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I'M A BULLY

Cindy Maddera

I’m walking towards to the door to my building with a running commentary going in my head.

“I’m tired.”

“You’re taking the stairs.”

“But I’m tired and there’s a twinge in my low back.”

“You’re taking the stairs, all four flights of them.”

“I’m really not feeling it this morning.”

“You’re taking the stairs, you fat, lazy stupid bitch. You’re marching those feet up all of the stairs because you missed gym time yesterday and you are a fatty fatty worthless bitch.”

I walk up all four flights of stairs to my office. I do it because I’ve guilted myself into doing it. Even though I had to use ugly language to do so. It is two sides of a coin. On one side, I’ve guilted myself into doing something healthy. On the other side, I’m a mean bully who doesn’t think much of herself.

One of my coworkers started a conversation about guilt the other day. He started by asking “is guilt a wasted emotion?” Two men and two women were in on this conversation. Both men agreed that guilt was wasted, that it was an emotion that made them get worked up over things that did not matter. Both women (one of them me) said that guilt was a motivator and therefore not a wasted emotion. Now, I will be the first to admit that my data here is not statistically relevant, but I have a strong feeling that if I expanded this poll we would see that most women see guilt as a motivator. Because guilt has been a tool used to control or motivate women for centuries. Having sex. Not having sex. Having babies. Not having babies. Having a career. Not having a career. Eating that donut. Not eating that donut. Pulling off a piece of fruit from that knowledge tree and taking a big ole bite. Not taking advice from snakes.

Raise your hand if you have lost track of the number of times you were guilted into doing something you didn’t really want to do.

If you love me, you’ll….

I see my coworker’s point. I also allow guilt to work me up into a tight stress ball over something I have no control over. I mean, I can try really hard to tell you that I no longer feel guilty about Chris’s death, but honestly I’m not sure that will ever happen. At least that guilt no longer keeps me up at nights (sort of, mostly) and that is why I totally get the wasted emotion argument. But I will say that a good portion of my daily life is centered around the guilt as a motivator idea. The guilt motivator, even though it is getting me to do something good for me, is at times very ugly. The things I tell myself out of guilt are so awful and uses language I would never tolerate coming out of anyone’s mouth. It is the kind of language that if I heard it being spoken to another person, I would interject and tell that person to shut it. I’m going to eat that donut but then I’m going to spend an extra thirty minutes on the treadmill. If I even for a moment think about not doing the extra time, that awful language picks up inside my head and the next thing I know I’m doing extra extra time on the treadmill.

Some days, guilt is the only reason I get out of bed in the mornings.

I know it doesn’t have to be this way. I know there are better methods of motivation. It’s just that this form of motivation has been with me for a really long time. It’s what I know. It’s habit. It is all that is hard to break. If I wouldn’t let a person talk to someone else that way, why on earth do I talk to myself that way. Do you put question marks at the end of rhetorical questions? Yes, I know I could google that but I don’t really care.

If I love me, I’ll…

What if I just ate the fucking donut; no strings attached?

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

  • I don’t have to wear a boot.

  • Robin, Summer and her kids are visiting this weekend and we’re going to the zoo!

  • The cat is eating his food.

  • Michael and the Cabbage cleaned the house. Technically they do something every day, but they cleaned everything yesterday so it would be fresh for guests.

  • Tomatoes

  • A very good/close friend was in a motorcycle accident yesterday. She’s banged up, basically getting a new knee, but she’s okay. She’s okay!

MY LEFT FOOT

Cindy Maddera

Years and years ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I thought I wanted to be a doctor of medicine. I specify ‘of medicine’ here because you can be a doctor in just about anything. My friend Jeff has his PhD in Chemistry. When his dad was in the hospital, he introduced Jeff to his doctor as “his son Jeff. He’s a doctor.” This is something my dad would have totally done to me if I had continued my education. As it was, Dad treated me like a nurse practitioner, asking me all kinds of “what do you think this is on my arm?” kind of questions. The word ‘science’ is a very giant umbrella term that is confusing to some people. Any way…at one point I did think that I might end up in the medical field. That’s because this what all of my teachers and adults told me to do.

“Oh! You like science!?! You should be a physician.”

“You’ll make loads of money!”

I almost fell for it. I scored well on the MCAT.

If you ask me, one too many children were told to be medical doctors when they grew up because they would make a lot of money. I am so glad I recognized that I wanted nothing to do with potentially causing harm to another human before I waisted all of that time and money on medical school. I mean…I sometimes struggle with teaching yoga because I’m afraid I’m going to break a student. Despite my extensive knowledge in basic anatomy and molecular biology, I cannot read an X-ray of my own body. Case in point, when my GP called me on Monday to tell me my ankle was fractured, I saw that line across my medial malleolus and assumed that was the fracture she was talking about. The good news is that line is not a fracture. Which makes sense because that is not where my ankle hurts at all. The fracture is actually on the lateral malleolus and by fracture, we’re talking about a teeny tiny sliver of bone that was pulled off the tibia by ligaments when I injured my foot. The orthopedic doctor said that if I had come in two days after falling in the hole, he would have put me in a boot. Since it has been almost a month, it doesn’t really matter. He said to just keep it wrapped for a while. Take some Ibuprofen (fun fact: I say “I B profen” when I talk about Ibuprofen because I’m pretty sure that is how I heard it being pronounced for my entire life. My parents are from the south).

Any time I started talking about any part of this story to any one, I became filled with rage. Not the part where the orthopedic doctor told me to keep on keeping on. That’s great. But the part leading up to my orthopedics visit made me want to explode. My appointment with the GP was for 3:00 PM on Friday. I arrived fifteen minutes early. I waited in line at the reception desk for fifteen minutes. After checking in, I waited in the waiting room for an hour. Then I sat in the exam room for another thirty minutes before being sent to X-Ray. X-rays took another hour and I was the only person sitting in the waiting room. It all felt like a bit too much for an ankle that didn’t really hurt all that bad, an ankle I was still walking around on without a limp. Also, the referred orthopedic doctor couldn’t see me until at least sometime next week. The very idea of being hobbled with a boot sent me over the edge. I already feel like a fat cow. I’ve gotten on a doctor’s scale twice in the last three days and every time has been unpleasant. Now I was about to be put into a position where being active was going to be very difficult.

And I think that reason right there was the main source of my rage and frustration.

