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THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

I took up a 365 day photo project this year where I take a picture of myself everyday for 365 days. Many of you know I’ve done this before. I’ve completed two years. Almost completed another year. Skipped a year. Tried again for another year and failed. When I decided to do the project this year, I was thinking about how I felt after finishing the first year, how taking all of those pictures of myself made me actually like my face and body. By the end of it, I didn’t mind being in front of the camera. I thought about how I have lost that confidence. When I looked in the mirror now, my face looked bloated and saggy and sad. Forget looking at my whole reflection in a floor length mirror. So I’ve been slugging my way through this year’s 365 day project hoping to see something of me that made me feel less bloaty and saggy.

It took me two hundred and twelve days to get to a place where I thought “okay….okay. you’re not so bloaty and saggy.”

A few months ago, I travelled to Oklahoma to visit with friends. I stopped at the Oklahoma Welcome Center just outside of Kansas to take a bathroom break. When I stepped out of the stall, I came face to face with a woman wearing the exact same clothes as I was. Except she was thinner and pulling off the outfit way better than I. It took a second glance for me to realize that the woman I was looking at was actually me. There was a full length mirror right outside my bathroom stall. It was obviously a carnival mirror and two women walked in on me while I was taking a picture. Later that weekend when I was at the Jens’, I was getting ready in their bathroom and noticed that my reflection in their mirror was also very flattering. Again, I chalked this up to some weird quirk of Oklahoma. Like maybe all the mirrors in Oklahoma are carnival mirrors. Even when my doctor told me at my recent check-up that I had lost ten pounds since the last time I was in, I was not all that impressed. Maybe a little surprised. I’d stopped stepping onto the scale ages ago. It just never seemed to change and I stopped caring. I stopped trying to like myself.

Maybe it has something to do with getting rid of so much stuff, but I finally feel the loss of those ten pounds. I don’t only feel it, but I can see it. I see it in the mirror. I can see it when I look down at my body, when I’m moving through my vinyasa. I can see it in the pictures I take.

Finding lost confidence. That’s something to be grateful for.

OUR BASEMENT FLOOD WAS THE BEST THING TO HAPPEN TO US

Cindy Maddera

Every year, my New Year’s resolution includes cleaning out and pairing down. Every. Year. Every year, I fail miserably. This year? It took a flooded basement to get me to complete this goal. The insurance company contacted a cleaning service Thursday morning and by Thursday afternoon, the whole crew was in my basement. They told us that everything on the floor was a loss unless it was made of metal. This included the pallet shelves Michael built. All the things on those shelves had to go into our dining room and living room. The garage filled up with all of the unsalvageable items. Friday morning, Michael and I went shopping for a new washer and dryer and some new shelves. Michael called a dumpster service and Friday afternoon we had a big trash dumpster parked in our driveway.

We tossed. We threw. We hauled. We hustled.

By Saturday night we had cleared out all the garbage from every nook and cranny of the house and garage, as well as a pile of brush from our yard and the neighbor’s yard. We managed to pair ourselves down to three boxes of keepsakes, a box of my mother’s china, three boxes of ebay items, a few games, four boxes of Christmas decorations (including the tree), one Halloween box, two tents, a metal detector, one pottery wheel, and some of our large kitchen items that we don’t use every day. Ten boxes were placed in front of the garage for the Boys and Girl’s club donation pick up today. By late Sunday morning, I was washing clothes in our new fancy washing machine. The dryer sings you a song when it is done. The inside of the house has been swept and vacuumed and there is no evidence of the chaos of having all of the things in our living room.

I feel like we accomplished superhuman feats this weekend. Michael and I pass each other in the house and high five. I look around the living room and then say “hey, remember that one time when all of our stuff from the basement was in here?” Then I go down to the basement and walk around the clean floor. The basement is cleaner now then when Chris and I moved in seven years ago (almost 8 years). It is bitter sweet. At times I had to reconcile my need for the tangible memory versus just having the memory. I had no choice over the things that were damaged like Chris’s framed Simpson’s lithograph and framed Futurama poster. I held on to a few trinkets. A Saint Christopher charm. A Ghostbuster’s pin. An original Han Solo figure. Michael kept telling me that he didn’t want me to think that he was asking me to throw away all of Chris’s things. I don’t feel like he was pushing me to do anything I didn’t want to do. I don’t feel like he was pushing me to do anything Chris wouldn’t want for me to do. Chris struggled between wanting to be free of all of his things and wanting to have all of the cool things. I think, at times, he was crippled by the weight of the amount of things he had collected.

I remind myself that this house was never really mine and Chris’s. We never got the chance to nest in it together. We moved in believing that we would move out in a year and so we never really unpacked or painted the walls or even hung up much artwork. Chris was sick by the time we signed the paperwork on the house. All the changes that were made to the interior of the house came after Chris. Getting rid of his things doesn’t free me from Chris because I’ve never felt imprisoned by his memory but I do feel free. Free of the things that weighed us down.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Monday evening, while washing dishes, I noticed the water was not getting hot. Michael went to the basement to investigate and discovered that we had water in our basement. The drain had gotten clogged enough that water pooled causing the pilot light to go out on the hot water tank. It also fried the washer and dryer. That night I dreamed that I was trapped in a cabin with an enraged bear. The bear spoke english, but he was so blinded by rage that I couldn’t reason with him as I scrambled from hiding place to hiding place. He was angrily smashing furniture and ripping cloth with his large razor sharp claws, saliva dripping from his canines. I kept trying to calm the bear down and explain to him that I was one of the good guys and I just wanted to help him get out. He smashed the wood table I was hiding under and I woke up.

I don’t know if the bear represented Michael or the basement or a combination of both.

I am trying to negotiate with the insurance company on getting someone to help with the clean up process and with replacing the washer and dryer. Fans are blowing and the dehumidifier is humming in order to dry things out. The plumber showed up between two and six on Thursday to snake the drain. There is nothing for us to do right now but wait and make tentative plans on how we are going to tackle all of this mess. To add to our anxiety, the cat has been missing since Monday. The mood around here is at a serious low. I keep telling myself that it could be worse. We could have sewage backing up into the basement. Then I remind myself that even if we did, that wouldn’t be as bad as the first time I had sewage backing up into the basement, back when I was desperately trying to keep someone alive while trying to clean up raw sewage. You know that time when I was juggling Faberge eggs and I dropped all of them and they shattered into a million pieces? I suppose I am grateful that this time is not like that one time.

