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Cindy Maddera


Day four of the album challenge coincided with the passing of Doris Day at the age of 97. I was bound to pick something by Doris Day and Calamity Jane trumped the soundtrack to Please Don’t Eat the Daisies. It was a close call. I went with Calamity Jane because it has one of my favorite actresses playing one of my favorite Historical women in a musical. It’s a trifecta of greatness.

In the summer, you're the winter, In the finger, you're the splinter. In the banquet, you're the stew, Say, I c'n do without you!

I mean, seriously.

My mom was the person to introduce me to the wonderful world of musicals. I don’t know if it was PBS or some other random channel, but Saturday and Sunday afternoons they would play old movies and musicals and I would soak them up. It was not uncommon to hear Mom belt out some random line from a musical or have the dial set in her car radio to the station that played classics. I had a very diverse musical education. This is one of the reasons why you can flip to just about any station and I will be able to sing along to the song. It’s a weird trick. Stephanie, my best friend from high school, said once that I was basically a radio.

I didn’t have access to cable channels until college, unless I was at my brothers. At his house, it was MTV all the time. Once I had my own TV with cable, I flipped between Turner Classics and AMC. Sometimes one channel would do movies with one certain actor all day. There’d be Carrie Grant day or Rock Hudson or Betty Davis movies playing all freaking day. It was awesome. My favorite days were when they played Doris Day movies all day long. I would watch them all from Lullaby of Broadway to April in Paris to The Man Who Knew Too Much to Please Don’t Eat The Daisies. She was simply lovely. She was pretty, but attainable. Serious, yet funny. Doris Day was just a joy to see on screen. I wanted to sing like Doris Day. I wanted to be as charming and graceful as Doris Day. Then you have Doris Day as Calamity Jane. I know the musical is not a true representation of history. It is historical fiction. Calamity Jane doesn’t fit the gender norms of that time. She dresses like a man, drinks and swears like a man. She shoots a gun better than most men. Calamity Jane is a feminist! She’s a woman living her life on her terms. At the same time, she just wants want we all want. She wants to be desired. She wants to be loved. She wants to be loved and desired for who she is. We’re all a little bit Calamity Jane.

To say that Doris Day will be missed is incorrect. The truth is, Mrs. Day has been out of the public eye for quite some time, well before her passing. We’ve been missing Doris Day for a while. Hearing the news of her passing at age 97 just makes me marvel at a life well-lived. She lived her life on her terms. Just like Calamity Jane.


Cindy Maddera

I’m taking a break from explaining my album choices to talk or think about gratitude. Every week I sit down and write these entries and sometimes it feels like I am on autopilot. I am just going through the motions and churning out words in hopes that it reflects something about being grateful. The practice of gratitude becomes stale. Just like any practice. There are times when I step on my yoga mat because getting on the mat is part of the practice, but once I’m there, I am not always inspired to do anything. That’s why going to yoga classes and reading up on the latest Yoga Journal news is important. It helps me breathe new life into my practice when it feels like it’s gotten stagnant.

What classes do I attend or magazines do I flip through to breathe new life into a gratitude practice?

It is not in the daily news.

My nightly prayers as a child tended to be a long rolling list of all the people and things I was thankful for that day.

Dear God,

Thank you for my mom and dad and our dogs Bitsy and Bulldozer. Thank you for Janel. Thank you for not letting the goldfish die today. Thank you for my teacher, Mrs… and thank you for my best friend Jamie. Thank you for the chocolate chip cookies.


I remember the lessons taught in Sunday school about asking God for things, so I made a very strong conscious effort to not ask God for anything. Now that I think about it, not asking God for anything came pretty easy. I am and have always been stubborn and unwilling to ask for help. I do not say nightly prayers anymore for reasons I have discussed before, but sometimes reflecting on the simple is a good way to breathe new life into a stale practice. As opposed to the the deep meaning kind of gratitude that I often try to post about here.

This week, a very easy simple thing that I can be grateful for is the sunshine. We have had a whole week of bright blue skies and warmer temperatures. Every day has been a scooter day. Every morning, I have taken a short walk outside before going in for my cup of coffee. I am thankful for this weather that is thawing my soul and bringing joy to my heart. I am thankful for my Mom, my brother and sister-in-law, and my family. I am thankful for Michael and my group of chosen family. I am thankful for Josephine and I am even thankful for that darn cat, Albus. I am thankful for the bounty of eggs from the chickens and the calming presence they bring to our backyard.

