Yesterday was Wednesday which means it was rosary making day. Jem brings Emery to Pam’s house each morning and did so yesterday as well. Emery entered the house wearing her bike helmet because she wanted to. While here and waiting to go on to our next event, Emery got out a magician’s wand and then the magic cape.

Decked out in this finery, we were now ready to depart. We packed up snacks, the beads, Emery’s electronics, and took off for church. Emery made her grand entrance and we took our seats. She was a real hit with all the old ladies.

I got to meet more of Pam’s imaginary friends and they all insisted they were solid and real and not pretend at all. We brought four different colors of beads and mixed them this way and that, making seven unique rosaries.

I swear like a sailor on leave in a foreign port. I know all the words and sprinkle them freely throughout my speech. I usually am not sitting a church room while speaking. It was my job to string the beads while Pam made knots. She was in charge of the Our Fathers and the Crosses and I did all the Hail Marys. Pam counted each decade to make sure I had the right amount of ten beads and then added the complementary color and the knots. We were checking each other. I found her mistake the time she didn’t add the Our Father bead. And then I threaded the ten beads and dropped the end and all ten beads plunked to the floor.

In this instance I only got the sshhhhh part out of the word before I stopped myself, knowing where I was. But I believe I should get an attagirl for that. I didn’t mutter the entire word and I didn’t use a stronger one. Go me.

We stopped at Walmart to see if the special little pan I wanted was still there on the clearance rack but it wasn’t. Then we stopped at Costco and picked up a few items we needed from there. Again, showing great restraint, I did not buy the vat of cinnamon honey coated nuts (no peanuts included) even though I really wanted it. I didn’t need the calories and I didn’t have the room in my luggage, so using my good sense which is often ignored, I left it there.

We came home and had lunch and then we went for a walk. Well, the adults walked and Emery rode her tricycle. We went over to Safeway and then went around the neighborhood before coming home. I am apparently the angel of cold and bring it with me wherever I travel (except when I come here in the summer and it would be helpful). I had on both of my jackets and wore my poncho and was still chilly when the wind blew or the sun went behind a cloud. Really?

Emery wore her bike helmet in the house with the magic cape and to the church for rosary making. She wore her helmet in the car and we convinced her to remove it for shopping, but it wasn’t her own choice. When it came time to ride her bike, she opted for no helmet. Just saying, kids are weird.

We came home and played games and eventually Jen came back for Emery. And then we just lazed around the house and enjoyed being together while playing. I got Pam started on Wordscapes and she got me started on a Picross game she likes. So we are sharing nicely.

For a day in which we did next to nothing, we both ended up really tired and went to bed early. Still, I love being here and playing with my big sister. I’ve always liked that but she still doesn’t really let me boss her around. Just like when we were kids.

Rosary friends

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We began our day at preschool. I thought I was only going to have one job, so I studied for it the evening before. I was to sort the crayons so each container had all the colors and only one of each of the colors. I studied hard and thought it would work for me. Of course, there were issues, the main one being I was missing one of the containers. I eventually was able to complete my task.

I was introduced to the children and pointed out on a map how far away I lived. We told them I was here on a mission to prove Ms Pam did indeed have real friends and they weren’t all imaginary beings. I did the ET finger touch with each kid and wouldn’t you know, they were all solid and real and giggling.

The kids are three or four years old. This is not really my best time. I do better with older, more literate students. My next job was to help them complete their headwear for the parade they are having next week (which was postponed due to cold weather) for Presidents’ Day. Their pictures were already on a band of paper and we had to add four stars, two on each side of the picture.

My job was to handle the glue and make sure four stars, two each side, were added without them overlapping the pictures or being too close to the edge making gluing them into a circle an issue. I only knew Emery. So we started with her. I then sent her to fetch me the next kid and come back with said kid and then on to the next table where Pam was working with the kids to get the Pledge of Allegiance under control.

This was much harder than one might imagine. Most of the kids had no problem counting out the four stars or placing them in the right place. Fetching the next kid and coming back with said kid was just too much. I kept losing the damn kids. They disappeared on me and then I couldn’t send them and their completed headdress over to my sister. I tried every way I could think of to issue my directions but those kids acted just like three or four year olds and it was so much more difficult than with say, adults.