When I am not fighting off bears or wondering where the cat might be, I am thinking about the concept of not doing enough. Dr. Mary told me a story about one of her friends that she visits. The woman is 94 years old and she plays bridge every Monday with the same group of woman that she’s been playing bridge with for 60 years. Recently, this woman’s bridge partner passed away. Her name was Anne. Anne played bridge on Monday, caught a cold on Wednesday and then passed on from this world on Sunday. She was 92. Dr. Mary’s friend was devastated and said “I feel that I could have done something more for Anne.” I received many comments on Monday’s blog entry that expressed similar feelings in regards to a lost loved one. Wanting to do more for the ones we love is universal and often spills over to people we don’t even know. I’m thinking of that scene in Schindler’s list when Oskar Schindler breaks down and says “I could have saved more. I could have saved more.”

The knowledge that there are so many of us out there willing to do more for not only our loved ones, but for complete strangers, gives me hope. The trick is finding a balance between wanting to do more, doing what we can and accepting that we have done what we could. That acceptance part is probably the most challenging. It’s the tight rope of my Faberge egg juggling act.

UPDATE: The cat is home! He’s alive! With no visible injuries! Cleaners came and cleaned the basement. Everything that was in the basement is now in the living room/dining room and garage. Am I freaking out? You betcha ya!

KNOWING TOO MUCH BUT NOT ENOUGH

Cindy Maddera

We are in lab meeting and one of my colleagues is doing a presentation on a couple of projects she’s working on with another lab. This research is cancer research. I sit there and listen to her talk about the proliferation of cancer cells in the presence or absence of a certain drug or inhibitor. I stay focused to what she is saying, really listening to this very interesting preliminary data, but somewhere in the back of my brain the voices of past doctors start to whisper. On the outside, I look normal. I sit there nodding my head in understanding, asking questions. On the inside, it feels like pieces of myself are just breaking off and dropping to the floor. By the end of the meeting “there’s nothing we can do” is roaring in my head and rage is boiling under my skin. I find myself sitting on the toilet in a bathroom stall, sobbing. Hot tears burning my cheeks.

I sit and listen to these research talks and think how is it possible that there was nothing that could be done. This is followed up with guilt over not trying hard enough. I failed to exhaust all resources and just listened to what the three different doctors had to say. I didn’t load us into the car and drive across the country to one of the best cancer treatment facilities. I didn’t even try any crack-pot cures like flushing Chris’s system with wheat grass. I had a woman I used to work with ask me if she could come and do a laying of hands kind of healing. I politely declined the offer, but now I wonder if that would have been the thing to cure him. Instead, I let Chris die. In The Mountain Between Us, Idris Elba’s character is a neurosurgeon whose wife died of brain cancer. The guy was top in his field and he couldn’t save his wife. I’m mediocre in my field and think I should have been able to perform miracles.

These are moments when I hate my line of work. I hate knowing how white blood cells are recruited to dead tissue and inevitably trigger cancer cells to start dividing. Your own healthy cells do you in. Chris wrecked his scooter and cracked a couple of ribs. Was this when it started? Did he damage his liver enough in the accident to trigger cancer cells to start dividing? We would have had a better chance of winning if I had pushed him harder to go to a doctor earlier. Could’ve should’ve would’ve. This one research presentation can send me spiraling down into the great unknown of things I should have done better. It’s like stepping into quicksand, except I don’t struggle. I just give into the undertow of being sucked under. Actually, that’s not true. Quicksand isn’t really that hard to escape and people only die from quicksand drownings in the movies. Also, I have no idea what it feels like to step into quicksand. I can only imagine that it is very much like the slow sinking feeling of become cold and numb on the inside.

The next day, I’m sitting at the counter at Heirloom, writing in my Fortune Cookie journal. I catch the lyrics of the song that is playing.

“Well, sometimes love is all it’s supposed to be. But it can break you. Remember, take care of your heart and cry. Oh, somehow we’ll survive.”

I think about all of the chest opening poses I do in my yoga practice, always trying to open my heart. I went to a yoga workshop this year that focused on spinal alignment. The teacher’s cue for pulling the bottom ribs together was to push your chest back, closing the heart a bit. This was the opposite of what I had been taught and what I had been practicing. It was painful and by the end of the workshop, my ribcage ached. I’ve opened my heart so much now that it is flat. I picture the structure of the heart folded from origami paper, slowly unfolding and laying itself open. Wrinkled, but spread out flat. What can that unfolded origami heart hold? Not much. My heart is laid out flat, not holding much of anything. I haven’t been taking care of my heart. I pretend that I am. I plaster a smile or at least an optimistic look on my face and go about my day as if my heart is normal and not made of paper and crumpled.

Remember, take care of your heart and cry. Oh, somehow we’ll survive.”

I’m prepared for the paper cuts I’m going to get while folding my paper heart back into shape.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Gratitude comes pretty easily today. This week has been a full one with days starting at 5 AM and sometimes not ending until after 9 PM. There have been good mornings on my mat. I uploaded a seven minute workout to Alexa. Michael and I have been doing seven minute workouts of jumping jacks, planks, pushups, squats and few other things. I think it is fun. Michael thinks it is necessary torture. We high-five when we have completed all of the seven minute exercises. The dog’s ear infection is much improved even though the medicine makes her ear greasy. She takes turns licking one of us in the face while we’re doing our pushups. She’s helping. I started a new project at work that required the use of some lab skills that I haven’t used in about seven years. The experiment worked on the first try and I’ve been patting myself on the back for days.