I listened to a meditation app focused on releasing frustration and anger while finishing up my yoga practice on Monday. The first thing the voice leading the meditation said was to not punish or shame yourself for your frustrations and anger, but look for the source of it. The source of my anger and frustration was not from the hours I sat around waiting to see a doctor or the inadequate healthcare. Though all of that is well worth some wrath. The source of my frustration and anger was from a loss of activity. More accurately, a loss of choice to be active. And you know what? I really like that part about not punishing or shaming myself for being frustrated over a loss of choice because anger and frustration are valid feelings and I allowed myself to be angry over all of it. I yelled and I vented and I declared it all to be so stupid. Then I took some deep breaths and started thinking of ways to move around with a boot on my foot. I started to plan out how to teach a yoga class with a boot on my foot. I mentally practiced what it was going to be like to ride a scooter with a boot on my foot. I thought about solutions for the actual source of my anger.

And in the end, everything turned out to be just fine.

Just for the record, this means that I did 108 Sun Salutations with a fractured ankle. Like a Boss!

HUNGER STRIKE AND BROKEN BONES

Cindy Maddera

We are not as particular about the cat food we buy for the cat as we are with the dog food. The cat eats other animals. He roams the neighborhood. He’s a wild animal. He does what he wants. We usually just buy him the same brand of stuff we get for Josephine because they sell it all at Waldo Grain. That’s where we buy our chicken food, so it’s one stop shopping for all of the animals. Plus, it is the closest place that sells our chicken food and it is a tiny Mom & Pop kind of place. We want them to stay open. Occasionally though, the cat runs low on food and one of us will pick up a bag of whatever to tide him over until we can get to Waldo Grain. Last time this happened, Michael picked up a bag of cat food from Whole Foods. Nice, fancy, healthy cat food.

The cat refused to eat it.

Michael then picked up a bag of crappy cat food.

The cat takes a few bites and then walks away.

It’s been three weeks since I have put food in his bowl. His bowl is full of food and he comes in daily with his ‘meow, meow, meow, my bowl is empty’ routine. He’s starting to look skinny, but not a good skinny. Finally, I dumped out the bowl of old food and replaced it with his usual food from the feed store. I am happy to report that our dumb cat who ate an entire mouse the other day (I mean the whole damn thing) is now eating his food. Hallelujah!

Right around the time Albus decided to go on his hunger strike, I fell in a hole in the backyard and twisted my ankle. I might have mentioned it in a previous post. Last Saturday, after a day of scooter riding, Michael looked over at my ankle and was all “WHY IS YOUR ANKLE SO SWOLLEN!?!?!” Then he made me make a doctor’s appointment. X-rays were taken. The X-ray tech let me look at the pictures. I couldn’t see anything wrong (because I’m not a doctor) and declared myself totally fine.

I am not totally fine.

My doctor called me this morning to tell me that I have a fracture in my medial malleolus. She then referred me to orthopedics, but they can’t get me in until the 25th. That’s the day before we leave for Boston for conference/vacation. So…I’m just walking around with a broken ankle all this time, still doing what I do. Teaching yoga. Spending time on the elliptical or bike. Standing at my desk. Taking walks. You know, the OPPOSITE of resting. People keep asking me about pain and I shrug and say “it doesn’t really hurt.” Because it doesn’t. It feels like a sore muscle on the left side of my ankle. It does not hurt to walk. When the doctor called and told me about the fracture, I became furious. When I scheduled my appointment with the orthopedic doctor and they couldn’t see me for almost another two weeks, I burst into flames of rage. A broken bone needs about six weeks to heal. I’ve been walking around on it for three weeks. It’s two more weeks until the orthopedic doctor sees me. That’s five weeks.

I don’t even see the point in going.

I’ve got an ace bandage and I know how to use it.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

I was dreaming. I’ve been doing that a lot these days. Crazy wigged out dreams. I’m reading Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam Trilogy, more than half way through book two, and so there’s been some element from these books showing up in dreamland. I woke up with a jolt at four AM the other morning pretty certain that some escapee from Painball was pounding on our front door. Though, not all of the dreams are what I would assume an LSD trip would be like. They are what one might call ‘normal’ or even ‘mundane’ dreams. These are the ones that I wake up from and have a vague idea of something I saw or heard, but mostly it is all too vague to really remember. This particular dream I was having sort of fit into that vague, unmemorable dream category. I remember that I was reading a blog entry written by a woman who had recently lost her husband. This woman was no one I know or currently read. I don’t remember anything much about her really other than she was writing about grief. I remember nodding my head in agreement as I read her entry. She had made an analogy about grief being like a rope and how each thread was some aspect of grief.

I remember thinking as I read her writing that it was very well written. I thought her analogy made sense. Except now that I think harder about it, her analogy was much more complex than the one I just shared. I have a sudden image of gold rings threaded through rope for some reason. The most important thing I remember from this dream though, is reading her post and thinking “I don’t want to write about this stuff any more.” This was my very last thought before I woke up and it stayed with me. I don’t want to write about grief any more. I don’t want to be known as Cindy Maddera, the Grief Blogger. Even though I know all about that rope and each and every little strand that makes up that rope, I don’t want to dig into the details of explaining it to you. But not writing about grief poses some difficulties. For one thing, grief never goes away. I mean, just the other day as I was looking over the yoga class I had planned to teach that evening, my mind drifted to that time I couldn’t even look at my yoga mat without hearing my mother’s voice as she attempted to tell me that something had happened to J. It’s been almost fourteen years since that day and yet the horror of it all still bubbles up at the most random times. Another difficulty in not writing about my grief is that for a while now, I have let this part of my writing define who I am as a person. I’ve unofficially given my self the title of Grief Blogger. “Write what you know".” Isn’t that the advice some famous writer gave to potential writers once? Well…I know grief. But I’m not the authority on the subject. We all know something about grief. You don’t need me to teach you or explain it or add to it. Grief is a part of who I am. A part. I am made up of many many parts. I am more than my grief.

I am more than this.

I know now that I was the woman doing the writing in that dream. I was reading my own blog and thinking “enough.” Move forward. Show the world you are more than this. That is what I want to do. I recognize the healing power of writing down all of those thoughts surrounding my sadness. But you don’t leave a band-aid on forever.

THE TRAVELING CARNIVAL

Cindy Maddera

The honeysuckle on the fence line fills the evenings with its sweet smell as the fireflies dance around the backyard. The boom and pop of fireworks reverberate from all directions. It has been like that for almost two weeks. Every thing nostalgic of summer. Hot. Sticky. Humid. Sunscreen and bug spray. Ice cream for dinner. As I step out of the shower in the mornings, I slather on sunscreen instead of regular lotion because I know I’m going to be riding my scooter or walking outside. We go to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings and buy tomatoes and spend the day riding around on our scooters. This weekend we passed a carnival set up in a parking lot of a derelict shopping center. It was complete with all of the spinning rides that you see in every traveling carnival. The thrill of the ride is whether or not it is going to rattle apart while you’re spinning precariously around at high speed. We had planned to take the Cabbage, but she wasn’t feeling well when Michael picked her up on Sunday. The carnival was packed up and gone by Monday morning, off to their next parking lot and rundown shopping center.

