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Filtering by Category: Random Stuff

WHAT TO WRITE WHEN YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT TO WRITE

Cindy Maddera

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

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

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

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

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

I want Life resolutions.

LIVING WITH HUMANS

Cindy Maddera

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

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

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

Fellow aliens,

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Cindy Maddera

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

CONVERSATIONS OF DIY

Cindy Maddera

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

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

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

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

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

GOALS

Cindy Maddera

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

October is next fucking week, people!

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

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

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

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

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

SLIPPING UNDER

Cindy Maddera

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

Goals. I’ve got them.

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

Maybe I should have taken an extra day.

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

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

We all have our battles.

THE COMEDIAN

Cindy Maddera

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

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

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

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

Joke! Joke! I call for a joke!

30 AMERICANS

Cindy Maddera

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

Art.

Art is power.

Art is what makes us human.

Without it, we are nothing.

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

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

All of it.

WHERE'D YOU GO

Cindy Maddera

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

Like an old man.

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

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

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

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.

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?

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.

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.

DAY 9: EDWARD SHARPE AND THE MAGNETIC ZEROS, ALBUM OF THE SAME NAME

Cindy Maddera

I’ve almost been dreading writing about this album for a couple of reasons. My feelings are complicated and hard to put into words. One day, a long time ago, Amy introduced Chris and I to this band and then a few weeks after that, Home started playing on all of the radio stations. Amy is a trendsetter. We’d sing along as we travelled down the road and play the album Up From Below on loop. The band released Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros the year after Chris died. The first song I heard off of it was Better Days.

Try to remember, that you can’t forget
Down with history, up with your head
For sweet tomorrow, she never fell from grace
We might still know sorrow but we got better days

That song along with Life is Hard falls right in place with Chris’s (and mine) life philosophy and because of that, this album became so important to me.

This is also the same year I met Michael.

Life is it, life is it, it's where it's at
It's getting skinny, getting fat
It's falling deep into a love,
It's getting crushed just like about
Life there's no love, its getting beat into the ground

I had already purchased my ticket and camping pass for the Gentlemen of Roads Tour when Michael and I met. I was so excited for this concert because Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros were part of the line up and Talaura was coming down. When I told Michael about it, he wanted to come along too. He bought a ticket and we travelled to Guthrie. On our way to Guthrie I told Michael about this band. I said “I need you to pay attention and really listen to this band. This is important to me.” He said “okay.”

And then he didn’t pay attention or listen to the band.

That was the first time I realized that things that are important to me, won’t always be important to him. That realization was a bit of a blow to my little ego. Sometimes that realization is still a little bit hard to swallow only because sometimes, in a self indulgent way, I think that what I find important he should also find equally important. Because that is what I was used to. This is a different relationship. Michael and I don’t listen to the same kinds of music. We don’t read the same kinds of books. We don’t always agree on what to watch on the television. We find common ground. When I ask Alexa to play music in the mornings, I am sure to pick an artist that I think Michael will also enjoy even if he doesn’t know the artist. We may not read the same kinds of books, but we talk to each other about the stuff we’re reading. We find stuff on the television that we both want to watch. Compromise. That’s how we are making this work.

I feel the love, I feel the love, I feel the power
It's getting weirder by the hour
The world is fucked up but I want to stay
I feel the love, I feel the love, I feel the power

This album is the gospel music in my metaphorical church. It is a church that teaches the lessons of loving kindness and dancing in the streets. It is a church that reminds it’s congregation that life is fucking hard as fuck, so celebrate dammit! We all have sorrow and sadness, but there are better days ahead. It is the bitter, wonderful sweetness of living; this mixture of sorrow and joy.

I told you my feelings were complicated.

