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HERE'S WHAT HAPPENED

Cindy Maddera

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

I know. The word ‘meow’ says a lot.

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

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

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

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

SURVEY SAYS

Cindy Maddera

Every once in a while, Anthropologie wants me to tell them what I think about stuff. I just have to say that I was never really super interested in clothes until I learned about Anthro. Now, I’m a fucking addict. I also have very bipolar feelings about that place mostly because everything is SO EXPENSIVE! I love the clothes and vehemently hate the prices. My shopping strategy is to wait until there’s at least a 40% extra off of already sale items. Most of the time I don’t even walk around the store. I head straight on back to the clearance racks. I also try every single item on to make sure it fits properly or if it is something I am actually going to wear. Of course I am an Anthro member which means I get 20% off of a full price item during the month of my birth. It also means I get notified early about sales and sometimes I get an extra something percent off when I do the occasional survey.

In this latest Anthro survey, they wanted to know how I felt about different months of the year. The very first question was: “What are the first three words or phrases that come to mind when you think about the month of January?” Then they wanted to know the same thing about February and March. This was the first page of the survey. I sat there, staring at the screen with my head tilted to one side wondering if I should tell the truth or put in sugar coated lies. I told them the truth. I didn’t know what else to do, honestly. I couldn’t think of one sugar coated lie to fill in those blanks. I did type ‘birthday’ as one of my answers for January which could be taken a number of different ways. Some people love their birthday months. So I thought that was actually something nice to put down for January. It’s something a stranger can interpret as ‘joyful’. The rest of it all included words such as ‘cold’ and ‘sad’ and ‘bittersweet’. Then I decided that Anthro didn’t really want to know how I felt about those months and closed the survey without finishing it.

And this is why I do not try to do sponsored blog entries or develop a brand or make money from this blog.

I’m a terrible liar but my honesty can be sharp and painful. If I have to choose between my pointy, stabby honesty and faking something, I tend to choose neither. The inside of my brain is a constant swirl of conversations of what I would say if I was bolder, did not care about the impact of my words on others, or had any kind of backbone for standing up for myself. It’s really hard to have good posture when you have an actual pasta noodle for a spine. I do a lot of core exercises. There was a time when I could always just say what I meant or wanted to say or at least there was a person I could say all of that too, but that time doesn’t exist anymore. I have to be on guard about what I say and how I say it and if I say it. It gets pretty exhausting and some times it gets pretty frustrating because I don’t think I get the same sort of consideration. At least it doesn’t feel like as much thought is going into it as I’m putting out. I’m tired of having these conversations in my head. It’s too much chatter.

I went back to that survey and I finished it. I told the whole truth and nothing but the truth. January makes me feel a little bit happy that I’m a year older, but cautious because this is when disasters strike. February makes me feel cold and sad. March is only marginally better. There’s a turn around in April when I start to feel like skipping and things progressively just get better as the months move forward. We are so close to that turn around month; I can almost taste it. I can definitely smell it. The air no longer smells of cold. It still feels chilly in the mornings, but the air smells greener. I look around me and think I just might actually make it. I also think I can start choosing differently and start having those conversations outside of my brain. Maybe be more mindful in my honesty, but still tell the whole truth.

I mean…really what’s the worst thing that could happen?

THINGS I'VE LEARNED AS AN ADULT

Cindy Maddera

Fancy cheese is not as expensive as you think it is.

Seriously. If I could pass on any words of wisdom these are some of those words. It took me years to conquer being intimidated by the cheese monger and it wasn’t until I was in my mid thirties before I made my first timid inquiry about cheese. I wanted something nice to go in my potato soup but I didn’t want to break the bank. This is when I learned that I could choose the amount of cheese I was buying, thus controlling the amount of money I was spending. I realize that many of you probably knew this all along. I didn’t because I have always been pinching pennies, which means my grocery lists are streamlined. When you look over at the fancy cheese area, you see all kinds of price tags sticking up like flags. These prices always seem too exorbitant for my budget. Those little flaggy price tags are prices per pound. You do not need a pound of fancy cheese to make whatever it is you want to make. This means you will be paying less than whatever the price flag says. Do not be sticker shocked by cheese.

