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THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

I wrote a lengthy entry on Wednesday talking about Santosha and teaching yoga. Santosha is one of the Niyamas, the eight-limbed path of yoga and is sanskrit for contentment. It was entry about how I might have been using contentment as an excuse to be complacent or I've just been telling myself I'm content when I'm really just lazy. I spent a lot of time on that post. Then I hit the save button and an error page showed up on the screen. I couldn't get anywhere or do anything on the blog because there was some kind of glitch. When I was finally able to get back onto the site, my entry was gone. Wah wah. I did consider trying to rewrite that entry, but I am either content to let it go or too lazy to try to recreate it. 

I ordered a really cute skirt online back in January. It was my birthday present to myself. The skirt is covered with brightly colored elephants. When it arrived, I tried it on and it didn't fit. It was too small. This made me sad for a few reasons. First of all I was sad about my waistline. Then I was sad I couldn't wear my cute new skirt. Then I was sad because I had to go through the whole return process, which just the act of putting a stamp on something these days feels like a hassle. I received a gift card for the full price of the skirt and it has been sitting in my inbox for some time while I decided what I should do next. I had had some time to think about that skirt and now I wasn't so sure if it was the most practical purchase. Maybe I should use the gift card to buy a blouse or some pants. 

I was mulling this over while chatting with Talaura and I showed her my options. She said that she still loved the skirt. I explained that I couldn't really wear it to work because my legs have to be covered. I said it may be a more practical option to buy pants. Then she replied:

Then I told Talaura that she's a good friend and I bought the skirt in a size that would fit me. Of all the places she told me to wear that skirt, it was the one about wearing it to Saturday morning breakfast by myself that made tears prick in the corners of my eyes. Talaura is also the person who gave me a 'merit' badge that reads didn't please everyone. Because she knows me. 

Lena Dunham's character in Girls said in the latest episode "it's hard to know what is going on with others when you are focused on yourself." When I watch that show, I'm not watching it in expectation of hearing any words of wisdom. Girls is a guilty pleasure, but I took that sentence and flipped it around. It is hard to know what is going on with yourself when you are focused on others. This is what I tend to do. I spend a lot of time and energy making life easier for those around me, more so than I spend on taking care of myself or doing nice things for myself.  I am thankful for Talaura for being a good friend and for reminding me to do nice things for myself. 

I am thankful for the days this week where I was able to ride my scooter. I am thankful the patch of poison ivy on my collar bone is clearing up. I am thankful for the bowl full eggs on our kitchen counter. I am thankful for those moments that usually happen early in the morning, when I let Josephine back in from a bathroom break and she wiggles herself under my comforter until she is no longer visible. I am thankful for a skirt covered with elephants. I am thankful for you.

Here's to a lovely weekend and a super Thankful Friday!

PEBBLE IN MY POCKET

Cindy Maddera

I was rummaging around in the front pocket of my purse looking for the charging adapter for my iPencil. Have you guys seen that thing? It's about the size of a Tic-Tac. I am amazed I haven't swallowed it. Any way, my fingers kept brushing across tiny things that could or could not have been my charging adapter. In order to get those things out of the way, I just pulled a handful of crap out of the pocket. Most of that crap turned out to be rocks; three of them to be specific. I held them in the palm of my hand trying to remember what beach I'd picked them up from. Last year I stood in the spot where the sun first touches the US in the mornings. I also stood in the last spot the sun touches before it goes down on the continental US. Those rocks could have come from New York, Maine, California or even Wisconsin. 

I bet the largest one came from Wisconsin. It is flat and smooth. It fits perfectly in the hollow of my palm. I am sure I picked it up with the intention of skipping it across Lake Superior. At the last minute I held onto it because I found the cool, smooth feel of the stone to be soothing to rub with my thumb. I took a picture of the rocks in the palm of my hand and my mother left a comment about how she still has pebbles in the pocket of her raincoat. She had picked them up off of Dingle Beach when we were in Ireland. Apparently my pebble collection is a genetically inherited trait. I am more likely to look down at the beach under my feet than out to sea. I will fill my pockets and the pockets of those walking with me with rocks and bits of shells. It has always been this way.

As a child, the discovery of an interesting rock was equivalent to discovering buried treasure. It didn't take much to determine a rock to be interesting either. A specific shape. A sparkly quality. A fleck of gold here or a fleck of silver there. Most rocks were special. Most rocks are special. I think one of our favorite family travel stories was the time we found a bucket of rocks at our campsite in Colorado. It was like we had discovered the Holy Grail and the Ark of the Covenant...IN A BUCKET! The rocks from that bucket later became decorative garden rocks, terrarium rocks, show-and-tell rocks and even pet rocks (googly eyes make all things funny). There are bags of rocks stashed in the toy cubbies now. I brought back rocks from the Dakotas for the Cabbage. I have brought back rocks from different places for Katrina. The best time I had at Deana Rose Children's Farm with the Cabbage was sifting through a bag of dirt for pretty stones. I think there's a large granite rock in the car right now. 

There is a moment, a line really, when all the kids are trick-or-treating in It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown where a kid looks into his treat bag and says "I got a rock." Except he says it in a disappointed, dejected way. It is probably my favorite line and some times I say it in reference to receiving something unexpected and slightly unwanted. Now that I think about it, now that I look at the rocks I carry around in my purse, maybe "I got a rock" is something I should say with joy. 

 

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Michael and I watched the Arrival this week and my first thought was that Eric Heisserer and Ted Chiang really get grief. Or maybe that was an unintentional thing. I don't know but in those scenes when Louise is flashing back to what we think are memories and those memories make her breath catch and bring her to her knees, I was like "yeah...it's just like that." Even the good memories can be like being slammed in the chest with a sledge hammer. That saying about time healing all wounds is partially right. Those heart stopping breath catching moments happen more infrequently these days. Something to be thankful for in a mixed blessing kind of way.

My second thought about the movie was that language and communication is hard. It is complex. It is mind boggling complex. It has never been more apparent to me then it is right now with how this president has aided in creating such a divided country just how complex language truly is. There are people in rural America who believe that those of us who do not support this president, mostly those of us in cities, do not believe in family, do not believe in community or country. I am not talking about right wing extremists. I am talking about regular hard working people. Like me. Really, that's the thing. Like me. We share more beliefs than we think. It's just that somehow we've lost the ability to communicate to each other about these things. My family may not look like your family. My family is made up of a conglomerate of blood relations and friends who I wouldn't know how to survive without. If any one of those people called me today and said "I need you." I would drop everything and go. I am thankful for this family I have created. 

