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THE END OF SUMMER

Cindy Maddera

It has long been a custom to link the end of summer with the first day of the school year. I've been hearing for two weeks the lament from Michael about how summer is almost over. Then on Thursday, his first day back to school, he declared the official end to summer. It is the end to his summer vacation, but it is not the end of summer. Or at least, I don't feel like it is the end to my summer. The weather here is hot and humid. Missouri is currently under drought conditions which is not normal. The backyard is a combination of tall prairie grasses and and dry barren patches. My sunflower continues to grow strong, but there is still not a bloom in sight. The evenings hum with the buzz of cicadas and crickets. The mosquitoes are vicious and the chickens are no longer laying six or seven eggs a week. We're lucky if we get four eggs a week now.  

August is a hard and brittle month. 

I spent all day Sunday decluttering the places we tend to dump things. The closed cabinet section of the china hutch has become a home to a random array of tools and leftover screws, several selections of dog and cat treats, pipe cleaners, Halloween spider webbing and a box of old markers. My desk drawers had become a dumping ground for the flotsam and jetsam that accumulates for no other reason than it feels inappropriate to throw them away. I threw away fabric remnants that I no longer needed and dried up bottles of glue. I set my side table and three decorative pillows out on the curb. Then I shifted the couch over to the west. That side of the room looks a little exposed now that there's no longer a piece of furniture lining every section of the wall. That's my design style it seems, lining the walls with furniture. In the clean out, I unearthed five small notebooks of lists and Chris's USAO and military IDs and a stack of old pictures. I will be unearthing notebooks containing two to three pages of writing for the rest of my life. And I will keep each one. 

August is difficult.

This time last year I was thinking about how nice it would be to jump out of the car while it was moving through heavy traffic. I don't feel that way this year. I don't necessarily feel like doing cartwheels, but at least I don't feel like jumping into traffic. I've got my distractions. I've gotten more focused on food, our meal plans and cooking something new once in a while. I'm reading more. I'm organizing my work and thinking about new business cards. Michael and I are adapting to a new schedule and getting back into a routine as he starts the school year. We find ourselves occupying the same spaces at the same time in the mornings, dancing around each other in the bathroom and the kitchen. It is more fluid then one would expect. I'll start cooking our breakfast while he gets the scooters out of the garage. We both sit at the dining room table and eat breakfast together. It's nice. So, I'm keeping busy, but not so busy that I don't forget to just sit still every now and then.

One evening recently, I sat on the back stoop watching Josephine as she did her patrol of the back yard. I noticed one lone firefly blinking across the back yard. At first, it is a lonely sight, without the others blinking back in response to this one's blinks. Did you know that the average lifespan of a firefly is about two months? This guy was either born late or he's found a way to extend his lifespan. Either way, he's soaking up as much of the summer as he can. I want to be that firefly. 

 

 

OH, HEY. HEY, OH

Cindy Maddera

Michael and I went to Oregon. I didn't really talk about how we were planing to go to Oregon. I don't know why that it is, but part of the trip was work related and part of the trip was standing on cold, foggy beaches related. Most all of that trip was about eating really great food. There was one day were I ate raw fish for lunch and dinner and I have no regrets about that decision. There were several evenings with Todd that including laughing so hard, tears leaked out the corners of my eyes. The only regret I do have is not throwing my body down onto the floor and refusing to get on the plane to come home. I should have made Michael drag my limp body through the airport. I should have polished up the old resume and been more aggressive about handing it out to people at the work thing. I should have tried to score a job before leaving, but I didn't think I was still so much in love with Oregon.

I was wrong. The remnants of my heart are still in Portland eating a fake pork taco at Robo Tacos.

Re-entry to the reality of this current life has been slightly difficult. I am still battling the time change. Saturday morning, I slept until almost 11:00. I missed a call from my mom, who had called me at a very reasonable hour of 9:00 am. When I called her back, I told her that I was sorry for missing her call but I had still been sleeping. She said "You were still sleeping?!?" I was just as surprised as she was. Michael asked me much much later in the evening "who are you and what have you done with Cindy?" It was well past midnight and I was still up. Sunday morning I made myself get up at 8:00 am even though I wanted to stay in bed all day. I lounged on the couch for a couple of hours before picking up the dust rags and wiping away the vacation dust, finishing laundry and putting suitcases back into storage. 

Time changes are rough.

I've come home though with a plan or at least a list of things to do. The first thing you may (or not) have noticed is that this place is no longer Elephant Soap. I changed my Squarespace domain to my actual name. I'm gearing up to do some things that require a bit more professionalism around here. These things I'm cryptically talking about are things that make me uncomfortable, vulnerable and pukey but are good risk taking, character building things that I need to be doing. So Elephant Soap is maturing, at least as mature as Cindy Maddera can be. The next big thing on my list is to start really cleaning out as if I was planning on a move. I'm talking about a "would I want to take it with me" kind of clean out. This means saying goodbye to a few boxes of elephants. They have been in those boxes since we moved in with Chris's mom almost ten years ago (holy crap on toast, what happens to time?!?!). I do not have the room to display all of them nor do I have the energy to continuously dust all of them. There are things besides elephants that also need to be dumped. When the day finally comes to move (to where ever), I want to be ready. I don't want to look at all of the things around me and sigh with exhaustion at the thought of packing it up and moving it to the next place. 

My name is Cindy Maddera. I am, among other things, a blogger, a writer, a photographer, a yoga teacher, and a scientist. I'm maturing. I'm 42 years old and I'm just now trying to be a grown up. Sort of.

THINGS THAT DON'T MATTER

Cindy Maddera

I don't know what it is about Costco, but just pulling into the parking lot makes me want to punch someone. I immediately fill up with rage. We always find ourselves pulling into the parking lot at the worst time of day to be inside Costco and getting from the car to inside the doors is like reenacting an episode of American Gladiators while pushing an oversized shopping cart. I must have missed the etiquette lesson that teaches you to stop just inside the doorway of places so that you block all others from entering a room. The other shoppers at Costco did not miss this lesson because they are masters of stepping just inside and then spreading out almost like they are getting ready to start a game of Red Rover. It is all I can do to not shove them with my cart. I am not there to browse. I am not there to gawk at all of the things. When I go into Costco, I go in with a plan and a list. I can not afford to do other wise. I want to get in and get out and the people inside Costco want to do everything they can to keep me from doing just that.  

Saturday, I had to play this game twice because we ended up at two different Costcos. The first Costco didn't have all of the things on the list. Michael called the other Costco to see if they had the missing item. They did and we ended up abandoning our cart and just walking out to head over to a different Costco where I had to run the gauntlet all over again. This time I got everything on our list and managed to push my cart right up to an empty check out lane. WHAT?! Turns out that no one pays attention to the check out lane at the very end. Our check out was timed perfectly with a torrential downpour. We walked to the doors where people and carts were lined up as if they had been herded into a pen. Michael ran to get the car and when he pulled up, I ran outside with our cart. He had managed to park right next to the downspout for a gutter. I stood in ankle deep rushing water while tossing all of our things into the back seat. Rain was pounding down on me and while I was tossing in a giant stack of Kleenex, I just yelled "IT DOESN'T FUCKING MATTER!"

