GUILTY PLEASURES

Revenge

Elizabeth Willis Barrett……………….May 2015

On Sunday May 10th, with an expectation of separation anxiety,  I DVRd the final episode of Revenge—the last of eighty-nine episodes played out in four seasons.  That’s eighty-nine hours or almost a solid half week—-half a week of my life muddled in the revengeful Hampton drama of Emily and Victoria and all their cronies.  Half a week that could have been used for practicing the ukulele, taking dinner to a new Mom or going to the gym.  (Not that that would ever happen!) And it was delightful!

Because Sundays are quite busy and probably not the best day for blood and vengeance, I would usually watch that week’s episode on Monday.  Rather, I always watched that episode on Monday.  I couldn’t wait any longer to see what was going to happen.  After Brad left the house for the Welcome Home Ranch or to meet with NAU interns, I’d fix myself something delicious like toast and peanut butter and strawberry freezer jam.  Then I’d shut all the blinds, partly so I could see the TV screen better but mostly so any unanticipated visitor wouldn’t catch me in this guilty pleasure and assume that I watch murder and mayhem in all my free moments.  Then I would watch without taking my eyes off the TV.  I didn’t want to miss one word said by Nolan or one movement made by Margaux or any of the other characters who played their parts to perfection. Living in these times has a lot of perks and re-winding might be close to the top of the list.

I made an exception for the last Revenge episode since I waited till Tuesday to watch it so a group of friends could watch the finale together.  The delay was hard but worth it. Having friends to share interest, insight and emotion just made the last Revenge chapter even better.  Unlike the disappointing final episode of Lost, my last and only other marathon series except for the essential Downton Abbey, the writers of Revenge ended their extravaganza of retribution in a completely satisfying way and even added a touch of schmaltz.  I loved it!

If time and family and other goals had no bearing on my life, I would start at the very beginning and watch the whole thing all over again while eating Flancer’s “It’s About Thyme” sandwiches and Paradise Bakery’s macadamia nut cookies.  Now that would be a mega guilty pleasure!

And as long as I’m confessing to guilty pleasures, I could add that I love to read People magazines where I get my hair cut to see what the stars are wearing and doing.  But I probably should just keep that to myself.

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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.

GET OUT OF MY MORNING!

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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.

PRAYER?

Clouds

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.

Waste Not Want Not

Waste not Want Not

Elizabeth Willis Barrett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Pride Goeth Before a Rise

balloon 2

Elizabeth Willis Barrett

When my kids were little, I would often trade days with a friend.  I would leave my kids with her so I could go somewhere childless and on another day I would take her kids so she could have some freedom.  Since my two and her two were in the same preschool, our responsibilities included letting them play, then getting them fed and ready and taken to preschool.

Any mother knows that when children and deadlines coincide, there is a potential for volatility.  Since most days did bring these two in proximity, I allowed tension to get the better of me.  “Hurry!” was my mantra.  “Get in the car, NOW!” was my war cry.  On my “on days” with two extra children, my edginess sharpened and those words were raised an octave.  Preschool waited and dawdling children meant we would be late and the teacher would be upset and her upset-ness would affect her classroom and that would make me feel guilty and my guilt basket was already filled to capacity.  (On second thought, guilt is much like Jello–there’s always room for more.)

One day, one of the girls, Carly, came to my house with a helium balloon that she wanted to take to school.  That was fine.  However, in my impatience to get the kids in the car for school after many flustering minutes of un-cooperation, the balloon came off her wrist and floated into the great beyond.  It’s graceful beauty was lost on Carly and she howled all the way to school.  A kind benevolent caregiver would have taken her straight to Walmart to get her another balloon so she wouldn’t be disappointed.  But not this one.  I wanted to get those kids to school quickly.  I was done.

About thirty years later, that particular lack of compassion came back to teach me a lesson in empathy.  Several of us were giving a gift card to a friend and I was put in charge of its presentation.  I thought it would be nice to give the card with a helium balloon that said, “Thank You.”  Sadly, helium balloons that say, “Thank You” are very difficult to find.  But I was earnest in my quest and after four non-compliant stores, I finally found the perfect balloon.  It was blown up for me and I made the somewhat pricey purchase.

Transporting helium balloons can be tricky since they tend to bounce around and ruin one’s driving view, but the balloon and I made it home and I tied the card to it.  I was feeling quite pleased with myself for going the extra mile to make our gift distinctive.  That is not my usual M. O.

I drove to the recipient’s home where the other “givers” were meeting.  They would be glad they had given the gift-giving responsibility to me because I had prepared so well.

However, as soon as I got out of my car, the quote, “Pride goeth before a fall” quickly ran through my mind with a variation: “Pride goeth before a rise.”  As I opened my car door, the balloon that should have been very stable, came off its ribbon and rose, rose, rose into the same great beyond that Carly’s had risen to so long ago.  I felt the same way she must have felt when she lost her balloon.  I was sad and I wanted to howl. No one even got to see its beauty or my hard work before it disappeared. I wanted a kind benevolent caregiver to go get me another balloon before I walked into our friend’s home.  But there wasn’t one available.

I gave our friend the card and told her about the balloon which, of course, didn’t do it justice.

It’s been a while, but I still feel the disappointment in losing my balloon.  I wonder if Carley remembers and still feels the disappointment in losing hers.

 

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