Monday, December 13, 2010

A Shiny New You

Sacrament Talk for the Young Adult University 3rd Ward
December 12, 2010
Elizabeth Willis Barrett

Hey you! Yes, You. You—the one who is texting right now to find out what time the game starts or to see what your friend ended up doing last night. You who left a pile of clothes on the floor in your attempt to find something great to wear today. You who are struggling with your testimony and came praying that you’ll get some answers. You who didn’t know who to sit by and now will have to go to Sunday School and Relief Society or Priesthood and worry about who to sit by all over again. (That’s what always happens to me. I’m afraid you’re saving a place for some beautiful girl or some handsome guy that could change your life forever. And I don’t want to take his or her place!) Hey You. The incredible remarkable You. You who have no idea how vastly important you are.

I have thought hard and prayed fervently to know just what our loving Heavenly Father wants you to know today. And this is it:

You are His. His Son Jesus Christ bought you with His blood. You are so dear and so important to Him that had you been the only person on this earth, He still would have sent His Son to die for you and to take upon Himself your sins, your frustrations, your sorrows, your depression, your faults, your sicknesses, your addictions, your insecurities, your abuses, your timidity. He loves you.

And like Mr. Rogers, He loves you just the way you are. Although, there is always room for improvement.

Our daughter Kelli has a 4 year old daughter named Claire. The other day Claire came to her mom and said, “Mom, I know that Christmas isn’t just about Santa.”
Kelli beamed. “What a great mother I am,” she thought. “I’ve taught her so well.”
“You’re right, Claire,” she said. “Christmas isn’t just about Santa. What else is it about?” Kelli knew that Claire’s answer would be the right one until Claire replied, “It’s about Rudolph!”

Like I said, there is always room for improvement.

You and I will have so many experiences while we’re here on this earth—so many chances to grow and to improve. And our experiences won’t be the same as anyone else’s because we are not like anyone else.

Look around. We are all quite different. If Heavenly Father had wanted us to be just alike, He could have figured out how to do that, but obviously He wanted us each to be unique. According to the varied answers to my Google inquiry, there are nearly or just over 7 Billion people on the earth. And there have been approximately 69 Billion to 110 Billion people since the world began. I can’t think in numbers that big but I believe it is safe to say that out of all the myriad of people who have ever been, you are the only YOU. There has never been, is not now and never will be someone exactly like you. That boggles my brain. Does it yours?

We are all different and our experiences will be different. You might have already discovered that life can seem very unfair. Why were some made so beautiful that they can walk out the door with next to no makeup and others need to spend a lot of time with Max Factor, Cover Girl or Este Lauder? Why were some given gorgeous singing voices while others have to mouth the word “watermelon, watermelon” so it only looks like they are singing? Why can some think of something to say in any situation and others feel like their tongues have been lassoed and tied up to a hitching post? Why do some have two or three homes while someone else is lucky just to have moved up to a double wide?

It almost makes you want to get out your referee uniform, blow loudly on your whistle and shout, “Foul play! Unfair advantage!”

But each will be given the experiences that they individually need for eternal progression and it’s not our job to keep score.

On the last day of June in 2005 a terrible car accident took the life of our precious daughter-in-law, leaving our son and their two little boys devastated along with the rest of our family. Our son didn’t choose to have that experience but he could choose what to do with it. Leave the Church? Become bitter? Denounce God? Give himself up to depression? Or pick up the pieces and become spiritually stronger than ever. He chose the latter.

A month later our youngest daughter got married to an exceptionally worthy young man. It was a great occasion.

You, too, will have—symbolically speaking—many funerals and weddings in your lifetime. I hope one of them is yours. Not the funeral.

Whatever experiences you have had or will have in your life have the potential to bring you closer to Christ and to what He wants you to be. But you cannot compare yourself to others. They have different paths to take, different experiences to enjoy or to endure. They will be brought to Christ possibly in a different way than you will be brought. Take your path and hold fast to the rod. Love your life and all that is in it.

How much better you will be able to serve the Lord if you can incrementally become your very best self and if you can be happy in that process in spite of tough experiences.

What is keeping you from being your best self—the best YOU possible? Could you serve better if you were more physically fit, if you ate less junk and exercised more? Could you serve better if you could forget about yourself and your awkwardness and learned to care more about others and what they are feeling?

Maybe you could be a better disciple of Christ if you could re-discover that zeal you had on your mission that you thought you would never lose? Or if you could stop being oppressed by your many responsibilities and activities, feeling as though every else were given 24 hours in their day and you were only given 19.

Could you be a better YOU if you got rid of that sin that keeps peering into your life and making you feel unworthy?

If you need to get rid of something that isn’t helping you to be your best, do what is necessary. Don’t try to put a Band Aid over a festering, oozing wound of sin. It has to be cleaned out first with true repentance. It will hurt. So what? Think how good it will feel to finally have that sin gone, to be free. As it were, in that one area, to be born again.

We have a heroin addict in our family—a situation that has brought much sorrow. I feel so strongly that when he finally turns to the Lord through repentance and accessing the Atonement that he will be able to turn his negative experiences into teaching tools that will greatly bless his life and the lives of others.

As the Lord said to Joseph Smith as he suffered in Liberty Jail: “know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience and shall be for thy good.”

That would be my hope for my family’s addict, that he would turn all of his rotten lousy experiences into a great huge good.

In D&C 90:24 (my favorite scripture) it says: Search diligently, pray always, and be believing and all things shall work together for thy good.

I hope that you can turn each of the experiences of your life—the delightful ones and the distressing ones—into something good. That each of your experiences will help you become the fabulous YOU our Heavenly Father needs you to be.

Why do you think your very unique self was put here on the earth at this time? What do you think Heavenly Father wants of you? Ask Him. Whatever it is, you can accomplish it best if you are the best YOU possible.

Which brings me back to Christmas. Wouldn’t it be great to give Jesus a gift this year? Being as it is His birthday. What better thing could you give Him than YOU, the best YOU you can be.

Eleanor Powell, a famous tap-dancing movie star of the 40’s who later became a minister, said. “What we are is God’s gift to us. What we become is our gift to God.”

What can you give Him, poor as you are
An MP3 Player, a shiny new car?
For something like that, He’d have no real need
Or for anything modern, I’ll have to concede

How ‘bout a book? A beautiful rose?
A new little lamb? No, He’s got lots of those
I know what He needs—Here’s what you can do
Give the gift of yourself—a shiny new YOU!

One of the best parts of Christmas to me is that it comes at the end of the year. Right after Christmas, we can start all over with a brand new beginning. What a great time to activate your gift to the Savior.

Your very unique, one of a kind gift—YOU—filled with resolve to follow Him, wrapped in self-confidence and tied with a bow of charity for yourself and others, ready to be used by a loving Savior in whatever capacity He needs you.

May you take all the experiences of this life—the good ones and the bad ones—the weddings and the funerals of your life—and let them mold you into greatness—into the person Heavenly Father and His Son need you to be. What a gift! A happy, confident YOU. There is no one else that can do it. No one else can be YOU. May you do it well. That is my prayer.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Bottleneck

Elizabeth Willis Barrett
October 20, 2010

I feel like I have entered a very long bottleneck in my life. I’m not sure what has caused it. Maybe it’s because Brad is home more after becoming semi-retired or maybe it’s because more of our kids and grandkids live nearby. Doing volunteer work with some young adults that takes me away from home a couple of nights a week could have something to do with it. All I know is that I used to be able to sit down and watch an old movie while I cleaned out a drawer or folded the clothes or put pictures in scrapbooks or something else as necessary but mundane. But now I seem to have no time for anything. Not even for cleaning the toilets or brushing down embarrassing cobwebs. Not even for calling a friend and suggesting a time for lunch.

Maybe it’s because I now go to work for two mornings a week. This life crunching really started in earnest at the exact time I went to Real Estate School. But since I stay at work for such a short time, my co-workers would marvel if they heard me say that work keeps me from the life I used to know. In the beginning I was supposed to work a lot at our new On Q Property Management business, but as it turns out, I can’t seem to get around to carrying out even the few assignments I am given.

Maybe it’s because I try to take care of my Mom a little. I’m afraid, however, that my brother and sister-in-law would be quick to say that I’m not putting too much time into that project either. Mom needs lots more of my help.

Is it Facebook? I’m definitely not into Farmville or any of that stuff although I do check Facebook two or three times a day to see if anyone has said something interesting. They usually haven’t. But it is easy to stay at the computer too long—checking e-mail, renewing library books, looking up bits of information. My blog takes a bit of time, too, but not nearly as much time as I’d like to give it. There are so many topics I want to write about and post on my blog. I planned to post once a week but I can’t get around to that either.