I think about how our perceptions of those traveling carnivals change as we age. As a kid, they held some kind of mystery and glamour. You’d ride your bike down past the empty lot that sits between the feed lot and train tracks one day and it would still be vacant, weeds poking up through the cracked cement. The next morning the lot would be full of activity as rides were bolted back together like a tinker toy set and game booths replenished with plastic wrapped stuffed animals. By the time evening rolled around, the ferris wheel would be up and operational with lights flashing in synchronicity with some tune. There would already be a line for tickets. You would stand in this line with your best friend and discuss how many times you would be able to ride the Bullet that night and what flavor of snow cone you planned on eating afterward. You would spend five dollars trying to win a barely living goldfish at the ring toss. There was always that one ride, usually the Swizzler or Tilt-a-Whirl, that was run by the ‘cute’ carney. You know, that one guy that’s handsome in that rugged, dangerous kind of way. The older teenage girls would hover around that ride pretending to be older and experienced. Over exaggerating their laughter and twirling a sucker in their shiny lip-gloss coated mouths. Every thing was bright and loud. Everything was perfectly safe.

Two days later, all of it would be gone. The only thing left behind would be a few random popcorn boxes of spilled popcorn, the birds fighting over the kernels. There would be some out loud wishful thinking from some of the boys about how they wish they could travel around with the carnival. A rumor about what did or did not happen between You Know Who and Cute Carney Guy would circle around the skate rink for a week or two before some other juicy rumor would take its place. Summer would end and school would start back. We’d all forget about the carnival and the summer. It would be school work as usual, football games and church choir practice. Some random neon colored flyers announcing the carnival would still be stapled to telephone poles around the town months later, well after the return of Fall. Reminders of those two hot summer days of thrills. You will step out the general store and notice one of those neon flyers still stuck to a pole, but it will be torn with graffiti scribbled across it.

And that’s how carnivals will seem to you as an adult, torn and graffitied.

As an adult you will notice the chipped paint and rusted bar on the swinging ferris wheel basket. You will be very aware that you are sitting in a contraption that was literally built that day, bolts tightened down and tested by the guy wearing a what used to be white tank top and sporting a mullet. He most likely was high while doing all of those things. You will see the lights that are burned out and you will hear music that was considered to be classic rock when you were a teenager. That guy running the Swizzler or Tilt-a-Whirl will not be ruggedly handsome, but smarmy and predatory. You recoil and shrink yourself up as he locks the the safety belt for you in hopes to avoid him coping a feel. You complain about the amount of money the child you are escorting wants to spend on trying to win a dying fish. You do not miss the carnival once it has packed up and left, but you will make a face at the amount of trash left in their wake. When is it, do you think, when the mystery and the glamour of the traveling carnivals is no longer a mystery or remotely glamorous? Is it before or after you stop believing in fairy tales? Or does it all happen at once? You just wake up one day with a new pair of eyes or the rose colored pair you’d been wearing finally broke. I don’t remember an in between phase. I don’t remember seeing the the worn out dirtiness of the carnival while at the same time being drawn to the mystery of it all.

Though I am always up for a slide down the Super Slide, even if those burlap sacks are smelly and crusted with good lord knows what.

BAG IT

Cindy Maddera

Michael and I were out on our scooters recently when we came to a cool section of road. The street narrowed down to one lane and you had to go through a tunnel. There is a stop light on either side of this tunnel, so you don’t end up crashing with on coming traffic. When we got to the tunnel, our light was red and I thought “what a great picture!”. Except in order for me to get that picture, I had to put my scooter on its stand, turn off the engine, remove the key and then use the key to unlock my seat so I can retrieve my camera. The light changed before I could complete step four. I did not get the picture I wanted. I did not even get a picture I didn’t want. Zero pictures were taken.

What I need it some sort of quick-draw camera system for when I’m riding the scooter. I need to be the Annie Oakley of photography.

I’ve been carting a backpack around for a couple of years. It’s big and has a padded bottom. My backpack holds my iPad or my laptop or both as well as my camera, an extra lens, and all of the other bits of things one tends to cart around with them. In my case, the extra things just happen to be two melted caramel apple suckers from Ike’s and half a sand dollar I collected from a beach in Oregon. Clearly, I have room to pair down the crap I cart around with me. I have been half seriously looking at bag options for traveling lighter, but the need to easily and quickly get to my camera (any one of them) made me step up the search. I read some reviews and did some research before purchasing the KAVU Rope Sling bag and this was my first weekend to test it out.

I am not disappointed with this purchase.

It comfortably and easily holds everything I need to carry with me during the week. I’m going to put an emphasis on the word ‘need’. I do not need to lug my large lens with me every day. I do not need to lug around half a box of tampons with me every day, which is what I found in in the bottom of one zippered compartment while cleaning out the backpack. I could stand to get a smaller wallet. In fact, the current wallet is an old wallet that I started using again after the zipper on my smaller wallet broke. My water bottle will fit in that pocket if I downsize my wallet. The list of things I need to cart around on weekends is even less. I don’t take my iPad every where on weekends. The KAVU bag meets all of these needs and it’s comfortable to carry on my back. Also, because of the sling design, I can flip the bag around and access the pockets quickly. My phone (camera 1) fits in the front pocket for easy access, while my Nikon (camera 2) fits in the larger compartment. If I’m thinking straight when I pack the Nikon, I can pack it in such a way that when I reach in, my hand fits around the camera body in shooting mode. I’m not Annie Oakley fast on the draw, but I’m sure that I will get better with practice.

I think this is going to be my new favorite traveling bag. I wore it all day on Saturday and I didn’t ever feel tightness or tension in my right shoulder. That is something I experience with every over the shoulder bag. I have a tiny wallet like bag that just holds my phone and a couple of cards. Even that bag makes that area between my neck and shoulder tight by the end of a day. And I love that tiny bag. It has the cutest elephant stitched to the outside. The KAVU bag distributes the weight of my things across my back. It is compact and less clunky than the backpack. It is also water proof. My backpack is not. I really used to stress about getting caught in the rain with that backpack on my back. I don’t have to worry about that now.

