Family stories


I was on vacation and the planning for my trip took some time. I had to find a flight that was within my budget heading to my preferred destination on a certain day. Then, in order to get home, I had to find another flight on a certain day.

It worked. I had flights arranged and managed to get to the airport with all my crap packed in a suitcase that didn’t weigh too much. Twice. The planning of the logistics for the trip was managed but it had almost nothing to do with my vacation. It was simply a means of getting back and forth from here to there so I could vacation.

First I spent time with my sisters. This has become a yearly event we have dubbed Sistercation. We get together from across the country and spend time in the same room together doing all sorts of nonsense. It isn’t necessary to have a full agenda for our time together. We are fluid in our ideas of what is a perfect time.

For instance, we were going to the teahouse for lunch. The hostess sister thought there were no local teahouses, but we found one. It was so local she had never noticed it as she drove past. But we found it on the internet and off we went on our “teahouse” day. They were closed for their vacation and wouldn’t be back for a couple weeks.

This left us adrift and hungry and yet, we managed to find an even better place for our lunch. It was marvelous and we had the perfect time. Our destination changed, but our time together remained and we managed to enjoy it.

Living in the moment means you don’t plan every possible move. You are not a chess game and no plan has ever survived engagement. As soon as you begin to implement your carefully laid plans, you are open to derailment. See Robert Burns or John Steinbeck.

Instead of focusing on what just went wrong (teahouse closed until after all the sisters were gone) we winged it. We just set out to find a different place to have lunch and found a quirky and delicious alternative. There was a bit of disappointment when we saw the sign, but it did not keep us from having a wonderful afternoon.

Some derailments are a lot larger than a teahouse closed for a couple weeks. Focusing on the problem and bemoaning one’s fate and the vagaries of life can consume you. But if you focus, instead, on a solution, you have a chance of making things even better. Nothing is going to improve by itself. You have to step up and make the changes you need.

If you focus solely on the bumps in the road, you will miss the beautiful wildflowers, sometimes called weeks, growing off to the side. Life is full of misfortunes, some small and some large. But between the setbacks are wonderful snippets of adventure and accomplishment. Looks for those along your way and you won’t be so disgruntled by the pitfalls.

The journey can be magical if you stop looking down. Glance up at the stars, eat lunch somewhere else. It matters, not to anyone else, but it does make your trip more fun.

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Friday morning was quiet, as far as I can remember. This is why I should write this up every day. I’m trying desperately to remember what we did, but all I can think of is that we laughed and talked. That’s really all I hope for on sistercation.

We knew there were things on the agenda for the day. First, we knew that Steve’s identical twin brother Mark was coming to visit. He was on his way to his yearly work with a church group where they head to New Orleans to help rebuild after Katrina. He is a photographer and takes pictures for those who lost all their pictures, along with everything else, in the hurricane.

We also had the DunKeySon cheerleading camp finale and demonstration in the evening. We needed to have lasagna baked and eaten for us, baked and waiting for the brothers, and us at the high school for the cheering, pretty much all at the same time. We needed to work backwards for that. What we decided was that we had a couple hours for shopping in the afternoon.

Being able to search the internet for everything under the sun, we looked for yarn stores in the area and found three likely candidates. We narrowed it down to one place that was close enough to fit our time window and Cheri got the map feature on her phone pulled up and the address entered. We got in the car and the bluetooth thing works for that, too, and so her car started talking to us.

We found the little, snooty, expensive yarn store that is only open for about four hours three times a week, some of the hours actually when we were hoping to shop, and found the place closed. We weren’t all that happy. But Cheri knew of a little strip mall thing up a block or two from where we were and we tried that.

We went to a book store and played there for a while and then we still had time to kill and so we went up to a little crafting store. Pam was NOT going to start a new craft. She was adamant. She was actually stridently adamant. But we were going to look.

A finished sample, Pam's proposed color scheme, Pam and the little craft shop montage

A finished sample, Pam’s proposed color scheme, Pam and the little craft shop montage

Pam found something absolutely stunning in there and we spoke with the owner. We are going to be there again at 9.30 AM on Monday so Pam can get the supplies for her new craft. She was so excited to find this treat, Cheri was crying in the store because Pam was so thrilled with this find. I love my sisters.