I feel like I am in traffic that as a body slows down to gawk at a minor fender-bender which makes everyone wonder what the holdup is. Then, for no apparent reason, the traffic picks up speed again and everyone is on their way. Only I’m not on my way. I’m still gawking. I’m still in the bottleneck with all the stuff I should be doing crammed in here with me.

Part of the problem is that I’m gone a lot. We go to the mountains or to a conference Brad has or to visit Jana in Utah. I don’t do that nearly as often as I’d like either. But it does seem that we are frequently packing and unpacking which could be adding to the bottleneck sensation.

When the kids were little I thought life was jammed to overflowing and I looked forward to the time of existence when life would slow down. What a surprise to get to this stage and find that it is just as overwhelming.

It’s not that I want to just hang around. I’ve always loved being busy. I like a schedule—my schedule, not someone else’s. I like waking up to an alarm and stretching and biking and writing down the things I want to get done that day and getting at it. But I can’t seem to get that far anymore. Like I say, I have hit a bottleneck.

I keep thinking I’ll pull out of it soon—this crowdedness of life. After all, traffic bottlenecks eventually loosen up. If I could just exercise every day and do one little project like clean out a closet, update family pictures, or plant some flowers, I don’t think I would feel so tight and congested. But I seem to be on a variety of other people’s schedules and I can’t get to mine.

I sense that I am only muddling through this phase of my life. I’ve got my foot on the pedal looking for an opening so I can break out. But just when I think there is a chance of escape, someone says something like, “Hey, Christmas is only 9 weeks away!” And the bottleneck closes around me and I quit looking for an exit. Maybe, for now, there isn’t one. So I guess I’d better start looking out and enjoying the view because it doesn’t look like things are going to change for a long, long time.

Friday, October 8, 2010

I Love a Piano

Elizabeth Willis Barrett…October 6, 2010

Like Irving Berlin, I love a piano. He said it much more melodically than I ever could in his semi-famous song with that title. Ever since I can remember, (which sometimes isn’t all that long) I wanted to play the piano. I would tap out a tune on an imaginary keyboard on the headboard of my bed or painstakingly figure out the notes by numbers on my cousins’ piano. But our house for many years was piano-less.

Then when I was in the 3rd grade, a piano finally made it into our home. For a few moments I was triumphant! Unfortunately, in an attempt to slide the piano down the stairs and into the basement rumpus room, it slipped to its demise. I believe it was a cast-off from the Rollan’s home so it wasn’t a great monetary loss. But it was a monumental loss to me. My eight year old fingers needed a piano!

And then it came—a grand piano! Well, not a Grand Piano, but a strong and sturdy older upright that was grand to me. (Actually, I had really wanted a beautiful small spinet, but as my dad would always say with a twinkle in his eye: “Beggars can’t be choosers.” Something else he often said was: “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth,” which he might not have said on this occasion but it would have fit. It took me a long time to understand that saying, but now it makes perfect sense.) This piano was placed right in the living room. No bad attempts at the basement for this instrument. At last I had my piano, something I could really sink my fingers into. I loved it. Now I just had to learn to play it.

The task of teaching me was undertaken by Sister Alta Standage, the piano teacher of our ward. Growing up in a very strong Mormon family, we called everyone Sister or Brother as the case may be and the Ward was Mesa 8th Ward, our religious parish so to speak.

Sister Standage lived about 6 blocks down Country Club Drive. Since Mom didn’t always have a car to take me, she would walk with me as I carried my John Thompson and Carl Czerny books. A back pack would have been a great place for these noble works of piano instruction but we didn’t have back packs then. I don’t think they had been invented yet! To make the walk a little less tedious, Mom would play Hang-man with me all the way up and back. “Is there a ‘D’?” “Nope, you now have an arm.”

Thank you, Mom, for giving me the opportunity to learn to play the piano. I hope I told you thank you enough times when your mind was clear enough to understand me. As a family we didn’t go out to eat very often; we didn’t have closets full of clothes; we didn’t even get a TV until the rest of the world was quite entrenched in TV watching. But you always saw to it that we were given opportunities to learn and grow and become what we had the potential of becoming. That is still what matters most to me—learning and growing and becoming. Thank you, Mom. I will always be grateful.

I thought often of writing Sister Standage a letter telling her thank you, too. Thank you so much for teaching me how to play the piano—the notes, the measures, the one-e-and-a, two-e-and-a’s of music. It is possibly my most valued skill. Playing the piano has brought me so much pleasure, joy and opportunities to serve. But I never wrote that letter. It is just one of a myriad of uncrossed-off items on my eternal “to-do list”.

But I do thank you, Sister Standage. Maybe you’re teaching a few piano students in heaven right now. I hope so. There had better be pianos in heaven. I would really be sad if there weren’t. How would heavenly choirs be accompanied without them? Harps? Maybe. Harps are fine, but I love a piano.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

(Do you smell what I smell?)
Elizabeth Willis Barrett September 22, 2010

There are certain sounds that I love. One of my favorites is the little pop that comes when a bottle of peaches seals and you know you can keep it in the pantry for a few years. That is such a great sound. It means industry and self-sufficiency and a job well done. After pulling the jar out of the boiling water bath, you anxiously wait to hear that sound. I haven’t heard it for an awfully long time since other things have fought their way to the forefront and left bottling peaches in the far, far distance. But there are other sounds to find joy in.

One of the best is a baby’s belly laugh. That sound can pull you from the depths of melancholy and onto the plains of delight. No despair can linger within the sound of a happy baby.

Rain tap-tapping on a metal roof brings me pleasure, too. Not that there are many metal roofs around, of course. I wish there were more metal roofs and more rain drops to fall on them but Central Arizona isn’t the best place for experiencing either one. A rustic cabin in the woods would be perfect, though. Sitting around a table playing Liverpool Rummy with my girls and listening to the rain—ahhh, that would be heaven.

A cooing dove is another great sound. It reminds me of summer and being temporarily released from Emerson Elementary School. I can imagine listening to the doves while standing outside by the evaporative cooler and feeling the tepid water from its hose drizzle onto my feet. True freedom!

I like the sound of a key turning in a lock, signifying the return of a loved one and the beep of a text message that connects me to family and friends.

And silence—silence is a wonderful sound, too. I wouldn’t want to hear it all the time, but once in a while it’s very welcomed.

There are also some not so good sounds that I would rather not hear, such as an impatient mother berating her child at the grocery store or an ignorant couple talking too loudly at Wal-Mart. Bad news never has a good ring to it, of course, and neither does the buzz of a mosquito. And I’m not very fond of the sound of: “We’re sorry. It is not necessary to dial a one when calling this number.”

One of the most irritating sounds to me is someone chomping and smacking whatever happens to be in their mouth. It is especially annoying when it occurs behind me for some reason. When someone is eating loudly, I have to move. When I was little, my younger brother and sister loved to come up and smack their peanut butter sandwiches in my ear because they liked to see me get really perturbed. I don’t even like to hear myself eat!

The magnificent sense of smell brings the good and bad, too. For instance, I detest the smell of dogs. They all smell quite the same, I think. Even though my dear husband, Brad, gets his St. Bernard groomed and perfumed to please me, underneath good ol’ Buddy still smells like a dog. A wet dog smell is especially displeasing. Cats, birds, cows, horses—the animal world would have a hard time getting me to ever be fond of its smell. Sometimes people are in that category. B O is an especially bad animal smell as is stale tobacco breath. H O (house odor) is offensive, too. Thank goodness for Fry’s aisle of candles, oils, sprays and air fresheners.

If I were to choose the very best smell ever, it would be the smell of raspberries. That smell takes me back to my summers in Rexburg as I’d come through Aunt Blanche’s back door. There the smell of freshly picked raspberries would linger. I wish I could go there right now with Mom and her sisters chatting away while shelling peas on the porch and with all the cousins riding the carousel in the park. Not too far away would be the grand smell of West Yellowstone—that smoky fire smell mingled with pines. I love that smell.

Another favorite smell is Dove soap. Sometimes I buy it just so I can close my eyes and take a slow prolonged whiff and imagine that I’m at Aunt Ruth’s house with all her kids. They always used Dove soap. Smells can really conjure up great memories.

It’s hard to beat the glorious smell of bread baking in a family kitchen. Even though Mom worked as a secretary at the Arizona State Senate, she somehow found time to bake bread. That is definitely a smell of love.

