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Filtering by Category: Writing

YAYA MAGIC PANTS

Cindy Maddera

We gathered at the Yokalanda Lodge and Camp for Youth. The camp is nestled in the Yokalanda Woods. Established in 1957 by Earl and Rosie Feldstein, the camp has been a summer haven to underprivileged youth from all over the country. There are twenty cabins scattered through the hills and at the center of it all is the main lodge. The lodge is the beating heart of that camp. The main open room of the lodge is where all the campers gathered for meals and inside crafts. Depending on the weather, s’mores and stories were shared around the large fireplace that sat it one end of large room. In 1965, Earl died suddenly and unexpectedly from a heart attack. Finding herself unable to manage the camp, Rosie sold the camp and property to Billy and Ayleen Hershel.

Billy and Ayleen had originally planned to turn the camp into a commune. They had invited fifteen of their closest friends to join them in communal living, raising goats and growing their own vegetables. Ten of those friends agreed. That first year started off with the worst winter the area had ever seen with record snow fall and below freezing temperatures. The goats that didn’t freeze, were taken by wild animals. The hilly landscape proved to be too rocky for planting. The ten people who had agreed to join Billy and Ayleen all agreed now that communal living was not for them. Billy and Ayleen were forced to sell out to Carry and Diane McNabb. Carry and Diane turned the camp back into a summer camp for youth. After all this time, the two women still ran the camp, though in recent times and with less funding, the camp has seen better days. To make ends meet, Carry and Diane have opened up the Yokalanda Lodge in the off seasons to various retreats. Just last month an up and coming tech company rented the retreat for a managers training session. The Pakempsey Shakespearean Company rented out the camp for a whole month while they rehearsed their summer traveling program of King Lear. This weekend the Yokalanda Lodge was hosting a small group of artists for a weekend of workshops built around unlocking creativity.

The weekend consisted of various workshops of various themes such as How to Monetize Your Art, Authenticity and Integrity in Creativity , Conquering Your Fear of Success and Telling Your Story. There were trust falls and roll playing and vision board building. But the real breakthroughs happened outside of those workshops. In the evenings, after their communal vegan dinner, the artists would break off into smaller groups gathering around campfires and on cabin porches. There was always wine and the occasional passing of joint and they told each other their deep fears and they opened their souls to each other. It was in these moments that true cathartic release occurred. Tears flowed. Realizations were made. Plans were formed. Pacts were made. Bonds were formed. By the end of the weekend, as cars were being loaded up and cabins were being swept clean, the artists of that weekend retreat found themselves each quietly trying to process their experience from the past two days. Words were barely spoken until all were loaded up and ready to head out on their separate ways. They gathered to say their goodbyes. This was the moment that proved to be the most difficult of moments. They found themselves unprepared to say their farewells. They held each other tight as tears streamed down their faces. Then they got in their cars and headed out on their separate ways, fortified with their experience of this retreat and knowing that they would always have each others love and support.

That’s probably the best way to put into words what this weekend was like for me. I spent it at the Yokalanda Lodge. I have the bug bites to prove it.

CREATIVE FARTS

Cindy Maddera

I wrote a tiny story about a woman in a yoga class. It is a fictional story, one I wrote in the Fortune Cookie journal. The prompt had something to do with silliness and I was genuinely stuck for a good five minutes before I started writing about a woman who cracks herself up when she accidentally releases a colossal fart while in yoga class. It may or may not be based on actual events. It sounds juvenile and it is, but I couldn’t really think of anything as silly as a fart. God, I remember when Quinn was really little. We were playing in his room when he farted. I said nothing because we were at that stage of trying to teach him that passing gas was nothing. He gave me that squinty side-eye thing that he does and said “I farted.” in a tone that implied he’d done something sneaky or funny. He really just wanted a reaction. I played cool and said “yup.” and then went about my business of putting Legos together. I had to leave the room a few minutes later because I could not hold my laughter in another second. I know we’re not supposed to teach them that farts are funny, but sometimes…farts are funny.

