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THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Tuesday morning, I realized that I couldn’t handle another night without heat. So I sent a text to Terry asking if he would take Josephine so that I could deal with laundry and Michael and I could go stay at work. He agreed to meet me around lunch time at my house to get Josephine. Terry walked into our house and said “Here’s what’s going to happen. I’m going to take Josephine. I’m going to take your laundry. Then you and Michael are going to come to my house. I will have dinner ready for you. I’ve put clean sheets on my bed and you and Michael can take my bed for the night.” And that’s why Terry’s a GD hero.

After work and my appointment with Dr. Mary, I stopped by the house to gather necessary toiletries. I pulled onto our street and all the street lights were on. Our power had been restored! I drove over to Terry’s who greeted me with clean clothes and large class of wine. He made spaghetti and brownies and we sat at his table talking about all of the things. It was just the two of us and the dogs. Xander was plugged into his video game on the couch. Clint was plugged into his video game upstairs. It was warm and homey and simply lovely. Then I went home with clean clothes and a played out Josephine and a to-go box of spaghetti. The lights were on in the house. The furnace was going. Michael had started picking up our refuge camp of a living room. There was a letter in the mail from Talaura containing the cutest enamel elephant pin. It was like the sprinkles on the end of that day.

I have such a hard time asking for help. It nearly killed me to send that text to Terry and all I wanted was for Josephine to go some place where she would be warm and not stuck in a crate. And I got so much more than that. Kelly said something in yoga class about how we need to dig in to make connections. I don’t dig in enough. At least I don’t think that I dig in enough to get such love and support. If anything this week has taught me how important those connections are and how important it is to maintain them, to dig in and to give as much as you get. I am thankful for the good people I have in my life. I am thankful for the connections I have made.

I am also thankful for electricity and warm houses.

JANUARY IS DUMB

Cindy Maddera

My birthstone is the garnet. Don’t get me wrong. The color red is nice and I know it’s some people’s favorite color. It is not my favorite color. If you look through my closet, you are mostly going to see gray, blue and purple colors. More blue than anything. Actually, my favorite color is that Tiffany’s blue or robin egg blue. The garnet is a deep red, almost maroon color that turns me off. If I haven’t been so impatient to enter this world, I would have an aquamarine birthstone. I would also share my birthday month with both siblings and my dad. Instead I decided to come out early during the coldest most miserable time of the year which has only gotten worse as I’ve aged and moved north.

Now that I think about it’s really been worse since the move north. It never dawned on me that the climate could be so different just three hundred and fifty miles north of Oklahoma City. It never dawned on me that so much would end being so different three hundred and fifty miles north of Oklahoma City.

The last birthday I celebrated in Oklahoma was my thirty fifth birthday. I had requested a strawberry cake and my mother had made a lovely fancy white cake with strawberries on it. What I had really wanted was a simple strawberry cake mix. Pink strawberry flavored cake. Misti asked Audra to bake me one, but Audra said that she couldn’t do it because strawberries were not in season. Audra said she made some other cake and I really didn’t care because I knew that whatever cake she made me, it would be wonderful. Misti, Amy, Chris and I gathered at Chris and Traci’s house with Audra’s cake. It had the cutest elephant made of icing sitting on top. I cut into the cake and when I pulled the knife out it was pink. Audra had made my strawberry cake. It was the kind of surprise that made me giggle with joy. That was also the same night I told all the people gathered in Chris and Traci’s house that I had received a invitation to interview for my job in Kansas City. Chris and I would move a month later. That was the last time we were whole.

I still can’t help but feel that I ruined everything.

Tuesday night, I sat in Dr. Mary’s office telling her about the power being out at our house since Saturday. I told her about how Michael and I have just been stubborn in our notions that the power was going to come back on any minute. “We’re fine.” This has been our answer to everything. I told her that really though, I’d reached my limit. I woke up Tuesday morning at 4 AM and the left side of my body ached because I hadn’t moved all night. I was weighted down with to many layers of clothes and blankets to move around. We were not fine. We were depressed. Then I mentioned the next winter storm that is headed our way. Sunday is supposed to be the coldest day in the history of KCMO. I told her that on January twentieth, 2012, the last of our doctors who had had any kind of hope for a treatment for Chris told us that there was no hope. I told her that every year since then, I’ve been dealing some sort of shit leading into my birthday. Death, sewage backups, snow storms, inauguration day for the worst president in history, power outages. I just want one year with out the shit.

I want strawberry cake.

OFF KILTER

Cindy Maddera

I had made it through the toll booth and almost to that McDonalds that straddles the interstate when I realized it. My hand went subconsciously to my collar bone and I could feel the missing pieces. I had left all of my jewelry at my mother’s house. My tiny elephant earrings that I had bought myself for my fortieth birthday, my metal J bracelet and my silver chain holding mine and Chris’s wedding rings. Of course it’s the wedding rings that I miss the most. This is what sent me into a panic as I sent a text to Mom. Then she called me and I frantically told her where to find them as I sat in the McDonalds parking lot next to the interstate, semi trucks blazing through so loudly that I couldn’t hear Mom on the other end of the line. I hung up the phone and then she sent me a text telling me that she had found them and they were packaged up for shipping. I should get them Wednesday.

I spent the rest of my long drive home, fretting over the rings and worrying about the state of things in Kansas City. Eleven inches of snow fell on the city while I was away. I was coming home to snow and possibly a house still without power. The power went out on Michael sometime Saturday afternoon. He’d heard the crack of several tree limbs falling as well as a loud boom as a transformer blew. He’d been alternating between staying wrapped up in blankets on the couch to sitting in his truck with the engine running, charging his phone and listening to the radio. I started seeing a light dusting of snow when I was about a hundred miles from Kansas City. That dusting just progressively got deeper and deeper the closer I got to the city. Occasionally there would be a car abandoned in the median, snow piled high on the roof. The roads were clear. That’s one thing this city knows how to do. Main roads are cleared pretty quickly around here. It’s the small neighborhood streets you have to worry about. We live on a snow route, so it’s never been a problem except when the snow plows push all the street snow in front of the driveway.

I pulled my car into the end of the driveway that Michael had managed to clear. Then I hauled my suitcase out of the car and started making my way up to the house, stepping into the footprints that Michael had already made. He was sitting in is truck and because his windshield was still covered in snow, he hadn’t seen me arrive. He looked up in surprise and then made his way out of the truck and around to greet me. I walked into a cold, dark house with a desperate Josephine jumping up and down. I set my bags down and then picked her up so she could lick my face and I could bury my face into her warm fur. Then I set her down and got to work. Michael needed help shoveling the rest of the drive so he could get his truck out in the morning. We had things we needed to do while we still had some daylight like make lunches (mostly salads) and I unpacked my bags and put things away. Somewhere during all of this I lost all feeling in my toes and we decided to find a restaurant where we could sit and linger over a hot meal with hot drinks. We lingered over dinner and talked with the couple in the booth next to us who were also without power before heading back to our cold dark house.

