NAPOLEON DYNAMITE??

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NAPOLEON DYNAMITE??

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.

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!”

 

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!

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

advice-column-1

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.

Ready for Christmas? Humph!

Grinch

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

Food Matters

Elizabeth Willis Barrett 

I had a friend say that a meal is just a meal and whether it is a good meal or a bad meal doesn’t really matter once it’s over.  That isn’t true for me.  For some reason, meals stick in my mind for a long time.  Food matters, especially a meal I have taken my very precious time to eat out.

For instance, eight months ago I had the most incredible cream of mushroom soup at a little bar and grill in Anacortez, Washington. Who would think that a finicky eater like myself would actually like cream of mushroom soup?  But it was so delicious that I have thought of that soup all this time and couldn’t wait for the chance to have it again.  Since Gilbert, Arizona isn’t just around the corner from Anacortez, Washington, it took a while to get back.  But this weekend, family business took us again to that small and charming town.  The first thing I insisted on was to head straight to the same restaurant to renew my acquaintance with that marvelous soup.  But the soup was not to be had.  They didn’t serve it anymore.  (Add that soup to my “Now You See It, Now You Don’t” essay.)  My letdown was exquisite.  This meal, or lack of, won’t be fleeting in my mind.  It will linger there in the fold of my brain’s hippocampus assigned to disappointments, right next to the wrinkle allotted to guilt–which, by the way, is packed full at the moment.  My brain will definitely have to find more storage for guilt.  Much can be said about guilt at another time, but back to meals….

If I’m going to eat out, it had better be memorable in a good way or I would rather make myself a delicious egg on toast with cheese and avocado and eat it leisurely by my computer.    Once a friend and I went shopping and she wanted to drive through Taco Bell on the way home to grab a taco and burro.  Really?  I followed her directive and drove through but I would much rather have gone home and eaten some delicious leftovers I had in the frig than waste any money or calories on Taco Bell since we had to hurry home anyway.

One bad meal I remember was a tuna sandwich at a friend’s house made with Miracle Whip and pickles.  Not good! I had to eat it because she had so thoughtfully fixed it for me but it was rough getting that sandwich past my taste buds.  I do much better making my own sandwiches.

Another meal that still finds place in my remembrance was a Barbecue at BYU for the Alumni Council.  It had several of my non-favorite foods: meat heavily drenched in strong BBQ sauce on a dry bun with the detestable sides of coleslaw and baked beans.  That is truly the worst meal ever, excluding liver and onions which fakes you out with its tantalizing aroma.  I was disappointed in BYU because that University can usually be depended on to serve the best of food.

It has taken me a while to realize that many people like those foods so, again, I might be the strange one.  After all, BYU wouldn’t serve a meal that no one liked and neither would my friend.

Have you ever been in a Biology class where you had to put a piece of treated litmus paper in your mouth to see if you were a “taster?”  If you are a “taster” then the paper will taste very bitter.  If you’re not a “taster” then the paper will just taste like paper and not bring on a violent reaction of disgust.  I found out that I am a “taster” and I wonder if that is why food, good or bad, makes such an impression on me.

For whatever reason, food matters.  I remember the good meals and the bad meals and make an effort to have more of the former than the latter.

Audio: Food Matters: Read by the Author

Now You See It, Now You Don’t

Elizabeth Willis Barrett

I must have very different tastes than the world’s majority because the things I absolutely love are often wiped off the market like a dish cloth wiping up and discarding crumbs.  For instance, I love Cinnamon Goldfish.  They are delicious and semi-healthy since someone discovered that cinnamon can remedy cholesterol, arthritis, yeast infections and cancer.  Every Wednesday I used to check the grocery ads just to see if the Pepperidge Farm Goldfish were on sale that week.  If they were, I would run to Fry’s or even out of my way to Bashas to pick up 10 to 20 bags.

Just when I had made Cinnamon Goldfish my snack of choice, they disappeared.  I couldn’t find them anywhere.  Each store seemed to have every other flavor like Pizza, Cheddar, Vanilla Cupcake, and Cookies and Cream but even my kind request to the various managers didn’t bring my Cinnamon Fishies back.  Finally I decided to go to the source.  I called Pepperidge Farms–the big guys.

“I just wondered,” I asked in a plaintive sort of voice, “where I could find your delicious Cinnamon Goldfish?”

“Oh,” said the very kind and young and congenial phone answerer, “we don’t make those anymore.”

“Really?” I was animated.  “Why?”

She didn’t give me an answer so I thanked her and hung up. Maybe cinnamon got too expensive.  Maybe it messed up their machines.  Maybe I am the only one who likes Cinnamon Fishies.  At least now I don’t have to scour every store I enter looking for them since I know they won’t be there.  I’ve had to resort to Cinnamon Teddy Grahams but they’re not nearly as good in my opinion.

There was a little restaurant on Main Street in Mesa that had the most fabulous Chicken Fettucini.  That was probably the best meal I had eaten up to that point, excluding my mom’s enchiladas.  When I went back for more, the restaurant was closed down.  Obviously their recipes weren’t loved by everyone.  I wish I could taste that meal one more time to see if it was as good as I remember.

Another delicious meal that rests in my memory was a chicken orzo dish at Macaroni Grill.  It took me a while to get back there, but when I looked at the menu to decidedly point out that same delicious selection, it wasn’t there.  They had revamped everything.

Then there was the Infusion Shampoo whose formula was perfect for my fine hair.  (Just as a sideline: when I was very young, my aunt told me I had fine hair and I thought that she had given me an exceptional compliment.)  I used that shampoo faithfully until I bought a bottle and could tell immediately that the recipe had been changed.  The new shampoo was creamy instead of clear and my hair had a flat, gloppy reaction to it.  I called that company, too, and was told that they no longer made the shampoo I liked and relied on. I bought twelve bottles of the old shampoo that they happened to have hanging around and started my quest for a new favorite.

I had just gotten accustomed to giving a heavy duty, very nice chef’s knife from IKEA as a wedding gift for the many wedding receptions we are invited to.   When I went back to IKEA to re-stock my gift shelf, the knives were gone and were destined to be gone for several months as they remodeled.  To IKEA’s credit, they did finally bring back the knives after I had to look for several reception substitutes, but they deleted the sugar cookies from their cafeteria that I always looked forward to devouring.

I’m sure that other things have disappeared from my personal market, although in this moment I can’t think of them.  It must be late.  After this essay has posted I’ll think of other favorites that have been terminated. Maybe you can, too.  What do you miss?  What products do you wish hadn’t been discontinued?  I’d love to hear from you.

Now You See It, Now You Don’t: Audio: Read by the Author