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Kansas City MO 64131





Cindy Maddera

I was rerouting a plug to a new power strip. For some reason I can’t remember now, I had to remove the plug from the power strip and reset it in another position. My fingers slipped down to the metal prongs of the plug as I pulled it loose and then I felt my fingers tingle and painful zap at the back of my neck that just happened to be touching the metal table I had crawled under to do all of this rerouting. I immediately let go of every thing as I screamed more in fright than in pain. Though hours later I could still feel a slight metallic warmth on the back of my neck and my fingers had a mildly buzzy feel to them.

I can’t remember the last time I accidentally (or on purpose) electrocuted myself. In grad school, I was alone in the lab one day. My research centered around scanning bacteria with different excitation wavelengths and collecting all the emission wavelengths for each of the excitation wavelengths. The idea was that each bacterial species had it’s own auto-fluorescent map, like E.coli’s auto-fluorescent map was unique and different from Salmonella. My research advisor had built this monster of a spectrophotometer for us to take our measurements on and something was always going wrong with it. This particular day, I turned the system on but nothing happened. I started checking all of the cords and plugs. When I got to the power cord for the laser line, the cord fell off from the metal attachment into my hand. I was holding a live wire. I guess I was grounded well enough because I did not get a shock. I stood there for what felt like minutes staring at the sparking electric current coming off the end of the wire and then I shoved it back as hard as I could into the metal attachment. There was a loud ‘POP!’ but then everything worked fine and I went ahead and collected my data.

I never told a soul about that cord. Not even my research advisor, who turned out to be a bit difficult and the only one on my thesis committee to not read my thesis. Later, he would be impossible to track down to discuss revisions. Then he’d tell me that it was the worst thing he’d ever read. I paid for another semester of graduate school to take ‘thesis hours’ so I could re-write my thesis and submit it for graduation. I did a complete re-write of my thesis and sent it to him. Months went by and I never heard back from him. Finally, Chris camped outside of the man’s office for three hours with my thesis and the sign-off papers. When my research advisor was confronted with Chris standing in front of his door, he just took out a pen and signed the papers. To this day, I have no idea if he ever read my thesis. My research advisor dropped dead of a heart attack maybe three years later. By this time, I was in Margaret’s lab and I had gained back some of the confidence my research advisor had stripped from me. When I was approached by his current graduate student to read over a paper that included some of my work to be submitted for publishing, I had no qualms in telling the truth. The paper had been written in the wrong style for journal publication and I told the graduate student that if he wanted it to be publish, he would have to re-write it. The graduate student did not quit disagree with me, but he said that this was how our research advisor had written it and that he wanted to honor his memory by keeping it the way it was.

That paper was never published.

Actually, none of the research that I did in graduate school was ever published. The whole experience ruined me for scientific writing. Margaret would come to me and ask me to write up some methods for whatever current paper she was writing up and I would stare at a blank word document for half the day before typing out three sentences and handing them over to Margaret. She’d send them back and I’d write three more. She’d keep sending things back until I’d completed a full paragraph of methods. I’m sure she must have felt like she was pulling teeth from me.

This is the worst thing I’ve ever read.

Those words have never left me. When ever I have to type up methods or help write an abstract for a paper, those are the words that come to me first before I can write anything down. Some times they would even pop up before I could write anything here. Those words became lead weights on the ends of my fingers and let me believe that I could not write. Not science, not fiction, not anything. Turayis asked me if I was planning on participating in NaNoWriMo this year. I hadn’t really thought about it until she asked and I’m still not sure I have the energy for it. I’m thinking about it. I might write something that is not the best thing you’ve ever read, but it wouldn’t be the worst thing you’ve ever read. It takes time to stop believing in things that just are not true.

Sometimes it just takes some mild electrocution.


Cindy Maddera

I did some research and decided that I needed to change up my exercise routine. All that research kept pointing me to articles on ‘women of a particular age’ and strength training. So, instead of getting on a stationary bike and riding six miles on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I’m attending a ‘strength and sweat’ class at the gym. I hate it, but I’m committed. The teacher, Colleen, makes it easier for me to be committed to attending the class. She sees me in the gym every day, doing my yoga practice and commented that she was in awe of that practice. When I walked in to her class that first Tuesday, Colleen exclaimed “You’re coming to my class?! Yay!” Later on she asked me why I was switching things up. We had a conversation about our age group and exercise and Colleen knew exactly what I was feeling. She knows I hate doing all of the things we do in her class and she sympathizes. She’s really good at encouraging without being overly cheerleader like and she’s always checking in with me (and pretty much everyone else in the class) to see how I’m doing or if I’m overdoing it.

This makes all the difference.

That doesn’t mean I like the class any better today than when I started last week. But having an instructor who gets you, makes it a whole lot easier to be there. The class has also been a bit of wake up call and quite humbling. We partnered up on Tuesday and while one of the duo performed a round of five pushups, ten sit-ups and twenty squats, the other person had to jump rope. I wasn’t good at jumping rope when I was in elementary school let alone at age forty three. I finally hit a good jumping rhythm without tripping up in the last minute of our ten minute routine. All this time, I thought I was in shape, but it turns out I was just a shape and that shape was not prepared for jumping around while punching ten pound dumbbells into the air. This realization was a bit humbling. At the end of week two, though, I have to say that I do feel better. On Thursday, I glanced over at my reflection in the floor to ceiling mirrors while we were doing squats and I did a double take. I was all “ that my butt?!?” My butt looks less like the-party’s-over-deflated balloons and more like this-might-be-a-party balloons. My butt has a new shape!

Take a moment to have gratitude in yourself for your practice today

This is something I tell my students at the end of my classes. This is something I say to myself at the end of my own time on the mat. This is something I never say to myself off the mat. Today I am going to take a moment to have gratitude in myself for starting this new practice and for staying consistent with this new practice. I am going to take a moment to be grateful for this body’s ability to keep up even when things got difficult, even though I was often ungraceful and often outside of my comfort zone. I think maybe I need to be outside of my comfort zone some times.


Cindy Maddera

Two nights ago, I dreamed that I had made three purchases: a new case for my iPhone, socks, and a yellow highlighter. I was also at some scientific conference with a group of coworkers and my boss was walking around with a leather satchel filled with scientific papers and silverware. He had enough forks, spoons and butter knives for a dinner party of 20. The new case for my phone was the wrong size. It was the correct width, but twice as long as the actual phone. The socks were meant to be crew cut, but turned out to be short ankle socks. The yellow highlighter would only work if I was highlighting in a left to right motion.