I finally made into the car, my clothes soaked through, my hair plastered down on my head with water dripping into my eyes. Michael turned to me, handing me his handkerchief and asked "What did you yell while you were putting stuff into the car?" I blotted my face with the handkerchief and replied "It doesn't fucking matter." Then we both started laughing at the ridiculousness of the whole situation. Our next stop was the REI store and the rain had dampened to a medium sprinkle. People were still standing under the awning of the store though when Michael pulled up and let me out of the car. One woman looked at me as I walked up to the doors and the look on her face said "Oh, honey." I shrugged and said "We just came from Costco. It's way worse over there." and I brushed my wet hair off my forehead and walked right on in. 

A couple of weekends ago, Michael and I got caught in unexpected rain shower while we were on the scooters. We rode home in a heavy downpour. At one point, I got stuck at a light behind a car that was illegally parked outside a church. They had pulled up so that someone could usher some senior citizen into the car. I just sat there waiting patiently. Really, there was nothing more I could do. I couldn't go around the car and by the time I could go around, the light had turned red. I was thinking of this moment while I was stuck outside Costco, throwing bulk items of butter and kleenex into the backseat. At some point it really just doesn't matter. At some point, I just have to be in it. This is how it is; it is not something I can control. But I can control my reaction. Which is how I should approach being inside Costco or any situation I get stuck in that I can't control. Sometimes you need to get caught in the rain just to remind yourself that it really isn't that big of a deal to get caught in the rain. 

And that is just doesn't fucking matter. 

AUTOBOTS, ROLL OUT

Cindy Maddera

One of our journaling prompts for that journaling workshop I attended a few weeks ago was "how are you transforming?" I stared at the page for a really long time. I am not currently transforming. This was the first thing I thought as I stared at my blank journal page. I suppose it all comes down to perspective, but really, I am not currently in a state of transformation. I am not searching to find myself or develop a better persona. I am not undertaking a new diet and/or workout routine. I have no desire to toss out all my clothes and reinvent my wardrobe nor do I have the money to do so.

I have transformed. In fact I've gone through many transformations in my life time, as we all do. We all change in some way. I have transformed myself from a person who only saw and ranted about the injustices of the world to a person who actively seeks out the rare and beautiful moments. I have done my best to be less of a complainer and more of a changer of the space around me so that I can't complain about it. I have transformed myself from just a mere scientists to a scientist with an artistic flair. Actually, I feel like I have transformed myself into a person with a well rounded life. I am living the interdisciplinary life my undergrad professors wanted for us. It goes with out saying that a shit ton of transformation occurred after Chris died. I had to remind myself that I was more than a duo. I had to rediscover my identity. I was still figuring this out when I met Michael. So now I was in this spot of rediscovery while learning to be in a new relationship. Often, I felt like I was not navigating any of it all that well. It was more like I was just letting myself be dragged along in some kind of current and then I'd get upset when that current left me someplace where I wasn't really comfortable. I started taking more responsibility for the direction I'm going. That means saying 'no' to some things and 'yes' to other things. Sometime during this year, I started to feel really settled into this skin. Part of that is from saying 'no' to things I really don't want to do. Part of that comes from teaching yoga again. I've stopped doing back flips to make those around me happy. I have let go of the idea that I could have the same kind of relationship I used to have and have found a way to live in the relationship I do have. And be happy with it.

I realized that I am constantly bombarded with advertisements and emails to transform myself in some shape or form. My favorite email that I have received this week by far has to be the one inviting me to a Global Summit on Shamanism and to attend workshops on becoming a shaman. I can't even think about 'connecting to a higher spirituality' and learning to 'guide others on their spiritual paths' without rolling my eyes. The act of guiding transformation is a big business and they all want to help you transform yourself into something spectacular. It doesn't matter that you are already spectacular. You can be even MORE spectacular. We all kind of suffer from Maddonaism with a need to reinvent ourselves every five years or so, but there has to be some parts in life where we are content with ourselves in that moment. I don't know what I ended up writing in my journal that day, but I feel like it was something not totally honest. The pressure was too great to fit in and feel like I was transforming myself just by being present at this particular workshop. I was already sitting outside my comfort zone. That's a transformation in itself of sorts. At one point, the hostess asked in regards to one of the prompts "And how does that make you feel?" I wanted to say "Lady, I barely tell my therapist how I feel and the stuff I do tell her has to be pulled out of me like a tooth." So I made something up. I drew on past experiences, but what I really wanted to write was that I am not transforming. 

I will never admit to being spectacular (I have just gotten used to accepting compliments), but I will admit to being content with where I am right now. I like being in between transformations. 

IN DEFENSE OF BOREDOM

Cindy Maddera

I have noticed that there are two different (at least) species of fireflies in our backyard. One species is about half an inch long. It floats slowly through the air almost like a hot air balloon and has a long glowing blink. The other species is about half the size of the one just described. It is faster in movement and in blink. It also seems to stay close to the ground, while the larger kind can be seen all the way up in the tree tops. 

What kind of firefly are you? 

That question reminds me of that scene in Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom where Sam asks Suzy "What kind of bird are you?" Everyone knows that Sam is really asking Suzy "What kind of person are you? Are you brave and daring? Are you the type that goes against the crowd? Or are you just like the others." Because it is Wes Anderson and every movie he makes drips with metaphors and the implied words between the words. So I ask. What kind of firefly are you? Well, I can tell you that I am the fat slow kind of firefly. 

Since Michael is off for the summer, he's been taking care of everything around the house. He cooks the meals, cleans the kitchen, runs the vacuum, cleans the bathroom, cleans off table clutter, does the laundry and the grocery shopping. His plan is for me to have mostly nothing to do on the weekends but go to yoga classes and scooter around the city. It's a nice plan and with the exception of the occasional round of dusting, his plan is mostly working. I have nothing do. I have oodles of time to do all the other projects that I've been wanting do or at least thinking about doing; the projects that get set aside because of the demands of daily living. This is the perfect opportunity for me to sit down and write, organize photos and get the creative juices flowing. 

I am doing none of those things. I just lay around like a lump. Mostly. I am going to yoga classes and we have been scootering around the city. We spent the whole day last Saturday scooting from place to place, even getting caught in a downpour. We came home, put on dry clothes and then I plopped myself back down on the couch. I was talking to Dr. Mary about all of this in our weekly session. I told her how I should be taking advantage of this extra time, but nothing I write sounds interesting. I delete everything. The scenery around me does not inspire me to pick up my camera. The pictures I take are forced. The pictures I take of myself for my 365 day project are uninspired and often do not include my face because every time I see my face through the camera lens, I'm like "ugh". I told Dr. Mary that I was bored with myself. 

Then Dr. Mary said that maybe I needed to be bored for a bit. 

I realized then that I have been thinking about this free time all wrong. Instead of focusing on doing all of the things, I should be relishing in this time to be still. Boredom is a privilege that is rarely allowed to us in adulthood. Boredom is for children and oh the things a kid can invent to escape their boredom. Fantastical games and magical worlds bloom from moments of boredom. Boredom is the time for recharging the creative batteries. So, I'm going to be bored. I'm going to be still. And then I'm going to hope that something blooms from all this stillness.  