Look, no one’s paying me to write this post. I just don’t have anything else I want to talk about today.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

I had plans to take today off from work. I thought I would get a jump start on the weekend by getting some yard work done and maybe making a trip to COSTCO. Michael and I are scooting over to a new to us place in Lee’s Summit for happy hour tonight and it would be nice to get there right when that happy hour starts. So, Thursday morning, I said to my boss who just happened to be standing next to by desk that I was taking Friday off. I put it on our calendar. Then I went to a meeting. When I came back, I had an email from someone who had booked a microscope for tomorrow that needed help with the imaging. My shoulders sagged as I went back into the calendar and deleted my vacation day.

I was recently reading some correspondence from a friend. Catch-up/how ya doin’ email. He said that he was going to Japan by himself, just to tool around and see some sights. His wife told him to go. I read about his solo journey and I was so envious. There seems to be something very appealing about traveling off somewhere to explore all on your own without any obligations to anyone but yourself. No constant monitoring of someone else to make sure they are okay, sleepy or hungry. Packing a bag just for you and not end up having to be responsible for everybody’s toiletries or shoes or chargers. Walking at your own pace. What is it like to do something just for you? I know I’ve mentioned it here before about how nice it would be to ride the train all the way to Chicago, spend the night and come back the next day. This idea or dream is always the first thing that pops into my head when I feel my inner batteries winding down.

Yet, you’ll notice that I was just about to take a day off to do chores. Not replenish batteries.

The Cabbage is staying with her grandparents this week and Michael told me not to wake him up for breakfast Thursday morning. He said it would be the first time he has woken up in the house alone since school let out for the summer. He said it and I thought “I never get that opportunity.” I wonder what that’s like. In order for me have that solitude experience, I have to go out of town. Which is something I have hard time asking for. I’ve been told that I spend a lot of time taking care of others, but not a lot of time taking care of myself.

Today I am thankful for the reminder that this needs to change.

I’m working on it.

THE IRRITATION OF IT ALL

Cindy Maddera

It’s sometime after lunch and I decide that I need a cup of tea. I think I might as well do a loop outside on my way to get said tea. Get up, move my body around after a few hours of staring at a computer screen exporting data. There is a small parking area on the side of the building and I as reach the area, a man steps out of his Lexus and approaches me. He’s maybe late forties, early fifties, business suit type. He’s holding a sticky note with a name of a building and an address written on it. He asks me if this is the B building. I kindly shake my head and reply “No…this is the S Institute. I think you’re looking for a building across the street.” The man then holds the sticky note out and points. He says “But, the address says it is on Rockhill Road.” It was on the tip of my tongue to say something about how there’s two sides to a road when one of our security guards walks up and takes over.

I step back and continue on my way, but the more I think about it the more irritated I become. I mean, I can see the building the man was looking for right across the street. It has the name of the building written across it in big letters, for gosh sakes. I couldn’t help but believe his doubt in my ability to give him the correct directions had something to do with my gender. He didn’t question our male security guard when he also told the man the building he was looking for was right across the street. Part of me wants to give the man the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he just needed a second opinion. But another part of me is pissed off and sweary over the whole thing. I’ve put this man into the pile of older white privileged males that I’ve been mentally collecting to be pushed over a cliff with a bulldozer. That pile grows larger by the day. It includes all of those old white dudes who vote and make decisions regarding women’s healthcare or think they can grab a woman and do whatever he wants with her.

I’m going to need a bigger bulldozer.

There is another side of this white male privilege that I have been struggling with lately. It is not necessarily a story I can write here, at least not the details of it. It has to do with someone using their privilege to gain access to resources for cancer treatments for a family member that not everyone would have access too. I like this person. I respect this person, but every time he starts talking about next steps and details of it all, I have to get up and leave the room. My emotions range from anger to guilt to shame and doubt. I wonder if I had known to ask for this resource if it would have been available to me. Then I feel stupid that I didn’t even think to ask in the first place. A little bit of rage and jealously settles in because I know that his access to this resource is only possible through his privilege and that if I had asked for it for myself, I would have been told the same thing every doctor told us.

There’s nothing we can do.

Inevitably, after the times I have to leave the room, I end up standing in my favorite bathroom stall, gasping in air between sobs. I stand there, clutching the top of the door, trying to regain control. I tell myself that it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t. This man is just prolonging the outcome. That’s all I would have been doing. Prolonging Chris’s illness. When I think of it this way, it sounds cruel in my ears. There’s no way I would have prolonged Chris’s suffering. This man is just using his privilege to give his family some hope and I can’t fault him for that. Hope is nice. Also, this man is clueless and naive about his white male privilege. It doesn’t even dawn on him how fortunate he is to have access to this kind of hope. In his world, any one could do what he’s doing. I soothe myself a little bit by letting myself feel sorry for him and his naivety.

But I don’t for a moment forgive him for it.

I pull myself together and tell myself that I am not one of those people. I’m not one of those people who think that if I don’t have something, you can’t have it. I let myself be the naive one for a change and believe that after his experience, maybe he will find a way to share this resource with others. He will find a way for more people to benefit from this. Maybe it’s my job to remind him of this, teach him to use his privilege to help others.

I bet I could do it in such a way that he’d even think it was his own idea.

PLACES I WANT TO GO

Cindy Maddera

There is a village in the middle of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Preserve in Mexico. Angangueo is the name of the town. It’s about a three hour drive west and a little north from Mexico City. We’ve been watching One Strange Rock on Netflix and this village was in one of the episodes. Michael and I have both been staring at the screen while this documentary plays with our mouths agape and eyes wide in wonder. You would think that we were too old and slightly jaded to be wowed by the images and knowledge presented in the documentary, but nope. The excitement and wonder I feel watching this is not unlike the very first time I looked at pond water under a microscope.

It’s like wow! - Beck

Any way…episode 10 talks about home and life and death. It is a beautiful and important episode to watch, but the moment my breath caught was when they focused on the town of Angangueo. Every year the town celebrates The Day of Dead, like all of Mexico, but here the celebration also happens to coincide with arrival of the Monarch butterflies who migrate to the preserve for the winter. The butterflies are like the souls of the peoples’ ancestors and loved ones returning to visit

And I want to go there.

I want to wander down the cobblestone streets and explore old cemeteries and churches. I want to buy armloads of marigolds to leave at every alter and watch as the monarch butterflies float down from the sky to rest on the bright orange flowers. I want to have my face painted and I want to record all of the beautifully painted faces I see. I want to take Chris’s ashes there and set up a small alter surrounded with marigolds and street tacos. I want to hike deep into the preserve to see thousands and thousands of butterflies. I have already started checking into costs for flights and hotels and car rentals; making plans for maybe next year. I’ve become obsessed and even emailed one of graduate students who is from Mexico City with all kinds of questions.