I can explain the part about the new case and the socks. That very same day I had this dream, I traded my old iPhone for the new iPhone (camera) that involved two Best Buy stores and a tech guy with a wandering eye. I ordered a new case as soon as we got home, but the one that I want is not currently in stock. I will not get my case until (fingers crossed) some time next week. Michael has told me at least four times a day since to not break my phone. Neither of us want to step into a Best Buy any time soon. Except Michael has to because he bought a TV antenna that doesn’t work any better than the one we already have. Now for the sock mishap; that’s easy. I bought some socks online for Michael’s birthday present and they ended up being the right size, but the wrong style. As it turns out, I can only order the right size, which is 13, in an ankle sock. I returned the socks and ordered the crew style even though they will be a size too small.

This is why his socks have holes in all the toes.

I cannot explain why my boss had so much silverware on him other than he always seems to be eating. If you are the constant eating type, you might find it handy to have your own silverware on you in case of a food emergency. I don’t think this particular part of my dream was anything more than the weird thing that ends up in dreamland. It is not significant. The yellow highlighter though may be significant. The significant part has something to do with how the highlighter would only work if I was moving from left to right. I know that it makes sense to be moving a highlighter from left to right, but some times I don’t. Some times I move back and forth over half of a paragraph, painting the words with bright yellow paint. “Pay attention to this part!” I scream inside my head as I move violently back and forth with the highlighter, in some attempt to keep that information in my brain. If the paper I am reading is particularly challenging, I may end up coloring the whole damn thing. Which is not helpful. It just means I don’t understand the science.

Yes. There are many many many times I do not understand the science. That’s why I read and re-read stuff and talk with other scientists. I take apart the information in a paper so I can reconstruct how they came about the information to build the paper. Then, I might understand the science, but I don’t think the highlighter is about understanding or memory. I think it’s trying to tell me something about direction. Moving left to right moves you down a pace. Moving left to right, then right to left just takes you back to where you started. Maybe what annoys me about that highlighter only working in one direction is that I am so used to moving back and forth, circling back to the same thoughts, actions and habits and never really moving away from the destructive ones. Whatever I am working towards is only going to work if I move mindfully in one direction. These are the things I am working on now, before I feel the need to make it a New Year’s resolution. I don’t want New Year’s resolutions.

I want Life resolutions.


Cindy Maddera

I looked up into the trees. There, way up high, in the Y of a birch tree, was a large complicated looking nest. At least, I viewed it as complicated. Maybe to most, my complicated nest really just looks like a wad of chewed on limbs and leaves. Any way, I look up at this nest and I wonder what lives there. I suspect squirrels just because of the size and shape of it. I wonder how cozy it is inside that nest, what it would be like to climb inside it and curl up to a sibling squirrel. Then I laugh at myself because I can’t even handle sleeping in a tent in Wisconsin in July.

Squirrels don’t seem to need much: food, water, shelter. Those are the comforts. The rest is just trying to survive their daily lives while acquiring those comforts. Some times I think about what life is like as an animal. Squirrels, foxes, deer. All kinds of animals. There’s a naturalist named Joe Hutto, I some times follow. He’s spent years of his life living with turkeys, mule deer, wolves and wild sheep and then writing about his experiences. There is an appeal to immersing yourself into the life of animals maybe because it seems like they live a simpler life. Except any one who knows anything about animal behavior knows that they lead a life just as complex as us humans do, if not more intense. Between the constant quest for food, evasion of predators, just crossing the freaking street, I’m sure that by the time a squirrel settles down into his nest for the night, he’s actually pretty surprised to still be alive. I am not so sure that I can same the same for myself. When I settle down for the night, it’s usually with a sense of relief that I just get to lay down.

I often feel like I’m the Jane Goodall of the Homo sapien, just here to observe and understand. I’ve got the observation part down. The understanding part? Not so much. Forty something years of observing human behavior and I am still baffled at times by the things I have seen. Jane Goodall, after studying apes in the wild, became an advocate for chimpanzees and habitat conservation. She watched these animals live their complex and fascinating life and then brought us the story of this creature and said “Look! These animals are amazing. We must protect them.” Well, she probably didn’t say those exact words, but that was the sentiment. If the aliens called me home to report on my findings, I would be hard pressed to convince them to protect and conserve this species’ habitat.

Fellow aliens,

You can see in my report, entitled Living Among Humans, that there are large populations who seem to lack empathy, is Hell bent on total destruction and just plain mean. I have been unable to determine why this group is this way. I can predict that their behavior is hereditary through action, in which it is taught to them from parent to offspring, but that is just speculation. Much of the behavior seems to be due to someone having something they don’t. For example: Joe has a red ball. Gary has a purple ball. Both balls are the same except for color. Gary is mad that Joe has a red ball and not a purple one or maybe he’s mad because his ball is not red. Either way Gary punches Joe in the throat because he has the red ball. There is also a large number of the population who have very little regard for the planet they inhabit. They refuse to find alternative resources that are less toxic and harmful not only to their own health, but to the health of the entire planet (hence the whole part on being Hell bent on destruction). This population tends to cause harm to those who do not match them in ethnicity or share their religious beliefs. These populations of this species are very, very confusing to me as an observer and scientist.

Yet, before we get too discouraged, there are groups of this species who seem to want to be better. They do things like build habitats for those without and clean waste off beaches. They share messages of peace and love. They fight for those being bullied. They do not seem to care what color their ball is and in fact, would give their ball away to someone in need of a ball.

It is this population alone that makes it worth it to at least consider before we take action against this planet.


Cindy Maddera

I have no idea how I started writing about living in a squirrel nest and ended up advocating for humanity with an alien species. But…I guess someone has to do it?


Cindy Maddera

We have an outlet near the front door; it’s the one Michael usually has a power strip plugged into for charging all of his devices. The outlet is busted. Plugs are loosely held in place and the top outlet is busted. Part of a prong hole has completely crumbled away. Despite this, we’ve still been plugging things into this outlet. Saturday morning, I stepped into the living room and noticed that Michael’s power strip was not plugged into that outlet and I got a little nervous.

Just to reassure you: This is not a story about how we burned down the house with an electrical fire.