THIS ONE'S FOR KELLY

Cindy Maddera

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One day last week, the clouds piled up and the sky turned black. It happened in the middle of the day, but it was so dark outside that you would have thought it was late in the evening. Sheets of rain fell heavily from the sky. The storm moved through quickly, but somewhere near the end of it we were all evacuated to the nearest storm shelter to wait out the tail end of it. This is probably the second time I have had to go wait out a storm in the shelter since I have moved here. One of my colleagues is a fellow Okie. When the alarms sounded, we both looked out the windows. Then we looked at each other and rolled our eyes at being sent to the storm shelters when we both knew there was no tornado coming our way. We sat in the storm shelter, which is just the stairwell, with our coworkers for five or ten minutes. Long enough for someone to take a group photo of us all in the stairwell. 

The storm and having to seek shelter was all the talk the next day. Everyone had a story of their afternoons spent in the basement. My friend/yoga teacher/plant goddess, Kelly told us all before class about shoving her two large cats into one small pet carrier and taking them down to her basement. She looked at me then and said something about all of this is probably not being a big deal for me. I shrugged my shoulders and said "not really." Then I confessed that I never once lived in a house in Oklahoma that had any sort of safe room or storm shelter. I told her how every time the tornado sirens went off, which was pretty often, Chris and I would just look at each other and shrug. It became a joke. There are pictures of me and Hooper sitting in closet with clothes piled all around us or sitting in the bathtub together. I'm wearing my scooter helmet in all of these pictures. I also told Kelly about the time my family rode out a tornado in our camp trailer.

Living smack down in the middle of the tornado alley is a whole lot different from living way out on the edge of that alley. I realized I had gotten used tornado sirens being tested on the first Wednesday of every month when we were standing in a Walmart in Guyman Oklahoma at noon on a Saturday. I froze in front of a rack of children's purses and told Michael to stop talking. Then he heard the sirens too. I looked over at an employee and asked her what day it was. She looked at me like oddly and said "It's Saturday." I replied "that's right, it's Saturday and it's noon." I turned to Michael and told him that they test the sirens every Saturday at noon. Then he looked at me and said "really?" I said "Yup. Every Saturday. At noon." That should give you some scale about the number of tornados that run down the center of that alley versus the number of tornados that fall off into the margins. 

Tornados are just a way of life in Oklahoma. I remember Chris saying once that he thought it was just the normal activity of the evenings to go hang out in the storm shelter when he was a kid living in a trailer park in Altus. That's just what they did as a family in the summer evenings. The sirens go off and we make a pot of coffee so we can stand outside with a cup of joe while we watch the skies. We may or may not stand in the bathtub. It depends on how the sky looks. Here, actual tornadoes are rare and any could be maybe looking cloud freaks people out. They go straight to their storm shelters or basements without one glance at the sky. It could be said that a seasoned Okie such as myself is a little bit lackadaisical when it comes to weather. I will admit that I can go for days without checking the weather report before I scoot out to work. I will admit that I have often gotten caught in the rain. A lot more so than when I lived in Oklahoma. There is something to be said about having some caution. 

That doesn't mean that I will not immediately go look out the windows whenever the tornado sirens go off. 

I'M REALLY ATTRACTED TO CHEESE

Cindy Maddera

I attended a meditation/journaling workshop this weekend that turned out to be more journaling than meditation. The workshop was taught by Elaina Cochran, a photographer and yoga teacher. She uses her photos to make meditation/journaling prompts and you can buy some of those at her website, Elated Earth. For this workshop, we used cards from her Reflect series. She chose different cards and then we all sat around writing about the prompt and image on the card and how it all made us feel. The workshop was a nice disciplined way to get me to be still and write in an unguarded or uncensored way. Which, as personal as this blog gets at times, it's still a censored version of reality. 

One thing I can tell you is that I am not an avid journal writer. I see images from other peoples journals and the handwriting is beautiful and they have colorful swirly art doodles in the margins and I think "I am going to do this!" Except every time I sit down to to do this, my journal ends up looking very much like the scientific notebook I keep for work. Look, I have always believed that I was not a creative person. It hasn't been until recently that I have come to recognize that my creativity manifests itself in other ways. I am good with this. Another thing about this workshop that I kind of struggled with was the part where I had to write about me. These prompts are meant for reflecting on your inner self. I use the prompts in my Fortune Cookie diary to write tiny short stories of fiction all the time. For this workshop, I found that I often had to remind myself that these reflection prompts are not to be turned into short stories of fiction. 

One of our journaling prompts was "what am I naturally attracted to and excited about?" I sat there, tapping my pen for a few minutes while considering an answer. Naturally, I attend to be attracted to intellect and knowledge. Some of my favorite parts of graduate school were our Friday evenings at Stonewall's, a big group of us sitting around with a couple of pitchers of beer discussing all things from politics to books to movies to religion. I am continually excited by the complexities of life on a microscopic level. The other day our group was having a discussion about messenger RNAs and it got so deep and detailed that a part of my brain exploded. All I could think about is how it is an absolute miraculous wonder that we are alive. Each day, I am excited about what discoveries I'll make and what I will learn from those discoveries.

Lately, I have noticed an attraction to abandoned things. Mostly buildings. There is something about the way the light hits an abandoned structure and the shadows they make that makes me want to lean in, place a hand on a wall, search for something hidden. There is a silence and stillness in these places that can be dissected into individual sounds and movement. It is a deception in a way. The buildings are abandoned, but only by humans. There were many of these places as we travelled to and from Colorado. Some times it was a forgotten business, often it was an abandoned farmstead. The old farms held the strongest attraction. I wanted to stop for each one and explore those shadows with my camera. I wanted to know the story of each farm. I am attracted to the stories.

I wrote all of this in my journal and then when Elaina said we'd spend just about a minute more on this prompt, I wrote "I am attracted to cheese." I wrote it because I thought it was funny, but then I thought about it and I really am attracted to cheese. I told Michael about it and so we we stopped by our new fancy Whole Foods and bought three different cheeses for a snack for later in the evening.

Maybe I should become a cheesemonger. 

CONTRACTS

Cindy Maddera

It was Memorial Day weekend and Michael and I met Terry and the boys at the Union Station Memorial Day celebration. I found myself in a conversation regarding sex which is not surprising considering the company. At some point in the conversation, one young man turned to me and asked "Are you good at blow jobs?" I opened my mouth to respond with something positive about my abilities, but paused. I looked at the guy who asked me the question and said "I used to be really good at it, but now? I don't know." I shrugged and said "The penis is different." The young man tilted his head to an angle, looking at me with total confusion and Terry then went on to explain my tale of two dicks. 

The empty spaces that came from Chris's departure filled up with doubts and a tendency to lean towards hypochondriac. For example, it's bug bite season and I know that the bites on my body are from mosquitoes or maybe a flea from the cat. I've not seen any fleas, but that means nothing because my crazy brain has already decided that the bites are from bed bugs. Michael keeps walking into my bedroom whenever I'm in the middle of searching the mattress for signs of bed bugs and every time he shakes his head as he says "We do not have bed bugs. Stop looking for them." There is a rational spot on my brain that knows this is true. We do not have bed bugs. But what if we do? I'm going to have burn the house down. Sometimes I think about burning the house down just to start over with a clean slate. I should probably not be left alone with matches or a lighter. 