The best thing of the week was a short visit with Chad, Jess and the Boy. They’re doing a road trip to Idaho and they’re route took them right through KCMO. They stopped in Thursday night for dinner and a place to sleep before they had to head out after breakfast today. I drove them to the Nelson so Chad could take pictures of the shuttlecocks and then I took them to one of the best Kansas City BBQ places for dinner. They had a long way to drive today, so we got up early and they followed me to my favorite breakfast place before we parted ways. As always, our visits together are brief. Too brief. That might be our thing. Our first face-to-face meeting happened as he was passing through OKC on an epic road trip. We met for a dinner lasted for hours and hours. Chris and I had decided Chad was family by the end of it and then Chad drove off into the sunset. The next time I would see Chad would be for Chris’s memorial service. We had two days to grieve together, to cry and then laugh through our tears together. After this, we would have snippets of time together. Three days here. Two days there. Our visits are brief but vital, like a vitamin.

I am thankful for the opportunity to hug this framily of mine, to remark on how much the Boy has grown. I am thankful for ever snicker to uproarious laughter that always, always happens when I am around these people. I am thankful their road trip travels took them through Kansas City and I am thankful they are getting this time away together as a family. Like I said earlier. This was a full week. A week full of goodness.

I THINK I'D BE GOOD AT IT

Cindy Maddera

I’ve been thinking about this for a while now and I know it’s going to sound really weird and maybe slightly unlike me. I’m not a crystal wearing sage burning type of person. I do not practice ‘witch craft’ nor do I believe myself to be a witch. Except maybe I’m a science witch. I am about to set up a PCR reaction to put a twelve amino acid tag into a specific yeast gene. To some people (most people) all of that sounds like witchery. Side note: we, my colleagues and I, were talking about dog breeding the other day. I mentioned I saw a miniature beagle once who looked like a puppy even though he was full grown. So then we started talking about how someone might breed to get a small beagle. Then we all wondered if they were using CRISPR on dogs because we all agreed that would be better for the dogs than rounds of inbreeding. See? My daily life does not reflect what I am about type next.

I want a set of tarot cards.

No, really. I think I’d be really good at reading tarot cards. I keep thinking about that time Chris and I were in Jackson Square and we decided to have our cards read by one of the many readers set up there that day. The woman who read our cards was very normal and straight forward. Basically she said “look, I’m going to tell you some things based on the cards you draw. They may or may not be true and it only pertains to the next six months.” I can do that. I can tell you stories based on the cards you choose that may or may not be true. I don’t remember everything the woman in Jackson Square told me. I think there were three things. One thing I do remember is that she said I would move to a place without Chris and this really did happen. I moved to OKC without Chris for three long horrible months. So, I really only have to get one out of three things right.

I don’t know why I think I’d be good at reading tarot cards. It’s just something I feel I have a knack for I guess. I can picture myself sitting at a table at a party, a nice drink in my hand and lovely deck of card at my fingertips. “Oh! You chose the death card!” I’d declare in some dramatic way. Then I’d spin a tale about how the death card doesn’t exactly mean you’re going to die. It just means the death of something, like a habit. At least this is how I would interpret the cards. I don’t know how I’d interpret the other cards because I don’t really know what the other cards are…yet. I just see myself telling people some nice stories based off the cards they pick out and if I get something right then I’ll shout out “I’M PSYCHIC!”

Reading tarot cards would make for a great party trick, but I’m only thinking about this now because it’s October and the month of Halloween stuff. Creepy Suzanne gets to come up out of the basement. Oh, how I’ve missed her (Michael has not). I get to put my Halloween wreath which turned out to be way cooler than my Christmas wreath. I have already bought one pumpkin covered in green warts. I don’t know why I get so excited about putting up these decorations. We never have trick-or-treaters. Our mail person has commented about how we always have the best pumpkins. Maybe that’s why I get excited. I know those decorations bring so much joy to our mail person.

Any way, I’ll read the cards for you if I ever get a deck. I’m sure you’ll have good fortune.

THINGS I'M DOING DIFFERENTLY

Cindy Maddera

Michael and I had a short side hustle going charging Bird scooters. These are little electric razor type scooters. The company was paying $5 to $15 a scooter to charge them and then drop them off at a designated ‘nest’. Michael would go out around 9:00 PM and hunt up three scooters and then I would get up at 5:00 AM to return them to a nest. We had a really nice system going and made almost $100 our first week. Then the company decided to lower the prices to $3 a scooter and the scooters were harder to find. Most of them ended up in the Plaza area or downtown, which seemed to far for us to drive for $9. Hunting the scooters at night is not the easiest thing to do either. Michael noticed on his last few runs that he seemed to be in competition with another person driving around in a van. They were racing each other to scooters.

So we stopped our side hustle, but I’m still waking up at 5:00 AM. To be honest, I had kind of been waking up around that time any way. I’d roll over and look at the clock and the think “oh! I can sleep for another hour!” I’d close my eyes and snooze until my alarm went off. I would wake up groggy and contemplating the prospect of staying put. Getting out of bed was hard. That’s because I was resetting my sleep rhythm. Circadian rhythm is complicated, but here’s the gist of the sleeping part. About two hours before you wake up, your body starts to prepare, like increases body temperature. When you disrupt this process by hitting the snooze button your body gets confused. It goes back to sleepy time mode and then when you do finally get up, you’re left with a fuzzy headed groggy feeling.

I noticed that I felt better on days I got up early to drop off Birds. I was up and doing things with more enthusiasm for being up and doing things. I know it sounds crazy. Most people think that 5:00 AM is an ungodly time to be up and about. The sun isn’t even up at this time. The chickens aren’t even out of the coop at this time in the morning. But this seems to be how my body works. I’m an early to bed, early to rise kind of girl. When the scooter hustle stopped, I started getting up and getting on my mat. Now I do about fifty minutes of yoga before getting into the shower. It is not always easy. There are many morning when my body is up, but not willing to move. I am bit stiff and creaky. It take two rounds of sun salutation to get the blood moving in my extremities. Then there are moments when I have to slide Josephine off the end of the mat because she’s decided she’s going to lay there or the cat decides to walk under me while I’m in down dog, his tail tickling my nose.

Distractions.