I was a little surprised that I could write so much on this topic. The story, not the fart, wrapped around the page and my handwriting is so horrid because I kept trying to write my letters smaller and smaller in order to fit more on the page. This happens every time I start writing something in the Fortune Cookie journal. I’ve talked about that here before and so you’d think I would be used to this happening every time I open a page to a new fortune prompt. I am not. I am not ever prepared to have so much to say or make up about a fortune cookie fortune. I am not ever prepared for the story that falls out onto the paper. Nothing I write is really any good. Sometimes they sound like the kind of fairytale you makeup while trying to put a kid to bed because you couldn’t find an age appropriate book to read them for bedtime. Sometimes they have a dark and sad tone. Apparently, sometimes they’re about farting in yoga class. I just keep thinking that the actual story is not as important as the practice of writing it.

Michael mentioned recently that he thought I should write a book of fiction first before I write something of non fiction. Michael thinks I should do a lot of things. He’s got lots of opinions, most of which I just nod my head in agreement and then say in a noncommittal way that I agree. I am not ambitious or driven enough to write a book in any form right now. Honestly, I don’t think I have it in me to write more than a thousand words on one topic. I have a google drive full of starters.

Elizabeth boldly stepped into what appeared to be a living room, though it was cluttered with the most random bits of things. A gramophone sat in one corner with some sort of skirt stretched over the cone. Even more piles of books and papers. Jars of odds and ends scattered all over. Elizabeth couldn’t quite make out their contents, but one of them appeared to contain eyeballs. She stopped looking and thinking too much about it. She really needed this job. Then she saw a man sitting near the fireplace, his head tilted back and resting on the backrest, elbows resting on the armrests. His eyes were closed, so he still didn’t realize Elizabeth was in the room. She cleared her throat. His eyes snapped open and sharply focused on her. “You’re not Maggie.” He said in a very matter of fact way. Elizabeth replied “no Sir.”

I started that one the summer of 2012. I wrote 3007 words before I just stopped writing. I wrote over 6,000 words for a story that was based on a dream I’d had where I was a magician’s assistant. Every night he turned me into a tree with golden leaves that would dissolve into golden butterflies and then fly out into the audience. It was a great trick. There was an idea for a children’s book about an egg with four yolks, but the story grew to a length that was not kid appropriate. Too long for a 5 year old, too simple for a 10 year old. I didn’t know my audience. I don’t know my audience. All of the stories have one thing in common and that’s how they sit there, incomplete, waiting for more words. The ideas come to me and then flutter away like butterflies. Or attack like seasonal allergies. It’s all about whether or not you think in half full or half empty terms. At least with the Fortune Cookie journal I know there’s not going to be an ending to a story only because I don’t end up leaving any room to write one.

My creative writing is more like creative farting on a page.

WRITE TO WRITE

Cindy Maddera

Cindy paused in her reading of an article in the New York Times entitled The Right Way to Follow Your Passion and opened the door to the wood stove supplying heat to the small cabin she was currently inhabiting. The coals were gray and when Cindy blew on them smoke and ash blew up into the stove. A few of the coals burned bright red as she blew, but most them just barely smoldered. She knew she needed to add more logs to the stove, but dreaded the trek out to the wood shed to collect the wood. Instead, she wrapped the wool blanket a little tighter around her body and snuggled down into the couch. She’d get that wood right after she finished reading about the difference between obsessive passion and harmonious passion. The differences seemed pretty clear as far as Cindy could tell. Obsessive passion leads you to do things for the accolades like more money, more trophies, more followers, more likes, just….more. Harmonious passion leads you to do things for the shear desire of doing them despite whether or not it makes you famous or rich or popular.

Cindy didn’t quite believe she did things out of obsessive passion. She generally liked taking pictures. So what if she checked all of the social media platforms constantly to see her notifications on recently ‘liked’ images. She wrote consistently on her blog because writing was therapy, though it didn’t exactly feel so therapeutic lately. Cindy felt that she didn’t have anything profound to say that didn’t seem like she was staring at her own belly button, picking out lint. Stale. That’s the word she would use to describe her writing of late. Bland and stale. She was all but writing about what she had for lunch that day and no one cares what she had for lunch. Cindy shivered despite the blanket wrapped around her body. She really should do something about getting the fire going in the wood stove. It would be dark in a few hours and the temperatures would continue to drop. Cindy knew she needed to collect enough fire wood so that she could stay comfortable through the night and not have to go back out later. She grumbled as she tossed the blanket aside and got up from the couch.

