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THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

The other day, I went out to the backyard to pull some tomatoes from the vine when a hummingbird flew right up to me. He hovered right in front of my face for a few seconds and then flew up to perch on a wire above my head. He sat there long enough for me to think about running inside and grabbing my camera. Except I knew that by the time it took me to swap lenses and get my act together, that tiny bird would be gone. So instead of rushing inside, I stood very still and watched. One heartbeat. Two heartbeats. Three heartbeats. Four heartbeats. Then the hummingbird flew up and over the roof of our house and was gone from sight. We don’t see hummingbirds all too often around here. I’m sure if I put out a feeder, we would see more of them but for some reason I never get around to hanging one up. Hummingbirds fall into my fantastical category. I feel like such a tiny bird that moves so quickly and travels great distances must be a mythical creature.

Like the moose.

The yin and yang of this whole scene did not go unnoticed. There is this busy buzzy movement of the hummingbird juxtaposed with the stillness of watching and observing. Then there was that brief moment when we were both still. Seconds. That is all it takes sometimes to have a moment for all the other outside noises to fall away and for you to feel some peacefulness. This is a phenomenon I often experience when I take short walks. Those moments are not as spontaneous as my encounter with the hummingbird. I usually step out with the intention of paying close attention to my surroundings. I am purposeful in looking for the interesting or the unusual that could be tucked in just around that corner over there. It is this practice that has made me a better photographer. It is this practice that helps stay calm and focused. It is this practice that helps me to notice the spontaneous moments of zen.

I am thankful.

DNA

Cindy Maddera

There are somewhere around thirty seven trillion cells that make up the human body. Of this trillion of cells there are about 200 different types of cells ranging from 10 -100um (micrometers). Each cell contains a nucleus full of DNA. If you take this DNA and stretch it out, it is about two meters long. That’s about six and half feet. I am five feet, seven inches tall. I am a little bit shorter than a length of DNA. That’s to help you put all of it into perspective. All of that DNA is twisted and tied up with various proteins in order to fit inside the nucleus of a cell and yet still be assessable for genes to be read for coding by messenger RNA to make more proteins for cell function. The whole process is very complicated. That’s just normal cell function. I haven’t mentioned what has to happen during cell division.

And I find the whole process extremely fascinating.

I think what is so fascinating is this organization is an intrinsic process. This is not a learned behavior. There is no molecular sized Marie Kondo teaching each cell how to fold and compact its DNA. Cells just do it and have been for a really really super long time. Sure, there are the occasional mistakes. There are contingency plans in place for many mistakes and sometimes those mistakes are missed. Those missed mistakes can have some pretty catastrophic results, but there’s no such thing as actual perfection. I mean, there is no such thing as perfection in anything. But for the most part, cells just keep their shit organized. Considering the size and scope and importance of that, it’s pretty amazing.

I don’t know why I’m telling you all of this. I have started and deleted so many posts this week. I felt the need to write something, anything, but I also felt the need to edit myself (for various reasons). Sitting down and stringing words together to tell a story should be a daily practice. It should be part of my daily routine. Cindy’s daily routine: shower, dress, make breakfast, feed the dog, zip to work, wipe down every microscope with an ethanol wipe (people are gross), walk four thousand steps to get a cup a coffee, work some more, thirty minutes of cardio, one hour of yoga, more work, zip home, feed the dog, feed the humans, watch some TV, wash face and teeth, go to bed, repeat it all again the next day. Somewhere in there I should be wedging in ‘write five hundred words’. Instead I’ve managed to put a square of time to window shopping at Anthropologie or reading shoe reviews (my toes go numb in my running shoes when I’m on the elliptical and I don’t think that’s normal).

Last Saturday morning was the first Saturday morning in ages where I was up early to get some errands accomplished before everyone in the house woke up. That means sitting down with the Fortune Cookie journal while eating a biscuit sandwich. The prompt was something about life is funny, don’t forget to laugh. I proceeded to write a descriptive scene about a group of friends huddled together as they watched the casket of their dear friend slowly lower into the ground. The whole time I was writing it, I thought “hold on…wait for it…this is going somewhere funny.” Except it never did. I ran out of room before I even came close to writing something funny. I swear I had a plan, a plan that had something to do with a case of prosecco and a limo. That could be funny right? Actually, I find a scene of a woman trying to write something funny, but writes about a funeral instead, to be pretty funny. My head may not be in the right space for writing right now.

If I could organize my thoughts as well as my cells organize it’s DNA, I’d stand a better chance at wedging in that writing time.

WHO'S A BIG GIRL? THAT'S RIGHT. YOU'RE A BIG GIRL

Cindy Maddera

It was a fuzzy dream. They aways are. I just know that Chris was there and we were supposed to be going to some festival parade thing, but I found myself in the upstairs bathroom of my childhood home surrounded by all the clutter of mom’s makeup collections. I had tried to tie-dye circles onto my romper but it didn’t turn out as I had hoped. I looked at Chris who had some expression on his face that I could only interpret as a look of disappointment. That’s normal. Chris is usually none too pleased with me in any of my dreams. I recognize that this is a manifestation of my own poor self esteem and that Chris was/is not actually disappointed in me. I looked at him this time and shook my head and said “I know. I’m sorry.”

Always apologizing.

The next morning, I found an email from Bluehost reminding me that hosting for my domain was set to renew in October. I still pay for hosting for Elephantsoap.com even though everything from the old space has been migrated over to Squarespace for years now. At first, I held onto that name because I thought that my blog would somehow blow up and turn to dust if I dumped it. I thought that search engines would be disrupted or that no one would know how to find me. I may have successfully migrated all of my old blog over to the new one, built the design of this current blog, yet I still feel like I have no idea what I am doing. It’s all a house of cards and it’s going to come crashing down any minute. I don’t know how this internet/webby thingy works. So I pay my hundred and something a year to Bluehost for peace of mind.

Michael has no idea I’ve been doing this. It is not on our budget spreadsheet and I charge it to one of my credit cards. I know…it’s kind of terrible. No…I feel really bad about it. When the email came up this time around, I asked the guys I work with for some advice. I brought up all of the above mentioned fears and they all told me that I do not need to hang onto that domain unless I just like the name and don’t want any one else to buy up elephantsoap.com. I thought about this and then I opened my mouth and started saying “I do have some emotional attachment…” Then my voice cracked with emotion and I had to walk away. I was completely caught off guard by the wave of tears that hit me. I hid in my favorite bathroom stall while I was taken over by wracking sobs, but I pulled myself together. Then I came back to my desk and cancelled the annual renewal for hosting on Elephantsoap.com. It doesn’t exist any more. I still own the domain name, but because of third party hosting mumbo jumbo this blog will no longer link to Elephantsoap.com. This only effects the links already posted on Facebook. Those links are now all broken.