I stopped doing yoga at home when J died. Not completely. There were times I tried to get on my mat at home, but there were always too many distractions. At first it was the phone. I just kept expecting it to ring with bad news and then I’d remember the sound of my mother’s voice when she called me that day. There was/is trauma connected to my yoga practice or at least my home yoga practice. It took me a while to even look at my yoga mat after that day. In time I found that I could handle the distractions of a gym setting better than I could the distractions that came with being at home. Ask any one who as ever spent time with me in my house and they will all tell you that I am not still. I am always up taking care of something. Laundry, dishes, cooking, picking up a bit of lint off the floor. There is always a slightly unsettling thought lingering in the back of my brain. Something bad, life changing bad, is going to happen, particularly if I am being still on my mat.

Turns out that I can also handle the distractions from a dog and a cat. The morning routine is working. It makes my body feel better and it makes my brain feel better. I believe it has even helped me to contain the rage that I am feeling about certain things (cough, cough, Kavanaugh, cough). This new routine settles me into my space and that is a feeling I haven’t had in a really long time.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Last Friday, I took my wheezy self on a walk up to the Nelson. Along the way, I found a five dollar bill on the sidewalk! Then, when I reached the front of the Nelson, there was an antique car parked there. There were two people in the process of cleaning the car because they had photography plans of their own. I managed to capture a shot of the car in front of the Nelson with the owner’s out of sight. After I made my way around the Nelson and back into Theis Park, I witnessed a man carefully taking a vase filled with plastic roses out of a suitcase. Then he blew up a balloon. He placed one end of the bubble wand between his teeth and then set the balloon onto the bubble maker part of the wand. Then he placed the vase of plastic roses on top of the balloon. I snuck a picture of the man balancing all of these items. I heard the balloon pop as I walked away.

I woke up the next morning to the first day of Fall, which appeared to happen by just turning the dial directly to Fall. The temperature outside was crisp and cool. The heat and humidity of Summer completely erased. We ran our errands and then I handed a paper grocery bag to Michael only to watch it split open and dump it’s contents at the end of the drive. I stood there and watched as two bottles of kombucha spilled out onto the drive. The Cabbage asked “what is that?” “Expensive.” Michael replied in a tone that suggested he had given up on life. The beet flavored one is my favorite. Watching that one stain the driveway purply red made me want to cry. Later that evening, I swallowed a fish bone or at least I believed I swallowed a fish bone. I spent the rest of the night covertly asking google what to do if you swallow a fish bone and trying not to panic my way into the emergency room.

The kombucha was replaced and I no longer feel like there is a fish bone stuck in my throat. My doctor gave me a clean bill of health yesterday. I am ten pounds lighter then I was this time last year and a friend sent me a text offering up her spare ticket to see Andrew Bird with the Kansas City Symphony. Life is an all terrain bicycle ride. Some days you get to coast down the hill all day long and along the way you get to take in all the interesting stuff happening around you. Some days you’re just doing your best to peddle up the damn hill. I know that it is completely Pollyanna of me to say this, but I am grateful for the times I have to peddle up those hills. Even if I am cursing. Even if my thighs have burned up in flames. Even if I am moving so slowely up that hill, turtles pass me. Actually, you know what? The steeper the incline, the better. That just makes the downhill parts all the more sweet.

Now granted, busted kombucha bottles and swallowed fishbones are not very challenging moments in the grand scheme of things. It’s those really challenging moments that make me stronger so that these little things are nothing. In fact, I welcome those little challenges over the big ones any day. Any challenge gives me strength and opens me up to seeing things like a random guy balancing crap on a bubble wand held between his teeth.

#IBELIEVEHER

Cindy Maddera

It must be a shock to you, after all this time, that we are finally standing up and fighting back. You’ve spent so much of your life believing that you had the advantage, that you could do whatever you wanted, when you wanted with out consequences. You’ve spent much of your life believing that our bodies where meant for you to use. I mean, why shouldn’t you believe that? Our bodies are on display in advertisements plastered across all media formats. Business models are specifically designed to lure you into their stores with the promise of a beautiful scantily clad women for you to abuse. There are no laws that govern your body.

Except now we are no longer willing to silently put up with your “boys will be boys” mentality. We are no longer willing to let you just go on without being held accountable for your actions. We are no longer willing to let you bully us. When one of our tribe steps up and points a finger at the man who assaulted her, no matter how old the crime may be, we believe her. We believe her and stand behind her because it could just as easily be any of us speaking up. We stand behind her and support her because we know how scary speaking up is. We know her fear. We know the shame she feels. We know the hurt she feels. We are a collective, brought together by similar experiences, afraid to speak up. Afraid that no one will believe us. We’ve been told our whole lives that women are liars, temptresses, sirens. We’ve been told that we were asking for it. We’ve been told to keep it a secret. No. We’ve been threatened to keep it a secret. And then you sit there arms crossed and ask “why didn’t you say so sooner?” after you threaten a girl with her life if she says a word.

What was the tipping point? I don’t know. Maybe it was your unfailing devotion to a man who openly, without qualms, gleefully humiliates women and your insistence on making such a man leader of this country. Really though, it has been brewing and festering for years before that. It is one thing for us to declare that we will no longer allow you to govern our bodies. It is quite another to take action to legally keep you from governing our bodies. Which is what you have done to us for years. The statue of limitations does not run out on your crimes against women and you are no less guilty of those crimes just because she didn’t speak up. You are no longer allowed to bully us. You are no longer allowed to just get away with it.

I get it though, change is hard. It’s not easy giving up a way of life you known for far too long. It’s not easy giving up your roll as bully or always getting your way. But if you’re not going to change, then be prepared for the consequences.

It’s your turn to feel threatened.

EAT

Cindy Maddera

I finally got around to reading Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential a couple of months ago. The book has been on my reading list forever and I am almost positive Chris had a copy of it laying around his office at some point. I just never got around to it, but I was finally between books and not to sure what I wanted to read next. I cashed in some Amazon rewards and bought a copy of it for my Kindle app. This was the book I read on the airplane to Portland and I have to admit that at times, it was not an easy read.

