Livvi in hat

Elizabeth Willis Barrett………..May 2014

“No thanks, Carolyn,” I say as I dash into the Greenfield Barn Boutique ready for my shift.

“You have to wear it,” Carolyn presses. She is holding a big black witch’s hat. “All the cashiers have to wear hats. How ‘bout a pumpkin one? Would you like that better? We have those, too.” I feel her impatience. “It adds to the ambience,” she continues when I don’t rally, “you know—the holiday feel.”

I look at her with widened eyes and a bit of green in my face which would have gone great with the witch’s hat.

“I can’t!” I hang on to my calm like an unneeded warm sweater. “I can’t wear a hat.” I almost turn to gather up all my beautiful matted quotes that are going to bring me at least $800 at this very popular boutique. If wearing a witch’s hat is required for placement—I’m outta here!

Carolyn turns in disgust and thrusts the hat on a more willing boutique-er. With chagrin as my unwelcome partner, I sit down and ring up my first customer—hat-less.

Inhibited—that’s me! Are some people “hibited” or just “un?” I’m inhibited in many areas. In high school when everyone was saying “boss” and “cool head” and kissing everyone in Student Council, I was still into “Hey, that’s neat!” That was about my only descriptive word. And I definitely wasn’t into kissing—anybody.

I’ve never been able to say the words that are in at the moment. Sometimes it’s because I don’t want to be a follower, a bandwagon rider. “Fannnnntastik!” never made it to my vocabulary and neither did “Awesome!” which is really a shame because those are awesome and fannnntastik words. Other things I can’t say are “end of story,” “easy-peazy,” “bazillion,” “honey,” “darlin’,” “pops” or “let’s partaay!” just to name a few.

At my wedding reception, to each guest I would introduce Brad as “Brad”—I couldn’t say “this is my husband.” He almost determined not to be over that slight inhibition of mine.

And besides not being able to wear silly hats, I can’t put my sunglasses on top of my head or put a pencil behind my ear. Inhibition has eaten into convenience.

And finally, I could never, ever put “LOL” on a Facebook entry.

So, there you have it—inhibition at its finest. LOL!



Elizabeth Willis Barrett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Basket 6


 Elizabeth Willis Barrett

Morning comes and I rise with the basket already molded to my head.  As usual it is full—so full that its contents flutter out and wiggle down my neck to keep me from forgetting what I carry. It isn’t visible to anyone else.  No one knows what it contains.  Just me.  I need to do something about it because it is very heavy and it squeezes out the joy that each day should hold.  I don’t think I’m the only one carrying a basket like this.  Not many  men would carry one, I’m sure.  But women would.  Women who are trying to do their best but always seem to find themselves wanting.  And thus the basket, the heavy basket.  It is filled with guilt.   Not major guilt but lots of little feelings of guilt that get quite heavy when added together.  I’d ask Brad to take a turn at carrying this basket but I know he’d be neglectful and just set it down somewhere and forget about it.  He doesn’t feel a need to carry guilt on his head throughout the day, any day, every day.  But someone has to—right?

Today is the day I should do something about lightening its load, though.  It’s getting unmanageable.  And my guilt for not diminishing my feelings of guilt adds to the guilt already in the basket.

So I take it off my head and begin to sort its contents like I do the papers and mail that pile into hefty guilt-producing heaps around the house.  I seem to be a Pied Piper for paper and a Pied Piper for guilt.

Where to start?  I shuffle through the culpabilities.  Aww.  Here’s one.  Not fixing breakfast for Brad.  Perhaps that can go in the needless pile.  Isn’t he a capable adult?  And shouldn’t he applaud me for allowing him to become self-sufficient.?  Yep, get that one out of the basket.  Why have I left it there so long?

I find scores of guilty words I’ve said, some formed into nasty criticisms or idle gossip.  And some I didn’t mean to say.  At times I was just making conversation and the words came out wrong.  Any explanation would have made the situation worse so I just shoved guilt into my basket and left the scene.  I think I can get rid of them now.  I start a word pile.

Some of the guilt I carry is for not meeting my own self-imposed expectations.  For instance, I feel guilty that I let my Christmas Experiment Blog down by not writing on it every day.  It would have been so easy if I had just done it.  And I feel guilty that I didn’t get 5000 hits on this blog by February 17th which was my goal.  That means I didn’t write as much as I wanted to this year and you can hardly ask people to read your blog if you haven’t written anything new for a month or two.  I extract those guilts out of the basket and start a self-inflicted pile.  There’s lots more to add to this one.  I pull out my exercise neglect, my cookie snarfing jags, my slightly over-indulgence of Excedrin—5 a week is excessive for me, and my under practiced guitar playing.

