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Kansas City MO 64131

Elephant Soap




Cindy Maddera

Monday was the first day of Spring and Tuesday I noticed the first tulip bloom as if a director had just stage whispered "Tulips, enter stage left.....NOW!" I have struggled with what to write for today's post, have in fact deleted a number of different entries. Spring always rattles me and I become easily distracted. A list of things that I want to do or that I feel needs doing begins to form in my head, often becoming too long and therefor overwhelming. This week, I have remembered that I have planned nothing for this year's garden. I realized this as I noticed one sprig of asparagus sticking up out of the ground in the garden bed by the back door. The garden beds are currently cleaned out with the exception of a weed here and there. The soil has not been turned or mulched or fertilized. They are empty slates waiting for the next thing.

Gratitude comes in the smallest, simplest of ways this week. It is the beginning of the Monet season where landscapes become impressionist paintings and every thing takes on a dreamy quality. I welcome it every Spring despite the sneezes and runny nose. I am thankful for the variety of blooms that pop up out of the ground and way the air smells after it rains. I am thankful for those days I ride the scooter and have to race the rain. I am thankful for moments of quiet stuck between moments of bustle. I am thankful for time to clean out so that I can be like those garden boxes, waiting for the next thing.

I am thankful for you.

Here's to a spectacular weekend and short and sweet Thankful Friday.  



Cindy Maddera

NPR aired a story on March 15th about how Monsanto recruited scientists to co-author papers that defend the safety of glyphosate. Glyphosate is a chemical compound found in such weed killers as Roundup and Rodeo. Monsanto is the company that make genetically modified seeds that are resistant to weed killers like Roundup. So farmers can spray their crops with weed killer without killing their crop. The problem is that weeds also start to get more tolerant of the weed killer and then farmers have to use higher concentrations of weed killer to stop the weeds. Turns out that glyphosate probably causes cancer, along with some other commonly used pesticide chemicals and insecticide chemicals. 

Some of you are probably shrugging your shoulders and thinking "so what, everything causes cancer." That's almost true. Cancer has been a problem since the beginning of multicellular organism existence on this planet, but if you can avoid something that may specifically give you cancer, you should probably do so. Also, in Monsanto's case, they are selling a product that they have promoted as being safe and it actually may not be safe. This story leads to a bigger problem though and that's one of scientific trust. Corporations paying scientists for research skewed in their favor is not new. In the 60s, the sugar industry funded research that downplayed the role of sugar in human health. Scientific papers are retracted all the time. Up until recently, most of those retraction were due to other scientific discoveries that disproved the findings of that paper. Recently though, we've seen a lot of retractions due to fraud and with the U.S. being the most guilty of fraud related retractions. This comes from a review published in 2012 regarding 2,047 life-science and biomedical research papers retracted that year.

That is not only embarrassing but incredibly dangerous. There's no wonder that people in general have a mistrust of scientific information. But what that paper doesn't say is that there were over 28 million papers submitted and published between 1980 and 2012 and of those 28 million, 2,047 were questionable in some way. Do not think that most scientists are out there trying to dupe you when it turns out to just be a couple of bad apples. This science business I'm in is very competitive. In 2013, there were about 40,000 postdocs (think interns) and about 4,000 of them had been so for six years or more. Getting your own lab and moving on in academia is hard and funding research is expensive. The National Institute of Health has about a 32 billion dollar budget that helps to fund more than 300,000 scientists. Divide 32 billion by 300,000. It doesn't leave you with much for lab supplies, consumables and research technicians. Forget about buying any expensive equipment or maintaining service contracts for those things. I am not condoning fraud in any way, but I can see how a scientist desperate for funding could find a way to tweak his/her findings to work in their favor. 

When you hear about a new scientific discovery on the news or read about it online, here's a few things you can look for that will give you some sort of an idea of the validity of the science:

  1. First, check the news source. Is the information coming from a reliable news source? This infographic has been circling social media and is a good representation of reliable news sources for all news, not just science. 
  2. Second, make sure the story is not an opinion piece. 
  3. Third, check the article for links to the original source of information. The original source should be the actual journal article from a reputable scientific journal. 
  4. Fourth, check the original article for funding information. All articles contain an acknowledgment section that includes how the research was funded. If they list a major corporation like Exon, I'm going to question their science and thoroughly read their paper as well as check their references and other research being done in this field.   

Bottom line though, when a researcher has to go to corporations for funding, their research is going to lean to the favor of the corporation. This happens more and more as government funding is cut from scientific research. You can help by encouraging your senators and representatives to support funding for scientific research. Making donations to non-for-profit charities like the AIDS Walk of Kansas City is another way to help. Above all, when you read those headlines that sound too good to be true, read the actual article and ask questions.

Question everything. 



Cindy Maddera

We've been trying to come up with a name for our popup. The day we drove it home, Michael asked me what we should name it. I couldn't come up with anything off the top of my head. As I looked at the side mirror of the truck, watching the reflection of the trailer bouncing along behind us, I said "Jayco Peecotrain." Micheal said "What?" and I replied "Jayco Peecotrain." We both found this funny, but did not agree that this would be the permanent name for the trailer. Except we haven't come up with anything else, so I'm calling it Jayco Peecotrain for now and here is an account of it's maiden voyage to exotic Joplin MO.

