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THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Every morning this week, my alarm has gone off at 4:50 AM and I have crawled out from under my heated blankets. I have pulled on my thermal leggings and long-sleeved T. I have unrolled my yoga mat and I have spent an hour in practice. I do not adjust the thermostat and the house is chilly, but I move my body through rounds of sun salutations to warm myself up. Often, Josephine comes back in from doing her thing outside and climbs back under the covers of my bed. She has a new haircut and she probably needs a sweater. She rolls herself up in my comforter like a burrito. It is only near the end of my practice, when I am settling down into a ten minute meditation, when I hear her jump from the bed and run into the living room to find me. Then she climbs into my lap and curls up like a ball. Instead of counting through a mantra, I scratch the dog.

I call it puppy meditation and I think I’m on to something. Like, move over goat yoga. Puppy meditation is taking a seat.

There have been plenty of scientific studies describing the health benefits of caring for and owning a pet. One study gave a group of people a rabbit or a turtle or a stuffed toy that matched one of those two things and then measured anxiety levels. Anxiety levels were lower for people who were petting the live animal. Even if it was a turtle. A review paper submitted to BMC Psychiatry found the current pile of scientific papers out there regarding pet ownership and mental health to be accurate in showing that:

‘pets provide benefits to those with mental health conditions through the intensity of connectivity with their owners and the contribution they make to emotional support in times of crises together with their ability to help manage symptoms when they arise.’

Even if it is a turtle.

There are lots of meditation techniques. Walking. Candle gazing. Chanting. Mindfully petting a dog fits right in. It’s a really nice way to start out the day. Every one is happier. Me. Josephine. Albus not so much. He curls up on the bathroom floor and gives us the side eye. But I bet if you had a nicer cat, you could have kitty meditation. Even turtle meditation.

I am thankful for puppy meditation. I am thankful for my puppy.

P.S. I bought Josephine an advent calendar. Michael incredulously said “You bought the dog an advent calendar?!” Then I told him why I bought the dog an advent calendar. Every time I get us one, the candy is terrible and there’s lots of complaining about who has to open it and eat it. Josephine’s little nubby tail is going to wag so hard that it’s going to make her whole body wiggle with excitement every time we open a day on the advent. We could be opening garbage and she would do all of her tricks. If anybody is going to gain joy out of a daily advent calendar, it’s going to be Josephine.

MODERN LOVE

Cindy Maddera

My music selection has been all over the place lately. I go from a Kesha station in the mornings to Morrissey in the afternoons. Some times I toss in some Pomplamoose or broadway show tunes. Last week, it was David Bowie. Hours and hours of everything Bowie. Modern Love started playing and for the first time I noticed that David Bowie speaks at the beginning of that song. His speaking voice caught me off guard. I was suddenly struck by the sound of it and immediately regretted not having a chance to have a intimate conversation with David Bowie.

David Bowie died from the same thing Chris died from. Cancer of the liver. I know what Mr. Bowie’s last few days looked like. I think of his wife who had to witness his last few days. I think of a few other women who have had to witness those last few days of their own spouses. I want to squeeze all of them tight and just whisper “I know. I get it.” The image of how they looked in the last few days are never going to leave your brain. It will float to the surface of your memories at random. Michael’s drunk face does it for me. I guess, at least I know what he’s going to look like in his final days. Also the smell of Jason’s Organic henna shampoo does it. It’s a shame because I really liked that shampoo.

The scientist in me finds it fascinating how the soul of a person sort fills the organic spaces like balloons. As the soul shrinks, the body doesn’t get smaller. It gets more hollow. Sunken. The body gets more and more unrecognizable as the person you knew. There are machines that photograph the entire insides of the human body, but there’s yet to be an image of what one could interpret as a soul. Everything has a name and (mostly) a function. The large intestine, small intestine. Heart. Liver. Kidneys. I would be tempted to say the appendix could be the organ that holds the thing that makes you, you. I’ve never known a person who has had that removed to know if they’re different afterwards, but considering that the removal of an appendix is pretty standard procedure would have me ruling out particular organ. I don’t have my tonsils and I’m pretty sure I still have my soul.

Pretty sure.

There’s something there that doctors haven’t seen that keeps us inflated and whole. Something more than air. It is the thing that makes you who you are. I know exactly the moment when Chris was no longer Chris. The same thing with Dad. There’s a part of me that wishes I didn’t witness those moments when the balloons filling up the their organic spaces, started popping. Those popping balloons didn’t even make a sound. No warning, yet I knew it was coming.

I know when to go out and when to stay in. Get things done.

Is that what’s holding our souls steady and in place? Knowing when to stay in so we can get things done?

It’s time to change the station.

VETERANS DAY

Cindy Maddera

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The World War I Memorial and Museum starts their celebrations at least a week in advance. This year the building is lit with images of poppies. I’ve yet had an evening free where I could go and see it. It hits me every Veterans Day; every time I see social media fill up with photos and thank you notes. Veterans Day arrives and at first I view all of it from a distance. I don’t really remember Veterans Day being a big thing. The pastor during Sunday service might have given a sermon on soldiers and faith and then request that all military veterans stand for recognition. I don’t remember parades or fan fair though. Veterans Day was one of those holidays celebrated quietly with only a moment of gratitude taken before moving on with our day. Then I remember.

My Dad was a veteran.

It’s an easy thing to forget. My Dad’s time in the U.S. Air Force ended long before I came along. Randy is the only one of Dad’s children who was around during Dad’s service and I don’t know how much of that time he remembers. Dad never really mentioned his time in the military. He could go on and on about the camping and beauty of Michigan where he was stationed and how much he enjoyed living there. But he never mentioned anything about his actual time on base. The few things I know came from my mother. She talked only once about the tensions between the US and Russia during the Cuban missile crisis and how Dad was on call at the base. Russia was entering US airs space daily. It was a very tense time. Dad never spoke a word about it.

That was his way.