I voiced my concerns about the outlet to Michael when I got home from grocery shopping and he told me that everything was fine. He needed that power strip in the basement. Then I said “Maybe we should replace that outlet. Can you do that today?” Michael agreed and while he was out running errands with the Cabbage, he purchased a new outlet and outlet cover. Then, after eating dinner and watching some TV, Michael turned to me and asked me if I was ready to help him replace the outlet. I nodded my head, but then said “I’m really scared about this. What if you take off the broken outlet and find that there are no wires at all back there?” Michael looked at me like I was a crazy person. To be fair, that was a crazy person kind of question. I always go straight to worse case scenario when it comes to broken house stuff. When we replaced the toilet, I was convinced that when Michael pulled the old toilet up, there would be no floor under it and we’d have to replace the entire bathroom floor. Michael assured me that there were wires behind the outlet and sent me down to the basement to turn off the breaker to that outlet.

Sounds easy enough, right? First of all, I have to start off by telling you that our circuit breaker box is a homemade contraption. Somebody took some sheet metal, beat into the shape of a box with a hammer, cut a whole in it and then mounted it to the wall. This is not an exaggeration. The circuit breakers are nestled inside of this metal box and none of them are labeled. I stood in front of the box and started turning off one breaker at a time. “This it?” “No.” “How about this one?” “No.” “This one?” “No.” “This one?” “That’s your bedroom.” "Oh! How about this one? Wait…that turned out the basement light.” I flipped it back on, then Michael said “No! That’s the one!” Now we know that the living room, the basement light and the kitchen ceiling light are all on the same breaker. Micheal replaced the outlet and I flipped the breaker back on. Sparks did not start flying out of the new outlet and our lamp, Hector, that is plugged in to that outlet came one without a flicker.

There were wires behind the old one. They are the cloth wrapped kind of wires, but they are there. We know that this house will have to be completely re-wired in the future. It has to happen before we get an air-conditioner. It really has to happen if we ever remodel the kitchen. The most important thing though, is that no one was electrocuted and we didn’t set the house on fire.


Cindy Maddera

The first time Michael and walked into Tee Rex while visiting Eureka Springs a year or so ago, my heart flipped over in my chest. This shop wasn’t there during my and Chris’s many many visits to Eureka Springs. I’m sure if it had been, we would have packed our things and moved right on in. It is a store that Chris would have never left without purchasing twenty things. Tee Rex sells nostalgia. I have to admit that when I walk into that store, I want to buy more than twenty things. From original Strawberry Shortcake to The Get A Long Gang to Popples, I see my childhood/tween years flash before my eyes and I have serious wants. I almost bought an original Lemon Meringue doll during this last visit, but I refrained.

There are many a display case in Tee-Rex devoted to vintage Star Wars toys and the owner, James Brandt, is a graphic designer who does Star Wars themed art. Michael and I both own his Force Awakens t-shirt that features Star Wars characters in various stages of wakening up in the morning. I’ve already spilled tortellini soup on mine. The last time Michael and I were in the shop there was one particular print that caught my eye. It is a print called Cy-Fi Cycling Club and consists of wonderful renditions of Star Wars characters on various kinds of bicycles. Each bicycle is themed for different ships and crafts. Chewie and Han are riding a slightly janky tandem bike with Millennium Falcon accents. The Ewoks are on Big Wheels because of course. Michael walked up to my side as I stood gazing at this print and I said “I want this. I am going to buy this.” Michael agreed and said that it is nice to have art on the wall from artists other than yourself. So now that print is hanging on the wall above my desk. I sit or stand there and study it and I always find something new to see.

Michael is no where close to the Star Wars fan that Chris was, nor do I expect him to be. I think some of Michael’s appreciation for the series comes from my influence on him. That’s fine. I am quick to admit that I am a Star Wars fan girl mostly due to the influence of Chris. Michael is into bicycles. When we met, he was riding his bike everywhere. He knows all the ends and out about bicycles and is in charge of the household’s bicycle maintenance. Chris used to go to Staples just to look at pens in the pen isle. Well, Michael goes to bike shops just to look at bicycle stuff. So you see, the Cy-Fi Cycling Club is a nice combination of my past and present. Chris and Michael. Something I am always battling with is how the past might be judging my present. When I look at this print, I forget about any kind of judgement. I forget about feeling guilty.

This is why you put art on your walls from artists other than yourself.


Cindy Maddera

I looked up into the tree line and to the West. The sun was setting, turning the clouds into that purple/pink cotton candy color. The movement of something from the corner of my eye is really what caught my attention and had me looking in that direction. At first I thought I saw tiny birds, but then I realized that they were dragonflies. Maybe a hundred or more dragonflies were just hovering near the top of the tall elm trees in the neighbor’s backyard. Occasionally a dragonfly would fly by on its way up to the rest of the crowd, those joining the swarm by what looked like a gravitational pull. I stood there mesmerized. I had never witnessed such a thing, so many dragonflies, so high up off the ground. Eventually as I watched, barn swallows swooped in and then there would be a race and a dance between dragonfly and bird.

Dragonflies swarm for one of two reasons: food or migration. Usually if they are swarming for food, the swarm stays fairly low to the ground. They eat tiny flies, mosquitoes and midges. Large dragonflies have been known to eat small fish. Migrating dragonflies tend to be higher off the ground, much like the swarm I witnessed in the backyard. According to voodoo folklore, the dragonfly is like the butterfly in that they both represent transformation and personal growth. Seeing a whole lot of dragonflies at once is supposed to be a sign that you should be looking deep down into yourself and rooting out areas where you need improving. As if I don’t have enough reasons for thinking that I am not enough or that I am always constantly flawed in some way.

It’s a good think I don’t fall for voodoo folklore.

In the past three weeks, I have seen a nighthawk. It swooped down right in front of me as I was coming home from teaching yoga. I nearly hit the bird. On a similar summer evening, I witnessed a large bat fly over my head. It is normal to see small bats flying around the backyard in the evenings. We have three or four that come back to the area every summer, but this was a large bat. Bigger than a crow. Smaller than a hawk or eagle. It was the kind of bat I’d only ever seen in zoos. A few days ago, I witnessed a fat grub worm make his way across the back step. At least, I think that’s what it was. I’ve only ever seen a grub worm when it’s been dug up from the ground and the worm is all curled up. This one was not curled up and in fact was moving at quit a fast pace. Every night, there are at least four or five very large slugs are stuck to the side of the house or crawling across the porch.