Cindy walked over to the door and put on her winter coat. She leaned back against the wall as she tugged her boots on one at a time. The problem, thought Cindy, was not her motivation for the things that she did. The problem was that she lacked passion. Her passion was like the mostly dead fire in the wood stove. It had been raging, with flames flickering hotly at some point in her life. As a teenager, she pushed programs for saving the environment and promoting safe sex with a loud voice. She made t-shirts and posters. She raised her fist in the air! Those were things that Cindy believed in sure, but she also had a fiery passionate belief that she could make the world a better place. In college, that passion shifted to keeping up with her classes and student government, but she really was more of a tag-along with the student government stuff. Cindy just wanted to be around those people and most of those people would end up being life long friends. Some of those people would influence later passions, even encourage them, but Cindy did question if she really had ever even had passions of her own or was once again tagging along on the passions of others.

Cindy stomped through the snow out to the wood shed, dragging the wood bucket behind her. The wind blew the hood of her coat back and her ears froze immediately. Her teeth chattered and she shook her head at her impulsive getaway. Cindy hated the cold and the snow, yet she’d booked herself into a remote cabin in the woods during winter. She should have booked herself into a remote yurt on a beach in Costa Rica. Next time she’d ignore price tags and splurge on the yurt and the beach. Cindy reached the wood shed and yanked the door open. Then she started to load up the wood carrier with logs. She knew not to over fill the bucket so that she could not drag it back to the cabin, but she also wanted to be sure to collect enough logs so that she would not have to stomp her way back out here again. Cindy tossed in three more logs and then tugged on the bucket. It slid towards her and she moved her mouth to the side in contemplation. “Two more logs.” She said out loud to the trees and whatever woodland creature was out in this horrid weather and tossed in two more logs. The bucket was too heavy, but Cindy put all of her weight into it and, struggling, pulled the bucket back across the yard to the cabin.

Cindy opened the cabin door and then grunted as she dragged the bucket up over the lip of the door frame and inside. She stomped the snow from her boots, but left her coat on as she started to put some logs into the wood stove. Passions waned, Cindy thought as she layered the logs in square pattern with what remained of the hot coals in the center of the logs. Passions waned and changed with age and that’s just what happened to her. Granted, Cindy had a strong feeling that most of that passion had faded out after certain life events that she was tired of dwelling on. She used the metal poker to shove the logs together to enclose the hot coals and then started to crumple up newspaper to cram into the spaces between the logs. It didn’t take long for Cindy’s fire to roar back to life. Satisfied, she stood and removed her coat. She picked up the paper and read “find your passion”. Easier said than done. Then Cindy read “Your passion should not come from the outside. It should come from within.” Now, if Cindy could only find that inner passion, she’d be all set.

Cindy settled herself back into her space on the couch. She set the New York Times aside in favor of the book she had brought along with her. The room was starting to warm up from the fire that was now crackling away in the wood stove. If anything, Cindy did know how to build a good fire.

CULTIVATION

Cindy Maddera

Years ago I wrote up a life list and one of the things on that list was to grow a vegetable garden. The first year I did this, I grew Christmas beans, tomatoes, spinach, basil, squash and cantaloupe. The spinach failed in the hot Oklahoma sun. The squash succumbed to squash beetles. We harvested enough Christmas beans for us to each have half a cup of cooked beans. Basil did well. Tomatoes did okay. The cantaloupe seeds that we planted came from the inside of a store bought cantaloupe Chris’s mom was eating. She spit out a seed and said “Can we plant these?” I shrugged and replied “I don’t see why not.” Those seeds produced two softball sized cantaloupe that were the sweetest cantaloupes I have ever tasted. It was like they were made of straight up sugar. That summer we cultivated more than a vegetable garden. We grew joy and surprises and sweetness. We grew wonder and amazement. Every thing that sprouted from the dirt was met with astonishment. “Oh my God! Look what we have grown!?!?!” We couldn’t believe it. We could not believe what we had done.

