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FOR THE ART

Cindy Maddera

I stepped out the front door this morning to head to work and noticed that the tulips I had planted were looking particularly lovely all covered in raindrops. I set my yoga mat and my lunch bag down on the porch and swung my backpack around to fish out my phone. Then I walked around to be in front of the house and I started taking pictures. I was in full on photoshoot mode when I noticed that someone’s car alarm was going off. Then I realized that the annoying alarm sound was not a car alarm. It was my house. I had set the house alarm as I was leaving but then I never actually shut the front door. I hadn’t even attempted to shut that door. It was just standing there, wide open. I jumped up and ran inside the house and disarmed the system before someone could call me or the cops or both.

You have a minute after setting the alarm to get out of the house and shut the door. This is usually not a problem for me. In fact, there have been times when I have shut the door and realized I had forgotten something. I have unlocked the door, gotten back inside, grabbed forgotten thing and gotten back out again before my minute was up. This morning, I didn’t even think about it. I just dropped everything and went into photography mode. I guess it was a good thing I wasn’t also carrying a baby or a Faberge egg. I let myself become distracted. The key word is ‘let’. We hear so much about how the average person is always distracted, mostly by their phone. There’s checking emails, catching up on Facebook, reading the latest tweet and scrolling through Instagram. Rinse and repeat to see if anyone’s noticed your post or added something new. One minute, you’re writing up some report for work and then next minute you’re watching kitten videos. These distractions not only keep us from doing the things we are supposed to be doing, but also from the things we are meant to be doing.

Here is what I hear when I think about this story: I was distracted by the beauty of tulips and I had to photograph them. The reality is I was distracted from the beauty of these tulips by the alarm ringing away inside my house. The process of making sure the front door was closed was the distraction that pulled me away from the thing I was meant to be doing. Rewiring the brain to think this way is hard. There are times when I am pausing to take a picture or editing a photo when I have to pull my focus away from someone who demands attention. I try to be polite about it and try to be sneaky while I am doing those things so that it looks like I’m working at paying attention to the person who is talking at me (because usually that’s how it goes). So often I feel bad about this and the result is that I end up not taking the picture I wanted or editing the photo the way I wanted. This is so stupid because this photography thing (and this is really not easy for me to admit) is who I am. Taking photos and all the stuff that goes along with this art is the thing I meant to be doing.

Everything else is the distraction.

NO DOGS WERE HARMED IN THE MAKING OF THIS MOVIE

Cindy Maddera

When I got home from work on Friday, Josephine was still not better. She’d had diarrhea all over my bed. Michael said that she drank a bunch of water and the puked it back up on the rug. She was still lethargic. So I called the veterinarian’s office and they told me to bring her back in. I explained to the vet how Josephine seemed to get worse after her visit on Thursday. She stopped drinking water and she would bury herself in leaves next to the fence outside. She behaved like a dog that was holing up to die. Even Michael was worried. As I talked to the vet, I had to pause and say “I’m sorry, but I’m barely keeping my shit together right now.” Then I started crying. The veterinarian and the technician did their best to comfort me, but they were concerned too. The medicine they gave Josephine on Thursday was supposed to last twenty four hours and was known to be the best anti-nausea medication on the market. The next step was X-rays and blood work and fluids.

The veterinarian went over Josephine’s X-rays with me. I got to see Josephine’s insides, which looked good except for the empty stomach and her tiny irritated colon. Blood work came back with flying colors. My puppy was really dehydrated and tired from not getting any rest from all the up and down to the backyard to use the bathroom. They gave her fluids and medication for her colon and sent us home. Michael and I forced her meds down and then I made her some chicken and rice. She still was not interested in it, but she did drink some water. At around three the next morning, she woke me up to go outside and walked right over to her food bowl. It was the moment I knew she was going to be okay. We had one more incident of upchucked water all over my bed (I have done so much laundry since Thursday) and that was it. She’s still not 100%, but she’s definitely feeling better and Michael and I have sighed with relief.

Part of me wants to say that I was slightly over reacting to Josephine’s illness, like maybe I was panicking. The more rational side of myself knows that I behaved appropriately in the given situation. Trust me when I say that if you could have seen Josephine, you might have panicked too. The last dog I took to the vet who was behaving as sickly as Josephine, was Hooper. Hooper ended up being full of tumors and had to be put to forever sleep. That was the icing on the shit cake of that year. 2012 was the year I became a true country western song. I lost my husband and my dog. I did my fair share of crying and drowning sorrows in wine. I guess I’m just lucky I didn’t lose my house. That’s usually how those songs go. This scene with Josephine was just way to familiar to a tragic scene I’ve been a part of before. It was stressful and scary and all of that has to leave the body in some shape or form. This time around those wonder twins took on the form of ugly crying in the veterinarian’s office.

We’re starting this week on the upswing. And as long as I can ignore this patch of poison ivy on my wrist, we plan to end the week on a high note. Go Monday!

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Tuesday evening, I started to feel really anxious about a lot of things. I wasn’t sure if we had enough money to cover Josephine’s vet visit on Thursday. I didn’t know what to do about Easter. Michael’s scooter is in the shop and the repairs have him questioning putting money into this one when he really wants a scooter with a bigger engine. We were sitting on the couch talking about all of these things when I said “I’m feeling extremely anxious.” Michael then asked me if I wanted a Xanex. I told him ‘no’ because I can never get out of bed the day after taking half of one of those things. I wonder if I could just lick a Xanex.

Then Wednesday night, Josephine started vomiting and I was up every other hour with her cleaning up dog puke and letting her outside. The vet appointment for Thursday was for her vaccinations. Instead, she ended up getting a shot of anti-nausea medication and some pills. As of this morning, she was still moping around, drinking very little and not eating. If she’s not any better by the time I get home this evening, I am taking her back to the vet for some intravenous fluids. Her long hair doesn’t help matters because it just makes her look even more sad. She can’t get a haircut until she gets her rabies shot. She can’t get a rabies shot until she’s been off the meds for at least a week. Scheduling for all of these things is making me break out in hives.

And I am still incredibly worried about Josephine.

I have to keep reminding myself that Josephine has done this before. Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis (sounds way worse than it is) is common in miniature schnauzers and usually caused from a bacterial infection of some sort. She ate something gross in the backyard like a dead mouse or dead bird. We just need to be patient and give her a couple of days. I know this, but there’s always that what if part that makes me scared. I have my own fair share of what-if-this-is-worse-then-we-originally-thought moments that turned into not so much a what if as a most definite. Of course my first reaction is to panic, but for some reason, this time around feels worse than usual. I feel like Josephine is more sick this time around, at least she looks and acts more sickly then she ever has before. I feel like I’m more anxious about all of it this time around. I’m on the edge of tears constantly, like the structural integrity of my tear damn is compromised and any minute we are going to witness a catastrophic break.

So where is the silver lining in all of this? Where is the gratitude for this week?

This is definitely a week for digging down deep to find those things. First of all, the vet was not too concerned. She was very relaxed and I felt like she did a thorough exam and took in all of the information that I gave her. Dehydration is an issue, but I can take her in for this if I feel like she needs it. Not every thing has to end in worst case scenario. Let me repeat that. Not everything has to end in worst case scenario. In fact, that statement feels so important to me right now that I might even write on my arm with a sharpie. By the time that sharpie wears off, Josephine will be back to her usual self. That twisting sock feeling in the pit of my stomach will have eased. We can resume our regularly scheduled show.