We got home, got the lasagna baked and eaten, and took off for the DunKeySon cheer demonstration. The high school cheerleaders had put on a weeklong class with a few girls taking all the students from each grade level. Unbeknownst to us, Emma was the best jumper in her grade. Not only that, but she is bumped up a grade for some reason and was working with girls a year older.

Bunch of cheering girls

Bunch of cheering girls

After the event, we took Marge, the other grandmother, and all four girls and their parents and Heather and her girls came and met us. We were at Orange Leaf, a frozen yogurt store. A few other cheer kids showed up in the matching outfits, too. We were the largest (and loudest) group there. What fun. The girls spent a lot of time playing with Pam’s long hair.

We got home to the twins and it is so strange to sit in the kitchen and listen to Steve talking to himself. If you listen really hard, Mark’s speech pattern is slightly different and you can tell one voice from the other, but it is very odd. We finally all went to bed and had to set alarms for the next day’s fun.

Because I’m always up with the chickens, I was up before the alarms. But not by a whole lot. We got ready and off we went to my every-three-years Weight Watchers meeting. We got to meet a couple new people and then Mary and Morgan showed up and we had the whole crew. Mary had reached her first goal weight. She looked marvelous. She had just come from the gym and was in workout clothes and was looking amazing! The two new people I met (and can’t remember their names) have been friends with Mary since they were in school together. And this isn’t odd for twenty year olds, but we are all mothers of older teens and young adults.

It was Morgan who asked what my gnome’s name was and got us all naming the guys. And it was Morgan who came up with the word sistercation. Love that kid – who is getting married next spring.

I had Gned perched atop a coffee carafe while Morgan was holding a menu behind – so I could get a picture of where we were. Laurie (I think) was going to be helpful and get the coffeepot out of my way so I could get a better picture of the menu. She grabbed the pot and moved it away and Gned fell to the table. Alas, all was not well. The tip of his shovel was over there and the rest of Gned was over here. But he is nothing if not brave and consented to finishing the photo op.

Wounded Gned and his repentant assailant

Wounded Gned and his repentant assailant

We had a wonderful breakfast and then it was time to get back to Cheri’s house. When she went back to college here in Cincinnati, she changed her name to her given name and all her friends here call her Cheryl. It is difficult for my brain to make the translation when all these people who also love my baby sister are calling her the “wrong” name. She has said she doesn’t mind us calling her the “baby” name she had, but she prefers the real deal. But my brain does have to translate it.

Steve had some epoxy and helped mend Gned, who was quite perky again once he was out of surgery.

Gned post-op

Gned post-op

We had a quiet afternoon. Pam wanted to go to Mass and so we had to be around here for that to happen. Cheri and I opted to be true to our heathen selves and not go to church. We would let Pam pray for us.

But in order to not be late for church, we decided instead to sit around and craft and laugh all afternoon, telling stories we might have missed while engaging in our hours long telephone calls interspersed throughout the year.

I brought yarn, knitting needles, and a pattern to start working on a scarf for my Morgan for a cold, Ohio Christmas. It is pretty yarn, variegated in pinks, whites, and grays. What I didn’t know was that it was also variegated in fluffiness or tightness of the way the strands were rolled together. I’m not a good enough knitter to deal with that and I learned within just a few rows that the pattern was not going to work with the yarn for a beginning knitter. So I went online and found a really cute pattern to crochet. I’m not “expert” at that, but good enough to deal with the yarn I had.

Cheri liked the Chinese wave pattern I had brought and started working with it to make a washcloth, something I’ve done with the pattern and with the cotton yarn. I knew that could be done easily. Pam had her beads and made several rosaries for the missions until she got tired of that and pulled out a counted cross-stitch project and worked on that.

It was time for Steve to take Mark to the meeting place where the bus would pick him up and take the entire crew to New Orleans. He came back and smirked, “One down, two to go.” Love my funny brother-in-law.