The fortune in my Fortune Cookie Diary on Saturday said something like "talk to the person who is most on your mind." I wrote a semi-autobiographical story about not talking to the person most on my mind. I wrote about all the doubts I have in what I am doing and even doubts in who I am as an individual person. The things I used to be good at, I am no longer sure I'm good at any more. I struggle to answer a question because I don't know if I'm going to answer incorrectly, when there's no right or wrong answer to the question. I just hesitate like a deer in the headlights because I want to answer in a way that will make all parties happy. I am so caught up in thinking of the otherness of the other that I forget to think of myself. My happiness is not as important as the happiness of others. 

"What if this is all the love you ever get."

I have been working really hard this year to stop doubting myself. For one thing, the dead can not reassure me that I am doing things right. And really, what is right? That's my choice. I decide what is right for me. I answer to myself. Most days, it seems to be working.

Most days. 

When I came home from work last week, Michael said "let's go to Bella Napoli's and then get some groceries." He'd dropped the Cabbage off at her Mimi and Nona's earlier, so it was just the two of us. We were seated at a table fairly quickly, which isn't normal on half price pizza day there. It's usually busy but we had managed to get there before the rush. As we waited for our server, Michael mentioned that we had to be close to the date when we met there for the first time. We are both bad at remembering dates. I looked it up and we were a day off. It has been exactly five years. You know, I almost bolted? I was sitting on a bench, waiting for him to show. Chad and I were texting back and forth and I suddenly had the strongest urge to just get up and walk away. Except just as I stood up, Michael walked up to me. So, I went through with the date and then I thought I was ordering a glass of wine, but really ended up ordering a whole bottle. 

Michael has stopped talking about marriage. Instead, he has decided that we'll just renew a verbal contract every five years. This works for me. I've never been big on legal marriages. I've only said that I would do it if it really meant that much to him. I said the same thing to Chris. Chris thought it was important that we get married. It was not my idea, but there are big parts of my life that were not my idea.

And those parts turned out okay. 

FROM THE OUTSIDE

Cindy Maddera

I took the small square, slightly faded prints from the trip we took to Hawaii when I was six or seven. We must have made that trip soon after Janell had famously cut off all her hair because in the pictures, she sports a mop of close cropped jagged hair. All these years later and my mother will tell anyone who will listen how Janell had the most beautiful hair until she took a pair of scissors to it and ruined it. In the Hawaii pictures, the both of us are all arms and legs. At any given day of the trip, you will see one or the both of us wearing American Airlines T-shirts. There are blurry pictures of us standing in front of giant banyan trees or hamming it up on the beach. My swimsuit is the swimsuit my sister wore the summer before. I know this because I also have the small square print of the two of us playing in the rain. Janell is wearing that green swimsuit with the yellow ruffled top that I am wearing in the Hawaii pictures. 

We look happy. We look like we are having the best time. I remember having the best time. Vaguely. I remember in that foggy way that memories come back to you. There is one exception to our happiness. In every single picture that my mother appears in, she looks miserable. She doesn't even pretend to smile. Janell and I stand grinning with wide cheesy smiles while my mother stands just to the side with a look of pure annoyance on her face as if she'd rather be any where else but there. This is the first time I've come across pictures from that trip. In all the rounds of cleaning out the old house, I never looked through half of the rubber-made tubs of pictures. I didn't even realize pictures of that trip existed and now I almost wish that my foggy memories where the only mental photographs I had of that trip. 

So many of us tell our stories in pictures now. We are all peeping at each other's lives through a different kind of window, but it is no different than before. We still only see the life the other wants you to see. I only show the good moments with the idea that you just know that every moment of every day doesn't all look like that. It is harder to tell the whole truth of the story about ourselves. No one thinks to pick up the camera when their day has just fallen to pieces. I see more of this truth in the picture I take every day for my 365 day project mostly because I don't have the energy to do otherwise. Maybe that's why mother made no effort to hide her unhappiness in those vacation photos. After keeping track of two young girls, carting all the things that mother's end up carrying around with them, and putting up a man she was so unhappy with she was just too tired to pretend to smile or look like she was enjoying herself.

I remember a time when I didn't have to pretend for a photo, when I didn't need all kinds of energy for smiling and grinning. 

 

WHAT'S GOIN' ON

Cindy Maddera

I spent the weekend at my Mom's with my brother and sister-in-law. Our Mother's Day Weekend activities included a Tabouleh Festival in Bristow, where I was surprised to discover that there used to be a large Lebanese community. I was also surprised to find only one source of tabouleh and that one booth had a super long line. We left the the tabouleh festival without tabouleh, which was disappointing because we had planned to have tabouleh with dinner later that evening. So we left the Tabouleh Festival and headed over to a German festival. This was less festival and more 'pay us some money to enter our raffle so you can win this quilt covered in elephants'. We did have a beer and a pretzel. We did not win the raffle. At least I don't think any one of us did.

We left the German Festival and I said "now what?" Katrina, my sister-in-law, looked at her phone and said "there's a Latin Festival." This would have been almost perfect except we all decided that were all festivaled out and that maybe we should just go to the liquor store. That's what we did, but then we got distracted by plants on the way back to Mom's house. So now I have a hanging basket of pretty flowers that I don't know the name of. Then we spent the rest of the evening eating pizza, drinking gin and sorting through boxes of old photos. I came home with a pile of old pictures and a letter to Santa Claus my Dad had dictated to his mother in 1945. Dad had requested a bow and six arrows and a Buck Rogers gun. He also asked for some other things, but those were my favorites. 

I got home Sunday afternoon and then Josephine started puking her guts out. The two of us did very little sleeping Sunday night because of it. She puked in my bed. She puked in her bed. She had to go outside several times. She couldn't get comfortable. She was one sick puppy but not in a psycho kind of sick puppy way. I kept my cool and waited it out, but seriously was this close to panicking and rushing her to an emergency vet so I could spend half a million dollars for them to tell me that she just ate something bad. She's fine. I still have no idea what she got into except maybe all the grass she's been eating in the backyard. I stayed home with her on Monday so I could wash all the stuff she'd puked on and monitor her health. She was pretty mopey until I got the vacuum out. Then she mustered enough energy to attack the vacuum and I knew we were in the clear. 

Any way. I am home and things are returning back to some kind of normal. 

BIRD SEASON

Cindy Maddera

I was up at 6:00 AM on Saturday morning. The sounds of a bird in distress makes a pretty good alarm clock. I don't know if it is a skill I should be proud of, but by now I can tell the difference between bird and rabbit distress calls. I don't know about squirrels. They never make it into the house alive. The rarely make it into the house with their heads still attached. On this particular morning, I opened my bedroom door and then followed the trail of feathers to the kitchen where the cat had the bird cornered between the back door and the refrigerator. I told the animals to scram, dropped a dishtowel onto the bird and then scooped him up. I carried him to the front yard and I could feel his wings trying to flap. I just relaxed my grip and he flew off and up into a tree branch in the neighbor's yard. Then immediately after he landed, another bird tackled him and they both fell to the ground. I have no idea what happened to him or if he was the same bird I "rescued" at 4:30 this morning. 

I'm sure the bird from this morning didn't make it.