I feel like I am living inside an odd and very eccentric terrarium filled with creatures that are rare. I mean, who puts a bat or a hawk in a terrarium? Slugs and grub worms maybe, even a pet dragonfly, but not something as big as a bat. Why not throw in a dinosaur or two while we’re at it? I have fuzzy memories about a dream last night involving a sloth. A sloth would be a lovely addition to a terrarium. Perhaps that’s what I’m doing. I’m building a life sized terrarium in my soul. It’s filed with swarming dragonflies and there’s a sloth hanging on a limb of a giant banyan tree. Instead of a dinosaur, I’ve put in a pet elephant. At night, My pet elephant, Maxine, settles down amongst soft ferns and then Josephine and I snuggle up in the crook of her trunk. The three of us sleep peacefully while a bat flies above our heads.

The narrator in the meditation app I listen too at the end of my yoga practice talked about how she always feels a slight ache, as if a puzzle piece is missing or she has a splinter stuck under the skin of her foot. She said that this ache only goes away when she is living in the present moment. Maybe I need extraordinary moments in nature to bring me into the present moment or to remind me to be present. Though some might say that those events are not so extraordinary. I have paused at all of the above, mesmerized at the things I was seeing. I have given time and focus to those events.

And I have not felt or noticed the ache that is always present inside me as I paused to watch the dragonflies as they gathered at the top of the trees or the grub worm that raced it’s way across the pavement.


Cindy Maddera

I finished reading Barbara Kingsolver’s latest book, Unsheltered: A Novel, this week. When I got to the last page and realized it was the last page, I got a little sad that the book was over. I wanted the story to go on and on and on. It is not often that I pick up a book these days and feel that way. Mostly, I am content that story has ended or at least that the author decided to just not tell any more of the story. I’m ready for the next book and I am notoriously stubborn. I will read every book to its bitter end even if I don’t care for the story. When those books finally end, I set the book down with a sigh of sweet relief. “Whew! Glad that’s over!” I think, even though I know I could have just stopped reading at any time. Chris used to sit through movies the same way. No matter how awful the movie, he’d never walk out. I do the same thing with books.

There are some authors, though, who just want to keep on telling the story forever.

Every time I sit down to write in the Fortune Cookie journal, my story has to end because I run out of writing room. The story doesn’t end in my head though. It is still tucked in there and rambles on and on as I make my way through grocery stores. That part just never makes it to paper. This is what I imagine happens with a writer like Barbara Kingsolver. She runs out of room and paper for all the words. This makes sense. Our own stories are not told in one setting. We break them up into sections with beginnings like ‘when I was little…’ or ‘once, during undergrad…’ and then we parcel them out in no particular order. As I watched Ken Burns latest documentary, Country Music, I noticed how often the ones being interviewed referred the the music as stories and how those stories have been passed down from generation to generation. We tell stories in so many different ways in hopes that what ever way we have chosen will resonate with some one else.

Our stories connect us. When I finished that book, I immediately thought of Margaret and how I hadn’t corresponded with her in a while. I wrote her a long email about how things were going, what we’ve been up to, and asking about what she and Philip have been up to. Stories, whether written or sung, inspire us to come together. This week, I am thankful for words strung together in such a beautiful way that I would want to read them again and again. I am thankful for stories that inspire. I am thankful for the connections. I am thankful for your story.


Cindy Maddera

Every time someone reserves time on one of our microscopes, I receive an email informing me of their reservation. The reservations coming into mailbox this week are for dates in October and it keeps freaking me out. First of all we have a two week rule. You cannot book earlier than two weeks in advance. So I see that reservation and start to yell “Hey! You can’t reserve a microscope two weeks in advance!” and I’m all ready to send out a polite but severe email. Then I pause and go “oh….wait…”

October is next fucking week, people!

What happened to summer? Or spring for that matter? How is it the first of Fall and the leaves are suddenly changing colors and it’s cold enough in the mornings that I have to wear a jacket and gloves on the scooter? What do I even do with my time? I feel like I’m wasting so dang much of it on all the wrong stuff. I’M WASTING MY LIFE! I feel like I’m not tapping into my full potential and so I started looking into some sort of daily planner. I found one that I like that has a digital format that I would be able to use on my iPad. This would allow me to use my Apple pen to write and color in stuff. There’s a place at the beginning of each month to write out your goals for that month. The calendar opens for the week with a section for writing out tasks for home and work. Then at the end of each month, there’s a place to evaluate where you are with your goals. Did you accomplish them? If not, why? What can you try differently? That sort of thing.

There’s a lot of appeal to having a digital planner like this. First of all, I would have it with me all the time. I carry my iPad with me most days. I’ve gotten in the habit of writing out my yoga classes in a notebook app and I use the meditation timer for both class and my own practice. The digital planner/calendar would encourage me to use my electronic device in other ways. Other than the yoga classes, the iPad is basically a glorified e-reader/TV. I could be doing a lot more with it. The downside is that the digital planner is not free. It is a one time fee and not a subscription, but it’s still not free. I am hesitant to purchase something I may not use. Then again, I might see it as I would a gym membership: if I’m paying for it, I will use it. Maybe that’s the real reason for hesitating. If I buy it and use it, then I will actually have a written record of the things I’m doing or not doing. Most importantly, a record of the things I failed to do each month. A record of failure. Do I need to spend $40 on that? Or can I just drag out my high school yearbook or all those 4-H record books and throw a pity party for one? Actually…I can’t do that because I threw all of that stuff away when we cleaned out the old house.

I could spin this argument of for and against into a tangle.

There is no innovation and creativity without failure. Period. - Brene Brown

I’m getting the damn planner. Sure, it might end up as a record of my failures, but it will also be a record of all of my success.


Cindy Maddera

Terry was in Spokane. It was his second trip out there with only a handful of months separating this trip from his last one. I knew he was helping our friend Leo with Leo’s new bakery (Glorious Artisan Bakery), but something felt a little odd. So I sent a text. “Are you moving to Spokane?” I didn’t hear anything from Terry for a couple of days and when he did finally reply, he avoided my question completely. Meanwhile, I wrote a tiny story in the Fortune Cookie journal about loading boxes into a moving van. I ended up over at Terry’s one evening after he’d returned from his trip. It was just the two of us, sitting in the backyard, talking about his future. He and Leo had been joking about him moving out there. When Terry received my text, it just seemed like a sign. He showed it to Leo and the two of them laughed and laughed. It was settled. Terry would move to Washington State.