I am thankful for fresh strawberries with whipped cream.


Cindy Maddera


I was almost twenty years old when I finally lost my virginity. ‘Lost’ is a funny way to phrase that. Gave away, willingly let go of, out grew, donated. Let’s go with willingly and enthusiastically let go of my virginity. Letting go of my virginity in the back of a car with some high school boy just wasn’t an option for me. I was not desirable to high school boys. Mom brought some of my senior year pictures on her last visit. Michael was looking through them and said “Oh…you’d have been in trouble if we’d gone to the same school. I’d be all over this.” I just quietly nodded my head, but what I wanted to say was “not true.” I knew guys like him in high school and they’d be interested for about two minutes until I opened my mouth and said something truthful and honest. So while all my high school girlfriends were having sex or had had sex, I was reading books about sex.

And promoting condom use.

Then in college, I met Chris. Five years older and experienced. He’d lived a life before committing to college. And he was not enthused about being my first sexual partner. Virgins are work. There’s all these preconceived notions of what that first time will be like. Will it hurt? Will I get pregnant? Should it be super special with roses and candles and a fancy hotel room? Chris was unwilling to cause me any pain. So I willingly gave away my virginity in stages until one day, it just happened. In every one of those stages, Sting’s Fields of Gold was playing in the background. I hear any song from that album and I’m immediately transported to Chris’s dorm room. We’re laying on his twin bed, made up with his original Star Wars sheets The room is dark with just the tiniest amount of light peeking in through the window blinds. Sometimes we’re talking. Sometimes we’re silent. Sometimes we’re even laughing. That album would be playing the first time we said “I love you” to each other.

I remember one evening around the fire pit at Misti’s old house. Losing virginity stories were going around the campfire. When I told my story everyone just sort of shook their heads and Misti said something like “well done, Chris.” I recognize that my first time was not a typical first time experience for most women. I recognize that the relationship I had in general with Chris was not typical. Fortunate. I have been fortunate.

I never made promises lightly and there have been some that I've broken
But I swear in the days still left we'll walk in fields of gold
We'll walk in fields of gold

For a while, not long enough, but for longer than I should hope for, we walked in fields of gold.


Cindy Maddera

Erica Mullin was probably one of my best friends when I was in elementary school. Her grandparents were close family friends. I suppose these people were my parents’ version of framily. Rena and Don helped take care of me when I was a super tiny baby. Don worked for Meadow Gold Dairy and brought us milk and ice cream all the time. My Mom likes to tell a story about when she was in the hospital, recovering after my traumatic entry to this world. She received a huge, beautiful bouquet of flowers. All of the nurses oohed and awed. When my mom read the card she laughed and said “it’s from my milk man.” Which every one thought was funny. Rena and Don were like surrogate grandparents. Erica, their granddaughter, was the closest thing to a cousin that I had nearby.

For a while, Rena and Don’s daughter and granddaughter lived in a house on the hill just above Rena and Don. Erica practically lived at our house because my mom would end up taking care of all of us during the day while Erica’s mom was at work. We went every where together. Roller skating, movies, bike rides. Erica had the best toys. She had the Darth Vader case holding all of the Star Wars figures and Hungry Hippo. We traded plastic charms and played dress up with Katrina’s old disco clothes. Our families camped together on what seemed like every weekend. We would take over the RV section of Walnut Grove campground on Keystone Lake with potluck meals and hikes down to the lake to swim. We would spend forever watching a giant ant colony near the playground and hours swinging as high as we possibly could go on the playground swings. That playground had a great big metal swing set. I can still hear Rena warning me that I’d gone high enough and to take it down a notch.

Sometimes we’d all ride to the lake in Erica’s mom’s car. Me, Erica, and Janel, all crammed into the front seat of her mom’s El Camino. At least, I think it was an El Camino. Was there another model of car that looked like an El Camino? I don’t know, but we’d pack ourselves into that car with the windows rolled down because the air conditioning didn’t work and the radio blaring. The air conditioning may have been on the fritz, but the eight track worked just fine. I remember flying down back country roads with the wind blowing our hair all around and all of us singing at the top of our lungs to Neil Diamond’s Coming to America. We were practically glued together from heat and sweat. I can still feel Janel’s prickly leg hairs scratching the side of my right leg. I’ve memorized the motion of pulling hair free from my face as the wind forever twisted my long hair across my cheeks and eyes and mouth. “TODAY!” we’d all shout together.