I gave up on the vegetable garden last year. Michael pulled up all of the boxes and a friend from work took them. He set them up in his backyard for his little girls to plant seeds in and I could not be more pleased with this. Our gardening days had run it’s course and no longer cultivated the wonderment and joy as it had in previous years. It is not actually environmentally friendly to grow a garden if you are not all that good at growing things. The money you spend on a not so fruitful vegetable garden in your backyard could be better spent supporting local farmers and so we turned our focus to other projects, other adventures. Occasionally I think about scattering lettuce and kale seeds all around the outside of the house so I don’t have to use the weed eater, but I am considering creating a couple of small potted gardens and building an outdoor space to gather with friends. I once read some great advice for creating an outdoor space on a budget. The designer said to just put down an outside area rug and arrange outdoor furniture on it. That’s simple enough.

Those are ideas for another time, when the weather is a bit more cooperative.

Right now, I am thinking of cultivating a new garden. This garden will not grow kale or squash or beans. Neither will it be an ornamental garden filled with hydrangeas and peonies. This new garden will not be delegated to six boxes out in the backyard either. It will be bigger than that. I want to cultivate a space that grows creativity and peace and contentment. I want to cultivate the joy, surprises and sweetness that first garden brought us but I want to do it without actually planting a seed into dirt. I think this is possible. I believe it is possible to recapture all of those things above but in a different way. There will be a section for photography, a section for words. There will be a corner devoted to my yoga practice and a corner within a corner devoted to meditation. I think I will add in a cooking section and a spot for just laying still with a puppy on my lap.

Wait. I think already have this garden. It just needs some weeding and a little bit of care.

SCSC, PART 2

Cindy Maddera

Ida’s best friend, Myrtle, lived in the local nursing home. Myrtle’s son, Howard, had moved his mother into the Hanalei Assisted Living Center a year ago after Myrtle had accidentally set her kitchen on fire. It was a simple mistake, one all of us have made. Myrtle had forgotten to turn off the burner after boiling water in her tea kettle. She had never had a ‘senior moment’ before and Howard latched onto this one with might. Myrtle knew that her son wanted her out of her bungalow so he could sell it to developers. Her house on the beach had become hot property. Myrtle was contacted almost weekly by some developer or another offering her an outrageous sum of money for her tiny little house. Howard had not thought twice before dropping his mother off at Hanalei Assisted Living and was probably living it up in Oahu with the fortune he’d acquired from selling Myrtle’s house.

Myrtle didn’t really mind too much. As a mother, she wanted her son to have everything he dreamed of having. If that meant putting her into assisted living and selling her house, then so be it. What she did mind was the center’s strict rules and prison style schedules. The director of the center refused to let patients go any where near the beach, let alone try to stand on a surfboard. They were relegated to exercising on a treadmill in the gym or walking the gardens attached to the backside of the center. The gardens backed up to a wildlife refuge, so the bird watching was good, but bird watching and surfing where incomparable. Myrtle longed for the ocean, her board and escape. Ida visited every day and the two of them would sit in the rockers on the large verandah that surrounded the main building, plotting Myrtle’s escape.

One day, Ida was explaining how she’d heard that you could mix a few drops of Visine into someone’s coffee and it would give that person explosive diarrhea. “We could put some in the security guard’s coffee and the orderly’s soda drink.” “That doesn’t really work.” Ida and Myrtle looked up as a tall older gentleman with stooped shoulders dragged a rocker over and settled himself in it. “Bernard Muller. I don’t mean to listen in but I want the same thing you two seem to want. Freedom and surf.” After Bernard, came Lelani Kahale who wasn’t so much interested in surfing as she was just being able to get in the ocean with her snorkel, mask and spear for fishing. Lelani brought Alexi Sokolov into the group. She’d been eating her meals with this man since she moved into the center and he told her fantastical stories of being a Russian spy. She thought his skills might come in handy.

