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Filtering by Category: Thankful Friday

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

We are expecting around five and half inches of snow over the weekend. It is snowing as I type this. And all I can think about is how this is going to mess up my routine. Do I go fight the traffic and people after work to do our grocery shopping? Or do I wait until the morning and have to unbury my car and dig my way out of the driveway? Do I just force us all to eat rice and beans all weekend? What about that yoga workshop I’ve already paid money to attend? Will they cancel it? School closings started to scroll across the TV last night way before the storm even hit. I am this close to hanging up a “Closed for February” sign and curling into a ball in my bed. Writing about gratitude is a struggle today, but here goes.

I made twenty four hour miso eggs for our ramen bowls last night and I’ve decided on two things. First, there should be eggs marinating in miso in our refrigerator at all times. Second, I’m going to have to start making my own miso. I made broth for our ramen with smoked bonito and the miso I scraped off the eggs and it is official. I make the best ramen in the city. Speaking of eggs, I went to feed the chickens on Wednesday and found four eggs in the chicken coop. I leaped for joy at the sight of them because for me, those eggs bring more hope than any shadow viewing groundhog. Actually, I kind of thought we’d seen the last of the eggs in October and that our chickens’ laying days were over. So when I saw all four different colored eggs sitting the coop, I was thrilled.

I am up to holding forearm plank for two and half minutes. I still don’t like it, but I’m feeling the benefits. Yesterday in my yoga practice, I pretzeled my legs into a full seated lotus, pressed my palms down into my mat and lifted my butt off the mat. I could swing my body freely back and forth. The lift comes from core strength. I have not done full lotus in years because it’s really not a safe pose for your knees. So I was pretty surprised that I could still do that pose, but even more surprised by how easily I lifted my body from the floor. I am always surprised that I am actually stronger than I think I am. Which is why I know that groceries will get purchased this weekend. I will survive this snow storm just like I survived all the other ones. I will not scrotum out and close myself off for the whole month of February.

I don’t have to like it but I can tolerate it.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Freezing mist and drizzle set in around here on Wednesday. Schools closed early and stayed closed through Thursday. The Y has a no close policy. They stay open for people who need to be someplace warm. This meant that the yoga class I teach on Wednesday evenings would not be cancelled unless I called it in. I cancelled my class the week before because of work and weather. I did not feel like I could get away with this two Wednesdays in a row. So, I bundled up and with warnings from Michael to drive very very safely, I went to teach my Wednesday night yoga class.

I arrived early and when I went to lay out my mat and set up my things, one of the Y trainers was set up in that space with one of his clients. I chatted with the trainer about yoga. I did a few rounds of surya namaskar. I reviewed my notes for the class I had prepared for the evening and I eyed the clock. I was starting to think that no one was going to show up for class. A minute before my class was supposed to start, a woman came rushing in and said “Oh My GOD! I’m so glad you’re here.” She turned out to be my only student for the evening and it was probably the best class I’ve taught in a while. I was able to take the class I had planned and tweak it specifically for her needs. We flowed through a series of poses and then did a few exercises to prepare for headstand. She mentioned having problems with tightness in her shoulders and I showed her a few exercises she could do at home relieve some of that tension. When the class ended, the woman expressed her gratitude to me several times. She thanked me for staying and teaching the class even though she was my only student. She thanked me for class and the work we had done together in this practice. She thanked me for how good her body felt after the practice. She was so grateful.

This gratitude, of course, made me feel good but what I did not express to her was how grateful I was for her being present in our class that evening. For one thing, I was grateful to be able to share my practice and knowledge to this woman in a way that will help her beyond the yoga mat. At the same time, being able to give the gift of easing one’s physical pain is a soothing balm for my soul. Wednesday would have been Chris’s 48th birthday and I spent the day with this knowledge ping ponging it’s way around my brain. I remember that he was in good spirits for that last one. We’d had friends visiting and there had been laughter. Always laughter. Then Chris immediately started to decline. He went from being able to communicate effectively to making absolutely no sense in one day. The worst of it though, was the pain. Chris was in so much pain and there was nothing I could do to ease it. I could give him pills that would barely manage his pain, but managing pain is not the same as being pain free.