And back to the rain. Not only does it sound superb, but it smells delightful, too, especially in the forest.

So, thanks nose. Thanks ears. You’ve served me well. I plan on you seeing me through to the end of my journey. I hope you’re OK with that. You make life so much better.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Elizabeth Willis Barrett September 9, 2010

My stuff is drowning me. It seems to be in every nook and cranny of my life and it proliferates more profusely than rabbits do.

There is stuff everywhere. There are so many places for it to germinate. There is my purse, of course, filled to overflowing with receipts and shopping lists, makeup (all but what I happen to need at the moment), new and used Kleenexes and far too many pens and pencils. One thing my purse is usually short on is cash. Thank goodness I have my Southwest Visa and Wells Fargo Debit Card in there with my Café Rio frequent diner cards, half used gift cards, Mesa and Gilbert library cards, and grocery store reward cards. I even carry a Smiths Market card although I can only use it in Utah.

Unfortunately, I don’t just have one purse, but several, each with its own array of stuff. I have a huge jean bag that I take on trips and never seem to find the time to empty between our comings and goings.

Stuff even accumulates in my computer case: papers I might need, extra cords and flash drives and, again, a supply of pens and pencils. The computer itself is full of stuff, too—speeches and lessons and ideas and papers written long ago that might contain bits of wisdom worth saving. I would love to sit down and delete unnecessary material but that would take a great deal of time.

I have so many little bits of this and that around. For example, whenever we go out of town I grab a tiny Ziploc bag and fill it with Ibuprofen and Excedrin just in case leg aches or splitting headaches attack. Not that they do much but who wants to run to a hopefully nearby Circle K to buy a remedy? Not me. Pretty soon I find those little bags full of red and white pills everywhere—in my purse, in my underwear drawer, in the car’s side pocket.

Then there are spiral notebooks that contain bits of this and that. I have stacks of them that I bought at Wal-Mart’s “after school’s beginning sale” for 10 cents each. They are wonderful to have. I grab the closest one and jot down a writing idea or grab another and record a recipe or a phone number or a great thought for a talk or a list of necessary errands, or interesting facts or quotes from the book I’m listening to. At this moment I have 22 spiral notebooks stacked next to the computer. They are in varying degrees of raggedness and each has only the first few pages written on—some with profound thoughts or messages that I am anxious to transfer to appropriate places on the computer, my already stuffed computer.

My guitar case is not immune to stuff with its papers from lessons and notes on chord progressions. My voice class notebook could use some editing and so could my writing notebook that is filled with our writing group’s journalistic gems. There are also several camera cases swollen with their own miscellany.

The file drawers are bulging with articles and warranties and bank papers and ideas for this and that. They should be sorted through too. Every drawer in the house, in fact, needs to be put on a stringent diet along with the closets.

Some people are just magnets for stuff. You should see the cupboards that hold the scrapbooks! No, never mind. It’s not a pretty sight. And I’m not even an official “scrap-booker.” Heaven help us if I ever got into that. I have plenty of pictures and papers to save without the embellishments and cutesy artwork so many find necessary to show off their treasures.

I have tons of music in a four-drawer file that one day I’m going to have to acknowledge has never been looked at in a good 10 years. The refrigerator has too much stuff—inside and out. And then there’s my head. It is also filled with stuff—ideas and books and songs and thoughts and ambitions and goals and worries and hopes.

On a trip to Argentina, we were having a delicious dinner in a very humble home. I foolishly asked if they had any second-hand stores around. Our sweet hostess looked at me a little strangely after my son had translated my question into Spanish. “No,” she answered. “We don’t have extra things to take to a second-hand store.” I, unfortunately, could open up my own second-hand store just with the stuff in my house—unnecessary and unneeded stuff. Well, I might need to add the stuff from a friend or two to really get started.

Maybe if I quit doing all the stuff that adds to my stuff, I would finally have time to get rid of the stuff that doesn’t matter. Hmmm, no, I’m not ready to quit doing all I’m doing yet.

But I really do want to clean up and out. I’ll actually love doing it. It will take weeks and weeks but I’m gearing up for a thorough and complete cleansing. I’m ready to rid myself of sentimentality and arm myself with the realization that if I haven’t used the article called “WAIT” in the last 20 years, I’m probably not going to use it in the next 20.

My stuff has brought me a measure of joy but it’s time to be done with a lot of it. And when I finally become stuff-free, it will feel wonderful!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Elizabeth Willis Barrett---August 14, 2010

I carry around with me a pill case. Not just a one-a-day kind but a hefty plastic bin with seven compartments, one for each day of the week. In each day I could easily fit about 20 pills which I do on occasion. But I don’t take them all. It’s just that I want them in their place if I happen to need that certain element on that day. I don’t know how I even got so many pills in my possession. Mostly, I guess, I have purchased a bottle here or there at the suggestion of one friend or another.

For instance, I have Echinacea because Stacey swore that it will keep colds and flus away. I don’t think she takes it herself, however, because she seems to be sick quite often.

I have SAM-E because Marianne recommended it for depression and lack of well-being. I have St. John’s Wort for the same reason at the recommendation of Jessica. Nancy told me about a supplement that helps her joints move more easily so I, of course, purchased that, too. I even took it all and was going to buy more, but I can’t remember its name. I’ll have to ask Nancy.

Some very expensive vitamins from Canada I bought after Linda told me that it helped her drug-addicted nephew to get off drugs. I didn’t need them for myself but I know a charming drug addict that I wanted to help. I might start putting those in my pill box, too, since he isn’t interested in taking them.

Then I have Miralax that someone said was great for constipation and Benefiber that Kelli swears by for the same ailment. I always take vitamin B because Sandy says that it helps her be less irritable. I’m still a little on the irritable side, so maybe I’m taking the wrong kind of vitamin B.

Other pills I’ve bought because I read somewhere that they’d be beneficial to a body needing all the help it can get—primrose oil, flax seed oil , vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, glucosamine.

I have great faith in Lysine which is a must for the prevention of cold sores and canker sores and everyone knows that vitamin C can bring a cold to its knees.

I’ve added ginkgo biloba to my stash to hopefully guard against dementia. I am very concerned about coming to the end of my mind before my body gives out. It’s kind of like wanting your cake and ice cream to come out even. If you’re left with too much ice cream at the end, you have to get another smidgen of cake. And you definitely don’t want to be left with an extra bite of cake without some ice cream to enhance it. Similarly, you don’t want to get to the end of your body and be left with too much mind. And you certainly don’t want to get to the end of your mind way before you’re done with your body.

My mother, who never took anything but an occasional aspirin, ended up with way too much body after her mind was gone. On the other hand, my mother-in-law, who seems to be holding onto her mind and her body even though she is ninety, has taken a myriad of vitamins and minerals much of her life. Maybe they helped her. I’m banking on it.

I, of all people, know it isn’t wise to pop pills merely at the whim of a friend or two. And I know that some can work against you and become toxic if you aren’t wise (the pills, not the friends, necessarily). But I am counting on some of these supplements to live up to their reputations and make my life happier, healthier and hard-wearing. It’s worth a try.

While I’m at it, I think I’m going to add bladderwhack, ginseng, grape seed and kava kava. Black cohosh and valerian root are looking good, too. I’ve got room.

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Basket Case
Elizabeth Willis Barrett 7-24-10

I always seem to be losing baskets—the kind with wheels at grocery stores. It is my habit to set my cart aside for a minute as I go down the soup aisle to grab a couple of cans of cream of chicken soup or something else as essential and at times I have to look for a minute before I can locate my shopping cart again. Once with great effort I filled a basket at Wal-Mart with a myriad of necessities, taking a long time to choose the exact sunscreen, B vitamins and office supplies. I was almost ready to check out when I decided to look over in the magazine section for a new Sudoku book. Not wanting to drag the cart into the cramped area, I left it against some display, looked at the puzzle magazines and then went to retrieve my basket—but it wasn’t there. Some days I can handle that kind of frustration fairly well but not that day. I was tired and had lots to get home for, so re-choosing and filling up the basket again was too daunting. Some over-achieving Wal-Mart Associate must have thought my cart was permanently abandoned and restocked the shelves with it. I went home without buying anything and left that particular shopping list for another outing.