IN THE SAME CATEGORY AS BLOO AND DROP DEAD FRED

Cindy Maddera

Chris blindly reached his hand over to grab his favorite pen, except the pen was not there. Chris felt certain he’d left that pen there on the side table. He continued to blindly pat around on the table, searching for his pen. Finally he got up and looked over the top of the side table. He picked up his books and papers that he had stacked there. Still, Chris did not see his pen. He frowned as he set the books and papers back onto the side table and scratched his head. He was almost certain that was the last place he saw that pen. Maybe it rolled off the table, Chris thought. So, he got down on his hands and knees and started rummaging around on the floor, looking under the table and that corner of the couch. He was really starting to frustrated when Cindy walked into the living room. “What are you doing?” she asked. Her question startled Chris enough to make him jump and then bump his head on the bottom of the couch. Chris replied through gritted teeth “I’m looking for my favorite pen.” Cindy tilted her head to one side and said “which one?” Chris sighed heavily, “You know. The metal one with the orange ring around the top. I know I left it on this table, but it’s not here.” Cindy walked over to the coffee table and picked up one of Chris’s journals. She opened the journal and extracted Chris’s favorite pen. “This one?” she said as she held the pen up. Chris smiled and reached to take the pen from her hand. “Yes! That one!”

It’s a story I wrote on Saturday, in the Fortune Cookie journal. The prompt had something to do with writing your hearts desires or dreams or something like that. It’s the first time since I’ve started writing in that journal where I used Chris and I as characters. The story is fiction, but could have easily been something that really happened. You did not have to know Chris long to know he had a thing for pens. And journals. I have a superpower that I mostly never mention and that’s an ability to just know where stuff is. This is why it was so weird that I couldn’t find my scooter key after Chris died. I might not know exactly where everything is, but I can usually give you three locations of possibility and whatever it is you’re looking for is guaranteed to be in one of those three spots. I’m not saying that I can do this all the time, but it happens just often enough for some people really close to me to notice my abilities.

It’s quite possible that I only thought I was writing a fictitious story about a moment in the day and life of Chris and Cindy. That’s the thing about these memories. As time passes, the memories start to feel like dreams or wishes. No one here got a chance to really know Chris or even meet him. When I talk about my life before, the life when Chris was still alive, it sounds like I’m talking about a pretend life. Sometimes I feel like Christopher Robin explaining to a grown up about the existence of his best friend, Winnie the Pooh. Chris is some imaginary person. If only I could just walk down the street to Madame Foster’s and hang out with him. Oh, the shenanigans we’d get into or the movies we’d watch. You know what’s dumb? If that was at all possible, that is exactly what we’d end up doing. All those questions I have for him? I’d completely forget to ask any of them. The answers wouldn’t matter anymore.

I’ve been working hard at being present in this current life. When I find myself in a small-talk kind of conversation with a stranger and they ask me how long I’ve lived in Kansas City, I’ve started saying that I moved here about seven years ago (or is it eight?). I don’t say “My late husband and I moved here about seven years ago.” I’ve stopped including Chris in my story of the move to Kansas City. I don’t know why. Maybe because it’s just easier, less confusing. Leaving him out of it ensures that I will not get that look of sympathy that usually makes me cringe and I don’t have to answer any follow up questions regarding how he died or what life is like as a widow. I don’t have to explain anything. For a moment I can pretend to be someone else, someone without a sad backstory. Only for a moment. Eventually I slip up and say something about a late husband.

I’d make a terrible undercover agent.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

I was sent an announcement for a job opening at company this week. It’s a company we’ve worked with and after reading the job description, I realized that I was more than qualified for this job. Not only do I meet the companies requirements, but I know the product. I have two of them that I am in charge of taking care of here in our facility. It’s a sales rep position and it would require me to move to Europe. I’d be based in Naples, Italy but expected to travel all over. I spent a day really considering applying for this job. I mean, on paper, it sounds pretty great. My office would be in my home. My home would be in Italy. My job would be to travel all over Europe. So why am I not dusting off the old resume and rushing it over?

When I was still doing the online dating thing, I met a guy who looked pretty near perfect on paper. He’d built his own teardrop trailer. He had chickens. He drove a JEEP. Michael had just told me that he couldn’t do this relationship thing with me and so I contacted trailer-chicken guy. We met for drinks. It did not go too well. Moments before I walked into the bar, Michael sent me a text telling me that he’d made a terrible mistake and asked if I would talk to him. It rattled me and I got all spazy. I had to force myself to focus on the chicken guy and ended up putting in way too much energy. Chicken guy and I did not share the same sense of humor. He rolled his eyes when I paused to take a picture of my Guinness. He did not find me interesting. And even though he had the trailer and chickens, I didn’t really find him all that interesting. Also, he told me how he regretted making his girlfriend get that abortion when they were teenagers. Which did not feel like the kind of topic for a first date/impression.

That job opening is very much like the chicken guy. They both look great on paper.

I’ve never even been a tourist in Italy and though I can imagine a fantasy life of living there, I don’t know for sure I would really want to do that. I’d also be moving from doing science to selling science. I know for sure that I would not enjoy that aspect of the job. I would be doing the job for the perks of living in Europe, not because I loved the job. That doesn’t look like a well balanced life. When I chatted with Talaura about this, she asked me if I was unhappy with my current job, unhappy with living in Kansas City. I am not unhappy with any of those things. I still love the job that I do here. This city has all the things on my list of must haves for city living and I have really carved out a home for myself here.

I’m happy here.

Sometimes we need to walk up to a fence and see the beautiful green grass on the other side. Just for a moment, we need to covet that grass on the other side of that fence, marveling at the vivd green blades. Then we need to turn around and look at the grass around us. More often than not, we might just discover that the grass is just as green and lush on this side of the fence.

CREATIVE FARTS

Cindy Maddera

I wrote a tiny story about a woman in a yoga class. It is a fictional story, one I wrote in the Fortune Cookie journal. The prompt had something to do with silliness and I was genuinely stuck for a good five minutes before I started writing about a woman who cracks herself up when she accidentally releases a colossal fart while in yoga class. It may or may not be based on actual events. It sounds juvenile and it is, but I couldn’t really think of anything as silly as a fart. God, I remember when Quinn was really little. We were playing in his room when he farted. I said nothing because we were at that stage of trying to teach him that passing gas was nothing. He gave me that squinty side-eye thing that he does and said “I farted.” in a tone that implied he’d done something sneaky or funny. He really just wanted a reaction. I played cool and said “yup.” and then went about my business of putting Legos together. I had to leave the room a few minutes later because I could not hold my laughter in another second. I know we’re not supposed to teach them that farts are funny, but sometimes…farts are funny.