I slept warm enough, wearing two layers of everything and a dog tucked into one side and cat on the other. We are still playing the waiting game as are many people. There were three of us women in the gym locker room this morning all in the same boat. My supervisor was in Hawaii at a conference all last week and came home to thirty degrees and no power. We have all shared our power outage stories of past and present. There’s a certain down trodden look about all of us and I keep refreshing the outage map for the power company in hopes of any new developments. We say things like “maybe when we get home” or “at least by Tuesday”. We’ll see. Everything is slightly off. Laundry is in an in between state of things with some things still damp in the dryer and some things stopped in the middle of a wash. Meal plans have been tossed out the window for the week and we’re hoping the contents of our refrigerator stay cool enough. The chickens need food. The dog is not into going outside to use the bathroom. She does it, but she runs right back inside.

The thing is, this snow is probably the most beautiful snow fall I’ve ever seen. There have been so many times I wanted to pull over and take pictures on my drive home, but there were not safe places to pull off the highway. It is also brutally cold. But it looks like something made up by Hollywood outside. It is achingly beautiful.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

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For many people, this was the first full week back to work since before Christmas. On Wednesday, when my department went down to the cafeteria for tea, one colleague said “Man, working more than two days a week is a killer.” We all laughed and nodded our heads in agreement. I dived into the week as if I had not had any time off. Everything was back to routine with Tuesday night therapy, teaching Wednesday night, back to the elliptical and the stationary bike and back on a more consistent yoga practice. I will admit it’s been very much like jumping into a cold swimming pool.

When I was a kid, I’d be the first one into the pool and the last one out. As soon as there was just the tiniest glimpse of Spring, I would set in on my dad to get the swimming pool open. The swimming pool had a solar blanket that basically looked like a giant sheet of bubble wrap and was supposed to use the sun to heat the pool. It was not an efficient water heater, but my argument was that Dad could at least pull the winter cover off the pool and replace it with the solar blanket. The same could be said for the end of the season too. I would make Dad hold off winterizing the pool for as long as possible. I’m surprised he didn’t winterize the pool while I was still swimming around in it. My lips and fingertips would be blue, my teeth chattering, but I would insist that I was not cold. The shock of first entering the water always wore off and my body got used to the temperature. Also, my love of swimming and being in the water outweighed everything else.

I don’t do much swimming these days. Mostly because nine out ten times after visiting a public swimming pool, I come down with a sinus infection, stomach bug, a UTI or a skin rash from too much chlorine. I still love being in the water though and could spend hours splashing around in a lagoon. I am far from as tolerant of cold temperatures now that I am a grown up, but I feel like those childhood days was good training for my future. There have been several times when I’ve been shoved into the cold waters of life. I had a choice. I could drown or I could get out of the water. Even though sometimes the water was colder and almost more unbearable than other times, I stayed. I let myself get used to the water. I let myself get used to whatever the new normal ends up being.

I never eased into the pool. I always cannonballed my way into the water. I jumped in every time knowing full well that the temperature of the water was going to take my breath away.

We brave bee stings and all. We don’t dive, we cannonball. And we splash our eyes full of chemicals just so there’s none left for little girls.

We never know what lessons from our childhoods are going to prepare us for life.

AT LOOSE ENDS

Cindy Maddera

Michael asked me the other day how I felt about not doing a 365 day project any more. I told him that it feels a little bit strange. Every single day for the last year, I took a moment out of my day to photograph myself. During the week, those moments usually happened in the mornings while I was out on my morning coffee walk. My backdrop was either a stairwell or some place outside. On most days I did not have an elaborate plan or idea; I just took a picture. Sometimes these were pictures of my hands. Sometimes these were pictures of my feet. My favorite one of the set is the one I took of just my leg and boot against the gray background of the stairwell. One could assume that I was doing a karate kick or a dance step. It has a simple minimalist aesthetic quality that appeals to me for some reason.

Some time around late October, I got really tired of the daily self portrait. I had not gained any insight into myself or built creativity. My eyes still went to the places on my body that I felt needs improvement instead of just seeing myself as beautiful. I mean, it wasn’t a complete bust. There were photos where I’d look at myself and think “wow, I’ve gotten skinny!” or “I really like how the gray streaks through my hair like highlights.” But I soon grew tired of myself and the day to day of it wore on me so much so that I did not want to continue with a 365 day project for this year. I didn’t even think about the project the day after taking the final picture until I was almost done with my morning coffee walk. I paused for a moment thinking I’d missed a turn or something before I remembered that this was my usual time of day for taking a photo.

I kind of don’t know what to do with myself.

I entered 2019 with out any sort of plan or intention. This might sound freeing to some people. The year is just one big open blank book to be filled with what ever fantastical idea I decide to fill it up with. A big blank open page. I am not the kind of person who thinks any of this sounds freeing. I don’t make up a detailed weekly meal plan every week because I’m being budget minded and trying to prevent food waste. I do it because if I don’t plan out the meals, dinner time will be chaos. Like tuna straight out of the can on saltines chaos. Though being budget minded and reducing food waste is also a good reason for the meal plan. If I don’t have some idea of a plan, my life tumbles into chaos and disorder. Which again, some people may thrive from chaos and disorder. I can tell you that this is the worst time of year for me to not have a creative project to distract myself from all the yuck that bubbles up inside me during the winter months. The winter is also when I feel the least motivated to do anything but curl up in a blanket while wearing my heated unicorn slippers.

I’m doing my best not to rush something. Recently, I sat down and wrote an outline for a book idea. I have the same story half written in a half a different ways floating around in various formats on my computer. I thought maybe writing an outline would give me focus and help to start pulling things together. It is giving me some direction and I have even spent a couple of hours writing on this project this week. I don’t want to set myself up for failure by saying this will be the year I write a book, but maybe this will be the year I get closer to writing that book. Maybe this year I focus more on writing and just a little bit on photography. I have started a new photography project, but it’s a photo a week. I’m calling it Project Zen. Michael gave me a desk top Zen garden and once a week I spend some time smoothing out the sand. Then I drag the rake through to make a design and carefully drop in the tiny rocks. Once I’ve finished, I take a photo. It’s a much more relaxed photo project, more like photo meditation.

I recognize that having some free time might not be so bad either; that facing the yuck instead of distracting myself from it would be a more mentally healthy approach to life. Maybe this year I can do a little of both.