And yeah, there’s a part of me that is really fucking sad about this.

Elephantsoap is Chris. His idea. His vision for me. It was more than him just handing me a blank empty sketch pad and saying “here ya go.” He built a space of code that translated into colorful borders and banners and said “write here.” It’s like he saw something in me that I still struggle to see in myself. I scoffed at it in the beginning. “What even is a blog? Why do I need one? I’m not a writer. I am not interesting.” But I started putting words in that space and pictures. Yeah, it was crap and drivel and navel gazing, but it was my crap. My drivel. My navel gazing. I’ve grown up though. The writing has changed; hopefully it’s better. The pictures I post have changed; hopefully they’re better. All of that started happening on the new space I made for myself. This, cindymaddera.squarespace.com, this is MY space. This is my vision. It’s where I don’t struggle to see the things that Chris saw in me all those years ago when he built Elephantsoap.

So, I’m going to take a moment to honor the gifts that Elephantsoap gave me and then I’m going to let it go.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

It is never all that easy getting back into your usual day to day after you have been out of town on vacation. I made it particularly hard on myself by scheduling my routine physical with a new doctor for the day after we returned. Then there was blood work on Monday and a phone call from that doctor on Tuesday about the blood work (more on that later, I'm fine…just fat). I had a dentist appointment on Wednesday, which was actually good and made me feel like I was at least doing something right. Michael started back to work on Thursday. So now we are officially back to normal routines around here.

What happened to summer?

Did I make the most of my summer?

I road tripped. We scootered. I ate a lot of tomatoes. I slept in until 8 AM on weekends! The Cabbage and I rode some really great roller coasters. Snow cones and ice cream were a weekly menu item. Dear friends visited and we went to the zoo and had a water balloon fight in the backyard. We ate watermelon with seeds and spit the seeds across the yard. We also filled a jar with lightning bugs and then set them free at the end of the evening. My arms have a lovely tan and my feet have flip flip tan lines. Maybe I didn’t make the absolute mostest of my summer, but I think I came pretty darn close. Also, I still have some time. Summer is not completely over just because Michael is back in school. I have plans to soak up every last bit of heat before the weather turns to crap. Or what some people call ‘Fall’. People are already talking about pumpkin spice.

Slow your roll, peeps!

All of this feels familiar. Like I’ve written it before. I think that I write about soaking up every last drop of summer every year because it is my favorite season. I am thankful for every snow cone eaten, every fluid ounce of sunscreen applied to my body, every itchy bug bite because I suck at applying bug spray, and every tomato I have popped into my mouth.

Here’s to making the most of summer.

BOLD SQUIRRELS

Cindy Maddera

The day before we left Boston, Michael and I bought some cheese, bread, a bag of grapes and a bottle of wine. We rode the bus for forty five minutes to get out to Castle Island where we walked in the Atlantic ocean along the beach. Then we bought a basket of fried clams and found a picnic table in a shady spot. We spread out our picnic and spent the afternoon grazing and drinking wine straight from the bottle because we forgot to pack glasses. After we washed the last grape down with the last of the wine, we loaded up and made our way back to our hotel room for a break from the heat.

Then it rained.

By the time we headed out to dinner that evening, the rain had stopped but the temperatures had dropped so that the evening was cool and pleasant. We decided to walk over to Boston Common after dinner and explore the park. We entered the Boston Public Garden first and I wandered over to take pictures of the pond while Michael wandered over to the water fountains. When I looked up to find him, he was standing there surrounded by squirrels and birds. It was like he’d just turned into a Disney princess. He looked at me and said “What is happening?” I slowely walked towards him and said “I don’t know, but it’s something pretty magical.” Turns out, the squirrels in this park are practically tame. You don’t even have to have a treat. All you have to do is get down on their level and hold out your hand like you have a treat. They will come right up to you. If you have treats, they will sit on your lap and eat them. I’m not talking about one or two squirrels here. Every squirrel in the park was bold as brass and would steel the cookies right from your baby’s fat little fingers. There are signs all over the park asking patrons to please not feed the birds, but nothing about not feeding the squirrels.

The park might need to rethink their “do not feed” signs.

Boston Common is Boston’s version of Central Park, though it is not near the size. At one point the Common housed Colonial militia, held victory gardens during the first World War, was a site for anti war and civil rights rallies and even the Pope performed mass there in 1979. Before all of that, the park was a place for the people of Boston to walk and for cattle to graze. If you go there as the sun is setting, the last few rays of the sun hit the tall buildings of downtown Boston so that they all look like they are coated in polished brass. It is a lovely sight to see. If you go though, beware of the squirrels or at least pack extra treats for them.

OUT OF TOWNER

Cindy Maddera

I have managed to be out of town every August 1st since 2006. I didn’t realize this until Michael said something about the date while we ate our last lobster (lobstah) rolls of our Boston trip. He said “Is today a bad date?” “It’s not a great one” I replied while shoving a giant piece of lobster meat into my mouth. This was all I said on the subject. For our last day in Boston, the temperatures dropped to the high seventies. All week long, until that day, we were in the middle of a sweltering heat wave. It wasn’t a big deal for me because I spent most of the first four days of our trip in conference rooms listening to developmental biology talks. Michael, on the other hand, had two-shirt days. Really three-shirt days, but he didn’t pack enough t-shirts for that. We thought it would be cooler when we took a day trip up to Salem, but that turned out to be the hottest day. Some poor park ranger drew the short straw and was stuck out on the replica tall ship at the Maritime National Historic site. They had provided him with a tent like shelter and he refused to leave his square of shade to even point out where the masts are usually placed on the ship. It was so hot that I felt like I was sweating between my fingers, so I don’t blame that unlucky park ranger for refusing to leave his square of shade.

The best thing about that day, about the whole trip really, was the ferry ride we took back to Boston. Michael sat down at a table inside the ferry and we dumped our backpacks. He looked at me and said “go do what you need to do.” I swapped out lenses on my camera and headed outside where I was able to position myself at the very front of the ship. The ferry maneuvered it’s way out of the harbor and then began to pick up speed. Then we were speeding across the Atlantic and there I was at the very front of the ship feeling the full effect of racing across the water. I stood there with the wind hitting me full blast, snapping terrible pictures and practically giggling with joy. When Michael finally came out to find me, I turned to look at him with this giant grin on my face. “THIS IS AMAZING!” I yelled at him to be heard over the wind and sound of the engine. I am usually hesitant about getting on big boats. It is not from a fear of drowning, but more from a fear of boredom. It all stems from that one time Dad and I got trapped on a paddle boat ride up the Mississippi. Dad was not a good swimmer, but thought that even he could swim faster than the boat we were on. We both fantasized of jumping overboard. But this ferry? Dad would have loved this ride.