I was a little surprised that I could write so much on this topic. The story, not the fart, wrapped around the page and my handwriting is so horrid because I kept trying to write my letters smaller and smaller in order to fit more on the page. This happens every time I start writing something in the Fortune Cookie journal. I’ve talked about that here before and so you’d think I would be used to this happening every time I open a page to a new fortune prompt. I am not. I am not ever prepared to have so much to say or make up about a fortune cookie fortune. I am not ever prepared for the story that falls out onto the paper. Nothing I write is really any good. Sometimes they sound like the kind of fairytale you makeup while trying to put a kid to bed because you couldn’t find an age appropriate book to read them for bedtime. Sometimes they have a dark and sad tone. Apparently, sometimes they’re about farting in yoga class. I just keep thinking that the actual story is not as important as the practice of writing it.

Michael mentioned recently that he thought I should write a book of fiction first before I write something of non fiction. Michael thinks I should do a lot of things. He’s got lots of opinions, most of which I just nod my head in agreement and then say in a noncommittal way that I agree. I am not ambitious or driven enough to write a book in any form right now. Honestly, I don’t think I have it in me to write more than a thousand words on one topic. I have a google drive full of starters.

Elizabeth boldly stepped into what appeared to be a living room, though it was cluttered with the most random bits of things. A gramophone sat in one corner with some sort of skirt stretched over the cone. Even more piles of books and papers. Jars of odds and ends scattered all over. Elizabeth couldn’t quite make out their contents, but one of them appeared to contain eyeballs. She stopped looking and thinking too much about it. She really needed this job. Then she saw a man sitting near the fireplace, his head tilted back and resting on the backrest, elbows resting on the armrests. His eyes were closed, so he still didn’t realize Elizabeth was in the room. She cleared her throat. His eyes snapped open and sharply focused on her. “You’re not Maggie.” He said in a very matter of fact way. Elizabeth replied “no Sir.”

I started that one the summer of 2012. I wrote 3007 words before I just stopped writing. I wrote over 6,000 words for a story that was based on a dream I’d had where I was a magician’s assistant. Every night he turned me into a tree with golden leaves that would dissolve into golden butterflies and then fly out into the audience. It was a great trick. There was an idea for a children’s book about an egg with four yolks, but the story grew to a length that was not kid appropriate. Too long for a 5 year old, too simple for a 10 year old. I didn’t know my audience. I don’t know my audience. All of the stories have one thing in common and that’s how they sit there, incomplete, waiting for more words. The ideas come to me and then flutter away like butterflies. Or attack like seasonal allergies. It’s all about whether or not you think in half full or half empty terms. At least with the Fortune Cookie journal I know there’s not going to be an ending to a story only because I don’t end up leaving any room to write one.

My creative writing is more like creative farting on a page.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Wednesday morning, I woke up with a sore throat and congestion and that hot/cold clammy feeling you get when you are sick. I crawled back under the covers and said “no thank you.” I woke up later in the morning and moved from my bed to the couch where I spent the rest of the day watching Hanna on Amazon and the latest episode of Call the Midwives (you guys, when that woman had the triplets, ugly crying) and Riverdale. Riverdale is a guilty pleasure and feels like reading all those books written by V.C. Andrews. I can’t help but get the feeling that Betty really doesn’t have a sister Polly who lives in a group home after a psychotic breakdown. I suspect that Betty is Polly and she’s just been brainwashed into forgetting the horrible thing that happened to her to cause her breakdown. The doctors wiped out ‘Polly’ and replaced her with Betty. Riverdale also feels very much like a dark version of Dawson’s Creek. Jughead is Pacey. Archie is Dawson. Veronica is Jen. Betty is Joey.

Michael came home later that evening with a sickly Cabbage in tow. It was decided that she would stay the night with us and Michael would stay home with her on Thursday. The Cabbage spent the rest of the evening throwing up, laying on the bathroom floor and then laying in her bed, repeating the throwing up part a few more times before settling into a slumber. I knew that no matter how bad I felt when I woke up on Thursday, that I was going to work because I wanted nothing to do with a stomach bug added to a sinus infection. There’s been lots of disinfecting going on around the house in the last two days. When I woke up Thursday, I felt a bit better, but every thing took me twice as long to do because living life is exhausting. I got to work and opened an email from a coworker saying that he’d be out today because their 8 year old was up all night throwing up. Then my boss said the same was true for his wife. Looks like we are all on the Oregon Trail together.

What’s disappointing was how this week started out promising. It started with good intensions. The newish morning yoga routine was happening. We voted. I exercised. We tried a new recipe with zucchini and asparagus and we did not like it, but ate it any way. I repurposed those leftovers into a Mexican inspired pasta dish with mini tortellinis and soyrizo. We loved this. Except by Wednesday, it looked as though we had just spent Monday and Tuesday paving our path to Hell. And today I am thinking about how often I enter into things with a some preconceived notion of how I expect life to be or how very disappointed I am with myself for not sticking to those good intentions.

abhāva-pratyaya-ālambanā tamo-vr̥ttir-nidra: Dreamless sleep is the void of all thought patterns. - 1/10 Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

In the discussion for this Sutra, it talks about how our actions are directed by our intentions and are carved out from a life of reactions. It is our fight or flight response that so often dictates our reactions and as a result, our intentions are not made by our own choices. “Yoga is a means of taking ownership of those intentions by actually making choices.” What choice am I making for myself here, when I set the intention to practice yoga in the mornings? I have noticed that when I do my early morning practice, my body is not so stiff and achy. I have more pep in my morning steps and there’s a little less chatter inside my brain. By setting the intention to do my yoga practice at all, I am making a choice to care for this body. The true intention I should be making is to care for this body. More powerful than saying that I will do something is the action of doing it. This week I made choices to care for this body. Some times that choice looks like getting on my mat and flowing through poses, while other times it looked like laying on the couch with hot tea, a blanket and both of the animals tucked in around me while I watch crappy TV.

Both choices are yoga.

HERE'S WHAT HAPPENED

Cindy Maddera

Early Friday morning, I finished up my yoga practice by settling down for ten minutes of my version of a meditation. My version of meditation looks something like this. I sit on the floor cross legged, a blanket wrapped around my shoulders and a dog in my lap. The dog is situated so that I have full access to her belly, which I rub with one hand. The other hand holds a hot cup of water with lemon and honey. I sip the hot liquid while I scratch the dog’s belly. I believe this is the fastest and best method for reaching enlightenment. So, this is where Josephine and I are when then cat saunters in. He looks at us and says “meow” in his quiet cat voice. The translation is “what are you guys doing? I want in on that.”

I know. The word ‘meow’ says a lot.

Albus strolls over and rubs his head on the back of my hand, the one holding the mug. I set the mug aside and then rub his head while scratching Josephine’s belly. It’s just like patting your head with one hand while rubbing your belly in circles with the other. The meditation timer goes off and we get up, slightly groggy from our brief encounter with enlightenment. I roll up my mat and then head to the shower. I notice the cat is still in the house as I step out of the shower. He slides his body on the door way leading out to the living room. I think he’s trying to get Josephine’s attention. The cat doesn’t eat unless Josephine is standing nearby to pick up the food pieces he slings to the floor. I listen to the sound of Josephine’s nails as she scrambles under a cart in the kitchen in an attempt to reach a morsel of cat food. I finish my bathroom routine and go to my room to get dressed. I pause before putting on my socks and shoes to make sure Michael is moving.

