GET OUT OF MY MORNING!

Person_Stretching_under_the_Sun

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.

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IN DEFENSE OF SARAH’S MOM

TemplepillsLisa Ling

Elizabeth Willis Barrett…………Oct 14, 2014

The other day I watched “This is Life with Lisa Ling: Inside Utah’s Struggle with Drug Abuse.”  She showed that even though Mormons have a strict health guide, they are still falling in high numbers to the addiction of pain pills.  I felt that she was very compassionate in her interviews.  She attended a Mormon Addiction Recovery Program meeting, spoke with a Mormon Bishop and in addition to others, met with a very candid girl named Sarah.

I didn’t learn about the danger of prescription pills until my son was in high school.  He went to a friend of mine who worked in the school’s bookstore and asked her for one of her pain pills.   Very responsibly, this friend called me before giving him one.  She told me that Jeffrey had come to her saying that his back really hurt.  As a football player, Jeffrey had many reasons to have a hurting back.  I told her it was OK to give him one of her pills.  Unbelievable, I know.  Looking back, I am astounded at my naiveté.  I had no idea that I had just given my consent to an addiction that would become so full blown that we wouldn’t see the end of it for fifteen years.  I knew nothing about addictions and, of course, nothing about the role pills play in dependency.

Drugs were so out of my realm of consciousness.  I had five nearly perfect children.  It was very interesting to watch the Ling program because it stressed the obsession we as Mormons tend to have with perfection.  We don’t want anyone to know that our family might be having problems, so disasters like drug addiction can be swept under the rug of denial for years.  Although that’s probably not solely a Mormon dilemma.

Lisa showed how easy it is to get addicted.  Many start innocently with prescription pills given by a well-meaning doctor.  When pills get too scarce or expensive many turn to heroin and other illegal drugs.  Addicts need their next hit just like everyone needs their next breath of oxygen and they’ll do about anything to get it.

When Lisa Ling was interviewing Sarah—a full blown heroin addict—she asked her if she wanted to quit.  “More than you’ll know,” said Sarah.  Lisa also asked Sarah what she wanted.  Sarah’s answer was that she just wanted a hug from her Mom.

Sarah’s Mom, who was never named, might have sounded like an unfeeling woman, one who wouldn’t even hug her daughter.  But not to me.  I have been that mom to some degree and I praise her for her courage.  It takes a lot of courage to divorce your addicted child and let her determine on her own that she is ready to pay the price for sobriety.  I would guess that Sarah’s Mom has already spent years hugging and encouraging and saving Sarah from the consequences of her disastrous choices.  After all, she is raising Sarah’s child which is a difficult thing to do after raising your own children.  I would also assume that Sarah’s Mom has been lied to and stolen from because that is what addicts do—they lie and they steal.  Enough is enough.

Brad and I have had many couples sitting in our living room trying to absorb any advice we can give them about dealing with their own addicted children.  We tell them all the same thing that a recovered addict told us:  “There is nothing you as a parent can do or say that will change your child.  They are the ones who have to decide when they are really ready to walk the difficult path of recovery.”  We also tell them of helps that are available to parents and meetings that would strengthen their resolve.  Most parents don’t like our advice.

I am assuming that Sarah’s Mom finally arrived at the point we all must come to: we are not helping our children by enabling them.  We are not helping our children by giving them a nice place to live and driving them places and paying for their needs.  They will never recover until it is harder to be an addict than it is to be sober.  When we make life easy for them,  addicted children continue farther down that destructive path and there is no retrieving them.  Our son wasn’t willing to get ultimate help until he had been homeless for about a year—living behind dumpsters and on the canal bank in a bush, panhandling for money to get more drugs.  We couldn’t coddle him anymore.  We couldn’t bring him home.  We had to go on with our lives and let him go on with his even though his path might lead to death.

So to Sarah’s Mom I would say that there are many imperfect Mormon Moms who are behind you right now, wishing you the best and saying, “Hang in there, Sarah’s Mom.  You are doing the right thing.  The only right thing!”