Then it was time for church. Pam didn’t want to drive Cheri’s brand new car (second tank of gas now included) and so Cheri would take her and pick her up. The church is close by.

While Pam was praying for us, I need to burn some energy or I would crawl out of my skin. A month at Planet Fitness costs $10, but a single visit to Planet Fitness costs $15. And it would still be Planet Fitness. Cheri has a Total Gym and we would work with that. Caveat was I got to do a warm-up for us before we started on the contraption.

Apparently, I was misinterpreting Cheri’s statements that she runs. I know she has said she ran a mile. I know she has done a couple 5k races. I know she calls her runs “jogs” just like I do. I figured that meant her jog was like mine. It is not. I nearly killed her with a slow 300 meter ish run. We ran down to the dog kennel driveway and back which according to my heart rate monitor was probably around 300 meters or a little less. I had a heart rate of 142 when we finished. My sister accused me of trying to kill her.

We came back in the house and she recovered and then we did some squats, good mornings, lunges in place, and some shoulder mobility stuff since she wanted to do upper body and abs on the Total Gym. We got warm and then we went to work on the contraption.

She did something for ten reps, and then I did. The machine was set at level 3 and it was really easy. So I said she could finished her other sets of ten and then I would move the thing to level 4 (a greater incline) and do mine. Well, I wasn’t allowed to have that! She would do the higher level, too, because … sisters. Or at least, us.

We did a bunch of other things with one of them really hard on the biceps and triceps (either the up or the down) and managed to not kill ourselves. We were on the last exercise before it would be time to get Pam picked up when Steve came to the door, laden with chocolate chip cookies and brownies, and asked if we would like a snack. Smart ass.

We finished our reps without the aid of chocolate and then went to get Pam. We got home, heated up leftover lasagna, got leftover salad perked up, and sliced the leftover bakery bread and had dinner. We had the exact same dinner which hadn’t bothered me the night before and I had heartburn all evening long and kept trying to soothe my stomach by eating. (Nothing, not cantaloupe, not pumpkin/sweet potato chocolate, not tortilla chips – nothing would help.)

Then Cheri wanted to try some other stuff on the Total Gym. We did something akin to GHD sit-ups, but without having to go back as far or upside down. It was way easier for me even though the incline was still set at level 4. Cheri had never done it at that level, but the whole sisters thing kicked in and so she did, amazing herself. Then we tried some freaky sort of pull-up movements and she could do them at a greater incline, too. After all these years, she is still trying to keep up with her big sister!

Neither sister had enough steps for the FitBits to be happy and so we went for walk through the neighborhood. Then we got home and laughed and talked and crafted and told stories until we were too tired to keep our eyes open. I love sistercation.

I got up at the same time as I need for hitting the box at 6 AM. But instead of hitting the box, I was getting to the airport. Because I’m terrified of missing a flight, I wanted to get there before I got stuck in the morning rush hour. So, even though I didn’t have a flight scheduled until 8.30 AM, I was up very early.

I was so stressed out with the whole flying thing, I woke up with a headache and not feeling all that good. I felt about the same way I did before leaving for Europe last year. I had no idea I was such a bad traveler.

I got to the airport and asked a nice airport cop if he was permitted to play and he looked at me as if I were speaking in tongues. So I explained I had a traveling gnome and was hoping I could get a picture of him with my gnome. He smiled and said he wasn’t permitted so Gned and I had to just let well enough alone.

At the check-in , I was told I should be at gate A-3 but the correct gate was A-1. I mentioned this to the man behind the desk, making sure I was actually in the right place. I heard them announce later that the flight to Atlanta was from gate A-3 and this might be a gate change. So we all boarded the same plane and arrived in Atlanta right on time.

I got there and looked at the board to find where my next flight was going to board and it wasn’t listed. The last time I was in Atlanta was to go to Europe and after having reservations for a year, we were flying standby. So not seeing my flight was a bit nerve-wracking. I found an airport employee who had an iPad that could look up all the flights in the airport and she could find the flight for me. I had landed at concourse F and had to get to concourse B. I took the train and arrived with plenty of time to spare.