Dad would on very rare occasions impart snippets of the serious moments of his life. Years after doing so, Dad told me about riding on a charter bus with his fellow Union members to the Oklahoma State Capitol to protest the Right To Work amendment. I was so surprised by this story. I knew my Dad was proud of his Union and attended all of the meetings, but I had no idea of his actions. Dad would tell us stories of fishing and camping. He would talk about the mischief he would get into with my Uncle Russell. Yet he never talked about the serious moments. Not even towards the end. And when I think about it, Dad was not the only service member in our family to not really mention their time in service. Pepaw, a veteran of the second World War, would tell you a few details about his time spent in the South Pacific and only when prompted.

I overheard a story on the news of a veteran’s reaction to someone thanking him for his service. This man was gracious in his response but then gave some advice. He said instead of saying “thank you”, tell a veteran “I remember". It is more meaningful to be remembered. I am grateful for those who have the fortitude to serve this country in the military, but I also want to remember and never forget those who served. We forget that our veterans serve for only a certain amount of time before moving on and living ordinary lives. They move on, have careers and raise families. They retire and grow old. Instead of thanking a veteran, maybe we need to prompt a veteran to share their story.

To remember.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

I’m sitting in the library, typing this and it is currently snowing. It started yesterday around lunch time. I don’t know when it finally stopped last night, but we woke up to everything coated in a layer of frozen slush. The sun came out just enough today to melt that layer away and now it’s started snowing again. It is almost a fitting ending to this week. It is as if someone decided to throw everything at me this week just to see what I was made of. Well…I’m not made of fluff and sugar or things that are brittle. Je suis forte.

I stopped at a cemetery on the way to work this morning. It is one of our historic cemeteries that offer two for one plots on the same grounds as baseball legends Buck O’Neil and Satchel Page. It seems like a morbid thing to enjoy, but I love old historic cemeteries and this one has the most beautiful trees in the Fall. Sometimes a fog rolls in and lingers along the tombstones like a 1950s black and white horror flick. There’s a cathedral style crypt built into the side of a hill near the back that is hauntingly beautiful. Despite how I feel about cold weather, I can’t help but notice how beautiful the snow can be and I knew that the cemetery would be a perfect place to capture that beauty. The only regret I have is that I didn’t have my Nikon on me. The decision to stop was a spur of the moment choice and I hadn’t thought to pack that camera. In the end, though, it didn’t really matter what camera I had in my hand. Something sparked as I stepped out of my warm car into the cold cemetery. I thought “Oh…hey! I remember this feeling!” traipsing through the snow and taking pictures. As I left the cemetery, I noticed another car had followed me in. That person was now standing outside their vehicle with their camera maybe feeling that same spark.

I’m going to be just fine.

PEEK-A-BOO

Cindy Maddera

I’ve been reduced to tears of anger, frustration and fear three times this week and it’s only Wednesday. Part of it’s been the election. Part of it has to do with work stuff (the first rule of blog club is to never blog about work). Some of it has to do with holding onto things I need to say but I’m afraid to say because I’m a big chicken. A tiny bit of it is me just feeling sorry for myself. An even smaller bit of that is my disappointment over the ending of the most recent episode of the Walking Dead (WHY DO WE STILL WATCH THIS?!?!). There’s an 80% chance that it is going to snow here tomorrow and I’ve just about got a hole dug out for me to be burry my head in it.

I feel like all the good parts of me have dropped off the planet. My writing is sparse and full of complaints and gripes. My photos are forced and unimagined. My yoga classes are uninspired and meh. I feel like shutting down here until the end of the year. We saw our first Christmas themed advertisement last night and Michael and I both booed the TV. Michael has already started asking me about what I want to do for my birthday in January and I almost told him to just fuck off. I can’t plan that far ahead. I can’t really plan ten minutes ahead right now. We’re lucky that I make up the menu for the week on Thursdays. It’s the reason we have food for this week and meals I don’t have to think about. We’re spending Thanksgiving with friends at a cabin in the woods in California. In my head, I’m already eating an Ike’s sandwich and taking long walks in woods of tall trees. I’m photographing the fog that rolls into Tomales Bay and looking for giant slugs.

Maybe this is where I’ll find those missing good parts of myself.

I’m not giving up completely for the rest of the year. I’ll be around only because I know that writing here keeps me somewhat sane.

SCSC, PART 2

Cindy Maddera

Ida’s best friend, Myrtle, lived in the local nursing home. Myrtle’s son, Howard, had moved his mother into the Hanalei Assisted Living Center a year ago after Myrtle had accidentally set her kitchen on fire. It was a simple mistake, one all of us have made. Myrtle had forgotten to turn off the burner after boiling water in her tea kettle. She had never had a ‘senior moment’ before and Howard latched onto this one with might. Myrtle knew that her son wanted her out of her bungalow so he could sell it to developers. Her house on the beach had become hot property. Myrtle was contacted almost weekly by some developer or another offering her an outrageous sum of money for her tiny little house. Howard had not thought twice before dropping his mother off at Hanalei Assisted Living and was probably living it up in Oahu with the fortune he’d acquired from selling Myrtle’s house.

Myrtle didn’t really mind too much. As a mother, she wanted her son to have everything he dreamed of having. If that meant putting her into assisted living and selling her house, then so be it. What she did mind was the center’s strict rules and prison style schedules. The director of the center refused to let patients go any where near the beach, let alone try to stand on a surfboard. They were relegated to exercising on a treadmill in the gym or walking the gardens attached to the backside of the center. The gardens backed up to a wildlife refuge, so the bird watching was good, but bird watching and surfing where incomparable. Myrtle longed for the ocean, her board and escape. Ida visited every day and the two of them would sit in the rockers on the large verandah that surrounded the main building, plotting Myrtle’s escape.

One day, Ida was explaining how she’d heard that you could mix a few drops of Visine into someone’s coffee and it would give that person explosive diarrhea. “We could put some in the security guard’s coffee and the orderly’s soda drink.” “That doesn’t really work.” Ida and Myrtle looked up as a tall older gentleman with stooped shoulders dragged a rocker over and settled himself in it. “Bernard Muller. I don’t mean to listen in but I want the same thing you two seem to want. Freedom and surf.” After Bernard, came Lelani Kahale who wasn’t so much interested in surfing as she was just being able to get in the ocean with her snorkel, mask and spear for fishing. Lelani brought Alexi Sokolov into the group. She’d been eating her meals with this man since she moved into the center and he told her fantastical stories of being a Russian spy. She thought his skills might come in handy.