Once I’m dressed, I go to the kitchen to make breakfast. Avocado, homemade sausage patty and an egg for him. A pancake for me. I set Michael’s plate of food on the kitchen table and I’m fishing out our daily dose of supplements when I hear the cat come in through the dog door. I can tell instantly that he’s not alone. I can hear a shrieking sound and a thump thump of flapping. Then Albus walks into my view and I see he’s got a live bird in his mouth. I freeze and then say “no. Take it outside.” But the cat is a jerk and wants to argue about it. He opens his mouth to reply and the bird takes his moment to save his own life. He flies frantically around the dining room and kitchen, banging into walls and cabinet doors. I duck and crouch over Michael’s breakfast to protect it. Feathers are flying everywhere before the bird finally settles himself on one of the blades to the ceiling fan. 

 I hear Michael from the other room say “let me get some pants on.” He said this without having witnessed the bird drop or me saying anything. He just knows there’s a live wild animal loose somewhere in the house and the reality is this has become our norm. Michael comes out and put the dog in her crate. Then he kicks the cat out. I cover food to keep feathers out of our breakfast while Michael props open the front door. It takes three attempts but that bird finally flies out the front door to freedom. I let the dog out of her crate and we sit down to breakfast as if nothing has happened. Later, what even seemed like days later but in actuality was just later that same day, Michael commented about the picture I had posted of the bird sitting on the ceiling fan. “The picture isn’t great, not one of your best. I mean there was no way to take it without the ceiling fan light getting in the way. But this picture is what makes you a photographer and not just someone with a camera. In that moment your thought was not ‘oh my god there’s a bird in the house.’ Your thought was ‘oh my god there’s a bird in the house and I have to take a picture of it!’”

 I am not convinced I’m not just a product of a share everything generation. 

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Early on in our relationship, Michael and I were walking through our neighborhood. I think we had walked up to our local library or maybe up to get a sandwich from Planet Sub. I don’t remember, but on our way back to the house, I stopped to take a picture of the sidewalk. Michael stood there, watching me as I crouched down real close to this one particular square of sidewalk and then he said “I don’t get it. What are you taking a picture of?” I looked up at him and then pointed at a spot in the concrete and said “there’s a heart!” There was a place where the concrete had been chipped or gouged out and it was shaped like a heart. To be fair, it was a small heart and it wasn’t painted a color to make it stand out. You had to be really paying attention to see it, but it was there. The most important and valuable thing that I have gained from taking pictures is how it has changed the way I look at my surroundings. Or maybe I should use the past tense ‘looked’. Sometimes things become so routine in your daily life that you don’t even notice you’re doing those things any more. I’ve grown sloppy in the way I look around me and maybe do not pay as close attention as I once did.

śabda-jñāna-anupātī vastu-śūnyo vikalpaḥ: imagination is a word, a sound, or expression where there is no such object or reality to it. - 1/9 Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

The discussion for this sutra said that we should treat our imaginations like a garden, constantly tending to it. It went on to say “Express yourself so feverishly that you can observe what is growing in your garden.” There is something about the discussion of this sutra that made flash bulbs go off in my head. “Express yourself so feverishly…” It is not enough to just nurture your craft, photography, writing, painting or whatever it might be, but you must also see your craft, enjoy the beauty of it or look for places of improvement. Occasionally we pick the flowers from our gardens and display them in a lovely vase on the kitchen table. Occasionally we eat the vegetables we have been cultivating and caring for. I’ve let my imagination garden get weedy and over grown. I have straight up neglected it. I don’t even know what is growing in that garden any more. It’s time to clean it up and take stock of what’s growing and what needs to be replanted.

Sometimes you come across a string of words that you needed to hear or read right at the exact moment you needed to hear or read them. I am grateful for those words.

SURVEY SAYS

Cindy Maddera

Every once in a while, Anthropologie wants me to tell them what I think about stuff. I just have to say that I was never really super interested in clothes until I learned about Anthro. Now, I’m a fucking addict. I also have very bipolar feelings about that place mostly because everything is SO EXPENSIVE! I love the clothes and vehemently hate the prices. My shopping strategy is to wait until there’s at least a 40% extra off of already sale items. Most of the time I don’t even walk around the store. I head straight on back to the clearance racks. I also try every single item on to make sure it fits properly or if it is something I am actually going to wear. Of course I am an Anthro member which means I get 20% off of a full price item during the month of my birth. It also means I get notified early about sales and sometimes I get an extra something percent off when I do the occasional survey.

In this latest Anthro survey, they wanted to know how I felt about different months of the year. The very first question was: “What are the first three words or phrases that come to mind when you think about the month of January?” Then they wanted to know the same thing about February and March. This was the first page of the survey. I sat there, staring at the screen with my head tilted to one side wondering if I should tell the truth or put in sugar coated lies. I told them the truth. I didn’t know what else to do, honestly. I couldn’t think of one sugar coated lie to fill in those blanks. I did type ‘birthday’ as one of my answers for January which could be taken a number of different ways. Some people love their birthday months. So I thought that was actually something nice to put down for January. It’s something a stranger can interpret as ‘joyful’. The rest of it all included words such as ‘cold’ and ‘sad’ and ‘bittersweet’. Then I decided that Anthro didn’t really want to know how I felt about those months and closed the survey without finishing it.

And this is why I do not try to do sponsored blog entries or develop a brand or make money from this blog.

I’m a terrible liar but my honesty can be sharp and painful. If I have to choose between my pointy, stabby honesty and faking something, I tend to choose neither. The inside of my brain is a constant swirl of conversations of what I would say if I was bolder, did not care about the impact of my words on others, or had any kind of backbone for standing up for myself. It’s really hard to have good posture when you have an actual pasta noodle for a spine. I do a lot of core exercises. There was a time when I could always just say what I meant or wanted to say or at least there was a person I could say all of that too, but that time doesn’t exist anymore. I have to be on guard about what I say and how I say it and if I say it. It gets pretty exhausting and some times it gets pretty frustrating because I don’t think I get the same sort of consideration. At least it doesn’t feel like as much thought is going into it as I’m putting out. I’m tired of having these conversations in my head. It’s too much chatter.

I went back to that survey and I finished it. I told the whole truth and nothing but the truth. January makes me feel a little bit happy that I’m a year older, but cautious because this is when disasters strike. February makes me feel cold and sad. March is only marginally better. There’s a turn around in April when I start to feel like skipping and things progressively just get better as the months move forward. We are so close to that turn around month; I can almost taste it. I can definitely smell it. The air no longer smells of cold. It still feels chilly in the mornings, but the air smells greener. I look around me and think I just might actually make it. I also think I can start choosing differently and start having those conversations outside of my brain. Maybe be more mindful in my honesty, but still tell the whole truth.

I mean…really what’s the worst thing that could happen?

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

When yoga is accomplished, you will have insight of our true nature.

I am re-reading The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and taking notes on the things that stand out in the notebook my mother gave me for my birthday. It is a lovely notebook, with fake leather cover and a spiral binding. The cover has three decorative hand drawn cactuses at the top and under them it reads “you’re looking sharp today.” I am not sure if this is meant to inspire me to write or dress better, but the lines are a perfect spacing. Because of this, I have been hesitant to put words on the paper. I have a hard time with these kinds of things. I could stare at a new box of crayons for years before pulling one free from the box to use. The Cabbage had a tupperware box full of crayons and they were all broken or missing the paper wrapper around the outside. I would grimace as I held one of those grimy waxy broken crayons between my fingers to color something, but I would rather put up with the discomfort of the broken crayon than wreck a brand new crayon. So this notebook has been sitting on my desk since January.