Most state campgrounds are still closed to full hook-up campers, which is why we ended up at the Joplin KOA. It was a fine campground for what it was. It sits right off the interstate and is more of a stop for the night kind of place than it is a hang out for a few days and enjoy nature kind of place. Our camper ended up parked right next to a privacy fence for a big-rig truck repair place and on the other side of that was the interstate. There was an area of woods with a walking trail that Josephine and I would walk in the mornings that was nice, but we did not have a campfire ring. The Cabbage made herself a cold smore on the first night, which would not be the only cold thing about that night because Michael could not get our furnace to kick on. Sometime around three o'clock in the morning, I piled all of the blankets onto one bed and convinced Michael to crawl in. The Cabbage was fine as long she remained wrapped in her blankets like a burrito, but Michael and I did not get very much sleep. 

He spent the the next morning on the phone with technical support, troubleshooting the furnace. We had almost reached the decision that we would have to pack everything up and go home when I pressed a small piece of metal inside the thermostat and the blower for the furnace kicked on. The on/off switch was faulty, but we were able to repair it on our own. This was great because my Mom had driven in to spend time with us and I would have hated for her to come all that way for nothing. We all went had a nice lunch before visiting the George Washington Carver National Monument (which I have so much more to say about later). We had a nice day and then everyone slept (mostly everyone) warm and snug. I say everyone mostly slept because the wind kept blowing stuff outside our camper like the door and the awning, making a banging sound. I would wake up thinking that either someone was trying to come into the camper or the camper was collapsing. Neither of those things were true. 

Despite the freezing time and the lack of sleep, I think we all had a nice time. It was the Cabbage's first camping trip and she said that her favorite thing about the trip was eating a cold smore. So there ya go. Michael and I learned a whole lot of things about the camper. We determined that cooking outside is the way to go because of counter space and how there isn't any inside. Once the camper is closed up, there is no way to get inside to the tiny fridge. We will always need to carry a small ice chest. Our setup time was pretty good. Michael ran into a snag with turning on the gas, but that was easily figured out. I learned the sweaty hard way that installing the door is a two person job. It took us a lot longer to break camp then we thought it should. The new rule is that breakfast on the last day should be something cold that doesn't require dishes. This way we can pack up kitchen stuff the night before and water and gas can be disconnected first thing in the morning. We are also amazed that we didn't lose the camper on the way home seeing how neither one of us actually latched the trailer hitch down onto the ball on the truck hitch. One good bump and it would have been bye bye trailer. 

On the second day, after getting the heat to work and eating dinner, Michael asked "So, are we keeping it?" I looked at our little camper with the sky turning purple and pink behind it and said "I think so. I think so." We've already booked a campground for Memorial Day weekend in Hannibal MO. It will be the kickoff for our summer of camping. 


Cindy Maddera

Time changes always mess me up. Even when I've planned for them and I know they are coming. That first night when Mom and I were in Ireland, I woke up and realized that Mom was also awake. I asked her for the time and she said "5:30 AM". I decided that I might as well go ahead and get up and do some yoga and was about half way through my practice when I noticed the time on my phone said that it was really just after midnight Ireland time. I announced this to Mom and said "I'm going back to bed." We both did and then woke up at a more reasonable time a few hours later. Of course that was a five hour time change, but apparently I handle one hour time changes about the same. 

The time change and the transition into Spring have made for some really interesting dreams. One night I dreamed that I was out hiking. I walked to a place where I had to climb onto a log in order to paddle over to an island made of cork. The ground was soft and squishy under my hiking boots and covered with moss and tiny ferns. I made my way to the visitor center which was in a small shack next to a water tower, both made of cork. The water tower leaked. The old man at the visitor center told me that they had a problem with couples coming to the island and stealing bear cubs to take home as pets. The bears on the island were angry and the campground was now surrounded by a bear proof fence that was locked at night. I woke up before I decided what to do next. The next night, I dreamed that I went to work without pants bringing a whole new level to Casual Friday. When my boss saw me, he said "Cindy. You're not wearing pants." I scowled at him and replied "You're not even supposed to be here today so shut up." Then I tugged my T-shirt down a little to be sure it was covering my granny-panty clad ass. I don't know what happened next because I woke up thinking it was Friday, but it was really Thursday.

This has been a week of change. That Patty Loveless song about saying goodbye has been playing in the back of my mind for days. That song always makes me cry, but it is the line about 'life is about changing' that has been on loop in my brain, the words circling around and around like an airplane banner. Often those changes come in subtle quite ways, sneaking in so that they are hardly noticed, like the slow growth of green that starts to spread over things with the coming of Spring. These are the changes that we crave without fearing. The bigger, more sudden changes, like a snow storm after a week of 75 degree weather, are the ones that leave us slightly timid to venture forward. This is the time of year when I am reminded to embrace both kinds of changes. I am reminded to be mindful that change happens every day and that it is how I react to the change that is important. I am thankful for the changes of this week. I am thankful for changes to come. I am thankful for crazy dreams that hint of adventures to come and an acquired boldness.

