Monthly Archives: September 2007

Chinese, Japanese, dirty knees….

I’m taking a class in Chinese. We meet every Tuesday and Thursday. My teacher’s name is Guo Laoshi (or Teacher Guo). She’s from Shanghai, and has a PhD in English Teaching. I am just about the worst person in the class. I would be the very worst if there weren’t a woman who is not all there mentally and who works at Goodwill. I am only slightly better than she is. I think it’s a good experience to realize you’re bad at something. For me, especially, because I tend to suffer from an overabundance of self-confidence. I’m not good at Chinese, but I really WANT to be good at it. So I keep trying. Last night I went to a Thai restuarant and realized the waitress was Chinese, so I said “xiexie” and asked for “bing shui.” I was pretty excited when she could understand me–so it’s a start.

I wish I could speak lots of languages really well.  Tomorrow I’m going to have dinner with a friend of mine and her mother (Francoise and Suzanne).  Suzanne, the mother, only speaks French.  I  studied French in high school and college, and I used to be pretty good at it–until I lived in Brazil for almost a year.  Now I try to say something in French and it comes out in Portuguese.  But I will try using my fractured French and she will be tolerant and somehow we will have a good time and hug each other a lot when it’s time to go.

Here are some languages I have tried to learn:  Japanese, French, Urdu, Portuguese, and Chinese.  And I’ve studied a little bit of English!  So many things to know in this life.


Got any Heimlichs you want removed?

Last night I was watching the news, trying to get sleepy, when a story came on about a local teacher getting an award for being a hero. It seems she kept one of her students from choking to death. Said student had a habit of putting things in her mouth, and on this particular day, she had put a ring in her mouth to suck on it. The camera showed the teacher getting her award and then moved to the girl herself–about 9 years old–for an interview:

“Well, I know I shouldn’t put things in my mouth, but I did anyway, and then I started choking on my ring.  Mrs. Jones saw that I couldn’t breathe and came to help me.  Then she gave me the Heimlich Remover.”

It was a pretty serious moment in the interview, but I still had to laugh.  Sort of like today when I heard President Bush say, “Our childrens can learn.”  Can our childrens?

An introduction to me

My name is Barbara (like many of my generation, before Barbie Dolls ruined the name). I am a rated Scrabble player , I have a PhD in English, I work full time, I have three grown kids, I have a pink bike, I like to garden, I am active in my neighborhood association, I’ve been a vegetarian for 17 years, and sometimes I like to cook. My husband just read this and noted I hadn’t said anything about him–sorry, love of my life! I have been married for 33 years, and I like to say that those years have been the best 31 years of my life (there are 2 I want to forget!)

My Tribute to Brent

I can’t really write about Brent without writing about the whole clan–because meeting them was really a life-changing experience! Before Marilyn, all of my friends had pretty much grown up in Provo–and I had very little experience with anything outside Utah–or good food!

Food in their household was nothing like it was in my house. For one thing, they had ice cream in other flavors than vanilla! I believe it was Brent who showed me that you could never get the ratio right with ice cream and chocolate syrup–you always had a little too much ice cream, so you needed more syrup–and then you might have too much syrup, so you needed more ice cream–and so on! Brent also liked to bake cookies. He liked to say that he’d only eat one–this was because the cookies he made were usually the size of the pan! They introduced me to Mexican food, pickled herring, yellow squash, and Brattens! And instead of little tiny juice glasses of OJ, they drank it by the gallon!

When I met them, all four kids were living together in the house by Kiwanis Park. Jean was decidedly the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen–and very cosmopolitan. Bruce was smart and funny (Bruce, I’ll forgive you for tying me up in Murder in the Dark if you’ll forgive me for wrecking the Capri!) Brent was quiet, but very good at chess and Hearts (another new vice I learned at their house). Marilyn was, of course, my best friend.

I’m not sure when it was after meeting Brent that he began writing “Attack of the Clivites.” Of course I was delighted that there was a character named Barbara, but I didn’t like that she was a robot! I waited for each new installment. Somewhere in my boxes I still have the Clivite Fan Club Membership card. It was clever, and I’ve saved it for more than 35 years. We all tried to get Brent to have the plot go a certain way, to add a character, or otherwise screw up his poetic genius. The story not only had a plot, but it was Brent’s take on life and people.

Brent was always asking me to go play tennis with him, and I have a bit of a bad conscience that I strung him along about playing. One day I told him I’d play, but that it was a new court in Orem. We drove out to Grand Central (a store in Orem) where I showed him a new electronic tennis game (pretty ghetto by today’s standards) and challenged him to a game. I thought it would be funny, but I think he felt bad I’d gotten him to get dressed in his tennis clothes. I’m not too proud of that memory, but we played the video game for a while, and then went home.

At some point my mother wanted me to go to the Symphony Ball as a “debutante.” I didn’t want to go, and delayed asking someone to be my escort. Finally, very late in the game, I invited Brent, and he was a good enough sport to go with me. I had a good time–I hope he did.

One summer my cousin Kathy from Illinois came to visit and I think she and Brent liked each other. I remember I was happy for Brent, but I was also a little jealous!

When I got married, Brent was there waiting outside the temple to shake Paul’s hand ceremoniously. I found the photo:

As long as I was looking for photos, I thought I’d include this gem–Marilyn was a bridesmaid:

After I got married, we moved away, and I have never lived west of the Mississippi again. I didn’t see Brent for almost 30 years, I suppose. But I’d check in with Marilyn about him, asking how he was–finding out about his chess escapades. Marilyn gave me the phone number for the hospital and I was too chicken to call–afraid of what to say–afraid I’d wake him up, etc. Finally, I got a card and a little gift and sent them–only to find they had arrived after he had died. I cried a lot when I learned he had died. Partly for the fact that the world had lost a dear, sweet soul, partly that I was such a coward, and partly that I had delayed a good impulse and someone had not known in this life that I still cared. I learned that last lesson from Brent–never delay a good intention. I’m going to try to stick to that.

Good bye Brent–I’ll play tennis with you in heaven (if I am good enough to ever get there)



The real me

me-web.pngHere is the real me. As you can see, Scrabble and Diet Pepsi are integral parts of my life!

The boring me

me-real-office.pngHere is the boring me. This was taken in my office, when I was trying to look very professorial.