Erica and her mom moved to Tulsa while I was still in elementary school. Tulsa wasn’t really that far away but the distance and her being a year older changed us from best friends to acquaintances. We drifted apart. Don retired from Meadow Gold and he and Rena upgraded their camper. They spent the rest of his life traveling south during the winter and when Rena settled down in Oklahoma City after Don passed away, the distance changed her relationship with my mom. They sort of drifted apart as well. Any time I hear Neil Diamond singing though, I remember that space in our time line when we were all together, before the great drift.


Cindy Maddera

Somewhere around my sophomore/ junior year in high school, I discovered the band The Cure. They released the album in 1989, but it would take two years for any of it to reach my ears. That was the way of small towns. We were always behind. Movies hit the one-screen theater on Main street about a year after release. The latest fashion and trends hit us two or three years later than they did in big city areas. Music was no different. It didn’t help that I lived in a radio void. None of the local stations played the music I wanted to listen too. Late on Saturday nights, if the skies were clear and the wind was blowing at just the right speeds, I could pick up an hour or two of a college station that would play indie/alternative music. In those brief two hours, I learned about punk bands like the Police and the Ramones. I learned about another famous Elvis and the Flaming Lips. The Talking Heads and the Pixies and Echo and Bunnymen were frequently played and I soaked it all up.

A friend introduced me to the Cure. She handed me Disintegration and I took it home and copied it. God, remember coping tapes and CDs? Or recording radio stations? I did all of those things. I played that album over and over and over. I listened to that album so much that I was able to mimic a British accent. That new trick got me an important role in a short play we were doing that year. If you were to ask me now why on earth this was the only album I listened too for months and months, I could not really tell you why. Something about that music just hit a target with my teenage soul. The music alone just felt big to me, meaningful, important. It was that time in my life when I was young and ridiculous and believed I could be just like Molly Ringwald in any John Hughes movie. I wanted to be cool and wise and different, but I wanted to be just like everyone else too. If I’m honest? I still want all of those things. Pictures of You can still feel like tiny needles poking my heart, more so now then in my youth. Funny how the songs we love morph in meaning as we age.

Steven tagged me in a Facebook game to post a top ten album for ten days. When I posted my choice for Day 1, my friend Sarah commented on how she wished these games came with an explanation. Why this album, Cindy? This game isn’t easy for me. I don’t listen to music this way, albums at a time. Usually I listen to an artist, not a particular album. My current addictions are Lizzo, Yola, and Neko Case because we just saw her in concert and it was the best show I’ve seen in ages. I can’t get enough of her music right now. Andrew Bird has been playing frequently in my playlist, along with Father John Misty and Arcade Fire. The National. The soundtrack to Hamilton because I’m resigned to the fact that I will probably never get a chance to see this musical. Morrissey. Courtney Barnett. The First Aid Kit. My music is all over the place. My musical taste is undefinable. So when asked to pick my top ten albums, I struggle. I started choosing albums for their nostalgic value. Specific memories are tied to these albums and this album triggers memories of me driving along back roads to get to this or that. It reminds me of those times I felt lonely and isolated.

It was the album of my teenage angst.


Cindy Maddera

Our scale is broken. I stepped on it Thursday morning and got blank results. I weigh nothing. I haven’t stepped on a scale in some time, but thought it would be a good idea to not be surprised by the scale at the doctor’s office when I go in for my yearly next week. So when the scale reads way more than nothing at the doctor’s office, I will act outraged and insist that their scale needs recalibrating. I like this current feeling of weighing nothing. Truth be told, I’ve been feeling pretty okay in this body. I eat healthy. I exercise daily. I spend about an hour every day on my yoga mat. I drink lots of water. And I’ve been listening to a whole lot of Lizzo.

I am completely and totally inspired by this woman and she is just one on my list of woman to look up too. ‘Look up too’ seems like an odd way to phrase it considering that most of these women on my list are a number of years younger than I am. They all have a similar message of self love and beauty at all sizes. I listen to their message and wonder what kind of woman I’d be today if these women had been there when I was a teen. I grew up looking at the impossible standards for girls on the cover of Seventeen and the chunky girl was always the sidekick for the main actress in the sitcoms. Health did not matter. Feeling fit and healthy was not up for discussion. There was an expectation of perfection without completely relying on a food disorder to achieve that perfection. Really, it was best if you were just born that way. If you could not be born thin and perfect then you would be placed in a lesser human category. Now we’re starting to see all shapes, sizes and colors for our clothing ads and magazine covers and leading ladies. There are discussions on exercise and eating whole and real foods. Diets are a thing of the past. Now we have lifestyle changes with an emphasis on healthy. And all I can do is sit back and think about how fucking empowering it’s got to be for a young girl to see and hear these messages.