It was horrifying to have to watch him suffer and debilitating to not have any control over the amount of his suffering.

I did not do anything monumental for this woman. I simply helped her to ease tension in her shoulders so she would sleep better that night. There are things within my control and abilities and there are things that are not. Controlling Chris’s pain was not in my control or abilities. At one point while working on headstand, the women said “this is hard! and it shows me that I lack strength.” I said to her “You have the strength to do the things you need to do. No where in our daily lives do we need to do headstands. Sure, it’s fun and feels empowering to be able to do these kinds of poses, but don’t forget that you are strong in other ways.” I did not realize at the time that I was saying those words to myself.

I have the strength to do the things I need to do. I am strong in other ways.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

I didn’t get a chance to watch the Live TV performance of Rent on Sunday. From what I’ve heard from various reviews, it’s probably a good thing I didn’t see it. I settled for listening to the soundtrack recording from the original Broadway cast the next day while I did my early morning routine. I cleaned microscopes and turned them on for the day. Then I grabbed my mug and headed out for my morning coffee walk. I was in the stairwell, somewhere between floors three and four when Will I started playing and I thought about something Terry had written to me in a text recently. It had to do with being old enough to lose someone you love to AIDS.

Will I lose my dignity? Will someone care?

The weight of that song hit me hard enough in my chest so that I had to sit down on a step and breathe. I thought about the New York Times article I had read months ago that told the story of how hundreds, maybe even thousands of people who died during the AIDS epidemic in the 80s and early 90s were buried in mass graves on Hart Island, an island off the coast of the Bronx in New York. I grew up as a witness to the cruelty and indifference directed towards someone suffering from AIDS. I remember seeing the news and watching as parents screamed and yelled at each other in school meetings over whether or not to allow a child with HIV to go to the same school as their own child. The absolute terror of the unknown of this virus drove people to unimaginable hate and anger. Imagine dealing with all of that prejudice and hate while caring for a loved one suffering with the very disease all of that prejudice and hate was being directed.

Trust me when I say that caring for someone you love who is dying and sitting there watching them suffer is hard enough.

Things are so different today. HIV is no longer a death sentence and it is no longer feared the way it was in the beginning of the epidemic. We know so much more about the virus. A twenty year-old infected today could live up to seventy years. Living with HIV. Those born after, say, 1996 do not know anything about the fear and prejudice that HIV/AIDS generated. They know (hopefully) that it is a sexually transmitted disease and that you just need to be careful. If you’re not careful, well then, there’s some really great antivirals out there and you can still live a long, healthy and happy life. I am almost jealous of those people born after 1996 because they were not raised during that time of terror. Except I still think it’s the dumbest thing in the world to contract HIV. Maybe that is one of the benefits of being raised during those early days of the epidemic and being witness to all of that. I know how awful this disease really is. The new drugs that we have now that allow people to live those happy, healthy lives only work for so long. Eventually it all turns to shit. When HIV moves into AIDS, it ravishes the body. It is a lingering death filled with sickness and pain.

I’ve gone back and forth about doing the AIDS Walk this year. So much of the money raised by the foundation goes to research and patient care and not enough to education. I want the money that I raise to go towards education. I still feel that education and prevention is one of the most important ways to fight HIV and I still feel some sort of calling to be a part of that fight. That might mean I end up doing the walk until I figure out a way to get my money pushed into the direction I want it to go. Who knows.

For right now, I’m just going to be grateful for the things I know.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

I am not sure what I want to say here today. I have many thoughts and opinions, mostly thoughts about the lack of respect we seem to have for each other. At this point, sharing those thoughts just feels like adding to the division I see happening in this country. Instead, I’m going to focus on setting the best example I can be by being respectful to those around me you have different opinions than I have. There are ways of communicating our beliefs and ideas without being hateful or disrespectful. I am entitled to my opinion but I am not entitled to force that opinion on someone else. And of course, facts trump opinions every time. EVERY. TIME. Also, I can be sure to get the whole story before I allow myself to react blindly to a situation I only know pieces about.