Maybe some times I see this space as a place to make wishes come true. If I type it here, then I have to do it. It kind of makes me think of my old bucket list, how when I had it posted up here, I did stuff on that list. I marked things off the list. Then I changed, my life changed, and the list didn’t reflect all of the things I wanted to do any more. Well…truthfully…there was a while where I didn’t want to do anything any more except drool on the couch. I don’t know if I’m ready to sit down and re-write the 100 Things To Do Before I Die list. That seems like a bit much right now, like I’d end up reaching for things to do just to write the list. But Angangueo during the Day Of The Dead celebrations?

That’s happening.

108 THINGS

Cindy Maddera

It has happened three times in the last two weeks. I have gotten to work only to realize that I have forgotten to put any of my jewelry onto my body. My hand goes first to my throat to feel for my necklaces. A microsecond of panic sets in when I feel that they are missing. Then I check my ears for my tiny little elephant earrings and my wrist for bracelets. The panic subsides when I discover that all of the rest of the stuff is missing as well. That most likely means that I have not lost the necklaces. The whole point of wearing my necklaces, at least one of them any way, is to not lose some precious items. Chris’s wedding ring. My wedding ring set. My scooter charm from Tiffany’s. The heaviness of those rings disappeared a while ago. It was only after I added the scooter charm that I felt the weight of what that silver chain was carrying again. I was laughing with a yoga student not too long ago. She had taken off her big clunky necklace before class and was struggling to get it back on. She said she took it off because she feared an injury. I told her about my wedding rings and how one time as I was coming into down dog, Chris’s ring hit me in the mouth. I laughed and said something about how I could have chipped a tooth. I take them off now when I’m doing yoga. Usually. But the whole thing has become light as feathers around my neck and half the time I don’t notice them… until it hits me in the face in a forward fold.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I walk into the gym and grab a pair of hand weights. Then I get on one of the stationary bikes. While I’m watching something on Netflix or Amazon, I do various arm exercises and peddle on the bike. I started out with the tiny three pound weights. Now I have worked up to a whopping eight pounds. My goal is to just tone up my arms a bit, not build giant Hulk muscles. I am good with the eight pound weights. I can do enough repetitions of curls and tricep extensions to still feel the burn of my muscles working. I might move up to ten pounds weight soon, but I am content with the eight. I do not know how long it took me to recognize the moment when the three pound weight was just too easy or how long I stayed with the five pound weight before moving on to the eight. I did not keep track of time. I have noticed that about myself, lately. I struggle with keeping track of time. Or, at least, it is not something I pay attention to. Michael said something recently about it being June and how we needed to go to Bella Napoli’s. It took me a few minutes to understand what he was talking about. Anniversary thing. It is not that I forgot. It is that I just wasn’t paying attention.

Paying attention.

It is a choice, albeit a subconscious one, to pay attention to some things and not others. When I am doing my morning walk, I am paying attention to my surroundings. I hear the birds chirping and the roar of the water feature and the rush of the cars zipping by. I pay attention to how the sunlight filters down through the trees and hits the water droplets on the grass so that they look like they’re tipped with diamonds. I pay attention to chips in sidewalks because some times they are interesting. I do not pay attention to the passing of time and I no longer pay attention to the weight I carry around with me. Both of those things are just stuff that I have gotten used to. They happen whether I am paying attention or not. I suppose the other stuff does too, but again…choices. The thing is, I do not feel any lighter when that necklace does not end up resting on my collar bone. I feel nothing. That is the thing I notice. The nothingness. Not the heaviness of the chain or how light I feel without it. It is the bare nothingness that I feel. A moment of exposure.

Thursday night, I attended Kelly’s Yoga Mala class where she guided us through 108 rounds of sun salutations. I went into that class doubting my abilities to do 108 rounds of anything. I have refined my practice over the years and every movement I make is deliberate. I step back to plank without making a sound. I move from plank to chatturanga slowely and with control. It has taken me years to be able to do this, but it is one thing to do this ten or twenty times during my usual practice and quite another to do this 108 times. I did not believe I had it in me to maintain that kind of control. Kelly broke the class up into four groups with breaks in between. For each group we faced a different direction with a different intention starting with the East and new beginnings. By the time we were facing West, we were half way through. The intention for that direction was letting go and saying goodbye. I am so practiced at saying goodbye. It is the letting go part that is difficult. Mostly it is the letting go of this idea I have about myself that I am not strong enough for this. I can’t. I do not even know where this idea came from or how that seed ever got planted in my brain, but it is there, sprouting, growing. Telling me that I am weak, worthless. When did this start? From the beginning? I can not remember a time when I did not feel this way about myself. Or I did not pay attention to that time when I did not feel this way about myself.

I faced West, lifted my hands, my face, my heart to the sky before folding forward. I ripped that sprouted seed out of my brain. I let it go. I smashed and crumpled it up. I know my strength. I know the weight I carry. The weight is immeasurable, yet I carry it without even noticing the heaviness of it. That’s how fucking strong I am. I could hear something screaming in my head as we turned to face North for the final 27 rounds. It took me a minute to recognize the roar coming from a voice inside me that has been quiet for far too long, but there it was yelling and cheering. I was sweaty, but I was not exhausted. I moved with my breath, on my time frame and I took the time to carefully set up each pose. I completed all 108 rounds of sun salutation without once sacrificing my form. I did them all with the same deliberate control as I do in my own personal practice.

That is how fucking strong I am.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Michael had one job that I wanted from him this summer while he was on summer vacation. That one job was to tackle the garage. We had almost talked ourselves into building a shed in the backyard because the garage had gotten so bad. Michael’s new scooter is bigger than his old one. Add in two bicycles, camp gear, an old Radio Flyer wagon we don’t ever use, chicken supplies, gardening tools, extension cords, and just the junk that accumulates in the garage and you’ve got yourself one unusable mess of a space. The garage was frustrating. Then, during our awful awful winter, Michael looked at me and said “Can I buy a snowblower?” I said “Yes, but only if you promise with your whole heart that you will clean out the garage this summer.” He agreed but said “What happens if I don’t end up cleaning out the garage?” I told him that I would send the snowblower back.

Michael cleaned out the garage this week.