UNDER

Cindy Maddera

January first most people jump into a workout/diet routine in an attempt to start the New Year off right. I buy new underwear. Usually. This year I’ve been dragging my feet a little on this because I used to buy my underwear from Victoria Secret. I don’t really feel comfortable supporting that company any more, but here’s the thing. I know what sizes to buy at Victoria Secret. You would think those sizes are universal. Nope, they are not because that would make sense. So this left me staring at the wall of underwear in Target with no clue of what to get or what size was the right size. Then the Cabbage said “why don’t you take one of them out of the box and try them on over your pants.” And for some reason I thought “hey, that’s not a bad idea.” So I did and I was all “okay, these size sevens fit.” and I tossed a package of four into our cart. Then I walked over to the bra section where I squished and felt every bra looking for something soft with some padding, but not too much padding. Michael pulled out one and said “what about this one?” It had wide side panels that reminded me of an ace bandage, which I commented on. Then Michael said “It’s supposed to hold in your side flab.” Then I punched him in the face.

Not really.

I’m doing my best to believe that he doesn’t really think I need something to ‘hold in my side flab’ except it isn’t the first time he’s mentioned my side flab in that last two weeks.

The most discouraging and depressing part of this experience was the overwhelming selection of underwear advertised to hold in your rolls. Any and all of them. Back rolls, hip rolls, belly rolls. Women are not supposed to have any illusion of rolls. We have to smash ourselves into shape wear that promises to give us a universal slim shape so that we all have the body of the mannequin in the store front window. Women have been raised on the idea that their rolls are ugly and shameful. I felt like maybe instead of underwear shopping, I too should be jumping into a workout/diet routine. Then I got mad because the double standard is ridiculous. Where is the shape wear for men? Why isn’t there a wall of under garments in Target devoted to smashing the dad gut? Where’s the section for man bras? Why doesn’t society dictate that men have a ‘smooth silhouette’?

I wear a padded bra, not because I want to give off the illusion of having larger boobs, but solely so my nipples are not visibly poking through my shirt. I used to wear plain old t-shirt like bras that were soft and comfortable, but on one too many occasions ended up with my arms crossed over my chest after some guy pointedly stared at my chest while saying “Cindy must be cold.” When Michael wears padded underwear it’s for comfort while riding his bicycle, not because some woman might point at his crotch and say something about the weather. A friend of mine recently posted about how tired she was of wearing a bra everyday and she only wears one now because men would stare at her. Dear Men, in case you were under the impression that women wore bras for the sole purpose of support, you are wrong. We wear them so you won’t blatantly stare at our boobs. Except, bra or no bra you still do it because bras are no longer designed for just support. They’re designed to lift and enhance and give cleavage. They are designed to encourage men to stare at our boobs. It’s a Catch 22.

I’ve waisted years of my life wiggling into shape defining pantyhose. I wore oversized t-shirts and refused to tuck a shirt into anything in order to keep my belly covered. I also spent a many a meal, carefully pushing food to the side of my plate to make it look like I ate it. As if that one bite of mashed potatoes was going to keep me from acquiring that so called perfect silhouette. It has taken me so many years to learn to love my Buddha belly, to be proud of my hips, to not be ashamed of this body. For the longest time, I felt like I couldn’t even walk around my own house without a bra on because what if I had to answer the door? Fuck that. That’s all bullshit and this is my year to get rid of the bullshit. I have rolls. I have had rolls since the day I was finally big enough to come home from the hospital as a baby. I eat healthy. I do thirty to forty minutes of cardio five days a week. I get on my yoga mat for an hour or more five to six days a week. You want to talk about my side flab? Let’s talk about my side plank instead and how strong and beautiful it is when I hold that pose. Shape that.

I will say, though, that I am now the proud owner of four pairs of underwear that fit well above my belly button and are saggy in the butt because one probably should not take sizing advice from an eight year old.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Every week, at the end of the yoga class that I teach at the Y, I tell my students to take a moment to have gratitude for themselves and their devotion to their mats. I mean, one doesn’t just magically appear in a yoga class. There’s getting dressing in proper bending clothes. Right now, temperatures here are freezing. So there’s multiple layers of coats, gloves and scarves that have to be pulled on. There’s driving to the studio or gym. Then all of those layers have to be pulled off. The truth is, the easy thing to do is to stay home, wrapped up in a blanket with a mug of cream of tomato soup. Except the students in my class did not do the easy thing. There is something to be said about being grateful for making the effort. There is something to be said for taking a moment to pat yourself on the back and say “good job! look at you doing something good for your body!”

I am quick to forget to take a moment to have gratitude for myself.

Recently, I overheard a guy say that his goal for the year was to show up. He said this while in an exercise class and was referring to just showing up to class, but I thought his goal is a really great one in general. What if we all made a goal to just show up? Over the last two weeks, my time in the gym or even on my mat has been sketchy and inconsistent. I have taught my Wednesday night yoga classes and I have attended a class or two. I have gotten on the elliptical once and the bike once, but that has been it. I am used to doing at least thirty minutes of cardio five days a week. Wednesday I jumped right back in where I’d left off and Thursday morning, my body struggled to get out of bed. The alarm went off and I toyed with the idea of staying put. My throat was itchy and I was slightly congested. I could have easily made the argument that I didn’t feel well even though I knew a hot shower and my Neti pot would get rid of the congestion. Then Josephine jumped off the bed and scratched at the door to be let out, so I got up. I got up. I participated. I got back into my routine. I showed up. Then I patted myself on the back and said “good job! look at you doing something good for your body!” But I don’t just want to show up to the gym. I want to show up to life.

I’m going take that guy’s goal to just show up. Then I’m going to take a moment to be grateful to myself for just showing up.

NEW YEAR

Cindy Maddera

Monday morning, I set in on the far side of the kitchen and started cleaning. I pulled out drawers. I threw away packets of soy sauce from 2013. I removed items that we no longer use (anyone want a programable rice cooker?). I wiped down every surface with disinfecting cleaner. When the kitchen was done, I moved on to the rest of the house, moving from room to room armed with a dust rag and a trash can. When I finished with the house, I moved on to myself. I coated my face with a charcoal mask, took a steamy shower and shaved my legs. Then I rubbed coconut oil all over my body because my skin is so dry that I am turning to dust. I’m like the ending of Avengers: Infinity War. Michael and I rang in the New Year watching Bird Box while working on a puzzle. I was in bed by 12:10.

