Wisdom from the Sages Logo 2WISDOM FROM THE SAGES—MY NEW SITE

Elizabeth Willis Barrett…………July 2017

Once again I have found a new place for my essays.  I am very grateful to all those who have found me at this site and have been willing to follow my ramblings.  It is very gratifying to see that many have purposefully arrived here and read what I have painstakingly written.  You are wonderful to do it. I started a new website on WordPress because I feel that it will give me more options.  It is still in its infancy as so many things are, but I would love to have you go to my new site and read and comment and follow.  Thank you immensely for your visits.  You make writing really, really fun!  Please visit me at wisdomfromthesages.com.


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.”


Christmas Nativity

Elizabeth Willis Barrett…………December 9, 2014

Well, it happened again. Christmas arrived before I did with it’s carols and lights and trees and store hype while I am still back in flags and fireworks and patriotism.  Christmas just seems to be on a faster track than I am.  I need time to allow the great Spirit of Christmas to seep in slowly so I can adjust and clear my head of incidentals like bill paying and house dejunking and family crises and Church callings.  But Christmas doesn’t tip toe in quietly and slowly raise the blinds until you can get used to the light.  No, it jerks you awake with a thunderbolt of hoopla which I never seem to be prepared for.

Part of the problem, perhaps the biggest part, is that Thanksgiving came a week late this year.  A whole week!  There should be a law against that.  Why can’t Thanksgiving be on the 3rd Thursday of November, not the fourth?  That would help immensely.  Then as soon as Thanksgiving is over we could be more attuned to Christmas and its incredible hustle and bustle. Actually, I think we’re all trying to do the H & B all year long and just accelerate the moves in December.

Last year I made a great attempt to be ready spiritually and physically for Christmas, trying to do something every day in its honor.  I was inspired by Scrooge’s classic sentence, “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”  I sort of petered out by June but I was more ready for the season when it came barreling down the calendar and blasted into December—or rather, October.

But this year I can’t gather the warm blanket of Christmas wishes around me tight enough and I’m rather hanging out of the season’s joy.  Here it is December 9th.  Many of my neighbors’ lights are twinkling like little Christmas giggles and their trees are triumphant in their showcasing windows.  But our house stands in unlit shame and the Christmas tree still needs to be dragged from its year long cardboard entombment across the dry grass of the back yard and into the house that has just been scrubbed clean by the God-sent cleaners.

The many “So, are you all ready for Christmas?” inquiries made by well-meaning OCD individuals, who are just looking for conversation, embellish the problem.  They make you feel that if you are haven’t lit, hung, decorated, bought, wrapped, baked, read, visited, photoed, written and sent by the day after Thanksgiving, you might as well not bother.

This is about when my yearly mantra chimes in, “I will just make it through this year’s celebration and do better next year.”

But wait.  I can change that.  I can fling that sentence out of my head’s storage of useless jabber.  The years are thinning out for me and to miss the full joy of even one irretrievable Christmas would be counter to a life well spent.  So ready or not, it will not be hard to fill my mind and my soul with these sentences instead.  They can bring peace not only to me but to all:

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

What else matters?  Merry Christmas!

Public Outcry for Public Schools

Gilbert School bus

I hate politics.  I fade out when they come up in discussion or I leave if possible.  I definitely find another place to be when Brad is listening to the political pundits on TV.  (I just looked up the word pundit.  I thought it meant someone who likes to hash things over, but my computer dictionary says that “pundit” means “expert.” Well, there you go.  I am definitely not a pundit.)  I can’t hold up my end when politics get shoved into conversation and I try to talk about other things.  Politics are depressing to me.  They always seem to make someone angry or unhappy.

So….I should totally avoid the subject that I am compelled to write about right now, but I’d like to get out some of my feelings before November 4th when an important election is happening in my beloved town of Gilbert.  It’s the School Board election.  The whole talk of School Boards is a gloomy subject to me.  Since I live with Mr. Public Education, I have heard lots about school boards through the years even though my first instinct is to put my fingers in my ears while loudly shouting “la, la, la, la, la” and pretend that School Boards are made up of intelligent, calm, easy to get along with, get-out-of-your-way-and-let-you-do-your-job people.  They used to be.  At least the School Boards and School Administrators I was acquainted with used to be.  They worked together to make Gilbert Public Schools one of the finest districts in the nation.  It was where you wanted your kids to go to school.  It was where you wanted to work.  There was a congenial feeling.  People got along.