The garage came with a set of built-in wooden shelves and you would think that this was a useful feature. Except they take up a lot of real-estate when it comes to scooter parking. Michael ripped half of the shelves out and moved the bike hooks to that wall. Now our bicycles hang flat against a wall and our scooters have space between them when we park. I can actually take my bike off of this hook on my own. Before, it was hanging from the ceiling. I could not hang it or take it off of that hook without bruises. The other evening, I got home and Michael and the Cabbage were off on his scooter somewhere. I was able to pull my scooter into the garage and turn it around in side the garage. Trust me when I tell you that turning a scooter around on a flat surface is far easier than having to do it on a slope. With broken asphalt. We also switched parking spaces, so that if I do have back out of the garage it’s easier to turn around. I back out while turning to the right and then move forward turning to the left and then I’m facing the street. We still think a backyard shed will help us out a lot. We can put the lawnmower and other lawn stuff in there as well as the chicken supplies. Michael did have to take all the camp gear to the basement to get it out of his way. So we might buy an extra rack of shelves for the basement just for camping stuff.

Doesn’t matter. What matters is that the garage is a usable space now. I am thankful for the work Michael put into it. Right now he’s at the doctor, being treated for some kind of spider/bug bite that he probably sustained while cleaning out the garage. That’s how hard he worked! He should know that all of his work is greatly appreciated.

I am also thankful that I don’t have to send his snowblower back.

DIET

Cindy Maddera

Michael sent me a text early last week asking me how I felt about the Keto diet. I was glad this was coming at me through text instead of face to face so he couldn’t see me roll my eyes and gag myself with my finger. This is my reaction to any fad diet or even to the word ‘diet’. So I replied by asking why he wanted to talk about this Keto diet. Things have gotten a little off the rails for him since his summer vacation started. He and the Cabbage often have fast-food lunches while they’re out and about during the day. Then there’s the snacks and the booze and he was feeling it. I suggested that we do a week long reset where we basically eat a vegan gluten-free diet without caffeine and alcohol. Surprisingly enough, he was completely on board. So we came up with a meal plan for the week and I carefully picked out recipes that are big on flavor so he wouldn’t miss stuff like cheese. And meat.

The first time I did this kind of reset, Chris and I were living in Oklahoma and I was in yoga teacher training. I did it for a week and it was the most difficult food week I have ever experienced. I did not know what I was doing. I was not a creative cook. Ingredients where hard to come by without spending a whole paycheck. Shopping took hours and hours because of all the label reading and the traveling to three different grocery stores. All of that combined with the sudden loss of the refined sugars and caffeine that I was used to made me want to punch people in their faces. This week has not been at all like that first week. There’s a few reasons for that. One is that I already mostly eat this way. When I do the grocery shopping for the week, most of groceries have to be refrigerated. Very few cans or packaged goods have to be put into the pantry. Our grocery gathering is split between two grocery stores: Trader Joe’s and Aldi. Both of these places make it really easy for me to buy unprocessed and healthy foods without breaking the bank. I ended up reading labels on a few items like enchilada sauce (contains sugar, made my own) and salsa (the Aldi Simply Nature line salsa contains sugar…don’t be fooled by branding), but most of the list consisted of fresh vegetables. You don’t have to really read those labels.

The meal plan for the week doesn’t look too different from another week except minus the cheese and maybe fish. We had quinoa stuffed portobello mushrooms with a kale salad one night and enchiladas the next. Buddha bowls are planned for one night and lintel sweet potato masala for another. Michael gets up in the morning and eats breakfast with me before he has to get the Cabbage up for summer camp. This morning we talked about making this a regular thing for at least the summer. Sunday through Thursday we’ll have vegan dinners and lunches. That gives us Friday and Saturday night to be more flexible with the meal. Maybe eat a pizza or cook a whole fish on Saturday. Try out a new restaurant. When I think about it, this is exactly how I was eating in my single times. I’d treat myself to a nice lunch out somewhere on Saturdays but mostly I was cooking at home and leaned towards the foods that made me feel good after eating them. Most of those meals were vegan.

I am surprised at how well Michael has taken to this food change. He’s missing his tea and maybe cheese right about now, but all in all he’s fine. It was even his idea to extend this change through the whole summer. I guess if I had to choose a word for this summer, a theme word, it would be ‘change’. There’s a lot of change happening around here. We’ve seen friends head off to new adventures in a new city. We’ll be seeing another friend off to a new adventure and restart to his life at the end of summer. I’ve been working really hard at believing in myself and making changes in my life to reflect that belief. It only makes sense to make some minor changes with our food. In this case, I’m making a change back to a way of life that had become normal for me at one time. It feels like slowely settling back into a beanbag chair and that doesn’t at all sound like a bad place to be.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Now is your opportunity to be thankful for this day. - Kelly Cirone, yoga teacher and plant queen

This is what Kelly told a group of us on Wednesday as we finished up our yoga class together. I get on my yoga mat every day, but only go to one class a week. Though I did sign up for a special Yoga Mala class next Thursday. Kelly is going to lead us through 108 sun salutations to bring in the Summer Solstice. I’m already doubting my ability to do 108 chatturangas. The number 108 is a sacred number. It is also the same number of beads in a prayer bracelet. It sounds like a a really big number. This is why I go to yoga classes every now and again: to have someone guide and push me to do poses and vinyasas that I wouldn’t necessarily do on my own, even if that means doing 108 rounds of sun salutations.

That very same day, a storm moved in to our area. It turned the sky into that shade of dark blue that is almost purple. Gusts of wind blew leaves and limbs and trash all over. I left work on my scooter, just barely ahead of it all. It was like being chased by the weather as I zipped home, swerving to avoid the debris already flying around on the streets. I parked the scooter in the garage just as the first loud crash of thunder sounded. Then I raced out to feed the chickens before the rain started. Michael collected the eggs while I swapped out their food bin. I took four steps away from the coop. On the fifth step, my left foot went into a small hole in the yard and my ankle rolled. I heard a sickening crunch sound as it happened and (still) really believe that was the sound of the grass ripping under my sliding foot. My body fell down to the ground and I got that nauseous feeling you sometimes get when you’ve struck something really hard. I sat there for a minute shaking the stars from my vision and then hobbled my way into the house. Then I just proceeded with my usual Wednesday habits. That included teaching a yoga class. By the time I finished teaching, my left ankle was about twice the size of the right one. I went home and elevated my ankle and covered it with an ice pack.