Tuesday morning, I got Michael up and dragged him to a yoga class that my friend Kelly was teaching for New Year’s Day. Kelly gave us some intentions for the new year and I wish I’d written them down. Dr. Mary was there and she hugged me tight and told me I looked rested. Then Michael and I walked across the street so I could take my final picture of my Flickr 365 Day project. It was 18 degrees with snow flurries and I did not smile. Even though our New Year’s traditional Indian food place was just a few blocks down the street, we drove to the restaurant. It was closed. So Michael took the most convoluted way to the Indian place in Westport where we struggled to find a parking place. There was a woman sitting in her car and we pulled up next to her. I asked if she was leaving. She rolled her eyes at me and said “One minute.” But we got her parking space. We ate too much Indian food and then walked it off at the local health food store before driving over to pick up the Cabbage. Then Michael and I finished our puzzle and I went to bed.

I am entering 2019 seriously unmotivated.

The psychologist and author of the Willpower Instinct, Kelly McGonigal said in a New York Times article about crushing your habits that you should focus on changes that would make you the happiest and pick a theme for the year. Most often we tend to make resolutions about our health based on things that we’ve heard would be good for us. Running. Meditation. Eating a daily kale salad. It does me no good to make a resolution to run a marathon in 2019 if I hate running, but eating a daily kale salad is reasonable because I do love kale. I understand the brain science of creating reasonable resolutions. It is the focus on changes that would make me happy part that I am having a hard time with. I have yet to spend any time reflecting about what I want for myself this year let alone reflecting on changes that would make me happy. I don’t know what changes would make me happy. Skipping January, February and even parts of March would make me happy, but that doesn’t ever seem to be an option. Maybe skipping those months wouldn’t necessarily make me happy as much as it would make it easier for me to reflect on things that would make me happy.

I can say that yesterday afternoon, when Michael and I were finishing up our puzzle, that I was pretty content and at peace. We moved the puzzle to the kitchen table to have more space to work. Then we sat in the dining room, with Andrew Bird playing on Alexa, piecing together the Periodic Table. It was nice to be sitting at the table doing an activity other than watching TV. I feel like a change that would make me happier would be to step away from the TV. I read in the evenings, but I’m usually sitting on my end of the couch with Michael on the other end and the TV playing some stupid crime show. I’m going to get up and leave the TV area. Maybe to read; maybe to do some writing; maybe to work on another puzzle. I don’t know, but the TV is not bringing me joy or good health. Another thing that I know for sure is that I am happiest when I am on my mat. I have myself booked up with yoga workshops through March and I’m eyeing a women’s yoga retreat in April. I might even buy a membership to a studio for the summer.

One of the intentions for the New Year that Kelly gave us in class yesterday was to get rid of all the bullshit. I recently was made aware that I put in a lot more thought than some into my actions towards things and people around me. I put a lot of effort into making someone else’s life easier, while making my life harder and it’s really kind of exhausting. Especially when it’s one sided. It’s bullshit. So, I think I’ll dump it and do more to make my life easier. Take more initiatives for myself instead of waiting for someone else to take the initiative. Do a better job of tuning out the grumbles and whines. I don’t understand why it is so hard for some women to put themselves first, but I am one of those women who has a hard time doing just that.

That’s some bullshit I can do without.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

This is my last Thankful Friday post for this year and a good time to reflect and be grateful for the life lived in 2018. Really, it was pretty good. There was lots of travel and sight seeing. There were opportunities to squeeze some people that I don’t get to see very often. We ate some really good food and we finally cleaned out our basement. I haven’t spent any time really seriously considering what I might want next year to look like. There’s an adult beginners fiddle class starting up at the end of January that I am considering. I need a violin. I want to eat fresh snails. Not frozen or canned. Fresh ones. I want to do more yoga related things and I want to use my camera more often. I want to write something.

But for right now, I just want to sit back and enjoy the memories of this year.


I TOOK EVERYTHING DOWN

Cindy Maddera

I’ve been quiet around here lately, I know, but there’s been Christmas time activities and sloth practice. We went to Tulsa to visit with my family over the weekend, where I gave my mother an Ancestry DNA kit. Then we forced my mom to fill a tube with her spit all in the name of science. We had Christmas Eve morning at home with just the three of us. The Cabbage opened her presents and played with Legos. I made enchiladas to take over to Terry’s where we spent the evening drinking margaritas and reading each other’s tarot cards. My self doubt is keeping me from accomplishing shit. At least that’s what my cards said and I was all like “well, duh.” Christmas morning was spent baking pie crust and making pies. Then we spent Christmas evening with Michael’s moms. On Boxing Day, I took down all of the Christmas, swept and vacuumed, and watched some dumb movie that I don’t even really remember now. I taught my yoga class that night and then tried to go to bed at a reasonable hour so I would be able to get up for work today.

Here’s what I have learned in the past five days: The Cabbage sounds like a stampeding rhino when she walks through the house. One day, she’s going to live in a second floor apartment and her neighbors are going to hate her.

I did not use the past five days to the best of an educational example.

Though I am learning to play some form of poker (I don’t really know which one) for a poker tournament on Friday night. My new phrase is “I fold.” I’m really good at saying that. We’ve been using an old deck of cards that I took from my parents’ house when we were cleaning out things. It’s an old Braniff Airlines promotional deck of cards. That deck of cards was always in the camper. None of us were poker players, but we played many a game of Go Fish with that deck of cards. The cards also contain travel phrases in Spanish and Portuguese. ¿Dónde puedo comprar un rollo de película en blanco y negro o color? This does not translate to “I need a black pelican” or “May I see a list of your white and black wines?” It’s asking about buying film for a camera. There’s also one about about buying a flash bulb. This is an old deck of cards. I think I have had more fun memorizing travel phrases in Spanish than I have learning to say “I fold.” Michael says that the first one to be out of the tournament gets to drink. I have goals.

I spent some time today compiling our year in pictures. With any luck and some incense burning for the Gods of Tech, I will have that posted for you tomorrow.

FOLLOW UP

Cindy Maddera

I wrote yesterday’s post without realizing that it was a meaningful date. My nephew, Donnie, the second child born to my brother and sister-in-law died from complications at birth. It was 1983, which would make me seven. J was three. You’d ask him what he was hoping for while Katrina was pregnant; a baby brother or a baby sister? He’d answer every time with “a baby monkey”. Katrina and I were talking about this yesterday. I told her that I remember getting in trouble for playing Jingle Bells on the piano. It was after the funeral and everyone had left the house. I started playing and Mom yelled at me to stop, said it was inappropriate. Katrina said she didn’t know that had happened. I explained that she hadn’t been there. Mom didn’t mean anything by it, she just didn’t know how to talk to a little kid about death.