We all gathered Tuesday night to help Terry load up his moving van. He declared that the van he’d rented was too big, but better to have too much room than not enough. It turned out that there was just (barely) enough room for all of the boxes of ceramic doll head molds and bits of furniture and all of the other things that didn’t end up in that garage sale or re-gifted. Then we all gathered in the backyard to spread Max’s ashes. Terry blessed each one of us with voodoo essential oils for clarity. We cried. We laughed. We cried a little bit more. Then we toasted to the future and grand new adventures. There is speculation that the new owner of Terry’s house is a young, gay man which seems fitting and full circle. I think about Terry moving into that house almost fourteen years ago and the changes he made to make it his home. I wonder what the new owner has planned for that space. Will it include Thanksgiving served on vintage china plates decorated with cartoons of the US states? Do you think he’ll have a burning of the Easter Bunny effigy in his backyard? Will he have dogs?

I bet not.

I bet the new owner starts his own traditions.

I am thankful for all the great times at Terry’s, but I am also grateful for his new adventure. I’m excited for him and I can’t wait to see what comes next. Michael and I are already talking about visiting him next summer. One thing I became very aware of is that I have to do better at maintaining these connections I have made with some really great people. I’m not just talking about Terry. Terry introduced me to some wonderful people and just because he’s no longer around to be the instigator, doesn’t mean I lose touch with these people. If these connections are important to me, and they are, then I need to step up and reach out and say ‘yes’ to more things. Because I’m thankful Terry brought those people into my life.

I am thankful for the good people in my life.

I am thankful for grand adventures.


Cindy Maddera

My friend Sean Patrick posted a Polaroid Impulse on an online market place a little while back. I saw it and felt a spark. So I sent him a message asking him if the camera worked. He replied back that the he’d just send me the camera and if it worked, I could just send him some money. If it didn’t I’d just have a 70s era vintage Polaroid to put on display. I did not hesitate in my response. I replied back with “send me that camera!” and then I started looking up film sources. You see that part up there where I mention feeling a spark? I saw that camera and thought about all the artsy photography crap I could do with it and felt inspired. That was all before I saw how much film was going to cost.

Fun fact: The vintage Polaroids like the Impulse do not have batteries. The battery is built into a package of film. That’s partly why the film for this camera is so expensive. The other part is just because ….film. This is a digital world (and I’m a digital girl). Film is just pricey.

Then I got real nervous. Michael said something about how I better be sure to know what I’m photographing, which didn’t make me feel any better. I ordered the wrong film (film for the new Polaroids DO NOT work with the old ones). I was already making mistakes and sabotaging myself and that was before I even loaded the correct film and took a picture. I was suddenly paralyzed with fear of taking a terrible picture and wasting film. This was a really stupid purchase and I can’t be an artsy photographer. I stewed over this for a few days. Saturday morning, we went to watch the Cabbage play soccer. After her game, we were all trying to figure out what other sports she could try. Every thing we suggested, softball, basketball, swimming, the Cabbage would shrug her shoulders and say something about how she wouldn’t be able to hit the ball, shoot the ball and she’s not a great swimmer. She didn’t want to do it if she wasn’t already good at it. She didn’t even want to try it.

That evening as I sipped on my gin and tonic, I thought about not doing something unless I was already good at it. I bought a scooter with the assumption that I would just know how to ride. I did not, as it turned out, know how to ride a scooter. I came close to running into three different parked cars before I parked my scooter into the garage, marched into the house and flopped down on our bed in tears. Chris came in and sat down next to me and placed his hand on my knee. I told him that I think I just made a terrible mistake. He told me to wait until I had a proper helmet and could practice. I got a helmet and I practiced. I practiced, practiced, practiced. I passed the test for my motorcycle license on the first try. My scooter is way more expensive than the film I purchased for that camera. The consequences of failure on the scooter is a lot more costly than taking a bad picture.

I got up and positioned my gin tea cup and saucer on the kitchen table and I grabbed the Polaroid. And… I took a not so great picture. It’s blurry and weird, but kind of creepy in a way that I like. I learned something about this camera that I didn’t expect. I’ve never shot a gun, but I have heard people talk about recoil. This camera has a recoil that I wasn’t prepared for. That’s part of the reason the image turned out blurry. The other reason is the manual focus. The subject needs to be at least four to ten feet away, which goes against my usuall method of getting up close and personal. Distance. I need distance. This camera is going to teach me that.

This camera is going to teach me a lot things.


Cindy Maddera

Josephine had an appointment at the groomer’s for 9 AM yesterday. At the very last minute, I decided to be late to work. My intention had been to get to work at my usual time, then rush home and gather the dog. Then I would drop her off at the groomer’s and head back to work. I suddenly realized just how stupid that was since the groomer’s is on the way to work. It’s just down the street actually. I could easily walk there from work. So I paused as I gathered my keys and bag and thought “what if I’m just late to work today?” What would happen if I disrupted my normal routine? Well, considering how this week has gone in general, there is no normal routine. For sure the world didn’t fall apart any more than it already has.

I talk a lot here about disruption of routines and how it usually has a negative affect on my mental stability (or lack of stability). I tend to say something about how the lack of routine makes me grateful for my routine. Sure, all of that is true. But for some reason, this time around, I started thinking a little bit differently about disrupting my normal routine. Every time I went to BlogHer, I would always seek out the photography sessions. I don’t remember what year it was or who said it, but in one of those panel sessions someone said to take pictures from different angles. This person talked about getting down on the ground or climbing up high, whatever it took to get a different view of the subject. I took this advice to heart. It is not uncommon to see me crawling on the ground or climbing up onto things I should not be climbing when I am in photographer mode. I will dangle myself out the window of moving cars (that’s Michael’s favorite thing….he just loves that so dang much). I will perch on the very edge of a cliff (that’s another one Micheal’s favorite things). Basically, I will dirty up the knees of my pants, put grass stains on the elbows on my sleeves, and put my life in danger for a photo.

I think this technique has served me well.

This is what I was thinking about today in regards to yesterday’s change in routine. It wasn’t necessarily a disruption, but more of a different angle. I should be treating my daily life in the same way I treat my photography endeavors. Changing the usual routine gives a different perspective on that routine. I can see what part of that routine is serving me best and what parts of it I just do out habit. So instead of being grateful for my usual routine, today I am grateful for the insight to look at the usual routine from a different perspective (and adjust accordingly).