So now, they were a group of five, not counting Ida’s new apprentice, Floyd who didn’t realize yet that he was also a part of this group and would in fact play a pivotal role in their escape plan.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Not too long ago, maybe near the end of September, we had a couple of weeks of rain and cloudy skies. It was bleak and dreary and many of us wondered if we were ever going to see the sun again. Actually, this scooter season, I ended up getting caught in the rain more times than I ever have during a scooter season. I worried that we were going to move from Summer right on into winter without getting a Fall. Eventually the clouds went away and the sun came out. Everybody’s basements dried out. The weather shifted from warm and muggy to cool and dry. The days have been sunny with mild temps while the evenings and nights have been down right cold.

Turns out warm days and cold nights is the perfect weather recipe for amazingly vibrant Fall leaves. We all learned in basic biology about how plants use chlorophyll to make food from the sun. Trees make lots of chlorophyll during the months were have the most sunlight, Spring and Summer. As Summer turns into Fall, trees start breaking down chlorophyll to prepare for the darker days when we don’t get as much sunlight. As chlorophyll, which is also a pigment, is broken down into smaller molecules, underlying pigments like yellow and orange show through. Reds and orange come from sugars that get trapped in the leaves. On warm sunny days, more sugars get trapped in the leaves and then on cool nights, chlorophyll breaks down. The leaves end up being more vibrant and stick to the trees longer.

Science is beautiful.

Every time I step outside, I think I’ve stepped onto the set of some Hallmark Channel made-for-TV Thanksgiving movie. The trees are so vibrant and breathtaking that they don’t even seem real. Just when I think it can’t get any prettier, another tree shifts over to flaming red or blinding gold and I mumble “are you fucking kidding me?!” to myself because I just can’t believe I’m in Kansas City and not Vermont. The concept of a true Fall season is still new to me. I’m not sure I will really ever get used to it. When the leaves change color here and last for weeks, I am so pleasantly surprised. I think of it as my consolation prize for the colder temperatures and the impending winter. Fall is here to overwhelm the optic nerves with vibrancy before we settle into the cold dark gray of winter.

I am thankful for that vibrancy.

SATYA

Cindy Maddera

I am ‘friends’ on Facebook with most of the people I went to high school with. One of those is a guy who I remember as always being kind and respectful. He was the kind of guy that would change your flat tire, the kind of guy who made sure you were safe. I also remember him having a decent sense of humor. I don’t really know who this guy is now. Time changes us in good and bad ways. He often re-posts those memes floating around that are hateful or poke fun at someone who is different from his norm. Most often I don’t see these posts anymore because I went into my settings and changed the things I see posted. That guy recently had a birthday and I took a moment to wish him a happy birthday. He responded with a thank you and referred to me as a “sweet woman”. I told him that one of the best things about the internet is how it can be used to send good wishes and to encourage one another. I still want to believe that this man is kind and respectful, just maybe not so mindful about the things he posts.

I was reminded of satya when I attended a yoga class at work on a day I don’t usually attend classes. The teacher started the class with a lesson on this sanskrit word for truth. She talked about being true to yourself and your body on your mat. She talked about being kind to yourself. She talked about knowing your truth. This is not a new lesson for me. Satya is one of the five yamas, which are the ethical rules of yoga. Sort of a ‘right living’ manual. Satya can be interpreted simply as being to true to yourself. It can also be one of the yamas that could be studied deeply and can become very complicated. Satya follows the first yama, ahimsa, which is the practice of non-violence or simply, ‘do no harm’. We have to find ways of speaking our truths without causing harm to others. The practice of satya, off the mat, makes us more respectful and thoughtful.

The internet is a good place for the practice of satya. Other bloggers I follow (Chookooloonks and Elan Morgan) have been writing about creating ‘soft spaces’. On Monday, just days after the shooting that took place at a Pittsburg synagogue killing eleven people, there were 11,696 posts on Instagram containing #jewsdid911. Social media has become the most popular method for spreading hate speech, racism and misinformation. The President of the United States participates daily in the spread of hate and racism in his twitter feed. I have been struggling daily with the ugliness I see from the people in this country. I know of two wonderful women who have lost their husbands this month and my heart aches for them. I wish nothing more than to have the superpower to protect these women in their grief, to ease it for them in some way. I wish nothing more than to have the superpower to protect all of us from grief, hate, racism, the president.

I don’t have that kind of power, but I do have the power to create a soft space, a place of comfort to others. I do have the ability to speak my truth in a non-harmful way, respectful way. Let’s practice satya together.

THE SENIOR CITIZENS SURF CLUB

Cindy Maddera

The Senior Citizens Surf Club (or SCSC) was founded by Floyd Henderson and Ida Merryweather on Hanalei Bay beach on the island of Kauai in 1978. Floyd was 22 years old. He had dropped out of medical school on his second day of class, smuggled himself onto a container barge and ended up on the big island of Hawaii. He stayed there in a small village doing odd jobs from fixing small engines (not much different from the human heart really) to mending torn fishing nets (very much like stitching up a cut). Eventually he hopped on a fishing boat to Kauai with no intention of staying long, but with every intention of learning everything about building his own surfboard. Floyd had heard rumors of an old hermit who lived in a shack on the beach. The hermit was supposed to be the best surfboard maker to ever have made a surfboard.

It did not take long (Kauai’s not that big of an island) for Floyd to find his hermit. On his third morning on the island, Floyd hit up Hanalei Bay beach for some morning surfing. He was sitting on his board in the water, contemplating his next move when he spotted one surfer in particular. This surfer was slotted. That’s the term for when a surfer is tucked nicely into the barrel of a wave and this surfer was tucked in like burrito. Just as the wave started closing in, the surfer zipped out to the crest of the wave and then rode that wave all the way to the beach, skidding to stop and hopping off with a ‘tah-dah’! flare. Floyd almost applauded. He swam his board back to the beach to meet this person and ask him if he knew about this mysterious surfboard maker.