I donate monthly to Donors Choose and Planned Parenthood and I raise money every year for the AIDS Walk of Kansas City (You can donate to my AIDS Walk Page here!). I do these things because I care about my community. This is my way of giving back to my community. I support legislation that provides health care for all because healthy people build a healthy community. I support inclusion of people of different religions and races because I believe that diversity builds stronger and safer communities. I recycle and pick up trash when I am walking in the neighborhood because I believe that a healthy environment makes a healthy community. I am thankful for my community. I support taxing corporations who outsource their labor to other countries. I do my best to buy local products to support small business. I support legislation that provides better benefits for our veterans. I vote every time we are asked to vote on an issue, every time, not just for presidential elections. I believe this country is already a great country, filled with amazing people and great innovation. I am thankful for this country and the freedoms we are allowed. 

So you see, Rural America, we are not all that different from you. Most of us any way. I am finding gratitude in our similarities today. I am also thankful that we are no longer sick in this house. I am thankful for the boat load of eggs we've gotten from the chickens this week. I am thankful for warmer temperatures and dog walks. I am thankful for being well enough to be back on my yoga mat. I am thankful for this weird super cushiony standing mat they gave me for my standing desk. I've been hopping around on it like a crazy person. I am thankful for this video of Mia the Beagle that my friend Heather shared with me. 

I am thankful for you.

THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD: THE THIRD (AND FINAL) LESSON

Cindy Maddera

I knew all about the Scientific Method when I started this series. I just didn't really think too much about it. Now that I'm breaking it down for you guys and really getting into the nitty gritty details of it all, I am reminded that my job is hard. In the last lesson, we had formed a hypothesis and were starting to design experiments to test that hypothesis. If we take a moment to go back and look at our Scientific Method, we will find that testing the hypothesis becomes the most convoluted part of that flow chart.

Experiments fail and then you have to figure out if the experiment failed because of human error or if because your hypothesis is wrong. Then you have to account for the steps in your experiment that may have serious consequences to the outcome of that experiment. Remember how I said I was working on staining yeast cells with a nanobody I've labeled with a fluorescent dye? Don't worry. I'm not going to test you. I will tell you that yeast have pretty strong cell walls. They are difficult to stain without first permeabilizing (punching holes) the cell wall. We use an enzyme called zymolyase to chew up the cell walls of yeast. This is the part that can vary. If you leave the zymolyase on too long, the cells completely fall apart. If you don't leave it on long enough, you do not get good staining because the dye or in our case, nanobody, can't get through the cell wall. So now I don't know if my experiment is not working because the nanobody doesn't work or if it is because I didn't permeabilize the cell wall enough. 

These are the kinds of factors and variables that scientist dig their way through to get answers. Once they have experiments working, they must be repeated multiple times. We are looking for results that are consistently repeatable and after we've performed those experiments many times, we have to make sense of the results. If those results don't support our hypothesis, we start all over again from the beginning. If the data shows that our hypothesis is true, then we write up all the information to submit to journals for publication. Communicating the results means writing up everything, your background research, how you designed the experiments, the exact protocol for those experiments, and an explanation of the results from those experiments. Once that paper is submitted, it goes through a peer-review process where others in that field of research read through the paper before recommending it for publication. Those reviewers often want more questions answered and recommend a few other experiments before the paper can be published.

Even after publication, there are other researchers who will repeat those experiments from your paper to determine if your work is repeatable. I hope that now when you read a headline that starts with something like "Scientists discovered..." you'll have a better understanding and maybe even respect for the work that went into that discovery. Sometimes those discoveries may feel like they conflict with your core values. We all tend to reject information that is threatening to us. My wish is that you understand, by breaking down the method to which scientists come about their discoveries and information is complex and not just pulled from thin air to spite you. Understanding this process may even make those discoveries less threatening. The information discovered is more than a snappy headline. 

And this concludes our study of the Scientific Method. What's next? What do you guys want to learn about? Send me some ideas!

BE MINE

Cindy Maddera

Valentine's Day has never really been a day I go out of my way to celebrate. Every time Chris and I would make an attempt at doing something special for Valentine's Day, we'd end up disappointed and annoyed. Planned romance is canned romance and we discovered very quickly that we were so much better at impromptu romance. I didn't really know how to approach Valentine's Day with a new lover. The first year Micheal and I were together, I got him a card. He made us reservations at Buca Di Beppo and we ended up sitting at a small cafe style table wedged between similar tables, all containing teenage couples. It was sort of romantic. At least...it was cute to watch the youngsters. One couple tried to order cocktails and got really indignant about being denied with their fake IDs. Any way, after that, we didn't really mention Valentine's Day again.  

Last week Michael looked at me with a hang dogged expression and asked if we were doing anything for Valentine's Day. He looked all sad and disappointed with my response of "I hadn't made any plans" and decided we'd go out for dinner on Friday. I met him at Jazz for happy hour (they have $1 oysters at happy hour) and after placing our order I looked at him, reminded him of Valentine's Days past and then asked "why the sudden interest in doing something for Valentine's Day?" He shrugged and mumbled something that sounded like "can't a guy be romantic?" Michael is still learning that a guy can totally be romantic and that being romantic is not dependent on a particular day. I shrugged my shoulders and said that I was just wondering why he had a sudden interest in Valentine's Day and then I let it go. 

Of course, I know why he had a sudden interest in romance. We haven't been all that lovey dovey lately. Work and illnesses has turned us into two people who just happen to coexist in the same house. Michael is working on his masters and this with his work responsibilities have been all consuming. Then you add in the week he was sick, followed up with the next week where I was sick and you've got a recipe for how to become just acquaintances. We also share a wariness of February in general. His (ex)wife left him right around the same time my husband died. I tend to crawl inside myself this time of year while he gets anxious. Cupid and hearts and Russell Stover's are things we are least likely to worry about in February.

Saturday turned out to be a beautiful, warm day and after driving out to the DMV to tag the trailer, we came home and traded the car for our scooters to finish running our errands. We loaded the last of our grocery purchases into our scooters and Michael said he needed to go to the hardware store. He suggested that I go on home and he'd meet there. Since I was balancing a not so cheap bottle of whiskey (a gift for a party we were attending that evening) on the floor space between my feet, I agreed to just meet him at the house.  He wasn't all that far behind me. I had just turned my scooter around in the garage when he pulled up in the drive. "What did you need at the hardware store?" I asked him while he tugged his helmet off. "Nothing important." He moved on, started pulling groceries out of his scooter trunk. "We need to leave the house a little early before the party. There's a detour I want us to make, something I want to show you." I eyed him with suspicion and started asking questions but he shut them all down. 