I could not read the book without hearing Anthony Bourdain’s voice. It was as clear as if he was reading his words out loud. His voice is so familiar because Chris and I would sit down to watch No Reservations with rapt attention and with the kind of reverence used for listening to the gospel. Anthony Bourdain traveled the globe in a way that Chris and I dreamed of doing ourselves. The destination was not so much about seeing the sights as it was about immersing yourself into the local culture. This baptism came in the form of food in an all senses dunking. You felt the texture of the food as you pinched a bite together between your thumb and forefinger. Your eyes were blinded by the colors of spices filling bowls in a market. You could almost smell the pungent smells of the fish markets. Whenever Chris and I traveled, our adventures centered around food. The question was not “what did we do?” but “what did we eat?” We sought out the obscure. We followed the locals and we avoided the chain commercial places like the plague. Now, I’ve converted Michael to this food travel cult. I think this is why on this last trip to Portland, I found myself falling in love with the city all over again. Michael is notorious for having unsatisfying restaurant experiences. There is always something, from the service, to the atmosphere, to the quality of the food, but in Portland, Michael didn’t have one complaint. On our last breakfast in Portland before heading out to the coast, we ate at Pine State Biscuits. On taking his first bite, Michael pretended to pick up his plate and smash it on the floor in anger. The food was that good.

No Reservations was more than just a travel show though. It was a gritty, real and beautiful example of how we are all connected to each other through food. Food is the thing that binds us together. It is the reason we all gather in kitchens during social events. Every single one of us can recall a dish that when you smell it, you smell your childhood memories. Every family has their own taco salad (Michael says it is not taco salad and every member of the Graham family tell him that he is wrong). Food brings joy and comfort and this was an emphasis in Kitchen Confidential. Reading Anthony Bourdain’s words describing simple and fresh ingredients made me want to cook. I don’t mean that it made me want to quit my job and become a chef. I mean that it inspired me to want to cook something more elaborate than the easy meals we put together during the week. Saturday evenings have become our night for experimenting in the kitchen. I browse through issues of Bon Apetit and the New York Times food section for ideas, but a lot of times we let what ever happens to be cheap and interesting behind the fish counter inspire that evening’s meal. The meal itself doesn’t even have to be complicated. The goal is to use fresh and unique ingredients and to try something new. It can just as easily be a good stinky chunk of blue cheese crumbled in the salad paired with simple baked fish seasoned with salt, pepper and fresh lemons.

The joy of the experience is all inclusive. It begins with Michael and I browsing through the grocery store and hashing out ideas. We debate about pairing monkfish with roasted potatoes or clams with a linguini in a butter/ white wine sauce. We either take turns cooking or work together in the kitchen, dancing around each other as one chops and the other one sautes. We make huge messes in the kitchen and I love it. The meals are not all hits. It was decided that whole baked red snapper wasn’t good enough to deal with picking out all the bones (I’m pretty sure I swallowed a fish bone). Yet we are still more satisfied with our meals than if we’d gone out.

And no reservations are required.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Last week, Michael came home with latest cold virus. His foot has been hurting since school started and then he put his back out in his overzealous power washing day. He get’s up gimpy and cranky and snorty every morning, though he’s mostly over the cold. He gave it to me! I zombied out on the couch for two days with it before I finally started to feel like a somewhat, albeit over mucous producing, human being. So here we are at the end of the week. Michael’s gone to the doctor about his foot where he found out that he has a broken toe and plantar fasciitis. At least I’ve stopped having those coughing fits that make your eyes tear up and my ears have stopped crackling every time I swallow.

It has been a week of ill health with weeks of recovery needed ahead for some us.

I am surprised that I only feel the tiniest bit of guilt for taking two days off to recover. Mostly that’s because I know my boss would have sent me home anyway. The not feeling guilty part is a big deal for me since I used to feel guilty for even thinking about staying home when I didn’t feel well. Yet, I’m still impatient to get back to my normal routine. I am containing myself to doing only the things that are necessary while my brain is chattering on about the number of times I missed the gym this week when I have a blood draw on Monday for my annual checkup on Wednesday. I will eat lots of salads this weekend and drink a gallon of water on Sunday. Just like I find myself doing at the end of every week, I vow that next week will be different. Next week I will make it the gym every day and I will be present on my mat for an hour every day. Next week, I will take fifteen minutes to sit in meditation. Next week I will write more words. I will take more pictures. I will organize those pictures. Next week I will go above and beyond the bare minimum of accomplishment.

This is all nonsense. I will get back to my normal routine, but I doubt I will do much more. And I am okay with that. The only person holding myself accountable is me. One week away from the gym is not going to end in bad results in my blood work. One week of rest (I started to say ‘laziness’) on the couch will not result in a downward spiral of bad things. It is a choice to go above and beyond the bare minimum and there is nothing wrong with choosing to do less. I am thankful that each morning I can make the choice to be the best version of myself that I can be in this moment. That “in this moment” part is the most important part.

ON IMPULSE

Cindy Maddera

Saturday morning, I woke up and walked into the living room to find a chicken egg sitting in the middle of the living room rug. There was nothing wrong with the egg. No cracks. Just a chicken egg laying on the floor. No one knows how the egg got there. There have been theories, but only theories. Later on that day, Michael and I went to Shake Shack where I almost started crying over the 'shroom burger and then made myself sick on a milkshake. So we walked over to the new Made in Kansas City Marketplace where we bought a bunch of stickers for our scooters. We also saw something that we thought was really neat and useful but too expensive. Michael decided that we could make it and so then we went to wander around the hardware store.

At the hardware store, we met Rita. Rita knew all the pieces and parts we needed to make this thing and followed Rita from isle to isle like ducklings. She was getting us some electrical wire when Michael mentioned that we had ridden our scooters. Rita thought we were talking about those razor scooters that are all over town. There's two companies offering electric scooters in town now. We told Rita that we were not on the electric scooters, but we did tell her about our new side hustle of charging those scooters. This information changed Rita's life and she told us that we had to come back and find her to tell her how our project went. Then we bought a power washer.

Most people impulse buy candy bars they pick up while waiting in the checkout line. That's impulse buying for amateurs! The power washer was my fault because I mentioned that there should be a way to turn Michael's air compressor into a power washer because we really needed to clean the chicken coop and it would be so much easier to just power wash it. And I was right. Michael cleaned the chicken coop, the scooters, the cars and even part of the house.