The Borens sent me this book called What Really Makes America Great, produced by the Creative Action Network. The Creative Action Network is a collective of artists creating art with a purpose. This community includes artists responsible for the various protest posters we have seen in the last three years. It is art with a message, a reminder that we can be better, that we are better. This book is a compilation of art about the things about this country that make us truly lovely. It covers everything from agriculture, to small businesses, to taco trucks and to believing that anything is possible. This is the kind of book that belongs in every household. It is the kind of book that you should read a passage from as you all gather around the table for your evening meal. When you feel like there is no hope of ever getting rid of the hate and racism that is dividing this country, you should open this book to remind yourself of the things in this country that are great, like art and public libraries and Hip Hop.

I grateful for the thoughtfulness of this gift. I am grateful for the people who sent it. I am grateful for the reminder of the beauty that exists in this country.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Tuesday morning, I realized that I couldn’t handle another night without heat. So I sent a text to Terry asking if he would take Josephine so that I could deal with laundry and Michael and I could go stay at work. He agreed to meet me around lunch time at my house to get Josephine. Terry walked into our house and said “Here’s what’s going to happen. I’m going to take Josephine. I’m going to take your laundry. Then you and Michael are going to come to my house. I will have dinner ready for you. I’ve put clean sheets on my bed and you and Michael can take my bed for the night.” And that’s why Terry’s a GD hero.

After work and my appointment with Dr. Mary, I stopped by the house to gather necessary toiletries. I pulled onto our street and all the street lights were on. Our power had been restored! I drove over to Terry’s who greeted me with clean clothes and large class of wine. He made spaghetti and brownies and we sat at his table talking about all of the things. It was just the two of us and the dogs. Xander was plugged into his video game on the couch. Clint was plugged into his video game upstairs. It was warm and homey and simply lovely. Then I went home with clean clothes and a played out Josephine and a to-go box of spaghetti. The lights were on in the house. The furnace was going. Michael had started picking up our refuge camp of a living room. There was a letter in the mail from Talaura containing the cutest enamel elephant pin. It was like the sprinkles on the end of that day.

I have such a hard time asking for help. It nearly killed me to send that text to Terry and all I wanted was for Josephine to go some place where she would be warm and not stuck in a crate. And I got so much more than that. Kelly said something in yoga class about how we need to dig in to make connections. I don’t dig in enough. At least I don’t think that I dig in enough to get such love and support. If anything this week has taught me how important those connections are and how important it is to maintain them, to dig in and to give as much as you get. I am thankful for the good people I have in my life. I am thankful for the connections I have made.

I am also thankful for electricity and warm houses.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

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For many people, this was the first full week back to work since before Christmas. On Wednesday, when my department went down to the cafeteria for tea, one colleague said “Man, working more than two days a week is a killer.” We all laughed and nodded our heads in agreement. I dived into the week as if I had not had any time off. Everything was back to routine with Tuesday night therapy, teaching Wednesday night, back to the elliptical and the stationary bike and back on a more consistent yoga practice. I will admit it’s been very much like jumping into a cold swimming pool.

When I was a kid, I’d be the first one into the pool and the last one out. As soon as there was just the tiniest glimpse of Spring, I would set in on my dad to get the swimming pool open. The swimming pool had a solar blanket that basically looked like a giant sheet of bubble wrap and was supposed to use the sun to heat the pool. It was not an efficient water heater, but my argument was that Dad could at least pull the winter cover off the pool and replace it with the solar blanket. The same could be said for the end of the season too. I would make Dad hold off winterizing the pool for as long as possible. I’m surprised he didn’t winterize the pool while I was still swimming around in it. My lips and fingertips would be blue, my teeth chattering, but I would insist that I was not cold. The shock of first entering the water always wore off and my body got used to the temperature. Also, my love of swimming and being in the water outweighed everything else.