Floyd realized as he walked up to this surfer that he was not about to introduce himself to a young man like himself. No, when Floyd reached the surfer he was introducing himself to Mrs. Ida Merryweather, an eighty year old widow and obvious surf queen. She peeled her wetsuit off to reveal a floral print one piece swimsuit that perfectly matched the flower print swim cap on her head. Her skin was that soft brown wrinkled leather kind of skin of a person who had spent years and years outside in the sun, not bothering with sunscreen. Her hair, revealed as she pulled off the swim cap, was white as snow and sprang up from her head in frizzy curls. Ida was no spring chicken, but her smile was true and her ocean blue eyes sparkled with mischief. Floyd was immediately smitten with Ida.

Floyd told Ida that he’d come to the island to find the hermit who made surfboards in hopes of learning how to make surfboards. Ida laughed and shook her head saying “I never considered myself a hermit.” The shack on the beach was actually a two bedroom bungalow a mile from the beach with a workshop in back where Ida spent her days sanding, buffing and lacquering wood into beautiful surfboards which were sold in local surf shops. Floyd begged to be Ida’s apprentice. “Son, you didn’t need to beg. You just had to ask.” was Ida’s response and that’s how Floyd became Ida's apprentice. Floyd moved into Ida’s spare bedroom and in return for learning all he could about making surfboards, he ran the errands. He picked up groceries and made sure they were eating well. He did the yard work and fixed the carburetor in Ida’s station wagon. Ida taught him how to smell the wood for lightness and feel for weight. She taught him how to sand and how when you think you’re done sanding, you sand just a teeny bit more. Floyd became Ida’s caretaker and Ida became Floyd’s surf mentor.

By now, you’re probably wondering were the surf club comes in. Hold on. I’m getting to that.

SOUR GRAPES

Cindy Maddera

My alarm went off at 4:50 AM this morning and I made the choice to ignore it and not get up and do my yoga practice. In hindsight, the choice to skip my morning yoga practice was probably a poor one and set the tone for my day. I got my scooter out of the garage only to discover that it wouldn’t start. The battery was dead. It’s been cold here. It could also still be the same battery I’ve had since I bought the scooter ten years ago. Then I had to maneuver my not so light scooter back up the hill and into the garage, climbing over mine and Michael’s scooter to get out of the garage. I stepped into the stairwell at work to head out on my coffee walk only to realize that I had left my badge on my desk, trapping myself in the stairwell. I answered some asinine emails, struggling to refrain from just replying “you are stupid.” By the time I left for my chiropractor appointment, I was a festering ball of bitchiness.

When Chris and I still lived in Chickasha, there was a grimy little laundry mat around the corner from our apartment where we’d go wash our clothes. We were there one afternoon sitting with our books, doing school work while our clothes tumbled around in the washers. There was a young woman there with her two young children. The girl, just learning to read, was reading out loud from a children’s book she’d found in one of the chairs. The boy, just learning to talk, was walking around saying “Fuck this. Fuck that.” The young mother yelled over at her daughter '“Crystal-Lynn, shut up. No one wants to listen to you read.” She said nothing the boy. Sometimes I feel like that little boy lives inside me whispering “fuck this. fuck that”, goading me to say it in turn. Crystal-Lynn, I hope you’re still reading even if you have to say the words out loud to do so.

The sun is shining. The basement is clean. We’ve done preventative maintenance to keep rain out of the basement. The washer and dryer are paid for. I went to book club last night and didn’t feel like the odd girl out for not liking our chosen book. My life is pretty good. I have no reason to walk around shouting “Fuck this and fuck that.” Yet I am seriously considering doing just that. I am a prickly pear. A prickly pear with a creativity block. This is why I’m writing about grimy laundry mats and delinquent toddlers. I have nothing better for you. In fact, I’m banging my head on the keyboard right now trying to figure out a way to end this post.

Fuck this.

Fuck that.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

I took up a 365 day photo project this year where I take a picture of myself everyday for 365 days. Many of you know I’ve done this before. I’ve completed two years. Almost completed another year. Skipped a year. Tried again for another year and failed. When I decided to do the project this year, I was thinking about how I felt after finishing the first year, how taking all of those pictures of myself made me actually like my face and body. By the end of it, I didn’t mind being in front of the camera. I thought about how I have lost that confidence. When I looked in the mirror now, my face looked bloated and saggy and sad. Forget looking at my whole reflection in a floor length mirror. So I’ve been slugging my way through this year’s 365 day project hoping to see something of me that made me feel less bloaty and saggy.

It took me two hundred and twelve days to get to a place where I thought “okay….okay. you’re not so bloaty and saggy.”

A few months ago, I travelled to Oklahoma to visit with friends. I stopped at the Oklahoma Welcome Center just outside of Kansas to take a bathroom break. When I stepped out of the stall, I came face to face with a woman wearing the exact same clothes as I was. Except she was thinner and pulling off the outfit way better than I. It took a second glance for me to realize that the woman I was looking at was actually me. There was a full length mirror right outside my bathroom stall. It was obviously a carnival mirror and two women walked in on me while I was taking a picture. Later that weekend when I was at the Jens’, I was getting ready in their bathroom and noticed that my reflection in their mirror was also very flattering. Again, I chalked this up to some weird quirk of Oklahoma. Like maybe all the mirrors in Oklahoma are carnival mirrors. Even when my doctor told me at my recent check-up that I had lost ten pounds since the last time I was in, I was not all that impressed. Maybe a little surprised. I’d stopped stepping onto the scale ages ago. It just never seemed to change and I stopped caring. I stopped trying to like myself.

Maybe it has something to do with getting rid of so much stuff, but I finally feel the loss of those ten pounds. I don’t only feel it, but I can see it. I see it in the mirror. I can see it when I look down at my body, when I’m moving through my vinyasa. I can see it in the pictures I take.

Finding lost confidence. That’s something to be grateful for.

OUR BASEMENT FLOOD WAS THE BEST THING TO HAPPEN TO US

Cindy Maddera

Every year, my New Year’s resolution includes cleaning out and pairing down. Every. Year. Every year, I fail miserably. This year? It took a flooded basement to get me to complete this goal. The insurance company contacted a cleaning service Thursday morning and by Thursday afternoon, the whole crew was in my basement. They told us that everything on the floor was a loss unless it was made of metal. This included the pallet shelves Michael built. All the things on those shelves had to go into our dining room and living room. The garage filled up with all of the unsalvageable items. Friday morning, Michael and I went shopping for a new washer and dryer and some new shelves. Michael called a dumpster service and Friday afternoon we had a big trash dumpster parked in our driveway.