I am thankful for a turn in the weather because we promised the Cabbage weeks ago that we would go camping this weekend. We are headed to the Joplin KOA with plans to visit the George Washington Carver National Park. I am thankful that my mom will be able to join us for the day. I am thankful for vegetarian sloppy joes. I am thankful for the moments I have had on my yoga mat. I am thankful that Josephine didn't attack Marguerite (the chicken) who escaped while Michael was refilling the chickens' water. I am thankful that Marguerite was more interested in the new water than she was being chased around the yard. I am thankful for moments of stillness. I am thankful for you.

Hope your weekend is full of warmth and that you have a truly Thankful Friday.


Cindy Maddera

I have decided that when I am in town and I don't have a million and one things to do on a Saturday, that I should get up and go to a yoga class. My favorite yoga place has a 9:00 AM class on Saturday mornings and I have found that I still get up early enough to stop in at Heirloom for a light breakfast and some journal writing and have time to digest a little before starting class. When class is over, I run to the grocery store and then I'm home just in time for lunch. Some times Michael is even up and showered when I get home. My favorite yoga place is not really close and this Saturday I didn't want to stray to far from my neighborhood. So I went an 8:00 AM class at studio close to me. 

It was a nice class, different from my usual practice. The teacher incorporated more flowing sequences than I tend to do and less holding of poses. We prepared for headstand and then I did a headstand. It was good, but I didn't really make a connection with the teacher or the other students and I didn't really get a yoga home vibe. This is okay. The important thing was to try something new. After class I headed over to Heirloom and immediately realized that my original get there at 7:30 AM routine is a much better routine. Heirloom was packed. I parked on the street and got in a long line. By the time I'd finished placing my order, I looked up to find that all the seats at the bar were taken. I wandered the small table section and found one empty table for two and I took it. 

I had just opened the Fortune Cookie journal when I noticed a young man wandering around with his coffee mug and the alphabet letter card Heirloom uses to find you when your order is ready. Someone came out with a tray of biscuits and gravy. I heard the man say that it was his, but he couldn't find a place to sit. I raised my voice so they could hear me and asked "is it just you?" The man replied "yes" and so I gestured to the chair across from me and said "have a seat." Both the young man and the server still holding his tray seemed a little surprised by my offer, but then both of them smiled and he gratefully took a seat. There was a brief exchange of small talk, enough to discover that neither of us had lived in the city for more than six years and both of us were surprised by how big St. Patrick's Day is around here. Mostly, we left each other to our own devices, him hastily eating his breakfast and me attempting to write a story prompted by a fortune cookie fortune. The young man finished his coffee and got up to bus his side of the table. He thanked me once again for letting him sit at my table and then we wished each other happy weekends.

I am still stuck by how surprised he was that I would offer a seat at my table to a perfect stranger. I think of places I have been where it was just assumed that someone sit in the empty seat next to you. There might be a courtesy "is this seat taken?" before they sat, but they'd have themselves seated before you were on the second head nod. I have been on subways that have forced me to redraw my boundary for personal space. Chris and I used to go to You Say Tomato at a crowded time in the mornings and always ended up sharing our table with another couple; sometimes a whole family. It was something we did without question or pause. It is still something I do without question or pause. Personal space is a luxury, a given in our own homes, and taken for granted in the wide open spaces of this country. I forget that I live in a city in the middle of wide open spaces and that so many of the younger residents here moved to this place from farmland. They are still getting used to a smaller boundary for personal space. 

All of this makes me aware of the boundaries we build, even for those we love.


Cindy Maddera

Remember that skirt I told you about with the elephants all over it and how I had to send it back and get a bigger size? That skirt showed up yesterday and it was even smaller than the first skirt. It was also a different material than the first skirt. I was just starting to feel pretty good about this body. My pants fit me, pants I've had for three or four years. In yoga class on Saturday, I felt positively svelte and popped up into headstand like I had made that pose my bitch. Sure, I've had a thing for melty cheese the last couple of days, but who doesn't when it is cold and snowing. When I tried that skirt on last night, I felt like a fatty fat fat. I tugged the zipper up as far as I could and then cried "what is wrong with me?!?!?" because of course my first thought was that the company had not made a mistake. My first thought was that I had gained even more weight since ordering that skirt. Then I thought "how is that even possible if my clothes still fit?" I laid awake last night thinking about foods I will stop eating and vowing to ride my bicycle to work as soon as the weather allows. 

I sent that skirt back this morning, slapping the free shipping label onto the box with disgust. Then I looked outside and it was snowing and I hated all things. Except cheese. I am a prickly pear and it took me half the morning to figure out the real reason besides hormones for the my prickly pear syndrome. It is March 14th, the day before the Ides of March, the day Chris and I got married because it was Spring Break. We would have been married nineteen years today. The prickly pear syndrome comes from not wanting to remember or acknowledge that I would have been married for nineteen years. It is symptom of trying hard not to acknowledge a past life because I have moved on to a different one. 

Last week, I caught the tail end of an interview on NPR with Patton Oswalt. At the end of the interview he said "You know, you can say you're through with grief all you want, but grief will let you know when it's done." I wanted to tell him that it will never be done. You're going to think it is done. You haven't felt any twinges or leaky eyes in a while. You actually feel happy about your present life and then out of nowhere grief steps up and taps you on the shoulder. "Hey let's dance some more. I'm not done yet!" That's when grief turns into that crazy drunk guy you can't shake at the club. He may be kind of cute, but you're not interested and you're tired and ready to go home for the night. Yet, you are too polite to say no. You follow him back out onto the dance floor and think about ways to ditch him when he's not paying attention. You are not having any fun. 