The version of the sutras that I am reading is an app I downloaded to my iPad. The format makes it more intuitive for study in the way it breaks down the sanskrit and the definition of the sanskrit, but then there is a separate section of discussion. I thought I could just use my Apple pencil to highlight things that jumped out at me, but the Apple pencil does not work in this app. I was two days into my readings before I gave in and grabbed that new notebook. Research has found that handwriting notes versus typing them allows for more efficient learning and retention. I have come across certain phrases in the discussions of the sutras that I want my brain to hold onto for longer than a minute. It turns out that I don’t want to read the Yoga Sutras so much as I want to study them. I want to dig in deep and take my time with them. I read them way back when I did my teacher training because it was required reading, but I didn’t really study the book the way I did my science and anatomy books. I didn’t treat my yoga teacher training as schooling. I treated it as a training and taking it in with that mentality taught me the foundation of the poses and the benefits and disadvantages of each pose. I ignored the spiritual benefits to the practice. This is fine because I don’t want to teach the spiritual side of yoga. As I get deeper and deeper into my own personal practice though, I find that I am becoming curious about that side of things.

Stay curious.

Being a curious child is what lead me to my scientific career. I take my curiosity for granted, not really noticing it as being curious as much as I am just doing my job. I am solving puzzles every day and seeing what happens if I do this or that. It has become so routine that I forget that I am actually curious to know what the answers are going to be at the end of it all. I do really want to know the answers! Staying curious keeps me moving forward and digging deeper to find answers to gather all of knowledge my brain will allow. I forget to acknowledge my curiosity and the impact it has on my daily life or how my curiosity is part of what makes me who I am. Usually I am encouraging my students to take their practice off their mats and out into their everyday life. Today, I am reminded that sometimes I need to take my daily life into my yoga practice.

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but satisfaction (or learning the answer) brought him back. Curiosity might just be part of my true nature.

WRITE TO WRITE

Cindy Maddera

Cindy paused in her reading of an article in the New York Times entitled The Right Way to Follow Your Passion and opened the door to the wood stove supplying heat to the small cabin she was currently inhabiting. The coals were gray and when Cindy blew on them smoke and ash blew up into the stove. A few of the coals burned bright red as she blew, but most them just barely smoldered. She knew she needed to add more logs to the stove, but dreaded the trek out to the wood shed to collect the wood. Instead, she wrapped the wool blanket a little tighter around her body and snuggled down into the couch. She’d get that wood right after she finished reading about the difference between obsessive passion and harmonious passion. The differences seemed pretty clear as far as Cindy could tell. Obsessive passion leads you to do things for the accolades like more money, more trophies, more followers, more likes, just….more. Harmonious passion leads you to do things for the shear desire of doing them despite whether or not it makes you famous or rich or popular.

Cindy didn’t quite believe she did things out of obsessive passion. She generally liked taking pictures. So what if she checked all of the social media platforms constantly to see her notifications on recently ‘liked’ images. She wrote consistently on her blog because writing was therapy, though it didn’t exactly feel so therapeutic lately. Cindy felt that she didn’t have anything profound to say that didn’t seem like she was staring at her own belly button, picking out lint. Stale. That’s the word she would use to describe her writing of late. Bland and stale. She was all but writing about what she had for lunch that day and no one cares what she had for lunch. Cindy shivered despite the blanket wrapped around her body. She really should do something about getting the fire going in the wood stove. It would be dark in a few hours and the temperatures would continue to drop. Cindy knew she needed to collect enough fire wood so that she could stay comfortable through the night and not have to go back out later. She grumbled as she tossed the blanket aside and got up from the couch.

Cindy walked over to the door and put on her winter coat. She leaned back against the wall as she tugged her boots on one at a time. The problem, thought Cindy, was not her motivation for the things that she did. The problem was that she lacked passion. Her passion was like the mostly dead fire in the wood stove. It had been raging, with flames flickering hotly at some point in her life. As a teenager, she pushed programs for saving the environment and promoting safe sex with a loud voice. She made t-shirts and posters. She raised her fist in the air! Those were things that Cindy believed in sure, but she also had a fiery passionate belief that she could make the world a better place. In college, that passion shifted to keeping up with her classes and student government, but she really was more of a tag-along with the student government stuff. Cindy just wanted to be around those people and most of those people would end up being life long friends. Some of those people would influence later passions, even encourage them, but Cindy did question if she really had ever even had passions of her own or was once again tagging along on the passions of others.

Cindy stomped through the snow out to the wood shed, dragging the wood bucket behind her. The wind blew the hood of her coat back and her ears froze immediately. Her teeth chattered and she shook her head at her impulsive getaway. Cindy hated the cold and the snow, yet she’d booked herself into a remote cabin in the woods during winter. She should have booked herself into a remote yurt on a beach in Costa Rica. Next time she’d ignore price tags and splurge on the yurt and the beach. Cindy reached the wood shed and yanked the door open. Then she started to load up the wood carrier with logs. She knew not to over fill the bucket so that she could not drag it back to the cabin, but she also wanted to be sure to collect enough logs so that she would not have to stomp her way back out here again. Cindy tossed in three more logs and then tugged on the bucket. It slid towards her and she moved her mouth to the side in contemplation. “Two more logs.” She said out loud to the trees and whatever woodland creature was out in this horrid weather and tossed in two more logs. The bucket was too heavy, but Cindy put all of her weight into it and, struggling, pulled the bucket back across the yard to the cabin.

Cindy opened the cabin door and then grunted as she dragged the bucket up over the lip of the door frame and inside. She stomped the snow from her boots, but left her coat on as she started to put some logs into the wood stove. Passions waned, Cindy thought as she layered the logs in square pattern with what remained of the hot coals in the center of the logs. Passions waned and changed with age and that’s just what happened to her. Granted, Cindy had a strong feeling that most of that passion had faded out after certain life events that she was tired of dwelling on. She used the metal poker to shove the logs together to enclose the hot coals and then started to crumple up newspaper to cram into the spaces between the logs. It didn’t take long for Cindy’s fire to roar back to life. Satisfied, she stood and removed her coat. She picked up the paper and read “find your passion”. Easier said than done. Then Cindy read “Your passion should not come from the outside. It should come from within.” Now, if Cindy could only find that inner passion, she’d be all set.

Cindy settled herself back into her space on the couch. She set the New York Times aside in favor of the book she had brought along with her. The room was starting to warm up from the fire that was now crackling away in the wood stove. If anything, Cindy did know how to build a good fire.

THE LUCK OF

Cindy Maddera

I am still amazed and surprised by the amount of Irish pride that happens in this city. Saturday morning, as I drove up Broadway to get to a yoga class at the Kauffman Center, I could see that preparations were already under way to get the Sunday parade route ready. Westport was closed off to all vehicle traffic. Michael had given the Cabbage the choice of attending the Brookside Warmup Parade or the Actual St. Patrick’s Day parade. I think she chose wisely with the warmup parade because this one seems to be more kids and less drunk adults. The Brookside Neighborhood puts on what they call the St. Patrick’s Day Warm-up Parade. It’s close to the house with a decent amount of neighborhood street parking, but Holy Goats people. This thing was packed.