So now, they were a group of five, not counting Ida’s new apprentice, Floyd who didn’t realize yet that he was also a part of this group and would in fact play a pivotal role in their escape plan.

ROUTINES

Cindy Maddera

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

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

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

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

MRS GERTRUDE REGRETS

Cindy Maddera

It is with deep regret that I must inform you of the passing of the very dear Colonel Martin Vanhousen. You may remember that I mentioned him a few months past, about how he lived in a third floor office building among his collection of artifacts from his explorations around the world. You might also recall that I mentioned he had a string of widows who visited him frequently. It was one such widow, Mrs. Gertrude Delany who discovered the Colonel's body. It was her usual night to stop by with dinner and that evening she had prepared a new chicken casserole recipe that she was eager to get feed back on. Mrs. Gertrude knocked several times on the door, but after a few minutes of waiting, she flipped the edge of the doormat over and retrieved the spare key that the Colonel kept 'hidden' there (in case of accidental lock outs). Then Mrs. Gertrude let herself into the Colonel's home. 

Upon entering the apartment, Mrs. Gertrude walked straight back to the kitchenette to set her hot casserole dish down, all the while chatting to the Colonel about everything from the weather and why it was he was still lazing about in his house coat with the all of the curtains shut tight. She then went to one of those windows, drew the curtains back to let the sunlight in and turned to see the Colonel wearing his slippers and his red velvet house coat, sitting in his favorite leather wing-backed chair with a glass of scotch in his hand. She noticed that his skin seemed paler than usual and his face slack as if he were sleeping. She tip-toed closer and said "Marty?" When he did not reply or even twitch, Mrs. Gertrude poked the Colonel in the cheek which was quite cold. Mrs Gertrude shrieked and then dug her phone out of her purse to call 911. 

After further investigation, it was determined that the Colonel died peacefully in his chair. Though if a thorough autopsy had been performed, the coroner would have discovered a poison found only on the tips of the blow darts used by an obscure tribe of indians dwelling in the Amazon rainforest. You see, the Colonel had woken up on the morning of his death feeling tired. Not physically tired per se. He found that his tiredness was more mentally related. The Colonel got up out of his bed, sliding his feet into his slippers and shrugging his house coat on over his satin pajamas. He then shuffled to his kitchenette and set the kettle of water on his hotplate to boil for his usual morning cup of tea. Once his tea was made, he took his mug into his office where he sat at his large mahogany desk looking at the clutter around him. The Colonel unlocked the middle drawer of his desk and removed the letters and locket from his one true love, Elsbeth, and proceeded to re-read the letters he had read so many times before. Then he opened the locket to gaze at Elsbeth's lovely face. He then closed the locket, stood up and walked to the bookcase. The Colonel ran his hands along the rows of stacked field notes, pulling one notebook at random and flipping through it. 

The Colonel had lead a very exciting and long life. He had seen many amazing things, traveled the whole world, and fought in a number of skirmishes. His life, with the exception of his beloved Elsbeth, had been a full life. It was all recorded in those stacks and stacks of field notes. Every skirmish and near death experience. Every unbelievable find. Every adventure. It was all recorded there for any one to pick through. The Colonel then poured himself a glass of his favorite scotch. He rummaged through his drawer of arrow heads until his fingers found what he was looking for in the very back of the drawer, a vial containing the poison darts he had stolen from a tribesman while on expedition in the Amazon. The Colonel knew that the poison would not work instantly, but it would work quickly. He had enough time to prick his finger with one dart, place it back in the vial and then return the vial to his desk drawer before taking his scotch to retire to his favorite chair. He was able to take two more sips of his scotch before the poison stopped his heart. The Colonel Martin Vanhousen left this earth, as he had lived: on his own terms.