Dates, numbers. They are too significant at times. Maybe if I focus on the irritating fact that I am sending a skirt back for the second time because it is too small, I won't notice what day it is. If I complain and gripe about how it is snowing in March (it is still winter, I don't know why I am complaining) I won't think about how our original plan was to get married on the fifteenth of March until we remembered Shakespeare and moved it up a day. If I spend enough time focused on criticizing my weight, I won't feel grief tapping on my shoulder trying to drag me back to that dance floor.

It has been five years. My feet hurt and I'm tired of dancing.  



Cindy Maddera

Saturday Michael and I became members at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. I've been wanting a membership to the museum ever since I discovered that members get shuttlecock car stickers. Also, the individual membership pretty much pays for itself after buying two tickets to a special exhibit and paying for parking. There have been traveling exhibits that I have missed because I'm too cheap or frugal to spend the money to go. Now I don't have that excuse. Which is good, because I really didn't want to miss Multitude, Solitude: The Photographs of Dave Heath. 

Dave Heath was an American photographer. Abandoned at the age of four, he grew up in the foster care system and an orphanage. His work reflects his sense of homelessness and loss and his images capture human loneliness and melancholy. The exhibit centers around Heath's work from from the early 60s and some of his more recent color images. The black and white images of the collection are breathtaking. I could have spent hours just studying each photo and imagining the stories of the people in the photos. There was one of an old woman, dressed in black. Her slim, delicate fingers twisted a solid band on her finger. One can assume the ring is her wedding ring and that maybe she's a widow. Perhaps she's in church, gazing up at the alter. I wonder how long she's been a widow, how long she's been wearing that ring.

There was another one of two young black boys giving side eye to the camera. The looks in the eyes are hard, skeptical, suspicious, even somewhat angry. I don't blame them. I can imagine that they have plenty to be angry about. I can imagine what makes them suspicious of the white man taking their picture. It is evident that they have lost their childhood, their eyes reflecting experience and loss beyond their years. I want to lie to them and tell them that things will get better. I want to give them some sort of hope, something better than they have now. I want something better for them. I want to be wrong about the look that I see in their eyes, that I am just assuming that their lives are not easy, but I know that this picture was taken in Chicago in the 60s, in the heat of the Civil Rights Movement. 

There was another image of an older man, walking with a cane. The man looked so much like my Pepaw, I stood and studied his face carefully. He was fuller than my Pepaw. While Pepaw had been tall and skinny, wiry even, this man was filled out and I could only assume his height. They had the same shocking white hair and the same facial structures. He looked like how maybe my Aunt Martha looks now or even my mom. I wanted know who this man was and what he was doing in New York City. Why was he so far away from his Mississippi home? Because there was no doubt to me that he was a great uncle or something. I knew that if I showed this image to my mother she would say "Oh! That's your great Uncle So-and-So" He'd have just as an odd of a name as my other great Uncles, like Carmel (pronounced Car-mel) or Carnet. There was a melancholy quality to this exhibit and I as looked for an image of the artist, I expected to find a reflection of that sadness. I was surprised to find the image of Dave Heath with a joyful smile on his face. He looked genuinely happy. His smile was not a 'smile for the camera' smile, but one that was true. He is quoted in a memoriam written by the exhibit's curator as saying "Art saved my life." If you look into his eyes you can see that art really did save him. 

We followed the Dave Heath exhibit with Jane Cardiff's Forty-Part Motet, which consists of a room of speakers. Each speaker is one voice in the Salisbury Choir singing a cappella choral music from the mid-1500s. As you walk in front of one speaker, all you hear is that one voice. If you stand in the center of the room or just outside the circle of speakers, you hear all the voices in unison. We were just walking outside of the circle to leave the exhibit when the full force of all the voices crescendoed in a way that made my bones vibrate with the sound. I stopped and looked at Michael, my eyes wide with the shock of it and then I burst into tears. This exhibit mixed with the images from the Dave Heath exhibit had created a giant emotional bubble within me that grew so large that when it popped, the only option was for it to leak out of my eyes. 

I could not speak about these exhibits for hours afterward without my throat closing with emotion. And now, all I can think about is going back and just sitting in those rooms and absorbing all of those images and sound. Which is something I can totally do now for free! So, if I go missing, you'll know where to find me. 


Cindy Maddera

I wrote this whole entry about how we set the camper up on Sunday to get it ready for the camper's first adventure this weekend. Then I had to delete it because we canceled the trip due to freezing temperatures and snow that is supposed to hit here on Saturday. I tried really hard to be stubborn about it and say that I could totally camp in the snow, but we all know that I can only grumble when it snows. I'm not good at being cold. I thought it was something I could get used to, but I notice that the older I get, the more intolerable the cold becomes. So, after checking the weather twenty times last night, I looked at Michael and held up a white flag. The good news is that the camper is ready to go for next weekend when we plan to take the Cabbage out for her first KOA experience. 