We tossed. We threw. We hauled. We hustled.

By Saturday night we had cleared out all the garbage from every nook and cranny of the house and garage, as well as a pile of brush from our yard and the neighbor’s yard. We managed to pair ourselves down to three boxes of keepsakes, a box of my mother’s china, three boxes of ebay items, a few games, four boxes of Christmas decorations (including the tree), one Halloween box, two tents, a metal detector, one pottery wheel, and some of our large kitchen items that we don’t use every day. Ten boxes were placed in front of the garage for the Boys and Girl’s club donation pick up today. By late Sunday morning, I was washing clothes in our new fancy washing machine. The dryer sings you a song when it is done. The inside of the house has been swept and vacuumed and there is no evidence of the chaos of having all of the things in our living room.

I feel like we accomplished superhuman feats this weekend. Michael and I pass each other in the house and high five. I look around the living room and then say “hey, remember that one time when all of our stuff from the basement was in here?” Then I go down to the basement and walk around the clean floor. The basement is cleaner now then when Chris and I moved in seven years ago (almost 8 years). It is bitter sweet. At times I had to reconcile my need for the tangible memory versus just having the memory. I had no choice over the things that were damaged like Chris’s framed Simpson’s lithograph and framed Futurama poster. I held on to a few trinkets. A Saint Christopher charm. A Ghostbuster’s pin. An original Han Solo figure. Michael kept telling me that he didn’t want me to think that he was asking me to throw away all of Chris’s things. I don’t feel like he was pushing me to do anything I didn’t want to do. I don’t feel like he was pushing me to do anything Chris wouldn’t want for me to do. Chris struggled between wanting to be free of all of his things and wanting to have all of the cool things. I think, at times, he was crippled by the weight of the amount of things he had collected.

I remind myself that this house was never really mine and Chris’s. We never got the chance to nest in it together. We moved in believing that we would move out in a year and so we never really unpacked or painted the walls or even hung up much artwork. Chris was sick by the time we signed the paperwork on the house. All the changes that were made to the interior of the house came after Chris. Getting rid of his things doesn’t free me from Chris because I’ve never felt imprisoned by his memory but I do feel free. Free of the things that weighed us down.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Monday evening, while washing dishes, I noticed the water was not getting hot. Michael went to the basement to investigate and discovered that we had water in our basement. The drain had gotten clogged enough that water pooled causing the pilot light to go out on the hot water tank. It also fried the washer and dryer. That night I dreamed that I was trapped in a cabin with an enraged bear. The bear spoke english, but he was so blinded by rage that I couldn’t reason with him as I scrambled from hiding place to hiding place. He was angrily smashing furniture and ripping cloth with his large razor sharp claws, saliva dripping from his canines. I kept trying to calm the bear down and explain to him that I was one of the good guys and I just wanted to help him get out. He smashed the wood table I was hiding under and I woke up.

I don’t know if the bear represented Michael or the basement or a combination of both.

I am trying to negotiate with the insurance company on getting someone to help with the clean up process and with replacing the washer and dryer. Fans are blowing and the dehumidifier is humming in order to dry things out. The plumber showed up between two and six on Thursday to snake the drain. There is nothing for us to do right now but wait and make tentative plans on how we are going to tackle all of this mess. To add to our anxiety, the cat has been missing since Monday. The mood around here is at a serious low. I keep telling myself that it could be worse. We could have sewage backing up into the basement. Then I remind myself that even if we did, that wouldn’t be as bad as the first time I had sewage backing up into the basement, back when I was desperately trying to keep someone alive while trying to clean up raw sewage. You know that time when I was juggling Faberge eggs and I dropped all of them and they shattered into a million pieces? I suppose I am grateful that this time is not like that one time.

When I am not fighting off bears or wondering where the cat might be, I am thinking about the concept of not doing enough. Dr. Mary told me a story about one of her friends that she visits. The woman is 94 years old and she plays bridge every Monday with the same group of woman that she’s been playing bridge with for 60 years. Recently, this woman’s bridge partner passed away. Her name was Anne. Anne played bridge on Monday, caught a cold on Wednesday and then passed on from this world on Sunday. She was 92. Dr. Mary’s friend was devastated and said “I feel that I could have done something more for Anne.” I received many comments on Monday’s blog entry that expressed similar feelings in regards to a lost loved one. Wanting to do more for the ones we love is universal and often spills over to people we don’t even know. I’m thinking of that scene in Schindler’s list when Oskar Schindler breaks down and says “I could have saved more. I could have saved more.”

The knowledge that there are so many of us out there willing to do more for not only our loved ones, but for complete strangers, gives me hope. The trick is finding a balance between wanting to do more, doing what we can and accepting that we have done what we could. That acceptance part is probably the most challenging. It’s the tight rope of my Faberge egg juggling act.

UPDATE: The cat is home! He’s alive! With no visible injuries! Cleaners came and cleaned the basement. Everything that was in the basement is now in the living room/dining room and garage. Am I freaking out? You betcha ya!

KNOWING TOO MUCH BUT NOT ENOUGH

Cindy Maddera

We are in lab meeting and one of my colleagues is doing a presentation on a couple of projects she’s working on with another lab. This research is cancer research. I sit there and listen to her talk about the proliferation of cancer cells in the presence or absence of a certain drug or inhibitor. I stay focused to what she is saying, really listening to this very interesting preliminary data, but somewhere in the back of my brain the voices of past doctors start to whisper. On the outside, I look normal. I sit there nodding my head in understanding, asking questions. On the inside, it feels like pieces of myself are just breaking off and dropping to the floor. By the end of the meeting “there’s nothing we can do” is roaring in my head and rage is boiling under my skin. I find myself sitting on the toilet in a bathroom stall, sobbing. Hot tears burning my cheeks.