I don’t do much swimming these days. Mostly because nine out ten times after visiting a public swimming pool, I come down with a sinus infection, stomach bug, a UTI or a skin rash from too much chlorine. I still love being in the water though and could spend hours splashing around in a lagoon. I am far from as tolerant of cold temperatures now that I am a grown up, but I feel like those childhood days was good training for my future. There have been several times when I’ve been shoved into the cold waters of life. I had a choice. I could drown or I could get out of the water. Even though sometimes the water was colder and almost more unbearable than other times, I stayed. I let myself get used to the water. I let myself get used to whatever the new normal ends up being.

I never eased into the pool. I always cannonballed my way into the water. I jumped in every time knowing full well that the temperature of the water was going to take my breath away.

We brave bee stings and all. We don’t dive, we cannonball. And we splash our eyes full of chemicals just so there’s none left for little girls.

We never know what lessons from our childhoods are going to prepare us for life.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Every week, at the end of the yoga class that I teach at the Y, I tell my students to take a moment to have gratitude for themselves and their devotion to their mats. I mean, one doesn’t just magically appear in a yoga class. There’s getting dressing in proper bending clothes. Right now, temperatures here are freezing. So there’s multiple layers of coats, gloves and scarves that have to be pulled on. There’s driving to the studio or gym. Then all of those layers have to be pulled off. The truth is, the easy thing to do is to stay home, wrapped up in a blanket with a mug of cream of tomato soup. Except the students in my class did not do the easy thing. There is something to be said about being grateful for making the effort. There is something to be said for taking a moment to pat yourself on the back and say “good job! look at you doing something good for your body!”

I am quick to forget to take a moment to have gratitude for myself.

Recently, I overheard a guy say that his goal for the year was to show up. He said this while in an exercise class and was referring to just showing up to class, but I thought his goal is a really great one in general. What if we all made a goal to just show up? Over the last two weeks, my time in the gym or even on my mat has been sketchy and inconsistent. I have taught my Wednesday night yoga classes and I have attended a class or two. I have gotten on the elliptical once and the bike once, but that has been it. I am used to doing at least thirty minutes of cardio five days a week. Wednesday I jumped right back in where I’d left off and Thursday morning, my body struggled to get out of bed. The alarm went off and I toyed with the idea of staying put. My throat was itchy and I was slightly congested. I could have easily made the argument that I didn’t feel well even though I knew a hot shower and my Neti pot would get rid of the congestion. Then Josephine jumped off the bed and scratched at the door to be let out, so I got up. I got up. I participated. I got back into my routine. I showed up. Then I patted myself on the back and said “good job! look at you doing something good for your body!” But I don’t just want to show up to the gym. I want to show up to life.

I’m going take that guy’s goal to just show up. Then I’m going to take a moment to be grateful to myself for just showing up.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

This is my last Thankful Friday post for this year and a good time to reflect and be grateful for the life lived in 2018. Really, it was pretty good. There was lots of travel and sight seeing. There were opportunities to squeeze some people that I don’t get to see very often. We ate some really good food and we finally cleaned out our basement. I haven’t spent any time really seriously considering what I might want next year to look like. There’s an adult beginners fiddle class starting up at the end of January that I am considering. I need a violin. I want to eat fresh snails. Not frozen or canned. Fresh ones. I want to do more yoga related things and I want to use my camera more often. I want to write something.

But for right now, I just want to sit back and enjoy the memories of this year.


THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

I wrote and completed a whole Thankful Friday post about self care and spontaneous chair massages. All that was left was to add a picture and post it. I opened it up this morning, selected the whole thing and then hit ‘delete’. The post felt whiney and negative even though it was about gratitude and taking care of myself. There was a tone to it that at the end of the day, I didn’t feel like sharing. So, I’m not. I am going to take todays post to truly talk about some things that I am grateful for.