Another bit of wisdom that I could pass along is that mushrooms do not weigh anything.

This one is a recent discovery. We were in Whole Foods on Saturday to pick out some fish to go with our risotto that was planned for our dinner and to rummage through the cheese under five dollar bin (see? cheap fancy cheese). Along the way to the seafood section, I noticed a small crate of morrel mushrooms. They were thirty dollars a pound. I gasped at the price tag, but then I picked up one of the mushrooms. Michael noticed me holding the morrel with an inquisitive look on my face and I said to him “How much do you think this mushroom weighs?” Michael grabbed a handful of mushrooms and headed to the scale. Those six or so mushrooms weighed about 0.06 lbs. We picked out a dozen or so mushrooms that turned out to be about four dollars and was plenty of mushrooms to add to our risotto. Neither one of us had eaten morrels before because they were too expensive and about the only place you could get them was at a farmers market; if you were lucky to find that one vender who had them.

That’s it. That is about all of the wisdom I can pass on to a young person. Do not be intimidated by the prices on fancy cheeses and mushrooms do not weigh anything. Okay. I might have a few more tidbits like know how to pay your bills and manage your finances. It is not necessarily a bad idea to have an end of life plan because life is unpredictable. The unpredictability of life makes every day kind of important. College isn’t for everyone, but you should still have a career plan. Do not be afraid to spend money on good shoes that are good for your feet. Always pack at least one sweater because the weather is just as unpredictable as life.

But I really think you’re going to get the most value from the cheese and mushroom advice.

ATTENTION

Cindy Maddera

I have been reading Michelle Obama’s book for three months. I finally finished it this week, but it took me forever. It was not a difficult read or a boring read. I just lacked the attention span for reading anything more than a paragraph. I should say ‘lack’. It took me a whole day to read an article on Split-Sex animals in the science section of the New York Times. Sure, there were times I was actually doing my job, but one article should only take a few minutes to get through. I am distracted easily and unable to focus on just one thing. If I’m staring at the blinking cursor for more than a minute while trying to write anything, I’m off scrolling through the list of “people I might know” on Facebook and saying to myself “How do I know that person?” It is a very inefficient use of my time. I even double booked myself for events on Saturday because I can’t pay attention to dates.

I told Dr. Mary all of this last night and she did that thing that therapists do and asked me “why do you think you think that is?” Except when I was unable to answer that question because I was suddenly distracted by the fact that her orchid that sits on the windowsill is still without blooms, she answered it for me. She said “It seems to me like you’ve entered this year differently than most. You usually have an agenda for the year, like your picture a day or a task of some sorts. But you didn’t make a plan for this year.” So…this is what I look like without a plan or an agenda. My whole life has been about plans and agendas. As a child, I knew what I was doing down to the minute of every day. Piano/music lessons on Mondays. 4-H on Tuesdays. Wednesday was church and youth choir. Dance on Thursdays. Fridays were free days until I started marching band. Most Saturdays were planned out as well with contests and 4-H events. My first year of college, I tried to convince my advisor to let me take sixteen hours of classes. I had a plan. He refused to let me take a class at lunch time. He said “You’ll need to eat lunch.” He had a different plan.

Even after college and graduate school, I mapped out my days on a notepad that would eventually get transferred to a lab notebook. I always had a plan. I have always had some sort of agenda. And it feels really odd to be without either of those things. I read something in Yoga Journal once that said “You should practice your least favorite yoga poses regularly.” I am always encouraging students to take their practice off of their mat and apply it to their daily lives. Except I’m thinking about the physical aspects of the practice. How we stand. How we sit. How we tend to cross our arms in front. I forget to consider the mental side of the practice. Maybe being without a plan is the mental yoga pose that is my least favorite pose and since I have never really practiced it at all, it is the hardest pose and I hate it. I don’t really hate it. I am just not comfortable in this pose of no-plan-asana. Two months into it kind of feels like holding forearm plank for three minutes.