I give up sorting and just start pulling the guilt out piece by piece.  I let each fall where it will.  Guilt for staying in the shower too long morning after morning and wasting time and hot water.  And in honor of showers, I find guilt for missing some bridal and baby showers, some receptions and funerals and kids ballgames, too.  Here’s guilt for not having friends over more, not answering a letter, not writing a thank you note, having too much stuff and not enough gratitude.

I am working myself into a frenzy as I take new and old guilts from the basket and let them stack up around me.

Guilt for letting the front flowers wilt and the back garden become only two empty grow boxes containing worn out dirt and a few scraggly pea plants.  And guilt for an over burdened addict (whoops—I mean attic!) that needs to be organized and depleted.  And, yes, guilt for my addict, too, who possibly could have avoided that spirally path had I been aware of drugs and their pernicious tenacity.  That guilt makes me pause and I feel the need for a Mountain Dew Voltage before I continue…….  Ahh!…… .Since I only drink caffeine when traveling or in crisis, its effect is swift and I can continue.

I pull out the guilt about never hosting a neighborhood party.  Hey, that’s not my guilt alone, I reason. And I’m not carrying this one by myself.  I put on my running shoes—like I ever run (another guilt)—and stop at five houses in my circle.  With the help of Ziplock bags, I distribute some of this guilt and I can almost stand up straight.

Back to the basket.

Here’s guilt about choosing to stay inside to work on projects rather than stand outside to visit with friends and neighbors.  And guilt about sometimes walking past people that I know so I won’t have to talk to them.  And guilt about listening to books too much and guilt about my wanting to listen to books too much.

I find guilt for not knowing much about politics, although I do vote due to some expertise tutoring.  And guilt for letting the delicious oranges growing on our four orange trees go to waste even though we eat as many as we can and tell people to come pick them.  And guilt for not having a complete and workable years supply.

The basket is full of my spiritual guilt, too.  So many things I should do more of: studying, praying, serving, genealogy.  Mistakes I’ve made in leadership positions that can’t be undone.  Selfishness, procrastination, lack of charity, envy.  It’s all in there, not to mention the things I can’t mention.  And there is always guilt about not spending enough time with kids and grandkids.  I pull all that out of the basket.  I turn it upside down and shake it hard in case I missed something.  Shake…shake…shake.  And…it…is…finally…empty.

Whew!  I am exhausted.  But just for a minute because something happens.  Something joyful.  I am lifted.  My soul is free.  Even Heaven feels closer.  I close my eyes and take it in.


Before I am tempted to put even a tiny guilt back into the hungry basket, I vacuum away the piles and take the empty basket outside.  Into the big black garbage bin it goes, breaking and splintering as I press it to the bottom.  It is finished.

And I am beginning.  Lighter…happier.  I float to the kitchen, take out the fry pan and make Brad some bacon and eggs.  He can be self-sufficient tomorrow.




































Buddy and Livvi

Elizabeth Willis Barrett

I do not like dogs.  The only thing they have going for them is that they are 50 times better than cats.  For some reason the word “cat” puts a shiver down my bones.  I don’t know why I wasn’t blessed with an animal loving gene.  I think when the lines were queuing in Heaven for various attributes, I stood far too long in the Music lines, constantly looking over at the Photography and Writing and Speaking lines to make sure I could eventually get into them.  There was no time to wait in the Animal Loving line before I was whisked to earth and set down in Rexburg, Idaho, during a blinding snow storm.

But Brad loves dogs and has to have one.  We’ve been through many as a family: Chisum, Beau, Alamo, Chorizo, Mariah, Ike, Jeremiah, Sammi and Bailey to name a few.  We’ve had Golden Retrievers, Australian Shepherds, Mutts, Irish Setters, Samoyeds, Dachshunds, and Brad’s current breed: St. Bernards.

Brad’s favorite dog of all time has the distinction of having his ashes, housed in a beautiful southwestern urn, grace our mantel at the cabin.  Brad still sobs as he remembers Bailey and his last day with him.  Brad helped Bailey into the back of the Sequoia to take him to his final Vet appointment and together they visited their favorite mountain haunts. I was invited to join them on this journey of nostalgia, but thankfully I was wise enough to know when three’s a crowd.   Brad even shared a Navajo Taco with Bailey in the quaint town of McNary.  It was to be Bailey’s last meal on this planet.  Most likely on any planet.  I don’t have a complete handle on what happens to dogs after they die and I’m not sure I believe that movie title of “All Dogs Go to Heaven.”