Since I was up at six on Saturday, I went ahead and got showered and dressed. Then I cleaned the kitchen and scrubbed the stove because a bird had pooped on it. I gathered my grocery bags, the list, my journal, my purse and my glasses, locked the door and stepped out of the house. With out keys. I stood there for a few minutes, trying to decide what to do. I banged on the front door a few times knowing that there was no way Micheal was going to hear me from his cave in the basement. I stepped around to the Cabbage's window and started banging. She pulled the curtain back with squinted eyes and I asked to her to go open the front door. She had a moment of panic when she didn't think she could get the door open, but I talked her down and said that all she had to do was turn the lock. I opened the door and told her to go back to bed. Later on, Michael went into her room and she said "Why did you lock Cindy out of the house?!" He didn't know I'd locked myself out or what the Cabbage was talking about.

That's probably the first time I've ever locked myself out of that house.

The rest of the weekend went just fine and dandy. My massage therapist removed a giant knot from my right thigh. I pulled up old dead plants and planted new vibrant living plants. I made the kind of guacamole that you never want to stop eating because it's laced with crack (not really, but I make some delicious guacamole). I spent time reading while swaying gently in my hammock. It was real nice. Some time between Saturday and today, I dreamed that Albus dragged a goose into the house. The house was a wreck with goose poop and feathers. It was like we'd used our living room for rituals. After that dream, I really studied the dog door. Could Albus even fit a goose through that door? Maybe. Yet my thoughts keep drifting back to the Saturday morning bird. He was a living breathing metaphor. I saved that bird from the clutches of a gruesome death only to release him into a different kind of gruesome death. It's like all those videos people post of releasing the trapped mouse into a field and then watching as a hawk swoops down and carries it off for it's dinner. 

It's really true. There are some things that are just out of your control. 

WANTS

Cindy Maddera

I have started to slowly clean up this space and make some minor changes. I've added some new pictures and removed some broken links. Some stuff had just become outdated, like my Life List. I pulled that from the blog and stored the content someplace safe, but slightly forgotten. I haven't looked at that list in ages. The list still contains things I had planned to do with Chris and it makes me sad to read through it. I start seeing how we never made it to Paradise Falls in South America and wondering just how many helium balloons it would take to lift this house. Then I have to scroll through old pictures to remind myself of the things we did do together to get the bitter taste of loss out of mouth. I decided it was time to officially let the Life List go.

Way back when we all sat down to write our Life Lists, I had a hard time separating things I should do from things I wanted to do. I might as well have written "take out the garbage" as one of those items. I was really bad about coming up with things I wanted. I read other's life lists and would see things like "swim in bioluminescent pools" or "eat a 100 different kinds of cakes" and I would think "oooh....I want to do those things too!" Except I didn't. Not really. Sure I'd love to go swim in a bioluminescent pool of algae, but the whole science girl part of me says "gross." Also, I can't help but think that there's something harmful to the algae and ecosystem by us swimming around with them. Cake used to be one of my main food groups. Sometimes I would have cake for breakfast. If I went to a buffet, I'd get a small plate of salad and two large plates of every single dessert, mostly cake. I cannot tell you the last time I had a piece of cake. Things changed. I changed. 

I have changed.

I have learned that a lot of the things I should do are the things I want to do. I want to take out the garbage and I want to declutter. Cleaning is an enjoyable past time for me. The things that ended up getting crossed off my list were things I really wanted to do. Some of those things that got crossed off are things that I want to do again. Like the water balloon fight. That should be an annual event. But I noticed as I was taking the list down, that there are things on the list that I do not want to do any more. I don't care to know how to make tofu or learn acupuncture. My yoga practice is so rounded and balanced now. I don't want to learn ashtanga because I already know the basics of that practice. But that's the thing about the list. It is meant to change with you. I did not go in an edit that list according to my life changes. Instead it became a time capsule of a different life. 

If making the Life List has taught me anything, it has taught me to recognize and own the things that I want in this life. I want to learn how to make macarons. I want to eat so many different and exotic cheeses that I don't poop for a week. I want to spend more time in a hammock and less time thinking about my fat belly. I want to go dancing, like club dancing where I end up with glitter on my face. I want to go roller skating and I want to go jump around on trampolines. I want to collect more National Park stamps. I want to take the risks that come available to me at unexpected times. This might mean saying "yes" even if I am not sure I should be saying "yes". I want to say "no" to the things I do not want to do and not feel the need to apologize for it or feel guilty for it. 

And I no longer need a list to keep track of the things I want. 

 

THE EYES DO NOT HAVE IT

Cindy Maddera

I few months ago, I had to renew my driver's license and I did not take my glasses in with me when I did this. Then the lady told me to look in the box and read the last row of letters. I paused while internally saying "fuuuck". Somehow, I managed to blunder my way through, though she did ask me to read them a second time. Up until this point I had no idea how much I had been relying on my glasses for distance vision. Cut to a day or so ago when I had to go in for my annual eye exam. The technician had me leave my glasses on and then read the letters from a board first with my right eye and then with my left eye. I could not read ANY of the letters with my left eye and I almost started hyperventilating.

It was bad. Real bad. I got into the room with the eye doctor and she set the phoropter (that's what that thing with all the lenses is called) in front of my face. We went through the whole right left rigamarole again. When we got to my left side, I gasped and kind of yelled out "WHAT IS HAPPENING!?!?" I told the doctor that I couldn't make out any of those letters, hearing the high pitch panic in my own voice as I made this confession. I started to worry that something was really wrong with me. Like maybe I had a tumor sitting behind my left eye. Maybe I somehow burned a hole in my eye when taking pictures of the eclipse or working with the lasers on the microscopes. I have seriously effed up my left eye. In fact, it's probably going to fall right out of my head.

My doctor could sense my rising panic and assured me that I was okay. She said "we knew your left eye was the problem eye. It's just gotten a little worse." Then she showed me cool 3D images of my eyeballs. She pointed out certain structures and told me that they looked nice and healthy. She drew imaginary lines along all of the blood vessels and said that my blood vessels looked healthy. My reading vision is still 20/20. I nodded my head and allowed her to console me. Then I spent about $500 on new lenses for my sunglasses and regular glasses. Later, I was talking about all of this to a friend. She played down my blinding left eye by telling about the time she left her glasses off at a pool party. She said everyone was so blurry that she couldn't even tell if they were wearing swimsuits. Her story really put things into perspective. At least I can tell if people are naked or not. 

So...things I learned: My left eye is not going to fall out of my eye socket. I do not have a tumor. My vision has gotten worse, but not so bad that I couldn't see something like a bear running towards me. If I decide to change careers and become a pirate, I need to put my patch over my left eye. 

COLONEL VANHOUSEN'S NATURAL HISTORY EMPORIA

Cindy Maddera

39766252794_627c8d8a0a_b.jpg

The room is on the third floor of the building with a bank of windows facing north. I am not sure what the building is really intended for, but I think there's a salon on the first floor and a lawyer's office of some sorts. It is possible that the upper floors are apartments. That seems to be all the repurposing rage around here, turning random offices into apartments. Then the landlords charge an exorbitant amount for rent. This particular area has been seeing some changes. A juice bar went in up the street, along with a new micro brewery. One morning on my way to work, I passed this building as two men in flannel shirts walked around the corner to get into their car. They both carried a ceramic mug. They both had their pants rolled at the ankles and their bare feet clad in loafers. They both sported messy buns on top of their heads. Neither wore a coat even though the temperatures were in the low thirties. 