Katrina responded with something I had never considered. She said “Yeah, I don’t think any of us did. You, J and Janell were the actual casualties of Donnie’s death.” It was a really weird time. I can’t speak for Janell or J, but I know that I was so confused. But here’s the thing. I wasn’t confused about the death part. Maybe that was one thing about being raised in a Baptist church. There was a lot of talk of people dying in the bible. I was confused by how I was supposed to feel. It was Christmas time. I knew I was supposed to be sad but I was also happy about Christmas, except now I wasn’t supposed to be. A generally happy child was being told to be appropriately sad. My feelings were being dictated to me. No wonder I was confused, but now I realize how often we are told how to feel. Be happy. Be calm. Don’t be sad. Don’t be angry. Okay, be sad right now, but don’t be sad three days from now. There is a limit to how long you should feel a certain way.

When we remember things, we remember them with a mix of feelings. Is it too far fetched to believe that we experience things with a mix of feelings? The line for what is or is not appropriate became completely erased when Chris got sick and died. We joked often about death and we laughed even when our throats were tight with emotion. This did not change after he died. We are irreverent and inappropriate in our jokes around Chris’s death. Because death is not just sad. At times, it can even be a relief. It is the knowing that person is not going to be around any more to hear those jokes and respond to those jokes that makes death sad. I know that whenever one of my tribe makes a hilarious commentary on the death of Chris, that Chris is somewhere laughing with us.

The authentic part of living this life is allowing ourselves to feel all the emotions with out limiting ourselves to who ever is dictating what is or is not appropriate. The Cabbage has asked me about my Dad. She’s asked me about the man in the picture on the bookcase. I told her that Dad and Chris are dead. I told her that yes, it is sad and I miss them, but I have buckets of joyful memories that make me happy. I want her to understand that it’s okay to be happy and sad at the same time. I want her to understand that no one is allowed to dictate how she feels about something; that it is her choice. You don’t need any one’s permission for your feelings.

This is a lesson I wish I learned a long time ago.

CHRISTMAS MEMORIES

Cindy Maddera

The best Christmas I can remember as a child was the year I got Odie. Odie was the most perfect beagle. In 2015, a beagle named Miss P won the Westminster Dog Show. Odie was almost identical in color to Miss P. His head might have been a little bit smaller and he did not have Miss P’s expression of bored indifference, but he could have run circles around her in the judges ring. For months leading up to that Christmas, the only thing I asked for was a beagle puppy. “What do you want for Christmas, Cindy?” someone would ask. My answer every time was “A beagle puppy.” I don’t remember what year this was or how old I was. It was sometime between broken arms and my sister was still young enough to get excited about the surprises we would find under the tree. The two of us, like most children, tiptoed carefully down the stairs at two o’clock in the morning to take a peek at what may have been left for us under the tree.

The two of us were about half way down the staircase when I heard a whimper. I forgot all about being stealthy and quiet, instead I ran down the stairs with the heavy un-lady like footsteps of a troll. An open box sat under the tree with the tiniest saddest little puppy, begging for company and love. I scooped him into my arms and took him back to my room. When we cleaned out the family house and started sorting through the multiple containers of pictures, we found hundreds of pictures of Odie as a puppy sleeping on someone’s lap, curled up on a boot, tucked into a cushion at someone’s feet. He was impossible to potty train and ended up leaving a big stain on my mom’s hardwood floors. But his worse offense was chewing up the rungs of Mom’s dining room table. That banished him to the outside for good. He was still the best dog, to me anyway and he lived a really long and happy life. Odie set the bar for any future dog that would come into my life.

That was the best Christmas not just because of Odie, but because I think that’s the last Christmas I can remember where I still felt that spark and excitement of Christmas. Maybe I knew that Santa was not real, but I believed in him any way. In fact, I still believed in all things magical and mystical, but it was an age where I still got excited over the whole gift thing. Not just the surprise of what I was going to get, but seeing the faces of joy as others opened their surprises. It is the last Christmas I can remember that didn’t include a layer of sadness or an awareness of the sadness of others. That is not to say that Christmases since then have been bad. It’s just that Christmases have an underlying layer of sadness in general. It is a time when memories, good and bad, swirl around our heads and we can’t help but miss the ones no longer with us to share in those memories.

Do you know how many times my Mom told us all the story about the time my sister woke up before everyone on Christmas morning and then opened ALL of the presents? It is a story of legend. My Dad would laugh every time. One year we all decided to change the Christmas tradition of ham or turkey for our Christmas meal and instead have what we all loved to eat, fried oysters. We would all end up in the kitchen at some point. Dad was always our unofficially designated food taster. J would make the cocktail sauce, stirring in horseradish to a bowl of ketchup like a science experiment. Remember that year Randy caught a shark? Katrina brought a fondue set and we all stood around it dunking bits of shark and then everything into hot oil. Fondue became known as fundue. There was the Christmas when Chris surprised me with a pair of earrings that I had been coveting. It wasn’t the earrings that made the surprise so special. It was how he had to sneak over to Eureka Springs with out me knowing it to get the earrings. Which he managed to do in glorious Chris fashion.

Whenever those memories get too overwhelming, I grab Josephine and cradle her like a baby while scratch her belly. I put my face to her face and tell her what a sweet puppy she is and how much I love her. She’ll lick my cheek and then every thing’s alright. Because just like at that Christmas when I got Odie, puppies make everything better.









WE MADE DONUTS

Cindy Maddera

There’s a guy I work with who has been experimenting with making sourdough bread at home. I have always loved the idea of baking sourdough. It has something to do with my background in microbiology and keeping a living culture of wild yeast growing on my kitchen counter. So I asked the guy at work if I could have some of his starter the next time he had to split his. A week before Thanksgiving, he handed me a recycled jelly jar of sourdough starter. I fed the starter and stuck it in the fridge and then we left for California. When we returned from California, I decided to make my first loaf of sourdough bread. I planned our whole Sunday night diner around this loaf of bread and I was going to bake that bread in my enamel Dutch oven and it was going to be the best loaf of bread I’ve ever made.

It was the worst loaf of bread I’ve ever made.

That loaf of bread came out as a heavy round brick of sourdough. It would have made an excellent bowling ball if it had been perfectly spherical. It didn’t taste bad, but it didn’t taste like anything special either. I know what went wrong, or at least I think I know. We have a kitchen scale that is not very reliable and I had weighed out my ingredients. There was probably too much flour, my starter was not wet enough (sounds gross) and I was impatient. I didn’t give the dough enough time to rise properly. I rushed it so we could have it for dinner that night when I should have made the dough the day before so it would have plenty of rise time. You cannot rush sourdough. Sourdough is a practice of patience.

