June 2019


And today – there was spectacle.

We began the day normally enough. Coffee and crochet. Stories and laughter. Summerville hosts a farmers’ market every Saturday from March through October. It has grown over the years and it pretty impressive for a small community. There are far more things than just some fresh veggies. So off we went to the market.

We found many other delicious things, not just produce. There were baked goods galore as well as jams and jellies and local honey. There were craft items of many varieties. We purchased a variety of things as we wandered around. I found some herbed cashews. Pam found bread.

We had found a delicious baked goods item at the very beginning. We were all amazed by the beautiful tomato pies. The pie was topped with a variety of colored tomatoes in thin slices halved and arranged geometrically over a bed of cheeses. We were intrigued. None of us had ever had a tomato pie. We walked on and yet …

Cheri was so interested in the pie that she went back to the stall to see if she could buy one and have it held there while we went on to the other downtown treat. It was possible to prepay, but the pies were already all sold. However, the owner was making more pies and Cheri could have one of those.

We went over to the quilting store. The store itself is amazing with room after room of beautiful materials as well as walls just packed full of quilts and quilted items like pillows and decorative things. I knew my sisters would love the store. But wait, there’s more.

The store started out as a hardware store and 100 years ago that store purchased one of the fanciest, high-faluting cash registers the world had ever seen. It was an entire chest with access for five different employees (each with their own cash drawer) and could also do credit and other payment options. It also printed out two receipts – one for the customer and one for the accountant. That piece of furniture/technology is impressive.

We know it is 100 years old because they had a birthday party for the event. There were were also other antiques sitting around. An old sewing machine was there and an old thread storage cabinet was here. The place is just a wonderful little gem nestled in historic downtown Summerville.

We went back to the market and picked up the pie, scurried home quickly, and baked the dang thing. It was delicious. Absolutely delicious. We may need to return to the farmers’ market just for a second pie.

We spent the afternoon piddling around, waiting for it to be time to go to church. I do not personally attend church. However, both Pam and Cheri go to church religiously (ha ha ha, I crack myself up). So, we found a Catholic church for Pam and since Cheri is simply Christian it would do for her, too. I am just a scientist and have no dog in this fight.

The closest Catholic church to me is Saint Thomas. Pam was not a fan of this particular church and so we opted for Saint John the Beloved in downtown Summerville. Back we went. The sky was full of roiling black clouds at Wescott and as we headed west, looked a bit better and then more and more angry clouds bubbled up in the sky. My plan had been to sit in the park and wait. This was looking like a poor choice. Cheri wanted to know how I knew this. I didn’t know, per se, it just looked like the weather was worsening.

We all three entered the church, but I stayed in the vestibule where there was some folding chairs and television with the Mass broadcasted. I could just play some games on my tablet and wait patiently. The Mass began, the readings were done, and the priest was beginning his homily.

But those clouds kept rolling in and suddenly there was a crashing lightning and thunder show with lights flickering. The water slashed against the large windows. Father carried on with his sermon as the lights flickered, and his microphone cut in and out. The TV stopped working as the snap, crackle, pop of electricity and water met. Then Father said, “Is it raining in here, too, or is just me?”

The ushers were scurrying about, looking for something to catch the indoor rain as the lights went on and off and the eerie glow of storm light lit the church. Some emergency power stayed on, some flickered, some just gave up the ghost. It poured buckets and I sincerely hoped that all the faithful would have enough prayer juju to get the rain to abate before it was time to head to the car.

I learned after the event that during the worst of the storm as the rain entered through leaks in the skylights, Cheri turned to Pam and whispered, “I blame Patti.” I would like to point out that this was not my fault as I did not actually enter the church, just the vestibule. Although I must admit, the thought passed through my head as well.

Communion was distributed and the final song began and then … the juju worked and the rain tapered off to a mere sprinkle. We could return to the car without getting completely drenched.

We got back home and ate the other half of the tomato pie. It might have been even more delicious the second time. In our defense, we only did this so it wouldn’t mold or anything bad. That’s our story and we are sticking to it.

We spent the rest of the evening as the day began. Love and laughter.

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Tomato pie and stuff. 

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Another exciting day of nothing. Well, lots of laughter and whatnot, but nothing substantial.

We each toddled out to the living room eventually and sat there with our technology and/or crochet work and talked and laughed. And talked some more. We eventually talked ourselves into a plan.