My dear friend Robin became a grandma this week. Her first born, Nikki, had her very own first born early Wednesday morning. A beautiful healthy baby girl who looks just like Nikki did at birth, with a full head of dark hair. Robin flooded my phone with pictures and I responded with jokes about her being a grandma. Then I thought about Robin holding that baby, who she immediately unswaddled to count all toes and fingers, and I got really teary about the sweetness of all of it. Wednesday evenings, when Erin comes to pick up the Cabbage, she brings in her newest little one, The Pea. She sets The Pea down in her carseat on the floor and while she and Michael discuss Cabbage things and get the Cabbage ready to leave, I sit in front of The Pea. I poke her and tickle her and make her grin and we have a lovely five or ten minutes together before Erin scoops them all out the door. It is the most ideal baby zen practice. The act of holding a baby softens us, melts away tension and makes us quieter. I wonder what would happen if they made Trump hold a sleeping baby before he could use his Twitter account. I am thankful for this new addition to Robin’s family and I am thankful that everyone is happy and healthy.

Which leads me to happy and healthy and births in general. He’s probably not going to like me saying it, but today is my good friend Terry’s birthday. Knowing this man and having him in my life makes me a better human being. Terry is the hardest person to do something nice for mostly because he’s too busy doing things for everyone else. He is irreverently hilarious and crazy wise. He is a talented artist and craftsman. And he throws a mean party. Terry is that person in my life who gets it, gets me. He pulls me out of my homebody shell to do silly things and I am grateful for him. Also, Josephine loves him. LOVES him. Most dogs love Terry. That’s how you know he’s so special. He can win over the hearts of all creatures, great and small.

I guess, to sum up this week, I am grateful for births.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

One night this week, I dreamed that I was being attacked by a swarm of mosquitoes. I was walking on a beach that was dirty and littered with drift wood. There was a man walking a few paces behind me and we both started running when the swarm hit us. I ran while hitting my arms and legs and waving my hands around my head. The mosquitoes were thick and everywhere. I could hear them inside my ears. I heard the man behind my yell out “here! take my towel!” and he draped the towel over my shoulders as we both ran. I could see my car up ahead and knew that I just had to make it to the car. I woke up suddenly, gasping and scratching at imaginary mosquito bites. I talked about this dream with Dr. Mary. We discussed the meaning of it all, how the mosquitos represented little annoyances I had had and the comfort of the towel and knowing that I was close to safety. Then I told Dr. Mary that I didn’t think I needed her every week.

I was surprised to hear myself say it. I hadn’t planned it. I had been thinking about it recently, but I didn’t realize that I was ready to do more than just think about it. Dr. Mary was not bothered by this, but did ask what prompted this decision. I told her that for the first time in a really long time, I was entering this holiday season without feeling the need to constantly breathe into a paper bag. I told her that I feel like I’ve taken bags and bags of guilt to the garbage dump. I’ve been holding onto guilt about Chris. I say out loud all the time how Chris would be okay with how I’m living my life, but I never really truly believed the words I was saying. Instead I felt guilty about this life I’ve forged without Chris, but my guilt wasn’t all Chris related. There was guilt about Dad. There was guilt over not being all the things I could be for all people. There was guilt for my grief, for being sad, for missing Chris even though I’m with Micheal. At times my guilt over everything was crippling.

I don’t feel that guilt any more.

I have discovered that it’s one thing to treat others the way you wish to be treated and quite another to treat yourself the way you wish to be treated. Actually, it seems to be more difficult to treat myself with patience, kindness and respect. It’s work, but I’m doing it. A year ago, there was no way I would have allowed myself to book a holiday trip that did not include my family. A year ago, I would not consider making a trip to Oklahoma at Christmas time that did not include driving all over the state in attempt to see every single person. I would already be berating myself over not being or doing enough. I’m not saying I’m cured or that I still don’t need to spill my guts to Dr. Mary. I just don’t need to spill them every week. It has been almost two years since I thought about jumping out of a moving car into busy traffic. Progress.

I am thankful for progress.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

I stood looking out the kitchen window as I washed our breakfast dishes. It was that time of morning when the sun is just about come up. Every thing was tinted dark and cast in shadows, like looking through sunglasses. I noticed one of the chickens poke her head out of the coop. She tentatively stepped out onto the ramp. It was Marguerite. I watched her as she pecked at the snow that rested on the ramp to the coop. A few seconds later, Foghorn peaked her head out the coop door and looked around. She carefully stepped forward to stand behind Marguerite. Neither of them ventured further than the first few rungs of the ramp and did not stay out long. The two of them carefully turned around and made their way back inside the coop. I assume they are nestled on their perch inside the coop. The four of them packed in there on the perch puts off enough warmth to keep them comfortable.