I sit and listen to these research talks and think how is it possible that there was nothing that could be done. This is followed up with guilt over not trying hard enough. I failed to exhaust all resources and just listened to what the three different doctors had to say. I didn’t load us into the car and drive across the country to one of the best cancer treatment facilities. I didn’t even try any crack-pot cures like flushing Chris’s system with wheat grass. I had a woman I used to work with ask me if she could come and do a laying of hands kind of healing. I politely declined the offer, but now I wonder if that would have been the thing to cure him. Instead, I let Chris die. In The Mountain Between Us, Idris Elba’s character is a neurosurgeon whose wife died of brain cancer. The guy was top in his field and he couldn’t save his wife. I’m mediocre in my field and think I should have been able to perform miracles.

These are moments when I hate my line of work. I hate knowing how white blood cells are recruited to dead tissue and inevitably trigger cancer cells to start dividing. Your own healthy cells do you in. Chris wrecked his scooter and cracked a couple of ribs. Was this when it started? Did he damage his liver enough in the accident to trigger cancer cells to start dividing? We would have had a better chance of winning if I had pushed him harder to go to a doctor earlier. Could’ve should’ve would’ve. This one research presentation can send me spiraling down into the great unknown of things I should have done better. It’s like stepping into quicksand, except I don’t struggle. I just give into the undertow of being sucked under. Actually, that’s not true. Quicksand isn’t really that hard to escape and people only die from quicksand drownings in the movies. Also, I have no idea what it feels like to step into quicksand. I can only imagine that it is very much like the slow sinking feeling of become cold and numb on the inside.

The next day, I’m sitting at the counter at Heirloom, writing in my Fortune Cookie journal. I catch the lyrics of the song that is playing.

“Well, sometimes love is all it’s supposed to be. But it can break you. Remember, take care of your heart and cry. Oh, somehow we’ll survive.”

I think about all of the chest opening poses I do in my yoga practice, always trying to open my heart. I went to a yoga workshop this year that focused on spinal alignment. The teacher’s cue for pulling the bottom ribs together was to push your chest back, closing the heart a bit. This was the opposite of what I had been taught and what I had been practicing. It was painful and by the end of the workshop, my ribcage ached. I’ve opened my heart so much now that it is flat. I picture the structure of the heart folded from origami paper, slowly unfolding and laying itself open. Wrinkled, but spread out flat. What can that unfolded origami heart hold? Not much. My heart is laid out flat, not holding much of anything. I haven’t been taking care of my heart. I pretend that I am. I plaster a smile or at least an optimistic look on my face and go about my day as if my heart is normal and not made of paper and crumpled.

Remember, take care of your heart and cry. Oh, somehow we’ll survive.”

I’m prepared for the paper cuts I’m going to get while folding my paper heart back into shape.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Gratitude comes pretty easily today. This week has been a full one with days starting at 5 AM and sometimes not ending until after 9 PM. There have been good mornings on my mat. I uploaded a seven minute workout to Alexa. Michael and I have been doing seven minute workouts of jumping jacks, planks, pushups, squats and few other things. I think it is fun. Michael thinks it is necessary torture. We high-five when we have completed all of the seven minute exercises. The dog’s ear infection is much improved even though the medicine makes her ear greasy. She takes turns licking one of us in the face while we’re doing our pushups. She’s helping. I started a new project at work that required the use of some lab skills that I haven’t used in about seven years. The experiment worked on the first try and I’ve been patting myself on the back for days.

The best thing of the week was a short visit with Chad, Jess and the Boy. They’re doing a road trip to Idaho and they’re route took them right through KCMO. They stopped in Thursday night for dinner and a place to sleep before they had to head out after breakfast today. I drove them to the Nelson so Chad could take pictures of the shuttlecocks and then I took them to one of the best Kansas City BBQ places for dinner. They had a long way to drive today, so we got up early and they followed me to my favorite breakfast place before we parted ways. As always, our visits together are brief. Too brief. That might be our thing. Our first face-to-face meeting happened as he was passing through OKC on an epic road trip. We met for a dinner lasted for hours and hours. Chris and I had decided Chad was family by the end of it and then Chad drove off into the sunset. The next time I would see Chad would be for Chris’s memorial service. We had two days to grieve together, to cry and then laugh through our tears together. After this, we would have snippets of time together. Three days here. Two days there. Our visits are brief but vital, like a vitamin.

I am thankful for the opportunity to hug this framily of mine, to remark on how much the Boy has grown. I am thankful for ever snicker to uproarious laughter that always, always happens when I am around these people. I am thankful their road trip travels took them through Kansas City and I am thankful they are getting this time away together as a family. Like I said earlier. This was a full week. A week full of goodness.

I THINK I'D BE GOOD AT IT

Cindy Maddera

I’ve been thinking about this for a while now and I know it’s going to sound really weird and maybe slightly unlike me. I’m not a crystal wearing sage burning type of person. I do not practice ‘witch craft’ nor do I believe myself to be a witch. Except maybe I’m a science witch. I am about to set up a PCR reaction to put a twelve amino acid tag into a specific yeast gene. To some people (most people) all of that sounds like witchery. Side note: we, my colleagues and I, were talking about dog breeding the other day. I mentioned I saw a miniature beagle once who looked like a puppy even though he was full grown. So then we started talking about how someone might breed to get a small beagle. Then we all wondered if they were using CRISPR on dogs because we all agreed that would be better for the dogs than rounds of inbreeding. See? My daily life does not reflect what I am about type next.

I want a set of tarot cards.

No, really. I think I’d be really good at reading tarot cards. I keep thinking about that time Chris and I were in Jackson Square and we decided to have our cards read by one of the many readers set up there that day. The woman who read our cards was very normal and straight forward. Basically she said “look, I’m going to tell you some things based on the cards you draw. They may or may not be true and it only pertains to the next six months.” I can do that. I can tell you stories based on the cards you choose that may or may not be true. I don’t remember everything the woman in Jackson Square told me. I think there were three things. One thing I do remember is that she said I would move to a place without Chris and this really did happen. I moved to OKC without Chris for three long horrible months. So, I really only have to get one out of three things right.