I wonder how Dad felt about fried clams. I ate enough of them for the both of us.

As we made our way through security to board our flight home, Michael got caught up in the security check point. Something about him that day lit up all the bells on the scanner. His luggage got scanned twice and he received a personal pat down from a TSA officer. It was not a big deal. We had plenty of time to kill before our flight any way. After he finally made it through, we were settled on a bench repacking his stuff and I kind of chuckled. I looked at him sideways and said “J was totally just fucking with you.” Michael was curious as to why I thought this, but I didn’t have the best explanation for him. It just felt like something J had a hand in. I could almost see him standing next to one of the TSA officers with a wicked grin on his face as he whispered in the officer’s ear “why don’t you recheck that bag.”

August is a weird month.

Ghosts are everywhere.

COMPLACENCY

Cindy Maddera

Michael goes back to school on Thursday. He won’t have kids until next week. This week will just be meetings and getting organized. On Friday he’ll have mass shooter training. He told me this as we were eating lunch somewhere. I don’t know even remember where or if we were in Boston or Kansas City. He said all of this to me before the mass shootings committed by white terrorists over the weekend. I just remember feeling the food that I had just swallowed congeal into a lump and wedge itself in my throat. Michael is a high school math teacher. Not a policeman. Not a TSA employee. Not a first responder. Not a soldier.

He’s a teacher.

Every year, before the students show up to class, all of the teachers spend a day where someone comes into the building and pretends to kill them. And the teachers have to find a way to survive. Michael told me that last year, they were given a length of rope to tie up the door. He said that this seemed to work okay and then he shrugged nonchalantly. It was a gesture that I couldn’t quite understand. Was it a shrug of “whatever”? Or was it a shrug of apathetic acceptance of the situation? I feel like maybe when he tells me about the shooter drills that I’m supposed to think of it as normal. Like it’s just like a fire drill or a tornado drill. Active shooter drills are just our new way of life.

Except it isn’t.

The minute I see this as ‘normal’ is the minute I become complacent.

Michael and I have been watching the series Years and Years on HBO. The series follows a family through the years as the world sort of falls to pieces. Climate change causes heavy rains and rising seas that lead to flooding and the displacement of millions of people. There’s a story line on immigration and refugees seeking asylum. There is a story arc around banks collapsing and the financial crisis that follows. Through all of it, you watch this family as they go about their day to day lives. Things don’t really look all that different for them. There’s some job losses from the financial crisis. Love stories and relationships change. There’s health issues to be dealt with. Deaths to endure. All of it seems very much like everyone else’s normal daily lives. They just go on about their business. All while the world falls to complete shit around them.

Some times there’s a really fine line between fiction and nonfiction.

I just signed up at Everytown for Gun Safety to be contacted as a volunteer. I don’t want to just go about my daily life while the world falls to shit around me.

PLUCKING FEATHERS

Cindy Maddera

My friend, Eagle, recommended an article on Twitter the other day. The Crane Wife by CJ Hauser. It’s a beautifully written essay on relationships and settling or not settling. There is one sentence in that essay that has lodged itself deep into my body, like I’ve been impaled by it.

But when a woman needs she is needy. She is meant to contain within her own self everything necessary to be happy.

I can’t stop thinking about it. It is not so much the part about need, but the negative connotation behind needing. Because this applies to so many emotions in regards to women and the perception of how we’re supposed to behave by some standard set up many moons ago. By some standard set up by men. It goes beyond needing means you are needy. It is that any expression of want or need or frustration makes you less in some way.

Too emotional

Overly sensitive

Crazy

Chris and I had a really good relationship. We knew how to communicate with each other. We were respectful and considerate of each other’s needs and wants and space. We were emotional and intellectual equals. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t have differences of opinions. If I asked Chris do a chore or to even pick up after himself, he said I was nagging and that he didn’t respond well to being nagged. Well, the last thing I wanted was to be a nag. So I stopped asking him to do things. He did a better of job of picking up after himself in shared spaces, but I just did most of the household chores. I eventually got over it because I like cleaning and I like living in a clean space. I cleaned for me. But I still get a little mad about how asking someone to not leave their dirty socks under the couch makes me a nag. Michael, on the other hand, tells me that he wants me to ask him to do things. It’s just that by now, I’ve been conditioned to just do whatever needs to be to done. I also find it bothersome to have to tell or ask him to do something because if you see that something needs to be done, just do it. This “just take care of the thing that needs to be taken care of” mentality has flipped me from being a nag to being too independent. None of these labels would be put on a man. A guy, living alone, cleaning, doing laundry, taking care of shit? We give those guys medals of praise. We’re just surprised they aren’t living in their own filth, but we would never declare him to be independent. Functional adult is more like it. And I’m just using the cleaning stuff as an example because it is an easy one. Think about reactions regarding a woman changing a tire versus a man changing a tire. A woman of authority is bossy. A woman who speaks her mind is a bitch. A woman who knows what she’s talking about is a know-it-all bitch.

A woman who needs is needy.

CJ Hauser tells the story of a Japanese folk story also called The Crane Wife.

There is a crane who tricks a man into thinking she is a woman so she can marry him. She loves him, but knows that he will not love her if she is a crane so she spends every night plucking out all of her feathers with her beak. She hopes that he will not see what she really is: a bird who must be cared for, a bird capable of flight, a creature, with creature needs. Every morning, the crane-wife is exhausted, but she is a woman again. To keep becoming a woman is so much self-erasing work. She never sleeps. She plucks out all her feathers, one by one.

Now I know why I’m tired all the time. I spend more time than I realized on plucking my own feathers. I think about that scene in Moonlight Kingdom where the boy asks the girl “what kind of bird are you?” I’ve been plucking feathers out for so long that I don’t even remember what kind of bird I am anymore. All for what? Seriously? To what end? Sometimes I think that somebody needs to take charge and that somebody might as well be me (bossy). I sometimes lack filters so that the thing I am thinking falls out of my mouth (bitch). When I talk about something, I make damn sure I know what I’m talking about before I say it (know-it-all bitch). I will ask you nicely to pick your dirty socks up off the floor (nag). I will need you to see that I need help or a hug or some recognition that I am not as fat as I think I am (needy). And I don’t apologize for any of it. Instead I’m going to allow myself to want too much, expect too much. I define what is too much.