We parked our car several blocks away from the parade route and then walked, along with crowds of other families (so many strollers and wagons), to find a viewing spot. Our walk took us right past the parade staging area, giving us a preview of all the parade entries and I sort of stumbled along with my mouth agape because there were a lot of people in this parade. Now the main St. Patrick’s Day parade in KCMO is the second or third largest St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the country. This year’s Grand Marshal was Eric Stonestreet from Modern Family. I’ve only ever seen bits and pieces of this parade. We’d taken the Cabbage to the Brookside parade years ago sort of by accident. We were in the area and thought ‘why not!?’ This year we planned for it and I still feel like we did not plan well. We didn’t get there early enough to establish a good spot. We didn’t take chairs or water. I did give the Cabbage a shopping bag for candy, but she tore it to pieces while frantically waiting for the next bit of candy to come flying her way. I had to duck into the Panera Bread and beg for a bag with handles.

But the weather was so nice.

The thing I like about the Brookside parade is how much it reminds me of the kind of parades we’d have in Collinsville. The floats, if there even is one, are not fancy. They are constructed of cardboard boxes carefully spray painted and taped down onto flat bed trailers. Those trailers are pulled by a reliable truck or a tractor. There are antique cars and a couple of drum line step groups. Decorated bicycles ride in groups and dogs are walked along with green leashes. The parade route is crowded with kids holding out bags and racing for candy that is being thrown out into the crowds. Then there are floats devoted to different Irish families and they all smile and wave and wish you a happy St. Patrick’s Day. At one time, in the late 1800s to early 1900s, Kansas City claimed the second largest population of Irish immigrants. Much of the landscape and roads in the downtown area of the city were built by Irish immigrants. We’ve all heard how St. Louis is the gateway to the west. Well, I think that statement is wrong because Kansas City was the staging ground for anyone headed out on the Santa Fe, California or Oregon trail. All of three of those trails started out right here.

Kansas City was a port of hope for something better than they had at home which was famine and depression.

I guess it’s interesting to me because it is so very culturally different from the events I grew up with. Livestock shows and rodeos. Stomp dances and Indian tacos (good god, I haven’t one of those in ages). Pioneer Days and Rooster Days. Here we have Irish Fest and Santacaligon Days. I moved here in 2011 and I am still surprised how much I really like living here. I won’t say ‘love’ because there’s no ocean and winters (particularly this last one) are horrible, but for the most part it’s been a pretty good place to stay put for a while.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

In the very early morning hours on Thursday, well before my alarm went off, I had a dream. Chris was in this dream. He just showed up and he was alive and well. The two of us were in Portland at one of their food truck halls. Someone placed a crepe with ice cream and fruit down on the table in front of us. I looked at Chris and asked “Did you order this?” He shook his head and replied “Nope.” So we looked around and noticed the people at the crepe place were waiving at us. They had sent it over to us for free. We smiled and waived back then dug into the crepe and we were talking and laughing as usual. Then I said “Wait. How is it that you are here?” Chris shrugged and said “I don’t know. I’m just here.” I nodded my head and said “That’s cool.” We took a few more bites from our crepe and then I said “Oh my gosh! We totally forgot to tell Todd that we were in Portland. I’ll text him and tell him to come meet us.” Chris said “Okay.” and then left to find the bathroom. Todd showed up while Chris was in the bathroom, so I said to Todd “Okay, listen. This is going to sound really weird, but Chris is here. He’s alive and everything and we sat here and ate on this crepe. He’s in the bathroom now, but I’m serious. Chris is really hear.” Except Chris never came back from the bathroom. So I was left trying to convince Todd that I had not completely lost my mind.

By the time I woke up, Todd still was not convinced that I hadn’t gone totally mental. Usually when I have dreams that involve Chris, I wake up crying or angry or both. This time I just woke up. I did want to text Todd and tell him “no I’m not crazy; Chris was here.” I refrained because I know that you should never send a text or email that obviously proves you are crazy. That way it can not be used against you later. Like in a court of law or something. This dream did not leave me feeling sad. Actually it was probably the best dream involving Chris that I have had since he died. I don’t remember what he said or if he actually really did say something, but it felt like he was talking and we were chatting about just regular stuff. Chris has never just chatted with me about regular stuff when I dream of him. He pretty much says nothing at all and the dreams are not pleasant. I also did not walk away from this dream and spend the rest of the day clouded in sadness. Though I did harbor a craving for crepes with some ice cream and fruit for the rest of the day.

On March 14, 1998 Chris and I said “I do” in front of my parents, Stephanie and a couple we knew from college. The ceremony took place at the Chapel of Love in Las Vegas. That was twenty one years ago. I like to think we had a good run while it lasted. Sure, his hoarding tendencies drove my insane and I could get really frustrated with his lack of action. I tried to be more understanding with the later because I know that most of his inaction was due to self esteem issues. We are our own worst critics. But for the most part, we listened to each other and were equally matched intellectually. We spoke the same language and felt comfortable saying what we meant to each other. Our marriage was such a stark contrast to the marriage I was exposed to growing up. It almost didn’t seem like we were married so much as we were best friends who happened to have sex with each other and lived together. So, I guess I’m glad I let Chris talk me into getting married.

I do miss him.

I’m not crazy. Chris was here.

PUT SOMETHING IN THIS SPACE

Cindy Maddera

I dragged Michael to the Kemper to see the Polly Apfelbaum exhibit that is currently on display there. She works with ceramics, textiles and paper and her pieces are vibrant with color. There were brightly woven rugs on the floor and marble like ceramic beads hanging in perfect rows from long strings. A single row of ceramic plates of dots hung along the wall. It took all of my will power to not run my fingers along the strings of beads like a harp. Michael and I stood inspecting a display of paper flowers held in place with white thumb tacks when we heard one of the museum attendants say “Sir, please do not walk on the rugs.” Michael and I turned to see some guy just walking around on one of the brightly woven rugs and both of us exclaimed “DUDE!” Then the guy realized he was walking on the art instillation and started hoping up and down and saying “oh no! oh God!” in a panic while still standing on the rug. Finally he jumped off but for the rest of the day at random times Michael and I would look at each other and one of us would say something like “Can you believe that guy walked on the rug?!?!?” or “What the Hell was wrong with that guy?!?!”

I am still a little shocked by it, really. There is something almost criminal in a lack of awareness of your surroundings while you are in an art museum.

The best part of that exhibit was the interactive area where you could build your own dot art work. There were buckets of dots in all sizes and colors. Some made of felt. Some made of corrugated paper. Some made from glitter paper. I sat for a good five minutes layer dots together while Michael flipped through some art books. It was totally one of those activities you give to a pre-schooler. There were no scissors or glue involved, only tape. There were no instructions, none really even required. It was just sit down and put some colored dots together and it was probably one of the most relaxing five minutes I’ve had in a very long time. The world around me completely shut down and disappeared while I worked. The room that had held a dozen or so people, emptied out, leaving me alone in focused silence. In this moment, I became aware of me. That sounds weird, but I think I can explain.