We have the wanderlust real bad right now and the camper exasperates it. On the weekends that the weather has been perfect for camping, we've had other obligations. The month of April has something on the calendar every Saturday except Easter. Which is great because that means we can be part of the big gay Easter egg hunt at Terry's. I was looking forward to a weekend away with just the two of us, one that wasn't centered around errands and chores. So you know what? I'm still going to treat this weekend like we are out of town. I'll go to yoga in the morning and then come home and drag Michael out of bed. We'll go the Nelson and maybe find an arcade. I'll dig out the Uno cards and make some queso dip or guacamole and challenge Michael to a game of strip Uno. We'll drink hot spiced cider while watching the snow fall. I am thankful for a weekend that has left us with no plans. I am thankful for giving myself permission to say no to camping this weekend in the snow. 

I am thankful for all the wonderful donations that have been made to my AIDS Walk Fundraising page. You guys are awesome! I am thankful for the random email from someone I don't know all that well asking me how I was doing because they know the winter is hard for me. I am thankful for free donuts. I feel like I've done some good work this week and I'm thankful for this. I am thankful for Buddha bowls with BBQ roasted tempeh. I am always thankful for you.

Here's to a weekend without chores and a truly Thankful Friday.


Cindy Maddera

There's some stuff that has been bothering me and I need to rant about those things. On Saturday, while on Hole Patrol, I was using the bullhorn to call up the next team and to remind people to buy raffle tickets and mulligans, a young man snapped his fingers at me. Then he said "ooohhh....bossy authoritative lesbian with a bullhorn!" I paused and said "Wait. What part of this makes me a lesbian?" His reply was that bossy and authoritative obviously meant I was a lesbian. He then hung out at the bar for a bit and would occasionally yell out "that's what a lesbian would say." whenever I said something he thought a lesbian would say.

You guys know me. You know that it doesn't matter a hill of beans if someone thinks I am a lesbian. The part about all of this that got under my skin was the linking of my sexuality to being able to take charge of the current situation. There is also great irony in hearing misogyny come from a gay man. This encounter could have easily just fallen to the way side without mentioning, but the next day I was watching an interview with Kellyanne Conway on CBS Sunday Morning and that dress she wore to the inauguration came up. Kellyanne said that she didn't care what all those black stretchy pant people out there had to say about it. This caused me to shake my head and think "Oh, Kellyanne". Her defense was to say something negative about other women's clothing when her response should have been how ridiculous it is to still be having a conversation about the dress she wore instead of real issues like health care and why she lied about Bowling Green. 

Look, Kellyanne Conway is not one of those women I'd choose to have over for an all girls dinner party, but that has nothing to do with her appearance. I disagree with her ideas and lying. Though it might be interesting to just pick her brain, scientifically speaking that is.  Kellyanne is a strong, hard working woman. She's working a very stressful job (that is taking a tole on her physically; Kellyanne please eat a sandwich). She's in the process of moving her husband and three children to Washington while two of those children are begging to not make that move. This could be any one of us. Disagree with her policies and her words, but hurling tweets at her like "you're a whore" or "you stupid bitch" makes you no better than this current president. A negative plus a negative does not equal a positive.

During the campaign, an hour after telling the American people how much respect Trump had for women, he called Hillary Clinton a 'nasty woman' during a PRESIDENTIAL debate. Does any one know what prompted Trump to call her this? 

CLINTON: Well, Chris, I am on record as saying that we need to put more money into the Social Security Trust Fund. That's part of my commitment to raise taxes on the wealthy. My Social Security payroll contribution will go up, as will Donald's, assuming he can't figure out how to get out of it. But what we want to do is to replenish the Social Security Trust Fund . ..

TRUMP: Such a nasty woman.

CLINTON: . . .  by making sure that we have sufficient resources, and that will come from either raising the cap and/or finding other ways to get more money into it. I will not cut benefits. I want to enhance benefits for low-income workers and for women who have been disadvantaged by the current Social Security system . ..

Trump called Hillary Clinton a 'nasty woman' because her ideas on how to handle social security did not align with his own ideas and included a side eye to his non-disclosed taxes. Which he still has not disclosed, but that's another rant. Now, many of us women may have taken that phrase back and have turned it into something positive. We also use it to make sure no one ever forgets the misogyny of this president. So...for the people who just don't understand, let me put it as simply as possible: a man calling a woman 'nasty' or 'bitch' or 'bossy lesbian' simply because she has said something he disagrees with is misogynistic. 

Equality is more than just about a paycheck. It is about respect and an acknowledgement to an equal contribution to our communities, our society and to great innovative ideas that make our communities and society a better place. We all want equality regardless of gender, race, religion and or sexuality. The positive and negative impacts we make are a choice.

Choose to be better. 


Cindy Maddera

Thursday night, I got a call from Nancy at Sunshine Studio asking me if I'd substitute teach her Saturday morning class. I said 'yes' without hesitation (partially because I say 'yes' to things easily) and then when I hung up the phone I thought "Holy Hell, Cindy. What are you thinking? You are corralling drunk mini golf teams on Saturday!" Then I snapped out of it. This is how I ended up wrangling yoga students in the morning and corralling drunk mini golf players in the afternoon. I don't know why my weekend suddenly became a western, but Yee Haw! I needed to teach some yoga. I need some practice before my workshop in April. 