Later that evening, we headed out again on our scooters and I followed Michael as he took us to Minor Park and the Old Red Bridge. The Old Red Bridge is part of the Sante Fe Trail and is the third red bridge. It's the bridge that Michael remembers riding on in his youth. It's been replaced by a fancy new bridge, but this old one is still in use as part of a walking trail. They light the bridge up on Friday and Saturday evening in February so people can put locks on the bridge, a Valentine's thing. They even had the bridge decorated with dangling hearts and carnations. As we got closer to the bridge, I saw the locks and then I knew why Michael had made a stop at the hardware store. I looked at him and said "did you get us a lock?!" He had. He didn't have it engraved or anything. It was just a lock, but it was our lock. We picked a spot on the bridge to place our lock and locked it in. Then we each took a key and tossed it into the river. 

We started walking back to our scooters when Michael stopped at the end of the bridge and said "You wanna kiss me on the Old Red Bridge." I looked up at him and said "Yes. Yes, I do."

 

A TRUE STORY

Cindy Maddera

Cindy woke to the chiming sound of her alarm clock. She rolled to her side, maneuvered her arm around the dog curled up at her hip and turned the alarm clock off. Then Cindy slid that dog over so she could get out of bed. Cindy always got up out of her bed with mindfulness, first coming to a seated position and then placing both feet firmly onto the floor. Feeling her feet pressing into the rug helped to bring her out of dreamland and into the day. From here, Cindy stood and made her way to the bathroom. She stood there staring at her naked reflection in the full length mirror. Her first thought was of how they really should not have replaced those burnt out bulbs with new LED bulbs. The new bulbs made the bathroom too bright and every thing too clear. Her skin was almost translucent in this lighting and she could see her blue veins well enough to trace them. The bathroom was too bright. 

Cindy leaned forward to get a better look at the new pimple forming on her chin. Her eyes then caught sight of a red handprint impressed on the space between the tip of her sternum and her bellybutton. She cocked her head to the side with a curios expression. Cindy knew the imprint must be from sleeping on her hand, yet it was so distinct and detailed. She must of have been laying on her hand for most of the night. Cindy traced the fingers and noticed that even the lines in her palm were noticeable in the impression. She frowned at her reflection, at the hand print that seemed to accentuate her belly. Cindy could see that the stress of the last couple of months had taken it's toll. Her belly seemed bloated and flabbier then she wanted it to be. In the past few weeks, she had started a nightly ritual of placing her hands on the flabby part and willing the fat to dissipate into thin air. That's probably where the hand print came from. She had fallen asleep while waving an imaginary wand. 

Of course, Cindy never believed that willing her fat away would actually work. She just needs to step up her workouts and eat less food. She's working on both of those things, but Cindy is also very aware of the probability of weight loss versus age. She has noticed the signs signaling the changes to come. Those signs are equal parts relief and depressing. Today, as she stares at her reflection, Cindy feels older than forty one. More like eight one. In fact, she's sure she can feel the twinges of arthritis in her left knee. Cindy shakes her head in an attempt to clear out this sudden old tired feeling that has come upon her. She would not fall for it. She would not listen to the hateful girl whispering in her ear. If Cindy were the type of girl to believe, she could say that handprint was placed there by the Gods. They have placed it there as an affirmation that this belly is beautiful. They have placed that handprint there to remind her that the most famous Renaissance artists painted and sculpted women with such bellies. Cindy looked herself in the eye and thought "Too bad I'm not the type of girl to believe." 

With that last thought, she turned and stepped into the shower to start her day. 

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

I've been sick. Really, I'm still sick. Michael is sick. The Cabbage missed two days of school this week because she was sick. She's the only one that's feeling better. I'm trying not to harbor ill will over it. I stayed home two days this week with a fever. By the second day, I was running out of crap to watch on TV and bored with inactivity. I decided to wash all of the comforters, Lysol the pillows and the rest of the house and change the sheets on the beds. It's a challenge to change the sheets on my bed on a good day. The mattress sits down into the bed frame and the bed is pressed up against one wall. I always feel like I'm roping and tying up a calf while I am wrangling the fitted sheet onto the bed. On a bad day, the act of putting that fitted sheet onto the bed feels like the last thing you'll ever do. But I did it! We all slept on clean sheets that night. 

Some times at the end of a week I find that I am truly thankful for the simplest of things. Particularly when that week has been emotionally and physically difficult. I have been quick to anger and easily brought to tears. My patience is thin and my give a shit level is low (or high depending on how you look at it). I communicate in the least amount of words I can get by with just to be on the safe side of not snapping a head off or hurting feelings. I've taken very few pictures and written very few words. I've shoved ugly memories away and wondered why after five years it doesn't get easier. It just gets more complicated. I am happy with the direction my life has taken, yet sad about. Guilty not guilty. Not lonely but lonely. Missing without missing.

These are weeks when gratitude takes effort. I am thankful for Kleenex and ibuprofen. I am thankful for those clean sheets I put on the bed even though the act of doing so almost made me pass out. I am thankful for the Spring like temperatures we have here today. I am thankful that I am no longer running a fever. I am thankful for lemons and honey and echinacea. I am thankful for kind notes from friends. I am thankful for you.

Here's to a weekend of healing and a beautiful Thankful Friday. 

THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD: LESSON 2

Cindy Maddera

Last we left off in learning about the scientific method, we were asking questions and doing some background research. Remember that all that background research changes the basic question you started with. Eventually, after all of that research, you get to form a hypothesis. A hypothesis is a statement or a prediction that attempts to answer your question. If I place my hand on the stove I will probably burn my hand. That's not really a great hypothesis, but it gives you an idea. If I do this then that will happen is the basic format of a hypothesis. The hypothesis needs to be testable and you need to consider all the variables involved in doing those tests or experiments. 

The human body is made up of trillions of cells. Nearly two trillion of those cells divide every day to replace old or dead cells. For instance, the cells that line the gut absorb stuff and protect the body. That's why it is important to maintain a healthy layer of these cells. The body does this by replacing those cells daily with stem cells living deep in the intestinal lining or crypt. Those stem cells have also been linked to the origin of intestinal cancer. The cells that line the gut and make up the skin, basically all the cells that have to be replaced regularly, are somatic cells and they divide through mitosis. 

 

There's a lot more involved in mitosis than that video shows. There's many different proteins involved in everything from signaling cell division to actual division. If you take out one of those proteins, cell division may or may not be disrupted. If something goes wrong and there's more of a certain protein than the cell actually needs, cell division may or may not be disrupted. The types of cell division disruption can vary from incomplete cell division to lopsided cell division. So you can see that we can't just form a hypothesis like if I stop cell division then I can cure cancer. First of all we don't want to stop cell division and secondly the link between cell division and cancer is far more complicated. So we start with something simple like if I change the way cells signal mitosis I will regulate cell division. 

