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OUR BASEMENT FLOOD WAS THE BEST THING TO HAPPEN TO US

Cindy Maddera

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

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

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

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

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

I THINK I'D BE GOOD AT IT

Cindy Maddera

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

I want a set of tarot cards.

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

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

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

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

THINGS I'M DOING DIFFERENTLY

Cindy Maddera

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

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

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

Distractions.

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

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

ON IMPULSE

Cindy Maddera

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

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

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

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

THRONE

Cindy Maddera

I posted pictures, but I never talked about Michael replacing the toilet a few weekends ago. I didn't really think we needed to replace the old toilet. Sure it was wobbly and needed a new seat, but it was still a functional toilet. Michael has said something at least once a week since the day he moved in about how the old toilet needed to be replaced and blah blah blah something about a bidet. Replacing the toilet was not in our budget when we had the bathroom remodeled. It was the least of our problems at the time. I was more concerned about the tile falling off the wall and the moldy window collapsing in on itself. There were also things in the bathroom that Michael and I figured we could do with some supervision and there were things we figured would never get done even with supervision. So we contracted out to have the tub, window and tile replaced. 

I don't do well with mess and construction and the uncertainties that come with construction. I knew that if we tried to do all those things in the bathroom on our own, the bathroom would be a wreck for weeks and weeks and even months. During those weeks and weeks and months, I would be scratching my skin off and pulling out patches of hair. Having someone else come in and replace the tub, window and tile and promising to do it all with in three days was worth every penny. This just left the old wobbly toilet for us to deal with and for Michael to talk about every day until he finally decided that replacing the toilet would be his summer project. He scheduled a Saturday for his friend Andy to come over and be his supervisor. Then I met him at Home Depot Friday afterwork to pick out the new toilet as well as a bidet attachment for the seat.

There is a crack in the bathroom floor that runs from the back of the toilet to the wall behind it. Most of the time, I just pretend that it doesn't exist because if I start thinking about it, before I know it I have decided that the whole bathroom is going to collapse into the basement. The evening before I was supposed to meet Michael to pick out the new toilet, I came home from work and said "The thing that worries me is that you're going to pull up the old toilet and discover that the crack in the tile goes all the way through the floor and it has just been a miracle all these years that the floor hasn't collapsed." You know that saying "let sleeping dogs lie"? This was how I felt about the old toilet. If we didn't pull up the old toilet then we wouldn't know the horribleness that could be under the toilet. Michael's response to this was to yell "GOD DAMMIT!" and grab a flashlight to go inspect the crack in the tile. It was later determined that I was overreacting.

The old toilet was taken out and the new one put in without any problems or disasters. It was pointed out that I may have been right when I asked if we could just re-set the old toilet instead of spending money on a new toilet. The wobbly toilet could have been shimmed to keep it from wobbling, but the new toilet promises to save us over $100/ year in water costs. So...planet earth and all that. The bidet feature is also nice. Of course now we've started looking at the bathroom sink and cabinet and how it just doesn't look all that nice sitting between a new toilet and a new tub.

And home remodeling projects never end. 

 

INTRO

Cindy Maddera

I was introduced to Chris in the summer of '95. In turn, Chris would eventually introduce me to Thai food, Black Adder, sex and a band called Belly. I still love sticky rice and papaya salad. I have a deep appreciation for British comedy. You know how I feel about sex and I have physically absorbed every song performed by Belly. I would listen to them over and over. I have all of the songs memorized. I have the order the songs are listed on the CD memorized. I fell hard for this band. They were my long flowy Gypsy skirt, my oversized flannel. This was my '90s band and after I fully carved the songs from Star into a layer of skin, I went hunting for more. I scrounged every used CD store for every single album I could get my hands on, which were only three. Three albums. I clearly remember asking "but why aren't there any more albums." Chris and Traci, who probably introduced Chris to Belly, looked at me and shook their heads. Traci placed a hand on my shoulder and replied "because they don't exist anymore." 

The band broke up in the Fall of '95, right after the release of King. 

This is the second time I've discovered a band and fallen in love only to have that band break up months after my discovery. The first band was the Police. Though they have not released new music together, I have at least been able to see them live twice in reunion tours. Belly reunited in 2016, but they have yet to make it KCMO or any where close. I am okay with that. I'm just happy they decided to get back together because it inspired a new album, Dove, that was released this year. They have the same swirly sound and cryptic lyrics with the exception that now those lyrics refer to more grown up issues like settled relationships and raising children. I am now in the process of absorbing and adding this album to my other carvings in that same layer of skin. My first listening round made me feel like I was creeping into my twenties again. 

I met Chris when I was nineteen and a little shocked to discover that he was five years older than me. "Is that a problem?" he asked as we sat at a table crowded with our friends. I tried to sound confident as I replied "no" but there was something about Chris that was intimidating. I was not old enough to drink or even get into a bar. Meanwhile, he had lived a whole life while I was still in high school, serving in the national guard (proudly, unsuccessfully) as a medic and working a security gig at the Habana Inn. He knew things. He was experienced. The next few years felt like I was in some accelerated course for life experience just trying to catch up. But I would catch up. Then I would be the one introducing him to new music, dragging him into new experiences. Listening to Belly's new album makes me think that I never finished that accelerated course. Or at least it turned out to be not so accelerated. There's not any real perceived graduation day unless I can predict the day of my own death. 

There's one song on the new album that reminds me of dating after Chris. Suffer the Fools. The song is more about settled relationships than dating. It's about what happens as we age into a relationship, how we put up with things. "I'd rather suffer you, than suffer the fools." I put up with things with Chris. I won't deny it or sugarcoat it. Same way I put up with various things with Michael. I'm sure I'm not all rainbows and lollipops to live with at times either. I suffered a number of fools during the online dating years. Eventually there comes along someone you'd rather suffer through life with than suffering with fools. There's something romantic about it in a Daria at age fourty kind of way. 

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

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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.