The other day I had a similar experience but this time at Superstition Ranch Market. I was filling my basket with grapes and kiwi and strawberries and then a big seedless watermelon which I thought had a particularly nice sounding thump. Then I headed for the apples. I wanted to try some Braeburns since the Fujis seemed a little overpriced and found only three that looked acceptable. I put these in my cart along with four garlic bulbs. I parked my basket against the chilies so I could go down the onion and potato section unencumbered. Seeing a friend, I made a little small talk which really isn’t my specialty, but it was nice to catch up on her family. And after depositing four onions in a plastic bag, I went to my waiting cart. Much to my surprise, the cart that was waiting at the chilies was not my cart at all. Although the owner of the cart appeared to have part of my same shopping list—she too had chosen strawberries, garlic and apples—there were bananas and corn in this cart and there wasn’t a watermelon in it. I hadn’t even gotten to the bananas and corn in my shopping yet. It was odd that another shopper had chosen to park her basket by the chilies. Clearly this person had thought that my parked cart was hers and she had taken mine by mistake.

Not wanting to start shopping all over again, I walked through the store looking for someone who might look a little dazed and who was pushing a watermelon with the rest of her produce. No one fit that description. I was stymied. How had my cart disappeared so fast?

So I had a decision to make. Should I go home empty handed or should I start over? I didn’t come out to this market very often and nothing was too pressing at home at the moment so I made the sacrificial decision to start over.

Grabbing another basket with some indignation, I started again at the strawberries and grapes, chose another thump-worthy watermelon, ran into my friend for a second time and told her the exasperating story of how someone had stolen my cart. Then I headed toward the corn and peppers. Oddly, I saw the same cart parked by the chilies. That person must have had an emergency and had to leave the store without purchasing. Funny that the cart was in the same place I had left mine.

Dismissing any more thoughts about a wayward basket, I chose some peaches and mushrooms to put in my cart and turned the corner to the peppers and lettuce. Just as I chose a healthy head of iceberg, I looked up. There in front of the apples was a cart that held a watermelon, some grapes, some strawberries and some kiwis. It also appeared to be ownerless. Hmmmm. I walked down the aisle to the zucchini. Looking to the left I could still see the other unclaimed basket next to the chilies.

A not too pleasant realization was seeping into my previously offended brain. Could it be that it was my first basket there by the apples? Could it be that I had placed my apples into someone else’s rather full cart—full of bananas and corn and strawberries? Could it be that I had then taken that cart down an aisle or two adding tomatoes and garlic? And then could I have left that person’s cart with a few of my offerings on top in front of the chilies?

Could it be that when I grabbed the onions and went to put them in the basket that I finally noticed that the cart by the chilies didn’t have my watermelon in it but it did have the first owner’s corn and bananas?

Could it possibly be that before I was done shopping that day I had actually used three baskets? And that, in fact, I had taken some other very disgruntled shopper’s cart and used it for a few deposits of my own before parking it by the chilies?

At the check out line both stray baskets were in my line of vision. They were both definitely unspoken for. Somewhere that night would be an irritated produce customer telling her family about a crazy lady who had walked off with her cart.

What was I going to have to do from now on— carry a long piece of red yarn with me wherever I go to tie onto baskets that I might need to leave unattended for a while? Perhaps I could add a sign, too: “I’ll be right back, please don’t dis-assemble.” Besides saving me from future grief, maybe my own personal basket identification would save unsuspecting shoppers from having their well-stocked baskets taken away from them—by me, anyway.

I humbly placed my groceries on the checkout belt and paid without telling the clerk why at the end of the day Superstition Ranch Market would have two half-full grocery carts sitting there with no takers. I just didn’t feel emotionally strong enough to let her know that I was the basket case.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Part 3

Elizabeth Willis Barrett---June 16, 2010

(As I already said, I was having trouble with the alphabet. Maybe that’s why I left “F” off altogether. Here it is:)

It is really important to know your kids’ friends. It is also important to know your kids’ friends’ parents. And besides that, it’s very important to know your kids’ friends’ siblings. A popular older brother or sister could wreak a lot of havoc on a young, innocent friend.


Quarreling with a child is ridiculous, childish and ineffectual. Children quarreling with each other can sometimes be diminished by giving them opportunities to find common ground.

Your job is to help your children become responsible adults, people who can take care of themselves. The children you do the most for, it seems, are the ones who keep expecting you to do the most for them. Even the smallest children can be expected to do daily age-appropriate chores. Although it would be easier to do everything yourself rather than prod an uncooperative, whining child through his chore chart, the rewards will come eventually as his efforts become real contributions to the household and he truly becomes responsible.

Children need to feel like they own something before they can share it. It is best to acknowledge their ownership of a given toy and ask if they would like to share. Often they’ll feel OK about sharing if they are given the opportunity to do it on their own without coercion.

Children take time—lots and lots of time—no matter what age they are. You have to understand that and be ready for it. And children don’t move fast when you want them to because time isn’t an issue with them.
In addition, timing is everything. Well, at least vital. Kids are willing to have deep conversations only when they are ready. Trying to discuss things of importance on your time will get you nowhere. That means that when they are ready, you must be, too. When a child is really ready to talk to you, let other pressures go and be prepared to listen because, for most children, those times are few and priceless.
Also, it is better to point out things they might have done wrong at a less threatening time than the present and at a time when they might be more willing to listen to you.

Remembering what you felt like when you were your child’s age will give you more understanding about what he is thinking and feeling. A child needs to feel that you understand him.

Do everything you can to make your body and mind healthy and well. Parenting children takes a lot of energy and it is so much more enjoyable when you have a great sense of well-being.

Years ago I read a magazine article that said the most important four letter word for parents is WAIT. Instead of reacting or overreacting, just wait. You will be calmer, your child will usually be more compliant and the day’s events can continue without unnecessary drama.

I hate to be talked at, don’t you? It’s so easy to dismiss a child and his feelings that way. “Oh, you don’t really hate your brother. Now go wash up for dinner.” We all like to be talked with. It’s nice to know that someone is actually listening in earnest to what we have to say. Children feel the same. Listen to them. Look in their eyes and listen. When a child is upset, sometimes just knowing that he can express his feelings and actually be heard and understood helps dissipate his anger. Make it comfortable for him to talk to you about anything. Don’t condemn or criticize or he’ll take his concerns to someone else. Or he might suppress them, which would be worse.
Parents are known to go off on lecturing monologues, thinking that their uncommon wisdom will sink deep into the child and change his behavior forever. But when the lecture begins, a child’s ears quit listening and your talk is a waste of time and energy. Some things are better left unsaid. Pray to know when to open your mouth and when to keep it prudently shut.

Yield to your instincts. When my first child was being fussy one day, my well-meaning sister-in-law told me to just let him cry. So I did. He cried and cried and we soon found out that he had a strangulated hernia! He was only 3 weeks old. He was my baby. I should have listened to my own inner voice.

Become a zealot on your child’s behalf. Let him know that you will always be there to support and cheer him on—not just as one of the group but as his own magnificent, individual, and astounding self!

(So, there it is—my A-Z Mini Manual. Again, I’m not saying that I did all of these things but I wish I had done them and a whole lot more. Hope it helps somebody!)

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Elizabeth Willis Barrett June 16, 2010

(As usual, I'm better at telling others what to do than doing those things myself!)

Catch your children off guard. When milk gets spilled, laugh! When you are late for an appointment, tell a joke! When you are very uptight as I tend to be, humor is hard to come by. But a good laugh can put oil on troubled waters. Considering the terrible oil spill in the Gulf right at this moment, that is a lousy analogy. Suffice it to say that humor makes nearly everyone feel better.

Children need the opportunity to look their best: good hair cuts, clothes that are in style, clean and nice smelling bodies. They need to feel good about themselves and how they look. People treat well groomed children better because they appear to be cherished by their parents. I have a friend who is now in her 60’s. She still holds a little animosity towards her mother who didn’t think it was important for her daughter to have some of the latest fashions.

Find joy in the journey. You might as well. The alternative is frustration and irritability. The hectic, mad-house days with young children won’t last very long. When they are gone, those years will be missed.

Keep Your Promises
Be very careful what you promise or what your kids perceive as a promise. They will hold you to it and will think very unkindly of you if you break it.

We each need to be loved. We each need to feel treasured. It is vital to our well-being. In Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages of Children he reminds us that we each express and receive love in different ways. You would do well to discover the love language each of your children prefers and lavish it on him daily. The rewards for loving are incomputable.

I see nothing wrong with a great bribe once in awhile. I certainly perform better with incentives, don’t you?

Never Play Favorites
You probably have your favorites from time to time depending on how each child is interacting with you at the moment, but it is imperative that that preference doesn’t show. I knew of a grandmother who would flutter over her blood grandchildren enormously and would treat her husband’s grandchildren like annoying and undesirable neighborhood children. Even though they all called her Grandma, the unfavored ones had no liking for her and some potentially precious relationships were lost. Children know when they are being slighted and they will hold it against you forever.