We did manage to get all the headdresses made, everyone got to practice the Pledge, and we should be ready for the parade if the weather will cooperate. I know that my years in adult education were the place for my happy butt to be. Little kids are amazing and they want to learn and interact and yet, they are like Brownian motion and wholly undirectable.

We came back home and had lunch and then Emery wanted to play puppets. She had a bag of hand puppets and we played. I have no idea, even now, what the rules were. I did it wrong many times but would occasionally redeem myself and get something right.

I found an ABC app and downloaded that thing and Emery is amazingly good at the match game. I don’t know how little minds do that, but she managed with a screen of up to 12 cards to flip. Once we got her busy with that, we started to nail polish string.

Pam makes rosaries with a group of people each Wednesday. This was in preparation for that event. My job was to cut the wax coated string into a certain length and then Pam dipped the ends in nail polish making them into a sort of shoelace which would make threading the beads easier. Being lazy, I found the best way to manage the strings. Pam was working on looping the painted strings to dry. This was the trickiest part but we managed and made close to 70 strings for future rosaries.

Later, we needed to put a knot towards one end and them loop them into manageable shape for storing and transport. This also took longer than one might imagine mostly because there were about 70 of them. On the plus side, Pam’s ready for Wednesdays for months to come.

All in all, it was a very productive day.

Dinner at Chez Pam

Another day in warm, sunny Arizona. Today it was chilly, windy, and cloudy, but still. First thing we did was put a beef roast in the Crockpot to cook all day while we went out into the world. I have determined that no two cooks make a roast the same way. And yet, they all turn out delicious. This is the miracle of creativity in the kitchen. I don’t think cooks give themselves enough credit for all the different ways they express themselves in the heart of the home. They should.

We walked a great distance of about 300 meters or less than a quarter of a mile, to get to the next fun thing we did. We went to Pam’s newest party thing. She and three other women began playing Euchre a few weeks ago. One of the women couldn’t play yesterday and I was here to fill in. Three of us were more serious card players and then there was Carol. Carol, Pam’s partner, was always able to trump my ace and turned up a jack each time she dealt.

Pam and Carol won two games and they play two out of three. But we had lots of time and so we kept playing. Finally, Cindy and I were able to win a game and then we still had time and could play a fourth one. We won again. We decided we could all still be friends, since we tied the score. But next week, I’m scanning Carol before the first deal.

We got back to Pam’s, walking the same less than a quarter mile back to the house. We weren’t hungry yet and we wanted to go to the outlet mall out there in the middle of nowhere after the 202 runs out of newly built roads for a piece. In the middle of the desert, land is cheap and so that’s where you plop a shopping center.

By the time we got there, we were hungry and went to a local iteration of Auntie Annie’s for some cinnamon sugar pretzel bites. They were having some problems because their register was not working properly. I have no idea what this had to do with the actual preparation of the pretzels, but it did.

We got a bag (they don’t use Annie’s cup) of cinnamon sugar bites, but they did have other flavors. They had little pizza ones with cheese and slice of pepperoni on each one. How cute. But, you know, sugar. So we each ate one and I was on my second one when Pam grabbed her second one and took a bite of a pizza rolled in sugar pretzel. Amazingly, this was not delicious. I grabbed my next bite and it, too, had cheese stuff with the sugar.

We went back and got a replacement and these were mostly okay, except for the big piece of pepperoni there in with the sugared up bites. As disasters go, this was a very small one. But as a point of interest, never get cinnamon sugar on your pizza.

We shopped and I’m trying to be mindful of how much luggage space remains for my flight home. But still, I was able to find a couple Izod elastic waist golf skirts which I wear to the gym on the lowest price rack in the store. How lucky is that? Pam found a new top to wear with a skirt she bought for Jen’s wedding which she wears for Easter. So we were both successful.

As I mentioned above, it was windy. We are in the desert. There is a lot of sand and grit and detritus in the desert and it was blowing everywhere. Even while wearing her dustglasses (which look very similar to sunglasses but are worn on a cloudy, dusty day) Pam got grit in her eyes. While grit or determination is a good thing usually, grit in your eyes is never desired. She got things good enough to drive home, but then took her contacts out for the rest of the day.

We ate the roast and it was delicious. This is a standalone statement, but in comparison to pizza cinnamon rolls, even more so.