The next leg of the flight was even more comfortable since there was no one in the middle seat. I arrived at Cincinnati and walked over to the baggage claim and there were Pam and Cheri along with Gnate and Gnute. My bag arrived while I was in the bathroom, so it was quicker than I expected.

We all piled into Cheri’s new car and headed for home. We had lunch and then we were off to Jungle Jim’s. Luckily enough, I was able to find many different chocolate bars. I found one that was milk chocolate with sweet potatoes and pumpkin. It was amazingly tasty. We shopped for about 2.5 hours before coming home to make taco salads.

Then it was time to go to Monica’s house where Heather was already parked. Also available for hugs and kisses were Madison, Olivia, Emma, Lily, Zoe, and Evelyn. What a great evening. Then we had to get home and it was the first time Cheri had driven the car at night and trying to find all the buttons and things was exciting.

We are home again and both of my sisters are fiddling with their FitBit stuff. I’m typing this. I’m not fitting at all.

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I personally know no one named Tillie. I grew up with four aunts. Genevieve and Betty did not actually require the use of the title in front of their names. Aunt Kathy and Aunt Babe always – even to this day – have the title added. As far as I know, all my aunts were good cooks. The two non-Aunt Aunts were farm wives and probably were better known for good, solid food. The farm provided well for these types of meals.

Aunt Kathy and Aunt Babe were not farm wives. And they did entertaining. They probably did Entertaining with the capital E in place. The recipe here is from Aunt Kathy – if I have my story straight. I have no idea since they have been called something different for so many years, it is hard for me to remember exactly.

I do know how the recipe acquired its current name. My baby sister worked at a bank and they had potluck lunches. She brought some of the Aunt’s potatoes. They are good and work well with a potluck. They also go really great with ham, but aren’t quite as good with turkey because they don’t go well with gravy. For the potluck, they were excellent.

The next time there was a lunch, a coworker asked my sister to bring “that dish” and when Cheri didn’t know what dish the woman was talking about, she said, “You know, Aunt Tillie’s Potatoes.” And so they were named Aunt Tillie’s Potatoes and remained so ever since.

Aunt Tillie’s Potatoes

2# frozen hash browns, thawed ½ to 1 hour (I prefer the shredded to the cubed and those without peppers)
1 cup chopped onions
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 pint sour cream
1 stick margarine
8 ounces grated cheddar cheese

Mix all ingredients in a 9 x 13 pan. Cook 45 minutes to 1 hour at 375⁰

That is the recipe as written. Hash browns no longer come in two pound bags and so I just use the 1 pound 10 ounce bag. But if there were more of us eating, I would get two one pound bags. I’ve made this with cream of mushroom or cream of celery soup because I didn’t have the cream of chicken. Chicken is the best and celery is okay. I don’t like the mushroom. I stopped adding the stick of margarine about ten or fifteen years ago. We have never missed it.

Mix everything but the potatoes in the biggest bowl you have and get it all mixed well before adding the potatoes and blend together while still tossing bits and pieces over the sides of the bowl to ensure the countertop is as dirty as possible. This recipe was devised prior to the days of Pam cooking spray, but since it is available today, I always spray the pan because clean up is easier that way.

They can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge until it is time to cook them. Just keep them well covered so they don’t dry out.

The grandchildren know these simply as Aunt Tillie potatoes and probably don’t have a clue about their origins or the way they were named. But they do like the taste. So the legacy lives on.

I’ve read that Greek yogurt can be used instead of sour cream. I was too scared to use the whole thing like that, but I used ½ and ½ sour cream and Greek yogurt. I doubt if there will be any noticeable difference, but they will have a little more protein in them. I like the top browned, but I also wonder what they would be like with some fried onions sprinkled over the top before baking. It sounds good, but I’ve never tried it. I don’t know if Tillie, whoever she is, would approve.

Random picture from the internet = but this is what Aunt Tillie's Potatoes look like

Random picture from the internet – but this is what Aunt Tillie’s Potatoes look like

Many years ago, on this day, I turned into a mother. I guess I thought of myself as MOTHER prior to this, but it was on this day that Craig and I were suddenly two distinct people with me precariously in charge of him. He was so tiny. He was born 27 days early and had no toenails. He weighed in at six pounds and one ounce. And I had absolutely no idea what to do.