But it is not too late for me to embrace this message, to feel empowered by these images and words of self love. I am learning the lesson of standing in front of the mirror and telling that person I see that she is beautiful. She is sexy. She is strong. She makes her own standards and blows them completely away. She is no sidekick. She’s the leading lady, the boss, the leader, the head hancho. I’m still getting used to the idea of telling that person in the mirror that we are the same. She is me.

But I’m getting there.


Cindy Maddera

My friend Michelle, who is also childless, asked me what it was like to be a step-mom. She posed this question after I’d eaten a quarter of the most potent marijuana laced cookie. That one cookie ruined four adults. I was trying to keep up with our game of Exploding Kittens while trying to focus on the words Michelle was saying to me. I don’t know what I said but I have a sinking suspicion that I told her the truth about my role as a step-mom. I’m not so certain that my truth about my role is all that flattering or positive and I feel a little embarrassed for what may or may not have fallen out of my mouth that evening.

I think there is some illusion that I am doing any actual parenting now that there is a child in my life. I’m sure that this might be true for other step-parents, that they take an active role in parenting, but that is not how it works in this relationship. The term ‘step-mom’ is purely a descriptive term that the Cabbage uses to explain who this woman is that her dad lives with. I do not discipline. I do not shop for. I do not attend PTA meetings. I do not stay home for sick days. I do not make her lunches. She comes over, plays with her toys or watches YouTube and sometimes we all go to Science City or something. I might suggest a book or a piece of fruit but only rarely because 99% of all of my suggestions are met with disdain and skepticism. I am the person to whom the Cabbage asks “where’s my dad?” when she walks out of her room wanting something. Occasionally she will ask me for something, but then she always waits to ask her dad the same question because she never likes the answer I give her. Her dad most of the time will give her the opposite answer to what I gave her. So, yeah, she’s eating candy at 9 PM.

And I don’t care.

When Michael told me that he had a three year old daughter on our first date, I didn’t think “Oh sweet! I finally get a chance to ‘play mommy’!” What I did do was nod my head and say “that’s nice.” without any thought about what that would mean for me or us as a couple. I did not enter the relationship with any idea of being a pretend weekend parent or finally getting a chance at motherhood even if that was a part time opportunity. Outside forces might want to contradict me here and push for that parental connection, but it just does not exist. At least not in this relationship. I know many a blended family where all four parents actually do the parenting. I’m just saying that it does not apply here. Maybe because I never had any delusions of motherhood. In fact, I am almost resentful when I am given a knowing look that comes with a nod followed up with words that refer to some inferred motherly instinct on my part. Particularly when I have just done something that any adult would do for a small child. Like grab that thing down from a tall shelf or open that packet of crackers. I’m never opening packages for others because I can barely open them for myself, but you get the idea.

This Mother’s Day, I will send out cards to the women in my life who raised me. They did actual parenting and chose to be mothers. I am awed by any woman that chooses to be a mother, but I’m impressed by any woman who chooses not to be a mother. Mostly because society just doesn’t understand this choice. We’ve been programmed to think that having babies is the thing we’re supposed to do and stepping away from that programming can be isolating and cruel. Those who are fully devoted to the programming may think that I will regret not having children or experiencing parenthood. Maybe I will; I don’t know. I know that I don’t have any regrets right now. I also know that if I do have regrets later on, that it’s nobody’s problem but my own.

You do you.


Cindy Maddera

Nine hundred and ninety eight miles. That’s the number of miles to get from Kansas City, MO to Oklahoma City, OK and then to Weatherford, OK and then to Duncan, OK and then to Norman, OK and then back to Kansas City, MO. And it was miles worth traveled. So much of my drive took me down two-lane highways with little signs of civilization for miles and miles. There was very little traffic and often, it seemed like it was just me, the prairie and the cows. If I felt like pulling off the road to take a picture, I just did it. I didn’t let myself worry about the delay it might cause and since I was all alone, I didn’t think about inconveniencing the driver with my request to stop. When I wasn’t stopping to take pictures of the vast landscape of nothing, I was building stories in my head. At one point I even thought up my own stand-up comedy act.