The neighborhood is changing. 

Its in the evenings when I am headed home where I have a chance to study the room on the third floor.  The entire length of the windowsill across the third floor is lined with an accoutrement of items. From my vantage point waiting at the stop light, I can see an elephant tusk and a large skull of an animal, possibly the elephant that gave up it's tusk. There's a stuffed and mounted mountain lion standing on a length of driftwood. The rest of the windowsill is cluttered with papers and bits of things I can't quite make out from the street. The first time I noticed the room, I was on my way home from an afterwork happy hour and since we were in the shorter days of winter, the sun had already set. The building was dark all except for that third floor room. I looked up and started noticing the bones and the lion, forgetting that I was sitting at a red light. I said out loud to no one "what the Hell is happening in that room?" Then I heard the beep of a car horn behind me. The light had turned green. It was time to move on.

Now, in the evenings, I look up at that floor and try to notice clues that would give any hints to what really goes on there. Here's what I've come up with so far. The third floor is the home and offices of Colonel Martin Vanhousen. He is an older, distinguished gentleman with an unplaceable accent. Some days he sounds as if he might hail from Wurzburg, while the next day it may sound as if he is a Yorkshire native. On Saturdays and Sundays, Col. Vanhousen, or Marty if you are close acquaintances, has the thickest Scottish brogue that you can not understand a word he says. He is neither tall, nor short; skinny or fat. Col. Vanhousen is completely bald on the top of his head with a ring of white fluffy hair circling his head. He does not have a beard, but does sport the most pork-like side chops you have ever seen. 

Col. Vanhousen is a world explorer. This explains why his home and office are littered with bones and taxidermied animals. There are stacks upon stacks of field notes, old photographs and sketches of rare plants and in the center of it all sits a large mahogany desk. In those drawers you will find uncatalogued arrowheads, a pipe collection, a tobacco collection and a very expensive bottle of scotch. He keeps the cheap stuff for guests on an ancient liquor cart along with some gin and a bottle of vermouth that he doesn't remember ever buying. One desk drawer contains letters and a locket containing a picture of his one and only true love, Elsbeth. She died from influenza while he was on expedition to Antarctica. The Colonel never married, but does have a string of widows who take turns stopping by on evenings carrying a pyrex dish filled with some casserole of sorts. He has spent the last twenty five years in this office, attempting to compile all of his notes into a memoir. That is something we have in common, though I also have a small collection of arrowheads in my own desk drawer.

Of course all of this is more fantasy than fact. The room does exist. As does the mountain lion and large skull. The rest of it all is still just conjecture. 

 

THE WINTER THAT WILL NOT END

Cindy Maddera

Otherwise known as "Now is the winter of our discontent" or The Long Winter or The Winter That Killed Cindy Because She Never Saw The Sun Again. The End. 

I had no idea that fleece lined leggings would actually be the most practical and important purchase I would make in 2018. When I bought them on sale, I thought I was planning for next winter. My weather app currently says "feels like 26°" and this morning I had to tell the dog three times to go outside. She usually does this on her own, but this morning she stayed under the comforter until she heard Michael open the front door to leave. Even then, she only poked her head out to see what was happening. I almost think I saw her shoulders shrug before she tucked herself back into the blanket. Yesterday morning, while it was sleeting and snowing, the cat came in and settled down in my lap. Then he attacked me for no reason other than he needed to make someone suffer for what was happening outside.

We spent most of Easter Sunday on the couch under blankets or snuggled in bed reading books. I did manage to clean the bathroom, do laundry and clean out my closet, but there was a lot of immobility happening in between chores. There was a lot of scowling at the window whenever we'd hear the tap-a-tap of ice hitting the glass. We also ate a lot of cheese and pickles. For some reason, cheese is our go-to comfort food. I don't know why the pickles were involved. We watched a cooking show on PBS where the chef said things that made us question if she had ever tasted food before. She coated grapes with olive oil and salt and then roasted them in a pan with butternut squash. Micheal said "that's interesting." I replied "I don't know...it's a HOT grape." A salty hot grape on a salad. If raisins are the worst thing ever to be handed out as food, a salty hot grape has got to be the second worst thing.

Michael mentioned something about the trip we made to Wisconsin in July and how we nearly froze to death. One of us always ends up mentioning this trip whenever the weather is acting inappropriately. Wisconsin again interrupted my train of thought as I passed a guy in the hallway who works with sea lamprey. They're an invasive species that made their way into the lake from the Atlantic Ocean some time around 1938. Sea lampreys caused significant damage to the fishing industries of the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes Fishery Commission has gone to great lengths to get the lamprey population under control. Still, when I think about falling into any of the Great Lakes, I think of freezing to death while being attacked by hundreds of lampreys.

That's what this winter feels like. I'm freezing to death while giant eels are attaching themselves to me with a suction cup mouth full of razor sharp teeth. And yes, I realize that I am probably over exaggerating and being a bit dramatic. But really, I have nothing more to tell you. 

THINGS THAT SURPRISE ME

Cindy Maddera

Every morning, after Michael leaves, I ask Alexa to play some music. She will come up with some playlist that she thinks I might like and often I will say "Alexa, play something else." Some times I just tell her what to play. Monday morning, I asked for the usual and Alexa said "Okay, how about Kesha's popular songs." I shrugged, thinking "why not?" A minute later I'm dancing in the kitchen and singing into a spatula while making pancakes. I like Kesha. 

This surprises me. I tend to be the kind of girl that likes her music more obscure and angsty. I could cocoon myself up on a gray day with the National or croon along with Morrissey. I could spend all day rollerskating with Arcade Fire. I'd love to have dinner with Neko Case. Even though I am disappointed in Wayne Coyne as a human being, I could still soak in a bathtub of tangerines. When asked what kind of music I listen too, I usually answer 'alternative'. I like to listen to bands you've never heard of. I have always been this way. I will hear one bit of a song from an obscure artist and then totally and completely devote the next two months of my life listening to every single song from that artist. Though I recognize their importance in American music, I have never been drawn to the Pop artist. Which is how I would have categorized Kesha.

Someone recommended listening to Kesha's Rainbow album and I've been hooked ever since. I downloaded the explicit version of the album and I think it's her vulgar swearing that I love the most. It reminds me of being a teenager. Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville was the first explicit album I ever purchased. Even then, I was too young to buy it. I had to have Katrina get it from Starship Records for me. It was not the type of album I could just pick up from the Walmart music section. I would pop that tape into my walkman, put the headphones on and lay on my bed listening to Liz sing about fucking guys and pleading to Mary for help. Each word was a golden nugget and listening to that album made me feel slightly rebellious. Maybe it was my rebellion. Kesha doesn't inspire the dark rebellion in me the way Liz did, but she does make me want to high five someone and yell out "YEAH!" Also, when she sings Praying, I want to weep for her and hug her and tell her that she is the most brave and that guy is going to rot from the inside out. By the way, Praying is not a song of worship. 

Sometimes a girl just needs to shake her ass and have some boogie feet.

Something else that surprises me? I did 108 yoga pushups in yoga class on Saturday. 

HIGH FIVES ALL AROUND!