We’ve had the chickens for almost three years now. Technically, this might be our last year of eggs. They haven’t laid an egg since late September I think. That’s the time of year they all molt and lose their feathers. The chicken run and coop become littered with an array of colored feathers and the chickens take on a patchy Kramer-esc look. Bed head. They roll out of the coop in the mornings with bed head. Michael and I talk about what to do with one of the chickens when they die. We can’t bury them in the back yard. We might be able to put in a chicken graveyard in the front yard. Michael’s afraid he’s going to just have to put the dead chicken in a bag and put it in the dumpster, the same thing we do with the dead things Albus brings home. (Most common sentence in our house starts with “There’s a dead squirrel…”)

We also talk a lot about a new chicken coop. This chicken coop, along with the chickens, has been sort of like our first pancake for chicken raising. Our coop is difficult to access, making it hard to give them water. They recently decided to start laying their eggs inside the coop, but away from the nesting box. I cannot reach eggs that they lay outside of the nesting box. Michael has to reach his long arm into the coop and retrieve the eggs. There’s not a door to the run section and so it has to be lifted up to change out their water. I finally figured out a way to do this on my own, but all the chickens escape when this happens and I’m left with trying to figure out how to get them back in the coop. Josephine does a fairly decent job of herding, but it also looks like she’s attacking more than herding. The chickens end up fleeing to the safety of their coop. We talk about leaving the door open to the coop during the day and just letting the chickens roam free during the day, outside the safety of their chicken run. This has just been talk because secretly we both fear that something bad will happen to them.

Our original plan was to get three chickens. At the last minute, I picked up a chick and cradled her in my hands and said “Maybe we should get four in case one dies.” We took four chicks home and they have all survived. Each one has their own personality. They are not lovey dovey chickens. They barely tolerate being held and they have to be chased. They don’t come up to willingly. Matilda will bite you. But we love them. We love them enough to talk about doing it all over again when we lose these four.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Every morning this week, my alarm has gone off at 4:50 AM and I have crawled out from under my heated blankets. I have pulled on my thermal leggings and long-sleeved T. I have unrolled my yoga mat and I have spent an hour in practice. I do not adjust the thermostat and the house is chilly, but I move my body through rounds of sun salutations to warm myself up. Often, Josephine comes back in from doing her thing outside and climbs back under the covers of my bed. She has a new haircut and she probably needs a sweater. She rolls herself up in my comforter like a burrito. It is only near the end of my practice, when I am settling down into a ten minute meditation, when I hear her jump from the bed and run into the living room to find me. Then she climbs into my lap and curls up like a ball. Instead of counting through a mantra, I scratch the dog.

I call it puppy meditation and I think I’m on to something. Like, move over goat yoga. Puppy meditation is taking a seat.

There have been plenty of scientific studies describing the health benefits of caring for and owning a pet. One study gave a group of people a rabbit or a turtle or a stuffed toy that matched one of those two things and then measured anxiety levels. Anxiety levels were lower for people who were petting the live animal. Even if it was a turtle. A review paper submitted to BMC Psychiatry found the current pile of scientific papers out there regarding pet ownership and mental health to be accurate in showing that:

‘pets provide benefits to those with mental health conditions through the intensity of connectivity with their owners and the contribution they make to emotional support in times of crises together with their ability to help manage symptoms when they arise.’

Even if it is a turtle.

There are lots of meditation techniques. Walking. Candle gazing. Chanting. Mindfully petting a dog fits right in. It’s a really nice way to start out the day. Every one is happier. Me. Josephine. Albus not so much. He curls up on the bathroom floor and gives us the side eye. But I bet if you had a nicer cat, you could have kitty meditation. Even turtle meditation.

I am thankful for puppy meditation. I am thankful for my puppy.