Subbing for an established teacher is not easy. Yoga students get attached to their teachers. They love their teacher. My students loved me, even that one student who never looked pleased with any part of my classes. She gave me a gift when I left and told me how much she'd miss me. Any way, I recognize how difficult it can be for a student to walk into their class expecting to see the teacher they love and then finding a complete stranger standing there instead. The students at Sunshine were very kind and accepting and they tolerated my wacky instructions with smiles. At the end of class, one of the students approached me to tell me that I gave a cue to come into a pose in a way she had never heard before and because of that cue she was able to come into the pose pain free for the first time ever in all the years she has been practicing yoga. Then I hugged that woman tightly and burst into tears because I suddenly remembered why I used to teach. All the anxiety over teaching a class after so long of not teaching just vanished. I'm not saying that I am ready to start teaching three classes a day on top of my day job again, but this occasional teaching gig seems to be good for my soul.

From there, I met Michael for lunch and then we were off to our designated volunteer post for the AIDS Walk Open. We were in charge of the mini golf hole at the Ragazza, a tiny little Italian place in Westport. Their food is delicious and they also make their own limoncello. There were a few times that it got really crowded and rowdy in there, but I think our volunteer team did a good job of keeping things organized. Laura, the owner of Ragazza, was the most gracious host. She was often out from behind the bar to take pictures of teams that showed up in costumes. We had one young man who took off all his clothes and one point was directing traffic in the street. He then sat down at one of the outside tables to eat a meatball and when the event bus pulled up he hoped on with the cast iron skillet that the meatball was served in. I yelled at Laura that I just saw him get on the bus with one of her skillets and she was able to rescue it before the bus pulled away. 

This year's AIDS Walk Open was giant! The event raised over $25,000 for AIDS Walk KC. Josh, the man who coordinates this event, does an amazing job of rounding up sponsors, bars and volunteers. And let's talk about the bars and restaurants who sign up to do this every year. All of the places on the mini golf pub crawl tour have been wonderful. Yes, I know that this event is good business, but still. They have a mini golf green taking up some space in their place as well as crowds of silly teams that include the occasional strip-down drunk guy. I think I had more fun volunteering this year than I did participating, but I have a feeling that it wouldn't matter one way or the other. The AIDS Walk Open is just fun. The best part is that it is fun for a good cause. Day drinking for charity! 

Speaking of doing good things. It is never to early or to late to donate to my AIDS Walk Fundraising page! Every dollar makes a difference.


Cindy Maddera

I felt it when it happened. As I drew the seat belt down to buckle in, I felt the shoulder strap catch on my earring and rip it from my ear. Maybe 'rip' is too dramatic of a description. 'Rip' implies pain and blood and it didn't really hurt. It was more of a sickening shocking dreadful feeling. The strap pulled my earring free from my ear. I reached up and retrieved the backing of the earring still stuck to the backside of my earlobe. Moving very slowly and carefully, I reached over and dropped the backing into the open pocket on my purse. Then I sat there for a minute wondering what to do next. I hadn't heard the sound of my earring hitting anything, so maybe it had dropped into my coat or shirt. I got out of the car to check around the floor board and seat just in case, but I immediately regretted that action because if the earring was in my coat, it could have fallen out when I got of the car. 

I got back in the car and headed home. All along the drive home, I fretted over that earring. I hadn't just might have lost a simple silver elephant earring. I might have lost the silver elephant earring. These earrings were the first earrings I had spent real money on. They had been handmade by an artist that doesn't offer them any more. The elephants have tiny diamonds for eyes. They are my grown up fancy version of the pair I used to wear as a child. They are the kind of earrings I will leave to a niece or a stepchild in my will. Those earrings were my gift to myself on my birthday the year after Chris died, the year after the birthday of really bad news. These were my thoughts as I drove the four miles home from work. I had no idea how I was going to replace them and I was preparing myself for the loss. 

My mother had a pair of jade earrings once. I don't remember her ever wearing them, I just know of them because they are earrings that were lost to her. My sister had 'borrowed' them and had worn them while swimming at the lake. By the end of the day, she only had one earring. I heard my mother lament the loss of those earrings many times. This story is filed in a file in my brain labeled This is Why You Can't Have Nice Things. This file includes light blue furniture and why I still haven't replaced the living room rug that is as old as I am. I can't have nice things because they will get lost or ruined. This file is also filled with sound bites from ugly voices telling me how stupid I was to spend that kind of money on a pair of earrings and that I do not deserve such extravagant (by my standards) treats. That voice tells me I am so irresponsible. That voice reminds me that my fancy birthday present to myself didn't change anything. They didn't bring Chris back or erase the memory of awfulness.

 I recognize that the This is Why You Can't Have Nice Things file needs to be pulled and shredded.   

When I got home, I carefully made my way to my bedroom. As I pulled my coat free from my arm, I heard the thud sound of something small and hard hitting the bedroom rug. I bent down and retrieved my earring from the floor. Then, after also replacing the backing on that earring, I set it on my dresser to be worn another day. 