Something happened.   Some of the problem has been going on for a long time.   School Boards were set up to develop policy and the School Administration was organized to administer that policy.  The School Board’s job is to tell the Administration what they want to have happen.  The job of the Administration is to decide how to make those things happen.  The School Board is the what.  The Administration is the how. The School System works best when each tend to their own roles.  The Administration does not need to be micro-managed by School Board members.  No one likes to be micro-managed.  A while ago a candidate for the School Board said that she planned on being a thorn in the side of the Administration.  Why would you ever choose to be a thorn?  And who could ever accomplish anything worthwhile with a nasty thorn pricking away at one’s side?

Here are some things I have gathered on a variety of occasions before I could get out of the way of the political ping-ponging that has punctuated nearly every casual gathering of friends and fellow Gilbertites.   Citizens are concerned about our once fabulous school district.

I’m just going to write down concerns I’ve heard or had myself.  You are welcome to rebut them if you can do it kindly and without animosity.  We are all entitled to our opinions, right?

—The atmosphere in the district is toxic.  That toxicity has been caused by a School Board that is difficult to work with and seems to enjoy drama.

—Many beloved teachers and administrators have quit.

—False accusations have been flying, causing some of the best educators in the state to go to other districts.

—Some wonderful leaders have been hurt, possibly irrevocably.

—One of our dearest friends and an accomplished administrator was told by her doctor to quit her job because it was badly affecting her health.  Others had to get out before their health, too,  was threatened.

—A very amiable and highly credentialed educator outside the district was asked to be on the committee to choose another Superintendent.  He had to quit the post, stating that this board was impossible to work with.

—It has been said that a member of this School Board personally went door knocking to encourage citizens to vote against the School Bond Override which would provide for more teachers and smaller classroom sizes. A School Board member who was for Public Education would never do that.

—This School Board seems to favor Charter Schools. Why would someone run for a Public School Board if he didn’t believe in Public Schools??????

Which brings up some questions about Charter Schools:

—Charter Schools are sprouting up everywhere!  Where do they get their funding?  Is that money that has been taken away from Public Schools?

—Is it true that anyone can start a Charter School and that those who start Charter Schools get to keep the buildings that have been funded by the state?

—Is it true that Charter Schools don’t have to follow the same rules as do the Public Schools—such as employing accredited teachers?

—Is it true that some of our state politicians profit from Charter Schools and therefore make laws to favor them?

—Has this diverted money to Charter Schools raised the academics of our students in general?

—Good Public Schools are vital for a healthy community.

—When the Public School system deteriorates, how can it help but take down our community with it?

—A fear is that schools will again become segregated, leaving only those with Special Needs— who are not provided for at Charter Schools—and the underprivileged—whose parents can’t drive them to Charter Schools— to attend Public Schools.

—All should feel that their educational needs are being met, but the vast number of Charter Schools has fragmented not only State Educational funds but the emotional support and camaraderie of our community.

—So many have worked so hard and for so long to create an educational system where all can learn and grow together.  We cannot allow a divisive School Board that doesn’t even believe in Public Education to ruin our great School District.

Get out and vote on November 4th.  Let’s elect a compassionate, intelligent School Board that is pleasant to work with.  Above all, let’s elect members that have a passion for Public Education and are capable of creating a workable strategic plan. They also must have the wisdom to choose capable leaders and the faith in those leaders to allow them to carry out the plan without the nitpicking and micromanaging of the School Board.


Questions 2

Elizabeth Willis Barrett………..October 31, 2013

I’ve been in a lot of classes in my life.  Classes where questions were asked and answers were given.  Not usually by me, I’m afraid.  Although, I did sit right in front in my Spanish classes with my friend Jeanine and we correctly answered whatever Professora Jarvis could throw out.  Boy, was I smart in Spanish.  Unfortunately that smartness was only on paper and NOT in my Spanish speaking ability.  After all my classes and answering, I still don’t think I can correctly ask, “How are you?” in Spanish.

I should have practiced speaking along with my studying and reading but that is another story for another post.

In this post, I would like to address the skill of question asking. I believe there are several “don’ts” when it comes to asking questions in a classroom setting.