His apartment/office has been completely cleaned out with many of his things being sent to auction to cover his debts. His field notes were all donated to a local historic society. All of them with the exception of one notebook. His most recent field notebook now resides with the Mrs. Gertrude Delany. While waiting on the authorities to arrive, Mrs. Gertrude discovered that the Colonel had been writing down his latest 'adventures'. This included very detailed reports of the encounters he had with the various widows who visited him during the week. Very. Detailed. Notes. Mrs. Gertrude nearly fainted as she read his description of how his removal of her girdle for the first time was like 'peeling a banana'. Scandalized, Mrs. Gertrude tucked the notebook into her purse. It is now locked in the bottom drawer of her cedar jewelry case. Mrs. Gertrude has yet to decide whether to burn the notebook or use it against the other widows.

Of course, despite the scandalous notebook, the Colonel Martin Vanhousen will be greatly missed. 

*This story comes to you after noticing that the building that inspired the original tale has been gutted. It is under renovation and has a 'for sale' sign out front.

WRITING A MILLION WORDS

Cindy Maddera

The other day, I started a word document on my computer for the sole intention of writing a specific story. All of my other bits of started stories are on the drive which means I have access to them whenever I am not near my personal computer. I kind of thought if I put it in a word document on my computer that I would specifically dedicate a certain amount of time every day to sit and write. That happened four days ago. I added two sentences to the two pages I'd copied and pasted over from a drive document. You know what I did Sunday after finishing laundry, making ghee, washing dishes (we use a lot of dishes on Sundays) and cleaning the bathroom? It sure wasn't writing. I organized my sock and underwear drawer. It's really nice. I should have taken a picture of it to show you. 

I also read. I've been reading Loving Day by Mat Johnson and I'm pretty much in love with this guy's writing style. There have been many times I've had to stop and read some things out loud because of how the words were strung together. I need to stop doing this because it's slowing me down. I pre-ordered Circe by Madeline Miller and it arrived days ago. I'm really excited about this book, but I've always been the kind of reader who finishes a book before starting another. Even though my fingers twitched to open up to the first page, I set it down and walked away. The idea of hearing Circe's side of the story, even if it's made up, is oh so appealing to me. I didn't really care for the Odyssey when I read it as a kid. Actually, all of those old Greek stories have been on my least favorite list mostly because women are either no where in the story, a beautiful damsel in distress or a witch. 

My insecurities were developed hundreds of thousands of years ago, just like all women. It has been passed down from ancient ancestors through art and storytelling. From the earliest literature, women have been depicted as meek and mild or hateful and villainous or a combination of all of those things. We are rarely depicted as warriors and depicted lovingly only when our bellies are are round with child, most specifically a boy child. We are never smart or if found to be cleaver we must be doing the Devil's work. Women are deceitful. I can't even bare to pick up classic literature anymore without cringing. It reminds me how long and slow our struggle for this current level of equality has been. It's been over three hundred years since the last witch trial. It's been about a hundred years since a woman was arrested for protesting for her right to a vote. It's been fifty five years since Congress passed the Equal Pay Act, though we still see discrepancies in equal pay.

All of this has nothing to do with my inability to discipline myself into writing every day. It does have everything to do with how I want to twine words together. I once heard someone say that to be a better writer, you should read from different writers. So that's what I'm doing. I'm reading so that I can eventually write a million words. 

 

TROUT

Cindy Maddera

The other night, I had a dream that I was fishing. Every time I cast my line, I would immediately feel a tug on the end of the line and I would reel in a beautiful rainbow trout. Over and over. I would cast my line and see the attached fly rest on the water a second before a trout would take a bite. I would pull the fish in, remove it from the hook and cast my line again. It didn't take long for me to have a bucket full of rainbow trout. I then had to clean my bucket of fish and this is where things started to go bad. I didn't have a clue as to how to clean trout. I knew that I had to remove internal organs but every time I cut into one, I just made a mess of everything. By the time I made it through my bucket, my trout were barely fit for cooking and if they were cooked, they would be served with a beware of bones kind of warning. 

My first thought, when I woke up the next morning, was of Dad. I thought of the hours we would spend at the banks of a pond or river, casting out our lines and how we would spend our evenings at the camper making up fly lines for the next day. We had good fishing days, though never as good as my dream. We also had bad fishing days. One year we didn't catch hardly anything and left Colorado feeling like we'd just wasted money on a fishing license. That was the worst fishing trip I can remember and Chris's first trout fishing trip with my family. He finally managed to catch a fish at the end of our trip but it was in a catch and release only area. Mostly though, the fishing was good. 