The next day, I got out of bed very carefully and took a step. It wasn’t so bad. I thought “I can do this!” So… I did it. I stood at my desk for the first two hours of work. I walked my loop to get coffee. I rode the stationary bike and got on my yoga mat. My ankle hurt the whole time, but I just kept on going. I propped my foot up on my desk while I ate lunch and scrounged an ice pack out of the freezer to prop against it. If I have to be completely and totally honest with you, I will say that just touching the outside part of my ankle will make me punch you in the face. Walking doesn’t hurt too badly if I move slow. Except I’m not a slow walker and this forced slow down also makes me want to punch someone in the face. I’ve got things to do. We’re packing the camper up for Branson. I’ve got places to go. We’re going to Silver Dollar City tomorrow! I do not have time to limp my way from task to place to task to place.

I have a hard time practicing the slow down that I preach.

Now is your opportunity to be thankful for this day.

With each passing day, this ankle is going to get better and better. But only if I give it the rest it needs to do so. Now is my opportunity to be thankful for how much better my ankle feels today as compared to yesterday. Now is my opportunity to be thankful for this reminder to slow down. Now is my opportunity to be thankful for the reminder to have patience with myself.

SALAD DAYS

Cindy Maddera

Last weekend, Michael and I stumbled upon the Lee’s Summit Farmer’s market by total accident. I yelled “STOP THE CAR!” and Michael found us a parking space. The first booth we went up to was selling mushrooms. They had a variety of ‘shrooms called Lion’s Mane that Michael and I had never seen before. We bought them for our camp dinner that night along with some asparagus and some heirloom tomatoes. We sautéed the mushrooms with the asparagus and sliced the tomatoes before sprinkling them with salt and pepper. The mushrooms were good, but it was after taking a bite of tomato where I thought “THIS! This is what I want to eat for the rest of the summer.” For years, I have watched my parents eat tomatoes this way and I never really got it. As a child, I found it down right disgusting. Then, it just became tolerable. Now, I want it every day.

There was a summer where I felt the same way about sliced jicama tossed with lime juice and cayenne pepper. The summer after Chris died, I lived on a shredded beet and carrot salad. Yes…everything was red. For weeks.

It just got warm around here. Or at least it has been for the last two or three weeks. It’s been the kind of warm muggy weather that makes you believe that it is Summer time. Today, not so much. A cold front moved through yesterday and the air has that feeling that it gets just when Summer starts thinking about Fall. But for a few days there, we had real summer days where I planned salads for almost every day of our meal plan. I pulled a salad recipe from our most recent Bon Appetit to go with our tuna steaks last night. Thinly sliced snap peas, cubed cantaloup, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, ancho chilly powder and sliced ricotta salata cheese. I threw in some arugula to stretch out the salad so I could have some for lunch the next day. We also could not find ricotta salata cheese, but the cheese person at Whole Foods pointed us to a good substitute that was not too pricey. I don’t even really like cantaloup, but toss it with greens, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and ancho and a good cheese and holy goats! That stuff’s delicious. We’ve also grown attached to an arugula, cherry tomato, avocado and red onion salad. The dressing is a simple homemade vinaigrette. Toss all that together and eat it straight out of the salad bowl.

As good as these salads have been, I still only want the salt and pepper tomatoes. But they have to be good tomatoes. Not those mealy flavorless things sold out of season in grocery stores. I want those bright red almost lumpy looking tomatoes that came from grandpa’s backyard. I am surprised by this new flavor attachment. My parents brought their southern Mississippi palates and tastes with them when they moved to Oklahoma and thats what I grew up eating. We didn’t fry our okra. We boiled it with tomatoes or pickled it. Nobody I know likes boiled okra except for me. Grits could either be sweet or savory, but usually sweet and creamy for breakfast. Michael and I were in a local diner for breakfast a long time ago. He ordered the cheesy grits. The waitress brought him a bowl of white instant grits topped with a slice of American cheese. I had to restrain myself from picking up the whole bowl and throwing it across the room. I ordered cheesy grits at a local hipster BBQ place once and they were crunchy because they didn’t cook them long enough. Michael politely told our waitress the grits were crunchy and we wanted to send them back. She replied “that’s just how we make them.” And I swear I felt all of my southern grandmas summersault in their graves.

Cornbread. Cornbread is not sweet like a cake. It’s made in a cast-iron skillet and should be eaten with every thing, but most definitely it should be crumbled into a glass of milk and then eaten with a spoon.

That first bite of that salt and pepper tomato triggered memories and smells of memories. Every hot Oklahoma Summer swirled into my head. All the summer days of bare feet and bicycles. Swimming in the galvanized stock tank my dad rolled into out back yard and filled up with the water hose. Sinking up to our knees in the mud as we played hide and seek in the corn. County fairs. Then there were the years where I’d only eat raw tomatoes if they were in salsa. The first time we took Chris to Colorado for a camping trip, we bought a giant tomato at the Boulder Farmer’s Market. When Mom sliced that tomato up to go with our dinner that night and then sprinkled it with salt and pepper, I was unenthusiastic, but I ate it. It hurts my heart a little to think about how much I under-appreciated that tomato.

Now I’m thinking about all the other things I may have under-appreciated.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

We love. It is inherent to our nature, to love, to desire, to want to be desired. Love comes in many different forms. The love a mother has for her child is different than the love she has for her partner who helped create that child. Love is big. Love is small. We all love. The old saying of “you can’t always choose the one you love” holds some truth. If love was a choice, I’m not so sure it is something I would choose some times. Love has consequences. Love can be illegal. Interracial marriages were illegal for years. It wasn’t until 1967 that Supreme Court ruled that banning interracial marriages violated the 14th Amendment. Same Sex marriages took much longer to be recognized, but there are now 26 countries recognize same sex marriages.

There are at least 14 countries where homosexuality is punishable by death.

You could be put to death for love.

This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall riots. Our government kept lists of known homosexuals and favorite meeting places. Cities would routinely do raids to rid neighborhoods of gay people. In the early morning hours of June 28th, New York City police raided The Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. The usual protocol for these raids was to line everybody up and check IDs. People dressed as women were to accompany a female police officer to the bathroom where they would have to ‘verify’ their sex. That night, the patrons of the Stonewall Inn refused. No one produced IDs and no one was accompanying a female officer to the bathroom. The Police just decided to haul everyone in to jail. Crowds started forming outside while patty wagons pulled up out front and police started loading patrons into the wagons. One woman who was struggling and yelling and complaining about her cuffs being too tight was hit in the head with a baton. She looked at the crowd and yelled “Why don’t you do something?” That’s when the crowd became a mob and things got violent. Crowds surged forward to help those being arrested. Things like bottles and rocks were thrown. The riots and demonstrations against the raid would last for six days. The Stonewall Riots are considered by many to be the event that would expand the LGBT civil rights movement. Two years later, New York City would host the very first Gay Pride Parade. The Stonewall Inn was declared a National Monument in 2016. I have a stamp for it in my National Parks Passport.