Jen invited us to dinner since Ronnie was grilling spareribs, but she didn’t do it until after the roast was already cooking. So we went over to Jen’s house for dessert instead. We picked up Ryan who was playing at a friend’s house on our way over. We couldn’t find him, but he found us and so we managed to complete the task with no finesse but much aplomb.

Jen had some other guests there when we arrived. A mother and her daughters and her daughter’s friend, and her own mother were also there. As was Mark. So there were over a dozen people with Mark, Ronnie, and Ryan greatly outnumbered by the swirling estrogen in the room. They held their own against the onslaught.

We played there for a while and came home. This is the point where the contacts/dust thing mattered. I have no idea where I am when I am here. Pam drives a huge Caravan and it was dark. She kept saying how she didn’t like to drive with her glasses in the dark. I could see as good as ever, but I had no idea where I was. I was not offering to drive the bus, in the dark, on strange roads. While she might not have liked it, she got us home safely.

We played and breathed the same air. It was a wonderful day and we fought to make it last as long as we could.

Figuring out what was making me sick was more than half the battle. Opening windows and doors and getting fresher air made all the difference. I’ve been much better and able to have more fun.

We went to the flea market thing early yesterday morning and while there were still many more cars there than in the summer, there weren’t as many as the afternoon before. I knew this was the place to be to buy a Mexican blanket I wanted for my yoga practice. I found it! I also found some decadent dessert thing which called to me. And a couple of the small purses I prefer.

Pam found Pink Zebra. This company makes little teeny tiny beads of candle stuff to use in a melting pot as well as myriad other ways. They are made with a soy base and are marvelously scented. These little beads are sold in 3.75 ounce bottles of stuff and you can layer various scents in bottles. They have 55 scents. Pam was going to select nine and put three per bottle. She found eight she really wanted and would mix well together. She bought three bottles with these scents layered into them. This took well over an hour to accomplish. Everything smelled so good and it was hard to make the perfect choices.

We got home with our purchases and made a salad and then, in the spirit of balanced food choices, ate the decadent dessert.

It was recommended the beads be stored in glass bottles to keep them from leeching their scent into the air. Pam had enough little jars to separate out the different scents each into its own jar. This seemed immensely possible and not at all difficult – right up until we started the process. Those damn little beads mixed themselves up in the bottle and had to be picked over tying to get them each into their own new little home. This, too, took over an hour – maybe. But we were laughing and talking anyway and got it done.

Next up was the steak fry. Monte Vista holds one a month during the season when all the imaginary people are here. We went up and sat with some of Pam’s friends, who appeared very solid and were delightful company. The guys on the grills were making our steaks to perfection. The evening was wonderful and ended with each of us with a personal dark chocolate bundt cake oozing with deliciousness. We couldn’t eat that and we didn’t finish our steaks. So we brought more than half the meat home along with the desserts.

The people I met were emphatically told that I was the middle sister and we had an adored and younger sister still out in the world. She works, we told them, and couldn’t play with us right now, but she was with us in spirit if not in gnome.

We then went about the business of talking and laughing and having sister fun. We breathed the same air for a while and then we remembered that dessert in the kitchen and decided, with great deliberation lasting more than six nanoseconds, that we should eat that. So we did. It was delicious.

We ended the day on a happy note and had as much fun as we could along the way.

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Dick has been going on golf trips for most of our married life. He has always said could take any trips I wanted and yet there were never any trips I wanted to take. I don’t golf. Trips we take, we take together. That was until I started taking Sistercations. Now each year, I too get to take a trip.

This year, Sistercation will be at my house and so I wasn’t planning on any extra trips. He planned a couple golf trips, as usual. So, as he was planning his trip, it struck me that I , too, had a place to go. I invited myself to Pam’s house. We decided when would be the best time to visit and I made arrangements. And that is how I ended up here in Arizona at this time.

Gned and I arrived either late Friday afternoon or else we arrived in the early evening. Pam was at the airport to pick me up after a long day of tedious travel. Nothing untoward happened on the trip so I only had about a dozen stories to tell about it.

We stopped to get something to eat because I was starving and because that gave rush hour (the slowest two to three hours of traffic per afternoon – so just horribly named) traffic to be gone. We ate way too much delicious food and then got back to Pam’s house.

I unpacked the way too many clothes I brought and then we got down to the business of laughing and talking and story telling and then laughing some more and talking some more and mostly breathing the same air. It was wonderful. I found a new feature on my phone. It helpfully tells me the time here AND at home. I was really tired and looked to see if it was normal or not. Well, it was either 11.11 or 1.11 on the time. I’ve never seen so many ones in a row. I had to go to bed and miss my sister some more.