I don’t think I have ever been so scared in my life. I don’t think I have ever been so ill-prepared to meet a challenge. I don’t think I’ve ever been so desirous of not screwing up and fearfully knowing that it is impossible to actually do that. I was a mother.

I don’t really know what happened in there, but I’m blaming Craig’s father.

Craig has turned out to be awesome! He is dedicated and involved. He is driven and compassionate. He is focused and fun-loving. He is inspirational and inspired. He turned out just fine.

This past weekend I spent quite a bit of time talking to another mother of an adult son. We decided that the bestestest thing in the world is to have someone come up and tell you how wonderful your son is. I love when it happens. I’ve known he was wonderful always, but it is so nice to hear that other people share my view.

I don’t really believe the whole Steve Jobs thing about finding something you love and you will never work a day in your life. That’s simply bullshit. No matter how much you love something, there are 1. parts you don’t like; and 2. lots of hard work to get and keep it working. Case in point, I love being a writer – it’s the paperwork that’s bothersome.

I know that Craig’s business is successful because Craig is wholeheartedly in agreement with the concept of health and fitness and each of us holding responsibility for the choices we make. Therefore, fueling our precious bodies with good foods and training to achieve the greatest strength, flexibility, stamina, endurance, power, and joy from those bodies is in line with his basic philosophy of life.

Unlike the greedy guy in that Indiana Jones movie, he did not choose poorly. He picked a path that gave him the ability to focus on sharing this enthusiasm and joie de virve. His entire focus is not on making his athletes able to lift more weight, but instead, he wants for them to be able to lift more joy from life. Being awesome in one arena truly does give one the confidence to be awesome in the next arena as well.

I don’t know where he learned all this stuff. I only know that it makes it possible for him to work (labor, struggle, toil) many hours a day and six to seven days per week. He is doing what he loves and those around him know it. And it makes them see the worth of such endeavors. The struggle pays off. The athlete learns to control as much destiny as possible and to face the quirks of existence by skill, adaptation, and where needed – acceptance.

It isn’t learning how to correctly clean and jerk or move iron in a beautiful arc to fall under it and catch the weight in a below parallel snatch. It is learning to control yourself in the moves. To work on the incremental fixes that make it possible to conquer – not the iron – but the fear. Anyone who isn’t afraid of throwing excess weight over their heads is either lying to themselves or not too bright.

I think what we all learn from our experience in the box is that we have the power to control our responses and thus to control outcomes. This is an awesome lesson. It makes life better outside the box. It is what Craig does each and every day. So even though he is sleep deprived, even though he is torn between family and business, even though life throws some heavy weight at him – he smiles and has his fate held lightly but firmly in his own hands.

I have no idea how he got to be this awesome, this smart, this capable, this wonderful man. But, I’m blaming his father.

Happy birthday, my son. Thank you for teaching me all these things I didn’t know so many years ago. I hope you know that my shortcomings and failings as a mother are part of your experience and give you the strength to be who you are today. I hope you also realize that I have loved you – always – without stop and without conditions. Happy birthday.

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We have had a plan for the day for over a week already. This was our day to go sailing. Pam had researched several different boating trips and selected Desert Belle Cruises. She had sailed on this boat before and enjoyed it with Martha and George and we knew we would have a good time. All we needed was some decent weather.

Pam and Cheri walked early in the morning but I didn’t join them. They got their two miles in and were back here in plenty of time to get ready for the day’s main event. We had no problem finding the lake and the boat and although the webpage had said we might want to make reservations, we had no problems with getting tickets, either.

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Me, Cheri and Gnate, Captain Geno and Gned, Pam and Gnute

Gned has learned to be bold and ask for photo ops and he approached the Captain and asked for a picture. It was going to just be Captain Geno and Gned, but he invited Pam and Cheri and they invited Gnute and Gnate and then some other passenger offered to take the picture and so everybody got to be included. What a fun way to start a cruise.