And just because I need to brag about my dog: I picked Josephine up from our groomer, who went on and on about what a good little girl Josephine is. Apparently Schnauzer’s have a bad reputation among groomers, but Josephine is a dream. The groomer’s words. “Josephine is a dream.”


Cindy Maddera

I’ve been out with a nasty head cold that’s floating around the office. I still feel like a bit of a zombie even though I am awake, showered and dressed, sitting at my desk. I have my slides for a presentation I’m working on open, along with a paper about achieving high levels of simultaneous amplification of RNA and DNA. I said that paper is open, not that I’m actually grasping the vernacular. I will have read this paper by the end of the day. I swear it. I will also write up a new protocol for running a batch of slides on the spinning disk.

Goals. I’ve got them.

Last night Micheal asked me if I was going to make it to work today and I replied with a confident yes. In truth, I felt better on Tuesday. I had just slept poorly the previous night, tossing and turning. I would wake up sweaty and then wake up again an hour later freezing. So I gave it another day. I emerged back into the world just in time to be reminded not to forget about the significance of this date. Which is stupid because some dates, no matter how hard I’ve tried, seem to never erase themselves from my memory. Chris, Todd and I sat staring blankly at the TV in Galileo’s, slightly numb and wondering how it was possible that we found ourselves glued to the TV watching scenes of terror that were uncannily familiar to the ones we watched just six years previous when the Murrah building was bombed.

Maybe I should have taken an extra day.

I could not because I already feel guilty for taking those first two days. I feel guilty and bad about a lot of things. Last week’s holiday and conference stuff messed up my gym routine and my yoga practice. Half of this week was spent laying on the couch, feeling like a poopsicle. I am super paranoid about giving this virus to Michael and have asked him half a thousand times if he’s feeling okay. Just forget it if he sneezes or coughs. I might be overdosing us on vitamin C. I received a vintage camera and I managed to purchase the wrong film so I can’t test the camera. Then the actual film for the camera is expensive and so I have to be serious about the pictures I take with it. I think maybe I should have not been so impulsive when I saw the camera and was all “I want it!” Not because the film is expensive but because I don’t have the talent required to use this camera. Then today, my facebook timeline is clogged up with “Never forget!” and images of rubble. I think, of course I’ll never forget. This horrific event in history inspired J to go fucking save the world.

I feel myself beginning to slip under and I wonder how long I can hold my breath this time. One Mississippi. Two Mississippi. Three…

We all have our battles.


Cindy Maddera

Sitting with a relaxed spine, eyes gently closed. Find the coolness of the breath as it hits the back of the throat on the inhale, following it into the lungs and then back out as you exhale. Take a moment to bring forth an image of someone you love. Can you see their eyes? Can you make out all the different colors in their irises?

This came to me from one of my guided meditation apps that I use. I had chosen a long guided meditation that day, something like fifteen minutes. I started out laying back in savasana but after some time had passed I ended up sitting up, leaning comfortably against a wall. When I peaked at the clock, there was about five minutes left. The passage above came during those last five minutes. I had had a good yoga practice that day and even though I sat up early from my final relaxation, that part had been everything I needed. As I sat leaning against the wall with my eyes still closed, I could feel the sun beating down into my face. The sun was bright that day with no clouds or haze to shield you. Even with my eyes closed, the spot between my eyes, my inner third eye, seemed to glow a bright gold color.

Take a moment to bring forth an image of someone you love.

Chris was the first and only person to come to me at this prompt. There was no hesitation, no pause. It was his face that hovered in that bright golden glow. I pictured his warm brown eyes and the many shades of brown they contained. I saw his smiling beautiful face and I felt completely at peace, safe and warm, completely comfortable in this body, in this space. A smile came to my lips. My body felt filled to the brim with joy.

I told all of this to Dr. Mary on Tuesday. She asked me if this made me feel like I had completed this path of grief. I responded by saying that I don’t think that my grief path has an ending. At the time of my meditation, I felt wonderful, light and loved. As those feelings started to wear off, they were replaced with guilt and longing. If I had to think of grief as a path, I would say that it is a path of variability. If I link grief to the analogy of taking a hike, I would say that for most days, the hike is pretty easy. The path is well marked and even paved with that rubbery stuff they use in playgrounds. I just sort of bounce along the path. Then there are the days where the hike is laborious. It is rough terrain that travels up rocky hills. I have to shove my way through vegetation and brambles. I come out on the other side, scratched and bloody, sweaty and exhausted. But I complete it. Every day. Whatever the hike.

So, I have gratitude for the days when the hike is easy. I have gratitude for that moment of peace and joy. I also have gratitude for the days that hike is hard because those hikes build strength and stamina. Those hard hikes really make those easy hikes sweeter.


Cindy Maddera

My brother said something over the weekend about how he’s supposedly the enemy now because he is a white privileged male. He followed this up with how he didn’t understand how he was privileged because he’s had to work hard for everything he has. He sounded dejected as he said all of this and I felt bad for him. My brother is a good man. I wanted to explain to him how, even though he’s worked hard for everything, he still has a certain amount of privilege allotted to him because of the color of his skin and his maleness. How do you explain to someone who hasn’t had it easy, that they are privileged?

Privilege: a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group.

I can see my brother reading this definition and asking “what was my special right?” Oklahoma is still a very racially segregated state. Most, if not all, of what he experiences is in a community of white where marginalization is socioeconomic. As a good friend of my pointed out, even the right to work is a privilege. This study is a good example of how just the name on your resume can keep you from getting a job.

White names receive 50 percent more callbacks for interviews

I once had a boss ask me if it was true that some of the people we were working with didn’t want to talk to me because I am a woman. He said this with all sincerity. He was genuinely clueless. It just never dawned on him that this sort of discrimination was happening in his environment. Because it was something he himself had never experienced. This is privilege. Walking into a store without being under constant supervision because of the color of your skin is a privilege. Going to buy a wedding cake and not being turned away due to your sexual orientation is a privilege. Being paid and treated the same as your coworkers is a privilege.