I wish I could tell Sarah that although she wants to be clean she didn’t sound like she was quite ready to throw herself into a program where she’d have to give her all into getting well.  With the nation watching, I imagine that many would step up to help her into a rehab if she had said that she was ready and willing to go right now.  But when she is done, truly done with her addiction, there is help for her.

Our son finally got the help he needed in a 24 month program that changed his thinking and his life.  It is called the John Volken Academy . It was started by a wonderful philanthropist and costs next to nothing. Two years seems like a very long time to be in a program, but the many expensive thirty day and three month programs worked only for a little while and then the addiction returned.  When you are deep into addiction, a few months isn’t going to pull you out. Thanks to John Volken we have our son back—our wonderful son.

And one day, Sarah, if you are willing to make recovery your first and only priority, your Mom will get you back .  And, I promise, the hugs won’t stop.

TECH NO!

Technology

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?”

“Yes.”

“Going to Book Club?”

“Yes.”

“See you there.”

 

That’s the texting version.

A phone call sounds more like:

“Hello.”

“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.”

“Bye.”

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.

 

LIZ’S LAWS

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Elizabeth Willis Barrett

The other day I gave a suggestion to one of my sons-in-law as he was wiping up a kid’s spill.  I wasn’t trying to be bossy, but maybe it came out that way.  We don’t always see our own faults as well as we see the faults of others.  You know, the “mote and the beam.” (Luke 6:42)

His exasperated response was, “Liz, why don’t you just write up a list of Liz’s Laws, so we’ll know what you want.

Whoa!  What a proposal! What an opportunity!  Why hadn’t I thought of it myself and a long time ago?

So here it is——-Liz’s Laws.  The listings are in random order and not prioritized.  They are not meant to be pointed at anyone in particular.  They apply to everyone generally.  This list is not intended to be all inclusive because I’m sure I’ve forgotten some very major points and I leave myself room to add an addendum at any time.

1.  If you are going to change a diaper, especially on the new carpet in the family room, please put a towel under the baby.

2.  If the diaper is a very smelly one as many are, please change him on a towel on the washer in the laundry room.  That way the smell doesn’t have to linger forever where everyone’s noses are.  But to be truthful, I am so impressed with the men in our family who are willing to be real fathers and change their delightful children, that if this law is overlooked once in a while, I will avert my eyes and nose.

3.  Please do not put cups or glasses or anything containing liquid on a wood surface.  The container will often sweat and leave an unredeemable ring on the wood.  That is what coasters are for–to place those cups on.   Unfortunately, I don’t have any coasters, but you can make do with a magazine or a piece of mail that is sitting around or……….  Never mind–I’ll buy some coasters, if you’ll promise to use them.

4.  Don’t wipe up the floor with a dishtowel.  I know it’s hard to tell the dishtowels from the rags, sometimes, since I use old dishtowels as rags.  But if a cloth is just sitting on the counter it most likely is a dishtowel.  The rags are above the dryer in the laundry room which is in proximity to the kitchen.  And I would rather you use those rags instead of paper towels, too, since they are washable and I don’t have to go out and replace them.

5.  Please don’t scrunch up the couch show pillows and put your head–however clean–on them.  All heads are oily and the scrunch won’t recover if the pillows are used in this manner too often.  These pillows are not replaceable until I buy new couches that come with new pillows.  That will not happen for years.  There are many old pillows in the cupboards in my bathroom and I will be happy to get you one or two upon request.

6.  Please put down the toilet seats–both lids.  This is good Feng Shui.  Also, probably next to impossible.

7.  Don’t put wet towels on beds or hang them over furniture.  They will get everything they touch wet.

8.  If you’re going to wipe off the wood table, which is very much appreciated, by the way, please then wipe it down with a dry cloth.

9.  Do not eat straight out of a pan or bowl that others will be serving themselves from.  I haven’t seen this happen in our family, but it doesn’t hurt to list it just in case someone is tempted to do so.