I continued to feed my starter once week and bought a new container with a breathable lid to store it in. I’d feed it and then shove it back into the far corner of the fridge, uncertain of when or what my next sourdough experiment would be. Then a recipe for sourdough donuts floated into my email. Then I pulled the starter from the fridge and started feeding it. That was Thursday. I fed the starter for two days, leaving it out on the counter until using it on Saturday when I made up the donut dough. The recipe I used said to leave the dough out at room temperature for four to five hours and every hour or so, go in and stretch and punch the dough before placing it in the fridge overnight. In between dinner and wrapping Christmas presents and sips of gin and tonic, I would go and stretch and punch the dough.

The next day, I rolled out the dough and Michael helped me cut out donuts. We placed them on sheet pans to rise for another hour and a half before frying them in hot canola oil. Michael and I tag teamed the frying and sugar coating. He manned the fryer while I dusted finished donuts with confectioners sugar. And it was the most fun we’ve had in the kitchen in a really long time. We were amazed that we were making donuts. Michael kept saying “We’re making donuts!” and then he’d start running through lists of names for our future donut shop. We were both mesmerized by the dough floating in the hot oil. They would puff up with a bubble of air stretching the dough, like making bubbles out of bubblegum. The best part? They were delicious! Crispy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside.

We made a complete mess of the kitchen. The dog had spots of confectioners sugar all over the top of her head and back (she stood under us the entire time). Michael got inspired by all the frying to slice up and batter zucchini to dunk in the hot oil when we had finished with the donuts. The whole house smelled like hot grease and donuts. It was worth it. I can easily ignore the fact that it took two days to make these donuts and that there’s powdered sugar everywhere simply because we had such a fun time making them.

And no one was burned with hot grease.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

I wrote and completed a whole Thankful Friday post about self care and spontaneous chair massages. All that was left was to add a picture and post it. I opened it up this morning, selected the whole thing and then hit ‘delete’. The post felt whiney and negative even though it was about gratitude and taking care of myself. There was a tone to it that at the end of the day, I didn’t feel like sharing. So, I’m not. I am going to take todays post to truly talk about some things that I am grateful for.

My dear friend Robin became a grandma this week. Her first born, Nikki, had her very own first born early Wednesday morning. A beautiful healthy baby girl who looks just like Nikki did at birth, with a full head of dark hair. Robin flooded my phone with pictures and I responded with jokes about her being a grandma. Then I thought about Robin holding that baby, who she immediately unswaddled to count all toes and fingers, and I got really teary about the sweetness of all of it. Wednesday evenings, when Erin comes to pick up the Cabbage, she brings in her newest little one, The Pea. She sets The Pea down in her carseat on the floor and while she and Michael discuss Cabbage things and get the Cabbage ready to leave, I sit in front of The Pea. I poke her and tickle her and make her grin and we have a lovely five or ten minutes together before Erin scoops them all out the door. It is the most ideal baby zen practice. The act of holding a baby softens us, melts away tension and makes us quieter. I wonder what would happen if they made Trump hold a sleeping baby before he could use his Twitter account. I am thankful for this new addition to Robin’s family and I am thankful that everyone is happy and healthy.

Which leads me to happy and healthy and births in general. He’s probably not going to like me saying it, but today is my good friend Terry’s birthday. Knowing this man and having him in my life makes me a better human being. Terry is the hardest person to do something nice for mostly because he’s too busy doing things for everyone else. He is irreverently hilarious and crazy wise. He is a talented artist and craftsman. And he throws a mean party. Terry is that person in my life who gets it, gets me. He pulls me out of my homebody shell to do silly things and I am grateful for him. Also, Josephine loves him. LOVES him. Most dogs love Terry. That’s how you know he’s so special. He can win over the hearts of all creatures, great and small.

I guess, to sum up this week, I am grateful for births.

YOGAVERSARY

Cindy Maddera

I went to a yoga class at work on Tuesday. Usually I just go on Wednesdays, but I was feeling the need for some discipline. I snuck into Amie’s yoga flow class knowing that I could easily disappear into a corner. The previous week, she had been teaching the class the basics of Ashtanga yoga and for today’s class she wanted to continue with that theme but incorporate more of the seated postures. If you are not familiar with an Ashtanga practice, you will hear the words “seated postures” and feel some comfort in knowing that you will be just sitting around on your mat. ‘Seated’ sounds easy and yes, once your butt is on the mat, the pose that follows is simple. It’s the getting there and getting out parts that are hard. It starts in down dog and involves bringing the weight into your hands and shoulders as you hop up and swing your legs through. Then you do all of this in reverse to get out.

Give me the fundamental standing asanas any day. The sweep through thing has never been my strong suit.

From the grumblings of some of the other students in the class, I take it it is not their favorite thing either. But the occasional Ashtanga practice is good for you. It’s simple, yet challenging and for certain personalities (or doshas) it is a practice that can take you out of a comfort zone. The full Ashtanga practice is not my yoga practice though. I prefer a more body balanced practice then what Ashtanga provides, but often modify an Ashtanga series to my own needs. I was thinking about my yoga needs while trying to fling my body forward into a seated position and doing some math in Tuesday’s class and I figured out that 2019 is my 20 year yoga anniversary. It will be twenty years since I walked in and attended my very first yoga class, which happened to be an Ashtanga class.

I hated it.

I’m not kidding.

I hated that first class, but I went back for more because I am prideful and refuse to accept failure. I recognize that hating my first yoga class is not a failure. It just seemed like a failure to me at the time because I thought (had set myself up for it) I would love yoga. And I do love yoga. Just not Ashtanga yoga. Twenty years later and I don’t hate Ashtanga any more either. That one class opened me up to the giant world of yoga and a yoga practice that brings me joy and comfort. It also gave me something that I have not found in any other format and that is body confidence. Being on my mat is the one place where I am not just comfortable in my skin, but where I truly feel like this body is beautiful. Yoga has also given me a community of women who are all strong, beautiful and so ridiculously supportive. Karen, my yoga teacher, continues to be a source of reference and knowledge in all things yoga and life. Then there’s Shannon, who talked me into teaching again. She set me up with Kelli Austin at Sunshine Yoga who promoted my strap workshop without really even knowing me. Now I have Kelly, who’s joy of life radiates out of her like an atom bomb.