Except I realize now that I have to go about testing this theory that this hypothesis is very complicated and there are many variables involved. To test this hypothesis, I am going to have to plan my experiments very carefully and those experiments are probably going to lead to more questions. Hopefully through some of these experiments though, I can answer a part of that hypothesis or that my findings lead me closer to understanding a piece of that hypothesis. This brings us to the middle of that flow chart of the Scientific Method. We are still experimenting and testing the hypothesis. We haven't even started to analyze the data or communicate the results. The Scientific Method is hard work, y'all. 

Stay tuned for next week when we discuss making sense of the data and how to represent that information in a way that makes sense!

LAUGH OUT LOUD OFTEN

Cindy Maddera

Michael and I use a calendar app called Cozi to organize dates because it is a calendar app that we can use on multiple devices. When I add something to the calendar through my iPhone, it shows up on Michael's Android (or whatever phone he has). Cozi also pulls from a Random Act of Kindness calendar and we get little reminders to do things like buy a homeless person a meal or be nice to a strange and then it reminds us to take out the trash. Sunday, Michael said "According to Cozi, tomorrow's Laugh Out Loud Often and Share Your Smile Generously Day." My reply was "That sounds about right because tomorrow would be Chris's birthday." Meaning today. Today would be Chris's forty sixth birthday. 

I am usually bombarded with Facebook notification to wish Chris a Happy Birthday! or someone has wished Chris a Happy Birthday. That's not happening this year because I have managed to fuck up Chris's Facebook account. Back in December, maybe even Christmas Day, I discovered that Chris's Facebook account had been hacked. I know his account was hacked because Chris sent me a message through Facebook. Getting an email from a dead person is creepy and not at all helpful during the holiday season. Any way in my attempts to hack into Chris's hacked account, I ended up locking his account. I thought I had gone through the process of unlocking that account, but I noticed a few weeks ago that Chris was no longer in my friends list. When you search for him, he doesn't exist. Which actually makes sense because Chris doesn't really exist any more. Chris is dead. I am working on getting his account unlocked so we can at least turn it into a memorial page. 

I woke up at 3:00 AM Sunday morning to the Cabbage screaming. I opened the door to find her standing in the living room, yelling at Michael to wake up and crying because she had a nose bleed. She looked like she had just stepped off the set of the latest slasher film. I took her into the bathroom and cleaned her up, calmed her down and got the nose bleed to stop. I put her back to bed and then went through the process of trying to wake Michael up to go lay with the Cabbage. After the fifth time of telling Michael about the Cabbage's nose bleed he finally looked at me and said "Well..I didn't know any of this." He got up and went to the Cabbage's room. Later in the day, the Cabbage squirted soap into her eye during bath time which brought on another round of screaming along with a nose bleed. Micheal started getting mad because he couldn't tell why the Cabbage was screaming because she was incoherent. I made him step away and once again found myself cleaning her up, calming her down (so I could rinse out her eye) and stopping a nose bleed. Once she was dressed, she sat whimpering while I brushed her hair. She let out a loud whining "Am I going to die?!?!?". 

My first instinct was to tell her the truth but then common sense clicked on. I figured that it wasn't a good idea to tell a six year old that, yeah...someday, you're going to die. Instead, I explained that soap in the eye is not life threatening, it just stings a whole lot. I continued to brush her hair in an out of body sort of way, letting my brain float somewhere far away. It's a practice I perfected during the summer when their complaining would reach a limit I could no longer bare. I would imaging getting in my car and just driving away somewhere. Wow, my life sure is different then it was five years ago when I was frantic to make Chris's birthday a good birthday for him, seeing as it was his last and all. He never complained about it, but Chris was not one to complain. The guy had a tumor on his liver, blocking his bile ducts for more than two months before he would finally admit that his pain was bad enough to go the emergency room. Maybe that's why I have a low tolerance for complainers and this entry feels a little derailed.  

Laugh out loud often and share your smile generously. I might be struggling with that today, but on most days I think I share my smile with others. I admit that I don't laugh out loud as often as I used to, but I still laugh daily. Some time I purposefully think back to a moment where Chris said or did something that made me fall over with laughter. I never have to think too hard, because it was pretty much a daily occurrence. I take a moment to contain a fit of giggles over the memory and then I go about my day a little lighter.   

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Monday evening, I got home from work and the sun was still up and the temperatures where near sixty. I wrangled Josephine into her walking harness and hooked on her leash just as she grabbed the middle section of her leash and pulled towards the door. She always wants to be clear; she is walking me and not the other way around. We stepped outside and headed out onto the sidewalk with Josephine's little feet dancing from smell to smell. We walked to the park where Josephine sniffed noses with another pooch who was there with his people and wiggled her butt at other walkers on the trail. 

It has been months since I have taken Josephine for a walk after work. The lack of daylight and cooler weather just zapped me. I gave it a good try and ended up walking in the dark for a while, Michael didn't care for that. He bought me a personal alarm that I am supposed to clip to my coat. There's a plastic pin, like a grenade, that I pull if someone is attacking me and the clip starts screeching in a loud high pitched alarm sound. When he gave it to me, he clipped it to my coat and said "Okay. Someone's coming at you. What do you do?" I grabbed the pin and threw it across the living room. In the scramble to retrieve the pin and stop the alarm, Michael knocked the pin under the china cabinet that has a very low clearance with the floor. His giant man hands had a hard time recovering the pin. If the attacker feels like he needs to go after the pin and things turn out like they did for Michael, I think I'll be fine. Any way, it is not the dark that upsets me as much as it is the cold. 

We've reached that part of winter where it is obviously still winter. Today's temperatures are in the thirties, but occasionally there's a mix up (or global warming...it's really because of global warming) and we get a day that is filled with sun and Spring like temperatures. I am always thankful for those days and do what I can to make the most of the sunshine. I am even more thankful that this opportunity presented itself at the beginning of the week. It set a tone of calmness and reflection that I have not been making enough time for and the result has been reflected in my response to conflict. I've taken a moment to reason before reacting. This does not mean I'm backing down from my fight against racism and anti-science and all of the other horrible things the Trump administration represent. It just means I won't stoop to the level of "your mother" in my attacks and defenses. My weapons are truth and reasoning and critical thinking. My goal is not to increase the divide but to convince those on the other side to have compassion and empathy for others not like them. "Do unto others...."