Many hundreds of years ago, this area was inhabited by a tribe of Native Americans who were quite inventive. They were great traders and agriculturalists. They built a series of canals that helped with both these endeavors. Around 1500, they disappeared and no one knows why. There was no mention of Spaniards arriving or European diseases spreading throughout a region without immunities.

Lake Saguaro is appropriately named

Lake Saguaro is appropriately named

In 1902, it was thought that building a dam and creating a reservoir might help make the deserts bloom and increase agricultural endeavors out in the still wild west. Luckily, there was a place with already constructed canals right out there in sunny Arizona. The first of what would become four dams and four lakes was constructed.

Antelope by the water's edge. Desert Belle photograph, used with permission

Antelope by the water’s edge. Desert Belle photograph, used with permission

Lake Saguaro was the last lake to be created and the four lakes together form a massive lake system with hydroelectric dams controlling water flow and creating power for the greater Phoenix area. The upper and lower Salt Rivers are above and below the dams and their lakes. The river is not salty, but instead was the highway the early European settlers used to collect the life-giving salt so desperately needed.

The lake itself is managed by Tanto National Forest and then entire perimeter is open for the public to use. There is a plethora of wildlife along the lakeshore, under the water, and in the air. The geology is amazing, the vistas breathtaking, and the history remarkable.

We think of the desert as being a vast wasteland of nothing but sand, heat, and the occasional oasis. However, the desert here is full of a variety of life. There are numerous fish, many birds including some nesting eagles and great blue herons, four types of larger hoofed animals as well as over 50 species of mammals (two have recently disappeared from the region but are not extinct and thriving in other areas), and many different types of fish – many of them tasty.

Not always sunny, but always beautiful. Desert Belle photograph, used with permission

Not always sunny, but always beautiful. Desert Belle photograph, used with permission

And then there are the plants. The saguaro is found in abundance here. And it is found in no other desert anywhere else in the world. The Sonoran Desert is the ONLY place in the entire world growing these giant plants. It is the only ecosystem supporting these old plants now protected by law. The many different arms that are so iconic in Arizona photos do not even start to sprout until the plant is 60 to 75 years old. After that they can sprout at any time. The saguaro flower is the state flower and blooms in the night and lasts for about 24 hours. They are fertilized by bats seeking their sweet nectar and then fall to the ground. Only one in thousands will ever sprout into a new plant. And yet, the desert is full of the huge beasts towering into the skies.

They can soak up so much water after a rainfall that they actually swell in girth. Two different types of birds burrow into the plant and use it for nesting. Inside the protection of the saguaro it is up to 15 degrees cooler for the babies to survive in the heat of the day.

The famous Four Peaks - tall and majestic and very, very old - visible from all over Phoenix.

The famous Four Peaks – tall and majestic and very, very old – visible from all over Phoenix.

Arizona is famous for the Five Cs. The first is copper and we actually visited a copper mine in Bisbee a few years ago. Copper is still widely produced here in Arizona. Next is cotton and the climate and soil here are perfect for growing this crop, especially with this supply of fresh water in these four lakes created so long ago and available for the irrigation needs. Citrus is also important to the state as grapefruit, lemons, and limes are grown here. Cattle are plentiful and if the wind is right you can tell that from Pam’s house. Luckily the wind isn’t usually “right” for that smell. And of course, the climate is important drawing people here for the wonderfully delightful weather for most of the year. These pesky hot summers might be slightly outside the perfect weather model.

There is a possibility of a sixth C. Because, you see, Arizona might have the highest number of Canadians here, at least in the winter. Living along the Route 95 corridor and seeing so many Ontario license plates, Florida might want to contest this.

Our trip was wonderful, the weather not too hot. We stayed topside and didn’t need to retreat to the climate controlled lower floor. Captain Geno was entertaining in his talks about the region and very knowledgeable as well. All in all, I just loved our morning. We spoke with the Captain again on leaving the boat and found that he is one of three who captain the ship and he modestly admitted that the other two captains are just as wonderful as he was and everyone who sails with Desert Belle can be just as delighted as we were.