For me.

I’m going to stop plucking those feathers. I may not remember what kind of bird I used to be, but I am almost positive that it was a bird that can fly. It might take a bit of time to grow those feathers back, but once I finally do, just watch this nagging independent woman soar.

THE BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT OF THE WEEKEND

Cindy Maddera

I sat at the dining room table while eating my breakfast of cottage cheese with chia seeds, walnuts and honey and flipping though unread emails. I don’t read emails on the weekend or I don’t clean out my inboxes on weekends is really how I should but that since a majority of my inboxes are filled with junk. My eyes flashed by one subject line that read “Happy National Ice Cream Day!”. I paused and looked at the sent date. It had been sent out the day before. I missed National Ice Cream Day. Sunday came and went without one lick of ice cream.

My Pepaw would be so disappointed.

Ice cream is not a thing here. It’s kind of a thing, but it is more of a novelty, fancy thing. Ice cream places around here have flavors that include goat cheese and lavender. Those places are good; don’t get me wrong. I had an apricot goat cheese and honey ice cream cone just last week that was delicious. We went to a new place on Saturday where they put all of the ice cream ingredients into a metal mixing bowl and pipped in liquid nitrogen while the mixer swished everything around. Really neat and fun. It was tasty, but it wasn’t ice cream. There’s not a Braum’s up here or an equivalent to Braum’s. Custard. That’s the thing up here. People stand in line for cups of frozen custard with mix-ins like peanut butter cups or M&Ms and Reece’s Pieces. This is also good. It’s just that sometimes I just want ice cream. I want to peruse the ice cream counter, inspecting all the different flavors before settling on butter pecan praline.

This ice cream preference is genetically encoded into my DNA.

My mother tells a story about how when she was a kid, they made homemade ice cream every night in the summer time. They would put fresh fruit in it, what ever happened to be in season. Peaches. Blackberries. She said that my Pepaw would eat a huge bowl of it. Then they’d all go to the movies and he’d have another bowl when they got home. I can’t really think about this story without seeing a porch with my Pepaw seated in a lawn chair, leaning over a hand crank ice cream maker while a young version of my mother and Uncle Russel crowded around. I can’t hear or read these words without hearing that southern drawl that only comes out in my mother when she is around her brother. I can feel the hot steamy summer of southern Mississippi and hear the buzz of the cicadas. I can imagine Pepaw running a handkerchief across his brow as he passed his hand cranking duties over to one of the kids. They would all take a turn.

Pepaw came to stay with us when I graduated high school. I still had community college classes, but I would be home around three every afternoon. I’d pull my car into the drive and Pepaw would be sitting in a chair under the camper awning. He always stayed in a camper. I remember how he’d push himself up to standing as I pulled into the drive. He’d holler “Don’t get out! Let’s go get some ice cream.” and he’d come get in on the passenger side. I’d drive us to Tasty Freeze or Braum’s with him smoking out my car window all the way. He’s the only person I ever let smoke in my vehicles. He’d buy me a scoop of ice cream and then we’d head back to the house, him telling me stories and regrets all along the way. As I remember this now, I think about how rare it was to have Pepaw all to myself, just the two of us. We had family visits maybe once a year and that mostly included all of us, my brother and his family, my sister and her family. Usually it was all of us caravanning our way to Mississippi. But this time? This time it was just him and me and one of the Pennies. Pepaw was partial to Jack Russel terrier mixes that all looked identical to the one before and all ended up with name of Penny.

It’s funny some times, the things that trigger certain memories.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

I have been thinking about what I would write here for today and there are many topics for me to choose from this week. That’s nice, those times when I don’t have to dig deep to write something more than a list. Talaura turned me on to the soundtrack for the the current revival of Oklahoma (I mean, check out the guy playing Curly…swoonaliciuos) and a musical about the six wives of Henry VIII called SIX. I ride my scooter to work in the mornings while singing Oh What a Beautiful Mornin’ and No Way as I scoot my way home in the evenings, racing down the city streets. We are in the thick of it here. The heat dome has settled down on top of us and every day is a scooter a day. I ride as fast as I can get away with in order to stay cool.

My life is good. My life is privileged.

Even at times when things are not going well and I’m digging deep. My life is good. My life is privileged.

Yesterday, in my guided meditation, I listened to a meditation practice led by Sah D’Simone on abundance.

You are worthy of abundance

He asked the listener to define abundance. What does an abundant life look like? How do you measure abundance? These are my questions, not ones that Sah asked of the listener. Instead he listed a few things that one would consider when defining ‘abundance’. Happiness, wealth, success. None of these really define an abundant life for me. I have credit card debt. We live on a budget. Some times that budget is tight. I am not wealthy. In fact, I never planned on being wealthy and I don’t expect to be wealthy in the future. My definition for abundance does not include it. My abundant life comes from having a life filled with wonderful friends and a supportive, loving family. The abundance in my life comes from doing a job that I genuinely enjoy and one that happily feeds my science brain. The abundance in my life comes from loving the sweetest little dog, the brief moments of love from the cat and brushing my fingers across the soft feathers of one of the chickens. Collecting multi colored eggs from the coop and tomatoes from the one tomato plant I planted in the backyard. This is abundance.

I have an abundant life.

I think everyone is deserving and worthy of abundance.

I'M A BULLY

Cindy Maddera

I’m walking towards to the door to my building with a running commentary going in my head.

“I’m tired.”

“You’re taking the stairs.”

“But I’m tired and there’s a twinge in my low back.”

“You’re taking the stairs, all four flights of them.”

“I’m really not feeling it this morning.”

“You’re taking the stairs, you fat, lazy stupid bitch. You’re marching those feet up all of the stairs because you missed gym time yesterday and you are a fatty fatty worthless bitch.”

I walk up all four flights of stairs to my office. I do it because I’ve guilted myself into doing it. Even though I had to use ugly language to do so. It is two sides of a coin. On one side, I’ve guilted myself into doing something healthy. On the other side, I’m a mean bully who doesn’t think much of herself.