By your own example and words, a child can be helped to have a healthy, happy outlook on life and to see life as joyful and full of tremendous opportunity.

Praise works wonders. There will be great rewards when you look for things children are doing right and then praise them for it. If you tell a child that you’ve noticed that you can always count on him to come home on time, he will most likely keep coming home on time because he really wants to please you. If you tell others about your child’s good points and ignore his not so good qualities, you will reinforce in that child that he is wonderful and well worth knowing. Praise him for his ideas. They might not be the greatest yet, but your praise will keep the ideas coming and they might just get better.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Part I

If all the grandmothers of the world got together, we could write the greatest of all manuals on raising kids. And if someone were ambitious enough to make that happen, then this would be my contribution. I would insist, however, on reserving the right to an addendum if some more priceless advice comes to my mind.

Children need to be hugged at all ages. Wrap them in your arms even if they act like you have a transmittable disease or even if you feel awkward doing it. If a hug feels too intimate, at least rub their shoulders while they’re sitting down somewhere and you need to tell them something, especially if it’s something good. “I’m so proud of you for getting an A in PE (rub, rub).” Eventually, you will both be comfortable with touching. Children need it so much and so do we. According to Virginia Satir, a family therapist, “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.”

Believe in your children and make sure they believe in themselves. My mother had a wonderful way of doing this called the TL which stands for Tell Last. If Mom had heard something nice someone had said about me she would say, “I have a TL for you!” That meant I was supposed to say something nice I had heard about her first and then she would tell me my compliment. As a child I didn’t hear as many great things about her to share, but she would always tell me my compliment anyway. I thrived on the good things others said about me that got carried to my ears by a loving mother. These positive comments added much to my belief in myself.

Give them choices but not too many. “Do you want to wear this red shirt or this blue shirt?” “Would you rather take out the garbage or vacuum the family room?” “Would you like to practice before lunch or after lunch?” Children need to feel that they have control over something.

Ignore their bad behavior whenever possible by distracting them with other subjects or activities. But when discipline is necessary, never scold a child in front of someone else. Children are so sensitive and get embarrassed so easily. Some parents act tough just to show who is boss. Others yell for awhile without any effectiveness and think they’ve carried out their parental duty. The Prophet Eli did that in the Old Testament. He had two wayward sons and instead of insisting that they change their ways or suffer the consequences, he just verbally reprimanded them. Eli then went about his business and his sons went back to stealing the meat sacrifices and seducing the women at the gates of the temple. The Lord was not happy with Eli’s parenting methods and some pretty bad things happened to Eli which you can read about in I Samuel.

Don’t ever make children eat things they don’t like because they will most likely hate that one food forever. They should be encouraged, of course, and introduced to lots of foods so they can learn to not be picky. Good eaters are much more pleasant to have around. And don’t forget that if they don’t eat much in one meal, they will often make up for it in the next.

When he’s having a treat, be sure to tell a child at the beginning that he only gets one helping if that’s the case. Think how you are when you’re eating a fabulous piece of cheesecake or whatever seems exquisite. While you’re eating it, sometimes you’re thinking about the next delectable piece you’re definitely going to have. Your taste buds are all ready for it. You wouldn’t feel that it was fair if someone bigger and more forceful than you told you that you couldn’t have anymore. That’s how kids feel. Warn them up front, that’s all.

Go with the Flow
As you envision the outcomes of certain events, it is easy to be disappointed when things don’t turn out as you hoped they would. Children are known to mess up outcomes. But if you can be flexible enough, the endings, though different than you had supposed, can still be wonderful. Inflexible people break while flexible people bend to each occasion and enjoy the whole process whether it is going their way or not. Deleting people from your life might help but that wouldn’t be quite as satisfying in the end.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Prelude to the A-Z Manual for Raising Kids

I have written a very simplified A-Z Manual for Raising Kids. It isn’t long at all as far as manuals go, but too long to ask a faithful friend to go to my blog and read it all in one sitting. So I thought I could put it into 4 equal parts.

“Hmmmmm,” I said as I drove from Bashas to Batteries Plus. “Twenty-four letters divide neatly into four equal parts with six letters in each part.” And I went through the alphabet six letters at a time, which surprisingly was a little awkward.

I mean, I’m used to saying the alphabet not in sixes. I say, (and I quote): “A,B,C,D,E,F,G” which is a grouping of seven; then “H,I,J,K,L,M,N,O,P” which is a grouping of nine; then “Q, R, S”—a grouping of three; “T, U, V”—another grouping of three; and I end with a resounding “W, X, Y, and Z”—a grouping of four, unless you count “and” which makes it a grouping of five. So, anyway, when I tried to say the alphabet in sixes, I had to use my fingers on the steering wheel to make sure I counted it out right.

“A, B, C, D, E, F” would make the first blog entry. “G, H, I, J, K, L” would make the second blog entry. “M, N, O, P, Q, R” would make the third blog entry. “S, T, U, V, W, X”.……“Hold it!” I said with emphasis because, of course, Y and Z were left out. That’s because there aren’t twenty-four letters in the alphabet. There are twenty-six! My mind was doing some serious slipping, which is a little scary, especially considering the history of both my parents. (I have to keep reminding myself and my children that I graduated cum laude. They don’t believe me.) Anyway, twenty-six can’t be divided into equal parts unless you use fractions and that will hardly suit my purpose. So I will have to divide my A-Z Manual for Raising Kids blog entry into four unequal parts—or maybe three. Watch for them. Thanks for reading!!

Monday, May 24, 2010

I Am Woman---Hear Me Whimper!

“I’m sorry,” I blubber into the phone. “We did everything wrong!”

“Be calm,” says Brad, my fabulous husband of nearly thirty-nine years. (Whew, thirty-nine years is a very, very long time. That is longer than it took for me to be born, go through Emerson Elementary School, West Jr. High School, Westwood High School, get my Home Economics degree from BYU, get married and have five children!)

Brad has lived with me long enough to know not to say, “Calm down!” which tends to have the opposite effect. “Settle down!” isn’t good either. These are commands of one-up-man-ship and not words of compassion.

But I can live with “be calm”. And he says it again after I tell him the whole story. Then he gives me some helpful names and phone numbers that I shout through the car window to my sister, Maxine, who is writing them down. I am standing several feet away in a patch of snow. Maxine is sitting in my meadow-marooned Sequoia SUV with our 95 year old mother who can’t remember that we are actually her daughters. The four wheels are smothered in mud after having spun themselves into a frenzy of futility. They are making contact with nothing—not the ground nor the twigs we tried to shove behind the back wheels and in front of the front wheels. Isn’t that what the experts do when they get stuck in the mud? Maybe experts don’t ever get stuck in the mud. Lida even offered to lay down her jacket in front of the wheel for traction. But why sacrifice a good jacket to a lost cause?

Lida is our sister-in-law and another member of our stranded group. At the moment she is standing ankle deep in the sludge, video taping our predicament. She accompanies the filming with a precise narration so our families will know what happened to us in case someone finds our bones in years to come.

This day started out so agreeably. Having spent the weekend at our cabin in honor of Mom’s 95th birthday, we thought we’d go for a pleasant drive to Greer for lunch by way of Greens Peak. The road is unpaved but beautiful in its spruce and aspen glory. Since I was the driver, I felt a huge responsibility for these three cherished relatives and wanted us to have the most memorable time possible.

It definitely turned out to be memorable. I should have had a clue when we ran into—literally—several patches of snow on the dirt road. But I thought the snow problem would disappear the closer we got to Greens Peak because I envisioned the area being more open to the sun’s warmth. Surely the sun would have melted all the snow the closer we got to the “famous” mountain.

The smart thing would have been to turn around—give up. It’s not like there isn’t another way to Greer. There is. But it is on the highway through Springerville and it seemed so boring compared to this gorgeous mountain pass. Safety vs. beauty? Really, should there have even been a decision? There would be other days to drive past Greens Peak, after all, when there wouldn’t be a bit of snow. But I kept doggedly driving forward. I really don’t know what possessed me.

Finally we came to a snowdrift on the road that seemed a little too daunting. Really, the snow had to quit—maybe around the next bend. Maxine and I got out thinking we could walk through the two piles of snow that were visible down the road and then look around the curve to see if that would be the last of it. But it was too far. If we could just get past this biggest drift—it had to get better.