Unlike the guy who was unaware of his surroundings and ended up walking on the art, I am hyper aware of my surroundings. I am constantly scanning the area, trying to soak in every detail. I spend a lot of time and effort trying to stay out other people’s way, making myself small. I still feel bad for blocking the subway escalator in NYC in 2010 to get a picture of the tiled walls. I don’t want to make waves or ruffle feathers and at the same time, I want to see every possible detail of things around me. Part of it is for safety reasons, part of it is self preservation and part of it is fear of missing out on something. Actually, a lot of it comes down to fear. Fear of not seeing everything. This is what comes from sudden losses. You never for a moment forget that life can be short. As a result, I find myself wanting to absorb all of it without disturbing those around me. It is a tightrope walker’s life. Yet in those five minutes, I didn’t think of anything or anyone else. I didn’t rush myself or think I should stop because I think Michael is probably bored and wants to move on. I realized that I really do need to spend more time focusing inward.

I have reached a point where I want to make some changes in my life. This is much different than knowing I should make some changes. I actually seriously want to implement some new healthy stuff into my life. This is a different mentality then I have had for such adventures. More than half of the healthy things I already do, like getting on the elliptical machine for thirty minutes every day, are activities I do because I should do them. It’s good for my heart. I stand at my desk or go for mini walks because its good for my body. I do forearm plank because it’s good for my core. I don’t necessarily want to do these things, but I do them anyway. So why is it so hard for me to do something for myself that I actually want to do? It’s only hard if I decide that is hard.

I’m deciding to make it easy to do the things I want to do.

THINGS I'VE LEARNED AS AN ADULT

Cindy Maddera

Fancy cheese is not as expensive as you think it is.

Seriously. If I could pass on any words of wisdom these are some of those words. It took me years to conquer being intimidated by the cheese monger and it wasn’t until I was in my mid thirties before I made my first timid inquiry about cheese. I wanted something nice to go in my potato soup but I didn’t want to break the bank. This is when I learned that I could choose the amount of cheese I was buying, thus controlling the amount of money I was spending. I realize that many of you probably knew this all along. I didn’t because I have always been pinching pennies, which means my grocery lists are streamlined. When you look over at the fancy cheese area, you see all kinds of price tags sticking up like flags. These prices always seem too exorbitant for my budget. Those little flaggy price tags are prices per pound. You do not need a pound of fancy cheese to make whatever it is you want to make. This means you will be paying less than whatever the price flag says. Do not be sticker shocked by cheese.

Another bit of wisdom that I could pass along is that mushrooms do not weigh anything.

This one is a recent discovery. We were in Whole Foods on Saturday to pick out some fish to go with our risotto that was planned for our dinner and to rummage through the cheese under five dollar bin (see? cheap fancy cheese). Along the way to the seafood section, I noticed a small crate of morrel mushrooms. They were thirty dollars a pound. I gasped at the price tag, but then I picked up one of the mushrooms. Michael noticed me holding the morrel with an inquisitive look on my face and I said to him “How much do you think this mushroom weighs?” Michael grabbed a handful of mushrooms and headed to the scale. Those six or so mushrooms weighed about 0.06 lbs. We picked out a dozen or so mushrooms that turned out to be about four dollars and was plenty of mushrooms to add to our risotto. Neither one of us had eaten morrels before because they were too expensive and about the only place you could get them was at a farmers market; if you were lucky to find that one vender who had them.

That’s it. That is about all of the wisdom I can pass on to a young person. Do not be intimidated by the prices on fancy cheeses and mushrooms do not weigh anything. Okay. I might have a few more tidbits like know how to pay your bills and manage your finances. It is not necessarily a bad idea to have an end of life plan because life is unpredictable. The unpredictability of life makes every day kind of important. College isn’t for everyone, but you should still have a career plan. Do not be afraid to spend money on good shoes that are good for your feet. Always pack at least one sweater because the weather is just as unpredictable as life.

But I really think you’re going to get the most value from the cheese and mushroom advice.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

IMG_5886.JPG

There is a Simpson’s episode called “Lost Our Lisa” where Lisa defies her mother by trying to take the bus to the museum to see the Orb of Isis. She gets lost and then she calls her dad for help. Lisa calls him because she knows that he will be on her side, mostly because Homer is always getting himself into some kind of trouble. What follows is a madcap adventure where Homer tries to get to Lisa, which he does, but by the time Lisa is safe and sound, the museum has closed. It was the last day for the exhibit and Lisa missed it. So, Homer breaks into the museum so Lisa can see the exhibit. They have the whole exhibit to themselves and get to see something that no one else has ever seen. One of the greatest things about that episode is how Lisa experienced things she never would have had a chance to experience if it hadn’t been for Homer. I can say the same when it comes to my Dad. He was the adventure seeker, the rule breaker, the guy who step on the other side of the velvet rope to get closer. Dad was my Homer and I was his little Lisa.

My Dad would be eighty years old today. At first I thought “that can’t be right!” but he was born in 1939. So yeah, my Dad would have been eighty today. There has been no one who could bring lightness to my seriousness the way my Dad could. Not even Chris. Dad just had a way. He taught me to seek out those adventures on occasion. Sometimes it’s okay to break a few rules. Dad used to put his tray table down as soon as we reached altitude and I would always get onto him. I would tell him that it was too soon and it made him look too eager for whatever snack the attendants were going to bring us. He found it hilarious and whenever we would fly he would ask me if it was okay to put his table down. It became a great joke, but you know what? It was a lesson in doing what you want, when you want and not caring what anyone around you thought about it.

Here is what I believe. I believe that if Dad’s mind hadn’t flown the coop, he’d still be putzing around breaking rules and seeking out new adventures. Wow, and typing that sentence made me well up a bit. I did not expect that. In yoga class on Wednesday, Kelly talked about Mercury being retrograde and usually I roll my eyes at this kind of talk. Except this time Kelly said something about letting go of the emotions that will bubble up during this time of retrograde. It is a time for letting go of some shit and I thought about some shit that I was hanging on to in regards to my Dad. I have been holding on to some resentment and anger. Not for Dad, but for circumstances surrounding his last year with us. I have also been holding on to some guilt for not doing more to intervene to change those circumstances. My Dad taught me what it means to be unabashedly authentic. Those are the things I should be holding on to. Not the resentment or anger or guilt.

I am thankful for every hot air balloon chased, every tray table that was set down early, and every moment of lightness and silliness.

CULTIVATION

Cindy Maddera

Years ago I wrote up a life list and one of the things on that list was to grow a vegetable garden. The first year I did this, I grew Christmas beans, tomatoes, spinach, basil, squash and cantaloupe. The spinach failed in the hot Oklahoma sun. The squash succumbed to squash beetles. We harvested enough Christmas beans for us to each have half a cup of cooked beans. Basil did well. Tomatoes did okay. The cantaloupe seeds that we planted came from the inside of a store bought cantaloupe Chris’s mom was eating. She spit out a seed and said “Can we plant these?” I shrugged and replied “I don’t see why not.” Those seeds produced two softball sized cantaloupe that were the sweetest cantaloupes I have ever tasted. It was like they were made of straight up sugar. That summer we cultivated more than a vegetable garden. We grew joy and surprises and sweetness. We grew wonder and amazement. Every thing that sprouted from the dirt was met with astonishment. “Oh my God! Look what we have grown!?!?!” We couldn’t believe it. We could not believe what we had done.