Cindy Maddera

Wednesday morning, I got to my desk and then plopped down onto a cushion for fifteen minutes of meditation. It is a habit I had tried to form last year, but with all the traveling and office move the habit didn't stick. I set it aside and didn't think about it, but Wednesday I looked at my desk and said "I am going to meditate before starting anything." I didn't do it because it was the first day of Lent. I didn't do it as part of anything other than I just wanted to do it. I repeated the act on Thursday, which was probably the worst meditation practice I have ever practiced, but I sat there for fifteen minutes trying really hard. I repeated the practice on Friday morning with a slightly better meditation moment than Thursday's. I do not know if this is the beginning of a good habit or just a momentary thing. I have started and stopped a routinely meditation practice so many times before. Stuff bubbles up when you are still and quiet and I don't really like dealing with that stuff that makes me feel human emotions. Maybe it is time to feel human emotions. I am thankful for the meditation this week as well as the time well spent on my yoga mat. 

There was a meeting this week for people volunteering with the AIDS Walk Open. One woman there is a woman I have worked with in the Memorial Booth every year. She said hello to me and then asked me if I thought about doing photography professionally. She said she loved looking at my pictures and reading the blog. She is not the first person this week to say something kind to me about the photos that I take. I am thankful for those compliments and encouragement because they come to me at a time when I am struggling to get the camera out to take a picture. I am uninspired by my current view. I have a sticky note on my desk that reads "Shoot with a mindful eye." I scribbled those words down a while back when I was watching a photography class on shooting in black and white. I feel like my mindful eye is broken or tired. I see things. I'm just not sure those things are worthy of shooting. So, not only is it surprising to hear praise about my work, it is also encouraging. 

This is a busy weekend. I will be subbing the Saturday morning yoga class at Sunshine Yoga tomorrow morning from 9:00-10:30 AM. I feel like I'm slowly being dragged (kicking and screaming) out of this teaching hiatus I've been in over the last five years. I am equal parts thankful and nervous. Saturday afternoon, Michael and I will be volunteering for the AIDS Walk Open where we will be Hole Patrol over the mini golf hole at the Ragazza. The AIDS Walk Open is a big fundraising event for the AIDS Walk. We are both prepared to sell as many mulligans and raffle tickets for the cause as we can. I am really excited about volunteering at this event this year. I can't wait to see the teams that come through and judge their costumes. (I'm still mad we didn't win the best costume award for last year. We were robbed!) They are predicting to have about 130 teams this year. That's a lot of money raised for the AIDS Walk Foundation. This is something to easily be thankful for. Don't forget! You can always make a donation to my AIDS Walk Fundraising page!

There's a lot to be thankful for on this Friday. I hope your weekend is filled with joy and that you have a truly Thankful Friday. 


Cindy Maddera

It is March! This means that I have exactly two months to raise some donations for the AIDS Walk Kansas City. Every year I end up doing a series of posts about why I walk. Since I've been on a mission to make science and the scientific process easier to understand, I thought I'd start out this year's fundraising post with some basic information on HIV. So often we are hit with statistics regarding the number of new cases or the number of deaths associated with this virus and yes, the numbers are scary and at times shocking, but they don't really tell us the why. I've always been a person to ask for the why of something. The statistics tend to distance us from how the disease works and the havoc it wrecks on the human body. Having knowledge of what HIV/AIDS physically looks like gives the disease a more personal face.  

HIV is a virus that attacks the CD4 cells (also referred to as T cells) in our bodies. CD4 cells are crucial in helping our bodies fight off infections. HIV targets these cells and then uses them to create more HIV. It basically turns your CD4 cells into teeny tiny HIV factories. The CD4 cell stops doing what it is supposed to do because it is now tied up in making long chains of HIV proteins, leaving your body susceptible to any and all kinds of outside infections. is a good resource for information on how the HIV virus works. 

We now have various antiviral drugs that attack HIV at different stages in its life cycle. This is why someone diagnosed with HIV is given a combination of these medicines. There is a drug to keep the virus from attaching to the CD4 cell. This keeps new viruses from spreading. Then there are drugs that inhibit or block certain actions of the virus once it attaches to the CD4 cell. These drugs lower the amount of new viruses being made. If you look at the HIV Life Cycle picture, you will see a tiny stop sign in five of the seven stages. Each one of those stop signs represents a class of drugs that inhibit or stop that stage of the life cycle. That one class of drug could have ten different forms, each causing various side effects or general effectiveness.

A HIV patient can be taking at least five different antiviral drugs a day with some of those costing thousands of dollars a month. The proteinase inhibitors run around $1500 for sixty capsules. Treatment is expensive. Living a healthy long life with HIV is expensive. Luckily, there are programs that help reduce the out of pocket costs for these patients. Those programs get funding from AIDS Walk related charity events. Every dollar I raise for AIDS Walk Kansas City stays in Kansas City to help pay for treatment, testing and education. This is my way of helping my community. Healthy people make for a healthy, happier community. 

Of course, my ultimate wish would be that we would stop seeing new cases of HIV every year. Did you know that that 22% of new reported HIV cases in the US were in people aged 15 to 23? I have friends I went to high school with who now have children in this age group, but this is a side rant. We should not being seeing any new cases period because we know how to prevent this disease. That being said, the least we can do for those people with HIV and the families of those infected is help with the financial burden of the disease. I mean, imagine if you had to pay full out of pocket costs for these drugs in order to keep your child alive and healthy. This is one of the many reasons why I walk. 

