FIDGETING MY WAY THROUGH LIFE

 

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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Waste Not Want Not

Waste not Want Not

Elizabeth Willis Barrett

I don’t know if my title’s adage has been proven to be true, but I know that I hate to waste anything.  I got this trait from very conservative parents.  My Dad took some Boy Scouts on a campout and one of the boys swore that my dad would have had him save his spit.  I’m sure Dad didn’t go that far, but he did not like people to be wasteful, especially little annoying Boy Scouts.  When my parents would go out to eat with that boy’s parents, Dad would comment on how wasteful the boy’s mother was because she would leave so much food on her plate.  He wondered why she would order so much in the first place only to let it go to waste.  Waste rankled him.

It rankles me, too.  No matter how much I ever have, and I am lucky enough at the moment to have enough, I never want to be wasteful.  I think all our resources should be governed well and used conservatively.

Unfortunately, in an effort to not be wasteful, I save.  And I save things much too long.

Sometimes I save them for some perfect future event which, of course, never comes.  When I was in grade school, someone gave me a jar full of fancy soaps. I kept them in the bathroom and no one ever used them.  I was saving them for just the right use.  Guests maybe?  Anyway, that pretty jar of pink oval soap sat on the back of the toilet in the upstairs bathroom for years.  If the house hadn’t been sold and literally moved away, they’d be there still.

I hang on to toothpaste tubes until I have squeezed the very last fraction of toothpaste out–probably a penny’s worth which could hardly pay for the Herculean effort to extract it.  I rest near empty shampoo bottles upside down to gather what’s left and then add a little water to get the last dredges.  You can get at least two more uses out of the bottle that way.  I wrap up leftover tidbits from Sunday dinner and cram them in the freezer to spend time with last month’s bounty and once day-old bread.  Someday we’ll be glad to have chicken cacciatore again.  I hope.

There are many things in my closet that I should let pass on to more accommodating owners.  But it seems quite wasteful to get rid of things that still have price tags even though it has been two years since I gleaned them at some fantastic Macy’s sale.  I just might find something to go with that unattractive top if I hang on to it a little longer.

I don’t like to throw puzzles away if there is a slight chance that the missing piece will be found or discard the five single socks that must have mates somewhere around the house.  I hang on to music that I’ve never sung or played because someone gave it to me and I don’t want to waste their thoughtfulness.

I file away articles I will probably never read and recipes that haven’t made it to a dinner plate because I don’t want to waste the time some teacher took to run them off for me or the paper on which they were run.  Silly, I know.  But I feel I owe it to a hard working instructor to hold on to her handouts for a while anyway.

As far as purchases go, I have made a great attempt to be more discerning before I pull out my credit card to be swiped.  It’s obviously much wiser and less wasteful to not bring things home at all if they’re just going to be thrown out within a month.

The wasting of time is another squandering that puts me into a frantic internal realm of rebellion, but I’ve already written much on that and will continue to do so.

For now, all this talk of saving is getting to me.  Excuse me while I go clean out the files and make a pile of clothes to go to Goodwill!