This is what I have noticed. When I do my usual Saturday routine of breakfast and writing in the Fortune Cookie journal, I end up writing so much that I fill up the page and the margins. Most of the time I haven’t even gotten to the point of the story before I have run out of room. These are mornings that I don’t get my phone out of my bag or have a computer in front my face. I am without my usual convenient distractions and I end up spinning a yarn with such focus that my mug of coffee goes cold. What if plans and agendas are also convenient distractions that I am just so accustomed to that I don’t see them as distractions? Maybe I am learning something about convenient distractions. Maybe I am learning to settle into something other than the couch. Holding forearm plank for thirty seconds used to be torture. The same was true for holding it for an added thirty seconds. Building up to two minutes was work, but my body got used to it. That’s what I need to do. I need to get used to being without an agenda or a plan.

Then maybe no-plan-asana will get to be a bit more comfortable.

IMPULSIVE

Cindy Maddera

Saturday, after filling up a page of the Fortune Cookie Diary, I headed out to do the weekly food gathering. Since I was still too early for Aldi (they really should open before 9 AM on Saturdays), I drove out my way to the only health food store that carries mung beans in the bulk bins. One of the store clerks realized I was buying mung beans and asked me about this new bottle of vegan egg substitute they’d just received. Mung beans are on the ingredients list. I’d only had one cup of coffee and I struggled to clean off the cobwebs around my brain to give this guy an answer. All I could come up with is that the mung beans are the protein source, which this is true. But then the guy asked “Why would they use that for their protein source?” and I was all “ughhh…they wanted too?” The scientific answer is that the mung bean mimics the same reaction that happens to egg molecules when heated, giving that pretty yellow fluffy egg look.

None of this is important.

I went to Aldi and got most of the things on our list. Then I went to Trader Joes to get the rest of the stuff on our list and that’s where I saw Eric and decided that he should come home with me. Eric is a fern and I told him that he probably has six months before I kill him. So Eric, enjoy your new view! This impulse buy ended up being the cheapest impulse purchase of the day. I took Eric home and Michael helped me unload the groceries. He praised my shopping skills because I had stayed within the grocery budget, even with the purchase of Eric. Then Michael and I went to the Nelson to catch the Napoleon exhibit before it ends next week. We learned a lot about art and propaganda and exile. We saw Napoleon’s hat! There was also a chamber pot that was supposed to be his, but the English Council said that the designs on the pot were too fancy to send to a man in exile. Then I dragged Michael to the other side of the museum to show him John the Baptist’s finger. This will never get old. If you want to see John the Baptist’s supposed finger bone, come visit me. I will be more than happy to take you to this holy relic.

Later in the day, Michael had an eye appointment at a place on the Plaza that happens to be right next to Tiffany’s. We had to walk by the front door to Tiffany’s and I pretended to reach for the door. Michael said “Don’t even think about it.” So I stopped pretending to reach for the door and just opened the door and went inside. Tiffany’s is the mostly lovely store to visit and it had been a while since I’d been in to look at the scooter charm. That’s what I’ve been doing ever since Tiffany’s released the charm. I go in on occasion and look at the charm. This time though, I did not see the charm when I first looked around the charm section. A super sweet employee asked if I was looking for something. I told him that I was looking for the scooter charm. He gave me a look of doubt, but then I saw the scooter charm on a display bracelet. The super sweet employee said that this particular charm is now discontinued. I was holding the last one in the store in the palm of my hand. Michael was talking with another employee and I practically yelled across the room at him “Can I have it?!?” Then the super sweet employee asked “Can she have it?!?” And Michael said “Buy it!”

I still don’t know how I’m going to wear it. Right now it is temporarily riding along with my wedding rings. Eventually I will get a bracelet that fits my wrist well enough to not slide around too much and I will send the bracelet and charm off to be soldered onto the bracelet. But as my friend Elizabeth said, that scooter charm was made for me. It was an impulse buy at least two years in the making.

LEMON MERINGUE

Cindy Maddera

I grew up in the age of Strawberry Shortcake and I can probably say that I owned every single Strawberry Shortcake doll. My sheets and bedding, including a canopy, was all Strawberry Shortcake. I had Strawberry Shortcake clothes, pajamas, a quilt, a sleeping bag and a metal lunch box. I had the Strawberry Shortcake baby doll that blew scented kisses when you squeezed her. My mother made me a tablecloth with napkins out of Strawberry Shortcake material for my little table. If there was something Strawberry Shortcake related, I owned it. My mother also made me an exact replica of Strawberry Shortcake’s dress for Halloween one year. Thinking about it all now, makes me feel like I had/have some obsessive compulsion issues. I eventually moved on to other popular toys of the 80s, but I think that the only other thing I collected with such obsession were elephants.