I gave up on the vegetable garden last year. Michael pulled up all of the boxes and a friend from work took them. He set them up in his backyard for his little girls to plant seeds in and I could not be more pleased with this. Our gardening days had run it’s course and no longer cultivated the wonderment and joy as it had in previous years. It is not actually environmentally friendly to grow a garden if you are not all that good at growing things. The money you spend on a not so fruitful vegetable garden in your backyard could be better spent supporting local farmers and so we turned our focus to other projects, other adventures. Occasionally I think about scattering lettuce and kale seeds all around the outside of the house so I don’t have to use the weed eater, but I am considering creating a couple of small potted gardens and building an outdoor space to gather with friends. I once read some great advice for creating an outdoor space on a budget. The designer said to just put down an outside area rug and arrange outdoor furniture on it. That’s simple enough.

Those are ideas for another time, when the weather is a bit more cooperative.

Right now, I am thinking of cultivating a new garden. This garden will not grow kale or squash or beans. Neither will it be an ornamental garden filled with hydrangeas and peonies. This new garden will not be delegated to six boxes out in the backyard either. It will be bigger than that. I want to cultivate a space that grows creativity and peace and contentment. I want to cultivate the joy, surprises and sweetness that first garden brought us but I want to do it without actually planting a seed into dirt. I think this is possible. I believe it is possible to recapture all of those things above but in a different way. There will be a section for photography, a section for words. There will be a corner devoted to my yoga practice and a corner within a corner devoted to meditation. I think I will add in a cooking section and a spot for just laying still with a puppy on my lap.

Wait. I think already have this garden. It just needs some weeding and a little bit of care.

LET'S WALK

Cindy Maddera

Six years ago, Terry said “Hey! Come do the AIDS Walk Open with us!” The AIDS Walk Open is a large charity event for the AIDS Walk of Kansas City. Combine mini golf with a pub crawl and some golf teams in crazy costumes and that’s the Open. There’s day drinking and laughter and ridiculousness and I am usually in bed by nine o’clock every time I participate. This was also true for the year I volunteered. Most of us skipped out on the Open last year. No one was in the mood for it, but this year Bradley decided to coral all the cats into teams for this year. Another fun fact? Six years ago was my first Open. That’s when I met Greg and Bradley. It was also their first Open. Out of our three teams on Saturday, only me, Greg and Bradley had ever participated in the AIDS Walk Open before.

Passing torches.

We had a really great time. Wilson brought a pink bucket filled with dollar store crap, including dollar store fingernail polish. My nails are still a light shade of pink. I’m not used to having painted nails and every time I glance at them I do a double take. Then I remember, “Oh yeah… I painted my nails pink while we waited for our turn at Sidestreet Bar.” We made it to eight out of eleven bars. You need six to qualify for prizes. The people who win every year are the ones who buy mulligans to reduce their points. I don’t have that kind of money. Particularly this year. Wow, was I not good at mini golf. It seems pretty straight forward. Hit ball into hole. One of those mini golf courses was covered in cue balls. There was no straight forward. I could have spent a fortune on mulligans.

Bistro 303 ended up being our last stop before heading over to Missie B’s for the closing ceremony. Belinda was in charge of the course there and she said “you’re helping with the memorial flags this year right?” By this point I had been drinking a lot of gin and I enthusiastically nodded my head and replied “YES!” I am not one of those people who gets so drunk that they can’t remember what happened while they were drinking. So it looks like I am helping out with the Memorial Team for the AIDS Walk this year. This morning I went over and activated my donation page and updated my picture. I have until April 27th to beg for donations. If you feel like giving to this great cause, you may donate to my donation page here. You can also get to that page by going to Linky-links and then charities in the navigation bar at the top of my website. People who donate will get a 4x6 print of their choosing from the photos posted in the photography section of my website.

Thank you!

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Two nights ago we lost our house to a flood and a fire. In all the chaos, I ended up hit in the head and left in a coma for six months (yes, time is weird and relative). When I finally came too, I was all alone in the hospital. I pulled out my IV and rummaged around for some clothes. Then I walked back to where our house used to be. Seeing that there was no house, I continued walking until I got to a dumpy motel. Michael was living there some woman he was now sleeping with and all of our family members. Everybody looked rough with worn clothes and scraggly hair. I looked around at the squalor they were now living in and said “what is going on?!?” That’s when Michael, who was naked in bed with that woman I mentioned before, noticed me standing in the doorway. He sat up in surprise, sputtering to get a sentence out. I grabbed the woman by her hair and dragged her out of the bed and then kicked her. “Get the fuck out!” I spit in her face. Then Michael started rambling about insurance money and being broke. He was high or drunk, probably both. I just shook my head at him and then turned around and walked out.

And here I sit now in the light of day and reality (?) wondering what on Earth is going on.

My nights for the past few weeks have been filled with visions of nonsense. Someone said that this probably means I’m not sleeping well at night. That time between 9:30 PM and 1:00 AM is fantastic. I sleep so soundly that when I wake up sometime around one, I think it’s actually time to get up. Except I don’t because that sounds like a dumb idea. Instead I toss and turn, drifting in and out of sleep until around 4:30 ish. This week, I’ve just said “screw it” and peeled my body out of bed at 4:30 AM to get on my yoga mat. These morning practices have not been anything spectacular or fancy. I have just gotten on my mat and moved. Tuesday morning I ended my practice, curled up around the dog on my yoga mat. We lay there wrapped up in a blanket, still and quiet with Josephine’s toys scattered randomly around us. I could hear Michael snoring from his room. I could hear the creek and crack of the house shifting in the cold. Then I heard an owl hooting from somewhere in our front yard.

I heard that owl again this morning.

The hippy dippy part of me knows that these crazy night visions and the odd sleep behavior have to do with the Spring Equinox, which is just around the corner. It is my body preparing for the shifting of time. The sun is already staying out a little bit longer and I leave the house for work in the mornings in daylight instead of the dark of predawn. There is something a little bit uncomfortable in the shift because it is a slow transition. Particularly this year when we are predicted to get three to six inches of snow on Sunday. I always imagine this transition to be similar to the transition between human and werewolf. The movies always portray it so violently and painful. Think of the strain the body would go through to make such a dramatic molecular change, but then slow that molecular change down from seconds to days. I am slowely transitioning into a werewolf.

Or, if I want to be kind to myself, I am transition back into a human.

There is something about being awake while most of the rest of the world is sleeping. It is the time of morning covered in whispers and hushes. In the mist of the whispers and hushes, there is something calming and still. It is not a terrible time of day to be awake. It just sounds like a terrible time to be awake. When I was really little, I went through a phase where I would wake up in the middle of the night. I would get out of bed and quietly shut my bedroom door. Then I would turn on my light and quietly play with my toys in the middle of my bedroom floor. I don’t know how long this went on before I was finally discovered. My Mom opened the door to find me with the light on, playing. She made me go back to bed and turned the light out. I don’t remember getting up again after that, but I do remember that calming stillness. It must be something I just crave on occasion.

I am thankful for the hoot of an owl.