While at A.C. Moore’s the day before, we saw a box to drop off any hand knitted or crocheted items. So, I went upstairs and went through all my baby hats to see which of them were truly baby and which were possibly toddler. I used the same pattern for all of them, but the size of the yarn really matters. So if it wasn’t thin yarn, the hats were much larger. I kept all the littlest ones in a pile and then filled two kitchen trash bags with the remaining hats.

I carried them downstairs and Dick even offered to put them in the trunk for me, but I figured there were all of us and we could manage that. He went on his way to go upstate to visit some friends for a little overnight trip. That left the three of us here alone to our own devices.

The plan was to go back to A.C. Moore’s, ostensibly to take the hats. Really, I wanted/needed more yarn. As I began working with the first blanket, I realized I was going to need another skein of each variegated color. I had carefully made a list of each color’s name and the dye lot number so I could pick up another one.

We also needed to find a place to have lunch and then go to Walmart and then on to the grocery store after a quick stop at Marshall’s. The plan was set and off we went.

We were about two-thirds of the way to A.C. Moore’s when Pam calmly asked if we had actually put the hats in the trunk. Nope. So I pulled into the exit of some church and turned around and went back home to get the damn hats. We then began our trip again. We eventually made it to A.C. Moore’s and they gratefully took about 275 of the hats off my hands.

I was able to find matching skeins of yarn to complete all my stuff here at home and then, just because it was taunting me, I bought a bunch more. I have a nice stash of yarn again. I was close to complete deletion and that could have been disastrous.

We looked up all the multitudes of restaurants on Rivers Ave. and found one we could all like. It was less than a mile from where we were and we navigated there without problem. We got settled at our table and ordered and then … I had tried to get all my stuff together before we left the house the first time. Obviously, that was not successful. I had gone back to grab Gned twice.

My only excuse is senility. In my defense, I did have both the yarn colors/numbers and the grocery list with me even on the first try.

We did not get a group picture of the boys because I did not have Gned. Even with this major disappointment, lunch was fabulous.

Next stop was Walmart where Pam could get her contact solution stuff and I could get my gift card I was looking for and Cheri could get a pitcher to stand up her skeins of yarn so they didn’t mush together and get all tangled. Pam and Cheri were successful, but I was not. We still had options to go, so there was no panic.

We made our way to the grocery store and I got my grocery list out and just about cried. There, with my grocery list, was Gned. We could have had a picture. I’m not quite as senile as I thought, or else, it is even worse since I didn’t know I had the little guy with me all the time.

We got all our groceries and you may have noticed I missed the stop in between at Marshall’s. That is because we missed the stop in between because apparently, I have lost my damn mind. But we had refrigerator items from the grocery store and it was hovering in the 90s, so leaving that in the car wouldn’t be a grand idea.

We came home and gathered around again. We went back to technology, crochet, and laughter. Pam needed only a few hundred more steps to meet her Fitbit goal so she and Cheri went for a little walk and I went to do some yoga. We then spent the rest of the evening and even into the wee morning hours like that. I love Sistercation.

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Some hats. Well, lots of hats. 

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Same pattern; different yarn.

We did nothing. All day. First we did nothing in the living room and then we did nothing in the kitchen. Dick went off to the gym. Pam went out for her walk. Cheri went upstairs to watch me do yoga. I will let you infer that I did yoga.

We piddled around all morning laughing and breathing the same air. We each got our various crochet projects out and could laugh and crochet at the same time because we are just that good.

Pam finished the baby blanket she was making and wanted to put a little heart in the corner. Cheri had a pattern saved on Pinterest for the little heart but Pam did not want the pattern, she just wanted to learn to make the hearts. This was going to involve You Tube. First one needs to make a magic circle. Cheri and I both make magic circles. Each of the 300 baby hats I have made start with one. Pam needed to learn this skill.

Evidently, Pam is not a visual learner. She tried a couple different videos. I tried to show her myself. No matter what we tried, she was unsuccessful at this endeavor. The pattern Cheri was advocating for began with a stitch Pam could not seem to immediately master. So instead of continual frustration, she went back to You Tube to find the instructions for a different heart.

The 18 minute video was from a British woman. This is not normally an issue, but it is for crochet, or at the Brits say, CROchet. The fact that a double crochet turns into a triple crochet is confusing enough. But the lovely woman from Britain also included every time one should place the yarn over the hook. Every “yarn over” just make it more and more confusing. Pam persisted, punishing herself perpetually pummeled.

The heart did not turn out well.

She ripped it out and lo and behold, that magic circle in the very beginning was still an issue. When you tear out a real magic circle, done correctly, it leaves a knot in the yarn. Pam had no knot.