I woke up not feeling my best and got out of bed to see what time it was. I nearly fell over. The room was spinning, I was spinning, I was trying not to vomit, I saw it was 4.15 and 6.15 back home and decided I should go back to bed to die anyway. I got some more sleep and woke at a more reasonable hour.

I got out of bed again to test the waters and still felt like crap. I wobbled and weaved and my stomach was churning. I felt mostly like a lack of caffeine, but I couldn’t get other scenarios out of my head. Mostly, I was thinking of Rose. I couldn’t do that to Pam again. Then I remembered how sick Cheri was over Christmas and wondered about the myriad possibly flu infected people I had come into contact with in planes. And I felt horrible.

I made it to the kitchen and was a bit less wobbly, so I made some coffee. Pam and I had gone over coffee stuff the night before, so all was ready. Except, there was no milk. At all. I opted to drink it black because I didn’t want brain cancer or the flu, just caffeine withdrawal. I had gotten about half of it gone before Pam got up and I asked about milk. She went to the store for me as I hoped to recover.

I felt a bit better after getting a cup of coffee, but I didn’t feel up to going to a pancake breakfast. In fact, I wasn’t sure I could walk to the ball room, where the event was held. We missed the first event we were supposed to attend together.
I had another cup of coffee and ate half a bagel and started to feel better. We decided to go to church and out here, Sunday Mass is held all day on Saturday and Sunday, so we picked the 11.30 Mass and off we went. Upon leaving the house, I met Pam’s neighbors across the street. They spoke to us. They seemed quite substantial. I mentioned that Cheri and I thought Pam’s had been imagining friends because no one is here in the summer. They let me touch their hands and I swear, they were real!

We arrived at church later than we should have and ended up in the front pew. I remembered enough of the ritual to participate in most cases, but in a few places, they changed the words on me. I also didn’t know the musical version of the Mass we were using. But I participated to the best of my ability.

We made one more stop on the way home and decided the flea market thing was too overcrowded and we would go today. We came home and I was feeling much better. We went into the house and within a minute or two (after hitting the bathroom) I was sick again.

Pam’s new flooring is gorgeous, but I think there is some lingering something from the whole house remodel that is making me sick. I don’t know what it is, but when first coming into the house, I smell something like epoxy. I asked Pam to open some windows for me since it is beautiful here. She did and I think that problem is now solved. The bathroom is windowless and I’m still not well in that room, but whatever it is I’m sensitive to, seems to dissipate with fresh air.

We decided to go to the quilt show held up at the community center and were both completely amazed at both the beauty and the sheer number of quilts on display. Pam vowed to finish her quilt and be part of the thing by next year. There had to be at least a hundred quilts there. Some were just nice and others were stunning and beautiful and jaw dropping.

There were also people there. Many, many people. Maybe Pam’s friends aren’t all imaginary.

We came home and ate and then we walked to the grocery store to pick up some other things for later. It’s less than a thousand steps from Pam’s house to the store now that the construction stuff is out of the way. After putting away the groceries, we went for a walk. I had to slow Pam down because my knee is still not healed. But we got in more than the wanted 5 miles of walking.

We came back home and turned into sisters. All the laughing and all the talking and all the breathing the same air started up again. For a quiet day, we sure made a lot of noise.

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I am completely mystified by my own self talk. I have no idea why my best effort isn’t good enough. I’m certain it isn’t. This is leaching the joy out of my life in many different respects and I’m unable to make the voices in my head shut the hell up.

Yesterday I got a one rep max, a new PR (Personal Record) on a snatch. It is the most complicated Olympic lift and the results are such that it is the lowest weight lift we do, as well. Those are connected.

I’m not very stable and so I am forced to stop at a power snatch and my weights are far lower if I must do a squat snatch. I know this. I worked on a power snatch. And I got a new PR. This is awesome and I should be very proud of myself. I am. Sorta. A little. Not really so much. And that embarrasses me as much as anything else.

My weights are low. They are always low. I’m just not very powerful. I have the basics, the mechanics, the idea of all the stuff. But I don’t have much in the way of execution. I can pinpoint all the various cues from the way to grip the bar, the way to flow through the various checkpoints on the way to completion, and my form is solid. I could learn that. I could master that part.