10.  I know we all wipe our hands on the hanging around dishtowel.  It would be better to use paper towels for that purpose but sometimes the dishtowel is more convenient although much less sanitary. But do you have to wipe your face with it?  Come on!  (And if you are being very good and using paper towels to dry your hands, it only takes one, not five!)

(Oh, oh, I’m feeling myself get a little too paranoid and anxious about these laws.  Maybe I shouldn’t have started.  But there’s more!)

11.  Do not let the kids eat on the carpet or couches.

12.  Do not let the kids touch the pianos, computers, Ipads, or phones.

13.  When wiping off a counter, don’t let the dishcloth drip across the floor.

14.  If kids are going to drink pop, don’t leave 1/2 drunk cans all over.

15.  If you know that your child just might wet the bed, please protect the beds.  I didn’t obey this rule when I was in your position, so I probably don’t have the right to impose this law, but it would save a lot of grief.

16.  When dishing up your kids food, don’t give them more than you know they can eat.  My rule is eat a little, then eat a little, then eat a little.  Wasting food doesn’t go over very well at my house.  See my essay Waste Not Want Not.

17.  Don’t wash kids off with a dishcloth.  Yuck.  Poor kid!  I have lots of clean cloths that would be more appropriate to use.  See #4.

18.  Before laying a sleeping child on the couch, put down a quilt first.  Who doesn’t slobber when they sleep?

So there you have it–Liz’s Laws.  In reading back over them, I see that many have something to do with moisture.  Interesting.

Mostly, however, I realize that they sound very petty and unimportant when what really matters is that you come.  My family is everything to me–all 28 members.  My joy is full when my home is full of you!

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Don’t Burp With Your Head Down and Other Timely Advice

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by Elizabeth Willis Barrett

If you have ever burped with your head down, you already know that it can be unpleasant and if you haven’t, don’t.  That’s all that needs to be said on that subject.

The other bit of advice is this:  if you are turning on the garbage disposal, don’t put your hand in its vicinity to catch the spray before it gets on your brand new shutters.  For one thing, the rubber stopper should prevent any spraying and for another, there might be a mis-laid knife spinning in the disposal that could do you some considerable bodily harm.

The other day I did and it did.  Before Brad gasped and offered his condolences for my mutilated hand (actually, he never got to the gasp), he said exactly what I was thinking:“That was a really stupid thing to do!”  Then he kept going, “Why would you put your hand down by the disposal?  That’s what the gasket is for, to keep the stuff from spraying out.  How stupid!  Why did you do that?”

I wailed hysterically as I held my left hand motherly with my right hand, waiting for blood to splash on our brand new wood floor.  But even before I looked at my hand to see if I would ever again be able to play superbly mastered accompaniments on the piano, I attempted to set things straight. “Brad,” I howled, “I know it was a stupid thing to do!  You don’t have to tell me!  Do you think I’ll ever put my hand by a running disposal again?  No, of course I won’t!”  Then I looked at my hand.

After the initial shock of pain and betrayal from a once friendly disposal, I guessed what had happened.  I had let a sharp knife fall into the disposal unnoticed and it was tall enough to raise it’s biting teeth above the disposal’s opening.  When I flipped the switch and put my protecting hand down, the knife could only spin and bite.  So it did.  Ouch!

I bravely opened my aching hand to take inventory, and found a bleeding gouge in the center of my palm with four other cuts oozing red. Besides being cut, my hand felt battered and bruised, probably because it had been battered and bruised if only briefly.  It could have been worse.

Brad was very kind after he vented his frustration at my stupidity and after days of bandaids and Neosporin, I think I can play the piano without any problem.  I still feel some pain, however.

So, just a reminder: when turning on a garbage disposal, keep your hands away from the opening.

If I think of any more advice, I’ll pass it on.  No sense in all of us making the same mistakes.

First Oleander on the Right

Elizabeth Willis Barrett

(I am reposting this from my old blog so that tomorrow’s post will have more meaning!)