I had never driven in 4-wheel drive before, but this snow pile seemed to call for it. So out came the car’s manual. Everything should have a manual, don’t you think? A personal manual could say something like: “If you are driving on a mountain road and you run into some snow, do not anticipate that the road will get clearer by and by. For the sake of your lives and your sanity, turn around. Don’t be stupid!”

My brother and Lida’s husband, Ron, happened to call just then and he talked us through the 4-wheel drive operation. So with a very light peddle and some steeled nerves on my part and a great deal of patience on the part of my passengers, we made it quite nicely through what looked like the worst of the snow drifts.

As we drove on, however, the next drift looked even higher. Why not drive around the drift? What a great idea! We all thought so. This would entail driving off the road and into a meadow but we were now in 4-wheel drive and won’t 4-wheel drive, like Master Card, take you anywhere you want to go? So that’s what I did—I drove off the road onto ground that seemed quite solid. Maxine had walked around it just to try it out and it didn’t seem too muddy.

But a ½ ton vehicle proved too much for the lovely ecology and the earth seemed to collapse right when we got in the middle of the meadow. Obviously 4-wheel drive isn’t as dependable as Master Card. In dismay, I tried to back up, but that made us sink deeper. I tried to go forward. Nope. Then I stepped out into the mud and let Lida try her hand at the wheel. Still no success. That’s when we tried the sticks and contemplated using Lida’s jacket for traction. We tried pushing. Mom was sure that if we would just let her out, that she could push us forward. She was in a bad mood the rest of the trip because we insisted that she stay in the car. Actually, we locked the doors so she couldn’t get out. Talk about pushing—having Mom stuck in the mud, too, would have pushed each of us over the precipice of reason that we were barely teetering on.

Thus the frantic phone call to Brad. And now the fruitless phone calls to every number he gave me—Sheriff Brandon, the Springerville equipment yard, our cabin neighbor—none of whom answers the phone. AAA answers which is very kind of them but they quickly inform me that they will come save us only if we are 50 feet from a paved road. I don’t think we are 50 miles from a paved road. Finally the regular Sheriff’s office answers. They are very sympathetic but say we will have to call a towing company and pay to get out. Pay? For our stupid mistake? Really? There seems to be no way around it. But by now even paying a few hundred dollars sounds better than sitting here in the mud a minute longer than necessary.

So I call the Springerville Auto Wreckers Towing Company into action. Now we wait and wait and pray that the tow truck can find us with my less than stellar directions.

I am astounded at what we must look like. This is what dumb people do—end up in secluded meadows tire-high in mud. We are intelligent highly functioning human beings—well ¾ of us are and in her day Mom was very, very sharp.

An hour passes and we finally hear our heroes coming to the rescue. Ah, at last we can put our muddy blunder behind us! But no! Right at the place where the Sequoia made it through without a hitch, the tow truck flounders. Well, this is great! Now they’re going to have to send another tow truck to dislodge this tow truck and our chances of getting home any time soon are getting slim again! This is going to be very expensive.

Fortunately, like every good tow truck should, they have a wench. (I just looked up wench and that is not what they have!) They have a winch. After some minutes of winching they have freed themselves from the mud and are again focused on rescuing us. Allen, one of our two liberators, walks through the mire to hook a chain to our bumper. Slowly our car is winched backwards until we are back on the road where we belong. I gladly whip out my Visa card and pay the nominal fee of $175 and Maxine gives them a $20 tip for their kindness.

Now that we are safe and headed in the right direction—the Springerville direction—my heart is bursting with thanks.

Thanks to Allen and his partner for not sneering at us or making unkind remarks or charging us a very unreasonable amount which we would have gladly paid to get out of our predicament.

Thanks for cell phones and cell phone service and cell phone batteries that were well charged. No telling how long we would have languished there without a means of communication. We were definitely on the road less traveled.

Thanks to Brad for not saying “calm down” or the ever popular “What did you do that for? or “You’re going to ruin the car!” or “What are you? Crazy??”

Thanks for the blue sky and the gorgeous weather and for the fact that it was daytime instead of night. And thanks for the snacks Maxine happened to have in her purse.

I’m especially full of thanks to Maxine and Lida for being the best of companions. They were so congenial, finding the humor and not blaming me or repeatedly saying “What if……..” or “We should have…. .” And I’m full of thanks to them for helping me visualize all the reasons that getting stuck in the mud might turn out to be a blessing to someone. Maybe the two truck owners desperately needed one more service call to be able to pay their rent. Maybe another group will sometime be stranded in exactly our spot and because of servicing us on this day, the Springerville Auto Wreckers Towing Company will know exactly where to find them. Maybe this experience will keep us from leaving the main road in the future and getting stuck in an even worse situation. Some things you only have to learn once!

And finally, I’m thankful for an elderly mother who offered to pay for the tow truck which I will definitely take her up on when we get home. But mostly I’m full of thanks to her for being willing to push. Not able, but willing.

All in all, many lessons were learned and now that we’re on the safe side of danger and the tears have dried, I’m ready for lunch---man-sized!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Elizabeth Willis Barrett April 2010

I was talking to a friend one day and she happened to mention that she couldn’t think of anything wonderful that she wanted to do. Really? I couldn’t relate to that because my interests are so varied and numerous that this life will definitely not be long enough to fit them all in. I suggested several things that she might be able to throw herself into, but she had a negative response for each one. Either she had already done that certain activity—sewing, scrapbooking, piano—or it just didn’t appeal to her at all. I even took her “interest shopping” once to see if I could get some excitement flaming in her heart for something.

She did purchase a skein of yarn, a pair of knitting needles and a book on making baby afghans, but so far she hasn’t tried to make even one stitch and that was four years ago! She’s probably very irritated with me for suggesting something that was just going to sit around making her feel guilty. If there’s one thing none of us needs, it’s more guilt.

Better than yarn and needles, I wish we could have purchased for my friend the bursting exuberance I feel for doing and learning and becoming. I’m thankful that that feeling came with me.

If time and energy were boundless, I would first work on writing. There are about five books rattling around inside my head that I wish could just be shaken out word perfect.
I hope they will one day find a place in print. Along with being a writer of books, I would like to become a great essayist and submit my work to magazines or have my own column in a newspaper.

I also want to be a photographer. Not just a point and shoot one, but a many lenses and tripod photographer that knows how to catch grandchildren at their most impish and landscapes at their most glorious. I would love to follow a great photographer around and have her teach me all her tricks. Then I’d want her to show me how to Photo Shop until all my pictures looked absolutely stunning.

I’d learn to fiddle if I had time. I love to hear great fiddle playing. I’d take in some banjo lessons, too. And I need to work a lot harder at playing the guitar so that I can play with confidence.

It would be really fun to sing in a women’s trio again—working out parts and arrangements and getting the second just right. I love to sing second. And although I can already play the piano, if there were time, I would like to work on chording and playing by ear.

My sister in law spends hours ballroom dancing. She’s lost weight and has never been more fit. Yes, ballroom dancing would be a great pastime, too, if my husband would do it with me.

If I didn’t have family responsibilities, I would join National Speakers Association and become a dynamic and well-paid public speaker. It is so satisfying to wow an audience and maybe give them something new to think about. I’d develop lots of talks for CD’s and record and sell them. Time or no time, I’m for sure going to develop a fabulous presentation to teach about drug testing and prevention. That is a much needed topic.

Being a Life Coach would be very satisfying, I think, or developing seminars especially for women. I’d love to help women find their way—after I found it myself, of course.

I really want to get a great family newsletter started, one that the kids would look forward to receiving each month. And I want to produce an annual fabulous family reunion that no family member would want to miss.

I’d like to be a good gardener—there is a lot to learn about gardening. And flowers—I’d love to spend time learning to cultivate and arrange them. I also think it would be fun to become
skilled at machine embroidering or machine quilting.

I truly wanted to learn to speak Spanish for a time and went to lots of classes for that purpose. I hope I find time to work on Spanish again. And if life were long enough, I’d like to learn to draw—especially cartoons. Then I could illustrate my own books.

When, along with all of these things, I throw in hiking, biking, family history, scrapbooking, the Silva Mind Control Method and a strong desire to organize and scrub the house from top to bottom and side to side, it doesn’t look like I’ll be needing anyone to take me “interest shopping” in this lifetime. And maybe not even in the next. I hope not.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Elizabeth Willis Barrett March 20, 2010

My face is warm and my brain is fuzzy. Warm and fuzzy might be OK when you’re trying to be compassionate and loving but not now, not now! I am sitting in front of a computer at a Phoenix testing center, staring at these questions word by word, over and over—oh, the agony. Questions like:

A property appraised at $85,000—property is assessed at 65%—tax rate is $1.85 per $100 of assessed value—owner sells the property and the close of escrow is August 15—Taxes were paid for the calendar year—What will the settlement sheet show?