One of my coworkers started a conversation about guilt the other day. He started by asking “is guilt a wasted emotion?” Two men and two women were in on this conversation. Both men agreed that guilt was wasted, that it was an emotion that made them get worked up over things that did not matter. Both women (one of them me) said that guilt was a motivator and therefore not a wasted emotion. Now, I will be the first to admit that my data here is not statistically relevant, but I have a strong feeling that if I expanded this poll we would see that most women see guilt as a motivator. Because guilt has been a tool used to control or motivate women for centuries. Having sex. Not having sex. Having babies. Not having babies. Having a career. Not having a career. Eating that donut. Not eating that donut. Pulling off a piece of fruit from that knowledge tree and taking a big ole bite. Not taking advice from snakes.

Raise your hand if you have lost track of the number of times you were guilted into doing something you didn’t really want to do.

If you love me, you’ll….

I see my coworker’s point. I also allow guilt to work me up into a tight stress ball over something I have no control over. I mean, I can try really hard to tell you that I no longer feel guilty about Chris’s death, but honestly I’m not sure that will ever happen. At least that guilt no longer keeps me up at nights (sort of, mostly) and that is why I totally get the wasted emotion argument. But I will say that a good portion of my daily life is centered around the guilt as a motivator idea. The guilt motivator, even though it is getting me to do something good for me, is at times very ugly. The things I tell myself out of guilt are so awful and uses language I would never tolerate coming out of anyone’s mouth. It is the kind of language that if I heard it being spoken to another person, I would interject and tell that person to shut it. I’m going to eat that donut but then I’m going to spend an extra thirty minutes on the treadmill. If I even for a moment think about not doing the extra time, that awful language picks up inside my head and the next thing I know I’m doing extra extra time on the treadmill.

Some days, guilt is the only reason I get out of bed in the mornings.

I know it doesn’t have to be this way. I know there are better methods of motivation. It’s just that this form of motivation has been with me for a really long time. It’s what I know. It’s habit. It is all that is hard to break. If I wouldn’t let a person talk to someone else that way, why on earth do I talk to myself that way. Do you put question marks at the end of rhetorical questions? Yes, I know I could google that but I don’t really care.

If I love me, I’ll…

What if I just ate the fucking donut; no strings attached?

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

  • I don’t have to wear a boot.

  • Robin, Summer and her kids are visiting this weekend and we’re going to the zoo!

  • The cat is eating his food.

  • Michael and the Cabbage cleaned the house. Technically they do something every day, but they cleaned everything yesterday so it would be fresh for guests.

  • Tomatoes

  • A very good/close friend was in a motorcycle accident yesterday. She’s banged up, basically getting a new knee, but she’s okay. She’s okay!

MY LEFT FOOT

Cindy Maddera

Years and years ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I thought I wanted to be a doctor of medicine. I specify ‘of medicine’ here because you can be a doctor in just about anything. My friend Jeff has his PhD in Chemistry. When his dad was in the hospital, he introduced Jeff to his doctor as “his son Jeff. He’s a doctor.” This is something my dad would have totally done to me if I had continued my education. As it was, Dad treated me like a nurse practitioner, asking me all kinds of “what do you think this is on my arm?” kind of questions. The word ‘science’ is a very giant umbrella term that is confusing to some people. Any way…at one point I did think that I might end up in the medical field. That’s because this what all of my teachers and adults told me to do.

“Oh! You like science!?! You should be a physician.”

“You’ll make loads of money!”

I almost fell for it. I scored well on the MCAT.

If you ask me, one too many children were told to be medical doctors when they grew up because they would make a lot of money. I am so glad I recognized that I wanted nothing to do with potentially causing harm to another human before I waisted all of that time and money on medical school. I mean…I sometimes struggle with teaching yoga because I’m afraid I’m going to break a student. Despite my extensive knowledge in basic anatomy and molecular biology, I cannot read an X-ray of my own body. Case in point, when my GP called me on Monday to tell me my ankle was fractured, I saw that line across my medial malleolus and assumed that was the fracture she was talking about. The good news is that line is not a fracture. Which makes sense because that is not where my ankle hurts at all. The fracture is actually on the lateral malleolus and by fracture, we’re talking about a teeny tiny sliver of bone that was pulled off the tibia by ligaments when I injured my foot. The orthopedic doctor said that if I had come in two days after falling in the hole, he would have put me in a boot. Since it has been almost a month, it doesn’t really matter. He said to just keep it wrapped for a while. Take some Ibuprofen (fun fact: I say “I B profen” when I talk about Ibuprofen because I’m pretty sure that is how I heard it being pronounced for my entire life. My parents are from the south).

Any time I started talking about any part of this story to any one, I became filled with rage. Not the part where the orthopedic doctor told me to keep on keeping on. That’s great. But the part leading up to my orthopedics visit made me want to explode. My appointment with the GP was for 3:00 PM on Friday. I arrived fifteen minutes early. I waited in line at the reception desk for fifteen minutes. After checking in, I waited in the waiting room for an hour. Then I sat in the exam room for another thirty minutes before being sent to X-Ray. X-rays took another hour and I was the only person sitting in the waiting room. It all felt like a bit too much for an ankle that didn’t really hurt all that bad, an ankle I was still walking around on without a limp. Also, the referred orthopedic doctor couldn’t see me until at least sometime next week. The very idea of being hobbled with a boot sent me over the edge. I already feel like a fat cow. I’ve gotten on a doctor’s scale twice in the last three days and every time has been unpleasant. Now I was about to be put into a position where being active was going to be very difficult.

And I think that reason right there was the main source of my rage and frustration.

I listened to a meditation app focused on releasing frustration and anger while finishing up my yoga practice on Monday. The first thing the voice leading the meditation said was to not punish or shame yourself for your frustrations and anger, but look for the source of it. The source of my anger and frustration was not from the hours I sat around waiting to see a doctor or the inadequate healthcare. Though all of that is well worth some wrath. The source of my frustration and anger was from a loss of activity. More accurately, a loss of choice to be active. And you know what? I really like that part about not punishing or shaming myself for being frustrated over a loss of choice because anger and frustration are valid feelings and I allowed myself to be angry over all of it. I yelled and I vented and I declared it all to be so stupid. Then I took some deep breaths and started thinking of ways to move around with a boot on my foot. I started to plan out how to teach a yoga class with a boot on my foot. I mentally practiced what it was going to be like to ride a scooter with a boot on my foot. I thought about solutions for the actual source of my anger.

And in the end, everything turned out to be just fine.

Just for the record, this means that I did 108 Sun Salutations with a fractured ankle. Like a Boss!