Back at You Tube, she found another video, this time under ten minutes. It did not start with a magic circle. The woman presenting the video was American so a double crochet was a double crochet, making it easier to follow. She did not mention every time the yarn moved. Pam’s heart turned out.

This was far more amusing to the younger sisters than it was for the oldest of us. We did sympathize (while giggling).

We went out to the craft store after lunch. I actually needed yarn. Neither of my sisters did, but because they love me, they were willing to make this little run to A.C. Moore’s and let me stock up. I purchased some yarn to make more blankets and I found some yarn to make more baby hats. My sisters might have found a little more yarn as well. Maybe.

We came home and found our yarn calling us. So we spent the better part of the rest of the day just talking and laughing and crocheting and ripping out the mistakes because we weren’t really paying attention with all the laughing and talking.

So, as I said, we did nothing all day. And it was lovely.

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Isn’t that a cute little heart?

The day started out as most with some yoga and some CrossFit. But we knew there would be more to come later.

Pam had arrived in Cincinnati on Monday afternoon. I knew this because Cheri had to call me to find out flight information while on the way to the airport, having conveniently left the paper with that information at home. They left for South Carolina on Tuesday, stopping in North Carolina overnight and then arrived here, early in the afternoon.

They had a few adventures on the way, some planned adventures and some that were far more happenstance. But they arrived here safely for the official start to Sistercation.

We got the car unpacked and then perched ourselves and told stories and laughed and had a leisurely afternoon. Pam told the stories of her injured knee. Over and over. Not the stories, the different ways in which she has injured her knee this year. Pam also woke up on Sunday with sty in her left eye. I told the story of my boo boo arm. Cheri currently has all body parts in working order, but then, she is the baby. Just wait until she is our age.

I had dinner cooking in the Crockpot so we could eat when everyone was ready, willing, and able. After enough stories, we deemed it was time for dinner.

On Wednesdays, we play trivia as part of The Damn Yankees team. Dick was going to play no matter what, but I didn’t know if my sisters were interested. They were.

However, after three days of constant travel and three days of wearing glasses (which aren’t ideal) instead of her contacts, Pam was tired and just wanted to sit. If we would go without her, she would love that. If she absolutely had to go in order for us to also go, she would suffer for us. The idea is, in my opinion, to avoid suffering (unless you are at the gym) so we left her at home and toddled off to play for a couple hours.

Cheri insisted she wasn’t going to know anything, but she did. She knew about food (which she had surmised would be the case) and she knew about dogs because – Cheri. She knew about Popes because, well, why not. She knew far more things than she thought she would. She (and I) knew nothing about sports, which was also as surmised. We were also pretty spot on about our unknowlege base for music and movies.

Janet and Donna have birthdays, one day after the next. Donna had ordered two homemade cheesecakes from Amanda, our usual waitress every Wednesday. Amanda is apparently famous for these. Donna’s was raspberry flavored and Janet’s was peanut butter. I had a very small piece of each flavor and they were both delicious. This explains Amanda’s fame.

We got the final answer wrong and moved from second into third place, but still got some money for the evening’s work. There were ten teams last night so we didn’t do too bad.

Pam had looked rather beat in the nose when we left and so we figured she would have fallen asleep before we got back home. But no. she was sitting there, crocheting. We spent a couple more hours talking and laughing about nothing of import and yet, the most important things in the world.

Sistercation isn’t about the wild adventures. It is about making the adventures wild or at least, breathing the same air while sharing the same mundane moments that magically become adventurous.

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We were waiting patiently and then got so excited we forgot to get a picture of everybody. 

What do I want from the gym? I struggle with this. In the best of all worlds, I would love to RX every single workout and be powerful and strong and have muscles and be fit and athletic. I do not live in the best of all worlds. I live in a pretty great world, but it isn’t the best.

I rarely ever RX anything. I’m not supposed to, really. If they wrote workouts I could do as written, all the other people would scurry away and find some place that actually challenges them. I am strong and I do have muscles. But I am not 25 or 45 or even 65. I’m older than dirt and still manage to get to the gym. Pretty impressive.

I also know my limitations. I know what hurts me and what stops me. I have tried to push the envelope for nearly seven years now and in doing so have increased my capabilities much more than one might imagine – if that one wasn’t me and thought that with a couple years of practice, I could do all the things. That was either hubris or stupidity or both, but that’s the saving grace of naivete.

Doing a half Murph means doing 150 air squats. I did that for Memorial Day and then it took until Friday for me to be able to walk again. I know that is the end result of Murph, and I’m okay with that once a year. Monday’s workout had 60 weighted back squats for the skill and then 150 air squats for the conditioning.