I met Stephanie for breakfast one morning and got all caught up on her life. I got to squeeze Robin’s new grand baby. I soaked in a hot tub. I ate hipster street tacos with Traci, Chris and Quinn (who is more obnoxious now than ever) and we laughed and laughed. I attended a college graduation at a small rural Oklahoma College where I listened to a speech that both surprised me and gave me hope. The young man spoke about his white male privilege and how he intends to use that privilege for social justice. He told his fellow graduates that it was not enough to have conversations on race, but to be active in the fight against racism. No one booed him off the stage, but applauded and cheered and I thought “maybe we’re going to be okay.” Maybe. I sat on the couch in Amy’s library office while she spilled her guts on the last few months of her crazy busy stressful life. I drank too much wine while sitting on Misti’s porch talking about ways to help college graduates prepare for all the possibilities available to them after undergrad. I told Mark something that I have not told anyone. He’s the only person right now who can hold me accountable.

As I made the long drive home on Sunday, I caught the tale end of the TED Radio Hour on NPR. Dr. Robert Waldinger was talking about what makes a meaningful life. Dr. Waldinger is the director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development. His team and his predecessors have been tracking the health and lives of 724 men for 75 years. Actually the study has now moved on to the children of these men. It is the longest running study of its kind. One thing that has been made very clear from this study is the answer to the question of what makes a meaningful life and the answer is simple: “good relationships keep us happy and healthy.” Those relationships are not confined to marital relationships. Just having people in your life who you could count on in times of need, laugh with, cry with, is enough. These relationships keep us happy and healthy. It’s been proven by science that we need each other.

Yet, relationships for me can be difficult. I have always spent so much time alone, as a child, as a teen, in my adult life. I have to push myself to be in the presence of people, but I have never once regretted that push. Mostly because I feel like I’ve nurtured the best relationships with the best people. I am happier and healthier today for the weekend spent listening and laughing and commiserating and just being present in the company of all of them. Maybe Michael’s right about me and his prediction that I’m going to live to well past 100. Those good relationships will hopefully out weigh the bad genes and I’ll be the 90something old lady, doing yoga and zipping around town on a Vespa.


Cindy Maddera

 The open road calls, for a number of reasons, but in this case it’s for a graduation. I’m disappearing for a few days, so I thought I’d post something on gratitude a little earlier than usual. The other day I ended my yoga practice with a guided meditation. I had never used this feature of my meditation bells app before and I chose something based on the length of time I had. The title was “Practicing Gentle Kindness Toward Ourself” by Sarah Blondin. She starts off by telling us “I know the dark calls to you sometimes, that you turn your face from the light.” and with that first sentence, I knew I was going to hear somethings that would create great emotion within. 

“I know it hurts to live in the disconnect between what you are currently experiencing and what you wish you could be.” 

”I know you work so hard to control the outcome of your life, that you forget to breathe sometimes. That you live in the shallow end, t you forget to go deep, breathe deep.” 

”I know you live there in the tear between these two worlds, between the dark and the light, between trust and distrust, between love and hatred, between acceptance and resistance, between control and faith, between sun soaked mornings and dark forests.” 

I heard these words and thought “ does she know?!?”  Well, she knows because so many of us live in the space between. I might as well set up a hammock in that space, I spend so much time there. I am also struck by the balance required to live between worlds. I can accept my body as it is now, but I can still be resistant to it and want for improvement. I can be in complete control of my actions, but I still have to have a little faith that those actions will have good consequences. The thing I am constantly working on is not falling over into the side that is all dark. I don’t want to get stuck there. I don’t want to be trapped there. I fear that if I even allow myself to be present on that side for any amount of time, I will remain there forever in the dark. I have convinced myself that this would be catastrophic.

”You are human my dear one, my dearest love, you are human. You are allowed to be in both ways.” 

The truth is, I enjoy dark forests just as much as I do sun soaked mornings. I am grateful for the reminder that I am human. Flawed, imperfect, beautifully human. 


Cindy Maddera

I woke with a start in the early morning hours to the loud crackling booms of thunder and listened for the rain. I don’t know if I will ever get used to it, the way the thunder crackles, like breaking wooden bats. Thirty something years of hearing the thunder roll in over the prairies and pastures tuned my ears like tuning forks. It became a lullaby even though I knew that thunderstorms could change quickly into a tornado. There were no flashes of light to warn of this cracking thunder. That’s different too. Spring thunderstorms are usually accompanied with fantastical displays of electricity. Here, not so much. The lightening is subtle. I closed my eyes and drifted back to sleep only to jolt awake at the next crack of thunder. This is how I would spend the next few hours before sunrise, sleeping fitfully between breaking baseball bats.