Then I found a chicken egg in the garage. It was dirty but completely intact.  

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Several weeks ago, a colleague introduced me to iNaturalist. It’s an online naturalist community that links your images to scientific data repositories. You get to find out what that bug actually is and discuss your findings with others in the community. The information you provide for the pictures help scientists study migration patterns and biodiversity which in turn provides other scientists with information on how climate change is affecting migration and biodiversity. iNaturalist is associated with the California Academy of Sciences and National Geographic. All of this is the reason why you’ve been seeing so many bug pictures in my Instagram feed lately.

This is way better than that time I had to collect real live insects for my insect collection at Biology camp (yeah, I went to biology camp as a teenager and I loved every minute of it because science is fun and I don’t care how nerdy you think I am). I have not become as obsessed with this as my friend Amy has, but I try to put something new up every day. The result is that on every outside walk, I end up chasing butterflies and moths. Read that last part again slowely. I end up chasing butterflies and moths. When I write that out, it makes me think of a toddler making her wobbly way through the grass while reaching out for that illusive butterfly with her fat little fingers. The sunlight sparkles through the dewy grass and the toddler’s giggles sounds like wind chimes.

It is not a bad image to picture.

I am walking outside. I am engaging in my environment and all of this has very real benefits. There are scores of studies that shows that walking boosts brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF is responsible for new cell growth in the brain and it has been found that there are lower levels of BDFN in people with depression, Alzheimers, dementia, and really most brain disorders. There are scores of scientific papers out there about this but the take away is, GET OUTSIDE AND WALK. While you’re at it, take some pictures of the nature around you. There are so many good things about the internet, though it may be difficult to see that sometimes with all the hatefulness people type up. One of the best things about the internet, and this has been since day one, is its ability to bring people together and connect in positive ways. iNaturalist is an excellent example of this.

I am thankful for each and every one of those bug pictures. I am thankful for how it makes me look around and even search for the interesting and unique things in my environment. I step out for a short walk, not with the intention of just getting some exercise, but with the intention of discovery.

And this brings me joy.

JUST BREATHE

Cindy Maddera

When Randy and Katrina were here a few weekends ago, Katrina handed me a rubber bracelet that had "just breathe" written across it. Then on Saturday, my massage therapist told me I wasn't breathing. She had spent forty minutes removing knots from my shoulders and just under my clavicle. She took the flesh between my shoulders and neck and pulled like she was pulling pizza dough and tears welled up in my eyes. Because all that crap I was stuffing into that spot had to go somewhere. I also caught myself holding my breath. Yesterday, I did a training for a postdoc who had "just breathe" tattooed across his forearm. 

OKAY! I GET IT! Feel the breath as it hits the back of the throat on the inhale, following it out of the throat on the exhale. I say it to my yoga students every week. Apparently I am the very embodiment of "those who can't do, teach." 

This morning I received a text from Michael saying “We are on lockdown.” It was immediately followed with “False alarm.” It is 9/11. Flags are at half mast. Facebook profile pictures have been updated with ‘we remember’ banners. Memories and Memes are filling up timelines. The feeling in my chest is not unlike the feeling I had seconds before stepping up to the edge of the 9/11 Memorial in NYC. Tight. Shallow. I am holding my breath in anticipation to the pain that is coming or that I expect might be just around the corner. Bracing for impact. Do you remember watching the space shuttle explode? I still hold my breath when watching a space shuttle launch because of that one time as a kid, I witnessed a shuttle exploding like a firework.

Today is the 17th Anniversary of the day that changed everything. God, I remember how Chris and I would mock that statement of ‘9/11 changed everything’. We let 9/11 change everything. There’s a nice opinion piece in the New York Times today written by Joe Quinn, a US Army Veteran. In it he talks about why he enlisted, his time in Afghanistan and the lessons he learned.

I learned that Osama bin Laden’s strategic logic was to embroil the United States in a never-ending conflict to ultimately bankrupt the country. “All that we have to do is send two mujahedeen to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written ‘Al Qaeda,’” he said in 2004, “in order to make generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note ….” Why are we continuing to do what Bin Laden wanted all along?

That paragraph struck me the hardest. Why are we continuing to do what Bin Laden wanted? We have no control over things that happen to us, but we do have control over our own actions in regards to the things that happen.

The last time I was visiting my chiropractor, I had to schedule my next appointment which happened to be 9/11. I said “Hmmmm…that’s 9/11.” The receptionist said “but it’s also Dr. Fran’s birthday!” So I scheduled that appointment, partly because I needed it, but also so I could wish Dr. Fran a happy day. I am deciding to relax and stop bracing for an impact that may or may not happen.

I am focusing on just breathing.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Wednesday was an asshole. There’s no way around it. I mean, no one died or anything. So I guess that’s something, but in general the day was a complete jerk. It was filled with events that would make your eye twitch. It started out simply. I came up with a plan to start a new project, but then problems popped up when I sat down to order supplies I would need to start the project. Those problems snowballed into a full day of back and forth emails and nothing ordered. To make matters even more frustrating, one of our microscopes that had just been repaired for a specific problem started manifesting that same problem again. I drove home in traffic slowed by road work and fender benders and the strong urge to punch something.

When I was forced to stop at a stoplight, I started to kind of scream. It wasn’t exactly a scream, more like the sound you make when the doctor presses down your tongue with a depressor and asks you to say “ahhhh”. I opened my mouth and just started making this monotone “AHHHHHH” sound that turned into “AHHHRRRRHHHGGG”. Then I started giggling and making the sound over and over again. It was such a simple stupid little thing. Imagine a woman sitting alone her car opening and closing her mouth like a muppet while releasing an odd duck tone from her mouth. This is what I was doing. And it made my eye stop twitching. 