In theory, I could have RXd the WOD. It was a row, air squats, and sit ups. I can do all those things. What I can’t do is that volume and then go on with the rest of the week. There were 210 squats on the board with over a quarter of them weighted (albeit relatively light weights). I should have been able to do that. I could do that. I could have done the entire thing.

And then I would have had to stay home for the rest of the week. I could RX one workout and sacrifice a few more visits to the gym. This is what is known as stupid or ego or just plain wrong.

I chose different. I did 41 weighted squats and 75 air squats. That is still 116 squats and my legs have let me know they worked really hard. There is some indication that my legs have gotten a workout, but I am not crippled. But I was appalled. Aghast. Defeated. Demoralized.

Almost seven years and I still can’t do the things. I’m still too afraid to risk it all. Although it wasn’t a risk. I just did Murph and know I couldn’t walk again until Friday and even then it was ouchy. Adding the 60 weighted squats was going to destroy me. Not adding them destroyed me. Why can’t I be like the other gym rats? (It probably is because I’m not like the other gym rats.)

I wouldn’t even put a score on the board. I was just too ashamed of my pitiful performance. I can’t do the things and survive.

But … why do I care? I did some of the things and made it back to the gym on the following day. I can still walk today and will be able to continue to do so in the days to come. I wasn’t there hauling all the other senior citizens off the rowers to get my chance to row to England. I did the row. I did half the squat. I did the sit-ups. I did the things.

I still felt defeated. I questioned why I keep going. What was I doing?

Well, I like the things I can do. There was a time when I wouldn’t have thought that a 70# back squat was light. It was more then three times what I could manage and my squat wasn’t really low enough to count back then. There was a time when I couldn’t do any of the things I just blithely do day after day now. There was a time when I would have seen me today and been so proud of all I’ve managed to do.

I dragged myself out of bed on Tuesday. I did my morning yoga, working on stretching out my quads. I cried as I got ready to go to the gym.

On the menu was handstand push-ups. I can’t do those because the first step is a handstand. They terrify me. Absolutely terrify me. What if my spaghetti arms collapse and I fall and break my neck and become a quadriplegic for the rest of my life? See? Terrify!

We were asked to list some goals for the year back in January. One of my goals was to do a handstand. Since I was having a sucky week anyway, why not see what else I couldn’t do. Shit. I can’t do anything. (Inside my head is a horrible place to be.)

I told Laura this was a goal. She and Liz helped me kick up to the wall. I held the handstand for 20-30 seconds. I came down, curled into a ball on the floor and just shook like a leaf. Then I did it again.

Then I went on to my scaled version of HSPU, and I did the conditioning portion scaled, too.

I don’t think I have ever done a handstand before in my entire life. There was really no reason to do it as a kid and even less of a reason to do it as an adult. But as a senior citizen, it became possible. That, exactly that, is why I keep going to the gym.

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Dear Internet,

You aren’t nearly as helpful as you think you are. In fact, you are and continue to be a royal pain in the ass. What do I mean? I am talking about your “machine learning” and incessant algorithms telling me how I want to live my life.

I see something on Facebook and am a bit curious. I look at the damn ad and decide it is not for me. But because I looked at the damn ad, you show it to me again and again and again and again and again and again. Ad infinitum.

I want something from Amazon. I do a search, find the thing and buy it. I recently bought a few things that are more or less one at a time. I mean, how many new tablets or dressers can one person use? And yet, since I looked at this or that version of the item and then purchased something else, you keep showing me the same thing again and again and again and again and again. Ad infinitum.

But more to point, I can’t find anything to watch on Netflix. You see, Netflix has an algorithm. If you watch this, you will like that. If you watch that, you will like this. And if you watch both this and that, then your tunnel vision options to what Netflix has as available becomes so inbred, there is nothing to watch on Netflix.

If my smart TV was a bit smarter, this might not be so annoying. But my not quite smart enough TV doesn’t link with my Bluetooth keyboard. So to search anything, I have to use my remote and over, over, over, down, down, over, click for a letter. Then go on to the next letter with back, up, up, back, click and have a second letter. And then go on to the next letter. Really?

Looking at categories shows me all the pre-selected things you think I might want to watch because I watched this and that before. However, you don’t seem to remember that I actually watched this and that before, so you keep showing me the same things I have already watched because, according to logic, this is something I might like. According to humans, what the hell are you doing? I already watched that.