My favorite Strawberry Shortcake character was not Strawberry Shortcake. She’s nice. I still own one of these and occasionally hold her head up to my nose, but my favorite Strawberry Shortcake character was Lemon Meringue. She just smelled the best of all of them. Lemony and sweet. Her hair was also wild and curly and bright yellow, which was something I loved so much about her. I have a sweet tooth for lemon desserts and I attribute all of it to my Lemon Meringue doll. There is a restaurant that Michael and I have been too a few times. The food is okay. It’s a little pricey and the service is kind of terrible. The only reason we go there is for their lemon meringue pie. The meringue on this pie is like marshmallow cream and for a while figuring out how to make it became yet another one of my obsessions.

Then I came across an online article where the pastry chef of this restaurant posted the entire recipe for their lemon meringue pie. Boy, that was dumb.

I have made this pie twice now in the last month or so. Lemons are cheap. Eggs? Well, that’s probably the biggest expense because the recipe calls for six whole eggs and ten yolks. Left over egg whites go into making the meringue. Most of the work time is spent standing over a double boiler while stirring. And stirring. And there’s more stirring. The lemon filling has to reach a pudding like consistency without cooking the eggs into scrambled eggs. It is not the kind of pie you just throw together and is very much a lesson in patience. You stand at your double boiler setup stirring and stirring while nothing seems to be happening. This goes on for several minutes. Then just when you think you’ve done something wrong like your butter was too cold or you didn’t do a good enough job separating your eggs because the mixture is not getting any thicker, it starts to coat your whisk. The shift from liquid to pudding is quick. It all comes down to heating the eggs to the exact right temperatures to unfurl tightly packed proteins in the yolk and then coat those molecules with sugar so that the proteins remain unfurled.

The reward for your patience is a bright, tart, lemony filling. Once the pie is completed, it smells exactly like my Lemon Meringue doll from 1980. It is a bright slice of sunshine during a season of very little sunshine.

NOW WHAT

Cindy Maddera

I don’t really know what to write right now. My goto topic for writing material is grief and usually I have a lot of material for this time of year. I’m not saying that all is well and that I don’t have plenty of grief material; it’s just not new material. Grief is the day to day grudge of missing a person that is just my way of life. Some one posted a clip of the news footage of the Challenger exploding because it was the anniversary of the event that would haunt us generation Xers for the rest of our lives. I still can’t watch a shuttle launch without holding my breath. My grief for the last seven years has been like watching the shuttle explode every single day. After a while you just get used to seeing it all disintegrate into a cloud of dust. A moment here and there spent crying in the stairwell is perfectly normal.

To tell you the truth, the year 2019 has already started to leave a stale old taste in my mouth. The month of January has been the longest and the coldest month I can ever remember experiencing. I saw a meme last Thursday that said “why does it feel like it’s January 74th?!” I had strong feelings for this meme because, holy hell yes. January is the never ending month and I don’t ever remember it being like that before this year. Not that there’s anything wrong with January other than the obvious memories of watching Chris die and the fact that the weather is the most awful weather that causes me to yell out profanities when I have to step out into said weather. I’m just saying, let’s move along. It’s not that I have somewhere to be, but I am kind of curious to know if those tulip bulbs I planted in the front yard last Fall are going to pop up out of the ground.

I heard a nasty rumor that the temperature on Wednesday is going to be four degrees. FOUR. Fucking. Degrees.

In other news, Albus has started doing this new thing he thinks is really fun. He brings a live mouse into the house and then let's the thing go. Weeee! Josephine spent one day fixated on the drawers under Michael’s bed and then the next morning I got up to find Michael sleeping on the couch. When I inquired about his sleeping arrangements, he said “there was a monster in my room.” The monster was a mouse. The same mouse that Albus had brought into the house the day before, casually batted around with his paw and then promptly allowed to run off to safety. Michael said that Albus did eventually recapture the mouse and decided to eat the whole thing while sitting next to Michael who then struggled to go back to sleep over the sound of crunching bones. The cat eats the whole mouse. Albus repeated the catch and release game with a new mouse the very next day. Michael and I managed to capture this one as it climbed up the curtains. We trapped it in a mason jar and had a long discussion about what to do with the mouse. I don’t keep bottles of chloroform around because I’m not serial killer and slow suffocation just seemed awful. The Cabbage thought the mouse was cute and I had to agree that it was a very cute disease carrier. In the end Michael let the mouse go. He released it in a wood pile across the street.