NEW THINGS

Cindy Maddera

Last week, I finally gave in and upgraded to the new iPhone. I'd been on the fence about it ever since the X and the 8 came out. I wanted the new camera features, but I didn't want a giant phone, which is what I'd have to get to get all of the camera features. I stewed over this for some time and thought about how my tiny hands would deal with a bigger phone. Then I got kind of mad because the bigger phone would force me to hold the phone in one hand while texting with one finger. This isn't the past! Also, I carry my phone around in my bra strap (Yes, I've already been told that I could be giving myself cancer for doing this) and I probably wouldn't be able to do that with the bigger phone. I've been pouting over it for months.

Then I was looking at pictures my friend Luke took during our St. Patrick's Day festivities and I got real jealous of that camera. I ended up ordering the X a few days later. It's smaller and it gives me all of the new camera features. I like it but the best feature, my most favorite thing ever about the new phone is not the camera. It is the animoji feature that turns your face and words into a cute cartoon animal you can send in texts. I cannot express to you just how much joy this brings me. I've been a unicorn, a pig, a fox, even a poop emoji. Last night I sent Michael a text as he sat on the other end of the couch of a cute bunny who sweetly sang "Would you please go get me some ice cream?" The people I've sent animojis to in texts probably do not think they are hilarious as I do, but it's all I want to do. I want to send the whole wide world texts of me as a unicorn, saying "I love you". I discovered that the panda animoji has very expressive eyebrows and makes a delightful evil face. So, I'll save that one for when I'm mad. 

We also broke down last week and purchased an Insta Pot. I'd been toying with the idea of one for a really long time because of the pressure cooker feature. I had (maybe still do) grand delusions of pressure cooking lots of beans. The Insta Pot seemed safer than what I know of pressure cookers. Which is nothing except they can blow up. I did a lot of research and reading around and I came across this blog entry from the Prairie Homestead about using the Insta Pot to hard boil eggs. The last time Micheal and I tried to peel a hard boiled egg from our chickens, it looked like we had chewed the shell off. The part that really sucked was that we had boiled a dozen or so of them and had planned to make deviled eggs. Instead they became deviled egg dip. Any way, this woman used her Insta Pot to steam her eggs and she says that the shell comes right off. When I read that, I was all "SOLD!"

The Insta Pot, which we have named 'Rosie', arrived on Thursday and Michael has gone Insta Pot crazy. Almost every meal we have eaten since Thursday has come from Rosie. Michael has cooked broccoli, made meatballs, cooked chicken thighs, roasted potatoes, and made rice. Every meal except for Tuesday has been planned around Rosie and Micheal might just find a way to make our Tuesday tacos in the Insta Pot any way. Tonight, we're having vegetarian sloppy joe's. Every time Michael finishes cooking one thing, he says "What else can I cook in here?!?" I've created an Insta Monster. And now we've become one of those people. You know exactly what I'm talking about. 

What else is new? 

I've decided to stop eating bananas and using plastic straws. I'm wearing a new pair of organic cotton yoga pants that I bought off of a sales rack this weekend at Whole Foods and they are the softest and the only thing I ever want to wear, ever. I got my haircut for summer. It's super short and it's still very not even Spring like around here. My ears are cold, but that's nothing new. 

A BOLT IN THE TIRE

Cindy Maddera

Last week, I hit a pretty awful pothole with my right front tire. It was so loud, that I was pretty sure I had broken my car. I was hesitant to mention any of this to Michael. Just last month I said something about never having the brakes looked at on my car that is now five years old. Five minutes after saying this, my brakes started to make a weird sound. I was pretty sure that if I said something about hitting that pothole, my whole tire would just fall off the car. I was riding in the passenger seat on Saturday, when I could hear a wub-wub-wub sound coming from the tire. So I asked Michael if he could also hear it. He said it sounded like it was coming from the driver's side front tire, but then I confessed to the pothole incident. He still thought it was coming from his side of the car. It sounded like I had flat tire, but the tire pressure light was not on. Finally Michael said "That's it! I'm pulling over right now." He got out of the car and had me slowely roll forwards and backwards while he inspected the tires. Turns out, there was a bolt with a washer lodged into the front driver side tire. The amazing thing is that the tire was not leaking air, nor had it blown out while we were driving it around. 

Yesterday, I told my therapist that I was finding it really difficult to not be a crankpot all the time. I told her I didn't know what was wrong with me, but I just felt out of sorts. Dr. Mary then had me read a passage from Buddhism Explained describing dukkha. Dukkha is suffering and this passage likened dukkha to a wonky wheel. For example, let's say you have a wooden cart with one wheel that sits crooked. The cart still rolls as you pull it; it just doesn't roll smoothly and makes the cart harder to pull and steer. Dukkha is a wonky wheel. You still experience joy, but there's always this underlying layer of suffering. You will always have this layer of suffering until you figure out what is causing the suffering and eliminate it from your life. I have a wonky wheel, a bolt in my tire. It always comes back to wheels.

I read the news about Stephen Hawking passing away while eating breakfast. Tears splashed down onto my pancakes as I read "It would not be much of a universe if it wasn't home to the people you love." Then for some strange reason, Werewolf of London was playing on the radio. There was Chris sitting in the passenger seat howling through the lyrics and I said "you are not the bolt in my tire." I said it while really trying to believe that was true. This in between Winter and Spring season is the bolt. That first Spring after Chris died, the only thing I wanted to do was ride my scooter. I'd spent the winter unable to muster enough energy to do more than lay on the couch. I wanted something that I knew would be bring me joy. But then I couldn't find my scooter key. I got so desperate that I finally retrieved the spare key from the lock box, the key they told me to never use because if lost it would cost $2500 to replace. At the time, being on my scooter in the sun was worth so much more than $2500.

We are so close to being in scooter season. I went out to the garage to start my scooter and it would not turn over. Sad face. Then Michael hooked my battery up to a battery charger and two hours later, my scooter roared to life. Happy face! Then the temperatures dropped back down below thirty. Sad face. In the years since the lost scooter key, it has always been this season that has made me feel the most out of kilter. Tomorrow, I'm pulling that bolt free from my tire and I'm riding my scooter. 

I WILL PUNCH YOU IN THE FACE

Cindy Maddera

Last week, I woke up at three AM from a dream where I was so angry at Michael for something to do with schedules and calendars. I got up and went to the bathroom, but when I crawled back into bed my brain was too hyped up to go back to sleep. I laid there raging and reliving various random moments of conflict and how I should have said this instead of that. I kicked off all of the covers because I was hot and flipped over to turn off my electric blanket. My period starts in three days. The dreams leading up to this have been off the chain. One night I put on eye makeup and it was perfect, but I only did one eye. The next night I tore my closet apart looking for my elephant skirt and was unable to find it. I know for sure that both were dreams because I am incapable of applying eye makeup let alone perfect eye makeup. I checked my closet and my elephant skirt is still there. 

I started watching the Masterpiece Theater show Breathless and there's this episode where an older woman discovers that her husband is having an affair with the secretary. She confronts him and so he takes her to the doctor where he bullies the doctor into prescribing some serious drugs because of her crazy menopausal symptoms. The woman makes a half hearted attempt to stab the secretary with a pair of scissors, is told she needs to get herself under control, and then overdoses on the prescription her husband forces the doctor to give her. There's a moment before she takes all of the pills when she's talking to an older nurse who is telling her to get her shit together when the woman says that she still wished she'd stabbed that girl with the scissors. It is the most frustrating episode I have seen so far because they keep playing off this woman's rage at her husband's infidelity as just symptoms of menopause. Then I got so mad about the whole episode that I picked up my iPad and threw it across the gym. 