Put that shit in a separate list and if I want to rewatch something, I can find it there. Or if I want to share it with someone and can’t remember the damn name, it will be in that list. However, giving me an option of twelve different series, eight of which I’ve already watched is great algorithm shit, but hopeless when trying to find something new to watch.

The scientific community is racing to build an AI and they are using machine learning to help. This works great if you are a machine. But when AI becomes a reality, we are not going to like it. What is logical isn’t what is human. We are illogical. We like novelty. We are bored with routine. Algorithms are nothing but routines. They may be complex routines. But they are still based on what went before with no knowledge of exploration and finding and creating and new.

Because of our programmers love of the algorithm, we are left viewing ads for the things we’ve already bought and watching the shows we have already seen.

I can’t wait to see what my machine overlords have in store because the machine underclass is under performing and irritating as hell.

Sincerely,
Me

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When I first started doing CrossFit, I was such an outlier, no one actually knew what to do with me. I was unlike anyone else at the gym. I was very old and out of shape and just pitiful. While we all knew I could scale the stuff, it wasn’t the same varied scaling options available to me now, nearly seven years later.

I now know that I can do fewer reps of less intense moves with lower weights or whatever the hell I want. I try to remain coachable and ask for guidance before each workout. I do not do them as written because they aren’t written for the likes of me.

Today, we started with a five minute Tabata. This is an intermittent thing created by Mr. Tabata and usually lasts for four damn minutes. You work for twenty seconds, rest for ten, and repeat for eight rounds. But today, it was ten rounds because – I don’t know why, that’s just what we did. Sometimes it is the same thing for eight rounds and sometimes you switch between two things. Today, we had to do hollow body holds for twenty seconds, ten times or 200 seconds or over three minutes.

Usually, I know going in I have to scale. I can do a hollow body hold. So I did. By the third round, I was telling myself that if I was going to modify the workout, I should do it soon, but each time it was time to begin again, I did. I started making animal noises by then and still made it each and every time.

When Laura asked who RXd the thing, my hand shot up so fast it nearly launched itself. It is the third time I’ve gotten to write RX on the board in all these years. It was hard. It was very hard. It was not, however, impossible. So, I did it. I did not let myself off the hook.

Then it was on to the conditioning portion of the day.

Today, we did four rounds of a 400 m run (¼ mile) and then 25 burpees. That’s a total of a mile and 100 burpees. First, I don’t run. I can run a little bit, but then my heart rate is so high, I can’t do anything else. So I sparingly run and this didn’t have any space for me to run, so I knew I would simply walk half the distance. That’s pretty much just what I do.

But I asked Laura what she wanted from me. She said, “Real burpees.” I often do a version where I walk myself into a plank and back up and then do a little hop. A real burpee is when you crouch/squat down, put your hands on the floor, jump your feet back, lay down completely on the ground with chest and thighs touching, push yourself back into a plank position, jump your feet back into a squat, stand up completely, and then give a little jump and clap your hands over your head.

As you might imagine, the latter version – the real burpee – is far more intense. They are a horrible exercise and use every part of your body in sequence. If I have to do them, I do fewer.

I often only do 80% of the reps the younger people do, giving myself a senior discount. I’m really too old for this nonsense. And 80% would have been possible for my walked in and out plank things, but all that extra nonsense was just too much. I said I would do half. She agreed.

For the first round, I walked my 200 meters, not too quickly and could manage all 13 burpees with just a pause at the top for a deep breath. Then I went out for another walk, but my heart rate was higher. I managed to do the next set in eight and then sat for about thirty seconds and then did five more. I went out for my walk, managed to do seven before sitting and then did five more. It was my last walk, and I made sure my heart rate was a little lower by walking a little slower. I came back in and did twelve in a row. So I walked a half mile and did 50 real burpees. My time was 14.57. I made it under 15 minutes.

Here’s the thing. Back when I first started, the day’s workout was 50 burpees for time. I did real burpees then because I didn’t know better and I did all 50 of them because, again, I didn’t know better. It took me forever. Well, it was somewhere around seventeen minutes. That was just for the burpees. That didn’t include a half mile walk.

I was really happy with myself today. And then I got home and started to try to suck the joy out of my morning. It was only half the workout. It would have taken me at least twice as long to do the other half (the longer I work, the harder it is for me to get my heart rate back down so I can work some more). And I really started to get mad at me and then, something hit me. I was ruining my day for no good reason.

I hadn’t been shoving my way through a crowd of geriatrics to get through the door. It was me and people young enough to be my children and even my grandchildren. And I was there, doing this stuff.

I decided to give myself a gold star for the day because frankly, I earned it.

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