Elizabeth Willis Barrett……….March 2016

I asked a friend the other day why I just can’t seem to get anything done.  The kids are gone.  I don’t work in the regular sense of having to get ready and drive to a job.  Of course, the fact that we’ve moved after thirty-seven years of living in the same wonderful house might have something to do with it, since there are boxes of accumulated stuff that begs to be brought into the light and given a permanent new home.   She commiserated and then gave the answer:  “Electronics.”

“Electronics?”  Odd answer, till I let my addled brain soak it in for a bit.  She could be right.  Electronics have hip bumped their way into nearly everything I do.  It has been interesting to contemplate how much time I could devote to other things if I were to totally delete electronics from my life.  For instance, I listen to lots of books in a month.  It takes time to go to the library to search for books on CD.  Then I have to download them to my computer and then upload (?) them to my phone.  Or, since I have gotten pretty tech savvy, I go to Overdrive on my phone and choose books from there.  But still, it takes time to decide and to put some books on hold and some books on a wish list.  And when listening, it takes time to “rewind” often to see what I missed because my mind wandered.  A great deal of time is also used up untangling my headset.  Don’t know how that happens.  The simple solution to this time crunching dilemma would be to quit listening to books.  But I am hooked and have found my “weed of read.”

Texting takes a vast amount of time from me.  I am a one finger texter even after practicing the two thumb method that even Brad has mastered.  It’s no good.  I can’t move out of the one finger slow lane. Then I have to re-read and re-text what I’ve written to make sure my real meaning has come through.  Phoning would be so much easier.  That used to be when I got all my tedious work done—when having a great conversation on the phone.  You can’t scrub toilets while you’re texting.

I really don’t watch much TV.  The final episode of Downton Abby has aired and I haven’t even watched it yet!  Do not tell me what happens! Thanks.  But when I finally do want to watch something in particular on TV, I have to relearn how to get it in the right input, look for the right channel out of about 300 and find the right remote for the sound bar.  It takes time.  Much more time than simply walking up to the TV to turn it on, raise the volume and find the right channel out of four.

Facebook takes time.  I just want to scroll through quickly to see if anyone has gotten married or died and invariably I will get sucked in by a “Watch this, you won’t believe it!” line.  Then that site takes me to another.  I mean, who could possibly pass up the opportunity to know what has happened to former child stars or how to tighten saggy skin?  Those things are very important to one’s social standing.   Then, because Brad and I have our computers on the kitchen table for our constant perusal,  he tells me of indispensable knowledge he has learned, and I am double whammied with imperative information.  All very time-consuming.

And speaking of Brad: the day is fraught with “Where’s the_______________?” and “How do you______________?” and “Will you please________________?”  I just get going on a project like riding full speed on a bicycle when those questions throw me off course like a stick in the spokes.  To be fair, I do the same to him and he is much more patient than I, but many minutes are spent in the answering.

Soft water has nothing to do with electronics, but I have found that it takes forever to wash soap off with soft water.  I spend way too much time in the shower trying to get the same feeling I used to get with hard water.  I will conquer that idiocy soon.

Another thing that takes too much valuable time is deciding what to do when.  Or standing in my crowded closet  trying to determine the best choice of apparel.  I think my brain is running in molasses mode while my ambitions are tumbling over themselves in a water fall.

I always assumed that when the kids were finally grown, that time would be in great abundance.  I thought I would have ample hours to pursue all my interests with lots left over to wallow in luxuriantly.  I was wrong.

Perhaps the world is spinning faster, pressed on by an impatient God eager to get this phase of His creation over with.  Perhaps my body and mind are just slowing way down so that it looks like the world is spinning faster.  Perhaps I should just enjoy every day with its allotted minutes and quit taking so much time to analyze everything.

Well, it’s time to get back to my To-Do List.  Maybe I should start calling it “To Don’t.”




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.



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.

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!”


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

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

Give In? Give Out? Give Up?


My Journey To “No, No, No, Not I!”

Elizabeth Willis Barrett

I jump on my bike early in the morning to beat the sun and the school kids who pointed at a friend of mine not too long ago with the exclamation, “Look at that old lady on a bike!”  Since I am at least twelve years older than that “old lady,” I am eager to be on my way and back before any school kids point at me.

Old lady.  I genuinely dislike that term.  My son-in-law used it regarding an associate who is at least three years younger than I am.

“She is not an old lady!” I protest. But in his eyes and those of many others, she’s an old lady and so am I.

“I don’t want to be old,” I think as I ride along the canal. Aging has captured my mind excessively lately.

At lunch with friends that I’ve known and loved since Kindergarten, one says that now that she is past sixty, she is going to eat whatever she wants–just give in to the cravings and quit worrying about weight and waistlines.

“Aunt Bee was plump and everyone loved her!” she says.

“Aunt Bee?” I ask.

“You know.  Aunt Bee from The Andy Griffith Show.”

She has a point.

“Should I give in, too?” I wonder as I ride past two animated walkers.

The wrinkles and chicken wing arms are probably inevitable, but should I give in and let my belly become a fashion snuffing muffin top?

I feel as though no one has ever grown old before, that it is a phenomenon exclusive to me.  When I take one of my grandsons to a movie at the San Tan Mall, I whisper, “One child and one Senior.” I wait for the extremely youthful cashier to say, “Senior? You’re kidding aren’t you?”  But she never does.

At Bashas on Senior Wednesday, I say very softly, “Uh, would you give me the Senior Discount please?”  That cashier doesn’t look astonished either.

“How old are you, Marmie?” my grandkids ask.

“My spirit is thirty-five,” I answer.

“Yes, but how old are you?” they rejoin.