This is how it works. Sometimes, you’re strolling along with a clear plan. You are going to be productive today. You are going to accomplish things. At least you think you are going to accomplish things, but then a big pile of rocks fall into your path. Now, instead of doing the things you had planned, you are having to move rocks. Some times that rock slide is huge. The rocks are boulders and you need more than a shovel to move them out of your way. Some times all can do is move one rock and come back the next day to move another rock. These rock piles can take days, weeks, even years to move out of your way. They can seem endless, but you just keep moving the rocks because what else are you going to do? If you're lucky, you might have some heavy machinery available to help you move those rocks. 

I am thankful that my Wednesday rock pile did not require heavy machinery to move out of my way. All I needed was a monotone guttural yell. 

ROUTINES

Cindy Maddera

I didn't write in my Fortune Cookie journal all summer except maybe once. With Michael home and he and the Cabbage doing daily chores, I didn't have a reason to get up early on Saturdays. They got the grocery shopping done on Fridays. If I got up early on Saturday mornings it was to go to a yoga class. Which, I am not going to lie, was real nice. I'd get up early enough to shove a breakfast bar in my gut and then scooter out to one of my favorite studios. Sometimes I'd have coffee or juice with a yoga friend after class. Sometimes Michael would meet me for brunch someplace and then we'd spend the rest of the day scooting around town. Now that Michael is back in school, we are back to our normal routine where I get up early Saturday morning and do the grocery shopping while everyone still sleeps. 

Trust me when I say that I do not mind spending my Saturday mornings this way. I prefer to do the grocery shopping early and alone. No crowds and I spend less money because I only buy what's on the list. I go to Heirloom and order a breakfast sandwich and a cup of coffee. Then I sit at the counter and take my time sipping coffee and writing in my journal while nibbling on my sandwich. I do a bit of people watching. I do a bit of watching some of the employees roll out dough or measure sugar. I dance a little in my seat to whatever music happens to be playing. Mostly, I write. This is good because I need to be writing somewhere since I don't feel like writing here too much lately. The thing about the Fortune Cookie diary is that it's fiction and a story that I don't have to finish. Even if it turns out to be a total shit story, it is still serving a purpose. The Fortune Cookie diary forces me to use my imagination. It exercises my brain. Photography forces me to see things differently while writing forces me to think things differently. 

I worried when I sat down to write in the journal after spending the summer away that I would struggle. I thought I would just stare blankly at the page and listen the gears in my head clink and screech while trying to turn on rusty pinions. I felt for sure that this was an exercise I would not easily be able to pick back up. So I was surprised to fill up that page and wrap the text around the edges. I was surprised at how easily the story came to me and how I wrote so quickly at times that the words are illegible. It felt good. It felt right. And I know I'm not writing anything spectacular or profound. I am just writing a scene, a moment and I'm trying to really put an effort in describing that scene. Those gears start moving and I almost believe that I truly am a creative kind of person. I think for a moment that I could be an artist.

I think to myself that you can take the girl out of the liberal arts college but you can't take the liberal arts out of the girl. 

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

I left work on my scooter Tuesday and headed to Dr. Mary's for our usual Tuesday evening session and ended up driving right into a storm. To the east, the sky was blue and bright, but to the west it was all menacing rumbling clouds. And I headed right into it. I watched lightening flash and I could hear the thunder but it was still far enough west that I made it to Dr. Mary's before the rain hit. I had to take my helmet in with me because there wasn't room for it the seat and I knew it was going to pour any minute. In the time it took me to get through the office building and into Dr. Mary's office, the sky had turned black. Dr. Mary smiled when she saw me and then frowned when she saw my helmet. "Oh, Cindy." I just nodded and replied "yup." Then I waved it all off. I told her that this would totally blow over and be gone by the end of our session.

The storm blew in hard. We looked out the window at the rain coming down sideways and lightening striking here and there. Then we settled in for our session. We talked...or at least I talked for forty five minutes and as our time was coming to an end, Dr Mary looked up and out the window. "Look! It has blown over!" It was still gray and the streets were soaked, but the storm had passed. It was no longer raining. She still made me promise to call her when I got home so she knew I was safe. I made it home mostly dry, without incident. When I got home, Michael just shook his head. He doesn't know how I manage to ride between rain drops or narrowly manage to avoid disaster. That storm took down trees and power all over the city. Debris still littered the streets the next day as I rode to work. 

I scrolled deep into Chris's Facebook page this week. While I should have been reading papers on ZIKA and embryonic development, I was waisting time skimming through all of his stuff. I wanted to go way back to before our move, before he got sick. I wanted Chris. I wanted to poke my skin with needles and feel the satisfaction of watching the little drops of blood rise up. I scrolled down and down, skimming the page and laughing out loud at more then half of the stuff I ended up reading. Good God, he was funny. And smart. His wit was so sharp at times. I made it all the way back to December 2010 and that's when I saw it. 

 "Ugh. Need a CAT scan next week to check for stones. I hope they use that Keyboard Cat because he's awesome!"

That slip of paper I had found in Chris's office after he died, the one requesting a CAT scan, now has an answer. It was a CAT scan for possible kidney stones and they ended up cancelling it because he passed the stone. He didn't know about the tumor on his liver. My whole body buckled with relief before my brain had time to kick in with the what ifs of him having had that CAT scan then.

I ride into storms. The whole time I'm thinking that it won't hit before I reach my destination or I'll out run it. What's a little lightening and thunder? A bit of electricity and the sound of expanding, rapidly heated air? It's nothing. I am reminded of a song by Thao Nguyen and the Get Down Stay Down, Swimming pools.

"We, we brave beestings and all. We don't dive, we cannonball. We splash our eyes full of chemicals. Just so there's none left for little girls."

When given the opportunity, I tend to always cannonball. I know to calm myself and move gently around a bee, but I still ride right into thunder storms. I don't do it because I'm brave or fearless or reckless. Okay...maybe I am little bit reckless. Mostly, though, I ride into storms because I know they're going to blow over. 

I am thankful for the moments of peace and calm between those storms. 