I don’t know why I think I’d be good at reading tarot cards. It’s just something I feel I have a knack for I guess. I can picture myself sitting at a table at a party, a nice drink in my hand and lovely deck of card at my fingertips. “Oh! You chose the death card!” I’d declare in some dramatic way. Then I’d spin a tale about how the death card doesn’t exactly mean you’re going to die. It just means the death of something, like a habit. At least this is how I would interpret the cards. I don’t know how I’d interpret the other cards because I don’t really know what the other cards are…yet. I just see myself telling people some nice stories based off the cards they pick out and if I get something right then I’ll shout out “I’M PSYCHIC!”

Reading tarot cards would make for a great party trick, but I’m only thinking about this now because it’s October and the month of Halloween stuff. Creepy Suzanne gets to come up out of the basement. Oh, how I’ve missed her (Michael has not). I get to put my Halloween wreath which turned out to be way cooler than my Christmas wreath. I have already bought one pumpkin covered in green warts. I don’t know why I get so excited about putting up these decorations. We never have trick-or-treaters. Our mail person has commented about how we always have the best pumpkins. Maybe that’s why I get excited. I know those decorations bring so much joy to our mail person.

Any way, I’ll read the cards for you if I ever get a deck. I’m sure you’ll have good fortune.

THINGS I'M DOING DIFFERENTLY

Cindy Maddera

Michael and I had a short side hustle going charging Bird scooters. These are little electric razor type scooters. The company was paying $5 to $15 a scooter to charge them and then drop them off at a designated ‘nest’. Michael would go out around 9:00 PM and hunt up three scooters and then I would get up at 5:00 AM to return them to a nest. We had a really nice system going and made almost $100 our first week. Then the company decided to lower the prices to $3 a scooter and the scooters were harder to find. Most of them ended up in the Plaza area or downtown, which seemed to far for us to drive for $9. Hunting the scooters at night is not the easiest thing to do either. Michael noticed on his last few runs that he seemed to be in competition with another person driving around in a van. They were racing each other to scooters.

So we stopped our side hustle, but I’m still waking up at 5:00 AM. To be honest, I had kind of been waking up around that time any way. I’d roll over and look at the clock and the think “oh! I can sleep for another hour!” I’d close my eyes and snooze until my alarm went off. I would wake up groggy and contemplating the prospect of staying put. Getting out of bed was hard. That’s because I was resetting my sleep rhythm. Circadian rhythm is complicated, but here’s the gist of the sleeping part. About two hours before you wake up, your body starts to prepare, like increases body temperature. When you disrupt this process by hitting the snooze button your body gets confused. It goes back to sleepy time mode and then when you do finally get up, you’re left with a fuzzy headed groggy feeling.

I noticed that I felt better on days I got up early to drop off Birds. I was up and doing things with more enthusiasm for being up and doing things. I know it sounds crazy. Most people think that 5:00 AM is an ungodly time to be up and about. The sun isn’t even up at this time. The chickens aren’t even out of the coop at this time in the morning. But this seems to be how my body works. I’m an early to bed, early to rise kind of girl. When the scooter hustle stopped, I started getting up and getting on my mat. Now I do about fifty minutes of yoga before getting into the shower. It is not always easy. There are many morning when my body is up, but not willing to move. I am bit stiff and creaky. It take two rounds of sun salutation to get the blood moving in my extremities. Then there are moments when I have to slide Josephine off the end of the mat because she’s decided she’s going to lay there or the cat decides to walk under me while I’m in down dog, his tail tickling my nose.

Distractions.

I stopped doing yoga at home when J died. Not completely. There were times I tried to get on my mat at home, but there were always too many distractions. At first it was the phone. I just kept expecting it to ring with bad news and then I’d remember the sound of my mother’s voice when she called me that day. There was/is trauma connected to my yoga practice or at least my home yoga practice. It took me a while to even look at my yoga mat after that day. In time I found that I could handle the distractions of a gym setting better than I could the distractions that came with being at home. Ask any one who as ever spent time with me in my house and they will all tell you that I am not still. I am always up taking care of something. Laundry, dishes, cooking, picking up a bit of lint off the floor. There is always a slightly unsettling thought lingering in the back of my brain. Something bad, life changing bad, is going to happen, particularly if I am being still on my mat.

Turns out that I can also handle the distractions from a dog and a cat. The morning routine is working. It makes my body feel better and it makes my brain feel better. I believe it has even helped me to contain the rage that I am feeling about certain things (cough, cough, Kavanaugh, cough). This new routine settles me into my space and that is a feeling I haven’t had in a really long time.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Last Friday, I took my wheezy self on a walk up to the Nelson. Along the way, I found a five dollar bill on the sidewalk! Then, when I reached the front of the Nelson, there was an antique car parked there. There were two people in the process of cleaning the car because they had photography plans of their own. I managed to capture a shot of the car in front of the Nelson with the owner’s out of sight. After I made my way around the Nelson and back into Theis Park, I witnessed a man carefully taking a vase filled with plastic roses out of a suitcase. Then he blew up a balloon. He placed one end of the bubble wand between his teeth and then set the balloon onto the bubble maker part of the wand. Then he placed the vase of plastic roses on top of the balloon. I snuck a picture of the man balancing all of these items. I heard the balloon pop as I walked away.

I woke up the next morning to the first day of Fall, which appeared to happen by just turning the dial directly to Fall. The temperature outside was crisp and cool. The heat and humidity of Summer completely erased. We ran our errands and then I handed a paper grocery bag to Michael only to watch it split open and dump it’s contents at the end of the drive. I stood there and watched as two bottles of kombucha spilled out onto the drive. The Cabbage asked “what is that?” “Expensive.” Michael replied in a tone that suggested he had given up on life. The beet flavored one is my favorite. Watching that one stain the driveway purply red made me want to cry. Later that evening, I swallowed a fish bone or at least I believed I swallowed a fish bone. I spent the rest of the night covertly asking google what to do if you swallow a fish bone and trying not to panic my way into the emergency room.

The kombucha was replaced and I no longer feel like there is a fish bone stuck in my throat. My doctor gave me a clean bill of health yesterday. I am ten pounds lighter then I was this time last year and a friend sent me a text offering up her spare ticket to see Andrew Bird with the Kansas City Symphony. Life is an all terrain bicycle ride. Some days you get to coast down the hill all day long and along the way you get to take in all the interesting stuff happening around you. Some days you’re just doing your best to peddle up the damn hill. I know that it is completely Pollyanna of me to say this, but I am grateful for the times I have to peddle up those hills. Even if I am cursing. Even if my thighs have burned up in flames. Even if I am moving so slowely up that hill, turtles pass me. Actually, you know what? The steeper the incline, the better. That just makes the downhill parts all the more sweet.