At the end of our day, we'd take our catch back to the campsite and Dad would clean the fish. I watched Dad do this one time. The last time we went on our fishing trip, Dad talked me through cleaning a trout. He wielded the knife as he explained the process of gutting and gently scraping the scales off the sides, but he never actually let me clean one of the fish. I have never held a fish down and cut it open and pulled out it's guts. That walk through lesson was so many years ago that I'm not sure I would even know where to start. Which explains the part of the dream where I butchered all of the fish. Some how though, I don't think that dream was all about Dad and the regrets of not ever learning how to clean trout. 

The other day Michael stepped out of the shower and said "hey! I think I could turn your blog into a book. If you'd let me." I prickled immediately at his suggestion. It is just that I have become very possessive of this blog. It is mine, wholly and truly. There are no other administrators listed in my settings other than me. When something breaks here, I have to fix it. I add the pictures and the words and I am the editor, even if at times I do a crap job of editing. I see nothing selfish about claiming it as my own and his idea of taking it upon himself to turn it into a book sounded more like him taking some claim to my blog. I tried to be polite when I said "no thank you" because I know he means well. I know he just wants me to publish something. I know he believes that I could publish something. But the blog is not a book. The book will come from something outside of this space. 

In this case, the words are the trout. Catching them is the easy part. The part after I've caught them is where I make a mess of things. The cleaning part. I'm going to start wielding a knife and by the time I'm done, the words will no longer be recognizable or convey meaning. It will no longer be the story it started out to be.

Except, some times, maybe I need to make a mess of things. 

 

MY RIGHT EYE JUST FELL OFF ON MY KNEE

Cindy Maddera

It has happened more than twice in a period of one week. I find myself scrolling through my pictures, looking for something in particular, and instead end up lost. You know when I say that I should be more organized? What I am really saying is that I should have my photographs better organized. I don't tag anything or name anything or put anything into albums. The best I can do is try to remember what year I uploaded the picture. Good luck with that. So, there I am, rolling through page after page of pictures. My life moves backwards in a blur. Memories flashing by like a flip book. Sometimes I linger over one, but often I zip on by.

There's a small box on the bookshelf that contains some keepsakes. Old pictures. Christmas cards. For some reason I can't seem to toss the Christmas card that have family pictures on them. I was still looking for a certain picture when I opened that box. The picture I was looking for was not there, but instead I found pictures from our college days. There was one of Jen when we'd dolled her up for homecoming because she'd been in the running for homecoming queen. There was Amy and Chris and maybe Jen sitting at a table in the snack bar with their arms stretched out overhead as they all did their best impression of a snail. It was during one of those late night study sessions. I noticed a few snapshots from the UFO trip. Then there was a stack of wedding photos. God...we were so young and ridiculous. 

The next thing I know, I find myself scrolling through Chris's flickr feed. I don't even know why. I wouldn't find the picture I was looking for there. There is no reason for me to be looking at this space. I scroll through anyway. There are so many pictures of Chris because of all the 365 day projects. I watch him lose weight, gain weight, lose more weight. Occasionally there is a picture of him and Traci and it makes me wince. I still feel responsible, guilty, like I ruined it all for the two of them. I am sorry Traci. For what, I am not even sure I have words for. I am sorry even though deep down I know know know that I have nothing to be sorry for. Eventually I make it all the way back in his flickr feed when he is still wearing glasses. I remember how long it took me to get used to him without them after his eye surgery. Now it seems so odd to see him wear them. 

I am picking at scabs. That is what this is. It is a canker sore on the inside of my lip that I constantly poke with the tip of my tongue. It is because I have started writing a little bit here and there on an old story. A story no one will really want to read, but one I am afraid to forget. Also I am filling up with words. Their sharp edges are starting to poke me from the inside. I burp letters. Finding the time to do this seems impossible. I imagined the other day getting on the train and riding it to St. Louis or Chicago. I'd just get on the train with my laptop and sit and write while the country passes by. No distractions. No cleaning up after others. No demands or grabs for my attention. Nothing except for the occasional glance out the window. I'd get to the end of the line and just turn around and come back. I mentioned this idea to a friend at work. I said I'd get on the train with just my laptop and she said "and write!" before I could finish my own sentence. 