There was a restaurant at the dock and we ate our lunch there. Again, I noticed the dessert menu but after being served a huge amount of food, there was no room left for dessert. We headed back home, happy with our morning adventure.

Between the lulling pace of the boat ride, the heat, and the too late nights too many times in a row, we all took an afternoon nap. When we were all awake again, we decided on dinner.

The boys selected what they thought might be the perfect dinner option.

The boys selected what they thought might be the perfect dinner option.

We went out specifically for pie. That was our entire meal. Cheri and I had coffee with our pie. Pam and Cheri got peanut butter and chocolate stuff and I got some caramel and chocolate concoction. We sat there and talked and laughed. The last time we ate here, Pam threw her pie on the table. This time, we all managed to keep our pies on our plates. Gnate and Gnute got to share some pie, but Gned – although shovel ready – was not given any. He did manage to sneak some when no one was looking.

Gned ready to finish off the massive amount of delectable dinner.

Gned ready to finish off the massive amount of delectable dinner.

Gned will not be thwarted.

Gned will not be thwarted.

We came home and laughed and talked well into the night. Cheri loves the rug in Pam’s bathroom and Pam offered to send her home with the yarn to make her own. She got out four zippered under the bed things chock full of yarn. These skeins of cotton are huge and they were not going to be made anymore so the store was getting rid of them. I think Pam bought the entire supply. There had to be 70 or more of these huge skeins to pick from. There were only so few because she has used many of them up already.

At my house, my excessive amount of yarn had been turned into scarves and we played with them and laughed and had lots of fun. I didn’t think of getting a picture of Pam’s excessive amount of unused yarn until after it was all put away. Damn. I missed a great photo op.

Since we napped and at least two of us had later than usual and extra coffee, we stayed up well into the wee hours. But it was such a fun day.

Today is the last day of sister vacation. We intend to savor every minute.

There was a plan for this day from the beginning of our sister vacation, we just weren’t sure which day it would be. Our day was completely dependent on the weather because we would be outside. We needed to have the coolest day we could find and this was it.

The plan was to leave early in the morning, travel east, and find the Boyce Thomson Arboretum State Park. Pam had purchased a Groupon for a year’s family membership which entitled her to bring four guests as well throughout the year. She can bring the kids and have a great time any time in the coming year.

The boys behaved nicely, but they needed to rest frequently. They claim they have shorter legs and so have to walk faster.

The boys behaved nicely, but they needed to rest frequently. They claim they have shorter legs and so have to walk faster.

We were to be two of her guests. It was even better than she thought because the price of a family membership just went up, so she saved even more money. We got an introductory speech which told us all about the place. There were two buildings and one even had a place in the shade to park the car. The biggest trick was finding the turnoff, but even that wasn’t much of a trick as it was clearly marked.

Pam standing next to a cactus so we can get a bit of an idea about how huge this was.

Pam standing next to a cactus so we can get a bit of an idea about how huge this was.

Can you just imagine how beautiful this was in full bloom? It is beautiful with just the pods left to see and enjoy.

Can you just imagine how beautiful this was in full bloom? It is beautiful with just the pods left to see and enjoy.

I have no idea why I wore the shoes I wore and it didn’t even dawn on me until we got there that I had made a bad choice. Luckily, the paths through the desert were wonderfully maintained and it turned out that my bad choice was perfectly all right as I had no trouble walking either because of distance or terrain. I was smart enough to wear sunscreen so all was well on that front, too.

Pam and I at what might be the Batcave or something. Note the bad shoe choice that wasn't so bad after all.

Pam and I at what might be the Batcave or something. Note the bad shoe choice that wasn’t so bad after all.

We had some trouble starting out because our first turn took us back to the parking lot which was really nice and all, but not exactly what we were hoping for. We started all over again and entered into space that was unlike any we had ever seen. Along the way we passed through both rose and cactus gardens. We saw some amazing trees with bark that just didn’t look like an elm or maple. We wandered around outcroppings of rock formations. Along the way were numerous smaller paths and helpful signs warning the visitor that it was wild country out there.

Helpful reminder that we were wandering through the desert.

Helpful reminder that we were wandering through the desert.