HUNGER STRIKE AND BROKEN BONES

Cindy Maddera

We are not as particular about the cat food we buy for the cat as we are with the dog food. The cat eats other animals. He roams the neighborhood. He’s a wild animal. He does what he wants. We usually just buy him the same brand of stuff we get for Josephine because they sell it all at Waldo Grain. That’s where we buy our chicken food, so it’s one stop shopping for all of the animals. Plus, it is the closest place that sells our chicken food and it is a tiny Mom & Pop kind of place. We want them to stay open. Occasionally though, the cat runs low on food and one of us will pick up a bag of whatever to tide him over until we can get to Waldo Grain. Last time this happened, Michael picked up a bag of cat food from Whole Foods. Nice, fancy, healthy cat food.

The cat refused to eat it.

Michael then picked up a bag of crappy cat food.

The cat takes a few bites and then walks away.

It’s been three weeks since I have put food in his bowl. His bowl is full of food and he comes in daily with his ‘meow, meow, meow, my bowl is empty’ routine. He’s starting to look skinny, but not a good skinny. Finally, I dumped out the bowl of old food and replaced it with his usual food from the feed store. I am happy to report that our dumb cat who ate an entire mouse the other day (I mean the whole damn thing) is now eating his food. Hallelujah!

Right around the time Albus decided to go on his hunger strike, I fell in a hole in the backyard and twisted my ankle. I might have mentioned it in a previous post. Last Saturday, after a day of scooter riding, Michael looked over at my ankle and was all “WHY IS YOUR ANKLE SO SWOLLEN!?!?!” Then he made me make a doctor’s appointment. X-rays were taken. The X-ray tech let me look at the pictures. I couldn’t see anything wrong (because I’m not a doctor) and declared myself totally fine.

I am not totally fine.

My doctor called me this morning to tell me that I have a fracture in my medial malleolus. She then referred me to orthopedics, but they can’t get me in until the 25th. That’s the day before we leave for Boston for conference/vacation. So…I’m just walking around with a broken ankle all this time, still doing what I do. Teaching yoga. Spending time on the elliptical or bike. Standing at my desk. Taking walks. You know, the OPPOSITE of resting. People keep asking me about pain and I shrug and say “it doesn’t really hurt.” Because it doesn’t. It feels like a sore muscle on the left side of my ankle. It does not hurt to walk. When the doctor called and told me about the fracture, I became furious. When I scheduled my appointment with the orthopedic doctor and they couldn’t see me for almost another two weeks, I burst into flames of rage. A broken bone needs about six weeks to heal. I’ve been walking around on it for three weeks. It’s two more weeks until the orthopedic doctor sees me. That’s five weeks.

I don’t even see the point in going.

I’ve got an ace bandage and I know how to use it.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

I was dreaming. I’ve been doing that a lot these days. Crazy wigged out dreams. I’m reading Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam Trilogy, more than half way through book two, and so there’s been some element from these books showing up in dreamland. I woke up with a jolt at four AM the other morning pretty certain that some escapee from Painball was pounding on our front door. Though, not all of the dreams are what I would assume an LSD trip would be like. They are what one might call ‘normal’ or even ‘mundane’ dreams. These are the ones that I wake up from and have a vague idea of something I saw or heard, but mostly it is all too vague to really remember. This particular dream I was having sort of fit into that vague, unmemorable dream category. I remember that I was reading a blog entry written by a woman who had recently lost her husband. This woman was no one I know or currently read. I don’t remember anything much about her really other than she was writing about grief. I remember nodding my head in agreement as I read her entry. She had made an analogy about grief being like a rope and how each thread was some aspect of grief.

I remember thinking as I read her writing that it was very well written. I thought her analogy made sense. Except now that I think harder about it, her analogy was much more complex than the one I just shared. I have a sudden image of gold rings threaded through rope for some reason. The most important thing I remember from this dream though, is reading her post and thinking “I don’t want to write about this stuff any more.” This was my very last thought before I woke up and it stayed with me. I don’t want to write about grief any more. I don’t want to be known as Cindy Maddera, the Grief Blogger. Even though I know all about that rope and each and every little strand that makes up that rope, I don’t want to dig into the details of explaining it to you. But not writing about grief poses some difficulties. For one thing, grief never goes away. I mean, just the other day as I was looking over the yoga class I had planned to teach that evening, my mind drifted to that time I couldn’t even look at my yoga mat without hearing my mother’s voice as she attempted to tell me that something had happened to J. It’s been almost fourteen years since that day and yet the horror of it all still bubbles up at the most random times. Another difficulty in not writing about my grief is that for a while now, I have let this part of my writing define who I am as a person. I’ve unofficially given my self the title of Grief Blogger. “Write what you know".” Isn’t that the advice some famous writer gave to potential writers once? Well…I know grief. But I’m not the authority on the subject. We all know something about grief. You don’t need me to teach you or explain it or add to it. Grief is a part of who I am. A part. I am made up of many many parts. I am more than my grief.

I am more than this.

I know now that I was the woman doing the writing in that dream. I was reading my own blog and thinking “enough.” Move forward. Show the world you are more than this. That is what I want to do. I recognize the healing power of writing down all of those thoughts surrounding my sadness. But you don’t leave a band-aid on forever.

THE TRAVELING CARNIVAL

Cindy Maddera

The honeysuckle on the fence line fills the evenings with its sweet smell as the fireflies dance around the backyard. The boom and pop of fireworks reverberate from all directions. It has been like that for almost two weeks. Every thing nostalgic of summer. Hot. Sticky. Humid. Sunscreen and bug spray. Ice cream for dinner. As I step out of the shower in the mornings, I slather on sunscreen instead of regular lotion because I know I’m going to be riding my scooter or walking outside. We go to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings and buy tomatoes and spend the day riding around on our scooters. This weekend we passed a carnival set up in a parking lot of a derelict shopping center. It was complete with all of the spinning rides that you see in every traveling carnival. The thrill of the ride is whether or not it is going to rattle apart while you’re spinning precariously around at high speed. We had planned to take the Cabbage, but she wasn’t feeling well when Michael picked her up on Sunday. The carnival was packed up and gone by Monday morning, off to their next parking lot and rundown shopping center.