I can’t say, “Sixty-three.”  Sixty-three is so far beyond how I feel.  I can’t believe I am that old.  In seven years I’ll be seventy!  How can that be?  It was just a little while ago that I was crying about turning forty.

I refuse to give out early on this biking journey so I ignore the bridge that would cut my bike ride in half.   I continue peddling and pondering.

Part of my aging pensiveness is due to last night’s comment from a dear sixty-four-year-old friend.  “I’m checking out of life at sixty-five so I won’t have to go through really old age,” she says.  “I’ve put in my reservation.”

I am stunned.  Give up at sixty-five? I tell her she ought to at least change her reservation to seventy-five.

“Nope, can’t do it,” she says.  “I’ve already bought my ticket and there aren’t any refunds.”  Her eyes are twinkling but I think she’s serious.

Is it time to put in my reservation.  I know we usually don’t have control over our own deaths, but maybe Heavenly Father honors death wishes.

Is it time to reel in all my unaccomplished goals that are sitting in the Lake of Life?  What about time with my family, my beautiful family?  Aren’t they worth a few years of wrinkles, stiffness and memory slumping?

Am I ready to give in, give out, and give up?  As I cross the canal and head for home I have my answer.   No! No! No! I won’t give in!  I won’t give out!  I won’t give up!  I will accept my age enthusiastically and I will be the best I can be no matter what the numbers say.  Maybe in a decade or so I will revisit this resolve.  But for now I raise a mental fist to the air and in my mind I shout, “Here comes the old lady–the energetic, dynamic, impervious and joyful old lady!  Make room!”

Give In? Give Out? Give Up?: Audio: Read by the Author

Falling for Fall


It is here–the time of year that I don’t want to miss and if I’m not observant I will do just that–miss it.  It is fall in Gilbert, Arizona.  Not a blinding, energetic burst of color fall, but a subtle, rather drab, extremely un-showy fall.  And I love it.  I remind myself every time I go down Lindsay Road between Baseline and Guadalupe to pay attention and soak it in because this is the only fall I’m going to get this close to home.

I know what real autumn looks like.  I just returned from Ohio where the whole state was putting on a fall extravaganza in burning reds and simmering oranges.  It was the kind of fall that says, “Look at me!  Aren’t you in awe of my beauty?  Let the ‘wows’ begin!”  And I did.  I “wowed” at every turn in the road.  Over and over I cried, “This is so beautiful.  This feeds my soul.  Don’t you just love it?” to which my companions shrugged and continued talking about the NFL Hall of Fame.

When aspiring young people tell Barbara Walters that they want a career like hers, she answers, “Then you have to take the whole package.”  For me, glorious autumns come with undesirable whole packages which include harsh winters and difficult weather.  A dramatic fall didn’t keep Hurricane Sandy from recently wreaking devastation.

So the lure of seasonal brilliance isn’t enough for me to take the whole package and Ohio’s lovely fall doesn’t take away from my own reserved and undemonstrative Gilbert fall.  I find joy in the greens turning slowly into russets and tans and browns and bronzes.  My fall does its best to please me and I don’t feel neglected by God’s paintbrush.

My unobtrusive autumn is a reminder that something doesn’t have to be the very best to be enjoyed and appreciated.  I don’t have to be as popular as Wayne Dyer to be a speaker of philosophy.  I won’t reach millions, but I will reach some.  I don’t have to sing, “In My Daughter’s Eyes” as well as Martina McBride before I can learn all the words and sing to my grandchildren.  I don’t have to be the head of a great organization to serve and give and help in my own narrowed circle.  There is room for the “kind ofs”, the “sort ofs”,the “almosts”, the “somewhats”.  There is room for me and there is room for you, doing the best we can with what we’ve been given.  And we can find joy in the doing.

When discouragement sometimes wraps itself around me like a shroud, when I feel dispirited that I’m not the showy, performing one, I think of my Gilbert fall and I am content–sort of.

Falling for Fall: Audio: Read by the Author

Angel Mother

I used to squirm on Mother’s Day when I heard the rather sentimental speaker speak of her Angel Mother.  Angel Mother!  That term will never be given to me, I thought.

It is highly unlikely that I’ll hear those words in reference to myself, but I have come to realize that time has a way of smoothing the edges of existence.  It is as though we live life in full glaring sunlight without any sunglasses; but we look back on life with the help of protective eyewear that softens the blaze of reality.

When I was growing up, I don’t remember my own mom speaking of her mother as an “Angel Mother.”  But as Mom grew older, she’d say things like, “I wish you had known my mother. She was an angel!”

I actually did know my Grandma Erikson.  But by the time I came around she was harried by dementia and would stand behind doors to scare us or drink from the syrup bottle or walk out the front door to visit her sister, Louie, who had been dead for 60 years.  I didn’t think of Grandma Erikson as an angel.

“She never raised her voice,” Mom continued.  “She had such a beautiful garden and kept the house so clean.  She was an angel,” she repeated.

While I was growing up, I wouldn’t have referred to my mom as an Angel Mother.  In fact, I stored every one of her slips of the tongue or, as I viewed, grievous actions against me in a private place in my soul.  I would pull them out often and nourish them with angry thoughts.  But now that I am older, I am amazed at what a wonderful mother she was.  Her glowing attributes considerably outweigh any faults I may have perceived.  I was blessed beyond deserving to have such a great woman be my mother.  And it is easy to say, “I wish you had known my mother.  She was an angel.”

Perhaps time will soften the memories of my children.  I hope they will someday be able to empty their own jars of injustices they felt I hurled at them and refill those jars with sweet remembrances.  And maybe they will be able to say in some distant age, “I wish you had known my mother.  She was an angel!”

Angel Mother : Audio Read by the Author