DAY 8: NATALIE MERCHANT, LEAVE YOUR SUPPER/LEAVE YOUR SLEEP

Cindy Maddera

Just before Natalie Merchant released Leave Your Sleep, she did a TED talk about the making of the album. She took poems about childhood from the 19th and 20th century and adapted them to music. The way Natalie spins these poems into tunes is at time sad and melancholy and silly and joyful. The first song from the album, Nursery Rhyme of Innocence and Experience, moved me to tears and I can clearly see the girl in pink riding the white horse as she sings Equestrienne. I imagine that avocado Brussels sprout ice-cream from Bleezer’s Ice-Cream has the most awful smell. The whole album is like the up and down of a carousel horse. Her Ted Talk on the two disc album is one my favorite Ted Talks. It’s a fascinating tale of how she put music to these poems and why she chose this poem or that poem, but it is all sweet because you can tell Natalie Merchant is nervous. You can hear a slight tremor and breathiness in her voice as she talks. She seems to hesitate ever so slightly as she moves around on the stage. Her voice is clear when she’s singing, but when she starts discussing the poem and the process, her demeanor changes. She seems less sure of herself.

I always had this idea of who Natalie Merchant is as a person because of her music. She left the 10,000 Maniacs because she wanted complete control over her music and she was tired of being the only girl in the band. My impression of her paints a strong, independent force of nature. I have seen Natalie Merchant in concert. I think it was the Ophelia tour. She is everything you’d hope for when going to a concert. She sounds amazing, she’s engaging and joyful to watch on stage. Most people left at the end of the concert before she could come out for the encore. Those of us who stayed, moved up to the front of the stage and when Natalie came back out on stage she made a point to great every one us. She shook hands as she moved through our small crowd and sang four more songs. I thought for a moment she was going to hug each and every one of us. The whole experience was so personal and intimate and beautiful. So years later, when I saw her TED Talk, I was surprised by her nervousness.

That’s the main reason why I chose this album as one of my top ten. Because it made her nervous to talk about it.

She had made this album that is different and unique. It is an album of vulnerability. She made herself vulnerable and in doing so, I saw this woman differently. She was proof that you can have all this talent and creativity, but still be a little fearful of what others might think of your art. As she talks, there is something in her voice that says “please like this.” which is something we all want. When you put your heart and soul into your work and then set it out there for all to see, we all want it to be met with admiration. The talk and the album moved Natalie Merchant from status of another musician I wanted to stalk as a groupie to an artist that I whole heartedly admire.

Because we’re the same.

DAY 7: THE RISE AND FALL OF ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS

Cindy Maddera

Look, I could have plucked any and all of David Bowie’s albums for this album challenge. In forcing myself to narrow it down, I chose this one because I’m pretty sure this album was my first exposure to David Bowie. At some point while riding around in the back of Randy and Katrina’s van, while staring at the road through the rusted out hole in the floor in the back, Starman, Suffragette City and Lady Stardust floated into my ears. Good Gawd, I miss that raggedy old van and how we’d play a game of Spot and Identify the Road Carcass by sitting around that rusted out hole. Every once in a while, Katrina would look back to check on us and then yell “Scooch back from the hole! You’re too close!” We’d wiggle our little cross legged bodies back and widen our circle around the hole.

I am the kind of music listener who feels like the sound of the music is just as important as the lyrics. In fact, sometimes, the lyrics can be secondary and act as an enhancer to the sound. This is probably because off-key and out of tune notes cause me physical pain. Music makes me feel things inside my body. If the music is good, the feelings are good. I dragged Michael to a Gong Bath once. That’s where you lay on the floor in a dark room while someone plays a series of gongs. You can feel the sound vibrating through the floor. At times, the experience was very relaxing. Michael started snoring at one point. But then the drumming on the gongs grew louder and more intense. I felt my whole body tense up and my breathing became shallow. Tears leaked out my eyes. I was just about to get up and leave when they finally stopped and I breathed a sigh of deep relief. The sound was too much for my body to feel.

David Bowie’s music is enhanced by his lyrics. His music makes me feel, but his lyrics are significant. They are important.

Stone love, she kneels before the grave
A brave son, who gave his life
To save the slogans
That hovers between the headstone and her eyes
For they penetrate her grieving

This country has been involved in war since 2001. Those lyrics from Soul Love are just as relevant today as they were when Bowie recorded this song in 1972. I cannot listen to the beginning of that song without seeing my sister-in-laws face. The other night, Terry practically quoted Rock n Roll Suicide to me.