On Tuesday, I discovered four eggs in the chicken coop. On Wednesday I went to yoga class and discussed setting up a time with Shannon to go over the workshop I have developed for yoga straps. On Thursday, I spent a minute laying in a sunny windowsill. On Friday, I re-watched a video that Amy sent me from Charolette that began with "Cindy...I love you." and ended with "chickens poop and eggs come out." This has been a good week filled with gratitude. I hope that you have had moments in the week to be thankful for as well. Here's to a quiet weekend and a very Thankful Friday.

THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD: LESSON ONE

Cindy Maddera

I wanted to start an educational series here on science. I get the impression that non-science people are unaware of what a scientist goes through to get her research published or the questioning of the science behind their research while publishing and after publishing. The idea is to help you have a better understanding of blanket statements like "97% of Climate Scientists agree that humans are the cause of global warming" and why those scientists think (not believe) this is true. To do that, I'm going to start by breaking down the Scientific Method. Some of you may have a vague memory of learning something about the Scientific Method in middle school science. Words like 'hypothesis' and 'analyze' probably ring some bells for you. 

For today's visual, I'm going to reference Science Buddies because they have a great diagram that breaks down the Scientific Method.

First off, let's start by asking a question about something we observe. It helps if the question can be measured, but for today, we're not going to worry too much about that. We're going to keep things simple, like will I burn my hand if I place it on the stove? After you develop a question the next step is to do some background research. You want to look around for reliable sources pertaining to your question. Has this questions been asked before? What are the steps that scientist used to answer the same question? Is that scientist's data repeatable? Your question can change depending on what you find in your background research. You might find that other scientists who asked this question found that they only burned their hands part of the time when placing it on the stove. So now your question might be "why do I only burn my hand some of the times when I place it on the stove?"

Asking the question sounds like the easy part. It's the background research that makes your question more complicated. Here's an example of a question I've been working at my job. Can I stain a GFP-tagged protein with a nanobody to achieve greater microscopic resolution in the less than 100nm scale? I do not present this question to you to be condescending, but as an example of the complexity of the kinds of questions that scientists are asking. That's just asking the question. After that, there's developing a hypothesis and coming up with an experimental design. The scientist has to figure out what experiments to do to answer this question along with all the variables involved in running that experiment. There's a lot of steps that happen in between asking a question and communicating those results. 

I hoped this helped explain some things or at least put things in a better perspective for you. The science is more than a one sentence headline designed to grab your attention. Maybe next week we'll dig a little deeper into the Scientific Method. That middle part with all the experiments and testing is thick. So..join me next week when I discuss variability in experiments, also known to other scientists as gremlins in the lab.

PRONOUNS

Cindy Maddera

Michael and I spent pretty much the whole day on Saturday at the RV dealership in camp trailer boot camp. We learned all the things about our camper. We helped winterize it and fold it up. They gave us a $50 gift card and shopping cart with our names on it so we could buy camper things like those wedges you put behind the tires to keep your trailer from rolling away and decorative camper lights. Then we signed a bunch of papers, hooked the truck to the trailer and ever so slowely creeped our way out onto the open road. We headed straight over to the closest Thai restaurant because we had skipped lunch. I ordered shrimp Pad Thai and Michael ordered a mushroom stir-fry. While we waited, he leaned across the table with a wide grin and stage whispered "We got a camper! Somebody up there must like us." 

I grinned back, but the somebody up there part of his words kind of punched me in the chest. We talked more about the camper and I said "we need to name it!" Michael said we should name it something Chris related. Our waitress set our steaming plates of Thai food down in front us and I shoveled in a fork full of noodles. Michael asked if he could steal a bite while I slowely chewed and I nodded my head as the lump of noodles in my mouth seemed to grow. I put my head in my hands as I concentrated on swallowing the lump of growing noodles and then I started crying. Of course this left Michael stammering and asking what was going on. "Can you talk to me?" He asked and I just shook my head 'no' while my throat closed up around Pad Thai noodles and tears streamed down my face. I finally had to excuse myself to the restroom and clean myself up. When I came back to the table, I said "It was something about the somebody up there statement and the fact that this Pad Thai tastes just like Chris's Mom's that set me off." Which is all true.

The idea of naming the camp trailer something Chris related makes me want to stomp my foot and yell "NO!" In fact, right now I can imagine the satisfaction of throwing something in a rage at a wall and watching it shatter, something heavy and made of glass. I can see myself shoving all of the things off a counter top or tossing a table, Hulk style. The whole thing makes me mad and want to wail. I miss him without wanting to miss him. I am frustrated that my identity was so much Chris and Cindy and so very little just Cindy and that more than half the stories I tell Micheal start with "One time, Chris and I..." I've finally gotten a grasp on my own identity and I've maintained that individuality even in my relationship with Michael. We have our own separate things, though we've been moving closer to a merging. There is Cindy. There is Michael and there is Cindy and Michael. I don't want to name the camper after Chris. The camper is our thing, Michael's and mine. Chris and I never talked about getting a camper. I talked about it. Chris was all high tech tent gadget camping. This camper is OURS! Fuck Chris. Fuck all of this. I can hear the words in the back of my brain, but I will never say them out loud. "It's not fair." It isn't, you know, not to any of us, but I don't say it out loud because the response to every child's whine of 'it's not fair' is always 'life isn't fair.' Buck up, Buttercup. 

I haven't figured out yet if Michael thinks that buying this camper is part of making me happy sort of like when he built the chicken coop. As if building a chicken coop and buying a camper will exorcise the ghost. I feel guilty about it, the way he goes above and beyond to take out that sadness that has settled in. I'm not sure I am entirely worthy of all of that effort. Michael just wants to make me happy, which at times I really don't understand. I admit to being emotionally numb for the last few weeks. Things that I should be happy about just make me shrug my shoulders with meh. I've plastered a smile on in hopes that no one really notices, but I'm no actress. When we left the dealership with our camper on Saturday, I felt a flutter of joy that I haven't felt in a bit. It had nothing and everything to do with buying the camper. I could imagine the future of riding along back roads with the dog in my lap and Michael singing along to some country song on the radio as we headed off to sights unseen. 

I could imagine a future.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Earlier this week, Michael was ranting about the latest ridiculous tweet from our President (it is becoming an evening ritual) and he said to me "You should run for office!" I just rolled my eyes and walked away. The next day someone had posted an article about scientists now making a push to get elected to local, state and federal office. It just makes sense to have people who understand the science, make policies for said science. I shared the article on my newsfeed and then had a number of people comment on how they would vote for me if I ran. You guys are sweet, but I'm not running for office. Do you know how much I hate public speaking? Do you know how much public speaking you have to do when you run for office? Answers to both of those questions are equal. 