Kelly made me realize something today. She teaches the Wednesday lunch time class that I normally attend and today I was her only student. I had stepped back to plank and suddenly I hear her exclaim “Oh my gosh! Look at how you’re on the tips of your toes! I’ve never seen anybody do that. It’s like you’re floating!” First, I had no idea that I was doing this in plank pose. Secondly, it makes me laugh because if she only knew how much I struggled with plank in those early years of yoga. Now I was making it look effortless, like I was floating. For my next trick, Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat. No really, what is my next trick? I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want for 2019 and one of those things is to celebrate my yoga anniversary. I’ve already signed up for an anatomy of yoga workshop in February, but I’d like to speckle the year with attending yoga workshops. Maybe this is the year I finally take a Kundalini yoga class or I find a teaching gig at one of the studios near me.

I do know that I want to spend more time in the vicinity of the kind of women who constantly cheer each other on.

DIVISION

Cindy Maddera

I noticed last week that there was a lot of outrage and debate happening over whether or not we should still be playing the Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer cartoon. The Huffington Post did an article about the jokes posted on twitter during the Tuesday evening airing of Rudolph. Turns out that some people took what started out as a joke about this 1964 Christmas classic, a little bit too seriously. Other news outlets picked up the story and turned it into the telephone game. It went from ‘we’re just making hilarious observations’ to ‘this cartoon should be banned!’ The next thing I noticed was my Facebook timeline filling up with Rudolph images and outrage. I just shook my head at all of it because now even Rudolph the Reindeer, a cartoon about acceptance and inclusivity, has become a weapon of division.

STOP FALLING FOR IT!

It’s not just Rudolph. The idea of banning the song “Baby it’s Cold Outside” has got some people riled up and shouting about taking the #MeToo movement too far. I’m not one to go around saying ban the music and books…because Nazis, but I’d rather listen to other holiday songs than one where a guy is pressuring a girl to do something she’s not so sure she wants to do. For me that’s called freshman year of college and my brief foray into online dating. I don’t need to hear a song about that. But to each their own. I think the meme that really tops it for me are the ones that are intentionally incendiary. “I celebrate CHRISTmas. Sorry if that offends you!” Honestly I don’t care what you celebrate; what offends me is the obvious attempt to start an argument.

This is a time of year when there is supposed to be joy and good will. According to Charity Navigator, 31% of annual donations for 2014 happened in December. It is a holy month for some religions, many of which encourage acts of charity and kindness towards those less fortunate. If there’s one month out of the year that should bring us all together in love and peace, it should be the month of December. Yet we have managed to find ways to incite hatefulness and arguments even during ‘the most wonderful time of the year’. What is wrong with us? Is it just easier to incite hatefulness and arguments than it is to be kind? Maybe for some, kindness only happens on a face-to-face level, that it doesn’t transcend to online and social media. Maybe it’s easy to forget that the things we post are a reflection of who we are as a person.

It makes me ask myself: What kind of human being do I want to be?

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

One night this week, I dreamed that I was being attacked by a swarm of mosquitoes. I was walking on a beach that was dirty and littered with drift wood. There was a man walking a few paces behind me and we both started running when the swarm hit us. I ran while hitting my arms and legs and waving my hands around my head. The mosquitoes were thick and everywhere. I could hear them inside my ears. I heard the man behind my yell out “here! take my towel!” and he draped the towel over my shoulders as we both ran. I could see my car up ahead and knew that I just had to make it to the car. I woke up suddenly, gasping and scratching at imaginary mosquito bites. I talked about this dream with Dr. Mary. We discussed the meaning of it all, how the mosquitos represented little annoyances I had had and the comfort of the towel and knowing that I was close to safety. Then I told Dr. Mary that I didn’t think I needed her every week.

I was surprised to hear myself say it. I hadn’t planned it. I had been thinking about it recently, but I didn’t realize that I was ready to do more than just think about it. Dr. Mary was not bothered by this, but did ask what prompted this decision. I told her that for the first time in a really long time, I was entering this holiday season without feeling the need to constantly breathe into a paper bag. I told her that I feel like I’ve taken bags and bags of guilt to the garbage dump. I’ve been holding onto guilt about Chris. I say out loud all the time how Chris would be okay with how I’m living my life, but I never really truly believed the words I was saying. Instead I felt guilty about this life I’ve forged without Chris, but my guilt wasn’t all Chris related. There was guilt about Dad. There was guilt over not being all the things I could be for all people. There was guilt for my grief, for being sad, for missing Chris even though I’m with Micheal. At times my guilt over everything was crippling.

I don’t feel that guilt any more.

I have discovered that it’s one thing to treat others the way you wish to be treated and quite another to treat yourself the way you wish to be treated. Actually, it seems to be more difficult to treat myself with patience, kindness and respect. It’s work, but I’m doing it. A year ago, there was no way I would have allowed myself to book a holiday trip that did not include my family. A year ago, I would not consider making a trip to Oklahoma at Christmas time that did not include driving all over the state in attempt to see every single person. I would already be berating myself over not being or doing enough. I’m not saying I’m cured or that I still don’t need to spill my guts to Dr. Mary. I just don’t need to spill them every week. It has been almost two years since I thought about jumping out of a moving car into busy traffic. Progress.

I am thankful for progress.

VERSIONS OF US

Cindy Maddera

Michael and I choose a new ornament for the tree every year. The ornament is supposed to reflect something about us and the year. Our first year ornament makes absolutely no sense. Santa is riding a giant trout and there’s a fishing pole dangling out of Santa’s hand. It’s ridiculous and confusing. And completely appropriate for the time. This was probably six months after we first met; four months after he had officially moved in. We were ridiculous and confusing. The second year we bought a record player ornament. It was the year Michael had set up his record player and I bought a bunch of Doris Day albums. Later ornaments would be a camper (of course) and something Star Wars. Then we stumbled upon two ornaments that carried an odd resemblance to us. The guy had a curled mustache and wore an orange sweater. The girl sported a stocking cap on her cropped brown hair. They were ornament versions of us.

This would become a recurring thing. We now have two small doll like ornaments. One doll is wearing a plaid shirt with hiking boots. He’s sporting a medium length beard and holding a small Christmas tree. The girl version is bundled up in a coat and scarf. She’s holding ski poles even though there are no skis on her feet. The resemblance is uncanny. The two ornaments look so much like us that we even considered using them in our Christmas card. Maybe I did. I vaguely remember taking a crappy picture of the Cabbage holding the two dolls. Michael and I were looking around Target on Saturday for this year’s ornament and I heard him say “Hey look! It’s us!” I turned around to see him holding up a gnome with a long beard and girl doll wearing a cap and scarf. I guess a cap and scarf are my go to winter looks, but I busted out laughing at the idea of these two being the ornament versions of us. They are by far the most hilarious versions we’ve come across. We bought them along with a seal ornament because this year we saw a lot of seals.