Oh no, love, you're not alone
You're watching yourself, but you're too unfair
You got your head all tangled up, but if I could only make you care
Oh no, love, you're not alone

David Bowie sang to us songs of self love before we even knew we needed them. He used sound to take us on imaginary journeys into space. Bands like the Flaming Lips and Arcade Fire would not exist as we know them now without the influence of David Bowie. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars became the base line for the music I would gravitate to and seek out.

It is the music I want when I just want to lay on the floor and listen to the sounds and feel the vibrations.

DAY 6: NEKO CASE & HER BOYFRIENDS, FURNACE ROOM LULLABY

Cindy Maddera

My Dad was a country music listener. When I say ‘country music’, I’m talking about the old time country music. Grand Ole Opry country. Roy Rogers and Dale Evens country. Saturday nights were for Mom’s homemade pizza and Hee-Haw. The day he found the classic country radio station on Sirius XM, he called me to tell me all about it because he was overjoyed that this station existed. Once, well before we knew he was sick, I took Dad to see Riders in the Sky at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. You might recognize their voices from Toy Story 2 where they performed “Woody’s Round-up”. Dad was so happy to be at this concert that it leaked out of his eyes. He was the one that gave me my appreciation for good country music. He taught me all about Patsy and Loretta and Johnny and Willie. He introduced me to Minnie Pearl and cowboy campfire songs. I had an appreciation for Dad’s music, but I did not care to listen to it. It just wasn’t my go-to choice of music, particularly in my youth. There’s nothing more embarrassing or annoying than your parents’ music when you are that age.

I came across Furnace Room Lullaby the year Chris died. It’s an album of Neko Case singing twangy country songs, each one resonating in some way with my state of mind. Every word in South Dakota Way could have been written by me in the days after Chris’s passing. I felt all the aching truth of grief in that song. Then I had to have Hooper put down and Set Out Running moved to the top of my anthem list.

And if I knew heartbreak was coming, I would've set out running. Past the city houses
And the ditches on the highway.

This album stuck with me as I entered the crazy world of online dating (Guided by Wire) and into the early days of my relationship with Michael (Twist the Knife). And I am always in the Mood to Burn Bridges.

So if you have moral advice, I suggest you just tuck it all away

This album didn’t just open me up to all things Neko Case, it opened my ears to that music my Dad loved so much. My appreciation for that genre has moved beyond mere appreciation. I now tuck a few songs into a playlist and seek out new artists with that old sound, artists like Margo Price and Yola and even Kacey Musgraves. I listen to this music and I think about my Dad’s western style shirts with the pearl snaps and his bolo ties. I think about how Dad had cowboy boots that he called “work boots” and a fancy pair of cowboy boots that he called his “dress boots”. The same was true for his cowboy hats. He had one for riding his tractor and one for fancy occasions. He had a way of getting as close as he could to things he wanted to do in life. He wanted to be a pilot and when he failed the physical to become one, he became an airplane mechanic. Those cowboy clothes and his music and his red tractor were Dad’s way of being the cowboy.

And I feel like I finally understand that.

RETURN

Cindy Maddera

We’d planned to take a bunch of stuff out to Michael’s Mom’s for the neighborhood garage sale on Saturday. The two of us spent the week sorting through the remaining collectables in the basement. Michael sorted through boxes and boxes of baseball cards. But when Friday morning rolled around, the weather report was predicting rain for all of Saturday. Michael called his Mom and cancelled. He went ahead and did the grocery shopping on his way home from work on Friday. So Saturday turned into one of those days where we didn’t really know what to do with ourselves. Saturday was our usual day for errands and now we had no errands to run.

We went and got pedicures.

We headed over to the Westside neighborhood for lunch at a place we’d never been to before. Then we dashed across the street to a little shop selling Kansas City made t-shirts and antique jewelry. From there, we made our way over to the crepe place for dessert and ran into Kelli and her Groove Crew. As we sat, sharing a dessert crepe, we discussed what to do next. I said “why don’t we go down to the River Market Antique?” We hadn’t been down there in ages. In fact, I’m pretty sure I hadn’t been back there since the last time Michael took me there about six years ago. Michael agreed that four stories of antique perusing was a great way to spend a rainy Saturday.