It has been nine days since this last incident. I feel like I need one of those Days Since Last Accident signs.

43

Cindy Maddera

Michael walked into the kitchen Sunday morning as I was washing dishes and asked “So…do you feel thirty three, forty three, or fifty three?” I paused and thought about this for a minute before replying “Well…I don’t know what fifty three is supposed to feel like and since forty three is still pretty new, I don’t really know what that’s supposed to feel like either. So, I guess I feel thirty three.” The numbers are arbitrary really. Having never before experiencing this age, I can’t tell you if I feel older or younger. Maybe I feel younger, but wiser. Michael also mentioned how he liked the salt and pepper thing that is happening with my hair. I will say, that in the last two or three months, I’ve noticed that there’s a bit more salt in my hair. I don’t mind this either. When Michael asked the Cabbage if forty three was old, she of course said ‘yes’ because she’s eight and when you’re eight, forty three is a BIG number.

We spent my birthday weekend working on a puzzle and cursing the outside temperatures. Michael made me a strawberry cake that very much resembled Devil’s Tower but with sprinkles. We went to see the Cabbage’s band from School of Rock perform. Michael had my olive branch ring fixed so that I can wear it on my right ring finger. He also gave me a gift card to Anthropologie which I used to buy a dress that reminds me of my youth. In fact, if I still owned a pair of combat boots, I would own an outfit almost identical to one I wore in 1992. Michael and I ate a fancy dinner at the Pressed Penny Tavern amongst a crowd of people wearing Chiefs colors and yelling at one of the six TVs positioned on the wall. Reservations had been made for this dinner way before we knew the Chiefs would be heading to the NFC Champion playoffs game. We spent the rest of the evening at home, watching the rest of that game, with all of the animals piled on me and a fancy tea cup of gin and tonic in my hand. The weather kept me from witnessing and photographing the lunar eclipse and the Chiefs lost the playoffs. Win some, lose some.

Mostly win some.

I think many people would now put me in the category of ‘middle aged’. I have been receiving newsletter style emails lately for things related to women over fifty, things like skin care routines and exercises. I’ve been slightly obsessed with stories of women ninety and older who do things like teach yoga and run marathons. I have a very clear image of myself in my old age. I expect at age ninety that I will be living some where warm and riding my scooter around to run my daily errands. Those errands will include morning yoga classes on the beach, followed up with catching some sweet waves on my sweet surf board. After rinsing the salt and sand from leathery old lady skin, I will strap my yoga mat and surfboard to the scooter and head to the market where I will purchase fresh veggies and fish for my lunch. I’ll spend the rest of my day puttering around my cottage, maybe working a garden. Maybe I’ll learn how to use a loom or maybe I’ll just read trashy romance novels while swinging in a hammock.

I’ll be ninety. I’ll do what I want.

OFF KILTER

Cindy Maddera

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

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

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

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

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

AT LOOSE ENDS

Cindy Maddera

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

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

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

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

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

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

NEW YEAR

Cindy Maddera

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

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

I am entering 2019 seriously unmotivated.

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

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

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

That’s some bullshit I can do without.

I TOOK EVERYTHING DOWN

Cindy Maddera

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

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

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

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

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

WE MADE DONUTS

Cindy Maddera

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

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

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

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

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

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

And no one was burned with hot grease.

DIVISION

Cindy Maddera

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

STOP FALLING FOR IT!