It is hard to imagine the Stonewall Inn riots happening today. It’s hard to imagine a lot of things happening today, yet here we are. Still hating and discriminating. Some times I get really bogged down by this. How is it if we teach God is love and love is an inherent human nature, can we still be so hateful to one another? Then I am reminded that those who hate, hate because they were taught to hate. They hate because they were not shown or taught to love. They hate because they are jealous of the freedom to be the person they are and love the person they love. They are jealous of that acceptance, of the comfort that comes with being true to one’s self. I don’t say this to excuse them. But if you know the why, you just might be able to find a way to change it.

Love trumps hate.

I am thankful for those who came before me who have fought so fiercely for love.

THEY MAY HAVE BEEN POTATOES

Cindy Maddera

Last Friday, Michael drove the trailer over to Longview Lake campground which is about twenty minutes from our house. By the time I loaded up some dry goods and the dog and fought my way through traffic to meet him at the campground, he had already set everything up and was even lounging in his camp chair with a beer. All I had to do was hang up the camp lights. This is monumental because Michael and I have been discussing some things about traveling and the camper. We’ve been talking about Michael and the Cabbage driving out to where ever, California, the Grand Canyon, the East Coast, and then I would fly out to meet them. We spend a lot of time getting to the place where we really want to be. Then we don’t get to spend as much time as we would like in that place before we have to start back home. I have less vacation days. Michael and the Cabbage can take their time. Now we know that Michael can set the camper up all by himself. So…next year it looks like we’re headed to Washington!

We also discovered that potatoes do not last a year sealed up inside a plastic bin.

At least I think they were potatoes.

I got the utensil bin out so we could make ourselves some sandwiches that evening and everything inside that bin was covered in stinky mold. I threw the whole bin away. Do not worry. All of the titanium sporks are in the kitchen utensil drawer at home. Probably because I feared something like this would happen some day. No one knows how those potatoes got into that bin, especially since we don’t even store our food in that bin. But this is why we chose the closest campground to the house to set the camper up for the first time this season. This was the trip where we de-winterized the camper and took stock of the things we need and the things we need to replace and the things we’d like to have. Like a cooking prep table to set up next to the camp stove or some bus bins for washing dishes with the outside shower head. This was also our trip to discuss future trips.

We are not doing a big trip this year. Michael’s going to come with me when I go to a conference in Boston in July, but we do not have an epic camping family vacation planned for this summer. Instead, the plan is to take the camper to nearby state parks and have travel distances of no more than four hours. We had talked about taking the Cabbage to Omaha for a weekend, but the roads between here and there are under water. We are trading the Omaha Zoo for Silver Dollar City. Apparently teachers get in free and can purchase half-price tickets through the month of June. I have not been to that place since maybe 1998 and the more I think about it, the more excited I get about revisiting this particular childhood haunt. We were there so often that I had all the lines from the Saloon show memorized. I could play any part. I also knew the exact spot on the train ride when we’d get ‘robbed’ by the Bolins and where to stand or not stand during the Rainmaker show. If you were peckish, you could always grab a hot cracklin’ from the sample bowl at the craklin’ booth and giving Mom dipped candles that you made all by yourself was just like handing her a bouquet of wildflowers. We dipped so many candles.

Sure, the place is hokey. But it’s good ole family fun hokey. Maybe I can talk Michael and the Cabbage into getting an old timey family portrait made. Maybe that can be our Christmas card for this year!

Last summer we took the Cabbage on a tour of my childhood stomping grounds. She got to do all of the things that I got to do at her age. Except catch a fish. She did not catch a fish. She did get to run around various campgrounds with other kids in wild packs.. She did get to play in the dirt and climb up (and fall off) giant rocks. She got to see the stars and go for days without taking a bath. It seems almost fitting that we should be taking her to Silver Dollar City this year. I wonder if she’ll let me tie her hair up in pigtails like Mom used to do to me.

And then I can buy her bonnet to wear.

And dress her up like Laura Ingalls.

I’m probably going to have more fun than she will.

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

Cindy Maddera

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

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

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

This is also the same year I met Michael.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I told you my feelings were complicated.

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

Cindy Maddera

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

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

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

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

Because we’re the same.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Short weeks always feel a little bit like long weeks. I’m a day off and I have to make up for it. That is what short weeks feel like for me. One big game of catch up. That’s the American way right? You can have this day off, but you’re going to have to pay for it later. This is particularly hard when I am still processing my thoughts from the weekend. And boy do I have some thoughts to process. I’ve got plans forming in my head right this minute. Monday morning, I’m sending out an email with a link to my portfolio to the manager at the Westside Local with hopes that he will offer me a date for a showing in his restaurant. I have no idea what I’m doing, but I’m doing it. Which means I need to make up new business cards and start printing photos and buying frames. If I sell two photos, I’m buying a new lens and if I write all of that down here it makes me more accountable.

That’s my first project. Plans for my second project of combining pictures with words is in the works.

One of the things Terry said to me last week was “What about you? What are you doing for you?” And I threw my drink in his face and walked away. Not really. But I might have felt like it. He pointed out that I do a lot of taking care of other people and a lot of not taking care of myself. So we started talking about things that I wanted, things I’ve been afraid to say out loud, things that I have been hesitant to put into motion. I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to just say what I want. Maybe because for a long time, whenever I would say what I wanted, I got it or had help getting it or some sort of backing. Then that person who was doing all of that backing and helping and giving was gone. After that, wanting sort of felt like wishes and that I used all of those up with Chris. Who am I to ask for more?

That’s stupid.

Once I said “I want..” to the first thing, it got so easy to say I want more things. Wants that had been buried deep for the last seven years came bubbling up to the surface. I suddenly got a clear defined picture in my head for what it is that I want. Voicing what I want gave me direction. Like.. I know what I’m doing next and I know that next step will determine what I do after that and I know what actions I will be taking. I have a Mother Fuckin’ plan! I don’t think I have felt this clear and focused since Chris died. I’m not even worried about not selling any prints. Some people just might be getting some poster sized photos for Christmas this year. Though Michael did say to me that it’s still just a hobby until I find a way to monetize it. To which I wanted to say “You’re just a hobby.” because I’ve been channelling a less mature version of myself lately. I think we all know that this has become more than just a hobby.

I am a photographer.

I am a writer.

I am an artist.