I drive up Bunker and just past Lionel make a left turn onto the canal bank where I shouldn’t turn at all.  I don’t think cars are very welcomed on the canal roads.  But this is where he lives and I have come for another visit.   I pull up to the first oleander and get out with my feet feeling like they are trudging through deep, dark mud and with my heart slogging along above them.

“Jeffrey?” I call.

“Hey, Mom,” comes his voice from the middle of the bush.

At least he’s alive–a good sign, I think.  I walk up to the large overhanging oleander, and part the branches.  There he is like he was the night before, wrapped in his sleeping bag and several blankets and looking very comfortable.  I almost want to join him.  Almost.

“How are you?”  I ask.

“Good.  Except for my hip.  I think it’s broken.”

The first story is that he had jumped over a wall and landed on his hip.  The next story is that he had hitchhiked and as he was getting out of the Good Samaritan’s truck, he caught the heel of his boot and fell hard on his backside.  Truth has lost its way in his muddled head and doesn’t know how to get to his mouth anymore.  Honesty used to be a valiant companion of this beautiful son.  But she was so neglected that she left long ago.  We have missed her.

Jeffrey is already dealing with a broken elbow that he acquired when his scooter failed to turn a corner.  Scooters don’t miss garbage cans on their own.  They need a sober driver and this one didn’t have one.  Lack of sobriety was most likely the cause of Jeffrey’s hurt hip as well.

I never planned on any of my children becoming homeless.  Homelessness is for people with no families, no opportunities and no one left to care about them.  We have lots of room in a very nice home and plenty of food and love to share.  We could easily keep Jeffrey for another 27 years.  But the fact is, our keeping him was doing him harm, not good. We had enabled him too long or rather dis-abled him.

His father and I finally reached a decisive intersection where we stood together as adoring yet formidable parents. Although we had been at this juncture a hundred times before, this time we irrevocably meant it when we took a turn to the right and declared, “YOU CAN NOT LIVE WITH US ANYMORE!”

I used to wonder how people ended up being homeless.  When I’ve encountered panhandlers on the edge of the freeway, I’ve questioned why they didn’t go get a job and pay for shelter.  I’ve seen many “help wanted” signs.  Surely those on the street have seen them, too, and could “inquire within.”  But I understand now.  They have “inquired within”–within themselves– and the answer was, “Drugs. I need drugs.”  Jobs cannot be sustained by those who need drugs.  And standing on a corner with an outstretched hand can bring in as much as $25 an hour.  That beats the wages for dunking French fries into oil at McDonalds.  Since they don’t have any ambitions nipping at their heels, why not stand on a corner and beg?

On one occasion, a very kind and well-meaning gentleman gave Jeffrey $100 when he heard that he was homeless.  That $100 nearly bought Jeffrey a permanent shelter measuring eighty-four inches long, twenty-eight inches wide, twenty-three inches tall and six feet under, since the entire amount was used to buy drugs.

When I had to take Jeffrey to TASC one day to get a court ordered pee test–more formally called a UA for Urine Analysis–to check for drugs in his system, we joined some rather questionable characters congregating for the same purpose.

“Do you want to be like these people?” I nearly shouted at him.  I mean, who would?  They all looked frightening and frightened, aimless and aimed at.

“No, Mom,” he said.  “I wouldn’t be like these people.  When I do drugs, I always know I have a home and a bed to come back to.”

I have to remember these words when I falter and want to gather him up and bring him home.  In his case, home has kept him from growth and made using drugs way too easy.

So, I have allowed him to be a homeless beggar, choking back my motherly compulsions and desire to keep his natural consequences at bay.   I don’t want him to be cold.  I don’t want him to be hungry.  I don’t want him to be alone.

As I leave him in his makeshift camp in the bush, I have become a beggar myself.  I am begging that a change of heart will come, that truth will conquer, that the need for drugs will diminish.  I am begging that another of the many people who love him will be able to influence him in a positive direction since his family no longer can.    And I am begging that Jeffrey will finally be able to sustain a home much stronger and more stable than the first oleander on the right.

Audio-First Oleander on the Right: Read by the Author