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

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

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

VERSIONS OF US

Cindy Maddera

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

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

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

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

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

Cindy Maddera

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

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

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

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

VETERANS DAY

Cindy Maddera

45828233551_8ac31d595f_o.jpg

The World War I Memorial and Museum starts their celebrations at least a week in advance. This year the building is lit with images of poppies. I’ve yet had an evening free where I could go and see it. It hits me every Veterans Day; every time I see social media fill up with photos and thank you notes. Veterans Day arrives and at first I view all of it from a distance. I don’t really remember Veterans Day being a big thing. The pastor during Sunday service might have given a sermon on soldiers and faith and then request that all military veterans stand for recognition. I don’t remember parades or fan fair though. Veterans Day was one of those holidays celebrated quietly with only a moment of gratitude taken before moving on with our day. Then I remember.

My Dad was a veteran.

It’s an easy thing to forget. My Dad’s time in the U.S. Air Force ended long before I came along. Randy is the only one of Dad’s children who was around during Dad’s service and I don’t know how much of that time he remembers. Dad never really mentioned his time in the military. He could go on and on about the camping and beauty of Michigan where he was stationed and how much he enjoyed living there. But he never mentioned anything about his actual time on base. The few things I know came from my mother. She talked only once about the tensions between the US and Russia during the Cuban missile crisis and how Dad was on call at the base. Russia was entering US airs space daily. It was a very tense time. Dad never spoke a word about it.

That was his way.

Dad would on very rare occasions impart snippets of the serious moments of his life. Years after doing so, Dad told me about riding on a charter bus with his fellow Union members to the Oklahoma State Capitol to protest the Right To Work amendment. I was so surprised by this story. I knew my Dad was proud of his Union and attended all of the meetings, but I had no idea of his actions. Dad would tell us stories of fishing and camping. He would talk about the mischief he would get into with my Uncle Russell. Yet he never talked about the serious moments. Not even towards the end. And when I think about it, Dad was not the only service member in our family to not really mention their time in service. Pepaw, a veteran of the second World War, would tell you a few details about his time spent in the South Pacific and only when prompted.

I overheard a story on the news of a veteran’s reaction to someone thanking him for his service. This man was gracious in his response but then gave some advice. He said instead of saying “thank you”, tell a veteran “I remember". It is more meaningful to be remembered. I am grateful for those who have the fortitude to serve this country in the military, but I also want to remember and never forget those who served. We forget that our veterans serve for only a certain amount of time before moving on and living ordinary lives. They move on, have careers and raise families. They retire and grow old. Instead of thanking a veteran, maybe we need to prompt a veteran to share their story.

To remember.

PEEK-A-BOO

Cindy Maddera

I’ve been reduced to tears of anger, frustration and fear three times this week and it’s only Wednesday. Part of it’s been the election. Part of it has to do with work stuff (the first rule of blog club is to never blog about work). Some of it has to do with holding onto things I need to say but I’m afraid to say because I’m a big chicken. A tiny bit of it is me just feeling sorry for myself. An even smaller bit of that is my disappointment over the ending of the most recent episode of the Walking Dead (WHY DO WE STILL WATCH THIS?!?!). There’s an 80% chance that it is going to snow here tomorrow and I’ve just about got a hole dug out for me to be burry my head in it.

I feel like all the good parts of me have dropped off the planet. My writing is sparse and full of complaints and gripes. My photos are forced and unimagined. My yoga classes are uninspired and meh. I feel like shutting down here until the end of the year. We saw our first Christmas themed advertisement last night and Michael and I both booed the TV. Michael has already started asking me about what I want to do for my birthday in January and I almost told him to just fuck off. I can’t plan that far ahead. I can’t really plan ten minutes ahead right now. We’re lucky that I make up the menu for the week on Thursdays. It’s the reason we have food for this week and meals I don’t have to think about. We’re spending Thanksgiving with friends at a cabin in the woods in California. In my head, I’m already eating an Ike’s sandwich and taking long walks in woods of tall trees. I’m photographing the fog that rolls into Tomales Bay and looking for giant slugs.

Maybe this is where I’ll find those missing good parts of myself.

I’m not giving up completely for the rest of the year. I’ll be around only because I know that writing here keeps me somewhat sane.