  1. Don’t catch someone off guard.  I was sitting in a very large Church class once and the teacher asked a question and then called on me to answer it.  Did he think I was actually listening?  Well, I wasn’t.  I was day dreaming as I usually do when my brain isn’t significantly needed somewhere else.  That was very embarrassing.  I couldn’t answer his question and looked like a spiritual light-weight, which I may be, but I didn’t need everyone else to know it. There would have been many who could have volunteered great responses if he had asked for a raise of hands from those who were really engaged in his message. “To teach” should not also mean “to embarrass.”
  2. Don’t allow answers and questions to go unheard.  When someone is giving an answer, ask the person to stand up and answer loudly enough for the whole audience to hear.  It is frustrating when the answerer and the teacher carry on a conversation that can be heard by only a few.  Perhaps the answer could be repeated by the instructor.  The same could be said for those who have a question.  They should stand up and ask it loudly or the instructor should repeat it.
  3. Don’t belittle a given answer.  It takes courage to raise one’s hand and give a response.  Don’t bludgeon someone’s words with an eye-roll or a snicker or a put-down.
  4. Don’t ignore a given answer.  Again, the answerer had to think a little and be brave enough to answer, especially if the group is large.  Say something.  “Thank you for that answer.”  “I can see why you would think that.” “What great insight.”  Give the person and those listening reason to throw their waving arms into the discussion.  If their answer is going to be ignored, why try next time?
  5. Don’t ask a question that has an answer so obvious that the students should feel stupid vocalizing it.  I can’t think of an example at this moment but I’m sure one will come up soon.
  6. And finally, don’t expect the answerer to read your mind and answer with the words you’ve already pre-chosen.  Your lesson perhaps had that person thinking in another direction.  Praise his answer and continue to ask for more discussion on the subject until you finally get what you’re looking for.  But to say, “that’s not the answer I wanted,” makes everyone try to give your answer instead of their own and one that is often just as valid.

I’m sure there’re more “don’ts” but, for now, that’s it.  Any questions?

Welcome Home!

Elizabeth Willis Barrett

“Did you bring our passports?” Brad asked me as we landed at the Seattle Airport.  I stopped right there on the chilly runway, looked at him with a feeling of self-loathing and just shook my head.  The word “passports” had never made it to my ingenious and obviously lacking packing list.  And if Brad was going to think of passports, why didn’t he think of them sooner, like while we were still home? Canada has toughened up and would hold her strong arm out to keep us from crossing her border without valid paperwork.

We were uncertain whether making this trip was the right thing to do anyway.  We were heading to the Welcome Home Addiction Recovery Academy in Surrey, British Columbia, where our son Jeffrey has been since the end of March.  Two of the students were graduating and we were invited to attend.  Since it is a two and a half to five year program, Jeffrey still has a long way to go and we didn’t want our visit to set him back. Maybe the lack of passports was Fate’s way of keeping us from him.

Jeffery had been living in an oleander bush, (see previous post) and then in a small, slovenly bedroom with another drug addict when he finally called and said, “Mom, come get me.  I don’t want to do this any more.”

He tried hard again to stay clean, but drugs are very jealous and refuse to give up custody of their most valued customers.  It wasn’t long until he had slipped down the familiar slide and landed on a very unpadded bottom.  After more than ten years of this cycle of wanting to stay clean, attending and graduating from rehabs and being dragged back into his addiction, the Welcome Home Addiction Recovery Academy came to the rescue.  Miracles got him into the program and it would take another miracle to get us over the border to see him.

I depend on miracles and a miracle came.   Brad remembered that John and Chauna Volken–the wonderful founders of Welcome Home–happened to be in Gilbert because John had happened to call Brad the night before.  They were flying back to their home in Surrey so they could also attend the graduation.  Our older son patiently picked up our passports from their exact home in our file cabinet and took them to the Volkens before they left Gilbert.  We picked up the Volkens at the Bellingham Airport and together we passed through Canada’s open arms.

More miracles awaited us.  Seeing Jeffrey at his best with his great smile and effervescent personality was the greatest one.  He is on the right road to being whole and well.  The Academy has given him the opportunity to know himself and to make necessary changes that will allow him to live a drug free life.  Attending the graduation ceremony of the two young men who have recently completed the program and listening to their testimonies of change let us know of the miracles yet to come in Jeffrey’s life.

For those of you who have loved our Jeffrey and followed his story or especially those of you who know someone who is ready to make the leap from addiction to wellness, please visit welcomehomesociety.org to learn more about this program of miracles.  You could also follow them on Facebook at Welcome Home Addiction Recovery Academy.  An especially inspiring  video is on their wall called, “Students Reciting the Promise at November Graduation” posted on November 26th.  Please watch it.  You will see Jeffrey in the group.

Our thanks to John and Chauna will never be enough.  They are the miracle workers with their vision and love for the students.  Over and over we have seen that three or four month addiction programs don’t work.  But this one, a long-term therapeutic community, has promise as big as the one the students recite.

When I ride my bike I go past Jeffrey’s old oleander home.  The city is doing work along that stretch of the canal so if Jeffrey still lived there he would have his own Porta-John and a newly paved front road.  Most likely, however, with all the workers around, Jeffrey would be discovered and soon evicted even from the bush.  Truly homeless again.  But he’ll never return to the oleander bush.  He has finally moved on to a home where he can become the wonderful man he was put on earth to be.  Welcome Home!

Welcome Home Audio:  Read by the Author