Please feel free to make a donation to my AIDS Walk Charity page. Thank you!


Cindy Maddera

Remember those days when I used to celebrate Fat Tuesday and make Everything Jambalaya and sometimes even beignets?  Okay, I only made beignets that one time. It was the first and last time I used a Fry Daddy and I was so disgusted (and overwhelmed) with the leftover grease that I threw the whole thing away and I've not deep fried anything since. But we always had Abita beer and that's the second most important thing of Fat Tuesday. Then, because of Tiffany, we'd all give up something for Lent. I tried to keep up with that Fat Tuesday tradition, but it isn't really a thing up here. I think it has something to do with being more north and also our distance from the Mighty Mississippi. 

So instead of Everything Jambalaya, tonight we will be having soyrizo tacos with mushrooms and black beans, which is what we have every Tuesday. Though, I think pancakes are the thing up here. They replace the "Fat" with "Shrove" and eat pancakes because making pancakes uses up all the things in the kitchen that are considered to be rich foods. This way, you use up all your butter, sugar, milk and eggs (if you don't have chickens) before you start your forty day fast. I like how Wikipedia describes fasting for Shrove Tuesday as "refraining from food that would give pleasure." I should give up cheese for Lent. We will not be eating pancakes because Michael hates pancakes (I know, how can you hate pancakes?). Sometimes traditions change and morph. We cooked crawfish on Saturday and I drank a couple of Abitas at work on Friday. A conversation with Talaura yesterday made me feel at peace. Absolved isn't really the word to use so I'm going to replace it with peace. Tomorrow morning, I'll smear some dirt from the garden on my forehead. 

I think it is funny that Lent, for many people, has gone from eating bland foods or eating just for the basic sustenance of the body to giving up something that brings them joy like chocolate or soda or cookies. We give up things we have formed habits with. We commit to forty days of something like writing or yoga or meditation or jogging. I am guilty of committing to something like forty days of yoga (never jogging). I am also guilty of giving up things that do not serve me like self doubt and worry. There is nothing wrong with being guilty of any of those things. The whole point of Lent is taking time to be mindful and reflective and if committing to something or giving up chocolate helps you do that, then so be it. Personally, I am leaning towards forty days of Buddha bowls and simple meals of lentils and greens. 

I spend a lot of time on making a weekly meal plan that is not only nutritious but one that will not lead to Michael pulling a face of disgust. The meal plan is more than a plan devised to appease my OCD tendencies. It keeps us on a budget, which is really important right now if we want to pay for the camper and be able to use it. I could free up time for reflection by just making the weekly meal plan out to be beans and rice every day for forty days. I'm sure Michael would love that or I could just spend the next forty days only being responsible for my meals and let Michael fend for himself. This is also something I doubt he'd be all that pleased with. I guess the bottom line is that I am probably giving up nothing for Lent. I am probably not even really committing to anything. Instead, I am just going to try harder to be more mindful and reflective every day. 

Like I said. Traditions change and morph. 


Cindy Maddera

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about that last year with Chris. At times the memories of it comes to me in a rush, a big swirl of moving stress and clap happy happiness. There were times I was so happy it physically hurt. We were so happy. This is what I tell myself. I say that we were stupid happy, the happiest we'd been in ages. And for a while now, I believed this. I believed that Chris was just as happy as I was. I believed we were happy. Lately though, as I look back on fading memories, I think that maybe that wasn't true. I don't think Chris was stupid happy with that last year. 

How awful and hard typing that sentence is, but there you have it. Oh, I'm sure he was happy enough, at least up until maybe October. He was happy that I was happy. He was the type of person that received more joy from participating in acts that provided happiness and joy and seeing the resulting smiles than the other way around. Making Chris laugh, really really laugh more than a chuckle, was not easy but when you did, it was the best magic. Chris felt joy in seeing my elation with the new changes in our life, but mostly I feel like he was just humoring me. He was just going along with my choices. We stayed in Oklahoma as long as we did because of my job. We left Oklahoma because of my job. Our decisions seem more like my decisions. I see it more clearly now.

I can imagine his days here beginning to wear on him, the loneliness in his days at home with out a job while I left the house every day to go to a job I enjoyed. It was probably worse late at night when he'd normally be meeting Tracy for coffee and now was left with his own devices. I took him away from his framily. For a while, I was enough but I could see as the year progressed that he needed more. That on top of the beginning of the symptoms that would kill him was a sadness of isolation. If I think really hard about that time, I see it. I see the consequences of my selfishness or my self centeredness and I hate myself for it. I used to be all "no regrets!" but now I see I have one really big regret and it is way too late to say "I'm sorry. No excuses. I am sorry." 

I so desperately wanted to ignore the small details. Except now, I have had enough time to dwell on the big things that all that is left are the small details. It is like I've spent the last five years taking a shirt apart seam by seam. I've made it to the pockets, buttons and cuffs. At some point I am either going to have to send the pieces of this shirt to recycling or put it back together. I am bound to put it back together with crooked seams and with the right sleeve on the left. When I am done getting it all back together, I'll look at it, with crooked seams and all, and declare it to be beautiful. 

Even if it is a lie.


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!


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. 



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 "'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.


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!


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 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."