The main circle path was 1.25 miles long. We took a couple of the shorter paths leading off the main path but there really wasn’t time to see everything. There was a greenhouse type thing that we never entered and a children’s area that we briefly looked at just to see what was available. We spent about two hours in awe marveling at the beauty of the desert.

I believe this might be a red gum tree. It also might not be a red gum tree.

I believe this might be a red gum tree. It also might not be a red gum tree.

There were many signs along the way that helped us understand what we were seeing. The most astounding thing was the lake in the middle of the place. Admittedly, Ayer Lake is NOT the same as Lake Erie, but even that small amount of water in the hot desert was marvelous. We had a great time and Pam knew it was going to be a great place to visit repeatedly because each time would show something different.

We picked up Quinn on the way home and I mentioned that it would be okay if we didn’t do anything else since walking in the mountains in the heat, even though it was barely into the 90s and there was a lovely breeze, was somewhat enervating and it might mean a nap. We did think it was an opportune day to get some laundry done but with three adults, even that was easy.

We crafted in the afternoon and I kept whining about “one more row” of the color I was on. I kept thinking that each row would be the last, but there kept being more than enough thread to complete another one. I finally got to change colors.

As Quinn napped, we talked about any number of important issues. Whether or not to buy name brand items over store items while grocery shopping was one of these intense topics. I will only buy Planters peanuts. Pam and I both noted that we dole out the amount we will eat carefully by pouring ONE lid full of peanuts and eat. I mentioned my slightly odd habit of always ending with a whole peanut.

Pam leaned over and in all seriousness asked me, “Why?” I probably looked like a deer in the headlights because I don’t really know why. I said so. She then mentioned that she eats her peanuts the exact same way and as this serious discussion went on Cheri started laughing so hard we feared for the safety of the chair on which she was perched. I think we laughed for at least 15 minutes over this discussion and the ensuing details about how to eat some peanuts. We are nothing if not deep thinkers.

We thought we would go to the pool after Quinn left but then our phones started beeping. A dust storm was coming our way which didn’t surprise us at all because the wind had whipped up and there were sand pellets hitting the house/windows that made it sound like it was raining. I tried to get a picture, but the camera doesn’t really show what the eyes could see because the image was enhanced by the smell and taste of the dust in the air.

After the dust blew through, it did start to rain. It didn’t rain much but it was enough to wet things. It looked like the pool wasn’t in our future. However, by the time we finished eating supper, the weather had cleared up and we decided to walk to the pool. I wore flip flops for the first time since I was a kid – so since the Pleistocene Period or so.

We got to the pool and it was obvious that a storm had blown through and there was debris and dust and whatnot all over. There were no other people. We didn’t check what the temperature was but it was a beautiful evening. There was a light breeze and it was cool. We were the only people at the pool. The water seemed a bit cooler than the last time we were there in the heat of the day. We quickly acclimated to the temperature and we splashed around for a while.

We were pretty unanimous in our decision to be done with pool time and got out of the pool. And then, the most amazing thing happened. I was cold in Arizona. It seemed somewhat embarrassing to have to admit this to each other but we all got really silly by being cold in July in Arizona. Pam had a really good idea to warm up – we got in the hot tub for ten minutes. It was great to warm up and when we got out of the water this time, it was time to shower chemicals off us and air dry.

We sat and laughed for a while, if you can imagine that. We were dry enough to head home. Pam had been wearing a step counter all day and when we got home, we were only 400 steps short of the 10,000 steps goal for the day. The other two sisters wore their flip flops to walk around the neighborhood to get our 400 steps, but I couldn’t wear them for even that much longer. I got some shoes on with my bathing suit and cover up and looked absolutely stunning as we walked for just a few minutes. By the time we were done, we had gotten to over 11,000 steps.

We got into our jammies and crafted some more as the evening faded into night. Cheri is STILL on level 181 in Candy Crush and it is losing some of its appeal. She keeps playing, but she just keeps playing because she is playing the game.

I have no idea how this happened, but somehow I was the last man standing or last woman sitting in the living room. Both my sisters had gone off to bed. This simply never happens. We had another wonderful day and loved being together.

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