Even with four given choices, I can’t begin to guess the right answer. I feel my forehead beading up with pre-trickling sweat.

I thought I was prepared so why do these questions look so foreign to me? For three weeks now I have sat through 90 hours of classes while being bombarded with fact after fact. Then I spent another 30 hours reviewing, and reading and cramming details and math formulas into my overstuffed, bulging brain. Formulas like: Piggies minus BVDs equals Eggies minus Owees equals Noeees. And then, though there was simply no more room, I wedged in a few Baselines and Meridians and even jammed in a couple of water rights and appraisal approaches.

That must be the problem—everything is in my brain so tightly that there is no way for any of the answers to come out!

When I agreed to go to Real Estate School just so I could more effectively answer the phone in our new Property Management Business, I didn’t think it was going to be hard. I didn’t think I was going to have to re-evaluate my personal assessment of my own mental abilities.

The stress of the whole Real Estate thing has made me do some strange things like put eyebrow powder on my cheeks instead of my eyebrows and spray mousse on my finished instead of unfinished hair. I caught myself spelling “commercial with a “u” and I made our family get all dressed up for a reception that wasn’t until the next week. Saddest of all, when I went to write down a fabulous essay idea that had come to me, before I could grab a paper and pencil to do it with, the thought was completely gone and has not returned.

With divine intervention and some near tears, however, I passed the required school test on the first try with an exact 75%. If I had missed one more question, I’d have prolonged this ordeal for another week or two since that test must be passed before you can take the miserable test I am sitting in front of now. One lady took the school test 39 times before she could finally pass it, so I guess I should be grateful. But at the moment I am cursing the writers of the State and National tests. They had the nerve to make the questions look entirely different than the 1000 practice questions that I read through.

Ok, just one more question: A licensee may not charge for document preparation as a result of which of the following:

I can’t think. I don’t know it. My brain is too tired. Is it:

A. Rules and Regulations
B. Arizona Statutes
C. AZ Constitution Article XXVI
D. Law of Agency?

I have no clue. Once again it is time to guess and the best guessing letter is C. So C it is and I am out of here. Please, please, please say I don’t have to take it again.

I passed? I passed! I’m done. No more tests. Even in two years when I have to renew my license or 4 years after that when it will be time to renew again. Wow, I passed!

I hope I get good use out of this new education. Maybe it will make me a little smarter when I answer the office phones. It has definitely opened up my mind to a world of information that I never knew about and truthfully never wanted to know about. But educating one’s self can never be time wasted. And who knows, maybe when I’m through being a realtor here on earth, I can use some of this knowledge in heaven. Isn’t that about the only thing you can take with you—knowledge?

Welcome to Heaven! I’ve been assigned as your agent. Hope you had a great trip. By the way, how’s the weather down there? Oh, tsunamis. Not so good. Well, now that you’re here, it looks like you’ll need a place to stay for awhile.

We have some lovely subdivisions that you might be interested in…..Wild Blue Yonder, Happy Hunting Grounds, Greener Pastures. No, no HOA’s. I think you might find those in another eternal realm but they’re not allowed here. Are you looking for a place to accommodate your heirs as well? Oh, I see, you’ve had quite enough of them already. Well, we have some very fine non-disturbance clauses that you might want to look into.

Cloud Nine? Yes, everyone seems to want to live on Cloud Nine. It’s a beautiful place. Pretty expensive real estate though and a little over-rated in my opinion. I’m quite partial to Cloud Fifteen myself, but I’d hate to be accused of steering or redlining, if you know what I mean.

How do you qualify? Good question. Some have the misrepresentation that we work on a prior approbation basis here, which as you probably know is first in time and first in right. According to our public report, however, loan qualification is based solely on credits and debits with a little bit of negotiating. But we have the Greatest of Beneficiaries, so you will discover that you qualify for just the very place that will suit you best. Follow me. Let’s get started.

I know. Enough is enough. I’m just glad I finally have my license. I will try to use it well.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Elizabeth Willis Barrett February 8, 2010

Betsy had four words to say and they were, “I Can’t Do It!” With that she stumbled recklessly out the back door, letting the screen door bang behind her. She took giant staggering steps onto the dried winter grass as she punched her fists at the heavens. “I can’t do it!” she said again, this time in a wail directed at the innocent, unruffled blue sky.

“I can’t be everything You want me to be. Or even everything I want me to be. I’ve tried and tried and I just can’t do it. I give up! I’m done! You might as well take me now.”

The final straw—now, why do people say “the final straw”? Oh yes. It was the final straw that broke the camel’s back. What a picture! Betsy could see that illustrious camel brought down with just one more tiny strand of straw. His belly would be o tnnj’’’he ground with his four legs outstretched in all directions and his load of straw would be slipping off his back and scattering in the wind. That image might be hilarious at another time. But not now.

Betsy’s final straw had been a bowl of Frog Eye Salad—a very large glass bowl full of Frog Eye Salad that had slipped from her already busy and behind-scheduled hands. It had crashed to the kitchen floor and splattered everywhere. The making of it had taken a long time and now it lay unusable clinging to every visible kitchen surface. Instead of cleaning up the mess, all Betsy could do was run out back and scream at the heavens.

In the giant scheme of things, a destroyed kitchen was quite a little thing, but today when Betsy added everything up, the sum was failure.

For one thing, she had been late for her dentist appointment that morning because she hadn’t planned for traffic. Then after she finally got there, it took four shots and a good dose of laughing gas to settle her down so the dentist could prepare her tooth for a crown. A very expensive crown, the temporary of which was making her whole mouth hurt at the moment. She hadn’t paid the water bill so a pink slip had come in the mail with a threat to turn off the water. Embarrassing! The money was there but she couldn’t seem to get around to paying a little tiny bill that would take about five minutes. And what else?—Oh yeah! The worst part of all: her son was sleeping in his car. Crazy. He’d rather sleep in his car than live by her simple rules: no drugs and no taking money that doesn’t belong to you. And Andrea was mad at her—she didn’t know why. Something she did—hadn’t figured it out yet.

All of this she yelled at the sky until she was beginning to feel like the fat kid on the movie Goonies who confessed to everything he had ever done while his captors looked at him in wonder. And there was more.

“I’ve eaten every Almond Joy I could get my hands on today,” she bellowed, “It was a lot because no one else likes them and they come in the Hershey’s chocolate assortment and my waist is five inches thicker than it was in college.

“And I made just one New Year’s Resolution—ride my bike everyday. Easy. And I haven’t even done that. Not even once. And it’s almost March.

“Besides that, I can’t teach that Sunday School class You gave me. I try to prepare the lesson ahead of time but every week gets so busy that I’m always trying to finish up a minute before it starts every week. And do you know what—I might as well say it all—I’m not sure I like the kids in there. They don’t listen. They don’t participate. They keep texting on their phones. How would You like to teach them?

“And the baby I saw yesterday at the eye doctor’s office. I didn’t like her either. How could anybody not like a baby? Especially one you didn’t even know. I imagined what she was going to be like when she finally made it to High School and things didn’t look too promising. It was probably the dad that was holding her that made me so judgmental. But what was I doing having thoughts like that?

“And the house. Have you seen my closet? It’s jammed packed with stuff. Just stuff. I want to dig it out but something else always seems to be more important. And there are rings in the toilets but no rings in the doorbell and the cookie jar is empty but the dryer is full.”

Betsy’s ranting got down to a whimper. “I was supposed to send flowers for Anthony’s wife’s funeral and I couldn’t even do that. He’ll think we don’t care about his sorrow and it’s too late now. I didn’t go to the last five wedding receptions we were invited to either. I could have at least sent a card but I didn’t. So now when I see the brides’ mothers at Safeway or Kohl’s or somewhere, I’m going to have to act like I never got an invitation at all. I’ll have to put my face in that sincere ‘Really?’ expression that is supposed to mean: ‘I didn’t know your daughter got married. If I had known and if I had received an invitation, nothing could have kept me from it. Absolutely nothing.’

“What’s more, I can’t keep plants alive. I try to water them every week but I skip weeks here and there and I only buy pothos for crying out loud. Anybody in the world can keep pothos alive. But not me!”