Sometimes I get cravings. Not for food. Though I do think fondly about Indian tacos on occasion. It’s just a very rare moment when I think obsessively about a certain food and think “I HAVE TO HAVE some cheese!” I tend to crave moments and landscapes. I want to be in other places, fully immersed. It could be standing on a thick bed of pine needles in the middle of a forest, surrounded by pine trees so tall that it makes me dizzy to look up. Sometimes I think that if I don’t feel sand squishing between my toes and the crisp damp wind hitting me from the ocean that I will shrivel up and disappear into nothing. Sometimes I am surprised how much I crave open rolling fields with tall prairie grass bent from the wind. I think about all of those times I carved out a shelter in the tall grass and would spend the day huddled there sitting on an old quilt. I would have a stack of books, a jar of water and a kite that I would get going so high up in the sky, I was almost certain it was in danger of colliding with an airplane.

I never expected to crave the landscape of the places where I grew up, where I lived for thirty five years. The monotony of prairie and urban sprawl and trees that lean to the east sounds like something I have seen enough of. Except, there is something to that not quite flat land that sort of slows the beating of my heart. I feel my thoughts roll out and float away on the winds. Traveling down the highway, there will be nothing but the land stretched out for miles and for a moment you can pretend to be the only person on the planet. I crave these moments of isolation and solitude provided by the vastness of this landscape. Right now, I’m craving warmth and sunshine. Dry cracked red dirt. Bare feet on a warm back patio. Tracing lines of condensation running down a cold beer bottle. A thunderstorm I can see coming from miles away.

Right now, I am craving a road trip.


Cindy Maddera

Not too long ago, I came across a musician that I thought Michael would really like, so I sent him a link to her music. It’s Margo Price if you’re interested. She sounds like a young Loretta Lynn. Any way, I sent him a song or two and Michael was happy. Later, he asked me how I found out about Margo Price. I told him that sometimes, I just scroll through the new release section in Amazon Music and randomly pick a new album to listen to. Michael was shocked and exclaimed “That’s so brave!” I gave him a side eye and completely disagreed. “What if you don’t like it?” he argued. I shrugged and said “then I turn it off.” I think we have different definitions for ‘brave’.’

I recently watched Brene Brown’s Netflix special on bravery and vulnerability. There have been so many times in my life where I have been brave without ever even considering my vulnerability. I’ve thought nothing of the failure or the criticism to follow. I’ve just leaped right out of trees without considering broken bones. I will move quietly and slowely as close as I can to the buffalo for a picture without considering for a minute that I cannot out run him (get in the car, Cindy). I know that you can’t be brave without being vulnerable. I just, so often, ignored that part or avoided acts of bravery that required too much vulnerability.

My True Acts of Bravery

  • Graduate school

  • Getting back on my yoga mat after Jay died

  • Becoming a yoga teacher

  • Applying for a job I didn’t think I was smart enough for

  • Moving

  • Entering the world after Chris died

  • Online dating

  • My relationship with Michael

  • Saying goodbye to Dad in my own way

  • Making an appointment to see a therapist

  • Any time I let someone see me ugly cry because I’ve been hit hard by a grief wave

I’m sure there are more moments I could add to that list, but the ones listed above are moments that I remember the vulnerable parts more than the act of bravery. They are moments where I’ve truly been terrified of the failure and the criticism. They are moments where I have questioned myself the most. Oh lordy, have there been failures but so many lessons learned. After watching the Brene Brown special, I started thinking about how it’s been a while since I’ve done something truly brave, something that’s required me to lay myself open and exposed. Randomly choosing a new album from an artist I’ve never heard of does not count as something that requires any of those things.

Maybe it’s time to take another leap.


Cindy Maddera

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

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

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

Everything else is the distraction.


Cindy Maddera

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

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

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

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


Cindy Maddera

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

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

And I am still incredibly worried about Josephine.

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

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

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


Cindy Maddera

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

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

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

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

I’d make a terrible undercover agent.


Cindy Maddera

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

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

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

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

I’m happy here.

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


Cindy Maddera

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

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

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

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

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

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


Cindy Maddera

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

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

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

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

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

Both choices are yoga.


Cindy Maddera

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

I know. The word ‘meow’ says a lot.

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

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

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

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


Cindy Maddera

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

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

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

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