What just happened?

What just happened?

Friends and Hermanaas
Friends and Hermanaas

For the past 2 1/2 years, Don and I have been attending the Spanish Branch of the Church.  We have been welcomed with open arms and warm hearts, and we have really learned to love our Latino friends.  Many of these members have lived in the United States for a long time and speak English proficiently.  From time to time we realize that culturally we all hold on to “our” ways, but a blend of the two usually means success.

Last Sunday in Relief Society, the President, Guille Bugarin, announced the upcoming Enrichment activity on Thursday afternoon.  She showed a couple of projects that would be offered, and fielded questions about what each entailed, what we needed to bring, etc.  Because this discussion was in Spanish, I missed a lot, but I could clearly see that we could learn how to crochet edges on dishtowels or do something with a tote bag.  I couldn’t follow the discussion well enough to know if we were going to make a bag or decorate one, but since I didn’t want to do that, it didn’t matter.  I decided maybe I’d go for some instruction in crochet.

Thursday morning, 8 a.m. – telephone call for me:


Buenos días, mi amiga.  How are you?

I’m muy bien, gracias.

Sister, today at our Enrichment meeting I want to show the sisters how to make a cover for the pills.  I have most of the material that I need, but I wonder if you have some small pieces that I can use to finish.  I am making one for the boys and one for the girls.  Do you have any material in light blue or white?

I’m pretty sure I have some.  But what are you making?  a cover for the pills?

Yeah, you know – a thing to cover the pills.

The pills?

Yeah, you know – a thing to cover the pills.

At this point I was racking my brain trying to figure out what she was talking about.  I’m used to brief lapses in understanding during our conversations, but usually one or the other catches the drift and we continue!  However, this time  I could not begin to connect what I had seen regarding either the dishtowels or tote bags with “the pills.”

I don’t know what you mean.  But in a few minutes I’ll come up to your house and see what you’re doing to make sure I have what you need.

Oh, thank you so much.  You can come when you finish your breakfast.

When I got to her house she showed me some fabric that she wanted to make into pillowcases.

Oh, pillowcases!  You’re going to teach how to make pillowcases!

Yes.  I think the sisters need to learn how to sew and when they see a cute cover like this they will maybe want to make one.  And I don’t think it’s too hard.

Oh, no.  They aren’t hard to make.  That is a good project to start with.

And can you please bring your [sewing] machine?

So we discussed what she needed and I told her I would bring some fabric that would work for the wide hems on the cases.  We chatted for a while, she showed me a lot of family pictures, we talked about her kids, and about 45 minutes later I returned home.  I went to my fabric stash and found a couple of pieces of fabric that would work to complete the pillowcases.

The meeting was supposed to start at 3 p.m., and Don had assured Guille that he would be at the church to unlock the door.  I reminded Don that mis amigas have no concept of starting on time at a somewhat informal meeting as this one is, so I was not planning to go before 3:45.

When he called me from the church at about 3:35, Guille had just arrived and one other sister was there.  He said he’d be home to pick me up in about 15 minutes.  I had my sewing machine and fabric ready to go.

In that 15 minutes, my “American former Relief Society President” thinking kicked in, and I dashed downstairs to gather a few more things that I realized she might need for a sewing class.  If she needed my machine, perhaps a few other tools would be helpful as well.  Soon my pile at the door consisted of my cutting mat and rotary blade, several pairs of sewing scissors, iron, and a couple of pieces of coordinating fabric that I thought were big enough to make a pillowcase.  In addition I took some banana cake from the freezer and arranged it on a cute plate as my contribution to snacks.  When Don pulled in the driveway, we loaded the car and returned to the church.

The sisters had congregated in the multi-purpose room next to the kitchen and were chatting while setting out some food.  One sister was setting up her sewing machine, and we discussed where to plug mine in, as I wasn’t sure how she was going to do her instruction.  Then Guille turned to me:

So now you will teach us how to make pillowcases?

Wait, I thought you were teaching how to sew . . . I was going to learn to crochet . . . I’m not prepared to teach this class . . Fortunately – or due to divine intervention, because of my conversation with Guille earlier, I had done an internet search and emailed instructions for making a pillowcase to Maddie as a possible beginning sewing project. So without missing a beat I took charge, set up shop, pulled fabric out of my bag and taught the women how to make a pillowcase.    None had ever used a rotary cutter, and they were fascinated with the ease and accuracy of that little tool.  Marsha had never used a sewing machine, so she sat down at mine and cautiously sewed while her little boys stood at her elbows fascinated with her new skill.

“What would happen if I put my finger in there where that pointy thing (needle) is?”

“Mom, when you get really good will you make it go faster?”

“Tyler, you’re standing on the material so it won’t move!”

By the time the clock struck 6 and it was time to clean up,  we had completed 3 pillowcases and had a great meal of tostadas, beans, chicken, salsa, watermelon and cake.  It seems that at these functions, food just appears as if by magic – plentiful and delicious!  And we’d all had a good time.

Later that evening I realized that I had just taught an Enrichment sewing class with no advance notice, no preparation, no handouts, no centerpieces, no sign up sheets and no stress.

How refreshing!

You say it’s your birthday?

You say it’s your birthday?