Now granted, busted kombucha bottles and swallowed fishbones are not very challenging moments in the grand scheme of things. It’s those really challenging moments that make me stronger so that these little things are nothing. In fact, I welcome those little challenges over the big ones any day. Any challenge gives me strength and opens me up to seeing things like a random guy balancing crap on a bubble wand held between his teeth.

#IBELIEVEHER

Cindy Maddera

It must be a shock to you, after all this time, that we are finally standing up and fighting back. You’ve spent so much of your life believing that you had the advantage, that you could do whatever you wanted, when you wanted with out consequences. You’ve spent much of your life believing that our bodies where meant for you to use. I mean, why shouldn’t you believe that? Our bodies are on display in advertisements plastered across all media formats. Business models are specifically designed to lure you into their stores with the promise of a beautiful scantily clad women for you to abuse. There are no laws that govern your body.

Except now we are no longer willing to silently put up with your “boys will be boys” mentality. We are no longer willing to let you just go on without being held accountable for your actions. We are no longer willing to let you bully us. When one of our tribe steps up and points a finger at the man who assaulted her, no matter how old the crime may be, we believe her. We believe her and stand behind her because it could just as easily be any of us speaking up. We stand behind her and support her because we know how scary speaking up is. We know her fear. We know the shame she feels. We know the hurt she feels. We are a collective, brought together by similar experiences, afraid to speak up. Afraid that no one will believe us. We’ve been told our whole lives that women are liars, temptresses, sirens. We’ve been told that we were asking for it. We’ve been told to keep it a secret. No. We’ve been threatened to keep it a secret. And then you sit there arms crossed and ask “why didn’t you say so sooner?” after you threaten a girl with her life if she says a word.

What was the tipping point? I don’t know. Maybe it was your unfailing devotion to a man who openly, without qualms, gleefully humiliates women and your insistence on making such a man leader of this country. Really though, it has been brewing and festering for years before that. It is one thing for us to declare that we will no longer allow you to govern our bodies. It is quite another to take action to legally keep you from governing our bodies. Which is what you have done to us for years. The statue of limitations does not run out on your crimes against women and you are no less guilty of those crimes just because she didn’t speak up. You are no longer allowed to bully us. You are no longer allowed to just get away with it.

I get it though, change is hard. It’s not easy giving up a way of life you known for far too long. It’s not easy giving up your roll as bully or always getting your way. But if you’re not going to change, then be prepared for the consequences.

It’s your turn to feel threatened.

EAT

Cindy Maddera

I finally got around to reading Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential a couple of months ago. The book has been on my reading list forever and I am almost positive Chris had a copy of it laying around his office at some point. I just never got around to it, but I was finally between books and not to sure what I wanted to read next. I cashed in some Amazon rewards and bought a copy of it for my Kindle app. This was the book I read on the airplane to Portland and I have to admit that at times, it was not an easy read.

I could not read the book without hearing Anthony Bourdain’s voice. It was as clear as if he was reading his words out loud. His voice is so familiar because Chris and I would sit down to watch No Reservations with rapt attention and with the kind of reverence used for listening to the gospel. Anthony Bourdain traveled the globe in a way that Chris and I dreamed of doing ourselves. The destination was not so much about seeing the sights as it was about immersing yourself into the local culture. This baptism came in the form of food in an all senses dunking. You felt the texture of the food as you pinched a bite together between your thumb and forefinger. Your eyes were blinded by the colors of spices filling bowls in a market. You could almost smell the pungent smells of the fish markets. Whenever Chris and I traveled, our adventures centered around food. The question was not “what did we do?” but “what did we eat?” We sought out the obscure. We followed the locals and we avoided the chain commercial places like the plague. Now, I’ve converted Michael to this food travel cult. I think this is why on this last trip to Portland, I found myself falling in love with the city all over again. Michael is notorious for having unsatisfying restaurant experiences. There is always something, from the service, to the atmosphere, to the quality of the food, but in Portland, Michael didn’t have one complaint. On our last breakfast in Portland before heading out to the coast, we ate at Pine State Biscuits. On taking his first bite, Michael pretended to pick up his plate and smash it on the floor in anger. The food was that good.

No Reservations was more than just a travel show though. It was a gritty, real and beautiful example of how we are all connected to each other through food. Food is the thing that binds us together. It is the reason we all gather in kitchens during social events. Every single one of us can recall a dish that when you smell it, you smell your childhood memories. Every family has their own taco salad (Michael says it is not taco salad and every member of the Graham family tell him that he is wrong). Food brings joy and comfort and this was an emphasis in Kitchen Confidential. Reading Anthony Bourdain’s words describing simple and fresh ingredients made me want to cook. I don’t mean that it made me want to quit my job and become a chef. I mean that it inspired me to want to cook something more elaborate than the easy meals we put together during the week. Saturday evenings have become our night for experimenting in the kitchen. I browse through issues of Bon Apetit and the New York Times food section for ideas, but a lot of times we let what ever happens to be cheap and interesting behind the fish counter inspire that evening’s meal. The meal itself doesn’t even have to be complicated. The goal is to use fresh and unique ingredients and to try something new. It can just as easily be a good stinky chunk of blue cheese crumbled in the salad paired with simple baked fish seasoned with salt, pepper and fresh lemons.

The joy of the experience is all inclusive. It begins with Michael and I browsing through the grocery store and hashing out ideas. We debate about pairing monkfish with roasted potatoes or clams with a linguini in a butter/ white wine sauce. We either take turns cooking or work together in the kitchen, dancing around each other as one chops and the other one sautes. We make huge messes in the kitchen and I love it. The meals are not all hits. It was decided that whole baked red snapper wasn’t good enough to deal with picking out all the bones (I’m pretty sure I swallowed a fish bone). Yet we are still more satisfied with our meals than if we’d gone out.

And no reservations are required.