And with that final confession, Betsy threw herself on the ground with her legs splayed and her arms outstretched—overburdened-camel-like—and her hands dug into the ground on both sides of her prostrate body. In her manic state she still had enough sense to hope the dog hadn’t left anything right where she had decided to throw herself down. But what did it matter? Her usefulness was gone. She howled like a mournful coyote, sick of life. Betsy knew that if she waited just a little while, the clouds would gather, a storm would cut loose and lightning would obliterate her. She could only hope.

But the only storm was the one inside her that raged and raged…….until she heard a quiet sound. It wasn’t the wind for the air was still. It wasn’t the dog—he was inside in his crate. The kids were at school and her husband was at work. She looked around to see if any neighbors were watching her which would have been very awkward. She’d have a lot of explaining to do. But she didn’t see anyone.

Again the sound came. It sounded like “Hush”.

“What?” Betsy whispered.

“Hush,” it came again.

So Betsy obeyed. She gathered her once flailing limbs and sat up, brushing the dried grass from her face and hair and taking a few wisps off her tongue. She put her full concentration into listening.

“Hush,” came the voice. “Hush…hush…hush.” Betsy closed her eyes and felt loving arms being wrapped tenderly around her. She was being held and comforted and gently rocked like a fretting child. The calming voice soothed away her fury.

“There, there, there,” it said. “Be still, be still, be still. You are so loved, so loved, so loved.”

“Ahh,” Betsy breathed, her eyes still shut.

“Shhh. Shhh. Shhh,” cooed the voice. “Everything is going to be all right, all right, all right. You are so loved, so loved, so loved. Shhh. Shhh. Shhh. Be still, be still, be still.”

Betsy swayed to the rocking and felt the love of the Great Creator surround her like a comforter, warm and soft. She sat there, sat there, sat there, loved, loved, loved.

Her eyes slowly opened to a world changed. What peace! What calm! She gradually stood up and dusted herself off—her new self, her loved self. What could matter now after the arms of Heaven had cradled her and she had heard crooning words of love? She slowly walked back inside after one more look at her place of renewal. Then she took a rag to the kitchen and started cleaning, cleaning, cleaning, serenely, serenely, serenely. And all was well, well, well.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Friends--I've Learned So Much From Them!

This life offers so many opportunities for learning if we keep our eyes open and pay a bit of attention. I’ve learned much from books and classes and newspapers and TV but I think the most important things I’ve learned, I’ve learned from friends—dear friends who don’t even know they are teaching me.

For instance, I used to pump gas into the car by holding onto the handle of the pump until I heard the click which meant it was full. For some reason I was afraid to push down the lever that lets you walk away while the gas is still pumping. Maybe I thought that it wouldn’t stop on its own and gas would gush out all over the cement and someone would come by with a match and blow us all to smithereens. But then I happened to pull up to a gas station where my friend Lynn was filling her car. She deftly pushed in the lever and stood there talking to me hands free!

“Hey, Lynn uses the lever,” I said to myself, “I guess I can, too.” And from that moment to this, I have used the lever and let the gas dispense without my hands right there to stop it. Now I can write the Visa transaction into my checkbook during those long minutes. Only, of course, if I have put my purse in a strategic place so I don’t have to climb into the car and slide across the seat which could also potentially cause a spark and blow us all to smithereens!

Another fear I have is that of turning left. Most of my fears it seems do involve cars. Just to get out of our neighborhood, I have often turned right even though my destination was to the left because the traffic was so heavy and intimidating. But when I was leaving my house with my friend Stacey who was driving us somewhere in her car, I quickly noted that she turned left onto busy Baseline—even though the road wasn’t clear for two miles in either direction. She turned left into the left turn lane. Hmmmm. I had been taught in one of my traffic school experiences that you aren’t supposed to do that. That is the left hand turn lane for the cars already on the main road. But Stacey used it to pull into traffic from our side street. Stacey isn’t the most courageous of all people so I figured that if she was brave enough to pull out into the left turn lane, then I could be, too. That maneuver has saved me many needless right hand turns and a lot of stagnant minutes waiting for traffic to die down. Thanks, Stacey!

One dear friend has taught me about the futility of anger. Long ago Jeanne decided that she didn’t like how being angry made her feel so she chose to never be mad. She’s had as much cause for great irritation as any of the rest of us, but by some brute force of will she has chosen to delete anger from her life. I haven’t incorporated that knowledge into my behavior yet, but it is something I would like to work on some day—some calm, peaceful day when no one is aggravating me.

On one un-peaceful day when I was full of aggravation toward a friend over a business deal, she taught me that our feelings about the situation didn’t have to affect our friendship. She did it with kindness and maturity. And another friend, Leslie, taught me that it was OK to give myself a birthday party. So I did and it was really fun thanks to all the dear friends who allowed me to be so self-indulging. Aging has been rather easier since then.

Along with everyday sorts of things like where to find the best bargains, how to take better pictures or what to fix for dinner day after day, I have learned from friends as they have accepted widowhood with cheerful participation or borne physical limitations with poise and determination.

I have also learned from friends the power of faith. When Fay had the heart breaking experience of delivering a full term but still-born child, I could imitate her spiritual strength when two years later our beautiful baby son only lived one day. In addition to coping skills for heartache, I have learned from friends that a forgiving heart can save families and that a listening ear is better than a psychoanalyst.

Friends have taught me about joy, encouragement, solace and understanding. They have also taught me about humility, as when one friend confided to another, “Elizabeth has a lot to learn.” Actually, she was only a semi-friend and after I’d heard that she said that, I was even ready to cross her off my semi-friend list. I was offended as we often are when someone says something true but offensive. (Of course, that was before I learned from another friend—and finally internalized—that choosing to take offense is ridiculous.)

Maybe I’ve learned the most from that friend who didn’t mind saying what she thought. I did have a lot to learn and I have lots to learn even now. It’s a good thing I still have wonderful friends to help teach me.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Time Measured

I love clocks—the gentle ticking away of time as it measures our lives. Generally time is so orderly, so precise, so fair, so unprejudiced. Time marches us along like a well-disciplined John Phillip Souza holding us to the beat. Once in a while time slows down as though it were obeying a ritardando sign like when you’re in a dentist’s chair, for instance, or trying to get over a great sorrow. It can also be hurried along with an accelerando when you’re having an unbelievably wonderful time or facing a difficult deadline. Time can even stand still fermata-like or so dramatic stories tell us. Usually, though, time is at “a tempo”, steady and persistent.

My day goes so much better when I allow the clock to work with me. It keeps me on task and helps me focus. I always wear time on my wrist so I can say, “I only have to put these papers away until the big hand is on the ten.” Or “I will concentrate on writing this article for eight minutes and then I can do something else.” Or “I’ve got to leave in half an hour. I’d better get ready.”

When I let the clock be my friend, I can take advantage of the little snatches of time that it often permits. While something is heating in the microwave for 30 seconds for example, the silverware compartment of the dishwasher can be emptied. Or in the ten minutes before a guest is expected, a vocal solo can be practiced or a phone call can be made. My husband, Brad, keeps his juggling balls in a kitchen drawer and when he passes by he stops for a moment to practice his juggling. These well used bits of time have enabled him to finally keep three balls going quite impressively, the success of which didn’t look too promising when he first started. With a little thought, great things can be accomplished in a few moments here and a few moments there.

This clock watching mania might be a total mystery to some, but there are so many fabulous things to do in life and time is running out. I want to grab each minute and squeeze the very most from it. I mean, when you reach the unbelievable age of 60, you finally have to face the fact that you’re reaching the finale. When there are still so many things left to do, every measure counts and I want to play each of them well.

It is quite mind expanding to consider that each day, hour, minute or second will only get to be lived once in all the eons of time. I think we owe it to those intervals to use them in the best way possible because none can ever be retrieved. There are definitely some days that I am more than glad to be done with, but there are some amazing past days that I wish I could reclaim. I would put them in a bank and pull them out once in awhile to relive and savor. I wish those days came with a repeat sign.

It is my understanding that when our hours here are finally spent we will go to a place where there is no reckoning of time. That is way beyond my ability to imagine. No clocks? No watches? How will I focus? How will I motivate myself? How can I function without a to-do list and a time frame to do it in?! I hope all the rests aren’t saved for Heaven because even there I’ll need things to do. I’ll need deadlines to meet. I’ll need new ideas to absorb and new skills to conquer. The clock here helps me do those things. I’m sure the greatest of all Composers has it figured out so that we can continue to progress without the aid of time. He must. He seems to have figured everything else out pretty well. Until then: as soon as I finish writing this, I’m going to practice the guitar until the big hand is on the four!