30 years old - 1984
30 years old - 1984

It’s no secret that I love my birthdays.  I don’t mind adding another candle to the cake or getting another 12 months closer to Social Security.  I just love “my” day.  This year was no different, and I had some great plans to celebrate – an extended celebration of sorts.

To properly mark this milestone of 55 years, I set a goal to run a 5K in July. “Everybody” (specifically my young, athletic, in shape, cross country running children) was planning to do it, and I decided I’d get that T-shirt too.  I was excited to get in better shape and maybe even drop a few pounds before the May wedding in San Diego.  This was going to be awesome!

With great enthusiasm and adequate energy, I embarked on the “Couch to 5K” plan I found on the internet.  It seemed to be tailor made for me.  The first few weeks were lots of walking interspersed with short intervals of running.  The transition to mostly jogging with short intervals of walking was gradual and seemed very doable.  Within about 9 weeks I would be running 30 minutes/ 3 miles.


Or maybe not.

Armed with my cell phone for timing (nothing says serious runner like a cellular stop watch), I took to the early morning streets with great determination. Slow and steady I completed the jogging intervals all the while eagerly anticipating the walking segments as a chance to inhale deeply and even out my ragged gasps of breath.  Neither rain nor cold could stop me.  I was a woman on a mission.

As I should have expected, it wasn’t long before I had to acknowledge that a 55 year old body is a little different than a 25 year old one, and perhaps I was not as physically fit as I had imagined.  This was hard work!  But I was determined.  Pete and Emily reassured me with their stories of entering/re-entering the ranks of runners – pain and discouragement were just part of the drill.  People my age run all the time, and I could too.

However, within 3 weeks, reality reared her ugly head, and I was sidelined with knee pain and screaming back muscles. I considered continuing running as the program prescribed using the “no pain – no gain” philosophy.  But truthfully, I had visions of re-injuring my surgically repaired ACL, and I was haunted by memories of hours spent in physical therapy.  So I quickly decided that running through the pain was just dumb and besides – it really hurt.

Boardmans and Butlers at Dell Swearingen's 40th birthday party
Boardmans and Butlers at Dell Swearingen's 40th birthday party - 1985 Invitation said "Come dressed as OLD!"

I was more than a little discouraged and suddenly felt very old.  Was there no place for strenuous exercise in my future?  Would I simply totter my way through the next 25 years?  Was I doomed to working out with old videos of “Sit and Be Fit”?  My big birthday looming on the horizon was beginning to feel more like a solemn memorial to lost youth rather than a celebration of what lies ahead.

At this same time, I started reading a book that Carolyn’s doctor recommended, and  since we are genetic twins, I figured it was good for me too.  And it was.

"You do have to age, but you don't have to rot"
"You do have to age, but you don't have to rot"

The authors advocate that once you reach age 50, you have a new job – exercising vigorously every day for the rest of your life.  They offer 7 rules, but the two that really got my attention are:

1.  Exercise six days a week for the rest of your life

5.  Quit eating crap!

Well, I can do that.  So I revamped my goals.  Instead of running a 5K in July, I changed my focus to keeping the next third of my life as healthy – or even more so – than the first two-thirds.  Vigorous (but not life threatening) exercise coupled with consistency seem to be a much better fit for me than a crash course in running.  Sore muscles the morning following a good workout with weights is far more appealing than crippling back pain.

So now early mornings will find me on the eliptical – outfitted with a heart rate monitor, a taped episode of Oprah, and a water bottle.  As the weather gets nicer I’ll take my workouts outside, maybe to the park where I can increase my agility by stepping around the duck poop that decorates the lake path.

And I’ll be younger next year.

Wishing and hoping. . . .
Wishing and hoping. . . .

They say it’s your birthday –
We’re gonna have a good time.

A new season

A new season

Tools of the trade
Tools of the trade

Monday I savored a few hours working in the front yard.  The sun was warm – almost hot, the air was clear, and I felt exhilarated to be out of the house eagerly anticipating spring.   Winter has seemed long, cold and dark, and I was excited to enjoy a few hours of sunny warmth as a harbinger of brighter days to come.  I particularly enjoy working around the lilies, because the contrast between winter and spring is so dramatic.

Buried by winter
Buried by winter

As I cleaned away the dead leaves and remains from last fall, the strong, bright green leaves of this season’s growth stood straight and tall, ready to brighten my front yard and my spirits.

Courageous spring growth
Courageous spring growth

Initially, I considered the dead leaves and stalks from last season useless, and just something to get out of the way and into the trash.  But on further consideration, I’ve realized that even though their summer beauty is gone, the dead stalks have continued to nurture the plant by providing protection from the cold and snow of winter.  They have carefully surrounded the new shoots until they are strong enough to stand alone.  And even as I pulled them away and threw them into the wheelbarrow to be taken to the compost pile, I realized that they will continue to serve as fertilizer, rich soil nutrients to be added to flower and vegetable gardens in years to come.

What a clear analogy for my life!  I’ve had some periods of cold and dark days this winter, and like everybody else, I will continue to experience ups and downs in daily life.   I’ve learned that as I clear away the dead, brown, and seemingly useless stalks and leaves from previous struggles, they can go into my personal “compost pile” and continue to enrich my life through the lessons they have taught me.

As I anxiously await the arrival of spring and summer, I look forward to the bright yellow blooms that the lilies will produce.  And I happily anticipate the opportunities ahead of me.

So why is it rain/snowing today?