What I can’t master is the power. I eat relatively clean, but I don’t spend all day every day, worrying about my protein numbers and cutting back my carbs and basically eating chicken and broccoli all the time. I don’t have a lot of fun things in my life anymore and yet I can still taste the delectable smoothness of good chocolate. So I do.

Today we worked on a one rep max on a jerk. Since my knee is still wonky, I didn’t do a split jerk but then again, I’m not a big fan of split jerks anyway. It was my third day in a row at the gym. I can list a bunch of reasons why, but I did not get a new PR today. I tried it twice and couldn’t get the bar overhead.

And I feel bad. I feel really bad when I see what other people can do. Comparison is the thief of joy. And you might think that instead of comparing myself to younger, fitter athletes, I would choose to compare myself to my friends/peers. The women I hang out with might be able to get seventy pounds off the ground. Maybe. But throwing it up overhead would be impossible. For many people, throwing seventy pounds overhead is impossible.

I did that. I just couldn’t get the seventy-five. I should be proud of what I’ve done. When I began, I certainly couldn’t do that. And there I was today, no big problem there. It wasn’t beautiful. It was a struggle. But it wasn’t pitiful, either.

I should be happy with how far I’ve come. I never am. I’ve been at this for such a long time. I had visions of a better performance, even from the start. I had illusions of adequacy at some point. Instead, I see small numbers everywhere (except my heart rate which is always higher than I hope for).

I don’t know why I can’t be happy. A PR and everything. And I’m still not happy with myself. I know how low the numbers are and I wanted more for myself. I can’t think myself into this. The bar never lies and my bar tells me that even after all this time, it ain’t much.

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According to Dove, Inc. everyone is beautiful. According to an Einstein quote, everyone is a genius. According to life experience, both these statements are incorrect.

They are held out as some sort of mantra to help us talk ourselves into competency. Being competent takes a bit more. It takes mastery and that usually means overcoming some struggle or other to get to the point of being able to actually do the many things each and every one of us cannot yet do.

We can look around and see we actually pay people just to be beautiful. We call them models. I’m not sure what Einstein’s point was, but as a mathematician, he had to know that if everyone was superlative, then superlative would be average and the whole thing is just not quite correct.

So, we don’t live up to the memes. What next? What do we do in the moments after we fail? We all fail. We are all not beautiful at some point (even the beautiful people need to be Photoshopped now) and we certainly can attest to our own passing stupidity. So, we fail. Even if risks are minimized or avoided at all costs, that too is a failure to live up to potential. But certainly when we risk, we fail. No one is an expert right out of the box.

So there we are. One big messed up failure of disappointment and misery. It didn’t work. We wanted it to work, we tried to make it work, it didn’t. We failed. Now what?

It is the “now what” part where things really change. If you fail and quit or fail and pout or fail and bury the failure, all you did was fail. Full stop. Nothing changes. You didn’t manage to be or do or have anything. You just failed. But if you fail and then, by sheer dint of will, pick your sorry ass up and make a new plan of attack, you didn’t actually fail. You learned. You learned one way it didn’t work. And now you have a chance to try a new, improved, different approach.

We all fail at many things over our lifetimes. What you want to be is that baby who teaches himself or herself to walk. The kid sees others moving around upright while the kid moves on all fours, crawling around and risking being stepped on. It’s not a pleasant form of locomotion. So the baby wants to walk. He or she pulls up on the furniture and sways in the wind. The kid scuttles around the perimeter getting better and braver.

The next step is frightening as hell. Let go. That’s all. You have to let go. And the kid does and the kid plops down on his or her diapered butt with a thump. Didn’t walk. Not even one step. Have you ever seen a baby stop trying? These little failures just persist. They fall, over and over and over. They are praised when they pick one foot up and attempt to step away from safety. They fall.

Since we are walking around here, we must have learned to walk at some point. This is the way to approach each new task. You will fail. You will have to try and then try again. And again. Ad nauseum. Until, finally, you master the thing.

The only real failure is quitting.

PS, there is a difference between stopping and quitting. Stopping is knowing you have changed your goals and no longer wish to have that thing in your life. Quitting is wishing you could have the thing but not wanting to put in the effort to get it. Don’t quit. Just fail forward.

Life is hard. Despite this, it remains quite popular.

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