I recognize that I too have many privileges allotted to me. I didn’t ask for them, but I sure did take advantage of the safety it provided me. I allowed myself to be naive in thinking that all people had the same advantages if they only worked hard for it. Honestly, I didn’t have to work all that hard to get to where I am today. Scholarships just appeared. My parents had just enough. I did not have to work and support myself while I was getting an education. THAT IS A PRIVILEGE. With my whole heart, I believe this should not be a privilege but a right for everyone. Now I use the benefits of my privilege to support education whether it be through volunteer outreach or donations. The first step is recognizing your privilege. The second step is using that privilege to do good, to speaking up for the marginalized and to be grateful.

Your privilege doesn’t make you an enemy unless you believe that you are owed these privileges because of your race. Or that you are owed these privileges at all. This is an important conversation that we need to be having because we need good men like my brother on our side. The last thing I want is for my brother to feel threatened or alienated for a number of reasons. Look what happens when white men feel threatened and alienated. They do stupid things like vote for Trump, hold rallies declaring their superiority, and have parades promoting their homophobia.


Cindy Maddera

Last weekend, I scrubbed the kitchen floor, dusted the whole house, wiped down baseboards, swept and vacuumed. I changed the couch cover. I cleaned the bathroom. I did laundry. I put clean sheets on the bed. I cleaned out the filling cabinet (and found Chris’s certificate of ordination because of course). I cleaned the vacuum! I roasted four pans of tomatoes. I made a batch of breakfast quinoa for the week. I made a vegetarian Bolognese sauce to go with cauliflower gnocchi. I mopped the kitchen floor again when my tonic water exploded all over me and the kitchen. I ate boiled okra with stewed tomatoes, cannelloni beans (no one had black-eyed peas at the farmer’s market) and smoked trout. I wrote in my fortune cookie journal. I went to an art exhibit. I visited the foot spa place. Then, I sorted prints. I cleaned out a desk drawer and organized all of my camera stuff to fit neatly in that drawer. I made a spread sheet of photos I want to print for a showing, along with the sizes I want to print of each, how much it’s going to cost to print and how much it’s going to cost to frame each print. Then I printed out that spreadsheet and stuck it on the wall at my desk.

It was a pretty productive weekend. I did every thing on my mental list of things that I wanted to do.

I did not ask for a weekend to myself. Michael read my entry about wanting time for myself and he put together a plan to spend a weekend with his moms. This prompted a discussion of making this a thing that happens more than once a year. We also talked about asking for things we need. And when I say “we”, I mean me. I need to ask for the things I need for myself. I told Michael that I didn’t think that this was something I could ask for myself for a number of reasons. I didn’t want to hurt feelings. He has a way of saying “okay’ to things in a tone of voice that makes me think he’s not really okay with doing what I asked. I worried that if I asked for time alone, I would get a dejected, sad ‘okay’ response. Then I’d feel selfish for wanting time alone. Michael doesn’t have to ask for his alone time weekends because I instinctually just give them to him and because it feels like a normal thing to do. We have vastly different relationship backgrounds.

Chris and I often went on separate vacations. He would meet Traci for coffee and stay out late at least once a week. We had our own things without each other and we didn’t feel the need to keep tabs on each other. So having to ask for time alone just wasn’t necessary. I don’t know about all of Michael’s relationships, but from what I’ve heard, there were trust issues. In his world, if you were out late with a member of the opposite sex it probably meant that you were up to something shady. Just as we are learning to navigate around all of that baggage, we are also having to learn how to navigate communicating with different personalities, mindsets, egos. And I don’t mean ‘egos’ in a negative sense. We all have egos. Read some Freud. Communicating effectively with another human being is complicated at the best of times, let alone during the stressful times when effective communication is most important. Sometimes it feels like I am navigating the open seas with only the stars, no compass and I’m terrible with astronomy.

I am coming to terms with the idea that in my need to communicate my wants and feelings, I might ruffle some feathers. I can’t control how someone is going to react, but I can be respectful and mindful in my words. The other’s feelings are just as valid as mine are and there will be times when we just agree to disagree. I am grateful for my weekend on my own. I am grateful for all the things I accomplished in that time. More importantly, I am grateful for learning to ask for what I need. I am grateful for each lesson in communication.


Cindy Maddera

I cannot tell a joke. I’ve never been able to tell a joke. There was this campfire activity we’d do at every 4-H camp/retreat. It would start with Paul, our 4-H extension office director, singing out “Joke! Joke! We call for a joke!” Then someone would stand up and tell a joke. We had all kinds of responses at the end of a joke telling. The one I remember now is “and the farmer hauled another one away; you could tell by the smell it wasn’t hay.” I never volunteered to tell a joke. If I was pressed for something or put on the spot, I would stand there frozen like a dear in headlights. “Uh, uh, uh…..knock knock!” I’d start and then panic about where I was going to take this knock-knock joke. Would it be the interrupting cow or the orange and banana routine? Which ever one I chose, you could be sure that the farmer would definitely be hauling it away.

Jokes just don’t stick to the inside of my brain. I can memorize lines. I had all of the lines for any scene of any play that Chris was in memorized. By the third listen of any song, I can easily sing along. I have a completely random six digit number I have to use to clock in for teaching yoga once a week. It’s in there. I plunk those numbers into the little logging machine every Wednesday without blinking. I read or hear a joke, laugh or chuckle, and then that joke is gone. Poof! It’s not just the act of remembering the joke, but it’s also the delivery. I might on some rare occasion remember a joke, but then some how scramble up the punch line. I saved a stupid advertisement/newsletter for weeks because it contained a list of Dad jokes. I kept thinking I would pick one to remember, but instead it just sits there cluttering my in-box.

I’m telling you. I cannot tell a joke.

This is okay with me. I’ve never been one for being put on the spot. I once walked out of a session at a science conference I was attending because I was put on the spot to give a five minute speech about my work. I said “No thank you.” and walked out. My job in life is not to be the joke teller, but to be the joke listener. I will laugh at your joke. Seriously. It doesn’t have to be funny. Just the shear act of you telling the joke will make me laugh because I appreciate what it takes to tell any joke, even it’s a bad one. Of course, there are exceptions. I don’t laugh if the joke is mean or racist or crude and objectifies women. Michael has this one joke he tells when he’s drunk about a priest in a bar. I never laugh at that one. But if it’s one of those silly Dad jokes like “my chicken counts eggs; she’s a mathmachicken.” I am going to laugh. It’s a guarantee.

Joke! Joke! I call for a joke!