Maybe she could see the jagged edges of all the words poking out of me. Maybe it just seems obvious that I have stories weighing me down. 

THEY COME TO LIFE

Cindy Maddera

She glanced over her shoulder as she stepped around the corner, making sure that she was not being watched or followed by her chaperone. She found herself in an obscure section of the museum that held Egyptian antiquities. Rumors of curses and illnesses kept this section generally free of visitors, making it the perfect location for a clandestine meeting. At the moment, though, she appeared to be alone. So she wandered the display cases of Egyptian pottery and jewelry ordained with bright, colorful scarab beetles. She settled in front of a case filled with cat statues and checked her watch. He was late. Maybe he wouldn't even show at all, she thought. Her chaperone had probably already started looking for her by now. She felt her cheeks flush with heat at the thought of being discovered, at the thought of being discovered with him, at the thought of him not showing up at all. Then she felt his presence; knew that he was standing just behind her. A coy smile came to her lips. He leaned in and whispered into her ear. She sighed and leaned back, into him. He kissed the side of her neck, just under her ear. Her eyelashes fluttered and she shivered slightly at the sensation of his lips on her neck. 

HONING A CRAFT

Cindy Maddera

Probably the best thing I've done for myself this entire year has been to consistently write in my Fortune Cookie journal. I can't entirely say that this is something I did for myself because Michael bought me the journal. I'm not sure he bought it with the intention of me writing tiny stories based off the fortune on each page. I own that one, but it was more than the gift. He also gave me time to write in it. He respects that time I spend on Saturday mornings sitting in a cafe by myself. At first, I'm always a little bit stumped by whatever the fortune says at the top of the page. I sit there tapping my pen on the table struggling with even how to start a story, but I am always amazed at how the story flows once I get that first sentence started. Sometimes, most times, the story comes to me so that I end up packing the one tiny page full and I am disappointed that there is not any more space to write. 

I'm not writing anything amazing or worthy of high praise. I'm not going to win a Pulitzer or a Nobel prize in Literature for these tiny stories and that's okay. It's not about writing anything worth reading as much as it about just sitting down and writing and using my brain. There are stories I write where I think it would be nice to read them out loud to someone. I almost want someone in the cafe to ask me about what I'm writing so I can tell them the concept behind the Fortune Cookie journal so I can tell them all about it. I even imagine reading one of the stories out loud to them. It's silly fictional drivel but for some crazy reason I am really proud of it. I run out of room on a page and then I pat my self on the back with "you are so good, Cindy! This story is so inviting! You're the best!" Even though I know that if any one else where to read them, they'd be all "What the fuck kind of crap is this?!"

For the most part, no one but me ever reads those stories. Sure, occasionally I might post one here. Actually, rarely do I post one here. I've posted maybe two or three out of the dozens I've written so far. That's probably why it's so easy to pat myself on the back and tell myself that my little stories are so clever and engaging. It has become one of the few places where I feel like I might actually be good at this. It's sort of like being on my yoga mat. My tiny secret stories make me feel bold and creative and clever. Part of me is just vain enough to want to share those stories while the other part of me is cowardly enough to not want to share those stories. There's more of a chance that I will actually be at least clever and creative as long as I keep those tales to myself. This is a universal struggle. To share or not to share. That is the question.

I know that at the end of the day, if I confidently want to call myself a writer, I'm going to have to share. It has got me thinking about telling a story, about the organization of telling a story. I've been thinking of ways to put my story together in a way that would make it compelling enough to read. I feel like the stuff that I have written down in various word documents are just like notes on a napkin. There's no connection, no tie together, no hook. If anything, this exercise with the Fortune Cookie journal has got me thinking about hooks and tie togethers. It's got me thinking about NANOWRIMO and how I really should take advantage of that month (and right now, really) to be a writer.