cupboards and closets that are begging to be dug out, but instead I am digging out Christmas decorations and instead of decorating the house for year round service, I am decorating the tree and the railing in green and red.  Exercise and sensible eating have been replaced by errand running and constant snacking since sweets are in abundance and at hand.  And instead of planting flowers outside, I am helping Brad put up the Christmas lights, never getting them quite right.

All the parties that might have been scheduled throughout the year are, of course, packed into December.  The budget I almost had under control is totally blown. I am constantly stacking and re-stacking papers and miscellaneous items to get them out of the way.  The plan is to go through the stashed stacks when Christmas is over but then a new bombardment of paper work and stuff enters the house and the stacks stick around for weeks and weeks—ok, months and months. Then I hear songs about how this is the happiest time of the year.  I say again, “Humph!”

I know–I do it to myself.  None of the above is required.  I ought to love Christmas. I want to love Christmas.  I do love what it stands for.  Who doesn’t need to be reminded about the Savior’s birth and His infinite love for us?  We should be thinking of His Atonement every day.  I love the Christmas music, especially if I get to do some of the singing.   I love the programs and the talks in Church and the idea of peace on earth.  I especially love being with my family.  If it takes Christmas to get us all together, then it’s worth the fanfare but I would much rather enjoy my family without all the afore mentioned extras.

Perhaps I could get a petition going around to have Christmas every other year.  Years go by so fast now.  It seems we just make the Valentine cookies when it’s time for Easter eggs.  In a flash the Fireworks pop and then Halloween whips around like Casper and Thanksgiving gobbles up the time until it is Christmas again and I am outside hanging lights with Brad as he mutters, “These are so cheesy.”  Time warps from one Christmas to the next so quickly that it makes me feel like I am on the end of a very long human Crack the Whip.

I am trying to change my attitude.  At the first sign of a Christmas tree in Sam’s Club one day after Halloween, I attempt to calm my mind and bring the sweet remembrances of Christmas into it.  I do quite well for a while until it is suddenly two weeks before Christmas and I am not ready.

The question, “Ready for Christmas?” is not my favorite.  It implies that you have a given number of things to check off your list and then you can just sit drumming your fingers until Christmas morning comes tap tapping at your door.  Well, that list is so long that it is never completed, for me anyway.  So I’ve had to make some adjustments in my thinking.

I am trying to remember that the list is Christmas.  The doing and preparing and anticipating is all part of it and if the process can’t be enjoyed, then the road to Christmas morning will be paved with frustration.  Therefore, I am making an effort to enjoy the things I do and delete the things I don’t enjoy.  It is still a struggle.

If there really is magic in Christmas, then I think it is time to take advantage of it.  I want that magic to come on in and make itself at home because it must have the ability to lengthen time, increase capacity, stretch finances and buoy up spirits.

That is my wish for Christmas this year: that the magic of Christmas will fill my soul and allow me to triumph in this season and make it a happy one for all.

May it also fill yours!

Audio-Ready for Christmas? Read by the Author