P.S. I bought Josephine an advent calendar. Michael incredulously said “You bought the dog an advent calendar?!” Then I told him why I bought the dog an advent calendar. Every time I get us one, the candy is terrible and there’s lots of complaining about who has to open it and eat it. Josephine’s little nubby tail is going to wag so hard that it’s going to make her whole body wiggle with excitement every time we open a day on the advent. We could be opening garbage and she would do all of her tricks. If anybody is going to gain joy out of a daily advent calendar, it’s going to be Josephine.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

I’m sitting in the library, typing this and it is currently snowing. It started yesterday around lunch time. I don’t know when it finally stopped last night, but we woke up to everything coated in a layer of frozen slush. The sun came out just enough today to melt that layer away and now it’s started snowing again. It is almost a fitting ending to this week. It is as if someone decided to throw everything at me this week just to see what I was made of. Well…I’m not made of fluff and sugar or things that are brittle. Je suis forte.

I stopped at a cemetery on the way to work this morning. It is one of our historic cemeteries that offer two for one plots on the same grounds as baseball legends Buck O’Neil and Satchel Page. It seems like a morbid thing to enjoy, but I love old historic cemeteries and this one has the most beautiful trees in the Fall. Sometimes a fog rolls in and lingers along the tombstones like a 1950s black and white horror flick. There’s a cathedral style crypt built into the side of a hill near the back that is hauntingly beautiful. Despite how I feel about cold weather, I can’t help but notice how beautiful the snow can be and I knew that the cemetery would be a perfect place to capture that beauty. The only regret I have is that I didn’t have my Nikon on me. The decision to stop was a spur of the moment choice and I hadn’t thought to pack that camera. In the end, though, it didn’t really matter what camera I had in my hand. Something sparked as I stepped out of my warm car into the cold cemetery. I thought “Oh…hey! I remember this feeling!” traipsing through the snow and taking pictures. As I left the cemetery, I noticed another car had followed me in. That person was now standing outside their vehicle with their camera maybe feeling that same spark.

I’m going to be just fine.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Not too long ago, maybe near the end of September, we had a couple of weeks of rain and cloudy skies. It was bleak and dreary and many of us wondered if we were ever going to see the sun again. Actually, this scooter season, I ended up getting caught in the rain more times than I ever have during a scooter season. I worried that we were going to move from Summer right on into winter without getting a Fall. Eventually the clouds went away and the sun came out. Everybody’s basements dried out. The weather shifted from warm and muggy to cool and dry. The days have been sunny with mild temps while the evenings and nights have been down right cold.

Turns out warm days and cold nights is the perfect weather recipe for amazingly vibrant Fall leaves. We all learned in basic biology about how plants use chlorophyll to make food from the sun. Trees make lots of chlorophyll during the months were have the most sunlight, Spring and Summer. As Summer turns into Fall, trees start breaking down chlorophyll to prepare for the darker days when we don’t get as much sunlight. As chlorophyll, which is also a pigment, is broken down into smaller molecules, underlying pigments like yellow and orange show through. Reds and orange come from sugars that get trapped in the leaves. On warm sunny days, more sugars get trapped in the leaves and then on cool nights, chlorophyll breaks down. The leaves end up being more vibrant and stick to the trees longer.

Science is beautiful.

Every time I step outside, I think I’ve stepped onto the set of some Hallmark Channel made-for-TV Thanksgiving movie. The trees are so vibrant and breathtaking that they don’t even seem real. Just when I think it can’t get any prettier, another tree shifts over to flaming red or blinding gold and I mumble “are you fucking kidding me?!” to myself because I just can’t believe I’m in Kansas City and not Vermont. The concept of a true Fall season is still new to me. I’m not sure I will really ever get used to it. When the leaves change color here and last for weeks, I am so pleasantly surprised. I think of it as my consolation prize for the colder temperatures and the impending winter. Fall is here to overwhelm the optic nerves with vibrancy before we settle into the cold dark gray of winter.

I am thankful for that vibrancy.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

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

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

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

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

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

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

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

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

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

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

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

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

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

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

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

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

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

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

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

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

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

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

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

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

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

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

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

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