Bailey, of course, was a St. Bernard–a hairy, slobbery St. Bernard who would sprawl across our kitchen floor since it was way too hot to be outside.  Everyone knows that St. Bernards have no business living in the Arizona desert.  Bailey developed bone cancer and the inevitable was soon approaching.  Brad couldn’t possibly put the dog down himself even though he thought he might try.  I’m glad he let the professionals do it because Bailey’s death is already emotional enough for Brad.  He doesn’t need the memory of his own hand doing the deed.

Bailey was a nice dog as dogs go.  The grandkids loved him and he even put himself between me and a vicious neighbor dog once.  But stepping in slobber gets a little annoying and sweeping up dustpans full of hair isn’t a picnic either.  And the smell!  Every dog I have ever known has DO…dog odor.  When the animal is as big as a bear, the smell is magnified considerably.  For some reason, Brad’s nose doesn’t register the disgust of DO.  Even after a thorough $80 grooming, that dog smell comes through, but Brad thinks it smells wonderful. Hmmmm.  Feeding a St. Bernard is a little taxing, too.  And tripping over it…well, that gets a little old.

Knowing that Bailey wasn’t long for this world, I put in my sincere recommendation that the next Barrett dog not be a St. Bernard.  It was too much to ask that there not be a next Barrett dog at all.

My opinion isn’t taken into account on very many occasions, however, and in a couple of weeks after Bailey’s demise, another huge St. Bernard was lolling across our kitchen floor.   This one’s name is Buddy.  Not very original, but that’s the name he came with from the St. Bernard rescue team.  Buddy, too, is loved by Brad and the grandkids and barely tolerated by me.

I don’t know how a dog of any kind got past the barriers of the outside doors.  I must have put down my guard for a moment because my absolute rule of no dogs in the house has been unobserved for a long time now.  My next adamant proclamation was, “OK, then.  Absolutely no dogs in the living room!”  But both Bailey and Buddy have been know to plop their beastly bodies on the living room couches looking as comfortable as basking sunbathers.  I feel like I have a cooked lasagne noodle for a backbone.

Today I am reminded of my animosity for dogs because Buddy just ate the cinnamon rolls I had on the counter!  When I complained to Brad, Brad said it was my fault.  I should never have left them there.  Really!

Our marriage of 42 years is founded on profound admiration, love and put-up-with-ness.  Brad puts up with my needs and I put up with his.  But as I trip over Buddy for the 17th time this afternoon, attempt to brush his prolific hair off my black pants and take a slide in his spit, I would like it to go on record that, although Buddy is the St. Bernard, I am the Saint!




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!















A Lot to Learn

Ireland 1 036


Elizabeth Willis Barrett

I wrote in my blog about my four-year-old granddaughter, Bella, wanting to know how to play the piano after one lesson.  It reminded me of the time in Ireland when I wanted to do the same with photography.  We had taken a trip to China the year before with Gilbert’s Sister City program and two of the men in our group were very good at photography.  They each had a much nicer camera than I had and I figured that I was missing out because my camera was a point and shoot.  So before we went to Ireland, again with the Sister Cities program, I insisted on buying a Canon Rebel.  It was a lot of money for me to spend on a camera especially when we were also paying for the trip, but since I’m in charge of the minutiae of our family finances, I bought it anyway. Now my pictures were going to be phenomenal, too!

Unfortunately, I didn’t have time before the trip to practice with the camera and my reading up on its functions during the long plane ride to Belfast didn’t help much.  At least I knew enough to choose the auto setting and I took pictures of everything: doors, castles, cathedrals, grass, water, children.

At one of our stops I saw a member of our entourage taking pictures with an over the top camera.  “Ah,” I thought.  “He can teach me everything I need to know in a few minutes and my pictures will turn out better than what I’m seeing on the view finder review.”

So I took my camera to him and asked him to teach me.  I can still see the quizzical look on his  face and as I think back I realize what an idiot I was.  He might as well come up to me sometime while I’m playing the piano solo “Charge of the Uhlans” and ask in a hopeful voice, “Do you have a minute to teach me how to play the piano?”

Playing the piano takes many years of learning and practicing.  So does photography.  I wanted to know something without paying the price.

That happens often to all of us, I suppose.  Whether we want to learn the piano or photography or how to post a blog or how to be a good friend or grandparent or even how to be a sober individual, it takes learning and practicing and we have to be willing to pay the price.

One  of the things I want to be is a good photographer.  I have a lot to learn, but I’ve taken some classes, bought some great books and hopefully, some of you out there won’t mind me asking a few questions.  I’ll keep them simple.