I think about how our perceptions of those traveling carnivals change as we age. As a kid, they held some kind of mystery and glamour. You’d ride your bike down past the empty lot that sits between the feed lot and train tracks one day and it would still be vacant, weeds poking up through the cracked cement. The next morning the lot would be full of activity as rides were bolted back together like a tinker toy set and game booths replenished with plastic wrapped stuffed animals. By the time evening rolled around, the ferris wheel would be up and operational with lights flashing in synchronicity with some tune. There would already be a line for tickets. You would stand in this line with your best friend and discuss how many times you would be able to ride the Bullet that night and what flavor of snow cone you planned on eating afterward. You would spend five dollars trying to win a barely living goldfish at the ring toss. There was always that one ride, usually the Swizzler or Tilt-a-Whirl, that was run by the ‘cute’ carney. You know, that one guy that’s handsome in that rugged, dangerous kind of way. The older teenage girls would hover around that ride pretending to be older and experienced. Over exaggerating their laughter and twirling a sucker in their shiny lip-gloss coated mouths. Every thing was bright and loud. Everything was perfectly safe.

Two days later, all of it would be gone. The only thing left behind would be a few random popcorn boxes of spilled popcorn, the birds fighting over the kernels. There would be some out loud wishful thinking from some of the boys about how they wish they could travel around with the carnival. A rumor about what did or did not happen between You Know Who and Cute Carney Guy would circle around the skate rink for a week or two before some other juicy rumor would take its place. Summer would end and school would start back. We’d all forget about the carnival and the summer. It would be school work as usual, football games and church choir practice. Some random neon colored flyers announcing the carnival would still be stapled to telephone poles around the town months later, well after the return of Fall. Reminders of those two hot summer days of thrills. You will step out the general store and notice one of those neon flyers still stuck to a pole, but it will be torn with graffiti scribbled across it.

And that’s how carnivals will seem to you as an adult, torn and graffitied.

As an adult you will notice the chipped paint and rusted bar on the swinging ferris wheel basket. You will be very aware that you are sitting in a contraption that was literally built that day, bolts tightened down and tested by the guy wearing a what used to be white tank top and sporting a mullet. He most likely was high while doing all of those things. You will see the lights that are burned out and you will hear music that was considered to be classic rock when you were a teenager. That guy running the Swizzler or Tilt-a-Whirl will not be ruggedly handsome, but smarmy and predatory. You recoil and shrink yourself up as he locks the the safety belt for you in hopes to avoid him coping a feel. You complain about the amount of money the child you are escorting wants to spend on trying to win a dying fish. You do not miss the carnival once it has packed up and left, but you will make a face at the amount of trash left in their wake. When is it, do you think, when the mystery and the glamour of the traveling carnivals is no longer a mystery or remotely glamorous? Is it before or after you stop believing in fairy tales? Or does it all happen at once? You just wake up one day with a new pair of eyes or the rose colored pair you’d been wearing finally broke. I don’t remember an in between phase. I don’t remember seeing the the worn out dirtiness of the carnival while at the same time being drawn to the mystery of it all.

Though I am always up for a slide down the Super Slide, even if those burlap sacks are smelly and crusted with good lord knows what.

BAG IT

Cindy Maddera

Michael and I were out on our scooters recently when we came to a cool section of road. The street narrowed down to one lane and you had to go through a tunnel. There is a stop light on either side of this tunnel, so you don’t end up crashing with on coming traffic. When we got to the tunnel, our light was red and I thought “what a great picture!”. Except in order for me to get that picture, I had to put my scooter on its stand, turn off the engine, remove the key and then use the key to unlock my seat so I can retrieve my camera. The light changed before I could complete step four. I did not get the picture I wanted. I did not even get a picture I didn’t want. Zero pictures were taken.

What I need it some sort of quick-draw camera system for when I’m riding the scooter. I need to be the Annie Oakley of photography.

I’ve been carting a backpack around for a couple of years. It’s big and has a padded bottom. My backpack holds my iPad or my laptop or both as well as my camera, an extra lens, and all of the other bits of things one tends to cart around with them. In my case, the extra things just happen to be two melted caramel apple suckers from Ike’s and half a sand dollar I collected from a beach in Oregon. Clearly, I have room to pair down the crap I cart around with me. I have been half seriously looking at bag options for traveling lighter, but the need to easily and quickly get to my camera (any one of them) made me step up the search. I read some reviews and did some research before purchasing the KAVU Rope Sling bag and this was my first weekend to test it out.

I am not disappointed with this purchase.

It comfortably and easily holds everything I need to carry with me during the week. I’m going to put an emphasis on the word ‘need’. I do not need to lug my large lens with me every day. I do not need to lug around half a box of tampons with me every day, which is what I found in in the bottom of one zippered compartment while cleaning out the backpack. I could stand to get a smaller wallet. In fact, the current wallet is an old wallet that I started using again after the zipper on my smaller wallet broke. My water bottle will fit in that pocket if I downsize my wallet. The list of things I need to cart around on weekends is even less. I don’t take my iPad every where on weekends. The KAVU bag meets all of these needs and it’s comfortable to carry on my back. Also, because of the sling design, I can flip the bag around and access the pockets quickly. My phone (camera 1) fits in the front pocket for easy access, while my Nikon (camera 2) fits in the larger compartment. If I’m thinking straight when I pack the Nikon, I can pack it in such a way that when I reach in, my hand fits around the camera body in shooting mode. I’m not Annie Oakley fast on the draw, but I’m sure that I will get better with practice.

I think this is going to be my new favorite traveling bag. I wore it all day on Saturday and I didn’t ever feel tightness or tension in my right shoulder. That is something I experience with every over the shoulder bag. I have a tiny wallet like bag that just holds my phone and a couple of cards. Even that bag makes that area between my neck and shoulder tight by the end of a day. And I love that tiny bag. It has the cutest elephant stitched to the outside. The KAVU bag distributes the weight of my things across my back. It is compact and less clunky than the backpack. It is also water proof. My backpack is not. I really used to stress about getting caught in the rain with that backpack on my back. I don’t have to worry about that now.

Look, no one’s paying me to write this post. I just don’t have anything else I want to talk about today.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

I had plans to take today off from work. I thought I would get a jump start on the weekend by getting some yard work done and maybe making a trip to COSTCO. Michael and I are scooting over to a new to us place in Lee’s Summit for happy hour tonight and it would be nice to get there right when that happy hour starts. So, Thursday morning, I said to my boss who just happened to be standing next to by desk that I was taking Friday off. I put it on our calendar. Then I went to a meeting. When I came back, I had an email from someone who had booked a microscope for tomorrow that needed help with the imaging. My shoulders sagged as I went back into the calendar and deleted my vacation day.