Cindy Maddera

I saw the most important art exhibit that I have probably ever seen. 30 Americans is an exhibit of 30 African American artists, each one telling stories of race, beauty, hate, violence, love…stories of this America. It is an exhibit that encourages the discussion of all of those things. It is an exhibit that is visceral, powerful and poignant. If I had to talk about it with someone, describe my feelings as I walked away from that exhibit, I would not be able to do so with out choking on my emotions. Even now, I struggle with words to describe it. There were moments when I was struck dumb with the beauty of some of the pieces and moments that made me want to crumple to my knees and weep.


Art is power.

Art is what makes us human.

Without it, we are nothing.

Art has the ability to teach us about the otherness of the other, to feel, to find empathy. That’s what makes this exhibit so important; it makes you feel. Each piece in 30 Americans is a piece that tells a story through that artist’s eye and those stories, the ones told here, they’re stories we all need to hear. Our history classes in my school skimmed over the section on minorities. I say section because that was all that was dedicated to them in my school history books. Sections, that is what the history books should have included. That’s not even enough. Whole books. My art history education wasn’t any better. We learned about the great works of white men. Not black men. Not women. Certainly not black women. That lacking part of my education is unacceptable. Mickalene Thomas, Rashid Johnson, Gary Simmons, Carrie Mae Weems. This is just the short list of artists I should know. It is just the short list of artists that we should all know.

Let’s teach this to kids. Don’t make them wait and hope they discover it on their own or stumble across it in some obscure college class. Let’s teach them about this now.

All of it.


Cindy Maddera

Last week, I left work early to drive down to visit my Mom for the weekend. Since I was leaving early, I decided to take the old back way to her house and avoid paying a toll. It adds a little bit of extra time to my drive but does seem to be more scenic. I made it to Pleasanton Kansas where I was hit with a torrential down pour. It was raining so hard that I could not see the road ahead of me and I had to slow down to crawl. I was driving in the kind of weather that made me start to worry about flash flooding and tornados, but I just kept on going. I finally made it through the worst of it, but it continued to rain as I drove across Kansas.

There’s a section of this trip where I turn off the main highway and take a back country two-lane highway for several miles. I worried as I made the exit if I was making the right choice. I know that this part of the state is still recovering from flooding and I started to worry that I would end up hitting a section of road that was underwater and I’d have to turn around. I did see fields flooded with water, but the road remained clear. As I passed through Oologah the rain had completely cleared but I realized that I would be crossing through Tulsa right at rush hour. So then I started to wonder if I should exit the highway and drive through Collinsville to hook up with a different highway that would take me more around Tulsa rather than through Tulsa. I passed the Collinsville exit, stayed the course and had zero problems or slow downs as I crossed through Tulsa to Mom’s house.

How often do we all worry about the road ahead?

I never set out to worry about these things. It is not my intention worry, but it is still something I do. Most of the time the worry is not a crippling kind of worry that will render unable to make any decision or leave the bed. I still worry and I don’t think I am alone. It is part of our sympathetic nervous system. At one point the worry was pretty basic: food, water, shelter, avoiding predators. As all of those things became easier to come by (and in the case of predators, avoid) our sympathetic nervous system shifted it’s energy to other worries. It’s like the brain said we have to have something to worry over. Which is true. Worrying helps us solve problems and piece together puzzles. If the road ahead is flooded, then what do I do to get myself off that road and onto a safer one? There is, of course, a balance between stress and problem solving. You see, life has taught me that the road ahead is unpredictable. It can be a smooth ride or it can be treacherous.

Because of those lessons, I also know that I have the problem solving skills for whatever the road ahead brings me.


Cindy Maddera

Three days after we got back from Boston, I had to have blood work done for my new doctor in order to renew my medication for triglycerides. That was some really poor planning after a week of eating lobster rolls and fried clams and steamed clams and pasta (Boston has a large Italian community with lots of homemade pasta shops). One day, just on this one day, I had a salad for lunch…topped with seared sea scallops. My dinner one night was literally a giant bowl of clams cooked in a hot bean curd sauce. No vegetable. Not even rice. Just clams. The only fruit to enter my body during those seven days was the pound of grapes I ate on our picnic. I also have not taken my triglyceride medication since May, when the prescription ran out. This happened right after my doctor retired and I had to find a new doctor. So really, I should not have been so surprised when my new doctor called me the day after my bloodwork to tell me she wanted to put me on Lipitor.

Like an old man.

She did suggest that losing some weight might help me get off Lipitor. We talked about what I’m currently doing and she said “you just need to walk more steps and maybe lay off dairy.” Easy peasy. Just walk a few more steps. That fat will just fall right on off you. Well you can imagine what this news did for my mental health. I was pretty pouty and weepy for a few days. Then I buckled down, took cheese off the menu and added more broccoli to my diet. I eat less food at dinner time and go to bed a teensy bit hungry. I combined my inside walk loop with my outside walk loop and I always take the stairs. This week I decided to swap out my Tuesday/Thursday bicycle time with weight training. So now I’m hungry and sore, but I’ve lost about two pounds in just as many weeks, so that’s better than nothing.

All of this focus on diet and exercise and trying not to obsess but still kind of obsessing has zapped my creative energy something fierce. I have Boston pictures to edit and I need to compile a list of what pictures I want to print, what size to print, and set up a budget sheet of costs for printing and framing. I really should start pulling photos for that book idea. Michael is picking up the Cabbage on Friday and then they’re going to spend the weekend with his moms. This would be an ideal time for me to do all of the above. Instead I’m thinking about making a trip to the Farmer’s Market for crates of tomatoes and deep cleaning the house while I roast those tomatoes. I also have been craving black-eyed-peas and okra, both of which are great disappointments when cooked from frozen. I bet I can get both of those things there and if I’m willing to pay a bit extra, I can get those peas already shelled. There’s an exhibit at the Nelson that I’ve been meaning to visit. This is the last weekend for it and I’d feel really bad for missing it. There’s no excuse for missing it. I’m a museum member and it costs me nothing. A weekend to myself is a gift I just don’t know what to do with. There are so many possibilities that it’s almost paralyzing. Isn’t that just the way? I asked for this and now that I have it, I’m at a loss of what to do with it. I think that I can probably do all of the above and maybe even throw in a foot spa visit.

I’m going to pat myself on the back right now for typing that last sentence and showing some ambition.