It is the end of the first week for this new President and I feel like I have been yelling all week. Week one and I'm already exhausted. I just thought that I had grown out of my activist phase, like activism is for the younger folks. Except now I find myself on the defense against a President who doesn't know the difference between a fact and a lie, who wants to censure scientists, and a population of people who think lying is perfectly okay. I don't want this blog to become a place where I am constantly pointing out injustices and wrongs and public service. And I'm not going to let that happen. When I realized this was only week one, I vowed to step back and pace myself because there's a long road ahead. 

So, here's some stuff I am thankful for this week. First of all, I'm thankful for all the sweet "I'd vote for you" comments. It means a thing or two that you guys have that kind of confidence in me. I am thankful, as a scientist, that I still have a job and that no one has come to burn me for a witch (yet). I am thankful for all of the scientists who, despite gag orders, have stepped up to make their voices heard. I am thankful that we are getting a camp trailer and will spend the summer traveling to some National Parks before something bad happens to them. Michael found an egg in the chicken coop. This might mean the chickens are going to start laying eggs again. I am thankful for that one egg. 

I am always thankful for you.

Hope your Friday is filled with things to be grateful for. 

I TURNED 41

Cindy Maddera

Michael said something a day or two ago about how I didn't write anything about my birthday. I shrugged and said "Huh, I guess I didn't." and then I kind of shuffled away. My birthday was a non-event this year. We went out to a fancy dinner the Sunday before where we ate snails and I drank two Pimm's cups. The day of my birthday, I took Josephine to the groomer and I met with my massage therapist where I laid on a biomat filled with healing crystals and voodoo. Michael took his truck in to get a hitch installed and I picked him up so he wouldn't have to wait around all day. We went to lunch, cheap vietnamese food and then I spent the rest of the afternoon on the couch watching Hell on Wheels.

This is fine. I am not upset about any of it. Sure, I have had better birthdays. Remember that time just before I interviewed for this job when I requested a strawberry cake and Audra said strawberries were not in season? I thought I was getting something else and when I cut into it, it was all pink. It was a surprise strawberry cake! That was a good birthday. I have also had worse birthdays, as many of you well know. So when Michael said something about me not writing an entry for that day, what I should have told him was that there was nothing really to write about. Actually, that is how I feel in general right now. In fact I have deleted three different entries, one was a list of things I didn't do last week, one was woe is me tale of birthdays, and one was regarding the camper. We freaked out about the camper we were buying and have since downgraded back to the original pop-up. We get it on Saturday. 

Here are some things that have taken up so much space in my brain over the last two weeks:

  • The camp trailer. The size of said camp trailer. Hauling that camp trailer. Parking that camp trailer in the driveway. This problem has been solved.
  • Politics. Confirmation hearings. Cabinet members who have been chosen to head cabinets they are totally against. Losing the Affordable Care Act. The gag order issued to scientists to not discuss their work or publish data. A wall that Mexico is not going to pay for, but funding will probably come from dismantling the National Endowment for the Arts. The loss of our National Parks. The list really looks like this woman's sign.
  • Building a yoga workshop on straps and maybe blocks. I lugged my giant yoga binder from teacher training out of the basement and started a list of poses. I have an idea for a handout that I need to build and then get that list of poses organized into a lesson. I will do this before February.
  • Updating my life list or taking it down. I haven't looked at that thing in years. It is outdated and i haven't been keeping track of things like how many museums I've been too. There's also items on the list that are just plain sad now. I should do something about that.
  • Starting a science lesson entry blog post. I thought I'd write up something about the Scientific Method and how to apply that method. Maybe give people a better understanding of what goes into the process of preparing data and information for publication. 
  • The idea that I'm sitting in a hamster wheel, just spinning and go nowhere. That idea is totally unfair because I have been busy doing science and making progress in that science. I have been active with rallies and contacting my Senator every day. Thursday evening is the AIDS Walk Kick Off party and Terry has asked me to be a photographer since the original guy bailed out. I am worried that I am not an aggressive enough photographer for this job, but it is all part of being a volunteer. I am busy.

I think that's it. 

WHY I MARCH

Cindy Maddera

It is estimated that almost three million people came together on Saturday to show support for women and women's rights in cities all across the country. The crowd at the Women's March in Washington D.C. was estimated to be three times bigger than that of the crowd attending the inauguration. It was the largest protest in US history. It was estimated that more than six thousand people attended the Women's March in KCMO and I was one of them. I stood in a sea of women, men supporting wives, daughters and sisters, and families. We stood in support for equality, for our bodies/our choice, for the environment, for respect. 

You can do anything. Grab 'em by the pussy. You can do anything.
             - Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States

I watched my Instagram feed and Facebook newsfeed fill up with images of friends posting images of their own from the marches they attended and it was beautiful and inspiring. Tucked in between all of them was a post from a woman I know from high school. It was a long entry about how she has never been made to feel like a second class citizen. She has always had her voice heard. She has always had control over her body. She has had every advantage and her belief is that if you haven't had all of the above, well...that's your own damn fault. Her posting pointed out that women in other countries have it far worse than we have here and that the women attending the Women's Marches were whiners. Later on, I discovered that her post had been removed due to plagiarism. She had copied and pasted words written by another woman. There's some irony in a person claiming to have her own voice, using the words of another.  

First of all, I want to congratulate this woman and all of those who feel this way. I am so happy for you that you have been able to live with such privilege. That's not sarcasm. You have been lucky and privileged. Really, I can say that I have also lived a similarly privileged existence with only some mild misogyny in the work place. For the most part, I've been pretty lucky to work with people who value my work more than my gender. I realize that this is rare since I am in a male dominated field, but I didn't take part in the Women's March just for myself. I marched for those women in this country who have not been so privileged. I marched for the mother who works two jobs who has to choose between getting her yearly pap smear and mammogram or buying new shoes for her child. I march for the that same woman who's closest clinic had to close down because of budget cuts and now has to try to get to a clinic on the other side of town, probably by bus, without missing work. 

I march for the LGBTQ community whose jobs and housing will be put in jeopardy with the Federal Amendment Defense Act. I march for my gay friends who are married who are at risk of having that marriage now be invalid or those who wish to marry being denied their basic civil right to marry. I march for immigrants who are at risk of having their families torn apart by deportation. I march for immigrants who could be taken away from a life they have worked so hard for. I march because I recognize that life for women in other countries is worse and I even march for the woman who posted the anti-march letter. I march in solidarity with other women in the belief that we are deserving of respect and equality, not just from our employers or our partners, but from our President.

It doesn't really matter what (they) write as long as you've got a young and beautiful piece of ass   
       - Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States

 

It is our responsibility, particularly now under this current administration, to assure our daughters and sisters that they hold more value than being an ass to grab or a trophy. The U.S. sets an example globally and we have responsibility to hold that example to its highest standard. This is not whining. This is a battle cry and it doesn't just start and end with a march. I will continue to shout and scream for what is right. The website for the Women's March is proposing ten action over the next one hundred days. I've already sent my postcard to my Senator. I have a feeling my Senator is going to get real tired of my voice this year.