I did not.

I had been basking in a skinny phase for the past two months. I caught my reflection in the mirror while teaching a yoga class and thought "Oh! I look skinny!". A week later my body turned into a bloated up bullfrog. I again caught my reflection while teaching a class and thought "Who is that fat girl teaching yoga? Oh...it's me." I closed my eyes to the reflection and never looked back at the mirror again. Saturday, we found ourselves on the Plaza and Michael sent me to Anthropolgie while he and the Cabbage went to look for shoes. They found me just as I was checking out. The Cabbage put her chin on the counter and told the check out lady "I'm going to be a big sister!" The woman then looked right at my belly and said "CONGRATULATIONS!" I didn't say a word. I just smiled and nodded my head. When the transaction was complete, the woman walked my bag around to hand to me. I guess so I wouldn't strain myself picking up the bag containing two shirts from the counter? It was weird and not the first time someone has congratulated me on a pregnancy. 

So, you would think that all of this plus a time change would make me a very ragey person today. Except I knew that all of this plus a time change would set me on a murderous rampage and I made some changes to my routine. First of all, I left work early on Friday and cleaned the house. I mean, scrub under furniture and wash the curtains kind of cleaning of the house. Then, I had Michael hang some shelves in my room which allowed me to free up my yoga storage box. I swapped places with the yoga box and my hamper, placed a blanket and meditation pillow on the box and BOOM! Meditation space. The next thing I did was probably the most difficult. I changed my alarm clock setting from 5:50 AM to 5:17 AM and then I got up out of bed when that 5:17 alarm went off in the morning. Here's what the usual routine generally looks like: wake up around 4 something AM, let the dog out, the cat comes in and drools on me, fall back to sleep for an hour before the alarm clock goes off, seriously consider calling in sick to work, seriously wonder if Michael is getting up, go make sure Michael is up and getting into the shower, crawl back into bed until he's done, seriously consider calling in sick, begrudgingly get up and into the shower.

This morning, I did twenty minutes of meditation and brewed a cup of hot ginger lemon water to sip on while Michael was in the shower. Am I tired? Of course, I am. But I am not as tired as I was before starting this routine. That whole going back to sleep for an hour before having to get up for real was killing me and my sleep inertia was all kinds of disrupted. Every time I fell back asleep, I was resetting my sleep cycle to think I was at the beginning of my sleep cycle, making it harder to get up when it was actually time to get up. Messing with your sleep inertia also leaves you groggy and disoriented for up to four hours after waking this way. I am still bloated. I still had some weird ass dreams last night. But! BUT!!! I feel less likely to punch someone in the face today. 

That' something.

 

THE BIG SQUEEZE

Cindy Maddera

Last week, a coworker sent out a group email announcing the birth of their second child. I had no idea him and his wife were expecting another baby, but was glad to hear that all was well with mom and baby. He attached a photo of their new little girl and when I opened the picture, I fell over. She's perfection. Sometimes when I'm feeling stressed or anxious, I find myself opening that picture to stare at her sweet, sleeping face and feel my ovaries cramp up. Not long after his announcement, another couple I work with who recently had twins had their babies up in the office. They are about sixish months old now and rolly polly and drooling and adorable. The mom handed one of them over to me so I could smell her head and then we all marveled at the evolutionary design of babies. 

At birth, babies secrete a hormone that makes everybody in the room love them. They also look like their fathers. This ensures their survival or at least it keeps the dad from eating the young. The father sees this delicate tiny version of himself and is hit with that love hormone, thus sealing the bond between baby and Father. Even the helplessness of babies is part of evolutionary design. In a paper released in Proceeding of National Academy of Science in 2016, Steven Piantadosi and Celeste Kidd present an evolutionary model of a positive feedback loop where humans are born early to accommodate larger brains. This in turn gives rise to helpless newborns and caring for these children requires more intelligence and thus larger brains. This is how we evolved to our current level of human intelligence. Large brains means helpless babies who need parents with large brains to care for them. I think, in this case, the word 'intelligence' refers to a relative intelligence. Like knowing that fire is hot or that stepping on the sharp end of something is going to hurt. Because we all know that person who flunked out of high school and now has seven children.

You know, I thought all these years that the main reason I didn't want children was because I didn't have what it takes to raise a good human being. Now I'm wondering if it's really because I didn't think I was smart enough to have a child. I've always lacked confidence in my intelligence. 

In the past few years, the sight of babies has stirred feelings in me that were not normally present when I was younger and in childbearing years. I have uncontrollable urges just to hold a baby and talk in a ridiculous baby babble with them. I think about finding ways to bottle that new baby smell so that I can spritz the room with it. I see baby clothes in shop windows and want to buy them, thinking that maybe I could get Josephine to wear them. My body twinges at the sight of their gummy infectious smiles. I try to distract myself by looking at puppies but this inevitably leads to me looking at the adoptable dogs on Petfinder. There may be room in my heart for another dog, but there is not room in our house for another dog. There might be room in both places for a goat. We do have a big backyard. 

I was talking about all of these new babies to Michael and he looked at me sideways and asked "Do you want a baby?!?" I did not hesitate in my answer. I said "Of course I don't want a baby. I'm FORTY TWO YEARS OLD!" I mean, even if I managed to give birth to a healthy baby without genetic abnormalities, what on Earth would I do with it? That new baby smell transforms from something lovely to something very funky in no time. Every time I smell soured milk, I think of my nephew Thomas who was a terribly cute but stinky baby. Also, I am going to retire at a normal retirement age. I cannot afford to retire and put a kid through college all at the same time. So, at least I am smart enough to know that the baby ship has left the docks and is probably sinking somewhere in the Atlantic. And I am really truly okay with that. 

Those stirred up feelings are my body's last ditch effort to remind me of the choices I have made. They are coming at a time when I am also experiencing other symptoms related to perimenopause. My body is taunting me in a way that makes me doubt my decisions even while I mentally stand by those choices. I still come from a generation of women who were taught that having babies defines us as women. Ovaries and eggs. These are the things that make us female. At least, biologically speaking. What are we then when our ovaries are no longer working? There was a time when the older a woman became, the more invisible she became. I don't want to be in the limelight, but I certainly do not want to become invisible because of my age.

I am lucky enough to be moving into this transition during a time in history where there has been a shift in how we view older women. Or that we view older women at all. The forty and over woman is represented in fashion ads and media, not as homely grandmothers baking cookies, but as strong, beautiful and running the business. I'm not saying that cookie baking grandmothers is a bad thing. It's just an unrealistic image for someone like me. The women I know who are my age and older are running businesses. They are strong and beautiful. I was just in a yoga workshop filled with women my age and older who were doing the most intense and demanding yoga poses without blinking an eye or breaking a sweat. We have finally, FINALLY, reached a point in time where ovaries and eggs are not our most defining feature. 

I still might buy that baby sweater I saw the other day and convert it into a dog sweater for Josephine.