Michael doesn’t remember this, but this is where he took me at the end of our second date. The night before, we had had dinner at nice little farm to table place and then ice cream in Westport. Afterward, Michael took me to the observatory that sits on top of the Physics building at UMKC. He took me to see the stars. Then we laid on a blanket in my backyard, drinking wine and talking until two in the morning. He stayed the night and the next morning, he followed me around on my errands. Then he took me to River Market. That’s where I was when Chad called me to ask how my date with Michael had gone. I remember pulling the phone away from my ear as he laughed after I said “we’re still on the date.” Michael bought a giant wall map that day and I left with two prints, one a map of New York City and the other a map of the U.S. Those prints are framed and hanging in my bedroom. I sometimes look for my favorite spots in New York City and trace the length of Broadway as far up as I can. The map stops before I can get to Talaura’s house.

There is a booth at the antique market filled with bins of things like name patches pulled from uniform shirts and California Raisin figures. One bin is filled with scrabble letters and another filled with random game pieces. For a minute, I got lost going through the bin of name patches. I found a ‘Mike’ and a ‘Randy’ and a ‘Stephanie’. I put them all back in the bin and moved on but not before noticing that someone had taken game pieces and spelled out ‘2nd DATE’ and left it on a shelf in the booth. I smiled and thought briefly that maybe Michael had left that there. I asked him about it later and he confessed to not remembering that we’d gone to the River Market Antique that time. The message had been left by someone else. Someone on their second date. I guess rummaging around through booths of antiques and collectibles is a second date kind of thing to do.

I hope their second date was nice.

DAY 5: BELLY, STAR

Cindy Maddera

The truth is, I could write and write about albums that influenced me or that are linked to my memories. Soundtracks to life. Chris and I would spend hours listening to one CD on repeat. A few months would go by before we’d change it and move onto something new and different. I think there was a good solid three months where we listened to the soundtrack to Chess. I sang along with Elaine Page with a dream of maybe, just maybe, getting the chance to play the part of Florence. Chris and I would discuss set designs and lighting. We’d break down the production of this musical as if we were actually going to be a part of putting it all together for the public. Other times, we’d lay spooning while listening to Les Miserables, weeping together at the beautiful sadness of it all.

For a while we were obsessed with Mercury Falling, an album released by Sting our junior year in college. Our copy of In My Tribe by the Ten Thousand Maniacs was the rare copy that included their remake of Cat Stevens’ Peace Train and Chris and I both would ooh-awe-ee with Natalie as we drove down country lanes. We were constantly latching on to musical artists. While Chris was introducing me to artists like Pink Floyd, I was introducing him to the Flaming Lips. I would discover a new artist and write it down on a sticky note for Chris to find. Months later he’d start playing a CD and say “hey, I found this new band I thought you’d like.” I’d punch him the arm and tell him that I pointed that band out to him months ago. Then we’d laugh. Chris was the one to introduce me to Belly. He had their album, Star. I ended up finding every one of their albums in the used CD bin at Hasting’s. But Chris just didn’t give me this band, he gave me a key.

Chris and Traci were best friends. Best. Friends. I came along and I was an outsider. Though Traci never ever treated me like an outsider, I still felt like I was intruding on that relationship. I doubt to this day that Traci had any idea how intimidated I was by her. I thought she was so cool. I still think that. Her relationship with Chris was so important and vital for the two of them. I didn’t want to mess it up. I didn’t want to be the girlfriend that Chris would bring over that would make Traci roll her eyes in annoyance. Knowing and loving all the songs from that band was my in with Traci. I remember one time the four of us, Chris, me, Traci and her boyfriend Chris (now husband), drove to Dallas for a concert. Traci and I were in the backseat and the guys were in the front, flipping through radio stations. The radio tuned into a station that was playing Feed the Tree by Belly. Traci and I screamed from the back seat “LEAVE IT THERE!” and then proceeded to sing along and bounce around in the backseat of the car. Traci would end up being my concert buddy for concerts when Chris wasn’t interested in going. Belly was the band that started that.

At least it was for me.