 

AND PUT ON A HAPPY FACE

Cindy Maddera

I have a cold/sinus infection. I'm not going to say it is the flu because I got a flu shot this year and, By Golly, I'm not about admit that I got stabbed in the arm for no reason. All this is just a build up of mucus that's irritating the top back of my throat while at the same time making the insides of my ears itch. The cold medicine, while not really doing much to get rid of that mucus, has coated my entire head in cotton candy. Not so much delicious cotton candy, but super sticky cotton candy. It's making it hard for me to be here. Also, I don't have much to say. 

Saturday, we went to the Mid America RV show and learned that we could tow something a little bigger than the original popup we had intended on purchasing. This left us with more questions than answers. So we left the RV show and drove way out to the east side of town to visit the dealership where we were probably going to buy so we could look at the RV they didn't have at the show, but did have in the show room. Then we filled out paperwork and put down a deposit and I started to worry about how it was going to fit in the driveway and how we were going to make monthly payments. Then Katrina bought me this super cute retro camper plate set to go in the new camper and I looked at Michael and said "the driveway is not my problem...it's YOUR problem." I just sort of handed him all of the things I was worrying over. Some time in the next two or three weeks we will have a camp trailer parked in our driveway and we are going to have all of the blocks in place to keep it from rolling down hill and into the street.

After that, we drove all the way over to the exact opposite side of town to go to IKEA. We bought a new bookcase system to store the stereo/turntable and records. The old bookcase was leaning slightly and then when we dragged it out of the way, it exploded. No...it just fell apart. We replaced it just before a disaster. At the same time we purchased the bookcase, we also purchased a full length mirror to hang on the bathroom door. We can now see our whole bodies in a reflection. I am not convinced that this was a good purchase. This body will be forty one on Friday. This soon to be forty one year old body has turned shy and would just rather not know what is happening from the neck down. Though, I'm not so sure about the neck up part any more because we just replaced two burnt out bulbs in the bathroom with LED bulbs that say they are "soft white" but we all know that's not true. 

Friday, I have a visit with my lulu massage therapist and Josephine has an appointment to get her hair cut. I have planned nothing else for the day except maybe a matinee of La La Land. We bought an RV for my birthday and a mirror to remind us we are visually growing older. What more does a girl need? 

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

This week, I attended a mobile office event for Roy Blunt, I signed myself up to attend a Women's March Event, and I put mine and Michael's name on the volunteer list for the AIDS Walk Open. Then I went over and updated my AIDS Walk fundraising page because it's never too early to start raising money. This year is starting to look like a year of activism, something I felt I wouldn't be involved in at this stage of my life. I think back to when I was younger and less disillusioned and I dragged Chris, Amy and Brian to our first Red River Democracy meeting. We believed that we could make a real difference in the state of Oklahoma. At least I believed it for a while. (I kid you not, Cold Play's 'Fix You' just started playing while I'm typing this.) It became painfully obvious that a large number of Oklahomans did not want the same kind change and good things that I wanted for that state.   

The mobile office event, even though we were talking to staffers who were writing every thing down to pass on to the senator, reminded me that I may not have the same passion as I did then, but I still have a desire. That event also reminded me that I can talk to my senator about things that matter to me whenever I want even if I didn't vote for that person. I have a voice. YOU have a voice. There's no reason we have to sit back and just let our congress people and representatives do whatever they want and then listen to them say they are looking out for their constituents. It is our responsibility to make them accountable and to make sure they know what exactly their constituents want from them.

There were about fifty people crammed into a very small meeting room for the mobile event, more than Roy Blunt's staff members had ever had to deal with at one of these things. All of us shared our concerns over losing the Affordable Care Act (without even a hint of a plan to take it's place), the quickness in vetting cabinet members without proper background checks and investigations, what will become of our teachers if vouchers are put in place, and what's going to be done about a President who continues to bully and use hateful speech. I am thankful for everyone of those voices. Because of the size of our group, I feel like our voices are bound to be heard. I am thankful for the glimpse of my younger more passionate self. I am thankful for the reminder that real change happens on a local level. 

I am thankful for some major successful experiments that I did at work this week. I am thankful for all the greens I've eaten this week. I am thankful for those moments in the middle of the night when I feel Josephine get up from her spot at the end of the bed and move to curl up into a ball at my side. I am thankful that Michael put air filters in the furnace (something I've never done because I couldn't figure out how or where). I went to dust the house last night and there was hardly any dust. I am thankful for the perfectly poached egg that I ate for breakfast this morning and I am thankful for you.

Here's to a weekend of hopefully not sliding around on ice and a truly Thankful Friday.

TEACHING AN OLD DOG

Cindy Maddera

Just before Christmas, I found out that our local family owned photography store is closing shop for good. Crick's has been around for seventy years. The owners thought about selling it, but couldn't find anyone qualified to run the full service photography shop. I'm real sad about this because Crick's was such a great place to go, not just to shop for all things photography, but because the people working there were always so helpful. I learned so much every time I walked in through their doors. When I found out they were closing, I went in to look at some lenses. The woman working the counter pulled several lenses for me to try on my camera and she talked about the pros and cons of each one. I kind of fell in love with a macro lens that costs about $700. I did not buy that lens. 

I walked away from Crick's with nothing but things to think about. I had to weigh practical versus not so practical. My job is to image things at the microscopic level. Of course I would gravitate to macro lenses. I like to get up close with tiny things, but maybe I should broaden my horizons some and step outside the box. Anyway...I had some things to think about before I chose what lens I was going to buy next and what I finally decided was that I don't need to buy another lens. At least not right now. Did you guys know that I was doing a 365 day selfie project in 2016? Well, I was and I started out with using the Nikon to take my pictures every day. Then I started traveling and I couldn't upload a picture because I was either short on time or there was no internet. I switched to my phone and then when I got to San Francisco, I said "fuck it" and stopped the project all together. It's the first time I've not finished the 365 Day Photo Project.

The truth is, I don't use my fancy Nikon as often as I should/want to/need to in order to justify the purchase of any lens, let alone one that costs $700. It doesn't help that I have entered 2017 unmotivated and uninspired by my view. The clouds have started to circle overhead and Michael has started to do his tip-toe dance around me because this is the time of year that is the most difficult. It's the time of year where I'd rather be curled up in a ball under the covers or staring with glazed over eyes at the TV while shoveling copious amount of hot Brie into my mouth. If I were to look through the view finder of my camera right now, I wouldn't see anything worth pressing the shutter button for because you're supposed to look for the light and I don't even see that right now outside my window. 