Earlier in the day we had been talking about Christmas cards and pictures for the cards. I always start out with an intention to take or have someone take a nice festive picture of the three of us, but it is so hard to coordinate. It doesn’t help that the Cabbage is in that poser stage where it is more reasonable to believe that one can collect marshmallow poop from unicorns then it is to get a genuine smile from her. For this year’s card, I didn’t even try. I just used some random pictures I’ve taken this year and I’m perfectly happy with this. As we talked about the cards, Michael mentioned the idea of us wearing ugly Christmas sweaters. I winced slightly and replied that Chris and I had already done that. Chris and I used to plan out elaborate Christmas cards. We took joy in the whole process. It was like preparing for our very own Christmas pageant and we would start making our plans for the photo shoot in October, gathering costume materials and backdrops. People looked forward to what we’d do for the next year. I’m not going to lie. That first Christmas after Chris died and I had to put Hooper down, I considered photographing their coffee cans of ashes wearing Christmas hats for my card. I didn’t because I figured there was less than a handful of people who would see the dark humor in this. Everyone else would just see it as the the sad country song that it really was.

I don’t even attempt the elaborate Christmas card with Michael and the Cabbage for a number of reasons, but mostly because I’m not trying to recreate a life I had. The things that made sense for me to do in my relationship with Chris doesn’t make sense to do in my relationship with Michael. Because it is not the same relationship. Chris and I had our own thing. We made silly Christmas cards. Michael and I have our own thing. We find versions of ourselves in Christmas ornaments.

I DON'T OFTEN CRAFT, BUT WHEN I DO I USE A GLUE GUN

Cindy Maddera

Early last week, I started noticing a trend on social media. People were posting pictures of their Christmas trees with captions that read “we finally got the tree up!” It was the word ‘finally’ that started to put me into a panic. I hadn’t even started to consider decorating for the Holidays. I’ve had stuff sitting in my closet to make a new Christmas wreath for ages, but I put it far enough back in the closet to not really pay attention to it whenever I open the closet (every single day). I’ve had more important things to do. Like sitting on the couch with all the animals piled on top of me. The most pressing thing on my list of things to do was to reorganize our linen closet and bathroom cabinets. We had a big basket on one shelf of the linen closet that was filled with various medications and toiletries. What I should really say is, we had a big basket of garbage sitting in our linen closet. My main goal for this weekend was to fix that basket and by fix, I mean get rid of that basket.

It just didn’t seem possible to get the linen closet organized, a new wreath made, and put up all the other Christmas decorations in one weekend. So I cheated and started cleaning out the closet and bathroom cabinets on Thursday. I also started working on the wreath that night and when I got home Friday night, I drank a couple of cocktails and got out the glue gun to finish it. I’m thinking of starting my own YouTube channel called “Drunk Crafting with Cindy”. I can sell my crafts on Etsy. I think my new wreath turned out really nice. Wreath accomplished, I made a plan for Saturday that included a trip to the Container Store (the most loveliest place on earth, I’m not kidding) and bringing up all the Christmas boxes. At the very least I had to get our menorah out because the first day of Hanukkah starts tonight. But when I opened the Christmas boxes, I couldn’t find our menorah. I have no idea what happened to our menorah or why it was not put back into the Christmas boxes (I blame everything that goes missing on the basement flood). So on top of the trip to the wonderful Container Store, we had to go hunt up a new menorah.

Then a Christmas miracle happened and I learned to bend time to my will. Grocery shopping happened, stocking stuffers were purchased, the tree was set up and decorated, stockings were hung, Christmas cards were ordered, gifts were bought, linen closet got organized (lazy susans are not just for kitchens), the house got cleaned, laundry was completed. People, I made a loaf of sourdough bread. I wrote this blog entry! I just high fived myself. I went from feeling really behind on all things to overachiever. The problem was that I let myself fall victim to the trap of allowing social media to measure and gauge my success. This living life and doing stuff thing is not a competition. I am not behind on anything (except maybe the gas bill…did I pay that?). No one is marking my name down on a failure list for not putting my tree up the day after Thanksgiving.

But I’m hanging on to my new found super power to bend time.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

I stood looking out the kitchen window as I washed our breakfast dishes. It was that time of morning when the sun is just about come up. Every thing was tinted dark and cast in shadows, like looking through sunglasses. I noticed one of the chickens poke her head out of the coop. She tentatively stepped out onto the ramp. It was Marguerite. I watched her as she pecked at the snow that rested on the ramp to the coop. A few seconds later, Foghorn peaked her head out the coop door and looked around. She carefully stepped forward to stand behind Marguerite. Neither of them ventured further than the first few rungs of the ramp and did not stay out long. The two of them carefully turned around and made their way back inside the coop. I assume they are nestled on their perch inside the coop. The four of them packed in there on the perch puts off enough warmth to keep them comfortable.

We’ve had the chickens for almost three years now. Technically, this might be our last year of eggs. They haven’t laid an egg since late September I think. That’s the time of year they all molt and lose their feathers. The chicken run and coop become littered with an array of colored feathers and the chickens take on a patchy Kramer-esc look. Bed head. They roll out of the coop in the mornings with bed head. Michael and I talk about what to do with one of the chickens when they die. We can’t bury them in the back yard. We might be able to put in a chicken graveyard in the front yard. Michael’s afraid he’s going to just have to put the dead chicken in a bag and put it in the dumpster, the same thing we do with the dead things Albus brings home. (Most common sentence in our house starts with “There’s a dead squirrel…”)

We also talk a lot about a new chicken coop. This chicken coop, along with the chickens, has been sort of like our first pancake for chicken raising. Our coop is difficult to access, making it hard to give them water. They recently decided to start laying their eggs inside the coop, but away from the nesting box. I cannot reach eggs that they lay outside of the nesting box. Michael has to reach his long arm into the coop and retrieve the eggs. There’s not a door to the run section and so it has to be lifted up to change out their water. I finally figured out a way to do this on my own, but all the chickens escape when this happens and I’m left with trying to figure out how to get them back in the coop. Josephine does a fairly decent job of herding, but it also looks like she’s attacking more than herding. The chickens end up fleeing to the safety of their coop. We talk about leaving the door open to the coop during the day and just letting the chickens roam free during the day, outside the safety of their chicken run. This has just been talk because secretly we both fear that something bad will happen to them.

Our original plan was to get three chickens. At the last minute, I picked up a chick and cradled her in my hands and said “Maybe we should get four in case one dies.” We took four chicks home and they have all survived. Each one has their own personality. They are not lovey dovey chickens. They barely tolerate being held and they have to be chased. They don’t come up to willingly. Matilda will bite you. But we love them. We love them enough to talk about doing it all over again when we lose these four.