 

 

THINGS I'VE TAKEN CARE OF

Cindy Maddera

Some times, as I make that long drive from Oklahoma City to KCMO, I start sobbing. I say some times because really I only do this when I've made the trip alone. It's just too many hours of endless road time trapped with my own thoughts. I know that I could listen to books or podcasts, but my brain still wanders off. I start crying. I cry about how much has changed. I cry about how much has not changed. I cry about how I never feel like I spend enough time or see all of the people. I cry because I feel guilty for not making enough of an effort to see all of the people. I cry because I'm tired and probably slightly hungover. I cry because I've stretched myself too thin. I cry because Chris isn't with me. 

Old life. New life.

I spent a weekend visiting friends in OK recently. I drove all the way down to Chickasha first, helping Misti with the finishing touches for the Listen Local event at our college and meeting Amy for dinner. The trees on the oval are now towering beauties. Buildings that were once closed are now open. I don't recognize any of the professors in the biology department. I ran into my old chemistry professor by chance and he told me he had retired. He new me instantly, told me I still look the same. Maybe that's what happens when you step back onto the campus. You morph back into the person you were then. I certainly saw everything as it was then. Same sidewalk Chris and I walked  a billion and one steps on as we traveled back and forth between dorm rooms. I spent most of that weekend with friends I would not have had if it hadn't been for Chris. Friends that Chris made into our family. He's the glue. I've noticed places where that glue has started to weaken and I feel responsible, like I need to reenforce those weak spots. I could be better at that some how. 

I am a filer. I talk about getting things organized, but I already have things organized. I just feel they could be organized better. My photos fall into the need better organization group, but if you ask me for the instruction manual to the fridge I can pull that right out of the filing cabinet for you. I like to compartmentalize shit. I don't just do this with the tangible. My life before Chris, my life with Chris, my life after Chris...these all have their own shoebox stacked inside my brain. Things happen, like earthquakes or bicycle wrecks, and boxes get jumbled and messed up. That shit spills out. [Off topic but speaking of earthquakes. I either had an encounter with a poltergeist or an earthquake while I was sleeping over at the Jens.] Some times the things I put into boxes do not stay in their boxes. Compartmentalization is hard. Thus the sobbing.

I came across an envelope containing Chris's driver's license and a death certificate as I was cleaning out the mail catcher on my desk. They were gathered in one place with the intention of fixing his Facebook account. A year went by. Then another. Time passing. I picked up that envelope and thought maybe I should finally do something about that. So I did. Chris's Facebook page is now a memorial page. This is me, trying to reenforce some weak places. 

MONGERING

Cindy Maddera

Recently I noticed this thing going around Facebook about a man raping a four year old girl and how the hospital where the little girl is getting treatment will get a $1 for every time you share the meme. At the bottom of the meme is a picture of the so-called rapist who just happens to be a young black man. When I first noticed the thing I just ignored it, but the more I thought about the more I could not ignore this. First of all, for any of you who are uncertain about this, NO ONE gets any money every time you share their meme. Bill Gates does not donate $50,000 every time you share something. Bill Gates just donates millions of dollars. Period. 

This is not the part of the meme that bothers me. It just makes me roll my eyes a whole lot. 

Wait. How do I know the meme is a lie besides the obvious "if it looks like a lie, it's probably a lie" reason? I looked it up. The hospital name they use in the meme issued a press statement on their website denouncing the whole thing. It took me less than two minutes to find out this information. I barely had to type my question because Google already knew what I was about to ask. It wasn't difficult. The thing that bothers me the most is how this meme links a horrific act of violence against a child with a man of color, thus perpetuating fear, anger and hatred towards a specific race of humans. The meme is dangerous.

Racist propaganda has been a tool since the invention of print. During World War II, the Nazi's distributed propaganda that depicted Jews as monsters. American cartoonists depicted African American men 'stealing' jobs that should be given to white men who were at war. In fact most cartoons tend to depict non-white characters as dumb, lazy, evil and dangerous. The intent is simple. It is to make you fear and distrust and to see the color white as 'superior' even though we know there is no such thing as a 'superior' race. The problem is that those earlier forms of racist propaganda were so blatantly obvious in their racism with their over drawn features and cliched dialects. The racist propaganda of today is bit more subtle. Tell a horrific story and attach a random picture of any person of color, claiming this person to be the perpetrator. It has become the most hateful and dangerous kind of gossip.  

You know what's more simple than making a racist propaganda meme? Not sharing it.

 

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

This month Tao Porchon Lynch turns 100 years old. Or maybe I should say 100 years young. At age 100 she is still active, teaching yoga daily, practicing ballroom dancing and driving herself around in a little smart car. She is a spry little old lady. I look at pictures of her and she's always smiling a big bright genuine smile. As I was tooling around the internet doing research for this piece, I came across an interview with photographer Paul Mobley about his book If I Live to Be 100. That photo project was formed by accident. Mobley was traveling the country photographing homesteads for his American Farmers book. So many of those farmers turned out to be 100 or even older. By the end of it all, he had taken over 30,000 pictures and he was surprised by how many of those pictures where portraits of centenarians. This inspired him to take pictures of centenarians across all fifty states. Mobley would engage each photographic subject in conversation at the beginning to each session. Every single person had stories to tell. They all had advice for living a long life, but the advice that really stuck with Mobley was "Just live your life. Be happy."

That advice sounds like it could have easily fallen out of Tao's mouth. 

I hear this perfectly reasonable advice and ask myself "is it really that simple?" or am I getting caught up in the planning and preparation of things to just live my life? Am I happy? That might be the toughest question to ask myself and expect to get an honest answer, but that's why I have a therapist. Then I think about the centenarian who may have said those words. These are people who were full on adults with grown children when the internet became a household thing. This doesn't mean that their lives were simpler by any means but there definitely was a living of life without the comparisons to the perfect moments we see captured in Instagram feeds and pinned to Pinterest. The thing that I am reminded of by this simple piece of advice is that just living your life encompasses all of it. Just living your life is more than jumping out of airplanes and chasing rainbows. It is the day to day tasks of getting up and going to work. It's the dirty dishes in the sink, the clothes in the laundry hamper, the gutters clogged with tree debris. Just living your life includes far more not so perfect moments.  

Those not so perfect moments are what makes the moments when we can chase those rainbows so spectacularly perfect. 

I am thankful for the wisdom that comes with age. I am thankful for those imperfect moments.