SATYA

Cindy Maddera

I am ‘friends’ on Facebook with most of the people I went to high school with. One of those is a guy who I remember as always being kind and respectful. He was the kind of guy that would change your flat tire, the kind of guy who made sure you were safe. I also remember him having a decent sense of humor. I don’t really know who this guy is now. Time changes us in good and bad ways. He often re-posts those memes floating around that are hateful or poke fun at someone who is different from his norm. Most often I don’t see these posts anymore because I went into my settings and changed the things I see posted. That guy recently had a birthday and I took a moment to wish him a happy birthday. He responded with a thank you and referred to me as a “sweet woman”. I told him that one of the best things about the internet is how it can be used to send good wishes and to encourage one another. I still want to believe that this man is kind and respectful, just maybe not so mindful about the things he posts.

I was reminded of satya when I attended a yoga class at work on a day I don’t usually attend classes. The teacher started the class with a lesson on this sanskrit word for truth. She talked about being true to yourself and your body on your mat. She talked about being kind to yourself. She talked about knowing your truth. This is not a new lesson for me. Satya is one of the five yamas, which are the ethical rules of yoga. Sort of a ‘right living’ manual. Satya can be interpreted simply as being to true to yourself. It can also be one of the yamas that could be studied deeply and can become very complicated. Satya follows the first yama, ahimsa, which is the practice of non-violence or simply, ‘do no harm’. We have to find ways of speaking our truths without causing harm to others. The practice of satya, off the mat, makes us more respectful and thoughtful.

The internet is a good place for the practice of satya. Other bloggers I follow (Chookooloonks and Elan Morgan) have been writing about creating ‘soft spaces’. On Monday, just days after the shooting that took place at a Pittsburg synagogue killing eleven people, there were 11,696 posts on Instagram containing #jewsdid911. Social media has become the most popular method for spreading hate speech, racism and misinformation. The President of the United States participates daily in the spread of hate and racism in his twitter feed. I have been struggling daily with the ugliness I see from the people in this country. I know of two wonderful women who have lost their husbands this month and my heart aches for them. I wish nothing more than to have the superpower to protect these women in their grief, to ease it for them in some way. I wish nothing more than to have the superpower to protect all of us from grief, hate, racism, the president.

I don’t have that kind of power, but I do have the power to create a soft space, a place of comfort to others. I do have the ability to speak my truth in a non-harmful way, respectful way. Let’s practice satya together.

SOUR GRAPES

Cindy Maddera

My alarm went off at 4:50 AM this morning and I made the choice to ignore it and not get up and do my yoga practice. In hindsight, the choice to skip my morning yoga practice was probably a poor one and set the tone for my day. I got my scooter out of the garage only to discover that it wouldn’t start. The battery was dead. It’s been cold here. It could also still be the same battery I’ve had since I bought the scooter ten years ago. Then I had to maneuver my not so light scooter back up the hill and into the garage, climbing over mine and Michael’s scooter to get out of the garage. I stepped into the stairwell at work to head out on my coffee walk only to realize that I had left my badge on my desk, trapping myself in the stairwell. I answered some asinine emails, struggling to refrain from just replying “you are stupid.” By the time I left for my chiropractor appointment, I was a festering ball of bitchiness.

When Chris and I still lived in Chickasha, there was a grimy little laundry mat around the corner from our apartment where we’d go wash our clothes. We were there one afternoon sitting with our books, doing school work while our clothes tumbled around in the washers. There was a young woman there with her two young children. The girl, just learning to read, was reading out loud from a children’s book she’d found in one of the chairs. The boy, just learning to talk, was walking around saying “Fuck this. Fuck that.” The young mother yelled over at her daughter '“Crystal-Lynn, shut up. No one wants to listen to you read.” She said nothing the boy. Sometimes I feel like that little boy lives inside me whispering “fuck this. fuck that”, goading me to say it in turn. Crystal-Lynn, I hope you’re still reading even if you have to say the words out loud to do so.

The sun is shining. The basement is clean. We’ve done preventative maintenance to keep rain out of the basement. The washer and dryer are paid for. I went to book club last night and didn’t feel like the odd girl out for not liking our chosen book. My life is pretty good. I have no reason to walk around shouting “Fuck this and fuck that.” Yet I am seriously considering doing just that. I am a prickly pear. A prickly pear with a creativity block. This is why I’m writing about grimy laundry mats and delinquent toddlers. I have nothing better for you. In fact, I’m banging my head on the keyboard right now trying to figure out a way to end this post.

Fuck this.

Fuck that.