Something I've done to help me stay off the couch and away from the hot Brie is to sign up for Skillshare. The first month is free, so I thought I'd give it a go. If I like it and watch some learning videos, I might go ahead and get a subscription. Right now, I've added about twenty different classes on various aspects of photography to my list. My goal is to watch at least two classes a week, depending on the length of the class. If I'm consistent, I'll keep my Skillshare account. If I'm consistent, I might not keep my Skillshare account. Amy told me that our local library probably offers online classes similar to the ones posted here. This was news that I feel the library systems need to advertise more. Or at least talk about in a tone a voice that I won't ignore. 

If this plan doesn't pan out, there's always the adult tap dancing class I've had my eye on. Tappa tappa tappa.  

 

CORE VALUES

Cindy Maddera

Last week, as I was scrolling through facebook, I noticed that someone had posted an article from FOX News about this video that has been put together by Humanity for Progress. I'm going to give you a minute to watch it because I believe that you should actually watch the video before you make comments or assumptions about what the video is about instead of what ever the 'news' tagline says. 

I've only seen one other person share this video as a positive message. The others who have posted it have posted it with negative comments such as how the people in the video are just whiney babies. One comment that has stuck in my toe like a thorn was someone who said "who are they to tell us what our core values are?!?" 

Who are they to tell us what our core values are?

For years I have been listening to the alt-right loudly try to dictate their core values onto me. I have watched as they have lobbied for having their bible taught in public schools, dictated what I can and can't do with my body and declared who should and should not have basic civil rights. Really, honestly, what that person's comment about this video not representing his core values tells me is that he thinks racism is A-okay and doesn't need attention. He thinks that it's quite alright to slap a woman on the ass and call her 'doll' and that her place is in the kitchen making his sandwich. He thinks that homosexuals should stay in their closets and that religions other than his own should be banned. His core values sound pretty disgusting. Those people like him have also done their fair share of whining. Those people are the forty six percent of this country who voted for Trump. As a member of the forty eight percent who did not vote for this man, here is something I think you, as a forty sixer, needs to know. 

We are scared and our fear holds value. A man who campaigned on a platform of racism, misogyny, homophobia, exclusion and hate is now our president elect. He has chosen a VP who thinks homosexuality is a disease that can be 'cured' by aversion therapy, a therapy that includes shock treatments and other tortures. Trump has appointed two well known racists to his cabinet. His choice for Secretary of Labor is a guy who opposes raising the minimum wage and is also against paying for overtime. (Way to vote against your best interests there, forty six percenters.) The guy he picked to head up the Environmental Protection Agency doesn't even really think we should have an EPA. And before you think we don't need an EPA, I want you to consider the water that comes out of your taps and the air you breathe into your lungs. The EPA's mission is 'to protect human health and the environment'. You really think we should get rid of an agency that wants to protect you from lead poisoning and smog?

You may believe you voted for Trump because you believe him to be a good businessman and you think that's what this country needs, but that is not the platform he campaigned on. Maybe you even fell for that whole 'Make America Great Again' slogan, but did you even stop and consider the 'again' part of that slogan? What do you mean by making America great again and to what great part of the American timeline do you want us all to go back to? Segregation? Before women had the right to vote? Slavery? That time we stole all the land from the Native Americans? You see, that's part of the thing that scares us. We don't know how far back you want to take us. 

But what you also fail to see is that the people in that video are not whining. They are giving you a warning. We are not going to stand for racism, misogyny, homophobia, exclusion and hate. We are going to hold those who do allow for those things accountable. We will not be silenced. We will not back down. 

 

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Thursday morning, I got out of bed and proceeded as usual even though I knew that there was a fresh white layer of snow outside. I knew the snow was coming, but assumed that it wouldn't be a problem other than adding time to my commute. Once I was dressed, I bundled up and headed out to the garage to dig out the leaf blower/snow blower and an extension cord. I was fighting with the extension cord when Michael banged on the kitchen door window. "What are you doing?" His question came out around his mouthguard with a slight lisp. I told him that I was digging out the leaf blower to unbury the cars and then he said that his school had sent a text saying that they were going to be closed. 

I stood there with the extension cord (that may or may not have a good plug because the dog chewed the ends off one of our cords) in the dark cold garage. The light went out in the garage weeks ago and neither of us have felt like climbing a ladder to replace it. I let Michael convince me to set the extension cord down and come inside to at least eat my oatmeal and watch the news. He continued to plead his case for staying put. His truck was blocking my car in the driveway. There was uncertainty about whether or not he would even be able to get his truck back up into the driveway if he moved it. The news was showing cars going nowhere on the highway. So, I reluctantly agreed to stay home. And I struggled with that decision for most of the day. All of the day. I struggled all of the day with guilt over not being at work. 

I recently read an article about the art of doing nothing. It talked about how the act of just sitting back and doing nothing increases creativity and that taking time to reflect on inner experiences translates to greater compassion. I tend to think that I am pretty good at doing nothing. I could give you a list right now of unfinished projects and things I need to be working on outside of work. I also recognize that I have a job that takes up eight hours of my day and even more hours of my brain space. So I try to cut myself a little slack when it comes to getting those other projects done, but suddenly I was put into a position to do nothing and I balked. I roamed around the house aimlessly. I washed breakfast dishes and put a pot of water with oranges and cinnamon sticks on the stove to help humidify the house. I checked work emails dozens of times. I watched a car moving slowly down our street. I walked around the house aimlessly some more. I stewed in my guilt while Michael and the animals snoozed on the couch. 

It became painfully obvious that I needed some practice in the art of doing nothing and the greater compassion I should be having, should be for myself. Eventually, as the house began to smell of cinnamon, I let myself be still. I picked up a book from a stack of books that have been waiting for me to read them and I read. We did clean off the cars and feed the chickens, but for the most part, I sat and did nothing. Today I am thankful for the realization that I need to have greater compassion for myself. I am thankful for my moment of nothing. 

At some point yesterday, Micheal looked over at me and both the cat and the dog were laying on my body. He asked me if I needed to be covered with any more animals or if I had enough. I replied that I probably had room for one chicken. I'm all the time cold in the winter and the pets just seem to know that their job is to keep me warm, weighted down and unable to move. I am thankful for the gruesome twosome (Josephine and Albus). I am thankful for the smell of cinnamon and oranges. I am thankful for dried cranberries in my oatmeal. I am thankful for surprises like the Princess Leia action figure I found on my desk this morning. I am thankful for bread and I am so so thankful for you.

Here's a warmer weekend and super Thankful Friday.