I was recently reading some correspondence from a friend. Catch-up/how ya doin’ email. He said that he was going to Japan by himself, just to tool around and see some sights. His wife told him to go. I read about his solo journey and I was so envious. There seems to be something very appealing about traveling off somewhere to explore all on your own without any obligations to anyone but yourself. No constant monitoring of someone else to make sure they are okay, sleepy or hungry. Packing a bag just for you and not end up having to be responsible for everybody’s toiletries or shoes or chargers. Walking at your own pace. What is it like to do something just for you? I know I’ve mentioned it here before about how nice it would be to ride the train all the way to Chicago, spend the night and come back the next day. This idea or dream is always the first thing that pops into my head when I feel my inner batteries winding down.

Yet, you’ll notice that I was just about to take a day off to do chores. Not replenish batteries.

The Cabbage is staying with her grandparents this week and Michael told me not to wake him up for breakfast Thursday morning. He said it would be the first time he has woken up in the house alone since school let out for the summer. He said it and I thought “I never get that opportunity.” I wonder what that’s like. In order for me have that solitude experience, I have to go out of town. Which is something I have hard time asking for. I’ve been told that I spend a lot of time taking care of others, but not a lot of time taking care of myself.

Today I am thankful for the reminder that this needs to change.

I’m working on it.

THE IRRITATION OF IT ALL

Cindy Maddera

It’s sometime after lunch and I decide that I need a cup of tea. I think I might as well do a loop outside on my way to get said tea. Get up, move my body around after a few hours of staring at a computer screen exporting data. There is a small parking area on the side of the building and I as reach the area, a man steps out of his Lexus and approaches me. He’s maybe late forties, early fifties, business suit type. He’s holding a sticky note with a name of a building and an address written on it. He asks me if this is the B building. I kindly shake my head and reply “No…this is the S Institute. I think you’re looking for a building across the street.” The man then holds the sticky note out and points. He says “But, the address says it is on Rockhill Road.” It was on the tip of my tongue to say something about how there’s two sides to a road when one of our security guards walks up and takes over.

I step back and continue on my way, but the more I think about it the more irritated I become. I mean, I can see the building the man was looking for right across the street. It has the name of the building written across it in big letters, for gosh sakes. I couldn’t help but believe his doubt in my ability to give him the correct directions had something to do with my gender. He didn’t question our male security guard when he also told the man the building he was looking for was right across the street. Part of me wants to give the man the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he just needed a second opinion. But another part of me is pissed off and sweary over the whole thing. I’ve put this man into the pile of older white privileged males that I’ve been mentally collecting to be pushed over a cliff with a bulldozer. That pile grows larger by the day. It includes all of those old white dudes who vote and make decisions regarding women’s healthcare or think they can grab a woman and do whatever he wants with her.

I’m going to need a bigger bulldozer.

There is another side of this white male privilege that I have been struggling with lately. It is not necessarily a story I can write here, at least not the details of it. It has to do with someone using their privilege to gain access to resources for cancer treatments for a family member that not everyone would have access too. I like this person. I respect this person, but every time he starts talking about next steps and details of it all, I have to get up and leave the room. My emotions range from anger to guilt to shame and doubt. I wonder if I had known to ask for this resource if it would have been available to me. Then I feel stupid that I didn’t even think to ask in the first place. A little bit of rage and jealously settles in because I know that his access to this resource is only possible through his privilege and that if I had asked for it for myself, I would have been told the same thing every doctor told us.

There’s nothing we can do.

Inevitably, after the times I have to leave the room, I end up standing in my favorite bathroom stall, gasping in air between sobs. I stand there, clutching the top of the door, trying to regain control. I tell myself that it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t. This man is just prolonging the outcome. That’s all I would have been doing. Prolonging Chris’s illness. When I think of it this way, it sounds cruel in my ears. There’s no way I would have prolonged Chris’s suffering. This man is just using his privilege to give his family some hope and I can’t fault him for that. Hope is nice. Also, this man is clueless and naive about his white male privilege. It doesn’t even dawn on him how fortunate he is to have access to this kind of hope. In his world, any one could do what he’s doing. I soothe myself a little bit by letting myself feel sorry for him and his naivety.

But I don’t for a moment forgive him for it.

I pull myself together and tell myself that I am not one of those people. I’m not one of those people who think that if I don’t have something, you can’t have it. I let myself be the naive one for a change and believe that after his experience, maybe he will find a way to share this resource with others. He will find a way for more people to benefit from this. Maybe it’s my job to remind him of this, teach him to use his privilege to help others.

I bet I could do it in such a way that he’d even think it was his own idea.

PLACES I WANT TO GO

Cindy Maddera

There is a village in the middle of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Preserve in Mexico. Angangueo is the name of the town. It’s about a three hour drive west and a little north from Mexico City. We’ve been watching One Strange Rock on Netflix and this village was in one of the episodes. Michael and I have both been staring at the screen while this documentary plays with our mouths agape and eyes wide in wonder. You would think that we were too old and slightly jaded to be wowed by the images and knowledge presented in the documentary, but nope. The excitement and wonder I feel watching this is not unlike the very first time I looked at pond water under a microscope.

It’s like wow! - Beck

Any way…episode 10 talks about home and life and death. It is a beautiful and important episode to watch, but the moment my breath caught was when they focused on the town of Angangueo. Every year the town celebrates The Day of Dead, like all of Mexico, but here the celebration also happens to coincide with arrival of the Monarch butterflies who migrate to the preserve for the winter. The butterflies are like the souls of the peoples’ ancestors and loved ones returning to visit

And I want to go there.

I want to wander down the cobblestone streets and explore old cemeteries and churches. I want to buy armloads of marigolds to leave at every alter and watch as the monarch butterflies float down from the sky to rest on the bright orange flowers. I want to have my face painted and I want to record all of the beautifully painted faces I see. I want to take Chris’s ashes there and set up a small alter surrounded with marigolds and street tacos. I want to hike deep into the preserve to see thousands and thousands of butterflies. I have already started checking into costs for flights and hotels and car rentals; making plans for maybe next year. I’ve become obsessed and even emailed one of graduate students who is from Mexico City with all kinds of questions.

Maybe some times I see this space as a place to make wishes come true. If I type it here, then I have to do it. It kind of makes me think of my old bucket list, how when I had it posted up here, I did stuff on that list. I marked things off the list. Then I changed, my life changed, and the list didn’t reflect all of the things I wanted to do any more. Well…truthfully…there was a while where I didn’t want to do anything any more except drool on the couch. I don’t know if I’m ready to sit down and re-write the 100 Things To Do Before I Die list. That seems like a bit much right now, like I’d end up reaching for things to do just to write the list. But Angangueo during the Day Of The Dead celebrations?

That’s happening.